MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Events

Congresses of the R.S.D.L.P.


R.S.D.L.P., First Congress (March 13 to 15 (25–30), 1898)

Held at Minsk. It was attended by 9 representatives.


R.S.D.L.P., Second Congress (July 17 - August 10, 1903)

From July 17 (30) - August 10 (23), 1903, the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. took place. Thirteen sessions were held in Brussels but the Congress was forced to move to London as a result of police persecution. The primary items on the agenda were the approval of the programme and the rules of the R.S.D.L.P., and the election of the party's central bodies.

The Congress unanimously (with one abstention) adopted the party "minimum programme" which formulated the immediate tasks of the proletariat in the event of a bourgeois revolution and the "maximum programme" which aimed at achieving the victory of the socialist revolution and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat.

During the discussion of the Party programme, a decisive struggle ensued over the principles of the party organisation. The majority of the party stressed the need to build a militant revolutionary party of the working class and the need for all members of the party to be aligned to this task. A minority in the party took the position that revolution could only be achieved through reforms and negotiation with the tsar.

This difference caused the R.S.D.L.P. to split into two groups: the Bolshinstvo (majority) and Menshinstvo (minority).

See Stenogrpahic Record of the Congress.


R.S.D.L.P., Third Congress (April 12 to 27 (25–10 May), 1905)

Held at London. The Congress was held separately by the Bolsheviks.


R.S.D.L.P., First Conference (December 12 to 17 (25–30), 1905)

Held at Tammerfors (Finland). It was attended by representatives of 26 organisations. Lenin was elected chairman of the Conference. Among the participants were V. Y. Fridolin, L. M. Knipovich, L. B. Krasin, N. K. Krupskaya, P. F. Kudelli, S. A. Lozovsky, P. N. Mostovenko, V. I. Nevsky, V. A. Radus-Zenkovich, J. V. Stalin and Y. M. Yaroslavsky. The Mensheviks were represented by E. L. Gurevich (V. Danevich).

The Conference had the following agenda: 1) Reports from the localities. 2) Report on the current situation. 3) Organisational report of the C.C. 4) On the merger of both parts of the R.S.D.L.P. 5) On Reorganising the Party. 6) The agrarian question. 7) On the Duma.

Lenin gave reports on the current situation and the agrarian question. The Conference came out for restoring Party unity and merging the practical centres of the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and their Central Organs on a basis of equality, and also for mergers of parallel organisations in the localities, authorising the united C.C. to call a unity congress. In its resolution on “Party Reorganisation”, the Conference recommended the practice of a broad electoral principle and the principle of democratic centralism. Departures from the latter were recognised as admissible only in the event of insuperable practical obstacles. In the “Agrarian Resolution” (on Lenin’s report) the Conference, elaborating the decisions of the Third Congress, proposed that the point in the Party’s agrarian programme dealing with “cut-off lands” should be replaced by the demand for the confiscation of all landed estates and state and church lands. The Conference adopted a resolution on an active boycott of the First Duma. In view of the fact that an armed uprising had already started in Moscow, the Conference, on Lenin’s proposal, hastily wound up its work, and the delegates went home to take part in the uprising.


R.S.D.L.P, The Fourth (Unity) Congress (April 10 to 25 [April 23 to May 8], 1906)

Held at Stockholm.

It was attended by 112 delegates with vote, representing 57 local organisations of the R.S.D.L.P., and 22 delegates with voice only. National organisations were also represented: the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania, the Bund, the Latvian Social-Democratic Labour Party, the Ukrainian Social Democratic Labour Party and the Finnish Labour Party. There was also a representative of the Bulgarian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

Among the Bolshevik delegates wore V. I. Lenin, M. V. Frunze, M. I. Kalinin, N. K. Krupskaya, A. V. Lunacharsky, F. A. Sergeyev (Artyom), S. G. Shahumyan, I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov, J. V. Stalin, V. V. Vorovsky, K. Y. Voroshilov and Y. M. Yaroslavsky.

The Mensheviks had a majority at the Congress because many Bolshevik Party organisations, which had led the armed action by the masses, were broken up and could not send their delegates. The Central Area, the Urals, Siberia and the North—Bolshevik bulwarks—were represented by a small number of delegates. By contrast, the Mensheviks, who had the more numerous organisations in the country’s non-industrial areas, where there had been no mass revolutionary action, were in a position to send more delegates.

There was a bitter struggle between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks on every point of the Congress agenda. Lenin gave reports on the agrarian question, the assessment of the current situation and the class tasks of the proletariat, on the attitude to the Duma, the armed uprising and other questions, and took part in the committee drafting the Party Rules (see LWC, Vol. 10, pp. 277–309). The character of the decisions was deter mined by the numerical superiority of the Mensheviks. After a stubborn struggle, the Congress approved the Menshevik resolutions on the Duma and the armed uprising, and adopted their agrarian programme.

On the attitude to bourgeois parties, the Congress confined itself to endorsing the resolution of the International Congress at Amsterdam. Without debate, it adopted the compromise resolution on the trade unions and the resolution on the attitude to the peasant movement.

At the same time, on the demand of the Party masses, the Congress adopted Paragraph One of the Rules in Lenin’s wording, rejecting Martov’s opportunist formula. The Bolshevik proposition on democratic centralism was included in the Rules for the first time.

The Congress decided on the question of uniting with the Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania and the Latvian Social-Democratic Labour Party, which joined the R.S.D.L.P. as territorial organisations working among proletarians of all nationalities in their territories.

The Central Committee elected by the Congress included three Bolsheviks and seven Mensheviks. The Editorial Board of Sotsial-Demokrat, the Central Organ, consisted of Mensheviks only.

The Congress is known as the “Unity” Congress, but it marked only the formal unification of the R.S.D.L.P. Actually, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks had their own views, their own platforms on the key revolutionary questions, and in fact remained two distinct parties. Lenin analysed the work of the Congress in his pamphlet Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (A Letter to the St. Petersburg Workers).


R.S.D.L.P., Fifth Congress (April 30 to May 19 [May 13 to June 1], 1907)

Held in London. It was attended by 336 delegates representing more than 147,000 members: 105 Bolsheviks, 97 Mensheviks, 57 Bundists, 44 Polish Social-Democrats, 29 members of the Social-Democracy of the Latvian Territory, and 4 “non-faction” delegates. The large industrial centres were represented by Bolsheviks. The St. Petersburg Party organisation sent 12 Bolsheviks of its 17 delegates; the Moscow City and Moscow District, 16 out of 19; the Urals, 19; Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Vladimir, Kostroma District, Bryansk, Kazan and Krasnoyarsk, Bolsheviks only. Lenin was a delegate to the Congress from the Upper Kama organisation. At the Congress there was a well-knit group of Bolsheviks led by Lenin, among them A. S. Bubnov, I. F. Dubrovinsky, M. N. Lyadov, V. P. Nogin, M. N. Pokrovsky, K. N. Samoilova, S. G. Shahumyan, J. V. Stalin, A. M. Stopani, I. A. Teodorovich, M. G. Tskhakaya, K. Y. Voroshilov, and Y. M. Yaroslavsky. Maxim Gorky attended the Congress with voice only. Following a long and sharp debate the Congress adopt ed this agenda: 1) Report of the Central Committee. 2) Report of the Duma group and its set-up. 3) Attitude to the bourgeois parties. 4) The Duma. 5) “Labour congress” and non-Party labour organisations. 6) Trade unions and the Party. 7) Partisan action. 8) Unemployment, economic crisis and lockouts. 9) Organisational questions. 10) International Congress at Stuttgart (May Day, militarism). 11) Work in the army. 12) Miscellaneous. In view of the work of the Congress being protracted, the questions of unemployment, of the economic crisis and the lockouts, and the International Congress at Stuttgart were taken off the agenda.

Lenin was elected to the presidium of the Congress and chaired the 6th, 7th, 14th, 15th, 27th, 34th and 35th sittings; he gave the report and delivered the summing-up speech on the key item of the agenda—the attitude to the bourgeois parties; he also spoke on the C.C. report on its work, the report on the Duma group activity, for inclusion in the agenda of the general theoretical questions of the principles underlying the Party’s tactics in the bourgeois revolution, against the Mensheviks, the Bundists and Trotsky (see present edition, Vol. 12, pp. 437–88).

At the Congress the Bolsheviks were supported by the delegates of the Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania and the Social-Democrats of the Latvian Territory. Having rallied them on a revolutionary platform, the Bolsheviks secured a majority and a victory for the revolutionary Marxist line. The Congress adopted Bolshevik resolutions on all major questions. It amended the Party Rules, eliminating the two-centre arrangement (election of the C.C. and the C.O. by the congress). Under the amended Rules, only the C.C. was elected, while the C.O. was to be appointed by the C.C. and was to work under its control. The Rules provided for periodical Party conferences to discuss the most important aspects of Party life.

To the Central Committee were elected five Bolsheviks, four Mensheviks, two Polish Social-Democrats and one Latvian Social-Democrat; ten Bolsheviks, seven Mensheviks, three Polish and two Latvian Social-Democrats were elected alternate members. Among the Bolsheviks elected to the C.C. as full and alternate members were V. I. Lenin, I. F. Dubrovinsky, F. E. Dzerzhinsky, L. B. Krasin, J. Marchlewski, V. P. Nogin and L. Tyszka. Three more persons were subsequently nominated for the C.C.: two from the Bund and one from the Latvian Social-Democrats.

As the C.C. leadership could not be reliable, for it consisted of representatives of different trends (those of the non-Russian Social-Democratic organisations frequently vacillated between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks), a Bolshevik Centre headed by Lenin was elected at a sitting of the Bolshevik group towards the end of the Congress. It included the Editorial Board of the newspaper Proletary.

The Fifth Congress marked a triumph for Bolshevism in the working-class movement of Russia. Its decisions summed up the victory of Bolshevism over the opportunist, Menshevik wing of the Party during the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The Bolshevik tactics was approved as the common one for the whole Party.


R.S.D.L.P., All-Russian Fifth Congress (December 21 to 27, 1908 [January 3 to 9, 1909])

Held in Paris. It was attended by 16 delegates with vote, among them five Bolsheviks, three Mensheviks, five Polish Social-Democrats and three Bundists. On the agenda were the following questions: 1) Reports of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee, the Central Committee of the Polish Social-Democrats, the Bund Central Committee, the St. Petersburg organisation, the Moscow, Central Industrial Region, Urals and Caucasian organisations. 2) The present political situation and the Party’s tasks. 3) The Social-Democratic Duma group. 4) Organisational questions in connection with the changed political conditions. 5) Local mergers with non-Russian organisations. 6) Affairs abroad. On every question, the Bolsheviks conducted a relentless struggle against the Menshevik liquidators and their supporters. The Conference resolution “On the Reports” sharply condemned liquidationism as an opportunist trend and called for the most resolute ideological and organisational struggle against any attempts to liquidate the Party.

The work of the Conference was centred on Lenin’s report “On the Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party”. The Mensheviks tried in vain to get the item off the agenda. The Conference adopted the resolution motioned by Lenin with slight amendments (see present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 321–24).

The resolution “On the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma”, motioned by the Bolsheviks, criticised the activity of the group and stated its concrete tasks. The Mensheviks objected to any indication of the Duma group’s mistakes in the Conference decisions and opposed the Central Committee’s right of veto in respect of the group. The otzovists also came out against the Leninist line in respect of the Duma group. The Conference adopted the Bolshevik resolution, whose text included a part of Lenin’s second variant of “Practical Instructions on Voting for the Budget by the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma” and all of his “Addendum to the Resolution on ‘The Social-Democratic Group in the Duma’ (see LCW, Vol. 15, pp. 326–27, 328). During the discussion of the organisational question, the Bolshevik proposed a draft resolution stating that the Party should devote special attention to the establishment and strengthening of illegal Party organisations, making use of an extensive network of diverse legal societies for work among the masses. The Mensheviks were actually trying to liquidate the illegal Party and stop all revolutionary work. In his speech on the organisational question, Lenin sharply criticised the resolution of the Menshevik liquidators and their attempts to justify those who had deserted from the Party in the years of reaction. The Conference adopted Lenin’s “Directives for the Committee on Questions of Organisation” (see present edition, Vol. 15, p. 325) and set up a committee to draft a resolution. The committee, and then the Conference itself, adopted the Bolshevik draft resolution. The Conference’s resolution on the local merger of national organisations resolutely rejected the principle of federalism, which the Bundists supported, as they wanted workers in the Party to be compartmentalised on national lines. During the discussion of the Central Committee’s work, the Mensheviks proposed that its seat should be transferred to Russia and that the C.C. Bureau Abroad should be eliminated. The liquidationist draft resolutions were rejected. The Conference adopted a resolution recognising “the existence abroad of a general Party representative body in the form of the Central Committee Bureau A road as being useful and necessary”. A Bolshevik resolution was adopted on the Central Organ; the Conference rejected the Menshevik proposal to have the publication of the C.O. transferred to Russia.

The Bolsheviks won a great victory at the Conference in their struggle against the Menshevik liquidators. The Conference decisions also dealt a blow at the otzovists. In the years of reaction, the Party was guided by the decisions of this Conference. Lenin said that the Fifth All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. “has led the Party out on to the road, and evidently marks a turning-point in the development of the Russian working-class movement after the victory of the counter-revolution”


R.S.D.L.P., Sixth Congress (July 26 - August 3, 1917)

The Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolshevik) sat in Petrograd from July 26 to August 3 (August 8-16), 1917, in semi-legal conditions. It was attended by 157 delegates voting and 110 delegates with voice but no vote, from 240,000 Party members. Lenin guided the congress from underground. He kept in touch with Petrograd through Bolsheviks assigned by the Central Committee who visited him at Razliv. Lenin's theses "The Political Situation", the article "On Slogans" and other items formed the basis for congress resolutions. While at Razliv, Lenin took part in drafting the most important resolutions of the congress. The congress unanimously elected Lenin its honorary chairman.

The items on the congress agenda were:

(1) Report by the Organising Bureau;
(2) Report by the C.C. R.S.D.L.P.(B.);
(3) Reports from Local Organisations;
(4) Current Situation: (a) The War and the International Situation; (b) The Political and Economic Situation;
(5) Revision of the Programme;
(6) The Organisational Question;
(7) Elections to the Constituent Assembly;
(8) The International;
(9) Unification of the Party;
(10) The Trade Union Movement;
(11) Elections;
(12) Miscellaneous.

The congress also discussed the question whether Lenin should appear in court.

The congress heard the political report of the Central Committee and the report on the political situation, both of which were presented by Stalin on behalf of the Central Committee. The resolution on the political situation was based on Lenin's guiding recommendations. It appraised the political situation in the country following the July events, and set out the Party's political line at the new stage of the revolution. The congress declared that the peaceful development of the revolution was over and that power in the country had virtually passed into the hands of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. In keeping with Lenin's recommendations, it temporarily withdrew the slogan "All Power to the Soviets", because just then the Soviets, led by the Mensheviks and S.R.s, were an appendage to the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government. This withdrawal did not imply renunciation of the Soviets as the political form of proletarian dictatorship. The congress advanced the slogan of fighting for the complete abolition of the dictatorship of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and for the proletariat winning power in alliance with the peasant poor, through an armed uprising.

The congress rejected the proposals put forward by Preohrazhensky, who contended that the socialist revolution could not win in Russia and that Russia could not take the socialist road unless a proletarian revolution was accomplished in the West. The congress also rebuffed Bukharin, who opposed the Party's course for the socialist revolution, saying that the peasants formed a bloc with the bourgeoisie and would refuse to follow the working class.

The congress decisions laid special emphasis on Lenin's thesis of the alliance of the proletariat and the peasant poor as the paramount condition for the victory of the socialist revolution. "It is only the revolutionary proletariat," said the resolution “The Political Situation,” “that can accomplish this task – a task set by the new upswing-provided it is supported by the peasant poor” (The C.P.S.LJ. in Resolutions, etc., Part I, 1954, p. 376 [in Russian]).

The question whether Lenin should appear in court was one of the first items discussed by the congress. Stalin, who touched on it in replying to the debate on the Central Committee's political activity, declared in favour of Lenin appearing in court, on the understanding that Lenin's personal safety would be guaranteed and the trial conducted on democratic lines. Stalin moved a resolution to that effect.

“It is not clear at the moment,” he said, “who is in power. There is no guarantee that if they [Lenin and Zinoviev] are arrested they will not be subjected to brute force. Things will be different if the trial is held on democratic lines and it is guaranteed that they will not be torn to pieces. When we asked the Central Executive Committee about this, they replied: 'We don't know what may happen.' So long as the situation is not clear and a covert struggle is going on between the nominal and the real authority, there is no point in the comrades appearing before the authorities. If, however, power is wielded by an authority which can safeguard our comrades against violence and is fair-dealing at least to some extent ... they shall appear.” (Minutes of the Sixth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.), August 1917, 1958, pp. 27 and 28 [in Russian].)

V. Volodarsky, I. Bezrabotny (D. Z. Manuilsky) and M. Lashevich spoke in favour of Lenin appearing in court (provided his safety was guaranteed, the trial was public and representatives of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets attended it), and moved a resolution in that sense.

G. K. Orjonikidze countered Stalin's position that a bourgeious court could give fair trial to a revolutionary leader of the working class. He stressed that Lenin must under no circumstances be delivered into the hands of the investigators. F. E. Dzerzhinsky, N. A. Skrypnik and others spoke against Lenin appearing in court. “We must say clearly and explicitly,” said Dzerzhinsky, “that those comrades who advised Lenin not to allow himself to be arrested did well. We must make clear to all comrades that we don't trust the Provisional Government and the bourgeoisie and will not deliver Lenin until justice triumphs, that is, until that disgraceful trial is called off.”

After much debate, the Sixth Party Congress unanimously passed a resolution against Lenin appearing in court, expressed its “emphatic protest against the outrageous persecution of revolutionary proletarian leaders by the public prosecutor, spies and police,” and sent Lenin a message of greeting.

Y. M. Sverdlov reported on the Central Committee's organising activity. He pointed out that in the three months that had passed since the Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference the Party membership had trebled, increasing from 80,000 to 240,000, and the number of Party organisations had grown from 78 to 162. The congress heard nineteen reports from local organisations. The speakers stressed the vast amount of work being carried on by local organisations and the steadily growing influence of the Bolsheviks among the working people.

The congress discussed and approved the Party's economic platform, which envisaged nationalisation and centralisation of the banks, nationalisation of large-scale industry, confiscation of the landed estates and nationalisation of all the lands in the country, establishment of workers' control over production and distribution, organisation of proper exchange between town and country, and other revolutionary measures.

The congress adopted the new Party Rules. The first clause of the Rules, dealing with membership, was supplemented with the stipulation that Party members should submit to all Party decisions. The new provision was introduced that persons seeking admission should present recommendations from two Party members and that their admission should be subject to approval by the general meeting of the organisation concerned. The Rules stressed that all Party organisations should be based on the principles of democratic centralism. Party congresses were to be convened once a year and plenary meetings of the Central Committee, not less than once in two months.

The congress reaffirmed the decision of the Seventh Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) on the need to revise the Party Programme in the sense indicated by the conference. It found it necessary to call a congress before long for the express purpose of adopting a new Programme, and instructed the Central Committee and all Party organisations to begin discussing a revision of the Party Programme, preparatory to the congress.

The congress resolution "Youth Leagues" said it was a pressing task to contribute to the formation of socialist class organisations of young workers, and obliged Party organisations to devote the greatest attention to this task. In discussing the item "The Trade Union Movement", the congress criticised the theory of trade union neutrality and pointed out that the trade unions had a vital interest in carrying the revolution through to a victorious end and that they could accomplish the tasks facing Russia's working class provided they remained militant class organisations recognising the political leadership of the Bolshevik Party.

The congress made all its decisions subordinate to the chief objective, which was to train the working class and the peasant poor for an armed uprising to bring about the victory of the socialist revolution. In a manifesto addressed to all working people, all workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia, it called on them to gather strength and prepare, under the banners of the Bolshevik Party, for the decisive battle with the bourgeoisie.

Among those the congress elected to the Central Committee were V. I. Lenin, Y. A. Berzin, A. S. Bubnov, F. E. Dzerzhinsky, A. M. Kollontai, V. P. Milyutin, M. K. Muranov, V. P. Nogin, F. A. Sergeyev (Artyom), S. G. Shahumyan, J. V. Stalin, Y. M. Sverdlov and M. S. Uritsky.