Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute


Chapter II

STALIN HAD SPENT almost two years in prison and exile. During this period the revolutionary movement had made steady progress in the country. The Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. had taken place, at which the victory of Marxism over “Economism” had been consolidated. But those old opportunists, the “Economists,” smashed by the Party, were superseded by a new type of opportunists, the Mensheviks. After the Congress Lenin and the Bolsheviks launched a fierce struggle against the Mensheviks, against their opportunist ideas and their attempts to split and disorganize the Party. With the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War and the gathering revolutionary storm, this struggle took on an even more acute form. Lenin considered that only a new congress (the third) could settle the crisis in the Party. To secure the convocation of this congress was now the principal task of all the Bolsheviks.

In the Caucasus, Lenin’s faithful lieutenant in this campaign was Stalin, the leader of the Transcaucasian Bolsheviks. During this period he concentrated his energies on the fierce fight against Menshevism. A member of the Caucasian Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., he, together with Tskhakaya, was the virtual director of its activities. He was indefatigable: he periodically toured Transcaucasia, visiting Batum, Chiaturi, Kutais, Tiflis, Baku and the rural districts of Western Georgia, strengthening the old Party organizations and forming new ones, taking an active part in the heated controversies with the Mensheviks and other enemies of Marxism, stoutly upholding the principles of Bolshevism, and exposing the political chicanery and opportunism of the Mensheviks and of those who were prone to compromise with them.

“Under the leadership of Stalin and Djaparidze, in December 1904 there was a huge strike of the Baku workers, which lasted from December 13 to 31 and ended with the conclusion of a collective agreement with the oil owners, the first of its kind in the history of the Russian working-class movement. The Baku strike heralded a rise in the tide of revolution in Transcaucasia. It served as the ‘signal for the glorious actions in January and February all over Russia’ (Stalin).”1

“This strike,” says the History of the C.P.S.U.(B), “was like a clap of thunder heralding a great revolutionary storm.”

Stalin persistently worked for the furtherance of Lenin’s guiding principles. He advocated and explained the Bolshevik ideas to the masses, and organized a campaign for the convocation of a Third Party Congress. Close contact was maintained between Lenin and the Caucasian Committee all through this period. It was Stalin who led the ideological and political fight of the Caucasian Bolsheviks against the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries, nationalists and anarchists in the period of the first Russian Revolution. A most effective weapon of the Bolsheviks in this fight was their Party literature; and practically every Bolshevik publication that came out in the Caucasus owed its origin to Stalin’s initiative and efforts, thanks to which the production of illegal books, newspapers, pamphlets and leaflets attained dimensions unprecedented in tsarist Russia.

One remarkably bold enterprise of the Caucasian Union of the R.S.D.L.P., and an outstanding example of the Bolshevik technique of underground work, was the Avlabar secret printing press, which functioned in Tiflis from November 1903 to April 1906. On this press were printed Lenin’s The Revolutionary-Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and, the Peasantry and To the Rural Poor, Stalin’s Briefly About the Disagreements in the Party, Two Clashes and other pamphlets, the Party program and rules, and scores of leaflets, many of which were written by Stalin. On it, too, were printed the newspapers Proletariatis Brdzola and Proletariatis Brdzolis Purtseli. Books, pamphlets, newspapers and leaflets were published in three languages and were printed in several thousands of copies.

A most important weapon in the defence of the principles of Bolshevism in the Caucasus and in the propagation and development of Lenin’s ideas was the newspaper Proletariatis Brdzola, edited by Stalin, the organ of the Caucasian Union of the R.S.D.L.P, and a worthy successor of Brdzola. For its size and its quality as a Bolshevik newspaper, Proletariatis Brdzola was second only to Proletary, the Central Organ of the Party, edited by Lenin. Practically every issue carried articles by Lenin, reprinted from the Proletary. Many highly important articles were written by Stalin. In them he stands forth as a talented controversialist, one of the Party’s ablest writers and theoreticians, a political leader of the proletariat, and a faithful follower of Lenin. In his articles and pamphlets, Stalin worked out a number of theoretical and political problems. He disclosed the ideological fallacies of the anti-Bolshevik trends and factions, their opportunism and treachery. Every blow at the enemy struck with telling effect. Lenin paid glowing tribute to Proletariatis Brdzola, to its Marxian consistency and high literary merit.

Lenin’s most appreciative disciple and the most consistent champion of his ideas, Stalin played a dominant part in the ideological discomfiture of Menshevism in the Caucasus, and in the defence of the ideological, organizational and tactical principles of the Marxist party. His writings of that period are a model of consistency in the advocacy of Lenin’s views, and are distinguished for their theoretical penetration and uncompromising hostility to opportunism.

His pamphlet Briefly About the Disagreements in the Party, his two “Letters From Kutais” and his article “Reply to a ‘Social-Democrat’” are a vigorous defence of the ideological principles of the Marxist party.

The “Letters from Kutais” (September-October 1904) contain a trenchant criticism of Plekhanov’s articles in the new Iskra taking issue with Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? Stalin consistently defends Lenin’s views on the question of spontaneity and consciousness in the labour movement. He writes:

“The conclusion (practical deduction) to be drawn from this is as follows: we must raise the proletariat to the level of consciousness of its true class interests, of consciousness of the Socialist ideal, but not break this ideal up into small change, or adjust it to the spontaneous movement. Lenin has laid down the theoretical basis on which this practical deduction is built. It is enough to accept this theoretical premise to prevent any opportunism from getting anywhere near you. Herein lies the significance of Lenin’s idea. I call it Lenin’s, because nobody in Russian literature has expressed it with such clarity as Lenin has done.”2

Briefly About the Disagreements in the Party (written at the beginning of 1905 and published illegally in May of that year) was an outstanding contribution to Bolshevik thought. It had a close kinship with Lenin’s historic work What Is To Be Done?, whose inspired ideas it vigorously upheld and elaborated.

Dilating on Lenin’s ideas, Stalin in this pamphlet argues the supreme importance of Socialist consciousness to the labour movement. At the same time he warns against one-sidedly exaggerating the importance of ideas and forgetting the conditions of economic development and the role of the labour movement. Can it be said, Stalin asks, that Socialism is everything and the labour movement nothing? “Of course not! Only idealists say that. Some day, in the very distant future, economic development will inevitably lead the working class to the social revolution, and, consequently, compel it to break off all connection with, bourgeois ideology. The only point is that this path is a very long and painful one.”3

Having profoundly argued the question of the relation between the spontaneous labour movement and Socialist consciousness from all aspects and angles, Stalin in his pamphlet sums up the views of the Lenin wing of the Social-Democracy on the question as follows:

“What is scientific Socialism without the labour movement?—A compass which, if left unused, can only grow rusty and then has to be thrown overboard.

“What is the labour movement without Socialism?A ship without a compass which will reach the other shore in any case, but would reach it much sooner and with less danger if it had a compass.

“Combine the two and you will. get a splendid vessel, which will speed straight towards the other shore and reach its haven unharmed.

“Combine the labour movement with Socialism and you will get a Social-Democratic movement which will speed straight towards the promised land.4

The whole history of the working-class struggle in Russia has strikingly confirmed this important theoretical conclusion of Stalin’s. In the pamphlet in question Stalin subjected the opportunist theory of spontaneity to withering criticism and gave a reasoned explanation of the role and significance of a revolutionary party and of revolutionary theory for the working class.

“The labour movement,” wrote Stalin, “must be linked up with Socialism; practical activities and theoretical thought must merge into one and thereby lend the spontaneous labour movement a Social-Democratic character. . . . Our duty, the duty of Social-Democracy is to divert the spontaneous labour movement from the trade union path to the Social-Democratic path. Our duty is, to introduce Socialist consciousness5 into this movement and unite the progressive forces of the working class in one centralized party. Our task is always to be at the head of the movement and tirelessly combat all those—foes or ‘friends’—who hinder the accomplishment of this task.”6

Stalin’s writings met with Lenin’s wholehearted approval. Reviewing to the Proletary (No. 22), the Central Organ of the Party, Stalin’s “Reply to a Social-Democrat,” which appeared in the Proletariatis Brdzola in August 1905, Lenin noted the “excellent formulation of the famous question of the ‘introduction of consciousness from without.’”

Stalin wrote a number of articles in support of Lenin’s line at the Second Congress and after. In an article entitled “The Proletarian Class and the Proletarian Party” (Proleiariatis Brdzola, No. 8, January 1, 1905), dealing with the first paragraph of the Party Rules, he upheld the organizational principles of the Party as laid down in Lenin’s doctrine of the party, explaining and enlarging upon Lenin’s ideas. This article was a defence of the organizational principles of Bolshevism as propounded by Lenin in his famous book One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

“Up till now,” Stalin wrote, “our Party has resembled a hospitable patriarchal family, ready to take in all who sympathize. But now that our Party has become a centralized organization, it has thrown off its patriarchal aspect and has become in all respects like a fortress, the gates of which are opened only to those who are worthy. And this is of great importance to us. At a time when the autocracy is trying to corrupt the class consciousness of the proletariat with ‘trade-unionism,’ nationalism, clerical, ism and the like, and when, on the other hand, the liberal intelligentsia is persistently striving to kill the political independence of the proletariat and to impose its tutelage upon it at such a time we must be extremely vigilant and never forget that our Party is a fortress, the gates of which are opened only to those who have been tested.”7

The article “The Social-Democratic View of the National Question” (Proletarians Brdzola, No. 7, September 1, 1904) is a brilliant commentary on the national program of the R.S.D.L.P. Stalin sets forth and explains the theory and program of the Party on the national question, subjects the opportunist principle of dividing the proletariat into national sections to devastating criticism, and consistently advocates the internationalist type of proletarian class organization. Stalin here reveals himself as an outstanding authority on the national question, a theoretician with a perfect mastery of the Marxist dialectical method. He foreshadows the ideas which he subsequently developed in his Marxism and the National Question.

In the first Russian Revolution Stalin from the very outset resolutely advocated and practised Lenin’s strategy and tactics, his idea of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution.

Of the Liberals, who were out, not for revolution, but for reconciliation with the tsar, Stalin had written on the eve of January 9, 1905: “Yes, gentlemen, vain are your efforts! The Russian revolution is inevitable. It is as inevitable as the rising of the sun! Can you prevent the sun from rising? The main force in this revolution is the urban and rural proletariat, its banner-bearer is the Social-Democratic Labour Party, and not you, Messieurs Liberals!”8

With equal vigour, Stalin supported Lenin's idea of armed insurrection as the means of overthrowing the autocracy and establishing a republic. The necessity for armed insurrection is exhaustively demonstrated in his writings of 1905-07. “The salvation of the people lies in a victorious uprising of the people themselves,” he says. Like Lenin, he attached the highest importance to proper technical training for insurrection, the formation of fighting squads, the procurement of arms, and so forth. “It is the technical guidance and organizational preparation of the all-Russian insurrection that constitute the new tasks with which life has confronted the proletariat,” he wrote.9 Stalin himself gave day-to-day guidance to the Bolshevik organizations in Transcaucasia in preparing for armed insurrection.

Stalin explained and developed Lenin’s idea of a provisional revolutionary government. The formation of such a government, he argued, should be the natural outcome of a victorious armed insurrection of the people. Since it is the proletariat and the peasantry that will triumph in the insurrection, the provisional revolutionary government must be the spokesman of their aspirations and interests. Such a government must be a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Only the dictatorship of these revolutionary classes can curb and suppress the sinister forces of reaction, arm the people, carry out the minimum program of the R.S.D.L.P., and consolidate and consummate the victory of the revolution.

“If the advanced proletariat is the leader of the revolution,” Stalin wrote, “and if it must take an active part in, organizing the insurrection—then it is self-evident that we cannot wash our hands of the provisional revolutionary government and remain outside, that we must achieve political power in conjunction with the peasantry and go into the provisional government:10 the leader of the revolutionary street must also be the leader of the revolution's government.” 11

In the fight against the numerous foes of the Bolshevik Party and the working class, Stalin consistently advocated and elaborated Lenin’s theory of the revolution and his tactical plan. It was the supreme merit of this plan that it was adapted in a most remarkable degree to the realities of the situation in Russia, that it rallied broad masses of the people to the fight and inspired them with confidence in victory, that it advanced the revolution.

The Caucasian Committee indefatigably propagated the decisions of the Third Party Congress and summoned the workers and peasants to armed insurrection. Stalin's leaflets of the year 1905 are a model of the propaganda of Bolshevik ideas among the masses. In his “Armed Insurrection and Our Tactics,” “The Provisional Revolutionary Government and Social-Democracy,” “Reaction Is Growing” and other articles, he castigated the Menshevik headers and insistently urged the necessity for armed insurrection.

The general strike of October 1905 demonstrated the might and strength of the proletarian movement and impelled the mortally terrified tsar to issue his Manifesto of October 17. Unstinting in its promises of popular liberties, this Manifesto was nothing but a fraud on the masses, a stratagem designed to secure a breathing space in which the tsar might fool the gullible, gain time and marshal his forces for a blow at the revolution. The Bolsheviks warned the masses that the Manifesto was a trap. The October Manifesto found Stalin in Tiflis, in the heat of the fight for Lenin’s tactical plan and for the Bolshevik slogans in the revolution. That very same day, addressing a meeting of workers, Stalin said:

“What do we need in order to really win? We need three things: first—arms, second—arms, third—arms and arms again!”12

Insisting that the victory of the revolution demanded a nation-wide armed insurrection, Stalin, in a leaflet headed “Citizens!” issued by the Tiflis Committee of the Caucasian Union of the R.S.D.L.P. which he wrote in October 1905, said:

“The general political strike now raging—which is of dimensions unprecedented and unexampled not only in the history of Russia but in the history of the whole world—may, perhaps, end today without developing into a nation-wide uprising, but tomorrow it will shake the country again with even greater force and develop into that great armed uprising which must settle the age-long contest between the Russian people and the tsarist autocracy and smash the head of this despicable monster. . . . A nation-wide armed uprising—such is the supreme task that today confronts the proletariat of Russia, and is imperatively demanding execution!”13

Stalin’s revolutionary activities in Transcaucasia at this period were immense. Under his guidance the Fourth Bolshevik Conference of the Caucasian Union of the R.S.D.L.P. (November 1905) passed a resolution calling for more energetic preparation for armed insurrection; it appealed for a boycott of the tsarist Duma and for the extension and consolidation of the revolutionary organizations of the workers and peasants—the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, the strike committee and the revolutionary peasant committees. Stalin exposed and denounced the Mensheviks as opponents of the revolution and of armed insurrection. He worked assiduously to prepare the workers for the decisive engagement with the autocracy. The flames of revolution swept all over Transcaucasia. Special mention of the activities of the Bolshevik organizations in Transcaucasia was made at the Third Congress of the Party, in the resolution on “The Events in the Caucasus,” moved by Lenin, which referred to these organizations as “the most militant in our Party” and called upon the whole Party to lend them the utmost support.

In December 1905, Stalin attended the first All-Russian Bolshevik Conference in Tammerfors (Finland), as a delegate from the Transcaucasian Bolsheviks. It was here that Lenin and Stalin first met. Stalin worked with Lenin on the political (drafting) committee of the Conference, to which he was elected, as one of the prominent leaders of the Party.

With the defeat of the December uprising, the tide of revolution gradually began to ebb. The conflict between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks flared up :afresh with the preparations for the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. Anarcho-syndicalist elements came to the fore; they were particularly conspicuous in Tiflis. Stalin continued to lead the struggle against all anti-proletarian trends in Transcaucasia.

Stalin took an active part in the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Stockholm, April 1906), where, together with Lenin, he upheld the Bolshevik line in the revolution against the Mensheviks. Stalin put the question squarely:

“Either the hegemony of the proletariat, or the hegemony of the democratic bourgeoisie-that is how the question stands in the Party, that is where we differ.”14

Shortly after the Congress, Stalin wrote a pamphlet entitled The Present Situation and the Unity Congress of the Workers’ Party, in which he analysed the lessons of the December armed uprising, justified the Bolshevik line in the revolution and summed up the results of the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

After the Congress Stalin returned to Transcaucasia, where he continued his uncompromising fight against Menshevism and other anti-proletarian trends. He directed the Akhali Tskhovreba (New Life), Akhali Droyeba (New Age), Chveni Tskhovreba (Our Life) and Dro (Time), Bolshevik newspapers published legally in the Georgian language.

It was at this period that Stalin wrote the remarkable series of articles under the title “Anarchism or Socialism,” in connection with the activities of anarchists of the Kropotkin school in Transcaucasia. With the ebb of the revolution and the rising tide of reaction, the Party was called upon to defend the theoretical foundations of Bolshevism. In 1909 Lenin published his masterly work, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, in which he thoroughly exposed the backsliders from Marxian theory and vindicated the theoretical foundations of the Bolshevik Party.

Stalin, too, rose up in defence of the theoretical foundations of Marxism. He wrote a series of articles expounding the theoretical tenets of the Marxist party dialectical and historical materialism. They were published in 1906 and 1907 in Georgian Bolshevik newspapers. They explained the meaning of materialism and dialectics and the principles of historical materialism in simple and popular style, at the same time formulating and answering with profound penetration the fundamental questions of Marxist-Leninist theory: the inevitability and inavertibility of the Socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the necessity for a militant proletarian party, a party of a new type, differing from the old, reformist parties of the Second International. They also expounded the basic strategy and tactics of the Party. These articles are an important contribution to the theory of Marxism-Leninism, and form part of the ideological treasury of our Party. In their profound treatment of the theory of Marxism-Leninism in the light of the urgent tasks of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat they are exemplary.

Stalin took an active part in the work of the Fifth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., held in London in April and May 1907, at which the victory of the Bolsheviks over the Mensheviks was sealed. On his return, he published an article, “The London Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Notes of a Delegate),” in which he examined the decisions and results of the Congress, justified the ideological and tactical position of the Bolsheviks, denounced the bourgeois-liberal line of the Mensheviks in the revolution and their policy of liquidating the Party, and revealed the class nature of Menshevism, showing that it was a petty-bourgeois political trend.



1.  L. Beria, On the History of the Bolshevik Organizations in Transcaucasia, p. 19, Moscow, 1939.

2.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. I, p. 58, Moscow, 1946.

3.  Ibid., p. 105.

4.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. I, pp. 102-103, Moscow, 1948.

5.  Which was worked out by Marx and Engels.

6.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ, ed., Vol. I, pp. 105-106, Moscow, 1946.

7.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. I, p. 67, Moscow. 1946.

8.  Ibid., p. 78.

9.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ, ed., Vol. I, p. 133, Moscow, 1946.

10.  Here we are not dealing with the principles underlying the question.

11.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. I, p. 258-259, Moscow, 1946.

12.  History of the C.P.S.U.(B.), p. 81, Moscow, 1945.

13.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. I, p. 188, Moscow, 1946.

14.  J. Stalin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. I, p. 240, Moscow, 1946.

Next: Chapter III