V. I.   Lenin

Controversial Issues




We must now consider the toning down of Marxist slogans by the liquidators. For this purpose it would be best to take the decisions of their August Conference, but for obvious reasons these decisions can be analysed only in the press published abroad. Here we are obliged to quote Luch, Issue No. 108 (194), which, in the article by L. S.[1] gave a remarkably precise exposition of the whole essence, the whole spirit of liquidationism.

Mr. L. S. writes as follows:

Deputy Muranov so far recognises only three partial demands, which, as is known, were the three pillars of the election platform of the Leninists: the complete democratisation of the state system, an eight-hour day and the transfer of the land to the peasants. Pravda, too, continues to maintain this point of view. Yet we, as well as the whole of European Social-Democracy [read—“we, and also Milyukov, who assures us that, thank God, we have a constitution”], see in partial demands a method of agitation which may be crowned with success only if it takes into account the everyday struggle of   the working masses. We think that only things that, on the one hand, are of fundamental importance to the further development of the working-class movement, and on the other hand, may acquire urgency for the masses, should be advanced as the partial demand upon which the Social-Democrats should concentrate their attention at the present moment. Of the three demands advanced by Pravda, only one—the eight-hour day—plays and can play a part in the everyday struggle of the workers. The other two demands may at the present moment serve as subjects for propaganda, but not for agitation. Concerning the difference between propaganda and agitation, see the brilliant pages of G. V. Plekhanov’s pamphlet The Struggle Against Famine. [L. S. is knocking at the wrong door; it is “painful” for him to recall Plekhanov’s controversy in 18994902 with the Economists whom he is copying!]

Apart from the eight-hour day, the demand for the right of association, the right to form any kind of organisation, with the corresponding freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, both the oral and the printed word, is a partial demand advanced both by the requirements of the working-class movement and by the entire course of Prussian life.”

Here you have the tactics of the liquidators. What L. S. describes by the words “complete democratisation, etc.”, and what he calls the “transfer of the land to the peasants” are not, you see, of “urgency for the masses”, they are not “advanced by the requirements of the working-class movement” and “the entire course of Russian life”! How old these arguments are and how familiar they are to those who remember the history of Russian Marxist practice, its many years of struggle against the Economists, who renounced the tasks of democracy! With what talent Luch copies the views of Prokopovich and Kuskova, who in those days tried to entice the workers on to the liberal path!

But let us examine the Luch arguments more closely. From the standpoint of common sense they are sheer madness. Can anyone in his right mind really affirm that the above-mentioned “peasant” demand (i.e., one designed to benefit the peasants) is not “urgent for the masses”, is not “advanced both by the requirements of the working-class movement and by the entire course of Russian life?” This is not only an untruth, it is an obvious absurdity. The entire history of nineteenth-century Russia, the entire “course of Russian life” produced that question, made it urgent, even most urgent; this has been reflected in the whole of the legislation of Russia. How could Luch arrive at such a monstrous untruth?

It had to arrive at it, because Luch is in bondage to liberal policy, and the liberals are true to themselves when they reject (or, like Luch, put aside) the peasant demand. The liberal bourgeoisie does so, because its class position forces it to humour the landowners and to oppose the people’s movement.

Luch brings to the workers the ideas of the liberal land owners and is guilty of treachery to the democratic peasantry.

Further. Can it be that only the right of association is of “urgency”? What about inviolability of person? or the abolition of despotism and tyranny, or universal, etc., suffrage, or a single chamber, etc.? Every literate worker, everyone who remembers the recent past, knows perfectly well that all this is urgent. In thousands of articles and speeches all the liberals acknowledge that all this is urgent. Why then did Luch declare urgent only one of these liberties, albeit one of the most important, while the fundamental conditions of political liberty, of democracy and of a constitutional system were struck out, put aside, relegated to the archives of “propaganda”, and excluded from agitation?

The reason, and the only reason is, that Luch does not accept what is unacceptable to the liberals.

From the standpoint of urgency for the masses, the requirements of the working-class movement and the course of Russian life, there is no difference between the three demands of Muranov and of Pravda (or, to put it briefly, the demands of consistent Marxists). Working-class, peasant and general political demands are all of equal urgency for the masses, are equally brought to the forefront both by the requirements of the working-class movement and by “the entire course of Russian life”. All three demands are also alike because they are the partial demands dear to our worshipper of moderation and precision; they are “partial” compared with the final aims, but they are of a very high level compared, for example, with “Europe” in general.

Why then does Luch accept the eight-hour day and reject the rest? Why did it decide on behalf of the workers that the eight-hour day does “play a part” in their everyday struggle, whereas the general political and peasant demands do not play such a part? The facts show, on the one hand, that the workers in their daily struggle advance both the general political and the peasant demands—and, on the other hand,   that they often fight for more moderate reductions of the working day.

What is the trouble, then?

The trouble lies in the reformism of Luch, which, as usual, attributes its own liberal narrow-mindedness to the masses to the “course of history”, etc.

Reformism, in general, means that people confine them selves to agitating for changes which do not require the removal of the main foundations of the old ruling class, changes that are compatible with the preservation of these foundations. The eight-hour day is compatible with the preservation of the power of capital. The Russian liberals, in order to attract the workers, are themselves prepared to endorse this demand (“as far as possible”). Those demands for which Luch does not want to “agitate” are incompatible with the preservation of the foundations of the pre-capitalist period, the period of serfdom.

Luch eliminates from agitation precisely what is not acceptable to the liberals, who do not want to abolish the power of the landlords, but want only to share their power and privileges. Luch eliminates precisely what is incompatible with the point of view of reformism.

That’s where the trouble lies!

Neither Muranov, nor Pravda, nor any Marxist rejects partial demands. That is nonsense. Take insurance, for example. We reject the deception of the people by idle talk about partial demands, by reformism. We reject liberal reformism in present-day Russia as being utopian, self-seeking and false, as based on constitutional illusions and full of the spirit of servility to the landlords. That is the point which Luch tries to confuse and hide by phrases about “partial demands” in general, although it admits itself that neither Muranov nor Pravda rejects certain “partial demands”.

Luch tones down the Marxist slogans, tries to fit them to the narrow, reformist, liberal yardstick, and thus spreads bourgeois ideas among the workers.

The struggle the Marxists are waging against the liquidators is nothing but an expression of the struggle the advanced workers are waging against the liberal bourgeoisie for influence over the masses of the people, for their political enlightenment and education.


[1] L. S. (L. Sedov)—pseudonym of the Menshevik liquidator B. A. Ginsburg.


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