V. I.   Lenin

Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

July 17 (30)-August 10 (23), 1903


21. Second Speech in the Discussion on the Party Rules

I should like first of all to make two remarks on minor points. First, on the subject of Axelrod’s kind proposal (I am not speaking ironically) to “strike a bargain.” I would willingly respond to this appeal, for I by no means consider our difference so vital as to be a matter of life or death to the Party. We shall certainly not perish because of an unfortunate clause in the Rules! But since it has come to the point of choosing between two formulations, I simply cannot abandon my firm conviction that Martov’s formulation is worse than the original draft and may, in certain circumstances, cause no little harm to the Party. The second remark concerns Comrade Brucker.[1] It is only natural for Comrade Brucker, who wishes to apply the elective principle everywhere, to have accepted my formulation, the only one that defines at all exactly the concept of a Party member. I therefore fail to understand Comrade Martov’s delight at Comrade Brucker’s agreement with me. Is it possible that in actual fact Comrade Martov makes a point of guiding himself by the opposite of what Brucker says, without examining his motives and arguments?

To come to the main subject, I must say that Comrade Trotsky has completely misunderstood Comrade Plekhanov’s fundamental idea, and his arguments have therefore evaded the gist of the matter. He has spoken of intellectuals and workers, of the class point of view and of the mass movement, but he has failed to notice a basic question: does my formulation narrow or expand the concept of a Party   member? If he had asked himself that question, he would easily have seen that my formulation narrows this concept, while Martov’s expands it, for (to use Martov’s own correct expression) what distinguishes his concept is its “elasticity.” And in the period of Party life that we are now passing through it is just this “elasticity” that undoubtedly opens the door to all elements of confusion, vacillation, and opportunism. To refute this simple and obvious conclusion it has to be proved that there are no such elements; but it has not even occurred to Comrade Trotsky to do that. Nor can that be proved, for everyone knows that such elements exist in plenty, and that they are to be found in the working class too. The need to safeguard the firmness of the Party’s line and the purity of its principles has now become particularly ·urgent, for, with the restoration of its unity, the Party will recruit into its ranks a great many unstable elements, whose number will increase with the growth of the Party. Comrade Trotsky completely misinterpreted the main idea of my book, What Is to Be Done?, when he spoke about the Party not being a conspiratorial organisation (many others too raised this objection). He forgot that in my book I propose a number of various types of organisations, from the most secret and most exclusive to comparatively broad and “loose” (lose) organisations.[See present edition, Vol. 5.—Ed.] He forgot that the Party must be only the vanguard, the leader of the vast masses of the working class, the whole (or nearly the whole) of which works “under the control and direction” of the Party organisations, but the whole of which does not and should not belong to a “party.” Now let us see what conclusions Comrade Trotsky arrives at in consequence of his fundamental mistake. He has told us here that if rank after rank of workers were arrested, and all the workers were to declare that they did not belong to the Party, our Party would be a strange one indeed! Is it not the other way round? Is it not Comrade Trotsky’s argument that is strange? He regards as something sad that which a revolutionary with any experience at all would only rejoice at. If hundreds and thousands of workers who were arrested for taking part in strikes and demonstrations did not prove   to be members of Party organisations, it would only show that we have good organisations, and that we. are fulfilling our task of keeping a more or less limited circle of leaders secret and of drawing the broadest possible masses into the movement.

The root of the mistake made by those who stand for Martov’s formulation is that they not only ignore one of the main evils of our Party life, but even sanctify it. The evil is that, at a time when political discontent is almost universal, when conditions require our work to be carried on in complete secrecy, and when most of our activities have to be confined to limited, secret circles and even to private meetings, it is extremely difficult, almost impossible in fact, for us to distinguish those who only talk from those who do the work. There is hardly another country in the world where the jumbling of these two categories is as common and as productive of such boundless confusion and harm as in Russia. We are suffering sorely from this evil not only among the intelligentsia, but also among the working class, and Comrade Martov’s formulation sanctions it. This formulation necessarily tends to make Party members of all and sundry; Comrade Martov himself was forced to admit this, although with a reservation: “Yes, if you like,” he said. But that is precisely what we do not like! And that is precisely why we are so adamant in our opposition to Martov’s formulation. It would be better if ten who do work should not call themselves Party members (real workers don’t hunt after titles!) than that one who only talks should have the right and opportunity to be a Party member. That is a principle which seems to me irrefutable, and which compels me to fight against Martov. The objection has been presented to me that we confer no rights on Party members, and that therefore there can be no abuses. This kind of objection is quite untenable: if we do not state what particular rights a Party member enjoys, please note that neither do we say that there is to be any restriction on the rights of Party members. That is point one. Secondly—and this is the main point—irrespective even of rights, we must not forget that every Party member is responsible for the Party, and that the Party is responsible for every one of its members. In view of the conditions in   which we have to carry on our political activities, in view of the present rudimentary state of real political organisation, it would be simply dangerous and harmful to grant the right of membership to people who are not members of a Party organisation and to make the Party responsible for people who do not belong to an organisation (perhaps deliberately). Comrade Martov was horrified at the idea that one who is not a member of a Party organisation will have no right to declare in court that he is a Party member, however energetically he may have done his work. That does not frighten me. On the contrary, serious harm would be done if a person who calls himself a Party member, even though he does not belong to any Party organisation, were to behave unworthily in court. It would be impossible to deny that such a person was working under the control and direction of the organisation—impossible because of the very vagueness of the term. Actually—and there can be no doubt about this—the words “under the control and direction” will mean that there will be neither control nor direction. The Central Committee will never be able to exercise real control over all who do the work but do not belong to organisations. It is our task to place actual control in the hands of the Central Committee. It is our task to safeguard the firmness, consistency, and purity of our Party. We must strive to raise the title and the significance of a Party member higher, higher and still higher—and I therefore oppose Martov’s formulation.



[1] Brucker—pseudonym of the Menshevik Mrs. Makhnovets.

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