I should like once again to bring the discussion back to an appraisal, from the standpoint of principle, of the policy of the Duma group. Comrade Tsereteli stated: “Even though we may have made blunders, we were not guilty of political vacillation”. I believe that it would be absolutely wrong to blame a young Duma group, which is only just beginning to function, for its mistakes. But the fact of the matter is that there was vacillation in the very policy of the group. And we must frankly admit this vacillation, and make it our business to get rid of it, not for the purpose of condemning individuals, but in order to educate the proletarian party as a whole.
Comrade Tsereteli referred to the history of Europe. “The year ’48,” he said, “not only taught us that the conditions for socialism were not yet ripe, but also that it is impossible to fight for freedom without some sort of alliance with bourgeois democracy.” Comrade Tsereteli’s argument is revisionism of the first water. On the contrary, both the revolution of 1848 and subsequent historical experience have taught international Social-Democracy the very opposite, namely, that bourgeois democracy takes its stand more and more against the proletariat, that the fight for freedom is waged consistently only where it is led by the proletariat. The year 1848 does not teach us to make alliances with bourgeois democrats, but rather the need to free the least developed sections of the masses from the influence of bourgeois democracy, which is incapable of fighting even for democracy. When Comrade Tsereteli referred to the experience of 1848 in the spirit of Bernsteinism, he was demonstrating the very revisionism that Plekhanov had without good reason assured us was weak in our Party. Comrade Tsereteli’s statement about the food relief commission was also typical of his wavering on matters of principle. “We have not sufficiently stressed the legality of our proposal to investigate the case on the spot,” stated Tsereteli. “We were distracted by general discussions and missed the chance to convince others with arguments on the legality of our plan. The next time we shall correct this error.”
This presentation of the question throws vivid light on the whole shakiness of our group’s position. Just imagine — people are saddened by the insufficiency of their reasoning in favour of legality! Can they really not see that the point at issue is not one of reasons for or references to legality, or “convincing” the Cadets or anyone else? Surely it must be clear to them that by the very nature of things, the government could not and would not have allowed investigation on the spot, since it saw in it (and justly so) a direct appeal to the masses.
No matter how many references to legality we might make, it would not change the essence of things. And in stead of looking down—convincing the masses of the people, showing them the truth—Tsereteli looks up, desiring to convince the liberals, to attract them with legality.... That is real bourgeois parliamentarianism. And the fruitlessness of such petty, miserly, wretched playing at politics strikes one immediately, for it is clear that neither the Mensheviks nor the Cadets can budge Stolypin from his policy, by any parliamentary ruses. Isolation from the masses is a self-evident, fact; advantages to be derived from legal persuasion of the Stolypins and the Cadets are but idle dreams of an idle intellectual.
I see the same vain opportunist efforts in the negotiations with the Narodowci; reference to Bebel as a defence of them is most feeble. Bebel, they say, stated: If the cause requires it, we will have dealings with the devil’s own grandmother. Bebel was right, comrades: if the cause requires it, then, of course, you may have dealings even with the devil’s grandmother. But can you tell me for what cause your dealings with the Narodowci were necessary? For none whatever. The advantages of such relations are nil. And so it seems that what Bebel said was correct, but you understand him incorrectly.
All this going to the Narodowci, votes for Golovin, attempts to delete the demand for confiscation are simply component parts of a single incorrect line. They are not manifestations of inexperience, but manifestations of political vacillation. And from this point of view inviting Mr Prokopovich was likewise no trifle. We have been told here that Mr. Prokopovich is not present and that without him we cannot condemn his action. This is merely sending us from Pontius to Pilate. At the St. Petersburg conference we were told that we should put it off until the congress, that we could not get to the bottom of it without a congress. Now at the congress we are told that we cannot do anything without Prokopovich—let us put it off and refer it to the St. Petersburg organisation. That is sophistry.
Prokopovich is a man of letters whose works are known to everyone. He is the type of bourgeois intellectual who has penetrated into our Party with definite, opportunist aims. His joining the Party in the Railway District was sheer hypocrisy. It was a screen for work in the Duma milieu. And our C.C. is to blame for his having used such a screen. Our Duma group is to blame for having made it easy for liberal writers collaborating with Tovarishch, who do not work in the Party and who are hostile in principle to the Party, to enter our Party by the back door, making use of the Duma.
Cherevanin has here defended the policy of the Duma group; granted the Cadets are backward at present, that they are reactionary at present, he says. But that is not for ever. There is no need to regard it as permanent. The Cadets are no good in a period of decline, but they may be of use during a period of upsurge when they will rapidly swing to the Left.
This is the usual Menshevik line of reasoning, only expressed with particular directness and sharpness. As a result, its falsity becomes more obvious. Take two major land marks of the revolution—October 1905, when the peak was reached, and the spring of 1907, the period of greatest decline. Were the Cadets of any use to democracy in 1905? No. The Mensheviks themselves admitted this in Nachalo. Witte is an agent of the stock exchange, and Struve is Witte’s agent—that is what the Mensheviks wrote at the time, and correctly so. At that time the Mensheviks agreed with us that we should not support the Cadets, but expose them and lower their prestige among the democrats.
Now, in the spring of 1907, once again you are all beginning to agree with us that the Cadets are worthless democrats? And so it seems that the Cadets are no good either in the period of upsurge or in the period of decline. Any historian would call the interval between these periods a period of wavering, when even a section of the Social-Democratic movement veered towards a petty-bourgeois policy, when that section, vainly endeavouring to “support” the Cadets, brought nothing but harm to the workers’ party, and in the end realised its mistake.
A few words about Trotsky. He spoke on behalf of the “Centre”, and expressed the views of the Bund. He fulminated against us for introducing our “unacceptable” resolution. He threatened an outright split, the withdrawal of the Duma group, which is supposedly offended by our resolution. I emphasise these words. I urge you to reread our resolution attentively.
Is it not monstrous to see something offensive in a calm acknowledgement of mistakes, unaccompanied by any sharply expressed censure, to speak of a split in connection with it? Does this not show the sickness in our Party, a fear of admitting mistakes, a fear of criticising the Duma group?
The very possibility that the question can be presented in this way shows that there is something non-partisan in our Party. This non-partisan something is the Duma group’s relations with the Party. The Duma group must be more of a Party group, must have closer connections with the Party, must be more subordinate to all proletarian work. Then wailings about insults and threats of a split will disappear.
When Trotsky stated: “Your unacceptable resolution prevents your right ideas being put into effect,” I called out to him: “Give us your resolution!” Trotsky replied: “No, first withdraw yours.”
A fine position indeed for the “Centre” to take, isn’t it? Because of our (in Trotsky’s opinion) mistake (“tactlessness”), he punishes the whole Party, depriving it of his “tactful” exposition of the very same principles! Why did you not get your resolution passed, we shall be asked in the localities. Because the Centre took umbrage at it, and in a huff refused to set forth its own principles! (Applause from the Bolsheviks and part of the Centre.) That is a position based not on principle, but on the Centre’s lack of principle.
We came to the Congress with two tactical lines which have long been known to the Party. It would be stupid and unworthy of a workers’ party to cover up differences of opinion and conceal them. We must compare the two points of view more clearly. We must express them in their application to all questions of our policy. We must sum up our Party experience clearly. Only in this way shall we be doing our duty and put an end to vacillation in the policy of the proletariat. (Applause from the Bolsheviks and part of the Centre.)