Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


A. The Preparations For The Congress

There is a saying that everyone is entitled to curse his judges for twenty-four hours. Our Party Congress, like any congress of any party, was also the judge of certain persons, who laid claim to the position of leaders but who met with discomfiture. Today these representatives of the “minority” are, with a naïveté verging on the pathetic, “cursing their judges” and doing their best to discredit the Congress, to belittle its importance and authority. This striving has been expressed most vividly, perhaps, in an article in Iskra, No. 57, by “Practical Worker”,[4] who feels out raged at the idea of the Congress being a sovereign “divinity”. This is so characteristic a trait of the new Iskra that it cannot be passed over in silence. The editors, the majority of whom were rejected by the Congress, continue, on the one hand, to call themselves a “Party” editorial board, while, on the other, they accept with open arms people who declare that the Congress was not divine. Charming, is it not? To be sure, gentlemen, the Congress was not divine; but what must we think of people who begin to “blackguard” the Congress after they have met with defeat at it?

For indeed, let us recall the main facts in the history of the preparations for the Congress.

Iskra declared at the very outset, in its announcement of publication in 1900, that before we could unite, lines of demarcation must be drawn. Iskra endeavoured to make the Conference of 1902[5] a private meeting and not a Party Congress.[1] Iskra acted with extreme caution in the summer and autumn of 1902 when it re-established the Organising Committee elected at that conference. At last the work of demarcation was finished—as we all acknowledged. The Organising Committee was constituted at the very end of 1902. Iskra welcomed its firm establishment, and in an editorial article in its 32nd issue declared that the convocation of a Party Congress was a most urgent and pressing necessity.[2] Thus, the last thing we can be accused of is having been hasty in convening the Second Congress. We were, in fact, guided by the maxim: measure your cloth seven times before you cut it; and we had every moral right to expect that after the cloth had been cut our comrades would not start complaining and measuring it all over again.

The Organising Committee drew up very precise (formalistic and bureaucratic, those would say who are now using these words to cover up their political spinelessness) Regulations for the Second Congress, got them passed by all the committees, and finally endorsed them, stipulating among other things, in Point 18, that “all decisions of the Congress and all the elections it carries out are decisions of the Party and binding on all Party organisations. They cannot be challenged by anyone on any pretext whatever and can be rescinded or amended only by the next Party Congress”.[3] How innocent in themselves, are they not, are these words, accepted at the time without a murmur, as something axiomatic; yet how strange they sound today—like a verdict against the “minority”! Why was this point included? Merely as a formality? Of course not. This provision seemed necessary, and was indeed necessary, because the Party consisted of a number of isolated and independent groups, which might refuse to recognise the Congress. This provision in fact expressed the free will of all the revolutionaries (which is now being talked about so much, and so irrelevantly, the term “free” being euphemistically applied to what really deserves the epithet “capricious”). It was equivalent to a word of honour mutually pledged by all the Russian Social-Democrats. It was intended to guarantee that all the tremendous effort, danger and expense entailed by the Congress should not be in vain, that the Congress should not be turned into a farce. It in advance qualified any refusal to recognise the decisions and elections at the Congress as a breach of faith.

Who is it, then, that the new Iskra is scoffing at when it makes the new discovery that the Congress was not divine and its decisions are not sacrosanct? Does that discovery imply “new views on organisation”, or only new attempts to cover up old tracks?


[1] See Minutes of the Second Congress, p. 20. —Lenin

[2] See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 309.—Ed.

[3] See Minutes of the Second Congress, pp. 22–23 and 380. —Lenin

[4]Practical Worker”—pseudonym of the Menshevik M. S. Makadzyub, also referred to as Panin.

[5] The conference of 1902—a conference of representatives of R.S.D.L.P. committees held on March 23-28 (April 5-10), 1902, in Belostok. The Economists and Bundists intended to proclaim this conference a Party Congress; a report drawn up by Lenin and presented by the Iskra delegate proved that the gathering lacked proper preparation and authority to constitute itself such. The conference set up an Organising Committee to convene the Second Party Congress, but nearly all its members were arrested soon after. A new Organising Committee to convene the Second Congress was formed in November 1902 at a conference in Pskov. Lenin’s views on the Belostok conference are set forth in his “Report of the Iskra Editorial Board to the Meeting (Conference) of R.S.D.L.P. Committees”.

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