V. I.   Lenin

But Who Are the Judges?

Published: Proletary, No. 19. November 5, t907. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 13, pages 153-160.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
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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Malicious chuckling over the split between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in the R.S.D.L.P, in general and over the sharp struggle at the London Congress in particular has become a regular feature of the bourgeois press. No one thinks of studying the differences of opinion, of analysing the two tendencies, of acquainting the reading public with the history of the split and with the nature of the differences between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. The publicists of Rech and Tovarishch—the Vergezhskys, the E. K.’s, the Pereyaslavskys, and other penny a-liners[1] simply fasten on all kinds of rumours, serve up “piquant” details of “scandals” for blasé society gossips, and go out of their way to addle people’s minds with trashy anecdotes about our struggle.

This genre of vulgar scoffing is being taken up, too, by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The editorial in Znamya Truda,[4] No. 6, drags out Cherevanin’s story about the incident of hysteria at the London Congress, sniggers at the expenditure of “tens of thousands”, and smacks its lips at “the pretty picture of the internal state of Russian Social-Democracy at the present moment”. With the liberals such introductions are preliminaries to lauding the opportunists à la Plekhanov; with the Socialist-Revolutionaries they are the preliminaries to a severe criticism of them (the Socialist-Revolutionaries are repeating now the arguments of the revolutionary Social-Democrats against a labour congress! They have bethought themselves!). But both of them gloat over the hard struggle in the Social-Democratic ranks.   We shall say a few words about the liberal heroes of this crusade before we deal in detail with the Socialist-Revolutionary heroes of “the struggle against opportunism”.

The liberals sneer at the struggle within Social-Democracy in order to cover up their systematic deception of the public in regard to the Cadet Party. It is a thorough going deception, and the struggle among the Cadets them selves and their negotiations with the, authorities are systematically concealed. Everyone knows that the Left Cadets rebuke the Right. Everyone knows that Milyukov, Struve & Co. called at the ante-rooms of the Stolypins. But the exact facts are kept hidden. Differences have been glossed over and not a word has been said of the disputes of the Struve gentry with the Left Cadets. There are no records of the proceedings of the Cadet congresses. The liberals issue no figures of their party membership either as a whole or by organisations. The tendency of the different committees is unknown. Nothing but darkness, nothing but the official lies of Rech, nothing but attempts to fool democracy by those on conversational terms with ministers—that is what the party of Constitutional-Democrats is. Lawyers and professors, who make their career by parliamentarism, hypocritically condemn the underground struggle and praise open activity by parties while actually flouting the democratic principle of publicity and concealing from the public the different political tendencies with in their party. It needs the short-sightedness of a Plekhanov, who goes down on his knees before Milyukov, not to be able to see this gross dirty deception of democracy by the Cadets,. a deception touched up with a gloss of culture.

And what about the Socialist-Revolutionaries? Are they doing their duty as honest democrats (we do not say as socialists, for that cannot be said of them), the duty of giving the people a clear and truthful account of the struggle of the different political tendencies among those who seek to lead the people?

Let us examine the facts.

The December Congress of the Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries in 1905 was the first and only one to publish minutes of the proceedings. Mr. Tuchkin, a delegate of the Central Organ, exclaims: “The Social-Democrats were at   one time convinced, apparently quite sincerely, that the advent of political liberties would spell political death to our party.... The epoch of liberties has proved the reverse” (p. 28 of the supplement to the Minutes). You don’t really mean that, Mr. Tuchkin, do you? Is that what the epoch of liberties proved? Is that what the actual policy of the party of Socialist-Revolutionaries proved in 1905? In 1906? In 1907?

Let us turn to the facts.

In the minutes of the Congress of the Socialist-Revolutionaries (December 1905, published in 1906/) we read that after October 17 a writers’ group, which had a voice but no vote at this Congress, “urged the Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionaries to organise a legal party” (p. 49 of the Minutes; further quotations are from the same source). The Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionaries “was asked to set up not a legal organisation of the Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries, but a special parallel Popular Socialist Party” (51). The Central Committee refused and referred the question to the Congress. The Congress rejected the motion of the Popular Socialists by a majority of all against one with seven abstentions (66). “Is it conceivable to be in two parallel parties?” cried Mr. Tuchkin, beating his breast (p. 61). And Mr. Shevich hinted at the Popular Socialists’ kinship with the liberals, so that the Popular Socialist Mr. Rozhdestvensky began to lose his equanimity (p. 59) and avowed that “no one has the right” to call them “semi-liberals” (59).[2]

Such are the facts. In 1905, the Socialist-Revolutionaries broke with the “semi-liberal” Popular Socialists. But did they?

In 1905, a powerful means for the party openly to influence the masses was the press. During the October “days of liberty” the Socialist-Revolutionaries ran a newspaper in a bloc with the Popular Socialists, prior to the December Congress, it is true. Formally the Socialist-Revolutionaries   are right on this point. in reality, during the period of the greatest liberties, the period of most direct influence upon the masses, they concealed from the public the existence of two different tendencies within the party. The differences of opinion were as great as those within the Social-Democratic ranks, but the Social-Democrats tried to clarify them, whereas the Socialist-Revolutionaries tried diplomatically to conceal them. Such are the facts of 1905.

Now take 1906. The First-Duma period of “small liberties”. The socialist newspapers are revived. The Socialist-Revolutionaries are again in a bloc with the Popular Socialists, and they have a joint newspaper. No wonder the break with the “semi-liberals” at the congress was a diplomatic one: if you like—a break, or if you like—no break! The proposal was rejected, the idea of “being in two parallel parties” was ridiculed, and ... and they went on sitting side by side in two parties, reverently exclaiming: We thank thee, 0 Lord, that we are not as those Social-Democrats who fight one .another! Such are the facts. Both periods of the free press in Russia were marked by the So-cialist-Revolutionaries aligning themselves with the Popular Socialists and concealing from democracy by deception (“diplomacy”) the two profoundly divergent tendencies within their party.

Now take 1907. After the First Duma the Popular Socialists formally organised their own party. That was inevitable, since in the First Duma, in the first address of the parties to the peasant electors all over Russia, the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries came forward with different agrarian plans (the Bills of the 104 and the 33). The Popular Socialists defeated the Socialist-Revolutionaries by securing three times as many signatures of the Trudovik deputies to their plan, to their agrarian programme. And this programme, as the Socialist-Revolutionary Vikhlyaev admitted (Nasha Mysl, Collection, No. 1, St. Petersburg, 1907, article: “The Popular Socialist Party and the Agrarian Question”) “similarly” with the law of November 9, 1906, “arrives at negation of the basic principle of communal land tenure”. This programme legalises “the manifestations of selfish individualism” (p. 89 of Mr. Vikhlyaev’s article), “pollutes the broad ideological stream with   individualist mud” (p. 91 of the same article), and embarks upon “the path of encouraging individualist and egoistic tendencies among the masses” (ibid., p. 93).

Clear enough, it would seem? The overwhelming majority of peasant deputies displayed bourgeois individualism. The S.R.’s first address to the peasant electors of all Russia strikingly confirmed the theory of the Social-Democrats by virtually converting the S.R.’s into the extreme Left wing of the petty-bourgeois democrats.

But, perhaps the S.R.’s, after the Popular Socialists had separated from them and won the Trudovik group over to their programme, definitely dissociated themselves from them? They did not. The elections to the Second Duma in St. Petersburg proved the reverse. Blocs with the Cadets were then the greatest manifestation of socialist opportunism. The Black-Hundred danger was a fiction covering up the policy of truckling to the liberals. The Cadet press revealed this very clearly by stressing the “moderation” of the Mensheviks and Popular Socialists. How did the S. R. s behave? Our “revolutionaries” formed a bloc with the Popular Socialists and the Trudoviks; the terms of this bloc were concealed from the public. Our revolutionaries trailed after the Cadets, just like the Mensheviks. The S.R. spokesmen proposed a bloc to the Cadets (the meeting of January 18, 1907. See N. Lenin’s pamphlet When You Hear the Judgement of a Fool..., St. Petersburg, January 15, 1907,[3] in which it is established that the S.R.’s behaved in a politically dishonest manner in the question of agreements by negotiating simultaneously with the Social-Democrats, who had declared war on the Cadets on January 7, 1907, and with the Cadets). The S.R.’s found themselves in the Left bloc against their will, owing to the Cadets’ refusal.

Thus, after a complete break with the Popular Socialists the S.R.’s in actual fact pursued the policy of the Popular Socialists and Mensheviks, i. e., the opportunists. Their “advantage” consists in concealing from the public the motives of this policy and the currents within their party.

The extraordinary Congress of the S.R. Party in February 1907 not only failed to raise this question of blocs with the Cadets, not only failed to assess the significance of such a policy, but, on the contrary, confirmed it! We would remind the reader of G.A. Gershuni’s speech at that Congress, which at that time Rech lauded in exactly the same way as it always lauds Plekhanov. Gershuni said that he adhered to his “old opinion: the Cadets so far are not our enemies” (p. 11 of the pamphlet: “Speech by G. A. Gershuni at the Extraordinary Congress of the S. R. Party”, 1907, pp. 1-15, with the party motto of the S.R.’s: “In struggle you will win your rights”). Gershuni warned against mutual struggle within the opposition: “Will not the people lose faith in the very possibility of government by means of a popular representative assembly” (ibid.). Obviously, it was in the spirit of this Cadet-lover that the Congress of the S.R.’s adopted a resolution, which stated, among other things:

The Congress holds that a sharp party alignment of groups within the Duma, with isolated action by each separate group and acute inter-group struggle, could completely paralyse the activities of the oppositional majority and, thereby discredit the very idea of popular representation in the eyes of the working classes” (Partiiniye Izvestia of the S.R. Party, No. 6, March 8, 1907).

This is the sheerest opportunism, worse than our Menshevism. Gershuni in a slightly more clumsy way made the Congress repeat Plekhanovism. And the entire activity of the S.R. Duma group reflected this spirit of Cadet tactics of concern for the unity of the national opposition. The only difference between the Social-Democrat Plekhanov and the Socialist-Revolutionary Gershuni is that the former is a member of a party that does not cover up such decadence, but exposes and fights against it, while the latter is a member of a party in which all tactical principles and theoretical views are muddled and hidden from the eyes of the public by a thick screen of parochial diplomacy. “Not to wash one’s dirty linen in public” is a thing the S.R.’s are adept at. The trouble is they have nothing to show in public but dirty linen. They could not tell the whole truth about their relations with the Popular Socialists in 1905, 1906, or 1907. They cannot disclose how a party—not a circle, but, a party—can   one day adopt an ultra-opportunist resolution by 67 votes to 1, and the next day exhaust themselves shouting “revolutionary” cries.

No, gentlemen “judges”, we do not envy you your formal right to rejoice at the sharp struggle and splits within the ranks of Social-Democracy. No doubt, there is much in this struggle that is to be deplored. Without a doubt, there is much in these splits that is disastrous to the cause of socialism. Nevertheless, not for a single minute would we care to barter this heavy truth for your “light” lie. Our Party’s serious illness is the growing pains of a mass party. For there can be no mass party, no party of a class, without full clarity of essential shadings, without an open struggle between various tendencies, without informing the masses as to which leaders and which organisations of the Party are pursuing this or that line. Without this, a party worthy of the name cannot be built, and we are building it. We have succeeded in putting the views of our two currents truthfully, clearly, and distinctly before everyone. Personal bitterness, factional squabbles and strife, scandals, and splits—all these are trivial in comparison with the fact that the experience of two tactics is actually teaching a lesson to the proletarian masses, is actually teaching a lesson to everyone who is capable of taking an intelligent interest in politics. Our quarrels and splits will be forgotten. Our tactical principles, sharpened and tempered, will go down as corner stones in the history of the working-class movement and socialism in Russia. Years will pass, perhaps decades, and the influence of one or the other tendency will be traced in a hundred practical questions of different kinds. Both the working class of Russia and the whole people know whom they are dealing with in the case of Bolshevism or Menshevism.

Do they know the Cadets? The entire history of the Cadet Party is one of sheer political jugglery that keeps silent about what matters most and whose one and everlasting concern is to keep the truth hidden at all costs.

Do they know the Socialist-Revolutionaries? Will the S.R.’s tomorrow again enter into a bloc with the Social-Cadets? Are they not in that bloc today? Do they dissociate themselves from the “individualist mud” of the Trudoviks   or are they filling their party more and more with this mud? Do they still adhere to the theory of unity of the national opposition? Did they adopt that theory only yesterday? Will they abandon it tomorrow for a few weeks? No one knows. The S.R.’s themselves do not know it, because the entire history of their party is one of systematically and continuously obscuring, confusing, and glossing over their differences by means of words, phrases and still more phrases.

Why is that? It is not because the S.R.’s are bourgeois careerists like the Cadets. No, their sincerity, as a circle, cannot be doubted. Their trouble is that it is impossible for them to create a mass party, impossible for them to become the party of a class. The objective position is such that they have to be merely a wing of peasant democracy, an unindependent, unequal appendage, a “subgroup” of the Trudoviks, and not a self-contained whole. The period of storm and stress did not help the S.R.’s to rise to their full stature. It threw them into the clutching arms of the Popular Socialists, a clutch so strong that not even a split can unlock them. The period of the counter-revolutionary war did not strengthen their connection with definite social strata—it merely gave rise to new waverings and vacillations (which the S.R.’s are now trying hard to conceal) about the socialist nature of the muzhik. And today, on reading the passionate articles of Znamya Truda about the heroes of S. R. terrorism, one cannot help saying to oneself: your terrorism, gentlemen, is not the outcome of your revolutionism. Your revolutionism is confined to terrorism.

No, these judges are far from being able to judge Social-Democracy!


[1] Lenin gives this word in English.—Tr.

[2] Mr. Shevich retreated somewhat in face of this resentment on the part of a Popular Socialist who had lost his equanimity and “corrected himself”—p. 63—saying, “by way of personal [!!] explanation”:“I had no intention of suggesting that the speaker was a member of the liberal party”. —Lenin

[3] See present edition, Vol. II, pp. 456-74.—Ed.

[4] Znamya Truda (Banner of Labour)—the central organ of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, published in Paris from July 1907 to April 1914.

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