Concerning the Statement of the Bund
|Written||1 February 1903|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 319-325.
We have just received No. 106 of the Bund’s Posledniye Izvestia (dated February 3/January 21[Second date Old Style.—Ed.]), which reports an exceptionally important, drastic and highly lamentable step taken by the Bund. It appears that in Russia there has come out a statement of the Central Committee of the Bund on the announcement of the Organising Committee. As a matter of fact, it would be more correct to say: a statement on the footnote in the announcement of the Organising Committee, for it is mainly this single footnote that the Bund deals with in its statement.
This is what it is all about. As our readers know, the Organising Committee stated in this terrible “footnote,” which (ostensibly!) was the spark that set the forest on fire, literally the following:
“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."[See p. 308 of this volume.—Ed.]
What, we ask, could be more natural and innocent than this footnote? How else could the OC have acted? To avoid mentioning the Bund would have been wrong, since the OC did not and could not ignore it so long as the Bund, on the basis of the decision of the Party Congress in 1898, was affiliated to the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. And once we did mention it, we had to state that we had invited it. Clear enough, one would think? And it is even clearer that if the OC did not know the reasons for the Bund’s silence, this is exactly what should have been stated: “for reasons unknown to us.” By adding the words: we hope that these reasons were purely accidental and that the Bund will not delay in sending its representative—the OC openly and straightforwardly expressed its desire to work together with the Bund for the organisation of the congress and the re-establishment of the Party.
Obviously, if the Bund also shared this desire, it would only have to send its representative, who was invited both through secret channels and in the press announcement. Instead, the Bund enters into polemics with a footnote (!!), and in a printed statement gives a separate and particular exposition of its opinions and views on the tasks of the OC and the conditions for convoking a congress. Prior to examining the Bund’s “polemic” and analysing its views, we must protest most emphatically against the Bund coming out with a separate statement in the press, since such action is an infringement of the most elementary rules governing the joint conduct of revolutionary activities and especially organisational activities. One of two things, gentlemen. Either you do not want to work in one common OC, in which case no one, of course, will complain of your acting separately, or you want to work jointly, in which case you are in duty bound to state your views, not in separate statements to the public, but to the comrades on the OC, which comes out publicly only as an integral body.
The Bund itself is, of course, fully aware that its action flies in the face of all rules of comradely conduct of common affairs, and it attempts to take refuge in the following feeble justification: “Since we have had no possibility to express our views on the tasks of the forthcoming congress either through personal attendance at the conference or through participation in drawing up the ’Announcement,’ we are obliged to make up for this omission, at least to some extent, by the present statement.” The question arises: does the Bund really intend in all seriousness to assure us that it had “no possibility” to send a letter to the OC? Or to send a letter to the St. Petersburg Committee? Or to the Iskra organisation, or Yuzhny Rabochy? And besides was there no possibility for the Bund to send its delegate to one of these organisations? Did the Bund try to take at least one of these “impossibly” difficult steps, which very likely were especially difficult for an organisation so weak, inexperienced and lacking in all links as the Bund?
Stop this game of hide-and-seek, gentlemen! It is both stupid and unbefitting. You acted separately because you wanted to act separately. And you wanted to act separately in order to indicate and immediately carry out your decision to place your relations with the Russian comrades on a new footing: not to affiliate to the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party on the basis of the Rules of 1898, but to enter into a federative alliance with it. Instead of discussing this question in detail and comprehensively before the entire congress, as we wanted to do, when for a very long time we refrained from continuing the polemic we started on the question of federation and nationality—instead of doing this, as all or the vast majority of the Russian comrades undoubtedly wanted to do, you wrecked joint discussion. You did not act as a fellow comrade of St. Petersburg, the South, and Iskra, one who desired to discuss together with them the best form of relations (both prior to the congress and at the congress); you acted as a contracting party, apart from all the members of the RSDLP, presenting your own terms to the whole of this Party.
Love cannot be forced, says the Russian proverb. If the Bund does not want to remain in the closest alliance with the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, which was properly recommended by the Congress of 1898, then of course it will cease to maintain the old relations. We do not deny the “right” of the Bund to express its opinion and its desire (in general, we do not indulge in talk about “rights” in the cause of revolution except in cases of dire necessity). But we do very much regret the fact that the Bund has shown so little tact as to give expression to its opinion in a separate public statement when it was invited to enter a common organisation (the OC) which had not expressed in advance any hard and fast opinion on the given question and was calling a congress for the express purpose of discussing each and every opinion.
The Bund wanted to provoke an immediate declaration of opinions on the part of all those who entertain different views on this question. Very well! We, of course, shall not refuse to do so. We shall tell the Russian proletariat, and shall specially repeat to the Jewish proletariat, that the present Bund leaders are committing a grave political error, which will undoubtedly be corrected by time, experience, and the growth of the movement. At one time the Bund sup ported “economism,” helped to bring about the split abroad, and adopted resolutions stating that the economic struggle is the best means of political agitation. We rose up against this and fought it. And the fight helped to rectify the old mistakes, of which very likely not even a trace has remained. We fought against the urge towards terrorism, which to all appearances vanished even more rapidly. We are convinced that nationalist passion too will vanish. In the end the Jewish proletariat will understand that its most vital interests demand the closest unity with the Russian proletariat in one party, that it is the height of folly to decide in advance whether the evolution of the Jewish people in free Russia will differ from its evolution in free Europe, that the Bund ought not to go beyond the demand (in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party) for the complete autonomy in matters concerning the Jewish proletariat, which was fully recognised by the 1898 Congress and which has never been denied by anyone.
But let us return to the Bund’s statement. It terms the footnote to the “Announcement” of the OC “ambiguous.” This is an untruth that borders on malicious slander. A few lines later, the Bund’s Central Committee itself admits that the “reasons for our representative’s absence from the conference were purely accidental.” And what did the OC say? It expressed the hope that it was only for accidental reasons that the representative of the Bund did not attend. You yourselves confirm this assumption and then grow angry over it. Why is that? Further. No one can know of accidental occurrences in advance. Hence, the assertion of the Bund’s Foreign Committee that the OC knew the reasons that prevented the representative from appearing is absolutely unfounded. The Bund’s Foreign Committee is in general playing a very unseemly part in this affair: the Bun d’s Foreign Committee supplements the statement of the Bund’s Central Committee with its own inventions, which flatly contradict the words of even the CC itself! How could the Bund’s Foreign Committee ascertain that the OC knew the reasons for the Bund’s absence, when it was the CC (and not the Foreign Committee) of the Bund that was invited, and when the CC itself says that the reasons for this absence were purely accidental??
“We are convinced,” says the Bund’s CC, “that had the initiators of the conference taken a little more trouble, these accidental reasons could not have kept us from responding....” We would ask any impartial person: if two comrades who are preparing to get together in the OC admit in a single voice that the reasons which prevented the meeting were “purely accidental,” is it not out of place and unseemly to start a public polemic on who is more to blame for the non-appearance? On our part, let us remark that we long ago expressed our regret (of course, not in the press, but in a letter) over the absence of the Bund, and we were informed that the Bund had been invited twice: first, by letter, and then by word of mouth through the X. Committee of the Bund.
The delegate arrived almost a month after the conference, the Bund complains. Yes, this is a terrible crime, and, of course, it deserves public exposure, since it lends particular conspicuousness to the punctuality of the Bund, which has not got round to sending a delegate even after two months have passed!
The delegate “did not keep his promise” to send the “Announcement” of the OC either in manuscript or in printed form, but without fail prior to its distribution.... We advise our Russian comrades not to talk to certain people without making a record of the conversation. We too were promised by the Iskra organisation that we would be sent both the manuscript and a printed copy of the “Announcement,” but nevertheless we did not receive the manuscript at all, and saw the printed copy much later than members of organisations which have no contacts with the Iskra organisation. Let the Bundists decide the question of whether it would be seemly on our part if we began to publish accusations against the Iskra organisation of having broken its promise. The delegate of the OC promised the Bund’s CC to write at once to the comrade charged with the printing of the “Announcement” about holding up the printing: this was actually promised (so far as we can judge from information at our disposal). This promise was kept, but it was too late to stop the printing, since there was no time to get in touch with the printshop.
To sum up: the OC initiators wrote letters, made a personal announcement through the X. Committee, and sent a delegate to the Bund’s Central Committee, while for months the Bund did not send a single letter, let alone a delegate! And yet the Bund comes out in the press with accusations! And strangely enough the Bund’s Foreign Committee affirms that the initiators of the conference behaved “strangely,” that their activities are decidedly at variance with their aim, that they displayed “haste” (the Bund’s CC, on the contrary, accuses them of slowness!), that they merely want to “create the impression” that the Bund “was indifferent”!!
We have still to say a few words about the charge against the OC that it has not drawn “the only correct conclusion,” namely: “Since actually there is no party, the forthcoming congress should be in the nature of a constituent congress, and, therefore, the right to participate in it should be accord ed to all Social-Democratic organisations in Russia, both Russian and those of all other nationalities.” The Bund is trying to get round the unpleasant fact that, since it does not have a single centre, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party consists of a number of committees and organs, and possesses a “Manifesto” and resolutions of the First Congress, at which, incidentally, the Jewish proletariat was also represented by people who had not yet made their mark in “economist,” terrorist, and nationalist waverings. By formally advancing the “right” of “all” nationalities to found the long-ago-founded Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, the Bund manifestly confirms that it is precisely over the question of the notorious “federation” that it has raised the whole issue. But the Bund should be the last to raise this question, and it is not about “rights” that the issue should be raised among serious revolutionaries. Everyone knows that the question of cementing and uniting a basic nucleus of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party is on the order of the day. We cannot but favour representation of “all” nationalities at the congress, but at the same time we must remember that we can think of expanding the nucleus or allying it with other organisations only after the formation of this nucleus has been completed (or, at the very least, after there is no doubt about its stability). Until we have ourselves become united organisationally and have firmly set out along the correct path, amalgamation with us will not give anything to “all other” nationalities! And the answer to the question of the possibility (and not of the “right,” gentlemen!) of “all other” nationalities being represented at our congress depends on a number of tactical and organisational steps by the OC and the Russian committees, depends, in short, on how successful the activity of the OC will be. It is a historical fact that from the very outset the Bund has tried to put a spoke in the wheel of the OC
- The polemic between Iskra and the Bund on the question of the latter’s organisational relations with the RSDLP arose out of the decision of the Bund congress (in April 1901) to insist upon the federative principle of Party structure. Iskra opposed this decision. In a number of articles and in his speeches at the Second Party Congress, Lenin sharply criticised the Bund’s nationalism.