Agreement or Split?
|Written||15 March 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 18, pages 598-600.
Concerning the Differences Within the Social-Democratic Duma Group[edit source]
Social-Democratic opinion is alarmed by the threat of a split in the group that sounded in the letter of the seven deputies. The matter has justly aroused keen interest among the workers. It is essential to make an accurate and clear-cut appraisal of the situation.
On one side are all six deputies from the worker curia, i.e., representatives of the vast majority of Russia’s working class, as everyone realises. On the other side are the remaining seven deputies, who command an accidental majority of one vote inside the group.
On the face of it, the point at issue is that the seven deputies want to force the other six to become contributors to the newspaper Luch, and declare for merging Pravda and Luch. These demands of the seven deputies seem to us simply unreasonable, to put it plainly. Can anyone be compelled by a majority vote” to contribute to a newspaper whose trend he does not share? (It goes without saying that any self-respecting editorial board would refuse to have “contributors” who have been dragged in by force, against their will.) Can one speak seriously of merging Pravda and Luch? Of course not! And we declare plainly that we should consider it a betrayal of the proletarian cause for Pravda to renounce its struggle against liquidationism, and hence, for Pravda and Luch to be merged, so long as Luch has not renounced liquidationist propaganda—against the “underground”, against political strikes, etc. A serious Social-Democrat would hardly believe it if he were told that Pravda and the six workers’ deputies had decided to commit suicide merely because Luch insisted on it. That is out of the question, and the seven deputies will do well to cease harking back to their absolutely unacceptable and unrealistic “plan”
However, this does not exhaust the issue of the differences within the group. Everyone senses that behind the outward dispute over the forced collaboration with Luch there is some other, more serious and important dispute. The point of this dispute is the attitude of either section of the group to liquidationism.
And we think that in this matter the workers are entitled first of all to insist on the seven deputies stating their attitude to liquidationism—in plain, precise, clear and definite terms. It is the duty of the seven deputies to do this as openly as the six workers’ deputies did it. In the Third Duma group, the overwhelming majority of the deputies were Mensheviks. But their attitude to liquidationism was markedly negative. Now what is the attitude of the seven deputies today? They have themselves raised the question of Luch, i.e., of liquidationism. They are, therefore, doubly obliged to say openly and exactly what they think of the propaganda of Luch against the underground (see Luch No. 101 and other issues), against political strikes, against the hegemony of the working class in the emancipation movement, etc. Unless this is done, not a single step can be taken towards finding a way out of the situation.
We say plainly: if the Social-Democratic group were found to include even one deputy who would make speeches from the Duma platform like the article in Luch No. 101 (which said that the growing sympathy for the “underground” was a “deplorable” fact, etc.), a break with that deputy would be unavoidable. And any Social-Democratic deputy who did not get up and say that that speaker did not express the opinion of the Social-Democrats would fail in his duty towards the working class.
Are we right or wrong in expressing this opinion? We shall calmly leave it to the workers to answer this question.
In view of the serious differences between the two halves of the group, unity can be preserved only if both sides alike strive for agreement. To “settle” questions bearing on the Party Programme by an accidental majority of one vote means inviting a split. That is obvious to anyone. People who are earnest in their desire for unity will never adopt this way of “settling” questions.
Is such an agreement possible in the group as it now stands? Until recently it was. The declaration of the group, read at the beginning of the Fourth Duma’s work, is an example. The group rejected liquidationist claims, and thus made an agreement between the two sections possible. Given goodwill, and provided the seven deputies are not preparing for a split, this will be possible in the future as well on all important political questions.
The declaration is an example of what should be done to avoid a split. On the other hand, the example of “cultural national autonomy” is an example of what should not be done, to avoid a split. To put forward this demand, as did Comrade Chkhenkeli, means cancelling the Social-Democratic Programme. Hitherto the liquidators have asserted that this demand “does not contradict” the Programme, but now they have been exposed even by the Bundists them selves, who (see Die Zeit No. 9) congratulate Chkhenkeli precisely for having “abandoned the rigid standpoint of official theory on the national question”. To cancel the Programme by seven votes to six means paving the way for a split. That is obvious to any class-conscious worker.
And so, the alternative is agreement or split!
What do we propose? Agreement!
Is agreement possible? Yes!
Is it desirable? Yes!
What is needed to bring it about? What is needed is not to cancel the Programme, not to revile the “underground”, to remain loyal to the old banner! Our demands are modest, as the reader will see.
For agreement between the seven and six, against a split! This is what all class-conscious workers should demand.
- Die Zeit (Time)—a daily newspaper published by the Bund in Yiddish in St. Petersburg from December 20, 1912 (January 2, 1913) to May 5 (18), 1914.