G.V. Plekhanov

Our Differences

Chapter IV
Capitalism and Our Tasks

3. Probable Consequences of a “Popular” Revolution

But let us be tractable. Let us concede the improbable – that “power” is actually in the hands of our contemporary revolutionaries. What will such success lead them to?

Let us listen to our author.

“The immediate and prime task of the victorious provisional government consists in coming to the assistance of the popular revolution. The state power which has been seized must be used in order everywhere to revolutionise the popular masses and to organise their power; this is a task in the fulfilment of which the revolutionaries stand on firm ground. There the provisional government does not create anything but only frees the forces which exist in the people and are even in a state of very high tension ... In this the provisional government does not need either to use coercion on the popular masses or even to teach them. It only gives them purely external help.” [10]

That is what Mr. Tikhomirov says when he discusses the role of the “provisional government which is forced to seize power”.

He is convinced that this “purely external” help for the people will lead to the “foundation of the socialist organisation of Russia”. If we recall his ancestry we will see that such an assurance is by no means surprising on his part and that it was handed down to him by the laws of heredity. Bakunin “begot” Tkachov, and Tkachov begot Tikhomirov and his brothers. And if the nearest literary forbears of our author were of the conviction that “the people is always ready” for the social revolution, it is quite natural that their descendant should believe in such readiness of the people at least at “the time we are passing through”. We must be surprised not at Mr. Tikhomirov, who, ashamed to acknowledge his extraction openly, nevertheless piously keeps the traditions of his spiritual fathers. It is those readers we must be surprised at, who, having renounced the theories of Bakunin and Tkachov, imagine that Mr. Tikhomirov is presenting them with something newer, more serious and practicable. For such readers criticism is but an empty word and consistency an absolutely empty concept!

People, who have really and irrevocably broken with the fantasies of Bakunin and Tkachov, will see Mr. Tikhomirov’s confidence as absolutely unjustified. They will understand that the socialist revolution presupposes a whole series of measures for the socialist organisation of production. And that reason alone is enough to prevent the “purely external” help of the revolutionary government from being considered sufficient to guarantee a successful outcome of such a revolution. Besides, the socialist organisation of production presupposes two conditions without the “presence” of which it cannot be undertaken. The first of these conditions is objective and lies in the economic relations in the country. The other is purely subjective and concerns the producers themselves: the objective economic possibility of the transition to socialism is not enough by itself, the working class must understand and be aware of that possibility. These two conditions are closely connected with one another. Economic relations influence people’s economic concepts. These concepts influence people’s mode of activity, the social and, consequently, the economic relations. And since we now “do not believe” in any “hand of God” or in inborn ideas, it only remains for us to assume that “the order of ideas is determined by the order of things” and that people’s views of economic circumstances are determined by the qualities of those circumstances. These qualities also determine the tendencies of the various classes – conservative in one period of history, revolutionary in another. A certain class rises against the reality surrounding it, enters into antagonism with it only in the event of reality being “divided against itself”, of some contradictions being revealed in it. The character, the course and the outcome of the struggle which has started against that reality is determined by the character of these contradictions. In the capitalist countries, one of the chief economic contradictions is the antagonism between the social character of production, on the one hand, and the individual appropriation by the employers of its instruments, means, and consequently its products, on the other. As it is absolutely impossible to renounce the social organisation of production, the only means of solving this contradiction is to bring juridical standards into conformity with economic facts, to hand over the instruments and objects of labour to the ownership of society, for the latter to distribute the products according to the requirements of the working people. This contradiction, as also the urgent need for its solution, increasingly impresses itself upon the consciousness of the people who suffer from it. The working class becomes more and more inclined to and ready for the socialist revolution. We have already repeated time and again the truth proved by Marx that the antagonism referred to above inevitably arises at a definite stage in the development of commodity production. But commodity production, like everything else in the world, has not only an end, but a beginning, too. It not only prepares for a new social system thanks to its inherent contradictions, but there was a time when it was new itself, it arose out of antagonisms in its predecessor. We know that commodity production was preceded by natural economy and primitive collectivism. The principal cause leading to antagonism in the primitive communities was their inherent limitation which did not permit the application of communist principle to the relations between communities. These relations led to the development of exchange, the products of social labour became commodities and in this new quality they exerted a disintegrating influence on the interior organisation of the community itself. The stage in the disintegration of primitive collectivism which is known as the village community is characterised, as we know, by the contradiction that in it corn-growing on communal land is carried out by individual householders. This leads to the development of private property, to a new intensification of commodity production and at the same time to the birth of the contradictions inherent in this kind of production, i.e., to the exploitation of labour by capital. Thus commodity production nears its end because of the contradiction between the social organisation of production and the individual mode of appropriation. It develops, on the contrary, because of the contradiction between the individual character of the economy and the social character of the appropriation of one of the chief means of production – the land. We now ask Mr. Tikhomirov: which stage in the development of commodity production is Russia now passing through? Which of the contradictions we have pointed out is typical of her economic relations now? If the first, then there is no sense in contrasting Russia with the West, and, therefore, in emphasising the peculiar features of the Russian “social-revolutionary” programmes. If the second, by what means will the revolutionary government prevent commodity production from developing further? By what means will it solve the contradictions inherent in our village community?

The seizure of power by the revolutionaries may have two outcomes.

Either the provisional government will in fact confine itself to “purely external” help to the people and, not teaching them anything, not coercing them to anything, will allow them to set up their own economic relations.

Or, not relying on the wisdom of the people, it will keep in its hands the power it has seized and itself set about organising socialist production.

In the pamphlet Socialism and the Political Struggle, we have already spoken of each of these outcomes. All we need to do now is to repeat and elaborate the thoughts we expressed then.

Mr. Tikhomirov has freed us from the necessity of discussing in detail the second of the cases assumed. He does not even wish to hear of “the despotism of a communist government”. He demands that the provisional government should give the people “purely external help”, that it should “organise the people temporarily and only inasmuch as their” (the people’s) “self-government can be realised in those conditions”. Obscure as this last phrase is, if it has any sense it means a resolute renunciation of any attempt to implant socialism by means of decrees of the secret society which has “seized power”. Finally, our author declares outright that the provisional government must use power, “of course, not to create a socialist system”. That, of course, is another big piece of nonsense, for it is ridiculous for a socialist government – even if only a provisional one – not to use its power to create a socialist system. However that may be, it is obvious that Mr. Tikhomirov is seriously convinced that the provisional government will not need to “create anything but only to free the forces which already exist in the people”. Let us see what such “freeing” can lead to.

Our author did not explain how long this period will last during which the provisional government will “organise the power of the popular masses”. Neither did he tell us what this organisation means when translated from hi s party’s mystic “way of speaking” into literary Russian. He did not say a word about the way in which, after seizing power, the “Narodnaya Volya party” government will be replaced by a government “elected by the people, controlled by them and replaceable”. Hence it remains for us to choose the most probable of all possible guesses. The Eastern countries have distinguished themselves so far only by court revolutions or popular movements in which there were very few conscious political actions. To have any at all graphical idea of the probable course of the Russian revolution, we must willy-nilly presume that, despite all its exceptionalism, it will nevertheless take place at least partly after the manner of the West. But in the West it generally developed as follows. The provisional government placed in power by the coup d’etat continued to support the revolution against the efforts of reaction, convened a constituent assembly and placed the country’s future in its hands. Having drawn up the new constitution, the constituent assembly set up a permanent government conforming to the most compelling demands of the whole country or certain of the classes. It goes without saying that the new government was permanent only until there was a new revolution or a new reshaping of the country’s constitutional structure.

Let us now imagine that after seizing power the “Narodnaya Volya party” will remain faithful to Mr. Tikhomirov’s promises and, not coercing the Russian people to anything, will convene a constituent assembly of representatives of the people. Let us assume that the elections will take place in the most favourable conditions for the revolutionaries, and only after “providing the guarantee of the people’s economic independence”, i.e., after the expropriation of the big landowners and employers. Let us even assume that the provisional government will institute electoral qualifications according to estate and class and grant political franchise only to peasants, artisans and proletarians working by hand or brain. Finally, let us suppose that the provisional government will manage to maintain, and the constituent assembly to consolidate, the people’s “political independence”. This will be all the more difficult the sooner the revolutionary situation foretold by Mr. Tikhomirov arises; from Mr. Tikhomirov, too, we learn that even with a powerless bourgeoisie self-government by the people is possible only if the people are sufficiently disappointed in the autocracy of the tsars. Hence it follows that if by the time of the revolutionary outbreak this disappointment is not intense enough, there will not be any self-government by the people and the revolution which has taken place may lead to a political monster similar to the ancient Chinese or Peruvian empires, i.e., to a renewal of tsarist despotism with a communist lining. But refraining from pessimism, we will take into consideration the fact that Russia “can hardly wait” and assume that in view of such urgency our country will hasten to put an end to autocracy. We are so accommodating that we are ready to admit the best possible outcome to be the most probable one and to concede that the purest kind of “government by the people”, i.e., direct popular legislation, will be established in our country. All we ask is whether it can be “expected” that the self– governing people will immediately lay the “foundation of the socialist organisation of Russia”.

We have long known that

... Wo die Begriffe fehlen,
Da stellt ein Wort zur rechten Zeit sich ein

but we ask our reader to ponder the meaning of the words socialist organisation of production and, in order to make it more palpable, to imagine the decisions that the self-governing Russian people will probably come to on this matter.

The representative assembly will be obliged to appeal to the judgement of the people on all important legislative questions.

It will ask the people whether they approve and endorse the expropriation of big proprietors which the provisional government has carried out. And of course the people will answer in the affirmative. The land, the mines, the works and the factories will be declared state property.

But a change in the owner does not mean a change in the organisation of production. The question of expropriation will lead to that of the exploitation of the confiscated properties.

The self-governing people will have to organise on a new basis the whole of their economy, the production and the distribution of all their products.

What form of organisation will the people deem necessary? Will the majority of our peasantry pronounce in favour of communism?

Even Mr. Tikhomirov does not “expect” that. Being in or not far from their present stage of development, the people would not wish or even be able to establish a communist economy.

Even as far as corn-growing is concerned, the people would probably maintain the present organisation of production. After socialisation, the land would still be cultivated by individual households. We already know what that contradiction leads to. It creates inequality, promotes the development of commodity production and consequently of the new contradictions inseparable from it. The history of the disintegration of the village community and of the appearance of the various social classes would be repeated in a new form and on a wider scale. Our Narodniks and Narodnaya Volya members generally see the cause of the disintegration of the community in the hostile attitude adopted to it by the estate and “class” state. But after all that has been said on this subject in the preceding chapter, we need not stop to refute, or rather to explain the real meaning of that conclusion. Modern science leaves not the slightest doubt as to inequality arising in primitive communities before those communities themselves organise into a state. Far from being the original cause for inequality appearing, the state itself is historically its product. Subsequently the state naturally begins to influence economic relations, to destroy primitive communism. But he who wishes to strike at the root of inequality (and without that desire one cannot be a socialist) must direct his attention mainly to its radical, not its derivative cause. It would be very inconsistent on the part of such a one to wish to do away with the kind of state which intensified inequality and to leave untouched the economic relations which create the inequality itself and the “class” state, too. And that would be the very kind of inconsistency that a provisional socialist government would suffer from which did not set itself the aim either of “ teaching” the people, or of “coercing it” to adopt socialist organisation. By leaving that organisation to producers who are absolutely unprepared for it and confining itself to giving the people “purely external” help it would at best be chopping down the trunk and leaving untouched the roots which support it. The former members of such a government would display great naivete if they showed astonishment at a new healthier and stronger trunk growing in the place of the old rotten one.

We repeat, if government by the people were really established in our country, when asked whether they needed land and whether it should be confiscated from the landlords, the self– governing people would answer that they did need it and that it should be confiscated. But if asked whether they needed the “foundation of the socialist organisation”, they would first answer that they did not understand the meaning of that question, and then, having understood it with great difficulty, they would answer: No, we don’t need that. And as the expropriation of the big landowners is by no means equivalent to the “foundation of the socialist organisation”, there would not be any socialism as a result of the seizure of power by the revolutionaries. [11] The outcome would be what Mr. Tikhomirov involuntarily prophesied when he said that the provisional government would use its power “by no means to create a socialist system”. We would be faced with the same village community as now. The total difference would be that, having about three times as much land as at present, the community would perhaps disintegrate more slowly and consequently more slowly clear the ground for higher forms of social life.

What about the further independent development of the village community? Well, its development consists in disintegrating! Whoever disputes, this must prove the opposite; he must show us, if not historical examples of a village community becoming a communist one, at least of the tendency to such a transition, existing not in the heads of our Narodniks but in the very organisation of the community and in all the dynamics of its agricultural economy. We know where, how and why the primitive communist communes were changed into communities of individual householders. But we do not know why and how our Russian village community will accomplish the transition into a communist one. Liking an occasional conversation with the Narodniks, we naturally could not remain unaware that two or three of our communities had organised collective cultivation of the fields. The village of Grekovka, which has distinguished itself by this good action, was once spoken of by absolutely all the “friends of the people” and its example was thought to solve the whole social problem in Russia. But if the peasants in that famous village were ever persecuted for communist tendencies it would not be difficult for their counsel to prove that the prosecutor knew nothing at all about communist doctrines. Collective cultivation of the soil is only a little nearer to communism than collective work in the form of corvée or the “collective ploughing” introduced under Nicholas I with the help of bayonets and birch-rods. However stupid the “unforgettable” tsar was, even he never thought that collective ploughing could give rise to an independent movement towards communism in the village communities. The main stress in this question is not on the manner in which the householders work – individually or collectively – but on the fact whether there are separate household economies and whether they tend to unite in one communist whole. The village of Grekovka has shown no such tendency. Its householders continue to be owners of their products, which they turn into commodities. And once they do not abolish the commodity quality of their products, it can be mathematically proved that the strongest tendency in this community is towards capitalism and by no means towards communism.

Collective cultivation of the soil is a very good and useful thing; but it would be strange to think that it can be the main road from the present village community to the ideals of communism. It can play, if anything, only the role of a small “by-road” leading on to a main road which goes in a completely different direction. It would have rendered great service in the West, where its role would have amounted to giving the peasants the habit of collective work and thus decreasing their resistance to the communist revolution, in which the initiative would have fallen to the proletariat in town and country. But that would have exhausted its advantages. In every historical, as well as mechanical movement, part of the motive force is expended in overcoming resistance. To decrease the resistance means to free a corresponding portion of the force tied down by it and to accelerate the movement. If you pave a main street, if you lubricate an engine, you decrease the labour of the horse drawing a cart and cut down fuel consumption. But not a single mechanic will imagine that the engine will be set in motion just because you have decreased the friction in its parts, no carter will ever dream of unharnessing his horse as soon as he reaches a well-paved road. Any man who imagined or did any such thing would be declared insane by everybody. And there would not be the slightest mistake in the verdict. In order to cause movement we need an active, not a passive force, positive, not negative conditions. The same with the village community. Collective tilling of the soil is good provided there is an active force which causes and accelerates its transition to a higher form of social life. In the West the proletariat would play that role, beginning the communist revolution in a completely different sphere, the sphere of large-scale production and agriculture, in works and factories and on big farms. The force of the proletariat would be created and directed by absolutely definite economic relations existing outside and independently of the community. But where would we get that force from here in our peasant state, set up by the revolution of the Narodnaya Volya party? From among the peasants themselves? It seems to “Mr. Tikhomirov, we know, that history has some kind of independent “movement towards socialism”. He may think that such an independent “movement” will appear among the peasants as well. But we will leave Mr. Tikhomirov and talk to less credulous readers. They will agree, at least, that the economic tendencies of every class are determined by the character of the economic conditions in which it lives. Our peasants live in conditions of commodity production, and in commodity production the product dominates the producer and dictates its laws to him. And the laws of commodity production are such that they promote first and foremost the development of capitalism and capitalist, by no means communist, tendencies. Where, then, will our peasant get a tendency towards communism from?

Is that clear? No? Let us go from discussion to comparison. The Don Cossacks now have as much land as our peasants would have after the popular (of the Narodnaya Volya party) revolution. They have about thirty dessiatines per person. This land belongs not to individuals, not even to individual communities, but to the whole of the “glorious troop”. The question is: Do the Don Cossacks show any tendency to introduce communist economy? As far as I know, not communist, but bourgeois tendencies are becoming stronger and stronger among them. Perhaps this will be put down to the “corrupting influence of the state”? But there was a time when that influence was almost non-existent; why did they not then accomplish the transition to communism? Perhaps, their military way of life prevented them? Just imagine the Cossacks , freed altogether from military service, devoting themselves entirely to peaceful occupations. What would happen in such a case? We will tell you: an intense disintegration of the remaining traces of primitive communism among the Cossacks would set in, then the reign of the Cossack bourgeoisie would be nearer ...

Abundance of land did not save the Cossacks from the appearance of inequality and the resulting exploitation of the poor by the rich. Quite the contrary, abundance of land in itself encouraged the appearance of inequality. [12] The late Professor Belyayev, despite his pronounced Slavophile tendency, perfectly understood the significance of abundance of land in the history of the rise of the classes. “Naturally, there was plenty of land in ancient Russia, far more than was needed at the time, and anybody who wished could occupy without any hindrance enormous expanses of wild fields and woods which belonged to nobody, naturally, all those who could afford it did so.” [13] But not everybody had equal means, and that is why not all occupied the same quantity of land; some did not even occupy any at all, having no means whatsoever to clear and cultivate it. Hence, inequality in income and dependence of the poor upon the rich. Neither is there any doubt that in some cases “the free occupation and cultivation of the land was not long in leading to the concept of landed property”. This side of the matter has been well set forth by M. Kovalevsky in his book on communal land tenure. [15*] Until recent times the right freely to occupy untilled lands existed in the region of the Don Cossacks – and perhaps still exists today in the Kuban territory; that was precisely what allowed the rich to become richer, that is what sowed into that virgin soil the first seeds of the class struggle.

But the state, transformed by the revolution, would prevent such a turn of affairs in our country, another reader will say.

It is difficult to say beforehand what a people’s state would do in one particular case or another, but, having an idea of the economic conditions under which the majority of citizens live, it is not difficult to foresee the general direction that the economic policy of such a state would take. According to Mr. Tikhomirov’s own “expectations” the revolutionary state established would be mainly a state of peasants. Being both unwilling and unable to lay “the foundation of the socialist organisation” in his own community, the peasant would also be both unable and unwilling to set up such an organisation within the broader limits of the state. The economic policy of the people’s state would be just as little communist as that of the individual peasant communities out of which it would be formed. It goes without saying that the state would endeavour to eliminate abuses which could arise as a result of the distribution of social lands to individual persons or groups for cultivation. But it would never bring itself to take away stocks and instruments belonging to the better-off householders. Similarly, it would consider as perfectly just and natural to limit the right of landed property only by the owner’s labour and means, which, naturally, would be his private property. If in fact the peasant has any definite ideals for the social structure, there is no doubt that the freedom by which everybody can occupy free land wherever his “axe, plough, and scythe can go” has a great part in them. The “popular revolution” would provide, at least partly, the possibility to put those ideals into practice; but that would lead, as we know, to inequality between the agriculturists. Once that impulse given, the inequality could, of course, reach its natural extreme and reduce to nil” all the results of the “popular revolution”.

Further. The peasant state would naturally leave untouched not only trade, but also, to a great extent, industrial capital. Mr. Tikhomirov himself apparently admits this when he presumes that the people’s revolution would only render powerless “the already weak nobility and bourgeoisie”. “To render powerless” does not mean to destroy. Need we say what results the existence of trade and industrial capital would lead to? Mr. Tikhomirov assumes that these results would be prevented by that same people’s government. But we will draw his attention to the fact that not all that seems dangerous to the socialist is so in the eyes of the peasant, and consequently of a peasant government. Whereas Mr. Tikhomirov and we are opposed generally to “private business capital”, the peasant waxes indignant only over certain applications of the capitalist principle, he has no objection to its substance. He fully acknowledges the possibility of private business enrichment. That being the case, the “people’s” government will not have any objection to it either. Its radicalism will at best engage in the struggle against the big capital of the manufacturer, but the government will not even think of setting a limit to exploitation by the “master” in general. Hence this is already a second factor leading to the disappearance of the “relative equality” established by the revolution. Mr. Tikhomirov thinks that this factor will be rendered powerless by the “removal of the land from the domain of exploitation”. But we already know that the land will not be altogether “removed” from it; the people’s government will tolerate both inequality in the distribution of land and the possibility of hiring a labourer from among the ruined householders. Peasant “ideals” are easily reconciled with hired labour. Besides, anybody who understands the matter knows that only so-called petty-bourgeois socialism hopes to help the people by “rendering powerless” the bourgeoisie or “removing from the domain of exploitation” this or that particular means of production. And the only reason why it hopes to do so is because the “people” in whom it is interested are the petty bourgeoisie, who stand only to gain if the big bourgeoisie is “rendered powerless”. It is a distinctive feature of petty-bourgeois socialism that its reform plans leave commodity production untouched. This is the origin of its complete theoretical and practical powerlessness. The truly revolutionary working-class movement of the present has nothing in common with the cowardly fantasies of the petty bourgeoisie. Unfortunately, “Russian socialism as expressed” ... in Mr. Tikhomirov’s article is much nearer in this case to the socialism of the petty bourgeoisie than to that of the working class. Like the former, it does not carry its revolutionary projects as far as the elimination of commodity production. It leaves that care to the future, post-revolution “history of the Russian state”. Completely ignoring th e significance of economic evolution in the analysis of its revolutionary premises, it places exaggerated hopes in it as soon as it is concerned with results of the upheaval which it recommends. It calls for revolution. where it is unthinkable without preliminary evolution and appeals to evolution where it is impossible without a radical economic revolution. It wants to be mainly revolutionary but it falls into half-measures and inconsistency as far as the substance is concerned. [14] We will soon see where it borrowed this typical trait, which reduces to nil all its revolutionary phrases.

In his efforts to convince his readers that a people’s government will be able to paralyse the harmful consequences of the impending half-measure economic revolution, Mr. Tikhomirov represents the probable course of Russia’s future social development as follows:

“The government, responsible for the course of affairs in the country, has an interest in the country’s prosperity, for its own popularity depends upon it, and the government will no doubt be obliged to take measures to increase labour productivity and, among other things, to organise large-scale production ... Large-scale production is too obviously advantageous and necessary, in many cases it is even inevitable. The popular masses can understand that easily. Moreover” (and this is particularly interesting, we will remark), “private undertaking, slowed down in the domain of capitalist production, will try in all respects” (just imagine, what an idyll!) “to make clear to the people the advantage and convenience of social production ... We will not even mention the socialist intelligentsia’s influence on the people ... Why can there not thus be gradually effected a transition of the village community into an association, an organisation of exchange among the communities and associations of communities, an association of several communities for some production or other, until the socialist system, developing little by little and increasingly ousting private economy, finally extends to all the functions of the country.” Then, “the advent of the socialist revolution, in some countries of Europe if not in the whole of it,... will place Russia in the almost unconditional necessity to organise her international exchange on the same” (i.e., socialist) “principles and hence will almost impose upon us socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange” (pp.258-59). That is how this question “is viewed” by Mr. Tikhomirov. Before examining its substance we shall make two incidental remarks.

Our author pins great hopes on the influence of the Russian socialist intelligentsia and the West European working-class revolution. We also recognise the significance of that influence but think that it cannot be unconditional. First of all, where did Mr. Tikhomirov get the idea that after the peasant revolution not only a socialist intelligentsia, but any “intelligentsia” at all in the present sense of the word will “be born unhindered”? At present, our socialist intelligentsia, like any other, come mainly from among the official, landlord, merchant and ecclesiastical walks of life, that is, from the higher sections of society, who see education as a means for making a career. While producing careerists, our universities also, by the way, create revolutionaries. But both careerists and revolutionaries are a product of the existence of the bureaucratic state and the higher classes. This is so far beyond doubt that the consciousness of their “bourgeois” origin impelled our revolutionaries, on the one hand, to speak of their “duty to the people” and, on the other, systematically to contrast themselves with the people. The “socialist intelligentsia” are conscious that they form nothing more than one of the branches of the common trunk of the official-ridden “class” state. Mr. Tikhomirov wants to fell that trunk but at the same time he hopes that the branch which is dear to him, far from withering, will be born “unhindered”. That reminds one of the well-known anecdote about the Ukrainian who, having chopped down the bough he was sitting on, was surprised at his own fall. Or perhaps Mr. Tikhomirov thinks that after the “popular revolution” the socialist intelligentsia will be “born unhindered” from the peasantry itself? In that case we fear he is mistaken.

What does the meaning of the revolution he is “expecting” amount to? To an agrarian upheaval, to the expropriation of the big landowners, to the possibility to give the peasants allotments three times as large as the present ones, to the abolition of oppressing taxation. Does Mr. Tikhomirov presume that such an increase in allotments will convince the peasants that higher education is a necessity, that it will compel them, themselves, to send their children to university and their government to support and institute higher educational establishments?

The large quantity of land will so much simplify the peasant’s position, will so greatly increase the importance of extra working hands in his family that the peasantry will see neither the necessity nor any possibility of spending much money and time on higher education.

Universities are necessary for a state of officials, of bourgeoisie and of gentry, and they will eventually be necessary for the proletariat, who, without higher scientific education, will be unable to cope with the productive forces which will have come under their command; but in the reign of the peasant communities universities will be a luxury having little attraction for practical-minded householders. But let us grant that the peasants can “ easily understand” the significance of higher education. Let us remember, besides, that after the “popular revolution” both the bourgeoisie and the gentry will remain; let us assume that both of them will be “rendered powerless” to the extent necessary for them to be able to send their children to higher schools without harming the people economically. Why does Mr. Tikhomirov think that those schools will be nurseries of socialist intelligentsia? In Switzerland we happen to see, on the one hand, a well-to-do peasantry and, on the other, a fairly “powerless”, i.e., petty, bourgeoisie. Do many socialists come from the Swiss schools, where, in fact, the number of peasants’ children is not at all negligible?

Yet isn’t it “easy” for the Swiss peasants “to understand” the advantage of the socialist organisation of production?

Of course it is, but still they don’t understand it! They don’t want to hear of socialism and this is not helped by their survivals of communal land tenure and their famous collective dairies!

The advantages of socialist way of life are so apparent that they would seem “easy to understand” for everybody. But only the socialists of the Utopian period could fail to know that understanding of socialism can be achieved only combined with actual economic necessity. And in a peasant state such a necessity can be present only as a rare coincidence.

And what about the present intelligentsia? the reader will ask. Can they not, when they experience the people’s revolution, devote their energies “to the service of the people and to organising their labour and their social relations”?

Are there many such “intellectuals”? Do they – excuse me for asking – understand much themselves? What will they do against the inexorable logic of commodity production?

Will their exertions be aided by the West European revolution? It is that revolution we want to talk about now.

The West European revolution will be mighty, but not almighty. To have a decisive influence on other countries, the socialist countries of the West will need some kind of vehicle for that influence. “International exchange” is a powerful vehicle, but it is not almighty either. The Europeans have brisk trade with China, but one can hardly be confident that the working-class revolution in the West will very soon “ impose” “socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange” on China. Why? Because China’s “social structure” seriously hinders European ideas and institutions in having decisive influence on it. The same can be said of Turkey, Persia, and so on. But what is the “social structure” of the Sublime Porte? First and foremost a peasant state in which there is still not only the village community, but also the zadruga, which, according to our Narodniks’ scheme, is much closer to socialism. And despite this, despite all the “popular” revolutions in the Turkish Empire, there can be no thought of the European proletariat succeeding without any difficulty in “imposing” socialism on Turkish citizens, even those of Slav origin. Here again a distinction must be made between the active force of circumstances impelling the people towards socialism and the negative conditions which only ease the transition to socialism. The objective logic of the relations inside peasant states by no means “imposes” upon them a “socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange”; and what is imposed upon them purely from outside cannot be crowned with success. No doubt the European working-class revolution will have a very powerful influence on those countries in which at least some strata of the citizens resemble the European working class by their economic situation, their political education and their habits of thought. Its influence will be rather weak, on the contrary, where there are no such strata. The February Revolution had an echo in nearly all countries which resembled France by their “social structure”. But the wave which it raised’ broke on the threshold of peasant Europe. Beware lest the same happens, too, with the future revolution of the proletariat!

“The meaning of this fable is” that West is West and Russia is Russia, or, in other words, don’t count on eating somebody else’s loaf, but yourself get up early and start baking your own. However powerful the possible influence of the European revolution may be, we must bother about providing the conditions which would render that influence effective. As for Mr. Tikhomirov’s half-measure peasant and petty-bourgeois revolution, far from creating those conditions, it will destroy even those which actually exist at present.

In this case, as in all others, all Mr. Tikhomirov’s “ expectations” are full of contradictions. The influence of the West on Russia appears possible to him thanks to “international exchange”. From this it follows that the brisker that exchange is, the sooner the West will “impose” upon us a “socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange”. But the development of our international trade relations presupposes the development of trade, commodity production in our country. And the more commodity production develops, the more the “relative economic equality” resulting from the people’s revolution will be upset, and the more difficult will be “socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange”, at least for the time being, i.e., until the development of commodity production reaches its logical end. But in that case the “popular revolution” which has been carried out will lose all its meaning.

Thus, if after the “upheaval” we return to natural economy, we shall have “relative equality”, but then the West will be unable to influence us because of the weakness of international exchange. On the other hand, if commodity production develops in our country, it will be difficult for the West to influence us because our “relative equality” will be seriously upset and Russia will be transformed into a country of petty bourgeoisie. That is the vicious circle in which Mr. Tikhomirov’s expectations from the West are fated to go round and round. That is what it means to be a metaphysician, that is what it means to consider things “one after the other and apart from each other”! [16*]

Mein theuerer Freund, ich rath’euch drum
Zuerst Collegium logicum.

These are the contradictory hopes pinned on the West by those who suspect the whole of modern European history of being “hazardous” and “unbelievable”! Really, collegium logicum would be very useful for Mr. Tikhomirov!

Having concluded these remarks, let us now go on to the main content of the excerpt quoted above.

4. L. Tikhomirov Wavers Between Blanquism and Bakuninism

In his projects for the socialist organisation of Russia Mr. Tikhomirov is a Bakuninist of the first water. It is true, he does not abolish the state, but his state helps the process of this organisation purely from outside; it does not create the elements of that process, but “only supports them”. P.N. Tkachov, who is Mr. Tikhomirov’s immediate ancestor, presumed that having seized power, the minority must “impose” socialism on the majority. Mr. Tikhomirov’s government eases for the people the organisation of social production “without any violence”, “coming to the help of only such a movement which cannot but arise independently in the country”. In his arguments on the present, Mr. Tikhomirov was Tkachov’s true disciple. His “expectations” from the future are an instance of atavism in ideas, of a return to the theories of a more distant spiritual ancestor.

The anarchist Arthur Arnoult, as we know, wrote: abolish the state, and the economic forces will come into equilibrium as a result of the simple law of statics. [18*] Mr. Tikhomirov says: abolish the modern state, expropriate the big landowners, and the economic forces of Russia will begin “independently” to come into equilibrium. The former appeals to a “law of statics”, the latter to “popular concepts and habits”, i.e., to the same “ideal of the people” with which we are familiar from the works of M.A. Bakunin. Arthur Arnoult aims at the “state” and does not notice that his “criticism” applies only to the modern state, the state of bourgeois centralism. Mr. Tikhomirov wishes to set up a “people’s” state, and he devises a new form of petty-bourgeois state, a state which, without definitely abandoning the principle of laissez faire, laissez passer, i.e., “without creating anything”, manages, all the same, to “support” the independent “movement of history” in our country towards the socialist system.

Bakuninism is not a system, it is a series of contradictions which Messrs, the Bakuninists and the anarchists share in conformity with the general aggregate of “concepts and habits” of each.

Our author has chosen the peculiar variety of Bakuninism that degenerated into P.N. Tkachov’s “programme”. But he has not remained faithful to that programme to the end. The exhortations of his “first teacher” are too fresh in his mind, he has not forgotten that although “our people are most obviously in need of help”, at the same time “one must be an unmitigated blockhead” to “attempt to teach the people anything or to endeavour to give their life a new direction”. And so he has made up his mind to devise a revolutionary government which would give the people “purely external” help, which, without any desire to “use coercion on the popular masses or even to teach them”, would nevertheless guide the matter to a successful end.

We asked Mr. Tikhomirov in what way the socio-political philosophy of his article differs from the philosophy of the “Open Letter to Frederick Engels”. Now it will not be difficult for us to answer that question ourselves. It differs by its pallor and timidity of thought, its desire to reconcile the irreconcilable. What can one say about the pale copy if the original itself, as Engels said, could attract only “green gymnasium pupils”?

M.A. Bakunin professed irreconcilable hatred for any form of state and advised our revolutionaries not to seize power, because all power is of the devil. P.N. Tkachov was of the opinion that they should seize power and hold it for a long time. Mr. Tikhomirov has chosen the golden mean. He thinks that the seizure of power “can easily prove to be useful and necessary”, but at the same time he assumes that the revolutionaries should not strive to keep power indefinitely, but only hold it until the popular revolution begins.

From this awkward position between two stools there can be only two ways out. Our author can seat himself on Bakunin’s or on Tkachov’s stool: he can become an anarchist or a consistent follower (not only a secret pupil) of P.N. Tkachov. But he will hardly succeed in breathing into the “Narodnaya Volya programme” a really new content; he will hardly manage to prove that this or that new idea found “recognition only with the appearance of the Narodnaya Volya trend”. Never yet did empty eclecticism give birth to new mighty theories, never yet did timid hesitation between two old “programmes” open a new epoch in the history of revolutionary ideas in any country!

And so Mr. Tikhomirov will be a follower of Tkachov in the “first day of the revolution” and change into a Bakuninist immediately its honeymoon expires.

But what is Bakuninism when applied to the “lendemain de la revolution”? We repeat, Bakuninism is not a system. It is a mixture of the socialist theories of the “Latin countries” and Russian peasant “ideals”, of Proudhon’s popular bank and the rural community, of Fourier and Stenka Razin.

That mixture is characteristic of the “kind of process of socialisation of labour” recommended to our country by Mr. Tikhomirov and which not only “never existed anywhere” but never can either.

Without any exaggeration one can apply to this “process” Famusov’s words:

Everything is there, provided there’s no deception!

There we have the village community, we have the “transition of the village community into an association”, we have also “an organisation of exchange among the communities and associations of communities”, and besides all that we also have “an association of several communities for some production or other”; in brief, we have here the notorious Bakuninist-anarchist “organisation of the producers from bottom to top”. If the reader has any idea of this “organisation”, he needs no further proof of Tikhomirov’s Bakuninism. But if he has not had the opportunity to become acquainted with the theories of anarchism (which, of course, is no great loss) we recommend that he should read a little pamphlet by a certain once well-known Guillaume called Idées sur l’organisation sociale. Once acquainted with the “process of socialisation of labour” suggested in the pamphlet, he will see that the revolutionary theories of Russian exceptionalists are very closely related to the theories of the European anarchists.

It is difficult for an intelligent Russian to get away from the influence of the “West”. By declaring the most advanced theories of Europe to be “inapplicable” to his own country, the Russian social figure does not save his exceptionalism, but only transfers his sympathy from a serious model to a caricature. Mr. V.V. turns out to be a full brother of the imperial and royal “state socialists” and Mr. Tikhomirov an anarchist standing on his head.

But a position so awkward for our author does not very much promote consistency in his thinking. That is why he does not reach the conclusions at which M.A. Bakunin arrived in his time. Even Mr. Tikhomirov’s most daring outbreaks of “revolutionary fantasy” do not extend to abolishing the businessman’s profit. In the organisation of “social” production, “the businessman, as an undertaker and an able manager” (Bastiat himself would not repudiate such a motive) “still acquires some advantages, fewer, of course, than at present, but the only advantages accessible to him at that time”. [15] This part of the project of the “socialist organisation of Russia” somehow reminds one, on the one hand, of the petty-bourgeois socialist’s jealous attitude to the enormous “profits” of the big businessman and, on the other, of the distribution of the income between labour, capital and talent recommended by Fourier. Not without reason did we say that some varieties of “Russian socialism” are nothing more than a mixture of Fourier and Stenka Razin.

However, in all this, the reader will think, there is at least no deception.

Granted, there is no deception, but there is self-deception. There is not even the slightest ill intent, but there is an enormous dose of naiveté. And it consists in nothing else than the talk about the “socialist organisation of exchange”. For anybody who understands the matter, this is an absurdity, stuff and nonsense. Only petty-bourgeois followers of the petty-bourgeois Proudhon could take this absurdity for anything possible or desirable. But on the other hand it was said of Proudhon that he understood as much about dialectics as a woodcutter about botany. The social structure created by the proletariat can have nothing in common with exchange and will know only distribution of the products according to the requirements of the working people. Some inconsistent Communists find a distribution more convenient if it is proportional to the share the worker has in production. It would not be difficult to find weak sides in such a demand. [16] Nevertheless, even those who put forward that demand have always understood the impossibility of “exchange” in a socialist state.

Whenever you say “exchange” you imply “commodity”, and if you retain commodities, you presuppose all the contradictions inherent in the commodity. And once more, only anarchists could think, to quote Proudhon, that there is a philosopher’s stone which makes it possible to remove from “socialist exchange” all the “bourgeois” contradictions contained in ordinary exchange.

There is not and cannot be any such stone, because exchange is a basic and inseparable attribute of bourgeois production, and bourgeois production is a necessary consequence of exchange. As recently as the late fifties Karl Marx splendidly explained this side of the matter and thus left far behind the present-day scientific progress the petty-bourgeois theories of the anarchists and Bakuninists of all colours and shades. [19*] One must be ignorant of the very ABC of revolutionary socialism to base one’s expectations “from the revolution” on the socialist organisation of exchange.

We have already had occasion to speak of this question in another place [17] but it is so interesting that it will do no harm to repeat what we have said. To make it more comprehensible, this time we shall leave aside the abstract formulae of science and confine ourselves to simple and vivid examples.

Socialist exchange is exchange without money, the direct exchange of product for product according to the quantity of labour expended in their production. It was in that form that the idea emerged from the head of Proudhon, who, by the way, repeated on this occasion a mistake made long before him.

Let us now imagine that “on the day after the revolution” our Bakuninists have succeeded in convincing the Torkhovo community in Tula Gubernia, which we have already mentioned, of the advantages of the socialist organisation of exchange. The members of the community have decided to “lay the foundation” of such an organisation and published their decision in some kind of Narodniye Vedomosti. Their call is answered by the Arkhangelsk fishers, the Novgorod nail-makers, the Kimry shoemakers, the Tula samovar-makers and the Moscow tailors, all members of workers’ associations or village communities. They also have been imbued with the new principles of exchange under the influence of the Bakuninists who “are born unhindered”. No sooner said than done: an “agreement” is concluded and it only remains to put it in practice. After the corn harvest our Proudhonist peasants get down to exchange. They send a certain quantity of corn to Arkhangelsk and receive fish from there; they dispatch a few loads of potatoes to Kimry and bring back boots. They offer the tailors millet, nail-makers groats and the like. All these things are sent not as signs of good will, but in accordance with the conditions previously agreed upon. They will all have to be transported over long distances and with great trouble and it would probably have been more profitable to dispose of them on the neighbouring market; but our peasants are people of principle and are ready to defend the new principle of exchange even if, as they say, it costs more than it is worth. And so the exchange is carried out, our village community members have nails, fish, shoes, samovars and ready-made clothing. But the point is that far from all the peasants’ requirements are satisfied by these articles. They need other articles of consumption, agricultural implements, fertilisers, cattle and so on. Those who produce all these things do not wish to enter into socialist exchange, perhaps because they have read Marx and laugh at Proudhon’s economic “discoveries”, or perhaps because they have not reached the stage of development needed to understand Proudhon’s wisdom and are still ordinary commodity producers. For even Mr. Tikhomirov presumes that the “socialist” system which he recommends will develop only “little by little”. What then must our Torkhovo Proudhonists do in such a case? How will they satisfy the numerous requirements not covered by means of “socialist” exchange? They have only one way out: to but what they have not got. This will also be the case for the tailors, who naturally cannot live on millet alone, and for the nail-makers, who cannot subsist only on groats. In short, side by side with “fair”, socialist exchange the old, so to speak heathen, form of exchange for money will continue to exist. This “cursed money” (maudit argent) will have to be resorted to even in dealings between the proselytes of Proudhonism. If the Kimry shoemakers need only a quantity of potatoes which embodies x days’ work, whereas the Torkhovo people need a number of pairs of boots requiring twice as many days to make, the difference will have to be made up in money, if the Kimry people do not want oats, hay or straw, or any other agricultural products. This can easily be the case if Mr. Prugavin’s prophecy comes true and the Kimry shoemakers again take to agriculture with “the improvement in its conditions”. What will happen then? Becoming organised only “little by little”, the Proudhonist producers will have against them the enormous mass of producers of the old economic “faith”, and the negligible “progress” made with the help of the “socialist organisation of exchange” will always be outbalanced by the regression in “relative equality” which will result inevitably from commodity production and ordinary “bourgeois” exchange. Vice will outweigh virtue, bourgeois relationships will take the upper hand over Proudhonist socialism. Surrounded by the petty-bourgeois majority, the Proudhonists themselves will begin to be “perverted”, all the more as their own wealth will be largely in money of the old “ exploiters’” kind. Tempted by enrichment, the Kimry people can send the Torkhovo people boots with cardboard soles, for which the Torkhovo people will not fail to pay them back with half-rotten “taties”. “The enemy is strong” in general, but in the present case his strength will lean on the invincible logic of commodity production, which will dominate even in the village communities after they have entered into “socialist exchange”. The associations which were set up with difficulty will disintegrate, the Proudhonists will turn into ordinary petty-bourgeois producers and the intelligentsia who have been brought up on Bakuninism will need repeatedly to set about the ungrateful work of spreading the new economic principles. It is the tale of the white bullock, Sisyphean labours! And that is the toil which Mr. Tikhomirov imposes on the Russian socialists merely to bring the reign of socialism as near as possible, so as not to approach it by the slow and difficult road of capitalism. It is a case of haste making waste.

On the question of “socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange” as on that of international trade, one must have in mind this alternative: either the popular revolution will bring us back to natural economy and then “socialist exchange” will develop slowly in our country, because exchange generally will be very weak; or else the revolution will preserve the present tendency towards greater and greater division of labour, towards the complete separation of agriculture from industry, and then the socialist organisation of exchange will be an extremely difficult task because of the great intricacy of the country’s productive mechanism. And yet the slow development of the socialist organisation of exchange robs it even of the sense which its supporters see in it. To cut off at least one village community from the disintegrating influence of money economy, that community must manage to organise socialist exchange with all the producers whose products correspond to its various requirements. In the contrary event, its monstrous money-socialist organism would choke in its own contradictions. But one single community cannot supply agricultural produce to all the producers of all the consumer goods it requires. Those producers will either have to buy part of the raw material they require, and in turn to have a monstrous money-moneyless economy, which will cause their socialist plans to flounder; or they will have to wait for the blessed time when the number of Proudhonist rural communities attains the sufficient and necessary level. With the advent of that blessed time it will be possible to organise the first minimum production and exchange organisation. But what is one such organisation in the immense economic organism of the Russian state? It will be stifled in the surrounding atmosphere of competition. It will be like a drop of honey in a barrel of pitch. Alongside it and against it there will be all the heathen producers; the “nobility and the bourgeoisie”, who, though “rendered powerless”, have not been destroyed by the “popular” revolution, will try to trip it up at every step. What do you think, reader: will the “socialist system finally extend to all the functions of the country” under such conditions? We think that it at best will take a very, very long time. And yet, we repeat, Mr. Tikhomirov indicates “such a process of socialisation of labour” only because of its rapid assault on history. The road that Social-Democracy in all civilised countries has chosen seems to him too “moderate and painstaking”. Our author has chosen the “straight path” and has got stuck in the quagmire of petty-bourgeois reforms which display no consistency, originality or daring at all.

But let us not digress. Suppose the socialist organisation of exchange is rapid and successful. Let us see what the practical application of its principles will lead to.

The Torkhovo village community has entered into a union with the association of the Kimry shoemakers. Their products are exchanged on the basis of “constituted value”, the yardstick of which is labour and labour alone. Proudhon has triumphed. But the practical and “prosperous” Torkhovo “householders” raise the question, which kind of labour must serve as the measure of value? The more ideally inclined Kimry people (shoemakers are always philosophers to some extent) have no difficulty in giving the answer. They say that t he measure of value must be labour in general, abstract human labour. But the “free corn-growers” are not browbeaten. They say they do not know any such kind of labour and that although it may exist “scientifically”, they have to do with the concrete and definite labour of the shoemakers Pyotr, Ivan and Fyodor or a whole association of Pyotrs, Ivans and Fyodors. They are a prey to “bourgeois” doubts and they suppose that to give the Kimry people all the more bread the more time they take to make the boots means to institute a prize for inability, slowness and clumsiness. Exasperated by the lack of understanding displayed by the peasants the shoemakers leave Proudhon aside and appeal, they think, to Marx himself. They say that the measure of the value of their products must be “the socially necessary labour”, the average labour necessary to make boots under the present development of technique. But even that argument does not overcome the obstinacy of the Torkhovo peasants. They do not understand how one can determine the exact quantity of socially necessary labour contained in the work of the importunate shoemakers. Then the latter seek salvation in Rodbertus and triumphantly bring along his pamphlet Der Normalarbeitstag and his correspondence with the Schwerin architect Peters. The Pomeranian economist proves that it is always possible to determine exactly how much the average workman can and must do in a particular branch of production. That average productive labour must be reckoned as socially necessary labour. He who can exceed that norm will receive more, he who cannot reach it, less; the question seems finally exhausted. But just a minute, exclaim the Torkhovo peasants, who were on the point of yielding. Suppose the average productivity of your labour and ours can be determined. We hope that the matter will be taken in hand by the state which “promotes” the socialist organisation of exchange. Suppose it takes two days’ labour to make a pair of boots. But there are many other shoemakers besides your association. They produce for the market, and you, who have sent us thirty pairs of boots, put thousands of pairs on the market. Imagine that the supply of boots exceeds the demand. Then their exchange value drops too, because each pair of boots will represent only one and a half or three-quarters of a day’s socially necessary labour. Do you think we will give you the same amount of corn as before? That would be very unprofitable for us, and charity begins at home, you know. If, on the contrary, not enough boots are made, it will not pay you to sell them at the former “fair” socialist price. In general, it seems to us th at the basis of fairness is the utilitarian principle and that no bargain can be considered as “fair” which causes detriment to one party or the other. But with the present fluctuation of prices on commodities it is absolutely impossible to balance our mutual interests, since the relation of the individual labour of separate producers or the aggregate labour of a whole association of producers to the socially necessary labour is determined only by those fluctuations. So as long as the commodity market dictates to us the conditions for our socialist exchange, the whole of our “ agreement” will be nothing but vain beating of the air. It will bring us just as much profit as if we agreed to write our bills in Roman instead of Arabic figures. You shoemakers have long been noted not only for drunkenness, but for a great inclination to fantasy as well, whereas we peasants are reasonable and have no intention of wasting our time on nonsense.

But don’t you see that the inconveniences of socialist exchange will exist only until all producers agree to join in, the shoemakers will answer. When that time comes nothing will prevent socialist exchange from extending to all the functions of the country.

Yes, but that is coming at a snail’s pace, the corn-growers will object. If everybody agrees to that, we, of course, will not go against the village community. But until then it doesn’t suit us.

The implementation of the “agreement” is thus postponed indefinitely, and meanwhile commodity production takes its normal course and undermines the “relative equality”.

It follows from all this that the time of the “socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange” will not come until it is possible to remove all the contradictions that have been pointed out. And that will be possible only when the labour of each individual person assumes a social character. That can be the case only when the whole of the social production mechanism constitutes a single planned entity. But then the “organisation of exchange” will be the fifth wheel to a cart, because any exchange has sense only as long as the production mechanism in society consists of separate parts not organically linked, i.e., as long as the labour of the producers h as an individual, not a social character. Neither the tribal nor the family community knew any “home exchange” or needed to organise it, for the simple reason that they were based on organised production: if they needed anything it was only some kind of distribution quota. But with the present development of the productive forces even those quotas can be based on a single principle – that of human requirements. After our excursion along the road of “socialist organisation of exchange” we again come back to our starting-point. We arrive back again at the question: how will the socialist organisation of production make its appearance in Russia? We have seen that it will not be introduced by either a provisional or a permanent people’s government; we have also seen that neither communal land tenure nor communal cultivation of the soil will lead to it. Moreover, we are now convinced that “socialist organisation in the sphere of home exchange” will not lead to it either. And yet Mr. Tikhomirov prophesied to us the “foundation of the socialist organisation of Russia”; that was the whole idea of his Narodnaya Volya revolution. How, then, will his prophecy come true?

One must have faith, Mr. Tikhomirov exclaims. Faith “in the people, in one’s own strength, in the revolution”.

“I believe, Lord, help me in my lack of faith! “ We know that faith is a beautiful thing; that “it is faith that guides the navigator when, trusting to fate his frail bark, he prefers the fickle movement of the waves to the more solid element, the land”. But the same divinely inspired father who makes this apology of faith could also tell us in what unstable equilibrium faith finds itself when it enters into contradiction with reason. And Mr. Tikhomirov’s “faith” suffers greatly from that gross defect. He has faith in his own, semi-Bakuninist, semi-Tkachovist revolution only because his reason is perfectly satisfied with the Tkachov-Bakunin philosophy. But as soon as his reason becomes more exacting not a trace of this faith of his will be left. He will then understand that he was cruelly mistaken when he considered it permissible to talk about the economic revolution knowing nothing at all about the ABC of economics, i.e., having no idea of money, commodity and exchange.

For the rest, we shall not make any special reproach to our author on these last grounds. We will say: his faith has saved him. He has been mistaken only because he “had faith” in Tkachov and Bakunin; not he is to blame, but those who “tempted” him.

The important thing for us is the conclusion from all that has been said. And we can formulate it as follows: all Mr. Tikhomirov’s expectations “from the revolution” are nothing but a continual misunderstanding and a return of advanced Russian thought to the beaten track of Bakuninism. But “what was is overgrown with the past, and what will be will not be in the old way, but in a new way”, as the popular song says. Discredited in the seventies, Bakuninism will not be revived in the eighties. It will not be resuscitated even by men either more eloquent or more noisy than Mr. Tikhomirov.

Those of our readers to whom this conclusion seems convincing can raise a new and last objection. They can say that our arguments are founded on the supposition that Mr. Tikhomirov will only take power, but will not hold it for any length of time. What will happen if the revolutionaries, instead of following Mr. Tikhomirov’s directions, follow those of Tkachov, if they justify the opinion of P.L. Lavrov who, as much as ten years ago, said that “the dictatorship can be wrenched from the hands of the dictators only by a new revolution”?

5. Probable Consequences of the Seizure of Power by the Socialists

What will happen then? Oh, then there will be a most disgraceful fiasco for the Russian socialist party! It will be obliged to undertake an “organisation” for which it has neither the necessary strength nor the requisite understanding. Everything will combine to defeat it: its own unpreparedness, the hostility of the higher estates and the rural bourgeoisie, the people’s indifference to its organisational plans and the underdeveloped state of our economic relations in general. The Russian socialist party will provide but a new historical example corroborating the thought expressed by Engels in connection with the Peasant War in Germany

“The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government in an epoch when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class which he represents, and for the realisation of the measures which that domination implies. What he can do depends not upon his will but upon the degree of contradiction between the various classes, and upon the level of development of the material means of existence, of the conditions of production and commerce upon which class contradictions always repose. What he ought to do, what his party demands of him, again depends not upon him or the stage of development of the class struggle and its conditions. He is bound to the doctrines and demands hitherto propounded which, again, do not proceed from the class relations of the moment [18], or from the more or less accidental [19] level of production and commerce, but from his more or less penetrating insight into the general result of the social and political movement. Thus, he necessarily finds himself in an insolvable dilemma. What he can do contradicts all his previous actions, principles and immediate interests of his party, and what he ought to do cannot be done. In a word, he is compelled to represent not his party or his class, but the class for whose domination the movement is then ripe. In the interests of the movement he is compelled to advance the interests of an alien class, and to feed his own class with phrases and promises, and with the asseveration that the interests of that alien class are their own interests. Whoever is put into this awkward position is irrevocably lost.” [20*]

Hence it follows that Mr. Tikhomirov is greatly mistaken when he imagines that the seizure of power by the revolutionaries would be the “starting-point of the revolution”. Quite the contrary: such a “seizure” would be a signal for reaction. It would not consolidate the influence of the country’s progressive forces, but, having exhausted them in the first sterile effort, it would guarantee the triumph of the conservative and reactionary parties. Not only would the Russian revolution diverge from the example of the French Revolution which our Jacobins treasure and which is the only comprehensible one for them, but in its development it would be the exact opposite of that revolution. Whereas up to a certain time every new wave of the French Revolution brought on to the arena of history a more extreme party, our home-reared Jacobins would reduce to nil the corresponding period of the Russian revolution. Shattered and discredited, they would withdraw from the stage under a hail of hostile accusations and mockery, and the unorganised and disunited masses of the people, having no leaders, would be unable to overcome the systematic resistance of their enemies. At the very best the popular revolt would end in the overthrow of the remnants of the old regime without bringing the working class the reforms which most directly and immediately affect their interests.

As Marx notes, all facts of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. [21*] The history of the French Jacobins is a majestic tragedy, lull of burning interest. But the history of the conspiratorial plans of the modern Blanquists (Russian and foreign) despite the heroism of individuals remains a farce whose tragi-comicality lies in the complete inability of the cast to understand the meaning and character of the impending working-class revolution.

Author’s Footnotes

10. Vestnik Narodnoi Voli No.2, pp.255-56.

11. [Note to the 1905 edition.] This is what our present “socialist-revolutionaries” still refuse to understand when they put themselves out to resuscitate our old “revolutionary” prejudices.

12. [Note to the 1905 edition.] This was confirmed a few years later by Mr. Borodin’s excellent study on the Ural Cossack troop.

13. «Крестьяне на Руси», 2-ое исд., Москва 1879, стр.19. [The Peasants in Russia, 2nd edition, Moscow 1879, p.19.]

14. [Note to the 1905 edition.] This again applies in full to the present “socialist-revolutionaries”.

15. Vestnik Narodnoi Voli No.2, What Can We Expect, etc., p.258.

16. [Note to the 1905 edition.] Of course this demand is inconsistent only as an ideal, as a transitional measure it can turn out to be perfectly expedient.

17. [Note to the 1905 edition.] I here refer to my exposition and criticism of Rodbertus’ economic doctrine.

18. [Italics by Plekhanov.]

19. [Italics by Plekhanov.]


14*. From Goethe’s Faust.

15*. See M. Kovalevsky’s book Communal Land Tenure, the Causes, Course and Consequences of Its Disintegration, Moscow 1879.

16*. F. Engels, Anti-Dühring, Moscow 1959, p.34-35.

17*. From Goethe’s Faust.

18*. Arthur Arnoult, L’état et la révolution, Geneva and Brussels, Rabotnik, 1877.

19*. The reference is to K. Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published in Berlin in 1859.

20*. F. Engels, The Peasant War in Germany, Moscow 1956, pp.138-39.

21*. K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Cf. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol.1, Moscow 1958, p.247.

Last updated on 16.10.2006