From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965
TIME TO CALL A HALT!
All eyewitnesses agree that the demonstration of November 28 was a failure because of the almost complete absence of workers. But why did the workers keep away from the demonstration? Why did the St. Petersburg Committee, in response to whose call the student youth had come to the demonstration, fail to take steps to secure the attendance of the workers, thus defeating its own enterprise? The answer to these questions is given in the following letter from a worker, a member of the Committee, from which we print the most important passages:
"Feeling (at the beginning of November) was running high and seeking an outlet. This outlet was to be provided by a demonstration, and in fact a leaflet did appear at that time, issued in the name of the Students' Social-Democratic Organisation and calling for a demonstration on November 14. On learning of this, the Committee proposed to the organisation that the demonstration be postponed until the end of November, to permit joint participation with the St. Petersburg proletariat. The students agreed. . . . The class-conscious workers were very eager to have a demonstration. Many workers came to Nevsky Prospekt on November 14 under the impression that the students' demonstration would take place. When they were told that they should not have come without a call by the Committee, they conceded the point, but said that they 'thought there would be something doing there anyway'. At any rate, this fact illustrates the mood of the class-conscious workers.
"At a meeting of the Committee on November 18 it was decided to hold the demonstration on the 28th. A subcommittee was immediately set up to organise the demonstration and work out a plan of action; it was decided to issue two preparatory agitational leaflets and a call. We threw ourselves into the job with all energy. The writer of these lines personally arranged several meetings of workers, study circle members, at which we discussed the role of the working class and the aim and significance of a demonstration at the present moment. We discussed the question of an armed or an unarmed demonstration, and all these meetings adopted resolutions supporting the decision of the Committee. The workers demanded as many leaflets as possible for distribution. 'Give us wagon-loads,' they said.
"And so, a demonstration, which promised to be really impressive was being prepared for the 28th. But here our St. Petersburg 'Minority', like the 'all-Russian' 'Minority' and the 'Minority' abroad, could not help playing a purely negative role, the role of a disorganiser. To make that role perfectly clear, I shall have to say a few words about the local 'Minority' and its activities. Before the demonstration, and after, the Committee consisted largely of adherents of the Majority of the Second Party Congress.[*] Arrests and the differences that are tearing the Party asunder have in many ways weakened the activity of the local Social-Democratic organisations. In its fight against the 'Majority' the local 'Minority' tries, for its own factional purposes, to discredit our local Committee. District representatives who adhere to the 'Minority' do not admit comrades of the 'Majority' into their districts and do not supply the Committee with any contacts. The result is terrible disorganisation and lowered efficiency in the districts concerned. The following is a case in point. For the last five or six months the representative of one district has been a 'Menshevik'. Due to the fact that it has been out of touch with the genera] activity, this district has lost ground terribly. Where there were formerly from fifteen to twenty study circles, there are now barely from four to five. The workers are dissatisfied with this state of affairs, and their representative is seeking to exploit this dissatisfaction against the 'Majority' by setting the workers against the Committee. The 'Minority' seeks to turn every weakness in the local Social-Democratic organisation to account against the 'Majority'. Whether its attempts are successful or not is another matter, but the fact remains that this is so.
"Three days before the demonstration, the Committee was called together on the initiative of the 'Minority'. For certain reasons three members of the 'Majority' on the Committee could not be notified in advance and were absent. The 'Minority' made a motion to call off the demonstration, threatening, otherwise, to work against it and not distribute a single leaflet. Owing to the absence of the three comrades that would have supported the demonstration, the motion was carried. It was decided not to distribute any leaflets and to destroy those containing the call.
"The broad mass of the general public, as well as the workers, prepared to attend the demonstration and waited only for the Committee's call. Rumours began to circulate that the demonstration had been called off and indefinitely postponed. Many strongly objected to the cancellation; the technical workers protested and refused to work for the Committee in the future.
"A meeting of the Committee was called on Friday, and the three members who had been absent at the previous meeting protested against the improper revision of the decision to hold the demonstration.
* The Russian terms for "majority" and "minority" are, respectively, bolshinstvo and menshinstvo. Hence, Lenin's adherents, who obtained a majority of votes in the elections to the leading organs of the Party at the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. held in London in 1903, were called Bolsheviks, and their opponents, the minority, were called Mensheviks. --Ed.
Since a mass of people would gather in Nevsky Prospekt anyway, even if no leaflets were distributed, they urged that all steps be taken to get the workers as well to participate in the demonstration. A representative of the 'Minority' objected on the grounds that 'not all workers are sufficiently developed to participate consciously in the demonstration and to be able to defend the demands put forward by the Committee '. The question was put to the vote; the meeting decided, with only one opposing vote, to hold the demonstration. But it transpired that many of the printed leaflets -- over 12,000 -- containing the call had been burnt. Besides, their mass distribution at the factories was impossible, since they could not be delivered anywhere by Saturday morning, and on Saturdays the factories stop work at two or three o'clock. Thus, the leaflets could be distributed only among a small circle of workers, among acquaintances, but not among the broad masses. Under the circumstances the demonstration was foredoomed to failure. And fail it did. . . .
"Now our 'Minority' can rejoice. It has won! Here is a new fact that discredits the Committee (read: the 'Majority'). But we hope that the reader will consider more seriously the reasons why the demonstration turned out as it did, and will say with us: 'Yes, as things now are in the Party it is impossible to work with any success. We must put an end to the crisis within the Party as soon as possible, we must close our ranks, otherwise we are in danger of complete enfeeblement and, unless we take advantage of the present favourable moment, we shall find ourselves trailing at the tail-end of great events."
This disruptive act of the St. Petersburg "Minority", which, in their own petty factional interests, prevented a proletarian demonstration, is the last drop that should make the cup of the Party's patience run over. That our Party is seriously ill and has lost a good half of its influence during the past year is known to the whole world. We appeal now to those who are incapable of regarding this serious ailment with sneers or malicious joy, who cannot dismiss the accursed questions of the Party crisis with mere sighs and shakes of the head, with snivelling and whining, who consider it their duty, even at the cost of a supreme effort, to achieve full clarity on the causes of the crisis -- to fulfil that duty and pluck up the evil by its roots. For these people, and these people only, we shall recapitulate the history of the crisis; for without studying this history it is impossible to understand the present split, which the "Mensheviks" have finally contrived to bring about.
First stage of the crisis: At the Second Congress of our Party the principles of the Iskra position win, despite the opposition of the Rabocheye Dyelo and semi-Rabocheye Dyelo
people. After the Congress, the Minority begins to tear the Party asunder over the question of bringing into the Editorial Board persons whom the Congress rejected. Disorganisation, boycott, and preparation for a split go on for three months, from the end of August to the end of November.
Second stage: Plekhanov yields to the gentlemen who yearn for co-optation and makes manifest to all in public print, in the article "What Should Not Be Done" (No. 52), that he is offering a personal concession to the revisionists and anarchists-individualists in order to avert a greater evil. The gentlemen take advantage of this concession to go on rending the Party. Having taken their seats on the Editorial Board of the Central Organ and on the Council of the Party, they form a secret organisation for the purpose of getting their people into the Central Committee and obstructing the Third Congress. Unheard-of and incredible though it may be, this fact is proved by documentary evidence in the form of a letter of the new Central Committee concerning deals made with this worthy crew.
Third stage: Three members of the Central Committee side with the conspirators against the Party. They co-opt three pretenders from the Minority (assuring the committees, in writing, of the contrary), and, with the aid of the Council, decidedly obstruct the Third Congress, which was favoured by the overwhelming majority of the committees that voiced their opinions on the crisis. In Orlovsky's pamphlet (The Council Against the Party ) and in Lenin's (Statement and Documents on the Break of the Central Institutions with the Party *), these facts are likewise proved by documentary evidence. The mass of the Party workers in Russia are unaware of these facts, but they should be known to everyone who wishes to be a Party member in more than name.
Fourth stage: The Party workers in Russia unite for action against the group abroad which has disgraced our Party. The adherents and the Committees of the Majority arrange several private conferences and elect representatives. The new Central Committee, which is controlled completely by the co-opted pretenders, makes it its business to disorganise
* First published in pamphlet form, January 1905, Geneva. See present edition, Vol. 7. pp. 529-39. --Ed.
and split all local committees of the Majority. The comrades should not entertain any illusions on this score; the Central Committee has no other purpose. The creatures of the clique abroad are preparing and forming new committees everywhere (in Odessa, Baku, Ekaterinoslav, Moscow, Voronezh, etc.). The group abroad is preparing its own, hand-picked congress. The secret organisation, having finished with the central bodies, has turned against the local committees.
The disruptive trick of the St. Petersburg Mensheviks is no accident; it is a calculated step towards splitting the Committee, a move made with the help of the "Mensheviks" co-opted into the Central Committee. We repeat: The Party workers in Russia in their majority are unaware of these facts. We warn them and say to them most emphatically that everyone who wishes to struggle for the Party and against disorganisation, everyone who does not want to be utterly duped, must know all these facts.
We have made all possible concessions and several quite impossible ones in order to continue working in one party with the "Minority". Now that the Third Congress has been obstructed and the disruptive tactics have been directed against the local committees, all hope of achieving this is lost. Unlike the "Mensheviks", who work by underhand means, behind the Party's back, we must declare openly and prove by deeds that the Party has broken off any and all relations with these gentry.