Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


D. Dissolution of the Yuzhny Rabochy Group

The alignment of the delegates over the Organising Committee question may perhaps seem accidental. But such an opinion would be wrong, and in order to dispel it we shall depart from the chronological order and at once examine an incident which occurred at the end of the Congress, but which was very closely connected with the one just discussed. This incident was the dissolution of the Yuzhny Rabochy group. The organisational trend of Iskra—complete amalgamation of the Party forces and removal of the chaos dividing them—came into conflict here with the interests of one of the groups, which had done useful work when there was no real party, but which had become superfluous now that the work was being centralised. From the standpoint of circle interests, the Yuzhny Rabochy group was entitled no less than the old Iskra editorial board to lay claim to “continuity” and inviolability. But in the interests of the Party, it was its duty to submit to the transfer of its forces to “the appropriate Party organisations” (p. 313, end of resolution adopted by the Congress). From the standpoint of circle interests and “philistinism”, the dissolution of a useful group, which no more desired it than did the old Iskra editorial board, could not but seem a “ticklish matter” (the expression used by Comrade Rusov and Comrade Deutsch). But from the standpoint of the interests of the Party, its dissolution, its “assimilation” in the Party (Gusev’s expression), was essential. The Yuzhny Rabochy group bluntly declared that it “did not deem it necessary” to proclaim itself dissolved and demanded that “the Congress definitely pronounce its opinion”, and pronounce it “immediately: yes or no”. The Yuzhny Rabochy group openly invoked the same “continuity” as the old Iskra editorial board began to invoke . . . after it was dissolved! “Although we are all individually members of one Party,” Comrade Egorov said, “it nevertheless consists of a number of organisations, with which we have to reckon as historical entities.... If such an organisation is not detrimental to the Party, there is no need to dissolve it.”

Thus an important question of principle was quite definitely raised, and all the Iskra-ists—inasmuch as their own circle interests had not yet come to the forefront—took a decisive stand against the unstable elements (the Bundists and two of the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists had already withdrawn from the Congress; they would undoubtedly have been heart and soul in favour of “reckoning with historical entities”). The result of the vote was thirty-one for, five against and five abstentions (the four votes of .the members of the Yuzhny Rabochy group and one other, that of Byelov, most likely, judging by his earlier pronouncements, p. 308). A group of ten votes distinctly opposed to Iskra’s consistent organisational plan and defending the circle spirit as against the party spirit can be quite definitely discerned here. During the debate the Iskra-ists presented the question precisely from the standpoint of principle (see Lange’s speech, p. 315), opposing parochial amateurishness and disunity, refusing to pay heed to the “sympathies” of individual organisations, and plainly declaring that “if the comrades of Yuzhny Rabochy had adhered more strictly to principle earlier, a year or two ago, the unity of the Party and the triumph of the programme principles we have sanctioned here would have been achieved sooner”. Orlov, Gusev, Lyadov, Muravyov, Rusov, Pavlovich, Glebov, and Gorin all spoke in this strain. And far from protesting against these definite and repeated references made at the Congress to the lack of principle in the policy and “line” of Yuzhny Rabochy, of Makhov and of others, far from making any reservation on this score, the Iskra-ists of the “minority”, in the person of Deutsch, vigorously associated themselves with these views, condemned “chaos”, and welcomed the “blunt way the question was put” (p. 315) by that very same Comrade Rusov who, at this same sitting, had the audacity—oh, horror!—to “bluntly put” the question of the old editorial board too on a purely Party basis (p. 325).

On the part of the Yuzhny Rabochy group the proposal to dissolve it evoked violent indignation, traces of which are to be found in the minutes (it should not be forgotten that the minutes offer only a pale reflection of the debates, for they do not give the full speeches, but only very condensed summaries and extracts). Comrade Egorov even described as a “lie” the bare mention of the Rabochaya Mysl[1] group alongside of Yuzhny Rabochy—a characteristic sample of the attitude that prevailed at the Congress towards consistent Economism. Even much later, at the 37th sitting, Egorov spoke of the dissolution of Yuzhny Rabochy with the utmost irritation (p. 356), requesting to have it recorded in the minutes that during the discussion on Yuzhny Rabochy the members of the group had not been asked either about publication funds or about control by the Central Organ and the Central Committee. Comrade Popov hinted, during the debate on Yuzhny Rabochy, at a compact majority having predetermined the fate of the group. “Now,” he said (p. 316), “after the speeches of Comrades Gusev and Orlov, everything is clear.” The meaning of these words is unmistakable: now, after the Iskra-ists had stated their opinion and moved a resolution, everything was clear, i.e., it was clear that Yuzhny Rabochy would be dissolved, against its own wishes. Here the Yuzhny Rabochy spokesman himself drew a distinction between the Iskra-ists (and, moreover, Iskra-ists like Gusev and Orlov) and his own supporters, as representing different “lines” of organisational policy. And when the present-day Iskra represents the Yuzhny Rabochy group (and Makhov too, most likely?) as “typical Iskra-ists”, it only demonstrates that the new editorial board has forgotten the most important (from this group’s standpoint) events of the Congress and is anxious to cover up the evidence showing what elements went to form what is known as the “minority”.

Unfortunately, the question of a popular periodical was not discussed at the Congress. It was very actively discussed by all the Iskra-ists both before the Congress and during the Congress itself, outside the sittings, and they agreed that it would be highly irrational at this moment in the Party’s life to launch such a publication or convert any of the existing ones for the purpose. The anti-Iskra-ists expressed the opposite opinion at the Congress; so did the Yuzhny Rabochy group in their report; and the fact that a motion to this effect, with ten signatures, was not tabled can only be attributed to chance, or to a disinclination to raise a “hopeless” issue.


[1] Rabochaya Mysl (Worker’s Thought) was an Economist group which published a paper under this name. The paper, edited by K. M. Takhtarev and others, appeared from October 1897 to December 1902; 16 issues were published altogether.

Rabochaya Mysl advocated frankly opportunist views. It opposed the political struggle and restricted the tasks of the working-class movement to “the interests of the moment”, to pressing for individual partial reforms, chiefly of an economic nature. Glorifying “spontaneity” in the movement, it opposed the creation of an independent proletarian party and belittled the importance of revolutionary theory and consciousness, maintaining that the socialist ideology could grow out of the spontaneous movement.

The views expounded by Rabochaya Mysl, as the Russian variety of international opportunism, were criticised by Lenin in the article “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy” (present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 255-85), in his Iskra articles, and in What Is To Be Done?

  C. Beginning of the Congress. The Organising Committee Incident | E. The Equality of Languages Incident  

Works Index   |   Volume 7 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >