Remarks on an Article About Maximalism

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These are Lenin’s remarks to an article by G. Y. Zinoviev on maximalism intended for publication in the journal Kommunist or the newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat. The article did not appear in the press. p. 384

Page 6 (Paragraph 2). Here there should be an insertion saying that Potresov has now in fact disavowed these propositions (of Kautsky + Hilferding, etc.) containing a repudiation of reformism in principle. Potresov has become a reformist.

(It is not right to confine oneself to the statement: “we have never had the intention of proving”; this should be put forward as p r o v e d, and Potresov should be challenged: you and especially Maslov & Co. of Dyelo[1] have in fact, but tacitly, like cowards, altogether gone over from this position to reformism.)

Page 7 (end of § I) “mass action”?? It would be better to put this otherwise, without using this word which has the fault that, being largely caused by the G e r m a n censorship (a pseudonym for revolution), it tends to obscure the concept of revolution. (There will have to be a reckoning on this later with Pannekoek + Radek & Co.!! Here is an example: there is no German censorship in Switzerland and here the term “mass action” has a l r e a d y brought about confusion which the reformists find useful.)

But that is not the main thing. The main point is in your idea, which is basically incorrect, that “those of its (minimum programme) demands ... add up to a transition to a basically different social system” (page 7, § II, e t a l.) (idem, p. 9).

That is quite wrong!! N e v e r is a “transition to a basically different social system” achieved e i t h e r by the definite demands of the minimum programme (“those of its demands”) or the sum total of the minimum-programme demands. To think so is to move over to the reformist position in principle and to abandon the stand point of the socialist revolution.

The minimum programme is one which is in principle compatible with capitalism and does not go beyond its framework.

You may have wanted to say that where society is objectively mature for socialism, the implementation of the sum total of the minimum-programme demands would p r o d u c e socialism. But oven that is not so. The only thing that can be said is that it is most probable in practice that out of any serious struggle for the major minimum-programme demands there will flare up a struggle for socialism and that we, at any rate, are working in that direction.

Another thing should not be forgotten, and this is some thing Pannekoek + Radek do forget, namely, that imperialism is the exploitation of hundreds of millions in the dependent nations by a handful of very rich nations. Hence, the possibility of full democracy inside the richest nation with its continued domination over dependent nations. That was the state of things in ancient Greece on the basis of slavery. That is how things now stand with New Zealand and Britain.

(By the way: page 8 is not good. That’s not the way to put it. For instance, in the epoch of imperialism and the high cost of living “bread” is precisely the thing you will not get through reform alone.

Page 8—defence against Potresov’s charge. The thing to |_ do is not to defend yourself, but to attack: you c o n f i n e y o u r s e l f to reforms, as the liberals did in Russia in 1904.)

Page 10—in 1905; the liberals confined themselves |_ to reforms; we demanded, preached, prepared, etc., the revolution. Here it is not a question of “concreteness”, but of the basic principle (essence) of any revolution: displacement of the old class and winning of “all power” (d e r Macht) by the new class.

(Page 10 bottom—you deal with the proletarian “reform” in a terribly clumsy and imprudent way, although you do want to say: “revolution”!! What you should say is perhaps: “As in Russia in 1904 it is not reforms but a r e f o r m )

Page 11 is all quite wrong. Imperialism will produce both the 8–hour working day and the “arming of the people” against the socialist revolution. That is precisely the point over which the struggle will not unfold. And, in general, it will not be over the minimum programme.

Imperialism will produce “Bulygin Dumas” and reforms against the revolution. We shall be for the revolution.

“The most important questions of the present day” will not be and are n o t those you name, but the high cost of living (1) + (2) imperialist wars.

Reforms are powerless against the high cost of living (in the presence of the trusts, etc.), as they were against the autocracy in Russia in 1904–05.

You have incorrectly put the question of reform, and of the minimum programme, and of democracy.

  1. [[ I very strongly recommend rewriting it, confining yourself, for the time being (for a small article in Voprosy Strakhovaniya), to the antithesis: You, Mr. Potresov, are a full-fledged reformist, you confine yourself to “reforms”, you have forgotten the significance and meaning of the “formula”: “not reforms, but a reform”, the significance and meaning of the quoted statements by Kautsky + Hilferding + + Bauer, etc. Dyelo=ideologically quite mature organ of reformism, of the bourgeois labour party.

The “three pillars”[2] before the revolution were an extension of the struggle for reform. And that is exactly how the question is formulated in the Manifesto of the Zimmerwald Left: all struggle for reform must be channeled and transformed into struggle for revolution.

I do not think self-determination of nations should be set out as the “most important” in general: in so doing you go miles beyond what we have been saying until now. By coming out in this way you would force me to join up against you with—oh, horrible thought!—Bukharin!!!

Isn’t it better to leave this question aside for the time being, rewriting the article à la # —and to work out some thing in the form of theses, let us say, on the attitude to the minimum programme, etc., for dispatch to the Bureau, etc.?

  1. Phrases about “maximalism” are nothing but attacks by a reformist on the revolutionaries (“opponents of reformism in principle” for the censorship). In general, it is an exceptionally difficult thing and heikle sehr heikle Sache!![3] to treat of s u c h a question in the censored press.
  1. Dyelo (The Cause)—a fortnightly Menshevik journal, published in Moscow from August 1916 to January 1917 under the editorship of A. N. Potresov, P. P. Maslov and L. I. Axelrod (Orthodox). In 1916, there were ten issues (three of them double issues), and in 1917—one. The journal took a chauvinist attitude. p. 384
  2. Three pillars—the accepted designation in the legal Bolshevik press and at open, legal meetings of the three basic (“uncurtailed”) revolutionary slogans: democratic republic, 8–hour working day and confiscation of all landed estates. p. 386
  3. A ticklish, a very ticklish matter!!—Ed.