V. I.   Lenin

Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

July 17 (30)-August 10 (23), 1903


14. Speech on the Party Programme

July 22 (August 4)

First of all, I must draw attention to the highly characteristic way in which Comrade Lieber confuses a Marshal of the Nobility with a section of the toilers and the exploited. This confusion is a feature of all the debates. Isolated episodes of our controversy are being everywhere confused with the establishment of basic principles. One cannot deny, as Comrade Lieber does, the possibility of even a section (one or another) of the working and exploited population coming over to the side of the proletariat. You will recall that in 1852, referring to the revolt of the French peasants, Marx wrote (in The Eighteenth Brumaire) that the peasantry acts sometimes as a representative of the past and sometimes as a representative of the future; one can appeal not only to the peasant’s prejudice, but to his judgement[1] as well. You will further recall that Marx said the Communards were quite right in declaring the cause of the Commune that of the peasantry as well.[2] I repeat, it cannot be doubt ed that, under certain conditions, it is by no means impossible for one section or another of the working people to come over to the side of the proletariat. The important thing is to define these conditions correctly. And the condition we are speaking of is expressed quite accurately in the words “place themselves at the standpoint of the proletariat.” It is these words that draw a definite line of demarcation between us, Social-Democrats, and all pseudo-socialist trends in general, and the so-called Socialist-Revolutionaries in particular.

I shall now go over to that disputed passage in my pamphlet, What Is to Be Done?, which gave rise to so much discussion here. After all this discussion, I think that the question has been so clarified that very little remains for me to add. It is obvious that here an episode in the struggle against “economism” has been confused with a discussion of the principles of a major theoretical question (the formation of an ideology). Moreover, this episode has been presented in an absolutely false light.

In support of this last statement, I might refer first of all to Comrades Akimov and Martynov, who spoke here. They made it quite clear that it was indeed an episode in the struggle against “economism” which was at issue here. They expressed views which have already been termed opportunism (and quite rightly so). They actually went so far as to “refute” the theory of impoverishment, to “dispute” the dictatorship of the proletariat, and even to advocate the “Erfüllungstheorie,” as Comrade Akimov called it. To tell the truth, I do not quite know what that means. Perhaps Comrade Akimov meant to say “Aushöhlungstheorie”— the “theory of the hollowing out” of capitalism, that is, one of the most popular and current ideas of the Bernsteinian theory. In his defence of the old mainstays of “economism,” Comrade Akimov even advanced such an incredibly eccentric argument as that the word proletariat does not figure in our programme even once in the nominative case. At most, Comrade Akimov exclaimed, they have the proletariat in the genitive case. And so it appears that the nominative is the most honourable case, whereas the genitive takes second place in the scale of honour. It only remains to convey this idea—through a special commission, perhaps—to Comrade Ryazanov, so as to enable him to supplement his first scientific work on the letters of the alphabet with another treatise on the cases....

As to the direct references to my pamphlet, What Is to Be Done?, it will be quite easy for me to show that they have been wrenched from the context. It is claimed that Lenin says nothing about any conflicting trends, but categorically affirms that the working-class movement invariably “tends” to succumb to bourgeois ideology. Is that so? Have I not said that t.he working-class movement is drawn   towards the bourgeois outlook with the benevolent assistance of the Schulze-Delitzsches and others like them?[See present edition, Vol. 5.—Ed.] And who is meant here by “others like them”? None other than the “economists,” none other than those who, for example, used to say then that bourgeois democracy in Russia is a phantom. Today it is easy to talk so cheaply about bourgeois radicalism and liberalism, when examples of them are to be found right before us. But was that the case previously?

Lenin takes no account whatever of the fact that the workers, too, have a share in the formation of an ideology. Is that so? Have I not said time and again that the shortage of fully class-conscious workers, worker-leaders, and worker-revolutionaries is, in fact, the greatest deficiency in our movement? Have I not said there that the training of such worker-revolutionaries must be our immediate task? Is there no mention there of the importance of developing a trade-union movement and creating a special trade-union literature? Is not a desperate struggle waged there against every attempt to lower the level of the advanced workers to that of the masses, or of the average workers?[Ibid.—Ed.]

To conclude. We all now know that the “economists” have gone to one extreme. To straighten matters out some body had to pull in the other direction—and that is what I have done. I am convinced that Russian Social-Democracy will always vigorously straighten out whatever has been twisted by opportunism of any kind, and that therefore our line of action will always be the straightest and the fittest for action.



[1] Lenin is referring to Karl Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Chapter VII (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1958, pp. 334-36).

[2] Lenin is referring to Karl Marx’s Civil War in France (see Marx and Engels. Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 525).

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