V. I.   Lenin

The Social Structure of State Power, the Prospects and Liquidationism

Published: Mysl, No. 4, March 1911. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Mysl text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 17, pages 144-163.
Translated: Dora Cox
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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The questions indicated above occupy, from the point of view of their importance, one of the foremost, if not the foremost place in the system of views of a Marxist who wishes to understand the realities surrounding him. The period 1908–10 undoubtedly bears a distinctive character. The social structure of society and of state power is characterised by changes, and unless these changes are understood not a single step can be taken in any sphere of social activity. The understanding of these changes determines the prospects for the future, by which we mean, of course, not idle guessing about things unknown, but the basic trends of economic and political development—those trends, the resultant of which determines the immediate future of the country, those trends which determine the tasks, direction and character of the activity of every intelligent public man. And this last question of the tasks, direction and character of activity is most closely connected with the question of liquidationism.

No wonder then that as far back as 1908, as soon as it had become—or was beginning to become—clear that we were confronted with a new, distinctive period in Russian history, the Marxists paid particular attention to the questions of the social structure of state power, prospects for the future, and liquidationism; they pointed to the inseparable connection between these questions and systematically discussed them. Furthermore, they did not confine themselves to mere discussion, for that would have been “literary scribbling” in the worst sense of the word; that would have been possible only in a discussion group of intellectuals not conscious of their responsibility and not troubled by politics. No, they worked out an exact formulation of the   results of the discussion, a formulation that could serve as a guide, not only for a member of the given literary circle, not only for a person connected in one way or another with a definite intellectualist category, but for any and every conscious representative of the class who regards the ideology of Marxism as his own. This necessary work was completed by the end of 1908.

I have already pointed out the principal results of this work in No. 2 of our journal. I take the liberty of quoting a few lines in order to make further exposition more intelligible.

The development of the Russian state system during the past three centuries shows that its class character has been changing in one definite direction. The monarchy of the seventeenth century with the Boyars’ Duma did not resemble the bureaucratic-aristocratic monarchy of the eighteenth century. The monarchy of the first half of the nineteenth century was not the same as the monarchy of 1861–1904. In the 1908–10 period a new phase was clearly outlined, marking one more step in the same direction, which may be described as the direction leading towards a bourgeois monarchy. The character of the Third Duma and the present agrarian policy are closely connected with this step. The new phase, therefore, is not, an accident but represents a specific stage in the capitalist, evolution of the country. This new phase does not solve the old problems, nor can it do so; consequently, since it is unable to eliminate them, it calls for the use of new methods of approach to old solutions of old problems” (No. 2, p. 43). And a few lines further: “Those who deny (or who do not understand) ... that we are confront ed with the old problems and are heading towards the old solution of these problems, are in fact deserting Marxism, are in fact surrendering to the liberals (as Potresov, Levitsky and others have done)” (p. 44).[1]

Whatever attitude one may adopt towards the set of ideas expressed in these propositions, it would hardly be possible to deny the very close connection and interrelation existing between the separate parts of this appraisal of the given period. Take, for instance, the decree of November 9,   1906 (the law of June 14, 1910). There can be no disputing the fact that each of them bears a clearly expressed bourgeois character which marks a change of principle in the agrarian policy long pursued by the “upper” strata towards the village commune and allotment ownership. But so far, not even the most unprincipled weathercocks such as the Cadets, have ventured to assert that this change of principle has already settled the question, has already created new foundations of capitalist peasant economy, or has already eliminated the old problems. The connection between the law of June 14, 1910, and the system of elections to the Third Duma, as well as the social composition of the latter is obvious; it would have been impossible to carry out this law, to take a series of measures to put it into practice other than by establishing an alliance between the central government and the feudal (let us use this not very exact, general European expression) landowners and the upper strata of the commercial-industrial bourgeoisie. We are thus faced with a distinctive stage in the entire process of capitalist evolution of the country. Does this stage do away with the retention of “power and revenue” (speaking in a sociological sense) in the hands of the landowners of the feudal type? No, it does not. The changes that took place in this, as in all the other spheres, do not remove the fundamental traits of the old regime, of the old relation of social forces. Hence the fundamental task of a politically conscious public man is clear; he must evaluate these new changes, “make use” of them, grasp them, if we may use that expression, and at the same time, he must not allow himself to drift helplessly with the stream, he must not throw out the old baggage, he must preserve the essentials in the forms of activity and not merely in theory, in the programme, in the principles of policy.

How then did Potresov and Martov, Dan and Axelrod, Levitsky and Martynov, the “ideological leaders “who group themselves round publications of the Vozrozhdeniye, Zhizn, Dyelo Zhizni, Nasha Zarya, etc., type, react to this definitely formulated answer to the “vexed questions”, to this direct and clear exposition of definite views? The fact is that they did not react like politicians, “ideological leaders”, responsible publicists, but like a literary group,   like a circle of intellectuals, like free lances of free groups of the writing fraternity. Like men who knew how to appreciate the fashion and the spirit of the times as accepted in liberal parlours, they tittered condescendingly over this antiquated, out-of-date, eccentric striving to formulate answers to vexed questions. Why such exactitude, when one can write wherever one pleases, about anything one pleases, whatever one pleases, and in any way one pleases, when the Milyukovs and Struves furnish excellent examples of all the advantages, conveniences and privileges that follow from the evasion of direct answers, of an exact enunciation of views, of formulated professions de foi, etc., when Forgetful Ivans (and especially the Ivans who do not like to recall the exact formulations of the past) are being honoured and respected in the broadest circles of “society”?

Thus, throughout the past three years, we have not observed the slightest attempt on the part of this entire literary fraternity to present their own formulated answer to the “vexed questions”. There have been many metaphors and idle hypotheses, but not a single straight answer. The distinguishing, characteristic feature of the fraternity under consideration was their love of amorphism, i. e., of that symptom which was recognised in the most definite, precise and unequivocal terms to be an integral part of liquidationism at the very time the direct reply to the vexed questions was given. To drift aimlessly with the stream, to delight in one’s amorphism, to “put paid” to that which is contrasted to the amorphous present—this is one of the main features of liquidationism. Opportunists always and everywhere passively abandon themselves to the stream, rest content with answers “from event to event”, from congress (drunks) to congress (factory),[4] they are satisfied to transfer their affiliation from one “association” (albeit the most respectable and useful—trade unions, consumers’ societies, cultural societies, temperance societies, etc.) to another, etc. Liquidationism is the sum total of the tendencies that are peculiar to all opportunism in general, and reveal themselves in definite forms in one of our social-political trends in a certain period of Russian history.

History has preserved only two definite opinions of the liquidators on the above “direct answer” (to the vexed questions).   The first opinion: the adjective “bourgeois” ought to be replaced by the adjective “plutocratic”. Such a substitution, however, would be utterly incorrect. The epoch of 1861–1904 reveals to us the growth of the influence (and often the preponderating influence) of the plutocracy in the most varied spheres of life. What we see in the 1908-10 period is no longer plutocracy, but something different—the result of the bourgeoisie having recognised itself as a class. It is mindful of the lessons received during the preceding three years and is creating an ideology which in principle is hostile to socialism (not to European socialism, not to socialism in general, but specifically to Russian socialism) and to democracy. Moreover, the bourgeoisie is organised nationally, that is, as a class, a definite section of which is permanently represented (and in a very influential way, too) in the Third Duma. Finally, in the agrarian policy of 1908–10, too, there is a system which carries out the definite plan of a bourgeois agrarian regime. To be sure, this plan does not “work” yet; but this failure is the failure of one of the bourgeois systems, while the plutocracy has undoubtedly been “successful” in the villages, i. e., the village plutocracy is certainly gaining in consequence of the agrarian policy of 1908–10, whereas the bourgeois regime, for which so many sacrifices are made, is still unable to “fit in”. In a word, the proposed term “plutocratic” is inept in every respect, so much so that the liquidators themselves apparently prefer to forget this proposal.

Another opinion: the answer outlined above is incorrect because it is equal to the advice to “shove in where we once met with ...”[5] bad luck. This brief but energetic opinion is valuable because it expresses in a striking form the results of all the literary productions of the liquidators from Potresov’s The Social Movement down to Mr. Levitsky in Nasha Zarya. This opinion is a purely negative one; it confines itself to condemning “shoving” without giving any positive indication as to where one should “shove”. Swim, they seem to say, as best you can, like “everybody else”, but do not consider it worth while to indulge in generalisations as to where you will or should emerge.

However much the opportunists would like to avoid being worried by generalisations, to avoid all “unpleasant” talk   about giving a direct answer to the “vexed questions”—this is impossible. Drive Nature out of the door and she will fly in through the window. By the irony of history the very same liquidators who like to pose as “progressives”, as alien to “conservatism”, and who in 1908 scornfully turned up their noses at the suggestions that there was need for a direct answer, were forced, almost a year and a half later, in the summer of 1910, to reckon with these suggestions. And they were forced to do so by events in their own camp. They had almost completely evaded the direct answer demanded in certain contemptible, out-of-date, atrophied, useless, pernicious, “hopeless quarters”, when suddenly, a year and a half later, a “trend” arises among the liquidators themselves, which also demands a direct answer and which challengingly gives a direct answer!

As was to be expected, the role of “challenger” was assumed by Y. Larin; but this time he was not alone. Larin, we know, is the enfant terrible of opportunism. He is distinguished by a great fault (from the point of view of the opportunists); he takes the trends that appear among them seriously, sincerely and thoughtfully, tries to link them up into a consistent whole, to think them out to the end, to obtain direct answers, to draw practical conclusions. Those who are familiar with Larin’s book on a broad workers’ party (it appeared three or four years ago) will certainly remember how he crushed in his fervent embraces Axelrod’s notorious idea of a labour congress.

In March 1910, Larin began to publish a series of articles in Vozrozhdeniye on this very question of the social structure of state power, the prospects for the future, and liquidationism. He was joined by Mr. Piletsky. Both writers tackled these questions, to which they vainly sought a direct answer in their liquidationist camp, with the zeal of neophytes, and they began to hit out right and left: no use talking of serfdom in present-day Russia, the government has already evolved into a bourgeois government. “Both the first and the second “elements,” says Larin singling out the notorious “third element”,[6] “may sleep in peace; October 1905 is not on the order of the day” (Vozrozhdeniye, No. 9–10, p. 20). “If the Duma were abolished, it would be restored more rapidly than in post revolutionary Austria, which   abolished the Constitution in 1851 only to recognise it again in 1860, nine years later, without any revolution, simply because it was in the interests of the most influential section of the ruling classes, the section whose economy was run on capitalist lines. Eventually, the struggle of the various sections of the ruling classes amongst themselves, after the social system of bourgeois relations has been extended, will force them in our country, as elsewhere, to expand the framework of the electoral system” (ibid., p. 26). “The process of bringing Russia into the capitalist world ... is being completed in the political sphere as well. This means that at the present stage a nation-wide revolutionary movement like that of 1905 is impossible” (p. 27).

Thus, since power [according to Larin’s conclusions] is not vested ‘almost entirely’ in the hands of the feudal landowners, the struggle for power by the ‘capitalists of land and factory’ against the feudal landowners cannot be transformed into a nation-wide struggle against the existing government” (No. 11, p. 9). “... To base one’s tactical line on the expectation of an approaching ‘nation-wide revival’ would mean condemning oneself to fruitless waiting” (ibid., p. 11). “One must not sit between two stools. If nothing has changed in the social nature of the government, then the tasks and the forms of activity will necessarily prove to be the old ones, and the only thing left to do is ‘fight the liquidators’. But if anyone wants to go further, to build the new to replace, to continue and to raise up the old that is in ruins and has become useless, then let him be consistent and realise what the conditions for construction are” (ibid., p. 14).

Well, isn’t that Larin naïve? He demands that the opportunists be “consistent”, that they should not try “to sit between two stools”.

The editors of Vozrozhdentye were taken aback. In No. 9–10 they announced that they disagreed with Larin and wrote that while he revealed “freshness of thought”, “Y. Larin’s articles failed to convince us”. In No. 11, apparently on behalf of the editors, V. Mirov wrote disagreeing with Larin, and acknowledged that Larin and Piletsky represented “a definite trend which theoretically has not yet been definitely established, but which speaks in very clear language” (the greatest defect from the standpoint of the opportunists!).   Mr. Mirov wrote: “Larin has touched on another question of liquidationism incidentally and unexpectedly [just like that! this restless Larin with his “very clear language” is always causing annoyance to his friends!]. It seems to us that there is no close connection between the way in which the Party is to be built up and the nature of the Russian Government, and we reserve to ourselves the right to deal separately with this matter” (issue of July 7, 1910, p. 22).

It was L. Martov in Zhizn, No. 1, of August 30, 1910, who “dealt separately” with the matter on behalf of that “we”. He declared (p. 4) that “he could only join” with V. Mirov and the editors against Larin. Thus the last word in this entire discussion among the liquidators has been uttered by L. Martov.

Let us take a close look at this last word of the liquidators.

As usual, Martov tackles the matter in a very lively manner and very ... “dexterously”. He begins by saying that “a careful search was made for the bourgeoisie in power, or for the ruling bourgeoisie, immediately after the coup d’état of June 3, 1907”. “The June Third regime is that of the domination of the Russian trading and industrial bourgeoisie. This conception was accepted equally by the above-mentioned group of Menshevik writers (Larin, Piletsky) and by their opposites, the orthodox Bolsheviks, who in 1908” wrote “about the birth of a bourgeois monarchy in Russia”.

Isn’t this a priceless gem of “dexterity”? Larin reproaches Martov for trying to sit between two stools and bluntly admits, without subterfuges and stratagems, that it is necessary to fight the liquidators if the answer to the vexed questions given by the “orthodox” is not to be redrafted.

But Martov “dexterously” turns somersaults in mid-air and attempts to persuade the readers (who in August 1910 had no opportunity whatever of hearing the other side) that “this scheme” “was equally acceptable” to both Larin and the “orthodox”!!

This dexterity smacks of that of Burenin or Menshikov[7] for it is impossible to imagine a more shameless ... deviation from the truth.

Among other things, Martov writes in the same article: “In literary discussions people usually forget who really   ‘started it’”. True, that happens in discussions among literary men in which there is no question of working out an exact, properly formulated answer to vexed questions. But it is precisely not a discussion among literary men and not just a literarydiscussion” with which we are dealing. L. Martov is fully aware of the fact hut deliberately misleads the readers of Zhizn. Martov knows perfectly well the nature of the formulated answer given and supported by the “orthodox”. Martov knows perfectly well that it is precisely this answer that Larin is fighting, calling it “ossified routine”, “building castles in the air”, etc. Martov knows perfectly well that he himself and all his adherents and colleagues rejected the formulated answer given by the “orthodox”. Martov knows perfectly well “who really started it”, who began (and finished) the framing of the precise answer, and who confined himself to sniggering and expressing dissent, without giving any answer at all.

It is impossible to imagine a more disgusting, a more dishonest trick than the one played by L. Martov! Larin by his straightforwardness and outspokenness painfully hurt the diplomats of liquidationism when-he admitted (though only after a year and a half) that it was quite impossible to dispense with a definite answer. They cannot face the truth. And L. Martov tries to deceive the reader by making it appear that Larin accepts a scheme that is identical” with that of the orthodox, although in reality the two schemes are opposed to each other; Larin’s scheme implies the justification of liquidationism, that of the “orthodox” implies the condemnation of liquidationism.

In order to cover up his trick, Martov picks out from the “scheme” one little word and distorts its connection with the context (a method worked out to perfection by Burenin and Menshikov). Martov asserts that the “orthodox” wrote about the “birth of a bourgeois monarchy in Russia”—and since Larin writes that there can be no talk of feudalism in Russia, that the government is already bourgeois—“ergo” the schemes of Larin and of the “orthodox” are “identical”!! The trick is done; and the reader who believes Martov is fooled.

In reality, however, the “scheme”, or, to be more precise, the answer of the orthodox, is that the old power in Russia   is, “taking another step in the transformation into a bourgeois monarchy”; and that the path of capitalist development should be such as would “preserve their power and their revenue for precisely the feudal type of landowners” and that as a result of this state of affairs “the basic factors of economic and political life which called forth” the first crisis in the beginning of the twentieth century “continue to operate”.

Larin says that the government is already bourgeois, therefore only partisans of “ossified routine” speak of the “preservation of power” by the feudal landowners, therefore the “basic factors” of the former upsurge no longer operate, therefore it is necessary to build something new “in place of ‘the old that has become useless’”.

The “orthodox” say that the government is taking another step along the path of transformation into a bourgeois (not government in general, but) monarchy, while the real power remains and is preserved in the hands of the feudal land owners, so that the “basic factors” of former tendencies, of the former type of evolution “continue to operate”, and therefore those who talk of “the old that has become useless” are liquidators who in reality are captives of the liberals.

The contrast between the two schemes, between the two answers is obvious. We have before us two different complete answers, which lead to different conclusions.

Martov is juggling à la Burenin, alleging that both answers “speak of” the “birth of a bourgeois monarchy”. One might with equal justice refer to the fact that both answers recognise the continuing capitalist development of Russia! On the basis of the common recognition (by all Marxists and by all those who wish to be Marxists) of capitalist development, a dispute is proceeding as to the degree, forms and conditions of that development. Martov confuses the issue in order to represent what is beyond dispute as the point at issue. It is on the basis of the common recognition (by all Marxists and by all those who wish to be Marxists) of the development of the old power along the path of transformation into a bourgeois monarchy that the dispute is proceeding as to the degree, forms, conditions and course of this transformation; and Martov confuses the issue (do the former factors continue to operate, is it admissible to renounce the old forms, etc.?) in order to represent what is beyond dispute as the point at issue!

That the government, of Russia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been generally evolving “along the path of transformation into a bourgeois monarchy” is not denied by Larin, just as hitherto it has never been denied by any sane man wishing to be a Marxist. The proposal to substitute the word “plutocratic” for the adjective “bourgeois” incorrectly appraises the degree of this transformation, but it dares not dispute in principle the fact that the actual “path”, the path of real evolution, lies precisely in this transformation. Let him try to assert that the monarchy of 1861–1904 (i. e., undoubtedly a less capitalistic monarchy than the present one) does not represent one of the steps “in the transformation into a bourgeois monarchy” when it is compared with the period of serfdom under Nicholas I!

Martov does not try to assert this, but on the contrary, “joins” V. Mirov, who, in refutation of Larin, refers to the bourgeois character of the Witte reforms and of the reforms of the sixties![8]

Now let the reader judge of the “dexterity” of Mirov and Martov. At first, in opposition to Larin, they repeat the arguments which a year and a half ago were used by the “orthodox” against the closest friends, adherents and colleagues of Martov and Mirov, and then they assure the reader that the “schemes” of Larin and of the “orthodox” are identical.

This is not only an example of “literary scribbling” versus politics (for politics demands definite and direct answers, whereas literary men often confine themselves to beating about the bush); it is more than that—it is an example of the degradation of literature to the level of Bureninism.

After quoting the above words of Larin that “if nothing has changed”, etc., “then ... the only thing to do is to fight the liquidators”, Martov replies to him:

Hitherto we thought that our tasks were determined by the social structure of the society in which we act and that the forms of our activity were determined, in the first place, by these tasks and, in the second place, by political conditions. The ‘social nature of the government’ has, therefore, no direct [the italics are Martov’s] bearing on the determination of our tasks and forms of activity.”

This is not an answer, but an empty, evasive phrase. Martov again attempts to confuse the issue, to shift the   dispute to irrelevant ground. The question is not whether the social nature of the government is directly or indirectly connected with the tasks and forms of activity. Even if this connection is an indirect one it will in no way alter things once the close and indissoluble connection is recognised. Martov does not venture to say a word against the recognition of this close and indissoluble connection. His reference to “political conditions” is nothing but dust thrown in the eyes of the reader. To draw a contrast between “the social nature of the government” and the “political conditions” is as senseless as if I were to contrast goloshes made by human hands, to overshoes. Overshoes are goloshes. And there are no other goloshes than those made by human hands. The nature of the government corresponds to the “political conditions”. And the nature of the government can never be anything but social.

The sum total of all this is that Martov “beat about the bush” and evaded a direct answer to Larin. He evaded an answer because he had no answer to give. Larin is quite right in stating that views on the “social nature of the government” (to be more precise—its economic nature). are closely and inseparably connected with views on the “tasks and forms of activity”. Both Larin and the “orthodox” acknowledge and apply this connection. Martov (and his tribe) displays no such consistency in his views. That is why Martov is compelled to wriggle and make shift with “overshoes”.

Listen further.

There flashed more or less clearly in the minds of these Mensheviks [Martov is referring to Kogan, Obrazovaniye, 1907, as an example] the idea of the gradual, so to speak ‘organic’, entry of the working class into that ‘legal country’[2] which received the rudiments   of a constitutional regime, of gradual extension of the June Third privileges of the bourgeoisie [not “plutocracy”, eh?] to broad democratic circles. If such were really the fundamental principles of contemporary ‘liquidationism’ in quotation marks, or of contemporary ‘legalism’, we would be confronted with the actual liquidation of our traditions, with actual legalism elevated to a principle, with a break in principle with all our past. We would have to wage a serious struggle with such liquidationism.... Are we really destined to see the reformists creeping into the regime of a renovated Tolmachovism?” Then comes a footnote by Martov: “Of course [!!] I do not suspect Larin of reformist tendencies”.

This long quotation was necessary in order to demonstrate Martov’s “method” clearly to the reader. He admits that reformism “flashed more or less clearly” in the mind of Kogan (a Menshevik who systematically collaborates in serious “works” with Martov). He admits that if reformism were really the fundamental principle of liquidationism it would be a “break with the past”. He hurls a ringing, noisy, stinging phrase at the “reformists” who are “creeping into”, etc. And he winds up with, what do you think? with an assurance that he, of course, “does not suspect” Larin of reformist “tendencies”!

This is exactly what Eduard Bernstein, Jean Jaurès or Ramsay MacDonald say. They all “admit” that in the minds of certain “extremists” there “flashes” something that is bad: reformism, liberalism. They all admit that if liberalism were the “fundamental principle” of their policy, that would be a “break with the past”. They all hurl ringing, noisy, stinging phrases at the “liberals who are cringing”, etc. And they all wind up with ... assurances that they “do not suspect” the Larins—I beg pardon—they “do not suspect” their more candid, more “Right” comrades, adherents, friends, colleagues and collaborators, of liberal-bourgeois tendencies.

The crux of the matter is this: in the articles quoted Larin gave an exposition of the “system” of views of the most undoubted, most genuine reformism! To deny this means denying the obvious, robbing the concept reformism of all meaning. And if you “refute” Larin, “condemn” reformism as “a principle”, hurl ringing phrases at those who are “creeping into”, and at the same time positively assert that you “do not suspect” Larin of reformism, surely you thereby   expose yourselves completely! By this you prove to the hilt that your reference to your hostility “on principle” to “reformism as a principle” is the same as the vow of a peddlar who says: “Believe me, upon my oath, I paid more for it”.

Believe me, upon my oath: I condemn reformism as a principle, but I do not “suspect” Larin of reformism (those suspicious orthodox people are really disgusting!), and I am at one with Larin in his liquidationist practice.

Such is the “detailed formula” of present-day Russian opportunism.

Here is an example of the application of this formula by Martov himself, whom naïve people (or those unable to understand the depth of the new re-grouping) still regard as an “undoubted” non-liquidator:

The tactics which are to be observed in the activities of the so-called ‘liquidators’,” writes Martov on pp. 9–10, “are those which place the open workers’ movement in the centre, strive to extent it in every possible direction, and seek within [the italics are Martov’s] this open workers’ movement, and only there [note: and only there!], the elements for the revival of the Party.”

This is what Martov says. And this is nothing but reformism creeping into the regime of a renovated Tolmachovism.[9] The italics “creeping into” I have borrowed from Martov himself, for it is important to note that it is precisely “creeping into” that Martov in fact preaches in the words just quoted. Irrespective of the extent to which such preachings are accompanied by oaths and imprecations against “reformism as a principle”, the matter is not changed, one iota. In reality, having said “and only there”, and “in the centre”, Martov specifically pursues a reformist policy (in the particular situation in Russia in 1908–10); and as to the vows, promises, assurances, oaths—let political babes believe them.

The disputes between Marx and Willich-Schapper in the early fifties of the last century hinged precisely [!!] on the question of the Importance of secret societies and the possibility of leading the political struggle from within them.... The Blanquist, [in France in the sixties] ‘prepared’ for these events [the downfall of Bonapartism] by setting up secret societies and bottling up individual workers in them, but the French section of the Marxists ... went into the labour organisations, founded them and ‘fought for legality’ by every means....”

The cases mentioned are tunes from quite a different opera. The dispute between Marx and Willich in the fifties, between the Blanquists[10] and the Marxists in the sixties, was not one of whether it was necessary to seek “elements for the revival of the Party” “only” within “peaceful, tolerated organisations” (Martov, Zhizn, No. 1, p. 10). Martov knows this perfectly well and is wasting his time trying to mislead his readers. Neither of these disputes was conducted over the “revival” of the workers’ party; at that time it was impossible to dispute about its revival because it had never existed. These two disputes hinged on the question of whether a workers’ party—a party based on the working-class movement, a class party—was necessary at all. That was what Willich denied and the Blanquists of the sixties again denied, as Martov well knows, although he tries to obscure matters in dispute today by general talk about what is now indisputable. The view that “only” in peaceful and tolerated organisations should one seek elements for the revival or for the birth of the Party was never shared by Marx, either in the fifties or in the sixties; even at the end of the seventies, during an immeasurably higher phase of development of capitalism and bourgeois monarchy, Marx and Engels declared ruthless war on the German opportunists who had wiped out the recent past of the German party, deplored “extremes”, talked of “more civilised” forms of the movement (in the language of the present-day Russian liquidators it is called “Europeanisation”), and advocated the idea that “only” in “peaceful and tolerated” organisations should one “seek the elements for the revival”, etc.

To sum up,” writes Martov. “The fact that the present regime is an inherently contradictory combination of absolutism and constitutionalism, and that the Russian working class has sufficiently matured to follow the example of the workers of the progressive countries of the West in striking at this regime through the Achilles heel of its contradictions is ample material for the theoretical substantiation and political justification of what the Mensheviks who remain true to Marxism are now doing.”

Martov’s words (“ample material”) are also ample material for us to make our summary from. Martov regards as “ample” what is recognised by both the Cadets and a section of the Octobrists. In January 1911 it was none other than   Rech that formulated the question in the way Martov proposed its formulation in August 1910: a contradictory combination of constitutionalism and anti-constitutionalism; two camps—for the constitution and against it. What is ample for Rech is “ample” for Martov. There is not a grain of Marxism in this. Marxism has completely disappeared and has been replaced by liberalism. The fact that we have a “contradictory combination” is not by any means “ample” for a Marxist. Marxism only begins with the beginning of the realisation or understanding that this truth is not enough, that it contains within itself a spoonful of truth and a barrel of untruth, that it obscures the depth of the contradictions, that it embellishes reality and rejects the only possible means of finding a way out of the situation.

The contradictory combination” of the old regime and constitutionalism exists not only in present-day Russia, but also in present-day Germany and even in present-day England (the House of Lords; the Crown’s independence of the people’s representatives in matters of foreign policy, etc.). What, then, is the position taken up in reality (i. e., irrespective of good wishes and pious speeches) by the politician who declares that it is “ample” for a Russian to recognise what is true as regards Germany as well as England? Such a politician is, in reality, taking the stand of a liberal, of a Cadet. Even a more or less consistent bourgeois democrat in our country cannot, and does not, take such a stand. Martov’s last word, his concluding formula which sums up the entire discussion among the liquidators, is a remarkably exact, a strikingly clear and exhaustively complete expression of liberal views smuggled in under a pseudo-Marxist flag.

When the liberals, not only the Cadets, but also a section of the Octobrists, say that it is ample for the theoretical substantiation and political justification of our activity to recognise the inherently contradictory combination of the old regime and constitutionalism, the liberals are remaining quite true to themselves. In these words they give a really precise, liberal formula, the formula of the liberal policy of 1908–10 (if not of 1906–10). A Marxist, on the other hand, reveals his Marxism only when and to the extent that he explains the inadequacy and falsity of this formula, which eliminates   those specific features which radically and in principle distinguish the Russian “contradictions” from those of the English and German. The liberal says: “It is ample to admit that a great many things in our country contradict constitutionalism”. The Marxist replies: “Such an admission is altogether inadequate. It must be understood that there is no elementary, fundamental, cardinal, essential, necessary basis for ‘constitutionalism’ at all. The fundamental error of liberalism is that it declares that there is such a basis, whereas there is not; and this error accounts for the impotence of liberalism and is itself explained by the impotence of bourgeois altruism”.

Translating this political antinomy into the language of economics, we may formulate it as follows. The liberal assumes that the path of economic (capitalist) development is already mapped out, defined, completed, that it is now only a matter of removing obstacles and contradictions from that path. The Marxist believes that this particular path of capitalist development has not, so far, provided a way out of the impasse, despite such undoubted bourgeois progress in economic evolution as was marked by November 9, 1906 (or June 14, 1910), the Third Duma, etc.; and he believes that there is another path which is also a path of capitalist development, a path that can lead us on to the high road, a path which must be pointed out, which must be explained, prepared, insisted upon, pursued, in spite of all the vacillation, lack of faith and faint-heartedness of liberalism.

Martov argues with Larin as if he himself were much more to the “Left” than Larin. Many naïve people allow themselves to be deceived by this and say: certainly, Potresov, Levitsky and Larin are liquidators, certainly, they are of the extreme Right, something like Russian Rouanet[11]; but Martov—Martov is certainly no liquidator! In reality, how ever, Martov’s flamboyant phrases against Larin, against the creeping reformists, are only a blind, for in his conclusion, in his last word, in his resumé, Martov actually supports Larin. Martov is not more “Left” than Larin; he is only more diplomatic, more unprincipled than Larin; he hides himself more cunningly beneath the gaudy rags of pseudo-Marxist phrases. Martov’s conclusion that recognition of the contradictory combination is “ample”, provides just that corroboration   of liquidationism (and liberalism) which Larin requires. But Larin wants to justify this conclusion, to prove it, to think it out to the end, to make it a matter of principle. And Martov says to Larin, as Vollmar, Auer and the other “old birds” of opportunism used to say to the young opportunist Eduard Bernstein: “Dear Larin—I mean dear Eddy—you are an ass! Such things are done, but not talked about”. “Dear Larin, for you and me, liquidationist practice should be ‘ample’, the liberal recognition of the contradiction between the old regime and constitutionalism is ‘ample’; but, for God’s sake, don’t go any further, don’t ‘deepen’ the question, don’t seek clarity and consistency of principles, don’t make any appraisals of the ‘present situation’, for that would expose us both. Let us act and not talk.”

Martov teaches Larin how to be an opportunist.

One must not sit between two stools,” says Larin to Martov, demanding an explanation and justification of the liquidator principles so dear to both of them.

Well, what sort of opportunist are you,” replies Martov, “if you don’t know how to sit between two stools?” What sort of opportunist are you if you insist on exact, clear and direct justification of the principles of our practice? It is the business of a real opportunist to sit between two stools, he must advocate the “tactics-as-a-process”[3] (remember Martynov and Krichevsky in the period of 1901), he must drift with the stream, cover up his traces, evade all matters of principle. Take Bernstein, he knows now (after the lessons given him by Vollmar, Auer, etc.) how to be a revisionist without proposing any amendments to the orthodox Erfurt profession de foi.[12] And we two must also know how to act as liquidators without proposing any amendments to the orthodox formal answer (of 1908) given to the “vexed questions” of the day.[13] In order to be a real opportunist, my dear, dear Larin, one must do the creeping in reality, in one’s practice, in the way one goes about one’s work; but, in words, before the public, in speeches, in the press, one must not only abstain from seeking theories justifying the act of creeping, but, on the contrary, one must shout all the more loudly against those who creep, one must all the more   assiduously vow and protest that we are not of the creeping kind.

Larin was silenced. Probably, in the depths of his heart he could not help admitting that Martov was a more skilful diplomat, a more subtle opportunist.

We must examine still another aspect of Martov’s concluding formula: it is “ample” to recognise the contradictory nature of the combination of the old regime and constitutionalism. Compare this formula with V. Levitsky’s notorious formula—“Not hegemony, but a class party” (Nasha Zarya, No. 7). In this formula Levitsky (the Larin of Nasha Zarya) expressed, only in a more direct, open, principled manner, what Potresov confused, glossed over, covered up and clothed in pretentious phrases. when, under the influence of Plekhanov’s ultimatums, he cleaned up and revised the article he wrote against the hegemony of the proletariat.

Martov’s formula and that of Levitsky are two sides of the same medal. The object of the next article will be to explain this circumstance for the benefit of Martov who pretends not to understand the connection between the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat and the question of liquidationism.


P.S. The present article had already been sent to press when we received Dyelo Zhizni, No. 2, containing the conclusion of Y. Larin’s article “Right Turn and About Turn!” Larin explains reformism, of which L. Martov “of course does not suspect” him, as clearly in the new liquidationist magazine as he explained it previously. For the present, we shall confine ourselves to quoting the substance of the reformist programme:

A state of perplexity and uncertainty, when people simply do not know what to expect of the coming day, what tasks to set them selves—that is what results from indeterminate, temporising moods, from vague hopes of either a repetition of the revolution or of ‘we shall wait and see’. The immediate task is, not to wait fruitlessly for something to turn up, but to imbue broad circles with the guiding idea that, in the ensuing historical period of Russian life, the working class must organise itself not ‘for revolution’, not ‘in expectation   of a revolution’, but simply for the determined and systematic defence of its particular interests in all spheres of life;for the gathering and training of its forces for this many-sided and complex activity; for the training and building-up in this way of socialist consciousness in general; for acquiring the ability to orientate itself [to find its bearings]—and to assert itself—particularly in the complicated relations of the social classes of Russia during the coming constitutional re form of the country after the economically inevitable self-exhaustion of feudal reaction....” (p. 18).

This tirade expresses exactly the entire spirit and meaning of Larin’s “programme” and of all the liquidationist writings in Nasha Zarya, Vozrozhdeniye, Dyelo Zhizni, and others, including L. Martov’s “ample” which we have examined above. It is the purest and most complete reformism. We cannot dwell on it now; we cannot examine it here in the detail it deserves. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to a brief remark. The Left Cadets, the non-party socialists, the petty-bourgeois democrats (like the “Popular Socialists”) and reformists who would like to be Marxists, preach the following programme to the workers: gather your forces, train yourselves, learn, defend your interests simply in order to stand up for yourselves during the coming constitutional reform. Such a programme curtails, narrows and emasculates the political tasks of the working class in the period 1908–11 in the same manner as the Economists emasculated these tasks in the period 1896–1901. The old Economists, deluding themselves and others, liked to refer to Belgium (the predominance of reformism among the Belgians was recently brought to light by the excellent writings of de Man and Brouckère; we shall revert to these another time); the Neo-Economists, i. e., the liquidators, like to refer to the peaceful way in which a constitution was obtained in Austria in 1867. Both the old Economists and our liquidators choose instances, cases, episodes in the history of the working-class movement and democracy in Europe that occurred when the workers, for one reason or another, were weak, lacked class-consciousness and were dependent on the bourgeoisie—and they advance such instances as a model for Russia. Both the Economists and the liquidators serve as conductors for bourgeois influence among the proletariat.


[1] See pp. 68–69 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Perhaps not all readers will understand this gallicism which to my mind is an extreme misfit. “Legal country” is a literal translation of the French pays legal which implies those classes or groups, those strata of the population which are represented in parliament and which, unlike the masses of the people, enjoy constitutional privileges. Incidentally, this is typical and may serve as an appraisal of Martov’s vacillations. He does not want to admit that Russia in 1908–10 took “another step in the transformation into a bourgeois monarchy”. But he does admit that the “bourgeoisie” (and not the plutocracy) on June 3, 1907, “obtained the rudiments of a constitutional regime”. Who can make head or tail of this? —Lenin

[3] See present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 387–97.—Ed.

[4] Lenin refers here to the first all-Russia temperance congress, held in St. Petersburg on December 28, 1909–January 6, 1910 (January 10-19, 1910), and the first all-Russia congress of factory doctors and representatives of industry, which took place in Moscow on April 1–6 (14–19), 1909.

[5] Lenin is quoting from the speech of the Menshevik-liquidator Dan, at the Fifth (All-Russia) Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. in 1908, in the discussion on “The Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party”.

[6] The expression “third element” was first used by the Vice-Governor of Samara, V. G. Kondoidi, in his speech at the opening of the Samara Gubernia Zemstvo meeting in 1900, to describe persons representing neither the administration nor the social estates—employees of the Zemstvo, doctors, statisticians, teachers, agronomists, etc. The expression “third element” found its way into literature to describe the democratically-minded intellectuals of the Zemstvos.

[7] The dexterity of Burenin or Menshikov—a dishonest method of conducting polemics, characteristic of Burenin and Menshikov, contributors to the Black-Hundred monarchist paper Novoye Vremya (New Times). Lenin used these names as synonyms for dishonest methods of controversy.

[8] Witte reforms—reforms in the sphere of finance, customs policy, railroad construction, factory legislation, carried out by S. Y. Witte between 1892 and 1906, while Minister of Communications   and later Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Council of Ministers.

Reforms of the sixties—bourgeois reforms carried out by the tsarist government: the Peasant Reform (1881), financial reforms (1860–64), abolition of corporal punishment (1863), reforms in the sphere of public education (1862–64), Zemstvo reform (1864), legal reform (1864), reform of press and censorship (1865), municipal reform (1870), military reform (1874).

[9] See Note 62.

[10] Blanquists—supporters of a trend in the French socialist movement headed by the outstanding revolutionary and prominent representative of French utopian communism—Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805–1881). The Blanquists expected “that mankind will be emancipated from wage slavery, not by the proletarian class struggle, but through a conspiracy hatched by a small minority of intellectuals” Substituting the actions of a small group of conspirators for those of a revolutionary party, they took no account of the real situation necessary for a victorious uprising and disregarded the question of ties with the masses.

[11] Rouanet, Gaston—a French journalist, member of the Socialist Party; belonged to the Right wing of the Party.

[12] The Erfurt profession de foi—programme of the German Social-Democratic Party adopted at the Erfurt Congress in 1891.

[13] Lenin refers to the section of the resolution “The Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party” adopted at the Fifth All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. in 1908, in which it was decided to combat liquidationism.

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