University of Sussex
Mullin,_Richard.pdf (1.68 MB)

Lenin and the Iskra faction of the RSDLP: 1899-1903

Download (1.68 MB)
posted on 2023-06-07, 15:22 authored by Richard James Mullin
Using primary material, much of which has been overlooked up to now, this thesis argues that the Iskra newspaper and its organisational appendages were conceived by Lenin and his closest collaborators in a pragmatic attempt to strike a balance between the theoretically authoritative and revolutionary, yet inactive Osvobozhdenie Truda and the more active, but reformist and theoretically unclear Rabochee Delo grouping. As such, Iskra does not appear to have been the product of a detailed plan conceived in Siberian exile, as is often thought. Nor did it represent the extreme left wing of the Russian social-democratic movement of the time, a place occupied by Osvobozhdenie Truda. Iskra and its supporting organisations formed a faction of a broader party, the RSDLP, whose institutions it aimed to rebuild and to which it aimed to give ideological leadership broadly in sympathy with the basic views of Plekhanov, though differing with him in terms of tactics. Starting from a position of weakness both in the emigration and inside Russia, Lenin at first sought an alliance with the 'Economists' of Rabochee Delo rather than a policy of open factional struggle, which was at this stage (1900-01) advocated by Plekhanov. Only when serious vacillations in the Rabochee Delo line started to emerge in the spring of 1901 did Lenin break with this tactic, in despair of any useful co-operation with the politically unstable followers of the economist journal. From the end of 1901an open struggle for the support of the RSDLP local committees inside Russia began, in which the Economists were unable to martial support, whilst Iskra, owing to its network of full-time 'agents' and their assistance, eventually won a dominant position. On this basis, plans were laid for a Second Congress of the RSDLP that reveal a distinctly democratic and pluralist conception of party organisation on the part of Lenin, A conception which does not square with his dictatorial reputation. Accordingly, this thesis argues that the Second Congress was a credible, if not perfect representation of rank and file opinion within the RSDLP at the time and that the split within the Iskra faction that took place at this meeting owes more to pre-existing tensions with the Russian Iskra organisation rather than any unreasonable behaviour on the part of Lenin. Specifically, individual agents showed signs of weariness in relation to Lenin‘s policy of factional struggle prior to the Second Congress. For this reason they sought, but failed to find compromise at the congress with the Bund and the economists, and as such provoked a split with the supporters of Lenin within Iskra. As such, it was actually an inopportune search for compromise which appears to have provoked the split within Iskra, rather than dictatorial or intolerant practices on the part of Lenin. The supporters of Martov assumed that the Bund and the supporters of economism could be appeased, but this was not in fact the case.


File Version

  • Published version



Department affiliated with

  • Politics Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

Full text available

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Theses)


    No categories selected