V. I.   Lenin

Preface to the Symposium: Marxism and Liquidationism[1]

Published: Published in 1914 in the symposium Marxism and Liquidationism, Part II. Priboi Publishers, St. Petersburg. Published according to the text in the symposium.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 126-128.
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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The symposium herewith presented to the reader consists of articles written between 1909 and 1914. This was a period in which the working-class movement in Russia encountered particularly serious difficulties. Marxists, however, were not and could not be content with simply pointing to the difficulties, with simply complaining about the general disintegration; break-down, and so forth. It was necessary to determine the economic and political causes of the break-down from the point of view of the particular stage of Russia’s capitalist development, and determine the class significance of the broadest trend that reflected this break down, namely, the trend of liquidationism.

The basic answer to this question, which is extremely important to the working-class movement, was given by the Marxists in December 1908 in the form of very precise, fully formulated and official decisions.[2] These decisions had to be clarified, disseminated and applied to the everyday problems of the economic and political movement. This was done in the articles we have collected in the present symposium, which, for reasons “beyond the editors’ control” is unfortunately far from complete.

At present, after a Marxist daily press has been in existence in St. Petersburg for nearly two years, the entire question of the significance and appraisal of liquidationism, not only in theory, but also in practice, has been submitted—if one may so express it—to the decision of the workers themselves. This is tremendously fortunate for the working-class movement of Russia, and a great sign of its maturity. The class-conscious workers are themselves seeking the truth, and they will find it; they will determine the class significance   of liquidationism, employ the practical experience of their mass movement to verify its appraisal, and devise expedient methods to combat it.

Our object in publishing the present symposium is to come to the aid of all workers interested in the fate of the movement of their class. The articles are given here, not in their chronological order, but according to subjects, in the order (approximately) of their transition from theory to practice.

First come the fundamental questions (Section 1) a solution for which must be found if we are to have anything like intelligent tactics and an intelligent policy. Here the reader will, find an appraisal of the present historical situation and of the class significance of the struggle of the Marxist trends. The next question dealt with is that of the hegemony of the proletariat in connection with the criticism of the liquidator’s principal “work” (The Social Movement). And lastly, come articles on the question of the bourgeoisie s “swing to the left”.

Then come (Section 2) articles on the election campaign, on the results of the Fourth Duma elections, and on Duma tactics.

After that comes (Section 3) the question of the “open party”, and the question of unity, which is inseparably connected with it.

Section 4 deals with liberal-labour politics in its various applications. After a general appraisal of reformism comes an examination of the questions of “partial demands”, freedom of association, the strike movement, the attitude of the liquidators towards the liberals, and vice versa.

The last subject (Section 5) is the liquidators and the working-class movement. Here the reader will find an appraisal, of the working-class movement in the years 1905–07 given by Koltsov, one of the leaders of liquidationism, in his principal work; an examination of the workers’ attitude towards the liquidators in practice; and the most up-to-date material on the history of the formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma.

In the “conclusion” an attempt is made to review the struggle of trends in the present-day working-class movement.

We permit ourselves the hope that our symposium will help the workers to find and study the data on the controversial issues. Naturally, we have been unable to include a good deal of important material. On the other hand, in a symposium of articles by different authors written over a Series of years repetition is inevitable. There are, of course; individual shades among the authors. But, taken together, all their articles are no more than a commentary, an application of formulated Marxist decisions, whose recognition, among other things, distinguishes the class-conscious organised Marxist workers from the liquidators of the workers’ party, and from those who are dropping away from the Party. One of our main objects is to clarify and test these decisions, and to make it easier to formulate such amendments and addenda to them as may become necessary in the course of time.

February 1914


[1] Marxism and Liquidationism. A Symposium of Articles on the Fundamental Issues of the Modern Labour Movement. Part II appeared in 1914, published by Priboi, the Party’s publishing house. Lenin’s manuscript plan for this publication lists the articles he thought should be included in this symposium, and mentions the various issues of the newspapers from which these articles were to be taken (Lenin changed the headings of some of the articles for the symposium). According to this plan, the symposium was to be in two parts, whose contents were announced in the newspaper Put Pravdy No. 42 for March 21, 1914.

Part I of the symposium did not appear. Several dozen copies of Part II, which the publishers were late in taking delivery of from the printers, were confiscated. The bulk of the edition, however, was distributed.

Part II of the symposium contained, in addition to the Preface dated February 1914 and Concluding Remarks, fourteen articles by Lenin, namely: = “The Legal Party and the Marxists”, = “A Liberal Labour Party Manifesto”, = “How P. B. Axelrod Exposes the Liquidators”, = “The Separatism of the Bund”, = “Marxism and Reformism”, = “The Liberal Bourgeoisie and Reformism”, = “Liberal Blindness”, = “A Necessary Explanation”, = “Economic and Political Strikes”, = “A Talk on ‘Cadet-Eating’\thinspace”, = “The Nature and Significance of Our Polemics Against the Liberals”, = “The Liberal Bourgeoisie and the Liquidators”, = “The Working Class and Its Press”, and = “Material on the History of the Formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Group in the Duma”.

The latter article has a supplement specially written for the symposium—an article entitled “How the Workers Responded to the Formation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Group in the Duma”. (See pp. 536–43 of this volume.) In June 1914, Lenin, in a footnote to this article (see p. 542 of this volume), gave new figures concerning monetary contributions to the Marxist and liquidationist newspapers made through the Duma groups.

[2] See Note 52.

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