Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Twenty-fourth Session

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

The session opened with the reading of the minutes of the ninth session.

Martynov (commenting on the minutes as read): In the report given of Comrade Lenin’s speech it is said of me, among other things, that I defended opportunist ideas at the congress, upholding the theory of accumulation [?][27] and denying the theory of impoverishment and the dictatorship of the proletariat. I declare that Lenin did not say that about me, and could not have said it, because, directly before he spoke, I had categorically stated that I did not deny either the dictatorship of the proletariat or the theory of impoverishment.

I have, of course, nothing against Lenin’s adding something new to what he said earlier. But I regard it as important to note that he considered it necessary to do this at the present stage of the debate, and belatedly to add something to a speech he made some time ago.

Lenin said that no changes had been made by him in his speech.

Lvov drew attention to a not quite accurate formulation in the minutes of his speech about the Bund: he had spoken about the harm caused by alienation from the Polish Socialists in general, and not merely about the events of May of last year.

Lieber: I have nothing against this amendment.

The rapporteur of the rules commission read Paragraph 3 of the rules. Personally, he thought it necessary to insist on special representation of the Central Committee at Party congresses. Members of the CC who were on the Party Council could not represent the CC at a Congress, since the CC might disappear, and a new one be formed, With different views.

Trotsky proposed that discussion of paragraph 3 be postponed, as it was not possible to decide the question of the representation of the Party’s central institutions at a congress before the character of these institutions had been clarified.

At Lenin’s suggestion, the congress decided to discuss that part of the paragraph which did not relate to the highest organs of the Party, and to come back to the rest of it when they discussed paragraphs 4, 5 and 6.

Rusov moved that note 2 to paragraph 3 (see paragraph 3 of the rules, with notes) be altered so that the CC had the right to invite to a congress, with consultative voice, representatives of any organisation at all, and not just those which were mentioned in the note.

Goldblatt: I propose two amendments to the paragraph we are discussing. The first concerns the expression ‘association of committees’ which appears in it. This is something new, not previously found in our terminology, and which has been introduced, apparently, so as to embrace in one expression two different concepts, namely, both territorial and national organisations. The subsuming of these two categories under one designation seems to me to be unsuitable, first because it implies a certain mutual levelling of these two radically different types of organisations, and, secondly, because the concept ‘national organisation’—and perhaps this applies also to the concept ‘territorial organisation’—does not completely fit into the concept ‘association of committees’. A national organisation is not a mere association of committees but something greater than that, an integral organism, strongly bound together by ties which are not at all mechanical, and consisting not of committees only but also of a number of other organisations. In view of this, I propose that unclarity be avoided and that the vague words ‘association of committees’ be replaced by the unambiguous terms ‘territorial and national organisations’.

Now for my second amendment. I propose that the representation of an organisation at a congress be not confined to a single delegate, but that there be two of them. My reasons are twofold. On the one hand, it is necessary to enable a minority to be represented at a congress. This is required both by justice and by considerations of expediency, since thereby it will be easier to avoid splits in the committees. On the other, allowing the committees to send only one delegate leads to their representatives being overwhelmed at a congress by the representatives of the central institutions. Let me offer a little calculation in terms of figures. If we assume that we have 20 committees, then the number of delegates with the right to attend a congress will be 27—20 delegates from the committees, plus five from the Party Council, plus two from the Central Committee and the Central Organ. A congress is considered valid if more than half of its members are present, that is, in this case, 14 members. An absolute majority, decisive on all questions, will be provided by eight persons. Consequently, it will be sufficient for the central institutions, with their seven votes, to attract to their side just one other vote, and then they can decide all questions against the will of the rest of the committees. The inexpediency of this is obvious, and so I propose that committees, and those organisations which are put on the same level with committees for this purpose, be given the right to send two delegates to a congress.

Martov: It is the unwieldiness of a congress, and the risks to security it presents, that dictate the restriction in the number of delegates. Each delegate can be given two votes, but there cannot be more than one delegate from each committee. I did not understand what Comrade Goldblatt meant about ‘associations of committees recognised by the Party’. No insult was intended in putting national and territorial associations on the same level, but it was not possible to enumerate them, since there could be associations of various kinds.

Glebov did not agree with Rusov’s amendment. The Central Committee should only be given the right to send persons with consultative voice to a congress.

Lieber: Goldblatt’s points have not been refuted by Martov. At a congress we need to get a complete picture of the trends that exist in the Party, and so it is necessary to have representation of both the minority and the majority. Comrade Martov proposes that each dele-gate be given two votes. But that would merely double the number of votes. I, too, am against the expression ‘association of committees’. It is far too indefinite and lacks content. We have on our agenda an item about territorial and national organisations. Why are the other types of association of which Comrade Martov spoke not mentioned there? Because they do not exist. And, this being so, there is no need to include them in the Party rules. Literally, an ‘association of committees’ signifies the Party. The point is not whether a particular organisation is an association of committees but what the basis is on which these committees are associated. I propose that the vague expression ‘association of committees’ be replaced by the expression ‘territorial and national organisations’, which is the one used in the agenda.

Glebov: The congress has already adopted a special resolution to the effect that the rules of national organisations will be given in special appendices to the general rules. Therefore Comrade Lieber’s proposal is not acceptable. Besides, national organisations are covered by the expression ‘association of committees’. As for the proposal that each organisation send two delegates to a congress, let me recall that the arrangements for a congress involve tremendous difficulties. Representation of trends is also impossible, as there may be three or four of these in a committee. Should not four delegates be sent, then? Besides, a minority can always appeal to the CC, to the Central Organ, to the Party Council, and, in the last resort, to a congress, which can invite their representatives to attend with consultative voice.

Kostich: Lieber’s end will not be achieved by his means, because the majority will always elect its own two delegates.

Kostrov: Comrade Goldblatt’s misgivings about the expression ‘association of committees’ seem to me to be uncalled-for. This expression includes both national and territorial associations. As regards the number of votes to be allowed to local organisations at a congress, I consider they should certainly be given two votes, and this is why: the life of our Party and the questions which Party life brings up are becoming more and more complicated. We have a Party programme, we shall have rules and tactics decided on, and all this will be turned over to the local organisations for them to discuss and to implement. Where such complex questions and actions are concerned it is inevitable that different tendencies will appear in the organisations, and to give representation to the majority trend does not necessarily mean giving representation to the correct line. The minor-ity may be correct, and to deprive it of the possibility of defending its view at a Party congress means harming the Party itself. It is said that inviting extra delegates to a congress is difficult for reasons of security and cost. That is true. Accordingly, should it not be laid down that committees are to have two votes each, and are to be represented by one delegate, but with this addition: a committee will send two delegates only in those cases when it is found necessary to ensure representation of its minority and majority trends at a congress. I propose that article 3 be amended in this sense.

Goldblatt: Comrade Glebov’s objections are not convincing. His reference to the fact that the representation of national organisations will be defined by a special set of rules is inconclusive, since what is involved here is not the character of representation but merely a clear and precise enumeration. His reference, too, to the fact that there will be a note distinguishing between the two types of organisation of which I spoke, is not true, because the note employs the very same expression: ‘associations of committees’. One of the comrades said that, despite the double number of delegares at this congress, there is no minority represented. Analogy is, in general, not proof, and if no minority is represented at this congress, I find it very hard to explain why this should be so: perhaps it is because there is no minority to be represented. Comrade Glebov takes too complacent a view of things when he says that, even if there is no special representation of the views of a minority, they will be brought to the notice of a congress if the CC finds these views worthy of attention. That is just the point, that the CC itself may, in the given instance, be one of the parties to a dispute, and so ought not to be allowed to decide how important the arguments of its opponents are. The opponents should be allowed to expound their own views at a congress.

Two words about the sarcastic allusion to the Bund which Comrade Glebov permitted himself to make. I must observe that at the last (fifth) congress of the Bund its Central Committee was represented by only five men, the total number of participants in the congress being 30. Our committees have the right to send two delegates, and so it is impossible to draw a parallel between the Bund and the Party as a whole. The Bund has been formed as a strong organic entity, with a stable periphery and an influential public opinion, which would always be able to paralyse any power-seeking moves by the centre, if such were to be discerned, though no such strivings by the centre exist where we are concerned, nor can they exist, and therefore there is no Place for any sort of fear on that score. The situation in the Russian Party, taken as a whole, is quite different. Here, according to the rules which are before us, there can be no sturdy body of the Party, but only a sturdy centre, with all the rest of it forming a kind of amorphous mass. Given this tendency to identify the Party with the centre and reduce the committees to nothingness, the influence of the central institutions upon a congress needs to be countered by strong representation of the periphery. And that the tendency I have mentioned exists, and is clearly apparent in the draft rules, can be doubted only by those who deliberately shut their eyes to it.

Tsaryov considered that representation should be exercised through two delegates. A congress was a school for the comrades from Russia. To ensure the success of a congress, too, it was necessary that more revolutionaries should be present.

Lieber: The statement by some comrades that there is no minority at our congress shows only that there was no minority to be represented. Or else we should have to assume that the CC proceeded incorrectly. Let me recall that, in the rules of the congress, representation by two delegates is justified by the desire to represent the minority as well. But even if there is no minority, or it cannot secure representation, the point about two delegates is still justified, since all active elements in the Party should be sent to a congress. That is what happens in the Bund.

Akimov: Every time I speak I do so fully realising that my arguments will not influence the comrades but will, on the contrary, damage the point I am trying to defend. [Laughter.]

I am in favour of the sending of two delegates, and I want to emphasise the true statement by Comrade Kostich that a minority was not represented at our congress. This shows the inadequate political education of our committees, because two votes are given them precisely so that both majority and minority may be represented.

Gusev: Giving both majority and minority one vote means putting them on a footing of complete equality, and so abolishing the distinction between majority and minority. That is inadmissible. Giving a deciding vote to a minority is possible only if we accept the principle of proportional representation. In practice this principle could not be applied among us, and it is not necessary, since minority rights are sufficiently safeguarded in the CC, in the Central Organ, in the Council, and even at a congress. Comrade Tsaryov’s ideas—correct in essence, but abstract—about the congress being a school, and that therefore each committee should send two delegates, could have absurd results if applied in practice. Why two delegates, and not three, or four? And Comrade Lieber, as we saw, carried his conclusion to the point of absurdity when he said that all the Party’s active forces should be sent to a congress. I must make a substantial factual correction to Comrade Lieber’s speech. The idea of the representation of both majority and minority is not to be found in the rules of the Congress, as he said, but in the reasons set out by the Organising Committee, which constitute a quite private statement. Facts actually refuted the proposals of the OC. It turned out that there was no minority, contrary to the belief of Comrade Akimov, who is the lone representative of a non-existent minority.

Rusov: There has been a misunderstanding about the expression ‘associations of committees’ which appears in the rules. The Bund cannot be included in this concept, because it is an association of committees of the Bund, that is, not of Party committees but of committees working exclusively among the Jewish proletariat.

The list of speakers was exhausted. The session was closed.



[27] ‘Demonstrating to the Congress the significance of the CC, Comrade Lenin showed his fist (I am not speaking metaphorically) as the “political” symbol of the CC.’ (Trotsky, Report of the Siberian Delegation, p.28.)