The State of Affair’s in Russian Social-Democracy
|Written||26 July 1915|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 21, pages 281-286.
The second issues of the Organising Committee’s Izvestia and of NasheDyeio reveal this state of affairs in a most instructive and illuminating way. Both papers, each in its own way, and in accordance with their places of publication and their political aim, are purposefully directing their efforts towards strengthening social-chauvinism.
Nashe Dyelo has not only failed to inform the readers of any differences or shades of opinion among its editors, has not only failed, to raise the faintest objection to “Potresovism”, but has voiced, in a special “editorial” statement (p. 19), its solidarity with Potresovism by declaring that “internationalism” calls for an “orientation in the international situation” which will help decide the success of which bourgeoisie in the present war is more desirable to the proletariat. This means that all the editors are basically and essentially social-chauvinists. Besides, it is only on shades of social-chauvinism that the editors disagree with Kautsky, whose pamphlet, entirely devoted to justification of international social-chauvinism, they have endowed with such epithets as “brilliant”, “exhaustive” and “theoretically valuable”. Whoever has eyes to see cannot but notice that the Nashe Dyelo’s editors are, firstly, thereby sanctioning Russian chauvinism, and secondly, have expresssed readiness to amnesty international social-chauvinism and reconcile themselves to it.
In the section “In Russia and Abroad”, the paper quotes the views of Piekhanov and Axeirod, which the editors (with good reason) do not distinguish between. A special note, again editorial (p. 103), declares that Plekhanov’s “views coincide in many respects” with [hose of Nashe Dyelo.
The picture could not be clearer. That legalist “current” which finds expression in Nashe Dyelo and, thanks to a thousand links with the liberal bourgeoisie, has, alone out of the entire “Brussels bloc”, been a reality in Russia in 1910-15, has fully consolidated arid completed its opportunist development, supplementing liquidationism with social-chauvinism. The actual programme of that group, which was expelled from our Party in January 1912, has been augmented with a new and very important item: the propagation in the working class of ideas which call for the preservation and enlargement, even at the price of war if necessary, of the dominantnation advantages and privileges of the Great-Russian landowners and bourgeoisie.
An attempt to conceal this political reality with “Left” phrases and quasi-Social-Democratic ideology—such is the actual political significance of the legal activities of the Chkheidze group and of the Organising Committee’s illegal activities. In the realm of ideology the “neither-victory-nor-defeat” slogan; in the realm of practice—an anti-“split” struggle which permeates literally all the articles in Izvestia’s second issue, particularly those by Martov, Yonov, and Mashinadze—such is the businesslike and (from the opportunists’ standpoint) perfectly correct programme of “peace” with Nashe Dyelo and Plekhanov. Read the letter of Mr. Aiexinsky, the “former revolutionary”, in Rech No. 143 (May 27, 1915), on “defence of the country” as the “task of democracy”, and you will see that this zealous henchman of Plekhanov, the chauvinist of today, will get fully reconciled to the slogan of “neither victory nor defeat”. In fact, this is a slogan common to Plekhanov, Nashe Dyelo, Axeirod and Kosovsky, Martov and Semkovsky, who will of course (no doubt about that!) keep their “quite legitimate shades” and “differences on details”. In the ideological sense and on the fundamentals, this fraternity are content with accepting as common ground the slogan of “neither victory nor defeat” (speaking parenthetically; whose victories or defeats? Obviously, those of the existing governments, of the present-day ruling classes!). In the sphere of practical policies, they are content with the “unity” slogan, i.e., unity with Nashe Dyelo, which means acceptance of the fact that, in Russia, Nashe Dyelo will, with the aid of the Chkheidze group, continue to conduct serious policies and do serious work among the masses (“serious” in the bourgeois sense), while abroad and underground, the Organising Committee and Co. will permit themselves “Left” petty reservations and near-revolutionary phrases, and so on and so forth. Let us harbour no illusions: the Brussels bloc which immediately fell apart, thus proving that it contained nothing but hypocrisy, is, for that very reason, highly suited to covering up a politically unsavoury situation. In July 1914, it covered Nasha Zarya and Severnaya Rahochaya Gazeta with non-committal near-Left resolutions. In July 1915, there is as yet no “meeting of friends” and no “Minutes”, but there is already an agreement, in principle, between the chief “actors” regarding joint concealment of the social-chauvinism of Nashe Dyelo, Plekhanov and Axeirod by using the same kind of near-Left phrases. A year has passed, a grave and important year in the history of Europe. It has become apparent that the abscess of national liberal-labour politics has asphyxiated most of the Social-Democratic parties of Europe and that it has come to a head within liquidationism too—but the “friends”, like the musicians in Krylov’s fable “The Quartet” have only changed seats to strike up in chorus and in false tones the same old song: Unity, unity—(with Nashe Dyelo)!
The example of Nashe Slovo, which comes out in Paris, is particularly instructive to sincere adherents of “unity”. Issue No. 2 of the Organising Committee’s Izvestia has dealt Naslie Sieve a mortal blow so that the latter’s demise (political or “physical”, it does not matter very much) is now only a matter of time. Issue No. 2 of the Organising Committee’s Izvestia has “killed” Nashe Slovo simply by declaring that Martov (who found himself a member of the Organising Committee’s secretariat, evidently having been “unanimously” co-opted by Semkovsky and Axelrod, probably in exchange for his consent to repeat no more unguarded phrases about the “death” of Vorwärts) and “a good half of the contributors to Nashe Slovo, who are organisationally attached to the Organising Committee”, have admitted their error; they have admitted that they “naïvely” (Martov in the role of an ingénu, quite an eyeful!) considered Nashe Slovo the “joint organ of the Russian internationlists”, whereas in reality Nashe Slovo proved to be both “factional” and “pursuing splitting [for his part, Semkovsky has added “anarcho-syndicalist”] tendencies”, and also “making excuses to Lenin’s Sotsial-Demokrat”.
The public have seen three Nashe Slovo elements, which for seven or eight months have been unsuccessfully trying to unite. These are: (1) two Left-wing members of the editorial staff (Nashe Siovo No, 107) who sincerely sympathise with internationalism and gravitate towards Sotsial-Demokrat (see the resolution of greeting addressed to them by the Paris group of our Party, in Nashe Slovo No. 122); (2) Martov and the Organising Committee members ("a good half"); (3) Trotsky, who as always entirely disagrees with the social-chauvinists in principle, but agrees with them in everything in practice (incidentally, thanks to the “felicitous mediation”—is that what they call it in diplomatic language?—of the Chkheidze group).
Sincere friends of unity must he asking themselves: why did Nashe Slovo collapse and split? It is customary to explain splits by the misanthropic “splitting policy” of the horrible “Leninists” (the articles by Semkovsky in Izvestia No. 2, by Axeirod in Nashe Slovo, etc., etc.). These horrible people, however, took no part at all in Nashe Siovo and for this simple reason they could not have split away or left it.
What, then, is the reason? Was it accidental? Or was it because unity between Social-Democratic workers and the conductors of bourgeois influence (in reality agents of liberal and chauvinist bourgeoisie) who are centred in Nashe Dyelo is impossible and damaging?
Let the friends of “unity” ponder over this.
Of the European Social-Democrats, Kautsky and Haase, jointly with Bernstein himself, have come out—in some-what different surroundings and form—in favour of “unity”. Sensing that the masses are swinging towards the Left, these “authorities” are proposing peace to the Left Social-Democrats, on the tacit condition of peace with the Sfldekums. To renounce, in word, the “policy of August 4”; to paper over the rift between the national liberal-labour policies and the Social-Democratic working-class policies, with the aid of some non-committal (in certain respects not unfavourable even to Hindenburg and Joifre) “peace” phrases (the peace slogan being highly suited to the purpose), and by platonically denouncing annexations, etc.—such, approximately, is Kautsky’s and Bernstein’s programme, which the French social-chauvinists would not he loath to join, as may be seen from the tone of some statements in l’Humanité. The British in the Independent Labour Party will, of course, heartily support such an amnesty for social-chauvinism if only it is concealed by a number of compliments for the Left. The Organising Committee members and Trotsky seem to be predestined to hang on to the coat-tails of Kautsky and Bernstein, at the present juncture.
We consider this leftward turn by the leader of the opportunists and the loader of the hypocritical chauvinists of the “radical” camp a farce designed to save what is rotten in Social-Democracy, by means of a bow towards the Left, with the aim of bolstering the national liberal-labour policies at the price of petty verbal concessions to the “Lefts”.
The objective situation in Europe is such that, among the masses, disappointment, dissatisfaction, protest, indignation, and revolutionary temper are mounting, which, at a certain stage of that temper’s development, may turn into action with incredible speed. Either aid the growth and development of revolutionary action against one’s own bourgeoisie and one’s own government, or else hamper, soothe and extinguish the revolutionary temper—this is the only practical way in which the issue now stands. To achieve the latter of these alternatives, the liberal bourgeoisie and the opportunists will agree (and, from the standpoint of their interests must agree) to any verbal concessions to the Left, to any number of promises concerning disarmament, peace, the repudiation of annexations, reforms of every kind, anything under the sun, if only a rupture between the masses and their opportunist leaders, and a resumption of more and more serious revolutionary action can be averted.
Do not trust any high-sounding programmes, we say to the masses; rely on your own mass revolutionary action against your governments and your bourgeoisie and try to build up such action; there is no escape from barbarism, no possibility of progress in Europe, without a civil war for socialism.
P. S. This article had already been set when we received a collection of articles under the title of The War, by Mr. Plekhanov and the “former revolutionary” Mr. Alexinsky and Co. This is an assortment of sophisms and lies by social-chauvinists, who would make the tsarism’s reactionary war of plunder appear “just”, “defensive”, etc.! We would bring this disgraceful sheaf of servility to tsarism to the attention of all those who honestly wish to understand why the Second International has collapsed. It is, incidentally, noteworthy that these outspoken social-chauvinists are eniireiy satisfied both with Chkheidzo and his entire group. The Organising Committee, Trotsky, Plekhanov, and Alexinsky and Co. are naturally also satisfied with the Chkheidze group because for years the latter have proved their skill in shielding the opportunists and serving them.
Messrs. Plekhanov and Alexinsky are shamelessly lying about the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma, now exiled to Siberia. The time is probably at hand when it will be possible to cite documents to refute these lies.
- Lenin is referring to the Mensheviks explled from the RSDLP at the Prague Confernce, January 1912.
- The allusion is the Krylov’s fable “The Quartet”.