V. I.   Lenin

On Convening an Extraordinary Party Congress[2]

Published: Proletary, No. 7, November 10, 1906. Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 264-266.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Both issues of the Central Committee’s Sotsial-Demokrat contain articles by Plekhanov and Martov against the calling of an extraordinary congress. These articles are written in such an angry and excited tone, are so saturated with bitterness, irritation, personal insinuations and suspicion that they immediately recall the atmosphere of the worst period of émigré squabbles. By publishing these and only these articles on the Congress in its own journal, the Central Committee of our Party puts itself in a very unseemly position. Just imagine: the responsible ministry of a democratically organised working-class party is absolutely beside itself and loses all self-control because there is agitation for another congress! Why, it is simply indecent, comrades. By raging and fuming against agitation for the revision of your man dates and your tactics you are strongly condemning your selves. If any one in favour of a congress took pleasure in being malicious he could wish for nothing better than to have the articles of Plekhanov and Martov reprinted and widely distributed!

But why is opposition to a congress expressed in the name of the Central Committee by people who can only talk in an injured, almost sobbing tone? Because the two main facts which made agitation for another congress inevitable are too clear and simple. One of these facts concerns the composition of the Party, the other concerns its tactics.

At the time of the Unity Congress our Party membership consisted of 13,000 Bolsheviks and 18,000 Mensheviks. The Central Committee, and the Central Organ even more so, express the opinion of the 18,000. Now 14,000 Letts,   26,000 Poles and 33,000 Bundists have joined the Party.[1] The leading article in Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 1, unequivocally admits in two places that at the present time both factions in the Party are about equal in size. This opinion is evidently arrived at by classifying the Poles and Letts as Bolsheviks and the Bundists as Mensheviks. Let us assume that it is correct to classify the Bund as Menshevik. But even then it is an obvious and a crying anomaly that the Menshevik Central Committee should represent the whole of our Party (the Central Committee consists of seven Mensheviks, three Bolsheviks, one Lett and two Bundists; one Pole has the rights of a member of the Central Organ; moreover, on all political questions another five Mensheviks, the editors of the Central Organ, have the right to speak and vote).

As regards tactics—during the five or six months that have elapsed since the last Congress the Party has passed through two important periods in our revolution: the period of the Duma and the “Cabinet of the dissolution of the Duma”. The Duma tactics of our Central Committee amounted to supporting the (Cadet) Duma as a whole. These tactics reached their apogee in the slogan supporting the demand for the appointment of a Duma (i.e., Cadet) Cabinet. The majority of the Party rejected these tactics and this slogan; that is a fact. During the Duma period the Social-Democratic Party combated the tactics of its own Central Committee. Comment on this fact and discussion of its implications are superfluous.

Further, after the dissolution of the Duma, the Central Committee declared in favour of organising partial mass expressions of protest. The general tactical slogan became: for the Duma as an organ of power which will convene the constituent assembly. Again, it is an indisputable historical fact that the vast majority of the Party membership accept ed neither this particular slogan nor the general tactics of the Central Committee. Yet anyone who carefully reads   No. 1 and No. 2 of Sotsial-Demokrat cannot fail to see that these general tactics are there defended, justified and substantiated (for the Duma as a lever for convening a constituent assembly; the Cadets as the urban bourgeoisie which is progressive in comparison with the peasantry, and so forth).

Hence it is clear that if there is a new Duma campaign the Party will have to fight against the Central Committee’s Duma slogans; and if revolutionary actions take place in the near future, the forces will be split and the struggle will be disorganised, because the Central Committee does not represent the will of the majority of the Party membership. Hence, any delay in convening the next Party Congress not only at present directly contravenes the whole spirit and meaning of the democratic organisation of the Party, but will also prove a most dangerous obstacle in the forthcoming Duma and general revolutionary struggle of the proletariat.

P.S. Nos. 3 to 5 of Sotsial-Demokrat, which have come out since this article was written, confirm all that we say even more strongly. It transpires that on the question of electoral agreements there is a complete split among the Mensheviks, and their Central Committee is oscillating between Martov and Cherevanin. Martov has publicly refuted Cherevanin. Plekhanov went off to write for a Cadet newspaper in order to support Cherevanin. The leading article in No. 4 of Sotsial-Demokrat proves that the Central Committee is already preparing once again, in opposition to the Party, to advance its slogans of supporting the Duma as a whole and of supporting the demand for the appointment of a Duma Cabinet.


[1] Tovarishch of October 11 gives new figures alleged to have been obtained from the Central Committee, but which, however, do not in the main alter the relative proportions. According to these figures our Party now has about 150,000 members: 33,000 of them are Bolsheviks; 43,000 Mensheviks; 13,000 Letts; 28,000 Poles, and 33,000 members of the Bund.—Lenin

[2] In August 1906 after the failure of the strike decided on by the Central Committee during the Sveaborg uprising, the St. Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. adopted a resolution on the need to convene an extraordinary Party congress. The St. Petersburg Committee decided to inform the local organisations of this resolution, asking them to express their opinion on the matter.

A number of the largest organisations pronounced in favour of convening a congress, including the Moscow and St. Petersburg committees, the Executive Committees of the Polish and Lithuanian Social-Democrats, the Regional Bureau of the Social-Democratic organisations of Central Russia, and the Central Committee of the Lettish Social-Democrats. The Urals, Nizhny-Novgorod, Bryansk, Minsk, Kurgan and other committees were also in favour of a congress. The All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. in November decided to convene the congress on March 15 (28), 1907.

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