V. I.   Lenin

Controversial Issues




To many workers the struggle that is now going on between Pravda and Luch appears unnecessary and not very intelligible. Naturally, polemical articles in separate issues of the newspaper on separate, sometimes very special questions, do not give a complete idea of the subject and content of the struggle. Hence the legitimate dissatisfaction of the workers.

Yet the question of liquidationism, over which the struggle is now being waged, is at the present time one of the most important and most urgent questions of the working-class movement. One cannot be a class-conscious worker unless one studies the question in detail and forms a definite opinion on it. A worker who wishes to participate independently in deciding the destiny of his Party will not waive aside polemics, even if they are not quite intelligible at first sight, but will earnestly seek until he finds the truth.

How is the truth to be sought? How can one find one’s way through the tangle of contradictory opinions and assertions?

Every sensible person understands that if a bitter struggle is raging on any subject, in order to ascertain the truth, he must not confine himself to the statements made by the disputants, but must examine the facts and documents for him self, see for himself whether there is any evidence to be had from witnesses and whether this evidence is reliable.

This, of course, is not always easy to do. It is much “easier” to take for granted what comes to hand, what you happen to hear, what is more “openly” shouted about, and so on. But people who are satisfied with this are dubbed “shallow”, feather-brained people, and no one takes them seriously. The truth about any important question cannot be found   unless a certain amount of independent work is done, and anyone who is afraid of work cannot possibly arrive at the truth.

Therefore, we address ourselves only to those workers who are not afraid of this work, who have decided to get to the bottom of the matter themselves, and try to discover facts, documents, the evidence of witnesses.

The first question that arises is—what is liquidationism? Where did this word come from, what does it mean?

Luch says that the liquidation of the Party, i.e., the dissolution, the break-up of the Party, the renunciation of the Party, is merely a wicked invention. The “factionalist” Bolsheviks, it alleges, invented this charge against the Mensheviks!

Pravda says that the whole Party has been condemning and fighting liquidationism for over four years.

Who is right? How to discover the truth?

Obviously, the only way is to seek for facts and documents of the Party’s history in the last four years, from 1908 to 1912, when the liquidators finally split away from the Party.

These four years, during which the present liquidators were still in the Party, constitute the most important period for discovering where the term liquidationism came from and how it arose.

Hence, the first and basic conclusion: whoever talks of liquidationism, but avoids the facts and Party documents of the 1908–11 period, is hiding the truth from the workers.

What are these facts and Party documents?

First of all there is the Party decision adopted in December 1908. If the workers do not wish to be treated like children who are stuffed with fairy-tales and fables, they must ask their advisers, leaders or representatives, whether a Party decision was adopted on the question of liquidationism in December 1908 and what that decision was.

The decision contains a condemnation of liquidationism and an explanation of what it is.

Liquidationism is “an attempt on the part of a group of Party intellectuals to liquidate [i.e, dissolve, destroy, abolish, close down] the existing organisation of the Party and to replace it at all costs, even at the price of downright renunciation   of the programme, tactics, and traditions of the Party [i.e., past experience], by a loose association functioning legally [i.e., in conformity with the law, existing “openly”]”.

Such was the Party’s decision on liquidationism, adopted more than four years ago.

It is obvious from this decision what the essence of liquidationism is and why it is condemned. Its essence is the renunciation of the “underground”, its liquidation and replacement at all costs by an amorphous association functioning legally. Therefore, it is not legal work, not insistence on the need for it that the Party condemns. The Party condemns—and unreservedly condemns—the replacement of the old Party by something amorphous, “open , something which cannot be called a party.

The Party cannot exist unless it defends its existence, unless it unreservedly fights those who want to liquidate it, destroy it, who do not recognise it, who renounce it. This is self-evident.

Anyone who renounces the existing Party in the name of some new party must be told: try, build up a new party, but you cannot remain a member of the old, the present, the existing Party. Such is the meaning of the Party decision adopted in December 1908, and it is obvious that no other decision could have been taken on the question of the Party’s existence.

Of course, liquidationism is ideologically connected with renegacy, with the renunciation of the programme and tactics, with opportunism. This is exactly what is indicated in the concluding part of the above-quoted decision. But liquidationism is not only opportunism. The opportunists are leading the Party on to a wrong, bourgeois path, the path of a liberal-labour policy, but they do not renounce the Party itself, they do not liquidate it. Liquidationism is that brand of opportunism which goes to the length of renouncing the Party. It is self-evident that the Party cannot exist if its members include those who do not recognise its existence. It is equally evident that the renunciation of the underground under existing conditions is renunciation of the old Party.

The question is, what is the attitude of the liquidators towards this Party decision adopted in 1908?

This is the crux of the matter, this puts the sincerity and political honesty of the liquidators to the test.

Not one of them, unless he has taken leave of his senses, will deny that such a decision was adopted by the Party and has not been rescinded.

And so the liquidators resort to evasions; they either avoid the question and withhold from the workers the Party’s decision of 1908, or exclaim (often adding abuse) that this was a decision carried by the Bolsheviks.

But abuse only betrays the weakness of the liquidators. There are Party decisions that have been carried by the Mensheviks, for example, the decision concerning municipalisation, adopted in Stockholm in 1906.[1] This is common knowledge. Many Bolsheviks do not agree with that decision. But not one of them denies that it is a Party decision. In exactly the same way the decision of 1908 concerning liquidationism is a Party decision. All attempts to side step this question only signify a desire to mislead the workers.

Whoever wants to recognise the Party, not merely in words, will not permit any sidestepping, and will insist on getting at the truth concerning the Party’s decision on the question of liquidationism. This decision has been supported ever since 1909 by all the pro-Party Mensheviks,[2] headed by Plekhanov who, in his Dnevnik and in a whole series of other Marxist publications, has repeatedly and quite definitely explained that nobody who wants to liquidate the Party can be a member of the Party.

Plekhanov was and will remain a Menshevik. Therefore, the liquidators’ usual references to the “Bolshevik” nature of the Party’s 1908 decision are doubly wrong.

The more abuse the liquidators hurl at Plekhanov in Luch and Nasha Zarya, the clearer is the proof that the liquidators are in the wrong and that they are trying to obscure the truth by noise, shouting and squabbling. Some times a novice can be stunned at once by such methods, but for all that the workers will find their bearings and will soon come to ignore this abuse.

Is the unity of the workers necessary? It is.

Is the unity of the workers possible without the unity of the workers’ organisation? Obviously not.

What prevents the unity of the workers’ party? Disputes over liquidationism.

Therefore, the workers must understand what these disputes are about in order that they themselves may decide the destiny of their Party and defend it.

The first step in this direction is to acquaint themselves with the Party’s first decision on liquidationism. The workers must know this decision thoroughly and study it care fully, putting aside all attempts to evade the question or to side-track it. Having studied this decision, every worker will begin to understand the essence of liquidationism, why it is such an important and such a “vexed” question, why the Party has been faced with it during the four years and more of the period of reaction.

In the next article we shall consider another important Party decision on liquidationism which was adopted about three and a half years ago, and then pass on to facts and documents that show how the question stands at present.


[1] The reference is to the Menshevik agrarian municipalisation programme adopted at the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. Lenin criticised this programme in his “Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.” and “The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–07” (see Vol. 13).

[2] Pro-Party Mensheviks—a small group of Mensheviks led by Plekhanov that broke with the Menshevik liquidators and opposed liquidationism in the 1908–12 period.

  | II. THE DECISION OF 1910  

Works Index   |   Volume 19 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >