V. I.   Lenin

Left-Wing Narodism and Marxism

Published: Trudovaya Pravda No. 19, June 19, 1914. Published according to the text in Trudovaya Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 372-374.
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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Marxists have repeatedly spoken about the importance of the free mobilisation (i.e., the buying, selling and mortgaging) of peasant land. This real and, practical problem affords a striking illustration of the petty-bourgeois and even positively reactionary character of our Narodniks.

All Narodniks, from the semi-Cadets of Russkoye Bogatstvo (“Social-Cadets” as Chernov, Vikhlayev and similar people once rightly called them) to the ultra-“Left” Narodniks of Stoikaya Mysl, are opposed to the free mobilisation of peasant land in general, and of allotment land in particular.

The Marxists, however, openly state in their Programme that they will “always and invariably oppose any attempt to check the course of economic progress”.

The economic development of Russia, as of the whole world, proceeds from feudalism to capitalism, and through large-scale, machine, capitalist production to socialism.

Pipe-dreaming about a “different” way to socialism other than that which leads, through the further development of capitalism, through large-scale, machine, capitalist production, is, in Russia, characteristic either of the liberal gentlemen, or of the backward, petty proprietors (the petty bourgeoisie). These dreams, which still clog the brains of the Left Narodniks, merely reflect the backwardness (reactionary nature) and feebleness of the petty bourgeoisie.

Class-conscious workers all over the world, Russia included, are becoming more and more convinced of the correctness of Marxism, for life itself is proving to them that only large-scale, machine production rouses the workers, enlightens and organises them, and creates the objective conditions for a mass movement.

When Put Pravdy reaffirmed the well-known Marxist axiom that capitalism is progressive as compared with feudalism,[1] and that the idea of checking the development of capitalism is a utopia, most absurd, reactionary, and harmful to the working people, Mr. N. Rakitnikov, the Left Narodnik (in Smelaya Mysl No. 7), accused Put Pravdy of having undertaken the “not very honourable task of putting a gloss upon the capitalist noose”.

Anyone interested in Marxism and in the experience of the international working-class movement would do well to pander over this! One rarely meets with such amazing ignorance of Marxism as that displayed by Mr. N. Rakitnikov and the Left Narodniks, except perhaps among bourgeois economists.

Can it be that Mr. Rakitnikov has not read Capital, or The Poverty of Philosophy, or The Communist Manifesto? If he has not, then it is pointless to talk about socialism. That will be a ridiculous waste of time.

If he has read them, then he ought to know that the fundamental idea running through all Marx’s works, an idea which since Marx has been confirmed in all countries, is that capitalism is progressive as compared with feudalism. It is in this sense that Marx and all Marxists “put a gloss” (to use Rakitnikov’s clumsy and stupid expression) “upon the capitalist noose”!

Only anarchists or petty-bourgeois, who do not under stand the conditions of historical development, can say: a feudal noose or a capitalist one—it makes no difference, for both are nooses! That means confining oneself to condemnation, and failing to understand the objective course of economic development.

Condemnation means our subjective dissatisfaction. The objective course of feudalism’s evolution into capitalism enables millions of working people—thanks to the growth of cities, railways, large factories and the migration of workers—to escape from a condition of feudal torpor. Capitalism itself rouses and organises them.

Both feudalism and capitalism oppress the workers and strive to keep them in ignorance. But feudalism can keep,   and for centuries has kept, millions of peasants in a down trodden state (for example, in Russia from the ninth to the nineteenth century, in China for even more centuries). But capitalism cannot keep the workers in a state of immobility, torpor, downtroddenness and ignorance.

The centuries of feudalism were centuries of torpor for the working people.

The decades of capitalism have roused millions of wage-workers.

Your failure to understand this, gentlemen of the Left Narodnik fraternity, shows that you do not understand a thing about socialism, or that you are converting socialism from a struggle of millions engendered by objective conditions into a benevolent old gentleman’s fairy-tale!

To advocate the slightest restriction of the freedom to mobilise allotment land actually amounts to becoming a reactionary, an abettor of the feudalists.

Restriction of the freedom to mobilise allotment land retards economic development, hinders the formation, growth, awakening and organisation of the wage-worker class, worsens the conditions of the workers and peasants, and increases the influence of the feudalists.

The Peshekhonovs and Rakitnikovs are in fact abettors of precisely these “categories”, when they advocate restriction of the freedom to mobilise peasant land.


[1] See pp. 298–301 of this volume—Ed.

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