V. I. Lenin

The Historical Meaning of the Inner-Party Struggle in Russia



The development of the factions in Russian Social-Democracy since the revolution is also to be explained, not by the “adaptation of the intelligentsia to the proletariat”, but by the changes in the relations between the classes. The   Revolution of 1905–07 accentuated, brought out into the open and placed on the order of the day the antagonism between the peasants and the liberal bourgeoisie over the question of the form of a bourgeois regime in Russia. The politically mature proletariat could not but take a most energetic part in this struggle, and its attitude to the various classes of the new society was reflected in the struggle between Bolshevism and Menshevism.

The three years 1908–10 are marked by the victory of the counter-revolution, by the restoration of the autocracy and by the Third Duma, the Duma of the Black Hundreds and Octobrists. The struggle between the bourgeois classes over the form of the new regime has ceased to be in the forefront. The proletariat is now confronted with the elementary task of preserving its proletarian party, which is hostile both to the reaction and to counter-revolutionary liberalism. This task is not an easy one, because it is the proletariat that suffers all the brunt of economic and political persecution, and all the hatred of the liberals because the leadership of the masses in the revolution has, been wrested from them by the Social-Democrats.

The crisis in the Social-Democratic Party is very grave. The organisations are shattered. A large number of veteran leaders (especially among the intellectuals) have been arrested. A new type of Social-Democratic worker, who is taking the affairs of the Party in hand, has already appeared, but he has to overcome extraordinary difficulties. Under such conditions the Social-Democratic Party is losing many of its “fellow-travellers”. It is natural that petty-bourgeois “fellow-travellers” should have joined the socialists during the bourgeois revolution. Now they are falling away from Marxism and from Social-Democracy. This process is observed in both factions: among the Bolsheviks in the shape of the “otzovist” tendency, which arose in the spring of 1908, suffered defeat immediately at the Moscow Conference, and after a long struggle was rejected by the official centre of the faction and formed a separate faction abroad—the Vperyod faction. The specific character of the period of disintegration was expressed in the fact that this faction united those Machists who introduced into their platform the struggle against Marxism (under the guise of defence of “proletarian   philosophy”) and the “ultimatumists”, those shamefaced otzovists, as well as various types of “days-of-freedom Social-Democrats”, who were carried away by “spectacular” slogans, which they learned by rote, but who failed to understand the fundamentals of Marxism.

Among the Mensheviks the same process of the falling away of petty-bourgeois “fellow-travellers” was expressed in the liquidationist tendency, now fully formulated in Mr. Potresov’s magazine Nasha Zarya, in Vozrozhdenie and Zhizn, in the stand taken by “the Sixteen” and “the trio” (Mikhail, Roman, Yuri), while Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, published abroad, acted as a servant of the Russian liquidators in fact and a diplomatic disguise for them before the Party membership.

Failing to understand the historical and economic significance of this disintegration in the era of counter-revolution, of this falling away of non-Social-Democratic elements from the Social-Democratic Labour Party, Trotsky tells the German readers that both factions are “falling to pieces”, that the Party is “falling to pieces”, that the Party is “demoralised.”

It is not true. And this untruth expresses, firstly, Trotsky’s utter lack of theoretical understanding. Trotsky has absolutely failed to understand why the plenum described both liquidationism and otzovism as a “manifestation of bourgeois influence on the proletariat”. Just think: is the severance from the Party of trends which have been condemned by the Party, and which express bourgeois influence on the proletariat, an indication of the Party’s disintegration, of its demoralisation, or is it an indication of its becoming stronger and purer?

Secondly, in practice, this untruth expresses the “policy” of advertisement pursued by Trotsky’s faction. That Trotsky’s venture is an attempt to create a faction is now obvious to all, since Trotsky has removed the Central Committee’s representative from Pravda. In advertising his faction Trotsky does not hesitate to tell the Germans that the Party is falling to pieces, that both factions are falling to pieces and that he, Trotsky, alone, is saving the situation. Actually, we all see now—and the latest resolution adopted by the Trotskyists (in the name of the Vienna Club, on November 26, 1910) proves this quite conclusively—that Trotsky enjoys   the confidence exclusively of the liquidators and the Vperyodists.

The extent of Trotsky’s shamelessness in, belittling the Party and exalting himself before the Germans is shown, for instance, by the following. Trotsky writes that the “working masses” in Russia consider that the “Social-Democratic Party stands outside [Trotsky’s italics] their, circle” and he talks of “Social-Democrats without Social-Democracy”.

How could one expect Mr. Potresov and his friends to refrain from bestowing kisses on Trotsky for such statements?

But these statements are refuted not only by the entire history of the revolution, but even by the results of the elections to the Third Duma from the workers’ curia.

Trotsky writes that “owing to their former ideological and organisational structure, the Menshevik and Bolshevik factions proved altogether incapable” of working in legal organisations; work was carried on by “individual groups of Social-Democrats, but all this took place outside the factions, outside their organisational influence”. “Even the most important legal organisation, in which the Mensheviks predominate, works completely outside the control of the Menshevik faction.” That is what Trotsky writes. But the facts are as follows. From the very beginning of the existence of the Social-Democratic group in the Third Duma, the Bolshevik faction, through its representatives authorised by the Central Committee of the Party, has all the time assisted, aided, advised, and supervised the work of the Social-Democrats in the Duma. The same is done by the editorial board of the Central Organ of the Party, which consists of representatives of the factions (which were dissolved as factions in January 1910).

When Trotsky gives the German comrades a detailed account of the stupidity of “otzovism” and describes this trend as a “crystallisation” of the boycottism characteristic of Bolshevism as a whole, and then mentions in a few words that Bolshevism “did not allow itself to be overpowered” by otzovism, but “attacked it resolutely or rather in an unbridled fashion”—the German reader certainly gets no idea how much subtle perfidy there is in such an exposition. Trotsky’s Jesuitical “reservation” consists in omitting a small, very   small “detail”. He “forgot” to mention that at an official, meeting of its representatives held as far back as the spring of 1909, the Bolshevik faction repudiated and expelled the otzovists. But it is just this “detail” that is inconvenient for Trotsky, who wants to talk of the “falling to pieces” of the Bolshevik faction (and then of the Party as well) and not of the falling away of the non-Social-Democratic elements!

We now regard Martov as one of the leaders of liquidationism, one who is the more dangerous the more “cleverly” he defends the liquidators by quasi-Marxist phrases. But Martov openly expounds views which have put their stamp on whole tendencies in the mass labour movement of 1903–10. Trotsky, on the other hand, represents only his own personal vacillations and nothing more. In 1903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases; in 1906 he left them again; at the end of 1906 he advocated electoral agreements with the Cadets (i.e., he was in fact once more with the Mensheviks); and in the spring of 1907, at the London Congress, he said that he differed from Rosa Luxemburg on “individual shades of ideas rather than on political tendencies”. One day Trotsky plagiarises from the ideological stock-in-trade of one faction; the next day he plagiarises from that of another, and therefore declares himself to be standing above both factions. In theory Trotsky is on no point in agreement with either the liquidators or the otzovists, but in actual practice he is in entire agreement with both the Golosists and the Vperyodists.

Therefore, when Trotsky tells the German comrades that he represents the “general Party tendency”, I am obliged to declare that Trotsky represents only his own faction and enjoys a certain amount of confidence exclusively among the otzovists and the liquidators. The following facts prove the correctness of my statement. In January 1910, the Central Committee of our Party established close ties with Trotsky’s newspaper Pravda and appointed a representative of the Central Committee to sit on the editorial board. In September 1910, the Central Organ of the Party announced a rupture between the representative of the Central Committee and Trotsky owing to Trotsky’s anti-Party policy. In Copenhagen, Plekhanov, as the representative of the pro-Party   Mensheviks and delegate of the editorial board of the Central Organ, together with the present writer, as the representative of the Bolsheviks, and a Polish comrade, entered an emphatic protest against the way Trotsky represents our Party affairs in the German press.

Let the readers now judge for themselves whether Trotsky represents a “general Party”, or a “general anti-Party” trend in Russian Social-Democracy.


  III |  

Works Index   |   Volume 16 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >