V. I. Lenin

The Fifth All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.{1}

DECEMBER 21–27, 1908 (JANUARY 3–9, 1909)

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 218.2-220.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  




  1. I.
    12 a p o s t l e s
    5 [in]violable
    (belonging to angelic order){3}
  2. II. (A)
    1. 1. Strike movement and revolutionary onset;
    2. 2. Reformism and revolution;
    3. 3. Tasks of fighting nationalism;
      —raise before the congress;
    4. 4. How to work in legal societies.
  3. III. (B)
    1. (1) Duma group.
    2. (2) Legal newspapers.
    3. (3) Legal societies.
    4. (4) Illegal agitators and their secret slogans.
  4. IV. (C)
    Resolutions and their popularisation.
  5. V. (D)
    Confidential agents and their promotion.
Written on December 24, 1908 (January 6, 1909) Printed from the original
First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV


Statement of Fact

I declare that in my speech on the organisational question, which alone was discussed today, I did n a t say nor did I intend to say a single word either about the attitude of the Caucasians to Golos Sotsial-Demokrata{5} or about “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata” in general. That is why by starting his speech with a statement that on this question there were now no differences between the Caucasians and Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, Comrade Pyotr of Tiflis had no reason at all to mention my name. As for the earlier debates, I merely spoke of the differences between some members of the Golos Sotsial-Demokrata Editorial Board and the Caucasians, which were revealed at the August Plenary Meeting of the C.C. in 1908.

N. Lenin

Motioned on December 24, 1908 (January 6, 1909) Printed from the original
First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV



If there is no demand for a vote on any of the resolutions tabled by someone at the conference, the conference shall vote on the resolution concerning the direction of the committee’s work.

If there is a preliminary demand for a vote on someone’s resolution as a basis right away, the demand shall be immediately complied with.


Motioned on December 24, 1908 (January 6, 1909) Printed from the original
First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV



The conference requests the C.C. to take steps to publish the conference resolutions and tabled drafts, and if possible, its minutes or a brief report as well.

Motioned on Depember 26, 1908 (January 8, 1909) Printed from the original
First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV



I declare that I objected to Comrade Lyadov from the. standpoint, which I repeatedly emphasised in my speech, that the C.C. has an unquestionable right of veto.

N. Lenin

Motioned on December 26, 1908 (January 8, 1909) Printed from the original
First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV



Statement of Fact

The letter of Comrades Martynov and Igorev, which they had promised to place before the C.C. but heve failed to do over a period of four months, did not deal with the way the C.C. was to function but with its “right to exist” (Existenzrecht), i.e., it dealt specifiqaily with the liquidationist plans.

N. Lenin

Motioned on December 26, 1908 (January 8, 1909) Printed from the original
First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV


{1} The Fifth All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. was held in Paris from December 21 to 27, 1908 (January 3 to 9, 1909). It was attended by 16 delegates with vote, among them five Bolsheviks, three Mensheviks, five Polish Social-Democrats and three Bundists. On the agenda were the following questions: 1) Reports of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee, the Central Committee of the Polish Social-Democrats, the Bund Central Committee, the St. Petersburg organisation, the Moscow, Central Industrial Region, Urals and Caucasian organisations. 2) The present political situation and the Party’s tasks. 3) The Social-Democratic Duma group. 4) Organisational questions in connection with the changed political conditions. 5) Local mergers with non-Russian organisations. 6) Affairs abroad. On every question, the Bolsheviks conducted a relentless struggle against the Menshevik liquidators and their supporters. The Conference resolution “On the Reports” sharply condemned liquidationism as an opportunist trend and called for the most resolute ideological and organisational struggle against any attempts to liquidate the Party.

The work of the Conference was centred on Lenin’s report “On the Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party”. The Mensheviks   tried in vain to get the item off the agenda. The Conference adopted the resolution motioned by Lenin with slight amendments (see present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 321–24).

The resolution “On the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma”, motioned by the Bolsheviks, criticised the activity of the group and stated its concrete tasks. The Mensheviks objected to any indication of the Duma group’s mistakes in the Conference decisions and opposed the Central Committee’s right of veto in respect of the group. The otzovists also came out against the Leninist line in respect of the Duma group. The Conference adopted the Bolshevik resolution, whose text included a part of Lenin’s second variant of “Practical Instructions on Voting for the Budget by the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma” and all of his “Addendum to the Resolution on ‘The Social-Democratic Group in the Duma’\thinspace” (see present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 326–27, 328). During the discussion of the organisational question, the Bolshevik proposed a draft resolution stating that the Party should devote special attention to the establishment and strengthening of illegal Party organisations, making use of an extensive network of diverse legal societies for work among the masses. The Mensheviks were actually trying to liquidate the illegal Party and stop all revolutionary work. In his speech on the organisational question, Lenin sharply criticised the resolution of the Menshevik liquidators and their attempts to justify those who had deserted from the Party in the years of reaction. The Conference adopted Lenin’s “Directives for the Committee on Questions of Organisation” (see present edition, Vol. 15, p. 325) and set up a committee to draft a resolution. The committee, and then the Conference itself, adopted the Bolshevik draft resolution. The Conference’s resolution on the local merger of national organisations resolutely rejected the principle of federalism, which the Bundists supported, as they wanted workers in the Party to be compartmentalised on national lines. During the discussion of the Central Committee’s work, the Mensheviks proposed that its seat should be transferred to Russia and that the C.C. Bureau Abroad should be eliminated. The liquidationist draft resolutions were rejected. The Conference adopted a resolution recognising “the existence abroad of a general Party representative body in the form of the Central Committee Bureau A road as being useful and necessary”. A Bolshevik resolution was adopted on the Central Organ; the Conference rejected the Menshevik proposal to have the publication of the C.O. transferred to Russia.

The Bolsheviks won a great victory at the Conference in their struggle against the Menshevik liquidators. The Conference decisions also dealt a blow at the otzovists. In the years of reaction, the Party was guided by the decisions of this Conference. Lenin said that the Fifth All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. “has led the Party out on to the road, and evidently marks a turning-point in the development of the Russian working-class movement after the victory of the counter-revolution” (see present edition, Vol. 15, p. 345). p. 218

{2} On the strength of the short record of Lenin’s speech, it is impossible to say how fully his speech on the organisational question on December 24, 1908 (January 6, 1909) reflected all the questions listed in the outline, but these suggest that it may have been written during the debate on the organisational question. p. 218

{3} A reference to the Party’s twelve-man Central Committee elected at the Fifth (London) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., the five meaning its narrow group working in Russia. Lenin’s ironical quip about the “angelic order” of the five seems to refer to the draft resolution of the Menshevik liquidators proposing to eliminate the C.C. Bureau Abroad and concentrate all Party guidance in the hands of the five in Russia. p. 218

{4} Lenin made the statement at the Conference on December 24, 1908 (January 6, 1939), after the slanderous statement by a member of the Caucasian delegation, the Menshevik N. Ramishvili (Pyotr). It became known at the Central Committee Plenary Meeting in August 1908 that the Menshevik liquidators had tried, even before the Plenary Meeting, to have the C.C. eliminated as the governing body of the Party and its activity confined to the functions of information. The plan to eliminate the C.C. was set out in a letter addressed in June 1908 by B. Gorev, a member of the C.C., and A. Martynov, a member of the Golos Sotsial-Demokrata Editorial Board, “To All Menshevik Organisations”. At the Plenary Meeting itself the Mensheviks tried hard to cover up their intention to liquidate the C.C. (pp. 216–17). The Bolsheviks exposed the disorganising, anti-Party activity of the liquidators. The C.C. Plenary Meeting adopted Bolshevik draft resolutions on all the main items of the agenda. At the Fifth All-Russia Conference members of the Golos Sotsial-Demokrata Editorial Board Dan and Axelrod and C.C. member N. Ramishvili, who had credentials from the Caucasian organisation, took a common, extreme liquidationist stand. p. 219

{5} Golos Sotsial-Demokrata (The Voice of the Social-Democrat)—the Menshevik organ abroad, first published in Geneva and then in Paris from February 1908 to December 1911. Its editors were P. B. Axelrod, F. I. Dan, L. Martov, A. Martynov and G. V. Plekhanov. From its first issue, the paper stood up for the liquidators, justifying their anti-Party activity. Following Plekhanov’s withdrawal from the Editorial Board over the paper’s liquidationist stand, it crystallised as the ideological centre of liquidationism. p. 219

{6} Lenin entered his statement of fact at the last, ninth, sitting of the Conference on December 26, 1908 (January 8, 1909). The minutes show that the sitting continued its discussion of the resolution on the Social-Democratic Duma group. During the discussion of the point on budget voting, Lenin motioned his wording of this part of the resolution (see present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 326–27). In the minutes there is an amendment by M. N. Lyadov proposing that the end of the resolution “and trade union organisations”   should be worded as “after exchange of opinion with representatives of the trade unions”. Lyadov said this was necessary because the draft resolution under discussion tended to narrow down the Central Committee’s powers. Lenin opposed Lyadov’s amendment, saying that the C.C. had the right of veto in respect of the Social-Democratic Duma group. Lyadov’s amendment was rejected. The decision on the C.C.’s right of veto in respect of the Duma group was adopted at tie same sitting. It said that in view of its responsibility for the work of the group the C.C. must use its right of veto unhesitatingly “where the group’s decisions threaten to harm the Party”. p. 220

{7} Lenin motioned the statement at the Conference on December 26, 1908 (January 8, 1909) during the discussion of the resolution on the Central Committee’s work. The Menshevik liquidators had tried to liquidate the Central Committee’s the Party’s governing body even before the Central Committee’s Plenary Meeting in August 1908. Accordingly, Lenin motioned his “Statement on the Convocation of the C.C. Plenary Meeting” at the Plenary Meeting on August 12 (25), 1908 (p. 216). The resolution “On the Incident over the Convocation of the C.C. Plenary Meeting” was adopted the following day on Lenin’s motion (p. 217). p. 220

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