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V. I. LENIN
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
Burning Questions of Our Movement
D. ENGELS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE
"Dogmatism, doctrinairism," "ossification of the Party -- the inevitable retribution that follows the violent strait-lacing of thought" -- these are the enemies against which the knightly champions of "freedom of criticism" in the Rabocheye Dyelo rise up in arms. We are very glad that this question has been placed on the order of the day and we would only propose to add to it another question:
Who are the judges?
Before us lie two publisher's announcements. One, The Program of the Periodical Organ of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats -- the "Rabocheye Dyelo" (reprint from No. 1 of the Rabocheye Dyelo), and the other an announcement of the resumption of the publications of the Emancipation of Labour group. Both are dated 1899, a time when the "crisis of Marxism" had long since been under discussion. And what do we find? You would seek in vain in the first announcement for any reference to this phenomenon, or a definite statement of the position the new organ intends to adopt on this question. Of theoretical work and the urgent tasks that now confront it not a word is said, either in this program or in the supplements to it that were adopted by the Third Congress of the Union in 1901 (Two Congresses, pp. 15-18). During the whole of this time the editorial board of the Rabocheye Dyelo ignored theoretical questions, in spite of the fact that these questions were agitating the minds of all Social-Democrats all over the world.
The other announcement, on the contrary, points first of all to the decreased interest in theory observed in recent years, imperatively demands "vigilant attention to the theoretical aspect of the revolutionary movement of the proletariat," and calls for "ruthless criticism of the Bernsteinian and other antirevolutionary tendencies" in our movement. The issues of the Zarya that have appeared show how this program has been carried out.
Thus we see that high-sounding phrases against the ossification of thought, etc., conceal unconcern for and impotence in the development of theoretical thought. The case of the Russian Social-Democrats very strikingly illustrates the phenomenon observed in the whole of Europe (and long ago noted also by the German Marxists) that the celebrated freedom! of criticism does not imply the substitution of one theory for a other, but freedom from all integral and considered theory; it implies eclecticism and lack of principle. Those who have the slightest acquaintance with the actual state of our movement cannot but see that the wide spread of Marxism was accompanied by a certain lowering of the theoretical level. Quite a number of people with very little, and even a total lack of theoretical training joined the movement because of its practical significance and its practical successes. We can judge from that how tactless the Rabocheye Dyelo is when, with an air of triumph, it quotes Marx's statement: "Every <"p28"> step of real movement is more important than a dozen programs." To repeat these words in a period of theoretical chaos is like wishing mourners at a funeral "many happy returns of the day." Moreover, these words of Marx are taken from his letter on the Gotha Program, in which he sharply condemns eclecticism in the formulation of principles: If you must unite, Marx wrote to the party leaders, then enter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not allow any bargaining over principle, do not make "concessions" in questions of theory. This was Marx's idea, and yet there are people among us who strive -- in his name -- to belittle the significance of theory!
Without a reolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This thought cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity. Yet, for Russian Social-Democrats the importance of theory is enhanced by three more circumstances, which are often forgotten: firstly, by the fact that our Party is only in process of formation, its features are only just becoming outlined, and it is yet far from having settled accounts with other trends of revolutionary thought, which threaten to divert the movement from the correct path. On the contrary, precisely the very recent past was marked by a revival of non-Social-Democratic revolutionary trends (which Axelrod long ago warned the Economists would happen). Under these circumstances, what at first sight appears to be an "unimportant" mistake may lead to most deplorable consequences, and only shortsighted people can consider factional disputes and a strict differentiation between shades inopportune or superfluous. The fate of Russian Social-Democracy for many, many years to come may depend on the strengthening of one or other "shade."
Secondly, the Social-Democratic movement is in its very essence an international movement. This means not only that we must combat national chauvinism, but also that a movement that is starting in a young country can be successful only if it implements the experience of other countries. And in order to implement this experience, it is not enough merely to be acquainted with it, or simply to transcribe the latest resolutions. What it requires is the ability to treat this experience critically and to test it independently. Anybody who realizes how enormously the modern working-class movement has grown and branched out will understand what a reserve of theoretical forces and political (as well as revolutionary) experience is required to fulfil this task.
Thirdly, the national tasks of Russian Social-Democracy are such as have never confronted any other socialist party in the world. Further on we shall have occasion to deal with the political and organizational duties which the task of emancipating the whole people from the yoke of autocracy imposes upon us. At this point, we only wish to state that the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory. In order to get some concrete understanding of what this means, let the reader recall such predecessors of Russian Social-Democracy as Herzen, Belinsky, Chernyshevsky and the brilliant galaxy of revolutionaries of the 'seventies; let him ponder over the world significance which Russian literature is now acquiring; let him . . . but that is enough!
Let us quote what Engels said in 1874 concerning the significance of theory in the Social-Democratic movement. Engels recognizes not two forms of the great struggle of Social-
Democracy (political and economic), as is the fashion among us, but three, placing on a par with the first two the theoretical struggle. His recommendations to the German working class movement, which had become strong, practically and politically, are so instructive from the standpoint of present day problems and controversies, that we hope the reader will not be vexed with us for quoting a long passage from his prefatory note to Der deutsche Bauernkrieg, which has long become a great bibliographical rarity.
"The German workers have two important advantages over those of the rest of Europe. First, they belong to the most theoretical people of Europe; and they have retained that sense of theory which the so-called 'educated' classes of Germany have almost completely lost. Without German philosophy which preceded it, particularly that of Hegel, German scientific Socialism -- the only scientific Socialism that has ever existed -- would never have come into being. Without a sense of theory among the workers, this scientific Socialism would never have entered their flesh and blood as much as is the case. What an immeasurable advantage this is may be seen, on the one hand, from the indifference towards all theory, which is one of the main reasons why the English working-class movement crawls along so slowly in spite of the splendid organization of the individual unions; on the other hand, from the mischief and confusion wrought by Proudhonism, in its original form, among the French and Belgians, and, in the form further caricatured by Bakunin, among the Spaniards and Italians.
"The second advantage is that, chronologically speaking, the Germans were about the last to come into the workers' movement. Just as German theoretical Socialism will never forget that it rests on the shoulders of Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen -- three men who, in spite of all their fantastic notions and all their utopianism, have their place among the most eminent thinkers of all times, and whose genius anticipated innumerable things the correctness of which is now being scientifically proved by us -- so the practical workers' movement in Germany ought never to forget that it has developed on the shoulders of the English and French movements, that it was able simply to utilize their dearly-bought experience, and could now avoid their mistakes, which in their time were mostly unavoidable. Without the precedent of the English trade unions and French workers' political struggles, without the gigantic impulse given especially by the Paris Commune, where would we be now?
"It must be said to the credit of the German workers that they have used the advantages of their situation with rare understanding. For the first time since the working-class movement has existed, the struggle is being waged in a planned way from its three coordinated and interconnected sides, the theoretical, the political and the practical-economic (resistance to the capitalists). It is precisely in this, as it were, concentric attack, that the strength and invincibility of the German movement lies.
"Due to this advantageous situation, on the one hand, and to the insular peculiarities of the English and the forcible suppression of the French movement, on the other, the German workers have for the moment been placed in the vanguard of the proletarian struggle. How long events will allow them to occupy this post of honour cannot be foretold. But let us hope that as long as they occupy it, they will fill it fittingly. This demands redoubled efforts in every field of struggle and agitation. In particular, it will be the duty of the leaders to gain an ever clearer insight into all the- oretical questions, to free themselves more and more from the influence of traditional phrases inherited from the old world outlook, and constantly to keep in mind that Socialism, since it has become a science, demands that it be pursued as a science, i.e., that it be studied. The task will be to spread with increased zeal among the masses of the workers the ever more clarified understanding thus acquired, to knit together ever more firmly the organization both of the party and of the trade unions.
<"p32"> " . . . If the German workers proceed in this way, they will not be marching exactly at the head of the movement -- it is not at all in the interest of this movement that the workers of any particular country should march at its head -- but will, nevertheless, occupy an honourable place in the battle line; and they will stand armed for battle when either unexpectedly grave trials or momentous events demand of them increased courage, increased determination and energy.
Engels' words proved prophetic. Within a few years the German workers were subjected to unexpectedly grave trials in the shape of the Anti-Socialist Law. And the German workers really met them armed for battle and succeeded in emerging from them victoriously.
The Russian proletariat will have to undergo trials immeasurably more grave; it will have to fight a monster compared with which the Anti-Socialist Law in a constitutional country seems but a pigmy. History has now confronted us with an immediate task which is the most revolutionary of all the immediate tasks that confront the proletariat of any country. The fulfilment of this task, the destruction of the most powerful bulwark, not only of European, but also (it may now be said) of Asiatic reaction, would make the Russian proletariat the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat. And we have the right to count upon acquiring this honourable title already earned by our predecessors, the revolutionaries of the 'seventies, if we succeed in inspiring our movement -- which is a thousand times broader and deeper -- with the same devoted determination and vigour.
THE SPONTANEITY OF THE MASSES AND THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS
We have said that our movement, much wider and deeper than the movement of the 'seventies, must be inspired with the same devoted determination and vigour that inspired the movement at that time. Indeed, no one, we think, has up to now doubted that the strength of the present-day movement lies in the awakening of the masses (principally, the industrial proletariat), and that its weakness lies in the lack of consciousness and initiative among the revolutionary leaders.
However, of late a most astonishing discovery has been made, which threatens to overthrow all the views that had hitherto prevailed on this question. This discovery was made by the Rabocheye Dyelo, which in its controversy with the Iskra and the Zarya did not confine itself to making objections on separate points, but tried to ascribe "general disagreements" to a more profound cause -- to the "different appraisals of the relative importance of the spontaneous and consciously 'methodical' element." The Rabocheye Dyelo formulated its indictment as a belittling of the significance of the objective or the spontaneous element of development."[*] To this we say: if the controversy with the Iskra and the Zarya resulted in nothing more than causing the Rabocheye Dyelo to hit upon these "general disagreements," that result alone would give us considerble satisfaction, so significant is this thesis and so clearly does it illuminate the quintessence of the present-day theoretical and political differences that exist among Russian Social-Democrats.
That is why the question of the relation between consciousness and spontaneity is of such enormous general interest, and that is why this question must be dealt with in great detail.
A. THE BEGINNING OF THE SPONTANEOUS
In the previous chapter we pointed out how universally absorbed the educated youth of Russia was in the theories of Marxism in the middle of the 'nineties. The strikes that followed the famous St. Petersburg industrial war of 1896 assumed a similar wholesale character. The fact that these strikes spread over the whole of Russia clearly showed how deep the newly awakening popular movement was, and if we are to speak of the "spontaneous element" then, of course, it is this movement which, first and foremost, must be regarded as spontaneous. But there is spontaneity and spontaneity. Strikes occurred in Russia in the 'seventies and
* Rabocbeye Dyelo, No. 10, September 1901, pp. 17-18. Rabocheye Dyelo's italics.
'sixties (and even in the first half of the nineteenth century), and were accompanied by the "spontaneous" destruction of machinery, etc. Compared with these "riots" the strikes of the 'nineties might even be described as "conscious," to such an extent do they mark the progress which the working-class movement had made in that period. This shows that the "spontaneous element," in essence, represents nothing more nor less than consciousness in an embryonic form. Even the primitive riots expressed the awakening of consciousness to a certain extent: the workers were losing their agelong faith in the permanence of the system which oppressed them. They began . . . I shall not say to understand, but to sense the necessity for collective resistance, and definitely abandoned their slavish submission to their superiors. But this was, nevertheless, more in the nature of outbursts of desperation and vengeance than of struggle. The strikes of the 'nineties revealed far greater flashes of consciousness: definite demands were advanced, the strike was carefully timed, known cases and examples in other places were discussed, etc. While the riots were simply revolts of the oppressed, the systematic strikes represented the class struggle in embryo, but only in embryo. Taken by themselves, these strikes were simply trade union struggles, but not yet Social-Democratic struggles. They testified to the awakening antagonisms between workers and employers, but the workers were not, and could not be, conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system, i.e., theirs was not yet Social-Democratic consciousness. In this sense, the strikes of the 'nineties, in spite of the enormous progress they represented as compared with the "riots," remained a purely spontaneous movement.
We have said that there could not yet be Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. It could only be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.[*] The theory of Socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories that were elaborated by the educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals. According to their social status, the founders of modern scientific Socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose quite independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement, it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of ideas among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia. At the time of which we are speaking, i.e., the middle of the 'nineties, this doctrine not only represented the completely formulated program of the Emancipation of Labour group, but had already won over to its side the majority of the revolutionary youth in Russia.
Hence, we had both the spontaneous awakening of the masses of the workers, the awakening to conscious life and conscious struggle, and a revolutionary youth, armed with the Social-Democratic theory, eager to come into contact with
* Trade unionism does not exclude "politics" altogether, as some imagine. Trade unions have always conducted some political (but not Social-Democratic) agitation and struggle. We shall deal with the difference between trade union politics and Social-Democratic politics in the next chapter.
the workers. In this connection it is particularly important to state the oft-forgotten (and comparatively little-known) fact that the early Social-Democrats of that period zealously carried on economic agitation (being guided in this by the really useful instructions contained in the pamphlet On Agitation that was still in manuscript), but they did not regard this as their sole task. <"p38"> On the contrary, right from the very beginning they advanced the widest historical tasks of Russian Social-Democracy in general, and the task of overthrowing the autocracy in particular. For example, already towards the end of 1895, the St. Petersburg group of Social-Democrats, which founded the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, prepared the first issue of a newspaper called the Rabocheye Dyelo. This issue was ready to go to press when it was seized by the gendarmes who, on the night of December 8, 1895, raided the house of one of the members of the group, Anatoli Alexeyevich Vaneyev,[*] and so the original Rabocheye Dyelo was not destined to see the light of day. The leading article in this issue (which perhaps in some thirty years' time some Russkaya Starina" will unearth in the archives of the Department of Police) described the historical tasks of the working class in Russia, of which the achievement of political liberty is regarded as the most important. This issue also contained an article entitled "What Are Our Cabinet Ministers Thinking Of?" which dealt with the breaking up of the elementary education
* A. A. Vaneyev died in Eastern Siberia in 1899 from consumption, which he contracted during solitary confinement in prison prior to his banishment. That is why we considered it possible to publish the above information, the authenticity of which we guarantee, for it comes from persons who were closely and directly acquainted with A. A. Vaneyev.
committees by the police. In addition, there was some correspondence, not only from St. Petersburg, but from other parts of Russia too (for example, a letter about the assault on the workers in Yaroslavl Gubernia). This, if we are not mistaken, "first effort" of the Russian Social-Democrats of the 'nineties was not a narrow, local, and certainly not an "economic" newspaper, but one that aimed to unite the strike movement with the revolutionary movement against the autocracy, and to win all who were oppressed by the policy of reactionary obscurantism over to the side of Social-Democracy. No one in the slightest degree acquainted with the state of the movement at that period could doubt that such a paper would have met with warm response among the workers of the capital and the revolutionary intelligentsia and would have had a wide circulation. <"p39"> The failure of the enterprise merely showed that the Social-Democrats of that period were unable to meet the immediate requirements of the time owing to their lack of revolutionary experience and practical training. The same thing must be said with regard to the S. Peterburgsky Rabochy Listok  and particularly with regard to the Rabochaya Gazeta and the Manifesto of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party which was founded in the spring of 1898. Of course, we would not dream of blaming the Social-Democrats of that time for this unpreparedness. But in order to profit from the experience of that movement, and to draw practical lessons from it, we must thoroughly understand the causes and significance of this or that shortcoming. For that reason it is extremely important to establish the fact that part (perhaps even a majority) of the Social-Democrats, operating in the period of 1895-98, quite justly considered it possible even then, at the very beginning of the "spontaneous" movement, to come forward with a most extensive program and militant tactics.[*] The lack of training of the majority of the revolutionaries, being quite a natural phenomenon, could not have aroused any particular fears. Since the tasks were correctly defined, since the energy existed for repeated attempts to fulfil these tasks, temporary failures were not such a great misfortune. Revolutionary experience and organizational skill are things that can be acquired provided the desire is there to acquire them, provided the shortcomings are recognized -- which in revolutionary activity is more than halfway towards removing them!
But what was not a great misfortune became a real misfortune when this consciousness began to grow dim (it was very much alive among the workers of the group mentioned), when people -- and even Social-Democratic organs -- appeared who were prepared to regard shortcomings as virtues, who even tried to invent a theoretical basis for slavish cringing before spontaneity. It is time to summarize this trend,
* "In adopting a hostile attitude towards the activities of the Social-Democrats of the end of the 'nineties, the Iskra ignores the fact that at that time the conditions for any other kind of work except the struggle for petty demands were absent," declare the Economists in their Letter to Russian Social-Democratic Organs. (Iskra, No. 12.) The facts quoted above show that the assertion about "absent conditions" is the very opposite of the truth. Not only at the end, but even in the middle of the 'nineties, all the conditions existed for other work, besides fighting for petty demands, all the conditions -- except sufficient training of the leaders. Instead of frankly admitting our, the ideologists', the leaders', lack of sufficient training -- the "Economists" want to shift the blame entirely upon the "absent conditions," upon the influences of material environment that determine the road from which it will be impossible for any ideologist to divert the movemcnt. What is this but slavish cringing before spontaneity, but the infatuation of the "ideologists" with their own short comings? the substance of which is incorrectly and too narrowly described as "Economism."
B. BOWING TO SPONTANEITY.
THE RABOCHAYA MYSL
Before dealing with the literary manifestation of this subservience, we should like to note the following characteristic fact (communicated to us from the above-mentioned source), which throws some light on the circumstances in which the two future conflicting trends in Russian Social-Democracy arose and grew among the comrades working in St. Petersburg. In the beginning of 1897, just prior to their banishment, A. A. Vaneyev and several of his comrades attended a private meeting at which "old" and "young" members of the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class gathered. The conversation centred chiefly around the question of organization, and particularly around the "rules for the workers' benefit fund," which, in their final form, were published in the Listok Rabotnika, No. 9-10, p. 46. Sharp differences were immediately revealed between the "old" members ("Decembrists," as the St. Petersburg Social-Democrats jestingly called them) and several of the "young" members (who subsequently actively collaborated on the Rabochaya Mysl ), and a very heated discussion ensued. The "young" members defended the main principles of the rules in the form in which they were published. The "old" members said that the prime necessity was not this, but the consolidation of the League of Struggle into an organization of revolutionaries to which all the various workers' benefit funds, students' propaganda circles, etc., should be subordinated. It goes without saying that the controversialists had no suspicion at that time that these disagreements were the beginning of a divergence; on the contrary, they regarded them as being of an isolated and casual nature. But this fact shows that in Russia too "Economism" did not arise and spread without a fight against the "old" Social-Democrats (the Economists of today are apt to forget this). And if, in the main, this struggle has not left "documentary" traces behind it, it is solely because the membership of the circles functioning at that time underwent such constant change that no continuity was established and, consequently, differences were not recorded in any documents.
The appearance of the Rabochaya Mysl brought Economisn to the light of day, but not all at once. We must picture to ourselves concretely the conditions of the work and the short-lived character of the majority of the Russian circles (and only those who have experienced this can have any exact idea of it), in order to understand how much there was accidental in the successes and failures of the new trend in various towns, and for how long a time neither the advocates nor the opponents of this "new" trend could make up their minds -- indeed they had no opportunity to do so -- as to whether this was really a distinct trend or whether it was merely an expression of the lack of training of certain individuals.<"p42"> For example, the first mimeographed copies of the Rabochaya Mysl never reached the great majority of Social-Democrats, and we are able to refer to the leading article in the first number only because it was reproduced in an article by V. I. (Listok Rabotnika, No. 9-10, p. 47 et seq.), who, of course, did not fail to extol with more zeal than reason the new paper, which was so different from the papers and the plans for papers mentioned above.[*] And this leading article deserves to be dealt with because it so strongly expresses the spirit of the Rabochaya Mysl and Economism generally.
After stating that the arm of the "blue-coats" could never stop the progress of the working-class movement, the leading article goes on to say: ". . . The virility of the working-class movement is due to the fact that the workers themselves are at last taking their fate into their own hands, and out of the hands of the leaders," and this fundamental thesis is then developed in greater detail. As a matter of fact the leaders (i.e., the Social-Democrats, the organizers of the League of Struggle) were, one might say, torn out of the hands of the workers[**] by the police; yet it is made to appear that the workers were fighting against the leaders, and liberated themselves from their yoke! Instead of sounding the call to go forward, towards the consolidation of the revolutionary organization and to the expansion of political activity, the call for a retreat to the purely trade union struggle was issued. It was announced that "the economic basis of the movement is eclipsed by the effort never to forget the political ideal," and that the watchword for the working-class movement was "Fight for economic conditions" (!) or, still better, "The <"np43">
* It should be stated in passing that the praise of the Rabochaya Mysl in November 1898, when Economism had become fully defined, especially abroad, emanated from that same V. I., who very soon after became one of the editors of the Rabocheye Dyelo. And yet the Rabocheye Dyelo denied that there were two trends in Russian Social-Democracy, and continues to deny it to this day!
** That this simile is a correct one is shown by the following characteristic fact. When, after the arrest of the "Decembrists," the news was spread among the workers of the Schlüsselburg Road that the discovery and arrest were facilitated by an agent-provocateur, N. N. Mikhailov, a dental surgeon, who had been in contact with a group associated with the "Decembrists," the workers were so enraged that they decided to kill him.
workers for the workers." It was declared that strike funds "are more valuable for the movement than a hundred other organizations" (compare this statement made in October 1897 with the controversy between the "Decembrists" and the young members in the beginning of 1897), and so forth. Catchwords like: We must concentrate not on the "cream" of the workers, but on the "average," mass worker: "Politics always obediently follows economics,"[*] etc., etc., became the fashion, and exercised an irresistible influence upon the masses of the youth who were attracted to the movement, but who, in the majority of cases, were acquainted only with such fragments of Marxism as were expounded in legally appearing publications.
Consciousness was completely overwhelmed by spontaneity -- the spontaneity of the "Social-Democrats" who repeated Mr. V. V.'s "ideas," the spontaneity of those workers who were carried away by the arguments that a kopek added to a ruble was worth more than Socialism and politics, and that they must "fight, knowing that they are fighting not for some future generation, but for themselves and their children." (Leading article in the Rabochaya Mysl, No. 1.) Phrases like these have always been the favourite weapons of the West-European bourgeoisie, who, in their hatred for Socialism, strove (like the German "Sozial-Politiker" Hirsch) to transplant English trade unionism to their native soil and to <"np44">
* These quotations are taken from the leading article in the first number of the Rabochaya Mysl already referred to. One can judge from this the degree of theoretical training possessed by these "V. V.'s of Russian Social-Democracy,'' who kept repeating the crude vulgarization of "economic materialism" at a time when the Marxists were carrying on a literary war against the real Mr. V. V., who had long ago been dubbed "a past master of reactionary deeds," for holding similar views on the relations between politics and economics!
preach to the workers that by engaging in the purely trade union struggle[*] they would be fighting for themselves and for their children, and not for some future generation with some future Socialism. And now the "V. V.'s of Russian Social-Democracy" have set about repeating these bourgeois phrases. It is important at this point to note three circumstances which will be useful to us in our further analysis of contemporary differences.[**]
First of all, the overwhelming of consciousness by spontaneity, to which we referred above, also took place spontaneously. This may sound like a pun, but, alas, it is the bitter truth. It did not take place as a result of an open struggle between two diametrically opposed points of view, in which one triumphed over the other; it occurred because an increasing number of "old" revolutionaries were "torn away" by the gendarmes and because increasing numbers of "young" "V.V.'s of Russian Social-Democracy" appeared on the scene. Everyone, who -- I shall not say has participated in the contemporary Russian movement? but has at least breathed its atmosphere -- knows perfectly well that this is precisely the case. And the reason why we, nevertheless, strongly insist that the reader be fully clear on this universally known fact, and why in order to be quite explicit, so to speak, we cite the details concerning the Rabocheye Dyelo as it first appeared, and concerning the controversy between the "old" <"np45">
* The Germans even have a special expression: "Nur-Gewerkschaftler," which means an advocate of the "purely trade union" struggle.
** We emphasize the word contemporary for the benefit of those who may pharisaically shrug their shoulders and say: it is easy enough to attack the Rabochaya Mysl now, but is not all this ancient history? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur (change the name and the tale refers to you --Tr.), we reply to such contemporary pharisees whose complete subjection to the ideas of the Rabochaya Mysl will be proved further on.
and the "young" at the beginning of 1897 -- is that certain persons are speculating on the public's (or the very youthful youths') ignorance of this fact, and are boasting of their "democracy." We shall return to this point further on.
Secondly, in the very first literary manifestation of Economism, we can already observe the extremely curious phenomenon -- one highly characteristic for an understanding of all the differences prevailing among contemporary Social-Democrats -- that the adherents of the "pure" working-class movement, the worshippers of the closest "organic" (the term used by the Rabocheye Dyelo) contacts with the proletarian struggle, the opponents of any non-worker intelligentsia (even if it be a socialist intelligentsia) are compelled, in order to defend their positions, to resort to the arguments of the bourgeois "pure" trade unionists. This shows that from the very outset the Rabochaya Mysl began -- unconsciously -- to carry out the program of the Credo. This shows (something the Rabocheye Dyelo cannot understand at all) that all worship of the spontaneity of the working-class movement, all belittling of the role of "the conscious element," of the role of Social-Democracy, means, quite irrespective of whether the belittler wants to or not, strengthening the influence of the bourgeois ideology over the workers. All those who talk about "overrating the importance of ideology,"* about exaggerating the role of the conscious element,** etc., imagine that the pure working-class movement can work out, and will work out, an independent ideology for itself, if only the workers "wrest their fate from the hands of the leaders." But this is a profound mistake. To supplement
* Letter of the "Economists," in the Iskra, No. 12.
** Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10.
what has been said above, we shall quote the following profoundly just and important utterances by Karl Kautsky on the new draft program of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party:[*]
"Many of our revisionist critics believe that Marx asserted that economic development and the class struggle create not only the conditions for socialist production, but also, and directly, the consciousness (K. K.'s italics) of its necessity. And these critics aver that England, the country most highly developed capitalistically, is more remote than any other from this consciousness. Judging from the draft, one might assume that this allegedly orthodox-Marxist view, which is thus refuted, was shared by the committee that drafted the Austrian program. In the draft program it is stated: 'The more capitalist development increases the numbers of the proletariat, the more the proletariat is compelled and becomes fit to fight against capitalism. The proletariat becomes conscious' of the possibility and of the necessity for Socialism. In this connection socialist consciousness appears to be a necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle. But this is absolutely untrue. Of course, Socialism, as a doctrine, has its roots in modern economic relationships just as the class struggle of the proletariat has, and, just as the latter, emerges from the struggle against the capitalist-created poverty and misery of the masses. But Socialism and the classs struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia (K. K.'s italics): it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern Socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the
* Neue Zeit, 1901-02, XX, I, No. 3, p. 79. The committee's draft to which Kautsky refers was adopted by the Vienna Congress (at the end of last year) in a slightly amended form.
proletarian class struggle from without (von Aussen Hineingetragenes) and not something that arose within it spontaneously (urwüchsig). Accordingly, the old Hainfeld program quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat (literally: saturate the proletariat) with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task There would be no need for this if consciousness arose of itself from the class struggle. The new draft copied this proposition from the old program, and attached it to the proposition mentioned above. But this completely broke the line of thought. . . ."
Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology being developed by the masses of the workers themselves in the process of their movement* the only choice is: either the bourgeois or the socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for humanity has not created a "third" ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or above-class ideology. Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn away from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology.
* This does not mean, of course, that the workers have no part in creating such an ideology. But they take part not as workers, but as socialist theoreticians, as Proudhons and Weitlings; in other words, they take part only when, and to the extent that they are able, more or less, to acquire the knowledge of their age and advance that knowledge. And in order that workingmen may be able to do this more often, every effort must be made to raise the level of the consciousness of the workers generally; the workers must not confine themselves to the artificially restricted limits of "literature for workers" but should learn to master general literature to an increasing degree. It would be even more true to say "are not confined," instead of "must not confine themselves," because the workers themselves wish to read and do read all that is written for the intelligentsia and it is only a few (bad) intellectuals who believe that it is sufficient "for the workers" to be told a few things about factory conditions, and to have repeated to them over and over again what has long been known.
There is a lot of talk about spontaneity, but the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its be coming subordinated to the bourgeois ideology, leads to its developing according to the program of the Credo, for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social-Democracy. The phrase employed by the authors of the "economic" letter in the Iskra, No. 12, about the efforts of the most inspired ideologists not being able to divert the working-class movement from the path that is determined by the interaction of the material elements and the material environment, is absolutely tantamount therefore to the abandonment of Socialism, and if only the authors of this letter were capable of fearlessly, consistently and thoroughly considering what they say, as everyone who enters the arena of literary and public activity should do, there would be nothing left for them but to "fold their useless arms over their empty breasts" and . . . Ieave the field of action to Messrs. the Struves and Prokopoviches who are dragging the working-class movement "along the line of least resistance," i.e., along the line of bourgeois trade unionism, or to the Zubatovs, who are dragging it along the line of clerical and gendarme "ideology."
Recall the example of Germany. What was the historical service Lassalle rendered to the German working-class movement? It was that he diverted that movement from the path of trade unionism and cooperation preached by the Progressives along which it had been travelling spontaneously (with the benign assistance of Schulze-Delitzsch and those like him ). To fulfil a task like that it was necessary to do something altogether different from indulging in talk about underrating the spontaneous element, about tactics-as-a-process, about the interaction between elements and environment, etc. A fierce struggle against spontaneity was necessary, and only after such a struggle, extending over many years, was it possible, for instance, to convert the working population of <"p50"> Berlin from a bulwark of the Progressive Party into one of the finest strongholds of Social-Democracy. This fight is by no means finished even now (as might seem to those who learn the history of the German movement from Prokopovich, and its philosophy from Struve). Even now the German working class is, so to speak, broken up among a number of ideologies. A section of the workers is organized in Catholic and monarchist labour unions; another section is organized in the Hirsch-Duncker unions, founded by the bourgeois worshippers of English trade unionism, while a third section is organized in Social-Democratic trade unions. The last is immeasurably more numerous than all the rest, but the Social Democratic ideology was able to achieve this superiority, and will be able to maintain it, only by unswervingly fighting against all other ideologies.
But why, the reader will ask, does the spontaneous movement, the movement along the line of the least resistance, lead to the domination of the bourgeois ideology? For the simple reason that the bourgeois ideology is far older than the socialist ideology; because it is more fully developed and because it possesses immeasurably more opportunities for being spread.[*] And the younger the socialist movement is in any given country, the more vigorously must it fight against all attempts to entrench non-socialist ideology, and the more strongly must the workers be warned against those bad counsellors who shout against "overrating the conscious element," etc. The authors of the economic letter, in unison with the Rabocheye Dyelo, declaim against the intolerance that is characteristic of the infancy of the movement. To this we reply: yes, our movement is indeed in its infancy, and in order that it may grow up the more quickly, it must become infected with intolerance against those who retard its growth by their subservience to spontaneity. Nothing is so ridiculous and harmful as pretending that we are "old hands" who have long ago experienced all the decisive episodes of the struggle.
Thirdly, the first number of the Rabochaya Mysl shows that the term "Economism" (which, of course, we do not propose to abandon because, however it may be, this appellation has already established itself) does not adequately convey the real character of the new trend. The Rabochaya Mysl does not altogether repudiate the political struggle: the rules
* It is often said: the working class spontaneously gravitates towards Socialism. This is perfectly true in the sense that socialist theory defines the causes of the misery of the working class more profoundly and more correctly than any other theory, and for that reason the workers are able to assimilate it so easily, provided, however, that this theory does not itself yield to spontaneity, provided it subordinates spontaneity to itself. Usually this is taken for granted, but it is precisely this which the Rabocheye Dyelo forgets or distorts. The working class spontaneously gravitates towards Socialism, but the more widespread (and continuously revived in the most diverse forms) bourgeois ideology nevertheless spontaneously imposes itself upon the working class still more.
for a workers' benefit fund published in the Rabochaya Mysl, No. 1, contain a reference to combating the government. The Rabochaya Mysl believes, however, that "politics alwavs obediently follows economics" (and the Rabocheye Dyelo gives a variation of this thesis when, in its program, it asserts that "in Russia more than in any other country, the economic struggle is inseparable from the political struggle"). If by politics is meant Social-Democratic politics, then the postulates advanced by the Rabochaya Mysl and the Rabocheye Dyelo are absolutely wrong. The economic struggle of the workers is very often connected (although not inseparably) with bourgeois politics, clerical politics, etc., as we have already seen. The Rabocheye Dyelo's postulates are correct if by politics is meant trade union politics, i.e., the common striving of all workers to secure from the government measures for the alleviation of the distress characteristic of their position, but which do not abolish that position, i.e., which do not remove the subjection of labour to capital. That striving indeed is common to the British trade unionists who are hostile to Socialism, to the Catholic workers, to the "Zubatov" workers, etc. There are politics and politics. Thus, we see that the Rabochaya Mysl does not so much deny the political as to bow to its spontaneity, to its lack of consciousness. While fully recognizing the political struggle (it would be more correct to say the political desires and demands of the workers), which arises spontaneously from the working-class movement itself, it absolutely refuses independently to work out a specifically Social-Democratic policy corresponding to the general tasks of Socialism and to contemporary conditions in Russia. Further on we shall show that the Rabocheye Dyelo commits the same error.