V. I.   Lenin

Controversial Issues




In the preceding article [Pravda No. 95 (299)], we quoted the exact words of the unanimous Party decision on liquidationism, which define it as a manifestation of bourgeois influence over the proletariat.

As we have pointed out, this decision was adopted in January 1910. Let us now examine the behaviour of those liquidators who are brazenly assuring us that there is not, and never has been, any such thing as liquidationism.

In February 1910, in No. 2 of the magazine Nasha Zarya, which had only just begun to appear at that time, Mr. Potresov wrote bluntly that “there is no Party in the shape of an integral and organised hierarchy” (i.e., ladder, or system of “institutions”) and that it was impossible to liquidate “what in reality no longer exists as an organised body”. (See Nasha Zarya, 1910, No. 2, 61.)

This was stated a month or even less after the unanimous decision of the Party!

And in March 1910, another liquidationist journal, namely Vozrozhdeniye,[3] having the same set of contributors—Potresov,   Dan, Martynov, Yezhov, Martov, Levitsky and Co.—stressed and gave a popular explanation of Mr. Potresov’s words:

There is nothing, to liquidate and—we for our part [i.e., the editors of Vozrozhdeniye] would add—the dream of re-establishing this hierarchy in its old, underground form is simply a harmful, reactionary utopia indicating a loss of political intuition by members of a party which at one time was the most realistic of all.” (Vozrozhdeniye, 1910, No. 5, p. 51.)

There is no party, and the idea of re-establishing it is a harmful utopia—these are clear and definite words. Here we have a plain and direct renunciation of the Party. The renunciation (and the invitation to the workers to renounce) came from people who had deserted the underground and were “longing for” an open party.

This desertion from the underground was, moreover, quite definitely and openly supported by P. B. Axelrod in 1912, both in Nevsky Golos[4] (1912, No. 6) and in Nasha Zarya (1912, No. 6).

To talk about non-factionalism in the conditions now obtaining,” wrote P. B. Axelrod, “means behaving like an ostrich, means deceiving oneself and others.” “Factional organisation and consolidation is the manifest responsibility and urgent duty of the supporters of Party reform, or to be more exact, of a revolution in the Party.”

Thus P. B. Axelrod is openly in favour of a Party revolution, i.e., the destruction of the old Party and the formation of a new one.

In 1913, Luch No. 101, in an unsigned editorial stated plainly that “among the workers in some places there is even a revival and growth of sympathy for the underground” and that this was “a regrettable fact”. L. Sedov, the author of that article, admitted himself (Nasha Zarya, 1913, No. 3, p. 49) that the article had “caused dissatisfaction”, even among the supporters of Luch tactics. L. Sedov’s explanations, furthermore, were such as to cause renewed dissatisfaction on the part of a Luch supporter, namely An, who has an item in No. 181 of Luch, opposing Sedov. He protests against Sedov’s assumption that the “underground is an obstacle to the political organisation of our movement, to the   building up of a workers’ Social-Democratic Party. An ridicules L. Sedov for his “vagueness” as to whether the underground is desirable or not.

In their long comment on the article the editors of Luch came out in favour of Sedov and stated An to be “mistaken in his criticism of L. Sedov”.

We will examine the arguments of the Luch editors and the liquidationist mistakes of An himself in their proper place. That is not the point we are discussing here. What we must go into carefully at the moment is the fundamental and principal conclusion to be drawn from the documents quoted above.[1]

The entire Party, both in 1908 and in 1910, condemned and rejected liquidationism, and explained the class origin and the danger of this trend clearly and in detail. All the liquidationist newspapers and journals—Vozrozhdeniye (1909-10), Nasha Zarya (1910-13), Nevsky Golos (1912), and Luch (1912–13)[2] all of them, after the most definite and even unanimous decisions of the Party, reiterate thoughts and arguments of an obvious liquidationist nature.

EvenLuchsupporters are forced to declare that they disagree with these arguments, with this preaching. That is a fact. Therefore, to shout about the “baiting” of liquidators, as Trotsky, Semkovsky and many other patrons of liquidationism do, is downright dishonesty, for it is an absolute distortion of the truth.

The truth proved by the documents I have quoted, which cover a period of more than five years (1908-13), is that the liquidators, flouting all Party decisions, continue to abuse and bait the Party, i.e., the “underground”.

Every worker who himself wants to examine seriously the controversial and vexed questions of the Party, who wants to decide these questions for himself, must first of all assimilate this truth, making an independent study and verification of these Party decisions and of the liquidator arguments. Only those who carefully study, ponder over and reach an independent decision on the problems and the fate of their Party deserve to be called Party members and builders of the workers’ party. One must not be indifferent to the question of whether it is the Party that is “guilty” of “baiting” (i.e., of too trenchant and mistaken attacks on) the liquidators or whether it is the liquidators who are guilty of flagrantly violating Party decisions, of persistently advocating the liquidation, i.e., the destruction of the Party.

Clearly, the Party cannot exist unless it fights with might and main against those who seek to destroy it.

Having quoted the documents on this fundamental question, we shall, in the next article, pass on to an appraisal of the ideological content of the plea for an “open party”.


[1] In the symposium Marxism and Liquidationism Lenin substituted for this paragraph, up to the word “fundamental”, the following text (reproduced from the manuscript):

In No. 8 of Zhivaya Zhizn (July 19, 1913) Vera Zasulich repeating dozens of liquidationist arguments wrote: ‘It is difficult to say whether the new organisation [the Social-Democratic Party]... helped or hindered the work.’ Clearly these words are tantamount to renunciation of the Party. Vera Zasulich justifies desertion from the Party by saying: the organisations lost their members ‘because at that time there was nothing to do in them’. Vera Zasulich is creating a purely anarchist theory about ‘a broad section’ instead of a party. See the detailed analysis of this theory in Prosveshcheniye No. 9, 1913. (See pp. 394–416 of this volume.—Ed.)

What then constitutes the ...”—Ed.

[2] The symposium Marxism and Liquidationism adds “and Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta (1943–14)” with the following footnote:

See, for example, Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta No. 1, 1914, the New Year’s leading article: ‘The road to an open political party of action is also the road to party unity’ [to the unity of the builders of an open party?]. Or No. 5, 1914: ‘surmounting [all the obstacles that are placed in the way of organising workers’ congresses] is nothing more nor less than a most genuine struggle for the right of association, i.e., for the legality of the working-class movement, closely connected with the struggle for the open existence of the Social-Democratic Labour Party.’”—Ed.

[3] Vozrozhdeniye (Regeneration)—a legal journal published by Menshevik liquidators in Moscow from December 1908 to July 1910.

[4] Nevsky Golos (Neva Voice)—a legal newspaper published by Menshevik liquidators in St. Petersburg from May to August 1912.


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