April 28, 2018

Lenin On Boycott - from various writings





What did Iskra 's tactics with regard to the Duma boil down to? To the ideological and tactical disarmament of the revolutionaries. The wiseacres of the opportunist Iskra worked for this disarmament by denouncing the idea of an active boycott, substituting (fully in the spirit of Novoye Vremya, and almost in the same terms) a passive boycott for an active, preaching confidence and trustfulness in the Milyukovs and Stakhoviches who now embrace each other, and replacingthe revolutionary slogan of insurrection with Osvobozhdeniye 's bourgeois twaddle, such as the "revolutionary self-government of citizens".

This Cadet phrase about the boycott having been a mistake is particularly unpardonable in Larin's case since he truthfully relates that the Mensheviks "invented all kinds of shrewd and cunning tricks, ranging from the elective principle and the Zemstvo campaign to uniting the Party by participating in the elections with the object of boycotting the Duma " (57). The Mensheviks called upon the workers to elect members to the Duma, although they themselves did not believe that it was right to go into the Duma. Were not the tactics of those more correct, who, not believing this, boycotted the Duma; who declared that to call the Duma a "power" (as the Mensheviks called it in their resolution at the Unity Congress, before Muromtsev did so) meant deceiving the people; who entered the Duma only after the bourgeoisie had deserted the direct path of boycott and compelled us to take a circuitous route, though not for the same purpose, and not in the same way, as the Cadets?


August-September 1905. The Mensheviks (Parvus in the new Iskra ) call for participation in the Bulygin Duma. The Bolsheviks call for an active boycott of this Duma, for direct advocacy of an uprising.

October-December 1905. The popular struggle in the form of strikes and insurrection sweeps away the Bulygin Duma. The Menshevik Larin admits in a written declaration at the Unity Congress that when the tide of the revolution was at its height the Mensheviks acted like Bolsheviks. In the rudimentary bodies of the provisional government we, the Social-Democrats, sat side by side with the revolutionary bourgeoisie.

Beginning of 1906. The Menshenks are desponent. They have no faith in the Duma and no faith in the revolution. They appeal for participation in the Duma elections in order to boycott the Duma (Larin, p. 57). The Bolsheviks do their duty as revolutionaries, do their utmost to achieve the boycott of the Second Duma, in which nobody in revolutionary circles had any confidence.

May-June 1906. The Duma campaign. The boycott has failed owing to the treachery of the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks conduct their revolutionary work on new, though worse ground. During the Duma period the whole people see still more clearly the difference between our tactics, the tactics of the revolutionary Social-Democrats, and opportunism: criticism of the Cadets in the Duma, the struggle to free the Trudoviks from Cadet influence, criticism of parliamentary illusions, advocacy of a revolutionary rapprochement among the Left groups in the Duma.

Dispersion of the First State Duma. 

``""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 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.)


Clearly, the only correct path is active boycott, by means of which we shall isolate the reaction from the people, organise the wrecking of the Duma, and thereby cut the ground completely from under the feet of this mongrel parliament.

(A Letter From St. Petersburg)

"""Unlike the elections of 1907, the elections in 1912 coincided with a revolutionary revival among the workers. In 1907 the tide of revolution was receding and the counter-revolution triumphed, but in 1912 the first wave of a new revolution rose. This explains why the workers then went to the polls listlessly and in some places even boycotted the elections, boycotted them passively, of course, thereby showing that passive boycott is an undoubted symptom of listlessness and decline of strength. And it explains why now, in the atmosphere of a rising revolutionary tide, the workers went to the polls eagerly, casting aside flabby political indifference. More than that: the workers fought for the right to elections, strove for that right and secured it by means of immense strikes against the "interpretations," despite all the cunning devices and obstacles employed by the police. It is undoubtedly a sign that the political torpor has passed off, that the revolution has got past the dead point. True, the wave of the new revolution is not yet so strong as to enable us to raise the question, say, of a general political strike. But it is already strong enough to make it possible, in places, to break through the web of "interpretations" with the object of animating the elections, organising the forces of the proletariat, and politically enlightening the masses.""