Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Third Session

(50 persons present)

The session began with the reading of the minutes of the first session of the congress.

Brouckère asked that the following be added to the report of his speech in the minutes: ‘The St Petersburg Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class was given representation at the Congress only as the result of arbitration, which recognised this body as a Party Committee and not an organisation. And yet in the report of the OC the St Petersburg Union of Struggle is systematically described as an organisation, and not as a committee.’

Pavlovich emphasised that the arbitration decision spoke of ‘the so-called Union of Struggle’.

Popov: The arbitration body acknowledged that it was not competent to decide whether the ‘Union of Struggle’ was a Party Committee or not, and left this to be settled by the Party congress.

Brouckère did not insist on his assertion, since he had not taken part in the arbitration.

The minutes of the first session were approved.

Chairman: The morning session went into recess as a result of Comrade Yegorov’s statement, and though this may have affected the course of the debate, it could not affect its outcome. The statement about the new meeting of the OC which adopted a certain decision might, however, have that effect. This statement put the Bureau in a quandary from which it has not yet emerged. Formally speaking, we could go on with the debate, but the Bureau has decided that the best course to adopt in such cases is to have a comradely explanation. And so we turn to the representative of the OC: will he please speak to us on this matter.

Popov: During the recess a meeting of the OC was held at which it was decided that the OC would propose that the congress invite Ryazanov to attend, with the right to a consultative voice. The OC did not take the decision itself (1) because the congress was already in session and (2) because the congress had not yet dealt with this question in its discussions.

Pavlovich: I must express my bewilderment. I am a member of the OC and also a delegate from the Kiev Committee. Two voices are in conflict in my soul. I know that there are no imperative mandates. But, as a member of the OC, I find myself in an abnormal situation, as a result of the OC’s latest statement. I put this question to the congress: has the OC a right to take part in the congress as a body, a right which is not provided for in the rules? After all, the representative of the OC is present here by chance, because he is at the same time the delegate from Yuzhny Rabochy. The new decision by the OC contradicts its previous decision. Replacing Borba by Ryazanov means exercising pressure on the congress. I want to know, has the OC the right to depart from its role as an accountable person and, as a body, to bring forth decisions after it has presented its report?[12]

Yegorov: Comrade Pavlovich’s[13] behaviour compels me to make a statement which I would have very much preferred not to make. The OC discussed at its meeting today the protest made by Comrade Pavlovich, and decided, in accordance with its rules, not to lay Comrade Pavlovich’s dissenting opinion before the congress. The OC could not, of course, assume the prerogative of depriving anyone of the right to appeal to the congress, and so it proposed to Comrade Pavlovich that it inform the congress that there had been a protest by one member, which the OC did not think it was obliged to bring to the attention of the congress. If the congress should wish to know what this protest was, then the OC would, of course, at once give the information. However, Comrade Pavlovich paid no attention at all to the OC’s decision. This was a breach of Party discipline. Comrade Pavlovich could have raised, in a general way, during the discussion, the question of the OC’s right to take such a decision. Mentioning the fact that Comrade Pavlovich is a delegate from the Kiev Committee is sophistry. To turn to the substance of the matter. In my view, the OC continues to exist until it is announced at the congress that it has ceased to exist. It is not by chance that the OC is taking part in this congress. It was aware that some of its members would be taking part in the congress anyway. But even if it had not taken part, the question of the presence of the OC would have come up for decision in one way or another. It might have met separately somewhere and taken this or that decision. While the congress has technical questions to consider, the OC continues to exist. Talk of the illogicality or the impossibility of rescinding a previous decision is baseless, since the OC might have fresh ideas, or might forget to nominate someone, etc. The OC took its decision not because it had changed its attitude to the Borba group but because it wanted to remove unnecessary obstacles from the path of the future central organisation of the Party, when this organisation takes its first steps.

Plekhanov: Comrade Yegorov’s statement was mild in form but sharp in content. If I failed to stop Comrade Pavlovich, the fault is mine, in my capacity as chairman. But the reason why I did not stop Comrade Pavlovich was that I found no breach of discipline in what he was saying. We have no imperative mandates here. And, talking of Party discipline, we must clarify some points concerning this. The discipline of every one of the Party’s corporate bodies is binding upon extraneous and lower-level bodies, but not upon those which stand higher. I ask you: in the first place, is the congress extraneous in relation to the OC, and, in the second place, does the congress consider that it is a lower-level body compared with the OC? No, the congress is the Party’s highest instance, and Comrade Pavlovich was in no way violating Party discipline by informing the congress of this incident. [Loud applause.] Talking of discipline, I did not know how the comrades working in Russia looked on the matter. But now I see that the majority of comrades share my view. Therefore I think that I acted rightly in not stopping Comrade Pavlovich, since there was no breach of discipline in what he said. On the contrary, it is Comrade Yegorov’s statement that must be considered a breach of discipline in relation to the congress.

Popov: The reasons for which the OC arrived at its latent decision were accepted by the five members, though the fifth member proposed only a special form of invitation to Comrade Ryazanov. I am here not by chance but as the official representative of the OC, empowered by all their votes, except that of Comrade Pavlovich, who did not protest against this. The congress has not yet abolished the OC, and so we have found it possible to bring forward a proposal.

Pavlovich: I recognise as legitimate meetings of the OC which can serve to provide the congress with material, but I cannot accept active interference by it in the affairs of the congress, bringing pressure to bear on the latter’s decisions. I denied the legitimacy of the meeting and therefore I did not take part in the voting. Consequently, no discipline can compel me to submit to the decision of a meeting the legitimacy of which I denied.

Koltsov: I want to remind comrades that the congress is now discussing the report of the commission charged with determining the composition of the congress. As soon as the report of this commission has been approved, the powers of the OC will cease. But there is one point on which these powers have already ceased: from the moment when the congress elected a credentials commission, any proposal relating to this matter could be introduced only through that commission. Furthermore, I would point out that the commission took its decision about Borba after questioning the members of the OC.

Yegorov: I have been made the object of blame which I do not deserve. This matter has been wrongly conceived. I did not say, at all, that there is an instance that is higher than the congress. The point was this: if we accept that the OC is an organisation, then it has rules, which its members ought not to transgress. Comrade Pavlovich was given the opportunity to say that he adhered to a particular view, and only if and when the congress asked was he to tell what happened at the OC meeting. This decision was taken by the OC, and Comrade Pavlovich violated it by making his statement. A similar question had already been discussed by the OC, in connection with a proposal from another member, and Comrade Pavlovich then went along with us. Comrade Pavlovich was allowed a way of expressing his views, but only by keeping to a certain form. Although the applause has indirectly, so to speak, reprimanded me, I do not feel that I am in any way in the wrong.

Lenin: I cannot agree with Comrade Yegorov. It is he who has infringed the rules of the congress, and he who is against the clause on imperative mandates. I do not doubt the existence of the Organising Committee, just as I do not doubt the existence of the Iskra organisation, which also has its own organisation and rules. But as soon as the rules of the congress were announced, the Iskra organisation informed its delegates that they had full freedom of action at the congress. What sort of position do we find ourselves in, as members of the credentials commission of the congress, who yesterday heard two members of the Organising Committee, Comrades Stein and Pavlovich, and now hear an entirely new proposal? There are experienced comrades here who have attended more than one international congress. These comrades could tell you what a storm of indignation has always been aroused when people say one thing in commission and another thing on the floor of the congress.

Abramson: I do not agree at all with Plekhanov and Lenin in the way they define Party discipline. Like Comrade Yegorov, I cannot call Comrade Pavlovich’s conduct anything but a breach of discipline, as this is understood by the comrades working in Russia. The applause given to Plekhanov’s speech was not meant for his definition of Party discipline but for his statement that the congress is the Party’s highest instance. [Shouts: ‘Not true!’]

Martov: I am surprised that Comrade Abramson, as a delegate of the Bund, considers that the comrades in Russia would regard Comrade Pavlovich’s conduct as a breach of Party discipline. I doubt if that is so. But if indeed they were to see it in this light, it would show that in their conception of Party discipline they do not look beyond the duty of a revolutionary to that lower-level group to which he belongs. Of course it is possible to have, within the framework of a united party, free groupings determined by convictions and the demands of conscience which bring together certain members of the Party in relation to certain questions. But no compulsory grouping is permissible within a united party; such subjection to the discipline of a lower group would cut across the duty of a Party member to the Party as a whole. Comrade Yegorov made a very big mistake, and there was nothing left for Comrade Pavlovich to do but what he in fact did. Let me point out that this matter arose during the recess which Comrade Yegorov asked for, so that he could acquaint himself with the situation, as he had only just arrived. Instead, the recess was used for a meeting as a result of which a proposal was put forward, in the name of the OC, which ran counter to the report of the commission, and to the OC’s previous proposals. We resolved to refer all proposals to the Bureau. If the OC had applied to the Bureau the latter would have explained that it ought to hand over its proposal to the credentials commission. Comrade Yegorov says that the purpose of the new proposal is to remove unnecessary ‘submerged rocks’ from the course of the future central committee. Yesterday the OC had no such fear, when it excluded the Borba group and did not include Ryazanov among those to be invited to attend with a consultative voice. What new facts have emerged, to make a change necessary? These new facts should be told to us, and not covered up with petty arguments about submerged rocks, in other words, about what people will say! When our tendency was everywhere in a minority we were not afraid of what people might say. And I advise the OC now, when our tendency has grown strong, not to be afraid of what people will say.

In order to close this incident, I move the following resolution: ‘The congress, requesting all comrades who have particular proposals to put forward to hand these in to the Bureau, considers as over and done with the incident caused by the statements of Comrades Pavlovich and Yegorov.’

Plekhanov: Comrade Yegorov said that I had made a serious accusation against him. There can be no doubt, however, that this accusation was no less serious than that which he made against Comrade Pavlovich. One must take the rough with the smooth. I accused no-one, but merely, as chairman, corrected statements made which seemed to me to be out of place. And in making these corrections I had to explain the conceptions of Party discipline by which I was guided. Comrade Abramson expressed doubt as to whether the comrades in Russia are in agreement with me on the definition of Party discipline. I think that the comrades in Russia are on my side, just as I have logic on my side. Higher obligations prevail over lower ones. Turning to the unfortunate incident, I must say this: all of us, like the Bureau, are fully grateful to the OC for its work in convening the congress, but… ‘Plato is dear to me, but still dearer to me is truth.’ The OC exists now as a group reporting on its activities. It is impossible to report on one’s activities and at the same time continue them.

Fomin (on a point of order): Martov has moved a resolution to proceed to next business. I second this, and propose that the list of speakers be closed.

Fomin’s proposal was adopted. (Those speakers who had put their names down earlier were still allowed to speak.)

Popov: The OC supposed that it continued to exist until the congress dissolved it. But since doubt has been expressed as to its existence, I move that the congress express its view on this matter.

Pavlovich: I repeat my question: has the OC the right to meet as an independent body? Denying as I did the legitimacy of the OC meeting, I was not obliged to submit to its decisions. The recommendation of Ryazanov to the congress ought to have been introduced through the commission.

Martynov: In view of the grave charges which have been levelled, directly or indirectly, against four members of the OC, I must observe that two questions are being confused here: the question of the general rules of Party discipline and the question of the standing orders of the congress. I consider that the comrades of the OC did not act contrary to the general rules of Party discipline. In the army, where discipline is at its strictest, every soldier has the right to appeal to the highest instance, but only according to a certain established procedure, going through the lower instances. From this point of view, the members of the OC were right to require of their fellow-member, Comrade Pavlovich, that if he appealed to the congress against the body to which he belonged, he .must do this in the established way, namely, through this same body. The mistake made by the OC comrades consisted only in that they violated the standing orders of the congress: they continued to carry out functions which they had lost with the opening of the congress.

Yegorov: The chairman was mistaken in taking my reproach as directed at him. He could not know what the OC had decided. As regards the reproach that I made use of the recess for a purpose other than that for which I had requested it, it must be stated that I did this after a private conversation with the chairman, who told me that this was a matter for the OC. Consequently, the accusation made was applicable not to me but to the OC.

Trotsky: Comrade Martynov takes, on the question of Party discipline, the viewpoint of military discipline, which is based on the principle that rank must respect rank. In the army someone of lower rank cannot address himself to the highest instance otherwise than through the intermediate instance. But in this case there was no instance standing higher than the OC, and lower than the congress, to which Comrade Pavlovich could have appealed. I regard the incident as closed, and support Martov’s resolution.

Makhov: Regardless of differing notions about Party discipline, Comrade Pavlovich justified himself only by the fact that he considered the decision of the OC to be invalid. That is his affair. All the same, though, he acknowledged the existence of the OC, and it seems to that it would have been more tactful to ask the congress to decide whether or not the meeting of the OC was legitimate. I find that Comrade Yegorov’s error of tact was caused by the error of tact made by Comrade Pavlovich.

The chairman pointed out to the speaker that Comrade Pavlovich was not in the dock.

Makhov: That’s how it looked just now, where Comrade Yegorov was concerned.

Martov’s resolution was adopted unanimously.

In order to define the position of the OC at that stage, Popov moved the following resolution: ‘The congress declares that, from the moment that it opened, the OC is to be regarded as having been dissolved, and must cease its activity completely.’

Koltsov moved another resolution: ‘With the election of the credentials commission, the OC lost the right to influence, as a body, the composition of the congress, and its activity as a body is regarded as having ceased so far as this matter is concerned.’

Pavlovich considered Comrade Popov’s resolution unfortunate. According to this resolution the OC was to be regarded as dissolved, and yet it had to exist in order to be able to make its report to the Congress.

Deutsch proposed that Comrade Popov’s resolution be adopted, with the amendment that ‘dissolved’ be replaced by ‘activity … suspended’.

Popov: The word ‘dissolved’ is to be understood in the sense that the OC has no right to take any decisions. However, the OC still has work to do in Russia, in the fields of transport, technical questions and so on. Must the OC stop carrying out these functions?

Plekhanov: Comrade Popov’s resolution cannot be adopted for the reason mentioned by Comrade Popov himself. The activity of the OC must be discontinued only on the matter of the convening of the Congress. I support Koltsov’s proposal.

Deutsch put forward a draft resolution: ‘The congress recognises that with the opening of the congress the activity of the OC is discontinued.’

Yudin presented a resolution: ‘From the moment that the OC gave the congress its report on its activity in connection with the composition of the Congress, the activity of the OC, as a body, be at an end so far as this matter is concerned.’

Stein asked that the significance of this resolution n be explained. Was the OC to continue to exist, as a body, or was it completely done away with by this resolution? The OC was left with practical activity to perform. If it was to be allowed the right to carry on practical activity, then it was thereby allowed the right to undertake discussion of these questions.

Lenin: The Organising Committee can meet, but not as a body exercising influence upon the business of the congress. The practical activity of the OC does not cease: what ceases is its influence on the congress, apart from the commission.

Stein: I do not in any way contest the resolution, but I find it necessary to define more clearly just what activity remains for the OC to carry out.

In the voting, Koltsov’s resolution was passed by a majority of 32. Yudin’s resolution received 16 votes, and the resolutions of Popov and Deutsch one each.

Chairman: I invite those who have advocated inviting Ryazanov with a consultative, to see the commission about the matter. We now have to consider the question of participation in the congress by the Polish comrades.

Lieber: The proposal brought forward by the commission violates the rules of the congress. All the speakers have said that this congress is an ordinary congress. The Bund said in its statement that the congress should be a constituent one, and that all the nationalities should be represented at it. In answer we were told that the congress is a congress of Russian Social-Democratic organisations. Now they are inviting representatives of the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania, which is an independent organisation. It is being said here that the Polish Social-Democrats want unity, but who is there that does not want it? Borba, too, wants unity. When the Bund proposed that the Lithuanian and Lettish Social-Democrats be invited, this proposal was rejected: why then does an exception have to be made for the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania? If the same proposal had been made to the Lettish and Lithuanian Social-Democrats, then, probably, it would have been accepted by them.

Popov expressed surprise that the commission’s resolution on inviting the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania began with the words: ‘In view of the decision taken by the OC,’ when in fact the OC took no such decision.

Stein expressed his astonishment on the same matter. Giving evidence yesterday he had told the commission that the OC declined to invite the Social-Democrats of Poland and Lithuania to the congress and proposed that this be done by the congress itself.

Deutsch: Talks with the Polish Social-Democrats were carried on through me, and I told them that the congress might invite them. If I exceeded my authority then the entire responsibility rests with me.

Yegorov: No talks with the Polish Social-Democrats took place officially. Judging by the mood among the Russian comrades, the OC thought that it was desirable to have the Polish Social-Democrats at the congress, and so they considered it necessary to let the Polish comrades know this.

Lenin: In its report, the commission finds that the presence of the Polish comrades at the congress is desirable, but only in a consultative capacity. In my view, that is quite right, and it seems to me perfectly reasonable to begin the resolution of the commission with a statement to this effect. It would be highly desirable if the Letts and Lithuanians could be present, but, unfortunately, that is not feasible. The Polish comrades could at any time have announced their conditions for joining, but they did not do this. The Organising Committee was therefore right in showing reserve in relation to them. The question is not clarified, either, by the letter from the Polish Social-Democrats which was read here. In view of this, I move that the Polish comrades be invited to attend as guests.

Martov: There were official relations between the OC and the Polish Social Democrats, and they were effected through the Iskra organisation, which conveyed the OC’s letter to the Polish comrades and received their answer. Thus, one cannot put the Lithuanians and Letts on the same plane with the Polish Social-Democrats, since the latter took steps towards unification which the former did not. I think it necessary to mention, though, that the step taken by the Polish Social-Democrats was without significance, since it was put to them that they must unequivocally define their attitude on the question of entry into the Russian Party, and this they have not done. The OC was not empowered to take responsibility for inviting the Polish Social-Democrats. The congress must state its attitude on this matter.

Yegorov agreed with Martov, and found the reference to the congress rules unfortunate. An attempt had also been made in relation to the Lithuanian party, and talks carried on with them, but no decision had as yet been reached.

Abramson: I am not opposed in principle to unity with the Polish Social-Democrats, but I regard the resolution of the commission as wrong. It has already been shown that it does not satisfy the formal conditions which the OC adhered to when drawing up the congress rules, which it has upheld throughout its activity, and from which our congress, too, has proceeded up to now. The Polish Social-Democrats have so far not declared themselves to be a section of the Party, despite the fact that they have several times been asked to do this, as we learnt here from Comrade Martov. They have shown very great caution in this matter, and they still maintain this caution in the letter which they have addressed to the congress. We do not know what kind of unification the Polish Social-Democrats want, in what sense they regard themselves as being a party, whether or not they have passed a resolution on this point at their congress, and, if so, what this resolution is. The letter presented to us remains silent on all that. The resolution from the commission says that, depending on the resolution adopted by the Polish Social-Democrats, they may be allowed to exercise a consultative voice at the congress. But their resolution may be such that they would have to separate themselves completely from this congress. Consequently, it would be logical for the commission to take a different line, namely, to ask the Polish Social-Democrats for the resolution they have adopted. Comrade Lenin was mistaken in what he said about the resolution of the OC on the Polish Social-Democrats. The OC did not decide to ask the congress to invite the Polish Social-Democrats, and this has been confirmed today by the representative of the OC. Consequently, the commission’s statement that its resolution is in accord with the decision of the OC is also wrong.[Comrade Abramson’s resolution: ‘The congress proposes that the Polish Social-Democrats table the resolution adopted at their congress about the question of relations with the RDSLP, this being necessary in order to decide the question of the Polish Social-Democrats’ participation in the Second Congress of the RSDLP.’]

Trotsky: I do not understand the objections which have been raised against inviting the Polish comrades to the congress—objections based on the rules for convening the congress. These rules were drawn up by the OC on the basis of the norms laid down by the First Congress, and they served as their guide. But once the congress has met it has the right to invite new comrades, if it finds this necessary. It is proposed that the Polish comrades be invited to attend with a consultative voice. If the Polish comrades tell us that they regard themselves as forming a section of the Russian Party, then we shall have no grounds for refusing them a deciding vote. It is objected that this is premature: our future Central Committee, it is said, will enter into negotiations with them and will do everything needed to bring about unity. Of course! But if the Polish comrades declare their adhesion to the Party it will be only fair to enable them to exercise influence in the formation of the Central Committee itself. I support the invitation to the Polish Social-Democrats.

Lieber: Trotsky’s argument is very odd. While the OC had no right to invite the Polish Social-Democrats, he says, the congress has this right. I do not agree. The Congress cannot repudiate all the preliminary work done, and change the rules. If the OC had taken steps to approach the Letts and Lithuanians, the situation would have been different. Judging by the OC’s report, this was not done. Our organisations are present at a well-defined congress, which cannot consider itself as an instance capable of changing absolutely everything, even the rules. The Polish comrades have not put forward any resolution which might have elucidated for us the relations they wish to have with the Russian Social-Democrats, and no grounds exist for inviting them.

Lenin: I cannot see any weighty arguments against the invitation. The OC took the first step in bringing the Polish comrades closer to the Russian comrades. By inviting them to the congress we shall take the second step along this path. I cannot see that any complications will result from this.

The discussion of this question came to an end. The congress passed to considering the resolution about the Voronezh Committee.

Akimov: In my view, the OC’s statement about the non-recognition of the OC by the Voronezh Committee is wrong. The Voronezh Committee only said that the OC was wrongly constituted, and that this had a harmful effect on its work. If something was said against the rules for the congress, the Voronezh Committee had the right to say it. They even had the right to say at the congress that they consider the composition of the OC to be unsound. The Voronezh Committee’s request for arbitration was presented in good time, through both the Petersburg Union of Struggle and the Foreign Bureau of the OC, and the Voronezh Committee was not to blame if this request was brought forward only two days before the congress. The request was handed to a member of the OC in good time by the Petersburg Committee. The fault lay with the unsound composition of the OC, and also with the fact that the Union was not told when the congress was to be held. I do not know whether the Voronezh Committee managed to send delegates but the congress ought, in principle, to express its view on this matter.

Yegorov: I cannot accept the concluding part of the resolution submitted by the commission. In omitting to invite the Voronezh Committee to the congress the OC was not guided by the consideration that the Voronezh Committee refused to recognise it.

Brouckère: The Voronezh Committee showed more interest in the congress than any other group. It undertook active work with a view to influencing the preparatory work for the congress. And the OC had no right to punish the Voronezh Committee for this by not inviting it the congress. Nor do I agree with the commission that the Voronezh Committee has displayed only feeble activity.

Lensky: The previous speaker said that the Voronezh Committee worked very actively and showed much liveliness and energy in the matter of the congress. But this energetic work was of a shameful character. In the two letters received by the Yekaterinoslav Committee, the moral physiognomy of the Voronezh Committee was revealed rather unprepossessingly. These letters were nothing better than libels …

The Chairman (interrupting the speaker ): I must ask you not to use such expressions when speaking about Party comrades, even when they are absent.

Brouckère: Evidently our tastes differ. To me the moral physiognomy of the Voronezh Committee, as expressed in these declarations, seems attractive and agreeable. I want also to add that the OC addressed its inquiries to organisations which were hostile to us. Further, the OC did not supply the written material to all the organisations.

Orlov: I agree with Comrade Brouckère that the Voronezh Committee acted very energetically, all right: the trouble was that all this energy was expended in making visits and sending ‘friendly messages’ to ‘friendly committees’. As an example, take this fact. The Yekaterinoslav Committee was one of the most stubborn in the sense of struggle against, or, more correctly, indifference to, the Iskra tendency. Clearly, this Committee was very dear to the Voronezh Committee, whose whole aim consisted in combating that tendency in Russian Social-Democracy. Having learnt that the Yekaterinoslav Committee was beginning to depart from its previous line, the Voronezh Committee hastened to despatch a friendly message to Yekaterinoslav, advising that Committee not to become infatuated with the beauty and elegance of fashionable views. Ungrateful Yekaterinoslav did not reply to this ‘fraternal admonition’. Another interesting fact: when it came forward as a Party Committee, the Voronezh Committee applied to Yekaterinoslav with a request to print its proclamation announcing that it had been formed. To the inquiry of the Yekaterinoslav Committee as to what Committees recognised this organisation as a Party Committee, the comrade from Voronezh who had come to Yekaterinoslav for this purpose named the Rostov Committee. The request was carried out, but soon it emerged that Rostov had not in fact given its consent to this, and that the Voronezh comrades had said in Rostov that they were recognised by Yekaterinoslav. All this time, all that I knew of the activity of the Voronezh Committee was three proclamations, printed by the presses of other towns. I say nothing of those proclamations, by which the committee become known throughout Russia. All this, it would seem, is clear enough, and provides a distinct picture of the solidity and the moral physiognomy of the Voronezh Committee.

Brouckère: If the Voronezh Committee is a convinced opponent of Iskra, then it naturally tries, by means of friendly letters, to influence other committees. The previous speaker most probably also wanted to show that they have no press in Voronezh. That is not the case. His information about the issuing of the proclamations is incorrect. The Voronezh Committee has issued not three but seven proclamations. The statement that the Voronezh Committee was endorsed by the Yekaterinoslav and Don Committees reached my ears only yesterday: although such endorsement was not required, the Voronezh Committee was in fact endorsed by the Petersburg Union of Struggle and the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad.

The discussion was closed, and the rapporteurs of the commission and of the OC were allowed to have the last word.

Koltsov: First of all, I regard it as my duty to apologise to the comrades for some shortcomings in the report I gave this morning. Our commission worked all night and, not surprisingly, I. was very tired after that. Some of these defects have been pointed out to me and I shall now try to correct them. First, it must be mentioned that the letter from the Borba group which was not received by the OC was forwarded by the Foreign Bureau of the OC, which possesses the relevant documents. Then, I forgot to mention that the OC replied to this letter from the Borba group as soon as it received it. I will read the reply. [See Appendix III.]

I now turn to the objections which have been put forward here. First, about the Borba group. It must be acknowledged that the objections presented here by the group’s few defenders have surprised me very much. Comrade Martynov is greatly concerned that he should not be identified with this group, and yet he insists that we invite a group which he obviously does not hold in very high esteem, merely because, if we do, the discussion of the programme will be more complete. Yet, what Borba had to say it set forth in a booklet, which anyone may read and, consequently, anyone is at liberty to use the arguments contained in this publication. I was particularly amazed by Comrade Akimov. In all our epic struggles about ‘unity’, in which the Borba group always played, in its own words, the role of conciliator, we always came up against the question of the role to be played in the new organisation by the Borba group—would it obtain the post of editor, would it preside at the congress, and so on. And I recall that on one such occasion Comrade Akimov replied to one of the members of the Borba group: ‘Whose fault is it that you stand outside the organisation? You went everywhere, and everywhere you were welcomed, but everywhere you ran away.’ Now, however, it is said that this group has to its credit not only ambitions but also a booklet criticising the programme drafted by Iskra and Zarya. In my opinion, what is new in this booklet is not true, and what is true is not new. But even if this booklet were very valuable the congress would have no call to establish a precedent on the basis of which, in future, everyone who has published a booklet would have the right to attend a congress.

As for the Voronezh Committee, I say that it is quite clear from the proclamations it issued, especially from the second of these, that it did not recognise the OC, did not recognise the OC’s right to convene a congress; and all one can do is to ask how it expected to get into this congress? Of the particularly lively activity displayed by this Committee we heard here from the representative of the Yekaterinoslav Committee, and yesterday, in the commission also from the representative of the Don Committee: according to these representatives, the activity of the Voronezh Committee was insignificant, except that a great deal of energy was expended in journeys to various towns in order to get various proclamations printed.

A few words more about the invitation to the Polish Social-Democrats. In the first place, the commission agrees to delete from the resolution the first phrase, referring to the decision of the OC. As regards the objections raised, my answer is that we have not invited other national groups because they have not shown any desire to work with us for the unity of the RSDLP. On the other hand, we have invited the Polish Social-Democrats with a consultative voice only because they have hitherto not stated the relations which they intend to have with the Russian Party.

In view of all the above, I recommend the congress to approve the resolution in the form in which it has been presented by the commission.

Popov (as rapporteur for the Organising Committee): As regards the invitation to the Borba group, I declare on behalf of the OC that the OC in no way renounced its previous view about the Borba group when it put forward the proposal to invite Ryazanov with the right to a consultative voice.

Regarding the incident with the Voronezh Committee, I can say this. The Voronezh Committee has accused the OC of not giving it the opportunity to protest in time and ask for arbitration. I ask the congress to note that the formation of the OC was known to the Voronezh Committee already in February. And that Committee was fully able to enter in good time into negotiation with the OC. The Voronezh Committee circled round and round the OC for a long time, collecting information about its composition, formation and so on, but had no dealings with the OC itself. In general there was not much logic in the attitude of the Voronezh Committee to the OC. To the announcement by the OC in which it spoke of itself as a private organisation the Voronezh Committee replied with a letter in which it treated the OC as a Party organ, and demanded representation in it, accordingly, for the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad. When the OC had been recognised by nearly all the Committees and had become a Party institution, the Voronezh Committee wrote a second letter, beginning with the words: ‘To the group calling itself the Organising’ Committee’—but then, after that, it applied once more to the OC, as a Party institution, requesting arbitration. It is impossible in view of this to accuse the OC of not entering into relations with the Voronezh Committee. As regards Comrade Akimov’s comment that the OC could have communicated to the Union of Social-Democrats Abroad the list of organisations possessing the right to take part in the congress, the OC did not know that the Union had close relations with the Voronezh Committee. The request for arbitration which was addressed to the OC here could not be met because the OC was not in a position to furnish the tribunal with the necessary materials, and also because, once the congress was in session, there would be no point in oganising an arbitration tribunal on its doorstep.

About the invitation to the Polish Social Democrats I can say that the OC took the decision not to invite them, even with merely a consultative voice, not in the least because it wanted to prevent the Polish Social-Democrats from participating in the congress, but simply because it was not decided on whether to invite an organisation which did not consider itself as belonging to the RSDLP.

After this, the resolutions of the credentials commission were voted on. The resolution about Borba was passed by 42 to 4. Yudin’s resolution, proposing that one member of the Borba group be invited, with a consultative voice, was rejected by 41 to 5. The resolution on the Voronezh Committee was passed by 37 to 3, with 4 abstentions. Rejected were: Akimov’s proposal that the statement that the request for arbitration was y two days before the congress be deleted from the resolution, and Lieber’s proposal (29 to 10) that the words ‘since it did not recognise the OC’ be deleted from the reasons given. The resolution of the commission on the Polish Social Democrats was passed by 37 to 6, with 5 abstentions, and Abramson’s resolution was rejected by 35 to 8, with 5 abstentions. A proposal that the Polish Social-Democrats send not more than two delegates was introduced and passed, with 29 votes.

Chairman: Now all the preliminary work of the congress has been completed. The congress has been finally constituted. Its decisions are unconditionally binding on the entire Party, and supersede all decisions of the First Congress that may be in contradiction to them. I propose that we express to the Organising Committee the profound gratitude of the congress for the energetic, skilful and tactful way in which it has performed its tasks. [Tumultuous and prolonged applause.]

Chairman: With regard to the report of the OC, the Bureau has been handed a resolution conceived in these terms: ‘The Second Congress of the RSDLP, having heard the report on the activity of the Organising Committee for restoring the organisational unity of the Party, expresses to the OC the profound gratitude of the Party for the skilful and tactful fulfilment of the task which it assumed by virtue of the decision of the conference of March 1902.’

Chairman: All in favour of this resolution, please stand. [All stand.]

Lieber: The text of the resolution bears the signatures of certain delegates. I propose that the resolution be recorded in the minutes without signatures, or else that the resolution be made available for everyone who wishes to sign.

Chairman: That goes without saying. The resolution will be recorded in the minutes without signatures. And it will also be made available for all who wish to sign it.

The session was closed-



[12] For the background to this affair, see Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 7, pp. 22-23. Stein, a member of the OC, had favoured inviting a person named Chernyshov to the congress, but Pavlovich, also on the OC, had vigorously opposed this. Piqued, Stein now changed her attitude on the question of inviting Ryazanov. Though she had previously been against this, and had told the Credentials Committee so, she now joined with the other members of the OC, apart from Pavlovich, in asking the congress to invite Ryazanov. Pavlovich denounced before the congress the action of the OC majority, and the question arose of the OC’s right to function at the congress as a group with its own discipline.

[13] Pavlovich (Krasikov, 1870-1939) was a tough, determined man—to his enemies, ‘a drunken brawler’—who gave steady support to Lenin throughout the congress. A lawyer by training, he became head of the Cheka in Petrograd, and under Stalin was a judge in the Court of Appeal.