Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Fifth Session

(42 delegates with 51 deciding votes present, and 8 with consultative votes.)

The minutes of the second session were read and confirmed. The debate on Point 2 of the agenda was then resumed.

Karsky: [17] Lack of time prevents me from dealing with several points in Comrade Lieber’s report to which I should have liked to offer objections. I shall speak only about the following propositions put forward by the comrades from the Bund.

The Bund seeks not only to be the representative of that section of the Jewish proletariat which lives in a particular part of the country and speaks Yiddish, but to be the sole representative of the entire Jewish proletariat, as such and as a whole. Thus, the field of activity of the Bund is to be: everywhere that a worker is living who belongs to the Jewish nationality. This is the fundamental proposition advanced and upheld by the Bund. This is a nationalist attitude, not a socialist one. The Bund does not base itself on technical conditions and it takes no account of the fact that Jews live in different parts of Russia, that large country, and speak different languages. No, all that is without importance for the Bund. The question is settled so far as the Bund is concerned by the mere fact that a section of the proletariat belongs to the Jewish nationality. I am reminded of the utopian project of a certain Armenian who proposed to unite in a single Armenian Social-Democratic Party the Armenian proletariat living in America, in Caucasia, in Turkey, in Persia, and so on. This Armenian was a consistent socialist-nationalist, but in the case of the Bund we cannot observe such consistency.

I am amazed at the Bund’s demand to establish a sort of state within the state. After all, we Georgians, Armenians and so on do not demand special Georgian, Armenian, etc., organisations, and yet this does not prevent us from working in the RSDLP, and working successfully, as recent history shows: we are thoroughly uprooting all national prejudices in Caucasia.

Rusov: It is my lot to work in one of the outlying areas where conditions in respect of variety in the racial composition of the population are similar to those in which the Bund works. I mention with pleasure the fact that in our area no organisational separatism exists, whatsoever, such as the Bund has displayed so strongly in recent times. In all of our towns there are Party Committees, working in several languages—three, so far (Russian, Georgian, and Armenian), and where necessary also in a fourth (Tatar).[18] And yet no inconveniences have resulted from this, and the progress of the movement in Caucasia has not been hindered by it. It seems to me that the tendency which is now predominant in the Bund has nothing in common with socialism. The existence of a special Jewish organisation in the Party of the proletariat, mistakenly permitted by the First Congress, and which had, perhaps, some historical justification, has led to very undesirable results. Without denying the services rendered by the Bund in organising the Jewish proletariat, I find it a serious omission on the part of the Party that there are still no Party committees in the West working in all languages. And this situation which exists today has for its sole explanation the mistake made by the First Congress. Work is carried on there among the Jews, but the Poles, Lithuanians, Letts and Russians remain outside the sphere of Party agitation. That is an abnormal situation. I shall try to show that the resolution of the First Congress had no foundation, except, perhaps, an historical one—i.e., the fact that a strong Jewish organisation existed already before the unification of the Party. There can be two sorts of reasons for a separate organisation to exist: technical reasons (language, territory) and reasons of principle (different political tasks). Let us consider the first of these. In different places the Jewish population speak different languages (Polish, Georgian, Tatar) and so a single organisation for the Jewish proletariat is not needed. Finally, we know of organisations in which agitation is carried on in several languages. As regards reference to territory, this argument is repudiated by the Bund itself, as having no relevance to the case of the Jewish proletariat. So, then, it is not a question here of technical conditions.

Let us now consider the reasons of principle: the special legal position of Jews, antisemitism, the restrictive laws against the Jews—these are what are always quoted to us. But exceptional laws exist which apply not only to the Jews but also to other minorities in Russia. This exceptional situation as an oppressed nationality, which provides a great deal of material for agitation, does not serve as a sufficient reason for forming an independent organisation. I think that this is not enough for the establishment of a separate national organisation. If there are favourable conditions for political agitation, every keen and worthy revolutionary is duty bound to make use of these factors for agitation. If I were to find myself in the Pale of Settlement[19] then I would, no less than the Bund, carry on agitation in which I would make use of the special legal position of the Jews. If we were to be guided by such considerations, we would have to form special organisations for the sectaries, for all the minorities, and so on, and this would contribute not to the unity of the Party but to its disintegration. Why, for example, can the Vilna Committee, working among all the proletarians of that town, like the committees in Caucasia, not carry on intense agitation on the basis of the special legal situation of the Jews? The whole proletariat of Russia is just as interested as the Jewish proletariat in abolishing the restrictive laws. That is why this demand is one which is common to the whole proletariat and not peculiar to the Jews. All the Russian comrades have hitherto always looked on the comrades from the Bund as good practical workers. I address myself to them as good practical workers: ought they not to admit that the existence in one and the same town of two different organisations, however closely these may be linked, must lead in time of struggle to undesirable delays and complications? The historical conditions call for quick decisions, but here they have to proceed by way of seeking agreement with each other. Finally, this has a harmful effect on propaganda, obscuring the class character of the struggle with a national element. [At this point Comrade Rusov was interrupted by the Chairman, as his time had run out, but the congress decided to let him continue.]

Another reason of principle for the existence of a special organisation of the Jewish proletariat showed through in the speech by the comrade rapporteur. He kept talking of the Bund as the representative of the Jewish proletariat in the Party. Such special representation would have sense if we were to accept the notion that the interests of the Jewish proletariat are, even if only on one point, in contradiction with those of the proletarians of the other nationalities of Russia. I think that there is no such contradiction, and there can be none, provided that we are speaking from a class standpoint and not a national one. I consider that every Party member is a representative of the entire proletariat of all Russia. If we are to recognise each delegate as being a representative of a national group of the proletariat, then I shall have to regard myself as representing the Russian, Georgian, Armenian, Tatar and Jewish proletariat living in Caucasia; but I willingly renounce this long title in favour of the flattering description of ‘representative of the proletariat of all Russia’. As is clear from all that I have said, I stand for the type of organisation by which in every town and in every district there would be a single Party organisation, carrying on agitation in whatever languages are required. But, taking account of the historical conditions which have brought about the special position of the Bund, I am obliged to give my support to Comrade Martov’s resolution. [Applause.]

Kostich: Proceeding (1) from the point in the resolution of the Fourth Congress of the Bund that ‘the congress considers that the concept of nationality applies to the Jewish people as well’ and (2) from the idea that Jewish national culture can develop freely only in a state constructed on principles of national autonomy, the Bund considers that the latter can be achieved only if it stands in a federal relationship with the RSDLP. Without touching on the question of the national culture of the Jews (though I see this in quite a different light from the Bund), I think that achievement of the essentials of the Bund’s demand can be fully expressed in a political structure which guarantees all those rights which are mentioned in Iskra ’s draft programme. These essentials will not be obtained by the Bund through a federal relationship with the Party, but only if there is no federalism, only if the Bund is completely united with the RSDLP. In my view, the Bund can regard itself, in accordance with the common program-me, as the sole bearer of freedom for the Jewish proletariat from the specific oppression it suffers only if the following three practical considerations are present. Let us suppose that this revolutionary Social-Democratic movement fails to fight seriously for certain demands in its programme, that it fails to summon the proletariat with all its strength to fight for these demands. Given a situation like that, revolutionary Social-Democracy would not be fully conscious, and then the Bund ought not to stand aloof from it, but rather ought to merge as closely as possible with it, striving to raise it to the high level of class consciousness on which the Bund itself stands. Not federation, but unity.

It could be that though we summon the workers to fight for these demands, they are accepted so reluctantly by the non-Jewish masses of the workers, the latter are so remote from these demands, that the democratic constitution which we establish is deficient precisely in relation to these demands. But federation will not cure this evil, it will only increase it, by isolating the non-Jews from the Jews and estranging them from one another through the specific Bundist agitation which is the basis of federation. Only complete unity makes it possible for the class consciousness of the proletariat to develop in this respect.

There remains the last of these imaginary situations. Both the revolutionary Social-Democrats and the proletariat led by them fight with all their strength for the demands set out above, but they do not succeed in winning them. However, I think that the Bundists’ scheme of federation is not likely to win them.

I mentioned earlier the harm done to the cause of the development of the class-consciousness of the proletariat by the Bundist agitation, in that it is inseparably connected with the federal principle which the Bund advocates. I have been able to see evidence of this harm in Odessa, where a Bundist organisation was set up a few months ago. The Bund justified its establishment by claiming that the Odessa Committee was not meeting the demands of the Jewish workers’ movement. The Bund conceived these demands in a special sense, not in the spirit of the Manifesto of the First Congress, since the Odessa Committee had been up to that time carrying on an intense agitation, along those lines, among the Jews. Indeed, only two years ago the Odessa Committee was being reproached for giving its exclusive attention to work among the Jews. The Bundist group appeared and its agitation soon assumed the form of asserting ‘we Jews must rely on our own strength, unite in a Jewish organisation’, and so on. This type of agitation will be inevitable if there is federation, and it is, in my opinion and in that of the comrade agitators, both Jews and non-Jews, something which runs counter to the only sort of agitation which Social-Democrats should carry on where the national question is concerned: there is ‘neither Jew nor Greek’ in the revolutionary Social-Democratic movement. Holding this view, I wholeheartedly support Martov’s resolution. As regards the incident with Trotsky, I consider the latter’s statement entirely pertinent, since I have often had it said to me when I have voiced my idea about the harmfulness of federation: ‘you are not a Jew’, and so forth. A similar attitude towards opponents of the federal principle is also apparent in the pamphlet: On the Question of National Autonomy.[20]

Lange: After Comrade Martov’s detailed speech and what previous speakers have said, I have not much to say. I only want to point out the attitude which is adopted by certain Jewish groups among the workers towards the proletariat of other nationalities and towards the Social-Democrats working in the Bund’s area. I have had some experience of this attitude, acquired in various localities of North Russia. What I have noticed is that there are groups of Jewish workers, among whom we almost always find Bundist workers in leading positions, who take up a very special attitude, showing little interest in anything that goes on among the proletariat of other nationalities. Social-Democratic workers always have considerable difficulty in seeking them out and making contact with them, and always need to struggle hard and long in order to draw them out of their state of national isolation. Significant here is, undoubtedly, the bias which the leaders of these groups, former Bundists, have acquired under the influence of the education they received when they were in the Bund. It is obvious that such consequences of Bundist education (resulting from the fundamentals of their party rules) cannot facilitate the cause of the victory of the proletariat (either Russian or Jewish) over its common foe. Besides, I am not clear whether the committee in a place where a small group of Jewish workers of this sort exists has the right to enter into dealings with them and give leadership to them without the knowledge of the Central Committee of the Bund. From the point in the rules of the Bund’s Fifth Congress which was read to us here by Comrade Lieber it follows that the committee does not have this right, though that contradicts all the fundamentals of our programme, and ordinary common sense into the bargain. So long as the Bund is unwilling to treat the national question as secondary, friction is inevitable.

Martynov: We Social-Democrats must be guided by the principle set forth in the Communist Manifesto : ‘In the struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, the Communists single out and fight for the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.’ The Bund, judging by the draft rules which have been presented to us, ‘singles out and fights for’ the national interests of a particular proletariat. It works for the national isolation of the Jewish proletariat. I shall not spend a long time proving the truth of this statement, but merely refer to the places in their draft in which it is plainly revealed. [Reads passages from Articles 2, 3, 10, 11 and 12 of the Bund resolution.] Given the fact that this is the character of the Bund’s proposed rules, I fully concur with the resolution moved by Comrade Martov; but I regard it as inadequate. We must combat the Bund’s harmful tendency towards national isolation of the Jewish proletariat, but we are not against the Bund in general. We value its great historical services and do not wish to break up this force which has been shaped by history—we only want to subordinate it to the Party. This ought to be said in the resolution.

Abramson: The comrade from Odessa described the activity of the Bund to us in strange and ‘fearful’ form. We Bundists were said to bring discord everywhere, to be separatists, nationalists, and so on. In support of his statements he quoted to us various anecdotes about Bundist agitators making some dreadful speeches at certain meetings, and then referred to his private conversations with certain Bundists. In so far as he thought it necessary to operate at this congress with ‘facts’ of that order, it is not worth my replying to him. Really to define the role played by the Bund it would be necessary to go into its history, into the history of the All-Russia revolutionary Social-Democratic movement, of which the comrade from Odessa has only a very vague notion. I am not going to expound our history here, except to recall such well-known facts as the participation of the Bund in the convening of the First Congress of the RSDLP and in the last Party Conference, which was held last year, and which gave us the idea of the Organising Committee.

The Bund is accused of preaching distrust of the non-Jewish proletariat. This charge is based on the fact that it organises the Jewish proletariat separately. In this connection, one comrade here described as a ‘regrettable mistake’ the fact that at the Party’s First Congress the Bund was given autonomous status. It is unnecessary to answer such a charge.

Comrade Martov said that the very formation of the Bund arose from abnormal conditions. From this we can conclude that now, when conditions have become normal, the Bund has lost its raison d’être. I would ask Comrade Martov to explain what criterion he uses to define normal historical conditions. Does he consider that even today, for instance, we are living in normal conditions?

Some speakers objected to Article 2 of our rules that it excludes the possibility of anyone apart from the Bund working among the Jewish proletariat. This view is based on a misunderstanding. In demanding that the Bund be the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat in the Party we are not in the least saying that nobody else shall dare to work among the Jewish workers. We merely lay it down that the Bund is the only organisation which works exclusively among the Jewish proletariat, and therefore it must be recognised as possessing the right to be the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat. Comrade Martov, after analysing all the points in our rules, came to the conclusion that what showed through them all was the concept of a treaty, and he would not accept this. My comrade in our delegation has already said, and I now repeat this, that we are putting the rules before you not as an ultimatum but as a basis for discussion, point by point—a discussion in the course of which some points may be modified at this congress.

Lyadov (giving an illustration of the Bund’s tactics): At a meeting held in Berlin for the purpose of protesting against the events in Kishinev, the members of the Bund who were present tried to turn this meeting for common protest into an exclusively Jewish occasion.

Rusov: I take the floor to defend myself against certain attacks made by the comrades from the Bund. Neither I nor any of the comrades who have spoken referred to the Bund as a harmful organisation, and nobody sought to belittle the importance of the Bund in the Party. I merely pointed to an undesirable consequence that has followed from the decision of the First Congress: instead of having, in the West of Russia, organisations of a single Party, working in all the local languages, we have propaganda carried on exclusively in Yiddish. That is what I regard as an abnormal thing—and that alone. Moreover, the fact that a Bundist committee was formed in Odessa confirmed my idea that organisational separatism exists: the Bund established a committee of its own in Odessa on the grounds that the local Party committee does not satisfy the requirements of the Jewish proletariat, that is, it does not carry on sufficient agitation and propaganda among the Jewish masses. The natural conclusion to draw from this situation would have been to ask the local committee to admit to its ranks a group of one’s own energetic workers. That is an approach very different from setting up a committee of one’s own. The comrade from the Bund said that it is not that the Russian comrades have anything against work among the Jews, but that ‘in actual fact they cannot do it’. I think this is quite untrue. To carry on our Party work it is necessary, first, to be a Social-Democrat, and, secondly, to know the local language, or, if one doesn’t know it, to have an interpreter. And for this there is no need for any special national organisation to exist. I find that the existence of the Bund has given rise to separatism. The strength of the Bund does not give it the right to live exclusively for the Jewish proletariat. I would ask the comrade from the Bund to explain to me why it is possible in Caucasia for Russian comrades and comrades of other nationalities to work together in a single organisation. Our Central Committee is not, according to the Bund’s rules, to be the supreme institution: in it the opinions of members of various organisations, and not simply of Party members, are to be represented. Among the Bundists there are experienced practical workers who can enter the Central Committee—not, though, as members of the Bund, but as experienced revolutionaries. The place of a central organ is to be taken, according to the Bund’s rule, by a federal parliament.

Orlov: In complete agreement with what the comrade from Baku has said, I want to mention the harmful consequences that have resulted from the Bund’s attempts to set up its own committees in South Russia. As an example I will take a case of this kind which occurred fairly recently in Yekaterinoslav. In that town, as you know, agitation and propaganda have long been carried on among the Jewish craftsmen. So far back as 1896 planned activity in that direction is recorded. During the whole of this period we know of no complaints and no expressions of discontent on the part of the Jewish proletariat regarding unsatisfactory defence of their interests or unsatisfactory conduct of agitation, in the sense of ignoring the legal oppression to which they are subject. The Jewish comrades have worked hand in hand with the Russians; together they have fought against exploitation by capital, together they have made their protest against the existing order, against political tyranny. Community of interests and the same state of economic dependence have been the bond linking the urban craftsmen with the factory proletariat. It never occurred to anyone that the Jewish proletariat had special interests which it did not share with the proletariat as a whole. I repeat, the committee never received any complaints on that score, and it seems that there was nothing for the Bund to do here, even following the resolution of its Fourth Congress. But our comrades from the Bund did not .see the matter in that light. A few months ago, a representative of the Bund arrived in Yekaterinoslav for the particular purpose of setting up a Bundist committee there. It must be mentioned that all this was done informally, but that has been the way with the Bund’s tactics in recent times: the ground is first prepared and then, when some organised group already exists, they emerge as a committee. It is understood that in Yekaterinoslav, as generally in the South of Russia, given the previously mentioned circumstances, agitation in favour of separating off the Jewish proletariat into a special organisation has to be carried on in the spirit of the existence of special interests of the Jewish proletariat which are to be defended by means of a sufficiently solid organisation consisting exclusively of Jewish workers.

This agitation aroused a storm of indignation among the advanced workers, both Jewish and non-Jewish: they pointed out that activity such as this would stir up distrust and national hatred between members of one and the same family; that this division of forces would lead to a weakening of the movement; that the Jewish workers had no special interests, and so on. When I was present at a mass meeting of workers I had to reply to the question why a separate organisation for the Jews was needed. After all, the workers said, we have worked together for a long time without feeling any inconvenience, but only benefit, from doing so, and now suddenly it is said that we must split up, the Jews being organised separately from the non-Jews. Why is this necessary? Why, in general, does the Bund exist? I was put in an awkward position: on the one hand, I knew the rules of 1898, by which the Bund had been given autonomy in relation to questions concerning the Jewish proletariat, that is, autonomy of a purely technical kind (questions of agitation and propaganda): this autonomy was conditioned by the fact that the Bund had to work among a proletariat speaking only Yiddish and living in distinctive circumstances. The title: ‘General Jewish Workers’ Union in Russia and Poland’ does not itself proclaim that the area of activity of this organisation is unlimited, since in it there is, for example, no mention of the principal area where the Bund is active, namely, Lithuania.[21] Evidently, Lithuania is here embraced by the word ‘Russia’. On the other hand, Bundist Committees exist in the South of Russia. So, if were to explain the expediency and legitimacy of the existence of the Bund on the basis that it is a special organisation for work in Lithuania and Poland, then it could have no business in Russia. The entire Yekaterinoslav Committee was put in this embarrassing position. There was nothing to be done but to speak out sharply and openly against the separatist tendencies of the Bund and its national programme. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the committee, where it was decided to hold mass meetings at which the question of nationalism and internationalism would be explained, and then a statement made regarding the national programme of the Bund and its principle of federation. Fortunately, for certain reasons we did not have to do this. I say ‘fortunately’, because the Bundists’ attempt suffered defeat without any need for this. The Yekaterinoslav comrades, it turned out, understood the interests of the Jewish proletariat better than the leaders of the Bund did.

Passing now to the question of the Bund’s place in the Party, I, of course, deny absolutely both the possibility of enlarging the field of activity of the Bund, without damage to the Party, and the need for this. But at the same time I dispute on general grounds the need for a separate Jewish organisation to exist. We know, after all, that the Bund has recently started to work also among workers of other nationalities Russians, Poles, Letts, and so on. To be logical, the Bund ought to have separated off these groups into special committees, since the Bund exists as an organisation for defending the interests of and representing the Jewish proletariat, according to its own claims. The existence of two committees would lead to everlasting disputes and disagreements which would weaken the movement of the proletariat of Russia. For us, as upholders of the idea of centralism, it is unnecessary to demonstrate the harm that can ensue from the existence in one town of two centres of leadership. In the light of all this I propose that a territorial union be set up in the area of Poland and Lithuania, which could be called the North-Western Union of the RSDLP’. The Bund would enter this territorial organisation as one of its sections. In every town we should have only one committee of this Union, which would work among the proletariat of all nationalities. This would give the work of our Party a planned character and would radically solve the so-called question of the Bund. It would also solve the question of our attitude to a possible unification with the Social-Democrats of Poland and Lithuania. The Social-Democratic movement of Poland and Lithuania would also enter this organisation, as a group working in the same territory. In thus explaining my view on the so-called question of the Bund, I have made it clear that I am sharply opposed to the rules presented by the Bund’s Fifth Congress, and I support Martov’s motion.

Brouckère: It seems to me that the ‘logical illogicality’ by virtue of which discussion of the place of the Bund in the Party was put at the head of our agenda has already made itself apparent. The congress decides that it cannot enter into any treaty with the Bund as a distinct ‘negotiating party’ and yet it discusses this treaty, and analyses it. On the other hand, though the Bund declares that its rules do not constitute a treaty put forward on behalf of one side, its proposal relates only to the Bund, as to a special section, differing from all other sections of the Party, and its rules are put forward as rules only for itself, only for the Bund. I cannot accept the federal principle of organisation, but if the Bund had put forward a general plan of Party organisation, and this had been marked by the democratic tendency with which the Bund’s own organisation is permeated, with the principle of representation of all districts of the Party, I should have supported it, for the lake of this tendency and this principle. The Bund cites, as its only argument for the need to organise the Jewish proletariat separately, the special character of the latter’s legal situation. I think that it is just this special legal situation that ought to make us seek the closest rapprochement between the Jewish proletariat and the proletariat of other nations. For the Jewish proletariat, which is specially oppressed in regard to its national interests, the need to assert its national rights has matured and, moreover, this is fully understood by it, and therefore joint work by this proletariat with the proletariat of other nations will help awareness of the need for social rights to grow among the latter as well.

Lieber: I note that what we are discussing here is the question whether an independent organisation of the Jewish proletariat is needed. A strange question has been raised—is the Bund needed at all? Such a question can be raised now, in the sixth year since the foundation of the Bund, after it has played such an outstanding role in the history of our Party, only by persons who have forgotten their kindred. [The chairman asks the speaker to calm down.] I am amazed to hear the history of the Bund described in such a way here. When the Bund arose the Jewish labour movement presented an impressive picture. A revolutionary wave swept over the whole area in which the Jewish proletariat lives. The Bund transformed pariahs into a huge revolutionary force, but our comrades did not see this. With bitterness I must say that the Government appreciated the results of our work better than our own comrades. Let them prove to us that the tactics of the Bund contradict the principles of international socialism. If we spoke in terms of a Party of the Jewish proletariat, we were not in such bad company. Rosa Luxemburg and the Vorstand[22] of the German Social-Democratic Party also used the expression: ‘Party of the Polish Proletariat’. The comrade from Caucasia told us that the Bund is nationalistic because it seeks to organise separately the workers of one nationality. On the question of organisation Rosa Luxemburg proposes that the organisation of the Polish Social-Democrats should concern itself with all matters relating to all Polish workers living in Germany. The comrade from Caucasia is afraid that the Bund, in seeking to organise the Jewish proletariat, may not be confined by territorial limits and may soon even cross the borders of the Russian Empire. Oh, what a terrible thing that would be!

We are told that, wherever the Bund works, it works in a nationalistic way. How is it possible for the comrade from Caucasia to forget all the manifestations of solidarity shown by the Jewish proletariat? Finally, in some towns the Bund works even among Christians.

Trotsky: I listened with astonishment to Comrade Lieber’s statement that we wish to destroy the Bund. What does he mean? That we want to destroy those physical individuals who belong to the Bund organisation? That we want to destroy the fruitful work in developing the consciousness of the Jewish proletariat which the Bund is doing and which Comrade Lieber exphasised? Or that we want to ‘destroy’ the Bund only in the special form of its position in the Party?[23]

The Bund, as the sole representative of the interests of the Jewish proletariat in the Party and before the Party—or the Bund as a special Party organisation for agitation and propaganda among the Jewish proletariat? That is how the question can be put. And, if one acknowledges the need for the Bund to exist independently in this second sense, it is possible for it to enter the Party as a subordinate organisation possessing a defined sphere of independence within the limits of the task assigned to it. In that case there can be no question of special safeguards for the Bund against encroachments by the Party. Yet it is Just safeguards that the Bund wants to establish. This is quite openly expressed in the celebrated Article 12 of the rules which have been put before us. It is nothing but distrust of the Party as a whole given the form of a rule. The constitution of our Party can, according to the project presented to us by the Bund comrades, be changed not in the usual way, by a vote of the majority, but by agreement between the interested parties so that, as the rapporteur put it, we would not be able at subsequent congresses to suppress the Bund, that is, ‘the interests of the Jewish proletariat’. If the Bund, lacking confidence in the Party, is by this embodiment of ‘the idea of a fourth estate’ demanding safeguards, that we can understand. But how can we put our signatures to this demand? It would mean restricting our freedom, and the freedom of our successors, to make decisions. And why? So as to prevent suppression of the legitimate interests of the Jewish proletariat by the Party, that is, in order to insure ourselves against committing an act of betrayal. To accept such conditions would mean that we acknowledged our own moral and political bankruptcy, it would mean committing moral and political suicide. The congress will not do that.

Comrade Martynov found Martov’s resolution inadequate, as it does not define the future position of the Bund. But that is not its task. Its only task is categorically to reject the treaty (federal) principle as the principle of Party organisation. Therefore, I support it. After rejecting federation we are left with the task of working out a form of existence for the Bund as a section within a united party. This we shall do when we discuss Party organisation. We reject the federal principle, although Comrade Lieber said in his first speech, and repeated in his second, that federation is the highest form of centralism. He produced no evidence for this on either occasion, and yet such evidence would not be superfluous. If I were to assert that the Romanov bureaucracy is the highest form of existence of republican liberties I should be uttering a paradox no greater than Comrade Lieber’s. Inside each of a set of federated organisations (parties) the principle of centralism can, of course, prevail. But a united, centralised party does, of course, mean that internal federalism is ruled out.

A few words regarding the incident caused by my statement this morning about Martov’s resolution. Comrade Stein said that my statement was ‘out-of-place’, but he did not manage to explain why, as his own speech proved to be ‘out-of-place’ in the debate and was cut short by the chairman. Comrade Lieber called my statement a piece of gross tactlessness. What had I said? To the Bund’s claim to the role of sole representative of the Jewish proletariat I replied by pointing out that many comrades who have worked and are working among the Jewish workers do not belong to the Bund, and yet regard themselves as being, for all that, no less representatives of the Jewish proletariat, as a proletariat. I mentioned that these comrades are Jews. Why? So as to block the favourite argument of Bund publicists—a poverty-stricken argument—that opponents of the Bund’s position know nothing about the psychology of the ‘Jewish proletariat’. Where was the gross tactlessness in that?

But Comrade Lieber shouted out that these Jews have never worked among the Jewish proletariat. Does this mean that he was casting doubt on the correctness of what I had said? Of course not. Such a supposition would be too insulting to Comrade Lieber. One is left to assume that work among the Jewish proletariat which is not carried out under the supervision of the Bund is not classed as work by Comrade Lieber. I suggest that he himself elucidate this misunderstanding.

In reply to Comrade Lieber’s attacks on the agenda we have adopted I must say that I, on the contrary, consider that this agenda was the best possible. True, the question of ‘the place of the Bund in the Party’, put before us as the first point on the agenda, was necessarily complicated by historical allusions and discussions on programme and tactics. But this was not due to the agenda but to the very nature of the question. If we had postponed it till after our consideration of programme and tactics, the complications of this question would not have been eliminated. These complications would have affected all our work on programmatic, tactical and organisational questions in a concealed, and therefore illegitimate fashion. By settling the radical difference between us we are freeing our hands for our subsequent tasks.

To conclude. Where the Party is to confine the Bund to a definite area or to recognise it as an All-Russia organisation for propaganda and agitation in the Yiddish language, in either case the Bund must be a subordinate section of the Party, and not a ‘party to negotiations’. The rules, drawn up by the Fifth Congress of the Bund, which have been presented to us, have as their function, as a comrade neatly put it to me in conversation, to raise a wall between us and the Bund and strew the top of this wall with broken glass. The congress must speak out unanimously against the erection of this wall.

Muravyov: I fully agree with Comrade Trotsky that such statements as that ‘there is no higher form of centralisation than federation’ need to be not just uttered but proved. Also, I hope that Comrade Lieber is now quite clear about the difference between the concepts ‘autonomy’ and ‘federation’. In view of the fact that the question now awaiting decision by the congress amounts to the question ‘autonomy or federation?’ I think I should explain what I understand to be their respective meanings. Autonomy assumes that the several autonomous sections of a whole are absolutely subordinate to this whole. Contrariwise, the form of unity known as federation is characterised by the fact that the mutual relations between the sections composing it can be altered only by consent of all the several sections. It is time to start calling things by their right names. The draft treaty laid before us by the delegates of the Bund is in fact a plan for re-structuring the Party on federal principles. The congress’s mind is now, it seems to me, sufficiently made up for us, perhaps, to be able to take a vote on the question. The delegates of the Bund have up to now expressed themselves very inadequately and indefinitely on the presuppositions of principle which have moved them to defend the need for their ‘project’, and which have been analysed adequately only by their opponents. Thus, for example, we should very much like to know what Comrade Lieber meant by the words: ‘the relation of social forces in the Jewish nation is quantitatively different from what it is in other nationalities’. Again, according to the same speaker, the distinctive language spoken by the Jewish proletariat ‘facilitates technical work only, and autonomy is not needed for that’. Also left unanswered by the delegates of the Bund was the argument of their opponents that the exceptional position of the Jews with regard to their status as citizens of Russia cannot provide an argument for the Bund to be separated off, in a federal relationship with the Party. In exactly the same way, according to Comrade Lieber, the territorial conditions in which the Jewish proletariat live cannot provide a basis for a demand for autonomy, since from that point of view every local organisation ought to be as autonomous as the Bund. Finally, there is Comrade Lieber’s phrase that ‘there are no questions in the organisational sphere that would not affect the Jewish proletariat, and so it is autonomous in all organisational questions’—this phrase in particular because it was expressed in so general a form as to be meaningless. From what I have said it follows that it is very desirable that the delegates of the Bund should explain in detail their views on the question of federation, from the standpoint of principle.

Stepanov: Comrades, I have allowed myself to make use of my right to speak. But, as the comrade from Baku has said everything that can be said on this matter from the practical angle, it is left to me to give you just a few personal observations. I am a representative of the Kiev organisation and I have become convinced by personal experience of the damage caused by separating off the Jewish proletariat. In order to smooth over the effects of this separation, the Kiev Committee has recently taken a number of measures to unite the craftsmen’s organisations, which consist of Jews, with the factory organisations, which are purely Russian. The stumbling block in the way of such unification was interference by the Bund. The Bund thought it necessary to interfere because, they said, the Kiev Committee was not giving satisfaction to the needs of the Jewish proletariat.

This was clearly conveyed by the representative whom the Central Committee of the Bund formally despatched to Kiev, and who was told by the Kiev Committee that the CC of the Bund was violating the decision of the First Party Congress. This decision says that the Bund cannot, as an independent organisation, carry on revolutionary work in localities where an organisation of the mixed variety already exists. This did not stop the representative of the CC of the Bund, and there is now an organisation of the Bund in Kiev—not formally, to be sure, but it does exist. What the results of its work may be I do not know, but I am profoundly convinced that it is doing harm. When the Russian workers learnt that a branch of the Bund had been opened, they were deeply angered by this demonstration of distrust towards the Russian comrades who are fighting alongside them against the common enemy, the Russian autocracy. And some Jewish workers, too, have reacted negatively to the establishment of an independent Jewish organisation. [Applause.]

Lvov: Comrades, we are still being accused of acting illogically in putting the question of the Bund at the head of the agenda. We are charged with having thereby transformed our congress into a constituent one. No, comrades from the Bund, it is you who have turned our ordinary congress into a constituent congress by presenting us with the draft treaty’ which we heard this morning. Why, you want to carry out a revolution in our Party! And it is not only thanks to the agenda we chose that we have learnt the intentions of the Bund so soon. In his heated speech, Comrade Lieber called us ‘people who have forgotten their kindred’. I protest most energetically against that! I myself worked in the Russian Social-Democratic organisations which prepared the First Party Congress, and I know very well what an honourable role was played by the Bund in the founding of our Party. And the overwhelming majority of the previous speakers have said the same. It is all the more instructive to compare the Bund’s previous role and place in the Party with what has happened since the famous Fourth Congress. Before then, the Bund was in the closest and liveliest relations, to the best of my knowledge, with many Southern organisations, rendering us many services in the sphere of transport and technique, and concentrating its activity in Lithuania and Byelorussia. As the Fourth Congress approached, and especially clearly after that Congress, when the Bund openly took the line of federalism, relations between us got worse. The Bund began to hold aloof from the Russian organisations, and began to the work independently in places where Russian Committees had already been formed. Disputes started breaking out everywhere. Thanks to the Bund, the gulf between Christians and Jews grew ever wider. That is what has happened to the Bund lately.

I think it is instructive to remember what happened as a result of the separatist policy of the Bund in Poland, its estrangement in Lithuania and Poland from the Polish and Lithuanian socialists. From the very beginning of the Bund the Polish Socialists called upon the Bundists to merge with the Polish organisation. The separatism of the Bund created favourable soil in Poland for continual squabbles and exacerbated relations between the Christian and Jewish workers. The same danger threatens us if the Bund fails to merge very closely with us. As representative of the Mining and Metallurgical Association I cannot refrain from mentioning, to supplement what the comrades from the South have said, that among us, although there are a fair number of Jewish craftsmen, the absence of a Bundist organisation has never hindered our work. On the contrary, relations between the factory workers and the Jewish craftsmen are very good. Our association carries on active propaganda among the craftsmen, and they render it great services. If the Bund were to appear, the craftsmen would all be shut up in their own little circles, and the work of common Social-Democratic agitation would suffer a serious setback. Comrade Lieber refers to Rosa Luxemburg. But references to Germany, with its constitutional system, where also the national unions of which Rosa Luxemburg speaks are frequently of a purely cultural nature, are quite unconvincing. We are in Russia, and it is unthinkable to compare our organisation so mechanically as this with those which exist in Europe. Comrade Lieber ended his speech with an emotional reminder of the great role played by the Bund in the work of uniting our Party. But for that very reason it is all the more painful to see what has happened now. The Caucasian comrades said that it is impossible to forgive the mistake we committed in giving the Bund such a privileged position in the Party. For my part, I say that it is impossible not to regret that our Russian organisation should have lagged in its development so far behind the growth of the Bund, thereby enabling the latter to move away from the Party and to develop pernicious tendencies within itself.

To the same extent as, at the end of the 1890’s, the Bund played the role of uniter in our Party, so now it is acting as a divisive force among us. The Bund is not uniting us, but dividing us. Today, comrades of the Bund, you have revealed your true face to us. All that remains is for me to thank you with all my heart for having at last put your cards on the table!

The session was closed



[17] Karsky (Topuridze) and Rusov (Knunyants) were Georgian and Armenian, respectively.2

[18] By ‘Tatar’, Rusov means here Azeri, the Turkic language spoken in Azerbaijan. It was common in Russia in those days to speak of the Moslem people of that country as ‘the Tatars of Azerbaijan’.

[19] ‘The Pale of Settlement’. In Tsarist Russia at this time Jews were not allowed to reside permanently outside an area in the South-West corresponding to the parts of Poland annexed in 1772 and after, plus some other territories in the Ukraine which were thinly-inhabited when annexed and needed colonisation.

[20] The Bund’s pamphlet On the Question of National Autonomy was published in February 1902.

[21] The background to Orlov’s remarks was that the Bund had been active originally in Lithuania (which in those days often meant Byelorussia as well as Lithuania proper) and had only later started to spread its activity into places further South, such as Yekaterinoslav (now Dniepropetrovsk), Odessa and Kiev.

[22] Vorstand. The leadership of the German Social-Democratic Party.

[23] Trotsky on the resolution of the 5th Congress of the Bund: ‘Whereas previously, at least in theory, the Bund was the representative of the interests of the Social-Democratic Party among a section of the Jewish proletariat, it was now transformed into the representative of the interests of the Jewish proletariat before the Social-Democratic Party.’ (Report of the Siberian Delegation, p. 10.)