Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Sixth Session

(Present: 42 delegates with 51 deciding votes and 9 with consultative voice.)

Chairman: As the minutes are not ready yet, let us get on with the discussion without reading them. I call on Comrade Karsky.

Karsky: I begin my observations in chronological order. First, I want to answer Comrade Abramson, who assured us that the rules were being put before us only for discussion and not as an ultimatum. However, that what he is offering us is not offered as an ultimatum does not mean that what underlies it is not a nationalist point of view. Then, Comrade Lieber replied to me particularly sharply, even angrily, as though I had carelessly touched a sore spot. He quoted from Rosa Luxemburg, while himself attacking Martynov for quoting from the Communist Manifesto, and declared that ‘you won’t frighten us with quotations’. That’s right, you won’t frighten us with quotations. If Rosa Luxemburg did agree with the Bund’s project it would be a different matter, but I think her attitude to this would be a negative one. Comrade Lieber claimed that I said that ever since the Bund was formed it has been departing from the framework of Social-Democracy. But in fact I only said that it has been doing this in the last two years. We have been told that we belittle the importance of the Bund in the Social-Democratic movement. That is not so. We all respect the Bund’s activity, but the Bund is itself belittling its own importance by abandoning the principles of Social-Democracy.

Before examining Lieber’s arguments, I want to say a few words about Comrade Brouckère, who alleged that only the Bund fully understands the rights of nations, that the Jewish proletariat has become conscious of these rights, whereas the Russian proletariat has remained unconscious of them, and that this provides the Bund with a raison d’étre for independent existence. I don’t think the Bund will care to defend that position. Such a view assumes too low a level of consciousness on the part of the movement’s leaders. Let me repeat some propositions of Comrade Lieber’s. The Bund aspires to be the representative not merely of a territorially restricted proletariat but of the whole Jewish proletariat in general, and to be its sole representative. I cannot call this principle anything but nationalistic, since the Bund is guided in this case not by the general principles of Social-Democracy but merely by the fact that a proletariat belongs to a certain nation. The point of departure here is not language, or conditions of life, or level of consciousness, but the fact of belonging to the Jewish nationality, to the Jewish religion. This principle can be called nationalistic. It is strange that Lieber got angry when I described this principle in that way, instead of proving that it does not underlie the Bund’s rules. If he will bring forward a different principle, I will withdraw what I said. I recall that two years ago Lieber and I had occasion to speak against the Zionists, and he then attacked them for their nationalist principles. The Jewish nation is a fiction, he said. Yet now he puts forward a nationalistic principle as the basis of his programme.[24] I move on to the question of how it will be possible to prevent the friction created by the parallel existence of two organisations; how, without friction, elements are to be drawn out of the general mass into each of these organisations. To do this it would be necessary to point to the existence of a difference of interests between the two proletariats. One cannot set up two committees without giving prominence to such a difference. Consequently, we create conditions that lead not towards unity but towards separation into a distinct party. On the other hand, we should be weakening the Party by detaching from it such a powerful element as the Jewish proletariat.

Bekov: Comrade Lieber said that the Bund’s opponents forget the services it has rendered, and even called us persons who had forgotten their kindred. I protest against this. Nobody forgets the Bund’s services. But that does not mean that we recognise as a great service also the proposal made yesterday by the Bund. Lieber will agree, I suppose, that Social-Democrats must strive towards the unification and merging of all organisations, and must not permit without extreme necessity the appearance of national organisations. In order to show that the Bund and other organisations can exist, or be born anew, one needs to show whether conditions exist for the birth of new organisations, and continued existence of old ones, of a national character. Here the idea has been put forward that the basis for the separate existence of the Bund as a national organisation is: (1) a different relationship of social forces and (2) different legal conditions. Lieber did not say much about the first point, merely mentioning the absence among the Jews of a peasantry and a nobility. But how does one get from that circumstance to the existence of a special national organisation? The second point was sufficiently dealt with yesterday. I would merely recall that every Social-Democratic movement fights against every form of oppression, and that applies also, therefore, to the Social-Democratic movement in Russia. Arguing for the separate existence of the Bund, Lieber yesterday defended the opposite position. The Bund, he said, agitates not only among the Jewish proletariat but also among workers of other nationalities. That is certainly a great merit—but why, then, put forward a point according to which no organisation is to be allowed to address the Jewish proletariat except with the consent of the Bund? Here the Bund is going counter to the demands of life, which have obliged the Bund itself to expand the field of its agitation. But then Comrade Lieber made a last attempt to justify his views on the need for national organisations to exist, making use of the method of analogy. It would be possible to restrict oneself to saying that an analogy is not a proof. Nevertheless, I say that the reference made to Rosa Luxemburg in this connection is quite misplaced. That the PPS[25] did not agree with Rosa Luxemburg’s formulation is easily understood, but it is also no less understandable that Rosa Luxemburg wished by this formulation merely to take a step towards rapprochement with the PPS. Comrade Lieber surely does not doubt that Rosa Luxemburg, like every other Social-Democrat has as her ideal the merging of all national organisations into one strong united party. The same analogy could be made in relation to the Caucasian proletariat. I think, though, that the mere fact that a nationality exists is not enough to prove that it is right for a national organisation to be set up. And it must be said that the Union of Armenian Social-Democrats did not and does not exist: it was nothing but a signboard.

Abramson: I must make a factual correction to the speech delivered yesterday by the representative of the Mining and Metallurgical Workers. I will make several such corrections. The comrade representative of the Mining and Metallurgical Association, seeking to discredit the Bund and to illustrate that ‘divisive influence’ (his words) which the Bund allegedly exerts everywhere, mentioned the relations between the Bund and the PPS in Poland. But the facts of which he spoke tell a quite different story. The history of the relations between the Bund and the PPS is a history of struggle by the Bund against that party, a struggle which always encountered only sympathy in the ranks of our party. But even with the PPS the Bund tried to enter into temporary agreements for practical undertakings, as happened this year for the celebration of the First of May. Agreement was not achieved, because the PPS demanded that the Bund march in the demonstrations under the flag of the PPS and we could not accept that. As against the facts quoted by the representative of the Mining and Metallurgical Workers, we must point to our relations with the Polish Social-Democrats. While refusing to demonstrate alongside the PPS, we did demonstrate together with the Polish Social-Democrats. The story of our relations with the PPS serves as a lesson to all the Bund’s opponents, all who want to destroy it at any cost and who look with scorn upon the Bund [Protests.]

Chairman: I protest against Comrade Abramson’s statement and ask that my protest be recorded in the minutes.

Lenin: I think that what Comrade Lvov said was that the Bund talks about scorn for the Jewish proletariat. Comrade Abramson evidently took this as meaning scorn for the Bund. [Protest.]

Lenin: I ask that this be recorded in the minutes.

Abramson: I withdraw what I said.

Lenin: Let us look out for that when the minutes are read.

Abramson: Furthermore, in reply to the big talk by the representative of Yekaterinoslav about the Bundist organisations in that town, I state categorically that no such organisations have been formed in Yekaterinoslav. Whether we have the right to form them is another matter. I think we have that right. But we have not done anything of the sort. The comrade said that the Bund has set up some informal organisation, and he does not want to believe us. I have already replied to that. As for Karsky’s speech, which was besprinkled with the words ‘nationalism’, ‘bourgeois-ness’ … [Protests: ‘He said nothing about “bourgeois-ness”!’]

Abramson: (continuing): … it must be said that this comrade substitutes the word ‘nationalistic’ for the word ‘national’. For him it is enough that the proletariat of some nation has created its own organisation for it to have taken the path of nationalism. There is no need to prove the falsity of this view. Incidentally, about the Armenian Union. It doesn’t matter whether it exists or not. What matters is that it published a manifesto of the Union of Armenian Social-Democrats, and Iskra welcomed this new national union, and did not see in it either chauvinism or nationalism or any other such sins as Comrade Karsky bestows so generously on all national organisations.[26] The question of how to prevent friction arising from the existence of two organisations can be asked only by persons who have, in general, a poor notion of what is involved in the existence side by side of different organisations. We have the examples of Riga, of Lodz, where organisations were set up among the German workers. The ‘friction’ in Kiev and Odessa proved nothing. It is only the legacy of abnormal general conditions. The other comrade from Caucasia said that the Bund itself has begun to work among Christians and yet at the same time demands restrictions on approaches to the Jews by other nationalities. But the point to which he referred does not say that. The Bund, too, has no right to approach the proletariat of other nationalities without the consent of the appropriate organisations—precisely so as to avoid friction.

Martynov: Yesterday’s discussion convinced me still more strongly of the soundness of what I said about Comrade Martov’s resolution. We have to fight against the Bund’s tendency towards national isolation, but in doing this we must not break up the real organised force which the Bund has created in the Western Territory. Abramson’s objections did not convince me. In Article 1 of the Bund’s draft it is said that the Bund enters the Party as the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat. I stress, ‘as the sole representative’, though Abramson put the emphasis on the words ‘enters the Party’. And this is not just a phrase. Concrete conclusions are drawn from it in the draft rules; in particular, that the CC of the Party has no right to address the Jewish proletariat without the consent of the CC of the Bund. I turn to the matter of representation—not in the sense that the Bund was to have a representative on the CC of the Party, but on the question of whose representative he is to be. He is to be the representative of the Jewish proletariat with regard to matters which are specially Jewish, in the capacity of a sort of consul, with a mandate to defend the interests of his state, and not like each of us, in the capacity of a representative of the Party at large. Here we see the tendency of the Bund to break up the unity of the Social-Democratic party. I have not yet spoken about the attempt to limit the freedom of the Party congress. I have no doubt about the separatist tendencies of the Bund, I regard them as harmful, and I propose that the congress declare itself against them. But, I repeat, we are not fighting against the Bund, as an organisation which is strong and which has historical services to its credit, and we want to preserve it. That this too ought to be said in the resolution was shown by the speech of the Yekaterinoslav comrades, who struck the Bund off the map of Russia’s Social-Democratic movement. That was a very fantastic proposal. As regards the Bund, it seems to me, we ought to pass Martov’s resolution with the addition that the Bund joins the Party …

Martov: It is already in the Party.

Martynov: Yes, but it ought to be subordinate to the general Party organisation. It is now in the Party in the form in which it was organised before its Fourth Congress, that is, before it began to introduce federalistic principles.

Martov: I want to say something about Martynov’s concluding words. I do not think we can vote on his proposal about the Bund’s entry into the Party. The Bund has already entered the Party. There is also no point in talking about our intention to preserve the Bund, since nobody has sought to destroy it, and a phrase about preserving the Bund could not serve to appease the Bundists, since it is clear that we have not been arguing about the abolition of the Bund. When one speaks about the abnormal position occupied by the Bund as a result of exceptional historical conditions, that does not mean that one is talking of abolishing it. Our relations with the Bund were expressed in the phrase about the difficulties which such a position would place in the way of the closest rapprochement with the Jewish proletariat. We hope that by further work we may succeed in working out new relations. This is a long way from proposing a mechanical alteration in what has been shaped by history. Moreover, we do not deny the services rendered by the Bund generally, and, in particular, in the matter of unification. It was just because of our memories of those days, the days of our First Congress, that we wanted to discuss our present relationship. The Bund’s Fifth Congress was held quite recently. Was it normal that at this congress, held before our Party congress, the opinion of the Russian comrades was not heard? After all, the Bund was represented in the OC. Did the OC know that a congress was being prepared at which it would be desirable for the views of the Russian comrades to be given a hearing? And in saying this I do not want to make a point of the fact that the comrade from the Bund forgot about the existence of the OC. I only want to show how it is that awkward situations have been created, as now with this proffering to us of a treaty. By rejecting this treaty we have put the Bundist comrades in an awkward situation. This would not have happened if they had acquainted themselves beforehand with the opinion of the Russian comrades on this question.

I will say nothing about other facts regarding the present policy of the Bund, which is so different from what it was in 1898. I express confidence that these discussions may remove the obstacles to a rapprochement between the Bund and the Russian Party. The comrades must have seen what our attitude is to separatism. I hope that in the future they will talk with us not as ‘contracting parties’ but as comrades. That is why I consider that the adoption of our resolution will summon us not to a worsening of relations but to the creation of a basis for mutual understanding and the ending of the ‘armed peace’ between us. To turn to some points of detail: Comrade Lieber quoted Rosa Luxemburg on the attitude of the German Vorstand to the Polish comrades. Why refer to Rosa Luxemburg’s views on Polish-German relations when you could have referred to her views, which are the same as ours, on Russo-Jewish relations? The abnormality of the conditions in which Polish-German relations are developing is quite different from the abnormality of the position of the Bund in the RSDLP. The analogy does not help at all. Then comrades made statements about the disadvantages to centralisation caused by the existence side by side of Bundist and Russian committees. In reply to this the comrades from the Bund asked why we did not mention Lodz, Riga, and so on. But there (in Lodz) the Bundists are working with the Polish Social-Democrats, which is hardly an argument in favour of such isolation. Quite the contrary. As regards Riga, there the so-called unity of three organisations has meant that the movement is at a standstill. Though uniting for particular acts of protest, in their day-to-day work they remain isolated. While the weak Lettish and Russian organisations work among the great mass of the proletariat, the well-established Jewish organisation, which has many capable organisers, stands aloof from the movement of the Russians and Letts, confining its activity exclusively to a handful of Jewish craftsmen, and only occasionally joins with the other two organisations for the joint issue of a proclamation. The results are the same as if there were three completely uncoordinated organisations.

Kostich: I do not understand why Comrade Abramson is surprised at what I said about specifically Bundist agitation. He himself said yesterday: ‘We do not reject the possibility of work by other groups among the Jews.’ He even mentioned that there had been cases when a Bundist group clashed with a Party committee in the course of its work. How does he conceive the Bund’s agitation in a case like that? With which organisation would Comrade Abramson suggest that a worker should side? I think he would answer: with the Bundist organisation. Very well, but what arguments would he advance in favour of this proposal? I think they would be the arguments which are set out in the pamphlet On National Autonomy, that is, he would resort to the kind of agitation which forms the basis for federation. And it is just these arguments that I consider absolutely detrimental to the development of class consciousness. But Comrade Abramson asked for facts, so here they are. I will quote two characteristic incidents. One, I think, is known to Comrade Abramson. It was fully reflected in the pages of Poslednie Izvestiya[27]—the all too famous story of the shop-assistants. The other incident is the dispute that occurred, at a meeting of not very highly conscious workers, between a member of a Party-committee organisation and a Bundist. During this dispute the member of the Bundist organisation ured arguments which I cannot call anything but specifically Bundist and harmful. But Comrade Abramson, of course, does not see this harm. He even sees benefit, not only to the Jewish labour movement but also to the All-Russia labour movement. The committees can then devote all their forces to work among the Christians. And this argument is not new. Let us divide the work between us, say the Bundists: you will work among the Christians and we shall work among the Jews, and so on. But I answer: if you sincerely aim at growth of the revolutionary movement among the backward sections of the people, then you must place all your forces at the disposal of the united Party, which will use them for this purpose. Comrade Lieber! Don’t call us ‘people who have forgotten their kindred’. We do not forget our kinship with the Bund as it was before its Fourth Congress. But we cannot guarantee that we shall remember our kinship with the Bund after its Fourth Congress. Do not forget your kinship with the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy!

Akimov: I want to say a few words about the reproof we have just heard. The brilliant organisation of the Bund has always supported, defended and implemented the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy. It is ridiculous to instruct it in these principles. Some comrades have tried to analyse the reasons which have caused the question of the position of the Bund in the Party to come up, but it seems to me that they have failed to dot their i’s.

I think that all these reasons can be reduced to two: the national tasks of the Bund and its organisational tasks. The Jews constitute a distinct nation, sharply marked off from all other nations. They have survived for thousands of years, despite all persecutions, and have produced a large number of geniuses in all fields of knowledge and art. The Jewish proletariat represents the interests of the Jewish nation. Nobody has ever denied the role played by the proletariat in the life of a nation generally. In relation to national interests it must be said that no other class can so clearly express not only its own interests but also those of its nation.

The comrade from Caucasia said that the Jews lack certain estates, namely the nobility and the peasantry, and therefore they are not a nation, but I think this is untrue. There are classes among the Jews—a proletariat and a bourgeoisie. Among the Jewish bourgeoisie a nationalist movement has arisen, namely, Zionism. This comes forward as the defender of the interests of the whole Jewish community and may succeed in attracting to itself the less conscious section of the workers. Therefore, the party of the Jewish proletariat has to fight against its own bourgeoisie, and to show that even in the struggle for the national interests of the Jews the proletariat is the most advanced class. After thousands of years of enslavement, the Jews are being reborn to life as a nation, like the Czechs, and this complicates the task of the Jewish proletariat, creates the need for it to have a national Social-Democratic organisation similar to the Social-Democratic organisations of other nations. The Bund seeks to achieve this, and in this endeavour there is no nationalist motive, only a national one. On the other hand, the Bund now possesses an organisation which has developed historically, and it must ensure that it is able to develop without hindrance. Yet our comrades from the Bund have obtained from speeches at this congress the impression—and, in my view, the quite correct impression—that there are some here who want to alter this organisation by a mighty blow of the fist. Comrade Martov said plainly that the Bund’s present position makes no sense and was brought about by abnormal conditions—among others, by the Bund’s fight against the PPS. This fight really ought to be a source of instruction for us. The PPS did not want to take account of the requirements of the Jewish comrades, and this led to continual conflict, from which the Bund emerged quite definitely the victor. There are similar tendencies here in this congress. One feels that some comrades assume that this organisation will eventually be assimilated to the position of all the rest, will come into line with the remaining organisations of the RSDLP.

Martov: How criminal of these comrades.

Akimov: I am not looking at this matter from the ethical standpoint, from which alone this could be regarded as criminal … In contrast to the opinion of these comrades, I think that the congress will not mark the end of conflicts with the Bund, it will merely open an era of such conflicts. In view of all this, we must approach the question with the greatest caution.

Hofman: First, a few words about an accusation against us which was levelled especially by Comrade Martov. It is said that we are coming forward as a ‘contracting party’. This amounts to shifting the blame from the guilty to the innocent. A substantial majority of the congress insisted on putting the question of the Bund’s position in the Party at the head of the agenda, and thereby showed that they did not look on the Bund as a section of the Party, relations with which must be regulated by the general rules of the organisation. Right from the start, a compact majority was formed at the congress which treated us as a ‘contracting party’.

Now I come to Comrade Martov’s report, or, more correctly, to his critical comments on Comrade Lieber’s report, since Comrade Martov offered us no report of his own. Comrade Martov’s criticism was concerned mainly with two points: the point saying that the Bund is not restricted by any territorial limits, and enters the Party as the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat, and the point dealing with representation. Comrade Martov likes to emphasise his All-Russia point of view, proceeding from which he insists on restricting the Bund to a certain area: the Bund may work in Lithuania and Poland, but there is no place for it in South Russia, where only Russian committees exist and must exist. He knows that in Lithuania and Poland the Bund has come into conflict with the Lithuanian and Polish workers’ movement, but that does not matter to him, and he puts that area at the disposal of the Bund. He is interested only in South Russia, which he wants to safeguard from the pretensions of the Bund. Comrade Martov has abandoned the All-Russia standpoint and adopted the standpoint of the Southern area of the country. Comrade Martov opposed the point about the Bund entering the Party as the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat, and thereby came into contradiction with the Manifesto of the Party, his solidarity with which he had often proclaimed to us.

In the Manifesto it says: the Bund enters the Party as an autonomous section, possessing independence with regard to questions which specially concern the Jewish proletariat. What does that mean? It means that out of the whole mass of questions with which the Social-Democratic movement has to deal, one group of questions is singled out, which we are accustomed to call ‘special’ questions, and these are placed under the jurisdiction of the organisation of the Jewish proletariat. This already implies recognition that the said organisation is the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat in the Party. Thus, the point about the Bund being the ‘sole representative’ is the logical deduction from the point concerning the Bund in the Manifesto. The question is asked: why is the Bund the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat? Because it is the only organisation which has organised under its banner large masses of the Jewish proletariat, and which specially and systematically carries on work among the Jewish proletariat. It is said that there are Jewish workers who have joined certain Russian committees, but this gives these committees as little right to represent the Jewish proletariat as the Bundist organisations that work in some places among German, Polish and Russian workers would claim to represent the Polish, German or Russian proletariats. This work is not their typical work. What determines the character and content of the activity of the Bundist organisations is their systematic work among the Jewish proletariat. As regards the representation of the Bund in the Party’s central organs, this should stimulate the Bund to greater interest in general questions, and tell against that segregation which has been so much talked about here.

I am not going to say any more about the rules we have proposed, because what is involved now is not these rules, but the question whether the Bund should or should not exist. A clear-cut tendency in favour of abolishing the Bund has revealed itself at this congress. This tendency has been apparent in all the speeches made. Regret has been expressed that the Bund has grown so fast. Petty facts of an anecdotal character have been quoted against the Bund. What is significant is not so much that speeches like this have been delivered. What is significant is that these speeches have been greeted with friendly applause by the majority of the congress. And if any doubt remained that there is a party formed against us, that doubt must be finally dissipated after hearing such applause. In view of this, it is a pity that the rapporteur Martov did not tell us just what the majority in question want. We find more or less definite plans concerning the Bund in the speeches by Comrade Trotsky and the delegate from Yekaterinoslav. Comrade Trotsky drew this picture for us. The Bund is to look after the organisation of Yiddish-speaking workers. Non-Bundist committees are to detach groups for work among the Jewish workers. These groups are to form an entity, holding its own congresses, and sending delegates to the congresses of the Bund. There would seem to be no point in discussing this plan as a practical proposition. I only fall to understand why Comrade Trotsky, in advocating committees with groups for Jewish workers, makes an exception of the Bundist committees and leaves these unscathed. That would make sense only if these Bundist committees were working in areas inhabited exclusively by Jews, but this is not the case. Comrade Trotsky knows that in the places where the Bundist committees work it is not only Jews that are living, but also Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, and Russians, and so it follows logically that the committees of the Bund should be replaced by general committees, carrying on work among the workers of all the nationalities in the given locality—in other words, that the Bund should be abolished. Comrade Trotsky felt that there was something not quite right in that, and fried to extricate himself from the difficulty by this method. What! he exclaimed, people are accusing us of wanting to abolish the Bund? And what about the class consciousness of the Jewish proletariat? Do we want to abolish that? Then he took two more ideological factors, showed that nobody had any designs on them, and implied that nobody was thinking of abolishing the Bund. No, Comrade Trotsky, this is sophistry. The Bund finds material expression in committees, organisations, and congresses, and by abolishing these we thereby abolish the Bund itself. The delegate from Yekaterinoslav Committee proposes that a North-Western Union be set up, to consist of general committees working among workers of all nationalities. The Bund should become part of the Union, he considers. How the Bund can enter an organisation which presupposes the abolition of the Bund remains a mystery. Evidently, the comrade from Yekaterinoslav did not have courage enough openly to call for suppression of the Bund.

Martov: A word on a personal point. The comrade has asked me why I did not state the wishes of the ‘compact majority’. I was voicing my personal opinions, and have no authority to state the wishes of the ‘compact majority’.

Lvov: Hofman touched on an interesting question: the logical conclusion that follows from comrades’ speeches. Yes, the conclusion is that committees made up of various nationalities ought to exist everywhere. In view, however, of the fact that we are only now getting formed into a Party, we have to take account of already existing magnitudes. I did not speak of scorn for the Bund, for which I feel the greatest respect. Then, my remarks about the PPS. I know that the PPS, operating on the territory of Russian Poland, has tried to create an All-Poland organisation, analogous to the All-Russia one. By referring to this analogy I wanted to say that the Bund, by breaking away from the All-Poland organisation, provided an example of the harm done by separatist tendencies, which have given rise to antagonism between the Polish and Jewish proletariats. By allowing the Bund to exist separately we are repeating the history of Poland.

Karsky: One of the Bundist comrades said that the majority have acted at the congress like a party. However, if the majority declared in favour of putting the Bund question in the forefront, this does not mean that the congress was divided into two ‘contracting parties’, but merely that the majority found this procedure more convenient. Then, the second argument of the Bund to justify its being the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat is the idea that the Bund works exclusively among the Jewish proletariat. But this work they do does not give the Bund the right to treat the whole Jewish population as its province. On one point Akimov agreed with the Bund, namely, about the difference between ‘national’ and ‘nationalist’. We know that this difference exists. But what is ‘national’, by growing, passes into what is ‘nationalist’. The Bund’s separatist endeavours reveal its nationalist essence. We were also told that the Jewish masses have produced many talented people. It is strange to hear this said at a socialist congress. We all know that Marx was a Jew. But this does not mean that he would be a Bundist. The Bundists say that their opponents want to assimilate the Jewish proletariat and abolish the Bund. The formation of a united Party does not imply, however, that sort of assimilation which the Bund is afraid of—Russianisation.

Brouckère: I consider that Comrade Karsky’s objections do not apply to me. He repeated what I said, that the Jewish proletariat knew its rights better than the Russian proletariat did. From that I merely drew the conclusion that the consciousness of the more advanced proletariat must help to raise the level of consciousness of the more backward one. When I spoke of backward consciousness, I did not intend to denigrate the leaders, I meant only the consciousness of the masses. Since these elements with a low level of consciousness exist, joint work with the Jewish proletariat is desirable. Unlike Comrade Karsky, I assume that not only the protest of the proletariat grows spontaneously, but also its consciousness. What I have said, I repeat, implies merely that the Jewish proletariat, as the more conscious one, should come to the aid of the Russian.

Lenin: I shall deal first with Hofman’s speech and his expression ‘compact majority’. Comrade Hofman uses these words as a reproach. In my opinion we should not be ashamed but proud of the fact that there is a compact majority at the congress. And we shall be prouder still if our Party as a whole proves to be a compact, a highly compact, 90 per cent majority. [Applause.] The majority did right in making the position of the Bund in the Party the first item on the agenda: the Bundists showed at once that this was so, by submitting their so-called rules, but in essence proposing federation. Since there are in the Party members who advocate federation and members who reject it, no course was open but to make the question of the Bund the first item on the agenda. You can’t force people to love you, and it is impossible to discuss the Party’s internal affairs until we have decided, firmly and steadfastly, whether or not we want to march together.

The crux of the matter at issue has not always been presented quite correctly in the debate. What it amounts to is that, in the opinion of many Party members, federation is harmful and runs counter to the principle of Social-Democracy as applied to existing Russian conditions. Federation is harmful because it sanctions segregation and alienation, elevating them to the status of a principle, a law. Complete alienation does indeed exist among us, and we ought not to sanction it, or cover it with a fig-leaf, but to combat it, and we ought resolutely to acknowledge and proclaim the need firmly and unswervingly to advance towards the closest unity. That is why we reject federation in principle, in limine, as the Latin phrase has it, why we reject all obligatory partitions set up among us. Even without them there will always be different groupings in the Party, groupings of comrades who are not wholly of one mind on questions of programme, tactics or organisation; but let there be only one division into groups throughout the Party, that is, let all like-minded Party members join in a single group, instead of groups being formed first in one section of the Party, separately from the groups in another section, and then having a union not of groups holding different views, or with different shades of opinion, but of sections of the Party, each containing different groups. I repeat, we recognise no obligatory partitions, and that is why we reject federation in principle.

I now pass to the question of autonomy. Comrade Lieber said that federation means centralism, whereas autonomy means decentralism. Can it be that Comrade Lieber takes the members of this congress for six-year-olds, who can be treated to such sophistries? Is it not clear that centralism requires the absence of all partitions between the centre and even the most remote and out-of-the-way sections of the Party? Our Party centre will be given the absolute right to communicate directly with every single Party member. The Bundists would only laugh if someone were to propose to them a form of ‘centralism’ within the Bund under which its Central Committee could not have dealings with all the groups and comrades in Kovno otherwise than through the Kovno Committee. Incidentally, as regards the committees: Comrade Lieber exclaimed, with feeling: ‘What is the good of talking about autonomy for the Bund if it is to be an organisation subordinated to one central body? After all, you wouldn’t give autonomy to some Tula Committee or other.’ You are mistaken, Comrade Lieber. We will certainly and without fail give autonomy to ‘some’ Tula Committee, too—autonomy in the sense of freedom from petty interference by the centre, although the duty of subordination to that body will, of course, remain. I have taken the words ‘petty interference’ from the Bund leaflet Autonomy or Federation? The Bund has put forward this freedom from ‘petty interference’ as a condition, as a demand presented to the Party. The mere fact that it puts forward such ridiculous demands shows how confused the Bund is on the question at issue. Does the Bund really suppose that the Party would tolerate the existence of a centre that interfered in a ‘petty’ way in the affairs of any Party organisation or group? Is this not, in effect, that ‘organised distrust’ which has already been mentioned at this Congress? Such distrust shows through in all the proposals and all the arguments of the Bundists. Is it not, in fact, the duty of our entire Party to fight, for example, for full equality of rights and even for the recognition of the right of nations to self-determination? Consequently, if any section of our Party were to fail in this duty, it would undoubtedly be liable to censure, by virtue of our principles: it would undoubtedly be liable to correction by the central institutions of the Party. And if that duty was being neglected consciously and deliberately, despite full opportunity to perform it, then this neglect of duty would be treachery.

Further, Comrade Lieber asked us, in moving tones, how it can be proved that autonomy is adequate to guarantee to the Jewish workers’ movement the independence which is absolutely essential to it. What a strange question! How can it be proved that one of several paths suggested is the right one? The only way is to take that path and test it in practice. My reply to Comrade Lieber’s question is: march with us, and we undertake to prove to you in practice that all legitimate requirements in the matter of independence will be fully satisfied. When disputes arise about the place of the Bund, I always recall the British miners.[28] They are excellently organised, better than the rest of the workers. And, because of that, they want to thwart the common demand for an eight-hour day put forward by all proletarians. Those miners conceive the unity of the proletariat in the same narrow way as our Bundists. Let the sad example of the miners serve as a warning to our comrades of the Bund.

Lieber: I have seldom been at a meeting where the words ‘principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy’ have so often been misused as at this congress. But it was pointed out long ago that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord!’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Not everyone who reminds us of the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy is really standing up for them.

These speakers are unwilling to reckon with the following phenomenon. Within the national organisms known to us there are different social classes. These classes, entering into conflict with each other, group themselves in different parties, which exhibit both their particular class character and the fact that they belong to particular nations. One can point to such specifically national bourgeois movements as Russian liberalism, the Polish Narodowa Demokracja, or Jewish Zionism. Comrade Lenin tells us that the federal principle of Party organisation is contradictory to the principles of Social-Democracy. But where was Comrade Lenin when this frightful breach of principle was committed in Austria? Comrade Lenin says that practice has not demonstrated any advantages in federation, but the practice of the Executive Committee of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party, mentioned in its report, tells us the contrary. In the Executive Committee’s opinion, thanks to this form of organisation it has proved possible to achieve brilliant results, both in the growth of the movement and in its unity. Comrade Lenin says that the disintegration which we are alleged to be bringing into the Party does not need to be covered by the ‘fig-leaves of federation’. So far as ‘fig-leaves’ are concerned, one can only be grateful to Comrade Lenin for having torn the fig leaves from the words of Comrades Martov and Trotsky. Comrade Lenin speaks openly of the need to abolish the Bund. He may, of course, allow the Central Committee of the Bund to continue for the purpose of organising smuggling, but we do not need the Central Committee of the Bund for that. We need it as the leader of the Jewish proletariat.

We are constantly being told about ‘common Russian interests’, but our opponents understand these ‘in a special way’. They first delete from these ‘common Russian’ interests everything that is of special concern to the proletariat of a particular nation, and then suppose that the residue that remains will express common Russian interests. Comrade Lenin says: we want the Bund, but a different Bund. I think I ought to mention that in the polemic between the Bund and the PPS which was once published in the journal Rabotnik, edited by Plekhanov, the profession de foi we are now making was set forth without any reservations, and without being subjected to the attacks which it is encountering today.

We then said that the Russian Social-Democratic movement will become the leader of the whole proletariat when it has become the leader of all the nationalities. Lenin now says that we do not need the Bund as the leader of the Jewish proletariat, and tactlessly compares us to the Durham miners. Of all our opponents who have spoken about the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy, none has shown us how our proposals conflict with those principles. This is, to say the least, a frivolous accusation on Comrade Lenin’s part. We should like to ask this question of our comrades who claim to have a monopoly of revolutionary Social-Democratism. Every Social-Democrat must recognise that the Social-Democratic movement groups itself, in different nationalities, in different parties with different physiognomies. The Jewish bourgeoisie is organised. Is it not natural that against this bourgeoisie there must fight that force which has arisen in the midst of Jewry itself, the Jewish proletariat? It is this force that has activated the Bund. You have confronted us with the fiction of common-Russian tendencies, but these interests are the total sum—not arithmetical, of course—of the interests of the proletariat of all nationalities. As an example of our common-Russian tendencies we have seen the practice of the common-Russian organ Iskra, which allotted so little space to the interests of the outlying areas that the matter was mentioned in the Odessa Committee. I say, and not as a reproach, to the comrades from Iskra : your aspirations will meet with defeat until your side gives satisfaction to the interests of the different nationalities. They want to create international socialism for us without an international movement, and forget that we—the representatives of the proletariat of the Jewish nationality—transformed such pariahs among other nationalities, in Kautsky’s words, as the Jews were, into a mighty revolutionary force.

Yegorov: After Comrade Lieber’s passionate speech it is hard for me to bring forward my calm arguments. But I think that, nevertheless, what I have to say will receive attention. The passion revealed in our discussion shows the seriousness of the question at issue, shows us that we are here dealing with the profoundest fundamentals of Social-Democracy. We need to remember that attention must be given not only to what is said but also to what is hidden behind the things said. I am not going to assert that the comrades from the Bund are nationalists, but I think that if these comrades could foresee all the consequences of their plans, could divine what it is their proposal is fraught with, they would see that there is a nationalist subsoil hidden beneath it. All the difficulties which Social-Democracy has encountered on its path are explicable by the fact that we lacked a common, firmly established programme, that we were feeling our way and could not foresee where our steps were leading us. From this soil arose the crazes for economism, terrorism and so on. People followed where life led them, instead of marching ahead of it. Without wishing to offend respected comrades, I must say that their present endeavours have a smell of that same opportunism about them. From the fact that the Jewish nation exists, a fact which it would, of course, be absurd to deny, they deduce a foundation of principle for their programme. But the mere fact that something exists is not enough to put completely new principles into operation.

If, comrades, you will consider the question coolly; if you will believe that we all sincerely want unity; if you will get rid of the idea that here are assembled brigands who want at any cost to destroy what they allegedly see as this perfidious Bund; if, moreover, you will take account of the full seriousness of the occasion, the exceptional importance of our present congress—which, though the second in number, to be sure, is the first as regards its role in our future history; if, I repeat, you remember all this, you will not bring so much irritation into our collective discussion. So let’s all keep cool. The consciousness of the masses is not a horse which can be led now this way, now that, by one flick of the bridle. If we allow so much as the shadow of a division into Jews and non-Jews to creep in here, it will set a mark on the psychology of the masses such as later we shall find it not easy to cope with. It is not enough to say in our programmes that we are not nationalists, it is not enough to talk to the workers about mass solidarity—we have to show that this is so in all our activity. Did the PPS insert the nationalist principle in its programme? And it justified the demand for the separation of Poland by purely practical considerations. Nevertheless, nationalism is apparent in the whole essence of its activity. Facts are stronger than words. Look at the Socialist-Revolutionaries. They too say ‘not instead of’ but ‘together with’. They assign to terror a very minor place in their programme, but we know that facts have their own logic, and if, somewhere in the programme, a door is opened for terrorism, then it will inevitably begin to take priority over everything else in the programme. Life, regardless of your will, starts to push you where you don’t want to go.

It is enough to look at the history of the Bund to see how it too has gone where it didn’t want to go. At the beginning of the 1890s the present representatives of the Bund were continuators of the traditions of the 1870s, representatives of the Russian revolutionaries. The first groups of Jewish workers were educated in the spirit of Russian revolutionism: these workers were Russian revolutionaries in the best sense of the word. I am myself a pupil of the Bund, and still retain profound respect for my teachers, whom I see here among the delegates.[29] Their views have greatly changed since those days. In their subsequent work, as they extended their activity, the founders of the Bund went over to agitation in Yiddish. Let me mention that in so doing the Bund was not reckoning with ‘the demands of life’. The mass of the propagandised workers protested against this agitation in Yiddish. But at that time, I repeat, the Bund did not appeal to ‘life’. The new forms of activity were justified by purely practical considerations, and not at all by national pecularities. The question of the separation off of the Bund as a special organisation had not yet arisen. However, after a short time, phrases began to be heard about the special obligations of the Jewish intellectual towards the Jewish masses. The nationalist note began to be sounded. I am not going to trace the subsequent history, but will take up only the last link. What happened? Those same Jewish revolutionaries, workers and intellectuals, who had until then been continuators of Russian revolutionism, carved out their own special little niche for themselves and disappeared into their national shell. The interests of the Russian proletariat began to be evaluated in accordance with how they guaranteed those of the Jewish proletariat.

You talk of the need for unity, but only because, without this unity, you can find no way out of the blind alley into which you have got yourselves. The unity proposal which you have put to us smells of an ultimatum, as Martov correctly observed. If you were to develop consistently the principles which underlie this treaty, you would arrive at naked nationalism. True, it may be that life will not allow this to manifest itself. But that is a different matter. Your programme, if consistently applied, would, I repeat, logically engender nationalism. If you justified the existence of a special Jewish organisation merely by the special features of the situation of the Jewish proletariat, then it would be easy to reach agreement on the basis of that practical matter. One could detach a special group for work among the Jewish proletariat, in order to make use of these special features, but this would merely be a practically-needed organ within the revolutionary organisation, and not a national organisation of the proletariat. We declare that it is dangerous to divide the masses in accordance with special indicators of any sort, and especially so if the indicator in question is nationality. You all point to the unfortunate example of Austria, forgetting that, perhaps, it is precisely the peculiarity of that country’s state structure, that dismal condition of things which has held back its entire political mechanism and prevented it from developing properly, which has caused the success of this form of organisation. It is a long way from that, though, to acknowledging its correctness in principle. This is only an evil, perhaps a compromise due to circumstances. Are you going to claim that the successes of the Party over there correspond to the strength and importance of the proletariat? And, in general, such factual references are unconvincing. You have not yet established the principle of your segregation. It is not we but you who have to prove that your tendency does not run counter to our programmes. The onus of proof lies upon you. We advance the general principle that all barriers, whether of occupation or of nationality, without distinction, contribute to the disintegration of consciousness. [Applause] Furthermore, it seems to me that the national principle is being applied by you not just in concealed form: in your arguments an obviously nationalist note is being sounded, which can grow into a nationalist chord. Let me refer here to private conversations in which it has been said that in our activity we ought not to try to do away with national peculiarities. While such phrases are not dangerous on the lips of leaders, they can have a dangerous significance in the consciousness of the masses—and not only the masses that are at a low level of consciousness, either. A clear example of this is the fact that, frequently, Russian comrades replying to you have accepted that they are not competent to deal with the question of the interests of the Jewish masses, and thereby have emphasised the nationalistic character of these interests.

No, comrades, we must state categorically that for us the national factor lies outside the sphere of ethics. We are not interested in what goes on among the Jews, Poles, Russians, and so on, as such. The question of nationality arises only in an oppressed nation, and only then does it assume an ethical character. But we consider that the interests of nationality will be ensured automatically with the attainment of our ideal. The special features embodied in nations can develop on the basis of a common European culture. True, you have not put forward here the preservation of nationality as a principle, but this is perhaps because, in general, you have not put before us any considerations of principle. Your allusion to a special grouping of social forces provides no justification for the special existence of the Bund. Is not a special grouping of social forces to be observed in Little Russia, for instance, where there was no village commune and where the historical conditions of development were quite distinctive? You resort too often to matters of detail, and I call that opportunism. Comrades! Look at the questions calmly, do not see us as enemies, have confidence in our readiness to work together with you, and, before you say ‘no’, think of the consequences your decision will bring with it. [Prolonged applause.]

The session was closed.



[24] The Bund and the Zionists: A humorist once said that ‘a Bundist is a Zionist who suffers from seasickness’—i.e., he doesn’t want to sail away to Palestine, but instead wants to create a sort of Jewish state in Western and Southern Russia.

[25] The initials of Polska Partia Socjalistyzna, by which the (nationalistic) Polish Socialist Party was commonly known.

[26] Iskra and the Armenian Social-Democrats: the allusion is presumably to Lenin’s article (February 1903), ‘On the Manifesto of the Armenian Social-Democrats’, in Collected Works, Vol. 6, pp. 326-329.

[27] Posledniye Izvestiya was the bulletin of the Foreign Committee of the Bund. The affair of the shop-assistants was an incident in Odessa in early 1903 when Iskra reported that the Bund had formed an organisation there out of shop-assistants recruited from the Zionist milieu. The Bund organ denied that they were ex-Zionists.

[28] Lenin refers to the miners of Northumberland and Durham who, having in the 1880s obtained for themselves a six-hour working day, opposed, as threatening their position, the agitation for a law fixing the length of the working day at eight hours, which would have been a great gain for most of the British workers.

[29] ‘My teachers whom I see here.’ One of the Bund’s representatives, e.g., was A.I. Kremer (Wolf), the author of the pamphlet On Agitation which had played a very big part in the beginning of the Social-Democratic labour movement in Russia in the 1890s.