Russian Social Democratic Labour Party

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The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, or RSDLP (Russian Росси́йская Социа́л-Демократи́ческая Рабо́чая Па́ртия = РСДРП), also known as the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party and the Russian Social-Democratic Party, was a revolutionary socialist Russian political party formed in 1898 in Minsk to unite the various revolutionary organizations into one party. The RSDLP later split into Bolshevik and Menshevik factions, with the Bolsheviks eventually becoming the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Mezhraiontsy were also formed from this party.


In Russia

The RSDLP was not the first Russian Marxist group; the Emancipation of Labour group was formed in 1883. The RSDLP was created to oppose narodnichestvo (наро́дничество), revolutionary populism, which was later represented by the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (SRs; Esers, эсе́ры). The RSDLP program was based on the theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - that, despite Russia's agrarian nature, the true revolutionary potential lay with the industrial working class. The RSDLP was illegal for most of its existence; at the end of the first party congress in March 1898, all nine delegates were arrested by the Imperial Russian Police.

Before the Second Congress, a young intellectual named Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Влади́мир Ильи́ч Улья́нов) joined the party, better known by his pseudonym - Lenin (Ле́нин). In 1902 he had published What is to be Done?, outlining his view of the party's task and methodology - to form 'the vanguard of the proletariat.' He advocated a disciplined, centralised party of committed activists.

In 1903, the Second Congress of the party met in exile in Brussels to attempt to create a united force. However, after unprecedented attention from the Belgian authorities the congress moved to London, meeting on August 11 in a clubroom in Charlotte Street.[1] At the congress, the party split into two irreconcilable factions on November 17: the Bolsheviks (большеви́к; from Bolshinstvo - Russian for "majority"), headed by Lenin, and the Mensheviks (меньшеви́к; from Menshinstvo - Russian for "minority"), headed by Julius Martov. Confusingly, the Mensheviks were actually the larger faction, however the names Menshevik and Bolshevik were taken from a vote held at the 1903 party congress for the editorial board of the party newspaper, Iskra ("Spark"), with the Bolsheviks being the majority and the Mensheviks being the minority. These were the names used by the factions for the rest of the party congress and these are the names retained after the split at the 1903 congress. Lenin's faction later ended up in the minority and remained smaller than the Mensheviks until the Russian Revolution of 1917.

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