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The Reorganisation of the Party*

V. I. Lenin


The conditions in which our Party is functioning are changing radically. Freedom of assembly, of association and of the press has been captured. Of course, these rights are extremely precarious, and it would be folly, if not a crime, to pin our faith to the present liberties. The decisive struggle is yet to come, and preparations for this struggle must take first place. The secret apparatus of the Party must be maintained. But at the same time it is absolutely necessary to make the widest possible use of the present relatively wider scope for our activity. In addition to the secret apparatus, it is absolutely necessary to create many new legal and semi-legal Party organisations (and organisations associated with the Party). Unless we do this, it is unthinkable that we can adapt our activity to the new conditions or cope with the new problems.

In order to put the organisation on a new basis, a new Party congress is required. According to the Rules, the Party should meet in congress once a year, and the next congress should be held in May 1906; but now it is essential to bring it forward. If we do not seize this opportunity, we shall lose it—in the sense that the need for organisation which the workers are feeling so acutely will find its expression in distorted, dangerous forms, strengthen some "Independents"[11] or other, etc. We must hasten to organise in a new way, we must submit new methods for general discussion, we must boldly and resolutely lay down a "new line".

The appeal to the Party, published in this issue and signed by the Central Committee of our Party[12], lays down that new line, I am profoundly convinced, quite correctly. We, the representatives of revolutionary Social-Democracy, the supporters of the "Majority", have repeatedly said that complete democratisation of the Party was impossible in conditions of secret work, and that in such conditions the "elective principle" was a mere phrase. And experience has confirmed our words. It has been repeatedly stated in print by former supporters of the Minority (see the pamphlet by "A Worker" with a preface by Axelrod, the letter signed "A Worker, One of Many", in Iskra[13] and in the pamphlet Workers on the Party Split) that in fact it has proved impossible to employ any real democratic methods and any real elective principle. But we Bolsheviks have always recognised that in new conditions, when political liberties were acquired, it would be essential to adopt the elective principle. The minutes of the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. prove this most conclusively, if, indeed, any proof is required.

Thus the task is clear: to preserve the secret apparatus for the time being and to develop a new, legal apparatus. As applied to the Congress, this task (the concrete fulfilment of which demands, of course, practical ability and a knowledge of all the conditions of time and place) may be formulated as follows: to convene the Fourth Congress on the basis of the Party Rules and at the same time to begin immediately, at once, application of the elective principle. The Central Committee has solved this problem. Committee members, in form as representatives of fully authorised organisations, in fact as representatives of the Party's continuity, attend the Congress with the right to vote. Delegates elected by the entire Party membership, and consequently by the masses of the workers belonging to the Party, are invited by the Central Committee, in virtue of its right to do so, to attend the Congress with voice but no vote. The Central Committee has declared, furthermore, that it will at once propose to the Congress to change this consultative voice into the right to vote. Will the full delegates of the committees agree to this?

The Central Committee declares that in its opinion they will unquestionably agree to it. Personally, I am profoundly convinced of this. It is impossible not to agree to such a thing. It is inconceivable that the majority of the leaders of the Social-Democratic proletariat will not agree to it. We are sure that the opinion of Party workers, most carefully registered by Novaya Zhizn, will very soon prove the correctness of our view; even if a struggle takes place over this step (to convert the consultative voice into the right to vote), the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Look at this question from another angle—from the point of view of the substance of the matter, not of its form. Is Social-Democracy endangered by the realisation of the plan we propose?

Danger may be said to lie in a sudden influx of large numbers of non-Social-Democrats into the Party. If that occurred, the Party would be dissolved among the masses, it would cease to be the conscious vanguard of its class, its role would be reduced to that of a tail. That would mean a very deplorable period indeed. And this danger could undoubtedly become a very serious one if we showed any inclination towards demagogy, if we lacked party principles (programme, tactical rules, organisational experience) entirely, or if those principles were feeble and shaky. But the fact is that no such "ifs" exist. We Bolsheviks have never shown any inclination towards demagogy. On the contrary, we have always fought resolutely, openly and straight forwardly against the slightest attempts at demagogy; we have demanded class-consciousness from those joining the Party, we have insisted on the tremendous importance of continuity in the Party's development, we have preached discipline and demanded that every Party member be trained in one or other of the Party organisations. We have a firmly established Party programme which is officially recognised by all Social-Democrats and the fundamental propositions of which have not given rise to any criticism (criticism of individual points and formulations is quite legitimate and necessary in any live party). We have resolutions on tactics which were consistently and systematically worked out at the Second and Third Congresses and in the course of many years' work of the Social-Democratic press. We also have some organisational experience and an actual organisation, which has played an educational role and has undoubtedly borne fruit, a fact which may not be immediately apparent, but which can be denied only by the blind or by the blinded.

Let us not exaggerate this danger, comrades. Social-Democracy has established a name for itself, has created a trend and has built up cadres of Social-Democratic workers. And now that the heroic proletariat has proved by deeds its readiness to fight, and its ability to fight consistently and in a body for clearly-understood aims, to fight in a purely Social-Democratic spirit, it would be simply ridiculous to doubt that the workers who belong to our Party, or who will join it tomorrow at the invitation of the Central Committee, will be Social-Democrats in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. The working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social-Democratic, and more than ten years of work put in by Social-Democracy has done a great deal to transform this spontaneity into consciousness. Don't invent bugaboos, comrades! Don't forget that in every live and growing party there will always be elements of instability, vacillation, wavering. But these elements can be influenced, and they will submit to the influence of the steadfast and solid core of Social-Democrats.

Our Party has stagnated while working underground. As a delegate to the Third Congress rightly said, it has been suffocating underground during the last few years. The "underground" is breaking up. Forward, then, more boldly; take up the new weapon, distribute it among new people, extend your bases, rally all the worker Social-Democrats round yourselves, incorporate them in the ranks of the Party organisations by hundreds and thousands. Let their delegates put new life into the ranks of our central bodies, let the fresh spirit of young revolutionary Russia pour in through them. So far the revolution has justified all the basic theoretical propositions of Marxism, all the essential slogans of Social-Democracy. And the revolution has also justified the work done by us Social-Democrats, it has justified our hope and faith in the truly revolutionary spirit of the proletariat. Let us, then, abandon all pettiness in this imperative Party reform; let us strike out on the new path at once. This will not deprive us of our old secret apparatus (there is no doubt that the Social-Democratic workers have recognised and sanctioned it; practical experience and the course of the revolution have proved this a hundred times more convincingly than it could have been proved by decisions and resolutions). It will give us fresh young forces rising from the very depths of the only genuinely and thoroughly revolutionary class, the class which has won half freedom for Russia and will win full freedom for her,. the class which will lead her through freedom to socialism!


The decision of the Central Committee of our Party to convene the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., published in Novaya Zhizn, No. 9 is a decisive step towards the full application of the democratic principle in Party organisation. The election of delegates to the Congress (who will come there first with the right to a voice but no vote and will then, undoubtedly receive the right to vote) must be carried through within a month. All Party organisations must, therefore, begin as soon as possible to discuss candidates and the tasks of the Congress. It is unquestionably necessary to reckon with the possibility of the dying autocracy making fresh attempts to withdraw the promised liberties and to attack the revolutionary workers, above all their leaders. Therefore it would hardly be advisable (except perhaps in special cases) to publish the real names of delegates. The assumed names to which the epoch of political slayery has accustomed us must not be discarded so long as the Black Hundreds are in power, nor would it be amiss to elect, as of old, alternates, in case of arrests. However, we shall not dwell on all these precautions of secrecy, since com rades acquainted with the local conditions of work will easily overcome all the difficulties that may arise in this respect. Comrades who have ample experience in revolutionary work under the autocracy must help by their counsel all those who are starting Social-Democratic work in the new and "free" conditions {free in inverted commas, for the time being). It goes without saying that in doing so our committee members must show great tact: previous formal prerogatives inevitably lose their significance at the present time, and it will be necessary in very many cases to start "from the beginning", to prove to large sections of new Party comrades the importance of a consistent Social-Democratic programme, Social-Democratic tactics and organisation. We must not forget that so far we have had to deal too often only with revolutionaries coming from a particular social stratum, whereas now we shall have to deal with typical representatives of the masses. This change calls for a change not only in the methods of propaganda and agitation (a more popular style, ability to present a question, to explain the basic truths of socialism in the simplest, clearest and most convincing manner), but also in organisation.

In this article I should like to dwell on one aspect of the new tasks in organisation. The Central Committee decision invites all Party organisations to send delegates to the Congress and calls upon all worker Social-Democrats to join such organisations. If this excellent desire is to be really fulfilled, a mere "invitation" to the workers will not do, nor will it do merely to increase the number of organisations of the old type. For this purpose, it is necessary for all comrades to devise new forms of organisation by their independent, creative joint efforts. It is impossible to lay down any predetermined standards for this, for we are working in an entirely new field: a knowledge of local conditions, and above all the initiative of all Party members must be brought into play. The new form of organisation, or rather the new form of the basic organisational nucleus of the workers' party, must be definitely much broader than were the old circles. Apart from this, the new nucleus will most likely have to be a less rigid, more "free", more "loose" (lose) organisation. With complete freedom of association and civil liberties for the people, we should, of course, have to found Social-Democratic unions (not only trade unions, but political and Party unions) everywhere. In the present conditions we must strive to approach that goal by all ways and means at our disposal.

We must immediately arouse the initiative of all Party functionaries and of all workers who sympathise with Social-Democracy. We must arrange at once, everywhere, lectures, talks, meetings, open-air rallies at which the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. should be announced, the tasks of the Congress explained in the most popular and comprehensible way, the new form of organisation of the Congress pointed out, and an appeal made to all Social-Democrats to take part in building up a genuinely proletarian Social-Democratic Party on new lines. Such work will supply us with a wealth of information based on experience; it will; in the course of two or three weeks (if we act energetically), produce new Social-Democratic forces from among the workers, and revive among far wider sections an interest in the Social-Democratic Party, which we have now decided to reconstruct on new lines jointly with all the worker comrades. At all meetings the question will immediately be raised about the founding of unions, organisations, Party groups. Each union, organisation or group will immediately elect its bureau, or board, or directing committee—in a word, a central standing body which will conduct the affairs of the organisation, maintaining relations with local Party institutions, receive and circulate Party literature, collect sub scriptions for Party work, arrange meetings and lectures, and, finally, prepare the election of a delegate to the Party Congress. The Party committees will, of course, take care to help each such organisation, to supply it with material explaining what the R.S.D.L.P. stands for, its history and its present great tasks.

It is high time, furthermore, to take steps to establish local economic strong points, so to speak, for the workers' Social-Democratic organisations—in the form of restaurants, tea-rooms, beer-halls, libraries, reading-rooms, shooting galleries[21], etc., etc., maintained by Party members. We must not forget that, apart from being persecuted by the "autocratic" police, the Social-Democratic workers will also be persecuted by their "autocratic" employers, who will dismiss agitators. Therefore it is highly important to organise bases which will be as independent as possible of the tyranny of the employers.

Generally speaking, we Social-Democrats must take every possible advantage of the present extension of freedom of action, and the more this freedom is guaranteed, the more energetically shall we advance the slogan: "Go among the people!" The initiative of the workers themselves will now display itself on a scale that we, the underground and circle workers of yesterday, did not even dare dream of. The influence of socialist ideas on the masses of the proletariat is now proceeding, and will continue to proceed along paths that we very often shall be altogether unable to trace. With due regard to these conditions, we shall have to distribute the Social-Democratic intelligentsia[22] in a more rational way to ensure that they do not hang about uselessly where the movement has already stood up on its own feet and can, so to speak, shift for itself, and that they go to the "lower strata" where the work is harder, where the conditions are more difficult, where the need for experienced and well-informed people is greater, where the sources of light are fewer, and where the heartbeat of political life is weaker. We must now "go among the people" both in anticipation of elections, in which the entire population, even of the remotest places, will take part, and (more important still) in anticipation of an open struggle—in order to paralyse the reactionary policies of a provincial Vendée[23], to spread all over the country, among all the proletarian masses, the slogans issuing from the big centres.

To be sure, it is always bad to run to extremes: to organise the work on the most stable and "exemplary" lines possible, we shall even yet have often to concentrate our best forces in some important centre or other. Experience will show the proportion to be adhered to in this respect. Our task now is not so much to invent rules for organising on new lines, as to develop the most far-reaching and courageous work which will enable us at the Fourth Congress to sum up and set down the data obtained from the experience of the Party.


In the first two sections we dealt with the general importance of the elective principle in the Party and the need for new organisational nuclei and forms of organisation. We shall now examine another extremely vital question, namely, the question of Party unity.

It is no secret to anyone that the vast majority of Social-Democratic workers are exceedingly dissatisfied with the split in the Party and are demanding unity. It is no secret to anyone that the split has caused a certain cooling-off among Social-Democratic workers (or workers ready to be come Social-Democrats) towards the Social-Democratic Party.

The workers have lost almost all hope that the Party chiefs" will unite of themselves. The need for unity was formally recognised both by the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. and by the Menshevik Conference held last May. Six months have passed since then, but the cause of unity has made hardly any progress. No wonder the workers are beginning to show signs of impatience. No wonder "A Worker, One of Many", who wrote on unity in Iskra and in a pamphlet published by the "Majority" (Workers on the Party Split, published by the Central Committee, Geneva, 1905), has at last threatened the Social-Democratic intelligentsia with a "fist from below". Some Social-Democrats (Mensheviks) did not like that threat at the time, others (Bolsheviks) thought it legitimate and, at bottom, fully justified.

It seems to me that the time has come when the class-conscious worker Social-Democrats can and must carry out their intention (I will not say "threat", because this word smacks of accusations, of demagogy, and we must do our utmost to avoid both). Indeed, the time has come, or, in any case, is coming, when the elective principle can be applied in the Party organisation not in words only, but in deeds, not as a fine-sounding but hollow phrase, but as a really new principle which really renovates, extends and strengthens Party ties. The "Majority" represented by the Central Committee has directly appealed for the immediate application and introduction of the elective principle. The Minority is following in the same direction. And the Social- Democratic workers constitute the enormous, overwhelming majority in all the Social-Democratic organisations, committees, gatherings, meetings, etc.

Hence it is now possible not only to urge unity, not only to obtain promises to unite, but actually to unite—by a simple decision of the majority of organised workers in both factions. There will be no imposition, since, in principle, the need for unity has been recognised by all, and the workers have only to decide in practice a question that has already been decided in principle.

The relation between the functions of the intellectuals and of the proletariat (workers) in the Social-Democratic working-class movement can probably be expressed, with a fair degree of accuracy, by the following general formula: the intelligentsia is good at solving problems "in principle", good at drawing up plans, good at reasoning about the need for action—while the workers act, and transform drab theory into living reality.

And I shall not in the slightest degree slip into demagogy, nor in the least belittle the great role played by consciousness in the working-class movement, nor shall I in any way detract from the tremendous importance of Marxist theory and Marxist principles, if I say now: both at the Congress and at the Conference we created the "drab theory" of Party unity. Comrade workers, help us to transform this drab theory into living reality! Join the Party organisations in huge numbers! Turn our Fourth Congress and the Second Menshevik Conference into a grand and imposing Congress of Social-Democratic workers. Join with us in settling this practical question of fusion; let this question be the exception (it is an exception that proves the opposite rule!) in which we shall have one-tenth theory and nine-tenths practice. Such a wish is surely legitimate, historically necessary, and psychologically comprehensible. We have "theorised" for so long (sometimes—why not admit it?— to no use) in the unhealthy atmosphere of political exile, that it will really not be amiss if we now "bend the bow" slightly, a little, just a little, "the other way" and put practice a little more in the forefront. This would certainly be appropriate in regard to the question of unity, about which, owing to the causes of the split, we have used up such an awful lot of ink and no end of paper. We exiles in particular are longing for practical work. Besides, we have already written a very good and comprehensive programme of the whole democratic revolution. Let us, then, unite also to make this revolution!


[*] "The Reorganisation of the Party"— Lenin's first article published in Novaya Zhizn. He wrote it upon his return to Russia from exile and it served as a basis for the resolution "The Reorganisation of the Party" adopted by the Tammerfors Conference in December 1905.

[11] The "Independents"—members of the Independent Social Labour Party, an organisation of agents-provocateurs founded in St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1905 on instructions from the tsarist government, with the direct assistance of the secret police. The party, which was Zubatovist in type, sought to divert the workers from the revolutionary struggle. Its programme, published in the magazine Russky Rabochy (The Russian Worker), No. 4, on December 15 (28), 1905, called for combating Social-Democracy. By the beginning of 1908 the party had ceased to exist, having failed among the masses of the workers.

[12] The appeal "To All Party Organisations and All Social-Democratic Workers", subheaded "On the Occasion of the Fourth Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.", was published in Novaya Zhizn, No.9, on November 10 (23), 1905.

[13] This refers to the new, opportunist Iskra. After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. the Mensheviks, aided by Plekhanov, took Iskra into their own hands. From November 1903 on, beginning with its issue No. 52, Iskra became a Menshevik mouthpiece. It existed till October 1905.

[21] I do not know the Russian equivalent of tir [Lenin uses the French word.—Tr.], by which I mean a place for target practice, where there is a supply of all kinds of fire-arms and where anyone may for a small fee practise shooting at a target with a revolver or rifle. Freedom of assembly and association has been proclaimed in Russia. Citizens have the right to assemble and to learn bow to shoot; this can present no danger to anyone. In any big European city you will find such shooting galleries open to all, situated in basements, sometimes outside the city, etc. And it is very far from useless for the workers to learn how to shoot and bow to handle arms. Of course, we shall be able to get down to this work seriously and on a large scale only when the freedom of association is guaranteed and we can bring to book the police scoundrels who dare to close such establishments.—Lenin

[22] At the Third Congress of the Party I suggested that there be about eight workers to every two intellectuals in the Party committees. (See present edition, Vol. 8, p. 408.—Ed.) How obsolete that suggestion seems today!

Now we must wish for the new Party organisations to have one Social-Democratic intellectual to several hundred Social-Democratic workers.—Lenin

[23] Vendée—a department in western France, where the backward peasantry began a counter-revolutionary uprising against the republic at the end of the eighteenth century, during the French bourgeois revolution. The uprising was led by the Catholic clergy, the nobility and émigré royalists, and had the support of England.
Vendée had become a synonym for reactionary rebellion and hotbed of counter-revolution.

Published: Novaya Zhizn, Nos. 9, 13 and 14, November 10, 15 and 16, 1905.
Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the text in Novaya Zhizn.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 29-39.

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