Justice October 1907

The Electoral Manifesto of the Jewish “Bund”

Source: “Electoral Manifesto of the Jewish Bund,” Justice, p.7, October 12, 1907;;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

These documents, published in Justice, the weekly paper of the British Social-Democratic Federation give some idea of the information available to British Marxists in 1907 about the Bund. Judging by these and other articles that appear the SDF links with socialists in Russia in this period were predominantly with the Bund or Mensheviks rather than the Bolshevik wing of Marxism through Jewish revolutionaries such as Theodor Rothstein, Elia Lieven and others.

We have received a copy of the above, and publish below some extracts from it, characteristic of the present situation in Russia. We very much regret not being able, for lack of space, to print the document in full.

“Proletarians of all countries, unite The Social-Democratic Labour Party of Russia, the General Jewish Labour Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia (’ Bend’). – Citizens! The new elections to the State Duma are approaching. Twice already did the Government summon the Duma and twice did it disperse it. It dispersed it because each time the Damu turned out to be different to what the Government wanted and expected. Our old autocracy wishes to govern, as before, without hindrance and without control and the Duma does not let it. Not having yet made up its mind to destroy the Duma altogether, the Government tries to obtain a Duma which would be obedient to its will .... That is why a new electoral law has now been issued .... The third Duma must be a Duma of the serf-owning nobility, who are constantly dreaming of the return of the times of Plehve, a Duma of the 130,000 landlords, the faithful servants of the throne, and of a handful of the rich men of the towns .... Citizens, on you depends whether your enemies will realise their schemes. On you depends whether the weapon which was acquired by you at the cost of innumerable sacrifices should be surrendered to them without fight. It is impossible to say how many true representatives of the people will be able to come through the electoral barriers erected by the Czar’s law. But whatever the ultimate result not a single seat should be surrendered without fight .... Even where there is no chance for your men to get through do not fold your arms. If not the deputies at least, the colleges of electors should be yours. Let their composition be the expression of your hatred towards the old regime, of your hunger after liberty, of your preparedness to continue the fight to the finish.....

“But whom will you entrust with the execution of your will in the Duma? You have had the experience of two Dumas, and you know how those acted who went there to defend your rights. You saw there the party of the Constitutional Democrats; their banner wears the inscription of ‘The People’s Freedom,’ but their action was not in accord with their watchword. They tried to come to an amicable arrangement with the Government, and kept on assuring you that such an arrangement is possible. And while the Government did not even dream of making any concession, but never for one moment deviated from its policy of violence and oppression, the Constitutional Democrats surrendered them one position after another to no purpose and without any feeling of shame. They granted to the Government of Gourko and Lidwall (fraudulent Government contractors) millions of money for feeding the starving peasants, they gave to the Government which was shooting, down the people hundreds of thousands of recruits, they carefully avoided everything which might incite the people to rebellion....

“There were in the Duma other parties, too, which stood to the left of the Liberals – parties which set out to champion the interests of the town and rural poor. But these parties lacked the ability to carry on the struggle consistently and with determination, and while anxious to assist the people in its revolutionary struggle, more than once receded from their position and followed the Constitutional Democrats. Throughout the Duma they were wavering between the determined tactics of the Social-Democrats and the timid tactics of the Constitutional Democrats.

Social Democracy alone never left the revolutionary course. It never allowed the government a moment’s rest, never failed to attack and wound it and always tried to tear the mask off its face. It tried to wake the people, to help it to organise, and to come into touch itself with the Duma. It tried to destroy the illusion that the Government may be vanquished by peaceful means, by Parliamentary methods. It was never tired of insisting that there was no constitution in Russia, that Russia was still ruled by am autocracy, and that the Duma was unable to throw it off, but can assist the people in doing that.... That is why the Government hated the Social-Democrats most, as it hates most the working class whose interests were represented in the Duma by the Social-Democracy .... And so, when dissolving the Duma the Government concocted an imaginary plot of the Social-Democrats and threw them into prison....”

The manifesto then proceeds to address specially the Jewish electors, showing the hollowness and the hypocrisy of the pretensions of the Jewish bourgeois parties, the Zionists, the Territorialists, the Jewish People’s Party, and others such, and says :

“Citizens! The Bund, which is a part of the Social-Democratic Labour Party of Russia, calls upon you to support it in the electoral campaign. The Bund is the party of the working class. It is the party of the most oppressed of all the oppressed, the most irreconcilable, and the most determined of all, who are now carrying on the struggle. That is why it has nothing to lose but its chains. The working class fights for the fundamental re-organisation of society on the basis of Socialism and while proceeding towards the. realisation of this and along the painful road of class-struggle, sets up as its proximate aim the conquest of liberty, since a free democratic State is the necessary condition of the success of it struggle. It requires all the liberty, and by emancipating itself it emancipates all those who together it are oppressed by the present regime.”

The manifesto concludes by formulating the demands for which the Bund fights in the present electoral campaign. They include the convocation of a constituent assembly on the principle of universal, equal, and direct suffrage, and secret ballot, the proclamation of a democratic republic, a citizen army in the place of the standing army, equal rights and free cultural development for all nationalities, the autonomy of Poland, confiscation of all lands and their municipalisation, an eight hours day, etc.

K. Boris