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Intellectualist Warriors Against Domination by the Intelligentsia

V. I. Lenin

Issue No. 13 of Narodnaya Duma[1] published an endlessly long resolution on mass workers' organisations and a labour congress; the resolution is a draft for the forthcoming congress, compiled by a group of publicists and Mensheviks engaged in practical activities. The names of the publicists are not mentioned, and in this it differs from other Menshevik resolutions (on the State Duma and the "tactical platform"). And so it is not known whether this lapse is accidental or whether it indicates a different grouping of the Mensheviks on the given question. We recall that such a fervent Menshevik and champion of the labour congress as El stated that "only part of the Mensheviks have a more or less sympathetic attitude to the labour congress" (p. 82 of the collection The All-Russian Labour Congress. For the Current Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.).

But let us go over to the contents of the resolution. It falls into two parts—A and B. In the preamble to the first part there are endless platitudes on the benefit of the organisation and uniting of the mass of the workers. "For the sake of importance", as Bazarov[2] said, organisation is convert ed into self-organisation. It is true that this word does not actually express anything or contain any definite idea, but it is nevertheless a favourite with the champions of the labour congress! There is no need to explain that this "self-organisation" is only an intellectualist device to cover up the dearth of real organisational ideas—it would never have entered the head of a worker to invent "self-organisation"....

The preamble criticises Social-Democracy for the "dominant and determining role played in it by the intelligentsia as compared to its proletarian elements". An interesting criticism. We shall not, for the time being, analyse its real socio-historical significance—that would lead to too great digression from the present subject. We merely ask—comrades "publicists and Mensheviks engaged in practical activities", why not begin with yourselves? Why does not the physician heal himself? That which you call "the dominant and determining role of the intelligentsia" is apparent in every sentence of your resolution! Why should not your "intelligentsia" begin by withdrawing and allowing the "proletarian elements" to draft the resolution? What guarantee is there that in the "self-organisations" projected by you, by the "publicists and Mensheviks engaged in practical activities", the phenomenon will not be repeated?

Larin, El and many other champions of the labour congress, give Social-Democracy a "dressing-down" for forcing resolutions through. And to drive such criticism home, the publicists "force through" long new, boring and cloying periods on "self-organisation".... What a picture!

The resolution notes the "ideological and political influence" of the Russian Social-Democratic Party (i.e., the R.S.D.L.P., or has a broader term been deliberately used to include Prokopovich, Kuskova, Posse and others?) on the advanced strata of the proletariat, and speaks of the desirability of "uniting the forces" of Russian Social-Democracy "with the politically conscious elements of the proletariat" (A, Point 6).

Try for once to think over the words you use to compile your phrases, comrades! Can there be a "politically conscious" proletarian who is not a Social-Democrat? If there cannot be, then your words boil down to empty tautology, to turgid and pretentious trivialities. Then you should speak of extending the R.S.D.L.P. to include real Social-Democrats who have not yet joined its ranks.

If there can be, then you are calling the proletarian Socialist-Revolutionary a politically conscious proletarian. It would be ridiculous to deny his "political consciousness"! And so what follows is that, under cover of grandiloquent words about the "self-organisation" and "independence" of a class party, you are actually preaching the disorganisation of the proletariat by inducting non-proletarian ideologists, by confusing real independence (Social-Democracy) with non-independence, with dependence on bourgeois ideology and bourgeois politics (Socialist-Revolutionaries).

You were making for one destination, but reached an other....[3]

This is just like the old intellectual Economists of the 18951901 period, who foisted on the workers their narrowness, their uncertainty, their cowardice, their scurrying about under the flag of "self-organisation", the "pure working- class" movement, etc.![4]

The conclusion drawn by Part A: "The congress recognises the Russian Social-Democracy's most important current task to be work done hand in hand with the advanced elements of the working-class masses [which means also hand in hand with worker Socialist-Revolutionaries and not against them?] for the consolidation of the latter in an independent organisation, no matter how politically modest the character it bears, or may be compelled to bear, by force of circumstances of time and place."

What is there in this that is definite, concrete, or goes beyond the bounds of intellectualist plaints. What is it all about? Nobody knows.

Let us take consumers' societies. They undoubtedly express consolidation of the workers. Their character is politically modest enough. Are they "independent" organisations? That depends on the point of view. To the Social-Democrats, workers' associations are really independent when they are imbued with the Social-Democratic spirit, and not only imbued with the "spirit", but are also tactically and politically connected with Social-Democracy—-either by entering the Social-Democratic Party or by affiliation to it.

On the contrary, the syndicalists, the Bez Zaglaviya group[5], Posse's[6] supporters, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the "non-party [bourgeois] Progressists", call only those workers' associations independent that do not enter the Social-Democratic Party and are not affiliated to it, are not linked up with Social-Democracy, arid with Social-Democracy alone, in their actual politics, in their tactics.

This difference in the two points of view has not been invented by us. It is generally recognised that these two points of view exist, that they are mutually exclusive, and that they are in conflict everywhere and on every occasion when workers are for any reason "associated". They are irreconcilable points of view, because, to the Social-Democrat, "non-partisanship" (in tactics and in politics in general) is only a screen and is, therefore, a particularly harmful way of subordinating the workers to bourgeois ideology and bourgeois politics.

The outcome: In its conclusion the resolution said absolutely nothing on the essence of the matter. At best its conclusion is hollow phrase-mongering. At worst, it is harmful phrase-mongering, misleading to the proletariat, over shadowing the ABC of Social-Democratic truth, opening wide the door to any declassed bourgeois, such as those who have for a long time been doing considerable damage to the Social-Democratic working-class movement in all European countries.

How should the resolution be corrected?

The empty phrases should be discarded. It should be said simply that Social-Democracy must support the organisation of various workers' associations, for example, consumers' societies, with due and constant regard for every workers' association serving as a centre precisely of Social-Democratic propaganda, agitation and organisation.

That would, indeed, be a "politically modest" but business-like and Social-Democratic resolution. And you, gentlemen, you intellectualist warriors against the "dominant and determining role of the intelligentsia", you have put forward not the proletarian cause, but intellectualist phrase mongering.

We shall deal with the second part (B) of the resolution next time


[1] Narodnaya Duma (People's Duma)—a Menshevik daily newspaper published in St. Petersburg in March and April 1907 in place of Russkaya Zhizn, which had been suppressed by the authorities. Twenty-one issues appeared.

[2] Bazarov—one of the chief characters in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons.

[3] Lenin is quoting Sophia in Griboyedov's comedy Wit Works Woe.

[4] Economism—an opportunist trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the turn of the century; it was a variation of international opportunism. The newspaper Rabochaya Mysl (Workers' Thought), 1897-1902, and the journal Rabocheye Dyelo (Workers' Cause), 1899-1902 were Economist publications. The programme of the Economists, whom Lenin called "Russian Bernsteinians", was contained in the Credo written by E. D. Kuskova in 1899.

The Economists limited the tasks of the working class to the economic struggle for higher wages, better working conditions, etc., asserting that the political struggle was the business of the liberal bourgeoisie. They denied the leading role of the party of the working class, considering that the party should merely be the observer of the spontaneous process of the movement and the registrar of events. In their deference to spontaneity in the working-class movement, the Economists belittled the significance of revolutionary theory and class-consciousness, asserted that socialist ideology could arise out of the spontaneous movement, denied the need for a Marxist party to instil socialist consciousness in the working-class movement, and thereby cleared the way for bourgeois ideology. The Economists opposed the need to create a centralised working-class party; as a trend, Economism threatened to divert the workers from the class revolutionary path and make them a political appendage of the bourgeoisie.

Lenin very thoroughly criticised the views of the Economists in a number of articles—"A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats" (which he wrote while in exile in Siberia in 1899; it was directed against the Credo and was signed by seventeen exiled Social-Democrats); "A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy"; "Apropos of the Profession de foi" (see present edition, Vol. 4); "A Talk with Defenders of Economism" (see present edition, Vol. 5). Lenin put the finishing touches to his ideological rout of Economism in his book What Is To Be Done? (see present edition, Vol. 5). Lenin's newspaper Iskra played an important part in the struggle against the Economists.

[5] Bes Zaglaviya (Without a Title) group—a semi-Cadet, semi-Menshevik group of Russian bourgeois intellectuals (S. N. Prokopovich, E. D. Kuskova, V. Y. Bogucharsky, V. V. Portugalov, V. V. Khizhnyakov, and others), that took shape when the Russian revolution of 1905-07 began to decline. The group took its name from a political weekly, Bez Zaglaviya, published in St. Petersburg from January to May 1906 with Prokopovich as its editor. The same people later were grouped around the Left-Cadet newspaper Tovarishch. Hiding behind a formal non-party screen, the Bez Zaglaviya group propagated the ideas of liberalism and opportunism; they support ed revisionism in Russian and international Social-Democracy.

[6] Posse, V. A.—a bourgeois journalist and public man who, in 1906 and 1907, proposed the establishment of workers' co-operatives in Russia independent of the Social-Democratic Party.

Published: Nashe Ekho, No. 5, March 30, 1907. Published according to the text in Nashe Ekho.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 316-319.

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