Special pages :
The Jubilee Number of Zihna
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 16, pages 260-264.
Zihna (Struggle)—a newspaper, the Central Organ of the Lettish Social-Democrats, founded in March 1904. It was issued at considerable intervals in Riga, Brussels and Petrograd; from 1919 it was the organ of the Communist Party of Latvia.
When the comrade delegated by the Central Committee of the Social-Democratic Party of the Lettish Region made a report on the status of work in the Social-Democratic Party of the Lettish Region at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (this report was summarised in No. 12 of our Party’s Central Organ), we were left with the impression of an unusually “normal” and painless development of the Lettish Social-Democratic movement during the difficult times through which we are passing. What created this impression was that the, Social-Democratic Party of the Lettish Region, being the most proletarian in composition and with a mainly working-class leadership, has already, in accordance with the demands of objective circumstances, proceeded to work out special tactics and solve the organisational problems of this protracted period of counter-revolution. During the revolution the Lettish proletariat and the Lettish Social-Democratic Party occupied one of the first and most prominent places in the struggle against the autocracy and all the forces of the old order. Incidentally, it is not without interest to note that the official strike statistics of 1905 (published by the Ministry of Trade and Industry) show that Livonian Gubernia takes first place for the persistence of the proletarian strike movement. In 1905 the number of factory workers in Livonian Gubernia totalled 53,917, while the number of strikers was 268,507, i.e., almost five times (4.38) as many! In that year every worker in Livonian Gubernia went on strike on the average 5 times. Next after Livonian Gubernia comes Baku Gubernia, where each factory worker struck 4.56 times, Tiflis Gubernia—4.49 times, Petrokov Gubernia—4.98 times and St. Petersburg—4.19. In Moscow Gubernia in 1905 the number of workers on strike came to 276,563, i.e., only a few more than in Livonian Gubernia, although the total number of factory workers in Moscow Gubernia is five times as large as in Livonian Gubernia (285,769 against 53,917). We see from this how much more class-conscious, unanimous and revolutionary the Lettish proletariat was in its activity. But we also know that its role of vanguard in the offensive against absolutism was not limited to strike action: it was in the van of the armed uprising, it contributed most of all to raising the movement to the highest level, i.e., the level of an up rising. It succeeded more than any other in drawing the Lettish agricultural proletariat and the Lettish peasantry into the great revolutionary struggle against tsarism and the landlords.
Besides being one of the leading contingents of Russian Social-Democracy during the revolution, the Lettish workers’ party has proved to be in the front ranks too during the difficult period of counter-revolution. We learned from the report mentioned above that no special trend has arisen among the Lettish Social-Democrats either of an infatuation for revolutionary phrases (like our “otzovists”) or of an infatuation for legal opportunities (like our liquidators, who reject the illegal Party and stand aside from the task of restoring and strengthening the RSDLP). The Lettish Social-Democratic workers have succeeded in setting about the work of utilising all kinds of legal avenues: the legal unions, various workingmen’s associations, the Duma tribune, etc. Moreover they have not in the least “liquidated” the illegal, revolutionary Social-Democratic Party; on the contrary, they have everywhere preserved the workers’ illegal Party units, which will uphold and continue the traditions of the great revolutionary struggle, training by steady and persistent effort increasingly numerous and class-conscious masses of combatants drawn from the young generations of the working class.
There is no doubt that among the causes to which the success of the Lettish Social-Democrats is due we must assign the foremost place to the higher development of capitalism, both in town and countryside, the greater clarity and definiteness of the class contradictions, their aggravation by national oppression, the concentration of the Lettish population and its superior cultural development. In all these respects the situation in which the Russian working class has to develop and operate is much less developed. It is this underdevelopment that is now engendering a more acute crisis in the Russian section of the RSDLP The petty-bourgeois intellectuals in our movement play a big role. They bring liabilities as well as assets: they bring not only the elaboration of questions of theory and tactics but an “elaboration” of every deviation from the Social-Democratic path into a distinct “trend”, as, for example, “otzovism” and “liquidationism”.
We venture to express the hope that the Lettish Social-Democrats, who have every reason to be proud of their successes, will not consider these vexed questions of the RSDLP beneath their dignity.
The more class-conscious the proletariat, the more clearly does it visualise its Social-Democratic aims, the more vigorously does it fight against all petty-bourgeois distortions in the workers’ movement, the more is it concerned to free its less developed working-class comrades from the influence of petty-bourgeois opportunism.
The liquidationist trend in the RSDLP is a product of the petty-bourgeois relations in Russia. The whole liberal bourgeoisie takes its stand against the revolution, repudiates it, anathematises the tactics of 1905, which, it says, were “bloody and abortive”, grovels before the powers that be, exhorts the people to confine themselves to legal methods of struggle. And the petty-bourgeois intellectuals in our Party succumb to the influence of counter-revolutionary liberalism. A history of the revolution has been published in five volumes (The Social Movement in Russia at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century, edited by Maslov, Martov and Potresov). This history in effect propagates the doctrine of the renegades, that the proletariat “over estimated” its strength and “underestimated” the strength of the bourgeoisie, and so forth. Actually what the masses of the proletariat did underestimate was the treachery of the bourgeoisie; they overestimated the strength of the bourgeoisie in the fight for freedom, and underestimated their own forces—the force of the offensive of the oppressed and exploited millions.
Legal journals are being published (Nasha Zarya and Vozrozhdeniye) which preach the doctrine that to restore and strengthen the illegal Party, our old R..S.D.L.P. that has stood the test of years, is a “reactionary utopia”. The illegal Menshevik organ —Golos Sotsial-Demokrata—comes out in defence of such gentlemen and proclaims the slogan: “Fight for legality.” One of the most prominent leaders of Menshevism, Plekhanov, leaves the editorial board and staff of contributors of all these publications, declaring war on them and appealing to the Mensheviks—the pro-Party Mensheviks—to support and strengthen the revolutionary, illegal party of the proletariat—the RSDLP
Thus our Party has begun a decisive fight against groups of independent legalists who wrongly call themselves Social-Democrats. In reality they are wrecking the cause of the Social-Democrats, they are destroying the Social-Democratic organisation of the working class, changing it into amorphous legal groups which have no principles and which are in fact making the working class dependent on the ideology of the liberals and on liberal political leadership.
About ten years ago our Party carried through a struggle against so-called Economism, which was very much akin to the liquidationism of today. Now the struggle is more difficult, since all the forces of the counter-revolution—not only of the old but also of the new (modern), liberal-bourgeois counter-revolution—are bent on doing away with the traditions of 1905 among the proletariat and destroying its illegal Social-Democratic Party. But the working class, which knew how to lead the Revolution of 1905, will undoubtedly overcome all these deviations from the Social-Democratic path.
Before the Revolution of 1905 the Social-Democrats worked for twenty years in totally illegal circles and built up a party which is leading millions towards the overthrow of the autocracy. Now, after the revolution we can—and, consequently, we must—not only continue the work of the illegal Party units, but increase this work tenfold, surround the Party units with a dense network of legal organisations, utilise the tribune of the black-reactionary Duma for our agitation, instil among the mass of the workers the lessons learned in the revolutionary struggle, and create a Social-Democratic Party which will lead tens of millions of people to a new onslaught against the autocracy.
- ↑ This refers to the works of V. Y. Varzar, Statistics of Strikes at Factories During 1905 and Statistics of Strikes at Factories During the Three Years 1906–08, published in St. Petersburg by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1908 and 1910.