Once More About the International Socialist Bureau and the Liquidators
|19 December 1918
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 52-55
The characteristic feature of the publicists of the Novaya Likvidatorskaya Gazeta, namely, hypocrisy goaded on by impotent malice, has never reached such limits as it has in their articles concerning the decision of the International Bureau.
To what lengths they have gone can be seen from the fact that, after their very first articles on this subject, Huysmans, the Secretary of the International Socialist Bureau, felt constrained to authorise Comrade Popov to convey to the Russian workers his protest against the attempts of Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta to “exploit, in its factional interests, the lack of information” of the Russian readers, his protest against the “utter inaccuracy and disloyalty” of the liquidators’ published reports concerning the Bureau’s decisions.
Since the Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta publicists have received such a resounding ... testimonial from the Bureau’s Secretary, we can calmly ignore their attempts to accuse us of distorting the true character of the decisions passed in London. People who have been publicly accused by the Secretary of the Bureau of “exploiting” the Bureau’s decisions “in their factional interests” and of being “disloyal” to them, may shout as much as they please about their respect for the International, etc., but scarcely anyone will believe them. Every worker knows now what name to give the manipulations by which Mr. D. tries so hard to read into the resolution of the Bureau such things as “the methods of building” the Party, “condemnation” of the Six, “rejection” of our “claims” and “recognition” of the Social-Democratic character of the Left wing. Literary juggling with the resolutions of the Bureau is hardly a sign of respect for those resolutions, Mr. D.!
How great, though, is the confusion of these jugglers! See how they are forced to contradict themselves at every turn!
1) In No. 102, Mr. D. solemnly stated: “The International Socialist Bureau censured the six deputies for resigning from the Duma group. In issue No. 104, another juggler, Mr. L.S., no less solemnly declared: “The International Socialist Bureau handed out neither testimonials nor censure.” And—please note!—both gentlemen are highly pleased with the Bureau’s decision; one because it “censured”, and the other because it did not! Can one imagine a picture of greater confusion?
Indeed, there was good reason for the liquidators’ confusion! The main point of the Bureau’s resolution states unequivocally the following: “Any practical step towards unity must be preceded by a preliminary clarification of existing differences.”
This decision is a perfectly correct one.
If we do not want to present the working class with a hodgepodge of miscellaneous elements miscalled “unity”, and if we want real unity of action, the first obligatory step in this direction must be to ascertain exactly what the “points of disagreement” are. Let us first ascertain exactly the “points of disagreement” by means of a “general exchange of opinion”, and then it will become clear whether it is possible to talk about any practical steps towards unity. That is how the question is formulated in the Bureau’s resolution. We whole-heartedly approve of this formulation. We responded to the proposal of the International Socialist Bureau by calling upon the workers calmly and thoughtfully to discuss our disagreements once more, and to express their views on the points of disagreement. We, for our part, promised to do all we could to help familiarise our foreign comrades with the existing differences. The resolution published in Proletarskaya Pravda, No. 9, gives a quite correct summary of the points on which we and the liquidators disagree. This is what our reply to the Bureau’s proposal should be, and of course, there could be no other line of action for those who have serious consideration for the Bureau’s decision to promote a “general exchange of opinion on the points of disagreement”.
But—and this is the whole point—no task is more unpleasant, undesirable, and unacceptable to the liquidators than that of ascertaining our main differences on questions of theory, programme, tactics and organisation. All their subterfuges, distortions and abuse in connection with the Bureau’s resolution are solely designed to obscure its demand for a preliminary clarification of differences. Both Mr. L.S. and Mr. D. run ahead zealously: could we not somehow “unite” without “certificates” giving the ideological “service record” of those uniting? Gould we not do without “quotations from old journals and newspapers”?—Mr. L. S. worries. Could we not stop recalling “the past”?—Mr. D. pleads. We understand them very well: there is nothing pleasant for Mr. L. S. in the recollections of articles about the “underground” (Luch No. 15 ), or for Mr. D. in recollections of the “fight-for-legality” slogan. And we fully endorse the Bureau’s decision insofar as it proposes that the errors of the past should not be raked up. We shall not deny the liquidators the amnesty for the “errors of the past”, for which they plead. The past, as such, does not interest us; what does interest us is the work of today and tomorrow. As regards that work, we want to know whether the campaign against the “underground” conducted in the liquidationist press is to continue, whether they will continue to argue that the “three pillars” are inapplicable at the present time, whether they will defend the distortion of the programme by the August bloc people and so forth.
The clarification of these questions and of the degree to which we differ on them is, according to the Bureau’s resolution, a precondition to any progress towards unity, if we are not to accept “unity” in the liquidationist meaning of lumping together, without regard for principles, all who care to call themselves Social-Democrats.
“The counts of the indictment have already been drawn up,” Mr. L. S. thunders. We should not like to recall here the story about the thief who fears his own shadow, but why does Mr. L. S. take ordinary peace terms to be an “indictment”? We say: the organisation to be created as a result of unity should be based on such and such principles—acceptance of the old programme, a definite form of organisation, uncurtailed slogans, resolute tactics, etc. But you immediately declare that this formulation of the programme, tactics and tasks of the organisation, is nothing but a “complete list of liquidators’ sins”. We are sorry for you, but neither we nor the Bureau know of any method of building new organisations other than by clarifying their programme, their tactics, and so forth.
We are guilty of a still more grievous sin, however. Not only have we proposed the conditions for the creation of an organisation, i. e., clarified the terms of peace, but we have, moreover, submitted these terms to the bar of the workers’ opinion.
We maintain that there is no other way of carrying out the Bureau’s decision than the one we have chosen.
The Bureau calls upon all those who profess to be Social-Democrats to clarify their differences as a preliminary step towards solving the problem of unity.
The resolution we published responded to the Bureau’s appeal by giving a “list” of views on the basic questions of programme, tactics and organisation, and by submitting our “list” to the workers, for their consideration. If the liquidators were to follow our example, we would have, in the more or less near future, the clearly formulated opinions of all parties, and a clear idea as to which side has the support of the majority of the organised workers. The task set before the Russian proletariat by the International Socialist Bureau would be brought nearer to fulfilment. But the liquidators, of course, will to the very last shun this path, for the simple reason that neither a precise formulation of their political views nor the submission of these views to the bar of the broad circles of the workers is in the interests of their group.
Under these circumstances they will inevitably strive to substitute for the definite “clarification of differences” demand ed by the Bureau, petty personal squabbles, distortions, and wilful misrepresentations, which can only hamper its work, and they will constantly necessitate those lessons in “loyalty” which the Secretary of the International has already been compelled to teach the liquidators.
- The International Socialist Bureau—the Executive of the Second International, set up in accordance with the decision of the Paris Congress in 1900. On December 14 (new style), 1913 the I.S.B. resolved to convene a conference “of all sections of the working-class movement in Russia” in order to ascertain existing disagreements by means of “a general exchange of opinions”, with the alleged purpose of restoring unity in the RSDLP This question was raised at a meeting of the I.S.B. on the initiative of Rosa Luxemburg with the aim of supporting the Russian liquidators, who had suffered defeat in their struggle against the Bolsheviks. In connection with this decision of the I.S.B. the liquidationist Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta published a telegram from London reporting that the Bolsheviks’ demand that a representative of the Social-Democratic Labour Party group in the Duma (the Six) should be sent to the interparliamentary section of the Second International was rejected at a meeting of the I.S.B. On instructions from Lenin, the representative of the Central Committee in Brussels asked I.S.B. Secretary Huysmans what he thought of this liquidationist trick. Huysmans was obliged publicly to refute this false report of Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta.
- D.—F. I. Dan, a leader of the Menshevik liquidators.
- The Six—the Bolshevik deputies forming the Social-Democratic group in the Fourth Duma.
- See. Note 15 for details.
- L. S. (Koltsov, L. Sedov)—pseudonyms of B. A. Ginsburg, the Menshevik liquidator.
- Lenin is referring to the “Resolution Concerning the Decision of the Socialist Bureau”, signed by “a group of organised Marxists”, published in Proletarskaya Pravda, issue No. 9, December 17, 1913.
- The three pillars—a term used in the legal Bolshevik press and at open, legal meetings to denote the three basic (“uncurtailed”) revolutionary slogans: a democratic republic; confiscation of all landed estates; an eight-hour day.
- August bloc people—a name applied by Lenin to participants and adherents of the anti-Party August bloc, organised by Trotsky at the Conference of the liquidators held in Vienna in August 1912. The Conference was attended by representatives of the Bund, the Caucasian Regional Committee, the Social-Democrats of the Lettish Region and the liquidators’ groups resident abroad, namely, the editorial boards of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, Trotsky’s Vienna Pravda and the Vperyod group. Delegates from Russia were sent by the St. Petersburg and Moscow “sponsor groups” of the liquidators arid the editorial boards of the liquidationist publications Nasha Zarya and Nevsky Golos. A representative of the Spilki Committee Abroad was also present. The overwhelming majority of delegates were resident abroad and out of touch with the working class in Russia.
The Conference adopted anti-Party liquidationist decisions on all questions of Social-Democratic tactics, and declared against the existence of an illegal Party. Unable to elect a Central Committee, the liquidators confined themselves to setting up an Organising Committee. The August bloc, which consisted of ill-assorted elements, began to fall apart at the Conference itself, and soon broke down completely. (For details about the August bloc see pp. 158–61 of this volume.)
- The term uncurtailed slogans refers to the three basic revolutionary slogans: a democratic republic, confiscation of all landed estates, and an eight-hour day.