V. I.   Lenin

Fundamental Problems of the Election Campaign



It remains for us to point out two more important pas sages in Martov’s article. “In each case,” he writes, “of such a conflict arising within the June Third system [he is speaking of conflicts and friction which disintegrate and sap this system] the workers’ party should strive to prevail upon the propertied classes to take one step or another toward the democratisation of legislation and an extension of constitutional guarantees, and, what is of the greatest independent value to us, toward an extension of the sphere of the unrestricted organisation of the popular forces” (Nasha Zarya, No. 7–8, p. 50).

Martov’s formulation is very apt, only it is a formulation of the tasks and the line of a liberal labour policy.   “To prevail upon the propertied classes to take a step”, to “extend the sphere of the unrestricted organisation of labour”—these phrases of Martov’s are exactly those repeated throughout the world by all more or less educated liberal bourgeois, all liberal bourgeois imbued to any extent with the “European” spirit. The distinction between a liberal labour policy and a Marxist labour policy begins only when and where it is explained to the workers that the above-quoted liberal formulation is inadequate, unsatisfactory, and a deception. To prevail upon the non-propertied classes to take a step toward changing the very “sphere” which the liberals are promising to “extend”, and to substitute for it a fundamentally different “sphere”—that (approximately) is how the tasks and aspirations of the workers’ party should be defined, if there is no desire to build up a liberal labour party.

It should be remarked,, as a curiosity, that in a note to the quoted passage L. Martov makes the following observation: “As a matter of course, this formulation is sure to give rise to charges of opportunism and ‘legalism at all costs’”. And how do you think he refutes these charges? By referring to an article by N. Rozhkov printed in the Obskaya Zhizn,[2] No. 171. From that article Martov quotes five lines of extremely inept and unintelligible statements about “open political associations”. We have not read that article. But, assuming that Rozhkov advocates an “open party”, what is this supposed to prove when we are dealing with Martov’s formulation of a liberal labour policy? Since when has it become customary for anyone to justify one mistake of his own by pointing to another mistake committed by another writer?

But the entire spirit of Martov’s article is best and most vividly conveyed by the following tirade in the concluding section of the last paragraph:

We must conduct the entire election campaign under the banner of the struggle of the proletariat for the freedom of its political self-determination, of the struggle for its right to have a class party of its own and to develop its activities freely, for the right to take part in political life as an independent organised force. This principle [mark this!] must govern both the content and tactics of the election campaign and the methods to be used for organisational work.”

Those are words that correctly express the “principle” which determines the “content” of the entire election agitation (and of the entire policy) of the liquidators! As for the fine words about “reducing nothing and renouncing nothing”, with which Martov tried to console the Marxist readers, they are nothing but words, hollow words, so long as this is how the “principle” is formulated. For the crux of the matter is that the principle itself turns out to be that of a liberal labour policy.

The liberal bourgeois tells the workers: you are justified in fighting, indeed, you must fight, for the freedom of your own political self-determination, for the right to have a class party of your own, for the right freely to develop your activities, for the right to take part in political life as an independent organised force. It is these principles of the liberal, educated, radical, to use the English or French term, bourgeoisie that Martov is offering the workers in the guise of Marxism.

The Marxist tells the workers: in order really and success fully to fight for the freedom of your “own” political self-determination, you must fight for the free political self-determination of the entire people, you must show the people what the successive democratic forms of its political existence should be, and win the masses and the undeveloped sections of the working people away from the influence of the liberals. If your party is really to attain a full understanding of the tasks of the class, and if its activity is actually to be of a class nature and not of a guild nature, it is necessary for it not only to take part in political life, but, in spite of all the vacillations of the liberals, to direct the political life and initiative of the broad strata on to a greater arena than that indicated by the liberals, toward more substantial and more radical aims. He who confines the class to an “independent” corner of “activity” in an arena, the bounds, form, and shape of which are determined or permitted by the liberals, does not understand the tasks of the class. Only he understands the tasks of the class who directs its attention (and consciousness, and practical activity, etc.) to the need for so reconstructing this very arena, its entire form, its entire shape, as to extend it beyond the limits allowed by the liberals.

Wherein lies the difference between the two formulations? In the very fact, among other things, that the first excludes the idea of the “hegemony” of the working class, whereas the second deliberately defines this very idea; the first is the modern, latest variation of old Economism (“the workers should confine themselves to the economic struggle, leaving the political struggle to the liberals”), whereas the second strives to leave no room in the minds of the workers either for the old Economism or for its new variety.

Now it remains but to answer the concluding question: In what way does Levitsky differ from Martov? The former is one of the younger liquidators, one of the new generation, unaffected by the traditions and memories of the past. He does not beat about the bush, but says plainly, with the eagerness and straightforwardness of youth: “not hegemony, but a class party”! Martov, however, is “a man of the world”, he once belonged to the old Iskra group, he represents a mixture of the old traditions, which have not yet completely vanished,[1] and of the new liquidationism which has not yet mustered a sufficient amount of courage. That is why he first swears and vows to—“reduce nothing, renounce nothing”—and then, after long and devious circumlocutions, blurts out that the “principle” of the entire election campaign must be a liquidationist one.

But, then, it is precisely the “principle” of the election campaign that constitutes the whole crux of the matter.


[1] It would be more correct to say: The substance of these traditions, their ideological core, has completely vanished as far as Martov is concerned, but the words have remained, the habit of carrying the “decent label” of an “unswerving internationalist” still makes itself felt. —Lenin

[2] Obskaya Zhizn (Ob Life)—daily newspaper of a liberal-bourgeois trend, published in Novonikolayevsk (Novosibirsk) from 1909 to 1912.

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