Lenin, 1904, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, compilation

This Compilation Contains:

  • Section on One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, from the collection “Twelve Years”, published by Lenin in 1907

  • One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Part N., General Picture of the Struggle at the Congress. The Revolutionary and Opportunist Wings of the Party

  • One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Part Q. The New Iskra. Opportunism in Questions of Organisation

  • Contents (Chapter headings) of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

  • Preface to the Collection Twelve Years, by V I Lenin, September 1907

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The pamphlet One Step Forward, Two Steps Back was published in Geneva in the summer of. 1904. It reviews the first stage of the split between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks, which began at the Second Congress (August 1903). I have cut this pamphlet down by half, since minor details of the organisational struggle, especially points concerning the personal composition of the Party centres, cannot possibly be of any interest to the present-day reader and, in fact, are best forgotten. But what is important, I think, is the analysis of the controversy over tactical and other conceptions at the Second Congress, and the polemic with the Mensheviks on matters of organisation. Both are essential for an understanding of Menshevism and Bolshevism as trends which have left their mark upon all the activities of the workers’ party in our revolution.

Of the discussions at the Second Congress of the Social-Democratic Party, I will mention the debate on the agrarian programme. Events have clearly demonstrated that our programme at the time (return of the cut-off lands) was much too limited and underestimated the strength of the revolutionary-democratic peasant movement — I shall deal with this in greater detail in Volume 2 of the present publication. Here it is important to emphasise that even this excessively limited agrarian programme was at that time considered too broad by the Social-Democratic Right wing. Martynov and other Economists opposed it on the grounds that it went too far! This shows the great practical importance of the whole struggle that the old Iskra waged against Economism, against attempts to narrow down and belittle the character of Social-Democratic. policy.

At that time (the first half of 1904) our differences with the Mensheviks were restricted to organisational issues. I described the Menshevik attitude as “opportunism in questions of organisation”. Objecting to this P. B. Axelrod wrote to Kautsky: “My feeble mind just cannot grasp this thing called ,opportunism in questions of organisation’ which is now being brought to the fore as something independent and having no direct connection with programmatic and tactical views. (Letter of June 6, 1904, reprinted in the new-Iskra collection. Two Years, Part II, P. 149.)
The direct connection of opportunism in organisational views with that in tactical views has been sufficiently demonstrated by the whole record of Menshevism in 1905-07. As for this “incomprehensible thing”, “opportunism in questions of organisations, practical experience has borne out my appraisal more brilliantly than I could ever have expected. It suffices to say that even the Menshevik Cherevanin now has to admit (see his pamphlet on the London R.S.D.L.P. Congress of 1907) that Axelrod’s organisational plans (the much-talked-of “labour congress”, etc.) could only lead to splits that would ruin the proletarian cause. What is more, the same Cherevanin tells us in this pamphlet that in London Plekhanov had to contend with “organisational anarchism” within the Menshevik faction. And so it was not for nothing that I fought “opportunism in questions of organisation” in 1904, seeing that in 1907 both Cherevanin and Plekhanov have had to recognise the “organisational anarchism” of influential Mensheviks.

From: V. I. Lenin, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (The Crisis In Our Party)

N. General Picture of the Struggle at the Congress. The Revolutionary and Opportunist Wings of the Party

Having finished our analysis of the Congress debates and voting, we must now sum up, so that we may, on the basis of the entire Congress material, answer the question: what elements, groups, and shades went to make up the final majority and minority which we saw in the elections and which were destined for a time to become the main division in our Party? A summary must be made of all the material relating to shades of principle, theoretical and tactical, which the minutes of the Congress provide in such abundance. Without a general "resumé" without a general picture of the Congress as a whole, and of all the principal groupings during the voting, this material is too disjointed, too disconnected, so that at first sight the individual groupings seem accidental, especially to one who does not take the trouble to make an independent and comprehensive study of the Congress Minutes (and how many readers have taken that trouble?).

In English parliamentary reports we often meet the characteristic word "division". The House "divided" into such and such a majority and minority, it is said when an issue is voted. The "division" of our Social-Democratic House on the various issues discussed at the Congress presents a picture of the struggle within the Party, of its shades of opinion and groups, that is unique of its kind and unparalleled for its completeness and accuracy. To make the picture a graphic one, to obtain a real picture instead of a heap of disconnected, disjointed, and isolated facts and incidents, to put a stop to the endless and senseless arguments over particular votings (who voted for whom and who supported whom?), I have decided to try to depict all the basic types of "divisions" at our Congress in the form of a diagram. This will probably seem strange to a great many people, but I doubt whether any other method can be found that would really generalise and summarise the results in the most complete and accurate manner possible. Which way a particular delegate voted can be ascertained with absolute accuracy in cases when a roll-call vote was taken; and in certain important cases when no roll-call vote was taken it can be determined from the minutes with a very high degree of probability, with a sufficient degree of approximation to the truth. And if we take into account all the roll-call votes and all the other votes on issues of any importance (as judged, for example, by the thoroughness and warmth of the debates), we shall obtain the most objective picture of our inner Party struggle that the material at our disposal permits. In doing so, instead of giving a photograph, i.e., an image of each voting separately, we shall try to give a picture, i.e., to present all the main types of voting, ignoring relatively unimportant exceptions and variations which would only confuse matters. In any case, anybody will be able with the aid of the minutes to check every detail of our picture, to amplify it with any particular voting he likes, in short, to criticise it not only by arguing, expressing doubts, and making references to isolated incidents, but by drawing a different picture on the basis of the same material.

In marking on the diagram each delegate who took part in the voting, we shall indicate by special shading the four main groups which we have traced in detail through the whole of the Congress debates, viz., 1) the Iskra-ists of the majority; 2) the Iskra-ists of the minority; 3) the "Centre", and 4) the anti-Iskra-ists. We have seen the difference in shades of principle between these groups in a host of instances, and if anyone does not like the names of the groups, which remind lovers of zigzags too much of the Iskra organisation and the Iskra trend, we can tell them that it is not the name that matters. Now that we have traced the shades through all the debates at the Congress, it is easy to substitute for the already established and familiar Party appellations (which jar on the ears of some) a characterisation of the essence of the shades between the groups. Were this substitution made, we would obtain the following names for these same four groups: 1) consistent revolutionary Social-Democrats; 2) minor opportunists; 3) middling opportunists; and 4) major opportunists (major by our Russian standards). Let us hope that these names will be less shocking to those who have latterly taken to assuring themselves and others that Iskra-ist is a name which only denotes a "circle", and not a trend.

Let us now explain in detail the types of voting "snapped" on this diagram (see diagram: General Picture of the Struggle at the Congress—p.339).


The first type of voting (A) covers the cases when the "Centre" joined with the Iskra-ists against the anti-Iskra-ists or a part of them. It includes the vote on the programme as a whole (Comrade Akimov alone abstained,(26) all the others voted for); the vote on the resolution condemning federation in principle (all voted for except the five Bundists); the vote on Paragraph 2 of the Bund Rules (the five Bundists voted against us; five abstained, viz.: Martynov, Akimov, Brouckère, and Makhov with his two votes; the rest were with us); it is this vote that is represented in diagram A. Further, the three votes on the question of endorsing Iskra as the Party's Central Organ were also of this type: the editors (five votes) abstained; in all three cases there were two votes against (Akimov and Brouckère), and, in addition, when the vote on the motives for endorsing Iskra was taken, the five Bundists and Comrade Martynov abstained.

This type of voting provides the answer to a very interesting and important question, namely, when did the Congress "Centre" vote with the Iskra-ists? It was either when the anti-"Iskra"-ists, too, were with us, with a few exceptions (adoption of the programme, or endorsement of Iskra without motives stated), or else when it was a question of the sort of statement which was not in itself a direct committal to a definite political position (recognition of Iskra's organising work was not in itself a committal to carry out its organisational policy in relation to particular groups; rejection of the principle of federation did not preclude abstention from voting on a specific scheme of federation, as we have seen in the case of Comrade Makhov). We have already seen, when speaking of the significance of the groupings at the Congress in general, how falsely this matter is put in the official account of the official Iskra;, which (through the mouth of Comrade Martov) slurs and glosses over the difference between the Iskra-ists and the "Centre", between consistent revolutionary Social-Democrats and opportunists, by citing cases when the anti-"Iskra"-ists, too, voted with us! Even the most "Right-wing" of the opportunists in the German and French Social-Democratic parties never vote against such points as the adoption of the programme as a whole.

The second type of voting (B) covers the cases when the Iskra-ists, consistent and inconsistent, voted together against all the anti-Iskra-ists and the entire "Centre". These were mostly cases that involved giving effect to definite and specific plans of the Iskra policy, that is, endorsing Iskra in fact and not only in word. They include the Organising Committee incident(27); the question of making the position of the Bund in the Party the first item on the agenda; the dissolution of the Yuzhny Rabochy group; two votes on the agrarian programme, and, sixthly and lastly, the vote against the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad (Rabocheye Dyelo), that is, the recognition of the League as the only Party organisation abroad. The old, pre-Party, circle spirit, the interests of opportunist organisations or groups, the narrow conception of Marxism were fighting here against the strictly consistent and principled policy of revolutionary Social-Democracy; the Iskra-ists of the minority still sided with us in quite a number of cases, in a number of exceedingly important votes (important from the standpoint of the Organising Committee, Yuzhny Rabochy, and Rabocheye Dyelo) . . . until their own circle spirit and their own inconsistency came into question. The "divisions" of this type bring out with graphic clarity that on a number of issues involving the practical application of our principles, the Centre joined forces with the anti-"Iskra"-ists, displaying a much greater kinship with them than with us, a much greater leaning in practice towards the opportunist than towards the revolutionary wing of Social-Democracy. Those who were Iskra-ists in name but were ashamed to be Iskra-ists revealed their true nature, and the struggle that inevitably ensued caused no little acrimony, which obscured from the less thoughtful and more impressionable the significance of the shades of principle disclosed in that struggle. But now that the ardour of battle has somewhat abated and the minutes remain as a dispassionate extract of a series of heated encounters, only those who wilfully close their eyes can fail to perceive that the alliance of the Makhovs and Egorovs with the Akimovs and Liebers was not, and could not be, fortuitous. The only thing Martov and Axelrod can do is keep well away from a comprehensive and accurate analysis of the minutes, or try at this late date to undo their behaviour at the Congress by all sorts of expressions of regret. As if regrets can remove differences of views and differences of policy! As if the present alliance of Martov and Axelrod with Akimov, Brouckère, and Martynov can cause our Party, restored at the Second Congress, to forget the struggle which the Iskra-ists waged with the anti-Iskra-ists almost throughout the Congress!

The distinguishing feature of the third type of voting at the Congress, represented by the three remaining parts of the diagram (C, D, and E), is that a small section of the "Iskra"-ists broke away and went over to the anti-"Iskra"-ists, who accordingly gained the victory (as long as they remained at the Congress). In order to trace with comp]ete accuracy the development of this celebrated coalition of the Iskra-ist minority with the anti-Iskra-ists, the mere mention of which drove Martov to write hysterical epistles at the Congress, we have reproduced all the three main kinds of roll-call votes of this type. C is the vote on equality of languages (the last of the three roll-call votes on this question is given, it being the fullest). All the anti-Iskra-ists and the whole Centre stand solid against us; from the Iskra-ists a part of the majority and a part of the minority break away. It is not yet clear which of the "Iskra"-ists are capable of forming a definite and lasting coalition with the opportunist "Right wing" of the Congress. Next comes type D—the vote on Paragraph 1 of the Rules (of the two votes, we have taken the one which was more clear-cut, that is, in which there were no abstentions). The coalition stands out more saliently and assumes firmer shape (28): all the Iskra-ists of the minority are now on the side of Akimov and Lieber, but only a very small number of Iskra-ists of the majority, these counterbalancing three of the "Centre" and one anti-Iskra-ist who have come over to our side. A mere glance at the diagram suffices to show which elements shifted from side to side casually and temporarily and which were drawn with irresistible force towards a lasting coalition with the Akimovs. The last vote (E—elections to the Central Organ, the Central Committee, and the Party Council), which in fact represents the final division into majority and minority, clearly reveals the complete fusion of the Iskra-ist minority with the entire "Centre" and the remnants of the anti-Iskra-ists. By this time, of the eight anti-Iskra-ists, only Comrade Brouckère remained at the Congress (Comrade Akimov had already explained his mistake to him and he had taken his proper place in the ranks of the Martovites). The withdrawal of the seven most "Right-wing" of the opportunists decided the issue of the elections against Martov. [A]

And now, with the aid of the objective evidence of votes of every type, let us sum up the results of the Congress.

There has been much talk to the effect that the majority at our Congress was "accidental". This, in fact, was Comrade Martov's sole consolation in his Once More in the Minority. The diagram clearly shows that in one sense, but in only one, the majority could be called accidental, viz., in the sense that the withdrawal of the seven most opportunist delegates of the "Right " was—supposedly—a matter of accident. To the extent that this withdrawal was an accident (and no more), our majority was accidental. A mere glance at the diagram will show better than any long arguments on whose side these seven would have been, were bound to have been. (29) But the question is: how far was the withdrawal of the seven really an accident? That is a question which those who talk so freely about the "accidental" character of the majority do not like to ask themselves. It is an unpleasant question for them. Was it an accident that the most extreme representatives of the Right and not of the Left wing of our Party were the ones to withdraw? Was it an accident that it was opportunists who withdrew, and not consistent revolutionary Social-Democrats? Is there no connection between this "accidental" withdrawal and the struggle against the opportunist wing which was waged throughout the Congress and which stands out so graphically in our diagram?

One has only to ask these questions, which are so unpleasant to the minority, to realise what fact all this talk about the accidental character of the majority is intended to conceal. It is the unquestionable and incontrovertible fact that the minority was formed of those in our Party who gravitate most towards opportunism. The minority was formed of those elements in the Party who are least stable in theory, least steadfast in matters of principle. It was from the Right wing of the Party that the minority was formed. The division into majority and minority is a direct and inevitable continuation of that division of the Social-Democrats into a revolutionary and an opportunist wing, into a Mountain and a Gironde,[107] which did not appear only yesterday, nor in the Russian workers' party alone, and which no doubt will not disappear tomorrow.

This fact is of cardinal importance for elucidating the causes and the various stages of our disagreements. Whoever tries to evade the fact by denying or glossing over the struggle at the Congress and the shades of principle that it revealed, simply testifies to his own intellectual and political poverty. And in order to disprove the fact, it would have to be shown, in the first place, that the general picture of the voting and "divisions" at our Party Congress was different from the one I have drawn; and, in the second place, that it was the most consistent revolutionary Social-Democrats, those who in Russia have adopted the name of Iskra-ists,(30) who were in the wrong on the substance of all those issues over which the Congress "divided". Well, just try to show that, gentlemen!

Incidentally, the fact that the minority was formed of the most opportunist, the least stable and consistent elements of the Party provides an answer to those numerous objections and expressions of doubt which are addressed to the majority by people who are imperfectly acquainted with the matter, or have not given it sufficient thought. Is it not petty, we are told, to account for the divergence by a minor mistake of Comrade Martov and Comrade Axelrod? Yes, gentlemen, Comrade Martov's mistake was a minor one (and I said so even at the Congress, in the heat of the struggle); but this minor mistake could (and did ) cause a lot of harm because Comrade Martov was pulled over to the side of delegates who had made a whole series of mistakes, had manifested an inclination towards opportunism and inconsistency of principle on a whole series of questions. That Comrade Martov and Comrade Axelrod should have displayed instability was an unimportant fact concerning individuals; it was not an individual fact, however, but a Party fact, and a not altogether unimportant one, that a very considerable minority should have been formed of all the least stable elements, of all who either rejected Iskra's trend altogether and openly opposed it, or paid lip service to it but actually sided time and again with the anti-Iskra-ists.

Is it not absurd to account for the divergence by the prevalence of an inveterate circle spirit and revolutionary philistinism in the small circle comprised by the old Iskra editorial board? No, it is not absurd, because all those in our Party who all through the Congress had fought for every kind of circle, all those who were generally incapable of rising above revolutionary philistinism, all those who talked about the "historical" character of the philistine and circle spirit in order to justify and preserve that evil, rose up in support of this particular circle. The fact that narrow circle interests prevailed over the Party interest in the one little circle of the Iskra editorial board might, perhaps, be regarded as an accident; but it was no accident that in staunch support of this circle rose up the Akimovs and Brouckères, who attached no less (if not more) value to the "historical continuity" of the celebrated Voronezh Committee and the notorious St. Petersburg "Workers' Organisation"[108]; the Egorovs, who lamented the "murder" of Rabocheye Dyelo as bitterly as the "murder" of the old editorial board (if not more so); the Makhovs, etc., etc. You can tell a man by his friends—the proverb says. And you can tell a man's political complexion by his political allies, by the people who vote for him.

The minor mistake committed by Comrade Martov and Comrade Axelrod was, and might have remained, a minor one until it became the starting-point for a durable alliance between them and the whole opportunist wing of our Party, until it led, as a result of that alliance, to a recrudescence of opportunism, to the exaction of revenge by all whom Iskra had fought and who were now overjoyed at a chance of venting their spleen on the consistent adherents of revolutionary Social-Democracy. And as a result of the post-Congress events, what we are witnessing in the new Iskra is precisely a recrudescence of opportunism, the revenge of the Akimovs and Brouckères (see the leaflet issued by the Voronezh Committee[See pp.8-09 of this volume.—Ed.]), and the glee of the Martynovs, who have at last (at last!) been allowed, in the detested Iskra, to have a kick at the detested "enemy" for each and every former grievance. This makes it particularly clear how essential it was to "restore Iskra's old editorial board" (we are quoting from Comrade Starover's ultimatum of November 3, 1903) in order to preserve Iskra "continuity". . . .

Taken by itself, there was nothing dreadful, nor critical, nor even anything abnormal in the fact that the Congress (and the Party) divided into a Left and a Right, a revolutionary and an opportunist wing. On the contrary, the whole past decade in the history of the Russian (and not only the Russian) Social-Democratic movement had been leading inevitably and inexorably to such a division. The fact that the division took place over a number of very minor mistakes of the Right wing, of (relatively) very unimportant differences (a fact which seems shocking to the superficial observer and to the philistine mind), marked a big step forward for our Party as a whole. Formerly we used to differ over major issues, such as might in some cases even justify a split; now we have reached agreement on all major and important points, and are only divided by shades, about which we may and should argue, but over which it would be absurd and childish to part company (as Comrade Plekhanov has quite rightly said in his interesting article "What Should Not Be Done", to which we shall revert). Now, when the anarchistic behaviour of the minority since the Congress has almost brought the Party to a split, one may often hear wiseacres saying: Was it worth while fighting at the Congress over such trifles as the Organising Committee incident, the dissolution of the Yuzhny Rabochy group or Rabocheye Dyelo, or Paragraph 1, or the dissolution of the old editorial board, etc.? Those who argue in this way(31) are in fact introducing the circle standpoint into Party affairs: a struggle of shades in the Party is inevitable and essential, as long as it does not lead to anarchy and splits, as long as it is confined within bounds approved by the common consent of all comrades and Party members. And our struggle against the Right wing of the Party at the Congress, against Akimov and Axelrod, Martynov and Martov, in no way exceeded those bounds. One need only recall two facts which incontrovertibly prove this: 1) when Comrades Martynov and Akimov were about to quit the Congress, we were all prepared to do everything to obliterate the idea of an "insult"; we all adopted (by thirty-two votes) Comrade Trotsky's motion inviting these comrades to regard the explanations as satisfactory and withdraw their statement; 2) when it came to the election of the central bodies, we were prepared to allow the minority (or the opportunist wing) of the Congress a minority on both central bodies: Martov on the Central Organ and Popov on the Central Committee. We could not act otherwise from the Party standpoint, since even before the Congress we had decided to elect two trios. If the difference of shades revealed at the Congress was not great, neither was the practical conclusion we drew from the struggle between these shades: the conclusion amounted solely to this, that two-thirds of the seats on both bodies of three ought to be given to the majority at the Party Congress.
It was only the refusal of the minority at the Party Congress to be a minority on the central bodies that led first to the "feeble whining" of defeated intellectuals, and then to anarchistic talk and anarchistic actions.

In conclusion, let us take one more glance at the diagram from the standpoint of the composition of the central bodies. Quite naturally, in addition to the question of shades, the delegates were faced during the elections with the question of the suitability, efficiency, etc., of one or another person. The minority are now very prone to confuse these two questions. Yet that they are different questions is self-evident, and this can be seen from the simple fact, for instance, that the election of an initial trio for the Central Organ had been pIanned even before the Congress, at a time when no one could have foreseen the alliance of Martov and Axelrod with Martynov and Akimov. Different questions have to be answered in different ways: the answer to the question of shades must be sought for in the minutes of the Congress, in the open discussions and voting on each and every issue. As to the question of the suitability of persons, everybody at the Congress had decided that it should be settled by secret ballot. Why did the whole Congress unanimously take that decision? The question is so elementary that it would be odd to dwell on it. But (since their defeat at the ballot-box) the minority have begun to forget even elementary things. We have heard torrents of ardent, passionate speeches, heated almost to the point of irresponsibility, in defence of the old editorial board, but we have heard absolutely nothing about the shades at the Congress that were involved in the struggle over a board of six or three. We hear talk and gossip on all sides about the ineffectualness, the unsuitability, the evil designs, etc., of the persons elected to the Central Committee, but we hear absolutely nothing about the shades at the Congress that fought for predominance on the Central Committee. To me it seems indecent and discreditable to go about talking and gossiping outside the Congress about the qualities and actions of individuals (for in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred these actions are an organisational secret, which can only be divulged to the supreme authority of the Party). To fight outside the Congress by means of such gossip would, in my opinion, be scandal-mongering. And the only public reply I could make to all this talk would be to point to the struggle at the Congress: You say that the Central Committee was elected by a narrow majority. That is true. But this narrow majority consisted of all who had most consistently fought, not in words but in actual fact, for the realisation of the Iskra plans. Consequently, the moral prestige of this majority should be even higher—incomparably so—than its formal prestige—higher in the eyes of all who value the continuity of the Iskra trend above the continuity of a particular Iskra circle. Who was more competent to judge the suitability of particular persons to carry out the Iskra policyÐthose who fought for that policy at the Congress, or those who in no few cases fought against that policy and defended everything retrograde, every kind of old rubbish, every kind of circle mentality?

Q. The New Iskra. Opportunism In Questions Of Organisation

As the basis for an analysis of the principles of the new Iskra we should unquestionably take the two articles of Comrade Axelrod.[D] The concrete meaning of some of his favourite catchwords has already been shown at length. Now we must try to leave their concrete meaning on one side and delve down to the line of thought that caused the "minority" to arrive (in connection with this or that minor and petty matter) at these particular slogans rather than any others, must examine the principles behind these slogans, irrespective of their origin, irrespective of the question of "co-optation". Concessions are all the fashion nowadays, so let us make a concession to Comrade Axelrod and take his "theory" "seriously".

Comrade Axelrod's basic thesis (Iskra , No 57) is that "from the very outset our movement harboured two opposite trends, whose mutual antagonism could not fail to develop and to affect the movement parallel with its own development". To be specific: "In principle, the proletarian aim of the movement [in Russia] is the same as that of western Social-Democracy." But in our country the masses of the workers are influenced "by a social element alien to them", namely, the radical intelligentsia. And so, Comrade Axelrod establishes the existence of an antagonism between the proletarian and the radical-intellectual trend in our Party.

In this Comrade Axelrod is undoubtedly right. The existence of such an antagonism (and not in the Russian Social-Democratic Party alone) is beyond question. What is more, everyone knows that it is this antagonism that largely accounts for the division of present-day Social-Democracy into revolutionary (also known as orthodox) and opportunist (revisionist, ministerialist, reformist) Social-Democracy, which during the past ten years of our movement has become fully apparent in Russia too. Everyone also knows that the proletarian trend of the movement is expressed by orthodox Social-Democracy, while the trend of the democratic intelligentsia is expressed by opportunist Social-Democracy.

But, after so closely approaching this piece of common knowledge, Comrade Axelrod begins timidly to back away from it. He does not make the slightest attempt to analyse how this division manifested itself in the history of Russian Social-Democracy in general, and at our Party Congress in particular, although it is about the Congress that he is writing! Like all the other editors of the new Iskra, Comrade Axelrod displays a mortal fear of the minutes of this Congress. This should not surprise us after all that has been said above, but in a "theoretician" who claims to be investigating the different trends in our movement it is certainly a queer case of truth-phobia. Backing away, because of this malady, from the latest and most accurate material on the trends in our movement, Comrade Axelrod seeks salvation in the sphere of pleasant daydreaming. He writes: "Has not legal Marxism, or semi-Marxism, provided our liberals with a literary leader? Why should not prankish history provide revolutionary bourgeois democracy with a leader from the school of orthodox, revolutionary Marxism?" All we can say about this daydream which Comrade Axelrod finds so pleasant is that if history does sometimes play pranks, that is no excuse for pranks of thought on the part of people who undertake to analyse history. When the liberal peeped out from under the cloak of the leader of semi-Marxism, those who wished (and were able) to trace his "trend" did not allude to possible pranks of history, but pointed to tens and hundreds of instances of that leader's mentality and logic, to all those characteristics of his literary make-up which betrayed the reflection of Marxism in bourgeois literature.[116] And if Comrade Axelrod, setting out to analyse "the general-revolutionary and the proletarian trend in our movement", could produce nothing, absolutely nothing, in proof or evidence that certain representatives of that orthodox wing of the Party which he so detests showed such and such a trend, he thereby issued a formal certificate of his own poverty. Comrade Axelrod's case must be weak indeed if all he can do is allude to possible pranks of history!

Comrade Axelrod's other allusion—to the "Jacobins"—is still more revealing. Comrade Axelrod is probably aware that the division of present-day Social-Democracy into revolutionary and opportunist has long since given rise—and not only in Russia—to "historical parallels with the era of the great French Revolution". Comrade Axelrod is probably aware that the Girondists of present-day Social-Democracy everywhere and always resort to the terms "Jacobinism", "Blanquism", and so on to describe their opponents. Let us then not imitate Comrade Axelrod's truth-phobia, let us consult the minutes of our Congress and see whether they offer any material for an analysis and examination of the trends we are considering and the parallels we are discussing.

First example: the Party Congress debate on the programme. Comrade Akimov ("fully agreeing" with Comrade Martynov) says: "The clause on the capture of political power [the dictatorship of the proletariat] has been formulated in such a way—as compared with the programmes of all other Social-Democratic parties—that it may be interpreted, and actually has been interpreted by Plekhanov, to mean that the role of the leading organisation will relegate to the background the class it is leading and separate the former from the latter. Consequently, the formulation of our political tasks is exactly the same as in the case of Narodnaya Volya." (Minutes, p. 124.) Comrade Plekhanov and other Iskra-ists take issue with Comrade Akimov and accuse him of opportunism. Does not Comrade Axelrod find that this dispute shows us (in actual fact, and not in the imaginary pranks of history) the antagonism between the present-day Jacobins and the present-day Girondists of Social-Democracy? And was it not because he found himself in the company of the Girondists of Social-Democracy (owing to the mistakes he committed) that Comrade Axelrod began talking about Jacobins?

Second example: Comrade Posadovsky declares that there is a "serious difference of opinion" over the "fundamental question" of "the absolute value of democratic principles" (p. 169). Together with Plekhanov, he denies their absolute value. The leaders of the "Centre" or Marsh (Egorov) and of the anti-Iskra-ists (Goldblatt) vehemently oppose this view and accuse Plekhanov of "imitating bourgeois tactics" (p. 170). This is exactly Comrade Axelrod's idea of a connection between orthodoxy and the bourgeois trend, the only difference being that in Axelrod's case it is vague and general, whereas Goldblatt linked it up with specific issues. Again we ask: does not Comrade Axelrod find that this dispute, too, shows us palpably, at our Party Congress, the antagonism between the Jacobins and the Girondists of present-day Social-Democracy? Is it not because he finds himself in the company of the Girondists that Comrade Axelrod raises this outcry against the Jacobins?

Third example: the debate on Paragraph 1 of the Rules. Who is it that defends "the proletarian trend in our movement "? Who is it that insists that the worker is not afraid of organisation, that the proletarian has no sympathy for anarchy, that he values the incentive to organise? Who is it that warns us against the bourgeois intelligentsia, permeated through and through with opportunism? The Jacobins of Social-Democracy. And who is it that tries to smuggle radical intellectuals into the Party? Who is it that is concerned about professors, high-school students, free lances, the radical youth? The Girondist Axelrod together with the Girondist Lieber.

How clumsily Comrade Axelrod defends himself against the "false accusation of opportunism" that at our Party Congress was openly levelled at the majority of the Emancipation of Labour group! By taking up the hackneyed Bernsteinian refrain about Jacobinism, Blanquism, and so on, he defends himself in a manner that only bears out the accusation! He shouts about the menace of the radical intellectuals in order to drown out his own speeches at the Party Congress, which were full of concern for these intellectuals.

These "dreadful words"—Jacobinism and the rest—are expressive of opportunism and nothing else. A Jacobin who wholly identifies himself with the organisation of the proletariat—a proletariat conscious of its class interests—is a revolutionary Social-Democrat. A Girondist who sighs after professors and high-school students, who is afraid of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and who yearns for the absolute value of democratic demands is an opportunist. It is only opportunists who can still detect a danger in conspiratorial organisations today, when the idea of confining the political struggle to conspiracy has been refuted thousands of times in the press and has long been refuted and swept aside by the realities of life, and when the cardinal importance of mass political agitation has been elucidated and reiterated to the point of nausea. The real basis of this fear of conspiracy, of Blanquism, is not any feature to be found in the practical movement (as Bernstein and Co. have long, and vainly, been trying to make out), but the Girondist timidity of the bourgeois intellectual, whose mentality so often shows itself among the Social-Democrats of today. Nothing could be more comical than these laborious efforts of the new Iskra to utter a new word of warning (uttered hundreds of times before) against the tactics of the French conspirator revolutionaries of the forties and sixties (No. 62, editorial).[117] In the next issue of Iskra, the Girondists of present-day Social-Democracy will no doubt show us a group of French conspirators of the forties for whom the importance of political agitation among the working masses, the importance of the labour press as the principal means by which the party influences the class, was an elementary truth they had learned and assimilated long ago.

However, the tendency of the new Iskra to repeat the elements and go back to the ABC while pretending to be uttering something new is not fortuitous; it is an inevitable consequence of the situation Axelrod and Martov find themselves in, now that they have landed in the opportunist wing of our Party. There is nothing for it. They have to repeat the opportunist phrases, they have to go back, in order to try to find in the remote past some sort of justification for their position, which is indefensible from the point of view of the struggle at the Congress and of the shades and divisions in the Party that took shape there.To the Akimovite profundities about Jacobinism and Blanquism, Comrade Axelrod adds Akimovite lamentations to the effect that not only the "Economists", but the "politicians" as well, were "one-sided", excessively "infatuated", and so on and so forth. Reading the high-flown disquisitions on this subject in the new Iskra, which conceitedly claims to be above all this one-sidedness and infatuation, one asks in perplexity: whose portrait is it they are painting? where is it that they hear such talk?[118] Who does not know that the division of the Russian Social-Democrats into Economists and politicians has long been obsolete? Go through the files of Iskra for the last year or two before the Party Congress, and you will find that the fight against "Economism" subsided and came to an end altogether as far back as 1902; you will find, for example, that in July 1903 (No. 43), "the times of Economism" are spoken of as being "definitely over", Economism is considered "dead and buried", and any infatuations of the politicians are regarded as obvious atavism. Why, then, do the new editors of Iskra revert to this dead and buried division? Did we fight the Akimovs at the Congress on account of the mistakes they made in Rabocheye Dyelo two years ago? If we had, we should have been sheer idiots. But everyone knows that we did not, that it was not for their old, dead and buried mistakes in Rabocheye Dyelo that we fought the Akimovs at the Congress, but for the new mistakes they committed in their arguments and their voting at the Congress. It was not by their stand in Rabocheye Dyelo, but by their stand at the Congress, that we judged which mistakes were really a thing of the past and which still lived and called for controversy. By the time of the Congress the old division into Economists and politicians no longer existed; but various opportunist trends continued to exist. They found expression in the debates and voting on a number of issues, and finally led to a new division of the Party into "majority" and "minority". The whole point is that the new editors of Iskra are, for obvious reasons, trying to gloss over the connection between this new division and contemporary opportunism in our Party, and are, in consequence, compelled to go back from the new division to the old one. Their inability to explain the political origin of the new division (or their desire, in order to prove how accommodating they are, to cast a veil(41) over its origin) compels them to keep harping on a division that has long been obsolete. Everyone knows that the new division is based on a difference over questions of organisation, which began with the controversy over principles of organisation (Paragraph 1 of the Rules) and ended up with a "practice" worthy of anarchists. The old division into Economists and politicians was based mainly on a difference over questions of tactics.

In its efforts to justify this retreat from the more complex, truly topical and burning issues of Party life to issues that have long been settled and have now been dug up artificially, the new Iskra resorts to an amusing display of profundity for which there can be no other name than tail-ism. Started by Comrade Axelrod, there runs like a crimson thread through all the writing of the new Iskra the profound "idea" that content is more important than form, that programme and tactics are more important than organisation, that "the vitality of an organisation is in direct proportion to the volume and value of the content it puts into the movement", that centralism is not an "end in itself", not an "all-saving talisman", etc., etc. Great and profound truths! The programme is indeed more important than tactics, and tactics more important than organisation. The alphabet is more important than etymology, and etymology more important than syntax—but what would we say of people who, after failing in an examination in syntax, went about pluming and priding themselves on being left in a lower class far another year? Comrade Axelrod argued about principles of organisation like an opportunist (Paragraph 1), and behaved inside the organisation like an anarchist (League Congress)—and now he is trying to render Social-Democracy more profound. Sour grapes! What is organisation, properly speaking? Why, it is only a form. What is centralism? After all, it is not a talisman. What is syntax? Why, it is less important than etymology; it is only the form of combining the elements of etymology. . . . "Will not Comrade Alexandrov agree with us," the new editors of Iskra triumphantly ask, "when we say that the Congress did much more for the centralisation of Party work by drawing up a Party programme than by adopting Rules, however perfect the latter may seem?" (No. 56, Supplement.) It is to be hoped that this classical utterance will acquire a historic fame no less wide and no less lasting than Comrade Krichevsky's celebrated remark that Social-Democracy, like mankind, always sets itself only such tasks as it can perform. For the new Iskra's piece of profundity is of exactly the same stamp. Why was Comrade Krichevsky's phrase held up to derision? Because he tried to justify the mistake of a section of the Social-Democrats in matters of tactics—their inability to set correct political tasks—by a commonplace which he wanted to palm off as philosophy. In exactly the same way the new Iskra tries to justify the mistake of a section of the Social-Democrats in matters of organisation—the intellectualist instability of certain comrades, which has led them to the point of anarchistic phrase-mongering—by the commonplace that the programme is more important than the Rules, that questions of programme are more important than questions of organisation! What is this but tail-ism? What is it but pluming oneself on having been left in a lower class for another year?

The adoption of a programme contributes more to the centralisation of the work than the adoption of Rules. How this commonplace, palmed off as philosophy, reeks of the mentality of the radical intellectual, who has much more in common with bourgeois decadence than with Social-Democracy! Why, the word centralisation is used in this famous phrase in a sense that is nothing but symbolical. If the authors of the phrase are unable or disinclined to think, they might at least have recalled the simple fact that the adoption of a programme together with the Bundists, far from leading to the centralisation of our common work, did not even save us from a split. Unity on questions of programme and tactics is an essential but by no means a sufficient condition for Party unity, for the centralisation of Party work (good God, what elementary things one has to spell out nowadays, when all concepts have been confused!). The latter requires, in addition, unity of organisation, which, in a party that has grown to be anything more than a mere family circle, is inconceivable without formal Rules, without the subordination of the minority to the majority and of the part to the whole. As long as we had no unity on the fundamental questions of programme and tactics, we bluntly admitted that we were living in a period of disunity and separate circles, we bluntly declared that before we could unite, lines of demarcation must be drawn; we did not even talk of the forms of a joint organisation, but exclusively discussed the new (at that time they really were new) problems of fighting opportunism on programme and tactics. At present, as we all agree, this fight has already produced a sufficient degree of unity, as formulated in the Party programme and the Party resolutions on tactics; we had to take the next step, and, by common consent, we did take it, working out the forms of a united organisation that would merge all the circles together. But now these forms have been half destroyed and we have been dragged back, dragged back to anarchistic conduct, to anarchistic phrases, to the revival of a circle in place of a Party editorial board. And this step back is being justified on the plea that the alphabet is more helpful to literate speech than a knowledge of syntax!

The philosophy of tail-ism, which flourished three years ago in questions of tactics, is being resurrected today in relation to questions of organisation. Take the following argument of the new editors. "The militant Social-Democratic trend in the Party," says Comrade Alexandrov, "should be maintained not only by an ideological struggle, but by definite forms of organisation." Whereupon the editors edifyingly remark: "Not bad, this juxtaposition of ideological struggle and forms of organisation. The ideological struggle is a process, whereas the forms of organisation are only . . . forms [believe it or not, that is what they say—No. 56, Supplement, p. 4, bottom of col. 1!] designed to clothe a fluid and developing content—the developing practical work of the Party." That is positively in the style of the joke about a cannon-ball being a cannon-ball and a bomb a bomb! The ideological struggle is a process, whereas the forms of organisation are only forms clothing the content! The point at issue is whether our ideological struggle is to have forms of a higher type to clothe it, the forms of a party organisation, binding on all, or the forms of the old disunity and the old circles. We have been dragged back from higher to more primitive forms, and this is being justified on the plea that the ideological struggle is a process, whereas forms—are only forms. That is just how Comrade Krichevsky in bygone days tried to drag us back from tactics-as-a-plan to tactics-as-a-process.

Take the new Iskra's pompous talk about the "self-training of the proletariat", directed against those who are supposed to be in danger of missing the content because of the form (No. 58, editorial). Is this not Akimovism No. 2? Akimovism No. 1 justified the backwardness of a section of the Social-Democratic intelligentsia in formulating tactical tasks by talking about the more "profound" content of "the proletarian struggle" and the self-training of the proletariat. Akimovism No. 2 justifies the backwardness of a section of the Social-Democratic intelligentsia in the theory and practice of organisation by equally profound talk about organisation being merely a form and the self-training of the proletariat the important thing. Let me tell you gentlemen who are so solicitous about the younger brother that the proletariat is not afraid of organisation and discipline! The proletariat will do nothing to have the worthy professors and high-school students who do not want to join an organisation recognised as Party members merely because they work under the control of an organisation. The proletariat is trained for organisation by its whole life, far more radically than many an intellectual prig. Having gained some understanding of our programme and our tactics, the proletariat will not start justifying backwardness in organisation by arguing that the form is less important than the content. It is not the proletariat, but certain intellectuals in our Party who lack self-training in the spirit of organisation and discipline, in the spirit of hostility and contempt for anarchistic talk. When they say that it is not ripe for organisation, the Akimovs No. 2 libel the proletariat just as the Akimovs No. 1 libelled it when they said that it was not ripe for the political struggle. The proletarian who has become a conscious Social-Democrat and feels himself a member of the Party will reject tail-ism in matters of organisation with the same contempt as he rejected tail-ism in matters of tactics.

Finally, consider the profound wisdom of the new Iskra's "Practical Worker". "Properly understood," he says, "the idea of a 'militant' centralist organisation uniting and centralising the revolutionaries' activities [the italics are to make it look more profound] can only materialise naturally if such activities exist [both new and clever!]; organisation itself, being a form [mark that!], can only grow simultaneously [the italics are the author's, as throughout this quotation] with the growth of the revolutionary work which is its content." (No. 57.) Does not this remind you very much of the character in the folktale who, on seeing a funeral, cried: "Many happy returns of the day"? I am sure there is not a practical worker (in the genuine sense of the term) in our Party who does not understand that it is precisely the form of our activities (i.e., our organisation) that has long been lagging, and lagging desperately, behind their content, and that only the Simple Simons in the Party could shout to people who are lagging: "Keep in line; don't run ahead !" Compare our Party, let us say, with the Bund. There can be no question but that the content(42) of the work of our Party is immeasurably richer, more varied, broader, and deeper than is the case with the Bund. The scope of our theoretical views is wider, our programme more developed, our influence among the mass of the workers (and not merely among the organised artisans) broader and deeper, our propaganda and agitation more varied; the pulse of the political work of both leaders and rank and file is more lively, the popular movements during demonstrations and general strikes more impressive, and our work among the non-proletarian strata more energetic. But the "form"? Compared with the Bund's, the "form" of our work is lagging unpardonably, lagging so that it is an eyesore and brings a blush of shame to the cheeks of anyone who does not merely "pick his teeth" when contemplating the affairs of his Party. The fact that the organisation of our work lags behind its content is our weak point, and it was our weak point long before the Congress, long before the Organising Committee was formed. The lame and undeveloped character of the form makes any serious step in the further development of the content impossible; it causes a shameful stagnation, leads to a waste of energy, to a discrepancy between word and deed. We have all been suffering wretchedly from this discrepancy, yet along come the Axelrods and "Practical Workers" of the new Iskra with their profound precept: the form must grow naturally, only simultaneously with the content!

That is where a small mistake on the question of organisation (Paragraph 1) will lead you if you try to lend profundity to nonsense and to find philosophical justification for opportunist talk. Marching slowly, in timid zigzags![119]—we have heard this refrain in relation to questions of tactics; we are hearing it again in relation to questions of organisation. Tail-ism in questions of organisation is a natural and inevitable product of the mentality of the anarchistic individualist when he starts to elevate his anarchistic deviations (which at the outset may have been accidental) to a system of views, to special differences of principle. At the League Congress we witnessed the beginnings of this anarchism; in the new Iskra we are witnessing attempts to elevate it to a system of views. These attempts strikingly confirm what was already said at the Party Congress about the difference between the points of view of the bourgeois intellectual who attaches himself to the Social-Democratic movement and the proletarian who has become conscious of his class interests. For instance, this same "Practical Worker" of the new Iskra with whose profundity we are already familiar denounces me for visualising the Party "as an immense factory" headed by a director in the shape of the Central Committee (No. 57, Supplement). "Practical Worker" never guesses that this dreadful word of his immediately betrays the mentality of the bourgeois intellectual unfamiliar with either the practice or the theory of proletarian organisation. For the factory, which seems only a bogey to some, represents that highest form of capitalist co-operation which has united and disciplined the proletariat, taught it to organise, and placed it at the head of all the other sections of the toiling and exploited population. And Marxism, the ideology of the proletariat trained by capitalism, has been and is teaching unstable intellectuals to distinguish between the factory as a means of exploitation (discipline based on fear of starvation) and the factory as a means of organisation (discipline based on collective work united by the conditions of a technically highly developed form of production). The discipline and organisation which come so hard to the bourgeois intellectual are very easily acquired by the proletariat just because of this factory "schooling". Mortal fear of this school and utter failure to understand its importance as an organising factor are characteristic of the ways of thinking which reflect the petty-bourgeois mode of life and which give rise to the species of anarchism that the German Social-Democrats call Edelanarchismus, that is, the anarchism of the "noble" gentleman, or aristocratic anarchism, as I would call it. This aristocratic anarchism is particularly characteristic of the Russian nihilist. He thinks of the Party organisation as a monstrous "factory"; he regards the subordination of the part to the whole and of the minority to the majority as "serfdom" (see Axelrod's articles); division of labour under the direction of a centre evokes from him a tragi-comical outcry against transforming people into "cogs and wheels" (to turn editors into contributors being considered a particularly atrocious species of such transformation); mention of the organisational Rules of the Party calls forth a contemptuous grimace and the disdainful remark (intended for the "formalists") that one could very well dispense with Rules altogether.

Incredible as it may seem, it was a didactic remark of just this sort that Comrade Martov addressed to me in Iskra, No. 58, quoting, for greater weight, my own words in A Letter to a Comrade. Well, what is it if not "aristocratic anarchism" and tail-ism to cite examples from the era of disunity, the era of the circles, to justify the preservation and glorification of the circle spirit and anarchy in the era of the Party?

Why did we not need Rules before? Because the Party consisted of separate circles without any organisational tie between them. Any individual could pass from one circle to another at his own "sweet will", for he was not faced with any formulated expression of the will of the whole. Disputes within the circles were not settled according to Rules, "but by struggle and threats to resign ", as I put it in A Letter to a Comrade, [See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 231-52.—Ed.] summarising the experience of a number of circles in general and of our own editorial circle of six in particular. In the era of the circles, this was natural and inevitable, but it never occurred to anybody to extol it, to regard it as ideal; everyone complained of the disunity, everyone was distressed by it and eager to see the isolated circles fused into a formally constituted party organisation. And now that this fusion has taken place, we are being dragged back and, under the guise of higher organisational views, treated to anarchistic phrase-mongering! To people accustomed to the loose dressing-gown and slippers of the Oblomov[120] circle domesticity, formal Rules seem narrow, restrictive, irksome, mean, and bureaucratic, a bond of serfdom and a fetter on the free "process" of the ideological struggle. Aristocratic anarchism cannot understand that formal Rules are needed precisely in order to replace the narrow circle ties by the broad Party tie. It was unnecessary and impossible to give formal shape to the internal ties of a circle or the ties between circles, for these ties rested on personal friendship or on an instinctive "confidence" for which no reason was given. The Party tie cannot and must not rest on either of these; it must be founded on formal, "bureaucratically" worded Rules (bureaucratic from the standpoint of the undisciplined intellectual), strict adherence to which can alone safeguard us from the wilfulness and caprices characteristic of the circles, from the circle wrangling that goes by the name of the free "process" of the ideological struggle.

The editors of the new Iskra try to trump Alexandrov with the didactic remark that "confidence is a delicate thing and cannot be hammered into people's hearts and minds" (No. 56, Supplement). The editors do not realise that by this talk about confidence, naked confidence, they are once more betraying their aristocratic anarchism and organisational tail-ism. When I was a member of a circle only—whether it was the circle of the six editors or the Iskra organisation—I was entitled to justify my refusal, say, to work with X merely on the grounds of lack of confidence, without stating reason or motive. But now that I have become a member of a party, I have no right to plead lack of confidence in general, for that would throw open the doors to all the freaks and whims of the old circles; I am obliged to give formal reasons for my "confidence" or "lack of confidence", that is, to cite a formally established principle of our programme, tactics or Rules; I must not just declare my "confidence" or "lack of confidence" without giving reasons, but must acknowledge that my decisions—and generally all decisions of any section of the Party—have to be accounted for to the whole Party; I am obliged to adhere to a formally prescribed procedure when giving expression to my "lack of confidence" or trying to secure the acceptance of the views and wishes that follow from this lack of confidence. From the circle view that "confidence" does not have to be accounted for, we have already risen to the Party view which demands adherence to a formally prescribed procedure of expressing, accounting for, and testing our confidence; but the editors try to drag us back, and call their tail-ism new views on organisation!

Listen to the way our so-called Party editors talk about writers' groups that might demand representation on the editorial board. "We shall not get indignant and begin to shout about discipline", we are admonished by these aristocratic anarchists who have always and everywhere looked down on such a thing as discipline. We shall either "arrange the matter" (sic!) with the group, if it is sensible, or just laugh at its demands.

Dear me, what a lofty and noble rebuff to vulgar "factory" formalism! But in reality it is the old circle phraseology furbished up a little and served up to the Party by an editorial board which feels that it is not a Party institution, but the survival of an old circle. The intrinsic falsity of this position inevitably leads to the anarchistic profundity of elevating the disunity they hypocritically proclaim to be past and gone to a principle of Social-Democratic organisation. There is no need for any hierarchy of higher and lower Party bodies and authorities—aristocratic anarchism regards such a hierarchy as the bureaucratic invention of ministries, departments, etc. (see Axelrod's article); there is no need for the part to submit to the whole; there is no need for any "formal bureaucratic" definition of Party methods of "arranging matters" or of delimiting differences. Let the old circle wrangling be sanctified by pompous talk about "genuinely Social-Democratic" methods of organisation.

This is where the proletarian who has been through the school of the "factory" can and should teach a lesson to anarchistic individualism. The class-conscious worker has long since emerged from the state of infancy when he used to fight shy of the intellectual as such. The class-conscious worker appreciates the richer store of knowledge and the wider political outlook which he finds among Social-Democratic intellectuals. But as we proceed with the building of a real party, the class-conscious worker must learn to distinguish the mentality of the soldier of the proletarian army from the mentality of the bourgeois intellectual who parades anarchistic phrases; he must learn to insist that the duties of a Party member be fulfilled not only by the rank and file, but by the "people at the top" as well; he must learn to treat tail-ism in matters of organisation with the same contempt as he used, in days gone by, to treat tail-ism in matters of tactics!

Inseparably connected with Girondism and aristocratic anarchism is the last characteristic feature of the new Iskra's attitude towards matters of organisation, namely, its defence of autonomism as against centralism. This is the meaning in principle (if it has any such meaning[I leave aside here, as in this section generally, the "co-optational" meaning of this outcry.]) of its outcry against bureaucracy and autocracy, of its regrets about "an undeserved disregard for the non-Iskra-ists" (who defended autonomism at the Congress), of its comical howls about a demand for "unquestioning obedience", of its bitter complaints of "Jack-in-office rule", etc., etc. The opportunist wing of any party always defends and justifies all backwardness, whether in programme, tactics, or organisation. The new Iskra's defence of backwardness in organisation (its tail-ism) is closely connected with the defence of autonomism. True, autonomism has, generally speaking, been so discredited already by the three years' propaganda work of the old Iskra that the new Iskra is ashamed, as yet, to advocate it openly; it still assures us of its sympathy for centralism, but shows it only by printing the word centralism in italics. Actually, it is enough to apply the slightest touch of criticism to the "principles" of the "genuinely Social-Democratic" (not anarchistic?) quasi-centralism of the new Iskra for the autonomist standpoint to be detected at every step. Is it not now clear to all and sundry that on the subject of organisation Axelrod and Martov have swung over to Akimov? Have they not solemnly admitted it themselves in the significant words, "undeserved disregard for the non-Iskra-ists"? And what was it but autonomism that Akimov and his friends defended at our Party Congress?

It was autonomism (if not anarchism) that Martov and Axelrod defended at the League Congress when, with amusing zeal, they tried to prove that the part need not submit to the whole, that the part is autonomous in defining its relation to the whole, that the Rules of the League, in which that relation is formulated, are valid in defiance of the will of the Party majority, in defiance of the will of the Party centre. And it is autonomism that Comrade Martov is now openly defending in the columns of the new Iskra (No. 60) in the matter of the right of the Central Committee to appoint members to the local committees. I shall not speak of the puerile sophistries which Comrade Martov used to defend autonomism at the League Congress, and is still using in the new Iskra(43)—the important thing here is to note the undoubted tendency to defend autonomism against centralism, which is a fundamental characteristic of opportunism in matters of organisation.

Perhaps the only attempt to analyse the concept bureaucracy is the distinction drawn in the new Iskra (No. 53) between the "formal democratic principle" (author's italics) and the "formal bureaucratic principle". This distinction (which, unfortunately, was no more developed or explained than the reference to the non-Iskra-ists) contains a grain of truth. Bureaucracy versus democracy is in fact centralism versus autonomism; it is the organisational principle of revolutionary Social-Democracy as opposed to the organisational principle of opportunist Social-Democracy. The latter strives to proceed from the bottom upward, and, therefore, wherever possible and as far as possible, upholds autonomism and "democracy", carried (by the overzealous) to the point of anarchism. The former strives to proceed from the top downward, and upholds an extension of the rights and powers of the centre in relation to the parts. In the period of disunity and separate circles, this top from which revolutionary Social-Democracy strove to proceed organisationally was inevitably one of the circles, the one enjoying most influence by virtue of its activity and its revolutionary consistency (in our case, the Iskra organisation). In the period of the restoration of actual Party unity and dissolution of the obsolete circles in this unity, this top is inevitably the Party Congress, as the supreme organ of the Party; the Congress as far as possible includes representatives of all the active organisations, and, by appointing the central institutions (often with a membership which satisfies the advanced elements of the Party more than the backward and is more to the taste of its revolutionary than its opportunist wing), makes them the top until the next Congress. Such, at any rate, is the case among the Social-Democratic Europeans, although little by little this custom, so abhorrent in principle to anarchists, is beginning to spread—not without difficulty and not without conflicts and squabbles—to the Social-Democratic Asiatics.

It is highly interesting to note that these fundamental characteristics of opportunism in matters of organisation (autonomism, aristocratic or intellectualist anarchism, tail-ism, and Girondism) are, mutatis mutandis (with appropriate modifications), to be observed in all the Social-Democratic parties in the world, wherever there is a division into a revolutionary and an opportunist wing (and where is there not?). Only quite recently this was very strikingly revealed in the German Social-Democratic Party, when its defeat at the elections in the 20th electoral division of Saxony (known as the Göhre incident(44)) brought the question of the principles of party organisation to the fore. That this incident should have become an issue of principle was largely due to the zeal of the German opportunists. Gohre (an ex-parson, author of the fairly well-known book Drei Monate Fabrikarbeiter, [Three Months as a Factory Worker.Ed.] and one of the "heroes" of the Dresden Congress) is himself an extreme opportunist, and the Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly),[122] the organ of the consistent German opportunists, at once "took up the cudgels" on his behalf.

Opportunism in programme is naturally connected with opportunism in tactics and opportunism in organisation. The exposition of the "new" point of view was undertaken by Comrade Wolfgang Heine. To give the reader some idea of ithe political complexion of this typical intellectual, who on joining the Social-Democratic movement brought with him opportunist habits of thought, it is enough to say that Comrade Wolfgang Heine is something less than a German Comrade Akimov and something more than a German Comrade Egorov.

Comrade Wolfgang Heine took the field in the Sozialistische Monatshefte with no less pomp than Comrade Axelrod in the new Iskra. The very title of his article is priceless: "Democratic Observations on the Göhre Incident" (Sozialistische Monatshefte, No. 4, April). The contents are no less thunderous. Comrade W. Heine rises up in arms against "encroachments on the autonomy of the constituency", champions "the democratic principle", and protests against the interference of an "appointed authority" (i.e., the Central Party Executive) in the free election of deputies by the people. The point at issue, Comrade W. Heine admonishes us, is not a random incident, but a general "tendency towards bureaucracy and centralism in the Party ", a tendency, he says, which was to be observed before, but which is now becoming particularly dangerous. It must be "recognised as a principle that the local institutions of the Party are the vehicles of Party life" (a plagiarism on Comrade Martov's pamphlet Once More in the Minority ). We must not "accustom ourselves to having all important political decisions come from one centre", and must warn the Party against "a doctrinaire policy which loses contact with life" (borrowed from Comrade Martov's speech at the Party Congress to the effect that "life will assert itself"). Rendering his argument more profound, Comrade W. Heine says: ". . . If we go down to the roots of the matter and leave aside personal conflicts, which here, as everywhere, have played no small part, this bitterness against the revisionists [the italics are the author's and evidently hint at a distinction between fighting revisionism and fighting revisionists] will be found to be mainly expressive of the distrust of the Party officialdom for 'outsiders' [W. Heine had apparently not yet read the pamphlet about combating the state of siege, and therefore resorted to an Anglicism—Outsidertum ], the distrust of tradition for the unusual, of the impersonal institution for everything individual [see Axelrod's resolution at the League Congress on the suppression of individual initiative]—in short, of that tendency which we have defined above as a tendency towards bureaucracy and centralism in the Party."

The idea of "discipline" inspires Comrade W. Heine with a no less noble disgust than Comrade Axelrod. . . . "The revisionists," he writes, "have been accused of lack of discipline for having written for the Sozialistische Monatshefte, an organ whose Social-Democratic character has even been denied because it is not controlled by the Party. This very attempt to narrow down the concept 'Social-Democratic', this insistence on discipline in the sphere of ideological production, where absolute freedom should prevail [remember: the ideological struggle is a process whereas the forms of organisation are only forms], demonstrates the tendency towards bureaucracy and the suppression of individuality." And W. Heine goes on and on, fulminating against this detestable tendency to create "one big all-embracing organisation, as centralised as possible, one set of tactics, and one theory", against the demand for "implicit obedience", "blind submission", against "oversimplified centralism", etc., etc., literally "à la Axelrod".

The controversy started by W. Heine spread, and as there were no squabbles about co-optation in the German Party to obscure that issue, and as the German Akimovs display their complexion not only at congresses, but all the time, in a periodical of their own, the argument soon boiled down to an analysis of the principles of the orthodox and revisionist trends on the question of organisation. Karl Kautsky came forward (in the Neue Zeit, 1904, No. 28, in the article "Wahlkreis und Partei "—"Constituency and Party") as one of the spokesmen of the revolutionary trend (which, exactly as in our Party, was of course accused of "dictatorship", "inquisitorial" tendencies, and other dreadful things). W. Heine's article, he says, "expresses the line of thought of the whole revisionist trend". Not only in Germany, but in France and Italy as well, the opportunists are all staunch supporters of autonomism, of a slackening of Party discipline, of reducing it to naught; everywhere their tendencies lead to disorganisation and to perverting "the democratic principle" into anarchism. "Democracy does not mean absence of authority," Karl Kautsky informs the opportunists on the subject of organisation, "democracy does not mean anarchy; it means the rule of the masses over their representatives, in distinction to other forms of rule, where the supposed servants of the people are in reality their masters." Kautsky traces at length the disruptive role played by opportunist autonomism in various countries; he shows that it is precisely the influx of "a great number of bourgeois elements"[Kautsky mentions Jaurès as an example. The more these people deviated towards opportunism, the more "they were bound to consider Party discipline an impermissible constraint on their free personality".] into the Social-Democratic movement that is strengthening opportunism, autonomism, and the tendency to violate discipline; and once more he reminds us that "organisation is the weapon that will emancipate the proletariat", that "organisation is the characteristic weapon of the proletariat in the class struggle".

In Germany, where opportunism is weaker than in France or Italy, "autonomist tendencies have so far led only to more or less passionate declamations against dictators and grand inquisitors, against excommunication[Bannstrahl: excommunication. This is the German equivalent of the Russian "state of siege" and "emergency laws". It is the "dreadful word" of the German opportunists. ] and heresy-hunting, and to endless cavilling and squabbling, which would only result in endless strife if replied to by the other side".

It is not surprising that in Russia, where opportunism in the Party is even weaker than in Germany, autonomist tendencies should have produced fewer ideas and more "passionate declamations" and squabbling.

It is not surprising that Kautsky arrives at the following conclusion: "There is perhaps no other question on which revisionism in all countries, despite its multiplicity of form and hue, is so alike as on the question of organisation." Kautsky, too, defines the basic tendencies of orthodoxy and revisionism in this sphere with the help of the "dreadful word": bureaucracy versus democracy. We are told, he says, that to give the Party leadership the right to influence the selection of candidates (for parliament) by the constituencies is "a shameful encroachment on the democratic principle, which demands that all political activity proceed from the bottom upward, by the independent activity of the masses, and not from the top downward, in a bureaucratic way. . . . But if there is any democratic principle, it is that the majority must have predominance over the minority, and not the other way round. . . ." The election of a member of parliament by any constituency is an important matter for the Party as a whole, which should influence the nomination of candidates, if only through its representatives (Vertrauensmanner ). "Whoever considers this too bureaucratic or centralistic let him suggest that candidates be nominated by the direct vote of the Party membership at large [sīmtliche Parteigenossen ]. If he thinks this is not practicable, he must not complain of a lack of democracy when this function, like many others that concern the Party as a whole, is exercised by one or several Party bodies." It has long been "common law" in the German Party for constituencies to "come to a friendly understanding" with the Party leadership about the choice of candidates. "But the Party has grown too big for this tacit common law to suffice any longer. Common law ceases to be law when it ceases to be accepted as a matter of course, when its stipulations, and even its very existence, are called in question. Then it becomes necessary to formulate the law specifically, to codify it" . . . to go over to more "precise statutory definition(45) [statutarische Festlegung] and, accordingly, greater strictness [grössere Straffheit ] of organisation".

Thus you have, in a different environment, the same struggle between the opportunist and the revolutionary wing of the Party on the question of organisation, the same conflict between autonomism and centralism, between democracy and "bureaucracy", between the tendency to relax and the tendency to tighten organisation and discipline, between the mentality of the unstable intellectual and that of the staunch proletarian, between intellectualist individualism and proletarian solidarity. What, one asks, was the attitude to this conflict of bourgeois democracy—not the bourgeois democracy which prankish history has only promised in private to show to Comrade Axelrod some day, but the real and actual bourgeois democracy which in Germany has spokesmen no less shrewd and observant than our own gentlemen of Osvobozhdeniye? German bourgeois democracy at once reacted to the new controversy, and—like Russian bourgeois democracy, like bourgeois democracy everywhere and always—sided solidly with the opportunist wing of the Social-Democratic Party. The Frankfurter Zeitung, leading organ of the German stock exchange, published a thunderous editorial (Frankfurter Zeitung, April 7, 1904, No. 97, evening edition) which shows that shameless plagiarising of Axelrod is becoming a veritable disease with the German press. The stern democrats of the Frankfort stock exchange lash out furiously at the "absolutism" in the Social-Democratic Party, at the "party dictatorship", at the "autocratic rule of the Party authorities", at the "interdicts" which are intended "concurrently to chastise revisionism as a whole" (recall the "false accusation of opportunism"), at the insistence on "blind obedience", "deadening discipline", "servile subordination", and the transforming of Party members into "political corpses" (that is a good bit stronger than cogs and wheels!). "All distinctiveness of personality", the knights of the stock exchange indignantly exclaim at the sight of the undemocratic regime among the Social-Democrats, "all individuality is to be held in opprobrium, because it is feared that they might lead to the French order of things, to Jaurèsism and Millerandism, as was stated in so many words by Sindermann, who made the report on the subject" at the Party Congress of the Saxon Social-Democrats.

And so, insofar as the new catchwords of the new Iskra on organisation contain any principles at all, there can be no doubt that they are opportunist principles. This conclusion is confirmed both by the whole analysis of our Party Congress, which divided into a revolutionary and an opportunist wing, and by the example of all European Social-Democratic parties, where opportunism in organisation finds expression in the same tendencies, in the same accusations, and very often in the same catchwords. Of course, the national peculiarities of the various parties and the different political conditions in different countries leave their impress and make German opportunism quite dissimilar from French, French opportunism from Italian, and Italian opportunism from Russian. But the similarity of the fundamental division of all these parties into a revolutionary and an opportunist wing, the similarity of the line of thought and the tendencies of opportunism in organisation stand out clearly in spite of all this difference of conditions.(46) With large numbers of radical intellectuals in the ranks of our Marxists and our Social-Democrats, the opportunism which their mentality produces has been, and is, bound to exist, in the most varied spheres and in the most varied forms. We fought opportunism on the fundamental problems of our world conception, on the questions of our programme, and the complete divergence of aims inevitably led to an irrevocable break between the Social-Democrats and the liberals who had corrupted our legal Marxism. We fought opportunism on tactical issues, and our divergence with Comrades Krichevsky and Akimov on these less important issues was naturally only temporary, and was not accompanied by the formation of different parties. We must now vanquish the opportunism of Martov and Axelrod on questions of organisation, which are, of course, less fundamental than questions of tactics, let alone of programme, but which have now come to the forefront in our Party life.

When we speak of fighting opportunism, we must never forget a characteristic feature of present-day opportunism in every sphere, namely, its vagueness, amorphousness, elusiveness. An opportunist, by his very nature, will always evade taking a clear and decisive stand, he will always seek a middle course, he will always wriggle like a snake between two mutually exclusive points of view and try to "agree" with both and reduce his differences of opinion to petty amendments, doubts, innocent and pious suggestions, and so on and so forth. Comrade Eduard Bernstein, an opportunist in questions of programme, "agrees" with the revolutionary programme of his party, and although he would no doubt like to have it "radically revised", he considers this untimely, inexpedient, not so important as the elucidation of "general principles" of "criticism" (which mainly consist in uncritically borrowing principles and catchwords from bourgeois democracy).Comrade von Vollmar, an opportunist in questions of tactics, also agrees with the old tactics of revolutionary Social-Democracy and also confines himself mostly to declamations, petty amendments, and sneers rather than openly advocates any definite "ministerial" tactics.[123] Comrades Martov and Axelrod, opportunists in questions of organisation, have also failed so far to produce, though directly challenged to do so, any definite statement of principles that could be "fixed by statute"; they too would like, they most certainly would like, a "radical revision" of our Rules of Organisation (Iskra, No. 58, p. 2, col. 3), but they would prefer to devote themselves first to "general problems of organisation" (for a really radical revision of our Rules, which, in spite of Paragraph 1, are centralist Rules, would inevitably lead, if carried out in the spirit of the new Iskra, to autonomism; and Comrade Martov, of course, does not like to admit even to himself that he tends in principle towards autonomism). Their "principles" of organisation therefore display all the colours of the rainbow. The predominant item consists of innocent passionate declamations against autocracy and bureaucracy, against blind obedience and cogs and wheels—declamations so innocent that it is still very difficult to discern in them what is really concerned with principle and what is really concerned with co-optation. But as it goes on, the thing gets worse: attempts to analyse and precisely define this detestable "bureaucracy" inevitably lead to autonomism; attempts to "lend profundity" to their stand and vindicate it inevitably lead to justifying backwardness, to tail-ism, to Girondist phrase-mongering. At last there emerges the principle of anarchism, as the sole really definite principle, which for that reason stands out in practice in particular relief (practice is always in advance of theory). Sneering at discipline—autonomism—anarchism—there you have the ladder which our opportunism in matters of organisation now climbs and now descends, skipping from rung to rung and skilfully dodging any definite statement of its principles.(47) Exactly the same stages are displayed by opportunism in matters of programme and tactics: sneering at "orthodoxy", narrowness, and immobility—revisionist "criticism" and ministerialism—bourgeois democracy.

There is a close psychological connection between this hatred of discipline and that incessant nagging note of injury which is to be detected in all the writings of all opportunists today in general, and of our minority in particular. They are being persecuted, hounded, ejected, besieged, and bullied. There is far more psychological and political truth in these catchwords than was probably suspected even by the author of the pleasant and witty joke about bullies and bullied. For you have only to take the minutes of our Party Congress to see that the minority are all those who suffer from a sense of injury, all those who at one time or another and for one reason or another were offended by the revolutionary Social-Democrats. There are the Bundists and the Rabocheye Dyelo-ists, whom we "offended" so badly that they withdrew from the Congress; there are the Yuzhny Rabochy-ists, who were mortally offended by the slaughter of organisations in general and of their own in particular; there is Comrade Makhov, who had to put up with offence every time he took the floor (for every time he did, he invariably made a fool of himself) and lastly, there are Comrade Martov and Comrade Axelrod, who were offended by the "false accusation of opportunism" in connection with Paragraph 1 of the Rules and by their defeat in the elections. All these mortal offences were not the accidental outcome of impermissible witticisms, rude behaviour, frenzied controversy, slamming of doors, and shaking of fists, as so many philistines imagine to this day, but the inevitable political outcome of the whole three years' ideological work of Iskra. If in the course of these three years we were not just wagging our tongues, but giving expression to convictions which were to be translated into deeds, we could not but fight the anti-Iskra-ists and the "Marsh" at the Congress. And when, together with Comrade Martov, who had fought in the front line with visor up, we had offended such heaps of people, we had only to offend Comrade Axelrod and Comrade Martov ever such a little bit for the cup to overflow. Quantity was transformed into quality. The negation was negated. All the offended forgot their mutual scores, fell weeping into each other's arms, and raised the banner of "revolt against Leninism". (48)

A revolt is a splendid thing when it is the advanced elements who revolt against the reactionary elements. When the revolutionary wing revolts against the opportunist wing, it is a good thing. When the opportunist wing revolts against the revolutionary wing, it is a bad business.

Vladimir Lenin

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (The Crisis In Our Party)[A]


Written: June 15 (28), 1904
Source: Collected Works, Volume 19, pp. 218-227
First Published: May, 1904
Translated: Abraham Fineberg and Naomi Jochel
Online Version: www.marxists.org 2000
Transcribed and HTML Markup: David Walters

Table of Contents

Part 1

A. The Preparations for the Congress

B. Significance of the Various Groupings at the Congress

C. Beginning of the Congress. The Organising Committee Incident.

D. Dissolution of the
Yuzhny Rabochy

E. The Equality of Languages Incident

F. The Agrarian Program

Part 2
G. The Party Rules. Comrade Martov's Draft

H. Discussion on Centralism Prior to the Split among the Iskra-ists

I. Paragraph One of the Rules

Part 3
J. Innocent Victims of a False Accusation of Opportunism

K. Continuation of the Debate on the Rules. Composition of the Council

L. Conclusion of the Debate on the Rules. Co-optation to the Central Bodies. Withdrawal of the Rabocheye Dyelo Delegates

Part 4
M. The Elections. End of the Congress
Part 5
N. General Picture of the Struggle at the Congress. The Revolutionary and Opportunist Wings of the Party

O. After the Congress. Two Methods of Struggle

P. Little Annoyances Should Not Stand in the Way of a Big Pleasure

Part 6
Q. The New Iskra. Opportunism in Questions of Organisation

R. A Few Words on Dialectics. Two Revolutions



Editor's Endnotes

[A] Lenin devoted several months to the writing of One Step Forward Two Steps Back (The Crisis in Our Party), making a careful study of the minutes and resolutions of the Second Party Congress, of the speeches of each of the delegates and the political groupings at the Congress, and of the Central Committee and Party Council documents.
The book evoked fury among the Mensheviks. Plekhanov demanded that the Central Committee disavow it. The conciliators on the Central Committee tried to prevent its publication and circulation.
Though published abroad, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back had a wide circulation among advanced workers in Russia. Copies of the book were found during arrests and house-searches in Moscow St. Petersburg, Riga, Saratov, Tula, Orel, Ufa, Perm, Kostroma Shchigri, Shavli (Kovno Gubernia), and elsewhere. Lenin included the book in the Twelve Years collection published in 1907 (the date on the title-page is 1908), omitting sections J, K, L, M, O, and P making abridgements in other sections, and adding a few explanatory notes.
The present edition contains the full text as originally published in 1904 and all the additions made by the author in 1907.