Source: Socialist Standard, February 1933.
Transcription: Socialist Party of Great Britain.
HTML Markup: Michael Schauerte
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.
Most of the Communists who say that the way to make Socialists is not to theorise, but to concentrate on “immediate demands” in the day to day struggle against the employers are quite unaware of Lenin’s view on the subject. He set it out at some length in an article, “The Working Class as Champion of Democracy,” written apparently about 1901 and recently republished in What is to be done (Martin, Lawrence, Ltd., 175 pages, 2s.).
In this article Lenin vigorously rejects the policy of concentrating on immediate demands. He points out that any trade union secretary does this work admirably (he mentions Robert Knight, who was a Boiler Makers’ official well-known in England). He contrasts Knight, the trade union secretary who “conducts the economic struggle against the employers and the Government” with Liebknecht, who “engaged more in the propaganda of brilliant and finished ideas.” Lenin plumps for Liebknecht’s method and rejects Knight’s.
The economic struggle merely brings the workers “up against” questions concerning the attitude of the Government towards the working class. Consequently, however much we may try to “give the economic struggle itself a political character” we shall never be able to develop the political consciousness of the workers ... by confining ourselves to the economic struggle, for the limits of this task are too narrow. (Page 76.)
The workers can acquire class political consciousness only from without, that is only outside of the economic struggle, outside of the sphere of the relations between workers and employers. (Page 76.)
Robert Knight engaged more in “calling the masses to certain concrete actions,” while Liebknecht engaged more in “the revolutionary explanation of the whole of modern society or various manifestations of it.” (Page 78.)
The whole article is well worth reading. It will be noticed that here, as on certain other questions, Lenin’s view was nearer to the S.P.G.B.’s view than to that of the Communist Parties.