Draft Platform for the Fourth Congress of Social-Democrats of the Latvian Area

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Author(s) Lenin
Written May 1913


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Written in May, before June 25 (7), 1913
Published: First published in Russian in 1929 in the second and third editions of V. I. Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. XVII. First published in Lettish in the newspaper Cinas Biedrs No. 4 in August 1913. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 110-118.

Lenin wrote this Draft Platform for the Latvian Bolsheviks in May 1913, when preparations were being made to convene the Fourth Congress of the Social-Democrats of the Latvian Area. It was a time when the struggle between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in the Latvian Social-Democratic Party had become sharper; all the central positions in the Party had been seized by Menshevik liquidators and conciliators. The Latvian Bolsheviks formed their own group with the support of Bolshevik-minded workers. Lenin helped them in their struggle against the liquidationist leadership.

The Bolshevik leaders of the Latvian Social-Democrats set up their centre abroad—the Bureau of Groups Abroad—and published Lenin’s platform as a reprint from No. 8 of their Bilitens (Bulletin) under the heading “Our Platform for the Fourth Congress of Social-Democrats of the Latvian Area”. The Draft Platform was republished in issue No. 9–10 of the Bilitens. The editors of the Bilitens, influenced by the conciliatory elements among them, omitted the section of the platform dealing with the national question, and made some alterations and deletions in other sections.

The revolutionary upsurge of the working-class movement in Russia, the sharpening of the political crisis in the country, the economic crisis that will begin in the near or not far distant future, the wavering and confusion among the many groups and circles of Social-Democrats—all this compels class-conscious Latvian workers to appeal to their comrades to make intensive preparations for the convocation of the Fourth Congress of Social-Democrats of the Latvian Area and to engage in a thorough discussion of the tasks now confronting revolutionary Social-Democracy.

A group consisting of members of various Latvian Social-Democratic organisations proposes to all Social-Democratic organisations, as material for discussion, the following platform of views on the most important questions of principle, questions that concern the very existence of our Social-Democratic Labour Party, and the whole direction its activities should take—in particular those questions which the present Central Committee of the Latvian Social-Democratic Party stubbornly ignores or, we are convinced, decides in correctly.

Appraisal of the Political Situation and the General Tactical Tasks of the Social-Democrats[edit source]

It is an open secret that the prevalence of counter-revolution has brought about a deep-going ideological disintegration and a confusion of mind among Social-Democrats. Everywhere there are Social-Democrats who, as Comrade An[1] so aptly put it (Luch No. 95), are wandering about like lost sheep. Views are expressed in the Social-Democratic press to the effect that workers should not prepare for a revolution, that they should not expect a revolution, that the democratic revolution is over, etc. The so-called liquidators (Nasha Zarya and Luch), supported by the present Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Area, regularly base their tactical arguments on such views, although no responsible group or organisation of the RSDLP has expounded them in a manner that is in any way definite, precise and formal.

In the press of this trend we meet at every turn with references to the fundamental difference between Russia’s present state system and the pre-October system (as though we no longer needed a revolution to win for ourselves the elements of political liberty), or comparisons of the present tactics of the Russian Social-Democrats with those of European Social-Democrats living under a constitution, the tactics, for example, of the Austrians and Germans in the seventies of the nineteenth century (as though a constitution already existed in Russia, as Milyukov thinks it does), or the promulgation of the slogan of an open workers’ party and freedom to form associations (a slogan that could be understood only if there existed the general foundation and the pillars of political liberty and a bourgeois constitution in the country), and so on and so forth.

Under such circumstances, to refuse to give a precise definition of the tactical tasks of Social-Democrats or an appraisal of the political situation, or to postpone this appraisal or definition, would mean not only not fighting against ideological confusion, disintegration, despondency and lack of faith, it would mean directly assisting that disintegration and giving indirect support to views that nullify the old revolutionary Party decisions adopted by the Social-Democrats.

The RSDLP, however, has an accurate Party answer to these urgent and fundamental questions. The answer was given in the resolution of December 1908, which is a resolution binding on Party members and has not been annulled by anyone.

The years that have passed since the resolution was adopted have fully confirmed its correctness—its statements on the change in the nature of the autocracy, on the counter revolutionary nature of liberalism, etc., and its conclusion that the autocracy continues to exist, although in a partly renovated form, that the conditions that gave rise to the 1905 Revolution are still there, that the Social-Democratic Party is confronted with the old tasks that demand a revolutionary solution and revolutionary tactics. The employment of the Duma as a tribune, and of all legal opportunities, which is Categorically demanded in the decisions of the same conference of the RSDLP (December 1908), must be effected entirely in the spirit of these revolutionary tactics and in the name of the old revolutionary tasks of the RSDLP We therefore suggest that all Social-Democratic organisations once more hold a thorough discussion of the resolution, which was, incidentally, confirmed by the January 1912 Conference of the RSDLP, and propose to the Congress of Social-Democrats of the Latvian Area that it definitely confirm this resolution.

We call the serious attention of all comrades to the anti-Party method of the August 1912 (liquidators’) Conference of “Social-Democratic organisations”, which removed from the agenda the appraisal of the current situation and the definition of general tactical tasks, thus throwing open the door to every possible renunciation of revolutionary tasks (on the excuse that “the forecast” concerning the revolution had not been proved, etc.).

We protest in particular against the Bund, which played such an important role at the August Conference, and which at its own Ninth Conference went so far in renouncing revolutionary tasks as to withdraw the slogan of a democratic republic and confiscation of landed estates!

The Question of the Unity of the RSDLP[edit source]

The more widespread the economic and political struggle of the workers, the more urgently they feel the need for unity. Unless the working class is united, its struggle cannot be successful.

What is this unity? Obviously, the unity of the Social Democratic Party. All Latvian Social-Democratic workers belong to the Social-Democratic Party and know full well that the Party is illegal, underground, and cannot be anything else.

There cannot, therefore, be any other way in which unity in deed (not merely in word) can be achieved except from below, by the workers themselves, in their underground organisations.

It is this demand for unity that the Congress of Social-Democrats of the Latvian Area must definitely recognise. It was, incidentally, put forward by the February 1913 meeting held at the Central Committee of the RSDLP

If Luch answered such an appeal for unity by ridiculing “Lenin’s party”, and if the Bund (in the shape of “active Jewish members of the working-class movement”) rejected the appeal, both of them, the “Luchists” and Bund members, thereby proved their allegiance to the liquidators.

Latvian social-Democratic workers, who recognise the illegal Party not merely in word but in deed, will not allow themselves to be deceived by legal orations in favour of unity. Let him who wants unity join the illegal Party!

Attitude to the Liquidators[edit source]

The question of liquidationism, which was first brought up by Party decisions and by the press abroad, has now been offered for the judgement of all class-conscious workers in Russia. Latvian Social-Democratic workers must also endeavour to ensure that there are no evasions or reservations on this question, that it is presented clearly, discussed from all angles and given a definite solution.

We have had enough fairy-tales about the liquidators being the champions of an open movement. These tales have been refuted by facts proving that Party members who are against the liquidators, those who are unmistakably supporters of the underground movement, are incomparably stronger than the liquidators in all spheres of the open movement.

Liquidationism is the rejection or the belittling of the underground, that is, the illegal (and only existing) Party. It is only the underground that works out revolutionary tactics and takes those tactics to the masses through both the illegal and the legal press.

The decisions adopted by the RSDLP in December 1908 and January 1910, which no one has annulled, and which are obligatory for all Party members, clearly and precisely recognise the content of liquidationism as described above, and roundly condemn it.

Nevertheless, Nasha Zarya and Luch continue preaching liquidationism. In Luch No. 15 (101) the growth of sympathy for the underground on the part of the workers was declared deplorable. In Nasha Zarya No. 3 (March 1913) the author of that article (L. Sedov) emphasised his liquidationism more than ever. This was admitted even by An in Luch (No. 95)! And the Luch editors, replying to An, defend the liquidator Sedov.

Latvian Social-Democratic workers must at all costs ensure that the Congress of Social-Democrats of the Latvian Area resolutely condemns the liquidationism ofNasha ZaryaandLuch”. The conduct of these periodicals has fully confirmed and is daily continuing to confirm the correctness of the resolution on liquidationism adopted at the meeting in February 1913 at the Central Committee of the RSDLP

The Question of Support for the Liquidators' Conference and Organising Committee by the Central Com mittee of the Social -Democratic Party of the Latvian Area[edit source]

The present Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Area maintains that it supports the August Conference and the Organising Committee not be cause they are liquidator institutions but for the sake of unity in the RSDLP

Such an answer could satisfy only children, and the Latvian Social-Democratic workers are not children.

Those who organised the August Conference themselves invited Plekhanov and the Vperyod[2] group to it. Neither of them had taken part in the January Conference, that is, they showed not merely in word but in deed that they are neutral in the struggle between the trends.

And what did these neutral Social-Democrats say? Plekhanov and Alexinsky forthrightly recognised the August Conference to be a liquidators’ conference. The resolutions of that conference show its liquidationist character to the full. Luch, by announcing that it supports the decisions of the August Conference, is preaching liquidationism.

Whom are the worker Social-Democrats of Russia following?

This was demonstrated by the elections to the Duma in the worker curia and by the data on the working-class press.

In the Second Duma the Bolsheviks gained 47 per cent of the votes of the workers’ curia (11 deputies out of 23); in the Third Duma they had 50 per cent (4 out of 8) and in the Fourth Duma they had 67 per cent (6 out of 9). The working-class press of the anti-liquidators (Pravda and the Moscow newspaper) is supported by 1,199 groups of workers as compared with 256 groups supporting Luch.

And so, the present Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Area, in the name of Latvian revolutionary worker Social-Democrats, supports the liquidators against the obvious majority of worker Social-Democrats in Russia!

An end must be put to this. We all recognise the under ground and revolutionary tactics. We must support the Central Committee of the RSDLP, which implements these tactics and which has behind it the overwhelming majority of worker Social-Democrats in Russia both in the under ground and in the open movement.

The National Question[edit source]

This question, both in its general theoretical, socialist presentation, and from the practical, organisational point of view (the organisation of our own Party) is in urgent need of discussion and solution by all Social-Democratic organisations.

The liquidators’ conference in August 1912—as was admitted even by the neutral Menshevik Plekhanov—contravened the Programme of the RSDLP in the spirit of “adaptation of socialism to nationalism”.

In fact, this conference recognised, on the proposal of the Bund, the permissibility of the slogan of “cultural-national autonomy”, which was contrary to the decision taken by the Second Party Congress.

This slogan (defended in Russia by all the bourgeois Jewish nationalist parties) contradicts the internationalism of Social-Democracy. As democrats, we are irreconcilably hostile to any, however slight, oppression of any nationality and to any privileges for any nationality. As democrats, we demand the right of nations to self-determination in the political sense of that term (see the Programme of the RSDLP), i.e., the right to secede. We demand unconditional equality for all nations in the state and the unconditional protection of the rights of every national minority. We demand broad self-government and autonomy for regions, which must be demarcated, among other terms of reference, in respect of nationality too.

All these demands are obligatory for every consistent democrat, to say nothing of a socialist.

Socialists, however, do not limit themselves to general-democratic demands. They fight all possible manifestations of bourgeois nationalism, crude or refined. “National-cultural autonomy” is a manifestation precisely of this type—it joins the proletarians and bourgeoisie of one nation and keeps the proletarians of different nations apart.

Social-Democrats have always stood and still stand for the internationalist point of view. While protecting the equality of all nationalities against the serf-owners and the police state we do not support “national culture” but inter national culture, which includes only part of each national culture—only the consistently democratic and socialist content of each national culture.

The slogan of “national-cultural autonomy” deceives the workers with the phantom of a cultural unity of nations, whereas in every nation today a landowners’, bourgeois or petty-bourgeois “culture” predominates.

We are against national culture as one of the slogans of bourgeois nationalism. We are in favour of the international culture of a fully democratic and socialist proletariat.

The unity of the workers of all nationalities coupled with the fullest equality for the nationalities and the most consistently democratic state system—that is our slogan, and it is the slogan of international revolutionary Social-Democracy. This truly proletarian slogan will not create the false phantom and illusion of “national” unity of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, while the slogan of “national-cultural autonomy” undoubtedly does create that phantom and does sow that illusion among the working people.

We, Latvian Social-Democrats, living in an area with a population that is very mixed nationally, we, who are in an environment consisting of representatives of the bourgeois nationalism of the Letts, Russians, Estonians, Germans, etc., see with particular clarity the bourgeois falsity of the slogan of “cultural-national autonomy”. The slogan of the unity of all and every organisation of workers of all nationalities, tested in practice in our own Social-Democratic organisation, is particularly dear to us.

Reference is frequently made to Austria in justification of the slogan of “national-cultural autonomy”. As far as this reference is concerned it must be remembered that: first, the point of view of the chief Austrian theoretician on the national question, Otto Bauer (in his book The National Question and Social-Democracy) has been recognised as an exaggeration of the national factor and a terrible underestimation of the international factor even by such a cautious writer as Karl Kautsky (see: K. Kautsky, Nationalität und Internationalität; it has been translated into Russian); secondly, in Russia only the Bund members, together with all Jewish bourgeois parties, have so far defend ed “cultural-national autonomy”, whereas neither Bauer nor Kautsky recognise national autonomy for the Jews, and Kautsky (op. cit.) declares outright that the Jews of Eastern Europe (Galicia and Russia) are a caste and not a nation; thirdly, the Brünn[3] national programme of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party (1899)[4] does not fully recognise extra-territorial (personal) national autonomy and goes only as far as to demand the union of all national regions of one nationality throughout the state (Sec. 3 of the Brünn Programme); fourthly, even this programme, obviously a compromise (and unsatisfactory from the standpoint of internationalism), was a complete fiasco in Austria itself, because the compromise did not bring peace but led, instead, to the secession of the Czech separatists; fifthly, these Czech separatists, unanimously condemned at the Copenhagen Congress by the entire International, declare the Bund type of separatism to be close to them (see: Der čechoslavische Sozial-demokrat No. 3, organ of the separatists, which may be obtained gratis from Prague: Praha, Hybernska 7); sixthly, Bauer himself demands the unity of Social-Democratic political organisations of various nationalities in each locality. Bauer himself considers the “national system” of the Austrian party, which has now led to a complete schism, to be unstable and contradictory.

In short, references to Austria speak against the Bund and not in its favour.

Unity from below, the complete unity and consolidation in each locality of Social-Democratic workers of all nationalities in all working-class organisations—that is our slogan. Down with the deceptive bourgeois, compromise slogan of “cultural-national autonomy”!

We are against federation in the structure of our Party, too; we are for the unity of local (and not only central) organisations of Social-Democrats of all nations.

The Congress must reject both the slogan of cultural-national autonomy and the principle of federation in the structure of the Party. The Latvian Social-Democrats, like the Polish Social-Democrats, like the Social-Democrats of the Caucasus throughout the period from 1898 to 1912 (for 14 whole years of Party history) must remain true to Social-Democratic internationalism.

  1. An—pseudonym of N. N. Jordania, leader of the Caucasian Mensheviks.
  2. Vperyod group—an anti-Party group consisting of otzovists, ultimatumists, god-builders, empirio-monists (supporters of the reactionary idealist philosophy of Mach and Avenarius); it was organised abroad in December 1909 and was headed by A. Bogdanov and G. Alexinsky; there were several small circles, mainly of intellectuals, in Paris, Geneva and Tiflis. The views of the Vperyod group were, to use Lenin’s words, “a caricature of Bolshevism”. The group found no support among the workers and disintegrated in 1913.
  3. Now Brno in Czechoslovakia.—Ed.
  4. The programme referred to is the Austrian Social-Democratic Party’s Programme on the National Question adopted at the Congress in Brünn (Brno) in September 1899.