|SECOND CONGRESS OF THE RUSSIAN
BOUR PARTY. ADOPTION OF PROGRAM AND RULES AND FOR-
MATION OF A SINGLE PARTY. DIFFERENCES AT THE CONGRESS
AND APPEARANCE OF TWO TRENDS WITHIN THE PARTY: THE
BOLSHEVIK AND THE MENSHEVIK
Thus the triumph of Lenin's principles and the successful struggle
waged by Iskra for Lenin's plan of organization brought about all the
principal conditions necessary for the creation of a party, or, as it was
said at the time, of a real party. The Iskra trend gained the upper
hand among the Social-Democratic organizations in Russia. The Second Party
Congress could now be summoned.
The Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. opened on July 17 (30, New
Style), 1903. It was held abroad, in secret. It first met in Brussels, but
the Belgian police requested the delegates to leave the country. Thereupon
the congress transferred its sittings to London.
Forty-three delegates in all, representing 26 organizations,
assembled at the congress. Each committee was entitled to send two
delegates, but some of them sent only one. The 43 delegates commanded 51
votes between them.
The chief purpose of the congress was "to create a real party on that
basis of principles and organization which had been advanced and elaborated
by Iskra." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 412.)
The composition of the congress was heterogeneous. The avowed
"Economists" were not represented, because of the defeat they had
suffered. But they had since disguised their views so artfully that they
managed to smuggle several of their delegates into the congress. Moreover,
the Bund delegates differed only ostensibly from the "Economists"; in
reality they supported the "Economists."
Thus the congress was attended not only by supporters of Iskra,
but also by its adversaries. Thirty-three of the delegates, that is, the
majority, were supporters of Iskra. But not all those who considered
themselves Iskra -ists were real Leninist Iskra -ists. The
delegates fell into several groups. The supporters of Lenin, or the firm
Iskra -ists, commanded 24 votes; nine of the Iskra -ists followed
Martov; these were unstable Iskra -ists. Some of the delegates
vacillated between Iskra and its opponents; they commanded 10 votes
and constituted the Centre. The avowed opponents of Iskra commanded 8
votes (3 "Economists" and 5 Bundists). A split in the ranks of the Iskra
-ists would be enough to give the enemies of Iskra the upper
It will therefore be seen how complex the situation was at the
congress. Lenin expended a great deal of energy to ensure the victory of
The most important item on the agenda was the adoption of the Party
program. The chief point which, during the discussion of the program,
aroused the objections of the opportunist section of the congress was the
question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. There were a number of
other items in the program on which the opportunists did not agree with the
revolutionary section of the congress. But they decided to put up the main
fight on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, on the plea
that the programs of a number of foreign Social-Democratic parties contained
no clause on the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that therefore the
program of the Russian Social-Democratic Party could dispense with it too.
The opportunists also objected to the inclusion in the Party program
of demands on the peasant question. These people did not want revolution;
they, therefore, fought shy of the ally of the working class -- the
peasantry -- and adopted an unfriendly attitude towards it.
The Bundists and the Polish Social-Democrats objected to the right of
nations to self-determination. Lenin had always taught that the working
class must combat national oppression. To object to the inclusion of this
demand in the program was tantamount to a proposal to renounce proletarian
internationalism and to become accomplices in national oppression.
Lenin made short work of all these objections.
The congress adopted the program proposed by Iskra.
This program consisted of two parts: a maximum program and a minimum
program. The maximum program dealt with the principal aim of the
working-class party, namely, the Socialist revolution, the overthrow of the
power of the capitalists, and the establishment of the dictatorship of the
proletariat. The minimum program dealt with the immediate aims of the Party,
aims to be achieved before the overthrow of the capitalist system and the
establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, namely, the overthrow
of the tsarist autocracy, the establishment of a democratic republic, the
introduction of an 8-hour working day, the abolition of all survivals of
serfdom in the countryside, and the restoration to the peasants of the
cut-off lands (otrezki ) of which they had been deprived by the
Subsequently, the Bolsheviks replaced the demand for the return of
the otrezki by the demand for the confiscation of all the landed
The program adopted by the Second Congress was a revolutionary
program of the party of the working class.
It remained in force until the Eighth Party Congress, held after the
victory of the proletarian revolution, when our Party adopted a new program.
Having adopted the program, the Second Party Congress proceeded to
discuss the draft of the Party Rules. Now that the congress had adopted a
program and had laid the foundation for the ideological unity of the Party,
it had also to adopt Party Rules so as to put an end to amateurishness and
the parochial outlook of the circles, to organizational disunity and the
absence of strict discipline in the Party.
The adoption of the program had gone through comparatively smoothly,
but fierce disputes arose at the congress over the Party Rules. The sharpest
differences arose over the formulation of the first paragraph of the rules,
dealing with Party membership. Who could be a member of the Party, what was
to be the composition of the Party, what was to be the organizational nature
of the Party, an organized whole or something amorphous? -- such were the
questions that arose in connection with the first paragraph of the rules.
Two different formulations contested the ground: Lenin's formulation, which
was supported by Plekhanov and the firm Iskra -ists; and Martov's
formulation, which was supported by Axelrod, Zasulich, the unstable Iskra
-ists, Trotsky, and all the avowed opportunists at the congress.
According to Lenin's formulation, one could be a member of the Party
who accepted its program, supported it financially, and belonged to one of
its organizations. Martov's formulation, while admitting that
acceptance of the program and financial support of the Party were
indispensable conditions of Party membership, did not, however, make it a
condition that a Party member should belong to one of the Party
organizations, maintaining that a Party member need not necessarily belong
to a Party organization.
Lenin regarded the Party as an organized detachment, whose
members cannot just enrol themselves in the Party, but must be admitted into
the Party by one of its organizations, and hence must submit to Party
discipline. Martov, on the other hand, regarded the Party as something
organizationally amorphous, whose members enrol themselves in the Party and
are therefore not obliged to submit to Party discipline, inasmuch as they do
not belong to a Party organization.
Thus, unlike Lenin's formulation, Martov's formulation would throw
the door of the Party wide open to unstable non-proletarian elements. On the
eve of the bourgeois-democratic revolution there were people among the
bourgeois intelligentsia who for a while sympathized with the revolution.
From time to time they might even render some small service to the Party.
But such people would not join an organization, submit to Party discipline,
carry out Party tasks and run the accompanying risks. Yet Martov and the
other Mensheviks proposed to regard such people as Party members, and to
accord them the right and opportunity to influence Party affairs. They even
proposed to grant any striker the right to "enrol" himself in the Party,
although non-Socialists, Anarchists and Socialist-Revolutionaries also took
part in strikes.
And so it was that instead of a monolithic and militant party with a
clearly defined organization, for which Lenin and the Leninists fought at
the congress, the Martovites wanted a heterogeneous and loose, amorphous
party, which could not be a militant party with firm discipline because of
its heterogeneous character, if for no other reason.
The breaking away of the unstable Iskra -ists from the firm
Iskra -ists, their alliance with the Centrists, joined as they were by
the avowed opportunists, turned the balance in favour of Martov on this
point. By 28 votes to 22, with one abstention, the congress adopted Martov's
formulation of the first paragraph of the Rules.
After the split in the ranks of the Iskra -ists over the first
paragraph of the Rules the struggle at the congress became still more acute.
The congress was coming to the last item on the agenda -- the elections of
the leading institutions of the Party: the editorial board of the central
organ of the Party (Iskra ), and the Central Committee. However,
before the elections were reached, certain incidents occurred which changed
the alignment of forces.
In connection with the Party Rules, the congress had to deal with the
question of the Bund. The Bund laid claim to a special position within the
Party. It demanded to be recognized as the sole representative of the Jewish
workers in Russia. To comply with this demand would have meant to divide the
workers in the Party organizations according to nationality, and to renounce
common territorial class organizations of the workers. The congress rejected
the system of organization on national lines proposed by the Bund. Thereupon
the Bundists quit the congress. Two "Economists" also left the congress when
the latter refused to recognize their Foreign League as the representative
of the Party abroad.
The departure of these seven opportunists altered the balance of
forces at the congress in favour of the Leninists.
From the very outset Lenin focussed his attention on the composition
of the central institutions of the Party. He deemed it necessary that the
Central Committee should be composed of staunch and consistent
revolutionaries. The Martovites strove to secure the predominance of
unstable, opportunist elements on the Central Committee. The majority of the
congress supported Lenin on this question. The Central Committee that was
elected consisted of Lenin's followers.
On Lenin's proposal, Lenin, Plekhanov and Martov were elected to the
editorial board of Iskra. Martov had demanded the election of all the
six former members of the Iskra editorial board, the majority of whom
were Martov's followers. This demand was rejected by the majority of the
congress. The three proposed by Lenin were elected. Martov thereupon
announced that he would not join the editorial board of the central organ.
Thus, by its vote on the central institutions of the Party, the
congress sealed the defeat of Martov's followers and the victory of Lenin's
From that time on, Lenin's followers, who received the majority of
votes in the elections at the congress, have been called Bolsheviks (from
bolshinstvo, majority), and Lenin's opponents, who received the minority
of votes, have been called Mensheviks (from menshinstvo, minority).
Summing up the work of the Second Congress, the following conclusions
may be drawn:
1) The congress sealed the victory of Marxism over "Economism," over
2) The congress adopted a Program and Rules, created the
Social-Democratic Party, and thus built the framework of a single party.
3) The congress revealed the existence of grave differences over
questions of organization which divided the Party into two sections, the
Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, of whom the former championed the
organizational principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy, while the
latter sank into the bog of organizational looseness and of opportunism.
4) The congress showed that the place of the old opportunists, the
"Economists," who had already been defeated by the Party, was being taken by
new opportunists, the Mensheviks.
5) The congress did not prove equal to its task in matters of
organization, showed vacillation, and at times even gave the preponderance
to the Mensheviks; and although it corrected its position towards the end,
it was nevertheless unable to expose the opportunism of the Mensheviks on
matters of organization and to isolate them in the Party, or even to put
such a task before the Party.
This latter circumstance proved one of the main reasons why the
struggle between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, far from subsiding after
the congress, became even more acute.