Free pamphlet: Revolutionaries and parliament: The Bolshevik experience

By Maurice Sibelle

One of the greatest obstacles to winning working people to the perspective of a socialist revolution is the widespread and deeply ingrained illusion — inculcated in their minds day-in and day-out by the capitalist rulers — that through the institutions of bourgeois democracy, particularly parliament, working people can defend and advance their interests.

Historical experience has shown that socialists cannot destroy this widely held illusion simply by presenting arguments against it. On the contrary, the working masses can only be convinced that parliament is an instrument of capitalist rule when this argument is backed up by their own experience. That is, the masses of working people will have to go through the practical experience of struggles in which they can test the limits that the parliamentary system places on their activity before they can be convinced of the necessity of overthrowing this system and replacing it with genuinely democratic political institutions — a centralised system of elected committees or councils of working people’s delegates like the Russian soviets of workers’ deputies that emerged in the 1905 revolution and again in 1917.

Between 1912-14, the Russian Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin were able to use the tsarist parliament — the Duma — to help build a revolutionary workers’ movement. This experience provides possibly the richest period for lessons in revolutionary parliamentarism. It was a vital period in the history of the Bolshevik Party. The work done in this period laid the ground work for the rapid changes that occurred in 1917 and the eventual victory of the October Revolution.

This is an edited version of a talk presented to the January 1993 Socialist Activists Educational
Conference sponsored by the Democratic Socialist Perspective. It was published as a pamphlet soon after, and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is now making it available online below, with permission from Resistance Books.You can purchase a hard copy of the pamphlet, contact Resistance Books HERE, read it online or PDF download the file below.

Download Revolutionaries and Parliament

Submitted by dave riley (not verified) on Mon, 08/12/2013 - 15:35


Revolutionaries and Elections -- precepts according to John Molyneux. Since the IS tradition does not have a long track record with standing in elections, this review by Molyneux is useful although I think a tad formulaic.

"First, because the fact that elections are not decisive in determining the fate of society does not mean they make no difference at all. To argue that elections and their outcomes make NO difference is both an obvious exaggeration and a form of mechanical economic determinism, clearly repudiated by Engels (along with all the other leading Marxists):...The second reason for participating in elections is that it is part of the battle for working class consciousness.....Revolutionaries, therefore, should not allow this time to go by without intervening in it to make socialist propaganda; above all we cannot afford to abandon this terrain of political activity to the reformists, liberals, conservatives and fascists (especially as the last mentioned have always combined parliamentary and extra - parliamentary struggle, often very effectively)...Third, actually getting revolutionaries elected as deputies or councilors, enables them to act as ‘tribunes of the people’, as ‘megaphones’ for socialist ideas, and as rallying points for campaigns by working people and the oppressed...Lastly, and this point is often forgotten because we haven’t yet reached this stage of the struggle but is stressed by Lenin, it is very helpful to the struggle against parliament to get ‘pro-Soviet politicians into parliament’ who work at ‘disintegrating parliamentarism from within’, and ‘for the success of the Soviets in their forthcoming task of dispersing parliament’ is possible to outline some general guidelines for these campaigns: 1) We should mount serious campaigns with the aim, if possible, of winning; 2) to this end we should stand on programmes of concrete demands which make sense to large masses of working people not a purely abstract maximum programme; 3) but we should resolutely reject opportunist concessions to the pressures of electoralism, eg populist law and order campaigns, or any compromise with zenophobia, racism, sexism etc, 4) we should make clear that the election campaign is just one (subordinate) part of the struggle to mobilize the masses."…