V. I.   Lenin

Why the Social-Democrats Must Declare a Determined and Relentless War on the Socialist-Revolutionaries

Written: Written in June-July 1902
Published: First Published in 1923 in the magazine Prozhekior, No. 14. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 172-175.
Translated: ??? ???
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
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1) Because that trend in our social thought which goes by the name of “Socialist-Revolutionary” is in fact moving away, and has indeed moved away, from the only international theory of revolutionary socialism existing today, i.e., from Marxism. In the great split of international Social-Democracy into an opportunist wing (or, “Bernsteinian”) and a revolutionary wing, this trend has taken up an entirely indefinite and impermissibly irresolute position between two stools. Basing itself solely on the bourgeois and opportunist criticism of Marxism, it has pronounced the latter to have been “shaken” (Vestnik Busskoi Revolutsii, No. 2, p. 62), and promised, on its part, to “revise” Marxism anew, in its own way, but has done nothing whatever to fulfil this ominous promise.

2) Because the Socialist-Revolutionary trend helplessly yields to the dominant tendency in Russian social and political thought which should be termed liberal Narodism. Repeating the error of the Narodnaya Volya and of old Russian socialism in general, the Socialist-Revolutionaries fail to see the sheer flabbiness and internal contradictions of this tendency; their independent creative contribution to Russian revolutionary thought is restricted to tacking revolutionary phrases on to the old testament of liberal Narodnik wisdom. Russian Marxism was the first to under mine the theoretical foundations of liberal Narodism, to lay bare its bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class con tent, and to have waged and continue to wage war against it, undeterred by the desertion of a swarm of critical (=opportunist) Marxists to the enemy camp. But the stand   the Socialist-Revolutionaries have been holding in this war is (at best) one of hostile neutrality; here again they have seated themselves between two stools, between Russian Marxism (from which they have borrowed only a few paltry shreds) and quasi-socialist liberal Narodism.

3) Because the Socialist-Revolutionaries, owing to their above-mentioned complete lack of principle in questions of international and Russian socialism, do not understand or do not recognise the only really revolutionary principle, that of the class straggle. They do not understand that only a party which fuses socialism with the Russian working-class movement being engendered with increasing force and on an increasing scale by the growth of Russian capitalism can be really revolutionary and truly socialist in Russia today. The attitude of the Socialist-Revolutionaries towards the Russian working-class movement has always been that of dilettante spectators, and when, for instance, that movement contracted the illness of “economism” (as a consequence of its amazingly rapid growth) the Socialist-Revolutionaries, on the one hand, gloated over the mistakes made by people who were working at the new and difficult task of rousing the masses of the workers, and, on the other hand, put a spoke in the wheel of revolutionary Marxism when it launched and victoriously carried through the struggle against this “economism.” A half-hearted attitude towards the working-class movement inevitably leads in fact to aloofness from it, and owing to this aloofness the Socialist-Revolutionary Party has no social basis whatever. It does not rely upon any social class, for the term class cannot be applied to a group of unstable intellectuals who qualify their vagueness and lack of principle as “broadness.”

4) Because by assuming a disdainful attitude towards socialist ideology and seeking to rely simultaneously and in an equal degree upon the intelligentsia, the proletariat, and the peasantry, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party there by inevitably (whether it wants to or not) leads to the political and ideological enslavement of the Russian proletariat by Russian bourgeois democracy. A disdainful attitude towards theory, evasiveness, and shilly-shallying with regard to socialist ideology inevitably play into   the hands of bourgeois ideology. As social strata comparable with the proletariat, the Russian intelligentsia and the Russian peasantry can serve as the mainstay only of a bourgeois-democratic movement. This is not only a consideration that stems necessarily from our teachings as a whole (which regard the small producer, for instance, as revolutionary only to the extent that he makes a clean break with the society of commodity economy and capitalism and places himself at the standpoint of the proletariat)—no, it is also an absolute fact which is already beginning to make itself felt. At the moment of the political revolution and on the day after this revolution, this fact will inevitably make itself felt with still greater force. Socialist-Revolutionarism is one of the manifestations of petty-bourgeois ideological instability and petty-bourgeois vulgarisation of socialism, against which Social-Democracy must and will always wage determined war.

5) Because the practical demands of the programme which the Socialist-Revolutionaries have—I won’t say brought forward, but at least—outlined have already quite clearly revealed the enormous harm caused in practice by the unprincipled character of this trend. For example, their agrarian minimum programme as outlined in No. 8 of Revolutsionnaya Rossiya[1] (perhaps it would be more correct to say: scattered among the time-worn premises of our Narodism?) in the first place misleads both the peasantry by promising it a “minimum”—socialisation of the land—and the working class by giving it an entirely wrong impression of the true nature of the peasant movement. Such frivolous promises only compromise a revolutionary party in general; in particular they compromise the teaching of scientific socialism concerning the socialisation of all means of production as our ultimate aim. Secondly, by including the support and development of co-operatives in their minimum programme, the Socialist-Revolutionaries completely abandon the ground of revolutionary struggle and degrade their so-called socialism to the level of the most banal petty-bourgeois reformism. Thirdly, by opposing the demand of the Social-Democrats for the abolition of all the medieval fetters that bind our village commune, tie the muzhik to his allotment, deny him freedom of movement,   and unavoidably entail his humiliation as member of his social-estate, the Socialist-Revolutionaries have shown that they have not been able even to safeguard themselves against the reactionary doctrines of Russian Narodism.

6) Because the Socialist-Revolutionaries, by including terrorism in their programme and advocating it in its present-day form as a means of political struggle, are thereby doing the most serious harm to the movement, destroying the indissoluble ties between socialist work and the mass of the revolutionary class. No verbal assurances and vows can disprove the unquestionable fact that present-day terrorism, as practised and advocated by the Socialist-Revolutionaries, is not connected in any way with work among the masses, for the masses, or together with the masses; that the organisation of terroristic acts by the Party distracts our very scanty organisational forces from their difficult and by no means completed task of organising a revolutionary workers’ party; that in practice the terrorism of the Socialist-Revolutionaries is nothing else than single combat, a method that has been wholly condemned by the experience of history. Even foreign socialists are beginning to become embarrassed by the noisy advocacy of terrorism advanced today by our Socialist-Revolutionaries. Among the masses of the Russian workers this advocacy simply sows harmful illusions, such as the idea that terrorism “compels people to think politically, even against their will” (Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, No. 7, p. 4), or that “more effectively than months of verbal propaganda it is capable of changing the views ... of thousands of people with regard to the revolutionaries and the meaning [!!] of their activity,” or that it is capable of “infusing new strength into the waverers, those discouraged and shocked by the sad outcome of many demonstrations” (ibid.), and so on. These harmful illusions can only bring about early disappointment and weaken the work of preparing the masses for the onslaught upon the autocracy.


[1] Revolutsionnaya Ressiya (Revolutionary Russia)—an illegal news paper of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. It was published from the end of 1900 in Russia by the League of Socialist-Revolutionaries (No. 1, dated 1900, actually appeared in January 1901); from January 1902 to December 1905 it was published abroad (in Geneva) as the official organ of the party of Socialist-Revolutionaries.

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