V. I.   Lenin

Preface to the Pamphlet Documents of the “Unity” Conference

Written: Written in November 1901
Published: First published in December 1901 in a pamphlet issued by the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad. Published according to the text in the pamphlet.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Volume 5, pages 302-305.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
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In Iskra, No. 9 (October 1901),[1] we told of the unsuccessful attempt to unite the section of the Zarya-Iskra organisation abroad, the revolutionary organisation Sotsial-Demokrat and the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad. We have decided to publish the proceedings of the “Unity” Conference, so that all Russian Social-Democrats may independently draw their own conclusions as to the reasons for the failure of the attempt at unity made by the organisations abroad. Unfortunately, the secretary of the Conference, elected by the Union Abroad, refused to assist in drawing up the minutes of the proceedings (as will be seen from his letter, quoted on pages 10 and 11 of this pamphlet, in reply to the invitation to him by the secretaries of the two other organisations).

This refusal is all the more strange for the reason that the Union Abroad has published its own account of the “Unity” Conference (Two Conferences, Geneva, 1901). It would appear, therefore, that although the Union Abroad desired to inform the Russian comrades of the results of the Conference, it did not wish to acquaint them with the debates.[2] We leave   it to the reader to draw his own conclusions as to the possible and probable reasons for this unwillingness.

After the Union Abroad had rejected our proposal, we on our part did not think it desirable to publish a summary of the discussion that had not been drawn up jointly by all three secretaries; for this reason we are obliged to confine ourselves to the publication of all documents and declarations submitted to the bureau of the Conference. The bureau consisted of the chairmen and secretaries of all three organisations, and all declarations were submitted to the bureau exclusively in writing; thus there can be no doubt about the objectivity of a description of the Conference which is based on the documents and declarations.

On the other hand, the publication of all the documents and declarations presented to the bureau is all the more necessary at the present time, since the Union Abroad has crowned its strange refusal to participate in drawing up the minutes of the Conference with a still stranger method of drawing up the Conference report. Thus, the Union Abroad has not reproduced in full the interpellations[3] submitted to the bureau of the Conference by the representative of Iskra (Frey[5]) in the name of the Iskra section abroad, and of the Sotsial-Demokrat organisation; but it did reproduce the reply (to the interpellations) “drawn up” by the Union Abroad but not submitted to the bureau and not even read at the Conference (Two Conferences, p. 26). The Union Abroad is mistaken in stating that the “interpellation” was withdrawn. The interpellation consisted of the two questions submitted to the Union by Frey in the name of the two organisations (see p. 6 of this pamphlet). Neither of these questions was withdrawn; only the form was changed   to turn the questions into a resolution which might have been submitted to a vote (the words “Does the Union Abroad recognise in principle the resolution of the June Conference?” were altered to read: “The three organisations accept in principle the resolution of the June Conference”, etc.). Furthermore, the Union Abroad has not published the declaration of the Borba group which was presented to the bureau (see pp. 6-7 of this pamphlet).

Not only has the Union Abroad failed to publish the contents of the speech delivered by a member of the Borba group after the Union had submitted amendments to the June resolutions, but it makes no reference whatever to the speech.[4] In that speech, a member of the Borba group, who had taken part in the June Conference, spoke against the amendments of the Union Abroad. The Union published the “arguments” in favour of the amendments, contained in a speech delivered at the Conference by B. Krichevsky, without, however, having presented them to the bureau. In a word, having rejected our proposal for the joint drafting of a summary of the entire discussion, the Union preferred to publish only what it thought of advantage to itself and to ignore even some of the things that were, presented to the bureau.

We do not propose to follow that example. We have confined ourselves to the publication of all the declarations and documents presented to the bureau, with the bare statement as to the opinions expressed by the spokesmen of all the organisations represented at the Conference. Let the reader judge as to whether the articles in Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, and the amendments of the Union Abroad have violated the principle that was the basis of the agreement drawn up at the June Conference. Of course, we shall also leave unanswered the angry words that so profusely decorate the pages of the pamphlet of the Union Abroad, including the charges of “slander”, or of our having “broken up” the Conference by leaving it. Such accusations can only raise a smile. Three organisations gathered to discuss the question of unity. Two agreed that they could not unite with the third. Naturally, there was nothing left for the two organisations but to   explain their position and depart. Only those who are angry because they are wrong can characterise this step as “breaking up” the Conference, or designate as “slander” the assertion that the Union Abroad wavers in questions of principle.

As for our view of the controversial questions of Russian Social-Democracy, we prefer not to confuse the issue with an objective report of the Conference proceedings. In addition to the articles that have already appeared, and will appear, in Iskra and Zarya, we are preparing a special pamphlet on the urgent questions of our movement, to be published in the near future.


[1] See present volume, pp. 241-42.—Ed.

[2] According to the Conference standing orders, the minutes should have been approved by the Conference itself, each day’s proceedings commencing with the reading and approval of the minutes of the previous day’s proceedings. But on the second day, when the chairman, in opening the session, called for the minutes of the first day’s two sessions, the three secretaries in one voice declared that they could not present them. Owing to the absence of a stenographer, the records were in a most unsatisfactory state. It is quite understand able, therefore, that if the secretaries could not prepare the minutes on the night after the.first day of the Conference, it was useless to expect   that the minutes would be ready on the evening of the second day when we left the Conference. Everyone knew perfectly well that the minutes were not ready. Hence, the indignation of the Union Abroad over the “desertion” of our chairman, who “did not wait until the minutes of the Conference were approved” (Two Conferences, p. 29), is nothing but a subterfuge. Since there was no verbatim report, there was nothing else to do except for the three secretaries to get together and draw up at least a brief summary of the discussions. This, in fact, was our proposal, but the Union Abroad rejected it. Clearly, the responsibility for the absence of a summarised, if not a full, report of the Conference, rests upon the Union Abroad. —Lenin

[3] See present volume, p. 230.—Ed.

[4] See pamphlet Two Conferences, p. 28. —Lenin

[5] Frey—one of Lenin’s pseudonyms.

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