Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Eighth Session

(Present: 42 delegates with 51 deciding votes and 8 persons with consultative voice.)

The debate on the second item of the agenda continued.

Rusov: The comrades from the Bund, especially Comrade Lieber, have continually said that we should examine the rules they have proposed, point by point, rather than try to define their basis in a few words and then pass a resolution. Comrade Lieber says that a point-by-point examination of the draft rules will amount in itself to a settlement of the question of principle. This seems to me to show unfounded alarm in face of concern for principle. One cannot compose rules without being guided by some definite principle, unless the rules are themselves unprincipled, and I don’t think the comrades from the Bund would describe their proposal in that way. Let us then try to discover the not-quite-overtly expressed basis of principle in the new rules which have been put forward. In the second point we encounter an idea which contradicts the fundamental proposition of international socialism about solidarity of the proletariat’s class interests. It demands special representation of the interests of the Jewish proletariat. There would be sense in such representation if the class interests of the Jewish and Russian proletariats were in some way incompatible. But this is not so, and cannot be so. It is another matter if we are talking about group interests, as, for instance, the conflict of interest between the American workers and immigrants from China, or between the Batum workers and immigrants from Turkey. Contradictions such as these have nothing to do with class interests. To accept this point in the new rules—having accepted which we ought logically also to accept federation—means, as Comrade Trotsky rightly said, signing a declaration of no confidence in ourselves. But the principle of federation is perceptible not only in this point. According to the third point, the Bund is to elect its representation in the Party’s central institution, although Comrade Lieber explains that the Bund’s representative, by entering the Central Committee, thereby becomes merely a Party member. If he is to be merely a Party member, then why, one would like to know, does he have to be from the Bund? Is it not clear that the comrades from the Bund want to retain a special representation of their own in the Party’s central institutions, so as to look after the interests of their particular organisation? What does this mean, if not federation?

In my first speech I referred to the Bund’s organisational separatism, and now this is clearly revealed in the aggrieved tone that Comrade Hofman adopts when the Bund is described as being on a par with a territorial organisation, or with Party committees. Comrades Trotsky and Plekhanov have already replied on this question, and I concur with them. Comrade Lieber kept saying that no-one who spoke had explained how he conceived the relations between the Bund and the Party. It seems to me that everyone plainly emphasised, and I myself said this earlier in so many words, that the ideal form of Party organisation would be to have a single Party committee in each town, working in whatever languages were required. It would have been desirable to apply this principle in the Western Territory, as elsewhere, but we have to reckon with historically-formed conditions. Therefore I support Comrade Martov’s resolution.

Trotsky: The question of the place of the Bund in the Party arose from the outset as the question of federation versus autonomy. This question was put to us by the Bund, and the majority have declared against federation. The Bund has presented us with new rules in which the rapporteur himself is unable to discover any principle at all. The rapporteur has mistakenly said that, in rejecting federation, we have put forward no positive principle of Party organisation—‘for’, he says, ‘besides the principle of federation there can be a number of other principles’. That is a misunderstanding. I repeat, the question before us is this: federation or autonomy? Having rejected the former, we have established this positive definition: a united party with a greater or lesser, concretely determined, degree of autonomy for the sections of this party. That is why, if the second set of rules put to us were to be based on the principle of federation, we should have to reject them en bloc. But since, according to the comrades of the Bund, this is not the case, it remains for us, having affirmed our position of principle, to defer detailed analysis of the rules put before us until the general discussion on organisation provided for under item 6 of our agenda. We shall then lay down in detail the extent and limits of the autonomy to be enjoyed by the Bund. Therefore I urge that we adopt the following resolution, which completely sums up the outcome of the discussion we have had. [Reads the second part of Martov’s resolution.]

It was proposed that the list of speakers be closed.

Akimov: I consider that there is no need to close the list of speakers, since the question has already been adequately elucidated and it is hardly likely that this discussion can be prolonged. At the same time, after the speakers already listed have had their say it may be that there will be a need to answer them. [It was decided to close the list of speakers.]

Lieber: Among what ‘various’ races does the Jewish proletariat live? As far as I know, it lives not among races but among nations. What is meant in the resolution by ‘independence of the Jewish labour movement’? If the Jewish labour movement is independent, then it ought to have an independent organisation.

Trotsky: Perhaps Comrade Lieber will move an amendment to the resolution?

Lieber: I cannot move an amendment until I have been given the explanation I have asked for. Perhaps this explanation will serve precisely to refute the resolution which has been moved.

Trotsky: There is nothing more I can say. Comrade Lieber’s duty, since he does not find my idea clear enough, is to move an amendment. After all, the resolutions of this congress are composed not only for the benefit of its members but for that of all who are interested in the congress.

At the chairman’s suggestion, Comrade Trotsky explained that the words ‘independence of the Jewish labour movement’ referred to organisational independence, that is, to the autonomy of the Bund.

Plekhanov: It would be desirable for Comrade Lieber to explain to us more precisely what his ethnographic views are, because the ‘criticism’ he has made will not itself stand up to criticism. In the present state of knowledge, at any rate, there is no exact definition of the concepts ‘race’ and ‘nation’, and we can speak either of the Lithuanian race or of the Lithuanian nation.

Martov: Evidently Comrade Lieber favours the old way of dividing up mankind into five races, which is found in some works .. .

Trotsky: Especially in schoolbooks.

Martov: Yes, in schoolbooks.

Posadovsky: At the present time it is the fate of the Jewish proletariat to live with non-Jewish proletarians as to whom there can be no doubt, even from the standpoint of primitive textbooks, that they belong to a race differing from that of the Jews. In Caucasia, for instance, the Jews live alongside Tatars who, as is known, are related to the Mongols, in Kazan they also live with Tatars, in Siberia they live with Buryats, Chinese, and so on. Consequently, I favour the retention in Comrade Martov’s resolution of the word ‘races’, since this broadens its application.

Hofman: I demand, on behalf of my comrades, that the congress immediately consider our proposal, since it provides a direct answer to the second item on the agenda.

Martov: We do indeed have to answer the second item of the agenda, since we are discussing the question of the place of the Bund in the Party, and our resolution offers a quite direct and principled answer to that question, whereas the answer presented to us by the Bund offers us eight mutually contradictory points. Consequently we must pass over the ‘draft’ which has been put before us, deferring discussion of it until we come to the sixth item of our agenda. There would be no point in our making a detailed analysis of the draft at this stage. A practical discussion of the question of the Bund’s place in the Party is impossible until we have defined in principle the Bund’s place in the general system of Party organisation.

Lenin: I do not understand what practical significance Comrade Lieber’s proposal possesses. He says that in our resolution we do not answer the question embodied in the agenda, but the entire difference consists in the fact that whereas in the agenda the word ‘place’ is used, in the resolution we have the word ‘position’. Since no third proposal is before us, there is nothing to be done but, having defined our attitude in principle, to reserve the right to discuss the matter concretely when it becomes appropriate to do this.

Yudin asked, on behalf of the delegates from the Bund, for an adjournment so that they could confer.


After the adjournment, Comrade Lieber took the floor to insist, on behalf of the Bund delegation, that their proposal be discussed forthwith: If this proposal is rejected [he said] then we move the following amendment to the third point in Martov’s resolution, with which we entirely disagree: ‘… that this unity in no way excludes the independence in all questions specially concerning the Jewish proletariat which was conferred on the Bund by the First Congress of the RSDLP.’ My reason for this is that our amendment repeats what was said in the resolution of the First Congress, and we should stick to the formulation laid down by that congress.

Martynov moved an amendment to the third point of Martov’s resolution, arguing that in its altered form this was less definite than that which he, Martynov, was proposing. [Martynov’s amendment to Martov’s resolution: ‘The second ordinary congress of the Party declares that the Bund remains in the Party at present as an entity in the form in which it existed before the Fourth Congress of the Bund—that is, before it began to apply in practice the principle of federal relations—provided that it submits unconditionally to all the Party’s central institutions.’]

Lange moved an addition to the third point of Martov’s resolution: after the words ‘special features of language and way of life’ to insert ‘in localities where such special features are found’.

The rapporteur (Lieber) and co-rapporteur (Martov) waived their right to make concluding speeches. Lieber explained that he declined to speak because ‘we are now discussing in principle a question which is not the one that we were discussing yesterday’.

Martov: I also renounce my right to speak. I wish merely to say that Lieber’s amendment defines the position of the Bund in the Party just as unclearly as it was formulated at the First Congress.

After a short discussion on voting procedure, the congress voted on the amendments. Lange’s amendment received one vote. The amendment moved by Lieber, for the Bund delegation, received 13 votes, with 26 against.

A proposal signed by ten delegates was moved and adopted, for a roll-call vote on Martov’s resolution. The voting was: 45 for, 5 against. [The following voted for the resolution: Rusov (2 votes), Bekov (2 votes), Karsky (2 votes), Makhov (2 votes), Lvov (2 votes), Gusev, Tsaryov, Osipov, Kotich, Medvedev, Ivanov, Pavlovich, Stepanov, Panin, Srokin, Byelov, Lyadov, Gorin, Fomin, Muravov, Lange, Dyedov, Trotsky, Posadovsky, Lensky, Orlov, Popov, Yegorov, Gorsky, Brouckère, Akimov, Martynov, Plekhanov, Deutsch, Lenin (2 votes), Martov (2 votes), Hertz, Braun. Against were: Hofman, Goldblatt, Yudin, Leiber, Abramson.]

Also voted on, and rejected by 41 to 5, was the proposal by the Bund delegates for immediate point-by-point examination of the proposed draft rules.

Martynov’s resolution received one vote.

The congress proceeded to discuss the third item on the agenda: The Programme of the RSDLP.

Martynov: I propose that we take from among the several drafts the draft programme which was composed by Iskra and Zarya. As regards the actual form of the discussion, we should first consider, en bloc, the section of the general programme which lays down principles, and then the remainder of it. When we discuss the ‘principles’ section, a general discussion should be followed by discussion of the separate points in this section, and, to conclude, we should take amendments to the separate points in this ‘principles’ section.

Martov: Before we elect the programme commission we should make a general analysis of the programme, and then submit amendments when the draft is discussed in commission.

The congress decided to take the Iskra-Zarya programme as basis for discussion, and proceeded to discuss its general section.

Martynov: The section of Iskra’s draft programme dealing with principles has one feature which distinguishes it from all the other Social-Democratic programmes in Europe. In all those programmes it is said, in one form or another, in strict conformity with the principles of Marxism, that the development of capitalist society necessarily creates not only the material but also the spiritual conditions for the realisation of socialism, that is, it contributes to the development of the class-consciousness of the proletariat, intensifying the struggle of the proletariat against the whole capitalist system. This proposition is nowhere to be found in Iskra ’s draft programme.

In the ‘principles’ part of the Guesdiste programme, which is very concisely worded, it is stated in a general way only: ‘Considérant que la forme collective, dont les éléments materiels et intellectuels sont constitutués par le développement mame de la classe capitaliste, etc.’ [‘Considering that the collective form, the material and intellectual elements of which are constituted by the development of the capitalist class itself, etc.’]

In the Austrian Hainfeld[1] programme we read: ‘Während gleichzeitig für die Form des gemeinsamen Besitzes die nothwendigen geistigen und materiellen Vorbedigungen geschaffen werden …’ Then, later: ‘Der Träger dieser (geschichtlich nothwendigen) Entwickelung kann nur das klassenbewuste und als politische Partei organisirte Proletariat sein.’ [While at the same time the spiritual and material pre-conditions are created for the form of common ownership…’ ‘The bearer of this (historically necessary) development can only be the class conscious proletariat, organised as a political party.’]

In the Erfurt programme we read: ‘It (i.e., the social revolution) can only be the work of the working class… The struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation is inevitably a political struggle. The working class cannot wage its economic struggle and develop its economic organisation without political rights. It cannot cause the means of production to pass into social ownership unless it has previously conquered political power.’

In this paragraph the content of the concept struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation’ is defined. It includes both the trade-union struggle, which requires a struggle for certain political rights, and the struggle for economic emancipation, which requires the conquest of political power. It thus signifies the struggle for socialism.

In the succeeding paragraph it is stated that the task of the Social-Democratic party is precisely to develop this inevitable tendency of the proletariat to fight for socialism. ‘To organise this struggle of the working class, to unify it, to make it conscious and to explain to it its necessary ultimate aim—this is the task of the Social-Democratic party. The basis of the Party’s activity is here, therefore, the objectively inevitable political struggle of the proletariat.’

Finally, in the most recent (Vienna) programme of the Austrian Social-Democratic party we read: ‘At the same time the proletariat becomes conscious that it must contribute to this development and hasten it, that the transformation of the means of production into social property of the whole people must be the aim, and conquest of political power the means, of its struggle for the emancipation of the working class.’

So we see that in all Social-Democratic programmes mention is made of the spiritual pre-conditions for socialism, of the inevitable tendency of the working class to struggle for socialism.

There is no such proposition in the draft programme of Iskra.

In the place where, according to the sense of the programme, the spiritual pre-conditions for socialism, the active role of the proletariat should have been mentioned, all that is said is: ‘The numbers and cohesion of the proletarians increase and their struggle against their exploiters intensifies.’

But it is clear that ‘the struggle of the proletarians against their exploiters’ does not cover the concept of ‘struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation’. Whereas the latter expression, used in the Erfurt Programme, embraces the entire content of the class struggle of the proletariat, the former expression signifies, rather, only the elementary form of this struggle—the trade-union struggle. The draft programme states merely that, by itself, the proletariat inevitably engages in trade-union struggle against the capitalists. This interpretation of that passage is all the better-founded in that nothing is said anywhere in the draft about the development of the class-consciousness of the proletariat being an inevitable consequence of the development of capitalist society.

How are we to account for the fact that in Iskra ’s draft programme we find no mention of a proposition of principle which is set forth, in one way or another, in all Social-Democratic programmes?

Undoubtedly we see here the influence of the recent fight against so-called economism, and in particular the influence of a basic theoretical argument which was advanced during that fight by Comrade Lenin, the author of the pamphlet What Is To Be Done?

Let us look and see what scientific value this thesis possesses. Comrade Lenin writes: ‘The spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its becoming subordinated to bourgeois ideology … for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade-unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade-unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie … The history of all countries shows that by its own efforts alone the working class is able to develop only trade-unionist consciousness, that is, conviction of the need to unite in trade unions, to wage a struggle against the employers, to obtain from the government various laws which the workers need,’ and so on.

This is the modest, or, rather, the negative role which Comrade Lenin assigns to the proletariat in the elaboration of its own socialist ideology. In his view, ‘there can be no question of an independent ideology being worked out by the mass of the workers in the process of their movement …’ ‘Social-democratic consciousness can be introduced only from without … The theory of socialism grew out of philosophical, historical and economic theories that were elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia…’

If this is true, if the proletariat spontaneously tends towards bourgeois ideology, if socialism is developed outside the proletariat, then the spreading of socialism among the workers must take the form of a struggle between the ideology of the proletariat and its own spontaneous tendencies, and Comrade Lenin draws that conclusion: ‘Our task, the task of a Social-Democrat, consists in struggle against spontaneity, so as to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous trade-unionist tendency to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie…’

Comrade Lenin sees antagonism between the ideology of the proletariat and the mission of the proletariat. I observe an antagonism between Lenin’s thesis and that which was voiced on many occasions by Marx and Engels. Listen to what Marx says in The Poverty of Philosophy: ‘In the measure that history moves forward, and with it the struggle of the proletariat assumes clearer outlines, they (the socialists) no longer need to seek science in their minds; they have only to take note of what is happening before their eyes and to become the mouthpiece of this.’

Engels, in Socialism, Utopian and Scientific speaks even more plainly: ‘Modern socialism is nothing but the reflex in thought of this actual conflict (between the productive forces and the mode of production), its ideal reflection in the minds first of the class which is directly suffering under it—the working class… Scientific socialism (is) the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement.’

In The Eighteenth Brumaire Marx states a general proposition regarding the. relation between the ideologists of any class and the class itself. ‘What makes (the democrats) representatives of the petty-bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not go beyond the limits which the latter do not go beyond in life, that they are consequently driven theoretically to the same tasks and solutions to which material interest and social position practically drive the latter. This is in general the relationship of the political and literary representatives of a class to the class they represent.’

So say Marx and Engels. But Comrade Lenin assures us that ‘the history of all countries shows’, etc.

We must suppose, then, that one of two things is true. Either the experience of all countries testifies against the words I have quoted from Marx, or Comrade Lenin has failed to throw light on this experience from the standpoint of Marx. I incline towards the latter view. What the history of all countries tells me is that modern socialism has arisen as a product of the movement of the proletariat, and that ‘the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its becoming subordinated’ not to bourgeois ideology but to modern scientific socialism. In order to find confirmation of this view of history it is above all necessary not to interpret it naively, not to suppose that the proletariat elaborates its ideology exclusively on the basis of experience of its own internal life, independently of the traditions it inherits or the contemporary social situation surrounding it, not to suppose that the proletariat develops its ideology like the spider drawing its web out of its own back.

While disputing Proudhon’s view that all preceding centuries had been designed by providence for the accomplishment of the idea of equality, Marx nevertheless did not find it possible to declare that this idea sprang like Minerva from the head of Jove: the creative role of the present generation, in his view, is expressed in its transformation of the results achieved by earlier generations. ‘Economists,’ he says, ‘know very well that the very thing that was for the one a finished product was for the other but the raw material for new production.’ The same idea is expressed by Engels in his Ludwig Feuerbach: ‘In all ideological domains tradition forms a great conservative force. But the transformations which this material undergoes spring from class relations, that is to say, out of the economic relations of the persons who execute these transformations. And here that is sufficient.’

And so we Marxists affirm that the proletariat has elaborated independently its own socialist ideology; but by that we mean that the proletariat has independently transformed the ideology borrowed by it from its surroundings, in accordance with its own class interests.

In becoming distinguished as a particular class, separated out from the mass of the ‘democracy’, the proletariat at the same time transformed the former struggle of the ‘democracy’ against the feudal system into a new struggle, that of the working class against the bourgeois system.

When we trace the history of the rise of modern socialism we can easily perceive how the proletariat converted the economic and political struggle, the social ideals and philosophical world-outlook of the ‘democracy’ of the early nineteenth century into the corresponding elements of the modern socialist movement.

During the Great Revolution, the economic struggle of the ‘democracy’ was a struggle of the poor consumer against privilege, monopoly, usury and customs barriers. With the separation of the proletariat out of the ‘democratic’ mass, this form of economic struggle was transformed into the struggle of labour against capital. In England the first quarter of the nineteenth century was filled with the struggle of the proletariat for freedom to strike, which it won at last in 1825. Then came the period of the forming of ‘grand national trades unions’ (1825-1850). In France in 1831 the revolt of the Lyons weavers flared up, and in Germany in 1844 that of the weavers of Silesia.

Parallel with this, the European proletariat, which had previously functioned as the bourgeoisie’s rearguard in its political struggle against the aristocracy, arrived by experience at awareness of the need for independent political struggle, directed against all the ruling classes. In England the reform of Parliament in 1831, which gave the bourgeoisie predominance over the landowners, was won with the help of the proletariat, who threatened to refuse to pay their taxes.

Cheated by this reform and embittered by the Poor Law of 1834, the proletariat broke with the middle bourgeoisie and, in alliance with the Radicals, launched the political struggle for the Charter. This was the first step in the development of political consciousness by the proletariat, and it was soon followed by a second. Subsequent experience showed the proletariat how inept the petty bourgeoisie were for decisive revolutionary struggle and how different were their economic interests (the proletariat demanded a ten-hour day, the petty bourgeoisie demanded repeal of the Corn Laws). Thus, in 1843, a split took place in the Chartist movement, between the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie. The proletariat took its second step forward and emerged as an independent political party, with the slogan—’political power our means, social happiness our end’.

The same happened in France. In the July Revolution the proletariat was still helping the bourgeoisie to get the better of the landowners. Their betrayal by the big bourgeoisie taught the proletariat a lesson, and stimulated it to form an alliance with the radical petty bourgeoisie. In the revolt in Paris in 1832, in the revolts in Lyons and Paris in 1834 and in the revolt of 1839 the proletariat came forward as a revolutionary force, and its political leaders were semi-Radical, semi-Socialist societies (Société des droits de l’homme, Sociéte des Saisons ).[2] But this alliance did not last, either. The ups and downs of the February revolution, and especially the July revolt, opened the proletariat’s eyes to the truth about the petty bourgeoisie. On December 10 the Mountain made its last attempt to act independently alongside the proletariat. On that same day the votes for Raspail and against Ledru-Rollin were, as Marx put it, ‘the first act by which the proletariat, as an independent political party, cut loose from the democratic party’.

This was the initial process of development of the political consciousness of the proletariat. While the European proletariat was separating off from the ‘democracy’ into a distinct class, working out the forms of its own economic and political class struggle, its advanced sections were transforming the ideas of bourgeois socialism which they had learnt into the new idea of revolutionary proletarian communism. Socialism as a problem had, of course, appeared before the rise of the revolutionary force of the proletariat, which was capable of solving this problem. The rapid spread of socialism as an idea was the inevitable consequence of the contradiction between the democracy the Great Revolution had promised and that which it produced. But until the proletariat, the true bearer of socialism, arrived on the scene of history, socialism was, and was bound to be, either utopian or petty-bourgeois. Now, however, with the 1830s, the proletariat everywhere lifted its head, and we can clearly see how, under its pressure and with its participation the ideas of socialism quickly began to change in content. The laboratory of this transformation was a series of French secret societies, to which similar German societies were affiliated: Association pour la défense de la presse patriote and the Deutscher Bund zur Vertheidigung der Pressfreiheit gave place to the Société des Droits de l’Homme and the Bund der Geächteten. They were succeeded by the Société des Saisons and the Bund der Gerechten. This series culminated in the Communist League which published the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels. These societies, which were at first purely radical, were gradually filled with members from the ranks of the proletarianised craftsmen. As a result, their character changed. From exclusive conspiratorial societies they were transformed into societies for open propaganda, and the ideas of bourgeois radicalism and petty-bourgeois socialism which had prevailed in them were replaced by the ideas of proletarian social revolution. In the Bund der Geächteten these two world-outlooks were still in conflict, in the persons of Venedey and Schuster: in the Bund der Gerechten the idea of social revolution obtained, at last, clear expression in the words of Weitling. Under the impression made on him by Weitling Marx said: ‘The German proletariat is the theoretician of the European proletariat, just as the English proletariat is its economist and the French proletariat its politician. ’[3]

Thus, the history of the first half of the nineteenth century shows graphically how the proletariat, arriving by experience at consciousness of its class interests, transformed all the old forms of the democratic movement into the new forms of the class movement of the workers. By the time that the Communist Manifesto appeared, the elements of the modern socialist movement—the struggle of labour against capital, the political struggle of the proletariat under its own flag, and the idea of the social revolution—were already present; but these elements, which had been worked out by different sections of the proletariat, had not been linked together. The economic struggle of the proletariat was isolated from its political struggle; the trade unions in England, for example, looked unsympathetically on the Chartist movement. In their turn, the political movements of the proletariat were not yet clearly linked with the idea of social revolution. The social ideals of the Chartists and of the so-called ‘Social-Democrats’ in France were extremely vague and confused. The first-named dreamt of a partial nationalisation of the land, of the development of small-scale farming, of state aid to associations of producers. The others fermented unclear notions about ‘the right to work’ and ‘the organisation of labour’. They dreamt of achieving socialism side by side with the bourgeois system, and not upon its ruins. Finally, those proletarians who were aware of the necessity for social revolution (the Weitlingians) were unable to link this with awareness of the necessity for political struggle. Thus, although the principal elements of the modern socialist movement were present, they had not been co-ordinated, and so long as this task had not been accomplished the proletariat could not finally free itself from bourgeois influence, could not march with firm tread towards complete emancipation.

In order to crown the edifice of socialism it was necessary to unite these elements into one harmonious whole and provide the whole movement with a theoretical basis. This great work was accomplished by the founders of scientific socialism, Marx and Engels.

Just as the economic, political and socialist elements of the proletarian movement were so many transformations of the corresponding forms of the radical-democratic movement, so the highest ideological superstructure of the proletarian movement, the theory of scientific socialism, was the result of a re-working of the theories of bourgeois philosophers and scholars. But whereas elaboration of the first-mentioned forms was predominantly the product of the experience and thinking of various sections of the proletariat, the creation of the theory of scientific socialism presupposed such an extensive scientific training as could be possessed only by professional intellectuals, men who came from the propertied classes. Such were the creators of scientific socialism, Marx and Engels. Nevertheless, we do not concede even this creative work of theirs to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In order to accomplish the revolution in social thought they first had to abandon the viewpoint of bourgeois radicalism and take up that of the proletariat—not some abstract proletariat, but the actual proletariat of their own time. In other words, they were obliged first to side ideologically and morally with the movement of the proletariat which had already been formed by history. Their great revolutionary work was not, and could not have been, the fruit of mere study-bound thought. Engels says in Ludwig Feuerbach: When… it is a question of investigating the driving forces which consciously or unconsciously … lie behind the motives of men in their historical actions … then it is not a question so much of the motives of single individuals, however eminent, as of those motives which set in motion great masses, whole peoples, and again whole classes of people in each people …’

The biographies of Marx and Engels fully bear this out. They show us how the revolutionary movement of the proletariat wrested Marx and Engels from the ranks of the bourgeois democrats and gave a new direction to their theoretical thinking. In 1843 they were still to a considerable extent bourgeois radicals, with an idealistic outlook and seeing communism as a dogmatic abstraction. Marx wrote in those days to Ruge: ‘I am not in favour of raising any dogmatic banner .. . Communism, in particular, is a dogmatic abstraction… We want to influence our contemporaries, particularly our German contemporaries … In the first place religion, and next to it, politics, are the subjects which form the main interest of Germany today. We must take these, in whatever form they exist, as our point of departure, and not confront them with some ready-made system such as, for example, the Voyage en Icarie. ’ That was how Marx and Engels reasoned at that time. They needed most of all to find a revolutionary force which would overturn the old political system of Germany. But already at that time the only revolutionary class was the proletariat, and this they discovered as soon as they crossed the frontier of their own country. It was natural that Marx, in his revolutionary quest, came into contact with the movement of the French proletariat and Engels with the British movement, with Chartism. Engels even participated in the Chartist movement, as a contributor to the Northern Star. The result of this contact was that a rapid and profound change took place in their views. So early as 1845 they published The Holy Family, the work in which they first set out the foundations of economic materialism, and in which, along with this, the proletarian point of view is clearly observable.

Thus, history gives us the right to say: first, all modern socialism is the product of the working class, though materials for it had already been made ready by the bourgeois democrats; and, secondly, in the elaboration of modern socialism, sections of the working class which differed in their levels of consciousness arrived in practice, gropingly, at the separate tasks and solutions which their ideologists discovered, synthesised and grounded theoretically. These propositions are of enormous importance. They contradict the thesis put forward by Comrade Lenin in his pamphlet What Is To Be Done?, but they are derived from the foundations of Marxism, and they are formulated in one way or another in all Social-Democratic programmes. They ought to be given clear expression in our programme too. To this end I propose that the passage I quoted from the draft programme to be replaced by the following: ‘The numbers, cohesion and consciousness of the proletarians increase and the struggle of the masses of the workers against exploitation intensifies.’

I shall not now speak about my other, corresponding but less important amendments to the section of the programme dealing with principles. Here I will merely note that the fundamental idea which I have been expounding up to now is shared by all comrades in the organisation to which I belong. We are not, however, all agreed as to the conclusions to be drawn from these views. Therefore, I will from now on speak only for myself.

I have already said that the gap I pointed out in the Iskra programme is a reflection of the recent struggle against ‘spontaneity’, ‘economism’ and ‘amateurism’. Now I want to ask if that practical consideration can serve as justification for a theoretical hiatus like this in the programme? Certainly not. The correct Marxist formulation of the question, which I propose, in no way opens the door to worship of spontaneity, economism or amateurism.

It does not open the door to worship of spontaneity. When we say that modern socialism is merely the most complete and conscious expression of the spontaneous tendency of the class struggle of the proletariat we not only do not play down the active role of consciousness and theory in our movement but, on the contrary, we raise this to its highest level. It is just because we are convinced that the development of the proletariat proceeds in accordance with the spontaneous laws of nature towards the realisation of our theoretical principles that we firmly and unwaveringly uphold these principles and reject all theoretical compromises arising from transient practical considerations. It is strange that I should have to prove to the editors of Iskra what Beltov proved to us.[4] It is strange that I should have to demonstrate that the maximum of freedom, activity and individual initiative is found where there is the maximum of necessity. In order to safeguard the movement from worship of the momentary moods of certain strata of the proletariat or the intelligentsia, Social-Democracy possesses only one means: it brings its activity into line with the general tendencies of the struggle of the working class as a whole.

Nor does the formulation of the question I have proposed, which is normal in the international Social-Democratic movement, open the door to ‘economism’. I know and I have already said that any particular form of the class struggle of the proletariat, taken by itself, separated from the other forms of the class struggle of the proletariat, is incapable of liberating the proletariat from bourgeois influences. This is why the bourgeois parties and the ideologists of the bourgeoisie try so hard to conceal the necessary link between the social revolution and the political and economic struggle of the proletariat. But I do not, of course, affirm that modern socialism expresses any one isolated form of the class struggle of the proletariat, such as the trade-union struggle, taken in isolation. On the contrary, I say that scientific socialism is the synthesis and theoretical expression of all the basic forms of the class struggle of the proletariat. This formulation commits us, of course, to resolute struggle against any attempt to narrow down the content and reduce the scope of the historically inevitable movement of the proletariat as a whole.

Finally, the formula I propose cannot, either, serve as cover for federalism and local amateurism. If modern socialism synthesises the different forms of the movement of the proletariat and reflects only its general historical tendency, then it is obvious that from that stand-point the organisation of the Social-Democratic Party must be sufficiently centralised to ensure that the common interests of the Social-Democratic movement as a whole take precedence over local interests within it. Thus, no practical considerations have furnished grounds for the compilers of the programme to refrain from including the generally-accepted formulation of the matter in question. They, however, evidently had a different opinion: they evidently thought that the generally-accepted formulation does not offer adequate safeguards against spontaneity, economism and amateurism. Therefore they gave us their own unclear formulation, which can easily be interpreted in the sense of the proposition defended in the pamphlet What Is To Be Done?, in the sense of an antagonism between Social-Democracy and the spontaneous development of the working-class movement. What has been achieved in practice by this theory of Lenin’s? It certainly offers a very sharp weapon for use against the tactical errors and omissions mentioned. But it also opens the door to other dangerous tactical errors; it opens a deep fissure between the leading elements in the movement and the working-class masses, between the activity of an exclusive party and the broad struggle of the working class.

We do not have to talk in hypothetical terms about these mistakes, since they have already revealed themselves to a sufficient extent, especially during the year or year-and-a-half of revolutionary upsurge in Russia which began with the March events.[5]

While previously too little attention was given to the theoretical development of the leading elements of the movement, since this time we have begun to neglect excessively the means for developing the consciousness of broad circles of the workers. Popular literature and the political independence of comparatively broad strata of the workers have been held in contempt, as phenomena which could have the effect of vulgarising our movement.

While previously the movement suffered from ‘economic’ narrowness, it has now begun to suffer from political diffuseness. The strengthening of political agitation and enlargement of its content were, of course, a very big step forward. But, first, unfortunately, in our political agitation we have begun to stress too much that which unites the proletariat with other oppositional elements in society, and too little that which distinguishes it as the most revolutionary class. Secondly, our political agitation has, unfortunately, begun to be separated from our social and economic agitation. Reading the proclamations and leaflets issued in this period by the Kiev Committee, and especially those issued by the Odessa Southern Revolutionary Union’, it is often hard to define what there is in them that is specifically Social-Democratic, since they might just as well have been issued by political radicals. In these publications there is obviously something important which is not being given sufficient expression. It was due to this great defect that in this same period reports came from various parts of Russia that the workers in the study-circles were losing interest in purely socialist questions such as, for instance, the question of surplus-value, of the working day, and so on. This was written about in the Arbeiterstimme,[6] and we had letters about it from Saratov and other places.

While previously our movement suffered from disorderliness and amateurism, in this period, in contrast, there was introduced, and met with sympathy, a conspiratorial Jacobin plan of organisation which is essentially suitable not for the class party of the proletariat but for a radical party basing itself upon a variety of revolutionary elements.

Undoubtedly, in the period in question the Social-Democratic movement did, on the whole, take a very big step forward compared with what we had before. But the Social-Democratic movement was also taken unawares in this period by the spontaneous growth of the revolutionary forces in Russia, and so Lenin’s pamphlet reflected more or less the shortcomings of the particular moment, insofar as it was concerned not to criticise but to build a theory and outline positive prospects.

Fortunately, life itself soon contributed corrections to our criticism. The rapidly formed Osvobozhdenie party and the SocialistRevolutionaries forced us to break off relations with them not only theoretically but in practice as well. On the other hand, the broad, rising wave of the revolutionary movement of the working-class mas-ses forced us once again to try to strengthen our ties with these masses. And I must admit that Iskra responded with great sensitivity to these demands of life, that during the past year it has rid itself of many defects from which it suffered in the period of the struggle against economism. But let us hope that this process will be carried through consistently to the end and that it will be consolidated in a principled way.

Our movement has finally emerged from its childhood. It is beginning to get rid of one-sidedness and the tendency to make leaps. For this reason I consider that our programme of principle, too, not only should but can be made free from the traces of past extremisms. It has to provide a lasting foundation for all our future tactics, and so must be formulated just as objectively as the programmes of the advanced European Social-Democratic Parties.

Martov: l am amazed that all the considerations set out by Comrade Martynov should have resulted in nothing more than a proposal to insert the word ‘consciousness’ and to replace the word ‘exploiters’ by ‘exploitation’. I cannot see the connection between a passage in Lenin’s book and the absence of the word ‘consciousness’. I have nothing against inserting this word. Comrade Martynov’s argument against Lenin’s phrase is based on confusion between two questions, which are situated on different planes. The quotations given by Comrade Martynov show us that this is so. For example, what does Marx say in The Eighteenth Brumaire ? He defines the relation between the ideology of a particular class and the class itself. But Marx says nothing about the process which culminates in the elaboration by the working class of that world-outlook which expresses the conditions of the historical existence of the working class.

Gorin: We know of two serious conceptions of the historical process: materialism and idealism. A combination of the two, as an eclectic form, must be regarded as vulgar. We must also regard as vulgar both idealism and materialism themselves when these are conceived in their crude, direct meanings. Among us, vulgar idealism is represented by the doctrine of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and vulgar materialism by economism. For the latter outlook, no idea, no individuality, no consciousness possess any significance. The Rabocheye Dyelo group constitutes a fourth type—eclectic, but closely approximating to economism. Comrade Martynov—experienced in the discussions on economism—declares himself hostile to that conception, but he only wants to give somewhat more elegant expression to this fourth type. I am not going to try and find out why he had to quote Marx, Engels, Kautsky and others, endlessly, in various languages (among which I was afraid Spanish was going to turn up) as though, do you see, the factor of ideas had been overlooked. Only economic terms were being ured: ‘exploiters’, ‘exploitation’, and there were no terms relating to anything different. To fill the gap Comrade Martynov proposes the word: ‘consciousness’. Then he goes for Comrade Lenin on the grounds that the latter attributes a spontaneous origin to the independent ideology of the proletariat. He sees as false Comrade Lenin’s proposition that the conscious element is introduced only by ideologists, and demonstrates that, on the contrary, the theories of the ideologists are worked out under the influence of the proletariat. Thereby he essentially seeks to show that these theories are spontaneous in origin. In actual fact, the point is merely that these theories do not fall from heaven but represent a certain induction from an objective process. I am not here going to say how correct I consider Comrade Lenin’s proposition to be. This question is too complex and has been too little analysed. But, in general, I think, the true course of the process has been defined. Comrade Martynov himself did not sustain his view regarding the independence of the proletariat, and he said that the proletariat, left to itself, falls under the influence of the bourgeoisie. Thereby he unintentionally acknowledged that the proletariat is unable, without influence from ideologists, to rise above purely instinctive opposition.

Lieber: Comrades, I suggest that the purpose of the present item on the agenda is not just to make certain changes in the draft programme, but also to call for some explanations. Not all of us are sufficiently competent to work out a programme, but all of us do, of course, need to have a clear and uniform conception of what each point of the programme means. It is with a request for such an explanation that I rise to address you. In the third paragraph on the third page it is stated that ‘the Social-Democrats of different countries are obliged to undertake different immediate tasks, both because this [capitalist] mode [of production] has not developed everywhere to the same degree and because its development in the different countries is coming to fruition under a variety of socio-political circumstances’. The question arises, is the social and political situation the same in all parts of a country like, for example Russia, where one part, namely Poland, has developed in the past in a distinct way, and so, can this point apply uniformly to the whole country? Later, in the same paragraph, where mention is made of survivals from pre-capitalist systems, such survivals as the vestiges of serfdom are quoted. But, for example, the Jewish proletariat has to struggle against such survivals as the middleman system, and so on.[7] These survivals set a sharp imprint on the entire struggle of the Jewish proletariat. Here again the question arises, can the general description of Russia which is given in this paragraph be taken as applicable to all parts of the country? This is the question which I should like to have explained.

Lyadov: I rise to speak in reply to Comrade Lieber. He asked for an explanation of the point in the programme which speaks of the need for a special organisation of Social-Democrats in each different country. He considers that, in accordance with this point, the Jewish proletariat has the right to an independent organisation, since the mutual relations between classes among the Jews are quite different from what they are in the rest of Russia. I think we cannot agree with Comrade Lieber. The Russian political system is the expression of the whole complex of economic conditions in different parts of Russia. The inter-relation of classes among the Jews is one of the details which make up the entire class physiognomy of Russia. I think that the proletariat living anywhere in Russia suffers in the same way from survivals of pre-capitalist relations, which are defended by one and the same government. The whole proletariat has a common enemy, and so the struggle against this enemy must be waged as a common struggle. As for the allegedly special struggle of the Jewish proletariat against an allegedly special form of exploitation, I must say that literally this same form of exploitation exists everywhere that we find the domestic form of industry, the handicraft mode of production. The special form of exploitation which, according to Comrade Lieber, is a peculiarity affecting only the Jewish proletariat, exists in literally identical form in the Moscow, Vladimir and Pavlovo areas.

After this, the congress proceeded to elect a commission to discuss the programme. Elected to this commission were: Plekhanov, Lenin, Akselrod, Starover, Yudin, Martynov and Yegorov.

The session was closed.



[1] The ‘Hainfeld’ programme of the Austrian Social-Democrats was adopted in 1889. It was replaced by the ‘Vienna’ programme in 1901.

[2] The Société des Droits de l’Homme was led by Barbes, the Société des Saisons by Blanqui. ‘July’ in the ‘July revolt’ is presumably a misprint for ‘June’, since it is the Paris insurrection of June 1848 that is obviously meant. The Association pour la Défence de la Presse Patriote existed in 1832-34, one of its leaders being Garnier-Pagès.

[3] Martynov says nothing about Marx’s dramatic break with Weitling in 1846 (Ignorance never yet did anybody any good!’), though it had been described in P. Annenkov’s memoir published in Russia in 1880. See Reminiscences of Marx and Engels, Moscow, no date, pp. 269-272.

[4] ‘Beltov’ was Plekhanov’s pseudonym when he wrote The Development of the Monist View of History (1899).

[5] The allusion is to the wave of peasant revolts in Poltava, Kharkov, Voronezh and other provinces which began in the spring of 1902.

[6] Arbeiterstimme was the Bund’s paper. Osvobozhdenie was an illegal liberal paper published in Stuttgart and Paris in 1902-1909, edited by the ex-Marxist P.B. Struve. The group around it developed into the Constitutional-Democratic (‘Cadet’) Party. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party began in early 1902.

[7] ‘The middleman system’ presumably refers to the organisation of domestic industry, as described by Lenin in The Development of Capitalism in Russia (see Collected Works, Vol. 3, p. 442). This was widespread in the ‘Jewish’ area of South-Western Russia, but, as Lyadov pointed out, it existed also outside that area.