The elections to the Fourth Duma are close at hand, and naturally, the question of the election campaign is on the order of the day. It is clear that any wavering as to the advisability, from the point of view of Marxism, of our participation in the elections, is impermissible. It is not within the bounds of Marxism and the working-class party, but only outside them, that views, hostile or indefinite, or even merely indifferent to our participation in the elections, can be regarded as “legitimate” shades of opinion. It may even seem somewhat embarrassing to repeat this elementary truth, proved and corroborated by experience many years ago (beginning with the end of 1907), but we nevertheless have to repeat it, for the worst evil we have to contend with now, is confusion and disintegration. And it is not only those who give vague or evasive answers to elementary questions that contribute to this confusion and disintegration, but also those who, for reasons of diplomacy or through lack of principles, etc., defend vagueness and evasion.
The elections to the State Duma naturally impose upon all Marxists, upon all members of the working-class movement, the duty to bend all their efforts to develop the most energetic, persistent activity and initiative in every field of that movement. The answers to the questions on the principles and the programmatic, political and organisational content and line of this activity which were elaborated during recent years, must now be directly applied in practice to the special sphere of “election” activity.
We deliberately speak of answers already formulated. It would be ridiculous indeed to suppose that now, several mouths, or, for that matter, even a year before the elections, you could manage to “find” the answers, if they had not yet been found, if they had not been thought out and tested by the practical experience of several years. After all, it is a matter of providing answers to all the “vexed questions” relating to our world outlook in general, to our appraisal of the previous, extremely eventful period of Russian his tory, to our estimate of the present period (which, in its main features, became defined as far back as 1908), and to the political and organisational problems which had to be solved, one way or another, by everyone who took part in the working-class movement during the last, say, four years. At present it can only be a matter of applying formulated answers and methods of work to the present particular field of activity, the elections to the Fourth Duma. To say that “in the course of the election campaign”, i.e., of one branch of activity, we can work out the answers to the questions relating to all branches of activity, relating not only to 1912, but also to “the entire period beginning with 1908”, would mean comforting ourselves with illusions, or concealing, justifying the reigning confusion and disintegration.
We are concerned, in the first place, with answers to programme questions. What have developments in the past four years in Russia given us in this respect? It must be admitted by each and all that during these four years no attempts have been made to revise, or amend, or further elaborate the old programme of the Marxists as far as its principles are concerned. Characteristic of the “current period”, or more correctly in many respects it could be called the “stagnation” or “rotten” period, is the scornful attitude to the programme, and the desire to abridge and reduce it without the least attempt at definite and down right revision. In our epoch “revisionism”, in its specific role of bourgeois emasculation of Marxist truths, is not of the militant variety which raises “the banner of revolt” (as, for instance, Bernstein’s in Germany some ten years ago, Struve’s in Russia some fifteen years ago, or Prokopovich’s somewhat later); it is merely a cowardly and furtive renunciation, often defended on the ground of “practical”, mainly only allegedly practical, considerations. The successors and continuers of the “cause” of Struve and Prokopovich—people like Potresov, Maslov, Levitsky and Co.—“took part” in the reigning disorder and contributed to it (as also did Yushkevich, Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, etc.), mostly by means of timid and unsystematic attempts to throw the “old” Marxism overboard and to replace it by a “new”, bourgeois doctrine. It was no mere chance, nor was it due to the caprice of “groups”, that questions of theory have attracted so much attention during the past four years. Such questions have been treated as “trivialities”, even if only in part, by those who timidly renounce the old Marxism, and by them alone. If we speak today of the defence of the Marxist programme and the Marxist world outlook in connection with and in the course of the election campaign—if we speak of them not merely as an official duty or with the intention of saying nothing, we must take into account the experience of the past foul years and not mere words, promises, or assurances. These four years have actually brought to light quite a number of “unreliable fellow-travellers” of Marxism among our intellectuals (who often desire to be Marxists), they have taught us to distrust such fellow-travellers, they have served to enhance in the minds of thinking workers the importance of Marxist theory and of the Marxist programme in its uncurtailed form.
There is a range of questions in which the programme comes close to or actually merges with tactics. Naturally, these problems assume a considerably greater immediate and practical significance during the election campaign. It is in respect of these problems that the spirit of renunciation and confusion has expressed itself in by far the sharpest form. Some said that the old tasks were no longer valid, because the system of government in Russia had, in essence, already become bourgeois. Others maintained that from now on Russia’s development could proceed, like that of Germany or Austria after 1848, without any “leaps”. Others again insisted that the idea of the hegemony of the working class had outlived its day, and that Marxists must aspire “not to hegemony, but to a class party”, etc.
It goes without saying that, literally, not a single problem of tactics can be solved or explained to any extent completely, fully, and coherently, without an analysis of these ideas, justly described as “liquidationist”, and which form an inseparable part of the broad stream of bourgeois public opinion which is turning back and away from democracy. Anyone who has kept his eyes open to what is going on in practical life knows that confusion in these problems is a hundred times more pronounced than might be judged from what has been written, on this subject. Nor, of course, could it be otherwise in the years following the events at the end of 1905 and of 1906–07. But the more “natural” this disintegration (in a bourgeois environment), the more urgent and vital is the Marxists’ task of waging a comprehensive and unremitting fight against it.
Periods of renunciation and, disintegration similar to those of the past four years in Russia have been known to all countries. There were cases when not even groups remained, but only isolated individuals who in similar circumstances managed for ten or more years to “keep the banner flying”, to keep the ideas of continuity alive, and subsequently to apply these ideas in a materially changed social and political situation. In Russia matters are not so bad as that; for our “heritage” includes both a programme which has remained intact, and formulated answers to the fundamental tactical and organisational problems of the “moment”. The liquidationist trend, which has renounced this answer, can not replace it by anything resembling an explicit and clear answer of its own.
An election campaign implies the application of a definite solution of political problems to complicated propaganda, agitational, organisational, etc., activity. You cannot em bark upon such a campaign without a definite answer to the problems. And the answer which the Marxists formulated in 1908 has been fully corroborated by the experience of the past four years. The new, bourgeois content of the, government’s agrarian policy; the organisation of the landowners and the bourgeoisie in the Third Duma; the behaviour of even the most “Left” bourgeois party, the Cadets, so vividly illustrated by the trip to London, and not only by that trip; The ideological currents of the Vekhi type, which enjoyed such immense success among “educated” society—all these facts clearly indicate that the old problems have not been solved but have to be tackled now under new conditions, in a more bourgeois atmosphere, when the bourgeoisie is systematically turning away from democracy and assuming the role of a responsible, party, “loyal”, etc., “opposition”. A new situation and new methods of preparing for the old solution of the old problems, a more evident split between democracy and the anti-democratic liberal bourgeoisie, such are the main features of the answer formulated by the Marxists to the fundamental political questions of the present period.
The answer to the problems of organisation is inseparably connected with the entire world outlook of the Marxists, with their estimate of the political meaning and significance of the June Third period. In the main the old methods are to be preserved and adapted to the new circumstances with their so-called “opportunities” of all sorts, such as open associations, unions, etc. Nuclei, and a network of organisations around them, connected with them, and directed by them, are to be formed. The “nuclei” are to show greater flexibility, using more adaptable methods of work which do not in every particular resemble the old forms. It is also obligatory to take advantage, not only of the platform provided by the Duma, but of all sorts of similar “opportunities”. It is an answer that does not in the least tie our hands by any uniform standards or obligatory forms of work; it leaves vast scope for working out the most suitable ways and means of combining various forms of activity. But it is a “firm” answer, based on unshakable principles, and as such it counters the prevailing disorder, spirit of renunciation, and confusion, not only by a verbal proclamation of loyalty to the old, but also by setting up a fundamental organisational principle, which enables us to secure ideological stability in real life. Those who have “accumulated a reserve”, even if they are few in number, are uniting and systematically upholding the “hierarchy”—its spirit, its teachings, its principles and traditions, but not, of course, its forms.
The liquidationist trend, on the other hand, succumbs to the prevailing amorphousness (prevailing not only among us, by no means only in the working class, but to an even greater extent among other classes and parties); it abandons the work for the old, and uses the quest for “something new” as an excuse for justifying confusion. The liquidationist trend among the Marxists is but one rivulet joining the broad ideological stream of bourgeois society, the stream directed against democracy in general, against the mass movement in particular, and especially against the recent forms of the organisation and leadership of the movement.
Such are the general propositions of Marxism, its attitude to the tasks and problems of the present period, an attitude, we repeat, of long standing, which ought now to be translated into an “election campaign” with an integral ideological, programmatic, tactical, and organisational content.