V. I.   Lenin

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

A Letter to the St. Petersburg Workers



VIII. The Congress Summed Up

[SEE ALSO: “The Congress Summed Up”]

Summing up the work of the Congress and the effect it has had upon our Party, we must draw the following main Conclusions.

An important practical result of the Congress is the pro posed (partly already achieved) amalgamation with the national Social-Democratic parties. This amalgamation will strengthen the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. It will help to efface the last traces of the old circle habits. It will infuse a new spirit into the work of the Party. It will greatly enhance the might of the proletariat of all the peoples of Russia.

Another important practical result was the amalgamation of the Minority and Majority groups. The split has been stopped. The Social-Democratic proletariat and its Party must be united. Disagreements on organisation have been almost entirely eliminated. There remains an important, serious and extremely responsible task: really to apply the principles of democratic centralism in Party organisation, to work tirelessly to make the local organisations the principal organisational units of the Party in fact, and not merely in name, and to see to it that all the higher-standing bodies are elected, accountable, and subject to recall. We must work hard to build up an organisation that will include all the class-conscious Social-Democratic workers, and will live its own independent political life. The autonomy of every Party organisation, which hitherto has been largely a dead letter, must become a reality. The fight for posts, fear of the other “faction”, must be eliminated. Let us have really united Party organisations, in which there will only be a purely ideological struggle between different trends of Social-Democratic thought. It will not be easy to achieve this; nor shall we achieve it at one stroke. But the road has been mapped out, the principles have been proclaimed, and we must now work for the complete and consistent putting into effect of this organisational ideal.

We think that an important ideological result of the Congress is that there is now a clearer and more definite line of demarcation between the Right wing and the Left wing in   Social-Democracy. There is a Right and a Left wing in all tile Social-Democratic parties in Europe; and their existence in our Party has been evident for a long time. A more distinct line of demarcation between the two, a clearer definition of the points of disagreement, is essential for the healthy development of the Party, for the political education of the proletariat, and for the checking of every inclination of the Social-Democratic Party to stray too far from the right path.

The Unity Congress has provided a wealth of practical, documentary material that will enable us to determine precisely and indisputably what we agree on, what we disagree on, and how much we disagree. This documentary material must be studied; we must know the facts which reveal the true nature and dimensions of the disagreement. We must wean ourselves of the old circle habits—vehemence, abuse and portentous accusations instead of earnest discussion of particular disagreements that have arisen on particular questions. And we have thought it essential to append to this pamphlet as much documentary material as possible on the Unity Congress, to enable the members of the Party to study the disagreements really independently instead of taking battered catch words on faith. This documentary material is dry, of course. Not everybody will have the patience and perseverance to read the draft resolutions and compare them with the resolutions that were adopted, to ponder over the significance of the different formulations of each point and of each sentence. But whoever takes a really intelligent interest in the decisions of the Congress cannot shirk such serious work.

And so, summing up what I have said above about the disputes at the Congress and the different trends of the draft resolutions that the Congress did not discuss (or post-poned), I come to the conclusion that the Congress has helped us a great deal to draw a more distinct line of demarcation between the Right wing and the Left wing in Social-Democracy.

The Right wing of our Party does not believe in the complete victory of the present, i.e., bourgeois-democratic, revolution in Russia; it dreads such a victory; it does not emphatically and definitely put the slogan of such a victory before the people. It is constantly being misled by the essentially erroneous idea, which is really a vulgarisation of Marxism,   that only the bourgeoisie can independently “make” the bourgeois revolution, or that only the bourgeoisie should lead the bourgeois revolution. The role of the proletariat as the vanguard in the struggle for the complete and decisive victory of the bourgeois revolution is not clear to the Right Social-Democrats.

For example, they—or at all events some of their speakers at the Congress—advance the slogan of a peasant revolution, but they do not uphold this slogan consistently. They do not formulate in the programme a clear revolutionary line of propaganda and agitation among the people (seizure of the land by revolutionary peasant committees pending the national constituent assembly). They are afraid of expressing in the programme of the peasant revolution the idea that the revolutionary peasantry should seize power. In spite of their promises, they do not carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution in agriculture to its “logical” conclusion, for the only “logical” (and economic) conclusion under capitalism is the nationalisation of land, which abolishes absolute rent. They in vent an incredibly artificial middle course, with nationalisation cut up into local areas and with democratic Zemstvos under an undemocratic central government. They try to scare the proletariat with the bogy of restoration, not suspecting that they are clutching at the political weapon that the bourgeoisie uses against the proletariat, that they are bringing grist to the mill of the monarchist bourgeoisie.

And in their entire tactical line our Right Social-Democrats overrate the importance and role of the unstable, wavering, monarchist-liberal bourgeoisie (the Cadets, etc.) and under rate the importance of the revolutionary bourgeois democrats (the Peasant Union, the Trudovik Group in the Duma, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the numerous semi-political and semi-trade-union organisations, etc.). Their overrating of the Cadets and underrating of the revolutionary-democratic rank and file is very intimately linked with their mistaken views on the bourgeois revolution, referred to above. Our Right Social-Democrats are dazzled by the tawdry successes of the Cadets, by their glittering “parliamentary” victories and by their bombastic “constitutional” speeches. Beguiled by the politics of the moment, they forget the more fundamental and more important interests of democracy;   they forget those forces which make less “noise” on the surface of the “constitutionalism” permitted by the Trepovs and Dubasovs, but which are doing much more profound, if less ostentatious, work among the revolutionary-democratic rank and file, preparing for conflicts of a not quite parliamentary character.

Hence the sceptical (to put it mildly) attitude of our Right Social-Democrats towards insurrection; hence their effort to brush aside the experience of October and December, and the forms of struggle that then arose. Hence their irresolution and passivity in the struggle against constitutional illusions, a struggle which comes into the forefront at every truly revolutionary juncture. Hence their failure to under stand the historical role of the boycott of the Duma, and their efforts to dodge the task of taking stock of the concrete conditions of the movement at any particular moment[1]   by use of the “biting” word “anarchism”. Hence their extraordinary eagerness to go into a pseudo-constitutional institution and hence their overrating of the positive role of this institution.

Against this tendency of our Right Social-Democrats we must wage a most determined, open and ruthless ideological struggle. We should seek the widest possible discussion of the decisions of the Congress. We must call upon every member of the Party to take a conscious and critical stand on these resolutions. We must see to it that every workers’ organisation, after making itself thoroughly familiar with the subject, declares whether it approves or disapproves of any particular decision. If we have really and seriously decided to introduce democratic centralism in our Party, and if we have resolved to draw the masses of the workers into intelligent decision of Party questions, we must have these questions discussed in the press, at meetings, in circles and at group meetings.

But in the united Party this ideological struggle must not split the organisations, must not hinder the unity of action of the proletariat. This is a new principle as yet in our Party life, and considerable effort will be needed to implement it properly.

Freedom of discussion, unity of action—this is what we must strive to achieve. The decisions of the Unity Congress allow sufficient scope for all Social-Democrats in this respect. Practical measures on the lines of “municipalisation” are still a long way off; but in the matter of supporting the revolutionary activities of the peasantry, and of criticising petty-bourgeois utopias, all Social-Democrats are agreed among themselves. Hence we must discuss municipal isation, and condemn it, without being afraid of hindering the unity of action of the proletariat.

As regards the Duma, the situation is somewhat different. During elections there must be complete unity of action. The Congress has decided: we will all take part in elections, wherever they take place. During elections there must be no criticism of participation in elections. Action by the proletariat must be united. We shall all and always regard the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, whenever it is formed, as our Party group.

But beyond the bounds of unity of action there must be the broadest and freest discussion and condemnation of all steps, decisions and tendencies that we regard as harmful. Only through such discussions, resolutions and protests can the real public opinion of our Party be formed. Only on this condition shall we be a real Party, always able to express its opinion, and finding the right way to convert a definitely formed opinion into the decisions of its next congress.

Take the third resolution that caused disagreement, the one on insurrection. Here unity of action in the midst of the struggle is absolutely essential. In the heat of battle, when the proletarian army is straining every nerve, no criticism whatever can be permitted in its ranks. But before the call for action is issued, there should be the broadest and freest discussion and appraisal of the resolution, of its arguments and its various propositions.

Thus we have a very wide field. The resolutions of the Congress provide plenty of scope. Any infatuation with quasi-constitutionalism, any exaggeration of the “positive” role of the Duma by anybody, any appeals of the extreme Right Social-Democrats for moderation and sobriety— we have in our possession a most powerful weapon against them. This weapon is Clause 1 of the Congress resolution on insurrection.

The Unity Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party has recognised that the immediate task of the movement is to wrest power from the autocratic government. Whoever forgets about this immediate task, whoever attempts to push it into the background, will infringe the will of the Congress; and we shall fight all who are guilty of this in the sternest fashion.

I repeat: there is plenty of scope from the parliamentary group to the immediate task of wresting power. Within these wide limits, the ideological struggle can and must proceed without causing a split, without affecting the unity of action of the proletariat.

And we call upon all Social-Democrats who do not want our Party to stray too far to the right to join in this ideological struggle.



[1] I have just received a copy of Karl Kautsky’s new pamphlet entitled The State Duma. His formulation of the question of the boycott and that of the Mensheviks are as wide apart as heaven and earth. Our would-be Social-Democrats, like Negorev in Nevskaya Gazeta, clumsily blurt out: the boycott is anarchism! But Kautsky, after analysing the concrete conditions, writes: “Under these conditions it is not surprising that the majority of our Russian comrades regarded the Duma convened in this way as nothing more than a most outrageous travesty of popular representation, and decided to boycott it “It is not surprising that the majority of our Russian comrades thought it more expedient to fight in order to wreck this Duma and secure the convocation of a constituent assembly, than to take part in the election campaign for the purpose of getting into this Duma.”

Oh, how we should like to have Axelrod’s platitudes about the benefits of parliamentarism and the harmfulness of anarchism published soon, as a parallel to Kautsky’s historically concrete appraisal!

By the way. This is what Kautsky says about the victory of the revolution in the same pamphlet: “The peasants and the proletariat will more and more vigorously and unceremoniously push the members of the Duma to the left [this is what Nevskaya Gazeta would contemptuously call “the crude exposure of the Cadets”], will weaken and paralyse their opponents more and more until they have utterly defeated them.” Thus the peasantry and the proletariat will defeat “them” that is, both the government and the liberal bourgeoisie. Poor Kautsky! He does not realise that only the bourgeoisie can make a bourgeois revolution. He is uttering a “Blanquist” heresy: the victory (“dictator ship”) of the proletariat and the peasantry.—Lenin

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