J. V. Stalin

The Municipal Election Campaign 1

May 21, 24 and 26, 1917

Source : Works, Vol. 3, March - October, 1917
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.

The elections to the district Dumas are approaching. The lists of candidates have been adopted and published. The election campaign is in full swing.

Candidates are being put up by the most diverse "parties": genuine and fictitious, old and new-baked, significant and insignificant. Alongside the Constitutional-Democratic Party there is a "Party of Honesty, Responsibility and Justice"; alongside the Yedinstvo group and the Bund there is a "party slightly to the Left of the Constitutional Democrats"; alongside the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary defencists there are all sorts of "non-party" and "supra-party" groups. The fantastic medley of flags is indescribable.

The first election meetings already show that the central issue of the campaign is not municipal "reform" in itself, but the general political situation in the country. Municipal reform is merely the background against which the principal political platforms naturally unfold.

That is understandable. Today, when the war has brought the country to the verge of disruption, when the interests of the majority of the population demand revolutionary intervention in the whole economic life of the country, and when the Provisional Government is obviously incapable of leading the country out of the impasse, all local questions, including municipal, can be understood and decided only in inseparable connection with the general questions of war or peace, of revolution or counter-revolution. Without this connection with general policy, the municipal election campaign would degenerate into empty chatter about tin-plating washbasins and "installing good lavatories" (see the platform of the defencist Mensheviks).

That is why in this medley of innumerable party flags two basic political lines will inevitably assert themselves in the course of the campaign: the line of developing the revolution further, and the line of counter-revolution.

The sharper the campaign, the more trenchant will party criticism become, the more distinctly will these two lines stand out, the more untenable will be the position of the intermediate groups which are striving to reconcile the irreconcilable, and the clearer will it become to all that the Menshevik and Narodnik defencists who are sitting between the stools of revolution and counter-revolution are actually impeding the revolution and facilitating the cause of counter-revolution.

*       *       *

The Party of "Popular Freedom"

Since the overthrow of tsarism the parties of the Right have scattered. This is because their existence in their old form would not profit them now. What has become of them? They have gathered around the party of so-called "Popular Freedom," around the party of Milyukov and Co. Milyukov's party is now the party of the most extreme Right. That is a fact which nobody disputes. And precisely for this reason that party is now the rallying centre of the counter-revolutionary forces.

Milyukov's party is in favour of curbing the peasants, for it is in favour of suppressing the agrarian movement.

Milyukov's party is in favour of curbing the workers, for it is opposed to the workers' "excessive" demands— it labels all their major demands "excessive."

Milyukov's party is in favour of curbing the soldiers, for it is in favour of "iron discipline," that is, of restoring the rule of the officers over the soldiers.

Milyukov's party is in favour of the robber war which has brought the country to the verge of disruption and ruin.

Milyukov's party is in favour of "resolute measures" against the revolution. It is "resolutely" opposed to popular freedom, even though it calls itself the party of "Popular Freedom."

Can there be any hope that such a party will reform the city's municipal affairs in the interests of the poorer sections of the population?

Can it be entrusted with the fate of the city?

Never! Under no circumstances!

Our watchword is: No confidence in Milyukov's party; not a single vote for the Party of "Popular Freedom"!

*       *       *.

The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks)

Our Party is the very antithesis of the Constitutional Democratic Party. The Cadets [Constitutional Democrats] are the party of the counter-revolutionary bourgeois and landlords. Our Party is the party of the revolutionary workers of town and country. They are two irreconcilable parties; the victory of one means the defeat of the other. Our demands are well known. Our path is clear.

We are opposed to the present war because it is a war of robbery, a war of conquest.

We are in favour of peace, a general and democratic peace, because such a peace is the surest way of escape from the disruption of the country's economy and food supply.

There are complaints of a shortage of bread in the towns. But there is no bread because the crop area has diminished owing to the shortage of labour, which has been "driven off" to the war. There is no bread because there are no means of transporting even the supplies that are available, since the railways are engaged in serving the war. Stop the war and there will be bread.

There are complaints of a shortage of manufactured goods in the rural areas. But manufactured goods are lacking because a large number of the mills and factories are engaged on war production. Stop the war and there will be manufactured goods.

We are opposed to the present government because, by calling for an offensive, it is prolonging the war and aggravating the economic disruption and famine.

We are opposed to the present government because, by protecting the profits of the capitalists, it is hindering the revolutionary intervention of the workers in the economic life of the country.

We are opposed to the present government because, by preventing the Peasant Committees from disposing of the landed estates, it is hindering the emancipation of the rural districts from the power of the landlords.

We are opposed to the present government because, by starting the "business" with the withdrawal of the revolutionary troops from Petrograd, and proceeding now to withdraw the revolutionary workers (unburdening Petrograd!), it is dooming the revolution to impotence.

We are opposed to the present government because it is generally incapable of leading the country out of the crisis.

We are in favour of transferring all power to the revolutionary workers, soldiers and peasants.

Only such a power can put an end to the long-protracted robber war. Only such a power can lay hands on the profits of the capitalists and landlords for the purpose of advancing the revolution and saving the country from utter disruption.

Lastly, we are opposed to the restoration of the police force, the old detested police force, which was divorced from the people and subordinated to "bigwigs" appointed from above.

We are in favour of a universal, elected and recallable militia; for only such a militia can serve as a buttress of the people's interests.

Such are our immediate demands.

We assert that unless these demands are met, unless a fight is waged for these demands, not a single serious municipal reform and no democratization of municipal affairs is conceivable.

Whoever wants to ensure bread for the people, whoever wants to abolish the housing crisis, whoever wants to impose municipal taxes only on the rich, whoever wants to see these reforms carried out not only in word but in deed, must vote for those who are opposed to the war of conquest, opposed to the landlord and capitalist government, opposed to the restoration of the police force, must vote for those who are in favour of a democratic peace, of the transfer of power to the people themselves, of a people's militia, of genuine democratization of municipal affairs.

Without these conditions "radical municipal reform" is just empty talk.

*       *       *.

The Defencist Bloc

Between the Cadets and our Party there are a number of intermediate groups which vacillate between revolution and counter-revolution. These are the Yedinstvo group, the Bund, the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary defenc-ists, the Trudoviks, 2 the Popular "Socialists." 3 In some districts they are putting up their candidates separately, but in others they have formed a bloc and have put up a joint list. Against whom have they formed this bloc? Ostensibly against the Cadets. But is this actually so?

The first thing that strikes the eye is that this bloc is utterly unprincipled. What can there be in common, for instance, between the bourgeois radical Trudovik group and the group of Menshevik defencists, who regard themselves as "Marxists" and "Socialists"? Since when have the Trudoviks, who preach war to a victorious finish, become the comrades-in-arms of the Mensheviks and Bundists, who call themselves "Zimmerwaldists" who "reject the war"? And the Yedinstvo group of Plekhanov, that self-same Plekhanov who already in tsarist days had furled the flag of the International and definitely taken his stand under an alien flag, the yellow flag of imperialism—what can there be in common between this inveterate chauvinist and, say, Tse-reteli the "Zimmerwaldist," the honorary chairman of the Menshevik defencist conference? Is it so long since that Plekhanov was urging support of the tsarist government in the war against Germany and Tsereteli the "Zimmer-waldist" was "thundering" against the chauvinist Plekh-anov for doing so? The war between the Yedinstvo group and Rabochaya Gazeta 4 is at its height, but these worthies pretend to be blind to it and are already beginning to "fraternize." . . .

Is it not obvious that elements so heterogeneous could form only a casual and unprincipled bloc—that it was not principle, but fear of defeat that prompted them to form the bloc?

The next thing that strikes the eye is the fact that in two of the districts, Kazan and Spass (see the "Lists of Candidates"), the Yedinstvo group, the Bund and the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary defencists are not putting up any candidates, but the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies in these districts, and in these districts only, are putting forward candidates, contrary to the decision of the Executive Committee. Evidently, our brave bloc-formers, fearing defeat at the polls, prefer to hide behind the back of the district Soviets and have decided to exploit their prestige. It is amusing to note that these honourable gentlemen, who boast of their sense of "responsibility," lack the courage to come out with open visor and timidly prefer to evade "responsibility." . . .

But what, after all, has united all these heterogeneous groups in one bloc?

The fact that all of them with equal uncertainty, but none the less persistently, follow in the footsteps of the Cadets, and that they all with equal positiveness detest our Party.

All of them, like the Cadets, are in favour of the war—not for purposes of conquest (God forbid!), but for a . . . "peace without annexations and indemnities." A war for peace. . . .

All of them, like the Cadets, are in favour of "iron discipline"—not for the purpose of curbing the soldiers (of course not!), but in the interests of . . . the soldiers themselves.

All of them, like the Cadets, are in favour of an offensive—not in the interests of the British and French bankers (God forbid!), but in the interests of . . . "our new-won freedom."

All of them, like the Cadets, are opposed to the "anarchist leaning of the workers to seize the factories" (see Rabochaya Gazeta, May 21),—not in the interests of the capitalists (perish the thought!), but in order not to frighten the capitalists away from the revolution, that is, in the interests of . . . the revolution.

In general, they are all in favour of the revolution— but only in so far (in so far!) as it does not injure the capitalists and landlords, does not run counter to their interests.

In short, they are all in favour of the same practical steps as the Cadets, but with reservations and catchwords about "freedom," "revolution," etc.

But as phrasemongering and catchwords are nothing but words, it follows that in fact they are pursuing the same line as the Cadets.

Their talk about freedom and socialism merely masks the fact that they are Cadet at heart.

And precisely for this reason their bloc is spearheaded not against the counter-revolutionary Cadets, but against the revolutionary workers, against the bloc between our Party, the Mezhrayontsi 5 and the revolutionary Mensheviks.

After all that, can it be expected that these near-Cadet gentlemen will be capable of reforming and reorganizing our dislocated municipal affairs?

How can they be entrusted with the fate of the poorer sections of the population when they hourly trample upon their interests and support the robber war and the government of the capitalists and landlords?

If municipal affairs are to be democratized, if the population is to be ensured food and housing, if the poor are to be relieved of municipal taxes and the whole burden of taxation laid upon the rich, the policy of compromise must be abandoned, and hands must be laid on the profits of the capitalists and houseowners. . . . Is it not clear that the moderate gentlemen of the de-fencist bloc, since they are afraid of rousing the ire of the bourgeoisie, are incapable of such revolutionary steps? . . .

In the present Petrograd Duma there is the so-called "Socialist Municipal Group," consisting mainly of de-fencist Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. That group set up a "finance committee" from among its members for the purpose of framing "immediate measures" for the improvement of municipal affairs. And what do we find? These "reformers" arrived at the conclusion that in order to democratize municipal affairs it was necessary: 1) "to increase the water rate," 2) "to increase tramway fares." "On the question of charging soldiers for tramway fares it was decided to confer with the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies" (see Novaya Zhizn, 6 No. 26). Apparently the members of the committee had the idea of demanding fares from soldiers, but were afraid to do so without the soldiers' consent.

Instead of abolishing taxes on the poor, the worthy members of the committee decided to increase them, not sparing even the soldiers!

These are examples of the municipal practices of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik defencists.

Is it not clear that the pompous phrases and pretentious "municipal platforms" serve as a mask for the wretched municipal practices of the defencists?

So it was, so it will be. . . .

The more adroitly they mask themselves with talk of "freedom" and "revolution," the more determinedly and ruthlessly must they be fought.

And so, one of the immediate tasks of the present campaign is to tear the socialist mask from the defencist bloc, to bring its essentially bourgeois-Cadet nature into the light of day.

No support for the defencist bloc! No confidence in the gentry of this bloc!

The workers must realize that those who are not with them are against them; that the defencist bloc is not with them—consequently, it is against them.

*       *       *

The "Non-Party" Groups

Of all the bourgeois groups which are putting up their own lists of candidates, the non-party groups occupy the most indefinite position. There are quite a few of these non-party groups, in fact, a whole heap of them—nearly thirty in all. And whom do they not embrace! The "United House Committees" and the "Educational Establishment Employees' Group"; the "Nonparty Business Group" and the "Non-party Electors' Group"; the "House Superintendents' Group" and the "Apartment Owners' Society"; the "Supra-party Republican Group" and the "Equal Rights for Women League" the "Engineers' Union Group" and the "Commercial and Industrial Union"; the "Honesty, Responsibility and Justice Group" and the "Democratic Construction Group"; the "Freedom and Order Group," etc., etc.— such is the motley picture of non-party confusion.

Who are they, where do they hail from, and whither are they bound?

They are all bourgeois groups. For the most part they are comprised of merchants, manufacturers, houseown-ers, members of the "liberal professions," intellectuals.

They have no set principles. The electors will never know what these groups which are inviting the man in the street to vote for them are out for.

They have no municipal platform. The electors will never know what improvements they demand in the sphere of municipal affairs and, indeed, why they should vote for them at all.

They have no past, because they did not exist in the past.

They have no future, because they will vanish after the elections like the snows of yesteryear.

They sprang up only during the elections, and are living only for the moment, as long as the elections last; their aim is to get into the district Dumas somehow, and what happens after that they don't care a hang.

They are bourgeois groups who have no programs and who fear the light and the truth, and who are trying to get their candidates into the district Dumas by contraband means.

Dark are their aims, and dark is their path.

What justifies the existence of these groups?

One could understand the existence of non-party groups in the past, under tsarism, when belonging to a party, to a Left party, was ruthlessly punished by "law," when many had to come out as non-party in order to avoid arrest and persecution, when not to belong to a party was a shield against the tsarist zealots of the law. But how can the existence of non-party groups be justified now, when a maximum of freedom prevails, when every party can come out openly and freely without fear of prosecution, when a definite party stand and an open struggle of political parties have become a commandment and a condition for the political education of the masses? What are they afraid of? From whom are they hiding their real face?

Undoubtedly, many of the electors among the masses have not yet grasped the significance of the programs of the various political parties; the political conservatism and backwardness they have inherited from tsarism are a hindrance to their rapid enlightenment. But is it not obvious that non-party and programless electioneering tends only to perpetuate and legitimatize this backwardness and conservatism? Who would venture to deny that an open and honest struggle of political parties is a most effective means of awakening the masses and of quickening their political activity?

Again we ask, what are these non-party groups afraid of? Why do they shun the light? From whom are they hiding, anyhow? What is the secret?

The fact of the matter is that under the conditions now prevailing in Russia, with a rapidly developing revolution and a maximum of freedom, when the masses are growing in political enlightenment daily and even hourly, it is becoming extremely risky for the bourgeoisie to come out openly. To come out with a frankly bourgeois platform under such conditions is to court certain discredit in the eyes of the masses. The only way of "saving the situation" is to don a non-party mask and pretend to be an inoffensive group like the group of "honesty, responsibility and justice." This is very convenient for fishing in troubled waters. There can be no doubt that pro-Cadet and near-Cadet bourgeois who fear to fight with open visor are trying to slip into the district Dumas under cover of non-party lists.

It is characteristic that there is not a single proletarian group among them, that all these non-party groups are recruited from the ranks of the bourgeoisie, and from its ranks only. And they will undoubtedly succeed in drawing quite a number of confiding and simple-minded electors into their net unless they meet with a proper rebuff from the revolutionary elements. That is the whole secret.

Hence, the "non-party" danger is one of the most serious in the present municipal elections.

It is therefore one of the most important tasks of our campaign to tear the non-party mask from the faces of these gentry, to compel them to show their true countenance, so as to enable the masses to appraise them correctly.

Away with the non-party mask! Let us have a clear and definite political line! Such is our watchword.

*       *       *

Comrades, tomorrow is polling day. March to the polls in serried ranks and vote solidly for the Bolshevik list!

Not a single vote for the Cadets, the enemies of the Russian revolution!

Not a single vote for the defencists, the advocates of compromise with the Cadets!

Not a single vote for the "non-party" candidates, the masked friends of your enemies!


Pravda, Nos. 63, 64 and 66. May 21, 24 and 26, 1917


1. Preparations for the elections to the Petrograd district Dumas began in April 1917. Pravda and the Petrograd and district committees of the Bolshevik Party called upon the workers and soldiers to take an active part in the elections and to vote for the Bolshevik candidates. At a meeting of the Petrograd Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) on May 10, 1917, which was attended by J. V. Stalin, reports were made by city and district commissions on the progress of the election campaign. Polling continued from May 27 to June 5, 1917. The outcome of the polling was discussed by J. V. Stalin in the article "Results of the Petrograd Municipal Elections" (see p. 95 in this volume).

2. The Trudoviks were a group of petty-bourgeois democrats formed in April 1906 of peasant members of the First State Duma. In 1917 the Trudoviks merged with the Popular Socialist Party.

3. The Popular Socialists were a petty-bourgeois organization which split off from the Right wing of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in 1906. Their political demands did not gobeyond a constitutional monarchy. Lenin called them "Social-Cadets" and "Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks." After the February Revolution of 1917 the Popular Socialists were among the petty-bourgeois "socialist" parties that took up an extreme Right stand. After the October Revolution the Popular Socialists joined counter-revolutionary organizations.

4. Rabochaya Gazeta (Workers' Newspaper)—central organ of the Menshevik Party, founded in Petrograd on March 7, 1917. It was suppressed shortly after the October Revolution.

5. The Inter-Regional (Mezhrayonnaya) Organization of United Social-Democrats, or Mezhrayontsi, was formed in St. Petersburg in 1913 and consisted of Trotskyite Mensheviks and a number of former Bolsheviks who had split away from the Party. During the First World War the Mezhrayontsi occupied a Centrist position and opposed the Bolsheviks. In 1917 they announced their agreement with the line of the Bolshevik Party, and the Bolsheviks accordingly formed a bloc with them in the elections to the Petrograd district Dumas in May 1917. The Mezhrayontsi were admitted to the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) at its Sixth Congress. A number of them, headed by Trotsky, subsequently proved to be enemies of the people.

6. Novaya Zhizn (New Life)—a Menshevik paper founded in Petro-grad in April 1917. It was the rallying centre of Martovite Men-sheviks and individual intellectuals of a semi-Menshevik trend. The Novaya Zhizn group continually vacillated between the compromisers and the Bolsheviks, and after the July days members of the group held a unity congress with the Menshe-vik defencists. After the October Revolution the group, with the exception of a few of its members who joined the Bolsheviks, adopted a hostile attitude towards the Soviet Government. Novaya Zhizn was suppressed in the summer of 1918.