Notes of a Publicist
(September 13, 1913)
V. I. Lenin
I. NON-PARTY INTELLECTUALS AGAINST MARXISM
The editors of Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta have come out in defence of the non-Party agitation to divide collections equally between the liquidators, the Narodniks and the Marxists.
When it was pointed out to them that such a division is an absolutely unprincipled method that undermines the foundations of the Marxist attitude to petty-bourgeois trends, the editors did not know what to say in reply and tried to pass it off with a joke. We, they said, don't know anything about a "Marxist system of collections".
The renegades want to "make amiable jokes" about our old decisions.
The workers, however, will allow no joking on such a question.
That same twenty-third issue of Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta informs us that the liquidators' agitation has attracted two working-class groups in Russia—a group of printing workers in the town of Dvinsk and a group at the Nemirov-Kolodkin factory in Moscow. These groups contributed their collections equally to the liquidators', Narodniks' and Marxist newspapers.
Let the renegade intellectuals laugh off the question; the workers, however, must and will decide it.
To preach the equal division of collections means preaching non-partisanship and confusing (or equating) news papers that hold the proletarian class point of view with those of the petty bourgeoisie, the Narodnik newspapers. The "amiable jokers", those who write for the liquidators' newspaper, cannot raise any objection to this elementary truth, although their jokes and sniggers probably arouse the admiration of the bourgeois public. A person who has suffered a complete fiasco among the workers often recompenses himself with the admiration expressed by the bourgeoisie when he ridicules the very idea of a consistently Marxist solution to questions of current practice.
The liquidators have taken comfort—at a meeting of metalworkers they suffered a complete defeat. At any meeting of the bourgeois gentry the liquidators are awarded an amiable smile for amiable jokes directed against the position held by a workers' newspaper.
Let everyone have what he wants. Let the liquidators console themselves with their successes among the bourgeoisie. The workers, however, will explain to the masses the indubitable truth that to preach the equal division of workers' collections is preaching non-partisanship, is preaching the confusion or the equation of the proletariat's Marxist newspaper with an intellectual and petty-bourgeois newspaper, like that of the Narodniks.
II. LIBERAL BLINDNESS
The usual method adopted by West-European opportunists, from the time of Eduard Bernstein, whose views were vigorously rejected by German Social-Democracy, is the following:
"Take a look at things as they are," said Bernstein and the other opportunists, "have the courage to say outright what is—in Germany we are all engaged in a struggle for reforms, we are all reformists in essence, we are a party of reforms. And the abolition of wage-slavery in a series of crises is all words, an empty utopia."
Since then the opportunists have repeated this trick of theirs a hundred times and the entire bourgeois press (our Cadet Rech above all) is constantly making use of this argument of the opportunists against Marxism. Anyone seriously interested in the fate of the working-class movement should have a proper knowledge of this worn-out manoeuvre of the downright enemies and false friends of the proletariat.
In St. Petersburg quite recently (September 4) the not unknown liquidator D. repeated in the liquidators' newspaper the all-Europe bourgeois manoeuvre with a crudeness or arrogance that is worthy of attention.
Let the reader judge for himself.
"We open, any workers' newspaper, say even Severnaya Pravda," wrote D., "and what do we see? We read of the activities of workers' organisations, trade unions, clubs and co-operatives; of the meetings of the members of those organisations and of their leading committees, of insurance agents, etc.; of lectures and reports organised by workers; of strikes, and strike committees; of the organisation of various collections; of attempts at political action on the part of groups of workers in defence of the workers' press, to honour the memory of Bebel or for some other immediate purpose."
That is what D. and others like him have "seen" and still "see" in Severnaya Pravda. And just like Bernstein, of course, he exclaims: "It will do no harm to look first at what is" (D.'s italics). Whereupon he comes to the conclusion that all this is the struggle for freedom of association. "The slogan of struggle for freedom of association as the most important current demand", "epitomises what is" (D.'s italics).
Bernstein maintained that he was "generalising what is" when he asserted that the working-class struggle was a struggle for reforms.
D. maintains that he is "generalising what is" when he asserts that the working-class movement in Russia is reformist.
Bernstein tried to give a liberal content to the workers' struggle for reforms, a struggle filled with a far from reformist content. D. is acting in literally the same fashion. He sees nothing but liberal reformism and tries to pass off his blindness as reality.
Severnaya Pravda, of course, did fight for even the slightest improvement in the workers' life and in the conditions of the workers' struggle, but did not do it in the liberal way, as gentlemen like D. do! There was a lot in Severnaya Pravda that they missed—there was the struggle against reformism, there was defence of the "old", defence of full-blooded slogans, etc. Gentlemen like D. are of the opinion that such things are not) important. They "fail to see" them, they do not want to see them, just because they are liberals. Like all liberals, they cannot understand the connection, the close, inseverable connection the Marxists make between defence of the slightest improvement and defence of the slogans of their organisation, etc. It is not clear to them that this connection determines the radical difference between the world outlook of the liberal (he is also in favour of freedom of association) and that of the working-class democrat.
Divorce the struggle for reforms from the struggle for the final goal—that is what Bernstein's preaching actually amounts to. Divorce the struggle for improvements, for freedom of association, etc., from the struggle against reformism, from the defence of Marxism, from its spirit and its political trend—that is what the preaching of D. and the other liquidators actually amounts to.
They want to impose their liberal blindness (not seeing the connection with the past, not seeing its trend, not seeing the struggle against reformism) on the working class. As the meeting of metalworkers on August 25 showed again and again, advanced workers have already seen through the liberal nature of D. and his petty group.
III. A NECESSARY EXPLANATION
In issue No. 24 of Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta we came across an amusing sally against our description of the Dublin events. It would probably not have been worth while responding to an amusing item had the liquidators' newspaper not gone so far as to offer an explanation that is extremely important and instructive for the workers. Judge for yourselves. We made a distinction between Britain, where the workers' demand for the reform of trade union legislation (laws on freedom of association) is of very serious and real importance because the general basis of political liberty exists in that country, and Russia, where such a demand is not serious, is an empty liberal phrase, but where such reforms as insurance are seriously practicable under the existing political system.
The liquidators do not understand the difference. Let us try to explain it by asking two questions: 1. Why is a bourgeois-democratic revolution, a revolution for political liberties, impossible in England? 2. Why was it that in Russia, towards the end of the last century, in 1897, for example, partial reforms of the factory laws were quite possible, and nobody disputed the partial demands of the workers in this sphere, whereas all Marxists in those days considered that the demand for partial political reforms was a liberal deception?
When the liquidators have given these questions some thought they may be able to guess the reasons for taking a different attitude to various reforms in Russia and in Britain.
And now for the important explanation given in the liquidators' newspaper.
"But," it says (No. 24, page 2, column 1) "if this basis [i.e., the general basis of political liberties] is not necessary for partial changes in insurance legislation, why is it necessary for a partial change in the law of March 4, 1906 and certain articles of the decree on strikes of December 2, 1906?"
We congratulate you on your frankness and thank you for it! You have hit the mark—"a partial change in the laws of March 4, 1906 and December 2, 1905" is quite possible without anything general! Superb.
Only—do you know what?—that "partial change in the laws of March 4, 1906 and December 2, 1905" is not called "freedom of association" but Octobrist deception of the people.
The Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta writers have admitted exactly what was to be proved.
By the "freedom of association" that the liberals and liquidators treat you to, must be understood:
"A partial change in the laws of March 4, 1906 and December 2, 1905."
Once again we thank you for your frankness. And so we shall put it on record that the main, central, chief, primary, etc., etc., slogan of the liquidators is, by their own admission, the demand for a partial change in the laws of March 4, 1906 and December 2, 1906.
Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta has brilliantly refuted its association with the liberals, has it not?
It is not for nothing that the liquidators have been called Social-Democratic Octobrists!
See pp. 343–47 of this volume.—Ed.
See pp. 348–49 of this volume.—Ed.
The Law of March 4 (17), 1906—temporary rules for associations, unions and meetings—permitted their organisation but placed so many obstacles in their way that the law was practically reduced to nought. The law granted the Minister of the interior the right to suppress associations and unions at his own discretion and also to refuse the registration of new unions.
The Law of December 2 (15), 1905 was the name given to the temporary regulations under which strikers were subject to conviction as criminals.
Published: Pravda Truda No. 3, September 13, 1913. Signed: N—k.|
Published according to the Pravda Truda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 382-387.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
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