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in Russia (1906–17). a’representative legislative institution with limited powers, created by the autocracy under the impact of the Revolution of 1905–07 in order to strengthen the alliance with the bourgeoisie and begin developing a bourgeois monarchy, while preserving the total political authority of tsarism.
The First State Duma (Apr. 27- July 8, 1906; one session). The October All-Russian Political Strike of 1905 superseded the consultative Bulygin Duma and compelled Nicholas II to issue the Manifesto of Oct. 17. 1905, which promised “stable foundations of civil liberties” and the convocation of a legislative State Duma, with all strata of the population participating in its election. The law on elections to the State Duma was issued on Dec. 11, 1905. Preserving the indirect system of elections that had been established for the Bulygin Duma the law added a workers’ electoral body to the already existing landowners’, urban, and peasants’ electoral bodies and somewhat broadened the composition of the electors in the urban electoral body. In the elections to the workers’ electoral body, only men employed in establishments that had at least 50 workers were allowed to vote. These and other restrictions deprived approximately 2 million male workers of the right to vote. The elections were not universal, inasmuch as women, young men under 25 years old. men in active military service, and a number of national minorities were excluded from the right to vote. With one elector per 2,000 inhabitants in the landowners’ electoral body, one per 4,000 in the urban electoral body, one per 30,000 in the peasant electoral body, and one per 90,000 in the workers’ electoral body, the elections were not equal. The elections were not direct (two-stage elections and for the workers and peasants, three- and four-stage elections).
Although tsarism acknowledged that the State Duma had legislative powers, it endeavored to restrict these powers in every way. By the Manifesto of Feb. 20. 1906. the supreme legislative-consultative institution of the Russian Empire— the State Council, which existed from 1810 to 1917—was transformed into a second legislative chamber, with the right to veto decisions of the State Duma. It was explained that the State Duma did not have the right to change the fundamental laws of the state. A significant part of the state budget was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the State Duma. According to a new edition of the fundamental laws of the state (Apr. 23, 1906), the emperor retained his full power to govern the country through ministries responsible only to him, as well as the power to direct foreign policy and control the army and navy. During the intervals between sessions of the Duma the emperor could issue laws, which later were only formally confirmed by the State Duma (art. 87). All these measures transformed the State Duma into a virtually powerless body.
The Bolshevik Party called on the masses to boycott the State Duma. However, because it was called at a time when the revolutionary movement was beginning to decline, the boycott failed. Elections to the State Duma were held in February and March 1906 in an atmosphere of government repression. The 478-member First Duma included 179 Constitutional Democrats (Cadets), 63 autonomists (members of the Polish Circle and Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and other bourgeois-nationalist groups), 16 Octobrists, 105 deputies who were not affiliated with any party, 97 Trudoviks (Toilers group), and 18 Social Democrats.
The Social Democrats were elected to the State Duma by a “nonparty path.” They were elected primarily by peasant and urban electors, which resulted in a predominance of Mensheviks among the Social Democratic deputies. The Social Democrats entered the Trudovik fraction. However, after a decision of the Fourth Congress of the RSDLP in June, the Social Democrats separated into an independent fraction. The chairman of the State Duma was the Cadet S. A. Muromtsev.
The central problem facing the State Duma was the agrarian question. The Cadets hoped to lead the peasantry under the banner of “compulsory alienation” of gentry land. On May 8 they introduced a bill signed by 42 deputies that proposed land allotments to the peasants from state, monastery, church, and appanage lands and holdings administered by the Imperial Court Ministry, as well as partial alienation of gentry land for redemption at a “just price.” On the eve of the convocation of the State Duma the government had already made the decision to dissolve the duma if it considered the question of compulsory alienation. The Trudoviks presented their own agrarian bill (Bill No. 104) on May 23, demanding the alienation of gentry and other private landowners’ holdings that exceeded the “working norm,” the creation of an “all-national land fund,” and the introduction of equalized land-tenure based on the “working norm.” Despite the vacillation of the Trudoviks on the question of redemption and the utopianism of their arguments on a “labor principle” as the basis for the development of socialism, theirs was a revolutionary bill that demanded a sharp break with landown-ership by the gentry. On June 8, 1906, 33 deputies introduced still another draft of an agrarian law, which embodied the views of the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s). The bill demanded the immediate abolition of private property in land, the socialization of land, and the equalization of land-tenure. The State Duma refused to discuss the Bill of the 33. The Social Democratic fraction voted for the agrarian bill proposed by the Trudoviks. At the same time, under the influence of the Mensheviks, the Social Democratic fraction committed a series of mistakes in principle. (For example, they adopted the declaration proposed by the Mensheviks, recognizing the Duma as the “center of the all-national movement,” and they supported the Cadet slogan of a “responsible ministry.”)
With the intensification of the class struggle outside of the Duma, the tsarist government considered the continued existence of the State Duma to be dangerous. On June 20 the government issued a declaration that categorically supported the inviolability of landlords’ ownership of land, and on July 9 the tsarist manifesto dissolving the Duma was published.
The Second State Duma (Feb. 20-June 2, 1907; one session). Although it was convoked at a time when the revolution was declining, the Second Duma was more leftist than the First Duma. Of 158 deputies in the State Duma there were 65 Social Democrats, 37 SR’s, 16 Popular Socialists, 104 Trudoviks, 98 Cadets (almost half as many as in the First Duma), 54 Rightists and Octobrists, 76 autonomists, 50 deputies not affiliated with any party, 17 of whom belonged to the cossack group, and one deputy from the Party of Democratic Reform. The chairman of the State Duma was the Cadet F. A. Golovin.
Advancing the slogan “safeguard the Duma,” the Cadets tried to form a majority, adding to their own bloc of deputies the Trudoviks from the left wing and the Octobrists from the right, the Polish Circle, and the Muslim and cossack groups. In the name of “caution” the Cadets renounced their slogan of a “responsible ministry” and further modified their programmatic demands. They withdrew from discussion such questions as the death penalty and political amnesty, and they secured the approval of the budget of the State Duma in principle, thus strengthening Russia’s West European creditors’ confidence in tsarism.
The agrarian question remained the central one for the Duma. The Rightists and Octobrists defended Stolypin’s Decree of Nov. 9, 1906 (the Stolypin agrarian reform). The Cadets considerably shortened their agrarian bill, reducing to a minimum the element of compulsory alienation of land for redemption. The Trudoviks occupied the same revolutionary position on the agrarian question that they had held in the First State Duma; but in resolving other questions, they vacillated between the positions of the revolutionary Social Democrats and the Cadets. The SR’s introduced a bill for the socialization of land, and the Social Democratic fraction presented a bill for the municipalization of land. The Bolsheviks supported a program for the nationalization of all land.
The line of the Social Democratic fraction was determined by the Menshevik majority. Of 54 Social Democratic deputies with a casting vote, 36 were Mensheviks and 18 were Bolsheviks. (The remaining 11 Social Democratic deputies had not been elected on the party ticket and had consultative votes.) The Mensheviks achieved a majority in the Social Democratic fraction of the Duma because a significant number of them, including the group of deputies from the Caucasus, who were led by the leader of the fraction I. G. Tsereteli, were elected by the votes of the petite bourgeoisie. Renouncing a boycott of the State Duma, the Bolsheviks decided to use the Duma as a tribune in the interests of the revolution. In the State Duma the Bolsheviks joined the Trudoviks in supporting the “left bloc” tactic, and the Mensheviks urged collaboration with the Cadets. The predominance of the Mensheviks led the Social Democratic fraction to make serious political miscalculations on the most important programmatic and tactical questions.
The question of the struggle between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks within the Social Democratic fraction was raised at the Fifth (London) Congress of the RSDLP. Threatening to resign from the fraction and force a split, the Mensheviks demanded approval of the activity of the fraction and recognition of its independence from the Central Committee. The Bolshevik viewpoint triumphed at the congress. However, the Social Democratic fraction was not able to take advantage of the directives of the congress, inasmuch as the government decided to dissolve the State Duma. The provocative accusation that the Social Democratic fraction was involved in a military conspiracy was fabricated by the Okhranka (tsarist secret police) and served as the pretext for the dissolution of the Duma. On the night of June 3 the members of the Social Democratic fraction were arrested, and later they were brought to trial. On June 3 the Second State Duma was dissolved, and a new electoral law was published (the coup d’etat of June 3).
The Third State Duma (Nov. 1, 1907-June 9, 1912; five sessions). The Law of June 3 radically redistributed the number of electors in favor of the landlords and the big bourgeoisie. (They received two-thirds of the total number of electors, whereas the workers and peasants were left with approximately one-fourth of the electors.) The right of the workers’ and peasants’ electors to elect the number of deputies allocated to them from among their own members was transferred to the provincial electoral assembly as a whole, where the landlords and the bourgeoisie usually prevailed. The urban electoral body was divided into two bodies, the first of which consisted of the big bourgeoisie and the second, of the petite bourgeoisie and the urban intelligentsia. The representation of the peoples of the national frontier areas was sharply reduced, and the peoples of Middle Asia. Yakutia, and several other nationality regions were completely excluded from the elections. The total number of deputies was reduced to 442.
The elections were held in the autumn of 1907. In the first session of the Third State Duma there were 50 Extreme Rightists. 97 Moderate Rightists and Nationalists, 154 Octo-brists and deputies affiliated with them, 28 Progressives. 54 Cadets, eight deputies from the Muslim group, seven from the Lithuanian-Byelorussian group. 11 from the Polish Circle. 14 Trudoviks, and 19 Social Democrats. The chairman of the State Duma was the Octobrist N. A. Khomiakov. In March 1910 he was succeeded by A. I. Guchkov who was succeeded by the Octobrist M. V. Rodzianko in 1911. No one fraction had a majority of seats in the Duma; thus, the outcome of votes in the Duma depended on the Octobrists. who had replaced the Cadets as the party of the center. If the Octobrists voted with the right-wing parties, they formed a Rightist-Octobrist majority of about 300 deputies. If they voted with the Progressives and the Cadets, the Octobrists formed an Octobrist-Cadet majority consisting of more than 250 members. This most important characteristic of the Third State Duma reflected the new tsarist policy of Duma Bonapartism. With the Bonapartist policy of offering gains to the kulaks on the one hand and maneuvering between the gentry and the bourgeoisie in the State Duma on the other tsarism endeavored to ensure the reconstruction of the absolute monarchy into a bourgeois one that would preserve the political authority of the tsar and the revenues and privileges of the gentry.
A revolutionary mood survived among the masses, despite the orgy of reaction, and in 1912 this mood overflowed into a new upsurge of the revolutionary movement. Tsarism refused to carry out reforms, apprehensive that they would hasten revolution. Fearing revolution, the liberals were not capable of struggling against tsarism. As a result, the State Duma openly adopted reactionary bills and mechanically turned out numerous petty bills, which became known as “legislative vermicelli.” The State Duma accomplished only one important reform. The Law of June 14. 1910. further strengthened the coercive, antipeasant features of the Decree of Nov. 9, 1906. which aimed at plundering communal lands for the benefit of the kulaks.
The minimum political and administrative reforms necessary for moving tsarism in the direction of a bourgeois monarchy were not carried out. Thus, as the “constitutional cover” for tsarism. the State Duma was bankrupt. V. I. Lenin wrote: “The autocracy has staved off its downfall by organizing such a Duma in time: but it has not been strengthened thereby, rather on the contrary, advanced in its decay” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17, p. 401).
The powerlessness of the Duma led to squabbles and mutual exposure among the fractions of the counterrevolutionary majority. The crisis of the Third State Duma began in the first days of its existence. The Duma policy of the Octobrists and the Cadets, which was based on subservience to the Octobrists and P. A. Stolypin. failed. The position of the peasant deputies contributed to a deepening of the crisis. On the agrarian question not only the Trudoviks but also the peasants who were members of right-wing fractions took revolutionary democratic positions. Although they had also voted for the Decree of Nov. 9, 1906. the peasant deputies introduced their own agrarian bill, which virtually demanded the abolition of gentry landowning. Despite their vacillations between the Cadets and the Social Democrats, the Trudoviks expressed in their actions the revolutionary mood of the peasantry and the irreconcilability of its interests with the autocracy and the Black Hundreds Duma.
The activity of the Social Democratic fraction played an important role in the crisis of the Third Duma system. Of the six deputies elected from the workers’ electoral body, four were Bolsheviks (N. G. Poletaev. M. V. Zakharov. S. A. Voronin. and P. I. Surkov). The deputies 1. P. Pokrovskii and A. I. Predkal’n also joined the Bolsheviks. Influenced by its Menshevik majority, the Social Democratic fraction committed a number of serious errors in the early work of the Third State Duma. For example, in the discussion of the government declaration of Nov. 16. 1907. the Social Democratic fraction issued a statement that lacked a class socialist content and modified the demands of the minimum program of the RSDLP. Beginning with the second session of the Duma, the Social Democratic fraction became more active. With the departure of opportunist elements, its size was reduced from 19 to 14 members, and the role of the Bolshevik section became greater under the leadership of Poletaev. The criticism and assistance of Lenin played the main role in the improvement of the work of the fraction, whose members gave speeches on the budget and on such matters as religion, nationality, and foreign policy and exposed the anti-popular policy of tsarism and the Duma. Taking a consistent Social Democratic position in the discussion of the Decree of Nov. 9. 1906, the deputies demanded the confiscation of all landlord holdings. The Social Democratic deputies also introduced a number of queries that had great agitational significance. (Among them were queries on the persecution of trade unions, the trial of the Social Democratic fraction of the Second Duma, and the Lena shootings of 1912.) The proletariat supported the bills introduced by the Social Democratic fraction on the eight-hour workday and the freedom of trade unions as well as the position of the Social Democratic deputies in the discussion of insurance bills. The Social Democrats introduced 162 amendments to bills, all of which were rejected by the majority of the State Duma.
The Fourth State Duma (Nov. IS, 1912-Oct. 6 , 1917, five sessions). The Fourth State Duma was in session during the prewar World War I (1914–18). and the revolutionary crisis that culminated in the overthrow of tsarism. The elections to the Fourth State Duma were held in September and October 1912. Tsarism succeeded in preserving two majorities in the Fourth State Duma: a Rightist-Octobrist majority of 283 votes and an Octobrist-Cadet majority of 226 votes. Among the 442 deputies to the Fourth State Duma there were 120 Nationalists and Moderate Rightists. 98 Octobrists. 65 Rightists, 59 Cadets, 48 Progressives, 21 deputies from three nationality groups (the Polish-Lithuanian-Byelorussian group, the Polish Circle, and the Muslim group), 14 Social Democrats (six Bolsheviks, seven Mensheviks, and one deputy who did not have the full rights of a member of a fraction and who joined the Mensheviks), ten Trudoviks, and seven deputies who had no party affiliation. The chairman of the State Duma was the Octobrist M. V. Rodzianko. The Octobrists maintained their role as the party of the center. The Fourth Duma was characterized by the growth of the Progressive fraction, which occupied an intermediate position between the Octobrists and the Cadets. In Lenin’s words, the Progressives were “a cross-breed of Octobrists and the Cadets” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 22, p. 327). The Cadets ran in the elections under the false slogan of “saving the constitution,” with the aim of winning the masses over to their side and blocking the upsurge in the revolutionary movement. However, they were defeated. The Mensheviks advanced the slogan “wrest the Duma from the hands of the reactionaries,” which objectively meant the transfer of hegemony to the liberals. The Bolsheviks counterbalanced the Menshevik slogan with the motto “wrest the democratic movement from the hands of the liberals.” which was based on the belief that “only a democratic movement which has ceased to be dependent on the liberals is capable of actually undermining reaction” (ibid.. p. 334). The electoral program of the Bolsheviks, which was worked out by Lenin, explained the hopelessness of reforms and presented as the most immediate task the overthrow of tsarism and the establishment of a democratic republic with the forces of the proletariat and peasantry. (SeeBOLSHEVIK FRACTION OF THE FOURTH STATE DUMA.)
The revolutionary upsurge and the aggravation of contradictions between tsarism and the bourgeoisie evoked by it led to the complete legislative paralysis of the Fourth State Duma. The government overloaded the State Duma with so-called legislative vermicelli. During the first and second sessions (1912–14) more than 2.000 petty bills were introduced into the Duma. At the same time, a great deal of legislation was put into effect without the participation of the Duma. The Octobrists and Cadets voted together as a majority more frequently in the Fourth than in the Third Duma. The Octobrist-Cadet majority appeared in votes in opposition to the government and in attempts at “independent” legislative initiative. However, the majority had no practical significance inasmuch as bills were held up in committees or killed by the State Council.
With the beginning of World War I. Duma sessions were convoked irregularly and basic legislation was put into effect by the government without the State Duma. On July 26, 1914, there was a one-day extraordinary session of the State Duma, at which the Duma voted for war credits, demonstrating the “national unity” of the bourgeoisie and landlords on questions of imperialist foreign policy. The Social Democratic fraction opposed the appropriation of war credits. The regular (third) session of the Fourth State Duma was convoked on Jan. 27, 1915, for the adoption of a budget. The defeats of tsarist troops in the spring and summer of 1915 and the stormy growth of the revolutionary movement disrupted the “unity” between the tsar and the State Duma. The fourth session of the State Duma opened on July 19, 1915. The Extreme Rightists completely supported the government’s declaration. However, other bourgeois-landlord fractions, ranging from the Nationalists to the Cadets, criticized the government and demanded the formation of a cabinet enjoying the “confidence of the country.” Around this slogan the majority of the fractions in the State Duma and some of the fractions in the State Council united.
Negotiations among various fractions led to the signing on August 22 of a formal agreement to create the Progressive Bloc (236 deputies). The Rightists and Nationalists remained outside the bloc. The Trudoviks and Mensheviks did not join the bloc but in fact supported it. The creation of the Progressive Bloc represented the complete failure of the policy of Bonapartism. and it was the last attempt of the bourgeoisie to compel tsarism to grant minimal liberal reforms in order to avert the approaching revolution. Fear of revolution determined the bloc’s tactics and the extremely narrow and limited character of its program, which consisted of demands for the creation of a “government of public confidence.” partial amnesty for political and religious crimes, abolition of some restrictions on the rights of national minorities, and restoration of trade union activity. However, even this program turned out to be unacceptable for tsarism. and on Sept. 3, 1915, the State Duma was dissolved for a vacation recess.
The dissolution of the Duma was evidence of the “crisis of the elite” and one of the clearest manifestations of the revolutionary crisis in Russia. The Duma opposition took a wait-and-see position, counting on a compromise with tsarism. The members of the State Duma actively collaborated with the government participating in the work of “special conferences.” Meetings of the State Duma resumed on Feb. 9, 1916. Only the extremely aggravated political situation in the country in the autumn of 1916 compelled the bourgeoisie to take a more decisive tone. The fifth session of the State Duma, which opened on Nov. I. 1916, proceeded to discuss the general situation in the country. The Progressive bioc demanded the resignation of the chairman of the Council of Ministers—the open Germanophile B. V. Shtiurmer. On November 10. Shtiurmer was dismissed. The new head of the government. A. F. Trepov. presented several private bills to the State Duma. In reply, the Duma and the State Council expressed their lack of confidence in the government. thus demonstrating the complete isolation of the tsar and the government.
On Dec. 16, 1916. the Duma was dissolved. When it resumed its meetings on Feb. 14, 1917, the representatives of the bourgeois parties, assisted by the Mensheviks and SR’s, tried to organize a demonstration at the Tauride Palace under the slogan of confidence in the State Duma. However, the workers’ strikes and demonstrations in Petrograd had a revolutionary character. The Decree of Feb. 25, 1917, interrupted the session of the State Duma. Although it no longer met. the Duma continued to exist formally and to influence the development of events.
On February 27 (March 12). at the height of the February Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution of 1917, the counterrevolutionary Provisional Committee of the State Duma of 1917 was created. As a result of negotiations with the SR-Menshevik Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, the Provisional Committee formed the bourgeois-landlord Provisional Government on March 2 (15). In the subsequent period the activity of the State Duma consisted of private meetings. The State Duma openly opposed the soviets, and its members inspired and participated in counterrevolutionary plots. Under pressure from the masses and in view of the beginning of elections to the Constituent Assembly, the Provisional Government finally dissolved the State Duma on Oct. 6 (19). 1917. The Great October Socialist Revolution abolished the State Duma forever, and the decree issued by the Council of People’s Commissars on Dec. 18 (31). 1917. abolished the chancelleries of the State Duma and the Provisional Committee.
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