Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 25, December 8 (21), 1911.
Published according to the Sotsial-Demokrat text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, , Moscow, Volume 17, pages 354-359.
Translated: Dora Cox
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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An outstanding event in this camp is the article by N. R-kov published in No. 9–10 of the liquidationist Nasha Zarya. This article is a real Credo or manifesto of a liberal labour party. From the very beginning, from his assessment of the revolution and the role of all the classes involved, and proceeding with remarkable consistency to the end, to the scheme for a legal workers’ (?) party, in all his arguments, R-kov substitutes liberalism for Marxism.
What is the real task facing Russia? The complete replacement of semi-feudal economy by “civilised capitalism”.
That is not Marxism, however, but Struveism or liberalism, for a Marxist distinguishes between classes with their Octobrist, Cadet, Trudovik, or proletarian ideas as to what constitutes “civilised” capitalism.
What is the crux of the problem of appraising of the revolution? R-kov condemns the whining and renegacy of those who shout that the revolution has “failed” and against them puts forward ... the great professorial maxim that during periods of “reaction” too, new social forces are maturing. It is evident that R-kov’s answer disguises the essence of the matter to the advantage of the counter-revolutionary liberals who fully acknowledge the maxim newly-discovered by R-kov. The essence of the question is: which of the classes that took part in the revolution showed that they were capable of waging a direct, mass revolutionary struggle, which classes betrayed the revolution and directly or indirectly joined the counter-revolution? R-kov concealed this essence and was thus able to ignore the difference between revolutionary democracy and the liberal-monarchist “progressive” opposition.
As regards the role of the landlord class, R-kov managed without further ado to say something absurd. Not so long ago, he says, the representatives of that class “were” real serf-owners; now “a small handful are still grouped around Messrs. Purishkevich and Markov the Second, and are helplessly [U spluttering the venom of despair”. The majority of the landed nobility, he goes on to say, “are gradually and steadily being converted into an agricultural bourgeoisie”.
In actual fact, as everybody knows, the Markovs and the Purishkeviches have full power in the Duma, still more in the Council of State, and even more in the tsar’s Black-Hundred clique, and yet more in the administration of Russia. It is precisely “their power and their revenue” (resolution of the December 1908 conference) that are guaranteed by a step in this kind of transformation of tsarism into a bourgeois monarchy. The conversion of serf economy into bourgeois economy by no means does away immediately with the political power of these Black-Hundred-type landowners. This is obvious from the viewpoint of elementary Marxism, and it also follows from the experience, say, of Prussia after sixty years of “conversion” (since 1848). According to R-kov there is no absolutism and no monarchy in Russia! R-kov applies a liberal school method: the benign elimination (on paper) of social extremes serves as “proof” that a “compromise is inevitable”.
Present-day agrarian policy, according to R-kov, indicates an “imminent and inevitable [!] compromise”—between whom?—“between the different groups of the bourgeoisie”. But, we ask our “Marxist”, what social force will compel the Purishkeviches, who wield all the power, to agree to a compromise? R-kov does not answer this question. But since he goes on to refer to the process of the consolidation of the big commercial and industrial bourgeoisie, and “the impending domination of the moderately progressive” bourgeoisie, there is only one conclusion to be drawn—R-kov expects that the moderately progressive bourgeoisie will peacefully take over power from the Purishkeviches and Romanovs.
Incredible as this is, it is a fact. It is precisely this most puerile of liberal utopias that forms the basis of R-kov’s conception, although he boasts that “there is not a grain of utopia” in what he says. There is no actual difference between N. R-kov and the extreme liquidators, all of whom—from Larin to Cherevanin, Dan, and Martov—set forth, in slightly different forms and phrases, the very same fundamental idea of a peaceful assumption of power by the bourgeoisie (with, at most, pressure exerted from “below”).
But in real life not in a liberal utopia, we see the domination of Purishkevichism moderated by the grumbling of the Guchkovs and Milyukovs. The “moderately progressive” Octobrists and Cadets, far from undermining this domination, are perpetuating it. The contradiction between this domination and the unquestionably advancing bourgeois development of Russia is becoming ever sharper (and not weaker, as the theorists of “inevitable compromise” think). The motive force in the solution of this contradiction can only be the masses, i.e., the proletariat with the peasantry following its lead.
This former Bolshevik, who has now become a liquidator, dismisses these masses so readily, that it is as if the Stolypin gallows and the torrent of filth let loose by Vekhi had eliminated them, not only from the arena of open politics, not only from the pages of liberal publications, but also from real life. The peasantry, says our liberal in his “analysis”, are weak at the elections; and as for the Working class, he provisionally leaves it “out of consideration”!!
R-kov undertook to prove that a revolution (“upheaval”) in Russia, though possible, is not essential. Once the working class and the peasantry are “left out of consideration”, even if only provisionally, if only “for the time being”, if only because of their “weakness at the elections”, a revolution is not, of course, possible, to say nothing of its being essential. But liberal benevolence cannot conjure away either the unrestricted power of Purishkevich and Romanov, or the revolutionary resistance which is growing stronger both among the maturing proletariat and the starving and tormented peasantry. The trouble with R-kov is that he has abandoned the Marxist line, the line followed by revolutionary Social-Democrats, who always, under all circumstances and in every possible form, in speeches at mass meetings, from the rostrum of the Third Duma, at meetings of Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, or in the most peaceable and legally functioning workers’ associations, insist that this resistance must be given support, that it must be strengthened, developed, and properly directed toward the achievement of complete victory. In all his arguments N. R-kov has substituted for this line that of the liberal who refuses to see the force that has been driven underground, who refuses to see anything but the Purishkeviches who are being “converted” into “civilised Junkers”, or the “moderately progressive” Milyukovs.
That is the specific kind of blindness which is characteristic of the whole of Nasha Zarya and of the whole Stolypin labour party. Closely connected with this conception—one due to the blindness caused by liberal blinkers—is the extraordinarily strong emphasis on the legalisation of the workers’ party. Since “a compromise is inevitable”, there is no point in fighting the inevitable, and all that remains for the working class to do is to follow the example of the other classes of the fully established bourgeois system and feather for itself a humble little philistine nest in a nook of this system. That is the real meaning of the legalists’ propaganda, no matter how much Martov, given that role by the Potresovs, Yuri Chatskys, Larins, Dans, and others, may hide it behind “revolutionary” phraseology.
This real meaning of a legal “association for the protection of the interests of the working class” is very clearly revealed in R-kov’s article. It is obvious that the “powers that be” will never permit such an association, even if it is dominated by the Prokopoviches. It is obvious that they will never agree to let it be “put into effect”. Only blind liberals can fail to see this. But an association of intellectuals who, under the guise of socialism, are spreading liberal propaganda among the working masses is something that has already been put into effect. This “association” consists of the contributors to Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni. And it is their “banner”, the ideological banner of liberalism, that R-kov “unfurls” when he asserts that, unless there exists an open organisation the struggle will inevitably (!) assume an anarchist character; that the old slogans have become dead letters; that tactics must not be reduced to a “scuffle”; that the new “association” harbours “no thought [!] of the need for a forcible revolution”, etc. This liberal, renegade propaganda of intellectuals is a reality, whereas the talk of an open working-class association is mere eyewash. An association for the liberal protection of the interests of the working class as understood by the liberals is a reality; Nasha Zarya is this “association”, and the “open and broad political organisation” of workers in present-day Russia, is an innocuous, empty, misleading liberal dream.
It is a useful thing to organise legally functioning trade unions, as long as we are aware that under present conditions they cannot become either broad, or “political”, or stable. But it is an empty and harmful occupation to preach liberal concepts of a political workers’ association that exclude any idea of the use of force.
In conclusion, here are two amusing bits. The first: “If anyone,” writes R-kov, “blinded by reactionary frenzy, took it into his head to accuse the members of such an association of striving for violent revolution, the whole burden of such an absurd, unfounded, and juridically flimsy accusation would fall upon the head of the accuser.” We can just visualise the picture of the burden of juridically flimsy accusations falling upon the heads of Shcheglovitov and Co.—and it is not Rodichev but N. R-kov who crushes them under that “burden”.
The second: “The workers,” writes R-kov, “must assume the task of political hegemony in the struggle for a democratic system.” R-kov is in favour of hegemony after he has deprived it of its entire meaning. “Workers,” says R-kov in effect, “you must not fight against the ‘inevitable’ compromise, but you must call yourselves leaders.” But the very thing a leader has to do is to expose the fiction about a compromise being “inevitable” and to work to organise proletarian and proletarian-peasant resistance to undemocratic bourgeois compromises.
N. R-kov will be as useful in the struggle against liquidationism, as Y. Larin was in the struggle against the false idea of a labour congress. N. R-kov and Y. Larin have had the courage to appear ... naked. R-kov is an honest liquidator. By his fearlessness he will compel people to think about the ideological roots of liquidationism. He will provide ever more corroboration of the correctness of the December 1908 resolutions of the R.S.D.L.P., for he regularly poses (and invariably gives wrong answers to) the very problems which those resolutions analysed and answered correctly. R-kov will help the workers to obtain a particularly clear idea of the wretchedness of those liquidationist diplomats who, like the editors of Nasha Zarya (or of Golos), twist and turn, piling up reservation upon reservation, and disclaiming responsibility for “certain passages” in R-kov’s article, or for the “detailed exposition” of his plan. As if it were a question of separate passages, and not of a uniform, integral, and consistent line—the line of a liberal labour policy!