Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Twenty-first Session

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

Kostrov said that serfdom relations had been preserved in Caucasia in forms that were different from those in the rest of Russia. There were 1,150 peasants in temporary bondage, who had not yet redeemed their allotments. It was desirable that these relations should be abolished, and so a demand for their abolition should be included in the programme.

Martynov: To do that it would be enough to insert in Article 4 the words: ‘and in Caucasia’.

Kostrov: No. It is important to mention specifically this form of serfdom.

Rusov: Introducing particular demands like this merely lengthens the programme without making it complete, since, while enumerating various forms of serfdom, we may leave out several. Wherever survivals of serfdom may exist, they are all included in the formulation: ‘in all parts of Russia’. Consequently we should confine ourselves in the programme to general indications only.

Lyadov: I quite agree with Comrade Rusov. But Article 4 is about setting up peasants’ committees exclusively for the purposes of regulating agrarian relations. Yet survivals of serfdom have been preserved not only among the peasants. We have the quit-rent payers (chinsheviki ), the Siberian post-servants (yamshchiki) [18] and so on. So we should make the second part of Article 4 an article on its own, worded like this: ‘Abolition of survivals of serfdom relations wherever they may be found.’

Plekhanov: The chinsheviki and the post-servants are peasants, too.

Lyadov and Kostrov supported Comrade Rusov’s amendment.

Lenin tried to link together the proposals of Rusov and Kostrov in the following way. Including in Article 4 the words: ‘and in Caucasia’, we provide, by this amendment, that it comes within the competence of the peasants’ committees. If that is not enough, then especially important cases can be dealt with in a special point—for instance, saying that the land of peasants in temporary bondage should become their property.

Lieber: My proposal does away with the need for all these amendments, by deleting the whole of Article 4. I should like to have this explained to me: what are peasants’ committees’? For what period are they to be set up? The moment of revolution? Or are they to be transformed into a permanent institution? If this is a protracted process, why do we need all this article? If the abolition of serfdom relations is to be effected in a revolutionary way, why are committees needed? Comrade Plekhanov says that we must grant the peasants the right to recover the cut-off lands. But in this connection it is being forgotten that the peasantry are already differentiated to a considerable extent. Who are to constitute these committees: the poor peasants or the kulaks? What attitude are we Social-Democrats to take up towards them? What activity are we to undertake in defence of the oppressed? Otherwise, all the land will go to the kulaks, who, as the more influential stratum of the population, will rule the roost in the committees. I repeat my question: on whose behalf are we working—the kulaks’, or that of the rural proletariat? And another question: why should we put our hopes in the revolutionary spirit of the peasants’ committees? There are no grounds for showing such faith in them. Why cannot the Social-Democrats themselves abolish survivals of serfdom in a revolutionary way? This article is based on faith in the revolutionariness of peasants’ committees, and the role of Social-Democracy is not mentioned in it at all. If it was Socialist-Revolutionaries who were talking here, that would be understandable. For them the peasantry is homogeneous. I regard this article as wholly unsatisfactory.

Chairman: You have forgotten to speak about Comrade Kostrov’s proposal.

Lieber: It goes without saying, that proposal will be unnecessary. Fortunately, we have present here representatives of Caucasia who have been able to tell us about the existence of survivals of serfdom in their part of the country. But we have here no representatives of Poland or Latvia. And we cannot overlook the existence of abnormalities of that sort in those parts too. Therefore I propose that this section be deleted altogether.

Karsky considered inappropriate Lenin’s proposal that a special point be introduced.

Lyadov: Comrade Lieber mentioned that we have no Letts here and so we do not know enough details about the existence of serfdom in their part of the country. But that is a delusion. Purely capitalist relations prevail among the Letts. There is no serfdom there.[19] Consequently, our Lettish comrades have no special programme for the peasants.

Lange said that serfdom relations did exist among the Letts, extending even into family relations and openly intruding into the personal lives of the peasants.

Plekhanov: Our programme, the programme of the RSDLP, deals mainly with relations in Russia. This comes about partly because our Party has been joined only by the Bund, which does not deal with peasants, and the Caucasians, who have not yet put forward any ideas on this matter. Points relevant to particular border areas can, of course, be introduced into the programme. Let the comrades from each borderland work out their own demands and, provided they do not contradict our general principles, and are not too petty, we shall be glad to include them in the programme.

Lyadov: There are no serfdom relations among the Letts. There, the peasants were emancipated without land, and what exists there now is, on the one hand, landlords, and, on the other, agricultural labourers.

Kostrov: In our parts there are still an impressive number of peasants in temporary bondage (about 100,000 in Tiflis province and about 50,000 in Kutais province), and also what are called the khizani, whose situation should be changed. I will say something about the khizani. We give this name to a particular category of peasants living in Tiflis and Kutais provinces and numbering about 48,000. The khizani ’s situation came about, already in the period of serfdom, in this way: a peasant driven from his home by famine or some other calamity found shelter with some landlord and, being given by him the tenancy of some land, rendered him services merely in respect of this land. He did not, like a serf, become bound to render personal service; he was not a serf, and so the reform of 1861 did not affect him, the law did not take him into account. But some conflicts with landlords who wanted to evict khizani from their land attracted the attention of the Government to this question, and in 1891 it issued a ‘statute of the khizani ’. By this statute the landlord could evict a khizan from the land only by mutual agreement. And since the khizani did not want at all to give up to the landlords the land they had cultivated and built upon, the landlords appealed to the government to ‘protect the peasants from oppression’. The result of these intrigues was the statute of 1900, by which a landlord was given full authority to evict a khizan from his land whenever he saw fit to do so, on paying the khizan the value of any buildings he had erected. This authority was extensively used by the landlords, and this gave rise to a number of agrarian crimes, peasant movements, and so on.

This question can be settled only in a revolutionary way, by recognising the khizani as owners of the lands they have occupied for centuries and which they have paid for many times over. I therefore propose immediate abolition of both temporary bondage and the situation of the khizan. In this connection I suggest the following wording: ‘(b) for handing over to ownership by the peasants in Caucasia those lands which they have been working as temporary bondsmen, khizani, etc.’; (c) would then take the place of what in the draft appears as (b).

Lenin: The question has arisen of drafting an addition to Article 4, relating to Caucasia. It would be best to insert this addition after point (a). There are two resolutions before us. If we adopt Comrade Karsky’s amendment, the point would lose too much of its concreteness. In the Urals, for instance, there are a host of survivals, it’s a real lair of serfdom. As regards the Letts we can say that they come under the Phrase: ‘and in other parts of the country’. I support Comrade Kostrov’s proposal, namely, that we should include a demand for the transfer of land-titles to the khizani, temporary bondsmen, and so on.

Karsky withdrew his amendment.

Lieber: Point (b) is tautologous in relation to the section of the agrarian programme dealing with principles, in which it has already been said that we are for the abolition of serfdom. The question of the peasants’ committees remains to be dealt with. Actually, this does not even require to be mentioned in the programme. Why, comrades, do you bring forward a different principle each time? Sometimes you say that the programme should not be made concrete; at other times, however, you call for concretisation. Now you have gone so far as to include in the programme a point that has absolutely nothing Social-Democratic about it. There is no call to write into the programme what we read day after day in the liberal organs, Novosti, Russkie, Vyedomosti, etc. There would be no point in Lenin’s including in the programme an article about the abolition of flogging and imprisonment. Comrade Lenin is very fond, in certain cases, of saying ‘that is self-evident’. Here, though, where more than anywhere else that phrase would be in place, he finds it necessary, for some reason, to concretise the programme with references to the Urals, the Altai, and so on.

Lange proposed that this point include the words: ‘in Caucasia and in other localities’.

Trotsky found inappropriate the insertion about the khizani. Ninetenths of the members of the congress might not know anything about the situation of the khizani and would be voting à discrétion, solely on the basis of a demand by one person.

Lenin: There is nothing for Comrade Lieber to be surprised at. He demands that we employ a single, general criterion, but there is no such criterion. Sometimes one demand has to be advanced, sometimes another. We have no fixed pattern. Lieber claims that our demand for the abolition of serfdom coincides with the Liberals’ demands. But the Liberals do not say how this demand is to be realised. We, for our part, say that it must be realised not by the bureaucracy but by the oppressed classes, and this means the way of revolution. Therein lies the radical difference between us and the Liberals, whose talk about changes and reforms ‘befouls’ the people’s consciousness. If we were to set forth in concrete form all the demands for the abolition of serfdom, we should fill entire volumes. That is why we mention only the most important forms and variants of serfdom. Our committees in the different localities will bring forward and elaborate their particular demands, developing our general programme. Trotsky’s remark that we cannot concern ourselves with local demands is wrong, in that the question of the khizani and the peasants in temporary bondage is not just a local one. Besides, it has become known through writings on the agrarian question.

Karsky: I fully support Lenin’s view. Such questions as these cannot be unknown to our comrades. We came to the congress with a report to give, and it is not our fault that we were not able to give it. I urge that we enumerate those regions where serfdom exists in particularly acute forms.

Lieber: l am obliged to speak a third time. I said that I do not regard myself as well-informed on the question at issue. Comrade Plekhanov and Lenin used this statement of mine so as to argue that, since I know nothing about them, I am not answerable for the way these questions are dealt with. But I think that it is the duty of those comrades who are competent on the questions, and who have composed the programme, to reply to the doubts and perplexities that have arisen. Lenin did not say where he gets his faith in the revolutionariness of the peasants’ committees. I hear for the first time that the demands of oppressed classes are necessarily revolutionary. On the contrary, these demands are often reactionary. I ask the comrades, if they will deign to answer me, to explain, first, why they believe in the revolutionariness of peasants’ committees, and, secondly, why they think the kulaks will not rob the other peasants? I am reminded of those cashboxes of which Comrade Plekhanov spoke. Again, why do we speak here about political bondage while saying nothing about economic bondage? What is the source of this confidence that the kulaks, who will rule the roost in the peasants’ committees, will not betray the interests of the rest of the peasant population? Again, in the interests of the symmetry of the programme, we cannot take up a different standpoint each time: either all special demands should be included, or none.

Martynov: I have already shown the unacceptability of the point about returning the cut-off lands. I will now add only this. The authors of the draft themselves admitted, obliquely, that there is a hiatus in this article. Comrade Lenin moved an amendment to the general section of the agrarian programme: ‘In order to eliminate the survivals of serfdom … we shall demand first and foremost, etc.’ Lenin assures us that this is only an explanation of the programme, but I think it is a correction. Comrade Lenin interprets the words first and foremost’ in the sense that we want first of all to abolish survivals of serfdom, and then we shall have left for dealing with rural affairs our general, maximum, socialist programme. This interpretation is false. The corrected passage will read: ‘In order to eliminate the survivals of serfdom we shall demand, first and foremost …’ Evidently Lenin realised that the return of the cut-off lands was inadequate even for abolishing the survivals of serfdom—that in this matter returning the cut-off lands was merely the first step. Iskra wrote about the matter in that way in one of its issues, and Comrade Plekhanov wrote in the same way in his commentaries on the programme. In those articles it was said that we do not rule out the expropriation of other lands as well, we merely do not give it the importance assigned to it by the Socialist-Revolutionaries; it will not abolish rural capitalism but help it to flourish. In his article against Ryazanov, Comrade Plekhanov said that the extent to which expropriation will be carried out at the moment of revolution will depend merely on the relation between social forces. In view of all that, I see no grounds for tying our hands with a point about the cut-off lands. We should give the future peasants’ committees one single directive of principle: they must hand over to the community itself those lands and appendages which serve, in the hands of the large landowners, as means for maintaining serfdom relations, independently of where and when these portions of land came into the possession of the large landowners.

Popov: I come back to the question, still not cleared up, of whether or not bondage exists among the Letts. I think that Lieber, Lenin, Lange and Lyadov are all right in what they say. The Lettish peasants were indeed emancipated without land, but nevertheless bondage relations do exist there. In those parts bondage is not a survival of serfdom. As far as I remember, Kautsky says somewhere that there is in German agriculture a category of proletarians who are exploited like serfs. Evidently, bondage is met with under capitalist relations too.

A proposal to close the list of speakers was voted on, and received 17 votes, with 12 against. A second vote showed a majority of 18 to 16 and the list of speakers was closed.

Martov: Lieber claimed that he had not been given answers to all his questions, but it does not follow from all his questions that he really wants clarification. Is, for example, his demand for deletion of the point about the cut-off lands dependent on whether the peasants’ committees will or will not be revolutionary? Lieber has evidently fallen into the same misunderstanding as any of the Anarchists who ask us what makes us think the Zemsky Sobor will be revolutionary. The Zemsky Sobor will undoubtedly be revolutionary, but its degree of revolutionariness will not satisfy us, and from its first days we shall probably have to convict it of being reactionary. General political and economic questions will be decided in general institutions, and the detailed clarification of these decisions will be entrusted to local institutions. How far the peasants’ committees will be revolutionary is hard to foresee at present. But we must exert every effort to ensure that they are revolutionary. We must take the class struggle into the countryside and organise the rural proletariat: then the influence of Social-Democracy will certainly be reflected in the peasants’ committees. It is futile for Lieber to confront us with the choice either to include all details or none. There are important details and inessential ones. But it is necessary to make mention of the most backward forms of peasant relations. Backwardness of the forms of production in agriculture often gives rise to bondage relations. There is hardly a single country where no bondage can be found. Our Article 4 does not finally do away with serfdom relations but merely weakens them.

Makhov: Mention is made here of ‘peasants’ committees’. This expression is not satisfactory, since an entire third of the rural population do not belong to the peasant estate.

Lenin: Comrade Lieber proposed deletion of the point about the cut-off lands, on the sole grounds that he does not like the peasant committees. That is strange. Since we have agreed on the fundamental question, namely, that the cut-off lands keep the peasants in bondage, the establishment of committees is only a detail, and to reject the entire point on account of that would be illogical. It is strange, too, to hear the question asked: How are we to influence the peasant committees? I hope that the Social-Democrats will be able when that time comes to organise congresses with less difficulty, and at such congresses to reach agreement on how to act in each particular case.

Akselrod proposed that the section dealing with peasants’ committees be shifted to the end of the article. It is normal to speak first of the end and then of the means.

Lange: There are many localities where the peasants are landless. So we ought not to confine ourselves to the cut-off lands, but should add: ‘and also those lands which serve this purpose’.

Rusov moved an amendment by which committees would be set up everywhere that semi-serfdom relations existed, and not only where there were cut-off lands. Further, it should be added that the peasants’ committees are to abolish not only the cut-off lands but also all conditions of bondage in general. Why should the hands of the peasants’ committees be tied? Perhaps they might expropriate particular estates.

All the amendments to this paragraph were put to the vote.

Kostrov’s amendment was adopted, with 27 votes.

Bekov’s amendment was rejected. This would have made point (b) read: ‘to suppress survivals of serfdom relations existing in the Urals, the Western Territory and Caucasia (temporary bondsmen, khizani, etc.) and in other regions of the country’.

Martynov’s amendment was rejected. This would have made point (a) read: ‘to hand over to the rural communities those lands and appendages which serve, in the hands of the large landowners, as means of maintaining semi-serfdom relations’.

Lange’s amendment was rejected. This proposed to replace the word ‘survivals’ by ‘vestiges’ and the word ‘existing’ by ‘existent’. Lange’s second amendment, proposing that the words: ‘and in Caucasia’ be inserted before ‘and in other regions of the country’ was also rejected.

Lange’s third amendment was rejected. This proposed that Article 4 should read: ‘setting-up of peasants’ committees to suppress and weaken everything that gives rise to the enslavement of the peasantry and thereby maintains the old pre-Reform relations’: ‘(a),’ instead of ‘those lands which were cut off’ ‘those of the lands cut off when serfdom was abolished which serve in the hands of the landlords as an instrument for enslaving the peasants,’ and ‘(b) expropriation at the discretion of the peasants’ committees of all other lands (ponds, roads, etc.) which serve, like most of the cut-off lands, as a weapon for enslavement’.

Rusov’s amendment was rejected. This ran: ‘Setting-up of peasant committees to abolish serfdom relations existing in certain parts of the country and also conditions which serve as instruments in the hands of the landlords for imposing bonds of serfdom (cut-off lands, the khizani system, etc.)’. Lieber’s amendment was abolished. This proposed,first, that Article 4 read: ‘return to the rural communities,’ etc., and, secondly, that point (b) be deleted.

Akselrod withdrew his amendment.

Article 4, as amended by Kostrov, was adopted as a whole, by a majority of 30 to 1. The congress proceeded to discuss Article 5.

Kostrov: Complaining to the courts means a whole long-drawn out procedure. It seems to me it would be better to set up conseils de prud’hommes.[20]

Lenin: Article 5 is linked with Article 16 of the workers’ programme. This does in fact propose courts composed equally of workers and employers: we must demand special representation for the agricultural labourers and the poorest peasantry.

Martov: I ask this question: Is it a good idea to make the industrial courts apply to the agricultural proletariat when the latter still needs to be organised? Perhaps it may prove more appropriate to bring in jury courts. For that reason I favour leaving the vague formulation which we have in the programme.

Lieber: Perhaps, when rent-payments are being decided, resort could be had to the fixing of rates by a court? I should suggest, therefore: to grant the courts the right to determine rents.

Lenin: I think this is undesirable, since it will broaden excessively the competence of the courts. We aim at reducing rents, and fixing of rates of payment by the courts might enable landowners to appeal to accomplished facts in order to demonstrate the justice of their claims. Reducing rents rules out any idea of increasing them. Kautsky, speaking about Ireland, says that the introduction of industrial tribunals has produced some results there.

Article 5 was put to the vote and approved by a majority of 35, with 11 abstentions.

The first paragraph of the concluding part of the programme was read.

Makhov: What does it mean, ‘to support oppositional and revolutionary movements’? If it means that we are to promote their development, then I am absolutely against. Our only revolutionary class is the proletariat: the rest are of no account, they are mere hangers-on. [General laughter] … Yes, they are mere hangers-on and only out to reap the benefits. I am against supporting them. We shall be pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for them.

Akselrod: We have no revolutionary parties, but we do have oppositional elements, and we must make use of them for our own purposes.

Lieber: I am confused by the lack of precision in one place, where it says: ‘every oppositional movement’. Not every oppositional movement acts in the same direction as the proletariat. For instance, take Sharapov.[21] Regarding such reactionary elements we have, to be sure, reservations enough. But there is another sort of reactionary, who talks about the trusteeship exercised by the landlords, about the good old days. Nothing is said about him. Also, it is not stated in this paragraph that the attitude recommended in relation to these trends is to apply only in the period before the conquest of political freedom. After the fall of the autocracy other trends will appear: agrarian trends, for example, which in some cases will act in the same direction as the proletariat.

Plekhanov: The phrase being discussed has been taken almost word for word from the Communist Manifesto. We considered it useful to repeat this expression in our programme because we wanted to bring out the difference between our views and those of the Narodniks and the Utopian Socialists. The Narodniks and the Utopian Socialists declared themselves against the political struggle of the bourgeoisie because they were convinced that the triumph of political freedom would strengthen the economic domination of the bourgeoisie. We are ready to support this movement because it facilitates our own struggle against the existing political order. But while supporting them we—as is also said in the Communist Manifesto —do not for a moment refrain from developing the workers’ awareness of the antagonism between their interests and those of the bourgeoisie. And that is why our support for the bourgeoisie does not involve any risk for us.

Starover: Comrade Lieber makes a bad mistake when he assumes that our draft programme does not say, precisely and clearly, what sort of oppositional or revolutionary movements we are to support. No, it is stated in this draft that we support ‘every movement directed against the existing social and political order in Russia’—in other words, that our support is given only to movements aimed at over throwing the autocracy. Consequently, all Comrade Lieber’s references to the Agrarians in Germany, or to Mr Sharapov in Russia, fall to the ground. Sulking Agrarians may be very sharp in their criticism, they may attack very resolutely a particular minister or a particular government bill, or even the entire direction followed by government policy at a certain moment, but they remain on the terrain of the existing political order. They are conservatives. ‘The Slavophils’, says Comrade Lieber. But the Slavophils attacked only the bureaucratic ‘barrier’ which had been raised between the Tsar and the people, distorting the image of the autocracy—the autocracy itself was for them something inviolable.

Glebov proposed to say, instead of ‘police and official tutelage’, ‘police and social-estate tutelage’.

Lieber proposed putting: ‘every progressive-oppositional and revolutionary movement’.

Both amendments were voted on and rejected.

Makhov proposed that the word ‘oppositional’ be deleted, adducing the following arguments. We must support every revolutionary movement, whereas, for example, the peasants’ wars in the Reformation period were reactionary in character, though they were an oppositional movement just like our own peasant movements. I think Marx does not speak of ‘oppositional movements’, so that my proposal is in accordance with the spirit of Marx’s teaching.

Starover: Why tie our hands in relation to oppositional trends which act in the same direction as the revolutionary proletariat?

Lyadov: The only revolutionary class is the proletariat; the peasants’ wars were not revolutionary.

Martynov: I agree with Starover. But what movements do possess a revolutionary character? Only democratic ones. If a movement is merely a ‘sulk’ we don’t have to support it. Therefore I propose an amendment: to put the word ‘democratic’ in front of ‘oppositional’. Iskra expressed itself in that sense in the article: ‘About urban self-government’. If the oppositionists want a compromise, such as, for example, a restriction based on a property qualification, then we must not support them.

Plekhanov: I do not understand what it is, actually, that we are arguing about. Comrade Martynov says we must support only democratic movements. Well, and what about the liberal movements? Are we to oppose them? We cannot do that, behaving like the German ‘True Socialists’ whom Marx ridicules in the Communist Manifest°. Comrade Martynov says we must not support the liberals, and explains why not. We must criticise them, expose their half-heartedness. That is true. But we must do that also where the so-called Socialist-Revolutionaries are concerned. We must expose their narrowness, their limitedness; we must show the proletariat that only the Social-Democratic movement is truly revolutionary nowadays. But, while exposing the narrowness and limitations of all movements other than the Social-Democratic, it is our duty to explain to the proletariat that even a constitution which does not confer universal suffrage would be a step forward compared with absolutism, and that therefore it should not prefer the existing order to such a constitution. I repeat, supporting a movement directed against the existing order does not mean telling the proletariat that such a movement is sufficiently broad in scope, and this is not in any way stated in our programme.

Martynov: There can be no doubt that, as regards the liberals, we differ from the old Narodniks on two essential points. First, we are not afraid of a bourgeois constitution but, on the contrary, see this as a very great and unavoidable step forward. Secondly, we are not unaware of the strength of the liberals, because we see in them the representatives of certain strata of the bourgeoisie which will inevitably become the rulers of a liberated Russia. Since we have to develop the political awareness of the proletariat we must, obviously, acquaint it with the nature of the impending revolution and with the relation between social forces in this revolution, and so we must acquaint it also with the liberal movement. But we must support oppositional movements only in so far as they are revolutionary, or pursue the same immediate aim as ourselves, namely, the conquest of democratic freedom. But in so far as the liberal movement is already now, in the persons of the Yevreinovs,[22] taking its stand between revolution and reaction, in so far as it is seeking, through a compromise, to check the progress of the revolutionary movement, we must fight against the liberal parties for our sphere of influence, for influence over the democratic movement.

In view of all this, I propose that in the paragraph under discussion we insert before the word ‘oppositional’ the word ‘democratic’.

Trotsky: There can be no doubt that the developed and revolutionised proletariat exercises a revolutionary effect in a purely spontaneous way upon other social classes and strata … There can be no doubt that the rise of a broad political movement among the students, and the appearance of the so-called ‘SRs’, and also the advance of the liberal opposition—all these phenomena which have been features of the last five years, have grown from the soil provided by the movement of the Russian proletariat. But the support which the proletariat has accorded and is according to other oppositional movements is determined by the bare fact of the existence of the labour movement. This support must now become an instrument of our Party’s tactics. What had been done spontaneously must be done consciously … [Martynov: ‘But how, in what way?’] I am just about to give an example. When Martynov—not you, but your namesake, Martynov of the Voronezh Agricultural Committee—spoke in favour of a constitution, he was arrested. We must make this fact known to all. We must inform the masses of the people of the significance and nature of the demands put forward by the oppositionist Martynovs. Thereby we shall give political weight to the declarations of these Martynovs. The constitutional demands of the Zemstvo opposition will thus prove to be a small part of the demands of the people as a whole. Bringing this idea to the proletariat means at one and the same time demarcating our Party from all other oppositional and revolutionary movements and also supporting these movements. That is the sort of support which revolutionary Martynovs ought to give to oppositionist Martynovs.

The list of speakers was closed.

Lieber: Trotsky explained the matter in such a way that no Social-Democrat will agree with him. It has been observed that in our proclamations, while attacking the autocracy, we forget about the labour movement and its class character. Yes, we need to support a movement against the autocratic order but the best form of support consists in sharpening up the character of the class movement of the proletariat. It is not by printing the speech of Comrade Martynov’s Zemstvo namesake that we help the class movement of the proletariat to develop, but by telling about his illegal arrest, and how he behaved. We must support the liberals by urging them on with criticism. Direct support to oppositional movements is harmful. At that rate, why don’t we distribute Osvobozhdenie ? Turning every protest into a revolutionary protest, that’s the form our support should take.

Strakhov: One thing or the other—either the Social-Democratic movement is to stand at the head of the revolutionary movement, or it is not. If it is, then we must support every movement hostile to the tutelage of the police and officialdom. To me, therefore, the point is perfectly clear. I would merely suggest adding: ‘which reconcile themselves to the tutelage by the police and officialdom, which so greatly restricts the independence of the working class’.

Makhov: The word ‘revolutionary’ is quite adequate. Lyadov is wrong when he says that only the proletariat is revolutionary. White essentially it is reactionary, the bourgeoisie is often revolutionary –for example, in the struggle against feudalism and its survivals. But there are some groups which are always reactionary—such are the handicraftsmen. I am against the agrarian programme and I fear what the great mass of the peasantry may do. There are certain groups whose ideal is Caesarism.

Plekhanov: I can be brief, because the objections we have just heard have contributed little that is new. Comrade Martynov mentioned that there are oppositional strata, which may take up a position between the revolution and the present order of things. He told us that we must expose these strata before the proletariat. I ask, is it worth uttering such well-known truths at a congress which needs to economise its time? The first item in all propaganda explaining to the proletariat the need for our Party must be criticism of all other, non-Social-Democratic, revolutionary and oppositional parties. Refraining from such criticisms would mean signing our own death warrant. If the men of the Mountain of 1793 were to rise from their graves today we should have to criticise them, too, from the stand-point of our principles. But that does not mean that we ought not to support diem in their struggle against the prevailing order. Comrade Martynov said that we must counterpose ourselves to all the bourgeois parties: that is indisputable. The whole question lies in how we are to go about it. The Utopian Socialists—for example, the so-called ‘True’ Socialists, in Germany—counterposed themselves to all the bourgeois parties by telling the proletariat that it had no need of bourgeois political freedom. Saying this meant counterposing themselves to the liberal bourgeoisie and supporting not them but the police state. And our Narodniks and subjectivists counterposed themselves to the liberal bourgeoisie in exactly the same way. We counterpose ourselves in a different way. We support the liberal bourgeoisie by showing the proletariat that the political freedom which the liberal bourgeoisie will give it is not useless but inadequate, and that it must therefore take up arms itself in order to win a nurober of rights that it needs to possess.

I will explain my idea by means of an example. Imagine a policeman, the embodiment of the police state, and along with him, imagine a bourgeois who is struggling with this policeman, striving to win some rights for himself, but not for the working class, and, finally, imagine a proletarian who is watching the fight between the bourgeois and the policeman and wondering: ‘What should I do?’ The reply of the Utopian Socialists was: ‘Do not get mixed up in this fight, it is a family quarrel between your enemies, and whichever of them wins, you will gain nothing, or you may even lose a great deal.’ We, from the standpoint of modern scientific socialism, say to the proletariat: the outcome of this struggle is not a matter of indifference to you—every blow that the policeman gets from the bourgeois is a step forward along the path of progress and is therefore to your advantage. But, in his fight with the policeman, the bourgeois is thinking not of you but of himself, and moreover, cannot cope with the policeman, so you must yourself enter the fray, armed to the teeth, as the French say, so as not only to knock down the policeman but also to be in a position to rebuff the bourgeois when he wants to deprive you of the fruits of victory. That’s all. If, as Comrade Lieber says is the case, the antagonism of interests between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is insufficiently brought out in our Party’s proclamations, we will talk about that when we come to discuss our Party press. This reproach has nothing whatsoever to do with the programme. And in any case it is not the editorial board of Iskra and Zarya, who drafted the programme, that can be suspected of trying to gloss over the differences that exist between us and other parties. What were we blamed for so often in the press, in letters and at meetings? For having too pronounced a penchant for polemics. But why did we have that penchant? Because we set ourselves the task of beating with an intellectual cudgel, as Lassalle puts it, everyone who stands between the proletariat and clear proletarian class-consciousness. That being so, there are no grounds for fearing any inclination on our part towards compromise. From the first word to the last, our draft programme is truly revolutionary, in the spirit of Marx and Engels, and that is why you can accept it with a perfectly quiet conscience.

The amendments moved by Strakhov, Martynov, Makhov and Lieber were voted on and rejected. These proposed, first, to add ‘ progressive’ before ‘oppositional’, and, secondly, to add after the word ‘order’: ‘at the same time counterposing the revolutionary movement of the proletariat to this opposition, and rejecting …’

The whole paragraph was adopted by a majority of those voting: there were a few abstentions.

The last paragraph of the programme was read.

Strakhov proposed that after the words ‘overthrow of the autocracy’ there should appear: ‘and its replacement by sovereignty of the people. For this reason the RSDLP puts forward as its first political demand the convening of a constituent assembly, freely elected by the whole people.’ He justified this proposal by saying that the convening of a constituent assembly would still not ensure the realisation of our aims—only sovereignty of the people would guarantee their triumph.

Martov: I regard this amendment as superfluous, since all the proposals in the Party programme will be implemented only when a constituent assembly has been convened.

Starover proposed that ‘considers’ be substituted for ‘is firmly convinced that’.

Plekhanov proposed that there be inserted the words: ‘and its replacement by sovereignty of the people’.

Martov opposed Plekhanov’s amendment. Repetition of ‘sovereignty of the people’ would seem odd here.

Akimov: I would like someone to explain to me what is implied by the expression ‘sovereignty of the people’. Is it the power that will be won by us in the impending revolution, or is it that which will result from the social revolution? If the former—and I think it is the former that is meant—how are we to combine with this the demand for the dictatorship of the proletariat? Are we going to aim to establish that dictatorship in order to abrogate the sovereignty of the people?

Gusev: The entire point says nothing that has not already been said in the programme. If some ideas are emphasised, there is adequate reason for doing that.

Strakhov: I should like to say that Plekhanov’s formulation of ‘sovereignty of the people’ (narodnoye samoderzhaviye) is ill-conceived—it bows to Narodism.

Trotsky: I want to reply to Akimov. Under sovereignty of ‘the people’, dictatorship is wielded by the bourgeoisie. When the socialists win the majority, then there begins the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Gorin: Like Martov, I find it extremely inappropriate to speak here of ‘sovereignty of the people’.

Plekhanov withdrew his amendment.

The amendments by Strakhov and Starover were voted on. The congress rejected both.

The last paragraph of the programme was adopted.

Next, the rapporteur of the programme commission, Yegorov, was called upon to speak about Article 7 of the general programme, which had been returned to the commission.

Yegorov: The commission decided as follows. (1) At the end of Article 6 to add the words ‘and of language’. (2) To insert a new paragraph: ‘The right of the population to receive education in their mother-tongue; the right of every citizen to express himself in his mother-tongue at meetings and in public and state institutions.’ (3) To delete from Article 11 the phrase concerning language.

Goldblatt: The second point does not satisfy me. At the previous session it was said that the words ‘and of language’ were to be left only if the rest was rejected.

Karsky: I want to point out some lack of precision in the formulations. In Caucasia we already have the right to use our mothertongues. That is not the point. In my view, this formulation ought to embrace something bigger. The state or public institutions which receive taxes and dues from the population ought to provide the resources for building these schools. I would mention one omission: we ought to say that court proceedings should be conducted in the mother-tongue—at the lower instances at least.

Kostrov agreed with Karsky.

Plekhanov: The defects mentioned by Goldblatt and Karsky would be eliminated, I think, by my amendment which reads: ‘ensured by creation, at the expense of the state and the organs of self-government, of the schools needed for this purpose’.

Karsky: In our part of the country the towns already have the right to set up their own schools, but in the villages the mother-tongue is being squeezed out, just as in those educational institutions in the towns which have been set up at the expense of the state.

Bekov: That isn’t true. There are only a few schools for the nobility where teaching is carried on in the mother-tongue. Comrade Karsky must have forgotten the barbarous methods that were used to shut down the Armenian schools—that was a real epic of the Tsarist autocracy. By our programme the population are guaranteed the right to speak their mother-tongue and also extensive regional self-government: that is guarantee enough. What else is there to be said? After all, the programme is not being written for Caucasia.

The point was approved by the congress in the form in which the commission had worked it, with a few amendments (see Article 8: general political demands of the programme). The commission’s first proposal was rejected, and the third accepted. The congress then, voting by roll-call, adopted the programme as a whole. Those persons who were present with consultative voice also took part in the voting. The programme was adopted by all present with the exception of Comrade Akimov, who abstained and in this connection submitted the following statement:

‘When the programme was voted on as a whole I abstained from voting, and I wish to explain this abstention.

‘Objecting to the speech I made in the general discussion of the programme, Comrade Plekhanov said that I mistakenly considered the basic idea of the draft to be Lenin’s view of the proletariat as being merely the milieu in which the Social-Democratic movement works, and that in fact the basic idea of the draft was Marx’s view of the laws of development of society, which Plekhanov summarised in the expressions used in the preface to Zur Kritik.

‘This was, in my opinion, not a serious objection, since I do not deny that the draft is a Social-Democratic programme and, to the extent that the fundamental positions of Social-Democracy are contained in the programme, I agree with it, and that is why I cannot vote against it. But I cannot vote for it, either, because in several very important sections the draft deviates from the Western-European Social-Democratic programmes, and yet the congress sanctioned these deviations, hardly discussing the section of the programme dealing with principles, and not allowing those delegates who did not agree with the draft to defend their views.

‘Contrary to the congress standing orders, and contrary to the statement made by the chairman, after which the congress approved the termination of general discussion, members of the congress were deprived of the right to discuss amendments when voting on the programme point by point.

‘In fact, each member was allowed five minutes altogether for each point, and could speak only once on each point. To show that in this length of time it was physically impossible to develop one’s views, I will refer merely to the question of the ”filling up” of the proletariat with socialism (Erfüllungstheorie ). The congress adopted the formulation given in the draft (Article 9), thereby adopting an ultra-Kautskyan point of view and rejecting the views of Adler, which were confirmed by the Austrian Party Congress and found expression in the Vienna Programme.

‘The comrades in Russia could not be sufficiently familiar with the proceedings of the Vienna Congress and with a number of articles in Neue Zeit, Vorwärts and the Leipziger Volkszeitung which prepared and summarised the decisions taken by our Austrian comrades on this question, and it would have been frivolous to try and deal with this question in five minutes.

‘In just the same way the problem of impoverishment (Verelendungstheorie )[23] was settled in our programme in a way that contradicted the Vienna Programme and the latest works of Western-European Social-Democratic literature, and, in particular, the writings of Kautsky and Bebel. The way this question is decided sets a clear-cut mark on all manifestations of the activity of Social-Democracy, its political and economic struggle. It was impossible to set out my ideas in opposition to this point, too, in five minutes.

‘But that is not enough. Not one person of conviction can be satisfied with a brief résumé of his opinion, he should have the right to defend his views. Yet the congress refused the right to speak a second time in reply to objections which frequently distorted the ideas of the speaker. How useless it was, under such conditions, to expound one’s views is shown by the following example.

‘Comrade Lieber drew the attention of the congress to the need for the expression ”to the extent that” in the passage of the draft dealing with the attitude of the Social-Democrats to other strata of the people. Comrade Plekhanov replying to him, raid that this expression was used in the corresponding passage in the Communist Manifesto. Actually, this is not so. This expression is not to be found in the Manifesto and appears only in Plekhanov’s inaccurate translation of the Manifesto into Russian.[24] Yet Comrade Lieber was not able to deal with Plekhanov’s objection on this most important question, because he could not speak a second time.

‘Thus the congress finished extraordinarily quickly with the part of the programme dealing with principles, devoting only one session to general discussion of it and one to voting on it, that is, altogether, one day.

‘Under these circumstances I could not take part in the discussion of the programme, so I cannot vote for it.’

Chairman: This is not true. Comrade Akimov submitted 21 amendments to the commission—allow five minutes for each one—and that took up no small amount of time. As regards the rest of the programme, which the commission did not examine and which was discussed in pleno, the conditions under which it was discussed are known to you all. Every delegate had the right to speak three times, for ten minutes, on each point. Comrade Akimov spoke several times. The standing orders were approved by the majority of the congress.

After it had been resolved to express gratitude to the editorial board of Iskra for having produced the draft programme, the chairman spoke:

Plekhanov: Comrades, the Party of the conscious proletariat, the Russian Social-Democratic Party, now has its programme. Rather numerous objections were made to some parts of it. Those comrades with whose objections the congress did not agree remain subject to the decision of the majority. Members of our Party are obliged to accept its programme. This does not mean, of course, that a programme, once adopted, cannot be criticised. We have recognised, do recognise, and will continue to recognise, freedom of criticism. But whoever wishes to remain a member of our Party must remain, even in his criticism, on the terrain of the programme. Be that as it may, the problem which has occupied us for so long has been disposed of, and we can say, with legitimate pride that the programme we have adopted furnishes our proletariat with a durable and dependable weapon for the struggle against its enemies.

The session was closed



[18] For Lenin’s later criticism of the agrarian part of the 1903 Party Programme, see Collected Works, Vol. 13, pp. 256-258.

[19] The Siberian post-servants’ were peasants who held their land, as settlers in Siberia, on condition that they maintained the government’s postal service, providing horses and drivers for the conveyance of the mall. Yamshchik comes from yam, a Turkic word for a post-station, where horses can be changed.

Chinsheviki were payers of a form of quit-rent peculiar to the former Polish territories in Western Russia (Lithuania, Byelorussia, S.W. Ukraine).

[20] There was indeed no serfdom in Latvia (i.e., Courland and S. Livonia), since the land was worked by landless labourers: but these were subjected to an exceptionally oppressive regime by the landlords (the ‘Baltio Barons’, of German origin), like that prevailing on the Junker estates in Eastern Germany, and the conditions there were hardly ‘modern’ in the sene of agrarian relations in the USA (cf. Lenin on the differences between the ‘Prussian’ and the ‘American’ paths to capitalism in agriculture).

[21] A conseil de prud’hommes is an arbitration board made up of persons possessing experience and expert knowledge in a particular trade, formed to settle disputes between parties engaged in this trade.

[22]The ‘industrial tribunals’ in Ireland mentioned by Lenin are evidently the Congested Districts Board and other institutions set up under the Land Acts of this period to ensure ‘fair rents’.

[23] S.F. Sharapov was a journalist of ‘Neo-Slavophil’ outlook who voiced the views of the most reactionary section of the landlords, attacking the policy of the Tsarist government as ‘liberal’.

[24] This presumably refers to V.V. Yevreinov, a Socialist-Revolutionary. See Lenin, ‘The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905-1907’, in Collected Works, Vol. 13, pp. 376-378.