J. V. Stalin

The Elections in St. Petersburg

(A Letter From St. Petersburg)

January 12 (25), 1913

Source : Works, Vol. 2, 1907 - 1913
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Unlike the elections of 1907, the elections in 1912 coincided with a revolutionary revival among the workers. In 1907 the tide of revolution was receding and the counter-revolution triumphed, but in 1912 the first wave of a new revolution rose. This explains why the workers then went to the polls listlessly and in some places even boycotted the elections, boycotted them passively, of course, thereby showing that passive boycott is an undoubted symptom of listlessness and decline of strength. And it explains why now, in the atmosphere of a rising revolutionary tide, the workers went to the polls eagerly, casting aside flabby political indifference. More than that: the workers fought for the right to elections, strove for that right and secured it by means of immense strikes against the "interpretations," despite all the cunning devices and obstacles employed by the police. It is undoubtedly a sign that the political torpor has passed off, that the revolution has got past the dead point. True, the wave of the new revolution is not yet so strong as to enable us to raise the question, say, of a general political strike. But it is already strong enough to make it possible, in places, to break through the web of "interpretations" with the object of animating the elections, organising the forces of the proletariat, and politically enlightening the masses.

The Workers's Curia

1. The Fight for Elections

It will not be superfluous to note that the initiative in the strike campaign was taken by the representative of the Central Committee and the St. Petersburg Committee of our Party. Late in the evening of October 4, on the eve of the election of the electors, we learned that the Uyezd Commission had "interpreted" the voters' delegates of the largest plants (Putilov's and others). An hour later the Executive Commission of the St. Petersburg Committee met, together with the representative of the Central Committee, 1 and after drawing up a new list of electors decided to call for a one-day protest strike. That same night the Social-Democratic group at the Putilov Works met and accepted the decision of the St. Petersburg Committee. On the 5th, the Putilov strike began. The whole plant went on strike. On the 7th (Sunday) the Social-Democratic group at the Neva Shipbuilding Yard met and associated itself with the decision of the St. Petersburg Committee. On the 8th, the entire shipyard went on strike. Their example was followed by other factories and works. Not only did the "interpreted" factories go on strike, but so also did those which had not been "interpreted" (Pal's), and also those which, according to the "regulations governing the elections," had no right to vote in the workers' curia. They struck in solidarity. Of revolutionary songs and demonstrations there was no lack. . . . Late at night on October 8 it was learned that the Gubernia Election Commission had annulled the election of electors, had countermanded the "interpretations" of the Uyezd Commission, had "restored the rights" of the Putilov workers, and had extended the elections to a larger number of factories. The workers triumphed; they had won a victory.

Of interest is the resolution adopted by the workers at the Neva Shipbuilding Yard and at the Putilov Works in declaring their strikes :

"Protesting against the violation of our electoral rights, we declare that only the overthrow of tsarism and the winning of a democratic republic can ensure for the workers the right and real freedom to vote."

A resolution moved by the Liquidators to the effect that ". . . only universal suffrage in the election of the State Duma can guarantee the right to vote" was rejected. These resolutions were first discussed by the Social-Democratic groups in the respective plants, and when it was ascertained, at the meeting of the group at the Neva Shipbuilding Yard, for example, that the Liquidators' resolution met with no sympathy, its supporters pledged themselves not to move it at the meeting of the non-party masses, but to support the resolution adopted by the group. It must be said to their honour that they kept their word. On the other hand, the anti-Liquidators displayed equal loyalty by securing the election of Gudkov as a voters' delegate, whom they could have "dished as they had the majority at the shipyard behind them.

It would not be amiss if at least a particle of the same sense of responsibility had been displayed by Luch, which is able to write so well about what did not happen at the various plants, but which hushed up the above-mentioned resolution that was adopted at the Neva Shipbuilding Yard and, on top of that, garbled the resolution that was adopted at the Putilov Works.

Thus, the workers fought for elections and secured elections. Let the St. Petersburg Socialist-Revolutionaries, who at the Neva Shipbuilding Yard so unsuccessfully opposed participation in the elections, learn a lesson from this.

The workers fought for elections under the watchword of a democratic republic. Let the Liquidators of Luch, who make a fetish of "partial reforms," learn a lesson from this.

2. The Deputy's Mandate

The "interpretation" strikes were not yet over when the assembly of voters' delegates met. It was a foregone conclusion that the delegates would adopt the mandate which had been drawn up by the St. Petersburg Committee and approved by the big plants in St. Petersburg (Putilov's, the Neva Shipbuilding Yard and Pal's). And indeed the mandate was adopted by an overwhelming majority, only an insignificant group of Liquidators abstaining. The latter's attempts to prevent a vote from being taken were met with cries of "don't obstruct!"

In their mandate to the Duma deputy the voters' delegates referred to the "tasks of 1905" and said that these tasks had "remained unfulfilled," that the economic and political development of Russia "makes their fulfilment inevitable." A struggle of the workers and the revolutionary peasants for the overthrow of tsarism in spite of the compromising policy of the Cadet bourgeoisie, a struggle of which only the proletariat can be the leader—this, according to the mandate, could fulfil the tasks of 1905 (see "The Mandate" in Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 28-29).

As you see, this is very far from the liberal-liquida-tionist "revision of the agrarian decisions of the Third Duma," or "universal suffrage in the election of the State Duma" (see the Liquidators' platform). 2

The St. Petersburg workers remained loyal to the revolutionary traditions of our Party. The slogans of revolutionary Social-Democracy, and these slogans alone, received recognition at the assembly of voters' delegates. At the assembly the question was decided by the non-party people (of the 82 delegates, 41 were "just Social-Democrats" and non-party), and the fact that the mandate drawn up by the St. Petersburg Committee was adopted at even such an assembly shows that the slogans of the St. Petersburg Committee are deeply rooted in the heart and mind of the working class.

What was the Liquidators' attitude towards all this? Had they really believed in their own views and not been shaky in the matter of political honesty, they would have launched an open struggle against the mandate, they would have proposed their own mandate or, if defeated, would have withdrawn their candidates from the lists. Did they not put up their own list of candidates for electors in opposition to the list put up by the anti-Liquidators? Why, then, could they not also openly put forward their own views, their own mandate? And when the mandate of the anti-Liquidators was adopted, why did they not honestly and openly declare that as opponents of this mandate they could not stand for election as future champions of the mandate, that they would withdraw their candidates and leave the place open for the supporters of the mandate? After all, this is an elementary rule of political honesty. Or perhaps the Liquidators avoided the question of the mandate because the question had not been sufficiently debated and because at the assembly the question was settled by the votes of the non-party people? But if that was the case, why did they not submit to the decision of the 26 Social-Democratic voters' delegates who met secretly several days before the assembly of voters' delegates and after a discussion adopted the platform of the anti-Liquidators (by a majority of 16 to 9, with one abstaining), at which meeting the Liquidators' leaders as well as their voters' delegates were present? By what lofty considerations were the Liquidators guided when they trampled upon the mandate of the entire assembly and upon the will of the 26 Social-Democratic voters' delegates? Obviously, there could be only one consideration: To spite the anti-Liquidators and smuggle through their own people "somehow." But the whole point is that if the Liquidators had dared to launch an open struggle, not one of their supporters would have been elected, because it was obvious to everybody that the Liquidators' proposal for a "revision of the agrarian decisions of the Third Duma" would find no support among the voters' delegates. There remained only one thing for them to do: to hide their flag, to pretend to be supporters of the mandate by declaring that "strictly speaking we, too, are in favour of some such mandate" and thereby get their people elected "somehow." And that is what they did; but by behaving in that way the Liquidators admitted their defeat and registered themselves as political bankrupts.

But compelling the enemy to furl his flag, i.e., compelling him to admit that his own flag is worthless, i.e., compelling him to admit the ideological superiority of his enemy—means, precisely, gaining a moral victory.

And so we have the following "strange situation": the Liquidators have a "broad workers' party," the anti-Liquidators, however, have only an "ossified circle," and yet the "narrow circle" vanquishes the "broad party"!

What miracles happen in this world! . . .

3. Unity as a Mask, and the Election of the Duma Deputy

When bourgeois diplomats prepare for war they begin to shout very loudly about "peace" and "friendly relations." When a Minister of Foreign Affairs begins to wax eloquent in favour of a "peace conference," you can take it for granted that "his government" has already issued contracts for the construction of new dreadnoughts and monoplanes. A diplomat's words must contradict his deeds—otherwise, what sort of a diplomat is he? Words are one thing—deeds something entirely different. Fine words are a mask to cover shady deeds. A sincere diplomat is like dry water, or wooden iron.

The same must be said about the Liquidators and their mendacious clamour about unity. Recently, Comrade Plekhanov, who is in favour of unity in the Party, wrote concerning the resolutions passed by the Liquidators' conference 3 that "they smell of diplomacy ten versts away." And the same Comrade Plekhanov went on to describe their conference as a "splitters' conference." To put it more bluntly, the Liquidators are deceiving the workers by their diplomatic clamour about unity, for while they talk about unity they are engineering a split. Indeed, the Liquidators are diplomats in the Social-Democratic movement; with fine words about unity they cover up their shady deeds in engineering a split. When a Liquidator waxes eloquent in favour of unity, you can take it for granted that he has already trampled upon unity for the sake of a split.

The elections in St. Petersburg are direct proof of this.

Unity means first of all unity of action by the Social-Democratically organised workers within the working class, which is as yet unorganised, as yet unenlightened by the light of socialism. The Social-Democratically organised workers raise questions at their meetings, discuss them, adopt decisions and then, as a single whole, bring these decisions, which are absolutely binding upon the minority, before the non-party workers. Without this there can be no unity of Social-Democracy! Was there such a decision adopted in St. Petersburg? Yes, there was. It was the decision adopted by the 26 Social-Democratic voters' delegates (of both trends) who accepted the anti-Liquidators' platform. Why did not the Liquidators submit to this decision? Why did they thwart the will of the majority of the Social-Democratic voters' delegates? Why did they trample upon the unity of Social-Democracy in St. Petersburg? Because the Liquidators are diplomats in the Social-Democratic movement, engineering a split under the mask of unity.

Further, unity means unity of action of the proletariat in face of the entire bourgeois world. The representatives of the proletariat adopt decisions and carry them out acting as a single whole, the condition being that the minority submits to the majority. Without this there can be no unity of the proletariat! Was there such a decision of the St. Petersburg proletariat? Yes, there was. It was the anti-liquidationist mandate adopted by the majority at the assembly of voters' delegates. Why did not the Liquidators submit to the mandate of the voters' delegates? Why did they thwart the will of the majority of the voters' delegates? Why did they trample upon working-class unity in St. Petersburg? Because liqui-dationist unity is a diplomatic phrase which covers up a policy of disrupting unity. . . .

When, after thwarting the will of the majority, nominating waverers (Sudakov) and making promises of a most diplomatic nature, the Liquidators at last managed to secure the election of three of their electors, the question arose—what is to be done now?

The only honest way out was to draw lots. The anti-Liquidators proposed to the Liquidators that lots should be drawn, but the Liquidators rejected this proposal!!

After discussing the proposal with the Bolshevik X, the Liquidator Y (we can, if necessary, give the names of the persons who discussed the matter on behalf of the respective sides, provided the necessary secrecy is main-tained),4 consulted his like-minded friends and then replied that "drawing lots is unacceptable, as our electors are bound by the decision of our leading body."

Let Messrs. the Liquidators try to refute this statement of ours!

Thwarting the will of the majority of the Social-Democratic voters' delegates, thwarting the will of the majority at the assembly of voters' delegates, rejecting the proposal to draw lots, refusing to put up a joint candidate for the Duma,—all this in the interests of unity. You have a very queer idea of "unity," Messrs. Liquidators!

Incidentally, the Liquidators' splitting policy is not new. They have been agitating against the underground Party ever since 1908. The Liquidators' outrageous conduct during the elections in St. Petersburg was a continuation of their old splitting policy.

It is said that by his "unity" campaign Trotsky introduced a "new current" into the Liquidators' old "affairs." But that is not true. In spite of Trotsky's "heroic" efforts and "terrible threats" he, in the end, has proved to be merely a vociferous champion with fake muscles, for after five years of "work" he has succeeded in uniting nobody but the Liquidators. New noise—old actions!

But let us return to the elections. The Liquidators could have counted only on one thing when they rejected the proposal to draw lots, namely, that the bourgeoisie (the Cadets and Octobrists) would prefer a Liquidator! To thwart this neat little scheme the St. Petersburg Committee had no alternative but to instruct all the electors to stand for election, for among the Liquidators there was a "waverer" (Sudakov), and in general they had no solid group. In conformity with the instructions of the St. Petersburg Committee all the anti-liquidationist electors stood for election. And the Liquidators' neat little scheme was frustrated! Demoralisation set in not among the anti-Liquidators, but among the liquidationist electors, who rushed to stand for election in spite of the decision of their "body." The surprising thing is not that Gudkov agreed to Badayev's nomination (hanging over Gudkov's head was the anti-liquidationist mandate that was adopted at his plant), but the fact that the Liquidator Petrov, followed by Gudkov himself, stood for election after the election of Badayev.

There is only one deduction to be drawn from the foregoing: for the Liquidators, unity is a mask to cover up their splitting policy, a means to get into the Duma in spite of the will expressed by the Social-Democrats and the proletariatofSt.Petersburg.

The City Curia

The Lena events, and the revival among the workers generally, did not fail to affect the voters in the Second Curia. The democratic strata of the city population swung considerably to the left. Five years ago, after the revolution was defeated, they "buried" the ideals of 1905, but now, after the mass strikes, the old ideals began to revive. There was a definite mood of dissatisfaction with the dual policy of the Cadets, which the Cadets could not help noticing.

On the other hand, the Octobrists had "failed to justify" the hopes reposed in them by the big merchants and manufacturers. Vacancies occurred, which, too, the Cadets could not help noticing.

And already in May of this year the Cadets resolved to play on two fronts. Not to fight, but to play.

And that explains the dual character of the Cadets' election campaign in the two different curiae, which could not fail to astonish the voters.

The Social-Democrats' election campaign centred around their struggle with the Cadets for influence on the democratic strata. The hegemony of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, or the hegemony of the revolutionary proletariat—such was the "formula" of the Bolsheviks, against which the Liquidators had been fighting hopelessly for many years, and which they were now obliged to accept as an obvious and inevitable vital necessity.

Victory in the Second Curia depended on the conduct of the democratic strata, who were democratic by virtue of their conditions, but were not yet conscious of their interests. Whom would these strata support, Social-Democracy or the Cadets? There was also a third camp, the Rights and the Octobrists, but there were no grounds for talking seriously about a "Black-Hundred danger," because it was evident that the Rights could poll only a small number of votes. Although there was some talk about "not frightening the bourgeoisie" (see F. D.'s article in Nevsky Golos 5), it only raised a smile, because it was obvious that the task that confronted Social-Democracy was not only to "frighten" this bourgeoisie, but, in the shape of its advocates the Cadets, to dislodge it from its positions.

The hegemony of Social-Democracy, or the hegemony of the Cadets—that is how life itself presented the question.

From that it was clear that the utmost solidarity was needed in the ranks of Social-Democracy throughout the campaign.

It was precisely for that reason that the Election Commission of the St. Petersburg Committee concluded an agreement with the other Commission, which consisted of Mensheviks and solitary Liquidators. It was an agreement about persons, which allowed complete freedom for conducting election propaganda, on the definite understanding that the list of candidates for the Duma "must not include any person whose name or activities are associated with the struggle against the Party principle" (excerpt from the "minutes" of the negotiations). The well-known Social-Democratic list for the Second Curia was arrived at merely as a result of the anti-Liquidators' rejection of Ab . . . and L . . . , notorious St. Petersburg Liquidators "whose name and activities are associated," etc. It will not be superfluous to point out here, in order to characterise the "advocates of unity," that after Chkheidze was nominated in Tiflis they emphatically refused to withdraw his nomination in favour of the Social-Democrat Pokrovsky, ex-member of the Third Duma, and threatened to put up a parallel list and disrupt the campaign.

However, the reservation concerning "freedom of election propaganda" was perhaps superfluous, for the course of the campaign had clearly demonstrated that no campaign was possible in the fight against the Cadets other than a revolutionary Social-Democratic, i.e., a Bolshevik, campaign. Who does not remember the speeches delivered by the St. Petersburg speakers and Social-Democratic candidates about the "hegemony of the proletariat" and about the "old methods of struggle" as against the "new parliamentary methods," about the "second movement" and the "uselessness of the slogan of a responsible Cadet Ministry"? What became of the Liquidators' lamentations about "not splitting the opposition," about the "Cadet bourgeoisie swinging to the left," and about "bringing pressure to bear" on this bourgeoisie? And what about the anti-Cadet agitation of the Liquidators of Luch who "nagged" and "frightened" the Cadets, sometimes even too much? Does not all this show that life itself uttered the truth even "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings."

What became of the conscientious principles of Dan, Martov and the other opponents of "Cadetophobia"?

The Liquidators' "broad workers' party" again sustained defeat in its struggle against the "underground circle." Just think: the "broad workers'(?) party" a captive in the hands of the tiny, very tiny, "circle"! What a miracle! . . .


The first thing that is clear from the foregoing is that all talk about two camps, the camp of the supporters of the June the Third regime and the camp of its opponents, is groundless. Actually, three and not two camps appeared in the elections: the revolutionary camp (the Social-Democrats), the counter-revolutionary camp (the Rights), and the camp of the compromisers, who are undermining the revolution and bringing grist to the mill of the counter-revolution (the Cadets). Of a "united opposition" against the reaction there was not a sign.

Further, the elections show that the line of demarcation between the two extreme camps will become more distinct, that, as a consequence, the middle camp will melt away, free the democratically minded to the advantage of Social-Democracy, and itself gradually shift to the side of the counter-revolution.

Hence, talk about "reforms" from above, about "upheavals" being impossible, and about Russia's "organic development" under the aegis of a "Constitution," becomes utterly baseless. The course of events is inevitably leading to a new revolution, and despite the assurances of the Larins and other Liquidators, we shall live through "another 1905."

Lastly, the elections show that the proletariat, and the proletariat alone, is destined to lead the impending revolution, step by step rallying around itself all that is honest and democratic in Russia, all those who are thirsting for the liberation of their country from bondage. To become convinced of that, it is sufficient to note the course of the elections in the workers' curia, to note the sympathies of the St. Petersburg workers that were so clearly expressed in the mandate of the voters' delegates, and to note their revolutionary struggle for elections.

All this gives us grounds for asserting that the elections in St. Petersburg have fully confirmed the correctness of the slogans of revolutionary Social-Democracy.

Revolutionary Social-Democracy is virile and strong — such is the first deduction to be drawn.

The Liquidators are politically bankrupt—such is the second deduction.


Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 30, January 12 (25), 1913


1. J. V. Stalin was the Central Committee's representative during the election campaign in St . Petersburg . The Executive Commission of the St. Petersburg Committee was a small committee of members of the St. Petersburg Committee appointed to direct current work.

2. The Liquidators left out of the election platform which they issued in September 1912 the main political demands of the minimum programme of the R.S.D.L.P. Instead of the demand for a democratic republic they inserted the demand for universal suffrage "in the election of the State Duma and local government bodies," and instead of the demand for the confiscation of the land of the landlords they inserted the demand for "a revision of the agrarian legislation of the Third Duma."

3. This refers to the so-called "August" conference of the Liquidators which was held in Vienna in August 1912 as a counterstroke to the Prague Conference of the Bolsheviks.

4. The Bolshevik "X" was N. G. Poletayev; the Liquidator "Y" was probably E. Mayevsky (V. A. Gutovsky). The St. Petersburg Liquidators "Ab. . . and L. . ." mentioned lower down were V. M. Abrosimov and V. Levitsky (V. O. Zederbaum).

5. Nevsky Golos (The Voice of the Neva) — a legal weekly newspaper published by the Menshevik Liquidators in St. Petersburg May-August 1912.