V. I. Lenin

The Faction of Supporters of Otzovism and God-Building



What is the purpose of all this hypocrisy of Maximov’s, we asked, and deferred our reply until we had finished talking about the school. But, strictly speaking, the question to be cleared up here is not “for what purpose”, but “why?” It would be wrong to think that all the members of the new faction are conducting a hypocritical policy deliberately for a definite purpose. No. The fact is that in the very situation of this faction, in the conditions in which it has appeared and is active, there are causes (which many otzovists and god-builders are not conscious of) that give rise to a hypocritical policy.

There is an old saying to the effect that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. But this saying refers to the sphere of personal ethics. As applied to ideological and political trends it must be said that hypocrisy is the screen adopted by groups that are internally not homogeneous, that are made up of assorted elements, accidentally thrown together, who feel that they are too weak for open, straight forward action.

The composition of the new faction is the determining factor that made it adopt this screen. The general staff of the faction of godly otzovists consists of unrecognised philosophers, ridiculed god-builders, otzovists convicted of anarchistic nonsense and reckless revolutionary phrase-mongering, muddled ultimatumists and, lastly, those boyeviks (fortunately few in the Bolshevik faction) who considered it below their dignity to come down from the outwardly showy and “spectacular” to obscure, modest revolutionary Social-Democratic work corresponding to the conditions and tasks of the “inter-revolutionary” period, and on whom Maximov bestows honours by his “spectacular” phrases about training schools and groups ... in 1909. The only thing that holds these diverse elements so strongly together at the present moment is—a burning hatred to Proletary, a hatred it has quite properly incurred, because not a single attempt by these elements to obtain self-expression in Proletary, or even indirect recognition or the slightest defence and condonation, has ever failed to encounter the most strenuous opposition.

“Abandon hope for ever”—that was what Proletary told these elements in every issue, at every meeting of the editorial board, in every declaration on every Party question of the day.

And when (due to the objective conditions of the development of our revolution and the counter-revolution in our country) it came about that god-building and the theoretical foundations of Marxism became the questions of the day in the literary sphere, and the utilisation of the Third Duma and of the Third Duma platform by the Social-Democratic Party in the sphere of political work, these elements rallied together and the natural and inevitable explosion took place.

Like any explosion it was instantaneous, not in the sense that there had been previously no signs of such tendencies, or isolated manifestations of them, but in the sense that the political fusion of diverse tendencies, including some very remote from politics, took place almost in a flash. Hence the general public, as always, is inclined to be satisfied primarily with a philistine explanation of the new split, one imputing it to the bad qualities of one or another of the leaders, the influence of life abroad, parochialism and so on and so forth. There is no doubt that the location abroad, which, due to objective conditions, became the inevitable base of operations of all the central revolutionary organisations, has left its imprint on the form of the split. There is no doubt that its form was also affected by the idiosyncrasies of the literary circle one wing of which came into the Social-Democratic movement. What we call a philistine explanation is not one that takes note of these circumstances, which can explain nothing but the form, the occasions and the “external history” of the split, but one that is based on refusal or incapacity to understand the ideological and political foundations, causes and roots of the divergence.

The new faction’s failure to understand these foundations is also the reason why it has resorted to the old method of camouflage, covering up tracks, denying the inseparable connection with otzovism, etc. The failure to understand these foundations causes the new faction to speculate on a philistine explanation of the split and on philistine sympathy.

What indeed is it but speculation on philistine sympathy to weep publicly about being “ousted” and “removed” as Maximov and Co. are doing now? Bestow the charity of your sympathy, for Christ’s sake, on the ousted, the unjustly removed ones.... That this is a method counting with infallible certainty on philistine sympathy is proved by the curious fact that even Comrade Plekhanov, the enemy of all god-building, all “new” philosophy, all otzovism and ultimatumism, etc., even Comrade Plekhanov bestowed his mite of sympathy for Christ’s sake, taking advantage of Maximov’s whining, and over and over again called the Bolsheviks “stiff-necked” in this connection (see Plekhanov’s Dnevnik Sotsial-Demokrata, August 1909). If Maximov has even managed to extract a mite of sympathy   from Plekhanov, you can imagine, reader, what tears of sympathy for Maximov will be shed by the philistine elements inside and on the fringe of the Social-Democratic movement over the “ousting” and “removal” of the virtuous, well-meaning and modest otzovists and god-builders.

The question of this “ousting” and “removal” is treated by Comrade Maximov both from its formal aspect and with regard to the essence of the matter. Let us examine this treatment.

From the formal point of view the removal of Maximov was “irregular”, say the removed ones, and “we do not recognise this removal”, for, Maximov was “elected by the Bolshevik congress, i.e., the Bolshevik section of the Party Congress”. Reading Maximov and Nikolayev’s leaflet, the public sees a grave accusation (“irregular removal”) without being given either an exact formulation of it or material from which to judge the matter. But that is the invariable method of a certain side during splits abroad: to obscure the divergence of principle, to draw a veil over it, to keep silent about the ideological dissensions, to conceal their ideological friends, and to make as much noise as possible about organisational conflicts, which the public is not in a position to analyse exactly and has not the right to sort out in detail. That was how the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists behaved in 1899, with their outcry that, there was no Economism in any shape or form, but that Plekhanov had stolen the press. That was how the Mensheviks behaved in 1903 with their outcry that they had made no turn whatsoever to Rabocheye Dyelo-ism but that Lenin had “ousted” or “removed” Potresov, Axelrod and Zasulich, etc. That is the behaviour of people who are speculating on elements abroad who are fond of rows and sensations. There is no otzovism, nor any god-building, but there is the “irregular removal” of Maximov “by the majority of the editorial board”, who want to “leave at their full disposal” “the property of the whole faction”— come into the shop, gentlemen, we will tell you some thing most spicy about this business....

An old device, Comrades Maximov and Nikolayev! And the politicians who resort to it are bound to break their necks.

Our “victims of removal” talk of “irregularity” because in their opinion the editorial board of Proletary has no right to decide the question of the fate of the Bolshevik faction and of the split in its ranks. Very well, gentlemen. If the editorial board of Proletary and the 15 Bolshevik members and candidate members of the Central Committee elected at the London Congress have not the right to represent the Bolshevik faction you have every opportunity to make a public declaration to that effect and conduct a campaign for the overthrow of these undesirable representatives or for new elections to replace them. But you have indeed conducted such a campaign and only after you had met with a certain number of reverses did you prefer to complain and whine. If you raised the question of a congress or conference of Bolsheviks, Comrades Maximov and Nikolayev, then why did you not tell the public that several months ago Comrade “Er” submitted a draft resolution to the Moscow Committee calling for a vote of no confidence in Proletary and the holding of a Bolshevik conference to elect a new ideological centre for the Bolsheviks?

Why did you keep silent about this, 0 wrongly removed ones?

Why did you keep silent about the fact that “Er’s” resolution was rejected by every vote except his own?

Why did you keep silent about the fact that in the autumn of 1908 in the whole St. Petersburg organisation from top to bottom a struggle was going on over the platforms of the two trends of Bolshevism, the otzovists and the opponents of otzovism, and that the otzovists were defeated?

Maximov and Nikolayev want to whine to the public be cause they have been repeatedly defeated in Russia. Both “Er” and the St. Petersburg otzovists had the right to wage a struggle against Bolshevism, in the highest down to the lowest organisations, without waiting for any conference and without making public their platforms before the whole Party.

But had not the Proletary editorial board, which declared open war on otzovism from June 1908, the right after a year of strife, a year of controversy, a year of friction, conflict, etc., after it had invited three regional delegates from   Russia and consulted several Russian members of the enlarged editorial board, who had not taken part in a single conflict abroad, had it not the right to declare what was a matter of fact, to declare that Maximov had split away from the board, to declare that Bolshevism bas nothing in common with otzovism, ultimatumism and god-building?

Stop this hypocrisy, gentlemen! You fought on what you thought was your strongest ground and you suffered defeat. You went preaching otzovism to the masses in spite of a decision of the official centre of the Bolsheviks and without waiting for a special conference. And now you start whining and complaining because you found yourselves in a ludicrously small minority on the enlarged editorial board, at the conference held with the participation of regional delegates!

Here again we have a device of Russians abroad exactly after the manner of Rabocheye Dyelo: playing at “democracy” when the conditions for complete democracy are absent, speculating on the inflammation of all kinds of discontent “abroad” and at the same time transmitting from abroad (through the “school”) your otzovist and god-building propaganda—starting a split among the Bolsheviks, and after wards moaning about a split—forming a private faction (under cover of a “school”) and shedding crocodile tears over the “splitting” policy of Proletary.

No, this squabble has gone on long enough! A faction is a free union of kindred minds within a party and after over a year of strife both in Russia and abroad we had a perfect right, we had the duty, to make a definite decision. And we have done so. You have a perfect right to oppose it, to put forward your platform and try to win a majority for it. If you do not do so, if instead of forming an open alliance with the otzovists and putting forward a common platform you persist in playing hide-and-seek and speculating on a cheap “democracy” abroad, you will get nothing in return but the contempt you deserve.

You are playing a double game. On the one hand, you declare that for a whole year Proletary has been “wholly” pursuing a non-Bolshevik policy (and your supporters in Russia have tried more than once to gain acceptance for these views in resolutions of the St. Petersburg Committee   and the Moscow Committee). On the other hand, you bewail the split and refuse to recognise the “removal”. On the one hand, you are in fact hand in glove with the otzovists and god-builders, on the other you repudiate them and pose as peacemakers who want to make peace between the Bolsheviks and the otzovists and god-builders.

“Abandon hope for ever!” You can try to win a majority. You can gain what victories you like among immature Bolshevik members. We shall not agree to any reconciliation. Form your faction, or rather: go on forming it, since you have already begun, but do not try to deceive the Party, do not try to deceive the Bolsheviks. All the conferences and congresses in the world are powerless now to reconcile the Bolsheviks with the otzovists, the ultimatumists and the god-builders. We have said and we repeat it once again: every Bolshevik Social-Democrat and every class-conscious worker must make his fixed and final choice.


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