V. I. Lenin

Notes of a Publicist


5. The Significance of the December (1908) Resolutions and the Attitude of the Liquidators to Them

These last comments on the defects of the plenum resolution must be applied to the introductory words of the first point, which read: “Enlarging upon the main propositions of the resolutions of the Party Conference of 1908, the Central Committee resolves....” This formulations is the result of a concession to the Mensheviks, and this circumstance must be dwelt upon all the more for the fact that we have here again a glaring example of disloyalty in return for the concession, or a crying incapacity to understand The meaning of the Party’s definitions of our tactics.

The draft resolution, which was approved by the majority of the commission and was therefore assured of a majority vote at the plenum, had the words: “in confirmation of the resolutions of December 1908 and enlarging upon them....” Here too the Mensheviks put forward in the form of an ultimatum their demand for a concession, refusing to vote for the resolution as a whole if the words “in confirmation” were retained, for they regard the resolutions of December 1908 as the height of “factionalism”. We made the concession they demanded by agreeing to vote for the resolution with out the words about confirmation. I should not be disposed to regret this concession in the slightest if it had achieved its purpose, i.e., if the Mensheviks had received it with the loyalty to a Party decision without which collaboration is impossible. Our Party has no other definition of its main problems of tactics, organisation and parliamentary activity in the Third Duma period than the one given in the resolutions of December 1908. Without denying that factional strife was very acute at that time, we shall not insist on any particular sharp expression occurring in the resolutions then directed against the liquidators. But we certainly do insist on the fundamental propositions of these resolutions, for it would be uttering brave words in vain to speak of the Party, the Party principle and Party organisation if we brushed aside the only answer, given by the Party and confirmed by the experience of a year’s work, to cardinal fundamental questions, without an answer to which it is impossible to advance a single step whether in propaganda, agitation or organisation. We are quite ready to recognise   the need for collaboration in amending these resolutions, in revising them in accordance with the criticism of the comrades of all factions, including, of course, the pro-Party Mensheviks; we know that some propositions in these resolutions will probably remain open to dispute in the Party for quite a long time to come, and it will not be possible to settle them in the near future otherwise than by a majority Vote. But as long as this revision has not been undertaken and completed, as long as the Party has not given a new answer to the question of the appraisal of the Third Duma period and the tasks ensuing: from it, we absolutely demand that all Party Social-Democrats, whatever views they hold, should be guided in their actions by these very resolutions.

It would seem that this is an elementary point of Party principle? It would seem that there could not be any other attitude to Party decisions? But the turn to liquidationism which Golos has taken after the plenum caused it in this case, too, to utilise the concession of the majority of the Party not for going over to a loyal Party position, but for immediately declaring its dissatisfaction with the extent of the concession! (Only the Golosists have apparently forgotten that the side which started the dispute about the unanimously adopted compromise resolution, expressing dissatisfaction with it and demanding new concessions and new amendments, thereby gave the other side the right to demand amendments in another direction. And we, of course, are going to exercise this right.)

The editorial in Golos No. 19–20, which I have already cited, concerning the results of the plenum says outright that the introductory words to the resolution are a compromise. This is true, but it becomes untrue if the fact be sup pressed that the compromise enforced by the ultimatum of the Mensheviks was the refusal of the majority of the Central Committee to directly confirm all the resolutions of December 1908, and not only the fundamental propositions contained in them.

“From our point of view,” continues Golos, “this phrase does not harmonise with the unambiguous content of the main points of the resolution, and while it marks a certain turning-point in the development of the Party, nevertheless   it is, of course, connected in sequence with the whole past history of Russian Social-Democracy, but it is least of all [!!] connected with the ‘London heritage’.{1} However, we should be incorrigible doctrinaires if we thought it possible to achieve at one stroke absolute unanimity in our Party, if we sacrificed a big step forward in the movement for the sake of parochialism” (!!). “We can, leave the correction of these mistakes in the resolution to historians.”

This sounds as though the Golosists who attended the plenum had been rebuked for their “complaisance to the Bolsheviks” by their Russian legalists, like Potresov and Co., or by the editors of Golos who were not at the plenum, and as though they were apologising to them. We are not doctrinaires, let historians correct the mistakes of the resolution!

To this magnificent declaration we venture to rejoin that pro-Party Social-Democrats draw up resolutions not for the benefit of historians, but to derive practical guidance from these resolutions in their work of propaganda, agitation and organisation. The Party has no other definition of the problems of this work for the period of the Third Duma. To the liquidators, of course, Party resolutions mean nothing, because the whole Party means nothing to them, and, as far as they are concerned, the whole Party (and not only its resolutions) is a worth-while and interesting study only for “historians”. But neither the Bolsheviks nor the pro-Party Mensheviks want to work with the liquidators in one organisation and will not work with them. We shall ask the liquidators to join the Bezgolovtsi{2} or the Popular Socialists.{3}

If the Golosists were loyally inclined towards the Party, if they really complied with the interests of the Party and not those of Potresov and Co., the interests of the organisation of the revolutionary Social-Democrats, not those of a circle of legalist literati, they would have expressed their dissatisfaction with the resolutions of December 1908 in a different manner. Now, after the plenum, they would cease unseemly, contemptuous sniggering which is the special characteristic of the Cadets, at some kind of “decisions” from “underground”. They would set about analysing these decisions in a business-like manner and amending   them in accordance with their own point of view, in accordance with their own view of the experience of 1907–10. That would be working for real Party unity, for a rapprochement on a single line of Social-Democratic activity. By refusing to do so the Golosists are in fact carrying out the programme of the liquidators. What, indeed, is the programme of the liquidators on this question? It consists in ignoring the decisions of the underground Party which is doomed to perdition, etc., counterposing to the decisions of the Party the amorphous “work” of free lances who call them selves Social-Democrats and who have ensconced themselves in various legal journals, legal societies, etc., cheek by jowl with liberals, Narodniks and Bezzaglavtsi. We do not need any resolutions, any “estimate of the situation”, any definition of our immediate aims of struggle or our attitude to the bourgeois parties—we call all this (following Milyukov!) the “dictatorship of exclusive underground circles” (without noticing that by our amorphousness, lack of organisation and fragmented state we are actually surrendering the “dictatorship” to the liberal circles!).

Yes, yes, there is no doubt that the liquidators can demand nothing more from the Golosists as regards their attitude to Party decisions than that they should deride them contemptuously and ignore them.

It is impossible to discuss seriously the opinion that the resolution of the Central Committee on the state of affairs in the Party in 1909–10 is “least of all” connected with the London heritage, because the absurdity of this opinion leaps to the eye. It is nothing but mockery of the Party to say: we are prepared to take into account its “whole past history” but not that part of it which is directly connected with the present, nor the present itself! In other words: we are prepared to take into account anything that does not define our present actions. We are prepared (in 1910) to take into account “the whole past history” of Social-Democracy except the past history which contains the resolutions adopted on the Cadet Party in the years 1907–08–09, on the Trudovik parties in 1907–08–09, on the aims of our struggle in 1907–08–09. We are prepared to take into account everything except what is essential to becoming pro-Party in practice here and now, to conducting   Party work, to carrying out Party tactics, to guiding in a Party manner the activity of the Social-Democrats in the Third Duma.

To the shame of the Bund it has to be said that it provides space in its party paper for the same liquidationist sneers at the London heritage in Comrade Yonov’,s article (p. 22): “Tell me, if you please,” writes Yonov, “what have the resolutions of the London Congress to do with the present moment and the questions which are now on the order of the day? I venture to hope that Comrade Lenin too and all his fellow-thinkers do not know.”

Indeed, who am I to know such a mystery! How am I to know that there has been no change of any importance in the main groups of the bourgeois parties (Black Hundreds, Octobrists, Cadets, Narodniks), in their class composition, in their policy, in their attitude to the proletariat and the revolution from the spring of 1907 to the spring of 1910? How am I to know that the small minor changes, which could and should be noted in this sphere, are indicated in the resolutions of December 1908? How am I to know all this?

In Yonov’s estimation, it would seem, all this has nothing to do with the present moment and the questions on the order of the day. To him it is superfluous—some Party definition or other of the tactics to be adopted towards the non-proletarian parties. Why burden oneself? This effort to elaborate a Party definition of proletarian tactics—would it not be simpler to call it “special protective measures” or something like that? Would it not be simpler to convert the Social-Democrats into free lances, let them run wild to settle current questions “freely”, Without any reinforced protection”, today with the liberals in the magazine Nashi Pomoi, tomorrow with the Bezgolovtsi at a congress of literary hangers-on, the day after tomorrow with the Posse-ists in the co-operative movement.{4} Only—only, dear humble creature, how will this differ from what the legalist liquidators are out for? There will be no difference at all!

Pro-Party Social-Democrats who are dissatisfied with the London decisions or the resolutions of December 1908 and want to work in the Party, in a Party manner, will criticise these resolutions in the Party press, they will   propose amendments, try to convince the comrades, try to win a majority 4n the Party. We may disagree with such people, but their attitude will be a Party attitude, they will not sow confusion as Yonov, Golos and Co. are doing.

Just look at Mr. Potresov.

This “Social-Democrat”, in order to demonstrate publicly his independence from the Social-Democratic Party, exclaims in Nasha Zarya No. 2, p. 59: “And how numerous they are, these questions, without the solution of which it is impossible to move a step, impossible for Russian Marxism to become an ideological trend truly investing itself with all the energy and power [couldn’t you manage with less rhetoric, dear Mr. Independent!] of the revolutionary mood of the time! How is the economic development of Russia proceeding, what shifting of forces is it producing under the damper of the reaction, what is going on in the countryside and in the towns, what changes is this development producing in the social composition of the working class of Russia, and so on and so forth? Where are the answers or attempts to answer these questions, where is the economic school of Russian, Marxism? And what has become of the play of political thought which was once the very life of Menshevism? What has become of its search for organisational forms, its analysis of the past, its estimation of the present?”

If this independent were not so fond of casting laboured phrases to the wind and really thought about what he was saying, he would notice a very simple thing. If it is true that a revolutionary Marxist cannot move a step until these questions are settled (and it is true), their settlement—not In the sense of scientific finality and scientific research but of defining what steps have to be taken and how—is a matter with which the Social-Democratic Party must concern itself. For “revolutionary Marxism” outside the Social-Democratic Party is simply a parlour phrase of the legal-minded windbag who sometimes likes to boast that “we too” are almost Social-Democrats. The Social-Democratic Party gave the first steps to am answer to these questions, and it was in the resolutions of December 1908 that it gave them.

The independents have arranged things for themselves rather cunningly: in the legal press they beat their breasts   and ask “where are the first Steps to an answer on the part of the revolutionary Marxists?” The independents know that it is impossible to answer them in the legal press. And in the illegal press the friends of these independents (the Golosists) contemptuously refrain from answering the questions “without a settlement of which it will be impossible to move a step”. Everything is achieved that is required by the independents (i.e., the renegades of socialism) the world over: the resounding phrase is there, actual independence from socialism and the Social-Democratic Party is there as well.


{1} This refers to the resolution of the Fifth (London) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., “On the Attitude to Non-proletarian Parties” (see The C.P.S.U. in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, 7th Russian ed., Part 1, 1953, pp. 164–65).

{2} Bezgolovtsi (Headless) ironically applied by Lenin to the Bezzaglavtsi—a semi-Cadet group (S. N. Prokopovich, Y. D. Kuskova, V. Y. Bogucharsky, and others) which published a weekly journal Bez Zaglaviya (Without a Title) in St. Petersburg (1906). Avowed adherents of “critical socialism"—supporters of the revisionist wing of West-European Social-Democracy (Bernstein and others), the Bezzaglavtsi were opposed to the proletariat pursuing an independent class policy. Lenin called them “pro-Menshevik Cadets” or “pro-Cadet Mensheviks”.

{3} Popular Socialists (Enesy)—a petty-bourgeois party formed in 1906 by splitting off from the Right wing of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. It put forward moderate democratic demands within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. The Enesy rejected the proposal for socialisation of the land contained in the Socialist-Revolutionary programme, and admitted alienation of the land lords’ land on the basis of compensation. Lenin called the Enesy “petty-bourgeois opportunists”, “social-Cadets”, and “Socialist-Revolutionary Mensheviks”. The leaders of the Enesy were: A. V. Peshekhonov, V. A. Myakotin, N. F. Annensky, and others.

{4} Nashi Pomoi (Our Garbage) was Lenin’s ironical name for the liquidationist journal Nasha Zarya (Our Dawn).

The Congress of Literary Hangers-on—the Second All-Russian Congress of Writers, held in St. Petersburg on April 21–28 (May 4–11), 1910, with the participation of representatives of Nasha Zarya and the Menshevik Sovremenny Mir (Contemporary World). At the very first demand of the police, the Congress without any resistance cancelled discussion of a resolution on freedom of the press

In speaking of the Posse-ists, Lenin is referring to the collaboration of the liquidators in the liberal-bourgeois magazine Soyuz Potrebitelei (Consumers’ Association), which was led by V. A. Posse.

  4. Paragraph I of the Resolution on the State of Affairs in the Party | 6. The Group of Independent-Legalists  

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