The Trudoviks and the Worker Democrats
V. I. Lenin
The Fourth Duma election campaign has brought about some little revival of activity and has increased the interest in political issues. The broad movement stirred up by the events in the Lena gold-fields has lent importance to this revival and made this interest particularly urgent. More than ever, it is now appropriate to discuss the question of the attitude of the Trudoviks, i.e., of the peasant democrats, to the worker democrats.
In an article entitled "The Trudovik Group and the Workers' Party" (Zaprosy Zhizni No. 17), Mr. V. Vodovozov, answering my articles—""Liberalism and Democracy" —"in Zvezda, sets forth the Trudovik view on this question. The controversy bears on the very essence of two political trends which express the interests of nine-tenths of Russia's population. It is therefore the duty of every democrat to pay the closest attention to the subject of the controversy.
The standpoint of the working-class democracy is the class struggle. The wage-workers constitute a definite class in modern society. The position of this class is radically different from that of the class of small proprietors, the peasants. That is why their association in one party is out of the question.
The aim of the workers is to abolish wage slavery by eliminating the rule of the bourgeoisie. The peasants' aim lies in democratic demands that could abolish serfdom, with all its social roots and in all its manifestations, but which could not even slightly affect the rule of the bourgeoisie.
In Russia today, the tasks which the workers and the peasants have in common are drawing the working-class democracy and the peasant democracy closer together. While necessarily following different paths, the two democracies can, and for the purpose of achieving success should, act jointly against all that is contrary to democracy. Unless there is such joint or common action, unless the peasant democrats get rid of the tutelage of the liberals (Cadets), any serious democratic reforms in Russia will be out of the question.
Those are the views of the working-class democrats, the Marxists, which I have developed in the two articles entitled "Liberalism and Democracy".
The Trudoviks, whose views are expounded by Mr. Vodovozov, want to be a party standing "above classes". They are convinced that one party "could fully take care of the interests of three classes of society": the peasantry, the working class and the "working intelligentsia".
I said that this "conviction" contradicted (1) all the facts of economic science, (2) the entire experience of countries which went through epochs similar to the present epoch in Russia, and (3) Russia's experience during a particularly important and crucial period of her history, the year 1905. I derided the truly Cadet claim to "embrace" different classes, and recalled the fact that the Cadets describe the Maklakovs as "working intelligentsia".
Mr. Vodovozov, without citing these arguments of mine fully and coherently, seeks to disprove them by disjointed statements. In reply to the first argument, for instance, he says: "The peasantry is a mass of people living by their own labour; its interests are the interests of labour, and therefore it represents one contingent of the great army of labour, Just as the workers represent another contingent of that army.
This is not Marxist, but bourgeois economic science: the phrase about the interests of labour here obscures the fundamental difference between the position of the small proprietor and that of the wage-worker. The worker owns no means of production and sells himself, his hands, his labour- power. The peasant does own means of production—"implements, livestock, and his own or rented land—"and sells the products of his farming, being a small proprietor, a small entrepreneur, a petty bourgeois.
Even today in Russia peasants hire no less than two million agricultural wage-labourers to work on their farms. And if all the landed estates were transferred, without compensation, to the peasants, the latter would employ a much greater number of labourers.
Such a transfer of the land to the peasants is a common interest of the entire peasantry, of all wage-workers, of all democrats, because landlordism is the foundation of the landlords' political power of the type with which Purishkevich, followed by Markov the Second and other "men of the Third Duma"—"nationalists, Octobrists, etc.—"have made Russia so very familiar.
This shows that the common aim now before the peasants and the workers has absolutely nothing of socialism, despite the opinion of ignorant reactionaries, and sometimes of liberals. That aim is purely democratic. Its achievement would mean the achievement of freedom for Russia, but it would not at all mean the abolition of wage slavery.
If we want to put the joint action of different classes on a sound basis, and if we want to ensure the real and durable success of such action, we must be clear as to the points on which the interests of these classes converge and those on which they diverge. All delusions and "misconceptions" on this score, and any obscuring of the matter with meaningless phrases are bound to have the most ruinous effect, are bound to undermine success.
"Agricultural work is different from work in a factory; but then the work of a factory worker is different from that of a shop-assistant, yet Zvezda assiduously tries to prove to the shop-assistants that they belong to the same class as the workers, and that therefore they must regard Social-Democrats as their representatives...."
That is how Mr. Vodovozov tries to disprove the arguments regarding the profound class distinction between small proprietors and wage-workers! In this case too, Mr. Vodovozov's arguments are permeated with the usual spirit of bourgeois political economy. The small proprietor who is a farmer belongs to the same class as the manufacturer, or the small proprietor who is an artisan, and as the small proprietor who is a shopkeeper; there is no class distinction between them, they are distinguished only by their occupations. The wage-worker in agriculture belongs to the same class as the wage-worker in a factory or in a commercial establishment.
These are all elementary truths in terms of Marxism. And Mr. Vodovozov is mistaken if he thinks that by describing "my" Marxism as "extremely oversimplified" he can conceal the essence of the matter, namely, that the Trudoviks are constantly slipping from Marxist to bourgeois political economy.
Mr. Vodovozov slips into the same error, and along the same lines, when, in dealing with my reference to the pro found class distinction between small proprietors and wage-workers as proved by the experience of all countries and by that of Russia, he tries to refute me by pointing out that sometimes one class is represented by several parties, and vice versa. In Europe the workers sometimes follow the liberals, the anarchists, the clericals, etc. The landlords are sometimes divided among several parties.
What do these facts prove? Only that, in addition to class distinctions, there are other distinctions, such as religious, national, etc., that affect the formation of parties.
That is true, but what has it got to do with our controversy? Does Mr. Vodovozov point to the existence in Russia of specific historical conditions—"religious, national and other wise—"that add themselves in the present instance to the class distinctions?
Mr. Vodovozov did not, and could not, point to any such conditions at all. Our controversy turned entirely on whether it is possible to have in Russia a party "standing above classes", one "serving the interests of three classes". (Incidentally, it is ridiculous to call the "working intelligentsia" a class.)
Theory gives a clear answer to this question: it is impossible! An equally clear answer is provided by the experience of 1905, when all the class, group, national, and other distinctions stood out in hold relief in the most open and most massive actions at a highly important turning-point in Russian history. The Marxist theory was confirmed by the experience of 1905, which showed that a single party of peasants and workers is impossible in Russia.
All three Dumas have shown the same thing.
Why refer, then, to the fact that in various countries of Europe there have been instances of one class divided into several parties or of several classes united under the leader ship of a single party? This reference is quite beside the point. By this reference Mr. Vodovozov is merely deviating—"and trying to divert the reader—"from the point at issue.
If the Russian democracy is to attain success, it is very important for it to know its own strength, to take a sober view of the state of affairs, and to realise clearly which classes it can count upon. It would be exceedingly harmful for it to cherish illusions, to cover up class distinctions with empty phrases, or to dismiss them with good wishes.
We must plainly recognise the profound class distinction between the peasants and the workers of Russia, a distinction which cannot be eliminated within the framework of capitalist society, within the framework of domination by the market. We must plainly recognise the points on which their interests coincide at present. We must unite each of these classes, cement its forces, develop its political consciousness and define the common task of both.
A "radical" (to use Mr. Vodovozov's term, although I do not think it a fortunate one) peasant party is useful and indispensable.
All attempts to found a party standing "above classes", to unite the peasants and the workers in one party, to represent a non-existent "working intelligentsia" as a class by itself, are extremely harmful and ruinous to the cause of Russian freedom, since such attempts can bring nothing but disillusionment, a waste of strength, and confusion in people's minds.
While fully sympathising with the formation of a consistently democratic peasant party, we are obliged to combat the above-mentioned attempts. The workers must also combat the influence of the liberals upon the democratic peasantry.
Concerning the attitude of the liberals towards the bourgeois democracy, and of the Cadets towards the Trudoviks, the conference of the latter said nothing clear and definite. The Trudoviks do not seem to realise that it was the dependence of the democratic peasantry upon the liberals that was one of the principal causes of the failure of the emancipation movement in 1905—"06, and that this movement cannot be successful so long as wide and leading sections of the peasantry are unaware of the difference between democracy and liberalism, and do not free themselves from the tutelage and domination of the liberals.
Mr. Vodovozov touched upon this question of cardinal importance in an extremely cursory and unsatisfactory manner. He says that "the Cadet Party serves primarily the interests of the urban population". This is not true. This definition of the class roots and political role of the Cadet Party is utterly worthless.
The Cadet Party is the party of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie. The social basis of this party (as well as of the "Progressists") is the economically more progressive (as compared with the Octobrists) sections of the bourgeoisie, but above all the bourgeois intelligentsia. However, a section of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie still follows the Cadets only by tradition (i.e., by mere habit, blind repetition of what was done yesterday), and because they are simply deceived by the liberals.
By calling themselves democrats, the Cadets are deceiving themselves and the people. Actually the Cadets are counter-revolutionary liberals.
This has been fully proved by the entire history of Russia, particularly in the twentieth century, and above all in 1905—"06. And the publication Vekhi demonstrated it, exposed it, particularly clearly and completely. Nor can any "reservations" of the Cadet diplomats in regard to Vekhi alter this fact.
The first phase of the liberation movement in Russia, the first decade of the twentieth century, revealed that the mass of the population, while gravitating towards democracy, is not sufficiently class-conscious, cannot distinguish between liberalism and democracy, and submits to the leadership of the liberals. So long and insofar as there is no change in this respect, all talk of democratic reform in Russia is pointless. It would be just idle talk.
How does Mr. Vodovozov counter these premises, on which I based my article? "In the present conditions," he writes, "the Trudoviks consider it extremely tactless [!!] to say too much about the counter-revolutionary nature of the Cadets...."
Well, well! What has "tact" got to do with it? And why "too much"? If it is true that the Cadets are counter-revolutionary liberals, this truth must be told. Whether we should say a lot or only a little about the counter-revolutionary Rights and the counter-revolutionary liberals is not a serious question at all. Whenever a publicist speaks of the Rights, and whenever he speaks of the liberals, he must tell the truth. The Trudoviks told the truth about the Rights. We praise them for this. As regards the liberals, the Trudoviks themselves began to speak of them, but they did not speak the whole truth!
That is the only thing for which we reproach the Trudoviks.
"Too much" or too little—"that is quite beside the point. Let the Trudoviks devote a thousand lines to the Rights and five lines to the liberals—"We shall have no objections to that. That is not the reason for our objections to the Trudoviks. What we objected to is that in those "five lines" (you must blame yourself, Mr. Vodovozov, for bringing into the controversy your unfortunate expression "too much"!) the truth about the liberals was not told.
Mr. Vodovozov avoided answering the real question: are the Cadets counter-revolutionary or not?
It is a big mistake on the part of the Trudoviks to evade this question, for that implies in fact that a section of the democrats and a section of the former Marxists are dependent on the liberals.
This question is inexorably posed by the entire history of the first decade of the twentieth century.
In Russia today, new democratic elements are growing up everywhere, among the most diverse sections of the population. That is a fact. As they grow these democratic elements must be educated in the spirit of consistent democracy. Such education will be impossible unless we explain the true nature of the liberals, who have at their disposal hundreds of press organs and a hundred seats in the Duma, thus constantly exerting an influence along falsely democratic lines upon an incomparably greater number of people than we can reach with our propaganda.
The democrats must rally their forces. We shall always praise the Trudoviks for their democratic speeches about the Rights. But theirs will be an inconsistent democracy if, when they speak of the liberals, they do so in liberal fashion, instead of using a language worthy of democrats.
It is not two, but three camps that are contending in the elections. Do not lump the second camp (the liberals) with the third camp (the democrats), Trudovik gentlemen. Do not obscure the distinction between them—"the liberals are doing "too much" as it is towards that objectionable end,
See present edition, Vol. 17, pp. 569—"77.—"Ed.
Zvezda (The Star)—"a Bolshevik legal newspaper published in St. Petersburg from December 16 (29), 1910, to April 22 (May 5), 1912, at first once a week, from January 1912 twice weekly, and from March onwards three times a week. Among its contributors were N. N. Baturin, K. S. Yeremeyev, M. S. Olminsky and N. G. Poletayev, as well as Maxim Gorky. The pro-Party Mensheviks (Plekhanovites) were associated with Zvezda until the autumn of 1911. Ideologically the newspaper was led (from abroad) by Lenin, who contributed about 30 articles to it. Thanks to his guidance, it was a militant Bolshevik organ upholding the programme and tactics of the illegal Party. It had an extensive section for workers' correspondence, and kept in constant close touch with the workers. The circulation of some issues was between 50,000 and 60,000 copies.
The authorities were constantly taking repressive measures against Zvezda; they confiscated 30 and fined 8 out of a total of 69 issues. Zvezda prepared the way for the publication of the Bolshevik daily, Pravda; it was closed down by the government on the day the first issue of Pravda appeared.
The Trudovik conference met in St. Petersburg in March 1912. It dealt chiefly with the Fourth Duma election campaign. Lenin assessed its decisions in his article "Liberalism and Democracy"
Vekhi (Landmarks)—"a Cadet symposium published in Moscow in the spring of 1909. It contained articles by N. Berdayev, S. Bulgakov, P. Struve, M. Herschensohn and other spokesmen of the counter-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie. In their articles on the Russian intelligentsia the Vekhi writers calumniated the revolutionary-democratic traditions of the foremost representatives of the Russian people, including V. G. Belinsky and N. G. Chernyshevsky. They smeared the revolutionary movement of 1905 and thanked the tasrist government for having with "its bayonets and jails" saved the bourgeoisie "from the fury of the people". Vekhi called on the intelligentsia to serve the autocracy. Lenin compared its programme both in philosophy and in political writing with the programme of the Black-Hundred newspaper, Moskovskiye Vedomosti. He called the collection "an encyclopaedia of Liberal renegacy" and "a sheer torrent of reactionary mud turned upon the democratic movement"
Published: Pravda Nos. 13 and 14, May 8 and 9, 1912. Signed: P.P..
Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, , Moscow, Volume 18, pages 36-43.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan
eSource: Marxists.org - Marxists Internet Archive