A Questionnaire on the Organisations of Big Capital
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 18, pages 56-72.
The article “A Questionnaire on the Organisations of Big Capital” appeared in Prosveshcheniye Nos. 5–7.
Prosveshcheniye (Enlightenment) was a socio-political and literary monthly published by the Bolsheviks legally in St. Petersburg from December 1911 to June 1914. It was founded on directions from Lenin to replace the Bolshevik periodical, Mysl (Moscow), closed down by the authorities. Lenin, who was abroad, guided Prosveshcheniye by editing articles for it and maintaining a regular correspondence with the members of its Editorial Board. The periodical published “The Three Sources and Three Component Paris of Marxism”, “Critical Remarks on the National Question”, “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, and other works by Lenin.
The Editorial Board of Prosveshcheniye included M. A. Savelyev, M. S. Olminsky and A. I. Yelizarova. The art and literature section was edited by Maxim Gorky. The circulation reached 5,000 copies.
Prosveshcheniye was closed down by the authorities on the eve of the First World War. In the autumn of 1917, however, it, resumed publication, but only one (double) issue was brought out; it contained Lenin’s works “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?” and “Revision of the Party Programme”.
The Industry and Economics Department of the Imperial Russian Technical Society sent out a questionnaire on “public organisations of the commercial and industrial class in Russian”, or rather on the organisations of big capital. The results of the questionnaire are now set forth in Mr. Gushka’s book Representative Organisations of the Commercial and Industrial Class in Russia (St. Petersburg, 1912). Both the material contained in the book and the conclusions, which the author indicates in fairly definite terms, deserve serious attention.
As a matter of fact, the questionnaire of the Technical Society dealt with the “representative” organisations of capitalists, which make up approximately 80 per cent of all the organisations. About 15 per cent of the organisations are cartels, trusts and syndicates, nearly 5 per cent are associations of employers, and the rest are stock-exchange committees, boards of congresses, etc. These latter organisations are very fond of calling themselves “representative” Their job is to influence government bodies.
The employers’ associations, in Mr. Gushka’s opinion, conduct a “direct” class struggle against the wage-workers, whereas the representative organisations conduct an “indirect” class struggle—a “struggle against other classes by exerting pressure on the state power and on public opinion”.
That terminology is wrong, of course. It at once betrays one of the principal defects which Mr. Gushka has in common with most representatives of “professorial”, bourgeois political economy. On the face of it, he accepts the concept of the class struggle; on the face of it, the class struggle serves as the basis of his investigation. Actually, however, that concept is narrowed down and distorted. Indeed, from what Mr. Gushka says, the struggle of the capitalists against the wage-workers within the framework of a given political system is a “direct” class struggle, while the struggle far the political system itself is an “indirect” class struggle! What about the struggle for “state power” itself—where does that belong?
But we shall have occasion to deal with this fundamental fault of Mr. Gushka’s “world outlook” in the proper place. The value of his work is not in its theory, but in the summary of facts it offers. The data on organisations of the preponderant type are at any rate of considerable interest.
The total number of “representative” organisations of big capital in Russia in 1910 is given as 143. Seventy-one of them were stock-exchange societies with their committees. Then came 14 committees of commerce and manufacture, three merchants’ boards, 51 organisations in the “combined” group (congresses and their boards, advisory bureaus, etc.), and four organisations of an indefinite type. The questionnaire was answered by only 62 organisations, or less than half the total. Out of the 51 organisations in the “combined” group, which is the most interesting, 22 answered the questionnaire.
The data on the time the organisations were founded are characteristic. Of the 32 stock-exchange committees which answered the questionnaire, 9 were founded in the last century, from 1800 to 1900, 5 in the four years 1901-04, 9 in the two years of revolution—1905-06—and 9 in the period 1907 to 1910.
“Here,” writes Mr. Gushka, “we clearly see the effect of the impetus which the social movement of the stormy year 1905 lent the process of the self-organisation of the representatives of capital.”
Of the 22 organisations in the combined group, only 7 came into being during the period 1870 to 1900, 2 from 1901 to 1904, 8 in the two years of revolution—1905-06—and 5 from 1907 to 1910. All those “congress boards” of representatives of industry in general—mine owners, oil industrialists, and so on and so forth—are a product chiefly of the period of revolution and counter-revolution.
The organisations are divided according to industries as follows. The group of stock-exchange committees is predominantly mixed: these committees usually unite all the branches of industry and commerce of the area concerned. In the group of committees of commerce and manufacture, the textile industry is in the forefront. In the main, combined, group, almost half the organisations represent not commerce, but industry—mining and metallurgy, to be specific.
“It is this group of industries (mining and metallurgy) that constitutes the economic basis of the organisations of Russia’s modern industrial ‘guard’,” writes Mr. Gushka, who has a slight weakness for using a “lofty style” in speaking of the subject of his investigation.
Only in the case of a part of the organisations was it possible to establish the total turnover or output for the entire branch of commerce or industry to which the organisation in question belongs. The total thus obtained is 1,570 million rubles, of which 1,319 million rubles belongs to members of the organisations. Consequently, the organised represent 84 per cent of the total. The turnover of 3,134 members of organisations amounted to 1,121 million rubles, or an average of 358,000 rubles per member. The number of workers employed by 685 members of organisations is approximately 219,000 (on p. 111, the author mistakenly puts it at 319,000), or an average of more than 300 workers per member.
It is clear that we are dealing here with organisations of big capital, or even the biggest capital, to be exact. Mr. Gushka is fully aware of this, for he points out, for instance, that only the really big and biggest merchants and industrialists are admitted as members into the stock-exchange committees and the committees of commerce and manufacture, and that the congresses of representatives of industry and commerce are made up of the “biggest” capitalist undertakings.
That is why the author is wrong when he refers, in the title of his book, to organisations “of the commercial and industrial class in Russia” That is incorrect. Here again the author narrows down the concept of class. Actually, Mr. Gushka is dealing with a stratum, not with a class. Sure enough, the stratum of the biggest capitalists economically dominates all the other strata, which it unquestionably overwhelms by the size of its turnover. This is beyond doubt. Nevertheless, it is a stratum, and not a class. Thus, for instance, there is a vast distance between the political role of the representative organisations of this stratum and its political domination, as well as between its political domination and that of the commercial and industrial class.
In this connection, we must point out the following argument of Mr. Gushka’s: “We in Russia,” he writes, “are accustomed to applying a very large scale to define what is called a big or a small undertaking, in view of the well known extraordinary concentration of capital in our country, surpassing the concentration of capital even in Germany....”
The comparison with Germany is wrong. For instance, in the Urals there are very few small undertakings, if any, in the mining and metallurgical industries for reasons of an entirely distinctive nature—due to the absence of full freedom for industry and to the survivals of medievalism. And our official (or, what is the same thing, our Narodnik) distinction between factory and “handicraft” industries—does it not make our industrial statistics incomparable with the German statistics? Does it not very often mislead the observer by speaking of “extraordinary concentration” in Russia and obscuring the “extraordinarily” scattered character of the countless small peasant undertakings?
It is interesting to note some of the data provided by the questionnaire on the activity of the representative organisations of the biggest capital. For instance, the author gives a summary of the information about their budgets. The budgets of the 22 organisations in the combined group show a total income of 3,950,000 rubles, and the total income of all the organisations is 7.25 million rubles. “This annual budget of our 56 organisations,” writes Mr. Gushka, “amounting to 7.25 million rubles, would probably be 50 or 100 per cent higher if the financial reports of the other organisations, those not covered by our questionnaire, were included.”
However, more than a half of this budget, namely, 4.5 million rubles, is spent on business and on charity. On purely representational functions, the 56 organisations spend 2.7 million rubles. “Most of the answers or financial reports put at the head of this expenditure on representation the salaries of the personnel, then the renting of premises. In 64.4 per cent of the organisations, the greatest part of the expenditure goes for maintenance of personnel, and in 26.7 per cent of them it goes for premises.”
These figures, in view of the turnover of 1,319 million rubles in the capitalist associations covered by the investigation, show that the expenditure is very modest, so that Mr. Gushka’s pompous conclusion that the budget of expenditure is an “index of the financial might [author’s italics] of the representative organisations of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie in Russia” again betrays his inordinate fondness for big words.
The author devotes Chapter IX of his hook to the “third element”, i.e., the intelligentsia in the service of the capitalist associations. It appears that 29 stock-exchange committees listed 77 representatives of the third element as their employees; the 22 organisations in the combined group listed 180 such employees. Most of the answers speak of 2 to 4 representatives of the third element per organisation. Since capitalist associations often understate this kind of data, the author thinks it probable that “the representative organisations of capital have in their service, holding key posts, a host [!!] of intellectuals numbering at least a thousand persons”—secretaries, accountants, statisticians, legal advisers, etc.
Really, it does not take much to set Mr. Gushka talking about a “host”.
The publishing activity of the capitalist associations is characterised by the following figures. In addition to the answers to the questionnaire, there accumulated a small library of 288 volumes—the proceedings of congresses, reports, statutes and memoranda—which have never been on sale.
Nine organisations publish periodicals: Mining and Smelting, Oil, Industry and Commerce, Bulletin of the Russian Association of Distillery Owners, etc. The author gives the total number of issues of these publications as 2,624 “volumes”, to which he adds 452 volumes of “proceedings”, annual reports, etc., as well as 333 volumes of non-periodical publications. Mr. Gushka puts the total at 3,409 “volumes”, which he describes as “impressive”. The total number of publications probably amounts to 4,000–5,000 volumes.
“It may be said without exaggeration that a veritable treasure lies buried in that library, exclaims Mr. Gushka, “a wealth of material for the study of the anatomy and physiology, if we may say so, of the big bourgeoisie in Russia.... Unless we study this valuable material, we cannot form a proper idea of the balance of the dominant social forces in Russia, and more particularly of the social nature and role of Russian state power both before and after 1905.”
Mr. Gushka makes very frequent excursions of this kind into the sphere of the social nature and role of Russian state power. They merit special consideration because of the importance of the question, and because it is misrepresented by the author, who exaggerates things beyond measure and for that very reason vows in passing that he speaks “without exaggeration”.
“The centre of gravity of the activity of the organisations under survey,” writes Mr. Gushka, “as representative organisations, i.e., organisations devoted to representing the interests of the industrial and commercial class, is naturally in the sphere of formulating the position of the representatives of this class on various questions concerning its interests, and of defending this position by various means.”
Undoubtedly, that is exactly where the “centre of gravity” lies. The questionnaire allots much space to questions about the items discussed by the organisations of the capitalists and to the petitions they filed. In summarising the information obtained, the author singles out a long list of what, in his opinion, are “questions of a general nature”. The most important questions are grouped as follows: (a) workers’ insurance, public holidays, etc.; (b) income tax, taxes on enterprises, etc.; (c) tariff policy; (d) transport; (e) joint-stock companies, credit, etc.; (f) consulates abroad, statistics, the organisation of a mining department; (g) participation of the merchant class in the Zemstvo institutions, in the Council of State, in the preliminary discussion of government Bills, etc.
In this connection, Mr. Gushka draws the following conclusion: “In any event, as may be gathered from the enumerated groups of questions and petitions, our organisations have a very wide sphere of activity....” On reading such a conclusion, one cannot help stopping to see whether by any chance the word, not has been omitted. For it is obvious that the sphere of activity indicated by the author is not wide at all. But it is certainly not a slip of the pen we have here; the trouble comes from the essential “pattern” of the author’s mentality. “It would be difficult to name any more or less important field of the social and political life of the country that is outside the sphere of activity of the representative organisations of capital,” he maintains.
Incredible, but true: Mr. Gushka in all seriousness presents us with this flagrant untruth, which he repeats in a dozen different ways!
“It would be difficult to name....” What about the electoral law? Or the agrarian question? Is it possible that these are not “important fields of the social and political life of the, country”?
Mr. Gushka looks at “social and political life” from the narrow peep-hole of a merchant’s standpoint. He cannot for the life of him understand that his absolute statements testify to narrowness, and certainly not to breadth. The questions raised by the merchants are narrow because they concern only the merchants. The capitalists do not rise to questions of general political importance. “Admission of representatives of industry and commerce” into local or central institutions of one sort or another is the limit of the “courage” they show in their petitions. As to how these institutions are to be organised in general, that is something they are unable to think of. They accept the institutions which have taken shape at someone else’s bidding, and beg for a place in them. They slavishly accept the political basis created by some other class, and on this basis “petition” for the interests of their social-estate, their group,their stratum, unable even in this sphere to rise to a broad under standing of the interests of the whole of their class.
Mr. Gushka, who glaringly distorts the facts, slips into a tone of sheer praise. “The energetic and insistent pressure brought to bear upon government bodies,” he writes. “Our organisations” “perfectly [!!] understand this themselves,” ... “The organisations of big capital have developed into a regular lobby which actually exerts perhaps a greater influence upon legislation than the Duma, the more so”—the author tries to be witty—“as Article 87 does not apply to the capitalist parliament, and the organisations of capital have never been purposely dissolved for three days.”...
This witticism is an obvious indication of the boundless conceited narrow-mindedness of the big-wigs of industry and of their eulogist, Gushka. A minor detail, a mere trifle, has been overlooked: the Duma raises questions concerning the entire state administration and all classes, being an institution of the whole state, while the organisations of the merchant big-wigs consider it courageous to raise questions concerning only the merchants, only the rights of the merchants.
Mr. Gushka goes to the length of quoting the statement, made by the Ufa Stock-Exchange Committee in its report for 1905–06, that “the government itself, by a series of fundamental measures to reform the stock-exchange institutions, is selecting ... worthy assistants for itself”, and he calls this statement “correct”, puts the last phrase in italics, and speaks of “real and active co-operation with the government”.
On reading such stuff one cannot help thinking of the German word Lobhudelei—grovelling adulation, or adulatory grovelling. To speak with a smug countenance—in 1905–06—of “fundamental measures to reform—the stock-exchange institutions”! Why, this is the viewpoint of a flunkey whom the master has permitted to “consult” with the cook about arrangements for dinner, etc., calling the two of them his “worthy assistants”.
How close Mr. Gushka is to this point of view can be seen from that subsection of Chapter XV dealing with the results of the petitions of the organisations, which he has entitled “Losing Positions”. “It cannot be denied,” we read there, “that there are several fields in which the petitions and demands of the representatives of capital do come up against government resistance.” Then follow examples in this sequence: (1) state-owned forests—the state is itself engaged in the timber industry; (2) railway tariffs—the railways are run by the state itself; (3) the question of representation in the Zemstvos; and (4) the question of representation in the Duma and in the Council of State. “In both cases,” says the author, referring to the last two questions, “the effect of the close ties between the bureaucracy and the other ruling class—the big landowners—makes itself felt, of course.”
“But if we leave out the few above-mentioned questions,” continues the happy Mr. Gushka, “then it must be admitted that in all the other fields ... the data furnished by our questionnaire show the position of the commercial and industrial class to be a winning one.”
Is this not a real gem? The losing position is the timber business, railways, the Zemstvos and parliament. But “if we leave out the few above-mentioned questions”, we shall have a winning position!
And in the “conclusion” of his book, where he takes up the cudgels against the “traditional prejudice” about the lowliness and lack of rights of the commercial and industrial class, Mr. Gushka rises to what may be called pathetic Lobhudelei:
“It is not as a lowly class lacking rights that the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie sits at the table of a Russian statehood, but as a welcome guest and collaborator, as a ‘worthy assistant’ of the state power, occupying a prominent place both by established custom and by law, by recorded right. Nor is it since yesterday that it has occupied this place.”
This would fit perfectly into an official. speech delivered by a Krestovnikov, an Avdakov, a Tiesenhausen or their like at a dinner given by a Minister. It is this kind of speeches, written exactly in this kind of language, that are familiar to every Russian. The only question that arises is: how are we to describe a “scientist” who, while laying claim to a “scientific” analysis of a serious questionnaire, introduces into his writings the after-dinner speeches of servile merchants as “the conclusion to be drawn from the questionnaire”?
“We have inherited from the ‘good old times’,” continues Mr. Gushka, “a view which has acquired the stability of a prejudice, namely, that capitalist Russia is characterised by the contradiction that the big bourgeoisie, while dominating economically, remains enslaved politically. The whole of the evidence supplied by our questionnaire deals a telling blow at this traditional notion.”
It requires unbounded vulgarisation of Marxism, whose terminology Mr. Gushka makes a show of using, to regard a questionnaire on the organisations of capitalists as capable of supplying “material” about the political enslavement of the bourgeoisie by the autocracy and the landlords. The author hardly touches on the material which supplies the real answer to this question, nor could lie have touched on it so long as he kept within the limits of the questionnaire.
The questionnaire, which touches on one aspect of the life of our bourgeoisie, confirms, in fact, that the latter is politically enslaved. It shows that the bourgeoisie is making economic progress, that certain particular rights of the bourgeoisie are being extended, that it is becoming ever more organised as a class and is playing an increasing role in political life. But the very fact that these changes are taking place makes still more profound the contradiction between the retention of 0.99 of the political power by the autocracy and the landlords, on the one hand, and the growing economic might of the bourgeoisie, on the other.
Mr. Gushka, who makes a show of using Marxist terminology, actually shares the standpoint of an ordinary social-liberal. It is one of Russia’s specific features, or maladies if you will, that this liberalism is embellished with Marxist phrases. Adopting the standpoint of liberalism, Mr. Gushka came up against the question of the social nature of the state power in Russia. But he did not appreciate, even approximately, the vast scope and significance of this question.
The class nature of the state power in Russia has under gone a serious change since 1905. That change has been in a bourgeois direction. The Third Duma, Vekhi liberalism, and a number of other signs are evidence of a new “step in the transformation” of our old state power “into a bourgeois monarchy”. But while taking one more step along this new path, it remains the old power, and this only goes to increase the sum total of political contradictions. Mr. Gushka, who came up against a serious question, revealed his inability to deal with it.
In analysing the material of a rather special questionnaire, Mr. Gushka touched on another highly important question of principle, which is worth dwelling on specially. It is the question of “The Role of 1905”, as the title of a subsection of Chapter XIII in Mr. Gushka’s book reads.
Question 41 of the questionnaire, referring to the number of meetings of the executive body of each organisation during each of the past five years, was intended to ascertain the extent to which the activities of the organisations increased in 1905. The material provided by the answers to the questionnaire “has, not”—to quote Mr. Gushka—“revealed any such phenomenon in the life of our organisations”, that is, any appreciable increase in activity.
“And that is understandable,” Mr. Gushka comments.
Well, how does he explain this phenomenon?
The “employers’” associations, he argues, were bound to have increased their activity in 1905, in view of the increased strike movement.
“The organisations of a purely representative type, however,” continues Mr. Gushka, “were, to a certain extent, in an entirely different position: their chief contractor, the government, was on the defensive throughout 1905; it had very little faith in itself and in spired hardly any confidence in others. In that ‘crazy’ year, ‘when the authorities withdrew’, it seemed to all, including the industrialists (particularly at the end of the year), that the old ‘authorities’ would never come back.
“That is why the representative organisations of capital had no reason in those days for intensifying their activity as representative bodies in dealing with the government authorities.”
This explanation won’t hold water. If the “authorities” had really “withdrawn”, the withdrawal of the old political authorities would inevitably have resulted in the new economic authorities increasing their activity and becoming new political authorities. If the government was mainly on the defensive, how could the “collaborator and worthy assistant” of that government (as Mr. Gushka describes the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie) help increasing its activity to defend that government and itself? Our author has not at all thought out what he was saying. He confines himself to a mere collection of words—the most current and customary ones. Perhaps he feels that the question at issue is an extremely important one on the answer to which depends, or with the answer to which is closely linked, the answer to the more general question of the political role of the bourgeoisie, and he shrank from tackling an important question in earnest—fled from it, as it were.
Reflect on the following statement of the author on the same point—about the role of 1905:
“Neither did the organisations of capital feel inclined to meet often in order to formulate their attitude towards the social and political problems that preoccupied the whole country at the time. Pushed into the background by the sweeping tide of the popular movement, they preferred to bide their time, to wait for the results of the struggle seething around them. Towards the end, when the ‘authorities’ unmistakably revealed their inclination to ‘come back’, the organisations of the commercial and industrial class likewise began gradually to resume their representative activity in its usual form and degree of intensity.”
“The organisations of capital” were “pushed into the back ground by the sweeping tide of the popular movement”. Very well! Only, Mr. Gushka is again giving no thought to what he is saying. Against whom was the sweeping tide of the popular movement directed? Against the old regime. How then was it possible for the “collaborator and worthy assistant” of that regime to be pushed into the background? If it really were a collaborator and worthy assistant, then the greater its economic strength, which was independent of the old organisation of political power, the more vigorously it should have pushed into the foreground.
How was it possible for the “collaborator and worthy assistant” of the old regime to find itself in a position where it “preferred to bide its time”?
Mr. Gushka set out to battle against the theory of the political enslavement of the economically dominating bourgeoisie, and got into a muddle the moment he tackled the job! Contrary to his view, the “theory” which he promised to demolish is reinforced by the course of events in 1905.
Both big commercial and industrial capital and the Russian bourgeois liberals, far from “biding their time” in 1905, took up a very definite counter-revolutionary position. The facts testifying to this are too well known. But there is no doubt that, compared with the forces of absolutism and the landlord class, the very big capital was to a certain extent “pushed into the background”.
But how could it happen that in a bourgeois revolution the peak of “the sweeping tide of the popular movement” pushed the bourgeoisie into the background more than any other class?
It happened because only by completely distorting the concept of “bourgeois revolution” can one arrive at the view that the latter declines when the bourgeoisie recoils from it. It was bound to happen, because the chief driving force of the bourgeois revolution in Russia is the proletariat and the peasantry, with the bourgeoisie vacillating. Being politically enslaved by the landlords and absolutism, the bourgeoisie, on the other hand, takes a counter-revolutionary stand when the working-class movement grows in intensity. Hence its vacillations and its retreat into the “background”. It is both against and for the old order. It is willing to help the old regime against the workers, but it is perfectly capable of “establishing” itself, and even of strengthening and expanding its domination without any landlords and without any remnants of the old political regime. This is clearly shown by the experience of America and other countries.
It is easy to understand, therefore, why the peak of “the sweeping tide of the popular movement” and the greatest weakening of the old regime can cause the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie to retreat hurriedly into the “background”. This bourgeoisie is precisely the class which can be neutralised in the struggle between the new and the old, between democracy and medievalism; for, while it feels more at home, at ease and comfortable by the side of the old, this class can also exercise its rule in the event of the most complete victory of the new.
In speaking of the questionnaire of the Imperial Russian Technical Society, we cannot pass over in silence an article by Mr. A. Yermansky in Nos. 1–2 and 3 of the liquidationist Nasha Zarya. Mr. Yermansky gives a most detailed account of Mr. Gushka’s book, but not once does he indicate that he disagrees with him! As if a man who considers himself a Marxist could identify himself with the wishy-washy liberalism of a praiser of the commercial and industrial big-wigs!
Mr. Yermansky goes even further than Mr. Gushka in the direction of social-liberalism à la Brentano and Sombart, slightly touched up to look like Marxism.
“The organisations of the representative type,” writes Mr. Yermansky, “are organisations of class struggle in its full scope and on a national (partly even international) scale. The material provided by the questionnaire produces a picture of a practically boundless range of questions discussed by the organisations. The activity of our organisations extends to almost all problems of state importance, as was justly stated by the Yekaterinoslav Stock-Exchange Committee.” That is how Mr. Yermansky talks in a magazine that claims to be Marxist! This talk is blatantly false from beginning to end. It substitutes the liberal concept of class struggle for that of the class struggle in the Marxian sense. It proclaims as being of national and state importance the very thing which lacks the main feature of what concerns the whole nation and the whole state: the organisation of state power and the entire sphere of “state” administration, state policy, etc.
See the lengths to which Mr. Yermansky goes in his misguided zeal. In disputing the view that “the capitalist bourgeoisie in Russia” (he means the big commercial and industrial bourgeoisie) is flabby, underdeveloped, and so on, he seeks a “contemporary formula” that would express “the actual position of the big bourgeoisie in Russia
And what happens? It turns out that Mr. Yermansky sees this formula in the words uttered by Avdakov in the Board of Mining during a debate (mark this!) on the adoption of a new organisation 01 mining congresses with an elected chairman. The practice (in Russia) has been such, said Avdakov, “that so far no one has ever hampered us in anything”.
“That,” writes Mr. Yermansky, “is a formula which fits contemporary conditions to a T.”
We should think so! As far as the organisation of mining congresses is concerned, no one has hampered the dull-witted merchants who are submissively bearing the yoke of the political privileges of the landlords! Instead of ridiculing the bombastic Kit Kitych Avdakov, Mr. Yermansky strains every nerve in his zeal to assure people that Avdakov is not a Kit Kitych, that he has given a “contemporary formula” which expresses “the actual position of the big bourgeoisie in Russia”! As for Kit Kitych Avdakov, he is the perfect image of a portly butler who never dared even to think of becoming full master in place of his lord and who is touched by the fact that his lord permits him to confer in the servants’ hall with the chambermaid, the cook, etc.
The following tirade in Mr. Yermansky’s article shows that it is this difference between the status of the butler and the master that he refuses to understand:
“Here again,” he writes, “it will not be superfluous to make one comparison. Everybody remembers how emphatically and with how much publicity, so to speak, the aspirations of the Zemstvo members ‘to take part in the affairs of internal administration’ were described as ‘absurd dreams’. On the other hand, the St. Petersburg Stock-Exchange Committee, which declared, as early as the pre-constitution period, that it was necessary ‘to extend as far as possible the right of the stock-exchange societies [note this!] to take part in administrative affairs’, was fully justified in adding: ‘Such a right of the stock-exchange societies would not constitute any innovation, for the stock-exchange societies already enjoy it in part.’ What was ‘an absurd dream’ in the case of others, was no dream, but reality, an element of a real constitution, in the case of the representatives of big capital.”
“Was”, but not quite, Mr. Yermansky! Your “comparison” betrays your inability or unwillingness to distinguish between the aspiration (of the landlord class) to become full master itself and the aspiration (of the village elder who has grown rich) to consult with the master’s other servants. There is a world of difference between the two.
It is only natural that Mr. Yermansky should arrive at conclusions entirely in the spirit of Larin. The representatives of big capital in Russia, says Mr. Yermansky, “long ago won the position of a ruling class in the full sense of the term”.
This is false from beginning to end. Mr. Yermansky has forgotten both the autocracy and the fact that power and revenues are still in the hands of the feudal landlords. He is wrong in thinking that “only in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century” did our autocracy “cease to be exclusively feudal”. This “exclusiveness” no longer existed as far back as the epoch of Alexander II, compared with the epoch of Nicholas I. But it is absolutely impermissible to confuse a feudal regime which is shedding the qualities that make it exclusively feudal, and which is taking steps towards a bourgeois monarchy, with “the complete domination of the representatives of big capital”
The editors of Nasha Zarya, as usual, added a little “reservation” to Mr. Yermansky’s article, saying that the author “underestimates the importance which direct participation in the exercise of political power has for it” (the big bourgeoisie).
The method of making little reservations has firmly established itself among the liquidators. In a series of articles, Yermansky expounds in great detail views on the class struggle that are inspired by liberalism. What the magazine preaches is liberalism. As for the “reminiscences of the glorious days” of Marxism, they are squeezed into two lines of a footnote! The readers of Nasha Zarya are being brought up in the spirit of liberalism, which is substituted for Marxism, and the editors wash their hands of it—by a little reservation, in just the same way as in the Cadet Rech.
The point is not only that Mr. Yermansky “underestimates” a certain aspect of the issue. The point is that his view on the class struggle is wrong from beginning to end. The point is that he makes a fundamental mistake in appraising the social organisation of the autocracy. We pointed out long ago, and shall not cease to point out, that this question cannot be evaded by ridiculing “the answers of 1908” (or 1912), etc. This question cannot be evaded in any political writing that is at all serious.
The difference of opinion between Yermansky and Larin, on the one hand, and the editors of Nasha Zarya, on the other, is a difference between frank and, in their own way, honest liquidators and the diplomats of liquidationism. We should have no illusions on this score.
Larin wrote that the state power in our country has already become bourgeois. Therefore the workers must organise, not in expectation of a revolution (and not “for revolution”, he added), but for taking part in the constitutional renovation of the country. Yermansky, who approaches the question from a different angle, repeats in substance Larin’s first premise; but he only hints at the conclusions, without stating them plainly.
Martov “corrected” Larin in the same way as the editors of Nasha Zarya are correcting Yermansky, saying that the state power is not bourgeois as yet, and it will be “enough” for the workers to seize on the contradiction between constitutionalism and absolutism.
Thus the result is agreement between Martov (plus the editors of Nasha Zarya) and Larin-Yermansky as regards the conclusions, which is quite natural considering their agreement on the fundamental premises of the liberal view on labour policy.
We, however, still believe this view to be fundamentally wrong. The point is not whether Yermansky “underestimates” or Martov “overestimates” the “leftward trend” of the Guchkovs, Ryabushinskys and Co. It is not whether Yermansky “underestimates” or Martov “overestimates” the “importance which direct participation in the exercise of political power has for the bourgeoisie”. The point is that both of them not only “underestimate”, but simply do not appreciate the importance which “direct participation in the exercise of political power” has for the working class, and for the bourgeois democracy that is following its lead and is free from the present-day waverings of the liberals! Both of them have in mind only one “political power” and forget about the other.
Both of them are looking up to the top and do not see the lower ranks. But if a dozen Ryabushinskys and a hundred Milyukovs are grumbling and giving vent to liberal indignation, that means that tens of millions of petty bourgeois and of “small folk” in all walks of life feel that their condition is unbearable. And these millions, too, are a potential source of “political power”. Only the rallying of such democratic elements against the Rights and regardless of the vacillation of the liberals can “solve” the problems with which history has confronted Russia since the beginning of the twentieth century.
- Gushka, A. 0., and A. Yermansky, mentioned further on in the article, were pen-names of 0. A. Kogan, a Menshevik liquidator.
- Article 87 of the Fundamental State Laws authorised the Council of Ministers during the Duma recesses to submit Bills directly to the tsar for approval.
- Brentano, Lujo (1844–1931)—a German bourgeois economist, one of the main exponents of “professorial socialism”, who advocated renunciation of the class struggle and held it possible to resolve the social contradictions of capitalist society and reconcile the interests of the workers and capitalists by organising reformist trade unions and introducing factory legislation. On the agrarian question he upheld the reactionary theory of the “stability” of small-scale agriculture and the pseudo-scientific bourgeois “law of diminishing returns”. In the closing years of his life he was an outspoken apologist of imperialism.
Sombart, Werner (1863–1941)—a German vulgar bourgeois economist, a prominent ideologist of German imperialism. One of the theoreticians of “social-liberalism” in the early period of his activity, he later became an open enemy of Marxism and described capitalism as a harmonious economic system.
- Kit Kitych, or Tit Titych, a character in Alexander Ostrovsky’s play, Shouldering Another’s Troubles. He typifies an uneducated, stupid and barbaric petty tyrant.
- Rech (Speech)—a daily newspaper, the central organ of the Cadet Party, published in St. Petersburg from February 1906. It was closed down by the Military Revolutionary Committee under the Petrograd Soviet on October 26 (November 8), 1917.