V. I.   Lenin

Report of the Iskra Editorial Board to the Meeting (Conference) of R.S.D.L.P. Committees[2]

Published: First Published in 1923, in Vol. V of the Collected Works of N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov). Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 97-106.
Translated: ??? ???
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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March 5, 1902.

Comrades! Only the day before yesterday we received notice of the meeting to be called for March 21, together with the entirely unexpected information that the original plan to hold a conference had been superseded by a plan to convene a Party congress. We do not know who is responsible for this sudden and unmotivated change. On our part, we consider it most unfortunate. We protest against such rapid changes in decisions on highly complex and important Party measures, and strongly recommend a return to the original plan for a conference.

To be convinced of the necessity for this, it is enough, in our opinion, to give more careful consideration to the agenda (Tagesordnung) of the congress, which was likewise communicated to us only the day before yesterday; more over, we do not know whether this is only a draft Tagesordnung, and whether this agenda has been proposed by one or by several organisations. The agenda provides for nine questions to be discussed by the congress in the following order (I am giving a brief summary of the points): A) the economic struggle; B) the political struggle; C) political agitation; D) May Day; E) the attitude towards opposition elements; F) the attitude towards revolutionary groups unaffiliated to the Party; G) organisation of the Party; H) the Central Organ, and I) representatives and Party organisations abroad.

First, in its architecture and in the wording of the individual questions this agenda produces an irresistible   impression of “economism.”[3] We do not of course think that the organisation proposing this agenda would entertain “economist” views to this day (although to some extent this is not altogether impossible), but we ask the comrades to remember that it is also necessary to take into account both the opinion held by international revolutionary Social-Democracy, and those survivals of “economism” which are still widespread in our country. Just imagine: the advanced party of political struggle calls a congress at a time when all revolutionary and opposition forces in the country, which have begun a direct attack on the autocracy, are straining every effort—and all of a sudden we lay chief stress on the “economic struggle”, with “politics” following only in the wake!! Is this not a copy of the traditional error of our “economists,” who claim that political agitation (resp. struggle) should come after the economic? Is it possible to imagine that it would occur to any European Social-Democratic Party, during a revolutionary period, to place the question of the trade-union movement before all other questions? Or take this separation of the question of political agitation from the question of the political struggle! Does it not smack of the usual fallacy which contraposes the political struggle to political agitation as something fundamentally different, something belonging to a different stage? Or, lastly, how is one to explain the fact that demonstrations figure in the agenda primarily as a means of the economic struggle!?? After all, we must not forget that at the present time a number of elements hostile to Social-Democracy are levelling against all Social-Democracy the accusation of “economism”: these accusations are being made by Nakanune,[4] by Vestnik Russkoi Revolutsii, by Svoboda,[1]  [5] and even (even!) by Russkoye Bogatstvo. We must not forget that whatever resolutions the conference may adopt, the agenda itself will remain a historical document by which the level of our entire Party’s political development will be judged.

Secondly, it is astonishing that the agenda raises (a few days before the congress!) questions that should be   discussed only after thorough preparations, only when it is possible to adopt really definite and comprehensible decisions on them—otherwise it is better not to discuss them at all for the time being. For example, points E and F: the attitude towards opposition and other revolutionary trends. These questions must be discussed in advance, from all angles, reports drawn up on them, and differences in existing shades made clear—only then can we adopt decisions that would actually offer something new, that would serve as a real guide for the whole Party, and not merely repeat some traditional “generalisation.” In point of fact, just consider: can we in a few days prepare a comprehensive and well-grounded decision that would take into consideration all the practical requirements of the movement on the questions of the attitude towards the “revolutionary-socialist Svoboda group” or towards the new-born “Socialist-Revolutionary Party”? This apart from the strange impression, to say the least, that will be produced on every one by the fact that revolutionary groups unaffiliated to the Party are mentioned, while nothing is said on so important a question as the attitude towards the Bund,[6] or a revision of the clauses dealing with the latter, in the resolutions of the First Congress of the Party.

Thirdly—and most important—there is an unpardonable omission in the agenda: not a word is said of the stand taken by present-day Russian revolutionary Social-Democracy on matters of principle, or of its Party programme. At a time when the whole world is clamouring about the “crisis of Marxism,” and all Russian liberal publicists are clamouring even about its collapse and disappearance, when the question of the “two trends in Russian Social-Democracy” has not only been placed on the order of the day, but has even found its way into various lecture programmes, into the programmes for propagandists’ talks and self-education groups—at a time like this it is quite impossible to pass over these questions in silence. We, comrades, are being ridiculed by our opponents, who· already say even in print (see Nadezhdin, “The Eve of the Revolution”) that we have grown accustomed to “reporting that all’s well”!...

In our opinion, all the above-mentioned shortcomings in the agenda prove convincingly how irrational is the   plan to convert into a congress a conference that has already been summoned. We understand, of course, how keenly everyone feels the fact that there has been no Party congress since 1898, how tempting the idea is of using the efforts spent in organising the conference so as to put an end to this existence of a “party without party institutions.” But it would be a very great mistake to let these practical considerations make us forget that from a congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party everyone now expects decisions which would be on a level with all the revolutionary tasks of the present time; that if we fail to rise to the occasion now, at this truly critical moment, we may bury all Social-Democracy’s hopes to gain the hegemony in the political struggle; that it is better not to be grudge an expense of a few thousand rubles and several months of preparatory organisational work, and to use the present conference so as to prepare for the summer a congress that will really be a general Party congress capable of finally settling all immediate problems both in the sphere of theory (the theoretical programme) and in the sphere of the political struggle.

Look at the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who are more and more skilfully taking advantage of our shortcomings and gaining ground to the detriment of Social-Democracy. They have only just formed a “party,” founded a theoretical organ, and decided to launch a political monthly newspaper. What will be said of the Social-Democrats if after this event they fail to achieve at their congress results at least such as these? Are we not running the risk of creating the impression that when it comes to a clear-cut programme and revolutionary organisation the Social-Democrats are not ahead of this “party,” which is known to be gathering around it self all sorts of indeterminate, undetermined, and even undeterminable elements?

In view of all this we believe that the present congress of committee representatives should not be declared the Second regular Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, but an unofficial conference. This conference s main and immediate task should be to organise and prepare for next summer a real general Party congress capable of endorsing the Party programme, making final   arrangements for publication of a political weekly organ of the Party, and in general bringing about the complete and actual unification of all committees and even of all groups (in print-shops,[7] etc.) of Social-Democrats on the basis of steadfastness of principle, loyalty to the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy, and genuinely militant preparedness for offensive political action.

Proceeding from this basic idea, we take the liberty of submitting to the comrades for their consideration the following Tagesordnung for our conference:

1. Statement of principles. In the resolution on this question an emphatic stand should be taken against those deplorable attempts to restrict our theory and our tasks, which were but recently quite widespread. By vigorously rejecting any such restrictions the Party conference will make an important contribution to the unification of all Social-Democrats on matters of principle and will re establish the shaken prestige of revolutionary Marxism. Some comrades may perhaps express. fear that discussion on the statement of principles will take up a great deal of time and divert attention from practical questions. We do not in the least share these apprehensions, for we believe that the extensive debates in the illegal press have cleared up the question so well that we shall reach an agreement on the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy with great speed and ease. On the other hand, it is utterly impossible to do without a statement of principles.

Moreover, the removal of this question from the conference’s Tagesordnung would in any case fail in its purpose since the very same question would inevitably come up, only in more disjointed form, in the discussion of the resolutions on the economic struggle, the political struggle, etc. For this reason it would be far more expedient to first finish with this matter, refrain from splitting up our resolutions on political agitation, strikes, and so on, and give one connected exposition of the view on our main tasks.

On our part, we will endeavour to prepare a draft of this resolution and append it to this report (if time permits).

2. The Second regular Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Here we have in view the preliminary (and, of course, to a certain extent tentative)   decision on the question of the date of the congress (summer, or not later than autumn, since it is desirable to end it before the next “season”), the place (in connection with which the conditions of secrecy must be carefully considered), the funds required for its arrangement (Iskra, on its part, would be prepared to immediately contribute 500 rubles for this purpose, from a certain special donation it has received; we would possibly be able soon to find another such sum or even more. We should discuss how many thousand rubles it will approximately cost, and practical ways of raising the rest); lastly, the general principles of representation and the fullest possible representation (i. e., so as to ensure representation of definite pre-selected committees and certain groups, and possibly also of study circles of Russian Social-Democrats, to say nothing of the comparatively easy task of securing representatives from the two Social- Democratic organisations abroad; a procedure should also be adopted for discussing the question of inviting to the congress such organisations that may be founded in the interim between conference and congress, etc., etc.).

3. Election 01 an Organising Committee. Generally speaking, the task of this O.C. should be to implement conference decisions, make preparations for and arrange the congress, set a final date and place for the latter, attend to its practical organisation, arrange such matters as the transport of literature, and establish Party print-shops in Russia (with the aid of Iskra, two local print-shop groups sympathising with our publications have been formed in Russia; they have succeeded in publishing in their two print-shops Nos. 10 and 11 of Iskra, the pamphlets. What Next?, The Tenth Anniversary 01 the Morozov Strike, The Speech by Pyotr Alexeyev, The Indictment in the Obukhov Case, and many others, as well as a number of leaflets. We hope that representatives from these local groups will be able to participate in the work of the conference and that they will assist in every way in the accomplishment of the general Party tasks); further, it should give assistance to various local organisations, labour unions, students’ organisations, and so on and so forth. With the support of all organisations, this 0. C. could, in the space of three or four months, fully prepare the ground for the   formation of a real Central Committee, capable de facto of directing the entire political struggle of our Party.

In view of the complexity and variety of the O.C.’s tasks, it should, in our opinion, consist of a fairly large number of members (5-7), who should be directed to elect a bureau, distribute functions among themselves, and hold several meetings prior to the congress.

4. Election of a committee for preparing a draft Party programme. As the editors of Iskra (including the Emancipation of Labour group[8]) have already been working on this difficult job for a long time, we venture to propose the following plan to the comrades. We have already completed the entire draft of the practical section of the programme, including the draft agrarian programme, and, besides, two variants for the theoretical part of the programme have been prepared. Our representative will acquaint the conference with these drafts, should this be found necessary and if nothing comes up to prevent him from doing so. From these two variants, we are at present drawing up a single general draft, but of course we should not like to make it public in its rough form, i.e., before the work is completed. Should the conference elect several persons to collaborate with our Editorial Board in the preparation of the programme, that might perhaps be the most practical solution of the question.

For our part, we can in any case give the comrades an immediate formal undertaking to submit within a few weeks the final draft of the Party programme, which we intended to publish in advance in Iskra, so as to enable all comrades to get acquainted with it, and to obtain their comments.

5. The Central Organ. In view of the tremendous difficulties involved in launching a periodical which would appear regularly and be adequately provided with literary and technical facilities, the conference will most likely follow the example of the First Congress of the Party and choose an existing publication. Whether the question is settled in this way, or whether it is decided to launch an entirely new periodical, it will in any case be necessary to instruct a special committee, or better still the same Organising Committee, to undertake the preparatory work   and to discuss the matter from all angles together with the existing or newly-elected editorial board.

It would be essential, in our opinion, to draw the Emancipation of Labour group into this discussion, for without its co-operation and guidance we cannot imagine the proper organisation of a political organ that would be consistent in principle and would in general meet all the requirements of the movement.

Inasmuch as attempts to establish a fortnightly periodical have already been made before the conference, the Party should make it its immediate task to establish a weekly newspaper: this would be fully possible given really joint work on such a paper by all Russian Social-Democrats.

6. Preparation of the agenda for the Party congress and reports on that agenda. The conference should draw up part of this agenda itself, and entrust part of it to the Organising Committee; it should without fail appoint (resp. find) reporters on each question. Only by appointing re porter.s in advance is it possible to ensure a truly comprehensive discussion of the various questions and correct decisions on them at the congress (some of the reports could be printed beforehand in full or in part, and discussed in the press; for instance, we hope to publish soon an almost completed treatise on the agrarian programme of Russian Social-Democracy, etc., written by a member of the Editorial Board,[* See pp. 107-50 of this volume.—Ed.] etc.).

7. Current practical questions of the movement—for example, a) discussion and endorsement of a May Day leaflet (resp. discussion of drafts submitted by Iskra and other organisations).

b) The May Day demonstration—the time and methods of its organisation.

c) Instructions to the Organising Committee to assist in organising boycotts, demonstrations, etc., and at the same time gradually to prepare the minds of Party members, and likewise the forces and means of the Party, for a general uprising of the people.

d) Various financial questions relating to the maintenance of the Organising Committee, etc.

  Concluding our report on the tasks and Tagesordnung of our congress, we shall only remark that it. is absolutely impossible for us to draw up a detailed report on the work of Iskra because we are extremely pressed for time. We are therefore compelled to limit ourselves to the following brief outline.


1. The conference categorically rejects each and every attempt to inject opportunism into the revolutionary class movement of the proletariat—attempts which have found expression in the so-called “criticism of Marxism,” Bernsteinism,[9] and “economism.” At a time when the bourgeoisie of all countries is rejoicing over the so widely publicised “crisis in socialism,” the conference declares, in the name of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, its solidarity with the revolutionary international Social-Democratic movement, and expresses its firm conviction that Social-Democracy will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever and prepared for a relentless struggle for the achievement of its great ideals.

2. The conference declares its solidarity with the Manifesto of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party[10] and confirms that it considers the overthrow of the autocracy the immediate political task of the Party. The conference declares that in its work for the accomplishment of this immediate task as well as of its ultimate aim Social-Democracy lays chief stress on all-round and nation-wide political agitation which calls on the proletariat to fight against all manifestations of economic, political, national, and social oppression, whatever section of the population this oppression is directed against. The conference declares that the Party will support every revolutionary and progressive opposition movement directed against the existing political and social system. The conference particularly recommends, as practical methods of struggle, the organisation of boycotts, manifestations at theatres, etc., as well as organised mass demonstrations. The conference advises all Party committees and groups to devote   due attention to the need for preparatory measures for a nation-wide armed uprising against the tsarist autocracy.

3. The conference declares that Russian Social-Democracy will continue as heretofore to guide the economic struggle of the proletariat, will strive to extend and deepen it, to strengthen its ideological and organisational bonds with the Social-Democratic labour movement, and will endeavour to take advantage of every manifestation of this struggle so as to develop the political consciousness of the proletariat and draw the latter into the political struggle. The conference declares that there is no need what ever to conduct agitation from the very outset on an economic basis alone, or to consider economic agitation in general to be the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into the political struggle.

(N. B.: It is very important here too to e x p o s e R a b o c h e y e D y e l o[11] once again!!)

4. (About the peasantry—should this be done perhaps in the spirit of our agrarian programme?

I shall try to prepare and forward it at once.)


[1] See pp. 285–86 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Report of the Iskra Editorial Board, which was written by Lenin, was intended for the conference of committees and organisations of the R.S.D.L.P. held on March 23-28 (April 5-10), 1902, in Belostok. Represented at the conference were: the St. Petersburg and Ekaterinoslav committees of the R.S.D.L.P., the League of Southern Committees and Organisations of the R.S.D.L.P., the Central Committee of the Bund and its Foreign Committee, the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad, and the Iskra Editorial Board (whose representative, F. I. Dan, had a mandate from the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad). Through the fault of the conference organisers, who were “economists,” the delegate of the Iskra Editorial Board arrived late, after the conference had begun, while F. V. Lengnik, the representative of the Russian Iskra organisation, did not get to the conference at all, although he arrived in Belostok in good time. The representative of the Nizbni-Novgorod Committee (Iskra trend), A. I. Piskunov, who arrived in Belostok before Dan, protested at the absence of representatives of organisations of the Iskra trend, and soon left. The “economists” and the Bundists, who supported them, had intended to convert the conference into the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., reckoning thereby to strengthen their own   position in the ranks of Russian Social-Democracy and paralyse Iskra’s growing influence. Their attempt, however, failed, both because of the conference’s comparatively limited composition (only four of the R.S.D.L.P. organisations operating in Russia were represented) and the deep disagreements on matters of principle, which were revealed at the conference; in particular, the Iskra delegate, who raised strong objection to the conference being converted into a Party congress, stated that the conference had not been properly prepared and authorised.

The Belostok Conference adopted a constituting resolution and a theoretical resolution, proposed by the delegate of the Bund Central Committee, with amendments made by the representative of the League of Southern Committees and Organisations of the R.S.D.L.P. (the Iskra delegate, who had advanced his own draft of the theoretical resolution, voted against). The conference also approved the text of a May Day leaflet, which was based on a draft drawn up by the Iskra Editorial Board. The conference elected an Organising Committee to prepare the Second Party Congress, consisting of representatives of Iskra (F. I. Dan), the League of Southern Committees and Organisations of the R.S.D.L.P. (0. A. Yermansky), and the Central Committee of the Bund (K. Portnoi). Soon after the conference, most of its delegates, including two members of the Organising Committee, were arrested by the police. A new Organising Committee to prepare the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. was formed in November 1902 in Pskov at a conference of representatives of the R.S.D.L.P.’s St. Peters burg Committee, the Russian organisation of Iskra, and the Yuzhny Rabochy (Southern Worker) group.

[3] “Economism”— an opportunist trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, a Russian variety of international opportunism. The news paper Rabochaya Mysl (Workers’ Thought) (1897-1902) and the magazine Rabocheye Dyelo (Workers’ Cause) (1899-1902) were organs of the “economists.”

In 1899 there appeared Credo, a manifesto of the “economists,” which was drawn up by E. D. Kuskova. When Lenin, then in exile, received a copy of Credo, he wrote A Protest by Russian Social Democrats, in which he sharply criticised the programme of the “economists.” This protest was discussed and unanimously adopted at a conference of 17 Marxists serving terms of political exile, held in the village of Yermakovskoye, in Minusinsk Region. The “economists” limited the tasks of the working class to an economic struggle for higher wages and better working conditions, etc., asserting that the political struggle was the business of the liberal bourgeoisie. They denied the leading role of the party of the working class, considering that the party should merely observe the spontaneous process of the movement and register events. In their deference to spontaneity in the working-class movement, the “economists” belittled the significance of revolutionary theory and class-consciousness, asserted that socialist ideology could arise   out of the spontaneous movement, denied the need to instill socialist consciousness into the working-class movement, and thereby cleared the way for bourgeois ideology. The “economists,” who opposed the need to create a centralised working-class party, stood for the sporadic and amateurish character of individual circles and fostered confusion and wavering in the Social-Democratic movement. “Economism” threatened to divert the working class from the class revolutionary path and turn it into a political appendage of the bourgeoisie.

Lenin’s Iskra played a major part in the struggle against “economism.” By his book, What Is to Be Done?, which appeared in March 1902, V. I. Lenin brought about., the final ideological rout of “economism.”

[4] Nakanune (On the Eve)—a monthly magazine of the Narodnik trend, published in Russian in London from January 1899 to February 1902 under the editorship of W. A. Serebryakov; 37 numbers were issued. Grouped round the magazine, which advocated general democratic views, were representatives of various petty-bourgeois parties and trends; a hostile attitude to Marxism in general and to Russian revolutionary Social-Democracy in particular was characteristic of Nakanune.

[5] Svoboda (Freedom)—a magazine published in Switzerland by the “revolutionary-socialist” group Sooboda, founded by E. O. Zelensky (Nadezhdin) in May 1901. Only two numbers of the magazine appeared: No. tin 1901 and No. 2 in 1902. V. I. Lenin considered that the Svoboda group belonged to those “rootless groupings” which had “neither settled serious views, programmes, tactics, and organisations, nor roots in the masses” (see present edition, Vol. 20, “On Adventurism”). In its publications (besides Svoboda, the group published The Eve of Revolution. An Irregular Review of Problems of Theory and Tactics, No. 1; the newspaper-magazine Otkliki [Responses], No. 1; Nadezhdin’s programmatic pamphlet, The Rebirth of Revolutionism in Russia, and others) the Svoboda group advocated the ideas of terrorism and “economism.” In a bloc with the St. Petersburg “economists,” it came out against Iskra and the St. Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. The group ceased to exist in 1903.

[6] The Bund— the General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia—was organised in 1897 at an inaugural congress of Jewish Social-Democratic groups in Vilno; in the main, it united semi-proletarian elements of the Jewish artisans in the Western regions of Russia. At the First Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (1898), the Bund joined the Party “as an autonomous organisation, independent only in regard to questions specially concerning the Jewish proletariat.”

The Bund brought nationalism and separatism into the Rus sian working-class movement and took an opportunist stand on the most important questions of the Social-Democratic movement.   In April 1901, the Bund’s Fourth Congress voted for abolition of the organisational relations established by the First Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., stating in its resolution that it regarded the R.S.D.L.P. as a federative association of national organisations which the Bund should join as a federative unit.

At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., which rejected the Bund’s demand that it should be recognised as the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat, the Bund left the Party, rejoining it in 1906, on the basis of a decision of the Fourth (Unity) Congress.

Within the R.S.D.L.P., the Bundists constantly supported its opportunist wing (the “economists,” Mensheviks, and liquidators), and waged a struggle against the Bolsheviks and Bolshevism. To the Bolshevik programme’s demand for the right of nations to self-determination the Bund opposed the demand for cultural and national autonomy. During the years of the Stolypin reaction, the Bund adopted a liquidators’ stand and took an active part in forming the anti-Party August bloc. During the First World War, the Bundists took a social-chauvinist stand. In 1917 the Bund supported the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government and fought on the side of the enemies of the October Socialist Revolution, its leadership joining the forces of counter-revolution during the years of foreign military intervention and civil war. At the same time a swing towards co-operation with Soviet power was to be observed among the Bund rank and file. In March 1921 the Bund dissolved itself, part of its members joining the R.C.P. (B.) on a general basis.

[7] “ The reference is to the Baku and Kishinev print-shops of Iskra.

The Kishinev print-shop was organised by L. I. Goldman in April 1901 and existed until March 12(25), 1902. It printed G. V. Plekhanov’s article, “What Next?” (reprinted from No. 2-3 of Zarya), N. K. Krupskaya’s pamphlet, The Working Woman, The Indictment in the Case 01 the May Disturbances at the Obukhou Factory (reprinted from Iskra, No. 9, with V. I. Lenin’s article, "The New Battle,” as a supplement), V. I. Lenin’s articles, “The Struggle Against Starvation” (reprinted from No. 2-3 of Zarya) and “The Beginning of Demonstrations” (reprinted from Iskra, No. 13), and also a number of manifestos an leaflets. No. 10 of Iskra was reprinted at this print-shop.

The Baku print-shop (called “Nina” in secret correspondence) was organised in September 1901 by a group of Baku Iskra-ists (V. Z. Ketskhoveli, L. B. Krasin, L. I. Galperin, N. P. Kozerenko, V. Sturna, and others) with the assistance of the Tiflis Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. Prior to March 1902, when the “Nina” print-shop temporarily discontinued its work, it had printed the pamphlets, Spiders and Flies, by W. Liebknecht, The Ways People Live, by S. Dikstein, The Speech of Pyotr Alexeyev, The Tenth Anniversary of the Morozov Strike, and proclamations and leaflets in Russian and Georgian. The Baku print-shop reprinted No. H of Iskra and printed the Georgian illegal Marxist newspaper Erdzola (The Struggle). After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L P.,   the Baku print-shop became the central Party print-shop and carried out tasks set by the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. In December 1905, the print-shop was closed down by decision of the Central Committee of the Party.

[8] The Emancipation of Labour group—the first Russian Marxist group—was founded by G. V. Plekhanov in Switzerland in 1883. Besides Plekhanov, the group included P. B. Axelrod, L. G. Deutsch, V. I. Zasulich, and V. N. Ignatov.

The Emancipation of Labour group did much to propagate Marxism in Russia. It translated into the Russian language works by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, such as The Manifesto of the Communist Party; Wage Labour and Capital; Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, publishing them abroad and distributing them in Russia, and also popularised Marxism through its publications. The Emancipation of Labour group dealt a severe blow at Narodism, which was the chief ideological obstacle to the spread of Marxism and the development of the Social-Democratic movement in Russia. In his works, Socialism and the Political Struggle (1883), Our Differences (1885), and others, G. V. Plekhanov gave a Marxist criticism of the Narodnik theories of Russia’s non-capitalist path of development, the Narodniks’ subjective-idealist view of the role of the individual in history, the denial of the proletariat’s leading role in the revolutionary movement, etc. Written by Plekhanov and published by the Emancipation of Labour group, the two draft programmes of the Russian Social-Democrats (1883 and 1885) were an important step in preparing for and creating the Social-Democratic party in Russia. Of special importance in spreading Marxist views and in substantiating and defending dialectical an d historical materialism was Plekhanov’s (N. Beltov’s) book, The Development of the Monist View of History (1895), on which “an entire generation of Russian Marxists were trained” see present edition, Vol. 16 ,“On the Vperyod Group”). The group published and distributed in Russia four issues of the magazine Sotsial-Demokrat, as well as a series of popular pamphlets for workers.

Engels welcomed the appearance of the Emancipation of Labour group, “which frankly and without equivocation accepted the great economic and historical theories of Marx” (see Frederick Engels’ Letter to V. I. Zasulich, April 23, 1885. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, p. 459). G. V. Plekhanov and V. I. Zasulich were personal friends of Engels and corresponded with him for many years. The Emancipation of Labour group established contacts with the international working-class movement and, beginning with the First Congress of the Second International in 1889 (Paris) and throughout the whole of its existence represented Russian Social-Democracy at all congresses of the International. But the views of the Emancipation of Labour group also contained serious errors: over-estimation of the liberal bourgeoisie’s role and under-estimation of the revolutionary nature of peasant ry as the reserve force of the proletarian revolution. These were the germ of the future Menshevik views held by Plekhanov and other   members of the group. V. I. Lenin pointed out that the Emancipation of Labour group “provided only the theoretical foundations of Social-Democracy and took the first step towards the working-class movement” (see present edition, Vol. 20, “The Ideological Struggle in the Working-Class Movement”).

In 1894 the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad was formed on the initiative of the Emancipation of Labour group. The members of the Emancipation of Labour group and their adherents left the Union in 1900 and founded the Sotsial-Demokrat revolutionary organisation. G. V. Plekhanov, P. B. Axelrod, and V. I. Zasulich, who were members of the group, were on the Editorial Board of Iskra and Zarya. At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. in August 1903, the Emancipation of Labour group announced that it had ceased to exist.

[9] Bernsteinism—a trend hostile to Marxism in the German and international Social-Democratic movement, which originated at the end of the nineteenth century and was named after Eduard Bernstein, the most outspoken representative of revisionism.

In 1896-98 Bernstein wrote a series of articles entitled “Problems of Socialism” for the magazine Die Neue Zeit, the theoretical organ of German Social-Democracy. In these articles, he tried under the guise of “freedom of criticism” to revise (hence the word “revisionism”) the philosophical, economic, and political foundations of revolutionary Marxism and to substitute for them bourgeois theories of reconciliation of class contradictions and of class collaboration. He attacked Marx’s doctrine of the impoverishment of the working class, the growth of class contradictions, crises, the inevitable collapse of capitalism, socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and brought forward a programme of social-reformism expressed in the formula: “the movement is everything, the final goal—nothing.” In 1899 Bernstein’s articles appeared in a hook entitled The Premises of Socialism and the Tasks of Social-Democracy. The book had the support of German Social-Democracy’s Right wing, and of opportunist elements in other parties of the Second International, including the Russian “economists.”

Bernsteinism was condemned at the congresses of the German Social-Democratic Party in Stuttgart (October 1898), Hanover (October 1899), and Lübeck (September 1901). However, the Party leadership did not show sufficient determination in opposing Bernstein and his adherents, but adopted a conciliatory attitude. The Bernsteinites continued their open propaganda of revisionist ideas in the magazine Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly) and in the Party organisations.

Headed by V. I. Lenin, the Bolshevik Party alone waged a consistent and resolute struggle against Bernsteinism and its adherents and followers in Russia. As early as 1899, Lenin came out against the Bernsteinites in his “A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats” and in his article, “Our Programme” (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 167-82 and 210-14). His writings, “Marxism and   Revisionism” (see present edition, Vol. 15), “Differences in the European Labour Movement” (see present edition, Vol. 16), and others, were also devoted to an exposure of Bernsteinism.

[10] The reference is to the Manifesto of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, issued in 1898 by the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. on the instructions and in the name of the Party’s First Congress. The Manifesto put forward the struggle for political liberty and the overthrow of the autocracy as the chief task of Russian Social-Democracy, and linked the political struggle with the general tasks of the working-class movement.

[11] Rabocheye Dyelo (Workers’ Cause)—a magazine that was the organ of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad. It was published in Geneva from April 1899 to February 1902 under the editorship of B. N. Krichevsky, P. F. Teplov (Sibiryak), V. P. Ivanshin, and later also A. S. Martynov. Twelve numbers (9 books) were issued in all. The Editorial Board of Rabocheye Dyelo was the “economists’\thinspace" centre abroad. The magazine supported Bernstein’s slogan of “freedom of criticism” of Marxism, took an opportunist stand on questions of Russian Social-Democracy’s tactics and organisational tasks, denied the revolutionary possibilities of the peasantry, and so on. Its supporters propagated opportunist ideas of subordinating the proletariat’s political struggle to the economic, exalted spontaneity in the working-class movement and denied the Party’s leading role. V. P. Ivanshin, one of the editors of Rabocheye Dyelo, also took part in editing Rabochaya Mysl (Workers’ Thought), organ of the outspoken “economists,” which Rabocheye Dyelo supported. At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., the Rabocheye Dyelo supporters represented the extreme Right, opportunist wing of the Party.

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