In the first two sections we dealt with the general importance of the elective principle in the Party and the need for new organisational nuclei and forms of organisation. We shall now examine another extremely vital question, namely, the question of Party unity.
It is no secret to anyone that the vast majority of Social-Democratic workers are exceedingly dissatisfied with the split in the Party and are demanding unity. It is no secret to anyone that the split has caused a certain cooling-off among Social-Democratic workers (or workers ready to be come Social-Democrats) towards the Social-Democratic Party.
The workers have lost almost all hope that the Party chiefs” will unite of themselves. The need for unity was formally recognised both by the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. and by the Menshevik Conference held last May. Six months have passed since then, but the cause of unity has made hardly any progress. No wonder the workers are beginning to show signs of impatience. No wonder “A Worker, One of Many”, who wrote on unity in Iskra and in a pamphlet published by the “Majority” (Workers on the Party Split, published by the Central Committee, Geneva, 1905), has at last threatened the Social-Democratic intelligentsia with a “fist from below”. Some Social-Democrats (Mensheviks) did not like that threat at the time, others (Bolsheviks) thought it legitimate and, at bottom, fully justified.
It seems to me that the time has come when the class-conscious worker Social-Democrats can and must carry out their intention (I will not say “threat”, because this word smacks of accusations, of demagogy, and we must do our utmost to avoid both). Indeed, the time has come, or, in any case, is coming, when the elective principle can be applied in the Party organisation not in words only, but in deeds, not as a fine-sounding but hollow phrase, but as a really new principle which really renovates, extends and strengthens Party ties. The “Majority” represented by the Central Committee has directly appealed for the immediate application and introduction of the elective principle. The Minority is following in the same direction. And the Social- Democratic workers constitute the enormous, overwhelming majority in all the Social-Democratic organisations, committees, gatherings, meetings, etc.
Hence it is now possible not only to urge unity, not only to obtain promises to unite, but actually to unite—by a simple decision of the majority of organised workers in both factions. There will be no imposition, since, in principle, the need for unity has been recognised by all, and the workers have only to decide in practice a question that has already been decided in principle.
The relation between the functions of the intellectuals and of the proletariat (workers) in the Social-Democratic working-class movement can probably be expressed, with a fair degree of accuracy, by the following general formula: the intelligentsia is good at solving problems “in principle”, good at drawing up plans, good at reasoning about the need for action—while the workers act, and transform drab theory into living reality.
And I shall not in the slightest degree slip into demagogy, nor in the least belittle the great role played by consciousness in the working-class movement, nor shall I in any way detract from the tremendous importance of Marxist theory and Marxist principles, if I say now: both at the Congress and at the Conference we created the “drab theory” of Party unity. Comrade workers, help us to transform this drab theory into living reality! Join the Party organisations in huge numbers! Turn our Fourth Congress and the Second Menshevik Conference into a grand and imposing Congress of Social-Democratic workers. Join with us in settling this practical question of fusion; let this question be the exception (it is an exception that proves the opposite rule!) in which we shall have one-tenth theory and nine-tenths practice. Such a wish is surely legitimate, historically necessary, and psychologically comprehensible. We have “theorised” for so long (sometimes—why not admit it?— to no use) in the unhealthy atmosphere of political exile, that it will really not be amiss if we now “bend the bow” slightly, a little, just a little, “the other way” and put practice a little more in the forefront. This would certainly be appropriate in regard to the question of unity, about which, owing to the causes of the split, we have used up such an awful lot of ink and no end of paper. We exiles in particular are longing for practical work. Besides, we have already written a very good and comprehensive programme of the whole democratic revolution. Let us, then, unite also to make this revolution!