From the Camp of the Stolypin “Labour” Party (October 18, 1911)

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 18 October 1911

Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 24, October 18 (31), 1911. Published according to the Sotsial-Demokrat text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 17, pages 287-291
Collection(s): Sotsial-Demokrat

Nos. 6, 7, and 8 of Nasha Zarya are in the main devoted to the election campaign and the election platform. In the articles dealing with these subjects the essence of the liquidators’ views is concealed behind an extraordinary number of inordinately inflated, laboured, high-sounding phrases about “the fighting mobilisation of the proletariat”, “the widespread and open mobilisation of the masses”, “political mass organisations of independent active workers”, “self governing groups”, “class-conscious workers”, etc., etc. Yuri Chatsky even went so far as to declare that the platform must be a “product” not only of “deep thought” but also of “keen feeling”.... These phrases, which, doubtlessly, arouse the enthusiasm of high-school boys and girls, are in tended to stun the readers, to “produce a smoke-screen”, so as to make it easier for the writers to smuggle in their contraband.

Mr. Yuri Chatsky, for instance, extols the significance of a platform and the importance of having a single platform. “We attach the greatest importance,” he writes, “to the sanction [of the platform] by the Social-Democratic group in the Duma; but at the same time we absolutely insist on the condition that the latter does not follow the line of least resistance by sanctioning a platform imposed upon it by circles abroad.”

These are the words as they appear in print. Nor are they printed in a Black-Hundred publication which specialises in Jew and émigré baiting, but in a “Social-Democratic” magazine! How low these gentlemen must have fallen if, instead of explaining the difference in principle between their platform and the platform of “circles abroad”, they raise a howl against those abroad!

Yuri Chatsky goes about it so clumsily that he betrays the name of the circle on whose behalf he is pursuing his liquidationist line. “The element of possible centralisation,” he writes, “is the group of Social-Democratic [?] functionaries who are closely connected with the open workers’ movement [you mean, through Nasha Zarya, don’t you?] and are acquiring ever greater stability... [and an ever more pronounced liberal appearance].... We refer particularly to St. Petersburg.”...

Why not speak out more plainly, gentlemen! It is unbecoming and foolish to play here at blind-man’s-buff; when you speak of “the element of centralisation”, or simply the centre (of liquidationism), you mean, and properly so, the group of contributors to the St. Petersburg Nasha Zarya. The truth will out.

L. Martov is trying to hide the truth by paraphrasing those postulates of the Social-Democratic programme that are legal and offering them as the basis for an election platform. Nor does he spare fine words to the effect that we need not “renounce” or “curtail” anything. He says this on page 48 of No. 7–8. But on page 54, in the concluding paragraph of his article, we read:

“We [? apparently Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni] must conduct the entire election campaign under the banner [sic!] of the struggle of the proletariat for the freedom of its political self-determination, of the struggle for its right to have a class party of its own and to develop its activities freely, for the right to take part in political life as an independent organised force. This principle must govern both the content and tactics of the election campaign and the methods to be used for organisational work.”

What a splendid exposition of a liberal labour platform! A worker Social-Democrat will “conduct the campaign under the banner” of the struggle for the freedom of the whole people, for a democratic republic. A worker who is a liberal is fighting “for the right to have a class party [in the Brentano, social-liberal sense] of its own”. To make this the governing principle means betraying the democratic cause. The liberal bourgeois and the astute agents of the government desire nothing better than that the workers should fight for the freedom of their “political self-determination”, but not for the freedom of the whole country. Martov has merely paraphrased Levitsky’s formula: “Not the hegemony of the proletariat, but a class party”! Martov has formulated a slogan of pure “Neo-Economism”. The Economists said that the workers should confine themselves to the economic struggle, leaving the political struggle to the liberals. The Neo-Economists, the liquidators, say that the whole content of the election campaign should be subordinated to the principle: the struggle of the workers for the right to have a class party of their own.

Is Martov aware of the import of these words of his? Does he realise that they imply the renunciation of the revolution by the proletariat?—“liberal gentlemen, in 1905 we opposed you and roused the masses in general, and the peasants in particular, to revolution, we fought for the freedom of the people in spite of liberal efforts to halt the movement, to confine it to the achievement of semi-freedom. From now on we will no longer allow ourselves to be ‘carried away’; we will fight for the freedom of the workers to have a class party of their own”. That is actually all the Vekhi-type, counter-revolutionary liberals (cf. particularly the writings of Izgoyev) demand of the workers. The liberals do not deny the workers’ right to have a class party of their own. What they do deny is the “right” of the proletariat, which is the only consistently revolutionary class, to rouse the masses of the people to the struggle in spite of and even against the liberals.

Vowing not to “renounce” and not to “curtail”, Julius Martov has so curtailed the Social-Democratic platform as to fully satisfy Larin, Potresov, Prokopovich, and Izgoyev.

See how Martov criticises the resolution of the Party on tactics (adopted in December 1908). With regard to the phrase—“a step in the transformation into a bourgeois monarchy”—he says that it is “an unfortunate formula”, for “it fails to account for the actual step back toward division of power between the protagonists of absolutism and the landowning nobility”, and “it takes no account of the decisive collision between classes”—meaning, apparently, between the bourgeois liberals and the feudal-minded land owners! Martov forgets that in 1905–07 the liberal bourgeois feared a “decisive collision” with the feudal landowners, preferring a “decisive collision” with the workers and peas ants (just as the liberals forget about this and accuse the workers of “excesses”). Martov sees the “step back” of autocracy toward the feudal-minded landowners. (This step is explicitly mentioned in the resolution of the Party in the words: “... to preserve the power and revenue of the feudal-minded landowners”.) But Martov jails to see the “step back” taken by the liberal bourgeois from democracy to “law and order”, to the monarchy, to a rapprochement with the landowners. Martov fails to see the connection between The “step towards a bourgeois monarchy” and the counter revolutionary character of the liberal bourgeoisie with its Vekhi mentality. He fails to see it because he is himself “a Vekhi advocate among Marxists”. Like a liberal who dreams of a “decisive collision” between the liberal bourgeois and the feudal-minded landowners, he throws over board the historic reality of the revolutionary collision between the workers and peasants on the one hand and the feudal-minded landowners on the other, notwithstanding the vacillations of the liberals, notwithstanding even their desertion to the party of law and order.

Here, too, we get the same result: Martov rejects the resolution of the Party from the viewpoint of a liberal labour policy, but, unfortunately, he does not oppose it by any resolution of his own on tactics (although he is compelled to admit that tactics must be based on an appraisal of “the historical meaning of the June Third period”!).

It is therefore quite obvious why Martov writes: “The workers’ party should strive ... to prevail upon the proper tied classes to take one step or another toward the democratisation of legislation and an extension of constitutional guarantees...”. Every liberal concedes that it is quite legitimate for the workers to strive “to prevail upon the proper tied classes” to take one step or another; all that the liberal stipulates is that the workers should not dare to prevail upon the non-propertied to take “steps” which are not to the liberals’ liking. The entire policy of the British liberals, who have so profoundly corrupted the British workers, is to allow the workers to try “to prevail upon the propertied classes”, but not to allow the workers to win for themselves the leadership of a movement of the whole people.

Similarly it is quite obvious why Chatsky, Julius Martov, and Dan hate the tactics of a “Left bloc”. They see in it not just a “Left bloc” for the elections, but the general tactics established by the London Congress—to wrest the peasants (and the petty bourgeois in general) away from the influence of the Cadets and compel the Narodnik groups to choose between the Constitutional-Democrats and the Social-Democrats. To reject these tactics Is tantamount to renouncing democracy. Only Stolypinite Social-Democrats could fail to see this today, after the “Stolypin period”, after the exploits of the “Stolypin liberalism of the Cadets” (Milyukov’s London slogan—“His Majesty’s Opposition”!), after the publication of Vekhi

There should be no illusions—we have two election platforms, that is a fact. It is a fact that cannot be argued away by phrase-mongering, lamentations, wishes. One is the platform explained above, based on the decisions of the Party. The other is the Potresov-Larin platform, developed and supplemented by Levitsky, Yuri Chatsky and Co., and touched up by Martov. The latter platform, which claims to be Social-Democratic is actually the platform of a liberal labour policy.

Anyone who fails to understand the difference, the irreconcilable difference, between these two platforms of working-class policy cannot conduct the election campaign intelligently. He is sure to be haunted at every step by disappointments, “misunderstandings”, and comic or tragic mistakes.