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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.

REFERENCES

Lenin, 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

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