Letter to Camille Huysmans, January 31, 1914
|Written||31 January 1914|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 74-81
At your personal request I am writing the following brief report (bref rapport) in my own name, and apologise in advance for any gaps in this report (rapport), as I am hard pressed for time. The Central Committee of our Party will probably find occasion to send its own official report to the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau, and to correct any possible errors in my own private report.
What are the differences (dissentiments) between the Central Committee of our Party and the Organizing Committee? That is the question. These differences may be reduced to the following six points:
The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party was formed in 1898 as an illegal Party, and has always remained such. Today too our Party can exist only as an illegal Party, since in Russia even the party of the moderate liberals has not been legalised.
Until the 1905 Revolution in Russia, however, the liberals published an illegal organ abroad. When the revolution was defeated, the liberals turned their backs upon it and indignantly rejected the idea of an illegal press. And so after the revolution the idea arose in the opportunist wing of our Party of renouncing the illegal Party, of liquidating it (hence the name “liquidators”) and of substituting for it a legal (“open”) party.
On two occasions, in 1908 and in 1910, our entire Party condemned liquidationism formally and unqualifiedly. On this point the differences are absolutely irreconcilable. It is impossible to restore and build up an illegal Party with people who do not believe in it and have no desire at all to build it up.
The Organising Committee and the Conference of August 1912 which elected it, recognise the illegal Party in word. In deed, however, after the decisions of the August Conference, the liquidators’ newspaper in Russia (Luch and Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta in 1912–13), continued to attack, in the legal press, the very existence of the illegal Party (numerous articles by L.S., F.D., Zasulich, and others).
Thus, we disagree with the Organising Committee because the latter is a fiction, which in word denies that it is liquidationist, but in fact screens and whitewashes the liquidators’ group in Russia.
We disagree with the Organising Committee because the latter is unwilling (and unable, for it is helpless against the liquidators’ group) to condemn liquidationism emphatically and irrevocably.
We cannot build up an illegal Party except by fighting those who attack it in the legal press. In Russia there are now (since 1912) two St. Petersburg workers’ dailies: one fulfils and carries out the decisions of the illegal Party (Pravda). The other (Luch and Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta) attacks the illegal Party, defies it, and tries to convince the workers that it is unnecessary. Unity between the illegal Party and the group that is fighting against the existence of the illegal Party is impossible until the paper run by the liquidators’ group radically changes its line, or until the Organising Committee emphatically condemns it and breaks with it.
Our differences with the liquidators are the same as those between reformists and revolutionaries everywhere. However, these differences are greatly aggravated and made irreconcilable by the fact that the liquidators, in the legal press, fight against revolutionary slogans. Unity is impossible with a group which, for example, declares in the legal press that the slogan of a republic, or of the confiscation of the big landed estates, is unsuitable for agitation among the masses. In the legal press we cannot refute such propaganda, which is objectively tantamount to betraying socialism and making concessions to liberalism and the monarchy.
And the Russian monarchy is such that a few more revolutions will be needed to teach the Russian tsars constitutionalism.
There can be no unity between our illegal Party, which secretly organises revolutionary strikes and demonstrations, and the group of publicists who in the legal press call the strike movement a “strike craze”.
We disagree on the national question. This question is a very acute one in Russia. The programme of our Party emphatically rejects so-called “extra-territorial and national autonomy”. Advocacy of the latter actually amounts to the preaching of refined bourgeois nationalism. Nevertheless, the August Conference of the liquidators (1912) recognised this “extra-territorial national autonomy” thereby deliberately violating the Party Programme. Comrade Plekhanov, who takes a neutral stand between the Central Committee and the Organising Committee, protested against this violation of the Programme, describing it as adaptation of socialism to nationalism.
We disagree with the Organising Committee because the latter refuses to rescind a decision which violates our Party Programme.
Furthermore, we disagree on the national question in respect of organisation. The Copenhagen Congress definitely condemned the division of trade unions according to nationality. Moreover, the experience of Austria has shown that in this respect it is impossible to draw a distinction between the trade unions and the political party of the proletariat.
Our Party has always stood for a united, international organisation of the Social-Democratic Party. In 1908, before the split, the Party repeated its demand for the amalgamation of all the national Social-Democratic organisations in the local areas.
We disagree with the Bund, the separate Jewish workers’ organisation, which supports the Organising Committee, because, despite Party decisions, the Bund flatly refuses to proclaim the principle at the unity of all national organisations in the local areas, and to bring about such an amalgamation.
It must be emphasised that the Bund refuses to amalgamate not only with organisations subordinated to our Central Committee, but also with the Lettish Social-Democratic Party, the Polish Social-Democratic Party and the Polish Socialist Party (the Left wing). Consequently, when the Bund poses as an amalgamator, we reject its claim, and declare that it is the Bund that is splitting the movement, since it refuses to bring about international unity among the Social-Democratic workers in the local organisations.
We disagree with the step taken by the Organising Committee in defending the alliance of the liquidators and the Bund with a non-Social-Democratic party, the P.S.P. (the Left wing), despite the protests of the two sections of the Polish Social-Democratic Party.
The Polish Social-Democratic Party has been affiliated to our Party ever since 1906–07.
The P.S.P. (the Left wing) was never affiliated with our Party.
By entering into an alliance with the P.S.P. in opposition to the two sections of the Polish Social-Democratic Party the Organising Committee is guilty of scandalous splitting action.
By accepting in the Social-Democratic group in the Duma the non-Social-Democrat Jagiello, a member of the P.S.P., despite formal protests by the two sections of the Polish Social-Democratic Party, the Organising Committee and its supporters among the deputies in the Duma are guilty of scandalous splitting action.
We disagree with the Organising Committee because the latter is unwilling to condemn and annul this splitting alliance with the P.S.P. (the Left wing).
Lastly, we disagree with the Organising Committee, and with many of the groups and fictitious organisations abroad, because our opponents are unwilling to admit openly, loyally and unequivocally that our Party enjoys the support of the overwhelming majority of the class-conscious workers of Russia.
We attach extremely great importance to this because, on the basis of bald statements unsupported by precise and verifiable facts, the most glaring falsehoods are often circulated abroad about the state of affairs in Russia.
The alternative is clear: either our opponents admit that there are irreconcilable differences between us (in which case their talk about unity is hypocrisy), or they see no irreconcilable differences (in which case, if they do not want to be regarded as splitters, they must loyally admit that we are the absolute majority).
By what public and verifiable facts can it be proved which side enjoys the support of the real majority of the class-conscious and organised Social-Democratic workers in Russia?
First, by the Duma elections.
Secondly, by the information published in both Social Democratic newspapers during the whole of 1912 and nearly the whole of 1913.
It can be readily understood that the only convincing material on the question at issue is provided by the daily newspapers of the two trends in St. Petersburg for two years.
Thirdly; by public statements made by workers in Russia (in the columns of both newspapers) in favour of one or the other of the two Social-Democratic groups in the Duma.
All these three sets of facts were given in our Central Committee’s official report to the International Socialist Bureau (session of December 14, 1913). I will briefly recapitulate these facts.
First: 47 per cent of the deputies elected by the worker curia in the elections to the Second Duma (1907), 50 per cent of such deputies in the elections to the Third Duma (1907–12), and 67 per cent in the elections to the Fourth Duma were Bolsheviks (i. e., our adherents).
Secondly, during 21 months between January 1, 1912 and October 1, 1913, the two workers’ newspapers in St. Petersburg published reports of the funds collected by workers’ groups: 556 groups collected funds for the liquidators and all their allies, while 2,181 groups collected funds for our Party.
Thirdly, up to November 20, 1913, 4,850 workers expressed support, over their signatures; for our group in the Duma, as against 2,539 workers who expressed support for the liquidators (and all their allies, the Bund, the Caucasians, and so on and so forth).
These precise and verifiable facts prove that during the two years, we united the overwhelming majority of Social-Democratic workers’ groups in Russia, despite the incredible difficulties the illegal Party in Russia has to contend with.
(In the matter of publishing illegal literature and organising illegal, strictly Party conferences, the odds in our favour are even greater.)
Since we have in two years united the overwhelming majority of Social-Democratic workers’ groups in Russia, we claim recognition for our method of organisation. We cannot depart from that method.
Those who recognise the illegal Party, but refuse to recognise our method of organisation, which has been endorsed by two years’ of experience and by the will of the majority of the class-conscious workers, are guilty of splitting tactics.
Such is my brief report.
With Social-Democratic greetings, N. Lenin
Brussels, January 31–February 1, 1914
- See pp. 233–36 of this volume.—Ed.
- Lenin is referring to Osvobozhdeniye (Emancipation), the fortnightly journal of the bourgeois liberals, published abroad from 1902 to 1905 and edited by P. B. Struve. In January 1904 it became the organ of the liberal-monarchist Osvobozhdeniye League. Later the Osvobozhdeniye people formed the core of the Cadet Party.
- Lenin is referring to the decisions of the All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP (the Fifth Conference of the RSDLP) and the January Plenum of the Central Committee of the RSDLP in 1910.
The Fifth All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP was held in Paris on December 21–27, 1908 (January 3–9, 1909). It was attend ed by 16 voting delegates: 5 Bolsheviks, 3 Mensheviks, 5 Polish Social-Democrats and 3 Bundists. The Central Committee of the RSDLP was represented by Lenin, who made a report at the Conference on “The Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party”, as well as speeches on the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, on the organisational and other questions. At this Conference the Bolsheviks waged a struggle against the two types of opportunism within the Party—the liquidators and the otzovists. On a motion by Lenin the Conference denounced liquidationism and called upon all Party organisations to fight resolutely against any attempts to liquidate the Party.
For an appraisal of the Conference’s decisions see Lenin’s articles “On the Road” and “The Liquidation of Liquidationism”. (See present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 345–55, 452–60.)
The Plenum of the CC of the RSDLP was held on January 2--23 (January 15–February 5), 1910 in Paris. It was convened despite Lenin, with the help of Trotsky’s secret allies—Zinoviev, Kamenev and Rykov. Besides the Bolsheviks, it was attended by representatives of all sections and groups, as well as by representatives of the national Social-Democratic organisations. In opposition to Lenin’s plan of a rapprochement with the pro-Party Mensheviks (the Plekhanovites) for the purpose of fighting liquidationism, the conciliators, secret Trotskyists, demanded that all groups should be dissolved and that tile Bolsheviks should unite with the liquidators and Trotskyists. The conciliators preponderated at the meeting and were able to get a number of anti Leninist decisions adopted. Only after Lenin’s insistent demands did the Plenum adopt a resolution condemning liquidationism and otzovism.
- See Note 34.
- The Copenhagen Congress of the Second International was held on August 28–September 3 (new style), 1910. Following the discussion of the Czech-Austrian split, the Congress declared against the “Bundist-nationalist” principles of the Czech separatists.