Proletary, No. 12, January 25, 1907.
Published according to the Proletary text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 29-32.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source. • README
We have just received a pamphlet entitled Why We Were Compelled To Leave the Conference (Declaration Submitted to the Central Committee by 31 Members of the Conference).
In it the Mensheviks do not say a single word about the principles involved! Their defection from the workers’ party to the petty-bourgeois bloc (the Mensheviks, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Trudoviks, and the Popular Socialists), and thence to the Cadets, is evidently of no interest to the proletariat. These protestants have no desire to discuss the real point at issue, but deal only with formalities.
Let us examine their formal arguments. There are three of them: (1) The history of the St. Petersburg Committee and its undemocratic organisation; (2) the irregularities in the Conference’s endorsement of credentials; (3) the refusal of the Conference to divide into two parts, one for the city and one for the gubernia.
On the first point we should like to ask: what has the St. Petersburg Committee to do with it? Special elections were held for the Conference, were they not?
Essentially the Mensheviks are telling atrocious lies about the history of the St. Petersburg Committee and its alleged undemocratic organisation. It is worth noting as a curiosity, for instance, that the Latvian District (the inclusion of which the Mensheviks complain about), was included before the Unity Congress, that is, when there was an equal number of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks on t.he St. Petersburg Committee. More than six months ago, there fore, the Mensheviks themselves voluntarily agreed that it was correct to include the Letts. Or take another instance: the Mensheviks complain that the St. Petersburg Committee had allowed the co-optation of a certain number of members. They forget to add that it was the Mensheviks themselves that had carried out the co-optation. These instances enable one to judge the fairness of this belated criticism of the way the St. Petersburg Committee was formed.
Their second argument is that the Conference, if you please, committed irregularities in endorsing the credentials. The Mensheviks refuse to recognise the shop-assistants’ votes, and claim that the following distribution of votes is the only correct one: Bolshevik—1,560, plus 180 in favour of the platform of the revolutionary bloc—total, 1,740. Menshevik—1,589. Or credentials, counting those left over: Bolshevik—35; Menshevik—32 (see p. 8 of the Menshevik pamphlet).
It remains for us only to emphasise that even in the opinion of our severest critics the Bolsheviks had, and were bound to have, preponderance at the Conference.
Everybody knows, comrades, that the “dissenters” (the platform of the revolutionary bloc) were also Bolsheviks. And since you yourselves admit that the Bolsheviks would have had 35 credentials against 32 even if the endorsement of the credentials depended on the Mensheviks, why make all this fuss?
You yourselves are compelled to admit that the St. Peters burg Social-Democratic organisation is a Bolshevik body.
But let us see how the Mensheviks criticise the way in which the credentials were verified at the Conference.
They do not want to consider the votes of the shop-assistants at all. Why? “On the pretext that it was impossible to hold meetings,” says the pamphlet, “the leading body of the shop-assistants, after an attempt to take a referendum of its members, which resulted in only 100 votes being cast, was authorised by the St. Petersburg Committee to elect five representatives, allowing, no one knows why, one per 60 members, there being 313 organised shop-assistants”... (p. 4).
The difficulty of organising a meeting of shop-assistants is common knowledge. On what grounds is this called a “pretext”? On what grounds are 313 organised shop-assist ants (i.e., Party members) to be kept out? Do you not admit yourselves that an attempt was made to take a referendum, i.e., that the leading body took steps to get all the members of the Party to express their opinion?
And by reducing the rate of representation from one per 50 to one per 60, the St. Petersburg Committee admitted that the representation was not entirely democratic.
Moscow District: among the challenged votes the Mensheviks recognise 185 Bolshevik votes. But under the heading “Reasons for Challenging”, the authors of the pamphlet themselves write literally the following: “Challenged tentatively, in case the Bolsheviks refuse to endorse similar elections in another district.”
Isn’t that good? The Mensheviks challenged the Bolshevik credentials tentatively, in case...!! In summing up they themselves state that “the number of votes that should really have been disqualified” was 115, and not 300; i.e., they themselves admit that 185 should have been endorsed!
Thus, the Menshevik methods consist in challenging “tentatively” votes that really should be endorsed!
And such people have the insolence to talk about irregular representation at the Conference....
The Mensheviks themselves count the number of incontestable votes as 1,376 for the Bolsheviks and 795 for the Mensheviks. And that means, my dear comrades, that even by adopting the unheard-of and original method of “tentative challenging” you were unable to challenge the bulk of the Bolshevik votes!
Of the 789 Menshevik votes challenged by the Bolsheviks (according to the pamphlet) the 234 votes of the Vyborg District are of special importance. Under the heading: “Reasons for Challenging” we read: “The elections were not carried out on the basis of platforms, although discussions were held.” The fact that discussions were held does not prove in the least that the voters themselves spoke in favour of blocs with the Cadets, so that the Conference was right in refusing to assign to the partisans of a bloc with the Cadets those votes that were not directly and unambiguously in favour of it. The Conference reduced the representation for these 234 votes.
Further, the Bolsheviks challenged the 370 votes of the Franco-Russian Subdistrict (City District). Under the heading: “Reasons for Challenging” we read: “Without platforms—100, and the remainder (270)—by two-stage elections with discussions.”
You see, the votes of the shop-assistants ought to have been disqualified despite the “attempt to take a referendum”. All the Menshevik votes ought to have been endorsed, despite the two-stage elections, which in fact did not in the least differ from the method by which the shop-assistants elected their representatives! No, Menshevik comrades, your defence of the Menshevik credentials is very weak!
As regards dividing the Conference, the Mensheviks refer to it very briefly: “Although this proposal was perfectly rational”, the Conference rejected it (p. 5). But on the very next page the secret of its “rationality” is indiscreetly revealed: “Within the precincts of the city the Mensheviks had an overwhelming majority” (?!) (if the votes were counted in the Menshevik fashion, i.e., if all the shop-assistants’ votes were eliminated and all the Franco Russian and Vyborg votes were included!).
So that’s the game! Division was rational because it would have given the Mensheviks a fictitious majority Simple, is it not? Why, then, comrades, did you forget to mention what “rational” division you propose for the Railway District, for instance, and why the Central Committee did not think it rational to propose that the conferences at Wilno, Odessa, etc., be divided?
The Menshevik protests over formalities are empty and trivial quibbling. What is serious is their decision to desert to the Cadets. But the 31 protestants are absolutely silent about that.