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The Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in the Period of the Stolypin Reaction. The Bolsheviks Constitute Themselves an Independent Marxist Party
(1908 - 1912)1. Stolypin Reaction. Disintegration Among the Oppositional Intelligentsia. Decadence. Desertion of a Section of the Party Intelligentsia to the Enemies of Marxism and Attempts to Revise the Theory of Marxism. Lenin's Rebuttal of the Revisionists in His "Materialism and Empirio-Criticism" And His Defence of the Theoretical Foundations of the Marxist Party
The Second State Duma was dissolved by the tsarist government on June 3, 1907. This is customarily referred to in history as the coup d'etat of June 3. The tsarist government issued a new law on the elections to the Third State Duma, and thus violated its own Manifesto of October 17, 1905, which stipulated that new laws could be issued only with the consent of the Duma. The members of the Social-Democratic group in the Second Duma were committed for trial; the representatives of the working class were condemned to penal servitude and exile.
The new election law was so drafted as to increase considerably the number of representatives of the landlords and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie in the Duma. At the same time the representation of the peasants and workers, small as it was, was reduced to a fraction of its former size.
Black-Hundreds and Constitutional-Democrats preponderated in the Third Duma. Of a total of 442 deputies, 171 were Rights (Black-Hundreds), 113 were Octobrists or members of kindred groups, 101 were Constitutional-Democrats or members of kindred groups, 13 were Trudoviki, and 18 were Social-Democrats.
The Rights (so called because they occupied the benches on the right-hand side of the Duma) represented the worst enemies of the workers and peasants – the Black-Hundred feudal landlords, who had subjected the peasants to mass floggings and shootings during the suppression of the peasant movement, and organizers of Jewish pogroms, of the manhandling of demonstrating workers and of the brutal burning of premises where meetings were being held during the revolution. The Rights stood for the most ruthless suppression of the working people, and for the unlimited power of the tsar; they were opposed to the tsar's Manifesto of October 17, 1905.
The Octobrist Party, or the Union of October Seventeenth, closely adhered to the Rights in the Duma. The Octobrists represented the interests of big industrial capital, and of the big landlords who ran their estates on capitalist lines (at the beginning of the Revolution of 1905 a large number of the big landlords belonging to the Constitutional-Democratic Party went over to the Octobrists). The only thing that distinguished the Octobrists from the Rights was their acceptance – only in words at that – of the Manifesto of October 17. The Octobrists fully supported both the home and foreign policy of the tsarist government.
The Constitutional-Democratic Party had fewer seats in the Third Duma than in the First and Second Dumas. This was due to the transfer of part of the landlord vote from the Constitutional-Democrats to the Octobrists.
There was a small group of petty-bourgeois democrats, known as Trudoviki, in the Third Duma. They vacillated between the Constitutional-Democrats and the labour democrats (Bolsheviks). Lenin pointed out that although the Trudoviki in the Duma were extremely weak, they represented the masses, the peasant masses. The vacillation of the Trudoviki between the Constitutional-Democrats and the labour democrats was an inevitable consequence of the class position of the small owners. Lenin set before the Bolshevik deputies, the labour democrats, the task of "helping the weak petty-bourgeois democrats, of wresting them from the influence of the liberals, of rallying the democratic camp against the counter-revolutionary Constitutional-Democrats, and not only against the Rights.... " (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XV, p. 486.)
During the Revolution of 1905, and especially after its defeat, the Constitutional-Democrats increasingly revealed themselves as a counterrevolutionary force. Discarding their "democratic" mask more and more, they acted like veritable monarchists, defenders of tsardom. In 1909 a group of prominent Constitutional-Democrat writers published a volume of articles entitled Vekhi (Landmarks) in which, on behalf of the bourgeoisie, they thanked the tsar for crushing the revolution. Cringing and fawning upon the tsarist government, the government of the knout and the gallows, the Constitutional-Democrats bluntly stated in this book that "we should bless this government, which alone, with its bayonets and jails, protects us (the liberal bourgeoisie) from the ire of the people."
Having dispersed the Second State Duma and disposed of the Social-Democratic group of the Duma, the tsarist government zealously set about destroying the political and economic organizations of the proletariat. Convict prisons, fortresses and places of exile were filled to overflowing with revolutionaries. They were brutally beaten up in the prisons, tormented and tortured. The Black-Hundred terror raged unchecked. The tsar's Minister Stolypin set up gallows all over the country. Several thousand revolutionaries were executed. In those days the gallows was known as the "Stolypin necktie."
In its efforts to crush the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants the tsarist government could not confine itself to acts of repression, punitive expeditions, shootings, jailings and sentences of penal servitude. It perceived with alarm that the naive faith of the peasants in "the little father, the tsar" was steadily vanishing. It therefore resorted to a broad manoeuvre. It conceived the idea of creating a solid support for itself in the countryside, in the large class of rural bourgeoisie – the kulaks.
On November 9, 1906, Stolypin issued a new agrarian law enabling the peasants to leave the communes and to set up separate farms. Stolypin's agrarian law broke down the system of communal land tenure. The peasants were invited to take possession of their allotments as private property and to withdraw from the communes. They could now sell their allotments, which they were not allowed to do before. When a peasant left his commune the latter was obliged to allot land to him in a single tract (khutor, otrub).
The rich peasants, the kulaks, now had the opportunity to buy up the land of the poor peasants at low prices. Within a few years after the promulgation of the law, over a million poor peasants had lost their land altogether and had been completely ruined. As the poor peasants lost their land the number of kulak farmholds grew. These were sometimes regular estates employing hired labour – farm hands – on a large scale. The government compelled the peasants to allot the best land of the communes to the kulak farmers.
During the "emancipation" of the peasants the landlords had robbed the peasants of their land; now the kulaks began to rob the communes of their land, securing the best plots and buying up the allotments of poor peasants at low prices.
The tsarist government advanced large loans to the kulaks for the purchase of land and the outfitting of their farms. Stolypin wanted to turn the kulaks into small landlords, into loyal defenders of the tsarist autocracy.
In the nine years 1906-15 alone, over two million households withdrew from the communes.
As a result of the Stolypin policy the condition of the peasants with small land allotments, and of the poor peasants, grew worse than ever. The process of differentiation among the peasantry became more marked. The peasants began to come into collision with the kulak farmers.
At the same time, the peasants began to realize that they would never gain possession of the landed estates as long as the tsarist government and the State Duma of the landlords and Constitutional-Democrats existed.
During the period when kulak farmholds were being formed in large numbers (1907-09), the peasant movement began to decline, but soon after, in 1910, 1911, and later, owing to the clashes between the members of the village communes and the kulak farmers, the peasant movement against the landlords and the kulak farmers grew in intensity.
There were big changes also in industry after the revolution. The concentration of industry in the hands of increasingly powerful capitalist groups proceeded much more rapidly. Even before the Revolution of 1905, the capitalists had begun to form associations with the object of raising prices within the country and of using the super-profits thus obtained for the encouragement of export trade so as to enable them to dump goods abroad at low prices and to capture foreign markets. These capitalist associations (monopolies) were called trusts and syndicates. After the revolution their number became still greater. There was also an increase in the number of big banks, whose role in industry became more important. The flow of foreign capital into Russia increased.
Thus capitalism in Russia was turning into monopoly capitalism, imperialist capitalism, on a growing scale.
After several years of stagnation, industry began to revive: the output of coal, metal, oil, textiles and sugar increased. Grain exports assumed large dimensions.
Although Russia at that time made some industrial progress, she was still backward compared with Western Europe, and still dependent on foreign capitalists. Russia did not produce machinery and machine tools – they were imported from abroad. She had no automobile industry or chemical industry; she did not produce artificial fertilizers. Russia also lagged behind other capitalist countries in the manufacture of armaments.
Pointing to the low level of consumption of metals in Russia as an indication of the country's backwardness, Lenin wrote :
"In the half-century following the emancipation of the peasants the consumption of iron in Russia has increased five-fold; yet Russia remains an incredibly and unprecedentedly backward country, poverty-stricken and semi-barbaric, equipped with modern implements of production to one-fourth the extent of England, one-fifth the extent of Germany, and one-tenth the extent of America." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XVI, p. 543.)
One direct result of Russia's economic and political backwardness was the dependence both of Russian capitalism and of tsardom itself on West-European capitalism.
This found expression in the fact that such highly important branches of industry as coal, oil, electrical equipment, and metallurgy were in the hands of foreign capital, and that tsarist Russia had to import nearly all her machinery and equipment from abroad.
It also found expression in the fettering foreign loans. To pay interest on these loans tsardom squeezed hundreds of millions of rubles out of the people annually.
It moreover found expression in the secret treaties with Russia's "allies," by which the tsarist government undertook in the event of war to send millions of Russian soldiers to support the "allies" on the imperialist fronts and to protect the tremendous profits of the British and French capitalists.
The period of the Stolypin reaction was marked by particularly savage assaults on the working class by the gendarmerie and police, the tsarist agents-provocateurs and Black-Hundred ruffians. But it was not only the underlings of the tsar who harassed and persecuted the workers. No less zealous in this respect were the factory and mill owners, whose offensive against the working class became particularly aggressive in the years of industrial stagnation and increasing unemployment. The factory owners declared mass lockouts and drew up black lists of class-conscious workers who took an active part in strikes. Once a person was blacklisted he could never hope to find employment in any of the plants belonging to the manufacturers' association in that particular branch of industry. Already in 1908 wage rates were cut by 10 to 15 per cent. The working day was everywhere increased to 10 or 12 hours. The system of rapacious fines again flourished.
The defeat of the Revolution of 1905 started a process of disintegration and degeneration in the ranks of the fellow-travelers of the revolution. Degenerate and decadent tendencies grew particularly marked among the intelligentsia. The fellow-travelers who came from the bourgeois camp to join the movement during the upsurge of the revolution deserted the Party in the days of reaction. Some of them joined the camp of the open enemies of the revolution, others entrenched themselves in such legally functioning working-class societies as still survived, and endeavoured to divert the proletariat from the path of revolution and to discredit the revolutionary party of the proletariat. Deserting the revolution the fellow-travelers tried to win the good graces of the reactionaries and to live in peace with tsardom.
The tsarist government took advantage of the defeat of the revolution to enlist the more cowardly and self-seeking fellow-travelers of the revolution as agents-provocateurs. These vile Judases were sent by the tsarist Okhrana into the working class and Party organizations, where they spied from within and betrayed revolutionaries.
The offensive of the counter-revolution was waged on the ideological front as well. There appeared a whole horde of fashionable writers who "criticized" Marxism, and "demolished" it, mocked and scoffed at the revolution, extolled treachery, and lauded sexual depravity under the guise of the "cult of individuality."
In the realm of philosophy increasing attempts were made to "criticize" and revise Marxism; there also appeared all sorts of religious trends camouflaged by pseudo-scientific theories.
"Criticizing" Marxism became fashionable.
All these gentlemen, despite their multifarious colouring, pursued one common aim: to divert the masses from the revolution.
Decadence and scepticism also affected a section of the Party intelligentsia, those who considered themselves Marxists but had never held firmly to the Marxist position. Among them were writers like Bogdanov, Bazarov, Lunacharsky (who had sided with the Bolsheviks in 1905), Yushkevich and Valentinov (Mensheviks). They launched their "criticism" simultaneously against the philosophical foundations of Marxist theory, i.e., against dialectical materialism, and against the fundamental Marxist principles of historical science, i.e., against historical materialism. This criticism differed from the usual criticism in that it was not conducted openly and squarely, but in a veiled and hypocritical form under the guise of "defending" the fundamental positions of Marxism. These people claimed that in the main they were Marxists, but that they wanted to "improve" Marxism – by ridding it of certain of its fundamental principles. In reality, they were hostile to Marxism, for they tried to undermine its theoretical foundations, although they hypocritically denied their hostility to Marxism and two-facedly continued to style themselves Marxists. The danger of this hypocritical criticism lay in the fact that it was calculated to deceive rank-and-file members of the Party and might lead them astray. The more hypocritical grew this criticism, which aimed at undermining the theoretical foundations of Marxism, the more dangerous it was to the Party, for the more it merged with the general campaign of the reactionaries against the Party, against the revolution. Some of the intellectuals who had deserted Marxism went so far as to advocate the founding of a new religion (these were known as "god-seekers" and "god-builders").
It became urgent for the Marxists to give a fitting retort to these renegades from Marxist theory, to tear the mask from their faces and thoroughly expose them, and thus safeguard the theoretical foundations of the Marxist Party.
One might have thought that this task would have been undertaken by Plekhanov and his Menshevik friends who regarded themselves as "eminent Marxist theoreticians." But they preferred to fire off one or two insignificant critical notes of the newspaper type and quit the field.
It was Lenin who accomplished this task in his famous book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, published in 1909.
"In the course of less than half a year," Lenin wrote, "four books devoted mainly and almost entirely to attacks on dialectical materialism have made their appearance. These include first and foremost Studies in (? – it would have been more proper to say 'against') the Philosophy of Marxism (St. Petersburg, 1908), a symposium by Bazarov, Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Berman, Helfond, Yushkevich and Suvorov; Yushkevich's Materialism and Critical Realism; Berman's Dialectics in the Light of the Modern Theory of Knowledge and Valentinov's The Philosophic Constructions of Marxism.... All these people, who, despite the sharp divergence of their political views, are united in their hostility toward dialectical materialism, at the same time claim to be Marxists in philosophy! Engels' dialectics is 'mysticism,' says Berman. Engels' views have become 'antiquated,' remarks Bazarov casually, as though it were a self-evident fact. Materialism thus appears to be refuted by our bold warriors, who proudly allude to the 'modern theory of knowledge,' 'recent philosophy' (or 'recent positivism'), the 'philosophy of modern natural science,' or even the 'philosophy of natural science of the twentieth century.'" (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. XI, p. 89.)
Replying to Lunacharsky, who, in justification of his friends – the revisionists in philosophy – said, "perhaps we have gone astray, but we are seeking," Lenin wrote:
"As for myself, I too am a 'seeker' in philosophy. Namely, the task I have set myself in these comments (i.e., Materialism and Empirio-Criticism – Ed.) is to find out what was the stumbling block to these people who under the guise of Marxism are offering something incredibly muddled, confused and reactionary." (Ibid., p. 90.)
But as a matter of fact, Lenin's book went far beyond this modest task. Actually, the book is something more than a criticism of Bogdanov, Yushkevich, Bazarov and Valentinov and their teachers in philosophy, Avenarius and Mach, who endeavoured in their writings to offer a refined and polished idealism as opposed to Marxist materialism; it is at the same time a defence of the theoretical foundations of Marxism – dialectical and historical materialismand a materialist generalization of everything important and essential acquired by science, and especially the natural sciences, in the course of a whole historical period, the period from Engels' death to the appearance of Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.
Having effectively criticized in this book the Russian empirio-criticists and their foreign teachers, Lenin comes to the following conclusions regarding philosophical and theoretical revisionism:
1) "An ever subtler falsification of Marxism, an ever subtler presentation of anti-materialist doctrines under the guise of Marxism – this is the characteristic feature of modern revisionism in political economy, in questions of tactics and in philosophy generally." (Ibid., p. 382.)
2) "The whole school of Mach and Avenarius is moving towards idealism." (Ibid., p. 406.)
3) "Our Machians have all got stuck in idealism." (Ibid., p. 396.)
4) "Behind the gnosiological scholasticism of empirio-criticism it is impossible not to see the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle which in the last analysis expresses the tendencies and ideology of the antagonistic classes in modern society." (Ibid., p. 407.)
5) "The objective, class role of empirio-criticism reduces itself to nothing but that of servitor of the fideists (the reactionaries who hold faith above science – ed.) in their struggle against materialism in general and historical materialism in particular." (Ibid., p. 407.)
6) "Philosophical idealism is... a road to clerical obscurantism." (Ibid., p. 84.)
In order to appreciate the tremendous part played by Lenin's book in the history of our Party and to realize what theoretical treasure Lenin safeguarded from the motley crowd of revisionists and renegades of the period of the Stolypin reaction, we must acquaint ourselves, if only briefly, with the fundamentals of dialectical and historical materialism.
This is all the more necessary because dialectical and historical materialism constitute the theoretical basis of Communism, the theoretical foundations of the Marxist party, and it is the duty of every active member of our Party to know these principles and hence to study them.
What, then, is
1) Dialectical materialism?
2) Historical materialism?
2. Dialectical and Historical Materialism
Dialectical materialism is the world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party. It is called dialectical materialism because its approach to the phenomena of nature, its method of studying and apprehending them, is dialectical, while its interpretation of the phenomena of nature, its conception of these phenomena, its theory, is materialistic.
Historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and its history.
When describing their dialectical method, Marx and Engels usually refer to Hegel as the philosopher who formulated the main features of dialectics. This, however, does not mean that the dialectics of Marx and Engels is identical with the dialectics of Hegel. As a matter of fact, Marx and Engels took from the Hegelian dialectics only its "rational kernel," casting aside its idealistic shell, and developed it further so as to lend it a modern scientific form.
"My dialectic method," says Marx, "is fundamentally not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the process of thinking, which, under the name of 'the Idea,' he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurge (creator) of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of 'the Idea.' With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought." (Karl Marx, Capital, Vol, I, p. xxx, International Publishers, 1939.)
When describing their materialism, Marx and Engels usually refer to Feuerbach as the philosopher who restored materialism to its rights. This, however, does not mean that the materialism of Marx and Engels is identical with Feuerbach's materialism. As a matter of fact, Marx and Engels took from Feuerbach's materialism its "inner kernel," developed it into a scientific-philosophical theory of materialism and cast aside its idealistic and religious-ethical encumbrances. We know that Feuerbach, although he was fundamentally a materialist, objected to the name materialism. Engels more than once declared that "in spite of the materialist foundation, Feuerbach remained bound by the traditional idealist fetters," and that "the real idealism of Feuerbach becomes evident as soon as we come to his philosophy of religion and ethics." (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 439, 442.)
Dialectics comes from the Greek dialego, to discourse, to debate. In ancient times dialectics was the art of arriving at the truth by disclosing the contradictions in the argument of an opponent and overcoming these contradictions. There were philosophers in ancient times who believed that the disclosure of contradictions in thought and the clash of opposite opinions was the best method of arriving at the truth. This dialectical method of thought, later extended to the phenomena of nature, developed into the dialectical method of apprehending nature, which regards the phenomena of nature as being in constant movement and undergoing constant change, and the development of nature as the result of the development of the contradictions in nature, as the result of the interaction of opposed forces in nature.
In its essence, dialectics is the direct opposite of metaphysics.
1) The principal features of the Marxist dialectical method are as follows:
a) Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard nature as an accidental agglomeration of things, of phenomena, unconnected with, isolated from, and independent of, each other, but as a connected and integral whole, in which things, phenomena, are organically connected with, dependent on, and determined by, each other.
The dialectical method therefore holds that no phenomenon in nature can be understood if taken by itself, isolated from surrounding phenomena, inasmuch as any phenomenon in any realm of nature may become meaningless to us if it is not considered in connection with the surrounding conditions, but divorced from them; and that, vice versa, any phenomenon can be understood and explained if considered in its inseparable connection with surrounding phenomena, as one conditioned by surrounding phenomena.
b) Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that nature is not a state of rest and immobility, stagnation and immutability, but a state of continuous movement and change, of continuous renewal and development, where something is always arising and developing, and something always disintegrating and dying away.
The dialectical method therefore requires that phenomena should be considered not only from the standpoint of their interconnection and interdependence, but also from the standpoint of their movement, their change, their development, their coming into being and going out of being.
The dialectical method regards as important primarily not that which at the given moment seems to be durable and yet is already beginning to die away, but that which is arising and developing, even though at the given moment it may appear to be not durable, for the dialectical method considers invincible only that which is arising and developing.
"All nature," says Engels, "from the smallest thing to the biggest, from a grain of sand to the sun, from the protista (the primary living cell – Ed.) to man, is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being, in a constant flux, in a ceaseless state of movement and change." (F. Engels, Dialectics of Nature.)
Therefore, dialectics, Engels says, "takes things and their perceptual images essentially in their inter-connection, in their concatenation, in their movement, in their rise and disappearance." (Ibid.)
c) Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard the process of development as a simple process of growth, where quantitative changes do not lead to qualitative changes, but as a development which passes from insignificant and imperceptible quantitative changes to open, fundamental changes, to qualitative changes; a development in which the qualitative changes occur not gradually, but rapidly and abruptly, taking the form of a leap from one state to another; they occur not accidentally but as the natural result of an accumulation of imperceptible and gradual quantitative changes.
The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development should be understood not as movement in a circle, not as a simple repetition of what has already occurred, but as an onward and upward movement, as a transition from an old qualitative state to a new qualitative state, as a development from the simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher:
"Nature," says Engels, "is the test of dialectics, and it must be said for modern natural science that it has furnished extremely rich and daily increasing materials for this test, and has thus proved that in the last analysis nature's process is dialectical and not metaphysical, that it does not move in an eternally uniform and constantly repeated circle, but passes through a real history. Here prime mention should be made of Darwin, who dealt a severe blow to the metaphysical conception of nature by proving that the organic world of today, plants and animals, and consequently man too, is all a product of a process of development that has been in progress for millions of years." (F. Engels, Anti-Duhring.)
Describing dialectical development as a transition from quantitative changes to qualitative changes, Engels says:
"In physics... every change is a passing of quantity into quality, as a result of quantitative change of some form of movement either inherent in a body or imparted to it. For example, the temperature of water has at first no effect on its liquid state; but as the temperature of liquid water rises or falls, a moment arrives when this state of cohesion changes and the water is converted in one case into steam and in the other into ice.... A definite minimum current is required to make a platinum wire glow; every metal has its melting temperature; every liquid has a definite freezing point and boiling point at a given pressure, as far as we are able with the means at our disposal to attain the required temperatures; finally, every gas has its critical point at which, by proper pressure and cooling, it can be converted into a liquid state.... What are known as the constants of physics (the point at which one state passes into another – Ed.) are in most cases nothing but designations for the nodal points at which a quantitative (change) increase or decrease of movement causes a qualitative change in the state of the given body, and at which, consequently, quantity is transformed into quality." (Dialectics of Nature?)
Passing to chemistry, Engels continues:
"Chemistry may be called the science of the qualitative changes which take place in bodies as the effect of changes of quantitative composition. This was already known to Hegel.... Take oxygen: if the molecule contains three atoms instead of the customary two, we get ozone, a body definitely distinct in odour and reaction from ordinary oxygen. And what shall we say of the different proportions in which oxygen combines with nitrogen or sulphur, and each of which produces a body qualitatively different from all other bodies!" (Ibid.)
Finally, criticizing Duhring, who scolded Hegel for all he was worth, but surreptitiously borrowed from him the well-known thesis that the transition from the insentient world to the sentient world, from the kingdom of inorganic matter to the kingdom of organic life, is a leap to a new state, Engels says:
"This is precisely the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations, in which, at certain definite nodal points, the purely quantitative increase or decrease gives rise to a qualitative leap for example, in the case of water which is heated or cooled, where boiling-point and freezing-point are the nodes at which – under normal pressure – the leap to a new aggregate state takes place, and where consequently quantity is transformed into quality." (F. Engels, Anti-Duhring.)
d) Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes.
The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development from the lower to the higher takes place not as a harmonious unfolding of phenomena, but as a disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things and phenomena, as a "struggle" of opposite tendencies which operate on the basis of these contradictions.
"In its proper meaning," Lenin says, "dialectics is the study of the contradiction within the very essence of things." (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, Russ. ed., p. 263.)
"Development is the 'struggle' of opposites." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. XI, pp. 81-2.)
Such, in brief, are the principal features of the Marxist dialectical method.
It is easy to understand how immensely important is the extension of the principles of the dialectical method to the study of social life and the history of society, and how immensely important is the application of these principles to the history of society and to the practical activities of the party of the proletariat.
If there are no isolated phenomena in the world, if all phenomena are interconnected and interdependent, then it is clear that every social system and every social movement in history must be evaluated not from the standpoint of "eternal justice" or some other preconceived idea, as is not infrequently done by historians, but from the standpoint of the conditions which gave rise to that system or that social movement and with which they are connected.
The slave system would be senseless, stupid and unnatural under modern conditions. But under the conditions of a disintegrating primitive communal system, the slave system is a quite understandable and natural phenomenon, since it represents an advance on the primitive communal system.
The demand for a bourgeois-democratic republic when tsardom and bourgeois society existed, as, let us say, in Russia in 1905, was a quite understandable, proper and revolutionary demand, for at that time a bourgeois republic would have meant a step forward. But now, under the conditions of the U.S.S.R., the demand for a bourgeois-democratic republic would be a meaningless and counter-revolutionary demand, for a bourgeois republic would be a retrograde step compared with the Soviet republic.
Everything depends on the conditions, time and place.
It is clear that without such a historical approach to social phenomena, the existence and development of the science of history is impossible, for only such an approach saves the science of history from becoming a jumble of accidents and an agglomeration of most absurd mistakes.
Further, if the world is in a state of constant movement and development, if the dying away of the old and the upgrowth of the new is a law of development, then it is clear that there can be no "immutable" social systems, no "eternal principles" of private property and exploitation, no "eternal ideas" of the subjugation of the peasant to the landlord, of the worker to the capitalist.
Hence the capitalist system can be replaced by the Socialist system, just as at one time the feudal system was replaced by the capitalist system.
Hence we must not base our orientation on the strata of society which are no longer developing, even though they at present constitute the predominant force, but on those strata which are developing and have a future before them, even though they at present do not constitute the predominant force.
In the eighties of the past century, in the period of the struggle between the Marxists and the Narodniks, the proletariat in Russia constituted an insignificant minority of the population, whereas the individual peasants constituted the vast majority of the population. But the proletariat was developing as a class, whereas the peasantry as a class was disintegrating. And just because the proletariat was developing as a class the Marxists based their orientation on the proletariat. And they were not mistaken, for, as we know, the proletariat subsequently grew from an insignificant force into a first-rate historical and political force.
Hence, in order not to err in policy, one must look forward, not backward.
Further, if the passing of slow quantitative changes into rapid and abrupt qualitative changes is a law of development, then it is clear that revolutions made by oppressed classes are a quite natural and inevitable phenomenon.
Hence the transition from capitalism to Socialism and the liberation of the working class from the yoke of capitalism cannot be effected by slow changes, by reforms, but only by a qualitative change of the capitalist system, by revolution.
Hence, in order not to err in policy, one must be a revolutionary, not a reformist.
Further, if development proceeds by way of the disclosure of internal contradictions, by way of collisions between opposite forces on the basis of these contradictions and so as to overcome these contradictions, then it is clear that the class struggle of the proletariat is a quite natural and inevitable phenomenon.
Hence we must not cover up the contradictions of the capitalist system, but disclose and unravel them; we must not try to check the class struggle but carry it to its conclusion.
Hence, in order not to err in policy, one must pursue an uncompromising proletarian class policy, not a reformist policy of harmony of the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, not a compromisers' policy of "the growing of capitalism into Socialism."
Such is the Marxist dialectical method when applied to social life, to the history of society.
As to Marxist philosophical materialism, it is fundamentally the direct opposite of philosophical idealism.
2) The principal features of Marxist philosophical materialism are as follows:
a) Contrary to idealism, which regards the world as the embodiment of an "absolute idea," a "universal spirit," "consciousness," Marx's philosophical materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that the multifold phenomena of the world constitute different forms of matter in motion, that interconnection and interdependence of phenomena, as established by the dialectical method, are a law of the development of moving matter, and that the world develops in accordance with the laws of movement of matter and stands in no need of a "universal spirit."
"The materialist world outlook," says Engels, "is simply the conception of nature as it is, without any reservations." (MS of Ludwig Feuerbach.)
Speaking of the materialist views of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who held that "the world, the all in one, was not created by any god or any man, but was, is and ever will be a living flame, systematically flaring up and systematically dying down," Lenin comments: "A very good exposition of the rudiments of dialectical materialism." (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, Russ. ed., p. 318.)
b) Contrary to idealism, which asserts that only our mind really exists, and that the material world, being, nature, exists only in our mind, in our sensations, ideas and perceptions, the Marxist materialist philosophy holds that matter, nature, being, is an objective reality existing outside and independent of our mind; that matter is primary, since it is the source of sensations, ideas, mind, and that mind is secondary, derivative, since it is a reflection of matter, a reflection of being; that thought is a product of matter which in its development has reached a high degree of perfection, namely, of the brain, and the brain is the organ of thought; and that therefore one cannot separate thought from matter without committing a grave error. Engels says:
"The question of the relation of thinking to being, the relation of spirit to nature is the paramount question of the whole of philosophy.... The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature... comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism." (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 430-31.)
"The material, sensuously perceptible world to which we ourselves belong is the only reality.... Our consciousness and thinking, however supra-sensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter." (Ibid., p. 435.) Concerning the question of matter and thought, Marx says:
"It is impossible to separate thought from matter that thinks. Matter is the subject of all changes." (Ibid., p. 397.)
Describing the Marxist philosophy of materialism, Lenin says:
"Materialism in general recognizes objectively real being (matter) as independent of consciousness, sensation, experience.... Consciousness is only the reflection of being, at best, an approximately true (adequate, ideally exact) reflection of it." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. XI, p. 378.) And further:
(a) "Matter is that which, acting upon our sense-organs, produces sensation; matter is the objective reality given to us in sensation.... Matter, nature, being, the physical – is primary, and spirit, consciousness, sensation, the psychical – is secondary." (Ibid.., pp. 208, 209.)
(b) "The world picture is a picture of how matter moves and of how 'matter thinks.'" (Ibid.., p. 403.)
(c) "The brain is the organ of thought." (Ibid.., p. 125.)
c) Contrary to idealism, which denies the possibility of knowing the world and its laws, which does not believe in the authenticity of our knowledge, does not recognize objective truth, and holds that the world is full of "things-in-themselves" that can never be known to science, Marxist philosophical materialism holds that the world and its laws are fully knowable, that our knowledge of the laws of nature, tested by experiment and practice, is authentic knowledge having the validity of objective truth, and that there are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are still not known, but which will be disclosed and made known by the efforts of science and practice.
Criticizing the thesis of Kant and other idealists that the world is unknowable and that there are "things-in-themselves" which are unknowable, and defending the well-known materialist thesis that our knowledge is authentic knowledge, Engels writes:
"The most telling refutation of this as of all other philosophical fancies is practice, viz., experiment and industry. If we are able to prove the correctness of our conception of a natural process by making it ourselves, bringing it into being out of its conditions and using it for our own purposes into the bargain, then there is an end of the Kantian 'thing-in-itself.' The chemical substances produced in the bodies of plants and animals remained such 'things-in-themselves' until organic chemistry began to produce them one after another, whereupon the 'thing-in-itself' became a thing for us, as for instance, alizarin, the colouring matter of the madder, which we no longer trouble to grow in the madder roots in the field, but produce much more cheaply and simply from coal tar. For three hundred years the Copernican solar system was a hypothesis, with a hundred, a thousand or ten thousand chances to one in its favour, but still always a hypothesis. But when Leverrier, by means of the data provided by this system, not only deduced the necessity of the existence of an unknown planet, but also calculated the position in the heavens which this planet must necessarily occupy, and when Galle really found this planet, the Copernican system was proved." (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 432-33.)
Accusing Bogdanov, Bazarov, Yushkevich and the other followers of Mach of fideism, and defending the well-known materialist thesis that our scientific knowledge of the laws of nature is authentic knowledge, and that the laws of science represent objective truth, Lenin says:
"Contemporary fideism does not at all reject science; all it rejects is the 'exaggerated claims' of science, to wit, its claim to objective truth. If objective truth exists (as the materialists think), if natural science, reflecting the outer world in human 'experience,' is alone capable of giving us objective truth, then all fideism is absolutely refuted." (Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. XI, p. 189.)
Such, in brief, are the characteristic features of the Marxist philosophical materialism.
It is easy to understand how immensely important is the extension of the principles of philosophical materialism to the study of social life, of the history of society, and how immensely important is the application of these principles to the history of society and to the practical activities of the party of the proletariat.
If the connection between the phenomena of nature and their interdependence are laws of the development of nature, it follows, too, that the connection and interdependence of the phenomena of social life are laws of the development of society, and not something accidental.
Hence social life, the history of society, ceases to be an agglomeration of "accidents," and becomes the history of the development of society according to regular laws, and the study of the history of society becomes a science.
Hence the practical activity of the party of the proletariat must not be based on the good wishes of "outstanding individuals," not on the dictates of "reason," "universal morals," etc., but on the laws of development of society and on the study of these laws.
Further, if the world is knowable and our knowledge of the laws of development of nature is authentic knowledge, having the validity of objective truth, it follows that social life, the development of society, is also knowable, and that the data of science regarding the laws of development of society are authentic data having the validity of objective truths.
Hence the science of the history of society, despite all the complexity of the phenomena of social life, can become as precise a science as, let us say, biology, and capable of making use of the laws of development of society for practical purposes.
Hence the party of the proletariat should not guide itself in its practical activity by casual motives, but by the laws of development of society, and by practical deductions from these laws.
Hence Socialism is converted from a dream of a better future for humanity into a science.
Hence the bond between science and practical activity, between theory and practice, their unity, should be the guiding star of the party of the proletariat.
Further, if nature, being, the material world, is primary, and mind, thought, is secondary, derivative; if the material world represents objective reality existing independently of the mind of men, while the mind is a reflection of this objective reality, it follows that the material life of society, its being, is also primary, and its spiritual life secondary, derivative, and that the material life of society is an objective reality existing independently of the will of men, while the spiritual life of society is a reflection of this objective reality, a reflection of being.
Hence the source of formation of the spiritual life of society, the origin of social ideas, social theories, political views and political institutions, should not be sought for in the ideas, theories, views and political institutions themselves, but in the conditions of the material life of society, in social being, of which these ideas, theories, views, etc., are the reflection.
Hence, if in different periods of the history of society different social ideas, theories, views and political institutions are to be observed; if under the slave system we encounter certain social ideas, theories, views and political institutions, under feudalism others, and under capitalism others still, this is not to be explained by the "nature," the "properties" of the ideas, theories, views and political institutions themselves but by the different conditions of the material life of society at different periods of social development.
Whatever is the being of a society, whatever are the conditions of material life of a society, such are the ideas, theories, political views and political institutions of that society.
In this connection, Marx says: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness." (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 356.)
Hence, in order not to err in policy, in order not to find itself in the position of idle dreamers, the party of the proletariat must not base its activities on abstract "principles of human reason," but on the concrete conditions of the material life of society, as the determining force of social development; not on the good wishes of "great men," but on the real needs of development of the material life of society.
The fall of the utopians, including the Narodniks, Anarchists and Socialist-Revolutionaries, was due, among other things, to the fact that they did not recognize the primary role which the conditions of the material life of society play in the development of society, and, sinking to idealism, did not base their practical activities on the needs of the development of the material life of society, but, independently of and in spite of these needs, on "ideal plans" and "all-embracing projects" divorced from the real life of society.
The strength and vitality of Marxism-Leninism lie in the fact that it does base its practical activity on the needs of the development of the material life of society and never divorces itself from the real life of society.
It does not follow from Marx's words, however, that social ideas, theories, political views and political institutions are of no significance in the life of society, that they do not reciprocally affect social being, the development of the material conditions of the life of society. We have been speaking so far of the origin of social ideas, theories, views and political institutions, of the way they arise, of the fact that the spiritual life of society is a reflection of the conditions of its material life. As regards the significance of social ideas, theories, views and political institutions, as regards their role in history, historical materialism, far from denying them, stresses the role and importance of these factors in the life of society, in its history.
There are different kinds of social ideas and theories. There are old ideas and theories which have outlived their day and which serve the interests of the moribund forces of society. Their significance lies in the fact that they hamper the development, the progress of society. Then there are new and advanced ideas and theories which serve the interests of the advanced forces of society. Their significance lies in the fact that they facilitate the development, the progress of society; and their significance is the greater the more accurately they reflect the needs of development of the material life of society.
New social ideas and theories arise only after the development of the material life of society has set new tasks before society. But once they have arisen they become a most potent force which facilitates the carrying out of the new tasks set by the development of the material life of society, a force which facilitates the progress of society. It is precisely here that the tremendous organizing, mobilizing and transforming value of new ideas, new theories, new political views and new political institutions manifests itself. New social ideas and theories arise precisely because they are necessary to society, because it is impossible to carry out the urgent tasks of development of the material life of society without their organizing, mobilizing and transforming action. Arising out of the new tasks set by the development of the material life of society, the new social ideas and theories force their way through, become the possession of the masses, mobilize and organize them against the moribund forces of society, and thus facilitate the overthrow of these forces which hamper the development of the material life of society.
Thus social ideas, theories and political institutions, having arisen on the basis of the urgent tasks of the development of the material life of society, the development of social being, themselves then react upon social being, upon the material life of society, creating the conditions necessary for completely carrying out the urgent tasks of the material life of society, and for rendering its further development possible.
In this connection, Marx says:
"Theory becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses." (Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie.)
Hence, in order to be able to influence the conditions of material life of society and to accelerate their development and their improvement, the party of the proletariat must rely upon such a social theory, such a social idea as correctly reflects the needs of development of the material life of society, and which is therefore capable of setting into motion broad masses of the people and of mobilizing them and organizing them into a great army of the proletarian party, prepared to smash the reactionary forces and to clear the way for the advanced forces of society.
The fall of the "Economists" and Mensheviks was due among other things to the fact that they did not recognize the mobilizing, organizing and transforming role of advanced theory, of advanced ideas and, sinking to vulgar materialism, reduced the role of these factors almost to nothing, thus condemning the Party to passivity and inanition.
The strength and vitality of Marxism-Leninism are derived from the fact that it relies upon an advanced theory which correctly reflects the needs of development of the material life of society, that it elevates theory to a proper level, and that it deems it its duty to utilize every ounce of the mobilizing, organizing and transforming power of this theory.
That is the answer historical materialism gives to the question of the relation between social being and social consciousness, between the conditions of development of material life and the development of the spiritual life of society.
It now remains to elucidate the following question: what, from the viewpoint of historical materialism, is meant by the "conditions of material life of society" which in the final analysis determine the physiognomy of society, its ideas, views, political institutions, etc.?
What, after all, are these "conditions of material life of society," what are their distinguishing features?
There can be no doubt that the concept "conditions of material life of society" includes, first of all, nature which surrounds society, geographical environment, which is one of the indispensable and constant conditions of material life of society and which, of course, influences the development of society. What role does geographical environment play in the development of society? Is geographical environment the chief force determining the physiognomy of society, the character of the social system of men, the transition from one system to another?
Historical materialism answers this question in the negative.
Geographical environment is unquestionably one of the constant and indispensable conditions of development of society and, of course, influences the development of society, accelerates or retards its development. But its influence is not the determining influence, inasmuch as the changes and development of society proceed at an incomparably faster rate than the changes and development of geographical environment. In the space of three thousand years three different social systems have been successively superseded in Europe: the primitive communal system, the slave system and the feudal system. In the eastern part of Europe, in the U.S.S.R., even four social systems have been superseded. Yet during this period geographical conditions in Europe have either not changed at all, or have changed so slightly that geography takes no note of them. And that is quite natural. Changes in geographical environment of any importance require millions of years, whereas a few hundred or a couple of thousand years are enough for even very important changes in the system of human society.
It follows from this that geographical environment cannot be the chief cause, the determining cause of social development, for that which remains almost unchanged in the course of tens of thousands of years cannot be the chief cause of development of that which undergoes fundamental changes in the course of a few hundred years.
Further, there can be no doubt that the concept "conditions of material life of society" also includes growth of population, density of population of one degree or another, for people are an essential element of the conditions of material life of society, and without a definite minimum number of people there can be no material life of society. Is not growth of population the chief force that determines the character of the social system of man?
Historical materialism answers this question too in the negative.
Of course, growth of population does influence the development of society, does facilitate or retard the development of society, but it cannot be the chief force of development of society, and its influence on the development of society cannot be the determining influence because, by itself, growth of population does not furnish the clue to the question why a given social system is replaced precisely by such and such a new system and not by another, why the primitive communal system is succeeded precisely by the slave system, the slave system by the feudal system, and the feudal system by the bourgeois system, and not by some other.
If growth of population were the determining force of social development, then a higher density of population would be bound to give rise to a correspondingly higher type of social system. But we do not find this to be the case. The density of population in China is four times as great as in the U.S.A., yet the U.S.A. stands higher than China in the scale of social development, for in China a semi-feudal system still prevails, whereas the U.S.A. has long ago reached the highest stage of development of capitalism. The density of population in Belgium is nineteen times as great as in the U.S.A., and twenty-six times as great as in the U.S.S.R. Yet the U.S.A. stands higher than Belgium in the scale of social development; and as for the U.S.S.R., Belgium lags a whole historical epoch behind this country, for in Belgium the capitalist system prevails, whereas the U.S.S.R. has already done away with capitalism and has set up a Socialist system.
It follows from this that growth of population is not, and cannot be, the chief force of development of society, the force which determines the character of the social system, the physiognomy of society.
What, then, is the chief force in the complex of conditions of material life of society which determines the physiognomy of society, the character of the social system, the development of society from one system to another?
This force, historical materialism holds, is the method of procuring the means of life necessary for human existence, the mode of production of material values – food, clothing, footwear, houses, fuel, instruments of production, etc. – which are indispensable for the life of development of society.
In order to live, people must have food, clothing, footwear, shelter, fuel, etc.; in order to have these material values, people must produce them; and in order to produce them, people must have the instruments of production with which food, clothing, footwear, shelter, fuel, etc., are produced; they must be able to produce these instruments and to use them.
The instruments of production wherewith material values are produced, the people who operate the instruments of production and carry on the production of material values thanks to a certain production experience and labour skill – all these elements jointly constitute the productive forces of society.
But the productive forces are only one aspect of production, only one aspect of the mode of production, an aspect that expresses the relation of men to the objects and forces of nature which they make use of for the production of material values. Another aspect of production, another aspect of the mode of production, is the relation of men to each other in the process of production, men's relations of production. Men carry on a struggle against nature and utilize nature for the production of material values not in isolation from each other, not as separate individuals, but in common, in groups, in societies. Production, therefore, is at all times and under all conditions social production. In the production of material values men enter into mutual relations of one kind or another within production, into relations of production of one kind or another. These may be relations of co-operation and mutual help between people who are free from exploitation; they may be relations of domination and subordination; and, lastly, they may be transitional from one form of relations of production to another. But whatever the character of the relations of production may be, always and in every system, they constitute just as essential an element of production as the productive forces of society.
"In production," Marx says, "men not only act on nature but also on one another. They produce only by co-operating in a certain way and mutually exchanging their activities. In order to produce, they enter into definite connections and relations with one another and only within these social connections and relations does their action on nature, does production, take place." (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 264.)
Consequently, production, the mode of production, embraces both the productive forces of society and men's relations of production, and is thus the embodiment of their unity in the process of production of material values.
One of the features of production is that it never stays at one point for a long time and is always in a state of change and development, and that, furthermore, changes in the mode of production inevitably call forth changes in the whole social system, social ideas, political views and political institutions – they call forth a reconstruction of the whole social and political order. At different stages of development people make use of different modes of production, or, to put it more crudely, lead different manners of life. In the primitive commune there is one mode of production, under slavery there is another mode of production, under feudalism a third mode of production, and so on. And, correspondingly, men's social system, the spiritual life of men, their views and political institutions also vary.
Whatever is the mode of production of a society, such in the main is the society itself, its ideas and theories, its political views and institutions.
Or, to put it more crudely, whatever is man's manner of life, such is his manner of thought.
This means that the history of development of society is above all the history of the development of production, the history of the modes of production which succeed each other in the course of centuries, the history of the development of productive forces and people's relations of production.
Hence the history of social development is at the same time the history of the producers of material values themselves, the history of the labouring masses who are the chief force in the process of production and who carry on the production of material values necessary for the existence of society.
Hence, if historical science is to be a real science, it can no longer reduce the history of social development to the actions of kings and generals, to the actions of "conquerors" and "subjugators" of states, but must above all devote itself to the history of the producers of material values, the history of the labouring masses, the history of peoples.
Hence the clue to the study of the laws of history of society must not be sought in men's minds, in the views and ideas of society, but in the mode of production practised by society in any given historical period; it must be sought in the economic life of society.
Hence the prime task of historical science is to study and disclose the laws of production, the laws of development of the productive forces and of the relations of production, the laws of economic development of society.
Hence, if the party of the proletariat is to be a real party, it must above all acquire a knowledge of the laws of development of production, of the laws of economic development of society.
Hence, if it is not to err in policy, the party of the proletariat must both in drafting its program and in its practical activities proceed primarily from the laws of development of production, from the laws of economic development of society.
A second feature of production is that its changes and development always begin with changes and development of the productive forces, and, in the first place, with changes and development of the instruments of production. Productive forces are therefore the most mobile and revolutionary element of production. First the productive forces of society change and develop, and then, depending on these changes and in conformity with them, men's relations of production, their economic relations, change. This, however, does not mean that the relations of production do not influence the development of the productive forces and that the latter are not dependent on the former. While their development is dependent on the development of the productive forces, the relations of production in their turn react upon the development of the productive forces, accelerating or retarding it. In this connection it should be noted that the relations of production cannot for too long a time lag behind and be in a state of contradiction to the growth of the productive forces, inasmuch as the productive forces can develop in full measure only when the relations of production correspond to the character, the state of the productive forces and allow full scope for their development. Therefore, however much the relations of production may lag behind the development of the productive forces, they must, sooner or later, come into correspondence with – and actually do come into correspondence with – the level of development of the productive forces, the character of the productive forces. Otherwise we would have a fundamental violation of the unity of the productive forces and the relations of production within the system of production, a disruption of production as a whole, a crisis of production, a destruction of productive forces.
An instance in which the relations of production do not correspond to the character of the productive forces, conflict with them, is the economic crises in capitalist countries, where private capitalist ownership of the means of production is in glaring incongruity with the social character of the process of production, with the character of the productive forces. This results in economic crises, which lead to the destruction of productive forces. Furthermore, this incongruity itself constitutes the economic basis of social revolution, the purpose of which is to destroy the existing relations of production and to create new relations of production corresponding to the character of the productive forces.
In contrast, an instance in which the relations of production completely correspond to the character of the productive forces is the Socialist national economy of the U.S.S.R., where the social ownership of the means of production fully corresponds to the social character of the process of production, and where, because of this, economic crises and the destruction of productive forces are unknown.
Consequently, the productive forces are not only the most mobile and revolutionary element in production, but are also the determining element in the development of production.
Whatever are the productive forces such must be the relations of production
While the state of the productive forces furnishes an answer to the question – with what instruments of production do men produce the material values they need? – the state of the relations of production furnishes the answer to another question – who owns the means of production (the land, forests, waters, mineral resources, raw materials, instruments of production, production premises, means of transportation and communication, etc.), who commands the means of production, whether the whole of society, or individual persons, groups, or classes which utilize them for the exploitation of other persons, groups or classes?
Here is a rough picture of the development of productive forces from ancient times to our day. The transition from crude stone tools to the bow and arrow, and the accompanying transition from the life of hunters to the domestication of animals and primitive pasturage; the transition from stone tools to metal tools (the iron axe, the wooden plough fitted with an iron colter, etc.), with a corresponding transition to tillage and agriculture; a further improvement in metal tools for the working up of materials, the introduction of the blacksmith's bellows, the introduction of pottery, with a corresponding development of handicrafts, the separation of handicrafts from agriculture, the development of an independent handicraft industry and, subsequently, of manufacture; the transition from handicraft tools to machines and the transformation of handicraft and manufacture into machine industry; the transition to the machine system and the rise of modern large-scale machine industry – such is a general and far from complete picture of the development of the productive forces of society in the course of man's history. It will be clear that the development and improvement of the instruments of production were effected by men who were related to production, and not independently of men; and, consequently, the change and development of the instruments of production were accompanied by a change and development of men, as the most important element of the productive forces, by a change and development of their production experience, their labour skill, their ability to handle the instruments of production.
In conformity with the change and development of the productive forces of society in the course of history, men's relations of production, their economic relations also changed and developed.
Five main types of relations of production are known to history: primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and Socialist.
The basis of the relations of production under the primitive communal system is that the means of production are socially owned. This in the main corresponds to the character of the productive forces of that period. Stone tools, and, later, the bow and arrow, precluded the possibility of men individually combating the forces of nature and beasts of prey. In order to gather the fruits of the forest, to catch fish, to build some sort of habitation, men were obliged to work in common if they did not want to die of starvation, or fall victim to beasts of prey or to neighbouring societies. Labour in common led to the common ownership of the means of production, as well as of the fruits of production. Here the conception of private ownership of the means of production did not yet exist, except for the personal ownership of certain implements of production which were at the same time means of defence against beasts of prey. Here there was no exploitation, no classes.
The basis of the relations of production under the slave system is that the slave owner owns the means of production; he also owns the worker in production – the slave, whom he can sell, purchase, or kill as though he were an animal. Such relations of production in the main correspond to the state of the productive forces of that period. Instead of stone tools, men now have metal tools at their command; instead of the wretched and primitive husbandry of the hunter, who knew neither pasturage, nor tillage, there now appear pasturage, tillage, handicrafts, and a division of labour between these branches of production. There appears the possibility of the exchange of products between individuals and between societies, of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few, the actual accumulation of the means of production in the hands of a minority, and the possibility of subjugation of the majority by a minority and their conversion into slaves. Here we no longer find the common and free labour of all members of society in the production process – here there prevails the forced labour of slaves, who are exploited by the non-labouring slave owners. Here, therefore, there is no common ownership of the means of production or of the fruits of production. It is replaced by private ownership. Here the slave owner appears as the prime and principal property owner in the full sense of the term.
Rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, people with full rights and people with no rights, and a fierce class struggle between them – such is the picture of the slave system.
The basis of the relations of production under the feudal system is that the feudal lord owns the means of production and does not fully own the worker in production – the serf, whom the feudal lord can no longer kill, but whom he can buy and sell. Alongside of feudal ownership there exists individual ownership by the peasant and the handicraftsman of his implements of production and his private enterprise based on his personal labour. Such relations of production in the main correspond to the state of the productive forces of that period. Further improvements in the smelting and working of iron; the spread of the iron plough and the loom; the further development of agriculture, horticulture, viniculture and dairying; the appearance of manufactories alongside of the handicraft workshops – such are the characteristic features of the state of the productive forces.
The new productive forces demand that the labourer shall display some kind of initiative in production and an inclination for work, an interest in work. The feudal lord therefore discards the slave, as a labourer who has no interest in work and is entirely without initiative, and prefers to deal with the serf, who has his own husbandry, implements of production, and a certain interest in work essential for the cultivation of the land and for the payment in kind of a part of his harvest to the feudal lord.
Here private ownership is further developed. Exploitation is nearly as severe as it was under slavery – it is only slightly mitigated. A class struggle between exploiters and exploited is the principal feature of the feudal system.
The basis of the relations of production under the capitalist system is that the capitalist owns the means of production, but not the workers in production – the wage labourers, whom the capitalist can neither kill nor sell because they are personally free, but who are deprived of means of production and, in order not to die of hunger, are obliged to sell their labour power to the capitalist and to bear the yoke of exploitation. Alongside of capitalist property in the means of production, we find, at first on a wide scale, private property of the peasants and handicraftsmen in the means of production, these peasants and handicraftsmen no longer being serfs, and their private property being based on personal labour. In place of the handicraft workshops and manufactories there appear huge mills and factories equipped with machinery. In place of the manorial estates tilled by the primitive implements of production of the peasant, there now appear large capitalist farms run on scientific lines and supplied with agricultural machinery.
The new productive forces require that the workers in production shall be better educated and more intelligent than the downtrodden and ignorant serfs, that they be able to understand machinery and operate it properly. Therefore, the capitalists prefer to deal with wage workers who are free from the bonds of serfdom and who are educated enough to be able properly to operate machinery.
But having developed productive forces to a tremendous extent, capitalism has become enmeshed in contradictions which it is unable to solve. By producing larger and larger quantities of commodities, and reducing their prices, capitalism intensifies competition, ruins the mass of small and medium private owners, converts them into proletarians and reduces their purchasing power, with the result that it becomes impossible to dispose of the commodities produced. On the other hand, by expanding production and concentrating millions of workers in huge mills and factories, capitalism lends the process of production a social character and thus undermines its own foundation, inasmuch as the social character of the process of production demands the social ownership of the means of production; yet the means of production remain private capitalist property, which is incompatible with the social character of the process of production.
These irreconcilable contradictions between the character of the productive forces and the relations of production make themselves felt in periodical crises of overproduction, when the capitalists, finding no effective demand for their goods owing to the ruin of the mass of the population which they themselves have brought about, are compelled to burn products, destroy manufactured goods, suspend production, and destroy productive forces at a time when millions of people are forced to suffer unemployment and starvation, not because there are not enough goods, but because there is an overproduction of goods.
This means that the capitalist relations of production have ceased to correspond to the state of productive forces of society and have come into irreconcilable contradiction with them.
This means that capitalism is pregnant with revolution, whose mission it is to replace the existing capitalist ownership of the means of production by Socialist ownership.
This means that the main feature of the capitalist system is a most acute class struggle between the exploiters and the exploited.
The basis of the relations of production under the Socialist system, which so far has been established only in the U.S.S.R., is the social ownership of the means of production. Here there are no longer exploiters and exploited. The goods produced are distributed according to labour performed, on the principle: "He who does not work, neither shall he eat." Here the mutual relations of people in the process of production are marked by comradely co-operation and the Socialist mutual assistance of workers who are free from exploitation. Here the relations of production fully correspond to the state of productive forces, for the social character of the process of production is reinforced by the social ownership of the means of production.
For this reason Socialist production in the U.S.S.R. knows no periodical crises of overproduction and their accompanying absurdities.
For this reason, the productive forces here develop at an accelerated pace, for the relations of production that correspond to them offer full scope for such development.
Such is the picture of the development of men's relations of production in the course of human history.
Such is the dependence of the development of the relations of production on the development of the production forces of society, and primarily, on the development of the instruments of production, the dependence by virtue of which the changes and development of the productive forces sooner or later lead to corresponding changes and development of the relations of production.
"The use and fabrication of instruments of labour,"1 says Marx, "although existing in the germ among certain species of animals, is specifically characteristic of the human labour-process, and Franklin therefore defines man as a tool-making animal. Relics of bygone instruments of labour possess the same importance for the investigation of extinct economic forms of society, as do fossil bones for the determination of extinct species of animals. It is not the articles made, but how they are made, and by what instruments that enables us to distinguish different economic epochs.... Instruments of labour not only supply a standard of the degree of development to which human labour has attained but they are also indicators of the social conditions under which that labour is carried on." (Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, p, 159.)
a) "Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social conditions. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." (Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 92.)
b) "There is a continual movement of growth in productive forces, of destruction in social relations, of formation in ideas; the only immutable thing is the abstraction of movement." (Ibid., p. 93.)
Speaking of historical materialism as formulated in The Communist Manifesto, Engels says :
"Economic production and the structure of society of every historical epoch necessarily arising therefrom constitute the foundation for the political and intellectual history of that epoch;... consequently ever since the dissolution of the primeval communal ownership of land all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating classes at various stages of social evolution;... this struggle, however, has now reached a stage where the exploited and oppressed class (the proletariat) can no longer emancipate itself from the class which exploits and oppresses it (the bourgeoisie), without at the same time forever freeing the whole of society from exploitation, oppression and class struggles." (Preface to the German edition of The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 192-93.)
A third feature of production is that the rise of new productive forces and of the relations of production corresponding to them does not take place separately from the old system, after the disappearance of the old system, but within the old system; it takes place not as a result of the deliberate and conscious activity of man, but spontaneously, unconsciously, independently of the will of man. It takes place spontaneously and independently of the will of man for two reasons.
First, because men are not free to choose one mode of production or another, because as every new generation enters life it finds productive forces and relations of production already existing as the result of the work of former generations, owing to which it is obliged at first to accept and adapt itself to everything it finds ready made in the sphere of production in order to be able to produce material values.
Secondly, because, when improving one instrument of production or another, one element of the productive forces or another, men do not realize, do not understand or stop to reflect what social results these improvements will lead to, but only think of their everyday interests, of lightening their labour and of securing some direct and tangible advantage for themselves.
When, gradually and gropingly, certain members of primitive communal society passed from the use of stone tools to the use of iron tools, they, of course, did not know and did not stop to reflect what social results this innovation would lead to; they did not understand or realize that the change to metal tools meant a revolution in production, that it would in the long run lead to the slave system. They simply wanted to lighten their labour and secure an immediate and tangible advantage; their conscious activity was confined within the narrow bounds of this everyday personal interest.
When, in the period of the feudal system, the young bourgeoisie of Europe began to erect, alongside of the small guild workshops, large manufactories, and thus advanced the productive forces of society, it, of course, did not know and did not stop to reflect what social consequences this innovation would lead to; it did not realize or understand that this "small" innovation would lead to a regrouping of social forces which was to end in a revolution both against the power of kings, whose favours it so highly valued, and against the nobility, to whose ranks its foremost representatives not infrequently aspired. It simply wanted to lower the cost of producing goods, to throw large quantities of goods on the markets of Asia and of recently discovered America, and to make bigger profits. Its conscious activity was confined within the narrow bounds of this commonplace practical aim.
When the Russian capitalists, in conjunction with foreign capitalists, energetically implanted modern large-scale machine industry in Russia, while leaving tsardom intact and turning the peasants over to the tender mercies of the landlords, they, of course, did not know and did not stop to reflect what social consequences this extensive growth of productive forces would lead to, they did not realize or understand that this big leap in the realm of the productive forces of society would lead to a regrouping of social forces that would enable the proletariat to effect a union with the peasantry and to bring about a victorious Socialist revolution. They simply wanted to expand industrial production to the limit, to gain control of the huge home market, to become monopolists, and to squeeze as much profit as possible out of the national economy. Their conscious activity did not extend beyond their commonplace, strictly practical interests. Accordingly, Marx says:
"In the social production which men carry on (that is, in the production of the material values necessary to the life of men – Ed.) they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent2 of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production." (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 356.)
This, however, does not mean that changes in the relations of production, and the transition from old relations of production to new relations of production proceed smoothly, without conflicts, without upheavals. On the contrary, such a transition usually takes place by means of the revolutionary overthrow of the old relations of production and the establishment of new relations of production. Up to a certain period the development of the productive forces and the changes in the realm of the relations of production proceed spontaneously, independently of the will of men. But that is so only up to a certain moment, until the new and developing productive forces have reached a proper state of maturity. After the new productive forces have matured, the existing relations of production and their upholders – the ruling classes – become that "insuperable" obstacle which can only be removed by the conscious action of the new classes, by the forcible acts of these classes, by revolution. Here there stands out in bold relief the tremendous role of new social ideas, of new political institutions, of a new political power, whose mission it is to abolish by force the old relations of production. Out of the conflict between the new productive forces and the old relations of production, out of the new economic demands of society there arise new social ideas; the new ideas organize and mobilize the masses; the masses become welded into a new political army, create a new revolutionary power, and make use of it to abolish by force the old system of relations of production, and firmly to establish the new system. The spontaneous process of development yields place to the conscious actions of men, peaceful development to violent upheaval, evolution to revolution.
"The proletariat," says Marx, "during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class... by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production." (The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 228.)
a) "The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible." (Ibid., p. 227.)
b) "Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one." (Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, p. 776.)
Here is the brilliant formulation of the essence of historical materialism given by Marx in 1859 in his historic Preface to his famous book, Critique of Political Economy:
"In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society – the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations within which they have been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, esthetic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exists or are at least in the process of formation." (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 356-57.)
Such is Marxist materialism as applied to social life, to the history of society.
Such are the principal features of dialectical and historical materialism.
It will be seen from this what a theoretical treasure was safeguarded by Lenin for the Party and protected from the attacks of the revisionists and renegades, and how important was the appearance of Lenin's book, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, for the development of our Party.
3. Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in the Period of the Stolypin Reaction. Struggle of the Bolsheviks Against the Liquidators and Otzovists
During the years of reaction, the work in the Party organizations was far more difficult than during the preceding period of development of the revolution. The Party membership had sharply declined. Many of the petty-bourgeois fellow-travelers of the Party, especially the intellectuals, deserted its ranks from fear of persecution by the tsarist government.
Lenin pointed out that at such moments revolutionary parties should perfect their knowledge. During the period of rise of the revolution they learned how to advance; during the period of reaction they should learn how to retreat properly, how to go underground, how to preserve and strengthen the illegal party, how to make use of legal opportunities, of all legally existing, especially mass, organizations in order to strengthen their connections with the masses.
The Mensheviks retreated in panic, not believing that a new rise in the tide of revolution was possible; they disgracefully renounced the revolutionary demands of the program and the revolutionary slogans of the Party; they wanted to liquidate, to abolish, the revolutionary illegal party of the proletariat. For this reason, Mensheviks of this type came to be known as Liquidators.
Unlike the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks were certain that within the next few years there would be a rise in the tide of revolution, and held that it was the duty of the Party to prepare the masses for this new rise. The fundamental problems of the revolution had not been solved. The peasants had not obtained the landlords' land, the workers had not obtained the 8-hour day, the tsarist autocracy, so detested by the people, had not been overthrown, and it had again suppressed the meagre political liberties which the people had wrung from it in 1905. Thus the causes which had given rise to the Revolution of 1905 still remained in force. That is why the Bolsheviks were certain that there would be a new rise of the revolutionary movement, prepared for it and mustered the forces of the working class.
The Bolsheviks derived their certainty that a new rise in the tide of the revolution was inevitable also from the fact that the Revolution of 1905 had taught the working class to fight for its rights in mass revolutionary struggle. During the period of reaction, when the capitalists took the offensive, the workers could not forget these lessons of 1905. Lenin quoted letters from workers in which they told how factory owners were again oppressing and humiliating them, and in which they said: "Wait, another 1905 will come!"
The fundamental political aim of the Bolsheviks remained what it had been in 1905, namely, to overthrow tsardom, to carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution to its conclusion and to proceed to the Socialist revolution. Never for a moment did the Bolsheviks forget this aim, and they continued to put before the masses the principal revolutionary slogans – a democratic republic, the confiscation of the landed estates, and an 8-hour day.
But the tactics of the Party could not remain what they had been during the rising tide of the revolution in 1905. For example, it would have been wrong in the immediate future to call the masses to a general political strike or to an armed uprising, for the revolutionary movement was on the decline, the working class was in a state of extreme fatigue, and the position of the reactionary classes had been strengthened considerably. The Party had to reckon with the new situation. Offensive tactics had to be replaced by defensive tactics, the tactics of mustering forces, the tactics of withdrawing the cadres underground and of carrying on the work of the Party from underground, the tactics of combining illegal work with work in the legal working-class organizations.
And the Bolsheviks proved able to accomplish this.
"We knew how to work during the long years preceding the revolution. Not for nothing do they say that we are as firm as a rock. The Social-Democrats have formed a proletarian party which will not lose heart at the failure of the first armed onslaught, will not lose its head, and will not be carried away by adventures," wrote Lenin. (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XII, p. 126.)
The Bolsheviks strove to preserve and strengthen the illegal Party organizations. But at the same time they deemed it essential to utilize every legal opportunity, every legal opening to maintain and preserve connections with the masses and thus strengthen the Party.
"This was a period when our Party turned from the open revolutionary struggle against tsardom to roundabout methods of struggle, to the utilization of each and every legal opportunity – from mutual aid societies to the Duma platform. This was a period of retreat after we had been defeated in the Revolution of 1905. This turn made it incumbent upon us to master new methods of struggle, in order to muster our forces and resume the open revolutionary struggle against tsardom." (J. Stalin, Verbatim Report of the Fifteenth Party Congress, Russ. ed., pp. 366-67, 1935.)
The surviving legal organizations served as a sort of screen for the underground organizations of the Party and as a means of maintaining connections with the masses. In order to preserve their connections with the masses, the Bolsheviks made use of the trade unions and other legally existing public organizations, such as sick benefit societies, workers' cooperative societies, clubs, educational societies and People's Houses. The Bolsheviks made use of the platform of the State Duma to expose the policy of the tsarist government, to expose the Constitutional-Democrats, and to win the support of the peasants for the proletariat. The preservation of the illegal Party organization, and the direction of all other forms of political work through this organization, enabled the Party to pursue a correct line and to muster forces in preparation for a new rise in the tide of revolution.
The Bolsheviks carried out their revolutionary line in a fight on two fronts, a fight against the two varieties of opportunism within the Party – against the Liquidators, who were open adversaries of the Party, and against what were known as the Otzovists, who were concealed foes of the Party.
The Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, waged a relentless struggle against liquidationism from the very inception of this opportunist trend. Lenin pointed out that the Liquidators were agents of the liberal bourgeoisie within the Party.
In December 1908, the Fifth (All-Russian) Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. was held in Paris. On Lenin's motion, this conference condemned liquidationism, that is, the attempts of a certain section of the Party intellectuals (Mensheviks) "to liquidate the existing organization of the R.S.D.L.P. and to replace it at all costs, even at the price of down-right renunciation of the program, tactics and traditions of the Party, by an amorphous association functioning legally." (C.P.S.U.[B.] in Resolutions, Russ. ed., Part I, p. 128.)
The conference called upon all Party organizations to wage a resolute struggle against the attempts of the Liquidators.
But the Mensheviks did not abide by this decision of the conference and increasingly committed themselves to liquidationism, betrayal of the revolution, and collaboration with the Constitutional-Democrats. The Mensheviks were more and more openly renouncing the revolutionary program of the proletarian Party, the demands for a democratic republic, for an 8-hour day and for the confiscation of the landed estates. They wanted, at the price of renouncing the program and tactics of the Party, to obtain the consent of the tsarist government to the existence of an open, legal, supposedly "labour" party. They were prepared to make peace with and to adapt themselves to the Stolypin regime. That is why the Liquidators were also called the "Stolypin Labour Party."
Besides fighting the overt adversaries of the revolution, the Liquidators, who were headed by Dan, Axelrod, and Potressov, and assisted by Martov, Trotsky and other Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks also waged a relentless struggle against the covert Liquidators, the Otzovists, who camouflaged their opportunism by "Left" phraseology. Otzovists was the name given to certain former Bolsheviks who demanded the recall (otzyv means recall) of the workers' deputies from the State Duma and the discontinuation of work in legally existing organizations altogether.
In 1908 a number of Bolsheviks demanded the recall of the Social-Democratic deputies from the State Duma. Hence, they were called Otzovists. The Otzovists formed their own group (Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Alexinsky, Pokrovsky, Bubnov and others) which started a struggle against Lenin and Lenin's line. The Otzovists stubbornly refused to work in the trade unions and other legally existing societies. In doing so they did great injury to the workers' cause. The Otzovists were driving a wedge between the Party and the working class, tending to deprive the Party of its connections with the non-party masses; they wanted to seclude themselves within the underground organization, yet at the same time they placed it in jeopardy by denying it the opportunity of utilizing legal cover. The Otzovists did not understand that in the State Duma, and through the State Duma, the Bolsheviks could influence the peasantry, could expose the policy of the tsarist government and the policy of the Constitutional-Democrats, who were trying to gain the following of the peasantry by fraud. The Otzovists hampered the mustering of forces for a new advance of the revolution. The Otzovists were therefore "Liquidators inside-out": they endeavoured to destroy the possibility of utilizing the legally existing organizations and, in fact, renounced proletarian leadership of the broad non-party masses, renounced revolutionary work.
A conference of the enlarged editorial board of the Bolshevik newspaper Proletary, summoned in 1909 to discuss the conduct of the Otzovists, condemned them. The Bolsheviks announced that they had nothing in common with the Otzovists and expelled them from the Bolshevik organization.
Both the Liquidators and the Otzovists were nothing but petty-bourgeois fellow-travelers of the proletariat and its Party. When times were hard for the proletariat the true character of the Liquidators and Otzovists became revealed with particular clarity.
4. Struggle of the Bolsheviks Against Trotskyism. Anti-Party August Bloc
At a time when the Bolsheviks were waging a relentless struggle on two fronts – against the Liquidators and against the Otzovists – defending the consistent line of the proletarian party, Trotsky supported the Menshevik Liquidators. It was at this period that Lenin branded him "Judas Trotsky." Trotsky formed a group of writers in Vienna (Austria) and began to publish an allegedly non-factional, but in reality Menshevik newspaper. "Trotsky behaves like a most despicable careerist and factionalist.... He pays lip service to the Party, but behaves worse than any other factionalist," wrote Lenin at the time.
Later, in 1912, Trotsky organized the August Bloc, a bloc of all the anti-Bolshevik groups and trends directed against Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. The Liquidators and the Otzovists united in this anti-Bolshevik bloc, thus demonstrating their kinship. Trotsky and the Trotskyites took up a liquidationist stand on all fundamental issues. But Trotsky masked his liquidationism under the guise of Centrism, that is, conciliationism; he claimed that he belonged to neither the Bolsheviks nor the Mensheviks and that he was trying to reconcile them. In this connection, Lenin said that Trotsky was more vile and pernicious than the open Liquidators, because he was trying to deceive the workers into believing that he was "above factions," whereas in fact he entirely supported the Menshevik Liquidators. The Trotskyites were the principal group that fostered Centrism.
"Centrism," writes Comrade Stalin, "is a political concept. Its ideology is one of adaptation, of subordination of the interests of the proletariat to the interests of the petty-bourgeoisie within one common party. This ideology is alien and abhorrent to Leninism." (Stalin, Leninism, Vol. II, "The Industrialization of the Country and the Right Deviation in the C.P.S.U.," p. 97.)
At this period Kamenev, Zinoviev and Rykov were actually covert agents of Trotsky, for they often helped him against Lenin. With the aid of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov and other covert allies of Trotsky, a Plenum of the Central Committee was convened in January 1910 against Lenin's wishes. By that time the composition of the Central Committee had changed owing to the arrest of a number of Bolsheviks, and the vacillating elements were able to force through anti-Leninist decisions. Thus, it was decided at this plenum to close down the Bolshevik newspaper Proletary and to give financial support to Trotsky's newspaper Pravda, published in Vienna. Kamenev joined the editorial board of Trotsky's newspaper and together with Zinoviev strove to make it the organ of the Central Committee.
It was only on Lenin's insistence that the January Plenum of the Central Committee adopted a resolution condemning liquidationism and otzovism, but here too Zinoviev and Kamenev insisted on Trotsky's proposal that the Liquidators should not be referred to as such.
It turned out as Lenin had foreseen and forewarned: only the Bolsheviks obeyed the decision of the plenum of the Central Committee and closed down their organ, Proletary, whereas the Mensheviks continued to publish their financial liquidationist newspaper Golos Sotsial-Demokrat (Voice of the Social-Democrat).
Lenin's position was fully supported by Comrade Stalin who published a special article in Sotsial-Demokrat, No. ii, in which he condemned the conduct of the accomplices of Trotskyism, and spoke of the necessity of putting an end to the abnormal situation created within the Bolshevik group by the treacherous conduct of Kamenev, Zinoviev and Rykov. The article advanced as immediate tasks what was later carried into effect at the Prague Party Conference, namely, convocation of a general Party conference, publication of a Party newspaper appearing legally, and creation of an illegal practical Party centre in Russia. Comrade Stalin's article was based on decisions of the Baku Committee, which fully supported Lenin.
To counteract Trotsky's anti-Party August Bloc, which consisted exclusively of anti-Party elements, from the Liquidators and Trotskyites to the Otzovists and "god-builders," a Party bloc was formed consisting of people who wanted to preserve and strengthen the illegal proletarian Party. This bloc consisted of the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, and a small number of pro-Party Mensheviks, headed by Plekhanov. Plekhanov and his group of pro-Party Mensheviks, while maintaining the Menshevik position on a number of questions, emphatically dissociated themselves from the August Bloc and the Liquidators and sought to reach agreement with the Bolsheviks. Lenin accepted Plekhanov's proposal and consented to a temporary bloc with him against the anti-Party elements on the ground that such a bloc would be advantageous to the Party and fatal to the Liquidators.
Comrade Stalin fully supported this bloc. He was in exile at the time and from there wrote a letter to Lenin, saying:
"In my opinion the line of the bloc (Lenin-Plekhanov) is the only correct one: i) this line, and it alone, answers to the real interests of the work in Russia, which demands that all Party elements should rally together; 2) this line, and it alone, will expedite the process of emancipation of the legal organizations from the yoke of the Liquidators, by digging a gulf between the Mek3 workers and the Liquidators, and dispersing and disposing of the latter." (Lenin and Stalin, Russ. ed., Vol. I, pp. 529-30.)
Thanks to a skilful combination of illegal and legal work, the Bolsheviks were able to become a serious force in the legal workers' organizations. This was revealed, incidentally, in the great influence which the Bolsheviks exercised on the workers' groups at four legally held congresses that took place at that period – a congress of people's universities, a women's congress, a congress of factory physicians, and a temperance congress. The speeches of the Bolsheviks at these congresses were of great political value and awakened a response all over the country. For example, at the congress of people's universities, the Bolshevik workers' delegation exposed the policy of tsardom which stifled all cultural activity, and contended that no real cultural progress in the country was conceivable unless tsardom were abolished. The workers' delegation at the congress of factory physicians told of the frightfully unsanitary conditions in which the workers had to live and work, and drew the conclusion that factory hygiene could not be properly ensured until tsardom was overthrown.
The Bolsheviks gradually squeezed the Liquidators out of the various legal organizations that still survived. The peculiar tactics of a united front with the Plekhanov pro-Party group enabled the Bolsheviks to win over a number of Menshevik worker organizations (in the Vyborg district, Ekaterinoslav, etc.).
In this difficult period the Bolsheviks set an example of how legal work should be combined with illegal work.
5. Prague Party Conference, 1912. Bolsheviks Constitute Themselves an Independent Marxist Party
The fight against the Liquidators and Otzovists, as well as against the Trotskyites, confronted the Bolsheviks with the urgent necessity of uniting all the Bolsheviks and forming them into an independent Bolshevik Party. This was absolutely essential not only in order to put an end to the opportunist trends within the Party which were splitting the working class, but also in order to complete the work of mustering the forces of the working class and preparing it for a new upward swing of the revolution.
But before this task could be accomplished the Party had to be rid of opportunists, of Mensheviks.
No Bolshevik now doubted that it was unthinkable for the Bolsheviks to remain in one party with the Mensheviks. The treacherous conduct of the Mensheviks in the period of the Stolypin reaction, their attempts to liquidate the proletarian party and to organize a new, reformist party, made a rupture with them inevitable. By remaining in one party with the Mensheviks, the Bolsheviks in one way or another accepted moral responsibility for the behaviour of the Mensheviks. But for the Bolsheviks to accept moral responsibility for the open treachery of the Mensheviks was unthinkable, unless they themselves wanted to become traitors to the Party and the working class. Unity with the Mensheviks within a single party was thus assuming the character of a betrayal of the working class and its party. Consequently, the actual rupture with the Mensheviks had to be carried to its conclusion: a formal organizational rupture and the expulsion of the Mensheviks from the Party.
Only in this way was it possible to restore the revolutionary party of the proletariat with a single program, single tactics, and a single class organization.
Only in this way was it possible to restore the real (not just formal) unity of the Party, which the Mensheviks had destroyed.
This task was to be performed by the Sixth General Party Conference, for which the Bolsheviks were making preparations.
But this was only one aspect of the matter. A formal rupture with the Mensheviks and the formation by the Bolsheviks of a separate party was, of course, a very important political task. But the Bolsheviks were confronted with another and even more important task. The task of the Bolsheviks was not merely to break with the Mensheviks and formally constitute themselves a separate party, but above all, having broken with the Mensheviks, to create a new party, to create a party of a new type, different from the usual Social-Democratic parties of the West, one that was free of opportunist elements and capable of leading the proletariat in a struggle for power.
In fighting the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks of all shades, from Axelrod and Martynov to Martov and Trotsky, invariably used weapons borrowed from the arsenal of the West-European Social-Democrats. They wanted in Russia a party similar, let us say, to the German or French Social-Democratic Party. They fought the Bolsheviks just because they sensed something new in them, something unusual and different from the Social-Democrats of the West. And what did the Social-Democratic parties of the West represent at that time? A mixture, a hodge-podge of Marxist and opportunist elements, of friends and foes of the revolution, of supporters and opponents of the Party principle, the former gradually becoming ideologically reconciled to the latter, and virtually subordinated to them. Conciliation with the opportunists, with the traitors to the revolution, for the sake of what? – the Bolsheviks asked the West-European Social-Democrats. For the sake of "peace within the Party," for the sake of "unity" – the latter replied. Unity with whom, with the opportunists? Yes, they replied, with the opportunists. It was clear that such parties could not be revolutionary parties.
The Bolsheviks could not help seeing that after Engels' death the West-European Social-Democratic parties had begun to degenerate from parties of social revolution into parties of "social reforms," and that each of these parties, as an organization, had already been converted from a leading force into an appendage of its own parliamentary group.
The Bolsheviks could not help knowing that such a party boded no good to the proletariat, that such a party was not capable of leading the working class to revolution.
The Bolsheviks could not help knowing that the proletariat needed, not such a party, but a different kind of party, a new and genuinely Marxist party, which would be irreconcilable towards the opportunists and revolutionary towards the bourgeoisie, which would be firmly knit and monolithic, which would be a party of social revolution, a party of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
It was this new kind of party that the Bolsheviks wanted. And the Bolsheviks worked to build up such a party. The whole history of the struggle against the "Economists," Mensheviks, Trotskyites, Otzovists and idealists of all shades, down to the empirio-criticists, was a history of the building up of just such a party. The Bolsheviks wanted to create a new party, a Bolshevist party, which would serve as a model for all who wanted to have a real revolutionary Marxist party. The Bolsheviks had been working to build up such a party ever since the time of the old Iskra. They worked for it stubbornly, persistently, in spite of everything. A fundamental and decisive part was played in this work by the writings of Lenin – What Is To Be Done?, Two Tactics, etc. Lenin's What Is To Be Done? was the ideological preparation for such a party. Lenin's One Step Forward, Two Steps Back was the organizational preparation for such a party. Lenin's Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution was the political preparation for such a party. And, lastly, Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was the theoretical preparation for such a party.
It may be safely said that never in history has any political group been so thoroughly prepared to constitute itself a party as the Bolshevik group was.
The conditions were therefore fully ripe and ready for the Bolsheviks to constitute themselves a party.
It was the task of the Sixth Party Conference to crown the completed work by expelling the Mensheviks and formally constituting the new party, the Bolshevik Party.
The Sixth All-Russian Party Conference was held in Prague in January 1912. Over twenty Party organizations were represented. The conference, therefore, had the significance of a regular Party congress.
In the statement of the conference which announced that the shattered central apparatus of the Party had been restored and a Central Committee set up, it was declared that the period of reaction had been the most difficult the Russian Social-Democratic Party had experienced since it had taken shape as a definite organization. In spite of all persecution, in spite of the severe blows dealt it from without and the treachery and vacillation of the opportunists within, the party of the proletariat had preserved intact its banner and its organization.
"Not only have the banner of the Russian Social-Democratic Party, its program and its revolutionary traditions survived, but so has its organization, which persecution may have undermined and weakened, but could never utterly destroy" – the statement of the conference declared.
The conference recorded the first symptoms of a new rise of the working-class movement in Russia and a revival in Party work.
In its resolution on the reports presented by the local organizations, the conference noted that "energetic work is being conducted everywhere among the Social-Democratic workers with the object of strengthening the local illegal Social-Democratic organizations and groups."
The conference noted that the most important rule of Bolshevik tactics in periods of retreat, namely, to combine illegal work with legal work within the various legally existing workers' societies and unions, was being observed in all the localities.
The Prague Conference elected a Bolshevik Central Committee of the Party, consisting of Lenin, Stalin, Ordjonikidze, Sverdlov, Spandaryan, Goloshchekin and others. Comrades Stalin and Sverdlov were elected to the Central Committee in their absence, as they were in exile at the time. Among the elected alternate members of the Central Committee was Comrade Kalinin.
For the direction of revolutionary work in Russia a practical centre (the Russian Bureau of the C.C.) was set up with Comrade Stalin at its head and including Comrades Y. Sverdlov, S. Spandaryan, S. Ordjonikidze, M. Kalinin and Goloshchekin.
The Prague Conference reviewed the whole preceding struggle of the Bolsheviks against opportunism and decided to expel the Mensheviks from the Party.
By expelling the Mensheviks from the Party, the Prague Conference formally inaugurated the independent existence of the Bolshevik Party.
Having routed the Mensheviks ideologically and organizationally and expelled them from the Party, the Bolsheviks preserved the old banner of the Party – of the R.S.D.L.P. That is why the Bolshevik Party continued until 1918 to call itself the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, adding the word "Bolsheviks" in brackets.
Writing to Gorky at the beginning of 1912, on the results of the Prague Conference, Lenin said:
"At last we have succeeded, in spite of the Liquidator scum, in restoring the Party and its Central Committee. I hope you will rejoice with us over the fact." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXIX, p. 19.)
Speaking of the significance of the Prague Conference, Comrade Stalin said:
"This conference was of the utmost importance in the history of our Party, for it drew a boundary line between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and amalgamated the Bolshevik organizations all over the country into a united Bolshevik Party." (Verbatim Report of the Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.[B.], Russ. ed., pp. 361-362.)
After the expulsion of the Mensheviks and the constitution by the Bolsheviks of an independent party, the Bolshevik Party became firmer and stronger. The Party strengthens itself by purging its ranks of opportunist elements – that is one of the maxims of the Bolshevik Party, which is a party of a new type fundamentally different from the Social-Democratic parties of the Second International. Although the parties of the Second International called themselves Marxist parties, in reality they tolerated foes of Marxism, avowed opportunists, in their ranks and allowed them to corrupt and to ruin the Second International. The Bolsheviks, on the contrary, waged a relentless struggle against the opportunists, purged the proletarian party of the filth of opportunism and succeeded in creating a party of a new type, a Leninist Party, the Party which later achieved the dictatorship of the proletariat.
If the opportunists had remained within the ranks of the proletarian party, the Bolshevik Party could not have come out on the broad highway and led the proletariat, it could not have taken power and set up the dictatorship of the proletariat, it could not have emerged victorious from the Civil War and built Socialism.
The Prague Conference decided to put forward as the chief immediate political slogans of the Party the demands contained in the minimum program: a democratic republic, an 8-hour day, and the confiscation of the landed estates.
It was under these revolutionary slogans that the Bolsheviks conducted their campaign in connection with the elections to the Fourth State Duma.
It was these slogans that guided the new rise of the revolutionary movement of the working-class masses in the years 1912-14.
The years 1908-12 were a most difficult period for revolutionary work. After the defeat of the revolution, when the revolutionary movement was on the decline and the masses were fatigued, the Bolsheviks changed their tactics and passed from the direct struggle against tsardom to a roundabout struggle. In the difficult conditions that prevailed during the Stolypin reaction, the Bolsheviks made use of the slightest legal opportunity to maintain their connections with the masses (from sick benefit societies and trade unions to the Duma platform). The Bolsheviks indefatigably worked to muster forces for a new rise of the revolutionary movement.
In the difficult conditions brought about by the defeat of the revolution, the disintegration of the oppositional trends, the disappointment with the revolution, and the increasing endeavours of intellectuals who had deserted the Party (Bogdanov, Bazarov and others) to revise its theoretical foundations, the Bolsheviks were the only force in the Party who did not furl the Party banner, who remained faithful to the Party program, and who beat off the attacks of the "critics" of Marxist theory (Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism). What helped the leading core of the Bolsheviks, centred around Lenin, to safeguard the Party and its revolutionary principles was that this core had been tempered by Marxist-Leninist ideology and had grasped the perspectives of the revolution. "Not for nothing do they say that we are as firm as a rock," Lenin stated in referring to the Bolsheviks.
The Mensheviks at that period were drawing farther and farther away from the revolution. They became Liquidators, demanding the liquidation, abolition, of the illegal revolutionary party of the proletariat; they more and more openly renounced the Party program and the revolutionary aims and slogans of the Party, and endeavoured to organize their own, reformist party, which the workers christened a "Stolypin Labour Party." Trotsky supported the Liquidators, pharisaically using the slogan "unity of the Party" as a screen, but actually meaning unity with the Liquidators.
On the other hand, some of the Bolsheviks, who did not understand the necessity for the adoption of new and roundabout ways of combating tsardom, demanded that legal opportunities should not be utilized and that the workers' deputies in the State Duma be recalled. These Otzovists were driving the Party towards a rupture with the masses and were hampering the mustering of forces for a new rise of the revolution. Using "Left" phraseology as a screen, the Otzovists, like the Liquidators, in essence renounced the revolutionary struggle.
The Liquidators and Otzovists united against Lenin in a common bloc, known as the August Bloc, organized by Trotsky.
In the struggle against the Liquidators and Otzovists, in the struggle against the August Bloc, the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand and succeeded in safeguarding the illegal proletarian party.
The outstanding event of this period was the Prague Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (January 1912). At this conference the Mensheviks were expelled from the Party, and the formal unity of the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks within one party was ended forever. From a political group, the Bolsheviks formally constituted themselves an independent party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks). The Prague Conference inaugurated a party of a new type, the party of Leninism, the Bolshevik Party.
The purge of the ranks of the proletarian party of opportunists, Mensheviks, effected at the Prague Conference, had an important and decisive influence on the subsequent development of the Party and the revolution. If the Bolsheviks had not expelled the betrayers of the workers' cause, the Menshevik compromisers, from the Party, the proletarian party would have been unable in 1917 to rouse the masses for the fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat.Notes
1. By instruments of labour Marx has in mind primarily instruments of production. – Ed.
2. Our italics. – Ed.
3. Mek, an abbreviation for Menshevik. – Ed.