Report on the Unity Congress of the RSDLP
Published: PUblished in pamphlet form in June 1906 by Vperyod Publishers, Moscow. Published according to the pamphlet text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 317-382.
A Letter to the St. Petersburg Workers
The pamphlet Report on the Unity Congress of the RSDLP, (A Letter to the St. Petersburg Workers) became an object of persecution. The police searched the Dyelo printing-works in St. Petersburg, where the pamphlet was being set, and delivered the latter to the St. Petersburg Press Committee. The Committee banned the pamphlet. But the Party succeeded in sending the text to Moscow, where its printing was completed.
In the Vperyod edition, the pamphlet had an Appendix including the draft resolutions submitted to the Congress by the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, resolutions adopted by the Congress, and other matter. Lenin refers to them more than once in his pamphlet. At the end of the pamphlet there is a brief introduction to the Appendix (see p. 382 of this volume).
Comrades, you elected me your delegate to the Unity Congress of the RSDLP As I am unable to come to St. Petersburg at present, permit me to send my report in writing and, in passing, to express a few ideas on the Congress.
Before proceeding with the subject, I must make an important reservation. It is quite impossible for me to remember in detail everything that happened at the Congress, at which there were one hundred and twenty or more delegates, and which held about thirty sessions.Being a member of the Bureau of the Congress, and one of the chairmen, and a member of several committees in addition, I was unable to take notes during the sessions. One cannot entirely trust one s memory without notes. Besides, being absent from the hall while engaged in work in committees, or for casual or personal reasons, I did not witness a number of episodes at the Congress, nor did I hear all the speeches. The experience of previous congresses (the Second and the Third), which were attended by fewer delegates, has convinced me that, even if one pays the closest attention to the proceedings, one cannot draw an exact picture of the congress from memory. When the minutes of the Second and Third Congresses appeared, I read them as if they were new books, although I my self was present at those congresses; for these books really provided me with much new material and compelled me to re vise a number of inexact or incomplete personal impressions. Therefore I earnestly request you to bear in mind that this letter is only a rough outline of a report, subject, at all events, to correction on the basis of the minutes of the Congress.
I. The Composition of the Congress[edit source]
I will start with the general composition of the Congress. As you know, delegates with the right to vote were elected on the basis of one per 300 Party members. There were in all about 110 such delegates—at the beginning of the Congress, I think, slightly less (not all had arrived); at the close there were as many as 113. Delegates with a consultative voice were the 5 editors of the Central Organ (3 from the “Minority” and 2 from the “Majority”, for you had given me a full mandate) and five, if I am not mistaken, members of the Joint Central Committee. Then also, there were delegates with consultative voice from organisations who had not been granted full mandates, and several persons who had been especially invited to the Congress (two members of the “Agrarian Committee”, Plekhanov and Axelrod, Comrade Akimov, and several others). There were also several consultative delegates from large organisations having over 900 members (from St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Southern regional organisation, and others). Lastly, there were consultative delegates representing the national Social-Democratic parties: three each from the Polish Social-Democratic Party, the Lettish Social-Democratic and the Jewish organisation (the Bund), and one from the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Labour Party (it appears that this is the name that the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party adopted at its last conference). Thus there were 30 delegates, or a little more, with a consultative voice. The total number present was therefore not 120, but over 140.
Taken according to their “trend” in relation to the tactical platforms, or their factional position, if you will, the delegates with the right to vote were divided approximately as follows: 62 Mensheviks and 46 Bolsheviks. At all events, these are the figures that impressed themselves most on my mind during the numerous “factional” votes that took place at the Congress. Some of the delegates, of course, were indefinite, or wavered on certain questions; these were what in parliamentary language are called the “Centre”, or the “Marsh”. This “Centre” was very feeble at the Congress, although a number of comrades whom I have grouped with the Mensheviks according to the voting, claimed to be “conciliators”, or the “Centre”. Of all the more or less important votes that were taken at the Congress, I remember only one (that on the question of the Bund’s affiliation to the Party) in which these “Menshevik conciliators” did not vote on factional lines. With this vote, in which, as far as I remember, the definitely factional Mensheviks were beaten by a majority of 59, I will deal in detail later on.
Thus, 62 and 46. The Congress was a Menshevik congress. The Mensheviks had a solid and safe majority, which enabled them to come to terms with one another beforehand and thus predetermine the decisions of the Congress. Strictly speaking, these private arrangements at factional meetings are quite natural when there is a definite and compact majority; and when several delegates, particularly those from the so-called Centre, complained about this, I said in conversation with the delegates that it was “the Centre complaining about its own weakness”. Attempts were made at the Congress to raise the question of these factional meetings, but it was dropped, for it turned out that the factions had become closely welded just the same, and it became possible to allow outsiders to attend the factional meetings, to allow them to become “open” meetings. Towards the close of the Congress, for example, the question of the composition of the Central Committee was virtually decided, as will be seen later on, not by the voting in open Congress, but simply by an “agree ment” between the factions. I will not pass any opinion on this; and I think it is useless bewailing it, because it is absolutely inevitable so long as the old factional divisions exist.
As regards divisions within the factions, I will note that they were marked only on the agrarian question (a section of the Mensheviks were opposed to municipalisation, while the Bolsheviks were divided into “Rozhkovists”—that is, those who advocated the division of the land—and the advocates of confiscation, with nationalisation in the event of a republic being established); and on the question of the affiliation of the Bund. Further, a striking thing was the complete absence among the Mensheviks of the trend that was so clearly revealed in Nachalo, and which in the Party we are accustomed to connect with the names of Comrades Parvus and Trotsky. True, it is quite possible that there were some “Parvusites” and “Trotskyites” among the Mensheviks— I was told that there were about eight of them—but, owing to the removal from the agenda of the question of the provisional revolutionary government, they had no opportunity of making a show. It is probable, however, that in view of the general turn that the Mensheviks made at the Congress towards Plekhanov, with whose Dnevnik they had disagreed before the Congress, the “Parvusites” also took a step to the right. I remember only one episode in which, perhaps, the “Parvusites” among the Mensheviks made them all slightly change their attitude. It was an incident over the question of armed uprising. Plekhanov, the chairman of the committee, had altered the original Menshevik resolution, and instead of “wrest power” (this part of the resolution concerned the aims of the movement) inserted “wrest rights by force” (or “capture rights”—I don’t quite remember which). The opportunism of this alteration was so glaring that the most heated protests were raised against it in open Congress.We attacked the alteration with redoubled vigour. The ranks of the Mensheviks wavered. I do not know exactly whether any factional meetings had been held, or what took place at them if they were; nor can I vouch for the truth of the statement made to me that ten Mensheviks who were inclined towards “Parvusism” had emphatically declared their disagreement with the alteration. The fact is that, after the debates in open Congress, Plekhanov himself withdrew the alteration and did not allow it to be put to a vote; did this on the pretext (a skilful piece of diplomacy, perhaps, but it raised a smile) that it was not worth arguing about questions of “style”.
Lastly, to finish with the composition of the Congress, I will say something about the Credentials Committee (the committee which scrutinised the credentials of the delegates). There were two such committees, for the first one elected by the Congress resigned in a body. This was a most extraordinary affair, and had never occurred at previous congresses. At all events, it was evidence of some thing extremely abnormal in the work of scrutinising the credentials. I remember that the chairman of the first committee was a conciliator, who at first had the confidence of our faction, too. But since he proved unable to weld his committee together, and since he and the whole committee were compelled to resign, it shows that this conciliator was unable to conciliate. The details of the fight at the Congress over the reports of the Credentials Committee have escaped my attention most of all. The fight was often a very heated one, Bolshevik credentials were annulled, passions rose, and things reached their climax with the resignation of the first committee; but I was not in the hall at that time. I remember yet another, evidently fairly big, incident over this work of determining the composition of the Congress. It was a protest sent by a number of workers in Tiflis (about 200, I think) against the mandate of the Tiflis delegation, which consisted almost entirely of Mensheviks and was extra ordinarily large, with as many as eleven members, I think. The protest was read at the Congress and should therefore appear in the minutes.
The record of the proceedings of the Credentials Committees should also appear in the minutes, that is, if the committees have performed their functions at all carefully, and have drawn up proper reports on the scrutiny of the credentials and of all the elections for the Congress. Whether they have done this, and whether the reports will appear in the minutes, I cannot say. If not, it will prove beyond doubt that the committees have not performed their functions with the necessary care and attention. If the reports do appear in the minutes, then I may have to correct a great deal of what I have said above, for on a question like this, which is not one of principle, but a purely concrete and practical question, it is particularly easy to make mistakes in forming general impressions, and it is particularly important care fully to study the records.
Incidentally, to finish with all the formalities and to proceed with the more interesting questions of principle, I will say something about the minutes. I am afraid that in this respect, too, the Congress will prove to be less satisfactory than the Second and Third Congresses. At both the previous congresses the minutes were adopted in their entirety by the Congress. At the Unity Congress the secretaries, for the first time, proved to be so inefficient, there was such a hurry to finish the Congress (in spite of the fact that a number of extremely important questions had been with drawn from the agenda), that not all the minutes were passed by the Congress. The Minutes Committee (consisting of two Mensheviks and two Bolsheviks) was given unprecedentedly wide and indefinite powers: to adopt the unfinished minutes. In the event of disagreement, it is to appeal to the Congress delegates who are in St. Petersburg. All this is very deplorable. I am afraid that we shall not get as good minutes as we have of the Second and Third Congresses. True, we had two stenographers, and some of the speeches are reported almost verbatim, and not in the form of condensed reports, as was the case in the past; but a complete verbatim report of the debates at the Congress cannot be expected, for this was more than the two stenographers could cope with, as they informed the Congress more than once. As chairman, I strongly insisted that the secretaries should at least make good condensed reports of the speeches, even if very brief. Let the verbatim reports of some of the speeches, I said, be a sort of supplement deluxe to the minutes; but it was essential to have the basis—not some of the speeches, but all the speeches without exception, at least in the form of condensed reports.
II. Election of the Bureau. The Congress Agenda[edit source]
I will now proceed with my narrative of the deliberations of the Congress in the order of its sessions. The election of the Bureau was the first vote that was taken, and virtually pre-determined (strange as this may seem to an outsider) all the most important votes at the Congress. About 60 votes (not less than 58, if my memory is not at fault) were cast for Plekhanov and Dan, many leaving blank the space on their ballot papers for the third candidate. Forty-odd, or about forty votes, were cast for me. Then the “Centre” made a show, adding 10 or 15 votes to one or the other candidate. Those elected were: Plekhanov, with 69 votes, I think (or 71?), Dan 67 votes, and I obtained 60 votes.
On the question of the agenda, the debate on two occasions was very interesting and threw a great deal of light on the composition and character of the Congress. First there was the debate on whether the question of amalgamation with the national Social-Democratic parties should be taken as the first item. The national parties wanted this, of course. We, too, were in favour of it. The Mensheviks, however, voted it down. Their argument was: let the RSDLP define its own position first and then amalgamate with others; let “us” first determine what “we” are ourselves, and after that we can amalgamate with “them”. To this argument (psycho logically quite intelligible, and from the factional Menshevik point of view quite correct), we answered: is it not strange to deny the national parties the right to define their position together with us? If “they” are to amalgamate with “us”, “we” will, and ought to, determine what “we” are together. It must also be added that before the Congress the Joint Central Committee had already concluded an agreement with the Polish Social-Democratic Party for its complete merging with us. Nevertheless, the proposal to take this as the first item on the agenda was defeated. Comrade Warszawski, a member of the Polish delegation, protested against this so outspokenly that he turned to the Mensheviks and exclaimed, amidst general laughter: “First of all you want to ’gobble up’ or ’slaughter’ the Bolsheviks and then amalgamate with us!” This was said in jest, of course, and I am least of all inclined to cavil at “frightful words” like “gobble up”; but this jest was a very striking and apt appraisal of a peculiar political situation.
The second interesting debate was on whether the question of the present state of our revolution and the class tasks of the proletariat should be put on the agenda. We Bolsheviks were, of course, in favour of this, in keeping with our declaration in Partiiniye Izvestia, No. 2. From the standpoint of principle there could be no question of shirking the fundamental issue as to whether the revolution is really on the eve of an upswing, what forms of the revolutionary movement are the most important today in view of the objective conditions, and, consequently, what tasks confront the proletariat. In opposing the inclusion of this question in the agenda, the Mensheviks put themselves in a very unenviable position. Their arguments to the effect that this was a theoretical question, that the Party could not be bound by resolutions on such questions, and so forth, were quite amazingly artificial and far-fetched. There was a burst of laughter when, in reply to a speech by no less a person than Dan, who had vehemently opposed the inclusion of this question in the agenda, a speaker took out a copy of Partiiniye Izvestia, No. 2, and calmly read the “fatal words” in the Menshevik tactical platform:
“We”—yes, we Mensheviks—“are of the opinion and pro pose that the Congress should agree.” How is that, comrades? asked the speaker. Yesterday you said: “We propose that the Congress should agree,” but today you say: “We propose that the Congress” should not discuss this question? The question was put on the agenda, but subsequently, as we shall see later on, the Mensheviks had their own way after all.
III. The Agrarian Question[edit source]
The agrarian question, or rather, the question of the agrarian programme, was taken by the Congress as the first item on the agenda. There was a big debate on this, and a large number of most interesting points of principle were raised. There were five reporters. I spoke in favour of the draft of the Agrarian Committee (published in the pamphlet Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party), and attacked Maslov’s proposal for municipalisation. Comrade John spoke in favour of the latter. The third reporter, Plekhanov, defended Maslov, and tried to persuade the Congress that Lenin’s proposal for nationalisation smacked of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Narodnaya Volya. The fourth reporter, Schmidt, supported the Agrarian Committee’s draft with amendments on the lines of “Variant A” (for which see the pamphlet mentioned above ). The fifth reporter, Borisov, advocated division of the land. His programme was rather original in construction, but in substance it approximated most to our programme, except that for nationalisation—made conditional on the establishment of a republic—he substituted division of the land among the peasants as their property.
Of course, it is quite impossible for me to give in this re port a full account of that lengthy debate in all its details. I shall try to deal with the more important points, i.e., the nature of “municipalisation”, and the arguments advanced against nationalisation made conditional on the establishment of a republic, and so forth. I will remark that the pivot of the debate was Plekhanov’s formulation of the question: this was due to its polemical acerbity, which is always good and desirable for the purpose of clearly distinguishing between the fundamental tendencies of the various trends of thought.
What is the essence of “municipalisation”? It is the transfer of the landed estates (or to be precise, of all large private estates) to the Zemstvos, or to local self-government bodies in general. The peasants’ allotments, and the land of the smallholders, are to remain their property. The large estates are to be “alienated” and transferred to democratically organised local self-government bodies. This can be more simply expressed. as follows: the peasants’ land can remain the peasants’ property; as for the landed estates, let the peasants rent them from the Zemstvos, only they must be democratic Zemstvos.
As the first reporter, I emphatically opposed this proposal. It is not revolutionary. The peasants will not agree to it. It would be harmful without a fully consistent democratic state system, including a republic, the election of govern ment officials by the people, abolition of the standing army, etc. Such were my three main arguments.
I think that this draft is not revolutionary, first, because instead of confiscation (alienation without compensation) it speaks of alienation in general; secondly, and this is most important, it does not call for a revolutionary method of changing the agrarian system. Phrases about democracy mean nothing whatever at a time when the Cadets, those hypocritical advocates of compromise between the autocracy and the people, call themselves democrats. All methods of changing the agrarian system will be reduced to a liberal-bureaucratic reform, a Cadet reform, and not to a peasant revolution, if there is no slogan of the immediate seizure of the land by the peasants themselves, on the spot, that is, by revolutionary peasant committees, and of the peasants themselves disposing of the land thus seized, pending the convocation of a national constituent assembly. Without this slogan we shall have a programme for a Cadet, or semi-Cadet, agrarian re form, and not for a peasant revolution.
Furthermore, the peasants will not agree to municipalisation. Municipalisation means you can have the allotment land gratis, but for the landed estates you must pay rent to the Zemstvo. The revolutionary peasants will not agree to this. They will say either let us divide all the land among ourselves or let us make all the land the property of the whole people. Municipalisation will never become the slogan of a revolutionary peasantry. If the revolution is victorious it cannot in any circumstances stop at municipalisation. If the revolution is not victorious, “municipalisation” will only be another swindle for the peasants, like the Reform of 1861.
My third main argument. Municipalisation will be harmful if made conditional on “democracy” in general, and not specifically on a republic and the election of government officials by the people. Municipalisation means transferring the land to the local authorities, to the self-government bodies. If the central government is not fully democratic (a republic, and so forth), the local authorities may be “autonomous” only in minor matters, may be independent only in “tinkering with wash-basins”: they may be no more “democratic” than, say, the Zemstvos were under Alexander III. In important matters, however, particularly in such a fundamentally important matter as the landed estates, the democracy of local authorities in face of an undemocratic central authority would be merely a plaything. Without a republic and the election of government officials by the people, municipal isation would mean transferring the landed estates to elect ed local authorities even though the central government remained in the hands of the Trepovs and Dubasovs. Such a reform would be a plaything, and a harmful one, because the Trepovs and Dubasovs would allow the elected local authorities to provide water, electric trains, and so forth, but never could leave them in control of land taken from the landlords. The Trepovs and Dubasovs would transfer these lands from the “jurisdiction” of the Zemstvos to the “jurisdiction” of the Ministry of the Interior, and the peasants would be trebly swindled. We must call for the overthrow of the Trepovs and Dubasovs, for the election of all government officials by the people, and not design—instead of that and before that—toy models of liberal local reform.
What were Plekhanov’s arguments in favour of municipal isation? In both his speeches he laid most stress on the question of guarantees against restoration. This curious argument runs as follows. Nationalised land was the economic basis of Muscovy before the reign of Peter I. Our present revolution, like every other revolution, contains no guarantees ·against restoration. Therefore, in order to prevent the possibility of restoration (i.e., the restoration of the old, pre-revolutionary regime), we must particularly shun nationalisation.
To the Mensheviks this argument seemed particularly convincing, and they enthusiastically applauded Plekhanov, especially for the “strong language” he used about nationalisation (“Socialist-Revolutionary talk”, etc.). And yet, if one ponders over the matter a little, one will easily see that the argument is sheer sophistry.
First of all, look at this “national isation in Muscovy before the reign of Peter I”. We will not dwell on the fact that Plekhanov’s views on history are an exaggerated version of the liberal-Narodnik view of Muscovy. It is absurd to talk about the land being nationalised in Russia in the period before Peter I; we have only to refer to Klyuchevsky, Yefimenko and other historians. But let us leave these excursions into history. Let us assume for a moment that the land was really nationalised in Muscovy before the reign of Peter I, in the seventeenth century. What follows from it? According to Plekhanov’s logic, it follows that nationalisation would facilitate the restoration of Muscovy. But such logic is sophistry and not logic, it is juggling with words with out analysing the economic basis of developments, or the economic content of concepts. Insofar as (or if) the land was nationalised in Muscovy, the economic basis of this national isation was the Asiatic mode of production. But it is the capitalist mode of production that became established in Russia in the second half of the nineteenth century, and is absolutely predominant in the twentieth century. What, then, remains of Plekhanov’s argument? He confused nationalisation based on the Asiatic mode of production with national isation based on the capitalist mode of production. Because the words are identical he failed to see the fundamental difference in economic, that is, production relations. Although he built up his argument on the restoration of Muscovy (i.e., the alleged restoration of Asiatic modes of production), he actually spoke about political restoration, such as the restoration of the Bourbons (which he mentioned), that is, the restoration of the anti-republican form of government on the basis of capitalist production relations.
Was Plekhanov told at the Congress that he had got him self muddled up? Yes, a comrade who at the Congress called himself Demyan said in his speech that Plekhanov’s “restoration” bogy was an out-and-out fizzle. The logical deduction from his premises is the restoration of Muscovy, i.e., the restoration of the Asiatic mode of production—which is a sheer absurdity in the epoch of capitalism. What actually followed from his conclusions and examples is the restoration of the Empire by Napoleon, or the restoration of the Bourbons after the great French bourgeois revolution. But first, this sort of restoration had nothing in common with pre-capitalist modes of production. And secondly, this sort of restoration followed, not on the nationalisation of the land, but on the sale of the landed estates, that is, a measure that was arch-bourgeois, purely bourgeois and certainly one that strengthened bourgeois, i.e., capitalist production relations. Thus neither form of restoration that Plekhanov dragged in—neither the restoration of the Asiatic mode of production (the restoration of Muscovy). nor restoration in France in the nineteenth century, had anything at all to do with the question of nationalisation.
What was Comrade Plekhanov’s reply to Comrade Demyan’s absolutely irrefutable arguments? He replied with uncommon adroitness. He exclaimed: “Lenin is a Socialist-Revolutionary. And Comrade Demyan is feeding me a new brand of Demyan hash.”
The Mensheviks were delighted. They laughed till their sides ached at Plekhanov’s sparkling wit. The hall rocked with applause. The question whether there was any logic in Plekhanov’s argument about restoration was completely shelved at this Menshevik Congress.
I am far from denying, of course, that Plekhanov’s reply was not only a superb piece of wit, but, if you will, also of Marxist profundity. Nevertheless, I take the liberty of thinking that Comrade Plekhanov got himself hopelessly muddled up over the restoration of Muscovy and restoration in France in the nineteenth century. I take the liberty of thinking that “Demyan hash” will become a “historic term” that will be applied to Comrade Plekhanov and not to Comrade Demyan (as the Mensheviks, fascinated by the brilliance of Plekhanov’s wit, think). At all events, when Comrade Plekhanov, in speaking about the seizure of power in the present Russian revolution, was tickling his Mensheviks with a story about a Communard in some provincial town in France who munched sausage after the unsuccessful “seizure of power”, several delegates at the Unity Congress remarked that Plekhanov’s speeches were like a “Moscow stew”, and that they sparkled with “sausage wit”.
As I have already said, I was the first reporter on the agrarian question. And in winding up the debate, I was not the last to be given the floor but the first, preceding the other four reporters. Consequently I spoke after Comrade Demyan and before Comrade Plekhanov. Hence I was unable to foresee Plekhanov’s brilliant defence against Demyan’s arguments. I briefly reiterated these arguments and concentrated on the question of restoration as such, rather than on revealing the utter futility of the talk about restoration as an argument in favour of municipalisation. What guarantees against restoration have you in mind?—I asked Comrade Plekhanov Is it absolute guarantees in the sense of eliminating the economic foundation which engenders restoration? Or a relative and temporary guarantee, i.e., creating political conditions that would not rule out the possibility of restoration, but would merely make it less probable,would hamper restoration? If the former, then my answer is: the only complete guarantee against restoration in Russia (after a victorious revolution in Russia) is a socialist revolution in the West. There is and can be no other guarantee. Thus, from this aspect, the question is: how can the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia facilitate, or accelerate, the socialist revolution in the West? The only conceivable answer to this is: if the miserable Manifesto of October 17 gave a powerful impetus to the working-class movement in Europe, then the complete victory of the bourgeois revolution in Russia will almost inevitably (or at all events, in all probability) arouse a number of such political upheavals in Europe as will give a very powerful impetus to the socialist revolution.
Now let us examine the “second”, i.e., relative guarantee against restoration. What is the economic foundation of restoration on the basis of the capitalist mode of production, i.e., not the comical “restoration of Muscovy” but restoration of the type that occurred in France at the beginning of the nineteenth century? The condition of the small commodity producer in any capitalist society. The small commodity producer wavers between labour and capital. Together with the working class he fights against the survivals of serfdom and the police-ridden autocracy. But at the same time he longs to strengthen his position as a property-owner in bourgeois society, and therefore, if the conditions of development of this society are at all favourable (for example, industrial prosperity, expansion of the home market as a result of the agrarian revolution, etc.), the small commodity producer inevitably turns against the proletarian who is lighting for socialism. Consequently, I said, restoration on the basis of small commodity production, of small peasant property in capitalist society, is not only possible in Russia, but even inevitable, for Russia is mainly a petty-bourgeois country. I went on to say that from the point of view of restoration, the position of the Russian revolution may be ex pressed in the following thesis: the Russian revolution is strong enough to achieve victory by its own efforts; but it is not strong enough to retain the fruits of victory. It can achieve victory because the proletariat jointly with the revolutionary peasantry can constitute an invincible force. But it cannot retain its victory, because in a country where small production is vastly developed, the small commodity producers (including the peasants) will inevitably turn against the proletarians when they pass from freedom to socialism. To be able to retain its victory, to be able to prevent restoration, the Russian revolution will need non-Russian reserves, will need outside assistance. Are there such reserves? Jes, there are: the socialist proletariat in the West.
Whoever overlooks this in discussing the question of restoration reveals that his views on the Russian revolution are extremely narrow. He forgets that France at the end of the eighteenth century, in the period of her bourgeois-democratic revolution, was surrounded by far more backward, semi-feudal countries, which served as the reserves of restoration; whereas Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century, in the period of her bourgeois-democratic revolution, is surrounded by far more advanced countries, where there is a social force capable of becoming the reserve of the revolution.
To sum up. In raising the question of guarantees against restoration, Plekhanov touched upon a number of most interesting subjects but he explained nothing at all on the point at issue and led away (led his Menshevik audience away) from the question of municipalisation. Indeed, if the small commodity producers, as a class, are the bulwark of capitalist restoration (this is what we shall for short call restoration on the basis, not of the Asiatic, but of the capitalist mode of production), where does municipalisation come in? Municipalisation is a form of landownership; but is it not clear that the forms of landownership do not alter the main and fundamental features of a class? The petty bourgeois will certainly and inevitably serve as the bulwark of restoration against the proletariat, no matter whether the land is nationalised, municipalised or divided. If any sharp distinctions between the forms of landownership can be drawn in this respect, it can, perhaps, only be in favour of division, since that creates closer ties between the small proprietor and the land—closer and, therefore, more difficult to break. But to urge municipalisation as an argument against restoration is simply ridiculous.
Comrades John and Plekhanov, who spoke after me in winding up the debate, tried once again to jump imperceptibly from this flimsy argument about restoration to another, which seemed to resemble it, but was really of an entirely different nature. They began to defend municipalisation, not as a guarantee against restoration of the monarchy after the establishment of a republic, that is, not as a measure that would safeguard the republic, not as a permanent institution, but as a basis in the process of the struggle against the monarchy for a republic, i.e., a measure that would facilitate further gains, a temporary and transitional institution. Plekhanov even went to the length of calling the large local self-government bodies that would municipalise the land local “republics” that would serve as strongholds in the war against the monarchy.
On this argument, we would make the following observations:
First, neither Maslov’s original programme nor the John Plekhanov-Kostrov programme that was adopted at the Congress indicated by a single word that they regarded municipalisation as a temporary, transitional measure in the course of the revolution, i.e., as a weapon in the struggle for further gains. Thus such an interpretation is “a free invention”, which is not confirmed but refuted by the text of the programme. For example, in advocating in my programme the establish ment of revolutionary peasant committees as an instrument of the revolution, as a basis in the struggle for further gains, I say in so many words: the Party advises the peasant committees to seize the land and dispose of it pending the convocation of a constituent assembly. The Maslov-John-Plekhanov Kostrov programme, not only does not say this, but on the contrary, outlines beyond question a plan for a permanent system of land tenure.
Secondly, the main and fundamental answer to the argument we are examining is that in the guise of a guarantee against restoration or against reaction, Plekhanov’s programme actually advocates a deal with reaction. Just think. Do we not write our programme, and particularly the agrarian (peasant) programme, for the broad masses whom we want to lead? But what do we get? Some members of the Party, be they even leaders, will say that Zemstvos which have municipalised the land will be republics, fighting against the monarchy at the centre. In the programme, the agrarian revolution is directly and definitely linked with democratic local administration; but not by one word is it linked with complete democracy in the central govern ment and state system! I ask you: What is to guide our rank-and-file Party workers in their everyday agitation and propaganda? Plekhanov’s talk about local “republics”
fighting against the central monarchy, or the text of our new Party programme, in which the demand for land for the peasants is definitely linked only with democratic local administration, not with democratic central government and state system? Plekhanov’s statements, muddled in them selves, will inevitably play the same role of a “misleading” slogan as the “celebrated” (“celebrated” in Plekhanov’s opinion) slogan of “revolutionary local self-government”. In practice, our Party programme remains the programme of a deal with reaction. If we take its real political significance in the present situation in Russia, and not the motives advanced by some of our speakers, it is not a Social-Democratic programme, but a Cadet programme. Some of our speakers’ motives are of the very best, their intentions are most Social-Democratic; but the programme has turned out in practice to be a Cadet programme, filled with the spirit of a “deal” and not of a “peasant revolution” (incidentally, Plekhanov said that formerly we were afraid of the peasant revolution but now we must get rid of this fear).
Above, I examined the scientific significance of the argument about “guarantees against restoration”. I now come to its political significance, in the period of Dubasov constitutionalism and of the Cadet State Duma. The scientific significance of this argument is zero, or minus one. Its political significance is that it is a weapon borrowed from the Cadet arsenal and brings grist to the mill of the Cadets. Look around! Which trend in politics has made almost a monopoly of pointing to the danger of restoration? The Cadet trend. What answer have the Cadets given millions of times to our Party comrades who have pointed to the contradiction between the “democratic principles” of the Cadets and their monarchist, etc., programme? That to touch the monarchy means creating the danger of restoration. The Cadets have been shouting to the Social-Democrats in a thousand different sharps and fiats: “Don’t touch the monarchy, for you have no guarantee against restoration. Why create the danger of restoration, the danger of reaction? Far better to strike a bargain with reaction!” This is the sum and substance of the Cadets’ political wisdom, all their programme, all their tactics. And these are the logical outcome of the class position of the petty bourgeois, of the danger that democratic revolution carried through to the end represents for the bourgeoisie.
I will give only two examples in confirmation of the foregoing. In December 1905, Narodnaya Svoboda, the organ of Milyukov and Hessen, wrote that Moscow had proved that insurrection was possible; nevertheless, insurrection was fatal, not because it was hopeless, but because reaction would sweep away the gains of the insurrection (quoted in my pamphlet Social-Democracy :and the State Duma ). The other example. In Proletary, in 1905, 1 quoted an extract from an article by Vinogradov in Russkiye Vedomosti. Vinogradov had expressed a desire that the Russian revolution should follow the lines of 1848-49 and not 1789-93; that is to say, that we should not have any victorious insurrections, that our revolution should not be carried to its complete fulfilment, that it should be cut short as early as possible by the treachery of the liberal bourgeoisie, by the latter’s deal with the monarchy. He raised the bogy of restoration in the guise of the Prussian drill sergeant—without saying a word, of course, about such a “guarantee of revolution” as the German proletariat.
This argument about the absence of guarantees against restoration is a purely Cadet idea: it is the bourgeoisie’s political weapon against the proletariat. The interests of the bourgeoisie force it into struggling to prevent the proletariat from completing the bourgeois-democratic revolution jointly with the revolutionary peasantry. In this struggle, the bourgeois philosophers and politicians inevitably clutch at historical arguments and examples from the past. In the past it always happened that the workers were bamboozled, that even the victory of the revolution was followed by restoration. Consequently, the same thing must happen here, says the bourgeoisie, naturally striving to undermine the faith of the Russian proletariat in its own strength and in the strength of European socialism. The sharpening of political contradictions and of the political struggle results in reaction, says the bourgeois for the edification of the workers: therefore these contradictions must be blunted. Rather than run the risk of reaction coming after victory, it would be better not to fight for victory, but to strike a bargain with reaction.
Is it an accident that Plekhanov began to snatch at the ideological weapon that the bourgeoisie uses against the proletariat? No, this was inevitable after he had wrongly appraised the December uprising (“it was wrong to take up arms”) and, without calling a spade a spade, had begun, in his Dnevnik, to advocate that the workers’ party should support the Cadets. At the Congress this question was touched upon during the debate on another item of the agenda, when the question was raised as to why the bourgeoisie was praising Plekhanov. I shall deal with this point in its proper place; but here I will note that I did not elaborate the foregoing arguments at length, but presented them in the most general outline. I said that our “guarantee against restoration” was the complete fulfilment of the revolution, and not a deal with reaction. And it is this, and this alone, that is emphasised in my agrarian programme which is entirely a programme of peasant uprising and of the complete fulfilment of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. For example, “peas ant revolutionary committees” are the only line along which peasant uprising can advance (moreover, 1 do not counter- pose peasant committees to revolutionary power, in the way the Mensheviks draw a contrast between the latter and revolutionary self-government; I regard these committees as one of the instruments of such authority, an instrument that must be supplemented by other, central instruments, by a provisional revolutionary government and a national constituent assembly). This is the only formulation of the agrarian programme that can preclude a bourgeois-bureaucratic settlement of the agrarian question, a settlement by the Petrunkeviches, Rodichevs, Kaufmans and Kutlers.
Plekhanov could not but see this fundamental feature of my programme. He saw it, and admitted it at the Congress. But (true to his nature) his admission was just another Demyan hash, or Plekhanov trash: oh, Lenin’s programme contains the idea of seizing power. Lenin himself admits it. But that’s just what is bad. It’s Narodnaya Volya-ism. Lenin is reviving Narodnaya Volya-ism. Comrades, fight against the revival of Narodnaya Volya-ism! Lenin even talks about “the creative activity of the people”. Isn’t that Narodnaya Volya-ism? And so on, and so forth.
We Bolsheviks, both Voyinov and I, heartily thanked Plekhanov for these arguments. Arguments like these can only benefit us, and we welcome them. Ponder over this argument, comrades: “Since Lenin’s programme contains the idea of seizing power, Lenin is a Narodnaya Volya-ist.” Which programme are we discussing? The agrarian programme. Who is to seize power, according to this programme? The revolutionary peasantry. Does Lenin confuse the proletariat with the peasantry? Far from doing that, he singles it out in the third part of his programme, which (the third part) the Menshevik Congress copied in full in its resolution on tactics!
Good, isn’t it? Plekhanov himself said that it is unbecoming for Marxists to be afraid of a peasant revolution. But at the same time he fancies he can see Narodnaya Volya-ism in the seizure of power by the revolutionary peasants!! But how can a peasant revolution win if the revolutionary peasantry does not seize power?? Plekhanov has reduced his own arguments to absurdity. Having stepped on to a slope; he irresistibly rolls down. First he denied that it was possible for the proletariat to seize power in the present revolution. Now he denies that it is possible for the revolutionary peasantry to seize power in the present revolution. But if neither the proletariat nor the revolutionary peasantry can seize power, then, logically, that power must remain in the hands of the tsar and of Dubasov. Or should the Cadets take power? But the Cadets do not want to seize power themselves, for they are in favour of retaining the monarchy, the standing army, the Upper Chamber and all the other delights.
Was I not right when I said at the Congress that Plekhanov’s fear of seizing power is fear of the peasant revolution? Was not Voyinov right when he said that in his youth Plekhanov had been so scared by the Narodnaya Volya that he fancies he can see it even when he himself admits that a peas ant revolution is inevitable, and when not a single Social-Democrat has any illusions as to peasant socialism? Was not Voyinov right when, in connection with the Menshevik resolution on armed uprising (Clause 1 of which starts with the admission that the task is “to wrest power from the autocratic government”), he ironically remarked at the Congress that to “seize power” means reviving the Narodnaya Volya, but to “wrest power” is true and profound Marxism? But really, it has turned out that in order to combat a Narodnaya Volya trend among the Social-Democrats, the Mensheviks have bestowed on our Party a programme which advocates the “wresting of power”—by the Cadets.
Of course,these outcries about Narodnaya Volya-ism did not surprise me in the least. I remember only too well that the opportunists in the Social-Democratic movement have always (ever since 1898-1900) raised this bogy against the revolutionary Social-Democrats. And Comrade Akimov, who at the Unity Congress made a brilliant speech in defence of Axelrod and the Cadets, quite appropriately recalled this. I hope to return to this subject on another occasion in the literature.
A word about “the creative activity of the people”. In what sense did I speak about this at the Congress? In the same sense as I speak about it in my pamphlet The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party (this pamphlet was distributed among the delegates at the Congress). I contrast October-December 1905 to the present Cadet period, and say that in the revolutionary period the creative activity of the people (the revolutionary peasants plus the proletarians) is richer and more productive than in the Cadet period. Plekhanov thinks that this is Narodnaya Volya-ism. I think that from the scientific point of view, Plekhanov’s opinion is an evasion of the highly important question of appraising the period of October-December 1905 (it never occurred to him to analyse the forms of the movement of this period in his Dnevnik; he confined himself to moralising!). From the political point of view, it is merely additional proof of how close Plekhanov’s tactics are to those of Mr. Blank, and of the Cadets in general.
To finish with the agrarian question, I will deal with the last of the important arguments. Plekhanov said: “Lenin is a dreamer; he has fantastic ideas about the election of govern ment officials by the people, and so forth. It is not difficult to draw up a programme for such a favourable contingency. Try to draw one up for an unfavourable contingency. Draw up your programme so as to have it ’well shod on all four hoofs’."
Undoubtedly, this argument contains an idea to which every Marxist should pay the strictest attention. Indeed, it would be a very poor programme that allowed for only a favourable contingency. But it is from this standpoint, I said in reply to Plekhanov, that my programme is obviously superior to Maslov’s. To satisfy oneself of this, one has only to remember that there is such a thing as the renting of land. What distinguishes the capitalist (and semi-capital ist) mode of production in agriculture? Everywhere it is the renting of land. Does this apply to Russia? Yes, on a very large scale. And Comrade John was wrong when, in re plying to me, he said that my programme contained an absurdity, namely, that the renting of land remains after the land. ed estates are confiscated. On this point, Comrade John was thrice wrong: first, the whole of the first part of my programme speaks of the first steps of the peasant revolution (seizure of the land pending the convocation of a national constituent assembly); hence, in my programme, the renting of land does not “remain after” confiscation, but is taken for granted, because it is a fact. Secondly, confiscation means transferring the ownership of land to other hands, and in itself, the transference of ownership, does not in the least affect the renting of land. Thirdly, as everybody knows, peasant land and allotment land are also being rented.
See how things stand as regards being “well shod on all four hoofs”, as regards taking the worst as well as the best possible conditions into account. Maslov, with a majestic gesture, completely strikes out the renting of land. He assumes straightway a revolution that will abolish the renting of land. As I pointed out, this assumption is absolutely absurd from the point of view of “unpleasant reality” and of having to take it into account. Indeed, the whole of the first part of my programme is entirely based on the assumption of “unpleasant reality”, against which the revolutionary peasants are rebelling. Therefore in my programme the renting of land does not vanish into the realm of shades (the abolition of the renting of land in capitalist society is a reform no less, if not more, “fantastic”, from the point of view of Plekhanov’s “common sense”, than the abolition of the standing army, etc.). Hence I take “unpleasant reality” into account much more seriously than Maslov, while I preach pleasant reality to the peasants, not in terms of a Cadet deal (local republics versus the central monarchy), but in terms of the complete victory of the revolution and the winning of a really democratic republic.
I especially emphasised at the Congress that it was particularly important to have this element of political propaganda in the agrarian programme; and in all probability I shall have to deal with this point again more than once in the literature. At the Congress we Bolsheviks were told: we have a political programme, and that is where we ought to talk about a republic. This argument shows that those who made it have not thought out the question at all. True, we have a general programme, in which we formulate our principles (the first section of the Party programme) and we have special programmes: political, workers’, and peasants’ programmes. Nobody proposes that a reservation should also be made in the workers’ section of the programme (eight-hour day, etc) regarding the special political conditions required for the various reforms proposed in it. Why? Because the eight-hour day and similar reforms must inevitably become instruments of progress under all political conditions. But is it necessary to make special reservations as regards political conditions in the peasant programme? Yes, because the very best redistribution of the land may become an instrument of retrogression under the regime of the Trepovs and Dubasovs. Take even Maslov’s programme. It advocates the transfer of the land to the democratic state and to democratic local self-government bodies. Thus, although the Party has a political programme, Maslov’s programme makes special reservations as regards the political conditions for present-day agrarian reforms. Hence there can be no argument about the necessity of making reservations as regards special political conditions for agrarian demands. The point at issue is: is it permissible, either from the standpoint of science or of consistent proletarian democracy, to link a radical agrarian revolution, not with the election of government officials by the people, not with a republic, but with “democracy” in general, i.e., with Cadet democracy as well, which today, whether we like it or not, is the principal and most wide spread form of pseudo-democracy, and the most influential in the press and in “society”. I think that this is not permissible. I predict that the mistake in our agrarian programme will have to be, and will be, put right by practical experience, that is to say. the political situation will compel our propagandists and agitators in their fight against the Cadets to emphasise, not Cadet democracy, but the election of govern ment officials by the people, and a republic.
As for the programme which advocates the division of the land, I expressed my attitude towards it at the Congress in the following terms: municipalisation is wrong and harmful; division, as a programme, is mistaken, but not harmful. Therefore I, of course, am closer to those who are for division, and I am prepared to vote for Borisov as against Maslov. In the first place, division cannot be harmful, because the peasants will agree to it; and in the second place, it does not have to be made conditional on the consistent reorganisation of the state. Why is it mistaken? Because it one-sidedly regards the peasant movement only in the light of the past and present, and gives no consideration to the future. In arguing against nationalisation, the “divisionists” say: when you hear the peasants talking about nationalisation, you must understand that it is not what they want. Don’t pay attention to words, but to the substance. The peasants want private ownership, the right to sell land; and their talk about “God’s land”, and so forth, is merely an ideological cloak for their desire to take the land away from the land lords.
In my answer to the “divisionists” I said: all that is true; but our disagreements only begin where you think the question is settled. You repeat the mistake made by the old materialists, concerning whom Marx said: the old materialists have interpreted the world, but we must change it. Similarly, the advocates of division rightly understand what the peasants say about nationalisation, they rightly interpret what they say; but the point is that they do not know how to convert this correct interpretation into an instrument for changing the world, into an instrument of progress. We are not suggesting that we should impose nationalisation on the peas ants instead of division (Variant A in my programme removes all ground for such absurd ideas if they do occur to any one). What we are suggesting is that a socialist, in ruthlessly exposing the peasants’ petty-bourgeois illusions about “God’s land”, should be able to show them the road of progress. I told Plekhanov at the Congress, and I will repeat it a thousand times, that the practical workers will vulgarise the present programme just as they vulgarised the demand for the restitution of the cut-off lands; they will convert a minor mistake into a major one. They will try to convince the crowds of peasants—who are shouting that the land is no body’s, the land is God’s,the land is the state’s—of the advantages of division, and by that will discredit and vulgarise Marxism. This is not what we must tell the peasants. We must say: there is a great deal of truth in what you say about the land being God’s, nobody’s or the state’s; but we must look at the truth very closely. If the land is the state’s and Trepov is at the head of the state, then the land will be Trepov’s. Is that what you want? Do you want the land to pass into the hands of the Rodichevs and Petrunkeviches if they should succeed in capturing power, and consequently, the state, as they would like to do? Of course, the peasants will answer: no, we don’t want that. We will not surrender the land taken from the landlords either to the Trepovs or to the Rodichevs. If that is so, we must say, all government officials must be elected by the people, the standing army must be abolished, we must have a republic. Only then will the transfer of the land to the “state”, to “the people”, be a useful and not a harmful measure. And from the strictly scientific point of view, from the point of view of the conditions of develop ment of capitalism in general, we must undoubtedly say if we do not want to differ with Volume III of Capital—that the nationalisation of land is possible in bourgeois society, that it promotes economic development, facilitates competition and the influx of capital into agriculture, reduces the price of grain, etc. Hence, in a period of real peasant revolution, given fairly well-developed capitalism, we cannot in any circumstances adopt a crude and sweepingly negative attitude towards nationalisation. That would be narrow, one-sided, crude and short-sighted. We should only explain to the peas ants what political conditions are necessary for nationalisation to make it a useful measure, and then proceed to show its bourgeois character (as is done in Section 3 of my programme, now incorporated in the resolution of the Unity Congress ).
In concluding my narrative of the arguments about the agrarian question at the Congress, I will mention the amendments that were proposed to Maslov’s draft programme. When the question of which draft to take as a basis was voted on, Maslov’s draft at first obtained only 52 votes, that is, less than half. About 40 voted in favour of division (I voted with the “divisionists” to avoid splitting the vote against municipalisation). Only when a second vote was taken did Maslov’s draft obtain 60-odd votes, as all the waverers voted for it, to save the Party from being left without any agrarian programme at all.
One of the amendments that the Mensheviks voted down was aimed at a more precise definition of the term: democratic state. We proposed the formulation: “a democratic republic fully guaranteeing the sovereignty of the people”. This amendment was based on the idea, outlined above, that with out complete democratisation of the central state authority, municipalisation would be positively harmful, and might degenerate into a Cadet agrarian reform. The amendment caused a storm. I was not in the hail at the time. I remember that as I was passing through an adjoining room on my way back to the hall, I was struck by the extraordinary noise in the “lobbies” and heard people jesting, saying: “Comrade John has proclaimed a republic!” “He could find no guarantees against restoration!” “Comrade Plekhanov has restored the monarchy.”
As I was told afterwards, what happened was this. The Mensheviks, thin-skinned as usual, took offence at this amendment, which they regarded as an attempt to prove that they were opportunists, that they were opposed to a republic. There were angry speeches and shouts. The Bolsheviks also got heated, of course. They demanded a vote by roll-call. This stirred passion to fever heat. Comrade John was embarrassed, and being loath to create discord—he was not at all “against a republic”, of course—he got up and announced that he would withdraw his formulation and sup port the amendment. The Bolsheviks applauded the “proclamation of a republic”. But Comrade Plekhanov, or some other Menshevik, intervened, the argument started afresh, a demand was made for another vote, and the “monarchy was restored” by—according to what I was told—a matter of 38 votes to 34 (evidently many of the delegates were absent from the hall, or abstained from voting).
Of the amendments that were accepted, I must mention the substitution of the term “confiscation” for the term “alienation”. Then the “municipalisers” had, after all, to make a concession to the “divisionists”, and Comrade Kostrov proposed an amendment which in certain conditions permitted of division as well. Thus, instead of Maslov’s original programme, the result was, as someone wittily put it at the Congress, a “castrated” programme. It is, in effect, a blend of nationalisation (certain lands are to become national property), municipalisation (part of the land is to be transferred to large local self-government bodies), and lastly, division. To this must be added that neither the programme nor the resolution on tactics specifies when we are to support municipalisation and when division. The upshot was a programme, not well shod on all four hoofs, but with all four shoes loose.
IV. Appraisal of the Revolutionary Situation and of the Class Tasks of the Proletariat[edit source]
The question mentioned in the above heading was the second item on the agenda of the Congress. The reporters were Martynov and I. Strictly speaking, Comrade Martynov in his report did not defend the Menshevik draft resolution, printed in Partiiniye Izvestia, No. 2. He preferred to give a “general outline” of his views and a general criticism of what the Mensheviks call Bolshevik views.
He spoke of the Duma as a political centre, of the harmfulness of the idea of seizing power, and of the importance of the country’s constitutional development in a revolutionary period. He criticised the December uprising, called upon us openly to admit our defeat, and condemned our resolution for its “technical” presentation of the question of strike and insurrection. He said that “the Cadets, although they are anti-revolutionary, are erecting the scaffolding for the further development of the revolution”. (Then why do you not say so in your resolutions, we asked.) He said that “we are on the eve of a revolutionary explosion”. (Why isn’t that in your resolution, we asked again.) Incidentally, he said: “Objectively, the Cadets will play a more important role than the Socialist-Revolutionaries.” The idea of seizing power is akin to the ideas of Tkachov; the Duma must be put into the foreground as the first step in the country’s “constitutional development”, as the corner-stone of the edifice of “representative institutions”—such was the gist of Comrade Martynov’s report. Like all Mensheviks, he passively adjusted our tactics to the slightest turn in the course of events, subordinated them to fleeting interests, to momentary (or apparent) needs, and involuntarily belittled the main and fundamental tasks of the proletariat as the vanguard fighter in the bourgeois democratic revolution.
I based my report on a precise comparison of the two resolutions before the Congress. I said that both resolutions admit that the revolution is on the rise again, that our task is to strive to carry the revolution to the end, and lastly, that only the proletariat together with the revolutionary peasantry can accomplish this. One would think that these three propositions should lead to complete unanimity on the tactical course to be adopted. But which of the two resolutions more consistently upholds this main point of view, more correctly motivates it, and more accurately indicates the conclusions to be drawn from it?
And I went on to show that the argument of the Menshevik resolution was utterly untenable, that it was a mere collection of phrases and not an argument (“the struggle has left the government no choice”. This is a splendid specimen of sheer phrase-mongering! It is the very thing that has to be proved, but not in this form. The Mensheviks, however, start out from unproved and unprovable premises). I said that whoever really admits that an upswing of the revolution is inevitable must draw the proper conclusion as to the main form of the movement. For this is the fundamental scientific and political problem that we have to solve, and which the Mensheviks are dodging. They argue as follows. When there is a Duma, we will support the Duma; when there is a strike and insurrection, we will support the strike and insurrection. But they are unwilling, or unable, to deter mine whether the one or the other form of the movement is inevitable. They do not dare tell the proletariat, and the whole people, which is the main form of the movement. That being the case, all those phrases about the upswing of the revolution and about its completion (the Mensheviks very ineptly said: its logical completion) are so many platitudes. They imply that the proletariat—whose conception of the revolution is the deepest and broadest, and whose tactics are prompted by the general and fundamental interests of democracy—must not be elevated to the position of foremost leader of the revolution, but must be degraded to the position of a passive participant and humble “labourer” in the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
The Mensheviks, I said, accept only the first half of Hegel’s celebrated proposition: “All that is real is rational, and all that is rational is real.” The Duma is real; therefore the Duma is reasonable, they say, and rest content with that. We say:
the fight outside the Duma is “reasonable”. It is the objectively inevitable result of the whole of the present situation. Therefore it is “real”, although it is held down for the moment. We must not slavishly follow the fleeting moment; that would be opportunism. We must ponder over the more pro found causes of events and over the more far-reaching implications of our tactics.
The Mensheviks in their resolution admit that the revolution is on the rise and that the proletariat jointly with the peasantry must carry it to completion. But whoever seriously takes that view must also be able to draw the necessary conclusions. If you say: jointly with the peasantry, it shows that you think that the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie (Cadets, etc.) is unreliable. Why, then, don’t you say so, as we do in our resolution? How is it that you do not say a single word about the necessity of combating constitutional illusions, that is, belief in the promises and laws of the old autocratic government? It is habitual for the Cadets to forget about this; they themselves spread constitutional illusions. But a Social-Democrat who at a moment of revolution forgets the task of combating constitutional illusions, politically puts himself on a footing with the Cadets. What is the use of phrases like “upswing of the revolution”, “carrying it to completion”, or “a new revolutionary explosion”, if the Social-Democrats do nothing to dispel the constitutional illusions that are widespread among the people?
At the present time the question of constitutional illusions is the best and surest criterion by which to distinguish the opportunist from those who want the revolution to develop further. The opportunist shirks the task of dispelling these illusions. The advocate of revolution ruthlessly exposes their deceptive character. And yet the Menshevik Social-Democrats are silent on a question like this!
Not daring to say openly and frankly that the October-December forms of struggle are unfit and undesirable, the Mensheviks say it in the worst, covert, indirect and evasive way. This is quite unbecoming for Social-Democrats.
Such were the main points of my report.
As regards the debate on these reports, the following characteristic incidents are worth mentioning. A comrade who at the Congress was known as Boris Nikolayevich gave me occasion to exclaim in my reply to the debate: “The ball comes to the player!” It would be difficult to express the “sum and substance” of Menshevism more vividly than he did. He said that it was “curious” that the Bolsheviks should regard the revolutionary movements of the broad masses of the people, and not the legal or constitutional form, as the “main form of the movement”. He said this was “ridiculous”, for there were no such movements, whereas there was a Duma. All this talk about the proletariat being the “head”, or “leader”, about the possibility of it becoming the “tail”, and so forth, was “metaphysics” and “phrase-mongering”.
Take off your Cadet spectacles, I said in reply to this consistent Menshevik. You will then see a peasant movement in Russia, and unrest among the armed forces, and the move ment of the unemployed: you will see forms of struggle that at the moment are “lying low”, but the existence of which even bourgeois moderates do not dare to deny.They openly say that these forms are harmful and needless; but the Menshevik Social-Democrats scoff at them. This is the difference between the bourgeoisie and the Menshevik Social-Democrats. This was exactly the case with Bernstein, the German Menshevik, the German Right Social-Democrat. The bourgeoisie in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century held, and openly declared, that revolutionary forms of struggle were harmful. Bernstein scoffed at them.
Being raised at the Congress, the question of Bernstein naturally led to the question, why was the bourgeoisie praising Plekhanov? The fact that all the numerous liberal-bourgeois newspapers and other publications in Russia, including even the Octobrist Slovo, were most zealously praising Plekhanov could not pass unnoticed at the Congress.
Plekhanov picked up the gauntlet. He said that the bourgeoisie was not praising him for what it had praised Bernstein for. Bernstein was praised for surrendering to the bourgeoisie our theoretical weapon, Marxism. He (Plekhanov) was being praised for his tactics. The situation was different.
Plekhanov was answered by the representative of the Polish Social-Democratic Party and by myself. We both point ed out that Plekhanov was wrong. The bourgeoisie praised Bernstein not only for theory, and, in fact, not for theory at all. The bourgeoisie doesn’t care a pin for any theory. The bourgeoisie praised the German Right Social-Democrats because they advocated different tactics. They were praised for their tactics, for their reformist tactics as distinct from revolutionary tactics; for regarding the legal, parliamentary, reformist struggle as the main, or almost the sole, form of struggle; for striving to convert the Social-Democratic Party into one of democratic social reforms. That is why Bernstein was praised. The bourgeoisie praised him for trying to blunt the antagonisms between labour and capital in the period preceding socialist revolution. The bourgeoisie is praising Plekhanov for trying to blunt the antagonisms between the revolutionary people and the autocracy in the period of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Plekhanov is being praised for regarding the “parliamentary” struggle as the main form of struggle; for condemning the October-December struggle, and particularly the armed uprising. Plekhanov is being praised because on the question of present-day tactics he has become the leader of the Right Social-Democrats.
I have forgotten to add what stand the Mensheviks took in the debate on constitutional illusions. Theirs was not a firm stand. Some of them said that it was always the task of the Social-Democrats to combat constitutional illusions, and that this was not the special task of the present moment. Others (Plekhanov) declared that to combat constitutional illusions was anarchism. These two extreme and opposite opinions on constitutional illusions glaringly revealed the utter helplessness of the Mensheviks’ position. When a constitutional system has become firmly established, when, for a certain period, the constitutional struggle becomes the main form of the class struggle and of the political struggle generally, the task of dispelling constitutional illusions is not the special task of the Social-Democrats, not the task of the moment. Why? Because at such times affairs in constitutional states are administered in the very way that parliament decides. By constitutional illusions we mean deceptive faith in a constitution. Constitutional illusions prevail when a constitution seems to exist, but actually does not: in other words, when affairs of state are not administered in the way parliament decides. When actual political life diverges from its reflection in the parliamentary struggle, then, and only then, does the task of combating constitutional illusions be come the immediate task of the advanced revolutionary class, the proletariat. The liberal bourgeois, dreading the extra- parliamentary struggle, spreads constitutional illusions even when parliaments are impotent. The anarchists flatly reject participation in parliament under all circumstances. Social-Democrats stand for utilising the parliamentary struggle, for participating in parliament; but they ruthlessly expose “parliamentary cretinism”, that is, the belief that the parliamentary struggle is the sole or under all circumstances the main form of the political struggle.
Are the political realities of Russia at variance with the decisions of, and speeches made in, the Duma? Are affairs of state in our country administered in the way the Duma decides? Do the “Duma” parties reflect with any degree of accuracy the real political forces in the present state of the revolution? One has only to put these questions to understand the Mensheviks’ helpless confusion on the question of constitutional illusions.
This confusion was revealed with uncommon vividness at the Congress when, although in the majority, the Mensheviks dared not put their resolution appraising the present situation to the vote. They withdrew their resolution! The Bolsheviks had a good laugh over this at the Congress. The victors are withdrawing their victorious resolution—that is what was said about the extraordinary behaviour of the Mensheviks, unprecedented in the history of congresses. A vote by roll-call was demanded and secured on this question, although, curiously enough, the Mensheviks were angry over this and submitted to the Bureau a written statement which said that “Lenin is collecting material for agitation against the decisions of the Congress”. As if the right to collect material were not the right and duty of every opposition! And as if our victors were not, by their chagrin, accentuating the impossibly awkward predicament into which they had put themselves by withdrawing their own resolution! The vanquished insist on the victors accepting their own victorious resolution! We could not wish for a more outspoken confirmation of the moral victory we had achieved.
The Mensheviks said, of course, that they did not wish to impose upon us something we did not agree with, that they did not want to resort to coercion, and so forth. Naturally, these excuses only raised a smile, and led to more demands for a vote by roll-call. For on those questions, on which the Mensheviks were convinced they were right, they did not hesitate to “impose” their opinion upon us, and to resort to “coercion” (why this terrible word, I wonder?), and so forth. The resolution appraising the present situation did not commit the Party to any particular action. But without it, the Party could not understand the principles and motives under lying all the tactics adopted by the Congress.
In this respect, the withdrawal of the resolution was a supreme manifestation of practical opportunism. Our business is to be in the Duma when there is a Duma, and we don’t want to hear anything like general arguments, general appraisals or well-considered tactics—this, in effect, is what the Mensheviks said to the proletariat by withdrawing their resolution.
Undoubtedly the Mensheviks had convinced themselves that their resolution was wrong and worthless. It is quite out of the question that people who are convinced that their views are correct should refuse to express them openly and definitely. But the crux of the matter was that the Mensheviks could not even propose any amendments to their resolution. This suggests that they could not agree among them selves on a single important point concerning the appraisal of the situation and of the class tasks of the proletariat in general. They could agree only on a negative decision: to withdraw the resolution altogether. They had a vague presentiment that if their resolution defining principles were adopted, it would undermine their practical resolutions. But they did not gain anything thereby. The resolutions of the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks on the appraisal of the present situation can and must be discussed and compared by the whole Party, by all Party organisations. The question was left open. But it must be settled. And a comparison of these two resolutions with the experience of political life, with the lessons taught by, say, the Cadet Duma, will splendidly confirm the correctness of the Bolshevik views on the present state of the Russian revolution and on the class tasks of the proletariat.
V. Attitude Towards the State Duma[edit source]
On the question of the Duma, the reporter from the faction that predominated at the Congress was Comrade Axel rod. He too, in a long speech, refrained from discussing the comparative merits of the two resolutions (the committee submitted two resolutions, because the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks could not reach agreement), from stating in precise terms the views of the Minority on this question, but gave a “general outline” of the meaning of parliamentarism. He went far afield, took a long excursion into history, and drew a picture of parliamentarism, of its significance, its role in the development of proletarian organisation, in agitation, in the awakening of the class-consciousness of the proletariat, and so forth. Casting innuendoes all the time at “anarchistic-conspiratorial” views, he soared entirely in the realm of abstractions, in the lofty sphere of platitudes and magnificent reflections on history which were applicable to all times, to all nations and to all periods in history in general: but which, owing to their abstract character, were useless for dealing with the concrete features of the concrete matter in hand. I remember the following particularly glaring example of the incredibly abstract, vapid and general way in which Axelrod presented his case. Twice in his speech (I made a note of this) he touched on the question of bargains, or agreements, between the Social-Democrats and the Cadets. Once he touched on it in passing, spoke of it in disparaging terms, and in a word or two expressed his opposition to all agreement. The second time he dealt with it at greater length and said that, speaking generally, agreements were permissible, except that they must not be hole-and-corner doings by committees, but public agreements visible and clear to all the workers, and must represent important political steps, or actions. Such agreements, he said, would enhance the significance of the proletariat as a political force, would-more clearly and distinctly reveal to it the machinery of politics and the different positions and different interests of the various classes. They would draw the proletariat into definite political relationships, teach it to see its enemies and ill-wishers, and so on and so forth. It was arguments of this kind that Comrade Axelrod’s very long “report” consisted of. One can not relate them—one can only give an idea of them by giving an example or two.
In my report in reply I said, first of all, that Axelrod had painted a very pretty, in fact, a charming picture. He had painted it lovingly and skilfully, applying vivid colours and fine strokes. The only pity was that the picture was not drawn from life. It was a fine picture—there could be no doubt about that—but its subject was purely imaginary. It was a splendid study on the theme of the significance of parliamentarism in general, a fine popular lecture on the functions of representative institutions. The only pity was that he said and explained absolutely nothing about the concrete historical conditions of the existing Russian “parliament”, if one may call it that. Axelrod, I said, had given himself entirely away by his remarks on agreements with the Cadets. He had admitted that the importance of such agreements—sometimes inevitable when genuine parliamentarism exists—depended on the possibility of coming out openly before the masses, on the possibility of banishing the old “hole-and-corner” method and substituting for it agitation among the masses, the in dependence of the masses, and public utterances before the masses.
Magnificent things, sure enough. But are they possible under the Russian “parliamentary” system? Or rather, is this the form that real mass actions take in Russia under the present real (and not pictorial) objective conditions? Is it not the case, Comrade Axelrod, that Social-Democrats are obliged to make the appeals to the masses that you desire by means of illegal leaflets, while the Cadets have newspapers printed in millions of copies at their disposal? Would it not have been better if, instead of uselessly depicting the charms of parliamentarism (which nobody denies), you had told us how matters really stand as regards Social-Democratic newspapers, meetings, clubs, and unions? Surely there is no need for me to prove to you, a European, that your general remarks about parliamentarism tacitly presuppose news papers, meetings, clubs and unions, and that all these are part and parcel of the parliamentary system?
Why did Axelrod in his report confine himself to platitudes and abstract propositions? In order to leave in the back ground the concrete political realities of Russia in the period February-April 1906. These realities reveal much too sharp antagonisms between the autocracy and the downtrodden but indignant proletariat and peasantry. To charm his audience with the picture of parliamentarism in general, he had to tone down these antagonisms, to blunt them, to draw an “ideal” plan of an ideal, open agreement with the Cadets; and above all he had to make an abstraction of these sharp antagonisms, forget them, say nothing about them.
In order to assess our actual disagreements and not to soar in the skies, I, in my report, compared the two resolutions and analysed them in detail. It appeared that there were four main points of difference between the Menshevik and Bolshevik resolutions on the Duma.
First, the Mensheviks made no appraisal of the elections. At the time of the Congress the elections had been held in nine-tenths of Russia. These elections had undoubtedly provided ample political material for a realistic, and not fanciful, picture of the situation. We weighed up this material very frankly and carefully, and said: it shows that in the vast majority of places in Russia participation in the elections meant supporting the Cadets, and that it was not really a Social-Democratic policy. The Mensheviks say not a word about this. They are afraid to put the question on a concrete basis. They are afraid to face the facts and to draw the necessary conclusions from this position between the Cadets and the Black Hundreds. They do not appraise the actual elections, their results as a whole, because such an appraisal would prove them wrong.
Secondly, throughout their resolution the Mensheviks take, or regard, the Duma as a legal institution, and not as an instrument that expresses the will (or lack of will) of certain elements of the bourgeoisie, not as an instrument that serves the interests of certain bourgeois parties. In their resolution, they speak of the Duma in general, of the Duma as an “institution”, as an instrument of popular representation in its “pure” form. This is not a Marxist method of argument but a purely Cadet method; not a materialist but an ideal ist method, in the worst sense of the word; not a proletarian class method, but one of philistine vagueness.
Take, for example, the following extremely characteristic expression in the Menshevik resolution, I said at the Congress: “(4) that these conflicts [with reaction I, compelling the State Duma to seek support among the broad masses...” (I am quoting from the draft which the Mensheviks submitted to the Congress). Is it true to say that the Duma can and will seek support among the broad masses? Which Duma? An Octobrist Duma? Certainly not. A Duma of peasants’ and workers’ deputies? It has no need to seek support, for it has, has had, and will have support. A Cadet Duma? Yes, this is true as regards such a Duma, and only such a Duma. A Cadet Duma certainly has to seek support among the broad masses. But as soon as you give the Mensheviks’ abstract, idealistic and general formulation a definitely class content, you at once see that its wording is incomplete, and therefore wrong. The Cadets strive to lean on the people. That is true. That is word for word what our (Bolshevik) resolution on the attitude to wards the bourgeois parties says about them. But our resolution goes on to say that the Cadets waver between the desire to lean on the people and fear of its revolutionary independence. No socialist will dare deny the justice of the words I have underlined. Why, then, did the Mensheviks, in a resolution on the Duma, when it was already known that the Duma would be Cadet in character, tell only half the truth? Why did they only note the bright side of the Cadets, and say nothing about the reverse side of the medal?
Our Duma is not the incarnation of the “pure idea” of popular representation. Only bourgeois philistines among our Cadet professors can think so. Our Duma is what the representatives in it of definite classes and definite parties make of it. Our Duma is a Cadet Duma. If we say that it is striving to lean on the people and do not add that it is afraid of independent revolutionary activity by the people, we will be telling a downright lie, we will be misleading the proletariat and the whole people. We will be yielding in the most unpardonable way to the mood of the moment, and show that we are under the spell of the victories of a party that wavers between liberty and the monarchy, that we are incapable of appraising the true nature of that party. The Cadets, of course, will praise us for this reticence, but will the class-conscious workers do as much?
Another example. “The tsarist government is striving to check the revolutionary upsurge,” say the Mensheviks in their resolution. That is true. But is it only the tsarist government that is striving to do that? Have not the Cadets shown a thousand times already that they, too, are striving both to lean on the people and to check its revolutionary up surge? Is it proper for Social-Democrats to put the Cadets in a better light than they deserve?
And I drew the following conclusion. Our resolution says that the Duma will indirectly help to develop the revolution. This is the only correct formula, for the Cadets waver between revolution and reaction. Speaking about the Duma, our resolution plainly and bluntly says that the in stability of the Cadets must be exposed. To say nothing about this in a resolution on the Duma means indulging in a bourgeois idealisation of “popular representation in its pure form”.
And practical experience has already begun to refute the Mensheviks’ illusions. In Nevskaya Gazeta, you will even now find statements (not systematically consistent, unfortunately) to the effect that the Cadets in the Duma have not been behaving in a revolutionary way and that the proletariat will not permit “deals between the Milyukovs and the old regime”. In saying this, the Mensheviks fully bear out the correctness of my criticism of their resolution at the Congress. In saying this, they are following in the wake of the revolutionary tide, which, although relatively weak, has already begun to reveal the true nature of the Cadets, and is already proving that the Bolshevik presentation of the question is correct.
Thirdly, I said, the Menshevik resolution does not draw a clear distinction between the various types of bourgeois democrats from the point of view of proletarian tactics. The proletariat must, to a certain extent, march with the bourgeois democrats, or “march separately, but strike together. But with which section of the bourgeois democrats must the proletariat “strike together”, in the present Duma period? You yourselves,Menshevik comrades, realise that the very existence of the Duma is bringing up this question—yet you dodge it. We, however, have said plainly and bluntly: with the peasant or revolutionary democrats, neutralising, by our agreement with them, the instability and inconsistency of the Cadets.
In reply to this criticism, the Mensheviks (especially Plekhanov, who, I repeat, was the actual ideological leader of the Mensheviks at the Congress) tried to make their position more profound”. Yes, they exclaimed, you want to expose the Cadets! But we are exposing all the bourgeois parties. Look at the last part of our resolution: “to reveal to the masses the inconsistency of all the bourgeois parties etc. And Plekhanov proudly added that only bourgeois radicals attack solely the Cadets; we socialists expose all the bourgeois parties.
The sophistry hidden in this seeming “deepening” of the question was resorted to so often at the Congress, and is so often resorted to now, that it is worth saying a few words about it.
What is this resolution about? Is it the socialist exposure of all bourgeois parties, or defining which section of the bourgeois democrats can help the proletariat now to carry the bourgeois revolution still further forward?
Clearly, it deals with the latter and not with the former question.
If that is clear, there is no point in substituting the first question for the second. As regards the attitude to be adopted towards the bourgeois parties, the Bolshevik resolution clearly speaks of the socialist exposure of all bourgeois democracy, including that of revolutionary and peasant democrats. But as far as present-day proletarian tactics are concerned, the question is not one of socialist criticism, but of mutual political support.
The further the bourgeois revolution advances, the farther left the proletariat seeks for allies among the bourgeois democrats, and the deeper it goes from their upper ranks to their lower ranks. There was a time when help could come from Marshals of the Nobility and from Mr. Struve, who (in 1901) put forward the Shipov slogan: “Rights and an Authoritative Zemstvo”. The revolution has gone far beyond that. The upper ranks of the bourgeois democrats have be gun to desert the revolution. The lower ranks have begun to awaken. The proletariat has begun to seek allies (for a bourgeois revolution) in the lower ranks of the bourgeois democrats. And today, the only correct definition of the tactics of the proletariat in this respect will be: with the peasantry (who are also bourgeois democrats: don’t forget this, Menshevik comrades) and with the revolutionary democrats, paralysing the instability of the Cadets.
And again. Whose line have the first steps of the Cadet Duma proved correct? Reality has already outstripped our debates. Reality has compelled even Nevskaya Gazeta to single out the Peasant (“Trudovik”) Group in preference to the Cadets, to seek a rapprochement with it and to expose the Cadets. Reality has proved that we were right in our watch word: the proletariat’s allies until the victory of the bourgeois revolution is achieved are the peasant and revolutionary democrats.
Fourthly, I criticised the last clause of the Menshevik resolution concerning a Social-Democratic group in the Duma. I pointed out that the great bulk of the class-conscious proletariat had not voted. Would it be advisable under these conditions to impose official representatives of the Party on this mass of workers? Can the Party guarantee that the candidates had really been chosen by Party organisations? Will not the fact that the first Social-Democratic members of the Duma are expected to come from the peasant and town petty-bourgeois curias create a certain danger and an abnormal situation? The first candidates of the Social-Democratic Labour Party to the Duma, not chosen by the workers’ organisations, and not under their control.... Comrade Nazar’s amendment, which demanded that Social-Democratic candidates to the Duma be nominated by local workers’ organisations, was rejected by the Mensheviks. We demanded a vote by roll-call, and recorded our dissenting opinion in the minutes.
We voted for the amendment moved by the comrades from the Caucasus (to participate in the elections where they have not yet taken place, but not to enter into any blocs with other parties), because the prohibition of blocs, of agreements with other parties, was undoubtedly of great political significance for the Party.
I will add that the Congress rejected the amendment of Comrade Yermansky (a Menshevik who regarded himself as a conciliator), who wanted participation in the elections to be permitted only in those cases where it was possible to carry on agitation among the masses and to organise them on a large scale.
The representatives of the national Social-Democratic parties—the Poles, Bundists and, I think, also the Letts— took part in the debate on this question, and emphatically declared for the boycott. They stressed the necessity of taking specific local conditions into account, and protested against the settlement of a question like this on the basis of abstract arguments.
On the question of the formation of a Social-Democratic group in the Duma, the Congress also passed an instruction to the Central Committee, which, unfortunately, was not included in the decisions of the Congress published by the Central Committee. The Congress instructed the Central Committee to inform all Party organisations specifically: (1) whom, (2) when, and (3) on what conditions it has appointed as Party representatives in the parliamentary group, and also to submit periodical reports of the activities of these Party representatives. This resolution instructs the local workers’ organisations to which the Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma belong to keep control over their “delegates” in the Duma. I will mention, in parenthesis, that this important resolution, which shows that the views of Social-Democrats on parliamentarism differ from those of bourgeois politicians, was unanimously condemned, or ridiculed, both in Mr. Struve’s newspaper Duma and in Novoye Vremya.
Lastly, in concluding my narrative of the debate on the State Duma, I will mention two more episodes. The first was the speech of Comrade Akimov, who had been invited to at tend the Congress as a consultative delegate. For the information of those comrades who are not familiar with the history of our Party, I will say that since the late t1890s Comrade Akimov has been the most consistent, or one of the most consistent, opportunists in the Party. Even the new Iskra has had to admit this. Akimov was an “Economist” in 1899 and subsequent years, and has remained true to type. Mr. Struve, in Osvobozhdeniye, has extolled him more than once for his “realism” and for the scholarly quality of his Marxism. There is hardly any difference between Comrade Akimov and the Bernsteinians of Bez Zaglavia (Mr. Prokopovich and others). Naturally, the presence at the Congress of such a comrade could not but be valuable in the struggle between the Right and Left wings of Social-Democracy.
Comrade Akimov was the first to speak after the reporters on the question of the State Duma. He said that he did not agree with the Mensheviks on many points, but he fully agreed with Comrade Axelrod. He was in favour not only of going into the Duma, but also of supporting the Cadets. Comrade Akimov was the only consistent Menshevik at the Congress in openly standing up for the Cadets (and not in a covert way, not by saying, for example, that the Cadets were more important than the Socialist-Revolutionaries). He openly rose in arms against the appraisal of the Cadets that I made in my pamphlet The Victory of the Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party. The Cadets, he said, “are really a party of people’s freedom, but a more moderate one”. The Cadets are “orphan democrats”, said our orphan Social-Democrat. “The Mensheviks have to put up artificial barriers to prevent themselves from becoming accomplices of the Cadets.”
The reader will see that Comrade Akimov’s speech merely served as additional and convincing evidence of the direction our Menshevik comrades are taking.
The second episode showed this from another angle. This is what happened. In the original draft of the Menshevik resolution on the State Duma proposed by the commit tee, Clause 5 (on the armed forces) contained the following sentence: ... “Seeing for the first time on Russian soil a new authority, sprung from the depths of the nation, called into being by the tsar himself and recognised by the law”, etc. In criticising the Menshevik resolution for what may mildly be called its imprudent and optimistic attitude towards the State Duma, I also criticised the words I have underlined, and said jestingly: should we not add “and sent by God’s grace” (meaning authority)? Comrade Plekhanov, a member of
the committee, was frightfully angry with me for cracking this joke. What, he exclaimed in his speech, must I listen to these “suspicions of being an opportunist”? (His exact words, as I wrote them down.) I have served in the army myself, and I know the military man’s attitude towards authority; I know of the importance he attaches to authority recognised by the tsar, etc., etc. Comrade Plekhanov’s resentment exposed his vulnerable spot, and showed still more clearly that he had “overdone it”. In my speech in reply to the debate, I said that it was not a matter of “suspicions”, and it was ridiculous to use such pitiful expressions. Nobody was accusing Plekhanov of believing in the tsar. But resolutions are not written for Plekhanov; they are written for the people. And it was indecent to disseminate among the people such ambiguous arguments, fit only for Messrs. Witte and Co. These arguments would turn against us, for if we stressed that the State Duma was an “authority” (?? this word alone reveals the excessive optimism of our Mensheviks), and an authority called into being by the tsar, then it would be inferred that this lawful authority must act according to the law, and obey the one who “called it into being”.
The Mensheviks themselves realised that Plekhanov had overdone it. On a motion that came from their ranks, the words underlined above were deleted from the resolution.
VI. Armed Uprising[edit source]
The two main questions, the agrarian question and that of the State Duma, together with the debate on the appraisal of the situation, took up most of the attention of the Congress. I do not remember how many days we spent on these questions , but the fact remains that many of those present were beginning to show signs of fatigue, and probably not only of fatigue, but of a desire to shelve some of the items on the agenda. A motion was adopted to accelerate the proceedings of the Congress, and the time allotted for the reports on the question of armed uprising was cut down to fifteen minutes (the reporters on the preceding questions had their time repeatedly extended beyond the allotted half-hour). The questions now began to be rushed through.
The reporter on armed uprising from the “Minority”, which predominated at the Congress, was Comrade Cherevanin, and as was to be expected—and as the Bolsheviks more than once foretold—he “slipped down towards Plekhanov”, that is to say, he virtually took the view of the Dnevnik, with which, before the Congress, many Mensheviks had expressed disagreement. The notes I have on his speech contain sentences like the following: “The December uprising was only a product of despair”, or: “The defeat of the December uprising was a foregone conclusion in the very first days.” Plekhanov’s dictum: “It was wrong to take up arms” ran through his whole speech, which, as usual, was replete with thrusts at the “conspirators” and at those who “exaggerated the importance of technique
Our reporter, Comrade Winter, vainly tried in his short speech to induce the Congress to appraise the exact texts of the two resolutions. He was even obliged once to refuse to continue with his report. This was when he was about half-way through, and was reading the first clause of the Menshevik resolution: “The struggle is bringing to the fore front the direct task of wresting power from the autocratic government.” It transpired that our reporter, a member of the committee entrusted with drawing up a resolution on armed uprising, did not know that at the last moment this commit tee had submitted to the Congress a hectographed draft of the resolution in a new version, namely, the Menshevik section of the committee, headed by Plekhanov, proposed that the words “wresting rights by force” be substituted for the words “wresting power”.
This alteration of the text of the resolution submitted to the Congress, without the knowledge of the reporter, a member of the committee, was so flagrant a violation of all rules and customs of Congress procedure that in his indignation our spokesman refused to continue with his report. Only after lengthy “explanations” had been made by the Mensheviks did he agree to say a few words in conclusion.
The alteration was truly flabbergasting. A resolution on insurrection speaks, not of the struggle for power, but of the struggle for rights! Just imagine what incredible confusion this opportunist formula would have caused in the minds of the masses, and how absurd would have been the glaring discrepancy between the majesty of the means (insurrection) and the modesty of the aim (to wrest rights, i.e., to wrest rights from the old regime, to obtain concessions from the old regime, and not to overthrow it).
It goes without saying that the Bolsheviks attacked this amendment with the utmost vigour. The ranks of the Mensheviks wavered. Evidently they had convinced themselves that Plekhanov had again overdone it, and that in practice they would have a hard time of it trying to explain away this moderate and trim appraisal of the aims of insurrection. Plekhanov had to back out. He withdrew his amendment, saying that he did not attach any importance to what was, strictly speaking, merely a matter of “style”. This was only gilding the pill, of course. Everybody realised that it was not a matter of style at all.
Plekhanov’s amendment clearly revealed what the Mensheviks were aiming at on the question of insurrection: to invent dissuading arguments against insurrection, to repudiate the December uprising, to advise against launching another uprising, to nullify the aims of the insurrection, or define them in such a way as to rule out insurrection as a means of achieving them. But the Mensheviks could not bring themselves to say this straightforwardly and emphatically, plainly and openly. Their position was utterly false: to ex press their most cherished idea by veiled hints. The representatives of the proletariat can and should openly criticise its mistakes, but to do so in a veiled, ambiguous and vague form is quite unworthy of Social-Democrats. And the Menshevik resolution involuntarily expressed this ambiguous position: dissuading arguments against insurrection, along with a sham recognition of it by the “people”.
The talk about technique and conspiratorial methods was too obviously an attempt to distract attention, too crude an attempt to muffle up disagreements on the political appraisal of insurrection. To avoid making this appraisal, to avoid saying bluntly whether the December uprising was a step forward and had raised the movement to a higher plane, it was necessary to divert the discussion from politics to technique, from concrete appraisal of the events of December 1905 to generalities about conspiratorial methods. What a stain on Social-Democracy will be left by this talk about conspiracy in connection with such a people’s movement as the December struggle in Moscow!
You want to indulge in polemics, we said to the Menshevik comrades; you want to have a “dig” at the Bolsheviks; your resolution on insurrection is full of thrusts at those who disagree with you. Indulge in polemics as much as you like. It is your right and your duty. But don’t reduce the great question of appraising historic days to petty and pettifogging polemics. Don’t humiliate the Party by making it appear as if, in speaking of the December struggle of the workers, peasants and town petty bourgeoisie, it could do no better than snarl and dig at another Party group. Rise a little higher: write a special polemical resolution against the Bolsheviks, if you want to, but do give the proletariat and the whole people a plain, straightforward and unambiguous answer concerning insurrection.
You shout about the overrating of technique and about conspiratorial methods. But compare the two draft resolutions. In our resolution, you will not find technique, but historical and political material. You will find that it is based, not on bare and unprovable platitudes (“the object of the struggle is to wrest power”), but on facts taken from the history of the movement, from the political experience of the last quarter of 1905. You lay the blame at the door of another, for it is your resolution that is utterly lacking in historical and political material. It speaks of insurrection, but says not a word about the relation between strike and insurrection, not a word about how the struggle after October necessarily and inevitably led to insurrection; there is not a single plain and straightforward statement in it about December. It is in our resolution that insurrection appears, not as a call from conspirators, not as a question of technique, but as the political result of a very specific historical situation created by the October strike, by the promise of liberties, by the at tempt to withdraw these liberties and by the struggle to protect them.
Your phrases about technique and conspiracy are only a screen to cover up your retreat on the question of insurrection.
At the Congress, the Mensheviks’ resolution on insurrection was actually called “a resolution against armed uprising”. And anyone who at all carefully reads the texts of the two resolutions submitted to the Congress will hardly venture to challenge this statement.
Our arguments influenced the Mensheviks only in part. Whoever compares the draft of their resolution with the resolution they finally adopted will see that they deleted a number of really petty attacks and expressions. But the general spirit of the resolution remained unaltered, of course. It is ahistorical fact that a Menshevik-dominated Congress, held after the first armed uprising in Russia, betrayed bewilderment, evaded a straight answer, did not have the courage to tell the proletariat in plain language whether this insurrection had been a mistake or a step forward, whether a second insurrection was necessary, and what historical connection it would have with the first.
The evasiveness of the Mensheviks, who wanted to shelve the question of insurrection, who longed to do so but could not bring themselves to admit it, resulted in the question virtually remaining open. The Party still has to draw up its appraisal of the December uprising; and all Party organisations must devote the most serious attention to this matter.
The practical aspect of the question of insurrection is also still an open one. In the name of the Congress, it was admitted that the immediate (note this!) task of the movement is to “wrest power”. Why, this formulation is, if you will, ultra-Bolshevik: it reduces the whole matter to a phrase, the very thing that we were accused of doing. But since the Congress has said this, we must be guided by it. We must on these grounds very strongly criticise those local and central bodies and organisations of the Party that might forget this immediate task. On the basis of the Congress decision we can, and must, put this immediate task first in certain political situations. Nobody will have the right to object to this, for since the words “wrest rights” have been deleted, and we have secured recognition of “wresting power as the immediate task”, this will be wholly and entirely in accordance with the line laid down by the Congress.
We advise the Party organisations not to forget this, particularly at a time when our far-famed Duma is being so grossly snubbed by the autocratic government.
During the debate on armed uprising, Comrade Voyinov very aptly hit off the tight spot in which the Mensheviks had landed. To say “wrest rights” means expressing an utterly opportunist formula. To say “wrest power” means throwing away all weapons in the fight against the Bolsheviks. Now we know what orthodox Marxism and conspiratorial heresy are, said Voyinov ironically. “To wrest power” is orthodox: “to conquer power” is conspiracy....
The same speaker depicted the characteristics that are common to all Mensheviks in this connection. The Mensheviks, he said, are impressionists, people who yield to the mood of the moment. When the revolutionary tide rose and October-November 1905 arrived, Nachalo galloped off at breakneck speed, and went even more Bolshevik than the Bolsheviks. It galloped from democratic dictatorship to socialist dictatorship. But when the revolutionary tide turned, when enthusiasm ebbed and the Cadets rose to the top, the Mensheviks hastened to adjust themselves to this subdued mood. They now trot behind the Cadets, and disdainfully brush aside the October-December forms of struggle.
Highly interesting confirmation of the foregoing was provided at the Congress by a written statement from the Menshevik Larin. He submitted his statement to the Bureau, and it should therefore be fully recorded in the minutes. Larin ’s statement said that the Mensheviks had made a mistake in October-December by behaving like Bolsheviks. I heard verbal and informal protests against this “valuable admission” from individual Mensheviks at the Congress, but I will not vouch that these protests were expressed in speeches or statements.
Plekhanov’s speech was also edifying. He was talking (if I am not mistaken) about the seizure of power, but in doing so he made a very curious slip. I am opposed to the conspiratorial seizure of power, he exclaimed: but I am wholly in favour of the seizure of power on the lines of, say, the Convention during the great French Revolution.
We took Plekhanov at his word. Excellent, Comrade Plekhanov, I replied. Put what you have said in the resolution! Condemn conspiracy as sharply as you like—we Bolsheviks will whole-heartedly and unanimously vote for a resolution that recognises and recommends to the proletariat the seizure of power on the lines of the Convention. Condemn conspiracy, but recognise in your resolution a dictatorship like the Convention, and we will agree with you entirely and unreservedly. More than that. I guarantee that the moment you sign such a resolution the Cadets will stop praising you!
Comrade Voyinov also pointed to the glaring contradiction in which Comrade Plekhanov had landed as a result of his “slip of the tongue” about the Convention. The Convention was precisely a dictatorship of the lower classes, that is, of the lowest and poorest sections of the town and village population. In the bourgeois revolution this was a body with full powers, wholly and entirely dominated, not by the upper or middle bourgeoisie, but by the common people, the poor, that is, precisely those whom we call “the proletariat and the peasantry”. To recognise the Convention and to oppose the seizure of power means juggling with words. To recognise the Convention and be violently opposed to “the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” means defeating one’s own purpose. But the Bolsheviks have at all times and invariably spoken about the capture of power by the masses of the people, by the proletariat and the peasantry. and not by any “politically-conscious minority”. All the talk about conspiracy and Blanquism was just pious declamation, which evaporated at the mere mention of the Convention.
VII. The End of the Congress[edit source]
Armed uprising was the last question to be discussed more or less thoroughly and on principle at the Congress. The other questions were rushed through or decided without discussion.
The resolution on fighting guerrilla operations was adopt ed as an addendum to the resolution on armed uprising. I was not in the hall when it was taken; nor did I hear from any of the comrades that the debate on this question was at all interesting. Besides, this is not a question of principle, of course.
The resolution on trade unions and that on the attitude to be adopted towards the peasant movement were passed unanimously. In the committees which drafted these resolutions, the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks reached agreement. I will note that the resolution on the peasant movement contains an absolutely correct appraisal of the Cadet Party, and recognises insurrection as “the only means” of winning freedom. Both these points should be kept in mind more of ten in our day-to-day work of agitation.
The question of amalgamating with the national Social-Democratic parties took up a little more time. Amalgamation with the Poles was accepted unanimously. So was amalgamation with the Letts, I remember: at all events it was accepted without much discussion. There was a big battle, however, over the question of amalgamating with the Bund. As far as I remember, this was carried by 54 votes, or there abouts. Those voting in favour were the Bolsheviks (nearly all), the Centre, and the least factional-minded of the Mensheviks; It was agreed that the local guiding committees of the RSDLP should be joint committees, and that all delegates to congresses should be elected according to the general procedure. A resolution was adopted which recognises the necessity of striving for centralist principles of organisation (we proposed a resolution, worded differently, but to the same effect, in which we stressed the practical significance of the concession we had made to the Bund, and urged the necessity of a steady effort to unite the forces of the proletariat more closely and in more up-to-date fashion).
Some of the Mensheviks got quite heated over the amalgamation with the Bund, and accused us of departing from the principles laid down by the Second Congress. The best reply to this accusation is a reference to Partiiniye Izvestia, No. 2. In that issue, long before the Congress, the Bolsheviks published a draft resolution proposing a number of further concessions to all the national Social-Democratic parties, even to the extent of “proportional representation in the local, regional and central bodies of the Party”. In that same issue, No. 2 of Partiiniye Izvestia, the Mensheviks in reply to our resolution published a counter-resolution, in which there was not a single word to suggest that they disagreed with our proposal to make further concessions to the Bund and to the other national Social-Democratic parties.
I think that this is the best answer to the controversial question whether it was the Bolsheviks who voted for the Bund for factional reasons, or the Mensheviks who for factional reasons voted against the Bund.
The Party Rules were adopted very quickly. I was a member of the committee that drafted them. The Mensheviks wanted to raise the proportion of the Party membership necessary to authorise the convocation of an extraordinary congress to two-thirds of the membership. Together with my Bolshevik colleagues, I then emphatically declared that the slightest attempt to curtail that minimum of autonomy and of rights of the opposition which had been recognised in the Rules adopted by the factional Third Congress would inevitably lead to a split. It is up to you, Menshevik comrades, I said. If you choose to remain loyal to the agree ment and respect all the rights of the minority, all the rights of the opposition, then we will submit, we will elect our fellow-thinkers to the Central Committee and condemn a split. If you do not, then a split is inevitable.
The Mensheviks agreed to come down from two-thirds to one-half. The Rules were adopted unanimously, including Clause 1, and the principle of democratic centralism. Only two points gave rise to disagreement.
First, we proposed that a note be added to Clause 1, to the effect that members of the Party, on changing their place of residence, should have the right to belong to the local Party organisation.
The purpose of this note was to preclude petty squabbling, the ejection of dissidents from the organisation, and the refusal of Mensheviks to accept Bolsheviks and vice versa. The Party is growing. It is becoming a mass party. Fighting for posts must stop. All flue leading bodies in the Party are elected bodies. The local organisation of the Party, however, should be open to all members of the Party. Only this will prevent the ideological struggle from being besmirched by organisational squabbles.
In spite of our insistence, the Mensheviks rejected our note. But to prove that their intentions were loyal,they agreed to adopt the following resolution: “The Congress rejects this note solely because it considers it to be superfluous and self-evident” (I am quoting from memory, as I have not found the text of this resolution in my notes). It is very important to bear this resolution in mind in the event of any controversy and organisational friction arising.
The second point on which there was disagreement was the relation between the Central Committee and the Central Organ. The Mensheviks carried the point that the editorial board of the Central Organ is to be elected by the Congress and that the members of the editorial board are to act as members of the Central Committee when questions of policy are discussed (a vague point which will probably give rise to misunderstanding). The Bolsheviks, referring to the melancholy conflicts between writers in the Russian and German party press, advocated the appointment of the editorial board of the Central Organ by the Central Committee, the latter to have the right to dismiss the editors. In my opinion, the decision of the Mensheviks undoubtedly shows that there is something abnormal in the relations between the writers and the practical-political leaders in the Right wing of our Party.
As a curiosity, I must mention that at the Congress the Mensheviks endorsed the resolution of the Amsterdam International Socialist Congress on the attitude to be adopted towards bourgeois parties. This decision will go down in the history of our Social-Democratic congresses precisely as a curiosity. Are not all the decisions of international socialist congresses binding on the Social-Democratic parties of all countries? What point is there in singling out and endorsing one of these decisions? Who, has ever heard that a Social-Democratic party in any particular country has, instead of deciding its attitude towards a particular bourgeois party in its own country, taken its stand on the common attitude in all countries towards all bourgeois parties? Before the Congress, both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks drafted resolutions on the attitude to be adopted towards the bourgeois parties in Russia, in the Year of Our Lord 1906. If there was no time to examine this question at the Congress, then it ought to have been simply put off. But to choose this “middle” course of not examining the question of Russian parties, but of endorsing the international decision on the general question, was merely betraying one’s confusion to the world. It was like saying: as we haven’t the brains to decide what attitude to adopt towards the Russian parties, let us at least repeat the international decision. This was the most inept and ridiculous way of leaving the question open.
Yet the question is an extremely important one. The read er will find the draft resolutions of the Majority and the Minority in the appendix. We recommend those who are interested in this question (and which practical worker, agitator or propagandist is not?) to compare these drafts from time to time with the “lessons of the revolution”, that is, with the political facts about the life of various parties that experience in Russia today provides so amply. Whoever makes this comparison will see that the revolution is increasingly corroborating our appraisal of the two main trends among the bourgeois democrats: the liberal-monarchist (mainly, the Cadets) and the revolutionary-democratic trend.
The Menshevik resolution, however, bears obvious traces of the helplessness and confusion which led at the Congress to the curious device of endorsing the international decision. The Menshevik resolution consists entirely of generalities, and makes no attempt to solve (or indicate a solution of) the concrete problems of political life in Russia. We must criticise all parties, says this bewildered resolution: we must ex pose them, we must state that there are no really consistent democratic parties. But how the different bourgeois parties in Russia, or the different types of these parties, should be “criticised and exposed”, the resolution does not know. It says we must “criticise”, but it does not know how to criticise; for the Marxist criticism of bourgeois parties consists in a concrete analysis of the class basis of the different bourgeois parties, whatever it is. The resolution helplessly says there are no really consistent democratic parties. But it does not know how to define the different degrees of consistency of the Russian bourgeois-democratic parties that have already appeared and are appearing in the course of our revolution. The empty phrases and platitudes in the Menshevik resolution have even obscured the dividing lines of the three main types of bourgeois party in Russia: the Octobrist type, the Cadet type and the revolutionary-democratic type. And these our Right Social-Democrats, so ludicrously helpless when it comes to appraising the class foundations and trends of the various parties in bourgeois Russia, have the effrontery to accuse the Left Social-Democrats of “true socialism”, that is, of ignoring the historically concrete role of the bourgeois democrats! Now this is once again, indeed, laying the blame at someone else’s door.
I have digressed somewhat from my main subject; but I warned the reader at the very outset that I intended to combine my report on the Congress with a few ideas about the Congress. And I think that in order to be able to appraise the Congress intelligently, the members of the Party must ponder, not only over what the Congress did, but also over what the Congress left undone though it should not have. And every thinking Social-Democrat is beginning to realise more clearly every day the importance of a Marxist analysis of the different bourgeois-democratic parties in Russia.
The elections at the Congress took only a few minutes. Virtually, everything had been arranged before the general sessions. The Mensheviks took all five seats on the editorial board of the Central Organ. As for the Central Committee, we agreed to elect three persons to it, the other seven being Mensheviks. What the position of these three will be, as a kind of supervisors and guardians of the rights of the opposition, is something that only the future can tell.
VIII. The Congress Summed Up[edit source]
Summing up the work of the Congress and the effect it has had upon our Party, we must draw the following main Conclusions.
An important practical result of the Congress is the pro posed (partly already achieved) amalgamation with the national Social-Democratic parties. This amalgamation will strengthen the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. It will help to efface the last traces of the old circle habits. It will infuse a new spirit into the work of the Party. It will greatly enhance the might of the proletariat of all the peoples of Russia.
Another important practical result was the amalgamation of the Minority and Majority groups. The split has been stopped. The Social-Democratic proletariat and its Party must be united. Disagreements on organisation have been almost entirely eliminated. There remains an important, serious and extremely responsible task: really to apply the principles of democratic centralism in Party organisation, to work tirelessly to make the local organisations the principal organisational units of the Party in fact, and not merely in name, and to see to it that all the higher-standing bodies are elected, accountable, and subject to recall. We must work hard to build up an organisation that will include all the class-conscious Social-Democratic workers, and will live its own independent political life. The autonomy of every Party organisation, which hitherto has been largely a dead letter, must become a reality. The fight for posts, fear of the other “faction”, must be eliminated. Let us have really united Party organisations, in which there will only be a purely ideological struggle between different trends of Social-Democratic thought. It will not be easy to achieve this; nor shall we achieve it at one stroke. But the road has been mapped out, the principles have been proclaimed, and we must now work for the complete and consistent putting into effect of this organisational ideal.
We think that an important ideological result of the Congress is that there is now a clearer and more definite line of demarcation between the Right wing and the Left wing in Social-Democracy. There is a Right and a Left wing in all tile Social-Democratic parties in Europe; and their existence in our Party has been evident for a long time. A more distinct line of demarcation between the two, a clearer definition of the points of disagreement, is essential for the healthy development of the Party, for the political education of the proletariat, and for the checking of every inclination of the Social-Democratic Party to stray too far from the right path.
The Unity Congress has provided a wealth of practical, documentary material that will enable us to determine precisely and indisputably what we agree on, what we disagree on, and how much we disagree. This documentary material must be studied; we must know the facts which reveal the true nature and dimensions of the disagreement. We must wean ourselves of the old circle habits—vehemence, abuse and portentous accusations instead of earnest discussion of particular disagreements that have arisen on particular questions. And we have thought it essential to append to this pamphlet as much documentary material as possible on the Unity Congress, to enable the members of the Party to study the disagreements really independently instead of taking battered catch words on faith. This documentary material is dry, of course. Not everybody will have the patience and perseverance to read the draft resolutions and compare them with the resolutions that were adopted, to ponder over the significance of the different formulations of each point and of each sentence. But whoever takes a really intelligent interest in the decisions of the Congress cannot shirk such serious work.
And so, summing up what I have said above about the disputes at the Congress and the different trends of the draft resolutions that the Congress did not discuss (or post-poned), I come to the conclusion that the Congress has helped us a great deal to draw a more distinct line of demarcation between the Right wing and the Left wing in Social-Democracy.
The Right wing of our Party does not believe in the complete victory of the present, i.e., bourgeois-democratic, revolution in Russia; it dreads such a victory; it does not emphatically and definitely put the slogan of such a victory before the people. It is constantly being misled by the essentially erroneous idea, which is really a vulgarisation of Marxism, that only the bourgeoisie can independently “make” the bourgeois revolution, or that only the bourgeoisie should lead the bourgeois revolution. The role of the proletariat as the vanguard in the struggle for the complete and decisive victory of the bourgeois revolution is not clear to the Right Social-Democrats.
For example, they—or at all events some of their speakers at the Congress—advance the slogan of a peasant revolution, but they do not uphold this slogan consistently. They do not formulate in the programme a clear revolutionary line of propaganda and agitation among the people (seizure of the land by revolutionary peasant committees pending the national constituent assembly). They are afraid of expressing in the programme of the peasant revolution the idea that the revolutionary peasantry should seize power. In spite of their promises, they do not carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution in agriculture to its “logical” conclusion, for the only “logical” (and economic) conclusion under capitalism is the nationalisation of land, which abolishes absolute rent. They in vent an incredibly artificial middle course, with nationalisation cut up into local areas and with democratic Zemstvos under an undemocratic central government. They try to scare the proletariat with the bogy of restoration, not suspecting that they are clutching at the political weapon that the bourgeoisie uses against the proletariat, that they are bringing grist to the mill of the monarchist bourgeoisie.
And in their entire tactical line our Right Social-Democrats overrate the importance and role of the unstable, wavering, monarchist-liberal bourgeoisie (the Cadets, etc.) and under rate the importance of the revolutionary bourgeois democrats (the Peasant Union, the Trudovik Group in the Duma, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the numerous semi-political and semi-trade-union organisations, etc.). Their overrating of the Cadets and underrating of the revolutionary-democratic rank and file is very intimately linked with their mistaken views on the bourgeois revolution, referred to above. Our Right Social-Democrats are dazzled by the tawdry successes of the Cadets, by their glittering “parliamentary” victories and by their bombastic “constitutional” speeches. Beguiled by the politics of the moment, they forget the more fundamental and more important interests of democracy; they forget those forces which make less “noise” on the surface of the “constitutionalism” permitted by the Trepovs and Dubasovs, but which are doing much more profound, if less ostentatious, work among the revolutionary-democratic rank and file, preparing for conflicts of a not quite parliamentary character.
Hence the sceptical (to put it mildly) attitude of our Right Social-Democrats towards insurrection; hence their effort to brush aside the experience of October and December, and the forms of struggle that then arose. Hence their irresolution and passivity in the struggle against constitutional illusions, a struggle which comes into the forefront at every truly revolutionary juncture. Hence their failure to under stand the historical role of the boycott of the Duma, and their efforts to dodge the task of taking stock of the concrete conditions of the movement at any particular moment by use of the “biting” word “anarchism”. Hence their extraordinary eagerness to go into a pseudo-constitutional institution and hence their overrating of the positive role of this institution.
Against this tendency of our Right Social-Democrats we must wage a most determined, open and ruthless ideological struggle. We should seek the widest possible discussion of the decisions of the Congress. We must call upon every member of the Party to take a conscious and critical stand on these resolutions. We must see to it that every workers’ organisation, after making itself thoroughly familiar with the subject, declares whether it approves or disapproves of any particular decision. If we have really and seriously decided to introduce democratic centralism in our Party, and if we have resolved to draw the masses of the workers into intelligent decision of Party questions, we must have these questions discussed in the press, at meetings, in circles and at group meetings.
But in the united Party this ideological struggle must not split the organisations, must not hinder the unity of action of the proletariat. This is a new principle as yet in our Party life, and considerable effort will be needed to implement it properly.
Freedom of discussion, unity of action—this is what we must strive to achieve. The decisions of the Unity Congress allow sufficient scope for all Social-Democrats in this respect. Practical measures on the lines of “municipalisation” are still a long way off; but in the matter of supporting the revolutionary activities of the peasantry, and of criticising petty-bourgeois utopias, all Social-Democrats are agreed among themselves. Hence we must discuss municipal isation, and condemn it, without being afraid of hindering the unity of action of the proletariat.
As regards the Duma, the situation is somewhat different. During elections there must be complete unity of action. The Congress has decided: we will all take part in elections, wherever they take place. During elections there must be no criticism of participation in elections. Action by the proletariat must be united. We shall all and always regard the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, whenever it is formed, as our Party group.
But beyond the bounds of unity of action there must be the broadest and freest discussion and condemnation of all steps, decisions and tendencies that we regard as harmful. Only through such discussions, resolutions and protests can the real public opinion of our Party be formed. Only on this condition shall we be a real Party, always able to express its opinion, and finding the right way to convert a definitely formed opinion into the decisions of its next congress.
Take the third resolution that caused disagreement, the one on insurrection. Here unity of action in the midst of the struggle is absolutely essential. In the heat of battle, when the proletarian army is straining every nerve, no criticism whatever can be permitted in its ranks. But before the call for action is issued, there should be the broadest and freest discussion and appraisal of the resolution, of its arguments and its various propositions.
Thus we have a very wide field. The resolutions of the Congress provide plenty of scope. Any infatuation with quasi-constitutionalism, any exaggeration of the “positive” role of the Duma by anybody, any appeals of the extreme Right Social-Democrats for moderation and sobriety— we have in our possession a most powerful weapon against them. This weapon is Clause 1 of the Congress resolution on insurrection.
The Unity Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party has recognised that the immediate task of the movement is to wrest power from the autocratic government. Whoever forgets about this immediate task, whoever attempts to push it into the background, will infringe the will of the Congress; and we shall fight all who are guilty of this in the sternest fashion.
I repeat: there is plenty of scope from the parliamentary group to the immediate task of wresting power. Within these wide limits, the ideological struggle can and must proceed without causing a split, without affecting the unity of action of the proletariat.
And we call upon all Social-Democrats who do not want our Party to stray too far to the right to join in this ideological struggle.
Appendix. Material for Appraising the Work of the Unity Congress of the RSDLP[edit source]
To enable the reader, pending the publication of the minutes of the Congress, to study the questions that were discussed at the Congress with the aid of the records concerned, we append herewith the draft resolutions submitted to the Congress by the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks respectively, together with the texts of the resolutions adopted by the Congress. As we have already stated in the pamphlet, only by studying this material can one gain a clear and precise idea of the true significance of the ideological struggle at the Congress. We also append the more important resolutions that appeared in Partiiniye Izvestia, No. 2, and which were not discussed at the Congress, or not brought up there; for all the delegates had these in mind during the debates and sometimes quoted them, but unless one reads them, one cannot fully understand the nature of the disagreements.
- Revolutionary Ukrainian Party (R.U.P.)—a petty-bourgeois, nationalist organisation founded early in 1900. In December 1905, it renamed itself the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Labour Party (U.S.D.L.P.), and decided to join the RSDLP, provided it was recognised as “the sole representative of the Ukrainian proletariat”, within the RSDLP The Fourth (Unity) Congress of the RSDLP rejected the proposal which the U.S.D.L.P. spokesman had made for the immediate discussion of the terms of a merger, and referred the matter to the Central Committee for decision. No agreement was reached on a merger. Subsequently the U.S.D.L.P. found itself in the camp of the bourgeois-nationalist counter-revolution.
- The Credentials Committee elected at the first session of the Congress was composed of two Bolsheviks, two Mensheviks and one so-called “neutral”, who was in fact a conciliator (he headed the Committee). The Congress approved the terms of reference of the Committee and passed Lenin’s draft resolution, which made it a duty of the Committee to submit written reports to the Congress. The work of the Committee and the discussion of its reports at the plenary sessions of the Congress took place in an atmosphere of intense struggle between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Relations became particularly strained at the sixth session of the Congress over the Committee proposal to cancel the credentials of Artamonov (F. A. Sergeyev, or Artyom), a Bolshevik delegate from the Kharkov organisation. The Bolsheviks on the Committee declared that they were leaving the Committee, and then the Congress elected a new Committee made up of Mensheviks and conciliators.
- The protest of the Tiflis workers against the powers of the Menshevik delegation, signed by 200 persons, was read at the twentieth session of the Congress. It said that in drawing up the lists of Party members the Tiflis Mensheviks had ignored the Rules of the RSDLP, and had included chance people in the list. The Mensheviks had “discovered” over 3,000 Party members in Tiflis. The worker Social-Democrats of Tiflis maintained in their protest that the city could not be represented at the Congress by as many as 11 delegates.
- The minutes of the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the RSDLP, published in 1007, had serious shortcomings—they did not contain records of a number of reports and speeches made at the Congress, specifically by Lenin.
- See p. 149 of this volume.—Ed.
- Schmidt—P. P. Rumyantsev, who at the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the RSDLP adhered to the Bolsheviks.
- See p. 194 of this volume.—Ed.
- My draft said “confiscated”. Comrade Borisov quite rightly remarked that this was a wrong formula. We should say “seized”. Confiscation is the legal recognition of seizure, its legalisation. We should advance the slogan of confiscation. To put it into effect, we should call upon the peasants to seize the land. This seizure by the peasantry must he recognised, legalised, by the national constituent assembly, which, as the supreme organ of a sovereign people, will transform seizure into confiscation by passing a law to that effect.—Lenin
- The reference is to the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861.
- Klyuchevsky, V. 0. (1841-1911) and Yefimenko, A. Y. (1848-1919)— prominent Russian historians.
- Demyan—I. A. Teodorovich.
- “Demyan Hash”—title of a fable by I. A. Krylov.
- We say “perhaps”, because it is still an open question whether these closest ties between the small proprietor and his “plot” are not the most reliable bulwark of Bonapartism. But this is not the place to go into the details of this concrete question.—Lenin
- Kostrov—N. N. Jordania, Caucasian Menshevik leader.
- It was because Plekhanov’s programme does not say this that we, at the Congress, had every right to put this new interpretation of municipalisation on a par with the “revolutionary local self-govern ment” advocated by the Mensheviks. But it was none other than Plekhanov who, after the Bolsheviks had explained the point at great length, was compelled to admit that the slogan of “revolutionary local self- government” explained nothing and, indeed, misled many people (see Dnevnik, No. 5). Even in Vperyod and Proletary, the Bolsheviks bad already said that the slogan of “revolutionary local self-government” was inadequate and incomplete, that it did not express the conditions of the complete victory of the revolution It is not revolutionary local self-government that is needed for such a victory, but revolutionary authority; and not only local revolutionary authorities, but also a central revolutionary authority. (See present edition, Vol. 9, pp. 179-87, 212-23, 356-73.—Ed.) —Lenin
- See p. 109 of this volume—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 9, pp. 240-45.—Ed.
- Voyinov—the Bolshevik A. V. Lunacharsky.
- See pp. 242-70 of this volume.—Ed.
- Lenin is quoting Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 405).
- See pp. 194-95 of this volume.—Ed.
- The sharpest criticism of Maslov’s “castrated” programme was uttered at the Congress by a Menshevik comrade (Strumilin), an advocate of partial division. He read a written statement in which he very aptly and ruthlessly exposed—perhaps it would be more correct to say flayed—the inherent contradictions in the programme as it finally emerged. Unfortunately, I did not take any notes of his speech.—Lenin
- I have put in inverted commas the words that I have found in my notes.—Lenin
- Boris Nikolayevich—the Menshevik B. I. Soloveichik.
- Nevskaya Gazeta (The Neva Newspaper)—a legal Menshevik paper published in St. Petersburg in May 1906.
- Shipov’s slogan “Rights and an Authoritative Zemstvo”, which Struve supported in his introduction to Finance Minister Witte’s memorandum “The Autocracy and the Zemstvo”, was criticised by Lenin in the article “The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism” (see present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 31-50).
- Trudoviks (from trud, “labour”)—a group of petty-bourgeois democrats in the Russian Duma, consisting of peasants and also of Narodnik-minded intellectuals. The Trudovik Group was constituted in April 1906 from the peasant deputies to the First Duma.
The demands of the Trudoviks included the abolition of all restrictions based on the social-estates and on nationality, the democratisation of the Zemstvos and town self-government bodies, and universal suffrage in the elections to the Duma. The Trudovik agrarian programme proceeded from the Narodnik principle of equalised land tenure: the formation of a national fund made up of state, crown and monastery lands, and also of private estates where they exceeded the established labour norm, with provision for compensation in the case of confiscated private estates. Lenin pointed out that the typical Trudovik is a peasant who “is not averse to a compromise with the monarchy, to settling down quietly on his own plot of land under the bourgeois system; hut at the present time his main efforts are concentrated on the fight against the land lords for land, on the fight against the feudal state for democracy”. (See present edition, Vol. 11, p. 229.)
In the Duma the Trudoviks vacillated between the Cadets and the Social-Democrats, their vacillations being due to the very class nature of the peasants, who are petty proprietors. Since the Trudoviks represented the peasant masses, the tactics of the Bolsheviks in the Duma were to arrive at agreements with them on individual issues with a view to waging a joint struggle against the Cadets and the tsarist autocracy.
In 1917, the Trudovik Group merged with the “Popular Socialist” Party, and gave active support to the bourgeois Provisional Government. After the October Revolution of 1917, the Trudoviks sided with the bourgeois counter-revolution.
- Nazar—the Bolshevik N. N. Nakoryakov.
- See pp. 303-04 of this volume.—Ed.
- For the Central Committee instructions on the parliamentary group, which were approved by the Unity Congress, see The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses, Conferences, and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Moscow, 1953, Part 1, pp. 137-332, Russ. ed.
- Duma—a daily evening newspaper published by the Right wing of the Cadet Party in St. Petersburg from April 27 (May 10) to June 13 (26), 1906. Its editor was P. B. Struve, and among its contributors were S. A. Kotlyarevsky, P. I. Novgorodtsev, I. I. Petrunkevich, F. I. Rodichev, L. N. Yasnopoisky and ether members of the First Duma.
- “Economism”—an opportunist trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, a variety of international opportunism. The newspaper Rabochaya Mysl (Workers’ Thought) (1897-1902) and the magazine Rabocheye Dyelo (The Workers’ Cause) (1899-1902) were organs of the “Economists”, whom Lenin called Russian Bernsteinians and whose programme was set forth in the so-called Credo, written in 1899 by Y. D. Kuskova.
The “Economists” limited the tasks of the working class to an economic struggle for higher wages, better working conditions, etc., asserting that the political struggle was the concern of the liberal bourgeoisie. They denied the leading role of the party of the working class, considering that the party should merely observe the spontaneous process of the movement and register events. In deference to spontaneity in the working-class movement, the Economists belittled the significance of revolutionary theory and class-consciousness, asserted that socialist ideology could arise out of the spontaneous movement of the workers, denied the necessity of socialist consciousness to he brought into the working-class movement by a Marxist party, and thereby paved the way for bourgeois ideology. Tile “Economists”, who denied the need for a centralised working-class party, favoured a sporadic and amateurish Social-Democratic movement. “Economism” threatened to divert the working class from the class revolutionary path and to turn it into a political appendage of the bourgeoisie.
The views of the “Economists” were thoroughly criticised in Lenin’s writings “A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats” (direct ed against Credo; written in Siberian exile in 1899, it was signed by 17 exiled Marxists), “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy”, “Apropos of the ‘Profession de Foi’", and “A Talk with Defenders of Economism” (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 167-82, 255-85, 286-96 and Vol. 5, pp. 313-20). Lenin completed the ideological defeat of “Economism” in his book What Is To Be Done? (see present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 347-529). Lenin’s Iskra played a major part in the struggle against “Economism”.
- In order to help the reader to study the debates at the Congress intelligently and critically, I print in the appendix the texts of the first drafts of the resolutions of the Majority and of the Minority, and the texts of the resolutions adopted by the Congress. Only by carefully studying and comparing these texts can one arrive at an independent opinion on the question of Social-Democratic tactics.—Lenin
- See pp. 159-60 of this volume.—Ed.
- I will remind the reader that in my pamphlet, Social-Democracy and the State Duma (published together with an article by Dan), I pointed out before the Congress that the trend that remained in the minority must be ensured freedom to criticise the decisions of the Congress and freedom to agitate for another Congress (p. 8). (See p. 111 of this volume.—Ed.)—Lenin
- The recent “affair” of the six editors of Vorwärts who made quite a fuss because they had been dismissed by the Executive Committee of the German Social-Democratic Party.”—LeninOn October 24, 1905, Vorwärts carried in its issue No. 249 a communication of the Central Executive of the German Social-Democratic Party of October 23, 1905, on the changes made in the editorial board of Vorwärts. Six editors who belonged to the revisionist trend in the Party bad been removed and persons belonging to the Left wing of the Party included in the renewed editorial board. Rosa Luxemburg had been assigned a key role in the paper.
- The Amsterdam Congress of the Second International was held from August 14-20 (N. 5.), 1904. Its attitude to bourgeois parties was expressed in the resolution “International Rules for Socialist Tactics”. The resolution forbade socialists to enter bourgeois governments, and rejected co-operation between socialist and bourgeois parties.
- I have just received a copy of Karl Kautsky’s new pamphlet entitled The State Duma. His formulation of the question of the boycott and that of the Mensheviks are as wide apart as heaven and earth. Our would-be Social-Democrats, like Negorev in Nevskaya Gazeta, clumsily blurt out: the boycott is anarchism! But Kautsky, after analysing the concrete conditions, writes: “Under these conditions it is not surprising that the majority of our Russian comrades regarded the Duma convened in this way as nothing more than a most outrageous travesty of popular representation, and decided to boycott it “It is not surprising that the majority of our Russian comrades thought it more expedient to fight in order to wreck this Duma and secure the convocation of a constituent assembly, than to take part in the election campaign for the purpose of getting into this Duma.”
Oh, how we should like to have Axelrod’s platitudes about the benefits of parliamentarism and the harmfulness of anarchism published soon, as a parallel to Kautsky’s historically concrete appraisal!
By the way. This is what Kautsky says about the victory of the revolution in the same pamphlet: “The peasants and the proletariat will more and more vigorously and unceremoniously push the members of the Duma to the left [this is what Nevskaya Gazeta would contemptuously call “the crude exposure of the Cadets”], will weaken and paralyse their opponents more and more until they have utterly defeated them.” Thus the peasantry and the proletariat will defeat “them” that is, both the government and the liberal bourgeoisie. Poor Kautsky! He does not realise that only the bourgeoisie can make a bourgeois revolution. He is uttering a “Blanquist” heresy: the victory (“dictator ship”) of the proletariat and the peasantry.—Lenin