Democratic Conference

Democratic Conference

 

(All-Russian Democratic Conference), a meeting held Sept. 14-22 (Sept. 27-Oct. 5), 1917, in Petrograd; convened by a resolution of the Central Executive Committee of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Executive Committee of Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies, which were controlled by the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s). The conference was convened in order to retard the growing national crisis in Russia and strengthen the position of the bourgeois Provisional Government.

The Democratic Conference was attended by 1,582 delegates (from soviets, trade unions, organizations of the army and navy, cooperatives, national institutions, and so on). In terms of party affiliation, there were 532 SR’s, 172 Mensheviks, 136 Bolsheviks, and 55 Trudoviki (members of the Toilers group). Losing the majority in the soviets after the attempted coup of Kornilov was routed, the conciliators attempted to replace the Democratic Conference with the convocation of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and to create a new bourgeois coalition government. They strove to switch the country onto the tracks of bourgeois parliamentarism, halt the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution, and deceive the toiling masses with a semblance of participation in the resolution of the question of power. By juggling the composition of the Democratic Conference, the Mensheviks and SR’s achieved a majority that did not reflect the true correlation of forces in the country and represented not “a majority of the revolutionary people, but only the compromising upper strata of the petite bourgeoisie” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34, p. 239).

The Bolshevik faction in the Democratic Conference was supported by a substantial group of nonparty delegates from trade unions, local soviets, and other mass organizations. Lenin called upon the members of the faction to utilize the rostrum of the Democratic Conference to expose the conciliators while concentrating their main efforts on work among the revolutionary masses and on preparation of the armed uprising.

The declaration of the Bolshevik faction, prepared by the commission of the Central Committee of the party and made public at the Democratic Conference on September 18 (October 1), presented a sharp critique of the conciliatory policy of the SR-Menshevik leaders and the entire experiment of the coalition regime and condemned their juggling of the composition of the Democratic Conference. It demanded the convocation without delay of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the transfer of all power to the soviets, the abolition of private landed property and the transfer of the land to the peasantry, the introduction of workers’ control over production and distribution, the nationalization of the most important sectors of industry, the arming of the workers, the abrogation of secret treaties, and the immediate offer of a general, democratic peace.

The voting of September 19 (October 2) on the question of power demonstrated the bankruptcy of the policy of the conciliators. Three-fourths of the representatives of the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies, factory committees, and trade unions voted against coalition with the bourgeoisie; they were joined by a substantial portion of the delegates of local peasant soviets and national organizations. Thus the coalition was opposed not only by the proletariat but also by a majority of the peasantry. The Democratic Conference reached a deadlock because of major differences in the camp of the conciliators. An SR-Menshevik resolution approving a coalition with the bourgeoisie gathered only 183 votes (813 opposed, 80 abstentions). The Democratic Conference displayed complete helplessness in resolving the question of power. At a session of the presidium of the Democratic Conference on September 20 (October 3), the decision was made to separate representatives of all groups and factions from the conference on a proportional basis and to constitute them as a permanent body—the Democratic Council (Pre-Parliament)—to which the functions of the Democratic Conference would be transferred.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See reference volume, part 1, p. 127.)
Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii v sentiabre 1917: Obshchenatsional’nyi krizis (documents and materials). Moscow, 1961.
Krylova, N. P. “V. I. Lenin o taktike bol’shevistskoi partii v otnoshenii demokraticheskogo soveshchaniia i predparlament.” In Nekotorye voprosy strategii i taktiki partii bol’shevikov v Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii. Moscow, 1968.

G. N. GOLIKOV

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