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After the Second Congress the struggle within the Party became even more acute. The Mensheviks did their utmost to frustrate the decisions of the Second Congress and to seize the central institutions of the Party. They demanded that their representatives be included in the editorial board of Iskra and in the Central Committee in such numbers as would give them a majority on the editorial board and parity with the Bolsheviks on the Central Committee. As this ran directly counter to the decisions of the Second Congress, the Bolsheviks rejected the Menshevik's demand. Thereupon the Mensheviks, secretly from the Party, created their own anti-Party factional organization, headed by Martov, Trotsky and Axelrod, and, as Martov wrote, "broke into revolt against Leninism." The methods they adopted for combating the Party were, as Lenin expressed it, "to disorganize the whole Party work, damage the cause, and hamper all and everything." They entrenched themselves in the Foreign League of Russian Social-Democrats, nine-tenths of whom were emigre intellectuals isolated from the work in Russia, and from this position they opened fire on the Party, on Lenin and the Leninists.

The Mensheviks received considerable help from Plekhanov. At the Second Congress Plekhanov sided with Lenin. But after the Second Congress he allowed the Mensheviks to intimidate him with threats of a split. He decided to "make peace" with the Mensheviks at all costs. It was the deadweight of his earlier opportunist mistakes that dragged Plekhanov down to the Mensheviks. From an advocate of reconciliation with the opportunist Mensheviks he soon became a Menshevik himself. Plekhanov demanded that all the former Menshevik editors of the Iskra who had been rejected by the congress be included in the editorial board. Lenin, of course, could not agree to this and resigned from the Iskra editorial board in order to entrench himself in the Central Committee of the Party and to strike at the opportunists from this position. Acting by himself, and in defiance of the will of the congress, Plekhanov co-opted the former Menshevik editors to the editorial board of Iskra. From that moment on, beginning with the 52nd issue of Iskra, the Mensheviks converted it into their own organ and began to propagate their opportunist views in its columns.

Ever since then Lenin's Bolshevik Iskra has been known in the Party as the old Iskra, and the Menshevik, opportunist Iskraas the new Iskra.

When it passed into the hands of the Mensheviks, Iskra became a weapon in the fight against Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and an organ for the propaganda of Menshevik opportunism, primarily on questions of organization. Joining forces with the "Economists" and the Bundists, the Mensheviks started a campaign in the columns of Iskra, as they said, against Leninism. Plekhanov could not stick to his position as an advocate of conciliation, and soon he too joined the campaign. This was bound to happen by the very logic of things: whoever insists on a conciliatory attitude towards opportunists is bound to sink to opportunism himself. There began to flow from the columns of the new Iskra, as from a cornucopia, articles and statements claiming that the Party ought not to be an organized whole; that free groups and individuals should be allowed within its ranks without any obligation to submit to the decisions of its organs; that every intellectual who sympathized with the Party, as well as "every striker" and "every participant in a demonstration," should be allowed to declare himself a Party member; that the demand for obedience to all the decisions of the Party was "formal and bureaucratic"; that the demand that the minority must submit to the majority meant the "mechanical suppression" of the will of Party members; that the demand that all Party members—both leaders and rank-and-filers— should equally observe Party discipline meant establishing "serfdom" within the Party; that what "we" needed in the Party was not centralism but anarchist "autonomism" which would permit individuals and Party organizations not to obey the decisions of the Party.

This was unbridled propaganda of organizational license, which would undermine the Party principle and Party discipline; it was glorification of the individualism of the intelligentsia, and a justification of the anarchist contempt of discipline.

The Mensheviks were obviously trying to drag the Party back from the Second Congress to the old organizational disunity, to the old parochial outlook of the circles and the old amateurish methods.

A vigorous rebuff had to be given the Mensheviks.

This rebuff was administered by Lenin in his celebrated book, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, published in May 1904.

The following are the main organizational principles which Lenin expounded in his book, and which afterwards came to form the organizational foundations of the Bolshevik Party.

1) The Marxist Party is a part, a detachment, of the working class. But the working class has many detachments, and hence not every detachment of the working class can be called a party of the working class. The Party differs from other detachments of the working class primarily by the fact that it is not an ordinary detachment, but the vanguard detachment, a class-consciousdetachment, a Marxist detachment of the working class, armed with a knowledge of the life of society, of the laws of its development and of the laws of the class struggle, and for this reason able to lead the working class and to direct its struggle. The Party must therefore not be confused with the working class, as the part must not be confused with the whole. One cannot demand that every striker be allowed to call himself a member of the Party, for whoever confuses Party and class lowers the level of consciousness of the Party to that of "every striker," destroys the Party as the class-conscious vanguard of the working class. It is not the task of the Party to lower its level to that of "every striker," but to elevate the masses of the workers, to elevate"every striker" to the level of the Party.

"We are the party of a class," Lenin wrote, "and therefore almost the entire class (and in times of war, in the period of civil war, the entire class) should act under the leadership of our Party, should adhere to our Party as closely as possible. But it would be Manilovism (smug complacency) and 'khvostism' (following in the tail) to think that at any time under capitalism the entire class, or almost the entire class, would be able to rise to the level of consciousness and activity of its vanguard, of its Social-Democratic Party. No sensible Social-Democrat has ever yet doubted that under capitalism even the trade union organizations (which are more primitive and more comprehensible to the undeveloped strata) are unable to embrace the entire, or almost the entire working class. To forget the distinction between the vanguard and the whole of the masses which gravitate towards it, to forget the constant duty of the vanguard to raise ever wider strata to this most advanced level, means merely to deceive oneself, to shut one's eyes to the immensity of our tasks, and to narrow down these tasks." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VI, pp. 205-06.)

2) The Party is not only the vanguard, the class-conscious detachment of the working class, but also an organized detachment of the working class, with its own discipline, which is binding on its members. Hence Party members must necessarily be members of some organization of the Party. If the Party were not an organized detachment of the class, not a system of organization, but a mere agglomeration of persons who declare themselves to be Party members but do not belong to any Party organization and therefore are not organized, hence not obliged to obey Party decisions, the Party would never have a united will, it could never achieve the united action of its members, and, consequently, it would be unable to direct the struggle of the working class. The Party can lead the practical struggle of the working class and direct it towards one aim only if all its members are organized in one common detachment, welded together by unity of will, unity of action and unity of discipline.

The objection raised by the Mensheviks that in that case many intellectuals—for example, professors, university and high school students, etc.—would remain outside the ranks of the Party, since they would not want to join any of the organizations of the Party, either because they shrink from Party discipline, or, as Plekhanov said at the Second Congress, because they consider it "beneath their dignity to join some local organization"—this Menshevik objection recoiled on the heads of the Mensheviks themselves; for the Party does not need members who shrink from Party discipline and fear to join the Party organization. Workers did not fear discipline and organization, and they willingly join the organization if they have made up their minds to be Party members. It is the individualistic intellectuals who fear discipline and organization, and they would indeed remain outside the ranks of the Party. But that was all to the good, for the Party would be spared that influx of unstable elements, which had become particularly marked at that time, when the bourgeois democratic revolution was on the upgrade.

"When I say," Lenin wrote, "that the Party should be a sum (and not a mere arithmetical sum, but a complex) of organizations. . . I thereby express clearly and precisely my wish, my demand, that the Party, as the vanguard of the class, should be as organized as possible, that the Party should admit to its ranks only such elements as lend themselves to at least a minimum of organization. . . ." (Ibid., p. 203.)

And further:

"Martov's formulation ostensibly defends the interests of the broad strata of the proletariat, but in fact, it serves the interests of the bourgeois intellectuals, who fight shy of proletarian discipline and organization. No one will undertake to deny that it is precisely its individualism and incapacity for discipline and organization that in general distinguish the intelligentsia as a separate stratum of modern capitalist society." (Ibid., p. 212.)

And again:

"The proletariat is not afraid of organization and discipline. . . . The proletariat will do nothing to have the worthy professors and high school students, who do not want to join an organization, recognized as Party members merely because they work under the control of an organization. . . . It is not the proletariat, but certain intellectuals in our Party who lack self-training in the spirit of organization and discipline." (Ibid., p. 307.)

3) The Party is not merely an organized detachment, but "the highest of all forms of organization" of the working class, and it is its mission to guide all the other organizations of the working class. As the highest form of organization, consisting of the finest members of the class, armed with an advanced theory, with knowledge of the laws of the class struggle and with the experience of the revolutionary movement, the Party has every opportunity of guiding—and is obliged to guide—all the other organizations of the working class. The attempt of the Men-sheviks to belittle and depreciate the leading role of the Party tends to weaken all the other organizations of the proletariat which are guided by the Party, and, consequently, to weaken and disarm the proletariat, for "in its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organization." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 466.)

4) The Party is an embodiment of the connection of the vanguard of the working class with the working class millions. However fine a vanguard the Party may be, and however well it may be organized, it cannot exist and develop without connections with the non-Party masses, and without multiplying and strengthening these connections. A party which shuts itself up in its own shell, isolates itself from the masses, and loses, or even relaxes, its connections with its class is bound to lose the confidence and support of the masses, and, consequently, is surely bound to perish. In order to live to the full and to develop, the Party must multiply its connections with the masses and win the confidence of the millions of its class.

"In order to be a Social-Democratic party," Lenin said, "we must win the support precisely of the class." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VI, p. 208.)

5) In order to function properly and to guide the masses systematically, the Party must be organized on the principle of centralism, having one set of rules and uniform Party discipline, one leading organ— the Party Congress, and in the intervals between congresses—the Central Committee of the Party; the minority must submit to the majority, the various organizations must submit to the centre, and lower organizations to higher organizations. Falling these conditions, the party of the working class cannot be a real party and cannot carry out its tasks in guiding the class.

Of course, as under the tsarist autocracy the Party existed illegally the Party organizations could not in those days be built up on the principle of election from below, and as a consequence, the Party had to be strictly conspiratorial. But Lenin considered that this temporary feature in the life of our Party would at once lapse with the elimination of tsardom, when the Party would become open and legal, and the Party organizations would be built up on the principles of democratic elections, of democratic centralism.

"Formerly," Lenin wrote, "our Party was not a formally organized whole, but only the sum of separate groups, and, therefore, no other relations except those of ideological influence were possible between these groups. Now we have become an organized Party, and this implies the establishment of authority, the transformation of the power of ideas into the power of authority, the subordination of lower Party bodies to higher Party bodies." (Ibid., p. 291.)

Accusing the Mensheviks of organizational nihilism and of aristocratic anarchism which would not submit to the authority of the Party and its discipline, Lenin wrote:

"This aristocratic anarchism is particularly characteristic of the Russian nihilist. He thinks of the Party organization as a monstrous 'factory'; he regards the subordination of the part to the whole and of the minority to the majority as 'serfdom' . . . division of labour under the direction of a centre evokes from him a tragicomical outcry against people being transformed into 'wheels and cogs' (to turn editors into contributors being considered a particularly atrocious species of such transformation); mention of the organizational rules of the Party calls forth a contemptuous grimace and the disdainful remark (intended for the 'formalists') that one could very well dispense with rules altogether." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. II, pp. 442-43.)

6) In its practical work, if it wants to preserve the unity of its ranks, the Party must impose a common proletarian discipline, equally binding on all Party members, both leaders and rank-and-file. Therefore there should be no division within the Party into the "chosen few," on whom discipline is not binding, and the "many," on whom discipline is binding. If this condition is not observed, the integrity of the Party and the unity of its ranks cannot be maintained.

"The complete absence of sensible arguments on the part of Martov and Co. against the editorial board appointed by the congress," Lenin wrote, "is best of all shown by their own catchword: 'We are not serfs!' . . . The mentality of the bourgeois intellectual, who regards himself as one of the 'chosen few' standing above mass organization and mass discipline, is expressed here with remarkable clarity. . . . It seems to the individualism of the intelligentsia . . . that all proletarian organization and discipline is serfdom." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. VI, p. 282.)

And further:

"As we proceed with the building of a real party, the class-conscious worker must learn to distinguish the mentality of the soldier of the proletarian army from the mentality of the bourgeois intellectual who makes a display of anarchist phraseology, he must learn to demand that the duties of a Party member be fulfilled not only by the rank-and-filers, but by the 'people at the top' as well." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. II, pp. 445-46.)

Summing up his analysis of the differences, and defining the position of the Mensheviks as "opportunism in matters of organization," Lenin considered that one of the gravest sins of Menshevism lay in its underestimation of the importance of party organization as a weapon of the proletariat in the struggle for its emancipation. The Mensheviks held that the party organization of the proletariat was of no great importance for the victory of the revolution. Contrary to the Mensheviks, Lenin held that the ideological unity of the proletariat alone was not enough for victory; if victory was to be won, ideological unity would have to be "consolidated" by the "material unity of organization" of the proletariat. Only on this condition, Lenin considered, could the proletariat become an invincible force.

"In its struggle for power," Lenin wrote, "the proletariat has no other weapon but organization. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital, constantly thrust back to the 'lower depths' of utter destitution, savagery and degeneration, the proletariat can become, and inevitably will become, an invincible force only when its ideological unification by the principles of Marxism is consolidated by the material unity of an organization which will weld millions of toilers into an army of the working class. Neither the decrepit rule of Russian tsardom, nor the senile rule of international capital will be able to withstand this army." (Ibid., p. 466.)

With these prophetic words Lenin concludes his book.

Such were the fundamental organizational principles set forth by Lenin in his famous book, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

The importance of this book lies primarily in the fact that it successfully upheld the Party principle against the circle principle, and the Party against the disorganizers; that it smashed the opportunism of the Men-sheviks on questions of organization, and laid the organizational foundations of the Bolshevik Party.

But this does not exhaust its significance. Its historic significance lies in the fact that in it Lenin, for the first time in the history of Marxism, elaborated the doctrine of the Party as the leading organization of the proletariat, as the principal weapon of the proletariat, without which the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be won.

The circulation of Lenin's book, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, among the Party workers led the majority of the local organizations to rally to the side of Lenin.

But the more closely the organizations rallied around the Bolsheviks, the more malicious became the behaviour of the Menshevik leaders.

In the summer of 1904, thanks to Plekhanov's assistance and the treachery of Krassin and Noskov, two demoralized Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks captured the majority on the Central Committee. It was obvious that the Mensheviks were working for a split. The loss of Iskra and of the Central Committee put the Bolsheviks in a difficult position. It became necessary for them to organize their own Bolshevik newspaper.

It became necessary to make arrangements for a new Party congress, the Third Congress, so as to set up a new Central Committee and to settle accounts with the Mensheviks.

And this is what the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, set to work to do.

The Bolsheviks started a campaign for the summoning of the Third Party Congress. In August 1904, under Lenin's guidance, a conference of twenty-two Bolsheviks was held in Switzerland. The conference adopted an appeal addressed "To the Party." This appeal served the Bolsheviks as a program in their struggle for the summoning of the Third Congress.

At three regional conferences of Bolshevik Committees (Southern, Caucasian and Northern), a Bureau of Committees of the Majority was elected, which undertook the practical preparations for the Third Party Congress.

On January 4, 1905, the first issue of the Bolshevik newspaper Vperyod (Forward) appeared.

Thus two separate groups arose within the Party, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, each with its own central body and its own press.


In the period 1901-04, with the growth of the revolutionary working-class movement, the Marxist Social-Democratic organizations in Russia grew and gained strength. In the stubborn struggle over principles, waged against the "Economists," the revolutionary line of Lenin's Iskra gained the victory, and the ideological confusion and "amateurish methods of work" were overcome.

Iskra linked up the scattered Social-Democratic circles and groups and prepared the way for the convocation of the Second Party Congress. At the Second Congress, held in 1903, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party was formed, a Party Program and Rules were adopted, and the central leading organs of the Party were set up.

In the struggle waged at the Second Congress for the complete victory of the Iskra trend in the R.S.D.L.P. there emerged two groups —the Bolshevik group and the Menshevik group.

The chief differences between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks after the Second Congress centred round questions of organization.

The Mensheviks drew closer to the "Economists" and took their place within the Party. For the time being the opportunism of the Mensheviks revealed itself in questions of organization. The Mensheviks were opposed to a militant revolutionary party of the type advocated by Lenin. They wanted a loose, unorganized, khvostist party. They worked to split the ranks of the Party. With Plekhanov's help, they seized Iskra and the Central Committee, and used these central organs for their own purposes—to split the Party.

Seeing that the Mensheviks were threatening a split, the Bolsheviks adopted measures to curb the splitters; they mustered the local organizations to back the convocation of a Third Congress, and they started their own newspaper, Vperyod.

Thus, on the eve of the first Russian revolution, when the Russo-Japanese war had already begun, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks acted as two separate political groups.

4. Splitting Activities of the Menshevik Leaders and Sharpening of the Struggle Within the Party After the Second Congress. Opportunism of the Menshevik. Lenin’s Book, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. Organizational Principles of the Marxist Party
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