Third Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party Rsdlp

Third Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Rsdlp)


a congress held from Apr. 12 to 27 (Apr. 25-May 10), 1905, in London; the timing of the congress was related to the Russian revolutionary upsurge of 1905–07.

V. I. Lenin, writing to the Central Committee (CC) in November 1903 and to the Party Council in January 1904, had insistently called for the convocation of the Third Congress in order to thwart the Mensheviks’ factionalism, which had started immediately after the Second Congress of the RSDLP, held in 1903. The Convocation of Twenty-two Bolsheviks, convened by Lenin in August 1904, formulated a program of struggle having as its goal the convocation of the congress. The Bolshevik newspaper Vpered played an important role in this struggle. By agreement with the CC, an organizational committee to prepare for the congress was formed by the Bureau of Committees of the Majority, which had been established by the Bolshevik committees at the Southern, Caucasus, and Northern regional conferences.

All RSDLP organizations were invited to the congress, but the Mensheviks refused to participate and organized a conference of their own in Geneva; only nine of Russia’s RSDLP committees were represented at the Geneva conference, in addition to the League of Russian Social Democracy Abroad and the editorial board of the newspaper Iskra. The same questions were discussed at the Menshevik conference and at the Third Congress; the conference, however, instead of adopting the militant slogans of the revolution, limited itself to opportunist resolutions of a general and nonmandatory nature.

The chief task of the congress was to work out a single tactical line to be adopted by the party in the revolution that had begun in Russia. The congress was attended by 24 delegates with voting rights and 14 delegates with consultative rights—representing the party organizations of almost all the major industrial centers of Russia. The voting delegates represented 21 committees—namely, the St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tver’, Riga, Northern, Tula, Nizhny Novgorod, Urals, Samara, Saratov, Voronezh, Ni-kolaev, Odessa, Poles’e, Northwestern, Kursk, and Orel committees and the Caucasian Union, consisting of the Baku, Batumi, Tiflis, and Imeretian-Mingrelian committees—as well as the CC and the Party Council (the CC’s representatives on the Council). Lenin was elected chairman of the congress; he guided its work and determined its position on all major questions through his speeches, draft resolutions, and other actions.

The agenda of the congress consisted of the following items.

(1) The report of the organizational committee—A. A. Bog-danov for the Bureau of Committees of the Majority and L. B. Krasin for the CC.

(2) Tactical questions: (a) armed uprising—A. V. Lunachar-skii, reporter, and A. A. Bogdanov, coreporter; (b) attitude toward the government’s policy before and during the revolution (attitude toward the government’s policy before the revolution—P. P. Rumiantsev; provisional revolutionary government—Lenin); (c) attitude toward the peasant movement—Lenin and M. G. Tskhakaia.

(3) Organizational questions: (a) relations between the workers and the intelligentsia in the party organizations—resolution by Lenin and Bogdanov—and (b) rules of the party—Bogdanov.

(4) Attitude toward other parties and currents: (a) attitude toward the group formed by the split in the RSDLP—resolution by Lenin and Bogdanov; (b) attitude toward national Social Democratic organizations—resolution by V. V. Vorovskii; (c) attitude toward the Liberals—Vorovskii; and (d) practical agreements with the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s)—Lenin.

(5) Internal issues: propaganda and agitation—resolution by Bogdanov.

(6) Delegates’ reports: (a) report of the CC—L. B. Krasin and A.I. Liubimov—and (b) reports of local committee delegates.

(7) Elections and procedural questions with respect to publication of the resolutions and protocols of the congress and the assumption of official duties by those duly authorized.

The congress affirmed its legitimacy in the resolution On Constituting the Congress, which represented the position of a majority of the party organizations with voting rights; the resolution also condemned G. V. Plekhanov, L. Martov, and P. B. Aksel’rod—members of the former Party Council—for opposing the convocation of the congress and held them responsible for the split in the party.

The unfolding revolution in Russia was pronounced to be a bourgeois democratic revolution in which the proletariat was the dominant force and driving spirit, with the peasantry as its ally. In the first stage of the revolution the proletariat, allied with the entire peasantry, was to neutralize the vacillations of the bourgeoisie and fight for a democratic republic, with a view to the possible transformation of the bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.

In the resolution On an Armed Uprising, the congress declared that the only way to overthrow autocracy was to shift from mass political strikes to an armed uprising. It was emphasized that the proletariat could fulfill its role of the chief leader of the revolution only by uniting to form a single autonomous political force headed by a revolutionary Marxist party. The party organizations were to assume the task of explaining to the workers the political significance of an uprising as well as its importance from the organizational point of view; they were to arm the workers and make plans for an uprising, which the party organizations would have to be prepared to lead.

The congress emphasized that it was only through a successful uprising that a provisional revolutionary government could come into being—the organ of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry; as the congress pointed out, the provisional government would need to work toward implementation of the economic and political goals formulated in the Minimum Program of the RSDLP. The congress declared that “representatives of our party may participate in the provisional revolutionary government in order to wage a ruthless struggle against all counterrevolutionary attempts and to fight for the specific interests of the working class” (Tretii s”ezd RSDRP, Protokoly, 1959, pp. 451–52). By decision of the congress, Social Democratic participation in the government was made conditional on the maintenance of strict control by the party over its representatives in the government and on the preservation of the independence and autonomy of the Social Democratic Party—a party whose goal was the socialist revolution and which therefore must regard all bourgeois parties as adversaries.

Regardless of participation in the government, the congress urged the party organizations to carry on propaganda work among the masses of the proletariat; such propaganda was to stress that the armed proletariat, guided by the Social Democratic Party, must exert pressure on the government in the effort to consolidate and extend the gains of the revolution. Before the forthcoming revolution, all party organizations were to expose the grudging nature of the concessions and promises extracted from the tsarist government, to rally the workers around such immediate demands as implementation of the eight-hour workday through revolutionary actions, and to organize armed counterattacks against the forces of reaction.

In Lenin’s resolution On the Attitude Toward the Peasant Movement, the congress called for support to be given to the agrarian demands of the peasant masses, including confiscation of the gentry’s and large landowners’ estates, of appanage lands, and of lands owned by the state, church, and monasteries; it also called for help in organizing peasant committees for the implementation of revolutionary democratic changes.

With the goal of strengthening the party, the congress condemned the Mensheviks for abandoning revolutionary Social Democratic principles. While the congress instructed all RSDLP members to actively oppose the Mensheviks, it allowed the latter to work in party organizations on condition that they accept congress decisions and party rules and discipline. The CC was charged with taking measures that would make it possible for the dissenting wing to be merged with the RSDLP. In the resolution On the Attitude Toward National Social Democratic Organizations, the congress stressed the need to bring these organizations into a single united RSDLP.

The congress condemned the SR’s for their tactics but granted the possibility of entering into temporary agreements with them, under the CC’s control, for the purpose of winning over the peasant masses to the cause of the proletariat and creating a common front in the struggle against autocracy. On the question of attitudes toward the liberal bourgeoisie, the congress recommended support for those participating in the struggle against tsarism but stressed its opposition to the liberal bourgeoisie’s attempts to assume the leadership of the revolution. The congress condemned the antiparty activity of the editorial board of the Menshevik newspaper Iskra and charged the CC with creating a new central party newspaper to be called Proletarii.

The congress adopted new Party Rules: the Rules’ first paragraph was worded in accordance with Lenin’s formulation at the Second Congress of the RSDLP; the rights of the CC and of local committees were precisely defined; and the party’s dyarchic system was abolished. The CC, headed by Lenin, was elected by the congress as the single directing center of the RSDLP. At a meeting of the CC, Lenin was nominated as editor of Proletarii.

The congress was guided by Lenin’s doctrine—namely, that the hegemony of the proletariat in the general democratic struggle against tsarism and the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry are the foundations of Social Democratic strategy and tactics. Inspired by these ideas, the congress directed the proletariat and its party to carry out the bourgeois democratic revolution, prescribing the ways and means to transform it into a socialist revolution.

The significance of the decisions of the congress was emphasized and theoretically substantiated by Lenin in his Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, published in July 1905.


Tretiis”ezd RSDRP: Protokoly. Moscow, 1959.
Tretiis”ezdRSDRP: Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Moscow, 1955.
Lenin, V. I. “Tretii s”ezd.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 10.
Lenin, V. I. “Dve taktiki sotsial-demokratii v demokraticheskoi revoliutsii.” Ibid., vol. 11.
KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK, 8th ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1970.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966.
Kostin, A. F. Istoricheskaia pobeda bol’shevizma (K 70-letiiu III s”ezda RSDRP). Moscow, 1975.


Full browser ?