Briefly About Disagreements in the Party

Social-Democracy is a combination of the working-class movement with socialism.

—Karl Kautsky

Our "Mensheviks" are really too tiresome! I am referring to the Tiflis "Mensheviks." They heard that there are disagreements in the Party and so they began harping: whether you like it or not we shall talk about disagreements, always and everywhere; whether you like it or not we shall abuse the "Bolsheviks" right and left! And so they are hurling abuse for all they are worth, as if they are possessed. At all the crossroads, among themselves and among strangers, in short, wherever they happen to be, they howl one thing: beware of the "majority," they are strangers, infidels! Not content with the "habitual" field, they have carried the "case" into the legally published literature, thereby proving to the world once again . . . how tiresome they are.

What has the "majority" done? Why is our "minority" so "wrathful"?

Let us turn to history.

The "majority" and "minority" first came into being at the Second Party Congress (1903). That was the congress at which our scattered forces were to have united in one powerful party. We Party workers placed great hopes in that congress. At last!—we exclaimed joyfully—we, too, shall be united in one party, we, too, shall be able to work according to a single plan! . . . It goes without saying that we had made attempts to unite before that; it was for this purpose that we convened the First Party Congress (1898), and it even looked as if we had "united," but this unity existed in name only: the Party still remained split up into separate groups; our forces still remained scattered and had yet to be united. And so the Second Party Congress was to have mustered our scattered forces and united them in one whole. We were to have formed a united party.

Actually it turned out, however, that our hopes had been to some degree premature. The congress failed to give us a single and indivisible party; it merely laid the foundation for such a party. The congress did, however, clearly reveal to us that there are two trends within the Party: the Iskra trend (I mean the old Iskra),[1] and the trend of its opponents. Accordingly, the congress split up into two sections: into a "majority" and a "minority." The former joined the Iskra trend and rallied around that paper; the latter, being opponents of Iskra, took the opposite stand.

Thus, Iskra became the banner of the Party "majority," and Iskra's stand became the stand of the "majority."

What path did Iskra take? What did it advocate?

To understand this one must know the conditions under which it entered the historical field.

Iskra started publication in December 1900. That was the time when a crisis began in Russian industry. The industrial boom, which was accompanied by a number of economic strikes (1896-98), gradually gave way to a crisis. The crisis grew more acute day by day and became an obstacle to economic strikes. In spite of that, the working-class movement hewed a path for itself and made progress; the individual streams merged in a single flood; the movement acquired a class aspect and gradually took the path of the political struggle. The working-class movement grew with astonishing rapidity. … But there was no sign of an advanced detachment, no Social-Democracy[2] which would have introduced socialist consciousness into the movement, would have combined it with socialism, and, thereby, would have lent the proletarian struggle a Social-Democrat character.

What did the "Social-Democrats" of that time (they were called "Economists") do? They burned incense to the spontaneous movement and light-heartedly reiterated: socialist consciousness is not so very necessary for the working-class movement, which can very well reach its goal without it; the main thing is the movement. The movement is everything—consciousness is a mere trifle. A movement without socialism—that was what they were striving for.

In that case, what is the mission of Russian Social-Democracy? Its mission is to be an obedient tool of the spontaneous movement, they asserted. It is not our business to introduce socialist consciousness into the working-class movement, it is not our business to lead this movement—that would be fruitless coercion; our duty is merely to watch the movement and take careful note of what goes on in social life—we must drag at the tail of the spontaneous movement.[3]

  1. Iskra (The Spark)—the first all-Russian illegal Marxist newspaper, founded by V. I. Lenin in 1900. The first issue of Lenin's Iskra appeared on December 11 (24), 1900, in Leipzig, after which it was published in Munich, London (from April 1902), and, beginning with the spring of 1903, in Geneva. Groups and committees of the R.S.D.L.P. supporting the Lenin-Iskra line were organised in a number of towns of Russia, including St. Petersburg and Moscow. In Transcaucasia the ideas propagated by Iskra were upheld by the illegal newspaper Brdzola, the organ of the Georgian revolutionary Social-Democracy. (On the role and significance of Iskra see the History of the C.P.S.U.(B.), Short Course, Moscow, 1952, pp. 55-68.)
  2. Social-Democracy is the advanced detachment of the proletariat. Every militant Social-Democrat, whether industrial worker or intellectual, belongs to this detachment.
  3. Our Social-Democrat [Social-Democrat—the illegal newspaper published in the Georgian language in Tiflis by the Caucasian Mensheviks from April to November 1905. It was edited by N. Jordania. The first number appeared as "the organ of the Tiflis Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.," but in the subsequent issues it called itself "the organ of the Caucasian Social-Democratic Labour Organisations."] has developed a passion for "criticism" (see No. 1, "Majority or Minority?") but I must observe that it does not correctly describe the "Economists" and Rabocheye Delo-ists (they scarcely differ from each other.) It is not that they "ignored political questions," but that they dragged
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