An Appeal to the Party by Delegates to the Unity Congress Who Belonged to the Former “Bolshevik” Group
|Written||25 April 1906|
Published in leaflet form. Published according to the leaflet text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 310-316.
Lenin wrote the Appeal immediately after the Unity Congress of the Party. It was discussed and approved by the conference of Bolshevik delegates held at People’s House in Stockholm, and was signed by 26 Bolshevik delegates to the Congress who represented the largest Party organisations.
The Unity Congress of the RSDLP has been held. The split no longer exists. Not only have the former “Bolshevik” and “Menshevik” factions completely amalgamated organisationally, but unity has also been achieved between the RSDLP and the Polish Social-Democrats, a unity agreement has been signed with the Lettish Social-Democrats, and unity has been assured with the Jewish Social-Democrats, i.e., the Bund. The political significance of these events would have been very great in any circumstances, but it is truly enormous in the historic period through which we are now passing.
The fate of the great Russian revolution is apparently to be determined in the near future. The proletariat leading the broad masses of the town and rural poor has been marching at the head of the revolution from the very beginning of the movement up to this day. In view of the coming formidable, decisive events in the people’s struggle, it is all the more essential to attain the practical unity of the class-conscious proletariat of the whole of Russia, and of all her nationalities. In a revolutionary epoch like the present, all theoretical errors and tactical deviations of the Party are most ruthlessly criticised by experience itself, which enlightens and educates the working class with unprecedented rapidity. At such a time, the duty of every Social-Democrat is to strive to ensure that the ideological struggle within the Party on questions of theory and tactics is conducted as openly, widely and freely as possible, but that on no account does it disturb or hamper the unity of revolutionary action of the Social-Democratic proletariat.
The great Russian revolution is now on the eve of its turning-point. The struggle waged by all classes of bourgeois Russia against the autocracy brought into being a paper constitution. A section of the bourgeoisie is completely satisfied with this and has turned away from the revolution. Another section, wishing to go further, deludes itself with hopes of a “constitutional” path of struggle, and is ready to regard the election victory of the wavering and hypocritical bourgeois Cadet Party as an important victory for people’s freedom.
The broad masses of the peasants, fighting courageously against old, semi-feudal Russia, against the omnipotence of officials and the yoke of the landlords, remain on the side of the revolution, but they are far from being fully class-conscious. The revolutionary-democratic section of the town petty bourgeoisie also shows but little political awareness. Only the proletariat, which fought heroically for freedom in October, and took up arms in defence of it in December, remains, as before, a consistently revolutionary class, which is gathering fresh forces and is now consciously preparing for a new and still greater battle.
The tsarist government is now with cynical frankness playing at a constitution. It retains its former power, it continues and intensifies the persecution of the fighters for liberty, its obvious intention is to make the Duma a futile talking shop, a screen for the autocracy, an instrument for deceiving the people. Whether these tactics will be crowned with success or not will be decided in the very near future, by the outcome of the new revolutionary explosion now coming to a head.
If the proletariat of the whole of Russia closes its ranks, if it succeeds in rousing all the genuinely revolutionary sections of the people, all those who want to fight and not to strike a bargain, if it trains itself well for the struggle and selects the proper moment for the final battle for freedom, it will be victorious. Then the tsar’s cynical playing at a constitution will fail; then the bourgeoisie will not succeed in striking a bargain with the autocracy; then the Russian revolution will not turn out to be as incomplete, half-hearted, and three-fourths fruitless for the interests of the working class and the peasants, as were the revolutions of the nineteenth century in Western Europe. Then it will really be a great revolution, a complete victory of the people’s uprising will free bourgeois Russia of all the old fetters, and will perhaps open the epoch of socialist revolution in the West.
While striving for a complete democratic revolution, Social-Democrats must in all their work reckon with the inevitability of a new revolutionary explosion. We must ruthlessly expose the constitutional illusions fostered both by the government and by the bourgeoisie as represented by its liberal party—the Cadets; we must call upon the revolutionary peasantry to close its ranks for the sake of a complete victory of a peasant uprising; we must explain to the masses of the people the great importance of the first December uprising and the inevitability of a new revolt, which alone will be able really to wrest power from the tsarist autocracy and really transfer it to the people. Such must be the basic aims of our tactics at the present moment in history.
We cannot and must not conceal the fact that we are profoundly convinced that the Unity Congress did not quite appreciate these tasks. The three most important resolutions of the Congress clearly bear the stamp of the erroneous views of the former “Menshevik” faction, which numerically was predominant at the Congress.
The Congress accepted the principle of “municipalisation” in its agrarian programme. Municipalisation means peasant ownership of allotment land and the renting by the peasants of the landed estates transferred to the Zemstvos. This, in effect, is something midway between real agrarian revolution and Cadet agrarian reform. The peasants will not accept such a plan. They will either demand the simple division of the land, or its complete transfer to the people as their property. Municipalisation would be a serious democratic reform only in the event of a complete democratic revolution, if a republican regime were established and if government officials were elected by the people. We proposed to the Congress that it should at least link municipalisation with these conditions, but the Congress rejected our proposal. And without these conditions municipalisation, as a liberal bureaucratic reform, will give the peasants something very different from what they require, and at the same time it will give new strength, new influence to the bourgeois anti-proletarian elements which dominate the Zemstvos. For it virtually puts the distribution of the land into their hands. We must explain this point to the broad masses of the workers and peasants.
In its resolution on the Duma, the Congress declared it desirable that a Social-Democratic parliamentary group in this Duma should be formed. The Congress refused to reckon with the fact that nine-tenths of the class-conscious workers of Russia, including all the Polish, Lettish and Jewish Social-Democratic proletarians, boycotted the Duma. The Congress rejected a proposal to make participation in the elections conditional on whether it would be possible to conduct really wide agitation among the masses. It rejected a proposal that only those whom workers’ organisations had nominated for election to the Duma could be members of the Social-Democratic parliamentary group. The Congress, therefore, embarked on parliamentarism without even providing the safeguards for the Party which in this connection have been produced by the experience of revolutionary Social-Democrats in Europe.
As Social-Democrats we, of course, have recognised the obligation in principle of using parliamentarism as a weapon of the proletarian struggle. But the point is whether it is admissible for Social-Democrats to take part, in present conditions, in a “parliament” like our Duma. Is it admissible to form a parliamentary group without Social-Democratic members of parliament elected by workers’ organisations? Our opinion is that it is not.
The Congress rejected the proposal to make it one of the tasks of the Party to combat playing at constitutionalism, to combat constitutional illusions. The Congress stated no opinion on the dual nature of the Cadet Party, which is predominant in the Duma and which inclines so strongly towards making a deal with the autocracy, towards blunting and putting an end to the revolution. The Congress allowed itself to be too greatly impressed by the fleeting and tinsel success of the party of bourgeois compromisers between the autocracy and people’s freedom.
Nor, in its resolutions on the armed uprising, did the Congress provide what was necessary, namely, direct criticism of the mistakes of the proletariat, a clear assessment of the experience of October-December 1905—it did not even attempt in them to study the relationship between strike and insurrection. Instead of all this, a sort of timid evasion of the armed uprising predominates in the resolutions. The Congress did not openly and clearly tell the working class that the December uprising was a mistake; but at the same time, in a covert way, it condemned that uprising. We think that this is more likely to befog the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat than to promote it.
We must and shall fight ideologically against those decisions of the Congress which we regard as erroneous. But at the same time we declare to the whole Party that we are opposed to a split of any kind. We stand for submission to the decisions of the Congress. Rejecting boycott of the Central Commit tee and valuing joint work, we agreed to those who share our views going on the Central Committee, although they will comprise a negligible minority in it. We are profoundly convinced that the workers’ Social-Democratic organisations must be united, but in these united organisations there must be wide and free discussion of Party questions, free comradely criticism and assessment of events in Party life.
On the question of organisation, we differed only as regards the rights of the editorial board of the Central Organ. We insisted on the right of the Central Committee to appoint and dismiss the editors of the Central Organ. We were all agreed on the principle of democratic centralism, on guarantees for the rights of all minorities and for all loyal opposition, on the autonomy of every Party organisation, on recognising that all Party functionaries must be elected, account able to the Party and subject to recall. We see the observance in practice of these principles of organisation, their sincere and consistent application, as a guarantee against splits, a guarantee that the ideological struggle in the Party can and must prove fully consistent with strict organisational unity, with the submission of all to the decisions of the Unity Congress.
We call upon all our fellow-thinkers to accept such submission and such ideological struggle: we invite all the members of the Party carefully to assess the resolutions of the Congress. Revolution teaches: and we believe that practical unity in struggle of the Social-Democratic proletariat throughout Russia will safeguard our Party against fatal errors during the climax of the impending political crisis. In the course of the fight, events themselves will suggest to the working masses the right tactics to adopt. Let us do all in our power to ensure that our estimate of these tactics contributes to the fulfilment of the tasks of revolutionary Social-Democracy, to prevent the workers’ party from deviating from the consistent proletarian path to hunt after some cheap fleeting success, so that the socialist proletariat may perform to the end its great role of vanguard fighter for liberty!
- The merger of the Polish Social-Democratic Party and the RSDLP was considered necessary, and proposed more than once, by the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania (S.D.P. & L.) at its congresses. At the Second Congress of the RSDLP (1903), which discussed the question, the S.D.P. & L. did not join the RSDLP because of differences over the national question. In January 1906, the Executive Committee of the S.D.P. & L. resumed talks on a merger with the Joint Central Committee of the RSDLP The talks resulted in the drafting of a treaty which the S.D.P. & L. representative brought to the Fourth (Unity) Congress. After introducing some amendments into the draft, the Congress approved it.
- The Lettish Social-Democratic Labour Party was founded by its First Congress in June 1904. Its Second Congress, which met in June 1905, adopted the Party Programme and passed a decision on the necessity of a merger with the RSDLP In 1905, it led the revolutionary actions of the workers and prepared the masses for an armed uprising.
At the Fourth (Unity) Congress, the Party joined the RSDLP as a territorial organisation. After the Congress it was renamed the Social-Democracy of the Lettish Territory.
- The Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia) was formed by a founding congress of Jewish Social- Democratic groups held in Vilno in 1897; it was an association mainly of semi-proletarian Jewish artisans in the western regions of Russia. The Bund joined the RSDLP at tile First Congress (1898) “as an autonomous organisation, independent only in respect of questions affecting the Jewish proletariat specifically”. (The C.P.S. U. in Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses, Conferences, and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Moscow, 1954, Part I, p. 14, Russ. ed.)
The Bund brought nationalism and separatism into the working-class movement of Russia. Its Fourth Congress, held in April 1901, resolved to alter the organisational relations established by the First Congress of the RSDLP The resolution said that the Congress regarded the RSDLP as a federation of national organisations and that the Bund should he treated as a member of that federation.
After the Second Congress of the RSDLP had rejected its demand that it be recognised as the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat, the Bund left the Party. In 1906, the Bund again entered the RSDLP on the basis of a resolution of the Fourth (Unity) Congress.
Within the RSDLP the Bundists persistently supported the opportunist wing of the Party (the “Economists”, the Mensheviks, the liquidators) and struggled against the Bolsheviks and Bolshevism. The Bund countered the Bolsheviks’ programmatic demand for the right of nations to self-determination by a demand for cultural-national autonomy. During the period of the Stolypin reaction, it adopted a liquidationist position and was active in forming the August anti-Party bloc. During the First World War (1914-15) it adopted the position of the social-chauvinists. In 1917, it supported the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government and fought on the side of the enemies of the Great October Socialist Revolution. In the years of foreign military intervention and civil war the Bund leadership joined forces with the counter-revolution. At the same time a change was taking place among the rank and file of the Bund in favour of collaboration with Soviet power. In March 1921, the Bund decided to dissolve itself, and part of its membership joined the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) according to general procedure.
- During the Congress debate on Clause 7 of the Party’s organisational Rules the question of the relations between the Central Commit tee and the Central Organ gave rise to a controversy. The Mensheviks insisted that the editors of the CO be elected by the Congress, with the right to vote when political matters were discussed by the Central Committee. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, insisted that the editorial board of the C.0. be appointed by the Central Committee, which should also have the right to recall the board. The Menshevik majority of the Congress succeeded in carrying its proposal through. In 1907, the Fifth (London) Congress, revising the clause, adopted the Bolshevik wording of it (see The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses Conferences, and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Moscow, 1954, Part I, pp. 170-72, Russ. ed.).