Written: Written in the early part of February 1904
Published: First published in 1929 in Lenin Miscellany X. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, publisher??, pubdate??, Moscow, Volume 7, pages 188-192.
Translated: Fineberg Abraham
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2002 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
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Comrades! That our Party is going through a severe crisis is known by now to all, and has in fact been directly and openly stated in our Central Organ also.
We consider it our duty to call on all members of the Party to take a conscious and active part in putting an end to the crisis as speedily and painlessly as possible.
Comrade Plekhanov, who at the Party Congress and— long after it—at the Congress of the League Abroad belonged to the Party Congress majority, now comes forward in No. 57 of Iskra as a champion of the demands of the minority, accusing the Central Committee of “eccentricity”, of an intransigence that only benefits our enemies, of refusing to co-opt minority adherents. Such co-optation is, in Comrade Plekhanov’s eyes, nothing less than “the only way to deliver our Party from its state of severe crisis, which sorely weakens our positions and strengthens those of our numerous enemies and opponents”. One must be guided not only by the Rules, says Comrade Plekhanov—in reference presumably to this state of severe crisis—but also by the actual position of affairs, by the existing relation of forces in the Party. One must rise above the circle and doctrinaire standpoint which pushes to the forefront what divides the workers instead of what unites them.
These general principles are undoubtedly correct, and it only remains for every Social-Democrat to acquaint himself precisely with the facts and reflect seriously on the position in order correctly to apply them.
Yes, we must without fail, at the cost of any and every effort, undaunted by the prospect of a long and arduous job, cure our Party of the circle spirit, of faction and schism over trifles, of unseemly and unworthy wrangling over the conductor’s baton! Take a good look, then, at the events that have developed in our Party since its Second Congress. Have the courage to expose our sores, in order to diagnose them without hypocrisy or official humbug and to apply the right treatment.
The minutes of the Second Congress have now been published in their entirety; the minutes of the Congress of the League Abroad have likewise been made available to the Party membership. Party literature has already laid bare many manifestations and symptoms of our crisis, and although much still remains to be done in that respect, a certain summing up already can and should be made.
The Second Congress ended with a bitter struggle over the composition of our central bodies. By a majority of 24 to 20, a Central Organ editorial board of three was elected (Plekhanov, Martov and Lenin), and a Central Committee likewise made up of three comrades. Martov refused to fill the post he had been elected to, and he and all of the minority refused to take part in the elections to the Central Committee. From the very time of the Congress the minority started a bitter fight against the central bodies, a regular war over the conductor’s baton, a regular war of the circle spirit against the party spirit, a war to get the old editorial board reinstated and a due (in the view of the minority) number of their adherents co-opted to the Central Committee. This war went on for months, and was accompanied by the minority’s total withdrawal from work under the direction of the central bodies, by a boycott of them, and by purely anarchistic preachings, specimens of which the Party membership will find in profusion in the minutes of the League Congress. The struggle chiefly centred abroad, among the section furthest removed from positive work and from the participation of class-conscious proletarians. It involved the central bodies set up by the Second Congress in an appalling waste of energy on trips, meetings, and negotiations intended to obviate countless petty dissatisfactions, disputes and squabbles. That the demands of the opposition utterly disregarded the relation of forces whether at the Second Congress or in the Party as a whole may be seen, for example, from the fact that while the editors of the Central Organ (Plekhanov and Lenin) actually agreed to the co-optation of two—that is, to equal representation of the Party Congress majority and minority—the opposition demanded a huge majority (four to two) on the editorial board. Under the threat of an inevitable and immediate split, the two central bodies finally made a number of concessions to the demands regarding the conductor’s baton: the editors were co opted, Lenin resigned from the editorial board and the Council, another majority member resigned from the Council likewise, the reorganisation of the League Abroad, whose Congress had flouted everything the Party Congress had decided, was allowed to lapse, and the opposition was offered two seats on the Central Committee.
The opposition rejected this offer. It evidently demands a larger number of seats, and for persons who would not be chosen by the Central Committee, but named by the opposition. Neither the relation of forces nor the interests of the work furnish the slightest justification for such demands: all that these ultimatums are backed by is threats of a split and acts of grossly mechanical pressure, such as boycotts and withholding of funds.
The Party has been disorganised and demoralised to the utmost by this fight for posts, which diverts its forces from positive work. This demoralisation is not lessened but, if anything, heightened by the fact that the minority’s so- called differences of principle lend this fight a false colouring.
We all agreed unanimously—and said so emphatically time and again—to recognise all decisions of the Second Congress and all its elections as unconditionally binding. Now the minority has in practice repudiated the entire Rules and all the elections; now those who uphold the common decisions are found to be “formalists"—those who received their powers from the Congress are labelled “bureaucrats"— those who take their stand by the vote of the majority, which (by our common consent) expressed the relation of forces in the Party, are accused of a grossly mechanical and bureaucratic point of view. Those who at the Congress, having been charged by the membership with the duty of electing the Party’s officials, transferred some editors to the status of contributors and some members of the Organising Committee to that of ordinary Party workers, are now found guilty of converting Party members into cogs and wheels, etc., etc. The unsound and unstable position the minority already adopted at the Party Congress led inevitably to this dishonesty, which we are far from attributing to anyone’s subjective will.
Is it not time to put an end to this strife and faction? Let everyone who cares about our Party’s future ask himself that.
Is it not time to make a determined end of this fight for control of the central bodies, of this contention over posts, which is having such a disruptive effect on all our work? Is it fitting to embark yet again, after months and months of negotiations, upon new negotiations with the opposition, or to raise the question of the Central Committee’s being one-sided or eccentric? For the raising of that question, after the co-optation of the editors had already seemed to ensure peace, inevitably calls up again the question of the one-sidedness and eccentricity—the anti-Party nature,even— of our Central Organ. How long are we going to engage in this indecent wrangling over the composition of the central bodies? And how can we settle the issue as to which side is right in its demands? By what yardstick are we to measure it? Why is it the “firm-liners” that are to be counted intransigent, when they have ceded a very great deal of what the Congress decided, and not the “soft-liners”, who in practice have turned out uncommonly firm in their drive for a split and direct preparation of a split?
Let the comrades consider how this abnormal position can be ended. The Central Committee had hoped that the change of cabinet at the Central Organ would bring peace. When the dispute had already gone very far, when the fight over the conductor’s baton had brought us to the very verge of a split—just one hope still remained: the achievement of some sort of disengagement, so as not to interfere with each other, so as gradually, in the process of working within one Party, to reduce the friction, so as not to touch, or to touch more seldom, on “sore” points. The division of the central bodies, one would have thought, at least partially ensured the ending of the crisis: the minority had the Central Organ to itself and could freely group around it, freely advocate its views, freely carry on its Party work, without feeling “alien” in the Party. And with the majority also controlling one of the central bodies—the Central Committee (or out numbering the minority upon it)—the majority too could feel at least some satisfaction. The fight over the central bodies could have ended and given place to a purely ideological clearing up of disagreements and shades of opinion.
This hope is shattered by Iskra’s raising the question of co-optation to the Central Committee. We do not deem it possible to engage anew in this bargaining over posts, which fills us with repugnance. We should actually prefer, failing any other solution, to hand over all the conductor’s batons to the minority, if it positively cannot bring itself to work in the Party except in the top posts. Our readiness to do so increases as this ugly new malady of our movement drags on—as these petty squabbles, the more unbearable for being petty, become chronic.
But we should first wish to know with all possible certainty the opinion of the Party, to consult revolutionary public opinion, especially within Russia. We invite comrades closely to examine and study the facts relating to our “crisis”, to make a thorough appraisal of the present position in the Party, and to state their views on all the questions raised.