V. I.   Lenin

An Obliging Liberal

Written: Written in October 1904
Published: Published in leaflet form in Geneva in November 1904.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, publisher??, pubdate??, Moscow, Volume 7, pages 486-489.
Translated: Fineberg Abraham
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2002). 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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Obliging services are welcome, as we know;
But shun the service of a clumsy friend.
From such as Struve heaven us defend,
Obliging Struve’s worse than any foe.[1]

The latest issue (No. 57) of Mr. Struve’s Osvobozhdeniye contains the following instructive lines:

“The process of disintegration within the so-called Russian Social- Democratic Labour Party has entered a new phase. The extreme centralists (’Leninists’, ’firm-liners’, ’Bolshevists’) are beginning to lose ground, and the position of their opponents is becoming stronger and stronger—at least in the ’colonies’ abroad. Whereas the ’Menshevists’ (Martovites) are getting the upper hand nearly everywhere and gaining control of one party organ after another, the ’Bolshevists’ are losing individuals and whole groups, who, while not definitely accepting the ’platform’ of the minority, nevertheless do not wish to war with the latter and endeavour to establish peace in the still discordant party. ’Conciliators’ are appearing on the scene who are anxious to put an end to this unseemly wrangling in which people have ceased to understand not only each other) but even themselves. The appearance of these ’conciliators’ has corn polled the irreconcilable centralists to start a ’publishing house of Social-Democratic Party literature devoted to the defence of the principles of the Second Party Congress majority’. (Announcement by V. Bonch-Bruyevsch and N. Lenin.) We have before us three products of this new publishing house: 1) To the Party, Geneva, 1904, 16 pp., price 20 cent. or 15 pf.; 2) Galyorka, Down with Bonapartism!, Geneva, 1904, 23 pp.’ price 25 cent. or 20 pf.; 3) Galyorka and Ryadovoy,[2] Our Misunderstandings, Geneva, 1904, price 50 cent, or 40 pf. These three pamphlets are chiefly devoted to a critical examination of certain methods—which are indeed not altogether above reproach omployOd by the ’Monshevists’ in their struggle against the ’majority’, and to advocacy of the thesis that the convening of a third congress to settle party conflicts is not only feasible, but essential.

“While formally, from the standpoint of party loyalty, the position of the ’Bolshevists’ is the sounder one, they yield to their opponents in substance. In substance, the latter are now defending something more vital and effectual than the ’Bolshevists’. Only it is unfortunate   that this defence is being conducted by not altogether proper, or rather altogether improper, and sometimes positively indecent, means. As examples of such improper methods we may cite countless recent articles in Iskra and the newly published pamphlet Our Political Tasks (Tactical and Organisational Questions) by N. Trotsky, Geneva, 1904, 107 pp., price 75 cent. While marked in many places by empty phrase mongering, this pamphlet is however quite right in taking up the cudgels for certain ideas with which those interested in Social-Democratic literature are already familiar from the writings of Messrs. Akimov, Martynov, Krichevsky, and other so-called ’Economists’. Only it is a pity that in places the author carries their views to the point of caricature.”

How much malicious rejoicing we find here over the troubles of our Party! But then, by his very political nature your liberal is bound to rejoice at any weakening and demoralisation of Social-Democracy.

How much conscious and heartfelt sympathy for the Akimovite substance of the minority’s views! But then, is it not a fact that the only hope of vitality, ideological vitality, for Russian liberalism lies in the vitality of Social- Democratic opportunism?

The new Iskra has no luck with its supporters.

Recall Plekhanov’s celebrated, stupendous, epoch-making “What Should Not Be Done”. How subtly conceived was this policy of finesse and personal concessions, and what a sad mess our diplomat landed in! How accurately did that consistent opportunist, Mr. Struve, perceive the “significant change of front” of the new Iskra! The “gulf” between the old and the new Iskra is now admitted by the leaders of the latter themselves.

Recall Plekhanov’s complacent assertion in Iskra, No. 65, that “nobody is afraid of Akimov; you couldn’t use him now even to scare the sparrows in a cabbage-patch”. Plekhanov made this remark, which was not particularly mild or accommodating towards the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists, and he also declared that at our Party Congress “nobody spoke against orthodox Marxism except an Akimov or so”. And then, right after these complacent assertions, the leaflet of the Voronezh Committee—which as everybody knows solidly supports Comrades Akimov and Brouck re—was reprinted in full; and it turned out that the editors of the new Iskra had concealed from the public (in No. 61) the whole section   of this leaflet that had to do with principles, and all its expressions of sympathy with the new Iskra. Who is it that has proved to resemble a sparrow? And what Party institution may now be likened to a cabbage-patch?

Recall the author of “High Time!”, the article in th  supplement to Nos. 73-74 of Iskra. As a frank and honest spokesman of the views advocated throughout our Congress by all the “Marsh” delegates, this comrade bluntly proclaimed his disagreement with Plekhanov, he bluntly stated his opinion that “at the Congress Akimov played the part of a spectre of opportunism rather than of a real representative of it”. And the poor editors had once more to undergo a self- inflicted thrashing. They appended the following note to this statement of the author of “High Time !":

“We cannot agree with this opinion. Comrade Akimov’s programmatic views bear the clear stamp of opportunism, as is admitted even by an Osvobozhdeniye critic when he says in a recent issue that Comrade Akimov belongs to the ’realistic’—read, revisionist—trend.”

Very nice, is it not? In the programmatic views of Comrade Akimov—with whom, in the disputes over the programme, Comrades Martynov, Brouck re, and the Bundists voted almost invariably, and the delegates of the Marsh very often— there is opportunism. But in his tactical and organisational views there is no opportunism—is that your idea, gentle men? Why is it that you prefer to say nothing about these latter views? Isn’t it because, after loudly announcing its new differences over organisational questions, the new Iskra has said just what, and only what, Martynov and Akimov used to say against the old Iskra? Isn’t it because the new tactical differences that the new Iskra has lately announced also amount to nothing but a repetition of what Martynov and Akimov used to say long ago against the old Iskra? How useful it would be to republish today No. 10 of Rabocheye Dyelo!

And whom do the editors of the new Iskra cite as judge and witness against Comrade Akimov? Mr. Struve. And a fine judge he is, truly a specialist, connoisseur, champion, and expert in opportunism. All the more significant is the testimony of this witness, summoned by the editors them selves, on the substance of Trotsky’s views. And Trotsky’s   pamphlet, please do not forget, was published under the editorship of “Iskra” (No. 72, p. 10, col. 3). Trotsky’s “new” views are the views of the editorial board, approved by Plekhanov, Axelrod, Zasulich, Starover, and Martov.

Empty phrase-mongering and Akimovism, the latter, unfortunately, in caricature—such is the verdict of a judge sympathetic to the new Iskra and appealed to by that organ itself.

This time the obliging liberal inadvertently blurted out the truth.


[1] A modification of a quatrain in Krylov’s fable “The Hermit and the Bear”.

[2] Ryadovoy—pseudonym of A. A. Malinovsky, better known as Bogdanov.

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