V. I.   Lenin

The Liberal Unions and Social-Democracy[1]

Published: Proletary, No. 18, September 26 (13), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 9, pages 281-282.
Translated: The Late Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). 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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Of what importance are the “trade unions” of intellectuals to the proletariat, and should we Social-Democrats join them so as to fight against any beclouding of the workers’ class-consciousness?

The “trade” unions of intellectuals and the Union of Unions are political organisations. In fact, they are liberal unions. These unions constitute, on the whole, the nucleus of the so-called Constitutional-Democratic, i.e., bourgeois-liberal, Party. A most important duty now falls to us: to exert every effort to instil a party spirit into the proletariat, to weld its vanguard into a genuine political party absolutely independent of all other parties, and absolutely its own master. It is therefore incumbent upon us to exercise extreme caution in taking any step likely to cause confusion in clear-cut and definite Party relations. The entire liberal bourgeoisie is now doing its very utmost to prevent the formation of a fully independent class party of the proletariat in order to “unite” and “merge” the entire “liberation” movement in a single stream of democratism with the purpose of concealing the bourgeois nature of that democratism.

Under these circumstances it would be a great mistake for members of the Social-Democratic Party to enter the liberal unions. It would place them in the extremely false position of being members of two different and mutually hostile parties. One cannot serve two gods. One cannot belong to two parties. Owing to the absence of political liberty in our country, and in the gloom of the autocratic regime, it is very easy to confuse the parties; the interests of the bourgeoisie demand such confusion. The interests of the proletariat demand a definite and clear demarcation of the parties. At present it is   impossible to obtain genuine and not merely verbal guarantees that groups of Social-Democrats joining intellectualist “trade” unions would preserve complete independence, remain members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party alone and of no other party, who would account for their every step to their party organisation. The chances are a hundred to one that these members would not be able to preserve their independence, that they would be obliged to resort to shifts, which are useless from the standpoint of results, and injurious as serving to corrupt the still young party spirit of the workers.


[1] The Liberal Unions and Social-Democracy—an insert written by Lenin to an article by V. V. Vorovsky, which was published under the same title in Proletary, No. 18, September 26 (13), 1905.

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