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V. I. Lenin
THE VPERYODISTS AND
THE VPERYOD GROUP
Prosveshcheniye No. 6,
Signed: V. Ilyin
Published according to
the text in Prosveshcheniye
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964
Vol. 20, pp. 487-93.
Translated from the Russian
by Bernard Isaacs
and Joe Fineberg
Edited by Julius Katzer
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, email@example.com (December 2001)
THE VPERYODISTS AND THE VPERYOD GROUP
The St. Petersburg liquidators' newspaper has published an article by A. Bogdanov containing the sharpest accusations against Pravda and Pravdism. The journal run by Trotsky, who yesterday was the close friend of the liquidators and today has half deserted them, has now published a letter (No. 4, p. 56) from the Paris and Geneva circles of the Vperyod ideological and Marxist group.
In Russia only a single group -- in the Caucasus -- has come out in defence of this Paris-Geneva group, which has been in existence since 1909, i.e., for about five years. In view of this, it would seem a waste of time to add anything to the explanations already given in Put Pravdy.[*]
However, the persistence of the liquidators and their quondam friend Trotsky in defending the Vperyod group impels us to reply to them once again, the more so that the accumulating evidence of an actual alliance between the liquidators, Trotsky and the Vperyod people affords an opportunity of explaining to the workers in Russia the political significance of this alliance from the standpoint of principle.
The Vperyod group broke away from the Bolsheviks abroad in 1909. At the end of that year it issued a pamphlet entitled: The Present Moment and the Tasks of the Party, in which the "platform" of this group was expounded.
"In the work of drafting this platform," we read on page 32 of this pamphlet, "fifteen Party members participated, of whom seven were workers and eight intellectuals. The major part of the platform was adopted unanimously. Only on the question of the Duma did three abstain (two otzovists and one 'anti-boycottist')."
This platform (p. 17 and others) defended "proletarian philosophy". <"fnp487">
* See pp. 121-24 of this volume. --Ed. [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's "Concerning A. Bogdanov". -- DJR]
Of the names of Vperyodists whom the latter themselves have mentioned in the press, we shall mention the following: N. Maximov, Voinov, Alexinsky, Lunacharsky, Lyadov, S. A. Volsky, Domov and A. Bogdanov.
What has become of these Vperyodists?
N. Maximov has left the Vperyod group.
Voinov and Alexinsky remained in the group, but later fell out with each other and now belong to two different Vperyod groups. This was officially announced in Paris.
A. Lunacharsky has fallen out with Alexinsky.
Lyadov has evidently left the group; nothing is known of his attitude towards the new split in the Vperyod group.
S. A. Volsky has gone over to the Left Narodniks, judging from his regular contributions to the latter's publications (see Zavety ).
Domov published, in Vperyod No. 3 (May 1911), a statement that "he was no longer taking any part whatever in the publications of the Vperyod group" (p. 78).
A. Bogdanov has announced in the press that he has left the Vperyod group.
Such are the facts.
And now compare these facts with the statement of the Paris and Geneva Vperyodists published by Trotsky:
"The assertion by Put Pravdy that, from the moment it came into being, the Vperyod group consisted of heterogeneous anti-Marxist elements loosely stuck together, and fell to pieces with the revival of the working-class movement, does not correspond to the facts."
The reader will see from this that the Vperyodists' statement published by Trotsky, who is perfectly familiar with all the names we have mentioned and with the entire history of the Vperyod group, which he has assisted on more than one occasion, is an outrageous and glaring-falsehood, and that what Put Pravdy said was the absolute truth.
We shall also recall the following fact. Sovremenny Mir, in 1910 or 1911 I think, published a review by G. A. Alexinsky of a book by A. A. Bogdanov, in which the latter was referred to as a "gentleman" who had nothing in common with Marxism.
How is this to be explained?
It is to be explained by the fact that the Vperyodists were really a group of heterogeneous, anti-Marxist elements,
loosely stuck together. As regards ideological trend, there were two such elements there, Machism and otzovism, which, incidentally, is evident from the passages quoted above.
Machism is the philosophy of Mach and Avenarius, modified by Bogdanov. It is advocated by Bogdanov, Lunacharsky and Volsky, and is concealed in the Vperyod platform under the pseudonym of "proletarian philosophy". In effect, this philosophy is a species of philosophical idealism, i.e., a subtle defence of religion, and it was no accident that Lunacharsky has slipped from this philosophy into advocating a blending of scientific socialism with religion. Even today, A. Bogdanov, in a number of "new"<"p489"> books, defends this utterly anti-Marxist and utterly reactionary philosophy, which both the Menshevik G. V. Plekhanov and the Bolshevik V. Ilyin have strongly opposed.
We now ask all and sundry whether the liquidators A. Bogdanov, Trotsky and the Paris-Geneva Vperyodists acted honestly when, in publishing statements by Vperyod and about Vperyod, they concealed from the Russian workers:
1) the fact that the Vperyod group itself included "proletarian philosophy", i.e., "Machism", in its platform;
2) the fact that Marxists belonging to different groups waged a long and persistent struggle against "Machism" as an out-and-out reactionary philosophy;
3) the fact that even Alexinsky, that ardent Vperyodist, who signed this platform jointly with the Machists, was some time later compelled to protest in the sharpest possible terms against Machism.
We shall now deal with otzovism.
We have seen above that the otzovists belonged to the Vperyod group. This group's platform -- as was pointed out immediately it appeared in the press abroad -- contained a veiled form of otzovism and unpardonable concessions to it, for example, in point d), on p. 16 of the platform, where it says that (for a certain period)
"none of the semi-legal and legal ways and means of struggle of the working class, including participation in the Duma, can be of independent and decisive importance".
This is the same old otzovism, only veiled, vague and confused. Both the Party Bolsheviks, i.e., those opposed
to liquidationism, and the pro-Party Mensheviks have repeatedly explained that such a platform is unacceptable to Social-Democrats, that it is a defence of otzovism, utterly fallacious and most harmful.
The otzovists were opposed to going into the Third Duma, but events clearly showed that they were mistaken, and that, in fact, their point of view led to anarchism.
The veiled and modified defence of otzovism that we have quoted could not, in practice, have resulted in the line which Pravda successfully pursued, and which led the Pravdists to victory over the disruptors of the Party, the liquidators, in the vast majority of the legal and ultra-legal working-class organisations.
That is why, when the Vperyodists to this day talk of "uncurtailed Left Marxism", it is our duty to speak up and warn the workers; it is our duty to declare that these fine words contain an anti-Marxist doctrine which will cause immense harm to the working-class movement, and is absolutely incompatible with the latter.
This Vperyodist species of "uncurtailed Left Marxism" is a travesty of Bolshevism, as the Bolsheviks said and proved long back, over five years ago. Even if the Vperyodists have failed to realise it, we virtually have here a deviation from Marxism towards anarchism.
The Plenum of January 1910 -- the very Plenum which the Vperyodists refer to in Trotsky's journal as having endorsed their group -- unanimously condemned this deviation as being just as harmful as the liquidators' deviation.<"p490"> Throughout 1910 the leading bodies set up by the Plenum to carry out its decisions, for example, the Editorial Board of the Central Organ, repeatedly and at great length pointed out in the columns of their publications that the Vperyodists, like the liquidators, were violating the decisions of the Plenum, and that, like the liquidators, they were in fact vehicles of bourgeois influence on the proletariat.
Since, in Trotsky's journal, the Vperyodists now refer to the "first and second Vperyod schools", we feel bound to recall the facts. Half the workers left the first school because experience had convinced them of its anti-Marxist and disruptive character. As regards the second school, the Central Organ, in pursuance of the decisions of the Plenum, made a point of warning the workers against it and explained that it bore the character just mentioned.
But who helped this second school?
Only the liquidators and Trotsky, notwithstanding the official warning given by the Party's official organ.
In this second school we plainly see a bloc, an alliance, between the liquidators, the Vperyodists and Trotsky's group exactly like the one we now see in the columns of the St. Petersburg liquidationist newspaper and in Trotsky's Borba.
This is an alliance of anti-Marxist and disruptive groups, which detest Pravda's Marxism and the comradely Party discipline which rallies the vast majority of the class-conscious workers of Russia around Pravda.
We cannot but call "adventurism" this alliance, like the Vperyod group itself, and Vperyodism as a whole, for nothing can come of Vperyodism and of its "bloc" with Trotsky and the liquidators except disregard of principles, the encouragement of anti-Marxist ideas (without openly preaching them), and the disruption of the working-class movement.
But while being basically and unswervingly opposed to Vperyod and Vperyodism, we have never, and never shall, shut the door against those Vperyodists who (like the majority of the founders of Vperyod ) are leaving that group and intend to help the majority of Russia's class-conscious workers, organised and united by Pravdism. No leniency whatever must be shown towards the defence of Machism (from which, unfortunately, Bogdanov won't budge), or of Vperyodism; but no obstacles should be put in the way of comrades who have conscientiously recognised Vperyod 's mistake and are turning from Vperyod back to the Party.
As regards the attacks and abuse to which "those writers Ilyin, Zinoviev and Kamenev" are subjected by Bogdanov in the liquidators' newspaper and by the Vperyodists in Trotsky's journal, we shall state briefly that these writers have always carried out the decisions of the organised Marxist workers, who have demonstrated to all the world by their solidarity with Pravdism or by their votes in the election of the Metropolitan and All-Russia Insurance Boards, that they constitute the overwhelming majority of the organised and class-conscious workers of Russia.
Acting in accordance with these decisions and in keeping with their spirit, these writers have every reason to consider that their activities are in harmony with the will of the majority of the Marxist workers, and they will not of course be deterred from their activities by abuse coming from the Vperyodists, Trotsky and the liquidators.
The history of the Vperyod group, of its break-up, and its repeated blocs with Trotsky and the liquidators, is a matter of some general interest to the workers, and even of some public interest, for it represents a typical case of isolated groups of intellectuals being formed in the period of break-down and disintegration. Anybody is at liberty to form a separate ideological group and to point out a different road to the proletariat, but much will be expected of any founder of a new group. It goes without saying that nobody can be blamed for making mistakes, but to persist in mistakes that have been explained both by the theory and the practice of a movement of over five years is tantamount to waging war against Marxism, against the organised and united majority of the workers.
The vacillations and deviations of the liquidators and Vperyodists are no accident; they have been engendered by the period of break-down and disintegration. We see these bourgeois deviations on both sides of the road of the class struggle of the Marxist workers, and these serve as a warning to every class-conscious worker.
P. S. The above lines were already written when we received a copy of Trotsky's Borba containing another letter from "the Geneva, Paris and Tiflis Vperyod Marxist circles and from St. Petersburg fellow-thinkers".
From the signatures to this letter we see that during these four and a half years the Vperyodists, who issued "their own " platform at the very end of 1909, have acquired in Russia one "Tiflis circle" and probably two "St. Petersburg fellow thinkers" (three would no doubt have constituted a St. Petersburg, or metropolitan, or all-Russia, Marxist ideological circle!). To anyone more or less seriously interested in politics, this result of Vperyod 's four years of "activity" should suffice to serve as a criterion of this group. Let
Trotsky amuse himself by uniting with it in the columns of his "own " sheet; let the Vperyodists and Trotskyists play at being "powers", "trends", and contracting parties. This is simply the childish make-believe of people who, by uttering pompous phrases, want to conceal the fact that their "groups" are mere bubbles.
It is amusing to read how these groups vociferate about unity and splits! Don't you understand, gentlemen, that there can only be a question of the unity of the mass working-class movement, the unity of the workers party; as for unity with groups of intellectuals, who in the course of four years have found no support among the workers of Russia, you and Trotsky can chatter to your heart's content about that! That is not worth arguing about.
<"en204"> N. Maximov and A. Bogdanov -- pseudonyms of A. A. Malinovsky; Voinov -- A. V. Lunacharsky; Lyadov -- M. N. Mandelshtam; S. A. Volsky -- A. V. Sokolov; Domov -- M. N. Pokrovsky. [p. 488]
<"en205"> V. Ilyin -- V. I. Lenin. [p. 489]
<"en206"> Central Organ of the R.S.D.L.P. -- the illegal newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat, published from February 1908 to January 1917. Prepared by the Bolsheviks and partially printed in Vilna at a private press, the first issue was confiscated by the tsarist Okhranka (Secret Political Police). Shortly afterwards another attempt to issue the newspaper was made in St. Petersburg, but the bulk of the edition fell into the hands of the security police. Further publication was arranged abroad. Issues Nos. 2-32 (February 1909 to December 1913) appeared in Paris, Nos. 35-58 (November 1914 to January 1917) in Geneva. Altogether fifty-eight issues were published, five of them with supplements.
According to the decision of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. elected at the Fifth (London) Congress, the Editorial Board of Sotsial-Demokrat consisted of representatives of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and the Polish Social-Democrats. Actually, the paper was conducted by Lenin, whose articles were a central feature in it. Over eighty articles and paragraphs by Lenin were published in the newspaper.
Lenin fought for a consistent Bolshevik line against the Menshevik liquidators on the Editorial Board of Sotsial-Demokrat. Some of its members (Kamenev and Zinoviev) adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the liquidators and opposed Lenin's line. The Menshevik members of the editorial board -- Martov and Dan -- obstructed the work of the editorial staff of the Central Organ while at the same time openly defending liquidationism in Golos Sotsial-Demokrata ; they prevented the pro-Party Mensheviks from taking part in the work of the Central Organ. Lenin's uncompromising struggle against the liquidators led to Martov and Dan resigning from the editorial board in June 1911. From December 1911 Sotsial-Demokrat was edited by Lenin.
During the grim years of reaction and the period of a new upswing in the revolutionary movement Sotsial-Demokrat was a factor of tremendous importance in the Bolsheviks' struggle against the liquidators, Trotskyists, and otzovists for the preservation of the illegal Marxist party, and strengthening its unity and contacts with the masses.
During World War I Sotsial-Demokrat was the Central Organ of the Bolshevik Party, in which capacity it played a vital part in propagating Bolshevik slogans on the issues of war, peace and revolution. The newspaper published Lenin's article "The Slogan of a United States of Europe", in which for the first time he formulated the conclusion that it was possible for socialism to win initially in a few or even in a single capitalist country. The circulation of Sotsial-Demokrat in Russia and the reprinting of its most important articles in the local Bolshevik Papers contributed to the political enlightenment and international education of the Russian proletariat, and the preparation of the masses for the revolution.
Lenin highly appreciated the services that Sotsial-Demokrat rendered during World War I, and wrote later that "no class-conscious worker who wishes to understand the evolution of the idea of the international socialist revolution and its first victory of October 25, 1917" can dispense with a study of the articles published in it. (See present edition, Vol. 27, "Foreword to the symposium Against the Stream".) [p. 490]