Fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fifth (London) Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party


a party congress held from Apr. 30 to May 19 (May 13-June 1), 1907, in London. The Russian Revolution of 1905–07 was on the wane and the reactionaries had launched an offensive. Preparations for the congress were made amid conflict between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, who were members of the same party but who were guided by different tactical platforms. Party organizations had demanded the convocation of an extraordinary congress of the RSDLP to work out common tactics.

The congress was attended by 303 delegates with a casting vote and 39 with a consultative vote, representing 150,000 party members from 145 party organizations: 100 organizations of the RSDLP, eight of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, seven of the Social Democracy of the Latvian Territory, and 30 of the Bund. Of the delegates with a casting vote, 177 belonged to the RSDLP (89 were Bolsheviks), 45 to the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, 26 to the Social Democracy of the Latvian Territory, and 55 to the Bund. Large industrial centers sent Bolsheviks to the congress. The party organization in St. Petersburg sent 12 Bolsheviks out of 17 delegates; the Moscow organization, 16 out of 19; and the Urals organization, 18 out of 19.

In most instances the Bundists allied themselves with the Mensheviks. The Polish and many of the Latvian delegates, despite some waverings, supported the Bolsheviks on a number of basic questions. The Mensheviks’ efforts to limit the work of the congress became apparent during the discussion of the agenda. They demanded that questions of principle be excluded. Because of the conciliatory position of the Polish and Latvian delegates, the Mensheviks succeeded in striking from the agenda the question concerning the evaluation of the current situation. On the insistence of the Bolsheviks, however, the key question of the party’s attitude toward bourgeois political parties was retained.

There were 12 items on the agenda: (1) a report by the Central Committee, (2) a report by the Duma group and a discussion of its organization, (3) the attitude toward bourgeois parties, (4) the State Duma, (5) a workers’ congress and nonparty workers’ organizations, (6) the trade unions and the party, (7) partisan actions, (8) unemployment, the economic crisis, and lockouts, (9) organizational questions, (10) the International Congress in Stuttgart (May Day, militarism), (11) work in the army, and (12) miscellaneous matters. Since the congress was prolonged and was running out of funds, points 8 and 10 were dropped from the discussion, and points 4, 6, 7, and 9 were not discussed at plenary sessions (only resolutions sent to the committees of the congress were considered).

V. I. Lenin was elected to the presidium of the congress and delivered speeches on many questions. The report of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, where the Mensheviks were in the majority, was delivered by L. Martov; additional reports were given by A. A. Bogdanov from the Bolsheviks and by R. A. Abramovich from the Bund. The report of the Central Committee and the subsequent debates revealed fundamental differences between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Mensheviks’ basic tactical error on the question of who should lead the democratic revolution caused them to renounce the independent proletarian policy and to accept the slogans and policy of the liberal bourgeoisie. “The bankruptcy of our Central Committee,” Lenin pointed out at the congress, “was primarily and above all the bankruptcy of this policy of opportunism” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 15, p. 321). Owing to the conciliatory attitude of the national delegations, the congress did not present an evaluation of the Central Committee’s work.

The main question at the congress concerned the party’s attitude toward bourgeois political parties. Reports on this question were delivered by Lenin from the Bolsheviks, by A. S. Martynov from the Mensheviks, by R. Luxemburg from the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, and by Abramovich from the Bund. The matter had become urgent because the different attitude of the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks toward nonproletarian parties was, according to Lenin, “the real source of almost all differences, certainly all differences of substance, of all disagreements on questions of the practical politics of the proletariat in the Russian revolution” (ibid., pp. 368–69).

In a resolution written by Lenin, the congress gave a Bolshevik evaluation of all the nonproletarian parties—the Black Hundreds, Octobrists, Cadets, and Socialist Revolutionaries —and defined their class content. The resolution also outlined the tactics to be adopted by the revolutionary Social Democracy in dealing with these parties. First, the proletariat as a class should set itself apart from all the bourgeois parties and pursue an independent policy. Second, it was the duty of the party of the proletariat to lead the petit bourgeois parties, primarily the peasant and democratic parties, not only against autocracy but also against the counterrevolutionary liberal bourgeoisie.

The resolution On the State Duma, which was based on Lenin’s draft, defined the tasks of the Social Democrats in the Duma. In contrast to the Mensheviks’ view of the Duma group as an autonomous entity acting independently of the party, the resolution stated that the work of the Social Democrats in the Duma should be an integral part of the work done outside the Duma and that the Duma should be used primarily as a forum for denouncing autocracy and the conciliatory policy of the bourgeoisie and for propagandizing the party’s revolutionary demands.

The resolution on the workers’ congress condemned the Menshevik idea of convening a nonparty workers’ congress. The resolution on the trade unions rejected the opportunist idea that they were “neutral” and stated that one of the major tasks of Social Democratic work in the trade unions was to promote their acceptance of the ideological leadership of the Social Democratic Party. The congress adopted new Party Rules, according to which the congress would elect only the Central Committee, which in turn would appoint the editorial board of the central press organ, working under the Central Committee’s supervision. The congress elected a Central Committee of five Bolsheviks, four Mensheviks, two Polish Social Democrats, and one Latvian Social Democrat. In view of the heterogeneity of the new Central Committee and the presence of wavering elements in it, the Bolsheviks established at their own conference the Bolshevik Center, headed by Lenin. The decisions of the congress, which condemned the Menshevik line as having been conciliatory in the Revolution of 1905–07, marked a major victory of Bolshevism in the Russian workers’ movement.


Lenin, V. I. “Proekty rezoliutsii k piatomu s”ezdu RSDRP.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 15.
Lenin, V. I. “V s”ezd RSDRP.” Ibid.
Piatyi (Londonskii) s”ezd RSDRP: Protokoly. Moscow, 1963.
KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii iplenumov TsK, 8th ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1970.
Istoriia vol.2. Moscow, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.