Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Tenth Session

(Present: 43 [Starting with this session, a third delegate from the Bund was present, so that the Bund had three delegates with three mandates, in addition to the two representatives from its Foreign Committee.] delegates with 51 deciding votes and eight with consultative voice.)

Lenin and Trotsky proposed that the entire programme, and not merely its general section, be handed over to the commission. Comrade Brouckère proposed that, before doing this, the congress hold a general debate on the remaining part of the programme. The proposal that the programme be handed over to the commission was adopted by 24 votes.

Deutsch announced the arrival of the Polish comrades.

Chairman Plekhanov: Comrades! Two delegates from the Social Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania have come to our congress. I welcome warmly their presence here, and call on one of them, Comrade Warszawski, to speak.

Warszawski: Comrades! You invited us to your congress, and we bring you fraternal greetings from the Polish comrades, with wishes for successful and fruitful work for our common cause. As our party congress, which concluded only recently, did not have any official notification of your congress and did not receive an invitation to send delegates to it, we could not, of course, take definite decisions regarding the tasks of the present congress, but could only formulate in general terms the attitude of the Polish Social-Democrats to the future united All-Russia Social-Democratic Party.[17]

In this spirit our congress appointed my comrade and me as representatives of our organisation to undertake discussions either at an all-Russia congress or in other circumstances. Your invitation thus came very opportunely.

I will now read you the decision which was adopted, as I mentioned, by our congress. It must be noted that this decision is no product of the immediate moment. On the contrary, it is a conclusion derived from the position of principle which the Polish Social-Democrats have held since the very beginning of their movement.

Already at our first party congress, which took place in Warsaw in March 1894, we adopted a resolution on the question of our relation to the Russian workers’ movement which recognised the need for common, united class struggle by the Polish and Russian proletariats. At the time when we adopted this decision there was not yet any mass workers’ movement in Russia, and Russian Social-Democracy existed only in embryo. Our political opponents, the Polish nationalists called us, in those days, utopians and fantasists, saying that a proletarian revolutionary movement in Russia was an impossible dream. For years we had to fight for the idea of a union of the entire working class of Russia, without distinction of nationality, reckoning in advance with the results of the social process of development in Russia on which we firmly counted, as ‘orthodox’ Marxists.

I think I ought to mention here that our attitude to the Russian Social-Democratic movement results not only from the mechanical view by which struggle against the common enemy, the autocracy, requires unity of all revolutionary forces in Russia, but also from our view of the whole process of social development, which is welding capitalist Poland and capitalist Russia ever more closely in a single economic organism, thereby laying the historical basis for the merging of the Polish and Russian proletariats in common class struggle under the flag of a single, united Social-Democratic movement.

Our attitude to the Russian labour movement is thus the reverse side of our attitude to Polish nationalism, which strives, on the contrary, to isolate the Polish proletariat from the Russian and organise it on a basis of utopian national aspirations. In this sense we ascribe great importance to unity with the Social-Democratic Party of Russia, seeing in it the realisation of our fundamental views, which we have been defending for ten years, and therefore what is of primary significance to us is the mere fact of unity. The forms to be assumed by this unity, however important they may be from the practical stand-point, are consequently seen by us as secondary.

It was in that spirit that our congress passed the following resolution:

In conformity with the resolutions of the first congress, in 1894, and of the third congress, in 1901, of the Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, which expressed the need for common, united political struggle shoulder to shoulder with the proletariat of the entire Russian state against Tsardom, the fourth congress of the SDKLP resolves that a single common Social-Democratic organisation for the whole Russian state is desirable. This main task of the present moment is of fundamental importance, so that the form of organisation is a secondary matter, the settlement of which will depend on the position and needs of the movement not only in Poland and Lithuania but also throughout Russia, and can therefore be realised only through agreement with the Social Democrats of the entire state. Consequently, the fourth congress leaves open the question of forms of organisation.

In the interests of the Social-Democratic movement in Poland it is desirable that there shall be:

1. Complete independence for the Polish Social-Democrats in all internal matters relating to agitation and organisation in the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, with their own congresses, committees and publications.

2. Adoption by the common Social-Democratic Party of the official title: ‘Social-Democratic Labour Party of Russia’, with the Polish Social-Democratic movement retaining, as a sub-title, its present name: ‘Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania’.

3. Other Polish socialist organisations to be allowed to enter the all-Russia Party only by joining the Social-Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania.

4. A member of the Polish organisation to be a member of the editorial board of the Central Organ, there to give guidance, along with the other members of the board, on matters concerning Polish party and public affairs.

5. Replacement of paragraph 7 of the programme of the Russian Party by a precise formula incapable of interpretation in a nationalist spirit.

6. Autonomy to be demanded for the Polish and Lithuanian provinces.

7. Adoption of a resolution expressing the attitude of the Russian Social-Democrats towards Polish social-patriotism, in the spirit of the SDKPL.

The resolution I have read gives the main points of what our congress desired, and we hope, comrades, that you will recognise the rightness and expediency of these points. Some of them, however, were emphasised by our congress as forming the indispensable conditions for our joining a common Social-Democratic Party.

These points are No 1, the underlined part of No 2, and No 3.

Comrades! You invited us to attend with the right of a consultative voice until we announced the decisions adopted by our congress with regard to your Party, which achieved unity already at your first congress. We consider this decision fully understandable, but we think it appropriate to state, for our part, that we cannot regard the decisions of this congress as binding upon us until we know your answer on the three basic points which I have mentioned as conditions for our union.

In conclusion I will add that given the present position of our movement in Poland, we ascribe special importance to unity with the Social-Democratic Party of Russia on the grounds of its moral significance. Even if our practical joint work were, in the immediate future, to be confined, whether we like it or not, to isolated instances, nevertheless the mere fact of political unity between the Polish and Russian proletariats is historic, and at the same time a fitting answer to a whole century of oppression of the Polish people by official, autocratic Russia.

Hitherto, only the tricolour flag of Russian absolutism has waved over Poland, as the symbol of enslavement. From the moment of our unification there will wave over Poland the red flag of all-Russia Social-Democracy, as the pledge of coming liberation. In the hope that the present congress will bring about this event, which we have long awaited, we again express to you our wishes for success, our wishes that this congress may prove to be the harbinger of death for our common immediate foe, the autocracy.

Chairman (Plekhanov): The draft agreement which our comrades from the Social-Democracy of Poland and Lithuania have put before us must be regarded as the first step in the rapprochement between us. Its foundations will be examined when we come to discuss the draft rules of the Party. We should then give our Polish comrades a precise

answer to their proposals. For the present we ask them to remain at our congress with a consultative voice. I propose to the congress that a commission be elected to study the agreement proposed by the Polish comrades.

Hofman said that the chairman had no right to decide on his own the question of a commission.

The Chairman said that this was merely a proposal, not a decision.

Lieber said that the question could not be referred to a commission without preliminary discussion, because it was of fundamental importance.

Yegorov asked what the commission was to do.

Chairman: The commission is to study the question of the agreement.

Lenin repudiated the charge that the chairman had proceeded irregularly. Nobody, so far as he had heard, had proposed that a decision taken by the congress be replaced by a decision taken by the commission. Nobody was trying to conceal anything. A commission would be elected in order to hear what the Polish comrades had to say, discuss the agreement these comrades proposed, and then submit for approval by the congress the opinion they had formed on this matter.

Goldblatt: The congress should discuss this question in a general way, so that this general discussion can provide the commission with the necessary material. I urge that we have an open general discussion. Then everything will be done in the full light of day.

Chairman: I don’t know what Comrade Goldblatt means when he says ‘in the full light of day’. At all international congresses work in commissions takes place before debates.

Both proposals were put to the vote, and by a majority of 32 to 6 the proposal of the presidium was adopted. Comrade Lieber’s proposal was rejected.

A proposal to elect a commission of five was adopted, by 37 to 6.

Chairman: I now open the discussion on item 4 of the agenda: the Party’s Central Organ.

Gorin: I propose that Iskra be recognised as the central organ, because Iskra has fulfilled and is fulfilling in practice the role of the guiding organ of revolutionary Social-Democracy.

Akimov proposed that it be explained what this item meant: was it a matter of pre-determining the existence of a single organ, or was the question of local organs also to be decided?

Lenin explained that the item related to the question of either confirming the old organ or establishing a new one.

Akimov (on a point of order): It follows from Lenin’s explanation that we cannot discuss this question today. We cannot discuss the question of the Party organ until we have finished discussing the programme.

Yegorov: I will begin by replying to Comrade Akimov. Of course the organ must be considered along with our programme. This is not the question before us at the moment. The third item on our agenda is very important. It must decide the question of how we are to ensure unity and adherence to principle in the activity of our Party, how we are to make sure that the point of view which proves victorious here is really put into effect, without wavering or vacillation. This, in my opinion, was what the OC had in mind when it made the question of the Party organ the third item on our agenda. We have now to express our attitude to Rabocheye Dyelo and to Iskra, not so much in the sense of the standpoint of principle of the one organ or the other as in the sense of stating what the situation is. Throughout the entire period that it has existed Iskra has unwaveringly and firmly put forward its principled point of view, without fearing to arouse discontent among a wide circle of readers, without fearing to anger its friends. That cannot, of course, be said of the other organ. This staunchness of Iskra is dear to us. It is not enough for us to draw up a programme, we have to put it into effect. We must remember the conditions under which we are obliged to work. Uncoordinated, disunited, lacking the possibility of communicating freely, each one of us is left to himself. We must have an ideological nucleus that can firmly direct our scattered activities, imparting unity to them and standing on guard for strict adherence to principle.

Akimov proposed that no discussion take place on the substance of the matter. He agreed with Comrade Yegorov, but considered that an organ ought not to be approved merely because it was steadfast.

Kostich: Comrade Akimov is mistaken. The feeling of the majority is not unknown to him. Why drag the matter out for the sake of formal considerations? Everyone is agreed, more or less, on everything. This question is clear. I am in favour of this question being discussed now.

Brouckère: I do not understand why Comrade Lenin did not understand Comrade Akimov. Of course we cannot approve the organ until we have adopted the programme. I propose that discussion of the organ be held over until we have adopted the programme.

Akimov moved a resolution, saying: I consider that the congress would go against its own decision, as just explained by Comrade Lenin, if it were to discuss the question of the organ before it has discussed the Party programme, and I propose that the congress adjourn and give the commission time to do its work.

The congress rejected Akimov’s resolution.

Kostich: I agree with Comrade Yegorov. Recognising Iskra as the guiding organ means bearing witness that Iskra is just what we need as a Party organ. True, Iskra has not, up to now, been able to respond to all the requirements of its readers. But everything that hindered it from doing this has now disappeared. I support Comrade Yegorov’s proposal and call for Iskra to be recognised as the central organ.

Koltsov: Comrade Yegorov says that Iskra has been staunch in its views. But that does not go far enough. It needs to be said that Iskra has been staunch in implementing certain principles, namely, those of revolutionary Social-Democracy. It is for that reason that I propose recognition of Iskra as the central organ.

Muravyov: Supplementing what Comrade Kostich has said, I want to stress that Iskra has been accepted as the guiding organ not only by the delegates at this congress but also by the majority of committees in Russia, and so by all the comrades who make up these committees, This acceptance of Iskra by the committees could not be and was not compatible with lack of familiarity with, or even complete ignorance of, Iskra ’s programme, because this acceptance concerned the body of ideas of Russian Social-Democracy, on matters of principle, tactics and general organisation, which were expressed by Iskra ; and the aggregate of these ideas must logically, in their turn, condition the general Party programme of Iskra.

Lieber: I consider that the question of the central organ cannot be reduced to that of the principle which this organ should uphold. There is also the question of the form of the central organ. Rabochaya Gazeta is regarded as the central organ. Until Rabochaya Gazeta has been abolished we cannot nominate a new organ. I think that, despite the defects which I find in Iskra, it ought to be recognised as the central organ. Whether it is enough for us to have only one organ is another matter. Has Iskra met all the requirements of its readers? I say no. For the RSDLP it is not enough to have only one Central Organ. The Party needs the guidance that a single Central Organ can give. But is it really supposed that there is no need for a workers’ paper? I am surprised that the comrades who have spoken before me have not mentioned this need. A newspaper must not only give leadership, it must also take up a number of questions which concern the workers. That the working-class masses need a leading organ I have no doubt. We must create an organ that will be understood by the broad masses. Local organs cannot take the place of the central organ for the mass of the workers. I propose that we consider the question whether the comrades agree that we need a second organ—a workers’ paper for popularising ideas among the mass of the workers.

Akimov: I know that Iskra will be recognised as the Party organ. But I declare myself against this. I want it to be made clear in the minutes of the congress that the question of the organ was pre-determined. I have been told that the committees’ recognition of Iskra as the guiding organ has already pre-determined the question of recognising Iskra as the Party organ. Does this mean that the central organ will bear the name Iskra ’? Or that its editorial board will continue? Or that its principles will be adopted? It seems to me that we must first of all ask the Iskra group whether it agrees to surrender its signboard to the congress. Does it agree to submit to the instructions of the congress? I think this is a pertinent question, taking into account the staunch convictions of Iskra. I am told that we shall discuss the election of the editorial board of the Central Organ at the end. But I think this question ought to be taken up now.

Yegorov: What Koltsov said is self-evident. One can’t be principled unless one has principles. If, nevertheless, I emphasised Iskra ’s merits not as regards the views it promotes but as regards its ability to promote them I did this because at the moment, when we are discussing item 3 of the agenda, it is just this that we need to pay attention to. We have to show how a Party organ ought to be conducted. I tum now to Comrade Akimov’s objections. I think we ought not to play hide and seek. We want to express in our resolution today our attitude to the serious work that Iskra has accomplished.

Comrades! Consider the state of affairs in our Party during the last two years. General chaos, uncertainty and vacillation were the typical features of this period. If we nevertheless remained a united Party, if we are meeting here today as members of a like-minded collective, we owe all this to a group of persons who on their own initiative created an organ which, amid all the prevailing confusion, held high the banner of revolutionary Social-Democracy, yielding to none of the fashionable trends of the time. An organ which was able to maintain its positions in such a troubled period will, of course, be able to safeguard them also under more favourable conditions. I therefore propose that Iskra be recognised as the Party’s central organ. In calling upon comrades to declare for recognising Iskra as the Party organ I consider that by this decision we shall safeguard ourselves against any future surprises. [Applause.]

Lyadov: I fully concur with Comrade Yegorov’s view. We need a leading organ, and Iskra alone is such an organ. The question of a popular organ should, I think, be taken up under the item on Party publications.

Popov: I want to add a few words to what was said by Comrade Yegorov, my co-delegate. He described the significance of Iskra and pointed to its role in the future. I wish to recall its history. I remember the announcement of the publication of Iskra in which the editors, referring to the mental vacillation that was going on, declared that the first step towards the creation of a Party must be the creation of a Party organ. I recall the article ‘Where To Begin’ in No 3 or No 4 or Iskra. Many of the comrades active in Russia found it a tactless article; others thought this plan was fantastic, and the majority attributed it solely to ambition. Then I remember the bitterness shown towards Iskra by the majority of the Committees: I remember a whole series of splits. Fairness requires me to say that in all these splits, even though each one did grave harm to the organisation—in all these splits there was always a good side: they infused a fresh spirit into the work of the committees. I recall, finally, how since last year, starting from May 1, the committees began, one after another, to voice their ideological solidarity with Iskra. I recall, finally, the work of the OC, working under the direction of Iskra.

The liquidation of the period of amateurism went ahead, and now we see here at this congress a united Party which has to a significant extent been created by the activity of Iskra. Iskra created the Party, and I think the Party should recognise Iskra as its organ.

Muravyov: When I referred to the fact that Iskra has been recognised as the leading organ by the majority of the committees in Russia I did not in the least intend to associate this circumstance with the ‘imperative’ or ‘non-imperative’ character of delegates’ mandates, as Comrade Akimov supposes. I merely mentioned it as one argument in favour of recognition by the congress of Iskra as the Party’s leading organ. Delegates of committees are, of course, absolutely free to express their views; but, all the same, I must say to Comrade Akimov that if, for example, the Congress delegates were to recognise Rabocheye Dyelo as their leading organ, then they would undoubtedly repent bitterly having taken such a rash decision as soon as they got back home to their committees . . . Comrade Akimov takes the question of the future editorial board of the Central Organ very much to heart, and his sympathetic attitude to the Iskra organisation, which is faced with the misfortune of being deprived of such a truly dear possession as the Iskra newspaper, did, I confess, give me a pleasant surprise. But even so, I must confess to Comrade Akimov that in my heart of hearts, I do not doubt the complete readiness of the Iskra group to sacrifice, if need be, their right of private ownership for the good of the common cause.

Gorin: Comrade Lieber said something like this: it is not enough to acknowledge the principled character of an organ, one has also to pay attention to the forms in which its principles are put into effect. He is paying attention, evidently, to the matter of economising revolutionary labour-time. It is difficult for workers to understand Iskra. But in order that Iskra may be equal to its own principles, in order that it may propagate the principles of scientific socialism, it cannot be popular in character. So as to overcome stylistic difficulties, leaders can take an article from Iskra and read it with workers. As for the polemical methods for which Iskra is blamed, this is not the place to talk about that matter, since we are not gathered here to judge of proprieties. I will mention that Iskra still has before it the big task of undertaking the publication of popular pamphlets.

Pavlovich: I did not understand Akimov at all when he put his questions. When we have chosen the Party organ from among the existing organs we shall possess the concrete material on which to perform the operations Comrade Akimov is so much concerned about.

As for Comrade Akimov’s wondering whether the Iskra organisation will submit to the decisions of the congress, let me remind him that it is not for nothing that the letters ‘RSDLP’ appear at the masthead of Iskra. Everything that bears that heading belongs to the party, and must submit to the Party’s decisions. Here we are merely deciding what part of this ideological property we want to see as the ideological mouthpiece of the Party’s views, just as the Party can cause another part of its property to cease to exist. How any perplexity can anse in this matter is for Comrade Akimov to explain.

Trotsky: Comrade Akimov asks: what are we endorsing in Iskra, if we are not endorsing the editorial board—the name?

Although I am present here, comrades, as delegate of the Siberian Association, I also have the honour to belong to the Iskra organisation. Members of that organisation, and its ideological supporters general-ly, have been and are called Iskrists’. This is not just a name, it is a trend. A trend which has rallied certain persons around it, a trend which has compelled everyone to take up a definite attitude towards it. And this was all the more important because Iskra appeared at a time of ideological confusion in our own ranks.

Let us recall how quickly Marxism conquered the minds of the intelligentsia at the beginning of the 1890s. For the majority of these intellectuals Marxism was the instrument for emancipating our democratic movement from the outworn ideology of Narodism. It brought with it the right to ‘go to school under capitalism’ with a good conscience. But Marxism soon introduced its truly revolutionary content into the labour movement. The more that movement developed, the more urgent it became for democratic circles to define their attitude towards it. But the democratic movement itself succeeded in growing and becoming stronger, and acquired a taste for sounding its own independent political notes. The ideology of the proletariat was not convenient from its point of view. A critical campaign against Marxism began. The official purpose of this campaign was to free Marxism from un-critical, ‘dogmatic’ survivals. The real task of the campaign was to free the democratic movement from the burden of Marxist ideology. ‘Criticism’ served to ‘undermine’ all the foundations of Marxism. Not a trace remained of the former fascination of Marxism. The disruptive influence of this ‘criticism’ was felt in our ranks, too, in the ranks of the Social-Democrats. A period of doubt, vacillation and disorder set in. We yielded up one position after another to the bourgeois democrats.

It was at this critical moment that the group around Iskra and Zarya appeared, taking upon itself the responsibility of rallying the Party under the banner of revolutionary socialism. At the beginning of its work this group was ‘in the minority’. Now the situation has changed radically. And if Iskra was our guiding organ during that time of confusion in the Party, then by recognising it now as our central organ we are merely giving formal expression to its victory, to the victory of our trend. It is not the name we are endorsing, Comrade Akimov, but the banner, the banner around which, in practice, our Party has rallied! [Applause.]

Martynov: The question of the organ, as has been said here, is the question of our banner, of our trend. Therefore, like many other comrades, I consider that while discussing the adoption of Iskra, as a newspaper of a definite trend, as our central organ, we should not at this juncture discuss the method of electing or endorsing its editorial board: we shall discuss that later, in its proper place on the agenda. I shall therefore speak only about the Iskra trend.

Much has been said here about the services rendered by Iskra to our movement. It has been said that Iskra was the transmitter among us of the idea of revolutionary Social-Democracy. Reference has been made to its staunchness, to its principled consistency, to the boldness and passion with which it promoted its views. I fully admit all these services rendered by Iskra. But when we mention an organ’s merits we ought also to mention its defects. It seems to me that the key to the explanation of Iskra ’s principal defects was given us yesterday by one of its editors, Comrade Lenin.

Speaking about the episode of Iskra ’s fight against economism, Comrade Lenin made a confession to us. ‘The stick had been bent in one direction, and so we bent it the other way.’ By these words Comrade Lenin did not mean the excessive passion or ruthlessness shown in the fight against economism. Nobody, including myself, would blame Iskra for that. The degree of passion shown in a fight testifies only to the degree of conviction in the fighter. In accordance with the whole sense of the discussion, Comrade Lenin had in mind something different, namely, that in combating a false theory and false tactical principles, Iskra ‘bent the stick’ in precisely those matters, in matters of theory and tactical principle. That sort of method in politics is, I believe, a harmful one, and as I have already said, the character of our movement at the time immediately following the period of economism clearly revealed the danger of this system of stick-bending. I shall not go into detail here on that question. I shall add only this. When the vote is taken on the recognition of Iskra as the central organ, I shall vote for Iskra, and I ask the congress to interpret this vote as endorsing the Iskra trend with the reservation mentioned.

Brouckère: I agree with Comrade Yegorov that members of the editorial board of the Party Organ should not belong to any committee, since otherwise, being absorbed in local needs, they will involuntarily reflect these. But, unlike Comrade Yegorov, I think that Iskra certainly ought not to be recognised as our central organ. Comrade Yegorov said just now that Iskra was afraid neither of foes nor of friends. The fact that it is not afraid of foes is not peculiar to Iskra. Who that is concerned with illegal publications worries about the opinion of the Government or the liberal trends? You don’t fear your adversary and you don’t consider him. But the fact that Iskra has not shown consideration for friends, either, deserves to be made a reproach against it. Iskra was the representative of one of the Social-Democratic trends, and sought to destroy all those Social-Democratic organisations whole aims did not chime with its own. It felt no shame in its choice of methods of struggle for this purpose: seeking to discredit these organisations, it proceeded against them with completely unjust and untrue accusations, thereby committing against the Social-Democratic trends which disagreed with it a whole series of crimes [shouts: ‘Oho!’]—crimes from your point of view as well, yours, the majority’s. Two days ago Comrade Orlov charged the Voronezh Committee with persuading others of what it believed itself, and the majority joined him in making this charge. How much more guilty, even from your point of view, must be the crimes of Iskra, which, in order to fight against the trends that disagreed with it, did not hesitate to throw dirt on them, and in the scope of its polemic and the quality of its methods went beyond all the bounds set by scruples. I observe that in the charges against the Voronezh Committee these was no mention of those methods, borrowed from Iskra, to which it resorted in its first leaflet against the OC. These methods were not approved, even by their supporters, who blamed them for starting, as they put it, ‘to behave like Iskra ’.

By recognising this organ as the Party organ we thereby acknowledge, first, that the whole Party is in solidarity with Iskra on all matters, and, secondly, that the Party assumes responsibility for the entire past of this organ. Can we say that we are all in solidarity with the Iskra tendency, or can we say, with conviction, that the majority of those Social-Democrats who have worked in Russia—who have worked, I say—are in solidarity with it? No, not in the least. The fact that the majority of the committees have declared themselves supporters of Iskra does not argue against this: in most cities there is another trend apart from the committees, and we do not yet know which of them is the real Social-Democratic movement, which of them constitutes the majority. Only one trend is represented here, the Iskra trend, and choosing Iskra as the Party organ will forcibly subject the other trend to this one’s views. Secondly, can we take upon ourselves responsibility for the past of Iskra as a newspaper, for all the mistakes and errors of tact committed by the group of private individuals who have been directing it? I mean tactlessness not only in relation to the Social-Democrats of the other trend but also in relation to the Socialist-Revolutionaries. [Ironical applause. ] Yes, the methods to which Iskra resorted made one blush for it. Comrade Popov said just now that most of the comrades who have read a few articles in Iskra have agreed that it is tactless. [Shows: ‘They have already repented!’] I don’t know whether these comrades have repented or whether they have simply lost their notion of what constitutes tact, but I have recently heard comrades express indignation with Iskra ’s methods and say that since Iskra’s sallies against the Socialist-Revolutionaries they have been ashamed to meet them. [Applause.] If you, who are in solidarity with Iskra on all points and who even approve of its methods, are capable of assuming responsibility for its past, you have no right to load this responsibility on to the shoulders of those who have been its constant opponents. I therefore move that Comrade Gorin’s proposal to recognise Iskra as the Party organ be rejected and that we either create a new organ or else re-establish the former Party organ, Rabochaya Gazeta.

In conclusion, I consider it my duty to warn comrades that recognition of Iskra as the Party organ will constitute one of the biggest obstacles to the uniting of all Social-Democratic trends in one party. [Exclamations: ‘Oho!’ ‘Well, now!’]

Lieber: I have given views about the past services attributed to Iskra, and about the group which has directed it. $ut I find that even on this sun there were spots. Iskra was unable to distinguish its foes from its friends. The polemic that Iskra waged against its friends, the Bund, was harmful. By this polemic Iskra brought bitterness into its relations with the Bund. It did not always behave tactfully in relation to the Bund. Now, while wishing to see Iskra as the central organ, I think that when it has acquired that status it will learn to distinguish its friends from its foes.

Akimov: I was not satisfied with Comrade Yegorov’s reply. He mentioned the important role played by Iskra as a principled organ. But that is not convincing. Such an organ was bound to appear and did appear. It has been asked, how tactful and skilful was Iskra in advancing these principles? If this organ had been more tactful it would have advanced these principles much more rapidly and durably. It has been mentioned here that the majority are on Iskra ’s side. But it must not be forgotten that there is a large minority who are not on Iskra ’s side.

Orlov: I did not blame the Voronezh Committee for its fight against the Iskra trend, but for the method by which this fight was carried on. Its underhand procedure, by way of ‘friendly letters’, and its tactless statements seemed to me blameworthy, and showed up the solidity and the moral physiognomy of the Voronezh Committee.

Popov: I want to reply briefly to the comrade who spoke about spots on the sun. Iskra has been accused of tactlessness, and Comrade Brouckère referred to evidence from me on this point. But he did not quote this evidence correctly. I said that Iskra aroused indignation only in those who stubbornly persisted in their errors. You speak of tactlessness. Comrade Lieber says that Iskra did not distinguish between its own people and others. No, it distinguished only between principles. That was tactless… But here, it seems to me, we ought to speak not about tactfulness but about political tact. I will not single out particular articles from Iskra or from the Bund’s Posledniye Izvestiya. I will merely mention that Iskra undoubtedly possessed political tact. That very tact required that it came out in the sharpest kind of polemic, and it is thanks to Iskra ’s tactics that we now see such unity in the Party. And this is what I have to say about Comrades Akimov and Brouckère. They have striven persistently to ensure that their objections to Iskra get into the minutes. Let the readers see that they fought for their position to the last drop of blood. This reminds me of a scene in The Inspector-General. Bobchinsky asks that he be written about in the newspapers: let everyone know, he says, that Pyotr Ivanovich Bobchinsky exists. [Applause.][18]

The list of speakers was exhausted.

Rusov: While the first congress endorsed Rabochaya Gazeta, the second will abolish it.

Chairman: Clearly, by naming a central organ the congress automatically abolishes the previously existing one.

Lieber: The Comrade Chairman’s explanation is torrett. But we could recognise both Iskra and Rabochaya Gazeta as central organs.

Koltsov: There can only be one central organ. There can be other organs common to the whole Party, but only one central organ.

Lenin: I propose that we issue a death certificate to Rabochaya Gazeta, then Comrade Lieber will be satisfied.

Lieber: It is not true that there can only be one central organ.

Plekhanov: The concept of two centres contradicts the laws of geometry.[19]

Martynov: I think that Comrade Lieber is proposing a second organ. There can be a single central organ, but also other organs common to the whole Party. I ask that this be mentioned in the resolution.

Muravyov: It seems to me that this is not a matter to be dealt with today. We shall talk about this when we discuss the question of publications readable by everyone.

Chairman: The congress has noted that Rabochaya Gazeta has ceased to exist.

Martov: In view of the fact that Rabochaya Gazeta has ceased to exist, I propose that the congress recognise this fact. [He then moved his resolution.] [Resolution by Martov and Stein: ‘The congress rescinds the decision of the First Congress recognising Rabochaya Gazeta as the Party’s central organ.’]

Comrades Akimov and Brouckère moved their resolution.[Resolution by Akimov and Brouckère: ‘In the interests of removing all obstacles standing in the way of complete unification of all Social Democrats active in Russia, the congress rejects the proposal to recognise Iskra as the Party organ, since Iskra represents only one trend. The congress re-establishes Rabochaya Gazeta, which was recognised as the Party organ by the First Congress of the RSDLP.’


The resolution by Comrades and Akimov and Brouckère was put to the vote, and received only two votes. The Martov-Stein resolution was voted on and adopted.

A resolution was moved which was signed by the members of the Yuzhny Rabochy group (Comrades Popov, Yegorov, Ivanov and Medvedev) and by Comrades Tsaryov, Lvov, Karsky, Rusov, Bekov and Stepanov.[Resolution by the members of the Yuzhny Rabochy group and others: ‘Considering (a) the services rendered by Iskra to ideological unification and to the development and defence of the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy and struggle on the basis of these principles against all kinds of opportunist tendencies in our Party, and also against tendencies seeking to divert the working-class movement from the only true revolutionary path; (b) the role of Iskra in directing the practical work of the Party; and (c) the leading role played by Iskra in the work of unification—the second congress of the RSDLP declares that Iskra is its central organ.’]

Martynov: I propose that the resolution be divided into two parts and each part voted on separately. My reason is that I can vote for the second part but I want to abstain from voting on the first.

The Bureau agreed to Comrade Martynov’s proposal and put to the vote first of all the second part of the resolution of the members of the Yuzhny Rabochy group. It received 44 votes, with two against, the editors of Iskra abstaining. When the first part of the resolution was voted on it received 35 votes, with two against and 11 abstentions (including the editors of Iskra). That resolution as a whole was then put to the vote, and received 38 votes, with two against and nine abstentions (including the editors of Iskra.) [Applause.]

Comrade Lieber submitted the following statement, signed by Comrades Lieber, Abramson, Hofman, Yudin and Goldblatt: ‘We abstained from voting owing to the motivation of this resolution, as we do not agree with certain points in this motivation in the way that these were interpreted by the comrades who moved the resolution.’

With the adoption of the resolution of the members of the Yuzhny Rabochy group, Comrade Gorin’s resolution became unnecessary. [Gorin’s resolution: ‘The congress recognises Iskra as the Party’s central organ for the following reasons: fast, Iskra satisfies all the demands that can be required of an organ as regards the theoretical and practical promotion of Social-Democratic principles; secondly, it has already been fulfilling in practice, up to now, the function of central organ.’]

Chairman: I propose that we proceed to next business, that is, to the delegates’ reports (Item 5 on the Agenda).

There was a discussion about whether the reports should be read in their entirety or only in abbreviated form. Two resolutions were moved on this question: one moved by Comrade Kostich, [‘The congress elects a special commission with the task of examining the reports and deciding which of them should be read to the congress. Brief oral reports to be given on the course of events in the remaining organisations.’ (Comrade Kostich’s resolution.)] which was passed by 27 votes to 14, and one moved by Comrade Makhov, [Comrade Makhov’s resolution: ‘The congress asks the delegates to give the congress brief oral statements about the course of events in their organisations. The reports themselves to be handed over to the congress Bureau.’] which was rejected by 26 to 24.



[17] The SDKPL had held its fourth congress at the beginning of July 1903. The resolution passed by this gathering was not known to the RSDLP Congress held soon afterward, nor was it made clear in the letter received by the congress from Warski (Warszawki). As a result of an invitation to attend with consultative voice, two Polish Social-Democrats came to the RSDLP congress and there revealed the conditions for unity proposed by the Polish congress. For the Polish background of all this see Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg, Vol. I pp. 271-279. (He is also useful on relations between the Polish Social-Democrats and the German Social-Democrats, which were sometimes referred to at the RSDLP congress: see Ibid., I, pp. 173-184, 299-261.)

[18] The obscure provincial landowner Bobchinsky asked Khlestakov to be so good, when he returned to St Petersburg, as to tell all the members of high society whom he imagined Khlestakov knew, that he, Bobchinsky, ‘exists’. In a later reference at the congress, Bobchinsky gets changed (perhaps by a secretary’s mishearing) into his partner Dobchinsky.

[19] ‘… Comrade Plekhanov mentioned … that the concept of two centres was contrary to mathematics. One of the comrades reminded him that our Party is headed by “two centres“. “Then they should be called focuses“, Comrade Plekhanov quickly replied. This quick-witted reply means much more than its author supposed. Of two focuses, if we have optics in mind, one is always imaginaty …’ (Trotsky, Report of the Siberian Delegation, p.17.)