V. I. Lenin

Notes of a Publicist


3. The Terms of Unity and Sectarian Diplomacy

To proceed. The editorial article of Golos on the results of the plenum compels us to touch on the question of the deletion of the words liquidationism and otzovism from the resolution. This editorial article (in No. 19–20, p. 18) declares with an audacity unusual and unprecedented (except among our Golosists) that the term “liquidator” is as elastic as india-rubber, that it has “engendered all kinds of misunderstandings” (sic!!), etc., and for this reason “the Central Committee decided to delete this term from the resolution”.

What can we call this version of the Central Committee’s decisions on the deletion of the term when the editors of Golos cannot but know that it is contrary to the truth? What calculation was in the minds of these editors, two of whom were at the plenum and know the “history” of the deletion of the term? Did they really count on not being exposed?

The majority of the commission which drew up the resolution approved the retention of the term. Of the two Mensheviks in the commission, one (Martov) voted for its deletion, the other (who repeatedly inclined towards Plekhanov’s position) was against. At the plenum the following statement was put forward by all the nationals (2 Poles+2 Bundists+1 Lett) and Trotsky.

“Recognising that it would be desirable intrinsically to apply the term ‘liquidationism’ to the trend which, as indicated in the resolution, has to be combated, yet taking into account the statement of the Menshevik comrades that they too consider it necessary to combat this trend but that the use of such a term in the resolution is of a factional character directed against them, the Mensheviks—we, in the interests of eliminating all unnecessary hindrances to the unification of the Party, propose that this term be dropped from the resolution.”

Thus, the majority of the Central Committee and, more over, all the non-factional elements, state in writing that the word liquidationism is intrinsically correct and that liquidationism must be combated, yet the editorial board of Golos explains that the term was deleted as being intrinsically unsuitable!!

The majority of the Central Committee and, moreover, all the non-factional elements declare in writing that they agree to the deletion of the term, yielding to the insistence of the Mensheviks (more correctly: yielding to an ultimatum, for the Mensheviks declared that the resolution would not be unanimous otherwise) in view of their promise to “combat this trend”. And yet the editors of Golos write: the resolution gave an “unequivocal reply to the question of the so-called struggle against liquidationism” (page 18, ibid.)!!

At the plenum they promise to reform, pleading: do not employ “a term which is directed against us”, for from now on we ourselves are going to combat this trend—yet in the first issue of Golos after the plenum they declare that the fight against liquidationism is only a “so-called” fight.

Clearly, we have here, on the part of the Golosists, a complete and definite turn to liquidationism, a turn which becomes comprehensible if we take a look at what took place after the plenum as at something integral, connected by cause and effect—particularly the utterances of Nasha Zarya, Vozrozhdeniye and gentlemen like Mikhail, Yuri, Roman and Co. Of this we shall speak further on, where it will be our task to demonstrate the utter superficiality of the view taken by Trotsky, who is prone to blame everything on the “violation of moral and political obligations” (the Vienna resolution), whereas we are evidently confronted not by an individual or group “violation of commitments”, not by a moral or juridical act, but by a political act, namely: the rallying of the anti-Party legalists in Russia.

For the present we must dwell on another question, namely the question of the causes and significance of the action of the plenum in deleting the word liquidationism from the resolution. To explain it purely as a result of the misguided zeal of conciliators like Trotsky, Yonov and Co. would be incorrect. There is yet another factor here. The point is that a considerable portion of the decisions of the plenum were passed not on the usual principle of the minority submitting to the majority, but on the principle of an agreement between the two factions, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, with the mediation of the nationals. This circumstance, apparently, is what Comrade Yonov is hinting   at in Otkliki Bunda when he writes: “The comrades who are now clinging to formalities know perfectly well how the last plenum would have ended if it had taken a formal point of view.”

In this sentence, Comrade Yonov speaks in hints. Like Trotsky, he considers such a mode of expressing his thoughts extremely “tactful”, non-factional and specifically pro-Party. In point of fact, this is the very method employed by sectarian diplomats which does nothing but harm to the Party and the pro-Party cause. Such hints are lost to some, pique the sectarian curiosity of others, and set off more scandalmongering and back-biting. Hence Yonov’s hints must be deciphered. If he is not referring here to the plenum seeking an agreement (not merely a majority decision) on a number of questions we shall, ask him to express himself more explicitly and not put ideas into the heads of the gossips abroad.

If, however, Yonov is referring here to the agreement between the factions at the plenum, his criticism of “the comrades who cling to formalities” vividly shows us yet one more trait of those alleged conciliators who, in effect, are secretly helping the liquidators.

A number of unanimous resolutions were adopted at the plenum by agreement between the factions. Why was this necessary? Because actually the relations between the factions were tantamount to a split and, as is always and inevitably the case in any split, the discipline of the whole body (in this instance the Party) is sacrificed to the discipline of the part (in the present instance the faction).

Party conditions in Russia being what they are there was no other way to unity than through an agreement between the factions (whether all the, factions, or the chief ones, whether parts of factions or whole ones, is another question). Hence, the necessity of a compromise, i.e., concessions on certain points which were not recognised by the majority but were demanded by the minority. One of these concessions was the deletion of the word liquidationism from the resolution. A particularly conspicuous sign of the compromise character of the resolutions of the plenum was the Bolsheviks’ conditional surrender of their factional property to third persons. One section of the Party conditionally   hands over its property to third persons (from the international Social-Democratic movement) who will have to decide whether this money should be given to the Central Committee or returned to the faction. The character of this contract, which would be quite extraordinary and even impossible in a normal, intact Party, shows clearly on what conditions the Bolsheviks accepted the agreement. The declaration of the Bolsheviks printed in the Central Organ No. 11, says clearly that the main ideological and political condition was the passing of the resolution “condemning liquidationism and otzovism and, recognising the fight against these trends to be an inalienable element of the political line of the Party”, that one of the guarantees for the implementation of this line was the composition of the Central Organ, and that a continuation of their factional organ and factional policy by the Mensheviks would give the Bolsheviks tile right to “demand their money back from the trustee”. The Central Committee accepted these conditions, making direct reference to this declaration of the Bolsheviks in the resolution on the factional centres.

The question is, are these conditions to be kept or not? Are these conditions formal or not? Comrade Yonov, speaking disdainfully of “formalities” has not understood the most elementary distinction between the agreement as the basis of a contract (=the condition that the Bolsheviks should hand over their money, a condition endorsed by the unanimous resolution of the Central Committee on factional centres) and the observance of the formal conditions of the contract as the basis for the preservation of unity.

If Comrade Yonov, now, after the unanimous resolution of the Central Committee on the factional centres, contemptuously dismisses “formalities” he is dismissing the whole resolution of the Central Committee on the factional centres. Comrade Yonov’s sophistry amounts to the following: the aggregate decisions of the Central Committee were reached not only through the passing of resolutions by a majority vote but also through an agreement ,between the war ring trends on certain highly important questions—consequently, henceforth too these decisions are not formally binding and the minority has the right to demand an agreement! Since there is an element of compromise in the decisions   of the Central Committee these decisions can always be violated because an agreement is a voluntary affair!

Is not such sophistry a thinly veiled defence of the liquidators?

But while Yonov’s sophistries are nothing but ludicrous the endeavour of the Central Committee (the plenum) to make the maximum possible concessions was psychologically and politically right and proper. The Mensheviks and otzovists joined in furious attacks on the Bolshevik Centre, against which they levelled the most savage accusations. Not disagreements in principle, but the “malice” of the Bolshevik Centre—that is what estranges us from the Party above all and before all, said both the Mensheviks and the otzovists.[1]

This is a very important point which must be cleared up if we are to understand why our unity crisis is taking such a course and no other. There were no champions of liquidationism and otzovism in principle; neither the Mensheviks nor the Vperyodists ventured to take such a position. Here the effect was seen of a feature of the modern “critics” of Marxism and the critics of genuine Marxist tactics, one already commented on in our literature long ago (and frequently commented on in the international literature against the opportunists), viz., irresolution, unprincipledness, concealment of the “new” policy, the screening of the consistent representatives of liquidationists and otzovists. We are not liquidators, that is a factional term—cried the Mensheviks. We are not otzovists, that is a factional exaggeration—echoed the Vperyodists. And thousands of accusations on all manner of occasions, including that of so-called “criminal actions” (read: expropriations), were hurled against the Bolshevik Centre with the aim of drawing a veil over differences of political principle and of pushing them into the background.

To this the Bolsheviks replied: very well, gentlemen, let the Central Committee examine all your accusations   and pronounce “judgement and sentence” on them. There are five national Social-Democrats at the plenum—any decision at all depends on them and a unanimous one even more so. Let them be the “judges” to examine your (i.e., Menshevik and Vperyodist) accusations and satisfy your claims against the Bolshevik Centre. The Bolsheviks went further. They agreed to the maximum compromises in the resolutions demanded by the Mensheviks and Vperyodists.

And so the maximum concessions were made in the resolutions on the state of affairs in the Party and on the conference, all the “accusations” were gone into and all claims against the Bolshevik Centre were satisfied on the basis of a decision by all five national Social-Democrats.

This was the only way to deprive the opponents of the Party line, i.e., the anti-liquidationist line, of every opportunity to prevaricate, of every opportunity to evade the principles of the question. And they were deprived of this opportunity.

If now Axelrod and Martov and Co. in the “Necessary Supplement”, and Alexinsky and Co. in the leaflet of the Vperyodists again try to drag out accusations against the Bolshevik Centre, tittle-tattle, slander, lies and insinuations—then these gentlemen condemn themselves. That the plenum unanimously heard all their accusations, rejected all of them by its resolution and put it on record that they were rejected is impossible for anyone to deny, whether these or any other knights of discord. That being so it should now be clear to one and all that the people who are once more beginning a squabble (Axelrod, Martov, Alexinsky and Co.) are simply political blackmailers who want to sidetrack questions of principle by scandalmongering. And we shall not treat them as anything else but political blackmailers. We are not going to concern ourselves with any question other than the implementation by the Party of its anti-liquidationist and anti-otzovist policy, leaving Axelrod, Martov and Alexinsky to wallow in the mire as much as they like.

The compromises and concessions of the Bolsheviks, their assent to resolutions which in many respects were not forceful enough, were necessary for a clear-cut demarcation based on principle. By meeting all the claims of the Mensheviks   and otzovists that were endorsed by a majority of the nationals,[2] the Bolsheviks ensured that the solo issue for all Social-Democrats irrespective of trend, except the professional blackmailers, became the implementation of the Party’s anti-liquidationist and anti-otzovist policy. Under the resolution which depended on the national Social-Democrats, access to Party work, to taking part in the implementation of this policy, was not barred to anyone, to any single member of the Party; no obstacles to its implementation, no extraneous hindrances remained. So if the liquidators now raise their heads again, more conspicuously than ever, it proves that their extraneous obstacles were a fiction, a blind, scandalmongering dodge, a contrivance of sectarian intriguers and nothing more.

That is why the process of demarcation and division began in real earnest only after the plenum. This division is taking place solely over a most important question of principle—that of the liquidation of our Party. Those “conciliators” who were shocked, aggrieved and astonished because this process of demarcation began after the plenum, only proved by their astonishment that they were under the spell of sectarian diplomacy. A sectarian diplomat might think that a conditional agreement with Martov and Martynov, Maximov and the second Vperyodist{4} means the end of all demarcation, for a divergence of principle is a minor matter to such a diplomat. Conversely, people who attach primary importance to the fundamental question of liquidationism and otzovism see nothing surprising in the fact that a demarcation purely on the basis of principle had to begin after satisfying all the claims of Martov, Maximov and Co., after the maximum concessions to them on questions of organisation, etc.

What has been taking place in the Party since the plenum is not the collapse of Party unity, but the beginning of the union of all those who are really capable and desirous of working in the Party and in the Party spirit, the beginning   of the purging of a real Party bloc of Bolsheviks, pro-Party Mensheviks, nationals and non-factional Social-Democrats from renegades hostile to the Party, from semi-liberals and semi-anarchists.[3]


[1] Compare Yonov’s comment: “No less insistent was Comrade Martov in assuring the plenum that the ‘dangerous deviations’ to the Right were an invention of the spiteful Bolsheviks, that the Party bad only one enemy and that was the Bolshevik Centre with its factional ruling of the roost” (p. 22 of the article quoted). —Lenin

[2] Remember that those with the right to vote at the plenum were 4 Mensheviks, 4 Bolsheviks, 1 Vperyodist, 1 Lett, 2 Bundists and 2 Poles; i.e., the Bolsheviks did not have a majority over the Mensheviks and the Vperyodists even with the Poles and the Lett; the Bundists, decided. —Lenin

[3] By the way. The following fact may serve to characterise the bloc of the Golosists and Vperyodists against the Bolsheviks (a bloc which exactly resembles the bloc of the Jaures-ists and Hervé-ists against the Guesde-ists). In his “Necessary Supplement” Martov jeers at Plekhanov for attaching any importance to the membership of the commission on the school. Martov is playing the hypocrite. At the plenum, this same Martov with all the Mensheviks and with Maximov, and assisted by Trotsky, fought for a resolution that would recognise the otzovist school in X.—as a Party school with which the Central Committee should make an agreement! It was only with difficulty that we managed to defeat this anti-Party bloc.

Of course if the Golosists and Vperyodists enter into the Party they have every right to enter into blocs. But it is not a question of right but of the principle underlying the bloc. This is an unprincipled bloc against Party and principle. —Lenin

{4} The Second Vperyodist—V. L. Shantser (Marat).

  2. “The Fight on Two Fronts” and the Overcoming of Deviations | 4. Paragraph I of the Resolution on the State of Affairs in the Party  

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