Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Disruption of Unity Under Cover of Outcries for Unity

Published: Published in May 1914 in the journal Prosveshcheniye No. 5.  Signed: V. Ilyin.  Published according to the text in the journal.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pp. 325-347.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
Transcription: C. Kavanagh
HTML Markup: B. Baggins and D. Walters
Re-Markup: K. Goins (2008)
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (1996). 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.

The questions of the present-day working-class movement are in many respects vexed questions, particularly for representatives of that movement’s recent past (i. e., of the stage which historically has just drawn to a close). This applies primarily to the questions of so-called factionalism, splits, and so forth. One often hears intellectuals in the working-class movement making nervous, feverish and almost hysterical appeals not to raise these vexed questions. Those who have experienced the long years of struggle between the various trends among Marxists since 1900—01, for example, may naturally think it superfluous to repeat many of the arguments on the subject of these vexed questions.

But there are not many people left today who took part in the fourteen-year-old conflict among Marxists (not to speak of the eighteen- or nineteen-year-old conflict, counting from the moment the first symptoms of Economism appeared). The vast majority of the workers who now make up the ranks of the Marxists either do not remember the old conflict, or have never heard of it. To the overwhelming majority (as, incidentally, was shown by the opinion poll held by our journal[5]), these vexed questions are a matter of exception ally great interest. We therefore intend to deal with these questions, which have been raised as it were anew (and for the younger generation of the workers they are really new) by Trotsky’s “non-factional workers’ journal”, Borba.


Trotsky calls his new journal “non-factional”. He puts this word in the top line in his advertisements; this word is stressed by him in every key, in the editorial articles of Borba itself, as well as in the liquidationist Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta, which carried an article on Borba by Trotsky before the latter began publication.

What is this “non-factionalism”?

Trotsky’s “workers’ journal” is Trotsky’s journal for workers, as there is not a trace in it of either workers’ initiative, or any connection with working-class organisations. Desiring to write in a popular style, Trotsky, in his journal for workers, explains for the benefit of his readers the meaning of such foreign words as “territory”, “factor”, and so forth.

Very good. But why not also explain to the workers the meaning of the word “non-factionalism”? Is that word more intelligible than the words “territory” and “factor”?

No, that is not the reason. The reason is that the label “non-factionalism” is used by the worst representatives of the worst remnants of factionalism to mislead the younger generation of workers. It is worth while devoting a little time to explaining this.

Group-division was the main distinguishing feature of the Social-Democratic Party during a definite historical period. Which period? From 1903 to 1911.

To explain the nature of this group-division more clearly we must recall the concrete conditions that existed in, say, 1906—07. At that time the Party was united, there was no split, but group-division existed, i. e., in the united Party there were virtually two groups, two virtually separate organisations. The local workers’ organisations were united, but on every important issue the two groups devised two sets of tactics. The advocates of the respective tactics disputed among themselves in the united workers’ organisations (as was the case, for example, during the discussion of the slogan: a Duma, or Cadet, Ministry, in 1906, or during the elections of delegates to the London Congress in 1907), and questions were decided by a majority vote. One group was defeated at the Stockholm Unity Congress (1906), the other was defeated at the London Unity Congress (1907).

These are commonly known facts in the history of organised Marxism in Russia.

It is sufficient to recall these commonly known facts to realise what glaring falsehoods Trotsky is spreading.

For over two years, since 1912, there has been no factionalism among the organised Marxists in Russia, no disputes over tactics in united organisations, at united conferences and congresses. There is a complete break between the Party, which in January 1912 formally announced that the liquidators do not belong to it, and the liquidators. Trotsky often calls this state of affairs a “split”, and we shall deal with this appellation separately later on. But it remains an undoubted fact that the term “factionalism” deviates from the truth.

As we have said, this term is a repetition, an uncritical, unreasonable, senseless repetition of what was true yesterday, i. e., in the period that has already passed. When Trotsky talks to us about the “chaos of factional strife” (see No. 1, pp. 5, 6, and many others) we realise at once which period of the past his words echo.

Consider the present state of affairs from the viewpoint of the young Russian workers who now constitute nine-tenths of the organised Marxists in Russia. They see three mass expressions of the different views, or trends in the working-class movement: the Pravdists, gathered around a newspaper with a circulation of 40,000; the liquidators (15,000 circulation) and the Left Narodniks (10,000 circulation). The circulation figures tell the reader about the mass character of a given tenet.

The question arises; what has “chaos” got to do with it? Everybody knows that Trotsky is fond of high-sounding and empty phrases. But the catchword “chaos” is not only phrase-mongering; it signifies also the transplanting, or rather, a vain attempt to transplant, to Russian soil, in the present period, the relations that existed abroad in a bygone period. That is the whole point.

There is no “chaos” whatever in the struggle between the Marxists and the Narodniks. That, we hope, not even Trotsky will dare to deny. The struggle between the Marxists and the Narodniks has been going on for over thirty years, ever since Marxism came into being. The cause of this struggle is the radical divergence of interests and viewpoints of two different classes, the proletariat and the peasantry. If there is any “chaos” anywhere, it is only in the heads of cranks who fail to understand this.

What, then, remains? “Chaos” in the struggle between the Marxists and the liquidators? That, too, is wrong, for a struggle against a trend, which the entire Party recognised as a trend and condemned as far back as 1908, cannot be called chaos. And everybody who has the least concern for the history of Marxism in Russia knows that liquidationism is most closely and inseverably connected, even as regards its leaders and supporters, with Menshevism (1903—08) and Economism (1894—1903). Consequently, here, too, we have a history extending over nearly twenty years. To regard the history of one’s own Party as “chaos” reveals an unpardonable empty-headedness.

Now let us examine the present situation from the point of view of Paris or Vienna. At once the whole picture changes. Besides the Pravdists and liquidators, we see no less than five Russian groups claiming membership of one and the same Social-Democratic Party: Trotsky’s group, two Vperyod groups, the “pro-Party Bolsheviks” and the “pro-Party Mensheviks”.[6] All Marxists in Paris and in Vienna (for the purpose of illustration I take two of the largest centres) are perfectly well aware of this.

Here Trotsky is right in a certain sense; this is indeed group-division, chaos indeed!

Groups within the Party, i. e., nominal unity (all claim to belong to one Party) and actual disunity (for, in fact, all the groups are independent of one another and enter into negotiations and agreements with each other as sovereign powers).

“Chaos”, i. e., the absence of (1) objective and verifiable proof that these groups are linked with the working-class movement in Russia and (2) absence of any data to enable us to judge the actual ideological and political physiognomy of these groups. Take a period of two full years—1912 and 1913. As everybody knows, this was a period of the revival and upswing of the working-class movement, when every trend or tendency of a more or less mass character (and in politics this mass character alone counts) could not but exercise some influence on the Fourth Duma elections, the strike movement, the legal newspapers, the trade unions, the insurance election campaign, and so on. Throughout those two years, not one of these five groups abroad asserted itself in the slightest degree in any of the activities of the mass working-class movement in Russia just enumerated!

That is a fact that anybody can easily verify.

And that fact proves that we were right in calling Trotsky a representative of the “worst remnants of factionalism”.

Although he claims to be non-factional, Trotsky is known to everybody who is in the least familiar with the working-class movement in Russia as the representative of “Trotsky’s faction”. Here we have group-division, for we see two essential symptoms of it: (1) nominal recognition of unity and (2) group segregation in fact. Here there are remnants of group-division, for there is no evidence whatever of any real connection with the mass working-class movement in Russia.

And lastly, it is the worst form of group-division, for there is no ideological and political definiteness. It cannot be denied that this definiteness is characteristic of both the Pravdists (even our determined opponent L. Martov admits that we stand “solid and disciplined” around universally known formal decisions on all questions) and the liquidators (they, or at all events the most prominent of them, have very definite features, namely, liberal, not Marxist).

It cannot be denied that some of the groups which, like Trotsky’s, really exist exclusively from the Vienna-Paris, but by no means from the Russian, point of view, possess a degree of definiteness. For example, the Machist theories of the Machist Vperyod group are definite; the emphatic repudiation of these theories and defence of Marxism, in addition to the theoretical condemnation of liquidationism, by the “pro-Party Mensheviks”, are definite.

Trotsky, however, possesses no ideological and political definiteness, for his patent for “non-factionalism”, as we shall soon see in greater detail, is merely a patent to flit freely to and fro, from one group to another.

To sum up:

1) Trotsky does not explain, nor does he understand, the historical significance of the ideological disagreements among the various Marxist trends and groups, although these disagreements run through the twenty years’ history of Social Democracy and concern the fundamental questions of the present day (as we shall show later on);

2) Trotsky fails to understand that the main specific features of group-division are nominal recognition of unity and actual disunity;

3) Under cover of “non-factionalism” Trotsky is championing the interests of a group abroad which particularly lacks definite principles, and has no basis in the working-class movement in Russia.

All that glitters is not gold. There is much glitter and sound in Trotsky’s phrases, but they are meaningless.


“Although there is no group-division, i. e., nominal recognition of unity, but actual disunity, among you, Pravdists, there is something worse, namely, splitting tactics,” we are told. This is exactly what Trotsky says. Unable to think out his ideas or to get his arguments to hang together, he rants against group-division at one moment, and at the next shouts: “Splitting tactics are winning one suicidal victory after another”. (No. 1, p. 6.)

This statement can have only one mending: “The Pravdists are winning one victory after another” (this is an objective, verifiable fact, established by a study of the mass working-class movement in Russia during, say, 1912 and 1913), but I, Trotsky, denounce the Pravdists (1) as splitters, and (2) as suicidal politicians.

Let us examine this.

First of all we must express our thanks to Trotsky. Not long ago (from August 1912 to February 1914) he was at one with F. Dan, who, as is well known, threatened to “kill” anti-liquidationism, and called upon others to do so. At present Trotsky does not threaten to “kill” our trend (and our Party—don’t be angry, Citizen Trotsky, this is true!), he only prophesies that it will kill itself!

This is much milder, isn’t it? It is almost “non-factional”, isn’t it?

But joking apart (although joking is the only way of retorting mildly to Trotsky’s insufferable phrase-mongering).

“Suicide” is a mere empty phrase, mere “Trotskyism”.

Splitting tactics are a grave political accusation. This accusation is repeated against us in a thousand different keys by the liquidators and by all the groups enumerated above, who, from the point of view of Paris and Vienna, actually exist.

And all of them repeat this grave political accusation in an amazingly frivolous way. Look at Trotsky. He admitted that “splitting tactics are winning [read: the Pravdists are winning] one suicidal victory after another”. To this he adds:

Numerouss advanced workers, in a state of utter political bewilderment, themselves often become active agents of a split.” (No. 1, p. 6.)

Are not these words a glaring example of irresponsibility on this question?

You accuse us of being splitters when all that we see in front of us in the arena of the working-class movement in Russia is liquidationism. So you think that our attitude towards liquidationism is wrong? Indeed, all the groups abroad that we enumerated above, no matter how much they may differ from each other, are agreed that our attitude towards liquidationism is wrong, that it is the attitude of “splitters”. This, too, reveals the similarity (and fairly close political kinship) between all these groups and the liquidators.

If our attitude towards liquidationism is wrong in theory, in principle, then Trotsky should say so straightforwardly, and state definitely, without equivocation, why he thinks it is wrong. But Trotsky has been evading this extremely important point for years.

If our attitude towards liquidationism has been proved wrong in practice, by the experience of the movement, then this experience should be analysed; but Trotsky fails to do this either. “Numerous advanced workers,” he admits, “become active agents of a split” (read: active agents of the Pravdist line, tactics, system and organisation).

What is the cause of the deplorable fact, which, as Trotsky admits, is confirmed by experience, that the advanced workers, the numerous advanced workers at that, stand for Pravda?

It is the “utter political bewilderment” of these advanced workers, answers Trotsky.

Needless to say, this explanation is highly flattering to Trotsky, to all five groups abroad, and to the liquidators. Trotsky is very fond of using, with the learned air of the expert, pompous and high-sounding phrases to explain historical phenomena in a way that is flattering to Trotsky. Since “numerous advanced workers” become “active agents” of a political and Party line which does not conform to Trotsky’s line, Trotsky settles the question unhesitatingly, out of hand: these advanced workers are “in a state of utter political bewilderment”, whereas he, Trotsky, is evidently “in a state” of political firmness and clarity, and keeps to the right line!... And this very same Trotsky, beating his breast, fulminates against factionalism, parochialism, and the efforts of intellectuals to impose their will on the workers!

Reading things like these, one cannot help asking oneself: is it from a lunatic asylum that such voices come?

The Party put the question of liquidationism, and of condemning it, before the “advanced workers” as far back as 1908, while the question of “splitting” away from a very definite group of liquidators (namely, the Nasha Zarya group), i. e., that the only way to build up the Party was without this group and in opposition to it—this question was raised in January 1912, over two years ago. The overwhelming majority of the advanced workers declared in favour of supporting the “January (1912) line”. Trotsky himself admits this fact when he talks about “victories” and about “numerous advanced workers”. But Trotsky wriggles out of this simply by hurling abuse at these advanced workers and calling them “splitters” and “politically bewildered”!

From these facts sane people will draw a different conclusion. Where the majority of the class-conscious workers have rallied around precise and definite decisions, there we shall find unity of opinion and action, there we shall find the Party spirit, and the Party.

Where we see liquidators who have been “removed from office” by the workers, or half a dozen groups outside Russia, who for two years have produced no proof that they are connected with the mass working-class movement in Russia, there, indeed, we shall find bewilderment and splits. In now trying to persuade the workers not to carry out the decisions of that “united whole”, which the Marxist Pravdists recognise, Trotsky is trying to disrupt the movement and cause a split.

These efforts are futile, but we must expose the arrogantly conceited leaders of intellectualist groups, who, while causing splits themselves, are shouting about others causing splits; who, after sustaining utter defeat at the hands of the “advanced workers” for the past two years or more, are with incredible insolence flouting the decisions and the will of these advanced workers and saying that they are “politically bewildered”. These are entirely the methods of Nozdrev,[7] or of “Judas” Golovlyov.[8]

In reply to these repeated outcries about a split and in fulfilment of my duty as a publicist, I will not tire of repeating precise, unrefuted and irrefutable figures. In the Second Duma, 47 per cent of the deputies elected by the worker curia were Bolsheviks, in the Third Duma 50 per cent were Bolsheviks, and in the Fourth Duma 67 per cent.

There you have the majority of the “advanced workers”, there you have the Party; there you have unity of opinion and action of the majority of the class-conscious workers.

To this the liquidators say (see Bulkin, L. M., in Nasha Zarya No. 3) that we base our arguments on the Stolypin curias. This is a foolish and unscrupulous argument. The Germans measure their successes by the results of elections conducted under the Bismarckian electoral law, which excludes women. Only people bereft of their senses would reproach the German Marxists for measuring their successes under the existing electoral law, without in the least justifying its reactionary restrictions.

And we, too, without justifying curias, or the curia system, measured our successes under the existing electoral law. There were curias in all three (Second, Third and Fourth) Duma elections; and within the worker curia, within the ranks of Social-Democracy, there was a complete swing against the liquidators. Those who do not wish to deceive themselves and others must admit this objective fact, namely, the victory of working-class unity over the liquidators.

The other argument is just as “clever”: “Mensheviks and liquidators voted for (or took part in the election of) such and-such a Bolshevik.” Splendid! But does not the same thing apply to the 53 per cent non-Bolshevik deputies re turned to the Second Duma, and to the 50 per cent returned to the Third Duma, and to the 33 per cent returned to the Fourth Duma?

If, instead of the figures on the deputies elected, we could obtain the figures on the electors, or workers’ delegates, etc., we would gladly quote them. But these more detailed figures are not available, and consequently the “disputants” are simply throwing dust in people’s eyes.

But what about the figures of the workers’ groups that assisted the newspapers of the different trends? During two years (1912 and 1913), 2,801 groups assisted Pravda, and 750 assisted Luch.[1] These figures are verifiable and nobody has attempted to disprove them.

Where is the unity of action and will of the majority of the “advanced workers”, and where is the flouting of the will of the majority?

Trotsky’s “non-factionalism” is, actually, splitting tactics, in that it shamelessly flouts the will of the majority of the workers.


But there is still another method, and a very important one, of verifying the correctness and truthfulness of Trotsky’s accusations about splitting tactics.

You consider that it is the “Leninists” who are splitters? Very well, let us assume that you are right.

But if you are, why have not all the other sections and groups proved that unity is possible with the liquidators without the “Leninists”, and against the “splitters”?... If we are splitters, why have not you, uniters, united among yourselves, and with the liquidators? Had you done that you would have proved to the workers by deeds that unity is possible and beneficial!...

Let us go over the chronology of events.

In January 1912, the “Leninist” “splitters” declared that they were a Party without and against the liquidators.

In March 1912, all the groups and “factions”: liquidators, Trotskyists, Vperyodists, “pro-Party Bolsheviks” and “pro-Party Mensheviks”, in their Russian news sheets and in the columns of the German Social-Democratic newspaper Vorw\"arts, united against these “splitters”. All of them unanimously, in chorus, in unison and in one voice vilified us and called us “usurpers”, “mystifiers”, and other no less affectionate and tender names.

Very well, gentlemen! But what could have been easier for you than to unite against the “usurpers” and to set the “advanced workers” an example of unity? Do you mean to say that if the advanced workers had seen, on the one hand, the unity of all against the usurpers, the unity of liquidators and non-liquidators, and on the other, isolated “usurpers”, “splitters”, and so forth; they would not have supported the former?

If disagreements are only invented, or exaggerated, and so forth, by the “Leninists”, and if unity between the liquidators, Plekhanovites, Vperyodists, Trotskyists, and so forth, is really possible, why have you not proved this during the past two years by your own example?

In August 1912, a conference of “uniters” was convened. Disunity started at once: the Plekhanovites refused to attend at all; the Vperyodists attended, but walked out after protesting and exposing the fictitious character of the whole business.

The liquidators, the Letts, the Trotskyists (Trotsky and Semkovsky), the Caucasians, and the Seven “united”. But did they? We stated at the time that they did not, that this was merely a screen to cover up liquidationism. Have the events disproved our statement?

Exactly eighteen months later, in February 1914, we found:

1. that the Seven was breaking up. Buryanov had left them.

2. that in the remaining new “Six”, Chkheidze and Tulyakov, or somebody else, could not see eye to eye on the reply to be made to Plekhanov. They stated in the press that they would reply to him, but they could not.

3. that Trotsky, who for many months had practically vanished from the columns of Luck, had broken away, and had started “his own” journal, Borba. By calling this journal “non-factional”, Trotsky clearly (clearly to those who are at all familiar with the subject) intimates that in his, Trotsky’s, opinion, Nasha Zarya and Luch had proved to be “factional”, i. e., poor uniters.

If you are a uniter, my dear Trotsky, if you say that it is possible to unite with the liquidators, if you and they stand by the “fundamental ideas formulated in August 1912” (Borba No. 1, p. 43, Editorial Note), why did not you yourself unite with the liquidators in Nasha Zarya and Luch?

When, before Trotsky’s journal appeared, Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta published some scathing comment stating that the physiognomy of this journal was “unclear” and that there had been “quite a good deal of talk in Marxist circles” about this journal, Put Pravdy (No. 37)[2] was naturally obliged to expose this falsehood. It said: “There has been talk in Marxist circles” about a secret memorandum written by Trotsky against the Luch group; Trotsky’s physiognomy and his breakaway from the August bloc were perfectly “clear”.

4. An, the well-known leader of the Caucasian liquidators, who had attacked L. Sedov (for which he was given a public wigging by F. Dan and Co.), now appeared in Borba. It remains “unclear” whether the Caucasians now desire to go with Trotsky or with Dan.

5. The Lettish Marxists, who were the only real organisation in the “August bloc”, had formally withdrawn from it, stating (in 1914) in the resolution of their last Congress that:

the attempt on the part of the conciliators to unite at all costs with the liquidators (the August Conference of 1912) proved fruitless, and the uniters themselves became ideologically and politically dependent upon the liquidators.”

This statement was made,after eighteen months’ experience, by an organisation which had itself been neutral and had not desired to establish connection with either of the two centres. This decision of neutrals should carry all the more weight with Trotsky!

Enough, is it not?

Those who accused us of being splitters, of being unwilling or unable to get on with the liquidators, were themselves unable to get on with them. The August bloc proved to be a fiction and broke up.

By concealing this break-up from his readers, Trotsky is deceiving them.

The experience of our opponents has proved that we are right, has proved that the liquidators cannot be co-operated with.


The editorial article in issue No. 1 of Borba entitled “The Split in the Duma Group” contains advice from a conciliator to the seven pro-liquidator (or inclining towards liquidationism) members of the Duma. The gist of this advice is contained in the following words:

“first of all consult the Six whenever it is necessary to reach an agreement with other groups....” (P. 29.)

This is the wise counsel which, among other things, is evidently the cause of Trotsky’s disagreement with the liquidators of Luch. This is the opinion the Pravdists have held ever since the outbreak of the conflict between the two groups in the Duma, ever since the resolution of the Summer (1913) Conference was adopted. The Russian Social-Democratic Labour group in the Duma has reiterated in the press, even after the split, that it continues to adhere to this position, in spite of the repeated refusals of the Seven.

From the very outset, since the time the resolution of the Summer Conference was adopted, we have been, and still are, of the opinion that agreements on questions concerning activities in the Duma are desirable and possible; if such agreements have been repeatedly arrived at with the petty-bourgeois peasant democrats (Trudoviks), they are all the more possible and necessary with the petty-bourgeois, liberal-labour politicians.

We must not exaggerate disagreements, but we must face the facts: the Seven are men, leaning towards liquidationism, who yesterday entirely followed the lead of Dan, and whose eyes today are travelling longingly from Dan to Trotsky and back again. The liquidators are a group of legalists who have broken away from the Party and are pursuing a liberal- labour policy. Since they repudiate the “underground”, there can be no question of unity with them in matters concerning Party organisation and the working-class movement. Who ever thinks differently is badly mistaken and fails to take into account the profound nature of the changes that have taken place since 1908.

But agreements on certain questions with this group, which stands outside or on the fringe of the Party, are, of course, permissible: we must always compel this group, too, like the Trudoviks, to choose between the workers’ (Pravdist) policy and the liberal policy. For example, on the question of fighting for freedom of the press the liquidators clearly revealed, vacillation between the liberal formulation of the question, which repudiated, or overlooked, the illegal press, and the opposite policy, that of the workers.

Within the scope of a Duma policy in which the most important extra-Duma issues are not directly raised, agreements with the seven liberal-labour deputies are possible and desirable. On this point Trotsky has shifted his ground from that of the liquidators to that of the Party Summer (1913) Conference.

It should not be forgotten, however, that to a group standing outside the Party, agreement means something entirely different from what Party people usually understand by the term. By “agreement” in the Duma, non-Party people mean “drawing up a tactical resolution, or line”. To Party people agreement is an attempt to enlist others in the work of carrying out the Party line.

For example, the Trudoviks have no party. By agreement they understand the “voluntary”, so to speak, “drawing up” of a line, today with the Cadets, tomorrow with the Social-Democrats. We, however, understand something entirely different by agreement with the Trudoviks. We have Party decisions on all the important questions of tactics, and we shall never depart from these decisions; by agreement with the Trudoviks we mean winning them over to our side, convincing them that we are right, and not rejecting joint action against the Black Hundreds and against the liberals.

How far Trotsky has forgotten (not for nothing has he associated with the liquidators) this elementary difference between the Party and non-Party point of view on agreements, is shown by the following argument of his:

“The representatives of the International must bring together the two sections of our divided parliamentary group and jointly with them ascertain the points of agreement and points of disagreement.... A detailed tactical resolution formulating the principles of parliamentary tactics may he drawn up....” (No. 1, pp. 29—30.)

Here you have a characteristic and typical example of the liquidationist presentation of the question! Trotsky’s journal forgets about the Party; such a trifle is hardly worth remembering!

When different parties in Europe (Trotsky is fond of inappropriately talking about Europeanism) come to an agreement or unite, what they do is this: their respective representatives meet and first of all ascertain the points of disagreement (precisely what the International proposed in relation to Russia, without including in the resolution Kautsky’s ill-considered statement that “the old Party no longer exists”[9]). Having ascertained the points of disagreement, the representatives decide what decisions (resolutions, conditions, etc.) on questions of tactics, organisation, etc., should be submitted to the congresses of the two parties. If they succeed in drafting unanimous decisions, the congresses decide whether to adopt them or not. If differing proposals are made, they too are submitted for final decision to the congresses of the two parties.

What appeals to the liquidators and Trotsky is only the European models of opportunism, but certainly not the models of European partisanship.

“A detailed tactical resolution” will be drawn up by the members of the Duma! This example should serve the Russian “advanced workers”, with whom Trotsky has good reason to be so displeased, as a striking illustration of the lengths to which the groups in Vienna and Paris—who persuaded even Kautsky that there was “no Party” in Russia—go in their ludicrous project-mongering. But if it is some times possible to fool foreigners on this score, the Russian “advanced workers” (at the risk of provoking the terrible Trotsky to another outburst of displeasure) will laugh in the faces of these project-mongers.

“Detailed tactical resolutions,” they will tell them, “are drawn up among us (we do not know how it is done among you lion-Party people) by Party congresses and conferences, for example, those of 1907, 1908, 1910, 1912 and 1913. We shall gladly acquaint uninformed foreigners, as well as forgetful Russians, with our Party decisions, and still more gladly ask the representatives of the Seven, or the August bloc members, or Left-wingers or anybody else, to acquaint us with the resolutions of their congresses, or conferences, and to bring up at their next congress the definite question of the attitude they should adopt towards our resolutions, or towards the resolution of the neutral Lettish Congress of 1914, etc.”

This is what the “advanced workers” of Russia will say to the various project-mongers, and this has already been said iii the Marxist press, for example, by the organised Marxists of St. Petersburg. Trotsky chooses to ignore these published terms for the liquidators? So much the worse for Trotsky. It is our duty to warn our readers how ridiculous that “unity” (the August type of “unity”?) project-mongering is which refuses to reckon with the will of the majority of the class-conscious workers of Russia.


As to the substance of his own views, Trotsky contrived to say as little as possible in his new journal. Put Pravdy (No. 37) has already commented on the fact that Trotsky has not said a word either on the question of the “underground” or on the slogan of working for a legal party, etc.[3] That, among other things, is why we say that when attempts are made to form a separate organisation which is to have no ideological and political physiognomy, it is the worst form of factionalism.

Although Trotsky has refrained from openly expounding his views, quite a number of passages in his journal show what kind of ideas he has been trying to smuggle in.

In the very first editorial article in the first issue of his journal, we read the following:

“The pre-revolutionary Social-Democratic Party in our country was a workers’ party only in ideas and aims. Actually, it was an organisation of the Marxist intelligentsia, which led the awakening working class.” (5.)

This is the old liberal and liquidationist tune, which is really the prelude to the repudiation of the Party. It is based on a distortion of the historical facts. The strikes of 1895—96 had already given rise to a mass working-class movement, which both in ideas and organisation was linked with the Social-Democratic movement. And in these strikes, in this economic and non-economic agitation, the “intelligentsia led the working class”!?

Or take the following exact statistics of political offences in the period 1901—03 compared with the preceding period.

Occupations of participants in the emancipation movement prosecuted for political offences (per cent)
Period Agriculture Industry and
and students
No definite
occupation, and
no occupation
1884—90 7.1 15.1 53.3 19.9
1901—03 9.0 46.1 28.7 8.0

We see that in the eighties, when there was as yet no Social-Democratic Party in Russia, and when the movement was “Narodnik”, the intelligentsia predominated, accounting for over half the participants.

But the picture underwent a complete change in 1901—03, when a Social-Democratic Party already existed, and when the old Iskra was conducting its work. The intelligentsia were now a minority among the participants of the movement; the workers (“industry and commerce”) were far more numerous than the intelligentsia, and the workers and peasants together constituted more than half the total.

It was precisely in the conflict of trends within the Marxist movement that the petty-bourgeois intellectualist wing of the Social-Democracy made itself felt, beginning with Economism (1895—1903) and continuing with Menshevism (1903—1908) and liquidationism (1908—1914). Trotsky repeats the liquidationist slander against the Party and is afraid to mention the history of the twenty years’ conflict of trends within the Party.

Here is another example.

“In its attitude towards parliamentarism, Russian Social-Democracy passed through the same three stages ... [as in other countries] ... first ‘boycottism’ ... then the acceptance in principle of parliamentary tactics, but ... [that magnificent “but”, the “but” which Shchedrin translated as: The ears never grow higher than the forehead, never![4]]... for purely agitational purposes ... and lastly, the presentation from the Duma rostrum ... of current demands....” (No. 1, p. 34.)

This, too, is a liquidationist distortion of history. The distinction between the second and third stages was invent ed in order to smuggle in a defence of reformism and opportunism. Boycottism as a stage in “the attitude of Social-Democracy towards parliamentarism” never existed either in Europe (where anarchism has existed and continues to exist) or in Russia, where the boycott of the Bulygin Duma, for example, applied only to a definite institution, was never linked with “parliamentarism”, and was engendered by the peculiar nature of the struggle between liberalism and Marxism for the continuation of the onslaught. Trotsky does not breathe a word, about the way this struggle affected the conflict between the two trends in Marxism!

When dealing with history, one must explain concrete questions and the class roots of the different trends; anybody who wants to make a Marxist study of the struggle of classes and trends over the question of participation in the Bulygin Duma, will see therein the roots of the liberal-labour policy. But Trotsky “deals with” history only in order to evade concrete questions and to invent a justification, or a semblance of justification, for the present-day opportunists!

“Actually, all trends,” he writes, “employ the same methods of struggle and organisation.” “The outcries about the liberal danger in our working-class movement are simply a crude and sectarian travesty of reality.” (No. 1, pp. 5 and 35.)

This is a very clear and very vehement, defence of the liquidators. But we will take the liberty of quoting at least one small fact, one of the very latest. Trotsky merely slings words about; we should like the workers themselves to ponder over the facts.

It is a fact that Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta for March 13 wrote the following:

Instead of emphasising the definite and concrete task that confronts the working class, viz., to compel the Duma to throw out the bill [on the press], a vague formula is proposed of fighting for the ‘uncurtailed slogans’, and at the same time the illegal press is widely advertised, which can only lead to the relaxation of the workers’ struggle for their legal press.”

This is a clear, precise and documentary defence of the liquidationist policy and a criticism of the Pravda policy. Well, will any literate person say that both trends employ “the same methods of struggle and organisation” on this question? Will any literate person say that the liquidators are not pursuing a liberal-labour policy on this question, that the liberal menace to the working-class movement is purely imaginary?

The reason why Trotsky avoids facts and concrete references is because they relentlessly refute all his angry outcries and pompous phrases. It is very easy, of course, to strike an attitude and say: “a crude and sectarian travesty”. Or to add a still more stinging and pompous catch-phrase, such as “emancipation from conservative factionalism”.

But is this not very cheap? Is not this weapon borrowed from the arsenal of the period when Trotsky posed in all his splendour before audiences of high-school boys?

Nevertheless, the “advanced workers”, with whom Trotsky is so angry, would like to be told plainly and clearly: Do you or do you not approve of the “method of struggle and organisation” that is definitely expressed in the above-quoted appraisal of a definite political campaign? If you do, then you are pursuing a liberal-labour policy, betraying Marxism and the Party; to talk of “peace” or of “unity” with such a policy, with groups which pursue such a policy, means deceiving yourself and others.

If not, then say so plainly. Phrases will not astonish, satisfy or intimidate the present-day workers.

Incidentally, the policy advocated by the liquidators in the above-quoted passage is a foolish one even from the liberal point of view, for the passage of a bill in the Duma depends on “Zemstvo-Octobrists” of the type of Bennigsen, who has already shown his hand in the committee.

*     *

The old participants in the Marxist movement in Russia know Trotsky very well, and there is no need to discuss him for their benefit. But the younger generation of workers do not know him, and it is therefore necessary to discuss him, for he is typical of all the five groups abroad, which, in fact, are also vacillating between the liquidators and the Party.

In the days of the old Iskra (1901—03), these waverers, who flitted from the Economists to the Iskrists and back again, were dubbed “Tushino turncoats” (the name given in the Troublous Times in Rus to fighting men who went over from one camp to another[10]).

When we speak of liquidationism we speak of a definite ideological trend, which grew up in the course of many years, stems from Menshevism and Economism in the twenty years’ history of Marxism, and is connected with the policy and ideology of a definite class—the liberal bourgeoisie.

The only ground the “Tushino turncoats” have for claiming that they stand above groups is that they “borrow” their ideas from one group one day and from another the next day. Trotsky was an ardent Iskrist in 1901—03, and Ryazanov described his role at the Congress of 1903 as “Lenin’s cudgel”. At the end of 1903, Trotsky was an ardent Menshevik, i. e., he deserted from the Iskrists to the Economists. He said that “between the old Iskra and the new lies a gulf”. In 1904—05, he deserted the Mensheviks and occupied a vacillating position, now co-operating with Martynov (the Economist), now proclaiming his absurdly Left “permanent revolution” theory. In 1906—07, he approached the Bolsheviks, and in the spring of 1907 he declared that he was in agreement with Rosa Luxemburg.

In the period of disintegration, after long “non-factional” vacillation, he again went to the right, and in August 1912, he entered into a bloc with the liquidators. He has now deserted them again, although in substance he reiterates their shoddy ideas.

Such types are characteristic of the flotsam of past historical formations, of the time when the mass, working-class movement in Russia was still dormant, and when every group had “ample room” in which to pose as a trend, group or faction, in short, as a “power”, negotiating amalgamation with others.

The younger generation of workers should know exactly whom they are dealing with, when individuals come before them with incredibly pretentious claims, unwilling absolutely to reckon with either the Party decisions, which since 1908 have defined and established our attitude towards liquidationism, or with the experience of the present-day working-class movement in Russia, which has actually brought about the unity of the majority on the basis of full recognition of the aforesaid decisions.


[1] A preliminary calculation made up to April 1, 1914, showed 4,000 groups for Pravda (commencing with January 1,1912) and 1,000 for the liquidators and all their allies taken together. —Lenin

[2] See pp. 158—81 of this volume.—Ed.

[3] See pp. 158—61 of this volume.—Ed.

[4] Meaning the impossible.—Ed.

[5] This refers to Prosveshcheniye.

[6] Pro-Party Bolsheviks—conciliators with leanings towards the liquidators. (For further details see Lenin’s article “Adventurism”, pp. 350—59 of this volume.)

Pro-Party Mensheviks—headed by Plekhanov, came out against the liquidators during the period of reaction. While taking a Menshevik stand, the Plekhanovites at the same time stood for the preservation and strengthening of the illegal Party organisation and therefore stood for a bloc with the Bolsheviks. Plekhanov broke the bloc with the Bolsheviks at the end of 1911. Under the guise of fighting “factionalism” and the split in the R.S.D.L.P. be attempted to reconcile the Bolsheviks with the opportunists. In 1912 the Plekhanovites, together with the Trotskyists, Bundists and liquidators, came out against the decisions of the Prague Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.

[7] Nozdrev—a character in Gogol’s Dead Souls typifying a self-assured, impudent, and mendacious person.

[8]JudasGolovlyov—a character in Saltykov-Shchedrin’s book The Golovlyov Family typifying the spiritual and physical disintegration of the historically doomed class of feudalist landlords, social parasites, treacherous hypocrites.

[9] At the December meeting of the International Socialist Bureau (held in London on December 13—14, 1913) a resolution was adopt ed instructing the Executive of the International Socialist Bureau to call a meeting of representatives of “all factions of the labour movement in Russia, including Russian Poland, who recognise the Party Programme or whose programme corresponds with that of the Social-Democrats, for a mutual exchange o opinions (Aussprache) on points of disagreement”. In seconding this resolution, Kautsky, in his speech of December 14, stated that the old Social-Democratic Party in Russia was dead. It had to be re-established on the basis of the Russian workers’ urge for unity. In his article “A Good Resolution and a Bad Speech”, Lenin examined this resolution and called Kautsky’s speech monstrous. (See present edition, Vol. 19, pp. 528—30.)

[10] The Troublous Times—a term used in pre-revolutionary Russian historiography to denote the period of the peasant war and the struggle of the Russian people against the Polish and Swedish intervention in the early seventeenth century.

In 1608 the Polish troops under Pseudo-Dmitry II, a henchman of the Polish landed gentry who posed as the younger son of the Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible, invaded Russia, and reached the outskirts of Moscow, where they encamped in Tushino. A government headed by Pseudo-Dmitry was formed in Tushino in opposition to the government of Moscow. Some of the Russian nobles and boyar aristocracy deserted one camp for another in an effort to keep in with the winning side. These deserters were called “Tushino turncoats”.

Works Index   |   Volume 20 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >