25 February 2008

Leninism or Marxism?

The first Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was held in 1898 in Minsk, in what is now Belarus, at that time part of the Russian Empire. There were nine delegates and they had six sessions, producing resolutions which were published afterwards. A Manifesto, written by the "Legal Marxist" P B Struve, who was one of the delegates, was also published. All the participants were soon afterwards arrested.

The period that followed was characterised by what Lenin called “primitivism” or the “circle spirit” (the picture is of Lenin, already bald at age 26, with comrades in an earlier study circle). There was hardly anything of what we would now call “structures”, but only loose study circles with neither democracy nor centralism. A few years into this period, Lenin wrote “
What Is To Be Done?”, published in early 1902, defining the vanguard party in contradiction to “economism” (workerism), and also condemning the “circle spirit” as being inadequate to the revolutionary tasks that lay ahead.

The 2nd RSDLP Congress start in Brussels, Belgium, in August, 1903 but moved to London, England and was completed there. Full minutes were kept and Lenin went over them with great care to produce “
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”, his exhaustive analysis of that Congress, which gave birth to the Bolsheviks (and the Mensheviks). Once again, Lenin attacks primitivism and the “circle spirit”, and lambastes the “anarchists” who want to reject any proper structure. There were further Congresses in 1905 (year of revolution), 1906 (in Stockholm, Sweden) and 1907 (in London). The sixth RSDLP Congress did not take place until August, 1917, in Petrograd, in between the two revolutions of that year.

Tonight (Tuesday) at 17h00 in the SACP boardroom, 3rd floor, COSATU House, 1 Leyds Street, Braamfontein, we are going to discuss excerpts from this work of Lenin’s, in which he writes, among other things: “There is a close psychological connection between this hatred of discipline and that incessant nagging note of injury which is to be detected in all the writings of all opportunists today in general, and of our minority in particular.”

The sense of injury, which as Lenin noted, the minority is apt to carry, and which often leads it into reckless liaisons and careless whispers, is still to be found today. We have seen that some Western Cape comrades, finding themselves in a minority position within the Party, have felt a powerful sense of injury. We have read about it in the national press. An SACP Western Cape PEC lekgotla has now resolved, among other things, to establish a disciplinary committee and “bring the necessary disciplinary charges against Luthando Nogcinisa and Mazibuko Jara.” Read the Western Cape SACP’s full media release, linked below.

Next week, we will be discussing Rosa Luxemburg’s “Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy”, commonly called “Leninism or Marxism?”. Luxemburg wrote this work as a response, and to some extent a rejection, of Lenin’s “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back”, which had been published earlier in the same year of 1904.

It is quite possible that both of these works may be quoted to assist the arguments during the forthcoming Nogcinisa/Jara disciplinary hearing. Luxemburg’s work is linked below. You may also download all these documents in MS-Word format
by clicking on the lost at our group web site.

Click on these links:

SACP Western Cape PEC Lekgotla Statement, 25 February 2008

Leninism or Marxism?, Rosa Luxemburg, 1904

Coming Events


  1. Clarify when the ZSF seminar is? Is it Thursday 28 February or Friday 29 February?

  2. The ZSF seminar is on Thursday 28 February, 09h00 at the Devonshire Hotel, Braamfontein.

    Thanks for the correction. I copied and pasted it from the ZSF e-mail and failed to spot the mistake.


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