Letter to the International Socialist Bureau, July 24, 1905

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To the Secretariat of the International Socialist Bureau, Brussels

Geneva, July 24, 1905

Dear Comrades,

We received your letter of June 28 several days ago, with some interesting documents (letters from Comrades Bebel and Plekhanov) enclosed, but being extremely busy we were unable to reply at once.

1. As regards Comrade Plekhanov’s letter, we are obliged to make the following observations:

1) Comrade Plekhanov’s assertion that since the Second Congress of our Party (August 1903) we have differed only on the question of organisation is not in full keeping with the facts. The “Minority” at the Second Congress (headed by Comrades Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, and Martov) actually split the Party immediately after the Congress by declaring a boycott of the central bodies elected by the Congress and by setting up a secret “Minority” organisation, which was dissolved only in the autumn of 1904. Comrade Plekhanov himself, who sided with us at the Second Congress of the Party and at the Congress of the League of Russian Social- Democracy Abroad (October 1903), evidently held a some what different opinion concerning our differences when he publicly stated in Iskra, No. 52 (November 1903) that we must make skilful concessions to the “revisionists” (Plekhanov’s expression) in order to avoid a split in the Party.

2) The assertion that the Third Congress of the Party was convened “quite arbitrarily” does not correspond to the facts either. According to Party Rules, the Council is obliged to call a congress if so demanded by half of the commit tees. As you know from the resolution.s of the Third Congress, which have been translated into French, the Council ignored the Party Rules. The Party committees and the “Bureau of Majority Committees”[1] which they elected were morally and formally obliged to convene the Congress, .even against the will of the Council, which did nothing to convene it.

3) You know from the selfsame resolutions of the Third Congress that it was not “something like half of the duly authorised organisations” that were represented at the Congress, but a considerable majority of the biggest committees.

4) It is true that there are comrades in our Party who are referred to in jest as the “Marsh”. Its members were continually changing sides during the controversies within our Party. The first of these turncoats was Plekhanov, who went over from the Majority to the Minority in November 1903, only to leave the Minority on May 29 of this year, when he resigned from Iskra’s Editorial Board. We do not approve of changing sides like that, but think we cannot be blamed if after much vacillation members of the “Marsh” are inclined to follow us. 5) In his letter to the Bureau (June 16, 1905) Comrade Plekhanov most inappropriately forgot to mention his letter of May 29, 1905, published in Iskra (No. 101), a complete and exact translation of which we have already forwarded to you. 6) When he says that the other section in the Party is grouped around Iskra, the Party’s former Central Organ, Comrade Plekhanov again forgot to add that the “Minority” Conference (May 1905) annulled the Rules drawn up at the Second Congress, and failed to set up a new Central Organ. We think that the International Socialist Bureau should have a complete translation of all resolutions of that conference. If Iskra refuses to send them to the Bureau we are prepared to do so ourselves. 7) Comrade Plekhanov states that only the two remaining members of the Central Committee (the others had been arrested) declared them selves in favour of convening the Third Congress.

Comrade Plekhanov’s letter is dated June 16, 1905. The next day, June 17, No. 4 of Proletary, the Central Organ of the Party, which had been set up by the Third Congress, published the following statement: “After reading the Central Committee’s Open Letter to Comrade Plekhanov, Chairman of the Party Council, and being in full agreement with the Central Committee, we consider it necessary— for reasons which comrades acquainted with the state of affairs in the Party will understand—publicly to declare our solidarity with the Central Committee.” Signed (pseudonyms): Ma, Bern, Vladimir, Innokenty, Andrei, Voron. We may inform you in confidence that these pseudonyms belong to the arrested members of the Central Committee.[2] Consequently, as soon as the members of the Central Commit tee learned of the conflict between the Central Committee and Comrade Plekhanov (and, therefore, the Council as well) regarding the convocation of the Congress, most of them at once declared in favour of the Central Committee and against Comrade Plekhanov. We earnestly request the International Secretariat to inform us whether Comrade Plekhanov deemed it necessary to acquaint the Bureau with this important statement by the arrested members of the Central Committee, which completely refutes the assertions contained in Comrade Plekhanov’s letter of June 16. 8) Comrade. Plekhanov is mistaken in saying that both groups asked him to go on representing the Party in the International Bureau. To date the Central Committee of our Party has not made any such request. As we informed you a few days ago, this question has not yet been finally decided, although it stands on the order of the day. 9) Comrade Plekhanov thinks that it is not difficult for him to be impartial in the question of our differences. After what has been set forth above, however, we believe that he finds it quite difficult, and at the present moment, at any rate, next to impossible.[3]

II. I pass on to Comrade Bebel’s proposal on the subject of our affairs.

Here I must make the following observations: 1) 1 am only one of the members of the Central Committee and the responsible editor of Proletary, the Party’s Central Organ. I can act for the whole of the Central Committee only in regard to our affairs abroad and certain other matters specially entrusted to me. In any case, all my decisions may be an nulled by a general meeting of the Central Committee. There fore, I cannot decide on the question of the Bureau’s intervention in the affairs of our Party. However, I immediately forwarded your letter, as well as the letters of Comrades Bebel and Plekhanov, to Russia, to all the members of the Central Committee. 2) In order to speed up the Central Committee’s reply it would be very useful to obtain certain necessary.explanations from the Bureau: a) should the term "intervention” be taken to mean only conciliatory mediation, and advice having merely moral, and not binding, force; b) or does the Bureau have in view a binding ruling by a court of arbitration; c) does the Bureau’s Executive Committee propose to submit our differences to the general meeting of the International Socialist Bureau for final decision, without right of appeal? 3) On my part I consider it my duty to inform the Bureau that shortly before the Third Congress Comrade Bebel made a similar proposal to me and to those who share my views offering his services or the services of the entire Executive Committee of the German Party (Parteivorstand), as arbitrator in the dispute between the Majority and the Minority in our Party.

I replied that the Party Congress would take place soon and that I personally could not decide for the Party or in its name.

The Bureau of Majority Committees rejected Bebel’s offer. The Third Congress passed no decision on this offer, and thereby tacitly endorsed the reply given by the Bureau of Majority Committees. 4) Since the International Bureau considers it proper to obtain its information from “certain German newspapers”, I am compelled to state that nearly all German socialist papers, especially Die Neue Zeit and Leipziger Volkszeitung,[4] are entirely on the side of the “Minority”, and present our affairs in a very one-sided and inaccurate way. Kautsky, for instance, also calls himself impartial, and yet, in actual fact, he went so far as to refuse to publish in the Neue Zeit a refutation of an article by Rosa Luxemburg, in which she defended disruption in the Party.[5] In Leipziger Volkszeitang Kautsky even urged that the German pamphlet with the translation of the resolutions of the Third Congress should not be circulated!! After this it is easy to understand why many comrades in Russia are inclined to regard the German Social-Democratic Party as partial and extremely prejudiced in the question of the split in the ranks of Russian Social-Democracy.

Accept, dear comrades, our fraternal greeting.

VI. Ulyanov (N. Lenin)

  1. ↑ Bureau of Majority Committees—the Bolsheviks’ organisational centre, was formed on Lenin’s initiative to prepare for the RSDLP’s Third Congress. It was elected at the close of 1904 at three regional conferences—the Southern, the Caucasian, and the Northern.
  2. ↑ The conciliator members of the Central Committee who were arrested at its session on February 9 (22), 1905 in Moscow were: Ma—V. A. Noskov; Bem—M. A. Silvin; Vladimir—L. Y. Karpov; Innokenty—I. F. Dubrovinsky; Andrei—A. A. Kvyatkovsky; Voron—L. Y. Galperin.
  3. ↑ On May 7 (20), 1905 the Central Committee of the RSDLP appointed Plekhanov its representative in the International Socialist Bureau (the executive body of the Second International), on the condition that he recognise the decisions of the RSDLP’s Third Congress as binding. Plekhanov did not accept this condition, upon which his appointment was cancelled. In October 1905 the Central Committee appointed Lenin its representative in the International Socialist Bureau. Regarding the RSDLP’s representation in the Bureau see also this volume, pp. 332-34.
  4. ↑ The Leipsiger Volkszeitung—organ of the Left wing of German Social-Democracy, was founded in 1894.
  5. ↑ " Lenin is referring to the article by Rosa Luxemburg Organisantionsfragen der Russischen Sozialdemokratie, written by her at the request of the Mensheviks, and published in July 1904 in the Menshevik Iskra and in Die Neue Zeit. A refutal of this article was contained in One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. Reply by N. Lenin to Rosa Luxemburg (see present edition, Vol. 7, pp. 474-85) which was sent to Die Neue Zeit. Kautsky, who supported the Mensheviks, refused to publish the reply.