The Vperyod Faction

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The Vperyod group has published in Paris a “symposium of articles on current questions” entitled Vperyod. Together with Comrade Sazhin’s[1] pamphlet (On the Question of the Regeneration of the Party), which was “published by private donation” and is obtainable through the editors of the symposium Vperyod, and the separate leaflet issued over the signature of the Vperyod group and the platform of this group, the Party has now more than sufficient material by which to judge the Vperyodists.

The platform of the Vperyodists is characterised by the following three features. Firstly: of all the groups and factions within our Party it has been the first to give prominence to philosophy and that under cover of a pseudonym. “Proletarian culture”, “proletarian philosophy”—these are the words used in the platform. They are a pseudonym for Machism, i.e., a defence of philosophical idealism under various garbs (empirio-criticism, empirio-monism, etc.). Secondly: in the political sphere the group has declared otzovism “a legitimate shade of opinion” and reported that some otzovists, members of this group, disagreed with the definition of the Party’s tasks in regard to the State Duma. The definition itself given in the Vperyod platform is so unclear and confused that it can only be described as an adaptation to the otzovist ideology. Thirdly, and lastly, the platform emphatically condemned factionalism and demanded the unification of factions, their coalition into one party.

And so we have as a result—if we begin from the end—one very good aspiration and two screens on the part of very bad ideological and political trends which stand for a break with Marxism and the subordination of the proletariat to bourgeois ideology and policy. The Vperyod symposium shows vividly what products can result from such a mixture.

The author of the leading article in the symposium, Maximov, keeps strictly to the diplomacy used in the platform, speaking of “proletarian culture” without any explanation of what he means by this. In an article which claims to be a popular exposition this game of hide-and-seek is strikingly obvious. What kind of popular exposition is this if not a single reader; unless he happens to be personally acquainted with Maximov or has already followed the whole controversy about Machism and relating to Machism, is able to understand the true meaning of such a phrase? What kind of popular exposition is this when the same Maximov, on page 4 of the symposium, speaks of the “danger to proletarian socialism” represented by those offshoots of the intelligentsia who “uncritically accept and propagate ideas of bourgeois science and philosophy that are incorrect and harmful to the proletariat...”?

The dots are Maximov’s. We do not know if they are meant to signify a shamefaced silence. But we are quite sure that to speak, especially in a “popular” article, of the harmfulness of “bourgeois philosophy” to the proletariat without specifying clearly and exactly which philosophy he is referring to, is to have recourse to the worst form of factional diplomacy. If you consider bourgeois philosophy an important question and raise it in the leading article of a “popular” symposium, then have the courage to speak straight out, defend your ideas and do not conceal them.

Comrade Sazhin, presumably in the capacity of a “practical” man, spoils Maximov’s diplomacy most impolitely.”[2] On page 31 of his pamphlet he demands that “Party members” must be “ensured” “complete freedom for their revolutionary and philosophical thought”.

This slogan is thoroughly opportunist. In all countries this kind of slogan has been put forward in the socialist parties only by opportunists and in practice has meant nothing but “freedom” to corrupt the working class with bourgeois ideology. “Freedom of thought” (read: freedom of the press, speech and conscience) we demand from the state (not from a party) together with freedom of association. The party of the proletariat, however, is a free association, instituted to combat the “thoughts” (read: the ideology) of the bourgeoisie, to defend and put into effect one definite world outlook, namely, Marxism. This is the ABC. Yet their false political position has caused Maximov, Sazhin and Co. to forget this ABC. It was not their personal hypocrisy but the falsity of their political position that made them propagate bourgeois slogans. The falsity consists in the fact that some Vperyodists long with all their heart and soul to drag the proletariat back, to the ideas of bourgeois philosophy (Machism), while others are indifferent to philosophy and merely demand “complete freedom” ... for Machism. Hence they are obliged one and all to practice diplomacy, to confuse the issue, to play hide-and-seek and to clutch at bourgeois slogans.

And what does “complete freedom of revolutionary thought” really mean? Nothing but freedom for otzovist and other semi-anarchist ideas. In other words, the same thing is said here as is expressed in the “platform” of the Vperyodists by the phrase about recognising otzovism to be a “legitimate shade of opinion”. The result is again petty diplomacy with ideas, playing hide-and-seek, and hypocrisy, due entirely to the same false ideological and political position: we are not Machists, but we are in favour of “complete freedom” for Machism (in the Party); we are not otzovists, but we are in favour of “complete freedom” for the otzovist shade of opinion, or more generally: “for revolutionary thought"! The confusion is further confound ed by the fact that two Vperyodists over their personal signatures (Sazhin and Rabochy Ar.[3]) vigorously maintain the importance and necessity of utilising legal opportunities and the Duma tribune. “The Social-Democrats,” writes Rabochy Ar., “must combat those who are carrying on agitation [but who is carrying on this agitation, Comrade Ar.? Is it not your Vperyodists?] against any utilisation whatsoever [think of that!] of legal opportunities, because such a mode of action is not Social-Democratic” (pp. 48–49 of the symposium). And the same Ar., repeating these words of the Bolsheviks of the Proletary trend, violently abuses Proletary (post factum) because it allegedly painted the Vperyodists in strange colours! That is what is called retreating all along the line, surrendering all your positions, condemning in the press (again without saying it straight forwardly) those friends of yours, those Vperyodists who once passed a resolution, for instance, to boycott a congress of factory doctors—and covering your retreat, your capitulation, by a beating of drums for battle. Shabby factional diplomacy!

Just take a look at the writings of the “Vperyodists” on the question of factions and factionalism. The “platform” condemned factions and demanded their dissolution. Sazhin fulminates against the factional centres, the “leaders abroad”, and so on and so forth. The Vperyodists have shed an ocean of tears over factionalism, have talked them selves hoarse on the subject.

But what have they done? The whole history of the Vperyod group since the January (1910) “unity” plenum has been the formation of a faction from abroad. Here is an excerpt from a letter (July 15, 1910) sent by a Russian functionary to a member of the Central Committee Bureau Abroad:

“There is a committee (in St. Petersburg) and, in addition, there is a group of Vperyodists with a separate fund and secretary. Money was received from abroad. In Moscow...”—then follows the name of a person who is very close to one of the most prominent otzovists and a comment on the prosecution of such a policy.

Nobody who has any knowledge of Party affairs, or has paid any attention to the policy of the Vperyod literary group, can doubt for a single moment that they have been organising a faction from abroad. That the notorious “school in X.—” was the foreign centre of a new faction was stated in print in July 1909,[4] and since then even the most unconcerned and uninformed Social-Democrats have become convinced of this fact. The famous “platform” was drawn up abroad by eight intellectuals and seven worker-students. The part played by these workers, who hastily gave their signatures to the slogans of “proletarian philosophy” and recognition of otzovism as a “legitimate shade of opinion” is too obvious to deserve any further comment. We have here a clear-cut case of the formation of a faction by a group of literati abroad, who indeed behave like “khans” (Voinov’s[5] expression in the Vperyod symposium), for they themselves are conscious of their despotism, concealing from the public what is most dear to them, i. e., the bourgeois philosophy of Machism and otzovism. The Vperyodists cry out against “leaders abroad” and at the same time form an organisation which in actual fact is a mere adjunct to a handful of literati abroad; they cry out against faction and themselves secretly create a new, petty, lifeless and sectarianly empirio-monistic faction. The political source of all this hypocrisy is that the real leaders of the faction find it impossible to come out openly and directly in favour of the things that are really dear to them.

We shall confine ourselves to two particularly glaring examples of hypocrisy. On page 53 of the symposium, Rabochy Ar. declares that the Bureau of the Central Commit tee in Russia “is not doing a damned thing” (these words of course are ascribed to a “Leninist” worker who is alleged to have agitated the “Vperyodist” in this strain. Oh, the naive cunning of “Rabochy Ar.”!) and that the Vperyodist (again with the “Leninist” and, of course, on his instigation) proposed that the “Moscow organisation be declared independent of the Russian Central Committee and no longer subordinate to its instructions”.

Beginning with January 1910 the Bureau of the Russian Central Committee worked hard to restore the central organisation in spite of the opposition both of the Golosist liquidators (the famous Mikhail, Roman and Yuri incident) and of the Vperyodists (who at this time were building their own little faction from abroad against the Central Committee). And now all these Vperyodists are shedding crocodile tears over the “inaction” of the Bureau of the CC! These Vperyodists, who are actually entirely “independent” of the Party, and are entirely anti-Party factionalists, write in a popular symposium that local organisations must be declared “independent” of the CC.

Another example. In the same symposium an anonymous “member of the Party” exercises himself in some hack writer’s criticism of the financial report of the CC Bureau Abroad. Among other things the anonymous hack writes on p. 60: “What kind of ‘trustees’ [the report speaks of money received from trustees], why they are ‘holding in trust’, or have, been ‘holding in trust’, money of the CC, and for what ‘special purposes’ this money is destined, is something which nobody will understand here.”

That is just how it is printed. Nobody will understand.

It is written by members of that same Vperyod group which had two representatives at the January plenum that heard the statement of the Bolsheviks about their conditional transfer of money to “trustees” (i. e., to three of the best known representatives of the International Social-Democratic movement). What money, from what source, who were the trustees, and so on—all this was fully known to the plenum, i. e., to all the factions, i. e., to the “Vperyodists” as well. Yet in a “popular” symposium for the deception of the workers, the Vperyodists write “nobody will understand.”

It is written in that same Vperyod symposium, whose first two articles were signed by Maximov and Domov.[6] Both these Vperyodists are perfectly aware of the whole history of the receipt of this money by the Bolsheviks and its transfer to the trustees. And now, since it would be “awkward” for them to come forward personally and declare that “nobody will understand”, they select for this commission anonymous hack writers, who call themselves “members of the Party” on the occasion of their anti-Party conduct. Through these anonymous hacks Maximov and Domov in a “popular” symposium tell the workers a deliberate untruth, that “nobody will understand” what kind of “trustees” these are, and so on. And these gentlemen beat their breasts and harangue against “factions” and “leaders abroad”.

Through an anonymous “Party member” they “criticise” the financial report of the Central Committee while they themselves announce on the first page of their symposium that hitherto “lack of funds” prevented their group from publishing a newspaper but “now this obstacle has been re moved”. So the Vperyod group has now received funds. Pleasant news for the Vperyodists, no doubt. But what a “nerve” you must have, oh most honourable Vperyodists, to utter in print through an anonymous hack in a “popular” symposium a deliberate untruth about the Central Committee to the effect that “nobody will understand” who the “trustees” are and what money is in their possession, and at the same time say never a word to the CC or the other factions about what money “Vperyod” has received and what literati are disposing of it? The Party, it would seem, is accountable to the Vperyodists but the Vperyodists are not account able to the Party?

It must be repeated over and over again that this hypocrisy of the Vperyodists is due not to the personal traits of Peter or Paul but to the political falsity of their whole position; it is due to the fact that the Machist literati and the otzovists cannot go into battle openly and directly for their non-Social-Democratic pet ideas. Anyone who under stands these political conditions will not come to a halt bewildered, mystified and downcast at the merely superficial aspect of the matter, at the mass of personal conflicts, bickering, abuse, etc. Anyone who understands these political conditions will not be satisfied by a conciliatory phrase (à la Trotsky) to the effect that what we need is “not a struggle against the otzovists but the overcoming of otzovism”, for this is empty and meaningless phrase-mongering. The objective conditions of the counter-revolutionary era, the era of disintegration, the era of god-building, the era of Machism, otzovism and liquidationism—these objective conditions have put our Party in a state of war against circles of literati who are organising their own factions, and this struggle cannot be evaded by a phrase. To stand aside from this struggle is to stand aside from one of the contemporary tasks of the Social-Democratic Labour Party.

  1. Sazhin—the Vperyodist I. A. Sanzhur.
  2. In the Vperyod symposium another “practical man”, “Tkach I–n"{7} of St. Petersburg also gives the game away not very diplomatically: “Incidentally,” he writes, “Beltov’s book, The Monist View, is especially likely to give rise to such a wrong notion of historical materialism” (Symposium, p. 57). Why, of course! The truest “notion of historical materialism” is given, of course, by the books of the Russian god-builders and Machists—what Vperyodist does not know this? And how can a book which has helped to rear a whole generation of Russian Marxists compete with the philosophical products of the Yushkeviches, Bogdanovs, Valentinovs and Lunacharskys?... —Lenin
  3. Rabochy Ar”—the Vperyodist F. I. Kalinin.
  4. See present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 450–51.—Ed.
  5. Voinov–a pseudonym of A. V. Lunacharsky,
  6. Domov—M. N. Pokrovsky.