Have the Organising Committee and the Chkheidze Group a Policy of Their Own?

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In their magazine,[1] and more definitely in their report to the International Socialist Committee[2] (No. 2 of the Bulletin which appeared in German on November 27, 1915[3]), the adherents of the OC attempt to assure the public that the Chkheidze fraction[4] and the OC have a policy of their own, which is completely internationalist and differs from the policy of Nashe Dyelo. These assertions are most flagrant untruths. In the first place, ever since the OC was formed (August, 1912), we have witnessed for many years the most complete political agreement on all fundamentals, and the closest political cooperation, between the Chkheidze fraction and the OC and the Nasha Zarya group; and only this group has carried on systematic work among the masses (the liquidators’ daily papers). If there are any real differences among such close “friends,” they must be proved, not by words but by weighty facts. Not a single fact of this kind can be brought forward, Secondly, for a number of years, from 1912 to 1914, the Chkheidze fraction and the OC have been pawns in the hands of Nasha Zarya and have systematically defended its policy (a fact very well known to the workers of St. Petersburg and other places) and nor once did they exercise any influence in the direction of changing the policy of Nasha Zarya, Luch,[5] etc.

In politics concerning the masses–for example, the struggle against the “strike fever,” the election of leaders of the biggest trade unions (metal workers and others) and of the most important insurance organisations (the All-Russian Insurance Council)–Nasha Zarya was the only group that acted independently, while the OC and the Chkheidze fraction merely assisted is serving faithfully and well. Thirdly, not a single fact has occurred in the course of the last eighteen months of the war to prove that the long established relations of the Chkheidze fraction and the OC with Nasha Zarya have undergone any change. On the contrary, facts prove the opposite, and some may even be made public (the majority of facts of this kind should not be made public). It is a fact that in Russia neither the OC nor the Chkheidze fraction has ever, not even once, opposed the policy of Nashe Dyelo; and yet a real change in policy would require, not one protest, but a prolonged and victorious struggle; for Nashe Dyelo is a political quantity fostered by liberal connections, whereas the OC and the Chkheidze fraction are merely political stage scenery. It is a fact that Utro and Rabocheye Utro,[6] which wholly and entirely pursue the policy of Nashe Dyelo, even outwardly demonstrate their political proximity to the Chkheidze fraction and speak in the name of the entire August bloc. It is a fact that the Chkheidze fraction is collecting funds for Rabecheye Utro. It is a fact that the whole of the Chkheidze fraction is now writing for the Samara social-chauvinist paper Nash Golos (see No. 17). It is a fact that one of the most prominent members of the Chkheidze fraction, Chkhenkeli, has published in the press, in the “defencist” or social-chauvinist magazine Sovremenny Mir,[7] the magazine published by Messrs. Plekhanov and Alexinsky, declarations of principles in line with those of Plekhanov, Nashe Dyelo, Kautsky and Axelrod. We quoted Chkhenkeli’s declaration a long time ago, and yet neither the adherents of the O.C, their magazine, nor Trotsky in his Nashe Slovo[8] have dared to defend this declaration, although they defend and advertise the Chkheidze fraction. Fourthly, direct political statements in the name of the whole of the Chkheidze fraction and of the whole of the OC prove our assertion. Take the most important pronouncements, which have been reprinted in the OC’s magazine: the declaration of Chkheidze and Co. and the manifesto of the OC The point of view of both these documents is identical, the position they both take is the same. Since the OC is the supreme leading body in the “August bloc” against our Party, and since the OC’s manifesto was printed secretly, which means that it was able to speak more freely and more openly than Chkheidze is able to speak in the Duma, let us examine the OC’s manifesto.

It is interesting to note, by the way, that this manifesto has already been the subject of controversy in the German Social-Democratic press, in the Berne Social Democratic paper. A contributor to that newspaper described the manifesto as “patriotic”. This roused the indignation of the Foreign Secretariat of the OC, which published a refutation declaring that “we, too, the Foreign Secretariat, are guilty of such patriotism,” and invited the editors of the paper to be the judges, as it were; for this purpose it submitted to them a full German translation of the manifesto. We must add that the editors of this paper are notoriously partial to the OC and give it publicity. What did these editors, who are partial to the OC, say?

“We have read a manifesto issued by the OC,” said the editors (No. 250), “and we must admit that the text may undoubtedly give rise to misunderstanding and impart to the whole a meaning which was perhaps alien to the authors of the manifesto.”

Why did not the adherents of the OC reprint in their magazine this opinion of the editors, whom they themselves had invited to act as judges? Because it is the opinion of the friends of the OC who publicly refused to defend the OC! The opinion was written with exquisite diplomatic courtesy, which makes it particularly evident that the editors desired to say something “pleasant” to Axelrod and Martov. But the pleasantest thing they could say is: “Perhaps” (only “perhaps”!) “the OC did not say what it meant to say; but what it did say may undoubtedly give rise to misunderstanding!!”

We strongly urge our readers to read the OC’s manifesto, which is reproduced in the Bund’s Bulletin (No. 9). Anyone who reads it carefully will note the following clear and simple facts: 1) the manifesto does not contain a single statement which in principle repudiates national defence in the present war; 2) there is absolutely nothing in the manifesto which in principle would be inacceptable to the “defencists” or social chauvinists; 3) there are a number of statements in the manifesto which are completely identical with “defencism”: “The proletariat cannot remain indifferent to the impending defeat” (almost literally what is said in Rabocheye Utro, which says: “not indifferent” towards “saving the country from defeat”); “the proletariat is vitally interested in the self preservation of the country”; “a popular revolution” must save the country “from external defeat,” etc. Instead of using expressions like these, one who is really hostile to racial chauvinism would have said instead: The landowners, the tsar and the bourgeoisie are lying; by national self-preservation they mean preserving the Great-Russian oppression of Poland and retaining her by force; they are lying, their talk about saving the “country” from defeat being designed to conceal their desire to “save” the Great-Power privileges and divert the proletariat from the tasks of fighting the international bourgeoisie. To admit in one breath the need for the international solidarity of the proletariat of the belligerent countries in this predatory imperialist war and the permissibility of phrases about “saving” one of these countries from “defeat” is sheer hypocrisy and signifies that one’s declarations are nothing more than idle talk and false oratory. The implication there is that the tactics of the proletariat depend on the military situation of a given country at a given time; if that is the case the French social-chauvinists would also be right in helping to “save” Austria or Turkey from “defeat”.

The OC Secretariat Abroad writing in the German Social-Democratic press (the Berne paper) has put forward yet another sophism which is so shameless, so crude, and so deliberately “set” to catch the Germans in particular, that the adherents of the OC wisely refrained from repeating it before the Russian public

“If it is patriotism,” they write for the benefit of the Germans in a tone of noble indignation, “to tell the proletariat that revolution is the only means of saving the country from disaster”, then we, too, are “patriots”, and “we wish the International had many more ‘patriots’ like this in every Socialist Party; we are sure that Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and Merrheim would be very glad to have many more ‘patriots’ like these around them to appeal to the German and French workers with manifestos of this kind”.

This is deliberate misrepresentation; the five secretaries know perfectly well that there is not a hint of any bourgeois revolutionary mood or any bourgeois social movement striving for revolution for the sake of victory over the enemy either in France or Germany, both of which are headed for socialist revolution; in Russia, however, just because she is headed for a bourgeois-democratic revolution, such a movement does exist, as everybody knows. The five secretaries are trying to deceive the Germans by an amusing sophism: the OC and Chkheidze and Co. cannot be revolutionary chauvinists in Russia, they argue, because in Europe a combination of revolutionism with chauvinism is an absurdity!

Yes, in Europe it is an absurdity. In Russia, however, it is a fact. You may reproach the Prizyv[9] crowds for being bad bourgeois revolutionaries, but you cannot deny that in their own way they combine chauvinism with revolutionism. The July conference of the Narodniks in Russia,[10] Nashe Dyelo and Rabocheye Utro wholly and entirely take the position of the Prizyv-ists in this respect: they, too, combine chauvinism with revolutionism.

The Chkheidze fraction, in its declaration (pp.141-43 of the OC’s magazine) took up the same position. Chkheidze uses the same chauvinist phrases about the “danger of defeat,” and if he admits the imperialist character of the war, stands for “peace without annexations,” “the general tasks of the entire international proletariat,” “the struggle for peace,” etc., etc. so does Rabocheye Utro; and so do the petty-bourgeois Russian Narodniks. In this very magazine of the OC, on page 146, we read that the petty-bourgeois Narodniks have admitted the imperialist character of the war, have adopted the demand for “peace without annexations” and have admitted that Socialists (the Narodniks as well as the Rabocheye Utro wish to be known as Socialists) “must strive for the speedy restoration of the international solidarity of the Socialist organisations in order to stop the war,” etc. The petty-bourgeois Narodniks resort to all these phrases to camouflage the slogan of “national defence,” which they have openly advanced, whereas Chkheidze, the O.C, and Rabocheye Utro pass off this slogan in the guise of “save the country from defeat.”

The sum and substance of the whole thing is that Chkheidze and the OC have poured out a string of revolutionary phrases, which commit them to nothing and which in no way hinder the practical policies of the Prizyv-ists and the Nashe Dyelo-ists, but they have hushed up these policies. In one way or another they support participation in the War Industries Committees.

Fewer phrases about revolution, gentlemen, and more clarity, straightforwardness and honesty in the practical policies of today. You promise to be revolutionaries, but just now you are helping the chauvinists, the bourgeoisie and tsarism, either by openly advocating that the workers be represented in the War Industries Committees, or by tacitly defending those who participate in them by refraining from fighting them.

Martov may wriggle as much as he likes. Trotsky may shout against our factionalism, concealing with these shouts (an old trick of Turgenev’s... hero![11]) his own, no doubt non-factional, “expectations” that someone in Chkheidze’s fraction is “in agreement” with him and swears that he is a Left, an internationalist, etc. But facts remain facts. There is no shadow of serious political difference not only between the OC and the Chkheidze fraction, there is none even between these bodies and Rabocheye Utro or Prizyv.

That is why in practice they are together in opposing our party, in supporting the bourgeois policy of workers participating in the War Industries Committees, and are together in siding with the non-party workers and the Narodniks. The verbal reservations and vows of the “foreign secretaries” that they “disagree” remain idle phrases, which affect the real policy of the masses as little as the vows of Sudekum, Legien and David that they are “for peace” and “against war” absolve them of chauvinism.

  1. The Bulletin of the International Socialist Committee at Berne was the organ of the Zimmerwald League and was published between 1915 and 1917 in English, French, and German.
  2. Die Internationale Sozialistiche Kommission zu Bern. Bulletin–the I.S.C. organ from September 1915 to January 1917. It was published in English, French, and German. There were six issues in all. —Lenin
  4. The five Menshevik deputies in the first Duma headed by Chkheidze.