Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Eighteenth Session

(Present: 43 delegates with 51 mandates and 12 persons with consultative voice.)

Article 12 of the general political section of the programme was read. In the Commission’s version this corresponded to Article 9 of the old draft (pre-pared by Iskra and Zarya).

Lieber: We do not have the term ‘militia’ here. Universal arming of the people and militia are not the same thing. Universal arming of the people may be the normal situation, or it may be proclaimed during wartime, but it is not what prevails in Switzerland. I propose that the words ‘universal arming of the people’ be replaced by ‘militia’, with the first-mentioned words given afterwards, in brackets.

Lenin: The word ‘militia’ contributes nothing new, and makes for confusion. The words ‘universal arming of the people’ are clear, and fully Russian. I regard Comrade Lieber’s amendment as unnecessary.

Lieber’s amendment was rejected by a majority, and Article 12 adopted as edited by the commission.

Article 13 corresponding to Article 10 of the old draft, was then adopted without discussion.

The rapporteur of the commission read Article 14, corresponding to Article 11 of the old draft, and said that the amendments to this which had been submitted to the commission had not been approved by the majority of its members.

Lieber: I propose that the second paragraph of this article be deleted. Textbooks are automatically included in the concept of free, compulsory education, since it is impossible to learn without them. Besides, it is offensive to divide children into rich and poor, as Posse has correctly shown.[1]

Lyadov: I agree with Lieber, but for different reasons. I consider that this going into detail is not in accord with the spirit of our programme.

Yegorov: I presented this same amendment to the commission. Delegates have often referred to matters being ‘self-evident’. If we introduce universal education in a democratic state, we try to ensure that everyone gets an education. It is not possible to ensure this if the means are lacking. This is self-evident. We are not including, for instance, a point about free legal aid.

Martov: I should advise greater care in agreeing with the windbag Posse, otherwise one may easily fall into bad company. For a socialist and revolutionary it cannot be offensive to recognise that rich and poor exist. It is a fact that only has to be slurred over for tearful democrats. The children of poor workers know they are poor, even so. The socialist parties of the West, which have included this point in their programmes, were not afraid of mentioning that there are rich and poor, nor did they regard this as a mere detail. The question of popular education is an especially important one for Social-Democrats. We need to keep these details in the programme, like the details about factory legislation. I merely propose that we make one addition to this point: ‘in their mother-tongue’. This will facilitate the work of the commission. The school question brings up again the question of ‘equality’ of languages, but this is very important. Teaching suffers if the children do not understand the language in which they are being taught at school.

Plekhanov: Following Martov, all I want to add is that if it is offensive to mention that there are poor people, then we ought to refrain from introducing income tax. Universal education does not in the least presuppose that textbooks are issued free of charge, as may be seen from the example of Switzerland. This is one of the contradictions inherent in capitalist society. I have lived in Switzerland. Lack of free textbooks causes much humiliation to the poor in that country. As regards food, I can point to the testimony of the Swiss inspector Schuler. He says that the children of poor parents often come to school hungry. I regard the question of education as fundamental; it is a guarantee of the rights of the proletariat.

Karsky: After Plekhanov’s remarks I have nothing to add, except this, that everything that is implied here is carried out by bourgeois governments. I am opposed to adding the words ‘in the mother-tongue’. I consider this addition unnecessary, since it rules out our having a special article on the subject. We should have a separate paragraph on this. Comrade Martov’s remark about bad company was out of place.

The Chairman asked Comrade Karsky to refrain from expressions of this sort.

Yegorov: I am categorically opposed to Martov’s addition. It would mean reducing a serious question to a triviality, and there would be difficulty in reconciling Article 7 with this addition. I see here a clearly expressed desire to rally the majority of the congress.

The Chairman asked Comrade Yegorov to withdraw his last words.

Yegorov: I withdraw them, but I make this point, that everyone introducing an amendment should think carefully.

Chairman: That applies generally.

Martov: Since Yegorov has been allowed to speak a second time, I too must object that the addition I proposed did not have that significance.

Trotsky considered Martov’s proposal appropriate and supported it.

Martov: In presenting my proposal I carried out the commission’s instructions. I thought for a long time how to find a formulation that would satisfy all requirements. I came to the conclusion that for logical reasons one could introduce this point here. It is worded in a clear-cut and well-defined way. I did not expect at all that my concern to satisfy the other side would be interpreted as a political manoeuvre. I put it to Comrade Yegorov that by being excessively suspicious and diplomatic one can make a fool of oneself.

Goldblatt: We cannot agree with this amendment. A part of the general section has been taken out and inserted here. Thereby all the rest is annulled. From what Martov and Trotsky said it emerged that the majority must be satisfied regarding language’ in the school. A proposal such as this tends to break the article up and throw out a large part of what is essential.

Lenin: I am against Martov’s proposal. It would be more convenient to move amendments to different points after the commission has done its work.

Rusov: Yesterday we talked about equality of languages, having in mind not the schools but all local public institutions. To talk about equality of languages in the school is nonsense, since in each school one language must prevail, otherwise it won’t be a school but the devil only knows what! A convenient expression of this point would be recognition of the need for teaching in the mother-tongue. As for equality of languages, this must be recognised in all local governmental institutions, that is the population must be given the right to transact business in local government and public institutions in their own languages, along with the state language. For this reason I think Martov’s amendment does not rule out the possibility of recognising equality of languages.

Popov: Implied in the general formulation is teaching in the mother-tongue not only in the primary school but also in the university. I regret that mere trifles have given rise to such an atmosphere. It is desirable that this should cease.

Starover said, in connection with Comrade Goldblatt’s statement, that, as a member of the programme commission, he could affirm that Martov’s proposal, which had been gone into in the commission, was in no way intended to mean scrapping the question of equality of languages.

Trotsky proposed to add this article: ‘Teaching to be given in the mother-tongue at the request of the population’.

A vote being taken, Lieber’s proposal (‘to delete the second paragraph’) was rejected and Trotsky’s adopted by 30 to 9. Article 14, as amended by Trotsky, was approved unanimously.

The paragraph on abolition of indirect taxes, etc., was then approved.

Next, the congress discussed the section of the programme dealing with the protection of labour.

The first subject for debate was the introduction and Articles 1 and 2.

Lyadov called for a continuous rest period of 42 hours, as a 36-hour rest-period now existed in many factories.

Yegorov: This was rejected in the commission. In some works, by way of exception, there is a six-hour day, but our demand is for an eight-hour day.

Lieber remarked that nothing was said in the programme about inspection of the conditions prevailing in small-scale production.

Yegorov: In the commission it was said that the programme should be couched in very broad terms, owing to the variety of conditions existing. What is to be done about workshops in which the workers are not wage-workers but members of the family?

Lenin was not against the proposal for a 42-hour rest period, but pointed out to Lieber that the programme spoke of inspection of all workplaces. If the size of these were to be mentioned that would merely restrict the application. When our programme becomes a bill, that will be the time to insert details.

Lieber proposed adding the words: ‘regardless of the size of the workplace’.

Trotsky proposed that the Sunday rest-period be extended to 42 hours.

Makhov: In Nikolayev there is already a 40-hour rest period.

Tsaryov: In the engineering works in the South the rest-period is longer than 36 hours.

Kostrov: In Batum the rest-period is 37 hours.

Muravyov proposed that to Article 2 be added the words: ‘in all branches of the economy’.

The congress voted. The introduction and Article 1 were approved. Lieber’s amendment to Article 2 was rejected, and Muravyov’s also, and Lyadov’s amendment for a 42-hour rest-period was adopted. Article 2, with Lyadov’s amendment, was approved as a whole.

Approved also were Articles 3 and 4 (with an amendment substituting ‘6 a.m.’ for ‘5’.).

Article 5 was discussed.

Glebov proposed that the employment of children of school age be banned. This demand was of interest to cultured sections of the Population.

Koltsov favoured also a ban on exploitation of children by their parents. At the Zurich Congress (1897) the clericals were against interference with work in the home, but the Social-Democrats opposed them, demanding that inspection apply also to this.

Makhov supported Koltsov, but considered that some parents, too, were employers, and an inspectorate for such families should be set up. It was impossible to ban the nursing of children. The word ‘hired’ should be deleted.

Lyadov and Tsaryov called for a six-hour day for adolescents, not a four-hour day, as the latter would increase the power of parents.

Goldblatt replied to Comrade Glebov that it was impossible to fool the Zemsky Sobor,[2] the Liberals would notice. They would agree provisionally, then, when the time came to lay down concretely what the school age should be, they would restrict it.

Yegorov: I am not against Comrade Glebov’s proposal, but I don’t agree with his reasons. The concept ‘school age’ shows that the figures are not arbitrary.

The congress voted. Makhov’s amendment (to delete the word ‘hired’) was adopted. Koltrov’s (to delete the words ‘employers’ and ‘hired’) was rejected. Popov’s (a six-hour working day for adolescents) was adopted. Kostrov’s (‘complete prohibition of night work for persons of either sex under the age of 18’) was rejected. Article 5, as amended, was approved.

Article 6 had been altered by the commission, the words ‘women recently confined’ being replaced by ‘women’, the words ‘two weeks before and four weeks after childbirth’ replaced by ‘four weeks before and six weeks after childbirth’, and this addition made: ‘with payment of wages at the usual rate throughout this period’.

Article 6, with all these amendments, was approved.

A delegate: The commission decided to insert between Articles 7 and 8 a paragraph about creches for babies and small children, and feeding arrangements for them. I opposed this detail. I think that this point predetermines the compulsory establishment of factory hospitals, and extended employment of female labour, thereby playing into the hands of the manufacturers. Besides, this is a question that needs discussion, and therefore it should be referred to the commission andheld over to a future congress. As a doctor, I consider that infant mortality is not increased by the cessation of breast feeding. This is a disputed question, and some people’s thinking about it is affected by a passion for ‘naturalness’.

Lieber considered that hygienic conditions would not be observed in creches established in connection with factories. In Switzerland, for instance, creches were set up in specially hygienic conditions. I propose that this point be deleted.

Another delegate: I explained to the commission the reasons which led me to propose the point which we are now discussing. Here I will reply to the objections which comrades have made. They amount to this. First, it is said that this is a detail. I emphatically disagree. What is involved is a whole numerous stratum of the proletariat, all children in babyhood and infancy. Our programme, which sets out in such detail all our demands in the interests of protecting adult and adolescent workers, completely ignores the children of the proletariat of that age and yet it is in that period of their lives that this very numerous stratum of the proletariat is most in need of protection. The dreadfully high rate of infant mortality has long since attracted the attention of scientists, and statistical research undertaken to discover the causes of this mortality has shown that the principal cause is incorrect feeding. A comrade who spoke against my proposal based his objection on the findings of medical science and I am obliged to follow him into the realm of medicine. I declare that the comrade is completely mistaken when he says that it has not yet been proved that the most suitable food for a child is its mother’s milk. I declare that this is already a well-established medical fact, and not fetishism in favour of naturalness, as the comrade supposes, but a fact established by statistics and observation and in full conformity with our medical knowledge. The professors have long been teaching, in all schools of medicine, that every mother should breast-feed her child, because a woman’s milk is the best nourishment a child can have. The substitutes so generously offered by technology can never replace women’s milk. And this is so, even given the pedantic precision which is necessary when artificial feeding is resorted to, and which, of course, can be observed only in comparatively well-to-do homes, but not in those of proletarians. The professors forgot, in their lectures, about those women whom poverty takes away from their families, tears from their children, and drives into factory work. If the professors have forgotten them, the workers’ party ought not to forget them. And this is all the more important because the demand for female labour in production increases every year: every year a larger number of women are thrust into the factories and a larger number of children are deprived thereby of their natural food. I regard it as necessary, therefore, that in our programme a place be found for the following demand: that no mother be deprived of the possibility of breast-feeding her child. On these grounds I propose that the conditions of work of women who are breast-feeding their children be subjected to regulation.

Comrade Lieber said that, in stipulating in my draft that ‘creches be established in connection with factories’ I was placing creches in unhygienic locations, since, he says, it is well-known that good hygienic conditions do not obtain in factories. But when I said ‘in connection with factories’ I did not have in mind a topographical definition, I meant that, wherever women are employed, the measures indicated should be taken. The actual place where a creche is to be established should, of course, be chosen so as to meet the requirements of hygiene.

This is why I continue to urge that the point I have proposed be included in the programme.

Lyadov confirmed the correctness of what the previous speaker said about infant mortality. But, in view of the fact that the question had not been sufficiently worked out, he proposed that it be referred to the commission and held over to a future congress.

Brouckère: It is a well known fact that creches reduce mortality.

Yegorov: I propose that the question of creches be left for the next congress to decide.

The first proposal was rejected. The point about creches was adopted and included in the programme as Article 7.

Articles 7 and 9 of the Iskra-Zarya draft had been merged into one by the commission (see Article 8 of the programme).

Posadovsky: Both in the earlier draft and in this version it seems to me that the whole of this seventh point is ill-conceived and quite fails to correspond to the attitude our Party ought to take up regarding the responsibility of employers for accidents to workers and workers’ disablement, partial or complete. Above all, there is no mention here of the principle of criminal responsibility on the part of an employer for a worker’s disablement. The worker suffers not only as a producer of value but also as an individual, and his life and health ought to be safeguarded. Point 14 of the draft, providing for criminal responsibility of the employer in cases of failure to observe the laws for the protection of labour, seems to me to quite fail to embrace all those other cases not foreseen by the law, and where an employer has not taken safety precautions, although he could have done, he ought to be subject to criminal responsibility. As regards the question: ‘when is the employer liable to civil responsibility?’ the draft and the commission’s formulation provide an incorrect and, in any case, imprecise answer. I think that it is beyond doubt that the employer should always bear civil responsibility. What does it matter to the workers whether his employer is guilty or not? The given enterprise ought to pay for all injury caused in the process of production. In only one instance is the employer to be free of civil responsibility, namely, if a worker consciously and deliberately causes injury to himself. Then it is for society as a whole to take responsibility.

If we take these two principles as our basis and determine by proceeding from them our attitude to the question at issue, we shall divide all cases of loss of ability to work into three categories:

1. The worker loses ability to work, his employer not having taken all the safety precautions he could have taken (and not only those laid down by law). In this case the employer bears both criminal and civil responsibility.

2. The worker loses ability to work, his employer having taken all possible safety precautions. The employer is free of criminal responsibility but bears civil responsibility.

3. The worker consciously and deliberately injures himself. The employer is free from all responsibility, criminal or civil. But the worker receives a pension from the state.

Taking all the foregoing into consideration, and assuming as an indispensable condition that the onus probandi must always rest on the employer, I move that the accompanying draft be included in this Point of the programme.

Yegorov: I am opposed to Posadovsky’s proposal. In the first place, criminal responsibility is a requirement in the most backward of legal systems, including the Russian: if a worker falls off the scaffolding, his boss prosecutes the architect. Secondly, I consider that detailed treatment of this question is not required. I think the problem does not result from the will of the employer, and it is impossible to bring in individual responsibility: the capitalists as a whole should pay. Every time an accident occurred, the victim would have to submit a complaint, which would be very burdensome. The matter should be settled by means of a general fund and inspectorate. The question needs to be treated less subjectively: the injured workers must be compensated, whether the capitalist is guilty or not, and the whole capitalist class must be answerable. An enterprise in which work is carried on under dangerous conditions should have a heavy tax imposed on it.

Martov: There is no point in combining civil and criminal responsibility, although the latter frightens the factory-owners and obliges them to make concessions. Factories have directors ‘for unpleasantnesses’, whose special function it is to go to prison. Consequently, criminal responsibility produces no results. Therefore, I am in favour of state insurance.

Gorin advocated personal responsibility, for the same reasons as had already been given.

Lyadov: I am not for personal responsibility. The boss goes bankrupt and the workers lose their life pensions. Therefore, I favour a general tax on factory-owners.

Lvov: I am for state insurance and I propose that we add: ‘compulsory application of all technical improvements which safeguard work-ers against accidents (especially in mines).’

Orlov: I am for criminal responsibility. It provides a stimulus to the development of technical means of protecting workers. A fine is soon paid—it is cheaper than installing an expensive machine.

Yegorov proposed to add: ‘by means of a special tax on the employer, increasing progressively in proportion to the dangerousness of the given enterprise’.

Martynov proposed that after the word ‘dangerousness’ in Comrade Yegorov’s amendment the word ‘disorderliness’ be added.

Posadovsky proposed that the whole paragraph be formulated as follows:

‘Establishment of a law on civil and criminal responsibility of employers for partial or complete loss of ability to work resulting from accidents or harmful working conditions.’

Note: ‘The employer to be freed from criminal responsibility only if it be proved that he could not have foreseen the worker’s loss of ability to work. The employer to be freed from civil responsibility only if it be proved that the worker deliberately caused injury to himself, causing his loss of ability to work.’

When votes were taken, Posadovsky’s proposal and all the amendments were rejected. Article 8 as edited by the commission was adopted as a whole.

Artide 9, coinciding with paragraph 8 of the old draft, was adopted with the following amendments: after the word ‘payment’ the words ‘in cash’ to be added, and before the word ‘agreement’, the words ‘without exception’ to be added.

Comrade Lyadov’s proposal that Artide 15 of the previous draft be placed after Artide 9 was adopted.

Article 15 (now 10) was adopted.

Then Artide 11 (partially coinciding with the old Artide 10) was adopted.

The session was closed.



[1] V.A. Posse was a journalist, editor of Zhizn.

[2] Zemsky Sobor (‘Assembly of the Land’) was the name of the ‘parliament’ of 16th century Russia, and was the term commonly used for the constituent assembly for which the Social-Democrats agitated.