V. I. Lenin

Notes of a Publicist


2. “The Fight on Two Fronts” and the Overcoming of Deviations

Such are the two fundamentally different and radically divergent views on the nature and significance of our Party unity.

The question is, which of these views forms the basis of the plenum resolution? Whoever wishes to ponder over it will perceive that it is the second view that forms the basis, but in some passages the resolution clearly reveals traces of partial “amendments” in the spirit of the first view. However, these “amendments”, while worsening the resolution, in no way remove its basis, its main content, which is thoroughly imbued with the second point of view.

In order to demonstrate that this is so, that the “amendments” in the spirit of sectarian diplomacy are really in the nature of partial amendments, that they do not alter the essence of the matter and the principle underlying the resolution, I shall deal with certain points and certain pas sages in the resolution on the state of affairs in the Party, which have already been touched upon in the Party press. I shall start from the end.

After accusing the “leaders of the old factions” of doing everything to prevent unity being established, of behaving in the same way at the plenum too so that “every inch of ground had to be taken from them by storm”, Yonov writes:

“Comrade Lenin did not want ‘to overcome the dangerous deviations’ by means of ‘broadening and deepening Social-Democratic activities’. He strove quite energetically to put the theory of the ‘fight on two fronts’ in the centre of all Party activities. He did not even think of abolishing ‘the state of reinforced protection’ within the Party” (p. 22, Art. 1).

This refers to § 4, clause “b”, of the resolution on the situation in the Party. The draft of this resolution was submitted to the Central Committee by myself, and the clause in question was altered by the plenum itself after the commission had finished its work; it was altered on the motion of Trotsky, against whom I fought without success. In this clause I had, if not literally the words “fight on two fronts”, at all events, words to that effect. The words “overcoming by means of broadening and deepening”   were inserted on the proposal of Trotsky. I am very glad that Comrade Yonov, by telling of my struggle against this proposal, gives me a convenient occasion for expressing my opinion on the meaning of the “amendment”.

Nothing at the plenum aroused more furious—and often comical—indignation than the idea of a “fight on two fronts”. The very mention of this infuriated both the Vperyodists and the Mensheviks. This indignation can be fully explained on historical grounds, for the Bolsheviks have in fact from August 1908 to January 1910 waged a struggle on two fronts, i.e., a struggle against the liquidators and against the otzovists. This indignation was comical because those who waxed angry at the Bolsheviks were thereby only proving their own guilt, showing that they were still very touchy about condemnation of liquidationism and otzovism. A guilty conscience is never at ease.

Trotsky’s proposal to substitute “overcoming by means of broadening and deepening” for the fight on two fronts met with the ardent support of the Mensheviks and the Vperyodists.

And now Yonov and Pravda and the authors of the Vienna resolution and Golos Sotsial-Demokrata are all rejoicing over that “victory”. But the question arises: have they, by deleting from this clause the words about the fight on two fronts, eliminated from the resolution the recognition of the need for that fight? Not at all, for since “deviations”, their “danger”, and the necessity of “explaining” that danger, are recognised, and since it is also recognised that these deviations are a “manifestation of bourgeois influence over the proletariat”—all this in effect means that the fight on two fronts is recognised! In one passage an “unpleasant” term (unpleasant to one or other of their friends) was altered, but the basic idea was left intact! The result was only that one part of one clause was confused, watered down and marred by phrase-mongering.

Indeed, it is nothing but phrase-mongering and a futile evasion when the paragraph in question speaks of overcoming by means of broadening and deepening the work. There is no clear idea here at all. The work must certainly at all times be broadened and deepened; the entire third paragraph of the resolution deals with this in detail before it   passes on to the specific “ideological and political tasks”, which are not always or absolutely imperative but which result from the conditions of the particular period. § 4 is devoted only to these special tasks, and in the preamble to all of its three points it is directly stated that these ideological and political tasks “have come to the fore in their turn”.

What is the result? It is nonsense, as if the task of broadening and deepening the work has also come to the fore in its turn! As if there could be a historical “turn” when this task was not present, as it is always!

And in what way is it possible to overcome deviations by means of broadening and deepening Social-Democratic work? In any broadening and deepening of our work the question of how it should be broadened and deepened inevitably rises; if liquidationism and otzovism are not accidents, but trends engendered by social conditions, then they can assert themselves in any broadening and deepening of the work. It is possible to broaden and deepen the work in the spirit of liquidationism—this is being done, for instance, by Nasha Zarya and Vozrozhdeniye{1}; it is also possible to do so in the spirit of otzovism. On the other hand, the overcoming of deviations, “overcoming” in the real sense of the word, inevitably deflects certain forces, time and energy from the immediate broadening and deepening of correct Social-Democratic work. The same Yonov, for instance, writes on the same page of his article:

“The plenum is over. Its participants have gone their several ways. The Central Committee in organising its work has to overcome incredible difficulties, among which not the least is the conduct of the so-called [only “so-called”, Comrade Yonov, not real, genuine ones?] liquidators whose existence Comrade Martov so persistently denied.”

Here you have the material—little, but characteristic material—which makes it clear how empty Trotsky’s and Yonov’s phrases are. The overcoming of the liquidationist activities of Mikhail, Yuri and Co. diverted the forces and time of the Central Committee from the immediate broadening and deepening of really Social-Democratic work. Were it not for the conduct of Mikhail, Yuri and Co., were it not for liquidationism among those whom we mistakenly continue to regard as our comrades, the broadening and   deepening of Social-Democratic work would have proceeded more successfully, for then internal strife would not have diverted the forces of the Party. Consequently, if we take the broadening and deepening of Social-Democratic work to mean the immediate furthering of agitation, propaganda and economic struggle, etc., in a really Social-Democratic spirit, then in regard to this work the over coming of the deviations of Social-Democrats from Social-Democracy is a minus, a deduction, so to speak, from “positive activity”, and therefore the phrase about overcoming deviations by means of broadening, etc., is meaningless.

In reality this phrase expresses a vague longing, a pious, innocent wish that there should be less internal strife among Social-Democrats! This phrase reflects nothing but this pious wish; it is a sigh of the so-called conciliators: Oh, if there were only less struggle against liquidationism and otzovism!

The political importance of such “sighing” is nil, less than nil. If there are people in the Party who profit by “persistently denying” the existence of liquidators (and otzovists), they will take advantage of the “sigh” of the “conciliators” to cover up the evil. That is precisely what Golos Sotsial-Demokrata does. Hence the champions of such well-meaning and hollow phrases in resolutions are only so-called “conciliators”. In actual fact, they are the abettors of the liquidators and otzovists, in actual fact, they do not deepen Social-Democratic work but strengthen deviations from it; they strengthen the evil by temporarily concealing it and thereby making the cure more difficult.

In order to illustrate for Comrade Yonov the significance of this evil, I shall remind him of a passage in an article by Comrade Yonov in Diskussionny Listok No. 1. Comrade Yonov aptly compared liquidationism and otzovism to a benignant ulcer which “in the process of swelling draws all the noxious elements from the entire organism, thus contributing to recovery

That’s just it. The process of swelling, which draws the “noxious elements” out of the organism, leads to recovery. And that which hampers the purification of the organism from such elements is harmful to it. Let Comrade Yonov ponder over this helpful idea of Comrade Yonov.



{1} Vozrozhdeniye (Regeneration)—a Menshevik liquidationist magazine legally published in Moscow from December 1908 to July 1910; its place was taken by the magazines Zhizn (Life) in 1910, and Dyelo Zhizni (Cause of Life) in 1911.

  1. Two Views on Unity | 3. The Terms of Unity and Sectarian Diplomacy  

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