[Book] Lenin, Trotsky and the Theory of the Permanent Revolution

Chapter 1 - Lenin, Trotsky and the Revolutionary Party (1903)

1.1 Introduction

Lenin considered Trotsky as one of his main opponents for most of his political life. This hostility was largely determined by the disagreements between the two men on the nature of the political party required for a successful revolution in Russia. Because the disagreements between Lenin and Trotsky were such an important element in the way Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution (ToPR) was first received, and largely ignored, it is necessary to give some relevant background. Especially as, in later years, these disagreements would provide the Soviet bureaucracy with a smoke-screen behind which to hide their slide into class collaboration.

The differences over the nature of the party first showed themselves in the divisions that occurred during, and after, the 1903 Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). Lenin’s goal for the Congress was the creation of a disciplined, centralised Marxist party of professional revolutionaries but, at that time, so new was the concept that even his closest co-workers failed to appreciate the absolute necessity of such an organisation for the success of the Russian Revolution.

The divide in the RDSLP took place in the context of a new, organisationally immature party whose leaders, while of the first order politically and personally, did not have the experience to place personal considerations second to political. Consequently, even amongst the RDSLP leaders, opposition to Lenin’s idea, at least initially, tended to be expressed in terms of personalities. Indeed, it was Lenin’s attempt to remove the veteran Social Democrat (SD) Vera Zasulich, from the editorial board of Iskra (The Spark), that initiated the rupture in relations between himself and Trotsky that lasted some fourteen years, until the spring of 1917. The young Trotsky did not have the experience or political maturity to recognise that the differences over the composition of the editorial board were political, not personal.

1.2 Lenin

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s elder brother Alexander, was hanged for an attempt on the life of Tsar Alexander 3rd in March 1887 when Lenin was just seventeen and this, combined with political activity by Lenin himself, meant he was excluded from all Russian universities. Lenin’s intellect, his single-mindedness and determination were made clear when, in 1891, after a period of respectability, the Tsarist police agreed to his request to take the final law examinations at an imperial university (St Petersburg). Normal preparation for these examinations was four-years’ full-time study. Lenin’s situation meant he had just eleven months to prepare and had to study alone at home. Lenin took his examinations during the illness and final days of his younger sister, Olga, who died of typhoid on the very day that four years earlier Alexander had been executed. Lenin passed each of the thirteen examinations with the highest grade, and achieved the highest aggregate mark in his class(1).

By 1895, Lenin was living in St Petersburg, a full-time revolutionary leading a group of about a dozen (including his future wife, Nazdezhda Krupskaya), which had established links with militants in many of the workers’ districts(2). In the November of that year, a newly-established group of SDs led by Julius Martov fused with the so-called ‘veterans’. Martov, three years Lenin’s junior, a gifted writer and dedicated socialist, was to be Lenin’s closest collaborator for the next seven years(3).

On 19 December, a meeting of Lenin and others to discuss the first issue of a Marxist newspaper, Rabocheye Dyelo (The Workers’ Cause), was raided by the police who found the material written for the journal. The participants were arrested for possession of illegal literature. By early January, Martov and the other members of the St Petersburg group had also been rounded up. All were held in prison over a year for interrogation, and in January 1897, Lenin, Martov and the other members of the group were sentenced to three years exile in Siberia(4).

It took nearly eight weeks to reach the village of exile, Shushenskoye, but, despite the physical isolation, Lenin’s day-to-day conditions allowed him to write a number of important works including The Tasks of the Russian Social Democrats(5) (Autumn 1898) and A Draft Programme of Our Party(6) (end of 1899). Lenin was able to keep abreast of events in Russian Social Democracy (SD), and communicate his opinions to its leaders, including those outside Russia. He also wrote and prepared for publication, a major book, The Development of Capitalism in Russia(7) (1899), probably the best analysis of capitalism emerging from feudalism in the literature of Marxism. Lenin emphasised Russian internal economic development to the virtual exclusion of foreign investment, whether industrial or finance capital because, at that time, he was seeking to show that capitalism would inevitably arise in Russia as part of the natural economic processes in the countryside(8,9). This was in marked contrast to Trotsky who, as will be shown, emphasised the relative importance of foreign investment in the growth of modern industry in Russia, and made it a key feature of his analysis.

At this stage of his development, Lenin was already an important figure in the internal life of Russian SD as an exponent of the orthodox, or “classical”, Marxism of the pre-1917 leaders of European SD, such as Kautsky. Just how important was demonstrated during the period of his arrest and exile when a reformist current (Economism), supported by Russian SDs who believed their main activities should be organising strike support funds and workers’ self-help circles, began to crystallise around the newspaper Workers’ Thought which promoted economic activity as an end in itself. With Lenin in Siberia, the fight against Economism was left to Georgy Valentinovitch Plekhanov, a brilliant Marxist theoretician with a European-wide reputation, who had made Marxism intellectually respectable in Russia, and who, through his writings, was the acknowledged teacher of all the leaders of the new generation of Marxists now coming to the fore in Russia. However, on its own, the Emancipation of Labour Group singularly failed to halt the new reformist current, and it was not until the re-entry into the struggle of Lenin and Martov, that the balance was tipped decisively against reformism.

During Lenin’s exile, the First Congress of Russian SDs was held in Minsk in March 1898, attended by nine delegates representing groups from Moscow, Kiev, St Petersburg and Yekaterinoslav, as well as The Workers’ Journal group and a Jewish Social Democratic organisation, the Bund. Within weeks, five of the nine delegates and some 500 SDs nationally had been arrested(10). To Lenin, the outcomes of the Congress demonstrated the impossibility of having the Social Democratic organisational centre inside Russia, and he called for this to be located abroad, in a country where conditions permitted continuity of leadership and relative freedom of the press.

1.3 Lenin’s Conception of the Party

It was during his exile, that Lenin devised his plan for the unification of Russian Marxists into a national party. The key to this was the production of a widely distributed national newspaper, Iskra, to be produced fortnightly, to become the champion of revolutionary Marxism. However, since police persecution made the regular publication of a revolutionary newspaper in Russia impossible, Lenin planned to publish the paper abroad, using a chain of agents to smuggle it into Russia and distribute it.

Repression by the Tsarist authorities, and the arrest and exile of militants as soon as they came to police attention, meant a lack of continuity in leadership; the resulting political and organisational inexperience meant that SD in Russia was fragmented and immersed in local work which, in turn, led to a bending to local pressures with the consequent spontaneous generation of reformist tendencies. Lenin saw that a necessary step towards eliminating such shortcomings and welding the diverse local currents into a single, All-Russian Social Democratic movement, was the creation of an All-Russian political newspaper. Without such a newspaper the party could neither effectively communicate its propaganda and agitation, even to its own members, nor focus its activities. The role of a newspaper had also to be as a collective organiser; likened by Lenin to the scaffolding round a building under construction, “which marks the contours of the structure and facilitates communication between the builders, enabling them to distribute the work and to view the common results achieved by their organised labour”(11). He posed the simple question, if Russian SDs were unable to organise their own paper, how on earth could they organise to overthrow the Tsar?

The technical tasks of supplying the newspaper with copy, and of regularly distributing it, required an organised, disciplined network of party agents. To be successful, these agents would have to work in close and regular contact with the local party organisations and have their active support. For Lenin, this had the hugely important consequence of unifying the disparate elements that then formed SD in Russia. The Central Committee was to be the brains of the organisation, the agents the skeleton, and the local organisation, the eyes, ears and muscles.

Because of Plekhanov’s eminence, the strategy of building a revolutionary party around a Marxist newspaper could only succeed if the paper were associated with him, and its editorial board included leading members of the Emancipation of Labour Group (founded in 1883 and led by Plekhanov, Zasulich, and another prominent Marxist, Pavel Axelrod)(12). With fellow exile Arsenyev Potresov (who had inherited some money which he used to finance the publication of Marxist works), Lenin and Martov determined on joining forces with their co-thinkers in the Emancipation of Labour Group. By the time of his release from exile on 29 January 1900, Lenin’s life-goal - the building of the Russian revolutionary Marxist Party - was decided. He began to put this plan into effect immediately his term of exile ended.

For six months Lenin criss-crossed European Russia illegally, visiting Social Democratic groups in Ufa (February), Moscow (February, where he heard of preparations for the Second Congress of the RDSLP, which given the thrust of his activities, it is likely that he welcomed), St Petersburg (February, in May when he and Martov were arrested and detained for ten days, and again in June), Pskov (March), Riga (March), Podolsk (June), Nizhni-Novgorod (June) and Samara (July)13. He also established written contact with Social Democratic groups and individuals in various other Russian towns, invariably gaining their support for Iskra. By the summer, Lenin, aided by Martov and Potresov, had established a network of individuals, groups and agents who were committed to supporting both Iskra as a publication, and the concept of a centralised party composed of professional revolutionaries organised around, and by the paper.

In St Petersburg (June), Lenin met Zasulich who had been sent by the Group to establish contacts with the interior, and, together, they negotiated its participation in the publication of an All-Russian Marxist newspaper. Zasulich was one of the most popular individuals amongst Russian Marxists. As a young girl she had (in the year before Trotsky was born) attempted to shoot General Trepov, the police chief of St Petersburg, in protest at his torture of political prisoners. She had an exceedingly sharp mind and rare personal insight, affectionately known as “auntie” to a generation of Russian Marxists because so many had turned up on her doorstep to be fed and housed. It was through Zasulich that the Group could claim a direct link to Marx and Engels(14).

On 16 July 1900, Lenin and Potresov left Russia for Zurich to meet the Emancipation of Labour Group which, in fact, was a small propaganda circle, relatively few in number and poorly organised. On the other hand, when Lenin went abroad he stood in first place amongst the internal, Russian, SDs; he was one of the few people to have met most of the important Social Democratic groups, he had shown an excellent grasp of Marxist theory in his debates with the Economists, he had a solid store of practical revolutionary experience and, most importantly, he had a vision of a practical programme that would unify the movement and give it direction(15). Lenin was important to the émigré group because it was not until they met him, that they had any regular links with SDs inside Russia(16).

Whilst the initial discussions between Plekhanov, Axelrod and Zasulich on the one side, and Lenin and Potresov on the other, were extremely tense, working relations were established, meaning that Iskra had an editorial board of six, consisting of Lenin, Martov and Potresov, and Plekhanov, Axelrod and Zasulich, with Plekhanov having two votes. The tone of the meeting in which this last point was agreed, was so bad that Lenin said later that he felt he “had been fooled and utterly defeated” since the voting system would give Plekhanov “complete domination” over Iskra(17). It is clear from Lenin’s report of the discussions with the Group that he saw the arrangement for the editorial board as a purely temporary measure, and it was necessary to determine a plan by which the Iskraists would take editorial control.

In the next twelve months Lenin cemented the foundations of a national newspaper as organiser of a revolutionary Social Democratic party. In September 1900, the Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra(18) was published, aggressively attacking all the reformist and non-Marxist currents within Russian SD. In December the first issue of Iskra was printed in Leipzig, and in February 1901, the second issue was published in Munich, both on secret presses supplied by the German Social Democratic Party. That Lenin made Leipzig and then Munich, rather than Zurich, the city in which Iskra was published, could be ascribed to his intent to minimise the influence of the members of the Group. In the late spring of 1901, Lenin proposed a detailed and concrete plan for the unification of Russian revolutionary Social Democratic organisations, to be grouped around Iskra. In April 1901, the third issue of Iskra was published and Krupskaya became secretary to Iskra’s editorial board. By this time Lenin was, de-facto, editor-in-chief, Iskra was becoming identified with him, and the organisation was commonly known as the Iskra organisation(19). In May 1901, the fourth issue of Iskra carried Lenin’s Where to Begin(20), which was spontaneously re-issued by local Social Democratic organisations in Russia as a separate pamphlet.

The editorial board gave Plekhanov the task of producing a draft programme for the RDSLP, but in the early part of 1902, Lenin submitted a counter-proposal which could only be seen as a challenge to Plekhanov’s authority. This caused considerable difficulties in the relations between the two men(21), and the discussions on drafting the party programme led to such bitter exchanges that it was necessary for Zasulich and Martov to act as peacemakers and intermediaries, for Plekhanov and Lenin, respectively. Fortunately, both were naturally conciliatory, and were friends who shared lodgings. However, as these dealings proceeded, Martov and Potresov increasingly came under the influence of Zasulich(22). After nearly a year of each man nit-picking over the other’s draft, Plekhanov’s programme was submitted to the 1903 Congress with only one real change - the addition of a short section by Lenin on the agrarian question(23).

In March 1902, What Is To Be Done? (24) was published in Stuttgart and Krupskaya recorded that its publication was greeted enthusiastically by “everyone” including Plekhanov and Martov, and especially those who understood the practicalities of work inside Russia(25). In this, one of his most influential works, Lenin elaborated the ideological foundations of a new type of party - the Revolutionary Marxist Party. It was a summary of Iskra tactics and Iskra organisational policy.

Iskra was becoming, as Lenin had hoped and planned, a rallying centre for Russian SDs, a mechanism for training, educating and informing party workers, and it had a decisive role in unifying the dispersed Social-Democratic circles. In a number of Russian cities (St Petersburg, Moscow, Samara, and others), groups and committees of the RDSLP were organised along the Iskra line. The agents of the editorial board - nine in number at the end of 1901 - travelled secretly all over European Russia contacting local groups, welding these into compact groups of professional revolutionaries, establishing groups where none existed, and co-ordinating their work. They delivered party literature, helped to establish illegal print shops, and collected the information needed by Iskra. Moreover, they fought ideologically to win the groups to a Leninist position against the Economists and other non-Iskra groupings(26).

In April 1902, the owner of the Munich printing press decided to cease printing Iskra and the editorial board agreed to transfer to London rather than Zurich. Lenin and Krupskaya left Munich for London and on 1 June 1902, Iskra No 21 which carried the draft programme of the party, was published there. From mid-1902 onwards, Lenin’s major activity was preparing for the forthcoming Second Congress of the RDSLP (travelling, meeting, speaking, writing, forming an organising committee, making conference arrangements, delegates’ arrangements, etc.).

1.4 Trotsky Arrives

In October 1902, Trotsky, only recently escaped from exile in Irkutsk, Siberia, had made his way to London via Samara, Kiev, Kharkov, Vienna and Zurich, and arrived at dawn at Lenin’s and Krupskaya’s lodgings. Nicknamed “the young eagle”, party name “the Pen”, Trotsky is described in the first volume of Deutscher’s biography(27) as having joined a revolutionary group in Odessa at the age of 20, been banished to Siberia, but escaped at the end of three years. While in exile he became acquainted with smuggled copies of Iskra, circulated from London and Geneva, and read Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?(28). After his escape he worked secretly in Russia for a short time, eluding the police, and forming circles for aiding the distribution of Iskra.

It was no coincidence that Trotsky had made a bee-line for Lenin since Lenin concentrated all connections with Russia in his own hands. As secretary of the editorial board, Krupskaya received comrades when they arrived and instructed them when they left. She found Trotsky lodgings with Zasulich and Martov(29).

Only four months after Trotsky’s arrival, Lenin wrote to Plekhanov suggesting he be co-opted as a member of the board on the same basis as other members. That Lenin was using Trotsky against Plekhanov is clear, since he argued that the editorial board needed a seventh member as a balance in voting, conveniently forgetting that Plekhanov had two votes. Lenin proposed two specific tasks for Trotsky; formulation of the rules of voting on the editorial board, and the drafting of a precise constitution(30). As might have been expected, Lenin’s proposal was vetoed by Plekhanov, who subsequently maintained a lifelong hostility towards Trotsky. Nevertheless, with the support of Zasulich, Trotsky was subsequently invited to editorial meetings in an advisory capacity, although any reorganisation of the editorial board was deferred until the forthcoming Congress.

1.5 The 1903 Second Congress of the RDSLP

By the time the Congress was convened, the overwhelming majority of the local Social Democratic organisations in Russia had agreed to support Iskra, approved its programme, organisational plan, and tactical line, and accepted it as their directing organ. It looked as though Lenin’s goal of a centralised RDSLP comprised of professional revolutionaries, with its guiding light a regular newspaper, was being achieved and close to formal endorsement. The years 1900-03, during which Lenin was building Iskra and creating a national network of professional revolutionaries as the backbone of the future party, coincided with a massive upsurge in revolutionary feeling in Russia. In a sense, Lenin was pushing on an open door since his natural constituency - the workers - were, year on year, an increasing proportion of the revolutionary movement until, in about 1903, they became the largest single grouping, replacing intellectuals and students(31). Railway strikes, factory strikes, mass demonstrations of workers in St Petersburg, street barricades in Moscow, political strikes in Baku - for the first time workers became the main active political opponents of Tsarism.

The Second Congress of the RDSLP was held from 17 July to 10 August, 1903. Rarely can there have been any party Congress that began with such high hopes and ended in such acrimony. Lenin was the motor force driving the Congress, he played the key role, drew up the outline of the report on the work of the Iskra organisation, composed the draft party rules, the agenda and the standing orders of the Congress, and drafted a number of resolutions. He was elected to the Bureau of the Congress and was a member of the three main committees: Programme, Rules and Credentials. He took the foremost part in a number of debates and spoke on almost all the subjects on the agenda. Given his input to, and expectations of, the Congress, the outcomes can be seen as a personal and political disaster for him.

In his Account of the Second Congress of the RDSLP(32), Lenin reports that there were thirty-three delegates with one vote each, nine delegates with two votes each, and ten delegates who could not vote but could contribute to the discussions. Lenin undertook considerable preparatory work among the delegates, determining the general situation and state of organisation in various parts of the country, and discussing many of the problems confronting the Congress. This made it possible for him to ascertain the political stance of each delegate prior to the opening of the Congress. Present were:

The Bund, a movement of Jewish workers that could be described as more akin to a trade union than a revolutionary party. The Bund was politically nearer the reformist Economists than Iskra, but the First Congress had constituted it a section of the party so it had to be to invited to the Second, 5 votes.

The paper Workers Cause delegates. These were strongly inclined towards Economism, definitely cuckoos in the nest of the Congress, 3 votes.

The paper Southern Worker delegates. This paper, based in the Ukraine, tended to be ‘soft’ on the liberals and intended to continue as a separate publication no matter what the outcome of the Congress. Plekhanov, in particular, wanted this paper represented at the Congress against the opposition of Lenin, Martov and Trotsky, 4 votes.

The “Marsh”. This was the name given by Lenin to the indecisive and wavering elements, 6 votes.

Iskra supporters, 33 votes. Largely representatives from SD groups within Russia.


The first thirteen sessions of the Congress were held in Brussels, but owing to difficulties created by the Belgian police, the Congress moved to London. The most important sessions for the future of the RDSLP were: the party programme, party organisation (confirmation of the party rules), elections to the Central Committee, and elections to the editorial board.

Lenin wrote a long and detailed report of the Congress in One Step Forward, Two Steps Back(33), in which he describes the disruptive tactics used knowingly from the start by the Bund and Workers Cause delegates, and possibly unwittingly by the Southern Worker delegates - the former because of their reformist politics and opposition in principle to the kind of party Lenin was working towards, the latter to preserve its independence, individualism and parochial interests and to prevent it from being swallowed up in a disciplined party. There was no suggestion that the early sessions, held in Brussels, indicated any serious differences between Lenin, Martov and Trotsky. This was confirmed by Krupskaya who said that, at that time, Lenin and Trotsky were considered so close that Trotsky was commonly known as Lenin’s cudgel. “Indeed, Lenin himself, at that time least of all thought Trotsky would waver”(34). Trotsky in My Life says that “Lenin’s schemes of organisation aroused certain doubts in me. But nothing was farther from my mind than the thought that the Congress would blow up on those very questions”(35).

Just over two weeks into the Congress, a number of minor differences among the Iskraists had emerged on secondary issues. Then on 2 August, at the 22nd session, the discussion and vote on Paragraph 1 of the party rules, which defined the conditions of membership, took place. Here, for the first time, a rift appeared between Lenin and Martov. Martov wanted to dilute, in an individualistic way, Lenin’s proposal that a member of the RDSLP was a person who not only accepted its programme and supported the party financially, but participated personally in one of the party organisations under its discipline. Martov’s alternative tended to blur the differences between members and sympathisers, defining participation as regular personal co-operation under the direction of one of the party organisations. Lenin wanted clear-cut, definite relationships within the party. Martov tended toward more diffuse forms. With the support of 14 votes from the Bund, the Workers Cause, the Southern Worker, and the ‘Marsh’, Martov’s proposal gained an overall majority. Those Iskraists who remained loyal to Lenin’s view of how revolutionary SD should be structured found themselves in the minority.

On the day after the vote on Paragraph 1 of the rules, the ‘hard’ Iskraists held a meeting, with Trotsky in the chair, to determine their position on the editorial board elections. It could be argued that it was at this meeting that the coming split between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks first took shape. By a substantial majority, the meeting decided to support Lenin’s proposal to reduce the membership of the editorial board to three - Lenin, Martov and Plekhanov. Thus, Martov was de facto elected to the editorial board at a meeting, to which he had demanded entry but from which he had been excluded for being too ‘soft’!

Before it devoted itself to organisational matters, the Congress voted for the dissolution of all independent party organisations and their fusion into a single party; seven of the eight delegates from the Bund and the Workers Cause withdrew. The issues implicit in the vote on Paragraph 1 of the rules now came to the fore in a much more developed form on the question of membership of the editorial board. Through a special resolution the Congress adopted the newspaper as the central organ of the RDSLP and approved an editorial board consisting of Lenin, Plekhanov and Martov.

Lenin believed he had the support of Martov and Plekhanov that the editorial board be reduced from six to three. He argued that in the three years of its operation, 99% of all political decisions had been made by himself, Martov and Plekhanov(36); and that in the literary work the same three had predominated; in 45 issues of Iskra, Martov had written 39 articles, Lenin - 32, Plekhanov - 24, and between them Zasulich, Axelrod and Potresov had written only 1837. To move towards a more professional organisation, and away from personality politics, it was sensible to recognise these facts and re-constitute the editorial board accordingly.

Frantic pressure from Zasulich persuaded Martov, Potresov and Trotsky to change their minds(38). Trotsky moved a counter resolution, based not on the needs of the party but to protect the feelings of Zasulich, that the original editorial board be retained. Before the London Congress in 1903, Lenin’s centralism had been theoretical, and many, Trotsky included, had failed to draw the necessary practical conclusions. But now the Iskra ‘hards’ were in the majority and the new editorial board consisting of Lenin, Martov and Plekhanov was approved on 7 August. It is from this vote that the Bolsheviks (majority) and the Mensheviks (minority), derived their names. Despite the decision of the Congress, Martov refused to participate in the editorial board, and Nos. 46 to 51 of Iskra were edited by Lenin and Plekhanov.

The split within the RDSLP came unexpectedly. Lenin did not foresee it, and certainly did not want it. The vote on Plekhanov’s programme, which Lenin defended, was passed with only one vote against. Apart from subsequent changes by Lenin to the section on the agrarian question, which he had written, this remained the RDSLP programme until after October 1917, both Mensheviks and Bolsheviks agreed with its basic formulations. Of particular importance for us, is that the programme clearly separated the bourgeois and the socialist revolutions(39).

Trotsky had attended the RDSLP Second Congress as a delegate from Siberia, his place of exile and from which he had recently escaped. Almost immediately after the Congress he wrote his Report of the Siberian Delegation(40) in which he characterised Lenin as the “party dis-organiser” who would “mercilessly tramp over Iskra’s editorial board” using his “iron fist” to impose a “state of siege” on the party(41). Trotsky placed personal feelings before politics(42) and failed to appreciate the necessity of an organised, disciplined, centralised cadre party for the success of an armed uprising against the autocracy. What the young Trotsky saw was two groups professing the same principles and policy, separated only by Lenin’s apparent ruthlessness in dealing with such dear comrades as Vera Zasulich. He expressed this new hostility to Lenin in his report of the Congress with his usual flair and style. Trotsky ceased to contribute to Iskra and became a member of the Menshevik shadow Central Committee and, with Martov, drew up the resolution expressing the Menshevik boycott of Iskra(43).

Lenin had attended the Second Congress as a representative of the League of Russian Revolutionary Social Democrats Abroad and gave his report on the Congress to a meeting held in Geneva in October. The Mensheviks held a majority in the League and considerable time was taken up with a reply from the floor by Martov, in which he made a scathing attack on Lenin. Martov flatly rejected Bolshevik statements that he had been party to Lenin’s ‘intrigues’ against Axelrod, Potresov and Zasulich, giving his own version of private conversations with Lenin. His speech further personalised the discussion. Getzler says “Martov’s indictment of Lenin was greeted by calls of ‘Bravo!’ and ‘Shame!’ from the party elite, sitting almost as a court of honour. Lenin had no answer but to walk out from one of the great humiliations of his life”(44).

Trotsky was a leading figure in all of this, co-authoring with Martov, the resolution passed at the meeting. Alongside Axelrod, Dan, Martov and Potresov, he was elected a member of the Menshevik ‘bureau’, a body that was clearly intended to be the core of any leading committee of a new party if the split led to formal separation of the two factions(45). Trotsky was identified as a leading anti-Bolshevik.

Martov’s boycott was soon successful. Plekhanov proved unable to make the transition to the new historical period, one of active preparation for revolution, which demanded a new ‘Leninist’ type of party and leadership. The evening of 18 October saw Plekhanov’s break with Lenin and the majority of the party. He presented an ultimatum to Lenin, that the old editors be reinstated or he would resign from the editorial board. Plekhanov’s decision was a heavy blow. By 13 November, Plekhanov had co-opted the old editorial board, and Lenin resigned shortly afterwards, after the publication of issue No 51 of Iskra, in order not to stand in the way of possible peace in the party(46). However, his supporters immediately co-opted him onto the Central Committee which he then used as a base to conduct a campaign to win back Iskra.

However, the co-option of the old editors onto the editorial board gave the minority control of the new Iskra. The central organ and public face of the RDSLP was now a Menshevik paper with Martov the de-facto editor. The Central Committee was Bolshevik, but it was deprived of a public voice. Gradually, the new Iskra ceased to publish the copy sent in by the supporters of the majority, and the position of Lenin looked extremely bleak.

At this point Trotsky wrote a series of articles for the new Iskra on Menshevik policy towards the Russian liberal bourgeoisie, his analysis was a penetrating condemnation of Menshevik strategy. Plekhanov, to whom support for the liberal bourgeoisie was the key to the success of the Russian Revolution, threatened to resign from the editorial board in protest when Iskra continued to publish articles by Trotsky(47). Rather than lose their most important member the editorial board attempted, unsuccessfully, to persuade Trotsky to agree to tone down his views and, gradually, Trotsky’s articles ceased to appear.

Yet, even as he was leaving the Menshevik ranks, in August 1904, Trotsky published Our Political Tasks, in which he reviled Lenin’s brochure One Step Forward Two Steps Back, and made reconciliation between them virtually impossible(48). Deutscher described the pamphlet as the “pent-up emotion of the romantic revolutionary ... (Trotsky’s) inclination, his tastes, his temperament revolted against the prosaic and business-like determination with which Lenin was setting out to bring the party down from the clouds of abstraction to the firm ground of organisation”(49). A more experienced revolutionary would not have been so publicly venomous or personally hurtful. Through his youth and inexperience, Trotsky made a serious enemy of Lenin, who for the next thirteen years considered him one of the most vicious of the Mensheviks. The resulting mutual hostility helped block any possible collaboration between the two men for well over a decade, and required the momentous events of 1917 to overcome it.

In later years Trotsky accepted that his 1904 disagreement with Lenin was, at root, concerned with differences over a “philosophy of history and political conception”, while its form took the appearance of differences over the roles and qualities of individuals - which, due to the inexperience of many of those involved, tended to make the discussion over-heated and personal(50).

By the end of 1904, and the start of 1905, Trotsky was more or less on his own, at loggerheads with virtually everybody, politically isolated. Whatever his intentions, Trotsky was now outside the two major groupings within the RDSLP and, while a brilliant journalist and great speaker, had not shown any significantly greater political insight than his contemporaries.

For Lenin the situation seemed grim. Everything which had been expected of the Second Congress was in ruins. With the capture of Iskra, the Mensheviks had achieved a substantial victory. The great majority of the party activists understood that there had been significant differences over the composition of the editorial board of the party’s paper, but didn’t accept that they were serious enough to justify the split, and so rejected it. Even leading Bolsheviks close to Lenin did not fully understand the differences and tended to play them down which made the split look even less justified. Indeed, Lenin, himself, later confirmed that the political differences between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks only emerged clearly well after the Second Congress(51), and explained the forces which lay behind the split as due to the opposition of, primarily, intellectuals whose conditions of life and work naturally inclined them against the necessary discipline of a revolutionary party(52). Plekhanov’s defection made things appear even more complicated, but at grass roots level increasing numbers of local Social Democratic committees were expressing support for Lenin’s call for a new Congress as the only way of resolving the crisis.

By the autumn, the prospects for the Bolsheviks were looking brighter. Lenin put together a new leading team, encouraging reports were received from Russia, where Lenin’s agents had managed to distribute To the Party to many local RDSLP committees. By the end of 1904 a Bolshevik Organising Centre had been established in Russia, with the backing of thirteen party committees. Despite their lack of resources, the Bolsheviks had managed to launch a new paper, Vperyod (Forward), and at a meeting in Geneva on 3 December, an editorial board was elected with Krupskaya as secretary:

“The first issue of the first truly Bolshevik newspaper duly rolled off the press on 22 December 1904. Just over a fortnight later, the Russian émigrés were amazed to hear the newspaper boys on the streets of Geneva: ‘Revolution in Russia! Revolution in Russia!’”(53).

1.6 References

1. Trotsky, On Lenin, George Harrap and Co., London, 1971, p167-169.

2. Cliff, 1975 Lenin, Building the Party, Pluto Press, London, 1975, p52

3. Woods, A., Bolshevism the Road to Revolution, Wellred Publications, London, 1999, p80

4. Woods, A., op cit, p90

5. Lenin, V.I., The Tasks of the Russian Social Democrats, 1897, CW 2:323 - 347

6. Lenin, V.I., A Draft Programme of Our Party, 1899, CW 4:227 - 254

7. Lenin, V.I., The Development of Capitalism in Russia, 1899, CW 3:21-607

8. White, J.D. Lenin, The Practice and Theory of Revolution, Palgrave, 2001, p43

9. Harding, N., Lenin’s Political Thought, Vol 1 Theory and Practice of the Democratic Revolution, Macmillan Press, London, 1977, p87

10. Harding, N., op cit, p139

11. Lenin, V.I., Where to Begin, 1901, CW 5:19

12. Woods, A., op cit, p113

13. Krupskaya, N., Memories of Lenin, Panther History, 1970, p33-34

14. Sennett, A., Permanent Revolution in Spain PhD Thesis University of Manchester, 1992, p37. Not to be confused with long-time friend of Krupskaya and fund-raiser for Iskra, the feminist Mrs A. M. Kalmykova who used ‘Auntie’ as an alias. See Wolfe B.D., Three Who Made a Revolution, Penguin, London 1984, p123

15. Trotsky, L.D., On Lenin, George Harrap and Co., London, 1971, p39

16. Harding, N., op cit, p31

17. Lenin, V.I., How the Spark was Nearly Extinguished, 1900, CW 4:333-349

18. Lenin, V.I., Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, 1900, CW 4:351-356

19. Woods, A., op cit, p113-124

20. Lenin, V.I., Where to Begin, May 1901, CW 5:13-24

21. Krupskaya, N., op cit, p61

22. Trotsky, L.D., On Lenin, George Harrap and Co., London, 1971, p35

23. Wolfe, B.D., Three Who Made a Revolution, Pelican, London, 1984, p256-7

24. Lenin, V.I., What Is To Be Done?, March 1902, CW 5:347-529

25. Krupskaya, N., op cit, p60

26. Cliff, 1975 op cit, p100-102

27. Deutscher, I., The Prophet Armed, Oxford Paperbacks, 1954, p30-6

28. Trotsky, On Lenin, George Harrap and Co., London, 1971, p40

29. Trotsky, L.D., My Life, Penguin Books, 1984, p159

30. Trotsky, L.D., Ibid, p158

31. Cliff, T., op cit, p98

32. Lenin, V.I., Account of the Second Congress of the RDSLP, Sept 1903, CW 7:19-34

33. Lenin, V.I., One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, May 1904, CW 7:201 - 423

34. Krupskaya, N., op cit, p86

35. Trotsky, L.D., My Life, Penguin Books, 1984, p162

36. Lenin, V.I., Letter to Alexandra Kalmykova, Sept 1903, CW 34:162

37. Lenin, V.I., Account of the Second Congress of the RDSLP, Sept 1903, , CW 7:19-34

38. Woods, A., op cit, p145

39. Wolfe, B.D., op cit, p272

40. Trotsky, L.D., Report of the Siberian Delegation, New Park Publications, London, 1979

41. Deutscher, I., op cit, p86

42. Trotsky, L.D., My Life, Penguin Books, 1984, p167

43. Deutscher, I., op cit, p84 - 85

44. Getzler, I., Martov, Cambridge University Press, 1967, p84

45. Deutscher, I., op cit, p85

46. Lenin, V.I., Why I Resigned From Iskra Editorial Board, Dec 1903, CW 7:118-124

47. Deutscher, I., op cit, p86-87

48. Thatcher, I. D., Trotsky, Routledge, London and New York, 2003, p32

49. Deutscher, I., op cit, p88-97

50. Trotsky, L.D., Stalin, Hollis and Carter, London, 1947, p50

51. Lenin, V.I., Historical Meaning of the Inner Party Struggle in Russia, April 1911, CW 16:380

52. Lenin, V.I., To the Party, Aug 1904, CW 7:452-459

53. Woods, A., op cit, p166