Proletary, No. 14, August 29 (16), 1905.
Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 191-199.
Translated: The Late Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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In Proletary, No. 12, which appeared on August 3(16), we spoke of the possibility of the Bulygin Duma being convened in the near future, and analysed the tactics of Social- Democracy towards it. The Bulygin scheme has now become law and the Manifesto of August 6 (19) has proclaimed that a “State Duma” will be called “no later than mid-January 1906”.
It is on the anniversary of January 9, when the St. Peters burg workers placed the seal of their blood on the beginning of the revolution in Russia and showed their determination to fight desperately for its victory—it is on the anniversary of that great day that the tsar proposes to convene this grossly faked, police-sifted assembly of landowners, capitalists, and a negligible number of rich peasants who cringe to the authorities. The tsar intends to consult this assembly as one consisting of representatives of the people”. But the entire working class, all the millions of toilers and those who are not householders are completely barred from the elections of the “people’s representatives”. We shall wait and see whether the tsar is right in banking thus on the impotence of the working class....
Until the revolutionary proletariat has armed itself and defeated the autocratic government nothing more could have been expected than this sop to the big bourgeoisie, one that costs the tsar nothing and commits him to nothing. Even this sop would, probably, not have been given at this time, if the ominous question of war or peace had not loomed large. Without consulting the landlords and capitalists, the autocratic government does not venture either to impose on the people the burden of the senseless continuation of the war, or to work out measures to shift the entire burden of paying for the war from the shoulders of the rich to the shoulders of the workers and peasants.
As for the provisions of the State Duma Act, they fully confirm our worst expectations. It is not known as yet whether this Duma will actually be convened. Such doles can easily be taken away again, and the autocratic monarchs of every country have made and broken similar promises by the score. It is not yet known to what extent this future Duma, if it meets at all and is not wrecked, will be able to become the centre of really far-reaching political agitation among the masses of the people, against the autocracy. But there can be no doubt that the very provisions of the new State Duma Act furnish us with a wealth of material with which to conduct agitation, explain the nature of the autocracy, disclose its class basis, reveal the irreconcilability of its interests with those of the people, and spread and popularise our revolutionary-democratic demands. It may be stated without exaggeration that the Manifesto and Act of August 6 (19) ought now to become a vademecum to every political agitator, every class-conscious worker, for it faithfully reflects all the infamy, viciousness, Asiatic barbarity, violence, and exploitation that pervade the whole social and political system of Russia. Practically every sentence in the Manifesto and the Act provides excellent basis for the most comprehensive and convincing political commentaries, which will stimulate democratic thought and revolutionary consciousness.
As the Russian saying runs: “Leave it alone and it won’t stink.” When one reads the Manifesto and the State Duma Act one feels as though a mass of sewage that has been accumulating since time immemorial were being stirred up under one’s very nose.
Centuries of oppression of the working people, the ignorance and downtrodden state of the people, and the stagnation in economic life and all fields of culture have enabled the autocracy to maintain its position. This formed the background for the untrammelled development and hypocritical dissemination of the doctrine of “the indissoluble oneness of the tsar and the people and the oneness of the people and the tsar”, the doctrine that the tsar’s autocratic power stands above all social estates and classes of the nation, above the division of the people into rich and poor, and expresses the general interests of the entire nation. What we now have before us is a practical attempt to display this “oneness” in the most diffident and embryonic fashion, through simple consultation with the “elected representatives of the whole of Russia”. And what do we see? We at once see that “the oneness of the tsar and the people” is possible only through the medium of an army of bureaucrats and policemen who see to it that the muzzle put on the people is kept firmly in place. This “oneness” requires that the people should not dare to open their mouths. By “people” is meant only the landlords and capitalists, who are allowed to take part in the two-stage elections (voting first for electors, by rural districts or city wards, and these electors in their turn elect the members of the State Duma). Peasant householders are classed among the people only after having been sifted through four-stage elections, under the supervision and with the assistance and instruction of the Marshals of the Nobility, the Rural Superintendents, and police officials. First the householders elect members of the volost assembly; then the volost assemblies elect delegates from the volosts, two from each assembly; then these volost delegates elect the gubernia electors. Finally, the gubernia electors of the peasants, together with the gubernia electors of the landlords and (urban) capitalists elect the members of the State Duma! Almost everywhere the peasants constitute a minority of the gubernia electors. They are guaranteed the election of only one member of the State Duma from each gubernia, who has to be a peasant, i.e., 51 seats out of 412 (in the 51 gubernias of European Russia).
The entire urban working class, all the village poor, agricultural labourers, and peasants who are not householders, take no part whatever in any elections.
The oneness of the tsar and the people is in effect the oneness of the tsar and the landlords and capitalists, with a handful of rich peasants thrown in, and with all elections placed under the strictest police control. Freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, and,of association, without which elections are a mere farce, are not even mentioned.
The State Duma has no rights whatever, for none of its decisions are binding, being merely of an advisory nature. All its decisions are submitted for consideration and approval to the Council of State, i. e., again to the bureaucrats. It is only a flimsy annexe to the bureaucratic and police edifice. The public are not admitted to sittings of the State Duma. Reports on the proceedings of the State Duma may be published in the press only when its sittings are not held in camera; any session may be closed, however, by an official order, which means that the Minister has merely to qualify the matter under consideration as a state secret.
The new State Duma is the same old Russian police station, only on a larger scale. The rich landlord and capitalist manufacturer (on rare occasions, a rich peasant) are admitted for “consultation” to the “open” Sittings of the police station (or the Rural Superintendent, or factory inspector, etc.); they always have the right to submit their opinion for the “gracious attention” of the Emperor... I mean, the police inspector. As for “the common people”, the city workers and the rural poor, it goes without saying that they are never admitted to any kind of “consultation” whatever.
The only difference is that there are many police stations and everything in them is kept out of sight, whereas there is only one State Duma, and it has now become necessary to publish the rules governing its election and the extent of its rights. Publication of this is, we repeat, in itself an excellent exposure of the utter viciousness of the tsarist autocracy.
From the standpoint of the people’s interests the State Duma is the most barefaced mockery of “popular representation”. And, as if to emphasise this mockery we have, on top of this, such facts as Mr. Durnovo’s speech, the arrest of Mr. Milyukov and Co., the scandalous statement made by Mr. Sharapov. In his speech Mr. Durnovo, the new Governor General of Moscow, who is being rapturously hailed by the reactionary press, blurted out the real plans of the government, which, besides the August 6 Manifesto and the State Duma Act, issued an ukase on the same day, revoking the “ukase to the Senate” of February 18, 1905. The ukase of February 18 permitted private individuals to work out projects and propositions designed to improve organisation of the state. Zemstvo members and representatives of the intelligentsia appealed to this ukase whenever they held meetings, conferences, and congresses tolerated by the police. Now this ukase has been revoked, and all “projects and propositions designed to improve organisation of the state” must be “submitted” to the autocratic government “according to the procedure provided for in establishing the State Duma”! This means the end of agitation, the end of meetings, and congresses. There is a State Duma; and there is nothing more to discuss. This is just what Mr. Durnovo stated when he declared that they would no longer tolerate Zemstvo congresses of any kind.
The liberals of our “Constitutional-Democratic” (read: Monarchist) Party find themselves duped again. They counted on a constitution, and now they are forbidden to carry on any agitation for a constitution on the occasion of the “granting” of an institution which makes a mockery of constitution!
Mr. Sharapov has blurted out still more. In his government-subsidised paper (Russkoye Dyelo) he suggests nothing less than the stationing of Cossacks in the palace where the Duma is to sit ... to provide against the contingency of “unseemly” behaviour on the part of the Duma. The oneness of the tsar and the people requires that the latter’s representatives should speak and act as the tsar wishes. Otherwise the Cossacks will disperse the Duma. Otherwise the members of the Duma may be arrested, even without the assistance of the Cossacks, before they ever get into the Duma. The Manifesto on the oneness of the tsar with the people appeared on Saturday, August 6. On Sunday, August 7, Mr. Milyukov, one of the leaders of the moderate wing of the Osvobozhdeniye League or the “Constitutional-Democratic” (read: Monarchist) Party, was arrested near St. Petersburg, together with some ten of his political colleagues. They are to be prosecuted for membership of the Union of Unions. In all probability they will soon be released, but it will be an easy matter to shut the doors of the Duma against them:
all that is needed is to announce that they are “under court investigation”...!
The Russian people are getting their first little lessons in constitutionalism. All these laws on the elections of popular representatives are not worth a brass farthing until the sovereignty of the people has actually been won and there is complete freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association, until citizens are armed and are able to safeguard the inviolability of the person. We have said above that the State Duma is a mockery of popular representation. That is undoubtedly so from the standpoint of the theory of the sovereignty of the people. But this theory is recognised neither by the autocratic government nor by the monarchist-liberal bourgeoisie (the Osvobozhdeniye League or the Constitutional-Monarchist Party). In present-day Russia we have before us three political theories, of whose significance we shall yet speak on more than one occasion. These are: 1) The theory of the tsar’s consultation with the people (or “the oneness of the tsar and the people, and of the people and the tsar”, as it is put in the Manifesto of August 6). 2) The theory of an agreement between the tsar and the people (the programme of the Osvobozhdeniye League and the Zemstvo Congress). 3) The theory of the sovereignty of the people (the programme of Social-Democracy, as well as of revolutionary democracy in general).
From the standpoint of the consultation theory it is quite natural that the tsar should consult only those he wishes to, and only by the methods he wishes. The State Duma is a splendid object lesson showing whom the tsar wants to consult and how. From the standpoint of the theory of an agreement, the tsar is not subject to the will of the people; he must only take it into account. But how he is to take it into account and to what extent, cannot be gathered from the Osvobozhdeniye theory of “agreement”, and whilst power is in the tsar’s hands the Osvobozhdeniye bourgeoisie is inevitably condemned to the wretched position of a cadger, or a go-between, who would use the people’s victories against the people. From the angle of the sovereignty of the people full freedom of agitation and election should first be secured in practice, and then a really popular constituent assembly convened, i.e., an assembly elected by universal and equal suffrage, direct elections, and secret ballot, and endowed with complete power—full, integral, and indivisible power— an assembly which will actually express the sovereignty of the people.
This brings us to our slogan of agitation (the slogan of the R.S.D.L.P.) on the State Duma. Who can really guarantee freedom of elections and full power to a constituent assembly? Only the armed people, organised in a revolutionary army, which has won over to its side all decent and honest elements in the tsar’s army, has overcome the tsar’s forces and substituted a provisional revolutionary government for the tsar’s autocratic government. The setting up of the State Duma, which, on the one hand, “lures” the people with the idea of a representative form of government, and, on the other hand, is the crudest counterfeit of popular representation, will prove an inexhaustible source of the most widespread revolutionary agitation among the masses, will serve as an excellent occasion for meetings, demonstrations, political strikes, etc. The slogan for all this agitation will be: insurrection, the immediate formation of combat squads and contingents of a revolutionary army, the overthrow of tsarist rule, and the establishment of a provisional revolutionary government which is to convene a popular constituent assembly. The timing of the uprising will depend, of course, on local conditions. We can only state that, generally speaking, it is now in the interests of t he revolutionary proletariat to put off somewhat the timing of an uprising: the workers are being armed gradually, the troops are becoming more and more unreliable, the war crisis is reaching its climax (war or an onerous peace), and in such conditions premature attempts at insurrection may cause enormous harm.
In conclusion, it remains for us to draw a comparison between the tactical slogan briefly outlined above, and other slogans. As we have already stated in Proletary, No. 12, our slogan coincides with what the majority of the comrades working in Russia understand by the term “active boycott”. The tactics of Iskra, which in its No. 106 recommended the immediate setting up of revolutionary self-government bodies and election by the people of their own representatives as a possible prologue to an uprising, is absolutely erroneous. So long as the forces for an armed uprising and its victory are still lacking, it is ridiculous even to speak of revolutionary people’s self-government. That is not the prologue to an uprising, but its epilogue. Such erroneous tactics would merely play into the hands of the Osvobozhdeniye bourgeoisie, in the first place by obscuring or shelving the slogan of an uprising, and replacing it with the slogan of the organisation of revolutionary self-government. In the second place, it would make it easier for the liberal bourgeois to represent their (Zemstvo and municipal) elections as popular elections, since there can be no popular elections so long as the tsar retains power, and the liberals may yet succeed in carrying out Zemstvo and municipal elections despite Mr. Durnovo’s threats.
The proletariat has been barred from the Duma elections. Actually, the proletariat has no need to boycott the Duma, since by its very institution this tsarist Duma is itself boycotting the proletariat. It is to the proletariat’s advantage, however, to support that section of the bourgeois democrats which is inclined to prefer revolutionary action to haggling, and which favours boycotting the Duma and more intensive agitation among the people for a protest against this Duma. The proletariat must not pass over in silence this first betrayal or inconsistency on the part of the bourgeois democrats, which is expressed in the fact that their representatives talk of boycotting the Duma (at the July Zemstvo Congress the first voting even showed a majority in favour of a boycott), utter pompous phrases about appealing to the people and not to the tsar (Mr. I. Petrunkevich at that same Congress), whereas in reality they are prepared to over look this new flouting of the people’s demands, without making a protest in the real sense of the word or giving it wide publicity, and to abandon the idea of a boycott and enter the Duma. The proletariat cannot but refute. the false phrases that are now so much in vogue in articles published in the legal liberal press (see, for instance, Rus of August 7), which has entered the fray against the idea of a boycott. The gentlemen of the liberal press are corrupting the people with their assurances that the peaceful path, a “peaceful clash of opinions” is possible (why is it that Milyukov could not struggle “peacefully” against Sharapov, gentlemen, why?). The gentlemen of the liberal press are deceiving the people when they declare that the Zemstvos “can to a certain extent [I] paralyse [!! I the pressure which will, undoubtedly, be brought to bear on the peasant electors by the Rural Superintendents and by the local authorities in general”. (Rus, loc. cit.) The liberal journalists are wholly distorting the role of the State Duma in the Russian revolution, when they compare it with the Prussian. Chamber of the period of the budget conflict with Bismarck (1863). Actually, if one is to make a comparison at all, one must take as an example not a constitutional period but a period of struggle for a constitution, a period of incipient revolution. To do otherwise means to skip directly from a period when the bourgeoisie is revolutionary into a period when the bourgeoisie has made its peace with reaction. (cf. Proletary, No. 5 on the comparison drawn between our Messrs. Petrunkeviches and Mr. Andrássy, “once a revolutionary” and subsequently a Minister. ) The State Duma brings to mind the Prussian “United Landtag” (Diet) established on February 3, 1847, one year before the revolution. The Prussian liberals of those days were also preparing—although they never actually got round to it—to boycott this consultative chamber of landlords, and were asking the people: “Annehmen oder ablehnen?” (“Accept or Decline?”—the title of a pamphlet by Heinrich Simon, a bourgeois liberal, which was published in 1847.) The Prussian United Landtag met (the first session was opened on April 11, 1847, and closed on June 26, 1847) and gave rise to a series of clashes between the constitutionalists and the autocratic government; nevertheless it remained a lifeless institution, until the revolutionary people, headed by the proletariat of Berlin, defeated the royal army in the uprising of March 18, 1848. Then the State Duma... I mean the United Landtag—went up in smoke. An assembly of people’s representatives was then convened (unfortunately not by a revolutionary government but by the king, whom the heroic workers of Berlin had “not finished off”) on the basis of universal suffrage with relative freedom to carry on agitation.
Let the bourgeois betrayers of the revolution enter this still-born State Duma. The proletariat of Russia will intensify its agitation and its preparations for our Russian March 18, 1848 (or better still, August 10, 1792).
 See pp. 179-87 of this volume.—Ed.
 See present edition, Vol. 8, pp. 526-30.—Ed.
 Marshal of the Nobility—the elected representative of the nobility of a gubernia or uyezd, who was in charge of all the nobles’ affairs in the area represented. He held a position of influence in the administration, and took the chair at Zemstvo meetings.