V. I.   Lenin

The Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

April 12 (25)-April 27 (May 10), 1905



Speech on the Validity of the Congress

April 13 (26)

I wish to reply to the remarks made here concerning the validity of the convocation of this Congress. The Central Committee considered the Congress to be unauthorised. The C.C. has characterised its own message to the Party Council as “repentant”. But was there anything for the C.C. to repent? The Congress is perfectly valid. It could, admittedly, be held invalid according to the letter of the Rules, but it would be grotesque formalism on our part to give the Rules such an interpretation. According to the spirit of the Rules, the validity of the Congress is beyond question. The Party Council exists for the Party, and not the Party for the Council. At the Second Congress, in connection with the Organising Committee incident, it was pointed out, by none other than Comrade Plekhanov, that discipline with regard to a lower body yields precedence to discipline with regard to a higher body. The C.C. declared its readiness to submit to the Party Council, if the latter would submit to the Party, viz., to the Congress. This was a perfectly legitimate demand, yet the Party Council rejected it. But the C.C., we are told, began to doubt the loyalty of the Party Council and expressed its lack of confidence in it. However, as we know, in all constitutionally governed countries the citizens have a right to express their lack of confidence in any public servant or institution. This is their inalienable right. Finally, even if the C.C. acted unwarrantedly, did that give the Party Council the right also to act unwarrantedly? What guarantee is there that the clause in the Rules which puts the Party Council under obligation to call a congress upon its endorsement   by half the qualified votes will actually be enforced? The Rules of the German Social-Democratic Party contain a clause authorising the Control Commission to convene a congress, if the Vorstand[1] refuses to do so. We have no such provision, and it rests entirely with the Party to ensure that the Congress is convened. From the spirit of the Rules, and even from their letter, if taken as a whole, it is clear that the Party Council is the agent of the Party committees. The agent of the committees refuses to do the bidding of its principals. If the agent does not carry out the will of the Party, the only thing left for the Party is to execute its will itself. The Party committees not only had the right to call the Congress themselves, but were in duty bound to do so. I maintain that the Congress was convened in a perfectly legitimate way. Who is the judge in this dispute between the Party Council and the committees? Why, these very committees, the Party. The will of the Party was expressed long ago. All the delay and procrastination on the part of the centres abroad could not alter it. The commit tees were obligated to convene the Congress themselves, and the Congress has been convened lawfully.

Now, to meet Comrade Tigrov’s point. Comrade Tigrov says we ought not to judge the Party Council. But the whole report of the Organising Committee is a judgement of the Party Council. I think Comrade Tigrov errs in holding that we must not judge the accused in absentia. In politics one is constantly compelled to judge in absentia. Do we not constantly judge the Socialists-Revolutionaries, the Bundists, and others in our writings, at our meetings, and everywhere? What else can we do but judge in absentia, if the Party Council refuses to appear at the Congress? In that case we could never judge anyone. Even the official court judges in absentia if the accused refuses to appear before it.



[1] The executive body.—Ed.

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