Written: 12 June, 1920
First Published: Published in June, 1920; Published according to the manuscript and checked against the text of the proof-sheet, as emended by V. I. Lenin
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 165-167
Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
This excellent journal, which is published in Vienna under the above title, contains a great deal of highly interesting material on the growth of the communist movement in Austria, Poland and other countries, together with a chronicle of the international movement, and articles on Hungary and Germany, on general tasks and tactics, etc. A shortcoming that strikes the eye even at a cursory examination cannot, however, be disregarded—the indubitable symptoms of the “infantile disorder of Left-wing Communism” that has affected the journal, a subject on which I have written a short pamphlet that has just appeared in Petrograd.
The excellent journal Kommunismas reveals three symptoms of this malady, which I would like at once to deal with briefly. No. 6 (March 4, 1920) contains an article by Comrade G.L. entitled “On the Question of Parliamentarianism”, which the editors designate as controversial, and from which Comrade B. K., the author of an article entitled “On the Question of the Parliamentary Boycott” (No. 18, May 8, 1920), directly dissociates himself (fortunately), i.e., declares that he is in disagreement with it.
G. L.’s article is very Left-wing, and very poor. Its Marxism is purely verbal; its distinction between “defensive” and “offensive” tactics is artificial; it gives no concrete analysis of precise and definite historical situations; it takes no account of what is most essential (the need to take over and to learn to take over, all fields of work and all institutions in which the bourgeoisie exerts its influence over the masses, etc.).
No. 14 (April 17, 1920), carries an article by Comrade B. K., entitled “The Events in Germany", in which he criticises a statement made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany on March 21, 1920, which statement I too criticised in the pamphlet mentioned above. However, our criticisms differ radically in character. Comrade B. K. criticises on the basis of quotations from Marx, which refer to a situation unlike the present one; he wholly rejects the tactics of the German Communist Party’s Central Committee and absolutely evades what is most important, that which constitutes the very gist, the living soul, of Marxism-a concrete analysis of a concrete situation. Since most of the urban workers have abandoned the Scheidemannites for the Kautskyites, and since, within the Kautskian party (a party “independent” of correct revolutionary tactics) they are continuing to abandon its Right wing in favour of the Left, i.e., in fact, of communism-since that is the case, is it permissible to take no account of the transitional and compromise measures to be adopted with regard to such workers? Is it permissible to disregard and to gloss over the experience of the Bolsheviks, who, in April and May 1917, pursued what was in fact a policy of compromise, when they declared that the Provisional Government (Lvov, Milyukov, Kerensky and the rest) could not be overthrown at once, since in the Soviets, they still had the backing of the workers and it was first of all necessary to bring about a change in views in the majority, or a considerable part, of those workers?
I consider that impermissible.
Lastly, Comrade B. K. ’s article in Kommunisnuts No. 18, which I have mentioned, very vividly, strikingly and effectively reveals his error in sympathising with the tactics of boycotting parliaments in present-day Europe. When the author dissociates himself from the “syndicalist boycott” and the “passive” boycott, but at the same time invents a special kind of “active” (Au, how “Left”! ...) boycott, the full extent of the errors in his argument is brought out very strikingly.
“An active boycott,” the author writes, “means that the Communist Party does not confine itself to disseminating the slogan advocating non-participation in elections, but, in the interests of the boycott, engages in revolutionary agitation just as extensively as f it wore participating in the elections and as if its agitation and action were designed to secure the greatest possible number of proletarian votes.” (P. 552).
This is a gem. This demolishes the anti-parliamentarians better than any criticism could. An “active” boycott is devised “as though” we were participating in elections!! The mass of unenlightened and semi-enlightened workers and peasants take a serious part in elections, for they still entertain bourgeois-democratic prejudices, are still under the sway of those prejudices. And instead of helping the unenlightened (although at times “highly-cultured”) petty bourgeois to get rid of their prejudices by their own experience, we are to hold aloof from taking part in parliaments and to amuse ourselves by inventing tactics free of all commonplace and bourgeois contamination!!
Bravo, bravo, Comrade B. K.! By your defence of antiparliamentarianism you will help us to destroy this folly much sooner than I can through my criticism.