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Resolution of the St. Petersburg Organisation of the R.S.D.L.P. on the Tactics of Boycott

V. I. Lenin
Resolution of the St. Petersburg Organisation of the R.S.D.L.P. on the Tactics of Boycott[1]

Written in late February-early March 1906 
Lenin Collected Works, Volume 10, pages 131-134. 


(1) the State Duma to be convened under the Law of August 6-December 11 is the grossest travesty of a popular representative assembly, since the vast majority of the proletariat and the peasantry has virtually been debarred from participation in the Duma owing to the fact that the suffrage is not universal and the electors from the workers and peas ants are sifted through three or four sieves;

(2) by artificially controlling the composition of the body of electors and by establishing a number of privileges in favour of the rich landlords and big capitalists, the government seeks to ensure complete preponderance in the Duma of representatives, not merely of the exploiting classes, but of the Black-Hundred elements of those classes;

(3) the government most brazenly rigs even these elections—which are restricted within the narrow limits of the social-estates—by ruling out all freedom of agitation, establishing martial law and unbounded police tyranny everywhere, and persecuting, in defiance of all legislation and without trial, not only members of the revolutionary and socialist parties, but even members of the parties of the monarchist-liberal bourgeoisie (Constitutionalist-Democrats, etc.);

(4) the government is now repealing its own law on simultaneous elections in order artificially to appoint, in the various localities, the dates that suit it best, and to force the elections through at such speed that it will be impossible for those elected to establish any contact with the population;

(5) the autocratic government expects by convening the Duma to influence Russian, and especially foreign, public opinion and thereby to put off its inevitable downfall and obtain further millions of. rubles in loans to crush the revolution and continue oppressing the people;

(6) the Law of February 20,[2] which transforms the Council of State into an Upper Chamber, makes still worse the statute governing the Duma, by seeking to reduce the latter completely to the role of an impotent advisory appendage of the autocratic bureaucracy;

(7) under these political conditions, participation in such a Duma is considered impossible by the overwhelming majority of the Social-Democratic parties and organisations of all nations in the country;

(8) participation of the Social-Democrats in the State Duma elections at any stage is likely to encourage among the people the incorrect idea that there is a possibility of reason ably fair elections for the parties that uphold the interests of the broad masses;

(9) participation in the elections is likely to divert the attention of the proletariat from the revolutionary movements of the workers, peasants, soldiers, etc., that are taking place apart from the Duma to the tiny matter of a pseudo-legal, sham constitutional election campaign and to lower still more the temporarily depressed mood of the working class by creating the impression that the revolutionary period of the struggle is over, the question of an uprising, has been shelved, and the Party is taking the constitutional path;

(10) elections to the State Duma imply a situation in which the Party must keep within legal and peaceful bounds; for this reason our participation in the elections would have a harmful effect on the pressing revolutionary task—that of more vigorous actions against the government during the Duma elections and at the time of its convocation;

(11) the Party of the Social-Democrats cannot go to the polls with the less developed masses if it wants to educate them from the practical point of view, for these insufficiently developed masses want to go as far as the Duma and, moreover, want to do so in the legal way, while the Party would, by refusing to submit to the laws, merely incur natural distrust on the part of those masses and prevent them from learning the lessons of the Duma campaign sincerely and consistently;

(12) the workers’ delegates and electors cannot contribute anything towards a truly revolutionary organisation of the broad sections of the working class because of the artificial composition of the voters, who have been picked by police methods, because of the short term and limited nature of their powers, and because of the circumstances of the elections mentioned above;

(13) the Duma cannot be frustrated through the withdrawal from the gubernia election meetings of that part of the electors whom at best the Social-Democrats could draw away with them;

(14) class-conscious spokesmen for the proletariat of the most oppressed nationalities of Russia (the Polish, Jewish, Lettish, and Lithuanian Social-Democrats) flatly reject all participation in the election farce and are fighting with might and main against those who have enacted it;

(15) public opinion of all the militant elements of bourgeois democracy and of the peasantry (Peasant Union, Teachers’ Union,[3] Union of Unions, Socialist-Revolutionary Party, Polish Socialist Party,[4] Polish Progressive Party, etc.) rejects both the Duma and the elections to it;—

Therefore, this meeting of representatives of St. Petersburg workers, members of the R.S.D.L.P., deems it necessary:

(1) to reject absolutely all participation in the State Duma;

(2) to reject absolutely any elections to the State Duma at any stage whatever;

(3) to develop agitational work among the people on as large a scale as possible in order to expose the true nature of the Duma, put an end to the deception of public opinion in Russia and Europe, and show the inevitable disappointment of that section of the peasantry which expects benefits from the Duma;

(4) to utilise in every way, legal and illegal, all meetings connected with the elections for stating the Social- Democrats’ views in general and criticising the Duma in particular, and above all for issuing a call to fight for the revolutionary convocation of a constituent assembly of the whole people;

(5) in counterposing revolutionary methods of struggle for freedom to the struggle through the Duma, to devote especial attention during this agitation to familiarising the workers and the people as a whole with the experience of the December uprising, which marks the beginning of a higher stage of the revolutionary struggle for genuine freedom for the people;

(6) to lay stress, during this agitation in respect of the Duma, on the deep economic and financial crisis, the extreme intensification of exploitation of the workers by the reactionary capitalists, the aggravation of unemployment in the towns and of hunger in the countryside, the peasant movement that is bound to begin in the spring, and the instances of unrest among the troops, as circumstances which make a new popular outbreak highly probable before long, an outbreak that will sweep away the State Duma either before its convocation or after it, when the population is thoroughly disillusioned with it;

(7) to use this agitation, among other things, for branding those cowardly representatives of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie (such as the Cadets) who pervert the civic consciousness of the population by fostering constitutional illusions at a time of bitter civil war, by recommending the Duma and participation in it, by rejecting the use of force in defence of freedom and of the rights of the vast majority of the people at a time when the armed gangs that call them selves the government are holding their ground only by dint of savage tyranny.

[1] Lenin submitted the Draft Resolution on the Tactics of Boycott to the St. Petersburg Conference at its February 11(24), 1900, session. The original wording of the draft has been lost. The draft was discussed at the Second St. Petersburg Conference at the end of February and beginning of March 1906, and was edited by a specially appointed committee which included Lenin.

[2] The Law of February 20, 1906, and two decrees to the Senate concerning the Duma and the Council of State reduced to nought all the promises made in the tsar’s Manifesto of October 17, 1905. That law transformed the Council of State from a consultative into a legislative body. The Council of State, half of whose members were appointed while the other half were elected from among the Black-Hundred sections of the nobility, big capitalists and the clergy, was thus legally empowered to approve or reject any decision of the Duma.

[3] The All-Russian Union of Teachers and Public Education Personnel arose in the spring of 1905. The Second Delegates’ Congress of the Union, which met on December 26-29, 1905 (January 8-11, 1906), passed a resolution on the attitude to the First Duma. The resolution described the Duma as a further government attempt to deceive the people. The Congress declared against participation in the Duma elections, and stressed the need to reveal th.e true meaning and significance of the Duma to the population and to make every effort to organise the people for the struggle to bring about the convocation of a constituent assembly.

[4] Polish Socialist Party, or P.P.S. (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna)— a reformist nationalist party founded in 1892. Led by Pilsudski and his adherents, it carried on separatist, nationalist propaganda among the Polish workers, and strove to distract them from the struggle in common with the Russian workers against the autocracy and capitalism.
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