Draft Decree on the Right of Recall

The revolutionary state had to have a new democratic system which represented the will of the people. Lenin wanted an electoral system of proportional representation with the right of recall of elected representatives. Lenin presented a report on the Right of Recall at a meeting dated, November 21 (December 4), 1917 in which he said: “The question of re-election is one of actually implementing the democratic principle. It is the accepted practice in all leading countries that only the elected are entitled to speak in the language of state legislation. But having allowed the right of summons for the conduct of affairs of state, the bourgeoisie intentionally withheld the right of recall – the right of actual control.

“In all revolutionary periods in history, a prominent feature in the struggle for constitutional changes has been the fight for the right of recall.

“Democratic representation exists and is accepted under all parliamentary systems, but this right of representation is curtailed by the fact that the people have the right to cast their votes once in every two years, and while it often turns out that their votes have installed those who help to oppress them, they are deprived of the democratic right to put a stop to that by removing these men.

“But this democratic right of recall has survived in countries with old democratic traditions, for instance, in some cantons of Switzerland and some states of America.

“Any great revolution clearly confronts the people not only with the use of existing statutes but also with the framing of appropriate new statutes. It is necessary, therefore, in view of the impending convocation of the Constituent Assembly, to review the new electoral statutes.

“The Soviets have been created by the working people themselves, by their revolutionary energy and initiative, and that is the only guarantee of their working entirely to promote the interests of the masses. The truly popular nature of the Soviets is evident in the fact that every peasant sends his representatives to the Soviet and is also entitled to recall them.

“Various parties in this country have been in power. The last time power passed from one party to another there was a revolution, a rather stormy revolution, but if we had had the right of recall, a simple vote would have sufficed.

“There is this word freedom. In the old days it meant freedom for the bourgeoisie to manipulate its millions for swindling, freedom to use its forces through such swindling. We have done with the bourgeoisie and that kind of freedom. The state is an institution for coercion. In the old days, it was the coercion of the whole people by a handful of money-bags. We want to turn the state into an institution enforcing the will of the people. We want to institute coercion in the working people’s interests.

“Failure to grant the right of recall from the Constituent Assembly is failure to elicit the revolutionary will of the people, it is usurpation of the people’s rights. We do have proportional representation, which is indeed the most democratic. Under this system it may be somewhat difficult to introduce the right of recall but the difficulties entailed are purely technical and are fairly easy to overcome. In any case there is no contradiction between proportional representation and the right of recall.”

Given below is the text of the Draft Decree on the Right of Recall, signed by V I Lenin on November 19 (December 2), 1917.

NO elective institution or representative assembly can be regarded as being truly democratic and really representative of the people’s will unless the electors’ right to recall those elected is accepted and exercised. This fundamental principle of true democracy applies to all representative assemblies without exception, including the Constituent Assembly.

Because the system of proportional representation is more democratic than the majority system, it demands more complex measures for the exercise of the right of recall, that is, the actual subordination of the elected to the people. But it would be betraying democracy and abdicating the basic principles and tasks of the socialist revolution, which has begun in Russia, to refuse, on that ground, to practise the right of recall, or to hamper or restrict its exercise in any way. What proportional representation demands is not a curtailment of the right of recall but a mere change of form.

Since the system of proportional representation is based on acceptance of the party system and the conduct of elections by organised parties, any major change in the balance of class forces and the relation of classes to parties, especially in the event of splits within major parties, necessarily produces the need for a re-election in any electoral district where there is a clear and obvious discrepancy between the will of the various classes and their strength, on the one hand, and the party composition of those elected, on the other. True democracy makes it imperative that the appointment of re-elections should not depend only on the institution to be re-elected, that is, that the desire on the part of those elected to retain their seats should not work against the exercise of the people’s will to recall its representatives.

In view of this, the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, resolves:

The Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies of each electoral district shall have the right to appoint re-elections to all city, Zemstvo and all other representative institutions in general, not excluding the Constituent Assembly. The Soviets shall also have the right to set the date for the re-elections, which shall be held in the usual manner, in strict conformity with the principles of the system of proportional representation.



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