Special pages :
The Lettish Workers and the Split in the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma
Workers who read the liquidationist press know how often the Russian liquidators have boasted about the Lettish Marxist workers being on their side. When the liquidators split the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, they also repeatedly referred to the Letts. “Nobody would think of accusing the Lettish Social-Democratic workers of repudiating the ‘underground’,” they wrote, “and yet these Lettish workers are on our side.”
Those who knew the facts never doubted that the liquidators were ... deviating from the truth. When the question of the Six and the Seven came up for discussion, the overwhelming majority of these Lettish workers declared in favour of the Six. Pravda published scores of resolutions passed by many hundreds of Lettish Social-Democratic workers and quite a number of groups in Riga, Mitau, Libau, and other centres, in defence of the stand taken by the six workers’ deputies. Next after St. Petersburg, the city that expressed itself most emphatically on this question was Riga, that important Lettish working-class centre. The resolutions passed by the overwhelming majority of Riga workers breathed a spirit of ardent devotion to the ideas of consistent Marxism, and of sincere indignation with the liquidators.
But one thing is true: eager support for the liquidators and their Seven came from the Lettish “leadership”. The Lettish newspaper, which was then controlled by the liquidators, published articles against the Six which, by their scandalous tone and liquidationist content, put them on a par with the articles published in the St. Petersburg organ of the Russian liquidators.
True, only a very insignificant number of the Lettish workers supported the liquidationist campaign. The “leading” body, however, was on the side of the liquidators, and they continued to speak “on behalf of” the Lettish organised proletariat....
But some time elapsed; and representatives of all Lettish Marxist workers met. Naturally, the question of the split in the Duma Social-Democratic group was a high point in their proceedings. The “leading” liquidators did everything they possibly could to back the Seven, or, at least, to get the question shelved. Alas, they failed. Through their official representatives the Lettish Social-Democratic workers adopted the following resolution (we quote it verbatim, except for unavoidable changes):
“The split in the Social-Democratic group in the Duma.
“Representatives of all the Lettish Marxist workers express their profound regret over the split in the Social-Democratic group in the Duma and are of the opinion that this split was the inevitable consequence of the split outside the group, among the Russian Marxists.
“They emphasise that the unity of the group is essential, and declare that this unity can be achieved:
“1) if unity is based on the decisions adopted by the supreme institutions of the Marxist body prior to the split in the latter, namely, the Programme of the Marxist body, its Rules, the London decisions, the decisions of the all-Russia representative body of the Marxists of December 1908 and of January 1910;
“2) if a mode of joint activity is found, which will safeguard the rights of the minority in the group.
“The Lettish Marxist workers instruct their leading body to support all steps towards unity in keeping with the views expressed in this resolution.”
Such is the resolution. As the reader will see, its gist is that recognition of the old Marxist body is made an essential condition of unity. With those who do not recognise the Programme, Rules, and decisions of 1907, 1908 and 1910, unity is impossible. That is what the Lettish workers said. And that is what makes the Lettish resolution so important.
Conciliatory trends were undoubtedly very strong at the Lettish Congress. The Letts did not want to tell the liquidationist group in the Duma plainly and bluntly that it was a group of splitters, who were flouting the will of the workers, and that they ought to resign from the Duma. They did not want to do that, evidently because the Lettish minority does not go to the same lengths as the Russian liquidators, and also because the Letts still have hopes of a possible reconciliation with the Chkheidze group.
At all events, the Lettish workers formulated precise and clear conditions of unity.
How are the issues that split the group in the Duma resolved from the point of view of the Lettish resolution?
The Letts demand, firstly, acceptance of the Programme. This means that they condemn advocacy of the famous “cultural-national autonomy” from the Duma rostrum. For the Programme officially rejected this demand, and even liquidator L. Martov has admitted that “cultural-national autonomy” is scarcely in keeping with the Programme. If unity is to become possible, the liquidators must renounce cultural-national autonomy. Such is the meaning of the Lettish reply to the first point at issue.
Next comes the dispute about admitting deputy Jagiello into the group. How do the Lettish workers settle this dispute? They say: see the decision of December 1908. We take up this document, look and read:
“On amalgamation with the P.S.P. Left-wing.
“After hearing the proposal of our Menshevik comrades concerning amalgamation with the P.S.P. Left-wing, the all-Russia representative, body of the Marxists proceeds without debate to the order of the day.” (See Report, p. 46.)
The thing is clear. The all-Russia decision of 1908 flatly rejected the proposal to amalgamate with Jagiello’s party in any shape or form. The liquidators violated this decision. Consequently, they must reverse their splitting decision concerning Jagiello.
Further, the Letts demand acceptance of all decisions on points of principle adopted in December 1908 and January 1910. What are these decisions? And how do they appraise liquidationism? We take the documents concerned and read:
“Whereas in a number of areas attempts have been observed on the part of some of the Party intelligentsia to liquidate the ‘underground’ and to substitute for it an amorphous federation acting at all costs within the limits of legality, even at the cost of openly abandoning the programme, tactics and traditions of the Marxist body ... holds that it is necessary to wage a relentless struggle against the liquidators’ attempts, and calls upon all truly Marxist workers, irrespective of group or trend, to offer the most strenuous resistance to these attempts.”
This is how the 1908 decisions condemned liquidationism (see p. 38 of the Report). The Letts demanded acceptance of these decisions.
Next come the decisions of January 1910. Here we read: “The historical situation in the Social-Democratic movement in the period of bourgeois counter-revolution inevitably gives rise—as a manifestation of the bourgeois influence on the proletariat—to ... repudiation of the illegal Party, belittling of its role and importance, and attempts to whittle down the programmatic and tactical tasks and the slogans of the entire body of Marxists.”
Thus did the decisions of 1910 condemn liquidationism. And it was the Letts again who demanded recognition of these decisions by the liquidators.
The Lettish resolution was adopted unanimously. Even the Lettish liquidators who were present dared not vote against it. They had received a sufficiently severe lesson from the Lettish workers, who respect the “underground” and recognise the decisions of the old body of Marxists. To vote against this resolution would have meant defying the whole Lettish proletariat and losing their last supporters among the workers.
Such were the decisions of the Lettish workers (over three thousand organised workers being represented).
In a very polite form, without using a single harsh word, but nonetheless firmly and emphatically, the Lettish workers said to the Chkheidze group:
“Do you want unity? Then recognise the extremely important decisions of the old body of Marxists, retract your violations of the Programme and decisions of 1908–10, repudiate those who have repudiated the ‘underground’; in short, take your stand on the basis of Marxism.”
The last really workers’ organisation, in whose name the Chkheidze group tried to speak, turned its back on that group. As was to be expected, only a handful of liquidators now support the seven deputies who are inclining towards liquidationism. The proletarian element is abandoning or has already abandoned them.
A group without workers—such is the liquidationist group in the Duma.
After the Letts’ decision, this is now absolutely indisputable.
- ↑ Lenin is referring to the Fourth Congress of the Social-Democrats of the Lettish Region held on January 13–26 (January 26–February 8), 1914, in Brussels.
Lenin, who took an active part in organising and conducting the Congress, carried on a busy pre-congress correspondence with the Bolsheviks of Latvia and went to Berlin and Paris to meet them to settle questions pertaining to preparations for the Congress, its composition, the possible outcome of the struggle at the Congress, etc. At the Congress Lenin made a report on the Lettish Social-Democrats’ attitude to the RSDLP and the split in the Duma group, and took part in the meeting of the Bolshevik delegates, whom he helped with the drafting of resolutions. On the evening of January 12 (25), 1914, the day before the Congress, Lenin gave a lecture on the national question to the Congress delegates in Brussels, in which he expounded the theory and tactics of Bolshevism in the national question. Lenin called upon the Marxists of Latvia to strengthen real, not imaginary, unity of the Party, and defend its ranks against the vacillators and the liquidators, who were openly betraying the cause the working class.
Lenin drew extensively upon the resolutions of the Fourth Congress of the Lettish Social-Democrats in his struggle against the liquidators and Trotskyists. (See the articles in this volume: “The Lettish Workers and the Split in the Social-Democratic Group In the Duma”, “The ‘August’ Fiction Exposed”, “The Liquidators and the Lettish Working-Class Movement” and others.) As a result of the stiff struggle against conciliatory tendencies waged at the Congress by Lenin and the Lettish Bolsheviks, they succeeded in securing the withdrawal of the Lettish Social-Democrats from the-August bloc. Lenin called this withdrawal a “deadly blow” at the Trotskyist alliance.
- ↑ Lenin is quoting from the resolution of the Fourth Congress of the Lettish Social-Democrats “with the unavoidable changes”, necessitated by the tsarist censorship. Thus, instead of the words “Congress of the Social-Democrats of the Lettish Region”, he uses the phrase “representatives of all the Lettish Marxist workers”; instead of “the RSDLP” he uses the words “the Marxist body”; instead of “the Fifth All-Russia Conference of 1908 and the Plenum of the CC of the RSDLP of 1910” he says “the all-Russia representative body of the Marxists of December 1908 and January 1910”; instead of “C. C. of the Social-Democrats of the Lettish Region” he uses the phrase “their leading body”.
- ↑ Lenin is referring to the decisions of the Fifth (London) Congress of the RSDLP of 1907, the Fifth All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP of 1908 and the Plenum of the CC of the RSDLP of 1910