V. I.   Lenin

The Chkheidze Faction and Its Role

Published: Published in Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata No. 2, December 1916. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the Sbornik text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 171-174.
Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and and Others
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). 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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We have maintained all along that Messrs. Chkheidze and Co. do not represent the Social-Democratic proletariat and that a genuine Social-Democratic Labour Party will never be reconciled or united with this faction. Our contention was based on the following incontrovertible facts (1) Chkheidze’s “save the country” formula does not in sub stance differ from defencism; (2) the Chkheidze faction has never opposed Mr. Potresov and Co., not even when Martov did; (3) the decisive fact: the faction has never opposed participation in the war industries committees.

Nobody has attempted to deny these facts. Chkheidze’s adherents simply evade them.

The pressure of facts has increasingly compelled Nashe Slovo and Trotsky, who reproach us for our “factionalism”, to take up the struggle against the O.C. and Chkheidze. The trouble, however, is that it was only “under pressure” (of our criticism and the criticism of the facts) that the Nashe Slovo supporters retreated from position to position; but they have not yet said the decisive word. Unity or a split with the Chkheidze faction? They are still afraid to decide!

No. 1 of the Bulletin of the Bund Committee Abroad (September 1916) contains a letter from Petrograd dated February 26, 1916. It is a valuable document and fully con firms our view. Its author declares unequivocally that there is “a definite crisis in the Menshevik camp itself”, and what is particularly characteristic, he says nothing about the Mensheviks opposed to participation in the war industries committees! He has not seen or heard of them in Russia!

Three out of the five members of the Chkheidze faction, he writes, are opposed to the “defencist position” (like the 0. C.) and two are in favour of it.

Those who serve the faction,” he writes, “are unable to shift the majority from the position it has taken. The local ‘initiating group’[2], which rejects the defencist position, comes to the aid of the faction majority.”

Those who serve the faction are liberal intellectuals of the type of Potresov, Maslov, Orthodox[3] and Co., who call themselves Social-Democrats. Our repeated assertions that this group of intellectuals is a “hotbed” of opportunism and of liberal-labour politics have now been confirmed by a Bundist.

He writes further: “Life [and not Purishkevich and Guchkov?] has brought to the fore... a new organ, the workers group, which is more and more becoming the centre of the labour movement. [The writer means the Guchkov, or, to use an older term, the Stolypin labour movement; he recognises no other!] A compromise was reached in the elections to the workers’ group: not defence and self-defence, but salvation of the country, by which something broader was implied.”

This is how a Bundist exposes Chkheidze and Martov’s lies about him! At the election of the Guchkov gang (Gvozdyov, Breido, etc.) to the war industries committees,Chkheidze and the 0. C. entered into a compromise. The Chkheidze formula is: a compromise with the Potresovs and the Gvozdyovs!

Martov concealed and is now concealing this.

The compromise did not end there. The policy statement was also drawn up on the basis of a compromise, which the Bundist characterises in this way:

Definiteness disappeared.” “The representatives of the faction majority and of the ‘initiating group’ were dissatisfied because, after all, the statement is a big step towards formulation of a defencist position.... In essence, the compromise is the position of German Social-Democracy, in application to Russia.”

So writes a Bundist.

Clear enough, it would seem? There is a party, that of the O.C., Chkheidze and Potresov. Within it there are two contending wings; they come to an agreement, they compromise and remain in one party. The compromise is concluded on the basis of participation in the war industries committees. The only point of disagreement is how to formulate the “motives”   (i. e., how to dupe the workers). As a result of the compromise we have, “in essence, the position of German Social-Democracy”.

Well, were we not right when we said that the O.C. party was social-chauvinist, that, as a party, the O.C. and Chkheidze were the same as the Südekums in Germany?

Even a Bundist is compelled to admit their identity with the Südekums!

Neither Chkheidze and Co., nor the O.C. have ever expressed opposition to the compromise, although they are “dissatisfied” with it.

That was the position in February 1916. In April 1916, Martov appeared in Kienthal with a mandate from the “initiating group” to represent the whole O.C., the O.C. in general.

Is this not deceiving the International?

And see what we have now! Potresov, Maslov and Orthodox establish their own organ, Dyelo,[4] which is openly defencist: they invite Plekhanov to contribute; they enlist Messrs. Dmitriev, Cherevanin, Mayevsky, G. Petrovich, etc., the whole crowd of intellectuals who were formerly the mainstay of liquidationism. What I said on behalf of the Bolsheviks in May 1910 (Diskussionny Listok[5]) about the final consolidation of the independent-legalists’ group[1] has been fully confirmed.

Dyelo takes up a brazenly chauvinist and reformist position. See how Mme. Orthodox falsifies Marx and by mis-quoting him makes him appear to be an ally of Hindenburg (all on “philosophical” grounds, mind you!), how Mr. Masby (especially in Dyelo No. 2) champions reformism all along the line, how Mr. Potresov accuses Axelrod and Martov of “maximalism” and anarcho-syndicalism, how the magazine generally tries to palm off advocacy of defence as the cause of “democracy” while modestly evading the unpleasant question as to whether or not this reactionary war is being waged by tsarism for a predatory purpose, for throttling Galicia, Armenia, etc.

The Chkheidze faction and the O.C. are silent. Skobelev sends greetings to the “Liebknechts of all countries”. The real Liebknecht has ruthlessly exposed and condemned   his own Scheidemanns and Kautskyites, whereas Skobelev remains in permanent harmony and friendship with the Russian Scheidemanns (Potresov and Co., Chkhenkeli, et al.) and with the Russian Kautskyites (Axelrod et al.)

On behalf of himself and of his friends abroad, Martov announces in Golos[6] No. 2 (Samara, September 20, 1916) a refusal to contribute to Dyelo, but at the same time he whitewashes Chkheidze; at the same time (Izvestia No. 6, September 12, 1916) he asserts that he has parted with Trotsky and Nashe Slovo because of the “Trotsky” idea of repudiating the bourgeois revolution in Russia. But everybody knows that this is a lie, that Martov left Nashe Slovo be cause the latter could not tolerate Martov’s whitewashing of the O.C.! In the same Izvestia Martov defends his deception of the German public, which even roused the indignation of Roland-Holst. He published a pamphlet in German from which he omitted the very part of the Petrograd and Moscow Mensheviks’ policy statement in which they announced their willingness to participate in the war industries committees![7]

Recall the controversy between Trotsky and Martov in Nashe Slovo prior to the latter’s resignation from the Editorial Board. Martov reproached Trotsky for not having made up his mind whether or not he would follow Kautsky at the decisive moment. Trotsky retorted that Martov was playing the part of a “bait”, a “decoy”, trying to entice the revolutionary workers into the opportunist and chauvinist party of the Potresovs, then the O.C., etc.

Both sides repeated our arguments. And both were right.

However much the truth about Chkheidze and Co. may be concealed, it will come to light. Chkheidze’s role is to compromise with the Potresovs, to camouflage opportunist and chauvinist politics by vague or near-“Left” phrases. And Martov’s role is to whitewash Chkheidze.



[2] Theinitiating groups” were formed by the Menshevik liquidators from the end of 1910 onwards as a counterweight to the illegal Party organisations. They were meant to be the nuclei of a new, broad legal party, functioning within the framework of the June 3, Stolypin regime. The liquidators succeeded in forming “initiating groups” in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ekaterinoslav and Konstantinovka (Donets coalfield) in the shape of small groups of intellectuals dissociated from the working class. In the First World War they followed a social-chauvinist policy.

[3] Orthodox—the pen-name of Lyubov Axelrod, a Menshevik.

[4] Dyelo (The Cause)—a fortnightly Menshevik magazine published in Moscow from August 1916 to January 1917 under the editorship of A. N. Potresov, P. P. Maslov and Lyubov Axelrod (Orthodox). Ten issues, including three double issues, appeared in 1916 and one issue in 1917. The magazine followed a chauvinist policy.

[5] Diskussionny Listok (Discussion Bulletin)—a supplement to the R.S.D.L.P. Central Organ, Sotsial-Demokrat, published in Paris from March 6 (19), 1910 to April 29 (May 12), 1911. Three issues appeared. The editorial board was composed of representatives of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, ultimatumists, Bundists, Plekhanovites and of the Polish and Latvian Social-Democratic organisations.

[6] Golos (Voice)—a Menshevik social-chauvinist newspaper published in Samara in 1916, continuer of the Menshevik papers Nash Gales (Our Voice) and Golos Truda (Voice of Labour). Altogether four issues appeared.

[7] Reference is to the Menshevik pamphlet Kriegs und Friedensprobleme der Arbeiterklasse (War and Peace Issues Facing the Working Class), a reprint of the draft resolutions and Manifesto of the second Zimmerwald Conference on the tasks of the proletariat in the struggle for peace, submitted to the Conference by P. Axelrod, S. Lapinsky and L. Martov.

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