V. I.   Lenin

Those Who Would Liquidate Us

Re: Mr. Potresov and V. Bazarov



This transformation becomes even more obvious when Mr. Potresov proceeds to discuss Marxism. The intelligentsia, he writes, “... by its organisation of party circles ... overshadowed the proletariat”. You cannot deny the fact that it is the bourgeoisie that has widely circulated this idea through   Vekhi and through the entire liberal press, and has used it against the proletariat. In the essay in which he formulated this idea, Axelrod wrote that “history in a prankish mood” could provide bourgeois democracy with a leader from the Marxist school. History in a prankish mood made use of the pit which Axelrod obligingly threatened to dig for the Bolsheviks, and has put Axelrod himself in it!

If you turn to the objective facts of history, you will find that all of them, the entire period of 1905–07, even the elections to the Second Duma (to cite as an example one of the simplest, though not one of the most important, facts), proved conclusively that “the organisation of party circles” did not “overshadow” the proletariat, hut developed directly into the organisation of the parties and trade unions of the proletarian masses.

But let us pass on to the main, or “central”, point of Mr. Potresov’s Herostratean effort. He claims that Marxist thought “is doping itself with the hashish of trivialities”—the struggle against Machism and the struggle against liquidationism, “debating anything and everything ... other than those things that constitute the nerve of a social and political trend like Marxism, anything but questions of economics and questions of politics”. And what a host there is of such questions! exclaims Mr. Potresov. “How is the economic development of Russia proceeding, what realignments of forces does this development effect under the cloak of reaction, what is going on in the countryside and in the cities, what changes does this development introduce in the social composition of the working class of Russia, etc., etc? Where are the answers, or even the initial attempts at answers, to these questions, where is the economic school of Russian Marxism?”

The answer, or at any rate an initial attempt at an answer, is to be found in the very “hierarchy”, whose existence Mr. Potresov maliciously and hypocritically denies. The development of the Russian state system during the past three centuries shows that its class character has been changing in one definite direction. The monarchy of the seventeenth century with the Boyars’ Duma did not resemble the bureaucratic-aristocratic monarchy of the eighteenth century. The monarchy of the first half of the nineteenth century was   not the same as the monarchy of 1861–1904. In the 1908–10 period a new phase was clearly outlined, marking one more step in the same direction, which may be described as the direction leading towards a bourgeois monarchy. The character of the Third Duma and the present agrarian policy are closely connected with this step. The new phase, there fore, is not an accident but represents a specific stage in the capitalist evolution of the country. This new phase does not solve the old problems, nor can it do so; consequently, since it is unable to eliminate them, it calls for the use of new methods of approach to old solutions of old problems. That is the peculiar feature of this cheerless, gloomy, difficult period, which, however, has proved to be inevitable. The particular economic and political characteristics of this period have given rise to the distinctive features of the ideological alignments in the ranks of the Marxists. Those who recognise the new methods of approach to the old solution of old problems are finding a common ground in their present joint practical tasks, although they are still divided as to how the old solutions should have been applied or advanced at one juncture or another during the preceding period. Those who deny (or who do not understand) the new methods of approach, or that we are confronted with the old problems and are heading towards the old solution of these problems, are in fact deserting Marxism, are in fact surrendering to the liberals (as Potresov, Levitsky, and others have done) or to the idealists and the syndicalists (as V. Bazarov and others have done).

Since they have surrendered themselves to alien people and alien ideas, both Potresov and Bazarov, as well as those who share their views, inevitably lose their bearings and find themselves in a most comical and false position. Mr. Potresov beats his breast and shouts: “Where is the initial attempt at an answer, and what is that answer?” Martov, who knows the answer just as well, tries to assure the public that that answer recognises “the bourgeoisie in power”—a common trick whereby liberals take advantage of the temporary enforced silence of their opponents! At the same time they ask us with an offended air: “What do you mean by liquidationism?” This very trick, most worthy gentlemen, is one of the methods of liquidators (if not of renegades);   people claiming allegiance to a “whole”[1] take advantage of its loss of strength to assure the public that there is no “answer”, although the answer has already been given by “the whole”.

Liquidationism, writes Mr. Potresov, is “a figment of a diseased imagination”, for you cannot liquidate “what is already beyond liquidation and actually no longer exists as an organised whole”.

I am not in a position fully to convey to the reader my opinion of these lines; but in order to convey an approximate idea of it, let me ask the reader: What should we call a person whose closest associates and colleagues accept proposals favourable to them made by the “whole” (precisely as a “whole”) and who the following day declares in the press that there is no “whole”?

But, enough of that.

The following question of principle is involved: can the view on the necessity for the old solution of the old problems change according to the degree of disintegration of the “whole”? or even, if you like, with its disappearance? It is obvious to everyone that it cannot. If the objective conditions, if the fundamental economic and political features of the present epoch, demand the old solution, then the greater the disintegration, the less there is left of the “whole”, the more one must be concerned about, and the more ardently must the publicist speak about the need for the “whole”. As we have already pointed out, we must recognise the new method of approach; but who is to apply them? Obviously the “whole”. Obviously, the tasks of the publicist as seen by those who understand the importance of the period we are passing through and its basic political features, are diametrically opposed to the entire line of the Potresovs. Certainly, no one can even seriously think of denying the connection between the “answer” which I outlined above (to the question of the economics and politics of the present period) and anti liquidationism.

Let us now turn from the general principles involved in the presentation of the question to its concrete historical aspect. That trend in Marxism which advocates the necessity   of the old solution and pursues its line accordingly has fully taken shape in the 1908–10 period. Another trend has also taken shape, one which during all these three years has opposed the recognition of the “old solution” and the restoration of the old fundamental forms of the whole. It would be ridiculous to deny this fact. And a third trend which has taken shape has failed during all these three years to understand the new forms of approach, the importance of work in the Third Duma, etc. Such people have recognised the old solution only in words, as one that has been learned by rote but not understood, as words repeated by force of habit but not applied consciously and intelligently to the changed circumstances (changed at least in the sphere of work in the Duma, but, of course, not only in that sphere).

The connection between liquidationism and the general philistine mood of “weariness” is obvious. The “weary” (particularly those weary as a result of doing nothing) are making no effort to work out for themselves an exact answer to the question of the economic and political appraisal of the current moment: they all disagree with the above appraisal, formally accepted by all as the appraisal given on behalf of the whole; but they all fear even to think of opposing to it their own exact viewpoint, for instance that of the collaborators of the liquidationist Nasha Zarya, Zhizn,[3] etc. The “weary” insist: the old no longer exists, it has lost its vitality, it is lifeless, etc., etc.; but they have not the slightest intention of racking their brains for an answer, a purely political and precisely formulated answer, to the unavoidable question (unavoidable for every honest publicist): what exactly should be substituted for the old, and whether it is necessary to restore “what is [allegedly] beyond liquidation, since it is already liquidated” (according to Potresov). For three years they have been abusing the old, reviling it—especially from such platforms as are barred to the advocates of the old—and now, falling into the arms of the Izgoyevs,[2] they exclaim: What nonsense, what a figment of the imagination all that talk about liquidationism is!

Of such “weary” people, of Mr. Potresov and Co., one cannot say in the well-known verses of the poet: “... No traitors they—just weary carrying their cross; the fire of anger and of sorrow, while mid-way still, they lost”.[4]

Weary” persons of this kind, who ascend the rostrum of the publicist and from it justify their “weariness” of the old, their unwillingness to work on the old, belong to the category of people who are not just “weary but are treacherous as well.


[1] i.e., the Party.—Tr.

[2] See his article in Russkaya Mysl[5] 1910, on Potresov the sup porter of Vekhi ideas. From such embraces Potresov will never wash himself clean. —Lenin

[3] Zhizn (Life)—a magazine published in Moscow by the Menshevik liquidators. There were two issues, in August and September 1910.

[5] Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought)—a monthly magazine of the liberal bourgeoisie published in Moscow from 1880. After the 1905 Revolution it became the organ of the Right wing of the Cadet Party. During the period of its existence Lenin called it “Black Hundred Thought”. The magazine was closed down in the middle of 1918.

[4] Lenin quotes N. A. Nekrasov’s lyrical comedy The Bear Hunt.

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