Notes of a Publicist (1910)
|Written||6 March 1910|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 16, pages 195-259.
- 1 I. The “Platform” of the Adherents and Defenders of Otzovism
- 2 II. The “Unity Crisis” in our Party
- 2.1 1. Two Views on Unity
- 2.2 2. “The Fight on Two Fronts” and the Overcoming of Deviations
- 2.3 3. The Terms of Unity and Sectarian Diplomacy
- 2.4 4. Paragraph I of the Resolution on the State of Affairs in the Party
- 2.5 5. The Significance of the December (1908) Resolutions and the Attitude of the Liquidators to Them
- 2.6 6. The Group of Independent-Legalists
- 2.7 7. Pro-Party Menshevism and its Evaluation
- 2.8 8. Conclusion. The Platform of the Bolsheviks
I. The “Platform” of the Adherents and Defenders of Otzovism[edit source]
A pamphlet published by the Vperyod group recently appeared in Paris under the title The Present Situation and the Tasks of the Party. A Platform Drawn Up by a Group of Bolsheviks. This is the very same group of Bolsheviks about whom, in the spring of last year, the enlarged editorial board of Proletary declared that they had formed a new faction. Now this group, “consisting of fifteen Party members—seven workers and eight intellectuals” (as the group itself states), comes forward with an attempt to give a complete, systematic and positive exposition of its own special “platform”. The text of this platform bears clear traces of careful, painstaking collective work in an effort to smooth out all rough spots, to remove sharp edges and to stress not so much those points on which the group is at variance with the Party as those on which it is in agreement with the Party. All the more valuable to us, therefore, is the new platform, as the official presentation of the views of the trend concerned.
This group of Bolsheviks first gives its own “interpretation of the present historical situation of our country” (§ I, pp. 3–13), then it gives its own “interpretation of Bolshevism” (§ II, pp. 13–17). And it interprets both the one and the other badly.
Take the first question. The view held by the Bolsheviks (and by the Party) is set out in the resolution of the December Conference of 1908 on the present situation. Do the authors of the new platform share the views expressed in that resolution? It they do, why do they not say so plainly? If they do, why was it necessary to draw up a separate platform, to give an exposition of their own particular “interpretation” of the situation? If they do not share these views, then again why not state clearly in what particular respect the new group is opposed to the views held by the Party?
But the whole point is that the new group itself is rather hazy about the significance of that resolution. Unconsciously (or subconsciously) the new group inclines towards the views of the otzovists, which are incompatible with that resolution. In its pamphlet the new group does not give a popular exposition of all the propositions contained in that resolution, but only of a part of them, without under standing the other part (perhaps even without noticing its importance). The principal factors which gave rise to the Revolution of 1905 continue to operate—states the resolution. A new revolutionary crisis is maturing (clause “f”). The goal of the struggle is still the overthrow of tsarism and the achievement of a republic; the proletariat must play the “leading” role in the struggle and must strive for the “conquest of political power” (clauses “e” and “1”). The state of the world market and of world politics makes the “international situation more and more revolutionary” (clause “g”). These are the propositions that are explained in a popular manner in the new platform and to that ex tent it goes hand in hand with the Bolsheviks and with the Party, to that extent it expresses correct views and performs useful work.
But the trouble is that we have to lay stress on this “to that extent”. The trouble is that the new group does not understand the other propositions of this resolution, does not grasp their connection with the rest, and in particular it does not perceive their connection with that irreconcilable attitude to otzovism which is characteristic of the Bolsheviks and which is not characteristic of this group.
Revolution has again become inevitable. The revolution must again strive, for and achieve the overthrow of tsarism—say the authors of the new platform. Quite right. But that is not all that a present-day revolutionary Social-Democrat must know and bear in mind. He must be able to comprehend that this revolution is coming to us in a new way and that we must march towards it in a new way (in a different way from the previous one; not merely in the way we did before; not merely with those weapons and means of struggle we used before); that the autocracy itself is not the same as it was before. It is just this point that the advocates of otzovism refuse to see. They persistently want to remain one-sided and thereby, in spite of themselves, consciously or unconsciously, they are rendering a service to the opportunists and liquidators; by their one-sidedness in one direction they are supporting one-sidedness in another direction.
The autocracy has entered a new historical period. It is taking a step towards its transformation into a bourgeois monarchy. The Third Duma represents an alliance with definite classes. The Third Duma is not an accidental, but a necessary institution in the system of this new monarchy. Nor is the autocracy’s new agrarian policy accidental; it is a necessary link in the policy of the new tsarism, necessary to the bourgeoisie and necessary because of its bourgeois character. We are confronted by a specific historical period with specific conditions for the birth of a new revolution. It will be impossible to master these specific conditions and prepare ourselves for this new revolution if we operate only in the old way, if we do not learn to utilise the Duma tribune itself, etc.
It is this last point that the otzovists cannot grasp. And the defenders of otzovism, who declare it to be a “legitimate shade of opinion” (p. 28 of the pamphlet under review), cannot even now grasp the connection this point has with the whole cycle of ideas, with the recognition of the specific character of the present moment and with the effort to take it into account in their tactics! They repeat that we
e passing through an “inter-revolutionary period” (p. 29), that the present situation is “transitional between two waves of the democratic revolution” (p. 32); but they cannot understand what it is that is specific in this “transition”. However, unless we do understand this transition it will be impossible to survive it with advantage to the revolution, it will be impossible to prepare for the revolution, to go over to the second wave! For the preparation for the new revolution cannot be restricted to repeating that it is inevitable; the preparation must consist in devising forms of propaganda, agitation and organisation that will take account of the specific character of this transitional situation.
Here is an instance of how people talk about the transitional situation without understanding what this transition actually is. “That there is no real constitution in Russia and that the Duma is only a phantom of it, devoid of power and importance, is not only well known to the mass of the population by dint of experience, it is now becoming obvious to the whole world” (p. 11). Compare this with the estimate of the Third Duma given in the December resolution: “The alliance of tsarism with the Black-Hundred landlords and the top commercial and industrial bourgeoisie has been openly recognised and solidified by the coup d’état of June 3 and the establishment of the Third Duma.”
Is it really not “obvious to the whole world” that the authors of the platform did not, after all, understand the resolution, in spite of the fact that for a whole year it was chewed over and over again in the Party press in a thou sand ways? And they failed to understand it, of course, not because they are dull-witted, but because of the influence over them of otzovism and the otzovist ideology.
Our Third Duma is a Black-Hundred-Octobrist Duma. To assert that the Octobrists and the Black Hundreds have no “power and importance” in Russia (as the authors of the platform do in effect) is absurd. The absence of a “real constitution” and the fact that the autocracy retains full power do not in the least preclude the peculiar historical situation in which this government is forced to organise a counter revolutionary alliance of certain classes on a national scale, in openly functioning institutions of national importance, and in which certain classes are organising themselves from below into counter-revolutionary blocs which are stretching out their hand to tsarism. If the “alliance” between tsarism and these classes (an alliance which strives to preserve power and revenues for the feudal landlords) is a specific form of class rule and of the rule of the tsar and his gang during the present transitional period, a form created by the bourgeois evolution of the country amidst the conditions of the defeat of the “first wave of the revolution”—then there can be no question of utilising the transition period without utilising the Duma tribune. The peculiar tactics of using the very tribune from which the counter-revolutionaries speak for the purpose of preparing the revolution thus becomes a duty dictated by the specific character of the entire historical situation. If, however, the Duma is merely the “phantom” of a constitution “devoid of power and importance”, then there is really no new stage in the development of bourgeois Russia, of the bourgeois monarchy, or in the development of the form of rule of the upper classes, etc.; and in that case the otzovists are, of course, correct in principle!
Do not imagine that the passage we quoted from the platform was a slip of the pen. In a special chapter, “On the State Duma” (pp. 25–28), we read at the very beginning: “All the State Dumas have hitherto been institutions devoid of real power and authority, and did not express the real relation of social forces in the country. The government convened them under the pressure of the popular movement in order, on the one hand, to turn the indignation of the masses from the path of direct struggle into peaceful electoral channels, and, on the other hand, in order to come to terms in these Dumas with those social groups which could support the government in its struggle against the revolution.” This is a sheer tangle of confused ideas or fragments of ideas. If the government convened the Dumas in order to come to terms with the counter-revolutionary classes, it follows at once that the First and Second Dumas had no “power and authority” (to help the revolution), where as the Third Duma possessed and possesses power and authority (to help the counter-revolution). The revolutionaries could have (and in certain circumstances should have) refrained from participating in an institution which was powerless to help the revolution. This is indisputable. By bracketing together such institutions of the revolutionary period with the Duma of the “inter-revolutionary period”, which has power to help the counter-revolution, the authors of the platform commit a monstrous error. They apply correct Bolshevik arguments to those very cases to which they are really inapplicable! This is indeed to make a caricature of Bolshevism.
In summing up their “interpretation” of Bolshevism, the authors of the platform have even put in a special clause “d” (p. 16), in which this “caricature” of revolutionariness has found, we might say, its Classical expression. Here is this clause in full:
“d) Prior to the consummation of the revolution, no semi-legal or legal methods and means of struggle of the working class, including also participation in the State Duma, can have any independent or decisive importance, but only serve as a means of gathering and preparing the forces for the direct, revolutionary, open mass struggle.”
This implies that after the “consummation of the revolution” legal methods of struggle, “including” parliamentarism, can have independent and decisive importance!
That is wrong. They cannot even then. The platform of the Vperyod group contains nonsense.
Furthermore, it follows that “prior to the consummation of the revolution” all means of struggle except the legal and semi-legal, i. e., all illegal means of struggle, can have independent and decisive importance!
That is wrong. There are certain illegal methods of struggle, which, even after the “consummation of the revolution” (for example, illegal propaganda circles) and “prior to the consummation of the revolution” (for example, the seizure of money from the enemy, or the forcible liberation of arrested persons, or killing spies, etc.), “cannot have any independent or decisive importance, but only serve”, etc., as in the text of the “platform”.
To proceed. What is the “consummation of the revolution” referred to here? Obviously, not the consummation of the socialist revolution, for then there will be no struggle of the working class, since there will be no classes at all. Obviously then, then, reference is to the consummation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Now let us see what the authors of the platform “meant” by the consummation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
Generally speaking, this term may be taken to mean two things. If used in its broad sense, it means the fulfilment of the objective historical tasks of the bourgeois revolution, its “consummation”, i. e., the removal of the very soil capable of engendering a bourgeois revolution, the consummation of the entire cycle of bourgeois revolutions. In this sense, for example, the bourgeois-democratic revolution in France was consummated only in 1871 (though begun in 1789). But if the term is used in its narrow sense, it means a particular revolution, one of the bourgeois revolutions, one of the “waves”, if you like, that batters the old regime but does not destroy it altogether, does not remove the basis that may engender subsequent bourgeois revolutions. In this sense the revolution of 1848 in Germany was “consummated” in 1850 or the fifties, but it did not in the least thereby remove the soil for the revolutionary revival in the sixties. The revolution of 1789 in France was “consummated”, let us say, in 1794, without, however, thereby removing the soil for the revolutions of 1830 and 1848.
No matter how the words of the platform, “prior to the consummation of the revolution”, are interpreted, whether in the wider or narrower sense, there is no meaning in them in either case. Needless to say, it would be altogether absurd to attempt now to determine the tactics of revolutionary Social-Democracy up to the consummation of the whole period of possible bourgeois revolutions in Russia. As for the revolutionary “wave” of 1905-07, i. e., the first bourgeois revolution in Russia, the platform itself is forced to admit that “it [the autocracy I has beaten back the first wave of the revolution” (p. 12), that we are passing through an “inter-revolutionary” period, a period “between two waves of a democratic revolution.
Now what is the source of this endless and hopeless muddle in the “platform"? It lies in the fact that the platform dissociates itself from otzovism diplomatically without abandoning the ideology of otzovism, without correcting its fundamental error, and without even noticing it. It lies in the fact that the Vperyodists regard otzovism as a “legitimate shade of opinion”, i. e., they regard the otzovist shade of a caricature of Bolshevism as a law, a model, an unexcelled model. Anyone who has set foot on this sloping path is bound to slide into a bog of hopeless confusion; he repeats phrases and slogans without being capable of pondering over the conditions of their application and the limits of their importance.
Why, for example, did the Bolsheviks in 1906–07 so often oppose the opportunists with the slogan, “the revolution is not over”? Because the objective conditions were such that the consummation of the revolution in the narrow sense of the word was out of the question. Take, for instance, the period of the Second Duma—the most revolutionary parliament in the world and probably the most reactionary, autocratic government. There was no direct way out of this except by a coup d’état from above, or by an uprising from below. And however much the sapient pedants may now shake their heads, no one could say beforehand whether the government’s coup d’état would be successful, whether it would pass off smoothly, or whether Nicholas II would break his neck in the attempt. The slogan, “the revolution is not over”, had a most vital, immediately important, practically palpable significance, for it alone correctly expressed things as they really were and whither they were tending by virtue of the objective logic of events. And now that the otzovists themselves recognise the present situation as “inter-revolutionary”, is not the attempt to represent otzovism as a “legitimate shade of the revolutionary wing”, “prior to the consummation of the revolution”, a hopeless muddle?
In order to extricate oneself from this vicious circle of contradictions, one must not use diplomacy towards otzovism, but must cut the ideological ground from under it; one must adopt the point of view of the December resolution and think out all its implications. The present inter-revolutionary period cannot be explained away as a mere accident. There is no doubt now that we are confronted by a special stage in the development of the autocracy, in the development of the bourgeois monarchy, bourgeois Black-Hundred parliamentarism and the bourgeois policy of tsarism in the countryside, and that the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie is supporting all this. The present period is undoubtedly a transitional period “between two waves of the revolution”, but in order to prepare for the second revolution we must master the peculiarities of this transition, we must be able to adapt our tactics and organisation to this difficult, hard, sombre transition forced on us by the whole trend of the “campaign”. Using the Duma tribune, as well as all other legal opportunities, is one of the humble methods of struggle which do not result in anything “spectacular”. But the transitional period is transitional precisely be cause its specific task is to prepare and rally the forces, and not to bring them into immediate and decisive action. To know how to organise this work, which is devoid of outward glamour, to know how to utilise for this purpose all those semi-legal institutions which are peculiar to the period of the Black-Hundred-Octobrist Duma, to know how to uphold even on this basis all the traditions of revolutionary Social-Democracy, all the slogans of its recent heroic past, the entire spirit of its work, its irreconcilability with opportunism and reformism—such is the task of the Party, such is the task of the moment.
We have examined the new platform’s first deviation from the tactics set out in the resolution of the December Conference of 1908. We have seen that it is a deviation towards otzovist ideas, ideas that have nothing in common either with the Marxist analysis of the present situation or with the fundamental premises of revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics in general. Now we must examine the second original feature of the new platform.
This feature is the task, proclaimed by the new groups of “creating” and “disseminating among the masses a new, proletarian” culture: “of developing proletarian science, of strengthening genuine comradely relations among the proletarians, of developing a proletarian philosophy, of directing art towards proletarian aspirations and experience” (p. 17).
Here you have an example of that naive diplomacy which in the new platform serves to cover up the essence of the matter! Is it not really naïve to insert between “science” and “philosophy” the “strengthening of genuine comradely relations”? The new group introduces into the platform its supposed grievances, its accusations against the other groups (namely, against the orthodox Bolsheviks in the first place) that they have broken “genuine comradely relations”. Such is precisely the real content of this amusing clause.
Here “proletarian science” also looks “sad and out of place”. First of all, we know now of only one proletarian science—Marxism. For some reason the authors of the platform systematically avoid this, the only precise term, and everywhere use the words “scientific socialism” (pp. 13, 15, 16, 20, 21). It is common knowledge that even outright opponents of Marxism lay claim to this latter term in Russia. In the second place, if the task of developing “proletarian science” is introduced in the platform, it is necessary to state plainly just what ideological and theoretical struggle of our day is meant here and whose side the authors of the platform take. Silence on this point is a naïve subterfuge, for the essence of the matter is obvious to everyone who is acquainted with the Social-Democratic literature of 1908–09. In our day a struggle between the Marxists and the Machists has come to the fore and is being waged in the domain of science, philosophy and art. It is ridiculous, to say the least, to shut one’s eyes to this commonly known fact. “Platforms” should be written not in order to gloss over differences but in order to explain them.
Our authors clumsily give themselves away by the above-quoted passage of the platform. Everyone knows that it is Machism that is in fact implied by the term “proletarian philosophy”—and every intelligent Social-Democrat will at once decipher the “new” pseudonym. There was no point in inventing this pseudonym, no point in trying to hide behind it. In actual fact, the most influential literary nucleus of the new group is Machist, and it regards non-Machist philosophy as non-“proletarian”.
Had they wanted to speak of it in the platform, they should have said: the new group unites those who will fight against non-“proletarian”, i. e., non-Machist, theories in philosophy and art. That would have been a straight forward, truthful and open declaration of a well-known ideological trend, an open challenge to the other tendencies. When an ideological struggle is held to be of great importance for the Party, one does not hide but comes out with an open declaration of war.
And we shall call upon everyone to give a definite and clear answer to the platform’s veiled declaration of a philosophical struggle against Marxism. In reality, all the phraseology about “proletarian culture” is just a screen for the struggle against Marxism. The “original” feature of the new group is that it has introduced philosophy into the Party platform without stating frankly what tendency in philosophy it advocates.
Incidentally, it would be incorrect to say that the real content of the words of the platform quoted above is wholly negative. They have a certain positive content. This positive content can be expressed in one name: Maxim Gorky.
Indeed, there is no need to conceal the fact already pro claimed by the bourgeois press (which has distorted and twisted it), namely, that Gorky is one of the adherents of the new group. And Gorky is undoubtedly the greatest representative of proletarian art, one who has done a great deal for this art and is capable of doing still more in the future. Any faction of the Social-Democratic Party would be justly proud of having Gorky as a member, but to intro duce “proletarian art” into the platform on this ground means giving this platform a certificate of poverty, means reducing one’s group to a literary circle, which exposes itself as being precisely “authoritarian”.... The authors of the platform say a great deal against recognising authorities, without explaining directly what it is all about. The fact is that they regard the Bolsheviks’ defence of materialism in philosophy and the Bolsheviks’ struggle against otzovism as the enterprise of individual “authorities” (a gentle hint, at a serious matter) whom the enemies of Machism, they say, “trust blindly”. Such sallies, of course, are quite childish. But it is precisely the Vperyodists who mistreat authorities. Gorky is an authority in the domain of proletarian art—that is beyond dispute. The attempt to “utilise” (in the ideological sense, of course) this authority to bolster up Machism and otzovism is an example of how one should not treat authorities.
In the field of proletarian art Gorky is an enormous asset in spite of his sympathies for Machism and otzovism. But a platform which sets up within the Party a separate group of otzovists and Machists and advances the development of alleged “proletarian” art as a special task of the group is a minus in the development of the Social-Democratic proletarian movement; because this platform wants to consolidate and utilise the very features in the activities of an outstanding authority which represent his weak side and are a negative quantity in the enormous service he renders the proletariat.
II. The “Unity Crisis” in our Party[edit source]
On reading this title, some readers perhaps will hardly believe their eyes. “Well, that’s the limit! What a lot of crises we have had in our own Party, and now all of a sudden a new crisis, a unity crisis!”
The expression which sounds so queer I have borrowed from Liebknecht. He used it in 1875 in a letter (dated April 21) to Engels, giving an account of the union of the Lassalleans and the Eisenachers. Marx and Engels thought at that time that no good would come of this union. Liebknecht brushed aside their fears and asserted that the German Social-Democratic Party, which had successfully survived all sorts of crises,, would also survive the “unity crisis” (see Gustav Mayer, Johann Baptist von Schweitzer und die Sozialdemokratie, Jena, 1909, S. 424).
There can be no doubt whatever that our Party too, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, will successfully survive its unity crisis. That it is now passing through such a crisis is obvious to everyone who is acquainted with the decisions of the plenary meeting of the Central Committee and with the events that followed. If one were to judge by the resolutions of the plenum, the union might seem to be most complete and fully accomplished. But if one were to judge by what is taking place now in the beginning of May 1910, if one were to judge by the determined struggle of the Central Organ against Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, which is published by the liquidators, by the controversy that has flared up between Plekhanov and the other pro-Party Mensheviks, on the one hand, and the Golosists on the other, or by the extremely abusive attacks of the “Vperyod” group on the Central Organ (see the recent leaflet of the group, entitled “To the Bolshevik Comrades”), then all unity might easily appear to an outsider to be a mere phantom.
The avowed enemies of the Party are rejoicing. The Vperyodists, the adherents and screeners of otzovism, are indulging in unbridled abuse. Still more bitter is the abuse levelled by the leaders of the liquidators, Axelrod, Martynov, Martov, Potresov and others, in their “Necessary Supplement to Plekhanov’s Dnevnik”. The “conciliators” are at a loss, complaining and uttering helpless phrases (see the resolution passed on April 17, 1910, by the Vienna Social-Democratic Party Club, which shares Trotsky’s viewpoint).
But the most important and fundamental question as to the reasons why our Party union is developing in this and in no other way, why the (seemingly) complete unity at the plenum is now replaced by (seemingly) complete disunity, ,and also the question of what the trend of the further development of the Party should be in view of the “relationship of forces” inside and outside our Party—these fundamental questions are not answered either by the liquidators (Golos group) or by the otzovists (Vperyod group) or the conciliators (Trotsky and the “Viennese”).
Abuse and phrase-mongering are no answer.
1. Two Views on Unity[edit source]
With touching unanimity the liquidators and the otzovists are abusing ,the Bolsheviks up hill and down dale (the liquidators attack Plekhanov as well). The Bolsheviks are to blame, the Bolshevik Centre is to blame, the “‘individualistic’ habits of Lenin and Plekhanov” (p. 15 of the “Necessary Supplement”) are to blame, as well as the “irresponsible group” of “former members of the Bolshevik Centre” (see the leaflet of the Vperyod grout). In this respect the liquidators and the otzovists are entirely at one; their bloc against orthodox Bolshevism (a bloc which more than once characterised the struggle at the plenum, which I deal with separately below) is an indisputable fact; the representatives of two extreme tendencies, each of them equally expressing subordination to bourgeois ideas, each of them equally anti-Party, are entirely at one in their internal Party policy, in their struggle against the Bolsheviks and in proclaiming the Central Organ to be “Bolshevik”. But the strongest abuse from Axelrod and Alexinsky only serves to screen their complete failure to understand the meaning and importance of Party unity. Trotsky’s (the Viennese) resolution only differs outwardly from the “effusions” of Axelrod and Alexinsky. It is drafted very “cautiously” and lays claim to “above faction” fairness. But what is its meaning? The “Bolshevik leaders” are to blame for everything—this is the same “philosophy of history” as that of Axelrod and Alexinsky.
The very first paragraph of the Vienna resolution states: ... “the representatives of all factions and trends... by their decision [at the plenum] consciously and deliberately assumed responsibility for carrying out the adopted resolutions in the present conditions, in co-operation with the given persons, groups and institutions”. This refers to “conflicts in the Central Organ”. Who is “responsible for carrying out the resolutions” of the plenum in the Central Organ? Obviously the majority of the Central Organ, i. e., the Bolsheviks and the Poles; it is they who are responsible for carrying out the resolutions of the plenum—“in co-operation with the given persons”, i. e., with the Golosists and Vperyodists.
What does the principal resolution of the plenum say in that part of it which deals with the most “vexed” problems of our Party, with questions which were most disputable before the plenum and which should have become least disputable after the plenum?
It says that bourgeois influence over the proletariat manifests itself, on the one hand, in rejecting the illegal Social-Democratic Party and belittling its role and importance, etc., and, on the other hand, in rejecting Social-Democratic work in the Duma as well as the utilisation of legal possibilities, the failure to grasp the importance of both the one and the other, etc.
Now what is the meaning of this resolution?
Does it mean that the Golosists should have sincerely and irrevocably put an end to rejecting the illegal Party and belittling it, etc., that they should have admitted this to be a deviation, that they should have got rid of it, and done positive work in a spirit hostile to this deviation; that the Vperyodists should have sincerely and irrevocably put an end to rejecting Duma work and legal possibilities, etc., that the majority of the Central Organ should in every way have enlisted the “co-operation” of the Golosists and Vperyodists on condition that they sincerely, consistently and irrevocably renounced the “deviations” described in detail in the resolution of the plenum?
Or does the resolution mean that the majority of the Central Organ is responsible for carrying out the resolutions (on the overcoming of liquidationist and otzovist deviations) “in co-operation with the given” Golosists, who continue as before and even more crudely to defend liquidationism, and with the given Vperyodists, who continue as before and even more crudely to assert the legitimacy of otzovism, ultimatumism, etc.?
This question needs only to be put for one to see how hollow are the eloquent phrases in Trotsky’s resolution, to see how in reality they serve to defend the very position held by Axelrod and Co., and Alexinsky and Co.
In the very first words of his resolution Trotsky expressed the full spirit of the worst kind of conciliation, “conciliation” in inverted commas, of a sectarian and philistine conciliation, which deals with the “given persons” and not the given line of policy, the given spirit, the given ideological and political content of Party work.
It is in this that the enormous difference lies between real partyism, which consists in purging the Party of liquidationism and otzovism, and the “conciliation” of Trotsky and Co., which actually renders the most faithful service to the liquidators and otzovists, and is therefore an evil that is all the more dangerous to the Party the more cunningly, artfully and rhetorically it cloaks itself with professedly pro-Party, professedly anti-factional declamations.
In point of fact, what is it that we have been given as the task of the Party?
Is it “given persons, groups and institutions” that we have been “given” and that have to be “reconciled” irrespective of their policy, irrespective of the content of their work, irrespective of their attitude towards liquidationism and otzovism?
Or have we been given a Party line, an ideological and political direction and content of our entire work, the task of purging this work of liquidationism and otzovism—a task that must be carried out irrespective of “persons, groups and institutions”, in spite of the opposition of “persons, institutions and groups” which disagree with that policy or do not carry it out?
Two views are possible on the meaning of and conditions for the achievement of any kind of Party unity. It is extremely important to grasp the difference between these views, for they become entangled and confused in the course of development of our “unity crisis” and it is impossible to orientate ourselves in this crisis unless we draw a sharp line between them.
One view on unity may place in the forefront the “reconciliation” of “given persons, groups and institutions”. The identity of their views on Party work, on the policy of that work, is a secondary matter. One should try to keep silent about differences of opinion and not elucidate their causes, their significance, their objective conditions. The chief thing is to “reconcile” persons and groups. If they do not agree on carrying out a common policy, that policy must be interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable to all. Live and let live. This is philistine “conciliation”, which inevitably leads to sectarian diplomacy. To “stop up” the sources of disagreement, to keep silent about them, to “adjust” “conflicts” at all costs, to neutralise the conflicting trends—it is to this that the main attention of such “conciliation” is directed. In circumstances in which the illegal Party requires a base of operations abroad, this sectarian diplomacy opens the door to “persons, groups and institutions” that play the part of “honest brokers” in all kinds of attempts at “conciliation” and “neutralisation”
Here is what Martov, in Golos No. 19-2O, relates of one such attempt at the plenum:
“The Mensheviks, Pravdists and Bundists proposed a composition of the Central Organ which would ensure ‘neutralisation’ of the two opposite trends In the Party ideology, and would not give a definite majority to either of them, thus compelling the Party organ to work out, in relation to each essential question, that mean course which could unite the majority of Party workers.”
As is known, the proposal of the Mensheviks was not adopted. Trotsky, who put himself forward as candidate for the Central Organ in the capacity of neutraliser, was defeated. The candidature of a Bundist for the same post (the Mensheviks in their speeches proposed such a candidate) was not even put to the vote.
Such is the actual role of those “conciliators”, in the bad sense of the word, who wrote the Vienna resolution and whose views are expressed in Yonov’s article in No. 4 of Otkliki Bunda, which I have just received. The Mensheviks did not venture to propose a Central Organ with a majority of their own trend, although, as is seen from Martov’s argument above quoted, they recognised the existence of two opposite trends in the Party. The Mensheviks did not even think of proposing a Central Organ with a majority of their trend. They did not even attempt to insist on a Central Organ with any definite trend at all (so obvious at the plenary session was the absence of any trend among the Mensheviks, who were only required, only expected, to make a sincere and consistent renunciation of liquidationism). The Mensheviks tried to secure “neutralisation” of the Central Organ and they proposed as neutralisers either a Bundist or Trotsky. The Bundist or Trotsky was to play the part of a matchmaker who would undertake to “unite in wedlock” “given persons, groups and institutions”, irrespective of whether one of the sides had renounced liquidationism or not.
This standpoint of a matchmaker constitutes the entire “ideological basis” of Trotsky’s and Yonov’s conciliation. When they complain and weep over the failure to achieve unity, it must be taken cum grano salis. It must be taken to mean that the matchmaking failed. The “failure” of the, hopes of unity cherished by Trotsky and Yonov, hopes of unity with “given persons, groups and institutions” irrespective of their attitude to liquidationism, signifies only the failure of the matchmakers, the falsity, the hopelessness, the wretchedness of the matchmaking point of view, but it does not at all, signify the failure of Party unity.
There is another view on this unity, namely, that long ago a number of profound objective causes, independently of the particular composition of the “given persons, groups and institutions” (submitted to the plenum and at the plenum), began to bring about and are steadily continuing to bring about in the two old and principal Russian factions of Social-Democracy changes that create—sometimes undesired and even unperceived by some of the “given persons, groups and institutions”—ideological and organisational bases for unity. These objective conditions are rooted in the specific features of the present period of bourgeois development in Russia, the period of bourgeois counter revolution and attempts by the autocracy to remodel itself on the pattern of a bourgeois monarchy. These objective conditions simultaneously give rise to inseparably inter connected changes in the character of the working-class movement, in the composition, type and features of the Social-Democratic vanguard, as well as changes in the ideological and political tasks of the Social-Democratic movement. Hence the bourgeois influence over the proletariat that gives rise to liquidationism (=semi-liberalism, which likes to consider itself part of Social-Democracy) and otzovism (=semi-anarchism, which likes to consider itself part of Social-Democracy) is not an accident, nor evil design, stupidity or error on the part of some individual, but the inevitable result of the action of these objective causes, and the superstructure of the entire labour movement in present-day Russia, which is inseparable from the “basis”. The realisation of the danger, of the non-Social-Democratic nature and harmfulness to the labour movement of both these deviations brings about a rapprochement between the elements of various factions and paves the way to Party unity “despite all obstacles”.
From this point of view the unification of the Party may proceed slowly, with difficulties, vacillations, waverings and relapses, but proceed it must. From this point of view the process of unification does not necessarily take place among “given persons, groups and institutions”, but irrespective of given persons, subordinating them, rejecting those of them who do not understand or who do not want to understand the requirements of objective development, promoting and enlisting new persons not belonging to those “given”, effecting changes, reshufflings and regroupings within the old factions, trends and divisions, From this point of view, unity is inseparable from its ideological foundation, it can grow only on the basis of an ideological rapprochement, it is connected with the appearance, development and growth of such deviations as liquidationism and otzovism, not by the accidental connection between particular polemical statements of this or that literary controversy, but by an internal, indissoluble link such as that which binds cause and effect.
2. “The Fight on Two Fronts” and the Overcoming of Deviations[edit source]
Such are the two fundamentally different and radically divergent views on the nature and significance of our Party unity.
The question is, which of these views forms the basis of the plenum resolution? Whoever wishes to ponder over it will perceive that it is the second view that forms the basis, but in some passages the resolution clearly reveals traces of partial “amendments” in the spirit of the first view. However, these “amendments”, while worsening the resolution, in no way remove its basis, its main content, which is thoroughly imbued with the second point of view.
In order to demonstrate that this is so, that the “amendments” in the spirit of sectarian diplomacy are really in the nature of partial amendments, that they do not alter the essence of the matter and the principle underlying the resolution, I shall deal with certain points and certain pas sages in the resolution on the state of affairs in the Party, which have already been touched upon in the Party press. I shall start from the end.
After accusing the “leaders of the old factions” of doing everything to prevent unity being established, of behaving in the same way at the plenum too so that “every inch of ground had to be taken from them by storm”, Yonov writes:
“Comrade Lenin did not want ‘to overcome the dangerous deviations’ by means of ‘broadening and deepening Social-Democratic activities’. He strove quite energetically to put the theory of the ‘fight on two fronts’ in the centre of all Party activities. He did not even think of abolishing ‘the state of reinforced protection’ within the Party” (p. 22, Art. 1).
This refers to § 4, clause “b”, of the resolution on the situation in the Party. The draft of this resolution was submitted to the Central Committee by myself, and the clause in question was altered by the plenum itself after the commission had finished its work; it was altered on the motion of Trotsky, against whom I fought without success. In this clause I had, if not literally the words “fight on two fronts”, at all events, words to that effect. The words “overcoming by means of broadening and deepening” were inserted on the proposal of Trotsky. I am very glad that Comrade Yonov, by telling of my struggle against this proposal, gives me a convenient occasion for expressing my opinion on the meaning of the “amendment”.
Nothing at the plenum aroused more furious—and often comical—indignation than the idea of a “fight on two fronts”. The very mention of this infuriated both the Vperyodists and the Mensheviks. This indignation can be fully explained on historical grounds, for the Bolsheviks have in fact from August 1908 to January 1910 waged a struggle on two fronts, i.e., a struggle against the liquidators and against the otzovists. This indignation was comical because those who waxed angry at the Bolsheviks were thereby only proving their own guilt, showing that they were still very touchy about condemnation of liquidationism and otzovism. A guilty conscience is never at ease.
Trotsky’s proposal to substitute “overcoming by means of broadening and deepening” for the fight on two fronts met with the ardent support of the Mensheviks and the Vperyodists.
And now Yonov and Pravda and the authors of the Vienna resolution and Golos Sotsial-Demokrata are all rejoicing over that “victory”. But the question arises: have they, by deleting from this clause the words about the fight on two fronts, eliminated from the resolution the recognition of the need for that fight? Not at all, for since “deviations”, their “danger”, and the necessity of “explaining” that danger, are recognised, and since it is also recognised that these deviations are a “manifestation of bourgeois influence over the proletariat”—all this in effect means that the fight on two fronts is recognised! In one passage an “unpleasant” term (unpleasant to one or other of their friends) was altered, but the basic idea was left intact! The result was only that one part of one clause was confused, watered down and marred by phrase-mongering.
Indeed, it is nothing but phrase-mongering and a futile evasion when the paragraph in question speaks of overcoming by means of broadening and deepening the work. There is no clear idea here at all. The work must certainly at all times be broadened and deepened; the entire third paragraph of the resolution deals with this in detail before it passes on to the specific “ideological and political tasks”, which are not always or absolutely imperative but which result from the conditions of the particular period. § 4 is devoted only to these special tasks, and in the preamble to all of its three points it is directly stated that these ideological and political tasks “have come to the fore in their turn”.
What is the result? It is nonsense, as if the task of broadening and deepening the work has also come to the fore in its turn! As if there could be a historical “turn” when this task was not present, as it is always!
And in what way is it possible to overcome deviations by means of broadening and deepening Social-Democratic work? In any broadening and deepening of our work the question of how it should be broadened and deepened inevitably rises; if liquidationism and otzovism are not accidents, but trends engendered by social conditions, then they can assert themselves in any broadening and deepening of the work. It is possible to broaden and deepen the work in the spirit of liquidationism—this is being done, for instance, by Nasha Zarya and Vozrozhdeniye; it is also possible to do so in the spirit of otzovism. On the other hand, the overcoming of deviations, “overcoming” in the real sense of the word, inevitably deflects certain forces, time and energy from the immediate broadening and deepening of correct Social-Democratic work. The same Yonov, for instance, writes on the same page of his article:
“The plenum is over. Its participants have gone their several ways. The Central Committee in organising its work has to overcome incredible difficulties, among which not the least is the conduct of the so-called [only “so-called”, Comrade Yonov, not real, genuine ones?] liquidators whose existence Comrade Martov so persistently denied.”
Here you have the material—little, but characteristic material—which makes it clear how empty Trotsky’s and Yonov’s phrases are. The overcoming of the liquidationist activities of Mikhail, Yuri and Co. diverted the forces and time of the Central Committee from the immediate broadening and deepening of really Social-Democratic work. Were it not for the conduct of Mikhail, Yuri and Co., were it not for liquidationism among those whom we mistakenly continue to regard as our comrades, the broadening and deepening of Social-Democratic work would have proceeded more successfully, for then internal strife would not have diverted the forces of the Party. Consequently, if we take the broadening and deepening of Social-Democratic work to mean the immediate furthering of agitation, propaganda and economic struggle, etc., in a really Social-Democratic spirit, then in regard to this work the over coming of the deviations of Social-Democrats from Social-Democracy is a minus, a deduction, so to speak, from “positive activity”, and therefore the phrase about overcoming deviations by means of broadening, etc., is meaningless.
In reality this phrase expresses a vague longing, a pious, innocent wish that there should be less internal strife among Social-Democrats! This phrase reflects nothing but this pious wish; it is a sigh of the so-called conciliators: Oh, if there were only less struggle against liquidationism and otzovism!
The political importance of such “sighing” is nil, less than nil. If there are people in the Party who profit by “persistently denying” the existence of liquidators (and otzovists), they will take advantage of the “sigh” of the “conciliators” to cover up the evil. That is precisely what Golos Sotsial-Demokrata does. Hence the champions of such well-meaning and hollow phrases in resolutions are only so-called “conciliators”. In actual fact, they are the abettors of the liquidators and otzovists, in actual fact, they do not deepen Social-Democratic work but strengthen deviations from it; they strengthen the evil by temporarily concealing it and thereby making the cure more difficult.
In order to illustrate for Comrade Yonov the significance of this evil, I shall remind him of a passage in an article by Comrade Yonov in Diskussionny Listok No. 1. Comrade Yonov aptly compared liquidationism and otzovism to a benignant ulcer which “in the process of swelling draws all the noxious elements from the entire organism, thus contributing to recovery
That’s just it. The process of swelling, which draws the “noxious elements” out of the organism, leads to recovery. And that which hampers the purification of the organism from such elements is harmful to it. Let Comrade Yonov ponder over this helpful idea of Comrade Yonov.
3. The Terms of Unity and Sectarian Diplomacy[edit source]
To proceed. The editorial article of Golos on the results of the plenum compels us to touch on the question of the deletion of the words liquidationism and otzovism from the resolution. This editorial article (in No. 19–20, p. 18) declares with an audacity unusual and unprecedented (except among our Golosists) that the term “liquidator” is as elastic as india-rubber, that it has “engendered all kinds of misunderstandings” (sic!!), etc., and for this reason “the Central Committee decided to delete this term from the resolution”.
What can we call this version of the Central Committee’s decisions on the deletion of the term when the editors of Golos cannot but know that it is contrary to the truth? What calculation was in the minds of these editors, two of whom were at the plenum and know the “history” of the deletion of the term? Did they really count on not being exposed?
The majority of the commission which drew up the resolution approved the retention of the term. Of the two Mensheviks in the commission, one (Martov) voted for its deletion, the other (who repeatedly inclined towards Plekhanov’s position) was against. At the plenum the following statement was put forward by all the nationals (2 Poles+2 Bundists+1 Lett) and Trotsky.
“Recognising that it would be desirable intrinsically to apply the term ‘liquidationism’ to the trend which, as indicated in the resolution, has to be combated, yet taking into account the statement of the Menshevik comrades that they too consider it necessary to combat this trend but that the use of such a term in the resolution is of a factional character directed against them, the Mensheviks—we, in the interests of eliminating all unnecessary hindrances to the unification of the Party, propose that this term be dropped from the resolution.”
Thus, the majority of the Central Committee and, more over, all the non-factional elements, state in writing that the word liquidationism is intrinsically correct and that liquidationism must be combated, yet the editorial board of Golos explains that the term was deleted as being intrinsically unsuitable!!
The majority of the Central Committee and, moreover, all the non-factional elements declare in writing that they agree to the deletion of the term, yielding to the insistence of the Mensheviks (more correctly: yielding to an ultimatum, for the Mensheviks declared that the resolution would not be unanimous otherwise) in view of their promise to “combat this trend”. And yet the editors of Golos write: the resolution gave an “unequivocal reply to the question of the so-called struggle against liquidationism” (page 18, ibid.)!!
At the plenum they promise to reform, pleading: do not employ “a term which is directed against us”, for from now on we ourselves are going to combat this trend—yet in the first issue of Golos after the plenum they declare that the fight against liquidationism is only a “so-called” fight.
Clearly, we have here, on the part of the Golosists, a complete and definite turn to liquidationism, a turn which becomes comprehensible if we take a look at what took place after the plenum as at something integral, connected by cause and effect—particularly the utterances of Nasha Zarya, Vozrozhdeniye and gentlemen like Mikhail, Yuri, Roman and Co. Of this we shall speak further on, where it will be our task to demonstrate the utter superficiality of the view taken by Trotsky, who is prone to blame everything on the “violation of moral and political obligations” (the Vienna resolution), whereas we are evidently confronted not by an individual or group “violation of commitments”, not by a moral or juridical act, but by a political act, namely: the rallying of the anti-Party legalists in Russia.
For the present we must dwell on another question, namely the question of the causes and significance of the action of the plenum in deleting the word liquidationism from the resolution. To explain it purely as a result of the misguided zeal of conciliators like Trotsky, Yonov and Co. would be incorrect. There is yet another factor here. The point is that a considerable portion of the decisions of the plenum were passed not on the usual principle of the minority submitting to the majority, but on the principle of an agreement between the two factions, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, with the mediation of the nationals. This circumstance, apparently, is what Comrade Yonov is hinting at in Otkliki Bunda when he writes: “The comrades who are now clinging to formalities know perfectly well how the last plenum would have ended if it had taken a formal point of view.”
In this sentence, Comrade Yonov speaks in hints. Like Trotsky, he considers such a mode of expressing his thoughts extremely “tactful”, non-factional and specifically pro-Party. In point of fact, this is the very method employed by sectarian diplomats which does nothing but harm to the Party and the pro-Party cause. Such hints are lost to some, pique the sectarian curiosity of others, and set off more scandalmongering and back-biting. Hence Yonov’s hints must be deciphered. If he is not referring here to the plenum seeking an agreement (not merely a majority decision) on a number of questions we shall, ask him to express himself more explicitly and not put ideas into the heads of the gossips abroad.
If, however, Yonov is referring here to the agreement between the factions at the plenum, his criticism of “the comrades who cling to formalities” vividly shows us yet one more trait of those alleged conciliators who, in effect, are secretly helping the liquidators.
A number of unanimous resolutions were adopted at the plenum by agreement between the factions. Why was this necessary? Because actually the relations between the factions were tantamount to a split and, as is always and inevitably the case in any split, the discipline of the whole body (in this instance the Party) is sacrificed to the discipline of the part (in the present instance the faction).
Party conditions in Russia being what they are there was no other way to unity than through an agreement between the factions (whether all the, factions, or the chief ones, whether parts of factions or whole ones, is another question). Hence, the necessity of a compromise, i.e., concessions on certain points which were not recognised by the majority but were demanded by the minority. One of these concessions was the deletion of the word liquidationism from the resolution. A particularly conspicuous sign of the compromise character of the resolutions of the plenum was the Bolsheviks’ conditional surrender of their factional property to third persons. One section of the Party conditionally hands over its property to third persons (from the international Social-Democratic movement) who will have to decide whether this money should be given to the Central Committee or returned to the faction. The character of this contract, which would be quite extraordinary and even impossible in a normal, intact Party, shows clearly on what conditions the Bolsheviks accepted the agreement. The declaration of the Bolsheviks printed in the Central Organ No. 11, says clearly that the main ideological and political condition was the passing of the resolution “condemning liquidationism and otzovism and, recognising the fight against these trends to be an inalienable element of the political line of the Party”, that one of the guarantees for the implementation of this line was the composition of the Central Organ, and that a continuation of their factional organ and factional policy by the Mensheviks would give the Bolsheviks tile right to “demand their money back from the trustee”. The Central Committee accepted these conditions, making direct reference to this declaration of the Bolsheviks in the resolution on the factional centres.
The question is, are these conditions to be kept or not? Are these conditions formal or not? Comrade Yonov, speaking disdainfully of “formalities” has not understood the most elementary distinction between the agreement as the basis of a contract (=the condition that the Bolsheviks should hand over their money, a condition endorsed by the unanimous resolution of the Central Committee on factional centres) and the observance of the formal conditions of the contract as the basis for the preservation of unity.
If Comrade Yonov, now, after the unanimous resolution of the Central Committee on the factional centres, contemptuously dismisses “formalities” he is dismissing the whole resolution of the Central Committee on the factional centres. Comrade Yonov’s sophistry amounts to the following: the aggregate decisions of the Central Committee were reached not only through the passing of resolutions by a majority vote but also through an agreement ,between the war ring trends on certain highly important questions—consequently, henceforth too these decisions are not formally binding and the minority has the right to demand an agreement! Since there is an element of compromise in the decisions of the Central Committee these decisions can always be violated because an agreement is a voluntary affair!
Is not such sophistry a thinly veiled defence of the liquidators?
But while Yonov’s sophistries are nothing but ludicrous the endeavour of the Central Committee (the plenum) to make the maximum possible concessions was psychologically and politically right and proper. The Mensheviks and otzovists joined in furious attacks on the Bolshevik Centre, against which they levelled the most savage accusations. Not disagreements in principle, but the “malice” of the Bolshevik Centre—that is what estranges us from the Party above all and before all, said both the Mensheviks and the otzovists.
This is a very important point which must be cleared up if we are to understand why our unity crisis is taking such a course and no other. There were no champions of liquidationism and otzovism in principle; neither the Mensheviks nor the Vperyodists ventured to take such a position. Here the effect was seen of a feature of the modern “critics” of Marxism and the critics of genuine Marxist tactics, one already commented on in our literature long ago (and frequently commented on in the international literature against the opportunists), viz., irresolution, unprincipledness, concealment of the “new” policy, the screening of the consistent representatives of liquidationists and otzovists. We are not liquidators, that is a factional term—cried the Mensheviks. We are not otzovists, that is a factional exaggeration—echoed the Vperyodists. And thousands of accusations on all manner of occasions, including that of so-called “criminal actions” (read: expropriations), were hurled against the Bolshevik Centre with the aim of drawing a veil over differences of political principle and of pushing them into the background.
To this the Bolsheviks replied: very well, gentlemen, let the Central Committee examine all your accusations and pronounce “judgement and sentence” on them. There are five national Social-Democrats at the plenum—any decision at all depends on them and a unanimous one even more so. Let them be the “judges” to examine your (i.e., Menshevik and Vperyodist) accusations and satisfy your claims against the Bolshevik Centre. The Bolsheviks went further. They agreed to the maximum compromises in the resolutions demanded by the Mensheviks and Vperyodists.
And so the maximum concessions were made in the resolutions on the state of affairs in the Party and on the conference, all the “accusations” were gone into and all claims against the Bolshevik Centre were satisfied on the basis of a decision by all five national Social-Democrats.
This was the only way to deprive the opponents of the Party line, i.e., the anti-liquidationist line, of every opportunity to prevaricate, of every opportunity to evade the principles of the question. And they were deprived of this opportunity.
If now Axelrod and Martov and Co. in the “Necessary Supplement”, and Alexinsky and Co. in the leaflet of the Vperyodists again try to drag out accusations against the Bolshevik Centre, tittle-tattle, slander, lies and insinuations—then these gentlemen condemn themselves. That the plenum unanimously heard all their accusations, rejected all of them by its resolution and put it on record that they were rejected is impossible for anyone to deny, whether these or any other knights of discord. That being so it should now be clear to one and all that the people who are once more beginning a squabble (Axelrod, Martov, Alexinsky and Co.) are simply political blackmailers who want to sidetrack questions of principle by scandalmongering. And we shall not treat them as anything else but political blackmailers. We are not going to concern ourselves with any question other than the implementation by the Party of its anti-liquidationist and anti-otzovist policy, leaving Axelrod, Martov and Alexinsky to wallow in the mire as much as they like.
The compromises and concessions of the Bolsheviks, their assent to resolutions which in many respects were not forceful enough, were necessary for a clear-cut demarcation based on principle. By meeting all the claims of the Mensheviks and otzovists that were endorsed by a majority of the nationals, the Bolsheviks ensured that the solo issue for all Social-Democrats irrespective of trend, except the professional blackmailers, became the implementation of the Party’s anti-liquidationist and anti-otzovist policy. Under the resolution which depended on the national Social-Democrats, access to Party work, to taking part in the implementation of this policy, was not barred to anyone, to any single member of the Party; no obstacles to its implementation, no extraneous hindrances remained. So if the liquidators now raise their heads again, more conspicuously than ever, it proves that their extraneous obstacles were a fiction, a blind, scandalmongering dodge, a contrivance of sectarian intriguers and nothing more.
That is why the process of demarcation and division began in real earnest only after the plenum. This division is taking place solely over a most important question of principle—that of the liquidation of our Party. Those “conciliators” who were shocked, aggrieved and astonished because this process of demarcation began after the plenum, only proved by their astonishment that they were under the spell of sectarian diplomacy. A sectarian diplomat might think that a conditional agreement with Martov and Martynov, Maximov and the second Vperyodist means the end of all demarcation, for a divergence of principle is a minor matter to such a diplomat. Conversely, people who attach primary importance to the fundamental question of liquidationism and otzovism see nothing surprising in the fact that a demarcation purely on the basis of principle had to begin after satisfying all the claims of Martov, Maximov and Co., after the maximum concessions to them on questions of organisation, etc.
What has been taking place in the Party since the plenum is not the collapse of Party unity, but the beginning of the union of all those who are really capable and desirous of working in the Party and in the Party spirit, the beginning of the purging of a real Party bloc of Bolsheviks, pro-Party Mensheviks, nationals and non-factional Social-Democrats from renegades hostile to the Party, from semi-liberals and semi-anarchists.
4. Paragraph I of the Resolution on the State of Affairs in the Party[edit source]
Analysing further the defects of the plenum resolutions I must now dwell on the first point of the resolution on the state of affairs in the Party. It is true that this point does not touch on questions relating directly to one or other conception of Party unity, but I shall have to make a digression since the interpretation of this first point has already given rise to no few disputes in the Party.
In my draft of the resolution this point was totally absent and, with the rest of the Proletary editorial board, I most emphatically opposed it. It was inserted by the votes of the Mensheviks and the Poles although they were warned most seriously by a section of the Bolsheviks that the interpretation of this vague, nebulous point would inevitably produce misunderstandings or—worse—render a service to the liquidators.
It need scarcely be said that at the plenum I criticised quite a number of the propositions in this point as inane, vacuous and tautological. To say that the tactics of the Social-Democrats are always the same in their basic principles without defining what these basic principles are or making clear which of them (Marxism in general or certain propositions of Marxism) are involved and why; to say that the tactics of the Social-Democrats are always designed to secure the maximum results without defining either the immediate aim of the struggle (the immediate possible results) at the present time, or the specific methods of struggle to be applied at this time; to say that the tactics are designed for the various courses which development might follow without defining them concretely; to repeat truisms to the effect that our tactics must promote the massing of forces and make the proletariat ready both for open struggle and for the utilisation of the antagonisms within the unstable regime—all these defects are glaringly obvious and convert the whole point into unnecessary and useless ballast.
But there is something still worse in this point. It contains a loophole for the liquidators, as was pointed out at the plenum by various delegates, not only by the Bolsheviks but also by one of the Bundists and even Trotsky. This loophole is a phrase to the effect that the class-conscious proletariat has “for the first time, by organising into a Social-Democratic mass party, an opportunity to apply intelligently, systematically and consistently this tactical method of international Social-Democracy”. (What method is this? The previous reference was to the basic principles of the tactics not the method, let alone a definite method.)
Why for the first time? asked the critics of this point at the plenum. If it means that any step in the development of the country produces something new, something higher in the level of industrial technique and clarity of class struggle, etc., then again we are faced with a banality. Then any period will infallibly produce something that comes about for the first time compared to a previous period. But we are living through a definite period, a period of counter-revolutionary ebb, a period of an enormous decline in the energy of the masses and the Social-Democratic workers’ movement after a revolutionary upsurge. And if it be said that such a period affords the proletariat for the first time an opportunity to apply consciously, etc., the method of international Social-Democracy, these words will lead inevitably to a liquidationist interpretation, a purely liberal exaltation of the Third Duma period, an allegedly peaceful and lawful period, over the period of storm and stress, the period of revolution, when the struggle of the proletariat took direct revolutionary forms and the liberals decried it as “spontaneous folly”.
In order to direct special ’attention to this danger of a liquidationist interpretation of this extraordinarily vague point; I submitted a series of written statements at this meeting of the plenum, emphasising a number of passages from the speeches contributed there. Here are two of my statements:
1) “On Lenin’s demand the following words of Comrade T. (Polish S.D.) are entered in the minutes: ’that the tactics of revolution are belittled here in comparison with the counter-revolution is an absolutely false interpretation.’”
2) “On Lenin’s demand the interjection of Comrade Martov (“quite right!”) to the statement by I. (a Bolshevik who defended this point) that the words in dispute do not belittle but enhance the significance of the revolution and its methods in comparison with the counter-revolutionary methods, is entered in the minutes.”
Both statements confirm that the Pole ’and Bolshevik, with ’the agreement of Martov, categorically denied the slightest admissibility of a liquidationist interpretation of this point. Of course these two comrades did not at all intend any such interpretation.
But it is well known from of ’old that what is applied is the law, not the motives of the law, not the intentions of the legislator. The significance of the present point in agitation and propaganda is determined not by the good intentions of any of its authors, not by what they said at the plenum, but by the objective relationship of forces and trends inside the Russian section of the S.D. (the non-Russian Social-Democrats will scarcely pay special attention to this vague point).
Therefore I waited with particular interest to see how this point would, now be interpreted in the press, preferring not to hurry with my opinion but to hear first of all the reactions of the Social-Democrats who were not at the plenum or the reactions of the Golosists.
The first issue of Golos after the plenum provided quite enough material to appraise our dispute as to how this point would be interpreted.
In Golos’s leading article on the results of the plenum we read:
“It would be quite inconceivable and absurd, of course, to suppose that by these words [“for the first time”, etc.] the Central Committee wanted to express an indirect condemnation of our former tactics, inasmuch as they were adapted to the revolutionary situation” (author’s italics; No. 19-20, p. 18).
Very good! The author declares a liquidationist interpretation to be inconceivable and absurd. However, on reading further, we find the following assertion in the same paragraph:
“These words are an official recognition of the comparative backwardness of our political life in the past in spite of the revolutionary forms in which it was displayed, and this, incidentally, was one of the main causes of the defeat of the revolution; these words are an official recognition of the inordinately elementary character of our former tactics, to which they were condemned by the backwardness of the social relationships; these words, lastly, were an official recognition that whatever the political situation in the future, any attempt to return to the’ dictatorship of the exclusive Illegal circles in the movement with the whole policy associated therewith would be a decided step back.”
Good, is it not?
One hardly knows where to begin in sorting out this collection of “gems”.
I shall begin with the triple reference to “official recognition”. To think, how much ridicule this same Golos has poured on every official recognition by one or other resolution of an appraisal of the past, of the revolution and of the role of the bourgeois parties, etc.! There you have a specimen of the sincerity of the outcries against “officiality”: when the Golosists do not like an explicit decision of the Party they laugh to scorn its claims to “officially” decide complex “scientific” questions, and so on and so forth—just as the Sozialistische Monatshefte ridicules the Dresden resolution against the opportunists, or as the Belgian ministerialists in our own day ridicule the Amsterdam resolution. But as soon as a Golosist thinks he sees a loophole for liquidationism, he swears and vows three times over that this is “recognised officially”.
And when a Golosist swears and vows a thing you can be sure that he is ... evading the truth. For the author of the article to speak of the “official recognition” of his interpretation is all the more absurd because the disputable character of the interpretation of this point was a special subject for debate in the Central Committee. Moreover, from statements officially entered in the minutes—yes, yes! here is something really “official”—statements which quoted these words of the Pole and the Bolshevik, it is clear that they would never have recognised Golos’s interpretation to be a correct one. Our author has only disgraced himself with his talk of official recognition.
The words “for the first time” are a recognition of the “comparative backwardness of the past”—we might let that pass, although there is nothing to show why this should be referred specifically to political life and not to other aspects of social development; but to add “in spite of the revolutionary forms” is to stick out too incautiously the ass’s ear of the Vekhist. You can safely bet that of a hundred liberals reading this passage not less than ninety will kiss the Golosists for it, and of a hundred workers not less than ninety will turn their backs on the opportunists. And, “incidentally”, the addition about the “causes of the defeat of the revolution” gives away the co-authors of the liquidationist Pentateuch completely: under cover of a vague resolution they want to smuggle in their liberal view on the role of the proletariat in the revolution. Therefore they speak of the “elementary character” and even—mark this!—the inordinately elementary character “of our former tactics”. The “inordinately” elementary character of our tactics, do you see, ensues from the phrase “to apply ‘for the first time’ intelligently, systematically and consistently [in a mass party] the method of international Social-Democracy” The tactics of the period of open struggle, the period of comparative freedom of the press, mass unions, elections with the participation of the revolutionary parties, universal excitement among the population, rapid fluctuations in the policy of the government, the period of certain important victories over the government—these tactics, evidently, were inordinately elementary in comparison with the non-elementary tactics of the years 1909-10! How rich in apostasy, how poor in Social-Democratic understanding of events must one be to make such interpretations!
But to deduce from the words “for the first time” a condemnation of the “dictatorship [!!] of the exclusive illegal circles”—this is simply priceless. In the time of the “inordinately elementary” tactics of 1905–07 the leadership of the workers’ party was, do you see, much more like a “dictatorship” than in 1909–10, it emanated to a far greater extent from the “underground” organisations and indeed “circles”, which were more “exclusive” than in our, time! To give this laughable profundity a semblance of truth one has to remember that the opportunists and Cadetophiles felt that they were an “exclusive circle” among the workers during the revolution and find that now, in the struggle for legality (don’t laugh!) they are not “exclusive” (Milyukov himself is at our side), they are not a “circle” (we have renegade periodicals published openly), they are not “under ground”, and so on and so forth.
For the first time the proletariat, organising into a mass Social-Democratic Party, observes among people who would like to consider themselves the leaders of the proletariat such a systematic and consistent gravitation towards liberal renegacy.
This lesson of the interpretation of the notorious point concerning “for the first time” will have to be reckoned with whether they like it or not by the Polish comrade and the Bolshevik comrade who officially declared that in their opinion a liquidationist interpretation of their point would be absolutely false.
5. The Significance of the December (1908) Resolutions and the Attitude of the Liquidators to Them[edit source]
These last comments on the defects of the plenum resolution must be applied to the introductory words of the first point, which read: “Enlarging upon the main propositions of the resolutions of the Party Conference of 1908, the Central Committee resolves....” This formulations is the result of a concession to the Mensheviks, and this circumstance must be dwelt upon all the more for the fact that we have here again a glaring example of disloyalty in return for the concession, or a crying incapacity to understand The meaning of the Party’s definitions of our tactics.
The draft resolution, which was approved by the majority of the commission and was therefore assured of a majority vote at the plenum, had the words: “in confirmation of the resolutions of December 1908 and enlarging upon them....” Here too the Mensheviks put forward in the form of an ultimatum their demand for a concession, refusing to vote for the resolution as a whole if the words “in confirmation” were retained, for they regard the resolutions of December 1908 as the height of “factionalism”. We made the concession they demanded by agreeing to vote for the resolution with out the words about confirmation. I should not be disposed to regret this concession in the slightest if it had achieved its purpose, i.e., if the Mensheviks had received it with the loyalty to a Party decision without which collaboration is impossible. Our Party has no other definition of its main problems of tactics, organisation and parliamentary activity in the Third Duma period than the one given in the resolutions of December 1908. Without denying that factional strife was very acute at that time, we shall not insist on any particular sharp expression occurring in the resolutions then directed against the liquidators. But we certainly do insist on the fundamental propositions of these resolutions, for it would be uttering brave words in vain to speak of the Party, the Party principle and Party organisation if we brushed aside the only answer, given by the Party and confirmed by the experience of a year’s work, to cardinal fundamental questions, without an answer to which it is impossible to advance a single step whether in propaganda, agitation or organisation. We are quite ready to recognise the need for collaboration in amending these resolutions, in revising them in accordance with the criticism of the comrades of all factions, including, of course, the pro-Party Mensheviks; we know that some propositions in these resolutions will probably remain open to dispute in the Party for quite a long time to come, and it will not be possible to settle them in the near future otherwise than by a majority Vote. But as long as this revision has not been undertaken and completed, as long as the Party has not given a new answer to the question of the appraisal of the Third Duma period and the tasks ensuing: from it, we absolutely demand that all Party Social-Democrats, whatever views they hold, should be guided in their actions by these very resolutions.
It would seem that this is an elementary point of Party principle? It would seem that there could not be any other attitude to Party decisions? But the turn to liquidationism which Golos has taken after the plenum caused it in this case, too, to utilise the concession of the majority of the Party not for going over to a loyal Party position, but for immediately declaring its dissatisfaction with the extent of the concession! (Only the Golosists have apparently forgotten that the side which started the dispute about the unanimously adopted compromise resolution, expressing dissatisfaction with it and demanding new concessions and new amendments, thereby gave the other side the right to demand amendments in another direction. And we, of course, are going to exercise this right.)
The editorial in Golos No. 19–20, which I have already cited, concerning the results of the plenum says outright that the introductory words to the resolution are a compromise. This is true, but it becomes untrue if the fact be sup pressed that the compromise enforced by the ultimatum of the Mensheviks was the refusal of the majority of the Central Committee to directly confirm all the resolutions of December 1908, and not only the fundamental propositions contained in them.
“From our point of view,” continues Golos, “this phrase does not harmonise with the unambiguous content of the main points of the resolution, and while it marks a certain turning-point in the development of the Party, nevertheless it is, of course, connected in sequence with the whole past history of Russian Social-Democracy, but it is least of all [!!] connected with the ‘London heritage’. However, we should be incorrigible doctrinaires if we thought it possible to achieve at one stroke absolute unanimity in our Party, if we sacrificed a big step forward in the movement for the sake of parochialism” (!!). “We can, leave the correction of these mistakes in the resolution to historians.”
This sounds as though the Golosists who attended the plenum had been rebuked for their “complaisance to the Bolsheviks” by their Russian legalists, like Potresov and Co., or by the editors of Golos who were not at the plenum, and as though they were apologising to them. We are not doctrinaires, let historians correct the mistakes of the resolution!
To this magnificent declaration we venture to rejoin that pro-Party Social-Democrats draw up resolutions not for the benefit of historians, but to derive practical guidance from these resolutions in their work of propaganda, agitation and organisation. The Party has no other definition of the problems of this work for the period of the Third Duma. To the liquidators, of course, Party resolutions mean nothing, because the whole Party means nothing to them, and, as far as they are concerned, the whole Party (and not only its resolutions) is a worth-while and interesting study only for “historians”. But neither the Bolsheviks nor the pro-Party Mensheviks want to work with the liquidators in one organisation and will not work with them. We shall ask the liquidators to join the Bezgolovtsi or the Popular Socialists.
If the Golosists were loyally inclined towards the Party, if they really complied with the interests of the Party and not those of Potresov and Co., the interests of the organisation of the revolutionary Social-Democrats, not those of a circle of legalist literati, they would have expressed their dissatisfaction with the resolutions of December 1908 in a different manner. Now, after the plenum, they would cease unseemly, contemptuous sniggering which is the special characteristic of the Cadets, at some kind of “decisions” from “underground”. They would set about analysing these decisions in a business-like manner and amending them in accordance with their own point of view, in accordance with their own view of the experience of 1907–10. That would be working for real Party unity, for a rapprochement on a single line of Social-Democratic activity. By refusing to do so the Golosists are in fact carrying out the programme of the liquidators. What, indeed, is the programme of the liquidators on this question? It consists in ignoring the decisions of the underground Party which is doomed to perdition, etc., counterposing to the decisions of the Party the amorphous “work” of free lances who call them selves Social-Democrats and who have ensconced themselves in various legal journals, legal societies, etc., cheek by jowl with liberals, Narodniks and Bezzaglavtsi. We do not need any resolutions, any “estimate of the situation”, any definition of our immediate aims of struggle or our attitude to the bourgeois parties—we call all this (following Milyukov!) the “dictatorship of exclusive underground circles” (without noticing that by our amorphousness, lack of organisation and fragmented state we are actually surrendering the “dictatorship” to the liberal circles!).
Yes, yes, there is no doubt that the liquidators can demand nothing more from the Golosists as regards their attitude to Party decisions than that they should deride them contemptuously and ignore them.
It is impossible to discuss seriously the opinion that the resolution of the Central Committee on the state of affairs in the Party in 1909–10 is “least of all” connected with the London heritage, because the absurdity of this opinion leaps to the eye. It is nothing but mockery of the Party to say: we are prepared to take into account its “whole past history” but not that part of it which is directly connected with the present, nor the present itself! In other words: we are prepared to take into account anything that does not define our present actions. We are prepared (in 1910) to take into account “the whole past history” of Social-Democracy except the past history which contains the resolutions adopted on the Cadet Party in the years 1907–08–09, on the Trudovik parties in 1907–08–09, on the aims of our struggle in 1907–08–09. We are prepared to take into account everything except what is essential to becoming pro-Party in practice here and now, to conducting Party work, to carrying out Party tactics, to guiding in a Party manner the activity of the Social-Democrats in the Third Duma.
To the shame of the Bund it has to be said that it provides space in its party paper for the same liquidationist sneers at the London heritage in Comrade Yonov’,s article (p. 22): “Tell me, if you please,” writes Yonov, “what have the resolutions of the London Congress to do with the present moment and the questions which are now on the order of the day? I venture to hope that Comrade Lenin too and all his fellow-thinkers do not know.”
Indeed, who am I to know such a mystery! How am I to know that there has been no change of any importance in the main groups of the bourgeois parties (Black Hundreds, Octobrists, Cadets, Narodniks), in their class composition, in their policy, in their attitude to the proletariat and the revolution from the spring of 1907 to the spring of 1910? How am I to know that the small minor changes, which could and should be noted in this sphere, are indicated in the resolutions of December 1908? How am I to know all this?
In Yonov’s estimation, it would seem, all this has nothing to do with the present moment and the questions on the order of the day. To him it is superfluous—some Party definition or other of the tactics to be adopted towards the non-proletarian parties. Why burden oneself? This effort to elaborate a Party definition of proletarian tactics—would it not be simpler to call it “special protective measures” or something like that? Would it not be simpler to convert the Social-Democrats into free lances, let them run wild to settle current questions “freely”, Without any reinforced protection”, today with the liberals in the magazine Nashi Pomoi, tomorrow with the Bezgolovtsi at a congress of literary hangers-on, the day after tomorrow with the Posse-ists in the co-operative movement. Only—only, dear humble creature, how will this differ from what the legalist liquidators are out for? There will be no difference at all!
Pro-Party Social-Democrats who are dissatisfied with the London decisions or the resolutions of December 1908 and want to work in the Party, in a Party manner, will criticise these resolutions in the Party press, they will propose amendments, try to convince the comrades, try to win a majority 4n the Party. We may disagree with such people, but their attitude will be a Party attitude, they will not sow confusion as Yonov, Golos and Co. are doing.
Just look at Mr. Potresov.
This “Social-Democrat”, in order to demonstrate publicly his independence from the Social-Democratic Party, exclaims in Nasha Zarya No. 2, p. 59: “And how numerous they are, these questions, without the solution of which it is impossible to move a step, impossible for Russian Marxism to become an ideological trend truly investing itself with all the energy and power [couldn’t you manage with less rhetoric, dear Mr. Independent!] of the revolutionary mood of the time! How is the economic development of Russia proceeding, what shifting of forces is it producing under the damper of the reaction, what is going on in the countryside and in the towns, what changes is this development producing in the social composition of the working class of Russia, and so on and so forth? Where are the answers or attempts to answer these questions, where is the economic school of Russian, Marxism? And what has become of the play of political thought which was once the very life of Menshevism? What has become of its search for organisational forms, its analysis of the past, its estimation of the present?”
If this independent were not so fond of casting laboured phrases to the wind and really thought about what he was saying, he would notice a very simple thing. If it is true that a revolutionary Marxist cannot move a step until these questions are settled (and it is true), their settlement—not In the sense of scientific finality and scientific research but of defining what steps have to be taken and how—is a matter with which the Social-Democratic Party must concern itself. For “revolutionary Marxism” outside the Social-Democratic Party is simply a parlour phrase of the legal-minded windbag who sometimes likes to boast that “we too” are almost Social-Democrats. The Social-Democratic Party gave the first steps to am answer to these questions, and it was in the resolutions of December 1908 that it gave them.
The independents have arranged things for themselves rather cunningly: in the legal press they beat their breasts and ask “where are the first Steps to an answer on the part of the revolutionary Marxists?” The independents know that it is impossible to answer them in the legal press. And in the illegal press the friends of these independents (the Golosists) contemptuously refrain from answering the questions “without a settlement of which it will be impossible to move a step”. Everything is achieved that is required by the independents (i.e., the renegades of socialism) the world over: the resounding phrase is there, actual independence from socialism and the Social-Democratic Party is there as well.
6. The Group of Independent-Legalists[edit source]
Let us now proceed to ascertain what took place after the plenum. To this question Trotsky and Yonov give a uniform and simple answer. “Neither in the external conditions of political life,” states the Vienna resolution, “nor in the internal relations of our Party did any real changes take place after the plenum that might hinder the work of building up the Party....” A factional relapse, the surviving heritage of factional relations—that is all.
Yonov supplies the same explanations “personalised”.
“The plenum is over. Its participants have gone their several ways.... The leaders of the old factions found them selves at liberty and emancipated themselves from all outside influences and pressure. Moreover, considerable reinforcements arrived: for some of them—in the shape of Comrade Plekhanov, who of late has been ardently advocating that a state of martial law be declared in the Parts; for others—in the shape of the sixteen ‘old Party members, well known to the editorial board of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata’” (see No. 19–20, “Open Letter”). “Under these conditions, how could one refrain from throwing oneself into the fray? And so they resumed the old ‘game’ of mutual extermination” (Otkliki Bunda No. 4, p. 22).
“Reinforcements” arrived from the factionalists and—another fight ensued, that is all. True, the “reinforcements” for the Bolsheviks arrived in the person of a pro-Party Menshevik, Plekhanov; he “arrived” to make war on the liquidators, but that is immaterial to Yonov. Yonov apparently does not like Plekhanov’s polemics against Potresov, Comrade I. (who proposed “to dissolve everything”), etc. Of course, he has the right to censure these polemics. But how can this be called “declaring martial law in the Party”? War on the liquidators means declaring martial law in the Party—let us remember this “philosophy” of Comrade Yonov’s.
The reinforcements for the Mensheviks abroad were the Russian Mensheviks. But this circumstance does not at all give Comrade Yonov something to think about.
It is obvious what practical conclusion Trotsky and Yonov draw from such an “estimate of the situation”. Nothing out of the ordinary has occurred. Simply a factional wrangle. Install new neutralisers and the trick is done. Everything is explained from the standpoint of sectarian diplomacy. All the practical prescriptions are nothing but sectarian diplomacy. Given here are those who “rushed into battle”, those who desire to “reconcile”: here delete the reference to the “foundation”, there add the name of so-and so to be included in the “institution”, and in yet another place “give in” to the legalists in regard to the methods of convening the conference.... It is the old but ever new story of the sectarian spirit abroad.
Our view of what took place after the plenum is different.
Having succeeded in getting the resolutions adopted unanimously, and having eliminated all the “squabbling” accusations, the plenum forced the liquidators to the wall. It is no longer possible to hide behind squabbles, it is no longer possible to refer to obduracy and “mechanical suppression” (or the other variants: “special protective measures” “martial law”, “state of siege”, etc.). It is now possible to leave the Party only because of liquidationism (just as the Vperyodists can leave it only because of otzovism and anti-Marxist philosophy).
Forced to the wall, the liquidators have had to show their true colours. Their Russian centre—it matters not whether it is a formal or an informal, a semi-legal (Mikhail and Co.) or entirely legal centre (Potresov and Co.)—answered the call to return to the Party by a refusal. The Russian legalist-liquidators have finally broken with the Party and have united in a group of independent socialists (independent of socialism and dependent on liberalism, of course). The answer of Mikhail and Co., on the one hand, and the writings of Nasha Zarya and Vozrozhdeniye, on the other, mark precisely the fusion of the anti-Party circles of “Social-Democrats” (to be more exact—quasi-Social-Democrats) into a group of independent socialists. Hence the “conciliatory” efforts of Trotsky and Yonov are now ridiculous and miserable. These efforts can only be explained by a complete failure to understand what is taking place. They are harmless efforts now, for there is no one behind them except the sectarian diplomats abroad, except ignorance and lack of intelligence in some out-of-the-way places.
The conciliators à la Trotsky and Yonov mistook the special conditions which allowed conciliationist diplomacy to blossom forth at the plenum for the general conditions of present-day Party life. They made the mistake of taking this diplomacy—which played its part at the plenum owing to the presence of conditions that gave rise to a deep striving for conciliation (i.e., for Party unity) in both of the principal factions—as an aim in itself, as a lasting instrument in the game between “given persons, groups and institutions”.
Certainly there was scope for diplomacy at the plenum, for it was necessary to secure the Party union of pro-Party Bolsheviks and pro-Party Mensheviks; and this was impossible without concessions, without compromise. In deter mining the extent of such concessions the “honest brokers” inevitably came to the front—inevitably, because for the pro-Party Mensheviks and pro-Party Bolsheviks the question of the extent of the concessions was a secondary one, as long as the basis in principle of the union as a whole remained intact. The “conciliators” à la Trotsky and Yonov—having pushed their way to the front at the plenum, and having obtained the opportunity to play their part as “neutralisers”, as “judges”, in eliminating squabbles and satisfying “claims” against the Bolshevik Centre—imagined that as long as the “given persons, groups and institutions” existed they could always play this part. An amusing delusion. Brokers are needed when it is necessary to determine the extent of the concessions needed for obtaining unanimity. The extent of the concessions has to he determined when there is an acknowledged common basis in principle for a union. The question as to who was to join this union after all the concessions had been made remained open at that time; for in principle the provisional assumption was inevitable that all the Social-Democrats would want to enter the Party, that all the Mensheviks would want loyally to carry out the anti-liquidationist resolution, and that all the Vperyodists would want to do the same in regard to the anti-otzovist resolution.
Now, however, brokers are not required; there is no place for them, because there is no question of the extent of concessions. And this question does not arise because there is no question of any concessions at all. All the concessions (and even excessive ones) were made at the plenum. Now it is exclusively a question of a principled stand in the struggle against liquidationism, moreover not against liquidationism in general, but against a definite group of liquidator-independents, the group of Mikhail and Co., the group of Potresov and Co. Should Trotsky and Yonov take it into their heads to “reconcile” the Party with the given persons, groups and institutions, then we all pro-Party Bolsheviks and all pro-Party Mensheviks would regard; them simply as traitors to the Party, and nothing more.
The conciliator-diplomats were “strong” at the plenum exclusively because and insofar as both the pro-Party Bolsheviks and the pro-Party Mensheviks wanted peace and attached subordinate importance to the question of the conditions of peace compared with the question of the anti-liquidationist and the anti-otzovist tactics of the Party. I, for instance, considered the concessions excessive and fought over the extent of these concessions (this is hinted at by Golos in No. 19–20 and is openly stated by Yonov). But I was ready then and would be ready now to reconcile myself even to excessive concessions, provided the line of the Party was not thereby undermined, provided these concessions did not lead to the negation of that line, provided these, concessions paved the way for bringing people back from liquidationism and otzovism to the Party. But now that Mikhail and Co. and Potresov and Co. have united and come out against the Party and against the plenum, I refuse to enter into any negotiations about any concessions, since the Party is obliged now to break with these independents, to fight against them resolutely as full-fledged liquidators. And I can speak with confidence not only for myself but for all the pro-Party Bolsheviks. The pro-Party Mensheviks, through Plekhanov and others, have expressed themselves clearly enough in the same spirit; and since this is the state of affairs in the Party, the “conciliator”-diplomats à la Trotsky and Yonov will either have to abandon their diplomacy or leave the Party and join the independents.
In order to convince oneself that the legalists have definitely united into a group of independent socialists, one has only to review the events after the plenum, to appraise them in essence, and not merely from the standpoint of the petty history of “conflicts”, to which Yonov wrongly confines himself.
1) Mikhail, Roman and Yuri declare that the Central Committee (plenum) resolutions and the very existence of the Central Committee are harmful. About two months have elapsed since this fact was published and it has not been refuted. It is obvious that it is true.
2) Sixteen Russian Mensheviks, including at least two of the three mentioned above, and a number of the most prominent Menshevik writers (Cherevanin, Koltsov, etc.), published in Golos, with the approval of the editors, a purely liquidationist manifesto, justifying the Mensheviks’ withdrawal from the Party.
3) The Menshevik legally published magazine, Nasha Zarya, publishes a programmatic article by Mr. Potresov in which it is bluntly stated that “the Party, as as integral and organised hierarchy of institutions, does not exist” (No. 2, p. 61), that it is impossible to wind up “what in reality no longer exists as an organised whole” (ibid.). Among the contributors to this journal are Cherevanin, Koltsov, Martynov, Avgustovsky, Maslov, Martov—the same L. Martov who is capable of occupying a place in the “organised hierarchy of institutions” of the illegal Party which has a centre like that of an “organised body”, and at the same time is capable of belonging to the legal group, which with the gracious permission of Stolypin declares this illegal Party to be non-existent.
4) In the popular Menshevik magazine Vozrozhdeniye (No. 5, March 30, 1910), which has the same contributors, an unsigned, i.e., editorial article praises the above-mentioned article by Mr. Potresov in Nasha Zarya and adds, after quoting the same passage quoted by me above:
“There is nothing to wind up—and we [i.e., the editors of Vozrozhdeniye] would add on our part—the dream of re-establishing this hierarchy in its old underground form is simply a harmful reactionary utopia, which indicates the loss of political intuition by the representatives of a party which at one time was the most realistic of all” (p. 51).
Anyone who regards all these facts as accidental apparently does not want to see the truth. Anyone who intends to explain these facts as “a relapse into factionalism” is lulling himself with a phrase. What have these facts to do with factionalism and the factional struggle, from which both the group of Mikhail and Co. and the group of Potresov and Co. have been standing aside for a long time. No, for one who does not deliberately want to shut his eyes no doubts are possible here. The plenum removed all obstacles (real or imaginary) to the return of the pro-Party legalists into the Party, it removed all obstacles in the way of building up an illegal Party, taking into account the new conditions and new forms of utilising legal possibilities. Four Menshevik members of the Central Committee and two editors of Golos have admitted that all obstacles in the way of joint Party work have been removed. The group of Russian legalists has given its answer to the plenum. This answer is in the negative: we do not want to engage in the restoration and strengthening of the illegal Party, for that is a reactionary utopia.
This answer is a fact of the greatest political importance in the history of the Social-Democratic movement. The group of independent socialists (independent of socialism) has definitely rallied together and has definitely broken with the Social-Democratic Party. To what extent this group has crystallised, whether it consists of one organisation or of a number of separate circles very loosely connected—this we do not know as yet, nor is it important. What matters is that the tendency to form groups independent of the Party—a tendency which has long been prevalent among the Mensheviks—has now brought about a new political formation. And henceforth all Russian Social-Democrats who do not want to deceive themselves must reckon with the fact that this group of independents exists.
In order that the significance of this fact may become clear, let us. recall first of all the “independent socialists” in France who, in that most progressive bourgeois state, which more than any other has been purged of all that is old, carried this political trend to its logical conclusion. Millerand, Viviani and Briand belonged to the Socialist Party, but repeatedly acted independently of its decisions, in defiance of them, and Millerand’s entry into a bourgeois cabinet, on the pretext of saving the republic and safe guarding the interests of socialism, led to his break with the party. The bourgeoisie rewarded the traitors to socialism with ministerial portfolios. The three French renegades continue to call themselves and their group independent socialists, and continue to justify their behaviour on the grounds of the interests of the labour movement and social reform.
Bourgeois society cannot, of course, reward our independents quite as rapidly; they start under conditions immeasurably more backward and they must be satisfied with praises and assistance from the liberal bourgeoisie (which has long been supporting the Mensheviks’ tendencies towards “independence”). But the basic tendency is the same in both cases: being independent of the Socialist Party is justified on the grounds of the interests of the labour movement; “the fight for legality” (the slogan in Dan’s formulation, taken up very zealously by the renegade Vozrozhdeniye No. 5, page 7) is proclaimed the slogan of the working class; in reality the bourgeois intellectuals group themselves together (parliamentarians in France, literary writers in our country) and act in combination with the liberals; subordination to the Party is rejected; the Party is declared to be insufficiently “realistic” both by Millerand and Co. and by Vozrozhdeniye and Golos; they characterise the Party as a “dictatorship of exclusive, underground circles” (Golos), and declare that it reduces itself to a narrow; revolutionary association which: is harmful to broad progress (Millerand and. Co.).
Furthermore, in order to make clear the position of our independents, take the history of the formation of our Russian Popular Socialist Party. This history will help to clarify the position for those who fail to see the kinship between our independents and Millerand and Go. owing to the vast difference in the external conditions of their “work”. It is common knowledge that our Popular Socialists represent the legalist and moderate wing of petty-bourgeois democracy, and I believe none. of the Marxists have any doubts about this. At the congress of the Socialist-Revolutionaries at the end of 1905, the Popular Socialists came out as liquidators of the programme, tactics and organisation of the revolutionary party of the petty-bourgeois democrats; they acted in the closest alliance with the Socialist-Revolutionaries in the newspapers of the days of freedom in the autumn of 1905 and in the spring of 1906. They legalised themselves and seceded, forming an independent party in the autumn of 1906, a fact which did not prevent them, during the elections to the Second Duma and in the Second Duma itself, from merging from time to time with the Socialist-Revolutionaries.
In the autumn of 1906, I had occasion to write in Proletary about the Popular Socialists, and I called them “Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks”. Three-and-a-half years have passed since then, and Potresov and Co. have man aged to prove to the pro-Party Mensheviks that I was right. It must be acknowledged, however, that even Peshekhonov and Go. acted more honestly in a political sense, than did Potresov and his group; after a series of political acts which were in effect independent of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, they openly declared themselves to be a separate political party independent of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Of course, this “honesty” is conditioned, incidentally, by the relationship of forces: Peshekhonov was of the opinion that the Socialist-Revolutionary Party was powerless, and thought that it was he who stood to lose by an informal alliance with it, whereas Potresov thinks he stands to gain by political Azefism, i.e., by formally continuing to be a Social-Democrat while in reality acting independently of the Social-Democratic Party.
For the present, Mr. Potresov and Co. deem it most advantageous for themselves to hide behind a borrowed name, using the prestige of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in a thievish manner, corrupting it from within, acting not only independently of it but really against it. It is quite likely that our group of independents will try to parade in borrowed plumes as long as possible; it is quite likely that if the Party is dealt a severe blow, after some big raid upon the illegal organisation, or when circumstances prove particularly tempting, such as, for example, the possibility of being elected to the Duma independently of the Party, the independents themselves will throw off their mask; we cannot foresee all the possible episodes in their political chicanery.
But one thing we know for certain, and that is that the covert activities of the independents are harmful and ruinous to the RSDLP, the party of the working class, and that we must expose these activities at all costs, we must force the independents into the open and declare that all their connections with the Party are broken off. The plenum took a big step forward in this direction. However strange it may appear at first sight, it was just the consent (insincere or unconscious) of Martov and Martynov, just the maximum, even excessive, concessions that were made to them that helped to reveal the ulcer of liquidationism, the ulcer of “independence” in our Party. No honest Social-Democrat, no Party member, whatever faction he may sympathise with, can deny now that the group of Mikhail and Co., the group of Potresov and Co. are independents, that in reality they do not recognise the Party, do not want the Party and are working against the Party.
How rapidly, or how slowly, the process of secession and formation of a separate party by the independents matures depends, of course, on many causes and circumstances that cannot be estimated. The Popular Socialists had a special group before the revolution, and the secession of that group, which was temporarily and loosely affiliated with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, was particularly easy. Our independents still have some personal traditions, ties with the Party, which retard the process of secession, but these traditions are becoming ever weaker, and, besides, the revolution and counter-revolution bring forward new people, free of all revolutionary or Party traditions. The surrounding atmosphere of “Vekhist” moods is very rapidly impelling the spineless intelligentsia towards “independence”. The “old” generation of revolutionaries is leaving the stage. Stolypin is doing, his utmost to hunt down the representatives of this generation most of whom had divulged all their pseudonyms and their secret channels of work in the days of freedom, in the years of revolution. Prison, exile, penal servitude and emigration constantly increase the number of those withdrawn from the ranks, while the new generation grows slowly. Among the intelligentsia, especially that section of it which has “hitched on” to one or another form of legal activity, there is developing a complete lack of faith in the illegal Party and a disinclination to spend efforts on work which is particularly difficult and particularly thankless in our times. “Friends in need are friends indeed”, and the working class, which is passing through the difficult times of attack both by the old and the new counter-revolutionary forces, will inevitably witness the defection of very many of its intellectual “friends of an hour”, fine-weather friends, friends only for the duration of the revolution, friends who were revolutionaries during the revolution, but who are yielding to the general depression and are ready to proclaim the “fight for legality” at the first successes of the counter-revolution.
In a number of European countries, the counter-revolutionary forces succeeded in making a clean sweep of the remnants of the revolutionary and socialist organisations of the proletariat, for instance after 1848. A bourgeois intellectual, who in the days of his youth joined the Social-Democratic movement is inclined, because of his petty-bourgeois psychology, to give up the struggle: so it was, so it will be; to defend the old illegal organisation is hopeless, to create a new one is still more hopeless; generally speaking, we “overestimated” the forces of the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution, we erroneously ascribed “universal” importance to the role of the proletariat—all of these little ideas of the renegade Social Movement directly and indirectly drive towards renunciation of the illegal Party. Once on the slippery slope, the independent fails to observe that he is sliding lower and lower, he does not realise that he is working hand in glove with Stolypin: Stolypin destroys the illegal Party physically, with the aid of the police, the gallows and penal servitude; the liberals do exactly the same thing directly, by their open propaganda of Vekhist ideas; the independents among the Social-Democrats indirectly assist in the destruction of the illegal Party by their shouts about its “atrophy”, by their refusal to help it and by their attempts (see the letter of the Sixteen in Golos No. 19–20) to justify desertion from it. One step leads to another.
Let us not shut our eyes to the fact that the longer the counter-revolutionary period lasts the more difficult will our fight for the Party become. That our Party comrades do not underestimate the danger, that they look it squarely in the face, is shown, for instance, by the article of Comrade K. in No. 43 of the Central Organ. But the resolute and frank recognition of the weakness of the Party, of the disintegration of the organisations and the difficulties of the situation does not make Comrade K. (or any of the Party comrades) waver for one moment on the question of whether the Party is necessary, whether it is necessary to work for its restoration. The greater the difficulties of our position, the greater the number of enemies (the day before yesterday they were joined by the Vekhists, yesterday by the Popular Socialists, today by the independent Social-Democrats) —the more closely will all the Social-Democrats, irrespective of their shades of opinion, rally in defence of the Party. Many Social-Democrats who might be divided on the question how the revolutionary masses who trust Social-Democracy should be led in the attack cannot fail to be united on the question of the imperative need to fight for the preservation and consolidation of the illegal Social-Democratic Labour Party that was formed in the period of 1895–1910.
As regards Golos and the Golosists, they have most strikingly confirmed what was said of them in the resolution of the enlarged editorial board of Proletary in June of last year. That resolution (see Supplement to No. 46 of Proletary, p. 6) reads: “In the Menshevik camp of the Party, whose official organ, Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, is fully controlled by the Menshevik liquidators, the minority of this faction, having explored the path of liquidationism to the very end, is already raising its voice in protest against that path and is again seeking a party basis for its activities....” The distance to the “end” of the path of liquidationism proved longer than we imagined at the time, but the correctness of the basic idea underlying these words has since been proved by facts. The correctness of the expression “captive to the liquidators”, as applied to Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, has been particularly confirmed. They are indeed captives of the liquidators, for they dare not either openly defend liquidationism or openly rebel against it. Even at the plenum they unanimously adopted the resolutions not as free men but as captives, who for a short while had obtained leave from their “masters” and who returned to slavery on the day after the plenum. Unable to defend liquidationism, they laid the utmost stress on all possible (and imaginary!) obstacles, which had nothing to do with questions of principle, but which prevented them from renouncing liquidationism. And when all these “obstacles” were removed, when all their extraneous, personal, organisational, financial and other claims had been satisfied, they “voted” against their will for the renunciation of liquidationism. Poor fellows! They did not know at that time that the Manifesto of the Sixteen was already on its way to Paris, that the group of Mikhail and Co., the group of Potresov and Co. had stiffened in their defence of liquidationism. And they obediently turned round and followed the Sixteen, Mikhail and Potresov back to liquidationism!
The heinous crime of the spineless “conciliators” like Yonov and Trotsky, who defend or justify these people, is that they are causing their ruin by making them more dependent on liquidationism. Whereas the decisive action of all the non-factional Social-Democrats against Mikhail and Co. and against Potresov and Co. (surely, neither Trotsky nor Yonov would venture to defend these groups!) might have brought some of the Golos captives of liquidationism back into the Party—the grimaces and the affectation of the “conciliators”, while in no way reconciling the Party with the liquidators, only inspire the Golosists with “in sensate hopes”.
Incidentally, these grimaces and this affectation of the “conciliators” are, undoubtedly, to a large extent due simply to a failure to understand the situation. It is only owing to lack of understanding that Comrade Yonov can confine himself to the question of the publication or non-publication of Martov’s article, and that the Viennese supporters of Trotsky can reduce the question to “conflicts” oft the Central Organ. Both Martov’s article (“On the Right Path”... to liquidationism) and the conflicts on the Central Organ are only particular episodes which cannot be understood apart from their connection with the whole situation. For instance, Martov’s article clearly showed us, who during the past year have studied all the shades of liquidationism and Golosism, that Martov has turned (or was turned). The Martov who signed the “Letter” of the Central Commit tee on the conference could not be the same Martov who wrote such article as “On the Right Path.” By divorcing Martov’s article from the chain of events, from the “Letter” of the Central Committee that preceded it, from No. 19–20 of Golos that followed it, from the Manifesto of the ’Sixteen, from the articles of Dan (“The Fight for Legality”), Potresov and Vozrozhdeniye, and by divorcing from the same chain of events the “conflicts” on the Central Organ, Trotsky and Yonov deprive themselves of the possibility of understanding the events that are taking place. And, conversely, everything becomes quite intelligible as soon as we focus our attention on what lies at the root of it all, namely, the final consolidation of the Russian independents and their final break with the “reactionary utopia” of re-establishing and strengthening the illegal Party.
7. Pro-Party Menshevism and its Evaluation[edit source]
The last question which we must consider in order to understand the “unity crisis” in our Party is the question of so-called pro-Party Menshevism and the appraisal of its significance.
The views held by the non-factionalists, i.e., by those who wish to be regarded as outside the factious—Yonov and Trotsky (Pravda No. 12, and the Vienna resolution)—are very characteristic in this respect. Trotsky determinedly and persistently ignores pro-Party Menshevism (this was already pointed out in No. 13 of the Central Organ), while Yonov reveals the “cherished” idea of his fellow-thinker by declaring that the significance of “Comrade Plekhanov’ s” utterances (Yonov refuses to notice any other pro-Party Mensheviks) consists in their “reinforcing” the factional struggle of the Bolsheviks and in advocating that “martial law be declared in the Party”.
That this position of Yonov and Trotsky is wrong should have been obvious to them for the simple reason that it is refuted by facts. From No. 13 of the Central Organ we see that in no fewer than seven of the groups abroad assisting the Party (in Paris, Geneva, Berne, Zurich, Liége, Nice, San Remo), the Plekhanovites, or more correctly, the pro-party Mensheviks, rose against Golos and demanded the fulfilment of the decisions of the plenum, demanded that Golos cease publication and pointed out the liquidationist nature of the ideological position taken up by Golos in No. 19–20. The same process is taking place among the Party workers in Russia, though perhaps less conspicuously. It is ridiculous to keep silent about these facts. To attempt, despite them, to represent Plekhanov’s struggle against the Golosists as a, journalistic “factional” struggle means—objectively—taking the side of the group of independent legalists against the Party.
The obviously false and untenable position taken up by the above-mentioned “conciliators” should have opened their eyes to the fact that they are wrong in their point of departure, namely, that the political significance of the unity reached at the plenum lies in the agreement with “given persons, groups and institutions”. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by the outward forms of Party events and their individual peculiarities; it is necessary to appraise the ideological and political significance of what is taking place. Judging by outward appearances the agreement was made with specified Golosists But the basis, the condition for agreement was the adoption by the Golosists of Plekhanov’s position; that is evident from the analysis given above of the resolution on the state of affairs in the Party. Outwardly it was the Golosists who appeared as the representatives of Menshevism in the Party—judging, for example, by the composition of the Central Organ. In reality, after the plenum the Central Organ began to transform itself into an organ of “collaboration” between the pro-Party Bolsheviks and the Plekhanovites, with the Golosists in full opposition. The result was a zigzag in the development of Party unity; at first there was something in the nature of an indiscriminate, conciliatory mass without a clear definition of the ideological basis for unity, but later on the logic of political tendencies gained the upper hand, the sifting of the independents from the Party was accelerated by the maximal concessions that were made to the Golosists at the plenum.
When I heard at the plenum and saw in Golos (No. 19–20, p. 18) fierce attacks on the slogan “an agreement between the strong factions for the fight against the liquidators of the Right and of the Left” (this slogan is put in quotation marks by Golos, but for some reason it is not stated openly that I defended this slogan both before and at the plenum)—I thought to myself: “abwarten!” “wait and see”. Just wait, gentlemen of Golos, you are reckoning “without your host”. The point is not that the plenum offered the opportunity of taking part in the agreement to everyone, and not only to the “strong” factions, strong because of their ideological and political position. The point is, will your “host”, i.e., the groups of independent-legalists, allow this opportunity to become a reality?
Some months have elapsed, and only the blind can fail to see now that, in reality, it is precisely the “agreement between the strong factions” that constitutes Party unity and drives it forward “despite all obstacles”. That is how it should be, that is the only way it can be in view of the real relationship of forces in the Party. No doubt, in the near future, either all the leading organs of the Party will be formally reconstructed in such a way as to express this agreement, or the life of the Party and the progress of its unity will, proceed for a time irrespective of its leading organs.
No doubt, at first sight, it may seem strange to call the pro-Party Mensheviks a “strong faction”, for at the present moment—at any rate abroad—the Golosists are apparently stronger. However, we Social-Democrats judge strength not by the statements of the emigrant groups, not by the way the Menshevik writers group themselves, but from the stand point as to, which position is objectively correct, and which is condemned by the logic of the political situation to subordination to the “independents”. From 1898 to 1900, the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists were stronger than the Iskrists both abroad and in Russia, yet they did not constitute a “strong faction”.
Now that the Golosists have mobilised all their forces against Plekhanov and brought out all their slop-pails to pour on him—including Mr. Potresov and the recollections of show Martov was “offended” in 1901–03 (sic!)—the impotence of the Golosists becomes particularly obvious. Axelrod and Co. were hopelessly behind the times politically when they published abroad, in April, a, symposium of personal abuse against Plekhanov, while in Russia Nasha Zarya in its February issue and Vozrozhdeniye in its March issue had already shifted the question to a completely different plane, and Plekhanov in No. 13 of the Central Organ had already passed from the history of his clashes with the Golosists to a fight against their present-day policy. The Golosists, in recalling old “insults” (right up to 1901!), are floundering as helplessly as the Vperyodists, who are still appealing to the kind-hearted to protect them from the Bolshevik Centre.
And see how our “offended” ones, who in 1910 are raving at the very thought of a “Lenin-Plekhanov” agreement (their terminology!) in just the same way as Maximov did a year ago over the same thing, are more and more betraying themselves. Like Maximov, the Golosists try to make it appear that it is a question of almost a personal agreement “between Lenin and Plekhanov”, moreover the actions of the latter are explained as a “wild caprice” (p. 16 of the “Necessary Supplement”), as the “transformation of Saul into Paul”, as “fluttering”, etc., etc. By recalling Plekhanov’s “five years of activity” (ibid.) as a Menshevik, Martov is doing his utmost to compromise him (retrospectively) for this fluttering, without noticing that by doing so he is disparaging himself most of all.
In the very same “Necessary Supplement”, the collective editorial board of Golos assures us (p. 32) that Plekhanov was “great” precisely during the above-mentioned five-year period (1904–08). Just see what follows from this. The Mensheviks proclaim Plekhanov to be “great” not because of his activity during the twenty years (1883–1903) when he remained true to himself, when he was neither a Menshevik nor a Bolshevik, but the founder of Social-Democracy, but because of his activity during the five years when, as the Mensheviks themselves admit, he was “fluttering,” i.e., was not following a consistent Menshevik line. It follows that his “greatness” consisted in that he did not sink entirely into the morass of Menshevism.
But it is precisely the five-year history of Menshevism, which Axelrod and Martov recalled to their own disadvantage, that furnishes a number of facts which help to explain the split among the Mensheviks by causes other than those petty, personal causes stressed by Martov.
Plekhanov co-opted Axelrod and Martov in 1903, declaring in Iskra No. 52, in an article entitled “What Should Not Be Done”, that he wanted to manoeuvre with the opportunists and, by these manoeuvres, reform them. And in so doing he resorted to the most extreme attacks on the Bolsheviks. At the end of 1904 he tried to save Axelrod, who had obviously slipped into liberalism (“The Plan of the Zemstvo Campaign”), but did it in such a manner as to avoid saying a single word about such gems as proclaiming demonstrations before the Zemstvo members to be “the highest type of demonstration” (in the pamphlet Letter to the Central Committee, published for Party members only). In the spring of 1905 Plekhanov became convinced of the hopelessness of these “manoeuvres”, left the Mensheviks and started Dnevnik, advocating reunion with the Bolsheviks. Number 3 of Dnevnik (November 1905) is not Menshevik at all.
Having wasted about a year and a half on manoeuvres with the opportunists within the Party (from the end of 1903 to the spring of 1905), Plekhanov, from the beginning of 1906 and during 1907, engaged in manoeuvring with the Cadets. In this he went to far greater opportunist extremes than the other Mensheviks. But when Plekhanov, who proclaimed the tactics of “manoeuvring” at the time of the First Duma and after its dispersal (see Dnevnik No. 6), proposed an agreement between the revolutionary parties for a struggle for a constituent assembly, Proletary (No. 2 of August 29, 1906, in the article, “Vacillating Tactics”) immediately pointed out that this position was not Menshevik at all.
At the London Congress in the spring of 1907, Plekhanov (according to Cherevanin’s account, already cited by me in the preface to the symposium Twelve Years) fought the organisational anarchism of the Mensheviks. He wanted a “labour congress” as a manoeuvre for the development of the Party and not against the Party. During the second half of 1907, as we learn from Martov in the “Necessary Supplement”, Plekhanov “had to expend a good deal of eloquence” to uphold the need for an illegal (i.e., Party) Menshevik organ in opposition to Axelrod (who apparently preferred legal organs, which in fact were non-Party). In 1908, the conflict over Potresov’s article served as an occasion for his break with the liquidators.
What do these facts prove? They prove that the present split among the Mensheviks is not accidental but inevitable. “Manoeuvring” does not exonerate the one who made mistakes for the sake of carrying out manoeuvres, and I withdraw nothing of what I wrote against those mistakes of Plekhanov. However, “manoeuvring” explains why it is easy for some Mensheviks to go over to the independents, while for others it is difficult and even impossible. A Social-Democrat who by his manoeuvres leads the working class to follow the Cadets does it no less harm than he who acts in this way because of his immanent gravitation towards opportunism. But whereas the former will be able and will manage to call a halt in time, the latter will end up in the ditch. A Russian proverb says: make a certain person pray and he will do it with such zeal that he will bang his forehead against the ground! Plekhanov might have said: make the Potresovs and the Dans go to the Right for the sake of a manoeuvre and they will go to the Right on principle.
The stand taken by certain Mensheviks fully justifies their appellation, “pro-Party Mensheviks”. They took their stand upon the struggle for the Party—against the independent-legalists. Mr. Potresov and the editors of Golos Sotsial Demokrata in the “Necessary Supplement” vainly try to evade this simple and obvious question.
Engels too fought the S.D.F. (the British Social-Democrats)—says Potresov, wriggling (p. 24). This is sophistry, my dear sir. Engels corrected the Party, but you do not say how the Party is to be corrected; you do not even say straightforwardly whether an illegal Social-Democratic Party is necessary now, whether the RSDLP is necessary or not. In front of Stolypin you say: No (Nasha Zarya), but in front of Party members, in the illegal press, you dare not say this, you wriggle and twist.
“Lenin-Plekhanov recommend a war against the new forms of the labour movement” (p. 31), “we start out from... the position, conditions and requirements of the real labour movement” (p. 32)—the editors assure us. Sophistry, my dear sirs. You yourselves have acknowledged that the plenum did everything to recognise these new forms, and the Bolsheviks, too, by the struggle they waged before the plenum, proved it. What we differ on is not the question whether “new forms are necessary”, whether it is necessary to conduct legal work, or to found legal societies; we do not differ on this at all. What we differ on is whether it is permissible for legalists conducting such work, like the group of Mikhail and Co., like the group of Potresov and Co., to consider themselves Social-Democrats while being independent of the Party of the Social-Democrats, or whether Social-Democratic Party members are obliged to recognise the Party, to advocate the need for it, to work in it, to work on its organisation, to set up illegal Party units everywhere and in all unions for regular communications with the Party, etc. And you understand perfectly well that we differ now—after the plenum—on this account and only on this account.
The Golosists try to represent our efforts to draw closer to the pro-Party Mensheviks, to enter into an agreement with them in order to fight for the Party against the independents, as a personal bloc between “Lenin and Plekhanov”. They violently abuse the author of the article against Potresov, in No. 47–48 of Proletary, for his tone of a “flattering courtier” who, they allege, is “speculating on an agreement” with Plekhanov.
I turn to this article and read on p. 7:
“Of course, all the mistakes committed by Plekhanov during the revolution occurred precisely because he did not consistently carry out the policy which he himself had advocated in the old Iskra."
Let the reader judge what looks more like “flattery” and “speculation”: this blunt indication of what the Bolsheviks regard as Plekhanov’s mistake, or the declaration that Plekhanov was “great” precisely in the period when he was a Menshevik and, according to the Mensheviks, was “fluttering”.
“Plekhanov will be with us,” the editors of Golos Sotsial Demokrata write, when “the time comes again for responsible [Golos’s italics] political actions” (p. 32 of the “Necessary Supplement”).
This betrays political illiteracy, but is clear enough as regards “speculation”. It is illiterate because now is just the time which calls for political actions a hundred times more responsible for the old leaders than during an open struggle when the masses themselves will much more easily find the way. It is clear in the sense of “speculation”, because it expresses readiness to recognise Plekhanov as a Menshevik once more as soon as he starts “manoeuvring” again.
We are surprised that the Golosists do not realise the significance of outbursts of this kind on their part along side, for example, Axelrod’s phrase: “We did not want to stoop” (before Plekhanov) “to the role of toadying flunkeys” (p. 19). You are behaving exactly like the type of people mentioned in your concluding words. Your attitude towards Plekhanov corresponds precisely to the “formula” of such people: “either coats off, or let’s have your hand.”
For five years you have been asking for his “hand”, now on thirty-two double-sized pages you are “smacking his face”, and on the thirty-second page you “express readiness”, you are prepared to recognise him as a Menshevik once more and kiss his hand.
As regards ourselves, we are entitled to say that at the time of his “fluttering”, Plekhanov was never a Bolshevik. We do not and never will consider him a Bolshevik. But we do consider him a pro-Party Menshevik, as we do any Menshevik capable of rebelling against the group of independent-legalists and carrying on the struggle against them to the end. We regard it as the absolute duty of all Bolsheviks in these difficult times, when the task of the day is the struggle for Marxism in theory and for the Party in the practical work of the labour movement, to exert every effort to arrive at a rapprochement with such Social-Democrats.
8. Conclusion. The Platform of the Bolsheviks[edit source]
The Party conference fixed by the plenum cannot and must not confine itself to the agenda proposed by the plenum on condition that all the Mensheviks come over to the Party position. This did not happen, and it is not fitting for us to play hide-and-seek with ourselves.
The election slogan for this conference, the slogan under which it is to be convened and prepared must be the rallying of the Party members in the struggle against the group of independent-legalists. In accordance with this task and taking into account the anti-Party position of the Golosists, we must resolutely reorganise all the leading institutions of the Party, so that they shall be concerned not with the squabbles which every Golosist is preparing and will henceforth be preparing for them, but with the real work of building the Party. The Golosists do not want to build the Party, they want to help secretly the group of independent-legalists.
The following must be the platform of the Bolsheviks for this conference: to build the Party in accordance with the December (1908) resolutions and in their spirit; to continue the work of the plenum, making the above-mentioned corrections of its decisions, corrections which have been dictated by the entire course of events since the plenum; to concentrate all our efforts on a systematic, undeviating, comprehensive and persistent utilisation of each and every legal possibility in order to gather the forces of the proletariat, to help it to group and consolidate itself, to help it to train itself for the struggle and stretch its limbs; and also steadily to restore the illegal Party units, to learn how to adapt them to new conditions, to restore the illegal purely Party organisations, and, first and foremost, the purely proletarian organisations, which alone are capable of directing all the work in the legal organisations, to imbue this work with the revolutionary Social-Democratic spirit, to carry on an irreconcilable struggle against the renegades and the independent-legalists, and to prepare for the time when our Party, our RSDLP, having preserved all the traditions of the revolution and of the great victories of the proletariat in 1905, and having strengthened and enlarged the proletarian army of the Party, will lead it into a new battle, to new victories.
- See Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 352–61.
- Vozrozhdeniye (Regeneration)—a Menshevik liquidationist magazine legally published in Moscow from December 1908 to July 1910; its place was taken by the magazines Zhizn (Life) in 1910, and Dyelo Zhizni (Cause of Life) in 1911.
- Compare Yonov’s comment: “No less insistent was Comrade Martov in assuring the plenum that the ‘dangerous deviations’ to the Right were an invention of the spiteful Bolsheviks, that the Party bad only one enemy and that was the Bolshevik Centre with its factional ruling of the roost” (p. 22 of the article quoted). —Lenin
- Remember that those with the right to vote at the plenum were 4 Mensheviks, 4 Bolsheviks, 1 Vperyodist, 1 Lett, 2 Bundists and 2 Poles; i.e., the Bolsheviks did not have a majority over the Mensheviks and the Vperyodists even with the Poles and the Lett; the Bundists, decided. —Lenin
- The Second Vperyodist—V. L. Shantser (Marat).
- By the way. The following fact may serve to characterise the bloc of the Golosists and Vperyodists against the Bolsheviks (a bloc which exactly resembles the bloc of the Jaures-ists and Hervé-ists against the Guesde-ists). In his “Necessary Supplement” Martov jeers at Plekhanov for attaching any importance to the membership of the commission on the school. Martov is playing the hypocrite. At the plenum, this same Martov with all the Mensheviks and with Maximov, and assisted by Trotsky, fought for a resolution that would recognise the otzovist school in X.—as a Party school with which the Central Committee should make an agreement! It was only with difficulty that we managed to defeat this anti-Party bloc.
Of course if the Golosists and Vperyodists enter into the Party they have every right to enter into blocs. But it is not a question of right but of the principle underlying the bloc. This is an unprincipled bloc against Party and principle. —Lenin
- T.—L. Tyszka.
- I.—I. F. Dubrovinsky.
- Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly)—the principal organ of the opportunists in German Social-Democracy and one of the organs of international opportunism. It was published in Berlin from 1897 to 1933.
The magazine criticised the resolution against revisionism, “On Party Tactics”, which was adopted at the Congress of the German Social-Democratic Party in Dresden (September 1903), Subsequently, this resolution was reproduced almost in its entirety at the International Socialist Congress in Amsterdam (August 1904) in the resolution on “International Rules of Party Tactics”.
- The resolution of the CC is interpreted in the same spirit also by Comrade An (see his article “Apropos the Letter from the Caucasus” in the present issue of Diskussionny Listok). Comrade An’s article confirms the gravest accusations of the author of the Letter from the Caucasus, Comrade K. St.[*] although he calls this letter a “lampoon”. We shall return again to Comrade An’s article, which is curious in many respects. —Lenin[*] The author of “Letter from the Caucasus”, K. St.—J. V. Stalin. His “Letter from the Caucasus” against the Tiflis liquidators was written as early as December 1909 for Sotsial-Demokrat, The Mensheviks on the editorial board refused to print the letter in the Central Organ of the Party; it was published only on May 25 (June 7), 1910 in Diskussionny Listok No. 2, together with a reply to it by the leader of the Caucasian Mensheviks—An (N. Jordania).
- At the plenum, these comrades interpreted § 1 as pointing to the growth of class differentiation, the progress of the purely socialist consciousness of the mass of the workers, the strengthening of bourgeois reaction. These thoughts are correct, of course, but they are not expressed (and it is not they which are expressed) in the propositions comprising § 1. —Lenin
- This refers to the resolution of the Fifth (London) Congress of the RSDLP, “On the Attitude to Non-proletarian Parties” (see The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, 7th Russian ed., Part 1, 1953, pp. 164–65).
- Bezgolovtsi (Headless) ironically applied by Lenin to the Bezzaglavtsi—a semi-Cadet group (S. N. Prokopovich, Y. D. Kuskova, V. Y. Bogucharsky, and others) which published a weekly journal Bez Zaglaviya (Without a Title) in St. Petersburg (1906). Avowed adherents of “critical socialism"—supporters of the revisionist wing of West-European Social-Democracy (Bernstein and others), the Bezzaglavtsi were opposed to the proletariat pursuing an independent class policy. Lenin called them “pro-Menshevik Cadets” or “pro-Cadet Mensheviks”.
- Popular Socialists (Enesy)—a petty-bourgeois party formed in 1906 by splitting off from the Right wing of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. It put forward moderate democratic demands within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. The Enesy rejected the proposal for socialisation of the land contained in the Socialist-Revolutionary programme, and admitted alienation of the land lords’ land on the basis of compensation. Lenin called the Enesy “petty-bourgeois opportunists”, “social-Cadets”, and “Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks”. The leaders of the Enesy were: A. V. Peshekhonov, V. A. Myakotin, N. F. Annensky, and others.
- Nashi Pomoi (Our Garbage) was Lenin’s ironical name for the liquidationist journal Nasha Zarya (Our Dawn).
The Congress of Literary Hangers-on—the Second All-Russian Congress of Writers, held in St. Petersburg on April 21–28 (May 4–11), 1910, with the participation of representatives of Nasha Zarya and the Menshevik Sovremenny Mir (Contemporary World). At the very first demand of the police, the Congress without any resistance cancelled discussion of a resolution on freedom of the press
In speaking of the Posse-ists, Lenin is referring to the collaboration of the liquidators in the liberal-bourgeois magazine Soyuz Potrebitelei (Consumers’ Association), which was led by V. A. Posse.
- I.—the Menshevik liquidator B. I. Gorev-Goldman.
- Number 21 of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata has just appeared. On page 16, Martov and Dan confirm the correctness of this fact, when they speak of the “refusal of three comrades [??] to join the Central Committee”. Moreover, as-usual, they try to bide by wild abuse of “Tyszka-Lenin” the fact that the group of Mikhail and Co. has finally turned into a group of independents. —Lenin
- See present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 197-2O6.—Ed.
- Azefism—from the name of Azef, a leader of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, who turned out to be an agent provocateur of the tsarist secret police.
- See present edition, Vol. 15, p. 448.—Ed.
- Take also, for instance, “the theory of equal rights” for legal individuals in the illegal Party. Is it not clear after the actions of Mikhail and Co. and Potresov and Co. that the meaning and significance of this theory is the recognition of the group of independent legalists and the subordination of the Party to them? —Lenin
- See pp. 189–90 of this volume.—Ed.
- Of the four Menshevik members of the Central Committee who were present at the plenum, two directed all their efforts to winning over the Golosists, in effect to Plekhanov’s position—by making the maximum concessions to them. This does not mean that these two were firm pro-Party men, that they were proof against a return to the Golos camp. It merely means that Menshevism was caught at the moment when it could not as yet renounce the Party principle. —Lenin
- See present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 179-83.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 13, pp. 94-113.—Ed.
- This refers to F. Engels’s article “Der 4. Mai in London” (Arbeiter-Zeitung, Wien, Nr. 21, vom 23.5.1890); see also the letters of Engels to Sorge of November 29, 1886, and May 11, 1889 (Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 469–73).