August 7, 2020

Lenin - on Compromise

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As for most of the questions of Marxism Leninism, there always have been approaches to the question of compromise disregarding to dialectical connection and the totally of the subject as a whole. Each group, both right and left, rather than basing the approach to the theory, preferred eclecticism fitting their subjectivity and tendency.

The “Right” embraces compromise as principle regardless of the existing conditions, without responding to the questions; “compromise with whom, for what purposes, under what conditions.” The Rights’ tendency to reformism is the class collaboration through compromise in principle.

The “Left” with the subjective intentions of portraying themselves as the ’genuine revolutionaries”, could never think of retreating or any tactical compromise forced by the circumstances, and thus cannot distinguish between policy of reformist compromise and tactical compromise, and rejects all compromise as “unprincipled”.

Blind rejection of compromise “on principle” regardless of the circumstances  is due to the failure of  the most elementary fact of the revolutionary struggle: revolutionary struggle does not follow a straight line, it will have ups and downs till the victory, Marxist Leninists , based on the concrete  assessment of any given conditions, should determine when to retreat in an orderly fashion with minimal possible loss, and when to compromise and when to advance.

In reality, opposition to any form of compromise of the “Left deviation” , at the final analyses is an isolation from the masses, some times in the form of anarchism and thus, the complete compromise of the working class movement to the bourgeoisie.

In this sense, both “left” and “right” constitute the different sides of the same coin. The revisionist kinship so to speak.

It is important to quote Stalin here;

“I think that the proletariat, as a class, can be divided into three strata.
One stratum is the main mass of the proletariat, its core, its permanent part, the mass of ’pure-blooded’ proletarians, who have long broken off connection with the capitalist class. This stratum of the proletariat is the most reliable bulwark of Marxism.

The second stratum consists of newcomers from the non-proletarian classes – from the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie or the intelligentsia. These are former members of other classes who have only recently merged with the proletariat and have brought with them into the working class their customs, their habits, their waverings and their vacillations. This stratum constitutes the most favourable soil for all sorts of anarchist, semi-anarchist and ’ultra-Left’ groups.

The third stratum, lastly, consists of the labour aristocracy, the upper stratum of the working class, the most well-to-do portion of the proletariat, with its propensity for compromise with the bourgeoisie, its predominant inclination to adapt itself to the powers that be, and its anxiety to ’get on in life’. This stratum constitutes the most favourable soil for outright reformists and opportunists.

Notwithstanding their superficial differences, these last two strata of the working class constitute a more or less common nutritive medium for opportunism in general – open opportunism when the sentiments of the labour aristocracy gain the upper hand, and opportunism camouflaged with ’Left’ phrases, when the sentiments of the semi-middle-class strata of the working class which have not yet completely broken, with the petty bourgeois environment gain the upper hand. The fact that ’ultra-Left’ sentiments very often coincide with the sentiments of open opportunism is not at all surprising. Lenin said time and again that the ’ultra-Left’ opposition is the reverse side of the Right-wing, Menshevik, openly opportunist opposition. “Stalin, The Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the E.C.C.I. Works Vol. 9 p. 10-11

Reading one or two writings of Lenin on a subject and handpicking what fits the subjectivity, is a common tendency of each deviation.  Lenin clearly states that “to reject compromises “on principle”, to reject the permissibility of compromises in general, no matter of what kind, is childishness, which it is difficult even to consider seriously.” (Lenin, P246)

Lenin stressing the crux of the matter says;

” It is also incorrect to reduce the question to a bare repudiation of compromise ..it is ridiculous to absolutely reject compromises that are imposed by life itself…what matters is a clear understanding and persistent pursuit of the aims of the struggle under all circumstances.” (Lenin, P51)
Lenin mentions the “left deviations’” revolutionary phrase making on the subject, states;

“solemn” condemnation of “confusionism”, and even of “all compromise”this is an empty revolutionary phrase, because one cannot be opposed to all compromise), and, alongside of this, evasive, equivocal repetition of general phrases—phrases which do not explain the concept “dictatorship of the proletariat” but obscure it” Lenin, A Publicist’s Notes, February, 1920, Collected Works, Volume 30, pages 352-362

And for the “right “deviation;

“whoever exalts this negative task to something positive, is bound to slide into the role of a bourgeois advocate of compromise between people’s freedom and the autocracy. Lenin, A New Upswing, May 6, 1906, Collected Works, Volume 10, pages 386-391.

Lenin quotes Engel's views on compromise;

Compromises are often unavoidably forced upon a fighting party by circumstances....The task of a truly revolutionary party is not to declare that it is impossible to renounce all compromises, but to be able, through all compromises, when they are unavoidable, to remain true to its principles, to its class, to its revolutionary purpose....” (Lenin, P177).

Based on the conditions and the existence or nonexistence of the revolutionary situation, “Compromise “says Lenin, “is an attempt on the part of the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers to get their needs satisfied by means of reforms, by concessions on the part of capital, without a socialist revolution.” (Lenin, P206)

Explaining, setting the aim and the duty of revolution he says; “But it is impossible to give the people peace and land without overthrowing the bourgeoisie, without socialism. It is the duty of the revolution to put an end to compromise, and to put an end to compromise means taking the path of socialist revolution.” (Lenin, P206)

Lenin explains the attitude of Marxism towards compromise in his article “Notes of a Social-Democratic Publicist” ;

Marxism’s attitude towards the zigzag path of history is essentially the same as its attitude towards compromise. Every zigzag turn in history is a compromise, a compromise between the old, which is no longer strong enough to completely negate the new, and the new, which is not yet strong enough to completely overthrow the old. Marxism does not altogether reject compromises. Marxism considers it necessary to make use of them, but that does not in the least prevent Marxism, as a living and operating historical force, from fighting energetically against compromises. Not to understand this seeming contradiction is not to know the rudiments of Marxism.

Engels once expressed the Marxist attitude to compromises very vividly, clearly, and concisely in an article on the manifesto of the Blanquist fugitives of the Commune (1874). These Blanquists wrote in their manifesto that they accepted no compromises whatever. Engels ridiculed this manifesto. It was not, he said, a question of rejecting compromises to which circumstances condemn us (or to which circumstances compel us—I must beg the reader’s pardon for being obliged to quote from memory, as I am unable to check with the original text). It was a question of clearly realizing the true revolutionary aims of the proletariat and of being able to pursue them through all and every circumstances, zigzags, and compromises.  Lenin, Against Boycott, Notes of a Social-Democratic Publicist

The compromises and concessions of the Bolsheviks, their assent to resolutions which in many respects were not forceful enough, were necessary for a clear-cut demarcation based on principle. “The subordination of the minority to the majority, not compromise with intellectualist groups’ says Lenin, “only this can serve as the principle of the working-class movement.” Lenin, The Political Significance of Vituperation, Collected Works, Volume 20, pages 378-380. June 24, 1914

In reference to the attitude towards compromise when there is a revolutionary situation Lenin says; “The slogan "All Power to the Soviets" is nothing but a call for insurrection. And the blame will be wholly and undoubtedly ours, if we, who for months have been calling upon the people to revolt and repudiate compromise, fail to lead them to revolt on the eve of the revolution's collapse, after the people have expressed their confidence in us.” Lenin, Letter to the Bolshevik Comrades, October 1917, Collected Works, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 182-187

In reference to the general statement of German Revolutionaries;

“all compromise with other parties, all reversion to parliamentary forms of struggle which have become historically and politically obsolete, and any policy of maneuvering and compromise must be emphatically rejected.” “Specifically, proletarian methods of revolutionary struggle must be strongly emphasised.”

Lenin says;

“Any Bolshevik who has consciously participated in the development of Bolshevism since 1903 or has closely observed that development will at once say, after reading these arguments, “What old and familiar rubbish! What ‘Left-wing’ childishness!” (Lenin, P265)  

We had to go into the Second Duma, we had to reckon with compromise once the circumstances forced it upon us against our will, despite our efforts, and at the cost of the defeat of our struggle.” Lenin, Notes of a Social-Democratic Publicist

Marxist Leninists always determine their attitude based on the concrete assessment of any given situation without leaving the real ground. Proceeding from that principle, it is impossible to reject or embrace “compromise” totally without betraying Marxism Leninism.

Compromise is a negative task forced upon the Marxist Leninist party or organization by circumstances at any given time especially when there is no objective and/or subjective conditions of revolution lacking.  That is why, in Lenin’s words “to reject compromises “on principle”, to reject the permissibility of compromises in general, no matter of what kind, is childishness, which it is difficult even to consider seriously.” And in Engels words It is not a question of rejecting compromises to which circumstances condemn us, it is a question of clearly realizing the true revolutionary aims of the proletariat and of being able to pursue them through all and every circumstances, zigzags, and compromises.

What differentiates the Marxist Leninists from the “revisionist kinship” of right and left is, the principle that, determination of attitude at any given time should always be based on the existing conditions and the interests of the working class and their struggle in mind without any compromise on theory and maximum goal.

Erdogan A
August 2020

Contents

Introduction - P5
The Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats, 1897 – P12

To G. V. Plekhanov, 1902 – P14

Political Sophisms, 1905 – P16

The Zemstvo Congress, 1905 – P17

Friends Meet, 1905 – P25

Revolutionary Office Routine & Revolutionary Action, 1905 -P26

In the Wake of the Monarchist Bourgeoisie, or In the Van of the Revolutionary Proletariat and Peasantry? 1905 – P28

Realists Praise the Social-Democratic “Realists” For? 1905 – P42

The Landlords on the Boycott of the Duma, 1905 – P51

The Victory of the Cadets & the Tasks of the Workers’ Party, 1906 – P55

The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements, 1906 – P87

Wavering Above, Determination Below, 1906 – P90

The St. Petersburg Elections & the Crisis of Opportunism, 1907 – P94

Revolution and Counter-Revolution, 1907 – P99

The Significance of the December (1908) Resolutions, 1910 – P100

The Cadets on Two Camps & 'Sensible Compromise', 1911 – P101

A Liberal Labour Party Manifesto, 1911 – P107

Plan for a Lecture “Manifesto of the Liberal Labour Party”, 1911 – P112

From the Camp of the Stolypin “Labour” Party, 1911 – P114

Report of the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. to the Brussels Conference, 1914 – P121

To:   A. G. Shlyapnikov, 1916 – P 159

The Chkheidze Faction and Its Role, 1916 - P161

The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.), 1917 – P166

A Question of Principle, 1917 – P167

Resolution of the Central Committee of R.S.D.L.P, 1917 – P171

A Class Shift, 1917 – P174

On Compromises, 1917 – P177

Lessons of the Revolution, 1917 – P185

Heroes of Fraud & the Mistakes of the Bolsheviks, 1917 – P203


Meeting of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) 1917 – P204


Speech On The Agrarian Question, 1917 – P206


On The Economic Condition Of Petrograd Workers And The Tasks Of The Working Class, 1917 - P209


A Letter to Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) 1917 – P212

Speech on The Dissolution of The Constituent Assembly, 1918 – P214

Speech in The Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ And Red Army Deputies, 1918 – P218

Six Theses on The Immediate Tasks Of The Soviet Government, 1918 – P219

Speech At A Meeting In Butyrsky District, 1918 – P223


Draft Decree On The Dissolution Of The Constituent Assembly, 1918 – P224


The Proletarian Revolution & the Renegade Kautsky, 1918 – P227


No Compromises? 1920 – P229


On Compromises, 1920 – P243

The Struggle Against Which Enemies Within the Working, 1920 – P246


“Left-Wing” Communism in Great Britain, 1920 – P256


“Left-Wing” Communism in Germany, 1920 – P265

Letter To G. K. Orjonikidze, 1921 – P267


Speech At The Opening Of The Congress, 1921 – P268


The Tax in Kind, 1921 – P270


Speech In Defense Of The Tactics Of The Communist International, 1921 – P314