Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Principal Resolutions

adopted at the Second Congress of the RSDLP
On the place of the Bund in the Party

Considering: (a) that the closest unity of the Jewish proletariat with the proletariat of those races amidst which it lives is absolutely necessary in the interests of its struggle for political and economic liberation; (b) that only such very close unity guarantees success for the Social-Democrats in the struggle against all forms of chauvinism and anti-semitism; and (c) that such unity in no way rules out independence for the Jewish workers’ movement in all matters concerned with special tasks of agitation among the Jewish population which arise from differences in language and living conditions—the Second Congress of the RSDLP expresses its profound conviction that restructuring the organisational relations between the Jewish proletariat and the Russian proletariat on federal lines would constitute a substantial obstacle in the way of fuller organisational rapprochement between conscious proletarians of different races, and would inevitably do enormous harm to the interests of the proletariat generally and of the Jewish proletariat of Russia in particular; and, therefore, emphatically rejecting as absolutely inadmissible in principle any possibility of federal relations between the RSDLP and the Bund, as a component section of the Party, the Congress resolves that the Bund occupies, within the united RSDLP, the position of an autonomous component, the limits to its autonomy to be defined when the general Party rules are elaborated. In view of the above, the Congress, regarding the ‘Rules’ proposed by the Bund delegates as a draft for a section of the general Party rules, defers discussion of this draft until Point 6 of the agenda, and proceeds to next business.

On the Central Organ of the Party (resolution by members of the Yuzhny Rabochy group and others)

Considering: (a) the services of Iskra in promoting ideological unity, in developing and defending the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy, and in fighting on the basis of these principles against every kind of opportunist tendency in our Party, as well as against tendencies striving to deflect the movement of the working class from the only correct course; (b) the role played by Iskra in directing the Party’s practical work; and (c) the guiding role of Iskra in the work for unification—the Second Congress of the RSDLP declares Iskra to be its Central Organ.

On Territorial Organisations

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, etc. Responsibility for approving the rules governing such organisations is assigned to the Central Committee of the Party.

On Local Organisations

With respect to local organisations, the Congress recognises it as necessary that only a single leading organisation should exist in each centre of Party activity, and charges the Central Committee with the task of taking measures to bring about such unity. As regards organisations which are not local in character—military, concerned with publishing, etc.—the Congress accepts the possibility of their existence on condition that they be approved by the Central Committee.

On Work among the Sectaries

Considering that the sectarian movement in Russia constitutes in many of its manifestations one of the democratic trends directed against the existing order of things, the Second Congress calls the attention of all Party members to work among the sectaries with a view to attracting them towards Social-Democracy.

The Congress charges the Central Committee with the task of dealing with the proposals contained in Comrade Bonch-Bruyevich’s report. [2]

On Giving Testimony Under Interrogation

Considering: (a) that any testimony given by revolutionaries when under interrogation by the gendarmerie serves, in the hands of the interrogators, regardless of the intentions of the revolutionaries, as the principal means of charging more people and bringing them under interrogation; and (b) that refusal to testify, if carried out on a wide scale, will markedly help in the revolutionary education of the proletariat, the Second Congress recommends all Party members to refuse to give any kind of testimony when interrogated by the gendarmerie.

On Attitude to the Liberals (moved by Starover)

The RSDLP, the independent political party of the proletariat, proceeding from the proposition, contained in its programme, which proclaims that the Party ‘supports every oppositional and revolutionary movement directed against the social and political order prevailing in Russia’, does not refuse to enter, and, should the need arise, will enter, through its central institutions, into temporary agreements with liberal or liberal-democratic trends; on condition however, (a) that these trends clearly and unequivocally declare that in their struggle against the autocratic government they stand resolutely alongside the Russian Social-Democrats; (b) that they do not include in their programmes demands which run counter to the interests of the working class and of democracy generally, or obfuscating their consciousness; and (c) that they take as their battle-slogan: universal, equal, secret and direct suffrage.

On Attitude to the Liberals (moved by Plekhanov)

Considering: (a) that Social-Democrats must support the bourgeoisie in so far as it is revolutionary or even merely oppositional in its struggle against Tsardom; and (b) that, therefore, Social-Democrats must welcome the awakening of political consciousness in the Russian bourgeoisie; but that, on the other hand, they are obliged to unmask before the proletariat the limited and inadequate character of the bourgeois liberation movement, wherever this limitedness and inadequacy shows itself, the Second Ordinary Congress of the RSDLP insistently recommends to all comrades that, in their propaganda, they direct the attention of workers to the anti-revolutionary and anti-proletarian character of the trend expressed in Mr P. Struve’s organ.

On the Socialist-Revolutionaries

Considering: (a) that the interests of the Russian proletariat generally and of its liberation movement in particular require it to act, in the struggle against absolutism, as a completely independent political force; (b) that only activity aimed at uniting the proletariat into such a force possesses socialist revolutionary content in the struggle against absolutism; and considering, further: (c) that the ‘Socialist-Revolutionaries’ oppose, in theory and in practice, the efforts of the Social-Democrats to weld the workers into an independent political party, and strive, on the contrary, to keep them as a politically amorphous mass capable only of serving as a tool of the liberal bourgeoisie, the Congress declares that the ‘Socialist-Revolutionaries’ are nothing but a bourgeois-democratic faction, towards whom Social-Democrats can in principle have an attitude no different than towards liberal representatives of the bourgeoisie in general.

Considering further: (a) that the ‘Socialist-Revolutionaries’ pursue their bourgeois tendencies under the flag of socialism, and (b) that, in addition, or, rather, for this reason, they are utterly bankrupt as a bourgeois-revolutionary faction, the Congress regards their activity as detrimental not only to the political development of the proletariat but also to the overall democratic struggle against absolutism.

For all these reasons, the Congress condemns unconditionally any attempt to hide the principled and political significance of the differences between ‘Socialist-Revolutionaries’ and Social-Democrats. On the contrary, it recognises as necessary, both for the development of the political independence of the Russian proletariat and in the particular interests of the liberation movement against absolutism, that the Social-Democrats should elucidate and emphasise the bourgeois tendencies of the ‘Socialist-Revolutionaries’ and their practical bankruptcy from the general democratic standpoint.

In the light of the above-mentioned considerations the Congress decisively condemns any attempt at uniting the Social-Democrats with the ‘Socialist-Revolutionaries’, and recognises as possible only partial agreements with them in particular instances of struggle against Tsardom, the conditions of such agreements to be subject to supervision by the Central Committee.

On Demonstrations

Considering: (a) that under the conditions prevailing in Russia political demonstrations are one of the most important means of politically educating the broadest masses of the people and of spreading and strengthening the influence of the Social-Democrats; (b) that demonstrations are at the same time the best means of systematically disorganising the machinery of government; and (c) that, gradually increasing in scope, these demonstrations must lead, and to some extent are already leading, to a series of armed clashes between the people and the governing authority, thus preparing the masses for a Russia-wide uprising against the existing order, the Congress recognises it as necessary that local committees take advantage of suitable occasions for organising political demonstrations.

At the same time, the Congress notes that in the previous approach to this question some substantial defects were observed in practice, and recommends that, in order to eliminate these: (1) the committees should, through extensive preliminary agitation, endeavour to ensure that the broadest sections of the population are sympathetic to the aims of a demonstration and are informed of the Party’s aims; (2) demonstrations should be organised to take advantage of moments when the mood of the working masses is favourable for this purpose, and artificial incitement of demonstrations when this condition is lacking should be avoided; (3) the active nucleus of demonstrators should be sufficiently numerous, well-organised, and prepared for the role they have to play; (4) measures should be taken to ensure that, in case of need, the demonstrators will be able to offer an active, and, if possible, armed rebuff to the police hordes; (5) in view of the fact that regular troops are increasingly being used against the people, steps should be taken to acquaint the soldiers with the nature and purpose of the demonstrations, and to invite them to fraternise with the people; the demonstrators should not be allowed needlessly to irritate the soldiers.

The Second Congress of the RSDLP recognises the desirability of the Central Committee directing and co-ordinating the efforts of local committees in the organisation of demonstrations, and taking upon itself the organisation of Russia-wide political demonstrations in accordance with a general plan.

On the Trade Union Struggle

Considering: (a) that trade union struggle by the workers inevitably follows from the situation of the proletariat in capitalist society; (b) that this struggle by the workers is one of the principal means of countering the tendency of the capitalist system to lower the workers’ standard of living; and (c) that in so far as this struggle develops in isolation from the political struggle of the proletariat, led by the Social-Democrats, it results in fragmentation of the proletarian forces and subordination of the labour movement to the interests of the propertied classes, the Congress recognises that the task of the RSDLP in the field of the trade union movement is to lead the day-to-day struggle of the workers for improvement in their working conditions and to agitate for removal of all the obstacles put in the way of the trade union movement by the laws of the Russian autocracy; in short, to unite the separate conflicts involving particular groups of workers into a single, organised class struggle.

At the same time, in view of the increasingly obvious endeavours of the Tsarist government to get control of the economic struggle of the proletariat, under the guise of legalising the labour movement’, and by corrupting it politically to turn this movement into a pawn in its own political game; in view of the fact that this so-called ‘Zubatov policy’ not only has a reactionary political inspiration and is implemented by police-provocateur methods, but is a policy of systematic betrayal of the interests of the working class for the benefit of the capitalists, the Congress recommends that all comrades continue the unremitting struggle against Zubatovism in all its forms, that they lay bare before the workers the self-seeking and treacherous character of the tactics of the Zubatovist demagogues, and that they call on the workers to unite in a single class movement of struggle for the political and economic emancipation of the proletariat. To this end the Congress recognises it as desirable that Party organisations give support and guidance to strikes called by the legal labour organisations, and at the same time make use of these clashes to expose the reactionary nature of the union between the workers and the autocracy.

On Pogroms against the Jews

In view of the fact that movements such as the all too sadly well-known pogrom in Kishinev, quite apart from the abominable atrocities they commit, serve in the hands of the police as a means by which the latter seek to hold back the growth of class consciousness among the proletariat, the Congress recommends comrades to use all means in their power to combat such movements and to explain to the proletariat the reactionary and class inspiration of anti-semitic and all other national-chauvinist incitements.

On Shop Stewards

On the basis of the propositions developed in the resolution on the trade union struggle, and considering: (a) that the new law on shop stewards is intended by the government to serve as a means of strengthening police tutelage over the working class; and (b) that, as with all attempts by the government at legalising the labour movement’, this law can and must become a point of departure for agitation against the autocracy and for development of the class consciousness of the proletariat, the congress recommends all organised comrades to take part in the elections of shop stewards under the new law and to agitate during these elections for the installation of the most reliable representatives of the workers and so as to expose the tactics of the authorities and the capitalists in these elections.

On the Presentation of Propaganda

Considering: (a) the growth of the labour movement in Russia is far outrunning the growth of the cadre of conscious worker Social-Democrats capable of acting as leaders in the ever more complex struggle of the Russian proletariat; (b) that conditions of policeimposed clandestinity hinder in the highest degree the correct presentation of propaganda through study-circles on any wide scale at all; and (c) that the lack of a sufficient number of experienced and skilled propagandists puts considerable obstacles in the way of propaganda of this kind—the Congress recognises the necessity for local committees to give very serious attention to the correct presentation of propaganda, being guided in this above all by the task of developing conscious and active agitators with a definite revolutionary world-outlook. The Congress proposes that local committees give particular attention to selecting skilful propagandists and instructs the Central Committee to take all needful measures for systematising and co-ordinating propaganda work in the localities, by providing systematic guides for study-circles, a series of systematically chosen propaganda pamphlets, and so on.

On the Attitude to the Student Youth

The Second Congress of the RSDLP welcomes the quickening of revolutionary activity among the student youth, urges all Party organisations to co-operate in every way with these young people in their endeavours to organise themselves, and recommends all student groups and study-circles, first, to give priority in their activity to developing among their members an integrated and consistent socialist world-outlook—a serious knowledge of Marxism, on the one hand, and, on the other, of Russian Narodism and Western European opportunism, as the main trends among the advanced tendencies which are in conflict today—and, secondly, to try, when going over to practical activity, to establish links beforehand with the Social-Democratic organisations, so as to benefit from their advice and to avoid, so far as possible, committing major errors at the very beginning of their work.

On the Amsterdam Congress

International socialist congresses should not only testify to the solidarity of the workers throughout the world, but should to a certain extent also give leadership to the ideological and practical struggle of the proletariat. Therefore, the Second Congress of the RSDLP recommends the Party Council to see that the Party is appropriately represented at the Congress in Amsterdam in 1904, in order to uphold there those principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy by which the Party is guided in all its activity.

On Party Publications

Considering: (a) that the broadening development of the labour movement ought to be accompanied by the clearest possible under-standing among the working class masses of the immediate and ultimate aims of the Social-Democrats; (b) that it is a vital task for the Party at the present moment to create a strictly consistent body of publications, accessible to the widest possible mass of readers, taking into account the present state of the Party’s forces, the Congress recognises it as necessary: (1) that the Central Organ devote as much space as possible to questions of political and social life in a form as intelligible as possible to the widest circle of readers, and eliminating, as far as possible, articles of a purely theoretical nature; (2) that, with these aims in mind and in order to ensure a more systematic elucidation of problems of socialist theory, Zarya be transformed into a Party organ; the Congress instructs the Central Committee to reach agreement with the editorial board of the Central Organ on the conditions governing publication of this organ; and (3) that an extensive pamphlet literature be created, for the purpose of systematically popularising the Party programme and the Congress resolutions on tactical questions.

The Congress instructs the Party’s central institutions to see to the taking of all measures needed for the implementation of these decisions.



[2] Bonch-Bruyevich regarded the Neo-Stundists (an offshoot of the Baptists), the Khlysty, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Dukhobors as the most ‘likely’ elements among the sectaries—i.e., the religious dissenters, who were persecuted by the Orthodox Church with the backing of the state. Nine issues of Rassvet, the special paper for work among the sectaries, were published in 1904. On Party work among the sectaries, see Valentinov, Encounters with Lenin, Chapters 7 and 8.