What Is To Be Done? (Lenin, 1935)/Chapter 4

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What Is To Be Done? (Lenin, 1935)
by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, translated by Joseph Fineberg
Chapter IV: The Primitiveness of the Economists and the Organisation of Revolutionists
4055313What Is To Be Done? (Lenin, 1935) — Chapter IV: The Primitiveness of the Economists and the Organisation of RevolutionistsJoseph FinebergVladimir Ilyich Lenin



Rabocheye Dyelo's assertions—which we have analysed—that the economic struggle is the most widely applicable means of political agitation and that our task now is to give the economic struggle itself a political character, etc., not only express a restricted view of our political tasks, but also of our organisational tasks. The "economic struggle against the employers and the government" does not in the least require—and therefore such a struggle can never give rise to—an All-Russian centralised organisation that combine, in a general attack, all the numerous manifestations of political opposition, protest and indignation, an organisation that will consist of professional revolutionaries and be led by the real political leaders of the whole people. And this can be easily understood. The character of the organisation of every institution naturally and inevitably determined by the character of the activity that institution conducts. Consequently, Rabocheye Dyelo, by above-analysed assertions, not only sanctifies and legitimatises the narrowness of political activity, but also the narrowness of organisational work. And in this case also, as always, its consciousness shrinks before spontaneity. And yet, subservience to spontaneously rising forms of organisation, the lack of appreciation of the narrowness and primitiveness of our organisational work, our "primitive methods" in this most important sphere, the lack of such appreciation, I say, is a very serious complaint that our movement suffers from. It is not a complaint that comes with decline, of course, it is a complaint that comes with growth. But it is precisely at the present time, when the wave of spontaneous indignation is, as it were, lashing us leaders and organisers of the movement, that a most irreconcilable struggle must he carried on against all defence of sluggishness, against any legitimisation of restriction in the matter, and it is particularly necessary to rouse in all those participating in the practical work, in all who are just thinking of taking it up, discontent with the primitive methods that prevail among us and unshakable determination to get rid of them.

A. What Are Primitive Methods?

We shall try to answer this question by describing the activity of a typical Social-Democratic circle of the period of 1894–1901. We have already referred to the manner in which the students became absorbed in Marxism at that period. Of course, these students were not so much interested in Marxism as a theory; they were interested in it because it provided the answer to the question: "What is to be done?"; because it was a call to march against the enemy. And these young warriors marched to battle with astonishingly primitive equipment and training. In a vast number of cases, they had almost no equipment, and absolutely no training. They marched to war like peasants from the plough, snatching up a club. A students' circle with no contacts with the old members of the movement, no contacts with circles in other districts, or even in other parts of the same city (or with other schools), without the various sections of the revolutionary work being in any way organised, having no systematic plan of activity covering any length of time, establishes contacts with the workers and sets to work. The circle gradually expands its propaganda and agitation; by its activities it wins the sympathies of a rather large circle of workers and of a certain section of the educated classes, which provides it with money and from which the "committee" recruits new groups of members. The fascination which the committee (or the League of Struggle) exercises on the youth increases, its sphere of activity becomes wider and its activities expand quite spontaneously: the very people who a year or a few months previously had spoken at the gatherings of the students' circle and discussed the question, "Whither?" who established and maintained contacts with the workers, wrote and published leaflets, established contacts with other groups of revolutionists and procured literature, now set to work to establish a local newspaper, begin to talk about organising demonstrations, and finally, commence open conflicts (these open conflicts may, according to circumstances, take the form of issuing the very first agitational leaflet, or the first newspaper, or of organising the first demonstration). And usually, the first action ends in immediate and complete defeat. Immediate and complete, precisely because these open conflicts were not the result of a systematic and carefully thought-out and gradually prepared plan for a prolonged and stubborn struggle, but simply the spontaneous growth of traditional circle work; because naturally, the police, almost in every case, knew the principal leaders of the local movement, for they had already "recommended" themselves to the police in their school-days, and the latter only waited for a convenient to make their raid. They gave the circle sufficient time to develop their work so that they may obtain a palpable corpus delicti,[1] and always allowed several of the persons known to them to remain at liberty for razvodka (which, I believe is the technical term used both by our people and by the gendarmes)[2] One cannot help comparing this kind of warfare with that conducted by a mob of peasants armed with clubs against :modern troops. One can only express astonishment at the virility displayed by the movement which expanded, grew and won victories in spite of the lack of training among the fighters. It is true that from the historical point-of-view, the primitiveness of equipment was not only inevitable at first, but even legitimate as one of the conditions for the wide recruiting of fighters, but as soon as serious operations commenced (and they commenced in fact with the strikes in the summer of 1896), the defects in our fighting organisations made themselves felt to an increasing extent. Thrown into consternation at first and committing a number of mistakes (for example, its appeal to the public describing the misdeeds of the Socialists, or the deportation of the workers from the capital to the provincial industrial centres) the government very soon adapted itself to the new conditions of the struggle and managed to place its perfectly equipped detachments of agent-provocateurs, spies, and gendarmes in the required places. Raids became so frequent, affected such a vast number of people, and cleared out the local circles so thoroughly, that the masses of the workers literally lost all their leaders, the movement assumed an incredibly sporadic character, and it became impossible to established continuity and connectedness in the work. The fact that the local active workers were hopelessly scattered, the casual manner in which the membership of the circles were recruited, the lack of training in and narrow outlook on theoretical political and organisational questions were all the inevitable result of the conditions described above. Things reached such a pass that in several places the workers, because of our lack of stamina and ability to maintain secrecy, began to lose faith in the intelligentsia and to avoid them: The intellectuals, they said, are much too careless and lay them.selves open to police raids!

Any one who has the slightest knowledge of the movement knows that these primitive methods at last began to be recognised as a disease by all thinking Social-Democrats. And in order that the reader, who is not acquainted with the movement, :may have no grounds for thinking that we are "inventing" a special stage or special disease of the :movement, we shall refer once again to the witness we have already quoted. No doubt we shall he excused for the length of the passage quoted:

While the gradual transition to wider practical activity [writes B-v in Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 6], a transition which is closely connected with the general transitional period through which the Russian labour movement is now passing, is a characteristic feature … there is, however, another and not less interesting feature in the general mechanism of the Russian workers' revolution. We refer to the general lack of revolutionary forces fit for action[3] which is felt not only in St. Petersburg, but throughout the whole of Russia. With the general revival of the labour movement, with the general development of the working masses, with the growing frequency of strikes, and with the mass labour struggle becoming more and more open, the intensification of government persecution, arrests, deportation and exile, this lack of highly skilled revolutionary forces is becoming more and more marked and, without a doubt, must leave deep· traces upon the general character of the movement. Many strikes take place without the revolutionary organisations exercising any strong and direct influence upon them. … A shortage of agitational leaflets and illegal literature is felt. … The workers' circles are left without agitators. … Simultaneously, there is a constant shortage of funds. In a word, the growth of the labour movement is outstripping the growth and development of the revolutionary organisations. The numerical strength of the active revolutionists is too small to enable them to concentrate in themselves all the influence exercised upon the whole of the discontented masses of labour, or to give this unrest even a shadow of symmetry and organisation. … Separate circles, separate revolutionists, scattered, uncombined do not represent a united, strong and disciplined organisation with the planned development of its parts. …

Admitting that the immediate organisation of fresh circles to take the place of those that have been broken up, "merely proves the virility of the movement … but does not prove the existence of an adequate number of sufficiently fit revolutionary workers," the author concludes:

The lack of practical training among the St. Petersburg revolutionists is seen in the results of their work. The recent trials, especially that of the Self-Emancipation group and the Labour versus Capital group clearly showed that the young agitator, unacquainted with the details of the conditions of labour and, consequently, unacquainted with the conditions under which agitation must be carried on in a given factory, ignorant of the principles of conspiracy, and understanding only. the general principles of Social-Democracy [and it is a question whether he understands them] is able to carry on work for perhaps four, five, or six months. Then come arrests, which frequently lead to the break-up of the whole organisation, or at all events, of part of it. The question arises, therefore, can the group conduct successful and fruitful activity if its existence is measured by months? Obviously, the defects of the existing organisations cannot be wholly ascribed to the transitional period. … Obviously, the numerical and above all the qualitative strength of the organisations operating is not of little importance, and the first task our Social-Democrats must undertake is effectively to combine the organisations and make a strict selection of their membership.

B. Primitive Methods and Economism

We must now deal with the question that undoubtedly must have arisen in the mind of every reader. Have these primitive methods, which are a complaint of growth that affect the whole of the movement, any connection with Economism, which is only one of the tendencies in Russian Social-Democracy? We think that they have. The lack of practical training, the lack of ability to carry on organisational work is certainly common to us all, including those who have stood unswervingly by the point-of-view of revolutionary Marxism right from the very outset. And, of course, no one can blame the practical workers for their lack of practical training. But, the term "primitive methods" embraces something more than mere lack of training: It embraces the restrictedness of revolutionary work generally, the failure to understand that a good organisation of revolutionists cannot be built up on the_basis of such restricted work, and lastly—and most important—it embraces the attempts to justify this restrictedness and to elevate it to a special "theory," i. e., subservience to spontaneity in this matter also. As soon as such attempts were observed, it became certain that primitive methods are connected with Economism and that we shall never eliminate restrictedness of our organisational activity until we eliminate Economism generally (i. e., the narrow conception of Marxian theory, of the rôle of Social-Democracy, and of its political tasks). And these attempts were revealed in a two-fold direction. Some began to say: The labour masses have not yet themselves brought up the broad and militant tasks that the revolutionists desire to "impose" upon them; they must continue for the time being to fight for immediate political demands, to conduct "the economic struggle against the employers and the government"[4] (this mass struggle "easily understood" by these masses naturally corresponds to an organisation "easily accessible" to the most untrained youth). Others, far removed from "gradualness," began to say: We can and must "bring about a political revolution," but there is no reason whatever for building a strong organisation of revolutionists that would train revolutionists for the stalwart and stubborn struggle, in order to bring this revolution about. All we need do is to snatch up the "easily understood" wooden club, the acquaintance with which we have already made. Speaking, without metaphor, it means—we must organise a general strike,[5] or we must stimulate the "spiritless" progress of the labour movement by means of "excitative terror."[6] Both these tendencies, the opportunist and the "revolutionary," bow to the prevailing primitiveness; neither believe that it can be eliminated, neither understand our primary and most imperative practical task, namely, to establish an organisation of revolutionists capable of maintaining the energy, the stability and continuity of the political struggle.

We have just quoted the words of B-v: "The growth of the labour movement is outstripping the growth and development of the revolutionary organisations." This "valuable remark of a close observer" (Rabocheye Dyelo's comment on B-v's article) has a two-fold value for us. It proves that we were right in our opinion that the principal cause of the present crisis in Russian Social-Democracy is that the leaders "ideologists," revolutionists, Social-Democrats) lag behind the spontaneous rising of the masses. It shows that all the arguments advanced by the authors of the Economic Letter in Iskra, No. 12, by B. Krichevsky, and by Martynov, about the dangers of belittling the significance of the spontaneous elements, about the drab every-day struggles, about the tactics-process, etc., are nothing more than a glorification and defence of primitive methods. These people, who cannot pronounce the word "theoretician" without a contemptuous grimace, who describe their genuflections to common lack of training and ignorance as "sensitiveness to life," reveal in practice a failure to understand our most imperative practical task. To laggards they shout: Keep in step! don't run ahead! To people suffering fro In a lack of energy and initiative in organisational work, from lack of "plans"' for wide and bold organisational work, they shout about the "tactics-process"! The most serious sin we commit is that we degrade our political and our organisational tasks to the level of immediate, "palpable," "concrete" interests of the every-day economic struggle; and yet they keep singing to us the old song: Give the economic struggle itself a political character. We say again: This kind of thing plays as much "sensitiveness to life" as was displayed by the here in the popular fable who shouted to a passing funeral procession. May you never get to your destination.[7]

Recall the matchless, truly "Narcissus'"-like superciliousness with which these wiseacres lectured Plekhanov about the "workers' circles generally" [sic!] being "incapable of fulfilling political tasks in the real and practical sense of the word, i. e., the sense of expedient and successful practical struggle for political demands" [Rabocheye Dyelo's Reply, p. 24.] There are circles and circles gentlemen! Circles of "kustars,"[8] of course, are incapable of fulfilling political tasks and never will be, until they realise the primitiveness of their methods and abandon it. If besides this, these amateurs are enamoured of their primitive methods, and insist on writing the word "practical" in italics, and imagine that practicality demands that their tasks he degraded to the level of understanding of the most backward strata of the masses, then they are hopeless, of course, and certainly cannot fulfil general political tasks. But circles of heroes, like those formed by Alexeyev and Myshkin, Khalturin and Zhelyabov, are able to fulfil political tasks in the genuine and most practical sense of the term, because their passionate preaching meets with response among the spontaneously awakened masses, because their seething energy rouses a corresponding and sustained energy among the revolutionary class. Plekhanov was a thousand times right not only when he pointed to this revolutionary class, not only when he proved that its spontaneous awakening was inevitable, but also when he set the "workers' circles" a great and lofty political task. But you refer to the mass movement that has sprung up since that time in order to degrade this task, in order to curtail the energy and scope of activity of the "workers' circles." If you are not amateurs enamoured of your primitive methods, what are you then? You clutch at your practicality, but you fail to see what every Russian practical worker knows, namely, the miracles that the energy, not only of circles, but even of individual persons is able to perform in the revolutionary cause. Or do you think that our movements cannot produce heroes like those that were produced by the movement in the seventies? If so, why do you think so? Because we lack training? But we are training ourselves, will train ourselves and we will be trained! Unfortunately it is true that scum has formed on the surface of the stagnant water of the "economic struggle against the employers and the government"; there are people among us who kneel in prayer to spontaneity, gazing with awe upon the "posteriors" of the Russian proletariat (as Plekhanov expresses it). But we will remove this scum. The time has come when Russian revolutionists, led by a genuine revolutionary theory, relying upon the genuinely revolutionary and spontaneously awakening class, can at last—at last!—rise to their full height and exert their giant strength to the utmost. All that is required in order that this may be so is that the masses of our practical workers and the still larger masses of those who dream of doing practical work even while still at school shall meet with scorn and ridicule any suggestion that may be made to degrade our political tasks, and to restrict the scope of our organisational work. And we will achieve that, don't you worry, gentlemen!

In the article, "Where to Begin," that I wrote in opposition to Rabocheye Dyelo, I said: "Tactics in relation to some special question, or in relation to some detail of party organisation may be changed in twenty-four hours; but views as to whether a militant organisation, and political agitation among the masses, is necessary at all times or not cannot be changed in twenty-four, or even in twenty-four months for that matter."[9] To this Rabocheye Dyelo, replied: "This is the only charge Iskra has levelled against us that claims to be based on facts, and even that is totally without foundation. Readers of Rabocheye Dyelo know very well that right from the outset we not only called for political agitation, without waiting for the appearance of Iskra[10] …" [and while doing you said that it was "impossible to impose on the mass labour movement, or on the workers' circles, the primary political task of overthrowing absolutism," that the only task they could carry out was to struggle for immediate political demands, and that "immediate political demands are understood by the masses after a strike, or at all events, after a few strikes"] "… but in the publications that we procured from abroad for the comrades working in Russia provided the only Social-Democratic political and agitational material …" [and this only Social-Democratic material, the only political agitation that was carried on by you at all widely, was based exclusively on the economic struggle, and you even went as far as to claim that this restricted agitation was "the most widely applicable." And you fail to observe, gentlemen, that your own arguments—that this was the only material provided—proves the necessity for Iskra's appearance, and proves how necessary it is for Iskra to oppose Rabocheye Dyelo]. "… On the other hand, our publishing activity really prepared the ground for the tactical unity of the party. …" [Unity in the conviction that tactics are a process of growth of party tasks that grow together with the party? A precious unity indeed!] "… and by that rendered possible the creation of a 'militant organisation' for which the League did all that an organisation abroad could do." [Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, p. 15.] A vain attempt at evasion! I would never dream of denying that you did all you possibly could. I have asserted and assert now, that the limits of what is "possible" for you to do are restricted by the narrowness of your outlook. It is ridiculous to talk about a "militant organisation" fighting for "immediate political demands," or conducting "the economic struggle against the employers and the government."

But if the reader wishes to see the pearls of Economist primitive methods, he must, of course, turn from the eclectic and vacillating Rabocheye Dyelo to the consistent and determined Rabochaya Mysl. In its Special Supplement, p. 13, R. M. wrote:

Now two words about the so..called revolutionary intelligentsia proper. It is true that on more than one occasion it proved that it was quite prepared to "enter into determined battle with tsarism!" The unfortunate thing, however, is, that, ruthlessly persecuted by the political police, our revolutionary intelligentsia imagined that the battle with this political police was a political struggle with the autocracy. That is why, to this day, it cannot understand "where the forces for the fight against the autocracy are to be obtained."

What matchless and magnificent contempt for the struggle with the police the worshippers (in the worst sense of the word) of the spontaneous movement display, do they not? They are prepared to justify our inability to organise secretly by the argument that with the spontaneous growth of the mass movement, it is not at all important for us to fight against the political police!! Not many are prepared to subscribe to this monstrous conclusion; our defects in revolutionary organisation has become too urgent a matter to permit them to do that. Martynov, for example, would also refuse to subscribe to this, but in his case it is only because he is unable, or lacks the courage, to think out his ideas to their logical conclusion. Indeed, does the "task" of prompting the masses to put forward concrete demands promising palpable results call for special efforts to create a stable, centralised, militant, organisation of revolutionists? Cannot such a "task" be carried out even by masses who do not "fight at all against the political police"? Moreover, can this task he fulfilled unless, in addition to the few leaders, it is undertaken by the workers (the overwhelming majority), who in fact are incapable of "fighting against the political police"? Such Workers, average people of the masses, are capable of displaying enormous energy and self-sacrifice in strikes and in street battles, with the police and troops, and are capable (in fact, are alone capable) of determining the whole outcome of our movement—but the struggle against the political police requires special qualities; it can be conducted only by professional revolutionists. And we must not only see to it that the masses "advance" concrete demands, but also that the masses of the workers "advance" an increasing number of such professional revolutionists from their own ranks. Thus we have reached the question of the relation between an organisation of professional revolutionists and the pure and simple labour movement. Although this question has found little reflection in literature, it has greatly engaged us "politicians," in conversations and controversies with those comrades who gravitate more or less towards Economism. It is a question that deserves special treatment. But before taking it up we shall deal with one other quotation in order to illustrate the position we hold in regard to the connection between primitiveness and Economism.

In his Reply, N. N. wrote: "The Emancipation of Labour group demands direct struggle against the government without first considering where the material forces for this struggle are to be obtained, and without indicating 'the path of the struggle.'" Emphasising the last words, the author adds the following footnote to the word "path": "This cannot be explained by the conspiratorial aims pursued, because the programme does not refer to secret plotting but to a mass movement. The masses cannot proceed by secret paths. Can we conceive of a secret strike? Can we conceive of secret demonstrations and petitions?" [Vademecum, p. 59.] Thus, the author approaches quite close to the question of the "material forces" (organisers of strikes and demonstrations) and to the "paths" of the struggle, but nevertheless, is still in a state of consternation, because he "worships" the mass movement, i. e., he regards it as something that relieves us of the necessity for carrying on revolutionary activity and not as something that should embolden us and stimulate our revolutionary activity. Secret strikes are impossible—for those who take a direct and immediate part in them, but a strike may remain (and in the majority of cases does remain) a "secret" to the masses of the Russian workers, because the government takes care to cut all communication between strikers, takes care to prevent all news of strikes from spreading. Now here indeed is a special "struggle against the political police" required, a struggle that can never be conducted by such large masses. as usually take part in strikes. Such a struggle must be organised, according to "all the rules of the art," by people who are professionally engaged in revolutionary activity. The fact that the masses are spontaneously entering the movement does not make the organisation of this struggle less necessary. On the contrary, it makes it more necessary; for we Socialists would be failing in our duty to the masses if we did not prevent the police from making a secret of (and if we did not ourselves sometimes secretly prepare) every strike and every demonstration. And we will succeed in doing this, precisely because the spontaneously awakening masses will also advance from their own ranks increasing numbers of "professional revolutionists" (that is, if we are not so foolish as to advise the workers to keep on marking time).

C. Organisation of Workers, and Organisation of

It is only natural that a Social-Democrat who conceives the political struggle as being identical with the "economic struggle against the employers and the government," should conceive "organisation of revolutionists" as being more or less identical with "organisation of workers." And this, in fact, is what actually happens; so that when we talk about organisation, we literally talk in different tongues. I recall a conversation I once had with a fairly consistent Economist, with whom I had not been previously acquainted. We were discussing the brochure Who Will Make the Political Revolution? and we were very soon agreed that the principal defect in that brochure was that it ignored the question of organisation. We were beginning to think that we were in complete agreement with each other—but as the conversation proceeded, it became clear that we were talking of different things. My interlocutor accused the author of the brochure just mentioned of ignoring strike funds, mutual-aid societies, etc.; whereas I had in mind an organisation of revolutionists, as an essential factor in "making" the political revolution. After that became clear, I hardly remember a single question of importance upon which I was in agreement with that Economist!

What was the source of our disagreement? It is the fact that on questions of organisation and politics the Economists are forever lapsing from Social-Democracy into trade unionism. The political struggle carried on by the Social-Democrats is far more extensive and complex than the economic struggle the workers carry on against the employers and the government. Similarly (and indeed for that reason), the organisation of revolutionary Social-Democrats must inevitably differ from the organisations of the workers designed for the latter struggle. The workers' organisations must in the first place be trade organisations; secondly, they must be as wide as possible; and thirdly, they must he as public as conditions will allow (here, of course, I have only autocratic Russia in mind). On the other hand, the organisations of revolutionists must he comprised first and foremost of people whose profession is that of revolutionists (that is why I speak of organisations of revolutionists, meaning revolutionary Social-Democrats). As this is the common feature of the members of such an organisation, all distinctions as between workers and intellectuals, and certainly distinctions of trade and profession, must be dropped. Such an organisation must of necessity be not too extensive and as secret as possible. Let us examine this three-fold distinction.

In countries where political liberty exists the distinction between a labour union and a political organisation is clear, as is the distinction between trade unions and Social-Democracy. The relation of the latter to the former will naturally vary in each country according to historical, legal and other conditions—it may be more or less close or more or less complex (in our opinion it should be as close and simple as possible); but trade-union organisations are certainly not in the least identical with the Social-Democratic party organisations in those countries. In Russia, however, the yoke of autocracy appears at first glance to obliterate all distinctions between a Social-Democratic organisation and trade unions, because all trade unions and all circles are prohibited, and because the principal manifestation and weapon of the workers' economic struggle—the strike—is regarded as a crime (and sometimes even as a political crime!). Conditions in our country, therefore, strongly "impel" the workers who are conducting the economic struggle to concern themselves with political questions. They also "impel" the Social-Democrats to confuse trade unionism with Social-Democracy (and our Krichevskys, Martynovs and their like, while speaking enthusiastically of the first kind of "impelling," fail to observe the "impelling" of the second kind) . Indeed, picture to yourselves the people who are immersed ninety-nine per cent in "the economic struggle against the employers and the government." Some of them never, during the whole course of their activity (four to six months), thought of the necessity for a more complex organisation of revolutionists; others, perhaps, come across the fairly widely distributed revisionist literature, from which they convince themselves of the profound importance of "the drab daily struggle." Still others will be carried away, perhaps, by the seductive idea of showing the world a new example of "close and organic contact with the proletarian struggle"—contact between the trade-union and Social-Democratic movements. Such people would perhaps argue that the later a country enters into the arena of capitalism, the more the Socialists in that country may take part in and support the trade-union movement, and the less reason is there for non-Social-Democratic trade unions. So far, the argument is absolutely correct; unfortunately, however, some go beyond that and hint at the complete fusion of Social-Democracy with trade unionism. We shall soon see, from the example of the statutes of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle, what a harmful effect this has upon our plans of organisation.

The workers' organisations for carrying on the economic struggle should be trade-union organisations; every Social-Democratic worker should, as far as possible, support and actively work inside these organisations. That is true. But it would he far from being to our interest to demand that only Social-Democrats be eligible for membership in the trade unions. The only effect of this, if it were attempted, would be to restrict our influence over the masses. Let every worker who understands the necessity for organisation, in order to carry on the struggle against the employers and the government, join the trade unions. The very objects of the trade unions would he unattainable unless they united all who have attained at least this elementary level of understanding, and unless they were extremely wide organisations. The wider these organisations are, the wider our influence over them will he. They will then be influenced not only by the "spontaneous" development of the economic struggle, hut also by the direct and conscious action of the Socialists on their comrades in the unions. But a wide organisation cannot he a strictly secret organisation (since the latter demands far greater training than is required for the economic struggle). How is the contradiction between the necessity for a large membership and the necessity for strictly secret methods to be reconciled? How are we to make the trade unions as public as possible? Generally speaking, there are perhaps only two ways to this end: Either the trade unions become legalised (which in some countries precedes the legalisation of the Socialist and political unions), or the .organisation is kept a secret one, hut so "free" and "loose" that the need for secret methods become almost negligible as far as the mass of the members are concerned.

!he legalisation of the non-Socialist and non-political labour unions in Russia has already begun, and there is no doubt that every advance our rapidly growing Social-Democratic working-class movement makes will increase and encourage the attempts at legalisation. These attempts proceed for the most part from supporters of the existing order, but they will proceed also from the workers themselves and from the liberal intellectuals. The banner of legality has already been unfurled by the Vassilyevs and the Zubatovs. Support has been promised by the Ozerovs and the Wormses; and followers of the new tendency are to be found even among the workers. Henceforth, we must reckon with this tendency. How are we to reckon with it? About this there can be no two opinions among Social-Democrats. We must constantly expose any part played in this movement by the Zubatovs and the Vassilyevs, the gendarmes and the priests, and explain to the workers what their intentions are. We must also expose the conciliatory, "harmonious" undertones that will be heard in the speeches delivered by liberal politicians at the legal meetings of the workers, irrespective whether they proceed from an earnest conviction as to the desirability of the peaceful co-operation of the classes, whether they proceed from a desire to curry favour with the employers, or are simply the result of not being able to do otherwise. We must also warn the workers against the traps often set by the police, who at such open meetings and permitted societies spy out the "hotheads," and who, through the medium of the legal organisations, endeavour to plant their agent-provocateurs in the illegal organisations.

But while doing all this, we must not forget that in the long run the legalisation of the working class movement will be to our advantage, and not to the Zubatovs. On the contrary, our campaign of exposure will help to separate the tares from the wheat. What the tares are, we have already indicated. By the wheat we mean attracting the attention of increasing numbers of the more backward sections of the workers to social and political questions, and to freeing ourselves, the revolutionists, from functions which are essentially legal (the distribution of legal books, mutual aid, etc.), the development of which will inevitably provide us with an increasing quantity of material for agitation. Looked at from this point of view, we may say, and we should say to the Zubatovs and the Ozerovs, "Keep at it, gentlemen, do your best!" We shall expose your efforts to place a trap in the path of the workers (either by way of direct provocation, or by the "honest" corruption of the workers with the aid of Struveism), but we shall be grateful for every real step forward even if it is timid and vacillating; we shall say: Please continue! A real step forward can only result in a real, if small, extension of the workers' field of action. And every such extension must be to our advantage and help to hasten the advent of legal societies, not of the kind in which agent-provacteurs hunt for Socialists, but of the kind in which Socialists will hunt for adherents. In a word, our task is to fight down the tares. It is not our business to grow wheat in flower-pots. By pulling up the tares, we clear the soil for the wheat. And while the old-fashioned folk are tending their flower-pot crops, we must prepare reapers, not only to cut down the tares of to-day, but also to reap the wheat of to-morrow.[11]

Legalisation, therefore, will not solve the problem of creating a trade-union organisation that will be as public and as extensive as possible (but we would be extremely glad if the Zubatovs and the Ozerovs provided even a partial opportunity for such a solution—to which end we must fight them as strenuously as possible!). There only remains the path of secret trade-union organisation; and we must offer every possible assistance to the workers, who (as we definitely know) have already adopted this path. Trade-union organisations may not only be of tremendous value in developing and consolidating the. economic struggle, but may also become a very useful auxiliary to the political, agitational and revolutionary organisations.

In order to achieve this purpose, and in order to guide the nascent trade-union movement in the direction the Social-Democrats desire, we must first fully understand the foolishness of the plan of organisation with which the St. Petersburg Economists have been occupying themselves for nearly five years. That plan is described in the Rules of a Workers' Fund, of July, 1897 [Listok Rabotnika, Nos. 9 and 10, p. 46, in Rabochaya Mysl, No. 1], and also in the Rules for a Trade Union Workers' Organisation, of October, 1900 [special leaflet printed in St. Petersburg and quoted in Iskra, No. 1]. The fundamental error contained in both these sets of rules is that they give a detailed formulation of a wide workers' organisation and confuse the latter with the organisation of revolutionists. Let us take the last-mentioned set of rules, since it is drawn up in greater detail. The body of it consists of fifty-two paragraphs. Twenty-three paragraphs deal with structure, the method of conducting business, and the competence of the "workers circles," which are to be organised in every factory ("not more than ten persons") and which elect "central (factory) groups." "The central group," says paragraph 2, "observes all that goes on in its factory or workshop and keeps a record of events. …" "The central group presents to the contributors a monthly report on the state of the funds" (Par. 17), etc. Ten paragraphs are devoted to the "district organisation" and nineteen to the highly complex connection between the Committee of the Workers' Organisation and the Committee of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle (elected by each district and by the "executive groups"—"groups of propagandists for maintaining contact with the provinces and with exiles abroad, and for managing stores, publications and funds").

Social-Democracy—"executive groups" connected with the economic struggle of the workers! It would be difficult to find a m striking illustration than this of how far the Economists' ideas deviate from Social-Democracy on the question of trade unionism and how foreign to them is the idea that a Social-Democrat must concern himself first and foremost with an organisation of revolutionists, capable of guiding the whole proletarian struggle for emancipation. To talk of "the political emancipation of the working class" and the struggle against "tsarist despotism," and at the same time to write statutes like these, indicates a complete failure to understand what the real political tasks of the Social-Democrats are. Not one of the fifty or so paragraphs reveals the slightest glimmer of understanding that it is necessary to conduct the widest possible political agitation among the masses, an agitation that deals with every phase of Russian absolutism, and with every aspect of the various social classes in Russia. Rules like these are of no use even for the achievement of trade union aims, quite apart from political aims, for that requires organisation according to trade, and yet the rules do not contain a single reference to this.

But most characteristic of all, perhaps, is the amazing top-heaviness of the whole "system," which attempts to unite every factory with the "committee" by a long string of uniform and ludicrously petty rules and a three-stage system of election. Hemmed in by the narrow outlook of Economism, the mind is lost in details which positively reek of red tape and bureaucracy. In practice, of course, three-fourths of the clauses are impossible of application; moreover, a "conspiratorial" organisation of this kind, with its central group in each factory, will render the work of the gendarmes extraordinarily easy. Our Polish comrades have already passed through a similar phase in their own movement, when everybody was extremely enthusiastic about the extensive organisation of workers' funds; but these ideas were very quickly abandoned when it was found that the funds only provided rich harvests for the gendarmes. If we are out for wide workers' organisations, and not for wide arrests, if it is not our purpose to provide satisfaction to the gendarmes, these organisations must remain absolutely loose and not bound by any strict rules. … But will they be able to function? Well, let us see what the functions are: "… To observe all that goes on in the factory and keep a record of events" (Par. 2 of the Rules). Must that really be formulated in a set of rules? Could not the purpose be better served by correspondence conducted in the illegal papers and without setting up special groups? "… To lead the struggles of the workers for the improvement of their workshop conditions" (Par. 3 of the Rules). This, too, need not be strictly formulated. Any agitator with any intelligence at all can gather what the demands of the workers are in the course of ordinary conversation and transmit them to a narrow—not a wide—organisation of revolutionists to be embodied in a leaflet; "… To organise a fund … to which contributions of two kopecks per ruble[12] should be made (Par. 9) … to present monthly reports to the contributors on the state of the funds (Par. 17) … to expel members who fail to pay their contributions (Par. 10), and so forth. Why, this is a very paradise for the police; for nothing would be easier than for them to penetrate into the ponderous secrecy of a "central factory fund," confiscate the money and arrest the best members. Would it not be simpler to issue one-kopeck or two-kopeck coupons hearing the official stamp of a well-known (very exclusive and secret) organisation, or to make collections without coupons of any kind and to print reports in a certain agreed code in the legal paper? The object would thereby be attained, but it would be a hundred times more difficult for the gendarmes to pick up clues.

I could go on analysing the rules, hut I think that what has been said will suffice. A small, compact core, consisting of reliable, experienced and hardened workers, with responsible agents in the principal districts and connected by all the rules of strict secrecy with the organisations of revolutionists, can, with the wide support of the masses and without an elaborate set of rules, perform all the functions of a trade-union organisation, and perform them, moreover, in the manner Social-Democrats desire. Only in this way can we secure the consolidation and development of a Social-Democratic trade-union movement, in spite of the gendarmes.

It may be objected that an organisation which is so loose that it is not even formulated, and which even has no enrolled and registered members, cannot be called an organisation at all. That may very well be. I am not out for names. But this "organisation without members" can do everything that is required, and will, from the very outset, guarantee the closest contact between our future trade unionists and Socialism. Only an incorrigible utopian would want a wide organisation of workers, with elections, reports, universal suffrage, etc., under autocracy.

The moral to be drawn from this is a simple one. If we begin with the solid foundation of a strong organisation of revolutionists, we can guarantee the stability of the movement as a whole, carry out the aims of both Social-Democracy and of trade unionism. If, however, we begin with a wide workers' organisation, supposed to he most "accessible" to the masses, when as a matter of fact a will be most accessible to the gendarmes, and will make the revolutionists most accessible to the police, we shall neither achieve the aims of Social-Democracy nor of trade unionism; we shall not escape from our primitiveness, and because we constantly remain scattered and dispersed, we shall make only the trade unions the Zubatov and Ozerov type most accessible to the masses.

What should be the functions of the organisation of revolutionists? We shall deal with this in detail. But first let us examine a very typical argument advanced by the terrorist, who (sad fate!) in this matter also is in the same boat as the Economist. Svoboda—a journal published especially for working men—in its first number, contains an article entitled "Organisation," the author of which tries to defend his friends the Economist workers of Ivanovo-Voznesensk. He writes:

It is a bad thing when the crowd is mute and unenlightened, and when the movement does not proceed from the rank and file. For instance, the students of a university town leave for their homes during the summer and other vacations and immediately the movement comes to a standstill. Can such a workers' movement which has to be pushed on from outside be a real force? Of course not! It has not yet learned to walk, it is still in leading strings. So it is everywhere. The students go off, and everything comes to a standstill. As soon as the cream is skimmed—the milk turns sour. If the "committee" is arrested, everything comes to a standstill until a new one can he formed. And, one never knows what sort of a committee will be set up next—it may be nothing like the former one. The first preached one thing, the second may preach the very opposite. The continuity between yesterday and to-morrow is broken, the experience of the past does not enlighten the future. And all this is because no deep roots have been struck, roots in the crowd; because, instead of having a hundred fools at work, we have ten wise men. Ten wise men can be caught up at a snap; but when the organisation embraces the crowd, everything will proceed from the crowd, and nobody, however zealous, can stop the cause [p. 63].

The facts are described correctly. The above quotation presents a fairly good picture of our primitive methods. But the conclusions drawn from it are worthy of the Rabochaya Mysl, both for their stupidity and their political tactlessness. They represent the height of stupidity, because the author confused the philosophical and social-historical question of the "depth" of the "roots" of the movement with the technical and organisational question of the best method of fighting the gendarmes. They represent the height of political tactlessness, because the author, instead of appealing from the bad leaders to the good leaders, appeals from the leaders in general to the "crowd." This is as much an attempt to drag the movement back organisationally, as the idea of substituting political agitation by excitative terrorism is an attempt to drag it back politically.

Indeed, I am experiencing a veritable embarras de richesses, and hardly know where to begin to disentangle the confusion Svoboda has introduced in this subject. For the sake of clarity, we shall begin by quoting an example. Take the Germans. It will not be denied, I hope, that the German organisations embrace the crowd, that in Germany everything proceeds from the crowd, that the working-class movement there has learned to walk. Yet, observe how this vast crowd of millions values its "dozen" tried political leaders, how firmly it clings to them! Members of the hostile parties in parliament often tease the Socialists by exclaiming: "Fine democrats you are indeed! Your movement is a working-class movement only in name; as a matter of fact it is the same clique of leaders that is always in evidence; Bebel and Liebknecht, year in and year out, and that goes on for decades. Your deputies are supposed to be elected from among the workers, but they are more permanent than the officials appointed by the Emperor!" But the Germans only smile with contempt at these demagogic attempts to set the "crowd" against the "leaders," to arouse turbid and vain instincts in the former, and to rob the movement of its solidity and stability by undermining the confidence of the masses in their "dozen of wise men." The political ideas of the Germans have already developed sufficiently, and they have acquired enough political experience to enable them to understand that without the "dozen" of tried and talented leaders (and talented men are not born by hundreds), professionally trained, schooled by long experience working in perfect harmony, no class in modern society is capable of conducting a determined struggle. Numerous demagogues in Germany have flattered the "hundred fools," exalted them above the "dozen of wise men," extolled the "mighty fists" of the masses, (like Most and Hasselmann) have spurred them on to reckless "revolutionary" action and sown distrust towards the tried and trusted leaders. It was only by stubbornly and bitterly combating every symptom of demagogy within the Socialist movement that German Socialism managed to grow and become as strong as it is. Our wiseacres, however, at the very moment when Russian Social-Democracy is passing through a crisis entirely due to our lack of a sufficient number of trained, developed and experienced leaders to guide the spontaneous ferment of the masses, cry out with the profundity of fools, "it is a bad business when the movement does not proceed from the rank and file."

"A committee of students is no good, it is not stable." Quite true. But the conclusion that should be drawn from this is that we must have a committee of professional revolutionists and a does not matter whether a student or a worker is capable of qualifying himself as a professional revolutionist. The conclusion you draw, however, is that the working-class movement must not be pushed on from outside! In your political innocence you fail to observe that you are playing into the hands of our Economists and furthering our primitiveness. I would like to ask, what is meant by the students "pushing on" the workers? All it means is that the students bring to the worker the fragments of political knowledge they possess, the crumbs of Socialist ideas they have managed in acquire (for the principal intellectual diet of the present-day student, legal Marxism, can furnish only the A. B. C., only the crumbs of knowledge). Such "pushing on from outside" can never be too excessive; on the contrary, so far there has been too little, all too little of it in our movement; we have been stewing in our own juice far too long; we have bowed far too slavishly before the spontaneous "economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government." We professional revolutionists must continue, and will continue, this kind of "pushing," and a hundred times more forcibly than we have done hitherto. The very fact that you select so despicable a phrase as "pushing on from outside"—a phrase which cannot but rouse in the workers (at least in the workers who are as ignorant as you are yourselves) a sense of distrust towards all who bring them political knowledge and revolutionary experience from outside, and rouse in them an instinctive hostility to such people—proves that you are demagogues—and a demagogue is the worst enemy of the working class.

Oh! Don't start howling about my "uncomradely methods" of controversy. I have not the least intention of casting aspersions upon the purity of your intentions. As I have already said, one may be a demagogue out of sheer political innocence. But I have shown that you have descended to demagogy, and I shall never tire of repeating that demagogues are the worst enemies of the working class. They are the worst enemies of the working class because they arouse bad instincts in the crowd, because the ignorant worker is unable to recognise his enemies in men who represent themselves, and sometimes sincerely represent themselves, to he his friends. They are the worst enemies of the working class, because in this period of doubt and hesitation, when our movement is only just beginning to take shape, nothing is easier than to employ demagogic methods to side-track the crowd, which can realise its mistake only by bitter experience. That is why Russian Social-Democrats at the present time must declare determined opposition to Svoboda and the Rabocheye Dyelo which have sunk to the level of demagogy. We shall return to this subject again.[13]

"A dozen wise men can he more easily caught than a hundred fools!" This wonderful truth (which the hundred fools will applaud) appears obvious only because in the very midst of the argument you have skipped fro:m one question to another. You began by talking, and continued to talk, of catching a "committee," of catching an "organisation," and now you skip to the question of getting hold of the "roots" of the movement in the "depths." The fact is, of course, that our movement cannot be caught precisely because it has hundreds and hundreds of thousands of roots deep down among the masses, but that is not the point we are discussing. As far as "roots in the depths" are concerned, we cannot be "caught" even now, in spite of all our primitiveness; but, we all complain, and cannot but complain, of the ease with which the organisations can be caught, with the result that it is impossible to maintain continuity in the movement. If you agree to discuss the question of catching the organisations, and to stick to that question, then I assert that it is far more difficult to catch ten wise men than it is to a hundred fools. And this premise I shall defend no matter how much you instigate the crowd against me for my "anti-democratic" views, etc. As I have already said, by "wise men," in connection with organisation, I mean professional revolutionists, irrespective of whether they are students or working men. I assert: 1. That no movement can be durable without a stable organisation of leaders to maintain continuity; 2. that the more widely the masses are drawn into the struggle and form the basis of the movement, the more necessary is it to have such an organisation and the more stable it be (for it is much easier then for demagogues to side-track the more backward sections of the masses); 3. that the organisation must consist chiefly of persons engaged in revolution as a profession; 4. that in a country with a despotic government, the more we restrict the membership of this organisation to persons who are engaged in revolution as a profession and who have been professionally trained in the art of combating the political police, the more difficult will it be to catch the organisation; and 5. the wider will be the circle of men and women of the working class or of other classes of society able to join the movement and perform active work in it.

I invite our Economists, terrorists and "Economists-terrorists"[14] to confute these premises. At the moment, I shall deal only with the last two points. The question as to whether it is easier to catch "a dozen wise men" or "a hundred fools," in the last analysis, amounts to the question we have considered above, namely, whether it is possible to have a mass organisation when the maintenance of strict secrecy is essential. We can never give a mass organisation that degree of secrecy which is essential for the persistent and continuous struggle against the government. But to concentrate all secret functions in the hands of as small a number of professional revolutionists as possible, does not mean that the latter will "do the thinking for all" and that the crowd will not take an active part in the movement. On the contrary, the crowd will advance from its ranks increasing numbers of professional revolutionists, for it will know that it is not enough for a few students and workingmen waging economic war to gather together and form a "committee," but that professional revolutionists must he trained for years; the crowd will "think" not of primitive ways but of training professional revolutionists. The centralisation of the secret functions of the organisation does not mean the concentration of all the functions of the movement. The active participation of the greatest masses in the dissemination of illegal literature will not diminish because a dozen professional revolutionists concentrate in their hands the secret part of the work; on the contrary, it will increase tenfold. Only in this way will the reading of illegal literature, the contribution to illegal literature, and to some extent even the distribution of illegal literature almost cease to be secret Work, for the police will soon come to realise the folly and futility of setting the whole judicial and administrative machine into motion to intercept every copy of a publication that is being broadcast in thousands. This applies not only to the press, hut to every function of the movement, even to demonstrations. The active and widespread participation of the masses will not suffer; on the contrary, it will benefit by the fact that a "dozen" experienced revolutionists, no less professionally trained than the police, will concentrate all the secret side of the work in their hands—prepare leaflets, work out approximate plans and appoint bodies of leaders for each town district, for each factory district, and for each educational institution (I know that exception will be taken to :my "undemocratic" views, but I shall reply to this altogether unintelligent objection later on). The centralisation of the more secret functions in an organisation of revolutionists will not diminish, but rather increase the extent and the quality of the activity of a large number of other organisations intended for wide membership and which, therefore, can be as loose and as public as possible, for example, trade unions, workers' circles for self-education, and the reading of illegal literature, and Socialist, and also democratic, circles for all other sections of the population, etc., etc. We must have as large a number as possible of such organisations having the widest possible variety of functions, but it is absurd and dangerous to confuse these with organisations of revolutionists, to erase the line of demarcation between them, to dim still more the already incredibly hazy appreciation by the masses that to "serve" the mass movement we must have people who will devote themselves exclusively to Social-Democratic activities, and that such people must train themselves patiently and steadfastly to be professional revolutionists.

Aye, this consciousness has become incredibly dim. The most grievous sin we have committed in regard to organisation is that by our primitiveness we have lowered the prestige of revolutionists in Russia. A man who is weak and vacillating on theoretical questions, who has a narrow outlook, who makes excuses for his own slackness on the ground that the masses are awakening spontaneously, who resembles a trade-union secretary more than a people's tribune, who is unable to conceive a broad and bold plan, who is incapable of inspiring even his enemies with respect for himself and who is inexperienced and clumsy in his own professional art—the art of combating the political police—such a man is not a revolutionist but a hopeless amateur!

Let no active worker take offence at these frank remarks, for as far as insufficient training is concerned, I apply them and foremost to myself. I used to work in a circle that set itself a great and all-embracing task: and every member of that suffered to the point of torture from the realisation that we were proving ourselves to be amateurs at a moment in history when we might have been able to say—paraphrasing a well-known epigram: "Give us an organisation of revolutionists, and we shall overturn the whole of Russia!" And the more I recall the burning sense of shame I then experienced, the more bitter are my feelings towards those pseudo-Social-Democrats whose teachings bring disgrace on the calling of a revolutionist, who fail to understand that our task is not to degrade the revolutionist to the level of an amateur, but to exalt the amateur to the level of a revolutionist.

D. The Scope of Organisational Work

We have already heard from B-v about "the lack of revolutionary forces fit for action which is felt not only in St. Petersburg, but over the whole of Russia." No one, we suppose, will dispute this fact. But the question is, how is it to be explained? B-v writes:

We shall not enter in detail into the historical causes of this phenomenon; we shall state merely that a society demoralised by prolonged political reaction and split by past and present economic changes, advances from its own ranks an extremely small number of persons fit for revolutionary work; that the working class does of course advance from its own ranks revolutionary whorkers who to some extent pass into the ranks of the illegal organisations, but the number of such revolutionists are inadequate to meet the requirements of the times. This is more particularly the case because the workers engaged for eleven and a half hours a day in the factory may perhaps be able to fulfil mainly the functions of an agitator; but propaganda and organisation, delivery and reproduction of illegal literature, issuing leaflets, etc., are duties which must necessarily fall mainly upon the shoulders of an extremely small intelligent force. [Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 6, pp. 38–39.]

There are many points in the above upon which we disagree with B-v, particularly with those points we have emphasised, and which most strikingly reveal that, although suffering (as every practical worker who thinks over the position would be) from our primitive methods, B-v cannot, because he is so ground down by Economism, find the way out of this intolerable situation. It is not true to say that society advances from its ranks few persons fit for "work." It advances very many but we are unable to make use of them all. The critical, transitional state of our movement in this connection may be formulated as follows: There are no people—yet there are enormous numbers of people. There are enormous numbers of people, because the working class and the most diverse strata of society, year after year, advance from their ranks an increasing number of discontented people who desire to protest, who are ready to render effective aid in the fight against absolutism, the intolerableness of which is not yet recognised by all, but is nevertheless more and more acutely sensed by increasing masses of the people. At the same time we have no people, because we have no political leaders, we have no talented organisers capable of organising extensive and at the- same time uniform and harmonious work that would give employment to all forces, even the most inconsiderable. "The growth and development of revolutionary organisations" not only lag behind the growth of the labour movement, which even B-v admits, but also behind the general democratic movement among all strata of the people (in passing, probably B-v would now admit this supplement to his conclusion). The scope of revolutionary work is too narrow compared with the breadth of the spontaneous basis of the movement. It is too hemmed in by the wretched theory about the "economic struggle against the employers and the government." And yet, at the present time, not only Social-Democratic political agitators, but also Social-Democratic organisers must "go among all classes of the population."[15]

There is hardly a single practical worker, we think, who would have any doubt about the ability of Social-Democrats to distribute the thousand-and-one minute functions of their organisational work among the various representatives of the most varied classes. Lack of specialisation is one of our most serious technical defects, about which B-v justly and bitterly complains. The smaller each separate "operation" in our common cause will be, the more people we shall find capable of carrying out such operations (who, in the majority of cases, are not capable of becoming professional revolutionists), the more difficult will it he for the police to "catch" all these "detail workers," and the more difficult will it he for them. to frame up, out of an arrest for some petty affair, a "case" that would justify the government's expenditure on the "secret service." As for the number ready to help us, we have already in the previous chapter referred to the gigantic change that has taken place in this respect in the last five years or so. On the other hand, in order to unite all these tiny fractions into one whole, in order to avoid breaking the movement up into fragments, in breaking up functions, and in order to imbue those who carry out these minute functions with the conviction of the necessity for and importance of their work, without which they will never do the work,[16] it is necessary to have an organisation of tried revolutionists. If we had such an organisation, the more secret it would be, the stronger and more widespread would be the confidence of the masses in the party, and, as we know, in time of war, it is not only of great importance to imbue one's own adherents with confidence in the strength of one's army, but also the enemy and all neutral elements; friendly neutrality may sometimes decide the outcome of the battle. If such an organisation existed on a firm theoretical basis, and possessed a Social-Democratic journal, we would have no reason to fear that the movement will he diverted from its path by the numerous "outside" elements that will he attracted to it. (On the contrary, it is precisely at the present time, when primitive methods prevail among us, that many Social-Democrats are observed to gravitate towards the Credo, imagining that they alone are Social-Democrats.) In a word, specialisation necessarily presupposes centralisation, and in its turn imperatively calls for it.

But B-v himself, who has so excellently described the necessity for specialisation, underestimates its importance, in our opinion, in the second part of the argument that we have quoted. The number of working-class revolutionists is inadequate, he says. This is absolutely true, and once again we emphasise that the "valuable communication of a close observer" fully confirms our view of causes of the present crisis in Social-Democracy, and, consequent confirms our view of the means for removing these causes. Not only revolutionists, in general, but even working-class revolutionists lag behind the spontaneous awakening of the working masses. And this fact most strikingly confirms, even from the "practical" point-of-view, not only the absurdity but even the political reactionariness of the "pedagogics" to which we are so often treated when discussing our duties to the workers. This fact proves that our very first and most imperative duty is to help to train working-class revolutionists who will be on the same level in regard to party activity as intellectual revolutionists (we emphasise the words "in regard to party activity," because although it is necessary, it is not so easy and not so imperative to bring the workers up to the level of intellectuals in other respects). Therefore, attention must be devoted principally to the task of raising the workers to the level of revolutionists, but without, in doing so, necessarily degrading ourselves to the level of the "labouring masses," as the Economists wish to do, or necessarily to the level of the average worker, as Svoboda desires to do (and by this, raises itself to the second grade of Economists "pedagogics"). I am far from denying the necessity for popular literature for the workers, and especially popular (but, of course, not vulgar) literature for the especially backward workers. But what annoys me is that pedagogics are confused with questions of politics and organisation. You, gentlemen, who talk so much about the "average worker," as a matter of fact, rather insult the workers by your desire to talk down to them, to stoop to them when discussing labour politics or labour organisation. Talk about serious things in a serious manner; leave pedagogics to the pedagogues, and not to politicians and to organisers! Are there not advanced people, "average people," and "masses," among the intelligentsia? Does not every one recognise that popular literature is required for the intelligentsia and is not such literature written? Just imagine some one, in an article on organising college or high-school students, repeating over and over again, as if he had made a new discovery, that first of all we must have an organisation of "average students." The author of such an article would rightly be laughed at. He will be told: Give us an organisation idea, if you have one, and we ourselves will settle the question as to which of us are "average," as to who is higher and who is lower. But if you have no organisational ideas of your own, then all your chatter about "masses" and "average" is just simply boring. Try to understand that these questions about "politics" and "organisation" are so serious in themselves that they cannot he dealt with in any other but a serious way: We can and must educate workers (and university and high-school students) so as to enable them to understand us when we speak to them about these questions; and when you come to talk about these questions to us give us real replies to them, do not fall back on the "average," or on the "masses"; don't evade them by quoting adages or mere phrases.[17]

In order to be fully prepared for his task, the working-class revolutionist must also become a professional revolutionist. Hence B-v is wrong when he says that as the worker is engaged for 11½ hours a day in the factory, therefore the brunt of all the other revolutionary functions (apart from agitation) "must necessarily fall mainly upon the shoulders of an extremely small intellectual force." It need not "necessarily" be so. It is so because we are backward, because we do not recognise our duty to assist every capable worker to become a professional agitator, organiser, propagandist, literature distributor, etc., etc. In this respect, we waste our strength in a positively shameful manner; we lack the ability to husband that which requires to be so carefully tended in order that it may grow. Look at the Germans: they have a hundred times more forces than we have. But they understand perfectly well that the "average" does not too frequently promote really capable agitators, etc., from its ranks. Hence, immediately they get a capable Workingman, they try to place him in such conditions as will enable him to develop and apply his abilities to the utmost: he is made a professional agitator, he is encouraged to widen the field of his activity, to spread it from one factory to the whole of his trade, from one locality to the whole country. He acquires experience and dexterity in his profession, his outlook becomes wider, his knowledge increases, he observes the prominent political leaders from other localities and other parties, he strives to rise to their level and combine within himself the knowledge of working-class environment and freshness of Socialist convictions with professional skill, without which the proletariat cannot carry on a stubborn struggle with the excellently trained enemy. Only in this way can men of the stamp of Bebel and Auer be promoted from the ranks of the working class. But what takes place very largely automatically in a politically free country, must in Russia be done deliberately and systematically by our organisations. A workingman who is at all talented and "promising," must not be left to work eleven hours a day in a factory. We must arrange that he he maintained by the party, that he may in due time go underground, that he change the place of his activity, otherwise he will not enlarge his experience, he will not widen his outlook, and will not be able to stay in the fight against the gendarmes for several years. As the spontaneous rise of the labouring masses becomes wider and deeper, it not only promotes from its ranks an increasing number of talented agitators but also of talented organisers, propagandists, and "practical workers" in the best sense of the term (of whom there are so few among our intelligentsia). In the majority of cases, the latter are somewhat careless and sluggish in their habits (so characteristic of Russians). When we shall have detachments of specially trained working-class revolutionists who have gone through long years of preparation (and, of course, revolutionists "of all arms") no political police in the world will be able to contend against them, for these detachments will consist of men absolutely devoted and loyal to the revolution, and will themselves enjoy the absolute confidence and devotion of the broad masses of the workers. The sin we commit is that we do not sufficiently "stimulate" the workers to take this path, "common" to them and to the "intellectuals," of professional revolutionary training, and that we too frequently drag them back by our silly speeches about what "can be understood" by the masses of the workers, by the "average workers," etc.

In this, as in other cases, the narrowness of our field of organisational work is without a doubt inherently due (although the overwhelming majority of the Economists and the novices in practical work refuse to recognise it) to the fact that we restrict our theories and our political tasks to a narrow field. Subservience to spontaneity seems to inspire a fear to take even one step away from what "can be understood" by the masses, a fear to rise too high above mere subservience to the immediate requirements of the masses. Have no fear, gentlemen! Remember that we stand so low on the plane of organisation, that the very idea that we could rise too high is absurd!

E. "Conspirative" Organisation and "Democracy"

There are many people among us who are so sensitive to the "voice of life" that they fear that voice more than anything in the world, and accuse those, who adhere to the views here expounded, of Narodovolism,[18] of failing to understand "democracy," etc. We must deal with these accusations, which, of course, have been echoed by Rabocheye Dyelo.

The writer of these lines knows very well that the St. Petersburg Economists accused the Rabochaya Gazeta of being Narodovolist (which is quite understandable when one compares it with Rabochaya Mysl). We were not in the least surprised, therefore, when, soon after the appearance of Iskra, a comrade informed us that the Social-Democrats in the town of X describe Iskra as a Narodovolist journal. We, of course, were flattered by this accusation, because the Economists would charge every real Social-Democrat with being a Narodovolist. These accusations are called forth by a two-fold misunderstanding. Firstly, the history of the revolutionary movement is so little understood among us that the very idea of a militant centralised organisation which declares a determined war upon tsarism is described as Narodovolist. But the magnificent organisation that the revolutionists had in the seventies and which should us all as a model, was not formed by the Narodovolists, but the adherents of Zemlya i Volya, who split up into Chernoperedeltsi [Black Redistributionists—i. e., of the land.—Ed.] and Narodovolists. Consequently, to regard a militant revolutionary organisation as something specifically Narodovolist is absurd both historically and logically, because no revolutionary tendency, if it seriously thinks of fighting, can dispense with such an organisation. But the mistake the Narodovolists committed was that they strove to recruit to their organisation all the discontented, and to hurl this organisation into the battle against the autocracy; on the contrary, that was their great historical merit Their mistake was that they relied on a theory which in substance was not a revolutionary theory at all, and they either did not know how, or circumstances did not permit them, to link up their movement inseparably with the class struggle that went on within developing capitalist society. And only a gross failure to understand Marxism (or an "understanding" of it in the spirit of Struveism) could give rise to the opinion that the rise of a mass, spontaneous labour movement relieves us of the duty of creating as good an organisation of revolutionists as Zemlya i Volya had in its time, and even a better one. On the contrary, this movement imposes this duty upon us, because the spontaneous struggle of the proletariat will not become a genuine "class struggle" until it is led by a strong organisation of revolutionists.

Secondly, many, including apparently B. Krichevsky [Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, p. 18] misunderstand the polemics that Social-Democrats have always waged against the "conspiratorial" view on the political struggle. We have always protested, and will, course, continue to protest against restricting the political struggle, to conspiracies.[19] But this does not of course mean that we deny the necessity of a strong revolutionary organisation. And in the pamphlet mentioned in the footnote below, after the polemics against reducing the political struggle to a conspiracy, a description is given (as a Social-Democratic ideal) of an organisation so strong as to be able to resort to "rebellion" and to "every other form of attack,"[20] in order to "deliver a smashing blow against absolutism." The form a strong revolutionary organisation like that may take in an autocratic country may he described as a "conspirative" organisation, because the French word "conspiration" means in Russian "conspiracy," and we must have the utmost conspiracy for an organisation like that.[21] Secrecy is such a necessary condition for such an organisation that all the other conditions (number and selection of members, functions, etc.) must all be subordinated to it. It would be extremely naïve indeed, therefore, to fear the accusation that we Social-Democrats desire to create a conspirative organisation. Such an accusation would be as flattering to every opponent of Economism as the accusation of being followers of Narodovolism would be.

Against us it is argued: Such a powerful and strictly secret organisation, which concentrates in its hands all the threads of secret activities, an organisation which of necessity must be a centralised organisation, may too easily throw itself into a premature attack, may thoughtlessly intensify the movement before political discontent, the ferment and anger of the working class, etc., are sufficiently ripe for it. To this we reply: Speaking abstractly, it cannot be denied, of course, that a militant organisation may thoughtlessly commence a battle, which may end in defeat, which might have been avoided under other circumstances. But we cannot confine ourselves to abstract reasoning on such a question, because every battle bears within itself the abstract possibility of defeat, and there is no other way of reducing this possibility to a minimum than by organised preparation for battle. If, however, we base our argument on the concrete conditions prevailing in Russia at the present time, we must come to the positive conclusion that a strong revolutionary organisation is absolutely necessary precisely for the purpose of giving firmness to the movement, and of safeguarding it against the possibility of its making premature attacks. It is precisely at the present time, when no such organisation exists yet, and when the revolutionary movement is rapidly and spontaneously growing, that we already observe two opposite extremes (which, as is to be expected, "meet") i. e., absolutely unsound Economism and the preaching of moderation, and equally unsound "excitative terror," which strives artificially to "call forth symptoms of its end in a movement that is developing and becoming strong, but which is as yet nearer to its beginning than to its end" [V. Zasulich, in Zarya, Nos. 2–3, p. 353]. And the example of Rabocheye Dyelo shows that there are already Social-Democrats who give way to both these extremes. This is not surprising because, apart from other reasons, the "economic struggle against the employers and the government" can never satisfy revolutionists, and because opposite extremes will always arise here and there. Only a centralised, militant organisation, that consistently carries out a Social-Democratic policy, that satisfies, so to speak, all revolutionary instincts and strivings, can safeguard the movement against making thoughtless attacks and prepare it for attacks that hold out the promise of success.

It is further argued against us that the views on organisation here expounded contradict the principles of democracy. Now while the first mentioned accusation was of purely Russian origin, this one is of purely foreign origin. And only an organisation abroad (the League of Russian Social-Democrats) would be capable of giving its editorial board instructions like the fallowing:

Principles of Organisation. In order to secure the successful development and unification of Social-Democracy, broad democratic principles of party organisation must be emphasised, developed and fought for; and this is particularly necessary in view of the anti-democratic tendencies that have become revealed in the ranks of our party. [Two Congresses, p. 18.]

We shall see how Rabocheye Dyelo fights against Iskra's "anti-democratic tendencies" in the next chapter. Here we shall more closely the "principle" that the Economists advance. Every one will probably agree that "broad principles of democracy" presupposes the two following conditions: first, full publicity and second, election to all functions. It would be absurd to speak about democracy without publicity, that is a publicity that extends beyond the circle of the membership of the organisation. We call the German Socialist Party a democratic organisation because all it does is done publicly; even its party congresses are held in public. But no one would call an organisation that is hidden from every one but its members by a veil of secrecy, a democratic organisation. What is the use of advancing "broad principles of democracy" when the fundamental condition for this principle cannot be fulfilled by a secret organisation. "Broad principles" turns out to be a resonant, but hollow phrase. More than that, this phrase proves that the urgent tasks in regard to organisation are totally misunderstood. Every one knows how great is the lack of secrecy among the "broad" masses of revolutionists. We have heard the bitter complaints of B-v on this score, and his absolutely just demand for a "strict selection of members" [Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 6, p. 42]. And yet people who boast about their "sensitiveness to life" come forward in a situation like this and urge that strict secrecy and a strict (and therefore more restricted) selection of members is unnecessary, and that what is necessary are—"broad principles of democracy"! This is what we call being absolutely wide of the mark.

Nor is the situation with regard to the second attribute of democracy, namely, the principle of election, any better. In politically free countries, this condition is taken for granted. "Membership of the party is open to those who accept the principles of the party programme, and render all the support they can to the party"—says paragraph 1 of the rules of the German Social-Democratic Party. And as the political arena is as open to the public view as is the stage in a theatre, this acceptance or non-acceptance, support or opposition is announced to all in the press and at public meetings. Every one knows that a certain political worker commenced in a certain way, passed through a certain evolution, behaved in difficult periods in a certain way; every one knows all his qualities, and consequently, knowing all the facts of the case, every party member can decide for himself whether or not to elect this person for a certain party office. The general control (in the literal sense of the term) that the party exercises over every act this person commits on the political field brings into being an automatically operating mechanism which brings about what in biology is called "survival of the fittest." "Natural selection," full publicity, the principle of election and general control provide the guarantee that, in the last analysis, every political worker will be "in his proper place," will do the work for which he is best fitted, will feel the effects of his mistakes on himself, and prove before all the world his ability to recognise mistakes and to avoid them.

Try to put this picture in the frame of our autocracy! Is it possible in Russia for all those "who accept the principles of the party programme and render it all the support they can," to control every action of the revolutionist working in secret? Is it possible for all the revolutionists to elect one of their number to any particular office when, in the very interests of the work, he must conceal his identity from nine out of ten of these "all"? Ponder a little over the real meaning of the high-sounding phrases that Rabocheye Dyelo gives utterance to, and you will realise that "broad democracy" in party organisation, amidst the gloom of autocracy and the domination of the gendarmes, is nothing more than a useless and harmful toy. It is a useless toy, because as a matter of fact, no revolutionary organisation has ever practiced broad democracy, nor could it, however much it desired to do so. It is a harmful toy, because any attempt to practice the "broad principles of democracy" will simply facilitate the work of the police in making big raids, it will perpetuate the prevailing primitiveness, divert the thoughts of the practical workers from the serious and i~nperative task of training themselves to become professional revolutionists to that drawing up detailed "paper" rules for election systems. Only abroad, where very often people who have no opportunity of doing real live work gather together, can the "game of democracy" he played here and there, especially in small groups.

In order to show how ugly Rabocheye Dyelo's favourite trick is of advancing the plausible principle of democracy in revolutionary affairs, we shall again call a witness. This witness, E. Serebryakov, the editor of the London magazine, Nakanunye [On the Eve] has a tenderness for Rabocheye Dyelo, and is filled with hatred against Plekhanov and the Plekhanovists. In articles that it published on the split in the League of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad, Nakanunye definitely took the side of Rabocheye Dyelo, and poured a stream of atrocious abuse upon Plekhanov. But this only makes this witness all the more valuable for us on this question. In No. 7 of Nakanunye [July, 1899], in an article, entitled, "The Manifesto of the Self-Emancipation of the Workers' Group," E. Serebryakov argues that it was "indecent" to talk about such things as "self-deception, priority, and so-called Areopagus in the serious revolutionary movement," and inter alia wrote:

Myshkin, Rogachev, Zhelyabov, Mikhailov, Perovskaya, Figner, and others never regarded themselves as leaders, and no one ever elected or appointed them as such, although as a matter of fact, they were leaders because both in the propaganda period, as well as in the period of the fight against the government, they took the brunt of the work upon themselves, they went into the most dangerous places and their activities were the most fruitful. Priority came to them not because they wished it, but because the comrades surrounding them had confidence in their wisdom, their energy and loyalty. To be afraid of some kind of Areopagus [if it is not feared, then why write about it?] that would arbitrarily govern the movement is far too naïve. Who would obey it?

We ask the reader in what way does "Areopagus" differ from "anti-democratic tendencies"? And is it not evident that Rabocheye Dyelo's "plausible" organisational principles are equally naïve and indecent; naÏve, because no one would obey "Areopagus," or people with "anti-democratic tendencies," if "the comrades surrounding them had no confidence in their wisdom, energy and loyalty"; indecent, because it is a demagogic sally calculated to play on the conceit of some, on the ignorance of the actual state of our movement on the part of others, and the lack of training and ignorance of the history of the revolutionary movement of still others. The only serious organisational principle the active workers of our movement can accept is: Strict secrecy, strict selection of members, and the training of professional revolutionists. If we possessed these qualities, "democracy" and something even more would be guaranteed to us, namely: Complete, comradely, mutual confidence among revolutionists. And this something more is absolutely essential for us because, in Russia, it is useless to think that democratic control can serve as a substitute for it. It would be a great mistake to believe that because it is impossible to establish real "democratic" control, the members of the revolutionary organisation will remain altogether uncontrolled. They have not the time to think about the toy forms of democracy (democracy within a close and compact body enjoying the complete mutual confidence of the comrades), but they have a lively sense of their responsibility, because they know from experience that an organisation of real revolutionists will stop at nothing to rid itself of an undesirable member. Moreover, there is a very well-developed public opinion in Russian (and international) revolutionary circles which has a long history behind it, and which sternly and ruthlessly punishes every departure from the duties of comradeship (and does not "democracy," real and not toy democracy, represent a part of the conception of comradeship?) Take all this into consideration and you will realise that all the talk and resolutions that come from abroad about "anti-democratic tendencies" has a nasty odour of the playing at generals that goes on there.

It must be observed also that the other source of this talk, i. e., naïveté, is also fostered by a confusion of ideas concerning the meaning of democracy. In Mr. and Mrs. Webb's book on trade unionism,[22] there is an interesting section on "Primitive Democracy" In this section, the authors relate how, in the first period of existence of their unions, the British workers thought that in the interests of democracy all the members must take part in the work of managing the unions; not only were all questions decided by the votes of all the members, but all the official duties were fulfilled by all the members in turn. A long period of historical experience was required to teach these workers how aburd such a conception of democracy was and to make them understand the necessity for representative institutions on the one hand, and of full-time professional officials on the other. Only after a number of cases of financial bankruptcy of trade unions occurred did the workers realise that rates of benefit cannot be decided merely by a democratic vote, but must be based on the advice of insurance experts. Let us take also Kautsky's book, Der Parlamentarismus, die Volksgesetzgebung und die Sozialdemokratie. There you will find that the conclusion drawn by the Marxian theoretician coincides the lessons learned from many years of experience by the workers who organised "spontaneously." Kautsky strongly protests against Rittinghausen's primitive conception of democracy; he ridicules those who in the name of democracy demand even that "popular newspapers shall he directly edited by the people"; he shows the necessity for professional journalists, parliamentarians, etc. and for the Social-Democratic leadership of the proletarian class struggle; he attacks the "Socialism of Anarchists and litterateurs," who in their "striving after effect" proclaim the principle that laws should he passed directly by the whole people, completely failing to understand that in modern society this principle can have only a relative application.

Those who have carried on practical work in our movement how widespread is the "primitive" conception of democracy among the masses of the students and workers. It is not surprising that this conception permeates rules of organisation and literature. The Economists of the Bernstein persuasion included in their rules the following: "§ 10. All affairs affecting the interests of the whole of the union organisation shall he decided by a majority vote of all its members." The Economists of the terrorist persuasion repeat after them: "The decisions of the committee must he circulated among all the circles and become effective only after this has been done" [Svoboda, No. 1, p. 67]. Observe that this proposal for a widely applied referendum is advanced in addition to the demand that the whole of the organisation be organised on an elective basis! We would not, of course, on this account condemn practical workers who have had too few opportunities for studying the theory and practice of real democratic organisation. But when Rabocheye Dyelo, which claims to play a leading rôle, confines itself, under such conditions, to resolutions about broad democratic principles, how else can it be described than as a "striving after effect"?

F. Local and All-Russian Work

Although the objections raised against the plan for an organisation outlined here on the grounds of its undemocratic and conspirative character are totally unsound, nevertheless a question still remains that is frequently put and which deserves detailed examination. This is the question about the relations between local work and All-Russian work. Fears are expressed that this would lead to the formation of a centralised organisation, and that national work would he over-stressed at the expense of local work; that this would damage the movement, would weaken our contacts with the masses of the workers, and would weaken local agitation generally. To these fears we reply that our movement in the past few years has suffered precisely from the fact that the local workers have been too absorbed in local work. Hence it is absolutely necessary to somewhat shift the weight of the work from local work to national work. This would not weaken, on the contrary, it would strengthen our ties and our local agitation. Take the question of central and local journals. I would ask the reader not to forget that we cite the publication of journals only as an example, illustrating an immeasurably broader and more widespread revolutionary activity.

In the first period of the mass movement (1896–1898), an attempt is made by local party workers to publish an All-Russian journal, the Rabochaya Gazeta. In the next period (1898–1900), the movement makes enormous strides, but the attention of the leaders is wholly absorbed by local publications. If we add up all the local journals that were published, we shall find that on the average one paper per month was published.[23] Does not this illustrate our primitive ways? Does this not clearly show that our revolutionary organisation lags behind the spontaneous growth of the movement? If the same number of issues had been published, not by scattered local groups, but by a single organisation, we would not only have saved an enormous amount of effort, but we would have secured immeasurably greater stability and continuity in our work. This simple calculation is very frequently lost sight of by those practical workers who work actively, almost exclusively, on local publications (unfortunately this is the case even now in the overwhelming majority of cases) as well as by the publicists who display an astonishing Quixotism on this question. The practical workers usually rest content with the argument that "it is difficult" for local workers to engage in the organisation of an All-Russian newspaper, and that local newspapers are better than newspapers at all.[24] The latter argument is, of course, perfectly just, and we shall not be behind any practical worker in our recognition of the enormous importance and usefulness of local papers in general. But this is not the point. The point is, Can we rid ourselves of the state of diffusion and primitiveness that is so strikingly expressed in the thirty numbers of local newspapers published throughout the whole of Russia in the course of two-and-a-half years? Do not restrict yourselves to indisputable but too general statements about the usefulness of local newspapers generally: have the courage also openly to recognise their defects as have been revealed by the experience of two-and-a-half years. This experience has shown that under the conditions in which we work, these local newspapers prove, in the majority of cases, to be unstable in their principles, lacking in political significance, extremely costly in regard to expenditure of revolutionary effort, and totally unsatisfactory from a technical point of view (I have mind, of course, not the technique of printing them, but the frequency and regularity of publication). These defects are not accidental; they are the inevitable result of the diffusion which on the one hand explains the predominance of local newspapers in the period under review, and on the other hand is fostered by this predominance. A separate local organisation is positively unable to maintain stability of principles in its newspaper, and it cannot raise it to the level of a political organ; it is unable to collect and utilise sufficient material dealing with the whole of our political life. While, in politically free countries, it is often argued in defence of numerous local newspapers that the cost of printing by local workers is low, and that the local population can be kept more fully and quickly informed, experience has shown that in Russia this argument can be used against local newspapers. In Russia, local newspapers prove to be excessively costly in regard to the expenditure of revolutionary effort, and are published rarely, for the very simple reason that no matter how small its size, the publication of an illegal newspaper requires as large a secret apparatus as is required by a large enterprise, for such an apparatus cannot be run in a small, handicraft workshop. Very frequently, the primitiveness of the secret apparatus (every practical worker knows of numerous cases like this) enables the police to take advantage of the publication and distribution of one or two numbers to make mass arrests and to make such a clean sweep that it is necessary afterwards to build up the entire apparatus anew. A well-organised secret apparatus requires professionally well-trained revolutionists and proper division of labour, but neither of these requirements can be met by separate local organisations, no matter how strong they may be at any given moment. Not only are the general interests of our movement as a whole (consistent training of the workers in Socialist and political principles) better served by non-local newspapers, but even specifically local interests are better served. This may seem paradoxical at first sight, but it has been proved up to the hilt by the two-and-a-half years of experience to which we have already referred. Every one will agree that if all the local forces that were engaged in the publication of these thirty issues of newspapers had worked on a single newspaper, they could easily have published sixty if not a hundred numbers, and consequently, would have more fully expressed all the specifically local features of the movement. True, it is not an easy matter to attain such high degree of organisation, but we must recognise the necessity for it. Every local circle must think about it, and work actively to achieve it, without waiting to be pushed on from outside; and we must stop being tempted by the ease and closer proximity of a local newspaper which, as our revolutionary experience has shown, proves to a large extent to be more apparent than real.

And it is a bad service indeed those publicists render to the practical work, who, thinking they stand particularly close to the practical workers, fail to see this deceptiveness, and express the astonishingly cheap and astonishingly hollow argument: We must have local newspapers, we :must have district newspapers, and we must have All-Russian newspapers. Generally speaking of course, all these are necessary, but when you undertake to solve a concrete organisational problem surely you :must take time and circumstances into consideration. Is it not Quixotic on the part of Svoboda [No. 1, p. 68], in a special article "dealing with the question of a newspaper" to write: "It seems to us that every locality where any number of workingmen are collected, should have its own labour newspaper. Not a newspaper· imported from somewhere or other, but its very own." If the publicist who wrote that refuses to think about the significance of his own words, then at least you, reader, think about it for him. How many scores if not hundreds "localities where workingmen are collected in any more or less considerable number" are there in Russia, and would it not be simply perpetuating our primitive methods if indeed every organisation set to work to publish its own newspaper? How this diffusion would facilitate the task of the gendarmes fishing out—without any considerable effort at that—the local party workers at the very beginning of their activity and preventing them from developing into real revolutionists! A reader of an All-Russian newspaper, continues the author, would not find descriptions of the misdeeds of the factory-owners and the "details of factory life in other towns outside his district at all interesting." But "an inhabitant of Oryol would not find it dull reading about Oryol affairs. Each time he picked up his paper he would know that some factory-owner was 'caught' and another 'exposed,' and his spirits would begin to soar" [p. 69]. Yes, yes, the spirit of the Oryolian would begin to soar, but the thoughts of our publicist also begin to soar—too high. He should have asked himself: Is it right to concern oneself entirely with defending the striving after small reforms? We are second to no one in our appreciation of the importance and necessity of factory exposures, but it must be borne in mind that we have reached a stage when St. Petersburgians find it dull reading the St. Petersburg correspondence of the St. Petersburg Rabochaya Mysl. Local factory exposures have always been and should always continue to be made through the medium of leaflets, but we must raise the level of the newspaper, and not degrade it to the level of a factory leaflet. We do not require "petty" exposures for our "newspaper." We require exposures of the important, typical evils of factory life, exposures based on the most striking facts, and capable of interesting all workers and all leaders of the movement, capable of really enriching their knowledge, widening their outlook, and of rousing new districts and workers of new trade groups.

"Moreover, in a local newspaper, the misdeeds of the factory officials and other authorities may he seized upon immediately, and caught red-handed. In the case of a general newspaper, however, by the time the news reaches the paper, and by the time they are published, the facts will have been forgotten in the localities in which they occurred. The reader, when he gets the paper, will say: 'God knows when that happened!'" [ibid]. Exactly: God knows when it happened. As we know, from the source I have already quoted, during two-and-a-half years, thirty issues of newspapers were published in six cities. This, on the average, is one issue per city per half year. And even if our frivolous publicist trebled his estimate of the productivity of local work (which would be wrong in the case of an average city, because it is impossible to increase productivity to any extent by our primitive methods), we would still get only one issue every two months, i. e., nothing at all like "catching them red-handed." It would he sufficient, however, to combine a score or so of local organisations, and assign active functions to their delegates in organising a general newspaper, to enable us to "seize upon," over the whole of Russia, not petty, but really outstanding and typical evils once every fortnight. No one who has any knowledge at all of the state of affairs in our organisations can have the slightest doubt about that. It is quite absurd to talk about an illegal newspaper capturing the enemy red-handed, that is, if we mean it seriously and not merely as a metaphor. That can only be done by an anonymous leaflet, because an incident like that can only be of interest for a matter of a day or two (take, for example, the usual, brief strikes, beatings in a factory, demonstrations, etc.).

"The Workers not only live in factories, they also live in the cities," continues our author, rising from the particular to the general, with a strict consistency that would have done honour to Boris Krichevsky himself; and he refers to matters like the city councils, city hospitals, city schools, and demands that labour newspapers generally deal with these municipal affairs. This demand is an excellent one in itself, but it serves as a remarkable illustration of the empty abstraction which too frequently characterises discussions about local newspapers. First of all, if indeed newspapers appeared "in every place where any number of workers are gathered" with such detailed information on municipal affairs as Svoboda desires, it would, under our Russian conditions, inevitably lead to striving for small reform, to a weakening of the consciousness of the importance of an All-Russian revolutionary attack upon the tsarist autocracy, and would strengthen that extremely virile tendency, which has already become notorious by the famous remark about revolutionists who talk more about non-existent parliaments, and too little about existing city councils, and which has not been uprooted hut rather temporarily suppressed. We say "inevitably," deliberately, in order to emphasise that Svoboda obviously does not want this but the contrary to happen. But good intentions are not enough. In order that municipal affairs may be dealt with in the proper perspective, in relation to the whole of our work, this perspective must be clearly conceived from the very outset; it must be firmly established, not only by argument, but by numerous examples in order that it may acquire the firmness of a tradition. This is far from being the case with us yet. And yet this must be done from the very outset, before we can even think and talk about an extensive local press.

Secondly, in order to be able to write well and interestingly about municipal affairs, one must know these questions not only from books, but from practical experience. And there are hardly any Social-Democrats anywhere in Russia who possess this knowledge. In order to be able to write in newspapers (not in popular pamphlets) about municipal and state affairs, one must have fresh and multifarious material collected and worked up by able journalists. And in order to be able to collect and work up such material, we must have something more than the "primitive democracy" of a primitive circle, in which everybody does everything and all entertain one another by playing at referendums. For this it is necessary to have a staff of expert writers, expert correspondents, an army of Social-Democratic reporters, that has established contacts far and wide, able to penetrate into all sorts of "state secrets" (about which the Russian government official is so puffed up, but which he so easily blahs), find its way "behind the scenes," an army of men and women whose "official duty" it must be to be ubiquitous and omniscient. And we, the party that fights against all economic, political, social and national oppression can and must find, collect, train, mobilise, and set into motion such an army of omniscient people—but all this has yet to he done! Not only has not a single step been taken towards this in the overwhelming majority of cases, but in many places the necessity for doing it is not even recognised. You will search in vain in our Social-Democratic press for lively and interesting articles, correspondence, and exposures of our diplomatic, military, ecclesiastical, municipal, financial, etc., etc., affairs and malpractices. You will find almost nothing, or very little, about these things.[25] That is why "I am always frightfully annoyed when a man comes to me and says all sorts of nice things" about the necessity for newspapers that will expose factory, municipal, and government evils "in every place where any considerable number of workers are collected!"

The predominance of the local press over the central press may be either a symptom of poverty, or a symptom of luxury. Of poverty, when the movement has not yet developed the forces for large-scale production, and continues to flounder in primitive ways and in "the petty details of factory life." Of luxury, when the movement, having already mastered the task of all-sided exposure and all-sided agitation, finds it necessary to publish numerous local newspapers in addition to the central organ. Let each one decide for himself as to what the predominance of local newspapers implies at the present time. I shall limit myself to a precise formulation of my own conclusion, in order to avoid misunderstanding. Hitherto the majority of our local organisations devoted their minds almost exclusively to local newspapers, and devoted almost all their activities to this work. This is unsound—the very opposite should be the case. The majority of the local organisations should devote their minds principally to the publication of an All-Russian newspaper, and devote their activities principally to this work. Until that is done, we shall never he able to establish a single newspaper capable to any degree of serving the movement with all-sided press agitation. When that is done, however, normal relations between the necessary central newspapers and the necessary local newspapers will he established automatically.

It would seem at first sight that the conclusion drawn, concerning the necessity for transferring the weight of effort from local to All-Russian work, does not apply to the specifically economic struggle. In this struggle, the immediate enemy of the workers are individual employers or groups of employers, who are not bound by any organisation having even the remotest resemblance purely militant, strictly centralised organisation led in all its minutest details by the single will of the organised Russian government—which is our immediate enemy in the political struggle.

But that is not the case. As we have already pointed out many times, the economic struggle is a trade struggle, and for that reason it requires that the workers he organised according to trade and not only according to their place of employment. And this organisation by trade becomes all the more imperatively necessary, the rapidly our employers organise in all sorts of companies and syndicates. Our state of diffusion and our primitiveness hinders this work of organisation, and in order that this work may be carried out, we must have a single, All-Russian organisation of revolutionists capable of undertaking the leadership of the All-Russian trade unions. We have already described above the type of organisation that is desired for this purpose, and now we shall add just a few words about this in connection with the question of our press.

Hardly any one will doubt the necessity for every Social-Democratic newspaper having a special section devoted to the trade union (economic) struggle. But the growth of the trade-union movement compels us to think about the trade-union press. It seems to us, however, that with rare exceptions, it is not much use thinking of trade-union newspapers in Russia at the present time: That would be a luxury, and in many places we cannot even obtain our daily bread. The form of trade-union press that would suit the conditions of our illegal works and that is already called for at the present time is the Trade-Union Pamphlet. In these pamphlets, legal[26] and illegal material should be collected and organised, on conditions of labour in a given trade, on the various conditions prevailing in the various parts of Russia, on the principal demands advanced by the workers in a given trade, about the defects of the laws in relation to that trade, of the outstanding cases of workers' economic struggle in this trade, about the rudiments, the present state and the requirements of their trade-union organisations, etc. Such pamphlets would, in the first place, relieve our Social-Democratic press of a mass of trade details that interest only the workers employed in the given trade; secondly, they would record the results of our experience in the trade-union struggle, would preserve the material collected—which is now literally lost in a mass of leaflets and fragmentary correspondence—and would generalise this material. Thirdly, they could serve as material for the guidance of agitators, because conditions of labour change relatively slowly, the principal demands of the workers in a given trade hardly ever change (see for example the demands advanced by the weavers in the Moscow district in 1885 and in the St. Petersburg district in 1896), and a compilation of these demands and needs might serve for years as an excellent handbook for agitators on economic questions in backward localities, or among backward strata of the workers. Examples of successful strikes, information about the higher standard of life, of better conditions of labour, in one district, would encourage the workers in other districts to take up the fight again and again. Fourthly, having made a start in generalising the trade-union struggle, and having in this way strengthened the contacts between the Russian trade-union movement and Socialism, the Social-Democrats would at the same time see to it that our trade-union work did not occupy either too small or too large a share of our general Social-Democratic work. A local organisation, that is cut off from the organisations in other towns, finds it very difficult, and sometimes almost impossible, to maintain a correct sense of proportion (and the example of Rabochaya Mysl shows what a monstrous exaggeration is sometimes made in the direction of trade unionism). But an All-Russian organisation of revolutionists, that stands undeviatingly on the basis of Marxism, leads the whole of the political struggle and possesses a staff of professional agitators, will never find it difficult to determine the proper proportion.

  1. Offence within the meaning of the law.—Ed.
  2. Literally for "breeding purposes," i. e., to breed more victims for the police net. By allowing them to be at liberty and by shadowing their movements, the police were able to use them as innocent tools to betray the whereabouts of other revolutionists as yet unknown to them.—Ed.
  3. All italics ours.
  4. Rabochaya Mysl and Rabocheye Dyelo, especially the Reply to Plekhanov.
  5. See Who Will Bring About the Political Revolution? A symposium published in Russia entitled, The Proletarian Struggle. Re-Issued by the Kiev Committee.
  6. Regeneration of Revolutionism and Svoboda.
  7. This refers to a popular fable about "Ivan the Fool."—Ed.
  8. Kustars—handicraftsmen employing primitive methods in their work.—Ed.
  9. See "Where to Begin," The Iskra Period, Book I, p. 110.—Ed.
  10. The interjections in brackets are Lenin's running comment on Rabocheye Dyelo's reply to Iskra.Ed.
  11. Iskra's campaign against the tares evoked the following angry outbreak on the part of Rabocheye Dyelo: "For Iskra, the signs of the times lie not in the great events of the spring, but in the miserable attempts of the agents of Zubatov to 'legalise' the working-class movement. It fails to see that these facts tell against it and prove that the working-class movement is assuming menacing proportions in the eyes of the government." [Two Congresses, p. 27.] For this we have to blame the "dogmatism" of the of the orthodox Marxists who ignore the imperative demands of life. They obstinately refuse to see the yard-high wheat and are fighting down the inch-high tares! Does this not reveal a "distorted sense of perspective in regard to the Russian working-class movement"? [ibid, p. 27.]
  12. Of wages earned.—Ed.
  13. For the moment we shall observe merely that our remarks on "pushing on from outside" and the other views on organisation expressed by Svobodo apply equally to all the Economists including the adherents of Rabocheye Dyelo, for they have either themselves preached and defended such views on organisation, or have allowed themselves to be led astray by them.
  14. This latter term is perhaps more applicable to Svoboda than the former, for in an article entitled "The Regeneration. of Revolutionism" it defends terrorism, while in the article at present under review it defends Economism. One might say of Svoboda that—"It would if it could, but it can't." Its wishes and intentions are excellent—but the result is utter confusion; and this is chiefly due to the fact that while Svoboda advocates continuity of organisation, it refuses to recognise the continuity of revolutionary thought of Social-Democratic theory. It wants to revive the professional revolutionist ("The Regeneration of Revolutionism"), and to that end proposes, firstly, excitative terrorism, and secondly, "The organisation of the average worker," because he will be less likely to be "pushed on from outside." In other words, it proposes to pull the house down to use the timbers for warming it.
  15. For example, in military circles an undoubted revival of the democratic spirit has recently been observed, partly as a consequence of the frequent street fights that now take place against "enemies" like workers and students. And as soon as our available forces permit, we must without fail devote serious attention to propaganda and agitation among soldiers and officers, and to creating "military organisations" affiliated to our party.
  16. I recall the story a comrade related to me of a factory inspector, who, desiring to help, and in fact did help, Social-Democracy, bitterly complained that he did not know whether the "information" he sent reached the proper revolutionary quarter; he did not know how much his help was really required, and what possibilities there were for utilising his small services. Every practical worker, of course, knows of more than one case similar to this, of our primitiveness depriving us of allies. And these services, each "small" in itself, but incalculable taken together, could be rendered to us by office employees and officials, not only in factories, but in the postal service, on the railways, in the Customs, among the nobility, among the clergy, and every other walk of life, including even the police service and the Court! Had we a real party, a real militant organisation of revolutionists, would not put the question bluntly to every one of these "abettors," we of would not hasten in every single case to bring them right into the very heart of our "illegality," but, on the contrary, we would husband them very carefully and would train people especially for such functions, bearing in mind that many students could be of much greater service to the party as "abettors"—officials—than as "short-term" revolutionists. But, I repeat, only an organisation that is already firmly established and has no lack of active forces would have the right to apply such tactics.
  17. Svoboda No. 1, p. 66, articles on "Organisation": "The heavy tread of the army of labour will re-inforce all the demands that will be advanced by Russian-Labour"—Labour with a capital L, of course. And this very author exclaims: "I am not in the least hostile towards the intelligentsia, but" [This is the very word but that Shchedrin translated as meaning: The ears never grow higher than the forehead!] "but I get frightfully annoyed when a man comes to me and eloquently appeals to he accepted for his [his?] beauty and virtues" [p. 62]. Yes. This "always frightfully annoys" me too.
  18. Adherents of Narodnaya Volya, the People's Will Party.—Ed.
  19. Cf. The Tasks of Russian Social-Democrats, p. 21. Polemics against Lavrov. [See V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. II.—Ed.]
  20. Tasks of Russian Social-Democrats, p. 23. [V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. II.—Ed.] But we shall give another illustration of the fact that Rabocheye Dyelo either does not understand what it is talking about, or changes in views "with every change in the wind." In No. 1 of Rabocheye Dyelo, we find the following passage in italics: "The views expressed in this pamphlet coincide entirely with the editorial programme of Rabocheye Dyelo [p. 142]. Is that so, indeed? Does the view that the mass movement must not be set the primary task of overthrowing the autocracy coincide with the views expressed in the pamphlet, The Tasks of Russian Social-Democrats? Do the theories about "the economic struggle against the employers and the government," and the theory of stages, coincide with the views expressed in the pamphlet? We leave it to the reader to judge as to whether an organ which understands the meaning of "coincidence" in this peculiar manner can have firm principles.
  21. The Russian word for "conspiracy" is zagovor, which means "conspiracy" or "plot." But the word conspiratsiya, "conspiracy," in Russian revolutionary literature usually means "secrecy." Hence a conspirative organisation would be a secret organisation, but would not necessarily engage in plots. Except in the above case, when it was important to bring out the play of words, the word "conspiratsiya" has been rendered throughout the text as "secrecy," and the word "conspirative" was used only where the word zagovor has been used in text, as in the sub-title of this section.—Ed.
  22. The History of Trade Unionism.
  23. See Report to the Paris Congress, p. 14. "Since that time (1897) to the spring of 1900, thirty issues of various papers were published in various places. … On average, over one number per month was published.
  24. This difficulty is more apparent than real. As a matter of fact, there is not a single local circle that lacks the opportunity of taking up some function or other in connection with All-Russian work. "Don't say: I can't; say: I won't."
  25. That is why even examples of exceptionally good local newspapers fully confirm our point-of-view. For example, Yuzhny Rabochy is an excellent newspaper, and is altogether free from instability of principles. But it was unable to provide what it desired for the local movement owing to the infrequency of its publication and to extensive police raids. What our party must do most urgently at the present time is to present the fundamental questions of the movement, and carry on wide political agitation, but this the local newspaper was unable to do. And that which it did exceptionally well, namely, articles about the mine-owners' congress, unemployment, etc., was not strictly local material, it was required for the whole of Russia, and not for the South alone. No articles like that have appeared in any of our Social-Democratic newspapers.
  26. Legal material is particularly important in this connection, but we have lagged behind very much in our ability systematically to collect and utilise it. It would not he an exaggeration to say that legal material alone would provide sufficient material for a trade-union pamphlet, whereas illegal material alone would not be sufficient. In collecting illegal material from workers, questions like those dealt with in the publications of Rabochaya Mysl, we waste a lot of the efforts of revolutionists (whose place in this work, could very easily he taken by legal workers), and yet we never obtain good material because a worker who knows only a single department of a large factory, who knows the economic results but not the general conditions and standards of his work, cannot acquire the knowledge that is possessed by the office staff of a factory, by inspectors, doctors, etc., and which is scattered in petty newspaper correspondence, and in special, industrial, medical, Zemstvo and other publications.

    I very distinctly remember my "first experiment," which I am not going to repeat. I spent many weeks "examining" a workingman, who came to visit me, about the conditions prevailing in the enormous factory at which he was employed. True, after great effort, I managed to obtain material for a description (of just one single factory!), but at the end of each interview the workingman would wipe the sweat from his brow, and say to me smilingly: "I would rather work overtime than reply to your questions!"

    The more energetically we carry on our revolutionary struggle, the more the government will be compelled to legalise a part of the "trade-union" work, and by that will relieve us of part of our burden.