V. I.   Lenin

Two Paths

Published: Rabochy No. 3, May 24, 1914. Published according to the text in Rabochy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 306-308.
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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In an article which attracted the attention of the class-conscious workers, An, leader of the Caucasian liquidators, recently announced that he disagreed with Luch and its successors, disagreed with their opportunist tactics.

This statement implies the break-up of the “August bloc”, a fact no subterfuges or tricks can refute.

At present, however, We wish to draw the readers’ attention to something else, namely, to An’s argument about Russia’s two paths of development. He writes:

Luch bases its tactic on the possibility of reform, it aims at reform. Pravda bases its tactic on a ‘storm’, it aims at a break-up.”

From this An draws the conclusion that the two tactics have to be united. This conclusion is wrong. It is not a Marxist conclusion.

Let us examine the matter.

By what is Russia’s path, the nature and speed of her development, determined?

By the alignment of social forces, by the resultant of the class struggle.

That is obvious.

What social forces operate in Russia? What is the line of the class struggle?

Russia is a capitalist country; she cannot but develop capitalistically. Russia is now undergoing a bourgeois-democratic transformation, a release from the serf-owning system, emancipation. Under conditions of world capitalism Russia’s emancipation is inevitable. What we do not yet know is the resultant of the social forces that are working towards emancipation. These forces, in the main, are: 1) bourgeois monarchist liberalism (the capitalists and some of the landlords of the Progressist, Cadet and partly Octobrist   parties); 2) the bourgeois democrats (the peasantry, urban petty bourgeois, intellectuals, and so on); 3) the proletariat.

Each of these classes acts—we take only the action of the masses, of course—in line with the economic position of the given class. There can be only one resultant.

In what sense, then, can we speak of Russia’s two paths? Only in the sense that, until the outcome of the struggle, we do not and shall not know this resultant, which will approach one of the two simplest and clearest lines visible at once to everybody. The first line is “reform”, the second a “storm”.

Reform is the name given to changes which leave the power in the country in the hands of the old ruling class. Changes of the opposite order are called “storms”. The class interests of bourgeois liberalism demand only reforms, since the bourgeoisie is more afraid of “storms” than of reaction, and wishes to keep the old feudalist institutions (the bureaucracy, two chambers, and so on) as protection against the workers. The peasantry in all countries of the world without exception, Russia included, vacillates, in the matter of bourgeois-democratic reform, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Such vacillation is inevitable, since the peasants are opposed to the landlords and serfdom while themselves being petty proprietors and petty bourgeois.

As for the proletariat, its interests, which coincide with those of the vast majority of the population, of all the exploited, move in a direction that is not reformist, along a path which is described in Russia as that of the “three pillars”.

If the majority of the peasants and the population follow the liberals, the “path” will be the worst, the least advantageous to the workers and the exploited, and the most painful to them. If the majority of the peasants and the population follow the workers, the reverse will be the case. One resultant or the other will be fully revealed only by the final outcome of the struggle.

We now see the true implications of An’s vague and confused argument. He has sensed rather than understood the liquidators’ opportunism and their betrayal of the working class.

The liquidators are reformists. They pursue, in effect, a liberal-labour, not a Marxist workers’ policy. They are trying to subordinate the workers to the bourgeoisie.

The Pravdists are pursuing a Marxist and proletarian policy by defending the interests of the working class in the matter of transforming Russia. Do the Pravdists over look the possibilities of reform? This question is easily answered by referring to the facts. Take insurance reform, which is something real, and not dreamt up. Everyone sees that the Pravdists seized on this ten times more strongly than the liquidators did: see Voprosy Strakhovania[1] and the results of the elections to the All-Russia Insurance Board.

Take the “partial demands” of the economic struggle during strikes. Everyone knows that the Pravdists are conducting this real and not dreamt-up campaign a thousand times more intensely and energetically.

If there were a group that denied the use of reforms and partial improvements, we could not join it, because that would be a non-Marxist policy, a policy harmful to the workers.

Neither could we join the liquidators, because repudiation and abuse of the “underground”, repudiation and relegation of the two “pillars”, the advocacy in present-day Russia of a struggle for a legal party and the possibility of political reforms—all this is a betrayal of the working class, desertion to the bourgeoisie.

The Pravdists, in the words of An, “aim at a storm and break-up” but, as the facts show, miss no opportunity, how ever slight, of supporting real reforms and partial improvements and explaining to the masses the sham of reformism. This is the only correct, the only truly Marxist tactic, and that is why it has been adopted by the overwhelming majority of the class-conscious workers throughout Russia (this has been proved by the facts, by the number of workers’ groups).

Only adherents of petty-bourgeois democracy, the Narodniks and the liquidators, are vainly fighting against the workers, against Pravdism.


[1] Voprosy Strakhovania (Insurance Question)—a Bolshevik legal journal, published at intervals in St. Petersburg from October 1913 to March 1918. It worked not only for the achievement of workers’ unsurance but for the Bolshevik “uncurtailed slogans” of an eight-hour day, confiscation of the landed estates and a democratic republic. Prominent insurance campaigners—the Bolsheviks N. A. Skripnik, P. I. Stu&cwhatthe;ka, A. N. Vinokurov, N. M. Shvernik and others—contributed to the journal.

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