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December 1911

Trotsky’s Pravda No. 22, which appeared recently after a long interval in which no issue was published, vividly illustrates the decay of the petty groups abroad that attempted to base their existence on their diplomatic game with the non-Social-Democratic trends of liquidationism and otzovism.

The publication appeared on November 29, New Style, nearly a month after the announcement issued by the Russian Organising Commission.43 Trotsky makes no mention of this whatsoever.

As far as Trotsky is concerned, the Russian Organising Commission does not exist. Trotsky calls himself a Party man on the strength of the fact that to him the Russian Party centre, formed by the overwhelming majority of the Social-Democratic organisations in Russia, means nothing. Or perhaps
it is the other way round, comrades? Perhaps Trotsky, with his small group abroad, is just nothing so far as the Social-Democratic organisations in Russia are concerned?

Trotsky uses the boldest type for his assertions—it’s a wonder he never tires of making solemn vows—that his paper is “not a factional but a Party organ”. You need only pay some little attention to the contents of No. 22 to see at once the obvious mechanics of the game with the non- Party Vperyod and liquidator factions.

Take the report from St. Petersburg, signed S.V., which advertises the Vperyod group. S.V. reproaches Trotsky for not having published the resolution of the St. Petersburg Vperyod group against the petition campaign, sent to him long ago. Trotsky, accused by the Vperyod group of “narrow factionalism” (what black ingratitude!), twists and turns, pleading lack of funds and the fact that his paper does not appear often enough. The game is too obvious: We will do you a good turn, and you do the same for us—we (Trotsky) will keep silent about the fight of the Party people against the otzovists and, again, we (Trotsky) will help advertise Vperyod, and you (S.V.) give in to the liquidators on the question of the “petition campaign”. Diplomatic defence of both non-Party factions—isn’t that the sign of a true Party spirit?

Or take the florid editorial grandly entitled “Onward!”. “Class-conscious workers!” we read in that editorial. “At the present moment there is no more important [sic!] and comprehensive slogan [the poor fellow has let his tongue run away with him] than freedom of association, assembly, and strikes.” “The Social-Democrats,” we read further, “call upon the proletariat to fight for a republic. But if the fight for a republic is not to be merely the bare [!!] slogan of a select few, it is necessary that you class-conscious workers should teach the masses to realise from experience the need for freedom of association and to fight for this most vital class demand.”

This revolutionary phraseology merely serves to disguise and justify the falsity of liquidationism, and thereby to be fuddle the minds of the workers. Why is the slogan calling for a republic the bare slogan of a select few when the existence of a republic means that it would be impossible to disperse the Duma, means freedom of association and of the press, means freeing the peasants from violence and plunder by the Markovs, Romanovs, and Purishkeviches? Is it not clear that it is just the opposite—that it is the slogan of “freedom of association” as a “comprehensive” slogan, used independently of the slogan of a republic, that is “bare” and senseless?

It is absurd to demand “freedom of association” from the tsarist monarchy, without explaining to the masses that such freedom cannot be expected from tsarism and that to obtain it there must be a republic. The introduction of bills into the Duma on freedom of association, and questions and speeches on such subjects, ought to serve us Social-Democrats as an occasion and material for ouragitation in favour of a republic.

The “class-conscious workers should teach the masses to realise from experience the need for freedom of association”. This is the old song of old Russian opportunism, the opportunism long ago preached to death by the Economists. The experience of the masses is that the ministers are closing down their unions, that the governors and police officers are daily perpetrating deeds of violence against them—this is real experience of the masses. But extolling the slogan of “freedom of association” as opposed to a republic is merely phrase-mongering by an opportunist intellectual who is alien to the masses. It is the phrase-mongering of an intellectual who imagines that the “experience” of a “petition” (with 1,300 signatures)44 or a pigeon-holed bill is something that educates the “masses”. Actually, it is not paper experience, but something different, the experience of life that educates them; what enlightens them is the agitation of the class-conscious workers for a republic— which is the sole comprehensive slogan from the standpoint of political democracy.

Trotsky knows perfectly well that liquidators writing in legal publications combine this very slogan of “freedom of association” with the slogan “down with the underground party, down with the struggle for a republic”. Trotsky’s particular task is to conceal liquidationism by throwing dust in the eyes of the workers.

It is impossible to argue with Trotsky on the merits of the issue, because Trotsky holds no views whatever. We can and should argue with confirmed liquidators and otzovists; but it is no use arguing with a man whose game is to hide the errors of both these trends; in his case the thing to do is to expose him as a diplomat of the smallest calibre.

V. I. Lenin, Collected Works,

Vol. 17, pp. 360-62

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