V. I.   Lenin

The “Vexed Questions” of Our Party

The “Liquidationist” and “National” Questions

Written: Written in November 1912
Published: First published in Pismo Dyskusyjne (Discussion Sheet) No. 1, August 1913. Translated from the Polish. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the text in Pismo Dyskusyjne.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 405-412.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
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.
Other Formats:   TextREADME

In August 1912 the Executive Committee of the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania convened a “territorial conference”[2] of the Polish Social-Democrats. It will be recalled that at present the Executive of the Polish Social-Democracy is an executive without a party. In Warsaw, the Polish capital, the local Social-Democratic organisation emphatically condemned the disorganising policy of the Executive, which replied by resorting to vile anonymous accusations of provocation, set up a fictitious Warsaw organisation and hastened to convene a suitably rigged territorial conference “of its own”.

Subsequent elections to the Duma by the Warsaw worker curia fully revealed the spurious character of the supporters of the Executive: among the 66 delegates there were 34 Social-Democrats, including only 3 (doubtful) supporters of the Executive.

This introductory remark is necessary for the reader to regard the resolution of the territorial conference of the S.D.P. and L. that we are going to discuss only as a resolution of the Tyszka Executive, and under no circumstances as a decision of the Polish worker Social-Democrats.


The question of the Polish Social-Democrats’ attitude towards the R.S.D.L.P. is an unusually important and burning one. Therefore the decision adopted by the Tyszka conference   on this question, however hard it may be to take it seriously, deserves closer study.

It is hard to take seriously the Tyszka resolution, which is full of abuse, if only because of its attitude to the fundamental question, that of liquidationism.

This has been a fundamental question in the R.S.D.L.P. during 1908–1912. The Party has been terribly broken up by the counter-revolution. It is making every effort to re-establish its organisation. And throughout the four years of counter-revolution, it has been waging a continuous struggle against the little groups of Social-Democrats who want to liquidate the Party.

Does it not follow clearly from this that one who has not settled the issue of liquidationism explicitly has no right to call himself a Party member?

The Tyszka conference, too, in its resolution on the attitude to the R.S.D.L.P. allotted more space to liquidationism than to anything else. The conference admitted that liquidationism was “a most serious obstacle to the development of the R.S.D.L.P. and a grave danger to its very existence”.

Overt and consistent liquidationism and revolutionary Social-Democracy are mutually exclusive,” said the resolution.

As you see, Tyszka and Co. tackled the problem with a bold and firm hand—and dodged solving it!

Who are, then, the “overt and consistent” liquidators? And what is the practical conclusion that follows from the experience of four years of struggle against liquidationism?

These natural and necessary questions were answered in clear, precise and convincing terms by the January 1912 Conference of the R.S.D.L.P., which said that the liquidators were the group associated with the publications Nasha Zarya and Zhivoye Dyelo. This group had placed itself out side the Party.

One may consider this answer right or wrong, but one cannot deny that it is quite clear, one cannot evade making a clear statement of one’s attitude!

But the Tyszka conference sought precisely to evade the issue, twist and turn like a petty thief. If it is not true that Nasha Zarya represents open and consistent liquidators,   as we said clearly in January 1912, then why did Tyszka and Co. not disclose our error to the Polish worker Social-Democrats in August 1912? If it is not true that Nasha Zarya has placed itself outside the Party, and if you, Messrs. Tyszka, Rosa Luxemburg and Warski, consider it to be in the Party, why did not you say so plainly? It was your direct duty to the Polish worker Social-Democrats!

And however much you may abuse and curse and revile “Lenin’s” conference in January 1912, the racket you are raising will not enable you to deceive anyone but people who want to be deceived. For, after the January Conference, one cannot be a politically-conscious and honest Social-Democrat, nor speak of the state of affairs in the R.S.D.L.P., without giving a clear and explicit answer to the question: is Nasha Zarya liquidationist or not, and does it belong in or outside the Party?


The spate of varied and wordy abuse which the Tyszka conference slung at the “Leninists” boils down to one thing—an accusation of splitting the Party.

The January Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. considered only the Nasha Zarya group to be outside the Party. This is a fact known to all. From this fact even Tyszka and his friends could have drawn the simple and obvious conclusion that the accusation of splitting the Party means regarding the Nasha Zarya group as a Party group.

Even a child would see that this conclusion is inevitable. And Tyszka and Co. are long past childhood years.

Anyone who accuses us of splitting the Party should have sufficient elementary courage and elementary honesty to say plainly: “The Nasha Zarya group is not liquidationist”, “it ought not to be outside the Party, but belongs inside the Party”, “it is a legitimate shade of opinion in the Party”, and so on.

This is the heart of the matter, that the gentlemen who accuse us of splitting the Party, such as Tyszka, say this in undertones, shyly, in a roundabout way (for this naturally follows from the howls about a split) but they are afraid to say it plainly!

It is not easy to say and prove that Nasha Zarya ought to be in the Party. Anyone who says so assumes a certain responsibility, decides a certain question of principle, and plainly defends the chief liquidators. One may (and should) regard such a person as a supporter of the liquidators, but one must admit that he has his convictions and it cannot be denied that he is politically honest, if only within the limits of the narrow question whether or not a definite group of liquidators should be in the Party.

But when an entire organisation, if one may call it that, or a sum total of the organisations of a whole territory, dodgingly and stealthily, shamefacedly and without speaking straight out, defends the liquidators and accuses those who have expelled the liquidators from the Party of causing a split, but does not dare to say plainly, “This group of liquidators ought to be in the Party”, the conclusion inevitably suggests itself that what we have before us is not an organisation of Social-Democrats who share such-and-such views, but a circle of plotters who want to make political capital out of “utilising” the struggle between the liquidators and the anti-liquidators.

To those who are familiar with the internal affairs of the R.S.D.L.P. since 1907, it has long been an open secret that Tyszka and Co., like the Bundists who preceded them, are specimens of this type of intriguer, “Marxists by weight”, or “Tushino turncoats”,[3] as Social-Democrats call such people. Tyszka, like some of the Bundists, bases his entire “stand” in the Party on a game between the liquidators and the anti-liquidators, on mediation, on profiting from being the extra “weight in the scales”, without which neither the liquidators nor the anti-liquidators can have a majority!

In the autumn of 1911, when this old “game” of Tyszka’s, of which everyone had grown tired, resulted in his collapse, he was openly called a plotter by the press of both opposed trends—the liquidators and the anti-liquidators.

Indeed, place yourself in the position of an extra “weight in the scales”, and then the illogical, childishly naive, ludicrously feeble and helpless resolutions of the Tyszka conference will at once become perfectly intelligible to you. This is just the way a plotter should speak: I condemn liquidationism—but I don’t say plainly who are the overt   and consistent liquidators! I admit that liquidationism endangers the very existence of the Party—but I don’t say plainly whether or not such-and-such a group ought to be in the Party! I can always, under all circumstances, derive an advantage from a “position” such as this, can make “political capital” out of it, for without me the anti-liquidator cannot defeat the liquidator, without me the liquidator can not have an assured place in the Party!!

Tyszka” politics are not an accidental or isolated phenomenon. When there is a split and, in general, when there is a bitter struggle between trends, it is inevitable that groups should appear which base their existence on a continuous darting from one side to the other, and on petty intrigue. This is a sad and unpleasant feature of the life of our Party, a feature accentuated by the conditions of revolutionary work in exile. Groups of intriguers, and features of intrigue in the policy of certain groups, particularly those lacking strong ties with Russia, are phenomena one has to be aware of if one does not want to be fooled and to fall victim to various “misunderstandings”.


The slogan of “unity” is “popular”, of course, among wide sections of the Workers, who do not know with whom that unity should be established, what concessions to a particular group that unity implies, and on what basis the policy of including the liquidators in the Party or expelling them from it is shaped.

To be sure, nothing could be easier than demagogically taking advantage of this incomprehension of the essence of the matter to howl about a “split”. Nothing could be easier than disguising diplomacy by a demand for the “unity” of trends that have irrevocably drifted apart.

But however “popular” the slogan of “unity” among politically-ignorant people, and however convenient it is now for various demagogues, intriguers and group diplomats to hide behind it, we shall never stop demanding from every politically-conscious Social-Democrat a clear and explicit answer to the question decided by the January 1912 Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.

The conference which the liquidators convened in August 1912 showed clearly that all the controversies turn on the question of liquidationism, on whether the liquidators’ groups are pro-Party or non-Party (or even anti-Party). Whoever evades this cardinal issue mystifies himself and others.

As a matter of fact, talk about the “factionalism” of the January Conference, and so on, is just such an evasion of the cardinal issue. All right, gentlemen, we might answer the talkers, let us assume that the January Conference was arch-factionalist and disruptive, that it was not duly authorised, and so on. But are you not using these “terrible words” merely to clear yourselves in your own eyes? A section of the Social-Democrats—it makes no difference which—declared in January that Nasha Zarya consisted of anti-Party liquidators who were outside the Party. That opinion is substantiated in a resolution—a detailed, well-grounded resolution prompted by four years of Party history.

Anyone who sincerely wishes to explain and refute the error of these, let us say, “January” Social-Democrats must analyse and refute this resolution. He must say and prove that Nasha Zarya should be in the Party, that its ideas are not ruinous to the Party, that such-and-such concessions should he made to that group, that such-and-such obligations should be demanded of it, that the guarantees of the fulfilment of these obligations should consist in this or that, and that the extent of the influence of the group within the Party should be established in such-and-such a way.

To put the question in this way would mean conscientiously and honestly refuting the convictions of the January Social-Democrats, would mean explaining to the workers what you think wrong. But the point is that not one of those who now engage in cheap clamour about a split has taken a single step towards putting the question in this way!!

That is why contemptuously brushing aside the demagogues and intriguers, we calmly repeat: our resolution expelling the liquidators has not been refuted and is irrefutable. New facts, such as the publication of the liquidationist Luch[4] which has made Trotsky’s phrase-mongering   its own, merely increase the force of our resolution a hundred-fold. The facts—the May Day action, the rallying of hundreds of workers’ groups around the anti-liquidationist newspaper, the elections to the Fourth Duma by the worker curia—are conclusive proof of the correctness of our stand against the liquidators.

No amount of howling about a “split” can shake this conviction, because this howling is a cowardly, covert, hypocritical defence of the liquidators.


The January 1912 Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. posed yet another serious question of principle, that of the structure of our Party with regard to nationalities. For lack of space, I shall only briefly touch on this question.

Complete or incomplete federation, “federation of the worst type” or complete unity? That is the question.

The Tyszka conference replies to this problem, too, with nothing but abuse and shouts about “fraud”, “distortion of the facts”, and so on. What senseless shouters they are, this Tyszka and his retinue!

The complete separateness of the Lettish, Polish and Jewish (Bund) Social-Democrats is a fact. Every Polish Social-Democrat knows that there is not, and has never been, anything like unity with the Bund in Poland. The same is true of the Russians and the Bund, etc. The non-Russians have their own special organisations, their central bodies, congresses, etc. The Russians lack these things, and their Central Committee cannot decide Russian questions without the participation of the Bundists, Poles and Letts who are fighting one another and who are unfamiliar with Russian matters.

This is a fact, one that no amount of abuse can suppress. Everyone in our Party has seen it since 1907. Everyone has sensed the falsity of this situation. That is why our Conference dubbed it “a federation of the worst type”.[1]

All honest and sincere Social-Democrats must give a pertinent answer to this presentation of the question.

The correctness of this presentation of the question was borne out most convincingly by the August conference, which, as even Plekhanov admits, “adapted socialism to nationalism” by its notorious resolution on “national cultural” autonomy.

The Bund and Tyszka’s Executive are alike in swearing by all the saints that they stand for unity, while in Warsaw, Lodz and elsewhere there is a complete split between them!!

The connection between the “liquidationist question” and the “national question” is not an invention of ours but has been revealed by the realities of life.

Let, then, all serious-minded Social-Democrats raise and discuss the “national question” as well. Federation or unity? Federation for the “nationalities”, with separate centres and without a separate centre for the Russians, or complete unity? Nominal unity with a virtual split (or secession) of the Bund’s local organisations, or real unity from top to bottom?

Anyone who thinks he can get away from these questions is sorely mistaken. Anyone who counts on a simple restoration of the “federation of the worst type” of 1907–11, mystifies himself and others. It is already impossible to restore that federation. That misbegotten child will never rise from the dead. The Party has moved away from it for good.

Where has it moved to? Towards an “Austrian” federation?[5] Or towards a complete renunciation of federation, to actual unity? We are for the latter. We are opposed to “adapting socialism to nationalism”.

Let everyone give full thought to this question and finally decide it.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 17, pp. 464–65.—Ed.

[2] The Polish Social-Democrats’ “territorial conference” met on August 11–17 (N. S.), 1912. All the participants were supporters of the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (Zarzadists), which took a conciliatory position in regard to the liquidators and opposed the Rozlamists, who upheld the Bolshevik standpoint. The Conference approved the activities of the Executive and resolved to dissolve the Party organisations that supported the Rozlamists. It declared for a tactical agreement with the Bund and the Left wing of the P.S.P. in the Fourth Duma elections. It also adopted a decision—analysed in this article—concerning the attitude of the Polish Social-Democrats to the R.S.D.L.P.

[3] In 1608 Russia was invaded by Polish interventionist troops under Dmitry II the Impostor, an agent of the Polish feudal lords (he was made out to be the youngest son of Tsar Ivan the Terrible). The invaders drew near Moscow and camped in the village of Tushino. The Impostor formed a government with its own Court as a counter to the Moscow government. Some of the Russian noblemen and boyars deserted alternately to the Moscow and the Tushino governments in an effort to safeguard themselves in the event of the victory of either side. It was those deserters that were nicknamed “Tushino turncoats”.

[4] Luch (The Ray)—a legal daily newspaper published by the Menshevik liquidators in St. Petersburg from September 16 (29), 1912, to July 5 (18), 1913. In all, 237 issues appeared. The newspaper was supported chiefly by donations from the liberals. Ideologically it was directed by P. B. Axelrod, F. I. Dan, L. Martov and A. S. Martynov. The liquidators used it to oppose the Bolshevik’s revolutionary tactics. They advocated the opportunist slogan of founding a so-called open party, opposed revolutionary mass strikes, and sought to revise the major provisions of the Party Programme. Lenin wrote that “Luch has been enslaved by a liberal policy” and called it a renegade organ.

[5] The term “Austrianfederation refers to the Austrian Social-Democratic Party’s organisation on the national principle. The Vienna Party Congress in 1897 abolished the united party, and replaced it by a federation of six national “Social—Democratic groups”: German, Czech, Polish, Ruthenian, Italian and South Slav. These groups were all united by a joint congress and a common Central Executive. The Brünn Congress in 1899 reorganised the Central Executive into a federal body composed of the executive commit tees of the national Social-Democratic parties. Organisational federalism resulted in the break-up of the integral Social-Democratic Party of Austria.

Works Index   |   Volume 18 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >