The Situation in the RSDLP and the Immediate Tasks of the Party
|Written||16 July 1912|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 18, pages 150-157.
The RSDLP has passed through unprecedentedly hard years of rampant counter-revolution and is now on the right way to re-establishing its organisation and increasing its forces and its guiding influence on the Russian proletariat, which dealt powerful blows at the autocracy in 1905 and will destroy it in the coming revolution.
The hard years 1908–11 were years of division; it was in that period that the present Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania, which had joined our Party in 1906 and had marched with us Bolsheviks against the Menshevik opportunists, seceded from the RSDLP
The worker Social-Democrats of Poland should make a critical appraisal of this secession of the present Executive from the RSDLP Therefore I very gladly accept the proposal of the Warsaw Committee of the S.D.P. of Poland and Lithuania that I should briefly explain in Gazeta Robotnicza the causes of the division in the Party and the sorry role which the present Executive played in it, and should point out the immediate tasks of the Social-Democratic proletariat of all Russia.
Our comrades, the Polish workers, are familiar with the differences existing between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks during the revolution of 1905. A number of prominent representatives of the S.D.P. of Poland and Lithuania, such as Rosa Luxemburg, were on the Mensheviks’ side at first, in 1904, but the revolution soon revealed their error, clearly demonstrating the Mensheviks’ opportunism.
The counter-revolution of 1908–11 initiated a new stage in Russian history. The old autocracy moved a step closer to a bourgeois monarchy. The Duma of the landlords and the big bourgeoisie came into being. Tsarism bad not yet lost its feudal character, but it was pursuing a bourgeois agrarian policy designed to institute private landownership as early as possible, at the price of unprecedented ruin and extermination of millions of peasants. Bourgeois liberalism made a sharp turn towards counter-revolution, and indulged in veritable orgies of renegacy.
Unparalleled division and dissension prevailed among the intelligentsia in general. The proletariat was subjected to persecution on the part of tsarism, which was taking its vengeance for the revolution, and to torrents of slander on the part of the renegades.
The task of the RSDLP was to preserve the revolutionary Social-Democratic Party of the working class by adapting itself to the new conditions of work.
The very first steps towards accomplishing that task brought out new anti-proletarian trends in the RSDLP that tended to undermine the very existence of the Party. They were engendered by the historical situation which our counter-revolution had created. These bourgeois trends are liquidationism and otzovism.
The liquidators, caught up by the wave of bourgeois desertion, repudiated the revolution. Giving up the illegal Party as a bad job, they sought only a legal basis for them selves in the allegedly “constitutional” regime of June 3 (16) and advocated its constitutional renovation. An “open workers’ party” and slogans of constitutional reform were the gist of their policy. It was not a Social-Democratic, but a liberal labour policy.
Obviously, it would be simply ridiculous to compare the liquidators with the West-European opportunists within the Social-Democratic workers’ parties (as the present Executive does under Tyszka’s influence). Our liquidators re fuse to recognise the Party in its illegal, i.e., its present, form, and are founding a new, legal party. It is not a trend inside the Party, but a withdrawal from the Party. The liquidators’ obvious repudiation and destruction of the Party gave rise to sharp resistance from the Mensheviks themselves. The worker Mensheviks in Russia refused to follow the liquidators, and outside Russia the Menshevik Plekhanov put himself at the head of the “pro-Party” Mensheviks (anti-liquidators). Plekhanov has now publicly and unequivocally admitted in the press that the liquidators are founding a new party.
We shall adds for the Polish workers’ information, that the liquidators’ main press organs are: abroad, Golos Sotsial-Demokrata (Martov, Dan, Axelrod and other Golos supporters); in Russia, Nasha Zarya (Potresov, Levitsky, Cherevanin and others). The “otzovists” (from the word otozvat, meaning the Social-Democratic deputies to the Third Duma) boycotted the Third Duma, for they did not realise the necessity of using the Duma rostrum and all “legal opportunities” for revolutionary Social-Democratic work. They reduced the slogans of the revolutionary tactics of 1905 to meaningless phrases. Experience soon showed that boycotting the Third Duma was an absurdity leading the Russian Social-Democrat boycotters to anarchism even against their will. In the summer of 1907 most Bolsheviks favoured a boycott; but as early as the spring of 1908 they had learned the lesson taught by experience and very sharply rebutted otzovist propaganda in St. Petersburg and Moscow. After being defeated so thoroughly in Russia, the otzovists and their defenders eked out a miserable existence abroad in the form of the absolutely impotent little group of Vperyod (Lunacharsky, Alexinsky and others).
Needless to add that, owing to the weakness of the majority of organisations in Russia and to the fact that the groups abroad were out of touch with the work going on in Russia, most of those groups were quite “freely” engaged in destroying and disrupting the Party, completely ignoring all discipline and holding no mandate from any organisation in Russia to direct a newspaper or publish pamphlets and leaflets. Besides the little groups holding different views on questions of principle, there sprang up, as usually hap pens, various little groups that had no principles at all, and strove to make some little political capital by broker age, petty diplomacy, and intrigues under the guise of “reconciling” and “uniting” the Party. Past masters in this respect were Trotsky with the Vienna newspaper Pravda and Tyszka with the Executive Committee.
The RSDLP was confronted with the question of how to re-establish the Party.
Clearly, it was impossible to re-establish the Party jointly with those who wanted to liquidate the Party or with those who boycotted the Duma and legal opportunities. Either the little groups abroad which were pursuing that bourgeois policy must abandon it in submission to the overwhelming majority of the organisations, groups and circles in Russia, or Russia must re-establish the Party in spite of those groups abroad.
In January 1910 the Central Committee of the RSDLP held a plenary meeting for the last time; it made an attempt to save the liquidators and otzovists, who were breaking away from the Social-Democrats, and to guide them on to the path of Party work. The absurdity and un-Social-Democratic character of both deviations were so obvious that no one ventured to defend them. It was unanimously recognised that both were bourgeois trends, and that only by repudiating them could conditions be provided for the revival of the Party.
But unanimous decision is insufficient if it is not followed by united action. The liquidators and otzovists, contrary to the decisions of the Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee, did not relax but intensified their destructive work. It turned out that it was the Party’s Central Organ, led by the Bolsheviks and the Poles, that fought for the Party during a year and a half (January 1910 to June 1911), with the Menshevik Plekhanov contributing vigorously to the struggle against the liquidators.
“Working” against the Party with might and main were the liquidators, the Vperyod group, Trotsky and the Bund. The Letts vacillated, most often siding with the liquidators.
The liquidators carried their destructive work to the point of destroying the Central Committee of the Party! The Plenary Meeting resolved to re-establish the CC in Russia and to co-opt new members; but the liquidators would not even attend a single sitting, and declared that both the illegal Party and the illegal CC were “harmful”. Under these circumstances, can anyone compare the liquidators with the West-European opportunists unless he is bent on intrigue?
The Party was left without a CC, and its disintegration was unavoidable. Only the Russian organisations, i.e., those operating in Russia, could re-establish it. And that is when Tyszka displayed his hypocritical policy of intrigue in all its splendour by winning in the Executive Committee a majority over the adherents of a more principled policy and pushing the Executive to a break with the RSDLP, to the point where it found itself between the Party and the liquidators of the Party.
To explain that policy, which harms the Polish Social-Democratic movement, we shall first of all cite a fact of the ideological struggle in our Party.
The Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee unanimously condemned liquidationism, as we have pointed out above. But one section of the most important resolution (known as its Clause 1) was formulated in such a way as to have the directly opposite meaning; it played into the hands of the liquidators. This clause expressed the opinion that at present, i.e., at a time of counter-revolution, the Social-Democrats were for the first time making full use of the methods of the international Social-Democracy. This clause, which left a loophole for renegade theories, was proposed by Tyszka, who tried to manoeuvre between the liquidators and the Party. It is only natural that the liquidators should have enthusiastically supported the clause, helping Tyszka to “victory”; some of the Bolsheviks—the so-called group of “conciliators” (i.e., virtual Trotskyists)—also went over to the side of the liquidators.
After the Plenary Meeting Plekhanov superbly and scathingly ridiculed the clause (not knowing who its author was) for its “looseness”, vagueness, and generality. I spoke after Plekhanov and told about my fruitless struggle against Tyszka’s alliance with the “conciliators” and liquidators.
In two years, not one of the numerous writers of the Executive has spoken a single word in defence of that clause.
All that Tyszka’s manoeuvring has resulted in is a liquidationist distortion of the views of the Party.
The results of this policy have been even more unfortunate in regard to the organisational question.
The Central Committee does not exist. The Party can be re-established only by a conference of the organisations in Russia. But how to convene such a conference? Obviously, it must be convened not together with those who are liquidating the Party, but without them.
Tyszka is walking the tight-rope, manoeuvring and playing at “unification” of the Party with those who are liquidating it. First Tyszka plus a small group of “conciliators” (a perfectly impotent little group abroad, which did not during a whole year receive a single order for its printed writings from any organisation in Russia) joined the Bolsheviks, assumed control over the convening of a conference, gave money to the agents who were to convene it, and dispatched those agents, asserting as they did so that they were “unifying” the Party (an assertion which brought Homeric laughter both from the liquidators and from us).
The agents began their tour with Kiev, with a Menshevik organisation whose status was so indisputable that even our sworn enemies, Trotsky and the Letts, admitted this in the press. In view of the furious attacks of the liquidators on our Conference, the Polish workers must know that it was with the participation of the above-mentioned organisation that the Russian Organising Commission for the convening of the Conference was formed (in October 1911). And it was a delegate from that organisation (Kiev) that was chairman of the Credentials Committee at the Conference!
It should be clear that the majority on the Russian Organising Commission consists of Bolsheviks and part of the “pro-Party” (i.e., anti-liquidationist) Mensheviks. The other little groups were not represented on it, being no more than fictitious units abroad having no connections in Russia.
That is when Tyszka, in despair because there was no possibility of mediating and intriguing, playing at unification with the liquidators, dissociated himself from the Russian Organising Commission and did not attend the Conference even though he had been invited three times.
Instead, he attended a meeting of the liquidators to discuss the convening of another (liquidationist) conference, and then left it, saying that there were liquidators there!! Is not a “conciliator” like that a buffoon?
The January Conference of the RSDLP united most of the organisations in Russia: St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Volga, the Caucasus, the South, the Western Territory. The Conference established that the liquidators (Nasha Zarya) had placed themselves outside the Party. It disclaimed all responsibility for the little groups abroad which were disrupting the Party by their actions.
At its twenty-three sittings, the Conference examined all the tactical questions in detail and adopted a whole series of resolutions in the spirit of the previous four years work of the Central Organ and all the leading Party bodies. The Conference defined its terms of reference as the supreme Party body and elected the Central Committee.
It is quite understandable why the liquidators, and all the impotent little groups abroad along with them, attack the Conference, foaming at the mouth. The Conference condemned them. Every condemned person is entitled to abuse his judges all day long.
But there is no other Central Committee, no other Social-Democratic Party in Russia. Tyszka and the Executive who kept away from this Conference and assure the Polish workers that it is possible (with the help of brokers) to “unify” the Party with the liquidators, are deceiving the workers. As a result of this deceit, the Polish workers were unable to confer with their Russian comrades, to discuss with them tactics and slogans at such an important time as the revolutionary upswing in April and May, as well as the elections to the Fourth Duma.
The revolutionary upswing of the Russian proletariat is obviously growing stronger. To assist this strengthening, consolidate the illegal organisation, give the movement the correct revolutionary slogans, rebut the opportunism of the legalist liquidators, imbue the legal organisations with an anti-liquidationist spirit, and carry out the elections to the Fourth Duma along these lines—these are the immediate tasks which the RSDLP is now carrying out in practice—tasks the theoretical attitude to which was defined at the All-Russia Conference in January.
As far as the trend of their work is concerned, the Polish revolutionary worker Social-Democrats are marching with us. I should therefore like to close by expressing confidence that the proletariat of Poland will be able to join us, the RSDLP, organisationally as well, despite the vacillation of the present Executive on matters of principle.
- Gazeta Robotnicza (Workers’ Newspaper)—an illegal organ published by the Warsaw Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania from May to October 1906. Publication was resumed in 1912. The split among the Polish Social-Democrats in 1912 gave rise to two parallel Party committees. There were two Warsaw Committees and two newspapers bearing the same title of Gazeta Robotnicza, one of them being published by the supporters of the Executive Committee in Warsaw and the other by the oppositionist Warsaw Committee in Cracow. Lenin’s article “The Situation in the RSDLP and the Immediate Tasks of the Party” was published in the Cracow Gazeta Robotnicza No. 15–16. For the split in the Social-Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania, see Lenin’s article “The Split Among the Polish Social-Democrats”
- See Note 20.
- To recall.—Tr.
- See present edition, Vol. 16, pp. 226–31.—Ed.
- This refers to the meeting which the liquidators held in Russia in the middle of January 1912. The meeting was called on the initiative of the Bund and the Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of the Lettish Territory. It is known as the “Meeting of National Social-Democratic Organisations”. It was attended by two delegates from the Lettish Social-Democrats, two from the Bund, one from the Caucasian Regional Committee and one from the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania (this last delegate was present only at the second sitting). The meeting set up an Organising Committee for convening the Trotskyist-liquidationist August conference of 1912.
- The Executive Committee, writing in Vorwärts, calls Trotsky an agent of the liquidators, and in Czerwony Sztandar it argues that there can be no unity, not only with the liquidationist Left wing of the Polish Socialist Party, but with the liquidationist Bund in Poland!! Tyszka, on the other hand, promises to unify the RSDLP with the Russian liquidators. —Lenin