3. Trade-Unionist Politics and Social-Democratic Politics
We shall again begin by praising Rabocheye Dyelo. ‘Literature of Exposure and the Proletarian Struggle’ is the title Martynov gave the article on his differences with Iskra published in Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10. He formulated the substance of the differences as follows:
We cannot confine ourselves solely to exposing the system that stands in its (the working-class party’s) path of development. We must also react to the immediate and current interests of the proletariat… Iskra… is in fact an organ of revolutionary opposition that exposes the state of affairs in our country, particularly the political state of affairs… We, however, work and shall continue to work for the cause of the working class in close organic contact with the proletarian struggle. (p. 63.)
One cannot help being grateful to Martynov for this formula. It is of outstanding general interest, because substantially it embraces not only our disagreements with Rabocheye Dyelo, but the general disagreement between ourselves and the Economists on the political struggle. We have shown that the Economists do not altogether repudiate ‘politics’, but that they are constantly straying from the Social-Democratic to the trade-unionist conception of politics. Martynov strays in precisely this way, and we shall therefore take his views as a model of Economist error on this question. As we shall endeavour to prove, neither the authors of the ‘Separate Supplement’ to Rabochaya Mysl nor the authors of the manifesto issued by the Self-Emancipation Group, nor the authors of the Economist letter published in Iskra, No. 12, will have any right to complain against this choice.
Political Agitation and Its Restriction by the Economists
Everyone knows that the economic struggle of the Russian workers underwent widespread development and consolidation simultaneously with the production of ‘literature’ exposing economic (factory and occupational) conditions. The ‘leaflets’ were devoted mainly to the exposure of the factory system, and very soon a veritable passion for exposures was roused among the workers. As soon as the workers realised that the Social-Democratic study circles desired to, and could, supply them with a new kind of leaflet that told the whole truth about their miserable existence, about their unbearably hard toil, and their lack of rights, they began to send in, actually flood us with, correspondence from the factories and workshops. This ‘exposure literature’ created a tremendous sensation, not only in the particular factory exposed in the given leaflet, but in all the factories to which news of the revealed facts spread. And since the poverty and want among the workers in the various enterprises and in the various trades are much the same, the ‘truth about the life of the workers’ stirred everyone. Even among the most backward workers, a veritable passion arose to ‘get into print’ – a noble passion for this rudimentary form of war against the whole of the present social system which is based upon robbery and oppression. And in the overwhelming majority of cases these ‘leaflets’ were in truth a declaration of war, because the exposures served greatly to agitate the workers; they evoked among them common demands for the removal of the most glaring outrages and roused in them a readiness to support the demands with strikes. Finally, the employers themselves were compelled to recognise the significance of these leaflets as a declaration of war, so much so that in a large number of cases they did not even wait for the outbreak of hostilities. As is always the case, the mere publication of these exposures made them effective, and they acquired the significance of a strong moral influence. On more than one occasion, the mere appearance of a leaflet proved sufficient to secure the satisfaction of all or part of the demands put forward. In a word, economic (factory) exposures were and remain an important lever in the economic struggle. And they will continue to retain this significance as long as there is capitalism, which makes it necessary for the workers to defend themselves. Even in the most advanced countries of Europe it can still be seen that the exposure of abuses in some backward trade, or in some forgotten branch of domestic industry, serves as a starting-point for the awakening of class-consciousness, for the beginning of a trade union struggle, and for the spread of socialism.
The overwhelming majority of Russian Social-Democrats have of late been almost entirely absorbed by this work of organising the exposure of factory conditions. Suffice it to recall Rabochaya Mysl to see the extent to which they have been absorbed by it – so much so, indeed, that they have lost sight of the fact that this, taken by itself, is in essence still not Social-Democratic work, but merely trade union work. As a matter of fact, the exposures merely dealt with the relations between the workers in a given trade and their employers, and all they achieved was that the sellers of labour power learned to sell their ‘commodity’ on better terms and to fight the purchasers over a purely commercial deal. These exposures could have served (if properly utilised by an organisation of revolutionaries) as a beginning and a component part of Social-Democratic activity; but they could also have led (and, given a worshipful attitude towards spontaneity, were bound to lead) to a ‘purely trade union’ struggle and to a non-Social-Democratic working-class movement. Social-Democracy leads the struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness. Now that Zarya and Iskra have made the first attack upon Economism, ‘all are agreed’ on this (although some agree only in words, as we shall soon see).
The question arises, what should political education consist in? Can it be confined to the propaganda of working-class hostility to the autocracy? Of course not. It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed (any more than it is to explain to them that their interests are antagonistic to the interests of the employers). Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression (as we have begun to carry on agitation around concrete examples of economic oppression). Inasmuch as this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity – vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc., etc. – is it not evident that we shall not be fulfilling our task of developing the political consciousness of the workers if we do not undertake the organisation of the political exposure of the autocracy in all its aspects? In order to carry on agitation round concrete instances of oppression, these instances must be exposed (as it is necessary to expose factory abuses in order to carry on economic agitation).
One might think this to be clear enough. It turns out, however, that it is only in words that ‘all’ are agreed on the need to develop political consciousness, in all its aspects. It turns out that Rabocheye Dyelo, for example, far from tackling the task of organising (or making a start in organising) comprehensive political exposure, is even trying to drag Iskra, which has undertaken this task, away from it. Listen to the following:
The political struggle of the working class is merely [it is certainly not ‘merely’] the most developed, wide, and effective form of economic struggle. (Programme of Rabocheye Dyelo, published in issue No. 1, p. 3.)
The Social-Democrats are now confronted with the task of lending the economic struggle itself, as far as possible, a political character. (Martynov, Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, p. 42.)
The economic struggle is the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into active political struggle. (Resolution adopted by the Conference of the Union Abroad and ‘amendments’ thereto, Two Conferences, pp. 11 and 17.)
As the reader will observe, all these theses permeate Rabocheye Dyelo from its very first number to the latest ‘Instructions to the Editors’, and all of them evidently express a single view regarding political agitation and struggle. Let us examine this view from the standpoint of the opinion prevailing among all Economists, that political agitation must follow economic agitation. Is it true that, in general, the economic struggle “is the most widely applicable means” of drawing the masses into the political struggle? It is entirely untrue. Any and every manifestation of police tyranny and autocratic outrage, not only in connection with the economic struggle, is not one whit less “widely applicable” as a means of “drawing in” the masses. The rural superintendents and the flogging of peasants, the corruption of the officials and the police treatment of the ‘common people’ in the cities, the fight against the famine-stricken and the suppression of the popular striving towards enlightenment and knowledge, the extortion of taxes and the persecution of the religious sects, the humiliating treatment of soldiers and the barrack methods in the treatment of the students and liberal intellectuals – do all these and a thousand other similar manifestations of tyranny, though not directly connected with the ‘economic’ struggle, represent, in general, less ‘widely applicable’ means and occasions for political agitation and for drawing the masses into the political struggle? The very opposite is true. Of the sum total of cases in which the workers suffer (either on their own account or on account of those closely connected with them) from tyranny, violence, and the lack of rights, undoubtedly only a small minority represent cases of police tyranny in the trade union struggle as such. Why then should we, beforehand, restrict the scope of political agitation by declaring only one of the means to be “the most widely applicable”, when Social-Democrats must have, in addition, other, generally speaking, no less “widely applicable” means?
In the dim and distant past (a full year ago!) Rabocheye Dyelo wrote:
The masses begin to understand immediate political demands after one strike, or at all events, after several… as soon as the government sets the police and gendarmerie against them. [August (No. 7) 1900, p. 15.]
This opportunist theory of stages has now been rejected by the Union Abroad, which makes a concession to us by declaring: “There is no need whatever to conduct political agitation right from the beginning, exclusively on an economic basis.” (Two Conferences, p. 11.) The Union’s repudiation of part of its former errors will show the future historian of Russian Social-Democracy better than any number of lengthy arguments the depths to which our Economists have degraded socialism! But the Union Abroad must be very naive indeed to imagine that the abandonment of one form of restricting politics will induce us to agree to another form. Would it not be more logical to say, in this case too, that the economic struggle should be conducted on the widest possible basis, that it should always be utilised for political agitation, but that “there is no need whatever” to regard the economic struggle as the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into active political struggle?
The Union Abroad attaches significance to the fact that it has substituted the phrase “most widely applicable means” for the phrase “the best means” contained in one of the resolutions of the Fourth Congress of the Jewish Workers’ Union (Bund). We confess that we find it difficult to say which of these resolutions is the better one. In our opinion they are both worse. Both the Union Abroad and the Bund fall into the error (partly, perhaps unconsciously, under the influence of tradition) of giving an Economist, trade-unionist interpretation to politics. Whether this is done by employing the word “best” or the words “most widely applicable” makes no essential difference whatever. Had the Union Abroad said that ‘political agitation on an economic basis’ is the most widely applied (not ‘applicable’) means, it would have been right in regard to a certain period in the development of our Social-Democratic movement. It would have been right in regard to the Economists and to many (if not the majority) of the practical workers of 1898-1901; for these practical Economists applied political agitation (to the extent that they applied it at all) almost exclusively on an economic basis. Political agitation on such lines was recognised and, as we have seen, even recommended by Rabochaya Mysl and the Self-Emancipation Group. Rabocheye Dyelo should have strongly condemned the fact that the useful work of economic agitation was accompanied by the harmful restriction of the political struggle; instead, it declares the means most widely applied (by the Economists) to be the most widely applicable! It is not surprising that when we call these people Economists, they can do nothing but pour every manner of abuse upon us; call us “mystifiers”, “disrupters”, “papal nuncios”, and “slanderers”, go complaining to the whole world that we have mortally offended them; and declare almost on oath that “not a single Social-Democratic organisation is now tinged with Economism”. Oh, those evil, slanderous politicians! They must have deliberately invented this Economism, out of sheer hatred of mankind, in order to mortally offend other people.
What concrete, real meaning attaches to Martynov’s words when he sets before Social-Democracy the task of “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”? The economic struggle is the collective struggle of the workers against their employers for better terms in the sale of their labour-power, for better living and working conditions. This struggle is necessarily a trade union struggle, because working conditions differ greatly in different trades, and consequently, the struggle to improve them can only be conducted on the basis of trade organisations (in the Western countries, through trade unions; in Russia, through temporary trade associations and through leaflets, etc.). Lending “the economic struggle itself a political character” means, therefore, striving to secure satisfaction of these trade demands, the improvement of working conditions in each separate trade by means of “legislative and administrative measures” (as Martynov puts it on the ensuing page of his article, p. 43). This is precisely what all workers’ trade unions do and always have done. Read the works of the soundly scientific (and ‘soundly’ opportunist) Mr. and Mrs. Webb and you will see that the British trade unions long ago recognised, and have long been carrying out, the task of “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”; they have long been fighting for the right to strike, for the removal of all legal hindrances to the co-operative and trade union movements, for laws to protect women and children, for the improvement of labour conditions by means of health and factory legislation, etc.
Thus, the pompous phrase about “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”, which sounds so ‘terrifically’ profound and revolutionary, serves as a screen to conceal what is in fact the traditional striving to degrade Social-Democratic politics to the level of trade union politics. Under the guise of rectifying the one-sidedness of Iskra, which, it is alleged, places “the revolutionising of dogma higher than the revolutionising of life”, we are presented with the struggle for economic reforms as if it were something entirely new. In point of fact, the phrase “lending the economic struggle itself a political character” means nothing more than the struggle for economic reforms. Martynov himself might have come to this simple conclusion, had he pondered over the significance of his own words. “Our Party,” he says, training his heaviest guns on Iskra, “could and should have presented concrete demands to the government for legislative and administrative measures against economic exploitation, unemployment, famine, etc.” (Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, pp. 42-43.) Concrete demands for measures – does not this mean demands for social reforms? Again, we ask the impartial reader: Are we slandering the Rabocheye Dyelo-ites (may I be forgiven for this awkward, currently used designation!) by calling them concealed Bernsteinians when, as their point of disagreement with Iskra, they advance their thesis on the necessity of struggling for economic reforms?
Revolutionary Social-Democracy has always included the struggle for reforms as part of its activities. But it utilises ‘economic’ agitation for the purpose of presenting to the government, not only demands for all sorts of measures, but also (and primarily) the demand that it cease to be an autocratic government. Moreover, it considers it its duty to present this demand to the government on the basis, not of the economic struggle alone, but of all manifestations in general of public and political life. In a word, it subordinates the struggle for reforms, as the part to the whole, to the revolutionary struggle for freedom and for socialism. Martynov, however, resuscitates the theory of stages in a new form and strives to prescribe, as it were, an exclusively economic path of development for the political struggle. By advancing at this moment, when the revolutionary movement is on the upgrade, an alleged special ‘task’ of struggling for reforms, he is dragging the Party backwards and is playing into the hands of both ‘Economist’ and liberal opportunism.
To proceed. Shamefacedly hiding the struggle for reforms behind the pompous thesis of “lending the economic struggle itself a political character”, Martynov advanced, as if it were a special point, exclusively economic (indeed, exclusively factory) reforms. As to the reason for his doing that, we do not know it. Carelessness, perhaps? Yet if he had in mind something else besides ‘factory’ reforms, then the whole of his thesis, which we have cited, loses all sense. Perhaps he did it because he considers it possible and probable that the government will make ‘concessions’ only in the economic sphere?If so, then it is a strange delusion. Concessions are also possible and are made in the sphere of legislation concerning flogging, passports, land redemption payments, religious sects, the censorship, etc., etc. ‘Economic’ concessions (or pseudo-concessions) are, of course, the cheapest and most advantageous from the government’s point of view, because by these means it hopes to win the confidence of the working masses. For this very reason, we Social-Democrats must not under any circumstances or in any way whatever create grounds for the belief (or the misunderstanding) that we attach greater value to economic reforms, or that we regard them as being particularly important, etc. “Such demands,” writes Martynov, speaking of the concrete demands for legislative and administrative measures referred to above, “would not be merely a hollow sound, because, promising certain palpable results, they might be actively supported by the working masses…” We are not Economists, oh no! We only cringe as slavishly before the ‘palpableness’ of concrete results as do the Bernsteins, the Prokopoviches, the Struves, the R.M.s, and tutti quanti! We only wish to make it understood (together with Nartsis Tuporylov) that all which “does not promise palpable results” is merely a “hollow sound”! We are only trying to argue as if the working masses were incapable (and had not already proved their capabilities, notwithstanding those who ascribe their own philistinism to them) of actively supporting every protest against the autocracy, even if it promises absolutely no palpable results whatever!
Let us take, for example, the very ‘measures’ for the relief of unemployment and the famine that Martynov himself advances. Rabocheye Dyelo is engaged, judging by what it has promised, in drawing up and elaborating a programme of “concrete [in the form of bills?] demands for legislative and administrative measures”, “promising palpable results”, while Iskra, which “constantly places the revolutionising of dogma higher than the revolutionising of life”, has tried to explain the inseparable connection between unemployment and the whole capitalist system, has given warning that “famine is coming”, has exposed the police “fight against the famine-stricken”, and the outrageous “provisional penal servitude regulations”; and Zarya has published a special reprint, in the form of an agitational pamphlet, of a section of its ‘Review of Home Affairs’, dealing with the famine. But good God! How ‘one-sided’ were these incorrigibly narrow and orthodox doctrinaires, how deaf to the calls of ‘life itself’! Their articles contained – oh horror! – not a single, can you imagine it? Not a single “concrete demand” “promising palpable results”! Poor doctrinaires! They ought to be sent to Krichevsky and Martynov to be taught that tactics are a process of growth, of that which grows, etc., and that the economic struggle itself should be given a political character!
In addition to its immediate revolutionary significance, the economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government [economic struggle against the government!] has also this significance: it constantly brings home to the workers the fact that they have no political rights. (Martynov, p. 44.)
We quote this passage, not in order to repeat for the hundredth and thousandth time what has been said above, but in order to express particular thanks to Martynov for this excellent new formula: “the economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government”. What a gem! With what inimitable skill and mastery in eliminating all partial disagreements and shades of differences among Economists this clear and concise proposition expresses the quintessence of Economism, from summoning the workers “to the political struggle, which they carry on in the general interest, for the improvement of the conditions of all the workers” (Rabochaya Mysl, “Separate Supplement”, p. 14), continuing through the theory of stages, and ending in the resolution of the Conference on the “most widely applicable”, etc. “Economic struggle against the government” is precisely trade-unionist politics, which is still very far from being Social-Democratic politics.
How Martynov Rendered Plekhanov More Profound
“What a large number of Social-Democratic Lomonosovs have appeared among us lately!” observed a comrade one day, having in mind the astonishing propensity of many who are inclined toward Economism to arrive, “necessarily, by their own understanding”, at great truths (e.g., that the economic struggle stimulates the workers to ponder over their lack of rights) and in doing so to ignore, with the supreme contempt of born geniuses, all that has been produced by the antecedent development of revolutionary thought and of the revolutionary movement. Lomonosov-Martynov is precisely such a born genius. We need but glance at his article ‘Urgent Questions’ to see how by ‘his own understanding’ he arrives at what was long ago said by Axelrod (of whom our Lomonosov, naturally, says not a word); how, for instance, he is beginning to understand that we cannot ignore the opposition of such or such strata of the bourgeoisie (Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 9, pp. 61, 62, 71; compare this with Rabocheye Dyelo’s ‘Reply to Axelrod’, pp. 22, 23-24), etc. But alas, he is only “arriving” and is only “beginning”, not more than that, for so little has he understood Axelrod’s ideas, that he talks about “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”. For three years (1898-1901) Rabocheye Dyelo has tried hard to understand Axelrod but has so far not understood him! Can one of the reasons be that Social-Democracy, ‘like mankind’, always sets itself only tasks that can be achieved?
But the Lomonosovs are distinguished not only by their ignorance of many things (that would be but half misfortune!), but also by their unawareness of their own ignorance. Now this is a real misfortune; and it is this misfortune that prompts them without further ado to attempt to render Plekhanov ‘more profound’.
“Much water,” Lomonosov-Martynov says, “has flowed under the bridge since Plekhanov wrote his book (Tasks of the Socialists in the Fight Against the Famine in Russia). The Social-Democrats who for a decade led the economic struggle of the working class… have failed as yet to lay down a broad theoretical basis for Party tactics. This question has now come to a head, and if we should wish to lay down such a theoretical basis, we should certainly have to deepen considerably the principles of tactics developed at one time by Plekhanov… Our present definition of the distinction between propaganda and agitation would have to be different from Plekhanov’s [Martynov has just quoted PIekhanov’s words: ‘A propagandist presents many ideas to one or a few persons; an agitator presents only one or a few ideas, but he presents them to a mass of people.’] By propaganda we would understand the revolutionary explanation of the present social system, entire or in its partial manifestations, whether that be done in a form intelligible to individuals or to broad masses. By agitation, in the strict sense of the word (sic!), we would understand the call upon the masses to undertake definite, concrete actions and the promotion of the direct revolutionary intervention of the proletariat in social life.”
We congratulate Russian – and international – Social-Democracy on having found, thanks to Martynov, a new terminology, more strict and more profound. Hitherto we thought (with Plekhanov, and with all the leaders of the international working-class movement) that the propagandist, dealing with, say, the question of unemployment, must explain the capitalistic nature of crises, the cause of their inevitability in modern society, the necessity for the transformation of this society into a socialist society, etc. In a word, he must present ‘many ideas’, so many, indeed, that they will be understood as an integral whole only by a (comparatively) few persons. The agitator, however, speaking on the same subject, will take as an illustration a fact that is most glaring and most widely known to his audience, say, the death of an unemployed worker’s family from starvation, the growing impoverishment, etc., and, utilising this fact, known to all, will direct his efforts to presenting a single idea to the ‘masses’, e.g., the senselessness of the contradiction between the increase of wealth and the increase of poverty; he will strive to rouse discontent and indignation among the masses against this crying injustice, leaving a more complete explanation of this contradiction to the propagandist. Consequently, the propagandist operates chiefly by means of the printed word; the agitator by means of the spoken word. The propagandist requires qualities different from those of the agitator. Kautsky and Lafargue, for example, we term propagandists; Bebel and Guesde we term agitators. To single out a third sphere, or third function, of practical activity, and to include in this function “the call upon the masses to undertake definite concrete actions”, is sheer nonsense, because the ‘call’, as a single act, either naturally and inevitably supplements the theoretical treatise, propagandist pamphlet, and agitational speech, or represents a purely executive function. Let us take, for example, the struggle the German Social-Democrats are now waging against the corn duties. The theoreticians write research works on tariff policy, with the ‘call’, say, to struggle for commercial treaties and for Free Trade. The propagandist does the same thing in the periodical press, and the agitator in public speeches. At the present time, the ‘concrete action’ of the masses takes the form of signing petitions to the Reichstag against raising the corn duties. The call for this action comes indirectly from the theoreticians, the propagandists, and the agitators, and, directly, from the workers who take the petition lists to the factories and to private homes for the gathering of signatures. According to the ‘Martynov terminology’, Kautsky and Bebel are both propagandists, while those who solicit the signatures are agitators. Isn’t it clear?
The German example recalled to my mind the German word which, literally translated, means ‘Ballhorning’. Johann Ballhorn, a Leipzig publisher of the sixteenth century, published a child’s reader in which, as was the custom, he introduced a drawing of a cock, but a cock without spurs and with a couple of eggs lying near it. On the cover he printed the legend, ‘Revised edition by Johann Ballhorn’. Ever since then, the Germans describe any ‘revision’ that is really a worsening as ‘ballhorning’. And one cannot help recalling Ballhorn upon seeing how the Martynovs try to render Plekhanov ‘more profound’.
Why did our Lomonosov ‘invent’ this confusion? In order to illustrate how Iskra “devotes attention only to one side of the case, just as Plekhanov did a decade and a half ago.” (p. 39.) “With Iskra, propagandist tasks force agitational tasks into the background, at least for the present.” (p. 52.) If we translate this last proposition from the language of Martynov into ordinary human language (because mankind has not yet managed to learn the newly-invented terminology), we shall get the following: with Iskra, the tasks of political propaganda and political agitation force into the background the task of “presenting to the government concrete demands for legislative and administrative measures” that “promise certain palpable results” (or demands for social reforms, that is, if we are permitted once again to employ the old terminology of the old mankind not yet grown to Martynov’s level). We suggest that the reader compare this thesis with the following tirade:
What also astonishes us in these programmes [the programmes advanced by revolutionary Social-Democrats] is their constant stress upon the benefits of workers’ activity in parliament (non-existent in Russia), though they completely ignore (thanks to their revolutionary nihilism) the importance of workers’ participation in the legislative manufacturers’ assemblies on factory affairs [which do exist in Russia] … or at least the importance of workers’ participation in municipal bodies…
The author of this tirade expresses in a somewhat more forthright and clearer manner the very idea which Lomonosov-Martynov discovered by his own understanding. The author is R.M., in the ‘Separate Supplement’ to Rabochaya Mysl. (p. 15.)
Political Exposures and ‘Training in Revolutionary Activity’
In advancing against Iskra his theory of ‘raising the activity of the working masses’, Martynov actually betrayed an urge to belittle that activity, for he declared the very economic struggle before which all Economists grovel to be the preferable, particularly important, and ‘most widely applicable’ means of rousing this activity and its broadest field. This error is characteristic, precisely in that it is by no means peculiar to Martynov. In reality, it is possible to ‘raise the activity of the working masses’ only when this activity is not restricted to ‘political agitation on an economic basis’. A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organisation of comprehensive political exposure. In no way except by means of such exposures can the masses be trained in political consciousness and revolutionary activity. Hence, activity of this kind is one of the most important functions of international Social-Democracy as a whole, for even political freedom does not in any way eliminate exposures; it merely shifts somewhat their sphere of direction. Thus, the German party is especially strengthening its positions and spreading its influence, thanks particularly to the untiring energy with which it is conducting its campaign of political exposure. Working-class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter what class is affected – unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a Social-Democratic point of view and no other. The consciousness of the working masses cannot be genuine class-consciousness, unless the workers learn, from concrete, and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical, and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of all classes, strata, and groups of the population. Those who concentrate the attention, observation, and consciousness of the working class exclusively, or even mainly, upon itself alone are not Social-Democrats; for the self-knowledge of the working class is indissolubly bound up, not solely with a fully clear theoretical understanding – or rather, not so much with the theoretical, as with the practical, understanding – of the relationships between all the various classes of modern society, acquired through the experience of political life. For this reason, the conception of the economic struggle as the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into the political movement, which our Economists preach, is so extremely harmful and reactionary in its practical significance. In order to become a Social-Democrat, the worker must have a clear picture in his mind of the economic nature and the social and political features of the landlord and the priest, the high state official and the peasant, the student and the vagabond; he must know their strong and weak points; he must grasp the meaning of all the catchwords and sophisms by which each class and each stratum camouflages its selfish strivings and its real ‘inner workings’; he must understand what interests are reflected by certain institutions and certain laws and how they are reflected. But this ‘clear picture’ cannot be obtained from any book. It can be obtained only from living examples and from exposures that follow close upon what is going on about us at a given moment; upon what is being discussed, in whispers perhaps, by each one in his own way; upon what finds expression in such and such events, in such and such statistics, in such and such court sentences, etc., etc. These comprehensive political exposures are an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary activity.
Why do the Russian workers still manifest little revolutionary activity in response to the brutal treatment of the people by the police, the persecution of religious sects, the flogging of peasants, the outrageous censorship, the torture of soldiers, the persecution of the most innocent cultural undertakings, etc.? Is it because the ‘economic struggle’ does not ‘stimulate’ them to this, because such activity does not ‘promise palpable results’, because it produces little that is ‘positive’? To adopt such an opinion, we repeat, is merely to direct the charge where it does not belong, to blame the working masses for one’s own philistinism (or Bernsteinism). We must blame ourselves, our lagging behind the mass movement, for still being unable to organise sufficiently wide, striking, and rapid exposures of all the shameful outrages. When we do that (and we must and can do it), the most backward worker will understand, or will feel, that the students and religious sects, the peasants and the authors are being abused and outraged by those same dark forces that are oppressing and crushing him at every step of his life. Feeling that, he himself will be filled with an irresistible desire to react, and he will know how to hoot the censors one day, on another day to demonstrate outside the house of a governor who has brutally suppressed a peasant uprising, on still another day to teach a lesson to the gendarmes in surplices who are doing the work of the Holy Inquisition, etc. As yet we have done very little, almost nothing, to bring before the working masses prompt exposures on all possible issues. Many of us as yet do not recognise this as our bounden duty but trail spontaneously in the wake of the ‘drab everyday struggle’, in the narrow confines of factory life. Under such circumstances to say that “Iskra displays a tendency to minimise the significance of the forward march of the drab everyday struggle in comparison with the propaganda of brilliant and complete ideas” (Martynov, op. cit., p. 61), means to drag the Party back, to defend and glorify our unpreparedness and backwardness.
As for calling the masses to action, that will come of itself as soon as energetic political agitation, live and striking exposures come into play. To catch some criminal red-handed and immediately to brand him publicly in all places is of itself far more effective than any number of ‘calls’; the effect very often is such as will make it impossible to tell exactly who it was that ‘called’ upon the masses and who suggested this or that plan of demonstration, etc. Calls for action, not in the general, but in the concrete, sense of the term can be made only at the place of action; only those who themselves go into action, and do so immediately, can sound such calls. Our business as Social-Democratic publicists is to deepen, expand, and intensify political exposures and political agitation.
A word in passing about ‘calls to action’. The only newspaper which prior to the spring events called upon the workers to intervene actively in a matter that certainly did not promise any palpable results whatever for the workers, i.e., the drafting of the students into the army, was Iskra. Immediately after the publication of the order of 11 January, on “drafting the 183 students into the army”, Iskra published an article on the matter (in its February issue, No. 2), and, before any demonstration was begun, forthwith called upon “the workers to go to the aid of the students”, called upon the “people” openly to take up the government’s arrogant challenge. We ask: how is the remarkable fact to be explained that although Martynov talks so much about ‘calls to action’, and even suggests ‘calls to action’ as a special form of activity, he said not a word about this call? After this, was it not sheer philistinism on Martynov’s part to allege that Iskra was one-sided because it did not issue sufficient ‘calls’ to struggle for demands ‘promising palpable results’?
Our Economists, including Rabocheye Dyelo, were successful because they adapted themselves to the backward workers. But the Social-Democratic worker, the revolutionary worker (and the number of such workers is growing) will indignantly reject all this talk about struggle for demands “promising palpable results”, etc., because he will understand that this is only a variation of the old song about adding a kopek to the rouble. Such a worker will say to his counsellors from Rabochaya Mysl and Rabocheye Dyelo: you are busying yourselves in vain, gentlemen, and shirking your proper duties, by meddling with such excessive zeal in a job that we can very well manage ourselves. There is nothing clever in your assertion that the Social-Democrats’ task is to lend the economic struggle itself a political character; that is only the beginning, it is not the main task of the Social-Democrats. For all over the world, including Russia, the police themselves often take the initiative in lending the economic struggle a political character, and the workers themselves learn to understand whom the government supports. The “economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government”, about which you make as much fuss as if you had discovered a new America, is being waged in all parts of Russia, even the most remote, by the workers themselves who have heard about strikes, but who have heard almost nothing about socialism. The ‘activity’ you want to stimulate among us workers, by advancing concrete demands that promise palpable results, we are already displaying and in our everyday, limited trade union work we put forward these concrete demands, very often without any assistance whatever from the intellectuals. But such activity is not enough for us; we are not children to be fed on the thin gruel of ‘economic’ politics alone; we want to know everything that others know, we want to learn the details of all aspects of political life and to take part actively in every single political event. In order that we may do this, the intellectuals must talk to us less of what we already know and tell us more about what we do not yet know and what we can never learn from our factory and ‘economic’ experience, namely, political knowledge. You intellectuals can acquire this knowledge, and it is your duty to bring it to us in a hundred- and a thousand-fold greater measure than you have done up to now; and you must bring it to us, not only in the form of discussions, pamphlets, and articles (which very often – pardon our frankness – are rather dull), but precisely in the form of vivid exposures of what our government and our governing classes are doing at this very moment in all spheres of life. Devote more zeal to carrying out this duty and talk less about “raising the activity of the working masses”. We are far more active than you think, and we are quite able to support, by open street fighting, even demands that do not promise any ‘palpable results’ whatever. It is not for you to ‘raise’ our activity, because activity is precisely the thing you yourselves lack. Bow less in subservience to spontaneity, and think more about raising your own activity, gentlemen!
What Is There in Common Between Economism and Terrorism?
In the last footnote we cited the opinion of an Economist and of a non-Social-Democratic terrorist, who showed themselves to be accidentally in agreement. Speaking generally, however, there is not an accidental, but a necessary, inherent connection between the two, of which we shall have need to speak later, and which must be mentioned here in connection with the question of education for revolutionary activity. The Economists and the root, namely, subservience to spontaneity, with which we dealt in the preceding chapter as a general phenomenon and which we shall now examine in relation to its effect upon political activity and the political struggle. At first sight, our assertion may appear paradoxical, so great is the difference between those who stress the ‘drab everyday struggle’ and those who call for the most self-sacrificing struggle of individuals. But this is no paradox. The Economists and the terrorists merely bow to different poles of spontaneity; the Economists bow to the spontaneity of ‘the labour movement pure and simple’, while the terrorists bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of intellectuals, who lack the ability or opportunity to connect the revolutionary struggle and the working-class movement into an integral whole. It is difficult indeed for those who have lost their belief, or who have never believed, that this is possible, to find some outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy other than terror. Thus, both forms of subservience to spontaneity we have mentioned are nothing but the beginning of the implementation of the notorious Credo programme: Let the workers wage their ‘economic struggle against the employers and the government’ (we apologise to the author of the Credo for expressing her views in Martynov’s words. We think we have a right to do so since the Credo, too, says that in the economic struggle the workers “come up against the political regime”) and let the intellectuals conduct the political struggle by their own efforts – with the aid of terror, of course! This is an absolutely logical and inevitable conclusion which must be insisted on – even though those who are beginning to carry out this programme do not themselves realise that it is inevitable. Political activity has its logic quite apart from the consciousness of those who, with the best intentions, call either for terror or for lending the economic struggle itself a political character. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and, in this case, good intentions cannot save one from being spontaneously drawn “along the line of least resistance”, along the line of the purely bourgeois Credo programme. Surely it is no accident either that many Russian liberals – avowed liberals and liberals that wear the mask of Marxism – whole-heartedly sympathise with terror and try to foster the terrorist moods that have surged up in the present time.
The formation of the Revolutionary-Socialist Svoboda Group which set itself the aim of helping the working-class movement in every possible way, but which included in its programme terror, and emancipation, so to speak, from Social-Democracy – once again confirmed the remarkable perspicacity of P.B. Axelrod, who literally foretold these results of Social-Democratic waverings as far back as the end of 1897 (Present Tasks and Tactics), when he outlined his famous ‘two perspectives’. All the subsequent disputes and disagreements among Russian Social-Democrats are contained, like a plant in the seed, in these two perspectives.
From this point of view, it also becomes clear why Rabocheye Dyelo, unable to withstand the spontaneity of Economism, has likewise been unable to withstand the spontaneity of terrorism. It is highly interesting to note here the specific arguments that Svoboda has advanced in defence of terrorism. It “completely denies” the deterrent role of terrorism (The Regeneration of Revolutionism, p. 64), but instead stresses its “excitative significance”. This is characteristic, first, as representing one of the stages of the breakup and decline of the traditional (pre-Social-Democratic) cycle of ideas which insisted upon terrorism. The admission that the government cannot now be ‘terrified’ and hence disrupted, by terror, is tantamount to a complete condemnation of terror as a system of struggle, as a sphere of activity sanctioned by the programme. Secondly, it is still more characteristic as an example of the failure to understand our immediate tasks in regard to ‘education for revolutionary activity’. Svoboda advocates terror as a means of “exciting” the working-class movement and of giving it a “strong impetus”. It is difficult to imagine an argument that more thoroughly disproves itself. Are there not enough outrages committed in Russian life without special ‘excitants’ having to be invented? On the other hand, is it not obvious that those who are not, and cannot be, roused to excitement even by Russian tyranny will stand by ‘twiddling their thumbs’ and watch a handful of terrorists engaged in single combat with the government? The fact is that the working masses are roused to a high pitch of excitement by the social evils in Russian life, but we are unable to gather, if one may so put it, and concentrate all these drops and streamlets of popular resentment that are brought forth to a far larger extent than we imagine by the conditions of Russian life, and that must be combined into a single gigantic torrent. That this can be accomplished is irrefutably proved by the enormous growth of the working-class movement and the eagerness, noted above, with which the workers clamour for political literature. On the other hand, calls for terror and calls to lend the economic struggle itself a political character are merely two different forms of evading the most pressing duty now resting upon Russian revolutionaries, namely, the organisation of comprehensive political agitation. Svoboda desires to substitute terror for agitation, openly admitting that “as soon as intensified and strenuous agitation is begun among the masses the excitative function of terror will be ended.” (The Regeneration of Revolutionism, p. 68.) This proves precisely that both the terrorists and the Economists underestimate the revolutionary activity of the masses, despite the striking evidence of the events that took place in the spring, and whereas the one group goes out in search of artificial ‘excitants’, the other talks about ‘concrete demands’. But both fail to devote sufficient attention to the development of their own activity in political agitation and in the organisation of political exposures. And no other work can serve as a substitute for this task either at the present time or at any other.
The Working Class as Vanguard Fighter for Democracy
We have seen that the conduct of the broadest political agitation and, consequently, of all-sided political exposures is an absolutely necessary and a paramount task of our activity, if this activity is to be truly Social-Democratic. However, we arrived at this conclusion solely on the grounds of the pressing needs of the working class for political knowledge and political training. But such a presentation of the question is too narrow, for it ignores the general democratic tasks of Social-Democracy, in particular of present-day Russian Social-Democracy. In order to explain the point more concretely we shall approach the subject from an aspect that is ‘nearest’ to the Economist, namely, from the practical aspect. ‘Everyone agrees’ that it is necessary to develop the political consciousness of the working class. The question is, how that is to be done and what is required to do it. The economic struggle merely ‘impels’ the workers to realise the government’s attitude towards the working class. Consequently, however much we may try to “lend the economic struggle itself a political character”, we shall never be able to develop the political consciousness of the workers (to the level of Social-Democratic political consciousness) by keeping within the framework of the economic struggle, for that framework is too narrow. The Martynov formula has some value for us, not because it illustrates Martynov’s aptitude for confusing things, but because it pointedly expresses the basic error that all the Economists commit, namely, their conviction that it is possible to develop the class political consciousness of the workers from within, so to speak, from their economic struggle, i.e., by making this struggle the exclusive (or, at least, the main) starting-point, by making it the exclusive (or, at least, the main) basis. Such a view is radically wrong. Piqued by our polemics against them, the Economists refuse to ponder deeply over the origins of these disagreements, with the result that we simply cannot understand one another. It is as if we spoke in different tongues.
Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes. For that reason, the reply to the question as to what must be done to bring political knowledge to the workers cannot be merely the answer with which, in the majority of cases, the practical workers, especially those inclined towards Economism, mostly content themselves, namely: ‘To go among the workers.’ To bring political knowledge to the workers the Social-Democrats must go among all classes of the population; they must dispatch units of their army in all directions.
We deliberately select this blunt formula, we deliberately express ourselves in this sharply simplified manner, not because we desire to indulge in paradoxes, but in order to ‘impel’ the Economists to a realisation of their tasks which they unpardonably ignore, to suggest to them strongly the difference between trade-unionist and Social-Democratic politics, which they refuse to understand. We therefore beg the reader not to get wrought up, but to hear us patiently to the end.
Let us take the type of Social-Democratic study circle that has become most widespread in the past few years and examine its work. It has ‘contacts with the workers’ and rests content with this, issuing leaflets in which abuses in the factories, the government’s partiality towards the capitalists, and the tyranny of the police are strongly condemned. At workers’ meetings the discussions never, or rarely ever, go beyond the limits of these subjects. Extremely rare are the lectures and discussions held on the history of the revolutionary movement, on questions of the government’s home and foreign policy, on questions of the economic evolution of Russia and of Europe, on the position of the various classes in modern society, etc. As to systematically acquiring and extending contact with other classes of society, no one even dreams of that. In fact, the ideal leader, as the majority of the members of such circles picture him, is something far more in the nature of a trade union secretary than a socialist political leader. For the secretary of any, say English, trade union always helps the workers to carry on the economic struggle, he helps them to expose factory abuses, explains the injustice of the laws and of measures that hamper the freedom to strike and to picket (i.e., to warn all and sundry that a strike is proceeding at a certain factory), explains the partiality of arbitration court judges who belong to the bourgeois classes, etc., etc. In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”. It cannot be too strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat. Compare, for example, a leader like Robert Knight (the well-known secretary and leader of the Boiler-Makers’ Society, one of the most powerful trade unions in England), with Wilhelm Liebknecht, and try to apply to them the contrasts that Martynov draws in his controversy with Iskra. You will see – I am running through Martynov’s article – that Robert Knight engaged more in “calling the masses to certain concrete actions” (Martynov, op. cit., p. 39.), while Wilhelm Liebknecht engaged more in “the revolutionary elucidation of the whole of the present system or partial manifestations of it” (pp. 38-39); that Robert Knight “formulated the immediate demands of the proletariat and indicated the means by which they can be achieved” (p. 41), whereas Wilhelm Liebknecht, while doing this, did not hold back from “simultaneously guiding the activities of various opposition strata”, “dictating a positive programme of action for them” (p. 41); that Robert Knight strove “as far as possible to lend the economic struggle itself a political character” (p. 42) and was excellently able “to submit to the government concrete demands promising certain palpable results” (p. 43), whereas Liebknecht engaged to a much greater degree in “one-sided” “exposures” (p. 40); that Robert Knight attached more significance to the “forward march of the drab everyday struggle” (p. 61), whereas Liebknecht attached more significance to the “propaganda of brilliant and completed ideas” (p. 61); that Liebknecht converted the paper he was directing into “an organ of revolutionary opposition that exposed the state of affairs in our country, particularly the political state of affairs, insofar as it affected the interests of the most varied strata of the population” (p. 63), whereas Robert Knight “worked for the cause of the working class in close organic connection with the proletarian struggle” (p. 63) – if by “close and organic connection” is meant the subservience to spontaneity which we examined above, by taking the examples of Krichevsky and Martynov – and “restricted the sphere of his influence”, convinced, of course, as is Martynov, that “by doing so he deepened that influence”. (p. 63.) In a word, you will see that de facto Martynov reduces Social-Democracy to the level of trade-unionism, though he does so, of course, not because he does not desire the good of Social-Democracy, but simply because he is a little too much in a hurry to render Plekhanov more profound, instead of taking the trouble to understand him.
Let us return, however, to our theses. We said that a Social-Democrat, if he really believes it necessary to develop comprehensively the political consciousness of the proletariat, must ‘go among all classes of the population’. This gives rise to the questions: how is this to be done? Have we enough forces to do this? Is there a basis for such work among all the other classes? Will this not mean a retreat, or lead to a retreat, from the class point of view? Let us deal with these questions.
We must ‘go among all classes of the population’ as theoreticians, as propagandists, as agitators, and as organisers. No one doubts that the theoretical work of Social-Democrats should aim at studying all the specific features of the social and political condition of the various classes. But extremely little is done in this direction as compared with the work that is done in studying the specific features of factory life. In the committees and study circles, one can meet people who are immersed in the study even of some special branch of the metal industry; but one can hardly ever find members of organisations (obliged, as often happens, for some reason or other to give up practical work) who are especially engaged in gathering material on some pressing question of social and political life in our country which could serve as a means for conducting Social-Democratic work among other strata of the population. In dwelling upon the fact that the majority of the present-day leaders of the working-class movement lack training, we cannot refrain from mentioning training in this respect also, for it too is bound up with the Economist conception of ‘close organic connection with the proletarian struggle’. The principal thing, of course, is propaganda and agitation among all strata of the people. The work of the West European Social-Democrat is in this respect facilitated by the public meetings and rallies which all are free to attend, and by the fact that in parliament he addresses the representatives of all classes. We have neither a parliament nor freedom of assembly; nevertheless, we are able to arrange meetings of workers who desire to listen to a Social-Democrat. We must also find ways and means of calling meetings of representatives of all social classes that desire to listen to a democrat; for he is no Social-Democrat who forgets in practice that “the Communists support every revolutionary movement”, that we are obliged for that reason to expound and emphasise general democratic tasks before the whole people, without for a moment concealing our socialist convictions. He is no Social-Democrat who forgets in practice his obligation to be ahead of all in raising, accentuating, and solving every general democratic question.
‘But everyone agrees with this!’ the impatient reader will exclaim, and the new instructions adopted by the last conference of the Union Abroad for the Editorial Board of Rabocheye Dyelo definitely say:
All events of social and political life that affect the proletariat either directly as a special class or as the vanguard of all the revolutionary forces in the struggle for freedom should serve as subjects for political propaganda and agitation. (Two Conferences, p. 17, our italics.)
Yes, these are very true and very good words, and we would be fully satisfied if Rabocheye Dyelo understood them and if it refrained from saying in the next breath things that contradict them. For it is not enough to call ourselves the ‘vanguard’, the advanced contingent; we must act in such a way that all the other contingents recognise and are obliged to admit that we are marching in the vanguard. And we ask the reader: Are the representatives of the other ‘contingents’ such fools as to take our word for it when we say that we are the ‘vanguard’? Just picture to yourselves the following: a Social-Democrat comes to the ‘contingent’ of Russian educated radicals, or liberal constitutionalists, and says, we are the vanguard; “the task confronting us now is, as far as possible, to lend the economic struggle itself a political character”. The radical, or constitutionalist, if he is at all intelligent (and there are many intelligent men among Russian radicals and constitutionalists), would only smile at such a speech and would say (to himself, of course, for in the majority of cases he is an experienced diplomat):
Your ‘vanguard’ must be made up of simpletons. They do not even understand that it is our task, the task of the progressive representatives of bourgeois democracy to lend the workers’ economic struggle itself a political character. Why, we too, like the West-European bourgeois, want to draw the workers into politics, but only into trade-unionist, not into Social-Democratic politics. Trade-unionist politics of the working class is precisely bourgeois politics of the working class, and this ‘vanguard’s’ formulation of its task is the formulation of trade-unionist politics! Let them call themselves Social-Democrats to their heart’s content, I am not a child to get excited over a label. But they must not fall under the influence of those pernicious orthodox doctrinaires, let them allow ‘freedom of criticism’ to those who unconsciously are driving Social-Democracy into trade-unionist channels.
And the faint smile of our constitutionalist will turn into Homeric laughter when he learns that the Social-Democrats who talk of Social-Democracy as the vanguard, today, when spontaneity almost completely dominates our movement, fear nothing so much as “belittling the spontaneous element”, as “underestimating the significance of the forward movement of the drab everyday struggle, as compared with the propaganda of brilliant and completed ideas”, etc., etc.! A ‘vanguard’ which fears that consciousness will outstrip spontaneity, which fears to put forward a bold ‘plan’ that would compel general recognition even among those who differ with us. Are they not confusing ‘vanguard’ with ‘rear-guard’?
Indeed, let us examine the following piece of reasoning by Martynov. On page 40 he says that Iskra is one-sided in its tactics of exposing abuses, that “however much we may spread distrust and hatred of the government, we shall not achieve our aim until we have succeeded in developing sufficient active social energy for its overthrow”. This, it may be said parenthetically, is the familiar solicitude for the activation of the masses, with a simultaneous striving to restrict one’s own activity. But that is not the main point at the moment. Martynov speaks here, accordingly, of revolutionary energy (“for overthrowing”). And what conclusion does he arrive at? Since in ordinary times various social strata inevitably march separately, “it is therefore clear that we Social-Democrats cannot simultaneously guide the activities of various opposition strata, we cannot dictate to them a positive programme of action, we cannot point out to them in what manner they should wage a day-to-day struggle for their interests… The liberal strata will themselves take care of the active struggle for their immediate interests, the struggle that will bring them face to face with our political regime”. (p. 41.) Thus, having begun with talk about revolutionary energy, about the active struggle for the overthrow of the autocracy, Martynov immediately turns toward trade union energy and active struggle for immediate interests! It goes without saying that we cannot guide the struggle of the students, liberals, etc., for their ‘immediate interests’; but this was not the point at issue, most worthy Economist! The point we were discussing was the possible and necessary participation of various social strata in the overthrow of the autocracy; and not only are we able, but it is our bounden duty, to guide these “activities of the various opposition strata”, if we desire to be the ‘vanguard’. Not only will our students and liberals, etc., themselves take care of “the struggle that brings them face to face with our political regime”; the police and the officials of the autocratic government will see to this first and foremost. But if ‘we’ desire to be front-rank democrats, we must make it our concern to direct the thoughts of those who are dissatisfied only with conditions at the university, or in the Zemstvo, etc., to the idea that the entire political system is worthless. We must take upon ourselves the task of organising an all-round political struggle under the leadership of our Party in such a manner as to make it possible for all oppositional strata to render their fullest support to the struggle and to our Party. We must train our Social-Democratic practical workers to become political leaders, able to guide all the manifestations of this all-round struggle, able at the right time to “dictate a positive programme of action” for the aroused students, the discontented Zemstvo people, the incensed religious sects, the offended elementary schoolteachers, etc., etc. For that reason, Martynov’s assertion that “with regard to these, we can function merely in the negative role of exposers of abuses… we can only dissipate their hopes in various government commissions” is completely false (our italics). By saying this, Martynov shows that he absolutely fails to understand the role that the revolutionary ‘vanguard’ must really play. If the reader bears this in mind, he will be clear as to the real meaning of Martynov’s concluding remarks:
Iskra is the organ of the revolutionary opposition which exposes the state of affairs in our country, particularly the political state of affairs, insofar as it affects the interests of the most varied strata of the population. We, however, work and will continue to work for the cause of the working class in close organic contact with the proletarian struggle. By restricting the sphere of our active influence, we deepen that influence. (p. 63.)
The true sense of this conclusion is as follows: Iskra desires to elevate the trade-unionist politics of the working class (to which, through misconception, through lack of training, or through conviction, our practical workers frequently confine themselves) to the level of Social-Democratic politics. Rabocheye Dyelo, however, desires to degrade Social-Democratic politics to trade-unionist politics. Moreover, it assures the world that the two positions are “entirely compatible within the common cause”. (p. 63.) 0, sancta simplicitas!
To proceed. Have we sufficient forces to direct our propaganda and agitation among all social classes? Most certainly. Our Economists, who are frequently inclined to deny this, lose sight of the gigantic progress our movement has made from (approximately) 1894 to 1901. Like real ‘tail-enders’ they often go on living in the bygone stages of the movement’s inception. In the earlier period, indeed, we had astonishingly few forces, and it was perfectly natural and legitimate then to devote ourselves exclusively to activities among the workers and to condemn severely any deviation from this course. The entire task then was to consolidate our position in the working class. At the present time, however, gigantic forces have been attracted to the movement. The best representatives of the younger generation of the educated classes are coming over to us. Everywhere in the provinces there are people, resident there by dint of circumstance, who have taken part in the movement in the past or who desire to do so now and who are gravitating towards Social-Democracy (whereas in 1894 one could count the Social-Democrats on the fingers of one’s hand). A basic political and organisational shortcoming of our movement is our inability to utilise all these forces and give them appropriate work (we shall deal with this more fully in the next chapter). The overwhelming majority of these forces entirely lack the opportunity of “going among the workers”, so that there are no grounds for fearing that we shall divert forces from our main work. In order to be able to provide the workers with real, comprehensive, and live political knowledge, we must have ‘our own people’, Social-Democrats, everywhere, among all social strata, and in all positions from which we can learn the inner springs of our state mechanism. Such people are required, not only for propaganda and agitation, but in a still larger measure for organisation.
Is there a basis for activity among all classes of the population? Whoever doubts this lags in his consciousness behind the spontaneous awakening of the masses. The working-class movement has aroused and is continuing to arouse discontent in some, hopes of support for the opposition in others, and in still others the realisation that the autocracy is unbearable and must inevitably fall. We would be ‘politicians’ and Social-Democrats in name only (as all too often happens in reality), if we failed to realise that our task is to utilise every manifestation of discontent, and to gather and turn to the best account every protest, however small. This is quite apart from the fact that the millions of the labouring peasantry, handicraftsmen, petty artisans, etc., would always listen eagerly to the speech of any Social-Democrat who is at all qualified. Indeed, is there a single social class in which there are no individuals, groups, or circles that are discontented with the lack of rights and with tyranny and, therefore, accessible to the propaganda of Social-Democrats as the spokesmen of the most pressing general democratic needs? To those who desire to have a clear idea of what the political agitation of a Social-Democrat among all classes and strata of the population should be like, we would point to political exposures in the broad sense of the word as the principal (but, of course, not the sole) form of this agitation.
“We must arouse in every section of the population that is at all politically conscious a passion for political exposure,” I wrote in my article “Where to Begin” [Iskra, May (No. 4), 1901], with which I shall deal in greater detail later. “We must not be discouraged by the fact that the voice of political exposure is today so feeble, timid, and infrequent. This is not because of a wholesale submission to police despotism, but because those who are able and ready to make exposures have no tribune from which to speak, no eager and encouraging audience, they do not see anywhere among the people that force to which it would be worthwhile directing their complaint against the ‘omnipotent’ Russian Government… We are now in a position to provide a tribune for the nation-wide exposure of the tsarist government, and it is our duty to do this. That tribune must be a Social-Democratic newspaper.”
The ideal audience for political exposure is the working class, which is first and foremost in need of all-round and live political knowledge, and is most capable of converting this knowledge into active struggle, even when that struggle does not promise ‘palpable results’. A tribune for nation-wide exposures can be only an all-Russia newspaper. “Without a political organ, a political movement deserving that name is inconceivable in the Europe of today”; in this respect Russia must undoubtedly be included in present-day Europe. The press long ago became a power in our country, otherwise the government would not spend tens of thousands of roubles to bribe it and to subsidise the Katkovs and Meshcherskys. And it is no novelty in autocratic Russia for the underground press to break through the wall of censorship and compel the legal and conservative press to speak openly of it. This was the case in the seventies and even in the fifties. How much broader and deeper are now the sections of the people willing to read the illegal underground press, and to learn from it “how to live and how to die”, to use the expression of a worker who sent a letter to Iskra. (No. 7.) Political exposures are as much a declaration of war against the government as economic exposures are a declaration of war against the factory owners. The moral significance of this declaration of war will be all the greater, the wider and more powerful the campaign of exposure will be and the more numerous and determined the social class that has declared war in order to begin the war. Hence, political exposures in themselves serve as a powerful instrument for disintegrating the system we oppose, as a means for diverting from the enemy his casual or temporary allies, as a means for spreading hostility and distrust among the permanent partners of the autocracy.
In our time, only a party that will organise really nation-wide exposures can become the vanguard of the revolutionary forces. The word ‘nation-wide’ has a very profound meaning. The overwhelming majority of the non-working-class exposers (be it remembered that in order to become the vanguard, we must attract other classes) are sober politicians and level-headed men of affairs. They know perfectly well how dangerous it is to ‘complain’ even against a minor official, let alone against the ‘omnipotent’ Russian Government. And they will come to us with their complaints only when they see that these complaints can really have effect, and that we represent a political force. In order to become such a force in the eyes of outsiders, much persistent and stubborn work is required to raise our own consciousness, initiative, and energy. To accomplish this, it is not enough to attach a ‘vanguard’ label to rear-guard theory and practice.
But if we have to undertake the organisation of a really nationwide exposure of the government, in what way will then the class character of our movement be expressed? – the overzealous advocate of ‘close organic contact with the proletarian struggle’ will ask us, as indeed he does. The reply is manifold: we Social-Democrats will organise these nation-wide exposures; all questions raised by the agitation will be explained in a consistently Social-Democratic spirit, without any concessions to deliberate or undeliberate distortions of Marxism; the all-round political agitation will be conducted by a party which unites into one inseparable whole the assault on the government in the name of the entire people, the revolutionary training of the proletariat, and the safeguarding of its political independence, the guidance of the economic struggle of the working class, and the utilisation of all its spontaneous conflicts with its exploiters which rouse and bring into our camp increasing numbers of the proletariat.
But a most characteristic feature of Economism is its failure to understand this connection, more, this identity of the most pressing need of the proletariat (a comprehensive political education through the medium of political agitation and political exposures) with the need of the general democratic movement. This lack of understanding is expressed, not only in ‘Martynovite’ phrases, but in the references to a supposedly class point of view identical in meaning with these phrases. Thus, the authors of the Economist letter in Iskra, No. 12, state:
This basic drawback of Iskra (overestimation of ideology) is also the cause of its inconsistency on the question of the attitude of Social-Democracy to the various social classes and tendencies. By theoretical reasoning (not by “the growth of Party tasks, which grow together with the Party”), Iskra solved the problem of the immediate transition to the struggle against absolutism. In all probability it senses the difficulty of such a task for the workers under the present state of affairs (not only senses, but knows full well that this task appears less difficult to the workers than to the Economist intellectuals with their nursemaid concern, for the workers are prepared to fight even for demands which, to use the language of the never-to-be-forgotten Martynov, do not “promise palpable results”) but lacking the patience to wait until the workers will have gathered sufficient forces for this struggle, Iskra begins to seek allies in the ranks of the liberals and intellectuals…
Yes, we have indeed lost all ‘patience’ ‘waiting’ for the blessed time, long promised us by diverse ‘conciliators’, when the Economists will have stopped charging the workers with their own backwardness and justifying their own lack of energy with allegations that the workers lack strength. We ask our Economists: What do they mean by “the gathering of working-class strength for the struggle”? Is it not evident that this means the political training of the workers, so that all the aspects of our vile autocracy are revealed to them? And is it not clear that precisely for this work we need “allies in the ranks of the liberals and intellectuals”, who are prepared to join us in the exposure of the political attack on the Zemstvos, on the teachers, on the statisticians, on the students, etc.? Is this surprisingly ‘intricate mechanism’ really so difficult to understand? Has not P.B. Axelrod constantly repeated since 1897 that “the task before the Russian Social-Democrats of acquiring adherents and direct and indirect allies among the non-proletarian classes will be solved principally and primarily by the character of the propagandist activities conducted among the proletariat itself”? But the Martynovs and the other Economists continue to imagine that “by economic struggle against the employers and the government” the workers must first gather strength (for trade-unionist politics) and then ‘go over’ – we presume from trade-unionist ‘training for activity’ to Social-Democratic activity!
“In this quest,” continue the Economists, “Iskra not infrequently departs from the class point of view, obscures class antagonisms, and puts into the forefront the common nature of the discontent with the government, although the causes and the degree of the discontent vary considerably among the ‘allies’. Such, for example, is Iskra’s attitude towards the Zemstvo…” Iskra, it is alleged, “promises the nobles that are dissatisfied with the government’s sops the assistance of the working class, but it does not say a word about the class antagonism that exists between these social strata.” If the reader will turn to the article ‘The Autocracy and the Zemstvo’ (Iskra, Nos. 2 and 4), to which, in all probability, the authors of the letter refer, he will find that they deal with the attitude of the government towards the “mild agitation of the bureaucratic Zemstvo, which is based on the social-estates”, and towards the “independent activity of even the propertied classes”. The article states that the workers cannot look on indifferently while the government is waging a struggle against the Zemstvo, and the Zemstvos are called upon to stop making mild speeches and to speak firmly and resolutely when revolutionary Social-Democracy confronts the government in all its strength. What the authors of the letter do not agree with here is not clear. Do they think that the workers will ‘not understand’ the phrases ‘propertied classes’ and ‘bureaucratic Zemstvo based on the social-estates’? Do they think that urging the Zemstvo to abandon mild speeches and to speak firmly is ‘overestimating ideology’? Do they imagine the workers can ‘gather strength’ for the struggle against the autocracy if they know nothing about the attitude of the autocracy towards the Zemstvo as well? All this too remains unknown. One thing alone is clear and that is that the authors of the letter have a very vague idea of what the political tasks of Social-Democracy are. This is revealed still more clearly by their remark: “Such, too, is Iskra’s attitude towards the student movement” (i.e., it also “obscures the class antagonisms”). Instead of calling on the workers to declare by means of public demonstrations that the real breeding-place of unbridled violence, disorder, and outrage is not the university youth but the Russian Government (Iskra, No. 2) we ought probably to have inserted arguments in the spirit of Rabochaya Mysl! Such ideas were expressed by Social-Democrats in the autumn of 1901, after the events of February and March, on the eve of a fresh upsurge of the student movement, which reveals that even in this sphere the ‘spontaneous’ protest against the autocracy is outstripping the conscious Social-Democratic leadership of the movement. The spontaneous striving of the workers to defend the students who are being assaulted by the police and the Cossacks surpasses the conscious activity of the Social-Democratic organisation!
“And yet in other articles,” continue the authors of the letter, “Iskra sharply condemns all compromise and defends, for instance, the intolerant conduct of the Guesdists.” We would advise those who are wont so conceitedly and frivolously to declare that the present disagreements among the Social-Democrats are unessential and do not justify a split, to ponder these words. Is it possible for people to work together in the same organisation, when some among them contend that we have done extremely little to explain the hostility of the autocracy to the various classes and to inform the workers of the opposition displayed by the various social strata to the autocracy, while others among them see in this clarification a ‘compromise’ – evidently a compromise with the theory of “economic struggle against the employers and the government”?
We urged the necessity of carrying the class struggle into the rural districts in connection with the fortieth anniversary of the emancipation of the peasantry (issue No. 3) and spoke of the irreconcilability of the local government bodies and the autocracy in relation to Witte’s secret Memorandum. (No. 4.) In connection with the new law we attacked the feudal landlords and the government which serves them (No. 8) and we welcomed the illegal Zemstvo congress. We urged the Zemstvo to pass over from abject petitions (No. 8) to struggle. We encouraged the students, who had begun to understand the need for the political struggle, and to undertake this struggle (No. 3), while, at the same time, we lashed out at the “outrageous incomprehension” revealed by the adherents of the “purely student” movement, who called upon the students to abstain from participating in the street demonstrations (No. 3, in connection with the manifesto issued by the Executive Committee of the Moscow students on 25 February). We exposed the “senseless dreams” and the “lying hypocrisy” of the cunning liberals of Rossiya (No. 5), while pointing to the violent fury with which the government-gaoler persecuted “peaceful writers, aged professors, scientists, and well-known liberal Zemstvo members”. (No. 5, ‘Police Raid on Literature’.) We exposed the real significance of the programme of “state protection for the welfare of the workers” and welcomed the “valuable admission” that “it is better, by granting reforms from above, to forestall the demand for such reforms from below than to wait for those demands to be put forward”. (No. 6.) We encouraged the protesting statisticians (No. 7) and censured the strike-breaking statisticians (No. 9). He who sees in these tactics an obscuring of the class-consciousness of the proletariat and a compromise with liberalism reveals his utter failure to understand the true significance of the programme of the Credo and carries out that programme de facto, however much he may repudiate it. For by such an approach he drags Social-Democracy towards the “economic struggle against the employers and the government” and yields to liberalism, abandons the task of actively intervening in every ‘liberal’ issue and of determining his own, Social-Democratic, attitude towards this question.
Once More “Slanderers”, Once More “Mystifiers”
These polite expressions, as the reader will recall, belong to Rabocheye Dyelo, which in this way answers our charge that it “is indirectly preparing the ground for converting the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy”. In its simplicity of heart Rabocheye Dyelo decided that this accusation was nothing more than a polemical sally: these malicious doctrinaires are bent on saying all sorts of unpleasant things about us, and, what can be more unpleasant than being an instrument of bourgeois democracy? And so, they print in bold type a “refutation”: “Nothing but downright slander”, “mystification”, “mummery”. (Two Conferences, pp. 30, 31, 33.) Like Jove, Rabocheye Dyelo (although bearing little resemblance to that deity) is wrathful because it is wrong and proves by its hasty abuse that it is incapable of understanding its opponents’ mode of reasoning. And yet, with only a little reflection it would have understood why any subservience to the spontaneity of the mass movement and any degrading of Social-Democratic politics to the level of trade-unionist politics mean preparing the ground for converting the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy. The spontaneous working-class movement is by itself able to create (and inevitably does create) only trade-unionism, and working-class trade-unionist politics is precisely working-class bourgeois politics. The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle, and even in the political revolution, does not in itself make its politics Social-Democratic politics. Will Rabocheye Dyelo make bold to deny this? Will it, at long last, publicly, plainly, and without equivocation explain how it understands the urgent questions of international and of Russian Social-Democracy? Hardly. It will never do anything of the kind, because it holds fast to the trick, which might be described as the ‘not here’ method – “It’s not me, it’s not my horse, I’m not the driver. We are not Economists; Rabochaya Mysl does not stand for Economism; there is no Economism at all in Russia.” This is a remarkably adroit and ‘political’ trick, which suffers from the slight defect, however, that the publications practising it are usually nicknamed, ‘At your service, sir’.
Rabocheye Dyelo imagines that bourgeois democracy in Russia is, in general, merely a “phantom”. (Two Conferences, p. 32.)Happy people! Ostrich-like, they bury their heads in the sand and imagine that everything around has disappeared. Liberal publicists who month after month proclaim to the world their triumph over the collapse and even the disappearance of Marxism; liberal newspapers (S. Peterburgskiye Vedomosti, Russkiye Vedomosti, and many others) which encourage the liberals who bring to the workers the Brentano conception of the class struggle and the trade-unionist conception of politics; the galaxy of critics of Marxism, whose real tendencies were so very well disclosed by the Credo and whose literary products alone circulate in Russia without let or hindrance; the revival of revolutionary non-Social-Democratic tendencies, particularly after the February and March events – all these, apparently, are just phantoms! All these have nothing at all to do with bourgeois democracy!
Rabocheye Dyelo and the authors of the Economist letter published in Iskra, No. 12, should “ponder over the reason why the events of the spring brought about such a revival of revolutionary non-Social-Democratic tendencies instead of increasing the authority and the prestige of Social-Democracy”.
The reason lies in the fact that we failed to cope with our tasks. The masses of the workers proved to be more active than we. We lacked adequately trained revolutionary leaders and organisers possessed of a thorough knowledge of the mood prevailing among all the opposition strata and able to head the movement, to turn a spontaneous demonstration into a political one, broaden its political character, etc. Under such circumstances, our backwardness will inevitably be utilised by the more mobile and more energetic non-Social-Democratic revolutionaries, and the workers, however energetically and self-sacrificingly they may fight the police and the troops, however revolutionary their actions may be, will prove to be merely a force supporting those revolutionaries, the rear-guard of bourgeois democracy, and not the Social-Democratic vanguard. Let us take, for example, the German Social-Democrats, whose weak aspects alone our Economists desire to emulate. Why is there not a single political event in Germany that does not add to the authority and prestige of Social-Democracy? Because Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all others in furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in championing every protest against tyranny. It does not lull itself with arguments that the economic struggle brings the workers to realise that they have no political rights and that the concrete conditions unavoidably impel the working-class movement on to the path of revolution. It intervenes in every sphere and in every question of social and political life; in the matter of Wilhelm’s refusal to endorse a bourgeois progressist as city mayor (our Economists have not yet managed to educate the Germans to the understanding that such an act is, in fact, a compromise with liberalism!); in the matter of the law against ‘obscene’ publications and pictures; in the matter of governmental influence on the election of professors, etc., etc. Everywhere the Social-Democrats are found in the forefront, rousing political discontent among all classes, rousing the sluggards, stimulating the laggards, and providing a wealth of material for the development of the political consciousness and the political activity of the proletariat. As a result, even the avowed enemies of socialism are filled with respect for this advanced political fighter, and not infrequently an important document from bourgeois, and even from bureaucratic and Court circles, makes its way by some miraculous means into the editorial office of Vorwärts.
This, then, is the resolution of the seeming ‘contradiction’ that surpasses Rabocheye Dyelo’s powers of understanding to such an extent that it can only throw up its hands and cry, ‘Mummery!’ Indeed, just think of it: We, Rabocheye Dyelo, regard the mass working-class movement as the corner-stone (and say so in bold type!); we warn all and sundry against belittling the significance of the element of spontaneity; we desire to lend the economic struggle itself – itself – a political character; we desire to maintain close and organic contact with the proletarian struggle. And yet we are told that we are preparing the ground for the conversion of the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy! And who are they that presume to say this? People who ‘compromise’ with liberalism by intervening in every ‘liberal’ issue (what a gross misunderstanding of “organic contact with the proletarian struggle”!), by devoting so much attention to the students and even (oh horror!) to the Zemstvos! People who in general wish to devote a greater percentage (compared with the Economists) of their efforts to activity among non-proletarian classes of the population! What is this but ‘mummery’?
Poor Rabocheye Dyelo! Will it ever find the solution to this perplexing puzzle?
 To avoid misunderstanding, we must point out that here, and throughout this pamphlet, by economic struggle, we imply (in keeping with the accepted usage among us) the “practical economic struggle”, which Engels, in the passage quoted above, described as “resistance to the capitalists”, and which in free countries is known as the organised-labour syndical, or trade union struggle.
 In the present chapter we deal only with the political struggle, in its broader or narrower meaning. Therefore, we note only in passing, merely as a curiosity, Rabocheye Dyelo’s charge that Iskra is “too restrained” in regard to the economic struggle (Two Conferences, p. 27, rehashed by Martynov in his pamphlet, Social-Democracy and the Working Class). If the accusers computed by the hundredweights or reams (as they are so fond of doing) any given year’s discussion of the economic struggle in the industrial section of Iskra, in comparison with the corresponding sections of Rabocheye Dyelo and Rabochaya Mysl combined, they would easily see that the latter lag behind even in this respect. Apparently, the realisation of this simple truth compels them to resort to arguments that clearly reveal their confusion. “Iskra,” they write, “willy-nilly [!] is compelled [!] to reckon with the imperative demands of life and to publish at least [!!] correspondence about the working-class movement.” (Two Conferences, p. 27.) Now this is really a crushing argument!
 We say “in general”, because Rabocheye Dyelo speaks of general principles and of the general tasks of the Party as a whole. Undoubtedly, cases occur in practice when politics really must follow economics, but only Economists can speak of this in a resolution intended to apply to the whole of Russia. Cases do occur when it is possible “right from the beginning” to carry on political agitation “exclusively on an economic basis”; yet Rabocheye Dyelo came in the end to the conclusion that “there is no need for this whatever.” (Two Conferences, p. 11.) In the following chapter, we shall show that the tactics of the ‘politicians’ and revolutionaries not only do not ignore the trade union tasks of Social-Democracy, but that, on the contrary, they alone can secure their consistent fulfilment.
 These are the precise expressions used in Two Conferences, pp. 31, 32, 28 and 80.
 Two Conferences, p. 32.
 Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, p. 60. This is the Martynov variation of the application, which we have characterised above, of the thesis “every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes” to the present chaotic state of our movement. In fact, this is merely a translation into Russian of the notorious Bernsteinian sentence: “The movement is everything, the final aim is nothing.”
 p. 43. “Of course, when we advise the workers to present certain economic demands to the government, we do so because in the economic sphere the autocratic government is, of necessity, prepared to make certain concessions!”
 The demand “to lend the economic struggle itself a political character” most strikingly expresses subservience to spontaneity in the sphere of political activity. Very often the economic struggle spontaneously assumes a political character, that is to say, without the intervention of the “revolutionary bacilli – the intelligentsia”, without the intervention of the class-conscious Social-Democrats. The economic struggle of the English workers, for instance, also assumed a political character without any intervention on the part of the socialists. The task of the Social-Democrats, however, is not exhausted by political agitation on an economic basis; their task is to convert trade-unionist politics into Social-Democratic political struggle, to utilise the sparks of political consciousness which the economic struggle generates among the workers, for the purpose of raising the workers to the level of Social-Democratic political consciousness. The Martynovs, however, instead of raising and stimulating the spontaneously awakening political consciousness of the workers, bow to spontaneity and repeat over and over ad nauseam, that the economic struggle ‘impels’ the workers to realise their own lack of political rights. It is unfortunate, gentlemen, that the spontaneously awakening trade-unionist political consciousness does not ‘impel’ you to an understanding of your Social-Democratic tasks.
 To prove that this imaginary speech of a worker to an Economist is based on fact, we shall refer to two witnesses who undoubtedly have direct knowledge of the working-class movement and who are least of all inclined to be partial towards us ‘doctrinaires’; for one witness is an Economist (who regards even Rabocheye Dyelo as a political organ!), and the other is a terrorist. The first witness is the author of a remarkably truthful and vivid article entitled ‘The St. Petersburg Working-Class Movement and the Practical Tasks of Social-Democracy’, published in Rabocheye Dyelo No. 6. He divides the workers into the following categories: (1) class-conscious revolutionaries; (2) intermediate stratum; (3) the remaining masses. The intermediate stratum, he says, “is often more interested in questions of political life than in its own immediate economic interests, the connection between which and the general social conditions it has long understood” … Rabochaya Mysl “is sharply criticised”: “It keeps on repeating the same thing over and over again, things we have long known, read long ago.” “Again, nothing in the political review!” (pp. 30-31.) But even the third stratum, “the younger and more sensitive section of the workers, less corrupted by the tavern and the church, who hardly ever have the opportunity of getting hold of political literature, discuss political events in a rambling way and ponder over the fragmentary news they get about student riots”, etc. The terrorist writes as follows: “They read over once or twice the petty details of factory life in other towns, not their own, and then they read no more… dull, they find it… To say nothing in a workers’ paper about the government… is to regard the workers as being little children… The workers are not little children.” (Svoboda, published by the Revolutionary-Socialist Group, pp. 69-70.)
 Martynov “conceives of another, more realistic [?] dilemma” (Social-Democracy and the Working Class, p. 19): “Either Social-Democracy takes over the direct leadership of the economic struggle of the proletariat and by that [!] transforms it into a revolutionary class struggle…” “By that”, i.e., apparently by the direct leadership of the economic struggle. Can Martynov cite an instance in which leading the trade-union struggle alone has succeeded in transforming a trade-unionist movement into a revolutionary class movement? Can he not understand that in order to bring about this ‘transformation’ we must actively take up the ‘direct leadership’ of all-sided political agitation? … “Or the other perspective: Social-Democracy refrains from assuming the leadership of the economic struggle of the workers and so… clips its own wings…” In Rabocheye Dyelo’s opinion, quoted above, it is Iskra that “refrains”. We have seen, however, that the latter does far more than Rabocheye Dyelo to lead the economic struggle, but that, moreover, it does not confine itself thereto and does not narrow down its political tasks for its sake.
 The big street demonstrations which began in the spring of 1901.
 For example, during the Franco-Prussian War, Liebknecht dictated a programme of action for the whole of democracy; to an even greater extent Marx and Engels did this in 1848.
 The letter in Iskra, No. 7 (August 1901), was from a weaver. It was published in the section ‘Workers’ Movement and Letters from the Factories’. The letter testified to the great influence of Lenin’s Iskra among the advanced workers. The letter reads in part: “I showed Iskra to many fellow-workers and the copy was read to tatters; but we treasure it… Iskra writes about our cause, about the All-Russian cause which cannot be evaluated in kopeks or measured in hours; when you read the paper you understand why the gendarmes and the police are afraid of us workers and of the intellectuals whom we follow. It is a fact that they are a threat, not only to the bosses’ pockets, but to the tsar, the employers, and all the rest… It will not take much now to set the working people aflame. All that is wanted is a spark, and the fire will break out. How true are the words ‘The Spark will kindle a flame!’ [The motto of Iskra.] In the past every strike was an important event, but today everyone sees that strikes alone are not enough and that we must now fight for freedom, gain it through struggle. Today everyone, old and young, is eager to read but the sad thing is that there are no books. Last Sunday I gathered eleven people and read to them ‘Where to Begin?’. We discussed it until late in the evening. How well it expressed everything, how it gets to the very heart of things… And we would like to write a letter to your Iskra and ask you to teach us, not only how to begin, but how to live and how to die.” –Ed.
 Lack of space has prevented us from replying in detail, in Iskra, to this letter, which is highly characteristic of the Economists. We were very glad at its appearance, for the allegations that Iskra did not maintain a consistent class point of view had reached us long before that from various sources, and we were waiting for an appropriate occasion, or for a formulated expression of this fashionable charge, to give our reply. Moreover, it is our habit to reply to attacks, not by defence, but by counter-attack.
 In the interval between these articles there was one (Iskra, No. 3), which dealt especially with class antagonisms in the countryside.
 Rossiya (Russia) – a moderate liberal newspaper published in St. Petersburg from 1899 to 1902. –Ed.
 There follows a reference to the “concrete Russian conditions which fatalistically impel the working-class movement on to the revolutionary path”. But these people refuse to understand that the revolutionary path of the working-class movement might not be a Social-Democratic path. When absolutism reigned, the entire West-European bourgeoisie ‘impelled’, deliberately impelled, the workers on to the path of revolution. We Social-Democrats, however, cannot be satisfied with that. And if we, by any means whatever, degrade Social-Democratic politics to the level of spontaneous trade-unionist politics, we thereby play into the hands of bourgeois democracy.
 S. Peterburgskiye Vedomosti (St. Petersburg Recorder) – a newspaper that began publication in St. Petersburg in 1728 as a continuation of the first Russian newspaper Vedomosti, founded in 1703. From 1728 to 1874 the S. Peterburgskiye Vedomosti was published by the Academy of Sciences and from 1875 onwards by the Ministry of Education; it continued publication until the end of 1917. –Ed.
 L. Brentano – a German bourgeois economist, a champion of so-called ‘state socialism’, who tried to prove the possibility of achieving social equality within the framework of capitalism by reforms and through the reconciliation of the interests of the capitalists and of the workers. Using Marxist phraseology as a cover, Brentano and his followers tried to subordinate the working-class movement to the interests of the bourgeoisie. –Ed.