V. I.   Lenin

The Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

April 10 (23)-April 25 (May 8), 1906



Speech in Reply to the Debate on the Present Situation and the Class Tasks of the Proletariat

I shall try to keep to the most important points. Comrade Ptitsyn[1] reminded me of the saying: the ball comes to the player. He asked: “What makes the Bolsheviks think that the main form of the struggle now is breaking the laws, etc.?” Do take your Cadet spectacles off, Comrade Ptitsyn! It seems to you that parliamentarism is the main form of the struggle. Look at the unemployed movement, the movement among the armed forces, the peasant movement. The main form of the movement is not in the Duma; it can only play an indirect role. Comrade Plekhanov said that Hegel would have turned in his grave twice over had he heard my reference to him. But Comrade Plekhanov spoke before Comrade Ptitsyn, and it is to him that this remark applies. Comrade Ptitsyn worships the present; he sees only things that lie on the surface; he does not notice what is going on deep below the surface. He does not study things in their process of development. He thinks that talk about the head and the tail, about whether the proletariat should play the part of vanguard or rearguard, is mere phrase-mongering. This brought out all the more vividly the fundamental mistake of the Mensheviks. They do not see that the bourgeoisie is counter-revolutionary, that it is deliberately striving for a deal. They refer to the Jacobins, and say that they were naive monarchists and yet became republicans. The Cadets, however, are not naive, but deliberate monarchists. This is what the Mensheviks forget.

Our formidable Comrade Leonov[2] said: “Look, the ’Bolsheviks’ talk about the revolutionary people; but so do the ’Mensheviks’, in their resolution.” Comrade Leonov mentioned Marx, who in his Class Struggles in France said that a republic is the supreme political form of the rule of the bourgeoisie. Comrade Leonov should have read on. He would have found that the republic was imposed on the bourgeoisie by a temporary situation and that, having broken up into two factions—Legitimists and Orleanists[3]— it endured the republic against its will.[4]

Dan said: “The ’Bolsheviks’ ignore the importance of political organisation.” That is not true; but it would be merely a truism to talk about the importance of organisation in general. The point is, what particular forms of political organisation are necessary today? We must say on what ground we are building a political organisation. The “Mensheviks” take as their premise an upsurge of the revolution, and yet recommend tactics that would be suitable for a decline, and not for an upsurge, of the revolution. In this way they play into the hands of the Cadets, who are doing every thing to discredit the period of October-December. The “Mensheviks” talk about an explosion. Put that word into the resolution. If you do, the present form of the movement—the elections to the State Duma, and so forth—will appear only as a transitory form.

Comrade Dan said: “The slogans of the ’Minority’ have been confirmed”; and he referred to revolutionary local self-government bodies, to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. But take Plekhanov’s Dnevnik, No. 5. There Plekhanov says that revolutionary local self-government “misleads people”. But whom has this slogan misled, and when? We have never repudiated this slogan; but we regarded it as inadequate. It is half-hearted; it is not a slogan of victorious revolution. The reference to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies is beside the point. We have not yet discussed them.

Plekhanov’s mistake is that he does not at all analyse the forms of the movement in October. He said: “Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are desirable and necessary.” But he has not taken the trouble to investigate what Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are. What are they? Organs of revolutionary local self-government, or rudimentary organs of authority? I   assert, and this thesis cannot be refuted, that they represent a struggle by means of revolutionary authority. This, and this alone, is the characteristic that distinguishes the struggle in October-December from the present struggle; we cannot impose any particular form of struggle on the movement.

Plekhanov said: “Bernstein was praised for his theory, for having abandoned theoretical Marxism, whereas I was praised for my tactics.” “The situation is different now,” said Comrade Plekhanov. To this Comrade Varshavsky rightly answered that Bernstein was praised for his tactics, for trying to blunt antagonisms, as the Cadets are doing. Bern stein tried to blunt social contradictions on the eve of the socialist revolution. Plekhanov is trying to blunt. political contradictions at the height of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. That is why the Cadets are praising Plekhanov and the Mensheviks.

Comrade Plekhanov said: “We do not reject the seizure of power, but we want it to be seized in the way it was done in the period of the Convention,[5] and not by conspirators.” Well, put that into your resolution, “Menshevik” comrades. Reject Leninism, denounce the Socialist-Revolutionary conspirators, and so on, and so forth; that doesn’t frighten me in the least. But put in a clause about seizing power on the lines of the Convention, and we will sign that resolution with both hands. But remember, Comrade Plekhanov: as soon as you do that, the Cadets will stop praising you—they really will.



[1] Ptitsyn—the Menshevik B. I. Soloveichik.

[2] Leonov—the Menshevik V. 0. Levitsky (Tsederbaum).

[3] Legitimists—supporters of the French Bourbons, overthrown in 1830. The Bourbons represented the interests of the big hereditary landowners.

Orleanists—supporters of the Orleans family in France. The family, which came into power in 1830, was backed by the financial aristocracy and the big bourgeoisie.

[4] See Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1958, p. 208.

[5] Convention—the third National Assembly during the French bourgeois revolution of the late eighteenth century. It was established as the supreme legislature following the people’s uprising on August 10, 1792, which overthrew the monarchy. Elections to the Convention were held in August and September 1792. The deputies formed three groups: the Jacobins, or the Left wing, the Girondists, or the Bight wing, and the “Marsh”, or the vacillating majority. Under the pressure of the people the Convention on September 21 abolished the royal power, and on September 22 proclaimed France a republic. The activity of the Convention was particularly fruitful under the Jacobin dictatorship (May 31-June 2, 1793-July 27, 1794), when the Girondists were expelled. The Convention completed the abolition of the feudal system; it dealt mercilessly with all counter-revolutionaries and compromisers, and fought against foreign intervention. At the same time it upheld the inviolability of private property.

After Thermidor 9 (July 27, 1794), when a counter-revolutionary coup d’état was accomplished, and after the adoption of the so-called   Constitution of the Year III, the Thermidor Convention was dissolved on October 26, 1795.

  Speech in Reply to the Debate on the Agrarian Question | Draft Resolution on the State Duma Submitted to the Unity Congress  

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