In 1895, one hundred twenty years ago, a young Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov – known to posterity as Lenin – was arrested and later sentenced to four years in prison followed by exile in Siberia. Exactly ten years later, in 1905, as the world watched and wondered at the upheavals of the 1905 revolution, he was back in St. Petersburg publishing articles about how his movement’s revolution should exclude the unworthy – in this case, anarchists. Did he learn nothing from how society tried to exclude him?
Yesterday, November 23 [December 6], the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies announced its decision to reject the anarchists’ request to allow their representatives into the Executive Committee and the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. The Executive Committee itself justified its decision thus: “1) in all international practice congresses and socialist conferences do not include representatives of anarchists, seeing as the latter do not recognize political struggle as a means to achieve their ideals; 2) representatives can represent a party, and the anarchists are not a party.”
We believe the Executive Committee’s decision to be absolutely the correct course of action, with an enormous significance, in terms of both principle and practical politics. Of course, if the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies were seen as a parliament for workers, or as a means of self-governance for the proletariat, the refusal to allow the anarchists would be inappropriate. No matter how small (thankfully) the anarchists’ influence may be among our workers, there are, nonetheless, a few workers on their side. Whether the anarchists constitute a party, or an organization, or a group, or a free association of like-minded people is a matter of formality without much worth or significance. Finally, if the anarchists, despite rejecting political struggle, are themselves requesting to join the institution that leads this struggle, then their flagrant inconsistency becomes yet another demonstration of the tenuousness of the anarchist worldview and tactics. All the same, naturally we cannot exclude anyone from a “parliament” or “means of self-governance” for mere tenuousness.
We find the Executive Committee’s decision to be entirely correct and in no way contradictory to the objectives of this institution, or its character and constitution. The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is not a workers’ parliament, nor a means of proletarian self-governance, not a means of any self-governance – it is a strategic organization formed to achieve certain goals.
… It is entirely reasonable that international socialist congresses have decided not to allow anarchists. There is an enormous chasm between socialism and anarchism, and the attempts by agents-provocateurs from the secret police and reactionary governments’ journalist lapdogs to paint it as non-existent are all in vain. The anarchist worldview is nothing but a bourgeois worldview turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and ideals are in direct opposition to socialism. Their views portray the present and even the past of bourgeois society, the supremacy of blind chance over the alienated, lonesome, insignificant producer, rather than the future that marches inexorably toward the socialization of labor. Their strategy, which is in essence a rejection of political struggle, divides the proletariat and transforms it, in practice, into a passive participant in whatever bourgeois political agenda, as workers cannot in theory or practice be truly divorced from politics.
In the current Russian revolution, the objective of unifying and organizing the forces of the proletariat, as well as politically educating the working class is especially relevant and urgent … And that is why we will use all methods of ideological battle to keep the influence of anarchists on Russian workers as insignificant as it has been until now.
Translated by Eugenia Sokolskaya
Source: Originally published in “New Life” on November 25 (December 8), 1905. Reprinted in Lenin, V.I. Collected Works, Volume 12, pp. 129-132. Accessed at leninism.su.
Russian Life is a 29-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567