Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back



The Incident of Comrade Gusev and Comrade Deutsch

This incident is closely bound up with the so-called "false" (Comrade Martov’s expression) list mentioned in the letter of Comrades Martov and Starover, which has been quoted in Section J. The substance of it is as follows. Comrade Gusev informed Comrade Pavlovich that this list, consisting of Comrades Stein, Egorov, Popov, Trotsky, and Fomin, had been communicated to him, Gusev, by Comrade Deutsch (Comrade Pavlovich’s Letter, p. 12). Comrade Deutsch accused Comrade Gusev of "deliberate calumny" on account of this statement, and a comrades’ arbitration court declared Comrade Gusev’s "statement" "incorrect " (see the court’s decision in Iskra, No. 62). After the editorial board of Iskra had published the court decision, Comrade Martov (not the editorial board this time) issued a special leaflet entitled The Decision of the Comrades’ Arbitration Court, in which he reprinted in full, not only the decision of the court, but the whole report of the proceedings, together with a postscript of his own. In this postscript, Comrade Martov among other things spoke of "the disgraceful fact of the forgery of a list in the interests of a factional struggle". Comrades Lyadov and Gorin, who had been delegates to the Second Gongress, replied to this leaflet with one of their own entitled An Onlooker at the Arbitration Court, in which they "vigorously protest against Comrade Martov permitting himself to go further than the court decision and to ascribe evil motives to Comrade Gusev", whereas the court did not find that there had been a deliberate calumny, but only that Comrade Gusev’s statement was incorrect. Comrades Gorin and Lyadov explained at length that Comrade Gusev’s statement might have been due to a quite natural mistake, and described as "unworthy " the conduct of Comrade Martov, who had himself made (and again made in his leaflet) a number of erroneous statements, arbitrarily attributing evil intent to Comrade Gusev. There could be no evil intent there at all, they said. That, if I am not mistaken, is all the "literature" on this question, which I consider it my duty to help clear up.

First of all, it is essential that the reader have a clear idea of the time and conditions in which this list (of candidates for the Central Committee) appeared. As I have already stated in this pamphlet, the Iskra organisation conferred during the Congress about a list of candidates for the Central Committee which it could jointly submit to the Congress. The conference ended in disagreement: the majority of the Iskra organisation adopted a list consisting of Travinsky, Glebov, Vasilyev, Popov, and Trotsky, but the minority refused to yield and insisted on a list consisting of Travinsky, Glebov, Fomin, Popov, and Trotsky. The two sections of the Iskra organisation did not meet together again after the meeting at which these lists were put forward and voted on. Both sections entered the arena of free agitation at the Congress, wishing to have the issue between them settled by a vote of the Party Congress as a whole and each trying to win as many delegates as it could to its side. This free agitation at the Congress at once revealed the political fact I have analysed in such detail in this pamphlet, namely, that in order to gain the victory over us, it was essential for the Iskra-ist minority (headed by Martov) to have the support of the "Centre" (the Marsh) and of the anti-Iskra-ists. This was essential because the vast majority of the delegates who consistently upheld the programme, tactics, and organisational plans of Iskra against the onslaught of the anti-Iskra-ists and the "Centre" very quickly and very staunchly took their stand on our side. Of the thirty-three delegates (or rather votes) not belonging to the anti-Iskra-ists or the "Centre", we very quickly won twenty-four and concluded a "direct agreement" with them, forming a "compact majority". Comrade Martov, on the other hand, was left with only nine votes; to gain the victory, he needed all the votes of the anti-Iskra-ists and the "Centre"—with which groups he might join forces (as over Paragraph 1 of the Rules), might form a "coalition", that is, might have their support, but with which he could not conclude a direct agreement—could not do so because throughout the Congress he had fought these groups no less sharply than we had. Therein lay the tragicomedy of Comrade Martov’s position! In his State of Siege Comrade Martov tries to annihilate me with the deadly venomous question: "We would respectfully request Comrade Lenin to answer explicitly—to whom at the Congress were the Yuzhny Rabochy group an outside element?" (p. 23, footnote.) I answer respectfully and explicitly: they were an outside element to Comrade Martov. And the proof is that whereas I very quickly concluded a direct agreement with the Iskra-ists, Comrade Martov did not conclude, and could not have concluded, a direct agreement with Yuzhny Rabochy, nor with Comrade Makhov, nor with Comrade Brouckère.

Only when we have got a clear idea of this political situation can we understand the "crux" of this vexed question of the celebrated "false" list. Picture to yourself the actual state of affairs: the Iskra organisation has split, and we are freely campaigning at the Congress, defending our respective lists. During this defence, in the host of private conversations, the lists are varied in a hundred different combinations: a committee of three is proposed instead of five;all sorts of substitutions of one candidate for another are suggested. I very well recall, for instance, that the candidatures of Comrades Rusov, Osipov, Pavlovich, and Dyedov[1] were suggested in private conversations among the majority, and then, after discussions and arguments, were withdrawn. It may very well be that other candidatures too were proposed of which I have no knowledge. In the course of these conversations each Congress delegate expressed his opinion, suggested changes, argued, and so on. It is highly unlikely that this was the case only among the majority. There is no doubt, in fact, that the same sort of thing went on among the minority, for their original five (Popov, Trotsky, Fomin, Glebov, and Travinsky) were later replaced, as we have seen from the letter of Comrades Martov and Starover, by a trio—Glebov, Trotsky, and Popov—Glebov, moreover, not being to their taste, so that they were very ready to substitute Fomin (see the leaflet of Comrades Lyadov and Gorin). It should not be forgotten that my demarcation of the Congress delegates into the groups defined in this pamphlet was made on the basis of an analysis undertaken post factum; actually, during the election agitation these groups were only just beginning to emerge and the exchange of opinions among the delegates proceeded quite freely; no "wall" divided us, and each would speak to any delegate he wanted to discuss matters with in private. It is not at all surprising in these circumstances that among all the various combinations and lists there should appear, alongside the list of the minority of the Iskra organisation (Popov, Trotsky, Fomin, Glebov, and Travinsky), the not very different list: Popov, Trotsky, Fomin, Stein, and Egorov. The appearance of such a combination of candidates was very natural, because our candidates, Glebov and Travinsky, were patently not to the liking of the minority of the Iskra organisation (see their letter in Section J, where they remove Travinsky from the trio and expressly state that Glebov is a compromise). To replace Glebov and Travinsky by the Organising Committee members Stein and Egorov was perfectly natural, and it would have been strange if no one of the delegates belonging to the Party minority had thought of it.

Let us now examine the following two questions: 1) Who was the author of the list: Egorov, Stein, Popov, Trotsky, and Fomin? and 2) Why was Comrade Martov so profoundly incensed that such a list should be attributed to him? To give an exact answer to the first question, it would be necessary to question all the Congress delegates. That is now impossible. It would be necessary, in particular, to ascertain who of the delegates belonging to the Party minority (not to be confused with the Iskra organisation minority) had heard at the Congress of the lists that caused the split in the Iskra organisation; what they had thought of the respective lists of the majority and minority of the Iskra organisation; and whether they had not suggested or heard others suggest or express opinions about desirable changes in the list of the minority of the Iskra organisation. Unfortunately, these questions do not seem to have been raised in the arbitration court either, which (to judge by the text of its decision) did not even learn over just what lists of five the Iskra organisation split. Comrade Byelov, for example (whom I class among the "Centre"), "testified that he had been on good comradely terms with Deutsch, who used to give him his impressions of the work of the Congress, and that if Deutsch had been campaigning on behalf of any list he would have informed Byelov of the fact." It is to be regretted that it was not brought out whether Comrade Deutsch gave Comrade Byelov at the Congress his impressions as to the lists of the Iskra organisation, and if he did, what was Comrade Byelov’s reaction to the list of five proposed by the Iskra organisation minority, and whether he did not suggest or hear others suggest any desirable changes in it. Because this was not made clear, we get that contradiction in the evidence of Comrade Byelov and Comrade Deutsch which has already been noted by Comrades Gorin and Lyadov, namely, that Comrade Deutsch, notwithstanding his own assertions to the contrary, did "campaign in behalf of certain Central Committee candidates" suggested by the Iskra organisation. Comrade Byelov further testified that "he had heard about the list circulating at the Congress a couple of days before the Congress closed, in private conversation, when he met Comrades Egorov and Popov and the delegates from the Kharkov Committee. Egorov had expressed surprise that his name had been included in a list of Central Committee candidates, as in his, Egorov’s, opinion his candidature could not inspire sympathy among the Congress delegates, whether of the majority or of the minority." It is extremely significant that the reference here is apparently to the minority of the "Iskra" organisation, for among the rest of the Party Congress minority the candidature of Comrade Egorov, a member of the Organising Committee and a prominent speaker of the "Centre", not only could, but in all likelihood would have been greeted sympathetically. Unfortunately, we learn nothing from Comrade Byelov as to the sympathy or antipathy of those among the Party minority who did not belong to the Iskra organisation. And yet that is just what is important, for Comrade Deutsch waxed indignant about this list having been attributed to the minority of the Iskra organisation, whereas it may have originated with the minority which did not belong to that organisation!

Of course, it is very difficult at this date to recall who first suggested this combination of candidates, and from whom each of us heard about it. I, for example, do not undertake to recall even just who among the majority first proposed the candidatures of Rusov, Dyedov, and the others I have mentioned. The only thing that sticks in my memory, out of the host of conversations, suggestions, and rumours of all sorts of combinations of candidates, is those "lists" which were directly put to the vote in the Iskra organisation or at the private meetings of the majority. These "lists" were mostly circulated orally (Letter to the Editors of "Iskra", p. 4, line 5 from below, it is the combination of five candidates which I orally proposed at the meeting that I call a "list"); but it also happened very often that they were jotted down in notes, such as in general passed between delegates during the sittings of the Congress and were usually destroyed after the sittings.

Since we have no exact information as to the origin of this celebrated list, it can only be assumed that the combination of candidates which we have in it was either suggested by some delegate belonging to the Party minority, without the knowledge of the Iskra organisation minority, and thereafter began to circulate at the Congress in spoken and written form; or else that this combination was suggested at the Congress by some member of the Iskra organisation minority who subsequently forgot about it. The latter assumption seems to me the more likely one, for the following reasons: already at the Congress the Iskra organisation minority were undoubtedly sympathetic towards the candidature of Comrade Stein (see present pamphlet); and as to the candidature of Comrade Egorov, this minority did undoubtedly arrive at the idea after the Congress (for both at the League Congress and in State of Siege regret was expressed that the Organising Committee had not been endorsed as the Central Committee—and Comrade Egorov was a member of the Organising Committee). Is it then not natural to assume that this idea, which was evidently in tho air, of converting the members of the Organising Committee into members of the Central Committee was voiced by some member of the minority in private conversation at the Party Congress too?

But instead of a natural explanation, Comrade Martov and Comrade Deutsch are determined to see here something sordid—a plot, a piece of dishonesty, the dissemination of "deliberately false rumours with the object of defaming", a "forgery in the interests of a factional struggle ", and so forth. This morbid urge can only be explained by the unwholesome conditions of émigré life, or by an abnormal nervous condition, and I would not even have taken the question up if matters had not gone to the length of an unworthy attack upon a comrade’s honour. Just think: what grounds could Comrades Deutsch and Martov have had for detecting a sordid, evil intent in an incorrect statement, in an incorrect rumour? The picture which their morbid imaginations conjured up was apparently that the majority "defamed" them, not by pointing to the minority’s political mistake (Paragraph 1 and the coalition with the opportunists), but by ascribing to the minority "deliberately false" and "forged" lists. The minority preferred to attribute the matter not to their own mistake, but to sordid, dishonest, and disgraceful practices on the part of the majority! How irrational it was to seek for evil intent in the "incorrect statement", we have already shown above, by describing the circumstances. It was clearly realised by the comrades’ arbitration court too, which did not find any calumny, or any evil intent, or anything disgraceful. Lastly, it is most clearly proved by the fact that at the Party Congress itself, prior to the elections, the minority of the Iskra organisation entered into discussions with the majority regarding this false rumour, and Comrade Martov even stated his views in a letter which was read at a meeting of all the twenty-four delegates of the majority!It never even occurred to the majority to conceal from the minority of the Iskra organisation that such a list was circulating at the Congress: Comrade Lensky told Comrade Deutsch about it (see the court decision); Comrade Plekhanov spoke of it to Comrade Zasulich ("You can’t talk to her, she seems to take me for Trepov,"[2] Comrade Plekhanov said to me, and this joke, repeated many times after, is one more indication of the abnormal state of excitement the minority were in); and I informed Comrade Martov that his assurance (that the list was not his, Martov’s) was quite enough for me (League Minutes, p. 64). Comrade Martov (together with Comrade Starover, if I remember rightly) thereupon sent a note to us on the Bureau which ran roughly as follows: "The majority of the Iskra editorial board request to be allowed to attend the private meeting of the majority in order to refute the defamatory rumours which are being circulated about them." Plekhanov and I replied on the same slip of paper, saying: "We have not heard any defamatory rumours. If a meeting of the editorial board is required, that should be arranged separately. Lenin, Plekhanov." At the meeting of the majority held that evening, we related this to all the twenty-four delegates. To preclude all possible misunderstanding, it was decided to elect delegates from all the twenty-four of us jointly and send them to talk it over with Comrades Martov and Starover. The delegates elected, Comrades Sorokin and Sablina, went and explained that nobody was specifically attributing the list to Martov or Starover, particularly after their statement, and that it was of absolutely no importance whether this list originated with the minority of the Iskra organisation or with the Congress minority not belonging to that organisation. After all, we could not start an investigation at the Congress and question all the delegates about this list! But Comrades Martov and Starover, not content with this, sent us a letter containing a formal denial (see Section J). This letter was read out by our representatives, Comrades Sorokin and Sablina, at a meeting of the twenty-four. It might have seemed that the incident could be considered closed—not in the sense that the origin of the list had been ascertained (if anybody cared about that), but in the sense that the idea had been completely dispelled that there was any intention of "injuring the minority", or of "defaming" anybody, or of resorting to a "forgery in the interests of a factional struggle". Yet at the League Congress (pp. 63-64) Comrade Martov again brought forth this sordid story conjured up by a morbid imagination, and, what is more, made a number of incorrect statements (evidently due to his wrought-up condition). He said that the list included a Bundist. That was untrue. All the witnesses in the arbitration court, including Comrades Stein and Byelov, declared that the list had Comrade Egorov in it. Comrade Martov said that the list implied a coalition in the sense of a direct agreement. That was untrue, as I have already explained. Comrade Martov said that there were no other lists originating with the minority of the Iskra organisation (and likely to repel the majority of the Congress from this minority), "not even forged ones". That was untrue, for the entire majority at the Party Congress knew of no less than three lists which originated with Comrade Martov and Co., and which did not meet with the approval of the majority (see the leaflet by Lyadov and Gorin).

Why, in general, was Comrade Martov so incensed by this list? Because it signified a swing towards the Right wing of the Party. At that time Comrade Martov cried out against a "false accusation of opportunism" and expressed indignation at the "misrepresentation of his political position"; but now everybody can see that the question whether this list belonged to Comrade Martov and Comrade Deutsch could have had no political significance whatever, and that essentially, apart from this or any other list, the accusation was not false, but true, and the characterisation of his political position absolutely correct.

The upshot of this painful and artificial affair of the celebrated false list is as follows:

1) One cannot but join Comrades Gorin and Lyadov in describing as unworthy Comrade Martov’s attempt to asperse Comrade Gusev’s honour by crying about a "disgraceful fact of the forgery of a list in the interests of a factional struggle".

2) With the object of creating a healthier atmosphere and of sparing Party members the necessity of taking every morbid extravagance seriously, it would perhaps be advisable at the Third Congress to adopt a rule such as is contained in the Rules of Organisation of the German Social-Democratic Labour Party. Paragraph 2 of these Rules runs: "No person can belong to the Party who is guilty of a gross violation of the principles of the Party programme or of dishonourable conduct. The question of continued membership in the Party shall be decided by a court of arbitration convened by the Party Executive. One half of the judges shall be nominated by the person demanding the expulsion, the other half by the person whose expulsion is demanded; the chairman shall be appointed by the Party Executive. An appeal against a decision of the court of arbitration may be made to the Control Commission or to the Party Congress." Such a rule might serve as a good weapon against all who frivolously level accusations (or spread rumours) of dishonourable conduct. If there were such a rule, all such accusations would once and for all be classed as indecent slanders unless their author had the moral courage to come forward before the Party in the role of accuser and seek for a verdict from the competent Party institution.


[1] Dyedov—pseudonym of the Bolshevik Lydia Knipovich.

[2] Trepov, F. F.—Governor of St. Petersburg, whom Vera Zasulich fired at in 1878 in protest against his orders to flog the political prisoner Bogolyubov.

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