V. I.   Lenin

Fundamental Problems of the Election Campaign



It is interesting to note that Martov’s further arguments defeat him even more glaringly.

Thus,” Martov continues, “the Bourbons who were restored to power in 1815 did not create a bourgeois monarchy, but were compelled to cloak their rule, and the rule of the nobility that backed them, in political forms which hastened the organisation of the bourgeoisie and enabled it to grow into the force that was capable of creating the bourgeois monarchy of 1830.”

Splendid. Prior to the Bourbons of 1815 and prior to 1789, France had a feudal, patriarchal monarchy. After 1830 France had a bourgeois monarchy. But what kind of monarchy did Martov set out to discuss (to his own discomfiture), i.e., the monarchy of 1815–30? It is obvious that it was “a step toward the transformation into a bourgeois monarchy”. The example cited by Martov is a splendid refutation of his arguments! Further, the French liberal bourgeoisie already began to reveal its hostility to consistent democracy during the movement of 1789–93. As Martov knows perfectly well, democracy did not by any means set itself the task of creating a bourgeois monarchy. In the face of the vacillations, betrayals, and counter revolutionary sentiments of the liberal bourgeoisie, France’s   democrats, with the working class at their head, created, after a long series of trying “campaigns”, the political system which became consolidated after 1871. At the beginning of the era of bourgeois revolutions, the French liberal bourgeoisie was monarchist in outlook; at the end of a long period of bourgeois revolutions, and to the extent to which the actions of the proletariat and of the bourgeois-democratic elements (the “Left bloc” elements, in spite of all that L. Martov may say to the contrary!) be came increasingly determined and independent, the French bourgeoisie in its entirety was recast into a republican bourgeoisie, retrained, re-educated, reborn. In Prussia, and in Germany in general, the landowner never relinquished his hegemony during the whole period of bourgeois revolutions and he “educated” the bourgeoisie in his own image, after his own likeness. In France, during all the eighty years of bourgeois revolutions, the proletariat, in various combinations with the “Left bloc” elements of the petty bourgeoisie, won for itself hegemony at least four times, and as a result the bourgeoisie had to create a political system more acceptable to its opposite.

Bourgeoisies differ. Bourgeois revolutions provide a vast variety of combinations of different groups, sections, and elements both of the bourgeoisie itself and of the working class. To “deduce” an answer to the concrete problems of the Russian bourgeois revolution of the first decade of the twentieth century from “the general concept” of bourgeois revolution in the narrowest sense of the term is to debase Marxism to liberalism.

Thus,” Martov continues, “after it suppressed the Revolution of 1848, the Prussian government found itself compelled to introduce a constitution and a legislative representative body, organised in the interests of the landowners; these paltry rudiments of a constitutional-parliamentary system served as the basis for the political organisation of the bourgeoisie, which, however, to this day has not succeeded in transforming the state into a ‘bourgeois monarchy’.

Hence the above-mentioned formulation errs in making no mention of the decisive collision between the classes, without which the objective tendency revealed in acts of the June Third type cannot be translated into reality!”

That is truly magnificent, isn’t it? Martov is positively a virtuoso when it comes to disguising reformist arguments,   theories, and platforms with catchwords which create the impression of being Marxist and revolutionary! Apropos of the same “formula” which Martov is criticising, F. Dan poured scorn on people who want “to shove in where they have once been defeated”. Y. Larin wrote that the working class must organise, not “in expectation of a revolution”, but simply for the purpose of “firmly and systematically defending its special interests”. Now Martov makes the discovery that the formula errs because it makes no mention of the decisive collision between the classes. Simply charming!

But Martov’s phrase is not merely comical, it has another feature to it. Martov expressed himself with consummate evasiveness. He did not say to which classes he was referring. In the preceding sentences he spoke of the landowners and the bourgeoisie. It might be conjectured that Martov here refers to a decisive collision only between the landowners and the bourgeoisie. Only on this assumption may Martov’s words be “taken seriously”. But if this assumption is correct, then that shows him up with particular clarity as an advocate or defender of a liberal labour policy.

Our formula “makes no mention of the decisive collision” between the classes of the landowners and the bourgeoisie! But, hold! Our formula speaks plainly, definitely and explicitly of “petty dissensions” between these classes. From our viewpoint the dissensions between these classes are petty. Great importance attaches to the collision, not between these classes, but between other classes, of which the “formula” speaks further on in just as plain and unmistakable terms.

Consequently the question is as follows. No one who shares the Marxist viewpoint can expect Russia’s salvation from the “June Third period” to come from anything other than a “decisive collision between the classes”. We must be clear on the historical meaning of the “June Third period” if we want to know which classes in contemporary Russia can and must (in the sense of objective necessity, not of a subjective “must”) come into decisive collision. Martov, apparently, thinks, as do all the liquidators, that in Russia a decisive collision is bound to take place between the landed nobility and the liberal bourgeoisie. (Be it noted in parenthesis that the liquidators will render the working-class   movement a real service if they openly set forth this view in the draft platform of Nasha Zarya and Dyelo Zhizni, because they will thereby explain the matter to the workers; if, however, the platform of these publications does not openly express this view, it will be shown that the purpose of their platform is to conceal their real views, that the platform is at variance with the real ideological content of the propaganda carried on by these two magazines.)

We think, and this is plainly stated in our “formula”, that no decisive collision is to be expected between the old type of landed nobility and the liberal bourgeoisie in Russia. Clashes between these two classes are inevitable, but they will be mere “petty dissensions” which will “not decide” anything in Russia’s destiny and cannot bring about any decisive, real change for the better.[1]

A really decisive collision is still to come between other classes—a collision on the basis and within the framework of bourgeois society, i.e., of commodity production and capitalism.

What ground is there for this opinion? It is justified both by theoretical considerations and by the experience of 1905–07. In these three years Russia experienced a sharp collision of classes that ranks as one of the greatest class collisions in world history. Nevertheless, even in those three years, in a bourgeois society which lacked even the most   elementary conditions and guarantees of bourgeois liberty, the collision between the landed nobility and the liberal bourgeoisie, between the latter and the old regime, was neither sharp nor decisive. On the other hand, the sharp and decisive collisions, collisions that could in any way be described as sharp and decisive, were those between the peasants and the landowners, between the workers and the capitalists.

How is this phenomenon to be explained? In the first place, by the fact that the liberal bourgeoisie is so closely linked with the landed nobility economically, their mutual interests are so closely intertwined, that from the standpoint of the former the safest and most desirable course is to re form the latter, but by no means to abolish it. The slowest, even imperceptibly slow, reform is better than abolition, that is how the overwhelming majority of the liberal bourgeois reason, and with Russia’s economic and political situation as it is at present this class cannot reason otherwise.

Further, if we take for instance the strike movement, we find that in Russia, during the three years referred to, it developed to a point never achieved in any of the most advanced and most developed capitalist countries in the world. That is why it was inevitable for the liberal bourgeoisie to reason that the slowest, the most imperceptibly slow, reform of the antiquated conditions of labour was better than a resolute breach with the old, that it was better to preserve the old than to make a decisive break with it. On the other hand, the economic condition of the workers and peasants made it impossible for them to reason along those lines; here the economic conditions gave rise to really sharp and really decisive collisions. It Is wrong to think, as the Narodniks think with regard to the peasantry, and Trotsky with regard to the workers, that those collisions went beyond the limits of bourgeois society. But there can be no shadow of doubt that it is by such, and only by such, collisions (provided they lead to a definite outcome) that all the old, the threadbare, the pre-bourgeois can be fully eradicated, can be abolished without leaving a trace.

The Russian landlords, from Purishkevich to Dolgorukov, have trained our liberal bourgeoisie in a spirit of servility, inertia, and fear of change unparalleled in history.   The Russian peasants, under the economic and political conditions at present obtaining in Russia, represent that bourgeois stratum of the population out of which the era of “collisions”, the era of bourgeois revolutions (in the historico-methodological meaning of the term), with the workers taking a leading part, is educating a bourgeoisie that is free of the above-mentioned pleasant qualities. But will it complete this education? This question can only be answered when the era of bourgeois revolutions in Russia is at an end. Until that time all the progressive trends of political thought in Russia will inevitably be divided into two main types, depending on whether they are gravitating to the hegemony of the liberals who are striving to remake and renovate Russia in a manner that will not be injurious to the Purishkeviches, or to the hegemony of the working class with the best elements of the peasantry as its following.

I said “are gravitating”, because we cannot expect all the progressive trends to be conscious of, i.e., to under stand, the class roots of the various policies. But Marxists would not be worthy of the name if they failed to delve down to those roots, and if they failed to understand that both the defence of the special interests of the working class and the training of the working class for its future role in bourgeois Russia will inevitably, owing to the objective interrelation of the social forces, follow the same two main channels: it will either trail along behind the liberals (who are marching behind the Purishkeviches or alongside of them), or lead the democratic elements forward in spite of the vacillations, desertions, and Vekhi sentiments of the liberals.


[1] Naturally, it does not follow from this that the liberal bourgeoisie, together with the landed nobility, represents “one reactionary mass”, that the conflicts between these two are of no political significance, that they cannot give rise to a democratic movement, or that it is permissible to ignore these conflicts. To draw such conclusions would be tantamount to reducing a correct proposition to an absurdity, it would betray a lack of understanding of the limits within which this proposition is correct. For it is a well-known fact that “the greatest justice”, if reduced to an absurdity because of a failure to understand the limits and conditions of the just and unjust, becomes “the greatest injustice”: summum jus—summa infuria. We should remember the following fact in the history of Russian Marxism. The appraisal of the liberal-bourgeois parties in Russia (with the Cadet Party at their head) given at the well-known London Congress was exactly the same as that outlined in the present article; but that did not prevent the Congress from recognising the necessity “to make use of the activity of these parties to further the political education of the people”. —Lenin

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