Bewildered Non-Party People
|Written||4 October 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 436-438.
One of the most widespread and unhealthy symptoms of our public life is the contempt (if not open hostility) that is displayed towards adherence to a party.
It is characteristic of political free lances, political adventurers and political Manilovs to repudiate party affiliations and to talk pompously about party “bigotry”, “dogmatism”, intolerance, and so on, and so forth. As a matter of fact, the use of such expressions merely reflects the ridiculous and paltry conceit or self-justification of intellectuals who are shut off from the masses and feel compelled to cover up their feebleness. Serious politics can only be promoted by the masses; non-party masses that do not follow the lead of a strong party are, however, disunited, ignorant masses, with out staying power, prone to become a plaything in the hands of adroit politicians, who always emerge “opportunely” from the ranks of the ruling classes to take advantage of “favourable” circumstances.
Russia is one of the most petty-bourgeois countries in the world and is least accustomed to free political activities. This, and this alone, explains the contempt that is so widespread in this country for adherence to a party. One of the tasks of class-conscious workers in Russia (and one of the great historical services they must render) is to wage a systematic and persevering struggle against this attitude.
The following is one of the latest examples of the smug non-partisanship that reigns among the near-Party intellectuals.
The workers have organised the collection of funds for working-class newspapers on an extensive scale. It is not difficult to understand that when the masses have consciously decided for themselves which newspaper to assist and which trend to support, such collections teach them ideologically sound and principled politics.
The liquidators, who so often descend to non-party politics, have launched their notorious campaign for the collections to be shared equally. In this they were prompted solely by the desire to cover up their own weakness, and in their haste they did not have time to think and realise that the principle underlying such a campaign is precisely the principle of non-partisanship.
They were immediately exposed by the real state of affairs. Russian petty-bourgeois society made the liquidators’ slogan its own: share and share alike with everybody, with the liquidators and with the Narodniks!
When their political gamble is exposed, these non-party people who have renounced the Marxist past for the sake of visions of something as “broad” as it is unprincipled, begin to twist and turn. G. R., in No. 24 of the liquidators’ newspaper, assures us that the liquidators are not at all in favour of uniting with the Narodniks, and alleges that such union has been “systematically advocated” by the Marxists.
A cruder distortion of the truth could scarcely be imagined. If G. R. and Co. were not non-party, if they did not treat the history of Marxism like philistines, they would know that it was only due to the Marxists (supporters of Pravda) that the question of the attitude the workers should adopt to the various parties was settled quite officially more than six years ago. The Marxists alone gave a precise definition of the class basis of all the important parties in Russia; the liquidators have never been able to do this. The Marxists alone of all the parties in Russia, six years ago, defined the exact nature of the various “trends” and the attitude that should be adopted towards them in place of a chaotic, unprincipled attitude (“as circumstances demand”) towards individual parties.
Since then, events have brilliantly confirmed the correctness of this definition in the most unquestionable manner.
The definition states clearly and precisely that the Narodniks are petty-bourgeois democrats with whom “joint action” is possible only against reaction and against liberalism.
Now, G. R. and Co., in asserting that they are opposed to uniting with the Narodniks, want to wriggle out of it by saying: “We are in favour of the collections being shared equally between the two newspapers when ‘mass collections’ are made, but we are opposed to this when collections are made ‘among groups of politically conscious supporters’!” (See Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta No. 24.)
In the first place, it has already been proved by actual experience that a non-party plan emerges from your advocacy of share and share alike. This is a fact. This very issue, No. 24, contains a resolution adopted by one workers’ group which says: equally with the Narodniks, too. As is always the case with them, our non-partisans or independents, find themselves in the wrong box!
In the second place, can a group of politically conscious supporters be called such if it is unable to enlighten the masses? No, gentlemen, non-partisans, it cannot! Politically conscious supporters will say to the masses—let everybody contribute, let everybody unite, but try, in doing so, to distinguish the trends of the different newspapers!
To contribute and say “share and share alike” means being non-party, indifferent and not politically conscious. To contribute and say, “for such and such a trend”, means being politically conscious, and taking part consciously in a common action.
G. R. distorts this political ABC. The result is that G. R. and Co., the liquidators, while asserting that they are opposed to uniting with the Narodniks, are actually continuing their policy of uniting with them on a non-party basis; they are continuing a non-party policy extremely harmful to the workers, one which cannot be tolerated.
Worker democrats have more than once offered determined resistance to the advocacy of non-partisanship and must do so again in the future, for it dulls the political consciousness of the workers and makes it easier for all sorts of frauds to be perpetrated upon them.
- See present edition, Vol. 12, pp. 136–38.—Ed.