Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


B. Significance of the Various Groupings at the Congress

Thus, the Congress was called after the most careful preparation and on the basis of the fullest representation. The general recognition that its composition was correct and its decisions absolutely binding found expression also in the statement of the chairman (Minutes, p. 54) after the Congress had been constituted.

What was the principal task of the Congress? To create a real party on the basis of the principles and organisational ideas that had been advanced and elaborated by Iskra. That this was the direction in which the Congress had to work was predetermined by the three years’ activities of Iskra and by the recognition of the latter by the majority of the committees. Iskra’s programme and trend were to become the programme and trend of the Party; Iskra’s organisational plans were to be embodied in the Rules of Organisation of the Party. But it goes without saying that this could not be achieved without a struggle: since the Congress was so highly representative, the participants included organisations which had vigorously fought Iskra (the Bund and Rabocheye Dyelo ) and organisations which, while verbally recognising Iskra as the leading organ, actually pursued plans of their own and were unstable in matters of principle (the Yuzhny Rabochy group and delegates from some of the committees who were closely associated with it). Under these circumstances, the Congress could not but become an arena of struggle for the victory of the "Iskra " trend. That it did become such an arena will at once be apparent to all who peruse its minutes with any degree of attention. Our task now is to trace in detail the principal groupings revealed at the Congress on various issues and to reconstruct, on the basis of the precise data of the minutes, the political complexion of each of the main groups. What precisely were these groups, trends and shades which, at the Congress, were to unite under the guidance of Iskra into a single party?—that is what we must show by analysing the debates and the voting. The elucidation of this is of cardinal importance both for a study of what our Social Democrats really are and for an understanding of the causes of the divergence among them. That is why, in my speech at the League Congress and in my letter to the editors of the new Iskra, I gave prime place to an analysis of the various groupings. My opponents of the “minority” (headed by Martov) utterly failed to grasp the substance of the question. At the League Congress they confined themselves to corrections of detail, trying to “vindicate” themselves from the charge of having swung towards opportunism, but not even attempting to counter my picture of the groupings at the Congress by drawing any different one. Now Martov tries in Iskra (No. 56) to represent every attempt clearly to delimit the various political groups at the Congress as mere “circle politics”. Strong language, Comrade Martov! But the strong language of the new Iskra has this peculiar quality: one has only to reproduce all the stages of our divergence, from the Congress onwards, for all this strong language to turn completely and primarily against the present editorial board. Take a look at yourselves, you so-called Party editors who talk about circle politics!

Martov now finds the facts of our struggle at the Congress so unpleasant that he tries to slur over them altogether. “An Iskra-ist,” he says, "is one who, at the Party Congress and prior to it, expressed his complete solidarity with Iskra, advocated its programme and its views on organisation and supported its organisational policy. There were over forty such Iskra-ists at the Congress—that was the number of votes cast for Iskra’s programme and for the resolution adopting Iskra as the Central Organ of the Party." Open the Congress Minutes, and you will find that the programme was adopted by the votes of all (p. 233) except Akimov, who abstained. Thus, Comrade Martov wants to assure us that the Bundists, and Brouckere, and Martynov demonstrated their “complete solidarity” with Iskra and advocated its views on organisation! This is ridiculous. The fact that after the Congress all who took part became equal members of the Party (and not even all, for the Bundists had withdrawn) is here jumbled with the question of the grouping that evoked the struggle at the Congress. Instead of a study of the elements that went to make up the “majority” and the “minority” after the Congress, we get the official phrase, “recognised the programme”!

Take the voting on the adoption of Iskra as the Central Organ. You will see that it was Martynov—whom Comrade Martov, with a courage worthy of a better cause, now credits with having advocated Iskra’s organisational views and organisational policy—who insisted on separating the two parts of the resolution: the bare adoption of Iskra as the Central Organ, and the recognition of its services. When the first part of the resolution (recognising the services of Iskra, expressing solidarity with it) was put to the vote, only thirty five votes were cast in favour; there were two votes against (Akimov and Brouckère) and eleven abstentions (Martynov, the five Bundists and the five votes of the editorial board: the two votes each of Martov and myself and Plekhanov’s one). Consequently, the anti-Iskra group (five Bundists and three Rabocheye Dyelo-ists) is quite apparent in this instance also, one most advantageous to Martov’s present views and chosen by himself. Take the voting on the second part of the resolution—adopting Iskra as the Central Organ without any statement of motives or expression of solidarity (Minutes, p. 147): forty-four votes in favour, which the Martov of today classes as Iskra-ist. The total number of votes to be cast was fifty-one; subtracting the five votes of the editors, who abstained, we get forty-six; two voted against (Akimov and Brouckère); consequently, the remaining forty-four include all five Bundists. And so, the Bundists at the Congress “expressed complete solidarity with Iskra”—this is how official history is written by the official Iskra! Running ahead somewhat, we will explain to the reader the real reasons for this official truth: the present editorial board of Iskra could and would have been a real Party editorial board (and not a quasi-Party one, as it is today) if the Bundists and the “Rabocheye Dyelo”-ists had not withdrawn from the Congress; that is why these trusty guardians of the present, so-called Party editorial board had to be proclaimed Iskra-ists. But I shall speak of this in greater detail later.

The next question is: if the Congress was a struggle between the Iskra-ist and the anti-Iskra-ist elements, were there no intermediate, unstable elements who vacillated between the two? Anyone at all familiar with our Party and with the picture generally presented by congresses of every kind will be inclined a priori to answer the question in the affirmative. Comrade Martov is now very reluctant to recall these unstable elements, so he represents the Yuzhny Rabochy group and the delegates who gravitated towards it as typical Iskra-ists, and our differences with them as paltry and unimportant. Fortunately, we now have before us the complete text of the minutes and are able to answer the question—a question of fact, of course—on the basis of documentary evidence. What we said above about the general grouping at the Congress does not, of course, claim to answer the question, but only to present it correctly.

Without an analysis of the political groupings, without having a picture of the Congress as a struggle between definite shades, the divergence between us cannot be understood at all. Martov’s attempt to gloss over the different shades by ranking even the Bundists with the Iskra-ists is simply an evasion of the question. Even a priori, on the basis of the history of the Russian Social-Democratic movement before the Congress, three main groups are to be noted (for subsequent verification and detailed study): the Iskra-ists, the anti-Iskra-ists, and the unstable, vacillating, wavering elements.

  A. The Preparations For The Congress | C. Beginning of the Congress. The Organising Committee Incident  

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