MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

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C H A P T E R   F O U R

THE MENSHEVIKS AND THE BOLSHEVIKS IN THE PERIOD OF THE STOLYPIN REACTION. THE BOLSHEVIKS CONSTITUTE THEMSELVES
AN INDEPENDENT MARXIST PARTY (1908-1912)

1.
 
 
 
 
 
STOLYPIN REACTION. DISINTEGRATION AMONG THE OPPOSITIONAL INTELLIGENTSIA. DECADENCE. DESERTION OF A SECTION OF THE PARTY INTELLIGENTSIA TO THE ENEMIES OF MARXISM AND ATTEMPTS TO REVISE THE THEORY OF MARXISM. LENIN'S REBUTTAL OF THE REVISIONISTS IN HIS "MATE RIALISM AND EMPIRIO-CRITICISM" AND HIS DEFENCE OF THE THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE MARXIST PARTY

    The Second State Duma was dissolved by the tsarist government on June 3, 1907. This is customarily referred to in history as the coup d'etat of June 3. The tsarist government issued a new law on the elections to the Third State Duma, and thus violated its own Manifesto of October 17, 1905, which stipulated that new laws could be issued only with the consent of the Duma. The members of the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma were committed for trial; the representatives of the working class were condemned to penal servitude and exile.

    The new election law was so drafted as to increase considerably the number of representatives of the landlords and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie in the Duma. At the same time the representation of the peasants and workers, small as it was, was reduced to a fraction of its former size.

    Black-Hundreds and Constitutional-Democrats preponderated in the Third Duma. Of a total of 442 deputies, 171 were Rights (Black-Hundreds), 113 were Octobrists or members of kindred groups, 101 were Constitutional-Democrats or members of kindred groups, 13 were Trudoviki, and 18 were Social-Democrats.

    The Rights (so called because they occupied the benches on the right-hand side of the Duma) represented the worst enemies of the workers and peasants -- the Black-Hundred feudal landlords, who had subjected the peasants to mass floggings and shootings during the sup- pression of the peasant movement, and organizers of Jewish pogroms, of the manhandling of demonstrating workers and of the brutal burning of premises where meetings were being held during the revolution. The Rights stood for the most ruthless suppression of the working people, and for the unlimited power of the tsar; they were opposed to the tsar's Manifesto of October 17, 1905.

    The Octobrist Party, or the Union of October Seventeenth, closely adhered to the Rights in the Duma. The Octobrists represented the interests of big industrial capital, and of the big landlords who ran their estates on capitalist lines (at the beginning of the Revolution of 1905 a large number of the big landlords belonging to the Constitutional-Democratic Party went over to the Octobrists). The only thing that distinguished the Octobrists from the Rights was their acceptance -- only in words at that -- of the Manifesto of October 17. The Octobrists fully supported both the home and foreign policy of the tsarist government.

    The Constitutional-Democratic Party had fewer seats in the Third Duma than in the First and Second Dumas. This was due to the transfer of part of the landlord vote from the Constitutional-Democrats to the Octobrists.

    There was a small group of petty-bourgeois democrats, known as Trudoviki, in the Third Duma. They vacillated between the Constitutional-Democrats and the labour democrats (Bolsheviks). Lenin pointed out that although the Trudoviki in the Duma were extremely weak, they represented the masses, the peasant masses. The vacillation of the Trudoviki between the Constitutional-Democrats and the labour democrats was an inevitable consequence of the class position of the small owners. Lenin set before the Bolshevik deputies, the labour democrats, the task of "helping the weak petty-bourgeois democrats, of wresting them from the influence of the liberals, of rallying the democratic camp against the counter-revolutionary Constitutional-Democrats, and not only against the Rights. . . ." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XV, p. 486.)

    During the Revolution of 1905, and especially after its defeat, the Constitutional-Democrats increasingly revealed themselves as a counter-revolutionary force. Discarding their "democratic" mask more and more, they acted like veritable monarchists, defenders of tsardom. In 1909 a group of prominent Constitutional-Democrat writers published a volume of articles entitled Vekhi (Landmarks ) in which, on behalf of the bourgeoisie, they thanked the tsar for crushing the revolution. Cringing and fawning upon the tsarist government, the government of the knout and the gallows, the Constitutional-Democrats bluntly stated in this book that "we should bless this government, which alone, with its bayonets and jails, protects us (the liberal bourgeoisie) from the ire of the people."

    Having dispersed the Second State Duma and disposed of the Social-Democratic group of the Duma, the tsarist government zealously set about destroying the political and economic organizations of the proletariat. Convict prisons, fortresses and places of exile were filled to overflowing with revolutionaries. They were brutally beaten up in the prisons, tormented and tortured. The Black-Hundred terror raged unchecked. The tsar's Minister Stolypin set up gallows all over the country. Several thousand revolutionaries were executed. In those days the gallows was known as the "Stolypin necktie."

    In its efforts to crush the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants the tsarist government could not confine itself to acts of repression, punitive expeditions, shootings, jailings and sentences of penal servitude. It perceived with alarm that the naive faith of the peasants in "the little father, the tsar" was steadily vanishing. It therefore resorted to a broad manoeuvre. It conceived the idea of creating a solid support for itself in the countryside, in the large class of rural bourgeoisie -- the kulaks.

    On November 9, 1906, Stolypin issued a new agrarian law enabling the peasants to leave the communes and to set up separate farms. Stolypin's agrarian law broke down the system of communal land tenure. The peasants were invited to take possession of their allotments as private property and to withdraw from the communes. They could now sell their allotments, which they were not allowed to do before. When a peasant left his commune the latter was obliged to allot land to him in a single tract (khutor, otrub ).

    The rich peasants, the kulaks, now had the opportunity to buy up the land of the poor peasants at low prices. Within a few years after the promulgation of the law, over a million poor peasants had lost their land altogether and had been completely ruined. As the poor peasants lost their land the number of kulak farmholds grew. These were sometimes regular estates employing hired labour -- farm hands -- on a large scale. The government compelled the peasants to allot the best land of the communes to the kulak farmers.

    During the "emancipation" of the peasants the landlords had robbed the peasants of their land; now the kulaks began to rob the communes of their land, securing the best plots and buying up the allotments of poor peasants at low prices.

    The tsarist government advanced large loans to the kulaks for the purchase of land and the outfitting of their farms. Stolypin wanted to turn the kulaks into small landlords, into loyal defenders of the tsarist autocracy.

    In the nine years 1906-15 alone, over two million households withdrew from the communes.

    As a result of the Stolypin policy the condition of the peasants with small land allotments, and of the poor peasants, grew worse than ever. The process of differentiation among the peasantry became more marked. The peasants began to come into collision with the kulak farmers.

    At the same time, the peasants began to realize that they would never gain possession of the landed estates as long as the tsarist government and the State Duma of the landlords and Constitutional-Democrats existed.

    During the period when kulak farmholds were being formed in large numbers (1907-09), the peasant movement began to decline, but soon after, in 1910, 1911, and later, owing to the clashes between the members of the village communes and the kulak farmers, the peasant movement against the landlords and the kulak farmers grew in intensity.

    There were big changes also in industry after the revolution. The concentration of industry in the hands of increasingly powerful capitalist groups proceeded much more rapidly. Even before the Revolution of 1905, the capitalists had begun to form associations with the object of raising prices within the country and of using the super-profits thus obtained for the encouragement of export trade so as to enable them to dump goods abroad at low prices and to capture foreign markets. These capitalist associations (monopolies) were called trusts and syndicates. After the revolution their number became still greater. There was also an increase in the number of big banks, whose role in industry became more important. The flow of foreign capital into Russia increased.

    Thus capitalism in Russia was turning into monopoly capitalism, imperialist capitalism, on a growing scale.

    After several years of stagnation, industry began to revive: the output of coal, metal, oil, textiles and sugar increased. Grain exports assumed large dimensions.

    Although Russia at that time made some industrial progress, she was still backward compared with Western Europe, and still dependent on foreign capitalists. Russia did not produce machinery and machine tools -- they were imported from abroad. She had no automobile industry or chemical industry; she did not produce artificial fertilizers. Russia also lagged behind other capitalist countries in the manufacture of armaments.

    Pointing to the low level of consumption of metals in Russia as an indication of the country's backwardness, Lenin wrote:

    "In the half-century following the emancipation of the peasants the consumption of iron in Russia has increased five-fold; yet Russia remains an incredibly and unprecedentedly backward country, poverty-stricken and semi-barbaric, equipped with modern implements of production to one-fourth the extent of England, one-fifth the extent of Germany, and one-tenth the extent of America." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XVI, p. 543.)

    One direct result of Russia's economic and political backwardness was the dependence both of Russian capitalism and of tsardom itself on West-European capitalism.

    This found expression in the fact that such highly important branches of industry as coal, oil, electrical equipment, and metallurgy were in the hands of foreign capital, and that tsarist Russia had to import nearly all her machinery and equipment from abroad.

    It also found expression in the fettering foreign loans. To pay interest on these loans tsardom squeezed hundreds of millions of rubles out of the people annually.

    It moreover found expression in the secret treaties with Russia's "allies," by which the tsarist government undertook in the event of war to send millions of Russian soldiers to support the "allies" on the imperialist fronts and to protect the tremendous profits of the British and French capitalists.

    The period of the Stolypin reaction was marked by particularly savage assaults on the working class by the gendarmerie and police, the tsarist agents-provocateurs and Black-Hundred ruffians. But it was not only the underlings of the tsar who harassed and persecuted the workers. No less zealous in this respect were the factory and mill owners, whose offensive against the working class became particularly aggressive in the years of industrial stagnation and increasing unemployment. The factory owners declared mass lockouts and drew up black lists of class-conscious workers who took an active part in strikes. Once a person was blacklisted he could never hope to find employment in any of the plants belonging to the manufacturers' association in that particular branch of industry. Already in 1908 wage rates were cut by 10 to 15 per cent. The working day was everywhere increased to 10 or 12 hours. The system of rapacious fines again flourished.

    The defeat of the Revolution of 1905 started a process of disintegration and degeneration in the ranks of the fellow-travelers of the rev-

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olution. Degenerate and decadent tendencies grew particularly marked among the intelligentsia. The fellow-travelers who came from the bourgeois camp to join the movement during the upsurge of the revolution deserted the Party in the days of reaction. Some of them joined the camp of the open enemies of the revolution, others entrenched themselves in such legally functioning working-class societies as still survived, and endeavoured to divert the proletariat from the path of revolution and to discredit the revolutionary party of the proletariat. Deserting the revolution the fellow-travelers tried to win the good graces of the reactionaries and to live in peace with tsardom.

    The tsarist government took advantage of the defeat of the revolution to enlist the more cowardly and self-seeking fellow-travelers of the revolution as agents-provocateurs. These vile Judases were sent by the tsarist Okhrana into the working class and Party organizations, where they spied from within and betrayed revolutionaries.

    The offensive of the counter-revolution was waged on the ideological front as well. There appeared a whole horde of fashionable writers who "criticized" Marxism, and "demolished" it, mocked and scoffed at the revolution, extolled treachery, and lauded sexual depravity under the guise of the "cult of individuality."

    In the realm of philosophy increasing attempts were made to "criticize" and revise Marxism; there also appeared all sorts of religious trends camouflaged by pseudo-scientific theories.

    "Criticizing" Marxism became fashionable.

    All these gentlemen, despite their multifarious colouring, pursued one common aim: to divert the masses from the revolution.

    Decadence and scepticism also affected a section of the Party intelligentsia, those who considered themselves Marxists but had never held firmly to the Marxist position. Among them were writers like Bogdanov, Bazarov, Lunacharsky (who had sided with the Bolsheviks in 1905), Yushkevich and Valentinov (Mensheviks). They launched their "criticism" simultaneously against the philosophical foundations of Marxist theory, i.e., against dialectical materialism, and against the fundamental Marxist principles of historical science, i.e., against historical materialism. This criticism differed from the usual criticism in that it was not conducted openly and squarely, but in a veiled and hypocritical form under the guise of "defending" the fundamental positions of Marxism. These people claimed that in the main they were Marxists, but that they wanted to "improve" Marxism -- by ridding it of certain of its fundamental principles. In reality, they were hostile to Marxism, for they tried to undermine its theoretical foundations, although they hypocritically denied their hostility to Marxism and two-facedly continued to style themselves Marxists. The danger of this hypocritical criticism lay in the fact that it was calculated to deceive rank-and-file members of the Party and might lead them astray. The more hypocritical grew this criticism, which aimed at undermining the theoretical foundations of Marxism, the more dangerous it was to the Party, for the more it merged with the general campaign of the reactionaries against the Party, against the revolution. Some of the intellectuals who had deserted Marxism went so far as to advocate the founding of a new religion (these were known as "god-seekers" and "god-builders" ).

    It became urgent for the Marxists to give a fitting retort to these renegades from Marxist theory, to tear the mask from their faces and thoroughly expose them, and thus safeguard the theoretical foundations of the Marxist Party.

    One might have thought that this task would have been undertaken by Plekhanov and his Menshevik friends who regarded themselves as "eminent Marxist theoreticians." But they preferred to fire off one or two insignificant critical notes of the newspaper type and quit the field.

    It was Lenin who accomplished this task in his famous book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, published in 1909.

    "In the course of less than half a year," Lenin wrote, "four books devoted mainly and almost entirely 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 (St. Petersburg, 1908), a symposium by Bazarov, Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Berman, Helfond, Yushkevich and Suvorov; Yushkevich's Materialism and Critical Realism ; Berman's Dialectics in the Light of the Modern Theory of Knowledge and Valentinov's The Philosophic Constructions of Marxism. . . . All these people, who, despite the sharp divergence of their political views, are united in their hostility toward dialectical materialism, at the same time claim to be Marxists in philosophy! Engels' dialectics is 'mysticism,' says Berman. Engels' views have become 'antiquated,' remarks Bazarov casually, as though it were a self-evident fact. Materialism thus appears to be refuted by our bold warriors, who proudly allude to the 'modern theory of knowledge,' 'recent philosophy' (or 'recent positivism'), the 'philosophy of modern natural science,' or even the 'philosophy of natural science of the twentieth century.'" (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. XI, p .89.)

    Replying to Lunacharsky, who, in justification of his friends -- the revisionists in philosophy -- said, "perhaps we have gone astray, but we are seeking," Lenin wrote:

    "As for myself, I too am a 'seeker' in philosophy. Namely, the task I have set myself in these comments (i.e., Materialism and Empirio-Criticism -- Ed.) is to find out what was the stumbling block to these people who under the guise of Marxism are offering something incredibly muddled, confused and reactionary." (Ibid., p. 90.)

    But as a matter of fact, Lenin's book went far beyond this modest task. Actually, the book is something more than a criticism of Bogdanov, Yushkevich, Bazarov and Valentinov and their teachers in philosophy, Avenarius and Mach, who endeavoured in their writings to offer a refined and polished idealism as opposed to Marxist materialism; it is at the same time a defence of the theoretical foundations of Marxism -- dialectical and historical materialism -- and a materialist generalization of everything important and essential acquired by science, and especially the natural sciences, in the course of a whole historical period, the period from Engels' death to the appearance of Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.

    Having effectively criticized in this book the Russian empirio-criticists and their foreign teachers, Lenin comes to the following conclusions regarding philosophical and theoretical revisionism:

    1) "An ever subtler falsification of Marxism, an ever subtler presentation of anti-materialist doctrines under the guise of Marxism -- this is the characteristic feature of modern revisionism in political economy, in questions of tactics and in philosophy generally." (Ibid., p. 382.)
    2) "The whole school of Mach and Avenarius is moving towards idealism." (Ibid., p. 406.)
    3) "Our Machians have all got stuck in idealism." (Ibid., p. 396.)
    4) "Behind the gnosiological scholasticism of empirio-criticism it is impossible not to see the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle which in the last analysis expresses the tendencies and ideology of the antagonistic classes in modern society." (Ibid., p. 407.)
    5) "The objective, class role of empirio-criticism reduces itself to nothing but that of servitor of the fideists (the reactionaries who hold faith above science --Ed.) in their struggle against materialism in general and historical materialism in particular." (Ibid., p. 407.)
    6) "Philosophical idealism is . . . a road to clerical obscurantism." (Ibid., p. 84.)

    In order to appreciate the tremendous part played by Lenin's book in the history of our Party and to realize what theoretical treasure Lenin safeguarded from the motley crowd of revisionists and renegades of the period of the Stolypin reaction, we must acquaint ourselves, if only briefly, with the fundamentals of dialectical and historical materialism.

    This is all the more necessary because dialectical and historical materialism constitute the theoretical basis of Communism, the theoretical foundations of the Marxist party, and it is the duty of every active member of our Party to know these principles and hence to study them.

    What, then, is

    1) Dialectical materialism?

    2) Historical materialism?