The Attitude Towards Bourgeois Parties
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 489-509.
The question of the attitude of Social-Democracy towards bourgeois parties is one of those known as “general” or “theoretical” questions, i.e., such that are not directly connected with any definite practical task confronting the Party at a given moment. At the London Congress of the RSDLP, the Mensheviks and the Bundists conducted a fierce struggle against the inclusion of such questions in the agenda, and they were, unfortunately, supported in this by Trotsky, who does not belong to either side. The opportunist wing of our Party, like that of other Social-Democratic parties, defended a “business-like” or “practical” agenda for the Congress. They shied away from “broad and general” questions. They forgot that in the final analysis broad, principled politics are the only real, practical politics. They forgot that anybody who tackles partial problems without having previously settled general problems, will inevitably and at every step “come up against” those general problems without himself realising it. To come up against them blindly in every individual case means to doom one’s politics to the worst vacillation and lack of principle.
The Bolsheviks had insisted on including quite a number of “general questions” in the Congress agenda, but succeeded in getting only one passed with the aid of the Poles and the Latvians—the question of the attitude to bourgeois parties. This question not only took first place among the Congress questions of principle but also among all work in general. It turned out that way, and it had to turn out that way, because the real source of almost all differences, certainly all differences of substance, of all disagreements on questions of the practical politics of the proletariat in the Russian revolution, was a different assessment of our attitude to non-proletarian parties. Since the very beginning of the Russian revolution there have appeared two basic views among Social-Democrats on the nature of the revolution and the role of the proletariat in it. Anyone who attempts to analyse the tactical differences in the RSDLP without going into the difference of these basic views will get hopelessly entangled in trivialities and partial problems.
The two trends in Russian Social-Democracy on the question of an assessment of our revolution and the tasks of the proletariat in it, had become perfectly clear at the very beginning of 1905, and in the spring of that year were given full, precise and formal expression, recognised by the organisations concerned, at the Bolshevik Third Congress of the RSDLP in London and the Menshevik Conference held simultaneously in Geneva. Both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks discussed and adopted resolutions that people who have forgotten the history of their Party or their section of it, or who desire to avoid an analysis of the real sources of disagreements on matters of principle, are now too inclined to ignore. In the view of the Bolsheviks the proletariat has had laid upon it the active task of pursuing the bourgeois-democratic revolution to its consummation and of being its leader. This is only possible if the proletariat is able to carry with it the masses of the democratic petty bourgeoisie, especially the peasantry, in the struggle against the autocracy and the treacherous liberal bourgeoisie. The inevitability of bourgeois treachery was deduced by the Bolsheviks even then, before the open activities of the Constitutional-Democrats, the chief liberal party; the deduction was based on the class interests of the bourgeoisie and their fear of the proletarian movement.
The Mensheviks were inclined to the-view that the bourgeoisie are the motive force and that they determine the scope of the bourgeois revolution. The proletariat cannot lead the bourgeois revolution, but must fulfil only the role of the extreme opposition, and not strive to win power. The Mensheviks rejected in the most determined manner the idea of a revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.
At that time, in May 1905 (just two years ago), the differences were of a purely theoretical and abstract character because no immediate practical task then confronted our Party. It is therefore particularly interesting—for the instruction of those people who are so fond of deleting abstract questions from congress agendas and substituting “business like” practical questions—to trace the way in which these differences later made their appearance in practical work.
The Bolsheviks asserted that the Mensheviks’ views would actually lead to the slogans of the revolutionary proletariat degenerating to the slogans and tactics of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. In 1905 the Mensheviks tried their hardest to prove that they alone defended the true proletarian policy and that the Bolsheviks were dissolving the working-class movement in bourgeois democracy. That the Mensheviks themselves had a most sincere desire for an independent proletarian policy can be seen from the following highly instructive tirade in one of the resolutions of that time, adopted at the Menshevik Conference in May 1905. “Social Democracy,” says the resolution, “will continue to oppose hypocritical friends of the people, oppose all those political parties that raise a liberal and democratic banner and refuse to give real support to the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat.” Despite all these well-meant intentions, the incorrect tactical theories of the Mensheviks led, in actual fact, to their sacrificing proletarian independence for the liberalism of the monarchist bourgeoisie.
Let us recall on what practical questions of politics the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks have differed among them selves during these two years of revolution. The Bulygin Duma of autumn 1905: the Bolsheviks were for the boycott, the Mensheviks for participation. The Witte Duma—the same again. Policy in the First Duma (summer 1906): the Mensheviks were in favour of the slogan of “a responsible ministry”—the Bolsheviks were against it and in favour of an executive committee of the Lefts, i.e., the Social-Democrats and Trudoviks. The dissolution of the Duma (July 1906): the Mensheviks brought forward the slogan “for the Duma as an organ of power for the convocation of a constituent assembly”; the Bolsheviks rejected that liberal distortion of a revolutionary slogan. The elections to the Second Duma (end of 1906, beginning of 1907): the Mensheviks were for “technical blocs” with the Constitutional-Democrats (and Plekhanov was for a political bloc with the platform of “a Duma with full powers”). The Bolsheviks were against blocs with the Constitutional-Democrats and in favour of an independent campaign, allowing the possibility of a Left bloc. Compare these important facts from the history of Social-Democratic tactics during the past two years, with the basic differences on matters of principle outlined above. You will immediately see that the general theoretical analysis of the Bolsheviks has been confirmed by the two years of revolution. Social-Democracy was compelled to go against treacherous liberalism, was compelled “to strike together” with the Trudoviks and the Narodniks; the Second Duma definitely established this preponderance, by a majority vote. The Menshevik good intentions to expose, as hypocritical friends of the people, all those who refused to support the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat paved the road to the hell of political blocs with the liberals, up to and including the acceptance of their slogans.
On the basis of a theoretical analysis, the Bolsheviks forecast in 1905 that the pivot of Social-Democratic tactics in the bourgeois revolution is the question of the treachery of liberalism and the democratic capacity of the peasantry. All subsequent practical differences on the policy of the workers’ party have revolved precisely around this pivot. The Menshevik policy of dependence on the liberals actually has developed historically from the false basis of their tactics.
Prior to the Stockholm Unity Congress in 1906, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks put forward two substantially different resolutions on bourgeois parties. The Bolshevik resolution in its entirety was imbued with the basic idea of the treachery of liberalism and of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, merely providing fresh illustrations to this idea in the form of the facts and events of the post-October period (the split between the Octobrists and the Cadets; the formation of the Peasant Union and radical associations of intellectuals, etc.). The Bolsheviks analysed the class content of the basic types of bourgeois parties and filled out, so to say, the skeleton of their old abstract scheme, with concrete data. In their resolution for the Stockholm Congress, the Mensheviks refused to analyse the class content of various parties, on the grounds of their “instability”. This meant actually evading an answer on the substance of the matter. This evasion was clearly demonstrated when the Mensheviks, who had gained a victory at the Stockholm Congress, themselves withdrew their resolution on the attitude to bourgeois parties in Russia. In the spring of 1905, a Menshevik resolution proposed exposing, as hypocritical friends of the people, all liberals and democrats who refused to support the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat. In the spring of 1906, it was the Bolsheviks and not the Mensheviks who, in a resolution, spoke of the hypocrisy of a definite liberal party, the Constitutional-Democrats to be precise, while the Mensheviks preferred to leave the question open. At the London Congress, in the spring of 1907, the Mensheviks revealed themselves still more completely; the old demand that the liberals and democrats support the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat was completely abandoned. The Menshevik resolution (see the draft in Narodnaya Duma, 1907, No. 12—an extremely important document) openly and frankly advocates “combining” the activities—in plainer words, making them agree—of the proletariat with those of bourgeois democracy in general!
Down the ladder, rung by rung. The socialist’s good intentions and bad theory in 1905. No theory and no intentions in 1906. No theory and an openly opportunist policy in 1907. “The combining” of Social-Democratic and liberal-bourgeois policy—such is Menshevism’s last word. And it could have been no other, after blocs with the Cadets, voting for Golovin, private meetings with Cadets, the attempt to remove the confiscation of landed estates from our list of imperative demands, and other gems of Menshevik policy.
At the London Congress, Menshevik policy in respect of liberalism suffered its fullest defeat. The Mensheviks did not risk submitting their first resolution as printed in Narodnaya Duma (No. 12). They withdrew it without even submitting it to the commission in which all five Party groups were represented by fifteen members (four Bolsheviks, four Mensheviks, two Poles, two Latvians and three from the Bund). Probably the slogan of “combining”, the concord of socialist policy with that of the liberals repelled, not only the Bundists, but even many Mensheviks. The Mensheviks appeared in the commission after having “cleaned themselves up a little”; they wrote a new resolution, and deleted “combining” altogether. Instead of “combining” they inserted “use of other parties by the proletariat for its own ends”, the recognition of the establishment of a republic, etc., as a political aim of the proletariat. But nothing could help them. It was far too obvious to every body that they had deliberately dressed up in this bright raiment as a cover for the same policy of “combining”. The practical conclusion to be drawn from the resolution was the same—“enter into agreements with those parties [with both the liberals and the Narodniks] in definite, individual cases”. Of the fifteen members of the commission only four— i.e., only the Mensheviks!—consented to accept such a resolution as a basis for discussion. There could not have been a fuller defeat for Menshevik policy as such. The Bolshevik resolution was taken as a basis at the Congress and then adopted in its totality after some insignificant amendments, by 158-163 votes against a little over a hundred (106 in one case), with from ten to twenty abstaining. Before we proceed with an analysis of the basic ideas of this resolution and the significance of the amendments proposed by the Mensheviks, we must mention another episode, not without interest, which took place when the resolution was under discussion in the commission.
Not two, but three draft resolutions were submitted to the commission—the Bolshevik, the Menshevik and the Polish drafts. The Poles agreed with the Bolsheviks in their basic ideas but rejected our type of resolution with an analysis of each separate group of parties. The Poles thought this a mere literary exercise, and considered our resolution too cumbersome. They constructed their draft as a brief formulation of two general principles of proletarian policy in respect of bourgeois parties—(1) the class individuality of the proletariat, as distinct from all other parties, for the purpose of its socialist aims, no matter how revolutionary and how determinedly republican those other parties may be; (2) alliance with the Trudovik parties against the autocracy and against the treachery of liberalism.
It cannot be disputed that these two significant ideas in the Polish resolution cover the point at issue splendidly. Nor can it be disputed that the plan to give a brief, definite directive for the proletariat of all nationalities in Russia, without a “sociological” discussion of the different types of parties, is an attractive one. Experience nevertheless showed that the Congress would not have been able to arrive at a full, clear and definite solution to the problem, on the basis of the Polish resolution. In order to refute Menshevism, it was necessary to determine, in great detail, the positive view of Social-Democracy in respect of the different parties; otherwise there would have been room for vagueness.
The Mensheviks and the Bundists immediately seized on the Polish resolution while it was still in the commission, in order to take advantage of the opportunity provided by such vagueness. The commission accepted the Polish resolution as a basis, by seven votes (four Mensheviks, two Poles and one Bundist) against seven (four Bolsheviks, two Latvians and one Bundist; the fifteenth member of the commission abstained or was absent). The commission then began tacking on to the Polish resolution such “amendments” that it was distorted beyond all recognition. Even an amendment on the permissibility of “technical” agreements with the liberals was accepted. Naturally the Poles withdrew their draft after it had been mutilated by the Mensheviks. It turned out that, besides the Poles, neither the Mensheviks nor the Bundists would consent to submit such a draft to the Congress. All the commission’s work was wasted, and the Congress had to vote on the Bolshevik draft that had been accepted as a basis for a resolution.
It may now be asked: what is the significance, in principle, of the Congress having accepted the Bolshevik draft as a basis for a resolution? What were the basic points in proletarian tactics that mobilised the Congress for this draft and led it to reject the Menshevik draft?
If we read the two drafts attentively we can quite easily pick out two such basic points. First, the Bolshevik resolution really effects a socialist criticism of the non-proletarian parties. Secondly, the resolution gives a precise definition of proletarian tactics in the present revolution, giving a perfectly clear and concrete content to the concept of “leader” in the revolution, and showing with whom we can and must “strike together”, and at whom and under what circumstances to strike.
The basic fault of the Menshevik resolution is that it provides neither the one nor the other, and by its emptiness opens wide the doors to opportunism, i.e., in the final analysis, to Social-Democratic politics being replaced by liberal politics. Just take a glance at the Mensheviks’ socialist criticism of the non-proletarian parties. Their criticism amounts to this: “the socio-economic conditions and historic situation in which this [i.e., our] revolution is proceeding hamper the development of the bourgeois-democratic movement, at one pole engendering indecision in the struggle and the illusions of a constitutional, peaceful abolition of the old order, and at the other pole—the illusion of petty-bourgeois revolutionism and agrarian utopias”.
First of all, we have before us a resolution on parties, which does not name the parties. Secondly, we have before us a resolution that does not give an analysis of the class content of the different “poles” of bourgeois democracy. Thirdly, this resolution does not even hint at a definition of what the attitude of the various classes to “our revolution” should be. Summing up all these shortcomings we must say that the Marxist theory of the class struggle has disappeared from the resolution.
It is not the fundamental interests of the various classes of capitalist society that engender the different types of bourgeois parties; it is not class interests that give rise to peaceful illusions or “conciliatory tendencies” in some and “revolutionism” in others. Definitely not! It is some sort of unknown socio-economic conditions and an historical situation that hamper the development of the bourgeois-democratic movement in general. And so the conciliatory tendency of capital and the revolutionism of the muzhik do not arise out of the position of the bourgeoisie and the peasantry in a capitalist society that is emancipating itself from feudalism, but out of some sort of conditions, out of the situation in all “our revolution” in general. The next point even says that “these negative tendencies, hindering the development of the revolution”, come more strongly “to the fore at the present moment of a temporary lull”.
That is not a Marxist, but a liberal theory, seeking the roots of different social tendencies outside the interests of the different classes. This is a Left-Cadet, not a socialist resolution; the extremism of both poles is condemned, the opportunism of the Cadets and the revolutionism of the Narodniks are condemned and thereby something in between the two is actually praised. One cannot help wondering whether we are not confronted with Popular Socialists, who seek the golden mean between the Cadets and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.
If our Mensheviks had not departed from the Marxist theory of the class struggle, they would have realised that the different class positions of the bourgeoisie and the peasantry in the struggle against the “old order” explains the different types of parties—liberal on the one hand, and Narodnik on the other. All these parties, groups and political organisations, which differ in much or in little and have arisen in such abundance in the course of the Russian revolution, always and inevitably gravitate to one of these two types (with the exception of the reactionary parties and the party of the proletariat)—this is beyond all doubt and needs no proof. If we limit ourselves to indicating the “two poles” in a single bourgeois-democratic movement, we offer nothing but platitudes. Always and in everything, two extremes, two “poles” are to be seen. In any social movement of any extent there are always the “poles” and there is always a more or less “golden” mean. To characterise bourgeois democracy in this way is to reduce the Marxist postulate to an empty phrase instead of applying it to an analysis of the class roots of the types of party in Russia. The Mensheviks do not offer a socialist criticism of the bourgeois parties, because giving the name bourgeois-democratic to all oppositional, non-proletarian parties does not at all imply socialist criticism. If you do not show the interests of which classes and which particular interests are dominant at the moment in determining the nature of the various parties and their politics, you are not really applying Marxism and have, in fact, rejected the theory of the class struggle. Therefore, the term “bourgeois-democratic”, as you use it, is nothing but a platonic declaration of respect for Marxism, since your use of the term is not accompanied by the association of such-and-such a type of liberalism or democracy with such-and-such self-interests of definite strata of the bourgeoisie. No wonder our liberals, beginning with the Party of Democratic Reform and the Cadets and ending with the non-party Bez Zaglaviya group from Tovarishch, seeing that the Mensheviks apply Marxism in such a way, enthusiastically seize on the “idea” of the harmfulness of extremes of opportunism and revolutionism in democracy— seize on it because it is not an idea at all, but a banal platitude. It is, of course, not the term “bourgeois democracy” that scares the liberal. What scares him is an exposure, before the people, of what material interests of precisely which wealthy classes liberal programmes and phrases boil down to. That, and not the term “bourgeois democracy”, is the gist of the matter. Not he who persistently uses the term “bourgeois democracy” to protect himself, as though he were crossing himself, is applying the theory of the class struggle, but he who shows, in practice, how the bourgeois character of a party manifests itself.
If the concept “bourgeois democracy” implies only condemnation of the extremes of both opportunism and revolutionism, then it is a concept that degrades Marxist theory to the level of banal liberal phraseology. The liberal, we repeat, does not fear such use of the concept, for it is deeds that he fears, not words. He may consent to accept a term that is, to him, unpleasant and “reeking of Marxism”. But neither the liberal, nor the “intellectual” from Tovarishch, who apes the Bernsteinians, will agree to accept the view that he, the Cadet, expresses the interests of the bourgeois who is selling out the revolution to someone or other. It is precisely because in their application of Marxism the Mensheviks reduce that theory to an empty and meaningless phrase committing them to nothing, that the Bez Zaglaviya group, the Prokopoviches and Kuskovas, the Cadets and others, seize with both hands at the idea of supporting Menshevism. Menshevik Marxism is Marxism recut to the measurements of bourgeois liberalism.
And so the first basic fault of the Mensheviks’ stand on the present question lies in their failure to offer a real socialist criticism of the non-proletarian parties. In point of fact, Menshevism departs from Marx’s theory of the class struggle. The London Congress has put an end to this distortion of Social-Democratic policy and theory. The second basic fault is that Menshevism does not actually recognise the independent policy of the proletariat in the present revolution, and does not offer the proletariat any definite tactics. Avoid extremes of opportunism and revolutionism— such is one of the commandments of Menshevism as taken from their resolution. From time to time, conclude agreements with the liberals and democrats—that is another of their commandments. Combine your politics (make it agree) with those of the liberals and democrats—that is the third commandment expressed in Narodnaya Duma and the Menshevik resolution of the time. Delete from here all mention of the third commandment; add desires and demands— “proletarian politics must be independent”, add the demand for a republic (as the Mensheviks did at the London Congress)—by these means you will in no way get rid of the second basic fault of Menshevism. The independence of proletarian politics is not determined by writing the word “independent” in the right places, and not by including mention of a republic; it is determined only by a precise definition of a path that is really independent. And that is what the Mensheviks do not offer.
The objective alignment of classes and social forces being as it is, we are actually confronted with a struggle between two tendencies—liberalism is striving to stop the revolution, and the proletariat—to carry it on to its culmination. If the proletariat is unaware of this tendency of liberalism, if the proletariat is unaware of its task to engage in a direct struggle against liberalism, if it does not struggle to liberate the democratic peasantry from the influence of liberalism, then the politics of the proletariat are not actually independent. It is precisely these non-independent politics that the Mensheviks are legalising; for that is the significance of admitting the possibility of agreements from occasion to occasion, without defining the line of those agreements, without defining the line of demarcation that divides the two tactics in our revolution. “Agreements from occasion to occasion” is a formula that actually serves to conceal the bloc with the Cadets, the “Duma with full powers” and the responsible ministry, in other words, the entire policy of making the workers’ party dependent on liberalism. In the present historical situation there can be no question of an independent policy for the workers’ party, if that party does not set itself the direct task of struggling to carry the revolution through to its consummation, if it does not struggle, not only against the autocracy, but also against liberalism, for influence over the democratic peasantry. The historical situation in the bourgeois revolution in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century is such that any other policy on the part of Social-Democracy would actually mean its subordination to the politics of the liberals.
The London Congress’s adoption of the Bolshevik resolution on non-proletarian parties means that the workers’ party decisively rejects all deviations from the class struggle, and recognises, in point of fact, the socialist criticism of non-proletarian parties and the independent revolutionary tasks of the proletariat in the present revolution.
The rejection of the Menshevik amendments to the resolution adds further weight to this.
When the Bolshevik draft was accepted by the Congress as the basis for the resolution on the attitude to bourgeois parties, a shower of amendments came pouring from the Mensheviks and the Bundists. In several statements of protest submitted to the Bureau of the Congress, the total number of such amendments was estimated at 70 or more. I shall not waste time discussing all the ins and outs of the struggle to stop this obstruction, which left Akimov’s famous twenty-two amendments at the Second Congress far behind, nor shall I list the mass of absolutely empty and trivial amendments. I shall mention only five amendments that are highly significant in principle. Here they are in the order in which they were discussed at the Congress.
Point Three of the preamble of our resolution speaks directly of the task of the proletariat as filling “the role of leader in the bourgeois-democratic revolution”. The Mensheviks proposed an amendment—change the word “leader” for “vanguard”, “advanced contingent” or the words “main motive force”. All those amendments were rejected. Repeat as often as you will that the proletariat must retain its class independence—the Bolsheviks have nothing against that. But to weaken the words on the role of leader in the revolution would mean opening the doors to opportunism. The proletariat could be the “main motive force” in a curtailed, landlord-bourgeois revolution. It is possible to be the main motive force of the victory of another class without being able to defend the interests of your own class. Revolutionary Social-Democracy, if it is to remain true to itself, has no right to confine itself to that. It must help the proletariat to rise from the passive role of main motive force to the active role of leader—to rise from the dependent position of a fighter for curtailed freedom to the most independent position of a fighter for complete freedom, a freedom that is to the advantage of the working class. The basic difference in the tactics of the opportunist and the revolutionary tactics of Social-Democracy in the bourgeois revolution is, one might say, that the former is reconciled to the role of the proletariat as the main motive force, while the latter is directed towards giving the proletariat the role of leader and by no means that of a mere “motive force”.
The expression “advanced contingent” would also weaken the recognition of the task of the proletariat as that of leading the other democratic classes, or could, at least, be interpreted in that way.
The second amendment—remove from the third point of the resolution proper (the characteristic of the liberal parties) the reference to the democratic petty bourgeoisie being deceived by the liberals. The Mensheviks said that it was necessary to remove or change it in the name of Marxism, for, they said, it is unworthy of materialists to explain by “deceptions” the social composition of parties. The sophistry of this argument had too bad a smell for the Congress to fall for it. To deny, in the name of Marxism, the role of deception in the politics of the bourgeoisie would be the same as denying all forms of violence in the name of the “economic factor”. Only the Davids, Vollmars and similar pillars of opportunism understand Marxism in this way. In particular, to deny or attempt to lessen the part played by deception in the Cadets’ present policy towards the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie in Russia would be attempting to make liberalism more attractive, and distorting the facts for its benefit. That is because the Cadets’ direct deception of the electors from among the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie is the most indisputable of facts. It is wrong to speak of parties deceiving their electors, in cases when the interests of a class engender certain theoretical illusions, i.e., deceptive concepts (for instance, when the interests of the peasantry engender illusive expectations of endless benefits following the expropriation of the landlords). It is necessary to speak openly, for all to hear, of the deception of certain strata of the people by their parliamentary representatives when those representatives sacrifice the direct interests of those strata to their exploiters (the peasants are betrayed to the landlords, etc.). The German bourgeoisie have betrayed the peasants, wrote Marx in 1848. If, in 1907, we in Russia do not risk saying the same about our bourgeoisie and about our Cadets, if we cannot prove this to the masses, we shall be trampling the great banner of Social-Democracy in the mud.
The third amendment—to recognise, as an addendum to that selfsame third point, the permissibility of “technical agreements” with the Cadets. This amendment was rejected, with the Congress delegates voting by name. We announced that if it was accepted we should be compelled to withdraw our resolution as a whole; we had the right to do this if amendments distorted the basic idea of the resolution. We do not say anything about specifically forbidding all agreements with the Cadets, we announced. The point at issue is not one of forbidding or permitting specific cases, but of a general political line. One who wants in good faith to apply the Congress resolution will not enter into election agreements with the Cadets or put out common slogans with them, although a case of joint voting in the Duma may possibly occur. It would, in general, be useless to try to “ensnare” with any sort of wording those who do not conscientiously fulfil the resolution of the Congress. Our whole Party knows well enough from experience what our Mensheviks under stand by “technical agreements” with the liberals.
The fourth amendment—an addendum to Point Four indicating the necessity to struggle against the agrarian utopianism and revolutionism of the Narodniks; this was submitted several times by the Mensheviks, with constant changes of individual words in its text or of the place in the resolution to which it should belong. All these amendments were rejected by the Congress. The debate on these amendments was undoubtedly on matters of principle. The Mensheviks again tried at this point to introduce under the Marxist flag something most hostile to Marxism. There is no doubt that Marxism rejects the agrarian utopianism of the Narodniks and the methods of petty-bourgeois revolutionism. If that is so, argued the Mensheviks, then say it here, in this resolution. “Excuse us, dear comrades,” we answered, “everything here is said as it should be. Your addendum, irrespective of your will and knowledge, acquires here the significance of a sally against the confiscation of landed estates. We have not forgotten that this confiscation has been called “utopianism” and “revolutionism” by all the liberals and also by many non-party Social-Democrats, such as the Prokopoviches and Kuskovas, and by several (fortunately, not many) party Social-Democrats, who proposed that the Duma group and the Central Committee should not make an ultimatum of their insistence on confiscation.
A resolution must be written in unmistakable language. It must consider all existing political tendencies in actual politics, and not the good intentions of some section or another of Social-Democracy (always allowing that the intentions are of the best). In our resolution we have recognised, forthrightly and definitely, the “pseudo-socialism” of the Narodniks. We have called their “socialist” ideology simply “vague”, and have declared it absolutely imperative for Social-Democracy to fight against their concealment of the class antithesis between the proletariat and the petty proprietors. Everything has been said in these words, which condemn the really utopian element in Narodism, condemn petty-bourgeois “extra-class” revolutionism. Moreover, our resolution does not merely condemn or refute; it also states what is positive in these parties. “The struggle against land ed proprietorship and the feudal state”, is the way we define the positive content. And he is not a Marxist who forgets this on account of the struggle against the vagueness of petty-bourgeois socialism. This real content has much greater significance in the present revolution than the Narodniks’ vague dreaming of the morrow. It is on account of this actual struggle that liberal and proletarian politics now differ radically. The liberals consider the complete abolition of landed proprietorship and the feudal state to be utopian and empty revolutionism; such a débâcle is not to the advantage of the bourgeoisie, and dangerous to it. In the real politics of our times it is this self-interest of the bourgeoisie as a class, and nothing but that self-interest, that finds expression in attacks on the utopianism and revolutionism of the Narodniks. Proletarian politics, on the contrary, separate utopianism, revolutionism and the general vagueness of “equalitarian” dreams of non-class socialism, from the reality of the decisive struggle against the landlords and serf-owners. That which the liberals consider a harmful utopia, we consider to be the vital interest of the proletariat at the present moment—the complete abolition of landed proprietorship and the feudal state. On these grounds we must now pursue the most intense, immediate and practical struggle against liberalism, a struggle to emancipate the democratic peasantry from its influence.
The amendments under discussion have reflected one of the most widespread errors of Menshevism—the equating of the reactionary nature of the bourgeoisie in the present revolution (that is, reactionary in the struggle against the landlords and the autocracy) with the reactionary nature of the peasantry (which is reactionary from the viewpoint, not of the struggle against the landlords and the autocracy, but of the struggle against capital, i.e., it is reactionary, not in respect of the tasks of the present, bourgeois revolution, but in respect of the future, socialist revolution). This radical Menshevik error was rejected by the Congress. The practical significance of this error is very great because it conceals a policy that allows equally joint action by the proletariat with the liberals and with peasant democracy.
The last Menshevik amendment of any interest also refers to Point Four, to its end. The Mensheviks proposed removing from this point reference to the struggle against the Cadets (“... side with the Social-Democrats against the Black Hundreds and the Constitutional-Democrats”). To give this amendment, which is quite unacceptable to the present Congress, a semblance of something acceptable, they proposed replacing the words objectionable to them by an indication that the democratic revolution must be carried through to its consummation. This was an original attempt at sweetening the pill, an attempt to carry through a policy unacceptable to the Bolsheviks (not to struggle directly against the Cadets) under cover of a slogan particularly acceptable to the Bolsheviks. Your flag and our cargo—that is what the Mensheviks, like the true opportunist politicians they are, were actually saying by their proposal.
The Mensheviks’ innocent stratagem was, of course, immediately exposed, amid laughter from the Bolshevik benches (in the London church we actually sat on benches so that the expression is not figurative). And then came truly Homeric laughter and a thunder of ironic applause from those same benches when one of the Poles, after the defeat of the Menshevik amendment, proposed another—to retain the words about the struggle against the Cadets, and at the same time add recognition of a struggle to carry through the revolution to its consummation. The Congress, of course, accepted that amendment. The Mensheviks particularly deserved ironic applause for voting in favour of it (noblesse oblige!) after L. Martov had called down thunder and lightning upon us in Otgoloski (No. 5) for the allegedly bourgeois-republican idea of carrying through the revolution to its consummation.
The Mensheviks’ unsuccessful ruse rendered us very good service, because on account of this amendment the Congress understood the very important idea in another of our resolutions which had not been presented to the Congress—the resolution on the class tasks of the proletariat.
There is no need to record the present attitude to the Cadets, said a prominent Menshevik (Martynov, I believe) at the Congress, who wanted, one might say, to enable the Mensheviks to turn their flight into an orderly retreat. The Cadets are not worth anything at the moment; all right, but do not record it for they may yet be worth something.
These words are an unfortunate formulation of a very significant Menshevik idea, which it is worth while dealing with to conclude our analysis of the question of the attitude to bourgeois parties. The wording is unfortunate because the resolution defining the class roots of present counter revolutionary policy does not preclude the possibility of using everything that can be of “value”. The important thing is the idea that, if the Cadets do not today justify the confidence of the Mensheviks, there was a time when they did.
This idea is fallacious. The Cadets have never justified Menshevik confidence in them. To convince ourselves of this, we have only to take the greatest upsurge of our revolution, the period between October and December 1905, and compare it to the present period, probably the period of greatest decline. Neither at the time of the greatest upsurge nor at the time of the greatest decline did the Cadets justify the confidence of the Mensheviks; they did not confirm the correctness of Menshevik tactics but disproved it by their behaviour. In the period of upsurge the Mensheviks themselves engaged in an active struggle against the liberals (recall Nachalo), and at present the totality of voting in the Second Duma speaks most clearly in favour of a “Left bloc” policy, and against the policy of support for the Cadets.
The future historian of Social-Democracy in Russia will have to call the period between the greatest upsurge and the greatest decline of our revolution an epoch of vacillation. At that time, Social-Democracy, as personified by the Mensheviks, wavered in the direction of liberalism. The year of disputes (end of 1904-end of 1905) was the historical preparation of disputed questions and of a general assessment of them. A year and a half of revolution (end of 1905-mid 1907) was the practical test of those disputed questions in the realm of practical politics. In practice, this test demonstrated the complete fiasco of the policy of support for liberalism; this test led to the recognition of the one and only revolutionary policy of the proletariat in the bourgeois revolution—the struggle to carry the revolution through to its consummation, winning over the democratic peasantry to the proletariat, against the treachery of liberalism.
It would be risky to say that the London Congress has put an end to that period of Social-Democratic hankering after liberalism. However, a serious step has, in any case, been taken towards putting an end to it.
P. S. The bourgeois press is making excessive use of the forced silence of the Social-Democrats and the “semi-legality” of the London Congress, to malign the Bolsheviks as though they were dead. It stands to reason that without a daily newspaper we cannot think of keeping pace with the non-party Tovarishch, in which the former Social-Democrat, A. Brahm, and also Mr. Yuri Pereyaslavsky and tutti quanti are performing a real cancan; thank goodness there were no minutes, and they can lie with impunity. These articles by the Brahms, Pereyaslavskys & Co., contain nothing but the usual spitefulness of non-party bourgeois intellectuals, so that mere mention of these articles is enough for them to be treated with the contempt they deserve. The interview with Mr. Struve is another matter; it was reported in Birzheviye Vedomosti and, I believe, has not yet been refuted. Besides contempt it deserves a scientific study of that—er—specimen. His gravitation towards the Octobrists and his hatred of the Lefts are a truly classic expression of the innate tendencies of liberalism. Mr. Struve admits the truth of the old rumours that he voted for the Octobrist during the election to the bureau (of the Duma) and that he, in general, conducted negotiations and took part in conferences with the Octobrists. He favours unification with the Octobrists! Thank you, Mr. Struve, for your splendid confirmation of what was said last autumn in Proletary (No. 5—“An Attempt at a Classification of the Political Parties of Russia”) about the Octobrists and the Cadets! Mr. Struve senses the impotence of the bourgeois intelligentsia and wants to shift liberalism’s centre of gravity closer to the propertied classes. An agreement with the Crown will not come off with liberals of the Cadet type—so down with the Cadets, let it come off at least with “liberals” of the Octobrist type. That is consistent. And it is to our advantage, for it brings clarity and definiteness into the situation. A new landlord Duma; a new election law that separates, splendidly and with all desirable precision, the reliable land lords and bourgeois tycoons from the unreliable peasants, urban petty bourgeoisie and workers. A new trend in liberalism; Mr. Struve’s war against “the adventurous politics of the Lefts” with their “exploitation of the dark social instincts of the undeveloped peasant masses” (“social instincts” is illiterate but is all the clearer in its illiteracy. Mr. Struve’s writing will apparently be the more illiterate and clearer, the closer that gentleman approaches to the Union of the Russian People, which already stands quite close to him).
This was by no means fortuitous. As an intellectualist party, bourgeois liberalism is impotent. It is impotent outside the struggle against the revolutionary (“dark social instincts”) peasantry. Liberalism is impotent outside a close alliance with the moneybags, with the mass of the landlords and factory owners,... with the Octobrists. There’s no getting away from the truth. We said to the Cadets long ago: “That thou doest, do quickly.” Those in favour of an agreement with the Crown—go to the Octobrists, to the Stolypins, to the Union of the Russian People.
Those in favour of the people—follow the Social-Democrats, who alone have conducted and are now conducting a ruthless struggle against liberalism’s influence over the Trudoviks.
There were some people who thought that precisely the Mensheviks’ policy was capable of splitting the Cadets. A naïve illusion! Only the Left-bloc policy of revolutionary Social-Democracy has and will split the Cadets. Only that policy will accelerate the inevitable demarcation—bourgeois liberals to the Octobrists, bourgeois democrats to the Trudoviks. In future as heretofore, Social-Democracy will compel these latter to choose between consistent proletarian democracy and liberalism.
Go boldly onward, politicians à la Struve!
- The full victory of the revolution, said the Bolsheviks, is possible only as a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.—Lenin
- See present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 225-31.— Ed.