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As the First State Duma did not prove docile enough, the tsarist government dispersed it in the summer of 1906. The government resorted to even more drastic repressions against the people, extended the ravaging activities of the punitive expeditions throughout the country, and announced its decision of shortly calling a Second State Duma. The tsarist government was obviously growing more insolent. It no longer feared the revolution, for it saw that the revolution was on the decline

The Bolsheviks had to decide whether to participate in the Second Duma or to boycott it. By boycott, the Bolsheviks usually meant an active boycott, and not the mere passive abstention from voting in the elections. The Bolsheviks regarded active boycott as a revolutionary means of warning the people against the attempts of the tsar to divert them from the path of revolution to the path of tsarist "constitution," as a means of frustrating these attempts and organizing a new onslaught of the people on tsardom.

The experience of the boycott of the Bulygin Duma had shown that a boycott was "the only correct tactics, as fully proved by events." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 393.) This boycott was successful because it not only warned the people against the danger of the path of tsarist constitutionalism but frustrated the very birth of the Duma. The boycott was successful because it was carried out during the rising tide of the revolution and was supported by this tide, and not when the revolution was receding. The summoning of the Duma could be frustrated only during the high tide of the revolution.

The boycott of the Witte Duma, i.e., the First Duma, took place after the December uprising had been defeated, when the tsar proved to be the victor, that is, at a time when there was reason to believe that the revolution had begun to recede.

"But," wrote Lenin, "it goes without saying that at that time there were as yet no grounds to regard this victory (of the tsar—Ed.) as a decisive victory. The uprising of December 1905 had its sequel in a series of disconnected and partial military uprisings and strikes in the summer of 1906. The call to boycott the Witte Duma was a call to concentrate these uprisings and make them general." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XII, p. 20.)

The boycott of the Witte Duma was unable to frustrate its convocation although it considerably undermined its prestige and weakened the faith of a part of the population in it. The boycott was unable to frustrate the convocation of the Duma because, as subsequently became clear, it took place at a time when the revolution was receding, when it was on the decline. For this reason the boycott of the First Duma in 1906 was unsuccessful. In this connection Lenin wrote in his famous pamphlet, "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder:

"The Bolshevik boycott of 'parliament' in 1905 enriched the revolutionary proletariat with highly valuable political experience and showed that in combining legal with illegal, parliamentary with extra-parliamentary forms of struggle, it is sometimes useful and even essential to reject parliamentary forms. . . . The boycott of the 'Duma' by the Bolsheviks in 1906 was however a mistake, although a small and easily remediable one. . . . What applies to individuals applies—with necessary modifications—to politics and parties. Not he is wise who makes no mistakes. There are no such men nor can there be. He is wise who makes not very serious mistakes and who knows how to correct them easily and quickly. (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. X, p. 74.)

As to the Second State Duma, Lenin held that in view of the changed situation and the decline of the revolution, the Bolsheviks "must reconsider the question of boycotting the State Duma." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 392.)

"History has shown," Lenin wrote, "that when the Duma assembles opportunities arise for carrying on useful agitation both from within the Duma and, in connection with it, outside—that the tactics of joining forces with the revolutionary peasantry against the Constitutional-Democrats can be applied in the Duma." (Ibid., p. 396.)

All this showed that one had to know not only how to advance resolutely, to advance in the front ranks, when the revolution was in the ascendant, but also how to retreat properly, to be the last to retreat, when the revolution was no longer in the ascendant, changing one's tactics as the situation changed; to retreat not in disorder, but in an organized way, calmly and without panic, utilizing every minute opportunity to withdraw the cadres from under enemy fire, to reform one's ranks to muster one's forces and to prepare for a new offensive against the enemy.

The Bolsheviks decided to take part in the elections to the Second Duma.

But the Bolsheviks did not go to the Duma for the purpose of carrying on organic "legislative" work inside it in a bloc with the Constitutional-Democrats, as the Mensheviks did, but for the purpose of utilizing it as a platform in the interests of the revolution.

The Menshevik Central Committee, on the contrary, urged that election agreements be formed with the Constitutional-Democrats, and that support be given to the Constitutional-Democrats in the Duma, for in their eyes the Duma was a legislative body that was capable of bridling the tsarist government.

The majority of the Party organizations expressed themselves against the policy of the Menshevik Central Committee.

The Bolsheviks demanded that a new Party congress be called.

In May 1907 the Fifth Party Congress met in London. At the time of this congress the R.S.D.L.P. (together with the national Social-Democratic organizations) had a membership of nearly 150,000. In all, 336 delegates attended the congress, of whom 105 were Bolsheviks and 97 Mensheviks. The remaining delegates represented the national Social-Democratic organizations—the Polish and Lettish Social-Democrats and the Bund—which had been admitted into the R.S.D.L.P. at the previous congress.

Trotsky tried to knock together a group of his own at the congress, a centrist, that is, semi-Menshevik, group, but could get no following.

As the Bolsheviks had the support of the Poles and the Letts, they had a stable majority at the congress.

One of the main questions at issue at the congress was that of policy towards the bourgeois parties. There had already been a struggle between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks on this question at the Second Congress. The fifth Congress gave a Bolshevik estimate of all the non-proletarian parties—Black-Hundreds, Octobrists (Union of October Seventeenth), Constitutional-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries— and formulated the Bolshevik tactics to be pursued in regard to these parties.

The congress approved the policy of the Bolsheviks and decided to wage a relentless struggle both against the Black-Hundred parties—the League of the Russian People, the monarchists, the Council of the United Nobility—and against the Octobrists, the Commercial and Industrial Party and the Party of Peaceful Renovation. All these parties were outspokenly counter-revolutionary.

As regards the liberal bourgeoisie, the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the congress recommended a policy of uncompromising exposure; the false and hypocritical "democracy" of the Constitutional-Democratic Party was to be exposed and the attempts of the liberal bourgeoisie to gain control of the peasant movement combated.

As to the so-called Narodnik or Trudovik parties (the Popular Socialists, the Trudovik Group and the Socialist-Revolutionaries), the congress recommended that their attempts to mask themselves as Socialists be exposed. At the same time the congress considered it permissible now and then to conclude agreements with these parties for a joint and simultaneous attack on tsardom and the Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie, inasmuch as these parties were at that time democratic parties and expressed the interests of the petty bourgeoisie of town and country.

Even before this congress, the Mensheviks had proposed that a so-called "labour congress" be convened. The Mensheviks' idea was to call a congress at which Social-Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists should all be represented. This "labour" congress was to form something in the nature of a "non-partisan party," or a "broad" petty-bourgeois labour party without a program. Lenin exposed this as a pernicious attempt on the part of the Mensheviks to liquidate the Social-Democratic Labour Party and to dissolve the vanguard of the working class in the petty-bourgeois mass. The congress vigorously condemned the Menshevik call for a "labour congress."

Special attention was devoted at the congress to the subject of the trade unions. The Mensheviks advocated "neutrality" of the trade unions; in other words, they were opposed to the Party playing a leading role in them. The congress rejected the Mensheviks' motion and adopted the resolution submitted by the Bolsheviks. This resolution stated that the Party must gain the ideological and political leadership in the trade unions.

The Fifth Congress was a big victory for the Bolsheviks in the working-class movement. But the Bolsheviks did not allow this to turn their heads; nor did they rest on their laurels. That was not what Lenin taught them. The Bolsheviks knew that more fighting with the Men-sheviks was still to come.

In an article entitled "Notes of a Delegate" which appeared in 1907, Comrade Stalin assessed the results of the congress as follows:

"The actual unification of the advanced workers of all Russia into a single all-Russian party under the banner of revolutionarySocial-Democracy—that is the significance of the London Congress, that is its general character."

In this article Comrade Stalin cited data showing the composition of the congress. They show that the Bolshevik delegates were sent to the congress chiefly by the big industrial centres (St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Urals, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, etc.), whereas the Mensheviks got their mandates from districts where small production prevailed, where artisans, semi-proletarians predominated, as well as from a number of purely rural areas.

"Obviously," says Comrade Stalin, summing up the results of the congress, "the tactics of the Bolsheviks are the tactics of the proletarians in big industry, the tactics of those areas where the class contradictions are especially clear and the class struggle especially acute. Bolshevism is the tactics of the real proletarians. On the other hand, it is no less obvious that the tactics of the Mensheviks are primarily the tactics of the handicraft workers and the peasant semi-proletarians, the tactics of those areas where the class contradictions are not quite clear and the class struggle is masked. Menshevism is the tactics of the semi-bourgeois elements among the proletariat. So say the figures." (Verbatim Report of the Fifth Congress of the-R.S.D.L.P., Russ. ed., 1935, pp. xi and xii.)

When the tsar dispersed the First Duma he expected that the Second Duma would be more docile. But the Second Duma, too, belied his expectations. The tsar thereupon decided to disperse it, too, and to convoke a Third Duma on a more restricted franchise, in the hope that this Duma would prove more amenable.

Shortly after the Fifth Congress, the tsarist government effected what is known as the coup d'etat of June 3. On June 3, 1907, the tsar dispersed the Second State Duma. The sixty-five deputies of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma were arrested and exiled to Siberia. A new election law was promulgated. The rights of the workers and peasants were still further curtailed. The tsarist government continued its offensive.

The tsar's Minister Stolypin intensified the campaign of bloody reprisals against the workers and peasants. Thousands of revolutionary workers and peasants were shot by punitive expeditions, or hanged. In the tsarist dungeons revolutionaries were tortured mentally and physically. Particularly savage was the persecution of the working-class organizations, especially the Bolsheviks. The tsar's sleuths were searching for Lenin, who was living in hiding in Finland. They wanted to wreak their vengeance on the leader of the revolution. In December 1907 Lenin managed at great risk to make his way abroad and again became an exile.

The dark period of the Stolypin reaction set in.

The first Russian revolution thus ended in defeat.

The causes that contributed to this defeat were as follows :

1 ) In the revolution, there was still no stable alliance of the workers and peasants against tsardom. The peasants rose in struggle against the landlords and were willing to join in an alliance with the workers against them. But they did not yet realize that the landlords could not be overthrown unless the tsar were overthrown, they did not realize that the tsar was acting hand-in-hand with the landlords, and large numbers of the peasants still had faith in the tsar and placed their hopes in the tsarist State Duma. That is why a considerable section of the peasants were disinclined to join in alliance with the workers for the overthrow of tsardom. The peasants had more faith in the compromising Socialist-Revolutionary Party than in the real revolutionaries—the Bolsheviks. As a result, the struggle of the peasants against the landlords was not sufficiently organized. Lenin said :

"The peasants' actions were too scattered, too unorganized and not sufficiently aggressive, and that was one of the fundamental causes of the defeat of the revolution." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XIX, p. 354.)

2) The disinclination of a large section of the peasants to join the workers for the overthrow of tsardom also influenced the conduct of the army, which largely consisted of peasants' sons clad in soldiers' uniforms. Unrest and revolt broke out in certain units of the tsar's army, but the majority of the soldiers still assisted the tsar in suppressing the strikes and uprisings of the workers.

3) Neither was the action of the workers sufficiently concerted. The advanced sections of the working class started a heroic revolutionary struggle in i905. The more backward sections—the workers in the less industrialized provinces, those who lived in the villages—came into action more slowly. Their participation in the revolutionary struggle became particularly active in i906, but by then the vanguard of the working class had already been considerably weakened.

4) The working class was the foremost and principal force of the revolution; but the necessary unity and solidarity in the ranks of the party of the working class were lacking. The R.S.D.L.P.—the party of the working class—was split into two groups: the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks pursued a consistent revolutionary line and called upon the workers to overthrow tsardom. The Mensheviks, by their compromising tactics, hampered the revolution, confused the minds of large numbers of workers and split the working class. Therefore, the workers did not always act concertedly in the revolution, and the working class, still lacking unity within its own ranks, could not become the real leader of the revolution.

5) The tsarist autocracy received help in crushing the Revolution of 1905 from the West-European imperialists. The foreign capitalists feared for their investments in Russia and for their huge profits. Moreover, they feared that if the Russian revolution were to succeed the workers of other countries would rise in revolution, too. The West-European imperialists therefore came to the assistance of the hangman-tsar. The French bankers granted a big loan to the tsar for the suppression of the revolution. The German kaiser kept a large army in readiness to intervene in aid of the Russian tsar.

6) The conclusion of peace with Japan in September 1905 was of considerable help to the tsar. Defeat in the war and the menacing growth of the revolution had induced the tsar to hasten the signing of peace. The loss of the war weakened tsardom. The conclusion of peace strengthened the position of the tsar.


The first Russian revolution constituted a whole historical stage in the development of our country. This historical stage consisted of two periods: the first period, when the tide of revolution rose from the general political strike in October to the armed uprising in December and took advantage of the weakness of the tsar, who had suffered defeat on the battlefields of Manchuria, to sweep away the Bulygin Duma and wrest concession after concession from the tsar; and the second period, when tsardom, having recovered after the conclusion of peace with Japan, took advantage of the liberal bourgeoisie's fear of the revolution, took advantage of the vacillation of the peasants, cast them a sop in the form of the Witte Duma, and passed to the offensive against the working class, against the revolution.

In the short period of only three years of revolution (1905-07) the working class and the peasantry received a rich political education, such as they could not have received in thirty years of ordinary peaceful development. A few years of revolution made clear what could not be made clear in the course of decades of peaceful development.

The revolution disclosed that tsardom was the sworn enemy of the people, that tsardom was like the proverbial hunchback whom only the grave could cure.

The revolution showed that the liberal bourgeoisie was seeing an alliance with the tsar, and not with the people, that it was a counterrevolutionary force, an agreement with which would be tantamount to a betrayal of the people.

The revolution showed that only the working class could be the leader of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, that it alone could force aside the liberal Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie, destroy its influence over the peasantry, rout the landlords, carry the revolution to its conclusion and clear the way for Socialism.

Lastly, the revolution showed that the labouring peasantry, despite its vacillations, was the only important force capable of forming an alliance with the working class.

Two lines were contending within the R.S.D.L.P. during the revolution, the line of the Bolsheviks and the line of the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks took as their course the extension of the revolution, the overthrow of tsardom by armed uprising, the hegemony of the working class, the isolation of the Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie, an alliance with the peasantry, the formation of a provisional revolutionary government consisting of representatives of the workers and peasants, the victorious completion of the revolution. The Mensheviks, on the contrary, took as their course the liquidation of the revolution. Instead of overthrowing tsardom by uprising, they proposed to reform and "improve" it; instead of the hegemony of the proletariat, they proposed the hegemony of the liberal bourgeoisie; instead of an alliance with the peasantry, they proposed an alliance with the Constitutional-Democratic bourgeoisie; instead of a provisional government, they proposed a State Duma as the centre of the "revolutionary forces" of the country.

Thus the Mensheviks sank into the morass of compromise and became vehicles of the bourgeois influence on the working class, virtual agents of the bourgeoisie within the working class.

The Bolsheviks proved to be the only revolutionary Marxist force in the Party and thecountry.

It was natural that, in view of such profound differences, the R.S.D.L.P. proved in fact to be split into two parties, the party of the Bolsheviks and the party of the Mensheviks. The Fourth Party Congress changed nothing in the actual state of affairs within the Party. It only preserved and somewhat strengthened formal unity in the Party. The Fifth Party Congress took a step towards actual unity in the Party, a unity achieved under the banner of Bolshevism.

Reviewing the revolutionary movement, the Fifth Party Congress condemned the line of the Mensheviks as one of compromise, and approved the Bolshevik line as a revolutionary Marxist line. In doing so it once more confirmed what had already been confirmed by the whole course of the first Russian revolution.

The revolution showed that the Bolsheviks knew how to advance when the situation demanded it, that they had learned to advance in the front ranks and to lead the whole people in attack. But the revolution also showed that the Bolsheviks knew how to retreat in an orderly way when the situation took an unfavourable turn, when the revolution was on the decline, and that the Bolsheviks had learned to retreat properly, without panic or commotion, so as to preserve their cadres, rally their forces, and, having reformed their ranks in conformity with the new situation, once again to resume the attack on the enemy.

It is impossible to defeat the enemy without knowing how to attack properly.

It is impossible to avoid utter rout in the event of defeat without knowing how to retreat properly, to retreat without panic and without confusion.

1. Stolypin Reaction. Disintegration Among the Oppositional Intelligentsia. Decadence. Desertion of a Section of the Party Intelligentsia to the Enemies of Marxism and Attempts to Revise the Theory of Marxism. Lenin’s Rebutal of the Revisionists in His Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and His Defence of the Theoretical Foundations of the Marxist Party
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