V. I.   Lenin

Larin and Khrustalev[2]

Published: Trud, No. 1, April 15, 1907. Published according to the Trud text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 390-394.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The first issue of the Menshevik newspaper Narodnaya Gazeta (April 10) contained an article by Comrade G. Khrustalev on the labour congress; it was an aggressive, extremely interesting, and excellent article (from the Bolshevik point of view). We say it was excellent because in his writings the Menshevik Khrustalev is as helpful—if not more helpful— to us as the Menshevik Larin. We are equally grateful to both of them, and shall therefore analyse their ideas by comparing them with each other.

You will recall what Y. Larin was advocating in his pamphlet A Broad Labour Party and a Labour Congress. A broad labour party, as conceived by Larin, should em brace something like 900,000 of the 9,000,000-strong Russian proletariat. The “signboard” has to come down—the party must not be Social-Democratic. The Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries must merge. The new party must be, in point of fact, a “non-partisan party” (Larin’s own words). The Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries must play the role of “propaganda bodies within a broad party”.

Larin’s plan, as anybody can see, is perfectly clear-cut, and his idea for a labour congress is distinguished by the absence of anything left unsaid or of the vagueness that Axelrod’s plan abounds in. For this clarity of thought we Bolsheviks have given praise to the guileless Comrade Larin, and compared it to the vagueness of “hidebound Menshevism” (Larin’s words). At t.he same time we say that Lana’s plan is an opportunist adventure, because merging with the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and a “non-partisan party” cannot lead to anything but confusion in the   minds of the workers and difficulties for the Social-Democratic organisation.

Now let the reader weigh Comrade Khrustalev’s plan attentively. He says straight out: “The party should not itself undertake the work of calling the congress.” “Initiative in convening it should come from the trade unions and special committees formed to convene the congress.”

How should these committees be formed?

Comrade Khrustalev does not give a direct answer to this question. The following passage, however, contains an answer that is clear enough, even if indirect.

“What composition of the congress is anticipated? Will any qualifications be established?” he asks, and gives this answer. “Since we are trying to broaden the organisation, we are by that token against any restrictions. At the congress there will be a place for every elected representative of the workers. Trade unions, consumers associations, workers’ funds, workers’ mutual benefit societies, factory committees, committees set up specifically for the organisation of the congress, deputies elected from factories where there are no factory committees—all these should be represented at the all-Russian labour congress. Such will be its composition.”

That is perfectly clear. “Against any restrictions”—let anybody come who is in any way elected by workers. The author does not tell us where to draw a line between “workers” and all sorts of office employees (commercial, postal, telegraph, railway, etc., employees), and peasants belonging to our Social-Democratic organisations and to “consumers’ societies”. From his point of view, this is, probably, a mere technical detail; “against any restrictions”! so why restrict the petty-bourgeois element?

But let us continue. Comrade Khrustalev has given us a clear definition of the composition of the congress. He has also made himself clear on the purposes of the congress. “In all cases,” he writes, “the labour congress committees and the local Social-Democratic organisations will exist side by side.”

“...The first organisational unit is the factory committee. In their activities, the factory committees, elective and accountable to their electors, embrace broad strata of the proletariat through their participation in all aspects of factory life, from the settlement of conflicts between labour and capital, the planned leadership of economic strikes, finding work, etc., up to and including the organisation of funds, clubs, lectures, and libraries.

“The factory committees of one town or one Industrial centre constitute the labour congress committee. Its purpose includes the leadership, extension and deepening of the trade union and co-operative movement, the organisation of aid for the unemployed, bringing pressure to bear on the municipal authorities to organise public works, agitation against rising food prices, relations with the Duma commission on aid for the unemployed, discussion, on the spot, of all parliamentary bills affecting the interests of the working class [author’s italics]; in the event of a reform of local self-government— the conduct of an election campaign, etc.

“The labour congress is only the guiding and directing body of the whole movement. Such is approximately the general plan. Events will, of course, lead to the introduction of amendments.”

That is perfectly clear. Non-party factory committees. Non-party labour congress committees. A non-party labour congress. “Through these committees and with them as a medium,” says Comrade Khrustalev, “the party will obtain a powerful means of influencing the entire working class.”

In what way does this differ from Larin’s plan, may we ask? It is exactly the same plan expressed in slightly different words. In practice it is exactly the same reduction of Social-Democracy to “a propaganda body within a broad party”, because Comrade Khrustalev’s “plan” has, in point of fact, left no other role to Social-Democracy. In exactly the same way as Larin, he leaves the political activity of the working class to a “non-partisan labour party”, since “the discussion of all bills”, “the conduct of an election campaign, etc.”, all come under the heading of political activity of the working class.

Larin is only more truthful and frank than Khrustalev, but actually they both propose and pursue the aim of “destroying the Social-Democratic Labour Party and setting up in its place a non-party political organisation of the proletariat”. This is precisely what is said in the first point of that Bolshevik resolution on non-party labour organisations that aroused Comrade Khrustalev’s ire and led him to call us prosecuting counsel, etc.

Comrade Khrustalev is also angry because he feels it necessary to evade the question bluntly presented in our resolution: who should lead the struggle of the proletariat, the Social-Democratic party or a “non-party political organisation of the proletariat”? Who should be the “guiding and directing body” in bringing pressure to bear on the municipal   authorities, in relations with the Duma commission (Comrade Khrustalev said nothing about the Social-Democratic group in the Duma! Was that accidental or was it a “providential slip of the tongue” on the part of a man who has a vague feeling that the non-party “labour congress committees” would enter into relations with the Social-Democrats, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Trudoviks indiscriminately?), in discussing bills, in conducting an election campaign, etc.?

There was nothing left for Comrade Khrustalev to do but display his anger when this question was put to him, since it would have been awkward for him to admit that the proletariat’s political activities should be guided by non-party “committees”. “Who of the Social-Democrats,” he asks wrathfully, “has conducted, or is now conducting, agitation for the convening of an anti-party congress? The opponents will be unable to give a single name.” Do not get so angry, Comrade Khrustalev, we have indicated a number of names in the first point of our resolution and we could now add to them the name of Comrade G. Khrustalev. Actually Comrade Khrustalev, like Larin, is agitating for a broad Trudovik party.[1] We say a Trudovik party, not a workers’ party, because (1) neither Larin nor Khrustalev excludes Trudovik, i.e., petty-bourgeois, democracy from the composition of non-party political organisation (delegates to the labour congress, for example, from “consumers’ associations”; or the motto “against all restrictions”) and (2) the non-partisanship of a workers’ political organisation would inevitably mean the merging of the Social-Democratic and Trudovik points of view.

Comrade Khrustalev writes: “The organisations built up by Zubatov and Gapon[3] rapidly got rid of their police flavour and conducted a purely class policy.” They got rid of that because of the politically conscious participation of the organised Social-Democratic party that would never agree to handing over the political leadership of proletarians to non-party organisations. It would seem that   Comrade Khrustalev draws a distinction between “purely class” politics and Social-Democratic politics. We should very much like him to explain this idea candidly.

“There will be a labour congress,” Comrade Khrustalev enjoins us, “and the Social-Democrats will participate in it.” Of course we shall, if there is a congress. We participated in the Zubatov and Gapon workers’ movements in order to fight for Social-Democracy. We shall participate in the Trudovik labour congress in order to fight for Social-Democracy against the Trudoviks and Trudovik non-party ideas. This argument is not to the advantage of the old Gapon trend, or of the new non-party spirit.

Comrade Khrustalev appeals to “Bolshevik workers”, and in so doing tries to set them at loggerheads with the Bolsheviks, who have been agitating against the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. We do not intend to make any answer to that sally. We refer to Trotsky, who is “non-group”. Let Comrade Khrustalev read his book In Defence of the Party; let him open it at the article entitled, § 2, “Mr. Prokopovich’s Malignant Impartiality”, page 82. When Comrade Khrustalev has read that article he will be ashamed of having hidden factional sallies behind a non-factional labour congress.

In two words we shall show politically conscious workers that the leading role of non-party committees in the politics of the proletariat (the election campaign, etc.) is a purely intellectualist whimsicality that would lead to excessive squabbling and bickering and, after the squabbling and bickering, “back to Social-Democracy”.

In conclusion let us again thank Comrade Khrustalev for the clarity and completeness of his propaganda for the labour congress. Larin and Khrustalev are the Bolsheviks’ best allies against Axelrod.


[1] This expression is used by Comrade G. Lindov who gave reasons for and proved its accuracy in his article “Labour Congress”, published in the collection Questions of Tactics.—Lenin

[2] The article “Larin and Khrustalev” was first published in the newspaper Trud (Labour).

Trud—a Bolshevik weekly literary and political newspaper. Only one issue appeared on April 15 (28), 1907. The following day the publication of the paper was forbidden by the St. Petersburg City Governor.

[3] Zubatov—see Note 30.

Gapon—a priest of the Orthodox Church and agent of the tsarist secret police who founded the Assembly of Russian Factory Workers, an organisation of the Zubatov type. On January 9, 1905, Gapon, taking advantage of the growing unrest, provoked the workers into demonstrating before the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg for the purpose of banding a petition to the tsar. By order of Nicholas II, troops shot down the unarmed people. This act destroyed the naïve faith of workers throughout the country in the tsar and served as the starting-point of the first Russian revolution. The political consciousness of the proletariat was aroused and a wave of protest strikes swept all Russia.

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