V. I. Lenin

The Faction of Supporters of Otzovism and God-Building



These stupid outcries of Maximov and Co. about the Bolsheviks’ standing for “parliamentarism at any price”, sound particularly queer in view of the actual history of   otzovism. What is queer is that the shout about exaggerated parliamentarism should come from the very people who have developed and are developing a special trend exclusively over the question of their attitude to parliamentarism! What do you call yourselves, dear Maximov and Co.? You Call yourselves “otzovists”, “ultimatumists”, “boycottists”. Maximov to this day is so proud of being a boycottist of the Third Duma that he can’t get over it, and his rare Party utterances are invariably accompanied by the signature: “Reporter on behalf of the boycottists at the July Conference of 1907.”{2} One writer in olden times used to sign himself: “Substantive state councillor and cavalier,” Maximov signs himself: “Reporter on behalf of the boycottists”—he, too, is a cavalier; you see!

In the political situation of June 1907, when Maximov advocated the boycott, the mistake was still quite a small one. But when Maximov comes out in July 1909 with a manifesto of sorts and persists in admiring his “boycottism” in regard to the Third Duma, it is downright stupidity. Boycottism, otzovism and ultimatumism—all these expressions in themselves imply the formation of a trend over the question of the attitude to parliamentarism and exclusively over this question. To make a separate stand on this question, to persist (two years after the Party has settled it in principle!) in this separate stand, is a sign of unparalleled narrow-mindedness. It is just those who behave in this way, i.e., the “boycottists” (of 1909) and the otzovists and the ultimatumists, who prove thereby that they do not think like Social-Democrats, that they are putting parliamentarism on a special pedestal, that exactly like the anarchists they make a trend out of isolated formulas: boycott that Duma, recall your men from that Duma, present an ultimatum to that group in the Duma. To act like that is to be a Caricature of a Bolshevik. Among Bolsheviks the trend is determined by their common attitude to the Russian revolution and the Bolsheviks have emphatically declared a thousand times (as it were to forewarn political infants) that to identify Bolshevism with boycottism or boyevism is a stupid distortion and vulgarisation of the views of revolutionary Social-Democracy. Our view that Social-Democratic participation in the Third Duma is obligatory, for   instance, follows inevitably from our attitude to the present moment,’ to the attempts of the autocracy to take a step forward along the path of creating a bourgeois monarchy, to the significance of the Duma as an organisation of counter revolutionary classes in a representative institution on a national scale. Just as the anarchists display an inverted parliamentary cretinism when they separate the question of parliament from the whole question of bourgeois society in general and try to create a trend from outcries against bourgeois parliamentarism (although criticism of bourgeois parliamentarism is in principle on the same level as criticism of the bourgeois press, bourgeois syndicalism and so forth), so our otzovists, ultimatumists and boycottists, in exactly the same way, display inverted Menshevism when they form a separate trend on the question of the attitude to the Duma, on the question of methods of combating deviations on the part of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma (and not the deviations of bourgeois literati, who come into the Social-Democratic movement incidentally, and so on).

The climax of this inverted parliamentary cretinism is reached in the famous argument of the leader of the Moscow otzovists whom Maximov is shielding: the recall of the Duma group should serve to emphasise that the revolution is not dead and buried! And Maximov with pure and unruffled brow does not hesitate to declare publicly: “the otzovists have never (of course, never!) expressed anti-parliamentary sentiments at all.”

This shielding of the otzovists by Maximov and Co. is one of the most characteristic features of the new faction and we must dwell on it in all the more detail because the unenlightened public is all too often taken in by our bitterly complaining removed ones. It consists firstly in the fact that Maximov and Co. are forever beating their breasts and protesting: we are not otzovists, we do not share the opinions of the otzovists at all! Secondly, Maximov and Co. accuse the Bolsheviks of exaggerating the fight against the otzovists. It is an exact repetition of the story of the attitude of the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists (in the years 1897-1901) to the adherents of Rabochaya Mysl. “We are not Economists,{3} cried the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists, beating their breasts, “we do not share the views of Rabochaya Mysl, we are carrying   on a controversy with them (in just the same way as Maximov carried on a ‘controversy’ with the otzovists!), it is only those wicked Iskrists who have brought a false charge against us, slandered us, ‘exaggerated’ Economism, etc., etc.” Thus among the supporters of Rabochaya Mysl—frank and honest Economists—there were not a few people who had genuinely gone astray, who had the courage of their convictions, whom it was impossible not to respect—while the Rabocheye Dyelo clique abroad specialised in definite intrigues, in covering up their tracks, in playing hide-and-seek and deceiving the public. The consistent and declared otzovists (like Vsev,{4} and Stan,{5} who are well known in Party circles) stand in exactly the same relation to Maximov’s clique abroad.

We are not otzovists, cry the members of this clique. But make any of them say a few words about the contemporary political situation and the tasks, of the Party and you will hear in full all the otzovist arguments, slightly watered down (as we have seen in the case of Maximov) by Jesuitical reservations, additions, suppressions, mitigations, confusions, etc. Your Jesuitry, 0 unjustly removed ones, cannot acquit you of the charge of otzovist stupidity, but aggravates your guilt tenfold, for an ideological confusion that is concealed is a hundred times more corrupting to the proletariat, a hundred times more harmful to the Party.[1]

We are not otzovists, cry Maximov and Co. Yet after June 1908, when he resigned from the small editorial board of Proletary, Maximov formed an official opposition inside the collegium, demanded and obtained freedom of discussion for this opposition, demanded and obtained special representation for the opposition in the organisation’s chief executive bodies responsible for the circulation of the newspaper. It goes without saying that ever since that time,   i.e., for over a year all the otzovists have been in the ranks of this opposition, have jointly organised an agency in Russia, have jointly adapted the school abroad (of which more below) for the purposes of an agency, and so on and so forth.

We are not otzovists—cry Maximov and Go. Yet at the All-Russian Party Conference in December 1908, when the more honest otzovists of this opposition came out before the whole Party as a separate group, as a specific ideological trend, and, as such, received the right to put forward their spokesman (the Conference had decided that only separate ideological trends or separate organisations—time being short—could be represented by a separate spokesman), the spokesman from the otzovist faction—by sheer accident! sheer accident!—was Comrade Maximov....

This deception of the Party by harbouring Otzovism is systematically pursued by Maximov’s group abroad. In May 1908 otzovism suffered defeat in open battle: it was outvoted by 18 to 14 at the general city conference in Moscow (in July 1907, in this district almost all the Social-Democrats without exception were boycottists but, unlike Maximov, by June 1908 they had the sense to understand that it would be unpardonable stupidity to insist on “boycotting” the Third, Duma). After this, Comrade Maximov organised abroad an official opposition to Proletary and began a controversy in the columns of the Bolshevik periodical, something which had never been practised before. Finally, in the autumn of 1908 when the whole St. Petersburg organisation divided into otzovists and non-zovists (the term coined by the workers) during the election of delegates to the All-Russian Conference, when discussions were held in all districts and subdistricts of St. Petersburg, not on the platform of Bolsheviks versus Mensheviks but on that of otzovists versus non-zovists, the otzovists hid their platform from the eyes of the public. It was not communicated to Proletary. It was not released for the press. It was not communicated to the Party at the All-Russian Conference of December 1908. Only after the Conference, on the insistent demand of the editorial board, was it communicated to us and we printed it in Proletary No. 44. (“Resolution of the St. Petersburg Otzovists”.)

A well-known otzovist leader in Moscow Region “edited” an article by an otzovist worker, which was published in Rabocheye Znamya{6} No. 5, but we have still not received this leader’s own platform. We know perfectly well that in the spring of 1909 when the regional conference of the Central Industrial Region was in preparation the otzovist leader’s platform was being read and passed from hand to hand. We know from the reports of Bolsheviks that there were incomparably more gems of un-Social-Democratic thought in this platform than in the St. Petersburg platform. But we were never supplied with the text of the platform, probably for reasons just as accidental, purely accidental, as those which caused Maximov to address the conference as the spokesman of the otzovist faction.

The question of utilising legal opportunities, too, Maximov and Co. covered up by a “smooth” phrase: “It is taken for granted.” It would be interesting to know if “it is taken for granted” now also by the practical leaders of the Maximov faction, Comrade Lyadov and Stanislav, who only three months ago caused a resolution to be passed in the Regional Bureau of the Central Industrial Region, which was then in their hands (the same Regional Bureau which endorsed the famous “school”; the membership of this Bureau has changed since), against Social-Democratic participation in the congress of factory doctors.{7} As we know this was the first congress at which the, revolutionary Social-Democrats were in the majority. Yet all the prominent otzovists and ultimatumists campaigned against participation in this congress, declaring that it would be “treason to the cause of the proletariat” to take part. in it. And Maximov covers up his tracks—“it is taken for granted”. We may “take it for granted” that the franker .otzovists and ultimatumists are openly disrupting practical work in Russia, while Maximov and Co. who are hankering for the laurels of Krichevsky and Martynov,{8} obscure the point at issue: there are no differences of opinion, no one is opposed to the idea of utilising legal opportunities.

The restoration of the Party bodies abroad, the foreign groups for the organisation of connections, etc., leads inevitably to a repetition of the old abuses which must be combated most relentlessly. It is a complete repetition of the   history of the Economists, who in Russia carried on a campaign against political action while they sheltered themselves abroad behind Rabocheye Dyelo. It is a complete repetition of the history of the bourgeois-democratic “Credo” (Credo—a symbol of faith), which was advocated in Russia by Prokopovich and Co. and was made public in the revolutionary Social-Democratic press against the will of the authors. Nothing could have a more demoralising influence on the Party than this game of hide-and-seek, this exploitation of the onerous conditions of illegal work to hold things back from Party publicity, this Jesuitry of Maximov and Co., who, while operating wholly and in every respect hand in glove with the otzovists, in print beat their breasts and declare that all this business of otzovism is a deliberate exaggeration on the part of Proletary.

We are not pettifoggers, we are not formalists, but revolutionaries. What matters to us is not the verbal distinctions which might be drawn between otzovism, ultimatumism, and “boycottism” (of the Third Duma), but the actual content of Social-Democratic propaganda and agitation. And if views which have nothing in common with Bolshevism nor with Social-Democracy in general are being propagated in illegal Russian circles under the mask of Bolshevism, those persons who are hindering a full exposure of these views and a full explanation of their falsity before the whole Party are acting as enemies of the proletariat.


[1] A little example which, by the way, serves to illustrate Maximov’s assertion that only Proletary is spreading tales about the ultimatumists out of spite. In the autumn of 1908 Alexinsky appeared at the congress of the Polish Social-Democrats and there proposed an ultimatumist resolution. This was beforeProletary” embarked on a determined campaign against the new faction. And what happened? The Polish Social-Democrats ridiculed Alexinsky and his resolution, telling him: “You are nothing more than a cowardly otzovist.” —Lenin

{2} The July Conference of 1907 was the Third (Second All-Russian) Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. It was held on July 21-23 (August 3-5), 4907, in Finland (Kotka), and was attended by 26 delegates: 9 Bolsheviks, 5 Mensheviks, 5 Polish and 2 Lettish Social-Democrats and 5 Bundists. The Conference was convened to determine the tactics of Social-Democracy in connection with the coup d’état of June 3 and the convocation of the Third Duma. At the Conference Lenin spoke against the boycott of the Duma. A. Bogdanov (Maximov) delivered a report on behalf of the supporters of boycott. Lenin’s resolution was adopted by a majority of votes.

{3} Economists, Economism—an opportunist trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the turn of the century, a Russian variety of inter national opportunism; its organs were the newspaper Rabochaya Mysl (Workers’ Thought) (1897-1 902), published in Russia, and the journal Rabocheye Dyelo (Workers’ Cause) (1899-1902), published abroad. The programme of the Economists, whom Lenin called Russian Bernsteinians, was the so-called “Credo”, written in 1899 by Y. D. Kuskova.

The Economists restricted the tasks of the working-class movement to the economic struggle for higher wages, better working conditions, etc., asserting that the political struggle was the business of the liberal bourgeoisie, and denied the leading role of the workers’ party, which, they considered, should merely observe the spontaneous development of the movement and follow in its wake. In their worshipping “spontaneity” they belittled the importance of revolutionary theory and consciousness, declaring that the socialist ideology could grow out of the spontaneous working- class movement; by denying the need for a Marxist party to imbue the workers’ movement with socialist consciousness, they cleared the way for bourgeois ideology. They defended disunity, confusion and parochial amateurish approach which existed in the Social- Democratic ranks and opposed the creation of a centralised working-class party. Economism threatened to divert the working class from the revolutionary class path and reduce it to .a political appendage of the bourgeoisie.

The following works of Lenin are devoted to an extensive criticism of the views of the Economists: “A Protest of Russian Social- Democrats” (directed against Credo, written in Siberian exile in 1899 and signed by 17 exiled Marxists), “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy”, “Apropos of the ‘Profession de Foi’\thinspace”, “A Talk with Defenders of Economism” (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 167–82, 255–85, 286–96; Vol. 5, pp. 313–20). Lenin completed the ideological rout of Economism by his book What Is To Be   Done? (present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 347–529). Lenin’s Iskra played a great part in combating Economism.

{4} Vsev (Vsevolod)—a pseudonym of the otzovist V. P. Denisov.

{5} Stan (Stanislav)—the otzovist A. V. Sokolov (Volsky), one of the organisers of the anti-Party schools in Capri and Bologna.

{6} Rabocheye Znamya (Workers’ Banner)—an illegal Bolshevik newspaper, organ of the Regional Bureau of the Central Industrial Area, of the Moscow and Moscow District Committees of the R.S.D.L.P. It was published in Moscow from March to December 1908; 7 issues appeared. Beginning with No. 5, the newspaper opened its columns to a discussion on the attitude to the Duma and to the Social-Democratic group in the Duma. This issue printed an article by an otzovist entitled “Letter of a Worker (The Plan of Party Work in Connection with an Assessment of the Present Moment)”. The article was edited by St. Volsky (A. V. Sokolov), leader of the Moscow otzovists, at that time member of the Regional Bureau of the Moscow Central Industrial Area. The article evoked sharp protests from the Party organisations of Central Russia, and a rejoinder in the columns of the newspaper Proletary. Lenin criticised the article in his work “Two Letters” (see present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 285–301).

{7} The First All-Russian Congress of Factory Doctors and Representatives of Factory Industry was held on April 1-6 (14-19), 1909, in Moscow. The delegates to the Congress included 52 workers chosen by trade unions, mainly of the big industrial centres. The speeches of the workers’ delegates, who were predominantly Bolsheviks, were of great political importance and evoked a response through out the country. Two questions in particular gave rise to lively debates at the Congress, viz., the organisation of health supervision (a resolution proposed by the Bolsheviks was adopted), and election of factory inspectors by the workers.

The Congress did not finish its work; it was closed down by the police.

{8} Krichevsky, B. N. and Martynov, A. S. were leaders of Economism.

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