Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution


The Abolition of the Monarchist System and the Republic

Let us go over to the next section of the resolution: “...in either case such a victory will inaugurate a new phase in the revolutionary epoch.

“The final abolition of the whole regime of the monarchy and the social estates in the process of mutual struggle between the elements of politically emancipated bourgeois society for the satisfaction of their social interests and for the direct acquisition of power—such is the task in this new phase which the objective conditions of social development spontaneously evoke.

“Therefore, a provisional government that would under take to carry out the tasks of this revolution, bourgeois in its historical nature, would, in regulating the mutual struggle between antagonistic classes of a nation in the process of emancipation, not only have to advance revolutionary development, but also to combat factors in that development threatening the foundations of the capitalist system.”

Let us examine this section which forms an independent part of the resolution. The basic idea in the arguments quoted above coincides with the one set forth in the third clause of the Congress resolution. However, collation of these parts of the two resolutions will at once reveal the following radical difference between them. The Congress resolution, which briefly describes the social and economic basis of the revolution, concentrates attention entirely on the clear-cut struggle of classes for definite gains, and places in the fore front the militant tasks of the proletariat. The resolution of the Conference, which carries a long, nebulous, and confused description of the socio-economic basis of the revolution, speaks very vaguely about a struggle for definite gains. and leaves the militant tasks of the proletariat completely in the background. The resolution of the Conference speaks of the old order in the process of mutual struggle among the various elements of society. The Congress resolution says that we, the party of the proletariat, must effect this abolition; that only establishment of a democratic republic signifies genuine abolition of the old order; that we must win that republic; that we shall fight for it and for complete liberty, not only against the autocracy, but also against the bourgeoisie, when it attempts (and it will surely do so) to wrest our gains from us. The Congress resolution calls on a definite class to wage a struggle for a precisely defined immediate aim. The Conference resolution discourses on the mutual struggle of various forces. One resolution expresses the psychology of active struggle, the other that of the passive onlooker; one resounds with the call for live action, the other is steeped in lifeless pedantry. Both resolutions state that the present revolution is only our first step, which will be followed by a second; but from this, one resolution draws the conclusion that we must take this first step all the sooner, get it over all the sooner, win a republic, mercilessly crush the counter-revolution, and prepare the ground for the second step. The other resolution, however, oozes, so to speak, with verbose descriptions of the first step and (excuse the crude expression) simply masticates it. The Congress resolution takes the old, yet eternally new, ideas of Marxism (the bourgeois nature of a democratic revolution) as a preface or first premise, whence it draws conclusions as to the progressive tasks of the progressive class, which is fighting both for the democratic and for the socialist revolution. The Conference resolution does not go beyond the preface, chewing it over and over again, and trying to be clever about it.

This is the very distinction which has long divided the Russian Marxists into two wings: the moralising and the militant wings of the old days of “legal Marxism”, and the economic and political wings of the period of the nascent mass movement. From the correct Marxist premise concerning the deep economic roots of the class struggle in general and of the political struggle in particular, the Economists have drawn the singular conclusion that we must turn our backs on the political struggle and retard its development, narrow its scope, and reduce its aims. The political wing, on the contrary, has drawn a different conclusion from these same premises, namely, that the deeper the roots of our present struggle, the more widely, the more boldly, the more resolutely, and with greater initiative must we wage this struggle. We have the very same controversy before us now, only under different circumstances and in a different form. From the premises that a democratic revolution is far from being a socialist revolution, that the poor and needy are by no means the only ones to be “interested” in it, that it is deeply rooted in the inescapable needs and requirements of the whole of bourgeois society—from these premises we draw the conclusion that the advanced class must formulate its democratic aims all the more boldly, express them all the more sharply and completely, put forward the immediate slogan of a republic, and popularise the idea of the need to establish a provisional revolutionary government and to crush the counter revolution ruthlessly. Our opponents, the new-Iskra group, however, deduce from these very same premises that the democratic conclusions should not be expressed fully, that the republic may be omitted from the practical slogans, that we can refrain from popularising the idea of the need for a provisional revolutionary government, that a mere decision to convene a constituent assembly can be termed a decisive victory, that there is no need to advance the task of combating counter-revolution as our active aim, so that it may be submerged in a nebulous (and, as we shall presently see, wrongly formulated) reference to a “process of mutual struggle”. This is not the language of political leaders, but of archive fogeys.

The more closely one examines the various formulations in the resolution of the new-Iskra group, the clearer its aforementioned basic features become. We are told, for in stance, of a “process of mutual struggle between the elements of politically emancipated bourgeois society”. Bearing in mind the subject this resolution deals with (a provisional revolutionary government) one asks in astonishment, “If you are referring to the process of mutual struggle, how can you keep silent about the elements which are politically enslaving bourgeois society? Do the ’conferees’ really imagine that, since they have assumed the revolution will be victorious, these elements have already disappeared?” Such an idea would be absurd in general and an expression of the greatest political naíveté and political short-sightedness in particular. After the revolution’s victory over counter revolution the latter will not disappear; on the contrary, it will inevitably start a new and even more desperate struggle. Since the purpose of our resolution is to analyse the tasks that will confront us when the revolution is victorious, it is our duty to devote tremendous attention to the tasks of repelling counter-revolutionary attacks (as is done in the Congress resolution), and not to submerge these immediate, urgent, and vital political tasks of a militant party in general discussions on what will happen after the present revolutionary period, or what will happen when a “politically emancipated society” already exists. Just as the Economists would, by repeating the truism that politics are subordinated to economics, cover up their incapacity to understand urgent political tasks, so the newIskra-ists, by repeating the general truism that struggles will take place in a politically emancipated society, cover up their failure to understand the urgent revolutionary tasks of the political emancipation of this society.

Take the expression “the final abolition of the whole regime of social estates and the monarchy.” In plain language, the final abolition of the monarchist system means the establishment of a democratic republic. But our good Martynov and his admirers think that this expression is far too simple and clear. They insist on rendering it “more profound” and saying it more “cleverly.” As a result, we get, on the one hand, ridiculous and vain efforts to appear profound; on the other hand, we get a description instead of a slogan, a sort of melancholy looking backward instead of a stirring appeal to march forward. We get the impression, not of living people eager to fight for a republic here and now, but of fossilised mummies who, sub specie aeternitatis,[1] consider the question from the standpoint of plusquamperfectum viewpoint.

Let us proceed further: “... the provisional government ... would undertake to carry out the tasks of this ... bourgeois revolution.” ...Here we see at once the result of the fact that our “Conferencers” have overlooked a concrete question which confronts the political leaders of the proletariat. The concrete question of a provisional revolutionary government was obscured from their field of vision by the question of the future series of governments which will carry out the aims of the bourgeois revolution in general. If you want to consider the question “historically,” the example of any European country will show you that it was a series of governments, not by any means “provisional,” that carried out the historical aims of the bourgeois revolution, that even the governments which defeated the revolution were nonetheless forced to carry out the historical aims of that defeated revolution. But what is called a “provisional revolutionary government” is something altogether different from what you are referring to: that is the name given to the government of a revolutionary epoch, which directly replaces the overthrown government and rests on the insurrection of the people, and not on some kind of representative institutions coming from the people. A provisional revolutionary government is the organ of struggle for the immediate victory of the revolution, for immediately repelling counter-revolutionary attempts, and not by any means an organ for carrying out the historical aims of the bourgeois revolution in general. Gentlemen, let us leave it to the future historians of a future Russkaya Starina[2] to determine exactly what aims of the bourgeois revolution we, or this or that government, shall have achieved—there will be time enough to do that thirty years from now; at present we must put forward slogans and give practical directives for the struggle for a republic and for the proletariat’s most active participation in this struggle.

For the reasons stated, the final propositions in the forgoing section of the resolution which we have quoted above are also unsatisfactory. The expression that the provisional government would have to “regulate” the mutual struggle among the antagonistic classes is exceedingly inapt, or at any rate awkwardly put; Marxists should not use such liberal, Osvobozhdeniye formulations, which lead one to believe that it is possible to have governments which serve not as organs of the class struggle but as its “regulators”. . . . The government would “not only have to push revolutionary development further forward but also fight against those of its factors which threaten the foundations of the capitalist system.” But it is the proletariat, the very same in whose name the resolution is speaking, that constitutes this “factor”! Instead of indicating just how the proletariat should “push revolutionary development further forward” at the present time (push it further than the constitutionalist bourgeois would care to go), instead of advice to prepare definite ways and means of combating the bourgeoisie when the latter turns against the conquests of the revolution, we are offered a general description of a process, which does not say a word about the concrete aims of our activity. The new Iskra-ist method of expressing its views reminds one of Marx’s opinion (in his famous “theses” on Feuerbach) of the old materialism, which was alien to the ideas of dialectics. The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways, said Marx, the point, however, is to change it.[3] Similarly, the new-Iskraists can give a tolerable description and explanation of the process of struggle which is taking place before their eyes, but they are altogether incapable of giving a correct slogan for this struggle. Good marchers but bad leaders, they belittle the materialist conception of history by ignoring the active, leading and guiding part in history which can and must be played by parties that understand the material prerequisites of a revolution and that have placed themselves at the head of the progressive classes.


[1] From the viewpoint of eternity (Latin).—Ed.



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