The Bourgeoisie and Reformism

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 29 January 1913


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Pravda No. 23, January 29, 1913. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 18, pages 534-535.
Collection(s): Pravda

The arguments of Rech concerning the urgent issue of strikes deserve the greatest attention on the part of the workers.

That liberal paper cited the following official data on the strike movement:

YearStrikesWorkers (thousand)
190513,9952,863
19066,1141,108
19073,573740
1908892176
190934064
191022247
1911466105
19121,918683

We would note in passing that the figures for 1912 are plainly understated, since the number of political strikers is given as only 511,000. Actually their number was about twice as great. We would, also recall that as late as May 1912 Rech denied the political character of our working-class movement, asserting that the whole movement was only economic. But we intend to deal now with another aspect of the matter.

How does our liberal bourgeoisie assess this fact?

“The main requirements of the political consciousness [why only consciousness??] of Russian citizens have yet to be met,” wrote Rech.

“The working class everywhere is the most mobile and most sensitive section of the urban democrats ... the most active section of the people.... Given constitutional conditions ... given a normal political situation ... there would not have been the loss of tens of thousands of working days [because of the Putilov strike] in an industry which today is of extreme importance in view of external complications” (No. 19).

The point of view of the bourgeoisie is clear. “We” want an imperialist policy, the conquest of foreign territory. “We” are handicapped by strikes. “We” lose surplus value because of the “lost” working days. “We” want to exploit the workers as “normally” as they do it in Europe.

Splendid, liberal gentlemen! Your desire is legitimate, and we are willing to support your effort if—if it is not futile and dead!

Rech continued: “It was not out of sympathy for liberties that Prussian statesmen [it ought to have said “Prussian landlords”] granted ‘the legalisation of the Social-Democratic Party’. Reforms bear proper fruit when granted in good time.”

Such is the consummate reformism of our bourgeoisie. It confines itself to wistful sighs; it wants to persuade the Purishkeviches without hurting their feelings, to make peace with them without removing them. It should be clear to any intelligent person that by virtue of its objective meaning (that is, regardless of the good intentions of individual little groups), the slogan of “legalisation of the Social-Democratic Party” is an inseparable component of this wretched and impotent bourgeois reformism.

We would make only one remark. Bismarck succeeded in his reforms only because he went further than reformism. As we know, he carried out a series of “revolutions from above”; he robbed one of the world’s richest countries of five thousand million francs, and he was in a position to give universal suffrage and genuine legality to a people intoxicated with a stream of gold and unprecedented military successes.

Do you imagine, liberal gentlemen, that something of the kind could happen in Russia?? Why, then, did you declare reforms in Russia to be hopeless even in the case of the Archangel Zemstvo (a “reform”, indeed!)??