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The State of Affairs in the party

December 1910
V. I. Lenin, 

The question of the crisis in our Party has again been given priority by the Social-Democratic press abroad, leading to stronger rumours, perplexity and vacillation among wide Party circles. It is, therefore, essential for the Central Organ of the Party to clarify this question in its entirety. Martov’s article in Golos, No. 23, and Trotsky’s statement of November 26, 1910 in the form of a “resolution” of the “Vienna Club”, published as a separate leaflet, present the question to the reader in a manner which completely distorts the essence of the matter.

Martov’s article and Trotsky’s resolution conceal definite practical actions—actions directed against the Party. Martov’s article is simply the literary expression of a campaign launched by the Golos group to sabotage the Central Committee of our Party. Trotsky’s resolution, which calls upon organisations in the localities to prepare for a “general Party conference” independent of, and against, the Central Committee, expresses the very aim of the Golos group—to destroy the central bodies so detested by the liquidators, and with them, the Party as an organisation. It is not enough to lay bare the anti-Party activities of Golos and Trotsky; they must be fought. Comrades to whom the Party and its revival are dear must come out most resolutely against all those who, guided by purely factional and narrow circle considerations and interests, are striving to destroy the Party. . . .

Trotsky’s statement, though outwardly entirely unconnected with Martov’s jeering at the adversities of the Party, and with the attempts of the Golos supporters to sabotage the Central Committee, is actually connected with the one and the other by inseverable ties, by the ties of “interest”. There are many Party members who still fail to see this connection. The Vienna resolution of November 26, 1910, will undoubtedly help them understand the essence of the matter.

The resolution consists of three parts: (1) a declaration of war against Rabochaya Gazeta (a call to “rebuff it resolutely” as one of the “new factional group undertakings”, using Trotsky’s expression); (2) polemics against the line of the Bolshevik-Plekhanov “bloc”; (3) a declaration that  the “meeting of the Vienna Club [i.e., Trotsky and his circle] resolves: to organise a general Party  fund for the purpose of preparing and convening a conference of the RSDLP”.

We shall not dwell on the first part at all. Trotsky is quite right in saying that Rabochaya Gazeta is a “private undertaking”, and that “it is not authorised to speak in the name of the Party as a whole”.

Only Trotsky should not have forgotten to mention that he and his Pravda are not authorised to speak in the name of the Party either. In saying that the Plenary Meeting recognised the work of Pravda as useful, he should not have forgotten to mention that it appointed a representative of the Central Committee to the Editorial Board of Pravda. When Trotsky, in referring to the meeting’s decisions on Pravda, fails to mention this fact, all one can say about it is that he is deceiving the workers. And this deception on the part of Trotsky is all the more malicious, since in August 1910 Trotsky removed the representative of the Central Committee from Pravda. Since that incident, since Pravda has severed its relations with the Central Committee, Trotsky’s paper is nothing but a “private undertaking”, and one, moreover, that has failed to carry out the obligations it assumed. Until the Central Committee meets again, the only judge of Pravda’s attitude to the Central Committee is the Central Committee representative appointed by the Plenary Meeting who has declared that Trotsky behaved in a manner hostile to the Party.

That is what emerges from the question, so opportunely raised by Trotsky, as to who is “authorised 
to speak in the name of the Party as a whole”.

Nor is that all. In as much as (and so long as) the legalist independent liquidators obstruct the Central Committee in Russia, and inasmuch as (and so long as) the    Golos group obstruct the Central Committee abroad, the sole body authorised “to speak in the name of the Party as a whole” is the Central Organ.

Therefore, we declare, in the name of the Party as a whole, that Trotsky is pursuing an anti- Party policy; that, by failing to make the least mention of the Central Committee in his resolution (as  if he had already come to an understanding with Golos that the work of the Central Committee would be sabotaged), and by announcing in the name of one group abroad the “organisation of a fund for  the purpose of convening a conference of the RSDLP”, he is contravening Party legality and is embarking on the path of adventurism and a split. If the efforts of the liquidators to sabotage the work of the Central Committee meet with success, we, as the sole body authorised to speak in the name of the Party as a whole, will immediately declare that we take no part whatever in Trotsky’s “fund” or in his venture, and that we shall recognise as a general Party conference only one convened by the Central Organ, not one convened by Trotsky’s circle.*

But so long as events have not brought about the final wrecking of the Central Committee, there is still hope for a way out that is entirely legal from the Party point of view.

While calling upon Party members to fight resolutely for this solution based on Party legality, we shall try to investigate “the fundamental principles” of the differences which the Golos group and Trotsky are in a hurry to carry to the point of a split—the former, by obstructing the work of the Central Committee, and the latter, by ignoring it and “organising a fund” for the purpose of convening a “conference of the RSDLP” (no joke!) by Trotsky’s circle.

Trotsky writes in his resolution that at present “there is no basis for the struggle on principle” being waged by the “Leninists and Plekhanovites” (in thus substituting personalities for the trends of Bolshevism and pro-Party Menshevism, Trotsky aims at disparagement, but succeeds only in expressing his own lack of understanding).

It is to investigate these fundamental principles that the Central Organ calls upon Social- Democrats throughout Russia—examine this very interesting question while the “uninteresting” struggle over the convocation of the plenary meeting is still going on.

We quote in full the reasons given by Trotsky for his statement that the struggle of the Central Organ is not justified by any basic difference of principle.

The conviction has taken firm root among all [Trotsky’s italics] Party trends, that it is necessary to restore the illegal organisation, to combine legal with illegal work, and to pursue consistent Social-Democratic tactics. These fundamental directives were unanimously adopted by the last Plenary Meeting.

“The difficulty now, a year after the meeting, is not the proclamation of these truths, but their application in practice. The way to achieve this is by harmonious work carried on jointly by all sections of the Party—the ‘Golos’, ‘Plekhanov’, ‘Leninist’, and ‘Vperyod’ groups, and the non-factionalists. The Party has already spiritually outgrown the period of its infancy, and it is time that all its members felt and acted as revolutionary Social-Democrats, as patriots of their Party and not as members of factions. This co-operation must take place within the framework of the Party as a whole, not around factional bodies.”

That is an example of how fine words are worn into shreds by phrase-mongering intended to disguise a monstrous untruth, a monstrous deception both of those who revel in phrase-mongering and of the whole Party.

It is a plain and crying untruth that all Party trends are convinced of the need to revive the illegal organisation. Each issue of Golos shows that its writers regard the Potresov group as a Party trend, and that not only do they “regard” it as such but that they systematically take part in its “work”.

*  That a general Party conference, one convened by the Central Committee of the Party, is really needed and possible—of that there can be no question.

Is it not ridiculous, is it not disgraceful today, a year after the Plenary Meeting, to play at hide and seek, to deceive oneself and deceive the workers, to indulge in verbal tricks, when it is a question, not of empty phrases, but of “application in practice”?

Yes or no? Does Trotsky regard the Potresov group, who were specifically mentioned in the Central Organ, as a “Party trend” or not? This is precisely a question of the “application in practice”  of the decisions of the Plenary Meeting, and it is now a year since it was posed by the Central Organ clearly, bluntly, and unambiguously, so that there could be no evasions!

Trotsky is trying again and again to evade the question by passing it over in silence or by phrase-mongering; for he is concerned to keep the readers and the Party ignorant of the truth, namely, that Mr. Potresov’s group, the group of sixteen, etc., are absolutely independent of the Party, represent expressly distinct factions, are not only doing nothing to revive the illegal organisation, but are obstructing its revival, and are not pursuing any Social-Democratic tactics. Trotsky is concerned with keeping the Party ignorant of the truth, namely, that the Golos group represent a faction abroad, similarly separated from the Party, and that they actually render service to the liquidators in Russia.

And what about the Vperyod group? Trotsky knows perfectly well that ever since the Plenary Meeting they have been strengthening and developing their separate faction, disposing of funds independently of the Party, and maintaining a separate factional school in which they teach, not “consistent Social-Democratic tactics”, but that “otzovism is a legal shade of opinion”; in which they teach otzovist views on the role of the Third Duma, views expressed in the factional platform of Vperyod.

Trotsky maintains silence on this undeniable truth, because the truth is detrimental to the real aims of is policy. The real aims, however, are becoming clearer and more obvious even to the least far-sighted Party members. They are: an anti-Party bloc of the Potresovs with the Vperyod group—a bloc which Trotsky supports and is organising. The adoption of Trotsky’s resolutions (like the “Vienna” one) by the Golos group, Pravda’s flirtation with the Vperyod group, Pravda’s allegations that only members of the Vperyod group and Trotsky’s group are active in the localities in Russia, the publicity given by Pravda to the Vperyod factional school, Trotsky’s direct assistance to this school, these are all facts which cannot long remain concealed. Murder will out.

The substance of Trotsky’s policy is “harmonious work” carried on by Pravda together with the factions of the Potresovs and Vperyod. The various roles in this bloc have been clearly cast: Mr. Potresov and Co. are continuing their legalistic work, independently of the Party, work of destroying the Social-Democratic Party; the Golos group represent the foreign branch of this faction; and Trotsky has assumed the role of attorney, assuring the naive public that “consistent Social-Democratic tactics” has taken “firm root among all Party trends”. The Vperyod group also enjoy the services of this attorney, who pleads their right to maintain a factional school and resorts to hypocritical and formal phrases in order to gloss over their policy. Naturally, this bloc will support Trotsky’s “fund” and the anti-Party conference which he is convening, for here the Potresovs and the Vperyod group are getting what they want, namely, freedom for their factions, blessings of the conference for those factions, a cover for their activity, and an attorney to defend that activity before the workers.

Therefore, it is from the standpoint of “fundamental principles” that we must regard this bloc as adventurism in the most literal meaning of the term. Trotsky does not dare to say that he sees in Potresov and in the otzovists real Marxists, real champions of loyalty to the principles of Social Democracy. The essence of the position of an adventurer is that he must forever resort to evasions.

For it is obvious and known to everyone that the Potresovs and the otzovists all have their own line  (an anti-Social-Democratic line) and that they are pursuing it, while the diplomats of Golos and Vperyod only serve as a screen for them.

The most profound reason why this bloc is doomed to failure—no matter how great itssuccess among the philistines and no matter how large the “funds” Trotsky may succeed in  collecting with the assistance of Vperyod and Potresov’s “sources”—is that it is an unprincipled bloc. The  theory of Marxism, “the fundamental principles” of our entire world outlook and of our entire Party programme and tactics, is now in the forefront of all Party life not by mere chance, but because it is inevitable. It was no mere chance that since the failure of the revolution, all classes of society, the widest sections of the popular masses, have displayed a fresh interest in the very fundamentals of the world outlook, including the questions of religion and philosophy, and the principles of our Marxist doctrine as a whole; that was inevitable. It is no mere chance that the masses, whom the revolution drew into the sharp struggle over questions of tactics, have subsequently, in the period characterised  by the absence of open struggle, shown a desire for general theoretical knowledge; that was inevitable.

We must again explain the fundamentals of Marxism to these masses; the defence of  Marxist theory is again on the order of the day. When Trotsky declares that the rapprochement between the pro-Party Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks is “devoid of political content” and “unstable”, he is thereby merely revealing the depths of his own ignorance, he is thereby demonstrating his own complete emptiness. For it is precisely the fundamental principles of Marxism that have triumphed as  a result of the struggle waged by the Bolsheviks against the non-Social-Democratic ideas of Vperyod, and as a result of the struggle waged by the pro-Party Mensheviks against the Potresovs and Golos. It was precisely this rapprochement on the question of the fundamental principles of Marxism that constituted the real basis for really harmonious work between the pro-Party Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks during the whole year following the Plenary Meeting. This is a fact—not words, nor promises, nor “well-meaning resolutions”.

And no matter what differences divided the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in the past, and will divide them in future (only adventurers are capable of attracting the crowd with promises that the differences would disappear, or that they would be “liquidated” by this or that resolution)—this fact cannot be expunged from history. Only the internal development of the principal factions themselves, only their own ideological evolution, can provide the guarantee that the factions will really be abolished as a result of their drawing closer together, as a result of their being tested in joint work. This began after the Plenary Meeting. We have so far not seen harmonious work between Potresov and the Vperyod group and Trotsky; all we have seen is group diplomacy, juggling with words, solidarity in evasions. But the Party has seen the pro-Party Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks work in harmony for a whole year, and anyone who is capable of valuing Marxism, anyone who holds dear the “fundamental principles” of Social-Democracy, will not doubt for a moment that nine-tenths of the workers belonging to both groups will be fully in favour of this rapprochement.

It is precisely from the standpoint of “fundamental principles” that Trotsky’s bloc with Potresov and the Vperyod group is adventurism. And it is equally so from the standpoint of the  Party’s political tasks. These tasks were indeed pointed out by the Plenary Meeting unanimously, but that does not mean that they can be reduced to that banal phrase—combining legal with illegal work (for the Cadets also “combine” the legal Rech with the illegal Central Committee of their party)— which Trotsky deliberately uses in order to please the Potresovs and the Vperyod group, who do not object to hollow phrases and platitudes.
“The historical circumstances in which the Social-Democratic movement finds itself in the period of  bourgeois counter-revolution,” the resolution of the Plenary Meeting states, “inevitably beget—as a manifestation of bourgeois influence upon the proletariat—on the one hand, the repudiation of the illegal Social- Democratic Party, the belittling of its role and importance, attempts to curtail the programmatical and tactical tasks and slogans of revolutionary Social-Democracy, etc.; and, on the other hand, repudiation of Social- Democratic work in the Duma and of the utilisation of opportunities for legal work, failure to appreciate the importance of the one and the other, inability to adapt revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics to the peculiar historical conditions of the present moment, etc.”
After a year’s experience, no one can evade a direct answer to the question as to the real meaning of these points. Nor must it be forgotten that at the meeting all the representatives of the non- Russian nationalities (joined at the time by Trotsky, who is in the habit of joining any group that happens to be in the majority at the moment) declared in a written statement that “in point of fact it would be desirable to describe the trend mentioned in the resolution as liquidationism, against   whichit is essential to fight”.

The experience of the year since the Plenary Meeting has shown in practice that it is precisely Potresov groups and the Vperyod faction that are the embodiment of this bourgeois influence upon the proletariat. The evasion of this obvious fact is what we call adventurism, for so far nobody has dared to say openly that the line of Potresov and his supporters is not liquidationism, or that recognition of otzovism as “a legal shade of opinion” conforms to the line of the Party. The year that followed the meeting has not been wasted on us. We have enriched our experience. We have seen the practical manifestation of the tendencies noted at the time. We have seen factions arise that embody those tendencies. And words about the “harmonious work” of these anti-Party factions in an allegedly “Party” spirit can no longer deceive any large sections of the workers.

Thirdly and lastly, Trotsky’s policy is adventurism in the organisational sense; for, as we  have already pointed out, it violates Party legality; by organising a conference in the name of one group abroad (or of a bloc of two anti-Party factions—the Golos and Vperyod factions), it is directly making for a split. Since we are authorised to speak in the name of the whole Party, it is our duty to uphold Party legality to the end. But we by no means want the Party membership to see only the form of “legality” and to overlook the essence of the matter. On the contrary, we draw the main attention of Social-Democrats to the essence of the matter, which consists in the bloc formed by the Golos and Vperyod groups—a bloc which stands for full freedom for Potresov and his like to engage in liquidationist activity and for the otzovists to destroy the Party.

We call upon all Social-Democrats to fight resolutely for Party legality, to fight the anti-Party bloc, for the sake of the fundamental principles of Marxism, and in order to purge Social-Democracy of the taint of liberalism and anarchism.

P.S. The publication of the above article in a special edition (decided on by the vote of a majority of the Editorial Board—two representatives of the Bolshevik trend and one representative of the Polish organisation) has led to a protest (published as a separate leaflet) on the part of the two other members of the Editorial Board who belong to the Golos trend. The authors of the leaflet do not deal with the contents of the article, The State of Afairs in the Party, on their merits, but accuse the majority of the Editorial Board (1) of violating their formal rights as co-editors, and (2) of committing an act of “police informing”. Since the dispute is not conducted on the plane of principles and tactics but along the lines of an organisational squabble and personal attacks, we consider that the most proper procedure is to refer it entirely to the Central Committee. We believe that, even before the Central Committee comes to a decision on this question, all Party comrades will be able to form a proper opinion of the “polemical” methods of the two members of the Editorial Board—Martov and Dan.

V. I. Lenin, Collected Works,
Vol. 17, pp. 29-38

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