Methods of Liquidators and Party Tasks of the Bolsheviks

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V. I. Lenin


Proletary No. 50,
November 28 (December 11), 1909

Published according to
the text in Proletary

From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1967

First published 1963
Second printing 1967

Vol. 16, pp. 95-102.

Translated from the Russian
Edited by Clemens Dutt

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, (November 2001)

page 95


    The crisis affecting our Party at the present time is due, as we have said more than once, to the instability of the petty bourgeois elements who joined the working-class movement during the revolution and who have now gone over to the liquidationism of the Mensheviks on one flank and to otzovism and ultimatumism on the other. Hence a fight on two flanks is an essential task for defending correct revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics and building the Party. And this fight is being waged steadfastly by the Bolshevik faction, which is thereby rallying and uniting all really Party, really Marxist, Social-Democratic elements.

    In order to wage the fight for the Party successfully -- for the Party emphatically condemned liquidationism at the December Conference in 1908 and equally emphatically dissociated itself from otzovism and ultimatumism at the same Conference -- one must have a clear idea of the situation in which this struggle within the Social-Democratic movement has to be carried on. Golos Sotsial-Demokrata No. 16-17 and the new semi-newspaper of the otzovists and ultimatumists (the 8-page leaflet of Comrades Maximov and Lunacharsky: "To All Comrades") merit attention primarily because they clearly depict this situation. Both Golos and Maximov and Co. shield the liquidators. The identity of the methods used by the liquidators of the Right and of the Left is strikingly obvious and demonstrates the equal shakiness of the two positions.

    Liquidationism is "a deliberately vague, maliciously indefinite catchword", asserts a leading article in Golos. Maximov asserts that Proletary magnifies and inflates

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practical differences of opinion with the ultimatumists until they become differences in principle. Poor Golos ! So far it has been able to lay the blame for all "malicious invention" on the Bolsheviks, i.e., on its "factional opponents". Now it is Plekhanov and the Bund that have to be charged with malicious invention (see No. 3 of Otkliki Bunda on liquidationism in the Bund). Is it Plekhanov and the Bundists or is it Golos who "maliciously" prevaricates; which is more likely to be true?

    We are not liquidators, Golos assures us, we merely interpret membership of the Party differently; in Stockholm we adopted Clause 1 of the Rules in the Bolshevik way, but there is no harm in that; now, after Plekhanov's charge of liquidationism against us, we shall bring out Clause 1 and interpret all our notorious liquidationism as being merely a desire to extend the concept of the Party. The Party, you see, is not merely the sum of the Party organisations (as we ourselves conceded to the Bolsheviks in Stockholm ), but also all those who work outside the Party organisations under the control and leadership of the Party!

    What a magnificent subterfuge, what a brilliant invention: there is no liquidationism -- merely the old disputes over Clause 1! The only unfortunate thing, dear Golosists, is that you thereby confirm Plekhanov's charge, for in fact, as every Party Social-Democrat and every worker Social-Democrat will understand at once, you have dragged out all the old rubbish about Clause 1 precisely in defence of liquidationism ( = replacement of the Party organisation by an "amorphous" legal organisation: see the resolution of the December 1908 Conference). In fact, what you do is to open the door to the liquidators, however much you assure us in words that your "desire" is to open the door for the Social-Democratic workers.

    Exactly like Maximov, who assures us that he is not a defender of otzovism, that he only (only!) regards the question of participation in the Duma as "very, very disputable". Clause 1 is disputable, participation in the Duma is disputable -- what has this to do with "malicious" inventions about otzovism and liquidationism?

    We are not liquidators, Golos assures us, we only find that Plekhanov "successfully avoided the question of what

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is to be done if the structure of the Party unit hinders nothing more nor less than its rebuilding". In actual fact Plekhanov did not avoid this question but answered it frankly and directly: he replied to the Bolsheviks' removal of the otzovists and ultimatumists by a call to observe the Party principle and by condemning splitting and liquidationism. The Party unit is a type of illegal Party organisation in which as a rule the Bolsheviks predominate and the rebuilding of which (for participation in the Duma, in legal associations, etc.) the otzovists have hindered. The pro-Party Mensheviks cannot reply to the Bolsheviks' removal of the otzovists in any other way than that of Plekhanov. Golos, however, prevaricates and in fact supports the liquidators, repeating in an illegal publication abroad the liberals' slander about the conspiratorial character of the Bolsheviks' organisations, about the Bolsheviks' unwillingness to form broad workers' organisations, to take part in congresses, and so forth (for, by taking part in the new "opportunities", the Party units were thereby reconstructed for such participation and learned reconstruction in practice). To say that the "structure " of the Party unit hinders its reconstruction means in fact to advocate a split, to justify the splitting actions of the liquidators against the Party, which consists of the sum of the units built precisely in the present way.

    We are not liquidators, not legalists, we merely assert in a "Party" (according to its signboard!) "illegal" (but approved by Mme Kuskova) publication that the structure of the Party unit (and of the sum of the units, the Party) hinders the rebuilding of the Party. We are not otzovists, not wreckers of the work of the Social-Democrats in the Duma, we only assert (in 1909) that the question of participation in the Duma is "very disputable" and that "Duma-ism" overshadows everything for our Party. Which of these two types of liquidator does more harm to the Party?

    Plekhanov resigned from The Social Movement, declaring that Potresov had ceased to be a revolutionary. Potresov writes a letter to Martov: why have I been insulted. I don't know. Martov replies: I too don't know. The two editors make an "investigation" (Golos 's expression!) of the causes of Plekhanov's dissatisfaction. The two editors write

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to the third editor, Maslov, but it turns out that Maslov, too, does not know why Plekhanov resigned. They had worked for years with Plekhanov, they had tried to correct Potresov's article in accordance with Plekhanov's directive and, when an accusation was made against them in print and openly, they suddenly find themselves unable to understand what Plekhanov is accusing Potresov of and they make an "investigation" of it! Prior to this unfortunate occurrence they were such skilled, such experienced literati -- now they have become children who "don't know" what kind of spirit of repudiation of the revolution emanates from Cherevanin's articles, from Potresov, from the whole of The Social Movement. Roland-Holst noticed this spirit in Cherevanin -- obviously, also out of malice! But Cherevanin, while continuing together with Potresov to write in the same spirit, inserted somewhere a reservation . . . where is there any liquidationism here? The Cadets = Vekhists with reservations. Cherevanin, Potresov and The Social Movement = repudiation of the revolution with reservations. Yes, yes, what a deliberately vague, maliciously indefinite catchword "liquidationism" is!

    But the catchword "god-building" is just as deliberately vague and maliciously indefinite, cry Maximov and Lunacharsky. Cherevanin can be shielded by writing a reservation ; in what way is Lunacharsky worse than Cherevanin and Potresov? And Lunacharsky together with Maximov concoct a reservation. "Why do I reject this terminology?" -- such is the heading of the main paragraph in Lunacharsky's article. Let us change inconvenient terms, we will not speak either of religion or of god-building . . . one can speak rather of "culture" . . . just try afterwards to make out what we are offering you in the shape of a now, genuinely new and genuinely socialist, "culture". The Party is so importunate, so intolerant (Lunacharsky's paragraph: On "Intolerance") -- well, let us change the terminology, they are not fighting against ideas, you see, but against "terminology". . . .

    And so, dear Golosists, are you not intending in No. 18-19 to announce your rejection of terminology . . . for instance, as regards liquidationism? And so, editors of The Social Movement, are you not intending in Volumes III-X to explain that "you have been misunderstood", that you

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have not called in question any "idea of hegemony", that you do not approve the slightest spirit of liquidationism . . . not the least bit!?

    On the eve of the Duma elections (in September 1909) the St. Petersburg otzovists and ultimatumists, who have long been spoiling all the work of the St. Petersburg Committee, secured the passage of a resolution actually disrupting the elections. The workers raised a revolt in the name of the Party and forced the Left liquidators to rescind this stupid resolution. Maximov now prevaricates: the resolution, he says, was "extremely mistaken" but the comrades "themselves rejected it". "It is quite clear," writes Maximov, "this mistake had nothing to do with ultimatumism as such." What is clear, Comrade Maximov, is not this, but your shielding of Left liquidationism, which is ruinous for the Party. The Mensheviks of Vyborg District in St. Petersburg came out<"p99"> against liquidationism (also, presumably, solely out of malice?). Golos at first approved them (after Proletary ). Now the Menshevik liquidator G-g [54] comes forward in Golos No. 16-17, and -- can you imagine? -- he swears like a trooper at the Vyborg comrades, using the most abusive language. In the Menshevik organ he abuses the Mensheviks as being Bolsheviks ! The editors of Golos become modest, very modest, innocent, very innocent, and wash their hands of the matter in the Maximov fashion: "We shall not take upon ourselves the responsibility" (p. 2, column 2 of the Supplement to No. 16-17), "it is a question of fact". . . . <"p99a">

    . . . Well, what wicked slanderers they are who invented the "legend" (Martov's expression in Vorwärts [55]) that Golos shields liquidationism, helps liquidationism! Is it not a slander to say that someone assists the liquidators if in an illegal organ he ridicules the Duma work of the Central Committee, insinuating that this work has developed "after the majority of the Central Committee began to live abroad" (ibid.) -- taking advantage of the fact that it is impossible to refute these insinuations, i.e., to tell the truth about the Duma work of the illegal Central Committee. . . .

    Maximov asserts that the question of the possibility of Party leadership of the Duma group is a very, very disputable one (after two years' experience). Golos asserts that

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this leadership by the Party amounts to empty words ("after the majority of the members of the Central Committee began to live abroad"). And both Maximov and the Golosists beat their breasts and declare that only slanderers set afloat rumours about anti-Party activity by the Right and Left liquidators.

    Both Maximov and the Golosists explain the whole struggle with liquidationism as due to "ousting" inclinations on the part of persons or groups. This is the word that Maximov uses. Golos indignantly describes Plekhanov's call for the general delimitation as "surgery",<"p100"> the method of "hair cutting, shaving and blood-letting", the methods of "Sobakevich-Lenin", the methods of the "dare-devil" P.[56] (P. = a Plekhanov-Menshevik, who was not afraid to tell the truth openly about the liquidationism of the Cherevanins, Larins and Potresovs). Proletary uses diplomatic language, flirts with Plekhanov (Maximov), Proletary fawns on Plekhanov (Golos : "Proletary 's feuilletonist", who is "obliging" in relation to Plekhanov). You see: the Maximovites and the Golosists explain the new splits and the new alignments in exactly the same way.

    Let us leave such explanations to the toy manikins and get down to business.

    Liquidationism is a deep-seated social phenomenon, indissolubly connected with the counter-revolutionary mood of the liberal bourgeoisie, with disintegration and break-up in the democratic petty bourgeoisie. The liberals and petty-bourgeois democrats are trying in thousands of ways to demoralise the revolutionary Social-Democratic Party, to undermine and overthrow it, to clear the way for legal workers' associations in which they might achieve success. And in a time like this the liquidators are ideologically and organisationally fighting against the most important remainder of the revolution of yesterday, against the most important bulwark of the revolution of tomorrow. The Golosists (from whom the Party asks no more than an honest, straight fight, without reservations, against the liquidators ) by their prevaricating are doing the liquidators a service. Menshevism is put in a difficulty by the history of counter-revolution: it must either fight liquidationism or become its accomplice. Menshevism inside-out, i.e., otzovism and

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ultimatumism, also leads in fact to strengthening liquidationism: to continue to "dispute" about Duma and legal activity, to try to preserve the old organisation, not adapting it to the new historical period, to the changed conditions, means in fact a policy of revolutionary inaction and destruction of the illegal organisation.

    The Bolsheviks are faced with the task of a fight on two flanks -- a "central" task (the essence of which has not been understood by Maximov, who sees here only insincerity and diplomacy). It is impossible to preserve and strengthen the illegal Social-Democratic organisation without reconstructing it systematically, undeviatingly, step by step, for coping successfully with the present difficult period, for persistent work through the "strongpoints" of legal possibilities of every kind.

    Objective conditions have dictated this task to the Party. Who will solve it? The same objective conditions have dictated a rapprochement of pro-Party members of all factions and sections of the Party, above all a rapprochement between the Bolsheviks and the pro-Party Mensheviks, and with the Mensheviks of the type of the Vyborg comrades in St. Petersburg and the Plekhanovites abroad. The Bolsheviks for their part have openly proclaimed the need for this rapprochement, and for it we issue a call to all Mensheviks capable of openly combating liquidationism, of openly supporting Plekhanov, and, of course, to all Menshevik workers above all. The rapprochement will occur rapidly and extensively if an agreement with the Plekhanovites is possible: an agreement on the basis of the struggle for the Party and the Party principle against liquidationism, without any ideological compromises, without any glossing over of tactical and other differences of opinion within the limits of the Party line. Let all Bolsheviks, and especially working-class Bolsheviks in the localities, do everything to achieve such agreements.

    If the Plekhanovites prove too weak or unorganised, or do not want to reach an agreement, then we shall advance towards the same goal by a longer route, but in any case we shall advance towards it and we shall reach it. Then the Bolshevik faction remains the sole builder of the Party at once and immediately, in the sphere of practical work

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(for Plekhanov's help is only literary). We shall exert every effort to promote this building, we shall be merciless to the contemptible subterfuges and prevarications of the Golosists and Maximovites; at every step in practical Party work we shall expose and brand before the proletariat the anti-Party nature of both of them.

    The working class has left the imprint of its proletarian, revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics on the entire bourgeois revolution in Russia. No efforts of the liberals, liquidators and accomplices of liquidationism can do away with this fact. And the advanced workers will build, and build to completion, the revolutionary Social-Democratic Party together with those who want to help them in this matter, against those who do not want to help them, or are incapable of doing so.


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  <"en54">[54] G-g (Georg ) -- the Menshevik liquidator V. O. Levitsky (V. O. Tsederbaum).    [p. 99]

  <"en55">[55] Vorwärts -- Central Organ of German Social-Democracy, was published from 1876 onwards, under the editorship of Wilhelm Liebknecht and others. In its columns Frederick Engels waged a struggle against all manifestations of opportunism. From the middle nineties, after the death of Engels, the paper systematically published writings by the opportunists dominant in German Social-Democracy and the Second International.    [p. 99]

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  <"en56">[56] P. -- the Menshevik Plekhanovite F, I, Tsederbaum (P. N. Dnevnitsky).    [p. 100]