The Latest Deception by Gabriel Miasnikov 1930
In September 1843, Marx wrote to Ruge: “Hitherto philosophers have had the solution of all riddles lying in their writing-desks, and the stupid, exoteric world had only to open its mouth for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into it. Now philosophy has become mundane… But, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”
This critical perspective of one of the future authors of the Manifesto completely coincides with that of its other author. Frederick Engels, as we may verify in one of his passionate articles in which he exhaustively examines the vision of Carlyle: “Carlyle has, as he himself admits, no ‘Morison’s pill’, no panacea for curing the ills of society.”
“In that too he is right. All social philosophy, as long as it still propounds a few principles as its final conclusion, as long as it continues to administer Morison’s pills, remains very imperfect; it is not the bare conclusions of which we are in such need, but rather study; the conclusions are nothing without the reasoning that has led up to them; this we have known since Hegel; and the conclusions are worse than useless if they are final in themselves, if they are not turned into premises for further deductions. But the conclusions must also assume a distinct form for a time, they must in the course of development evolve from vague imprecision into clear ideas….”
After these lines were first written, the social philosophy of Marx and Engels evolved, leading to the celebrated conclusions that were first laid down in the Manifest of the Communist Party and were then more fully developed in the later work of its authors. No one can say that these conclusions are imprecise. If Engels was right, however, when he said that we do not have to confer as much importance on the conclusions, but rather on the process from which they arose, and that in general conclusions are nothing but a temporary formula, we can ask ourselves: Have the conclusions arrived at in the Manifesto been superseded? Have subsequent developments perhaps shown that they were false? An astute Frenchman once said that he did not attempt to reason like Voltaire in an era when Voltaire himself would have reasoned in a different way. If we do nothing but repeat what Marx and Engels said in an epoch when they would have themselves thought in a different way, we would thus reveal our total inability to instill ourselves with the vivifying critique that is contained in their teachings, defending the letter rather than the spirit of their works. We would be even more far removed from the spirit of the work of Marx than those dogmatists whom Marx himself refers to in his letter to Ruge quoted above.
“Marx and Engels had ruthless criticism for everything that existed, and had no fear of the results of that criticism,” Plekhanov said. “The followers of Marx and Engels, too, should have no fear of the results achieved by their teachers. One would think that all this goes without saying, and that it is quite superfluous to speak on the matter….”
Nowadays, however, this perspective is considered to be erroneous. Today, this is no longer so obvious, which is why commentaries are necessary, for now the highest virtue consists in having a blind faith in the wisdom of the “philosophers” of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party, who “have had the solution of all riddles lying in their writing-desks, and the stupid, exoteric proletarians had only to open their mouths for the roast pigeons of absolute knowledge to fly into them”. Talk is not superfluous when all criticisms of the Party Line or of the Central Committee are considered to be Menshevik, whether they come from the left or the right, and entail the usual consequences for those who dare to express them. It is not true that the Central Committee does not have any kind of “‘Morison’s pill’, no panacea for curing the ills of society”, since if this were the case, it would welcome criticism as the duty of every Marxist, of every revolutionary, and not as something that is the work of sinister criminals. And the fact that the Central Committee’s membership is composed exclusively of dogmatists of the kind that Marx described and who according to Plekhanov are even more alien to Marx, this, dear father of Russian Marxism, does not bother anyone at all.
To the contrary, this gives you the right, dear G.V. Plekhanov, to say that “followers … should have no fear of the results achieved by their teachers”.
We, however, who, following your example, have sought to criticize the “results” formulated by the disciples of Marx and Engels, have suffered and continue to suffer adverse consequences when we proclaim our “results”. But as you have taught us, with the example of Marx and Engels, who were not afraid “of coming into conflict with the powers that be”, we have decided to continue to argue just as Marx and Engels would have done if they were in our place.
And we have done so because “the conscious workers who are in the vanguard of the movement must constantly look over their shoulders, to the road that the workers movement has just left behind, in order to ask themselves over and over again if they are following the right road and if there is a better way”. And also because “only idiots and those who fear the participation of the broad masses in politics think that open and impassioned debates on tactics, of the kind that one can constantly read in the workers press, are vain and inopportune. In reality, it is these very same debates that attract the attention of the workers, inviting them to examine their politics from every angle in order to find a clear, but not narrow, class line for the movement”, as another disciple of Marx and Engels said in 1900, when you wrote your “Preface”, who was at that time your comrade and friend: Lenin.
Elsewhere, Lenin wrote:
“In the press one may find arguments and polemics that help the reader to understand political positions, to have a better grasp of their meaning in order to be able to improve them later. And there are also arguments that degenerate into insults, slander and disputes.
“The more conscious workers, those who are aware of their responsibilities with regard to the task of transformation and organization of the proletariat must pay the greatest attention so that these inevitable debates and these necessary polemics do not degenerate into insults, slanders and calumnies.”
He thought that the lack of political education “of the Russians” was manifested, among other ways, by their inability to find precise and well-argued demonstrations in important historical debates, as well as in a naive faith in vulgar slogans and gestures, in threats and in the oaths of the parties involved.
“Every rational being understands that over the course of a debate that has been poisoned by this or that theme, in order to arrive at the truth one has to go beyond the arguments of the parties involved, taking into account the facts and the documents and discerning to what degree the testimonies are reliable. Of course, this is not an easy task. It is much easier to consider whatever we hear, or want to hear, to be the Real McCoy, depending on how loud it is. Anyone who abides by this practice is a mental defective who does not deserve any respect. If you want to have a serious position, the truth will not be discerned without a certain amount of personal investigation, and anyone who is afraid of this task deprives himself of any possibility of ever reaching the truth.”
And we can add that the same thing is true of anyone who is afraid to criticize the conclusions formulated by Marx and Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party.
Lenin said: “Comrade Chudnovsky said here that he had ‘taken the liberty’ of making some sharp criticisms of the Commissars’ actions. There can be no question at all as to whether or not sharp criticism is to be allowed, for it is a revolutionary’s duty to engage in such criticism, and the People’s Commissars do not claim to be infallible”.
 Frederick Engels, Review of “Past and Present” by Thomas Carlyle, London, 1843.
 The quotations in this paragraph were translated from the Spanish translation, as the source could not be identified and an existing English translation could not be located [American Translator’s Note].
 Translated from the Spanish translation [American Translator’s Note].
 Translated from the Spanish translation.
 Grigori Chudnovsky (1890-1918). Member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party since 1905, he belonged to the Menshevik fraction. In 1917 he joined the Bolsheviks together with the “Mezhraiontsy”. He participated in the October Revolution. He was a member of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee, the Central Executive Committee of all Russia. He died in combat during the Civil War.