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March 1905*

…Parvus managed at last to go forward, instead of moving backward like a crab. He refused to perform the Sisyphean labour6 of endlessly correcting Martynov’s and Martov’s follies. He openly 
advocated (unfortunately, together with Trotsky) the idea of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship,† the idea that it was the duty of Social-Democrats to take part in the provisional revolutionary government after the overthrow of the autocracy. Parvus is profoundly right in saying 
that the Social-Democrats must not fear to take bold strides forward, to deal joint “blows” at the enemy, shoulder to shoulder with the revolutionary bourgeois democrats, on the definite understanding, however (very appropriately brought to mind), that the organisations are not to be merged, that we march separately but strike together, that we do not conceal the diversity of interests, that we watch our ally as we would our enemy, etc.

But for all our warm sympathy for these slogans of a revolutionary Social-Democrat who has turned away from the tail-enders,‡ we could not help feeling jarred by certain false notes that Parvus struck. We mention these slight errors, not out of captiousness, but because from him to whom much  is given, much is demanded. It would be most dangerous at present for Parvus to compromise his correct position by his own imprudence. Among the imprudent, to say the least, is the following sentence in his preface to Trotsky’s pamphlet: “If we wish to keep the revolutionary proletariat apart from the other political currents, we must learn to stand ideologically at the head of the revolutionary movement” (this is correct), “to be more revolutionary than anyone else”. This is incorrect. That is to say, it is incorrect, if the statement is taken in the general sense in which it is expressed by Parvus; it  is incorrect from the point of view of the reader to whom this preface is something standing by itself, apart from Martynov and the new-Iskrists, whom Parvus does not mention. If we examine this statement dialectically, i.e., relatively, concretely, in all its aspects, and not after the manner of those literary jockeys, who, even many years after, snatch separate sentences from some single work and distort their meaning, it will become clear that Parvus directs the assertion expressly against tailism, to which extent he is right (compare particularly his subsequent words: “If we lag behind revolutionary development”, etc.). But the reader cannot have in mind only tail-enders, since there are others  besides tail-enders among the dangerous friends of the revolution in the camp of the revolutionaries— there are the “Socialists-Revolutionaries”,8 there are people like the Nadezhdins, who are swept along by the tide of events and are helpless in the face of revolutionary phrases; or those who are guided by instinct rather than by a revolutionary outlook (like Gapon). These Parvus forgot; he forgot them because his presentation, the development of his thoughts, was not free, but was hampered by the pleasant memory of the very Martynovism against which he seeks to warn the reader. Parvus’s exposition is not sufficiently concrete because he does not consider the totality of the various revolutionary currents in Russia, which are inevitable in the epoch of  democratic revolution and  which naturally reflect the still unstratified classes of society in such an epoch. At such a time, revolutionary-democratic programmes are quite naturally veiled in vague, even reactionary, socialist ideas concealed behind revolutionary phrases (to wit, the Socialists-Revolutionaries and  Nadezhdin, who, it seems, changed only his label when he went over from the “revolutionary socialists” to the new Iskra). Under such circumstances we, the Social-Democrats, never can and never will advance the  slogan “Be more revolutionary than anyone else”. We shall not even try to keep up with the  revolutionariness of a democrat who is detached from his class basis, who has a weakness for fine phrases and flaunts catchwords and cheap slogans (especially in agrarian matters). On the contrary,   we will always be critical of such revolutionariness; we will expose the real meaning of words, the real content of idealised great events; and we will teach the need for a sober evaluation of the classes and shadings within the classes, even in the hottest situations of the revolution.

Equally incorrect, for the same reason, are Parvus’s statements that “the revolutionary provisional government in Russia will be a government of working-class democracy”, that “if the Social-Democrats are at the head of the revolutionary movement of the Russian proletariat, this government will be a Social-Democratic government”, that the Social-Democratic provisional government “will be an integral government with a Social-Democratic majority”. This is impossible, unless we speak of fortuitous, transient episodes, and not of a revolutionary dictatorship that will be at all durable and capable of leaving its mark in history. This is impossible, because only a revolutionary dictatorship supported by the vast majority of the people can be at all durable (not absolutely, of course, but relatively). The Russian proletariat, however, is at present a minority of the population in Russia. It can become the great, overwhelming majority only if it combines with the mass of semi- proletarians, semi-proprietors, i.e., with the mass of the petty-bourgeois urban and rural poor. Such a composition of the social basis of the possible and desirable revolutionary-democratic dictatorship will, of course, affect the composition of the revolutionary government and inevitably lead to the participation, or even predominance, within it of the most heterogeneous representatives of revolutionary democracy. It would be extremely harmful  to entertain any illusions on this score. If  that windbag Trotsky now writes (unfortunately, side by side with Parvus) that “a Father Gapon could appear only once”, that “there is no room for a second Gapon”, he does so simply because he is a windbag. If there were no room in Russia for a second Gapon, there would be no room for a truly “great”, consummated democratic revolution. To become great, to evoke 1789-93, not 1848-50, and  to surpass those years, it must rouse the vast masses to active life, to heroic efforts, to “fundamental historic creativeness”; it must raise them out of frightful ignorance, unparalleled oppression, incredible backwardness, and abysmal dullness. The revolution is already raising them and will raise them completely; the government itself is facilitating the process by its desperate resistance. But, of course, there can be no question of a mature political consciousness, of a Social-Democratic consciousness of these masses or their numerous “native” popular leaders or even “muzhik” leaders. They cannot become Social-Democrats at once without first passing a number of revolutionary tests, not only because of their ignorance (revolution, we repeat, enlightens with marvellous speed), but because their class position is not proletarian, because the objective logic of historical development confronts them at the present time with the tasks, not of a socialist, but of a democratic revolution.

In this revolution, the revolutionary proletariat will participate with the utmost energy, sweeping aside the miserable tail-ism of some and the revolutionary phrases of others. It will bring class definiteness and consciousness into the dizzying whirlwind of events, and march on intrepidly and unswervingly, not fearing, but fervently desiring, the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship, fighting for the republic and for complete republican liberties, fighting for substantial economic reforms, in order to create for itself a truly large arena, an arena worthy of the twentieth century, in which to carry on the struggle for socialism.

V. I. Lenin, Collected Works,
Vol. 8, pp. 289-92

* The date shows the time of writing or the first publication.—Ed.
† In the manuscript: “He openly advocated (unfortunately with the windbag Trotsky in a foreword to the latter’s bombastic pamphlet Before the Ninth of January) the idea of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship. . .”.—
‡ A note in the manuscript says: “Iskra is modestly silent over the matter of Trotsky’s pamphlet with Parvus’s preface, published in the Party printshop. Of course, it is not in its interests to disentangle the muddle: Martynov pulls one way and Parvus pulls the other way, but we’ll say nothing until Plekhanov pulls Martov out by his ears! And we call this ‘Ideological leadership of the Party’! Incidentally, I’ll mention a ‘formalistic’ curiosity. Our sages in the Council7 have decreed the Party signature is only permissible on pamphlets published on instructions  from Party organisations.  It  would  be  interesting  to  learn  from  these  sages  what  organisationrequested the publication of the pamphlet of Nadezhdin, Trotsky and others? Or were the people right who curvy sectarian trick against Lenin’s publishing house?”—Ed.

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