V. I.   Lenin

The Disease of Reformism

Published: Pravda No. 180, November 29, 1912. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 432-434.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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What ails us?” was the question asked in a recent issue of Luch by the author of an instructive feuilleton under that heading, written under the influence of the strike of November 15.

The answer is evident from the following two quotations:

It would appear to be obvious to those who lay claim to the role of leaders that the demand for the abolition of emergency regulations and for freedom of association is one thing, and is an object of the struggle now and in the near future, while the alteration of the existing system, which the appeal speaks of, is something else. This can be brought about not by playing at strikes, which is what we see at present, but by stubborn, methodical work, by winning one position after another, by straining every nerve, by achieving perfect organisation and drawing into this struggle the mass of the people, and not merely the working class....

If we take an intelligent attitude towards our tasks, methodically defend our interests and do not flare up today only to subside tomorrow, we shall create for ourselves both strong trade union organisations and an open political party that no one will dare encroach upon.”

These passages are enough for us to say to the author: you would do better, my dear fellow, to ask “what ails” you yourself. And we will answer you: you are clearly suffering from reformism. You are obsessed with a fixed idea, the idea of a Stolypin workers’ party. It is a dangerous disease, and the Luch doctors’ cure will finish you off altogether.

The author very explicitly and deliberately advocates an “open political party” in contrast to the general demand for political liberty. A comparison of the two passages quoted leaves no room for doubt on this score. All ovasion would be useless here.

We would ask the author: why is it that the “open party” of the opportunists among the petty-bourgeois democrats (the Popular Socialists of 1906) and the big-bourgeois liberals (the Cadets in 1906–07 and later) turned out to be a utopia while your “open” workers’ party is not utopian?

You admit (or, at any rate, the “open” action in the elections made you admit) that the Cadets are counter revolutionary, that they are not democrats, not a party of the masses at all, but a party of the well-to-do bourgeoisie, a party of the first curia. And yet here are you, a “sober minded, realistic politician”, an enemy of “flare-ups and fist-shaking”, putting forward, allegedly on behalf of the workers, an “immediate” demand which turned out to be utopian, unattainable for the Cadets!! You are a great utopian, but your utopia is small, petty, and wretched.

You have unwittingly contracted a fashionable disease—there is such an epidemic just now!—the disease of dejection, faint-heartedness, despair and lack of faith. And that disease is pushing you into the pitfall of opportunism, for which Popular Socialists and Cadets alike have already paid the price of universal ridicule.

You consider the demand for abolishing the emergency regulations and for freedom of association to be topical and realistic, “methodical” and “conscious”. You are at variance with the Social-Democrats radically, for they understand the general conditions for achieving (and the seriousness of) such reforms. You are substantially at one with the Progressists and the Octobrists, for these are the people who deceive themselves and others with meaning less talk about reforms and “liberties” under existing conditions. The Italian reformist Bissolati betrayed the working class for the sake of the reforms promised by Giolitti, a liberal Minister, with the parties of all classes existing “openly”. But you are betraying the working class for the sake of reforms that even the Izgoyevs and Bulgakovs do not expect from Makarov!

You speak contemptuously of “playing at strikes”. I am not in a position to answer you properly on that point here. I shall merely point out briefly that it is not really clever to describe a profound historical movement as “playing”. You are angry at strikes just as Novoye Vremya (see   Neznamov’s article in the issue of November 17), the Izgoyevs and the Bulgakovs are. And the reason why you are angry is that reality mercilessly shatters your liberal illusions. The mass of the workers fully recognise the need of organisation, system, preparation, and method, but your statements they treat with contempt, and will continue to do so.

The serious disease that has poisoned your system is due to a very widespread bacillus. It is the bacillus of liberal labour policy, or, in other words, of liquidationism. It is in the air. But however angry you may be at the course of events in general and at November 15 in particular, that course is proving deadly to the bacillus.


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