V. I.   Lenin

Notes of a Publicist (June 15, 1913)

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat No. 31, June 15 (28), 1913. Published according to the Sotsial-Demokrat text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 228-232.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

The political ignorance of the people of Russia is to be seen, in part, in their inability to look for exact proofs concerning controversial and important historical questions, and in the na\"ive credence they give to shouting and expostulation, and to the assurances and vows made by people with interests at stake.

The question of liquidationism is confused precisely be cause the people with interests at stake (i.e., the liquidators themselves) are not too lazy to make assurances and vows, while the “public” are too lazy to look for exact proofs.

What is the substance of the matter? It is the attitude to the revolution and to the underground, the effort to create a mass working-class movement.

Well, are there no exact proofs to offer on the factual aspect of these issues?

Of course, there are. One has only to get out of the habit of taking on trust what the loud-mouthed and the liberals say.

The “issue” of the underground. Should not those who are interested in this question ask: “Who works in the underground? Who belongs to the underground organisations?” Is it not clear that underground organisations that do not make their presence felt are nothing, are a deception?

In St. Petersburg there are two newspapers—one is anti liquidationist, the other is the liquidationist Luch, “also Social-Democratic”. In other cities there are not yet any working-class newspapers.

Should it not be assumed that the liquidators are stronger in St. Petersburg than elsewhere? But who works in the Party in St. Petersburg?

Take the evidence of the bourgeois press. You will find there the news that leaflets were distributed by the St. Petersburg Committee before January 9, and on the occasion of the Tercentenary of the Romanovs, and on the eve of April 4 and on the eve of May Day.

Have you any reason to doubt the bourgeois press on such a question of fact?

No sensible person would risk expressing such doubt. And anyone who is at all close to the Social-Democratic movement will have seen the St. Petersburg Committee’s leaflets.

Not a single newspaper mentioned any leaflets issued by the liquidators’ “initiative group” in St. Petersburg in connection with these dates that are famous for the great revolutionary acts of the proletarian masses in St. Petersburg.

And no matter how the Luch people may “vow” that they are “also Social-Democrats”, “also for the underground”, and that the “Leninists” and Plekhanov are wrong in “harassing” them, etc., we shall not stop pointing to facts that disprove the fables and lies told by Luch.

Find us a bourgeois newspaper that reported the appearance of leaflets issued by the liquidators in St. Petersburg on the eve of January 9, on the eve of April 4, or on the eve of May Day. There is none. There were no leaflets. The liquidators are not working in the underground. It is not the liquidators who constitute the underground organisations of the Party. There are no liquidators on the St. Petersburg Committee. The liquidators are outside the Party because there is no other Party but that of the underground, and no other organisation in St. Petersburg except the one led by the St. Petersburg Committee.

We have deliberately avoided mentioning the leaflets of the Central Committee and the Organising Committee,[2] because it is difficult to prove that they are distributed locally, while from the Organising Committee for almost a whole year we have seen only the Vienna May Day leaflet, which has nothing to do with work in St. Petersburg or in Russia.

The liquidators evade direct answers to the question of “the underground” because they are not there. Oath-taking   and vows, shouts and curses will not disprove that fact.

Trotsky, doing faithful service to liquidators, assured himself and the na\"ive “Europeans” (lovers of Asiatic scandal-mongering) that the liquidators are “stronger” in the legal movement. And this lie, too, is refuted by the facts.

Take the Duma elections. In the Second Duma the Bolsheviks had 47 per cent of the worker curia; in the Third they had 50 per cent and in the Fourth, 67 per cent. Should these facts be believed, or should one believe Trotsky and the liquidators?

Take the working-class press. In 1912 the anti-liquidationist newspaper comes into being at a much earlier date and is supported by a considerably greater number of workers’ groups (according to the published data on collections). There were 620 workers’ groups for Pravda and 89 for Luch.

1913. Party people are already collecting funds for two newspapers, the liquidators have a deficit and their one newspaper lives on foreign and undefined (bourgeois) support. Pravda is supported by 402 workers’ groups, a Moscow workers’ paper of the same trend by 172 workers’ groups, and Luch by 167 workers’ groups.

Should one believe these facts or the vows made by Luch, Trotsky, F. D. & Co.?

The Metalworkers’ Union in St. Petersburg. At the first open election where platforms[3] were put forward, ten out of the fourteen were Pravda supporters. In the same way as a thief, caught red-handed, shouts “Stop thief!” so the liquidators are shouting “Beware of a split!”

In May 1910 the liquidators were told publicly and clearly (Diskussionny Listok No. 2[4]) that they were legalist-independents who had seceded from the = Party.[1] Since then three years have passed and only people who are completely wrapped up in their own lies, or who are absolutely ignorant, could deny the facts that fully confirm those words.

The liquidators are parasites on the Social-Democratic organism. To “Europe” (the Organising Committee’s German pamphlet and Mr. Semkovsky in = Kampf[5]) they boast of strikes, but in Russia they write disgusting articles in Luch   against strikes, about the “strike craze” and about the “syndicalism” of revolutionary strikes. To Europe (and to naive An, also) they claim to be in favour of the underground. Actually, there are none of them in the underground. Powerless in the working class, they are strong in the moral (and, of course, not only moral) support they receive from the bourgeoisie. One has to be as na\"ive as An, whom the Luch editors laugh at as they would at a little child (No. 95), to recognise the slogan of an “open party” while defending the under ground! That means surrendering the content to the liquidators and fighting them over the form! Let An ponder over whether the complete acceptance of the “open party” slogan by a bourgeoisie hostile to the underground is fortuitous!

The “open party” slogan is the slogan of reformism, a slogan that means—given the present alignment of class and political forces in Russia—rejection of the revolution. The slogan of the underground is the slogan of revolution.

The bourgeoisie cannot influence the workers directly in contemporary Russia. As a result of 1905 the workers jeer at the bourgeoisie and its liberalism. The word “Cadet” has become an expletive. And so the role of the bourgeoisie among the workers is played by the liquidators. Their objective significance is that they are the vehicle of bourgeois influence, bourgeois reformism and bourgeois opportunism.

All F.D.’s articles in Luch, all the tactical premises of the liquidators are based on reformism, on rejection of the revolution. You have not proved the inevitability of revolution—such is the liquidator’s usual answer. Your “forecast” of the revolution is one-sided—trills Mr. Semkovsky, playing up to the liquidators.

That can be answered in a few words. The onset of the revolution, Messrs. Liberals, can be demonstrated only by the onset of the revolution. And when the revolution begins, both cowardly liberals and even purely casual people and adventurists are capable of becoming “revolutionaries”. October and November 1905 proved this to the hilt.

A revolutionary is not one who becomes revolutionary with the onset of the revolution, but one who defends the principles and slogans of the revolution when reaction is most violent and when liberals and democrats vacillate to   the greatest degree. A revolutionary is one who teaches the masses to struggle in a revolutionary manner and nobody can possibly foresee (make a “forecast” of) the results of that “teaching”.

The situation in Russia is a revolutionary one. The proletariat, with whom only anti-liquidators co-operate and march in step, is training the masses for revolution, is preparing the revolution, and is using any and every legal possibility for it. In the matter of preparing the revolution, or, which is the same thing, in the matter of the consistent democratic education of the masses, in the matter of fulfilment of our socialist duty (since outside of democracy there is no socialism), the revolutionary Social-Democrats are making a positive contribution, while the liquidators’ contribution is negative.

True Social-Democratic work is possible in Russia only when conducted against reformism, against the liquidators.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 16, pp. 238–51.—Ed.

[2] The Organising Committee was the Menshevik guiding centre; it was formed at the liquidators’ conference in August 1912 and functioned until the election of the Central Committee of the Menshevik Party in August 1917.

[3] The elections to the Executive of the St. Petersburg Metalworkers’ Union took place on April 21 (May 4), 1913. The election meeting was attended by 800 metalworkers and 400 others were unable to crowd into the premises where the meeting was held. The Bolsheviks proposed a list of candidates that had been published in Pravda No. 91 and distributed beforehand among those attending the meeting. Despite the insistence on the part of the liquidators that candidates he elected irrespective of political allegiance, the overwhelming majority of those present voted for the Pravda list. Ten members out of fourteen were elected to the Executive from the Pravda list.

[4] Diskussionny Listok (The Discussion Bulletin)—supplement to the newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat, Central Organ of the R.S.D.L.P., published in accordance with a decision taken by the January (1910) Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. from March 1910 to April 1911 in Paris. There were three issues.

Diskussionny Listok No. 2, published on May 25 (June 7), 1910 contained the final part of Lenin’s “Notes of a Publicist”. (See Vol. 16, pp. 195–259.)

[5] Der Kampf (The Struggle)—a monthly published by the Austrian Social-Democratic Party; it was opportunist, centrist in trend, and concealed its betrayal of the cause of the proletarian revolution and its service to the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie by Leftist phrases; it was published in Vienna from 1907 to 1938.

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