The second emigration may be divided into three periods.
The first period (1908-1911) covers the years of rampant reaction in Russia. The tsarist took savage reprisals against the revolutionaries. The prisons were full to overflowing, the prisoners were subject to brutal treatment, and death sentences followed one after another. The illegal organizations were driven deep underground, and even so they found it hard to escape detection. During the revolution the composition of the Party membership had undergone a change; new members joined the Party, who had no experience of the pre-revolutionary underground or of secrecy methods of work. On the other hand, the tsarist government did not stint any money for the organization of spying and stool-pigeoning, The system of spying was extremely well planned and ramified, and its network covered the central organs of the Party. The government's intelligence service was splendidly organized.
Simultaneously, a regular campaign of persecution was conducted against all legal societies, trade unions and the press. The government was all out to deprive the masses of the rights which they had won during the revolution. But there could be no return to the past; the revOlution had left its mark on the masses. and the initiative of the workers found went again and again through every possible crevice.
Those were years of the greatest confusion of ideas among the Social-Democrats. Attempts were made to re vise the very foundations of Marxism, and philosophic , trends arose which tried to shake the materialistic concepts on which the whole of Marxism is based. Those were dark days. Attempts were made to find a way out by inventing a new refined religion and giving it a philosophical basis. This new school of philosophy, which opened its doors to all kinds of "God-seekers" and "God-builders," was headed by Bogdanov and supported by Lunacharsky, Bazarov and others. Marx arrived at Marxism by way of philosophy, by way of the struggle against idealism. Plekhanov in his time had devoted considerable attention to building up evidence in support of the materialist philosophy. Lenin had made a very intensive study of their works and devoted a good deal of time to philosophy while in exile. He was fully alive to the implications of this attempt at revising the philosophic tenets of Marxism and its significance during the years of reaction, and opposed Bogdanov and his school very strongly.
Bogdanov was not only an opponent on the philosophic front. He rallied around him the Otzovists and Ultimatumists as well. The Otzovists said that the State Duma had become so reactionary that the Social-Democratic members of it should be recalled. The Ultimatumists held that an ultimatum should be presented to the Duma, and the Social-Democratic deputies should make speeches there which would have them thrown out. Strictly speaking, there was no difference between the Otzovists and the Ultimatumists. Among the Ultimatumists were Alexinsky and Marat. The Otzovists and Ultimatumists were opposed also to the Bolsheviks participating in the trade unions and the legal societies. A Bolshevik, they declared, should be hard and unyielding. Lenin considered this view fallacious. It would mean giving up all practical work, standing aside from the masses instead of organizing them on real-life issues. Prior to the Revolution of 1905 the Bolsheviks showed themselves capable of making good use of every legal possibility, of forging ahead and rallying the masses behind them under the most adverse conditions. Step by step, beginning with the campaign for tea service and ventilation, they had led the masses up to the national armed insurrection. The ability to adjust oneself to the most adverse conditions and at the same time to stand out and maintain one's high-principled positions – such were the traditions of Leninism. The Otzovists cut loose from these Bolshevik traditions. The fight against Otzovism was the fight for the tried and tested Bolshevik, Leninist tactics.
Finally, those years (1908-1911) were years of intense struggle for the Party, for its illegal organization.
Naturally, the first to show signs of pessimistic moods during the period of reaction were the Menshevik practical workers, who had always tended to swim with the stream and narrow down revolutionary slogans, and were closely linked with the liberal bourgeoisie. These pessimistic moods were strikingly manifested in a striving on the part of broad sections of the Mensheviks to dissolve the Party. These liquidators, as they were called, maintained that an illegal party only led to police raids and arrests, and narrowed the scope of the labour movement. As a matter of fact, liquidation of the illegal Party would have meant abandoning the independent policy of the proletariat, lowering the revolutionary spirit of the Proletarian struggle, weakening the organization and unity of action of the proletariat. The liquidation of the Party meant rejecting the teaching of Marx and all its tenets.
Of course, Mensheviks like Plekhanov, who had done so much for the propagation of Marxism and the struggle against opportunism, could not but realize the reactionary character of these liquidationist moods; and when the preaching for the Party's liquidation developed into an agitation for the liquidation of the basic principles of Marxism itself, he dissociated himself from them completely and formed a group of his own, a group of Party-Mensheviks.
The ensuing struggle for the Party tended to shed light on a number of organizational issues and to give the rank and file of the Party a better and clearer understanding of the role of the Party and the duties of its members.
The struggle for a materialist philosophy, for contact with the masses, for Leninist tactics, the struggle for the Party, was waged under conditions of political emigration.
During the years of reaction the number of political emigrants from Russia increased tremendously. People fled abroad to escape the savage persecutions of the tsarist regime, people with frayed and shattered nerves, without prospects for the future, without a penny to their name, and without any help from Russia. All this tended to give to the political struggle an extremely painful twist. We had more than enough of squabbling and bickering.
Looking back over all those years, it is now transparently clear what the struggle was all about. Now that experience has so clearly demonstrated the correctness or Lenin's line, that struggle seems to be of little interest to many people. Without that struggle, though, the Party would not have been able to develop its activities as quickly as it did during the rising tide, and its progress towards victory would have been handicapped. The struggle took place at a time when the above-mentioned trends were just taking shape, and was waged between people who had only recently been fighting side by side, and many thought that the trouble was due to Lenin's quarrelsome disposition, his brusqueness and bad temper. Actually, it was a struggle for the Party's very existence, for its consistent line and correct tactics. Another reason for the sharp tone which the controversy assumed was the complicated nature of the issues, and Ilyich frequently presented them as sharply as he did because otherwise the essence of the question would have remained obscure.
The years 1908 to 1911 were not merely years of living abroad – they were pears of intense struggle on a most important front – the ideological front.
The second period of the second emigration, the years 1911 to 1914, witnessed the rising tide of the movement in Russia. The growing strike movement, the Lena events, which roused the whole working class to action, the development of the labour press, the elections to the Duma and the activity of the Social-Democratic deputies – all this called into being new forms of Party work, gave that work quite a new scope, made the Party membership far more proletarian, and brought the Party closer to the masses.
Contacts with Russia began to strengthen swiftly, and the influence on the work in Russia steadily increased. The Prague Conference held in January 1912 expelled the Liquidators from the Party and laid down the foundations Of the illegal Party organization. Plekhanov did not join the Bolsheviks.
In 1912 we moved to Cracow. The struggle for the Party and for its consolidation was no longer waged between small groups abroad. The Cracow period was one in which Lenin's tactics had been put to the test in Russia and proved their value in practice. The questions of practical work absorbed Lenin completely. But while the working-class movement was developing widely in Russia, the murmurings of all approaching storm could already be heard on the international front. The war clouds were gathering. Ilyich now began to give his attention to the new relationships that would have to be established between the different nationalities when the war that was then brewing would be converted into a civil war. While living in Cracow Ilyich was able to come into closer contact with the Polish Social-Democrats and to learn their point of view on the national question. He persistently combatted their mistakes and gave more definite and clearer point to his own formulations. During the Cracow period the Bolsheviks adopted a number of resolutions on the national question, which were of very great significance.
The third period of the second emigration (1914-1917) covers the war period, when the whole character of our life abroad underwent another sharp change. This was the period when international issues assumed decisive importance, and when our own Russian affairs could be dealt with only from the point of view of the international movement.
Inevitably, they were to be based on much wider ground now, on international ground. Everything a man could do while living in a neutral country was done in the way of propaganda for the struggle against the imperialist war and for converting this war into civil war, and for laying the foundations for a new International. This work absorbed all Lenin's energies during the early years of the war (the end of 1914 and throughout 1915).
Simultaneously, the events around him suggested to Lenin some new ideas. They impelled him to a deeper study of the questions of imperialism, of the nature of the war, of the new forms of state power that would take shape the day after the proletariat achieved victory, of the application of the dialectic method to the policy and tactics of the working class. We moved from Berne to Zurich, where there were better facilities for work. Ilyich started writing, and spent all day in the libraries until the news of the February Revolution came, and we started to make preparations for returning to Russia.