Header Ads

Header ADS


1907 - 1908: The Move Abroad

Owing to the increased repression of the Stolypin regime, which was extended to Finland despite the Finnish constitution, the Central Committee was compelled to move from Russia to Geneva towards the end of 1907. The publication of the illegal Bolshevik paper "Proletary" was also transferred to Geneva.

In December 1907 Lenin moved from Geneva to Paris.

In February 1908 the first issue of the central organ of the Party – "Sotsial-Demokrat" (The Social-Democrat) appeared in Russia. Following the arrest of its editors, publication of the paper was transferred abroad, first to Paris, then to Geneva. It continued to appear until January 1917.

The Menshevik leaders also moved abroad, and in February 1908 began to issue their organ "Golos Sotsial-Demokrata" (The Voice of the Social-Democrat) . The first editorial board consisted of Pavel Axelrod, Fedor Dan, Yuli Martov and Aleksandr Martynov. It continued to appear until December 1911.

1908: Liquidationism

The movement among the Mensheviks to transform the Party into a broad, legal Labour Party along British lines developed by the summer of 1908 into a trend which the Leninists called "liquidationism", since it aimed at the liquidation of the Party as the revolutionary vanguard of the working class.
"Our Party organisations have all become reduced in membership. Some of them -- namely, those whose membership was least proletarian -- fell to pieces. The semi-legal institutions of the Party, created by the revolution, were raided time after time. Things reached such a state that some elements within the Party, which had succumbed to the influence of that disintegration, began to ask whether it was necessary to preserve the old Social-Democratic Party, whether it was necessary to continue its work, whether it was necessary to go 'underground' once more, and how this was to be done; and the extreme Right (the so-called liquidationist trend) answered this question in the sense that it was necessary to legalise ourselves at all costs, even at the price of an open renunciation of the Party programme, tactics and organisation. This was undoubtedly not only an organisational but also an ideological and political crisis."
(V. I. Lenin: "On to the High Road"; in 'Works'; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 3).
"Liquidationism is ideologically connected with renegacy, . with opportunism. . . But liquidationism is not only opportunism. . . Liquidationism is opportunism that goes to the length of renouncing the Party . . . The renunciation of the 'underground' under the existing conditions is the renunciation of the old Party.  
Liquidationism is not only the 'liquidation' of the old party of the working class; it also means the destruction of the class independence of the proletariat, the corruption of its class-consciousness by bourgeois ideas.  
The liquidators are petty-bourgeois intellectuals, sent by the bourgeoisie to sow the seeds of liberal corruption among the workers. The liquidators are traitors to Marxism."
(V. I. Lenin: 'Controversial Questions"; in: ibid.; p. 126-7, 131, 138).

The August l908 Central Committee Meeting

In August 1908 a meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP was held and the liquidator Mensheviks opened their attack on the Party organisation by moving a resolution that the Central Committee should be abolished as the leading organ of the Party and converted into a mere information bureau. The motion was defeated, and a Bolshevik motion to convene a Party Conference was adopted.

At this meeting the Central Committee set up a Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, composed of one representative each of the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, the Polish Party, the Latvian Party and the 'Bund', responsible, under the Central Committee, for the direction of Party work within Russia. It also set up a Central Committee abroad, composed of members of the Central Committee residing outside Russia, responsible to the Russian Collegium.

"Otzovism" and "Ultimatumism"

From August l908 the Leninist tactics of combining legal and illegal forms of struggle began to be attacked, riot only by the liquidationists on the right, but also by a group of 'leftist' Bolsheviks who demanded the renunciation of all legal forms of struggle.

Since the main demand of this group of Bolsheviks was the immediate recall of the Social-Democratic Deputies from the Duma, they were called "Otzovists" (from "otozvat", to recall)

Another group of ostensibly "leftist" Bolsheviks did not demand the immediate recall of the Party's deputies, but demanded that they should be presented with an ultimatum to correct their political errors or be recalled. Lenin described these "ultimatumists" as :"bashful otzovists". 
(V. I. Lenin: "The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia", in: ibid.; p. 514) .

The leading figures among the otzovists and ultimatumists were Aleksandr Bogdanov, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Leonid Krassin and Grigori Alexinsky.

In arguing in favour of recall, as did both otzovism and ultimatumism, the adherents of these trends made great play with the errors committed by the Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma who were mainly Mensheviks. The Leninists replied that this was an argument for correcting the errors, not for recalling the deputies.
"The illegal Party must know how to use the legal Duma fraction . . The most regrettable deviation from consistent proletarian work would be to raise the question of recalling the fraction from the Duma. ….  
We must at once establish team work in this field, so that every Social-Democratic deputy may really feel that the Party is backing him, that the Party is distressed over his mistakes and takes care to straighten his path --so that every Party worker may take part in the general Duma work of the Party. . . striving to subordinate the special work of the fraction to Party propaganda and agitational activity as a whole".
(V. I. Lenin: "On to the High Road", in: "Selected Works", Volume 3; London; l943; p. 8, 9).
The Leninists strongly condemned both otzovism and ultimatumism as "liquidationism in reverse", since, like liquidationism; its aim was to liquidate one side of the Party's work:

"In the course of the bourgeois-democratic revolution our Party was joined by a number of elements that were not attracted by its purely proletarian programme, but mainly by its glorious and energetic fight for democracy. 
In these troubled times such elements more and more display their lack of Social-Democratic consistency and, coming into ever sharper contradiction with the fundamentals of revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics, have been, during the past year, creating a tendency which is trying to give shape to the theory of otzovism and ultimatumism. 
Politically, ultimatumism at the present time is indistinguishable from otzovism; it only introduces greater confusion and disintegration by the disguised - character of its otzovism. By their attempt to deduce from the specific application of the boycott of representative institutions at this or that moment of the revolution that the policy of boycotting is a distinguishing feature of Bolshevik tactics in the period of counter-revolution also -- ultimatumism and otzovism demonstrate that these trends are in essence the reverse side of Menshevism, which preaches indiscriminate participation in all representative institutions- irrespective of the given stage of development of' the revolution. . . . 
0tzovist-ultimatumist agitation has already begun to cause definite harm to the labour movement and to Social-Democratic work.. . 
Bolshevism as a definite tendency . . has nothing in common with otzovism and ultimatumism and . . the Bolshevik faction must more resolutely combat these deviations from the path of revolutionary Marxism".
(V.I. Lenin: Resolution of the Meeting of' the Enlarged Editorial Board of 'Proletary': "On Otzovism and Ultimatumism", in: ibid.; p. 19, 20-21).

The Struggle on Two Fronts

From August 1908, therefore, the Leninists carried on a struggle on the question of Party organisations on two fronts:

Against liquidationism on the one hand, and against "leftist" otzovism and ultimatumism on the other hand.
"Three and a half years ago all the Marxists. . had unanimously to recognise two deviations from the Marxian tactics. Both deviations were recognised as dangerous. Both deviations were explained as being due, not to accident, not to the evil intention of individual persons but to the 'historical situation of the labour movement in the given period. . .
The deviations from Marxism are generated by the "bourgeois influences over the proletariat".
(V. I.Lenin: "Controversial Questions" in: Ibid; p.129, 130).
"The Bolsheviks have actually carried on, from August 1908 to January l910, a strugg1e on two fronts, i.e., a struggle against the liquidators and the otzovists".
(V. I. Lenin: "Notes of a Publicist", in: ibid.; p. 45).


The reaction following the defeat of the 1905 Revolution led to a revival of' idealist philosophy among the Russian intelligentsia, including some Social-Democrats.

During 1908 a number of books were published which claimed to bring Marxism "up-to-date". The most important of these was a symposium entitled "Studies in the Philosophy of Marxism", published in St. Petersburg, the leading contributors to which were Aleksandr Bogdanov and Anatoly Lunacharsky. Following the lines of an earlier work by -Bogdanov – "Empirio-Criticism" (l904-06)-- this attempted to combine Marxist philosophy with the idealist philosophy of Ernst Mach and Richard Avenarius to produce a "synthesis" which they called "empirio-criticism". - -
"A number of writers, would-be Marxists, have this year undertaken a veritable campaign against the philosophy of Marxism. In the course of less than half a year four books devoted mainly and almost exclusively to attacks on dialectical materialism have made their appearance. These include first and foremost 'Studies in (? --- it would have been more proper to say 'against') the Philosophy of Marxism'".
(V.1. Lenin: Preface to the First Edition of "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism"; in: 'Selected Works'; Volume 11; London; l943; p. 89).
In September 1908 Lenin completed a long philosophical work, "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism", published in May 1909, in which he attacked and exposed these works of Anti-Marxist philosophy:
"Behind the mass of new terminological devices, behind the litter of erudite scholasticism, we invariably discerned two principal alignments, two fundamental trends in the solution of philosophical problems, Whether nature, matter, the physical, the external world be taken as primary, and mind, spirit, sensation (experience - as the widespread terminology of our time has it) , the psychical, etc., be regarded as secondary -- that is the root question which in fact continues to divide the philosophers into two great camps.  
The theoretical foundations of this philosophy (i.e., empirio-criticism -- Ed.) must be compared -with those of dialectical materialism. Such a comparison . . reveals, along the whole line of epistemological problems, the thoroughly reactionarycharacter of empirio-criticism, which uses new artifices, terms and subtleties to disguise the old errors of idealism and agnosticism. Only utter ignorance of the nature of philosophical materialism generally and of the nature of Marx's and Engels' dialectical method can lead one to speak of a 'union' of empirio-criticism and Marxism. .  
Behind the epistemological scholasticism of empirio-criticism it is impossible not to see the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle which in the last analysis reflects the tendencies and. ideology of the antagonistic classes in modern society. The contending parties essentially, although concealed by a pseudo-erudite quackery of new terms or by a feeble-minded non-partisanship, are materialism and idealism. The latter is merely a subtle, refined form of fideism, which stands fully armed, commands vast organisations and steadily continues to exercise influence on the masses, turning the slightest vacillation in philosophical thought to its own advantage. The objective, class role played by empirio-criticism entirely consists in rendering faithful service to the fideists in their struggle against materialism in general and historical materialism in particular".
(V.I. Lenin: "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism", in: ibid: p.385-6, 405, 406).


Among some Social-Democrats the revival of idealist philosophy took the form of trying to reconcile Marxist philosophy and religion.

In l908, Anatoly Lunacharsky published "Religion and Socialism" in which he described Marxism as a "Natural, earthly, anti-metaphysical, scientific and human-religion".

Shortly afterwards Maxim Gorky wrote a novel entitled "A Confession", in which a character prays to the people with the words:
"Thou art my God, O sovereign people, and creator of all the gods, which thou hast formed from the beauties of the spirit in the travail and torture of thy quest..
And the world shall have no other gods but thee, for thou art the only god that works miracles.
This . . .is my confession and belief".
(M. Gorky: "A Confession"; London 1910; p. 320).
Gorky carried this idea forward in his articles and letters.
"One does not seek for Gods -one creates them!"
(M. Gorky: "The Karamazov Episode Again", cited-by: V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. M. Gorky, November 14th,1913, in: ibid.; p. 675).
The Leninists strongly attacked the concept of "God Building".
"I cannot -and will not have anything to do with people who have set out to propagate unity between scientific socialism and religion".
(V.I.Lenin: Letter to A.M.Gorky, April , 1908; In: "Socheniya"; Volume 34; Moscow; 1950; p.343.)
"God seeking no more differs from god-building, or god-making, or god-creating or the like than a yellow devil differs from a blue devil . .  
Every religious idea, every idea of god, even every flirtation with the idea of god, is unutterable vileness, vileness that is greeted very tolerantly (and often even favourably) by the democratic bourgeoisie -- and for that very reason it is vileness of the most dangerous kind, 'contagion' of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions are far more easily exposed by the crowd, and are therefore far less dangerous, than the subtle, spiritual ideas of a god decked out in the smartest 'ideological' costumes. The Catholic priest who seduces young-girls (of whom I happened to read in a German newspaper) is far less dangerous to democracy than a priest without a frock, a priest without a coarse religion, a democratic priest with ideas who preaches the making and creating of a god. For the first priest is easily exposed, condemned and ejected, whereas the second cannot be -ejected so easily."
(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. N. Gorky, November 14th. 1913; in: "Selected Works", Volume 11; London; l943; p. 675-6).
"You advocate the idea of god and god-building. . This theory is obviously connected with the theory, or theories, of Bogdanov and Lunacharsky. . . . And it is obviously false and obviously reactionary.
You have gilded and sugar-coated the idea of the clericals, the Purishkeviches, Nicholas II and Messieurs the Struves, for, in practice, the idea of god helps THEM to keep the people in slavery. By gilding the idea of-god, you gilded the chains with which they fetter -the ignorant workers and muzhiks. . . 
The idea, of god has always deadened and dulled 'social- sentiments', for it substitutes a dead thing for a living thing, and has always been an idea of slavery (the worst, hopeless kind of slavery). The idea of god has never 'bound the individual to society' but has always bound the oppressed classes by belief in the divinity of the oppressors."
(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. N. Gorky, December 1913; in: ibid; p. 678-9).

The "Party Mensheviks"

The Leninists considered that a truly united Party could be brought about-only by a rapprochement between the Bolsheviks on the one hand and a section of the Mensheviks on the other hand, those representing the principal factions within the Party and the only ones with significant mass influence. They estimated that a section of the Mensheviks would move farther from reflecting the interests of the capitalist class and nearer to reflecting the interests of the working class, so coming to oppose liquidationism, to split off from the liquidator Mensheviks and to support genuine, practical unity with the Bolsheviks.

In fact, towards the end of 1908 various groups of Mensheviks in Moscow, and later in the Vyborg district of St. Petersburg, passed resolutions sharply condemning the liquidator Mensheviks and their anti-Party policy.

A leading role in the splitting of the Mensheviks was taken by Georgi Plekhanov, who publicly dissociated himself from liquidationism, retired from the editorial board of the organ of the liquidator Mensheviks, "Golos Sotsial-Demokrata" (The Voice of the Social-Democrat), and began to issue his own illegal journal "Dnevnik Sotsial-Demokrata" (The Diary of a Social-Democrat) . In this paper, Plekhanov vigorously attacked the liquidators and called upon all Mensheviks who recognised the necessity of illegal work to rally together. The Leninists called these anti-liquidationist Mensheviks "Party Mensheviks".
"Factions are generated by the relations between the classes in the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks only formulated answers to the questions put to the proletariat by the objective realities of l905-97. Therefore, only the inner evolution of these factions, the 'strong' factions -- strong because of their deep roots, strong because their ideas correspond to certain aspects of objective reality -- only the inner evolution of precisely these factions is capable of securing a real fusion of the factions, i.e- the creation of a genuinely and completely united party of proletarian Marxian socialism in Russia. Hence the practical conclusion: the rapprochement in practical work between these two strong factions alone - and only in so far as they are purged of the non-Social-Democratic tendencies of liquidationism and otzovism - really represents a Party policy, a policy that really brings about unity, not in an easy way, not smoothly, and by no means immediately, but in a real way as distinguished from the endless quack promises of easy, smooth, immediate fusion of "all" factions. . ..  
In my discussions I suggested the slogan: 'rapprochement between the two strong factions, and no whining over the dissolution of the factions'."
(V. I. Lenin: "The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous", in: "Selected Works", Volume 4; London; l943; p. 93-4).
"The present split among the Mensheviks is not accidental but inevitable.  
The stand taken by certain Mensheviks justifies their appellation 'Party Mensheviks'. They took their stand upon the struggle for the Party against the independent legalists. .
Plekhanov was never a Bolshevik. We do not and never will consider him a Bolshevik. But we do consider him a Party Menshevik, as we do any Menshevik capable of rebelling against the group of independent legalists and carrying on the struggle against them to the end. We regard it as the absolute duty of all Bolsheviks in these difficult times, when the task of the day is the struggle for Marxism in theory and for the Party in the practical work of the labour movement, to do everything possible to arrive at a rapprochement with such Social-Democrats"
(V. I. Lenin: "Notes of a Publicist", in: "Selected Works", Volume 4; London; l943; p. 66, 67, 69).
"In my opinion, the line of the bloc (Lenin-Plekhanov) is the only correct one: 1) this line, and it alone, answers to the real interests of the work in Russia, which demand that all real Party elements should rally together; 2) this line, and it alone, will expedite the process of emancipation of the legal organisations from the yoke of the Liquidators, by digging a gulf between the Menshevik workers and the Liquidators, and dispersing and disposing of the latter. A fight for influence in the legal organisations is the burning question of the day, a necessary stage on the road towards the regeneration of the Party.; and a bloc is the only means by which these organisations can be cleansed of the garbage of Liquidationists.  
The plan for a bloc reveals the hand of Lenin -- he is a shrewd fellow and knows a thing or two. But this does not mean that any kind of bloc is good. A Trotsky bloc (he would have said 'synthesis') would be rank unprincipledness.  
A Lenin-Plekhanov bloc is practical because it is thoroughly based on principle, on unity of views on the question of how to regenerate the Party".  (J. V. Stalin:"Letter to the Central Committee of the Party from Exile in Solvychegodsk, December 1910, in "Works", Volume 2; Moscow; l952; p. 2l5, 216).


The Leninists maintained that unity was possible only with groups, which accepted the fundamental principles of Leninist strategy and tactics, and of Leninist organisation.

There were some, however, who stood for unity of the groups at any price, who minimised the differences of principle between Bolsheviks and others and who demanded, that for the sake of unity, the Leninists should make compromises in their principles. Those people the Leninists called "conciliationists".
"Differences of opinion must be hushed up, their causes, their significance, their objective conditions should not be elucidated. The principal thing is to 'reconcile' persons and groups. If they do not agree upon the carrying out of common policy, that policy must be interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable to all. Live and let live. This is philistine 'concilationism', which inevitably loads to narrow-circle diplomacy. To 'stop up' the source of disagreement, to hush it up, to 'adjust' at all costs, to neutralise the conflicting trends --it is to this that the main attention of such 'concilationism' is directed".
(V. I. Lenin: "Notes of a Publicist", in: 'Selected Works', Volume 4; London; l943; p. 4l).
The Leninists regarded concilationism as the product of the same objective conditions which had produced the factions between which it strove for agreement. 
"Concilationism is the sum total of moods, strivings and views which are indissolubly bound up with the very essence of the historical task set before the RDSLP during the period of the counter-revolution of 1908-11."
(V. I. Lenin: "The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous", in: ibid.; p. 93).
They recognised conciliationism as a partial and concealed deviation from_Marxist prinicples, since_its aim was to secure modifications by the Leninists of their Principles for the sake of unity. 
"Conciliatioism . . really renders a most faithful -service to the liquidators and the otzovists, and therefore constitutes an evil all the more dangerous to the Party, the more cunningly, artfully and floridly it cloaks itself with professedly Party, professedly anti-factional declamations".
(V. I. Lenin: "Notes of a Publicist", in: ibid.; p. 40).
"The role of the conciliators during the period of counter-revolution may be characterised by the following picture. With immense efforts the Bolsheviks are pulling our Party wagon up a steep slope. The liquidators -- Golos'-ites are trying with all their might to drag it downhill again. In the wagon sits a conciliator; he is a picture of tenderness. He has such a sweet face, like that of Jesus. He looks the very incarnation of virtue. And modestly dropping his eyes and raising his hands he exclaims: 'I thank: thee, Lord, that I am not like one of these' -- a nod in the direction of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks -- 'vicious factionalists' who hinder all progress'. But the wagon moves slowly forward and in the wagon sits the conciliator".
(V. I. Lenin: "The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous", in: ibid.; p. 110-11).

Powered by Blogger.