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Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, (Bolshevik)
the first legal conference of the Bolshevik Party, held in Petrograd from Apr. 24 to Apr. 29 (May 7–12), 1917, and attended by 133 delegates with a casting vote and 18 with a consultative vote, representing up to 80,000 party members and 78 major party organizations. On the eve of the conference there was an internal party discussion of V. I. Lenin’s “April Theses,” which charted the party’s course toward the socialist revolution.
The agenda included Lenin’s Report on the Current Situation, which covered issues such as the war and the Provisional Government; V. P. Nogin’s report on the peace conference and his report on the party’s attitude toward the soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies; Lenin’s report on revising the party program; G. E. Zinoviev’s report on the situation in the International and the party’s tasks, as well as his report on uniting the Social Democratic internationalist organizations; a report by Lenin on the agrarian question; and a report by J. V. Stalin on the national question. Also on the agenda were the issue of the Constituent Assembly, the organizational questions, regional reports, and the election of a new Central Committee. The work of the conference was guided by Lenin, who delivered reports, spoke more than 20 times during the debates, and wrote almost all the draft resolutions.
In his Report on the Current Situation, Lenin gave a comprehensive explanation of the party’s political course in preparing for and carrying out a socialist revolution. L. B. Kamenev gave a supplementary report in which he attempted to prove that the bourgeois democratic revolution had not yet been completed and that Russia was not yet ready for a socialist revolution. He was supported by A. I. Rykov, who asserted that the objective conditions for the victory of the socialist revolution did not exist in Russia and that socialism would have to come from the West. In his summary Lenin showed Kamenev and Rykov’s position to be completely untenable. The Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP(B) rejected Kamenev’s point of view and adopted Lenin’s resolution, which asserted that the proletariat of Russia should head the revolution and explain to the people the urgency of carrying out a number of practical tasks, such as nationalization of the land, the establishment of state control over all banks and their amalgamation into a single central bank, and the establishment of control over the insurance companies and major capitalist syndicates. The conference declared that these measures, as well as universal labor conscription, could be carried out by the soviets as soon as they became the bodies of the people’s power.
The conference resolution On the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies explained the slogan “All power to the soviets” and the party’s task of strengthening and extending its influence in the soviets. Under the conditions of dual power, the conference proposed a policy of developing the revolution peacefully and having the soviets take power both in the center and at the local level. The resolution On the Attitude Toward the Provisional Government noted the necessity of carrying out long-term work to develop class consciousness and rally the urban and rural proletariat, of breaking with the policy of confidence in the Provisional Government, and of organizing and arming the proletariat and strengthening its ties with the army, to provide the most important guarantee of the peaceful transfer of power to the soviets.
In the resolution On the War the Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP(B) emphasized that the imperialist war could be ended only by the transfer of state power to the soviets, which would accept the task of making peace. The same resolution pointed out that the Bolshevik Party supported neither the war, which was imperialist in character, nor the Provisional Government, which was continuing the policies of the tsarist regime. The conference dissociated itself from “revolutionary defensism,” which it defined as one of the main obstacles to a speedy termination of the war.
In his report on the agrarian question Lenin explained the demands for confiscation of the landlords’ estates and the nationalization of all the land. Carrying out these policies would eliminate the class of landlords and strike a blow against the bourgeoisie, since a large proportion of the landlords’ estates were mortgaged to the banks. The party advised the peasants to seize the land immediately and in an organized manner, without waiting for the Constituent Assembly, despite the urg-ings of the SR’s (Socialist Revolutionaries) and Mensheviks.
The report by Stalin and the conference resolution on the national question strengthened and developed the party’s programmatic demands for full equality of all nations (natsii, nations in the historical sense) and languages. G. L. Piatakov gave a supplementary report in which he proposed considering the national question from the standpoint that the victory of the socialist revolution is only possible if it occurs simultaneously throughout the world, or at least in the majority of countries. Therefore, from an economic standpoint, the independence of nations is outdated and obsolete, and the struggle for socialism should be waged under the slogan “Down with frontiers.” Pia-takov’s dogmatic, adventuristic slogan would have led to anarchism. Lenin remarked: “We maintain that the state is necessary, and a state presupposes borders. What does ‘Down with frontiers’ mean? It is the beginning of anarchy” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 31, p. 435). F. E. Dzerzhinskii and F. I. Mak-haradze, who also held erroneous views on the national question, believed that the demand for the right of nations to self-determination was in contradiction to internationalism.
The Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP(B) adopted Lenin’s resolution on the national question, which called for the recognition of the right of all nations constituting the Russian Empire to secede freely and form their own independent states. At the same time, the conference pointed out that this right should not be confused with the advisability for a nation to secede at a particular time. “The party of the proletariat must decide the latter question quite independently in each particular case, having regard to the interests of social development as a whole and the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat for socialism” (ibid., p. 440).
In reports from the localities delegates informed the conference of the party’s growing influence and of the development of the revolution throughout the country. The Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP(B) decided that it was not possible to unite with parties and groups holding “revolutionary defensist” positions and stressed the need for rapprochement and unification with groups and tendencies actually based on internationalism and dissociated from the policy of forming a bloc with the bourgeoisie.
The conference adopted Lenin’s resolution on revising the party program, in which Lenin outlined the direction in which the program should be changed. The resolution empowered the Central Committee to draft a new program and present it to the next party congress for approval.
In adopting the resolution On the Situation in the International, the delegates made the mistake of agreeing to Zinoviev’s proposal for remaining in the Zimmerwald movement and participating in a conference of its supporters. Lenin, who voted against the resolution, wrote: “By remaining in Zimmerwald we (even against our will) are helping delay the creation of the Third International; we are indirectly hampering its foundation, being burdened with the dead ballast of the ideologically and politically dead Zimmerwald” (ibid., p. 185).
A nine-member Central Committee was elected by secret ballot at the conference.
In the importance of the questions it acted on and in its highly representative character, the Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP(B) played the role of a party congress. It rallied the Bolshevik Party around a Leninist platform and charted the party’s course toward developing the bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 31. (See also the Index Volume, part 1, pp. 30–31.)
KPSS ν rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferenlsii i plenumov TsK, 8th ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1970.
Sed’maia (Aprel’skaia) Vserossiiskaia konferentsiia RSDRP (bol’-shevikov), Petrogradskaia obshchegorodskaia konferentsiia RSDRP (bol’shevikov); Aprel’ 1917 g.: Protokoly. Moscow, 1958.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, book 1. Moscow, 1967.
A. M. SOVOKIN
Seventh (Extraordinary) Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik)
held in Petrograd from Mar. 6 to Mar. 8, 1918. At that time, the party had more than 300,000 members.
The Seventh Congress of the RCP(B) was attended by 47 delegates with a casting vote and 59 with a consultative vote, representing approximately 170,000 party members. Part of the territory of Soviet Russia was occupied by German troops, and many party organizations were unable to send delegates. However, since more than half of those who had been party members at the preceding (Sixth) congress were represented, the Seventh party congress was legal under party rules. The largest party organizations were represented (Moscow, Petrograd, the Central Industrial Region, the Urals, and the Volga Region).
The agenda included the Organizational Report of the Central Committee, by Ia. M. Sverdlov and the Political Report of the Central Committee on War and Peace, by V. I. Lenin. A minority report was presented by N. I. Bukharin. Also on the agenda were Lenin’s proposals for revising the party program and renaming the party, organizational questions, and the election of a new Central Committee.
The Seventh Congress of the RCP(B) was guided by Lenin, who spoke 18 times, including his presentations of reports on the main issues. The Seventh party congress was convened to decide the most important question of the revolution at that time—the withdrawal of Soviet Russia from the imperialist war. In the political report, which dealt with the question of war and peace, Lenin analyzed the country’s international and domestic situation. His main concern was to defend and justify the decision of the party’s Central Committee and the Soviet government to sign the onerous peace treaty with Germany immediately. He also exposed the erroneous, deleterious position of L. D. Trotsky and the Left Communists on the question of war and peace. The first socialist state had to be preserved at all costs. Consequently, it was necessary to obtain a peaceful breathing spell, in order to restore the country’s economy and strengthen its defensive capabilities. By 1918, Soviet Russia in fact had no army. Weary of war, the toiling masses were demanding peace. The economy had been completely disrupted by the war. The anticipated revolution had not begun in Germany. The Left Communists and Trotsky did not want to take these facts into account. Lenin demonstrated the fallacy of their arguments that “the Germans cannot take the offensive” and that, by signing the peace treaty, the Soviet government would help the German imperialists and damage the development of the world revolution. Attempts to make the fate of the October Revolution dependent on a possible but not yet fully matured revolution in Western Europe were termed adventuristic by Lenin, who expressed his confidence that if peace were achieved, Soviet Russia would ultimately prevail. Lenin called on the party to use each day of respite to begin socialist construction, to get the revolutionary order running smoothly, and to transform the Soviet Republic into a fortress impregnable to military incursions by the imperialists.
A fierce struggle broke out at the Seventh Congress of the RCP(B) over the question of war or peace. Eighteen delegates took part in the debates. Bukharin tried to defend and justify his adventuristic position favoring an immediate “revolutionary war” against Germany. He characterized the Central Committee’s decision to sign the peace treaty as an external and internal capitulation and demanded the abrogation of the treaty. Among those who supported him were M. S. Uritskii, A. S. Bubnov, D. B. Riazanov, N. Osinskii (V. V. Obolenskii), and T. V. Sapronov. Trotsky also spoke against Lenin, defending his own untenable slogan of “Neither war nor peace.” In his concluding remarks, Lenin sharply criticized the positions of the Left Communists and Trotsky. The Seventh party congress rejected the proposals of the Left Communists. Lenin’s resolution on war and peace was adopted by a vote of 30 to 12, with four abstentions.
The Seventh party congress considered the question of revising the party’s program and renaming the party. The first party program had been implemented. Adopted at the Second Congress of the RSDLP (1903), it had oriented the party toward carrying out the bourgeois democratic and socialist revolutions. It was necessary to elaborate a new program for the period pf building socialism.
Lenin’s “Rough Outline of a Draft Program” was distributed to the delegates. In his report on this question Lenin presented his rationale for the theoretical, political, and practical parts of the program, replying to the objections of Bukharin and others. He proposed the retention of the old theoretical part of the program, with its description of simple commodity production and capitalism, and the addition of a description of the age of imperialism and the opening era of socialist revolution. Lenin proposed that the Soviet state be described as a new type of state and that the first economic and other transformations be characterized in a similar fashion. The congress elected a commission headed by Lenin, assigning it the task of drawing up a new party program, based on the recommendations of the congress as stated in Lenin’s resolution.
Officially, the party still referred to itself as a social democratic party. It was necessary to change the party’s name, because with the emergence of the Soviet state, a new type of democracy, Soviet democracy, had appeared. Lenin proposed changing the name to the Communist Party, because “as we begin socialist reforms we must have a clear conception of the goal toward which these reforms are in the final analysis directed, that is, the creation of a communist society” (Poln. sobr soch., 5th ed., vol. 36, p. 44). In addition, it was necessary to change the party’s name because the old Social Democratic parties in Europe, intoxicated with social chauvinism and social patriotism, were obstructing the development of the revolutionary working-class movement.
The Seventh party congress voted to call the party the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), thus reviving the internationally famous, classic name for the proletarian party used by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto.
In the elections to the party Central Committee the party congress was again confronted with the disruptive behavior of the Left Communists, who refused to participate in the elections and changed their position only after sharp criticism. The Seventh Congress of the RCP(B) elected a new Central Committee consisting of 15 members and eight candidate members.
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. “Sed’moi ekstrennyi s”ezd RKP(b), 6–8 marta 1918 g.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36.
Sed’moi ekstrennyi s”ezd RKP(b): Stenograficheskii otchet. Moscow, 1962.
KPSS ν rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK, 8th ed., vol. 2. Moscow, 1970.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, bk. 1. Moscow, 1967.
B. M. MOROZOV