Narodniks and Liquidators in the Trade Union Movement
(A Valuable Admission)
V. I. Lenin
In recent issues of the Left-Narodnik newspaper, we find, side by side with complaints about our (the Pravdists') "factionalism", valuable admissions by several Narodniks about their views on important issue of the trade union movement coinciding with those of the liquidators. We have always said it, but it is pleasant indeed to hear this confession from our opponents' lips.
"On this question we differ sharply from the Bolsheviks, who regard the union, as their special preserve [!]... The Mensheviks' view [for some reason the Narodniks say "Mensheviks" instead of "liquidators"] of the union as an extra-factional organisation is identical with ours [the Narodniks']. This, perhaps, accounts for our good relations with the Mensheviks in past activities." This was written in Vernaya Mysl No. 6.
"The line of conduct taken by the executives of those unions in which the Left Narodniks have been in control all the time in no way differs from the, line of conduct of the so-called liquidationist unions," the same Left-Narodnik newspaper added.
An extraordinarily frank and valuable admission! On their own showing, it appears that our "frightfully Left" Narodniks behave in the trade union movement exactly like the liquidators.
Hence, the blocs (alliances, agreements) between the liquidators and the Narodniks against the Marxists, which have been repeated]y mentioned in our press.
The Narodnik Stoikaya Mysl even frankly defends these blocs between the Left Narodniks and the liquidators against the Marxists.
"During the present period of Pravdist preponderance in the trade union organisations ... there is nothing terrible or strange in temporary agreements between the Narodniks and the Luchists," writes Stoikaya Mysl No. 2.
The liquidators are not so candid. They know that "such things" are done, but not spoken of. To call oneself a Social-Democrat while at the same time allying with an alien party against the Social-Democrats is "tactics" that can be pursued only underhandedly
But this does not change anything. The alliance between the liquidators and the Narodniks in the trade union movement (and in the educational societies) is a fact. And in the present state of affairs it is inevitable. The liquidators and the Narodniks are united by their common hostility towards consistent Marxism, in all spheres of activity. In trade union activity they are united in both being representatives of the "neutralism of weakness", "willy-nilly neutralism". Neither the liquidators nor the Narodniks have any real influence in the trade union movement. Although a feeble minority, they demand "equality" with the Marxists. This demand is "theoretically" defensible only from the neutralist point of view. Hence the "neutralism" of all groups with little influence in the working-class movement.
The Narodniks say that they are uniting with the liquidators "solely for the purpose of protecting the non-factionalism of the workers' organisations against the extravagant claims of the Pravdists" (Stoikaya Mysl Nos. 2 and 4).
What are these "claims" of the Pravdists? Have they shut the door of any union or society to workers who hold political views different from their own? Have they stuck any "label" on any of the unions? Have they split any organisation? They have done nothing of the kind! Our opponents have not quoted a single fact of this kind, nor can they do so. By the "extravagant claims" of the Pravdists they mean that the Pravdists do not want to associate themselves with the petty-bourgeois policy of the Narodniks and liquidators, and, while loyally submitting to the majority of the workers within a single union, they fight for influence for their Marxist ideas.
We have never been guilty of the sins ascribed to us. It is the Narodniks and the liquidators who are guilty of them. Here are the facts. Several years ago the Narodniks obtained a majority in the Railwaymen's Union. This happened because they had the backing, not of the workers, but of the railway clerks, and because of other fortuitous circumstances. What did the Narodniks do? They immediately "stuck a label" on that union, compelled it to adopt its own special "platform", ousted the Social-Democrats and non-Party workers, and compelled them to form a parallel union of their own.
Now that was a really "extravagant claim". They hastened to make good their first chance victory by affixing a label. The fact that the Narodniks do not do this in other unions is not because they are so virtuous, but because their influence everywhere among the workers is very slight.
The same thing applies to the liquidators. When they controlled the Metalworkers' Union they turned it into a branch of the liquidators' organisation. The organ of the union published provocative articles against the "underground" (see Nash Put No. 20, p. 2, Metallist No. 3, etc.), although no general meeting of the members ever expressed approval of the liquidator line.
Such are the actual facts. By the "extravagant claims" of the Pravdists they mean that the Pravdists try to get the workers to settle their affairs themselves by a majority vote. If at a general meeting of metalworkers 3,000 vote for the Pravdists and a hundred or two vote for the liquidators and the Narodniks combined, then, in the name of so-called "non-factionalism" we are supposed to admit that 3,000 is equal to 200! This is what liquidator-Narodnik "non-factionalism" means.
We do not defend neutralism; we are opposed to it. But we do not behave like the Narodniks and liquidators when they obtain a chance majority in some union. Only feeble groups with no principles lose their heads at the first "victory" and hasten to "consolidate" their victory by a majority of a score or so of votes. Excited and in a hurry not to miss such a golden opportunity, they hastily revise their "principles", forget their neutralism, and stick on a label. Marxists do not behave like that. They are not stray visitors in the working-class movement. They know that sooner or later all the unions will take their stand on the basis of Marxism. They are convinced that the future belongs to their ideas and, therefore, they do not force events, do not goad the unions on, and do not stick labels on them or split them.
Steadily and confidently they carry on their Marxist propaganda. They patiently teach Marxism to the workers, drawing on the lessons of life, and no deals between unprincipled groups will divert them from that path.
There was a time when the present-day liquidators demanded that the trade unions should be Party unions and have official representation in the Party. There was a time when the Narodniks compelled the Railwaymen's Union to officially swear allegiance to their programme. Today both have swung to the opposite extreme, and stand for neutralism. They have been compelled to do this by the political weakness of their positions.
We are following our old road, proclaimed long ago and upheld by the entire body of Marxists. The liquidators have a full right to enter into an alliance with the Narodniks. But it is an alliance based on abandonment of principles and on weakness. The road which the liquidator-Narodnik bloc proposes to the unions is not the road of the advanced workers.
Mr. Boris Voronov, the author of the article, his eyes big with surprise, quotes as an example of incredible "factionalism" the fact that at the meetings of the executive of one of the unions "they discussed the question of assisting the Pravdist press, and technical editorial questions (how to improve the correspondence, department, etc.)". Oh, horror! What a crime it is to assist a newspaper, which unites nine-tenths of the advanced workers, with correspondence and the like! How, after this, can the Narodniks help throwing themselves into the arms of the liquidators?... —Lenin
Metallist—weekly organ of the Metalworkers' Trade Union, published in St. Petersburg from September 26 (October 9), 1911 to June 12 (25), 1914. Forty-five issues were put out. Till 1913 the Union's Executive and the Editorial Board were controlled by the liquidators, but after the re-election of the Union's Executive in May 1913 control of the Union and the journal passed over to the Bolsheviks. Issues No. 7(31), No. 8(32) and No. 10(34) for 1913 published the article by Lenin "Metalworkers' Strikes in 1912". M. S. Olminsky, A. Y. Badayev, and G. I. Petrovsky were contributors to the journal. Metallist was closely linked with the working-class masses and played an important part in rallying them around the Bolshevik Party. The tsarist government persecuted the journal. Several of its issues were seized by the police; and after issue No. 24 the journal was suspended for four months. For reasons of censorship the journal changed its name several times to Kuznets (The Smith), Nadezhda (Hope), Yedinstvo (Unity), Nash Put (Our Way), etc.
Lenin is referring to the editorials in the journals Nash Put No. 20 for August 11, 1911 and Metallist No. 3 for October 27, 1911.
Published: Put Pravdy No. 30, March 7, 1914.|
Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 138-141.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
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