How the Workers Responded to the Formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Group in the Duma
Published in 1914 in the symposium Marxism end Liquidationism, Part II. Priboi Publishers, St. Petersburg. Published according to the text in the symposium.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 536-543
The article “How the Workers Responded to the Formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Group in the Duma” was written as a supplement to Lenin’s work “Material on the History of the Formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Group in the Duma” reprinted in the symposium Marxism and Liquidationism, Part II, from the newspaper Za Pravdu. Lenin wrote the article in March-April 1914, and supplemented it in June with fresh material concerning money contributions to the Marxist and liquidationist newspapers handled by the Duma groups. (See p. 542 of this volume.) The article contains a number of preparatory materials. The Central Party Archive of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism under the Central Committee of the CPSU is in possession of Lenin’s manuscript calculations of the signatures in favour of the Bolshevik Six and the Menshevik Seven, calculations of the contributions that passed through the hands of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group and the Social-Democratic group in the Duma between October 1913 and June 6 (19), 1914.
It was natural that the open struggle against the liquidators should flare up more strongly than ever with the formation of the independent Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma. A more convenient and plausible excuse for the liquidators of the Party (and for their overt and covert defenders) to shout about “unity” could not be imagined. From the point of view of the man in the street, the whole issue would seem to centre on the question whether one or two Duma groups want to call them selves Social-Democratic. As to whose will one or the other group is carrying out, what decisions the majority of the class-conscious and organised workers have adopted, or what is the “underground”—the man in the street is incapable of grasping this, and indeed shrinks from doing so.
Therefore, if there was any point on which the liquidators could count on the sympathy of the man in the street and philistines, who do not care a hang about parties, it was precisely on the point of what is known as the “split” in the Social-Democratic group in the Duma. The outcries from philistines who would call themselves Social-Democrats have never been so loud and so piteous. The open nature of all these events made it much easier for the workers and the public at large to appraise them, and Pravda, in unison with the liquidators’ newspaper, has called upon the class-conscious proletariat to express its opinion.
Letters, statements and resolutions from workers have begun to fill the columns of both newspapers.
Many months have passed since the independent Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma was formed (at the end of October 1913). The campaign of resolutions in the respective newspapers, in favour of the Six (Russian Social-Democratic Labour group) or of the Seven (the liquidators) is now over.
The question arises, what are the results of this campaign? On this point we have first of all the following statement by Mr. L. Martov in Nasha Zarya No. 10–11:
“What,” writes Mr. L. Martov, “was the proletariat’s attitude towards the split in the Duma group, which it had come to look upon as a united whole? It is difficult [!?] to judge of this from the figures given in the press. Over ten thousand workers expressed their opinion on this question in Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta and in Za Pravdu. Of this number, slightly more than half [italics ours] approved of the way the Six had acted. But the significance of this preponderance is diminished [listen to this!] by the fact that opposition to the split and, consequently, support for the majority in the Social-Democratic Duma group, was expressed by numerous Party groups, including several which unite a relatively large number of workers.” (Nasha Zarya, 1913, No. 10–11, p. 97.)
So much for Mr. Martov’s argument, which for the thousandth time glaringly reveals the truly Burenin methods he employs in distorting the truth! “Slightly more than half”! Can anything be more evasive? Fifty-one and ninety-nine out of a hundred would both be “slightly more than half”.
How can the preponderance be “diminished” by the fact that there were numerous Party groups? In the first place, no figures are given. The term “numerous” can be interpreted in whatever way one pleases. One would think Mr. Martov had deliberately invented the term in order to conceal the truth. Secondly, and most important: if it is true that numerous Party groups are supported by a minority of the workers, then it is obvious that these groups are fictitious, for only the totally uninformed or inattentive reader will believe Mr. L. Martov’s suggestion that it is possible for a non-fictitious group to fail to collect in a news paper the opinions of all the workers it represents on an important and burning issue.
Mr. L. Martov has overreached himself. He has not only admitted that the majority or the workers have condemned the liquidationist section of the Duma Social-Democratic group, i.e., the Seven, but also that the liquidators claim to have groups which are actually fictitious and are not supported by the workers.
While acknowledging defeat, Mr. Martov, by his reference to fictitious “groups”, tried to conceal, à la Burenin, the magnitude of this defeat. And that is the crux of the matter. As regards the magnitude of this defeat, exact figures were published and reported to Martov’s friends at the meeting of the International Socialist Bureau as far back as December 1 (14), 1913! Why did not the liquidators ever say a single word in the press about these figures? Was it because their conscience was not clear?
These figures gave the results up to November 20, 1913: Only the signatures attached to pronouncements by workers were taken, i.e., data of the most precise kind, which have never been challenged. These figures show 4,850 signatures in favour of the Six, and only 2,539 (of which 1,086 came from the Bund and 636 from the Caucasus) in favour of the liquidators, i. e., of the Seven.
Now ask yourselves how the methods of a writer should be qualified who tries to assure the public that the preponderance of the opponents of liquidationism is “diminished” by the fact that there were “numerous” (fictitious) groups, which together succeeded in obtaining all over Russia the support of only one-third of the workers who expressed their opinions!
Below we give the number of signatures attached to definitely expressed resolutions published in both newspapers during the whole period of the campaign (which ended at the beginning of January);
|Number of signatures to published
resolutions and statements
of the Six (of the Party)
of the seven (of the liquidators)
|St. Petersburg . . . .||621||5,003||5,624|
|The rest of Russia . . .||559||1,511||2,070|
|The Caucasus . . . . .||719||208||927|
|The Bund . . . . . . .||1,086||—||1,086|
|Total . .||6,722||2,985||9,707|
The liquidators have so corrupted their readership with their incredibly brazen reiteration of false, absolutely unsupported and absolutely unverifiable statements, that we cannot stress the importance of the above-quoted figures too strongly. They have been taken from both rival newspapers, and any literate person can verify our calculation, and make his own.
These figures give us a highly illuminating picture of the state of Party affairs among Marxists in Russia. No other political party in Russia can show, for the whole period of the counter-revolution in general and for 1913 in particular, a similar open and mass opinion poll of all its members on a most important issue of Party life. None of the legalised parties in Russia, none of the wealthy liberal and democratic parties, which have a host of intellectualist forces and all sorts of publications at their command, has done as much as the party of the working class, the party of propertyless proletarians, who have been driven underground and maintain their newspaper with the kopeks they collect.
The workers’ party has set all parties in Russia an example of how the masses of the rank-and-file members should be drawn into an open and all-round discussion of controversial issues. The liberals and philistines of all parties, of all ages and of all types, are fond of bewailing the “splits” in the ranks of the Social-Democrats. These good souls do not realise that it is impossible to carry out the will of the majority without a struggle; and unless the will of the majority is carried out there is no use talking about the Party spirit, or even of organised political action in general.
By “unity”, foolish people mean a “system” under which thirteen members of the Duma act in defiance of the will of the majority of the organised and class-conscious Marxist workers of Russia; by a “split” they mean the formation, by the six Duma members, of an independent group acting in harmony with this majority of workers, with the purpose of carrying out its will.
Do not these foolish people cut a ridiculous figure? Are they not contemptible?
It should now be clear to everybody, except to those who are out to deceive the workers, that the much bruited “unity” of the thirteen deputies (about which the liquidators and conciliators talk so much) was actually the flouting of the will of the Party, mockery of the will of the majority of the workers.
And vice versa. Consider the matter from another angle. No person in his right mind has ever attempted to question the fact that in the summer of 1913 a conference of Marxists (far from open) was held, whose decision, endorsed by the leading body of the Party, became the Party’s will and decision. This decision demanded that the Six should act independently. You vilify this conference, Messrs. liquidators and conciliators? You call it a circle, a packed meeting, a piece of fiction, etc.? Very well! But your abuse only expresses your impotence, for the objective facts are indisputable: by a decision of this “circle”, two-thirds of the class-conscious workers of Russia came out to the man in favour of the conference, in favour of carrying out its will.
This is precisely what we call a party, you gentlemen who babble about “unity”, but, by “unity”, mean permitting the liquidators to flout the will of the Party.
Note that with two rival dailies there could be no question of anybody trying to prevent even a single class-conscious worker from expressing his opinion if he desired to do so. As it turned out, less than a third supported the liquidators; and of the total number of votes cast for the liquidators, more than half came from the Bund and the Caucasus. Moreover, the figures we have quoted contain hardly any signatures of Lettish workers (there were 98 signatures for the Six and 70 for the liquidators, whereas, among the Lettish workers who voted on this question with out giving their signatures, 863 voted for the Six and 347 for the liquidators); nor do they contain the votes of over 800 Polish Social-Democratic workers who also voted for the Six but did not give their signatures (in the same way, about 400 supporters of the Left wing voted for the liquidators).
WHAT is SHOWN by the ACTIVITIES of the TWO GROUPS DURING the FIRST QUARTER[edit source]
We cannot dwell here upon the political content of these activities. This most interesting question of how the activities of the Six have gained from the needs, demands, views and will of the majority of the workers now being proclaimed from the Duma rostrum must regretfully be left for another occasion. We shall merely state briefly that in the speeches they delivered on March 4, 1914; Badayev and Malinovsky, spokesmen of the Six in the Duma, formulated for the first time the question of freedom of the press, not in a liberal manner, but in a manner worthy of the proletariat, whereas the liquidators, both in the literary world and in the columns of their newspapers, as well as in the speeches delivered in the Duma by their Seven floundered on this question in a purely liberal manner. One may read in Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta of as recent a date as March 13, on p. 2 of that issue, an argument to the effect that “advertising the illegal press can only weaken the workers’ struggle for their legal press”. How important it was in principle to form an independent Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma to combat shameful renegade statements and opinions of the kind just quoted, has already been stressed in this volume and will be stressed again more than once.
For the moment, we shall undertake the more modest task of drawing our readers’ attention to the “external”, if one may so express it, evidence showing what the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma at once became as distinct from the seven liquidators.
Each Duma group publishes in its newspaper the financial reports of its treasurer, showing the sums that have passed through its hands. These sums, designated for the relief of comrades in prison or in exile, for aid to strikers in different factories and industries, and for various other needs of the working-class movement, reveal to us a number of aspects of working-class life; they strikingly reveal—by exact, indisputable and impartial figures—what links each of the groups in the Duma has with the working-class movement.
In both newspapers and in both Duma groups, the latest report of this kind covers the period up to January 21, 1914. Thus, we have reports for only three months of the period during which the two groups have existed separately, viz., from the end of October to the end of January. The following is a summary of the reports of the two groups for the quarter mentioned:
Collections handled by the Duma groups (in rubles)
|1) By the R.S.D.L. group . .||6,173.00||71.31||6,101.69||719|
|2) By the S.D. group . .||2,212.78||765.80||1,446.98||94|
These bare figures give us a remarkably striking picture of the organisational contacts and of the whole life of the two Duma groups. The number of workers’ groups which addressed the Duma group of liquidators during the quarter is almost one-eighth of the number that addressed the Duma group of Party men.
On the other hand, the amount received by the liquidationist group from = non-workers is ten times as much as that received by the R.S.D.L. group from this source: 765 rubles as against 71 rubles. Collections from non-workers received by the Party men are one per cent of the total sum collected (71 rubles out of 6,173 rubies). Collections from this source received by the liquidators are thirty-four per cent of the total sum collected (765 rubles out of 2,213 rubles).
These figures enable the general public, who are unfamiliar with the activities of the Duma groups, to weigh up exactly and give thorough thought to facts which people familiar with the life of the groups have gleaned from a thousand and one “trifles” of everyday life, namely:
that the liquidationist group (the Seven) is a group without workers.
that the liquidationist group has thirty times as many contacts with non-worker circles than the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group.
These facts were commented on long ago and from different angles. The liberal newspaper Rech rightly called the liquidationist group a group of “intellectuals”, and the entire liberal press has endorsed this over and over again. Plekhanov long ago pointed out that the liquidators have taken into their ranks quite a number of petty-bourgeois opportunist elements, in addition to Mr. Potresov. The numerous contributors to liberal newspapers in the ranks of the liquidators and vice versa (Enzis, Yegorov, S. Novich, Y. Smirnov, Antid Oto, Nevedomsky, Lvov-Rogachevsky, Cherevanin, and many others) have been named by Put Pravdy.
In point of social significance, the liquidators are essentially a branch of the liberal-bourgeois party, whose aim is to instil into the proletarian midst the ideas of liberal-labour policy and to flout the will of the majority of the organised and class-conscious workers of Russia.
- The above figures cover the period only up to January 21, 1914 (from the time the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group was formed, i. e., from the end of October 1913).
We consider it our duty to quote fuller figures from the calculations made by Comrade V.A.T. for the whole period beginning from the formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group to June 1914.
The following are the figures (in rubles) of the collections (for relief for comrades in prison or in exile, etc.), which, according to reports in the Marxist and liquidationist newspapers, were handled by the respective Duma groups between October 1913 and June 6, 1914:
The Russian Social-Democratic Labour group received from non-workers six per cent of the total sum collected, whereas the liquidationist (“S.D.”) group received 46 per cent from this source. The number of workers’ groups that addressed the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group is 85.7 per cent of the total (1,295 out of 1,510), while the number that addressed the “S.D.” group is 14.3 per cent of the total. —Lenin
- These include collections from private persons, from abroad, and from students. —Lenin
- [DUPLICATE] These include collections from private persons, from abroad, and from students. —Lenin
- This refers to the Menshevik liquidators: = Enzis—V. N. Rozanov; = Yegorov—L. Martov (Y. 0. Tsederbaum); = S. Novich—S. I. Portugeis; = Y. Smirnov—E. L. Gurevich; = Antid Oto—L. Trotsky; = Nevedomsky—M. P. Miklashevsky; = Lvov-Rogachevsky—V. L. Rogachevsky; = Cherevanin—F. A. Lipkin.