V. I. Lenin

Notes of a Publicist


4. Paragraph I of the Resolution on the State of Affairs in the Party

Analysing further the defects of the plenum resolutions I must now dwell on the first point of the resolution on the state of affairs in the Party. It is true that this point does not touch on questions relating directly to one or other conception of Party unity, but I shall have to make a digression since the interpretation of this first point has already given rise to no few disputes in the Party.

In my draft of the resolution this point was totally absent and, with the rest of the Proletary editorial board, I most emphatically opposed it. It was inserted by the votes of the Mensheviks and the Poles although they were warned most seriously by a section of the Bolsheviks that the interpretation of this vague, nebulous point would inevitably produce misunderstandings or—worse—render a service to the liquidators.

It need scarcely be said that at the plenum I criticised quite a number of the propositions in this point as inane, vacuous and tautological. To say that the tactics of the Social-Democrats are always the same in their basic principles without defining what these basic principles are or making clear which of them (Marxism in general or certain   propositions of Marxism) are involved and why; to say that the tactics of the Social-Democrats are always designed to secure the maximum results without defining either the immediate aim of the struggle (the immediate possible results) at the present time, or the specific methods of struggle to be applied at this time; to say that the tactics are designed for the various courses which development might follow without defining them concretely; to repeat truisms to the effect that our tactics must promote the massing of forces and make the proletariat ready both for open struggle and for the utilisation of the antagonisms within the unstable regime—all these defects are glaringly obvious and convert the whole point into unnecessary and useless ballast.

But there is something still worse in this point. It contains a loophole for the liquidators, as was pointed out at the plenum by various delegates, not only by the Bolsheviks but also by one of the Bundists and even Trotsky. This loophole is a phrase to the effect that the class-conscious proletariat has “for the first time, by organising into a Social-Democratic mass party, an opportunity to apply intelligently, systematically and consistently this tactical method of international Social-Democracy”. (What method is this? The previous reference was to the basic principles of the tactics not the method, let alone a definite method.)

Why for the first time? asked the critics of this point at the plenum. If it means that any step in the development of the country produces something new, something higher in the level of industrial technique and clarity of class struggle, etc., then again we are faced with a banality. Then any period will infallibly produce something that comes about for the first time compared to a previous period. But we are living through a definite period, a period of counter-revolutionary ebb, a period of an enormous decline in the energy of the masses and the Social-Democratic workers’ movement after a revolutionary upsurge. And if it be said that such a period affords the proletariat for the first time an opportunity to apply consciously, etc., the method of international Social-Democracy, these words will lead inevitably to a liquidationist interpretation, a purely liberal exaltation of the Third Duma period, an allegedly peaceful and lawful period, over the period of   storm and stress, the period of revolution, when the struggle of the proletariat took direct revolutionary forms and the liberals decried it as “spontaneous folly”.

In order to direct special ’attention to this danger of a liquidationist interpretation of this extraordinarily vague point; I submitted a series of written statements at this meeting of the plenum, emphasising a number of passages from the speeches contributed there. Here are two of my statements:

1) “On Lenin’s demand the following words of Comrade T.{3} (Polish S.D.) are entered in the minutes: ’that the tactics of revolution are belittled here in comparison with the counter-revolution is an absolutely false interpretation.’”

2) “On Lenin’s demand the interjection of Comrade Martov (“quite right!”) to the statement by I.{4} (a Bolshevik who defended this point) that the words in dispute do not belittle but enhance the significance of the revolution and its methods in comparison with the counter-revolutionary methods, is entered in the minutes.”

Both statements confirm that the Pole ’and Bolshevik, with ’the agreement of Martov, categorically denied the slightest admissibility of a liquidationist interpretation of this point. Of course these two comrades did not at all intend any such interpretation.

But it is well known from of ’old that what is applied is the law, not the motives of the law, not the intentions of the legislator. The significance of the present point in agitation and propaganda is determined not by the good intentions of any of its authors, not by what they said at the plenum, but by the objective relationship of forces and trends inside the Russian section of the S.D. (the non-Russian Social-Democrats will scarcely pay special attention to this vague point).

Therefore I waited with particular interest to see how this point would, now be interpreted in the press, preferring not to hurry with my opinion but to hear first of all the reactions of the Social-Democrats who were not at the plenum or the reactions of the Golosists.

The first issue of Golos after the plenum provided quite enough material to appraise our dispute as to how this point would be interpreted.

In Golos’s leading article on the results of the plenum we read:

“It would be quite inconceivable and absurd, of course, to suppose that by these words [“for the first time”, etc.] the Central Committee wanted to express an indirect condemnation of our former tactics, inasmuch as they were adapted to the revolutionary situation” (author’s italics; No. 19-20, p. 18).

Very good! The author declares a liquidationist interpretation to be inconceivable and absurd. However, on reading further, we find the following assertion in the same paragraph:

“These words are an official recognition of the comparative backwardness of our political life in the past in spite of the revolutionary forms in which it was displayed, and this, incidentally, was one of the main causes of the defeat of the revolution; these words are an official recognition of the inordinately elementary character of our former tactics, to which they were condemned by the backwardness of the social relationships; these words, lastly, were an official recognition that whatever the political situation in the future, any attempt to return to the’ dictatorship of the exclusive Illegal circles in the movement with the whole policy associated therewith would be a decided step back.”

Good, is it not?

One hardly knows where to begin in sorting out this collection of “gems”.

I shall begin with the triple reference to “official recognition”. To think, how much ridicule this same Golos has poured on every official recognition by one or other resolution of an appraisal of the past, of the revolution and of the role of the bourgeois parties, etc.! There you have a specimen of the sincerity of the outcries against “officiality”: when the Golosists do not like an explicit decision of the Party they laugh to scorn its claims to “officially” decide complex “scientific” questions, and so on and so forth—just as the Sozialistische Monatshefte ridicules the Dresden resolution against the opportunists, or as the Belgian ministerialists in our own day ridicule the Amsterdam resolution.{5} But as soon as a Golosist thinks he sees a loophole for liquidationism, he swears and vows three times over that this is “recognised officially”.

And when a Golosist swears and vows a thing you can be sure that he is ... evading the truth. For the author of the article to speak of the “official recognition” of his interpretation is all the more absurd because the disputable character of the interpretation of this point was a special subject for debate in the Central Committee. Moreover, from statements officially entered in the minutes—yes, yes! here is something really “official”—statements which quoted these words of the Pole and the Bolshevik, it is clear that they would never have recognised Golos’s interpretation to be a correct one. Our author has only disgraced himself with his talk of official recognition.

The words “for the first time” are a recognition of the “comparative backwardness of the past”—we might let that pass, although there is nothing to show why this should be referred specifically to political life and not to other aspects of social development; but to add “in spite of the revolutionary forms” is to stick out too incautiously the ass’s ear of the Vekhist. You can safely bet that of a hundred liberals reading this passage not less than ninety will kiss the Golosists for it, and of a hundred workers not less than ninety will turn their backs on the opportunists. And, “incidentally”, the addition about the “causes of the defeat of the revolution” gives away the co-authors of the liquidationist Pentateuch completely: under cover of a vague resolution they want to smuggle in their liberal view on the role of the proletariat in the revolution. Therefore they speak of the “elementary character” and even—mark this!—the inordinately elementary character “of our former tactics”. The “inordinately” elementary character of our tactics, do you see, ensues from the phrase “to apply ‘for the first time’ intelligently, systematically and consistently [in a mass party] the method of international Social-Democracy”[1] The tactics of the period of open struggle, the   period of comparative freedom of the press, mass unions, elections with the participation of the revolutionary parties, universal excitement among the population, rapid fluctuations in the policy of the government, the period of certain important victories over the government—these tactics, evidently, were inordinately elementary in comparison with the non-elementary tactics of the years 1909-10! How rich in apostasy, how poor in Social-Democratic understanding of events must one be to make such interpretations!

But to deduce from the words “for the first time” a condemnation of the “dictatorship [!!] of the exclusive illegal circles”—this is simply priceless. In the time of the “inordinately elementary” tactics of 1905–07 the leadership of the workers’ party was, do you see, much more like a “dictatorship” than in 1909–10, it emanated to a far greater extent from the “underground” organisations and indeed “circles”, which were more “exclusive” than in our, time! To give this laughable profundity a semblance of truth one has to remember that the opportunists and Cadetophiles felt that they were an “exclusive circle” among the workers during the revolution and find that now, in the struggle for legality (don’t laugh!) they are not “exclusive” (Milyukov himself is at our side), they are not a “circle” (we have renegade periodicals published openly), they are not “under ground”, and so on and so forth.

For the first time the proletariat, organising into a mass Social-Democratic Party, observes among people who would like to consider themselves the leaders of the proletariat such a systematic and consistent gravitation towards liberal renegacy.

This lesson of the interpretation of the notorious point concerning “for the first time” will have to be reckoned with whether they like it or not by the Polish comrade and the Bolshevik[2] comrade who officially declared that in their opinion a liquidationist interpretation of their point would be absolutely false.



[1] The resolution of the C.C. is interpreted in the same spirit also by Comrade An (see his article “Apropos the Letter from the Caucasus” in the present issue of Diskussionny Listok). Comrade An’s article confirms the gravest accusations of the author of the Letter from the Caucasus, Comrade K. St.{6} although he calls this letter a “lampoon”. We shall return again to Comrade An’s article, which is curious in many respects. —Lenin

[2] At the plenum, these comrades interpreted § 1 as pointing to the growth of class differentiation, the progress of the purely socialist consciousness of the mass of the workers, the strengthening of bourgeois reaction. These thoughts are correct, of course, but they are not expressed (and it is not they which are expressed) in the propositions comprising § 1. —Lenin

{3} T.—L. Tyszka.

{4} I.—I. F. Dubrovinsky.

{5} Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly)—the principal organ of the opportunists in German Social-Democracy and one of the organs of international opportunism. It was published in Berlin from 1897 to 1933.

The magazine criticised the resolution against revisionism, “On Party Tactics”, which was adopted at the Congress of the German Social-Democratic Party in Dresden (September 1903), Subsequently, this resolution was reproduced almost in its entirety at the International Socialist Congress in Amsterdam (August 1904) in the resolution on “International Rules of Party Tactics”.

{6} The author ofLetter from the Caucasus”, K. St.—J. V. Stalin. His “Letter from the Caucasus” against the Tiflis liquidators was written as early as December 1909 for Sotsial-Demokrat, The Mensheviks on the editorial board refused to print the letter in the Central Organ of the Party; it was published only on May 25 (June 7), 1910 in Diskussionny Listok No. 2, together with a reply   to it by the leader of the Caucasian Mensheviks—An (N. Jordania).

  3. The Terms of Unity and Sectarian Diplomacy | 5. The Significance of the December (1908) Resolutions and the Attitude of the Liquidators to Them  

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