The Political Significance of Vituperation
|Written||24 June 1914|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 378-380
(On the QUESTION of UNITY)[edit source]
Can abusive language have political significance?—the reader will ask.
Undoubtedly. Here is an example taken from a field all class-conscious workers are interested in.
We, Pravdists, are abused for “usurpers”, people who seize power illegally. In March 1912, the Plekhanovites, Vperyodists, Trotskyists, the liquidators, and a host of other groups “united” to abuse us in this way.
Now, in June 1914, after a lapse of two odd years, the supporters of Yedinstvo, the liquidators, Vperyodists, Trotskyists and probably a dozen other groups, are once more “uniting” to abuse us.
To help the reader grasp the political significance of this vituperation, we ask him to recall certain elementary things that the supporters of Yedinstvo and Co. are trying to “talk away” with their clamour and abuse.
“They” have all declared the Conference of January 1912 to be an act of usurpation, illegal seizure of power. That Conference, they argue, had no right to call itself the supreme organ of the entire Marxist body.
Splendid, gentlemen! But see how the political facts expose the inanity and falsity of your phrases.
Let us assume that you are right, and that the Conference of January 1912 was an “illegal seizure of power”. What follows from that?
It follows that all the groups, trends and circles, and all the Social-Democrats who resented this “illegal seizure of power”, should have stood up for the “law”. Is that not so? They should have united, not only to vilify the usurpers, but also to overthrow them.
This would seem indisputable, would it not?
It would seem that the brave Plekhanov, the courageous Trotsky, the bold Vperyodists and the noble liquidators could not have united to abuse the usurpers without also uniting for the purpose of overthrowing the usurpers.
If our heroes had not done that, they would have shown themselves to be mere windbags, would they not?
And what had to be done to overthrow the “usurpers”?
All that the noble protestants against usurpation had to do was to get together without the usurpers, condemn them, and show the workers a practical example, a fact—a fact and not promises, deeds and not phrases—of what legitimate bodies are like, as distinct from usurpatory ones.
Only a person who regards all class-conscious workers in Russia as idiots could fail to agree that what these workers would have done, on seeing the united activities of the noble protestants against the “usurpers”, would be to support these protestants, throw out the usurpers, and treat them with ridicule and scorn!
Clear enough, it would seem?
One would think it absolutely indisputable that it was the bounden duty, not only of every Marxist, but of every self-respecting democrat, to unite with all opponents of “usurpation”, with the purpose of overthrowing the usurpers.
What actually happened?
What happened two years after our noble opponents of “usurpation” took the field against the usurpers?
What happened was that the “usurpers” united 4/5 (four fifths) of all the class-conscious workers of Russia around their decisions.
For two-and-a-half years, from January 1, 1912, to May 13, 1914, the Pravdist newspapers received financial support from 5,674 workers’ groups, while the noble opponents of “usurpation”, the liquidators and their friends, received the support of 1,421 workers’ groups.
The “usurpers” brought about the unity of four-fifths of the workers of Russia, not merely in word, but in deed.
The noble enemies of “usurpation”, however, went up in smoke, for their August bloc collapsed; Trotsky, the Letts, the Caucasian leaders, etc., fell away in separate little groups, which, in the actual movement, proved to be mere cyphers, both individually and collectively.
How is this miracle to be explained?
How could four-fifths of the workers stand for vile “usurpation” against the numerous, manifold, noble enemies of usurpation who represented “a multitude of trends”?
Reader, this could and had to happen for the following reason: in politics abusive language often serves as a screen for utter lack of principles and sterility, impotence, angry impotence, on the part of those who use such language.
That is all there is to it.
But in spite of all the abuse that is heaped on the Pravdists, “usurpers”, Leninists, etc., the class-conscious workers are uniting, and will continue to uniter around the principles and tactics of consistent Marxism. Despite all this kind of language, they recognise unity only from below, the unity of the workers based on condemnation of liquidationism, on acceptance of all the decisions of the “entire Marxist body”. The subordination of the minority to the majority, not compromise with intellectualist groups—only this can serve as the principle of the working-class movement.