J. V. Stalin
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 (twelve) district Dumas in Petro-grad are over. The general returns and other materials have not yet been published; nevertheless, data already received from the districts enable us to construct a general picture of the course and outcome of the elections.
Out of a total of more than a million electors, about 800,000 went to the polls. That is an average of 70 per cent. The abstentions were therefore by no means "ominous." The more proletarian sections of such districts as Neva and Narva (suburbs) have not yet been included in the city limits and were outside the electoral area.
The electoral contest was waged not on local, municipal issues, as is "usually" the case in Europe, but on fundamental political platforms. And this is quite understandable. At a time of extraordinary revolutionary upheaval, further complicated by war and economic disruption, when class antagonisms have been laid bare to the utmost, it is quite inconceivable that the election campaign could have been confined to local issues; the inseparable connection between local issues and the general political situation of the country was bound to come to the fore.
That is why the principal contest in the election was between three lists, corresponding to the three principal political platforms: the Cadets, the Bolsheviks and the defencists (the latter being a bloc of Narodniks, Menshe-viks and the Yedinstvo). The non-party groups, which expressed political vagueness and lack of platform, were bound under such circumstances to carry no weight, and, in fact, carried none.
The choice facing the voters was :
Either backward, to a rupture with the proletariat and "resolute measures" against the revolution (Cadets);
Or forward, to a rupture with the bourgeoisie, a resolute struggle against the counter-revolution, and the further development of the revolution (Bolsheviks);
Or compromise with the bourgeoisie, a policy of zigzagging between revolution and counter-revolution, i.e., neither backward nor forward (defencist bloc — Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries).
The electors have made their choice. Of the 800,000 votes, over 400,000 were cast for the defencist bloc; the Cadets got a little over 160,000, without a majority in even a single district; the Bolsheviks received over 160,000 votes, and in the most proletarian district of the capital, Vyborgskaya Storona, they obtained an absolute majority. The rest of the votes (inconsiderable) were distributed among the thirty-"non-party," "supra-party" and various other casual groups and formations.
Such is the reply of the electorate.
What does it show?
The first thing that strikes one is the weakness, the puniness of the non-party groups. The elections have utterly refuted the fairy tale about the non-party "nature" of the average Russian citizen. The political backwardness which nourished the non-party groups has evidently retired into the limbo of the past. The mass of the electors have definitely taken the path of open political struggle.
The second feature is the complete defeat of the Cadets. Wriggle as they may, the Cadets have to admit that in the first open battle under free elections they have been utterly routed, having failed to win a single district Duma. Only very recently the Cadets considered Petrograd their private domain. They declared time and again in their manifestoes that Petrograd "has confidence only in the Party of Popular Freedom," and in proof of this they pointed to the State Duma elections under the law of June 3. It has now become absolutely clear that the Cadets reigned in Petrograd by the grace of the tsar and his electoral law. It was enough for the old regime to depart from the stage, and the ground under the feet of the Cadets disappeared instantaneously.
In short, the mass of the democratic electors do not support the Cadets.
The third feature is the undoubted growth of our forces, the forces of our Party, revealed by the elections. In Petrograd our Party has 23,000 to 25,000 members; Pravda's circulation is from 90,000 to 100,000 copies, of which Petrograd alone accounts for 70,000; yet at the elections we obtained over 160,000 votes, i.e., seven times the number of members of our Party and twice the Pravda circulation in Petrograd. And that in spite of the diabolical hue and cry which practically the whole of the so-called press, from gutter-rags like Birzhovka and Vechorka to the Ministerial Volya Naroda 1 and Rabo-chaya Gazeta, raised against the Bolsheviks in order to terrorize the man in the street. Needless to say, under such circumstances only the most steadfast revolutionary elements, who were not to be scared by "horrors," could have voted for our Party. These are, first of all, the leader of the revolution, the proletariat, which ensured us predominance in the Vyborg District Duma, and then the most loyal allies of the proletariat, the revolutionary regiments. It should also be noted that the free elections attracted to the polls new and broad sections of the population which had had no previous experience in the political struggle. These were, first of all, the women, and then the tens of thousands of minor officials who fill the government departments, and then the numerous "small people"—artisans, shopkeepers, etc. We did not expect, and could not have expected, that these sections would be already able to break with the "old world" and resolutely adopt the point of view of the revolutionary proletariat. Yet it was they, after all, who decided the issue of the elections. If they could turn their backs on the Cadets—as they did—this in itself is a big step forward.
In short, the mass of the electors have already abandoned the Cadets, but they have not yet come over to our Party—they have stopped halfway. On the other hand, the most resolute elements—the revolutionary proletariat and the revolutionary soldiers—have already rallied around our Party.
The mass of the electors have stopped halfway. And, having stopped halfway, they have found there a worthy leader—the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary bloc.
Not understanding the present-day situation, and floundering between the proletariat and the capitalists, the petty-bourgeois elector, once he had lost his faith in the Cadets, naturally gravitated towards the Menshe-viks and Socialist-Revolutionaries who are totally confused and zigzag helplessly between revolution and counter-revolution. Like unto like! That is the whole explanation of the "brilliant victory" of the defencist bloc. And that is the fourth feature of the elections. There can be no doubt that with the further growth of the revolution the bloc's motley army will inevitably melt away, part going backward, to the Cadets, and part forward, to our Party. But meanwhile—meanwhile the leaders of the bloc can rejoice over their "victory."
And the fifth and last—but not the least!—feature of the elections is that they have concretely raised the question of who has the right to govern the country. The elections have definitely revealed that the Cadets are in the minority, for only with great difficulty did they muster 20 per cent of the votes. The overwhelming majority, more than 70 per cent, were cast for the Socialists of the Right and Left wings, i.e., for the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks and for the Bolsheviks. It is said that the Petrograd municipal elections are the prototype of the future elections to the Constituent Assembly. But if this be true, is it not monstrous that the Cadets, who represent only a small minority of the country, should have an overwhelming majority in the Provisional Government? How can the predominance of the Cadets in the Provisional Government be tolerated when it is obvious that the majority of the population have no confidence in them? Is not this inconsistency the reason for the growing discontent with the Provisional Government which is making itself more and more manifest in the country?
Is it not clear that to permit this inconsistency to continue would be both unwise and undemocratic?
Bulletin of the Press Bureau of the C.C., R.S.D.L.P., No. 1, June 15, 1917
1. Volya Naroda (People's Will) — a newspaper, organ of the Right-wing Socialist-Revolutionaries, published in Petrograd from April 29 to November 24, 1917.