V. I.   Lenin

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

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



Speech on an Agreement with the Socialists-Revolutionaries

April 23 (May 6)

I have to inform the Congress of an unsuccessful attempt to come to an agreement with the Socialists-Revolutionaries. Comrade Gapon arrived abroad. He met with the Socialists-Revolutionaries, then with the Iskra people, and finally with me. He told me that he shared the point of view of the Social-Democrats, but for various reasons did not deem it possible to say so openly. I told him that diplomacy was a good thing, but not between revolutionaries. I shall not repeat our conversation; it was reported in Vperyod.[1] He impressed me as being an enterprising and clever man, unquestionably devoted to the revolution, though unfortunately without a consistent revolutionary outlook.

Some time later I received a written invitation from Comrade Gapon to attend a conference of socialist organisations, convened, according to his idea, for the purpose of co-ordinating their activities. Here is a list of the eighteen organisations which, according to that letter, were invited to Comrade Gapon’s conference:

(1) The Socialist-Revolutionary Party, (2) the Vperyod R.S.D.L.P., (3) the Iskra R.S.D.L.P., (4) the Polish Socialist Party, (5) the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania, (6) the P.S.P., Proletariat, (7) the Lettish Social-Democratic Labour Party, (8) the Bund, (9) the Armenian Social-Democratic Labour Organisation, (10) the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Droshak), (II) The Byelorussian Socialist   Hromada, (12) the Lettish Social-Democratic League, (13) the Active Resistance Party of Finland, (14) the Workers’ Party of Finland, (15) the Georgian Party of Socialist-Federalist Revolutionaries, (16) the Ukrainian Revolutionary Party, (17) the Lithuanian Social-Democratic Party, and (18) the Ukrainian Socialist Party.

I pointed out both to Comrade Gapon and to a prominent Socialist-Revolutionary that the dubious make-up of the conference might create difficulties. The Socialists-Revolutionaries were building up an overwhelming conference majority. The convocation of the conference was greatly delayed. Iskra replied, as documents submitted to me by Comrade Gapon show, that it preferred direct agreements with organised parties. A “gentle” hint at Vperyod’s being an alleged disrupter, etc. In the end Iskra did not attend the conference. We, the representatives of both the Vperyod Editorial Board and the Bureau of Committees of the Majority, did attend. Arriving on the scene, we saw that the conference was a Socialist-Revolutionary affair. As it became clear, either the working-class parties had not been invited at all, or there was no record of their having been invited. Thus, the Active Resistance Party of Finland was represented, but not the Workers’ Party of Finland.

When we asked for the reason, we were told that the invitation to the Workers’ Party of Finland had been sent via the Active Resistance Party, since, in the words of the Socialist-Revolutionary who offered the explanation, they did not know how to send it directly. Yet anyone who is at all familiar with things abroad knows that connections with the Workers’ Party of Finland can be established, if only through Branting, the leader of the Swedish Social-Democratic Labour Party. There were representatives from the Polish Socialist Party in attendance, but no representative from the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania. Nor was it possible to ascertain whether an invitation had been extended. No reply had been received from the Lithuanian Social-Democracy or from the Ukrainian Revolutionary Party, we were told by the same Socialist-Revolutionary.

From the outset the national question was made an issue. The Polish Socialist Party raised the question of having several constituent assemblies. This gives me reason to say   that in the future it will be necessary for us either to refuse outright to take any part in such conferences, or to convene a conference of representatives of the working-class parties of one nationality, or to invite to the conference representatives of local party committees from the regions with a non-Russian population. But I certainly do not infer from this that conferences are impossible because of differences on points of principle. All that is necessary is that only practical questions be taken up.

We cannot control the composition of conferences, etc., from abroad. The Russian centre must be represented, and representatives of the local committees must take part with out fail. The question that led to our withdrawal concerned the Letts. On leaving the conference we submitted the following declaration:

“The important historical period through which Russia is passing confronts the Social-Democratic and revolutionary-democratic parties and organisations working within the country with the task of reaching a practical agreement for a more effective attack on the autocratic regime.

“While, therefore, attaching very great importance to the conference called for that purpose, we must naturally subject the composition of the conference to the closest scrutiny.

“In the conference called by Comrade Gapon this condition, so essential to its success, has unfortunately not been properly observed, and we were therefore obliged, at its very initiation, to take measures calculated to ensure the genuine success of the gathering.

“The fact that the conference was to deal solely with practical matters made it necessary, in the first place, that only organisations truly constituting a real force in Russia should be afforded participation.

“Actually, the composition of the conference, as far as the reality of some of the organisations is concerned, is most unsatisfactory. Even an organisation of whose fictitious nature there is not the slightest doubt, found representation. We refer to the Lettish Social-Democratic League.

“The representative of the Lettish Social-Democratic Labour Party objected to the seating of this League and couched his objection in the form of an ultimatum.

“The utter fictitiousness of the ’League’, as subsequently established at a special meeting of the representatives of the four Social-Democratic organisations and the delegates of the ’League’, naturally compelled us, the remaining Social-Democratic organisations and parties attending the conference, to endorse the ultimatum.

“At the outset, however, we came up against the strong resistance of all the revolutionary-democratic parties, which, in refusing to meet our peremptory demand, showed that they preferred one fictitious group to a number of well-known Social-Democratic organisations.

“Finally, the practical significance of the conference was still further lowered by the absence of a number of other Social-Democratic organisations, whose participation, as far as we could ascertain, no proper measures had been taken to ensure.

“Though compelled, in view of all this, to leave the conference, we express our conviction that the failure of this one attempt will not stand in the way of earnest efforts to renew the endeavour in the very near future, and that the task that confronts all revolutionary parties of reaching a practical agreement will be accomplished by the coming conference, to be composed of organisations actually working in Russia, and not of fictitious organisations.

“For the Lettish S.D.L.P . . . . . . F. Rozin.

“For the Vperyod R.S.D.L.P . . . . . N. Lenin.

“For the Central Committee of the Bund . . . I. Gelfin.

“For the Armenian Social-Democratic Labour Organisation . . . Lerr.”

A week and a half or two weeks later Comrade Gapon sent me the following statement:

“Dear Comrade

“I am forwarding to you two declarations issued by the conference of which you know, and I request that you communicate their contents to the forthcoming Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. I deem it my duty to state that for my own part I accept these declarations with certain reservations on the questions of the socialist programme and the principle of federalism.

“Georgi Gapon.”

This statement was accompanied by two interesting documents, containing the following striking passages:

“The application of the federative principle to the relations between nationalities remaining under one state roof....

“Socialisation, i.e., the transfer under public administration to the use by the labouring agricultural population of all lands whose cultivation is based on the exploitation of the labour of others; the determination of the concrete forms this measure is to take, of the order in which it is to be instituted, and of its scope, is to remain within the jurisdiction of the parties of the different nationalities, in keeping with the specific local conditions of each country; the development of public, municipal, and communal economy....

“... Bread for the starving!

“The land and its bounties for all the toilers!

A Constituent Assembly of representatives of all parts of the Russian Empire, exclusive of Poland and Finland!

Convocation of a Constituent Assembly for the Caucasus, as an autonomous part of Russia with which it is to be federated...

The result of the conference, as appears from these quotations, has fully confirmed the fears which induced us to leave the conference. We have here a copy of the Socialist-Revolutionary programme with all sorts of concessions to the nationalist non-proletarian parties. It was strange taking part in deciding the questions raised at the conference without the participation of the national proletarian parties. For instance, the conference presented the demand for a separate Constituent Assembly for Poland. We can be neither for nor against the demand. Our programme recognises the principle of the self-determination of nationalities. But to decide this question without the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania is impermissible. The conference divided up the Constituent Assembly, and this in the absence of the working-class parties! We cannot allow any practical solution of such questions to be reached without the party of the proletariat.

At the same time, I find that differences on points of principle do not exclude the possibility of practical conferences, provided, first, that they be held in Russia; secondly, that the reality of the forces be verified; and, thirdly, that questions concerning the various nationalities be dealt with separately, or at least, that representatives of the local committees of the regions where there are Social-Democratic and non-Social-Democratic national parties be invited to the conference.

I now pass to the proposed resolution on practical agreements with the Socialists-Revolutionaries. (The speaker reads the draft as worded by Comrade Voinov):

“Confirming the attitude of the R.S.D.L.P. towards the Socialist-Revolutionary Party as set forth in the resolution of the Second Congress, and

1. Whereas temporary militant agreements between the Social-Democratic Party and the organisation of the Socialists-Revolutionaries for the purposes of combating the autocracy are on the whole desirable at the present time; and

2. Whereas such agreements should under no circumstance restrict the complete independence of the Social-Democratic Labour Party, or affect the integrity and purity of its proletarian tactics and principles;—

Therefore, the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. instructs the C.C. and the local committees, should the necessity arise, to enter into temporary militant agreements with the Socialist-Revolutionary organisations,   provided that local agreements are concluded only under the direct supervision of the C.C.”

I agree with this draft. We might perhaps tone down the end. For instance, instead of “under the direct supervision of the Central Committee”, we might have only “under the supervision of the Central Committee”.



[1] See pp. 162-66 of this volume—Ed.

  Speech on the Wording of Clause 9 of the Party Rules | Speech on the Report on the Work of the Central Committee  

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