V. I.   Lenin

Preface to the Pamphlet Workers on the Split in the Party

Published: First published in 1905 in a pamphlet issued by the central committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. Published according to the text of the pamphlet.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 163-168.
Translated: The Late Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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When, in Proletary (No. 8), we promised to publish in full a letter signed “A Worker, One of Many”, we had no idea who he was. We do know that the ideas expressed by him are really shared by many workers, and this was sufficient reason for us to decide to publish his letter. Now we learn from Iskra, No. 105 that the author of the letter “formerly considered himself one of the Minority”, that “he had for a long time past been a bitter enemy of the so-called Majority”. So much the better. So much more valuable to us is this former Menshevik’s admission that well-meant intentions as to “proletarian initiative” were just so many “fine words”; so much more precious is his outright condemnation of the intellectual’s “Manilovism”.[2] This is an indubitable sign that the Mensheviks’ demagogy, their indiscriminate promises of boons of every description—autonomy, initiative, democracy, etc.—are, as should have been expected, beginning to weary class-conscious workers and evoke their legitimate distrust and criticism.

Another highly characteristic fact, and one which we are sure will turn many more Menshevik workers into “former Mensheviks”, is that Iskra has seen in this letter from “Worker” a “fist from below”! This is a fact that is very much worth considering.

What has a “fist” to do with it anyway? Does this “dreadful word”, which the Mensheviks have worked almost to death, denote certain definite organisational concepts, or does it simply express the intellectual’s annoyance at, or outburst against, any strong organisation which would hold intellectual caprices in check?

What does the author of the letter want? He wants the split to be closed. Does Iskra sympathise with this aim? Yes, it states so plainly. Does it consider that this can be achieved right now? Yes, it does, for it declares: “Differences (in tactics) are not so great as to justify a split.”

That being the case, why does Iskra again bring up the tactical differences in its reply to “Worker”, mentioning even the “Plan of the Zemstvo Campaign” which was buried in the Iskra bulletins published “for Party members only” and in Plekhanov’s “confidential” pamphlet? What is the point of this? “Worker” does not deny the necessity of polemics and disputes, nor do the Bolsheviks deny it! And the Party Rules adopted at the Third Congress clearly establish the right of every committee to publish literature. After all, the question revolves around what should be done for tactical disagreements not to lead to a split, i.e., to a break in the organisational ties. Why then does Iskra evade this clearly presented question, by dragging in irrelevant arguments about tactical differences? Is it not, perhaps, because “Worker” would rule out any irrelevant chatter that they speak of his “fist”?

A mere desire to put an end to the split is not sufficient to end it. It is necessary to know how to do it. Putting an end to the split means merging in a single organisation. And whoever really wants to bring the split speedily to an end must not confine himself to complaints, reproaches, recriminations, exclamations, and declamations about the split (as is done by “Worker” and also by Plekhanov, for instance, since he has found himself in the Marsh)—he must immediately start developing the type of that common and united organisation.

The weak point in the letter from “Worker” is that the author merely bewails the split, but makes no definite proposals for specific organisational measures to close it. In stead of remedying this defect, Iskra aggravates it by yelling in “panic”: “A fist I”, at the mere idea voiced by “Worker” concerning obligatory recognition of common organisational rules!! The split is not justified by the differences, says “Worker”. That is true, Iskra agrees. This, “Worker” continues, means that it is now necessary to spin a rope so strong (fie, for shame! What grossly mechanical terms I am using!   What a “fistic” idea! But bear up a moment, comrades of Iskra, don’t fall into a swoon at the idea of “nooses” and other such horrors!) that it would firmly bind both sections and keep them tied together despite tactical differences.

In reply to this Iskra has another fit of hysterics, and screams: “A fist !"

We, on our part, say in reply: You are right, Comrade Worker! You reason in a business-like way. A new, strong rope is needed. But go further, take the next step: begin to consider what sort of rope this should be, what exactly this common organisation, which is to be obligatory (help! the “fist” again!) upon both sections, should be like.

Comrade Worker did not go far enough in specifying his organisational proposals (because the question of closing the split is an exclusively organisational question, provided both sides acknowledge that tactical differences do not justify a split!); Iskra, however, finds that he went too far, so far, indeed, that it has again raised the cry about a fist!!

Once more we ask our readers: In point of fact, what is the real meaning of this notorious “fist”, which, one might say, is scaring the new Iskra out of its wits? Does this fist express any definite organisational ideas, or is it merely the intellectual’s blind and ridiculous fear of any kind of “ties” imposed by any organisation that is obligatory upon all members of the Party?

We leave it to the class-conscious workers to decide this question for themselves, and shall proceed.

The real difficulty in a merger, assuming both sides sincerely desire it, is the following. In the first place, organisational standards, Party Rules absolutely binding on all, should be laid down; secondly, all parallel, competing local and central Party organisations and institutions should be merged.

So far only the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. has attempted to solve the first of these problems, by establishing rules providing constitutional guarantees for the rights of any minority. The Third Congress has, so to say, provided a place in the Party for every minority that accepts the Party programme, tactics, and discipline of organisation. The Bolsheviks have taken care to provide the Mensheviks as well with a definite place in a united Party. We cannot say   the same of the Mensheviks: their rules provide for no constitutional guarantees whatever of the rights of any minority in the Party.

It goes without saying that no Bolshevik regards the Rules adopted by the Third Congress as ideal or infallible. Whoever thinks the Rules have to be changed should come forward with a draft of clear-cut amendments—this would be a practical step towards closing the split; it would be some thing more than mere complaints and recriminations.

We may, perhaps, be asked, why we have not ourselves started doing this with regard to the Rules adopted by the “Conference”. Our answer is that we have started to do so:

see Proletary, No. 6, “A Third Step Back”.[1] We are prepared to repeat the fundamental principles of organisation, recognition of which is, in our opinion, necessary for a merger: 1) Submission of the minority to the majority (not to be confused with the “Minority” and the “Majority” in quotation marks! Here we deal with the principle of Party organisation in general, not with the fusion of the “Minority” with the “Majority”, which we shall speak of later. It is possible, speaking in the abstract, to visualise the merger between an equal number of both “Mensheviks” and “Bolsheviks”, but even such a merger is impossible unless the submission of the minority to the majority is recognised in principle and as obligatory). 2) The congress, i.e.,an assembly of elected delegates from all duly authorised organisations must be the Party’s supreme organ; moreover, any decision by these elected delegates must be final (this is the principle of democratic representation, as opposed to the principle of consultative conferences whose decisions are submitted to the organisations for endorsement, i.e., a plebiscite). 3) Elections to the Party’s central body (or bodies) must be by direct vote and must be held at a congress. Elections out side a congress, two-stage elections, etc., are impermissible. 4) All Party publications, both local and central, must be completely subordinate to both the Party Congress and the relevant central or local organisation of the Party. Existence of Party publications organisationally unconnected with the Party is impermissible. 5) There must be an   absolutely clear definition of what membership of the Party implies. 6) In like manner, the rights of any Party minority must also be clearly defined in the Party Rules.

Such, in our opinion, are the absolutely indispensable organisational principles, without recognition of which no merger is possible. We should like to hear the opinion of “A Worker, One of Many” in the matter, and, in general, of all in favour of fusion.

We may be asked: What about the question of the committees’ attitude towards provincial organisations? What about the elective principle? Our reply is that no fundamental principles of organisation are involved in this matter, once the absolute application of the elective principle is not suggested. That is something the Mensheviks have not suggested. In conditions of political liberty the elective principle will be necessary, but, for the present, even the Rules adopted by the “Conference” have not introduced it for the committees. One definition or another of the rights and powers of the provincial organisations is not a question of principle (assuming, of course, that what is said is actually carried out, that there is no indulgence in demagogy and merely “fine words”). The Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. tried to give an exact definition of what is meant by commit tees and provincial organisations, a definition of the relations between them. Any proposals for certain changes, amendments, or deletions would be quite calmly discussed by any Bolshevik. So far as I am aware, there are no “intransigents” in our midst on any point of the question, and the minutes of the Third Congress will bear out this assertion.

The next and probably no less difficult question is how to merge all parallel organisations. In conditions of political liberty this would be easy, since we would have Party organisations with a certain number of definitely known members. With a secret organisation it is different. Establishment of membership is all the more difficult, the more lightly membership is sometimes understood, and, the more often recourse is made to demagogy, to fictitious enrolment in the Party of people who are not class-conscious. We think that the comrades working on the spot and well acquainted with the state of affairs should have the final say on how these difficulties are to be overcome. The temporary   absence of members of organisations, who are “on holiday” in prison, are in exile, or abroad, is another impediment that should be taken into account. Then there is, of course, the considerable difficulty of merging the central bodies. Without a single guiding centre, without a single central press organ, real unity of the Party is impossible. In this respect the question stands as follows: either the class-conscious workers, ignoring all plaints about fists, will succeed in forcing the actual minority in the Party to advocate their views, without disorganising the work, in the various bodies of the local committees, at conferences, congresses, meetings, etc.; or the class-conscious Social-Democratic workers will not be able to cope with this task at present (generally speaking, they will undoubtedly and inevitably manage to cope with it: this is vouched for by the entire labour movement of Russia)—and in that event only agreements, and not fusion, will be possible between rival centres and rival organs.

In conclusion, we shall repeat: it is not by means of complaints and accusations, not by forming new, third parties or groups, circles, etc. (similar to the one Plekhanov has now founded with his new Party publishing organisation[3] outside the Party), that Comrade Worker and those who share his views must strive to achieve their aims. The formation of a third party or new groups will only complicate and con fuse matters. Preparation of concrete terms of fusion must be started: when all Party groups and organisations, all class-conscious workers, set about this, they will undoubtedly be able to work out reasonable terms, and not only work them out, but force the Party leaders (disregarding all plaints about fists) to submit to these terms.

In addition to Comrade Worker’s letter we are publishing an Open Letter from the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. to the Organising Committee, as a first step towards a practical solution of the problem of a possible closing of the split.

Editorial Board of “Proletary”

July 1905


[1] See present edition, Vol. 8, pp. 544-54.—Ed.

[2] Manilovism—from Manilov, a character in Gogol’s Dead Souls, whose name has come to typify smug complacency, empty and saccharine prattle, and pipe-dreaming.

[3] Lenin is referring to Dnevnik Sotsial-Demokrata (Diary of a Social Democrat)—a non-periodical organ published by Plekhanov in Geneva from March 1905 till April 1912. In all, sixteen issues were brought out, at considerable intervals. Publication was resumed in Petrograd in 1916, but only one issue appeared.

In the first eight issues (1905-06) Plekhanov advocated extremely Right-wing, Menshevik and opportunist views, defended a bloc between Social-Democracy and the liberal bourgeoisie, rejected the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry, and condemned the December insurrection.

In Nos. 9-16 (1909-12) he came out against the Menshevik liquidators, who wanted to disband underground party organisations. In the basic questions of tactics, however, he remained on a Menshevik platform. In No. 1 for 1916, Plekhanov’s social-chauvinist views found full expression.

Plekhanov’s opportunism and departure from revolutionary Marxism were roundly criticised by Lenin.

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