What Is To Be Done? - pt. 1

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Burning Questions of Our Movement


    According to the author's original plan, the present pamphlet was to have been devoted to a detailed development of the ideas expressed in the article "Where To Begin?" (Iskra,[2] No. 4, May 19O1).[3] And we must first of all apologize to the reader for the delay in fulfilling the promise made in that article (and repeated in reply to many private in quiries and letters). One of the reasons for this delay was the attempt made last June (1901) to unite all the Social-Democratic organizations abroad. It was natural to wait for the results of this attempt, for if it were successful it would perhaps have been necessary to expound the Iskra's views on organization from a somewhat different angle; and in any case, such a success promised to put a very early end to the existence of the two trends in the Russian Social-Democratic movement. As the reader knows, the attempt failed, and, as we shall try to show here, was bound to fail after the new swing of the Rabocheye Dyelo,[4] in its issue No. 10, towards Economism. It proved absolutely essential to commence a determined fight against this diffuse and ill-defined, but very persistent trend, one capable of appearing again in diverse forms. Accordingly, the original plan of the pamphlet was altered and very considerably enlarged.

    <"p3"> Its main theme was to have been the three questions raised in the article "Where To Begin?" -- viz., the character and principal content of our political agitation, our organizational tasks; and the plan for building, simultaneously and from various ends, a militant, all-Russian organization. These questions have long engaged the mind of the author, who already tried to raise them in the Rabochaya Gazeta [5] during one of the unsuccessful attempts to revive that paper (see Chap. V). But the original plan to confine this pamphlet to an analysis of only these three questions and to set forth our views as far as possible in a positive form, without entering, or almost without entering, into polemics, proved quite impracticable for two reasons. One was that Economism proved to be much more tenacious than we had sup posed (we employ the term Economism in the broad sense, as explained in the Iskra, No. 12 [December 1901], in an article entitled "A Conversation With the Advocates of Economism," which was a synopsis, so to speak, of the present pamphlet[6]). It became clear beyond doubt that the differences as to how these three questions should be answered were due much more to the fundamental antithesis between the two trends in the Russian Social-Democratic movement than to differences over details. The second reason was that the perplexity displayed by the Economists over the practical application of our views in the Iskra revealed quite clearly that we often speak literally different languages, that therefore we cannot come to any understanding without beginning ab ovo, and that an attempt must be made, in the simplest possible style and illustrated by numerous and concrete examples, systematically to "thrash out" all our fundamental

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points of difference with all the Economists. I resolved to make such an attempt to "thrash out" the differences, fully realizing that it would greatly increase the size of the pamphlet and delay its publication, but at the same time I saw no other way of fulfilling the promise I made in the article "Where To Begin?" Thus, in addition to apologizing for the delay, I must apologize for the numerous literary shortcomings of the pamphlet. I had to work in the greatest of haste, and was moreover frequently interrupted by other work.

    The examination of the three questions mentioned above still constitutes the main theme of this pamphlet, but I found it necessary to begin with two questions of a more general nature, viz., why an "innocent" and "natural" slogan like "freedom of criticism" should be a real fighting challenge for us, and why we cannot come to an understanding even on the fundamental question of the role of Social-Democrats in relation to the spontaneous mass movement. Further, the exposition of our views on the character and substance of political agitation developed into an explanation of the difference between a trade-unionist policy and Social-Democratic policy, while the exposition of our views on organizational tasks developed into an explanation of the difference between the amateurish methods which satisfy the Economists, and an organization of revolutionaries which in our opinion is indispensable. Further, I advance the "plan" for an all-Russian political newspaper with all the more insistence because of the flimsiness of the objections raised against it, and because no real answer has been given to the question I raised in the article "Where To Begin?" as to how we can set to work from all sides simultaneously to erect the organization we need. Finally, in the concluding part of this pamphlet, I hope to show that we did all we could to prevent a decisive rupture with the Economists, which nevertheless proved inevitable; that the Rabocheye Dyelo has acquired a special significance, a "historical" significance, if you will, because it most fully and most graphically expressed, not consistent Economism, but the confusion and vacillation which constitute the distinguishing feature of a whole period in the history of the Russian Social-Democratic movement; and that therefore the controversy with the Rabocheye Dyelo, which may at first sight seem to be waged in too excessive detail, also acquires significance, for we can make no progress until we finally put an end to this period.

N. Lenin

February 1902