Lenin: What the “Friends of the People” Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats

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Proletarians of all countries, unite!

V. I. Lenin

What the “Friends of the People” Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats (1894)

(A Reply to Articles in Russkoye Bogatstvo Opposing the Marxists[1])

Part I

Russkoye Bogatstvo[16] has launched a campaign against the Social-Democrats. Last year, in issue No. 10, one of the leading lights of this magazine, Mr. N. Mikhailovsky, announced a forthcoming “polemic” against “our so-called Marxists, or Social-Democrats.”[17] Then followed Mr. S. Krivenkos article “Our Cultural Free Lances” (No. 12), and Mr. N. Mikhailovsky’s “Literature and Life” (Russkoye Bogatstvo, 1894. Nos. 1 and 2). As to the magazines own views on our economic realities, these have been most fully expounded by Mr. S. Yuzhakov in the article “Problems of Russia’s Economic Development” (in Nos. 11 and 12). While in general claiming to present the ideas and tactics of true “friends of the people” in their magazine, these gentlemen are arch-enemies of Social-Democracy. So let us take a closer look at these “friends of the people,” their criticism of Marxism, their ideas and their tactics.

Mr. N. Mikhailovsky devotes his attention chiefly to the theoretical principles of Marxism and therefore makes a special investigation of the materialist conception of history. Alter outlining in general the contents of the voluminous Marxist literature enunciating this doctrine, Mr. Mikhailovsky opens his criticism with the following tirade:

“First of all,” he says, “the question naturally arises: in which of his works did Marx expound his materialist conception of history? In Capital he gave us an example of the combination of logical force with erudition, with a scrupulous investigation of all the economic literature and of   the pertinent facts. He brought to light theoretician of economic science long forgotten or unknown to anybody to day, and did not overlook the most minute details in factory inspectors reports or experts evidence before various special commissions; in a word, he examined this enormous mass of factual material, partly in order to provide arguments for his economic theories and partly to illustrate them. If he has created a completely new conception of the historical process, if he has explained the whole past of mankind from a new viewpoint and has summarised all hitherto existing theories on the philosophy of history, then he has done so, of course, with equal zeal: he has, indeed, reviewed and subjected to critical analysis all the known theories of the historical process, and worked over a mass of facts of world history. The comparison with Darwin, so customary in Marxist literature, serves still more to confirm this idea. What does Darwin’s whole work amount to? Certain closely interconnected generalising ideas crowning a veritable Mont Blanc of factual material. But where is the appropriate work by Marx? It does not exist. And not only does no such work by Marx exist, but there is none to be found in all Marxist literature, despite its voluminous and extensive character.”

The whole tirade is highly characteristic and helps us to understand how little the public understand Capital and Marx. Overwhelmed by the tremendously convincing way he states his case, they bow and scrape before Marx, laud him, and at the same time entirely lose sight of the basic content of his doctrine and quite calmly continue to sing the old songs of “subjective sociology.” In this connection one cannot help recalling the very apt epigraph Kautsky selected for his book on the economic teachings of Marx:

Wer wird nicht einen Klopstock loben?
Doch wird ihn jeder lesen? Nein.
Wir wollen weniger erhoben,
Und fleissiger gelesen sein!

Just so! Mr. Mikhailovsky should praise Marx less and read him more diligently, or, better still, give more serious thought to what he is reading.

“In Capital Marx gave us an example of the combination of logical force with erudition,” says Mr. Mikhailovsky. In this phrase Mr. Mikhailovsky has given us an example of a brilliant phrase combined with lack of substance—a certain Marxist observed. And the observation is a very just one. How, indeed, did this logical force of Marx’s manifest itself? What were its effects? Reading the above tirade by Mr. Mikhailovsky, one might think that this force was concentrated entirely on “economic theories,” in the narrowest sense of the term—and nothing more. And in order to emphasise still further the narrow limits of the field in which Marx manifested the force of his logic, Mr. Mikhailovsky lays stress on “most minute details,” on “scrupulosity,” on “theoreticians unknown to anybody” and so forth. It would appear that Marx contributed nothing essentially new or noteworthy to the methods of constructing these theories, that he left the bounds of economic science where the earlier economists had them, without extending them, without contributing a “completely new” conception of the science itself. Yet anybody who has read Capital knows that this is absolutely untrue. In this connection one cannot but recall what Mr. Mikhailovsky wrote about Marx sixteen years ago when arguing with that vulgar bourgeois, Mr. Y. Zhukovsky.[18] Perhaps the times were different, perhaps sentiments were fresher—at any rate, both the tone and the content of Mr. Mikhailovsky’s article were then entirely different.

“’…It is the ultimate aim of this work, to lay bare the law of development (in the original: das oekonomische Bewegungsgesetz—the economic law of motion) of modern society, Karl Marx says in reference to his Capital, and he adheres strictly to this programme.” This is what Mr. Mikhailovsky said in 1877. Let us examine this programme more closely, which—as the critic admits—has been strictly adhered to. It is “to lay bare the economic law of development of modern society.”

The very formulation confronts us with several questions that require explanation. Why does Marx speak of “modern”   society, when all the economists who preceded him spoke of society in general? In what sense does he use the word “modern,” by what features does he distinguish this modern society? And further, what is meant by the economic law of motion of society? We are accustomed to hear from economists—and this, by the way, is one of the favourite ideas of the publicists and economists of the milieu to which the Russkoye Bogatstvo belongs—that only the production of values is subject to solely economic laws, whereas distribution, they declare, depends on politics, on the nature of the influence exercised on society by the government, the intelligentsia and so forth. In what sense, then, does Marx speak of the economic law of motion of society, even referring to this law as a Naturgesetz—a law of nature? How are we to understand this, when so many of our native sociologists have covered reams of paper to show that social phenomena are particularly distinct from the phenomena of natural history, and that therefore the investigation of the former requires the employment of an absolutely distinct “subjective method in sociology.”

All these perplexities arise naturally and necessarily, and, of course, only an absolute ignoramus would evade them when speaking of Capital. To elucidate these questions, we shall first quote one more passage from the same Preface to Capital—only a few lines lower down:

“[From] my standpoint,” says Marx, “the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history.”[19]

It will be sufficient to compare, say, the two passages just quoted from the Preface in order to see that it is here that we have the basic idea of Capital, pursued, as we have heard, with strict consistency and with rare logical force. First let us note two circumstances regarding all this: Marx speaks of one “economic formation of society” only, the capitalist formation, that is, he says that he investigated the law of development of this formation only and of no other. That is the first. And secondly, let us note the methods Marx used in working out his deductions. These methods consisted, as we have just heard from Mr. Mikhailovsky, in a “scrupulous investigation of the pertinent facts.”

Now let us examine this basic idea of Capital, which our subjective philosopher so adroitly tried to evade. In what, properly speaking, does the concept of the economic formation of society consist? and in what sense can and must the development of such a formation be regarded as a process of natural history?—such are the questions that now confront us. I have already pointed out that from the standpoint of the old (not old for Russia) economists and sociologists, the concept of the economic formation of society is entirely superfluous: they talk of society in general, they argue with the Spencers about the nature of society in general, about the aim and essence of society in general, and so forth. In their reasonings, these subjective sociologists rely on arguments such as—the aim of society is to benefit all its members, that justice, therefore, demands such and such an organisation, and that a system that is out of harmony with this ideal organisation (“Sociology must start with some utopia”—these words of Mr. Mikhailovsky’s, one of the authors of the subjective method, splendidly typify the essence of their methods) is abnormal and should be set aside. “The essential task of sociology,” Mr. Mikhailovsky, for instance, argues, “is to ascertain the social conditions under which any particular requirement of human nature is satisfied.” As you see, what interests this sociologist is only a society that satisfies human nature, and not at all some strange formations of society, which, moreover, may be based on a phenomenon so out of harmony with “human nature” as the enslavement of the majority by the minority. You also see that from the standpoint of this sociologist there can be no question of regarding the development of society as a process of natural history. (“Having accepted something as desirable or undesirable, the sociologist must discover the conditions under which the desirable can be realised, or the undesirable eliminated”—“under which such and such ideals can be realised”—this same Mr. Mikhailovsky reasons.) What is more, there can be no talk even of development, but only of various deviations from the “desirable,” of “defects” that have occurred in history as a result . . . as a result of the fact that people were not clever enough, were unable properly to understand what human nature demands, were unable to discover the conditions for the realisation of such a rational system. It is obvious that Marx’s basic idea   that the development of the social-economic formations is a process of natural history cuts at the very root of this childish morality which lays claim to the title of sociology. By what means did Marx arrive at this basic idea? He did so by singling out the economic sphere from the various spheres of social life, by singling out production relations from all social relations as being basic, primary, determining all other relations. Marx himself has described the course of his reasoning on this question as follows:

“The first work which I undertook for a solution of the doubts which assailed me was a critical review of the Hegelian philosophy of right….[20] My investigation led to the result that legal relations as well as forms of state are to be grasped neither from themselves nor from the so-called general development of the human mind, but rather have their roots in the material conditions of life, the sum-total of which Hegel, following the example of the Englishmen and Frenchmen of the eighteenth century, combines under the name of civil society, that, however, the anatomy of civil society is to be sought in political economy. . . . The general result at which I arrived . . . can be briefly formulated as follows: in the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations . . . relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum-total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or—what is but a legal expression for the same thing—with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed.   In considering such transformations, a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the conditions of production, which should be established in terms of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic—in short, ideological—forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. . . . In broad outlines Asiatic, ancient, feudal, and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society.”[21]

This idea of materialism in sociology was in itself a stroke of genius. Naturally, for the time being it was only a hypothesis, but one which first created the possibility of a strictly scientific approach to historical and social problems. Hitherto, not knowing how to get down to the simplest primary relations such as those of production, the sociologists undertook the direct investigation and study of political and legal forms, stumbled on the fact that these forms emerge from certain of mankind’s ideas in the period in question—and there they stopped; it appeared as if social relations are consciously established by men. But this conclusion, fully expressed in the idea of the Contract social[22] (traces of which are very noticeable in all systems of utopian socialism), was in complete contradiction to all historical observations. It never has been the case, nor is it so now, that the members of society conceive the sum-total of the social relations in which they live as something definite, integral, pervaded by some principle; on the contrary, the mass of people adapt themselves to these relations unconsciously, and have so little conception of them as specific historical social relations that, for instance, an explanation of the exchange relations under which people have lived for centuries was found only in very recent times. Materialism removed this contradiction by carrying the analysis deeper, to the origin of mans social ideas themselves; and its conclusion that the course   of ideas depends on the course of things is the only one compatible with scientific psychology. Further, and from yet another aspect, this hypothesis was the first to elevate sociology to the level of a science. Hitherto, sociologists had found it difficult to distinguish the important and the unimportant in the complex network of social phenomena (that is the root of subjectivism in sociology) and had been unable to discover any objective criterion for such a demarcation. Materialism provided an absolutely objective criterion by singling out “production relations” as the structure of society, and by making it possible to apply to these relations that general scientific criterion of recurrence whose applicability to sociology the subjectivists denied. So long as they confined themselves to ideological social relations (i.e., such as, before taking shape, pass through mans consciousness[2] ) they could not observe recurrence and regularity in the social phenomena of the various countries, and their science was at best only a description of these phenomena, a collection of raw material. The analysis of material social relations (i.e., of those that take shape without passing through mans consciousness: when exchanging products men enter into production relations without even realising that there is a social relation of production here)—the analysis of material social relations at once made it possible to observe recurrence and regularity and to generalise the systems of the various countries in the single fundamental concept: social formation. It was this generalisation alone that made it possible to proceed from the description of social phenomena (and their evaluation from the standpoint of an ideal) to their strictly scientific analysis, which isolates, let us say by way of example, that which distinguishes one capitalist country from another and investigates that which is common to all of them.

Thirdly, and finally, another reason why this hypothesis for the first time made a scientific sociology possible was that only the reduction of social relations to production relations and of the latter to the level of the productive forces, provided a firm basis for the conception that the development of   formations of society is a process of natural history. And it goes without saying that without such a view there can be no social science. (The subjectivists, for instance, although they admitted that historical phenomena conform to law, were incapable of regarding their evolution as a process of natural history, precisely because they came to a halt before mans social ideas and aims and were unable to reduce them to material social relations.)

Then, however, Marx, who had expressed this hypothesis in the forties, set out to study the factual (nota bene) material. He took one of the social-economic formations— the system of commodity production—and on the basis of a vast mass of data (which he studied for not less than twenty five years) gave a most detailed analysis of the laws governing the functioning of this formation and its development. This analysis is confined exclusively to production relations between members of society: without ever resorting to features outside the sphere of these production relations for an explanation, Marx makes it possible to discern how the commodity organisation of social economy develops, how it becomes transformed into capitalist organisation, creating antagonistic classes (antagonistic within the bounds of production relations), the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, how it develops the productivity of social labour, and thereby introduces an element that becomes irreconcilably contradictory to the foundations of this capitalist organisation itself.

Such is the skeleton of Capital. The whole point, however, is that Marx did not content himself with this skeleton, that he did not confine himself to “economic theory” in the ordinary sense of the term, that, while explaining the structure and development of the given formation of society exclusively through production relations, he nevertheless everywhere and incessantly scrutinised the superstructure corresponding to these production relations and clothed the skeleton in flesh and blood. The reason Capital has enjoyed such tremendous success is that this book by a “German economist” showed the whole capitalist social formation to the reader as a living thing—with its everyday aspects, with the actual social manifestation of the class antagonism inherent in production relations, with the bourgeois political superstructure that protects the rule of the capitalist class, with   the bourgeois ideas of liberty, equality and so forth, with the bourgeois family relationships. It will now be clear that the comparison with Darwin is perfectly accurate: Capital is nothing but “certain closely interconnected generalising ideas crowning a veritable Mont Blanc of factual material.” And if anybody has read Capital and contrived not to notice these generalising ideas, it is not the fault of Marx, who, as we have seen, pointed to these ideas even in the preface. And that is not all; such a comparison is correct not only from the external aspect (which for some unknown reason particularly interests Mr. Mikhailovsky), but also from the internal aspect. Just as Darwin put an end to the view of animal and plant species being unconnected, fortuitous, “created by God” and immutable, and was the first to put biology on an absolutely scientific basis by establishing the mutability and the succession of species, so Marx put an end to the view of society being a mechanical aggregation of individuals which allows of all sorts of modification at the will of the authorities (or, if you like, at the will of society and the government) and which emerges and changes casually, and was the first to put sociology on a scientific basis by establishing the concept of the economic formation of society as the sum-total of given production relations, by establishing the fact that the development of such formations is a process of natural history.

Now—since the appearance of Capital—the materialist conception of history is no longer a hypothesis, but a scientifically proven proposition. And until we get some other attempt to give a scientific explanation of the functioning and development of some formation of society—formation of society, mind you, and not the way of life of some country or people, or even class, etc.—another attempt just as capable of introducing order into the “pertinent facts” as materialism is, that is just as capable of presenting a living picture of a definite formation, while giving it a strictly scientific explanation—until then the materialist conception of history will be a synonym for social science. Materialism is not “primarily a scientific conception of history,” as Mr. Mikhailovsky thinks, but the only scientific conception of it.

And now, can you imagine anything funnier than the fact that there are people who have read Capital without discovering   any materialism there! Where is it?—asks Mr, Mikhailovsky in sincere perplexity.

He has read the Communist Manifesto and failed to notice that the explanation it gives of modern systems—legal, political, family, religious and philosophical—is a materialist one, and that even the criticism of the socialist and communist theories seeks and finds their roots in such and such production relations.

He has read The Poverty of Philosophy and failed to notice that its analysis of Proudhon’s sociology is made from the materialist standpoint, that the criticism of the solution propounded by Proudhon’s for the most diverse historical problems is based on the principles of materialism, and that the authors own indications as to where the data for the solution of these problems are to be sought all amount to references to production relations.

He has read Capital and failed to notice that he had before him a model of scientific, materialist analysis of one—the most complex—formation of society, a model recognised by all and surpassed by none. And here he sits and exercises his mighty brain over the profound problem: “In which of his works did Marx expound his materialist conception of history?”

Anybody acquainted with Marx would answer this question by another: in which of his works did Marx not expound his materialist conception of history? But Mr. Mikhailovsky will probably learn of Marx’s materialist investigations only when they are classified and properly indexed in some sophistical work on history by some Kareyev under the heading “Economic Materialism.”

But the funniest of all is that Mr. Mikhailovsky accuses Marx of not having “reviewed (sic!) all the known theories of the historical process.” This is amusing indeed. Of what did nine-tenths of these theories consist? Of purely a priori, dogmatic, abstract discourses on: what is society, what is progress? and the like. (I purposely take examples which are dear to the heart and mind of Mr. Mikhailovsky.) But, then, such theories are useless because of the very fact that they exist, they are useless because of their basic methods, because of their solid unrelieved metaphysics. For, to begin by asking what is society and what is progress, is to begin   at the end. Where will you get a conception of society and progress in general if you have not studied a single social formation in particular, if you have not even been able to establish this conception, if you have not even been able to approach a serious factual investigation, an objective analysis of social relations of any kind? This is a most obvious symptom of metaphysics, with which every science began: as long as people did not know how to set about studying the facts, they always invented a priori general theories, which were always sterile. The metaphysician-chemist, still unable to make a factual investigation of chemical processes, concocts a theory about chemical affinity as a force. The metaphysician-biologist talks about the nature of life and the vital force. The metaphysician-psychologist argues about the nature of the soul. Here it is the method itself that is absurd. You cannot argue about the soul without having explained psychical processes in particular: here, progress must consist precisely in abandoning general theories and philosophical discourses about the nature of the soul, and in being able to put the study of the facts about particular psychical processes on a scientific footing. Therefore, Mr. Mikhailovsky’s accusation is exactly similar to that of a metaphysician-psychologist, who has spent all his life writing “investigations” into the nature of the soul (without knowing exactly how to explain a single psychical phenomenon, even the simplest), and then starts accusing a scientific psychologist of not having reviewed all the known theories of the soul. He, the scientific psychologist, has discarded philosophical theories of the soul and set about making a direct study of the material substratum of psychical phenomena—the nervous processes—and has produced, let us say, an analysis and explanation of some one or more psychological processes. And our metaphysician-psychologist reads this work and praises it: the description of the processes and the study of the facts, he says, are good; but he is not satisfied. “Pardon me,” he exclaims excitedly, hearing people around him speak of the absolutely new conception of psychology produced by this scientist, of his special method of scientific psychology. “Pardon me,” the philosopher cries heatedly, “in what work is this method expounded? Why, this work contains nothing but facts. There is no trace   in it of a review of all the known philosophical theories of the soul. It is not the appropriate work at all!”

In the same way, of course, neither is Capital the appropriate work for a metaphysician-sociologist who does not realise the sterility of a priori arguments about the nature of society and does not understand that such methods, instead of contributing to a study and elucidation of the problem, only serve to insinuate into the concept “society” either the bourgeois ideas of the British shopkeeper or the petty-bourgeois socialist ideals of the Russian democrat—and nothing more. That is why all these theories of the philosophy of history arose and burst like soap-bubbles, being at best a symptom of the social ideas and relations of their time, and not advancing one hairs breadth mans understanding of even a few, but real, social relations (and not such as “harmonise with human nature”). The gigantic step forward taken by Marx in this respect consisted precisely in that he discarded all these arguments about society and progress in general and produced a scientific analysis of one society and of one progress—capitalist. And Mr. Mikhailovsky blames him for beginning at the beginning and not at the end, for having begun with an analysis of the facts and not with final conclusions, with a study of particular, historically-determined social relations and not with general theories about what these social relations consist of in general! And he asks: “Where is the appropriate work?” O, most wise subjective sociologist!!

If our subjective philosopher had confined himself to mere perplexity as to where, in which work, materialism is substantiated, it would not have been so bad. But, despite the fact that he did not find even an exposition, let alone a substantiation, of the materialist conception of history anywhere (and maybe just because he did not), he begins to ascribe to this doctrine claims which it has never made. He quotes a passage from Blos to the effect that Marx proclaimed an entirely new conception of history, and without further ado goes on to declare that this theory claims to have “explained to mankind its past,” to have explained “the whole (sic!!?) past of mankind,” and so on. But this is utterly false! The theory only claims to explain the capitalist social organisation, and no other. If the application of materialism to the analysis   and explanation of one social formation yielded such brilliant results, it is quite natural that materialism in history already ceases to be a mere hypothesis and becomes a scientifically tested theory; it is quite natural that the necessity for such a method extends to other social formations, even though they have not been subjected to special factual investigation and detailed analysis—just as the idea of transformism, which has been proved in relation to quite a large number of facts, is extended to the whole realm of biology, even though it has not yet been possible to establish with precision the fact of their transformation for certain species of animals and plants. And just as transformism does not at all claim to explain the “whole” history of the formation of species, but only to place the methods of this explanation on a scientific basis, so materialism in history has never claimed to explain everything, but merely to indicate the “only scientific,” to use Marx’s expression (Capital ), method of explaining history.[23] One may therefore judge how ingenious, earnest and seemly are the methods of controversy employed by Mr. Mikhailovsky when he first misrepresents Marx by ascribing to materialism in history the absurd claims of “explaining everything,” of finding “the key to all historical locks” (claims which were, of course, refuted by Marx immediately and in very biting style in his “Letter”[24] on Mikhailovsky’s articles), then pulls faces at these claims of his own invention, and, finally, accurately citing Engels’ ideas—accurately because in this case a quotation and not a paraphrase is given—to the effect that political economy as understood by the materialists “has still to be brought into being” and that “such economic science as we possess up to the present is limited almost exclusively to” the history of capitalist society[25]—draws the conclusion that “these words greatly narrow the field of operation of economic materialism”! What infinite naïlveté, or what infinite conceit a man must have to count on such tricks passing unnoticed! First he misrepresents Marx, then pulls faces at his own pack of lies, then accurately cites precise ideas—and now has the insolence to declare that they narrow the field of operation of economic materialism!

The kind and quality of Mr. Mikhailovsky’s twisting may be seen from the following example: “Marx nowhere substantiates   them”—i.e., the foundations of the theory of economic materialism—says Mr. Mikhailovsky. “True, Marx and Engels thought of writing a work dealing with the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history, and even did write one (in 1845-1846), but it was never published.[26] Engels says: The finished portion [of this work] consists of an exposition of the materialist conception of history which proves only how incomplete our knowledge of economic history still was at that time. Thus,” concludes Mr. Mikhailovsky, “the fundamental points of scientific socialism and of the theory of economic materialism were discovered, and were then expounded in the Manifesto, at a time when, as one of the authors himself admits, they were poorly equipped with the knowledge needed for such a work.”

A charming way of criticising, is it not? Engels says that their knowledge of economic “history” was poor and that for this reason they did not publish their work of a “general” character on the history of philosophy. Mr. Mikhailovsky garbles this to make it mean that their knowledge was poor “for such a work” as the elaboration of “the fundamental points of scientific socialism,” that is, of a scientific criticism of the “bourgeois” system, already given in the Manifesto. One of two things: either Mr. Mikhailovsky cannot grasp the difference between an attempt to embrace the whole philosophy of history, and an attempt to explain the bourgeois regime scientifically, or he imagines that Marx and Engels possessed insufficient knowledge for a criticism of political economy. In that case, it is very cruel of him not to acquaint us with his views on this insufficiency, and with his amendments and additions. The decision by Marx and Engels not to publish their work on the history of philosophy and to concentrate all their efforts on a scientific analysis of one social organisation is only indicative of a very high degree of scientific conscientiousness. Mr. Mikhailovsky’s decision to twist this by the little addition that Marx and Engels expounded their views while themselves confessing that their knowledge was inadequate to elaborate them, is only indicative of methods of controversy which testify neither to intellect nor to a sense of decency.

Here is another sample: “More was done by Marx’s alter ego, Engels, to substantiate economic materialism as a theory   of history,” says Mr. Mikhailovsky. “He wrote a special historical work, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State in the Light of (im Anschluss) the Researches of Morgan. This Anschluss is truly noteworthy. The book of the American Morgan appeared many years after Marx and Engels had announced the principles of economic materialism and entirely independently of it.” And then, says Mikhailovsky  “the economic materialists associated themselves” with this book; moreover, since there was no class struggle in prehistoric times, they introduced an “amendment” to the formula of the materialist conception of history indicating that, in addition to the production of material values, a determining factor is the production of man himself, i.e., procreation, which played a primary role in the primitive era, when the productivity of labour was still very undeveloped.

Engels says that “Morgan’s great merit lies in having… found in the groups based on ties of sex of the North American Indians the key to the most important, hitherto insoluble, riddles of the earliest Greek, Roman and German history.”[27]

“And so,” quoth Mr. Mikhailovsky in this connection, “at the end of the forties an absolutely new, materialist and truly scientific conception of history was discovered and proclaimed, and it did for historical science what Darwin’s theory did for modern natural science.” But this conception—Mr. Mikhailovsky once more repeats—was never scientifically substantiated. “Not only was it never tested in a large and varied field of factual material” (Capital is “not the appropriate” work: it contains only facts and painstaking investigations!), “but was not even sufficiently motivated by at least a criticism and exclusion of other systems of the philosophy of history.” Engels’ book—Herrn E. Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft[3] —represents “only witty attempts made in passing,” and Mr. Mikhailovsky therefore considers it possible to ignore completely the mass of essential questions dealt with in that work, despite the fact that these “witty attempts” very wittily show the emptiness of sociologies which “start with utopias,” and despite the fact that this work contains a detailed criticism   of the “force theory,” which asserts that political and legal systems determine economic systems and is so zealously professed by the gentlemen who write in Russkoye Bogatstvo. Of course, it is much easier, is it not, to utter a few meaning less phrases about a work than to make a serious examination of even one of the problems materialistically solved in it. And it is also safe, for the censor will probably never pass a translation of that book, and Mr. Mikhailovsky may, without fear for his subjective philosophy, call it a witty book.

Even more characteristic and edifying (as an illustration to the saying that man was given a tongue to conceal his thoughts—or to lend vacuity the form of thought) are his comments on Marx’s Capital: “There are brilliant pages of history in Capital, but” (that wonderful “but”! It is not so much a “but,” as that famous “mais,” which translated into Russian means “the ears never grow higher than the forehead”) “by virtue of the very purpose of the book they are devoted to only one definite historical period, and not so much affirm the basic propositions of economic materialism as simply touch on the economic aspect of a certain group of historical phenomena.” In other words, Capital—which is devoted solely to a study of capitalist society—gives a materialist analysis of that society and its superstructures, “but” Mr. Mikhailovsky prefers to pass over this analysis. It deals, don’t you see, with only “one” period, whereas he, Mr. Mikhailovsky, wants to embrace all periods, and to embrace them in such a way as not to speak of any one of them in particular. Of course, there is only one way to achieve this aim—i.e., to embrace all periods without practically dealing with any one of them, and that is by uttering commonplaces and phrases, “brilliant” and empty. And nobody can compare with Mr. Mikhailovsky in the art of dismissing matters with phrases. It seems that it is not worth dealing (separately) with Marx’s investigations because he, Marx, “not so much affirms the basic propositions of economic materialism as simply touches on the economic aspect of a certain group of historical phenomena.” What profundity! “Does not affirm,” but “simply touches on”! How simple it really is to obscure any issue by phrase-mongering! For instance, when Marx repeatedly shows how civil equality, free contract and similar principles   of the law-governed state are based on relations among commodity producers—what is that? Does he thereby affirm materialism, or “simply” touch on it. With his characteristic modesty, our philosopher refrains from replying on the substance of the matter and directly draws conclusions from his “witty attempts” to talk brilliantly and say nothing.

“No wonder,” the conclusion runs, “that forty years after the announcement of the theory which claimed to elucidate world history, ancient Greek, Roman and German history were still unsolved riddles for it; and the key to these riddles was provided, firstly, by a man who had absolutely no connection with the theory of economic materialism and knew nothing about it, and, secondly, with the help of a factor which was not economic. A rather amusing impression is produced by the term production of man himself, i.e., procreation, which Engels seizes upon in order to preserve at least a verbal connection with the basic formula of economic materialism. He was, however, obliged to admit that for many ages the life of mankind did not proceed in accordance with this formula.” Your method of controversy is indeed a “wonder,” Mr. Mikhailovsky. The theory was that in order to “elucidate” history one must seek the foundations not in ideological, but in material social relations. Lack of factual material made it impossible to apply this method to an analysis of certain very important phenomena in ancient European history—for instance, that of gentile organisation[28]—which in consequence remained a riddle.[4] But then, the wealth of material collected by Morgan in America enabled him to analyse the nature of gentile organisation; and he came to the conclusion that its explanation must be sought not in ideological (e.g., legal or religious), but in material relations. Obviously, this fact is a brilliant confirmation of the materialist method, and nothing more. And when Mr. Mikhailovsky flings the reproach at this doctrine that, firstly, the key to very difficult historical riddles was found by a man “who had absolutely no connection” with the theory of economic materialism, one can only wonder at the degree to which people can fail to distinguish what speaks in their favour from what severely trounces them. Secondly—argues our philosopher— procreation is not an economic factor. But where have you read in the works of Marx or Engels that they necessarily spoke of economic materialism? When they described their world outlook they called it simply materialism. Their basic idea (quite definitely expressed, for instance, in the passage from Marx quoted above) was that social relations are divided into material and ideological. The latter merely constitute a superstructure on the former, which take shape independent of the will and consciousness of man as (the result) the form of mans activity to maintain his existence. The explanation of political and legal forms—Marx says in the passage quoted—must be sought in “the material conditions of life.” Mr. Mikhailovsky surely does not think that procreation relations are ideological? The explanation given by Mr. Mikhailovsky in this connection is so characteristic that it deserves to be dwelt on. “However much we exercise our ingenuity on the question of procreation,” says he, “and endeavour to establish at least a verbal connection between it and economic materialism, however much it may be interwoven in the complex web of phenomena of social life with other, including economic, phenomena, it has its own physiological and psychical roots.” (Are you telling babes and sucklings, Mr. Mikhailovsky, that procreation has physiological roots!? Who do you think you are fooling?) “And this reminds us that the theoreticians of economic materialism failed to settle accounts not only with history, but also with psychology. There can be no doubt that gentile ties have lost their significance in the history of civilised countries, but this can hardly be said with the same assurance of directly sexual and family ties. They have, of course, undergone considerable modification under the pressure of the increasing complexity of life in general, but with a certain amount of dialectical dexterity it might be shown that not only legal, but also economic relations themselves constitute a superstructure on sexual and family relations.   We shall not dwell on this, but nevertheless would at least point to the institution of inheritance.”

At last our philosopher has been lucky enough to leave the sphere of empty phrase-mongering[5] and approach facts, definite facts, which can be verified and make it less easy to “fool” people about the essence of the matter. Let us then see how our critic of Marx shows that the institution of inheritance is a superstructure on sexual and family relations. “What is transmitted by inheritance, argues Mr. Mikhailovsky, “is the products of economic production” (“the products of economic production”!! How literate! How sonorous! What elegant language!) “and the very institution of inheritance is to a certain degree determined by the fact of economic competition. But, firstly, non-material values are also transmitted by inheritance—as expressed in the concern to bring up children in the spirit of their fathers.” So the upbringing of children is part of the institution of inheritance! The Russian Civil Code, for example, contains a clause saying that “parents must endeavour by home upbringing to train their” (i.e., their childrens) “morals and to further the aims of government.” Is this what our philosopher calls the institution of inheritance?—“and, secondly, even confining ourselves solely to the economic sphere, if the institution of inheritance is inconceivable without the products of production transmitted by inheritance, it is just as unthinkable without the products of procreation, without them and without that complex and intense psychology which directly adheres to them.” (Do pay attention to the language: a complex psychology “adheres to” the products of procreation! That is really exquisite!) And so, the institution of inheritance is a superstructure on family and sexual relations, because inheritance is inconceivable without procreation! Why, this is a veritable discovery of America! Until now everybody believed that procreation can explain the institution of inheritance just as little as the necessity for taking food can explain the institution of   property. Until now everybody thought that if, for instance, in the era when the fief system[29] nourished in Russia, the land was not transmissible by inheritance (because it was regarded as conditional property only), the explanation was to be sought in the peculiarities of the social organisation of the time. Mr. Mikhailovsky presumably thinks that the explanation of the matter is simply that the psychology which adhered to the products of procreation of the fief holder of that time was distinguished by insufficient complexity.

Scratch the “friend of the people”—we may say, paraphrasing the familiar saying—and you will find a bourgeois. Really, what other meaning can attach to Mr. Mikhailovskys reflections on the connection between the institution of inheritance and the upbringing of children, the psychology of procreation, and so on, except that the institution of inheritance is just as eternal, essential and sacred as the upbringing of children? True, Mr. Mikhailovsky tried to leave himself a loophole by declaring that “the institution of inheritance is to a certain degree determined by the fact of economic competition,” but that is nothing but an attempt to avoid giving a definite answer to the question, and a futile attempt at that. How can we give this statement our consideration when we are not told a single word as to exactly what “certain degree” inheritance depends on competition, and when absolutely no explanation is given on what in fact gives rise to this connection between competition and the institution of inheritance? Actually, the institution of inheritance presumes the existence of private property, and the latter arises only with the appearance of exchange. Its basis is in the already incipient specialisation of social labour and the alienation of products on the market. So long, for instance, as all the members of the primitive American Indian community produced in common all the articles they required, private property was impossible. But when division of labour invaded the community and its members proceeded, individually, to engage in the production of some one article and to sell it on the market, this material isolation of the commodity producers found expression in the institution of private property. Both private property and inheritance are categories of a social order in which   separate, small (monogamous) families have already been formed and exchange has begun to develop. Mr. Mikhailovskys example proves exactly the opposite of what he wanted to prove.

Mr. Mikhailovsky gives another factual reference—and this too is a gem in its way! “As regards gentile ties,” he says, continuing to put materialism right, “they paled in the history of civilised peoples partly, it is true, under the rays of the influence of the forms of production” (another subterfuge, only more obvious still. Exactly what forms of production? An empty phrase!), “but partly they became dissolved in their own continuation and generalisation—in national ties.” And so, national ties are a continuation and generalisation of gentile ties! Mr. Mikhailovsky, evidently, borrows his ideas on the history of society from the tales taught to school children. The history of society—this copybook maxim runs—is that first there was the family, that nucleus of every society,[6] then—we are told—the family grew into the tribe, and the tribe grew into the state. If Mr. Mikhailovsky with a solemn air repeats this childish nonsense, it merely shows—apart from everything else— that he has not the slightest notion of the course taken even by Russian history. While one might speak of gentile life in ancient Rus, there can be no doubt that by the Middle Ages, the era of the Moscovite tsars, these gentile ties no longer existed, that is to say, the state was based on associations that were not gentile at all, but local: the landlords and the monasteries acquired peasants from various localities, and the communities thus formed were purely territorial associations. But one could hardly speak of national ties in the true sense of the term at that time: the state split into separate “lands,” sometimes even principalities, which preserved strong traces of the former autonomy, peculiarities of administration, at times their own troops (the local boyars went to war at the head of their own companies), their own tariff frontiers, and so forth. Only the modern period of   Russian history (approximately from the seventeenth century) is characterised by the actual amalgamation of all such regions, lands and principalities into one whole. This amalgamation, most esteemed Mr. Mikhailovsky, was brought about not by gentile ties, nor even by their continuation and generalisation: it was brought about by the increasing exchange among regions, the gradually growing circulation of commodities, and the concentration of the small local markets into a single, all-Russian market. Since the leaders and masters of this process were the merchant capitalists, the creation of these national ties was nothing else than the creation of bourgeois ties. By both his factual references Mr. Mikhailovsky has only belaboured himself and given us nothing but examples of bourgeois banality; “banality,” because he explained the institution of inheritance by procreation and its psychology, and nationality by gentile ties; “bourgeois,” because he took the categories and superstructures of one historically definite social formation (that based on exchange) for categories as general and eternal as the upbringing of children and “directly” sexual ties.

What is highly characteristic here is that as soon as our subjective philosopher tried to pass from phrases to concrete facts he got himself into a mess. And apparently he feels very much at ease in this not over-clean position: there he sits, preening himself and splashing filth all around him. He wants, for instance, to refute the thesis that history is a succession of episodes of the class struggle, and so, declaring with an air of profundity that this is “extreme,” be says: “The International Working Mens Association,[30] formed by Marx and organised for the purposes of the class struggle, did not prevent the French and German workers from cutting each others throats and despoiling each other”—something, he avers, which proves that materialism has not settled accounts “with the demon of national vanity and national hatred.” Such an assertion reveals the critics utter failure to understand that the very real interests of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie constitute the principal basis of this hatred, and that to talk of national sentiment as an independent factor is only to obscure the essence of the matter. Incidentally, we have already seen what a profound idea   of nationality our philosopher has. Mr. Mikhailovsky cannot refer to the International except with the irony of a Burenin.[31] “Marx was the head of the International Working Mens Association, which, it is true, has fallen to pieces, but is due to be resurrected.” Of course, if the nec plus ultra of international solidarity is to be seen in a system of “fair” exchange, on which the chronicler of home affairs expatiates with philistine banality in No. 2 of Russkoye Bogatstvo, and if it is not understood that exchange, fair or unfair, always presupposes and includes the rule of the bourgeoisie, and that the cessation of international clashes is impossible unless the economic organisation based on exchange is destroyed, then it is understandable that there should be nothing but sneers for the International. Then one can understand that Mr. Mikhailovsky cannot grasp the simple truth that there is no other way of combating national hatred than by organising and uniting the oppressed class for a struggle against the oppressor class in each separate country, than by uniting such national working-class organisations into a single international working-class army to fight international capital. As to the statement that the International did not prevent the workers from cutting each others throats, it is enough to remind Mr. Mikhailovsky of the events of the Commune, which showed the true attitude of the organised proletariat to the ruling classes engaged in war.

What is particularly disgusting in all this polemic of Mr. Mikhailovskys is the methods he employs. If he is dissatisfied with the tactics of the International, if he does not share the ideas in the name of which the European workers are organising, let him at least criticise them bluntly and openly, and expound his idea of what would be more expedient tactics and more correct views. As it is, no definite and clear objections are made, and all we get is senseless jibes scattered here and there among a welter of phrase-mongering. What can one call this but filth, especially if we bear in mind that defence of the ideas and tactics of the International is not legally allowed in Russia? Such too are the methods Mr. Mikhailovsky employs when he argues against the Russian Marxists: without taking the trouble to formulate any of their theses conscientiously and accurately, so as to subject them to direct and definite criticism, he prefers to fasten   on fragments of Marxist arguments he happens to have heard and to garble them. Judge for yourselves: “Marx was too intelligent and too learned to think that it was he who discovered the idea of the historical necessity and conformity to law of social phenomena. . . . The lower rungs” (of the Marxist ladder)[7] “do not know this” (that “the idea of historical necessity is not something new, invented or discovered by Marx, but a long established truth”), “or, at least., they have only a vague idea of the centuries of intellectual effort and energy spent on the establishment of this truth.”

Of course, statements of this kind may very well make an impression on people who hear of Marxism for the first time, and in their case the aim of the critic may be easily achieved, namely, to garble, scoff and “conquer” (the word used, it is said, about Mr. Mikhailovskys articles by contributors to Russkoye Bogatstvo ). Anybody who has any knowledge at all of Marx will immediately perceive the utter falsity and sham of such methods. One may not agree with Marx, but one cannot deny that he formulated with the utmost precision those of his views which constitute “something new” in relation to the earlier socialists. The something new consisted in the fact that the earlier socialists thought that to substantiate their views it was enough to show the oppression of the masses under the existing regime, to show the superiority of a system under which every man would receive what he himself had produced, to show that this ideal system harmonised with “human nature,” with the conception of a rational and moral life, and so forth. Marx found it impossible to content himself with such a socialism. He did not confine himself to describing the existing system, to judging it and condemning it; he gave a scientific explanation of it, reducing that existing system, which differs in   the different European and non-European countries, to a common basis—the capitalist social formation, the laws of the functioning and development of which he subjected to an objective analysis (he showed the necessity of exploitation under that system). In just the same way he did not find it possible to content himself with asserting that only the socialist system harmonises with human nature, as was claimed by the great utopian socialists and by their wretched imitators, the subjective sociologists. By this same objective analysis of the capitalist system, he proved the necessity of its transformation into the socialist system. (Exactly how he proved this and how Mr. Mikhailovsky objected to it is something we shall have to refer to again.) That is the source of those references to necessity which are frequently to be met with among Marxists. The distortion which Mr. Mikhailovsky introduced into the question is obvious: he omitted the whole factual content of the theory, its whole essence, and presented the matter as though the whole theory amounts to the one word “necessity” (“one cannot refer to this alone in complex practical affairs”), as though the proof of the theory is that this is what historical necessity demands. In other words, saying nothing about the content of the doctrine, he seized only on its label, and again started to pull faces at that which was “simply the worn-out coin,” he had worked so hard to transform into Marx’s teaching. We shall not, of course, try to follow up his clowning, because we are already sufficiently acquainted with that sort of thing. Let him cut capers for the amusement and satisfaction of Mr. Burenin (who not without good reason patted Mr. Mikhailovsky on the back in Novoye Vremya),[32] let him, after paying his respects to Marx, yelp at him from round the corner: “his controversy with the utopians and idealists is one-sided as it is,” i.e., as it is without the Marxists repeating its arguments. We cannot call such sallies anything else but yelping, because he does not adduce one single factual, definite and verifiable objection to this polemic, so that however willing we might be to discuss the subject, since we consider this controversy extremely important for the settlement of Russian socialist problems—we simply cannot reply to the yelping, and can only shrug our shoulders and say:

Mighty must the pug-dog be, if at the elephant barketh he![33]

Not without interest is the next thing Mr. Mikhailovsky has to say about historical necessity, because it reveals, if only partly, the real ideological stock-in-trade of “our well-known sociologist” (the title enjoyed by Mr. Mikhailovsky, equally with Mr. V. V., among the liberal members of our “cultured society”). He speaks of “the conflict between the idea of historical necessity and the significance of individual activity”: socially active figures err in regarding themselves as active, when as a matter of fact they are “activated,” “marionettes, manipulated from a mysterious underground by the immanent laws of historical necessity”— such, he claims, is the conclusion to be drawn from this idea, which he therefore characterises as “sterile” and “diffuse.” Probably not every reader knows where Mr. Mikhailovsky got all this nonsense about marionettes and the like. The point is that this is one of the favourite hobby-horses of the subjective philosopher—the idea of the conflict between determinism and morality, between historical necessity and the significance of the individual. He has filled reams of paper on the subject and has uttered an infinite amount of sentimental, philistine nonsense in order to settle this conflict in favour of morality and the role of the individual. Actually, there is no conflict here at all; it has been invented by Mr. Mikhailovsky, who feared (not without reason) that determinism would cut the ground from under the philistine morality he loves so dearly. The idea of determinism, which postulates that human acts are necessitated and rejects the absurd tale about free will, in no way destroys mans reason or conscience, or appraisal of his actions. Quite the contrary, only the determinist view makes a strict and correct appraisal possible instead of attributing everything you please to free will. Similarly, the idea of historical necessity does not in the least undermine the role of the individual in history: all history is made up of the actions of individuals, who are undoubtedly active figures. The real question that arises in appraising the social activity of an individual is: what conditions ensure the success of his actions, what guarantee is there that these actions will not remain an isolated act lost in a welter of contrary acts? This also is a question answered differently by Social-Democrats and by the other Russian socialists: how must actions aimed at bringing about the socialist system attract the masses in order to yield serious fruits? Obviously, the answer to this question depends directly and immediately on the way in which the grouping of social forces in Russia and the class struggle which forms the substance of Russian reality are understood; and here too Mr. Mikhailovsky merely wanders all round the question, without even attempting to formulate it precisely and furnish an answer. The Social-Democratic answer to the question is based, as we know, on the view that the Russian economic system constitutes a bourgeois society, from which there can be only one way out, the one that necessarily follows from the very nature of the bourgeois system, namely, the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Obviously, criticism that is serious should be directed either against the view that ours is a bourgeois system, or against the conception of the nature of this system and the laws of its development; but Mr. Mikhailovsky does not even dream of dealing with serious questions. He prefers to dispose of matters with vapid phrase-mongering about necessity being too general a bracket and so on. But then, Mr. Mikhailovsky, any idea will be too general a bracket if you treat it like an egg from which you throw out the meat and then begin playing with the shell! This outer shell, which hides the really serious and burning questions of the day, is Mr. Mikhailovskys favourite sphere, and with particular pride he stresses the point, for example, that “economic materialism ignores or throws a wrong light on the question of heroes and the crowd.” Pray note—the question which are the conflicting classes that make up contemporary Russian reality and what is its basis, is probably too general for Mr. Mikhailovsky, and he evades it. On the other hand, the question of what relations exist between the hero and the crowd—whether it is a crowd of workers, peasants, factory owners, or landlords, is one that interests him extremely. Maybe these questions are “interesting,” but to rebuke the materialists for devoting all their efforts to the settlement of problems that directly concern the liberation of the labouring class is to be an admirer of philistine science, nothing more. Concluding his “criticism” (?) of materialism,   Mr. Mikhailovsky makes one more attempt to misrepresent the facts and performs one more manipulation. Having expressed doubt about the correctness of Engels opinion that Capital was hushed up by the official economists[34] (a doubt he justifies on the curious grounds that there are numerous universities in Germany!), Mr. Mikhailovsky says: “Marx did not have this particular circle of readers” (workers) “in view, but expected something from men of science too.” That is absolutely untrue. Marx understood very well how little impartiality and scientific criticism he could expect from the bourgeois scientists and in the Afterword to the second edition of Capital he expressed himself very definitely on this score. There he says: “The appreciation which Das Kapital rapidly gained in wide circles of the German working class is the best reward of my labours. Herr Mayer . . . who in economic matters represents the bourgeois point of view, in a pamphlet published during the Franco-German War, aptly expounded the idea that the great capacity for theory (der grosse theoretische Sinn), which used to be considered a hereditary German possession, had almost completely disappeared amongst the so-called educated classes in Germany, but that amongst its working class, on the contrary, that capacity was celebrating its revival.”[35]

The manipulation again concerns materialism and is entirely in the style of the first sample. “The theory (of materialism) has never been scientifically substantiated and verified.” Such is the thesis. The proof: “Individual good pages of historical content in the works of Engels, Kautsky and some others also (as in the esteemed work of Blos) might well dispense with the label of economic materialism, since” (note the “since”!), “in fact” (sic!), “they take the sum-total of social life into account, even though the economic note predominates in the chord.” And the conclusion—“Economic materialism has not justified itself in science.”

A familiar trick! To prove that the theory lacks foundation, Mr. Mikhailovsky first distorts it by ascribing to it the absurd intention of not taking the sum-total of social life into account, whereas quite the opposite is the case: the materialists (Marxists) were the first socialists to raise the issue of the need to analyse all aspects of social life,   and not only the economic[8] —then he declares that “in fact” the materialists have “effectively” explained the sum-total of social life by economics (a fact which obviously demolishes the author)—and finally he draws the conclusion that materialism “has not justified itself.” Your manipulations, however, Mr. Mikhailovsky, have justified themselves magnificently!

This is all that Mr. Mikhailovsky advances in “refutation” of materialism. I repeat, there is no criticism here, it is nothing but empty and pretentious babbling. If we were to ask anybody at all what objections Mr. Mikhailovsky has raised against the view that production relations form the basis of all others; how he has refuted the correctness of the concept of the social formation and of the natural-historical development of these formations elaborated by Marx using the materialist method; how he has proved the fallacy of the materialist explanations of various historical problems given, for instance, by the writers he has mentioned—the answer would have to be that Mr. Mikhailovsky has raised no objections, has advanced no refutation, indicated no fallacies. He has merely beaten about the bush, trying to cover up the essence of the matter with phrases, and in passing has invented various paltry subterfuges.

We can hardly expect anything serious of such a critic when he continues in No. 2 of Russkoye Bogatstvo to refute Marxism. The only difference is that his inventiveness in the sphere of manipulations is already exhausted and he is beginning to use other peoples.

He starts out by holding forth on the “complexity” of social life: why, he says, even galvanism is connected with economic materialism, because Galvanis experiments “produced an impression” on Hegel, too. Wonderful wit! One could just as easily connect Mr. Mikhailovsky with the Emperor of China! What follows from this, except that there are people who find pleasure in talking nonsense?!

“The essence of the historical process,” Mr. Mikhailovsky continues, “which is elusive in general, has also eluded the doctrine of economic materialism, although this apparently rests on two pillars: the discovery of the all determining significance of the forms of production and exchange and the incontrovertibility of the dialectical process.”

And so, the materialists rest their case on the “incontrovertibility” of the dialectical process! In other words, they base their sociological theories on Hegelian triads.[36] Here we have the stock method of accusing Marxism of Hegelian dialectics, an accusation that might be thought to have been worn threadbare enough by Marx’s bourgeois critics. Unable to advance any fundamental argument against the doctrine, these gentlemen fastened on Marx’s manner of expression and attacked the origin of the theory, thinking thereby to undermine its essence. And Mr. Mikhailovsky makes no bones about resorting to such methods. He uses a chapter from Engels Anti-Dühring[37] as a pretext. Replying to Dühring, who had attacked Marx’s dialectics, Engels says that Marx never dreamed of “proving” anything by means of Hegelian triads, that Marx only studied and investigated the real process, and that the sole criterion of theory recognised by him was its conformity to reality. If, however, it sometimes happened that the development of some particular social phenomenon fitted in with the Hegelian scheme, namely, thesis—negation—negation of the negation, there is nothing surprising about that, for it is no rare thing in nature at all, and Engels proceeds to cite examples from   natural history (the development of a seed) and the social sphere—as, for instance, that first there was primitive communism, then private property, and then the capitalist socialisation of labour; or that first there was primitive materialism, then idealism, and then scientific materialism, and so forth. It is clear to everybody that the main weight of Engels argument is that materialists must correctly and accurately depict the actual historical process, and that insistence on dialectics, the selection of examples to demonstrate the correctness of the triad, is nothing but a relic of the Hegelianism out of which scientific socialism has grown, a relic of its manner of expression. And; indeed, once it has been categorically declared that to “prove” anything by triads is absurd, and that nobody even thought of doing so, what significance can attach to examples of “dialectical” processes? Is it not obvious that this merely points to the origin of the doctrine and nothing more? Mr. Mikhailovsky himself sees it when he says that the theory should not be blamed for its origin. But in order to discern in Engels arguments something more than the origin of the theory, proof should obviously be offered that the materialists have settled at least one historical problem by means of triads, and not on the strength of the pertinent facts. Did Mr. Mikhailovsky attempt to prove this? Not a bit of it. On the contrary, he was himself obliged to admit that “Marx filled the empty dialectical scheme so full with factual content that it can be removed from this content like a lid from a bowl without changing anything” (as to the exception which Mr. Mikhailovsky makes here— regarding the future—we shall deal with it anon). If that is so, why is Mr. Mikhailovsky making so much fuss about this lid that changes nothing? Why does he say that the materialists “rest” their case on the incontrovertibility of the dialectical process? Why, when he is combating this lid, does he declare that he is combating one of the “pillars” of scientific socialism, which is a downright untruth?

It goes without saying that I shall not examine how Mr. Mikhailovsky analyses the examples of triads, because, I repeat, this has no connection whatever either with scientific materialism or with Russian Marxism. But there is one interesting question: what grounds had Mr. Mikhailovsky for so distorting the attitude of Marxists to dialectics?   Two grounds: firstly, Mr. Mikhailovsky, as the saying goes, heard the tolling of a bell, but whence it came he could not tell; secondly, Mr. Mikhailovsky performed (or, rather, borrowed from Dühring) one more piece of subterfuge.

Ad 1)[9] When reading Marxist literature, Mr. Mikhailovsky constantly came across references to the “dialectical method” in social science, “dialectical thinking,” again in the sphere of social problems (which alone is in question), and so forth. In his simplicity of heart (it were well if it were only simplicity) he took it for granted that this method consists in solving all sociological problems in accordance with the laws of the Hegelian triad. Had he been just a little more attentive to the matter in hand he could not but have become convinced of the absurdity of this notion. What Marx and Engels called the dialectical method—as against the metaphysical—is nothing else than the scientific method in sociology, which consists in regarding society as a living organism in a state of constant development (and not as something mechanically concatenated and therefore permitting all sorts of arbitrary combinations of separate social elements), an organism the study of which requires an objective analysis of the production relations that constitute the given social formation and an investigation of its laws of functioning and development. We shall endeavour below to illustrate the relation between the dialectical method and the metaphysical (to which concept the subjective method in sociology undoubtedly also belongs) by Mr. Mikhailovskys own arguments. For the present we shall only observe that anyone who reads the definition and description of the dialectical method given either by Engels (in the polemic against Dühring: Socialism: Utopian and Scientific) or by Marx (various comments in Capital, in the Afterword to the second edition, and in The Poverty of Philosophy)[38] will see that the Hegelian triads are not even mentioned, and that it all amounts to regarding social evolution as the natural historical process of development of social-economic formations. In confirmation of this I shall cite in extenso the description of the dialectical method given in Vestnik Yevropy, 1872, No. 5 (in the article “The Standpoint   of Karl Marx’s Critique of Political Economy”),[39] which Marx quotes in the Afterword to the second edition of Capital. Marx says that the method he employed in Capital had been poorly understood. “German reviews, of course, shriek out at Hegelian sophistics.” And in order to illustrate his method more clearly, Marx quotes the description of it given in the article mentioned. The one thing of importance to Marx, it is there stated, is to find the law governing the phenomena he is investigating, and of particular importance to him is the law of change, the development of those phenomena, of their transition from one form into another, from one order of social relations to another. Consequently, Marx is concerned with one thing only: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of the given order of social relations, and to establish, as fully as possible, the facts that serve him as fundamental points of departure. For this purpose it is quite enough if, while proving the necessity of the present order of things, he at the same time proves the necessity of another order which must inevitably grow out of the preceding one regardless of whether men believe in it or not, whether they are conscious of it or not. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intentions, but, rather, on the contrary, determining the will, consciousness and intentions of men. (This for the information of the subjectivist gentlemen, who separate social evolution from the evolution of natural history merely because man sets himself conscious “aims” and is guided by definite ideals.) If the conscious element plays so subordinate a part in the history of civilisation, it is self-evident that a critique whose subject is civilisation, can least of all take as its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the external, objective phenomenon alone can serve as its point of departure. Criticism must consist in comparing and contrasting the given fact with another fact and not, with the idea; the one thing of moment is that both facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, in respect of each other, different moments of development; but most important of all is that an equally accurate investigation be made of the whole series of known states,   their sequence and the relation between the different stages of development. Marx rejects the very idea that the laws of economic life are one and the same for the past and the present. On the contrary, every historical period has its own laws. Economic life constitutes a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. Earlier economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry. A more thorough analysis shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Setting himself the task of investigating the capitalist economic organism from this point of view, Marx thereby formulates, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in disclosing the special (historical) laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, and death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher organism.

Such is the description of the dialectical method which Marx fished out of the mass of magazine and newspaper comments on Capital, and which he translated into German, because this description of the method, as he himself says, is absolutely correct. The question arises, is so much as even a single word said here about triads, trichotomies, the incontrovertibility of the dialectical process and suchlike nonsense, which Mr. Mikhailovsky battles against so valiantly. Following this description, Marx says plainly that his method is the “direct opposite” of Hegel’s method. According to Hegel the development of the idea, in conformity with the dialectical laws of the triad, determines the development of the real world. And it is only in that case, of course, that one can speak of the importance of the triads, of the incontrovertibility of the dialectical process. “With me, on the contrary,” says Marx, “the ideal is nothing but the reflection of the material.” And the whole matter thus amounts to an “affirmative recognition of the existing state of things and of its inevitable development”; no other role is left for the triads than that of the lid and the shell (“I coquetted with the modes of expression peculiar to Hegel,” Marx says in this same Afterword), in which only philistines could be interested. How, then, we may ask, should   we judge a man who set out to criticise one of the “pillars” of scientific materialism. i.e., dialectics, and began to talk about all sorts of things, even about frogs and Napoleon, but not about what dialectics is, whether the development of society is really a process of natural history, whether the materialist concept of social-economic formations as special social organisms is correct, whether the methods of objective analysis of these formations are right, whether social ideas really do not determine social development but are themselves determined by it, and so forth? Can one assume only a lack of understanding in this case?

Ad 2)[10] After this “criticism” of dialectics, Mr. Mikhailovsky imputes these methods of proving things “by means of” Hegelian triads to Marx, and, of course, victoriously combats them. “Regarding the future,” he says, “the immanent laws of society are based purely on dialectics.” (This is the exception referred to above.) Marx’s arguments on the inevitability of the expropriation of the expropriators by virtue of the laws of development of capitalism are “purely dialectical.” Marx’s “ideal” of the common ownership of land and capital “in the sense of its inevitability and indubitability rests entirely at the end of the Hegelian three term chain.”

This argument is taken in its entirety from Dühring, who expounds it in his “Kritische Geschichte der Nationaloekonomie und des Sozialismus”(3-te Aufl., 1879. S. 486–87).[11] But Mr. Mikhailovsky says not a word about Dühring. Perhaps, incidentally, he arrived independently at this way of garbling Marx?

Engels gave a splendid reply to Dühring, and since he also quotes Dührings criticism we shall confine ourselves to Engels reply.[40] The reader will see that it fully applies to Mr. Mikhailovsky.

“’This historical sketch’ (of the genesis of the so-called primitive accumulation of capital in England) ’is relatively the best part of Marx’s book,’” says Dühring, “and would be even better if it had not relied on the dialectical crutch to   help out its scholarly crutch. The Hegelian negation of the negation, in default of anything better and clearer, has in fact to serve here as the midwife to deliver the future from the womb of the past. The abolition of “individual property,” which since the sixteenth century has been effected in the way indicated above, is the first negation. It will be followed by a second, which bears the character of a negation of the negation, and hence of a restoration of “individual property,” but in a higher form, based on common ownership of land and of the instruments of labour. Herr Marx calls this new “individual property” also “social property,” and in this there appears the Hegelian higher unity, in which the contradiction is supposed to be sublated” (aufgehoben—a specific Hegelian term), “that is to say, in the Hegelian verbal jugglery, both overcome and preserved. . . .”

“’According to this, the expropriation of the expropriators is, as it were, the automatic result of historical reality in its materially external relations. . . . It would be difficult to convince a sensible man of the necessity of the common ownership of land and capital, on the basis of credence in Hegelian word-juggling such as the negation of the negation…. The nebulous hybrids of Marx’s conceptions will not, however, appear strange to anyone who realises what nonsense can be concocted with Hegelian dialectics as the scientific basis, or rather what nonsense must necessarily spring from it. For the benefit of the reader who is not familiar with these artifices, it must be pointed out expressly that Hegel’s first negation is the catechismal idea of the fall from grace, and his second is that of a higher unity leading to redemption. The logic of facts can hardly be based on this nonsensical analogy borrowed from the religious sphere…. Herr Marx remains cheerfully in the nebulous world of his property which is at once both individual and social and leaves it to his adepts to solve for themselves this profound dialectical enigma.’ Thus far Herr Dühring.

“So,” Engels concludes, “Marx has no other way of proving the necessity of the social revolution, of establishing the common ownership of land and of the means of production produced by labour, except by using the Hegelian negation of the negation; and because he bases his socialist theory on these nonsensical analogies borrowed from religion, he arrives at   the result that in the society of the future there will be dominant an ownership at once both individual and social, as the Hegelian higher unity of the sublated contradiction.[12]

“But let the negation of the negation rest for the moment, and let us have a look at the ownership which is at once both individual and social. Herr Dühring characterises this as a nebulous world, and curiously enough he is really right on this point. Unfortunately, however, it is not Marx but again Herr Dühring himself who is in this nebulous world.. . . He can put Marx right á la Hegel, by imputing to him the higher unity of a property, of which there is not a word in Marx.

“Marx says: ’It is the negation of the negation. This does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisitions of the capitalist era; i.e., on co-operation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production. The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labour, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process incomparably more protracted, violent, and difficult than the transformation of capitalistic private property, already practically resting on socialised production, into socialised property.’ That is all. The state of things brought about through the expropriation of the expropriators is therefore characterised as the reestablishment   of individual property, but on the basis of the social ownership of the land and of the means of production produced by labour itself. To anyone who understands German” (and Russian too, Mr. Mikhailovsky, because the translation is absolutely correct) “this means that social ownership extends to the land and the other means of production, and individual ownership to the products, that is, the articles of consumption. And in order to make the matter comprehensible even to children of six, Marx assumes on page 56” (Russ. ed., p. 30)[41] “a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour-power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour-power of the community, that is, a society organised on a socialist basis; and he continues: The total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion among them is consequently necessary. And surely that is clear enough even for Herr Dühring. . . .

“The property which is at once both individual and social, this confusing hybrid, this nonsense which necessarily springs from Hegelian dialectics, this nebulous world, this profound dialectical enigma, which Marx leaves his adepts to solve for themselves—is yet another free creation and imagination on the part of Herr Dühring. . . .

“But what role,” Engels continues, “does the negation of the negation play in Marx? On page 791 and the following pages” (Russ. ed., p. 648 et seq.)[42] “he sets out the final conclusions which he draws from the preceding 50” (Russ. ed., 35) “pages of economic and historical investigation into the so-called primitive accumulation of capital. Before the capitalist era, petty industry existed, at least in England, on the basis of the private property of the labourer in his means of production. The so-called primitive accumulation of capital consisted there in the expropriation of these immediate producers, that is, in the (dissolution of private property based on the labour of its owner. This became possible because the petty industry referred to above is compatible only with narrow and primitive   bounds of production and society and at a certain stage brings forth the material agencies for its own annihilation. This annihilation, the transformation of the individual and scattered means of production into socially concentrated ones, forms the prehistory of capital. As soon as the labourers are turned into proletarians, their means of labour into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, the further socialisation of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production” (into capital), “and therefore the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the labourer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many labourers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the concentration of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this concentration, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever-extending scale, the co-operative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil; the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialised labour. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolise all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. Capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and nourished along with, and under it. Concentration of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

“And now I ask the reader: where are the dialectical frills and mazes and conceptual arabesques; where the mixed   and misconceived ideas according to which everything is all one and the same thing in the end; where the dialectical miracles for his faithful followers; where the mysterious dialectical rubbish and the maze in accordance with the Hegelian Logos doctrine, without which Marx, according to Herr Dühring, is unable to put his exposition into shape? Marx merely shows from history, and here states in a summarised form, that just as formerly petty industry by its very development, necessarily created the conditions of its own annihilation . . . so now the capitalist mode of production has likewise itself created the material conditions from which it must perish. The process is a historical one, and if it is at the same time a dialectical process, this is not Marx’s fault, however annoying it may be to Herr Dühring.

“It is only at this point, after Marx has completed his proof on the basis of historical and economic facts, that he proceeds: The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of the negation—and so on (as quoted above).

“Thus, by characterising the process as the negation of the negation, Marx does not intend to prove that the process was historically necessary. On the contrary: only after he has proved from history that in fact the process has partially already occurred, and partially must occur in the future, he in addition characterises it as a process which develops in accordance with a definite dialectical law. That is all. It is therefore once again a pure distortion of the facts by Herr Dühring when he declares that the negation of the negation has to serve here as the midwife to deliver the future from the womb of the past, or that Marx wants anyone to be convinced of the necessity of the common ownership of land and capital . . . on the basis of credence in the negation of the negation” (p. 125).

The reader will see that Engels’ splendid rebuttal of Dühring applies in its entirety to Mr. Mikhailovsky, who also asserts that with Marx the future rests exclusively   at the end of the Hegelian chain and that the conviction of its inevitability can be founded only on faith.[13]

The whole difference between Dühring and Mr. Mikhailovsky reduces itself to the following two small points: firstly, Dühring, despite the fact that he could not speak of Marx without foaming at the mouth, nevertheless considered it necessary to mention in the next section of his History that Marx in the Afterword[43] categorically repudiated the accusation of Hegelianism. Mr. Mikhailovsky, however, has nothing to say about the (above quoted) absolutely definite and clear statements by Marx on what he conceives the dialectical method to be.

Secondly, another peculiarity of Mr. Mikhailovsky’s is that he concentrated all his attention on the use of tenses. Why, when he speaks of the future, does Marx use the present tense?—our philosopher demands with an air of triumph. You may find the answer to this in any grammar, most worthy critic: you will find that the present tense is used in stead of the future when the future is regarded as inevitable and undoubted. But why so, why is it undoubted?— Mr. Mikhailovsky anxiously asks, desiring to convey such profound agitation as would justify even a distortion. But on this point, too, Marx gave an absolutely definite reply. You may consider it inadequate or wrong, but in that case you must show how exactly and why exactly it is wrong, and not talk nonsense about Hegelianism.

Time was when Mr. Mikhailovsky not only knew himself what this reply was, but lectured others on it. Mr. Zhukovsky, he wrote in 1877, had good grounds for regarding Marx’s conception of the future as conjectural, but he “had no moral right” to ignore the question of the socialisation of labour, “to which Marx attributes vast   importance.” Well, of course! Zhukovsky in 1877 had no moral right to evade the question, but Mr. Mikhailovsky in 1894 has this moral right! Perhaps, quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi?![14]

I cannot help recalling here a strange notion of this socialisation once expressed in Otechestvenniye Zapiski.[44] In No. 7, 1883, this magazine published “A Letter to the Editor,” from a certain Mr. Postoronny[45] who, like Mr. Mikhailovsky, regarded Marx’s “conception” about the future as conjectural. “Essentially,” this gentleman argues, “the social form of labour under capitalism amounts to this, that several hundreds or thousands of workers grind, hammer, turn, place on, place under, pull and perform numerous other operations under one roof. As to the general character of this regime it is excellently expressed by the saying: Every man for himself, and God for all. Where does the social form of labour come in?”

Well, you can see at once that the man has grasped what it is all about! “The social form of labour” “amounts” to “working under one roof”!! And when such preposterous ideas are expressed in one of the, so far, best Russian magazines, they still want to assure us that the theoretical part of Capital is generally recognised by science. Yes, as it was unable to raise the slightest serious objection to Capital, “generally recognised science” began to bow and scrape to it, at the same time continuing to betray the most elementary ignorance and to repeat the old banalities of school economics. We must dwell on this question somewhat in order to show Mr. Mikhailovsky what is the essence of the matter which he, by force of habit, has passed over entirely.

The socialisation of labour by capitalist production does not at all consist in people working under one roof (that is only a small part of the process), but in the concentration of capital being accompanied by the specialisation of social labour, by a decrease in the number of capitalists in each given branch of industry and an increase in the number of separate branches of industry—in many separate production processes being merged into one social production process. When, in the days of handicraft weaving, for example, the small producers themselves spun the yarn and made it into cloth, we had a few branches of industry (spinning and weaving were merged). But when production becomes socialised by capitalism, the number of separate branches of industry increases: cotton spinning is done separately and so is weaving; this very division and the concentration of production give rise to new branches—machine building, coal mining, and so forth. In each branch of industry, which has now become more specialised, the number of capitalists steadily decreases. This means that the social tie between the producers becomes increasingly stronger, the producers become welded into a single whole. The isolated small producers each performed several operations simultaneously, and were therefore relatively independent of each other: when, for instance, the handicraftsman himself sowed flax, and himself spun and wove, he was almost independent of others. It was this (and only this) regime of small, dispersed commodity producers that justified the saying: “Every man for himself, and God for all,” that is, an anarchy of market fluctuations. The case is entirely different under the socialisation of labour that has been achieved due to capitalism. The manufacturer who produces fabrics depends on the cotton-yarn manufacturer; the latter depends on the capitalist planter who grows the cotton, on the owner of the engineering works, the coal mine, and so on and so forth. The result is that no capitalist can get along without others. It is clear that the saying “every man for himself” is quite inapplicable to such a regime: here each works for all and all for each (and no room is left for God—either as a super-mundane fantasy or as a mundane “golden calf”). The character of the regime changes completely. When, during the regime of small, isolated enterprises, work came to a standstill in any one of them, this affected only a few members of society, it did not cause any general confusion, and therefore did not attract general attention and did not provoke public interference. But when work comes to a standstill in a large enterprise, one engaged in a highly specialised branch of industry and therefore working almost for the whole of   society and, in its turn, dependent on the whole of society (for the sake of simplicity I take a case where socialisation has reached the culminating point), work is bound to come to a standstill in all the other enterprises of society, because they can only obtain the products they need from this enterprise, they can only dispose of all their own commodities if its commodities are available. All production processes thus merge into a single social production process; yet each branch is conducted by a separate capitalist, it depends on him and the social products are his private property. Is it not clear that the form of production comes into irreconcilable contradiction with the form of appropriation? Is it not evident that the latter must adapt itself to the former and must become social, that is, socialist? But the smart philistine of Otechestvenniye Zapiski reduces the whole thing to work under one roof. Could anything be wider of the mark! (I have described only the material process, only the change in production relations, without touching on the social aspect of the process, the fact that the workers become united, welded together and organised, since that is a derivative and secondary phenomenon.)

The reason such elementary things have to be explained to the Russian “democrats” is that they are so badly stuck in the mud of petty-bourgeois ideas that to imagine any but a petty-bourgeois order of things is quite beyond them.

Let us return, however, to Mr. Mikhailovsky. What objections did he make to the facts and arguments on which Marx based the conclusion that the socialist system is inevitable by virtue of the very laws of capitalist development? Did he show that in reality, under a commodity organisation of social economy, there is no growing specialisation of the social labour process, no concentration of capital and enterprises, no socialisation of the whole labour process? No, he did not advance a single argument in refutation of these facts. Did he shake the proposition that anarchy, which is irreconcilable with the socialisation of labour, is an inherent feature of capitalist society? He said nothing about this. Did he prove that the amalgamation of the labour processes of all the capitalists into a single social labour process is compatible with private property, or that some solution to the contradiction is possible   and conceivable other than that indicated by Marx? No, he did not say a word about this.

On what, then, does his criticism rest? On manipulations, distortion, and on a spate of words which are nothing more than the noise of a rattle.

How else, indeed, are we to characterise methods employed by the critic who, after first talking a lot of nonsense about triple successive steps of history, demands of Marx with a serious air: “And what next?”—that is, how will history proceed beyond that final stage of the process he has described? Please note that from the very outset of his literary and revolutionary activities Marx most definitely demanded that sociological theory should accurately depict the real process—and nothing more (cf., for instance, the Communist Manifesto on the communists criterion of theory).[46] He strictly adhered to this demand in his Capital: he made it his task to give a scientific analysis of the capitalist form of society—and there he stopped, after showing that the development of this organisation actually going on before our eyes has such and such a tendency, that it must inevitably perish and turn into another, a higher organisation. But Mr. Mikhailovsky, evading the whole substance of Marx’s doctrine, puts his stupid question: “And what next?” And he adds profoundly: “I must frankly confess that I am not quite clear what Engels reply would be.” We, however, on our part must frankly confess, Mr. Mikhailovsky, that we are quite clear about what the spirit and methods of such “criticism” are!

Or take the following argument: “In the Middle Ages, Marx’s individual property based on the proprietors own labour was neither the only nor the predominating factor, even in the realm of economic relations. There was much more besides, but the dialectical method in Marx’s interpretation” (and not in Mr. Mikhailovsky’s garbled version of it?) “does not propose returning to it. . . . It is obvious that all these schemes do not present a picture of historical reality, or even of its proportions; they simply satisfy the tendency of the human mind to think of every object in its past, present and future states.” Even your way of distorting things, Mr. Mikhailovsky, is monotonous to the point of nausea! Into Marx’s scheme, which claims to formulate nothing   but the actual process of development of capitalism,[15] he first insinuates the intention of proving everything by triads, then declares that Marx’s scheme does not conform to the plan foisted on it by Mr. Mikhailovsky (the third stage restores only one aspect of the first stage, omitting all the others), and then in the most blatant manner draws the conclusion that “the scheme obviously does not present a picture of historical reality”!

Is any serious polemic thinkable with a man who (as Engels said of Dühring) cannot quote accurately, even by way of exception? Can there be any arguing, when the public is assured that the scheme “obviously” does not conform to reality, without even an attempt being made to show its faultiness in any respect?

Instead of criticising the real content of Marxist views, Mr. Mikhailovsky exercises his ingenuity on the subject of the categories past, present and future. Engels, for instance, arguing against the “eternal truths” of Herr Dühring, says that the “morality . . . preached to us today” is a threefold morality: Christian-feudal, bourgeois and proletarian, so that the past, present and future have their own theories of morality.[47] In this connection, Mr. Mikhailovsky reasons as follows: “I think that it is the categories past, present and future that lie at the basis of all triple divisions of history into periods.” What profundity! Who does not know that if any social phenomenon is examined in its process of development, relics of the past, foundations of the present and germs of the future will always be discovered in it? But did Engels, for instance, think of asserting that the history of morality (he was speaking, we know, only of the “present”) was confined to the three factors indicated, that feudal morality, for example, was not preceded by slave morality, and the latter by the morality of the primitive-communist community? Instead of seriously criticising Engels attempt to elucidate modern trends in   moral ideas by explaining them materialistically, Mr. Mikhailovsky treats us to the most empty phrase-mongering!

In respect of such methods of “criticism” employed by Mr. Mikhailovsky, criticism which begins with the statement that he does not know where, in what work, the materialist conception of history is expounded, it would perhaps be worth while to recall that there was a time when the author knew one of these works and was able to appraise it more correctly. In 1877, Mr. Mikhailovsky expressed the following opinion of Capital: “If we remove from Capital the heavy, clumsy and unnecessary lid of Hegelian dialectics” (How strange! How is it that “Hegelian dialectics” were “unnecessary” in 1877, while in 1894 it appears that materialism rests on “the incontrovertibility of the dialectical process”?), “then, apart from the other merits of this essay, we shall observe in it splendidly elaborated material for an answer to the general question of the relation of forms to the material conditions of their existence, and an excellent formulation of this question for a definite sphere.” “The relation of forms to the material conditions of their existence”—why, that is the very problem of the interrelation between the various aspects of social life, of the superstructure of ideological social relations on the basis of material relations, a problem whose well-known solution constitutes the doctrine of materialism. Let us proceed.

“In point of fact, the whole ofCapital’” (my italics) “is devoted to an inquiry into how a form of society, once it has emerged, continues to develop and accentuates its typical features, subjecting to itself and assimilating discoveries, inventions and improvements in methods of production, new markets and science itself and compels them to work for it, and of how, finally, the given form cannot stand up against further changes in material conditions.”

An astonishing thing! In 1877, “the whole of Capital” was devoted to a materialist inquiry into a particular form of society (what else does materialism consist in, if not in explaining forms of society by material conditions?), whereas in 1894 it appears that it is not even known where, in what work, an exposition of this materialism should be sought!

In 1877, Capital contained an “inquiry into” how “a particular form” (the capitalist form, is it not?) “cannot” (mark that!) “stand up against further changes in material conditions,”—whereas in 1894 it turns out that there has been no inquiry at all and that the conviction that the capitalist form cannot withstand any further development of the productive forces—rests “entirely at the end of the Hegelian triad”! In 1877, Mr.Mikhailovsky wrote that “the analysis of the relations of the given form of society to the material conditions of its existence will for ever ” (my italics) “remain a monument to the authors logical powers and vast erudition,” whereas in 1894 he declares that the doctrine of materialism has never and nowhere been scientifically verified and proved.

An astonishing thing! What does it really mean? What has happened?

Two things have happened. Firstly, the Russian, peasant socialism of the seventies—which “snorted” at freedom because of its bourgeois character, fought the “clear-browed liberals” who zealously covered up the antagonistic nature of Russian life, and dreamed of a peasant revolution—has completely decayed and has begotten that vulgar, philistine liberalism which discerns an “encouraging impression” in the progressive trends of peasant farming, forgetting that they are accompanied (and determined) by the wholesale expropriation of the peasantry. Secondly, in 1877 Mr. Mikhailovsky was so engrossed in his task of defending the “sanguine” (i.e., revolutionary socialist) Marx from the liberal critics that he failed to observe the incompatibility of Marx’s method and his own. And then this irreconcilable contradiction between dialectical materialism and subjective sociology was explained to him—explained by Engels articles and books, and by the Russian Social-Democrats (one often meets with very apt comments on Mr. Mikhailovsky in Plekhanovs writings)—and Mr. Mikhailovsky, instead of seriously sitting down to reconsider the whole question, simply took the bit between his teeth. Instead of welcoming Marx (as he did in 1872 and 1877)[48] he now barks at him under cover of dubious praise, and rages and splutters against the Russian Marxists for refusing to rest content with the “defence of the economically weakest,” with warehouses   and improvements in the countryside, with museums and artels for handicraftsmen, and similar well-meaning philistine ideas of progress, and for wanting to remain “sanguine” people, advocates of social revolution, and to teach, guide and organise the really revolutionary elements of society.

After this brief excursion into the realm of the distant past, one may, we think, conclude this examination of Mr. Mikhailovsky’s “criticism” of Marx’s theory. Let us then try to sum up and recapitulate the critics “arguments.”

The doctrine he set out to demolish is based, firstly, on the materialist conception of history, and, secondly, on the dialectical method.

As to the first, the critic began by declaring that he did not know in which work materialism was expounded. Not having found such an exposition anywhere, he himself set about concocting an explanation of what materialism is. In order to give an idea of the excessive claims of this materialism, he concocted the story that the materialists claim to have explained the entire past, present and future of mankind—and when it was subsequently shown by reference to the authentic statements of the Marxists that they regard only one social formation as having been explained, the critic decided that the materialists narrow the scope of materialism, whereby, he asserts, they defeat themselves. In order to give an idea of the methods by which this materialism was worked out, he invented the story that the materialists themselves had confessed to the inadequacy of their knowledge for the elaboration of scientific socialism, despite the fact that Marx and Engels confessed only to the insufficiency of their knowledge (in 1845-1846) of economic history in general, and despite the fact that they never published the essay which testified to the insufficiency of their knowledge. After these preludes, we were treated to the criticism itself: Capital was annihilated because it dealt with only one period, whereas the critic wants to have all periods; and also because it did not affirm economic materialism, but simply touched upon it—arguments, evidently, so weighty and serious as to compel the recognition that materialism had never been scientifically   substantiated. Then the fact was cited against materialism that a man totally unconnected with this doctrine, having studied prehistoric times in an entirely different country, also arrived at materialist conclusions. To show, further, that it was absolutely wrong to drag procreation into materialism, that this was nothing but a verbal artifice, the critic proceeded to prove that economic relations are a superstructure based on sexual and family relations. The statements made thereupon by our weighty critic for the edification of the materialists enriched us with the profound truth that inheritance is impossible without procreation, that a complex psychology “adheres” to the products of this procreation, and that children are brought up in the spirit of their fathers. In passing, we also learnt that nationalities are a continuation and generalisation of gentile ties. Continuing his theoretical researches into materialism, the critic noted that the content of many of the Marxists arguments consisted in the assertion that oppression and exploitation of the masses were “necessary” under the bourgeois regime and that this regime must “necessarily” turn into a socialist regime, after which he hastened to declare that necessity is too general a bracket (if we omit what, exactly, people consider necessary) and that therefore Marxists are mystics and metaphysicians. The critic also declared that Marx’s polemic against the idealists was “one-sided,” but he did not say a word about the relation of these idealists views to the subjective method and the relation of Marx’s dialectical materialism to these views.

As to the second pillar of Marxism—the dialectical method—one push by the bold critic was enough to cast it to the ground. And the push was very well directed: the critic toiled and moiled with prodigious effort to disprove the notion that anything can be proved by triads, ignoring the fact that the dialectical method does not consist in triads at all, but that it consists precisely in the rejection of the methods of idealism and subjectivism in sociology. Another push was specially directed at Marx: with the help of the valorous Herr Dühring, the critic ascribed to Marx the incredible absurdity of having tried to prove the necessity of the doom of capitalism by means of triads—and then victoriously combated this absurdity.

Such is the epic of the brilliant “victories” of “our well known sociologist”! How very “edifying” (Burenin) it was to contemplate these victories!

We cannot refrain at this point from touching on another circumstance, which has no direct bearing on the criticism of Marx’s doctrine, but is extremely characteristic for an understanding of the critics ideals and of his conception of reality. It is his attitude to the working-class movement in the West.

Above we quoted Mr. Mikhailovsky’s statement that materialism had not justified itself in “science” (perhaps in the science of the German “friends of the people”?); but this materialism, argues Mr. Mikhailovsky, “is really spreading very rapidly among the working class.” How does Mr. Mikhailovsky explain this fact? “The success,” he says, “enjoyed by economic materialism in breadth, so to speak, and its dissemination in a critically unverified form, are chiefly due to the day-to-day practice established by prospects for the future, and not to science.” What other meaning can there be in this clumsy phrase about practice “established” by prospects for the future than that materialism is spreading not because it correctly explains reality, but because it turns away from reality towards prospects? And he goes on to say: “These prospects require of the German working class which is adopting them and of those who take a warm interest in its future neither knowledge nor the effort of critical thinking. They require only faith.” In other words, the spread of materialism and scientific socialism in breadth is due to the fact that this doctrine promises the workers a better future! But a most elementary acquaintance with the history of socialism and of the working-class movement in the West is enough to reveal the utter absurdity and falsity of this explanation. Everybody knows that scientific socialism never painted any prospects for the future as such: it confined itself to analysing the present bourgeois regime, to studying the trends of development of the capitalist social organisation, and that is all. “We do not say to the world,” Marx wrote as far back as 1843, and he fulfilled this programme to the letter, “we do not say to the world: Cease struggling—your whole struggle is senseless. All we do is to provide it with a true slogan   of struggle. We only show the world what it is actually struggling for, and consciousness is a thing which the world must acquire, whether it likes it or not.”[49] Everybody knows that Capital, for instance—the chief and basic work in which scientific socialism is expounded—restricts itself to the most general allusions to the future and merely traces those already existing elements from which the future system grows. Everybody knows that as far as prospects for the future are concerned incomparably more was contributed by the earlier socialists, who described future society in every detail, desiring to inspire mankind with a picture of a system under which people get along without conflict and under which their social relations are based not on exploitation but on true principles of progress that conform to the conditions of human nature. Nevertheless, despite the whole phalanx of very talented people who expounded these ideas, and despite the most firmly convinced socialists, their theories stood aloof from life and their programmes were not connected with the political movements of the people until large-scale machine industry drew the mass of proletarian workers into the vortex of political life, and until the true slogan of their struggle was found. This slogan was found by Marx, “not a utopian, but a strict and, in places, even dry scientist” (as Mr. Mikhailovsky called him in the long distant past—in 1872); and it was certainly not found by means of prospects, but by a scientific analysis of the present bourgeois regime, by an elucidation of the necessity of exploitation under this regime, by an investigation of the laws of its development. Mr. Mikhailovsky may, of course, assure the readers of Russkoye Bogatstvo that neither knowledge nor an effort of thinking is required to understand this analysis, but we have already seen in his own case (and shall see it to a still greater extent in the case of his economist collaborator[50]) so gross a lack of understanding of the elementary truths established by this analysis that such a statement, of course, can only provoke a smile. It remains an indisputable fact that the working class movement spreads and develops precisely where and to the extent that large-scale capitalist machine industry develops; the socialist doctrine is successful precisely when it stops arguing about social conditions that conform to   human nature and sets about making a materialist analysis of contemporary social relations and explaining the necessity for the present regime of exploitation.

Having tried to evade the real reasons for the success of materialism among the workers by ascribing the attitude of this doctrine to “prospects” in a manner directly contrary to the truth, Mr. Mikhailovsky goes on to scoff in the most vulgar and philistine way at the ideas and tactics of the West-European working-class movement. As we have seen, he was unable to adduce a single argument against Marx’s proofs of the inevitability of the capitalist system being transformed into a socialist system as a result of the socialisation of labour. And yet he jeers in the most blatant manner at the idea of an “army of proletarians” preparing to expropriate the capitalists, “whereupon all class conflict will cease and peace on earth and goodwill among men will reign.” He, Mr. Mikhailovsky, knows far simpler and surer paths to the achievement of socialism than this: all that is required is that the “friends of the people” should indicate in greater detail the “clear and unalterable” paths of the “desired economic evolution”—and then these friends of the people will most likely “be called in” to solve “practical economic problems” (see the article “Problems of Russia’s Economic Development” by Mr. Yuzhakov in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 11) and meanwhile—meanwhile the workers must wait, must rely on the friends of the people and not begin, with “unjustified self-assurance,” an independent struggle against the exploiters. Desiring to strike a deathblow at this “unjustified self-assurance,” our author waxes highly indignant at “this science that can almost fit into a pocket dictionary.” How terrible, indeed! Science—and Social-Democratic penny pamphlets that can fit into the pocket!! Is it not obvious how unjustifiably self-assured are those who value science only insofar as it teaches the exploited to wage an independent struggle for their emancipation, teaches them to keep away from all “friends of the people” engaged in glossing over class antagonisms and desirous of taking the whole business upon themselves— those who, therefore, expound this science in penny publications which so shock the philistines? How different it would be if the workers placed their fate in the hands of   the “friends of the people”! They would show them a real, voluminous, university and philistine science; they would acquaint them in detail with a social organisation that conforms to human nature, provided only—the workers agreed to wait and did not themselves begin the struggle with such unjustified self-assurance!


[1] Who would not praise a Klopstock? But will everybody read him? No. We would like to be exalted less, but read more diligently! (Lessing).—Ed.

[2] We are, of course, referring all the time to the consciousness of social relations and no others. —Lenin

[3] Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science (Anti-Dühring).—Ed.

[4] Here, too, Mr. Mikhailovsky does not miss an opportunity of pulling faces: what, says he, do you mean—a scientific conception of history, yet ancient history remains a riddle! Mr. Mikhailovsky take any textbook, and you will find that the problem of gentile organisation is one of the most difficult, and has evoked a host of theories in explanation of it. —Lenin

[5] By what other name, indeed, can one call the device by which the materialists are accused of not having settled accounts with history, without, however, an attempt being made to examine a single one of the numerous materialist explanations of various historical problems given by the materialists?—or by which the statement is made that we could prove it but we shall not bother about? —Lenin

[6] This is a purely bourgeois idea: separate, small families came to predominate only under the bourgeois regime, they were entirely non-existent in prehistoric times. Nothing is more characteristic of the bourgeois than the application of the features of the modern system to all times and peoples. —Lenin

[7] Regarding this meaningless term it should be stated that Mr. Mikhailovsky gives a special place to Marx (who is too intelligent and too learned for our critic to be able to criticise any of his propositions directly and openly), after whom he places Engels (“not such a creative mind”), next—more or less independent men like Kautsky—and then the other Marxists. Well, can such a classification have any serious value? If the critic is dissatisfied with the popularisers of Marx, what prevents him from correcting them on the basis of Marx? He does nothing of the kind He evidently meant to be witty—but his wit fell flat. —Lenin

[8] This has been quite clearly expressed in Capital and in the tactics of the Social-Democrats, as compared with the earlier socialists. Marx directly demanded that matters must not be confined to the economic aspect. In 1843, when drafting the programme for a projected magazine,[51] Marx wrote to Ruge: “The whole socialist principle is again only one aspect. . . . We, on our part, must devote equal attention to the other aspect, the theoretical existence of man, and consequently must make religion, science, and so forth an object of our criticism. . . . Just as religion represents the table of contents of the theoretical conflicts of mankind, the political state represents the table of contents of mans practical conflicts. Thus the political state within the limits of its form, expresses sub specie rei publicae (from the political standpoint) all social conflicts, needs and interests. Hence to make a most special political question—e.g., the difference between the social-estate system and the representative system— an object of criticism by no means implies descending from the hauteur des principes (the height of principles.—Ed.) since this question expresses in political language the difference between the rule of man and the rule of private property. This means that the critic not only may but must deal with these political questions (which the inveterate socialist considers unworthy of attention).” —Lenin

[9] As to the first point.—Ed.

[10] As to the second point.—Ed.

[11] A Critical History of National Economy and Socialism (3rd edition, 1879, pp. 486-87).—Ed.

[12] That this formulation of Dührings views applies fully to Mr. Mikhailovsky is proved by the following passage in his article “Karl Marx Being Tried by Y. Zhukovsky.” Objecting to Mr. Zbukovskys assertion that Marx is a defender of private property, Mr. Mikhailovsky refers to this scheme of Marx’s and explains it in the following manner. “In his scheme Marx employed two well-known tricks of Hegelian dialectics: firstly, the scheme is constructed according to the laws of the Hegelian triad; secondly, the synthesis is based on the identity of opposites—individual and social property. This means that the word individual here has the specific, purely conditional meaning of a term of the dialectical process, and absolutely nothing can be based on it.” This was said by a man possessed of the most estimable intentions, defending, in the eyes of the Russian public, the “sanguine” Marx from the bourgeois Mr. Zhukovsky. And with these estimable intentions he explains Marx as basing his conception of the process on “tricks”! Mr. Mikhailovsky may draw from this what is for him the not unprofitable moral that, whatever the matter in hand, estimable intentions alone are rather inadequate. —Lenin

[13] It is worth while, I think, to note in this connection that the entire explanation given by Engels is contained in the same chapter in which he discusses the seed, the teaching of Rousseau, and other examples of the dialectical process. It would seem that the absurdity of accusing Marxism of Hegelian dialectics would have been made quite evident by merely comparing these examples with the clear and categorical statements by Engels (and by Marx, to whom the manuscript was read before printing), and there call be no question of trying to prove anything by triads or of inserting in the depiction of the real process the “conditional members” of these triads. —Lenin

[14] What Jove may do, the bull may not.—Ed.

[15] The other features of the economic system of the Middle Ages are omitted because they belonged to the feudal social formation whereas Marx investigates only the capitalist formation. In its pure form the process of capitalist development actually began—in England, for instance—with the system of small, isolated commodity producers and their individual labour property. —Lenin

[16] Russkoye Bogatstvo (Russian Wealth )—a monthly magazine published in St. Petersburg from 1876 to the middle of 1918. In the beginning of the 1890s it became the organ of the liberal Narodniks, and was edited by S. N. Krivenko and N. K. Mikhailovsky. The magazine advocated reconciliation with the tsarist government and waged a bitter struggle against Marxism and the Russian Marxists.

In 1906 it became the organ of the semi-Cadet Popular Socialist party.

[17] The article referred to is N. K. Mikhailovskys “Literature and Life,” published in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 10, 1893. Marxists commented on the article in letters addressed to Mikhailovsky. Some of the letters were published in the magazine Byloye (The Past ), No. 23, 1924.

[18] The article referred to is N. K. Mikhailovskys “Karl Marx Being Tried by Y. Zhukovsky,” published in the magazine Otechestvenniye Zapiski (Fatherland Notes ), No. 10, October 1877.

[19] See Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, Preface to the first German edition, p. 10.

[20] The article referred to is K. Marx’s A Criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, written in Kreuznach in the summer of 1843. The Institute of Marxism-Leninism at the C.C. C.P.S.U. possesses the unfinished manuscript of this essay containing an exhaustive critical analysis of §§ 261-313 of Hegel’s Principles of the Philosophy of Law. Marx intended to prepare for publication an extensive essay, A Criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, following the appearance, of the Introduction to this work in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher (German-French Yearbooks) in 1844. He was, however, unable to carry out his intention. Marx’s manuscript was published for the first time in the language of the original in 1927, by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism.

[21] Lenin’s quotation is from the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. (See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 362-63.)

[22] Contrat Social—one of the chief works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Its full title is Du contrat social; ou, Principcs du droit politique. (The Social Contract, or the Principles of Political Law.) It was published in Amsterdam in 1762 and translated into Russian in 1906. The main idea in the book was the assertion that every social system should be the result of a free agreement, of a contract between people. Fundamentally idealistic though it was, the “social contract” theory, advanced in the eighteenth century on the eve of the French bourgeois revolution, nevertheless played a revolutionary role. It expressed the demand for bourgeois equality, the abolition of the privileges of the feudal estates, and the establishment of a bourgeois republic.

[23] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, p. 373.

[24] Letter from Karl Marx to the Editorial Board of “Otechestzenniye Zapiski” was written at the end of 1877 in connection with N. K. Mikhailovskys article “Karl Marx Being Tried by Y. Zhukovsky.” The letter was copied and sent to Russia by Engels after Marx’s death. Engels stated that this letter “for a long time circulated in Russia in manuscript copies taken from the French original, and later a Russian translation of it was published in Vestnik Narodnoi Voli (Peoples Will Messenger ), (No. 5.—Ed.) in 1886, in Geneva and subsequently in Russia. This letter, like everything that   came from Marx’s pen aroused considerable attention in Russian circles.” (Internatonales aus dem Volksstaat (1871-1875), Berlin 1894, S: 68.) It was first published in Russian in the magazine Yuridichesky Vestnik (The Legal Messenger ), No. 10, l888. (See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, pp. 376-79.)

[25] See F. Engels, Anti-Dühring, Herr Eugen Dührings Revolution in Science (Part II. Political Economy, Chapter One. Subject Matter and Method), Moscow, 1954, pp. 207-8.

[26] German Ideology was written jointly by Marx and Engels in the years 1845-1846.

The manuscript, amounting to nearly 800 printed pages, was in two volumes, the first of which was mainly devoted to an elaboration of the basic theses of historical materialism and to a criticism of the philosophical views of Ludwig Feuerbach, B. Bauer and M. Stirner, and the second, to a criticism of the views of various representatives of “true socialism.”

In 1846-1847 Marx and Engels made repeated attempts to find a publisher in Germany who would issue their work. They were however, unsuccessful due to the obstacles raised by the police and because the publishers, themselves interested parties, were champions of the very trends combated by Marx and Engels and refused to handle it. Only one chapter appeared during the lifetime of Marx and Engels. That was Chapter IV, Volume II of German Ideology, which was published in the magazine Das Westphalische Dampfboot (Westphalean Steamer ), August and September 1847. The manuscript was pigeonholed for dozens of years in the archives of the German Social-Democratic Party. The German text was first published in full in 1932 by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C. C.P.S.U. A Russian translation appeared in 1933.

The characterisation of German Ideology given by Engels is taken from the Preface to his Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. (See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 359.)

[27] See F. Engels, Preface to the first German edition of “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.” (K .Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 171.)

[28] The gentile, clan organisation of society. This was the system of primitive communism, or the first social-economic formation in human history. The clan system began to take shape when the modern type of man was fully formed. The clan community was a collective unit of blood relations united by economic and social ties. In its development, the clan system passed through two periods, matriarchy and patriarchy. Patriarchy came to an end when primitive society became class society and the state emerged. The basis of production relations in the primitive-communal system was the social ownership of the means of production and the equal distribution of products. In the main this corresponded to the low level of development of the productive forces, and to their character at that period. Stone implements, and later the bow and arrow, ruled   out the possibility of men combating natural forces and wild animals individually.

On the system of primitive communism, see K. Marx’s Synopsis of L. H. Morgans “Ancient Society” and F. Engels The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

[29] The fief (pomestye ) system—the specific system of feudal landownership that arose and became firmly established in Russia in the fifteenth, and particularly the sixteenth century. The fief system was closely bound up with the formation of a centralised state and the establishment of a centralised army. The fief lands, considered the property of the feudal ruler, were distributed by the government among those who served in the armed forces or at court. The amount of land received depended on the duties of the landholder. The fief, as distinct from the votchina, the absolute and hereditary landed property of the boyar, was the conditional and temporary property of a nobleman who had rendered these services.

From the middle of the sixteenth century the fief was gradually transformed into an hereditary estate, and increasingly approximated to the votchina. In the seventeenth century the difference between these two forms of feudal landownership disappeared, and the feudal rights of votchina and fief owners became identical. Following Peter Is ukase on inheritance issued in 1714 the fief once and for all became the private property of the landed nobility. The term fief (pomestye) continued to be used in Russia throughout the entire feudal epoch.

[30] The First InternationalThe International Working Men’s Association—the first international organisation of the proletariat, founded by Karl Marx in 1864 at an international workers conference in London convened by British and French workers. The First International was the result of years of hard work by Marx and Engels to establish a revolutionary working-class party. As V. I. Lenin noted, the First International “laid the foundation of an international organisation of the workers for the preparation of their revolutionary onslaught on capital,” “laid the foundation of the proletarian, international struggle for socialism.” (The Third International and Its Place in History. See present edition, Vol 29.)

The central directing body of. the First International was the General Council of the International Working Mens Association, of which Marx was a life member. Marx worked to overcome the petty-bourgeois influences and sectarian tendencies then prevailing in the working-class movement (craft unionism in Britain, and Proudhonism and Anarchism in the Romance countries) gathering round himself the most class-conscious members of The General Council (including F. Lessner, E. Dupont, and H. Jung) The First International directed the economic and political struggle of the workers of different countries and strengthened the bonds of solidarity between them. It played a tremendous part in disseminating Marxism, in introducing socialism into the working-class movement.

After the defeat of the Paris Commune the working class was faced with the task of organising national mass parties based on the principles advanced by the First International. “. . . As I view European conditions it is quite useful to let the formal organisation of the International recede into the background for the time being (K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, p. 348.) In 1876, at a conference held in Philadelphia, the First International was officially liquidated.

[31] Lenin used the name of V. Burenin a contributor to the reactionary paper Novoye Vremya (New Times ), as a synonym for dishonest methods of controversy.

[32] Novoye Vremya (New Times )—a daily paper that appeared in St. Petersburg from 1868 to 1917, it belonged to different publishers at different times and repeatedly changed its political line. At first it was moderately liberal but from 1876 it became the organ of reactionary circles among the aristocracy and the bureaucracy. From 1905 it became the organ of the Black Hundreds. After the bourgeois-democratic revolution of February 1917, it gave full support to the counter-revolutionary policy of the bourgeois Provisional Government and conducted a furious campaign against the Bolsheviks. On November 8 (October 26, old style), 1917, it was closed down by the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. Lenin called Novoye Vremya a typical example of the venal press.

In an item, “Critical Notes,” published in Novoye Vremya of February 4, 1894, V. Burenin praised Mikhailovsky for fighting the Marxists.

[33] The words are from I. A. Krylovs fable “The Elephant and the Pug-Dog.”

[34] See F. Engels Preface to the first edition of “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 170.)

[35] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, p. 13.

[51] Reference is to the journal Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Yearbooks ) published in Paris under the editorship of K. Marx and A. Ruge in the German language. Only one issue, a double number, appeared in February 1844. The main reason why publication was discontinued, was Marx’s differences in principle with the bourgeois radical Ruge.

[36] Triad (Greek, trias )—in philosophy it is the formula of three-stage development. The idea of three-stage development was first formulated by the Greek Neo-Platonic philosophers, particularly by Proclus, and was expressed in the works of the German idealist philosophers Fichte and Schelling. The triad was however, developed most fully in the idealist philosophy of Hegel, who considered that every process of development traverses three stages—thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The second stage is the negation of the first, which transformed into its opposite by transition to the second stage. The third stage is the negation of the second, i.e., the negation   of the negation, which means a return to the form exiting at the outset that is now enriched by a new content and is on a higher level. Hegel’s triad is a scheme into which reality was fitted artificially; the arbitrary construction of the triad scheme distorted the real development of nature and society. K. Marx, F. Engels and V. I. Lenin had a high opinion of the rational elements in Hegel’s dialectics, but they critically refashioned his dialectical method and created materialist dialectics, which reflect the most general laws of the development of the objective world and human thought.

[37] See F. Engels. Anti-Dühring (First Part. Philosophy. Chapter Thirteen. Dialectics. Negation of the Negation).

[38] A systematic exposition and further development of the Marxist dialectical method is given in V. I. Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Philosophical Notebooks, Karl Marx, etc.

[39] The author of the article (I. K.-n) was Professor I. I. Kaufman of St. Petersburg University. In Marx’s view, the article was one of the best expositions of the dialectical method. (See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959. Afterword to the second edition pp. 17-19.)

[40] Further on in the text (on pages 168-73 of the present volume) V. I. Lenin cites an extract from F. Engels Anti-Dühring (Part One. Philosophy. Chapter Thirteen. Dialectics. Negation of the Negation).

[41] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, p. 78.

[42] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, p. 761-63.

[43] Reference is made to the Afterword to the second edition of Volume I of K. Marx’s Capital.

[44] Otechestvenniye Zapiski (Fatherland Notes )—a literary-political magazine that began publication in St. Petersburg in 1820. From 1839 it became the best progressive publication of its day. Among its contributors were V. G. Belinsky, A. I. Herzen, T. N. Granovsky, and N. P. Ogaryov. Following Belinskys departure from the editorial board in 1846, Otechestvenniye Zapiski began to lose its significance. In 1868 the magazine came under the direction of N . A . Nekrasov and M. Y . Saltykov-Shchedrin. This marked the onset of a period in which the magazine flourished anew, gathering around itself the revolutionary-democratic intellectuals of Russia. When Nekrasov died (in 1877), the Narodniks gained dominant influence in the magazine.

The Otechestvenniye Zapiski was continually harassed by the censors, and in April 1884 was closed down by the tsarist government.

[45] Postoronny (Outsider )—pen-name of N. K. Mikhailovsky.

[46] Reference is made to the following theses formulated by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party:

“The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way   based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered by this or that would-be universal reformer.

“They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes.” (See K. Marx and F. Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 46.)

[47] See F. Engels. Anti-Dühring (Part One. Philosophy. Chapter Nine. Morality and Law. Eternal Truths), Moscow, 1959, p. 130.

[48] Reference is made to N. K. Mikhailovsky’s articles “About the Russian Edition of Karl Marx’s Book” (Otechestvenniye Zapiski, No. 4, April 1872), and “Karl Marx Being Tried by Y. Zhukovsky” (Otechestvenniye Zapiski, No. 10, October 1877).

[49] Lenin quotes from K. Marx’s letter to A. Ruge (dated September 1843).

[50] Lenin refers to S. N. Yuzhakov, whose political and economic views he criticised more particularly in the second part of What the “Friends of the People” Are. Neither the manuscript, nor a copy of the hectographed edition of the second part of this book has been found.

Before passing to the second part of Mr. Mikhailovsky’s “criticism,” which this time is not directed against Marx’s theory in general but against the Russian Social-Democrats in particular, we shall have to make a little digression. When criticising Marx, Mr. Mikhailovsky not only made no attempt to give an exact exposition of Marx’s theory but horribly distorted it, and in just the same way he now most unscrupulously garbles the ideas of the Russian Social-Democrats. The truth must be restored. This can be done most conveniently by comparing the ideas of the earlier Russian socialists with the ideas of the Social-Democrats. I borrow an account of the former from an article by Mr. Mikhailovsky in Russkaya Mysl, 1892, No. 6, in which he also spoke of Marxism (and spoke of it—be it said in reproach to him—in a decent tone, without dealing with problems which, in a censored press, can be treated only in Burenin fashion, without confusing the Marxists with all sorts of riffraff) and expounded his own views in opposition to Marxism—or, at least, if not in opposition to, then parallel to Marxism. Of course, I have not the least desire to offend either Mr. Mikhailovsky, by classing him among the socialists, or the Russian socialists, by putting Mr. Mikhailovsky on a par with them; but I think that the line of argument is essentially the same in both cases, the difference being only in the degree of firmness, straightforwardness and consistency of their convictions.

Describing the ideas of Otechestvenniye Zapiski, Mr. Mikhailovsky wrote: “We included the ownership of the land by the tiller and of the implements of labour by the producer among moral and political ideals.” The point of departure, as you see, is most well-intentioned, inspired by the best   wishes. . . . “The medieval forms of labour[1] still existing in our country had been seriously shaken, but we saw no reason to put a complete end to them for the sake of any doctrine whatever, liberal or non-liberal.”

Strange argument! Obviously, “forms of labour” of any kind can be shaken only if they are superseded by some other forms; yet we do not find our author (nor would we find any of his like-minded friends, for that matter) even attempting to analyse and to explain these new forms, or to ascertain why they supplant the old. Stranger still is the second half of the tirade: “We saw no reason to put an end to these forms for the sake of any doctrine.” What means do “we” (i.e., the socialists—see the above reservation) possess to “put an end” to forms of labour, that is, to reconstruct the existing production relations between the members of society? Is not the idea of remaking these relations in accordance with a doctrine absurd? Listen to what comes next; “Our task is not to rear, out of our own national depths, a civilisation that is positively original; but neither is it to transplant Western civilisation to our own country in toto, together with all the contradictions that are tearing it apart; we must take what is good from wherever we can; and whether it be our own or foreign is not a matter of principle, but of practical convenience. Surely, this is so simple, clear and understandable that there is nothing even to discuss.” Indeed, how simple it is! “Take” what is good from everywhere—and the trick is done! From the medieval forms “take” the labourers ownership of the means of production, and from the new (i.e., capitalist) forms “take” liberty, equality, enlightenment and culture. And there is nothing to discuss! Here the whole subjective method in sociology is as clear as daylight: sociology starts with a utopia—the labourers ownership of the land—and indicates the conditions for realising the desirable, namely, “take” what is good from here and from there. This philosopher takes a purely metaphysical view of social relations as of a simple   mechanical aggregation of various institutions, a simple mechanical concatenation of various phenomena. He plucks out one of these phenomena—the cultivators ownership of the land in its medieval forms—and thinks that it can be transplanted to all other forms, just as a brick can be transferred from one building to another. But that is not studying social relations; it is mutilating the material to be studied. In reality, there was no such thing as the cultivators ownership of the land existing separately and independently, as you have taken it; it was only one of the links in the then existing production relations, which consisted in the land being divided up among large landed proprietors, landlords, who allotted it to the peasants in order to exploit them, so that the land was, as it were, wages in kind: it provided the peasant with necessary products, so that he might be able to produce a surplus product for the landlord; it provided the means for the peasants to render feudal service to the landlord. Why did the author not follow up this system of production relations, instead of confining himself to plucking out one phenomenon and thus presenting it in an absolutely false light? Because the author does not know how to handle social problems: he (I repeat, I am using Mr. Mikhailovsky’s arguments only as an example for criticising Russian socialism as a whole) does not set out at all to explain the then existing “forms of labour” and to present them as a definite system of production relations, as a definite social formation. To use Marx’s expression, the dialectical method, which requires us to regard society as a living organism in its functioning and development, is alien to him.

Without even asking himself why the old forms of labour are supplanted by the new, he repeats exactly the same error when he discusses these new forms. For him it is enough to note that these forms “shake” the cultivators ownership of the land—that is, speaking more generally, find expression in the separation of the producer from the means of production—and to condemn this for not conforming to the ideal. And here again his argument is utterly absurd: he plucks out one phenomenon (land dispossession), without even attempting to present it as an element of a now different system of production relations based on commodity economy, which   necessarily begets competition among the commodity producers, inequality, the ruin of some and the enrichment of others. He noted one thing, the ruin of the masses, and put aside the other, the enrichment of the minority, and this made it impossible for him to understand either.

And such methods he calls “seeking answers to the questions of life clothed in flesh and blood” (Russkoye Bogatstvo, 1894, No. 1), when, as a matter of fact, quite the contrary is the case: unable and unwilling to explain reality, to look it straight in the face, he ignominiously fled from these questions of life, with its struggle of the propertied against the propertyless, to the realm of innocent utopias. This he calls “seeking answers to the questions of life in the ideal treatment of their burning and complex actual reality” (Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 1), when, as a matter of fact, he did not even attempt to analyse and explain this actual reality.

Instead, he presented us with a utopia contrived by senselessly plucking individual elements from various social formations—taking one thing from the medieval form, another from the “new” form, and so on. It is obvious that a theory based on this was bound to stand aloof from actual social evolution, for the simple reason that our utopians had to live and act not under social relations formed from elements taken from here and from there, but under those which determine the relation of the peasant to the kulak (the enterprising muzhik), of the handicraftsman to the buyer-up, of the worker to the factory owner, and which they completely failed to understand. Their attempts and efforts to remould these un-understood relations in accordance with their ideal were bound to end in failure.

Such, in very general outline, was how the problem of socialism stood in Russia when “the Russian Marxists appeared on the scene.”

What they began with was a criticism of the subjective methods of the earlier socialists. Not satisfied with merely stating the fact of exploitation and condemning it, they desired to explain it. Seeing that the whole post-Reform history of Russia consisted in the ruin of the masses and the enrichment of a minority, observing the colossal expropriation of the small producers side by side with universal technical progress, noting that these polarising tendencies   arose and increased wherever, and to the extent that, commodity economy developed and became consolidated, they could not but conclude that they were confronted with a bourgeois (capitalist) organisation of social economy, necessarily giving rise to the expropriation and oppression of the masses. Their practical programme was directly determined by this conviction; this programme was to join in the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, the struggle of the propertyless classes against the propertied, which constitutes the principal content of economic reality in Russia, from the most out-of-the-way village to the most up-to date and perfected factory. How were they to join in? The answer was again suggested by reality. Capitalism had brought the principal branches of industry to the stage of large-scale machine industry; by thus socialising production, it had created the material conditions for a new system and had at the same time created a new social force—the class of factory workers, the urban proletariat. Being subjected to the same bourgeois exploitation—for such, in its economic essence, i.e., the exploitation to which the whole working population of Russia is subjected—this class, however, has been placed in a special, favourable position as far as its emancipation is concerned: it no longer has any ties with the old society based entirely on exploitation; the very conditions of its labour and the circumstances of life organise it, compel it to think and enable it to step into the arena of political struggle. It was only natural that the Social-Democrats should direct all their attention to, and base all their hopes on, this class, that they should reduce their programme to the development of its class consciousness, and direct all their activities towards helping it rise to wage a direct political struggle against the present regime, and towards drawing the whole Russian proletariat into this struggle.


[1] “By medieval forms of labour”—the author explains in another place—“are meant not only communal landownership, handicraft industry and artel organisation. All these are undoubtedly medieval forms, but to them must be added all forms of ownership of land or implements of production by the labourer.” —Lenin

Let us now see how Mr. Mikhailovsky fights the Social-Democrats. What arguments does he level against their theoretical views, against their political, socialist activity?

The theoretical views of the Marxists are set forth by the critic in the following manner:

“The truth” (the Marxists are represented as declaring) “is that in accordance with the immanent laws of historical necessity Russia will develop her own capitalist production, with all its inherent contradictions and the swallowing up of the small capitalists by the large, and meanwhile the muzhik, divorced from the land, will turn into a proletarian, unite, become socialised, and the trick is done, the hat reappears, and it only remains to put the hat on the head of now happy mankind.”

And so, if you please, the Marxists do not differ in any way from the “friends of the people” in their conception of reality; they differ only in their idea of the future: they do not deal at all, it appears, with the present, but only with “prospects.” There can be no doubt that this is Mr. Mikhailovsky’s idea; the Marxists, he says, “are fully convinced that there is nothing utopian in their forecasts of the future, and that everything has been weighed and measured in accordance with the strict dictates of science”; finally and even more explicitly: the Marxists “believe in, and profess, the immutability of an abstract historical scheme.”

In a word, we have before us that most banal and vulgar accusation against the Marxists long employed by all who have nothing substantial to bring against their views. “The Marxists profess the immutability of an abstract historical scheme!!”

But this is a downright lie and invention!

No Marxist has ever argued anywhere that there “must be” capitalism in Russia “because” there was capitalism in the West, and so on. No Marxist has ever regarded Marx’s theory as some universally compulsory philosophical scheme of history, as anything more than an explanation of a particular social-economic formation. Only Mr. Mikhailovsky, the subjective philosopher, has managed to display such a lack of understanding of Marx as to attribute to him a universal philosophical theory; and in reply to this, he received from Marx the quite explicit explanation that he was knocking at the wrong door. No Marxist has ever based his Social-Democratic views on anything but the conformity of theory with reality and the history of the given, i.e., the Russian, social and economic relations; and he could not have done so, because this demand on theory was quite definitely   and clearly proclaimed and made the corner-stone of the whole doctrine by the founder of “Marxism” himself—Marx.

Of course, Mr. Mikhailovsky may refute these statements as much as he pleases, by arguing that he has heard “with his own ears” the profession of an abstract historical scheme. But what does it matter to us, Social-Democrats, or to anybody else, that Mr. Mikhailovsky has had occasion to hear all sorts of absurd nonsense from people he has talked to? Does it not merely show that he is very fortunate in the choice of the people he talks to, and nothing more? It is very possible, of course, that the witty interlocutors of the witty philosopher called themselves Marxists, Social-Democrats, and so forth—but who does not know that nowadays (as was noted long ago) every scoundrel likes to array himself in “red” garments?[1] And if Mr. Mikhailovsky is so perspicacious that he cannot distinguish these “mummers” from Marxists, or if he has understood Marx so profoundly as not to have noticed this criterion—most emphatically advanced by Marx—of the whole doctrine (the formulation of “what is going on before our eyes”), it only proves again that Mr. Mikhailovsky is not clever, and nothing else.

At any rate, since he undertook a polemic in the press against the “Social-Democrats,” he should have had in mind the group of socialists who have long borne that name and have borne it alone—so that others cannot be confused with them—and who have their literary representatives, Plekhanov and his circle.[4] And had he done so—and that obviously is what anybody with any decency should have done—and had he even consulted the first Social-Democratic work, Plekhanovs Our Differences, he would have found in its very first pages a categorical declaration made by the author on behalf of all the members of the circle:

“We in no case wish to cover our programme with the authority of a great name” (i.e., the authority of Marx). Do you understand Russian, Mr. Mikhailovsky? Do you understand the difference between professing abstract   schemes and entirely disclaiming the authority of Marx when passing judgement on Russian affairs?

Do you realise that you acted dishonestly by representing the first opinion you happened to hear from your interlocutors as Marxist, and by ignoring the published declaration made by a prominent member of Social-Democracy on behalf of the whole group?

And then the declaration becomes even more explicit:

“I repeat,” Plekhanov says, “that the most consistent Marxists may disagree in the appraisal of the present Russian situation”; our doctrine is the “first attempt at applying this particular scientific theory to the analysis of very complicated and entangled social relations.”

It would seem difficult to speak more clearly: the Marxists unreservedly borrow from Marx’s theory only its in valuable methods, without which an elucidation of social relations is impossible, and, consequently, they see the criterion of their judgement of these relations not in abstract schemes and suchlike nonsense at all, but in its fidelity and conformity to reality.

Perhaps you think that in making these statements the author actually had something else in mind? But that is not so. The question he was dealing with was—”must Russia pass through the capitalist phase of development?” Hence, the question was not given a Marxist formulation at all, but was in conformity with the subjective methods of various native philosophers of ours, who see the criterion of this “must” in the policy of the authorities, or in the activities of “society,” or in the ideal of a society that “corresponds to human nature,” and similar twaddle. So it is fair to ask, how should a man who believes in abstract schemes have answered such a question? Obviously, he would have spoken of the incontrovertibility of the dialectical process, of the general philosophical importance of Marx’s theory, of the inevitability of every country passing through the phase of . . . and so on and so forth.

And how did Plekhanov answer it?

In the only way a Marxist could.

He left aside entirely the question of the “must,” as being an idle one that could be of interest only to subjectivists, and dealt exclusively with real social and economic   relations and their actual evolution. And that is why he gave no direct answer to this wrongly formulated question, but instead replied: “Russia has entered the capitalist path.”

And Mr. Mikhailovsky talks with the air of an expert about belief in abstract historical schemes, about the immanent laws of necessity, and similar incredible nonsense! And he calls this “a polemic against the Social-Democrats”!!

If this is a polemicist, then I simply cannot understand what a windbag is!

One must also observe in connection with Mr. Mikhailovsky’s argument quoted above that he presents the views of the Social-Democrats as being: “Russia will develop her own capitalist production.” Evidently, in the opinion of this philosopher, Russia has not got “her own” capitalist production. The author apparently shares the opinion that Russian capitalism is confined to one and a half million workers. We shall later on again meet with this childish idea of our “friends of the people,” who class all the other forms of exploitation of free labour under heaven knows what heading. “Russia will develop her own capitalist production with all its inherent contradictions, and meanwhile the muzhik, separated from the land, will turn into a proletarian.” The farther in the wood, the more trees there are! So there are no “inherent contradictions” in Russia? Or, to put it plainly, there is no exploitation of the mass of the people by a handful of capitalists, there is no ruin of the vast majority of the population and no enrichment of a few? The muzhik has still to be separated from the land? But what is the entire post-Reform history of Russia, if not the wholesale expropriation of the peasantry, proceeding with unparalleled intensity? One must possess great courage indeed to say such things publicly. And Mr. Mikhailovsky possesses that courage: “Marx dealt with a ready-made proletariat and a ready-made capitalism, whereas we have still to create them.” Russia has still to create a proletariat?! In Russia—the only country where such a hopeless poverty of the masses and such shameless exploitation of the working people can be found; which has been compared (and legitimately so) to England as regards the condition of the poor; and where the starvation of millions of people is a permanent thing existing side by side, for instance,   with a steady increase in the export of grain—in Russia there is no proletariat!!

I think Mr. Mikhailovsky deserves to have a monument erected to him in his own lifetime for these classic words![2]

We shall, incidentally, see later that it is a constant and most consistent tactic of the “friends of the people” to shut their eyes pharisaically to the intolerable condition of the working people in Russia, to depict this condition as having merely been “shaken,” so that only the efforts of “cultured society” and the government are needed for everything to be put on the right track. These knights think that if they shut their eyes to the fact that the condition of the working masses is bad not because it has been “shaken,” but because these masses are being shamelessly robbed by a handful of exploiters, that if they bury their heads in the sand like ostriches so as not to see these exploiters, the exploiters will disappear. And when the Social-Democrats tell them that it is shameful cowardice to fear to look reality in the face, when they take the fact of exploitation as their starting-point and say that its only possible explanation lies in the bourgeois organisation of Russian society, which is splitting the mass of the people into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie, and in the class character of the Russian state, which is nothing but the organ of the rule of this bourgeoisie, and that therefore the only way out lies in the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie—these “friends of the people” begin to howl that the Social-Democrats want to dispossess the people of their land!! that they want to destroy our peoples economic organisation!!

We now come to the most outrageous part of all this indecent, to say the least, “polemic,” namely, Mr. Mikhailovsky’s   “criticism” (?) of the political activities of the Social-Democrats. Everybody realises that the activities carried on among the workers by socialists and agitators cannot be honestly discussed in our legal press, and that the only thing a decent censored periodical can do in this connection is to “maintain a tactful silence.” Mr. Mikhailovsky has forgotten this very elementary rule, and has not scrupled to use his monopoly contact with the reading public in order to sling mud at the socialists.

However, means of combating this unscrupulous critic will be found even if outside of legal publications.

“As far as I understand,” Mr. Mikhailovsky says with assumed naïveté, “the Russian Marxists can be divided into three categories: Marxist spectators (indifferent observers of the process), passive Marxists (they only “allay the birth pangs”; they “are not interested in the people on the land, and direct their attention and hopes to those who are already separated from the means of production”), and active Marxists (who bluntly insist on the further ruin of the countryside).”

What is this?! Mr. Critic must surely know that the Russian Marxists are socialists whose point of departure is the view that the reality of our environment is capitalist society, and that there is only one way out of it—the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. How, then, and on what grounds, does he mix them up with some sort of senseless vulgarity? What right (moral, of course) has he to extend the term Marxists to people who obviously do not accept the most elementary and fundamental tenets of Marxism, people who have never and nowhere acted as a distinct group and have never and nowhere announced a programme of their own?

Mr. Mikhailovsky has left himself a number of loopholes for justifying such outrageous methods.

“Perhaps,” he jokes with the easy air of a society fop, these are not real Marxists, but they consider and proclaim themselves as such.” Where have they proclaimed it, and when? In the liberal and radical salons of St. Petersburg? In private letters? Be it so. Well, then, talk to them in your salons and in your correspondence! But you come out publicly and in the press against people who (under the banner   of Marxism) have never come out publicly anywhere. And you have the effrontery to claim that you are polemising against “Social-Democrats,” although you know that this name is borne only by one group of revolutionary socialists, and that nobody else should be confused with them![3]

Mr. Mikhailovsky twists and turns like a schoolboy caught red-handed: I am not the least to blame here—he tries to make the reader believe—I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes.” Excellent! We are quite willing to believe that there is nobody in your field of vision but vulgarians and scoundrels. But what have we, Social-Democrats, to do with it? Who does not know that “at the present time, when” not only socialist activity, but any social activity that is at all independent and honest evokes political persecution—for every one actually working under some banner—be it Narodovolism,[5] Marxism, or even, let us say, constitutionalism—there are several score phrase-mongers who under cover of that name conceal their liberal cowardice, and, in addition, perhaps, several downright rascals who are feathering their own nests? Is it not obvious that only the meanest vulgarity could make any of these trends responsible for the fact that its banner is being soiled (privately and secretly, at that) by all sorts of riffraff? Mr. Mikhailovsky’s whole argument is one chain of distortions, misrepresentations, and manipulations. We saw above that he completely distorted the “truths” which are the Social-Democrats starting-point, presenting them   in a way in which no Marxist at any time or place has, or could have, presented them. And if he had set forth the actual Social-Democratic conception of Russian reality, he could not but have seen that one can “conform” to these views in only one way, namely, by helping to develop the class consciousness of the proletariat, by organising and uniting it for the political struggle against the present regime. He has, however, one other trick up his sleeve. With an air of injured innocence he pharisaically lifts up his eyes to heaven and unctuously declares: “I am very glad to hear that. But I cannot understand what you are protesting against” (that is exactly what he says in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 2). “Read my comment on passive Marxists more attentively and you will see that I say: from the ethical standpoint, no objection can be made.”

This, of course, is nothing but a rehash of his former wretched subterfuges.

Tell us, please, how one would characterise the conduct of a person who declared that he was criticising social revolutionary Narodism (at a time when no other type of Narodism had yet appeared—I take such a period), and who proceeded to say approximately the following:

“The Narodniks, as far as I understand, are divided in to three categories: the consistent Narodniks, who completely accept the ideas of the muzhik and, in exact accordance with his desires, make a general principle of the birch and wife-beating and generally further the abominable policy of the government of the knout and the club, which, you know, has been called a peoples policy; then, shall we say, the cowardly Narodniks, who are not interested in the opinions of the muzhik, and are only striving to transplant to Russia an alien revolutionary movement by means of associations and suchlike—against which, however, no objection can be made from the ethical standpoint, unless it be the slipperiness of the path, which may easily convert a cowardly Narodnik into a consistent or courageous one; and, lastly, the courageous Narodniks, who carry out to the full the peoples ideals of the enterprising muzhik, and accordingly settle on the land in order to live as kulaks in good earnest.” All decent people, of course, would characterise this as vile and vulgar scoffing. And if, furthermore, the person   who said such things could not be rebutted by the Narodniks in the same press; if, moreover, the ideas of these Narodniks had hitherto been expounded only illegally, so that many people had no exact idea of what they were and might easily believe whatever they were told about the Narodniks—then whoever would agree that such a person is. . . .

But perhaps Mr. Mikhailovsky himself has not yet quite forgotten the word that fits here.

But enough! Many similar insinuations by Mr. Mikhailovsky still remain, but I know of no job more fatiguing, more thankless and more disgusting than to have to wade through this filth, to collect insinuations scattered here and there, to compare them and to search for at least one serious objection.


April 1894  


[1] All this is said on the assumption that Mr. Mikhailovsky has indeed heard professions of abstract historical schemes and has not invented anything. But I consider it absolutely imperative in this connection to make the reservation that I give this only for what it is worth. —Lenin

[2] But perhaps here, too, Mr. Mikhailovsky may try to wriggle out by declaring that he had no intention of saying that there was no proletariat at all in Russia, but only that there was no capitalist proletariat? Is that so? Then why did you not say so? The whole question is one of whether the Russian proletariat is a prolelariat characteristic of the bourgeois or of some other organisation of social economy. Who is to blame if in the course of two whole articles you did not utter a word about this, the only serious and important question, but preferred instead to talk all sorts of nonsense and reach the craziest conclusions? —Lenin

[3] I shall dwell on at least one factual reference which occurs in Mr. Mikhailovsky’s article. Anybody who has read that article will have to admit that he includes even Mr. Skvortsov (author of The Economic Causes of Starvation) among the “Marxists.” But, as a matter of fact, this gentleman does not call himself a Marxist, and the most elementary acquaintance with the works of the Social-Democrats is sufficient for anybody to see that from their standpoint he is nothing but a most vulgar bourgeois. What sort of Marxist is he if he does not understand that the social environment for which he projects his progressive schemes is a bourgeois environment, and that therefore all “agricultural improvements” actually to be observed even in peasant farming are bourgeois progress, which improves the position of a minority but proletarianises the masses! What sort of Marxist is he if he does not understand that the state to which he addresses his projects is a class state, capable only of supporting the bourgeoisie and oppressing the proletariat! —Lenin

[4] Reference is made to the Emancipation of Labour group, the first Russian Marxist group, founded by G. V. Plekhanov in Geneva in 1883. Apart from Plekhanov, P. B. Axelrod, L. G. Deutsch, V. I. Zasulich, and V. N. Ignatov belonged to the group.

The Emancipation of Labour group played a great part in disseminating Marxism in Russia. The group translated into Russian, published abroad and distributed in Russia the works of the founders of Marxism: Manifesto of the Communist Party by Marx and Engels; Wage-Labour and Capital by Marx; Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Engels, etc. Plekhanov and his group dealt a severe blow to Narodism. In 1883 and 1885 Plekhanov wrote two drafts of a programme for Russian Social-Democrats, which were published by the Emancipation of Labour group. This was an important step forward in preparing the ground for, and in the establishment of, a Social-Democratic Party in Russia. An important part in spreading Marxist views in Russia was played by Plekhanovs essays: Socialism and the Political Struggle (1883), Our Differences (1885) and The Development of the Monist View of History (1895). The Emancipation of Labour group, however, committed serious errors; they clung to remnants of the views of the Narodniks, underestimated the revolutionary capacity of the peasantry, and over estimated the role of the liberal bourgeoisie. These errors were the embryo of the future Menshevik views held by Plekhanov and other members of the group. The Emancipation of Labour group had no practical ties with the working-class movement. V. I. Lenin pointed out that the Emancipation of Labour group “only theoretically founded the Social-Democracy and took the first step in the direction of the working-class movement.” (The Ideological Struggle in the Working-Class Movement. See present edition, Vol. 20.)

At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. held in August 1903 the Emancipation of Labour group announced that it had ceased its activity as a group.

[5] Narodovolism, the tenets of the Narodovoltsi—members of the secret Narodnik terrorist political organisation Narodnaya Volya (Peoples Will ) which arose in August 1879, following the split in the secret society Zemlya i Volya (Land and Liberty). The Narodnaya Volya was headed by an Executive Committee which included A. I. Zhelyabov, A. D. Mikhailov, M. F. Frolenko, N. A. Morozov, V. N. Figner, S. L. Perovskaya, A. A. Kvyatkovsky. The immediate object of the Narodnaya Volya was the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy, while their programme provided for the organisation of a “permanent popular representative body” elected on the basis of universal suffrage, the proclamation of democratic liberties, the land to be given to the people; and the elaboration of measures for factories to pass into the hands of the workers. The Narodovoltsi were unable, however, to find the road to the masses of the people and took to political conspiracy and individual terror. The terroristic struggle of the Narodovoltsi was not supported by a mass revolutionary movement, and enabled the government to crush the organisation by resorting to fierce persecution, death sentences and provocation.

After 1881 the Narodnaya Volya fell to pieces. Repeated attempts to revive it during the 1880s ended in failure—for example, the terrorist group organised in 1886, headed by A. I. Ulyanov (V. I. Lenin’s brother) and P. Y. Shevyryov, which shared these traditions. After an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Alexander III, the group was exposed, and its active members executed.

While he criticised the erroneous, utopian programme of the Narodovoltsi, Lenin expressed great respect for the selfless struggle waged by its members against tsarism. In 1899, in the “Protest by Russian Social-Democrats,” he pointed out that “the representatives of the old Narodnaya Volya managed to play an enormous role in the history of Russia despite the fact that only narrow social strata supported the few heroes, and despite the fact that it was by no means a revolutionary theory that served as the banner of the movement.” (“A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats.” See present edition, Vol. 4.)


In the text of the article the reader will find references to a further examination of certain questions, whereas actually no such examination is made.

The reason is that the present article is only the first part of a reply to articles in Russkoye Bogatstvo about Marxism. Acute shortage of time prevented the timely appearance of this article, but we do not consider it possible to delay any longer; we are two months late as it is. That is why we have decided to issue an examination of Mr. Mikhailovsky’s “criticism” in the meantime without waiting until the whole article is printed.

In the 2nd and 3rd parts, now in course of preparation, the reader will find, in addition to the examination here presented, a further one dealing with the social and economic views of other leading figures of Russkoye Bogatstvo, Messrs, Yuzhakov and S. Krivenko, in connection with an essay on the economic situation in Russia and the “ideas and tactics of the Social-Democrats” that follow therefrom.  


[1] Publishers Note—the Afterword to the first edition of the first part of V. I. Lenin’s What the “Friends of the People” Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats.


The present edition is an exact reproduction of the first. Having had no share whatever in compiling the text, we have not considered ourselves entitled to alter it in any way and have confined ourselves simply to the work of publication. Our motive for undertaking this work has been the confidence that the present pamphlet will serve to bring about some revival of our Social-Democratic propaganda.

Believing that one indispensable corollary of Social-Democratic convictions should be a readiness to promote such propaganda, we appeal to all who share the views of the author of the present pamphlet to assist by every means (especially, of course, by republication) in securing the widest possible circulation both of the present work and of all organs of Marxist propaganda in general. The present moment is particularly opportune. Russkoye Bogatstvo is assuming an increasingly provocative tone towards us. In an effort to paralyse the spread of Social-Democratic ideas in society, that magazine has gone so far as to accuse us outright of being indifferent to the interests of the proletariat and of insisting on the ruination of the masses. We make bold to think that by such methods it will only injure itself and pave the way for our victory. However, it should not be forgotten that these slanderers command all the material means for the most widespread propaganda of their slanders. They possess a magazine with a circulation of several thousand; they have reading-rooms and libraries at their disposal. Hence, if we are to prove to our enemies that even the advantages of a privileged position do not always ensure the success of insinuation, we must exert our every effort. We are fully confident that this effort will be forthcoming.

July 1894


[1] Note to the present edition—Afterword to the second edition of the first part of What the “Friends of the People” Are written in July 1894.

Part III



Let us, in conclusion, make the acquaintance of Mr. Krivenko, another “friend of the people,” who also launches open war against the Social-Democrats.

However, we shall not examine his articles (“Our Cultural Free Lances,” in No. 12, 1893, and “Travel Letters,” in No. 1, 1894) as we did those of Messrs. Mikhailovsky and Yuzhakov. An analysis in toto of their articles was essential to get a clear idea, in the first case, of the substance of their objections to materialism and Marxism in general, and, in the second, of their political-economic theories. Now, to get a complete idea of the “friends of the people,” we shall have to acquaint ourselves with their tactics, their practical proposals and their political programme. This programme they have not anywhere set forth directly and as consistently and fully as they have set out their theoretical views. I am therefore obliged to take it from various articles in a magazine whose contributors are unanimous enough not to contradict each other. I shall give preference to the above-mentioned articles of Mr. Krivenko’s merely because they furnish more material and because their author is as typical of the magazine as a practical man and a politician, as Mr. Mikhailovsky is a socialist and Mr. Yuzhakov is an economist.

However, before passing on to their programme, there is one more theoretical point we consider it absolutely essential to deal with. We have seen how Mr. Yuzhakov disposes of matters with meaningless phrases about people’s land renting that supports people’s economy, etc., using them to cover up the fact that he does not understand the economic life of our peasants. He did not deal with the handicraft industries, but confined himself to data on the growth of large-scale factory industry. Now Mr. Krivenko repeats   exactly the same sort of phrases about handicraft industries. He flatly contrasts “our people’s industry,” i.e., handicraft industries, to capitalist industry (No. 12, pp. 180-81). “People’s production” (sic!), says he, “in the majority of cases arises naturally,” whereas capitalist industry “is very often created artificially.” In another passage he contrasts “small-scale people’s industry” to “large-scale, capitalist industry.” If you were to ask what is the distinguishing feature of the former, you would only learn that it is “small”[1] and that the instruments of labour are united with the producer (I borrow this latter definition from Mr. Mikhailovsky’s above-mentioned article). But this is certainly far from defining its economic organisation—and, moreover, is absolutely untrue. Mr. Krivenko says, for example, that “small-scale people’s industry to this day yields a much larger total output and employs more hands than large-scale capitalist industry.” The author is evidently referring to data on the number of handicraftsmen, which is as many as 4 million, or, according to another estimate, 7 million. But who does not know that the form of economy predominating in our handicraft industries is the domestic system of large-scale production? that the bulk of the handicraftsmen occupy a position in production that is not independent at all, but completely dependent, subordinate, that they do not process their own material but that of the merchant, who merely pays the handicraftsman a wage? Data on the predominance of this form have been cited even in legal literature. Let me quote, for example, the excellent work by the well-known statistician, S. Kharizomenov, published in Yuridichesky Vestnik[29] (1883, Nos. 11 and 12). Summarising the published data on our handicraft industries in the central gubernias, where they are most highly developed, S. Kharizomenov reached the conclusion that there is an absolute predominance of the domestic system of large-scale production, i.e., an unquestionably capitalist form of industry. “Defining the economic role of small-scale independent industry,” he says, “we arrive   at the following conclusions: in Moscow Gubernia 86.5% of the annual turnover of handicraft industry is accounted for by the domestic system of large-scale production, and only 13.5% by small-scale independent industry. In the Alexandrov and Pokrov uyezds of Vladimir Gubernia, 96% of the annual turnover of handicraft industry falls to the share of the domestic system of large-scale production and manufacture, and only 4% is accounted for by small-scale independent industry.”

Nobody, as far as we know, has tried to refute these facts; nor can they be refuted. How, then, can one ignore these facts, and say nothing about them, call such industry “people’s” in contradistinction to capitalist, and talk about the possibility of its developing into real industry?

There can be only one explanation of this direct ignoring of facts, namely, the general tendency of the “friends of the people,” as of all Russian liberals, to gloss over class antagonism and the exploitation of the working people in Russia by representing all this as just plain “defects.” But perhaps, an additional cause lies in so profound a knowledge of the subject as is revealed, for instance, by Mr. Krivenko when he calls the “Pavlovo cutlery trade”—“a trade of a semi-artisan character.” The lengths of distortion to which the “friends of the people” will go are simply phenomenal! How can one speak here of artisan character, when the Pavlovo cutlers produce for the market – and not to order? Or perhaps Mr. Krivenko regards as artisan industry the system under which a merchant orders articles from the handicraftsman and then sends them to Nizhni-Novgorod Fair? Funnily enough, this seems to be the case. As a matter of fact, the making of cutlery has least of all (compared with other Pavlovo industries) preserved the small-scale handicraft form, with its (seeming) independence of the producers. “The production of table and industrial cutlery,”[2] says N. F. Annensky, “is already largely approaching the factory, or, more correctly, the manufactory form.” Of the 396 handicraftsmen engaged in the making of table cutlery in Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia, only 62   (16%) work for the market, 273 (69%) work for a master,[3] and 61 (15%) are wage-workers. Hence, only one-sixth of them are not directly enslaved to an employer. As to the other branch of the cutlery industry—the production of folding-knives (penknives)—the same author says that it “occupies a position midway between the table-knife and the lock: the majority of the handicraftsmen in this branch are working for a master, but along with them there are still quite a number of independent handicraftsmen who have to do with the market.”

In Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia there are in all 2,552 handicraftsmen producing this sort of cutlery, of whom 48% (1,236) work for the market, 42% (1,058) work for a master, and 10% (258) are wage-workers. Consequently, here too the independent (?) handicraftsmen are in the minority. And those who work for the market are, of course, only apparently independent; actually they are no less enslaved to the capital of buyers-up. If we take the data for the industries of the entire Gorbatov Uyezd, Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia, where 21,983 working people, or 84.5%, of all who work,[4] are engaged in industries, we get the following (exact data on the economics of the industry are available for only 10,808 workers, in the following industries: metal, leather goods, saddlery, felt, and hemp spinning): 35.6% of the handicraftsmen work for the market, 46.7% work for a master, and 17.7% are wage-workers. Thus, here too we see the predominance of the domestic system of large-scale production, the predominance of relations under which labour is enslaved to capital.

Another reason why the “friends of the people” so freely ignore facts of this kind is that their conception of capitalism has not advanced beyond the commonplace vulgar idea that a capitalist is a wealthy and educated employer who runs a large machine enterprise—and they refuse to   consider the scientific content of the term. In the preceding chapter we saw that Mr. Yuzhakov dates the beginning of capitalism directly from machine industry, omitting simple co-operation and manufacture. This is a widespread error, which, incidentally, results in the capitalist organisation of our handicraft industries being ignored.

It goes without saying that the domestic system of large-scale production is a capitalist form of industry: here we have all its features—commodity economy already at a high level of development, the concentration of the means of production in the hands of individuals, and the expropriation of the mass of the workers, who have no means of production of their own and therefore apply their labour to those of others, working not for themselves but for the capitalist. Obviously, in its organisation, handicraft industry is pure capitalism, it differs from large-scale machine industry in being technically backward (chiefly because of the preposterously low wages) and in the fact that the workers retain diminutive farms. This latter circumstance particularly confuses the “friends of the people,” who, as befits true metaphysicians, are accustomed to think in naked and direct contrasts: “Yea, yea—nay, nay, and whatsoever is more than these comes from the evil one.”

If the workers have no land—there is capitalism; if they have land—there is no capitalism. And they confine themselves to this soothing philosophy, losing sight of the whole social organisation of economy and forgetting the generally-known fact that ownership of land does not in the least do away with the dire poverty of these landowners, who are most shamelessly robbed by other such “peasant” landowners.

They do not know, it seems, that capitalism—while still at a comparatively low level of development—was nowhere able to completely separate the worker from the land. For Western Europe, Marx established the law that only large-scale machine industry expropriates the worker once and for all. It is therefore obvious that the stock argument of there being no capitalism in our country since “the people own land” is quite meaningless, because the capitalism of simple co-operation and manufacture has never been connected anywhere with the worker’s complete separation   from the land, and yet, needless to say, it has not on that account ceased to be capitalism.

As to large-scale machine industry in Russia—and this form is rapidly being assumed by the biggest and most important branches of our industry—here too, despite all the specific features of our life, it possesses the same property as everywhere in the capitalist West, namely, it absolutely will not tolerate the retention of the worker’s tie with the land. This fact has been proved, incidentally, by Dementyev with precise statistical material, from which he has drawn (quite independently of Marx) the conclusion that machine production is inseparably connected with the worker’s complete separation from the land. This investigation has demonstrated once again that Russia is a capitalist country, that the worker’s tie with the land in Russia is so feeble and unreal, and the power of the man of property (the money owner, the buyer-up, the rich peasant, the manufactory owner, etc.) so firmly established, that one more technical advance will be enough for the “peasant” (?? who has long been living by the sale of his labour-power) to turn into a worker pure and simple.[5] The failure of the “friends of the people” to understand the economic organisation of our handicraft industries is far, however, from being confined to this. Their idea even of those industries where work is not done “for a master” is just as superficial as their idea of the cultivator (which we have already seen above). This, by the way, is quite natural in the case of gentlemen who presume to hold forth on questions of political economy when all they know, it seems, is that there is such a thing in the world as means of production, which “may” be united with the working people—and that is very good; but which “may” also be separated from them—and that is very bad. That will not take you far.

Speaking of industries that are becoming capitalist and of those that are not (where “small-scale production can   freely exist”), Mr. Krivenko says, for one thing, that in certain branches “the basic expenditure on production” is very inconsiderable and that small-scale production is therefore possible. He cites as an example the brick industry, where the expenditure, he says, may be one-fifteenth of the annual turnover of the brickyards.

As this is almost the only reference the author makes to facts (it is, I repeat, the most characteristic feature of subjective sociology that it tears a direct and precise description and analysis of reality, preferring to soar into the sphere of the “ideals” . . . of the petty bourgeois), let us take it, in order to show what a false conception the “friends of the people” have of reality.

We find a description of the brick industry (the making of bricks from white clay) in the economic statistics of the Moscow Zemstvo (Returns, Vol. VII, Book 1, Part 2, etc.). The industry is chiefly concentrated in three volosts of Bogorodskoye Uyezd, where there are 233 establishments, employing 1,402 workers (567, or 41%, being family workers,[By “family” workers, as against hired, are meant working members of the masters’ families.] and 835, or 59%, hired), with an annual aggregate output valued at 357,000 rubles. The industry is an old one, but has developed particularly during the past fifteen years owing to the building of a railway, which has greatly facilitated marketing. Before the railway was built the family form of production predominated, but it is now giving way to the exploitation of wage-labour. This industry, too, is not exempt from the dependence of the small industrialists on the bigger ones for marketing: owing to “lack of funds” the former sell the latter their bricks (sometimes “crude”—unbaked) on the spot at terribly low prices.

However, we are also able to acquaint ourselves with the organisation of the industry apart from this dependence, thanks to the house-to-house census of handicraftsmen which is appended to the essay, where the number of workers and the annual aggregate output of each establishment are indicated.

To ascertain whether the law that commodity economy is capitalist economy—i.e., is inevitably converted into the latter at a certain stage of development—applies to   this industry, we must compare the size of the establishments: the problem is precisely one of the relation between the small and the large establishments according to their role in output and their exploitation of wage-labour. Taking the number of workers as a basis, we divide the establishments of the handicraftsmen into three groups: I) establishments employing 1 to 5 workers (both family and hired); II) employing 6 to 10 workers, and III) employing over 10 workers.

Examining the size of establishments, the complement of workers and the value of the output in each group, we obtain the following data:


Take a glance at these figures and you will perceive the bourgeois, or, what is the same, the capitalist organisation of the industry: the larger the establishments, the higher the productivity of labour[7] (the middle group is an   exception), the greater the exploitation of wage-labour,[8] the greater the concentration of production.[9]

The third group, which almost entirely bases its economy on wage-labour, comprises 10% of the total number of establishments but accounts for 44% of the aggregate output.

This concentration of the means of production in the hands of a minority, which is connected with the expropriation of the majority (the wage-workers), explains both the dependence of the small producers on buyers-up (the big industrialists are in fact buyers-up) and the oppression of labour in this industry. Hence we see that the cause of the expropriation of the working people and of their exploitation lies in the production relations themselves.

The Russian Narodnik socialists, as we know, held the opposite view and considered that the cause of the oppression of labour in the handicraft industries did not lie in production relations (which were proclaimed to be based on a principle which precludes exploitation), but in something else—in policy, namely, agrarian and fiscal policy and so on. The question arises, what was, and is, the basis of the persistence of this opinion, which has now acquired almost the tenacity of a prejudice? Maybe it is the prevalence of a different concept of production relations in the handicraft industries? Not at all. It persists only be cause no attempt whatever is made to give an accurate and definite description of the facts, of the real forms of economic organisation; it persists only because the production relations are not singled out and submitted to an in dependent analysis. In a word, it persists solely due to a failure to understand the only scientific method of social science, namely, the materialist method. We can now understand the train of thought of our old socialists. As far as the handicraft industries are concerned, they attribute the cause of exploitation to things lying outside production relations; as far as large-scale, factory capitalism   is concerned, they could not help seeing that there the cause of exploitation lies precisely in the production relations. The result was an irreconcilable contradiction, an incongruity; where this large-scale capitalism could have come from, since there was nothing capitalist in the production relations of the handicraft industries (which had not been studied!)—passed comprehension. The conclusion follows naturally: failing to understand the connection between handicraft and capitalist industry they contrasted the former to the latter, as “people’s” to “artificial” industry. The idea appears that capitalism contradicts our “people’s system”—an idea that is very widespread and was quite recently presented to the Russian public in a revised and improved edition by Mr. Nikolai-on. This idea persists by inertia, despite its phenomenal illogicality: factory capitalism is judged on the basis of what it actually is in reality, whereas handicraft industry is judged on the basis of what it “might be”; the former on the basis of an analysis of production relations, the latter without even an attempt to examine the production relations separately, the matter being directly transferred to the sphere of politics. We have only to turn to an analysis of these production relations to find that the “people’s system” consists of these very same capitalist production relations, although in an undeveloped, embryonic state; that—if we reject the naïve prejudice that all handicraftsmen are equal, and accurately set forth the differences among them—the difference between the “capitalist” of the factory and works and the “handicraftsman” will at times prove to be less than the difference between one “handicraftsman” and another; and that capitalism does not contradict the “people’s system” but is the direct, next and immediate continuation and development of it.

Perhaps, however, it will be argued that the example quoted is unsuitable; we may be told that the percentage of wage-workers in the given case is altogether too high?[10] But, as a matter of fact, the important thing here is not the absolute figures but the relations they disclose, relations   which are bourgeois in essence, and which do not cease to be such whether their bourgeois character is strongly or weakly marked.

If you like, I shall take another example—one deliberately chosen for its weak bourgeois character. I take (from Mr. Isayev’s book on the industries of Moscow Gubernia) the pottery industry, “a purely domestic industry,” as the professor calls it. This industry may, of course, be taken as representative of the small-scale peasant industries: its technique is the simplest, its equipment quite small and the articles it produces of universal and essential use. Well then, thanks to the house-to-house census of the potters giving the same particulars as in the previous case, we are in a position to study the economic organisation of this industry too, one that is undoubtedly quite typical of the numerous Russian small, “people’s” industries. We divide the handicraftsmen into groups: I) those employing 1 to 3 workers (family and hired); II) those employing 4 to 5 workers, and III) those employing over 5 workers—and make the same calculation:


Obviously, the relations in this industry too—and similar examples could be quoted indefinitely—are bourgeois: we find the same break-up arising out of commodity economy and it is a specifically capitalist break-up, leading to the exploitation of wage-labour, which already plays a primary part in the top group, where one-eighth of all the establishments and 30% of the total workers produce nearly one-third of the total output, and the productivity of labour is considerably above the average. These production relations alone are enough to explain the appearance and power of the buyers-up. We see how a minority, owning larger and more profitable establishments, and receiving a “net” income from the labour of others (in the top group of potters there is an average of 5.5 wage-workers per establishment), accumulate “savings,” while the majority are ruined, and even the petty masters (not to mention the wage-workers) are unable to make ends meet. It is obvious and inevitable that the latter should be enslaved to the former—inevitable precisely because of the capitalist character of the given production relations. These relations are: the product of social labour, organised by commodity economy, passes into the hands of individuals and in their hands serves as an instrument for oppressing and enslaving the working people, as a means of personal enrichment by the exploitation of the masses. And do not think that this exploitation, this oppression, is any less marked because relations of this kind are still poorly developed, because the accumulation of capital, concomitant with the ruination of the producers, is negligible. Quite the contrary. This only leads to cruder, serf forms of exploitation, to a situation where capital, not yet able to subjugate the worker directly, by the mere purchase of his labour-power at its value, enmeshes him in a veritable net of usurious extortion, binds him to itself by kulak methods, and as a result robs him not only of the surplus-value, but of an enormous part of his wages, too, and, what is more, grinds him down by preventing him from changing his “master,” and humiliates him by compelling him to regard as a boon the fact that capital “gives” (sic!) him work. It is obvious that not a single worker would ever consent to exchange his status for that of a Russian “independent” handicraftsman in “real,” “people’s”   industry. It is equally obvious that all the favourite measures of the Russian radicals either will not in the least affect the exploitation of the working people and their enslavement to capital, and will remain isolated experiments (artels), or will worsen the conditions of the working people (inalienability of allotments), or, lastly, will only refine, develop and consolidate the given capitalist relations (improvement of technique, loans, etc.).

The “friends of the people,” however, will never be able to grasp the fact that despite its general wretchedness, its comparatively tiny establishments and extremely low productivity of labour, its primitive technique and small number of wage-workers, peasant industry is capitalism. They simply cannot grasp the point that capital is a certain relation between people, a relation which remains the same whether the categories under comparison are at a higher or a lower level of development. Bourgeois economists have never been able to understand this; they have always objected to such a definition of capital. I recall how one of them, writing in Russkaya Mysl about Sieber’s book (on Marx’s theory), quoted this definition (capital is a relation), and indignantly put exclamation marks after it.

To regard the categories of the bourgeois regime as eternal and natural is most typical of bourgeois philosophers. That is why, for capital, too, they adopt such definitions as, for example, accumulated labour that serves for further production—that is, describe it as an eternal category of human society, thereby obscuring that specific, historically definite economic formation in which this “accumulated labour,” organised by commodity economy, falls into the hands of those who do not work and serves for the exploitation of the labour of others. That is why, instead of an analysis and study of a definite system of production relations, they give us a series of banalities applicable to any system, mixed with the sentimental pap of petty-bourgeois morality.

And now look at this—why do the “friends of the people” call this industry “people’s,” and why do they contrast it to capitalist industry? It is only because these gentlemen are petty-bourgeois ideologists and cannot even conceive   that these small producers live and operate under a system of commodity economy (that is why I call them petty bourgeois) and that their relations to the market necessarily and inevitably split them into a bourgeoisie and a proletariat. Why don’t you try studying the real organisation. Or our “people’s” industries instead of phrase-mongering about what they “might” lead to, then we will see whether you can find in Russia any branch of handicraft industry, at all developed, which is not organised on capitalist lines.

And if you do not agree that the monopolising of the means of production by a minority, their alienation from the majority, and the exploitation of wage-labour (speaking more generally, the essence of capitalism is the appropriation by individuals of the product of social labour organised by commodity economy) are necessary and adequate features for this concept, then be good enough to give your “own” definition and your “own” history of capitalism.

Actually, the organisation of our “people’s” handicraft industries furnishes an excellent illustration to the general history of the development of capitalism. It clearly demonstrates the latter’s origin, its inception, for example, in the form of simple co-operation (the top group in the pottery industry); it further shows how the “savings” that—thanks to commodity economy—accumulate in the hands of separate individuals become capital, which first monopolises marketing (“buyers-up” and traders), owing to the fact that only the owners of these.”savings” possess the necessary funds for wholesale disposal, which enable them to wait until the goods are sold in distant markets; how, further, this merchant capital enslaves the mass of producers and organises capitalist manufacture, the capitalist domestic system of large-scale production; and how, finally, the expansion of the market and increasing competition lead to improved techniques, and how this merchant capital becomes industrial capital and organises large-scale machine production And when this capital, having grown strong and enslaved millions of working people and whole districts, begins openly and brazenly to exert pressure on the government and turns it into its lackey—our ingenious “friends of the   people” raise a howl about “the implanting of capitalism,” about its “artificial creation”!

A timely discovery, indeed!

So that when Mr. Krivenko talks about people’s, real, proper, etc., industry, he is simply trying to conceal the fact that our handicraft industries are nothing but capitalism at various stages of development. We have already become sufficiently acquainted with these methods in the case of Mr. Yuzhakov, who, instead of studying the peasant Reform, used empty phrases about the fundamental aim of the momentous Manifesto,[30] etc.; who, instead of studying land renting, dubbed it people’s renting; and who, instead of studying how a home market is being formed for capitalism, philosophised about the latter’s inevitable collapse from lack of markets, and so on.

To show how far Messrs. the “friends of the people” distort the facts, I shall dwell on one more example.[11] Our subjective philosophers so rarely condescend to give us precise references to facts that it would be unfair to ignore one of these most precise references of theirs, namely, the one Mr. Krivenko makes (No. 1, 1894) to the budgets of the Voronezh peasants. Here, on the basis of data selected by themselves, we may make quite sure which idea of reality is more correct—that of the Russian radicals and “friends of the people,” or that of the Russian Social-Democrats.

Mr. Shcherbina, a Voronezh Zemstvo statistician, appends to his description of peasant farming in Ostrogozhsk Uyezd 24 budgets of typical peasant households, and analyses them in the text.[12]

Mr. Krivenko reproduces this analysis, failing, or rather refusing, to see that its methods are entirely unsuited to the purpose of getting an idea of the economy of our peasant farmers. The fact is that these 24 budgets depict entirely different households—prosperous, middle and poor—as Mr. Krivenko himself points out (p. 159); but, like Mr. Shcherbina, he simply employs average figures, lumping together the most different types of households, and thus completely disguises the fact of their differentiation. Yet the differentiation of our small producers is such a general, such a major fact (to which the Social-Democrats have long been drawing the attention of Russian socialists. See the works of Plekhanov.) that it is brought out quite distinctly even by the scanty data selected by Mr. Krivenko. Instead, when dealing with the farming of the peasants, of dividing them into categories according to the size of their farms and type of farming, he, like Mr. Shcherbina, divides them into legal categories—former state and former landlords’ peasants—directing all his attention to the greater prosperity of the former as compared with the latter, and loses sight of the fact that the differences among the peasants within these categories are far greater than the differences between the categories.[13] To prove this, I divide these 24 budgets into three groups. I pick out a) 6 prosperous peasants, then b) 11 peasants of average prosperity (Nos. 7 to 10 and 16 to 22 in Shcherbina’s table) and c) 7 poor peasants (Nos. 11 to 15, 23 and 24 in Shcherbina’s table of budgets). Mr. Krivenko says, for example, that the expenditure per farm of the former state peasants is 541.3 rubles, and of the former landlords’ peasants 417.7 rubles. But he overlooks the fact that the expenditures of different peasants are far from being equal: among the former state peasants, for instance, there is one with an expenditure of 84.7 rubles and another with an expenditure ten times as large—887.4 rubles (even if we leave out the   German colonist with an expenditure of 1,456.2 rubles). What meaning can an average have if it is derived by lumping such magnitudes together? If we take the division into categories that I give, we find that the average expenditure per farm of a prosperous peasant is 855.86 rubles, of a middle peasant 471.61 rubles, and of a poor peasant 223.78 rubles.[14]

The ratio is, roughly, 4 : 2 : 1.

Let us proceed. Following in Shcherbina’s footsteps, Mr. Krivenko gives the expenditure on personal requirements among the various legal categories of peasants: among the former state peasants, for example, the annual expenditure per person on vegetable food is 13.4 rubles, and among the former landlords’ peasants 12.2 rubles. But if we take them according to economic categories, the figures are: a) 17.7; b) 14.5 and c) 13.1 The expenditure on meat and dairy produce per person among the former landlords’ peasants is 5.2 rubles and among the former state peasants 7.7 rubles. Taken by economic categories the figures are 11.7, 5.8 and 3.6 respectively. It is obvious that calculation according to legal categories merely conceals these huge divergences and nothing more. It is, therefore, obviously worthless. The income of the former state peasants is greater than the income of the former landlords’ peasants by 53.7 per cent—says Mr. Krivenko: the general average (for the 24 budgets) is 539 rubles; and for the two categories, over 600 rubles and about 400 rubles, respectively. But if graded according to economic strength, the incomes are a) 1,053.2 rubles, b) 473.8 rubles and c) 202.4 rubles, or a fluctuation of 10 : 2, and not 3 : 2.

“The capital value of a peasant farm among the former state peasants is 1,060 rubles, and among the former land lords’ peasants 635 rubles,” says Mr. Krivenko. But if we take the economic categories,[15] the figures are a) 1,737.91 rubles, b) 786.42 rubles and c) 363.38 rubles—again a fluctuation of 10 : 2, and not 3 : 2. By dividing the “peasantry” into legal categories the author prevented himself from   forming a correct judgement of the economics of this “peasantry.”

If we examine the farms of the various types of peasants according to economic strength, we find that the prosperous families have an average income of 1,053.2 rubles, and expenditure of 855.86 rubles, or a net income of 197.34 rubles. The middle family has an income of 473.8 rubles and an expenditure of 471.61 rubles, or a net income of 2.19 rubles per farm (and that without counting credit debts and arrears)—obviously, it can barely make ends meet: out of 11 farms, 5 have a deficit. The bottom, poor, group run their farms at a direct loss: with an income of 202.4 rubles their expenditure is 223.78 rubles, which means a deficit of 21.38 rubles.[16] It is evident that if we lump farms together and strike a general average (net income—44.11 rubles) we completely distort the real picture. We then overlook the fact (as Mr. Krivenko has done) that all the six prosperous peasants who secure a net income employ farm labourers (8 of them)—a fact which reveals the character of their farming (they are in process of becoming capitalist farmers), which yields them a net income and relieves them almost entirely of the need to resort to “industries.” These farmers all together cover only 6.5% of their budgets by industries (412 rubles out of a total of 6,319.5); moreover, these industries—as Mr. Shcherbina in one place remarks—are of such a type as “carting,” or even “dealing in sheep,” that is, such as, far from indicating dependence, presuppose the exploitation of others (precisely in the second case: accumulated “savings” are converted into merchant capital ). These peasants own 4 industrial establishments, which yield an income of 320 rubles (5% of the total).[17]

The economy of the middle peasants is of a different type: they, as we have seen, can barely make ends meet.   Farming does not cover their needs, and 19% of their income is from so-called industries. What sort of industries these are we learn from Mr. Shcherbina’s article. They are given for 7 peasants: only two engage in independent industries (tailoring and charcoal-burning); the remaining 5 sell their labour-power (“went mowing in the lowlands,”[18] “works at a distillery,” “does day-labouring at harvest-time,” “herds sheep,” “worked on the local estate”). These are already half peasants, half workers. Side occupations divert them from their farming and thus undermine it completely.

As to the poor peasants, they farm at a dead loss; the significance of “industries” in their budgets is still greater (providing 24% of the income), and these industries amount almost entirely (except in the case of one peasant) to the sale of labour-power. In the case of two of them, “industries” (farm-labouring) predominate, providing two-thirds of their income.

It is quite clear that what we have here is a process of the complete differentiation of the small producers, the upper groups of whom are being turned into a bourgeoisie, the lower into a proletariat. Naturally, if we take general averages we shall see nothing of this and get no idea of the economics of the countryside.

It was only his operations with these fictitious averages that enabled the author to adopt the following method. To determine the place of these typical farms in the peasant farming of the uyezd as a whole, Mr. Shcherbina groups the peasants according to the size of their allotments, and it transpires that the level of prosperity (general average) of the 24 farms selected is higher by about one-third than the average in the uyezd. This calculation cannot be regarded as satisfactory, both because there is great divergence among these 24 peasants and because the classification according to size of allotment conceals the differentiation of the peasantry: the author’s thesis that the “allotments are the prime cause of the prosperity” of the peasant is absolutely wrong. Everybody knows that the “equal” distribution of land within the village community does not in any way prevent its horseless members from giving   up the land, letting it, going away to work and turning into proletarians; or the members with many horses from renting large tracts of land and running big and profitable farms. If, for example, we take our 24 budgets, we shall see that one rich peasant, with 6 dessiatines of allotment land, has a total income of 758.5 rubles; a middle peasant, with 7.1 dessiatines of allotment land, 391.5 rubles; and a poor peasant, with 6.9 dessiatines of allotment land, 109.5 rubles. In general, we have seen that the ratio of the incomes of the various groups is 4 : 2 : 1; while the ratio of allotment land is 22.1 : 53.2 : 8.5, which equals 2.6 : 1.08 : 1. This is quite natural, for we find, for example, that the rich peasants, with 22.1 dessiatines of allotment land per household, rent an additional 8.8 dessiatines each, whereas the middle peasants, who have smaller allotments (9.2 dessiatines), rent less—7.7 dessiatines, and the poor peasants, with still smaller allotments (8.5 dessiatines), rent only 2.8 dessiatines.[19] And so, when Mr. Krivenko says: “Unfortunately, the data given by Mr. Shcherbina cannot serve as an accurate measure of the general state of affairs even in the uyezd, let alone the gubernia”—all that we can say is that they cannot serve as a measure only when you resort to the wrong method of calculating general averages (a method which Mr. Krivenko should not have resorted to), but that, generally speaking, Mr. Shcherbina’s data are so comprehensive and valuable that they enable us to arrive at correct conclusions and that if Mr. Krivenko has not done so, it is not Mr. Shcherbina who is to blame.

The latter, for example, gives on page 197 a classification of the peasants according to draught animals and not according to allotment land, that is, a classification on economic, not legal lines—and this gives us every ground for asserting that the ratios between the various categories of the selected 24 typical households are absolutely identical with the ratios between the various economic groups throughout the uyezd.

The classification is as follows:[20]

Ostrogozhsk Uyezd, Voronezh Gubernia

There can be no doubt that the general averages of the 24 typical farms are superior to the general run of peasant farm in the uyezd. But if, instead of these fictitious averages, we take economic categories, a comparison becomes possible.

We find that the farm labourers on typical farms are somewhat below the peasants who have no draught animals, but approach them very closely. The poor peasants approximate very closely to the owners of one draught animal (the number of cattle is less by 0.2—the poor peasants have 2.8 and the one-horse peasants 3.0—but on the other hand, their total land, both allotment and rented, is somewhat more—12.6 dessiatines as against 10.7 dessiatines). The middle peasants are only slightly above those with two or three draught animals (they have slightly more cattle and a little less land), while the prosperous peasants approximate to those who have four or more draught animals, being a little below them. We are therefore entitled to draw the conclusion that in the uyezd as a whole not less than one-tenth of the peasants engage in regular, profitable farming and have no need for outside work. (Their income—it is important to note—is expressed in money, and therefore presupposes agriculture of a commercial character.) To a large extent they conduct   their farming with the help of hired labourers: not less than one-fourth of all the households employ regular farm labourers, and the number employing temporary day labourers is not known. Further, more than half the peasants in the uyezd are poor (nearly six-tenths: horseless and one-horse peasants, 26% + 31.3% = 57.3%), who conduct their farming at a dead loss and are consequently sinking into ruin, steadily and inexorably being expropriated. They are obliged to sell their labour-power and about one-fourth of the peasants already gain their livelihood more by wage-labour than by agriculture. The remaining are middle peasants, who carry on somehow, farming at a regular loss made up by outside earnings, and who, consequently, have no economic stability whatever.

I have deliberately dwelt on these data in such detail in order to show how distorted is Mr. Krivenko’s picture of the real situation. Without stopping to think, he takes general averages and operates with them. Naturally, the result is not even a fiction but a downright falsehood. We have seen, for example, that the net income (+197.34 rubles) of one prosperous peasant (from among the typical budgets) covers the deficits of nine poor households (-21.38 X 9 = -192.42), so that 10% of rich peasants in the uyezd will not only cover the deficits of 57% of poor peasants but even yield a certain surplus. And Mr. Krivenko, deriving from the average budget of the 24 farms a surplus of 44.14 rubles—or, deducting credit debts and arrears, 15.97 rubles—simply speaks of the “decline” of the middle and lower-than-middle peasants. Actually, however, one can talk of decline only in reference, perhaps, to the middle peasants,[23] whereas in the case of the mass of poor peasants we observe direct expropriation, accompanied, moreover, by the concentration of the means of production in the hands of a minority who own comparatively large and firmly-established farms.

Because he ignored this latter circumstance, the author failed to observe another very interesting feature of these budgets, namely, that they likewise prove that the differentiation   of the peasantry is creating a home market. On the one hand, as we pass from the top group to the bottom, we observe the growing importance of income from industries (6.5%, 18.8% and 23.6% of the total budget of the prosperous, middle and poor peasants, respectively), that is, chiefly from the sale of labour-power. On the other hand, as we pass from the bottom to the top groups, we observe the growing commodity (nay, more: bourgeois, as we have seen) character of agriculture and an increase in the proportion of produce disposed of: the total income from agriculture of the categories is:


The denominator indicates the money part of the income,[24] which constitutes 45.9%, 28.3% and 25.4% respectively, passing from the top category to the bottom.

Here we again see clearly how the means of production taken from the expropriated peasants turn into capital.

It is quite obvious that Mr. Krivenko could not draw correct conclusions from the material used—or, rather, misused—in this way. After describing the money character of peasant farming in Novgorod Gubernia on the basis of what he was told by a peasant from those parts with whom he travelled by rail, he was forced to draw the correct conclusion that it is precisely this circumstance, commodity economy, that “cultivates” “special abilities” and gives rise to one preoccupation: “to get it (the hay) mown as cheaply as possible” and “sell it as dear as possible” (p. 156).[25] This   serves as a “school” which “awakens” (quite true!) “and refines commercial gifts.” “Talented people come to the fore to become the Kolupayevs, the Derunovs[31] and other types of blood-suckers,[26] while the simple-hearted and simple-minded fall behind, deteriorate, become impoverished and pass into the ranks of the farm labourers” (p. 156).

The data for a gubernia in which entirely different conditions prevail—an agricultural one (Voronezh)—lead to exactly the same conclusions. One would have thought the situation was quite clear: the system of commodity economy stands out distinctly as the main background of the economic life of the country in general and of the “community” “peasantry” in particular; the fact also stands out that this commodity economy, and it alone, is splitting the “people” and the “peasantry” into a proletariat (they become ruined, enter the ranks of the farm labourers) and a bourgeoisie (blood-suckers), i.e., it is turning into capitalist economy. But the “friends of the people” never dare look realities in the face and call a spade a spade (that would be too “harsh”)! And Mr. Krivenko argues as follows:

“Some people consider this state of affairs quite natural” (he should have added: a quite natural consequence of the capitalist character of production relations. Then it would have been an accurate description of the views of “some people,” and then it would have been impossible for him to dispose of these views with empty phrases and he would have had to make a real analysis of the matter. When the author did not deliberately set out to combat these “some people,” he himself had to admit that money economy is precisely the “school” that produces “talented” blood-suckers and “simple-hearted” farm labourers) “and regard it as the irresistible mission of capitalism.” (Well, of course! To believe that the struggle has to be waged against this “school” and the “blood-suckers” who dominate it, together with their administrative and intellectual lackeys, is to consider that capitalism cannot be overcome! But to leave the capitalist   “school” with its blood-suckers in complete immunity and to want to eliminate its capitalist products by means of liberal half-measures is to be a true “friend of the people”!) “We look at the matter somewhat differently. Capitalism undoubtedly does play an important part here, as we pointed out above” (this refers to the remark about the school of blood-suckers and farm labourers), “but it cannot be said that its role is so all-embracing and decisive that no other factors are responsible for the changes taking place in the national economy, and that the future holds out no other solution” (p. 160).

There you are! Instead of giving an exact and straightforward description of the present system, instead of giving a definite answer to the question of why the “peasantry” is splitting into blood-suckers and farm labourers, Mr. Krivenko disposes of the matter with meaningless phrases. “It cannot be said that the role of capitalism is decisive.” Why, that is the whole question: can it be said, or can it not?

To uphold your opinion you should have indicated what other factors are “decisive,” what other “solution” there can be besides the one indicated by the Social-Democrats, namely, the class struggle of the proletariat against the blood-suckers.[27] But nothing is indicated. Unless, perhaps, the author regards the following as an indication? Amusing as it may be, you can expect anything from the “friends of the people.”

“The first to fall into decline, as we have seen, are the weak farms poor in land”—namely, with allotments of less than five dessiatines. “But the typical farms of the state peasants, with allotments of 15.7 dessiatines, are distinguished for their stability. . . . True, to secure such an income (a net income of 80 rubles) they rent an additional five dessiatines but that only shows what they need.”

What does this “amendment,” which links up the notorious “land poverty” with capitalism, amount to? Only to   this, that those who have little lose that little, while those who have much (15.7 dessiatines each) acquire still more.[28] But, then, this is a meaningless paraphrase of the statement that some sink into ruin while others grow rich!! It is high time to abandon this meaningless talk about land poverty, which explains nothing (because the peasants are not given allotments free but have to buy them); it only describes a process, and moreover describes it inaccurately, because one should not speak about the land alone, but about the means of production in general, and not say that the peasants have a “poor” supply of them, but that they are being freed from them, are being expropriated by growing capitalism. “We have no intention of saying,” Mr. Krivenko remarks, concluding his philosophical discourse, “that agriculture should and can, under all circumstances, remain ’natural’ and separated from manufacturing industry” (another phrase! Was it not you who were just obliged to admit that a school of money economy already exists, which presupposes exchange and, consequently, the separation of agriculture from manufacturing industry? Why again this sloppy talk of what can be and what should be?); “all we say is that to create a separate industry artificially is irrational” (it would be interesting to know: is the industry of the Kimry and Pavlovo handicraftsmen “separate,” and who “artificially created” it, and how and when?), “and that the separation of the labourer from the land and the instruments of production is being effected not by capitalism alone, but also by other factors that precede and promote it.”

Here most likely he again had in mind the profound idea that if the labourer is separated from the land, which passes into the hands of the blood-sucker, this happens because the former is “poor” and the latter is “rich” in land.

And this kind of philosophy charges the Social-Democrats with “narrowness” for regarding capitalism as the decisive factor! . . . I have dwelt once more in such detail on the differentiation of the peasants and handicraftsmen just because it was necessary to bring out clearly how the Social-Democrats picture the matter and how they explain   it. It was necessary to show that the facts which to the subjective sociologist mean that the peasants have “grown poor,” while the “money chasers” and “blood-suckers” “derive profits for their own advantage,” to the materialist mean the bourgeois differentiation of the commodity producers necessitated by commodity production itself. It was necessary to show what facts serve as the basis for the thesis (quoted above in Part 1) [See p. 191 of this volume. –Ed.] that the struggle between the propertied and the propertyless is going on everywhere in Russia, not only in the mills and factories, but even in the most remote villages, and that everywhere this struggle is one between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat that emerge as a result of commodity economy. The break-up, the depeasantisation of our peasants and handicraftsmen, which can be depicted accurately thanks to the admirable material provided by Zemstvo statistics, furnishes factual proof of the correctness of precisely the Social-Democratic conception of Russian reality, the conception that the peasant and the handicraftsman are petty producers in the “categorical” meaning of the term, that is, are petty bourgeois. This thesis may be called the central point of the theory of WORKING-CLASS SOCIALISM as against the old peasant socialism, which understood neither the conditions of commodity economy in which the petty producers live, nor their capitalist differentiation due to these conditions. And, therefore, whoever wanted to criticise Social-Democracy seriously should have concentrated his argument on this, and shown that from the angle of political economy Russia is not a system of commodity economy, that it is not this which causes the break-up of the peasantry, and that the expropriation of the mass of the population and the exploitation of the working people can be explained by something other than the bourgeois, capitalist organisation of our social (including peasant) economy.

Well, just try it, gentlemen!

There is another reason why it was the data on peasant and handicraft economy that I preferred to take in illustration of the Social-Democratic theory. It would be a departure from the materialist method were I, when criticising the   views of the “friends of the people,” to confine myself to contrasting their ideas with the Marxist ideas. One must in addition explain the “Narodnik” ideas, demonstrate their MATERIAL basis in our present social-economic realities. Illustrations and examples of the economy of our peasants and handicraftsmen show what this “peasant” is whose ideologists the “friends of the people” want to be. They demonstrate the bourgeois character of our rural economy and thus confirm the correctness of classifying the “friends of the people” as ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie. But this is not all; they show that there is the closest connection between the ideas and programmes of our radicals and the interests of the petty bourgeoisie. It is this connection, which will become even clearer after a detailed examination of their programme, that explains why these radical ideas are so widespread in our “society”; it also admirably explains the political servility of the “friends of the people” and their readiness for compromise.

There was, lastly, one other reason for dwelling in such detail on the economics of precisely those sides of our social life where capitalism is least developed and from which the Narodniks have usually drawn the material for their theories. A study and description of these economics was the simplest way to reply in substance to one of the most wide spread objections to Social-Democracy current among people here. Proceeding from the usual idea that capitalism contradicts the “people’s system,” and observing that the Social-Democrats regard large-scale capitalism as progressive, that it is large-scale capitalism that they want to have as their basis in combating the present robber regime—our radicals, without more ado, accuse the Social-Democrats of ignoring the interests of the mass of the peasant population, of desiring “to put every muzhik through the factory melting pot,” etc.

All these arguments are based on the amazingly illogical and strange procedure of judging capitalism by what it really is, but the countryside by what it “might be.” Naturally, there could be no better reply to this than to show them the real countryside and its real economics.

Anybody who studies these economics dispassionately and scientifically will be bound to admit that rural Russia   constitutes a system of small, scattered markets (or small branches of a central market), which regulate the social and economic life of separate small districts. And in each of these districts we find all the phenomena that are, in general, peculiar to the social-economic organisation whose regulator is the market: we find the division of the once equal, patriarchal direct producers into rich and poor; we find the rise of capital, especially of merchant capital, which spins its web around the working people and sucks the life blood out of them. When you compare the descriptions of peasant economy given by our radicals with precise first hand data on rural economic life, you are astonished that there is no place in the criticised system of views for that mass of small hucksters who swarm in each of these markets, all these higglers and chafferers or whatever else the peasants call them in different localities, for all that mass of petty exploiters who dominate the markets and ruthlessly oppress the working people. They are usually simply brushed aside with the remark—“These are no longer peasants, but hucksters.” Yes, you are quite right: these are “no longer peasants.” But try to treat all these “traders” as a distinct group, that is, speaking in the precise language of political economy, those who engage in commercial enterprise and who appropriate, to whatever extent, the labour of others; try to express in precise figures the economic strength of this group and the part it plays in the entire economic life of the district; and then try to treat as an opposite group all those who also are “no longer peasants” because they bring their labour-power to the market, because they work for others and not for themselves—try to fulfil these elementary requisites of a dispassionate and serious inquiry and you will get such a vivid picture of bourgeois differentiation that not a trace of the “people’s system” myth will remain. This mass of small rural exploiters represents a terrible force, especially terrible because they oppress the isolated, single toiler, because they fetter him to themselves and deprive him of all hope of deliverance; terrible because this exploitation, in view of the barbarism of the countryside due to the low labour productivity characteristic of the system described and to the absence of communications, constitutes not only robbery of labour, but also the Asiatic abuse of human dignity that   is constantly encountered in the countryside. Now, if you compare this real countryside with our capitalism you will understand why the Social-Democrats regard the work of our capitalism as progressive when it draws these small, scattered markets together into one nation-wide market, when, in place of the legion of small well-meaning blood suckers, it creates a handful of big “pillars of the fatherland,” when it socialises labour and raises its productivity, when it shatters the subordination of the working people to the local blood-suckers and subordinates them to large-scale capital. This subordination is progressive compared with the former— despite all the horrors of the oppression of labour, of gradual extinction, brutalisation, and the crippling of the bodies of women and children, etc.—because it AWAKENS THE MIND OF THE WORKER, converts dumb and incoherent discontent into conscious protest, converts scattered, petty, senseless revolt into an organised class struggle for the emancipation of all working folk, a struggle which derives its strength from the very conditions of existence of this large-scale capitalism, and therefore can undoubtedly count upon CERTAIN SUCCESS.

In reply to the accusation of ignoring the mass of the peasantry, Social-Democrats would be quite justified in quoting the words of Karl Marx:

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers which adorned the chain, not that man should wear his fetters denuded of fanciful embellishment, but that he should throw of the chain and reach for the living flower.”[32]

The Russian Social-Democrats are plucking from our countryside the imaginary flowers that adorn it, are combating idealisations and fantasies, and are performing the destructive work for which they are so mortally detested by the “friends of the people,” not in order that the mass of the peasantry shall remain in their present state of oppression, gradual extinction and enslavement, but in order that the proletariat may understand what sort of chains every where fetter the working people, that they may understand how these chains are forged, and be able to rise against them, to throw them off and reach out for the real flower.

When they bring this idea to those representatives of the working people who by virtue of their position are alone capable of acquiring class-consciousness and of launching a class struggle, they are accused of wanting to put the muzhik through the factory melting pot.

And who are the accusers?

People who themselves base their hopes for the emancipation of the working people on the “government” and on “society,” that is, on the organs of that very bourgeoisie which has everywhere fettered the working people!

And these spineless creatures have the presumption to talk of the Social-Democrats having no ideals!


[1] The only other thing you would learn is this: “From it may develop a real (sic!) people’s industry,” says Mr. Krivenko. A common trick of the “friends of the people” to utter idle and senseless phrases instead of giving a precise and direct description of reality. —Lenin

[2] The largest of the Pavlovo trades, which produces 900,000 rubles’ worth of goods out of a total output of 2,750,000 rubles. —Lenin

[3] I.e.; for the merchant who supplies the handicraftsmen with materials and pays them ordinary wages for their labour. —Lenin

[4] Exceptionalist Russian economists, who measure Russian capitalism by the number of factory workers (sic!), unceremoniously classify these working people, and the multitudes like them, as part of the agricultural population, who do not suffer from the yoke of capital, but from pressure artificially exerted on the “people’s system” (???!!) —Lenin

[5] The domestic system of large-scale production is not only a capitalist system, but the worst kind of capitalist system, one under which the most intense exploitation of the working people is combined with the minimum opportunity for the workers to wage a struggle for their emancipation. —Lenin

[6] The denominators indicate the number of establishments employing wage-workers and the number of wage-workers. Same in the next table. —Lenin

[7] The annual output per worker in Group I is 251 rubles; in II—249, in III—260. —Lenin

[8] The proportion of establishments employing wage-labour is 25% in Group I, 90% in II and 100% in III; the proportion of wage-workers is 19%, 58% and 91% respectively. —Lenin

[9] Group I, comprising 72% of the total establishments, accounts for 34% of the total output; II: 18% of the establishments, 22% of the output; III: 10% of the establishments, 44% of the output. —Lenin

[10] This is scarcely true of the industries of Moscow Gubernia, but it may be true, perhaps, with regard to the less developed industries of the rest of Russia. —Lenin

[11] Although this example concerns the break-up of the peasantry, about which much has already been said, I consider it necessary to analyse their own data in order to show clearly what an insolent lie it is to assert that the Social-Democrats are interested not in reality but in “prophesying the future,” and what charlatan methods the “friends of the people” use when in their controversies with us they ignore the substance of our views and dispose of them with nonsensical phrases. —Lenin

[12] Statistical Returns for Voronezh Gubernia, Vol. II, Part II. Peasant Farming in Ostrogozhsk Uyezd, Voronezh, 1887. The budgets are given in the appendices, pp. 42-49, and the analysis in Chapter XVIII: “Composition and Budgets of Peasant Households.” —Lenin

[13] Undoubtedly, the farm of a peasant who lives exclusively by agricultural pursuits and employs a labourer differs in type from the farm of a peasant who lives as a farm labourer and gets three-fifths of his earnings by farm-labouring. And among these 24 peasants there are both types. Judge for yourselves what kind of “science” will result if we lump together farm labourers and farmers who employ labourers, and make use of a general average! —Lenin

[14] The fluctuation in the size of the average family is much less: a) 7.83, b) 8.36, and c) 5.28 persons per family. —Lenin

[15] The divergence is greater still in the value of implements owned. The average is 54-83 rubles per household. But among the well-to do peasants it is twice as much—111.80 rubles, and among the poor peasants one-third the amount—16.04 rubles. Among the middle peasants it is 48.44 rubles. —Lenin

[16] It is interesting to note that the budgets of the farm labourers two out of the seven poor peasants show no deficit: income 99 rubles and expenditure 93.45 rubles per family. One of the farm labourers is fed, clothed and shod by his master. —Lenin

[17] See Appendix I (p. 301 of this volume.—Ed.). —Lenin

[18] Peasants from Voronezh Gubernia hired themselves out to rich Cossacks in the Don lowlands for the haymaking.—Ed. Eng. ed.

[19] Of course, I do not mean to say that the data for the 24 farms are alone enough to refute the thesis that the allotments are of prime importance. But above we cited data for several uyezds which totally refute it.[33]Lenin

[20] The comparison of the 24 typical households with the categories of farms for the whole uyezd has been made by the same methods as Mr. Shcherbina used in comparing the average of the 24 farms with groups based on size of allotment. —Lenin

[21] Two farm labourers (Nos. 14 and 15 of Shcherbina’s budgets) have here been eliminated from the group of poor peasants so that only 5 poor peasants remain. —Lenin

[22] It must be noted in connection with this table that here too we find that the amount of rented land increases in proportion to growing prosperity despite the increase in allotment land. Thus the facts for one more uyezd confirm the fallacy of the idea that the allotments are of prime importance. On the contrary, we find that the proportion of allotment land to the total holding of a given   group diminishes as the prosperity of the group increases. Adding allotment land to rented land, and calculating the percentage of allotment land to the total, we obtain the following figures by groups: I) 96.8%; II) 85.0%; III) 79.3%; IV) 63.3%. And this is quite natural. We know that with the emancipation Reform, land in Russia became a commodity. Whoever has money can always buy land; and allotment land too must be bought. It is obvious that the prosperous peasants concentrate land in their hands, and that this concentration is more marked in the case of rented land because of the medieval restrictions on the transfer of allotments. The “friends of the people,” who favour these restrictions, do not realise that the senseless reactionary measure only worsens the condition of the poor peasants: the ruined peasants, possessing no agricultural implements, are obliged, in any case, to lease their land, and any prohibition on such leasing (or sale) will lead either to land being leased secretly, and, consequently, on worse terms for those who lease it, or to the poor peasants surrendering their land for nothing to the “village community,” i.e., again to the kulak.

I cannot refrain from quoting a profoundly true comment made by Hourwich on this vaunted “inalienability”:

“To see our way clearly through the question at issue, we have to discover who are the buyers of the land sold by peasants. We have seen that only a minor portion of the quarterly lots have been purchased by merchants. As a rule, the small lots sold by the nobility are acquired by peasants only. The question at issue is thus one that has been settled as between peasants alone, and that affects neither the interests of the nobility nor those of the capitalistic class. In such cases it may well please the Russian government to throw a sop to the peasantists [Narodniks]. This mésalliance of oriental paternalism with some queer sort of state socialistic prohibitionism, however, would be apt to meet with opposition from the very ones who were supposed to be benefited. As the process of dissolution is obviously spreading from within, and not from without the village, inalienability of peasant land would simply mean gratuitous expropriation of the poor for the benefit of the wealthy members of the community.

“We notice that the percentage of emigrants among the quarterly possessors[34] who have enjoyed the right of alienating their land has been far greater than that among the former state peasants who live in agrarian communism: namely, in the Ranenburg district (Ryazan Gubernia) the percentage of emigrants among the former is   17, among the latter it 19 9. In the Dankov district among the former it is 12 and among the latter it is 5.

“To what is this difference due? A single concrete example will clear up the matter.

“In 1881 a small community of 5 households, former serfs of Grigorov, emigrated from the village of Bigildino, district of Dankov. Their land, 30 dessiatines, was sold to a rich peasant in consideration of 1,500 rubles. The emigrants could not make a living at home, and most of them were yearly labourers. (Statistical Report, Part II, pp. 115, 247.) According to Mr. Grigoryev (Emigration of the Peasants of Ryazan Gubernia ), 300 rubles, the price of an average peasant holding of 6 dessiatines, is sufficient to enable a peasant family to start farming in Southern Siberia. A peasant who has been absolutely ruined is thus enabled, through the sale of his lot in the communal land, to rise to the position of a farmer in the new country. Devotion to the sacred customs of forefathers would hardly be able to withstand such a temptation as this, but for the helpful right hand of the most gracious Bureaucracy.

“I shall, of course, be charged with pessimism, as I have been recently on account of my views on the emigration of the peasants. (Severny Vestnik, 1892, No. 5, in an article by A. Bogdanovsky.) The usual method of reasoning followed takes some such course as this: Granted that the case is presented true to life as it actually stands, the evil consequences” (of emigration) “are nevertheless due to the present abnormal condition of the peasantry, and under normal circumstances, the objections are ’no good.’ Unhappily, however, these very ’abnormal’ conditions are developing spontaneously, while the creation of ’normal’ conditions is beyond the jurisdiction of the well-wishers of the peasantry.” (Op. cit., p. 137.[35]) —Lenin

[23] And even this would scarcely be true, because decline implies a temporary and casual loss of stability, whereas the middle peasants, as we have seen, are always in a state of instability, on the verge on ruin. —Lenin

[24] A fairly complex calculation was required to arrive at the money income from agriculture (which Shcherbina does not give). It was necessary to exclude from the total income from crops the income derived from straw and chaff, which, according to the author are used as cattle feed. The author himself excludes them in Chapter XVIII, but only for the total figures for the uyezd, and not for the given 24 households. Taking his total figures, I determined the proportion of income from grain (compared with the total income from the crops, i.e., both from grain and from straw and chaff) and on this basis excluded straw and chaff in the present case. This proportion is, for rye 78.98%, for wheat 72.67%, for oats and barley 73.32% and for millet and buckwheat 77.78%. The amount of grain sold was then determined by excluding the amount consumed on the farm itself. —Lenin

[25] “The worker must be hired cheap and the most made out of him,” Mr. Krivenko quite rightly remarks in the same passage. —Lenin

[26] Mr. Yuzhakov, how’s this! Here is your colleague saying that “talented people” become “blood-suckers,” whereas you assured us that people become so only because they have “uncritical minds.” That won’t do, gentlemen, contradicting each other like this in one and the same magazine! —Lenin

[27] If only urban factory workers are as yet capable of assimilating the idea of the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, while the rural “simple-hearted and simple-minded” farm labourers i.e., the people who have actually lost those charming qualities so closely bound up with the “age-old basis” and the “community spirit,” are not—it only proves the correctness of the Social-Democrats’ theory of the progressive and revolutionary role of Russian capitalism. —Lenin

[28] Not to mention the absurdity of the idea that peasants with equal allotments are equal and are not also divided into “blood suckers” and “farm labourers.” —Lenin

[29] Yuridichesky Vestnik (The Legal Messenger )—a monthly magazine, bourgeois-liberal in trend, published in Moscow from 1867 to 1892.

[30] The Manifesto abolishing serfdom in Russia signed by Tsar Alexander II on February 19, 1861.

[33] The data for several uyezds, dealing with the differentiation of the peasantry, mentioned by V. I. Lenin, were included in the second part (not yet found) of What the “Friends of the People” Are.

In his Development of Capitalism in Russia, Lenin deals with this problem in detail particularly in the second chapter: “The Differentiation of the Peasantry.”

[34] State peasants with quarter holdings—the name given in tsarist Russia to the category of former state peasants, descendants of lower-rank servicemen who in the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries were settled in the border lands of the state of Muscovy. For their services in guarding the state frontiers the settlers (Cossacks, musketeers, soldiers) were given the usufruct of small plots of land either temporarily or in perpetuity. The area of such a plot amounted to a so-called quarter [11.35 acres]. From the year 1719 such settlers were called odnodvortsi [i.e., those possessing only their own farmsteads]. Formerly they enjoyed various kinds of privileges and had the right to own peasants, but during the course of the nineteenth century were gradually deprived of these rights and reduced to the status of ordinary peasants. By a regulation of the year 1876 the quarter lots were recognised as the private property of the former odnodvortsi (quarter-lot peasants) and their descendants.

[35] Here and in other parts of the present volume, V. I. Lenin quotes from I. A. Hourwich’s The Economics of the Russian Village, published in New York in 1892. A Russian translation of this book appeared in 1896. Lenin had a high opinion of Hourwich’s book which contains valuable factual material.

[31] Kolupayev and Derunov—types of capitalist sharks portrayed in the works of the Russian satirist M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin.

[32] V. I. Lenin quotes from Karl Marx’s A Criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law. (See Marx-Engels, Gesamtausgabe, Bd. I, Abt. 1, Erster Halbband, S. 608 2 bas.)

Let us now pass to the political programme of the “friends of the people,” to whose theoretical views we have, we think, devoted far too much time. By what means do they propose to “put out the fire”? What way out do they propose in place of the one, which they claim is wrong, proposed by the Social- Democrats?

“The reorganisation of the Peasants’ Bank,” says Mr. Yuzhakov in an article entitled “The Ministry of Agriculture” (Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 10), “the establishment of a Colonisation Department, the regulation of state land leasing in the interest of people’s farming . . . the study and regulation of land letting—such is the programme for the restoration of people’s farming and its protection from the economic violence” (sic!) “of the nascent plutocracy.” And in the article “Problems of Economic Development” this programme for “the restoration of people’s farming” is supplemented by the following “first, but essential steps”: “Removal of all restrictions that now encumber the village community; its release from tutelage, adoption of common cultivation (the socialisation of agriculture) and the development of the communal processing of raw materials obtained from the soil.” And Messrs. Krivenko and Karyshev add: “Cheap credit, the artel form of farming, an assured market, the possibility of dispensing with employers’ profit” (this will be dealt with separately below), “the invention of cheaper engines and other technical improvements,” and, finally, “museums, warehouses, commission agencies,”

Examine this programme and you will find that these gentlemen wholly and completely adopt the position of modern society (i.e., that of the capitalist system, without realising it), and want to settle matters by mending and patching it up, failing to understand that all their progressive measures—cheap credit, improved machinery, banks, and so on—can only serve to strengthen and develop the bourgeoisie.

Nik. —on is quite right, of course, when he says—and this is one of his most valuable theses, against which the “friends of the people” could not help protesting—that no reforms under the present system are of any use, and that credit, migration, tax reform, the transfer of all the land to the peasants, will not appreciably change anything, but, on the contrary, are bound to strengthen and develop capitalist economy, retarded as it now is by excessive “tutelage,” survivals of feudal dues, the tying of the peasantry to the land, etc. Economists, he says, who, like Prince Vasilchikov (an undoubted “friend of the people” in his ideas), desire the extensive development of credit, want the same thing as the “liberal,” i.e., bourgeois, economists, and “are striving for the development and consolidation of capitalist relations.” They do not understand the antagonistic character of our production relations (within the peasantry” as within the other social estates), and instead of trying to bring this antagonism out into the open, instead of simply joining with those who are enslaved as a result of this antagonism and trying to help them rise in struggle, they dream of stopping the struggle by measures that would satisfy everybody, to achieve reconciliation and unity. The result of all these measures is naturally a foregone conclusion: one has but to recall the examples of differentiation given above to be convinced that all these credits,[1] improvements, banks and similar “progressive”   measures will be available only to the one who, possessing a properly-run and established farm, has certain “savings,” i.e., the representative of an insignificant minority, the petty bourgeoisie. And however much you reorganise the Peasants’ Bank and similar institutions, you will not in the least alter the fundamental and cardinal fact that the mass of the population have been and continue to be expropriated, and lack means even of subsistence, let alone of farming on proper lines.

The same must be said of “artels,” and “common cultivation.” Mr. Yuzhakov called the latter “the socialisation of agriculture.” This is merely funny, of course, because socialisation requires the organisation of production on a wider scale than the limits of a single village, and because it necessitates the expropriation of the “blood-suckers” who have monopolised the means of production and now direct Russian social economy. And this requires struggle, struggle and struggle, and not paltry philistine moralising.

And that is why such measures of theirs turn into mild, liberal half-measures, barely subsisting on the generosity of the philanthropic bourgeois, and do much more harm by diverting the exploited from the struggle than good from the possible improvement in the position of a few individuals, an improvement that cannot but be meagre and precarious on the general basis of capitalist relations. The preposterous extent to which these gentlemen attempt to hide the antagonism in Russian life—doing so, of course, with the very best intentions in order to put an end to the present struggle, i.e., with the sort of intentions with which the road to hell is paved—is shown by the following argument of Mr. Krivenko:

“The intelligentsia direct the manufacturers’ enterprises, and they could direct popular industry.”

The whole of their philosophy amounts to whining that struggle and exploitation exist but that they “might” not exist if . . . if there were no exploiters. Really, what did the author mean by this meaningless phrase? Can it be denied that year after year the Russian universities and other educational establishments turn out a brand of “intelligentsia” (??) whose only concern is to find someone to feed them? Can it be denied that today, in Russia, the means for maintaining this “intelligentsia” are owned only by the bourgeois   minority? Can the bourgeois intelligentsia in Russia be expected to disappear because the “friends of the people” say that they “might” serve somebody other than the bourgeoisie? Yes, they “might,” if they were not a bourgeois intelligentsia. They “might” not be a bourgeois intelligentsia, “if” there were no bourgeoisie and no capitalism in Russia! And they are content to spend their whole lives just repeating these “ifs” and “ands.” What is more, these gentlemen not only decline to attach decisive importance to capitalism, but totally refuse to see anything wrong in it. If certain “defects” were removed, they would perhaps not fare so badly under it. How do you like the following statement by Mr. Krivenko:

“Capitalist production and the capitalisation of industries are by no means gates through which manufacturing industry can only depart from the people. It can depart, of course, but it can also enter the life of the people and come into closer proximity to agriculture and the raw materials industry. This can be contrived in various ways, and these gates, as well as others, can serve this purpose” (p. 161). Mr. Krivenko has a number of very good qualities—as compared with Mr. Mikhailovsky; for example, frankness and straightforwardness. Where Mr. Mikhailovsky would have filled reams with smooth and glib sentences, wriggling around the subject without ever touching it, the business-like and practical Mr. Krivenko hits straight from the shoulder, and without a twinge of conscience spreads before the reader all the absurdities of his views without reservation. “Capitalism can enter the life of the people”—if you please! That is, capitalism is possible without the working people being divorced from the means of production! This is positively delightful. At least, we now are absolutely clear as to what the “friends of the people” want. They want commodity economy without capitalism—capitalism without expropriation and without exploitation, with nothing but a petty bourgeoisie peacefully vegetating under the wing of humane landlords and liberal administrators. And, with the serious mien of a departmental official who intends to confer a boon on Russia, they set about contriving schemes under which the wolves have their fill and the sheep their skins. To get some idea of the character of these   schemes we must turn to the article by the same author in No. 12 (“Our Cultural Free Lances”): “The artel and state form of industry,” argues Mr. Krivenko—apparently under the impression that he has already been “called upon” to “solve practical economic problems”—“is by no means all that can be imagined in the present instance. For example, the following scheme is possible. . . .” And he goes on to relate how an engineer visited the offices of Russkoye Bogatstvo with a plan for the technical exploitation of the Don Region by a joint-stock company with shares in small denominations (not exceeding 100 rubles). The author was recommended to modify his scheme roughly as follows: “The shares shall not belong to private persons, but to village communities; that part of the village population employed in the company’s enterprises shall receive ordinary wages, the village communities guaranteeing that their connection with the land is maintained.”

What administrative genius, is it not? With what admirable simplicity and ease capitalism is introduced into the life of the people and all its pernicious attributes eliminated! All that is required is that the rural rich should buy shares[2] through the communities and receive dividends from the enterprise, in which a “part of the population” will be employed and their tie with the land guaranteed—a “tie” insufficient to assure a livelihood from the land (otherwise who would go to work for “ordinary wages”?), but sufficient to bind a man to his locality, enslave him to   the local capitalist enterprise and deprive him of the possibility of changing masters. I say master, capitalist, quite legitimately, for he who pays the labourer wages cannot be called anything else.

The reader is perhaps annoyed with me already for dwelling so long on such nonsense, nonsense that would seem to be undeserving of any attention. But I must say that although it is nonsense, it is a type of nonsense that is useful and necessary to study, because it reflects the social and economic relations actually existing in Russia and, as a consequence, is one of the social ideas, very widespread in our country, that Social-Democrats will have to reckon with for a long time to come. The point is that the transition from the feudal to the capitalist mode of production in Russia gave rise, and to some extent still gives rise, to a situation for the working people in which the peasant, being unable to obtain a livelihood from the land and to pay dues from it to the landlord (and he pays them to this very day ), was compelled to resort to “outside employments,” which at first, in the good old days, took the form either of independent occupations (for example, carting), or labour which was not independent but, owing to the poor development of these types of employment, was comparatively well paid. Under this condition the peasantry were assured of a certain well-being as compared with things today—the well-being of serfs, who peacefully vegetated under the tutelage of a hundred thousand noble police chiefs and of the nascent gatherers of Russia’s land—the bourgeoisie.

And the “friends of the people” idealise this system, simply disregarding its dark sides, dream about it—“dream,” because it has long ceased to exist, has long been destroyed by capitalism, which has given rise to the wholesale expropriation of the peasant farmers and turned the former” employments” into the unbridled exploitation of abundantly offered “hands.”

Our petty-bourgeois knights want to preserve the peasant’s “tie” with the land; but they do not want the serfdom that alone ensured this tie, and which was broken only by the commodity production and capitalism, which made this tie impossible. They want outside employments that do not take the peasant away from the land, that—while work   is done for the market—do not give rise to competition, do not create capital and do not enslave the mass of the population to it. True to the subjective method in sociology, they want to “take” what is good from here and from there; but actually, of course, this childish desire only leads to reactionary dreaming which ignores realities, to an inability to understand and utilise the really progressive, revolutionary aspects of the new system, and to sympathy for measures which perpetuate the good old system of semi-serf, semi-free labour—a system that was fraught with all the horrors of exploitation and oppression, and held out no possibility of escape.

To prove the correctness of this explanation, which classes the “friends of the people” among the reactionaries, I shall quote two examples.

In the Moscow Zemstvo statistics we can read a description of the farm of a certain Madame K. (in Podolsk Uyezd), which (the farm, not the description) aroused the admiration both of the Moscow statisticians and of Mr. V. V., if my memory does not deceive me (he wrote about it, I think, in a magazine article).

This notorious farm of Madame K.’s was regarded by Mr. V. Orlov as “convincing practical confirmation” of his favourite thesis that “where peasant farming is in a sound condition, the private landowners’ farms are also better conducted.” From Mr. Orlov’s account of this lady’s estate, it appears that she runs her farm with the labour of the local peasants, who till her land in return for a winter loan of flour, etc. The lady is extraordinarily kind to these peasants and helps them, so that they are now the most prosperous in the volost and have enough grain “to last them almost until the new harvest (formerly, it did not even last until. St. Nicholas’ day).”

The question arises, does “such an arrangement” preclude “the antagonism of interests of peasant and landowner,” as Messrs. N. Kablukov (Vol. V, p. 175) and V. Orlov (Vol. II, pp. 55-59 and elsewhere) think? Obviously not, because Madame K. lives on the labour of her peasants. Hence, exploitation has not been abolished at all. Madame K. may he forgiven for failing to see the exploitation behind her kindness to the exploited, but not so an economist and   statistician who, in his ecstasy over the case in question, takes up exactly the same stand as those Menschenfreunde[3] in the West who go into ecstasies over the kindness of a capitalist to a worker, rapturously relate cases where a factory owner shows concern for his workers, provides them with general stores, dwellings, etc. To conclude from the existence (and therefore “possibility”) of such “facts” that there is no antagonism of interests, is not to see the wood for the trees. That is the first point.

The second point is that we learn from Mr. Orlov’s account that Madame K.’s peasants, “thanks to excellent crops (the landlady gave them good seed), have acquired livestock” and have “prosperous” farms. Let us assume that these “prosperous peasants” have become not “almost,” but completely prosperous, that not the “majority,” but all of them have enough grain, not “almost” until, but right until the new harvest. Let us assume that these peasants now have enough land, and that they have “cattle runs and pastures”—which they have not got at present (fine prosperity!), and which they rent from Madame K., making payment in labour. Does Mr. Orlov really believe that in that case—that is, if the peasant farming were really prosperous—these peasants would agree to “perform all the jobs on Madame K.’s estate thoroughly, punctually and swiftly,” as they do now? Or perhaps gratitude to the kind lady who sweats the life-blood out of these prosperous peasants with such maternal care will be a no less potent incentive than the hopelessness of the present condition of the peasants, who, after all, cannot dispense with pastures and cattle runs?

Evidently, the ideas of the “friends of the people” are, in essence, the same: as true petty-bourgeois ideologists, they do not want to abolish exploitation, but to mitigate it, they do not want connect, but conciliation. Their broad ideals, from the standpoint of which they so vigorously fulminate against the narrow-minded Social-Democrats, go no further than the “prosperous” peasant who performs his “duties” to the landlords and capitalists, provided the landlords and capitalists treat him fairly.

Take the other example. Mr. Yuzhakov, in his quite   well-known article, “Quotas for People’s Landownership in Russia” (Russkaya Mysl, 1885, No. 9), expounded his views on what should be the dimensions of “people’s” landownership, i.e., in the terminology of our liberals, the kind of landownership that excludes capitalism and exploitation. Now, after the excellent explanation given by Mr. Krivenko, we know that he too regarded things from the standpoint of “introducing capitalism into the life of the people.” As the minimum for “people.” As landownership he took such allotments as would cover “cereal food and payments,”[4] while the rest, he said, could be obtained by “employments.”. . . In other words, he simply resigned himself to a state of affairs in which the peasant, by maintaining connection with the land, is subjected to a double exploitation—partly by the landlord, on the “allotment,” and partly by the capitalist, in “employments.” This state of the small producers, who are subjected to a double exploitation, and whose conditions of life, moreover, are such as inevitably breed a cowed and crushed spirit, killing all hope that the oppressed class will fight, let alone be victorious—this semi-medieval condition is the nec plus ultra of the outlook and ideals of the “friends of the people.” Well then, when capitalism, which developed with tremendous rapidity throughout the whole of Russia’s post-Reform history, began to uproot this pillar of old Russia—the patriarchal, semi-serf peasantry— to drag them out of these medieval and semi-feudal conditions and to place them in a modern, purely capitalist environment, compelling them to abandon their old homes and wander over the face of Russia in search of work, breaking the chains of enslavement to the local “work-giver” and disclosing the basis of exploitation in general, of class exploitation as distinct from the depredations of a particular viper—when capitalism began to draw the rest of the peasant population, cowed and forced down to the   level of cattle, en masse into the vortex of increasingly complex social and political life, then our knights began to howl and wail about the fall and destruction of the old pillars. And they continue to this day to howl and wail about the good old times, although now, it seems, one must be blind not to see the revolutionary side of this new mode of life, not to see how capitalism is creating a new social force, which has no ties with the old regime of exploitation and is in a position to fight it.

The “friends of the people,” however, show no trace of a desire for any radical change in the present system. They are entirely satisfied with liberal measures on the existing basis, and in the invention of such measures Mr. Krivenko really displays the administrative abilities of a native Jack in-office.

“Generally speaking”—he argues, about the need for a “detailed study and radical transformation” of “our people’s industry”—“this question calls for special investigation, and for the division of industries into those that can be applied to the life of the people” (sic!!) “and those whose application encounters serious obstacles.”

Mr. Krivenko himself gives us an example of such a division when he divides the various industries into those which are not capitalised, those in which capitalisation has already taken place, and those which can “contend with large-scale industry for existence.”

“In the first case,” this administrator decides, “petty production can exist freely”—but can it be free of the market, whose fluctuations split the petty producers into a bourgeoisie and a proletariat? Can it be free of the expansion of the local markets and their amalgamation into a big market? Can it be free of technical progress? Or perhaps this technical progress—under commodity production—need not be capitalistic? In the last case, the author demands the “organisation of production on a large scale too”: “Clearly,” he says, “what is needed here is the organisation of production on a large scale too, what is needed is fixed and circulating capital, machinery, etc., or something else that will counterbalance these condition: cheap credit, the elimination of superfluous middlemen, the artel form of farming and the possibility of dispensing   with employers’ profit, an assured market, the invention of cheaper engines and other technical improvements, or, finally, some reduction in wages, provided it is compensated by other benefits.”

This sort of reasoning is highly characteristic of the “friends of the people,” with their broad ideals in words and their stereotyped liberalism in deeds. As you see, our philosopher starts out from nothing more nor less than the possibility of dispensing with employers’ profit and from the organisation of large-scale farming. Excellent: this is EXACTLY what the Social-Democrats want, too. But how do the “friends of the people” want to achieve it? To organise large-scale production without employers, it is necessary, first of all, to abolish the commodity organisation of social economy and to replace it by communal, communist organisation, under which production is not regulated by the market, as it is at present, but by the producers themselves, by the society of workers itself, and the means of production are owned not by private individuals, but by the whole of society. Such a change from the private to the communal form of appropriation apparently requires that the form of production first be changed, that the separate, small, isolated processes of production of petty producers be merged into a single social productive process; in a word, it requires the very material conditions which capitalism creates. But the “friends of the people” have no intention of basing themselves on capitalism. How then do they propose to act? They do not say. They do not even mention the abolition of commodity economy: evidently, their broad ideals are quite unable to transcend the bounds of this system of social production. Moreover, to abolish employers’ profit it would be necessary to expropriate the employers, who obtain their “profits” precisely because they have monopolised the means of production. And to expropriate these pillars of our fatherland, a popular revolutionary movement against the bourgeois regime is required, a movement of which only the working-class proletariat, which has no ties with this regime, is capable. But the “friends of the people” have no struggle in mind at all, and do not even suspect that other types of public men, apart from the administrative organs of the employers themselves, are possible and necessary.   Clearly, they have not the slightest intention of taking any serious measures against “employers’ profit.” Mr. Krivenko simply allowed his tongue to run away with him. And he immediately corrected himself: why, such a thing as “the possibility of dispensing with employers’ profit” can be “counterbalanced”—“by something else,” namely credits, organised marketing, technical improvements. Thus everything is arranged quite satisfactorily: instead of abolishing the sacred right to “profit,” a procedure so offensive to Messrs. the employers, there appear such mild, liberal measures as will only supply capitalism with better weapons for the struggle, and will only strengthen, consolidate and develop our petty, “people’s” bourgeoisie. And so as to leave no doubt that the “friends of the people” champion the interests of this petty bourgeoisie alone, Mr. Krivenko adds the following remarkable explanation. It appears that the abolition of employers’ profit may be “counterbalanced” . . . “by a reduction in wages”!!! At first glance this seems to be sheer gibberish. But, no. It is the consistent application of petty-bourgeois ideas. The author observes a fact like the struggle between big capital and small and, as a true “friend of the people,” he, of course, takes the side of small . . . capital. He has further heard that one of the most powerful weapons of the small capitalist is wage reduction—a fact that has been quite correctly observed and confirmed in a large number of industries in Russia, too, parallel to lengthening the working day. And so, desiring at all costs to save the small . . . capitalists, he proposes “some reduction in wages, provided it is compensated by other benefits”! Messrs. the employers, about whose “profit” some queer things seemed to have been said at first, need not worry. They would, I think, be quite willing to install this brilliant administrator, who plans to fight against the employers by a reduction in wages, in the post of Minister of Finance.

One could quote another example of how the pure-blooded bourgeois peeps out of the humane and liberal administrators of Russkoye Bogatstvo as soon as they have to deal with any practical question. “The Chronicle of Home Affairs” in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 12, deals with the subject of monopoly.

“Monopoly and the syndicate,” says the author, “such are   the ideals of developed industry.” And he goes on to express his surprise that these institutions are appearing in Russia, too, although there is no “keen competition among the capitalists” here. “Neither the sugar industry nor the oil industry has developed to any great extent yet. The consumption of sugar and kerosene here is still practically in the embryo, to judge by the insignificant per capita consumption of these goods here as compared with that of other countries. It would seem that there is still a very large field for the development of these branches of industry and that they could still absorb a large amount of capital.”

It is characteristic that as soon as it comes to a practical question, the author forgets the favourite idea of Russkoye Bogatstvo about the shrinking of the home market. He is compelled to admit that this market still has the prospect of tremendous development, and not of shrinkage. He arrives at this conclusion from a comparison with the West, where consumption is greater. Why? Because culture is on a higher level. But what is the material basis of this culture if not the development of capitalist technique, the growth of commodity economy and exchange, which bring people into more frequent intercourse with each other and break down the medieval isolation of the separate localities? Was not culture in France, for example, on a level no higher than ours before the Great Revolution, when the semi-medieval peasantry had still not finally split into a rural bourgeoisie and a proletariat? And if the author had examined Russian life more closely he could not have helped noticing, for example, that in localities where capitalism is developed the requirements of the peasant population are much higher than in the purely agricultural districts. This is noted unanimously by all investigators of our handicraft industries in all cases where they develop so far as to lay an industrial impress on the whole life of the population.[5]

The “friends of the people” pay no attention to such “trifles,” because, as far as they are concerned, the explanation   is “simply” culture or the growing complexity of life in general, and they do not even inquire into the material basis of this culture and this complexity. But if they were to examine, at least, the economics of our countryside they would have to admit that it is the break-up of the peasantry into a bourgeoisie and a proletariat that creates the home market.

They must think that the growth of the market does not by any means imply the growth of a bourgeoisie. “In view of the low level of development of production generally,” continues the above-mentioned chronicler of home affairs, “and the lack of enterprise and initiative, monopoly will still further retard the development of the country’s forces.” Speaking of the tobacco monopoly, the author calculates that it “would take 154,000,000 rubles out of people’s circulation.” Here sight is altogether lost of the fact that the basis of our economic system is commodity economy, the leader of which, here as everywhere else, is the bourgeoisie. And instead of speaking about the bourgeoisie being hampered by monopoly, he speaks about the “country,” instead of speaking about commodity, bourgeois circulation, he speaks about “people’s” circulation.[6] A bourgeois is never able to detect the difference between these two terms, great as it is. To show how obvious this difference really is, I will quote a magazine which is an authority in the eyes of the “friends of the people,” namely, Otechestvenniye Zapiski. In No. 2 of that magazine, 1872, in the article “The Plutocracy and Its Basis,” we read the following:

“According to Marlo, the most important characteristic of the plutocracy is its love for a liberal form of government, or at all events for the principle of freedom of acquisition. If we take this characteristic and recall what the position was some eight or ten years ago, we shall find that in respect of liberalism we have made enormous strides. . . . No matter what newspaper or magazine you take up, they all seem more or less to represent democratic principles, they are all out for the interests of the people. But side by side with these democratic views, and even under the cloak of   them” (mark this), “time and again, intentionally or unintentionally, plutocratic aspirations are pursued.”

The author quotes as an example the address presented by St. Petersburg and Moscow merchants to the Minister of Finance, expressing the gratitude of this most venerable body of the Russian bourgeoisie for his having “based the financial position of Russia on the widest possible expansion of private enterprise, which alone is fruitful.” And the author of the article concludes: “Plutocratic elements and proclivities undoubtedly exist in our society, and in plenty.”

As you see, your predecessors in the distant past, when the impressions of the great emancipatory Reform (which, as Mr. Yuzhakov has discovered, should have opened up peaceful and proper paths of development for “people’s” production, but which in fact only opened up paths for the development of a plutocracy) were still vivid and fresh, were themselves forced to admit the plutocratic, i.e., bourgeois character of private enterprise in Russia.

Why have you forgotten this? Why, when you talk about “people’s” circulation and the development of the “country’s forces” thanks to the development of “enterprise and initiative,” do you not mention the antagonistic character of this development, the exploiting character of this enterprise and this initiative? Opposition to monopolies and similar institutions can, and should, of course, be expressed, for they undoubtedly worsen the condition of the working people; but it must not be forgotten that besides all these medieval fetters the working people are shackled by still stronger ones, by modern, bourgeois fetters. Undoubtedly, the abolition of monopolies would be beneficial to the whole “people,” because, bourgeois economy having become the basis of the economic life of the country, these survivals of the medieval system only add to the capitalist miseries still more bitter medieval miseries. Undoubtedly, they must definitely be abolished—and the quicker and more radically, the better—in order, by ridding bourgeois society of its inherited semi-feudal fetters, to untie the hands of the working class, to facilitate its struggle against the bourgeoisie.

That is how one should talk, calling a spade a spade—saying that the abolition of monopolies and of all sorts of   other medieval restrictions (and in Russia their name is legion) is absolutely essential for the working class in order to facilitate its struggle against the bourgeois system. That is all. None but a bourgeois could see only the solidarity of the interests of the whole “people” against medieval, feudal institutions and forget the profound and irreconcilable antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat within this “people.”

Incidentally, it would be absurd to think of putting the “friends of the people” to shame with this, when, for example, they say things like the following about the needs of the countryside:

“When, a few years ago,” Mr. Krivenko informs us, “certain newspapers discussed what professions and what type of intellectual people the countryside needed, the list proved to be a very long and varied one and embraced nearly every walk of life: men and women doctors were followed by feldshers, then came lawyers, followed by teachers, librarians and booksellers, agronomists, forestry experts and agricultural experts generally, technicians of the most varied branches (a very extensive sphere, almost untouched as yet), organisers and managers of credit institutions, warehouses, etc.”

Let us stop to consider, say, those “intellectuals” (??) whose activities directly pertain to the economic sphere, all those forestry experts, agricultural experts, technicians, etc. And how these people are needed in the countryside! But in WHAT countryside? It goes without saying in the countryside of the landowners, the countryside of the enterprising muzhiks, who have “savings” and can afford to pay for the services of all these “technicians” whom Mr. Krivenko is pleased to call “intellectuals.” This countryside has, indeed, long been thirsting for technicians, for credits, for warehouses; all our economic literature testifies to this. But there is another countryside, much larger, and it would not harm the “friends of the people” to think of it a little more often; it is the countryside of the ruined, ragged and fleeced peasants, who not only have no ”savings” with which to pay for the labour of “intellectuals,” but have not even bread enough to save themselves from starvation. And it is this countryside that you want to assist with warehouses!! What will our one-horse and horseless peasants put in them?   Their clothes? They pawned them as far back as 1891 to the rural and urban kulaks who at that time, in fulfilment of your humane and liberal recipe, set up regular “warehouses” in their homes, taverns, and shops. All they have left is their “hands”; but even the Russian bureaucrats have so far failed to invent “warehouses” for this sort of commodity….

It would be hard to imagine more striking proof of the utter banality of these “democrats” than this sentimentality about technical progress among the “peasantry” and closing of eyes to the wholesale expropriation of this very “peasantry.” For example, in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 2 (“Sketches,” §XII), Mr. Karyshev, with the fervour of a liberal cretin, tells of cases of “perfections and improvements” in peasant farming—of the “spread on peasant farms of improved sorts of seed,” such as American oats, Vasa rye, Clydesdale oats, etc. “In some places the peasants set special plots apart for seed and after careful tilling, they hand plant selected samples of grain on them.” “Many and very varied innovations” are noted “in the sphere of improved implements and machines,”[7] such as cultivators, light ploughs, threshing-machines, winnowing-machines, seed sorters. Mention is made of “a greater variety of fertilisers”— phosphates, glue waste, pigeon manure, etc. “Correspondents urge the necessity for setting up local Zemstvo stores in the villages for the sale of phosphates—and Mr. Karyshev, quoting from Mr. V. V.’s book, Progressive Trends in Peasant Farming (Mr. Krivenko also refers to this book), is affected by all this touching progress almost to the point of fervour:

“These reports, which we have been able to give only in brief, make a heartening and at the same time saddening impression. . . . Heartening, because these people, impoverished, debt-laden, very many of them horseless, work with might and main, do not give way to despair, do not change their occupation, but remain true to the land, realising that in it, in the proper treatment of it, lies their future,   their strength, their wealth.” (Why, of course! It goes without saying that it is just the impoverished and horseless muzhik who buys phosphates, seed sorters, threshing-machines and Clydesdale oat seed! 0, sancta simplicitas! And this is not written by a ladies’ college damsel, but by a professor, a Doctor of Political Economy! No, say what you like, it can’t all be due to sacred simplicity.) “They are feverishly searching for ways of effecting that proper treatment, searching for new ways, methods of cultivation, seed, implements, fertilisers, everything that will lend fertility to the soil that feeds them and that will sooner or later reward them a hundredfold….[8] Saddening, because” (perhaps you think that here at least this “friend of the people” mentions the wholesale expropriation of the peasantry that accompanies and engenders the concentration of land in the hands of the enterprising muzhiks, its conversion into capital, into the basis of improved farming—the expropriation that throws on the market the “free” and “cheap” “hands” which make for the success of native “enterprise” which employs all these threshing-machines, seed sorters and winnowing-machines?—Nothing of the kind!) “because . . . it is we ourselves who must be roused. Where is our aid to the muzhik who is striving to improve his farming? We have at our disposal science, literature, museums, warehouses, commission agencies.” (Yes, gentlemen, that’s how he puts them, side by side: “science” and “commission agencies.”. . . The time to study the “friends of the people” is not when they are fighting the Social-Democrats, because on such occasions they don a uniform sewn from tatters of their “fathers’   ideals,” but in their everyday clothes, when they are discussing in detail the affairs of daily life. Then you get the full colour and flavour of these petty-bourgeois ideologists.) “Is there anything of that sort at the disposal of the muzhik? Of course, there are the rudiments of them, but somehow they are developing very slowly. The muzhik wants an example—where are our experimental fields, our model farms? The muzhik is seeking the printed word—where is our popular agronomic literature?. . . The muzhik is seeking fertilisers, implements, seed—where are our Zemstvo stores for all these things, wholesale buying, purchasing and distributing conveniences?. . . Where are you, men of affairs, private and Zemstvo? Go forth and work, the time for it has long been ripe, and

Hearty thanks will be your meed
From Russia’s people!”[18]
—N. Karyshev (Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 2, p. 19.)

Here they are, these friends of the petty “people’s” bourgeoisie, revelling in their petty-bourgeois progress!

One would think that, even apart from an analysis of our rural economy, it is enough to observe this striking fact in our modern economic history—namely, the generally-noted progress in peasant farming, parallel to the tremendous expropriation of the “peasantry”—to become convinced of the absurdity of picturing the “peasantry” as a single harmonious and homogeneous whole, to become convinced of the bourgeois character of all this progress! But the “friends of the people” remain deaf to all this. Having lost the good features of the old Russian social-revolutionary Narodism, they cling tightly to one of its grave errors—its failure to understand the class antagonism within the peasantry.

“The peasantist [Narodnik] of ’the seventies,’” Hourwich aptly remarks, “had no idea of class antagonism with in the ranks of the peasantry themselves, regarding it as confined entirely to the ’exploiter’—kulak or miroyed—and his victim, the peasant imbued with the communistic spirit.[9] Gleb Uspensky stood alone in his scepticism, opposing   his ironical smile to the universal illusion. With his perfect knowledge of the peasantry, and his extraordinary artistic talent that penetrated to the very heart of the phenomena, he did not fail to see that individualism had become the basis of economic relations, not only as between the usurer and the debtor, but among the peasants at large. Cf. his article “Casting in One Mould” (Ravneniye pod odno), Russkaya Mysl, 1882, No. 1.” (Op. cit., p. 106.)

It was pardonable and even natural to succumb to this illusion in the sixties and seventies, when relatively accurate information about rural economy was so scarce, and when the differentiation of the peasantry had not yet become so marked, but today one must deliberately close one’s eyes not to see this differentiation. It is extremely characteristic that it is precisely of late, when the ruin of the peasantry seems to have reached its peak, that one hears so much on all sides about progressive trends in peasant farming. Mr. V. V. (also a most indubitable “friend of the people”) has written a whole book on this subject. And you cannot accuse him of factual inaccuracy. On the contrary, the technical, agronomical progress of the peasantry is an undoubted fact, but so is the fact of the wholesale expropriation of the peasantry. And there you are—the “friends of the people” concentrate all their attention on the fact that the “muzhik” is feverishly searching for new methods of cultivation to help him fertilise the soil that feeds him—losing sight of the reverse side of the medal, namely, the feverish separation of that very “muzhik” from the soil. They bury their heads in the sand like ostriches so as to avoid looking facts in the face, so as not to notice that they are witnessing the process of the transformation into capital of the land from which the peasant is being separated, the process of creation of a home market.[10] Try to disprove the existence of these two opposite processes among our community peasantry, try to explain them in any other way than by the bourgeois character of our society! That would be too much!   Chanting hallelujahs and effusing humanitarian and benevolent phrases are the alpha and omega of their “science,” of their whole political “activity.”

And they even elevate this modest, liberal patching up of the present order to a regular philosophy. “Minor, genuine activity,” says Mr. Krivenko, with an air of profundity, “is much better than major inactivity.” How new and clever! Moreover, he goes on to say, “minor activity is by no means synonymous with minor purpose.” And as examples of such ”extension of activity,” when minor performance becomes “proper and good,” he quotes the work of a certain lady in organising schools, lawyers’ activities among the peasants eliminating pettifoggers, lawyers’ plans to accompany circuit courts into the provinces to act as defendant’s counsel, and, lastly, what we have already heard about, the organisation of handicraftsmen’s warehouses: in this case the extension of activity (to the dimensions of a great purpose) is to consist in opening warehouses “by the combined efforts of the Zemstvos in the busiest centres.”

All this, of course, is very lofty, humane and liberal—“liberal,” because it will free the bourgeois economic system from all its medieval handicaps and thus make it easier for the worker to fight the system itself, which, of course, will be strengthened rather than hurt by such measures; and we have long been reading about all this in all Russian liberal publications. It would not be worth opposing it if the Russkoye Bogatstvo gentlemen did not compel us to do so; they began advancing these “modest beginnings of liberalism” AGAINST the Social-Democrats and, as a lesson to them, simultaneously rebuking them for renouncing “the ideals of their fathers.” That being the case, we cannot help saying that it is, at the very least, amusing to oppose the Social-Democrats with proposals and suggestions for such moderate and meticulous liberal (that is, bourgeois-serving) activity. As for the fathers and their ideals, it should be said that however erroneous and utopian the old theories of the Russian Narodniks were, at all events they were ABSOLUTELY opposed to such “modest beginnings of liberalism.” I have borrowed the latter expression from Mr. N. K. Mikhailovsky’s article “About the Russian Edition of K. Marx’s Book” (Otechestvenniye Zapiski, 1872, No. 4)—an   article written in a very lively and brisk style (compared with his present writings), and strongly protesting against the proposal not to offend our young liberals.

But that was long ago, so long ago that the “friends of the people” have managed to forget all about it, and have glaringly demonstrated, by their tactics, that when there is no materialist criticism of political institutions, and when the class character of the modern state is not understood, it is only one step from political radicalism to political opportunism.

Here are a few examples of this opportunism.

“The transformation of the Ministry of State Properties into the Ministry of Agriculture,” declares Mr. Yuzhakov, “may profoundly influence the course of our economic development, but it may also prove to be nothing but a reshuffling of officials” (Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 10.)

Everything depends, consequently, on who will be “called upon”—the friends of the people or the representatives of the interests of the landlords and capitalists. The interests themselves need not be touched.

“The protection of the economically weak from the economically strong is the first natural task of state interference,” continues this same Mr. Yuzhakov in the same article; and he is supported in the same terms by the chronicler of home affairs in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 2. And so as to leave no doubt that his interpretation of this philanthropic nonsense[11] is the same as that of his worthy associates, the West-European liberal and radical petty-bourgeois ideologists, he at once adds:

“Gladstone’s Land Bills,[19] Bismarck’s workers’ insurance, factory inspection, the idea of our Peasants’ Bank, the organisation of migration, measures against the kulak—all these are attempts to apply this same principle of state interference for the protection of the economically weak.”

This at least has the merit of being frank. The author bluntly states that, like the Gladstones and Bismarcks, he wants to adhere to the present social relations, like them he wants to patch up and darn present-day society   (bourgeois society—something he does not understand any more than the West-European followers of the Gladstones and Bismarcks do), and not combat it. In complete harmony with this, their fundamental theoretical tenet, is the fact that they regard as an instrument of reform an organ which has its basis in this present-day society and protects the interests of its ruling classes—the state. They positively believe the state to be omnipotent and above all classes, and expect that it will not only “assist” the working people, but create a real and proper system as we have heard from Mr. Krivenko). But then, of course, nothing else is to be expected of them, dyed-in-the-wool petty-bourgeois ideologists that they are. For it is one of the fundamental and characteristic features of the petty bourgeoisie—one, incidentally, which makes it a reactionary class—that the petty producers, disunited and isolated by the very conditions of production and tied down to a definite place and to a definite exploiter, cannot understand the class character of the exploitation and oppression from which they suffer, and suffer sometimes no less than the proletarian; they can not understand that in bourgeois society the state too is bound to be a class state.[12]

Why is it then, most worthy “friends of the people,” that till now—and with particular energy since this very emancipatory Reform—our government has “supported, protected and created” only the bourgeoisie and capitalism? Why is it that such unseemly conduct on the part of this absolute, allegedly supraclass, government has coincided precisely with a historical period characterised in the country’s internal life by the development of commodity economy, commerce and industry? Why do you consider these latter changes in   internal life to be the effect and the government’s policy the cause, despite the fact that these changes were so deep down in society that the government did not even notice them and put innumerable obstacles in their way, and despite the fact that this very same “absolute” government, under other conditions of internal life, “supported,” “protected” and “created” another class?

Oh, the “friends of the people” never concern themselves with such questions! All this, you see, is materialism, dialectics, “Hegelianism,” “mysticism and metaphysics.” They simply think that if you plead with this government nicely enough and humbly enough, it will put everything right. And as far as humbleness is concerned, one must do Russkoye Bogatstvo justice: truly, it stands out even among the Russian liberal press for its inability to display the slightest independence. Judge for yourselves:

“The abolition of the salt tax, the abolition of the poll tax and the reduction of the land redemption payments” are described by Mr. Yuzhakov as “a considerable relief to people’s farming.” Well, of course! But was not the abolition of the salt tax accompanied by the imposition of a host of new indirect taxes and an increase in the old ones? Was not the abolition of the poll-tax accompanied by an increase in the payments made by the former state peasants, under guise of placing them on a redemption basis? And is there not even now, after the famous reduction of redemption payments (by which the government did not even return to the peasants the profit it had made out of the redemption operations), a discrepancy between the payments and the income from the land, i.e., a direct survival of feudal quit-rent? Never mind! What is important, you see, is “the first step,” the “principle.” As for the rest . . . the rest we can plead for later on!

These, however, are only the blossoms. Now for the fruit.

“The eighties eased the people’s burden” (that’s by the above measures!) “and thus saved them from utter ruin.”

This is another phrase classic for its shameless servility, one that can only be placed, say, alongside Mr. Mikhailovsky’s statement, quoted above, that we have still to create a proletariat. One cannot help recalling in this connection Shchedrin’s incisive description of the evolution of the Russian   liberal! This liberal starts out by pleading with the authorities to grant reforms “as far as possible,” then he goes on to beg for “well, at least something,” and ends by taking up an eternal and unshakable stand on “anything, however mean.” And what else can one say of the “friends of the people” but that they have adopted this eternal and unshakable stand when, fresh from the impressions of a famine affecting millions of people, towards which the government’s attitude was first one of a huckster’s stinginess and then of a huckster’s cowardice, they say in print that the government has saved the people from utter ruin!! Several years more will pass, marked by the still more rapid expropriation of the peasantry; the government, in addition to establishing a Ministry of Agriculture, will abolish one or two direct and impose several new indirect taxes; the famine will then affect 40 million people—and these gentlemen will write in the same old way: you see, 40 and not 50 million are starving, that is because the government has eased the people’s burden and has saved them from utter ruin; it is because the government has hearkened to the “friends of the people” and established a Ministry of Agriculture!

Another example:

In Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 2, the chronicler of home affairs arguing that Russia is “fortunately” (sic!) a backward country, “which has preserved elements that enable her to base her economic system on the principle of solidarity,”[13] says that she is therefore able to act “in international affairs as an exponent of economic solidarity” and that Russia’s chances for this are enhanced by her undeniable “political might”!!

It is the gendarme of Europe, that constant and most reliable bulwark of all reaction, who has reduced the Russian people, themselves oppressed at home, to the shameful position of serving as an instrument for oppressing the peoples in the West—it is this gendarme who is described as an exponent of economic solidarity!

This is indeed beyond all limit! Messrs. the “friends of the people” will outdo all liberals. They not only plead with the government, they not only eulogise it, they positively pray to it, pray with such obeisance, with such zeal that a stranger cannot help feeling eerie at the sound of their loyal foreheads cracking on the flagstones.

Do you remember the German definition of a philistine?

Was ist der Philister?
Ein hohler Darm,
Voll Furcht und Hoffnung,
Dass Gott erbarm

This definition does not quite apply to our affairs. God … God takes a back seat with us. But the authorities … that’s a different matter. And if in this definition we substitute the word “authorities” for the word “God” we shall get an exact description of the ideological stock in-trade, the moral level and the civic courage of the Russian humane and liberal “friends of the people.”

To this absolutely preposterous view of the government, the “friends of the people” add a corresponding attitude toward the so-called “intelligentsia.” Mr. Krivenko writes: “Literature . . .” should “appraise phenomena according to their social meaning and encourage every active effort to do good. It has harped, and continues to harp, on the shortage of teachers, doctors, technicians, on the fact that the people are sick, poor” (there are few technicians), “illiterate, etc.; and when people come forward who are weary of sitting at card tables, participating in private theatricals and eating sturgeon patties at parties given by Marshals of Nobility, and who go out to work with rare self-sacrifice and in face of numerous obstacles” (think of it: they have sacrificed card tables, theatricals and patties!), “literature should welcome them.”

Two pages later, with the business-like air of an old campaigner grown wise by experience, he reproves those who “wavered when confronted with the question whether or not to accept office as Zemsky Nachalniks,[20] town mayors, or   chairmen or members of Zemstvo Boards under the new regulations. In a society with a developed consciousness of civic requirements and duties” (really, gentlemen, this is as good as the speeches of famous Russian lacks-in-office like the Baranovs and Kosiches!), “such wavering and such an attitude to affairs would be inconceivable, because it would assimilate in its own way every reform that had any vital side to it at all, that is, would take advantage of and develop those sides of the reform that are expedient; as to the undesirable sides, it would convert them into a dead letter; and if there were nothing whatever vital in the reform it would remain an entirely alien body.”

What on earth do you make of that! What miserable twopenny-ha’penny opportunism, what indulgence in self admiration! The task of literature is to collect all the drawing-room gossip about the wicked Marxists, to bow and cringe to the government for saving the people from utter ruin, to welcome people who have grown weary of sitting at card tables, to teach the “public” not to fight shy even of such posts as that of Zemsky Nachalnik. . . . What is this I am reading—Nedelya,[21] or Novoye Vremya? No, it is Russkoye Bogatstvo, the organ of the advanced Russian democrats. . . .

And such gentlemen talk about the “ideals of their fathers,” claim that they, and they alone, guard the traditions of the days when France poured the ideas of socialism all over Europe[22]—and when, in Russia, the assimilation of these ideas produced the theories and teachings of Herzen and Chernyshevsky. This is a downright disgrace and would be positively outrageous and offensive—if Russkoye Bogatstvo were not so utterly amusing, if such statements in the columns of a magazine of this type did not arouse Homeric laughter, and nothing else. Yes, indeed, you are besmirching those ideals! What were actually the ideals of the first Russian socialists, the socialists of the epoch which Kautsky so aptly described in the words:

“When every socialist was a poet and every poet a socialist.”

Faith in a special social order, in the communal system of Russian life; hence—faith in the possibility of a peasant socialist revolution—that is what inspired them and roused dozens and hundreds of people to wage a heroic struggle   against the government. And you, you cannot reproach the Social-Democrats with failing to appreciate the immense historical services of these, the finest people of their day, with failing to respect their memory profoundly. But I ask you, where is that faith now? It has vanished. So utterly, that when Mr. V. V. tried to argue last year that the village community trains the people to common effort and is a centre of altruistic sentiments, etc.,[23] even Mr. Mikhailovsky’s conscience was pricked and he shamefacedly began to lecture Mr. V. V. and to point out that “no investigation has shown a connection between our village community and altruism.”[24] And, indeed, no investigation has. Yet there was a time when people had faith, implicit faith, without making any investigation.

How? Why? On what grounds?…

“Every socialist was a poet and every poet a socialist.”

Moreover, adds the same Mr. Mikhailovsky, all conscientious investigators agree that the countryside is splitting up, giving rise, on the one hand, to a mass of proletarians, and, on the other, to a handful of “kulaks” who keep the rest of the population under their heel. And again he is right: the countryside is indeed splitting up. Nay more, the countryside long ago split up completely. And the old Russian peasant socialism split up with it, making way for workers’ socialism, on the one hand, and degenerating into vulgar petty-bourgeois radicalism, on the other. This change cannot be described as anything but degeneration. From the doctrine that peasant life is a special social order and that our country has taken an exceptional path of development, there has emerged a sort of diluted eclecticism, which can no longer deny that commodity economy has become the basis of economic development and has grown into capitalism, but which refuses to see the bourgeois character of all the relations of production, refuses to see the necessity of the class struggle under this system. From a political programme calculated to arouse the peasantry for the socialist revolution against the foundations of modern society[15] there has   emerged a programme calculated to patch up, to “improve” the conditions of the peasantry while preserving the foundations of modern society.

Strictly speaking, all this should already suffice to give an idea of the kind of “criticism” to be expected from these gentlemen of Russkoye Bogatstvo when they undertake to “demolish” the Social-Democrats. They do not make the slightest attempt to give a straightforward and conscientious exposition of the Social-Democrats’ conception of Russian realities (they could quite well do so, and get round the censorship, if they laid special stress on the economic side and kept to the general, partly allegorical terms in which they have conducted all their “polemics”) and to argue against its substance, to argue against the correctness of the practical conclusions drawn from it. They prefer instead to confine themselves to the most vacuous phrases about abstract schemes and belief in them, about the conviction that every country has to pass through the phase . . . and similar nonsense, with which we have already become sufficiently familiar in the case of Mr. Mikhailovsky. Often we get downright distortions. Mr. Krivenko, for example, declares that Marx “admitted that, if we desired it” (?!! So, according to Marx, the evolution of social and economic relations depends on human will and consciousness?? What is this—abysmal ignorance or unparalleled effrontery?!), “and acted accordingly, we could avoid the vicissitudes of capitalism and proceed by a different and more expedient path (sic!!!).”

Our knight was able to talk such nonsense by indulging in deliberate distortion. Citing the passage from the well known “K. Marx’s Letter” )Yuridichesky Vestnik, 1888, No. 10), where Marx speaks of his high esteem for Chernyshevsky, who thought it possible for Russia not to “undergo the tortures of the capitalist system,” Mr. Krivenko closes the quotation marks, i.e., ends the reproduction of what Marx actually said (the last words of which were: “he [Chernyshevsky] pronounces in favour of this latter solution”)— and   adds: “And I, says Marx, share” (Krivenko’s italics) “these views” (p. 186, No. 12).

What Marx actually said was this: “And my honourable critic would have had at least as much reason for inferring from my esteem for this ’great Russian scholar and critic’ that I shared his views on the question, as for concluding from my polemic against the Russian ‘literary man’ and Pan-Slavist[25] that I rejected them.” (Yuridichesky Vestnik, 1888, No. 10, p. 271.)

And so Marx said that Mr. Mikhailovsky had no right to regard him as an opponent of the idea of Russia’s special line of development because he also respected those who held this idea; but Mr. Krivenko misconstrues this to mean that Marx “admitted” this special line of development. This is an out-and-out distortion. Marx’s statement quoted above shows quite clearly that he evaded the question as such: “Mr. Mikhailovsky could have taken as a basis either of the two contradictory remarks, i.e., he had no grounds for basing his conclusions as to my views on Russian affairs in general on either of them.” And in order that these remarks should provide no occasion for misinterpretation, Marx, in this very same “letter,” gave a direct reply to the question of how his theory could be applied to Russia. This reply very clearly shows that Marx avoided answering the question as such, avoided examining Russian data, which alone could decide the question: “If Russia,” he replied, “is tending to become a capitalist nation on the pattern of the West European countries—and during the last years she has been taking much trouble in this respect—she will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of her peasants into proletarians.”[26]

This, I think, is perfectly clear: the question was whether Russia was tending to become a capitalist nation, whether the ruin of her peasants was the process of the creation of a capitalist system, of a capitalist proletariat; and Marx says that “if” she was so tending, she would have to transform a good part of her peasants into proletarians. In other words, Marx’s theory is to investigate and explain the evolution of the economic system of certain countries, and its “application” to Russia can be only the INVESTIGATION of Russian production relations and their evolution, EMPLOYING   the established practices of the MATERIALIST method and of THEORETICAL political economy.[16]

The elaboration of a new theory of methodology and political economy marked such gigantic progress in social science, such a tremendous advance for socialism, that almost immediately after the appearance of Capital “the destiny of capitalism in Russia” became the principal theoretical problem for Russian socialists; the most heated debates raged around this problem, and the most important points of programme were decided in accordance with it. And it is noteworthy that when (some ten years ago) a separate group of socialists appeared who answered in the affirmative the question of whether Russia’s evolution was capitalist, and based this answer on the data of Russian economic reality, it encountered no direct and definite criticism of the point at issue, no criticism which accepted the same general methodological and theoretical principles and gave a different explanation of the data.

The “friends of the people,” who have launched a veritable crusade against the Marxists, likewise do not argue their case by examining the facts. As we saw in the first article, they dispose of the matter with phrases. Mr. Mikhailovsky, moreover, never misses an opportunity to display his wit about the Marxists lacking unanimity and about their failure to agree among themselves. And “our well known” N. K. Mikhailovsky laughs heartily over his joke about Marxists “real” and “not real.” It is true that complete unanimity does not reign among the Marxists. But, firstly, Mr. Mikhailovsky misrepresents this fact; and, secondly, it demonstrates the strength and vitality of Russian Social-Democracy and not its weakness. A particularly characteristic feature of the recent period is that socialists are arriving at Social-Democratic views by various paths and for that reason, while unreservedly agreeing on the fundamental and principal thesis that Russia is a bourgeois society which has grown out of the feudal system, that its political form is a class state, and that the only way to end the exploitation   of the working people is through the class struggle of the proletariat—they differ on many particular problems both in their methods of argument and in the detailed interpretation of this or that phenomenon of Russian life. I can therefore delight Mr. Mikhailovsky in advance by stating that, within the limits of the above-mentioned thesis, which is fundamental and common to all Social-Democrats, differences of opinion exist also on the problems that have been touched upon in these cursory notes, for example, the peasant Reform, the economics of peasant farming and handicraft industries, land renting, etc. The unanimity of people who content themselves with the unanimous acceptance of “lofty truths” such as: the peasant Reform might open for Russia peaceful paths of proper development; the state might call, not upon the representatives of capitalist interests, but upon the “friends of the people”; the village community might socialise agriculture and manufacturing industry, which might be developed into large-scale production by the handicraftsman; people’s land renting supports people’s farming—this touching and moving unanimity has been replaced by disagreements among persons who are seeking for an explanation of Russia’s actual, present economic organisation as a system of definite production relations, for an explanation of her actual economic evolution, of her political and all other types of superstructure.

And if such work—while leading people from different angles to the acceptance of the common position which undoubtedly dictates joint political action and consequently confers on all who accept it the right and duty to call them selves “SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS”—still leaves a wide field for differences of opinion on a host of particular problems open to various solutions, it merely demonstrates, of course, the strength and vitality of Russian Social-Democracy.[17]  

Moreover, it would be hard to imagine anything more difficult than the conditions under which this work is being done: there is not, nor can there be, an organ to unite the various aspects of the work; in view of prevailing police conditions, private intercourse is extremely difficult. It is only natural that Social-Democrats cannot properly discuss and reach agreement on details, that they contradict each other. . . .

This is indeed funny, is it not?

Mr. Krivenko’s references, in his “polemic” against the Social-Democrats, to “neo-Marxists” may cause some perplexity. Some readers may think that something in the nature of a split has taken place among the Social-Democrats, and that “neo-Marxists” have broken away from the old Social-Democrats. Nothing of the kind. At no time or place has anybody in a public defence of Marxism criticised the theories and programme of Russian Social-Democracy, or advocated any other kind of Marxism. The fact is that Messrs. Krivenko and Mikhailovsky have been listening to drawing-room gossip about the Marxists, have been observing various liberals who use Marxism to cover up their liberal inanity, and, with their characteristic cleverness and tact, have set out with this stock-in-trade to “criticise” the Marxists. It is not surprising that this “criticism” consists of a regular chain of absurdities and filthy attacks.

“To be consistent,” argues Mr. Krivenko, “we should give an affirmative answer to this” (to the question: “should we not strive for the development of capitalist industry?”), and “not shrink from buying up peasants’ land or opening shops and taverns”; we should “rejoice at the success of the numerous inn-keepers in the Duma and assist the still more numerous buyers-up of the peasants’ grain.”

Really, that is amusing. Try to tell such a “friend of the people” that everywhere in Russia the exploitation of the working people is by its nature capitalistic, that the enterprising muzhiks and buyers-up should be classed among the representatives of capitalism because of such and such political-economic   features, which prove the bourgeois character of the splitting up of the peasantry—why, he would raise a howl, call it outrageous heresy, shout about the indiscriminate borrowing of West-European formulas and abstract schemes (while at the same time most carefully evading the actual meaning of the “heretical” argument). But when pictures of the “horrors” caused by the wicked Marxists have to be painted, lofty science and pure ideals may be left aside, and it may be admitted that buyers-up of peasants’ grain and peasants’ land really are representatives of capitalism, and not merely “hankerers” after other people’s goods.

Try and prove to this “friend of the people” that not only are the Russian bourgeoisie already in control of the people’s labour everywhere, due to the concentration of the means of production in their hands alone, but they also bring pressure to bear upon the government, initiating, compelling and determining the bourgeois character of its policy—why, he would fly into a real rage, begin to shout about the omnipotence of our government, about fatal misunderstanding and unlucky chance alone causing it always to “call upon” representatives of the interests of capitalism and not upon the “friends of the people,” about its artificially implanting capitalism. . . . But on the sly they are themselves compelled to recognise as representatives of capitalism the inn-keepers in the Duma, i.e., one of the elements of this very government that is supposed to stand above classes. But, gentlemen, are the interests of capitalism in Russia represented only in the “Duma,” and only by ”inn-keepers”?. . .

As to filthy attacks, we have had quite enough of them from Mr. Mikhailovsky, and we get them again from Mr. Krivenko, who, for example, in his eagerness to annihilate the hated Social-Democracy, relates that “some go into the factories (when, of course, they can get soft jobs as technicians or office workers), claiming that their sole purpose is to accelerate the capitalist process.” There is no need, of course, to reply to such positively indecent statements. All we can do is to put a full stop here.

Keep on in the same spirit, gentlemen, keep boldly on! The imperial government, the one which, as you have just told us, has already taken measures (even though they have flaws in them) to save the people from utter ruin, will   take measures, this time without any flaws whatever, to save your banality and ignorance from exposure. “Cultured society” will gladly continue as hitherto, in the intervals between sturgeon patties and the card table, to talk about the “younger brother” and to devise humane projects for “improving” his condition; its representatives will be pleased to learn from you that by taking up positions as Zemsky Nachalniks or other supervisors of the peasants’ purses they display a developed consciousness of civic requirements and duties. Keep on! You may be certain not only of being left in peace but even of approval and praise . . . from the lips of the Messrs. Burenins.


[1] This idea—of utilising credit to foster “people’s farming,” i.e., the farming of petty producers, where capitalist relations exist (and the ”friends of the people,” as we have already seen, can no longer deny that they do exist)—this meaningless idea, which reveals an inability to understand the elementary truths of theoretical political economy, quite clearly shows how vulgar is the theory advanced by these gentlemen who try to sit between two stools. —Lenin

[2] I say the rich will buy the shares, despite the author’s stipulation that the shares shall be owned by the communities, because, after all, he speaks of the purchase of shares with money, which only the rich have. Hence, whether the business is conducted through the agency of the communities or not, only the rich will be able to pay, just as the purchase or renting of land by the community in no way prevents the rich from monopolising this land. The dividends too must go to those who have paid—otherwise the shares will not be shares. And I understand the author’s proposal to mean that a certain part of the profits will be earmarked for ”guaranteeing the workers their tie with the land.” If the author does not mean this (although it inevitably follows from what he says), but that the rich shall pay for the shares and not receive dividends, then all his scheme amounts to is that the rich shall share with the poor. This reminds one of the anecdote about the fly-killer which requires that you first catch the fly and put it in the dish—and it will die instantly. —Lenin

[3] Philanthropists. –Ed. —Lenin

[4] To show the relation between these outlays and the rest of the peasant budget, let me quote again the 24 budgets of Ostrogozhsk Uyezd. The average expenditure per family is 495.39 rubles (in kind and in cash). Of this, 109.10 rubles go for the maintenance of cattle, 135.80 rubles are spent on vegetable food and taxes, and the remaining 250.49 rubles on other expenses—non-vegetable food, clothes, implements, rent, etc. Mr. Yozhakov allows the hay-fields and other grounds to account for the maintenance of cattle. —Lenin

[5] As an example let me refer, say, to the Pavlovo handicraftsmen as compared to the peasants of the surrounding villages. See the works of Grigoryev and Annensky. I again deliberately give the example of the countryside in which a specific “people’s system” supposedly exists. —Lenin

[6] The author must be particularly blamed for this use of terms because Russkoye Bogatstvo loves the word “people’s” as opposed to bourgeois. —Lenin

[7] I remind the reader of how these improved implements are distributed in Novouzensk Uyezd: 37% of the peasants (the poor) or 10,000 out of 28,000 households, have 7 implements out of $,724 that is, one-eighth of one per cent! Four-fifths of the implements are monopolised by the rich, who constitute only one-fourth of the total households. —Lenin

[8] You are profoundly right venerable Mr. Professor, when you say that improved farming will reward a hundredfold the “people” who do not “give way to despair” and “remain true to the land.” But have you not observed, O, great Doctor of Political Economy, that to acquire all these phosphates and so on, the “muzhik” must stand out from among the mass of the starving poor in having spare money—and money, after all, is a product of social labour that falls into private hands; that the appropriation of the “reward” for improved farming will be the appropriation of other people’s labour; and that only the most contemptible hangers-on of the bourgeoisie can see the source of this abundant reward in the personal effort of the husbandman, who “working with might and main,” “fertilises the soil that feeds him”? —Lenin

[9] There have arisen opposite social classes within the village community,” says Hourwich elsewhere (p. 104). I quote Hourwich only to supplement the facts given above. —Lenin

[10] The reason the search for new methods of cultivation” is becoming “feverish” that the enterprising muzhik has to run a larger farm, and cannot cope with it by the old methods; that he is compelled by competition to seek new methods, inasmuch as agriculture is increasingly acquiring a commodity, bourgeois character.—Lenin

[11] It is nonsense because the strength of the “economically strong” lies, among other things, in his possession of political power. Without it he could not maintain his economic rule. —Lenin

[12] That is why the “friends of the people” are arch-reactionaries when they say that it is the state’s natural task to protect the economically weak (that is what it should be according to their banal old wives’ morality), whereas Russia’s entire history and home policy testify that the task of our state is to protect only the feudal landlords and the big bourgeoisie, and to punish with the utmost brutality every attempt of the “economically weak” to stand up for their rights. And that, of course, is its natural task, because absolutism and the bureaucracy are thoroughly saturated with the feudal bourgeois spirit, and because in the economic sphere the bourgeoisie hold undivided sway and keep the workers “as quiet as lambs.” —Lenin

[13] Between whom? The landlord and the peasant, the enterprising muzhik and the tramp, the mill owner and the worker? To understand what this classical “principle of solidarity” means, we must remember that solidarity between the employer and the workman is achieved by “a reduction in wages.” —Lenin

[14] What is a philistine? A hollow gut, full of fear and of hope in God’s mercy (Goethe).—Ed.

[15] That, substantially, was what all our old revolutionary programmes amounted to—from those, say, of the Bakuninists and the rebels,[27] to those of the Narodniks, and finally the Narodovoltsi,   for whom the conviction that the peasants would send an overwhelming majority of socialists to a future Zemsky Sobor[28] also occupied no small place in their thoughts. —Lenin

[16] I repeat that this conclusion could not but be clear to anybody who had read the Communist Manifesto, The Poverty of Philosophy, and Capital, and that a special explanation was required only for the benefit of Mr. Mikhailovsky. —Lenin

[17] For the simple reason that no solution of these problems has so far been found. Indeed, you cannot regard as a solution of the land renting problem the assertion that “people’s land renting supports people’s farming,” or the following description of the system of cultivating the landlord’s land with the peasants’ implements: “The peasant has proved to be stronger than the landlord,” who “has sacrificed his independence for the benefit of the independent peasant”,   “the peasant has wrested large-scale production from the grasp of the landlord”, “the people are the victors in the struggle for the form of agricultural technique.” This idle liberal chatter is to be found in The Destiny of Capitalism, the work of “our well-known” Mr. V. V. —Lenin

[18] From “To the Sowers” by the Russian poet N. A. Nekrasov.

[19] The Gladstone Land Bills—the land laws adopted in Britain by Gladstone’s Liberal Ministry in the 1870s and 1880s. With a view to mitigating the struggle between the tenant farmers and the landlords and to securing the votes of the former, the Gladstone government introduced some minor measures limiting the tyranny of the landlords, who had driven masses of tenants off the land. The government also promised to regulate the question of tenants’ arrears, to set up special land courts that would establish “fair” rents, etc. The Gladstone Land Bills were typical of the social demagogy of the liberal bourgeoisie.

[20] In 1889, the tsarist government, desirous of strengthening the landlords’ power over the peasants, introduced the administrative post of Zemsky Nachalnik. The Zemsky Nachalniks, who were appointed from among the local landlord nobility, were given tremendous powers both administrative and juridical to deal with the peasants.   These powers included the right to arrest peasants and administer corporal punishment.

[21] Nedelya (Week )—a liberal-Narodnik political and literary newspaper. Appeared in St. Petersburg from 1866 to 1901. Was opposed to fighting the autocracy, and advocated the so-called theory of “minor matters,” i.e., appealed to the intelligentsia to abstain from revolutionary struggle and to engage in “cultural activity.”

[22] This refers to French utopian socialism, which was widespread at the beginning of the nineteenth century and was one of the main ideological trends of the time.

The social-economic basis to which French utopian socialism owed its origin was the increased exploitation of the toiling masses, the appearance of irreconcilable contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The most prominent representatives of French utopian socialism were Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier whose views were widely held not only in France, but also in other countries. The French utopian socialists were, however, unable to expose the essence of capitalist relations and capitalist exploitation with consistency or to discover the basic contradiction of the capitalist mode of production. In conformity with the utopian character of their social and political ideals, they based the need for the socialist reorganisation of society on the need for reason to conquer ignorance, for truth to conquer falsehood. The immaturity of their views is to be explained by the social conditions of the epoch, by the insufficient development of large-scale capitalist industry, and of the industrial proletariat. For a more detailed account of French socialism, see F. Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific and Anti-Dühring. Lenin described the teachings of the French utopian socialists, in connection with French revolutionary teachings in general, as one of the mainsprings of Marxism.

The Russian revolutionary democrats A. I. Herzen, V. G. Belinsky, N. G. Chernyshevsky, and N. A. Dobrolyubov accepted the ideas of the French Enlighteners, but differed from the representatives of many West-European trends of utopian socialism in advocating the idea of mass struggle to overthrow the autocracy, the idea of a peasant revolution. However, they mistakenly imagined that the path to socialism lay through the semi-feudal peasant community. Since Russia’s economic development was still weak the Russian revolutionary democrats, headed by Chernyshevsky, were unable to show the decisive role of the working class in the building of socialist society.

[23] This refers to V. V.’s (V. P. Vorontsov’s) Our Trends, which appeared in 1893.

[24] N. K. Mikhailovsky replied to V. V. in the article “Literature and Life” published in Russkoye Bogatstvo, issue No. 10, 1893.

[27] The Bakuninists and the rebels—supporters and followers of M. A. Bakunin (1814-1876), the ideologist of anarchism and a bitter enemy of Marxism and scientific socialism. The Bakuninists carried   on a stubborn struggle against the Marxist theory and tactics of the working-class movement. The main plank of the Bakuninist platform was the complete rejection of any form of state, including the dictatorship of the proletariat. They did not understand the epoch-making role of the prolelariat. Bakunin put forward the idea of the “levelling” of classes, the organisation of “free associations” from below. In the Bakuninists’ view, a secret revolutionary society, made up of “outstanding” individuals, was to direct popular revolts, which were to take place immediately. Thus the Bakuninists believed that the peasantry in Russia were ready to rise up in rebellion without delay.Their tactics of conspiracy-making, of hasty revolts and of terrorism were adventurist and hostile to Marxist teachings on insurrection. Bakuninism was close to Proudhonism, the petty-bourgeois trend that reflected the ideology of the ruined petty proprietor. One of the Bakuninists in Russia, S. G Nechayev, was in close contact with Bakunin, who lived abroad. The Bakuninists expounded the programme of the conspiratorial society in the “Revolutionary Catechism.” In 1869 Nechayev tried to found a narrow conspiratorial “People’s Reprisal” organisation in Russia. He succeeded, however in organising only a few circles in Moscow. “The People’s Reprisal” was soon exposed, and in December 1869 was broken up by the tsarist government. The theory and tactics of the Bakuninists were severely condemned by Marx and Engels. Lenin described Bakuninism as the world outlook “of the petty bourgeois who despairs of his salvation.” (In Memory of Herzen. See present edition, Vol. 18.) Bakuninism was one of the ideological sources of Narodism.

[28] A central representative assembly is referred to. In 1873 Marx and Engels wrote the following on this subject: “At that time the demand was raised for the convention of a Zemsky Sobor. Some demanded it with a view to settling financial difficulties, others—so as to end the monarchy. Bakunin wanted it to demonstrate Russia’s unity and to consolidate the tsar’s power and might.” (L’allian ce de la Démocratie Socialiste et l’association Internationale des travailleurs. Rapport et documents publiés par ordre du congrès international de la Haye. 1873. p. 113.)

Many Russian revolutionaries equated the convocation of a Zemsky Sobor with the overthrow of the tsarist dynasty.

The convocation of a Zemsky Sobor representing all citizens to draw up a constitution was one of the programmatic demands of the Russian Social-Democratic Party.

[25] Reference is made to N. G. Chernyshevsky and A. I. Herzen. See Marx’s letter to the editorial board of Otechestvenniye Zapiski (K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, p 377)

[26] See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, pp. 378-79.

In conclusion it will perhaps be worth while replying to a question which has probably occurred already to more than one reader. Did it pay to argue so long with such gentlemen? Was it worth while replying seriously to this stream of liberal and censor-protected filth which they were pleased to call polemics?

I think it was, not for their sake, of course, or for the sake of the “cultured” public, but for the useful lesson which Russian socialists can and should learn from this onslaught. It provides most striking and most convincing proof that the period of Russia’s social development, when democracy and socialism were merged in one inseparable and indissoluble whole (as was the case, for example, in Chernyshevsky’s day), has gone never to return. Today there are absolutely no grounds for the idea, which Russian socialists here and there still cling to and which most harmfully affects their theories and practical work, that there is no profound qualitative difference in Russia between the ideas of the democrats and those of the socialists.

Quite the contrary; a wide gulf divides these ideas, and it is high time the Russian socialists understood this, understood that a COMPLETE and FINAL RUPTURE with the ideas of the democrats is INEVITABLE and IMPERATIVE!

Let us see what this Russian democrat actually was in the days which gave rise to this idea, and what he has now   become. The “friends of the people” provide enough material for such a comparison.

Extremely interesting in this connection is Mr. Krivenko’s attack on Mr. Struve who, in a German publication, opposed Mr. Nik.-on’s utopianism (his article “On Capitalist Development in Russia,” “Zur Beurtheilung der kapitalis tischen Entwicklung Russlands,” appeared in Sozialpolitisches Centralblatt,[13] III, No. 1, October 2, 1893). Mr. Krivenko launches out against Mr. Struve for, as he alleges, classing the ideas of those who “stand for the village community and the allotment” as “national socialism” (which, he says, is of a “purely utopian nature”). This terrible accusation of being concerned with socialism drives our worthy author into a rage:

“Were there,” he exclaims, “no others” (apart from Herzen, Chernyshevsky and the Narodniks), “who stood for the village community and the allotment? What about those who drew up the regulation for the peasants, who made the community and the peasants’ economic independence the basis of the Reform; what about the investigators of our history and of contemporary life who support these principles, and almost the whole of our serious and respectable press, which also supports these principles—are they all victims of the delusion called ’national socialism’?”

Calm yourself, most worthy “friend of the people”! You were so scared by the awful accusation of being concerned with socialism that you did not even take the trouble to read Mr. Struve’s “little article” carefully. And, indeed, what a crying injustice it would be to accuse those who stand for “the village community and the allotment” of being concerned with socialism! Pray, what is there socialistic in this? Socialism, as we know, is the name given to the protest and struggle against the exploitation of the working people, a struggle for the complete abolition of this exploitation— while “to stand for the allotment” means supporting the peasant’s payment of redemption money for all the land they used to have at their disposal. But even if one does not stand for land redemption but for the gratuitous retention of the land the peasants possessed before the Reform, there is nothing socialistic in it, for it is this peasant ownership of land (which evolved during the feudal period) that has everywhere in the West,   as here in Russia,[1] been the basis of bourgeois society. “To stand for the village community,” i.e., to protest against police interference in the customary methods of distributing the land—what is there socialistic in that, when everyone knows that exploitation of the working people can very well exist and is engendered within this community? That is stretching the word “socialism” to mean anything; maybe Mr. Pobedonostsev,[14] too, will have to be classed as a socialist!

Mr. Struve is not guilty of such an awful injustice at all. He speaks of the “utopianism of the national socialism” of the Narodniks, and we can see whom he classes as Narodniks from the fact that he refers to Plekhanov’s Our Differences as a polemic against the Narodniks. aPlekhanov, undoubtedly, polemised against socialists, against people who had nothing in common with the “serious and respectable” Russian press. Mr. Krivenko, therefore, had no right to take as applying to himself what was meant for the Narodniks. If, however, he was so anxious to know Mr. Struve’s opinion about the trend to which he himself adheres, I am surprised that he paid no attention to, and did not translate for Russkoye Bogatstvo, the following passage in Mr. Struve’s article:

“As capitalist development advances,” says the author, “the philosophy” (Narodnik philosophy) “just described is bound to lose its basis. It will either degenerate (wird herabsinken ) into a rather colourless reformist trend, capable of compromise and seeking for compromise,[2] promising rudiments of which have long been observable, or it will admit that the actual development is inevitable and will draw the theoretical and practical conclusions that necessarily follow from this—in other words, will cease to be utopian.”

If Mr. Krivenko cannot guess where, in Russia, are to be found the rudiments of the trend that is only capable of compromise, I would advise him to glance at Russkoye Bogatstvo, at the theoretical views of that magazine, which represent a pitiful attempt to piece together fragments of the Narodnik doctrine with the recognition of Russia’s capitalist   development, and at its political programme, which aims at improving and restoring the economy of the small producers on the basis of the present capitalist system.[3]

One of the most characteristic and significant phenomena of our social life in recent times is, generally speaking, the degeneration of Narodism into petty-bourgeois opportunism.

Really, if we take the substance of the programme of Russkoye Bogatstvo—the regulation of migration, land renting, cheap credit, museums, warehouses, technical improvement, artels, common land cultivation and all the rest—we shall find that it is indeed very widely circulated in the whole “serious and respectable press,” i.e., in the whole liberal press, the publications that are not the organs of the feudal landlords and do not belong to the reptile press.[15] The idea that all these measures are necessary, useful, urgent, “innocuous,” has taken deep root among the entire intelligentsia and is extremely widespread. You will meet with it in provincial sheets and newspapers, in all Zemstvo   researches, abstrasts, descriptions, etc., etc. If this is to be regarded as Narodism, then undoubtedly its success is enormous and indisputable.

Only it is not Narodism at all (in the old, customary meaning of that term), and its success and tremendously widespread character have been achieved at the cost of vulgarising Narodism, converting social-revolutionary Narodism, which was sharply opposed to our liberalism, into uplift opportunism, that merges with this liberalism and expresses only the interests of the petty bourgeoisie.

To convince ourselves of this we need but turn to the pictures of differentiation among the peasants and handicraftsmen given above—and these pictures by no means depict isolated or new facts, but are simply an attempt to portray in terms of political economy that “school” of “blood-suckers” and “farm labourers” whose existence in our countryside is not denied even by our opponents. It goes without saying that the “Narodnik” measures can only serve to strengthen the petty bourgeoisie; or else (artels and common cultivation) are bound to be miserable palliatives, remain pitiful experiments of the kind which the liberal bourgeoisie cultivated so tenderly everywhere in Europe for the simple reason that they do not in the least affect the “school” itself. For the same reason, even the Messrs. Yermolovs and Wittes[16] cannot object to progress of this kind. Quite the contrary. Do us the favour, gentlemen! They will even give you money “for experiments,” if only these will divert the “intelligentsia” from revolutionary work (emphasising the antagonism, explaining it to the proletariat, attempting to bring this antagonism out on to the high road of direct political struggle) to such patching up of the antagonism, to conciliation and unification. Do us the favour!

Let us dwell a little on the process which led to this degeneration of Narodism. When it first arose, in its original form, it was a fairly well-knit theory: starting from the view of a specific way of life of the people, it believed in the communist instincts of the “communal” peasant and for that reason regarded the peasantry as a natural fighter for socialism. But it lacked theoretical elaboration and confirmation in the facts of Russian life, on the one hand, and   experience in applying a political programme based on these assumed qualities of the peasant, on the other.

The development of the theory, therefore, proceeded along the two lines, the theoretical and the practical. The theoretical work was directed mainly towards studying that form of landownership in which they wanted to see the rudiments of communism; and this work yielded a wealth of factual material of the most varied kind. But this material, which mainly concerned the form of landownership, completely obscured the economics of the countryside from the investigators’ eyes. This happened all the more naturally, because, firstly, the investigators lacked a sound theory of method in social science, a theory showing the need to single out and make a special study of production relations; and because, secondly, the collected factual material furnished direct evidence of the immediate needs of the peasantry, of the immediate hardships which had a depressing effect upon peasant economy. All the investigators’ attention was concentrated on studying these hardships—land poverty, high payments, lack of rights, and the crushed and downtrodden condition of the peasants. All this was described, studied and explained with such a wealth of material, in such minute detail, that if ours were not a class state, if its policy were determined not by the interests of the ruling classes, but by the impartial discussion of the “people’s needs,” it should, of course, have been convinced a thousand times over of the need for eliminating these hardships. The naïve investigators, believing in the possibility of “convincing” society and the state, were completely submerged in the details of the facts they had collected, and lost sight of one thing, the political-economic structure of the countryside, lost sight of the main background of the economy that really was being crushed by these immediate hardships. The result, naturally, was that defence of the interests of an economy crushed by land poverty, etc., turned out to be a defence of the interests of the class that held this economy in its hands, that alone could endure and develop under the given social-economic relations within the community, under the given economic system in the country.

Theoretical work directed towards the study of the institution which was to serve as the basis and support for the abolition of exploitation led to a programme being drawn   up which expresses the interests of the petty bourgeoisie, i.e., the very class upon which this system of exploitation rests!

At the same time, practical revolutionary work also developed in quite an unexpected direction. Belief in the communist instincts of the muzhik naturally demanded of the socialists that they set politics aside and “go among the people.” A host of extremely energetic and talented persons set about fulfilling this programme, but practice convinced them of the naïveté of the idea of the muzhik’s instincts being communist. It was decided, incidentally, that they did not have to do with the muzhik, but with the government—and the entire activity was then concentrated on a fight against the government, a fight then waged by the intellectuals alone; they were sometimes joined by workers. At first this fight was waged in the name of socialism and was based on the theory that the people were ready for socialism and that it would be possible, merely by seizing power, to effect not only a political, but also a social revolution. Latterly, this theory is apparently becoming utterly discredited, and the struggle waged by the Narodovoltsi against the government is becoming a struggle of the radicals for political liberty.

Hence, in this case, too, the work led to results diametrically opposite to its point of departure; in this case, too, there emerged a programme expressing only the interests of radical bourgeois democracy. Strictly speaking, this process is not yet complete, but is already, I think, clearly defined. This development of Narodism was altogether natural and inevitable, because the doctrine was based on the purely mythical idea of peasant economy being a special (communal) system: the myth dissolved when it came into contact with reality, and peasant socialism turned into radical-democratic representation of the petty bourgeois peasantry.

Let me give examples of the democrat’s evolution:

“We must see to it,” argues Mr. Krivenko, “that instead of an integral man we do not get an all-Russian jelly fish filled only with a vague ferment of good sentiments but incapable either of real self-sacrifice or of doing any thing durable in life.” The homily is an excellent one, but let us see what it is applied to. “In regard to the latter,”   continues Mr. Krivenko, “I am acquainted with the following vexatious fact”: in the South of Russia there lived some young people “who were inspired by the very best intentions and by a love for the younger brother; they showed the greatest attention and respect for the muzhik; they treated him as the guest of honour, ate out of the same bowl with him, treated him to jam and biscuits; they paid him higher prices than others did; they gave him money— as loans, or as tips, or for no reason at all, they told him about European institutions and workers’ associations, etc. In the same locality there lived a young German named Schmidt, the steward of an estate, or rather just a gardener, a man without any humanitarian ideas, a real, narrow, formal German soul” (sic??!!), etc. Three or four years passed, and these people separated and went their different ways. Another twenty years passed, and the author, on revisiting the locality, learned that “Mr. Schmidt” (as a reward for his useful activities gardener Schmidt had been promoted to Mr. Schmidt) had taught the peasants grape growing, from which they now obtain “some income,” 75 to 100 rubles a year, and on this account they had preserved “kind memories” of him, whereas of the “gentlemen who merely cherished kind sentiments for the muzhik but did nothing tangible (!) for him, not even the memory was left.”

A calculation shows that the events described occurred about 1869-1870, that is, roughly at the time when the Russian Narodnik socialists were trying to introduce into Russia the most advanced and most important of “European institutions”—the International.[17]

Clearly, the impression created by Mr. Krivenko’s account is a little too harsh, and so he hastens to make a reservation:

“I do not suggest, of course, that Schmidt was better than these gentlemen. I merely point out why, for all his defects, he left a more lasting impression in the locality and on the population.” (I do not suggest that he was better, I merely point out that he left a more lasting impression—what nonsense?!) “Nor do I say that he did anything important; on the contrary, I cite what he did as an example of a most trifling, incidental deed, which cost him nothing, but which for all that was undoubtedly vital.”

The reservation, you see, is very ambiguous; the point, however, is not its ambiguity, but the fact that the author, in contrasting the fruitlessness of the one activity with the success of the other, apparently does not suspect that there is a fundamental difference of tendency between these two types of activity. That is the whole point, which makes the story so characteristic in defining the contemporary democrat’s physiognomy.

The young people who talked to the muzhik about “European institutions and workers’ associations” evidently wanted to inspire in the muzhik a desire to alter the forms of social life (the conclusion I draw may be wrong in this instance, but everyone will agree, I think, that it is a legitimate one, for it follows inevitably from Mr. Krivenko’s story), they wanted to stir him to undertake a social revolution against contemporary society, which engenders such disgraceful exploitation and oppression of the working people, accompanied by universal rejoicing over all sorts of liberal progress. “Mr. Schmidt,” on the other hand, true husbandman that he was, merely wanted to help others arrange their affairs—and nothing more. Well, but how can one compare, juxtapose these two types of activity, which have diametrically opposite aims? Why, it is just as though somebody were to start comparing the failure of a person who tried to destroy a given building with the success of one who tried to reinforce it! To draw a comparison with any sense in it, he should have inquired why the efforts of the young men and women who went among the people to stimulate the peasants to revolution were so unsuccessful—whether it was because they erroneously believed that the “peasantry” really represented the working people and exploited population, whereas in fact the peasantry does not constitute a single class (—an illusion only to be explained, perhaps, by the reflected influence of the epoch of the fall of serfdom, when the peasantry did indeed come forward as a class, but only as a class of feudal society), for within it a bourgeois and a proletarian class are forming—in a word, he should have examined the old socialist theories and the Social-Democratic criticism of these theories. Instead, Mr. Krivenko moves heaven and earth to prove that “Mr. Schmidt’s” work was “undoubtedly vital.” But pardon me,   most worthy Mr. “friend of the people,” why hammer at an open door? Whoever doubts it? To lay out a vineyard and get an annual income of 75 to 100 rubles from it—what could be more vital?[4]

And the author goes on to explain that if one peasant lays out a vineyard, that is isolated activity; but if several do, that is common and widespread activity, which transforms a small job into real and proper work, just as, for example, A. N. Engelhardt[18] not only used phosphates on his estate but got others to use them.

Now, isn’t this democrat really splendid!

Let us take another example, one from opinions on the peasant Reform. What attitude towards it had Chernyshevsky, a democrat of that epoch, when democracy and socialism were undivided? Unable to express his opinion openly, he kept silent, but gave the following roundabout description of the contemplated reform:

Suppose I was interested in taking measures to protect the provisions out of which your dinner is made. It goes without saying that if I was prompted to do so by my kind disposition towards you, then my zeal was based on the assumption that the provisions belonged to you and that the dinner prepared from them would be wholesome and beneficial to you. Imagine my feelings, then, when I learn that the provisions do not belong to you at all, and that for every dinner prepared from them you are charged a price which not only exceeds the cost of the dinner” (this was written before the Reform. Yet the Messrs. Yuzhakovs assert now that its fundamental principle was to give security to the peasants!!) “ but which you are not able to pay at all without extreme hardship. What thoughts enter my head when I make such strange discoveries? . . . How stupid I was to bother about the matter when the conditions did not exist to ensure its usefulness! Who but a fool would bother about the retention of property in certain hands without first satisfying himself that those hands will receive the   property, and on favourable terms? … Far better if all these provisions are lost, for they will only cause harm to my dear friend! Far better be done with the whole business, for it will only cause your ruin!

I have emphasised the passages which show most saliently how profoundly and splendidly Chernyshevsky understood the realities of his time, how he understood the significance of the peasants’ payments, how he understood the antagonism between the social classes in Russia. It is also important to note his ability to expound such purely revolutionary ideas in the censored press. He wrote the same thing in his illegal works, but without circumlocution. In A Prologue to the Prologue, Volgin (into whose mouth Chernyshevsky puts his ideas) says:

Let the emancipation of the peasant be placed in the hands of the landlords’ party. It won’t make much difference.”[5] And in reply to his interlocutor’s remark that, on the contrary, the difference would be tremendous, because the landlords’ party was opposed to allotting land to the peasants, he replies emphatically:

No, not tremendous, but insignificant. It would be tremendous if the peasants obtained the land without redemption payments. There is a difference between taking a thing from a man and leaving it with him, but if you take payment from him it is all the same. The only difference between the plan of the landlords’ party and that of the progressists is that the former is simpler and shorter. That is why it is even better. Less red tape and, in all probability, less of a burden on the peasants. Those peasants who have money will buy land. As to those who have none—there’s no use compelling them to buy it. It will only ruin them. Redemption is nothing but purchase.”

It required the genius of a Chernyshevsky to understand so clearly at that time, when the peasant Reform was only being introduced (when it had not yet been properly elucidated even in Western Europe), its fundamentally bourgeois character, to understand that already at that time Russian   “society” and the Russian “state” were ruled and governed by social classes that were irreconcilably hostile to the working people and that undoubtedly predetermined the ruin and expropriation of the peasantry. Moreover, Chernyshevsky understood that the existence of a government that screens our antagonistic social relations is a terrible evil, which renders the position of the working people ever so much worse.

To tell the truth,” Volgin continues, “it would be better if they were emancipated without land.” (That is, since the feudal landlords in this country are so strong, it would be better if they acted openly, straightforwardly, and said all they had in mind, instead of hiding their interests as serf owners behind the compromises of a hypocritical absolute government.)

The matter is put in such a way that I see no reason for getting excited, even over whether the peasants are emancipated or not, let alone over whether the liberals or the landlords are to emancipate them. To my mind it is all the same. It will even be better if the landlords do it.”

Here is a passage from “Unaddressed Letters”: “They say: emancipate the peasants. . . . Where are the forces for it? Those forces do not yet exist. It is useless tackling a job when the forces for it are lacking. Yet you see the way things are going. They will start emancipating. But what will come of it? Well, judge for yourself what comes of tackling a job which is beyond your powers. You just botch it—and the result will be vile.”[19]

Chernyshevsky understood that the Russian feudal, bureaucratic state was incapable of emancipating the peasants, that is, of overthrowing the feudal serf owners, that it was only capable of something “vile,” of a miserable compromise between the interests of the liberals (redemption is nothing but purchase) and of the landlords, a compromise employing the illusion of security and freedom to deceive the peasants, but actually ruining them and completely betraying them to the landlords. And he protested, execrated the Reform, wanted it to fail, wanted the government to get tied up in its equilibristics between the liberals and the landlords, and wanted a crash to take place that would bring Russia out on the high road of open class struggle.

Yet today, when Chernyshevsky’s brilliant predictions have become fact, when the history of the past thirty   years has ruthlessly shown up all economic and political illusions, our contemporary “democrats” sing the praises of the Reform, regard it as a sanction for “people’s” production, contrive to draw proof from it of the possibility of finding a way which would get around the social classes hostile to the working people. I repeat, their attitude towards the peasant Reform is most striking proof of how profoundly bourgeois our democrats have become. These gentlemen have learned nothing, but have forgotten very, very much.

For the sake of comparison, I will take Otechestvenniye Zapiski for 1872. I have already quoted passages from the article “The Plutocracy and Its Basis,” dealing with the successes in respect of liberalism (which screened plutocratic interests) achieved by Russian society in the very first decade after the “great emancipatory” Reform.

While formerly, wrote the same author in the same article, one would often find people who whined over the reforms and wailed for the good old days, they are to be found no longer. “Everybody is pleased with the new order; everybody is happy and satisfied.” And the author goes on to show how literature “itself is becoming an organ of the plutocracy,” advocating the interests and aspirations of the plutocracy “under the cloak of democracy.” Examine this argument a little more closely. The author is displeased with the fact that “everybody” is pleased with the new order brought about by the Reform, that “everybody” (the representatives of “society” and of the “intelligentsia,” of course, not of the working people) is happy and satisfied, notwithstanding the obvious antagonistic, bourgeois features of the new order: the public fail to notice that liberalism merely screens “freedom of acquisition,” acquisition, of course, at the expense and to the disadvantage of the mass of working people. And he protests. It is this protest, characteristic of the socialist, that is valuable in his argument. Observe that this protest against a plutocracy screened by democracy contradicts the general theory of the magazine: for they deny that there are any bourgeois features, elements or interests in the peasant Reform, they deny the class character of the Russian intelligentsia and of the Russian state, they deny that there is a basis for capitalism in Russia—nevertheless, they cannot but sense and perceive the capitalism and bourgeoisdom.   And to the extent that Otechestvenniye Zapiski, sensing the antagonism in Russian society, fought bourgeois liberalism and bourgeois democracy—to that extent it fought in a cause common to all our pioneer socialists, who, although they could not understand this antagonism, nevertheless realised its existence and desired to combat the very organisation of society which gave rise to it; to that extent Otechestvenniye Zapiski was progressive (from the point of view of the proletariat, of course). The “friends of the people” have forgotten this antagonism; they have lost all sensibility of the fact that in this country, too, in Holy Russia, the pure-blooded bourgeois hide “under the cloak of democracy”; and that is why they are now reactionary (in relation to the proletariat), for they gloss over the antagonism, and talk, not of struggle, but of conciliatory, ”uplift” activity.

But, gentlemen, has the Russian clear-browed liberal, the democratic representative of the plutocracy of the sixties, ceased to be the ideologist of the bourgeoisie in the nineties just because his brow has become clouded with civic grief?

Does “freedom of acquisition” on a large scale, freedom to acquire big credits, big capital, big technical improvements, cease to be liberal, i.e., bourgeois, while the present social-economic relations remain unchanged, merely because its place is taken by freedom to acquire small credits, small capital, small technical improvements?

I repeat, it is not that they have altered their opinions under the influence of a radical change of views or a radical change in our order of things. No, they have simply forgotten.

Having lost the only feature that once made their predecessors progressive—notwithstanding the utter unsoundness of their theories and their naïve and utopian outlook on reality—the “friends of the people” have learnt absolutely nothing during all this time. And yet, quite apart from a political-economic analysis of Russian realities, the political history of Russia during the past thirty years alone should have taught them a great deal.

At that time, in the era of the “sixties,” the power of the feudal landlords was sapped: they suffered defeat, not complete, it is true, but so decisive that they had to slink from the stage. The liberals, on the contrary, raised their   heads. Streams of liberal phrase-mongering flowed about progress, science, goodness, struggle against injustice, the interests of the people, the conscience of the people, the forces of the people, etc., etc.—the very phrases which now, too, at moments of particular depression, are vomited forth by our radical snivellers in their salons, and by our liberal phrase-mongers at their anniversary dinners, and in the columns of their magazines and newspapers. The liberals proved strong enough to mould the “new order” in their own fashion—not entirely, of course, but in fair measure. Although “the clear light of the open class struggle” did not shine in Russia at that time, there was more light then than there is now, so that even those ideologists of the working people who had not the faintest notion of this class struggle, and who preferred to dream of a better future rather than explain the vile present, could not help seeing that liberalism was a cloak for plutocracy, and that the new order was a bourgeois order. It was the removal from the stage of the feudal landlords, who did not divert attention to still mere crying evils of the day, and did not prevent the new order from being observed in its pure (relatively) form, that enabled this to be seen. But although our democrats of that time knew how to denounce plutocratic liberalism, they could not understand it and explain it scientifically; they could not understand that it was inevitable under the capitalist organisation of our social economy; they could not understand the progressive character of the new system of life as compared with the old, feudal system; they could not understand the revolutionary role of the proletariat it created; and they limited themselves to “snorting” at this system of “liberty” and “humanity,” imagined that its bourgeois character was fortuitous, and expected social relations of some other kind to reveal themselves in the “people’s system.”

And then history showed them these other social relations. The feudal landlords, not completely crushed by the Reform, which was so outrageously mutilated in their interests, revived (for a time) and showed vividly what these other than bourgeois social relations of ours were, showed it in the form of such unbridled, incredibly senseless and brutal reaction that our democrats caught fright, subsided, instead of advancing and remoulding their naïve democracy—which   was able to sense what was bourgeois but was unable to understand it—into Social-Democracy, went backwards, to the liberals, and are now proud of the fact that their snivelling—i.e., I want to say, their theories and programmes—is shared by “the whole serious and respectable press.” One would have thought the lesson was a very impressive one: the illusions of the old socialists about a special mode of life of the people, about the socialist instincts of the people, and about the fortuitous character of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, had become too obvious; one would have thought that the facts could now be looked straight in the face and the admission be openly made that there had not been and were not any other social economic relations than bourgeois and moribund feudal relations in Russia, and that, therefore, there could be no road to socialism except through the working-class movement. But these democrats had learned nothing, and the naïve illusions of petty-bourgeois socialism gave way to the practical sobriety of petty-bourgeois progress.

Today, the theories of these petty-bourgeois ideologists, when they come forward as the spokesmen of the interests of the working people, are positively reactionary. They obscure the antagonism of contemporary Russian social-economic relations and argue as if things could be improved by general measures, applicable to all, for “raising,” “improving,” etc., and as if it were possible to reconcile and unite. They are reactionary in depicting our state as something standing above classes and therefore fit and capable of rendering serious and honest aid to the exploited population.

They are reactionary, lastly, because they simply can not understand the necessity for a struggle, a desperate struggle of the working people themselves for their emancipation. The “friends of the people,” for example, seem to think they can manage the whole thing themselves. The workers need not worry. Why, an engineer has even visited the offices of Russkoye Bogatstvo, and there they have almost completely worked out a “scheme” for “introducing capitalism into the life of the people.” Socialists must make a DECISIVE and COMPLETE break with all petty-bourgeois ideas and theories—THAT IS THE PRINCIPAL USEFUL LESSON to be drawn from this campaign.

I ask you to note that I speak of a break with petty bourgeois ideas and not with the “friends of the people” or with their ideas—because there can be no breaking with something with which there has never been any connection. The “friends of the people” are only one of the representatives of one of the trends of this sort of petty-bourgeois socialist ideas. And if, in this case, I draw the conclusion that it is necessary to break with petty-bourgeois socialist ideas, with the ideas of the old Russian peasant socialism generally, it is because the campaign now launched against the Marxists by the representatives of the old ideas, scared by the growth of Marxism, has induced them to give particularly full and vivid expression to petty-bourgeois ideas. Comparing these ideas with contemporary socialism and with the facts of contemporary Russian reality, we see with astonishing clarity how outworn these ideas have become, how they have lost every vestige of an integral theoretical basis and have sunk to the level of a pitiful eclecticism, of a most ordinary opportunist uplift programme. It may be said that this is not the fault of the old socialist ideas in general, but of the gentlemen in question, whom no one thinks of classing as socialists; but such an argument seems to me quite unsound. I have throughout tried to show that such a degeneration of the old theories was inevitable. I have throughout tried to devote as little space as possible to criticism of these gentlemen in particular and as much as possible to the general and fundamental tenets of the old Russian socialism. And if the socialists should find that I have defined these tenets incorrectly or inaccurately, or have left something unsaid, then I can only reply with the following very humble request: please, gentlemen, define them yourselves, state them fully and properly!

Indeed, no one would be more pleased than the Social-Democrats of an opportunity to enter into a polemic with the socialists.

Do you think that we like answering the “polemics” of these gentlemen, or that we would have undertaken it if they had not thrown down a direct, persistent and emphatic challenge?

Do you think that we do not have to force ourselves to read, re-read and grasp the meaning of this repulsive   mixture of stereotyped liberal phrase-mongering and philistine moralising?

Surely, we are not to blame for the fact that only such gentlemen now take upon themselves the job of vindicating and expounding these ideas. I ask you also to note that I speak of the need for a break with petty-bourgeois ideas about socialism. The petty-bourgeois theories we have examined are ABSOLUTELY reactionary INASMUCH AS they claim to be socialist theories.

But if we understand that actually there is absolutely nothing socialist in them, i.e., that all these theories completely fail to explain the exploitation of the working people and therefore cannot serve as a means for their emancipation, that as a matter of fact all these theories reflect and further the interests of the petty bourgeoisie—then our attitude towards them must be different, and we must ask: what should be the attitude of the working class towards the petty bourgeoisie and its programmes? And this question cannot be answered unless the dual character of this class is taken into consideration (here in Russia this duality is particularly marked owing to the antagonism between the big bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie being less developed). It is progressive insofar as it puts forward general democratic demands, i.e., fights against all survivals of the medieval epoch and of serfdom; it is reactionary insofar as it fights to preserve its position as a petty bourgeoisie and tries to retard, to turn back the general development of the country along bourgeois lines. Reactionary demands of this kind, such, for example, as the notorious inalienability of allotments, as well as the many other projects for tutelage over the peasants, are usually covered up by plausible talk of protecting the working people but actually, of course, they only worsen their condition, while at the same time hampering them in their struggle for emancipation. A strict distinction should be drawn between these two sides of the petty-bourgeois programme and, while denying that these theories are in any way socialist in character, and while combating their reactionary aspects, we should not forget their democratic side. I shall give an example to show that, although the Marxists completely repudiate petty-bourgeois theories, this does not prevent them from including democracy in their   programmes but, on the contrary, calls for still stronger insistence on it. We have mentioned above the three main theses that always formed the theoretical stock-in-trade of the representatives of petty-bourgeois socialism, viz., land poverty, high payments and the tyranny of the authorities.

There is absolutely nothing socialist in the demand for the abolition of these evils, for they do not in the least explain expropriation and exploitation, and their elimination will not in the least affect the oppression of labour by capital. But their elimination will free this oppression of the medieval rubbish that aggravates it, and will facilitate the worker’s direct struggle against capital, and for that reason, as a democratic demand, will meet with the most energetic support of the workers. Generally speaking, the question of payments and taxes is one to which only the petty bourgeois can attach any particular significance; but in Russia the payments made by the peasants are, in many respects, simply survivals of serfdom. Such, for example, are the land redemption payments, which should be immediately and unconditionally abolished; such, too, are the taxes which only the peasants and the small towns-people pay, but from which the “gentry” are exempt. Social-Democrats will always support the demand for the elimination of these relics of medieval relations, which cause economic and political stagnation. The same can be said of land poverty. I have already given proof at length of the bourgeois character of the wailing on this score. There is no doubt, however, that the peasant Reform, for example, by permitting the cutting-off of lands[20] positively robbed the peasants for the benefit of the landlords, rendering service to this tremendous reactionary force both directly (by snatching land from the peasants) and indirectly (by the clever way the allotments were marked out). And Social-Democrats will most strenuously insist on the immediate return to the peasants of the land taken from them and on the complete abolition of landed proprietorship—that bulwark of feudal institutions and traditions. This latter point, which coincides with the nationalisation of the land, contains nothing socialist, because the capitalist-farming relations already taking shape in our country would in that case only flourish more rapidly and abundantly; but it is extremely important   from the democratic standpoint as the only measure capable of completely breaking the power of the landed nobility. Lastly, only the Yuzhakovrs and V. V.s, of course, can speak of the peasants’ lack of rights as the cause of their expropriation and exploitation. As for the oppression of the peasantry by the authorities, it is not only an unquestionable fact, but is some thing more than mere oppression; it is treating the peasants as a “base rabble,” for whom it is natural to be subject to the landed nobility; to whom general civil rights are granted only as a special favour (migration,[6] for example), and whom any Jack-in-office can order about as if they were workhouse inmates. And the Social-Democrats unreservedly associate themselves with the demand for the complete restoration of the peasants’ civil rights, the complete abolition of all the privileges of the nobility, the abolition of bureaucratic tutelage over the peasants, and the peasants’ right to manage their own affairs.

In general, the Russian communists, adherents of Marxism, should more than any others call themselves SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS, and in their activities should never forget the enormous importance of DEMOCRACY.[7]

In Russia, the relics of medieval, semi-feudal institutions are still so enormously strong (as compared with Western Europe), they are such an oppressive yoke upon the proletariat and the people generally, retarding the growth of political thought in all estates and classes, that one cannot but insist on the tremendous importance which the struggle against all feudal institutions, absolutism, the social estate system, and the bureaucracy has for the workers. The workers must be shown in the greatest detail what a terribly reactionary force these institutions are, how they intensify   the oppression of labour by capital, what a degrading pressure they exert on the working people, how they keep capital in its medieval forms, which, while not falling short of the modern, industrial forms in respect of the exploitation of labour, add to this exploitation by placing terrible difficulties in the way of the fight for emancipation. The workers must know that unless these pillars of reaction[8] are overthrown, it will be utterly impossible for them to wage a successful struggle against the bourgeoisie, because so long as they exist, the Russian rural proletariat, whose support is an essential condition for the victory of the working class, will never cease to be downtrodden and cowed, capable only of sullen desperation and not of intelligent and persistent protest and struggle. And that is why it is the direct duty of the working class to fight side by side with the radical democracy against absolutism and the reactionary social estates and institutions—a duty which the Social-Democrats must impress upon the workers, while not for a moment ceasing also to impress upon them that the struggle against all these institutions is necessary only as a means of facilitating the struggle against the bourgeoisie, that the worker needs the achievement of the general democratic demands only to clear the road to victory over the working people’s chief enemy, over an institution that is purely democratic by nature, capital, which here in Russia is particularly inclined   to sacrifice its democracy and to enter into alliance with the reactionaries in order to suppress the workers, to still further impede the emergence of a working-class movement.

What has been said is, I think, sufficient to define the attitude of the Social-Democrats towards absolutism and political liberty, and also towards the trend which has been growing particularly strong of late, that aims at the “amalgamation” and “alliance” of all the revolutionary groups for the winning of political liberty.[21]

This trend is rather peculiar and characteristic.

It is peculiar because proposals for “alliance” do not come from a definite group, or definite groups, with definite programmes which coincide on one point or another. If they did, the question of an alliance would be one for each separate case, a concrete question to be settled by the representatives of the uniting groups. Then there could be no special “amalgamation” trend. But such a trend exists, and simply comes from people who have cut adrift from the old, and have not moored to anything new. The theory on which the fighters against absolutism have hitherto based themselves is evidently crumbling, and is destroying the conditions for solidarity and organisation which are essential for the struggle. Well then, these “amalgamators” and “alliance advocates” would seem to think that the easiest way to create such a theory is to reduce it to a protest against absolutism and a demand for political liberty, while evading all other questions, socialist and non-socialist. It goes without saying that the bottom will inevitably be knocked out of this naïve fallacy at the very first attempts at such unity.

But what is characteristic is that this “amalgamation” trend represents one of the last stages in the process of transformation of militant, revolutionary Narodism into politically radical democracy, a process which I have tried to outline above. A durable amalgamation of all the non-Social-Democratic revolutionary groups under the banner mentioned will be possible only when a durable programme of democratic demands has been drawn up that will put an end to the prejudices of the old Russian exceptionalism. Of course, the Social-Democrats believe that the formation of such a democratic party would be a useful step forward; and their anti-Narodnik activity should further it, should   further the eradication of all prejudices and myths, the grouping of the socialists under the banner of Marxism and the formation of a democratic party by the other groups.

The Social-Democrats, who consider essential the independent organisation of the workers into a separate workers’ party, could not, of course, “amalgamate” with such a party, but the workers would most strongly support any struggle waged by the democrats against reactionary institutions.

The degeneration of Narodism into the most ordinary petty-bourgeois radical theory—of which (degeneration) the “friends of the people” furnish such striking testimony—shows what a tremendous mistake is made by those who spread among the workers the idea of fighting absolutism without at the same time explaining to them the antagonistic character of our social relations by virtue of which the ideologists of the bourgeoisie also favour political liberty—without explaining to them the historical role of the Russian worker as a fighter for the emancipation of the whole working population.

The Social-Democrats are often accused of wanting to monopolise Marx’s theory, whereas, it is argued, his economic theory is accepted by all socialists. But the question arises; what sense is there in explaining to the workers the form of value, the nature of the bourgeois system and the revolutionary role of the proletariat, if here in Russia the exploitation of the working people is generally and universally explained not by the bourgeois organisation of social economy, but by, say, land poverty, redemption payments, or the tyranny of the authorities?

What sense is there in explaining to the worker the theory of the class struggle, if that theory cannot even explain his relation to the employer (capitalism in Russia has been artificially implanted by the government), not to mention the mass of the “people,” who do not belong to the fully established class of factory workers?

How can one accept Marx’s economic theory and its corollary—the revolutionary role of the proletariat as the organiser of communism by way of capitalism—if people in our country try to find ways to communism other than through the medium of capitalism and the proletariat it creates?

Obviously, under such conditions to call upon the worker to fight for political liberty would be equivalent to calling   upon him to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the progressive bourgeoisie, for it cannot be denied (typically enough, even the Narodniks and the Narodovoltsi did not deny it) that political liberty will primarily serve the interests of the bourgeoisie and will not ease the position of the workers, but . . . will ease only the conditions for their struggle . . . against this very bourgeoisie. I say this as against those socialists who, while they do not accept the theory of the Social-Democrats, carry on their agitation among the workers, having become convinced empirically that only among the latter are revolutionary elements to be found. The theory of these socialists contradicts their practice, and they make a very serious mistake by distracting the workers from their direct task of ORGANISING A SOCIALIST WORKERS’ PARTY.[9]

It was a mistake that arose naturally at a time when the class antagonisms of bourgeois society were still quite undeveloped and were held down by serfdom, when the latter was evoking the unanimous protest and struggle of the entire intelligentsia, thus creating the illusion that there was something peculiarly democratic about our intelligentsia, and that there was no profound gulf between the ideas of the liberals and of the socialists. Now that economic development has advanced so far that even those who formerly denied a basis for capitalism in Russia admit our having entered the capitalist path of development—illusions on this score are no longer possible. The composition of the “intelligentsia” is assuming just as clear an outline as that of society engaged in the production of material values: while the latter is ruled and governed by the capitalist, among the former the fashion is set by the rapidly growing   horde of careerists and bourgeois hirelings, an “intelligentsia” contented and satisfied, a stranger to all wild fantasy and very well aware of what they want. Far from denying this fact, our radicals and liberals strongly emphasise it and go out of their way to prove its immorality, to condemn it, strive to confound it, shame it … and destroy it. These naïve efforts to make the bourgeois intelligentsia ashamed of being bourgeois are as ridiculous as the efforts of our petty-bourgeois economists to frighten our bourgeoisie (pleading the experience of “elder brothers”) with the story that it is moving towards the ruin of the people, towards the poverty, unemployment and starvation of the masses; this trial of the bourgeoisie and its ideologists is reminiscent of the trial of the pike, which was sentenced to be thrown into the river. Beyond these bounds begin the liberal and radical “intelligentsia,” who pour out innumerable phrases about progress, science, truth, the people, etc., and who love to lament the passing of the sixties, when there was no discord, depression, despondency and apathy, and when all hearts were aflame with democracy.

With their characteristic simplicity, these gentlemen refuse to understand that the cause of the unanimity that then prevailed was the then existing material conditions, gone never to return: serfdom pressed down everybody equally— the serf steward who had saved a little money and wanted to live in comfort; the enterprising muzhik, who hated the lord for exacting tribute, for interfering in and tearing him from his business; the proletarianised manor-serf and the impoverished muzhik who was sold into bondage to the merchant; it brought suffering to the merchant manufacturer and the worker, the handicraftsman and the subcontractor. The only tie that linked all these people together was their hostility to serfdom; beyond that unanimity, the sharpest economic antagonism began. How completely one must be lulled by sweet illusions not to perceive this antagonism even today when it has become so enormously developed; to weep for the return of the days of unanimity at a time when the situation demands struggle, demands that everyone who does not want to be a WILLING or UNWILLING myrmidon of the bourgeoisie shall take his stand on the side of the proletariat.

If you refuse to believe the flowery talk about the “interests   of the people” and try to delve deeper, you will find that you are dealing with the out-and-out ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie, who dream of improving, supporting and restoring their (“people’s” in their jargon) economy by various innocent progressive measures, and who are totally incapable of understanding that under prevailing production relations the only effect such progressive measures can have is to proletarianise the masses still further. We cannot but be grateful to the “friends of the people” for having done much to reveal the class character of our intelligentsia and for having thereby fortified the Marxist theory that our small producers are petty bourgeois. They must inevitably hasten the dissipation of the old illusions and myths that have so long confused the minds of Russian socialists. The “friends of the people” have so mauled, overworked and soiled these theories that Russian socialists who held them are confronted with the inexorable dilemma of either revising them, or abandoning them altogether and leaving them to the exclusive use of the gentlemen who announce with smug solemnity, urbi et orbi, that the rich peasants are buying improved implements, and who with serious mien assure us that we must welcome people who have grown weary of sitting at the card tables. And in this strain they talk about a “people’s system” and the “intelligentsia”—talk, not only with a serious air, but in pretentious, stupendous phrases about broad ideals, about an ideal treatment of the problems of life! . . .

The socialist intelligentsia can expect to perform fruitful work only when they abandon their illusions and begin to seek support in the actual, and not the desired development of Russia, in actual, and not possible social-economic relations. Moreover, their THEORETICAL work must be directed towards the concrete study of all forms of economic antagonism in Russia, the study of their connections and successive development; they must reveal this antagonism wherever it has been concealed by political history, by the peculiarities of legal systems or by established theoretical prejudice. They must present an integral picture of our realities as a definite system of production relations, show that the exploitation and expropriation of the working people are essential under this system, and show the way out of this system that is indicated by economic development.

This theory, based on a detailed study of Russian history and realities, must furnish an answer to the demands of the proletariat—and if it satisfies the requirements of science. then every awakening of the protesting thought of the proletariat will inevitably guide this thought into the channels of Social-Democracy. The greater the progress made in elaborating this theory, the more rapidly will Social-Democracy grow; for even the most artful guardians of the present system cannot prevent the awakening of proletarian thought, because this system itself necessarily and inevitably entails the most intense expropriation of the producers, the continuous growth of the proletariat and of its reserve army—and this parallel to the progress of social wealth, the enormous growth of the productive forces, and the socialisation of labour by capitalism. However much has still to be done to elaborate this theory, the socialists will do it; this is guaranteed by the spread among them of materialism, the only scientific method, one requiring that every programme shall be a precise formulation of the actual process; it is guaranteed by the success of Social-Democracy, which has adopted these ideas—a success which has so stirred up our liberals and democrats that, as a certain Marxist has put it, their monthly magazines have ceased to be dull.

In thus emphasising the necessity, importance and immensity of the theoretical work of the Social-Democrats, I by no means want to say that this work should take precedence over PRACTICAL work,[10] —still less that the latter should be postponed until the former is completed. Only the admirers of the “subjective method in sociology,” or the followers of utopian socialism, could arrive at such a conclusion. Of course, if it is presumed that the task of the socialists is to seek “different” (from actual) “paths of development” for the country, then, naturally, practical work becomes possible only when philosophical geniuses discover and indicate these “different paths”; and conversely, once these paths are discovered and indicated theoretical work ends, and the work of those who are to direct the “fatherland” along the “newly-discovered” “different paths”   begins. The position is altogether different when the task of the socialists is to be the ideological leaders of the proletariat in its actual struggle against actual and real enemies who stand in the actual path of social and economic development. Under these circumstances, theoretical and practical work merge into one aptly described by the veteran German Social-Democrat, Liebknecht, as:

Studieren, Propagandieren, Organisieren.[11]

You cannot be an ideological leader without the above mentioned theoretical work, just as you cannot be one without directing this work to meet the needs of the cause, and without spreading the results of this theory among the workers and helping them to organise.

Such a presentation of the task guards Social-Democracy against the defects from which socialist groups so often suffer, namely, dogmatism and sectarianism.

There can be no dogmatism where the supreme and sole criterion of a doctrine is its conformity to the actual process of social and economic development; there can be no sectarianism when the task is that of promoting the organisation of the proletariat, and when, therefore, the role of the “intelligentsia” is to make special leaders from among the intelligentsia unnecessary.

Hence, despite the existence of differences among Marxists on various theoretical questions, the methods of their political activity have remained unchanged ever since the group arose.

The political activity of the Social-Democrats lies in promoting the development and organisation of the working-class movement in Russia, in transforming this movement from its present state of sporadic attempts at protest, “riots” and strikes devoid of a guiding idea, into an organised struggle of the WHOLE Russian working CLASS directed against the bourgeois regime and working for the   expropriation of the expropriators and the abolition of the social system based on the oppression of the working people. Underlying these activities is the common conviction of Marxists that the Russian worker is the sole and natural representative of Russia’s entire working and exploited population.[12]

Natural because the exploitation of the working people in Russia is everywhere capitalist in nature, if we leave out of account the moribund remnants of serf economy; but the exploitation of the mass of producers is on a small scale, scattered and undeveloped, while the exploitation of the factory proletariat is on a large scale, socialised and concentrated. In the former case, exploitation is still enmeshed in medieval forms, various political, legal and conventional trappings, tricks and devices, which hinder the working people and their ideologists from seeing the essence of the system which oppresses the working people, from seeing where and how a way can be found out of this system. In the latter case, on the contrary, exploitation is fully developed and emerges in its pure form, without any confusing details. The worker cannot fail to see that he is oppressed by capital, that his struggle has to be waged against the bourgeois class. And this struggle, aimed at satisfying his immediate economic needs, at improving his material conditions, inevitably demands that the workers organise, and inevitably becomes a war not against individuals, but against a class, the class which oppresses and crushes the working people not only in the factories, but everywhere. That is why the factory worker is none other than the foremost representative of the entire exploited population. And in order that he may fulfil his function of representative in an organised, sustained struggle it is by no means necessary to enthuse him with “perspectives”; all that is needed is simply to make him understand his position, to make him understand the political and economic structure of the system that oppresses him, and the necessity and inevitability of class antagonisms under this system. This position of the factory worker   in the general system of capitalist relations makes him the sole fighter for the emancipation of the working class, for only the higher stage of development of capitalism, large scale machine industry, creates the material condition and the social forces necessary for this struggle. Everywhere else, where the forms of capitalist development are low, these material conditions are absent; production is scattered among thousands of tiny enterprises (and they do not cease to be scattered enterprises even under the most equalitarian forms of communal landownership ), for the most part the exploited still possess tiny enterprises and are thus tied to the very bourgeois system they should be fighting: this retards and hinders the development of the social forces capable of overthrowing capitalism. Scattered, individual, petty exploitation ties the working people to one locality, divides them, prevents them from becoming conscious of class solidarity, prevents them from uniting once they have understood that oppression is not caused by some particular individual, but by the whole economic system. Large-scale capitalism, on the contrary, inevitably severs all the workers’ ties with the old society, with a particular locality and a particular exploiter; it unites them, compels them to think and places them in conditions which enable them to commence an organised struggle. Accordingly, it is on the working class that the Social-Democrats concentrate all their attention and all their activities. When its advanced representatives have mastered the ideas of scientific socialism, the idea of the historical role of the Russian worker, when these ideas become widespread, and when stable organisations are formed among the worker to transform the workers’ present sporadic economic war into conscious class struggle—then the Russian WORKER rising at the head of all the democratic elements, will overthrow absolutism and lead the RUSSIAN PROLETARIAT (side by side with the proletariat of ALL COUNTRIES along the straight road of open political struggle to THE VICTORIOUS COMMUNIST REVOLUTION.

The End





[1] Proof—the break-up of the peasantry. —Lenin

[2] Ziemlich blaße kompromißfähige und kompromißsüchtige Reformrichtung—I think this might be rendered in Russian as kulturnichesky opportunism [uplift opportunism]. —Lenin

[3] Mr. Krivenko cuts an altogether sorry figure in his attempt to wage war on Mr. Struve. He betrays a childish inability to bring forward any really valid objections, and an equally childish irritation. For example, Mr. Struve says that Mr. Nik.-on is a “utopian,” and gives very explicit reasons for calling him so: 1) because be ignores the “actual development of Russia,” and 2) because he does not understand the class character of our state and appeals to “society” and the “state:” What arguments does Mr. Krivenke bring against this? Does he deny that our development is really capitalist? Does he say that it is of some other kind? Does he say that ours is not a class state? No. He prefers to avoid these questions altogether and to battle with comical wrath against “stereotyped patterns” of his own invention. Another example. Besides charging Mr. Nik.-on with not understanding the class struggle, Mr. Struve reproaches him with grave errors of theory in the sphere of “purely economic facts.” He points out, among other things, that in speaking of the smallness of our non-agricultural population, Mr. Nik.-on “fails to observe that the capitalist development of Russia will smooth out this difference between 80%” (rural population of Russia) “and 44%” (rural population of America): “that, one might say, is its historical mission.” Mr. Krivenko, firstly, garbles this passage by speaking of “our” (?) mission to deprive the peasant of his land, whereas the fact of the matter is that capitalism tends to reduce the rural population, and, secondly, without saying a single word on the substance of the question (whether a capitalism that does not lead to a reduction of the rural population is possible), he talks a lot of nonsense about “doctrinaires,” etc. See Appendix II (p. of this volume. –Ed.). —Lenin

[4] You should have tried to thrust your offer of this “vital” work on those young people who talked to the muzhik about European associations! What a welcome, what a splendid retort they would have given you! You would have been as mortally afraid of their ideas as you now are of materialism and dialectics! —Lenin

[5] I quote from Plekhanov’s article “N. G. Chernyshevsky,” in Sotsial-Demokrat.[22]Lenin

[6] One cannot help recalling here the purely Russian feudal arrogance with which Mr. Yermolov, now Minister of Agriculture, objects to migration in his book Crop Failures and the Distress of the People. Migration cannot be regarded as rational from the standpoint of the state, he says, when the landlords in European Russia still experience a shortage of labour. And, indeed, what do the peasants exist for, if not to work and feed the idle landlords and their “high-placed” servitors? —Lenin

[7] This is a very important point. Plekhanov is quite right when he says that our revolutionaries have “two enemies: old prejudices that have not yet been entirely eradicated, on the one hand, and a narrow understanding of the new programme, on the other.” See Appendix III (p. of this volume. –Ed.). —Lenin

[8] A particularly imposing reactionary institution one to which our revolutionaries have paid relatively little attention, is our bureaucracy, which de facto rules the Russian state. The bureaucracy being made up mainly of middle-class intellectuals are profoundly bourgeois both in origin and in the purpose and character of their activities; but absolutism and the enormous political privileges of the landed nobility have lent them particularly pernicious qualities. They are regular weathercocks, who regard it as their supreme task to combine the interests of the landlord and the bourgeois. They are Judushkas[23] who use their feudal sympathies and connections to fool the workers and peasants, and employ the pretext of “protecting the economically weak” and acting as their “guardian” against the kulak and usurer to carry through measures which reduce the working people to the status of a “base rabble,” handing them over to the feudal landlords and making them all the more defenceless against the bourgeoisie. The bureaucracy are most dangerous hypocrites, who have imbibed the experience of the West-European champion reactionaries, and skillfully conceal their Arakcheyev[24] designs behind the fig-leaves of phrases about loving the people. —Lenin

[9] There are two ways of arriving at the conclusion that the worker must be roused to right absolutism: either by regarding the worker as the sole fighter for the socialist system, and therefore seeing political liberty as one of the conditions facilitating his struggle; that is the view of the Social-Democrats or by appealing to him simply as the one who suffers most from the present system, who has noting more to lose and who can display the greatest determination in fighting absolutism. But that would mean compelling the worker to drag in the wake of the bourgeois radicals, who refuse to see the antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat behind the solidarity of the whole “people” against absolutism. —Lenin

[10] On the contrary, the practical work of propaganda and agitation must always take precedence, because, firstly, theoretical work only   supplies answers to the problems raised by practical work, and, secondly the Social-Democrats, for reasons over which they have no control, are so often compelled to confine themselves to theoretical work that they value highly every moment when practical work is possible. —Lenin

[11] Study, propaganda, organisation. —Ed.

[12] Russia’s man of the future is the muzhik—thought the representatives of peasant socialism, the Narodniks in the broadest sense of the term. Russia’s man of the future is the worker—think the Social-Democrats. That is how the Marxist view was formulated in a certain manuscript. —Lenin

[13] Soziaipolitisches Centralblatt (Central Social Political Sheet )—organ of the Right wing of German Social-Democracy. First appeared in 1892.

[14] Pobedonostsev, R. P.—Procurator General of the Synod, an extreme reactionary who inspired the feudal policy of Alexander III.

[15] Lenin refers to the venal press—newspapers and magazines that were in the pay of the tsarist government and fawned on it.

[16] Yermolov, A. S.—Minister of Agriculture and State Properties in 1893-1905; he voiced the interests of the feudal landlords and his policy was one of retaining the relics of serfdom.

Witte, S. Y.—an influential Minister in tsarist Russia, was for many years (1892-1903) Minister of Finance. The measures he adopted in the sphere of finance, customs policy, railway construction etc., were in the interests of the big bourgeoisie and promoted the development of capitalism in Russia.

[17] Lenin refers to the Group of Narodnik Socialists, Russian revolutionary émigrés headed by N. I. Utin, A. D. Trusov, and V. I. Bartenev. This group published the magazine Narodnoye Dyelo (People’s Cause ) in Geneva. At the beginning of 1870 it set up the Russian section of the International Workingmen’s Association (First International). On March 22 1870, the General Council of the International accepted the affiliation of the Russian section. At the section’s request, Marx undertook to serve as its representative on the General Council. “I gladly accept the honourable duty that you offer me, that of your representative on the General Council,” wrote Marx on March 24, 1870, to the members of The Committee of the Russian section (Marx-Engels Ausgewahlte Briefe, M.-L. 1934, S. 234). The members of the Russian section of the First International supported Marx in his struggle against the Bakuninist anarchists, propagated the revolutionary ideas of the International, did what they could to strengthen the ties between the Russian revolutionary movement and the West-European, and took part in the working-class movements of Switzerland and France. However the members of the Russian section were not consistent Marxists their views still contained much of Narodnik utopianism, specifically they idealised the village community, calling it “a great achievement of the Russian people.” The section failed to establish close ties with the revolutionary movement in Russia, which, in the final analysis, was the main reason for its collapse in 1872.

[18] Engelhardt, A. N.—a Narodnik publicist, who became widely known for his social and agronomic activities and his experiment in organising rational farming on his own estate in Batishchevo, Smolensk Gubernia. A description of the farming methods is given by Lenin in his Development of Capitalism in Russia (See present edition, Vol. 3, Chapter 3).

[22] Sotsial-Demokrat (Social-Democrat )—a literary political review published abroad (London-Geneva) by the Emancipation of Labour group in 1890-1892. It played a great part in spreading Marxist ideas in Russia. In all, four issues appeared. The leading contributors to the magazine were G. V. Plekhanov P. B. Axelrod and V. I. Zasulich.

Lenin here quotes Plekhanov’s article “N. G. Chernyshevsky” (See Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 1, 1890, pp. 138-39).

[19] From N. G. Chernyshevsky’s novel Prologue.

[20] See Note 8.

[23] Lenin refers to Judas Golovlyov—a sanctimonious, hypocritical landlord serf owner described in M. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Golovlyov Family.

[24] Lenin uses as an epithet the name Arakcheyev—the brutal favourite of tsars Paul I and Alexander I; a period of reactionary police despotism and gross domination of the military is connected with his activities. A characteristic feature of the Arakcheyev regime was the brutal measures employed against the revolutionary movement of the oppressed masses and against any manifestation of liberty.

[21] Lenin refers to the Narodnoye Pravo (People’s Right) party, an illegal organisation of the Russian democratic intelligentsia founded in the summer of 1893. Among the founders were such former Narodovoltsi as O. V. Aptekman, A. I. Bogdanovich, A. V. Gedeonovsky, M. A. Natanson and N. S. Tyutchev. The members of the Narodnoye Pravo set themselves the aim of uniting all opposition forces, with a view to conducting a struggle for political reform. The Narodnoye Pravo party issued two programme documents, a “Manifesto” and “An Urgent Issue.” In the sprint of 1894 the party was broken up by the tsarist government. For Lenin’s assessment of the Narodnoye Pravo as a political party, see pages 329-32 of the present volume, and also the pamphlet The Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats (Vol. 2). The majority of the Narodnoye Pravo members subsequently joined the Social-Revolutionary Party.

Appendix I

The annexed table contains the data for the 24 budgets referred to in the text.

Composition and budgets of 24 typical peasant households in Ostrogozhsk Uyezd—Summary

Explanation of The Table

1) The first 21 columns have been taken bodily from the Statistical Abstract. Column 22 combines the columns in the Abstract on: rye, wheat, oats and barley, millet and buckwheat, other grain crops potatoes, vegetables, and hay (8 columns). How the income from grain crops (Column 23), excluding chaff and straw, was computed has been explained in the text. Column 24 combines the columns in the Abstract on: horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, hides and wool, back fat and meat, dairy produce, butter (9 columns). Columns 25-29 have been taken bodily from the Abstract. Columns 30-34 combine the columns in the Abstract on: expenditure on rye, wheat, millet and buckwheat, potatoes, vegetables, salt, butter, fat and meat, fish, dairy produce, vodka and tea (12 columns). Column 35 combines the columns in the Abstract giving expenditure on: soap, kerosene, candles, clothing, and utensils (4 columns). The remaining columns require no explanation.

2) Column 8 was arrived at by adding together the area, in dessiatines, of rented land and the amount of arable in the allotment (for which there is a special column in the Abstract).

3) The bottom rows of figures in the columns “Sources of Income” and “Distribution of Expenditure” indicate the money part of income and expenditure. In Columns 25 to 28 and 37 to 42 the income (or expenditure) is wholly monetary. The money part was calculated (the author does not show it separately) by deducting from gross income the amount consumed by the household itself.





Appendix II

Mr. Struve quite rightly makes the corner-stone of his criticism of Nik. —on the thesis that “Marx’s doctrine of the class struggle and the state is completely foreign to the Russian political economist.” I do not possess the boldness of Mr. Krivenko to make this one (four-column) article by Mr. Struve the basis for a judgement of his system of views (I am not acquainted with his other articles) and I must say that I do not agree with all the statements he makes; and can, therefore, support only certain fundamental propositions he advances and not his article as a whole. But the circumstance mentioned has, at any rate, been quite correctly assessed: Mr. Nik. -on’s basic error is, indeed, his failure to understand the class struggle inherent in capitalist society. The correction of this one error would be sufficient to ensure that Social-Democratic conclusions would be drawn from even his theoretical propositions and investigations. To overlook the class struggle is indeed to reveal a gross misunderstanding of Marxism, a misunderstanding for which Mr. Nik. —on must be all the more blamed since he is so very anxious to pass himself off as a strict adherent of Marx’ s principles. Can anyone with the least knowledge of Marx deny that the doctrine of the class struggle is the pivot of his whole system of views?

Mr. Nik. —on could, of course, have accepted Marx’s theory with the exception of this point, on the grounds, let us say, that it does not conform to the facts of Russian history and reality. But then, in the first place, he could not have said that Marx’s theory explains our system; he could not even have spoken of this theory and of capitalism, because it would have been necessary to remould the theory and to work out a conception of a different capitalism,   in which antagonistic relations and the class struggle were not inherent. At any rate he should have made an explicit reservation and explained why, having accepted the A of Marxism he refuses to accept B. Mr. Nik. —on made no attempt to do anything of the kind.

And Mr. Struve quite rightly concluded that failure to understand the class struggle makes Mr. Nik. —on a utopian, for anybody who ignores the class struggle in capitalist society eo ipso ignores all the real content of the social and political life of this society and, in seeking to fulfil his desideratum, is inevitably doomed to hover in the sphere of pious wishes. This failure to understand the class struggle makes him a reactionary, for appeals to “society” and to the “state,” that is, to bourgeois ideologists and politicians, can only confuse the socialists, and cause them to accept the worst enemies of the proletariat as their allies, can only hamper the workers’ struggle for emancipation instead of helping to strengthen, clarify and improve the organisation of that struggle.

Since we have mentioned Mr. Struve’s article, we cannot but deal with Mr. Nik. —on’s reply in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 6.[1]

“It appears,” argues Mr. Nik. —on, citing data about the slow increase in the number of factory workers, an increase lagging behind the growth of the population, “that in our country capitalism, far from fulfilling its ’ historic mission,’ is itself setting limits to its own development. That, incidentally, is why those who seek ’ for their fatherland a path of development distinct from that which Western Europe followed and still follows’ are a thousand times right.” (And this is written by a man who   admits that Russia is following this very capitalist path!) This “historic mission” is not being fulfilled, according to Mr. Nik. —on, because “the economic trend hostile to the village community (i.e., capitalism) is destroying the very foundations of its existence without providing that modicum of unifying significance so characteristic of Western Europe and which is beginning to manifest itself with particular force in North America.”

In other words, what we have here is the standard argument against the Social-Democrats invented by the celebrated Mr. V. V., who regarded capitalism from the standpoint of a government official settling the state problem of the “introduction of capitalism into the life of the people”— if it is fulfilling its “mission,” let it in; if not, “keep it out!” Apart from all the other virtues of this clever argument, the very “mission” of capitalism was understood by Mr V. Y., and is apparently understood by Mr. Nik. —on, in an impossibly and preposterously false and narrow fashion. And again, of course, these gentlemen unceremoniously ascribe the narrowness of their own understanding to the Social-Democrats, who can be maligned like the dead since the legal press is closed to them!

As Marx saw it, the progressive and revolutionary work of capitalism consists in the fact that, in socialising labour, it at the same time “disciplines, unites and organises the working class” by the mechanism of that very process, it trains them for the struggle, organises their “revolt,” unites them to “expropriate the expropriators,” seize political power and wrest the means of production from the “few usurpers” and turn them over to society (Capital, p. 650).[10]

That is how Marx formulates it.

Nothing, of course, is said here about the “number of factory workers”: Marx speaks of the concentration of the means of production and of the socialisation of labour. It is quite clear that these criteria have nothing in common with the “number of factory workers.”

But our exceptionalist interpreters of Marx misinterpret this to mean that the socialisation of labour under capitalism amounts to factory workers labouring under one roof, and that the progressiveness of the work of capitalism is therefore to be measured by . . . the number of factory   workers!!! If the number of factory workers is increasing, capitalism is doing its progressive work well; if the number is decreasing, it is “fulfilling its historic mission badly” (p. 103 of Mr. Nik. —on’s article), and it behoves the “intelligentsia” “to seek different paths for their fatherland.”

And so the Russian intelligentsia set out to seek “different paths.” It has been seeking and finding them for decades, trying with might and main to prove[2] that capitalism is a “false” line of development, for it leads to unemployment and crises. We faced a crisis, they say, in 1880, and again in 1893; it is time to leave this path, for obviously things are going badly with us.

The Russian bourgeoisie, however, like the cat in the fable, “listens but goes on eating”:[11] of course things are going “badly” when fabulous profits can no longer be made. So it echoes the song of the liberals and radicals and, thanks to available and cheaper capital, energetically sets about building new railways. Things are going badly with “us” because in the old places “we” have already picked the people clean and now have to enter the field of industrial capital, which cannot enrich us as much as merchant capital. And so “we” will go to the eastern and northern border regions of European Russia, where “primitive accumulation,” which yields a profit of hundreds per cent, is still possible, where the bourgeois differentiation of the peasantry is still far from complete. The intelligentsia perceive all this and ceaselessly threaten that “we” are again heading for a crash. And a new crash is really upon us. Very many small capitalists are being crushed by the big capitalists, very many peasants are being squeezed out of agriculture, which is increasingly passing into the hands of the bourgeoisie; the sea of poverty, unemployment   and starvation is increasing immensely—and the “intelligentsia,” with a clear conscience, point to their prophecies and ceaselessly complain about a wrong path, citing the absence of foreign markets as proof of the instability of our capitalism.

The Russian bourgeoisie, however, “listens but goes on eating.” While the “intelligentsia” seek new paths, the bourgeoisie undertake gigantic projects for the construction of railways to their colonies, where they create a market for themselves, introducing the charms of the bourgeois system to the young countries and there, too, creating an industrial and agricultural bourgeoisie with exceptional rapidity, and casting the mass of the producers into the ranks of the chronically starving unemployed.

Will the socialists really continue to confine themselves to complaining about wrong paths, and try to prove . . . by the slow increase in the number of factory workers that capitalism is unstable!!?

Before discussing this childish idea,[3] I cannot but mention that Mr. Nik. —on very inaccurately quoted the passage from Mr. Struve’s article that he criticised. This article says literally the following:

“When the author (i.e., Mr. Nik. —on) points to the difference in the occupational composition of the Russian and American populations—for Russia 80% of the total gainfully-employed population (erwerbsthätigen ) are taken as engaged in agriculture, and in the United States only 44%— he does not observe that the capitalist development of Russia will work to obliterate this difference between 80% and 44%; that, one might say, is its historic mission.”

It may be held that the word “mission” is very inappropriate here, but Mr. Struve’s idea is clear: Mr. Nik. —on did not notice that the capitalist development of Russia   (he himself admits that this development is really a capitalist one) will reduce the rural population, whereas in fact it is a general law of capitalism. Consequently; to refute this objection, Mr. Nik. —on should have shown either 1) that he had not overlooked this tendency of capitalism, or 2) that capitalism has no such tendency.

Instead, Mr. Nik. —on sets about analysing the data on the number of our factory workers (1% of the population, according to his estimate). But was Mr. Struve speaking of factory workers? Does the 20% of the population in Russia and the 56% in America represent factory workers? Are the terms “factory workers” and “population not engaged in agriculture” identical? Can it be denied that the proportion of the population engaged in agriculture is diminishing in Russia too?

Having made this correction, which I consider all the more necessary because Mr. Krivenko has already garbled this passage in this very magazine, let us pass to Mr. Nik. —on’s idea itself—“our capitalism is fulfilling its mission badly.”

Firstly, it is absurd to identify the number of factory workers with the number of workers engaged in capitalist production, as is done by the author of the Sketches.[4] This is repeating (and even aggravating) the error of the Russian petty-bourgeois economists who make large-scale machine industry the very beginning of capitalism. Are not the millions of Russian handicraftsmen who work for merchants, with the latter’s material and for ordinary wages, engaged in capitalist production? Do the regular farm labourers and day labourers in agriculture not receive wages from their employers, and do they not surrender surplus-value to them? Are not the workers in the building industry (which has rapidly developed in our country since the Reform) subjected to capitalist exploitation? And so on.[5]  

Secondly, it is absurd to compare the number of factory workers (1,400,000) with the total population and to express the ratio as a percentage. That is simply comparing incommensurables: the able-bodied population with the non-able-bodied, those engaged in the production of material values with the “liberal professions,” and so on. Do not the factory workers each maintain a certain number of non-working members of the family? Do not the factory workers maintain—apart from their employers and a whole flock of traders—a host of soldiers, civil servants and similar gentry, whom you assign to the agricultural population, contrasting this hotchpotch to the factory population? And then, are there not in Russia such industries as fishing and so forth, which it is again absurd to contrast   with factory industry and to combine with agriculture? If you wanted to get an idea of the occupational composition of the population of Russia, you should, firstly, have singled out into a special group the population engaged in the production of material values (excluding, consequently, the non-working population, on the one hand, and soldiers, civil servants, priests, etc., on the other); and, secondly, you should have tried to divide them among the various branches of national labour. If the data for this were not available, you should have refrained from undertaking such calculations,[6] instead of talking nonsense about   1% (??!!) of the population being engaged in factory industry.

Thirdly—and this is the chief and most outrageous distortion of Marx’s theory of the progressive and revolutionary work of capitalism—where did you get the idea that the “unifying significance” of capitalism is expressed in uniting only the factory workers? Can it be that you borrow your idea of Marxism from the articles in Otechestvenniye Zapiski on the socialisation of labour? Can it be that you, too, identify it with work under one roof?

But no. It would appear that Nik. —on cannot be accused of this, because he accurately describes the socialisation of labour by capitalism on the second page of his article in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 6, correctly indicating both features of this socialisation: 1) work for the whole of society, and 2) the uniting of individual labourers so as to obtain the product of common labour. But if that is so, why judge the “mission” of capitalism by the number of factory workers, when this “mission” is fulfilled by the development of capitalism and the socialisation of labour in general, by the creation of a proletariat in general, in relation to which the factory workers play the role only of front rankers, the vanguard. There is, of course, no doubt that the revolutionary movement of the proletariat depends on the number of these workers, on their concentration, on the degree of their development, etc.; but all this does not give us the slightest right to equate the “unifying significance” of capitalism with the number of factory workers. To do so would be to narrow down Marx’s idea impossibly.

I will give you an example. In his pamphlet Zur Wohnungsfrage,[7] Frederick Engels speaks of German industry and points out that in no other country—he is referring only to Western Europe—do there exist so many wage workers who own a garden or a plot of land. “Rural domestic industry carried on in conjunction with kitchen-gardening or … agriculture,” he says, “forms the broad basis of Germany’s new large-scale industry.” This domestic industry grows increasingly with the growing distress of the German small peasant (as is the case in Russia, let us add), but the COMBINATION of industry with agriculture is the basis not of the WELL-BEING of the domestic producer; the handicraftsman, but on the contrary, of his greater OPPRESSION. Being tied to his locality, he is compelled to accept any price, and therefore surrenders to the capitalist not only surplus-value but a large part of his wages as well (as is the case in Russia, with her vast development of the domestic system of large-scale production). “That is one side of the matter,” Engels continues, “but it also has its reverse side. . . . With the expansion of domestic industry, one peasant area after another is being dragged into the present-day industrial movement. It is this revolutionising of the rural areas by domestic industry which spreads the industrial revolution in Germany over a far wider territory than was the case in England and France. . . . This explains why in Germany, in contrast to England and France, the revolutionary working-class movement has spread so tremendously over the greater part of the country instead of being confined exclusively to the urban centres. And this in turn explains the tranquil, certain and irresistible progress of the movement. It is perfectly clear that in Germany a victorious rising in the capital and in the other big cities will be possible only when the majority of the smaller towns and a great part of the rural districts have become ripe for the revolutionary change.”[12]

So you see, it appears that not only the “unifying significance of capitalism,” but also the success of the working-class movement depends not only on the number of factory workers, but also on the number of … handicraftsmen! Yet our exceptionalists, ignoring the purely capitalist organisation   of the vast majority of the Russian handicraft industries, contrast them, as a sort of “people’s” industry, to capitalism and judge “the percentage of the population at the direct disposal of capitalism” by the number of factory workers! This is reminiscent of the following argument by Mr. Krivenko: the Marxists want all attention to be directed to the factory workers; but as there are only one million of them out of 100 million people, they constitute only a small corner of life, and to devote oneself to it is just like confining oneself to work in estate or charitable institutions (Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 12). Mills and factories are just as small a corner of life as estate and charitable institutions!! What a genius you are, Mr. Krivenko! No doubt it is the estate institutions that produce goods for the whole of society? No doubt it is the state of affairs in the-estate institutions that explains the exploitation and expropriation of the working people. No doubt it is in the estate institutions that one must look for the advanced representatives of the proletariat who are capable of raising the banner of working-class emancipation.

It is not surprising to hear such things from the lips of the minor bourgeois philosophers; but it is a pity to have to read that sort of thing in the awritings of Mar. Nik. —on.

On p. 393 of Capital,[13] Marx quotes figures of the composition of the English population. In 1861 there was a total of 20 million people in England and Wales. Of these, 1,605,440 persons were employed in the main branches of factory industry.[8] Furthermore, there were 1,208,648 members of the servant class, and in a footnote to the second edition Marx refers to the very rapid growth of this class. Now just imagine that there were “Marxists” in England who divided 1,600,000 by 20,000,000 to judge the “unifying significance of capitalism”!! The result would   be 8%—less than one-twelfth !!! How can one speak of the “mission” of capitalism when it has not united even one twelfth of the population, and when, moreover, there is a more rapid increase in the “domestic slave” class—representing a dead loss of “national labour,” which shows that “we,” the English, are following the “wrong path”! Is it not clear that “we” must “seek different,” non-capitalist “paths of development for our fatherland”?!

There is yet another point in Mr. Nik. —on’s argument: when he says that capitalism here does not yield the unifying significance which is “so characteristic of Western Europe and is beginning to manifest itself with particular force in North America,” he is apparently referring to the working-class movement. And so, we must seek different paths because capitalism here does not give rise to a working-class movement. This argument, it seems to me, was anticipated by Mr. Mikhailovsky. Marx operated with a ready-made proletariat—he admonished the Marxists. And when a Marxist told Mikhailovsky that all he saw in poverty was poverty, his reply was: this remark, as usual, was taken bodily from Marx. But if we turn to this passage in The Poverty of Philosophy we shall find that it is not applicable in our case and that our poverty is just poverty. As a matter of fact, however, you will still find nothing to bear you out in The Poverty of Philosophy. Marx there says of the communists of the old school that they saw in poverty nothing but poverty without seeing its revolutionary, destructive side; which would overthrow the old society.[14] Evidently, Mr. Mikhailovsky takes the absence of any “manifestation” of a working-class movement as grounds for asserting that it is not applicable in our case. In reference to this argument, let us remark, firstly, that only a most superficial acquaintance with the facts can give rise to the idea that Marx operated with a ready-made proletariat. Marx’s communist programme was drawn up before 1848. What working-class movement[9] was there in Germany then? There   was not even political liberty at that time, and the activities of the communists were confined to secret circles (as in our country today). The Social-Democratic labour movement, which made the revolutionary and unifying role of capitalism quite clear to everybody, began two decades later, when the doctrine of scientific socialism had definitely taken shape, when large-scale industry had become more widespread, and there emerged numerous talented and energetic disseminators of this doctrine among the working class. In addition to presenting historical facts in a false light and forgetting the vast amount of work done by the socialists in lending consciousness and organisation to the working-class movement, our philosophers foist upon Marx the most senseless fatalistic views. In his opinion, they assure us, the organisation and socialisation of the workers occur spontaneously, and, consequently, if we see capitalism but do not see a working-class movement, that is because capitalism is not fulfilling its mission, and not because we are still doing too little in the matter of organisation and propaganda among the workers. This cowardly petty-bourgeois artifice of our exceptionalist philosophers is not worth refuting: it is refuted by all the activities of the Social-Democrats in all countries; it is refuted by every public speech made by any Marxist. Social-Democracy—as Kautsky very justly remarks—is a fusion of the working-class movement and socialism. And in order that the progressive work of capitalism may “manifest” itself in this country too, our socialists must set to work with the utmost energy; they must work out in greater detail the Marxist conception of the history and present position of Russia, and make a more concrete investigation of all forms of the class struggle and exploitation, which are particularly complex and masked in Russia. They must, furthermore, popularise this theory and make it known to the worker; they must help the worker to assimilate it and devise the form of organisation most SUITABLE under our conditions for disseminating Social-Democratic ideas and welding the workers into a political force. And the Russian Social-Democrats, far from ever having said that they have already completed, fulfilled this work of the ideologists of the working class (there is no end to this work), have always stressed the fact   that they are only just beginning it, and that much effort by many, many persons will be required to create anything at all lasting.

Besides its unsatisfactory and preposterously narrow conception of the Marxist theory, this common objection that progressive work is lacking in our capitalism seems to be based on the absurd idea of a mythical “people’s system.”

When the “peasants” in the notorious “village community” are splitting up into paupers and rich, into representatives of the proletariat and of capital (especially merchant capital), they refuse to see that this is embryonic, medieval capitalism, and, evading the political-economic structure of the countryside, they chatter, in their search for “different paths for the fatherland,” about changes in the form of peasant landownership, with which they unpardonably confuse the form of economic organisation, as though a purely bourgeois differentiation of the peasantry were not in full swing within the “equalitarian village community” itself. And at a time when this capitalism is developing and outgrowing the narrow forms of medieval, village capitalism, shattering the feudal power of the land and compelling the peasant, long stripped clean and starving, to abandon the land to the community for equalitarian division among the triumphant kulaks, to leave home, to tramp the whole of Russia, unemployed for many a long day, and to hire himself now to a landlord, tomorrow to a railway contractor, then as an urban labourer or as farm labourer to a rich peasant, and so on; when this “peasant,” who changes masters all over Russia, sees that wherever he goes he is most shamefully plundered; when he sees that other paupers like himself are plundered; that it is not necessarily the “lord” who robs him, but also “his brother muzhik,” if the latter has the money to buy labour-power; when he sees how the government always serves his masters, restricting the rights of the workers and suppressing as riots every attempt to protect their most elementary rights; when he sees the Russian worker’s labour becoming more and more arduous, and wealth and luxury growing more and more rapidly, while the worker’s conditions are becoming steadily worse, expropriation more, intense and unemployment a regular thing—at a time like this our critics of Marxism are seeking different   paths for the fatherland; at a time like this they are occupied in pondering over the profound question of whether we can admit that the work of capitalism is progressive seeing how slow is the growth in the number of factory workers, and whether we should not reject our capitalism and consider it a false path because “it is fulfilling its historic mission badly, very, very badly.”

A lofty and broadly humane occupation, is it not?

And what narrow doctrinaires these wicked Marxists are when they say that to seek different paths for the fatherland when capitalist exploitation of the working people exists all over Russia means to flee from realities to the sphere of utopia; when they find that it is not our capitalism but rather the Russian socialists who are fulfilling their mission badly, those socialists who refuse to understand that to dream about the age-old economic struggle of the antagonistic classes of Russian society dying down is tantamount to sinking to Manilovism,[15] and who refuse to realise that we must strive to impart organisation and understanding to this struggle, and to this end set about Social-Democratic work.

In conclusion, we cannot but note another attack by Mr. Nik. —on on Mr. Struve in this same issue, No. 6, of Russkoye Bogatstvo.

“We cannot help drawing attention,” Mr. Nik. —on says, “to a certain peculiarity in Mr. Struve’s methods of controversy. He was writing for the German public, in a serious German magazine; but the methods he employed seem entirely inappropriate. We may take it that not only the German but even the Russian public has grown to ’ man’s estate,’ and will not be impressed by all the ’ bugbears’ in which his article abounds. ’ Utopia,’ ’ reactionary programme’ and similar expressions are to be met with in every column. But today, alas, these ’ terrible words’ simply do not produce the effect on which Mr. Struve apparently counts” (p. 128).

Let us try to examine whether “inappropriate methods” have been employed in this controversy between Messrs, Nik. —on and Struve, and, if they have, by whom.

Mr. Struve is accused of employing “inappropriate methods” on the grounds that in a serious article he tries to impress the public with “bugbears” and “terrible words.”

To employ “bugbears” and “terrible words” means describing an opponent in terms of severe disapproval that at the same time are not clearly and precisely motivated and do not follow inevitably from the writer’s standpoint (one that has been definitely stated), but simply express a desire to abuse, to dress down.

Obviously, it is only this last feature which turns epithets of severe disapproval into “bugbears.” Mr. Slonimsky spoke severely of Mr. Nik. —on, but as he clearly and definitely formulated his point of view, that of an ordinary liberal who is absolutely incapable of understanding the bourgeois character of the present order, and quite explicitly formulated his phenomenal arguments; he may be accused of anything you like, but not of “inappropriate methods.” Mr. Nik. —on, on his part, spoke severely of Mr. Slonimsky, quoting, incidentally, for his edification and instruction, Marx’s words—which have been “justified in our country too” (as Mr. Nik. —on admits)—about the reactionary and utopian character of the defence of the small handicraft industry and small peasant landownership which Mr. Slonimsky wants, and accusing him of “narrow-mindedness,” “naïveté,” and the like. Look, Mr. Nik. —on’s article “abounds” in the same epithets (underscored) as Mr. Struve’s; but we cannot speak of “inappropriate methods” in this case, because it is all motivated, it all follows from the author’s definite standpoint and system of views, which may be false, but which, if accepted, necessarily lead to regarding one’s opponent as a naïve, narrow-minded and reactionary utopian.

Let us see how matters stand with Mr. Struve’s article. Accusing Mr. Nik. —on of utopianism that leads inevitably to a reactionary programme, and of naïveté, he quite clearly indicates the grounds which led him to such an opinion. Firstly: desiring the “socialisation of production,” Mr. Nik. —on “appeals to society” (sic!) “and the state.” This “proves that Marx’s doctrine of the class struggle and the state is completely foreign to the Russian political economist.” Our state is the “representative of the ruling   classes.” Secondly: “If we contrast to real capitalism an imaginary economic system which must come about simply because we want it to, in other words, if we want the socialisation of production without capitalism, this is only evidence of a naïve conception, which does not conform to history.” With the development of capitalism, the elimination of natural economy and the diminution of the rural population, “the modern state will emerge from the twilight in which, in our patriarchal times, it is still enveloped (we are speaking of Russia), and step out into the clear light of the open class struggle, and other forces and factors will have to be sought for the socialisation of production.”

Well, is this not a sufficiently clear and precise motivation? Can one dispute the truth of Mr. Struve’s specific references to the author’s ideas? Did Mr. Nik. —on really take account of the class struggle inherent in capitalist society? He did not. He speaks of society and the state, and forgets this struggle, excludes it. He says, for example, that the state supported capitalism instead of socialising labour through the village community, and so on. He evidently believes that the state could have behaved this way or that, and, consequently, that it stands above classes. Is it not clear that to accuse Mr. Struve of resorting to “bugbears” is a crying injustice? Is it not clear that a man who believes that ours is a class state cannot regard one who appeals to that state to socialise labour, that is, to abolish the ruling classes as anything but a naïve and reactionary utopian? More, when one accuses an opponent of resorting to “bugbears,” and says nothing about the views from which his opinion follows, despite the fact that he has clearly formulated these views; and when, moreover, one accuses him in a censored magazine, where these views cannot appear—should we not rather regard this as “an absolutely inappropriate method”?

Let us proceed. Mr. Struve’s second argument is formulated no less clearly. That the socialisation of labour apart from capitalism, through the village community, is an imaginary system cannot be doubted, for it does not exist in reality. This reality is described by Mr. Nik. —on himself as follows: prior to 1861 the productive units were the “family” and the “village community” (Sketches, pp. 106-107).   This “small, scattered, self-sufficing production could not develop to any considerable extent, and its extremely routine nature and low productivity were therefore typical.” The subsequent change meant that “the social division of labour became deeper and deeper.” In other words, capitalism broke out of the narrow bounds of the earlier productive units and socialised labour throughout society. Mr. Nik.-on, too, admitted this socialisation of labour by our capitalism. Therefore, in wanting to base the socialisation of labour not on capitalism, which has already socialised labour, but on the village community, the breakdown of which for the first time brought about the socialisation of labour throughout society, he is a reactionary utopian. That is Mr. Struve’s idea. One may regard it as true or false, but it cannot be denied that his severe comment on Mr. Nik. —on followed with logical inevitability from this opinion, and it is, therefore, out of place to talk of “bug bears.”

Furthermore, when Mr. Nik. —on concludes his controversy with Mr. Struve by attributing to his opponent the desire to dispossess the peasantry of the land (“if by a progressive programme is meant dispossessing the peasantry of the land … then the author of the Sketches is a conservative”), despite Mr. Struve’s explicit statement that he desires the socialisation of labour, desires it through capitalism, and therefore desires to base himself on the forces that will be visible in “the clear light of the open class struggle”—that can only be called a version diametrically opposed to the truth. And if we bear in mind that Mr. Struve could not in the censored press speak of the forces which come forward in the clear light of the open class struggle, and that, consequently, Mr. Nik. —on’s opponent was gagged—it can scarcely be denied that Mr. Nik. —on’s method is altogether “inappropriate.”



[1] Generally speaking, by his articles in Russkoye Bogatstvo, Mr. Nik. —on is apparently trying hard to prove that he is by no means as remote from petty-bourgeois radicalism as one might think; that he too is capable of discerning in the growth of a peasant bourgeoisie (No. 6, p. 118—the spread among the “peasants” of improved implements, phosphates, etc.) symptoms indicating that the peasantry itself” (the peasantry that is being expropriated whole sale?) “realises the necessity of finding a way out of the position it is in.” —Lenin

[2] These proofs are wasted, not because they are wrong—the ruin, impoverishment and starvation of the people are unquestionable and inevitable concomitants of capitalism—but because they are addressed to thin air. “Society,” even under the cloak of democracy, furthers the interests of the plutocracy, and, of course, the plutocracy will hardly take up the cudgels against capitalism. The “government”. . . I will cite the comment of an opponent, Mr. N. K. Mikhailovsky: however little we know the programmes of our government be once wrote, we know them enough to be certain that the “socialisation of labour” has no part in them. —Lenin

[3] How can this idea be called anything but childish, when the progressive work of capitalism is not judged by the degree of socialisation of labour, but by such a fluctuating index of the development of only one branch of national labour! Everybody knows that the number of workers cannot be anything but extremely inconstant under the capitalist mode of production, and that it depends upon a host of secondary factors, such as crises, the size of the reserve army, the degree of the exploitation of labour, the degree of its intensity, and so on and so forth. —Lenin

[4] N. F. Danielson, Sketch’s on Our Post-Reform Social Economy, St. Petersburg, 1893. —Ed.

[5] I confine myself here to criticising Mr. Nik. —on’s method of judging “the unifying significance of capitalism” by the number of factory workers. I cannot undertake an analysis of the figures because I have not got Mr. Nik. —on’s sources handy. One cannot,   however, refrain from noting that he has hardly selected these sources happily. He first takes data for 1865 from the Military Statistical Abstract and those for 1890 from the Directory of Factories and Works of 1894. The number of workers he gets (exclusive of mine-workers) is 829,573 and 875,764, respectively. The increase of 5.5% is much less than the increase in population (from 61,420,000 to 91,000,000 or 48.1%). But on the next page different figures are taken both for 1865 and 1890 from the Directory of 1893. According to these data, the number of workers is 392,718 and 716,792, respectively—an increase of 82%. But this does not include industries paying excise duties, in which the number of workers (p. 104) was 186,053 in 1865 and 144,332 in 1890. Adding these figures to the preceding ones we get the following total numbers of workers (except mine-workers): 578,771 in 1865 and 861,124 in 1890. An increase of 48.7% with a population increase of 48.7%. Thus in the space of five pages the author uses some data that show an increase of 5% and others showing an increase of 48%! And on the basis of such contradictory figures he finds that our capitalism is unstable!!

And then why did not the author take the data on the number of workers quoted in the Sketches (Tables XI and XII), and from which we see that it increased by 12-13% in three years (1886-1889), an increase that far outstrips the growth of population? The author may perhaps say that the time interval was too short. But then, in the first place, these data are homogeneous, comparable and more reliable; and in the second place, did not the author himself use these same data, despite the short time interval, to form a judgement of the growth of factory industry?

Obviously if such a fluctuating index as the number of workers is used to indicate the state of only one branch of national labour, those data cannot be anything but shaky. And one must be a naïve dreamer indeed to base one’s hopes on such data—hopes that our capitalism will collapse, crumble to dust spontaneously, without a desperate and stubborn struggle—and to use these data to question the indisputable domination and development of capitalism in all branches of national labour! —Lenin

[6] Mr. Nik. —on attempted such a calculation in the Sketches, but very unsuccessfully. On p. 302, we read:

“An attempt was recently made to determine the total number of free workers in the 50 gubernias of European Russia (S. A. Korolenko, Hired Labour, St. Petersburg 1892). An investigation made by the Department of Agriculture estimates the able-bodied rural population in the 50 gubernias of European Russia at 35,712,000, whereas the total number of workers required in agriculture and in the manufacturing, mining, transport and other industries is estimated at only 30,124,000. Thus the number of absolutely superfluous workers reaches the huge figure of 5,588,000, which, together with their families, according to the accepted standard, would amount to no less than 15,000,000 persous.” (Repeated on p. 341.)

If we turn to this ’ ’ investigation,” we shall find that only the hired labour employed by the landlords was “investigated”; Mr. S. Korolenko supplemented the investigation with an “agricultural and industrial survey” of European Russia. This survey makes an attempt (not on the basis of some “investigation,” but on the basis of old available data) to class the working population of European Russia by occupation. The results arrived at by Mr. S. A. Korolenko are as follows: the total number of workers in the 50 gubernias of European Russia is 35,712 000, engaged in:

cultivation of special crops1,466,400
factory and mining industry1,222,700
lumberingabout 2,000,000
local and outside employment,
hunting, trapping, and
miscellaneous others

Thus Mr. Korolenko (rightly or wrongly) classed all the workers by occupation, but Mr. Nik. —on arbitrarily takes the first three headings   and talks about 5,588,000 “absolutely superfluous” (??) workers!

Apart from this defect one cannot refrain from noting that Mr. Korolenko’s estimates are extremely rough and inaccurate: the number of agricultural workers is computed in accordance with one general standard for the whole of Russia; the non-producing population has not been classed separately (under this heading Mr. Korolenko, in deference to official anti-Semitism, classed . the Jews! There must be more than 1,400,000 non-producing workers: traders, paupers, vagabonds, criminals, etc.); the number of handicraftsmen (the last heading—outside and local employment) is preposterously low, etc. It would be better not to quote such estimates at all. —Lenin

[7] The Housing Question.Ed.

[8] There were 642,607 persons employed in the textile, hosiery and lace industries (in our country tens of thousands of women engaged in stocking- and lace-making are incredibly exploited by the “tradeswomen” for whom they work. Wages are sometimes as low as three [sic!] kopeks a day! Do you mean to say, Mr. Nik. —on that they are not “at the direct disposal of capitalism”?), and in addition 565,835 persons were employed in coal and ore mines, and 396,998 persons all metal works and manufactures. —Lenin

[9] The smallness of the working class at that time may be judged from the fact that 27 years later, in 1875, Marx wrote that “the majority of the toiling people in Germany consists of peasants, and not of proletarians.”[16] That is what “operating (??) with a ready made proletariat” comes down to! —Lenin

[10] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, p. 763.

[11] Lenin quotes from I. A. Krylov’s fable “The Cat and the Cook.”

[12] Here and further on Lenin quotes from the Preface to the second edition of F. Engels’ The Housing Question. (See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 550, 554-55.)

[13] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, p. 446.

[14] Lenin refers to the principles expressed by Marx in the second chapter of The Poverty of Philosophy, an essay directed against Proudhon. (See K. Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Moscow, pp. 140-41.)

[16] Lenin quotes from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme. (See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 31.)

[15] Manilovism—derived from the name of Manilov, one of the characters in N. V. Gogol’s Dead Souls. Manilov is a sentimental, “high-souled” landlord in whom Gogol has embodied the typical   features of the weak-willed dreamer, empty visionary, and inert tattler. Lenin uses the name Manilov as an epithet to describe the liberal Narodniks.

Appendix III

When I speak of a narrow understanding of Marxism, I have the Marxists themselves in mind. One cannot help remarking in this connection that Marxism is most atrociously narrowed and garbled when our liberals and radicals undertake to expound it in the pages of the legal press. What an exposition it is! Just think how this revolutionary doctrine has to be mutilated to fit it into the Procrustean bed of Russian censorship! Yet our publicists light-heartedly perform that operation! Marxism, as they expound it, is practically reduced to the doctrine of how individual property, based on the labour of the proprietor, undergoes its dialectical development under the capitalist system, how it turns into its negation and is then socialised. And with a serious mien, they assume that the whole content of Marxism lies in this “scheme,” ignoring all the specific features of its sociological method, the doctrine of the class struggle, and the direct purpose of the inquiry, namely, to disclose all the forms of antagonism and exploitation in order to help the proletariat abolish them. It is not surprising that the result is something so pale and narrow that our radicals proceed to mourn over the poor Russian Marxists. We should think so! Russian absolutism and Russian reaction would not be absolutism and reaction if it were possible, while they exist, to give a full, accurate and complete exposition of Marxism, setting forth its conclusions without reservation! And if our liberals and radicals knew Marxism properly (if only from German literature), they would be ashamed thus to distort it in the pages of the censored press. If a theory may not be expounded—keep silent, or make the reservation that you are giving a far from complete exposition   of it, that you are omitting its most essential features; but why expound only fragments of it and then howl about its being narrow?

That, indeed, is the only explanation of the absurdity, possible only in Russia, that people are regarded as Marxists who have no idea of the class struggle, of the antagonism necessarily inherent in capitalist society, and of the development of this antagonism; people who have no notion of the revolutionary role of the proletariat; even people who come out with purely bourgeois projects, provided they contain such catchwords as “money economy,” its “necessity,” and similar expressions, which require all the intellectual profundity of a Mr. Mikhailovsky to be regarded as specifically Marxist.

Marx, on the other hand, considered the whole value of his theory to lie in the fact that it is “in its essence critical[1] and revolutionary.”[4] And this latter quality is in deed completely and unconditionally inherent in Marxism, for this theory directly sets itself the task of disclosing all the forms of antagonism and exploitation in modern society, tracing their evolution, demonstrating their transitory character, the inevitability of their transformation into a different form, and thus serving the proletariat as a means of ending all exploitation as quickly and easily as possible. The irresistible attraction of this theory, which draws to itself the socialists of all countries lies precisely in the fact that it combines the quality of being strictly and supremely scientific (being the last word in social science) with that of being revolutionary, it does not combine them accidentally and not only because the founder of the doctrine combined in his own person the qualities of a scientist and a revolutionary, but does so intrinsically and inseparably. Is it not a fact that the task of theory, the aim of science,   is here defined as assistance for the oppressed class in its actual economic struggle.

We do not say to the world>: >Cease struggling—your whole struggle is senseless. All we do is to provide it with a true slogan of struggle.”[5]

Hence, the direct task of science, according to Marx, is to provide a true slogan of struggle, that is, to be able to present this struggle objectively as the product of a definite system of production relations, to be able to understand the necessity of this struggle, its content, course and conditions of development. It is impossible to provide a “slogan of struggle” unless we study every separate form of the struggle minutely; unless we trace every stage of the struggle during the transition from one form to another, so that we can define the situation at any given moment, without losing sight of the general character of the struggle and its general aim, namely, the complete and final abolition of all exploitation and all oppression.

Try to compare with Marx’s “critical and revolutionary” theory the colourless trash which “our well-known” N. K. Mikhailovsky, in his “criticism,” expounded and which he then did battle with, and you win be astonished that there can really be people who regard themselves as “ideologists of the working people,” and confine themselves . . . to that “worn-out coin” into which our publicists transform the Marxist theory by obliterating everything that is vital in it.

Try to compare with the demands of this theory our Narodnik literature, which, after all, is also prompted by the desire to be the ideological spokesman of the working people, a literature devoted to the history and to the present state of our economic system in general and of the peasantry in particular, and you will be astonished that socialists could be satisfied with a theory that confines itself to studying and describing distress and to moralising over it. Serfdom is depicted not as a definite form of economic organisation which gave rise to such and such exploitation, such and such antagonistic classes, certain political, legal and other systems, but simply as abuses by the landlords and injustice to the peasants. The peasant Reform is depicted not as a clash of definite economic forms and of definite economic   classes, but as a measure taken by the authorities, who “chose” a “wrong path” by mistake, despite their very best intentions. Post-Reform Russia is depicted as a deviation from the true path, accompanied by the distress of the working people and not as a definite system of antagonistic relations of production with a certain development.

Now, however, there can be no doubt that this theory is discredited, and the sooner Russian socialists realise that with the present level of knowledge there can be no revolutionary theory apart from Marxism, the sooner they devote all their efforts to applying this theory to Russia, theoretically and practically—the surer and quicker will be the success of revolutionary work.

To give a clear illustration of the corruption the “friends of the people” have caused in the “meagre Russian thought” of today by their call to the intelligentsia to exert a cultural influence on the “people” so as to “create” a real and proper industry, etc.—let us cite the opinion of people who hold views sharply distinct from ours, namely, the “Narodopravtsi,” these direct and immediate offspring of the Narodovoltsi. See pamphlet, An Urgent Issue, 1894, published by the Narodnoye Pravo party.

After giving a splendid rebuttal to the kind of Narodniks who say that “under no circumstances, not even on condition of broad liberty, must Russia part with her economic organisation, which ensures (!) the working people an independent place in production,” and that “what we need is not political reforms but systematic and planned economic reforms,” the Narodopravtsi go on to say:

“We are not defenders of the bourgeoisie, still less are we admirers of their ideals; but if a malicious fate were to present the people with the choice of ’planned economic reforms’ under the protection of Zemsky Nachalniks who zealously guard them from the encroachments of the bourgeoisie, or the bourgeoisie themselves on the basis of political liberty, that is, under conditions which ensure the people the organised defence of their interests—we think the people would obviously gain by choosing the latter. At the moment, we have no ‘political reforms’ which threaten to deprive the   people of their pseudo-independent economic organisation; what we do have is what everybody everywhere is accustomed to regard as bourgeois policy, expressed in the grossest exploitation of the people’s labour. We have neither broad nor narrow liberty; what we do have is the protection of social-estate interests, which the agrarians and capitalists of constitutional countries have ceased to dream of. We have no ’bourgeois parliamentarianism’—society is not allowed within cannon-shot of the administrative machine; what we do have is the Messrs. Naidenovs, Morozovs, Kazis and Byelovs, who demand that a Chinese Wall be set up for the safeguarding of their interests, side by side with representatives of ’our loyal nobility,’ who go so far as to demand free credits for themselves to the tune of 100 rubles per dessiatine. They are invited to serve on commissions, they are listened to with respect, and they have a decisive voice in cardinal questions affecting the economic life of the country. Yet who stands up in defence of the interests of the people, and where? Is it not they, the Zemsky Nachalniks? Is it not for the people that agricultural labour squads are being projected? Has it not only just been declared, with a frankness bordering on cynicism, that the only reason the people have been granted allotments is to enable them to pay taxes and to perform services, as the Governor of Vologda put it in one of his circulars? He only formulated and expressed aloud the policy that the autocracy, or, more correctly, bureaucratic absolutism, is fatally pursuing.”

However nebulous the Narodopravtsi’s notions still are about the “people,” whose interests they want to defend, and about “society,” which they continue to regard as a trustworthy organ for the protection of the interests of labour, one cannot but admit that the formation of the Narodnoye Pravo party is a step forward, a step towards the complete abandonment of the illusions and dreams about “different paths for the fatherland,” towards the fearless recognition of the real paths, and towards the search on their basis for elements for a revolutionary struggle. Here we clearly see a striving to form a democratic party. I speak only of a “striving,” because, unfortunately, the Narodopravtsi do not implement their basic thesis consistently. They still talk of amalgamation and alliance with the socialists, refusing   to realise that to draw the workers into mere political radicalism would only mean severing the worker intellectuals from the mass of the workers and condemning the working-class movement to impotence; for it can be strong only by defending the interests of the working class completely and in every way, by engaging in economic struggle against capital, a struggle inseparably bound up with a political struggle against the servants of capital. They refuse to realise that the “amalgamation” of all the revolutionary elements can be much better achieved by the separate organisation of the representatives of the different interests[2] and by the joint action of the two parties in particular cases. They still go on calling their party a “social-revolutionary” party (see the Manifesto of the Narodnoye Pravo party, dated February 19, 1894), although at the same time they confine themselves exclusively to political reforms and most carefully evade our “cursed” socialist problems. A party which so ardently calls for a fight against illusions should not foster illusions in others by the very first words of its “manifesto”; it should not speak of socialism where there is nothing but constitutionalism. But, I repeat, one cannot form a correct judgement of the Narodopravtsi unless one bears in mind that they spring from the Narodovoltsi. It must, therefore, be admitted that they are taking a step forward by basing an exclusively political struggle—unrelated to socialism—on an exclusively political programme. The Social-Democrats whole-heartedly wish the Narodopravtsi success, wish that their party may grow and develop, that they may form closer ties with those social elements which take their stand by the present economic system[3] and whose   everyday interests really are most intimately bound up with democracy.

The conciliatory, cowardly, sentimental and dreamy Narodism of the “friends of the people” will not stand up long when attacked from both sides: by the political radicals for being capable of expressing confidence in the bureaucracy and for not realising the absolute necessity of political struggle; and by the Social-Democrats, for attempting to represent themselves almost as socialists, although they have not the slightest relation to socialism and not the slightest inkling of the causes of the oppression of the working people or of the character of the class struggle now in progress.


[1] Note that Marx is speaking here of materialist criticism, which alone he regards as scientific—that is, criticism which compares the political, legal, social, conventional and other facts, with economics, with the system of production relations, with the interests of the classes that inevitably take shape on the basis of all the antagonistic social relations. That Russian social relations are antagonistic can hardly be doubted. But nobody has yet tried to take them as a basis for such criticism. —Lenin

[2] They themselves protest against faith in the miracle-working powers of the intelligentsia they themselves talk of the need to draw the people themselves into the struggle. But this requires that the struggle be bound up with definite everyday interests and, consequently that a distinction be made between the different interests, and that they be drawn separately into the struggle. . . . But if these separate interests are obscured by bare political demands that only the intelligentsia understand, will this not mean again turning back, again confining everything to the struggle of the intelligentsia alone, whose impotence has only just been admitted? —Lenin

[3] (I.e., the capitalist system)—and not by the necessary rejection of this system and the waging of a ruthless struggle against it. —Lenin

[4] See Afterword to the second edition of Volume One of Marx’s Capital (K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, p. 20).

[5] Lenin quotes from Marx’s letter to Ruge (dated September 1843). Fuller quotations from this letter will be found on pages 184-85 of this volume.