The Aim of the Proletarian Struggle in Our Revolution

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 9 March 1909

Sotsial-Demokrat, Nos. 3 and 4, March 9 (22) and March 21 (April 3), 1909. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demokrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 360-379.
Collection(s): Sotsial-Demokrat

In the article printed above, Comrade Martov touches upon an extremely important question or, rather, series of questions concerning the aim the proletariat and the Social-Democrats are fighting for in our revolution. He touches upon the history of the discussion of these questions in our Party, upon their relation to the principles of Marxism and to Narodism and upon all the shades of opinion that have been expressed on the subject. He touches upon all aspects of the question, but does not clear up a single one of them. To come to the nub of the matter we must make a systematic survey of the question in all its aspects.


I[edit source]

We shall begin with the history of the discussion of this question by the Russian Social-Democrats. It was brought up by the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks at the beginning of 1905. The former answered it with the “formula”: revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry (cf. Vperyod,[1] No. 14, April 12, 1905[2] ). The latter flatly rejected this definition of the class content of a victorious bourgeois revolution. The Third (Bolshevik) Congress held in London in May 1905 and the Menshevik conference held at the same time in Geneva, officially expressed the views of the two sections of the Party. In keeping with the spirit of the times, both sections of the Party in their resolutions dealt, not with the theoretical and general question of the aim of the struggle and the class content of a victorious revolution in general, but with the narrower question of a provisional revolutionary government. The Bolshevik resolution read: ". . .The establishment of a democratic republic in Russia will be possible only as the result of a victorious popular uprising, whose organ will be a provisional revolutionary government.... Subject to the relation of forces and other factors which cannot be determined exactly beforehand, representatives of our Party may participate in the provisional revolutionary government for the purpose of waging a relentless struggle against all attempts at counter-revolution, and of defending the independent interests of the working class.” The Menshevik resolution read: "...Social-Democracy must not set out to seize power or share it with anyone in the provisional government, but must remain the party of extreme revolutionary opposition.”

It is evident from the above that the Bolsheviks them selves, at an all-Bolshevik Congress, did not include in their official resolution any such “formula” as the dictator ship of the proletariat and the peasantry, but stated only that it was permissible to participate in the provisional government, and that it was the “mission” of the proletariat to “play the leading role” (resolution on armed uprising). The “formula”: “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, given in the Bolshevik press before the Third Congress, was repeated in the pamphlet Two Tactics[3] after that Congress, and it never entered anybody’s head to accuse the Bolsheviks of saying one thing in their resolutions and another thing in their commentaries. It never entered anybody’s head to demand that the resolutions of a mass party engaged in political struggle should tally, word for word, with the formulas giving a Marxist definition of the class content of a Victorious revolution.

Another important conclusion to be drawn from our historical enquiry is this. In the spring of 1905 the key issue of the controversy for both sections of the Party was the conquest of power by the proletariat and the revolutionary classes in general, and neither section went into the question of what the relations between these classes conquering power might or should be. As we have seen, the Mensheviks reject both the seizing and the sharing of power. The Bolsheviks speak of the “leading role of the proletariat in the revolution” (resolution on the armed uprising) and say that Social-Democrats “may” participate in a provisional government; that the “independence of the Social-Democratic Party, which aims at the complete socialist revolution should be firmly safeguarded” (resolution on the provisional revolutionary government); that the revolutionary movement, of the peasants should be “supported”, that “the revolutionary-democratic content of the peasant movement should he cleared of reactionary impurities”, that “the revolutionary consciousness of the peasants should be developed, and their democratic demands carried to their logical conclusion” (resolution on the attitude to be adopted to the peasant movement). The resolutions of the Bolshevik Congress of 1905 contain no other “formulas” on the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry.

Now let us take the draft resolutions of the two sections a year later, before the Stockholm Congress. These drafts are often forgotten or ignored in the press in general, and in our Party in particular. That is a great pity, for their significance in the history of the tactical principles of Social-Democracy is enormous. It is these draft resolutions which show what lessons the two sections of the Party drew from the experience of the struggles of October and December 1905.

The Bolsheviks in their draft resolution on the class aims of the proletariat write: “Only the proletariat can bring the democratic revolution to its consummation, the condition being that the proletariat, as the only thoroughly revolutionary class in modern society, leads the mass of the peasantry, and imparts political consciousness to its spontaneous struggle against landed proprietorship and the feudal state” (repeated in the draft resolution for the London Congress, see Proletary, No. 14, March 4, 1907[4] ).

Thus the “formula” which the Bolsheviks here chose for themselves reads: the proletariat leading the peasantry. The Bolshevik resolutions contain no other formula to express the idea of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. This fact cannot be too strongly emphasised, for it is in the hope of its being. forgotten or ignored that Comrade Martov attempts to place the resolution adopted at the December Conference of ’1908 in a totally false light.

The Mensheviks in their draft resolution (reprinted in Lenin’s “Report”, pp. 68–70, from Partiiniye Izvestia[5]) say that it is the task of the proletariat “to be the driving force of the bourgeois revolution”. Please note: not the “leader”, not the “guide”, as the Bolshevik resolution says, but the “driving force”. And among the tasks enumerated is that of “supporting by mass pressure such oppositional steps of the bourgeois democrats as do not clash with the demands in our programme, as may promote their fulfilment and be come the point of departure for the further advancement of the revolution”.

Thus, the difference between them is reduced by the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks themselves to the alternative: “leader” and “guide” of the revolution, who “leads” the peasantry, or “driving force of the revolution”, which “supports” the various steps taken by the bourgeois democrats. We would add that the Mensheviks, who were the victors at the Stockholm Congress, themselves withdrew this resolution in spite of the protests and insistence of the Bolsheviks. Why did the Mensheviks do it? The reader will find the answer to this question when he reads the following passage from the same Menshevik draft resolution: “The proletariat can properly fulfil its task as the driving force of the bourgeois revolution only by organising itself while at the same time drawing more and more new sections of the town bourgeoisie and the peasantry into the revolutionary struggle, democratising their demands, stimulating them to organise and there by paving the way for the victory of the revolution."

This is obviously a half-hearted concession to the Bolsheviks. for the proletariat is depicted not only as a driving force, but to some extent at least as a leader, since it “draws” and “stimulates” the peasantry and new sections of the town bourgeoisie.

To proceed. On the question of the provisional government, the Menshevik draft resolution reads: “In the event of a general revolutionary upsurge in the country, the Social-Democrats must everywhere promote the formation of Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, stimulate other revolutionary-democratic elements to form similar bodies, promote the union of all these bodies into general non-party organisations of popular revolutionary struggle, putting before them those general national tasks of the revolution which from the proletarian point of view can and should be fulfilled at the given stage of the revolution” (ibid., p. 91).

This forgotten draft resolution of the Mensheviks clearly shows that the experience of October-December 1905 completely bewildered the Mensheviks, who surrendered their position to the Bolsheviks. Indeed, is the passage quoted above compatible with the following point in the same draft.: “The Social-Democrats must not set out to seize power and establish a dictatorship in the present bourgeois revolution” (p. 92)? This last proposition is quite consistent in principle, and (except where it refers to “sharing power”) is an exact repetition of the resolution of 1905. But it hopelessly contradicts the lessons of October-December 1905 which the Mensheviks themselves reduce to the union 01 all bodies of the proletariat and “other revolutionary-democratic elements” into “general non-party organisations of popular revolutionary struggle"! If the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies “unite” with similar revolutionary-democratic bodies into non-party organisations of popular revolutionary struggle, it is obvious that the proletariat does set out to “seize power and establish a dictatorship”, that it is taking part in such seizure of power. The resolution itself says that “the main object” of the revolution is to “wrest political power from the hands of the reactionary government”. Although shying at the words “seizure of power and dictatorship”, and renouncing these terrible things in the most emphatic manner, the Mensheviks were forced to admit after 1905 that the “union of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies with “similar” revolutionary-democratic bodies followed logically from the course of events, and that this union must result in the formation of “general non-party” (this is not quite correct; it should have read: non-party or inter-party) “organisations of popular revolutionary struggle”. But this general organisation is nothing else than a provisional revolutionary government! Afraid to use the exact and direct term, the Mensheviks replaced it by a description; but that does not alter matters. “An organ of popular revolutionary struggle”, that “wrests political power” from the hands of the old government is nothing more nor less than a provisional revolutionary government.

While the Mensheviks had to take into account the lessons of October-December 1905 after much blundering and stumbling, the Bolsheviks arrived at their conclusions directly and clearly. The Bolshevik draft resolution on the provisional government declares: “In this open struggle [at the end of 1905] those elements among the local population who were capable of determined action against the old regime (almost exclusively the proletariat and the advanced sections of the petty bourgeoisie) were impelled by necessity to set up organisations which were in effect the rudiments of a new revolutionary authority—the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies in St. Petersburg, Moscow and other cities, the Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies in Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk, etc., the Railwaymen’s Committees in Siberia and in the south, the Peasant Committees in Saratov Gubernia, the Revolutionary City Committees in Novorossiisk and elsewhere and, lastly, the elected rural bodies in the Caucasus and the Baltic region” (p. 92). The failure of these bodies was due to their disunited and rudimentary state, we read further, while the provisional revolutionary government is defined as the “organ of victorious uprising”. The resolution goes on to say: “In order to carry the revolution through to victory, the proletariat is now faced with the urgent task of promoting, jointly with the revolutionary democrats, the unification of the insurrection and of forming a co-ordinating centre for this insurrection in the shape of a provisional revolutionary government.” Then follows an almost verbatim repetition of the resolution passed by the Third Congress in 1905.

These quotations from the draft resolutions of the two sections before the Stockholm Congress enable us to put the question of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry on a concrete historical basis. Anyone who desires to give a clear and straightforward answer to this question must take into account the experience of the end of 1905. Those who evade examining this experience will not only be ignoring material of the utmost value to a Russian Marxist. They will furthermore inevitably doom themselves to the “pettifogging” interpretation of formulas, to “slurring over” and “pasting over” (to use Comrade Martov’s apt expression) disagreements on matters of principle and to that very unprincipled floundering on questions of the theory and practice of “dictatorship” that is expressed best of all by the formula: “The movement is everything, the ultimate aim—nothing.”[6]

The experience of the end of 1905 has undoubtedly proved that “a general revolutionary upsurge in the country” produces special “organisations of popular revolutionary struggle” (according to the Menshevik formula) or “rudimentary organs of a new revolutionary authority” (according to that of the Bolsheviks). It is equally beyond doubt that in the history of the Russian bourgeois revolution these organs were created, first, by the proletariat, and secondly “by other revolutionary-democratic elements”; and a simple reference to the composition of the population of Russia in general, and of Great Russia in particular, will show that the peasantry represent the vast majority of these other elements. Lastly, no less beyond doubt is the historical tendency of these local bodies or organisations to amalgamate. The conclusion that inevitably follows from these undoubted facts is that a victorious revolution in present-day Russia cannot be anything but the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Nobody can get away from this inevitable conclusion, except by “pettifogging” and “pasting over” disagreements! If fragments of the question are not torn from their context, if town and country and the various localities are not artificially and arbitrarily separated, if the question of th˜ composition of this or that government is not substituted for the question of the dictatorship of classes—in short, if the question is examined as a whole, then nobody can prove by concrete examples taken from the experience of 1905 that a victorious revolution could be anything else than the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.

But before going any further, let us finish with the Party history of the “formula” we are examining. We have seen how the two sections precisely formulated their views in 1905 and in 1906. In 1907, on the eve of the London Congress, the Mensheviks first proposed one draft resolution on the attitude towards the bourgeois parties (Narodnaya Duma[7], 1907, No. 12, March 24, 1907) and at the Congress itself they proposed another. The first draft talks about “combining” the actions of the proletariat with the actions of other classes; the second talks about “utilising” the movement of other classes “for the aims” of the proletariat, and about “support” by the proletariat of certain “oppositional and revolutionary steps” made by other classes, and about Social-Democrats entering into “agreements” with the liberal and democratic classes in “certain definite cases”.

The Bolshevik draft, like the resolution adopted by the London Congress, says that the Social-Democrats should “compel them [the Narodnik or Trudovik parties “which more or less closely express the interests and the viewpoint of the broad mass of the peasants and the town petty bourgeoisie”] to side with the Social-Democrats against the Black Hundreds and the Cadets” and that the “joint actions following from this” should “serve only to promote a general onset”. The resolution as adopted by the Congress differs from the Bolsheviks’ draft in that it contains the additional words, insert ed on the initiative of a Polish delegate: “in the struggle to carry the revolution through to victory”. This, once again, most clearly reaffirmed the idea of the revolutionary- democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry; for such a dictatorship is “joint action” by these classes, which have “carried, or are carrying, the revolution through to victory”!

II[edit source]

We have only to take a general glance at the history of Party opinions on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry to see how much damage Comrade Martov has done himself by his talk about pettifogging and movements without a goal. Indeed, the first thing that this history shows is that the Bolsheviks, themselves have never, either in their drafts or in their resolutions, inserted the expression or “formula”—“dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”. Nevertheless, up till now, no one has ever thought of denying that all the Bolshevik drafts and resolutions between 1905 and 1907 are based entirely on the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. It would be absurd to deny it, for to do so would indeed be pettifoggery and an attempt to obscure the real issue with a mere quibbling over words. The proletariat which “allies to itself” the mass of the peasantry, said Lenin in Two Tactics (Twelve Years, p. 445[8] ); the proletariat which “leads” the mass of the peasantry, says the draft resolution of the Bolsheviks in 1906; “joint actions” of the proletariat and the peasantry “in the struggle to carry the democratic revolution through to victory”, . says the resolution of the London Congress. Is it not obvious that the same idea runs through all these formulations, that this idea is precisely the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, that the “formula”, the proletariat relying upon the peasantry, remains part and parcel of that same dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry?

Comrade Martov tries his hardest to confute this latter proposition. He starts a discussion about the word “and”. There is no “and”; the formula with “and” in it was reject ed!—exclaims Comrade Martov. Don’t dare now t.o put this “and” into unsigned articles in the Central Organ. Too late, too late, dear Comrade Martov: you should have addressed this demand to all the Bolshevik organs of the press during the whole period of the revolution. All of them, all the time, spoke about the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, and did so on the basis of resolutions which did not contain this “and”. Comrade Martov has lost this battle of principle over the word “and”; and he has lost it not only because it was belated, but. also because her majesty Logic has ruled that “allying to” and “leading” and “joint actions” and “relying upon” and “with the help of” (this last expression occurs in the resolution of the Sixth Congress of the Polish Social-Democrats[9]) all come within the meaning of the offending “and”.

But the Bolsheviks objected to “relying upon”, says Comrade Martov, continuing his debate on principles. Yes, they did object; not because it controverted the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, but because in Russian this “formula” does not sound very well. Usually, it is the weak who rely on the strong. The Bolsheviks are quite willing to accept word for word the Polish formula, “the proletariat with the help of the peasantry”—although perhaps it would have been better to say, “the proletariat leading the peasantry”. One may argue about all these formulas, but to convert such an argument into a “debate on principles” is simply ridiculous. Comrade Martov’s attempt to deny that “relying upon” is part of the concept of joint action is a model of pettifoggery. Comrade Martov quotes Dan, Axelrod and Semyonov as saying that the conquest of power “by the proletariat, relying upon the peasantry”, means conquest of power by “the proletariat alone”; but this can only make the reader smile. If we were to say that Mar toy and Potresov, relying upon Cherevanin, Prokopovich and Co., have liquidated the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution, would anyone take that to mean that Martov and Potresov liquidated this idea alone, without Cherevanin, Prokopovich and Co.?

No, comrades, a discussion in the Central Organ should not be reduced to pettifoggery. Such methods will not help you to wriggle out of admitting the fundamental and undoubted fact that the majority of the RSDLP, including the Poles and the Bolsheviks, stand firmly for (1) recognition of the guiding role of the proletariat, the role of leader, in the revolution, (2) recognition that the aim of the struggle is the conquest of power by the proletariat assisted by other revolutionary classes, (3) recognition that the first and perhaps the sole “assistants” in this matter are the peas ants. Those who want to discuss the real issue should try to challenge at least one of these three propositions. Comrade Martov has not examined a single one of them seriously. He forgot to tell his readers that on each of these three formulas the Mensheviks hold a view which the Party has rejected, and that Menshevism and Menshevism alone is the delusion which the Party has rejected! And that was what the Mensheviks’ policy was during the revolution—a movement without a goal, and therefore dependent on the vagaries of the Constitutional-Democratic Party. And this was the case precisely because the Mensheviks did not know whether the proletariat should aspire to be the leader, whether it should aspire to the conquest of power, and whether in doing so it should rely on the assistance of any other particular class. This ignorance inevitably dooms the Social-Democrats’ policy to uncertainty, error, sacrifice of principle and dependence on the liberals.

The conference did not bury the “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, and did not anthorise its elimination from the Party’s vocabulary. On the contrary, the conference endorsed it, and took another step towards its fuller recognition. The London Congress recognised (1) the role of the proletariat as “leader in the bourgeois-democratic revolution”, and (2) “joint actions” of the proletariat and the peasantry which were to “serve only for the purpose of a general onset”, actions, too, by the way, for “carrying the revolution through to victory”. All that remained was to recognise that the aim of the struggle in this revolution was the conquest of power by the proletariat and the peasantry. This the conference did in the formula: “The conquest of power by the proletariat, relying on the peasantry."

In saying this we do not in the least deny or play down the differences of opinion between the Bolsheviks and the Poles. The Polish Social-Democrats have every opportunity to voice these differences in their own publications in the Russian language, in the columns of the Bolshevik press, and in the Central Organ. The Polish Social-Democrats have already begun to avail themselves of this opportunity. If Comrade Martov achieves his object, and succeeds in bringing the Polish Social-Democrats into our dispute, each and all will see that we are at one with the Polish Social-Democrats against the Mensheviks on all essentials, and that we disagree only on minor points.

III[edit source]

As for Trotsky, whom Comrade Martov has involved in the controversy of third parties which he has organised— a controversy involving everybody except the dissentient— we positively cannot go into a full examination of his views here. A separate article of considerable length would be needed for this. By just touching upon Trotsky’s mistaken views, and quoting scraps of them, Comrade Martov only sows confusion in the mind of the reader; for scraps of quotations do not explain but confuse matters. Trotsky’s major mistake is that he ignores the bourgeois character of the revolution and has no clear conception of the transition from this revolution to the socialist revolution. This major mistake leads to those mistakes on side issues which Comrade Martov repeats when he quotes a couple of them with sympathy and approval. Not to leave matters in the confused state to which Comrade Martov has reduced them by his ex position, we shall at least expose the fallacy of those arguments of Trotsky which have won the approval of Comrade Martov. A coalition of the proletariat and the peasantry “presupposes either that the peasantry will come under the sway of one of the existing bourgeois parties, or that it will form a powerful independent party”. This is obviously untrue both from the standpoint of general theory and from that of the experience of the Russian revolution. A “coalition” of classes does not at all presuppose either the existence of any particular powerful party, or parties in general. This is only confusing classes with parties. A “coalition” of the specified classes does not in the least imply either that one of the existing bourgeois parties will establish its sway over the peasantry or that the peasants should form a powerful independent party! Theoretically this is clear be cause, first, the peasants do not lend themselves very well to party organisation; and because, secondly, the formation of peasant parties is an extremely difficult and lengthy process in a bourgeois revolution, so that a “powerful independent” party may emerge only towards the end of the revolution. The experience of the Russian revolution shows that “coalitions” of the proletariat arid the peasantry were formed scores and hundreds of times, in the most diverse forms, without any “powerful independent party” of the peasantry. Such a coalition was formed when there was “joint action”, between, say, a Soviet of Workers’ Deputies and a Soviet of Soldiers’ Deputies, or a Railwaymen’s Strike Committee, or Peasants’ Deputies, etc. All these organisations were mainly non-party; nevertheless, every joint action between them undoubtedly represented a “coalition” of classes. In the course of this a peasant party took shape as an idea, in germ, coming into being in the form of the Peasant Union of 1905,[10] or the Trudovik group of 1906—and as such a party grew, developed and constituted itself, the coalition of classes assumed different forms, from the vague and unofficial to definite and official political agreements. After the dissolution of the First Duma, for example, the following three calls for insurrection were issued: (1) “To the Army and Navy”, (2) “To all the Russian Peasants”, (3) “To the Whole People”. The first was signed by the Social-Democratic group in the Duma and the Committee of the Trudovik group. Was this “joint action” evidence of a coalition of two classes? Of course it was. To deny it means to engage in pettifoggery, or to transform the broad scientific concept of a “coalition of classes” into a narrow, juridical concept, almost that—I would say—of a notary. Further, can it be denied that this joint call for insurrection, signed by the Duma deputies of the working class and peasantry, was accompanied by joint actions of representatives of both classes in the form of partial local insurrections? Can it be denied that a joint call for a general insurrection and joint participation in local and partial insurrections necessarily implies the joint formation of a provisional revolutionary government? To deny it would mean to engage in pettifoggery, to reduce the concept of “government” to something completely and formally constituted, to forget that the complete and formally constituted develop from the incomplete and unconstituted.

To proceed. The second call for insurrection was signed by the Central Committee (Menshevik!) of the RSDLP and also the Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, the All-Russian Peasant Union, the All-Russian Railwaymen’s and the All-Russian Teachers’ Unions, as well as by the Committee of the Trudovik group and the Social-Democratic group in the Duma. The third call for insurrection bears the signatures of the Polish Socialist Party and the Bund,[11] plus all the foregoing signatures except the three unions.

That was a fully constituted political coalition of par ties and non-party organisations! That was “the dictator ship of the proletariat and the peasantry” proclaimed in the form of a threat to tsarism, in the form of a call to the whole people, but not yet realised! And today one will hardly find many Social-Democrats who would agree with the Menshevik Sotsial-Demokrat[12] of 1906, No. 6, which wrote of these appeals: “In this case our Party concluded with other revolutionary parties and groups not a political bloc, but a fighting agreement, which we have always considered expedient and necessary” (cf. Proletary, No. 1, August 21, 1906 and No. 8, November 23, 1906[13] ). A fighting agreement can not be contraposed to a political bloc, for the latter concept embraces the former. A political bloc at various historical moments takes the form either of “a fighting agreement” in connection with insurrection, or of a parliamentary agreement for “joint action against the Black Hundreds and Cadets”, and so on. The idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry has found its practical expression through out our revolution in a thousand forms, from the signing of the manifesto calling upon the people to pay no taxes and to withdraw their deposits from the savings-banks (December 1905), or the signing of calls to insurrection (July 1906), to voting in the Second and Third Dumas in 1907 and 1908.

Trotsky’s second statement quoted by Comrade Martov is wrong too. It is not true that “the whole question is, who will determine the government’s policy, who will constitute a homogeneous majority in it”, and so forth. And it is particularly untrue when Comrade Martov uses it as an argument against the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Trotsky himself, in the course of his argument, concedes that “representatives of the democratic population will take part” in the “workers’ government”, i.. e., concedes that there will be a government consisting of representatives of the proletariat and the peasantry. On what terms the proletariat will take part in the government of the revolution is quite another question, and it is quite likely that on this question the Bolsheviks will disagree not only with Trotsky, but also with the Polish Social-Democrats. The question of the dictatorship of the revolutionary classes, however, cannot be reduced to a question of the “majority” in any particular revolutionary government, or of the terms on which the participation of the Social-Democrats in such a government is admissible.

Lastly, the most fallacious of Trotsky’s opinions that Comrade Martov quotes and considers to be “just” is the third, viz.: “even if they [the peasantry] do this [“support the regime of working-class democracy”] with no more political understanding than they usually support a bourgeois regime.” The proletariat cannot count on the ignorance and prejudices of the peasantry as the powers that be under a bourgeois regime count and depend on them, nor can it assume that in time of revolution the peasantry will remain in their usual state of political ignorance and passivity. The history of the Russian revolution shows that the very first wave of the upsurge at the end of 1905, at once stimulated the peasantry to form a political organisation (the All-Russian Peasant Union) which was undoubtedly the embryo of a distinct peasant party. Both in the First and Second Dumas—in spite of the fact that the counter-revolution had wiped out the first contingents of advanced peasants—the peasantry, now for the first time acting on a nation wide scale in the Russian general elections, immediately laid the foundations of the Trudovik group, which was undoubtedly the embryo of a distinct peasant party. In these embryos and rudiments there was much that was unstable, vague and vacillating: that is beyond doubt. But if political groups like this could spring up at the beginning of the revolution, there cannot be the slightest doubt that a revolution carried to such a “conclusion”, or rather, to such a high stage of development as a revolutionary dictatorship, will produce a more definitely constituted and stronger revolutionary peasant party. To think otherwise would be like supposing that some vital organs of an adult can retain the size, shape and development of infancy.

In any case, Comrade Martov’s conclusion that the conference agreed with Trotsky, of all people, on the question of the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry in the struggle for power is an amazing contradiction of the facts, is an attempt to read into a word a meaning that was never discussed, not mentioned and not even thought of at the conference.

IV[edit source]

Comrade Martov touches on Kautsky, and in doing so manages once more to pack so many inaccuracies in so few words that to answer him to the point we are obliged to tell the reader the whole story practically from the beginning.

The statement that “many, including Lenin in his preface to Kautsky’s article on Prospects,[14] emphatically denied the bourgeois character of our revolution” is utterly false, as also is the statement that Kautsky “has declared that the Russian revolution is not bourgeois”. The facts are entirely different.

Plekhanov put questions to a number of representatives of the international Social-Democratic movement. His first question was about the “general character” of the Russian revolution, and the second was about “the attitude of the Social-Democratic Party towards the bourgeois democrats who are fighting in their own way for political liberty”. In formulating the questions in this way Comrade Plekhanov committed two errors against Marxism. First, he confused the “general character” of the revolution, its social and economic content, with the question of the motive forces of the revolution. Marxists must not confuse these questions; they must not even directly deduce the answer to the second question from the answer to the first without a special concrete analysis. Secondly, he confused the role of the peasantry in our revolution with the role of the bourgeois democracy in general. Actually both the peasantry and the liberals are covered by the scientific term: “bourgeois democracy”; but the attitude of the proletariat towards these two varieties of “bourgeois democracy” must of necessity differ materially.

Kautsky immediately detected Comrade Plekhanov’s errors and corrected them in his reply. As regards the social and economic content of the revolution, Kautsky did not deny its bourgeois character—on the contrary, he definitely recognised it. Here are Kautsky’s statements relevant to the point as quoted in those same Prospects which have been so utterly garbled by Comrade Martov.

“The present revolution tin Russia] in its effect on the countryside can lead only to the creation of a strong peasantry on the basis of private property in land, and there by create as wide a gulf between the proletariat and the property-owning section of the rural population as exists already in Western Europe. Therefore one cannot imagine that the present Russian revolution would lead immediately to the introduction of the socialist mode of production, even if it temporarily gave the reins of government to the Social-Democrats” (p. 311 of the Russian translation edited by N. Lenin).

It was this passage that prompted the following words in Lenin’s preface (p. 6, ibid.). “Needless to say, Kautsky fully agrees with the fundamental thesis of all Russian Social-Democrats that the peasant movement is non-socialist, that socialism cannot arise from small peasant production, etc.” (Lenin’s italics in the preface).

Comrade Martov’s assertion that Lenin positively denied the bourgeois character of our revolution is positively at variance with the truth. Lenin says just the opposite. Kautsky definitely recognised that in its general character, i. e., in its social and economic content, our revolution is bourgeois.

Plekhanov’s “first question”—wrote Kautsky in this article—“cannot, it seems to me, be given a simple answer, one way or the other. The time for bourgeois revolutions, i. e., revolutions in which the bourgeoisie is the motive force, has passed; it has passed for Russia too. ... The bourgeoisie is not one of the motive forces of the present revolutionary movement in Russia, and that being the case, this movement cannot be called bourgeois” (p. 29). As the reader sees, Kautsky here makes it perfectly clear what he is discussing: he is perfectly clearly speaking of a bourgeois revolution, not in the sense of its social and economic content, but in the sense of a revolution “of which the bourgeoisie is the motive force

To proceed. Kautsky corrected Plekhanov’s second mistake by drawing a clear and definite distinction between “liberal” and peasant bourgeois democracy. Kautsky stated that “the revolutionary strength of Russian Social-Democracy lies in the community of interests of the industrial proletariat and the peasantry”, that “without the peasants we cannot now gain the victory in Russia” (p. 31). Apropos of the dull question of the word “and” which monopolises Comrade Martov’s discussion of principle, it is interesting to note that in this same article, i. e., in 1906, Kautsky employs on one and the same page the expression “rely” ("on what class can the Russian proletariat rely?”) and the expression: “the alliance between the proletariat and other classes in the revolutionary struggle must primarily be based on community of economic interests” (p. 30).

Perhaps Comrade Martov will accuse Karl Kautsky, will say that in 1906—in anticipation of the December 1908 Conference of the RSDLP—Kautsky set out to “mislead the readers”, to “slur over” and “paste over” the differences between the Bolsheviks and the Polish Social-Democrats, to “engage in pettifoggery”, and so forth?

We may point out that, in advocating the idea of an alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry in the Russian bourgeois revolution, Kautsky is not proposing any thing “new”, but is entirely following in the footsteps of Marx and Engels. In 1848, Marx wrote in Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung[15]: “The big bourgeoisie,” i. e., the German bourgeoisie after March 18, 1848—“anti-revolutionary from the very outset, concluded a defensive and offensive alliance with reaction out of fear of the people, that is to say, the workers and the democratic bourgeoisie” (see Volume III of Marx’s Collected Works published by Mehring; so far only two volumes have appeared in Russian). “The German revolution of 1848,” wrote Marx on July 29, 1848, “is a mere travesty of the French Revolution of 1789.... The French bourgeoisie of 1789 did not abandon its allies the peasants for a moment.... The German bourgeoisie of 1848 is betraying the peasants without the slightest compunction....”

Here in relation to a bourgeois revolution Marx is clearly contraposing the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie allied with reaction to the working class allied with the democratic bourgeoisie, i.e., primarily the peasantry. And this view can hardly be put down to the fact that Marx’s socialist world-outlook had not fully crystallised at that time. Forty-four years later, in 1892, in his article, “Historical Materialism” (Neue Zeit, XI, Vol. I, published in Russian in the symposium Historical Materialism) Engels wrote the following: “... In all the three great bourgeois risings [the Reformation and Peasant War in the sixteenth century in Germany, the English Revolution of the seventeenth century and the French in the eighteenth] the peasantry furnishes the army that has to do the fighting.... Had it not been for that yeomanry [in the English Revolution] and for the plebeian element in the towns, the bourgeoisie alone would never have fought the matter out to the bitter end, and would never have brought Charles I to the scaffold.”[16]

Consequently, the specific feature of the Russian bourgeois revolution is merely that instead of the plebeian element of the towns taking second place as it did in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it is the proletariat which is taking first place in the twentieth century.

V[edit source]

To conclude. Comrade Martov has touched on an extremely important question that deserves discussing very thoroughly in the columns of the Party’s Central Organ. But it is not a question to “touch on”, it must be examined in great detail, in the light not only of the teachings of Marx and Engels but also of the experience of the Russian Revolution of 1905-07.

The suggestion that the idea of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry is the result of a Narodnik spell cast over the Social-Democrats can only provoke a smile. If that were true, the quasi-Marxists who argue in this way should first of all have accused Kautsky, Marx and Engels of falling under the Narodnik spell. In all the great bourgeois revolutions decisive victory could be achieved only by the proletariat (more or less developed) in alliance with the peasantry; and the same holds true for the bourgeois revolution in Russia. In the experience of 1905-07 the truth of this was given a practical demonstration by every important turn in events: for in practice all decisive actions, both “combative” and parliamentary, were actually “joint actions” of the proletariat and the peasantry.

Our Party holds firmly to the view that the role of the proletariat is the role of leader in the bourgeois-democratic revolution; that joint actions of the proletariat and the peasantry are essential to carry it through to victory; that unless political power is won by the revolutionary classes, victory is impossible. Rejection of these truths must inevitably doom Social-Democrats to vacillation, to “movement with out a goal”, to advocating casual agreements with complete disregard for principle, and in practice means falling captive to the Cadets, i. e., making the working class dependent upon the liberal-monarchist, counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.

  1. Vperyod (Forward)—an illegal Bolshevik weekly, published in Geneva from December 22, 1904 (January 4, 1905) to May 5 (18), 1905. Eighteen issues were put out. The newspaper’s organiser, manager, and ideological guide was Lenin. Other members of the editorial board were V. V. Vorovsky, M. S. Olminsky and A. V. Lunacharsky.
    The outstanding role which the newspaper played in combating Menshevism, restoring partyism, and formulating and elucidating the tactical issues posed by the rising revolution was acknowledged in a special resolution of the Third Party Congress, which recorded a vote of thanks to the editorial board.
  2. See present edition, Vol. 8, pp. 293–303.—Ed.
  3. See present edition, Vol. 9, pp. 15–140.—Ed.
  4. See present edition, Vol. 12, p. 139.—Ed.
  5. Partiiniye Izvestia (Party News)—a newspaper, the organ of the United Central Committee of the RSDLP, published illegally in St. Petersburg on the eve of the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the Party. Two issues were put out: on February 7 (20) and March 20 (April 2), 1906. The editorial board was set up on a parity basis comprising editors from the Bolshevik newspaper Proletary and from the Menshevik newspaper the new Iskra. Bolshevik members of the editorial board, among others, were Lenin and Lunacharsky. After the Fourth Congress of the Party Partiiniye Izvestia closed down.
  6. The movement is everything, the ultimate aim—nothing"—the formula advanced by E. Bernstein, leader of the extreme opportunist wing of the German Social-Democrats and the Second International, and the theoretician of revisionism and reformism.
  7. Narodnaya Duma (People’s Duma)—a Menshevik daily published in St. Petersburg in March-April 1907.
  8. See present edition, Vol. 9, p. 400.—Ed.
  9. This refers to the resolution on the political situation within the country and the tasks of the Party, adopted at the Sixth Congress of the Social-Democrats of Poland and Lithuania, held in Praga (a suburb of Warsaw) in December 1908.
    The Congress repelled liquidationist tendencies and confirmed that the chief task of Social-Democracy was to fight for the con quest of political power by the proletariat with the help of the revolutionary peasantry.
  10. All-Russian Peasant Union—a revolutionary-democratic organisation founded in 1905. Its programme and tactics were elaborated at its first and second congresses held in Moscow in August and November 1903. The Union demanded political liberty and the immediate convocation of a constituent assembly. It adopted the tactics of boycott of the First Duma. Its agrarian programme called for the abolition of private landownership and for the transfer of monastery, church, crown and state lands to the peasants without compensation. The Union pursued a vacillating middle-of-the-road policy. While demanding abolition of the landed estates, it agreed to partial compensation for the landlords. The Peasant Union was subjected to police persecutions from the moment it came into existence. It finally broke up at the beginning of 1907.
  11. The Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia) was formed by a founding congress of Jewish Social-Democratic groups held in Vilna in 1897; it was an association mainly of semi-proletarian Jewish artisans in the western regions of Russia. The Bund joined the RSDLP at the First Congress (1898) “as an autonomous organisation, independent only in respect of questions affecting the Jewish proletariat specifically”. (The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses, Conferences, and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Moscow, 1954, Part I, p. 14, Russ. ed.)
    The Bund brought nationalism and separatism into the working-class movement of Russia. Its Fourth Congress, held in April 1901, resolved to alter the organisational relations with the RSDLP established by the latter’s First Congress. The resolution said that the Congress regarded the RSDLP as a federation of national organisations and that the Bund should be treated as a member of that federation.
    After the Second Congress of the RSDLP had rejected its demand that it be recognised as the sole representative of the Jewish proletariat, the Bund left the Party. In 1906 the Bund reentered the RSDLP on the basis of a resolution of the Fourth (Unity) Congress.
    Within the RSDLP the Bundists persistently supported the opportunist wing of the Party (the Economists, Mensheviks, and liquidators) and opposed the Bolsheviks and Bolshevism. The Bund countered the Bolsheviks’ programmatic demand for the right of nations to self-determination by a demand for cultural-national autonomy.
    During the period of the Stolypin reaction (1907-10), it adopted a liquidationist stand and was active in forming the August anti-Party bloc. During the First World War (1914-18) it adopted the position of the social-chauvinists. In 1917 it supported the bourgeois Provisional Government and fought on the side of the enemies of the October Socialist Revolution. In the years of foreign military intervention and civil war the Bund leadership joined forces with the counter-revolution. At the same time a change was taking place among the rank and file of the Bund in favour of collaboration with the Soviet power. In March 1921 the Bund decided to dissolve itself, and some of its members joined the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) according to general procedure.
  12. Sotsial-Demokrat (Social-Democrat)— an illegal newspaper, organ of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, published in St. Petersburg from September 17 (30) to November 18 (December 1), 1906. Seven issues were put out. The editorial board was controlled by the Mensheviks.
  13. See present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 150–66 and 307-19.—Ed.
  14. See present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 408-13.—Ed.
  15. Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung was published in Cologne from June 1, 1848 to May 19, 1849 under the management of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Editor-in-Chief was Marx. Under the blows of reaction the newspaper closed down after issue No. 301.
    Here Lenin quotes from the articles by K. Marx and F. Engels “Die Berliner Debatte über die Revolution” and “Der Gesetzenwurf über die Aufhebung der Feudallasten” published in Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung on June 14 and July 30, 1848.
  16. See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, pp. 104-05.