The program of the Social Democrats (1903)


The following political manifesto was drafted by the Social Democratic Party in August 1903:


“[We consider] social revolution, which is the ultimate aim of all the activities of international social democracy as the class-conscious expression of the proletarian movement. By replacing private with public ownership of the means of production and exchange, by introducing planned organisation in the public process of production so that the well being and the many sided development of all members of society may be ensured, the social revolution of the proletariat will abolish the division of society into classes and thus emancipate all oppressed humanity, and will terminate all forms of exploitation of one part of society by another.

A necessary condition for this social revolution is the dictatorship of the proletariat; that is, the conquering by the proletariat of such political power as would enable it to crush any resistance offered by the exploiters. In its effort to make the proletariat capable of fulfilling its great historical mission, international social democracy organises it into an independent political party in opposition to all bourgeois parties, directs all the manifestations of its class struggle, discloses before it the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the exploiters and those of the exploited, and clarifies for it the historical significance of the imminent social revolution and the  conditions necessary for its coming. At the same time, it reveals to the other sections of the toiling and exploited masses the hopelessness of their condition in capitalist society and the need for a social revolution if they wish to be free of the capitalist yoke.

The party of the working class, the Social Democrats, calls upon all strata of the toiling and exploited population to join its ranks insofar as they accept the point of view of the proletariat. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party therefore sets as its immediate political task the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a democratic republic whose constitution would guarantee:

1. The sovereignty of the people; i.e., the concentration of the supreme power of the state in a unicameral legislative assembly composed of representatives of the people.

2. Universal, equal and direct suffrage for all citizens, male and female, who have reached the age of twenty… a secret ballot in these elections…

3. Broad local self-government… regional self-government for localities with special conditions of life or a particular make-up of the population.

4. Inviolability of person and dwelling.

5. Unrestricted freedom of conscience, speech, press and assembly; the right to strike and to form trade unions.

6. Freedom of movement and occupation.

7. Elimination of class privileges and the complete equality of all regardless of sex, religion, race or nationality.

8. The right of any person to obtain an education in their native language…; the use of the native language together with the state language in all local, public and state institutions.

9. National self-determination for all nations forming part of the state.

10. The right of every person through normal channels to prosecute before a jury any official.

11. The popular election of judges.

12. The replacement of the standing army by the general arming of the population (i.e. the formation of a people’s militia).

13. Separation of church and state, and of school and church.

14. Free and compulsory general or vocational education for all children of both sexes up to the age of sixteen; provision by the state of food, clothes, and school supplies for poor children.

To protect the working class from physical and moral degradation, and also to develop its capacity for the liberation struggle; the party demands:

1. Limitation of the working day to eight hours for all hired workers…

2. A complete ban on overtime work.

3. A ban on night work…with the exception of those (industries) which absolutely require it for technical reasons…

4. The prohibition of the employment of children of school age…

5. A ban on the use of female labour in occupations which are harmful to the health of women; maternity leave from four weeks prior to childbirth until six weeks after birth…

6. The provision of nurseries for infants and young children in all …enterprises employing women.

7. State insurance for workers against old age and partial or complete disability through a special fund supported by a tax on capitalists…

8. The appointment of an adequate number of factory inspectors in all branches of the economy…

9. The supervision by organs of local self government, together with elected workers’ representatives, of sanitary conditions in factory housing…

10. The establishment of properly organised health inspection in all enterprises…free medical services for workers at the employer’s expense, with wages to be paid during time of illness.

11. Establishment of criminal responsibility of employers for violations of laws intended to protect workers.

12. The establishment in all branches of the economy of industrial tribunals made up equally of representatives of the workers and of management.

13. Imposition upon the organs of local self-government of the duty of establishing employment agencies (labour exchanges) to deal with the hiring of local and non-local labour in all branches of industry, and participation of workers’ and employers’ representatives in their administration.

In order to eliminate the remnants of serfdom, which lie as an oppressive burden on the peasantry, and to further the free development of the class struggle in the countryside, the party demands above all:

1. Abolition of redemption payments and quit rents as well as all obligations which presently fall on the peasantry, the taxpaying class.

2. The repeal of all laws hampering the peasant’s disposal of his own land.

3. The return to the peasants of all moneys taken from them in the form of redemption payments and quitrents; the confiscation, for this purpose, of monastic and church property as well as of lands owned by the emperor, government agencies and members of the tsar’s family; the imposition of a special tax on estates of the land-owning nobility who have availed themselves of the redemption loans; the deposit of sums obtained in this way into a special fund for the cultural and charitable needs of the village communities.

4. The institution of peasant committees.

5. The granting to the courts of the right to reduce excessively high rents and to declare null and void all transactions reflecting relations of servitude.

In striving to achieve its immediate goals, the RSDRP will support any opposition or revolutionary movement directed against the existing social and political order in Russia. At the same time, it resolutely rejects all reformist projects involving any broadening or strengthening of police or bureaucratic tutelage over the toiling classes.”