V. I.   Lenin

Liquidationism Defined

Published: Put Pravdy No. 73, April 29, 1914. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 262-264.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
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.
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Headers of our paper are aware what a great deal of controversy and conflict liquidationism is causing in the working class movement of Russia today. We have repeatedly pointed out that every class-conscious worker (in a sense, we would even say every politically-conscious democrat) must have a clear and definite understanding of liquidationism.

Nonetheless, our opponents in both Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta and Nasha Zarya not only fail to publish in full and explain to their readers the gist of the official decisions dealing with liquidationism (for example, from the texts of 1908 and 1910), but, what is far worse and far more harmful, they either flatly “deny” the existence of liquidationism, or else mouth incoherent irrelevancies, instead of accurately reporting the decision unanimously adopted in 1910.

We therefore consider it necessary to take advantage of such a rare occasion as that afforded by L. Martov himself, who has given in the press an astonishingly (for this writer) exact and truthful definition or description of liquidationism.

In Volume II of N. Rubakin’s well-known book Among Books (second edition, Moscow, 1913, p. 771) we find that Mr. Rubakin has published without the slightest alteration a letter from L. Martov replying to Mr. Rubakin’s request “to set forth the gist and history of Menshevism”. In this letter L. Martov writes literally the following:

After the social movement was crushed, the same tendency of the Mensheviks [namely, the tendency “to start party construction anew in a more definite class-socialist spirit or to give Social-Democracy a new basis for its radical self-reformation”] towards the organisational reform of the Party found expression in increased activities aimed at the formation of all kinds of non-party labour organisations—trade unions, self-education societies (in some cases, co-operative   societies), etc., and in attempts, through these societies, to form a legal workers’ party, or organised outposts of it [in the course of the controversy, those who took part in these attempts were dubbed “legalists” or “liquidatorsbecause of their negative attitude towards the surviving underground organisations].”

This is all that Martov had to say about liquidationism. We have underlined the principal passages. We shall not dwell on the minor misstatement that it was only “in the course of the controversy” and that only “those who took part in these attempts” who were called liquidators; as a matter of fact, the general Marxist, official decision of 1908, which is binding on all Marxists, speaks of liquidationism as a definite trend. But that is a relatively minor point.

The major point is that L. Martov has here unwittingly revealed that he understands and knows what liquidationism is.

Attempts to form a legal workers’ party and of course advocacy and defence of this idea; a negative attitude to wards the organisations of the “old type” which still survive (and, naturally, may arise anew)—such is the crux of the matter, which Nasha Zarya, Luch, and Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta have tried a thousand times to confuse, obscure and deny.

The reader who gives thought to the significance of the facts we have quoted will realise why the mere mention of “unity” by the liquidators is capable of arousing, in class-conscious workers, either violent indignation and protest, or (according to their mood) scathing ridicule. One can conceive of an advocate of the legal-party idea sincerely and honestly repudiating the “underground”, if those are his convictions. But one cannot conceive of sincere and honest talk about “unity” on the part of those who contribute to Nasha Zarya or Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta. To write for these journals means, in effect, to fight against the “underground” and for a legal party, which they continue to advocate and stand up for.

Therefore, when the International Socialist Bureau, in December 1913, brought up the question of ascertaining the conditions on which unity could be achieved in Russia, the organised Marxists in St. Petersburg and Moscow at once   publicly declared that the primary and basic condition was emphatic and unqualified rejection of liquidationism, a complete and radical change in the entire trend of the Nasha Zarya and Luch group. The Luch people answered, also publicly (both F. D. and L.M.), that they did not agree with this.

That being the case, it is obvious that people who talk about “unity” with this group, which persists in its liberal ideas, are deceiving both themselves and others. Real unity has already been developed and will continue to be developed among the majority of the class-conscious workers, who have rallied round the Marxist decisions and round the entire Marxist body, against this splitting group.


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