What Is To Be Done? - pt. 2

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Burning Questions of Our Movement



    "The most serious blunder the Iskra committed in this connection," writcs B. Krichevsky (Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, p. 30) -- accusing us of betraying a tendency to "convert theory into a lifeless doctrine by isolating it from practice" -- "was in promoting its 'plan' for a general party organization" (i.e., the article entitled "Where To Begin?"[90]). And Martynov echoes this idea by declaring that "Iskra's tendency to belittle the forward march of the drab everyday struggle in comparison with the propaganda of brilliant and complete ideas . . . was crowned by the plan for the organization of a party which it sets forth in an article in No. 4, entitled 'Where To Begin?'" (Ibid., p. 61.) Lastly, quite recently, L. Nadezhdin joined in the chorus of indignation against this "plan" (the quotation marks were meant to express sarcasm). In his pamphlet we have just received, entitled The Eve of Revolution (published by the Revolutionary-Socialist Group Svoboda, whose acquaintance we have already made), he declares: "To speak now of an organization linked

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up with an all-Russian newspaper means propagating armchair ideas and armchair work" (p. 126), that it is a manifestation of "literariness," etc.

    That our terrorist turns out to be in agreement with the champions of the "forward march of the drab everyday struggle," is not surprising, since we have traced the roots of this intimacy between them in the chapters on politics and organization. <"p190"> But we must draw attention here to the fact that L. Nadezhdin is the only one who has conscientiously tried to grasp the train of thought in an article he disliked, and has made an attempt to reply to the point, whereas the Rabocheye Dyelo has said nothing that is material to the subject, but has only tried to confuse the question by a whole series of unseemly, demagogic sallies. Unpleasant though the task may be, we must first spend some time in cleaning this Augean stable.[91]


    Let us quote a regular bouquet of the expletives and exclamations that the Rabocheye Dyelo hurled at us. "It is not a newspaper that can create a party organization, but just the other way round. . . ." "A newspaper, standing above the party, outside of its control, and independent of it, thanks to its having its own staff of agents. . . ." "By what miracle has the Iskra forgotten about the actually existing Social-Democratic organizations of the party to which it belongs?. . ." "Those who possess firm principles and a corresponding plan are the supreme regulators of the real struggle of the party and dictate to it their plan. . . ." "The plan drives our live and virile organizations into the realm of shadows and desires to call into being a fantastic network of agents. . . ." "If the Iskra's plan were carried out, every trace of the Russian Social-Democratic labour party, which is taking shape, would be completely wiped out. . . ." "A propagandist organ becomes an uncontrolled autocratic lawmaker for the entire practical revolutionary struggle. . . ." "How should our party react to the suggestion that it be completely subordinated to an autonomous editorial board?", etc., etc.

    As the reader can see from the contents and tone of the above quotations, the Rabocheye Dyelo has taken offence. Not for its own sake, but for the sake of the organizations and committees of our Party which it alleges the Iskra desires to drive into the realm of shadows and even obliterate their traces. Terrible, isn't it? But the curious thing is this. The article "Where To Begin?" appeared in May 1901. The articles in the Rabocheye Dyelo appeared in September 1901. Now we are in the middle of January 1901. During these five months (prior to and after September), not a single committee and not a single organization of the Party protested formally against this monster which desires to drive them into the realm of shadows; and yet scores and hundreds of communications from all parts of Russia have appeared during this period in the Iskra, and in numerous local and non-local publications. How could it happen that those who would be driven into the realm of shadows are not aware of it and have not taken offence, though a third party did take offence?

    The explanation is that the committees and other organizations are engaged in real work and do not play at "democracy." The committees read the article "Where To Begin?",

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saw that it was an attempt "to work out a definite plan for an organization which would make it possible to set about building that organization from all sides," and as they knew and saw very well that not one of these "sides" will dream of "setting to work to build it" until it is convinced of its necessity, and of the correctness of the architectural plan, it has naturally never occurred to them to take offence at the boldness of the people who said in the Iskra: "In view of the urgency and importance of the question, we make bold to submit to the comrades an outline of a plan which is developed in greater detail in a pamphlet now being prepared for the press." Assuming people were conscientious about the work, would they not understand that if the comrades accepted the plan submitted to them, they would carry it out, not because they are "subordinate" but because they would be convinced of its necessity for our common cause, and that if they did not accept it, then the "outline" (a pretentious word, is it not?) would remain merely an outline? Is it not sheer demagogy to fight against the outline of a plan, not only by "picking it to pieces" and advising comrades to reject it, but also by inciting people inexperienced in revolutionary activity against the authors of the outline merely on the grounds that they dare to "make laws" and come out as the "supreme regulators," i.e., because they dare to submit an outline of a plan? Can our Party develop and make progress if an attempt to raise local Party workers to broader views, tasks, plans, etc., is objected to, not only on the ground that these views are wrong, but on the grounds that the very "desire" to "raise" is "offensive"? L. Nadezhdin also "picked" our plan "to pieces," but he did not sink to such demagogy as cannot be explained by naïveté or by primitive political views. Right from the outset, he emphatically re-

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jected the charge that we intended to establish an "inspectorship over the Party." That is why Nadezhdin's criticism of the plan can and should be answered on its merits, while the Rabocheye Dyelo deserves only to be treated with contempt.

    But contempt for a writer, who sinks to shouting about "autocracy" and "subordination," does not relieve us of the duty of disentangling the confusion that such people create in the minds of their readers. And here we can clearly demonstrate to the world the nature of catchwords like "broad democracy." We are accused of forgetting the committees, of desiring or attempting to drive them into the realm of shadows, etc. How can we reply to these charges when, owing to considerations of secrecy, we can give the reader almost no facts about our real relationships with the committees. Persons who broadcast slashing accusations calculated to excite the crowd prove to be ahead of us because of their brazenness and their disregard of the duty of a revolutionist carefully to conceal from the eyes of the world the relationships and contacts which he maintains, which he is establishing or trying to establish. <"p193"> Naturally, we absolutely refuse once for all to compete with such people on the field of "democracy." As regards the reader who is not initiated in all Party affairs, the only way in which we can discharge our duty to him is to tell him, not about what is and what is im Werden[92] but about a particle of what has taken place and what can be told as something of the past.

    The Bund hints that we are "impostors";* the Union Abroad accuses us of attempting to obliterate all traces of

    * Iskra, No. 8. The reply of the Central Committee of the General Jewish Union of Russia and Poland to our article on the national question.

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the Party. Gentlemen, you will get complete satisfaction when we relate to the public four facts concerning the past.

    <"p194"> First fact.[*] The members of one of the Leagues of Struggle, who took a direct part in the formation of our Party, and in sending a delegate to the inaugural Party congress, reached agreement with a member of the Iskra group regarding the publication of a series of books for workers in order to serve the whole movement. <"p194">The attempt to publish the series failed, and the pamphlets written for it: The Tasks of Russian Social-Democrats, and The New Factory Act,[94] by a roundabout way, and through the medium of third parties, found their way abroad, and were there published.[95]

    Second fact. Members of the Central Committee of the Bund approached a member of the Iskra group with the proposal to organize what the Bund then described as a "literary laboratory." In making the proposal, they stated that unless this was done, the movement would retrogress very much. The result of these negotiations was the appearance of the pamphlet, The Cause of Labour in Russia.**

    Third fact. The Central Committee of the Bund, via a provincial town, approaches a member of the Iskra with the suggestion that he undertake the editing of the revived Rabochaya Gazeta and, of course, received his consent. This offer was later modified. The comrade in question was <"np194">

    * We deliberately refrain from relating these facts in the order in which they occurred.[93]
    ** The author of this pamphlet requests me to state that like his pre vious ones, it was sent to the Union on the assumption that its publications were edited by the Emancipation of Labour group (owing to certain circumstances, he could not then -- February 1899 -- know about the change in the editorship). The pamphlet will be republished by the League[96] at an early date.

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<"p195"> invited to act as a contributor, in view of a new arrangement regarding the editorial board. To this also consent was, of course, given.[97] Articles were sent (which we managed to preserve): "Our Program," which was a direct protest against Bernsteinism, against the change of policy in legal literature and in the Rabochaya Mysl; "Our Immediate Task" ("The publication of a party organ that shall appear regularly and have close contacts with all the local groups"; the drawbacks of the prevailing "amateurishness"); "Urgent Question" (an examination of the objection that it is necessary first to develop the activities of local groups before undertaking the publication of a central organ; an insistence on the paramount importance of a "revolutionary organization," and on the necessity of "developing organization, discipline, and the technique of secrecy to the highest degree of perfection").[98] The proposal to resume publication of the Rabochaya Gazeta was not carried out, and the articles were not published.

    <"p195a"> Fourth fact. A member of the committee which was or ganizing the second regular congress of our Party communicated to a member of the Iskra group the program of the congress, and proposed that group for the editorship of the revived Rabochaya Gazeta. This preliminary step, as it were, was later sanctioned by the committee to which this member belonged, and by the Central Committee of the Bund;[99] the Iskra group was notified of the place and time of the congress and (uncertain of being able, for definite reasons, to send a delegate), drew up a written report for the congress. In this report, the idea was suggested that the mere election of a central committee would not only not solve the question of the amalgamation at a time when complete dispersion reigns, but may even compromise the grand idea of establishing a party, in the event of an early, swift and thorough police round-up, which was more than likely in view of the prevailing lack of secrecy, and that therefore, a beginning should be made by inviting all committees and all other organizations to support the revived common organ, which will establish real contacts between all the committees and really train a group of leaders for the whole movement; that the committees and the Party could very easily be able to transform this group into a central committee as soon as the group had grown and become strong. The congress, however, never took place owing to a number of police raids and arrests. For reasons of secrecy, the report was destroyed, having been read only by several comrades including the representatives of one committee.

    Let the reader now judge for himself the character of the methods employed by the Bund in hinting that we were impostors, or by the Rabocheye Dyelo, which accuses us of trying to relegate the committees to the realm of shadows, and to "substitute" for the organization of a party an organization disseminating the ideas advocated by a single newspaper. It was to the committees, on their repeated invitation, that we reported on the necessity for adopting a definite plan of concerted activities. It was precisely for the Party organization that we elaborated this plan, in articles published in the Rabochaya Gazeta, and in the report to the Party congress, again on the invitation of those who held such an influential position in the Party that they took the initiative in its (actual) revival. And only after the twice repeated attempts of the Party organization, in conjunction with ourselves, officially to revive the central organ of the Party had failed, did we consider it our bounden duty to publish an unofficial organ, in order that with this third attempt the comrades might have before them the results of experience and not merely conjectural proposals. At present certain results of this experience are there for all to see, and all comrades may now judge as to whether we properly understood our duties, and what should be thought of persons who strive to mislead those who are unacquainted with the immediate past, simply because they are vexed with our having pointed out to some their inconsistency on the "national" question, and to others the inadmissibility of unprincipled waverings.

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