V. I.   Lenin

Wrathful Impotence

Published: Proletary, No. 9, July 26 (13), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 156-160.
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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No. 104 of Iskra carries a retort to our feuilleton “A Third Step Back”* (Proletary, No. 6), which spoke quite calmly of the new-Iskra group having made use of a printing-press, supplies, and funds in the name of the Party, but having refused to return Party property. The state Iskra has been reduced to by its irritation over this statement is to he seen in the language it has been using, which is reminiscent of the Bund’s inimitable brand of vituperation. Iskra has courteously applied to us such terms as “filthy swab”, “slanderous cowards”, and so on and so forth. All this reminds one of the way Engels once characterised the polemic waged by a certain variety of émigrés: "Each word is like a chamber-pot, and not an empty one at that” (Jedes Wort—etn Nachttopj und kein leerer).[1] We have, of course, not forgotten the French saying, “Abuse is the argument of those who are wrong”. We shall ask the unbiased reader calmly to pass judgement on the cause of all this fuss. The new-Iskrists have made no reply to a letter from the Central Committee asking them, after the Third Congress, to return Party property. They do not recognise the Third Congress or the Central Committee’s turn towards the Bolsheviks. That is all so. However, the only conclusion to be drawn from such non-recognition is that, as the new-Iskrists see it, they should return not all Party property, but only part of it. This is so obvious that in its retort Iskra itself now speaks of “the possibility of dividing up all Party property”. If that is the case, our dear opponents,   why could you not have replied to the Central Committee’s letter in that vein? Otherwise, it is beyond doubt that, however energetic the expressions you have used, the Majority has rendered a full account of all its affairs by publishing the minutes of the Third Congress, while you have rendered no account to anybody concerning the use of Party property, have published no minutes at all, but have only used bad language. Consider in a moment of calm the impression such behaviour must produce on all thinking people.

Further, the Central Committee’s turn towards the Congress is displeasing to Iskra. That is natural. But this turn is not the first to have taken place. A year ago, in August 1904, the Central Committee sided with the Minority. A year ago we stated in print and publicly that we did not recognise the legality of the Central Committee’s actions. It may be asked: How did we then behave with respect to Party property? We handed over the printing-press, stores, and funds to the Mensheviks. Iskra may hurl as much abuse as it likes, but facts are facts. We rendered due account and turned the property over to our opponents wishing to fight in the Party spirit and to get a congress called. Our opponents have been steering clear of a congress and have rendered no account to anybody (except their own adherents, and even to them in private, for no minutes of the “Conference” were kept, in the first place, and in the second, nothing is known either of its agenda or of the scope of its powers, i.e., the degree in which its decisions are binding upon the Mensheviks themselves).

The struggle within our Party has ended in a split; it is now merely a struggle between two parties, one of which is in the throes of organisation-as-process. Today, looking back at the history of the struggle prior to the split, anybody (of course of those who study the history of their Party using the documents, and do not merely give ear to old wives’ tales, in the way practised by many who come here from Russia)—anybody can clearly see the general nature of the struggle. The Majority, which has been accused of “formalism”, bureaucratism, and so on, has surrendered all its formal privileges and bureaucratic institutions to its opponents—first the Central Organ’s Editorial Board, then the   Party Council, and finally the Central Committee. The Congress is the only thing it has refused to give up. The out come has been that the Bolsheviks have restored the Party (or rather, as the new-Iskrists naturally think, have created their own Party), founding all their Party institutions wholly on the voluntary consent of Party workers—first the Bureau of Majority Committees, then Vperyod, and, finally, the Third Party Congress. Our opponents, on the contrary, are holding on to their formal privileges and bureaucratic institutions given to them out of commiseration. Consider the following fact: have not Lenin and Plekhanov made them the gift of the Central Organ’s Editorial Board? When it calls itself the Central Organ of the Party, Proletary bases its claim on the Third Congress decisions which are not recognised by the Mensheviks, but have been clearly, precisely, and definitely recognised by the Party Majority whose composition is known to all. For its part, Iskra, which styles itself “Central Organ of the Party”, bases that claim on the decisions of the Second Congress, which today are recognised neither by the Bolsheviks (we have replaced them by the decisions of the Third Congress), nor by the Mensheviks!! That is the gist of the whole matter! After all, it was the Menshevik Conference that revoked the Rules of the Second Congress. It is the new-Iskra group that is now clinging to a heading rejected by its own adherents!

Even Plekhanov himself, who could never see eye to eye with the new-Iskrists in matters of principle, but has made countless personal concessions to them, launched more than his share of attacks against the Bolsheviks, for which the new-Iskrists have been bowing and scraping to him— even Plekhanov has declared that the Conference has dealt a death blow at the central institutions, and has preferred to wash his hands of the matter. As for the new-Iskra people, they go on calling themselves the “Central Organ”, and rail against those who tell them that their Party stand is not merely wrong but downright indecent. The abusive language that has provided the occasion for this writing is the psychologically inevitable consequence of a dim realisation of that indecency. We shall remind the reader that even Mr. Struve, who has often voiced sympathy in principle with   Trotsky, Starover, Akimov, and Martynov, and with the new-Iskra trends in general and the new-Iskra Conference in particular—even Mr. Struve was in his time obliged to acknowledge that their stand is not quite a correct one, or rather quite an incorrect one (see Osvobozhdeniye, No. 57).

We are well aware that the mass of Social-Democrats, especially the workers, are most dissatisfied with the split (but then, who can be pleased with it?), and are ready to look for a solution “wherever possible”. We fully understand this frame of mind and have every respect for it, but we would warn all and sundry that a frame of mind is not enough. The formula “wherever possible” is worthless, for it lacks the chief thing—an understanding of the means of putting an end to the split. Bitter words, attempts to create a “third something”, neither Bolshevik nor Menshevik, will not help matters, but will only introduce greater con fusion. The example provided over the last two years by so powerful a personality as Plekhanov is a practical illustration of this. Let bitter words be resorted to by German Social-Democrats, who, like Karl Kautsky, have, in the main, learnt of the split in the Party from biased sources. Their ignorance may be pardoned, though their claims to judge things they know nothing of are, of course, unpardonable. Russian Social-Democrats must at last learn to despise those whose only recourse is to bitter words, who chop and change, hold forth on the subject of “peace”, but reveal their impotence when it comes to doing something real for the cause of peace. The real path to peace and unity in the Party does not lie through hasty agreements, which will lead to new conflicts and to new and worse con fusion, but through thorough and factual ascertainment of the tactical and organisational tendencies of both sides. In this respect we are most satisfied with the new-Iskra Conference, which has revealed the irreparable disintegration of the new-Iskra trend. Their tail-ism in questions of tactics has been smashed by the revolution, and their “organisation-as-process” has become a laughing-stock. They have been left, on the one hand, by Plekhanov, who has evidently been “enlightened” by the Conference not only with regard to its organisational significance but also with regard to adherence to principle on the part of the new-Iskrists.   On the other hand, they have been abandoned by Akimov, who has called the promises or “principles” of the St. Petersburg Mensheviks “a hollow phrase” (Posledniye Izvestia,[2] No. 235). The Party’s Third Congress has rallied the ranks of one of the sides. The other side has been smashed by the Conference itself. It remains for us only to advise the “conciliators” to study the history of the split, examine the causes of the failure of Plekhanov’s conciliation, and refrain from putting new wine into old bottles.


[1] See F. Engels, “Flüchtlingsliteratur. II. Programm der blanquistischen Kommuneflüchtlinge”, Internationales aus dem Volksstaat, Berlin 1957, 5. 50,

[2] Posledniye Izvestia (News)—a periodical published abroad by the Bund from 1901 till 1906. It expressed the Bundists’ bourgeois-nationalist views.

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