Fourth 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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fourth (Unity) Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party


a congress held in Stockholm, from Apr. 10 to Apr. 25 (Apr. 23 to May 8), 1906. The congress was attended by 112 voting delegates from 57 organizations of the RSDLP and 22 delegates with observer status. A total of 62 organizations were represented. Of the 12 observers representing national Social Democratic parties, the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania accounted for three, as did both the Latvian Social Democratic Labor Party and the Bund; the Ukrainian, Finnish, and Bulgarian Social Democratic parties each sent one observer. The Bolsheviks had 46 votes, and the Mensheviks 62. In all, 157 persons took part in the work of the congress.

The political situation created by the Revolution of 1905–07 required that the split in the party be mended, since it was disrupting the unity of the working class. Increasingly, attempts at unifying the RSDLP were being made in such places as St. Petersburg, Kharkov, and Baku. Although V. I. Lenin favored the unification, he did not slur over his differences with the Mensheviks on aspects of the revolution: “We agree to uniting the two parts, but we shall never agree to mixing them up” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 47, p. 80).

In late 1905 the leaders of the two factions formed a united Central Committee of the RSDLP for the purpose of convening the congress. In the party organizations, key draft resolutions prepared separately by the Bolsheviks (written by Lenin) and by the Mensheviks were discussed during the election of delegates to the congress. Delegates to the previous congresses had been elected by members of the RSDLP committees; for this congress, they were chosen by general meetings consisting of from one to 300 party members. Many of the organizations in industrial regions—where the Bolsheviks predominated—were seriously weakened by repression and either were unable to send delegates or sent fewer than they were allowed. The makeup of the congress, therefore, did not reflect the actual alignment of forces within the party.

The first point on the agenda of the congress was a review of the agrarian program; Lenin, P. P. Maslov, G. V. Plekhanov, S. A. Suvorov, and P. P. Rumiantsev spoke on this topic. The second point—the immediate situation and the class goals of the proletariat—was the subject of speeches by Lenin and A. S. Mar-tynov. P. B. Aksel’rod and Lenin addressed the congress on the third point—the tactics to be used regarding election results in the State Duma and regarding the Duma itself. The fourth point—the question of an armed uprising—was dealt with by V. P. Makhnovets, L. B. Krasin, and F. A. Lipkin. Also on the agenda were elections, routine reports, and a number of issues resolved by special commissions without floor discussion. These issues included partisan actions, a provisional revolutionary government and revolutionary self-government, trade unions, the peasant movement, parties and organizations other than the Social Democrats, party organization, and union with the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the Latvian Social Democratic Labor Party, and the Bund. Two items of the agenda were removed from discussion entirely—the issue of the soviets of workers’ deputies and, in connection with the nationalities question in the party program, the issue of a special constituent assembly for Poland. In addition to reports on the agrarian question and on the immediate situation, the texts of which have been lost, Lenin delivered speeches on the state Duma and on such issues as the armed uprising.

The congress began its work with a review of the party’s agrarian program, since the agrarian question formed the basis of the first Russian revolution and had determined the revolution’s national characteristics. The course of the revolution had demonstrated the inadequacy of the agrarian program adopted in 1903 by the Second Congress of the RSDLP: opposed to all landholding by the pomeshchiki (landowners), the peasantry sought to acquire not simply the otrezki, or lands lost by them as a result of the abolition of serfdom, but all the lands held by the pomeshchiki.

Lenin viewed the agrarian program of Bolshevism both as a proletarian program in a peasant revolution directed against the vestiges of serfdom and as a program of a peasant uprising. The program was drafted for the purpose of creating between the working class and the peasantry an alliance that would achieve the goals of the bourgeois democratic revolution and would transform it into a socialist revolution. Although Lenin’s report on the issue was not preserved, it is known that he defended and developed the point of view that he set forth in the pamphlet Revision of the Agrarian Program of the Workers’ Party, which came out on the eve of the congress and was distributed to the delegates.

Lenin’s program aimed at a revolutionary break with all land-holding of the past. Its main points were (1) the confiscation of all church, monastery, appanage, state, and cabinet lands and all lands of the pomeshchiki; (2) the establishment of elected peasant committees for eliminating all traces of the power and privileges of the pomeshchiki and for redistributing the confiscated land; and (3) the nationalization of all land after the achievement of certain political conditions, that is, after the final victory of the revolution and the establishment of a democratic republic. The program reflected the scope and depth of the agrarian movement that was unfolding in Russia. It called the peasants to revolutionary action and was linked with the general tactical line of the Bolsheviks of transforming the bourgeois democratic revolution into a socialist one.

A group of Bolsheviks that included Suvorov, V. A. Bazarov, and J. V. Stalin and that came to be known as the razdelisty (partitionists) advocated dividing the lands of the pomeshchiki and transferring the ownership to the peasants. Although the program of the razdelisty was erroneous, it bore a revolutionary-democratic character. Assuming a long interval between the bourgeois democratic revolution and the socialist revolution, the razdelisty failed to see that nationalization of the land would expedite the growth of the democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.

The Mensheviks advocated a program of municipalization of land; that is, the lands of the pomeshchiki were to be transferred to local bodies of self-government such as zemstvos, which would in turn lease the lands to the peasants. This reformist solution of the agrarian problem failed to bring the peasantry into the revolution. Although the Menshevik program was adopted by the congress by a majority vote, a number of amendments were introduced at the insistence of the Bolsheviks, one of which was a demand for the confiscation of the lands held by the pomeshchiki. Lenin called this program “a deal with reaction” (ibid., vol. 13, p. 20).

Differences with the Mensheviks became even sharper during an evaluation of the immediate situation and the discussion of the state Duma. The Mensheviks openly challenged the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution, praised the role of the Duma as a national political center, and in effect rejected an armed uprising. Lenin pointed out that the essence of a revolution is the direct revolutionary struggle of the masses and not constitutional, legal forms of action. He proposed that the Duma and its conflicts with the government be used to deepen the revolutionary crisis. The congress adopted the Menshevik resolution relegating the proletariat to a position of support of the Cadet Duma. Its resolution on an armed uprising was a veiled criticism of the December uprising and did not address the need for renewed insurgence.

The congress accepted the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania into the RSDLP and worked out conditions for a union with the Latvian Social Democratic Labor Party and the Bund, which would function as territorial organizations operating among the proletariat of all the nationalities in their own regions. Fearing they would alienate the workers, the Mensheviks were forced to accept Lenin’s formulation of the first paragraph of the party Rules for party membership. The Central Committee that was elected by the congress consisted of three Bolsheviks and seven Mensheviks, and only Mensheviks were elected to the editorial board of the party’s central organ.

The union with the Mensheviks that was effected at the congress was merely a nominal union, since ideological differences remained. The important, practical business of the congress—the fusion of the RSDLP with national Social Democratic parties— was partially accomplished. Rallying the revolutionary forces of the working class around the principles of proletarian internationalism facilitated the struggle against tsarism. After the congress, the Bolshevik delegates approved an address written by Lenin to the party, in which he stated that the Bolsheviks would support the decisions of the congress but would wage an ideological struggle against the decisions they considered erroneous.


Lenin, V. I. “Ob”edinitel’nyi s”ezd RSDRP 10 (23) apr.-25 apr. (8 maia) 1906 g.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 12.
Lenin, V. I. “Obrashchenie k partii delegatov Ob”edinitel’nogo s”ezda, prinadlezhavshikh k byvshei fraktsii ‘bol’shevikov.’” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad ob Ob”edinitel’nom s”ezde RSDRP.” Ibid., vol. 13.
Chetvertyi (Ob”edinitel’nyi) s”ezd RSDRP: Protokoly. Moscow, 1959.
KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK, 8thed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1970.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 2. Moscow, 1966.
Liadov, M. Iz zhizni partii v 1903–1907g g.: Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1956.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.