V. I.   Lenin

Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

A Letter to the St. Petersburg Workers


Comrades, you elected me your delegate to the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. As I am unable to come to St. Petersburg at present, permit me to send my report in writing and, in passing, to express a few ideas on the Congress.

Before proceeding with the subject, I must make an important reservation. It is quite impossible for me to remember in detail everything that happened at the Congress, at which there were one hundred and twenty or more delegates, and which held about thirty sessions.Being a member of the Bureau of the Congress, and one of the chairmen, and a member of several committees in addition, I was unable to take notes during the sessions. One cannot entirely trust one s memory without notes. Besides, being absent from the hall while engaged in work in committees, or for casual or personal reasons, I did not witness a number of episodes at the Congress, nor did I hear all the speeches. The experience of previous congresses (the Second and the Third), which were attended by fewer delegates, has convinced me that, even if one pays the closest attention to the proceedings, one cannot draw an exact picture of the congress from memory. When the minutes of the Second and Third Congresses appeared, I read them as if they were new books, although I my self was present at those congresses; for these books really provided me with much new material and compelled me to re vise a number of inexact or incomplete personal impressions. Therefore I earnestly request you to bear in mind that this letter is only a rough outline of a report, subject, at all events, to correction on the basis of the minutes of the Congress.



The Composition of the Congress

I will start with the general composition of the Congress. As you know, delegates with the right to vote were elected on the basis of one per 300 Party members. There were in all about 110 such delegates—at the beginning of the Congress, I think, slightly less (not all had arrived); at the close there were as many as 113. Delegates with a consultative voice were the 5 editors of the Central Organ (3 from the “Minority” and 2 from the “Majority”, for you had given me a full mandate) and five, if I am not mistaken, members of the Joint Central Committee. Then also, there were delegates with consultative voice from organisations who had not been granted full mandates, and several persons who had been especially invited to the Congress (two members of the “Agrarian Committee”, Plekhanov and Axelrod, Comrade Akimov, and several others). There were also several consultative delegates from large organisations having over 900 members (from St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Southern regional organisation, and others). Lastly, there were consultative delegates representing the national Social-Democratic parties: three each from the Polish Social-Democratic Party, the Lettish Social-Democratic and the Jewish organisation (the Bund), and one from the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Labour Party (it appears that this is the name that the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party[1] adopted at its last conference). Thus there were 30 delegates, or a little more, with a consultative voice. The total number present was therefore not 120, but over 140.

Taken according to their “trend” in relation to the tactical platforms, or their factional position, if you will, the delegates with the right to vote were divided approximately as follows: 62 Mensheviks and 46 Bolsheviks. At all events, these are the figures that impressed themselves most on my mind during the numerous “factional” votes that took place at the Congress. Some of the delegates, of course, were indefinite, or wavered on certain questions; these were what in parliamentary language are called the “Centre”, or the “Marsh”. This “Centre” was very feeble at the Congress, although a number of comrades whom I have   grouped with the Mensheviks according to the voting, claimed to be “conciliators”, or the “Centre”. Of all the more or less important votes that were taken at the Congress, I remember only one (that on the question of the Bund’s affiliation to the Party) in which these “Menshevik conciliators” did not vote on factional lines. With this vote, in which, as far as I remember, the definitely factional Mensheviks were beaten by a majority of 59, I will deal in detail later on.

Thus, 62 and 46. The Congress was a Menshevik congress. The Mensheviks had a solid and safe majority, which enabled them to come to terms with one another beforehand and thus predetermine the decisions of the Congress. Strictly speaking, these private arrangements at factional meetings are quite natural when there is a definite and compact majority; and when several delegates, particularly those from the so-called Centre, complained about this, I said in conversation with the delegates that it was “the Centre complaining about its own weakness”. Attempts were made at the Congress to raise the question of these factional meetings, but it was dropped, for it turned out that the factions had become closely welded just the same, and it became possible to allow outsiders to attend the factional meetings, to allow them to become “open” meetings. Towards the close of the Congress, for example, the question of the composition of the Central Committee was virtually decided, as will be seen later on, not by the voting in open Congress, but simply by an “agree ment” between the factions. I will not pass any opinion on this; and I think it is useless bewailing it, because it is absolutely inevitable so long as the old factional divisions exist.

As regards divisions within the factions, I will note that they were marked only on the agrarian question (a section of the Mensheviks were opposed to municipalisation, while the Bolsheviks were divided into “Rozhkovists”—that is, those who advocated the division of the land—and the advocates of confiscation, with nationalisation in the event of a republic being established); and on the question of the affiliation of the Bund. Further, a striking thing was the complete absence among the Mensheviks of the trend that was so clearly revealed in Nachalo, and which in the Party we are accustomed to connect with the names of Comrades Parvus and Trotsky. True, it is quite possible that there were some   “Parvusites” and “Trotskyites” among the Mensheviks— I was told that there were about eight of them—but, owing to the removal from the agenda of the question of the provisional revolutionary government, they had no opportunity of making a show. It is probable, however, that in view of the general turn that the Mensheviks made at the Congress towards Plekhanov, with whose Dnevnik they had disagreed before the Congress, the “Parvusites” also took a step to the right. I remember only one episode in which, perhaps, the “Parvusites” among the Mensheviks made them all slightly change their attitude. It was an incident over the question of armed uprising. Plekhanov, the chairman of the committee, had altered the original Menshevik resolution, and instead of “wrest power” (this part of the resolution concerned the aims of the movement) inserted “wrest rights by force” (or “capture rights”—I don’t quite remember which). The opportunism of this alteration was so glaring that the most heated protests were raised against it in open Congress.We attacked the alteration with redoubled vigour. The ranks of the Mensheviks wavered. I do not know exactly whether any factional meetings had been held, or what took place at them if they were; nor can I vouch for the truth of the statement made to me that ten Mensheviks who were inclined towards “Parvusism” had emphatically declared their disagreement with the alteration. The fact is that, after the debates in open Congress, Plekhanov himself withdrew the alteration and did not allow it to be put to a vote; did this on the pretext (a skilful piece of diplomacy, perhaps, but it raised a smile) that it was not worth arguing about questions of “style”.

Lastly, to finish with the composition of the Congress, I will say something about the Credentials Committee (the committee which scrutinised the credentials of the delegates). There were two such committees, for the first one elected by the Congress resigned in a body.[2] This was a most extraordinary affair, and had never occurred at previous congresses. At all events, it was evidence of some thing extremely abnormal in the work of scrutinising the credentials. I remember that the chairman of the first committee was a conciliator, who at first had the confidence of our faction, too. But since he proved unable to weld his committee together, and since he and the whole committee   were compelled to resign, it shows that this conciliator was unable to conciliate. The details of the fight at the Congress over the reports of the Credentials Committee have escaped my attention most of all. The fight was often a very heated one, Bolshevik credentials were annulled, passions rose, and things reached their climax with the resignation of the first committee; but I was not in the hall at that time. I remember yet another, evidently fairly big, incident over this work of determining the composition of the Congress. It was a protest sent by a number of workers in Tiflis (about 200, I think) against the mandate of the Tiflis delegation, which consisted almost entirely of Mensheviks and was extra ordinarily large, with as many as eleven members, I think. The protest was read at the Congress and should therefore appear in the minutes.[3]

The record of the proceedings of the Credentials Committees should also appear in the minutes, that is, if the committees have performed their functions at all carefully, and have drawn up proper reports on the scrutiny of the credentials and of all the elections for the Congress. Whether they have done this, and whether the reports will appear in the minutes, I cannot say. If not, it will prove beyond doubt that the committees have not performed their functions with the necessary care and attention. If the reports do appear in the minutes, then I may have to correct a great deal of what I have said above, for on a question like this, which is not one of principle, but a purely concrete and practical question, it is particularly easy to make mistakes in forming general impressions, and it is particularly important care fully to study the records.

Incidentally, to finish with all the formalities and to proceed with the more interesting questions of principle, I will say something about the minutes. I am afraid that in this respect, too, the Congress will prove to be less satisfactory than the Second and Third Congresses. At both the previous congresses the minutes were adopted in their entirety by the Congress. At the Unity Congress the secretaries, for the first time, proved to be so inefficient, there was such a hurry to finish the Congress (in spite of the fact that a number of extremely important questions had been with drawn from the agenda), that not all the minutes were   passed by the Congress. The Minutes Committee (consisting of two Mensheviks and two Bolsheviks) was given unprecedentedly wide and indefinite powers: to adopt the unfinished minutes. In the event of disagreement, it is to appeal to the Congress delegates who are in St. Petersburg. All this is very deplorable. I am afraid that we shall not get as good minutes as we have of the Second and Third Congresses. True, we had two stenographers, and some of the speeches are reported almost verbatim, and not in the form of condensed reports, as was the case in the past; but a complete verbatim report of the debates at the Congress cannot be expected, for this was more than the two stenographers could cope with, as they informed the Congress more than once. As chairman, I strongly insisted that the secretaries should at least make good condensed reports of the speeches, even if very brief. Let the verbatim reports of some of the speeches, I said, be a sort of supplement deluxe to the minutes; but it was essential to have the basis—not some of the speeches, but all the speeches without exception, at least in the form of condensed reports.[4]


[1] Revolutionary Ukrainian Party (R.U.P.)—a petty-bourgeois, nationalist organisation founded early in 1900. In December 1905, it renamed itself the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Labour Party (U.S.D.L.P.), and decided to join the R.S.D.L.P., provided it was recognised as “the sole representative of the Ukrainian proletariat”, within the R.S.D.L.P. The Fourth (Unity) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. rejected the proposal which the U.S.D.L.P. spokesman had made for the immediate discussion of the terms of a merger, and referred the matter to the Central Committee for decision. No agreement was reached on a merger. Subsequently the U.S.D.L.P. found itself in the camp of the bourgeois-nationalist counter-revolution.

[2] The Credentials Committee elected at the first session of the Congress was composed of two Bolsheviks, two Mensheviks and one so-called “neutral”, who was in fact a conciliator (he headed the Committee). The Congress approved the terms of reference of the Committee and passed Lenin’s draft resolution, which made it a duty of the Committee to submit written reports to the Congress. The work of the Committee and the discussion of its reports at the plenary sessions of the Congress took place in an atmosphere of intense struggle between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Relations became particularly strained at the sixth session of the Congress over the Committee proposal to cancel the credentials of Artamonov (F. A. Sergeyev, or Artyom), a Bolshevik delegate from the Kharkov organisation. The Bolsheviks on the Committee declared that they were leaving the Committee, and then the Congress elected a new Committee made up of Mensheviks and conciliators.

[3] The protest of the Tiflis workers against the powers of the Menshevik delegation, signed by 200 persons, was read at the twentieth session of the Congress. It said that in drawing up the lists of Party members the Tiflis Mensheviks had ignored the Rules of the R.S.D.L.P., and had included chance people in the list. The Mensheviks   had “discovered” over 3,000 Party members in Tiflis. The worker Social-Democrats of Tiflis maintained in their protest that the city could not be represented at the Congress by as many as 11 delegates.

[4] The minutes of the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., published in 1007, had serious shortcomings—they did not contain records of a number of reports and speeches made at the Congress, specifically by Lenin.

  | Election of the Bureau. The Congress Agenda  

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