L. Trotzky


The Georgian Gironde as a Political Type

(March 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 24, 28 March 1922, pp. 178–180.
An alternative version/translation of this text can be found in the book Between Red and White.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2019. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The most important ro1e in the history of Menshevism was played by Georgia. It was in Georgia that Menshevism came to the clearest expression of the adaption of Marxism to the needs of the intelligentsia of a reactionary and mostly pre-capitalistic people. The non-existence of industries meant the non-existence of the national bourgeoisie. Trading-capital was chiefly in the hands of Armenians. The spiritual culture was chiefly represented by the intelligentsia of the lower nobility. The new capitalism that was setting in had not as yet created a new culture, although it did create new needs. The Georgian nobility could not satisfy these needs with the income it got from vineyards and sheep-breeding. The dissatisfaction with Russian officialdom and Czarism joined with hatred of capitalism, as represented by the Armenian merchant and usurer. The uncertainty of the morrow and the search for a remedy rendered the younger generation of the nobility and the petty-bourgeois intellectuals receptive of democratic ideas. They were thus driven to seek support among the workers. At this time, at about the end of the nineteenth century, the program of political democracy had long ago lost its Jacobin or Manchester character, and had been completely modified in the course of historical development. It no longer constituted the ideology of the oppressed masses of Europe. These petty-bourgeois intellectuals professed various socialistic theories, which were constantly being rejected by Marxism. The desire of the younger petty-bourgeois generation of city and country, influenced as it was by the jealous hatred of capitalism, to get a broader field for literary, political and other activities, the first movement of the journeymen, the factory and the few industrial workers, and finally the utter dissatisfaction of the oppressed peasantry – all this came up in the new Menshevik “edition” of Marxism.

This “new edition” recognized the inevitability of capitalist development, sanctified the ideas of political democracy that had already been compromised in the west, and predicted that after many, many centuries, the working-class would come to po«er, and that the democracy would organically and unhampered develop into the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“Noble” by birth, bourgeois by manner of living and in their psychology, and with false Marxist passports in their pockets, the leaders of Georgian Menshevism stepped into the arena of revolutionary activity. Thanks to their Southern sensitiveness and capacity to adapt themselves they often rose to the leadership of the students’ and general democratic movements. The prison cell, exile and Duma tribune fortified their authority and lent a definite traditional character to Georgian Menshevism. The more turbulent the revolutionary sea became, and the more complicated the domestic and the international revolutionary problems became, the clearer could the petty-bourgeois weaknesses of Menshevism be seen, especially that of the Georgian wing. Political cowardice is a very characteristic feature of Menshevism. But the revolution can ill bear cowardice. During the great events, the Mensheviki were very sad and miserable creatures indeed. Their cowardice revealed the cringing of the petty-bourgeois before the great bourgeois, of the bourgeois intellectual before the general, of the petty lawyer before the “genuine” diplomat, and of the vain provincial before the Frenchman or Englishman. Their cowardice before the patented representatives of capital is the reverse side of the hauteur they display before the working class. Tseretelli’s bitter hatred against Soviet Russia may be partly attributed to his indignation against a courageous attempt made by the workers. The workers actually dared to accomplish something which only he, as an educated petty-bourgeois, could be capable of, and even that only with the permission of the bourgeoisie.

When Tchkhenkeli or Gegetchkori speak of Communists no epithet is too black for them; but when they address the Czarist general Alexeieff, or the German von Kress or the Englishman Walker [1], they take the greatest pains to put on the fine polished tone of the Swiss maître d’hôtel. The ghosts they fear most are the generals. They therefore seek to assure them and convince them in the most reverential and dutiful manner that Georgian Socialism has nothing in common with any of the other forms of Socialism. All the other Socialisms are destructive and breed unrest, whereas the Georgian Socialism carries with it a guaranty for “peace and order”. It seems that their political experiences make the petty-bourgeois cynical, but not in the least sensible.

The diary of Djugeli is a characteristic self-portrait of one of the Menshevik “knights”, who burns villages and makes entries in his diary in the style of a degenerate gymnasium student, of his great delight over the beauty of the conflagration, and his great resemblance to Nero. No doubt these contemptible manners are impersonating the Bolsheviki, who do not conceal the fact of civil war and their harsh treatment of the enemies. Djugeli and his teachers are not in the least aware of the fact that this open policy of revolutionary force, which has no fear of itself, is based upon its historical right and revolutionary mission. They do not in the least comprehend that this policy has nothing in common with the wild cynicism of a “democratic” provincial tyrant who burns peasant villages and looks into the mirror gloating over the resemblance he bears to the degenerate Roman Emperor.

Soon after Jordania, Ramishvili, the Minister of the Interior, proclaimed with false pathos the right of the democracy to unmerciful terror, basing his argument on Marx. From Nero to Marx! ... This grimacing sophistry of the provincial petty bourgeois and their superficial monkey-like imitations are eloquent witnesses of their emptiness and sterility.

The more the Mensheviki became aware of the absolute powerlessness of “independent” Georgia, and the more acute their need for Allied protection became after Germany was defeated, the more carefully did they hide the instruments of their “special division”, and in place of the false and cheap Djugeli-Nero mask, they put on the equally false and equally cheap mask of Jordania-Tseretelli-Gladstone, the great promulgators of liberal platitudes.

This falsified Marxism was really a psychological necessity for the Georgian Mensheviki, especially to the younger generation, since it served to reconcile them with their essentially bourgeois attitude. Their political cowardice, their democratic rhetoric, their platitudinous pathos, their instinctive repugnance to everything exact, complete or sharp on the intellectual field, and their jealous idolatry of all the outer forms of bourgeois civilisation – all these features combined to form a psychological type which was diametrically opposed to the Marxist type.

At those occasions in Petrograd, Tiflis or Paris, upon which Tseretelli spoke of “international democracy” one could never tell whether he meant the mythical “Family of Nations”, the International or the Entente. Yet he so expresses himself as to suggest the inclusion of the world proletariat. The haziness of his ideas and concepts aids him in his sleight-of-hand tricks. Again, when Jordania, the “head of the clan”, speaks of international solidarity, he does not fail to refer to the hospitality of the Georgian kings. After his return from Europe, Tchkhenkeli announces “that the future of the International and of the League of Nations (!) is assured”. National prejudices and splinters of Socialism, Marx and Wilson, rhetorical enthusiasm and petty-bourgeois limitations, pathos and humbug, International and League of Nations, a drop of sincerity and an ocean of plain charlatanry, – all this crowned with the self-satisfaction of the provincial apothecary, formed a mixture which shaken by historical events, constituted the soul of Georgian Menshevism.

The Georgian Mensheviki were thrown into raptures by the 14 points of Wilson. They greeted the League of Nations; not so long ago they had greeted the troops of the German Kaiser as they entered Georgia. They hailed the entry of the English troops. They cheered the friendly statement of the English admiral. Of course, they greeted Vandervelde, Kautsky and Mrs. Snowden. They would cheerfully at any moment greet even the Archbishop of Canterbury were he willing to damn the Bolsheviki a few times. In this wise, these gentlemen prove that they are flesh of the flesh of “European Culture”.

They unmask themselves almost completely in the memorandum which the Georgian delegation presented to the League of Nations.

The latter part of this memorandum reads as follows:

“The Georgian nation, which recognizes the principles of Western Democracy, naturally sympathizes immensely with the idea of creating a political system which being a direct sequence of the war, will serve as a means of preventing future wars. The League of Nations which embodies this system is the most significant work of humanity (!) on the way to its future unity, The Georgian government hereby applies for membership in the League of Nations, and it is of the opinion that the very principles that are to be applied from now on (!) for the regulation of international life in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation, in themselves justify the admission of the old (!) nation, once the vanguard of Christianity (!) in the Orient, into the family of free European nations. Be it also taken into consideration that the Georgian nation is at present the only vanguard of democracy. It stands alone in its efforts to work freely and diligently in the household of its legitimate and undisputed heritage.”

This statement can in no way be altered or modified. It is a classical document of bourgeois banality. The Socialist who after reading this memorandum does not vomit should at once and forever be thrown out of the labor-movement. The net result of Kautsky’s studies of Georgia is his conviction that true, unlimited and unadulterated Marxism exists only in Georgia. In the whole of Russia, however, with its factions, inner fights and splits, as well as in the rest of this sinful earth of ours, which in this respect is no better than Russia, this is not the case. At the same time, however, Kautsky does not forget to point out that Georgia possesses neither large-scale nor middle-sized industries, and consequently no industrial proletariat. The majority of Menshevik representatives in the Georgian Constituent Assembly consisted of teachers, doctors and officials; the majority of electors – peasants. But Kautsky does not take the trouble to account for this ostensible historical wonder. He who, together with all the Mensheviki, accuses us of parading the retrograde features of Russia as progressive and advantageous finds his ideal of Social Democracy in the most reactionary corner of the old Russia.

The fact that Georgian “Marxism” has as yet not undergone the splitting and fractional struggles that the other unfortunate countries had to go through is in reality only a sign of the low degree of development of its social structure. The process of differentiation between bourgeois and proletarian democracy takes place much later here than elsewhere. All this only goes to show that Georgian Menshevism has nothing whatever in common with Marxism. Instead of dwelling upon this fundamental question, Kautsky condescendingly declares that he knew the Marxism principles when we were still in our swaddling clothes. We shall not contest this advantage of Kautsky’s.

Shakespeare’s wise Nestor based his claim to fame upon the fact that his sweetheart was at one time more beautiful than the grandmother of his younger enemy. But is it not also possible that just because he studied the Socialist alphabet so very, vert long ago, Kautsky it now unable to apply the ABC to Georgia? The longer and less fought for Menshevik regime in Georgia is in his opinion the fruit of the highest tactical wisdom. But in reality it is a mere sequence of the fact that in reactionary Georgia the epoch of revolutionary Socialism set in at a later period than in other parts at old Russia.

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Footnote by MIA

1. In the printed article “Wokker”, probably a phonetic rendering of the Cyrillic spelling.

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