V. I. Lenin

Letter to the Executive of the German Social-Democratic Party{3}

Written: Written on March 2 (15), 1913
Published: First published in 1960 in the magazine Kommunist No. 6. Printed from a typewritten copy. Translated from the German.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 274-277.
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.  

Dear Comrades!

On the proposal of the Central Committee, the conference of representatives of the C.C. and local workers in Russia operating in various branches of Social-Democratic activity, has discussed your letter of December 28, 1912, stating your desire to “call a conference and direct debates”.

While expressing gratitude for your attention to our Party affairs, the conference has unanimously decided to reject your proposal.

We Russian revolutionary Social-Democrats have very great respect for the party of the German revolutionary proletariat. We want the most fraternal relations to exist between the Russian and the German Social-Democratic parties. Being unwilling, therefore, to leave any misunderstanding, we shall try to make a frank statement to you, dear comrades, of the motives by which we were guided in rejecting your proposal.

Let us start, for instance, with the aim of your projected conference.

You believe that it should have the aim “to work out a common party programme and organisational rules,” and invite us to inform you of our draft for the one and the other.

But our Party has had a Party programme for a long time. Back in 19Q3, i.e., ten years ago, our programme was approved by our Party’s Second Congress. Since then hundreds of thousands, and in the revolutionary years, millions of proletarians in Russia have proved their loyalty to this programme by fighting under our Party’s standard. We remain true to this programme today. We believe its revision to be quite superfluous.

For your information we wish to tell you that up to now not even the liquidators have demanded any revision of the Party programme—at any rate they have not done so openly.

Efforts to reach agreement by different groups and groupings concerning a new programme imply the absence of a party. But the R.S.D.L.P. is there, and the working class   of Russia continues to struggle under its standard. Our Party has faced and partially still faces some very hard times. But it has not ceased to exist for a single minute—contrary to the liquidators’ assertions. Only the latter (i.e., men outside the Party) will find acceptable any negotiations on working out some new Party programme—apparently for some new party. (What has been said applies, with slight modifications, to the working out of a new set of Party rules.)

Furthermore, we are divided from the liquidators by profound differences of principle—above all on the question of another revolution in Russia. Our Party (including the pro-Party Mensheviks, with G. V. Plekhanov at their head) takes the stand that the working class of Russia and its Party must work for a new revolution in Russia which alone could bring our country true political freedom. That is precisely what the liquidators deny. All their tactics are based on the assumption that development in Russia will take a more or less peaceful constitutional way.

You will easily understand, dear comrades, that from these cardinal differences inevitably flows a series of contradictions on all questions of Party work. The liquidators repudiate our present R.S.D.L.P., which can now exist only illegally (although it is capable of conducting and does conduct legal Social-Democratic work in many branches). The liquidators have been trying to wreck our present organisation in the hope of establishing a legal labour party in present-day Russia. (Let us note here that even the liberal Cadets have been unable to secure legal status for their party.) Hence the split, which is entirely and exclusively the work of the liquidators.

Very naturally these disputes, these cardinal differences can be resolved o n l y by the conscious Russian workers themselves, only by our own Russian Social-Democratic organisations and no one else.

In fact, the Russian workers have already taken a long step in that direction.

The recent election to the Fourth Duma has shown that the Russian proletariat is overwhelmingly behind the standpoint taken by our old Party with its revolutionary programme and tactics.

All six deputies elected under the law from the workers’ curia are Bolsheviks.

These six deputies represent nine-tenths of working-class Russia and they have openly declared themselves to be opposed to the liquidators.

Russia’s first working-class Social-Democratic daily (the St. Petersburg Pravda) was founded and is kept going by the workers themselves, on the pennies of the workers, namely, workers belonging to the same (Bolshevik) trend. Consequently, the unity of the vast majority of workers is being created in action, at the grass roots, in the depths of the, working mass. That is the only unity that is vital, and it alone will lead to the complete cohesion of the workers’ forces.

We shall not conceal from you, comrades, that in the given circumstances we regard mediation by the German Parteivorstand{1} as being altogether unacceptable. Either for lack of information or for some other reason, the Vorstand has not displayed impartiality in respect of the liquidators and us. Let us recall at least these two facts.

1) The Central Organ of the fraternal German Party (Vorw\"arts){4} sets aside whole columns for gross attacks by the liquidators on our January 1912 Party Conference, whereas we are being denied the opportunity of inserting even a purely factual refutation, which is a violation of the most elementary duties in respect of us.

2) During the election campaign, the Vorstand, despite our protests, gave cash assistance to the liquidators, but denied it to the Central Committee. The Vorstand gave a subsidy to the Bund, to the Caucasian Regional Committee{5} and the Latvians, i.e., the liquidator O.C.,{6} because everyone knows that it is these three organisations that mainly constitute the liquidator O.C. And the liquidators used the German workers’ money to start their publication of a Konkurrenzorgan{2} Luch in St. Petersburg, whose first issue appeared on the very day of the election and helped to aggravate the split.

To give cash assistance to one side against the other during a split is a step absolutely unheard of throughout the International.   Having taken such a step, the Vorstand issued a challenge to the supporters of the January Conference and showed that it was unable to remain impartial.

It is with deep regret that we must frankly tell you, comrades, that the German comrades’ supply of information concerning Russian affairs is thoroughly defective. This also explains your various proposals, such as a conference of 12 “trends” (small semi-student groups abroad), ignoring the organisations in Russia, or the plan to call together five organisations, etc. This also explains the bare faced attempts on the part of the liquidators simply to deceive you: for example, their attempt to obtain money from you on the strength of the allegation that in the summer of 1912 the Bolsheviks of Kharkov and Moscow united with the liquidators. Actually, however, it is in Kharkov and Moscow that Bolsheviks, implacable opponents of liquidationism (deputies Muranov and Malinovsky), were elected, and they were elected in the struggle with the latter. This also explains why during the elections you gave cash aid to the groups (the Bund, P.P.S., P.S.D.{7}) which clashed sharpest at the election and which produced from their midst Jagiello, the only deputy not to be accepted as a full-fledged member of the Social-Democratic group, and who was admitted by the slimmest majority of 7 votes to 6.

It is high time, comrades, to put an end to all this. Instead of listening to incompetent informants, you must open the pages of your organs for an objective explanation of the state of affairs in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and for its illumination in the light of principle, namely, for articles signed by responsible spokesmen of the several Party groups.

If you want to know about our affairs, you must draw your information about them from documents and literature, as you do, for instance, in following the struggle of various trends in Italy, Britain, etc. Otherwise, you will unwittingly take steps which may frequently be seen by Russian workers as a quite undeserved affront.


{1} Party Executive.—Ed.

{2} Rival organ.—Ed.

{3} The letter was written on March 2 (15), 1913, on assignment from the Cracow meeting of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee with Party functionaries, in a period of sharp struggle waged by the Bolsheviks against the liquidators. It is in reply to the proposal of the German Social-Democratic leaders to call joint conferences of Bolsheviks and liquidators for the purpose of their unification. p. 274

{4} Vorw\"arts—a daily, the Central Organ of the German Social-Democratic Party, published in Berlin from 1891 under a decision of the party’s Halle Congress as a continuation of Berliner Volksblatt, which had been published from 1884, under the name of Vorw\"arts. Berliner Volksblatt. On its pages, Frederick Engels carried on a struggle against every sign of opportunism. From the latter half of the 1890s, after Engels’s death, the paper fell into he hands of the party’s Right wing and regularly carried articles by opportunists. It gave a biased view of the struggle against opportunism and revisionism in the R.S.D.L.P. and supported the Economists, and, after the Party split up, the Mensheviks. During the years of reaction, the paper carried Trotsky’s slanderous articles, while refusing Lenin and other Bolsheviks the opportunity of issuing refutations and giving an objective assessment of the state of affairs in the Party. During the First World War, it took a social-chauvinist stand; after the October Socialist Revolution it conducted anti-Soviet propaganda. Published in Berlin until 1933. p. 276

{5} The Transcaucasian (Caucasian) Regional committee—the factional centre of the Caucasian Menshevik liquidators. The Committee was elected at the Fifth Congress of Social-Democratic Organisations of the Transcaucasus in February 1908, which was attended by fifteen Mensheviks and one Bolshevik. The Regional Committee carried on treacherous anti-Party work. Without holding any elections and disregarding the wilt of the Party organisations, it appointed P. B. Axelrod, F. I. Dan and N. V. Ramishvili as delegates to the Fifth (All-Russia) Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. in 1908. This liquidationist outfit, which claimed to be representative of the workers, was in fact the mainstay of the liquidators’ Centre Abroad and of Trotsky. In 1912, it joined the anti-Party August bloc set up by Trotsky. p. 276

{6} 0.C. (Organising Committee)—the governing centre of the Mensheviks set up at the August conference of the liquidators in 1912; it operated until the elections to the Menshevik Party’s Central Committee in August 1917. p. 276

{7} P.P.S.Polska Partia Socjalistyczna (Polish Socialist Party).

P.S.D.–Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (see Notes 52 and 43). p. 277

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