Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Twenty-fifth Session

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

Chairman: I draw the attention of the comrades to the fact that the fourth week of our congress is beginning, and yet we still have very many questions to discuss on our agenda. In view of this, I propose, with the agreement of the Bureau: first, that speakers make their contributions as brief as possible, and, secondly, that, after we have adopted the organisational rules, we omit all, or nearly all, the following items and proceed straight to the last one. If there are some comrades who find that certain questions are sufficiently important to make it necessary that some decision be taken on them, then I invite these comrades to get together with their co-thinkers to draw up resolutions, and then we can devote one or two sessions to discussion of these resolutions and amendments to them. Will the congress please give its views on this suggestion. [Nobody asked to speak.]

Chairman: Considering that the Bureau’s proposal has met with unanimous approval, I move the following resolution on its behalf: ‘The congress decides that all the items of the agenda after the one on Party organisation and until the one on elections to the central institutions (i.e., items 9 to 18) must be eliminated; on these items only resolutions, signed by not less than ten members of the congress, can be voted on, provided there is time.’

Goldblatt considered that one could not vote on resolutions without having discussed them.

Lenin: mentioned the presence on the agenda of such questions as, for example, the celebration of May Day, terror, and so on, resolutions on which could be adopted without discussion, in view of the clarity that existed on these questions. Resolutions on subjects other than these could be briefly discussed.

Lieber considered it was not possible to lay down a minimum number for signatories to a resolution, and in particular that this number should not be ten. By adopting that figure we should be ruling out resolutions from organisations, such as the Bund, which had only five votes.

Martov: I do not think we can take into consideration or as our guide the argument developed by Comrade Lieber. Arguing in that way and taking account of the fact that from the way the congress has gone we could foresee that, given such rights as Lieber advocates, resolutions might be submitted over the signature of Comrade Akimov alone. We should in effect be adopting the proposition that all resolutions signed by not less than one voting delegate were to be voted on. Since the majority of the congress expresses the will of the congress, it is for this majority to decide which proposals it considers sufficiently important to be discussed.

Chairman: We have two resolutions here. One is that of the Bureau, the other has been handed in by Comrade Deutsch. It reads: ‘I propose that we decide that the congress shall end not later than Saturday at 5 p.m.’

Both proposals were adopted, the first with 38 votes, the second by 40 votes, with the rest abstaining. The congress then returned to the agenda, that is, to voting on paragraph 3 of the rules and the amendments thereto. Amendments by Comrades Goldblatt, Kostrov and Rusov were rejected. The only amendment adopted was one by Comrade Kostrov, saying: ‘Each of the organisations mentioned is to have two votes at a congress, and to be represented by one delegate.’ Paragraph 3 as a whole (except points a, b and c) were adopted by the majority, with seven abstentions.

Paragraph 4 was then discussed (see paragraphs 4 and 5 of the rules.)

Tsaryov: I am sure nobody will agree with me and so I shall be brief. I am not going to argue in favour of my resolution, or criticise the innumerable variants of the commission’s resolution which run counter to my opinion. I am against the institution of a Party Council. I conceive the organisation of the central institutions like this: the Congress elects or appoints the editorial board of the Central Organ, and an Executive Committee. The general direction of Party life is undertaken by the Central Committee, which is made up of the entire membership of both the editorial board and the Executive Committee. How these two bodies communicate with each other is their own affair. Perhaps they will arrange private congresses; perhaps they will have recourse to delegating authority to one, two or three of their members; perhaps they can decide some questions by correspondence. We haven’t sufficient experience of these matters. That is why five members of the commission have put forward as many as three draft resolutions. In addition, certain delegates have their own independent draft resolutions. This abundance is due to the Party’s lack of experience, and under these conditions we cannot set up a Party Council.

Hertz: Of the three formulations of the first part of Paragraph 4 which have been submitted, I prefer the first, but with this alteration: instead of the words ‘these four members of the Council invite the fifth’, I propose we say: ‘the fifth is to be elected by the Party congress’. Next, I direct comrades’ attention to the second part of the paragraph, which says that the Party Council has the right to reconstitute the CC or the editorial board if one of these institutions becomes vacant. The point is that in the event of a complete disappearance of the CC, the Party Council itself ceases to exist, since there will be no delegation of the CC in it, and, this being so, the CC cannot be reconstituted. Therefore I propose that the passage mentioned be altered thus: ‘In the event of complete disappearance of the CC, it is to be reconstituted by the remaining members of the Party Council.’

Pavlovich spoke against election of the fifth member of the Party Council by the CC and the editorial board of the Central Organ, since they might not agree, and then the Council would be unable to function. He considered it necessary, furthermore, to give the Central Organ predominance over the Central Committee, in view of the stability of the former, and so he proposed that the congress elect three men from the Central Organ and two from the CC. As regards the third formulation of this paragraph, he thought it unnecessary to discuss this, since even in the commission it had been supported only by one vote.1

Martov considered it inexpedient to leave it to the two institutions themselves, as proposed by Tsaryov, to decide how to communicate and to regulate their activity. We needed a unified institution not so much in order to settle misunderstandings between the CC and the editorial board of the Central Organ as to prevent such misunderstandings from arising. When a difference breaks out it is then usually rather late. Personally he was in favour of the first formulation. He could not see the difficulty, mentioned by Pavlovich, in inviting the fifth member. It would always be possible to find a fifth member from among the practical workers, or the editors living abroad. Comrade Pavlovich’s proposal to fix the preponderance of one institution over the other he regarded as unnecessary, and, especially, he opposed the argument which accompanied this proposal. It was possible that the CC might find it necessary for one of its members to be outside of Russia; in this way the stability of the CC in matters of principle would to some extent be preserved. The third formulation had all the inconveniences of the first and second, while at the same time lacking the good sides of those formulations. A Party Council was needed, and there must be equal representation in it, owing to the character of this institution as a conciliation board.

Lieber (on a point of order): I propose that we first discuss the functions of the CC and the Central Organ, since it is from these that it will follow what the Council is to do and for what purpose it is needed.

Lenin (on a point of order) opposed Lieber’s proposal, on the grounds that he deplored the time which had been devoted by speakers to discussing the question of the Party Council. In all probability, not everyone lacked a definite opinion on this matter, in the way that Comrade Lieber did.

Martov said that it should be added to what Comrade Lenin had just Said that a general discussion on the rules as a whole had already taken Place. It would have been more pertinent to have discussed then whether the Council was needed, and for what purpose.

Comrade Lieber’s proposal was rejected by a big majority.

Rusov: Although the commission has offered us three formulations, 1 cannot agree with any of them. Only the second approaches more or less to the view I maintain. In order to discuss these formulations, we veed to decide the question of what the Party Council actually is to be. An arbitration board, or a permanent collective, the highest Party centre, pursuing its own line, directing the whole of the Party’s work along the path indicated by the Congress? In order that there may be no vacillation in the Party’s policy, in order to guard the purity of the Party’s principles, we cannot entrust the supreme leadership to an institution the composition of which is casual. And the Council, as defined in the first formulation, is such an unstable institution. One part of it, elected by the CC, will be altered with each gap that appears, depending on who the members of the new CC will be. This will have the effect of disturbing the permanency of the dominant tendency on the Council. The first part of the second formulation, providing for election of members of the Council by the congress, completely eliminates this defect. From the number of revolutionaries present the congress will elect five persons, disregarding whether they belong to the CC or the Central Organ and without any idea of securing predominance by one centre or another, but guided solely by the desire to ensure the predominance of certain principles in the Council, and the Council will then itself co-opt additional members, in the event of anyone’s departure. But I cannot agree with that part of the second formulation which predetermines that, out of four members of the Council, two must come from the CC and two from the Central Organ. We must elect members without regard to where they come from, being guided solely by the fitness of a candidate to carry out in the Council the ideas of the congress majority. On the basis of these ideas I move a corresponding amendment to the second formulation, with the basic idea of which I agree.

The list of speakers was closed.

Lange: In the plan for the Party’s organisation put forward by the commission a violation of the unity which should distinguish the centre, the Party’s organ, has been allowed to appear. We all know very well that this retreat is due only to extreme necessity. All the more, then, must we seek to eliminate from the plan of organisation everything that might give rise to unnecessary friction and threaten this unity. Election of the Council by the congress will not guarantee that the Council’s membership is not composed casually; this mode of election is far from ensuring that the Council is not penetrated by unfriendly elements. This applies even more to election by the congress of the fifth member of the Council. That is why I am decidedly opposed to election of the Council by the Congress.

Gusev: I move the following amendment: ‘The Party Council is to consist of five persons. Three of these will be elected by the congress, the other two delegated by the CC and the Central Organ.’ I regard my proposal as more suitable because it offers the best means of equalising the influence of the CC and the Central Organ in the Council, which is something everybody who has spoken has been concerned about. In general I do not think that in the present situation we can find forms that would preserve the Council from predominant influence on the part of the Central Organ. Even if the Council were to be made up exclusively of representatives of the CC it would still, at the present time, be subjected to the influence of the Central Organ. We cannot construct an organisation in conformity with this phenomenon. And if I say that my plan ensures equality of influence better than the others, this is not because I have constructed the Council on the basis of fear lest the Central Organ predominate in it. The structure of the organisation must be independent of the present situation, since the rules are being laid down for a number of years.

Starover: According to the provision of the draft presented to us, the Party Council is to ‘reconcile and co-ordinate’ the activity of the Central Committee and the Central Organ. This special character of the Council is mentioned also in that point in the draft where it is said that the Council is to meet only at the wish of the two sides. If this is so then it is obvious that the Council, having this mission to fulfil, certainly cannot be nominated by the congress, but must be chosen by those organs which it is its duty to reconcile and unify. We have two centres—one, the ideological centre, abroad, the other, the practical one, inside Russia. They operate in different circumstances, under different conditions. Hence differences, varying shades of opinion, cases of fiction are possible and even inevitable. These conflicts must be prevented and eliminated. That task can only be accomplished With any degree of success by an organ that is constantly, organically linked with both centres, and that, I repeat, is possible only if both centres elect members to the Council.

But now it has been suggested that, instead, we fix the Council’s composition forthwith, predetermining what it is to be. I draw the assembly’s attention to the fact that, already, the question of elections to the Central Committee has come up against great difficulties at the Congress. It has been asked: can the congress be competent as regards Persons worthy of being elected to the CC? But how much less competent is the congress to decide the question of those persons on whose shoulders is to be placed the difficult and delicate task of reconciling and unifying the two centres. After all, comrades may be good editors and excellent practical workers, and yet quite unsuitable for the function of ‘reconciling and co-ordinating’. Only the interested bodies themselves, the centres, will be able, in the course of their work, having tested their personnel and acquired a good know ledge of them, to make a proper selection.

Trotsky: Let me recall how the idea of the Party Council arose. We proceeded from the proposition that the existence of two centres is inevitable. And since it is inevitable, then equally inevitable is the existence of a regulator of the activities of these two centres. The Party Council is to be this regulator. Now, when we are confronted with the question of setting up the Council, some comrades, like Gusev and, especially, Rusov, want to fix the Council as the Party’s one and only effective centre. And so we are starting afresh.

Lieber: I agree with Comrade Gusev that our rules have been devised independently of the given moment, but whereas he finds this ideal, I find it detrimental. Comrade Gusev rightly said that we either need the institution of a Council or we do not. If we need it, then this institution must be permanent, and not something that comes into existence, as has been proposed, only when requested by one of the central institutions. This contradiction arises from the artificial distinction made between the activity of the CC and that of the Central Organ. We need only one centre, and not three, as proposed here—one centre which will lead, ideologically and practically, all the Party’s activity.

Lenin considered the first formulation inappropriate in that it gave the Council the character of an arbitration tribunal. The Council must not be merely that, but also must co-ordinate the activity of the CC and the Central Organ. He also spoke in favour of the fifth member being elected by the congress. A case might arise when four members of the Council could not elect the fifth, and we should then be left without an institution of which we have need.

Yegorov: I had intended, in accordance with the decision the Congress took today, to refrain from speaking, but since Comrade Pavlovich has sought, with the authoritative voice of a member of the Bureau, to discredit the commission’s third formulation by saying that it was put forward by only one member, I want to help him discredit it even further. I strip away the pseudonym of this member and declare that I am he. Everyone who has spoken so far has proceeded from extreme positions, treating the plan he favours as the ideal one. Actually, none of these formulations is ideal, simply because our rules as a whole are a certain adaptation to the evil that results from conditions in Russia. That a single centralised institution is needed to ensure unity of activity is not open to doubt. But it is not possible to realise this ideal. And the creation of the Council is a sort of compromise, a surrogate for this unity, and so it is by its very nature not ideal. My proposal follows from the total aggregate of the activities of the Party council. As the co-ordinating highest organ of the Party it must be elected by the congress; as the organ which reconciles and, consequently, sometimes has to settle conflicts and differences in the activities of these organisations, it must be composed so as to be able to fulfil this function, that is, there must be no obvious preponderance of the CC or of the Central Organ.

Panin: I proceed from the proposition that the Council, in its task of ‘co-ordinating and reconciling’ the activity of the central institutions, is similar to an arbitration tribunal. I propose, therefore, that everything be deleted from the second and third points of this paragraph which would fix the Party Council in the position of a permanently functioning supreme institution of the Party.

Kostrov: 1 want to direct comrades’ attention to a curious fact. We are arguing very hand for one permanent centre, and yet we don’t possess such a centre. We have one centre, this Council, but it is not permanent, it is casual in character. There remain two permanent central institutions, the CC and the Central Organ, which may quarrel, pulling in different directions, and then we shall have not one leadership for the Party but two, which means dualism and disorganisation of the Party. Either we need one permanent centre, which must be the Party Council, or we do not, in which case the Council is superfluous. I favour the former view and I propose the following amendment to Paragraph 4: ‘The Party Council is the highest permanent institution.’

Akimov: The congress has adopted all measures needed to ensure that discussion of this question is reduced to formality, by allowing all who speak on the subject three minutes only. I must say, nevertheless, that Comrade Lenin’s amendments and formulation are reactionary and seek to bring a purely Arakcheyev spirit into our rules. While this was clearly apparent already in the speeches of Comrade Pavlovich, the straightforward interpretation given by Comrade Rusov put the dots on the i’s. The congress has gradually reduced to nil the influence which the local committees can exercise on the general course of Party work. Congresses have become something problematical: the Council may even fail to tall a congress for two years, since it is obliged to can one only ‘so far as possible’; the composition of congresses is determined in such a way that there is no guarantee of their independence. Having safeguarded the Council in this way from interference by the Party, the congress has given it, in fact, discretionary power. If three members of the Party Council were to be from the Central Organ, the Central Committee would be converted into a mere tool of the editorial board. Three persons residing abroad would obtain the unrestricted right to order the work of the entire Party. Their security would be guaranteed and their power would therefore be lifelong. Such an order of things is completely intolerable in the Party.

Zasulich agreed with the statement of the problem that had been given by Comrade Martov. The objection that four members of the Council could not elect a fifth was groundless: if an institution like the Council proved incapable of electing a fifth member, then that meant the institution was ineffectual generally.

Pavlovich: None of the objections made have convinced me. Nor did Comrade Yegorov’s speech convince me. I am not alarmed by the fear expressed here by Comrade Akimov when he said that my proposal would fix the Party on a certain direction and prevent any other direction appearing in Russia from having any influence on the source of Party affairs. I stand, indeed, for the stability and purity of the principles represented by Iskra. By giving preponderance to the editorial board of the Central Organ, I want to fortify these principles. By adopting the first or the third formulation we incur the risk that within a year the Council may have completely changed its physiognomy.[28]

Goldblatt considered the idea of two centres, with the Council co-ordinating them, to be inexpedient. Either the Council would be a temporary institution, in which case it was superfluous, or it would be a permanent one, in which case it differed in no way from the CC as it must be in fact and not as it was imagined here. Then all those inconveniences would reappear which had been mentioned here, as regards differences between the activity in Russia and abroad.

At Posadovsky’s suggestion, the movers of all three resolutions were allowed to speak last in the debate, each being given five minutes.[29]

Martov: The entire discussion has confirmed my conviction that the first formulation is the best. The argument that a body of four men would be unable to come to a decision did not convince me: after all, in the CC there could be four persons who could not adopt a particular decision owing to the division of votes. I propose that the motion to delete the words ‘the Council is the highest institution’ be rejected. Our formulation deliberately leaves open the possibility of the Council developing into the highest Party institution. For us the Council is not merely a conciliation board.

Lenin considered Comrade Zasulich’s arguments ill-conceived. The situation envisaged was already one of conflict, and in that event no rules would be of any help. By proposing that the fifth member be chosen by the four members of the Council we should bring this conflict into the rules. It was necessary to keep in mind that the Council was not only a conciliation board—that, for example, the rules gave the right to any two members of the Council to convene it.

Yegorov: Since my formulation unites the first and the second formulations, all that can be said for it has already been said. I shall therefore try to deal with some objections. First of all, about the impossibility of electing the fifth member. I think that such a blocked situation could come about in the Council on other questions too; for example, if two members hold one view and two another, and the fifth abstains. As for the impossibility of electing two members from each institution, that is a technical question; one could, for example, first elect (by secret ballot) two members of the CC td sit on the Party Council, and then the rest of the members of the CC.

Chairman: I will first put to the vote the resolutions which reject this paragraph altogether, namely, the resolutions moved by Comrades Abramson and Tsaryov.[Abramson’s resolution: ‘The Central Committee of the Party is the Party’s highest institution. Its task is to direct all the activity of the Party and to represent it in dealings with other parties. The Central Committee is elected by the congress, and numbers three persons, with the right of co-option. The Central Committee has the right to supervise the editorial board of the Central Organ. The editorial board of the Central Organ is elected by the Party congress.’
Tsaryov’s resolution: ‘The congress elects (or appoints) the editorial board of the central organ and the Executive Committee. General leadership and direction of all Party activity is entrusted to the Central Committee, which is composed of the Executive Committee and the editorial board of the Central Organ in corpore. ’]

Both of these resolutions were rejected by a big majority.

The chairman having asked the congress to choose one of the commission’s formulations as a basis,[Resolution by two members of the commission: ‘The Party Council is appointed by the editorial board of the Central Organ and the Central Committee, which send two members each to the Council; these four members of the Council invite a fifth; outgoing members of the Council are replaced by the institutions which have nominated them.’] it chose the first of these.

Lyadov proposed that this paragraph be voted on in sections: (1) on the appointment of four members of the Council, (2) on the election of the fifth member, and (3) on the replacement of outgoing members.

This proposal was adopted and a vote taken first on the first section.

Gusev’s formulation[Gusev’s resolution: ‘The Party Council is composed of five members: three of these are elected by the congress and the other two are delegated by the Central Committee and the editorial board of the Central Organ.’] was rejected by the majority.

Yegorov’s formulation [Yegorov’s resolution: ‘The Party Council is elected by the congress, with two members from the Central Committee and two from the editorial board of the Central Organ.’] was also rejected by the majority, 23 to 15. Makhov’s amendment, to replace the word ‘send’ by the words ‘elect …, who are confirmed by the congress’, was rejected by the majority.

Resolution by two other members of the commission: ‘The Party Council is appointed by the congress, from members of the editorial board of the Central Organ and the Central Committee, and consists of five members, not less than two of whom must be from each of these bodies. Outgoing members of the Council are replaced by the Council itself.’

Resolution of the fifth member of the commission: ‘The Party Council is elected by the Congress from two members of the Central Committee and two members of the editorial board of the Central Organ. The four elected members elect a fifth by unanimous vote. Outgoing members of the Council are replaced by those organisations to which they belong, with the exception of the fifth, who is replaced by the method mentioned above.’

The first section of paragraph 4, as formulated in the resolution (the first) of the two members of the commission was adopted by 27 votes with eight abstentions.

The second section was voted on. By 23 votes to 18, with seven abstentions, the formula of the resolution submitted by Rusov and Hertz[Resolution by Rusov and Hertz: ‘The fifth member of the Council is appointed by the Congress.’] was adopted.

Akimov’s proposal that the fifth member of the Council be invited from among the comrades active in Russia was rejected.

Lenin moved an amendment. [Lenin’s resolution: ‘Outgoing members of the Council are replaced by the Council itself.’]

Fomin said that this proposal was unacceptable, since the congress had already decided that the Council should be appointed by the CC and the editorial board of the Central Organ.

Lenin said that we were now talking not about the appointment of the Council but about the replacement of outgoing members, and so his proposition was not in contradiction to what had already been decided.

Lenin’s amendment was rejected by 23 votes to 16.[30]

Panin’s proposal[Panin’s resolution: ‘The fifth member, elected by the congress, cannot belong to either of the bodies (the Central Organ or the Central Committee.’] was rejected by the majority.

Yegorov’s amendment was adopted: this was to add, after the words ‘by the institutions which nominated them’ the words: ‘with the exception of the fifth, who is to be replaced by the Council.’

Lenin proposed to add also the words: ‘in the event that he (i.e., the fifth member of the Council) does not belong to either of the bodies’. This amendment was rejected by the majority.

The whole of the first part of Paragraph 4, as amended, was voted on and adopted by 40 to 7, with 3 abstentions.

The congress passed to the second part of Paragraph 4. (See Party rules, Article 5, paragraph 2.)

Panin’s amendment—to delete the words ‘and represents the Party in dealings with other parties’—was rejected.

Lenin’s amendment—to replace the last phrase by the following: ‘if the entire membership of one of these institutions is put out of action’—was adopted.

Makhov’s proposal[Makhov’s resolution: ‘All members of the Council live permanently abroad, and those going into Russia must be replaced in advance.’] was rejected. Also rejected were amendments (1) by Trotsky, proposing that the end of the second part should read: ‘in cases where no more than two members of these institutions are left’; (2) by Kostrov, for inserting the words: ‘possess the power of supreme leadership of the Party and represent it in dealings’; (3) by Panin, to delete the words ‘the Party Council is the Party’s highest institution’; (4) by Panin, to delete in the third part, ‘or two members of the Council’; and (5) by Kostrov, to add after ‘highest’ the word ‘permanent’.[31]

Yegorov’s proposal, to rearrange two phrases in the second part, was adopted.

After this, the second and third parts of Paragraph 4 were adopted by an overwhelming majority (6 against and 4 abstentions).

The session was closed.



[28] ‘The proletariat, that same proletariat of which you said yesterday that it “spontaneously tends towards trade-unionism“, is now called upon to give lessons in political discipline! And to whom? To that same intelligentsia to whom was assigned, under yesterday’s schema, the role of bringing proletarian political consciousness to the proletariat from outside!’ (Trotsky, Our Political Tasks. )

[29] ‘The theory of accumulation.’ It seems probable that there is a misprint, or a mis-hearing, here—napolneniya being rendered as nakopleniya. Martynov is doubtless referring to the so-called Erfüllungstheorie (‘theory of filling up’). See note 5 to Ninth Session.

[30] ‘According to Comrade Lenin’s plan, the congress elects the Council from the membership of the central organ’s editorial board and the Central Committee—not less than two persons from each of these institutions. In other words, the congress elects three members from the editorial board and two from the Central Committee. (Nobody understood this any other way, and Comrade Pavlovich, a member of the Bureau, openly testified to having this attitude to the composition of the Council, at one of the sessions of the congress, as may be seen from the minutes)’. (Trotsky, Report of the Siberian Delegation, p. 17.) See notes 3 and 4 to Thirty-Second Session.

[31] The first resolution was moved by Martov and Glebov, the second by Lenin and Popov, and the third by Yegorov.