V. I.   Lenin

The Narodniks and “Factional Coercion”

Published: Put Pravdy No. 81, May 9, 1914. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 286-288.
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

The more the working-class movement develops and the greater unity it shows in action, the louder do the intellectualist grouplets, who are isolated from the masses, shout about “factionalism”, “Pravdist contagion”, “factional blindness”, and so forth. These people little suspect that in doing so they are issuing themselves with a testimonium paupertatis. What they take for a sort of natural calamity, which can only be loudly bewailed, is really a sign of the maturity and consistency of our working-class movement.

Nothing has exposed the gross falsity of these intellectualist outcries against the workers’ “factionalism” so much as the recent open elections of the workers’ insurance representatives.

Take the Narodnik newspaper Mysl Truda.[1] After all the insurance elections in St. Petersburg are over, we read in the issue of that paper for April 20 a ranting article which, with a serious air, argues that on no account must there be any “yielding to the factional coercion [!] of the Pravdists”.

Factional coercion! What presumption on the part of this Narodnik paper to make such a demagogic statement!

Just think, reader. Open elections by the workers take place. The workers hold an opinion poll among themselves as to the political trends of the participants. The following unchallenged figures of the political composition of the electors are published for general information: Pravdists 37, liquidators 7, Narodniks 4, and unspecified 5. The workers, naturally, elect a majority of Pravdists. (The minority, too, was represented—the Mensheviks, not the liquidators.) And after this the Narodnik newspaper makes an uproar about “factional coercion

You are simply making yourselves look ridiculous, Narodnik gentlemen. What you have done is to clearly demonstrate how utterly meaningless that threadbare cliché “factionalism” is. You have overlooked two simple figures—37 and 4. Only 4 out of 53 worker electors were Narodniks, that is, a mere 7 per cent. Apparently, the Narodniks think the workers ought to elect their representatives not by a majority vote, but by a minority. To please the Narodniks, 37 worker electors should have been equated with 4. Thirty-seven equals four—that, strictly speaking, is what the good “non-factional” Narodniks are trying to din into the workers. No wonder the workers cannot make head or tail of this profound Narodnik wisdom.

There is a limit to everything, “non-factional” Narodniks. By shouting about the “factional coercion”, of the majority when you have 4 electors out of 53 you are only proving one thing, namely, that you do not respect the will of the majority, that in raving against “factionalism” you are trying to thwart the will of the vast majority of the workers. You, and you alone, are actually trying to practice coercion of the overwhelming majority by an insignificant minority.

By pursuing the paltry and unprincipled policy of a coterie that is isolated from the masses, you, with your ranting against “factional coercion”, are trying to act upon the workers’ nerves and to extort from them, by this unbecoming trick, satisfaction of your parochial interests. If there is any “factionalism” of the worst possible kind, it is exemplified in the behaviour of the liquidator and Narodnik circles, who are trying to thwart the will of the workers.

We see the same picture in connection with the insurance elections in so big a centre as Riga.

A meeting of the sick benefit societies is held to nominate candidates for the Gubernia Insurance Board. Twenty-one sick benefit societies are represented. There is a sharp struggle of political trends. On one side—the liquidators, Narodniks, non-party people and several trade unions. On the other—the Pravdists. Lots of speakers from both sides take the floor. In the end the Pravdist list of candidates receives 44 votes, while the bloc of all the others receives 20. (These figures are from the same source—Mysl   Truda No. 2.) The Pravdists thus have a majority of over two-thirds.

After this the Narodniks again start their plaint about “factionalism” and “factional coercion”.

Notice the word-juggling. The Narodniks, as we know, have never been a section of Social-Democracy. The Narodniks and the Social-Democrats have always been two separate parties, with programmes, tactics and organisations of their own. The struggle between the Social-Democrats and the Narodniks is a struggle between political parties, not a struggle between sections of a party. “Factionalism” has nothing to do with it.

It is clear enough that in vociferating against “factionalism” the liquidators and “conciliators” are merely playing into the hands of the enemies of the workers’ party, are merely sowing chaos and disunity, are confusing terms, and bamboozling the workers.

The outcry against “factionalism” has become a system. The enemies of the Marxists are deliberately using it to bamboozle the workers. When some decision adopted by the workers is not to the liking of some intellectual or group of intellectuals, the outcry is raised, “Help! ‘Factionalism’! Help! ‘Factional coercion’!”

You will astonish nobody with that sort of thing, gentlemen. When the splitter and liberal, F. D., in Severnaya Likvidatorskaya Gazeta[2] calls God to witness in every other line that he is for “unity”; when Trotsky in his super-intellectual highbrow mouthpiece rants about “factional emancipation”; when the petty-bourgeois quasi-socialists of Mysl Truda asseverate that they stand for unity, the workers tell them: whoever stands for true unity of the working-class movement must submit to the majority of the class-conscious workers and not dare oppose the Marxist programme and Marxist tactics.


[1] See Note 39.

[2] See Note 20.

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