V. I.   Lenin

The Reorganisation of the Party



The conditions in which our Party is functioning are changing radically. Freedom of assembly, of association and of the press has been captured. Of course, these rights are extremely precarious, and it would be folly, if not a crime, to pin our faith to the present liberties. The decisive struggle is yet to come, and preparations for this struggle must take first place. The secret apparatus of the Party must be maintained. But at the same time it is absolutely necessary to make the widest possible use of the present relatively wider scope for our activity. In addition to the secret apparatus, it is absolutely necessary to create many new legal and semi-legal Party organisations (and organisations associated with the Party). Unless we do this, it is unthinkable that we can adapt our activity to the new conditions or cope with the new problems.

In order to put the organisation on a new basis, a new Party congress is required. According to the Rules, the Party should meet in congress once a year, and the next congress should be held in May 1906; but now it is essential to bring it forward. If we do not seize this opportunity, we shall lose it—in the sense that the need for organisation which the workers are feeling so acutely will find its expression in distorted, dangerous forms, strengthen some “Independents”[1] or other, etc. We must hasten to organise in a new way, we must submit new methods for general discussion, we must boldly and resolutely lay down a “new line”.

The appeal to the Party, published in this issue and signed by the Central Committee of our Party,[2] lays down   that new line, I am profoundly convinced, quite correctly. We, the representatives of revolutionary Social-Democracy, the supporters of the “Majority”, have repeatedly said that complete democratisation of the Party was impossible in conditions of secret work, and that in such conditions the “elective principle” was a mere phrase. And experience has confirmed our words. It has been repeatedly stated in print by former supporters of the Minority (see the pamphlet by “A Worker” with a preface by Axelrod, the letter signed “A Worker, One of Many”, in Iskra[3] and in the pamphlet Workers on the Party Split) that in fact it has proved impossible to employ any real democratic methods and any real elective principle. But we Bolsheviks have always recognised that in new conditions, when political liberties were acquired, it would be essential to adopt the elective principle. The minutes of the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. prove this most conclusively, if, indeed, any proof is required.

Thus the task is clear: to preserve the secret apparatus for the time being and to develop a new, legal apparatus. As applied to the Congress, this task (the concrete fulfilment of which demands, of course, practical ability and a knowledge of all the conditions of time and place) may be formulated as follows: to convene the Fourth Congress on the basis of the Party Rules and at the same time to begin immediately, at once, application of the elective principle. The Central Committee has solved this problem. Committee members, in form as representatives of fully authorised organisations, in fact as representatives of the Party’s continuity, attend the Congress with the right to vote. Delegates elected by the entire Party membership, and consequently by the masses of the workers belonging to the Party, are invited by the Central Committee, in virtue of its right to do so, to attend the Congress with voice but no vote. The Central Committee has declared, furthermore, that it will at once propose to the Congress to change this consultative voice into the right to vote. Will the full delegates of the committees agree to this?

The Central Committee declares that in its opinion they will unquestionably agree to it. Personally, I am profoundly convinced of this. It is impossible not to agree to such a thing. It is inconceivable that the majority of the leaders   of the Social-Democratic proletariat will not agree to it. We are sure that the opinion of Party workers, most carefully registered by Novaya Zhizn, will very soon prove the correctness of our view; even if a struggle takes place over this step (to convert the consultative voice into the right to vote), the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Look at this question from another angle—from the point of view of the substance of the matter, not of its form. Is Social-Democracy endangered by the realisation of the plan we propose?

Danger may be said to lie in a sudden influx of large numbers of non-Social-Democrats into the Party. If that occurred, the Party would be dissolved among the masses, it would cease to be the conscious vanguard of its class, its role would be reduced to that of a tail. That would mean a very deplorable period indeed. And this danger could undoubtedly become a very serious one if we showed any inclination towards demagogy, if we lacked party principles (programme, tactical rules, organisational experience) entirely, or if those principles were feeble and shaky. But the fact is that no such “ifs” exist. We Bolsheviks have never shown any inclination towards demagogy. On the contrary, we have always fought resolutely, openly and straight forwardly against the slightest attempts at demagogy; we have demanded class-consciousness from those joining the Party, we have insisted on the tremendous importance of continuity in the Party’s development, we have preached discipline and demanded that every Party member be trained in one or other of the Party organisations. We have a firmly established Party programme which is officially recognised by all Social-Democrats and the fundamental propositions of which have not given rise to any criticism (criticism of individual points and formulations is quite legitimate and necessary in any live party). We have resolutions on tactics which were consistently and systematically worked out at the Second and Third Congresses and in the course of many years’ work of the Social-Democratic press. We also have some organisational experience and an actual organisation, which has played an educational role and has undoubtedly borne fruit, a fact which may not be immediately apparent, but which can be denied only by the blind or by the blinded.

Let us not exaggerate this danger, comrades. Social-Democracy has established a name for itself, has created a trend and has built up cadres of Social-Democratic workers. And now that the heroic proletariat has proved by deeds its readiness to fight, and its ability to fight consistently and in a body for clearly-understood aims, to fight in a purely Social-Democratic spirit, it would be simply ridiculous to doubt that the workers who belong to our Party, or who will join it tomorrow at the invitation of the Central Committee, will be Social-Democrats in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. The working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social-Democratic, and more than ten years of work put in by Social-Democracy has done a great deal to transform this spontaneity into consciousness. Don’t invent bugaboos, comrades! Don’t forget that in every live and growing party there will always be elements of instability, vacillation, wavering. But these elements can be influenced, and they will submit to the influence of the steadfast and solid core of Social-Democrats.

Our Party has stagnated while working underground. As a delegate to the Third Congress rightly said, it has been suffocating underground during the last few years. The “underground” is breaking up. Forward, then, more boldly; take up the new weapon, distribute it among new people, extend your bases, rally all the worker Social-Democrats round yourselves, incorporate them in the ranks of the Party organisations by hundreds and thousands. Let their delegates put new life into the ranks of our central bodies, let the fresh spirit of young revolutionary Russia pour in through them. So far the revolution has justified all the basic theoretical propositions of Marxism, all the essential slogans of Social-Democracy. And the revolution has also justified the work done by us Social-Democrats, it has justified our hope and faith in the truly revolutionary spirit of the proletariat. Let us, then, abandon all pettiness in this imperative Party reform; let us strike out on the new path at once. This will not deprive us of our old secret apparatus (there is no doubt that the Social-Democratic workers have recognised and sanctioned it; practical experience and the course of the revolution have proved this a hundred times more convincingly than it could have been proved by   decisions and resolutions). It will give us fresh young forces rising from the very depths of the only genuinely and thoroughly revolutionary class, the class which has won half freedom for Russia and will win full freedom for her,. the class which will lead her through freedom to socialism!


[1] The “Independents”—members of the Independent Social Labour Party, an organisation of agents-provocateurs founded in St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1905 on instructions from the tsarist government, with the direct assistance of the secret police. The party, which was Zubatovist in type, sought to divert the workers   from the revolutionary struggle. Its programme, published in the magazine Russky Rabochy (The Russian Worker), No. 4, on December 15 (28), 1905, called for combating Social-Democracy. By the beginning of 1908 the party had ceased to exist, having failed among the masses of the workers.

[2] The appeal “To All Party Organisations and All Social-Democratic Workers”, subheaded “On the Occasion of the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.”, was published in Novaya Zhizn, No.9, on November 10 (23), 1905.

[3] This refers to the new, opportunist Iskra. After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. the Mensheviks, aided by Plekhanov, took Iskra into their own hands. From November 1903 on, beginning with its issue No. 52, Iskra became a Menshevik mouthpiece. It existed till October 1905.

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