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V. I. Lenin
WHAT WE ARE WORKING FOR
(TO THE PARTY)
Written in July 1904
First published in 1923
in the first edition
of the Collected Works, Vol. V
Published according to
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965
Vol. 7, pp. 445-53.
Translated by Abraham Fineberg and by Naomi Jochel
Edited by Clemens Dutt
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, email@example.com (April 2002)
WHAT WE ARE WORKING FOR
(TO THE PARTY)
A private meeting was recently held of nineteen members of the R.S.D.L.P. (among them Second Congress delegates, members of committees and other Party organisations, and revolutionaries not belonging to any Party organisation). This conference of persons who are at one in sharing the views of the Second Party Congress majority discussed our Party crisis and ways and means of overcoming it, and decided to address the following appeal to all Russian Social-Democrats.
Comrades, the grave crisis in our Party is dragging on interminably. The strife keeps growing, breeding dispute after dispute, disastrously hampering positive work all along the line, and increasingly destroying the bond between the Party and its Central Organ, which has definitely become the organ of a circle and mainly an émigré circle at that. That organ is manufacturing differences, ferreting out old questions that have long been settled and are a thing of the past; it coquettes with the consistent opportunists and betrays incredible confusion in its thinking; it shamelessly ignores the Party Congress, its debates and decisions, and mocks at Party organisation and discipline and at the majority of the revolutionaries who created the Party and are doing the work on the spot; basing itself on unprovable allegations and unauthenticated anonymous reports, it carpingly and maliciously crows over shortcomings in the work of the committees of the Party's revolutionary wing. That is what we are getting from the new Iskra, which has become a fountainhead of strife; that is what we are getting from the editorial board which the Congress rejected,
and which has taken advantage of personal concessions to start new squabbles over co-optation and disrupt the Party.
Yet the historical juncture Russia is now passing through calls for the exertion of all our Party's energies. The revolutionary unrest among the working class and the ferment among other sections of the population is growing apace; the war and crisis, starvation and unemployment are undermining the foundations of the autocracy ever more deeply; a shameful end to the shameful war is not far off, and it is bound to heighten the revolutionary unrest still more, it will bring the working class face to face with its enemies, and will require the most vigorous offensive action on the part of the Social-Democrats. A united Party organisation, a consistent revolutionary Marxist line, decent and dignified bounds to the internal struggle in the Party so as to prevent its becoming disruptive and hampering positive work -- these are urgent demands of the entire working-class movement of Russia, and they must be satisfied immediately and at all costs, or the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party will risk completely forfeiting its good name and all the influence it has won.
The first step towards this end, in our opinion, is to establish the fullest clarity, frankness, and outspokenness in the relations between the various groups, trends, and shades in our Party. There are times, to be sure, when in the interests of the work minor differences should be passed over in silence; but to think that the present is such a moment in our Party's life would be a most deplorable and unpardonable mistake. Personal concessions to the minority did not check the strife, the disputed issues have now been put point-blank, a direct challenge has been hurled at the entire Party, and only flabby and ignorant individuals can dream of bringing back the irrevocable past, of concealing, withholding, glossing over or shutting their eyes to anything. No, the policy of washing one's hands, the policy of passive abstention, the policy of laisser faire, laisser passer has already proved its utter futility in our Party struggle. Any further evasion, equivocation or concealment would be not only fruitless and contemptible, but downright criminal. We are taking the initiative of making a frank and full
statement of our programme of struggle within the Party; and we call on the representatives of each and every shade in the Russian Social-Democratic movement, whether already belonging to the Party or intending to join it under certain conditions, to do likewise. Only complete clarity and frankness can furnish all class-conscious workers and all members of the Party with the material for a rational and firm decision of the disputed Party issues.
We uphold the standpoint of the Second Party Congress majority. We consider that the erroneous position of the Congress minority, and their determination to persist in this position regardless of the will of the Party, was the prime cause of all subsequent mistakes and of all the strife. The error in that position was twofold: firstly, the old editorial circle of Iskra could look for support to no one but the opportunist wing of our Congress and our Party; secondly, this alliance with acknowledged opportunists (who were, and are, headed by Comrade Akimov) took final shape and became a Party division only over such an issue as the elections to the central bodies. From the first error there logically and inevitably followed all that confusion as to principle and all that opportunist wobbling which we find in the thinking of the new Iskra, insofar as that thinking can be considered to be based on principle at all. From the second error followed their insistence on the old editorial circle against the will of the Party, their defence and justification of the circle spirit as against the party spirit, their employment in our controversies of methods only associated with philistine squabbling and circle wrangling, but certainly not with a struggle among Party members who respect their Party and themselves. From the first error it followed as a logical and inevitable consequence that those who rallied around the minority included all who tend towards opportunism, all who want to drag the Party back and be revenged for injuries done by the revolutionary Social-Democrats to their opponents, all who express the intellectualist trend in our movement, all who incline towards the intellectual's anarchistic rejection of organisation and discipline. From the second error followed the supremacy of an émigré circle over the majority of the Party workers in Russia and the orgy of specifically
émigré brawling which among the minority takes the place of methods of persuasion.
There is no longer any room for doubt. No one who is a Party member not only in name, no one who really wants to uphold the vital interests of our working-class movement, can hesitate now. The minority have declared war and are fighting all along the line; and we accept the challenge and declare that the war will be relentless, a war to a finish. We are fighting against the circle spirit in general, and the old editorial circle in particular, on behalf of the party spirit. We are fighting in the interests of the working-class movement in Russia against émigré squabbling. We are fighting on behalf of the revolutionary proletarian trend in our movement against the opportunist intellectualist trend. We are fighting for the consistent revolutionary Social-Democratic line against vacillation, zigzags, and reversions to the long-obsolete past. We are fighting for a close-knit Party organisation of our working-class vanguard and against intellectualist license, disorganisation, and anarchy. We are fighting for respect for Party congresses and against spineless veering about, against divergence of word and deed, against contempt for agreements and decisions adopted by common consent. We are fighting for publicity in the Party as against the new Iskra 's and the new Party Council's tactics of keeping their minutes a secret and gagging the majority.
From our programme of struggle the methods and immediate aims of that struggle follow of themselves. The first method is all-embracing agitation, spoken and written, on the widest possible scale. This point would not be worth dwelling on were it not that the minority's squabbling has given rise in our Party to the notorious "conciliatory trend" (so justly ridiculed by the Ekaterinoslav Committee and many other organisations), which hides its head under its wing and preaches that the majority should cease its struggle against the minority. The existence of such childish views, unworthy of any adult Party member, can only be attributed to faint-heartedness, weariness, or remoteness from reality. One may and should demand that the party struggle be confined within party bounds, one may and should use other means besides exhortation to secure it;
but the proposal to cease upholding what was upheld before the entire Party at the Congress and what is deemed essential in the Party's vital interests -- such a proposal, if anyone dared to make it publicly, would only earn universal contempt.
The second, and decisive, means of struggle, in our opinion, is a Party congress. We unreservedly support those committees which demand that the Third Party Congress be summoned immediately. We consider it our duty, in particular, to deal with the hypocritical arguments which the editors of the new Iskra and their overt and covert abettors bring against a congress, while assiduously concealing these arguments (which are scarcely consistent with Party duty) from the eyes of the world (as is being done by the League Abroad and the Iskra editors, whose agitation has only partly been brought into the open and exposed by the committees). First argument: a congress would lead to a split. The very fact that the minority employ such an argument demonstrates the entire falsity of their position. For in saying that, the minority admit that the Party is against them, that their émigré circle has forced itself upon the Party and manages to maintain itself only because of the remoteness of Russia and the external difficulties under which the real revolutionaries have to work. Those who are honest towards the Party and sincerely anxious to work together will not fear a congress, but desire it, in order to put an end to the strife, bring the Party and its official bodies into conformity, and remove unseemly ambiguity. Those who hold up the bogey of a split only make it obvious that their consciences are not clear. Without the subordination of minority to majority there can be no working-class party at all worthy of the name; and if mutual (not one-sided) concessions are necessary, if arrangements and agreements between different parts of the Party have sometimes to be made, they are only possible and permissible at a congress. No self-respecting revolutionary will want to remain in a party that manages to hold together only because a party congress is artificially put off.
Second argument: a reconciliation is still possible without a congress. What this opinion is based on is unknown. Its proponents talk and act only behind the scenes. Is it not
time to abandon these back-stage intrigues, which only increase mutual distrust, intensify animosity, and obscure the situation? Why is it that no one ventures to come forward publicly with a plan of reconciliation? -- is it not because, the position being what it is, no such plan is conceivable which would not at best provoke laughter? Those who understand peace to mean the co-optation of minority favourites to the Central Committee do not want peace, but intensification of the majority's struggle; they fail to understand that the struggle in the Party has once and for all outgrown the limits of a mere squabble over co-optation. Those who understand it to mean the cessation of controversy and struggle are reverting to the old circle mentality: there will always be controversy and struggle in a party, all that is necessary is to confine them within Party bounds -- and that only a congress can do. In short, whichever way you turn this slogan of peace without a congress, however you revolve this idea of reconciling the contending sides without satisfying either, you will find that this brilliant idea only reflects confusion and emptiness of mind, it is the idea of people who do not know what they want and what they ought to strive for. If even the plan of so influential (formerly influential) a man as Plekhanov -- to quench the fire at the very start by making the maximum personal concessions -- suffered a complete fiasco, can one seriously speak of such plans now? <"p450">
Third argument: the congress may be manipulated. The St. Petersburg Committee has already replied to this argument by calling it an insinuation. And this statement by a local committee was a well-deserved slap in the face for those who make sneaking charges without a shadow of fact to support them, although the minority control both the supreme Council and the press organ of the Party, so that they have not only the means of publicly exposing any suspected abuses, but also the means of administrative correction and pressure. Everyone knows that if there were any such facts the minority would have trumpeted them forth<"p450a"> long ago, and that the recent Council resolution, which shows that there have been no such facts in the past, rules out their possibility in the future. By resorting to this argument Iskra only shows yet again that instead of controversy it now engages in fishwives' abuse, and compels
us to turn to all Party members and ask: Have we in fact a party? Do we want to follow the Socialist-Revolutionaries' example and rest content with a facade and signboard, or is it not rather our duty to tear down all shams?
Fourth argument: the differences have not yet been clarified. The best answer to that argument is supplied by the new Iskra itself, a study of which will show the Party that differences are being manufactured, not clarified, and that the confusion is growing endlessly. Only a congress, at which all comrades can openly and fully state their wishes, can bring clarity into these incredibly confused issues and this confused situation.
Fifth argument: a congress would divert forces and funds from positive work. This argument, too, sounds like a dismal mockery, for no greater diversion of forces and funds can be imagined than that which the strife is producing.
No, all the arguments against a congress testify either to hypocrisy or to ignorance of the position and pusillanimous doubts of the Party's strength. Our Party is again very sick, but it has strength enough to recover and become worthy of the Russian proletariat. As the methods of cure we would recommend the three following reforms, which we shall work for by every available loyal means.
Firstly, the editorship of the Central Organ to be handed over to the adherents of the Second Party Congress majority.
Secondly, the local organisation abroad (the League) to be subordinated in fact to the all-Russia central organisation (the Central Committee).
Thirdly, the Rules to provide guarantees that Party struggles are conducted by Party methods.
Regarding these three fundamental points of our programme little remains to be added after what has already been said. That the old editorial board of Iskra has now palpably demonstrated its unfitness, we consider incontrovertible. It is not Iskra-ism that has outlived its day, as Comrade Martov professed to discover after his defeat in the elections, but the old Iskra editorial board. It would be sheer hypocrisy not to say that bluntly now, after the challenges this circle has flung down to the entire Party. On the abnormal position of the organisation abroad, which has converted itself
into a second (if not a third) leadership and completely ignores the Party's Central Committee, there is no need to expatiate at length. Lastly, the entire experience of the post Congress struggle compels us to give thought to the juridical position of the minority (any minority) in our Party. That experience shows, we are convinced, that it is necessary to include in the Party Rules guarantees of minority rights, so that the dissatisfactions, irritations and conflicts that will constantly and unavoidably arise may be diverted from the accustomed philistine channels of rows and squabbling into the still unaccustomed channels of a constitutional and dignified struggle for one's convictions. As one of these essential guarantees, we propose that the minority be allowed one or more writers' groups, with the right to be represented at congresses and with complete "freedom of speech". In general, the widest guarantees should be given as regards publication of Party literature criticising the activities of the central Party institutions. The committees should be given the right to receive (through the general Party transport system) the particular Party publications they desire. The Central Committee's right to influence the personal composition of the committees otherwise than by advice should, until the Fourth Congress, be suspended. We do not here elaborate our proposals in detail, for we are not compiling draft Rules, but only a general programme of struggle. We consider it highly important that the arrangements for publication of minority literature which the Central Committee proposed to the minority of the Second Congress should be incorporated in the Rules, in order that dissatisfaction may find seemly forms of expression, that the foolish fantasy of a state of siege (invented by the heroes of co-optation) may be finally and completely dispelled, and that the inevitable internal struggles in the Party may not interfere with positive work.
We must teach our minority to fight about the persona] composition of the central bodies only at congresses, and not hamper our work after congresses by squabbling; we must achieve this if our Party is not to perish. Lastly, in this general programme we shall only briefly mention certain specific amendments we would wish to see made in the Rules, 9, to wit: the conversion of the Council from a tripartite
arbitration body into a body elected by the Congress amendment of Paragraph 1 of the Rules along the lines advocated by the Second Congress majority, with the inclusion among Party organisations of all workers' organisations and all groups of Russian Social-Democrats which had an independent existence during the circle period and which desire to join the Party, etc., etc.
In putting forward this programme of our struggle within the Party, we invite all Party organisations and the representatives of all shades in the Party to make a statement of their own programmes, so as to permit of gradual, serious, circumspect, and judicious preparation for a congress.
We have no Party -- the conspirators in our editorial palace coup said to themselves, banking on the remoteness of Russia, the frequent changes of workers there, and on their own indispensability. Our Party is coming into being! -- say we, seeing the committees awakening to active intervention, seeing the growing political understanding of the advanced workers. Our Party is coming into being; we have ever more numerous young forces capable both of reinvigorating and of replacing decrepit literary bodies; we have revolutionaries, and their number is steadily growing, who prize the trend of the old Iskra that schooled them above any editorial circle. Our Party is coming into being, and no subterfuges or delays, no senile malicious vituperation of the new Iskra can hold back the decided and final verdict of this Party.
From these new forces in our Party we derive our certainty-of victory.
<"en134"> What We Are Working For was the initial variant of the appeal "To the Party" (pp. 454-61 of this volume). [p. 445]
<"en135"> Lenin is referring to a resolution passed by the St. Petersburg Committee on June 23 (July 6), 1904, which demanded the speedy convening of the Third Party Congress. [p. 450]
<"en136"> This refers to the Party Council resolution of June 5 (18), 1904 restricting the Central Committee's right to appoint new members to the local Party committees. [p. 450]