Martov's and Cherevanin's Pronouncements in the Bourgeois Press

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Author(s) Lenin
Written October 1906

Written October 1906
Published in pamphlet form in October 1906 by Proletarskoye Dyelo Publishers. Published according to the pamphlet text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 11, pages 257-263
Collection(s): Proletarskoye Dyelo

The pamphlet Martov’s and Cherevanin’s Pronouncements in the Bourgeois Press was published in St. Petersburg in October 1906. In 1912, the Press Committee banned the pamphlet and the St. Petersburg Court of Justice decreed that it should be destroyed; by that time the pamphlet was already out of print.

Telling How Certain Social-Democrats Resort to Bourgeois, Cadet Newspapers, Like Tovarishch, and, Through Tovarishch, to the Novy Put,[1] in Order to Spread False Reports About Revolutionary Social-Democracy. Refutation. Estimation. Conclusions.

Lies Spread by L. Martov Through the Columns of the Bourgeois Press[edit source]

The bourgeois Cadet newspaper Tovarishch of October 12 (No. 85) reprints without comment the following passage from another Cadet paper Novy Put: “We [Novy Put] cannot but admit that in insisting on a permanent bloc with the extreme Lefts (as we learn from Mr. Martov’s letter) they [the Bolsheviks] are more logical than Mr. Martov.”

Thus, Novy Put refers directly to L. Martov in confirmation of its false report about the Bolsheviks.

It is necessary to establish the facts.

In No. I of the “Bolshevik” Proletary the following was said in an article entitled “The Boycott” (p. 3). “We shall convene the Fifth Party Congress; there we shall resolve that in the event of elections taking place, it will be necessary to enter into an electoral agreement, for a few weeks, with the Trudoviks (unless the Fifth Party Congress is convened it will be impossible to conduct a united election campaign; and ’blocs with other parties’ are absolutely prohibited by the decision of the Fourth Congress). And then we shall utterly rout the Cadets.”[2] This is all, to our knowledge, that has been said so far in Social-Democratic literature on the attitude of the Bolsheviks to electoral agreements. Clearly, Novy Put has been misled by L. Martov. Firstly, far from insisting on such a thing, the Bolsheviks have never even mentioned “a permanent bloc with the extreme Lefts”. Secondly, as regards all “blocs” whatsoever, the Bolsheviks have demanded that the existing decision be revised at the next Congress. This fact is wrongfully suppressed by those who dread the next Congress of the Social-Democratic Labour Party. And it is also wrongfully suppressed by the bourgeois newspapers, which falsely report to their readers, or create the false impression, that the Social-Democrats do not formally prohibit all blocs.

Thirdly: L. Martov, writing for the bourgeois newspapers, deliberately, or through inadvertence or ignorance, conveys to the public, through the medium of the Cadet paper Tovarishch, the idea that the Bolsheviks sanction electoral agreements at the lowest stage of the election too, i.e., in conducting agitation among the masses, whereas he, L. Martov, regards as expedient only “partial agreements at the highest stages of our multi-stage electoral system”.

L. Martov has no facts to support this assertion. L. Martov is spreading a lie through the columns of the bourgeois press, for the Bolsheviks proposed an agreement only for the highest stages, only with the Trudoviks, only for a few weeks and only with the consent of the Fifth Congress.

To spread this lie, which can easily reach the masses in view of the notorious tendency of Cadet newspapers to sympathise with the Mensheviks and sympathetically reprint any slander they choose to utter against the Bolsheviks, L. Martov used an “abbreviated” version of the views of Proletary. Although these views are fully expressed in the space of the five printed lines quoted in full above, L. Martov found it necessary, none the less, to abbreviate them and, moreover, render them in his own words. The reader will see that Martov’s abridged version is tantamount to a sheer distortion.

In the five lines in Proletary the subject is mentioned in passing. No specific reference is made there to either the highest or lowest stages of the elections. It may be objected, therefore, that I, too, have no grounds for asserting that these five lines do not refer to agreements at the first stage. But such an objection can be made only by one who desires to quibble over a word and to distort the obvious meaning of someone’s argument.

Undoubtedly, a five-line statement of the question leaves many gaps; but does the general trend of the article, and its whole content, warrant a wider rather than narrower interpretation of the omissions (as regards agreements)?

In any case, even the “letter” of the quotation (unless “abbreviated” à la Martov) is undoubtedly opposed to a wider interpretation, because anyone with the slightest experience of elections will understand that an agreement at the first stage cannot be limited to “a few weeks” but must necessarily be for months. Suffice it to say that already, in St. Petersburg, the parties are being mentioned which are seeking an election bloc with the Cadets; and already the approximate distribution of Duma seats for the city of St. Peters burg between the Cadets and these parties is reported. It is said that the elections will probably take place on December 17. Two months before that date, the people who really desire first-stage agreements are already beginning to come to terms, directly or through intermediaries. Take into account also the duration of the actual elections, add the time necessary for a party decision on this question, the time necessary for sending party directives from the centre to every part of Russia—and you will see that agreements between parties for the first stage of the elections will take months, while a “few weeks” will only just suffice for a final-stage argeement, i.e., the distribution of seats after the contest, based on a calculation of the forces revealed by the direct vote of the electors.

Finally, Since I have been compelled to make a statement in the press on this question, I think it would be improper to refrain from stating my own personal opinion. In the present political situation I would advocate the following at the Fifth Congress: no blocs or agreements whatever between the Social-Democrats and any other parties to be tolerated at the lowest stage of the elections. We must appear before the masses at election time absolutely independently. At the highest stages agreements with the Trudoviks may be permitted exclusively for the proportional distribution of seats and on the condition that we “make” the non-party Trudoviks party men, counterposing the opportunists among them and the semi-Cadets (Popular Socialists, “Popular Socialist Party”, etc.) to the revolutionary bourgeois democrats.

Martov and Cherevanin[edit source]

In Tovarishch, L. Martov has refuted Cherevanin, who spoke of an agreement with the Cadets. In the same Tovarishch, Cherevanin now explains the “misunderstanding”. According to these explanations, Cherevanin did not really say definitely in No. 1 of Nashe Dyelo whether he advocates agreements at the lowest or the highest stages. In substance, however, he declares in favour of permitting agreements also at the lowest stages in the rural districts as well as in the towns. Cherevanin does not say with which parties agreements may be made. He (and apparently Martov, too) sees no difference between the revolutionary and the opportunist bourgeoisie, between the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Cadets, between the Trudoviks of the type of the "33" in the Duma and the Trudoviks of the “Popular-Socialist” type, etc. Moreover, Cherevanin would even allow voting, without an agreement, for bourgeois candidates at the lowest stages of the elections!

Thus, Cherevanin’s position becomes perfectly clear. This not only prominent (as attested by the bourgeois press) but also highly responsible Menshevik, who, moreover, is the head of the weekly Nashe Dyelo, approves of all kinds of blocs and is even in favour of Social-Democrats voting for bourgeois candidates. Hence, the Bolsheviks were absolutely right when they said that the Mensheviks are trying to convert the working class into an appendage of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie and to degrade the role of the Social-Democrats to that of yes-men of the Cadets.

Let no one be mistaken now about the true meaning of the usual Menshevik slogan: for the Duma, as an organ, or lever, or instrument, etc., of the revolution. In order to support the revolution, the Mensheviks are supporting the “Duma” as such. And in order to support the Duma as such, they are prepared to vote, even without an agreement, for the candidates of the Cadet Party, which wants to put a stop to the revolution!

Remember the French Socialists like Millerand, Viviani and Briand, who are now, under Clemenceau’s leadership, serenely governing arch-bourgeois France, sending troops against strikers, etc. In order to support socialism, they called for support of the republic in general, the republic as such. In order to support the republic, they voted, with and without agreements, for commonplace bourgeois politicians, for the opportunists. Thus, slowly but surely, they themselves were converted into commonplace supporters of bourgeois oppression.

Cherevanin and his like have now come out on the main road, the beaten track!

What about Martov? He is opposed to agreements at the lowest stages. He has repudiated Cherevanin. This is very gratifying. Only ... only just see how he did it. Every sensible politician subordinates his electoral tactics to his general political tactics. Thanks to the kind services of the Cadet papers, Cherevanin’s tactics are now manifest to all. “It would be an absurdity and folly for the proletariat to try, as some propose, to fight in league with the peasantry against the government and the bourgeoisie for a national constituent assembly with full power.” This famous dictum of Cherevanin’s was cited in the same number of Tovarishch which evoked L. Martov’s “reply”. Yet, while repudiating Cherevanin’s electoral tactics, Martov said not a word against this underlying principle of Cherevanin’s political tactics as a whole.

Who is the more consistent of these two? Whose is the firmer stand? For the Duma or for the revolution? For the Duma as such means: for the Cadets, which means: against the constituent assembly. For the revolution means: only for a certain part of the Duma on certain conditions, which means: against the Cadets, which means: at the present time it would be an absurdity and folly to abandon, or even to tone down, the demand for a constituent assembly.

Social-Democrats and Bourgeois Newspapers[edit source]

Is it permissible for a Social-Democrat to contribute to bourgeois newspapers?

Certainly riot. Theoretical considerations, political etiquette and the practice of the European Social-Democrats are all against it. As is well known, this question came up for discussion at a recent congress of the German Social Democrats.[3] We know that our German comrades severely condemn the idea of Social-Democrats contributing to the bourgeois press and resolutely fight for the principle that the party of the revolutionary proletariat shall tolerate no blocs or agreements in this field either, but maintain its independence; that journalist members of the workers’ party should be organised and controlled, not only in name but in deed; in ether words, should be party men in the strict sense of the term.

Have we any right to depart from these rules here in Russia?

Some might retort: there is an exception to every rule. That is quite true. It would be wrong to condemn a person in banishment for writing to any newspaper. It is some times hard to condemn a Social-Democrat who is working in a minor department of a bourgeois newspaper to earn a living. One can justify the publication of an urgent and business-like refutation, etc., etc..

But see what will happen here. Under the pretext of refuting “misunderstandings” caused by the Social-Democratic “Nashe Dyelo”, L. Martov writes almost two columns in a Cadet newspaper, calmly expounding the views of some Social-Democrats, arguing against other Social-Democrats and misrepresenting the views of Social-Democrats he disagrees with, without caring in the least what pleasure his literary “bloc” with the Cadets gives to all the enemies of the proletariat. The Cadet newspapers seize on L. Martov’s article in the Cadet press, give it wide publicity, add a thing or two of their own to the lie which he has put into circulation about the revolutionary Social-Democrats, pat him on the back (see Rech), and so on and so forth. Cherevanin is tempted. If Martov could write to Tovarishch to refute Cherevanin’s “misunderstandings” and bring in thousands of other things at the same time, why should not Cherevanin also write to Tovarishch to refute L. Martov’s “misunderstandings”? And, while he is about it, why not take advantage of the opportunity to start in the Cadet press (after all, it would be improper to do so in the Social-Democratic press!) a discussion on the question whether socialists should vote for bourgeois candidates even without an agreement?[4]

And so a special feature has been inaugurated in Cadet newspapers: a family-literary correspondence between Social-Democratic opportunists. Since its subject is the permissibility of blocs with the Cadets, and even of voting for the Cadets, the Cadets readily give shelter to the homeless “progressive” Social-Democrats who are departing from the “conservative” rules of revolutionary Social—Democracy.

The Menshevik literary bigwigs dwell in two abodes. In the respectable quarter they talk to fine gentlemen about blocs with the Cadets and incidentally retail anecdotes about the revolutionary Social-Democrats. In the grimy quarter, in some workers’ newspaper or Social-Democratic periodical, or a leaflet, they offer the workers a “non-party labour congress” and enlighten them on the absurdity and folly of fighting for a constituent assembly. Let the workers be patient and wait a little: when the Social-Democratic discussion in the Cadet Tovarishch on blocs between socialists and the bourgeoisie comes to an end, the workers, too, will learn something.... And so, following the homely rule of one of Turgenev’s characters,[5] our advocates of a labour congress write letter after letter to Tovarishch, murmuring the while: our Party is a party of the intelligentsia....

Will not the Social-Democratic workers intervene to put a stop to this outrage? Is it a matter of indifference to the members of our Party?

  1. Novy Put (New Path)—a daily newspaper of a Left-Cadet trend published in Moscow from August to November 1906.
  2. See p. 145 of this volume.—Ed.
  3. V. I. Lenin has in mind the Dresden Congress of the German Social-Democratic Party held September 13-20, 1906. The Congress adopted a resolution prohibiting party members from contributing to the bourgeois press.
  4. F. Dan has migrated to Tovarishch even without the object of refuting “misunderstandings”, but merely for company’s sake.—Lenin
  5. This refers to Turgenev’s poem A Rule of Life (from the cycle Poems in Prose), whose character ascribes his own shortcomings to his opponent.