V. I.   Lenin

The Aim of the Proletarian Struggle in Our Revolution



We have only to take a general glance at the history of Party opinions on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry to see how much damage Comrade Martov has done himself by his talk about pettifogging and movements without a goal. Indeed, the first thing that this history shows is that the Bolsheviks, themselves have never, either in their drafts or in their resolutions, inserted the expression or “formula”—“dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”. Nevertheless, up till now, no one has ever thought of denying that all the Bolshevik drafts   and resolutions between 1905 and 1907 are based entirely on the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. It would be absurd to deny it, for to do so would indeed be pettifoggery and an attempt to obscure the real issue with a mere quibbling over words. The proletariat which “allies to itself” the mass of the peasantry, said Lenin in Two Tactics (Twelve Years, p. 445[1] ); the proletariat which “leads” the mass of the peasantry, says the draft resolution of the Bolsheviks in 1906; “joint actions” of the proletariat and the peasantry “in the struggle to carry the democratic revolution through to victory”, . says the resolution of the London Congress. Is it not obvious that the same idea runs through all these formulations, that this idea is precisely the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, that the “formula”, the proletariat relying upon the peasantry, remains part and parcel of that same dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry?

Comrade Martov tries his hardest to confute this latter proposition. He starts a discussion about the word “and”. There is no “and”; the formula with “and” in it was reject ed!—exclaims Comrade Martov. Don’t dare now t.o put this “and” into unsigned articles in the Central Organ. Too late, too late, dear Comrade Martov: you should have addressed this demand to all the Bolshevik organs of the press during the whole period of the revolution. All of them, all the time, spoke about the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, and did so on the basis of resolutions which did not contain this “and”. Comrade Martov has lost this battle of principle over the word “and”; and he has lost it not only because it was belated, but. also because her majesty Logic has ruled that “allying to” and “leading” and “joint actions” and “relying upon” and “with the help of” (this last expression occurs in the resolution of the Sixth Congress of the Polish Social-Democrats[2]) all come within the meaning of the offending “and”.

But the Bolsheviks objected to “relying upon”, says Comrade Martov, continuing his debate on principles. Yes, they did object; not because it controverted the dictatorship   of the proletariat and the peasantry, but because in Russian this “formula” does not sound very well. Usually, it is the weak who rely on the strong. The Bolsheviks are quite willing to accept word for word the Polish formula, “the proletariat with the help of the peasantry”—although perhaps it would have been better to say, “the proletariat leading the peasantry”. One may argue about all these formulas, but to convert such an argument into a “debate on principles” is simply ridiculous. Comrade Martov’s attempt to deny that “relying upon” is part of the concept of joint action is a model of pettifoggery. Comrade Martov quotes Dan, Axelrod and Semyonov as saying that the conquest of power “by the proletariat, relying upon the peasantry”, means conquest of power by “the proletariat alone”; but this can only make the reader smile. If we were to say that Mar toy and Potresov, relying upon Cherevanin, Prokopovich and Co., have liquidated the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution, would anyone take that to mean that Martov and Potresov liquidated this idea alone, without Cherevanin, Prokopovich and Co.?

No, comrades, a discussion in the Central Organ should not be reduced to pettifoggery. Such methods will not help you to wriggle out of admitting the fundamental and undoubted fact that the majority of the R.S.D.L.P., including the Poles and the Bolsheviks, stand firmly for (1) recognition of the guiding role of the proletariat, the role of leader, in the revolution, (2) recognition that the aim of the struggle is the conquest of power by the proletariat assisted by other revolutionary classes, (3) recognition that the first and perhaps the sole “assistants” in this matter are the peas ants. Those who want to discuss the real issue should try to challenge at least one of these three propositions. Comrade Martov has not examined a single one of them seriously. He forgot to tell his readers that on each of these three formulas the Mensheviks hold a view which the Party has rejected, and that Menshevism and Menshevism alone is the delusion which the Party has rejected! And that was what the Mensheviks’ policy was during the revolution—a movement without a goal, and therefore dependent on the vagaries of the Constitutional-Democratic Party. And this was the case precisely because the Mensheviks did not know whether the   proletariat should aspire to be the leader, whether it should aspire to the conquest of power, and whether in doing so it should rely on the assistance of any other particular class. This ignorance inevitably dooms the Social-Democrats’ policy to uncertainty, error, sacrifice of principle and dependence on the liberals.

The conference did not bury the “dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, and did not anthorise its elimination from the Party’s vocabulary. On the contrary, the conference endorsed it, and took another step towards its fuller recognition. The London Congress recognised (1) the role of the proletariat as “leader in the bourgeois-democratic revolution”, and (2) “joint actions” of the proletariat and the peasantry which were to “serve only for the purpose of a general onset”, actions, too, by the way, for “carrying the revolution through to victory”. All that remained was to recognise that the aim of the struggle in this revolution was the conquest of power by the proletariat and the peasantry. This the conference did in the formula: “The conquest of power by the proletariat, relying on the peasantry."

In saying this we do not in the least deny or play down the differences of opinion between the Bolsheviks and the Poles. The Polish Social-Democrats have every opportunity to voice these differences in their own publications in the Russian language, in the columns of the Bolshevik press, and in the Central Organ. The Polish Social-Democrats have already begun to avail themselves of this opportunity. If Comrade Martov achieves his object, and succeeds in bringing the Polish Social-Democrats into our dispute, each and all will see that we are at one with the Polish Social-Democrats against the Mensheviks on all essentials, and that we disagree only on minor points.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 9, p. 400.—Ed.

[2] This refers to the resolution on the political situation within the country and the tasks of the Party, adopted at the Sixth Congress of the Social-Democrats of Poland and Lithuania, held in Praga (a suburb of Warsaw) in December 1908.

The Congress repelled liquidationist tendencies and confirmed that the chief task of Social-Democracy was to fight for the con quest of political power by the proletariat with the help of the revolutionary peasantry.

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