V. I.   Lenin

The Working-Class Masses and the Working-Class Intelligentsia

Written: Written at the beginning of November 1913
Published: First published in 1938 in the journal Proletarskaya Revolutsia No. 9. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 477-479.
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 liquidators’ journal Nasha Zarya No. 9 carried an article under this heading by G. Rakitin in which the author is forced to admit that which the liquidators’ newspaper brushes aside in impotent wrath. Rakitin is superior to the various F. D.’s because he at least tries to think some things over and get an understanding of the issue instead of treating the reader to boring invective.

The victory”—that is how Rakitin beams his article—“the victory won by the supporters of Pravda at the general meeting of the St. Petersburg Metalworkers’ Union, and several other facts that bear witness to the growing influence of Bolshevism in the working-class milieu (especially in St. Petersburg) provide food for thought; how has it come about that strongholds of the Menshevik trend, and specifically of the so-called ‘liquidationism’, have begun to escape from the influence of the trend that laid the foundation of open working-class organisations in Russia, and that has alone worked actively in them during the past few years?”

Notice has to be taken of this passage to show the reader a rare case of “a bright interval” where the liquidators are compelled to admit the truth. In the articles by F.D.& Co., Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta merely frets and fumes when shown the exact. figures on the elections to the Second, Third and Fourth Dumas, or on the collections made by workers’ groups, etc., figures which prove the dominance of the Pravda trend among politically conscious (those participating in political life) workers.

G. Rakitin admits the fact. He also admits the victory at the metalworkers’ meeting and “other facts” (although he modestly refrains from saying what those facts are—a method that is purely literary-intellectual and is calculated   to hide from the workers exact figures that would make independent verification possible). Rakitin, in general, admits “the growing influence of Bolshevism in the working-class milieu, especially in St. Petersburg”; he admits that “strongholds” of liquidationism “have begun to escape from the influence” of that “trend”.

Rakitin strives to explain this fact, a sad one for the liquidators, in a way most comforting to them.

What is his explanation?

The working-class masses” are going through a “Bolshevik stage of the movement” admits C. Rakitin (p. 59). But “the working-class intelligentsia”, he declares (p. 57) “are in the majority of cases supporters of the so-called ‘liquidator’ trend”. Hence, of course, the conclusion that “comforts” the liquidators—“the Bolshevik stage of the movement” is a “temporary infatuation of the masses and the rising generation of workers with Bolshevik slogans”, an influence “rather of instinct and intuition than consciousness and calculation”; the addiction of the working masses to “the primitive peasant world outlook”, the “overestimation of the significance of spontaneous outbursts”; the failure to understand the “flexible class tactics” (of the liquidators) and its replacement by “the simplified tactics of Bolshevism”, etc., etc.

In short, the Nasha Zarya contributor provides a magnificent explanation—Pravda’s majority is immature, undeveloped, spontaneous, feeble and the liquidator minority is intellectualist, flexible, politically conscious, etc. In exactly the same way all reactionary writers always explain that the masses have democratic convictions because they are foolish, undeveloped and so on, while the nobility and the bourgeoisie are developed and intelligent!

But please show us, my dear Rakitin, where your proofs are. You admitted yourself that facts bear witness to the victory of the Pravda supporters, to the masses “going through a Bolshevik stage of the movement”! Where are the facts proving that the overwhelming majority of the working-class intelligentsia support the liquidators? Where are facts such as the elections to the State Duma, or the number of collections by workers’ groups, or the victory of some list of candidates in the trade unions?

Rakitin does not adduce a single fact, not even a single argument!

We therefore permit ourselves to disagree with Rakitin. It is gratifying to him, of course, to regard the Bolshevik working-class masses as undeveloped and stupid (“instinct and not consciousness”) and the liquidator minority as developed and intelligent. But to write history, to provide an explanation of the stages of the working-class movement basing oneself on what is gratifying to the person of the historian and not on facts—that, if Rakitin will excuse me, is simply amusing puerility. I cannot say, of course, whether it is “instinct and intuition” that compel the liquidator Rakitin to consider the liquidator minority particularly intelligent, clever and advanced, but is it proper for a writer to be guided by “instinct and intuition” and not by “consciousness and calculation”?


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