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The Left Narodniks on the Controversies Among the Marxists

V. I. Lenin

Issue No. 3 of Volnaya Mysl[1] contains an article bearing the pretentious title: "Unity, Duality or Trinity."
    "We openly declare," says this article, "that the claim of the Bolshevik faction that it alone embraces the entire working-c1ass movement is as unreasonable and absurd as the efforts of the two Social-Democratic factions to embody the entire socialist movement in Russia. The future belongs only to the unification of all the socialist trends in a single party.

    "And we, who issued this slogan in the beginning of 1900, shall remain true to it to the end."

This is a perfect example of the amusingly irate statements that are made about "unity"! Not a word about the principles which underlie the historical struggle that has raged between Marxists and Narodniks for several decades. Nor do we hear a word about the history of the movement of 1905–07, when the open activities of the masses of the population of all classes revealed in practice the fundamental difference between the Social-Democratic proletariat and the "working" (i.e., petty-bourgeois) peasantry.

The existence in Russia of a radical and serious newspaper that formulates the question in this way, shows vividly how necessary it still is to wage a long and persistent struggle for the most elementary definition of principles.

That the Bolsheviks enjoy the backing of the majority of the class-conscious workers is a fact which their enemies, the liquidators, are compelled to admit, albeit angrily and through their clenched teeth.

This cannot he refuted by sentiment. The workers will not be intimidated if the words: "unreasonable and absurd" are bawled at them—they will only smile.

From the standpoint of ideas, the entire history of Marxism in Russia is the history of the struggle against petty-bourgeois theories, beginning with "legal Marxism" and Economism. This was no chance struggle, nor is its direct continuation at the present time accidental. It is in the struggle against petty-bourgeois liquidationism and Left Narodism that the workers' party in Russia is taking shape and maturing as a genuine proletarian class party in this difficult period of the June Third regime.

"We Left Narodniks have never tried to profit by other people's misfortunes," writes Volnaya Mysl, but in the same breath asserts that the split is the cause of "the complete inner weakness of our Social-Democratic movement"!

To write a thing like that, gentlemen, means nothing if not "profiting"—not, however, say we, by other people's "misfortunes", but by "other people's ideological struggle"; for it is the ideological conflict between liberal and proletarian policy that lies at the root of the controversies among the Marxists. The workers, unperturbed by angry words or by sentiment, have already learned to detect the basic principles of the struggle.

"There is less disagreement in the united parties in the European working-class movement than among us," writes Volnaya Mysl. This is a very common, but very fallacious argument. Nowhere in Europe is there any sign of an attempt to replace the proletarian, Marxist organisation by ... talk about a "broad" party formed with Purishkevich's blessing ... etc.

From controversies of this sort the workers will learn to build a workers' party in deeds and not merely in words.

[1] Volnaya Mysl (Free Thought)—one of the names under which the Left-Narodnik (S. R.) legal newspaper Zhivaya Mysl (Living Thought) was published; the paper appeared in St. Petersburg from August 1913 to July 1914 and frequently changed its name.

Published: Za Pravdu No. 34, November 13, 1913.
Published according to the Za Pravdu text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 485-486.
Translated: The Late George Hanna

eSource: Marxists.org - Marxists Internet Archive
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