The Eleventh Session of the International Socialist Bureau
|Written||24 November 1909|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 16, pages 140-144.
On November 7, New Style, the eleventh session of the International Socialist Bureau was held in Brussels. It was preceded, as usual in recent years, by a conference of socialist journalists of different countries. The conference discussed certain practical questions concerning the establishment of more regular contact between the socialist daily news papers of different lands.
As for the session of the International Socialist Bureau, apart from minor current affairs, there were two big items on the agenda: firstly, the International Socialist Congress to be held in Copenhagen in 1910, secondly, the split in the Dutch party.
On the first item, first of all the date of the Congress was fixed: August 28–September 3, New Style. As regards the place of the Congress the question was raised whether the Russian socialists could travel to Copenhagen without hindrance. Knudsen, the representative of the Danish socialists, replied that, according to their information and all that they knew concerning the intentions of the Danish Government, the police would not interfere with the Russian delegates to the Congress. If it was found on the eve of the Congress that the opposite was the case the International Socialist Bureau would undoubtedly take steps to hold the Congress elsewhere.
The agenda adopted for the Copenhagen Congress was the following: 1) the co-operative movement; 2) international organisation of assistance to big strikes; 3) unemployment; 4) disarmament and the arbitration of international conflicts; 5) the results of labour legislation in different countries and the question of organising it internationally, particularly the question of the eight-hour day; 6) the improvement of contact between the national parties and the International Socialist Bureau; 7) the abolition of capital punishment.
It was originally intended to include the agrarian question. Vaillant and Molkenbuhr objected on the grounds that it would be difficult to discuss such a question at an international congress without first submitting it to more detailed consideration at congresses of the national parties. A desire was expressed that the congresses of national parties should discuss this question specially, so that it could be in shape for the international congress of 1913.
After adopting resolutions of sympathy with the Swedish workers who have organised one of the biggest general strikes of the recent period, and the workers of Spain who have been fighting heroically against the military adventure of their government, as well as resolutions of protest against the atrocities and murders committed by tsarism in Russia and by the governments of Spain, Rumania and Mexico, the International Socialist Bureau passed to the next main item on its agenda, the question of the split in Holland.
The opportunists and Marxists of the Socialist Party in Holland have long been in conflict. On the agrarian question the opportunists stood for the point in the programme that calls for the allotment of land to agricultural labourers. The Marxists vigorously opposed this point (which was defend ed by the leader of the opportunists, Troelstra) and secured its removal in 1905. After this the opportunists, attuning their policy to the religious section of the Dutch workers, went to the length of defending state subsidies for religious instruction in the schools. The Marxists put up a strenuous opposition. The opportunists, with Troelstra at their head, counterposed the parliamentary Social-Democratic group to the Party and acted contrary to the decisions of the Central Committee. The opportunists pursued a policy of rapprochement with the liberals and of committing the socialists to their support (“justifying” this, of course, by the aim of obtaining social reforms, which the liberals promised and ... failed to carry out). The opportunists set about revising the old, Marxist programme of the Dutch Social-Democratic Party and, inter alia, put forward for this revision such theses as renouncing the “downfall theory” (a well-known idea of Bernstein’s) or desiring that recognition of the programme should oblige party members to recognise the political and economic “but not the philosophical views of Marx” The Marxists’ opposition to such a policy became more and more acute. Finding themselves ousted from the Central Organ of the party, the Marxists (among them the well-known woman writer Roland-Holst, furthermore Gorter, Pannekoek and others) started a newspaper of their own, Tribune. Troelstra unscrupulously persecuted this newspaper, accusing the Marxists of wanting to “oust” him personally, stirring up the petty-bourgeois-minded section of the Dutch workers against the “trouble-makers”, the polemicists, the disturbers of the peace—the Marxists. The upshot was that an extraordinary congress of the party in Davant (February 13-14, 1909), which gave the majority to Troelstra’s supporters, decided to close down “Tribune” and have in its place “a supplement” to the opportunist Central Organ of the party! Naturally, the editors of Tribune did not agree to this (with the exception of Roland-Hoist, who, unfortunately adopted a hopelessly conciliatory position) and were expelled from the party.
The result was a split. The old, opportunist party, led by Troelstra and van Kol (“famous” since his opportunist utterances on the colonial question in Stuttgart), kept the title of “Social-Democratic Labour Party” (S.D.L.P.). The new, Marxist party—much smaller in numbers—took the title of “Social-Democratic Party” (S.D.P.).
The Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau tried to assume the role of mediator for the restoration, of unity in Holland but made a very bad job of it. It took a formal point of view and, obviously sympathising with the opportunists, blamed the Marxists for the split. Accordingly, their request for the admission of the new party into the International was rejected by the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau.
The question of admitting the Dutch Marxists into the International came before a meeting of the International Socialist Bureau itself on November 7, 1909. Everybody wanted to avoid discussion of the real point at issue and to do no more than suggest procedure, i.e., refer the case to be dealt with in one way or another, to indicate a method of settling the conflict although, of course, the, majority of the members of the Bureau must have been well aware of the real substance of this matter, the real substance of the struggle between the two trends in Holland.
Finally two resolutions were moved, revealing two trends. Singer in support of the Marxists, Adler against. Singer’s read as follows:
“The International Socialist Bureau resolves: the Party which has been formed in Holland under the name of the new S.D. Party [there is a mistake in the title: it should be “S.D. Party”], should be admitted to International Socialist Congresses as it satisfies the conditions specified in the Rules of the International. Whether it should have a delegate on the Bureau and how many votes it should have at the Congress is a question for the Copenhagen Congress to decide if the Dutch comrades themselves do not reach a settlement of the dispute.”
We see from this text that Singer did not go beyond the formal aspect, leaving the final settlement of the question to the Dutch section of the international congress, but at the same time clearly emphasising that the Marxist party in Holland should be recognised by the International. Adler did not venture to say the opposite, he did not venture to declare outright that he did not consider the Dutch Marxists to be members of the International, that he shared the attitude of the Executive Committee which flatly rejected the Marxists’ application. Adler moved that “The request of the S.D.P. be referred, to the Dutch section. If no agreement is reached within this section an appeal can be made to the Bureau.” The formal attitude is the same as Singer’s, but it is clear from the text that the sympathies of this resolution are on the side of the opportunists, for it says nothing about recognising the Marxists as members of the International. And the voting of the resolutions made it instantly manifest that the spirit of both one and the other had been perfectly grasped by the members of the Bureau. Singer received 11 votes: from France 2 votes, Germany 2, England 1 (S.D.), Argentina 2, Bulgaria 1, Russia 1 (S.D.), Poland 1 (S.D.), America 1 (the Socialist Labour Party). Adler received 16 votes: from England 1 (“Independent” Labour Party), Denmark 2, Belgium 2, Austria 2, Hungary 2, Poland 1 (Polish Socialist Party), Russia 1 (S.R.), America 1 (Socialist Party), Holland 2 (van Kol and Troelstra!), Sweden 2.
The organ of the German revolutionary Social-Democrats, Leipziger Volkszeitung (No. 259), rightly called this resolution of the International Socialist Bureau a regrettable one. “At Copenhagen the proletarian International must reconsider this decision”, it concluded with full justification. Another newspaper of the same trend, the Bremer Bürgerzeitung of November 11, 1909, wrote: “Comrade Adler speaks as the advocate of international opportunism in all its glory.” His resolution was passed “thanks to the support of the opportunist olla podrida” (Sammelsurium).
To these just words we Russian Social-Democrats can only add that our Socialist-Revolutionaries, of course, made haste to take their place in the opportunist throng together with the P.S.P.
The session of the International Socialist Bureau was followed on November 8, 1909 in Brussels by the fourth session of the inter-parliamentary socialist commission, i.e., of the members of the socialist parliamentary groups of different countries. The groups were but sparsely represented in general (the Russian Social-Democratic group in the Duma was not represented at all). The delegates interchanged reports on question of workers’ old-age insurance, the state of legislation in different countries, and Bills drawn up by labour deputies. The best report was one made by Molkenbuhr based on his article published in the Neue Zeit.