The Collapse of Platonic Internationalism
|Written||21 May 1915|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 21, pages 194-198.
We have already pointed out (see Sotsial-Demokrat No. 41) that Nashe Slovo should at least come out with a definite platform if it wishes its internationalism to be taken seriously. As though in reply to us, No. 85 of Nashe Slovo (May 9), published the resolution passed at a meeting of its Paris staff and contributors. “Two members of the editorial staff,” we are informed, “while in agreement with the general content of the resolution, declared they would submit a dissenting opinion on the organisational methods of the Party’s internal policy in Russia.” This resolution is a most noteworthy document of political bewilderment and ineptness.
The word internationalism is reiterated time and again; “complete ideological divorcement from all the varieties of socialist nationalism” is announced, and the Stuttgart and Basle resolutions are quoted. The intentions are of the best, no doubt, but-it is all a mere phrase, since it is impossible and unnecessary to have a really “complete” divorcement from “all” extant varieties of social-nationalism, just as it is impossible and unnecessary to have a complete list of all the varieties of capitalist exploitation in order to become an enemy of capitalism. But it is necessary and possible to have an unmistakable line of cleavage with the main varieties, for instance, with that of Plekhanov, Potresov (Nashe Dyelo), the Bund, Axelrod, and Kautsky. The resolution promises too much, but gives nothing; it threatens a complete cleavage with all varieties, but is afraid to mention by name at least the most significant of them.
In the British Parliament it is considered a discourtesy to call a man by his name, the practice being to speak only of the respective “Noble Lord” or of the “Honourable Member” for whatever constituency he may represent. What excellent Anglomaniacs, what highly refined diplomats these Nashe Slovo people are! They evade the gist of the issue so gracefully, and are so polite when they provide their readers with formulas that serve to conceal their thoughts. They avow “friendship”(“Guizot in the flesh”, as one of Turgenev’s characters puts it) for all organisations “inasmuch as they apply... the principles of revolutionary internationalism”, but manifest “friendship” for those who do not apply those principles.
The “ideological divorcement” the Nashe Slovo people proclaim the more solemnly, the less willing and able they are to carry it out, must consist in explaining the origin. of social-nationalism, the source of its strength, and the means to combat it. The social-nationalists do not call themselves, and do not admit to being, social-nationalists. They are bending, and are compelled to bend, every effort to hide behind a pseudonym, to throw dust in the eyes of the working masses, to cover up the traces of their links with opportunism, to conceal their betrayal, i.e., their having gone over in fact to the side of the bourgeoisie, and their alliance with the governments and the General Staffs. Grounding themselves on this alliance, and in control of all the important positions, the social-nationalists are, more than anybody else, clamouring for “unity” between the Social-Democratic parties and levelling the accusation of splitting tendencies, against all those who are opposed to opportunism. Consider, for instance, the latest official circular released by the Executive (Vorstand) of the German Social-Democratic Party and directed against journals that stand for genuine internationalism—Lichtstrahlen^^113^ and Die Internationale. These journals did not have to avow either “friendship” for the revolutionaries or “complete ideological divorcement from all varieties of social-nationalism”. They just began with the divorcement, and done that in such a way that indeed “all varieties” of opportunists have raised a savage outcry, thus proving how squarely the arrows have hit the mark.
But what about Nashe Slovo?
It is rising up against social-nationalism, while still on bended knees before it, since it has failed to unmask the most dangerous defenders of this bourgeois current (such as Kautsky); it has not declared war against opportunism, but, on the contrary, has kept silent about it; it has not taken or indicated any real steps towards liberating socialism from its disgraceful patriotic fetters. By stating that neither unity nor a break with those who joined the bourgeoisie is imperative, Nashe Slovo has in fact surrendered to the opportunists, while at the same time making a fine gesture, which can be interpreted as meaning either that it is threatening the opportunists with its dreadful ire, or that it is waving a hand to them. Were the really deft opportunists, who have a fine appreciation of a blend of Left phrases and moderate practice, compelled to make reply to the Nashe Siovo resolution, they would most probably say something similar to the statement made by the two staff members, namely, that they are in agreement with the “general content”(because they are certainly not social-nationalists, Oh, no!); as for the “organisational methods of the Party’s internal policy” they will, in due course, submit, a “dissenting opinion”. They run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
When it had to deal with Russia, however, Nashe Slovo’s subtle diplomacy proved abortive.
“Party unification in the conditions of the previous period proved impossible in Russia,” says the resolution, which should be understood as meaning that unification of the working-class party with a group of legalist liquidators proved impossible. This is oblique recognition of the collapse of the Brussels bloc, which was formed to save the liquidators. Why is Nashe Siovo afraid openly to recognise this collapse? Why is it afraid openly to make the causes of this collapse clear to the workers? Is it not because the bloc’s collapse has proved the actual falseness of the policy pursued by all its members? Is it not because Nashe Slovo wishes to preserve “friendship” with two (at least two) “varieties” of social- nationalism, namely, with the Bundists and the Organising Committee (A.xelrod) both of whom have made press statements about their plans and their hopes to resurect the Brussels bloc?
“The new conditions... are cutting the ground from under the feet of the old groups ....”
Is not the reverse true? Far from eliminating liquidationism, the new conditions have not even shaken its basic nucleus (Nasha Zarya), notwithstanding all personal vacillations and changes of front. They have deepened and aggravated differences with that nucleus, since, besides being liquidationist, it has also turned social-nationalist! Nashe Slovo evades the question of liquidationism, which it finds so unpleasant; the old is being undermined by the new, it asserts, but it is silent about the new ground, the social-nationalist, under the feet of the old... liquidationism! What ridiculous shiftiness! We shall say nothing about Nasha Zarya because it is no more, and nothing about Nashe Dyelo, probably because Potresov, Cherevanin, Maslov and Co. may be regarded in the political sense, as babes in arms.
It is not only Potresov and Co., but themselves as well that the Nash Slovo editors would regard as babes in arms. Listen to this:
“Faced by the fact that the factional and inter-factional groupings created in the past serve, even at the present transitional moment, as the only [!} centres for the organisational unification, however imperfect, of the advanced workers, Nashe Slovo is of the opinion that the interests of its main activities in uniting the internationalists exclude both organisational submission of the paper, directly or indirectly, to any one of the old party groupings, and artificial unification of its fellow-thinkers into a separate group politically opposed to the old groupings.”
What does this mean? How is it to be taken? Inasmuch as the new conditions are undermining the old groupings, they recognise the latter as the only genuine ones! Inasmuch as the new conditions demand a new grouping, not on liquidationist principles, but on internationalism, they reject as “artificial” any unification of internationalists. This is the very acme of political impotence!
After two hundred days of propaganda of internationalism, Nashe Slovo has acknowledged its complete political bankruptcy. It wants neither “submission” to the old groupings (why so fear-stricken a word as “submission”? Why not “adhesion”, “support”, “solidarity with”?), nor the creation of new ones. We shall go on living in the old way, it says, in liquidationist groupings; we shall “submit” to them, while using Nashe Slovo as a blatant signboard, or regarding it as a promenade through the leafy gardens of internationalist phraseology. The Nashe Slovo writers will do the writing, while Nashe Slovo readers will do the reading.
For two hundred days these people were talking of uniting the internationalists, only to arrive at conclusion that they could unite nobody, not even themselves, the editors and staff of Nashe Slovo, and to proclaim that unification “artificial”. What a fillip for Potresov, the Bundists, and Axeirod! And what adroit deception of the workers! On the surface, resonant internationalist phrases from a truly non-factional Nashe Slovo that has thrown off the old and outworn groupings; in fact, however, the old groupings are the “only” points of unity.
Nashe Slovo’s ideological and political bankruptcy which it now admits, is no accident, but the inevitable result of vain attempts to shrug off, in word, the actual alignment of forces. In the working-class movement of Russia this alignment expresses itself in the struggle of the liquidationist and social-patriotic trend (Nashe Dyelo) against the Marxist Social-Democratic Labour Party, which has been restored by the January 1912 Conference, strengthened by the elections, in the worker curia, to the Fourth Duma, consolidated by the Pravdist papers of 1912-14, and represented by the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma. This Party has continued its struggle against the bourgeois trend of liquidationism by combating the no less bourgeois trend of social-patriotism. The correctness of the line of this Party, our Party, has been borne out by the vast and historic experience of the European war, and by the exiguous and lender experience of the latest, the one thousand and first non-factional attempt at unification on the part of Nashe Slovo: this attempt has suffered a fiasco, thereby confirming the resolution of the Berne Conference (Sotsial-Demokrat No. 40) concerning “platonic” internationalists.
Genuine internationalists will wish neither to remain in the old liquidationist groupings (concealing this from the workers) nor to stand outside of the groupings. They will come to our Party.
- See pp. 188–91 of this volume.—Ed.
- The reference is to the Governor of the town of S., a character in Turgenev’s story Virgin Soil.
- Die Intiernationale—a journal founded by Rosa Luxemburg and Franz Mehring. Only one issue appeared, in Berlin, April 1915. It resumed publication in Munich in 1922 under the name of Futurus.
- This refers to the phrase in Saltykov-Shchedrin’s “Miscellaneous Letters”—the writing is the business of the writer; the reader’s job is to do the reading.
- This refers to the Sixth (Prague) All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP, which took place in Prague on January 5-17 (18-30),
- See pp. 163–164 of this volume—Ed.