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International Socialist Review Issue 33, January–February 2004

Lenin's unique contribution to Marxism
The Birth of Bolshevism

By Paul D'Amato

Paul D'Amato is associate editor of the ISR

THE YEAR 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Bolshevik Party–the organization which led the 1917 Russian Revolution, and is most associated with the name Vladimir Lenin. The party had its origins in a split in the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) at what was to be its founding congress in 1903. To many participants and observers, "the debates were nothing but obstinate quarrels over mere words with a terrific amount of hairsplitting."1 The standard view is that 1903 revealed Lenin’s "contempt for democracy" and his desire to create a "small and highly disciplined" organization that would "exercise control over the revolutionary movement."2

These charges against Lenin and the Bolshevik Party are commonplace even among the Left today. This article cannot provide a detailed history of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party.3 What it will do is try to clear away the ideological debris that has obscured the character of the 1903 split and the debates surrounding it. The questions I will try to answer are: Why is there such fierceness of debate about Russian Marxism?; What is the real significance of the split?; and, Is there anything of lasting value that revolutionaries today can learn from this period?

"Excessive penchant for debate"

An excessive penchant for polemics and splits, we are all too often told, is typical of the Russians in general, of the social democrats in particular and of the Bolsheviks especially. But the fact is all too often overlooked that the excessive penchant for skipping from socialism to liberalism is engendered by the conditions prevailing in…Russia.4

So wrote Lenin in 1907, reviewing the past history of Russian Marxism. From its beginning, Marxism contained within it very politically heterogeneous elements and hence a necessity for sharp debates. The main point at issue was the question of the development of capitalism in Russia. The populist movement, known as the Narodniks, persisted in arguing against the possibility of development in Russia, and that the old peasant commune would therefore be the basis of creating socialism by completely skipping over capitalism.

The first Russian Marxists, former populists like George Plekhanov, Paul Axelrod and Vera Zasulich, argued that the development of Russian capitalism was creating a new class capable of playing the pivotal role in the struggle against autocracy–a role that the peasantry had been unable to fulfill as an independent force–the working class. Russia’s historical peculiarity was that the tasks of the bourgeois revolution–land and democracy–now fell upon the shoulders of the working class. "The bourgeoisie is nearing the end of its historical role," wrote Plekhanov in 1883, "and that the proletariat is becoming the only representative of progressive strivings in society."5

But the early Marxist movement also saw the development of a more moderate trend that led toward liberalism. Men "like [Peter] Struve," wrote Lenin, "were bourgeois democrats for whom the break with Narodnism signified transition from petty-bourgeois (or peasant) socialism to bourgeois liberalism, and not to proletarian socialism as was the case with us."6

The liberal trend in Marxism was encouraged by the fact that the Tsarist state decided for a period in the 1890s to legalize Marxist publications as a counterweight to Narodnism, which they considered more dangerous at the time. The important thing here, noted by John Molyneux in his excellent book Marxism and the Party, was that from early on the genuine Marxists were forced, in order to preserve the movement’s essence–working-class leadership in the overthrow of autocracy–to conduct sharp debate with liberal tendencies that rejected working-class self-emancipation that emerged within the framework of Marxism.7

Economism and the birth of Iskra

The 1890s–the period in which Lenin became a Marxist–was a period of rapid growth for the socialist movement. Local committees and small social-democratic circles drawing in students, intellectuals and a layer of mostly skilled workers sprang up throughout the country. According to Lenin, these circles, "close-knit, exclusive groups uniting a very small number of people and nearly always based on personal friendship, were a necessary stage in the development of socialism and the workers’ movement in Russia."8

By the mid—1890s a new upsurge of working-class struggle9 prompted the movement turn to from propaganda to mass agitation. "The tasks of social democrats," wrote the author of "On agitation," the pamphlet heralding this new phase, "is one of constant agitation among factory workers on the basis of their everyday needs and demands."10 This "economic agitation," the pamphlet argued, would create the soil for political agitation in the future. Lenin and others, like the young activist Julius Martov, both leading lights in the St. Petersburg League for the Emancipation of the Working Class, threw themselves into factory agitation.11

Out of this period a new trend emerged in the socialist movement–"economism." It was heralded by the unauthorized publication of "The credo," a tract which carried through an argument put forward in "On agitation," that socialists should follow the "line of least resistance" and confine their activity to assisting workers’ economic struggles. The credo associated itself with the new reformist trend in Europe, known as Bernsteinism or "revisionism," which argued that "the movement is everything, the final goal nothing."

The credo rejected illegal organization, which in autocratic, police-state Russia meant a rejection of revolutionary organization (to remain legal, an organization could not advocate the overthrow of the Tsar). It chastised "intolerant Marxism," and argued that in its place must come a social democratic organization that "will recognize society" and "widen" its "sectarian tasks" by transforming "its striving to seize power" into a "striving to reform present-day society." It called for "assistance to the economic struggle of the proletariat and participation in liberal opposition activity."12 Lenin immediately denounced this new "retrograde" trend as "an attempt to…convert the revolutionary workers’ party into a reformist party."13 If carried through, economism, as this trend came to be called, the working-class’s historical task would be reduced to fighting for better conditions and giving support to liberal strivings for a constitution. Lenin called for the fusing of economic and political struggle, with the working class at the head of both.

"On his strong shoulders the Russian worker must and will carry to a finish the cause of winning political liberty." Since its immediate task is the overthrow of the autocracy, social democracy must act as the vanguard in the fight for democracy, and consequently, if for no other reason, must give every support to all democratic elements of the population of Russia and win them as allies. Only an independent working-class party can serve as a strong bulwark in the fight against the autocracy, and only in alliance with such a party, only by supporting it, can all the other fighters for political liberty play an effective part.14

Lenin’s debate with advocates for economism also took on an organizational dimension. He argued that the working class had already amply demonstrated its capacity for political struggle, and that the socialist movement was lagging behind this development, worshipping the movement at its present stage rather than discerning what new tasks the development of the movement had raised for socialists. The essential problem, which Lenin outlined in a series of articles in the late 1890s and early 1900s, was that the growth of the working-class movement increasingly exposed the limits of the localized and amateur character of socialist organization. It was necessary, therefore, to create a nationwide social-democratic workers’ party with a central newspaper and leadership, capable of assisting the activity of its local sections, generalizing from local experience and coordinating its sections into a national struggle against the autocracy.

To this end, the younger leaders, Lenin, Martov and Potresov made a compact with the older veteran Marxists Plekhanov, Axelrod and Zasulich to produce the newspaper Iskra and the journal Zarya in an effort to decisively defeat economism and win a majority of the Russian socialist movement.

The aim was to unite the movement, but that unity must be based on firm principles, sorted out by rigorous debate, not simply the effecting of a formal unity. "Before we can unite," wrote Lenin in an article announcing the publication of Iskra, "and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise, our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion."15 So two trends that later came to be associated with Bolshevism–sharp polemic, clearly demarcated organizational forms and methods, and a national political newspaper–were already apparent in the new Iskra policies.

What is To Be Done? and the Leninist myth

Lenin published the book What is to Be Done? in 1902 as a contribution to the debate against the economists and as a means to carry through a set of arguments about how to organize the future nationwide revolutionary party. But it is now widely (and wrongly) considered a kind of Leninist bible, a supra-historical tract valid for all times and conditions.

What did he argue? He argued for a highly centralized party, well-versed in illegal methods of operation, and consisting in the main of professional, i.e. full-time, revolutionaries. He called for an all-Russian newspaper to act, in his words, not only as a "collective propagandist and agitator," but also as a "collective organizer." And he called for the party to have a leadership center abroad that could function without being destroyed by the Tsarist police. This conception of organization fell under attack not only by the economist opponents of Iskra, but later also under the attack of many Iskra adherents–and by many commentators since then. But at the time it was accepted by a majority of Russian socialists, for the simple fact that no other kind of organization could survive Tsarist illegality. As Duncan Hallas notes,

Is this a good organizational model or a bad one? The question is meaningless unless you consider the aims of the operation and the circumstances.… Under a despotic regime no other sort of organization has much prospect of survival, let alone growth. A more or less "military" structure is imposed on the organization by force of necessity.16

In What is To Be Done? Lenin reemphasized the idea that the task of socialists is not simply to "tail-end" the economic struggle, but to train workers to take into account all aspects of oppression, including those that fall outside the sphere of worker-employer relations. The movement’s ideal working-class fighter "should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class it affects."17

Borrowing from the German socialist Karl Kautsky, Lenin took the argument a step further:

The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness…. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals.18

This passage has gone into history as proof that Lenin considered the working class to be the passive–and intellectuals to be the active–element. The truth, as Duncan Hallas points out, is that this was a "highly abstract, partial and oversimplified position, which Lenin had, characteristically, exaggerated even further in the heat of polemic." Lenin himself later admitted that some of his argument in What Is To Be Done? and One Step Forward, Two Steps Back were one-sided. In his anxiousness to combat those who wanted to "convert the nascent working-class movement into an appendage of the liberals,"19 he "bent the stick" too far.

The basic mistake made by those who now criticize What Is To Be Done? is to treat the pamphlet apart from its connection with the concrete historical situation of a definite, and now long past, period in the development of our party.20

What Is To Be Done? is a controversial correction of economist distortions and it would be wrong to regard the pamphlet in any other light.21

When the arguments in What Is To Be Done? were later "used by his disciples to defend the ‘purity’ of the party against the menace of dilution by militant but politically uneducated workers,"22 Lenin went on the attack, arguing that they must "open the gates of the party" to recruit as many worker-militants as possible into the leadership. During the 1905 Revolution, when it was clear that the organization of professional revolutionaries he had so strongly pushed to build was taking a suspicious, sectarian approach to the newly formed Petersburg workers soviet, Lenin was adamantly in favor of working with and inside the new organization rather than imposing ultimatums on it. Against his old formulations in What Is To Be Done?, Lenin argued that the working class is "instinctively, spontaneously social democratic."23

Lenin also argued in 1905 in favor of moving from undemocratic conspiratorial forms of organization to meeting and making decisions on policy and leadership through democratic elections. "We Bolsheviks have always recognized," he wrote, "that in new conditions, when political liberties were acquired, it would be essential to adopt the elective principle.24 Anti-Leninist critics fail to recognize that Lenin’s organizational prescriptions were tailored to fit specific historical and political conditions. But, as I will argue, there is an important thread running through Lenin’s arguments that are not of purely historical or momentary interest.

The 1903 congress and the birth of Bolshevism

The second congress of the RSDLP was meant to be the crowning achievement of Lenin, Martov and his fellow Iskraists. Instead, it led to an irreconcilable split between the two former collaborators, splitting the formerly united Iskra leadership down the middle.

The debate first erupted in the discussion on the rules for membership in the new party. Lenin’s proposal for definition of membership read: "A member of the RSDLP is one who accepts its program and supports the party both financially and by personal participation in one of the party organizations." Martov’s definition corresponded to Lenin’s in the first part about program and finances, but the last part defined a member as one who gives the party "regular personal assistance under the direction of one of its organizations."

Axelrod’s defense of Martov’s formulation makes clear that the debate was really over the relationship between the party and the working class:

If we adopt Lenin’s formula we shall be throwing overboard a section of those who, even if they cannot be directly admitted to an organization, are nevertheless party members…. Since we are a party of a class, we must take care not to leave outside the party ranks people who consciously, though perhaps not very actively, associate themselves with that party.25

The party should count as members those who are not very active in it. Martov followed Axelrod and emphatically agreed with him and took the argument even further.

The more widespread the title of party member the better. We could only rejoice if every striker, every demonstrator, answering his actions, could proclaim himself a party member. For me a conspiratorial organization only has meaning when it is enveloped by a broad social democratic working-class party.26

Plekhanov rose to defend Lenin’s proposal. Those who were not active in the party yet "declared" themselves party members could not be held accountable. To those who argued that Lenin’s stricter rules would shut the door of the party to workers, he argued:

Workers who want to join the party are not afraid of entering an organization. Discipline has no terrors for them. Many intellectuals, thoroughly imbued with bourgeois individualism, are afraid of joining an organization.… Lenin’s draft can serve as a bulwark against their entry into the party, and if only for that reason all opponents of opportunism should vote for it.27

Lenin’s arguments

Lenin did not consider these questions serious enough to provoke a split. Before entering the debate, he stated that he did not "consider our differences so vital as to be a matter of life and death for the party. We shall certainly not perish because of a bad point in the rules!"28

He then clarified what the difference was: "My formulation narrows" the concept of a party member, he explained, whereas "Martov’s enlarges it." Lenin pointed out, however, that he was not arguing that the party be limited solely to professional revolutionaries. The party could encompass active members engaged in a variety of types of organizations, from the conspiratorial cell to the "comparatively broad and loose" organizations. The political underpinning of Lenin’s conception was the idea that the party and the working class were not identical. Argued Lenin,

The party must be only the vanguard, the leader of the vast mass of the working class, the whole of which (or nearly the whole) works "under the control and the direction" of the party organizations, but the whole of which does not and should not belong to the party.29

True to his word, Lenin lost the vote in this debate (28 to 23) but did not walk out. The same thing could not be said, however, for his opponents. Toward the end of the conference, Lenin regained a slim majority against Martov’s faction and secured the election of a new Iskra editorial board consisting of himself, Plekhanov and Martov. It is this conflict that provoked the famous split between the majority (Bolshevik means majority) that stood behind Lenin, and the minority (Menshevik means minority) that stood behind Martov. Martov, Axelrod, Zasulich, Trotsky and others were outraged by Lenin’s proposal to remove Zasulich, Axelrod and Potresov from the editorial board of Iskra, seeing it as personal attack. But the three had played only a minimal role in writing, editing and producing Iskra. For Lenin, leaders should be chosen based on their suitability to a given task and the needs of the movement, not on the basis of preserving rank or avoiding injured feelings.

"In spite of its outwardly fortuitous character," wrote Trotsky’s biographer Isaac Deutscher of these organizational debates, "this division initiated a long and irreversible process of differentiation, in the course of which the party of the revolution was to become separated from the party of the moderates."30 Whereas the Bolsheviks continued to uphold the "orthodoxy" of Russian Marxism, that the overthrow of the autocracy must be led by Russian workers and peasants, the Mensheviks became the defenders of the idea of bourgeois leadership in the Russian revolution.

Lenin wrote a long and detailed response to the split, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, attempting to make sense of it. Here, Lenin’s insights were further developed and given more shape. It is worth quoting him extensively, because it is the first theoretical justification for the organization of the building of an exclusively revolutionary workers’ party:

[T]he stronger our Party organizations, consisting of real social democrats, the less wavering and instability there is within the party, the broader, more varied, richer and more fruitful will be the party’s influence on the elements of the working-class masses surrounding it and guided by it. The party, as the vanguard of the working class, must not be confused, after all, with the entire class.

[P]recisely because there are differences in degree of consciousness and degree of activity, a distinction must be made in degree of proximity to the party. We are the party of a class, and therefore almost the entire class (and in times of war, in a period of civil war, the entire class) should act under the leadership of our party, should adhere to our party as closely as possible. But it would be…"tailism" to think that the entire class, or almost the entire class, can ever rise, under capitalism, to the level of consciousness and activity of its vanguard, of its social-democratic party….

To forget the distinction between the vanguard and the whole of the masses gravitating towards it, to forget the vanguard’s constant duty of raising ever wider sections to its own advanced level, means simply to deceive oneself, to shut one’s eyes to the immensity of our tasks, and to narrow down these tasks….

Every striker should have the right to proclaim himself a party member? In this statement comrade Martov instantly carries his mistake to the point of absurdity…. We should be opportunistically legitimizing a patent falsehood if we were to allow every striker the right to "proclaim himself a party member," for in the majority of cases such a "proclamation" would be false. We should be indulging in complacent daydreaming if we tried to assure ourselves and others that every striker can be a social democrat and a member of the Social-Democratic Party, in face of that infinite disunity, oppression, and stultification which under capitalism is bound to weigh down upon such very wide sections of the "untrained," unskilled workers….

We are the party of a class inasmuch as we in fact direct almost the entire, or even the entire, proletarian class in a social-democratic way; but only Akimovs can conclude from this that we must in word identify the party and the class.31

The revolutionary party embraces, not the entire class–whose consciousness is mixed and divided as a result of the "infinite disunity, oppression and stultification" which weighs down upon whole sections of the working class–but on its most militant minority.

Lenin’s unique contribution

That Lenin defended Marxism against reformism is unremarkable. A host of other Marxists, from Plekhanov to Kautsky to Luxemburg were doing the same in this period. What was different was Lenin’s ability to draw organizational conclusions from disputes over principled differences. In 1904, Lenin’s conception of organization was, even though he was not fully conscious of it yet, very different from his social-democratic contemporaries. "The ideal organization," wrote leading German Marxist Karl Kautsky, "is the unification of all proletarian parties."32

"The social democracy is not joined to the organization of the proletariat. It is itself the proletariat," commented Rosa Luxemburg in a critique of Lenin’s "ultra-centralism" she penned after the 1903 split.33 Lenin argued for an organization of revolutionaries who demarcated themselves from non-revolutionary socialists. He did this not in the name of revolutionary purity, but in the name of effectiveness in struggle. Indeed, he considered unity based on simply "lumping" heterogeneous forces together a hindrance to building effective united fronts between different parties and forces fighting for partial goals.

Strength is not spared but wasted by such barren attempts at lumping [he wrote in 1905]. To achieve a "fighting unity" in deed and not merely in word, we must know clearly, definitely and from experience exactly wherein and to what extent we can be united. Without this, all talk of fighting unity will be mere words, words, words…

We shall never, therefore, not even at the most revolutionary moments, forego the complete independence of the Social-Democratic Party or the complete intransigence of our ideology.

You believe this rules out fighting unity? You are mistaken…. We do not renounce agreements for the struggle and in the struggle.34

Luxemburg was clear as to the twin political dangers facing the socialist movement: "One is the loss of its mass character; the other, the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect; the other, the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform."35 In other words, socialists can either be accommodationists, merging with the movement and disappearing in it; or on the other hand they can separate themselves and become an isolated sect. Before the Russian Revolution and the outbreak of revolution in Germany convinced her of the need to make an organizational break with reformism, Luxemburg was unable to conceive the formation of an independent revolutionary party as anything but the creation of an isolated sect. But the danger of revolutionaries becoming isolated sectarians, though a real danger, is not inevitable. The solution always offered, by the economists and others, was simply to go to the other extreme: to become passive supporters of the movement as it exists, becoming a movement of "bourgeois social reform."

Lenin dialectically combined the two problems in his conception of an interventionist organization of revolutionaries–one that participates and tries to provide leadership in the day-to-day struggle in order to win wider layers of workers to the revolutionary overthrow of the system when the appropriate conditions arose. Such an organization has to combat–as Lenin did at various points–both extremes as they arise. This Lenin fought not only against the right wing in the socialist movement, the Mensheviks, but also the ultra-left wing, which refused to participate in trade unions or in parliamentary elections on the grounds that this would violate revolutionary "purity."

Lenin’s real conception of socialist organization, first formulated in 1904, became a cornerstone of the international communist movement after the founding of the Third International in 1919. "Separate yourselves from [the reformist socialist leader] Turati," argued Lenin to the Italian revolutionaries in 1920, "and then make an alliance with him."36 To act as an independent force in politics, revolutionaries must not be in the same organization as reformists; but to relate to and win wider layers of workers, alliances with reformist organizations for the purposes of struggle are essential. For in the end, a revolutionary party cannot fulfill its role unless it is capable of winning a majority of the working class over to its side. Italian Marxists Antonio Gramsci and Palmiro Togliatti wrote a report in 1926 summing up this point:

We assert that the capacity to lead the class is related, not to the fact that the party "proclaims" itself its revolutionary organ, but to the fact that it "really" succeeds, as part of the working class, in linking itself with all the sections of that class and impressing upon the masses a movement in the direction desired and favored by objective conditions. Only as a result of its activity among the masses, will the party get the latter to recognize it as "their" party (winning a majority); and only when this condition has been realized, can it presume that it is able to draw the working class behind it.37

The Leninist conception of a "vanguard" is best understood simply as a "leading body." To really be a leading body, it cannot be proclaimed or imposed from above, and it cannot be built by standing apart from the working class and holding up revolutionary ideas to which it expects the working class, at the right moment, to suddenly flock. It has to be built in practice, in the course of struggles over "partial" demands.

The Communist Party links every immediate demand to a revolutionary objective; makes use of every partial struggle to teach the masses the need for general action and for insurrection against the reactionary rule of capital; and seeks to ensure that every struggle of a limited character is prepared and led in such a way as to be able to lead to the mobilization and unification of the proletarian forces, and not to their dispersal.38

An Italian revolutionary at the Italian Communist Party congress in 1926 argued as if he were debating Martov in 1903: "None of us thinks that there exists a statistical coincidence between the party and the working class, and that every worker because he is a worker should be a member of the party," he said. "We, having defined the party as a ‘part’ of the working class, clearly define which is the part in question, i.e. the vanguard…. Nor is it true that we say that the party must ‘in all situations’ be a mass party. However, we do say that in all situations it must ‘aim’ to be one."39

We are a long way away from building mass revolutionary parties in the world today, but on the way toward creating them–whatever tactical and organizational twists and turns we may go through–the theoretical and practical legacy of Lenin and the Bolsheviks should not be ignored.

1 Paul Frolich, Rosa Luxemburg (London: Pluto Press, 1972), p. 82.

2 R.N. Carew Hunt, The Theory and Practice of Communism (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1966), p. 187.

3 There are many excellent books that have done this, including: Tony Cliff’s three volume history, Lenin: Building the Party (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2001); Lenin: All Power to the Soviets (Chicago and London: Bookmarks, 1976); Lenin: Revolution Besieged (Chicago and London: Bookmarks, 1987). Paul LeBlanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1990). Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power (forthcoming from Haymarket Books). Marcel Liebman, Leninism Under Lenin (London: Merlin Press, 1985); George Lukács, Lenin: A Study of the Unity of his Thought (London: Verso, 1997); Neil Harding, Lenin’s Political Thought, two volumes in one (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1983).

4 Vladimir Lenin, "Preface to the collection Twelve Years," (1907), Collected Works (hereafter CW), Vol. 13 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978), p. 98.

5 George Plekhanov, "Socialism and the political struggle," Selected Philosophical Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974), p. 74. It should be noted, however, that Plekhanov also made formulations in this article that would later become the foundations of his move over toward Menshevism: "Without trying to scare anybody with the yet remote ‘red specter,’ such a political program would arouse the sympathy for our revolutionary party among all those who are not systematic enemies of democracy. It could be subscribed to by very many representatives of our liberalism as well as by the socialists." The liberals, he argued, would support the socialists, because "they would cease to meet in revolutionary publications the assurance that the overthrow of absolutism would be the signal for a social revolution in Russia." (Socialism and the Political Struggle, p. 101.) The socialists would gain liberal allies by promising not to overthrow capitalism, i.e. by renouncing their final goals! This later became the hallmark of Menshevism.

6 Lenin, p. 97.

7 John Molyneux, Marxism and the Party (Chicago:Haymarket Books, 2003), p. 40. This article owes much to Molyneux’s insights, as well as Chris Harman’s "Party and Class," in Party and Class (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2003) and Tony Cliff’s Lenin: Building the Party, 1893-1914 (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2002).

8 Lenin, p. 105.

9 In 1896, for example, 35,000 St. Petersburg textile workers went out on strike.

10 Quoted in Tony Cliff, Lenin: Building the Party, 1893—1914 (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2002), p. 40.

11 Lenin’s wife’s Krupskaya notes in her memoirs that the direct involvement of socialists in the day-to-day struggle was not practiced by the French socialists: "I did not fully appreciate how efficacious this method was until years later, when, living in France as a political emigrant, I observed how, during the great strike of the postal workers in Paris, the French Socialist Party stood completely aloof from it. It was the business of the trade unions, they said. In their opinion, the business of a party was only political struggle. They had no clear idea whatever about the necessity of combining the economic and the political struggle," in N.K. Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin (New York: International Publishers, 1979), p. 19. This defect was present in virtually all of Western social democracy.

12 Quoted in Lenin, "A protest by Russian social democrats," in CW Vol. 4, pp. 173—74.

13 Ibid., p. 176.

14 Ibid., p. 181.

15 Lenin, "Declaration of the editorial board of Iskra," in CW Vol. 4, pp. 354—355.

16 Duncan Hallas, "Building the Revolutionary Party," International Socialism (1st series), No.79, June 1975, pp. 17—22, available online at

17 Lenin, What is To Be Done? in CW Vol. 5, p. 423.

18 Ibid., p. 375.

19 Lenin, What is to Be Done?, p. 361.

20 Lenin, "Preface to the collection Twelve Years," p. 101.

21 Ibid., pp. 107—8.

22 Hallas, "Building the Revolutionary Party."

23 Lenin, "The reorganization of the party," in CW Vol. 10 p. 32.

24 Ibid., p. 30.

25 See the transcript of the minutes from the meeting in 1903: Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (London: New Park, 1978), p. 311.

26 Ibid., p. 313.

27 Ibid., p. 322.

28 Ibid., p. 326.

29 Ibid., p. 327

30 Isaac Deutscher, Trotsky: The Prophet Armed, 1879—1921 (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 82.

31 Ibid., pp. 258—60.

32 Karl Kautsky, "Sects or class parties," in Neue Zeit, July 1909, Vol. 13, no.7, pp. 316—28, available online at

33 Rosa Luxemburg, "Organizational questions of Russian social democracy," in The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism? (Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 1961), p. 89.

34 Lenin, "A militant agreement for the uprising," CW Vol. 8, pp. 158—66.

35 Ibid., p. 105.

36 Antonio Gramsci, "The party’s first five years," in Selections from Political Writings: 1921—1926 (New York: International Publishers, 1978), p. 380.

37 Antonio Gramsci and Palmiro Togliatti, "The Italian situation and the tasks of the PCI" ("Lyons theses"), in Selections from Political Writings, p. 368, available online at

38 Ibid.

39 Intervention by Morelli, "Minutes of the political commission nominated by the central committee to finalize the Lyons congress documents," in Selections from Political Writings, p. 328.

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