Maximum Brazenness and Minimum Logic
|Written||1 October 1903|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 7, pages 59-65.
In our 46th issue we reprinted the resolution of the Fifth Congress of the Bund on the position of the Bund in the RSDLP, and gave our opinion of it. The Foreign Committee of the Bund replies at great length and with great heat in its leaflet of September 9 (22). The most material part of this angry reply is the following phenomenal revelation: “In addition to its maximum Rules [sic!], the Fifth Congress of the Bund also drew up minimum Rules”; and these minimum Rules are quoted in full, it being explained in two notes, moreover, that “the rejection of autonomy” and the demand that other sections of the Party appeal to the Jewish proletariat only with the sanction of the Bund Central Committee “must be put forward as an ultimatum”. Thus decided the Fifth Congress of the Bund.
Charming, is it not? The Bund Congress draws up two sets of Rules simultaneously, defining simultaneously both its maximum and minimum desires or demands. The mini mum it prudently (oh, so prudently!) tucks away in its pocket. Only the maximum is published (in the leaflet of August 7), and it is publicly announced, clearly and explicitly, that this maximum draft is “to be submitted to the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party as the basis for the discussion [mark that! I of the Bund’s position in the Party”. The Bund’s opponents, naturally, attack this maximum with the utmost vehemence, just because it is the maximum, the “last word” of the trend they condemn. Thereupon, a month later, these people, without the slightest embarrassment, pull the “minimum out of their pocket, and add the ominous word: “ultimatum"!
That is a positive last price, not a “last word”.... Only is it really your last, gentlemen? Perhaps you’ve got a minimal minimum in another pocket? Perhaps in another month or so we shall be seeing that?
We very much fear that the Bundists do not quite realise all the “beauty” of this maximum and minimum. Why, how else can you haggle than by asking an exorbitant price, then knocking off 75 per cent and declaring, “That’s my last price"? Why, is there any difference between haggling and politics?
There is, gentlemen, we make bold to assure you. Firstly, in politics some parties adhere systematically to certain principles, and it is indecent to haggle over principles. Secondly, when people who claim to belong to a party regard certain of their demands as an ultimatum, that is, as the very condition of their membership in the party, political honesty requires that they should not conceal the fact, should not tuck it away “for the time being” in their pocket, but, on the contrary, should say so openly and definitely right from the start.
We have been preaching these simple truths to the Bundists for a long time. As early as February (in our 33rd issue) we wrote that it was stupid and unbefitting to play hide-and-seek, and that the Bund had acted separately (in issuing its statement about the Organising Committee) because it wanted to act as a contracting party and present terms to the Party as a whole.* [* See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 310-25.—Ed. ] For this opinion we were ,drenched with a whole bucketful of specifically Bundist (one might with equal justice say, specifically fish-market) abuse, yet events have now shown that we were right. It is indeed as a contracting party that the Bund comes forward in the decisions of its Fifth Congress, presenting outright ultimatums to the Party as a whole! That is just what we have been trying all along to get the Bundists to admit, by showing that it followed inevitably from the position they had taken up; they angrily protested, dodged and wriggled, but in the end were obliged after all to produce their minimum
That is funny; but funnier still is the fact that the Bund continues to wriggle even now, continues to talk about the “falsity” of “Iskra’s old, generally known fabrication to the effect that the Bund wants to form a federal alliance with the Russian Party”. That is a lying fabrication, it claims, because Paragraph I of the Rules proposed by the Bund distinctly speaks of its desire to be a component element of the Party, not to form an alliance with it.
Very good, gentlemen! But does not this same paragraph say that the Bund is a federated component of the Party? Don’t your maximum Rules refer throughout to contracting parties? Don’t the minimum Rules speak of an ultimatum, and make any change in their “fundamental clauses” contingent on the mutual consent of the component elements of the Party, neither the local nor the district organisations, moreover, being recognised as such for this purpose? You yourselves say that neither local nor district organisations, but only “integral elements of the same nature as the Bund” can be contracting parties. You yourselves mention by way of example that “the Polish, Lithuanian or Lettish Social-Democrats” might be regarded as such integral elements, “if they belonged to the Party”, as you sensibly add. But what if they do not belong to the Party? And what if the federation of national organisations which you find desirable is found undesirable and emphatically rejected by all the rest of the Party? You know very well that that is how matters stand; you yourselves expressly say you no longer demand that the whole Party be built on the basis of a federation of nationalities. To whom, then, are you addressing your ultimatum? Is it not obvious that you are addressing it to the whole Party, minus the Bund? Instead of convicting Iskra of a lying fabrication, you only convict yourselves of a minimum of logic in your subterfuges.
But look, the Bundists protest, in our minimum Rules we have even deleted the federation demand! This deletion of the “dreadful” word is indeed the most interesting episode in the famous transition from maximum to minimum. Nowhere else, perhaps, has the Bund’s unconcern for principles betrayed itself so na ively. You are dogmatists, hope less dogmatists, we are told; nothing in the world will induce you to recognise the federal “principle of organisa tion”. We, on the other hand, are not dogmatists, we “put the matter on a purely practical footing”. Is it some prin ciple you don’t like? Queer fellows! Why, then we’ll do with out any principle at all, we’ll “formulate Paragraph I in such a way that it shall not be a declaration of a definite principle of organisation”. “The crux of the matter does not lie in the statement of principle prefacing the Rules, but in their concrete clauses, which are derived from an examination of the needs of the Jewish working-class movement, on the one hand, and of the movement as a whole, on the other” (leaflet of September 9 [221, p. 1).
The naïveté of this argument is so delightful that one just wants to hug the author. The Bundist seriously believes that it is only certain dreadful words the dogmatists fear, and so he decides that if these words are deleted, the dogmatist will see nothing objectionable in the concrete clauses themselves! And so he toils in the sweat of his brow, draws up his maximum Rules, gets in reserve his minimum Rules (against a rainy day), draws up ultimatum No. I, ultimatum No. 2.... Oleum et operam perdidisti, amice!—you are wasting time and effort, my friend. In spite of the cunning (oh, wonderfully cunning!) removal of the label, the dogmatist detects the federal principle in the minimum’s “concrete clauses” too. That principle is to be seen in the demand that a component element of the Party should not be limited by any territorial bounds, and in the claim to be the “sole” representative of the Jewish proletariat, and in the demand for “representation on the Party Central Committee; in the denial to the Party Central Committee of the right to communicate with any part of the Bund without the consent of the Bund Central Committee; in the demand that fundamental clauses should not be changed without the consent of the component elements of the Party.
No, gentlemen, the crux of this matter of the Bund’s position in the Party does lie in the declaration of a definite principle of organisation, and not at all in the concrete clauses. The crux of the matter is a choice of ways. Is the historically evolved isolation of the Bund to be legitimised, or is it to be rejected on principle, and the course openly, definitely, firmly and honestly adopted of ever closer and closer union and fusion with the Party as a whole? Is this isolation to be preserved, or a turn made towards fusion? That is the question.
The answer will depend on the free will of the Bund, for, as we already said in our 33rd issue, “love cannot be forced”. If you want to move towards fusion, you will reject federation and accept autonomy. You will understand in that case that autonomy guarantees a process of fusion so gradual that the reorganisation would proceed with the minimum of dislocation, and in such a way, moreover, that the Jewish working-class movement would lose nothing and gain everything by this reorganisation and fusion.
If you do not want to move towards fusion, you will stand for federation (whether in its maximum or minimum form, whether with or without a declaration); you will be afraid of being “steam-rollered”, you will turn the regrettable isolation of the Bund into a fetish, and will cry that the abolition of this isolation means the destruction of the Bund; you will begin to seek grounds justifying your isolation, and in this search will now grasp at the Zionist idea of a Jewish “nation”, now resort to demagogy and scurrilities.
Federalism can be justified theoretically only on the basis of nationalist ideas, and it would be strange if we had to prove to the Bundists that it was no mere accident that the declaration of federalism was made at that very Fourth Congress which proclaimed the Jews to be a nation.
The idea of fusion can be discredited in practice only by inciting politically unenlightened and timid people against the “monstrous”, “Arakcheyev” organisational plan of Iskra, which supposedly wants to “regiment” the commit tees and not allow them to “take a single step without orders from above”. How terrible! We have no doubt that all the committees will now hasten to revolt against the iron glove, the Arakcheyev fist, etc.... But where, gentlemen, did you get your information about this brutal organisational plan? From our literature? Then why not quote it? Or from the tales of idle Party gossips, who can tell you on the very best authority all, absolutely all the details regarding this Arakcheyevism? The latter supposition is probably the more correct, for even people with a minimum of logic could hardly confuse the very necessary demand that the Central Commit tee should “be able to communicate with every Party member"* [* See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 487.—Ed.] with the patently scurrilous bugbear that the Central Committee will “do everything itself” and “lay down the law on everything”. Or another thing: what is this nonsense that “between the periphery and the centre” there will be “lose Organisationen"?** [** Loose, broad organisations .—Ed.] We can guess: our worthy Bundists heard something, but did not know what it was all about. We shall have to explain it to them at length on some suit able occasion.
But, worst of all, it is not only the local committees that will have to revolt, but the Central Committee too. True, it has not been born yet, but the gossips know for certain not only the birthday of the infant but its whole subsequent career. It appears it will be a Central Committee “directed by a group of writers”. Such a tried and cheap method of warfare, this. The Bundists are not the first to employ it and most likely will not be the last. To convict this Central Committee, or the Organising Committee, of any mistake,you have to find proof.To convict people of not acting as they themselves think necessary, but of being directed by others, you must have the courage to bring charges openly and be ready to answer for them to the whole Party! All that is too dear, too dear in every respect. Gossips’ tales, on the other hand, are cheap.... And perhaps the fish will bite. It is not pleasant, after all, to be considered a man (or institution) who is “directed”, who is in leading strings, who is a pawn, a creature, a puppet of Iskra.... Our poor, poor future Central Committee! Where will it find a protector against the Arakcheyev yoke? Perhaps in the “independently acting” Bundists, those strangers to all “suspiciousness"?
- By the way, it is extremely characteristic of the Bund’s methods of controversy that this expression called down on our heads the particular wrath of Posledniye Izvestia. Why the last word, it demanded, when it (the demand for federation) had been uttered over two years ago? Iskra was counting on the short memory of its readers!... Calm yourselves, calm yourselves, gentlemen! The author of the article called your maximum Rules the last word because that word was uttered two days (approximately) before No. 46 of Iskra, and not two years ago. —Lenin
- This word is of no significance,” the Bund now assures us. Strange! Why should a word that has no significance have been inserted in both minimum and maximum? In the Russian language the word has a perfectly definite significance. What it signifies in the present instance is a “declaration” of both federalism and nationalism. We would advise the Bundists, who can see no connection between nationalism and federation, to ponder this point. —Lenin
- Arakcheyev, A. A. (1769-1834)—the powerful favourite of Paul I and Alexander I, whose name is associated with a period of crushing police tyranny and jackboot rule.
- Lenin says that the Central Committee “has not been born yet” out of secrecy considerations; actually, the Central Committee already existed—it had been elected at the Second Party Congress on August 7 (20), 1903.