V. I.   Lenin

A Good Resolution and a Bad Speech

Published: Proletarskaya Pravda No. 6, December 13, 1913. Published according to the Proletarskaya Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 528-530.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

All class-conscious workers in Russia undoubtedly showed interest in the resolution on Russian affairs passed by the International Bureau and paid attention to it. It is known that the pivot of this resolution was the decision to organise or arrange a “general exchange of opinion” among “all sections of the working-class movement” of Russia, including those which accept the Social-Democratic programme, as well as those whose programmes “are in agreement” (or “in harmony”—im Einklange) with it.

The latter definition is extremely broad, for it embraces not only the supporters of Jagiello, but also every group that wishes to declare that its programme “harmonises” or “is in agreement with” the Social-Democratic programme. This broad definition, however, will not do any harm for, of course, it is desirable that the widest Possible circle should participate in this “exchange of opinion” so as not to exclude any of those with whom even individual groups of Social-Democrats might desire to unite. We must not forget that two plans were proposed at the meeting of the International Socialist Bureau: (1) Kautsky’s plan to “arrange a general exchange of opinion” and no more. An exchange of opinion before impartial colleagues, the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau, will ascertain the state of affairs and the depth of the disagreements; = (2) The plan pro posed by Rosa Luxemburg, but withdrawn after Kautsky’s objections. This plan proposed a “unification conference” (Einigungskonferenz) “to restore the united party”.

This second plan was not so good, of course, for, the first essential is to gather precise data, apart from the fact that Rosa Luxemburg was merely trying to smuggle in “restoration” of the notorious “Tyszka group”.

The plan accepted was Kautsky’s; it was more cautious and approached the question of unity more systematically, through a preliminary “exchange of opinion and the study of precise data. It is quite natural therefore that Kautsky’s resolution should have been adopted unanimously.

But a distinction must be drawn between Kautsky’s resolution, which was adopted by the Bureau, and the speech he made, in the course of which he said some monstrous things on one point. We have already commented briefly on this matter, but the appearance of the report of Kautsky’s speech in Vorw\"arts (the chief organ of the German party)[1] compels us to deal with this important question in greater detail.

Objecting to Rosa Luxemburg, Kautsky said that “the old party had disappeared although old names had been retained which, however, in the course of time (im Laufe der Jahre—during the past few years) had acquired a new content. Old comrades could not simply be excluded merely because their party (ihre Partei) did not bear the old name”.

When Rosa Luxemburg objected to this and said that “Kautsky’s statement that the Russian party was dead [sei tot] was a thoughtless expression”, Kautsky limited himself to “protesting that he did not say that Russian Social-Democracy was dead. He merely said that the old forms were broken, and that a new form would have to be created”.

This is the translation of the official record of the passages relevant to our question.

It is obvious that Kautsky did not say and could not have said that Social-Democracy was dead. But he did say that the party had disappeared, and this he did not withdraw, in spite of the protest that was made!

This is incredible, but it is a fact.

The confusion Kautsky betrayed here is stupendous. To the exclusion of which “old comrades” did he refer? Potresov and Co.? By “their party” did he mean liquidator amorphousness?

Or did Kautsky have in mind the “P.S.P. Left wing” which was excluded by Rosa Luxemburg’s formula? If so, then his expression “old comrades” is unintelligible, for never since the Social-Democratic Party has been in existence,   i.e., since 1898, have the members of the P.S.P. and Social-Democrats been fellow party members.

As far as we are concerned the two interpretations are the same, for it would be ridiculous indeed to exclude the liquidators from an “exchange of opinion” on the question of unity (for the whole question centres round them), just as it would be ridiculous to exclude the P.S.P. Left wing (speaking abstractly, the liquidators—anything can be expected of them—are quite capable of making an ultimatum of their defence of their break-away alliance with the non Social-Democratic P.S.P.). At all events it must be ascertained exactly not only what the liquidators want of the party, but also what their allies want.

The undoubted fact remains that at the Bureau, Kautsky went to the length of saying that the Russian party had disappeared.

How could he have descended to such a monstrous statement? To understand this the Russian workers must know who informs the German Social-Democratic press about Russian affairs? When the Germans write they usually avoid the question of our disagreements. When Russians write for German Social-Democratic publications we either see all the émigré coteries allied with the liquidators in a campaign of scurrilous abuse against the “Leninists” (as was the case in Vorw\"arts in the spring of 1912), or the writings of the Tyszkas and Trotskys, or a member of some other émigré coterie, deliberately obscuring the issue. For years there has not been a single document, collection of resolutions, analysis of ideas, or a single attempt to collect the facts!

We regret that the German leaders (who show ability in collecting and analysing facts when they study theory) are not ashamed to listen to and repeat the fairy-tales of their liquidator informants.

The Bureau’s resolution will be carried out, but Kautsky’s speech will remain a sad curiosity.


[1] Vorw\"arts (Forward)—the central organ of the German Social-Democratic Party; from 1876 onwards it was edited by Wilhelm Liebknecht and others. Engels conducted a struggle in the paper’s columns against all manifestations of opportunism. From the middle nineties, after the death of Engels, Vorw\"arts regularly published articles by the opportunists dominant in the German Social-Democratic Party and in the Second International. During the First World War Vorw\"arts adopted a social-chauvinist position.

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