I should have liked to speak solely on the political aspect of the question. But Comrade Abramovich’s last speech compels me to deal briefly with his remarks. When Comrade Abramovich spoke about the “besieged” Menshevik Central Committee, I thought to myself: “Poor Mensheviks! Again they are in a state of siege. They are ’besieged’ not only when they are in the minority, but even when they are in the majority I”
Are there not certain inner reasons stemming from the very nature of Menshevik policy, which impel the Mensheviks to complain eternally about being besieged by the proletarian party?
What are the facts adduced by Comrade Abramovich regarding the siege of the Menshevik Central Committee? There were three—the agitation for an extraordinary congress, the conference of military and combat organisations, and finally “other organisational questions”, as Comrade Abramovich put it.
Let us examine these three facts.
Agitation for an extraordinary congress became wide spread when it emerged that the Central Committee was indisputably running counter to the will of the majority of the Party. Let me remind you that this was after the Central Committee had launched a slogan calling for support of a responsible ministry. At that time, the Bund had not joined our Party, but the Poles and the Latvians had. Both the former and the latter quite definitely rejected the policy of the C.C. Hence, it is an absolutely indisputable fact that the C.C. was at the time at variance with the vast majority of the Party. Who, then, was besieging whom—was it the majority of the Party that besieged the Party C.C. when it demanded that the latter render an account of its activities to the congress? Or was it the C.C. that besieged the Party by going counter to it? Call to mind how far Plekhanov went at the time. His letter against the congress was published in Sotsial-Demokrat, official publication of the C.C. In this letter Plekhanov reacted to the call for a congress with suspicions concerning the motives behind the agitation, and tirades about the workers’ mites. Give this thought: was it not Plekhanov who was wrong to permit himself to do such things against the majority of the Party, which was demanding a congress?
I will say only this—after the decision of the November All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. the agitation for an extraordinary congress ceased.
The second fact—the conference of military and combat organisations. There were two conferences. This, of course, is unfortunate, but it is strange to see in this anything like a “siege” of the C.C. Would it not have been better to explain what was wrong with the decisions of the conference which took place independently of the C.C., rather than to dismiss the matter by complaining about a siege? Let me remind you that representatives of the Moscow and St. Petersburg committees were present at both conferences—hence no Party group as such was linked up with either conference. The resolutions of the Bolshevik conference of military and combat organisations, published in November 1906, have not so far encountered any serious criticism.
The third fact—“other organisational questions”. Just what does this mean? Concretely, what is included in this. Is it the St. Petersburg split at the time of the elections, engineered by the Mensheviks with the help of the C.C.? But it would be simply ridiculous to speak about a siege of the C.C. in this connection.
I shall now proceed to the political aspect of the question. Our main task is to examine how the C.C. guided the class struggle of the proletariat, how it applied in practice the tactics adopted at the Unity Congress.
The first slogan which the Central Committee offered the Party was that of support for the demand for a “Duma” or “responsible” ministry. Comrade Martov has stated to us here that this slogan was put out for the purpose of extending and intensifying the conflict between the Duma and the government.
Is that the case? What should the proletarian extension and intensification of the conflict consist in? It should, of course, consist in pointing out the real field of struggle and clashes giving rise to the conflict—the field of the class struggle in general, and, in this particular case, the struggle of the people against the old regime. To extend and intensify the Duma conflict, we ourselves should have understood and explained to the people that the Duma conflict was simply an incomplete and distorted reflection of the conflict between the people and the old regime, that the struggle in the Duma was a faint echo of the revolutionary struggle outside the Duma. To extend and intensify the conflict, we should have raised political consciousness and political demands from the level of Duma slogans to the level of those calling for a general revolutionary struggle. The C.C. acted in the opposite way. It blunted and narrowed down the slogans calling for a revolutionary struggle to the dimensions of those calling for a Duma ministry. It did not call on the people to fight for power, even though this struggle stemmed from the entire objective situation, but to struggle for a deal between the liberals and the government. Whether deliberately or not, the C.C. called upon the Party to adopt the slogans of the parliamentary “peaceful” path at a time when actually objective conditions demanded a revolutionary struggle outside of parliament. Actually there was no serious social movement whatever for a “responsible minis try”, nor could there have been one. Even the Menshevik Social-Democratic group in the Duma (the First Duma) did not adopt this slogan of the C.C. (Martov: “That’s not true!”) Yes, it is true, Comrade Martov, and a simple reference to the resolution of the C.C. and to the verbatim reports of the First Duma will show that it is true.
Irrespective of the desires and motives of the C.C., its slogan was actually an adaptation to liberal policy. And this adaptation could not have yielded any results, because liberal policy did not reflect the genuine social movement of the time but was merely a dream of halting the revolution, although it has by no means halted yet. The course of events showed that this entire business with the “responsible ministry” was an attack with ineffective weapons.
The second slogan of the C.C. dates back to the period of the July strike. We must not blame the C.C. for the failure of the strike at the time. It is not to the discredit, but rather to the credit, of a central committee like that of the Mensheviks that it on that occasion nevertheless went to meet the revolution half-way. It is not the fault of the C.C. that, from its St. Petersburg purview, it did not know the sentiments of the proletariat throughout Russia. Nor can we declare it to be a mistake for us to have been confident of an uprising at the time, and to have expected it. The uprising actually took place, and our preliminary slogans, our policy prior to the uprising, were among the elements which made for the success or failure of this uprising.
The mistake of the Central Committee was, as I see it, in endeavouring, once the revolutionary struggle reached the stage of an uprising, to confine that struggle to non-revolutionary or curtailed revolutionary slogans. This was reflected in the C.C. slogan—“Partial mass expressions of protest”. This was reflected still more vividly in the slogan—“For the Duma as an organ of power for the convocation of a constituent assembly”. The issue of such lifeless slogans was tantamount to adapting proletarian policy to the policy of the liberal bourgeoisie. And once again events showed how utterly vain and impotent were the attempts to effect such an adaptation. Complaints and whining about the helplessness of the workers’ party are frequently heard among us. But let me tell you that you are helpless precisely because you dull the edge of your slogans. (Applause from the Bolshevik benches.)
To proceed. Let us examine the question of the bloc with the Cadets during the elections to the Second Duma. In his report on behalf, of the C.C. Martov washed his hands of this question with amazingly complacent formalism. You see, he says, the C.C. agreed that blocs are permissible, and in strict accordance with the C.C. directive blocs were permitted! (Laughter.) It would not be at all amiss if, in a political report of the C.C., one were to base oneself not on the formal legitimacy of a decision but on the essential correctness of the given policy as tested in practice. We Bolsheviks constantly asserted that the notorious Black-Hundred danger was nothing but liberal defence against the danger from the Left, and that if we were guided in our policy by fear of the Black-Hundred danger, we should actually be rising to the liberal bait. The election results showed that we were right. In a number of cities the election returns refuted the tales of the liberals and Mensheviks. (Voices: “What about Kiev, Poland, and Wilno!”) I haven’t the time to go into individual localities, but I shall deal with the political results in general. Statistician Smirnov calculated the election returns for 22 cities as follows: 41,000 for the Left bloc; 74,000 for the Cadets; 34,500 for the Octobrists, and 17,000 for the monarchists. Of the 72,000 votes cast in 16 other cities, 58.7 per cent went to the opposition and 21 per cent went to the reactionaries. The elections revealed the fictitiousness of the Black-Hundred danger, while the policy of the “permissibility” of blocs with the Cadets, allegedly by way of exception, proved to be a policy of proletarian dependence on the liberal bourgeoisie.
Let me tell you that you should not scorn theoretical disputes, or contemptuously dismiss differences in opinion as factional inventions. Our old disputes, our theoretical, and especially our tactical, differences are constantly being converted, in the course of the revolution, into the most downright practical differences. It is impossible to take a single step in practical politics without coming up against the very same fundamental problems underlying an appraisal of the bourgeois revolution, the relations between the Cadets and Trudoviks, and so forth. Practical experience does not erase differences of opinion; it sharpens and vitalises them. And it was not by chance that such prominent Mensheviks as Plekhanov reduced to the absurd the policy of blocs with the Cadets. In advancing his celebrated “Duma with full powers”, Plekhanov advocated a common slogan for the proletariat and the liberal bourgeoisie. Plekhanov only reflects more saliently and more forcibly than others the quintessence, the basic tendency, of the entire Menshevik policy—replacing the independent line of the working class with adaptation to the liberal bourgeoisie. The bankruptcy of our C.C. was primarily and above all the bankruptcy of this policy of opportunism. (Applause from the Bolsheviks and part of the Centre.)