Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Twenty-sixth Session

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

The rapporteur of the rules commission, Glebov, read paragraph 5 of the draft rules and the note to this (see paragraph 6 of the rules and note thereto) and conveyed the opinion of the minority, which wanted to add a second note [Resolution by the minority of the commission: ‘The Central Committee has no right to dissolve local committees, associations of committees and other organisations equivalent to these, without the agreement of the Party Council, and an organisation can be dissolved only if it (1) deliberately refrains from implementing a decision of a congress, or (2) is composed of unreliable elements.’] restricting the right of the CC to dissolve local committees. The majority of the commission, including the rapporteur, considered that the rights of the CC ought not to be restricted in this connection, since it might be necessary for the CC to take emergency measures.

Panin: I find the second version of this paragraph just as unsatisfactory as the first one. No perspective is observed here: all the functions of the CC which are listed are lumped together, regardless of their degree of importance. In addition, it is not emphasised with sufficient clarity that, among its other functions, the CC is responsible for directing political agitation. In defining the activity of the CC it would be best to confine ourselves to a single general formula, as is done in the rules when the activity of the editorial board of the Central Organ is defined. And in this case we could be satisfied with the words: ‘The Central Committee co-ordinates and directs all the Party’s practical activity.’ But since the functions of the CC are numerous and very complex, I think it necessary that the most important of them be listed. I propose the following formulation for this paragraph. [Panin’s resolution: ‘The Central Committee unifies and directs all the Party’s practical work: it endorses committees, directs political agitation, distributes the Party’s forces and resources, settles conflicts, both between different organisations and inside them, manages the central treasury and technical enterprises common to the whole party, etc.’]

Popov defended the note which he and Yegorov had proposed. It was necessary to say to the CC that this was an emergency measure and could be employed only in emergency cases.

Martov defended the view of the majority of the commission. The note was unnecessary. There was no need to stress that, since the Central Committee would in any case deliberate before deciding on so serious a step as the dissolution of an organisation. Panin’s amendment was uncalled-for, and it failed to enumerate all the functions of the CC. Martov was against substituting the word ‘endorses’ for the word ‘organises’. It must be given the right to organise as well.

Lieber agreed with Panin’s formulation, provided that it be added that the CC directs those undertakings which possess importance for the Party as a whole. He did not agree with Martov that ‘organises’ was better than ‘endorses’. Only if work was already going on in a locality could an organisation be set up. It had already been stated that the CC distributed the Party’s forces. That ought to be enough for the CC. He thought it necessary to stress the right of the CC to issue political, agitational leaflets. He considered the second note naive. If a provocateur was present in an organisation it would be dissolved much sooner than the CC would do this. The mention of deliberate failure to carry out decisions was quite unnecessary, since the CC had the power to distribute forces: he could not imagine how any committee could barricade itself against the CC.

Glebov quoted a case from the Northern Association, saying that though there was a provocateur in the given organisation, it did not want to be dissolved. In such cases it was necessary, not only in the interests of the organisation concerned but also in that of other, neighbouring organisations, that the CC should have the right to dissolve an organisation.

Martov: Lieber himself is naive in the way he restricts the application of the word ‘unreliable’. Here the word is used in a different sense.

Yegorov: The word ‘unreliable’ also means something different for us. The note confers a broad but nevertheless limited degree of authority.

Lange: An important defect in the draft is that although a great deal is enumerated in it, not much prominence is given to the political role—the organisation of general demonstrations. I propose that we put at the beginning: ‘The CC co-ordinates and directs all the Party’s political work, so that …’

Panin’s proposal was rejected.

Lange’s amendment was rejected by all against three. Abramson’s amendment (to insert in Article 5 the words: ‘The CC is appointed by the Party congress, and consists of three persons’) was rejected by all against four.

Paragraph 5 as a whole (without the notes) was adopted by all against three, with three abstentions (see Paragraph 6 of the rules).

The second note (proposed by the minority of the commission) was rejected.

The first note was adopted by 37 to 5.

Glebov proposed that from Paragraph 4, as adopted, the following phrase be extracted: ‘The congress appoints the fifth member of the Party Council, the CC, and the editorial board of the Central Organ’, and that this phrase be made a special paragraph no. 5, so that the paragraph now being adopted would be no. 6.

This proposal was adopted by 29 to 2, with 9 abstentions.

Lieber proposed that in Paragraph 5 the word ‘appoints’ be replaced by ‘elects’.

This proposal was rejected by 24 to 13.

The congress proceeded to discuss Paragraph 7.

Goldblatt proposed that the whole of Paragraph 7 be rejected, since it was either unnecessary or harmful.

Lenin did not agree with Goldblatt. There must be supervision of Party publications.[1]

Akimov: What does Lenin understand by the words: ‘follows Party publications’? Does this mean that we are to have a preliminary censorship?

Lenin: If I follow English publications, does that mean that I exercise a preliminary censorship over them?

Paragraph 7 was adopted by 35 to 4, with five abstentions.

Points a, b and c of Paragraph 3 were then discussed.

Glebov: The majority of the commission proposes to give the Council five votes at the congress, and the CC and the editorial board of the Central Organ one vote each. The minority proposes that neither the CC nor the editorial board have any representatives.

Popov supported the opinion of the minority. The CC and the editorial board were already represented at the congress by those of their members who were on the Party Council.

Lyadov: Those members of the CC and the editorial board who were on the Party Council might not be suitable as representatives of those organisations at the congress.

Deutsch: The members of the Party Council may not be the right persons to report to the congress on the situation in their organisations. The highest organisations of the Party should be represented at the congress as such.

Akimov: The Council must be present at the congress, but it should not be given a deciding vote, only a consultative voice. There are no grounds for giving a deciding vote to the Party’s executive organs when the Party is discussing the activity of these very organs. I therefore move the following resolution. [Akimov’s resolution: ‘The Party Council is present at the congress in corpore, with consultative voice. The Central Committee and the Central Organ have one representative each.’]

Akimov’s resolution was voted on and rejected by all against three.

An amendment by Fomin, to insert ‘members, each with one vote’ was adopted by all against two.

The proposal by the minority of the commission [Resolution by the minority of the commission: ‘The Central Committee and the editorial board of the Central Organ are not represented at a congress.’] was rejected.

Orlov’s proposal [Orlov’s resolution: The Central Committee and the editorial board of the Central Organ each have the right to rend two delegates, each of whom has one vote.’] was rejected.

Paragraph 3 in its new version was adopted by all against three, with seven abstentions.

Paragraph 8 was discussed.

Karsky considered the paragraph ill-drafted and proposed that after ‘exclusively’ there be inserted’ ‘to the area of their activity’.

Gusev proposed that the second part of Paragraph 9 be transferred to Paragraph 8, and that Paragraph 8 take this form [Gusev’s resolution: ‘All organisations joining the Party enjoy autonomy in their internal affairs, within the limits set by the instructions of the Central Committee.’].

The proposals by Karsky and Gusev were rejected.

Paragraph 8 was adopted by all against two, with seven abstentions.

The congress proceeded to discuss paragraph 9.

Kostrov proposed to insert, after the words ‘all decisions by the CC’—‘relating to the affairs of the Party as a whole’.

Kostich proposed that the end be omitted, as there was already a point about submitting to all the decisions of the CC.

Lieber: May the CC set up, alongside already existing organisations, other destined to carry out the same functions as the existing ones?

Glebov: I think that the CC will not set up new organisations to carry out exactly similar functions, but we shall set up organisations to perform those functions which are not being performed by the existing ones.

The amendments by Kostrov and Kostich were rejected.

Paragraph 9 was adopted by all against four, with one abstention.

Paragraph 10 was discussed.

Martov was against private individuals having the right to demand that their statements be conveyed to the centre.

Yegorov thought it would not be in accordance with the democratic character of the Party if everyone were not to have the right to bring his statements to the notice of the centre.

Lenin favoured keeping this passage: nobody ought to be barred from taking his appeal to the centre. This was a necessary condition of centralisation.

Lyadov considered that Lenin’s desire was unrealisable.

Deutsch quoted the example that in the days of Narodnaya Volya outside persons, such as schismatics,[2] were able to approach the centre. Similar cases might arise today. For instance, a military organisation might wish to have talks with the centre.

Martov’s amendment, to delete the words ‘and everyone who has any dealings with the Party’ was rejected by 25 to 13.

Yegorov’s amendment, to add ‘and to the Party Council’, was rejected by 24 to 14.

Paragraph 10 as a whole was adopted by 38 to one, with seven abstentions.

The congress proceeded to discuss Paragraph 11.

Glebov defended the right of the editorial board of the Central Organ to have direct knowledge of the membership of local committees. In the event of the entire Central Committee disappearing it would then be known who was available to replace them. In addition, the editorial board needed to know everything in order to have a clear idea of the Party’s forces and situation.

Lieber: I don’t understand why the editorial board needs to know that in a particular town Ivan Ivanovich is living and working. I am amazed that such a proposal can be made. It is impossible.

Karsky: Lieber took advantage of Glebov’s unfortunate presentation. I don’t think that the point here is the personnel. What is more important is the reports on the movement which the committees ought to send to the editorial board.

Lange: I see nothing odd in this proposal. It means that the editorial board should possess the addresses and code-words.

Kostrov: The editorial board should know everything, but that is a matter for its own discretion. For it to be acquainted with the entire personnel is a fantastic notion.

Trotsky: It is not a matter of regular periodical reports—if the editorial board needs reports it will ask for them. And they may be useful in order to throw light on some interesting developments.

Lieber’s proposal, to delete the whole of the point under discussion, was rejected by 24 to 19.

A proposal to omit the words ‘and all its members’ was rejected by 23 to 19.

Paragraph 11 as a whole was adopted by 27 to 12, with seven abstentions.

The rapporteur read paragraph 12 and proposed that co-option to the CC should take place on a basis of unanimity. It was necessary that in such a close organisation there should be complete unanimity.

Yegorov considered ‘four-fifths’ was illogical: why not ‘threequarters’? In general, it was impossible to express what was needed by means of an arithmetical fraction. As he saw it, what was needed was that there should be no dissonances: it would be enough to require a simple majority without a reasoned veto by any member.

Popov was against ‘four-fifths’ and against a reasoned veto. He thought there should be either a simple majority or else unanimity.

Martov could not agree either with Comrade Glebov or with Comrade Yegorov. The requirement of complete unanimity could make the CC an exclusive group. I agree that there should be no friction, and for that reason I am against a qualified majority. I admit the Psychological impossibility of working with unpleasant persons. But it is also important to us that our organisation be viable and effectual. I think that provision for a single reasoned protest, such as Comrade Yegorov suggests, is not enough to safeguard us against the caprice of one individual inspired by personal antipathy, and so I advocate that two such protests must be required. The right of the CC and the editorial board to mutual control in cases of co-option is unnecessary. It is not because I think that one is not competent in the sphere of the other that I am against it. No; the editorial board might be able, for instance, to give the CC sound advice as to whether Mr Nadezhdin,[3] say, should be admitted to the CC. I object because I don’t want to create mutually exasperating ‘red tape’.

Lenin: There are two questions here. The first is that of the qualified majority, and I am against lowering it from four-fifths to two-thirds. The introduction of a reasoned protest would show a lack of foresight and I am against it. Incomparably more important is the second question, the right of the Central Committee and the Central Organ to mutual control over co-option. The mutual accord of the two central bodies is an essential condition for harmony. What is involved here is a possible rupture between the two central bodies. Whoever does not want a split should be concerned to safeguard harmony. We know from the history of the Party that there have been people who have caused splits. It is a question of principle, a very important question, one on which the whole future of the Party may depend.

Trotsky: As regards the majority required for co-option, I favour two-thirds, because then, with three members, two will have the right to co-opt. As for mutual control, the fact that this requirement was not included in the preliminary draft, but has appeared subsequently, makes it clear that Lenin is not quite in the right on the matter. It is obvious that this point does not possess such universal preventive significance as some here are trying to ascribe to it. The right of mutual control places the CC and the Central Organ in unequal conditions. The editorial board is a group of persons who are already well practised in working together, and it will rarely need to seek the approval of the CC, whereas the CC will constantly be needing to consult the editorial board. The Party Council exists to co ordinate the activity of the two centres. The autonomous status of each centre has been talked of, and has been endorsed, but what sort of autonomy is it that doesn’t include the centre’s right to decide its own composition?

Kostich: We cannot expel so easily as we can co-opt, and so a larger majority is required for the expulsion of members.

Lange considered that there was a contradiction in the arguments of some of the speakers, in that they were now speaking in favour of what previously they had opposed.

Martov: In relation to the question as it has arisen now, the point about autonomy is deprived of any meaning. Control is necessary: I agree with that. But this control is also effected by the Party Council. As a member of the editorial board, I do not understand how a simple majority of the members of another institution can be decisive in this question which has been decided by four-fifths of the given organisation. The aim which Lenin seeks to achieve will be accomplished by the Council. Mutual control, mutual surveillance, can only create unnecessary occasions for misunderstanding and ill-will.

Yegorov: I understand why Lenin is skipping from one leg to the other: the reason is that the rules themselves are lame. If the Council can reconstitute the entire CC and the editorial board of the Central Organ, why can it not be trusted in the matter of co-option?

Deutsch: The question about whether the required majority should be four-fifths or two-thirds is not important. What is important is the question of mutual control. I am against such control, which would give rise to a lot of ‘red tape’. This motion is undoubtedly designed for the given moment. But with the passage of time, when the CC is established in position and at work, this rule will cause impossible delays. I would remind comrades of the muddle that occurred when we were corresponding with the Borba group.

Lenin: If the rules are lame in one leg, Comrade Yegorov is making them lame in both. The Council co-opts only in exceptional cases. Complete confidence is needed by both sides, both centres, precisely because this is a complicated mechanism. Without complete mutual confidence, successful joint work is not possible and the whole question of correct functioning together is closely bound up with the right of co-option. The problem of technical difficulties is being exaggerated to no purpose by Comrade Deutsch.

Martov: The question is not at all such a matter of principle as Lenin makes it out to be. This delicate point presupposes that which has to be achieved. We must not count on there always being an ideal state of agreement. We have an institution that will not allow differences to grow into constant conflict.

The congress proceeded to vote. By 25 to 19 it adopted Glebov’s proposal to add, after the phrase ‘for co-option of new members, and for their expulsion, four-fifths of the votes are needed’, the words: ‘except in the case of the CC, co-option to which requires unanimity’.

Fomin’s amendment, for ‘a majority of two-thirds, without two reasoned protests’, was adopted by 27 to 21.

Lenin moved an amendment to Fomin’s amendment: ‘without one reasoned protest’. This was adopted by 21 to 19.

Pavlovich’s amendment—‘co-option to the editorial board of the Central Organ is to take place on a basis of unanimity’– was adopted by 23 to 21.

Martov’s proposal [Martov’s resolution: ‘A reasoned protest against a decision by any Party organisation on co-option or expulsion of members is appealable to the Party Council, which is given the right to countermand it.’] was adopted by 24 to 22.

The session was closed.



[1] The passage about “following Party publications” evidently occurred in Lenin’s explanation of what the editorial board’s tasks would include.

[2] The “schismatics” (raskolniki) referred to by Deutsch were presumably Old Believers, who had, as persecuted religious dissenters, grievances against the government which might cause them to wish to contact Narodnaya Volya.

[3] L. Nadezhdin (E.O. Zelensky) was the author of a pamphlet, published by Svoboda, which is referred to by Lenin in What Is To Be Done?, Section V.