A Fool's Haste Is No Speed
V. I. Lenin
A recent issue of Der Kampf, the Austrian Social-Democratic monthly, contained a sensational paragraph signed F. A., stating that Eduard Bernstein, leader of the German opportunists, had renounced his revisionist, opportunist views and returned to Marxism.
Revisionism—revision of Marxism—is today one of the chief manifestations, if not the chief, of bourgeois influence on the proletariat and bourgeois corruption of the workers. That is why Eduard Bernstein, the opportunist leader, has won such world-wide notoriety.
And now we are told that Bernstein has returned to Marxism. This piece of news should seem strange to anyone at all familiar with German Social-Democratic literature. Sozialistische Monatshefte, the principal organ of the opportunists, is still published and continues to preach purely bourgeois views which, in effect, amount to a complete betrayal of socialism. And Bernstein continues to be a leading contributor to the journal. What can the matter be?
It appears that Bernstein gave a lecture in Budapest in which, according to a local paper, he renounced revisionism.
F. A., the Austrian author, has proved exceedingly gullible and imprudent in hastening to proclaim to the world that Bernstein has revised his views. But the liquidator V. Levitsky, one of the leading opportunist contributors to the opportunist journal Nasha Zarya (the Menshevik Plekhanov has dubbed it the Russian "Socialist Monthly") has proved more imprudent still: in Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta (April 3, No. 46) he published a lengthy article under the resonant title of "From Revisionism to Marxism", based wholly on F. A.'s report.
Mr. Levitsky did not even wait for Bernstein's lecture to appear in the press. A fool's haste is no speed.
On learning what world-wide "fame" his Budapest lecture had won, Bernstein wrote a letter to the Brussels Social-Democratic paper Le Peuple on April 11 (new style) in which he bluntly declared: "The report in Der Kampf is absolutely without foundation. I said nothing new in Budapest and did not recant any of the views expressed in Premises of Socialism [Bernstein's chief opportunist work]. The report of my lecture in the Budapest paper simply confused my words with the remarks of the reporter!"
The whole affair proved an ordinary newspaper hoax.
It did, however, reveal the deplorable proneness of some Austrian (only Austrian?) Social-Democrats to disguise opportunism and proclaim its disappearance.
Excessive zeal has carried Mr. Levitsky to preposterous lengths. He writes in Severnaya Rabochaya Gazeta: "With the reversion [?] to Marxism of the father [?] of revisionism, Bernstein, revisionism within the German Social-Democratic movement has been killed for good [!?]."
Every word here is a gem: there has been no reversion, Bernstein is no father, revisionism has not been killed.
"In Russia," the zealous Mr. Levitsky writes, "revisionism has ceased to be a modish doctrine even among the Left Narodniks, who at one time were inclined to fall back on it in their fight against Marxism. Within the Russian Social-Democratic movement revisionism had no influence whatever, despite the attempts of some writers to transplant it to Russian soil."
Every word here is an untruth. On all major issues the Left Narodniks even now "fall back on" the revisionist "doctrines". That is proved by every issue of Russkoye Bogatstvo and Zavety, by every issue of Stoikaya Mysl. Glossing over the opportunism of the Left Narodniks can only cause harm.
There has been some revisionist influence within Russian Social-Democracy since the very beginning of the mass working-class and mass Social-Democratic movement in 1895–96. Does Mr. Levitsky mean to say he has not heard of the struggle which consistent Marxists and adherents of the old Iskra waged for many years against the Economists? Does he mean to say he has not heard of the Party resolutions and the numerous articles written during that period, affirming, proving and explaining that Economism was the Russian form of revisionism and opportunism? Does Mr. Levitsky mean to say he has forgotten about Mr. A. Martynov, a leading liquidator of today, and a leading Economist of yesterday?
Mr. Levitsky denies revisionism in order to disguise his own revisionism. We would remind him only of the four following facts: 1) Was it not the Menshevik Plekhanov who declared in the press in 1909–10 that the Mensheviks had absorbed into their ranks quite a number of opportunist elements? 2)Was it not the same Plekhanov who demonstrated the opportunist nature of the liquidationist "light-for-legality" slogan? 3) Was it not several anti-liquidationist Mensheviks who demonstrated the connection between liquidationism and Economism? = 4) Is it not opportunism to renounce, as Koltsov does, "two pillars" (out of the three) as unsuitable for agitation?
These four facts alone—and forty-four more could be cited—are clear proof that the Economism of 1895–1902, the Menshevism of 1903–08 and the liquidationism of 1908–14, all represent the Russian form or species of opportunism and revisionism, no more and no less.
Der Kampf—monthly organ of the Austrian Social-Democrats, published in Vienna from 1907 to 1934. Took an opportunist, centrist stand under the guise of Left-wing phrases.
F. A.—Friedrich Adler, leader of the Austrian Social-Democrats.
Le Peuple—a daily, central organ of the Belgian Labour Party, published in Brussels since 1885; at present the mouthpiece of the Belgian Socialist Party.
Published: Prosveshcheniye No. 5, May 1914. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the text in Prosveshcheniye.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 322-324.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
eSource: Marxists.org - Marxists Internet Archive