79) After the Conference

Shortly after the Prague conference, on February 28, 1912, the Mensheviks and all the other groups organized a separate conference in Paris. The split was now a fact, recognized by all. Present at the Paris meeting were the foreign committee of Bund, Plekhanov’s group, the Vperyod group, the Golos group, Trotsky’s group, and the conciliators. They raged about the Bolsheviks “splitting” activities and “coup d’état.” As on earlier occasions, they made a fuss abroad, writing in the SDP press and sending a protest to the International Socialist Bureau. But all to no avail. The split between revolutionary Marxism and opportunism in Russia was an anticipation of the split in the international workers’ movement that occurred in 1914. Although neither he nor anyone else could foresee the terrible betrayal perpetrated by the leaders of the Second International in the First World War, Lenin was already drawing conclusions about the clash between Marxism and opportunism from the experience in Russia and the position of the leaders of the International in relation to it. Referring to the situation in the German SDP, he said it was “on the outside, unity, on the inside two sharply defined tendencies,” and he predicted the inevitability of conflict between them.

Lenin regarded the Prague Conference as the rebirth of the party. After the conference Lenin wrote to Maxim Gorky: “We have finally succeeded—in spite of the liquidationist scoundrels—in reviving the Party and its Central Committee.”456 He hoped that, having extricated themselves from entanglement with the Mensheviks, the genuine revolutionary current could get down to the task of winning the working class. However, the process of separating out the revolutionary wing did not occur easily or without internal conflict. The response of the other tendencies to the Prague Conference was predictably hysterical, and many of the Bolsheviks were still wavering even after the Prague Conference. In a letter to his sister Anna, Lenin describes the atmosphere among the exiles:


Among our people here, by the way, there is more bickering and abuse of each other than there has been for a long time—there probably never has been so much before. All the groups and subgroups have joined forces against the last conference and those who organized it, so that matters even went as far as fisticuffs at meetings here. In short, there is so little here that is interesting or even pleasant that it’s not worth writing.457

Worse still, many of the activists in Russia, including the Bolsheviks, were conciliators. Lenin later conceded in private to Gorky that the “young workers in Russia” were “furiously irritated with those abroad.”458 Lenin’s correspondence in the months following the Prague Conference reveals his worried frame of mind. On March 28 he wrote to his supporters in Russia: “I am terribly upset and disturbed by the complete disorganization of our (and your) relations and contacts. Truly it is enough to make one despair!” He admits that “things are bad” in St. Petersburg. And not only there: “No resolutions from anywhere, not a single one, demanding the money! [i.e., the Bolshevik funds held by the Socialist International.] Simply a disgrace. Neither from Tiflis nor from Baku (terribly important centers) is there any word of sense about reports having been delivered. Where are the resolutions? Shame and disgrace!” Later he wrote: “You are wrong not to reply to the Liquidators. This is a great mistake.”459 There were many such letters.

Meanwhile, the opponents of the Conference were not inactive. Trotsky tried to organize another meeting in August 1912 in Berne, but only the Liquidators turned up, as if to underline the hopeless position he had got himself into. Describing his attitude at that time, Trotsky writes:

In 1912, when the political curve in Russia took an unmistakable upward turn, I made an attempt to call a union conference of representatives of all the Social Democratic factions. To show that I was not alone in the hope of restoring the unity of the Russian Social Democracy, I can cite Rosa Luxemburg. In the summer of 1911, she wrote: “Despite everything, the unity of the party could still be saved if both sides could be forced to call a conference together.” In August 1911, she reiterated: ‘The only way to save the unity is to bring about a general conference of people sent from Russia, for the people in Russia all want peace and unity, and they represent the only force that can bring the fighting cocks abroad to their senses.”

Among the Bolsheviks themselves, conciliatory tendencies were then still very strong, and I had hoped that this would induce Lenin also to take part in a general conference. Lenin, however, came out with all his force against union. The entire course of the events that followed proved conclusively that Lenin was right. The conference met in Vienna in August 1912, without the Bolsheviks, and I found myself formally in a “bloc” with the Mensheviks and a few disparate groups of Bolshevik dissenters. This “bloc” had no common political basis, because in all important matters I disagreed with the Mensheviks. My struggle against them was resumed immediately after the conference. Every day, bitter conflicts grew out of the deep-rooted opposition of the two tendencies, the social-revolutionary and the democratic-reformist.

“From Trotsky’s letter,” writes Axelrod on May 4, shortly before the conference, “I got the very painful impression that he had not the slightest desire to come to a real and friendly understanding with us and our friends in Russia . . . for a joint fight against the common enemy.” Nor had I, in fact nor could I possibly have had, an intention of allying myself with the Mensheviks to fight against the Bolsheviks. After the conference, Martov complained in a letter to Axelrod that Trotsky was reviving the “worst habits of the Lenin-Plekhanov literary individualism.” The correspondence between Axelrod and Martov, published a few years ago, testifies to this perfectly unfeigned hatred of me. Despite the great gulf which separated me from them, I never had any such feeling toward them. Even today, I gratefully remember that in earlier years I was indebted to them for many things.

The episode of the August bloc has been included in all the “anti-Trotsky” textbooks of the epigone period. For the benefit of the novices and the ignorant, the past is there presented in such a way as to suggest that Bolshevism came out of the laboratory of history fully armed—whereas the history of the struggle of the Bolsheviks against the Mensheviks is also a history of ceaseless efforts toward unity. After his return to Russia in 1917, Lenin made the last effort to come to terms with the Mensheviks-Internationalists. When I arrived from America in May of the same year, the majority of the Social Democratic organizations in the provinces consisted of united Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. At the party conference in March 1917, a few days before Lenin’s arrival, Stalin was preaching union with the party of Tsereteli. Even after the October Revolution, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Lunacharsky, and dozens of others were fighting madly for a coalition with the Social Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks. And these are the men who are now trying to sustain their ideological existence by hair-raising stories about the Vienna unity conference of 1912!460

The August Bloc was an unprincipled amalgam because it was made up of different tendencies with nothing in common except their hostility to Lenin. All talk about “unity” was completely irrelevant now. When the Vperyod representative walked out, Trotsky was left with the Liquidators, with whom he had absolutely nothing in common—a completely unnatural bloc, as Trotsky later honestly admitted. Trotsky was undoubtedly mistaken in his attempt to get unity at this time, but his mistake was that of a genuine revolutionary with the interests of the working class and the victory of socialism at heart. Many years later Trotsky gave his final verdict on the August Bloc and his role in it:


I have in mind the so-called August Bloc of 1912. I participated actively in this bloc. In a certain sense I created it. Politically I differed with the Mensheviks on all fundamental questions. I also differed with the ultraleft Bolsheviks, the Vperyodists. In the general tendency of politics I stood far more closely to the Bolsheviks. But I was against the Leninist “regime” because I had not yet learned to understand that in order to realize the revolutionary goal a firmly welded centralized party is indispensable. And so I formed this episodic bloc consisting of heterogeneous elements which was directed against the proletarian wing of the party.

In the August Bloc the Liquidators had their own faction, the Vperyodists also had something resembling a faction. I stood isolated, having co-thinkers but no faction. Most of the documents were written by me and through avoiding principled differences had as their aim the creation of a semblance of unanimity upon “concrete political questions.” Not a word about the past! Lenin subjected the August Bloc to merciless criticism and the harshest blows fell to my lot. Lenin proved that inasmuch as I did not agree politically with either the Mensheviks or the Vperyodists my policy was adventurism. This was severe but it was true.

As “mitigating circumstances” let me mention the fact that I had set as my task not to support the right or ultraleft factions against the Bolsheviks but to unite the whole party as a whole. The Bolsheviks, too, were invited to the August conference. But since Lenin flatly refused to unite with the Mensheviks (in which he was completely correct) I was left in an unnatural bloc with the Mensheviks and the Vperyodists. The second mitigating circumstance is this, that the very phenomenon of Bolshevism as the genuine revolutionary party was then developing for the first time—in the practice of the Second International there were no precedents. But I do not thereby seek in the least to absolve myself from guilt. Notwithstanding the conception of permanent revolution which undoubtedly disclosed the correct perspective, I had not freed myself at that period especially in the organizational sphere from the traits of a petty-bourgeois revolutionist. I was sick with the disease of conciliationism toward Menshevism and with a distrustful attitude toward Leninist centralism. Immediately after the August conference the bloc began to disintegrate into its component parts. Within a few months I was not only in principle but organizationally outside the bloc.461

The incident of the so-called August Bloc was later blown out of all proportion by the Stalinist falsifiers of the history of Bolshevism, with their barefaced invention of “Trotsky’s Bloc” with the Liquidators. The August Bloc undoubtedly represented the shipwreck of conciliationism, showing the impossibility of unity between Bolshevism and Menshevism. Trotsky was particularly upset at this move towards a split which upset all his plans. He railed against Lenin, who replied in kind. Some harsh words were said on both sides in the heat of the moment, which would later be fished out of the archives and used by the Stalinists for unprincipled factional purposes in the struggle to discredit Trotsky after Lenin’s death, despite the explicit instructions in his Testament that “Trotsky’s non-Bolshevik past should not be used against him.”


456 LCW, Letter to Maxim Gorky, February 1912, vol. 35, 23.

457 Letter to his sister Anna, March 24, 1912, LCW Vol. 37, 474.

458 See LCW, Letter to Maxim Gorky, August 25, 1912, vol. 35, 54.

459 LCW, vol. 35, 28, 29, and 36.

460 Trotsky, My Life, 224–26.

461 Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism, 177–78.

80) A New Awakening

The year 1912 had begun quietly enough. The Factory Inspectorate only registered 21 strikes in January and the same number in February. Then, without warning, a bombshell burst in a clear blue sky. The Lena goldfield in Siberia was one of the biggest gold mines in the world. Among the shareholders was the tsar’s mother, Count Witte, and government ministers. At the end of February a strike broke out in Lena over the atrocious wages and conditions. Significantly, the chairman of the strike committees was a Bolshevik, P.N. Batashev. The government sent in the troops, who, on April 4, opened fire on a crowd of 3,000 miners, killing 270 and wounding a further 250. It was Bloody Sunday all over again. The shots that echoed over the frozen tundra broke the ice of five years of reaction.

The news of the massacre of miners had an electrifying effect. On April 7 and 8, mass protest meetings were held in the factories of St. Petersburg. A few days later, with incredible stupidity, Makorov, the Minister of the Interior, answering questions in the Duma, said “so it was, and so it will be in the future.” The indignation of the masses finally boiled over. Between April 14 and 22 there were 140,000 on strike in St. Petersburg and from April 12 to 30, 70,000 in Moscow. The protest strikes spread to the Ukraine, the Baltic states, the Middle Volga, Byelorussia, Lithuania, Poland, and the North and Central industrial regions. This was followed by a new wave of strikes on May 1, when 400,000 workers came out. These strikes were increasingly of a political character. There were 700 political strikes in April. On May 1, there were more than 1,000 strikes in the St. Petersburg area—a higher number than in 1905. The knot of history was retied: the workers continued where they had left off in 1907, but on a higher level. The workers had learned from their experience. In January 1905 they began with appeals to the Little Father. Now they began with the slogan, “Down with the tsarist government!”

After Lena, everything changed in a matter of days. M.F. Van Koten, the St. Petersburg Okhrana Chief, wrote to the Police Department: “The events at Lena have heightened the mood of the local revolutionary groups and of factory workers.”462 Suddenly, the fortunes of the Bolsheviks were transformed. In 1905 the Social Democrats had been in a weak position with a very scant presence in the working class. And the Bolsheviks had been in a still weaker position within the Social Democracy. Now the opposite was the case. The Bolsheviks quickly became the decisive force within the Social Democracy, and the Social Democracy was the decisive political force in the working class. Responding quickly to events, they called on the workers to take revolutionary action. Using Zvezda as a legal front, they were able to give leadership to the mass movement, issuing fighting slogans and directives. The swift reaction of the Bolsheviks and their militant stance facilitated the rapid growth of Bolshevik numbers and influence. It also completely justified the split, which had, in fact, come just in time. To have remained entangled with the Mensheviks at such a moment would have meant paralysis.

The workers quickly took up the Bolshevik slogans on May Day: “Long live the democratic republic!” “Long live socialism!” The movement was not restricted to the workers. The student movement was given a new impetus by the Lena events which sparked off a ferment in the universities. This presented new possibilities for the spread of revolutionary ideas. But a lot of work was still needed to win complete hegemony of the mass movement. In particular, the re-awakening of democratic aspirations and the undoubted presence of constitutional illusions could have strengthened the influence of the bourgeois-liberals, who appeared to be “in opposition.” They were well-known public figures, not averse to making demagogic speeches “for democracy,” and speaking in the name of “the people.” For this reason, Lenin’s main fire was directed against the bourgeois liberals.

Revitalized and elated by the change in the situation, which he had awaited for so long, Lenin immediately set about galvanizing his comrades and spurring them into action. In the latter part of June, he and Krupskaya moved from Paris to Cracow, in the Austrian-held part of Poland, in order to be nearer the revolution. Krupskaya recalls this period as only “half-emigration” when they had ever closer ties with the interior. From here, he bombarded the Party with letters, calls to action, complaints, and words of encouragement. It was also a relief to get away from the enervating atmosphere of intrigue, backstabbing and gossip which characterized émigré life in Paris. He wrote to Gorky that summer:

You ask me why I am in Austria. The Central Committee has set up a bureau here (entre nous); we are nearer to St. Petersburg, and it is much easier to write articles for the papers in Russia, and collaboration is being arranged. There is less wrangling, and that too is an advantage. There is no good library, and that is a disadvantage. It is hard to live without good books.463


462 Quoted in R. McKean, St. Petersburg Between the Revolutions, 88.

463 Quoted in S. Payne, The Life and Death of Lenin, 248.

81) Lenin and Pravda

Throughout the year, the revolutionary movement was on the ascendant. The mood of revolt spread to the troops. There were mutinies in the Baltic Fleet, where the sailors, mostly of proletarian origins, were affected by the mood of the workers of nearby St. Petersburg. 500 Baltic Fleet sailors were arrested and sent for court martial. On October 26, the Petersburg Bolsheviks called a strike in protest at the repression of the sailors. The protest spread to Moscow, Riga, Reval, Nikolaev, Nizhny Novgorod, Berdyansk, and other working class centers, anticipating the future unity of workers and soldiers in 1917.

After the long, frustrating years in the wilderness, the Party now began to experience rapid growth. By early 1913 the Bolsheviks had 22 workers’ cells in Moscow. The new upswing had a positive effect on morale and growth everywhere. Freed from the restrictive and debilitating influence of the Liquidators and the interminable internal conflicts, the Bolsheviks advanced with giant strides, under their own colors. This time the Mensheviks had missed the boat. However, rapidly changing conditions posed the need for a swift transformation of the Party’s methods and an urgent strengthening of the apparatus. The bourgeois liberals had the means to publish “popular” papers like Sovremennik (The Contemporary) which, for lack of an alternative, was widely read by workers. The struggle against bourgeois influence in the masses demanded a Bolshevik daily paper. The Bolshevik Zvezda reached the minority of active workers, but it was quite insufficient for the changed situation. The Prague Conference agreed to launch a daily paper with the name Rabochaya Gazeta. In the spring of 1912 preparations were begun for the new publication. A team was formed consisting of N.N. Baturin, M.S. Olimsky, N.G. Poletaev, and CC members Ordzhonikidze and Stalin.

At the same time the Liquidators were talking about a daily and began an appeal for funds, although without success. By late March in Petersburg, Zvezda had the support of 108 groups of workers, the Mensheviks seven! By April, after the Lena events, the figures were 227 to eight. By late April, the Bolsheviks had collected enough money to issue the paper, which they called by the well-known name of Pravda. This meant, in effect, appropriating the name of Trotsky’s paper, a move which considerably embittered relations between the Bolsheviks and Trotsky, who, in a moment of anger, wrote a stinging attack on Lenin in a private letter not meant for publication which was later fished out and used unscrupulously by the Stalinists to blacken Trotsky’s name.

The new Pravda was an instant success. The first issue had a print run of 60,000. This was an invaluable weapon in the middle of a massive strike wave. Pravda was a real workers’ paper with links to every factory. Worker correspondents wrote in every issue commenting on every aspect of working class life. About 5,000 letters from workers were received in the first year. Regular columns included “Strikes in Petersburg” and “Strikes in the Provinces.” Pravda was much more than a paper. It was a real organizer. In its pages there was not only a lot of information about the workers’ movement, but also directives and slogans, and many letters about the life and conditions of the workers written by workers themselves. This was not just a paper “for workers,” but a real workers’ paper, something they could identify with as their own. However, Pravda did not limit itself to describing what is. It also included theory as a necessary means of raising the consciousness of its readers to the level of the tasks demanded by history. It regularly featured Lenin’s articles, which provided the necessary theoretical generalizations and explanations, as well as polemics against other trends, with particular emphasis on exposing the Liquidators.

Lenin paid careful attention to Pravda, and wrote a large number of articles for it—out of 75 issues that came out between March and May of 1913, 41 contain at least one of Lenin’s articles. He also tried to involve Plekhanov, Gorky, and other intellectuals in Pravda, although Plekhanov was already moving away. Nor was Lenin’s participation limited to writing articles. He was also actively involved in reading and correcting articles, studying the reports and correspondence in order to gain a more accurate idea of what was going on in the factories, following the circulation figures, and analyzing the results of financial campaigns. Such close attention was not at all accidental. Lenin well understood the key role of the paper as an organizer. To the degree that there is a serious organization, capable of penetrating every factory, setting up a network of worker correspondents, raising money from the workers, sending regular reports, and the hundred-and-one other tasks involved in the workers’ press, the basis and framework is already established for far bigger tasks.

The new paper did not escape the attention of the authorities. Pravda had to contend with censorship, fines, and police raids. About 17 percent of all the issues were confiscated in 1912. In May-June 1913 it was up to 40 percent. By July-September the figure was 80 percent! In an effort to fool the authorities, they changed its name repeatedly. The paper came out as Rabochaya Pravda (Workers’ Truth), Pravda Truda (Labor Truth), Severnaya Pravda (Northern Truth) and so on. Each time, the authorities imposed a new ban, and each time a new title appeared. And so the cat-and-mouse game went on. Apart from the legal problems, there was a permanent struggle to keep the paper going financially. There were continuous efforts to raise cash. Unlike the Mensheviks, who raised most of their finance from wealthy sympathizers, the Bolsheviks were proud of the fact that they raised most of their funds from small sums collected by the workers themselves. In the long run, this is the only really firm base for financing a revolutionary party. In 1912 there were 620 groups of workers organizing collections for the paper, and by 1913, it was up to 2,181. Pravda was maintained mainly by the “kopecks of the workers.”

Neither persecution nor the lack of funds could halt the advance of the workers’ daily. Pravda’s influence increased by leaps and bounds. Tens of thousands of workers read the paper, often in groups, passing copies from one workshop to another. Pravda galvanized a wide layer of nonparty workers around the Party, considerably expanding its influence and periphery. The local party organizations were given targets of money to raise to support Pravda. By such means the paper began to occupy a central place in the building of the Party—a collective organizer. By early 1913, the paper had not only increased its size, but its run was up too. Starting the year with a circulation of 23,000, by mid-March, it rose to 30–32,000, and 40–42,000 on Sundays. By the summer the number of individual and collective subscribers was an impressive 5,501. This automatically meant a growth in party membership, which had increased to 30–50,000 by September 1913. Groups of supporters were set up all over the country, even in far-off Tashkent in Central Asia. Eventually Pravda even began to penetrate the villages.

Despite the phenomenal success of Pravda, relations between Lenin and the paper’s editorial board were far from smooth. A section of the editorial board did not approve of Lenin’s attacks on the Liquidators: Stalin, S.S. Danilov, N.N. Lebedev, V.M. Molotov, S.M. Nakhimson, M.S. Olminsky—all opposed using the paper for factional disagreements. This detail reveals a total lack of understanding on the part of Lenin’s collaborators, even at this late stage. Lenin tried to “patiently explain” the facts of life to his collaborators.

It is harmful, destructive, ridiculous to conceal differences from the workers (as Pravda is doing) . . . If you remain silent, you have abstained. And a paper which abstains, has perished.464

Lenin’s strained relations with other Bolshevik leaders were directly related to the question of tactics in the Duma. Early in 1912, the editors of Zvezda had published an article by the Bolshevik conciliator M.I. Frumkin, who demanded a single Social Democratic electoral program and openly came out in favor of the Mensheviks’ electoral slogans.465 So sharp did the conflict become that the editorial board of Pravda, where Stalin was in charge at the time, pointedly refused to publish a single article by Lenin or Zinoviev on questions of electoral strategy. This produced a furious row. Even a superficial reading of Lenin’s correspondence with Pravda at this time shows that there was a running battle between him and the editors. Krupskaya notes that

Sometimes—but not often—Ilyich’s articles got lost. At other times they were held up and inserted only after some delay. Ilyich used to worry; he wrote angry letters to Pravda, but that did not help much.466

During the election campaign for the Fourth Duma in 1912, Lenin wrote to the Pravda editorial board:

is carrying on now, at election time, like a sleepy old maid. Pravda doesn’t know how to fight. It does not attack, it does not persecute either the Cadet or the Liquidator.

Some time in October, he wrote to the editorial board in language which shows Lenin’s burning indignation at Pravda’s failure to expose the Liquidators:

The undersigned, now in the capacity of a permanent political contributor to Pravda and Nevskaya Zvezda, considers it his duty to express his protest against the behavior of the colleagues in charge of these newspapers at a critical time.

The elections in St. Petersburg, both in the workers’ curia and in the 2nd urban curia, are a critical moment, a moment for realizing the results of five years of work, a moment for determining, in many respects, the direction of work for the next five years.

At such a moment, the leading organ of working class democrats must follow a clear, firm, and precisely defined policy. But Pravda, which is in many respects effectively the leading organ, is not conducting such a policy.

And he continues:

Pravda itself has admitted that there are two clearly formalized lines, platforms, collective wills (the August, or Liquidators’, line and the January line). Yet Pravda creates the opinion that it is carrying on some third line “of its own,” invented only yesterday by someone and amounting (as we have learned from St. Petersburg through other channels, since Pravda’s editorial board has stubbornly refused to favor us with a reply) either to letting the Liquidators have one of the three candidates, or handing over to them the whole of the 2nd curia “in exchange for the workers’ curia.” If these rumors are untrue, Pravda bears the entire responsibility for them, because you cannot sow such uncertainty among Marxists that unquestionable friends, Marxists, believe these rumors, and pass them on.

At this hot time, Nevskaya Zvezda is closed down, without a single letter or explanation, collective exchange of opinion is completely interrupted, and political contributors are left in the dark, not knowing whom they are helping after all to get elected; may it not be a Liquidator? I am obliged hotly to protest against this, and to decline any responsibility for this abnormal situation, which is pregnant with drawn-out conflicts.467

Finally, Lenin’s patience was exhausted:

We received a stupid and impudent letter from the editorial board (of Pravda). We will not reply. They must be got rid of . . . We are exceedingly disturbed by the absence of news about the plan for reorganizing the editorial board . . . Reorganization, but better still, the complete expulsion of all the old timers, is extremely necessary. (My emphasis.)

Lenin protested against the systematic censorship of his articles:

Why then does Pravda stubbornly and systematically cut out any mention of the Liquidators, both in my articles and in the articles of other colleagues?468

In other letters he demands the return of unpublished articles, many of which vanished without trace. At times, it seems, Lenin did not even receive the paper, and there are also complaints that he was not paid: “Why don’t you pay me the money you owe? This delay is causing us great difficulties.”469 Finally, Lenin’s patience ran out. In a furious letter to Sverdlov, he wrote:

It is essential to put in our own editorial board of Dyen and throw out the present one. Work is thoroughly bad at present, the boosting of the Bundist Liquidators (Zeit) and the non–Social Democrat Jagiello is an absolute disgrace. The absence of a campaign for unity from below is stupid and base . . . are such people editors? They are not people, but wretched wet-rags and wreckers of the cause.470

Despite the reference to Dyen, this letter in fact deals with the state of affairs in the editorial board of Pravda at the end of 1912 and the beginning of 1913.471 It shows how far relations with Lenin had deteriorated at this time. Only after Lenin exerted heavy pressure at the Cracow conference, did Pravda modify its stance. As late as February 1913, Lenin, while noting with relief the changes in the Pravda editorial board, commented: “You cannot imagine to what extent we have been exhausted by working with a sullenly hostile editorial board.”472 But gradually, Lenin succeeded in straightening things out. By the autumn of 1913, Lenin was able to write to Pravda congratulating it on its campaign in support of the Bolshevik deputies in the Duma.473


464 Lenin, Collected Works, in Russian, vol. 48, 71.

465 See McKean, St. Petersburg Between the Revolutions, 132.

466 Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin, 261.

467 LCW, To the Editorial Board of Pravda, First half of October, 1912, vol. 36, 198, 194, and 195–96.

468 LCW, To the Editors of Pravda, 1/8/1912, vol. 35, 47.

469 LCW, To the Editors of Pravda 24/11/1912, vol. 35, 66.

470 LCW, Letter to Sverdlov, 9/2/1913, vol. 35, 79.

471 See LCW, vol. 35, 577, note.

472 LCW, To the Editorial Board of Pravda, vol. 35, 82.

473 LCW, To the Editorial Board of Za Pravdu, 2–11/11/1913, vol. 35, 115.

82) Elections to the Fourth Duma

The elections to the Fourth Duma were held in the summer of 1912. To begin with the Mensheviks enjoyed many advantages. Apart from their many well-heeled sympathizers, they had obtained a subsidy from the German SPD and put out a daily legal paper, Luch (Sunbeam), demagogically appealing for “unity,” for “non-factional” candidates, etc. This got a certain echo among nonparty elements. For their part, the bourgeois-liberal Cadets, fearing with some reason defeat at the polls, resorted to deceit in order to get more votes. Their organ Rech’ (Speech) proclaimed on February 3: “One should not give one’s vote to a party, or to individual candidates, but either for the strengthening of the constitutional layer in Russian society, or against it.” That was an appeal to the electorate to vote for the “progressive forces” against “reaction,” the well-known siren song of opportunists in every period, which tries to blackmail the masses with the threat of reaction to vote for “the lesser evil.” Lenin fought against this deceit and for class independence and revolutionary policies. Conditions in Russia were still tough. The police made a series of arrests before the elections. The RSDLP’s electoral platform was illegally distributed in all the factories. From exile in Cracow Lenin impatiently followed the party’s election campaign. Watching for the slightest signs of opportunism on the part of the Bolshevik leadership, he remained implacably opposed to the idea of a nonparty “progressive bloc.”

“The Bolshevik headquarters for the campaign were the editorial offices of Pravda, which became the scene of hard and continuous work,” writes Badayev, who was a Bolshevik candidate in these elections. “On these premises, meetings were held with the representatives of the districts and of the individual factories and mills. Simultaneously illegal election meetings were organized in the city districts.”


Owing to the fact that incessant watch was kept by the police on every “suspicious” worker, we had to resort to all sorts of subterfuges in order to gather together even in small groups. Usually, in order to avoid the attentions of the police, small meetings of not more than ten to twenty people were called. Summer helped us. Under the guise of picnic-parties, groups of workers went to the suburbs, mostly into the forest beyond the Okhta. The forest was the best refuge from police spies, who would not venture beyond the outskirts, for it was easy to escape from them there, and they were afraid of being attacked in some out-of-the-way spot.

At the meetings vehement arguments arose with the Liquidators. Our party called on the workers to enter the elections on the basic unabridged demands and to elect Bolsheviks only as delegates. The Liquidators talked continually about “unity,” the necessity of a united front, the necessity of abandoning factional disputes and, of course, of electing their candidates.474

And Badayev explains what the attitude of the Bolsheviks was towards the demand for “the unity of all progressive forces”:

The Bolsheviks thought it necessary to put up candidates in all workers’ curiae and would not tolerate any agreements with other parties and groups, including the Menshevik-Liquidators.

They also considered it necessary to put up candidates in the so-called “second curiae of city electors” (the first curiae consisted of large property owners and democratic candidates had no chance there at all) and in the elections in the villages, because of the great agitational value of the campaign. But in order to safeguard against the possible victory of reactionary candidates, the Bolsheviks permitted agreements respectively with the bourgeois democrats (Trudoviks, etc.) against the Liberals, and with the Liberals against the government parties during the second ballot for the election of electors in the city curiae. The five big towns (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Riga, Odessa, and Kiev) had a direct system of elections with second ballot. In these towns the Social Democrats put up independent lists of candidates, and as there was no danger of Black Hundred candidates being elected no agreements were entered into with the Liberal bourgeoisie. The resolutions of the Prague party conference, which established these tactics, emphasized that “election agreements must not involve the adoption of a platform, nor must the agreements bind the Social Democratic candidates by any political obligations whatsoever, or prevent the Social Democracy from resolutely criticizing the counterrevolutionary nature of the Liberals and the halfheartedness and inconsistency of the bourgeois democrats.” Hence, the agreements entered into by the Bolsheviks in the second ballots were not in the nature of a bloc of political parties.475

On the face of it, there would have been a case for uniting with other forces for the sake of getting a bigger parliamentary representation. The electoral law was, of course, heavily weighted against the working class. Under the rigged tsarist electoral system, the voting was indirect. The workers voted for representatives who, in turn, elected 160 “electors” (vyborshechiki), of which the Social Democrats made up 60 percent. Together with “conciliators” and diverse sympathizers, this figure would have been something like 83 percent. The majority of the “electors” from working class areas were Bolsheviks. But in the other curiae, the middle class, bourgeois and landlords predominated. Badayev explains:

The electoral law, passed by the government prior to the elections to the First Duma, was so drafted as to secure a majority for the bourgeoisie and the landlords. The voting was not direct but by a system of stages. Various classes of the population (the landlords, the big property-owners in the towns, the peasants, working men, etc.) had first to elect electors, who in turn elected the deputies from among themselves. For the peasants and working men the system was still more complicated; the workers, for example, first elected delegates, who in their turn elected electors, and only the latter took part in the Gubernia electoral colleges, which elected the deputies. In addition there were a number of property qualifications—for instance in the towns only householders (tenants of apartments) were entitled to vote.476

Despite all the difficulties, the workers elected 3,500 representatives in all Russia. Of these, the Social Democrats had 54 percent but if we include sympathizers, their total share was as much as 80 percent. This was an outstanding triumph for the Bolsheviks, in difficult conditions, which, more than elections, resembled an obstacle race. Under election laws small workshops of less than 50 workers, which were usually more backward and under the thumb of the bosses, had one representative. But the big factories, which tended to be more militant and pro-Bolshevik, had only one representative for every 1,000 workers. In St. Petersburg, out of a total of 82 representatives, there were 26 Bolsheviks, 15 Mensheviks, and 41 nonparty RSDLP sympathizers. The police replied with a series of arrests of workers’ representatives. In some factories where Bolsheviks were elected, the employers demanded reruns.

On October 20, the Petersburg regional congress of electors elected a Bolshevik M.P., A.Ye. Badayev, whose book Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma, quoted above, is still the best work on this subject. F.N. Samoilov was elected in Vladimir, N.R. Shagov in Kostroma, M.N. Muranov in Kharkov, G.I. Petrovsky in Yehaterinoslav, and R.V. Malinovsky, the agent provocateur, in Moscow. Overall, the Social Democrats presented candidates in 53 towns and won in 32. The Mensheviks got seven of their candidates elected: three in the Caucasus, their traditional stronghold, and one each from the Don, Irkutsk, Tavrichesk, and Ufimsk. Only three were workers. This result marked an amazing triumph for the Bolsheviks, particularly if we bear in mind the fact that their party had only just been established as such and there had been very little time to prepare for the elections. It was a big boost for the organization.


474 A.Ye. Badayev, Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma, 207.

475 Ibid., 24–25.

476 Ibid., 22.

83) Bolsheviks in the Duma

The first big success for the Leninist tactic of combining legal and illegal work came in the autumn of 1912 with the election to the workers’ electoral colleges (curiae) in the elections to the Fourth Duma. Up to this time, the Duma fraction had been a Menshevik affair. Now the Bolsheviks for the first time began to develop work in the parliamentary arena. In the Third Duma the Social Democratic fraction consisted of nineteen deputies, divided along the following lines: four Bolsheviks and five sympathizers against ten Menshevik-Liquidators. But in practice, it was the Mensheviks who called the tune. The lines between the two factions were as yet insufficiently clear. Lenin had not yet decided that a split was inevitable. Consequently, up to the period 1912–14, the Social Democratic parliamentary fraction acted as one.

The situation in the Fourth Duma was completely different. The factional struggle had reached a decisive turning point. This was inevitably reflected in the parliamentary group. In the elections to the Fourth Duma the Bolsheviks won an overwhelming majority in the workers’ curiae. The Social Democratic fraction in the Fourth Duma consisted of six Bolsheviks and seven Mensheviks. In addition, one Polish deputy, Jagello, supported the Mensheviks, making a total of 14 deputies. The Bolsheviks had won the majority in all six of the workers’ colleges of the largest industrial areas. The Menshevik deputies, on the contrary, were elected from non–working-class centers, chiefly the border provinces, where the majority of the population was petty bourgeois. The distribution of workers in the areas concerned shows for whom the working class voted. Badayev gives the figures for the six provinces with workers’ curiae. There were 1,008,000 workers (in factories and mines), whereas in the eight provinces which returned Mensheviks there were 214,000 workers. If Baku province (where the workers were disenfranchised) is included, the figure would be 246,000 workers. The Bolshevik deputies represented 88.2 percent of the workers’ electors, against only 11.8 percent for the Mensheviks. The distorted correlation of forces within the Social Democratic Duma fraction is only the result of a rigged electoral system specially designed to reduce the representation of the working class.

The six Bolsheviks were all workers; there were four metal workers (Petrovsky, Muranov, Malinovsky, and Badayev) and two textile workers (Shagov and Samoilov). The Bolshevik deputies were elected in the biggest industrial areas of Russia: G.I. Petrovsky was deputy for the Yekaterinoslav Gubernia, M.K. Muranov for Kharkov Gubernia, N.R. Shagov for the Kostroma Gubernia, F.N. Samoilov for the Vladimir Gubernia, R.V. Malinovsky for the Moscow Gubernia, and A.Ye. Badayev for St. Petersburg. By contrast, the Menshevik seven were almost all intellectuals and professional people. The only worker among them, Burianov, was a follower of Plekhanov. The leading lights were all from the upper middle class: Skobelev (who had earlier collaborated with Trotsky on the Vienna Pravda, was the son of a Baku oil magnate; Chkheidze was a journalist; Chkhenkeli, a lawyer; Mankov, an accountant. The Mensheviks had a majority of only one, yet they insisted that they had the support of the majority of the working class. This was entirely false. However, their greater experience and knowledge of the parliamentary “tricks of the trade” at first allowed them to dominate the Bolsheviks, who felt ill at ease in this strange and alien environment. In addition, the Bolshevik Duma fraction, in common with many other leading members of Lenin’s faction, was strongly influenced by conciliationism and, much to Lenin’s annoyance, resisted a break with the Mensheviks.

The laws governing parliamentary activity can be observed in the parliamentary fractions of reformist workers’ parties at all times. The pressures of the ruling class, its ideology and institutions is nowhere so intense as in the parliamentary hothouse. The bourgeoisie has perfected over a long period the necessary mechanisms for bribing, pressuring, and corrupting the parliamentary representatives of the proletariat. Unless the latter are thoroughly imbued with class consciousness and the necessary theoretical understanding to enable them to see through the tricks and maneuvers of the enemy, they will inevitably tend to succumb to pressure and get sucked into the parliamentary morass of committees, procedure, points of order, and worse. It is not necessarily a question of direct personal corruption, careerism, bribes, etc., although all these weapons are actively employed to buy off the workers’ leaders. In the case of right-wing reformists, many are themselves middle-class lawyers, doctors, and economists standing far closer in their lifestyle and psychology to the bourgeoisie than to the workers they profess to represent. Even the most honest left reformists, even devoted workers from the factory floor steeled in years of struggle, can rapidly fall under the spell of the rarefied atmosphere of this artificial world, far removed from the reality of the class struggle.

For a reformist party, which in any case subordinates everything to the question of electing members of parliament, the independence of the parliamentary fraction from the party, the sacred right of each individual deputy to “follow his or her conscience,” is accepted as normal. This is just another way of expressing the independence of the reformist leaders from the working class, and their absolute and total dependence on the bourgeoisie. But for a revolutionary party, for which the parliamentary struggle is only one element in the general struggle of the working class to change society, this is unthinkable. The party, as the organized expression of the most conscious elements of the proletariat, can and must exercise control over its elected representatives at all levels, above all its members of parliament.

It is obvious that parliament is not an ideal platform for worker revolutionaries. The rarefied atmosphere of parliament had overawed the Bolshevik deputies, who at first lamely followed the line of least resistance. Thus, in the very first session, they failed to vote against the Cadet and Octobrist candidate for speaker. The fraction refused to read out the statement prepared by the Bolshevik CC on the grounds that they had their own—which, however, contained no revolutionary appeal to the masses outside parliament. There were other instances, such as when voting for the release of funds for public education during the debate on the budget, they failed to expose the class bias of the government’s education policy. Lenin was immediately alarmed by the way in which the six Bolshevik deputies yet again allowed themselves to be led by the nose:

If all our six are from the workers’ curiae, they must not submit in silence to a lot of Siberians [i.e., intellectual former exiles]. The six must come out with a very clear-cut protest, if they are being lorded over.

The Mensheviks tried to form a counterweight to the CC in the form of a “political commission” of leading lights of the Duma Fraction to consider all questions and issue “recommendations.” In other words, the parliamentary bigwigs were to decide on all questions pertaining to the activity of the Duma fraction without reference to the Party. The behavior of the fraction gave rise to much criticism and discontent in the rank and file, who felt control of the fraction slipping from their hands. Robert McKean comments:

The conciliatory attitude of the six Bolshevik parliamentarians assumed concrete form in several ways. They joined the Mensheviks in condemning the attempt of certain activists to launch a strike on the opening day of the State Duma. Four of them (excluding Malinovsky and Muranov) agreed with their Menshevik colleagues on December 15, 1912 to merge the two factional newspapers and to the reciprocal inclusion of deputies’ names as collaborators of the respective editorial boards. In the composition of the fraction’s declaration, read out by Malinovsky on December 7, 1912, the deputies reached a compromise on drafts sent by Lenin and Dan from abroad. Contrary to the claim of Soviet historians that the Bolsheviks forced the inclusion of their slogans, a close reading of the text reveals that the document omitted them, partly because the Mensheviks feared their incorporation would lead to criminal charges. Instead the document referred to a “sovereign popular representation” and universal suffrage, but it did bow to Bolshevik demands by the exclusion of the Menshevik concerns for freedom of coalition and cultural-national autonomy.477

Hiding behind the phraseology of bourgeois parliamentarism, the Menshevik deputies strove to free themselves from the control of the party and acquire “independent” status, but in so doing merely revealed their slavish dependence on the norms of bourgeois parliamentarism and the Cadets and Octobrists. In a meeting of the fraction held on November 22, 1907, the Mensheviks got through the following resolution:

The Duma Social Democratic fraction is an autonomous group which, while attentive to the voice of the party, in each concrete case of Duma work, shall resolve the issues independently.478

A steady stream of protest letters from Social Democratic workers was received by the Bolshevik organ Proletary. The need to bring public representatives under firm control of the party became a pressing question. Lenin advocated that members of the Duma Fraction should be as much under control as a member of any other of the leading bodies (EC, CC, etc.). Parliamentary work should be conducted in such a way that every party worker should participate in the general Duma work of the party.

Parallel to his struggle against the conciliationism of Pravda, Lenin waged war against the no less harmful conciliationism of the Bolshevik Duma group. As early as January 1912, he wrote: “See to it unconditionally that the letter of the Baku workers which we are sending you is published” (the letter demanded that the Bolshevik Duma group break with the Liquidators). Through the pages of their paper Luch, the Liquidators were waging a demagogic campaign for “unity.” Four of the Bolshevik Duma deputies’ names appeared in the list of collaborators of Luch. Lenin was furious. “When will the four (deputies) resign from Luch?” “Must we wait much longer? . . . Even from distant Baku 20 workers are protesting.”479

In September, he wrote:

The essence of the problem today is that under cover of shouts about unity, the Liquidators are flouting the will of the majority of class-conscious workers in St. Petersburg, and are foisting on the majority of the workers the splinter candidates of the minority intelligentsia, namely, the liquidationist intelligentsia.

All elections in a bourgeois country are accompanied by rampant phrase-mongering and licentious promises. The main principle of Social Democrats is not to trust words but go to the heart of the matter.

The Liquidators’ phrases about unity in their newspaper Luch are a pack of lies. In reality, unity has already been brought about in St. Petersburg by the majority of class-conscious workers against the Liquidators; it was established by the May Day demonstration, and by the support given to Pravda by 550 groups of workers against the 16 groups of Liquidators.480

Under pressure of the remorseless criticism of Lenin, the Bolshevik deputies began to play a more active role in Duma affairs and distance themselves from the Menshevik “Siberians.” Given the general lack of freedom to carry out agitation and propaganda on behalf of the workers and peasants, the work in the Duma acquired an enormous significance. Of course, there were severe limitations. Theoretically the deputies had “parliamentary privilege” but in practice could be arrested at any moment. Even within the Duma, the Social Democrats were confronted with all sorts of obstacles.

Nevertheless, all kinds of important issues were raised, which demanded a concrete response from the workers’ parliamentary representatives: the state budget, the rights of soldiers, Church subsidies, the conditions of workers, and, above all, the land question. This provided a wide scope for developing mass agitation and propaganda. What could not be said inside the Duma was supplemented by the illegal Party publications outside. Legal work was combined with illegal. This was the only way of preserving the revolutionary principles of the Party, while maintaining close links with the masses. Particularly good agitational speeches made by Social Democratic deputies were printed and distributed among the workers. Such a case was Surkov’s speech against Church subsidies, which was singled out for praise by Lenin, and ended with the words:

Civil servants in vestments are just as much enemies of the people as civil servants in uniforms . . . Not one penny of the people’s money for these bloody enemies of the people, these obscurers of the popular consciousness.

Lenin was particularly pleased because this speech completely exploded the god-builders’ myth that “religion is a personal affair.” In the 1909 budget debate the Social Democratic fraction exposed the fraud whereby an exorbitant amount of the workers’ money went to pay off the tsar’s debts. On all such questions, the revolutionaries in the Duma mercilessly exposed the landlords and capitalists and the autocracy, setting out from concrete problems which directly affected the lives of the masses. At the same time, they exposed the limitation of the Duma itself:

“The proletariat, of course, does not expect a solution for the worker question from the Third Duma,” said Polovsky in summing up in a debate on wages of workers.481

The work in the Duma enabled the Party to address itself to the peasantry in a way that normal propaganda and agitation would not have permitted. By participating in the parliamentary debates on the land question, proposing agreements with the representatives of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie, the Trudoviks, and demanding the most radical solution to the land question, the Social Democrats struck a blow at the heart of the autocracy.

In all, the Social Democratic fraction put down about 50 questions on all kinds of issues. They also moved their own bills, expressing in a concrete, concise form, various demands taken from the party program. All this represented a valuable addition to the work of the Party. But much more important than their speeches in the chamber was the activity of the deputies outside the Duma. Here there was an open conflict with the Liquidators, who used their majority to oppose such activity. In December 1907 they passed a motion stating that no Social Democratic deputy was “obliged” to participate in extraparliamentary activity, but left it to each individual whether to accept or not. The Bolshevik deputies regularly visited the factories in their electoral districts, acquainting themselves with the workers’ problems firsthand, writing in the party press, and even attending illegal workers’ meetings. They gave report-backs of their activities to meetings of voters. Thus, the activity in the Duma was a two-way process, an active dialogue with the masses in which legal and illegal methods were combined to maintain a firm link between the members of parliament and the working class.

The socialist deputies also maintained an extensive correspondence with 54 regions of Russia, mainly answering letters from workers and peasants, but also from political prisoners, exiles, and intellectuals. By such means, the voice of the oppressed and exploited could at last find an echo in the parliamentary “holy of holies.” The Bolshevik deputies took a keen interest in the living and working conditions of the masses, which had suffered a brutal deterioration in the period of reaction. Badayev cites one example of this:

The Baltic naval dockyards were under the control of the Minister for the Navy. Working conditions there were as intolerable as in the other War Office factories. The ordinary workers earned 12 to 18 kopecks an hour, overtime was customary and normally meant that working-hours were doubled. The workshops were extremely unhealthy, damp, draughty, smoky, and in winter very cold. Men had to work in awkward, cramped positions. Seven or eight years there were often enough to make a man a complete wreck.482

The deputies received a large number of letters from workers. Often these letters expressed the desperation of the masses, like the one from a group of workers in the Urals, published in Novy Den’ on the September 7, 1909, the essential message of which was: “We can’t go on living like this any more.” Such messages revealed the deep undercurrent of discontent which was building up in the depths of society and which found a voice in the fraction. The revolutionary Social Democrats in this reactionary Duma aspired to becoming the “tribunes of the people,” and, notwithstanding all the problems and failings, actually succeeded to a considerable extent.


477 R. McKean, St. Petersburg Between the Revolutions, 140–41.

478 Original in the Party Archives, quoted in Istoriya KPSS, vol. 2, 312.

479 Trotsky, Stalin, 148.

480 LCW, Workers’ Unity and the Elections, vol. 36, 191–92.

481 Quoted in Istoriya KPSS, vol. 2, 314 in both quotes.

482 Badayev, Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma, 101.

84) Tactics in the Duma

The tactics of the Bolsheviks in the Duma consisted mainly in using it as a tribune from which to denounce and expose the crimes of the landlords and capitalists and their regime. But it was also necessary to master the Byzantine intricacies of parliamentary procedure in order to be able to intervene in the most effective manner. In general, the Bolsheviks would not support any proposal put forward by the liberals, considering it their main duty to unmask these hypocritical “friends of the people.” However, sometimes they were confronted with complicated tactical decisions as to whether it was permissible or not to vote for a bill which contained measures which might benefit working people. In such cases, it was usually deemed permissible to vote only for those parts of a bill which meant genuine improvements for the workers. Otherwise, they would vote against. In cases where the so-called progressive measures were of doubtful value, they should abstain. Here is another example of flexible tactics. Not to take such things into consideration, simply to vote against every liberal proposal on principle would have turned the Party into a sect.

The preponderant influence which the Bolsheviks enjoyed among the masses can be proved by comparing the numbers of deputies elected by the workers’ electoral colleges to the previous State Dumas. In the Second Duma, 12 Mensheviks and 11 Bolsheviks were elected by the workers’ colleges; in the Third there was an equal number of each; while in the Fourth Duma, only six deputies were elected, but they were all Bolsheviks.

At the time of the Second Duma, which coincided with the London Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, the majority of the party was definitely Bolshevik; and in the Fourth Duma there could be no doubt that the Bolsheviks had the support of at least three-fourths of the revolutionary workers.483

There were a hundred and one procedural obstacles designed to prevent the Social Democrats from making use of the Duma for revolutionary purposes. The chief difficulty was that an interpellation could only be introduced if it was signed by at least 33 Duma members. The signatures of the Social Democratic fraction amounted to only 14. Even if taken together with those of the ten Trudoviks, this did not give the required number. Here is a concrete case of an episodic agreement with other parties that is both necessary and permissible. In order to introduce an interpellation, the Social Democrats had to “borrow” signatures from the Cadets or the Progressives.

“The conditions under which the various parliamentary parties associated,” recalls Badayev, “were such that individual members of the Cadets and Progressives sometimes added their signatures to our interpellations. But this only occurred rarely and very often they flatly refused to help us.”484

In order to get round these onerous restrictions, they had to resort to subterfuge and tricks to “bend the rules” of parliamentary procedure. They would make a long speech denouncing some injustice or other, and then end with the words “Is the minister aware of this and what steps does he propose to take?” This concluding sentence of every interpellation did not have much sense, since the workers’ deputies were perfectly aware that every instance of oppression and police outrage was well known to the tsarist ministers with whose blessing and by whose orders it occurred, and they likewise knew in advance that the ministers would do nothing to prevent such infractions of the law. Neither did they attach any importance to the replies given by the ministers. The sole significance and purpose of these interpellations was that they exposed the autocratic regime and its fake parliament before the entire working class and invited the masses to draw the necessary conclusions. In this way, the Duma fraction could play the role of genuine revolutionary tribune of the people, partially cutting through the barriers of censorship and carrying the message of the party to millions who would otherwise have no access to socialist ideas.

Even if they succeeded in making an interpellation, the authorities resorted to other methods to restrict the activities of the Social Democrats in the chamber. “The chairman carefully followed our speeches, trying to anticipate and prevent all digressions from the formal topic of urgency; while we, ignoring his calls to order, went ahead and said what we regarded as necessary. Most of these encounters ended in Rodzyanko or his vice-chairman losing patience and stopping the workers’ deputies in the middle of their speeches,” states Badayev.485 And finally, even if the interpellation went ahead, the authorities would ensure that nothing was done about it:

Although this interpellation was accepted by the Duma it fared no better than the other interpellations introduced by our fraction. On receiving the interpellations, the ministries concerned set in motion the entire bureaucratic machine of red tape, “making enquiries,” “waiting for reports,” etc. While the interpellation was thus being thickly covered with office dust, the acuteness of its subject matter passed and it was only then that the minister fulfillled his formal duty and presented his “explanations.”486

Such are the time-honored methods of bourgeois parliamentarism, which have not changed much up to the present day, even in the most “democratic” of parliaments.

Despite all difficulties, the Bolsheviks succeeded in mastering this unfamiliar arena of struggle and used it effectively to further the workers’ cause. The key to the revolutionary utilization of parliament was at every moment to link the work of the parliamentary fraction with the movement outside parliament. The Bolshevik Duma deputies maintained the closest contacts with the workers outside the Duma, travelling to workers’ areas all over Russia, speaking at factory meetings, editing leaflets and proclamations, and paying close attention to the workers’ grievances. Badayev recalls how he kept up a voluminous correspondence with workers:

Every day I received a voluminous correspondence not only from St. Petersburg, but also from other cities, and many workers called to see me. In order that these consultations with the masses should continue, I published in Pravda the hours of my “reception” at home. Some of these numerous visitors called on behalf of various organizations, while others came on personal matters.

The conversations and letters touched upon absolutely every aspect of the workers’ lives. I was kept informed of the work accomplished and of the persecutions incurred by the trade unions, of strikes, lockouts, unemployment, and new cases of police oppression. I was asked to intercede on behalf of those arrested, and received many letters from exiles, who requested me to organize financial and other material relief for them. Among those who came on personal matters, some even asked if I could help to find work for them. Very often visitors called in order to talk about the Duma and its work, to express their wishes and to give advice.

It was necessary to answer all the letters promptly and to deal with the requests. In a number of cases I had to initiate petitions and conduct negotiations with various government institutions. All this took a lot of time and my day was fully occupied even before the Duma opened.487

From the very beginning it was clear that this Duma was taking place in a very different atmosphere to that of the preceding ones. On the day it opened a massive strike wave was sweeping Russia. Badayev recalls the scene in Petersburg:

At about 3.30 p.m. a crowd formed of these workers and students appeared in Kirochnaya Street. Singing revolutionary songs, and carrying a red flag, about the size of a handkerchief, bearing the legend “Down with Autocracy,” they came out to Liteyny Prospect and went towards Nevsky Prospect. At the corner of Liteyny Prospect and Basseynaya and Simeonovskaya Streets, the ordinary police dispersed the demonstrators, picked up the flag from the sidewalk where the crowd had gathered and arrested the flag-bearer.488


483 Ibid., 43–4.

484 Ibid., 61.

485 Ibid., 61.

486 Ibid., 90–91.

487 Ibid., 41–42.

488 Ibid., 52–53.