This brings us to a highly important principle of all Party organisation and all Party activity: while the greatest possible centralisation is necessary with regard to the ideological and practical leadership of the movement and the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, the greatest possible decentralisation is necessary with regard to keeping the Party centre (and therefore the Party as a whole) informed about the movement, and with regard to responsibility to the Party.
The leadership of the movement should be entrusted to the smallest possible number of the most homogeneous possible groups of professional revolutionaries with great practical experience. Participation in the movement should extend to the greatest possible number of the most diverse and heterogeneous groups of the most varied sections of the proletariat (and other classes of the people). The Party centre should always have before it, not only exact information regarding the activities of each of these groups, but also the fullest possible information regarding their composition.
We must centralise the leadership of the movement. We must also (and for that very reason, since without information centralisation is impossible) as far as possible decentralise responsibility to the Party on the part of its individual members, of every participant in its work, and of every circle belonging to or associated with the Party. This decentralisation is an essential prerequisite of revolutionary centralisation and an essential corrective to it.
Only when centralisation has been carried through to the end and when we have a C.O. and a C.C., will it be possible for every group, however small, to communicate with them—and not only communicate with them, but to do so regularly as a result of a system established by years of experience—only then will the possibility of grievous consequences resulting from an accidentally unfortunate composition of a local committee be eliminated. Now that we are coming close to actual unity in the Party and to the creation of a real leading centre, we must well remember that this centre will be powerless if we do not at the same time introduce the maximum of decentralisation both with regard to responsibility to the centre and with regard to keeping it informed of all the cogs and wheels of the Party machine.
This decentralisation is nothing but the reverse side of the division of labour which is generally recognised to be one of the most urgent practical needs of our movement. No official recognition of a given organisation as the leading body, no setting-up of a formal C.G. will make our movement really united, or create an enduring militant Party, if the Party centre continues to be cut off from direct practical work by the local committees of the old type, i.e., by committees such as are, on the one hand, made up of a regular jumble of persons, each of whom carries on all and every kind of work, without devoting himself to some definite type of revolutionary work, without assuming responsibility for some special duty, without carrying through a piece of work to the end, once it has been undertaken, thoroughly considered and prepared, wasting an enormous amount of time and energy in radicalist noise-making, while, on the other hand, there is a great mass of students’ and workers’ circles, half of which are altogether unknown to the committee, while the other half are just as cumbersome, just as lacking in specialisation, just as little given to acquiring the experience of professional revolutionaries or to benefiting from the experience of others, just as taken up with endless conferences “about everything,” with elections and with drafting rules, as the committee itself.
For the centre to be able to work properly, the local committees must reorganise themselves; they must become specialised and more “business-like” organisations, achieving real “perfection” in one or another practical sphere. For the centre not only to advise, persuade, and argue (as has been the case hitherto), but really conduct the orchestra, it is necessary to know exactly who is playing which fiddle, and where and how; where and how instruction has been or is being received in playing each instrument; who is playing out of tune (when the music begins to jar on the ear), and where and why; and who should be transferred, and how and where to, so that the discord may be remedied, etc. At the present time—this must be said openly—we either know nothing about the real internal work of a committee, except from its proclamations and general correspondence, or we know about it from friends or good acquaintances.
But it is ridiculous to think that a huge Party, which is capable of leading the Russian working-class movement and which is preparing a general onslaught upon the autocracy, can limit itself to this. The number of committee members should be cut down; each of them, wherever possible, should be entrusted with a definite, special and, important function, for which he will be held to account; a special, very small, directing centre must be set up; a network of executive agents must be developed, linking the committee with every large factory, carrying on the regular distribution of literature and giving the centre an exact picture of this distribution and of the entire mechanism of the work; lastly, numerous groups and circles must be formed, which will undertake various functions or unite persons who are close to the Social-Democrats, who help them and are preparing to become Social-Democrats, so that the committee and the centre may be constantly informed of the activities (and the composition) of these circles—these are the lines along which the St. Petersburg, and all the other committees of the Party, should be reorganised; and this is why the question of Rules is of so little importance.