The Fifth Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party
April 30-May 19 (May 13-June 1), 1907
Concluding Remarks on the Report on the Attitude Towards Bourgeois Parties
May 14 (27)
V. I. Lenin
I shall begin with the question of the stand taken by the Polish delegation, which has been touched on here. The Polish comrades were accused—particularly by the Bundists—of being inconsistent in agreeing to our resolution, having themselves declared it unsatisfactory at the commission. Such accusations are founded on a very simple subterfuge—an evasion of the substance of those questions that confront the Congress on the given item of the agenda. Those who do not want to evade any discussion on the substance of the question will easily see that we Bolsheviks have always seen eye to eye with the Poles on two fundamental questions. First of all we agree on the fact that, for the sake of its socialist tasks, the proletariat must categorically retain its class individuality with respect to all the other (bourgeois) parties, however revolutionary they may be, however democratic the republic they advocate. Secondly, we agree that it is the right and duty of the workers' party to assume leadership of the petty-bourgeois democratic parties, including the peasant parties, not only in the struggle against the autocracy, but also against the treacherous liberal bourgeoisie.
In the resolution on the report of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, which the Polish comrades have presented to the Congress, these ideas and propositions are expressed with the utmost clarity. The resolution speaks forthrightly of the need for Social-Democracy to preserve its class character distinct from all other parties, down to the Socialist- Revolutionaries. It speaks openly of the possibility and necessity of joint action by the Social-Democrats and the Trudovik groups against the liberals. This is what we in Russia call a Left bloc, or a Left bloc policy.
From this it is clear that we are united with the Poles by genuine solidarity on the fundamental points in the question of the attitude towards bourgeois parties. To deny this or to speak of the contradictory behaviour of the Poles would be to evade a straightforward presentation of differences of opinion in principle.
The socialist aims of the proletariat keep it distinct from all parties, even the most revolutionary and republican; then there is the proletariat's leadership in the struggle of all revolutionary democrats in the present revolution—can it be denied that these are the fundamental and guiding ideas in both the Polish and Bolshevik resolutions?
A few words about Trotsky. I have no time to dwell here on our differences with him. I shall only note that in his book In Defence of the Party Trotsky expressed, in print, his solidarity with Kautsky, who wrote about the economic community of interests between the proletariat and the peasantry in the present revolution in Russia. Trotsky acknowledged the permissibility and usefulness of a Left bloc against the liberal bourgeoisie. These facts are sufficient for me to acknowledge that Trotsky has come closer to our views. Quite apart from the question of "uninterrupted revolution", we have here solidarity on fundamental points in the question of the attitude towards bourgeois parties.
Comrade Lieber has most energetically accused me of excluding even the Trudoviks from the bourgeois-democratic allies of the proletariat. Lieber has again been carried away by phrases, and has paid insufficient attention to the substance of the dispute. I did not speak of excluding joint action with the Trudoviks, but of the need to cut ourselves off from the Trudoviks' vacillation. We must not fear to "isolate" ourselves from them when they are inclined to drag along in the wake of the Cadets. We must ruthlessly expose the Trudoviks when they fail to take the consistent stand of revolutionary democrats. One of two things, Comrade Lieber—either the workers' party will pursue a genuinely independent proletarian policy, in which case we allow of joint action with part of the bourgeoisie only when it, this section, accepts our policy, and not vice versa; or our talk about the independence of the proletariat's class struggle remains nothing but idle talk.
Like Lieber, Plekhanov too evaded the substance of the dispute, only in another way. Plekhanov spoke about Rosa Luxemburg, picturing her as a Madonna reclining on clouds. What could be finer! Elegant, gallant and effective polemics.... But I would nevertheless like to ask Plekhanov: Madonna or not,—but what do you think about the substance of the question? (Applause from the Centre and the Bolsheviks.) After all, it is a pretty bad thing to have to resort to a Madonna in order to avoid analysing the point at issue. Madonna or not—what must our attitude be towards "a Duma with full powers"? What is this? Does this resemble Marxism, does it resemble the independent policy of the proletariat?
"Agreements from occasion to occasion", both Lieber and Plekhanov reiterate to us in all sorts of ways. An extremely convenient formula this, but utterly lacking in principle. It is absolutely devoid of content. After all, comrades, we too permit of agreements with the Trudoviks under certain conditions and also only from occasion to occasion, absolutely from occasion to occasion. We shall willingly include these words in our resolution as well.
But that is not the question. The question is what joint actions are permissible from occasion to occasion, with whom, and for what purposes! Both Plekhanov, with his gallant witticisms, and Lieber with his empty pathetics, have slurred over and obscured these significant questions. And this question is not a theoretical one, but an extremely vital and practical issue. We have seen from experience what the famous agreements from occasion to occasion, the famous "technical" agreements, mean among the Mensheviks! They mean a policy of the dependence of the working class on the liberals, and nothing else. "From occasion to occasion" is a poor cloak for this opportunist policy.
Plekhanov quoted passages from the works of Marx, on the need to support the bourgeoisie. It is a pity that he did not quote from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. A pity that he forgot how Marx "supported" the liberals during the period when the bourgeois revolution in Germany was at its height. Nor is it necessary to go so far to prove something that is indisputable. The old Iskra, too, frequently spoke of the necessity for the Social-Democratic Labour Party to support the liberals—even the Marshals of the Nobility. In the period preceding the bourgeois revolution, when Social-Democracy still had to rouse the people to political life, this was quite legitimate. Today, when various classes have already appeared on the scene, when, on the one hand, a peasant revolutionary movement has revealed itself, and there have been liberal betrayals on the other—today there can be no question of our supporting the liberals. We are all agreed that the Social-Democrats must now demand the confiscation of landed estates. And what is the attitude of the liberals towards this?
Plekhanov said: all classes that are in the least progressive must become tools in the hands of the proletariat. I do not doubt that this is Plekhanov's desire. But I assert that in practice the Menshevik policy leads, not to this, but to something quite different. In every case during the past year, when the Mensheviks were supposedly supporting the Cadets, the Mensheviks themselves were actually tools in the hands of the Cadets. The same was true of the support for the demand for a Duma ministry and at the time of the election blocs with the Cadets. Experience has shown that in these cases the proletariat proved to be the tool, despite the "desires" of Plekhanov and other Mensheviks. This is quite apart from the "Duma with full powers" and the voting for Golovin.
We must realise in all seriousness that the liberal bourgeoisie has entered upon the counter-revolutionary path, and we must struggle against them. Only then will the policy of the workers' party become an independent revolutionary policy, not one in word alone. Only then shall we systematically exert our influence on both the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry, who are hesitating between liberalism and revolutionary struggle.
There was no point to the complaint made here about the incorrectness of our thesis on the liberals' deception of the petty bourgeoisie. Not only our revolution, but the experience of other countries, too, has shown that it is by deceit that liberalism maintains its influence in many sections of the population. It is our plain duty to fight to free those sections from the influence of the liberals. In the course of decades the German Social-Democratic Party has fought to destroy—and has destroyed, in Berlin, for instance—the liberals' influence on broad sections of the population. We can and must achieve the same, and deprive the Cadets of their democratic adherents.
Let me give you an example of what the Menshevik policy of supporting the Cadets has led to. In the Menshevik news paper Russkaya Zhizn of February 22, 1907 (No. 45), an unsigned, that is, an editorial, article said the following about Golovin's election and his speech: "The Chairman of the State Duma has undertaken a great and responsible task—to say such words as will embody the principal demands and needs of our 140 million people.... Not for a moment could Mr. Golovin rise above the level of a member of the Cadet Party, and become the exponent of the will of the entire Duma". Don't you see how edifying this is? The Mensheviks derive the responsible task of the liberal—to speak on behalf of the "people"—simply from their having support ed him with their votes. This is just handing over ideological and political leadership to liberalism. This is complete abandonment of the class point of view. And I say: if under a Left bloc any Social-Democrat would dream of writing about the responsible task of a Trudovik to reflect the needs of "labour", I would whole-heartedly support the most resolute censure of such a Social-Democrat. The Mensheviks have here an ideological bloc with the Cadets, and we must permit no such blocs with anyone, even with the Socialist-Revolutionaries.
Incidentally, Martynov stated that we are descending to such a bloc when we speak of all the land and full freedom. This is not true. Let me remind you of the Menshevik Sotsial Demokrat. In the draft electoral platform compiled by the C.C., published in that paper, we encounter the very same slogans of land and freedom! Martynov's words are mere hole-picking.
In conclusion I would like to say a few words in regard to the Polish comrades. A precise characterisation of the petty-bourgeois parties may have seemed needless to some of them. Perhaps the more acute class struggle in Poland makes it unnecessary. But to Russian Social-Democrats it is indispensable. An exact indication of the class nature of the Trudovik parties is most necessary as a guide for all our propaganda and agitation. It is only on the basis of a class analysis of these parties that we can quite definitely place before the working class our tactical tasks—the socialist class distinction of the proletariat, and the struggle under its leadership both against the autocracy and the treacherous bourgeoisie. (Applause from the Bolsheviks and the Centre.)
Published: First published in the book The London Congress of the R.S.D.L P. (1907), Unabridged Minutes, Paris, 1909.
Published according to the manuscript, verified with the book.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 469-474.
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