Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Seventeenth Session

(Present: 43 delegates with 91 mandates and 12 persons with consultative voice.)

The minutes of the seventh and eighth sessions were read and approved.

The congress then proceeded to further discussion of Article 7 of the programme.

Goldblatt moved an amendment to delete from Article 7, as edited by the commission, the words: ‘and of language’.

The amendment was passed by 24 to 14.

Article 7, as amended by Comrade Kostrov, was then voted on as a whole. The first vote taken gave 22 for and 20 against, and a second vote gave 24 for and 24 against.

The question of what to do about Article 7 then arose.

Lenin proposed that Article 7 be referred to the commission once more, and, if it proved unable to satisfy both sides, that the question be held over to the next congress.

Lieber protested against reference to the commission. Since certain parts of the article had been adopted, the whole article had thereby been adopted.

The Chairman explained that after voting on separate sections, each of the articles was to be voted on en bloc.

Karsky opposed reference of the article to the commission and proposed that the whole article be deleted.

Goldblatt also opposed reference of the article to the commission, in view of the fact that this would merely result in the artificial formation of a majority, which did not as yet exist, for rejecting the entire article. He called for a further vote to be taken immediately.

Popov proposed reference of the article to the commission so that a happier formulation might be found, as it was impossible to reject the entire article for the sake of a few words.

Panin called for an end to the discussion of this question and for the congress to proceed to next business.

Martov considered the whole amendment unfortunate, not only from the stylistic standpoint but also from that of logic.

Plekhanov proposed that the article about abolishing social estates and establishing equality of civil rights be left in the programme, while the language question should be held over for a future congress. In his view it was clear that this question had not yet reached a state where it could be decided, and it required clarification in the Party press.

Yegorov: Comrade Plekhanov’s proposal runs counter to the wish of the congress. Since the congress has already discussed and adopted an amendment on language it has thereby acknowledged its competence to deal with this question.

Karsky considered insulting the mere proposition that such a burning question as that of language could be regarded as unready for decision and beyond the power of the congress to settle.

Martynov proposed that the amendment be referred to the commission for stylistic improvement.

Popov called for a fresh vote to be taken.

The congress voted. Comrade Lenin’s proposal was rejected by 26 to 24 and Comrade Plekhanov’s by 28 to 17. Comrade Popov’s proposal was adopted with 28 votes.

Article 7, as amended by Comrade Kostrov, was voted on once more, and rejected by 29 to 24.

Trotsky and Panin proposed that the addition to Article 7 be referred to the commission.

Lieber proposed that a commission to work out a formulation for Article 7 be elected at once.

Martynov urged that his proposal be put to the vote. A proposal to close the discussion was moved and adopted.

Comrade Lieber proposed that the congress answer three questions: (a) should the article in question be again sent back to the commission? (b) if so, should it be entrusted to the old commission or should a new one be elected? and (c) for what purpose was the article to be referred to the commission?

Proposal (a), that the article be referred to the commission, was adopted unanimously. On the question of the purpose of doing this, two proposals were presented: (1) by Comrade Lenin, that the article be referred to the commission without any particular instruction, and (2) by Comrade Martynov, that it be referred for editing and reconciling of the separate sections.

29 votes were cast for Comrade Lenin’s proposal and 26 (by roll-call vote) for Comrade Martynov’s. [When a roll-call vote was taken, the following voted for Comrade Lenin’s proposal: Gusev, Osipov, Pavlovich, Stepanov, Panin (2 votes), Sorokin, Lyadov, Gorin, Fomin, Muravyov, Lange, Dyedov, Trotsky, Lensky, Orlov, Gorsky, Plekhanov, Deutsch, Lenin (2 votes), Martov (2 votes), Hertz and Braun. For Comrade Martynov’s proposal there voted: Rusov (2 votes), Bekov (2 votes), Karsky (2 votes), Makhov (2 votes), Lvov (2 votes), Tsaryov, Kostich, Ivanov, Medvedev, Byelov, Posadovsky, Popov, Yegorov, Brouckère, Akimov, Martynov, Lieber, Goldblatt, Abramson, Yudin, Hofman.] The latter was therefore adopted.

By 27 votes to 24 it was decided to refer the article to the old programme commission.

The congress passed to discussion of Article 8 of the general political part of the programme which, as edited by the commission, read: ‘The right of self-determination for all nations included within the bounds of the state.’

Goldblatt: It is impossible to object to the ‘right of self determination’. If any nation fights for its independence we cannot oppose it. If Po land does not want to enter into lawful wedlock with Russia, then its wishes must not be obstructed, as Plekhanov put it. I agree with this view, within these limits. But the ‘right of self-determination’ does not prevent certain frictions and clashes which may arise. We are told that those points in our programme which ensure a democratic constitution are all that is needed. I think this is not so. A democratic constitution merely unties people’s hands so that they can fight, and therefore we need to have special demands to safeguard the rights of a national minority. In the article about regional self-government the congress recognised the need to adapt the structure of the state to special local conditions. But the concept ‘regional self-government’ does not coincide with what Article 8 is about, for a nation does not always coincide with territory. Regional self-government may therefore only ensure self-government for every nation which lives in a particular territory, while not ensuring the free development of a national minority. I consider it necessary to set up special institutions to ensure freedom of cultural development for the nationalities, and so I move that we add to Article 8: ‘and the establishment of institutions ensuring their full freedom of cultural development’.

Martynov said that common institutions must be organised in such a way as to look after particular interests as well. It was not possible to establish any special institutions for ensuring freedom of cultural development for a nationality.

Yegorov: Where the question of nationality is concerned we can adopt only negative propositions—i.e., we are against any constraint being exercised upon a nationality. But, as Social-Democrats, it is of no concern to us whether a particular nationality develops as such. That is a matter for a spontaneous process.

Koltsov: The delegates from the Bund always take offence when their nationalism is talked about. And yet the amendment which the comrade from the Bund has moved is of a purely nationalist character. They want us to take offensive measures in support of nationalities which are dying out.

Lieber: Since the bogy of nationalism has appeared on the scene, we must, instead of taking fright at it, ask ourselves these questions. Does national oppression exist? Must we get rid of it? Or are we going to allow some nationalities to be ousted? Naturally, if some nationality considers it is unable to go on living within the frontiers of Russia, the Party will not stand in its way. But there are in Russia a number of nationalities which do not want to leave the country, but which do suffer from oppression. How could the Russian proletariat have developed if the intellectual classes of Russian society had not given it something of their culture? Yet the Jewish proletariat receives no benefits from its own oppressed intelligentsia. Consequently, for the sake of the proletariat we should guarantee to every nationality the right to cultural development within the bounds of the state: otherwise it will want to escape from those bounds.

A proposal to close the list of speakers was adopted.

Martov: Comrade Lieber would like to see included in our democratic constitution a guarantee of freedom of national development. But such guarantees are not provided by a mere phrase, and Comrade Lieber did not show concretely what institutions ought to be set up in order to guarantee these rights.

Kostich: Every nation must have such institutions, says Comrade Lieber, and these institutions are closely bound up with the organisation plan put forward by the Bund.

The congress voted. Goldblatt’s amendment was rejected by the majority, with 3 votes for. Lieber’s proposal that Article 8 be worded thus: ‘Recognition, for all nations forming part of the state, of the right of self-determination and the right to freedom of cultural development’ was rejected by the majority, with 4 votes for.

Artide 8 as edited by the commission was adopted by an overwhelming majority, with a few abstentions.

Article 9, as edited by the commission, coincided with Article 8 of the old draft.

Fomin proposed an amendment: after the word ‘citizen’, to insert: ‘and also foreigner’.

Lenin considered the addition of the word ‘foreigner’ unnecessary, since it was self-evident that a Social-Democratic Party would stand for extending the application of this article to foreigners as well.

Lieber: Comrade Lenin says that it is ‘self-evident’ that Social-Democrats will stand for a law by which any foreigner can prosecute officials. No, this is not ‘self-evident’, as can be seen, for example, from the fact that when Russian revolutionaries have been arrested in Germany and put in irons, and so on, our German comrades have protested only against particular cases, and have never introduced into parliament a bill for a law of this kind.

Trotsky: I request that Comrade Lieber’s words be recorded in the minutes.

Martov: Since Comrade Lieber’s words are to be recorded in the minutes and will perhaps be published and become known abroad, I think it necessary to protest against the implication contained in them that our German comrades take up an attitude of indifference to the fate of Russian Social-Democrats. It is not a question of the German comrades’ unwillingness but of the German constitution. I protest against Comrade Lieber’s statement, which I regard as a chauvinist boutade.

Tsaryov proposed that Article 9 be formulated as follows: ‘Direct accountability before juries to apply to all officials against whom any person lodges a complaint.’

Plekhanov proposed that the word ‘citizen’ in the commission’s version be replaced by: ‘victim’.

Strakhov wished the entire article to be worded thus: ‘The right of any person to prosecute any official before a jury, through the usual channels.’

Hertz offered a different formulation: ‘Granting of the right to everyone to prosecute any official before a jury without complaining to the authorities.’

When votes were taken, Fomin’s proposal received 3 votes, Tsaryov’s 12, Plekhanov’s 8, Strakhov’s 30, and Hertz’s 13. Strakhov’s formulation was consequently adopted.

The commission then proposed that Article 11 should read: ‘Judges to be elected by the people.’

Brouckère proposed these additions: (a) abolition of special courts; (b) all persons to be subject to the jurisdiction of the general courts in the normal way; (c) abolition of the death penalty; (d) free legal aid.

Lieber supported the point about abolishing special courts. He referred to the example of France, where the Socialists were fighting against special courts-martial.

Trotsky considered this point superfluous, since by calling for the election of judges we were thereby calling for the abolition of all special courts.

Martov: We call for the abolition of the standing army. When there is no army there will be no courts-martial, just as when social estates have been abolished there will be no nobles’ courts. There is no need to include petty demands for the abolition of courts-martial, since we are against militarism.

Plekhanov explained that the introduction of the militia system did not entail abolition of courts-martial, as could be seen from the example of Switzerland.

Makhov: Election of judges is not enough. We need to define the actual nature of the courts. From the example of England we know that even elected judges may be bourgeois.

Lyadov was against any special points being added after adoption of the point about the election of judges.

Gorin proposed that the words ‘by the people’ be deleted from the commission’s version.

Koltsov proposed that the words ‘and juries’ be added to this version.

The congress voted. Brouckère’s proposal was taken in four parts: (a) was rejected by 24 to 17; (b) was rejected by the majority, with 1 vote in favour; (c) was rejected by the majority with 10 votes in favour [a delegate shouted: ‘And what about Nicholas II?]; (d) was rejected by the majority, with 1 vote in favour. Gorin’s amendment was rejected by the majority, with 9 votes in favour, and Koltsov’s likewise, with 10 votes in favour.

Article 11 was adopted unanimously in the form prepared by the commission.

Lieber (as a personal observation): I consider it necessary to make the following statement. The interpretation given to my words by Comrade Marlov, and his description of what I said as a ‘chauvinist boutade ’, I can only describe as being itself a demagogic boutade, and, moreover, one uttered with the basest motives. [The chairman checked the speaker, but Martov asked that ‘the speaker be allowed freedom of language’.] I note that my words have caused excitement in our Bureau. Wrongly, it failed to react like that to the insult hurled at me by Comrade Martov. Then, it remained calm. Of course, if Comrade Martov will say he spoke those words only out of irritation, then I will, in turn, withdraw what I have said. But if Comrade Martov says that he used the expression ‘a chauvinist boutade ’ quite deliberately, then I repeat that I cannot describe his conduct in this case otherwise than as a demagogic boutade, uttered, moreover, with the basest motives.

Martov (as a personal observation): The explanation given by Comrade Lieber regarding his remarks about the German Social-Democrats has not altered the interpretation I put upon those remarks. He called what I said a demagogic boutade. I do not altogether understand where the ‘people’ are, before whom I engaged in this demagogy. Given his attempt to characterise my remark in this way, I cannot withdraw it.[28]

The session was closed.



[28] Presumably the point of Martov’s reply to Lieber was that demagogy’ means literally leading the people’ (i.e., up the garden path).