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[Part 1 -- Chapters 1-4]

H I S T O R Y

O F  T H E

C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)

    5

    PRAGUE PARTY CONFERENCE, 1912. BOLSHEVIKS CONSTITUTE  THEMSELVES AN INDEPENDENT MARXIST PARTY

        The fight against the Liquidators and Otzovists, as well as against the Trotskyites, confronted the Bolsheviks with the urgent necessity of uniting all the Bolsheviks and forming them into an independent Bolshevik Party. This was absolutely essential not only in order to put an end to the opportunist trends within the Party which were splitting the work-


        * Mek, an abbreviation for Menshevik. --Ed.

    ing class, but also in order to complete the work of mustering the forces of the working class and preparing it for a new upward swing of the revolution.

        But before this task could be accomplished the Party had to be rid of opportunists, of Mensheviks.

        No Bolshevik now doubted that it was unthinkable for the Bolsheviks to remain in one party with the Mensheviks. The treacherous conduct of the Mensheviks in the period of the Stolypin reaction, their attempts to liquidate the proletarian party and to organize a new, reformist party, made a rupture with them inevitable. By remaining in one party with the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks in one way or another accepted moral responsibility for the behaviour of the Mensheviks. But for the Bolsheviks to accept moral responsibility for the open treachery of the Mensheviks was unthinkable, unless they themselves wanted to become traitors to the Party and the working class. Unity with the Mensheviks within a single party was thus assuming the character of a betrayal of the working class and its party. Consequently, the actual rupture with the Mensheviks had to be carried to its conclusion: a formal organizational rupture and the expulsion of the Mensheviks from the Party.

        Only in this way was it possible to restore the revolutionary party of the proletariat with a single program, single tactics, and a single class organization.

        Only in this way was it possible to restore the real (not just formal) unity of the Party, which the Mensheviks had destroyed.

        This task was to be performed by the Sixth General Party Conference, for which the Bolsheviks were making preparations.

        But this was only one aspect of the matter. A formal rupture with the Mensheviks and the formation by the Bolsheviks of a separate party was, of course, a very important political task. But the Bolsheviks were confronted with another and even more important task. The task of the Bolsheviks was not merely to break with the Mensheviks and formally constitute themselves a separate party, but above all, having broken with the Mensheviks, to create a new party, to create a party of a new type, different from the usual Social-Democratic parties of the West, one that was free of opportunist elements and capable of leading the proletariat in a struggle for power.

        In fighting the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks of all shades, from Axelrod and Martynov to Martov and Trotsky, invariably used weapons borrowed from the arsenal of the West-European Social-Democrats. They wanted in Russia a party similar, let us say, to the German or French

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    Social-Democratic Party. They fought the Bolsheviks just because they sensed something new in them, something unusual and different from the Social-Democrats of the West. And what did the Social-Democratic parties of the West represent at that time? A mixture, a hodge-podge of Marxist and opportunist elements, of friends and foes of the revolution, of supporters and opponents of the Party principle, the former gradually becoming ideologically reconciled to the latter, and virtually subordinated to them. Conciliation with the opportunists, with the traitors to the revolution, for the sake of what? -- the Bolsheviks asked the West-European Social-Democrats. For the sake of "peace within the Party," for the sake of "unity" -- the latter replied. Unity with whom, with the opportunists? Yes, they replied, with the opportunists. It was clear that such parties could not be revolutionary parties.

        The Bolsheviks could not help seeing that after Engels' death the West-European Social-Democratic parties had begun to degenerate from parties of social revolution into parties of "social reforms," and that each of these parties, as an organization, had already been converted from a leading force into an appendage of its own parliamentary group.

        The Bolsheviks could not help knowing that such a party boded no good to the proletariat, that such a party was not capable of leading the working class to revolution.

        The Bolsheviks could not help knowing that the proletariat needed, not such a party, but a different kind of party, a new and genuinely Marxist party, which would be irreconcilable towards the opportunists and revolutionary towards the bourgeoisie, which would be firmly knit and monolithic, which would be a party of social revolution, a party of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

        It was this new kind of party that the Bolsheviks wanted. And the Bolsheviks worked to build up such a party. The whole history of the struggle against the "Economists," Mensheviks, Trotskyites, Otzovists and idealists of all shades, down to the empirio-criticists, was a history of the building up of just such a party. The Bolsheviks wanted to create a new party, a Bolshevist party, which would serve as a model for all who wanted to have a real revolutionary Marxist party. The Bolsheviks had been working to build up such a party ever since the time of the old Iskra. They worked for it stubbornly, persistently, in spite of everything. A fundamental and decisive part was played in this work by the writings of Lenin -- What Is To Be Done?, Two Tactics, etc. Lenin's What Is To Be Done? was the ideological preparation for such a party. Lenin's One Step Forward, Two Steps Back was the organizational preparation for such a party. Lenin's Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Demo-

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    cratic Revolution was the political preparation for such a party. And, lastly, Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was the theoretical preparation for such a party.

        It may be safely said that never in history has any political group been so thoroughly prepared to constitute itself a party as the Bolshevik group was.

        The conditions were therefore fully ripe and ready for the Bolsheviks to constitute themselves a party.

        It was the task of the Sixth Party Conference to crown the completed work by expelling the Mensheviks and formally constituting the new party, the Bolshevik Party.

        The Sixth All-Russian Party Conference was held in Prague in January 1912. Over twenty Party organizations were represented. The conference, therefore, had the significance of a regular Party congress.

        In the statement of the conference which announced that the shattered central apparatus of the Party had been restored and a Central Committee set up, it was declared that the period of reaction had been the most difficult the Russian Social-Democratic Party had experienced since it had taken shape as a definite organization. In spite of all persecution, in spite of the severe blows dealt it from without and the treachery and vacillation of the opportunists within, the party of the proletariat had preserved intact its banner and its organization.

        "Not only have the banner of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, its program and its revolutionary traditions survived, but so has its organization, which persecution may have undermined and weakened, but could never utterly destroy" -- the statement of the conference declared.

        The conference recorded the first symptoms of a new rise of the working-class movement in Russia and a revival in Party work.

        In its resolution on the reports presented by the local organizations, the conference noted that "energetic work is being conducted everywhere among the Social-Democratic workers with the object of strengthening the local illegal Social-Democratic organizations and groups."

        The conference noted that the most important rule of Bolshevik tactics in periods of retreat, namely, to combine illegal work with legal work within the various legally existing workers' societies and unions, was being observed in all the localities.

        The Prague Conference elected a Bolshevik Central Committee of the Party, consisting of Lenin, Stalin, Ordjonikidze, Sverdlov, Spandaryan, Goloshchekin and others. Comrades Stalin and Sverdlov were elected to the Central Committee in their absence, as they were in exile at the time. Among the elected alternate members of the Central Committee was Comrade Kalinin.

        For the direction of revolutionary work in Russia a practical centre (the Russian Bureau of the C.C.) was set up with Comrade Stalin at its head and including Comrades Y. Sverdlov, S. Spandaryan, S. Ordjonikidze, M. Kalinin and Goloshchehn.

        The Prague Conference reviewed the whole preceding struggle of the Bolsheviks against opportunism and decided to expel the Mensheviks from the Party.

        By expelling the Mensheviks from the Party, the Prague Conference formally inaugurated the independent existence of the Bolshevik Party.

        Having routed the Mensheviks ideologically and organizationally and expelled them from the Party, the Bolsheviks preserved the old banner of the Party -- of the R.S.D.L.P. That is why the Bolshevik Party continued until 1918 to call itself the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, adding the word "Bolsheviks" in brackets.

        Writing to Gorky at the beginning of 1912, on the results of the Prague Conference, Lenin said:

        "At last we have succeeded, in spite of the Liquidator scum, in restoring the Party and its Central Committee. I hope you will rejoice with us over the fact." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXIX, p. 19.)

        Speaking of the significance of the Prague Conference, Comrade Stalin said:

        "This conference was of the utmost importance in the history of our Party, for it drew a boundary line between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and amalgamated the Bolshevik organizations all over the country into a united Bolshevik Party." (Verbatim Report of the Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.[B.], Russ. ed., pp. 361-362.)

        After the expulsion of the Mensheviks and the constitution by the Bolsheviks of an independent party, the Bolshevik Party became firmer and stronger. The Party strengthens itself by purging its ranks of opportunist elements -- that is one of the maxims of the Bolshevik Party, which is a party of a new type fundamentally different from the Social Democratic parties of the Second International. Although the parties of the Second International called themselves Marxist parties, in reality they tolerated foes of Marxism, avowed opportunists, in their ranks and allowed them to corrupt and to ruin the Second International. The Bol-

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    sheviks, on the contrary, waged a relentless struggle against the opportunists, purged the proletarian party of the filth of opportunism and succeeded in creating a party of a new type, a Leninist Party, the Party which later achieved the dictatorship of the proletariat.

        If the opportunists had remained within the ranks of the proletarian party, the Bolshevik Party could not have come out on the broad high way and led the proletariat, it could not have taken power and set up the dictatorship of the proletariat, it could not have emerged victorious from the Civil War and built Socialism.

        The Prague Conference decided to put forward as the chief immediate political slogans of the Party the demands contained in the minimum program: a democratic republic, an 8-hour day, and the confiscation of the landed estates.

        It was under these revolutionary slogans that the Bolsheviks conducted their campaign in connection with the elections to the Fourth State Duma.

        It was these slogans that guided the new rise of the revolutionary movement of the working-class masses in the years 1912-14.

     

    B R I E F   S U M M A R Y

        The years 1908-12 were a most difficult period for revolutionary work. After the defeat of the revolution, when the revolutionary movement was on the decline and the masses were fatigued, the Bolsheviks changed their tactics and passed from the direct struggle against tsardom to a roundabout struggle. In the difficult conditions that prevailed during the Stolypin reaction, the Bolsheviks made use of the slightest legal opportunity to maintain their connections with the masses (from sick benefit societies and trade unions to the Duma platform). The Bolsheviks indefatigably worked to muster forces for a new rise of the revolutionary movement.

        In the difficult conditions brought about by the defeat of the revolution, the disintegration of the oppositional trends, the disappointment with the revolution, and the increasing endeavours of intellectuals who had deserted the Party (Bogdanov, Bazarov and others) to revise its theoretical foundations, the Bolsheviks were the only force in the Party who did not furl the Party banner, who remained faithful to the Party program, and who beat off the attacks of the "critics" of Marxist theory (Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism ). What helped the leading core of the Bolsheviks, centred around Lenin, to safeguard the Party

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    and its revolutionary principles was that this core had been tempered by Marxist-Leninist ideology and had grasped the perspectives of the revolution. "Not for nothing do they say that we are as firm as a rock," Lenin stated in referring to the Bolsheviks.

        The Mensheviks at that period were drawing farther and farther away from the revolution. They became Liquidators, demanding the liquidation, abolition, of the illegal revolutionary party of the proletariat; they more and more openly renounced the Party program and the revolutionary aims and slogans of the Party, and endeavoured to organize their own, reformist party, which the workers christened a "Stolypin Labour Party." Trotsky supported the Liquidators, pharisaically using the slogan "unity of the Party" as a screen, but actually meaning unity with the Liquidators.

        On the other hand, some of the Bolsheviks, who did not understand the necessity for the adoption of new and roundabout ways of combating tsardom, demanded that legal opportunities should not be utilized and that the workers' deputies in the State Duma be recalled. These Otzovists were driving the Party towards a rupture with the masses and were hampering the mustering of forces for a new rise of the revolution. Using "Left" phraseology as a screen, the Otzovists, like the Liquidators, in essence renounced the revolutionary struggle.

        The Liquidators and Otzovists united against Lenin in a common bloc, known as the August Bloc, organized by Trotsky.

        In the struggle against the Liquidators and Otzovists, in the struggle against the August Bloc, the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand and succeeded in safeguarding the illegal proletarian party.

        The outstanding event of this period was the Prague Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (January 1912). At this conference the Mensheviks were expelled from the Party, and the formal unity of the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks within one party was ended forever. From a political group, the Bolsheviks formally constituted themselves an independent party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks). The Prague Conference inaugurated a party of a new type, the party of Leninism, the Bolshevik Party.

        The purge of the ranks of the proletarian party of opportunists, Mensheviks, effected at the Prague Conference, had an important and decisive influence on the subsequent development of the Party and the revolution. If the Bolsheviks had not expelled the betrayers of the workers' cause, the Menshevik compromisers, from the Party, the proletarian party would have been unable in 1917 to rouse the masses for the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat.