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To the Social-Democrats[1]

V. I. Lenin

We reprint in full the leading article of the latest issue of the St. Petersburg newspaper Luch (January 19, 1913, No. 15–101):


"The authorities have again refused to register the metalworkers' union. Despite all the concessions which the workers were willing to make, the department found every single clause unacceptable. It makes no difference whether the force operating here was the association of factory-owners, which insisted, as the newspapers once reported, that the metalworkers should not be allowed to set up a new trade union, or whether the department itself decided to prevent the rise of such a union. The most progressive and most cultured section of the St. Petersburg workers is being deprived even of the miser able right they enjoyed under the provisional regulations on unions and associations! How much energy has been spent, how many lives have been lost in the struggle to win this bit of a right, which is now reduced to nought with a wave of the hand!

"Strangest of all is the fact that the wide mass of the workers do not at all react to this disfranchisement. Indeed, as a result of the latest persecution of legal organisations, sympathy for the 'underground' is reviving and growing here and there among the workers. We are far from shutting our eyes to this fact, which we find deplorable. But not being accustomed to worship spontaneity, we are trying to realise the meaning of this fact.

"The present talk about the 'underground' is largely reminiscent of the old disputes—now thoroughly forgotten, it seems—about terrorism. Terrorism, too, was 'worshipped' by many who wanted to mask their own worthlessness. It is well, they seemed to say, that there exist heroes; as for us, we'll trail somehow behind them. The same thing is happening now. We are too lazy to think, to seek new paths, and we are waiting for the underground to decide for us, and then we shall act at other people's risk. If we succeed, well and good, and if not, we shall know who is to blame.

"It is exactly this psychology—which, we admit, is rooted in our present political situation and is sufficiently explained by the heavy sacrifices already made for the sake of an open movement— this psychology of irresponsibility, of a subconscious desire to prove one's absence in the event of failure, that inspires certain sections of the mass of the workers with a resurgent respect for the underground. We say respect for the underground, not flight into it, be cause it is always single individuals alone who have actually been underground—the masses have nothing to do underground—and those individuals, who are accountable to no one, have had command over mass actions.

"But, it is said, 'legal opportunities' have all been exhausted, resulting in an almost complete destruction of the legal organisations. And it is this that is wrong, to say that all opportunities have been exhausted. Actually, the main opportunity, without which any victory of the working class is unthinkable, has been used very little so far. We have spoken of the masses' methodical participation in upholding their organisations. What has been done so far has been done neither methodically enough nor with the masses participating in sufficient measure. Thousands of signatures put to a petition for freedom of association are nothing compared with the hundreds of thousands of factory workers. The dozens and rarely hundreds of members of our trade union, educational and various other associations are but a drop in the bucket compared with the huge numbers of workers engaged in a given trade, living in a given district, and so on. And the fact is that those who take a real interest in unions and work in them are still fewer.

"The masses, who assign the pick of the working-class intelligentsia the most dangerous posts in legal organisations, readily give up, and are willing to abandon the cause itself, when those foremost champions have been snatched out of their ranks. Herein lies the root of the weakness of the working-class movement today, and it is here that there is a virgin field for stubborn and persevering Social Democratic work."

It would be hard to imagine a more complete, more exact and more eloquent document shedding light on the vexed questions of our Social-Democratic Party than this article. The leading article in Luch No. 101 with remarkable accuracy summed up all the hundred issues of Luch and all the five years' propaganda of the liquidators, P. B. Axelrod, F. Dan, V. Yezhov, Levitsky, Potresov, Martov, Martynov and others.

To comment on this leader in detail, one would have to write a whole volume repeating what Marxists of all trends have said against the liquidators in the press during 1909–12.

Let us only point out certain things. Sympathy for the underground is reviving and growing among the mass of the workers, and respect for it is resurgent. He who considers this fact deplorable is a liberal and not a Social-Democrat, a counter-revolutionary and not a democrat. Comparing the underground with terrorism is an unheard-of affront to revolutionary work among the masses. Only the underground poses and solves problems of the growing revolution, directing revolutionary Social-Democratic work and attracting the mass of the workers precisely by this work.

The underground has been and is today drawn from the finest and most class-conscious of the foremost workers, those dearest to the masses. The link between the underground and the masses now can be, and often is, even broader and closer than before, chiefly owing to the greater class-consciousness of the masses, and in part also to "legal opportunities". The talk of an open party is stupid and base, but as far as our Social-Democratic Party nuclei are concerned, "legal opportunities" for their work among the masses have by no means been exhausted, and cannot be "exhausted".

Is it possible that the leading article in Luch No. 101 will not rouse the ire of all Social-Democrats? Will there be even a single "trend" among the Social-Democrats tolerant of such propaganda?

Can this summarising leading article fail to assist in settling the vexed question of the unity of the Social-Democratic Party?

The diplomats of liquidationism have been completely exposed in Luch No. 101. They stand unmasked. From now on, only hypocrites can talk about unity with the liquidationist group of Luch and Nasha Zarya.

It is time those Social-Democrats who so far have wavered for various reasons, who have given no explicit answer to the question under discussion, who have in an evasive form permitted "agreement" with Luch and sought to cloak their solidarity with Luch by talk about "unity"—it is high time they stopped wavering and spoke out plainly.

Unity with Luch is impossible, while unity against Luch is perfectly possible and urgently necessary. For the point at issue is unity of the "underground", of the illegal Social-Democratic Party, the R.S.D.L.P., and of its revolutionary work among the masses.

[1] The article "To the Social-Democrats", intended only for Party members, was published in Cracow as a hectographed leaflet.

Written: Written on January 22 (February 4), 1913
Published: Hectographed in leaflet form in Cracow, late January, 1913. Published according to the leaflet text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1975], Moscow, Volume 18, pages 529-531.
Translated: Stepan Apresyan

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