Letter to Julius Martov, February 5, 1903

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Martov, L.—pseudonym of Tsederbaum, Y. O. (1873-1923)—joined the Social-Democratic movement in the nineties. In 1895 took part in organising the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. In 1900 helped to prepare the publication of Iskra as a member of its editorial board. At the Second Congress of the RSDLP (1903) became minority (Menshevik) leader, and from then on was one of the leaders of the Mensheviks’ central bodies and an editor of their publications. After the October Socialist Revolution opposed the Soviet power. Emigrated to Germany in 1920.

February 5,1903

I am sending you a copy of the Union’s letter and the draft of our reply.[1] The reply was sent to Plekhanov who was to await your letter from Paris. Arrange a meeting with P. Andr. and Boris immediately and answer Plekhanov as quickly as possible whether you are satisfied with the reply or whether changes are required. It would be desirable, of course, not to delay the reply to the Unionists, but if changes are voted it will entail a pretty long delay; perhaps unimportant changes can be disregarded. But, of course, if there is disagreement on the substance of the question, it will be necessary to hold up the reply (I am writing to Plekhanov about this) and have everyone vote.

In my opinion (with which V. I. and L. Gr. agree) the most important thing here is that 1) the foreign section of the OC[2] should be precisely a section of the Organising Committee in Russia. The Unionists’ idea, I believe, is to have two sections with equal rights: one in Russia, the other abroad. By no means can we accept or allow such an interpretation. The OC in Russia must act cautiously (in this respect its announcement is admirably drawn up), but in all matters and in all approaches made to it, must behave with the utmost formality and rigour, that is to say, in such a way that it, the OC in Russia, controls every thing and no one in the Party can do anything of a general Party character or in the way of general obligations, unless authorised to do so by the Organising Committee in Russia.

Yet the Unionists, by their letter, recognise (or almost three-quarters recognise) the OC and the more they recognise it, the more formally and firmly must the Organising Committee behave. It is of the highest importance to adopt the right tone from the very beginning and to take such a stand that the Party position is made quite clear: either recognition of the present OC and subordination to it, or war. Tertium non datur.[3] Even now there is every chance of obtaining general recognition, without offending or irritating anyone, but without giving way in the slightest degree.

2) The OC should reduce the functions of its foreign section to a minimum. The foreign section only “deals with” affairs abroad (in the sense of preparing for unity) and assists the Russian section. On every other question that goes the least beyond those limits, the foreign section of the OC must request the opinion and decision of the Organising Committee in Russia. I strongly urge, therefore, that the OC in Russia should as soon as possible write a letter to the Union, the League and the Bund proposing that they should form a section of their own for exercising such-and-such functions. It is essential that the OC in Russia should indicate the “limits of authority” to its foreign section, and I propose below an outline of these functions with three and only three strictly limited items. I earnestly request you to discuss this draft as quickly as possible with P. A. and Boris and confirm it (alternatively, put changes to the vote). (We shall send all these data to Yuri[4] as well, asking him to await the arrival of P. A. and Boris, who should do everything to hasten their arrival.)

(Of course, P. A. could write a letter to the League, the Union and the Bund Committee Abroad from here, but I think this is in the highest degree undesirable, for people will suspect a put-up job and a fiction. Better to wait a week or two, and have the letter sent without fail from Russia.)

I also believe we must think of electing a member of ours to the OC (the foreign section) and vote on it in advance, for owing to the members being in different places this can take much time and it will be unpleasant if things have to wait on this account. For my part, I vote for L. Gr.

I positively do not have time to write to Plekhanov as well. You will simply forward to him at once both this letter and the reply to the Union, and meanwhile I will drop him a line.

All the best.


  1. See pp. 139-40 of this volume.—Ed.
  2. The Foreign Section of the Organising Committee consisted of L. G. Deutsch, representing the Iskra editorial board, A. I. Kremer representing the Bund, and N. N. Lokhov (Olkhin) representing the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad.
  3. There is no third way.—Ed.
  4. Meaning the Yuzhny Rabochy group. (See ^^Note 106^^.)