V. I.   Lenin

Conference of the Extended Editorial Board of Proletary

June 8–17 (21–80), 1909


Resolutions of the Conference of the Extended Editorial Board of Proletary

On Otzovism and Ultimatumism

The slogan of boycott of the Bulygin Duma and the First Duma issued by the revolutionary wing of our Party played a great revolutionary role at the time, and was taken up with enthusiasm by all the most active and most revolutionary sections of the working class.

The direct revolutionary struggle of the broad masses was then followed by a severe period of counter-revolution. It became essential for Social-Democrats to adapt their revolutionary tactics to this new political situation, and, in connection with this, one of the exceptionally important tasks became the use of the Duma as an open platform for the purpose of assisting Social-Democratic agitation and organisation.

In this rapid turn of events, however, a section of the workers who had participated in the direct revolutionary struggle was unable to proceed at once to apply revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics in the new conditions of the counter-revolution, and continued simply to repeat slogans which had been revolutionary in the period of open civil war, but which now, if merely repeated, might retard the process of closing the ranks of the proletariat in the new conditions of struggle.

On the other hand, in the conditions of this painful crisis, in an atmosphere of decline in the revolutionary struggle, of apathy and dejection even among a section of the workers, at a time when the workers’ organisations were being suppressed and when the strength of their resistance   to disintegrating influences was inadequate, there has developed among a section of the working class an attitude of indifference towards the political struggle in general, and of a particularly marked lack of interest in the work of Social-Democrats in the Duma.

It is in such conditions that so-called otzovism and ultimatumism may meet with temporary success among these sections of the proletariat.

The proceedings of the Third Duma, which openly flouts the needs of the workers, work up an otzovist mood among these strata of the workers, who, owing to their inadequate Social-Democratic training, are as yet unable to understand that these proceedings of the Third Duma enable the Social- Democrats to make use of that representative assembly of the exploiting classes in a revolutionary manner, in order to expose to the broadest sections of the people the real nature of the autocracy and of all the counter-revolutionary forces, as well as the need for revolutionary struggle.

Another contributing factor to this otzovist mood among this stratum of the workers has been the exceedingly grave errors committed by the Duma Social-Democratic group, especially during the first year of its activity.

Recognising that this otzovist mood has a detrimental effect on the socialist and revolutionary training of the working class, the Bolshevik wing of the Party considers it necessary:

(a) in regard to these strata of the workers: to persevere in the work of Social-Democratic training and organisation, to explain systematically and persistently the utter political futility of otzovism and ultimatumism, the real significance of Social-Democratic parliamentarism and the role of the Duma as a platform for the Social-Democrats during a period of counter—revolution

(b) in regard to the Duma Social-Democratic group and Duma work in general: to establish close connections between the Duma group and the advanced workers; to render it every assistance; to see that the whole Party supervises and brings pressure upon it; inter alia, by openly explaining its mistakes; to ensure in practice that the Party guides its activities as a Party organ; and in general that the Bolsheviks carry out the decisions of the recent Party conference on   this matter; for only the increased attention of working-class circles to the activities of the Duma Social-Democratic group, and their organised participation in the Duma activities of the Social-Democrats, will be effective in straightening out the tactics of our Duma group;

(c) in regard to the Right wing of the Party, which is dragging the Duma group on to an anti-Party road and there by tearing it away from the workers’ vanguard: to wage a systematic, irreconcilable struggle against it, and to expose these tactics as fatal to the Party.

*     *

In the course of the bourgeois-democratic revolution a number of elements joined our Party, attracted not by its purely proletarian programme, but chiefly by its gallant and energetic fight for democracy; these elements adopted the revolutionary-democratic slogans of the proletarian party, but without connecting them with the entire struggle of the socialist proletariat as a whole.

Such elements, not sufficiently imbued with the proletarian point of view, have also been found in the ranks of our Bolshevik wing of the Party. In this period of social stag nation such elements more and more reveal their lack of Social-Democratic consistency. Coming as they do into ever sharper contradiction with the fundamentals of revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics, they have been creating, during the past year, a trend that seeks to give shape to a theory of otzovism and ultimatumism, but in reality only elevates to a principle and intensifies false notions about Social-Democratic parliamentarism and the work of Social-Democracy in the Duma.

These attempts to create a complete system of otzovist policy out of an otzovist mood lead to a theory which in substance expresses the ideology of political indifference on the one hand, and of anarchist vagaries on the other. For all its revolutionary phraseology, the theory of otzovism and ultimatumism in practice represents, to a consider able extent, the reverse side of constitutional illusions based on the hope that the Duma itself can satisfy certain urgent needs of the people. In essence, it substitutes petty-bourgeois tendencies for proletarian ideology.

No less harmful to the Social-Democratic cause than open otzovism is so-called ultimatumism (i. e., that tendency which on principle renounces the utilisation of the Third Duma rostrum, or which tries to justify its failure to carry out. this duty by considerations of expediency, and, in striving for the recall of the Social-Democratic group from the Duma. abandons the prolonged work of training the Duma group and straightening its line in favour of presenting to it an immediate ultimatum). Politically, ultimatumism at the present time is indistinguishable from otzovism, and only introduces still greater confusion and disunity by the disguised character of its otzovism. The attempts of ultimatumism to assert its direct connection with the tactics of boycott practised by our wing of the Party during a particular stage of the revolution, merely distort the true meaning and character of the boycott of the Bulygin Duma and the First Duma, which was quite correctly applied by the overwhelming majority of our Party. By their attempt to deduce, from the particular cases in which the boycott of representative institutions was applied at this or that moment of the revolution, that the policy of boycott is the distinguishing feature of Bolshevik tactics, even in a period of counter revolution, ultimatumism and otzovism demonstrate that these trends are in essence the reverse side of Menshevism, which preaches indiscriminate participation in all representative institutions, irrespective of the particular stage of development of the revolution, irrespective of whether a revolutionary upsurge exists or not.

All the attempts made so far by otzovism and ultimatumism to lay down principles on which to base their theory have inevitably led to denial of the fundamentals of revolutionary Marxism. The tactics proposed by them inevitably lead to a complete break with the tactics of the Left wing of international Social-Democracy as applied to present-day Russian conditions, and result in anarchist deviations.

Otzovist-ultimatumist agitation has already begun to cause unquestionable harm to the working-class movement and to Social-Democratic work. If it continues, it may be come a threat to Party unity, for this agitation has already given rise to such ugly phenomena as the alliance between otzovists and Socialist-Revolutionaries (in St. Petersburg)   for the purpose of preventing help for our Party representatives in the Duma; likewise to public speeches at workers’ meetings jointly with avowed syndicalists.

In view of all this, the extended editorial board of Proletary declares that Bolshevism as a definite trend with in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party has nothing in common with otzovism and ultimatumism, and that the Bolshevik wing of the Party must most resolutely combat these deviations from the path of revolutionary Marxism.

The Tasks of the Bolsheviks in the Party

In the period of decisive triumph of counter-revolution which followed the dissolution of the Second Duma, force of circumstances dictated that all Party activities should be concentrated on the following task: to preserve the Party organisation built up in the years of the high tide of the proletarian struggle, despite all the efforts of reaction, and notwithstanding the great depression in the proletarian class struggle, i. e., to preserve it as an organisation which consciously takes its stand on the basis of orthodox Marxism, and which unites all the “national” Social-Democratic organisations for the purpose of carrying out a single revolutionary Social-Democratic line of tactics.

In the course of this two years’ struggle for the Party and partyism, it became quite clear that, on the one hand, the Party had dissociated itself from the elements that had penetrated it as a result of the specific conditions of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and that, on the other hand, the revolutionary Social-Democrats had been further consolidated. On the one hand, the former fellow-travellers of Social-Democracy took quite definite shape—those fellow-travellers, who, on leaving the Party, transferred all their activities into various legal organisations (co-operatives, trade unions, educational societies, advisory commit tees for the Duma group), where they not only did not carry out the policy of the Party but, on the contrary, fought the Party and strove to wrest these organisations away from it and pit them against the Party. Making a fetish of legality,   and elevating to a principle the narrow forms of activity imposed by the temporary decline of and state of disunity in the working-class movement, these elements—avowed liquidators of the Party—quite obviously took their stand upon the ground of theoretical and tactical revisionism. That the closest connection exists between liquidationism in organisation (the struggle against Party institutions) and the ideological struggle against Marxist theory and the fundamental principles of the programme of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, has now most clearly been revealed and proved by the entire history of the efforts to force an opportunist policy on our Duma group by its intellectual advisers, as well as by the entire course of the struggle between the liquidators and the partyists within the legal workers’ organisations and in the workers’ groups of the four congresses: of the People’s Universities,[3] of the co-operatives,[4] of women[5] and of factory medical officers.[6]

On the other hand, the Left wing of the Party, to whose lot it fell to lead the Party during this period of the decisive triumph of the counter-revolution, theoretically recognised and in practice applied the tactics of expediently combining illegal with legal Party work. This applies to all the Party work with the Duma group and all the Party work in the legal and semi-legal proletarian organisations. It is precisely these forms of work—forms enabling the illegal Party to influence more or less broad masses—that have been brought to the fore by the peculiar conditions of the present historical situation, in addition to the main forms of Party work. It is in these forms of activity that the Party in practice comes into conflict with liquidationism and deals it heavy blows. It is on this ground also that Social-Democrats belonging to various groups of the Party have been and are being drawn together.[1] And here, finally, on the very same questions of Party tactics and organisation in the conditions   of the Third Duma period, the Bolshevik section openly disavows the pseudo-revolutionary, unstable, non-Marxist elements, which, under cover of so-called otzovism, have been opposing the new forms of Party activity.

At the present time, outlining the basic tasks of the Bolsheviks; the extended editorial board of Proletary states:

(1) that in the further struggle for the Party and partyism, the task of the Bolshevik section, which must remain the foremost champion of partyism and of the revolutionary Social-Democratic line in the Party, is to give active and all-round support to the Central Committee and the Central Organ of the Party. In the present period of the re-grouping of Party forces, only the central institutions of the Party can serve as the strong and authoritative representative of the Party line, around which all genuinely partyist and genuinely Social-Democratic elements can be rallied;

(2) that in the Menshevik camp of the Party, whose official organ, Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, is fully controlled by the Menshevik liquidators, the minority of this faction, having explored the path of liquidationism to the very end, is already raising its voice in protest against that path and is again seeking a party basis for its activities (the letter of the “Vyborg” Mensheviks[2] in St. Petersburg, the split among the Mensheviks in Moscow, the split in the editorial board of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, the corresponding division in the Bund, etc.);

(3) that in such circumstances the task of the Bolsheviks, who will remain the solid vanguard of the Party, is not only to continue the struggle against liquidationism and all the varieties of revisionism, but also to establish closer contact with the Marxist and partyist elements of the other groups, dictated by common aims in the struggle for the preservation and consolidation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

Agitation for a Bolshevik Congress or Bolshevik Conference Separate from the Party


that the Bolshevik wing, ever since Party unity was re stored, has always aligned and rallied the adherents of its political line on issues which have already become the subject of a general Party discussion, and always on the basis of an ideological campaign fought on th˜ general Party arena for its own particular solution of such questions— parallel platforms, discussion in the Party cells, and at general Party congresses;

that this is the only sure way both to rally really like-minded members and to draw into the wing all really kindred elements;

that for the attainment of our main object, to exert such an influence on the Party that the policy of revolutionary Social-Democracy shall triumph mice and for all in the Party, the alignment of the Bolsheviks solely on the general Party arena is the only right and proper procedure;

that any other procedure, the procedure of calling special Bolshevik conferences and congresses, would inevitably split the Party from top to bottom and would deal an irreparable blow to the section which took the initiative in bringing about such a total split in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party,

the extended editorial board of Proletary resolves:

(1) To warn all its supporters against agitating for a special Bolshevik congress, as such agitation would lead objectively to a Party split and might radically impair the position which revolutionary Social-Democracy has won in the Party.

(2) To hold the next conference of Bolsheviks at the same time as the regular Party conference, the supreme assembly of the wing as a whole to be an assembly of its supporters at the next Party congress.

(3) In view of the urgent outstanding issues agitating the Party and members of its Bolshevik wing, the Bolsheviks on the Central Committee are instructed to press for a speediest possible general Party conference (to be called in two or three months) and then for a speediest possible congress.

The Party School Being Set Up Abroad at X—

After considering the question of the school at X—, the extended editorial board of Proletary is of the opinion that the organisation of this school by the promotion group (which includes Comrade Maximov, a member of the extend ed editorial board) has from the outset been proceeded with over the heads of the editorial board of Proletary and been accompanied by agitation against the latter. The steps so far taken by the promotion group make it perfectly clear that under the guise of this school a new centre is being formed for a faction breaking away from the Bolsheviks. The sponsors of this school, acting over the heads of the general centres, have contacted numerous committees in Russia, organised an independent fund and collections, and are appointing their own organisers, without even informing the editorial board of Proletary or the general Party centre.

While it recognises that with the present dearth of experienced Party workers a properly constituted and genuinely Party school, even if located abroad, might be of some help to local organisations in training up useful Party functionaries from among the workers, and while it considers for its part that everything must be done to render such assistance to local organisations as the condition of our organisation will allow, the extended editorial board, on the evidence of the whole line of conduct of the initiators of the school at X—, declares that the aims pursued by these initiators are not aims common to the Bolshevik wing as a whole, as an ideological trend in the Party, but are the private aims of a group with a separate ideology and policy; In view of the dissensions revealed within our ranks on the subject of otzovism, ultimatumism, the attitude to the propaganda of god-building and the internal Party tasks of the Bolsheviks in general; and in view of the fact that the initiators and organisers of the school at X—are one and all representatives of otzovism, ultimatumism and god-building, the extended editorial board of Proletary declares that the ideological and political physiognomy of this new centre is quite clearly defined.

In view of this, the extended editorial board of Proletary declares that the Bolshevik wing can bear no responsibility for this school.

The Breakaway of Comrade Maximov


that unanimity on principles and tactics between ten members of the extended editorial board of Proletary, on the one hand, and Comrade Maximov, on the other, has manifestly proved to be absent on all points of the agenda; that, furthermore, there have lately been actions on Comrade Maximov’s part tending also to violate the organisational unity of the Bolshevik wing; that, lastly, Comrade Maximov gave a negative answer to the question whether he would abide by the decisions of the extended editorial board of Proletary and carry them out,

the extended editorial board of Proletary henceforth disclaims any responsibility for the political actions of Comrade Maximov.

Supplement to Proletary, No. 46, July 3 (16), 1909
Published according to the Supplement


[1] The resolutions on the trade unions and the co-operatives, and a number of resolutions on Duma activities, carried unanimouslyby the Central Committee. Support for the Party line by the overwhelming majority at the recent All-Russian Conference. The experience of conducting the Central Organ, the workers’ groups of the said congresses, etc. —Lenin

[2] The Mensheviks in Vyborg District of St. Petersburg.—Ed.

[3] The First All-Russian Congress of Members of People’s Universities’ Associations was held in St. Petersburg on January 3-6 (16-19) 1908. During the debate on the question of the activities and organisation of the people’s universities the workers’ group of the congress, headed by the Bolsheviks, introduced motions demanding that the workers’ organisations be represented on the boards of the people’s universities with the right to take part in arranging the curricula, choosing desirable lecturers on the social sciences, and recognition of the right of every nationality to give tuition in the native language. The congress rejected these demands as being outside the competence of the congress, after which the workers’ representatives walked out.

[4] The First All-Russian Congress of Representatives of Co-operative Societies was held in Moscow on April 16-21 (April 29-May 4), 1908. It was attended by 824 delegates, about fifty of whom were Social-Democrats (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks). Reports were delivered at the congress on the international co-operative movement, on the role and tasks of the co-operative movement, on the legal status of the consumer societies in Russia, and other matters.

Despite the resistance of the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks formed a Social-Democratic group at the congress and headed the fight of the representatives from the trade unions and workers’ co-operatives against the bourgeois co-operators, who were in the majority at the congress. After a number of speeches by spokesmen of the workers, the police imposed a ban on speeches that touched on questions of the class struggle, the trade unions, aid to workers during strikes and lock-outs, the co-operative press and propaganda, and even the election of a congress bureau and the periodicity of congresses, the police officer attending the proceedings being instructed to arrest immediately anyone “who made socialist speeches   or motions”. As a demonstration of protest against this the congress was closed.

[5] The First All-Russian Women’s Congress was held in St. Petersburg on December 10-16 (23-29), 1908. Among its delegates were many women workers. Under pressure of the latter the congress adopted resolutions on combating alcoholism, on the position of the peasant woman, on labour protection for women and children, on producers’ co-operatives, and on equal rights for Jews. On the main issue— that of the political and civic status of women in the modern community—the women workers submitted a motion demanding universal, direct, and equal suffrage by secret ballot without distinction of sex, race and religion. The presiding committee of the congress refused to read out the motion and replaced it by one drafted in a liberal-bourgeois spirit. The women workers walked out as a demonstration of protest.

[6] The First All-Russian Congress of Factory Medical Officers and Representatives of Manufacturing Industry convened on the initiative of the Moscow Society of Factory Medical Officers was held in Moscow on April 1-6 (14-19), 1909. Among its delegates were 52 workers elected by the trade unions chiefly of the big industrial centres (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev. Ekaterinoslav, Baku, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, etc.).

According to its sponsors, the congress was to have been a “festival of reconciliation” between workers and capitalists. The Bolsheviks, however, who formed a majority of the working-class delegates, succeeded in getting the workers at the congress to take a class, proletarian line, despite the opposition of the liquidationist elements. Speaking on the concrete questions of sanitary and medical arrangements at the factories, the worker delegates exposed the ideas of “class peace” and social reform, and put for ward demands based on the programme of the Marxist party. These speeches were of great political significance and had repercussions throughout the country. Especially lively were the debates on the questions of sanitary inspection arrangements (the Bolsheviks’ draft resolution on this point was carried) and of the election of the factory inspection by the workers.

The congress was unable to finish its work. After the police had demanded that no questions liable “to excite class struggle” should be touched on in the debates, and after they had forbidden the motion on the housing question to be put to the vote (since “it mentioned socialism and socialisation of the land”) and for bidden some of the worker delegates, including the Duma Deputy I. P. Pokrovsky, from continuing their speeches, all the workers and some of the doctors walked out of the congress hall. In view of this the presiding committee decided to close the congress.

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