The First Step (1905)

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Knock, and it shall be opened unto you, we said after reading the Party Council’s resolution of March 10, 1905, in Iskra, No. 91. No sooner had the news of the Council’s resolution of March 8, 1905, and our answer in issue No. 10 of Vperyod[1] reached Russia, than we find ourselves confronted with a remarkable new change of front on the part of the Council, a change for which we can only congratulate our comrades of the new Iskra with all our heart and wish them to take a further step in the same direction.

The Council’s resolution of March 10 addresses itself to the participants at the Third Party Congress that is being convened by the Russian Bureau, proposing that the Congress accept the mediation of the German Party and of Bebel to wards restoring Party unity, and expresses the Council’s consent to send two representatives to the Congress for talks on implementing the idea of arbitration.

In taking this first step “on the new path”, the Council, of course, could not help employing some of its old methods; it could not help repeating an untruth, the inherent absurdity of which we exposed in Vperyod, No. 10, namely, that the Congress, which is being called by a majority of the Russian committees, is not a Party Congress, but that “an insignificant group of Party members” wants “to force its decisions on the real majority of the Party”. These ruses would be pathetic were they not so ridiculous, and we should not care to dwell on them again, all the more so since our attention now is naturally drawn to the new step taken by the Council, which at last (at long last!) has realised the importance of the Party Congress as a means of resolving the Party crisis and has finally made the first, albeit feeble, timid, and inconsistent attempt—but still an attempt—to look at things simply, to call a spade a spade, and to essay a path, a “new path”, for restoring Party unity by means of direct talks between the two sections of the Party that arose after the Second Congress.

Excellent! It should have been done long ago. The party of the proletariat would have been spared many months of excruciating, senseless, drawn-out crisis and clandestine splitting. A slightly more serious and sincere desire to reckon openly and frankly with the will of the Party functionaries working in Russia would have helped Russian Social-Democracy out of its temporary state of disintegration a full year ago. Yes, a year ago, even sooner.

It was at the end of January 1904. The Party Council met for the first time to discuss the new situation in the Party and the Party crisis, with Plekhanov, Axelrod, Martov, Vasilyev,[2] and Lenin attending. The last two, members of the Central Committee and adherents of the Majority, saw clearly that the Party had in tact already been split by the Minority and that the clandestine character of the split brought an unspeakable corruption into the Party and demoralised it completely, in that it left one side free to employ the most reckless “brawling” methods, while the other side was in duty bound to abide by the general decisions. The clandestine split of the Party (in its moral and political significance and in its moral and political consequences) stands to an open split approximately in the same relation as clandestine adultery to open free love.

Thus, the above-mentioned Council members proposed a resolution (January 28, 1904), which was published in full by Shakhov (The Struggle for the Congress, p. 81), in which the Bolsheviks, although outnumbered by their opponents both on the Editorial Board and in the Council, the highest Party body, were the first to raise their voice for peace in the Party, in view of the crucial problems of the historic moment. The Bolsheviks drew there a clear line between the necessary and inevitable ideological struggle, on the one hand, and the “mean brawling”, disorganisation, petty rivalry, boycott, etc., on the other. They asked the Party Council to call on all Party members to “sink their petty differences as quickly as possible and keep the ideological struggle once and for all within such limits as would not lead to breaches of the Rules and not hamper practical activities and constructive work”. We have so many Party members with short memories who like to speak of the Party’s independent activity, but prefer idle gossip to a study of the documents bearing on our Party split, that we urgently recommend to all comrades desiring to have an understanding of Party affairs that they take a look at page 81 of the pamphlet The Struggle for the Congress.

The Mensheviks, of course, rejected the resolution pro posed by Lenin and Vasilyev and adopted (Plekhanov, Martov, and Axelrod) a resolution asking the Central Committee to “co-opt” the Mensheviks. Since the Central Committee had on November 26, 1903, agreed to co-opt two Mensheviks of its own choice, this resolution of the Council could only mean that three definite individuals were being forced upon the CC Now the entire Party knows from published documents (Lenin’s Statement)[3] that it was because of these “three” that differences on points of principle were invented and a “mean brawling” was engaged in up to November 1904. In reply to the resolution on co-optation, Lenin and Vasilyev submitted a dissenting report (Shakhov, p. 84), which likewise we recommend to the uninformed and the forgetful to read for their own edification. This report stated that these members of the CC “positively and emphatically fail to see any honest and right way out of the present Party dissensions, any way of stopping this impermissible struggle over the composition of the centres other than the immediate convocation of a Party congress

The Mensheviks, of course, are sabotaging the Congress. No reminders that at the Congress compromises of all kinds are permissible, that otherwise the struggle will assume the same revolting form as clandestine and mercenary love, produce any effect on them. Incidentally, while such tactics may be natural and understandable in the case of the Mensheviks, seeing that they have decided not to be embarrassed by “mercenary love”, in the case of the conciliator Plekhanov this is an enormous mistake, which has become obvious during the further progress of the crisis. Now anybody and everybody sees, and knows from the facts (namely, from the facts of Glebov[4] and Company’s subsequent behaviour) that had Plekhanov voted in January 1904 for a Congress, the Congress would have been convened very quickly and such an imposing conciliatory party would have been formed at the Congress that it would have given no preponderance whatever to either the Majority or the Minority. We repeat, this is no mere conjecture, but a reflection that has been definitely confirmed by the subsequent course of events. But Plekhanov, too, preferred “mercenary love”, viz., a clandestine split, to an attempt to talk things over directly and openly until a definite agreement would be achieved.

What do we see now? The Mensheviks have to accept, albeit timidly, inconsistently, and belatedly, the solution proposed by the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks stuck to their guns and succeeded in having the Congress called, rightly maintaining that if the two “better halves” are not destined to go on “cohabiting”, they must part openly.

Better late than never, of course, and we heartily welcome even this timid step taken by the Council, its readiness to send two “representatives”. But we absolutely object to the timidity and inconsistency of this move. Why do you want to send to the Congress only two representatives from the Council abroad, gentlemen? Why not representatives from all Party organisations? The members of the Russian Bureau of Committees of the Majority have, as you know, invited everybody to the Congress, and have specially sent registered letters to the Editorial Board, to the Council, and to the League. Why this strange and inexplicable contradiction? On the one hand, when it came to securing a hypocritical peace with the three knights-errant of the Central Committee (in deliberate violation of the will of the Committees of the Majority) you did not rest content with sending “two representatives” from the Council, but canvassed all the committees and organisations of the Minority, as was openly stated in issue No. 83 of Iskra. On the other hand, when it comes to securing real peace with the entire Party, you send for “direct talks” only two representatives, and those from the Council abroad alone. Where are the Russian Mensheviks, with whom it is a hundred times more important for us to come to terms than with a coterie of littérateurs? Where are the workers, the members and spokesmen of the organisations—those very workers whom you incited against the Second Congress, and about whose independent activity you shouted so much? Where are Comrades Akimov and Brouckère, Makhov and Yegorov (or their friends and comrades-in-idea), who, quite consistently from their point of view, supported the Mensheviks without, however, compromising themselves, i.e., without taking part in the co-optation squabbles? Where are Comrade Krichevsky and the other former “Economists”, with whom you are supposed to have made peace, as Plekhanov and many others have asserted in the new Iskra? Where is Comrade Ryazanov, your solidarity with whom on many points we can also understand, but who nevertheless refused to join the League, because it was a Menshevik organisation?

Perhaps you will say that all these comrades have no credentials? But then you yourselves write a letter to the Congress “waiving all formalities”!

No, gentlemen, you will not satisfy us with half-measures, nor can you butter our parsnips with fine words. If you really want, speaking frankly and without “formalities”, to work together, in the ranks of a single organisation, then come to the Congress, all of you, and invite all the comrades who are divided from us only in matters of ideology and not of co-optation. Then reckon with the “good will of revolutionaries”, to which you so fatuously referred when trying to hide from the Congress, and which alone can positively and conclusively decide the fate of the whole Party represented at the Congress. Then look for mediators capable of influencing the “good will” of all members of the Congress. We shall heartily welcome every such mediator.

Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.... What we Bolsheviks have achieved by our open struggle is that we have come very close to a possibly direct and unequivocal way out of the crisis. We have succeeded in getting the Congress. We have succeeded in getting the Mensheviks to change over from the drill-sergeant methods of the Party Council that has been left without a party to a straightforward, open offer of direct negotiations. Whether or not the Council will be sensible and honest enough to take the second step along the “new path”, we are convinced in any case that we shall win the complete victory of the Party principle over circle narrowness.

  1. See pp. 225-27 of this volume.—Ed.
  2. Vasilyev—the Bolshevik F. V. Lengnik.
  3. See present edition, Vol. 7, pp. 529-39—-Ed.—Lenin
  4. Glebov—V. A. Noskov; was elected to the Central Committee by the Second Congress of the RSDLP In the summer of 1904 he deserted the Bolsheviks and adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the Mensheviks.