V. I.   Lenin

Meeting of the International Socialist Bureau[1]

Published: Proletary, No. 37, October 16 (29), 1908. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the text in Proletary verified with the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 231-246.
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.

On Sunday October 11 (N. S.) there took place in Brussels the first meeting of the International Socialist Bureau since the Stuttgart Congress. The gathering of representatives of various socialist parties was chosen also as a convenient occasion for a conference of socialist journalists and parliamentarians. The first conference took place on the eve of the meeting of the Bureau, the second the day after. The composition of both conferences, it should be mentioned, was scarcely different from that of the Bureau: the majority of the members of the Bureau were both journalists and M.P.s. Only a few Belgian socialist deputies were additional members of the conference on Monday October 12.

The conference of journalists opened at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The question under discussion was that of regulating and developing the relations between the periodical press of the various socialist parties, The Belgians drew up a list of correspondents, members of their party, who were ready to give information to the newspapers of other parties on various particular questions. The wish was expressed that similar lists should be drawn up by other parties, and it was suggested that there should be a note of what languages the correspondent knew. The foreign bulletins of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (La Tribune Russe, in French) and of the Social—Democrats (in German)[2] were mentioned as particularly useful publications for our foreign comrades. It was also remarked that in the case of countries where there were different socialist parties, or various tendencies with in a single party, a note should be made in the lists stating   which party, etc., the correspondents belonged to. Russian Social-Democrats living abroad ought to make use of this international conference to ensure better arrangements for their reports in foreign socialist newspapers.

The conference decided that the International Socialist Bureau was to get in touch with those nations which had no daily socialist papers on the question of publishing regular bulletins (in one of the three official languages of the Inter national, or in all three—French, German and English). Following this, the Bureau was to enquire of the editors of the socialist daily newspapers of the different countries, what sum they would agree to pay in order to receive such bulletins regularly.

The Bureau Abroad of the Central Committee of our Party[3] should take special notice of this decision. The business of informing our foreign comrades about the affairs of Russian Social-Democracy is organised far from satisfactorily, and there should be an immediate and serious discussion on how to put this matter in order, and on publishing a Party bulletin abroad in three languages. Every thing possible should be done to put such a plan into practice.

The next point discussed was the proposal of Camille Huysmans, the Secretary of the Bureau, that the German Social-Democrats, who have 70 daily newspapers, should take the initiative of setting up an international bureau of telegraph and telephone communications between the editorial offices of the socialist newspapers in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Brussels, etc. The German delegates said that it was impossible to carry out this plan immediately; but they stated that a central information bureau of the German Social-Democratic Labour Party had recently been set up in Germany, and that when this was working satisfactorily it would be possible to consider transforming this bureau into an international organisation. The conference expressed its satisfaction at this promise, and the meeting ended after deciding that conferences of the socialist journalists of various countries should be timed as before to coincide with meetings of the International Socialist Bureau.

In the evening there was an international mass meeting at the Maison du Peuple at which Austrian, German, British, Turkish and Bulgarian delegates spoke—mainly on the   subject of the international conflicts, and of the struggle of the socialist proletariat of all countries for the preservation of peace. The meeting ended with the unanimous adoption of a resolution as follows: “The international meeting held on October 10 (N. S.) at the Maison du Peuple reaffirms the energetic resolution of the world proletariat to defend peace among the nations and to struggle with all its strength against capitalist militarism, which ruins and oppresses all peoples. The meeting expresses its confidence that the various national sections of the Workers’ International will apply in full the decision adopted on this question by the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart.” The meeting concluded with the singing of The Internationale.

The whole of the next day was taken up with the meeting of the International Socialist Bureau. The first item on the agenda, namely, the affiliation of the British Labour Party, occupied the whole of the morning session. According to the Rules of the International, organisations eligible for membership are, first, socialist parties which recognise the class struggle, and secondly, working-class organisations whose standpoint is that of the class struggle (i. e., trade unions). The Labour Party recently formed in the British House of Commons does not openly call itself socialist, and does not expressly and definitely recognise the principle of the class struggle (which, be it said in parenthesis, the British Social-Democrats call upon it to do). Needless to say this Labour Party was admitted to the International in general and to the Stuttgart Socialist Congress in particular, because, as a matter of fact, this Party is an organisation of a mixed type, standing between the two types defined in Clauses I and 2 of the Rules of the International, and embodying the political representation of the British trade unions. Nevertheless, the question of the affiliation of this Party was raised, and raised by the Party itself, in the person of the so-called Independent Labour Party (the I.L.P., as the British call it), which is one of the two subsections of the British section of the International. The other subsection is the Social Democratic Federation.

The Independent Labour Party demanded the direct recognition of the Labour Party as an affiliated organisation of the International. Its delegate Bruce Glasier urged the   enormous significance of this representation in Parliament of hundreds of thousands of organised workers who were steadily and surely moving towards socialism. He was very contemptuous of principles, formulas and catechisms. Kautsky, in reply to him, dissociated himself from this attitude of contempt towards the principles and ultimate aim of socialism, but wholly supported the affiliation of the Labour Party as a party waging the class struggle in practice. Kautsky moved the following resolution:

"Whereas by previous resolutions of the International Congresses, all organisations adopting the standpoint of the proletarian class struggle and recognising the necessity for political action have been accepted for membership, the International Bureau declares that the British Labour Party is admitted to International Socialist Congresses, because, while not expressly [ausdrücklich] accepting the proletarian class ˜struggle, in practice the Labour Party conducts this struggle, and adopts its standpoint, inasmuch as the Party is organised independently of the bourgeois parties.” Kautsky was supported by the Austrians, by Vaillant of the French group, and, as the voting showed, by the majority of the small nations. The opposition came first of all from Hyndman, the representative of the British Social Democratic Federation, who demanded that the status quo be maintained until the Labour Party expressly recognised the principle of the class struggle and of socialism; then from Roussel (the second French delegate and a follower of Guesde), Rubanovich of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, and Avramov, the delegate of the revolutionary wing of the Bulgarian socialists.

I took the floor in order to associate myself with the first part of Kautsky’s resolution. It was impossible, I argued, to refuse to admit the Labour Party, i.e., the parliamentary representation of the trade unions, since Congresses had previously admitted all trade unions whatever, even those which had allowed themselves to be represented by bourgeois parliamentarians. But, I said, the second part of Kautsky’s resolution is wrong, because in practice the Labour Party is not a party really independent of the Liberals, and does not pursue a fully independent class policy. I therefore proposed an amendment that the end of the   resolution, beginning with the word “because”, should read as follows:

"because it [the Labour Party] represents the first step on the part of the really proletarian organisations of Britain towards a conscious class policy and towards a socialist workers’ party”. I submitted this amendment to the Bureau, but Kautsky would not accept it, stating in his next speech that the International Bureau could not adopt decisions based on “expectations”. But the main struggle was between the supporters and the opponents of Kautsky’s resolution as a whole. When it was about to be voted on, Adler proposed that it be divided into two parts. This was done, and both parts were carried by the International Bureau: the first with three against and one abstention, and the second with four against and one abstention. Thus Kautsky’s motion became the decision of the Bureau. Rubanovich abstained on both votes. Let me add that Adler, who spoke after me and before Kautsky’s second speech, replied to me in the following manner—I am quoting from the Belgian socialist organ Le Peuple, which gave the most detailed and exact reports of the sessions: “Lenin’s proposal is tempting [séduisante, Adler said: verlockend, enticing], but it cannot make us forget that the Labour Party is now outside the bourgeois parties. It is not for us to judge how it did this. We recognise the fact of progress."

Such was the nature of the debate at the International Bureau on the question under discussion. I shall now take the liberty to deal in greater detail with this debate, in order to explain the position that I took up to the readers of Proletary. The arguments advanced by V. Adler and K. Kautsky failed to convince me, and I still think they are wrong. By stating in his resolution that the Labour Party “does not expressly accept the proletarian class struggle”, Kautsky undoubtedly voiced a certain “expectation”, a certain “judgement” as to what the policy of the Labour Party is now and what that policy should be. But Kautsky expressed this indirectly, and in such a way that it amounted to an assertion which, first, is incorrect in substance, and secondly, provides a basis for misrepresenting his idea. That by separating in Parliament (not during the elections! not in its whole policy! not in its propaganda and agitation!)   from the bourgeois parties, the Labour Party in Britain is taking the first step towards socialism and towards a class policy of the proletarian mass organisations is indisputable. This is not an “expectation” but a fact, the very fact which compels us to admit the Labour Party into the -International, since we have already accepted the trade unions. Finally, it is precisely such a formulation that would make hundreds of thousands of British workers, who undoubtedly respect the decisions of the International but have not yet be come full socialists, ponder once again over the question why they are regarded as having taken only the first step, and what the next steps along this road should be. My formulation, does not contain even the shadow of a claim that the International should undertake to solve the concrete and detailed problems of a national labour movement, should undertake to determine when the -next steps should be taken, and what they should be. But that further steps are necessary in general must be admitted, in relation to a party which does not expressly and clearly accept the principle of the class struggle. Kautsky in his resolution acknowledged this indirectly, instead of doing so directly. It looked as if the International was certifying that the Labour Party was in practice waging a consistent class struggle, as if it was sufficient for a workers’ organisation to form a separate labour group in Parliament in order in its entire conduct to become independent of the bourgeoisie!

On this question Hyndman, Roussel, Rubanovich and Avramov undoubtedly occupied a still more incorrect position (which Rubanovich did not rectify but confused by his abstention on both parts of the resolution). When Avramov declared that to admit the Labour Party would be to encourage opportunism, he expressed a glaringly wrong view. One need only recall Engels’s letters to Sorge. For a number of years Engels strongly insisted that the British Social-Democrats, led by Hyndman, were committing an error by acting like sectarians, failing to link themselves with the unconscious but powerful class instinct of the trade unions, and by turning Marxism into a “dogma”, whereas it should be a “guide to action”.[4] When there exist objective conditions which retard the growth of the political consciousness and class independence of the proletarian masses, one must be   able patiently and steadfastly to work hand in hand with them, making no concessions in principles but not refraining from activity right in the midst of the proletarian masses. These lessons of Engels’s have been corroborated by the subsequent development of events, when the British trade unions, insular, aristocratic, philistinely selfish, and hostile to socialism, which have produced a number of outright traitors to the working class who have sold themselves to the bourgeoisie for ministerial posts (like the scoundrel John Burns), have nevertheless begun moving towards socialism, awkwardly, inconsistently, in zigzag fashion,’ but still moving to wards socialism. Only the blind can fail to see that socialism is now growing apace among the working class in Britain, that socialism is once again becoming a mass movement in that country, that the social revolution is approaching in Great Britain.

The International would undoubtedly have acted wrongly had it not directly and resolutely expressed its complete sympathy with this vast step forward by the mass labour movement in Britain, and voiced its encouragement of the great turn that had begun in the cradle of capitalism. But. it does not in the least follow from this that the Labour Party can already be recognised as a party in practice independent of the bourgeoisie, as a party waging the class struggle, as a socialist party, etc. It was necessary to rectify one undoubted error committed by the British Social Democratic Federation, but there was no need to give even a shadow of encouragement to other, undoubted and not less important errors of the British opportunists who lead the so.. called Independent Labour Party. That these leaders are opportunists is indisputable. Ramsay MacDonald, the leader of the I.L.P., even proposed at Stuttgart that Clause 2 of the Rules of the International be so amended as to require, in place of the recognition of the class struggle, only the good faith (bona fides) of labour associations, for affiliation to the International. Kautsky himself immediately detected the opportunist note in ’the words of Bruce Glasier and dissociated himself from them—in his speech at the Bureau, but unfortunately not in his resolution. The speech at the Bureau was delivered before a dozen persons, but the resolution was written for millions.

I have before me the newspapers published by both trends of British socialism containing comments on the meeting of the International Bureau. The organ of the Independent (ahem! ahem!) Labour Party, the Labour Leader, rejoices, and openly declares to tens of thousands of British workers that the International Socialist Bureau not only recognised the Labour Party (that is true, and it had to be done) but also “vindicated the policy of the I. L. P.” (Labour Leader, October 16, 1908, p. 665). This is not true. The Bureau did not vindicate it. This is an illegitimate, opportunist interpretation of a slight awkwardness in Kautsky’s resolution. This slight awkwardness is beginning to bear rather abundant fruit; on top of this comes a poor translation: no wonder the Italians say that translators are traducers (traduttoritradittori). The official translations of the Bureau resolutions into the three official languages have not been published yet, and it is not known when they will appear. Kautsky’s resolution states that the Labour Party “adopts the standpoint of the class struggle” (end of the resolution; in the original: sich ... auf seinen, d. h. des Klassenkampfs, Boden stellt), which, in the translation of the British Social-Democrats reads: “places itself in consequence on the ground of inter national socialism.” In the translation of the British opportunists (I.L.P.) it reads: “adopts the position of international socialism”. (Ibid.) Now try and rectify such mistakes when you carry on agitation among the British workers!

Far be it from me to accuse Bruce Glasier of distorting the resolution. I am sure he could not have had that in mind. And this is not so important. What is important is that the spirit of Kautsky’s resolution, precisely the second part of it, be applied in practical mass work. On the same page of the Labour Leader, another member of the I.L.P., describing his impressions of the Bureau meeting and of the mass meeting in Brussels, complains that at the meeting “the emphasis on the ideal and ethical aspect of socialism ... was almost entirely absent”, an aspect which, he averred, was always emphasised at I.L.P. meetings. “In its stead we had ... the barren and uninspiring dogma of the class war.”

When Kautsky was writing his resolution about the British, he had in mind, not a British “Independent”, but a German Social-Democrat....

Justice, the organ of the British Social-Democrats, publishes bitter words from Hyndman against the majority of the Bureau as “whittlers-away of principle to suit the convenience of trimmers”. “I have not the slightest doubt,” writes Hyndman, “that if the British Labour Party had been told plainly that they either had to accept socialist principles ... or keep away altogether, they would very quickly have decided to bring themselves into line with the International Socialist Party.” And in another article in the same issue, facts are quoted to prove that in practice the Independent Labour Party got some of its members elected under a jumbled flag of both Liberalism and the Independent Labour Party (Liberal-Labour Alliance), and that some of the “Independents” had the backing of the Liberal Minister, John Burns (Justice, October 17, 1908, pp. 4 and 7).

If Hyndman carries out the plan he speaks of, namely, that of raising this question again at the International Socialist Congress in Copenhagen (1910), then the R.S.D.L.P, must try to get Kautsky’s resolution amended.

The second item on the agenda was the question of joint action by the proletariat and the socialists of various countries against the international and colonial conflicts with which the policy of the bourgeois governments is fraught. Vaillant moved a resolution which was adopted with slight amendments. During the discussion the Austrian delegates referred to the fact that their party in its delegations officially opposes the policy of Franz-Joseph, and reaffirms the recognition by socialists of the right of all nationalities to self-determination. But in opposing the policy of Franz- Joseph—said the Austrians—we are also against the policy of Abdul Hamid or Edward VII. Our business is to make the government responsible for the consequences of its actions. The British expressed the desire for more explicit declarations by the Austrian Social-Democrats against their government, but the Austrians did not go further than what has been stated. Avramov, a delegate from the Bulgarian socialists (the “Narrows”, i. e., the revolutionary Social- Democrats; in Bulgaria there are also the “Broads”, i. e., opportunist Social-Democrats), insisted on the imperialist   bourgeoisie of the Balkan states themselves being mentioned, but the amendment to this effect was rejected. On the subject of the proclamation of Bulgarian independence, stated Avramov, the Bulgarian socialists strongly opposed the bourgeois parties, considering this proclamation to be a harmful piece of adventurism from the point of view of the working class. Bruce Glasier moved that the resolution should include a statement on the necessity of organising international demonstrations; but it was decided that a recommendation to this effect should be sent through the Bureau to the various national parties. Van Kol (a delegate from the Dutch Social-Democrats) suggested that there should be included a protest against the infringements of the Berlin Treaty by the powers. But before the voting he withdrew this proposition, as it had been pointed out that it was not for socialists to make a point of defending treaties concluded by bourgeois states. The text of the resolution adopted by the International Bureau is as follows:

"Whereas, in the first place, the British and German socialists by their demonstrations for peace, the French socialists by their campaign against tile Moroccan expedition, the Danish socialists by their proposal for disarmament, were acting in keeping with the decisions of the International,

"Whereas, further, the danger of war persists; capitalist imperialism continues to intrigue in Britain and in Germany; the Moroccan expedition and adventure continues; tsarism, seeking new loans above all, is trying to add an element of confusion to the situation in order to strengthen its position in its struggle against the Russian revolution; in the Balkan Peninsula the intervention of foreign powers and their self-seeking ambitions are inflaming national and religious passions more than ever; the proclamation, quite recently, of the independence of Bulgaria and particularly the annexation by Austria of Bosnia and Herzegovina have increased the peril of war and brought this peril nearer; and whereas, finally, the conspiracies of the governments, their intensified armaments, militarism and capitalist competition and plundering of the colonies everywhere constitute a threat to peace,

"The International Socialist Bureau confirms once more that the socialist party and tile organised proletariat are the only force capable of preserving international peace, and that they consider it their duty to safeguard it.

"The Bureau calls upon the socialist parties of all countries, in accordance with the resolution of the Stuttgart International Congress, to strengthen their vigilance and their activity, bending every effort in the direction indicated, and requests the Central Committees   and Executives of the parties, their parliamentary groups and their delegates to the Bureau to seek out, together with the Secretariat of the International Socialist Bureau, the means and practical measures, both national and international, which according to particular concrete circumstances could most serve to avert war and maintain peace."

The third item on the agenda was a proposal by the British section to hold regular meetings of the International Socialist Bureau twice yearly. No binding resolution was adopted on this question; only a desire was expressed in this sense. Evidently the vast majority do not consider it necessary to convene a meeting more frequently than once a year, as has been the case hitherto—except, of course, in emergencies.

The fourth item on the agenda was the proposal of the Bureau to alter the contributions made by each party for maintenance of the Bureau. Up till now the nominal income of the Bureau was 14,950 francs a year (about 6,000 rubles); it was proposed that this sum should be raised to 26,800 francs or, allowing for the usual arrears, 20,000 francs (8,000 rubles) in round figures. For this purpose each party would have to contribute 100 francs per annum for each vote it possesses at International Socialist Congresses. Russia has 20 votes, and consequently would have to pay 2,000 francs, made up of 700 francs by the Socialist-Revolutionaries, 1,000 by the Social-Democrats and 300 francs by the trade unions. Hitherto Russia has been paying 1,500 francs a year, of which we (by arrangement with the Socialist- Revolutionary Party) paid 900 francs. On this question, too, no binding resolution was adopted. The Bureau was instructed to contact the national parties, and a wish was expressed that contributions should amount to 100 francs yearly per vote.

The fifth item was the alteration in the number of votes for Sweden—they were raised to 12—and for Hungary— where a general increase was postponed, but 2 votes were added for Croatia. An Armenian subsection of the Turkish section was also admitted, before the Turkish section it self had yet come into existence. The Armenian socialists in Turkey refused to “wait for” the Turks, and this subsection   was given 4 votes. It would be desirable that our comrades, the Armenian Social-Democrats, who know the position of Armenian socialism in Turkey, should express their opinion on this question.

The sixth item on the agenda was on the admission of the Social-Democratic Party of Chile. This party was formed after a split in the Democratic Party of Chile. The Chilean Social-Democrats were admitted without any discussion.

The seventh item on the agenda was the question of the Zionist socialists in Russia.[5] As is known, they approached the Central Committee of our Party before the Stuttgart Congress, asking to be admitted into the Social-Democratic subsection of the Russian section of the International. Our Central Committee refused, and adopted a resolution stating the reasons why Zionists, even though they called themselves “Zionist socialists”, should not be included among Social- Democrats. A representative of the Z. S. came to Stuttgart, and in Stuttgart too our subsection refused to admit him, while the Socialist-Revolutionaries abstained. As the Rules allow new members of the International to be admitted only with the consent of the national sections (and if two national subsections are in disagreement a final decision is taken by the International Bureau), the Z. S. could not get into the Congress in the normal way. They appealed to the Bureau, which then adopted a compromise decision—to admit the representative of the Z.S. to the Congress with a consultative voice. Now we had to clear up the muddle which had been created. Were the Zionist socialists members of the Inter national or not? Victor Adler declared, as at Stuttgart. strongly against the Z.S. and for a refusal to postpone discussion as they bad requested (they had sent a telegram saying they could not attend). Non-appearance, said Adler, was sometimes the best method of defence. I took the floor to recall once again the decision of our Central Committee, and to point out that to admit the Z.S. against the will of both Russian subsections would be an impossible infringement of the Rules of the International. Rubanovich and Zhitlovsky, the representative of the S.J.L.P. (the Socialist Jewish Labour Party,[6] which the S.R.s at Stuttgart had admitted into their subsection) warmly spoke against the non-admission of the Z.S. Rubanovich could not however   report any other resolution of the S. R. Party, beyond its abstention on this question, while Zhitlovsky (in face of the inevitable exclusion of the Z.S.) was obviously defending himself, asserting with comic vehemence that, if the Zionist socialists were territorialists, then they too—the S.J.L.P.—were territorialists. Naturally, it followed from this, not that the Z. S. ought to be admitted, but only that there was hardly anyone else in the International except the S. R.s who would agree to admit the S.J.L.P. either. Speaking a second time, I emphatically protested against Rubanovich’s manoeuvre in trying to force the Zionists on someone else’s subsection while at the same time not quoting any resolution of his own subsection in favour of the Zionists. In the upshot, the Bureau (with two abstentions, Rubanovich and Vaillant) unanimously adopted Adler’s motion, which runs:

"The Bureau states that the admission of the Zionists (with a consultative voice) took place as an exception in relation to the sessions of the Stuttgart Congress, that the Zionists at present are not affiliated to the International Bureau, and proceeds to the next business."

The eighth and last item on the agenda was the confirmation, almost without discussion, of the special composition of the delegation of the French Socialists to the International Bureau. Guesde was appointed one of the delegates from France, while the second French vote in the Bureau was given to two delegate.s jointly, Vaillant and Jaur˜s.

The meeting ended with the unanimous adoption of a resolution of sympathy with the Turkish revolution, moved by the Belgian delegate de Brouckère:

"The International Socialist Bureau greets with joy the fall of the infamous regime which Abdul Hamid so long maintained in Turkey with the help of the powers, and welcomes the possibility now presented to the peoples of the Turkish Empire to work out their own destinies, and the introduction of a regime of political liberty which will allow the nascent proletariat to carry on its class struggle in close unity with the proletariat of the whole world."

On Monday October 12 a session of the inter-parliamentary conference was held. There were three items on the agenda: (1) The last parliamentary session, (2) Colonial reforms (report   by van Kol), and (3) Socialist action for peace within the Inter-parliamentary Union (report by the Belgian deputy Lafontaine) followed by four questions: (a) Terms of payment for building workers (in the event of the bankruptcy of their employers), (b) Postal voting, (c) New lists of members of the parliamentary groups and their secretaries, (d) Dispatch of documents.

On the first item, the conference confined itself to confirming, on the proposal of Pernerstorfer, the decision of the Stuttgart Congress: secretaries of the parliamentary groups are invited to send written reports of the groups to the International Socialist Bureau. A brief exchange of opinion on the two last “questions” led to a similar reminder. On the first two “questions” materials and proposals put forward by some socialist M. P.s were briefly mentioned. Lafontaine’s report was on his suggestion postponed. In this connection the Austrians and Germans said that they were against the participation of socialists in bourgeois parliamentary conferences for peace. The Swedish delegate Branting referred to the special conditions which, allegedly, explained the participation of the Swedish Social-Democrats in these conferences. On his motion, it was decided to put down the question of state insurance for the workers on the agenda of the next inter-parliamentary conference to be held at the same time as the next meeting of the Bureau.

The only subject on the agenda on which a short report was read, and on which there was a discussion of not inconsiderable interest, proved to be the question of colonial reforms. The Dutch delegate van Kol, who made himself famous by his opportunist resolution on the colonial question at Stuttgart, tried in his report by a somewhat different approach to drag in his favourite idea of a “positive” colonial programme for Social-Democracy. Setting aside completely the struggle of Social-Democrats against colonial policy, their agitation among the masses against colonial robbery, the awakening of a spirit of resistance and opposition among the oppressed masses in the colonies, van Kol concentrated all his attention on a list of possible “reforms” of life in the colonies within the present system. Like a benevolent official, he listed a variety of questions, beginning with property in land and ending with schools, encouragement   of industry, prisons, etc., all the time underlining the necessity of being as practical as possible—for example, reckoning with the fact that universal suffrage is not always applicable to savages, that sometimes one cannot but agree with the necessity of introducing compulsory labour in the colonies instead of prisons, etc., etc. The whole report was saturated with a spirit, not of proletarian class struggle, but of the most petty-bourgeois—and even worse, bureaucratic— peddling of “reforms”. In conclusion he suggested that a committee be appointed from the five main countries possessing colonies to draw up a colonial programme for Social- Democracy.

Molkenbuhr on behalf of the Germans, and some Belgians, tentatively sought to follow van Kol, differing from him only on details—whether a single common programme was necessary, wouldn’t this be stereotyping, and so forth. This approach to the question served van Kol’s purpose, because the very thing he want˜d was to reduce everything to “practical details”, and to show that “in practice” the differences were smaller than it seemed at Stuttgart. But Kautsky and Ledebour discussed the question in principle, and attacked the fundamental hypocrisy of van Kol’s whole position. Van Kol declares, said Kautsky, that in particular cases universal suffrage is inapplicable; therefore, in one form or another he accepts despotism in the colonies, because he does not propose any other electoral system, nor can he do so. Van Kol conceives the possibility of compulsory labour, said Ledebour; therefore, he opens the door to bourgeois policy which uses thousands of different pretexts for preserving slavery in the colonies. Van Kol defended himself extremely stubbornly and extremely badly, asserting for example that sometimes you can’t do without taxes in kind, that “he saw this himself in Java”, that the Papuans don’t know what voting means, that at the elections things are sometimes decided by pure superstition or by getting the voters drunk on rum, etc. Kautsky and Ledebour ridiculed these arguments, asserting that our common democratic programme is unquestionably applicable to the colonies as well, and that it is essential to bring to the fore the struggle against capitalism in the colonies too. Is the superstition of our “educated” Catholics any better than the superstitions   of the savages, asked Ledebour. Even if parliamentary and representative institutions are not always applicable, said Kautsky, democracy is always applicable, and the struggle against every departure from democracy is always obligatory. The respective policies of revolutionary and opportunist Social-Democracy were brought out with complete clarity as a result of this discussion, and van Kol, seeing that his motion would undoubtedly receive “a first class funeral”, himself withdrew it.


[1] The International Socialist Bureau—the executive body of the Second International, consisting of representatives of the socialist parties of all countries and established by decision of the Paris Congress of the Second International in September 1900. The representatives of the Russian Social-Democrats elected to the I.S.B. were G. V. Plekhanov and B. N. Krichevsky. From 1905 onwards Lenin was a member of the Bureau as a representative of the R.S.D.L.P. He waged a determined fight within the Bureau   against the opportunism of the leaders of the Second International. The I.S.B. ceased to function in 1914.

[2] The foreign publications referred to are:

La Tribune Russe—the bulletin of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, published in Paris in French from January 1904 to December 1909, and from October 1912 to July 1913. In 1904 it appeared as a fortnightly, and after that as a monthly.

Russisches Bulletin—published in Berlin by a group of Mensheviks from 1907 to 1916.

[3] The Bureau Abroad of the Central Committee was set up by the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. in August 1908 in the capacity of the Party’s agency abroad, subordinated to the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee.

Soon after the Central Committee plenary meeting in January 1910 the Bureau Abroad came under the control of a liquidationist majority and became a rallying centre for anti-Party forces. The liquidationist tactics of the Bureau Abroad compelled the Bolsheviks in May 1911 to recall their representative (Alexandrov— N. A. Semashko). Later the representatives of the Polish and Lettish Social-Democrats were recalled.

In January 1912 the B.A.C.C. discontinued its activities.

[4] See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 469-73, 490-91.

[5] Zionist socialists (Zionist Socialist Workers’ Party)—a petty— bourgeois Jewish national organisation formed in 1904. The Zionist socialists sought to isolate the Jewish workers from the revolutionary struggle of the international proletariat and advocated an agreement with the bourgeoisie in working for the creation of a Jewish state.

[6] The Socialist Jewish Labour Party—a petty-bourgeois nationalist organisation founded in 1906. The programme of the S.J.L.P. was based on a demand for national autonomy for the Jews—the establishment of extraterritorial Jewish parliaments with powers to decide questions relating to the political organisation of the Jews in Russia. The S.J.L.P. stood close to the S. R.s and together with them fought against the R.S.D.L.P.

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