Reorganisation and the End of the Split in St. Petersburg

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Author(s) Lenin
Written April 1907

Published on May 2, 1907, in Proletary, No. 16. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 395-403.
Collection(s): Proletary

Readers will already have learned from the legal daily press that the reorganisation of the St. Petersburg organi sation of the RSDLP, so long since contemplated by the majority of local Party members, has now been completed. A specially elected conference of all members of the local organisation gathered on March 25, 1907,[1] discussed the St. Petersburg Committee’s reorganisation plan (pub lished in Proletary, No. 15) and the Mensheviks’ counter-plan (published in Russkaya Zhizn, No. 51), and adopted the St. Petersburg Committee’s plan with some insignificant amend ments.

In essence these organisational rules boil down to adherence to consistent democratic centralism. The highest body in the organisation is the conference, elected by direct ballot by all members of the Party (there are two-stage elections only in cases of insuperable difficulties) with a fixed rate of representation (the first conference was attended by delegates elected at the rate of one per fifty Party members). The conference is a standing institution. It meets not less than twice a month and is the supreme body of the organisation. It is re-elected twice a year.

The conference elects the St. Petersburg Committee from among all Party members, and not only from those working in some particular district of the local organisation.

This type of organisation eliminates any disproportion in the representation of the districts and—this is the main thing—instead of the unwieldy, multi-stage, undemocratic system of electing the St. Petersburg Committee from representatives of the districts, real unity of all Party members is created, since they are united by a single guiding conference. The composition of the conference makes possible and inevitable the participation of the majority of outstanding workers in the guidance of all the affairs of the entire local organisation.

The conference has already put the new type of organisation into effect, has declared itself a standing institution, elected a new St. Petersburg Committee of nineteen comrades, and held two meetings (or rather, it has gathered twice for a meeting) for the solution of all current problems.

To characterise the Menshevik plan for reorganisation that the conference rejected, we shall mention one circumstance, the most important one. That plan also envisaged a similar conference at the head of the organisation (calling it a council). According to that plan, however, the St. Petersburg Committee, the executive body of the conference, is eliminated altogether! “The city council,” says the Menshevik plan, “is divided into a number of commissions (propaganda, agitation, literature, trade union, financial, etc.) for the conduct of current business.” And “the representation of the organisation in other parties, and relations with the central institutions of our Party are entrusted to a presidium” of five members elected by the council.

One may easily imagine how effective an organisation would be if its current affairs were conducted by separate commissions and not by a single executive body of the conference! In this case democratic centralism is turned into a fiction; in point of fact this is a step towards Lana’s famous plan to reduce the role of the Social-Democratic Party to that of a propaganda body among working-class masses united as little as possible in a single organisation. It goes without saying that this Menshevik plan was immediately rejected. It now remains for us to ask its authors to acquaint us with the experience gained by Menshevik committees or organisations of the RSDLP functioning on such principles.

To continue. It is extremely important to note that the new conference of the St. Petersburg organisation has put an end to the St. Petersburg split. It is known that the Mensheviks brought about the split in St. Petersburg during the elections to the Second Duma, by leaving (for allegedly formal reasons) the conference held on January 6, 1907, the conference that decided the question of the RSDLP election campaign in St. Petersburg. The elections to the new conference that first met on March 25 were conducted under the direct control of a special commission appointed by the Central Committee of the RSDLP specifically for that purpose, which included a Central Committee member from the Lettish Social-Democrats. The conference held on March 25 (and still functioning, since, as we have said, it declared itself a standing institution) is, therefore, the first Social-Democratic conference in St. Petersburg for the past year, constituted without the slightest dispute on the correctness of the representation, the legality and number of mandates, etc.

Such a fact has hitherto never been known in St. Peters burg, with its most severe struggle between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Both the boycott conference (February 1906)[2] and the conference on the question of supporting the demand for a “Duma” ministry (June 1906)[3] gave the Bolsheviks the victory, but both had to begin with disputes over the correctness of the representation.

It will, therefore, be highly instructive to make use of these undisputed data, undisputed for the first time, on the strength of the two sections of Social-Democracy in St. Petersburg, to make clear to ourselves the real causes arid real significance of the split, now over and done with, that occurred before the St. Petersburg elections. It will be remembered that the Mensheviks justified the split on formal grounds—first, incorrect representation at the conference on January 6 (the Bolsheviks were accused of exaggerating the number of votes, especially those of the shop-assistants, and of the unlawful annulment of Menshevik mandates); and secondly, the refusal of the conference to accede to the Central Committee’s demand to divide into an urban and a gubernia conference.

In preceding issues of Proletary it has already been explained with sufficient clarity that the second “justification” actually boils down to the participation of the Central Committee (its Menshevik part) in engineering the St. Petersburg split. This will be easily understood by members of our Party in other cities as well, for they know full well that the Central Committee has nowhere demanded the division of city conferences into urban and gubernia, nor could it have done so. The Central Committee needed this demand in St. Petersburg in the form of an ultimatum in order to split the St. Petersburg organisation and help the break away Mensheviks to begin (or continue) negotiations with the Cadets.

The first of these “justifications” of the split, however, remains quite vague and debatable to all members of our Party except those in St. Petersburg. They are not in a position to judge the correctness of the representation at the January 6 conference, or the actual relation of Bolshevik and Menshevik forces in St. Petersburg. It is beyond the power of the Social-Democratic press to give documentary proofs of this because only a special commission could collect and analyse the documents. Thanks, however, to the verified and undisputed figures of the representation at the March 25 conference, we are able to show all our Party how much truth there was in the Menshevik justification of the split in St. Petersburg prior to the elections. For this purpose it is only necessary to compare the figures, by districts, of the number of Social-Democrats voting for the Bolsheviks and for the Mensheviks at the elections to the January 6 conference and to the March 25 conference.

The data on the voting at the elections to the March 25 conference are unquestionable; they have been verified by a Central Committee commission and accepted by both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

To have indisputable data on the voting at the elections to the January 6 conference, we shall take the Menshevik figures. When the thirty-one Mensheviks walked out of the conference on January 6, they issued a special statement in the form of a pamphlet entitled “Why Were We Compelled to Leave the Conference? (Statement by Thirty-One Mensheviks, Submitted to the Central Committee)”. We discussed this pamphlet in Proletary, No. 12.[4] We shall now take the “figures on the composition of the electors to the Conference of St. Petersburg Organisation” (the January 6 conference) printed on pages seven and eight of that pamphlet. Here the number of those voting for the Bolsheviks[5] and for the Mensheviks are given for each of the eleven districts, all votes, furthermore, being subdivided into undisputed and disputed, and the latter into those disputed by the Bolsheviks and those disputed by the Mensheviks.

There is no need for us to give all the details of these subdivisions. In the notes, we shall deal specifically with all the amendments introduced by the Mensheviks. For purposes of comparison, we shall take the total “number of votes” cast for the Bolsheviks and for the Mensheviks, in other words, we shall add the undisputed to the disputed votes and, by comparing these figures with the number of votes cast for the March 25 conference, every Party member will be able to see for himself what was incorrect in the elections to the January 6 conference, and who was responsible for the incorrectness.

In the pamphlet of the thirty-one Mensheviks there are no tabulated figures for the twelfth, shop-assistants’, district of the St. Petersburg organisation. In the text (page 4) they said that the Central Committee had given the 313 organised shop-assistants the right to elect five representatives, allowing not one per fifty members (the usual rate), but one per sixty members, in view of the undemocratic nature of the elections. On these grounds, the Mensheviks refused to recognise the shop-assistants’ votes altogether. Since one of the five representatives was a Menshevik and four were Bolsheviks, we shall assume sixty-three votes for the Mensheviks and two hundred and fifty for the Bolsheviks.

Next, we shall divide the twelve St.. Petersburg districts of the Social-Democratic organisation into six undisputed and six disputed. The latter include those districts in which more than half the votes cast for the Bolsheviks or Mensheviks were disputed by either the Bolsheviks or the Mensheviks at the conference. The districts concerned are: Vyborg (of the 256 Menshevik votes, 234 were challenged by the Bolsheviks as questionable), City (of the 459 Menshevik votes, 370 disputed by the Bolsheviks), Moscow (of the 248 Menshevik votes, 97 disputed by the Bolsheviks, 107 by the Mensheviks; 185 Bolshevik votes disputed,[6] all by Mensheviks), Railway (of 21 Bolshevik votes, 5 disputed; of 154 Menshevik votes, 107 disputed); Estonian (all the 100 Bolshevik votes disputed by the Mensheviks), and shop-assistants (313 votes challenged in their entirety by the Mensheviks, who declared that these votes, and these alone, had not been cast at all; it was alleged that the leadership and not the members of the organisation had voted).

The undisputed districts were Vasilyevsky Ostrov, Narva, Okruzhnoi, Latvian (in these four districts all votes were undisputed), Neva (of 150 Bolshevik votes, 15 were disputed; of 40 Menshevik votes, 4 were disputed) and Petersburg (of 120 votes for the Mensheviks, 22 were disputed).

The data on the number of votes cast in each district gives us the following table:


St. Petersburg


Conference of

January 6

Votes cast for:
Conference of

March 25

Votes cast for:
Undisputed Districts
Vasilyevsky Ostrov3293396687984351,233
Disputed Districts
Grand Total2,1051,7953,9004,6162,1566,772

The following conclusions may be drawn from these data.

(1) St. Petersburg Social-Democratic workers displayed much greater interest in the reform of the St. Petersburg organisation (the purpose of the March 25 conference) than in the Duma elections in the urban curia (the purpose of the January 6 conference).

The number of members of the Social-Democratic organisation could not have changed very considerably in the course of two and a half months. The harsh conditions in which meetings were held and votes counted were no better, but probably worse in March than before, in our police-ridden country (there were no university meetings; persecution of the workers had increased).

The number of voting members of the Social-Democratic organisation increased by more than half, more than sixty-six per cent (from 3,900 to 6,772).

(2) The preponderance of Bolsheviks over Mensheviks was incomparably greater when a greater number of votes were cast than it had been with a smaller number of votes. On January 6 the Mensheviks obtained 1,795 votes out of 3,900, or 46 per cent; on March 25 they obtained 2,156 out of 6,772, or 32 per cent.

(3) In the undisputed districts (the first six) a greater number of votes were cast for both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks (the increase in the number of votes cast for the former being much greater). In the disputed districts (the following six) the number of votes cast for the Bolsheviks increased and the number cast for the Mensheviks decreased.

The number of votes cast for the Bolsheviks increased from 873 to 1,666. The number cast for the Mensheviks fell from 1,180 to 1,063. The preponderance of the Mensheviks in the disputed districts proved non-existent.

This fact settles the question of which side was to blame for the split.

The second election, which confirmed the results of the first and was verified by the Central Committee’s special commission, showed that in the disputed districts the number of votes claimed by the Bolsheviks was actually less than the real number, while that claimed by the Mensheviks was greater than the real number!

The Mensheviks stated, verbally and in print, that the Bolsheviks had exaggerated the number of votes in the disputed districts. The Bolsheviks accused the Mensheviks of the same thing. The second election produced a greater number of votes for the Bolsheviks and fewer for the Mensheviks. Is it possible to imagine more convincing and more decisive proof that the Bolsheviks were right?

This conclusion cannot be refuted either by reference to the fortuitous nature of the data taken by districts, or by saying that on January 6 we lumped the disputed and undisputed votes. The first objection falls to the ground because we did not take separate districts but groups of districts, and compared six districts with six, specifically to preclude any references to fortuity. The data for individual districts (the Moscow District, for instance!) would be ten times more favourable to us.

The second objection falls to the ground because we deliberately took the Menshevik figures as our basis, and the Mensheviks made insignificant corrections to them. In the opinion of the thirty-one, as expressed in their pamphlet (page 7) only the following votes “should actually not be confirmed”—15 of the 150 Bolshevik votes in the Neva District and all the Estonian Bolshevik votes; 107 out of the 248 Menshevik votes in the Moscow District, and 41 out of 154 Menshevik votes in the Railway District, which amounts to only 115 Bolshevik and 143 Menshevik votes. The shop-assistants’ votes (the entire 313) were all rejected by the Mensheviks. It is easy to see that these amendments do not affect our conclusions.

The March 25 conference, the elections to which were verified by a special commission appointed by the Central Committee and recognised by all as indisputable, has proved that, in the dispute over representation at the January 6 conference, the Bolsheviks, whose preponderance proved very substantial, were right; the preponderance of the Mensheviks was completely disproved. An attempt to object to our argument may, of course, be made by reference to the fact that the March 25 conference took place after the election campaign and, therefore, reflected the shift of Social-Democratic workers over to the side of the Bolsheviks on this question, a shift that occurred after January 6, 1907. Such an objection will naturally not weaken, but rather strengthen (although in a somewhat different way), the responsibility of the Mensheviks for the split over the elections.

Responsibility for the St. Petersburg split over the elections to the Second Duma rests entirely on the Mensheviks. We have always maintained this to be so, and we undertook to prove it to the Party as a whole.

We have now submitted our final proofs.

  1. The Conference of the St. Petersburg Organisation of the RSDLP was held in Terioki (Finland) on March 25 (April 7) and was attend ed by 133 delegates (92 Bolsheviks and 41 Mensheviks), over a hundred of the delegates being workers. The election of delegates to the Conference lasted over a month and was conducted under the supervision of a special Central Committee commission. Almost all members of the organisation participated in the election. Lenin took the chair at the Conference and also spoke on the question of the reorganisation of the St. Petersburg Party organisation and on questions of the organisational work of the St. Petersburg Committee.
    The Conference discussed the following items: the reorganisation of the St. Petersburg organisation of the RSDLP; the representation of the St. Petersburg organisation in the Social-Democratic Duma group; the impermissibility of Social-Democrats writing for the bourgeois press; May Day and the tactics of Social-Democracy. An overwhelming majority voted in favour of the reorganisation plan drawn up by the Bolsheviks. The chief point in the plan was the recognition of the Conference as a standing body that met periodically as the legislative body of the local organisation and which elected its executive body, the St. Petersburg Committee, to function as directed by the Conference. A new St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP was elected. Lenin was elected to maintain contact between the St. Petersburg Committee and the Social-Democratic group in the Duma. The Conference roundly condemned any sort of collaboration with the bourgeois press by Social-Democrats.
    The Conference put an end to the split that had existed in the St. Petersburg organisation of the RSDLP since the January conference in 1907.
    The second session of the Conference was also held in Terioki on April 8 (21), 1907. The items on the agenda were: the celebration of May Day; the campaign of meetings; the council of delegates; the election of delegates to the Fifth Congress of the RSDLP; the report of Duma Deputy Alexinsky; organisational questions; the co-operative movement; the struggle against the Black Hundreds; unemployment. Lack of time prevented a discussion on the last three questions
    The Conference passed a decision to celebrate May Day by a one-day general strike and meetings; it was also decided that a council be organised of delegates for St. Petersburg City and Gubernia, for which purpose all delegates be called together immediately by districts. On the question of electing delegates to the Fifth Congress of the RSDLP it was decided that the St. Petersburg Committee be left to work out the technique of the elections at the second stage, and that the Conference should confine itself to electing a mandate commission of seven members from among those present. The Conference discussed Alexinsky’s report and appointed a commission to draw up a resolution on it. The Conference also adopted a number of decisions on organisational questions.
    Lenin took part in the discussion on Alexinsky’s report. He also recommended that the St. Petersburg delegation to the Fifth Congress table a proposal to call representatives of the combat groups to the Congress in connection with the question of their reorganisation.
  2. The boycott conference—the St. Petersburg City Conference of the RSDLP called by the St. Petersburg Committee to decide the question of the attitude to the State Duma, sixty-five delegates with the right to vote were present. Lenin played a leading role in the Conference. Delegates were elected on a basis of one delegate per thirty voting Party members after discussing and voting on the tactical platforms of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, the former obtaining a substantial majority. The Mensheviks demanded that the votes of the regional organisation of the RSDLP, almost all Bolshevik, be considered invalid. In the course of the discussion on the regional organisation of the RSDLP, Lenin made a number of remarks and interpolations. The Conference approved the representation of the regional organisation, and then heard the report of the St. Petersburg Committee, and adopted. Lenin’s resolution recognising the obligatory nature of its decisions. Lenin made a report on the attitude towards the State Duma (it has not been found among the secretary’s notes taken at the meeting). At the end of his report, Lenin read out a resolution on the tactics of an active boycott. The Menshevik resolution was read by Martov. The Conference approved the tactics of an active boycott of the Duma by a majority of 36 to 29 votes, but did not have time to adopt the whole resolution with motives for the tactics of an active boycott.
    A Second City Conference was called at the end of February, and sat for the first few days of March to discuss and finally approve the tactics for an active boycott of the Duma; 62 delegates attended. The Conference discussed Lenin’s resolution and then Martov’s; the Mensheviks submitted an additional resolution from Okhta District. After a long and bitter struggle, the Conference adopted by a majority of 35 votes to 24, with one delegate abstaining, the resolution submitted by Lenin as the basis of its resolution on the tactics of an active boycott of the Duma. The Conference elected a commission, with Lenin as one of its members, to put the resolution into final shape. The Mensheviks refused to participate in the commission and walked out of the Conference.
  3. The June inter-district conference of the St. Petersburg organisation of the RSDLP was attended by more than forty Bolsheviks and about thirty Mensheviks; the resolutions proposed by the Bolsheviks were adopted.
  4. See pp. 29-32 of this volume.—Ed.
  5. These figures are again subdivided into Bolshevik and dissident votes (“platform of the revolutionary bloc”). Both are Bolsheviks, who argued among themselves whether there should be a Left bloc or a purely Social-Democratic election list.—Lenin
  6. In all cases, by disputed votes are meant those that the other side considered not entirely correct, unverified, exaggerated, but not altogether fictitious. At the January 6 conference, the Bolsheviks decided to decrease the rate of representation for all disputed votes, allotting them one delegate per 75 members instead of one delegate per fifty members.—Lenin