Against Unity—With the Liquidators
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 17, pages 491-496
No. 7 of the liquidationist newspaper Zhivoye Dyelo carries an editorial entitled “For Unity—Against a Split”. The article deals with a question that is undoubtedly extremely interesting and important and is exercising the mind of every thinking worker. We consider it our duty to express our opinion—even if in part and in brief, on the obviously and definitely incorrect information offered readers by Zhivoye Dyelo.
On the basis of reports in the newspapers Golos Zemli, Russkoye Slovo and Kievskaya Mysl which “agree with the information received by Zhivoye Dyelo”, the latter establishes the fact that a general Party conference was held abroad, and that this conference has “imposed upon all Marxists in Russia definite tactics to be pursued in the election campaign”, and, among other things, placed the Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni group outside the Party (italics of the Zhivoye Dyelo). In this connection, Zhivoye Dyelo (which intersperses its article with the usual slander and insinuations against the, anti-liquidators) is, first, trying its utmost to discredit the conference, and, second, takes Nasha Zarya and Co. under its wing, declaring that they cannot be placed “outside”, that the “writers” of that trend “contemptuously shrug their shoulders at this resolution”, etc.
We note, to begin with, that the entire content of the article in Zhivoye Dyelo, its hysterical tone and its vociferous shouting “for unity” clearly testify to the fact that the liquidators have been touched to the quick and are trying, unsuccessfully, to obscure the substance of the matter. It is with this substance that we shall now deal.
Naturally, we can neither defend the conference nor supplement or correct the information printed in the above-mentioned newspapers (to which Golos Moskvy should now be added). For that matter this is not what we have set out to do. And, for that matter, too, it is sufficient to reproduce word for word just one sentence from the article in Zhivoye Dyelo: “We ask,” the liquidators exclaim, “who elected them [the delegates to the conference], who authorised them to speak and decide on behalf of the Moscow, St. Petersburg, etc., Marxists?” It would be quite natural for Mr. Purishkevich or Mr. Zamyslovsky, for example, openly to “ask” such a question. But it is the liquidators who ask this question of the public in the columns of Zhivoye Dyelo and this question in itself so splendidly reveals their liquidationist nature, so magnificently exposes them, that it only remains for us to point to these methods of the liquidators and to leave it at that.
We repeat that we are dealing with the questions touched upon in this article only insofar as it is our duty to comment on statements in the press and to note all that is related to the workers’ election campaign. The readers must know the truth. When the liquidators say—“For unity—against a split”—it is our duty to reveal the falsehood contained in this statement. First, why play at hide-and-seek and speak of “unity” in general, when as a matter of fact, it is a question only of unity with the liquidators? Why does Zhivoye Dyelo obscure the real issue? Why doesn’t it say openly whether or not it is in agreement with the point of view expressed by Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni? Secondly, it is premature to speak of a split so long as we are not con fronted by two organised, integral political collectives functioning in the same milieu.
This is the substance of the matter that Zhivoye Dyelo should speak about—its shouting and abuse will lead it nowhere.
Unity with the liquidators is not a new, but rather an old, issue. More than two years ago, in January 1910, a most determined attempt was made to establish such unity; it was formulated in an agreement and sealed by a unanimous resolution. The attempt failed, that is admitted by all, the liquidators included (see Nasha Zarya for 1911, No. 11, p. 130). Why did it fail? People who are really interested in the question ought to find the answer themselves, by examining the documents. We shall cite here only a few of the documents, but the most decisive.
One of the “uniters” or “conciliators”, Mr. Ionov, who is well known for his part in the attempt to establish unity with the liquidators, wrote at the very time that attempt was made:
“However harmful otzovism and liquidationism, as such, may be to the Party, their beneficial effect on the factions [the Menshevik and the Bolshevik factions] seems to be beyond doubt. Pathology recognises two kinds of abscess—harmful and harmless. The harmless type is a disease beneficial to the organism. As it grows, it draws various injurious sub stances from the entire organism and thus helps improve the health of that organism. I believe that a similar role was played by liquidationism in respect of Menshevism and by otzovism-ultimatumism in respect of Bolshevism.”
Here is one documented confirmation of the fact that the declared condition for unity with the liquidators was that they should completely renounce liquidationism. That was in January 1910. In February 1910, Mr. Potresov wrote the following in Nasha Zarya, No. 2:
“I ask the reader,” wrote Mr. Potresov, “whether it is possible that there can exist, in this year of 1909, as some thing that is actually real and not a figment of a diseased imagination, a liquidationist tendency, a tendency to liquidate what is already beyond liquidation and actually no longer exists as an organised whole”. (Nasha Zarya, 1910, No. 2, p. 61.)
All practical workers know that the liquidators acted exactly as directed by Mr. Potresov. Vozrozhdeniye, another well-known organ of the liquidators, to which the same Martov, Larin, Levitsky and Co. contributed, quoted these words of Mr. Potresov’s in its issue of March 30, 1910, and added approvingly on its own behalf: “There is nothing to liquidate—and for ourselves we [i.e., the editors of Vozrozhdeniye I may add, the dream of resuscitating that hierarchy, in its old, underground shape is nothing but a harmful, reactionary utopia...” (Vozrozhdeniye, 1910, No. 5. p. 51).
Were there any other persons and trends, besides ours, who interpreted these statements as a breach on the part of the liquidators with the old, previously existing political collective? There certainly were. The proof: (1) An article by Mr. Izgoyev in Russkaya Mysl, 1910, No. 8—“A Vekhi Writer Among Marxists”. Mr. Izgoyev always assesses the events taking place among the Marxists from a consistently Vekhi viewpoint. “The answer [given by Mr. Potresov to the questions of the working-class movement] fully accords,” wrote Mr. Izgoyev, “with what was written in Vekhi, which he reviles, and what the publicists of Russkaya Mysl are saying” (Russkaya Mysl, 1910, No. 8, p. 67). (2) The Menshevik Plekhanov wrote in May 1910 apropos of Mr. Potresov’s words quoted above: “There is no doubt, however, that a man for whom our Party does not exist, does not himself exist for our Party. [Plekhanov’s italics.] Now all the members of the Party will have to say that Mr. Potresov is no comrade of theirs, and some of them, will, perhaps, stop accusing, me on the score that I have long since ceased to regard him as such.”
The fact is established, and no subterfuges and evasions can alter matters. The liquidators broke with the previously existing political collective as far back as 1910. No historian of Russian political life can evade this fact unless he wants to depart from the truth. In 1911, Levitsky, Martov, Dan, Larin, Chatsky and Co. repeatedly made statements fully in line with Potresov’s. We have only to recall how Larin, in Dyelo Zhizni (for 1911, No. 6, p. 15), preached to the workers that it is not difficult “to form circles ... of several hundred people ... in each town”, but that it would be just a “masquerade”!
It is our profound conviction that the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from this, from more than two years’ experience, is that unity with the liquidators is an impossibility. Nor is an agreement with them possible. Agreements in this case are inconceivable because it is a question of the existence or non-existence of what the liquidators have contemptuously dubbed “the hierarchy”. And no abuse from Zhivoye Dyelo—an organ of the very same liquidators of the very same trend—can change anything. The liquidators are outside.... That is an irrevocable fact.
It may be objected, perhaps, that this fact implies a split. It does not. A split means the formation of two political collectives instead of one. At the present time, however, in March 1912, an observer of our political life, one equipped with the finest telescope and looking from the vantage point of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, New York or elsewhere—will be able to discern only one organised, integral political collective, and the only result of the liquidators’ abuse is that this collective is gaining strength among the workers.
The trouble with the liquidators is that they have indeed liquidated their relations with the old, but they have created nothing new. When they do create something, we shall see what it is and, in our capacity of political observers, inform readers about it. But so far the fact remains that there is no other integrated political collective, consequently, there is no split.
The liquidators have long since given notice that they are going to form an “open” political association. But that has nothing to do with the facts. Mr. Levitsky “himself”, Potresov’s and Martov’s closest colleague, expressed, in a leading article in Nasha Zarya, No. 11 (1911), his regret that “we do not see a single, more or less serious, attempt to organise a legally existing political [Mr. Levitsky’s italics] association”. Mr. Levitsky thinks that both the “masses” and the “leaders” are to blame for this. But it is not now a question of who is to blame, but of establishing a fact. If Mr. Levitsky and his friends form a legally existing political association, if it actually pursues a Marxist (and not a liberal) labour policy, then ... then we shall see. Only you had better make haste, gentlemen, not much time re mains to the elections, and Herculean efforts are needed to do in months what has not been done in years (or to do it in a way diametrically opposed to the way it was done before).
The liquidators have decapitated themselves. And it is no use weeping for the hair when the head is gone.
An observer of Russian political life may discover only one political collective in the sphere which interests us. Around it he will find individuals and unorganised small groups which offer no complete answer even to the most urgent political problems. In other words, there is disintegration everywhere. As in every case of disintegration there are some who vacillate and some who hope (in vain, alas!) to prevail upon the liquidators actually to break with liquidationism. But only hopeless politicians can try to feed themselves on hopes a mere six months before the elections.
Take, for instance, the question of slogans for the election campaign, of tactics, of agreements. There is only one formulated, clear, explicit, and complete answer, and this answer is already known to all the leading workers throughout Russia. There is no other answer. Once more, Messrs. Liquidators: It’s no use weeping for the hair when the head is gone.
P.S. Trotsky, apparently, classes himself among those who “hope” that the liquidators may mend their ways; for, writing in Zhivoye Dyelo he gives a simplified paraphrase of the introductory section of the December 1908 resolutions on the essence of the June Third regime. We shall be very glad if Trotsky succeeds in convincing Larin and Martov, for instance, not to mention others, that they all ought to agree on one definite, explicit, and clear answer to the question of what the substance of our present “Constitution” is. They are shouting about the usefulness of “unity”, about the harm of “the circle outlook”, and yet they cannot elaborate a united opinion even of their “own” circle, either on questions of principle, or on practical questions of our entire activity! But, to compensate for this, there is phrase-mongering galore! “Social-Democracy, “writes Trotsky, “is able to inscribe its great tasks on the inner surface of the cranium, not only as a formula....” What an elegant writer Trotsky is—as elegant as Potresov and Nevedomsky.
- Golos Zemli (Voice of the Land)—a liberal-bourgeois newspaper, published in St. Petersburg in 1912.
Russkoye Slovo (Russian Word)—a daily liberal-bourgeois newspaper, published in Moscow from 1895 until it was banned in 1917.
Kievskaya Mysl (Kiev Thought)—a daily liberal-bourgeois newspaper, published in Kiev from 1906 to 1918. Menshevik liquidators were among its most active contributors.