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Let the Workers Decide

V. I. Lenin

The Social-Democratic proletariat of Russia, and particularly of St. Petersburg, is confronted with the extremely important problem of how to conduct the immediate political campaign in relation to the State Duma. It goes without saying that the united Social-Democratic Party can discuss this question of the immediate campaign only within the framework of the resolution of the Unity Congress.

The St. Petersburg Social-Democratic proletariat has two plans of campaign before it: one in the resolution of the Central Committee, and the other in the resolution of the St. Petersburg Committee. These two resolutions[1] have already been published in Vperyod (No. 2),[2] and now we propose to discuss the material difference between them. The main point in the Central Committee's resolution reads: "We will support the Duma in all the steps it takes towards overthrowing the present Ministry and substituting for it a Ministry appointed by the Duma, for we see in such a change favourable conditions for the convocation of a constituent assembly." The resolution of the St. Petersburg Committee says nothing about supporting such a demand; it concentrates on the government's outrageous behaviour, on the impotence of the Duma, on the need for the Trudovik Group to appeal to the people, on the inevitability of a new and joint struggle by the workers and peasants.

Thus the main point at issue is whether or not we should support the steps of the Duma towards the formation of a Cadet Ministry. The Central Committee's resolution is vague on this point, and talks about a "Ministry appointed by the Duma". But everybody knows, and the whole liberal-bourgeois press is emphasising it, that what is actually being discussed is the appointment by the supreme authority of a Ministry acceptable to the Duma, that is to say, a Cadet Ministry. And this is the only construction that the broad masses of the working class can put upon the Central Committee's resolution.

Can the Social-Democratic proletariat support the demand that the supreme authority should appoint a Cadet Ministry? No, it cannot. A Cadet Ministry can be appointed only as the result of a deal between the autocracy and the liberal bourgeoisie against the socialist workers and the revolutionary peasantry. The Social-Democrats will, of course, take the utmost advantage of the new situation that would be created by such a deal. They will carefully consider their tactics if this deal even temporarily creates better conditions for the struggle for freedom and for socialism. We will do all we can to turn even this counter-revolutionary deal to the advantage of the revolution. But we cannot support a deal between the bourgeoisie and the bureaucrats concluded behind the backs of the people. To call upon the people, or the proletariat, to support such a deal would only be corrupting their minds, concealing from them the truth about the nature of this deal, about the dangers it involves, and about the fact that the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy want thereby to make more difficult the convocation of a constituent assembly.

We must call upon the workers and peasants not to sup port deals, but to fight. Only serious preparations for a fight can really weaken the autocracy; a fight alone can guarantee that any step the autocracy or the bourgeoisie take will really benefit the revolution. The Central Committee's resolution is mistaken. The class-conscious Social-Democratic workers cannot accept it.

Now for the second question. Is it not our duty to accept this resolution in the name of discipline and of submission to the Congress? Read the resolution on the State Duma adopted by the Unity Congress; you will find nothing in it to suggest that we must support the demand for the formation of a Cadet Ministry. It does not contain a single word about "supporting" the Duma at all. The following is the full text of that part of the Congress resolution which defines our attitude to the Duma itself: "The Social-Democratic Party must (1) systematically utilise all the conflicts that arise between the government and the Duma, as well as in the Duma itself, for the purpose of expanding and deepening the revolutionary movement, and with this end in view it must (a) strive to expand and intensify these conflicts to such limits as will enable them to be used as the starting-point for broad mass movements for the overthrow of the present political system; (b) strive in every case to link the political tasks of the movement with the social and economic demands of the masses of workers and peasants; (c) by means of extensive agitation among the masses of the people in favour of revolutionary demands to be presented to the State Duma—organise outside pressure upon the Duma with the object of revolutionising it. (2) Intervene in such a way as to make these growing conflicts (a) reveal to the masses the inconsistency of all the bourgeois parties in the Duma that claim to express the will of the people, and (b) help the broad masses (the proletariat, the peasantry, and the town petty bourgeoisie) to realise that the Duma is utterly useless as a representative body, and that it is necessary to convene a national constituent assembly", etc.

From the passages we have underlined, it is evident that the Central Committee's resolution on supporting the demand for a Cadet Ministry, far from being in harmony with the Congress resolution, actually contradicts it. The demand for a Cadet Ministry is not a revolutionary demand. It serves to allay and obscure the conflicts with the Duma, and in the Duma; it leaves out the question of the uselessness of the Duma, etc., etc. We will add that the Congress resolution says nothing about "supporting" the Duma; it speaks only of "exerting pressure", "utilising" and "intervening".

The inference is obvious. The Central Committee has absolutely no right to call upon the Party organisations to accept its resolution in favour of supporting the demand for a Cadet Ministry. It is the duty of every Party member to take an absolutely independent and critical stand on this question and to declare for the resolution that in his opinion more correctly solves the problem within the framework of the decisions of the Unity Congress. The St. Petersburg worker Social-Democrats know that the whole Party organisation is now built on a democratic basis.. This means that all the Party members take part in the election of officials, committee members, and so forth, that all the Party members discuss and decide questions concerning the political campaigns of the proletariat, and that all the Party members determine the line of tactics of the Party organisations.

We are sure that this will be the attitude of the St. Peters burg Social-Democratic proletariat on the present issue: that it will discuss it earnestly and thoroughly, 'from every angle and decide for itself whether or not the demand for a Cadet Ministry should be supported.

The St. Petersburg workers will not allow themselves to be diverted from their right, from their Social-Democratic and Party duty by any sophistry, that is to say, by any obviously fallacious arguments. We will very briefly mention these sophistries. L. Martov in Kuryer (No. 13) says: in the name of discipline, do not disorganise the Central Committee's political campaign. This is sophistry. Discipline does not demand that a Party member should blindly subscribe to all the resolutions drafted by the Central Committee. There is no rule anywhere that compels a Party organisation to forego its right to have an opinion of its own and to become a mere subscriber to the Central Committee's resolutions. L. Martov says: the Mensheviks submitted in the case of the boycott, now it is for you to submit. This is sophistry. We all submitted to the decisions of the Congress. Not one of us called for opposition to participation in the Duma elections and to the formation of a Social-Democratic parliamentary group. Conforming with the decision of the Congress, we submitted, we gave up the boycott. But we have a right and duty to oppose, within the framework of the Congress decisions, support for a Cadet Ministry, which no Congress has decreed. L. Martov evades the whole issue with awful words and insinuations about disorganisers: but he does not say a word about whether the St. Petersburg Committee resolution contradicts the Congress decision. He says nothing about the rights of the opposition, that is, about the right of any Party organisation, within the bounds of the will of the Congress, to question the tactics of the Central Committee and to correct its deviations and mistakes. Therefore we will calmly reply to Martov that those are disorganisers who violate the legitimate rights of the Party organisations.

We will calmly point to the fact that even Mensheviks (see Comrade Vlasov's[3] letter to the editor elsewhere in this issue) disagree with the proposal to support a Cadet Ministry. Even Comrade Ryanshev, in Kuryer, No. 13, calls upon "the Workers' and Trudovik Groups" to "fight with all their might" against the Cadets' Freedom of Assembly Bill, that is to say, he proposes purely Bolshevik tactics, which preclude support for a Ministry consisting of these same Cadets.

When the Vyborg District Committee proposes that a general city conference be called for which the delegates are to be elected "irrespective of faction, i.e., without any discussion"—without discussing the point at issue! !—the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic workers can, of course, only laugh at them for their proposal. Class-conscious workers will never decide an important question without discussion. Neither complaints about "sharp language" in discussion, nor L. Martov's wailings about certain harsh words that have offended him, nor threats of a split uttered by him, or anybody else, will prevent the workers from settling the question by themselves. To threaten a split, to provoke a split, is a trick unworthy of a Social-Democrat, and can only give pleasure to the bourgeoisie (see Duma, No. 29). The workers will by a majority vote decide whether or not a Cadet Ministry should be supported. And they will see to it that nobody, not even the Central Committee, dares to thwart the decisions they arrive at absolutely freely, independently and legitimately, on the basis of the decisions of the Unity Congress.


[1] See pp. 481-82 of this volume.—Ed.     [Resolution (II) - Attitude Towards the State Duma]

[2] Vperyod (Forward)—a legal Bolshevik daily published in St. Petersburg from May 26 (June 8), 1906 onwards, instead of the newspaper Volna, closed by the government. Lenin played the leading role in the daily. Among the contributors were M. S. Olminsky, V. V. Vorovsky and A. V. Lunacharsky. The paper was persecuted by the police; it was closed with issue No. 17 on June 14 (27), 1906, and was succeeded by the Bolshevik Ekho.

The "Resolution (II) of the St. Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P." appeared in Vperyod in abridged form.

[3] Vlasov—A. I. Rykov.

Published: Vperyod, No. 6, June 1, 1906. Published according to the Vperyod text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 500-504.

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