Clarity First and Foremost!
|Written||2 July 1914|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 544-547
(On the QUESTION of UNITY)
1. PEOPLE HOLDING TWO OPINIONS[edit source]
Can people obviously incapable of taking serious problems seriously, themselves be taken seriously? It is difficult to do so, comrades, very difficult! But the question which certain people cannot treat seriously is in itself so serious that it will do no harm to examine even patently frivolous replies to it.
This serious question is that of the unity of the Russian working-class movement. Contributors to Yedinstvo are people incapable of treating this question seriously.
Here is the first example. In issue No. 4, Yedinstvo has published an interview with deputy Chkheidze. The editors of Yedinstvo have expressed the hope that this interview will help “to unite the Russian working class”. Very good. But let us see what Chkheidze has said about the organisational and tactical questions that interest the Russian workers.
Chkheidze has expressed himself as follows: “I am personally in full agreement with the views on tactics and organisation lately expounded in the press by Comrade An.”
What views has Comrade An lately expounded in the press?
What, for example, has he said about the views of the Luchists, alias the liquidators?
An, a prominent Menshevik and opponent of Pravdism, “has lately expounded in the press” the view that “the liquidators are steering a course towards reforms”, that their views on the “underground”, strikes, “uncurtailed slogans”, and so forth, are inseparably connected with their general reformism; that if the workers heeded their advice, the workers in the provinces would have to refrain from organising strikes, and so forth.
These views have indicated that An is beginning to free himself from captivity to the liquidators, and we have welcomed this.
Now Chkheidze says that he is “in full” agreement with these views. We are very glad to hear it. An understanding of the nature of liquidationism and emphatic renunciation of it is the beginning of wisdom, is it not? And we would be ready to welcome deputy Chkheidze’s long-delayed awakening to the role played by liquidationism as a trend.
But serious questions should be treated seriously, and it will be useful therefore to examine, not only Chkheidze’s statements in Yedinstvo, but his actions as well.
The reply of the Social-Democratic Duma group (of which deputy Chkheidze is chairman) to the terms of unity proposed by the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group might have been of vast importance to the cause of unity.
That reply appeared not very long ago in Nasha Rabochaya Gazeta, issue No. 2, in the form of an appeal to the workers.
In this appeal to the workers, deputy Chkheidze and his fellow-thinkers reply, among others, to the question of their attitude towards liquidationism as represented by the latter’s organ, at that time Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta.
“As for the Marxist Severnaya Rabochaya Garcia,” deputy Chkheidze and his friends write, “our attitude towards it can be defined as complete solidarity with its trend.”
Thus, in an official appeal to the workers, deputy Chkheidze has announced his “complete solidarity” with the trend of the liquidationist newspaper, and in the interview published in Yedinstvo he has stated that he is in “lull agreement” with the views of An, who has criticised this newspaper as an organ of the reformists who are hampering the present-day working-class movement.
Is such a thing permissible? Does this indicate a serious attitude towards a serious question? Has deputy Chkheidze anything serious to say on the question of unity with the liquidators, considering that in the space of two months he has contrived to express two diametrically opposite views on the liquidators?
But, we may be told, when the “Open Reply of the Social-Democratic Group” was being drafted, deputy Chkheidze was probably not yet aware of An’s views, and was there fore unable as yet to appreciate the significance of liquidationism.
Alas, this will not be in keeping with the truth, for An’s article was published long before the “Open Reply” appeared.
Another thing that must be borne in mind is this.
Several days after An’s articles appeared, L. M. in Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta, came out strongly in defence of the liquidators against An’s criticism. And what about Chkheidze? Did he utter a single word in defence of views with which he now appears to be in “full agreement”? No. Chkheidze kept quiet, while deputy Tulyakov, a fellow-member of his group, chose that very moment to come forward as publisher of Nasha Rabochaya Gazeta.
We repeat: is it permissible for the Chairman of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma to adopt such an attitude towards a question that is agitating the broad masses of the workers and has been repeatedly discussed at meetings, conferences, etc.? Has Chkheidze made any contribution to the solution of the problem of unity? Is this not an attempt to obscure the question of unity by means of parochial diplomatic considerations designed to save the liquidators?
This is the common failing of our “uniters”: they cannot give a clear answer to questions of the day; they do not themselves know what they want.
One thing is clear from their writings: they want to save the liquidators, and must therefore avoid clarity and precision in the formulation and solution of problems.
To the liquidators clarity and precision are the most dangerous things at the present time. Other articles in Yedinstvo bring this home to us still more forcibly.
But the workers want clarity, and they will get it, for they want to build up the unity of their organisation, not on the basis of diplomacy and equivocation, but on the basis of a precise appraisal of the political significance of the different “trends”. People who have two or even more opinions on this question are, poor counsellors.