Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress
(Present: 36 delegates with 44 mandates and 11 persons with consultative voice.)
The minutes of the 17th session were read.
Plekhanov (commenting on the minutes) said that his proposal to accept the original version of point 6 of the general-political demands of the programme, and hold over the remainder, concerning equality of languages, to the next congress, as this question was evidently not clear to most of the delegates, had been interpreted wrongly. He had not at all wished to suggest that the whole of this question was unclear to the Party generally, and he could not have suggested this if only because, having himself taken part in working out the draft programme, he considered that it was quite clear to him and to those who had been involved in the whole draft. He had merely supposed, in view of the difficulties the congress had experienced in voting on this point as a whole, that the question was insufficiently clear to the majority of delegates, and that therefore it needed to be clarified first, in the press.
Yegorov remarked that he personally had nothing against the explanation which Comrade Plekhanov had now given, but he was obliged to observe that at the session at which Comrade Plekhanov made his proposal, nobody had understood it in that sense, and even Plekhanov himself had not at the time given it that meaning.
Plekhanov said that he himself, of course, best knew what he had in mind when arguing in favour of his resolution, and that he was now merely using his right to give an explanation.
Yegorov said that, in the absence of a stenographic record of the Proceedings it was not possible to re-establish the actual meaning of what speakers had said. By his remarks he merely wished to emphasise that, at the actual session at which Plekhanov made this proposal, it had possessed a quite different shade of meaning, one of irony. [Plekhanov: ‘Quite true!’] and this had given a certain tone to the entire session.
The minutes of the 20th session were read and, after a few amendments had been made, were confirmed.
The congress proceeded to vote on the resolution concerning territorial organisations.
The resolutions moved by Lange, Posadovsky, Koltsov and Gorin were rejected:
Lange’s resolution: ‘The congress, while declaring in principle against the uniting of committees into associations, permits this to be done in certain cases. These cases are conditioned, on the one hand, by the weak functioning of the Central Committee in certain areas (borderlands, factory localities without important urban centres, and so on), and, on the other, by the impossibility, in the absence of such associations, of properly organising the work to be done. The drawing up of rules for territorial organisations is left for them to carry out jointly with the CC.’
Karsky’s resolution [Resolution moved by Karsky and Kostrov: ‘The congress recognises as permissible the establishment of territorial organisations, in the form of associations of committees, in those regions of Russia which are distinguished by important special features in respect of language, make-up of the population, and so on. Responsibility for approv ing the rules governing such organisations is assigned to the Party’s Central Committee.’] was adopted by 28 votes to two, with seven abstentions.
Posadovsky’s resolution: ‘Of the two existing types of united organisations: (1) the association of committees at the centre of which is an organisation elected by these committees, and (2) the united organisation which is independent of local organisations but, on the contrary, directs and regulates their work, the congress pronounces in favour of the second, since this type of organisation is derived directly from the function which this united organisation has to perform, that is, to link local work with work which is common to all Russia, not allowing it to become confined to local tasks. For this reason a united organisation should not grow out of local organisations.’
Koltsov’s resolution: ‘The congress recognises as permissible the formation of territorial organisations. The pattern of these organisations is to be established by local organisations in agreement with the Central Committee.’
Gorin’s resolution: ‘Where necessary, the Central Committee establishes regional agencies. Where possible these are to be composed by the Central Committee from local forces which enjoy the confidence of the committees. Part of this work of establishing regional committees can be entrusted by the Central Committee to the local committees.
Amendments to this resolution moved by Muravyov, [Muravyov’s resolution: ‘Declaring in principle against associations of committees, the congress nevertheless allows the formation of territorial organisation’, and so on (see Karsky’s resolution).] Pavlovich (to insert the words: ‘and in the form of united territorial organisations’) and Kostrov (to replace ‘admissible’ by ‘desirable’ were all rejected.
The congress then turned to the last item of the agenda, namely, the questions of particular organisations of the Party.
The deputy chairman, Lenin, explained that the purpose of this item was to discuss both the general question of all those organisations which might lie outside the rules of Party organisation and, in particular, each of the organisations which existed at present.
After this the Bureau asked if anyone wished to speak on this subject. Nobody wished to speak.
Kostich (on a point of order): I propose that we discuss the question of a popular organ.
Rusov: The question of a popular organ has nothing to do with the question on the agenda. I propose that we discuss the fate of those groups which stand outside the Party, and disband them.
Martov: In the name of the Iskra organisation I announce that I can save you the trouble of disbanding it. After the confirmation of the Party rules and the recognition of Iskra as the Party organ, the Iskra organisation ceased to exist as such.
Trotsky proposed discussing the question of Yuzhny Rabochy. Byelov proposed that each organisation be considered separately.
The chairman said that the proposals by Trotsky and Byelov coincided, since they both amounted to giving each organisation separate consideration.
Byelov proposed that a special resolution be passed in relation to each organisation, such as the ‘Emancipation of Labour’ Group, the Union, and so on.
Deutsch said that the ‘Emancipation of Labour’ Group had taken part in the congress, but it had been given two votes only on account of its historical services to the Party. The Group as such had merged with the League and had ceased to exist as a separate organisation.
Deutsch submitted a written statement on this matter, saying: ‘The ”Emancipation of Labour” Group, as such, is dissolved in the Party organisation.’
Posadovsky: Since the Siberian Association represents the type of association envisaged by Pavlovich’s amendment, which was rejected when we voted, we need to make a specific declaration regarding the Siberian Association.
Lange: According to the sense of the resolution adopted by the congress it is not at all obvious that committees whose activity extends over more than one province have no right to exist. The area of activity of a committee is not defined in the rules, and so the Siberian Association has not been suppressed, but has been brought under the classification of an ordinary committee.
Lenin: This is not relevant.
Lange: I was answering Posadovsky.
Brouckère: I think we should make our resolution a general one, not particularising about this or that organisation. I have heard of many organisations which do not belong to the committee type, but I have no detailed information about them. I believe there are many organisations which nobody here knows about, and we ought to express only the general view of the congress regarding organisations which do not belong to the Party organisation.
Chairman: The one does not rule out the other. About some organisations we can express our view in principle, while about others, known to those present at the congress, we can speak particularly.
Karsky: We need to draw up a list of all organisations requiring to be either endorsed or disbanded. In Caucasia there is an association of committees which publishes an organ and so on. This needs to be sanctioned.
Gorin: I do not understand how we can take up an attitude to a particular organisation when we do not yet know the general principle which should guide us.
Chairman: Since we have adopted general rules for the Party we have thereby adopted a general principle. All the organisations of which we wish to speak have come into being precisely because of the absence of Party organisation. We have now adopted a certain form of organisation, and by doing this we have given our general decision.
Karsky: The organisations of which I speak serve local needs. If Gorin does not want to sanction them individually, then he thereby says that these organisations ought not to exist within the Party.
Rusov: It is clear that what we are concerned with here is organisations which do not enter into the Party’s hierarchy. We cannot deal with each organisation separately.
Lyadov moved his resolution.
Gusev: Lyadov’s resolution related to organisations which exist in Russia, whereas we are concerned with organisations abroad. I think there are a sufficient number of groups (Borba, Volya, Zhizn, etc.) about which the congress ought to record its view.
Lenin (Deputy Chairman): The Bureau has been handed a list of organisations compiled by Comrade Fomin. [Reads out the list.]
Muravyov: What is this Volya mentioned in the list? Its exact name should be given.
Makhov pointed out that Svoboda had been omitted from the list. Lvov supported Makhov, since Volya, etc., had been included.
Orlov: There is no point in moving a resolution about Volya and so forth. After all, they don’t put ‘RSDLP’ at the top of the page.
Lenin (Chairman) : Some of them do.
Martov: Whether they do or they don’t is not important. We need to compose a resolution about all the organisations to which this is relevant.
Kostrov proposed that the list include a paper published in the Armenian and Georgian languages, Borba Proletariata, etc.
Lyadov proposed that the list include the PPS, the Bund and the Union of Lettish Social-Democrats.
Karsky: We are concerned with organisations belonging to the Party. Those mentioned by Lyadov don”t belong.
Lyadov: In any case I insist on the Bund being included.
Gorin: I propose that we do not include the editorial board of Borba Proletariata, since there is no such organisation. This paper is published by the Caucasian Association and its publishers do not constitute a separate organisation.
Karsky: Comrade Gorin has spent only a few days in Caucasia, and regularly, whenever he tries to speak as an expert on the subject, he says something that does not square with the facts. I insist on the need to include the editorial board of Borba Proletariata.
Koltsov: It won”t do to argue in that spirit about all the organisations, one after the other. We shall get drawn into matters of detail, and never finish.
Gorin: I did not deny the existence of the publication of which Kostrov and Karsky spoke. I merely said that it was published in the name of the Association.
Martov: We should authorise the CC to go into the Caucasian situation. Either there are three organisations there or there is none. We cannot make any sense of it here from what the Caucasian delegates have said. I now propose a resolution about the Borba group. [Reads it.] I do not agree that there should be a general resolution dealing with the Borba group and also with the Kuklin and Volya groups. One of these groups has principles, even if these are not sufficiently mature, whereas others have absolutely none, and with some we have differences of principle.
Plekhanov: Lack of principfes also means a difference of principle with us.
Martov: Absence of principles, immaturity and difference of principles are all quite different things.
Karsky: There are not three organisations in Caucasia. There is only. one organisation, which has to publish its material in three languages.
Rusov: The question of Armenian, Georgian and other publications is closely connected with the question of territorial organisations. These organisations, too, will publish everything that may be required.
Martov proposed a special resolution on Caucasia.
Rusov: It is quite unnecessary to have a resolution on each particular case, since we have a general resolution.
Gorin: I propose that the Caucasian organisation be deleted altogether from the list.
Karsky: We can”t delete what isn”t there.
Kostrov: We are not talking about the Caucasian committees but about the editorial board of Borba Proletariata, and that needs to be included in the list.
Lensky moved that discussion on the Caucasian Association and the editorial board be terminated.
Lenin proposed an adjournment so that a resolution could be composed.
Martov insisted on a vote being taken on his resolution about the Borba group.
Pavlovich proposed that the task of disbanding all organisations that needed to be disbanded be left to the CC.
Muravyov proposed that the whole question be handed over to a commission, and insisted that his resolution be voted on at once.
(A vote was taken on Muravyov’s resolution and it was rejected by a big majority.)
Byelov demanded that the general resolution should not include Yuzhny Rabochy, since one could not compare committees and suchlike organisations with this group.
Lenin (Deputy Chairman) read Koltsov’s resolution. Lyadov then withdrew his resolution.
Kostrov: Koltsov’s resolution contradicts the resolution which we have already adopted on territorial organisations.
Byelov: Some call for a general resolution dealing with all organisations, others for each one to be dealt with separately. We need first of all to settle that question.
Plekhanov (Chairman): The Bureau takes note of your observation, and appeals to the congress to settle the question.
Byelov proposed that a separate resolution be composed for each organisation.
Plekhanov (Chairman): I put Comrade Byelov’s proposal to the vote.
The majority expressed themselves in favour, though the votes were not counted.
Lenin (Deputy Chairman): Comrade Byelov proposes that Koltsov’s resolution be rejected.
Lenin: So, then, we will put Byelov’s proposal to the vote.
Byelov: It has already been passed.
Lenin: The votes were not counted. You have not submitted your resolution in writing. Please do that.
Byelov handed up a written resolution.
Lenin read the resolution and said that it was quite vague, and that with such a wording the supporters of Koltsov’s resolution could vote for it, too. He therefore asked Byelov to make his resolution more precise.
Fomin: The congress can express itself in favour of adopting a general resolution and then proceed to examine particular cases.
Yegorov said that nothing was said in the agenda about the congress giving instructions about how the CC was to act: that the agenda had in view not working out instructions for the CC, but defining its attitude to particular organisations. Yet the resolution which had been moved was more like an instruction to the CC.
Koltsov: Every question talls for a general resolution first: particular decisions can be taken subsequently.
Lange: Koltsov’s resolution does not embrace such organisations as those in Riga and elsewhere which do not want to join the local committees. We need to adopt some sort of general resolution, but after that we must look at the question in detail.
Yegorov: Since the agenda includes the question of endorsing existing organisations there is no point in deferring the endorsement of these organisations and charging the CC with this responsibility.
Martov: The discussion has become absolutely chaotic. We have been talking for two hours, first of all arguing about whether an organisation exists in Caucasia, then about my resolutions, and now again everybody is talking about whatever occurs to him. It is impossible to conduct a discussion like this.
The secretaries said that owing to the many brief remarks made and the chaotic character of the discussion it was almost impossible to take minutes.
Fomin: The trouble is that there has been a misunderstanding. A general resolution does not rule out a considerate attitude by the congress towards those organisations which are regarded as existing at present. It has been proposed that a vote be taken on a resolution of principle regarding item 8 of the agenda, and that we then proceed to discuss the question of the separate organisations.
Ivanov : How are we to understand item 8?
Lenin explained that the agenda provided for both general resolutions and for resolutions on the particular organisations which were outside the Party organisation. Whether the congress adopted or rejected Koltsov’s resolution, it could then proceed to examine the particular organisations according to the list which the Bureau possessed. Comrade Yegorov’s objection was unfounded.
Yegorov: If Comrade Koltsov agrees with Comrade Lenin’s explanation, I regard that as the end of the matter.
Koltsov’s resolution [Koltsov’s resolution: “As regards local organisations, the congress recognises it as necessary that only one leading organisation should exist in the centres of Party activity, and authorises the Central Committee to take measures to establish this unity. Where non-local organisations are concerned—military organisations, publishing organisations, etc.—the congress regards the existence of such organisations as possible provided they are endorsed by the Party’s CC.”] was voted on and passed, all voting in favour except for two abstentions.
Lange’s resolution [Lange’s resolution: “Regarding the so-called Social-Democratic groups (unformed committees) which exist in certain towns, where there are no Party committees, the congress proposes to the CC that it take measures to ensure that all these organisations either formalise their existence by declaring themselves Party committees, or else, should this form some reason be impossible, that they all enter the Party on conditions defined by agreement with the CC.”] was rejected. The congress then proceeded to discuss resolutions on the attitude towards particular organisations.
Martov’s resolution on the Borba group [Martov’s resolution: “Considering that the literary group called Borba regards itself as belonging to the RSDLP and has expressed its intention of submitting to the decisions of the Party congress, the congress authorises the CC to approach the Borba group with the proposal that it disband its organisation as such, for the separate existence of which there is no need, and that its members join a Party organisation.”] was passed, all voting in favour except for one against and one abstention.
Next came a resolution on the “Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad”.
Rusov: I suggest we pass Martov’s resolution again, merely substituting “the Union” for Borba.
Martov: I don”t agree. It is impossible to put Borba and the Union on a par. The Union is an organisation which was endorsed by the First Congress. Besides, the Union is not a literary group, of the Borba type.
Plekhanov moved a resolution about the Union [Plekhanov’s resolution: “The Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad is considered to be disbanded. Its members are invited to join one of the organisations which have been endorsed by the Party.”] which was passed (all voting in favour, except for two abstentions) after the words “has ceased to exist” had been replaced by “is considered to be disbanded”.
The session was closed.
 Lenin’s report on the Bund’s withdrawal, made in October 5903 to the League Congress:
“I cannot understand why the Bund should have withdrawn, things being as they were. They were actually the masters of the situation, and could have had a lot their own way. Most probably, they had binding instructions.”—Collected Works, Vol. 7, p.85.
“Not a single person has any doubt that, if the Bund had not withdrawn, Martov would have beaten us over the central bodies.”—Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 34, p.565.