Announcement of the Formation of an Organising Committee
|Written||15 January 1903|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 307-311.
The Organising Committee (OC) for convening the Second Congress of the RSDLP was first elected by the Belostok Conference in March (April) 1902, but soon after the conference all the Committee members hut one were arrested. On Lenin’s initiative a new Organising Committee was set up at the Pskov Conference of Social-Democratic committees held in November 1902. The Iskra supporters had an overwhelming majority in the new committee.
Under Lenin’s leadership, the Organising Committee carried out considerable work in preparing the Second Party Congress. In February 1903, draft rules for the convocation of the Party Congress were adopted at a plenary session held in Orel.
Following the February plenary session, members of the OC twice visited local committees with a view to assisting them in their work. With the participation of members of the OC the local Party organisations discussed the draft rules for the convocation of the Congress, after which the rules were confirmed by the OC.
The OC confirmed the list of local organisations entitled to attend the Congress in accordance with the rules adopted. A detailed written report on its activities was prepared by the OC for presentation to the Congress.
Four years ago several Russian Social-Democratic organisations united in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and worked out a certain plan of organisation and general principles of activity, which were set forth in the “Manifesto” published by the Party. Unfortunately, this first attempt was not crowned with success: the elements necessary for building up a united and strong Social-Democratic Party, which would wage an unremitting struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat from all forms of oppression and exploitation, did not as yet exist. On the one hand, the very forms of the practical activity of the Russian Social-Democrats were only just beginning to take shape. The Social-Democrats, who had but recently entered on the path of struggle, were still seeking the best ways of putting their theoretical views into practice and were still advancing with timid and uncertain steps. The working-class movement, on which they based their activities and which was finding expression in tremendous strikes,had only just burst forth in a brilliant flash that dazzled the eyes of many, obscuring from their vision the tasks and aims, so clear and definite, of revolutionary Social-Democracy, and inducing an enthusiasm for a narrow trade-union struggle. On the other hand, the constant repressions practised by the government against the Social-Democratic organisations, which had not yet become strong or firmly rooted, destroyed all continuity and cut short any tradition in their activities.
However, this unsuccessful attempt did not pass without a trace. From that time on, the very idea of an organised political party of the proletariat, which guided our forerunners, became the lodestar and goal of all class-conscious Social-Democrats. In the course of these four years, repeated attempts have been made to give effect to this idea, which has been handed down to us by the first Social-Democratic leaders. But to this day we are faced with the very same disorganisation that existed four years ago.
At the same time, life makes greater and greater demands on us. Whereas the first leaders of the Party made it their task to rouse the dormant revolutionary forces of the mass of the workers, we are faced with the much more complex task of guiding the awakening forces in the right direction, of taking our place at the head of these forces and of leading them. We must be prepared at any moment to hear the call: “Lead us whither you have called us!” It will be a fearful thing if that moment takes us unawares, just as divided and unprepared as we are at present. Let it not he said to us that we are exaggerating the gravity of the moment. Anyone capable of seeing beyond ripples on the surface, anyone capable of discerning a process that is going on in the depths, will never suspect us of exaggeration.
But the gravity of the situation is enhanced by still other circumstances. We are passing through a momentous period in history. The awakening of the working class in connection with the general course of Russian life has roused various sections of society to activity. More or less consciously they are striving to organise for the purpose of joining, in one way or another, the struggle against an obsolete regime. We wish them every success! Social-Democrats can only welcome all who join such a struggle. But they must vigilantly watch lest such allies make Social-Democracy a tool in their hands, lest they divert it from the main field of activity, lest they deprive it of the leading role in the struggle against the autocracy and, what is most important, lest they hinder the progress of the revolutionary struggle by diverting it from the correct path. That this danger is no figment of the imagination is clear to everyone who has carefully followed the development of the revolutionary struggle in recent years.
Thus, Russian Social-Democracy is now faced with a gigantic task, one that is beyond the power of any local committee or even district organisation. No matter how perfect the local organisations may be, they will not be able to cope with this task, for it has already grown beyond local bounds. It can be accomplished only by the collective forces of all Social-Democrats in Russia, welded into a single, centralised, disciplined army. But, then, who is to assume the initiative for this unification?
This question was discussed last year at a conference of representatives of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle, the Central Committee of the United Committees and Organisations of the South, the Iskra organisation, the Central Committees of the Bund (in Russia and abroad), the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad, and some other organisations. The conference instructed representatives of certain organisations to form an Organising Committee, which would assume the task of actually re-establishing the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.
In fulfilment of this decision, representatives of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle, the Iskra organisation, and Yuzhny Rabochy group have formed an Organising Committee, which sets itself the first and foremost task of preparing the conditions for the convocation of a Party congress.
However, since the convocation of a congress is a highly complex matter and requires considerable time, the Organising Committee assumes, until the re-establishment of the central Party body, certain general, functions (the issuing of leaflets intended for the whole of Russia, general transport arrangements and methods of underground work the establishment of contacts between the committees, etc.).
It is self-evident that the Organising Committee, which has arisen on the initiative of several organisations, will be bound by obligatory relations only with those organisations that have already authorised it or that will authorise it to act for them. Its relation to all other committees and groups is that of a separate organisation, which offers its services to them.
The task which the Organising Committee has decided to undertake is a great and responsible one, and, if it has nevertheless made so bold as to do so, that is only because the need for unity is so pressing, because disunity is making itself felt all too keenly, and because continued disorganisation constitutes so great a threat to the common cause. In setting to work, the Organising Committee believes that the success of its activity will depend to a considerable extent on the attitude adopted towards it by the Social-Democratic committees and organisations, and this attitude itself will be regarded by the committee as a criterion of the correctness with which it has gauged the present situation.
The Organising Committee
This statement by the newly-formed Organising Committee of our Party speaks eloquently enough for itself, and there is no need for us to devote many words to explaining the great significance of the step that has been taken. Unification, the re-establishment of a united Party, is the most pressing task of the Russian Social-Democrats, a task that urgently requires immediate accomplishment. This task is a very difficult one, for it is not unity of a few handfuls of revolutionarily minded intellectuals that we need, but unity of all leaders of the working-class movement, which has roused the whole of a large class of the population to independent life and struggle. We need unification based on a strict singleness of principle which must be consciously and firmly arrived at by all or by the vast majority of committees, organisations, and groups, of intellectuals and workers, who act in varying circumstances and under varying conditions and have sometimes achieved their Social-Democratic convictions along the most diverse paths. Such unification cannot be decreed; neither can it be established immediately, by mere resolutions adopted by assembled delegates. It must be prepared and developed systematically and gradually, so that the general Party congress can consolidate and improve what has already been accomplished, continue what has been started, and complete and formally endorse the firm foundation for further, more widespread and intense work. And that is why we particularly welcome the wisely cautious and modest way in which the Organising Committee has entered upon its duties. Without insisting on any kind of obligatory relations with the mass of Russian Social- Democrats, the Organising Committee confines itself to offering its services to all of them. And so let all Russian Social-Democrats without except ion—committees and circles, organisations and groups, those on active service and those temporarily on the retired list (exiles, etc.)—make haste to respond to this call; let them strive to establish direct and active contacts with the OC; let them give their most active support to the great work of unification. We must see to it that not a single group of Russian Social-Democrats fails to establish contacts with the OC, or work in comradely harmony with it. Further, while regarding the preparation and convocation of a general Party congress as its primary task, the OC also assumes certain general functions in the service of the movement. We are confident that no Social-Democrat will fail to recognise the pressing need for this extension of functions on the part of the OC, for this is merely an extended offer of its services—an offer that goes to meet demands expressed thousands and thousands of times—an offer that does not entail the forfeiture of any “rights,” but rather the practical abandonment of isolation as speedily as possible, and the tackling in common of a number of joint undertakings. Finally, we also consider absolutely correct and in place the resolute statement of the OC that the convocation of a congress is a highly complex matter and requires considerable time. This, of course, does not at all mean that the convocation of the congress should be put off. Nothing of the sort. If we take into account the urgency of the congress, then we would have to admit that even one month is too “considerable” a period for its convocation. But if we bear in mind our conditions of work and the necessity for adequate representation of the entire movement at the congress, then five or even ten times as long a period will not cause a single Party worker who is at all experienced to lose heart.
Let us then wish every success to the work for the speediest possible unification and re-establishment of the Party and let us show our sympathy with this work not only in words but in immediate action on the part of every one of us. Long live Russian and international revolutionary Social-Democracy!
- The reference is to the First Congress of the RSDLP, which was held in Minsk on March 1-3 (13-15), 1898. It was attended by nine delegates from six organisations—the St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ekaterinoslav. and Kiev Leagues of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, the group of the Kiev Rabochaya Gazeta, and the Bund. The Congress elected the Central Committee of the Party, confirmed Rahochaya Gazeta as the Party’s official organ, published a “Manifesto,” and declared that the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad represented the Party abroad (see The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses, Conferences, and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Part 1,1954, pp. 11-15).
The significance of the First Congress of the RSDLP lay in the fact that, in its decisions and Manifesto, it proclaimed the formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, thereby being an important factor of revolutionary propaganda. However, the Congress did not adopt a programme or work out the Party Rules. The Central Committee elected at the Congress was arrested and the Rabochaya Gazeta print-shop seized, so that the Congress did not succeed in linking together and unifying the individual Marxist study circles and organisations. There was no central leadership and no definite line in the work of the local organisations.
- The Bund was also invited to send its representative to the Organising Committee, but for reasons unknown to us, the Bund did not respond to this invitation. We hope that these reasons were purely accidental, and that the Bund will not delay in sending its representative. —Lenin