V. I.   Lenin

How Strong is the Left-Narodnik Trend Among the Workers

Published: Trudovaya Pravda No. 27, June 28, 1914. Published according to the text in Trudovaya Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 388-392.
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.README

Throughout the world a section of the workers, as is well known, still follows the lead of various bourgeois parties. During the period of bourgeois-democratic reform in Russia, a minority of the class-conscious workers still follows the lead of the bourgeois group of liquidationist writers, and of the bourgeois-democratic Narodnik trend.

It has been reiterated many times in precise, clearly formulated and official decisions of the Marxists (1903, 1907 and 1913)[2] that the entire Narodnik trend, including the Left Narodniks, is a bourgeois (peasant) democracy in Russia. That some of the workers should follow the lead of the Left Narodniks, who describe radical peasant (but in substance downright bourgeois) demands as “socialism”, is quite natural in a capitalist country during an intense movement against survivals of serfdom.

But exactly which section of the class-conscious workers follows the lead of the Left Narodniks?

Sovremennik, one of the most unprincipled intellectualist journals, which (on the basis of false phrases) “unites” the Left Narodniks, Plekhanov, and Mr. Potresov and Co., recently stated that “about” one-third of the workers follow the lead of the Left Narodniks.

This is a barefaced, deliberate lie, like those commonly uttered by the liquidators.

As far as we know, only three sets of objective data showing the degree of influence the Left Narodniks exercise among the workers are available. These are, firstly, the circulation figures of the newspapers. Secondly, the figures showing the number of workers’ groups which have collected funds.   Thirdly, the figures showing the number of delegates elected to the Metropolitan Insurance Board.

We shall compare these data, which differ from the bare faced lies of Martov, Himmer and Co. in that anybody can find them in open and public sources appertaining to the different parties, and verify them.

per cent
Number of copies of St. Petersburg news papers published per week . . . . . . . 240,000 96,000 36,000 64.5 25.8 9.7
Number of collections by workers’ groups for whole of 1913 . . . . . . . . 2,181 661 264 70.2 21.3 8.5
For 1914 (up to May 13) . . . . . . . . 2,873 671 524 70.6 16.6 12.8
Number of delegates elected to Metropoli- tan Insurance Board 37 7 4 77.1 14.6 8.3

The circulation figures are the most “favourable” to the bourgeois groups (the liquidators and Left Narodniks). But the liquidator and Left-Narodnik newspapers are bourgeois newspapers, not working-class! This is proved by the figures of the funds collected (from January 1 to May 13, 1914). The liquidators’ reports show that 56 per cent of their total collections came from non-workers (Trudovaya Pravda No. 15).[1] In the case of the Left Narodniks, 50 per cent of their collections came from this source. More over, as far as is known, the Left Narodniks have never published the financial reports of their newspaper, which, like that of the liquidators, is evidently maintained by rich friends from among the bourgeoisie.

The Pravdist newspaper is the only working-class newspaper. Both the liquidationist and the Left-Narodnik news papers are bourgeois newspapers. No lie can refute this objective fact.

The figures of the workers’ groups approach most closely and exactly to European party membership figures.

The number of Left-Narodnik groups is growing very rapidly (it has doubled in the course of the year) and now constitutes 12.8 per cent of the total groups of all the newspapers. Their number is growing at the expense of the liquidators, for the number of the latter’s groups is almost at a standstill (an increase of only ten groups in the first half of 1914 at a time when the working-class movement showed an enormous growth) and their percentage is diminishing: from 21.3 per cent to 16.6 per cent.

By their opportunism and renunciation of the Party, the liquidators are pushing their working-class supporters towards the other, more “radical” (in word) bourgeois group.

Between 1913 and 1914, the Pravdists obtained 692 new groups, the liquidators 10, and the Left Narodniks 260. In percentages the increases are: Pravdists plus 31.7, liquidators plus 1.5, Left Narodniks plus 100 (small figures always increase faster than big ones; for example, if Plekhanov has nine workers’ groups and, by the time of Vienna—and for Vienna[3]—there will be 27 or 45, the percentage increase will be plus 200, or plus 400).

The Insurance Board election figures apply only to St. Petersburg. It should be said that in 1914 the Left Narodniks in St. Petersburg are ahead of the liquidators as far as collection by workers’ groups is concerned.

Thus, between January 1 and May 13, 1914, the Pravdists in St. Petersburg received contributions from 2,024 workers’ groups, the liquidators from 308 and the Left Narodniks from 391 groups. The percentages are: Pravdists 74.3, liquidators 11.4, Left Narodniks 14.3.

Like the true opportunists they are, our liquidators reacted to this increase in strength of the Left Narodniks, not by intensifying their struggle for the principles of Marxism, but by entering into a bloc with the Left Narodniks against the Marxists (Pravdists)!

The Left Narodniks, in Sovremennik, openly advocate such an alliance on behalf of all their leaders; but the liquidators lack the courage to explain their conduct to the workers openly and straightforwardly. They do it in an underhand way. They are genuine Cadets.

For example. Recently, the Left-Narodnik newspaper (Zhivaya Mysl Truda No. 3, June 15, 1914) published an article entitled “The Insurance Delegates Elections at the Aivaz Works”. In this article we read: ... “Of necessity, the Aivaz workers will be offered a choice of two lists: one, a joint Menshevik and Left-Narodnik list ... the other a Pravdist list....” (Our italics.)

Alliance with the liquidators is interpreted in this article by the Left Narodniks as the principle of co-operation among all “socialist” trends, i. e., the liquidators are alleged to have renounced not only the resolution of 1907, which defined the Left Narodniks as a bourgeois trend, but also the resolution of 1903 proposed by Axelrod.

Marxists regard the increase in the Left Narodniks’ strength as a symptom, or presage, of a revival among the peasantry which, of course, is enough to “turn the heads” of non-class-conscious proletarians and petty-bourgeois intellectuals. As far as we Marxists are concerned, this fact will only stimulate our efforts in advocating Marxism as against petty-bourgeois Narodism.

Fellow-workers! Put less faith in promises and fairy-tales! Study more closely the objective data on your own working-class movement and on how the bourgeois ideas and the bourgeois practices of the liquidators and Left Narodniks influence a minority of the workers.


[1] See pp. 363–71 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Lenin is referring to the resolution of the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. in 1903 “On the Socialist-Revolutionaries”; the resolution of the Fifth (London) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (1907) on “Attitude Towards the Bourgeois Parties”, the resolution of the Poronin meeting of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. on “The Narodniks”. (See The C.P.S.U. in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Russ. ed., Part I, 1954, pp. 49–50; 158–60; 316–17.)

[3] This refers to the Tenth International Congress, which was to have been held in Vienna. The question of the Vienna Congress was discussed at the meeting of the International Socialist Bureau held in December 1913. It was resolved to convene the Congress   in August 1914, to coincide with the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the First International. The agenda was to have been as follows: = 1) The high cost of living, = 2) Imperialism and the fight against militarism—including the subordinate questions: (a) the Eastern question, (b) compulsory courts of arbitration among nations, and c) the United States of Europe; = 3) Alcoholism, = 4) Unemployment, = 5) The position of political prisoners and exiles in Russia, and = 6) Miscellanea.

The number of delegates was not to exceed the number of votes of the given country by more than sixfold. Russia had 20 votes, consequently not more than 120 delegates for both subsections of the Social-Democrats and the Left Narodniks and for the trade unions.

The question of the International Socialist Congress in Vienna was discussed at the Poronin meeting of the C. C. and Party workers. Lenin made a report on this question, and proposed that every effort be made to send a majority of Social-Democratic worker delegates to the Vienna Congress.

Election of delegates to the International Socialist Congress was practically completed by the end of July 1914, but the out break of war prevented the Congress from convening.

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