V. I. Lenin

Notes of a Publicist


( The “Unity Crisis” in our Party )

( II )

1. Two Views on Unity

With touching unanimity the liquidators and the otzovists are abusing ,the Bolsheviks up hill and down dale (the liquidators attack Plekhanov as well). The Bolsheviks are to blame, the Bolshevik Centre is to blame, the “‘individualistic’ habits of Lenin and Plekhanov” (p. 15 of the “Necessary Supplement”) are to blame, as well as the “irresponsible group” of “former members of the Bolshevik Centre” (see the leaflet of the Vperyod grout). In this respect the liquidators and the otzovists are entirely at one; their bloc against orthodox Bolshevism (a bloc which more than once characterised the struggle at the plenum, which I deal with separately below) is an indisputable fact; the representatives of two extreme tendencies, each of them equally expressing subordination to bourgeois ideas, each of them equally anti-Party, are entirely at one in their internal Party policy, in their struggle against the Bolsheviks and in proclaiming the Central Organ to be “Bolshevik”. But the strongest abuse from Axelrod and Alexinsky only serves to screen their complete failure to understand the meaning and importance of Party unity. Trotsky’s (the Viennese) resolution only differs outwardly from the “effusions” of Axelrod and Alexinsky. It is drafted very “cautiously” and lays claim to “above faction” fairness. But what is its meaning? The “Bolshevik leaders” are to   blame for everything—this is the same “philosophy of history” as that of Axelrod and Alexinsky.

The very first paragraph of the Vienna resolution states: ... “the representatives of all factions and trends... by their decision [at the plenum] consciously and deliberately assumed responsibility for carrying out the adopted resolutions in the present conditions, in co-operation with the given persons, groups and institutions”. This refers to “conflicts in the Central Organ”. Who is “responsible for carrying out the resolutions” of the plenum in the Central Organ? Obviously the majority of the Central Organ, i. e., the Bolsheviks and the Poles; it is they who are responsible for carrying out the resolutions of the plenum—“in co-operation with the given persons”, i. e., with the Golosists and Vperyodists.

What does the principal resolution of the plenum say in that part of it which deals with the most “vexed” problems of our Party, with questions which were most disputable before the plenum and which should have become least disputable after the plenum?

It says that bourgeois influence over the proletariat manifests itself, on the one hand, in rejecting the illegal Social-Democratic Party and belittling its role and importance, etc., and, on the other hand, in rejecting Social-Democratic work in the Duma as well as the utilisation of legal possibilities, the failure to grasp the importance of both the one and the other, etc.

Now what is the meaning of this resolution?

Does it mean that the Golosists should have sincerely and irrevocably put an end to rejecting the illegal Party and belittling it, etc., that they should have admitted this to be a deviation, that they should have got rid of it, and done positive work in a spirit hostile to this deviation; that the Vperyodists should have sincerely and irrevocably put an end to rejecting Duma work and legal possibilities, etc., that the majority of the Central Organ should in every way have enlisted the “co-operation” of the Golosists and Vperyodists on condition that they sincerely, consistently and irrevocably renounced the “deviations” described in detail in the resolution of the plenum?

Or does the resolution mean that the majority of the Central Organ is responsible for carrying out the resolutions   (on the overcoming of liquidationist and otzovist deviations) “in co-operation with the given” Golosists, who continue as before and even more crudely to defend liquidationism, and with the given Vperyodists, who continue as before and even more crudely to assert the legitimacy of otzovism, ultimatumism, etc.?

This question needs only to be put for one to see how hollow are the eloquent phrases in Trotsky’s resolution, to see how in reality they serve to defend the very position held by Axelrod and Co., and Alexinsky and Co.

In the very first words of his resolution Trotsky expressed the full spirit of the worst kind of conciliation, “conciliation” in inverted commas, of a sectarian and philistine conciliation, which deals with the “given persons” and not the given line of policy, the given spirit, the given ideological and political content of Party work.

It is in this that the enormous difference lies between real partyism, which consists in purging the Party of liquidationism and otzovism, and the “conciliation” of Trotsky and Co., which actually renders the most faithful service to the liquidators and otzovists, and is therefore an evil that is all the more dangerous to the Party the more cunningly, artfully and rhetorically it cloaks itself with professedly pro-Party, professedly anti-factional declamations.

In point of fact, what is it that we have been given as the task of the Party?

Is it “given persons, groups and institutions” that we have been “given” and that have to be “reconciled” irrespective of their policy, irrespective of the content of their work, irrespective of their attitude towards liquidationism and otzovism?

Or have we been given a Party line, an ideological and political direction and content of our entire work, the task of purging this work of liquidationism and otzovism—a task that must be carried out irrespective of “persons, groups and institutions”, in spite of the opposition of “persons, institutions and groups” which disagree with that policy or do not carry it out?

Two views are possible on the meaning of and conditions for the achievement of any kind of Party unity. It is extremely important to grasp the difference between these   views, for they become entangled and confused in the course of development of our “unity crisis” and it is impossible to orientate ourselves in this crisis unless we draw a sharp line between them.

One view on unity may place in the forefront the “reconciliation” of “given persons, groups and institutions”. The identity of their views on Party work, on the policy of that work, is a secondary matter. One should try to keep silent about differences of opinion and not elucidate their causes, their significance, their objective conditions. The chief thing is to “reconcile” persons and groups. If they do not agree on carrying out a common policy, that policy must be interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable to all. Live and let live. This is philistine “conciliation”, which inevitably leads to sectarian diplomacy. To “stop up” the sources of disagreement, to keep silent about them, to “adjust” “conflicts” at all costs, to neutralise the conflicting trends—it is to this that the main attention of such “conciliation” is directed. In circumstances in which the illegal Party requires a base of operations abroad, this sectarian diplomacy opens the door to “persons, groups and institutions” that play the part of “honest brokers” in all kinds of attempts at “conciliation” and “neutralisation”

Here is what Martov, in Golos No. 19-2O, relates of one such attempt at the plenum:

“The Mensheviks, Pravdists and Bundists proposed a composition of the Central Organ which would ensure ‘neutralisation’ of the two opposite trends In the Party ideology, and would not give a definite majority to either of them, thus compelling the Party organ to work out, in relation to each essential question, that mean course which could unite the majority of Party workers.”

As is known, the proposal of the Mensheviks was not adopted. Trotsky, who put himself forward as candidate for the Central Organ in the capacity of neutraliser, was defeated. The candidature of a Bundist for the same post (the Mensheviks in their speeches proposed such a candidate) was not even put to the vote.

Such is the actual role of those “conciliators”, in the bad sense of the word, who wrote the Vienna resolution and whose views are expressed in Yonov’s article in No. 4 of   Otkliki Bunda, which I have just received. The Mensheviks did not venture to propose a Central Organ with a majority of their own trend, although, as is seen from Martov’s argument above quoted, they recognised the existence of two opposite trends in the Party. The Mensheviks did not even think of proposing a Central Organ with a majority of their trend. They did not even attempt to insist on a Central Organ with any definite trend at all (so obvious at the plenary session was the absence of any trend among the Mensheviks, who were only required, only expected, to make a sincere and consistent renunciation of liquidationism). The Mensheviks tried to secure “neutralisation” of the Central Organ and they proposed as neutralisers either a Bundist or Trotsky. The Bundist or Trotsky was to play the part of a matchmaker who would undertake to “unite in wedlock” “given persons, groups and institutions”, irrespective of whether one of the sides had renounced liquidationism or not.

This standpoint of a matchmaker constitutes the entire “ideological basis” of Trotsky’s and Yonov’s conciliation. When they complain and weep over the failure to achieve unity, it must be taken cum grano salis. It must be taken to mean that the matchmaking failed. The “failure” of the, hopes of unity cherished by Trotsky and Yonov, hopes of unity with “given persons, groups and institutions” irrespective of their attitude to liquidationism, signifies only the failure of the matchmakers, the falsity, the hopelessness, the wretchedness of the matchmaking point of view, but it does not at all, signify the failure of Party unity.

There is another view on this unity, namely, that long ago a number of profound objective causes, independently of the particular composition of the “given persons, groups and institutions” (submitted to the plenum and at the plenum), began to bring about and are steadily continuing to bring about in the two old and principal Russian factions of Social-Democracy changes that create—sometimes undesired and even unperceived by some of the “given persons, groups and institutions”—ideological and organisational bases for unity. These objective conditions are rooted in the specific features of the present period of bourgeois   development in Russia, the period of bourgeois counter revolution and attempts by the autocracy to remodel itself on the pattern of a bourgeois monarchy. These objective conditions simultaneously give rise to inseparably inter connected changes in the character of the working-class movement, in the composition, type and features of the Social-Democratic vanguard, as well as changes in the ideological and political tasks of the Social-Democratic movement. Hence the bourgeois influence over the proletariat that gives rise to liquidationism (=semi-liberalism, which likes to consider itself part of Social-Democracy) and otzovism (=semi-anarchism, which likes to consider itself part of Social-Democracy) is not an accident, nor evil design, stupidity or error on the part of some individual, but the inevitable result of the action of these objective causes, and the superstructure of the entire labour movement in present-day Russia, which is inseparable from the “basis”. The realisation of the danger, of the non-Social-Democratic nature and harmfulness to the labour movement of both these deviations brings about a rapprochement between the elements of various factions and paves the way to Party unity “despite all obstacles”.

From this point of view the unification of the Party may proceed slowly, with difficulties, vacillations, waverings and relapses, but proceed it must. From this point of view the process of unification does not necessarily take place among “given persons, groups and institutions”, but irrespective of given persons, subordinating them, rejecting those of them who do not understand or who do not want to understand the requirements of objective development, promoting and enlisting new persons not belonging to those “given”, effecting changes, reshufflings and regroupings within the old factions, trends and divisions, From this point of view, unity is inseparable from its ideological foundation, it can grow only on the basis of an ideological rapprochement, it is connected with the appearance, development and growth of such deviations as liquidationism and otzovism, not by the accidental connection between particular polemical statements of this or that literary controversy, but by an internal, indissoluble link such as that which binds cause and effect.



  The “Unity Crisis” in our Party | 2. “The Fight on Two Fronts” and the Overcoming of Deviations  

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