V. I. Lenin

The Faction of Supporters of Otzovism and God-Building



For any Marxist who has at all pondered over the philosophy of Marx and Engels, for any Social-Democrat who is at all acquainted with the history of the international socialist movement, this conversion of one of the lowest forms of struggle into the specific weapon of struggle of a special historic moment contains nothing surprising. The anarchists have absolutely never been able to understand this simple thing. Now our otzovists and their removed echoers are trying to introduce anarchist modes of thought among Russian Social-Democrats, crying out (like Maximov and Co.) that Proletary is dominated by the theory of “parliamentarism at any price”.

To show how stupid and un-Social-Democratic these out cries of Maximov and Co. are, we shall once more have to   begin with the ABC. Just reflect, 0 unjustly removed ones, what is the specific difference between the policy and tactics of the German Social-Democrats and those of the socialist workers’ parties in other countries? The utilisation of parliamentarism; the conversion of bourgeois Junker (approximate Russian equivalent: Octobrist-Black-Hundred) parliamentarism into an instrument for the socialist education and organisation of the mass of the workers. Does this mean that parliamentarism is the highest form of struggle of the socialist proletariat? Anarchists the world over think it does mean that. Does it mean that the German Social-Democrats stand for parliamentarism at any price? Anarchists the world over think it does mean that, and hence there is no enemy more hateful to them than German Social-Democracy, there is no target they love to aim at more than the German Social-Democrats. And in Russia, when our Socialist-Revolutionaries begin to flirt with the anarchists and advertise their own “revolutionary militancy” they never fail to drag In real or imaginary errors of the German Social-Democrats, and draw conclusions from them to the detriment of Social-Democracy.

Now let us go further. In what lies the fallacy of the anarchists’ argument? It lies in the fact that, owing to their radically incorrect ideas of the course of social development, they are unable to take into account those peculiarities of the concrete political (and economic) situation in different Countries which determine the specific significance of one or another means of struggle for a given period of time. In point of fact the German Social-Democrats, far from standing for parliamentarism at any price, not only do not subordinate everything to parliamentarism, but, on the contrary, in the international army of the proletariat they best of all have developed such extra-parliamentary means of struggle as the socialist press, the trade unions, the systematic use of popular assemblies, the socialist education of youth, and so on and so forth.

What is the point then? The point is that a combination of a number of historic conditions has made parliamentarism a specific weapon of struggle for Germany over a given period, not the chief one, not the highest, not of prime and essential importance in comparison with other forms, but merely   specific, the most characteristic in comparison with other countries. Hence, the ability to use parliamentarism has proved to be a symptom (not a condition but a symptom) of exemplary organisation of the entire socialist movement, in all its branches, which we have enumerated above.

Let us turn from Germany to Russia. Anyone who presumed to draw an exact parallel between the conditions in these two countries would be guilty of a number of gross errors. But try to put the question as a Marxist is bound to do: what is the specific peculiarity of the policy and tactics of the Russian Social-Democrats at the present time? We must preserve and strengthen the illegal Party—just as before the revolution. We must steadily prepare the masses for a new revolutionary crisis—as in the years 1897-1903. We must strengthen to the utmost the Party’s ties with the masses, develop and utilise all kinds of workers’ organisations for the furtherance of the socialist cause, as has always been the practice of all Social-Democratic parties. The specific peculiarity of the moment is, namely, that. the old autocracy is making an attempt (an unsuccessful attempt) to solve new historic problems with the help of the Octobrist-Black-Hundred Duma. Hence, the specific tactical task of the Social-Democrats is to use this Duma for their own purposes, for spreading the ideas of revolution and socialism. The point is not that this specific task is particularly lofty, that it opens grand vistas, or that it equals or even approaches in importance the tasks which faced the proletariat in, say, the period of 1905–06. No. The point is that it is a special feature of the tactics of the present moment, marking its distinction from the period that is past or from that which is yet to come (for this coming period will certainly bring us specific tasks, more complex, more lofty, more interesting than that of utilising the Third Duma). We cannot be equal to the present situation, we cannot solve the, whole assemblage of problems with which it confronts the Social-Democratic Party, unless we solve this specific problem of the moment, unless we convert the Black-Hundred-Octobrist Duma into an instrument for Social-Democratic propaganda.

The otzovist windbags, taking their cue from the Bolsheviks, talk, for instance, of taking account of the experience of the revolution. But they do not understand what they   are talking about. They do not understand that taking account of the experience of the revolution includes defending the ideals and aims and methods of the revolution from inside the Duma. If we do not know how to defend these ideals aims and methods from inside the Duma, through our working-class Party members who might enter and those who have already entered, this Duma, it means that we are unable to make the first step towards, politically taking account of the experience of the revolution (for,what we are concerned with here is of course not a theoretical summing up of experience in books and researches). Our task is by no means ended by this first step. Incomparably more important than the first step will be the second and third steps, i.e., the conversion of the experience already gained by the masses into ideological stock-in-trade for new historic action. But if these otzovist windbags themselves speak of an “inter-revolutionary” period they should have understood (if they were able to think and reason things out in a Social-Democratic way) that “inter-revolutionary” signifies precisely that elementary, preliminary tasks come on the order of the day. “Inter-revolutionary” denotes an unsettled, indefinite situation when the old regime has become convinced that it is impossible to rule with the old instruments alone and tries to use a new instrument within the general framework of the old institutions. This is an internally contradictory, futile attempt, in which the autocracy is once more going towards inevitable failure, is once more leading us to a repetition of the glorious period and glorious battles of 1905. But it is going not in the same way as in 1897-1903, it is leading the people to revolution not in the same way as before 1905. It is this “not in the same way” that we must be able to understand; we must be able to modify our tactics, supplementing all the basic, general, primary and cardinal tasks of revolutionary Social-Democracy by one more task, not very ambitious, but a specific task of the present new period: the task of utilising the Black-Hundred Duma in a revolutionary Social-Democratic way.

Like any new task it seems more difficult than the others, because it requires of people not a simple repetition of slogans learned by heart (beyond which Maximov and the otzovists are mentally bankrupt), but a certain amount of initiative,   flexibility of mind, resourcefulness and independent work on a novel historical task. But in actual fact this task can appear particularly difficult only to people who are incapable of independent thought and independent effort: actually this task, like every specific task of a given moment, is easier than others because its solvability is determined entirely by the conditions of the given moment. In a period of “acute, and increasing reaction” to solve the problem of organising “training schools and groups” in a really serious way, i.e., one that really connects them with the mass movement, that really subordinates them to it, is quite impossible, for it is a task set stupidly by people who have copied the formulation of it from a good pamphlet, which was based on the conditions of a different period. But to solve the problem of subordinating the speeches, actions and policy of the Social-Democrats in the Third Duma to the mass party and the interests of the masses is possible. It is not easy, compared with the “easy” matter, of repeating things learned by heart, but it can be done. However we exert all the forces of the Party now, we cannot solve the problem of a Social-Democratic (and not anarchist) organisation of “training schools” at the present “inter-revolutionary” moment, for the solution of this problem requires altogether different historical conditions. On the contrary, by exerting all our forces we shall solve (and we are already beginning to solve), the problem of utilising the Third Duma in a revolutionary Social-Democratic way. And we shall do so, 0 you otzovists and ultimatumists wronged by removal and the harshness of God, not in order to put parliamentarism on some high pedestal, not to proclaim “parliamentarism at any price”, but in order, after the solution of the “inter-revolutionary” problem, corresponding to the present “inter-revolutionary” period, to proceed to the solution of loftier revolutionary problems, which will correspond to the higher, i.e., more revolutionary period of tomorrow.


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