Fifth Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fifth Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party


(All-Russian Conference of 1908), a party conference held in Paris from Dec. 21 to Dec. 27, 1908 (Jan. 3–9, 1909). It was attended by 24 delegates: six Bolsheviks, four Otzovists and Ultimatumists, five Mensheviks, five Polish Social Democrats who supported the Bolsheviks, three Bundists, and one Lithuanian Social Democrat. Three Bolshevik delegates did not attend because they had been arrested. V. I. Lenin attended the conference as representative of the Central Committee of the RSDLP with a consultative vote.

On the agenda were reports by the Central Committee of the RSDLP, by the main board of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, by the Central Committee of the Bund, by the St. Petersburg and Moscow organizations, by the Central Industrial Region’s organization, and by the Urals and Caucasus organizations. Among the topics discussed by the congress were the current political situation and the party’s tasks, the Duma Social Democratic group, organizational questions in connection with the changed political conditions, unification with local national organizations, and foreign affairs.

The conference was held against the background of the political reaction in Russia after the defeat of the Revolution of 1905–07. The Menshevik Liquidators proposed that the conference be considered merely a meeting that did not represent the opinion of the party. However, on the Bolsheviks’ insistence, the conference was recognized as a general party conference with full authority. At the conference the Bolsheviks fought against the Liquidators, who opposed the existence of an illegal organization of the RSDLP, and against the Otzovists, who called on the party to abandon legal forms of struggle. In the resolution On the Reports, adopted on Lenin’s initiative, the conference urged the Central Committee to preserve the unity of the party and called for a resolute struggle against attempts to disband the RSDLP, replacing it with an amorphous legal association.

Lenin delivered a report entitled “On the Current Situation and the Party’s Tasks.” (The text of the report has not been found, but its main propositions were included in Lenin’s article “On the Road.”) In his report Lenin discussed the results of the Revolution of 1905–07 and the new distribution of class forces and outlined the prospects for a new revolution. Lenin’s resolution, which was adopted with minor changes, emphasized that since the economic and political factors that had caused the Revolution of 1905–07 were still operative, a new revolutionary crisis was inevitable. The struggle for the hegemony of the proletariat and for an alliance of the working class with the peasantry—the basic conditions for the overthrow of autocracy —remained the party’s main tasks. The conference criticized the activity of the Social Democratic group in the Duma and set forth concrete measures for correcting its work.

On the organizational question the conference adopted the Bolshevik draft resolution, which noted the necessity of both pursuing illegal work and taking advantage of legal opportunities. The draft resolution also called for strengthening the existing illegal and legal organizations and creating new ones with a view to expanding work among the masses. The resolution on unification with local national organizations rejected the principle of federalism upheld by the Bundists, who advocated the separation of workers into nationally distinct parties. In an attempt to weaken Lenin’s influence on the work of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the RSDLP in Russia, the Mensheviks proposed that the Foreign Bureau of the Central Committee be abolished and replaced by a commission for instructions to the Central Committee, located in Russia. Their plan was rejected.

The conference oriented the party toward overcoming the ideological, political, and organizational crisis. As Lenin pointed out, it marked a turning point in the development of the workers’ movement after the victory of the counterrevolution. The conference condemned Liquidationism as an antiparty current and rejected the ultraleft anarcho-syndicalist views of the Otzovists. After the conference the Bolsheviks intensified their efforts to strengthen the illegal party organizations and consolidate the party’s ties with the masses.



Lenin, V. I. “V (Obshcherossiiskaia) konferentsiia RSDRP.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 17.
Lenin, V. I. “Na dorogu.” Ibid.
KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK, 8th ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1970.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.