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V. I. LENIN
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
Burning Questions of Our Movement
C. ORGANIZATION OF WORKERS AND
ORGANIZATION OF REVOLUTIONARIES
It is only natural to expect that a Social-Democrat, who conceives the political struggle as being identical with the "economic struggle against the employers and the government," should conceive of an "organization of revolutionaries" as being more or less identical with an "organization of workers." And this, in fact, is what actually happens; so that when we talk about organization, we literally talk in different tongues. I vividly recall, for example, a conversation I once had with a fairly consistent Economist, with whom I had not been previously acquainted. We were discussing the pamphlet Who Will Bring About the Political Revolution? and we were very soon agreed that its principal defect was that it ignored the question of organization. We were beginning to think that we were in complete agreement with each other -- but . . . as the conversation proceeded, it became clear that we were talking of different things. My interlocutor accused the author of ignoring strike funds, mutual aid societies, etc., whereas I had in mind an organization of revolutionaries as an essential factor in "bringing about" the political revolution. As soon as that disagreement became clear, I hardly remember a single question of principle upon which I was in agreement with that Economist! What was the source of our disagreement? It was the fact that on questions of both organization and politics the
Economists are forever lapsing from Social-Democracy into trade unionism. The political struggle of Social-Democracy is far more extensive and complex than the economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government. Similarly (and indeed for that reason), the organization of a revolutionary Social-Democratic party must inevitably be of a different kind than the organizations of the workers designed for this struggle. A workers' organization must in the first place be a trade organization; secondly, it must be as broad as possible; and thirdly, it must be as little clandestine as possible (here, and further on, of course, I have only autocratic Russia in mind). On the other hand, the organizations of revolutionaries must consist first, foremost and mainly of people who make revolutionary activity their profession (that is why I speak of organizations of revolutionaries, meaning revolutionary Social-Democrats). In view of this common feature of the members of such an organization, all distinctions as between workers and intellectuals, and certainly distinctions of trade and profession, must be utterly obliterated. Such an organization must of necessity be not too extensive and as secret as possible. Let us examine this threefold distinction.
In countries where political liberty exists the distinction between a trade union and a political organization is clear enough, as is the distinction between trade unions and Social-Democracy. The relation of the latter to the former will naturally vary in each country according to historical, legal and other conditions -- it may be more or less close, complex, etc. (in our opinion it should be as close and simple as possible); but there can be no question of trade union organizations being identical with the Social-Democratic party
organizations in free countries. In Russia, however, the yoke of the autocracy appears at first glance to obliterate all distinctions between a Social-Democratic organization and trade unions, because all workers' associations and all circles are prohibited, and because the principal manifestation and weapon of the workers' economic struggle -- the strike -- is regarded as a criminal (and sometimes even as a political!) offence. Conditions in our country, therefore, on the one hand, strongly "impel" the workers engaged in economic struggle to concern themselves with political questions, and, on the other, they "impel" Social-Democrats to confuse trade unionism with Social-Democracy (and our Krichevskys, Martynovs and their like, while diligently discussing the first kind of "impelling," fail to notice the second kind). Indeed, picture to yourselves people who are immersed ninety-nine per cent in "the economic struggle against the employers and the government." Some of them will never, during the whole course of their activity (four to six months) be impelled to think of the need for a more complex organization of revolutionaries; others, perhaps, will come across the fairly widely distributed Bernsteinian literature, from which they will become convinced of the profound importance of the forward march of "the drab everyday struggle." Still others will be carried away, perhaps, by the seductive idea of showing the world a new example of "close and organic contact with the proletarian struggle" -- contact between the trade union and Social-Democratic movements. Such people may argue that the later a country enters into the arena of capitalism and, consequently, of the working-class movement, the more the Socialists in that country may take part in, and support, the trade union movement, and the less reason can
and should there be for non-Social-Democratic trade unions. Up to this point the argument is quite correct; unfortunately, however, some go beyond that and envisage the complete fusion of Social-Democracy with trade unionism. We shall soon see, from the example of the Rules of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle, what a harmful effect these dreams have upon our plans of organization.
The workers' organizations for the economic struggle should be trade union organizations. Every Social-Democratic worker should as far as possible assist and actively work in these organizations. That is true. But it is not at all to our interest to demand that only Social-Democrats should be eligible for membership in the "trade" unions: that would only narrow down our influence over the masses. Let every worker who understands the need to unite for the struggle against the employers and the government join the trade unions. The very aim of the trade unions would be unattainable if they failed to unite all who have attained at least this elementary degree of understanding, and if they were not very wide organizations. And the wider these organizations are, the wider our influence over them will be -- an influence due not only to the "spontaneous" development of the economic struggle but also to the direct and conscious effort of the socialist trade union members to influence their comrades. But a broad organization cannot apply the methods of strict secrecy (since the latter demands far greater training than is required for the economic struggle). How is the contradiction between the need for a large membership and the need for strictly secret methods to be reconciled? How are we to make the trade unions as little clandestine as possible? Generally speaking, there can be only two ways to this end:
<"p141"> either the trade unions become legalized (and in some countries this preceded the legalization of the Socialist and political unions), or the organization is kept a secret one, but so "free" and amorphous, lose as the Germans say, that the need for secret methods becomes almost negligible as far as the bulk of the members is concerned.
The legalization of the non-socialist and non-political labour unions in Russia has already begun, and there is no doubt that every advance made by our rapidly growing Social-Democratic working-class movement will multiply and encourage attempts at legalization -- attempts proceeding for the most part from supporters of the existing order, but partly also from the workers themselves and from liberal intellectuals. The banner of legality has already been hoisted by the Vasilyevs and the Zubatovs. Support has been promised by Messrs. the Ozerovs and the Wormses, and followers of the new tendency are already to be found among the workers. Henceforth, we cannot but reckon with this tendency. As to how we are to reckon with it, there can be no two opinions among Social-Democrats. We must steadfastly expose any part played in this movement by the Zubatovs and the Vasilyevs, the gendarmes and the priests, and explain to the workers what their real intentions are. We must also expose all the conciliatory, "harmonious" notes that will be heard in the speeches of liberal politicians at the legal meetings of the workers, irrespective of whether these speeches are motivated by an earnest conviction of the desirability of peaceful class collaboration, by a desire to curry favour with the powers that be, or are simply the result of clumsiness. Lastly, we must warn the workers against the traps often set by the police, who at such open meetings and permitted societies spy
out the "hotheads" and try to make use of legal organizations to plant their agents provocateurs in the illegal organizations.
But while doing all this, we must not forget that in the long run the legalization of the working-class movement will be to our advantage, and not to that of the Zubatovs. On the contrary, it is precisely our campaign of exposure that will help us to separate the tares from the wheat. What the tares are, we have already indicated. By the wheat, we mean that the attention of still larger and more backward sections of the workers is attracted to social and political questions; we mean relieving us, revolutionaries, of functions which are essentially legal (the distribution of legal books, mutual aid, etc.), and the development of which will inevitably provide us with an increasing quantity of material for agitation. In this sense, we may, and should say, to the Zubatovs and the Ozerovs: keep at it, gentlemen, do your best! Whenever you place a trap in the path of the workers (either by way of direct provocation, or by the "honest" corruption of the workers with the aid of "Struve-ism"), we shall see to it that you are exposed. But whenever you take a real step forward, even if it is the most "timid zigzag," we shall say: please continue! <"p142"> And the only step that can be a real step forward is a real, if small, extension of the workers' field of action. And every such extension will be to our advantage and will help to hasten the advent of legal societies of the kind where not agents provocateurs will detect Socialists, but where Socialists will find adherents. In a word, our task is to fight down the tares. It is not our business to grow wheat in flower pots. By pulling up the tares, we clear the soil for the wheat. And while the Afanasi Ivanoviches and Pulkheria Ivanovnas are tending their flower-pot crops, we must prepare the reapers, not only
to cut down the tares of today, but also to reap the wheat of tomorrow.[*]
Thus, we cannot by means of legalization solve the problem of creating a trade union organization that will be as little secret and as extensive as possible (but we would be extremely glad if the Zubatovs and the Ozerovs provided us with even a partial opportunity for such a solution -- to which end we must fight them as strenuously as possible!). There remains the path of secret trade union organization; and we must give all possible assistance to the workers, who (as we definitely know) are already adopting this path. Trade union organizations can be not only of tremendous value in developing and consolidating the economic struggle, but can also become a very important auxiliary to political agitation and revolutionary organization. In order to achieve this, and in order to guide the nascent trade union movement in the channels the Social-Democrats desire, we must first of all clearly realize how absurd is the plan of organization with which the St. Petersburg Economists have been occupying themselves for nearly five years. That plan is set forth in the "Rules for a Workers' Benefit Fund" of July 1897 (Listok Rabotnika, No. 9-10, p. 46; taken from the Rabochaya Mysl, No. 1), and also
* The Iskra's campaign against the tares evoked the following angry outburst from the Rabocheye Dyelo : "For the Iskra, the signs of the times lie not so much in the great events (of the spring), as in the miserable attempt of the agents of Zubatov to 'legalize' the working-class movement. It fails to see that these facts tell against it; for they testify that the working-class movement has assumed menacing proportions in the eyes of the government." (Two Congresses, p. 27.) For all this we have to blame the "dogmatism" of those orthodox fellows who "ignore the imperative demands of life." They obstinately refuse to see the yard-high wheat and are fighting down the inch-high tares! Does this not reveal a "distorted sense of perspective in regard to the Russian working class movement"? (Ibid., p. 27.)
in the "Rules for a Trade Union Workers' Organization," of October 1900 (special leaflet printed in St. Petersburg and quoted in the Iskra, No. 1). The fundamental defect of both these sets of rules is that they give a detailed formulation of a broad workers' organization and confuse it with an organization of revolutionaries. Let us take the last-mentioned set of rules, since it is drawn up in greater detail. The body of it consists of fifty-two paragraphs. Twenty-three paragraphs deal with structure, the method of conducting business and the jurisdiction of the "workers' circles," which are to be organized in every factory ("not more than ten persons") and which elect "central (factory) groups." "The central group," says paragraph 2, "observes all that goes on in its factory or workshop and keeps a record of events." "The central group presents to subscribers a monthly financial account" (par. 17), etc. Ten paragraphs are devoted to the "district organization," and nineteen to the highly complex interconnection between the "Committee of the Workers' Organization" and the "Committee of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle" (delegates from each district and from the "executive groups" -- "groups of propagandists, groups for maintaining contact with the provinces and with the organization abroad, groups for managing stores, publications and funds").
Social-Democracy= "executive groups" in relation to the economic struggle of the workers! It would be difficult to find a more striking illustration of how the Economists' ideas deviate from Social-Democracy to trade unionism, and how alien to them is any idea that a Social-Democrat must concern himself first and foremost with an organization of revolutionaries who are capable of guiding the whole proletarian struggle for emancipation. To talk of "the political emancipation of the working class" and of the struggle against "tsarist
despotism," and yet to draft rules like this, indicates a complete failure to understand what the real political tasks of Social-Democracy are. Not one of the fifty or so paragraphs reveals the slightest glimmer of understanding that it is necessary to conduct the widest possible political agitation among the masses, an agitation that deals with every aspect of Russian absolutism and with all the features of the various social classes in Russia. Rules like these are of no use even for the achievement of trade union aims, let alone political aims, for that requires organization according to trades, of which no mention is made in the Rules.
But most characteristic of all, perhaps, is the amazing top-heaviness of the whole "system," which attempts to bind each single factory with the "committee" by a permanent string of uniform and ludicrously petty rules and a three-stage system of election. Hemmed in by the narrow outlook of Economism, the mind is lost in details which positively reek of red tape and bureaucracy. In practice, of course, three-fourths of the clauses are never applied; on the other hand, however, a "conspiratorial" organization of this kind, with its central group in each factory, makes it very easy for the gendarmes to carry out raids on a vast scale. The Polish comrades have already passed through a similar phase in their movement, when everybody was enthusiastic about the extensive organization of workers' benefit funds; but they very quickly abandoned this idea when they saw that such organizations only provided rich harvests for the gendarmes. If we are out for wide workers' organizations, and not for widespread arrests, if we do not want to provide satisfaction to the gendarmes, we must aim to have these organizations remain entirely informal. But will they be able to function in that case? Well, let us see what the functions are: ". . . to observe all that goes on in the
factory and keep a record of events." (Par. 2 of the Rules.) Do we really require a formal group for this? Could not the purpose be better served by correspondence to the illegal papers and without setting up special groups? ". . . To lead the struggles of the workers for the improvement of their workshop conditions." (Par. 3 of the Rules.) This, too, requires no formal group. Any sensible agitator can establish just what demands the workers want to advance in the course of ordinary conversation and transmit them to a narrow -- not a wide -- organization of revolutionaries to be embodied in a leaflet. ". . . To organize a fund . . . to which subscriptions of two kopeks per ruble should be made" (par. 9) . . . to present to subscribers a monthly financial account (par. 17) . . . to expel members who fail to pay dues (par. 10), and so forth. Why, this is a very paradise for the police; for nothing would be easier than for them to penetrate into the ponderous secrecy of a "central factory fund," confiscate the money and arrest all the best people. Would it not be simpler to issue one-kopek or two-kopek coupons bearing the official stamp of a well-known (very exclusive and very secret) organization, or to make collections without coupons of any kind and to print reports in a certain agreed code in an illegal paper? The object would thereby be attained, but it would be a hundred times more difficult for the gendarmes to pick up clues.
I could go on analyzing the Rules, but I think that what has been said will suffice. A small, compact core of the most reliable, experienced and hardened workers, with responsible representatives in the principal districts and connected by all the rules of strict secrecy with the organization of revolutionaries, can, with the widest support of the masses and without any formal organization, perform all the functions of
a trade union organization, and perform them, moreover, in a manner desirable to Social-Democracy. Only in this way can we secure the consolidation and development of a Social-Democratic trade union movement, in spite of all the gendarmes.
It may be objected that an organization which is so loose that it is not even definitely formed, and which even has no enrolled and registered membership, cannot be called an organization at all. That may very well be. I am not out for names. But this "organization without members" will do everything that is required, and from the very outset guarantee the closest contact between our future trade unions and Socialism. Only an incorrigible utopian would want a broad organization of workers, with elections, reports, universal suffrage, etc., under the autocracy.
The moral to be drawn from this is a simple one: if we begin with the solid foundation of a strong organization of revolutionaries, we can guarantee the stability of the movement as a whole and carry out the aims of both Social-Democracy and of trade unions proper. If, however, we begin with a broad workers' organization, supposed to be most "accessible" to the masses (but as a matter of fact most accessible to the gendarmes and making the revolutionaries most accessible to the police), we shall achieve neither one nor the other of these aims; we shall not eliminate our amateurishness, and because we remain scattered and our forces are constantly broken up by the police, we shall only make the trade unions of the Zubatov and Ozerov type most accessible to the masses.
What, properly speaking, should be the functions of an organization of revolutionaries? We shall deal with this in detail. But first let us examine a very typical argument advanced by our terrorist, who (sad fate!) in this matter also is a next-
door neighbour to the Economist. The Svoboda (No. 1), a journal published for workers, contains an article entitled "Organization," the author of which tries to defend his friends, the Economist workers of Ivanovo-Voznesensk. He writes:
"It is a bad thing when the crowd is mute and unenlightened, and when the movement does not proceed from the rank and file. For instance, the students of a university town leave for their homes during the summer and other vacations and immediately the workers' movement comes to a standstill. Can a workers' movement which has to be pushed on from outside be a real force? Of course not! . . . It has not yet learned to walk, it is still in leading strings. So it is in everything. The students go off, and everything comes to a standstill. The most capable among the cream are arrested -- the milk turns sour. If the 'committee' is arrested, everything comes to a standstill until a new one can be formed. And one never knows what sort of committee will be set up next -- it may be nothing like the former one. The first preached one thing, the second may preach the very opposite. Continuity between yesterday and tomorrow is broken, the experience of the past does not serve as a guide for the future. And all this is because no deep roots have been struck in the crowd; the work is carried on not by a hundred fools, but by a dozen wise men. A dozen wise men can be wiped out at a snap, but when the organization embraces the crowd everything proceeds from the crowd, and nobody, however he tries, can stop the cause." (P. 63.)
The facts are described correctly. They provide a fairly good picture of our amateurishness. But the conclusions are worthy of the Rabochaya Mysl both for their stupidity and their lack of political tact. They represent the height of stupidity, because the author confuses the philosophical and social-historical question of the "depth" of the "roots" of the movement with the technical and organizational question of the best method of fighting the gendarmes. They represent the height of political tactlessness, because the author, instead of appealing from bad leaders to good leaders, appeals from
the leaders in general to the "crowd." This is as much an attempt to drag us back organizationally as the idea of substituting excitative terrorism for political agitation drags us back politically. Indeed, I am experiencing a veritable embarras de richesses, and hardly know where to begin to disentangle the confusion created by the Svoboda. For the sake of clarity, I shall try to begin by citing an example. Take the Germans. It will not be denied, I hope, that their organization embraces the crowd, that in Germany everything proceeds from the crowd, that the working-class movement there has learned to walk. Yet observe how this vast crowd of millions values its "dozen" tried political leaders, how firmly it clings to them! Members of the hostile parties in parliament have often teased the Socialists by exclaiming: "Fine democrats you are indeed! Yours is a working-class movement only in name; in actual fact it is the same clique of leaders that is always in evidence, Bebel and Liebknecht, year in and year out, and that goes on for decades. Your supposedly elected workers' deputies are more permanent than the officials appointed by the Emperor!" But the Germans only smile with contempt at these demagogic attempts to set the "crowd" against the "leaders," to arouse bad and ambitious instincts in the former, and to rob the movement of its solidity and stability by undermining the confidence of the masses in their "dozen wise men." Political thinking is already sufficiently developed among the Germans, and they have accumulated sufficient political experience to understand that without the "dozen" tried and talented leaders (and talented men are not born by the hundred), professionally trained, schooled by long experience and working in perfect harmony, no class in modern society can wage a determined struggle. The Germans too have had demagogues in their ranks who have flattered
the "hundred fools," exalted them above the "dozen wise men," extolled the "mighty fists" of the masses, and (like Most and Hasselmann) have spurred them on to reckless "revolutionary" action and sown distrust towards the firm and steadfast leaders. It was only by stubbornly and relentlessly combating all demagogic elements within the socialist movement that German Socialism managed to grow and become as strong as it is. Our wiseacres, however, at a time when Russian Social-Democracy is passing through a crisis entirely due to the lack of sufficient numbers of trained, developed and experienced leaders to guide the spontaneously awakening masses, cry out with the profundity of fools: "it is a bad thing when the movement does not proceed from the rank and file."
"A committee of students is no good, it is not stable." Quite true. But the conclusion to be drawn from this is that we must have a committee of professional revolutionaries and it does not matter whether a student or a worker is capable of becoming a professional revolutionary. The conclusion you draw, however, is that the working-class movement must not be pushed on from outside! In your political innocence you fail to notice that you are playing into the hands of our Economists and fostering our amateurishness. In what way, may I ask, did our students "push on" our workers? Solely by the student bringing to the worker the scraps of political knowledge he himself possessed, the crumbs of socialist ideas he had managed to acquire (for the principal intellectual diet of the present-day student, "legal Marxism," could furnish only the rudiments, only crumbs of knowledge). There has never been too much of such "pushing on from outside"; on the contrary, so far there has been too little, all too little of it in our movement, for we have been stewing too assiduously
in our own juice; we have bowed far too slavishly to the elementary "economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government." We professional revolutionaries must and will make it our business to engage in this kind of "pushing" a hundred times more forcibly than we have done hitherto. But the very fact that you select so despicable a phrase as "pushing on from outside" -- a phrase which cannot but rouse in the workers (at least in the workers who are as unenlightened as you yourselves) a sense of distrust towards all who bring them political knowledge and revolutionary experience from outside, and rouse in them an instinctive desire to resist all such people -- proves that you are demagogues, and demagogues are the worst enemies of the working class.
Yes, yes! And don't start howling about my "uncomradely methods" of controversy! I have not the least intention of doubting the purity of your intentions. As I have already said, one may become a demagogue out of sheer political innocence. But I have shown that you have descended to demagogy, and I shall never tire of repeating that demagogues are the worst enemies of the working class. The worst enemies because they arouse bad instincts in the crowd, because the unenlightened worker is unable to recognize his enemies in men who represent themselves, and sometimes sincerely so, as his friends. The worst enemies because in the period of disunity and vacillation, when our movement is just beginning to take shape, nothing is easier than to employ demagogic methods to mislead the crowd which can realize its mistake only later by the most bitter experience. That is why the slogan of the day for the Russian Social-Democrat must be: resolute struggle against the Svoboda and the Rabocheye Dyelo, both of
which have sunk to the level of demagogy. We shall deal with this in greater detail elsewhere.[*]
"A dozen wise men can be more easily wiped out than a hundred fools!" This wonderful truth (for which the hundred fools will always applaud you) appears obvious only because in the very midst of the argument you have skipped from one question to another. You began by talking, and continue to talk of a "committee," an "organization" being wiped out, and now you skip to the question of the "depth" of the movement's "roots." The fact is, of course, that our movement cannot be wiped out precisely because it has hundreds and hundreds of thousands of roots deep down among the masses; but that is not the point we are discussing. As far as "deep roots" are concerned, we cannot be "wiped out" even now, in spite of all our amateurishness, and yet we all complain, and cannot but complain, that "organizations" are wiped out, with the result that it is impossible to maintain continuity in the movement. But since you raise the question of organizations being wiped out and stick to that question, then I assert that it is far more difficult to wipe out a dozen wise men than a hundred fools. And this position I shall defend no matter how much you instigate the crowd against me for my "anti-democratic" views, etc. As I have already said time and again that by "wise men," in connection with organization, I mean professional revolutionaries, irrespective of whether they are trained from among students or workingmen. I assert: 1) that no revolutionary movement can endure without a stable
* For the moment let us observe merely that all our remarks on "pushing on from outside" and the Svoboda's other disquisitions on organization apply entirely to all the Economists, including the adherents of the Rabocheye Dyelo, for either they themselves have actively preached and defended such views on organization, or have drifted into them.
organization of leaders that maintains continuity; 2) that the wider the masses spontaneously drawn into the struggle, forming the basis of the movement and participating in it, the more urgent the need of such an organization, and the more solid this organization must be (for it is much easier for demagogues to sidetrack the more backward sections of the masses); 3) that such an organization must consist chiefly of people professionally engaged in revolutionary activity; 4) that in an autocratic state, the more we confine the membership of such an organization to people who are professionally engaged in revolutionary activity and who have been professionally trained in the art of combating the political police, the more difficult will it be to wipe out such an organization, and 5) the greater will be the number of people of the working class and of the other classes of society who will be able to join the movement and perform active work in it.
I invite our Economists, terrorists and "Economists-terrorists"* to confute these propositions. At the moment, I shall deal only with the last two points. The question as to whether it is easier to wipe out "a dozen wise men" or "a hundred fools" reduces itself to the question we have considered above,
* This latter term is perhaps more applicable to the Svoboda than the former, for in an article entitled "The Regeneration of Revolutionism" it defends terrorism, while in the article at present under review it defends Economism. One might say of the Svoboda that "it would if it could, but it can't." Its wishes and intentions are of the very best -- but the result is utter confusion; and this is chiefly due to the fact that while the Svoboda advocates continuity of organization, it refuses to recognize continuity of revolutionary thought and of Social-Democratic theory. It wants to revive the professional revolutionary ("The Regeneration of Revolutionism"), and to that end proposes, first, excitative terrorism, and secondly, "an organization of average workers" (Svoboda, No. 1, p. 66 et seq.), as less likely to be "pushed on from outside." In other words, it proposes to pull the house down to use the timber for warming it.
namely, whether it is possible to have a mass organization when the maintenance of strict secrecy is essential. We can never give a mass organization that degree of secrecy without which there can be no question of persistent and continuous struggle against the government. But to concentrate all secret functions in the hands of as small a number of professional revolutionaries as possible does not mean that the latter will "do the thinking for all" and that the crowd will not take an active part in the movement. On the contrary, the crowd will advance from its ranks increasing numbers of professional revolutionaries; for it will know that it is not enough for a few students and for a few workingmen waging the economic struggle, to gather together and form a "committee," but that it takes years to train oneself to be a professional revolutionary; the crowd will "think" not of amateurish methods alone but of such training. The centralization of the secret functions of the organization by no means implies the centralization of all the functions of the movement. The active participation of the widest mass in the illegal press will not diminish because a "dozen" professional revolutionaries centralize the secret functions connected with this work; on the contrary, it will increase tenfold. In this way, and in this way alone, will we ensure that reading of illegal literature, writing for it, and to some extent even distributing it, will almost cease to be secret work, for the police will soon come to realize the folly and futility of setting the whole judicial and administrative machine into motion to intercept every copy of publication that is being broadcast in thousands. This applies not only to the press, but to every function of the movement, even to demonstrations. The active and widespread participation of the masses will not suffer; on the contrary, it will benefit by the fact that a "dozen" experienced
revolutionaries, trained professionally no less than the police, will centralize all the secret aspects of the work -- drawing up leaflets, working out approximate plans and appointing bodies of leaders for each urban district, for each factory district and for each educational institution, etc. (I know that exception will be taken to my "undemocratic" views, but I shall reply fully to this anything but intelligent objection later on.) The centralization of the most secret functions in an organization of revolutionaries will not diminish, but rather increase the extent and quality of the activity of a large number of other organizations which are intended for a broad public and are therefore as loose and as non-secret as possible, such as workers' trade unions, workers' self-education circles and circles for reading illegal literature, socialist and also democratic circles among all other sections of the population, etc., etc. We must have such circles, trade unions and organizations everywhere in as large a number as possible and with the widest variety of functions; but it would be absurd and dangerous to confuse them with the organization of revolutionaries, to obliterate the border line between them, to dim still more the masses' already incredibly hazy appreciation of the fact that in order to "serve" the mass movement we must have people who will devote themselves exclusively to Social-Democratic activities, and that such people must train themselves patiently and steadfastly to be professional revolutionaries.
Yes, this appreciation has become incredibly dim. Our chief sin with regard to organization is that by our amateurishness we have lowered the prestige of revolutionaries in Russia. A person who is flabby and shaky in questions of theory, who has a narrow outlook, who pleads the spontaneity of the masses as an excuse for his own sluggishness, who resembles
a trade union secretary more than a people's tribune, who is unable to conceive of a broad and bold plan that would command the respect even of opponents, and who is inexperienced and clumsy in his own professional art -- the art of combating the political police -- why, such a man is not a revolutionary but a wretched amateur!
Let no active worker take offence at these frank remarks, for as far as insufficient training is concerned, I apply them first and foremost to myself. I used to work in a circle that set itself very wide, all-embracing tasks; and all of us, members of that circle, suffered painfully, acutely from the realization that we were proving ourselves to be amateurs at a moment in history when we might have been able to say, paraphrasing a well-known epigram: "Give us an organization of revolutionaries, and we shall overturn Russia!" And the more I recall the burning sense of shame I then experienced, the more bitter are my feelings towards those pseudo Social-Democrats whose teachings "bring disgrace on the calling of a revolutionary," who fail to understand that our task is not to champion the degrading of the revolutionary to the level of an amateur, but to raise the amateurs to the level of revolutionaries.