Justice, February 19 1910

Russian Revolution and Counter-Revolution — II

Source: Peter P(etroff), “Russian Revolution and Counter-Revolution — II,” Justice, February 19, 1910, p.3;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Taking up the initiative in the struggle against absolutism, the Russian Social Democratic Party had to face, as I said, a Government which had the twentieth century stage of development in other countries to assist it; the latter adopted the latest invention in armaments and organisation of military and police. The capitalist class, while taking advantage of capitalist development elsewhere, got also the experience of the class struggle. This happening at a time when the middle-class in other countries, having got the upper hand, became reactionary, Russian Liberalism was born with its wings clipped.

But because the bourgeois revolution came in the twentieth century, and was going on in the atmosphere of the reactionary stage of European capitalism, it was also in the atmosphere of the advanced Socialist movement in Western Europe, and the Russian working class could use the experience of their older brethren.

The practice and theory of the working-class movements in all other countries became a sharp weapon for the Russian working class. We had the experience of the Chartist and Trade Unionist movement in England, the Socialist movement in France, and especially of that in Germany. We had the scientific Marxist theory and literature dealing with various phases of capitalist development.

By the eighties Marx’s principal work Das Kapital, was translated; there was formed a Social-Democratic Society, “the Group for the Emancipation of the Workers,” which published a great many legal and illegal works, explaining the Marxist theory.

The best works on philosophical, economic and social questions came from the pen of Social-Democrats. Using the Marxist method, the economic and social conditions and the tendencies of the evolution of Russia were made plain. Marxism appeared in Russia not only as an abstract theory of capitalism, of the struggle between Labour and Capital — there was not only an analogy with Western Europe — but as a theory which by its method enabled us to revise the analysis of the most critical period of our social life.

In a discussion, lasting over twenty years, the fallacious idealistic method of history of the “People’s Friends,” with their illusions of an original process changing Russia from barbarism to Socialism, based upon the peasant communes, was destroyed. They showed that Russia is going to the Social Revolution through a bourgeois revolution and a long capitalist development. Thus they explained the character of the Russian Revolution. But more, they explained the part to be played by different classes in the approaching bourgeois revolution; the working class will be the vanguard. The Russian revolutionary intellectuals, having exhausted all their ideas, and having experienced the futility of the old programmes, by which the peasants with their communes were to be the basis of a new order, the liberators of society, and haying realised all the incongruity of their theories with the new developments, and seeing the magnitude of the European working class movement, had to turn to the hero of Russian history — the industrial proletariat. Herein lies the hope of the victory; here is the hope of our time; here will be recruited the revolutionary army. To-day we are a few, to-morrow we shall be thousands, and later a mighty host.

The evolution of capitalism, which necessarily creates anever-increasing- army of proletarians, will of itself supply warriors to fill the breaches in the fighting line. This inevitable process becomes a guarantee that no efforts of the autocracy will avail to stem the tide of the upward progress of the workers.

As before they exerted all the power of their brains to prove an original method of evolution for Russia (from barbarism to Socialism), so now they became convinced that the process of the Europeanisation of Russia leads to their ideals. The Marxist theory became so predominant over the minds of the intellectuals that “Marxism” became the synonym for thinking and progressive thought.

The structure of Marxism stood so strong; it was so exceptionally attractive in its fullness and harmony — like a beautiful sculpture shaped by the chisel of a genuine artist. What were the fallacious theories of the “People Friends,” or of the Liberals, by comparison with it! It was like a magnet drawing all progressive elements towards it.

Even such men as Peter Struve, Professor Bulgakoff, Jugan-Baranovsky, and others, became Marxist: only by it could be explained the necessity for the evolution of capitalism, and it therefore served the turn even of these bourgeois ideologists. This proves once more that bourgeois “scientific” theories utterly fail to explain social developments. The capitalist sociological “science” is confined to dealing with separate phenomena. It bristles with facts, just as Gradgrind’s wonderful head contained so many facts that they were visible in the bumps on his cranium! Events appear to them like Minerva emerging from the head of Jupiter.

These men were Marxists until they recognised that Marxism was becoming a menace to capitalism; when there arose a working-class movement they became Revisionists, and afterwards leaders of the Liberal Party, They thought Marxism had done its duty to them, and it was welcome to go.

Der Mohr hat seine Schuldigkeit getan

Der Mohr kann gehen.[1]

Just, as formerly, it had been good form for a Student to be a Marxist, now it was “out-of-date.” “Marx was a splendid man for his time.”

At that time the world saw the birth of the Social-Revolutionary Party, composed of these new-born Revisionists, and the fragments of the “People’s Friends,” and other small, short-lived organisations.

“People’s Friends” left to their successors a legacy of affection for the peasantry; a faith in the peasant communes; the idealistic conception of history, and the worship of the “Intellectuals who create History.” From the new Revisionists they gained the ideas of the necessary evolution of capitalism in Russia.

Capitalism, they declared, is undeniably advancing in Russia, but it is only in the towns — it is not applicable to the rural districts, and Marx’s theory has proved generally a failure when applied to agriculture. “The Social-Democrats are one-sided; they rest all their hopes on the proletariat. The ‘Intellectual,’ the peasantry, and the other workers, are the material for a Socialist Party.”

Being so broad-minded, they possess the capacity to absorb everybody under the head of the “Critical Intellectuals.”

The “Critical Intellectual,” with his “broad mind,” was not inclined, of course to a “narrow Marxist philosophy.” As they were broad in accepting allies, so they were “open-minded” in choosing their philosophy. They thought, of course, that they were creating their own, as they thought the Russian peasantry, with their communes, were peculiar to Russia; but it was the old bourgeois eclectic philosophy which they imbibed from P. Lavroff; which he, in his turn, had learnt from other bourgeois philosophers. It was just suited to the coming party which tried to embrace such a conglomeration of elements.

Their philosophy asserts that, in every philosophical system or theory there is both truth and error, and that the true should be taken and the false discarded. By this means they broadened their views. But how can they know which is true and which is false, not having their own theory as a criterion? So the net result of their criticism was a number of statements with a groundwork of the idealistic conception.


1. “The servant has done his task, the servant can go.” The German version of the proverb suggests a black servant, e.g. Mohr = Moor — so slaves when they could no longer work would be discarded and left to starve.