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The Fifth (All-Russian) Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.[1]
December 21–27, 1908 (January 3–9, 1909)

V. I. Lenin

1. Draft Resolution on the Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party

The present political situation is characterised by the following features:

    (a) The old feudal autocracy is evolving towards a bourgeois monarchy which covers up absolutism by sham constitutional forms. The alliance of tsarism with the Black-Hundred landlords and the top commercial and industrial bourgeoisie has been openly solidified and recognised by the coup d'&at of June 3 and the establishment of the Third Duma. Having of necessity finally taken the path of the capitalist development of Russia, and striving to keep to a path which would preserve the power and the revenues of the feudalist landlords, the autocracy is manoeuvring between that class and the representatives of capital. Their petty disputes are made use of for the maintenance of absolutism, which together with these classes is carrying on a furious counter-revolutionary struggle against the socialist proletariat and the democratic peasantry, who displayed their strength in the recent mass struggle.

    (b) The agrarian policy of present-day tsarism is distinguished by the same bourgeois-Bonapartist character. Tsarism has lost all faith in the naive devotion of the peasant masses to the monarchy. It seeks an alliance with the rich peas ants, to whom it has given a free hand to plunder the countryside. The autocracy is making frantic efforts to break up all communal allotment landowning as speedily as possible, and to consolidate purely private landowning. Such a policy makes all the contradictions of capitalism in the countryside a hundred times more acute, and hastens the division of the countryside into an insignificant minority of reactionaries and a revolutionary mass of proletarians and semi-proletarians.

    (c) The liberal bourgeoisie headed by the Cadet Parts, having taken the counter-revolutionary path at the very first. mass actions in the revolution, continues to pursue that path, coming still closer to the Octobrists, arid by its tsarist nationalist agitation—which expresses the growth of self-consciousness of the bourgeoisie as a class—is in fact doing a service to absolutism and the feudal-minded landlords.

    (d) The peasant masses, as even their restricted and distorted representation in the Third Duma shows, continue—in spite of all the persecutions of the democratic element in the countryside—to remain, all their wavering not withstanding, on the side of a revolutionary-democratic agrarian upheaval which, by completely abolishing landlordism, would thereby ensure the most rapid, large-scale and free development of productive forces in a capitalist Russia. The law of November 9 only hastens the division of the peasant masses into irreconcilably hostile and politically-conscious forces.

    (e) The proletariat has sustained, arid continues to sustain, the heaviest blows of all, both from the autocracy arid from the rapidly uniting and aggressive capitalists. In spite of this, the proletariat in comparison with other classes preserves the greatest unity and the greatest loyalty to its class party, with which it was fused by the revolution. The proletariat, is continuing the struggle for its class interests and deepening its socialist class-consciousness, remaining the only class capable of giving consistent leadership to a new revolutionary struggle.

    (f) On the whole it is beyond doubt that the objective problems of a bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia remain unsolved. The continuing economic crisis, unemployment and famine prove that the latest policy of the autocracy cannot provide the conditions for the capitalist development of Russia. This policy inevitably leads to the deepening of the conflict between the democratic masses and the master classes, the growth of discontent among new sections of the population, the sharpening and deepening of the political struggle between the different classes. In such an economic and political situation a new revolutionary crisis is inevitably coming to a head.

    (g) The general sharpening of struggle on the world market due mainly to the changes in the industrial situation of Western Europe in the direction of a crisis, which has in 1908 taken the form of a depression, and due to the revolutionary movements in the East which herald the formation of national capitalist states, is intensifying competition, leading to more frequent international conflicts, thereby sharpening the class contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and making the general international situation more and more revolutionary.

Considering this state of affairs, the All-Russian Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. recognises that the principal tasks of the Party at the present time are:

    (1) To explain to the mass of the people the meaning and importance of the latest policy of the autocracy and the' role of the socialist proletariat which, while pursuing a class policy of its own, must give leadership to the democratic peasantry in the present political situation and in the coining revolutionary struggle.

    (2) To thoroughly 'study and widely popularise the experience of mass struggle in 1905-07, which has provided indispensable lessons in revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics.

    (3) To strengthen the R.S.D.L.P. in the form it was built up during the revolutionary epoch; to maintain the traditions of its unfaltering struggle, both against the autocracy and reactionary classes arid against bourgeois liberalism; to struggle against deviations from revolutionary Marxism and against attempts, revealed among certain elements of the Party who had fallen under the influence of disintegration, to whittle down the slogans of the R.S.D.L.P. and to liquidate the illegal organisation of the R.S.D.L.P.

    At the same time it should be borne in mind that only by promoting the transfer of Party functions to Social-Democratic workers themselves—a process which is already definitely materialising—and only by setting up and consolidating illegal Party organisations can the Party emerge on the right path of development.

    (4) To assist in every way possible the economic struggle of the working class, in accordance with the resolutions of the London and Stuttgart Congresses.

    (5) To use the Duma and the Duma rostrum for revolutionary Social-Democratic propaganda and agitation.

    (6) First among immediate tasks comes prolonged effort to train up, organise and unite the class-conscious masses of the proletariat. Then, subordinated to this task, the work of organisation should be extended to the peasantry and the army, particularly in the form of printed propaganda and agitation—principal attention being given to the socialist education of the proletarian and semi-proletarian elements among the peasantry and in the army.

Written in late December 1908–early January 1909
First published in 1929 in the Second-Third Editions of Lenin's Works, Vol XIV
Published according to a hectographed copy
eSource: Marxists.org

2. Directives for the Committee on Questions of Organisation

Whereas the draft resolutions submitted, and the debates on the question of organisation, have clearly revealed two basic tendencies in the R.S.D.L.P. on the question of the main direction in which the present organisational policy in general is to move,

the Conference instructs the Committee to base its work on the principles of that tendency which recognises that, for work among the masses—which remains as before the fundamental task of Social-Democracy—attention must be focussed' on building up and strengthening the illegal Party organisation; and that only under the unfaltering influence of this organisation can all work among the masses, all control of the Duma group, all the activity of the Party around the Duma group, all use of legal and semi-legal organisations, be properly arranged, without any debasing of the class aims of Social-Democracy.

Written on December 24, 1908 (January 6, 1909).
Published in 1909 in the Report of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party on the Recent General Party Conference, Paris
Published according to the text in the Report
eSource: Marxists.org

3. Practical Instructions on Voting for the Budget by the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma

First Variant

Voting for the Budget as a whole is declared wrong in principle. The Conference is of the opinion that, as regards voting for particular items in the Budget, the Duma group should be guided by the principle of our programme that Social-Democrats firmly reject reforms involving tutelage of the police and the bureaucracy over the working classes. Therefore the general rule should be to vote against particular items of the Budget, for they nearly always bring in their train not only such tutelage but also downright coercion by the Black-Hundred reactionaries. In cases where some improvement of the conditions of the working people seems likely in spite of these circumstances, it is recommended that the deputies should abstain from voting, but should without fail make a statement setting forth the socialist position. Lastly, in those exceptional cases when the group deems it necessary to vote for a particular item, it is recommended that they should not do so without consulting representatives of the Central Committee and, if possible, the Party organisations in the capital cities.

Second Variant

On the question of the Budget the Conference considers that on principle it is wrong to vote for the Budget as a whole.

It is also wrong to vote for items of the Budget of the class state which sanction expenditure on instruments for the oppression of the masses (the armed forces, etc.).

In voting for reforms or for items of expenditure for cultural purposes, point of departure should be the principle of our programme that Social-Democrats reject reforms involving tutelage of the police and the bureaucracy over the working classes.

Therefore the general rule should be to vote against the so-called reforms and items of expenditure for so-called cultural purposes introduced in the Third Duma.

In special cases where, in spite of the general conditions, some improvement of the conditions of the working people is no more than probable, it is recommended that the deputies should abstain from voting and state their reasons for doing so.

Lastly, in exceptional cases, where there is no doubt that the workers will benefit, it is permissible to vote for a particular item, but it is recommended that the deputies should consult representatives of the Central Committee and Party and trade union bodies.

Written December 25–26, 1908 (January 7–8, 1909)
Published in 1909 in the pamphlet Report of the Caucasian Delegation on the General Party Conference, Paris
First variant is Published According To The Pamphlet.
Second variant is published according to the manuscript verified with the pamphlet
eSource: Marxists.org

4. Addendum to the Resolution on "The Social-Democratic Group in the Duma"

... at the same time recognises that the blame for the group's deviations does not rest on the group alone, for it has to work in the extremely difficult conditions of a reactionary Duma, but is shared to some extent by all the organisations of the Party and its Central Committee, which have not by far yet done all that was necessary and possible to organise the Party's work in the Duma on proper lines...

Written December 25–26, 1908 (January 7–8, 1909)
Published in 1909 in the Report of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party on the Recent General Party Conference, Paris
Published according to the manuscript
eSource: Marxists.org

5. Statement by the Bolsheviks[2]


With reference to Dan's statement about agreements between groups within the 'Bolsheviks' ranks, we place on record that our agreements are between Party people working within the Party and writing in the Party organs, whereas the Mensheviks, both in their resolution and in all their activities, enter into agreements between Party people and non-Party people who secretly work against the Party, liquidate it and carry on a policy of opportunism without precedent in any European Social-Democratic Party.

Written on December 26, 1908 (January 8, 1909)
First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV
Published according to the manuscript
eSource: Marxists.org


[1] The Fifth (All-Russian) Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. was held in Paris on December 21-27, 1908 (January 3-9, 1909) and was attend ed by delegates from such major Party organisations as those of St. Petersburg, the Urals, the Caucasus, Moscow and the Central Industrial Region, as well as from the Polish Social-Democratic Party and the Bund. There were sixteen voting delegates, of whom 5 were Bolsheviks, 3 Mensheviks, 5 Polish Social-Democrats and 3 Bundists. The Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. was represented by Lenin.

The Conference discussed the following questions: (1) The reports of the C. C. of the R.S.D.L.P., of the C. C. of the Polish Social-Democratic Party, of the C. C. of the Bund, and of the R.S.D.L.P. organisations of St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Central Industrial Region, the Urals and the Caucasus; (2) The present political situation and the tasks of the Party; (3) The Social-Democratic group in the Duma; (4) Questions of organisation in connection with the changed political conditions; (5) Affiliation in the local areas with the non-Russian organisations; (6) Affairs abroad; and Miscellanea.

Lenin made a report at the Conference "On the Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party" and speeches on the Duma group, on the organisational and other questions. The Bolsheviks at the Conference waged a struggle against two forms of opportunism with in the Party, namely, "against the liquidators, the direct opponents of the Party, and against the otzovists, the disguised enemies of the Party". On Lenin's motion the Conference condemned liquidationism and called upon all Party organisations to resolutely combat attempts to liquidate the Party. The Conference is dealt with also in Lenin's article "On the Road" (see pp. 345-55 of this volume).

[2] This heading has been given by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 319-329.

eSource: Marxists.org - Marxists Internet Archive
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