V. I. Lenin

The Faction of Supporters of Otzovism and God-Building

Comrades Maximov and Nikolayev have issued a special leaflet entitled “Report of the Members Removed from the Enlarged Editorial Board of Proletary to the Bolshevik Comrades.” Our victims of removal most bitterly complain to the public of the wrongs suffered by them at the hands of the editorial board and how it removed them.

To show the party of the working class what kind of people. these bitterly complaining victims’ of removal are, let us first of all examine the principles embodied’ in their leaflet. The reader knows, from Proletary No. 46 and the supplement to it, that the Conference of the enlarged editorial board of Proletary adjudged Comrade Maximov to be one of the organisers of a new faction in our Party, a faction with which Bolshevism has nothing in common, and it disclaimed “all responsibility for the political actions of Comrade Maximov”.{1} It is evident from the resolutions of the Conference that the fundamental issue of divergence with the new faction that has broken away from the Bolsheviks’ (or rather, with Maximov and his friends) is, firstly, otzovism and ultimatumism; secondly, god-building. The, attitude of the Bolshevik group to both trends is set out in three detailed resolutions.

What now do the bitterly complaining victims of removal say in reply?


Let us begin with otzovism. Our victims of removal sum up the parliamentary or Duma experience of the past years, justify the boycott of the Bulygin and Witte Dumas, as   well as the participation in the Second Duma, and continue:

“At a time of acute and increasing reaction all this changes again. The Party cannot then carry out a big and spectacular election campaign, nor obtain worth-while parliamentary representation.”

The first phrase with an independent idea not copied from old Bolshevik publications at once reveals to us the abysmal political thoughtlessness of the otzovists. Just reflect for a moment, good souls, at a time of acute and increasing reaction is it possible for the Party to organise in a “big and spectacular” way the “training groups and schools” for boyeviks{2} that you speak about on the very same page, in the very same column of your literary production? Reflect for a moment, good souls, can the Party obtain “worth-while representation” in such schools? If you could think, if you were at all capable of political judgement, 0 you unjustly removed ones, you would see what absolute nonsense you are talking. Instead of thinking politically, you pin your faith to a “spectacular” signboard and so find yourselves in the role of Simple Simons of the Party. You babble about “training schools” and “intensifying [!] propaganda in the armed forces” (ibid.) because, like all the political, infants in the camp of the otzovists and ultimatumists, you consider such activities to be particularly “spectacular”, but you are incapable of thinking about the conditions for applying these forms of activity in practice (and not in words). You have memorised fragments of Bolshevik phrases and slogans but your understanding of them is precisely nil. “At a time of acute and increasing reaction” all work is difficult for the Party, but however great the difficulties, it is still possible to obtain worth-while parliamentary representation. This is proved too, for instance, by the experience of the German Social-Democrats in a period of “acute and increasing reaction” as during the introduction of the Anti-Socialist Law.{3} By denying this possibility Maximov and Go. only reveal their class political ignorance. To advocate “training schools” and “intensification of propaganda in the armed forces” “at a time of acute and increasing reaction” and at the same time to deny the possibility of the Party having worthwhile parliamentary representation is to utter obvious   incongruities which deserve to be published in an anthology of logical absurdities for junior high-school boys. Both training schools and the intensification of propaganda in the armed forces presuppose an inevitable violation, of the old laws, breaking through these, laws, whereas parliamentary activity by no means necessarily, or at any rate much more rarely, presupposes a breach of the old laws by the new social forces. Now reflect, good souls, when is it easier to force a breach of the old laws: at a time of acute and increasing reaction or when the movement is on the upgrade? Reflect, 0 unjustly removed ones, and be ashamed of the nonsense you utter in defending the otzovists, who are so dear to you.

Further. Which activity presupposes a ’wider scope for the energy of the masses, greater influence of the masses on immediate political life—parliamentary activity within the laws framed by’ the old regime, or propaganda among the troops, which at one stroke directly undermines this regime’s material force? Reflect, good souls, and. you will see that parliamentary activity takes second place in this respect. And what follows from this? It follows that the stronger the immediate movement of the masses, and the greater the scope of their energy, in other words: the more one can speak of an “acute and increasing” revolutionary onslaught of the people and not of “acute and increasing reaction”, all the more possible, certain and successful will become both propaganda among the troops and militant actions that are really connected with the mass movement and are not merely the adventurism of unrestrained boyeviks. That, 0 unjustly removed ones, was the reason why Bolshevism could so powerfully develop both militant activities and propaganda among the troops in the period of “acute and increasing” revolutionary upsurge; that was the reason why the Bolsheviks could (beginning from 1907) dissociate, and by 1909 did completely dissociate their group from the boyevism that at a time of “acute and increasing reaction” degenerated, inevitably degenerated, into adventurism.

But with these heroes of ours, who have learned by heart fragments of Bolshevik phrases, it is the other way round. The highest forms of struggle, which have never anywhere in the world succeeded without a direct onslaught of the masses, are put in the forefront and recommended as “feasible”   at a time of acute reaction, while the lower forms of struggle, which presuppose not so much a direct breach of the law by mass struggle as utilisation of the law for the purpose of propaganda and agitation, preparing the minds of the masses for struggle, are declared “unfeasible”!!

The otzovists and their “removed” echoers have heard, and committed to memory, that the Bolsheviks regard direct struggle of the masses, drawing into motion even the troops (i.e., the most obdurate section of the population, the slowest to move and most protected against propaganda, etc.) and converting armed outbreaks into the real beginning of an uprising, as the highest form of the movement, and parliamentary activity without the direct action of the masses as the lowest form of the movement. The otzovists and their echoers, such as Maximov, heard this and learned it by heart, but they did not understand it, and so disgraced themselves. The highest form—that means the. most “spectacular”—thinks the otzovist and Comrade Maximov, Well, then, I’ll raise a highly “spectacular” cry, that should pro duce the most revolutionary result of all. As for the meaning of it, that can be left to the devil!

Now listen to some more of Maximov’s ideas (we continue the quotation from where we left off):

“The mechanical force of reaction severs the connection of the already existing Party faction with the masses and makes it terribly difficult for the Party to influence them, with the result that this representative body is unable to conduct sufficiently broad and deep organisational and propaganda work in the interests of the Party. If the Party itself is weakened there is not excluded even the danger of degeneration of the faction and its deviation from the main line of Social-Democracy....”

In very truth, isn’t that supremely pretty? When it is a matter of the lower, legal forms of struggle they try to frighten us: “the mechanical force of reaction”, “unable to conduct sufficiently broad work”, “the danger of degeneration”. But when it is a matter of the higher forms of the class struggle, which force a breach in the old laws, the “mechanical force of reaction” disappears, there is no “inability” to conduct “sufficiently broad” work among the troops, and the “danger of degeneration” of training groups and schools, please observe, is altogether out of the question!

There you have the best justification of the editorial board of Proletary, why it had to remove political leaders who spread such ideas among the masses.

Get this into your heads, 0 unjustly removed ones: when the conditions of acute and increasing reaction are really present, when the mechanical force of this reaction really severs the connection with the masses, makes sufficiently broad. work difficult and weakens the Party, it is then that the specific task of the Party becomes to master the parliamentary weapon of struggle; and that, 0 unjustly removed ones, is not because parliamentary struggle is higher than any other forms of struggle; no, it is just because it is lower than them, lower, for example, than a struggle which draws into the mass movement even the armed forces, which gives rise to mass strikes, uprisings, etc. Then why does mastery of the lowest form of struggle become the specific (i.e., distinguishing the present moment from other moments) task of the Party? Because the stronger the mechanical force of reaction and, the weaker the connection with the masses, the more immediate becomes the task of preparing the minds of the masses (and not the task of direct action), the more immediate becomes the task of utilising the methods of propaganda and agitation created by the old regime (and not a direct onslaught of the masses against this old regime).


{1} The Meeting of the Enlarged Editorial Board ofProletary” was held in Paris on June 8-17 (21-30), 1909. Nine members of the Bolshevik Centre (elected by the Bolshevik group of the Fifth [London] Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. in 1907) were present at it, headed by Lenin, and representatives of the organisations of St. Petersburg, Moscow Region and the Urals. The meeting was convened to discuss the anti-Party stand of the otzovists and ultimatumists and took place under Lenin’s leadership. Lenin spoke on all the main questions on the agenda. Otzovism and ultimatumism were defended at the meeting by A. Bogdanov (Maximov) and V. Shantser (Marat). Kamenev, Zinoviev, Rykov and Tomsky adopted a double-dealing position. The meeting condemned otzovism and ultimatumism as “Left liquidationism”. It also condemned god-building and adopted a decision for a vigorous struggle against it, exposing its anti-Marxist character. Bogdanov, the inspirer of otzovism and ultimatumism, ’was expelled from the ranks of the Bolsheviks.

{2} Boyeviks—members of the revolutionary fighting squads, who, during the revolutionary struggle, used the tactics 61 armed action, helped political prisoners to escape, expropriated state-owned funds for the needs of the revolution, removed spies and agent provocateurs, etc.

{3} The Anti-Socialist Law was promulgated in Germany in 1878. The law suppressed all organisations of the Social-Democratic Party, mass working-class organisations, and the labour press; socialist literature was confiscated. The law was annulled in 1890 under pressure of the mass working-class movement.

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