V. I.   Lenin

The Reorganisation of the Party



The decision of the Central Committee of our Party to convene the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., published in Novaya Zhizn, No. 9 is a decisive step towards the full application of the democratic principle in Party organisation. The election of delegates to the Congress (who will come there first with the right to a voice but no vote and will then, undoubtedly receive the right to vote) must be carried through within a month. All Party organisations must, therefore, begin as soon as possible to discuss candidates and the tasks of the Congress. It is unquestionably necessary to reckon with the possibility of the dying autocracy making fresh attempts to withdraw the promised liberties and to attack the revolutionary workers, above all their leaders. Therefore it would hardly be advisable (except perhaps in special cases) to publish the real names of delegates. The assumed names to which the epoch of political slayery has accustomed us must not be discarded so long as the Black Hundreds are in power, nor would it be amiss to elect, as of old, alternates, in case of arrests. However, we shall not dwell on all these precautions of secrecy, since com rades acquainted with the local conditions of work will easily overcome all the difficulties that may arise in this respect. Comrades who have ample experience in revolutionary work under the autocracy must help by their counsel all those who are starting Social-Democratic work in the new and “free” conditions {free in inverted commas, for the time being). It goes without saying that in doing so our committee members must show great tact: previous formal prerogatives inevitably lose their significance at the present time, and it will be necessary in very many cases to start “from the beginning”, to prove to large sections of new Party comrades the importance of a consistent Social-Democratic programme, Social-Democratic tactics and organisation. We must not   forget that so far we have had to deal too often only with revolutionaries coming from a particular social stratum, whereas now we shall have to deal with typical representatives of the masses. This change calls for a change not only in the methods of propaganda and agitation (a more popular style, ability to present a question, to explain the basic truths of socialism in the simplest, clearest and most convincing manner), but also in organisation.

In this article I should like to dwell on one aspect of the new tasks in organisation. The Central Committee decision invites all Party organisations to send delegates to the Congress and calls upon all worker Social-Democrats to join such organisations. If this excellent desire is to be really fulfilled, a mere “invitation” to the workers will not do, nor will it do merely to increase the number of organisations of the old type. For this purpose, it is necessary for all comrades to devise new forms of organisation by their independent, creative joint efforts. It is impossible to lay down any predetermined standards for this, for we are working in an entirely new field: a knowledge of local conditions, and above all the initiative of all Party members must be brought into play. The new form of organisation, or rather the new form of the basic organisational nucleus of the workers’ party, must be definitely much broader than were the old circles. Apart from this, the new nucleus will most likely have to be a less rigid, more “free”, more “loose” (lose) organisation. With complete freedom of association and civil liberties for the people, we should, of course, have to found Social-Democratic unions (not only trade unions, but political and Party unions) everywhere. In the present conditions we must strive to approach that goal by all ways and means at our disposal.

We must immediately arouse the initiative of all Party functionaries and of all workers who sympathise with Social-Democracy. We must arrange at once, everywhere, lectures, talks, meetings, open-air rallies at which the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. should be announced, the tasks of the Congress explained in the most popular and comprehensible way, the new form of organisation of the Congress pointed out, and an appeal made to all Social-Democrats to take part in building up a genuinely proletarian Social-Democratic   Party on new lines. Such work will supply us with a wealth of information based on experience; it will; in the course of two or three weeks (if we act energetically), produce new Social-Democratic forces from among the workers, and revive among far wider sections an interest in the Social-Democratic Party, which we have now decided to reconstruct on new lines jointly with all the worker comrades. At all meetings the question will immediately be raised about the founding of unions, organisations, Party groups. Each union, organisation or group will immediately elect its bureau, or board, or directing committee—in a word, a central standing body which will conduct the affairs of the organisation, maintaining relations with local Party institutions, receive and circulate Party literature, collect sub scriptions for Party work, arrange meetings and lectures, and, finally, prepare the election of a delegate to the Party Congress. The Party committees will, of course, take care to help each such organisation, to supply it with material explaining what the R.S.D.L.P. stands for, its history and its present great tasks.

It is high time, furthermore, to take steps to establish local economic strong points, so to speak, for the workers’ Social-Democratic organisations—in the form of restaurants, tea-rooms, beer-halls, libraries, reading-rooms, shooting galleries,[1] etc., etc., maintained by Party members. We must not forget that, apart from being persecuted by the “autocratic” police, the Social-Democratic workers will also be persecuted by their “autocratic” employers, who will dismiss agitators. Therefore it is highly important to organise   bases which will be as independent as possible of the tyranny of the employers.

Generally speaking, we Social-Democrats must take every possible advantage of the present extension of freedom of action, and the more this freedom is guaranteed, the more energetically shall we advance the slogan: “Go among the people!” The initiative of the workers themselves will now display itself on a scale that we, the underground and circle workers of yesterday, did not even dare dream of. The influence of socialist ideas on the masses of the proletariat is now proceeding, and will continue to proceed along paths that we very often shall be altogether unable to trace. With due regard to these conditions, we shall have to distribute the Social-Democratic intelligentsia[2] in a more rational way to ensure that they do not hang about uselessly where the movement has already stood up on its own feet and can, so to speak, shift for itself, and that they go to the “lower strata” where the work is harder, where the conditions are more difficult, where the need for experienced and well-informed people is greater, where the sources of light are fewer, and where the heartbeat of political life is weaker. We must now “go among the people” both in anticipation of elections, in which the entire population, even of the remotest places, will take part, and (more important still) in anticipation of an open struggle—in order to paralyse the reactionary policies of a provincial Vendée,[3] to spread all over the country, among all the proletarian masses, the slogans issuing from the big centres.

To be sure, it is always bad to run to extremes: to organise the work on the most stable and “exemplary” lines possible, we shall even yet have often to concentrate our best forces in some important centre or other. Experience will show the proportion to be adhered to in this respect. Our task now is not so much to invent rules for organising   on new lines, as to develop the most far-reaching and courageous work which will enable us at the Fourth Congress to sum up and set down the data obtained from the experience of the Party.


[1] I do not know the Russian equivalent of tir [Lenin uses the French word.—Tr.], by which I mean a place for target practice, where there is a supply of all kinds of fire-arms and where anyone may for a small fee practise shooting at a target with a revolver or rifle. Freedom of assembly and association has been proclaimed in Russia. Citizens have the right to assemble and to learn bow to shoot; this can present no danger to anyone. In any big European city you will find such shooting galleries open to all, situated in basements, sometimes outside the city, etc. And it is very far from useless for the workers to learn how to shoot and bow to handle arms. Of course, we shall be able to get down to this work seriously and on a large scale only when the freedom of association is guaranteed and we can bring to book the police scoundrels who dare to close such establishments.—Lenin

[2] At the Third Congress of the Party I suggested that there be about eight workers to every two intellectuals in the Party committees. (See present edition, Vol. 8, p. 408.—Ed.) How obsolete that suggestion seems today!

Now we must wish for the new Party organisations to have one Social-Democratic intellectual to several hundred Social-Democratic workers.—Lenin

[3] Vendée—a department in western France, where the backward peasantry began a counter-revolutionary uprising against the republic at the end of the eighteenth century, during the French bourgeois revolution. The uprising was led by the Catholic clergy, the nobility and émigré royalists, and had the support of England.

Vendée had become a synonym for reactionary rebellion and hotbed of counter-revolution.

  I | III  

Works Index   |   Volume 10 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >