The Social-Democrats, members of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (R.S.D.L.P.) founded underground in 1898, were so-named for their avowed continuity with the broader European tendency of the same name. In the Russian context they vied for expanding the sphere political life away from the tsarist status quo, and increasingly embraced the Marxist critique of capitalism.
They split in 1903 over questions of whether their party newspaper, which was headed by high-profile intellectuals, should be subordinated to the Party Congress. This struggle produced two factions: the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin and the Mensheviks led by Julius Martov. The Bolsheviks had hardly any big names on their side apart from Lenin, but they were in the “majority” that upheld the party congress’s authority over the paper. The Mensheviks represented most of the prominent party intellectuals, who were proud to be in the “minority” that voted for editorial independence.  This seemingly superficial disagreement, however, was an expression of more deep-running tensions within the movement, between maximalist and moderate ambitions for the outcome of victory. 
The Liquidators were a right-leaning faction of Mensheviks who maintained that, due to increased possibilities of legal participation in political life already achieved, the underground revolutionary party must be liquidated. At the other end of the spectrum, the Otzovists (also known as the “Recallists” — otzovat means “to recall”) were a left-leaning “Radical Bolshevik” faction that demanded the end of all participation in legal state establishments, in particular in the State Duma.
The Bundists were the members of the Jewish Labour Bund, which, owing to the advanced level of organization of Jewish society as well as the exceptional degree of repression encouraged by tsarist authorities, predated the R.S.D.L.P., and organized itself within it but with a certain degree of autonomy. The Golos, named after a periodical titled the Golos Truda, were anarchists.
By 1905 most of the Liquidators had left the R.S.D.L.P., and existed as an oppositional entity. By 1909 the Otzovist faction had organized itself as the left-communist faction of ex-Bolsheviks. Lenin writes this article in 1911. The Bolsheviks went on to become the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after the 1917 October Revolution.
— R. D.
The Information Bulletin of the Technical Commission Abroad (No. 1, August 11, 1911) and the message To All Members of the R.S.D.L.P., signed by “A Group of Pro-Party Bolsheviks,” which appeared almost simultaneously in Paris, are attacks identical in substance upon “official Bolshevism” or, according to another expression, upon the “Leninist Bolsheviks.” These documents are full of ire; they contain more angry exclamations and declamations than real substance. Nevertheless, it is necessary to deal with them, for they touch upon the most important problems of our Party. It is all the more natural for me to undertake the job of assessing the new faction, first, because it was I who wrote on these very questions in the name of all the Bolsheviks exactly a year and a half ago (see Diskussionny Listok, No. 2), and, secondly, because I am fully conscious of my responsibility for “official Bolshevism.” As regards the expression “Leninist” it is merely a clumsy attempt at sarcasm, intended to insinuate that it is only a question of the supporters of a single person! In reality, everybody knows perfectly well that it is not a question of people sharing my personal views on this or that aspect of Bolshevism.
The authors of the message, who sign themselves “Pro-Party Bolsheviks,” also call themselves “non-factional Bolsheviks,” remarking that “here” (in Paris) they are “rather ineptly” called conciliators. Actually, as the reader will see from what follows, this name, which gained currency over fifteen months ago, not only in Paris, not only abroad, but also in Russia, is the only one that correctly expresses the political essence of the new faction.
Conciliationism is the totality of moods, strivings and views that are indissolubly bound up with the very essence of the historical task confronting the R.S.D.L.P. during the period of the counter-revolution of 1908–11. That is why, during this period, a number of Social-Democrats, proceeding from essentially different premises, “lapsed” into conciliationism. Trotsky expressed conciliationism more consistently than anyone else. He was probably the only one who attempted to give the trend a theoretical foundation, namely: factions and factionism express the struggle of the intelligentsia “for influence over the immature proletariat.” The proletariat is maturing, and factionalism is perishing of itself. The root of the process of fusion of the factions is not the change in the relations between the classes, not the evolution of the fundamental ideas of the two principal factions, but the observance or otherwise of agreements concluded between all the “intellectual” factions. For a long time now, Trotsky — who at one moment has wavered more to the side of the Bolsheviks and at another more to that of the Mensheviks — has been persistently carrying on propaganda for an agreement (or compromise) between all and sundry factions.
The opposite view (see Nos. 2 and 3 of the Diskussionny Listok) is that the origin of the factions is to be traced to the relations between the classes in the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks only formulated the answers to the questions with which the objective realities of 1905–07 confronted the proletariat. Therefore, only the inner evolution of these factions, of the “strong” factions, strong because of their deep roots, strong because their ideas correspond to certain aspects of objective reality, only the inner evolution of precisely these factions is capable of securing a real fusion of the factions, i.e., the creation of a genuinely and completely united party of proletarian Marxist socialism in Russia. From this follows the practical conclusion that only a rapprochement in practical work between these two strong factions — and only insofar as they rid themselves of the non-Social-Democratic tendencies of liquidationism and otzovism — represents a real Party policy, a policy that really brings about unity, not easily, not smoothly, and by no means immediately, but in a way that will produce actual results, as distinguished from the heap of quack promises of an easy, smooth, immediate fusion of “all” factions.
These two views were observed, even before the Plenary Meeting, when in my talks I suggested the slogan: “Rapprochement between the two strong factions, and no whining about dissolving factions.” This was made public immediately after the Meeting by Golos Sotsial-Demokrata. I plainly, definitely, and systematically explained these two views in May 1910, i.e., eighteen months ago; moreover, I did this in the “general Party” arena, in Diskussionny Listok (No. 2). If the “conciliators,” with whom we have been arguing on these subjects since November 1909; have so far not found time to answer that article even once, and have not made even one attempt to examine this question more or less systematically, to expound their views more or less openly and consistently — it is entirely their own fault. They call their factional statement, which was published on behalf of a separate group, a “public answer.” But this public answer of those who kept silent for over a year is not an answer to the question that was raised long ago, discussed long ago, and answered long ago in two fundamentally different ways; it is a most hopeless muddle, a most in credible confusion of two irreconcilable answers. Every proposition the authors of the message put forward, they immediately refute. In every single proposition, the alleged Bolsheviks (who in reality are inconsistent Trotskyites) echo Trotsky’s mistakes.
Indeed, look at the main ideas contained in the message.
Who are its authors? They say they are Bolsheviks who “do not share the organisational views of official Bolshevism.” That looks as if it were an “opposition” only on the question of organisation, does it not? Read the next sentence: “It is precisely the organisational questions, the questions of building and restoring the Party, that are being brought to the forefront again, as they were eighteen months ago.” This is quite untrue, and constitutes the very error of principle which Trotsky made, and which I exposed a year and a half ago. At the Plenary Meeting, the organisational question probably seemed of paramount importance only because, and only insofar as, the rejection of liquidationism by all factions was taken to be real, because the Golos and the Vperyod representatives “signed” the resolutions against liquidationism and against otzovism to “console” the Party. Trotsky’s error was in continuing to pass off the apparent for the real after February 1910, when Nasha Zarya finally unfurled the banner of liquidationism, and the Vperyod group — in their notorious school at X  — unfurled the banner of defence of otzovism. At the Plenary Meeting, the acceptance of the apparent for the real may have been the result of self-delusion. But after it, ever since the spring of 1910, Trotsky has been deceiving the workers in a most unprincipled and shameless manner by assuring them that the obstacles to unity were principally (if not wholly) of an organisational nature. This deceit is being continued in 1911 by the Paris conciliators; for to assert now that the organisational questions occupy the first place is sheer mockery of the truth. In reality, it is by no means the organisational question that is now in the forefront, but the question of the entire programme, the entire tactics and the whole character of the Party, or rather a question of two parties — the Social-Democratic Labour Party and the Stolypin labour party of Potresov, Smirnov, Larin, Levitsky, and their friends. The Paris conciliators seem to have been asleep for the eighteen months that have elapsed since the Plenary Meeting, during which time the entire struggle against the liquidators shifted, both in our camp and among the pro-Party Mensheviks, from organisational questions to questions of whether the Party is to be a Social-Democratic, and not a liberal, labour party. To argue now, let us say, with the gentlemen of Nasha Zarya about organisational questions, about the relative importance of the legal and illegal organisations, would be simply putting on an act, for these gentlemen may fully recognise an “illegal” organisation like Golos, which is subservient to the liquidators! It has been said long ago that the Cadets are recognising and maintaining an illegal organisation that serves monarchist liberalism. The conciliators call themselves Bolsheviks, in order to repeat, a year and a half later (and specifically stating moreover that this was done in the name of Bolshevism as a whole!), Trotsky’s errors which the Bolsheviks had exposed. Well, is this not an abuse of established Party titles? Are we not obliged, after this, to let all and sundry know that the conciliators are not Bolsheviks at all, that they have nothing in common with Bolshevism, that they are simply inconsistent Trotskyites?
Read a little further:
One may disagree with the way official Bolshevism and the majority of the editors of the Central Organ understood the task of the struggle against liquidationism […].
Is it really possible seriously to assert that the “task of the struggle against liquidationism” is an organisational task? The conciliators themselves declare that they differ from the Bolsheviks not only on organisational questions! But on what exactly do they differ? They are silent on this. Their “public answer” continues to remain the answer of people who prefer to keep silent … or, shall we say, are irresponsible? For a year and a half they did not attempt even once to correct “official Bolshevism” or to expound their own conception of the task of the struggle against liquidationism! And official Bolshevism has waged this struggle for exactly three years, since August 1908. In comparing these well-known dates we involuntarily seek for an explanation of this strange “silence” of the conciliators, and this quest involuntarily recalls to our mind Trotsky and Ionov, who asserted that they too were opposed to the liquidators, but that they understood the task of combating them differently. It is ridiculous, comrades — to declare, three years after the struggle began, that you understand the character of this struggle differently! Such a difference in understanding amounts to not understanding it at all!
To proceed. In substance the present Party crisis undoubtedly reduces itself to the question whether our Party, the R.S.D.L.P., should completely dissociate itself from the liquidators (including the Golos group) or whether it should continue the policy of compromise with them. It is doubtful whether any Social-Democrat at all familiar with the case would deny that this question constitutes the essence of the entire Party situation today. How do the conciliators answer this question?
They write in the message:
We are told that thereby [i.e., by supporting the Meeting] we are violating the Party forms and are causing a split. We do not think so [sic!]. But even if this were the case, we would not be afraid of it.
(Then follows a statement to the effect that the plenary meeting was sabotaged by the Central Committee Bureau Abroad, that the “Central Committee is the object of a gamble,” that “Party forms have begun to be filled in with a factional content,” etc.)
This answer can truly be called a “classical” specimen of ideological and political helplessness! Think of it: they are being accused, they say, of causing a split. And so the new faction, which claims to be able to show the way the Party should go, declares publicly and in print: “We do not think so” (i.e., you do not think that there is or that there will be a split?), “but” … but “we would not be afraid of it.”
You can be sure no other such example of confusion is to be found in the history of political parties. If you “do not think” that there is or that there will be a split, then explain why! Explain why it is possible to work with the liquidators! Say outright that it is possible, and therefore necessary, to work with them.
Our conciliators not only do not say this; they say the opposite. In the leading article of the Bulletin, No. 1 (it is specifically stated in a footnote that this article was opposed by a Bolshevik who was an adherent of the Bolshevik platform, i.e., of the resolution of the Second Paris Group), we read the following:
“It is a fact that joint work with the liquidators in Russia, is impossible,” while somewhat earlier it is admitted that it is “becoming more and more difficult to draw even the finest line of demarcation” between the Color group and the liquidators.
Who can make head or tail of this? On the one hand, a highly official statement is made on behalf of the Technical Commission (in which the conciliators and the Poles, who now support them, constitute a majority against us Bolsheviks) that joint work is impossible. In plain language this means declaring a split. The word split has no other meaning. On the other hand, the same Bulletin, No. 1, proclaims that the Technical Commission was set up “not for the purpose of bringing about a split, but for the purpose of averting it” — and the selfsame conciliators write that they “do not think so” (that there is or that there will be a split).
Can one imagine a greater muddle?
If joint work is impossible — that can be explained to Social-Democrats and justified in their eyes either by an outrageous violation of Party decisions and obligations on the part of a certain group of persons (and then a split with that group of persons is inevitable), or by a fundamental difference in principle, a difference which causes the entire work of a certain trend to be directed away from Social-Democracy (and then a split with the whole trend is inevitable). As we know, we have both these things; the Plenary Meeting of 1910 declared it impossible to work with the liquidationist trend, while the split with the Golos group, which violated all its obligations and definitely went over to the liquidators, is now taking place.
Anyone who consciously says that “joint work is impossible” — anyone who has given any thought to this statement and has grasped its fundamental principles, would inevitably concentrate all his attention and efforts on explaining these principles to the broadest masses so that those masses might be spared as soon and as completely as possible all futile and harmful attempts to maintain any relations whatsoever with those with whom it is impossible to work. But anyone who makes this statement and at the same time adds “we do not think” there will be a split, “but we would not be afraid of it,” reveals by his confused and timid language that he is afraid of himself, afraid of the step he has taken, afraid of the situation that has been created! The message of the conciliators produces just such an impression. They are trying to vindicate themselves for something, to appear to be “kind-hearted” in the eyes of someone, to give someone a hint.... Later on we shall learn the meaning of their hints to Vperyod and Pravda. We must first finish with the question of how the conciliators interpret the “results of the period that has elapsed since the Plenary Meeting,” the results summed up by the Meeting of the members of the Central Committee.
It is really necessary to understand these results, to understand why they were inevitable, otherwise our participation in events will be spontaneous, helpless, casual. Now see how the conciliators understand this. How do they answer the question of why the work and the decisions of the Plenary Meeting, which primarily were meant to bring about unity, resulted in a split between the Central Committee Bureau Abroad (=liquidators) and the anti-liquidators? Our inconsistent Trotskyites have simply copied the answer to this from Trotsky and Ionov, and I am forced to repeat what I said in last May against those consistent conciliators.
The conciliators answer by saying: it is the fault of factionalism, the factionalism of the Mensheviks, the Vperyod group, and of Pravda (we enumerate the factional groups in the order in which they appear in the message), and, finally, of the “official representatives of Bolshevism” who “have probably outdone all these groups in their factional efforts.” The authors of the message openly and definitely apply the term non-factional only to themselves, the Paris conciliators. All are wicked, they are virtuous.  The conciliators give no ideological reasons in explanation of the phenomenon in question. They do not point to any of the organisational or other distinguishing features of the groups that gave rise to this phenomenon. They say nothing, not a word, to explain matters, except that factionalism is a vice and non-factionalism a virtue. The only difference between Trotsky and the conciliators in Paris is that the latter regard Trotsky as a factionalist and themselves as non-factional, whereas Trotsky holds the opposite view.
I must confess that this formulation of the question, in which political phenomena are explained only by the wickedness of some and the virtue of others, always calls to mind those outwardly benevolent faces of which one cannot help thinking, “Probably a rogue.”
What do you think of the following comparison? Our conciliators are non-factional, virtuous; we Bolsheviks have outdone all groups in our factional efforts, i.e., we are the most wicked. Therefore, the virtuous faction supported the most wicked, the Bolshevik faction in its fight against the Central Committee Bureau Abroad!! There is something wrong here, comrades! You are confusing matters more and more with every statement you make.
You make yourselves ridiculous when you and Trotsky hurl accusations of factionalism at one another, as if you were playing at ball; you do not take the trouble to think: what is a faction? Try to give a definition, and we predict that you will entangle yourselves still more; for you yourselves are a faction — a vacillating, unprincipled faction, one that failed to understand what took place at the Plenary Meeting and after it.
A faction is an organisation within a party, united, not by its place of work, language or other objective conditions, but by a particular platform of views on party questions. The authors of the message are a faction, because the message constitutes their platform (a very bad one; but there are factions with wrong platforms). They are a faction, because like every other organisation they are bound by internal discipline; their group appoints its representative to the Technical Commission and to the Organising Commission by a majority of votes; it was their group that drew up and published the message-programme, and so on. Such are the objective facts which show that outcries against factionalism are bound to be hypocrisy. Yet Trotsky and the inconsistent Trotskyites maintain that they are not a faction because … “the only” object of their uniting (into a faction) is to abolish factions and to advocate their fusion, etc. But all such assurances are merely self-praise and a cowardly game of hide-and-seek, for the simple reason that the fact that a faction exists is not affected by any (even the most virtuous) aim of the faction. Every faction is convinced that its platform and its policy are the best means of abolishing factions, for no one regards the existence of factions as ideal. The only difference is that factions with clear, consistent, integral platforms openly defend their platforms, while unprincipled factions hide behind cheap shouts about their virtue, about their non-factionalism.
What is the reason for the existence of factions in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party? They exist as the continuation of the split of 1903–05. They are the result of the weakness of the local organisations which are powerless to prevent the transformation of literary groups that express new trends, big and small, into new “factions,” i.e., into organisations in which internal discipline takes first place. How can the abolition of factions really be guaranteed? Only by completely healing the split, which dates from the time of the revolution (and this will be brought about only by ridding the two main factions of liquidationism and otzovism), and by creating a proletarian organisation strong enough to force the minority to submit to the majority. As long as no such organisation exists, the only thing that might accelerate the process of their disappearance is an agreement by all the factions. Hence, both the ideological merit of the Plenary Meeting and its conciliationist error become clear. Its merit was the rejection of the ideas of liquidationism and otzovism; its mistake was the agreement concluded indiscriminately with persons and groups whose deeds are not in accordance with their promises (“they signed the resolution”). The ideological rapprochement on the basis of the fight against liquidationism and otzovism goes ahead — despite all obstacles and difficulties. The conciliationist mistake of the Plenary Meeting  quite inevitably brought about the failure of its conciliatory decisions, i.e., the failure of the alliance with the Golos group. The rupture between the Bolsheviks (and later also between the Meeting of the members of the Central Committee) and the Central Committee Bureau Abroad corrected the conciliationist mistake of the Plenary Meeting. The rapprochement of the factions which are actually combating liquidationism and otzovism will now proceed despite the forms decided on by the Plenary Meeting, for these forms did not correspond to the content. Conciliationism in general, as well as the conciliationism of the Plenary Meeting, came to grief because the content of the work separated the liquidators from the Social-Democrats, and all the forms, diplomacy, and games of the conciliators could not overcome this process of separation.
From this, and only this point of view, which I developed in May 1910, everything that took place after the Plenary Meeting becomes intelligible, inevitable, resulting not from the “wickedness” of some and the “virtue” of others, but from the objective course of events, which isolates the liquidationist trend and brushes aside all the intermediate major and minor groups.
In order to obscure this undoubted political fact, the complete failure of conciliationism, the conciliators are forced to resort to a downright distortion of facts. Just listen to this:
The factional policy of the Leninist Bolsheviks was particularly harmful because they had a majority in all the principal Party institutions, so that their factional policy justified the organisational separatism of other trends and armed those trends against the official Party institutions.
This tirade is nothing but a cowardly and belated “justification” of … liquidationism, for it is precisely the representatives of that tendency who have always justified them selves by references to the “factionalism” of the Bolsheviks. This justification is belated because it was the duty of every real Party member (in contrast to persons who use the catch word “pro-Party” for self-advertisement) to act at the time when this “factionalism” began, and not a year and a half later! The conciliators, the defenders of liquidationism, could not and did not act earlier, because they had no facts. They are taking advantage of the present “time of troubles” in order to give prominence to the unfounded arguments of the liquidators. But the facts are explicit and unambiguous; immediately after the Plenary Meeting, in February 1910, Mr. Potresov unfurled the banner of liquidationism. Soon after, in February or March, Messrs. Mikhail, Roman, and Yuri betrayed the Party. Immediately after that, the Golos group started a campaign for Golos (see Plekhanov’s Diary the day following the Plenary Meeting) and resumed the publication of Golos. Immediately after that, the Vperyod people began to build up their own “school.” The first factional step of the Bolsheviks, on the other hand, was to found Rabochaya Gazeta in September 1910, after Trotsky’s break with the representatives of the Central Committee.
Why did the conciliators resort to such a distortion of well-known facts? In order to give a hint to the liquidators, and curry favour with them. On the one hand, “joint work with the liquidators is impossible.” On the other hand — they are “justified” by the factionalism of the Bolsheviks!? We ask any Social-Democrat not contaminated with émigré diplomacy, what political confidence can be placed in people who are themselves entangled in such contradictions? All they deserve are the bouquets with which Golos publicly rewarded them.
By “factionalism” the conciliators mean the ruthlessness of our polemics (for which they have censured us thousands of times at general meetings in Paris) and the ruthlessness of our exposure of the liquidators (they were against exposing Mikhail, Yuri, and Roman). The conciliators have been defending and screening the liquidators all the time but have never dared to express their defence openly, either in the Diskussionny Listok or in any printed public appeal. And now they are using their impotence and cowardice to put a spoke in the wheel of the Party, which has begun emphatically to dissociate itself from the liquidators. The liquidators say, there is no liquidationism, it is an “exaggeration” on the part of the Bolsheviks (see the resolution of the Caucasian liquidators and Trotsky’s speeches). The conciliators say, it is impossible to work with the liquidators, but… but the factionalism of the Bolsheviks provides them with a “justification.” Is it not clear that this ridiculous contradiction of subjective opinions has one, and only one, real meaning: cowardly defence of liquidationism, a desire to trip up the Bolsheviks and lend support to the liquidators?
But this is by no means all. The worst and most malicious distortion of facts is the assertion that we had a “majority” in the “principal Party institutions.” This crying untruth has only one purpose: to cover up the political bankruptcy of conciliationism. For, in reality, the Bolsheviks did not have a majority in any of the “principal Party institutions” after the Plenary Meeting. On the contrary, it was the conciliators who had the majority. We challenge anyone to attempt to dispute the following facts. After the Plenary Meeting there were only three “principal Party institutions”:
- the Central Committee Bureau in Russia — composed chiefly of conciliators; 
- the Central Committee Bureau Abroad — on which, from January to November 1910, the Bolsheviks were represented by a conciliator; since the Bundist and the Latvian officially adopted the conciliationist standpoint, the majority, during eleven months following the Plenary Meeting, was conciliationist;
- the Editorial Board of the Central Organ — on which two “Bolshevik factionalists” were opposed by two Golos sup porters; without the Pole there was no majority.
Why did the conciliators have to resort to a deliberate lie? For no other purpose than that of camouflage, to cover up the political bankruptcy of conciliationism. Conciliationism predominated at the Plenary Meeting; it had a majority in all the principal practical centres of the Party after the Plenary Meeting, and within a year and a half it suffered complete collapse. It failed to “reconcile” anyone; it did not create anything anywhere; it vacillated helplessly from side to side, and for that it fully deserved the bouquets of Golos.
The conciliators suffered the most complete failure in Russia, and the more assiduously and demagogically the Paris conciliators refer to Russia the more important is it to stress this. The leit-motif of the conciliators is that Russia is conciliationist in contrast with what we have abroad. Compare these words with the facts, and you will see that this is just hollow, cheap demagogy. The facts show that for more than a year after the Plenary Meeting there were only conciliators on the Central Committee Bureau in Russia; they alone made official reports about the Plenary Meeting and officially negotiated with the legalists; they alone appointed agents and sent them to the various institutions; they alone handled all the funds that were sent unquestioningly by the Central Committee Bureau Abroad; they alone negotiated with the “Russian” writers who seemed promising contributors to the muddle (i.e., in respect of conciliationism), etc.
And the result?
The result is nil. Not a single leaflet, not a single pronouncement, not a single organ of the press, not a single “conciliation.” As against this the Bolshevik “factionalists” have put their Rabochaya Gazeta, published abroad, on its feet after two issues (to say nothing of other matters about which only Mr. Martov speaks openly, thereby helping the secret police). Conciliationism is nil, words, empty wishes (and attempts to trip up Bolshevism on the basis of these “conciliatory” wishes); “official” Bolshevism has proved by deeds that it is absolutely preponderant precisely in Russia.
Is this an accident? The result of arrests? But arrests “spared” the liquidators, who did no work in the Party, while they mowed down Bolsheviks and conciliators alike.
No, this is not an accident, or the result of the luck or success of individuals. It is the result of the bankruptcy of a political tendency which is based on false premises. The very foundation of conciliationism is false — the wish to base the unity of the party of the proletariat on an alliance of all factions, including the anti-Social-Democratic, non-proletarian factions; false are its unprincipled “unity” schemes which lead to nothing; false are its phrases against “factions” (when in fact a new faction is formed) — phrases that are powerless to dissolve the anti-Party factions, but are intended to weaken the Bolshevik faction which bore nine-tenths of the brunt of the struggle against liquidationism and Otzovism.
Trotsky provides us with an abundance of instances of scheming to establish unprincipled “unity.” Recall, for example (I take one of the most recent instances), how he praised the Paris Rabochaya Zhizn, in the management of which the Paris conciliators and the Golos group had an equal share. How wonderful! — wrote Trotsky — “neither Bolshevik, nor Menshevik, but revolutionary Social-Democrat.” The poor hero of phrase-mongering failed to notice a mere bagatelle — only that Social-Democrat is revolutionary who understands how harmful anti-revolutionary pseudo-Social-Democracy can be in a given country at a given time (i.e., the harm of liquidationism and otzovism in the Russia of the 1908–10 period), and who knows how to fight against such non-Social-Democratic tendencies. By his praise of Rabochaya Zhizn which had never fought against the non-revolutionary Social-Democrats in Russia, Trotsky was merely revealing the plan of the liquidators whom he serves faithfully — parity on the Central Organ implies the termination of the struggle against the liquidators; the liquidators actually enjoy full freedom to fight the Party; and let the Party be tied hand and foot by the “parity” of the Golos and Party men on the Central Organ (and on the Central Committee). This would assure complete victory for the liquidators and only their lackeys could pursue or defend such a line of action.
Instances of unprincipled “unity” schemes that promise peace and happiness without a long, stubborn, desperate struggle against the liquidators were provided at the Plenary Meeting by Ionov, Innokentiev, and other conciliators. We saw another such instance in the message of our conciliators who justify liquidationism on the grounds of Bolshevik “factionalism.” A further example is to be found in their speeches about the Bolsheviks “isolating” themselves “from other trends [Vperyod, Pravda] which advocate an illegal Social-Democratic party.”
The italics in this remarkable tirade are ours. Just as a small drop of water reflects the sun, so this tirade reflects the utter lack of principle in conciliationism, which is at the root of its political impotence.
In the first place, do Pravda and Vperyod represent Social-Democratic trends? No, they do not; for Vperyod represents a non-Social-Democratic trend (otzovism and Machism) and Pravda represents a tiny group, which has not given an independent and consistent answer to any important fundamental question of the revolution and counter-revolution. We can call a trend only a definite sum of political ideas which have become well-defined in regard to all the most important questions of both the revolution (for we have moved away but little from it and are dependent on it in all respects) and the counter-revolution; ideas which, moreover, have proved their right to existence as a trend by being widely disseminated among broad strata of the working class. Both Menshevism and Bolshevism are Social-Democratic trends; this has been proved by the experience of the revolution, by the eight years’ history of the working-class movement. As for small groups not representing any trend — there have been plenty during this period, just as there were plenty before. To confuse a trend with minor groups means condemning oneself to intrigue in Party politics. The emergence of unprincipled tiny groups, their ephemeral existence, their efforts to have “their say,” their “relations” with each other as separate powers — all this is the basis of the intrigues taking place abroad: and from this there is not nor can there be any salvation, except that of strictly adhering to consistent principles tested by experience in the long history of the working-class movement.
Secondly — and here we at once observe the practical transformation of the conciliators’ lack of principle into intrigue — the message of the Parisians is telling a downright and deliberate lie when it declares: “Otzovism no longer finds open adherents and defenders in our Party.” This is an untruth, and everybody knows it. This untruth is refuted by documentary evidence in Vperyod, No. 3 (May 1911) which openly states that otzovism is a “perfectly legitimate trend within our Party” (p. 78). Or will our very wise conciliators assert that such a declaration is not a defence of otzovism?
It is when people cannot justify their close association with this or that group on grounds of principle that they are compelled to resort to a policy of petty lies, petty flattery, nods, hints, i.e., to all those things which add up to the concept “intrigue.” Vperyod praises the conciliators; the conciliators praise Vperyod and falsely reassure the Party with regard to otzovism. As a result there is bargaining and haggling over positions and posts with the defenders of otzovism, with the violators of all the decisions of the Plenary Meeting. The fate of conciliationism and the substance of its impotent and miserable intriguing, is secretly to assist both the otzovists and the liquidators.
Thirdly — “… joint work with the liquidators in Russia is impossible.” Even the conciliators had to admit this truth. The question is — do the Vperyod and Pravda groups admit this truth? Far from admitting it, they state the very opposite, they openly demand “joint work” with the liquidators, and they openly engage in such work (see, for example, the report of the Second Vperyod School). Is there even a grain of principle and of honesty in the proclamation of a policy of rapprochement with groups which give diametrically opposite answers to fundamental questions? — we ask, because an unambiguous and unanimous resolution of the Plenary Meeting recognised the question of liquidationism to be a fundamental one. Obviously not; we are confronted with an ideological chasm, and irrespective of the most pious intentions of X or Z all their attempts to span it with a bridge of words, with a bridge of diplomacy, inevitably condemn them to intrigues.
Until it has been shown and proved by reliable facts and a review of the most important questions that Vperyod and Pravda represent Social-Democratic trends (and no one, during the year and a half following the Plenary Meeting has even tried to prove this since it cannot be proved), we shall not tire of explaining to the workers the harmfulness of those unprincipled stratagems, of those under handed stratagems, which are the substance of rapprochement with Vperyod and Pravda as preached by the conciliators. It is the first duty of revolutionary Social-Democrats to isolate these non-Social-Democratic and unprincipled groups that are aiding the liquidators. The policy which has been and is being pursued by Bolshevism and which it will pursue to the end despite all obstacles is to appeal to the Russian workers who are connected with Vperyod and Pravda, over the heads of these groups and against them.
I have said that after a year and a half of domination in the Party centres, conciliationism has suffered complete political bankruptcy. The usual answer to this is yes, but that is because you factionalists were hampering us (see the letter of the conciliators — not Bolsheviks — Hermann and Arkady in Pravda, No. 20).
The political bankruptcy of a tendency or a group lies precisely in the fact that everything “hampers” it, every thing turns against it; for it has wrongly estimated this “everything,” for it has taken as its basis empty words, sighs, regrets, whimpers.
Whereas in our case, gentlemen, everything and everybody came to our assistance — and herein lies the guarantee of our success. We were assisted by the Potresovs, Larins, Levitskys — for they could not open their mouths without confirming our arguments about liquidationism. We were assisted by the Martovs, Dans and others — for they compelled everyone to agree with our view that the Golos group and the liquidators are one and the same. We were assisted by Plekhanov to the very extent that he exposed the liquidators, pointed out the loopholes left open “for the liquidators” (by the conciliators) in the resolutions of the Plenary Meeting, and ridiculed the “puffy” and “integralist” passages in these resolutions (passed by the conciliators against us). We were assisted by the Russian conciliators whose “invitation,” extended to Mikhail, Yuri, and Roman, was accompanied by abusive attacks upon Lenin (see Golos), thereby confirming the fact that the refusal of the liquidators was not due to the insidiousness of the “factionalists.” How is it, my dear conciliators, that, notwithstanding your virtue everybody hampered you, whereas everyone helped us in spite of all our factional wickedness?
It was because the policy of your petty group hinged only on phrase-mongering, often very well-meaning and well-intentioned phrase-mongering, but empty nonetheless. A real approach to unity is created only by a rapprochement of strong factions, strong in their ideological integrity and an influence over the masses that has been tested by the experience of the revolution.
Even now, your outbursts against factionalism remain mere words, because you yourselves are a faction, one of the worst, least reliable, unprincipled factions. Your loud, sweeping pronouncement (in the In formation Bulletin) — “not a centime for the factions” — was mere words. Had you meant it seriously, could you have spent your “centimes” on the publication of the message-platform of a new group? Had you meant it seriously, could you have kept quiet at the sight of such factional organs as Rabochaya Gazeta and The Diary of a Social-Democrat? Could you have abstained from publicly demanding that they be closed down?  Had you demanded this, had you seriously stipulated such a condition, you would simply have been ridiculed. However, if, being well aware of this, you confine yourselves to languid sighs, does it not prove over and over again that your conciliationism remains suspended?
The disarming of the factions is possible only on the basis of reciprocity — otherwise it is a reactionary slogan, extremely harmful to the cause of the proletariat; it is a demagogical slogan, for it only facilitates the uncompromising struggle of the liquidators against the Party. Anyone who advances this slogan now, after the attempt of the Plenary Meeting to apply it has failed, after the attempt to amalgamate (the factions) has been thwarted by the Golos and Vperyod factions — anyone who does this without even daring to repeat the condition of reciprocity, without even trying to state it clearly, to determine the methods of control over its actual fulfilment, is simply becoming intoxicated by sweet-sounding words.
Bolsheviks, unite! — You are the only bulwark of a consistent and decisive struggle against liquidationism and otzovism.
Pursue the policy of rapprochement with anti-liquidationist Menshevism, a policy tested by practice, confirmed by experience — such is our slogan. It is a policy that does not promise a land flowing with the milk and honey of “universal peace” which cannot be attained in the period of disorganisation and disintegration, but it is a policy that in the process of work really furthers the rapprochement of trends which represent all that is strong, sound, and vital in the proletarian movement.
The part played by the conciliators during the period of counter-revolution may be described as follows. With immense efforts the Bolsheviks are pulling our Party wagon up a steep slope. The Golos liquidators are trying with all their might to drag it downhill again. In the wagon sits a conciliator; he is a picture of meekness. He has such an angelic sweet face, like that of Jesus. He looks the very incarnation of virtue. And modestly dropping his eyes and raising his hands he exclaims: “I thank thee, Lord, that I am not as these men are” — a nod in the direction of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks — “insidious factionalists who hinder all progress.” But the wagon moves slowly forward and in the wagon sits the conciliator. When the Bolshevik factionalists smashed the liquidationist Central Committee Bureau Abroad, thereby clearing the ground for the building of a new house, for a bloc (or at least a temporary alliance) of Party factions, the conciliators entered this house and (cursing the Bolshevik factionalists) sprinkled the new abode with the holy water of sugary speeches about non-factionalism!
What would have become of the historically memorable work of the old Iskra, if, instead of waging a consistent, implacable, principled campaign against Economism and Struveism, it had agreed to some bloc, alliance or “fusion” of all groups large and small which were as numerous abroad in those days as they are today?
And yet the differences between our epoch and the epoch of the old Iskra considerably increase the harm done by unprincipled and phrase-mongering conciliationism.
The first difference is that we have risen to a far higher level in the development of capitalism and of the bourgeoisie as well as in the clarity of the class struggle in Russia. Certain objective soil already exists (for the first time in Russia) for the liberal labour policy of Potresov, Levitsky, Larin, and their friends. The Stolypin liberalism of the Cadets and the Stolypin labour party are already in process of formation. All the more harmful in practice are conciliationist phrases and intrigues with those groups abroad which support the liquidators.
The second difference is the immeasurably higher level of development of the proletariat, of its class-consciousness and class solidarity. All the more harmful is the artificial support given by the conciliators to the ephemeral petty groups abroad (Vperyod, Pravda, etc.), which have not created and are unable to create any trend in Social-Democracy.
The third difference is that during the Iskra period there were illegal organisations of Economists in Russia, which had to be smashed and split up in order to unite the revolutionary Social-Democrats against them. Today, there are no parallel illegal organisations; today it is only a question of fighting legal groups that have segregated themselves. And this process of segregation (even the conciliators are forced to admit it) is being hindered by the political game of the conciliators with the factions abroad that are unwilling to work and incapable of working for such demarcation.
Bolshevism has “got over” the otzovist sickness, the sickness of revolutionary phrase-mongering, the playing at “Leftism,” the swinging from Social-Democracy to the left. The otzovists came out as a faction when it was no longer possible to “recall” the Social-Democrats from the Duma.
Bolshevism will also get over the “conciliationist” sickness, the wavering in the direction of liquidationism (for in reality the conciliators were always a plaything in the hands of the liquidators). The conciliators are also hopelessly behindhand. They came out as a faction after the domination of conciliationism had exhausted itself during the eighteen months following the Plenary Meeting and there was no one left to conciliate.
P.S. The present feuilleton was written more than a month ago. It criticises the “theory” of the conciliators. As for the “practice” of the conciliators, which found expression in the hopeless, absurd, futile, and shameful squabbles which fill the pages of the conciliators’ and the Poles’ Bulletin No. 2, it is not worth wasting a single word on.
This is covered in Lars Lih’s (arguably neo-Kautskyist, but compellingly-researched) Lenin Rediscovered (2005). ↩
This school was held in Capri, in 1909, and was the factional centre of the otzovists; it was organised by A. A. Bogdanov. — Ed. ↩
See Hegel: “Wickedness also resides in the gaze that perceives itself as innocent and surrounded by wickedness.” ↩
See Diskussionny Listok, No. 2. — V. L. ↩
Of course, not all conciliators are alike, and surely not all the former members of the Russian Bureau could (and would) accept responsibility for all the pompous stupidities of the Paris conciliators who are merely echoing Trotsky. — V. L. ↩
In fairness it should be stated that the Paris conciliators, who have now issued their message, were opposed to launching of Rabochaya Gazeta; they walked out of the first meeting to which they were invited by its editors. We regret that they did not help us (to expose the futility of conciliationism) by openly denouncing Rabochaya Gazeta. — V. L. ↩