It was founded in 1898. The RSDLP program was based on Marxism and socialism. The party wanted to head the workers of Russia and to throw down the Tsar. Some members of the party wanted democracy. They were called "Mensheviks". Other members of the party spoke for the dictatorship of the working class. They were called "Bolsheviks". The leaders of the Menshevik group were Martov and Potresov. The leaders of the Bolshevik group were Plekhanov and Lenin.
The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was an illegal party. It fought against the autocracy, organized meetings and strikes, and printed illegal newspapers blaming the Tsar and his government. Many members of the party were arrested, put into prison or condemned to penal servitude.