V. I.   Lenin

Session of the Council of the R.S.D.L.P. (January 1904)

January 15-17 (28-30), 1904


Comrade Martov declares that I plunged straight off into polemic instead of calmly and peacefully discussing the general question of devising measures for peace in the Party. I cannot agree with that, because the polemic was started by none other than Comrade Martov himself. There is nothing polemical in my draft resolution. Not for nothing did Comrade Axelrod describe it as a “pastoral exhortation"—and pastoral exhortations, as we know, do not go in for polemic.   And indeed, all I spoke of in it was the bounds within which ny internal struggle in the Party must be kept: what forms of such struggle can be accounted permissible, and what forms must be acknowledged impermissible and fraught with danger not only to the normal course of Party life, but to the Party’s very existence. Moreover, I carefully tried to avoid an approach that might involve us in further fruitless controversy—in my proposal I endeavoured not to start from an appraisal of the methods of struggle that have actually marked the nearly six months’ war between the two sides in the Party. Comrade Martov would not keep the matter on this plane and chose to indulge in polemic. Nevertheless, I shall be ready, should it be desired, to go back afterwards to where I started. As for the present, let me say the following. Comrade Martov quoted Travinsky as having welcomed the co optation of the old editors to the editorial board. I think it necessary to emphasise here that private conversations or negotiations do not count. All official negotiations were con ducted by Travinsky in writing. As to his private remarks, Comrade Martov apparently misunderstood them, and some other time, should it be necessary, I can prove it.

Further, Comrade Martov said there were all sorts of short comings in the activities of the Central Committee, and thereby he again entered the domain of polemic. There may indeed be shortcomings in the Central Committee’s activities, but for a representative of the Central Organ to criticise those activities is nothing but polemic. I for my part find that the activities of the Central Organ have gone off the right track; but for all that I did not start out here by criticising the line the Central Organ’s activities have taken, but by stating that there is mutual dissatisfaction between the Central Committee and the Central Organ. I also protest against the assertion that my resolution, if adopted by the Council, would turn the latter into an “instrument of war fare”. My appeal speaks only of what forms of struggle are permissible and what forms are not.... Where does an “instrument of warfare” come into that? Comrade Axelrod said I had “started with a toast and ended with a requiem”, and accused me of having devoted all my efforts to proving that there was a split in the Party. But surely, we started out yesterday by acknowledging that there was a split.... Further,   by way of proving that the centre of the discord does not lie abroad, Comrade Martov quoted Comrade Vasilyev’s letter of December 12, which says that in Russia things are sheer hell.[2] To that let me say that it does not necessarily take strong groups to “create a hell”, f6r it is petty and petti fogging squabbles that oftenest and easiest create big impediments to the work. I have mentioned my letter of September 13 to one of the former editors. I am going to publish that letter.[3] Comrade Plekhanov says the word “Marsh” is an insult. Let me remind you, however, that in the German socialist press and at congresses of the German Party the term versumplt[1] evokes scoffing sometimes, but never cries of having been insulted. Neither Comrade Vasilyev nor I had any thought of insulting anyone in using the word. When there are two sides, each with its definite trend, irresolute waverers between the two are described by the term “Marsh”, instead of which one could, I suppose, use “golden mean."

To call the Central Committee eccentric may be witty, but it also leads to polemic. After all, I could say the same of the Central Organ. I am told that my “appeal” is a homoeopathic remedy for an allopathic evil. I do not deny that the remedy I propose is only a palliative; but then, we cannot find allopathic remedies here. If you are going to talk of the need for “allopathic”, radical remedies for this evil, then go all the way. A remedy like that does exist, and this one radical remedy is none other than a congress. For five months now we have been trying vainly to come to an understanding ("That’s not so!")... yes, it is so, and I shall prove it to you with documents.... We have been at it ever since September 15 and have not achieved it yet. Wouldn’t it be better in that case to appeal to the body that Comrade Martov too spoke of yesterday?—and that body can only be a congress of Party workers. The Party Congress—that is the body that decides about the “conductor’s baton”. One of the reasons we have congresses is to “fight” over the “conductor’s baton” (not in the crude sense of the word, of course). There a struggle is waged by way of ballots, by way of negotiations with comrades, and so forth, and there this struggle over the   composition of the central bodies is in order, but outside congresses it should have no place in Party life.

And so, while my “pastoral message” may be a palliative, no other, more radical remedy exists except a congress, if you do not want to make the evil a chronic one. Comrade Axelrod pointed out that in Western Europe the members of the central institutions paid due regard to any opposition to their policy even in the remotest corners of the Party, and tried, by negotiating with the opposition, to smooth things ouL... But then, our Central Committee is doing the same. The Central Committee sent two of its members abroad for that purpose,[4] the Central Committee has negotiated with various opposition representatives dozens of times, proving to them the absurdity of their arguments, the ground lessness of their fears, etc., etc. Let me say that this is an impossible waste of energy, money and time, and in that sense we really do have something to answer for before history.

Coming back again to the matter of practical suggestions, I repeat that you only have one radical means of ending this unhappy period of polemic—a congress. My resolution was intended to bring the struggle in the Party within more nor mal bounds.... We are told that that will not remove the splinter, that the trouble lies deeper.... In that case it is only the summoning of a congress that can extract the splinter completely.


[1] Of the Marsh.—Ed.

[2] This letter, which Central Committee member Lengnik (Vasilyev) sent on November 29 (December 12), 1903, to the Iskra editorial board, was written by Lenin.

[3] Lenin is referring to his letter to Potresov of August 31 (September 13), 1903. He published it in slightly abridged form in One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (see pp. 351-52 of this volume).

[4] These Central Committee members were Lengnik, who was appointed the Central Committee’s official foreign representative, and Krzhizhanovsky, who came to Switzerland in November 1903 specially to negotiate with the Mensheviks.

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