What Is To Be Done? - pt. 2

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Burning Questions of Our Movement


    From what has been said the reader will see that our "tactics-as-a-plan" consists in rejecting an immediate call for attack, in demanding "a regular siege of the enemy fortress," or in other words, in demanding that all efforts be directed towards gathering, organizing and mobilizing permanent troops. When we ridiculed the Rabocheye Dyelo for its leap from Economism to shouting for an attack (for which it clamoured in April 1901, in the Listok Rabochevo Dyela, No. 6), it of course came down on us with accusations of being "doctrinaire," of failing to understand our revolutionary duty, of calling for caution, etc. Of course we were not in the least surprised to hear these accusations coming from those who totally lack principles and who evade all arguments by references to a profound "tactics-as-a-process," any more than we were surprised by the fact that these accusations were repeated by Nadezhdin, who in general has a supreme contempt for durable programs and the fundamentals of tactics.

    It is said that history does not repeat itself. But Nadezhdin is exerting every effort to cause it to repeat itself and he zealously imitates Tkachov in strongly condemning "revolutionary culturism," in shouting about "sounding the tocsin,"

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<"p213"> about a special "eve-of-the-revolution point of view," etc. Apparently, he has forgotten the well-known maxim that while an original historical event represents a tragedy, the copy of it is only a farce.[101]The attempt to seize power, which had been prepared by the preaching of Tkachov and carried out by means of the "terrifying" terror which did really terrify, was majestic, but the "excitative" terror of a little Tkachov is simply ridiculous and is particularly ridiculous when supplemented by the idea of an organization of average workers.

    "If the Iskra would only emerge from its sphere of literariness," wrote Nadezhdin, "it would realize that these (instances like the worker's letter to the Iskra, No. 7, etc.) are symptoms of the fact that soon, very soon that 'attack' will commence, and to speak now (sic !) of an organization linked up with an all-Russian newspaper means propagating armchair ideas and armchair work." What an unimaginable muddle: on the one hand excitative terror and an "organization of average workers" along with the opinion that it is far "easier" to gather around something "more concrete," like a local newspaper -- and on the other hand, the view to talk "now" about an all-Russian organization means propagating armchair thoughts, or, to put it plainly and bluntly, "now" is already too late! But what about the "extensive organization of local newspapers" -- is it not too late for that, my dear L. Nadezhdin? And compare with this the Iskra's point of view and tactics: excitative terror -- is nonsense; to talk about an organization of average workers and about the extensive publication of local newspapers means opening the door wide to Economism. We must speak about a single all-Russian organization of revolution-

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aries, and it will never be too late to talk about that until the real, and not paper, attack commences.

    "Yes, as far as organization is concerned the situation is anything but brilliant," continues Nadezhdin. "Yes, the Iskra is absolutely right when it says that the mass of our military forces consists of volunteers and insurgents. . . . You do well to give such a sober picture of the state of our forces. But why, at the same time, do you forget that the crowd is not ours at all, and consequently, it will not ask us when to commence military operations, it will simply go and 'rebel'. . . . When the crowd itself breaks out with its elemental destructive force it may overwhelm and brush aside the 'regular troops' among whom we had been preparing all the time to introduce the extremely systematic organization, but had never managed to do so." (Our italics.)

    Astonishing logic! Precisely because the "crowd is not ours," it is stupid and unseemly to shout about "attack" this very minute, because an attack means assault by regular troops and not a spontaneous outburst of the crowd. It is precisely because the crowd may overwhelm and brush aside the regular troops that we must without fail "manage to keep up" with the spontaneous upsurge by our work of "introducing extremely systematic organization" among the regular troops, for the more we "manage" to introduce such organization the more probable will it be that the regular troops will not be overwhelmed by the crowd, but will take their place in front at the head of the crowd. Nadezhdin is confused because he imagines that troops, which are being systematically organized, are engaged in something that isolates them from the crowd, when as a matter of fact they are engaged exclusively in all-sided and all-embracing political agitation, i.e., precisely in work that brings closer and merges into a single whole the elemental destructive force of the crowd and the conscious destructive force of the organization of revolutionaries. You, gentlemen, wish to lay the

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blame where it does not belong. For it is precisely the Svoboda group that, by including terror in its program, calls for an organization of terrorists, and such an organization would indeed prevent our troops from coming closer to the crowd, which, unfortunately, is still not ours, and which, unfortunately, does not yet ask us, or rarely asks us when and how to commence military operations.

    "We will miss the revolution itself," continues Nadezhdin in his attempt to scare the Iskra, "in the same way as we missed the recent events which came upon us like a bolt from the blue." This sentence taken in connection with the one quoted above clearly demonstrates the absurdity of the "eve-of-the-revolution point of view" specially invented by the Svoboda.* To put it candidly, this special "point of view" boils down to this: it is too late "now" to discuss and prepare. If that is the case, oh most worthy opponent of "literariness," what was the use of writing a pamphlet of 132 pages on "questions of theory** and tactics"? Don't

    * The Eve of Revolution, p. 62.     ** In his Review of Questions of Theory, L. Nadezhdin, by the way, made almost no contribution whatever to the discussion of questions of theory apart, perhaps, from the following passage, which is a very peculiar one from the "eve-of-the-revolution point of view": "Bernsteinism, on the whole, is losing its acuteness for us at the present moment, as also is the question as to whether Mr. Adamovich has proved that Mr. Struve has already deserved distinction, or on the contrary whether Mr. Struve will refute Mr. Adamovich and will refuse to resignčit really makes no difference, because the hour of revolution has struck." (P. 110.) One can hardly imagine a more striking illustration of L. Nadezhdin's infinite disregard for theory. We have proclaimed "the eve of the revolution," therefore "it really makes no difference" whether the orthodoxians will succeed in finally driving the critics from their positions or not!! And our wiseacre fails to see that it is precisely during the revolution that we shall stand in need of the results of our theoretical battles with the critics in order to be able resolutely to combat their practical positions!

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you think it would have been more becoming for "the eve-of-the-revolution point of view" to have issued 132,000 leaflets containing the brief call: "Beat them up"?

    Those who make nation-wide political agitation the cornerstone of their program, their tactics and their organizational work as the Iskra does, stand in least risk of missing the revolution. The people who were engaged over the whole of Russia in spinning the network of organizations linked up with an all-Russian newspaper not only did not miss the spring events, but, on the contrary, enabled us to foretell them. Nor did they miss the demonstrations that were described in the Iskra, Nos. 13 and 14; on the contrary, they took part in those demonstrations, clearly appreciating their duty of coming to the aid of the spontaneously rising crowd and, at the same time, through the medium of the newspaper, helping all the comrades in Russia to become more closely acquainted with the demonstrations and to utilize their experience. And if they live they will not miss the revolution which first and foremost will demand of us experience in agitation, ability to support (in a Social-Democratic manner) every protest, ability to direct the spontaneous movement, while safeguarding it from the mistakes of friends and the traps of enemies!

    We have thus come to the last reason that compels us so strongly to insist upon a plan of organization centred around an all-Russian newspaper, by means of joint work for a common newspaper. Only such organization will ensure the flexibility required of a militant Social-Democratic organization, i.e., the ability to adapt itself immediately to the most diverse and rapidly changing conditions of struggle, the ability, "on the one hand, to avoid open battle with an enemy of overwhelming strength when he has concentrated

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all his forces at one spot and, on the other, to be able to take advantage of the awkwardness of this enemy and attack him whenever and wherever he least expects.[*] It would be a grievous error indeed to build up the Party organization in anticipation only of outbreaks and street fighting, or only upon the "forward march of the drab everyday struggle." We must always conduct our everyday work and always be prepared for everything, because very frequently it is almost impossible to foresee when periods of outbreaks will give way to periods of calm. <"p217"> And in those cases when it is possible to do so, it will not be possible to utilize this foresight for the purpose of reconstructing our organization, because in an autocratic country these changes take place with astonishing rapidity, being sometimes connected with a single night raid by the tsarist janizaries.[102] And the revolution itself must not by any means be regarded as a single act (as the Nadezhdins apparently imagine) but as a series of more or less powerful outbreaks rapidly alternating with periods of more or less intense calm. For that reason, the principal content of the activity of our Party organization,

    * Iskra, No. 4, "Where To Begin?" "Revolutionary culturists, who do not accept the eve-of-the-revolution point of view, are not in the least perturbed by the prospect of working for a long period of time," writes Nadezhdin. (P. 62.) To this we shall remark: unless we are able to devise political tactics and an organizational plan designed for work over a very long period and at the same time, by the very process of this work, ensure our Party's readiness to be at its post and fulfil its duty in every contingency whenever the march of events is accelerated, we shall prove to be but miserable political adventurers. Only Nadezhdin, who began to describe himself as a Social-Democrat but yesterday, can forget that the aim of Social-Democracy is radically to transform the conditions of life of the whole of humanity and that for that reason it is not permissible for a Social-Democrat to be "perturbed" by the question of the duration of the work.

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the focus of this activity, should be work that is possible and necessary in the period of the most powerful outbreaks as well as in the period of complete calm, namely, work of political agitation, linked up over the whole of Russia, illuminating all aspects of life and conducted among the broadest possible strata of the masses. But this work is unthinkable in contemporary Russia without an all-Russian newspaper, issued very frequently. The organization which will form around this newspaper, an organization of its collaborators (in the broad sense of the word, i.e., all those working for it), will be ready for everything, from upholding the honour, the prestige and continuity of the Party in periods of acute revolutionary "depression," to preparing for, fixing the time for and carrying out the nation-wide armed insurrection.

    Indeed, picture to yourselves a very ordinary occurrence in Russia -- the complete discovery and arrest of our organization in one or several localities. With all the local organizations lacking a single, common regular task, such raids frequently result in the interruption of our work for many months. If, however, all the local organizations had one common task, then, even in the event of a very serious raid, two or three energetic persons could in the course of a few weeks establish new youth circles, which, as is well known, spring up very quickly even now, and bring them into contact with the common centre. And when the common task, hampered by the raid, is apparent to all, new circles could come into being and make connections with the centre even more rapidly.

    On the other hand, picture to yourselves a popular uprising. Probably everyone will now agree that we must think of this and prepare for it. But how? Surely the Central Committee cannot appoint agents to all localities for the

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purpose of preparing for the uprising! Even if we had a Central Committee it could achieve absolutely nothing by such appointments under present-day Russian conditions. But a network of agents[*] that would form in the course of establishing and distributing a common newspaper would not have to "sit around and wait" for the call for an uprising, but could carry on the regular work that would guarantee the highest probability of success in the event of an uprising. Such work would strengthen our contacts with the broadest strata of the masses of the workers and with all those strata who are discontented with the autocracy, which is of such importance for an uprising. It is precisely such work that would serve to cultivate the ability properly to estimate the general political situation and, consequently, the ability to select the proper moment for the uprising. It is precisely such work that would train all local organizations to respond simultaneously to one and the same political questions, incidents and events that agitate the whole of Russia, to react to these "incidents" in the most vigorous, uniform and expedient manner possible; for an uprising is in essence the most vigorous, most uniform and most expedient "reaction"

    * Alas, alas! Again I have let slip that awful word "agents" which jars so much on the democratic ears of the Martynovs! I wonder why this word did not offend the sensibilities of the heroes of the 'seventies and yet offends the amateurs of the 'nineties? I like the word, because it clearly and trenchantly indicates the common cause to which all the agents bend their thoughts and actions, and if I had to replace this word by another, the only word I might select would be the word "collaborator," if it did not suggest a certain literariness and diffusiveness. The thing we need is a military organization of agents. However, the numerous Martynovs (particularly abroad) whose favourite pastime is "mutual promotion of each other to the post of general" may instead of saying "passport agent" prefer to say, "Chief of the Special Department for Supplying Revolutionists With Passports." etc.

of the whole of the people to the conduct of the government. And lastly, it is precisely such work that would train all revolutionary organizations throughout Russia to maintain the most continuous, and at the same time the most secret, contact with each other, thus creating real Party unity -- for without such contacts it will be impossible collectively to discuss the plan of the uprising and take the necessary preparatory measures on the eve of it, which must be kept in the strictest secrecy.

    In a word, the "plan for an all-Russian political newspaper," far from representing the fruits of the labour of armchair workers, infected with dogmatism and literariness (as it seemed to those who gave but little thought to it), is a most practical plan for immediate and all-round preparations for the uprising, while at the same time never for a moment forgetting our ordinary, everyday work.

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