‘The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, 1899-1904: Documents of the ‘Economist’ Opposition to Iskra and Early Menshevism’ reviewed by Bill Jefferies

Reviewed by Bill Jefferies

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Bill Jefferies’ book Measuring National Income in the Centrally Planned Economies; Why the …

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This is a collection of 25 pieces selected by Richard Mullin most of which “express an anti-Lenin view”. The collection is inspired by the laudable belief that in assessing any argument it is important to read all the contending sides. If there is a criticism of this collection, it is that the translator does not consistently follow this important idea through. He considers these pieces mainly in terms of what they tell us about Lenin, rather than whether they have anything interesting or useful to contribute in their own right.

 

The collection includes a lengthy background piece in the form of an Introduction, which provides, amongst other things, some biographical information on Georgi Plekhanov who was “without many brilliant successes” (5) the founder of Russian Marxism. Through the course of the book there are extended introductions to each of the pieces, where Mullin explains their individual context, the motives of the authors and provides a form of summary interpretation of them. Mullin’s questioning of the integrity of Lenin’s political opponents are a recurrent feature of these introductions and mar the book. Overall Mullin concludes that the documents provide “a clearer and curiously flattering picture of Lenin’s thought and activity”.

The chronology of the book means that it is implicitly split into two parts. The period of the struggle around Economism up to the Second Congress of the RSDLP in 1903, and the period after that, of the split between the groups that were to become known as the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The major contributor to the book is the aforementioned Plekhanov, who comes out of it with his reputation, at least for this period, restored. The clarity and whit of Plekhanov’s writing, as well as the clear line of advance he presents are the real highlight of the book. Plekhanov dissects Lenin’s weaknesses and shows how the creation of the Bolsheviks was an accident, born from a stubborn schema and an inability to respond to changing circumstances. That it succeeded later was only indirectly related to the reasons for its foundation.

Plekhanov’s Vademecum is the highlight of the first half, a lengthy and brilliant deconstruction of the Economists and the opportunist premises of their argument. It is the most substantial and important document in the collection. It is not anti-Lenin. Quite the opposite, Lenin’s opinions of it are neither here nor there for Plekhanov; moreover, it is clear that Lenin took many of the arguments in his 1902 What is to be Done? (WITBD) directly from it. Although not all, for the collection ends with Plekhanov’s famous article from 1904 The Working Class and the Social Democratic Intelligentsia where Plekhanov provides a pointed and brilliant rebuttal and refutation of the main original premise of Lenin’s argument.

The Vademecum is the first substantial piece in the collection and follows three short Economist documents that summarised some of their views. The introduction points out that Plekhanov wrote it from a position of weakness. At the same time, Lenin was negotiating with the Economists over the establishment of a possible journal and a new party congress.

The Vademecum is a commentary on Economism by Plekhanov, an explanation of the historical background to it, and a collections of correspondence with them. Mullin questions Plekhanov’s ethics in publishing these letters without their authors approval (79), but this was political not personal correspondence, used in a political not personal disagreement. The Vademecum contains a translation of the Credo which was perhaps the key statement of the assumptions of the Economist/Revisionist views in Russia at the time, even though Rabochee Delo’s Editorial Board argued it was just the work of “isolated individuals” (85). This explains an important modification in the understanding of Economism presented by Lenin in WITBD two years later, when Economism had been essentially defeated by Plekhanov’s relentless campaign. The Credo did not argue that the economic struggle spontaneously creates revolutionary socialist consciousness. Rather “The Credo only recommend economic struggle to the working class, saying that political struggle on its part is impossible under Russian conditions and that ‘talk of an independent working class political Party is in essence nothing more than the consequence of transferring alien tasks and alien results onto our soil'” (108). The Credo explained that the factory proletariat joins organisations “slowly and badly” is only good for “loose organisations” and “not durable” ones (116), as the class develops “its aspiration of seizing power will be transformed into one directed towards changing, towards the reforming of contemporary society in a democratic direction adapted to the contemporary state of things (117). Its conclusion was “participating in the economic struggle of the proletariat and participation in liberal-oppositional activity” (119). Plekhanov explained the false history of the Western European socialist movement presented in the Credo. He defended the revolutionary essence of Marxist theory, not as the “abstract preaching of socialism and solidarity”, but as “the correctly indicated road of active struggle” that “teaches the workers to fight” (129).

Plekhanov’s Vademecum turned the tide against the Economists. The collection provides a series of short documents by Boris Krichevskii and A.S. Martynov, which repeat the essentials of their analysis, but in a situation where they are becoming marginalised, albeit not without ups and downs. As becomes clear in a series of letters and reports from Martov, the Bund and Alexandrova.

What is in effect the second part of the book, the fall out and then split between the trends that were to become the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at the Second Congress of the RSDLP, begins with a report from an underground Bolshevik Pavlovich (338). Pavlovich essentially repeats Lenin’s line from One Step Forward Two Steps Back, in which Lenin attempts to provide a political justification for the split, through a claimed opportunism of anyone who disagreed with him. What is most interesting about Pavlovich’s document, is not its arguments, which are basically second hand, but how it reveals the motivation for Lenin’s position – as the advocate for the underground party apparatus. The strength of Lenin’s argument was that he wanted the movement’s intellectuals to be accountable to the base organisation in Russia. Ultimately, it was the ability of the party organisation to hold its leaders to account, which ensured the success of the revolution in 1917, not the claimed “hardness” of the Bolshevik faction. Mensheviks (Trotsky) led both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. The difference was that when the Old Right Bolsheviks refused to fight for socialism in April 1917, the base of the Bolsheviks were able to overthrow them. The significance of the split was that it enshrined this principle into the organisational DNA of the Bolshevik faction.

Where Plekhanov differed with Lenin, was not over the attempt to hold the intellectuals accountable to the party, the pair were united at the Congress, but that in Plekhanov’s view this organisational question was not a split issue. After all Lenin’s proposed editorial board of Lenin, Martov and Plekhanov, ensured a majority for “opportunism” if this was really the case. For Plekhanov, the unity of the party behind the revolutionary programme which he wrote, Lenin amended and Congress agreed, meant that a split weakened the party and so compromise was necessary on this issue, at this time.

The collection continues with a resolution from Martov and Trotsky that explains the concerns of the minority. It reflects what Mullin considers to be “at worst” the “crudely egotistical outlook” of a “clique”. Trotsky and Martov’s criticisms are “poorly substantiated” (368). Martov’s article The State of Siege, is a “distortion” of the argument, contains unexplained “silences” on key events and is “flawed” and “tenuous” (373/4). Martov’s reasons for the Editorial Board representing the supreme executive power are “far from clear” (374), and he is “self-serving” (375).

Actually Martov’s argument is perfectly clear. He explains that the division between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ at the Congress “did not have any principled character” (391). He points out the contradictions in this distinction. Martov was on Lenin’s slate so how could he have been “self-serving” given that his personal position would have been assured if Lenin had won? Martov explains that “whoever seriously contemplates the notion of revolutionary work and of ideological leadership, understands that to place the leadership of the ideological life of the Party into somebody’s hands means to give up the leadership of Party work, for how can one remove the element of ideology from revolutionary activity” (411). This was the significance of Martov’s, perfectly clear, reasoning around the Editorial Board. Martov points to the hypocrisy of the Bolsheviks who had doubled standards for different committees depending on who they supported. Plekhanov points out that Lenin casts a “moral shadow” over the motives behind the majority of the EB, reducing “the struggle between two organisational tendencies … to the level of a pitiful, contemptible struggle ‘for places'” (466). Although he then goes onto qualify this statement “I think much of the strangeness of his (Lenin’s) actions can simply be explained by the fact that he is completely lacking a sense of humour” (469).

The collection concludes with four Plekhanov articles, What is Not to be Done, Something on ‘Economism’ and ‘Economists’, Centralism or Bonapartism and The Working Class and the Social-Democratic Intelligentsia.

Plekhanov’s article What is Not to be Done? (483) published in November 1903 is “curious”, according to Richard Mullin, as he outlined a “new attitude” towards the revisionists. Mullin thinks this “yielding” attitude is at odds with his former attack on them. Mullin effectively echoes Lenin’s line that Plehanov had gone “soft” on revisionism, indeed Lenin’s assessment of it was “more honest” (486). Actually Plekhanov’s argument was perfectly honest, straightforward and “hard”. He pointed out that he had fought revisionism to “deprive them of influence on the proletariat” (490), once they were defeated then they should not be prevented from participating in the party. He went on “the discipline which we strive for is entirely different from the discipline prevailing in a barracks. The soldier is subject to the authorities through compulsion: we comply – when we comply – with the demand of Party discipline through free will. The free will of a revolutionary constitutes a solely psychological basis for our discipline (492). Plekhanov wanted to avoid a “very damaging” split once the revolutionary basis of the party had been established (494). He developed this idea in Something on Economism, where he insisted that unless socialism had a “broad mass character” (501) it was “empty activity” that was “capable only of sweetening the unwanted, but long and boring leisure time of an intelligentsia separated from life” (502). He continues these themes in Centralism and Bonapartism.

In The Working Class and Social Democratic Intelligentsia he dissects Lenin’s WITBD. Mullin points out that due to Lenin’s failure to reply “some observers may have concluded that Plekhanov’s criticism is essentially correct”. Some observers like Trotsky no doubt who described it as “biased” and “erroneous” (Trotsky, 1969 [1941]: 97). Plekhanov proves that socialism arose as a social phenomenon at the same time as it developed in the minds of socialist intellectuals and so it was “completely unthinkable” to consider the development of scientific socialism “completely independent of the spontaneous development of the workers’ movement” (549, 550).

Notwithstanding any reservations around the informative, but overly subjective and one-sided introductions to the articles, Richard Mullin is to be applauded for producing this collection. Not only are the pieces well chosen, they provide a very important counter-point to the accepted narrative of both the dispute around Economism and the Bolshevik-Menshevik split. They include very important articles, notably Plekhanov’s contributions but also Martov’s State of Siege. This book is an important resource for the study of these important disputes and for the insight it provides into later developments too.

23 June 2015

References

  • Trotsky L. 1960 [1941] Stalin, Volume I, Rise of a Revolutionary London: Panther.

4 comments

  1. As the author of the book, I’d like to thank Bill Jeffries for his outspoken, thought-provoking review and at times kind review. However, for the sake of clarity, I would like to respond to some of his remarks.

    I’m sorry that the reviewer feels I do not consider all sides of the arguments discussed, but this is a collection of documents nearly all of which express an anti-Lenin view. It is indeed a strange notion of historical balance and objectivity the reviewer has when he criticises me for cross-examining these views in my commentaries and pointing out flaws in them. After all, it’s not as if the points of view being criticised are not given sufficient space in this work – I translate them word for word – and nor is tendentious criticism of Lenin an entirely unheard-of phenomenon in English-language academia. Perhaps his version of balance and objectivity involves a policy of silence regarding the views expressed in my translations, which would in the case of the polemical articles amount to passing over the vilification of Lenin without comment.

    Sadly, many histories of this subject have already done precisely this: it has been a case of ‘all power to the accuser’ when it comes to debating Lenin’s thought and actions. I think it is time to pose the question of whether we can actually acquire a balanced or fair view of Lenin or the Bolsheviks based on such polemical accusations which are not treated with the least degree of critical distance, and which at their worst involve the regurgitation of slander.

    I believe there is a better way to write history than this. All of the views I present in this book are critically evaluated, and I make no apology for drawing attention to matters of integrity where they exist. As the reviewer notes, Plekhanov’s Vademecum is a collection of unpublished Economist documents, some of which are private letters and I draw attention to the ethical issues surround the practice of publishing private correspondence without the permission of the author. I draw attention to this issue even though Plekhanov and Lenin were allies when this brochure was composed. So I do not just cross-examine and Lenin’s opponents, but also his close confederates, and to the extent that he appears in the work, Lenin himself.

    I make no apology for this use of my critical faculties, or in the view, clearly articulated in the book’s conclusion that Lenin was on most issues right, at least in the period under consideration, because I believe this view is supported by the evidence. However, readers have opposing views to hand via my translations and they should judge the case on its own merits.

    As regards the reviewer’s complaint that I consider the pieces mainly in terms of what they tell us about Lenin, this is again, only partially true. There are pieces such as Martov’s State of Siege and the later Plekhanov articles which denounce Lenin obsessively, and others, such as the second piece by Krichevskii and the Martynov article which do so in a more considered manner. However, they story they tell is not just about Lenin, but a whole section of the RSDLP’s history between 1899 and 1904.

    I fail to understand, for example, what the Programme of Rabochee Delo, the documents in the Vademecum, Krichevksii’s first article, or Martov’s correspondence with Lenin need to be viewed solely as material connected to Lenin’s political development. They may be viewed as such, and are indeed essential background for anyone who wants an all-sided view of this subject, but they are also useful, for example, if one wishes to construct a history of Menshevism or the RSDLP as a whole. Indeed, one of the main reasons I included certain pro-Lenin documents in the collection was so that the Economist or Menshevik arguments could be seen in their proper context. The founding document of the Russian Iskra organisation, Pavlovich’s account of the Congress and the Letter from the Urals Committees are absolutely essential for a proper contextual understanding of the polemics against Iskra or Lenin by Krichevskii, Martynov, Martov and Plekhanov in so far as they give a clear account of the point of view being criticised, which is not always apparent from the text of the polemic itself.

    Now let us turn to the reviewer’s assessment of my own critical input into the volume, in the form of the contextual essays introducing each of the translations.

    The reviewer would have us believe that Plekhanov’s Vademecum is not anti-Lenin. This is a partial and selective assessment of the pamphlet, and I think he knows this very well. The work is a collection of Economist drafts and correspondence expressing the views Lenin opposed, supplemented with a fairly lengthy foreword by Plekhanov. Plekhanov’s preface of course attacks the Economist position, but the documents themselves criticise nearly all the dogmas of Russian Marxism both Lenin and Plekhanov advocated at the beginning of the 20th century. The authors of the two draft manifestos included in the work had decided not to publish them, fearing a backlash, and Plekhanov’s pamphlet, if it was intended as an aggressive expose of Economist thinking which won the approval of Lenin, is now a useful historical source when it comes to studying the more extreme Economist views.

    Just to be absolutely clear, Plekhanov is author of the foreword to Vademecum, and the documents it contains were written by the Economists Elena Kuskova, Sergei Prokopovich and Zemah Koppelson. I think the latter are an absolutely essential component of any collection dedicated to Economist thought, but their presence in my work cannot easily be gleaned from the reviewer’s assessment of it.

    The reviewer also glosses over a large part of what is admittedly a long book and therefore entirely misrepresents my argument regarding the Bolshevik-Menshevik split. According to him, the first document dealing with this split is Pavlovich’s account of the Second RSDLP Congress. Actually I argue that the split emerged well in advance of the Congress, and in support of this contention are letters between Martov and Lenin, the Iskra agent Ekaterina Alexandrova and Lenin. In these controversies, the future Mensheviks feared a split in the RSDLP as a result of polemics, which Lenin defended on the grounds of freedom of expression. Incidentally, the idea that Pavlovich ‘repeats’ Lenin’s line from One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward ‘second hand’ is slightly comical, because Pavlovich’s work was written first.

    The reviewer’s account of the relationship between Lenin and Plekhanov in the period following the Second Congress is not one I entirely disagree with, but it doesn’t reflect the argument I make in this book. The one issue is that those Iskra supporters who feared a split in the RSDLP sought various compromises with the non-Iskra factions at the Congress, and in this process split Iskra, believing they could form a majority against the uncompromising Iskra hards (Leninists) using the votes of Bundist, Economist and undecided delegates.

    This plan was undermined when the Bundists walked out of the meeting, not because of any action by Lenin, but because they have been given binding instructions by their own organisation. These ordered them to leave the Congress if certain organisational arrangements, which proposed a degree of racial segregation, were not accepted. In the event, the Bund’s proposals were opposed by all other factions at the Congress and so they left the meeting, depriving the soft Iska-ites (Martovites) of their anticipated majority. In this changed situation, the softs tried to stop election to the leading bodies of the Party taking place, knowing they would lose. Lenin wished to create a Central Committee and Editorial Board which had a minority of ‘soft’ representatives in it alongside the ‘hards’, but this was unacceptable to the former.

    Following the Congress, Plekhanov began to compromise, fearing a split in the Party, supporting the co-option of a greater number of ‘softs’ onto the Party’s leading bodies, reducing the ‘hards’ to a minority. The Leninists – rightly in my view – regarded this as ill-disciplined and undemocratic owing to the way it reversed the decisions of the Second Congress, which were taken by representatives of the broader Party. There is more than a suspicion that the softs protested against Lenin simply didn’t like the idea of an elected leadership to the RSDLP, preferring this leadership to be unaccountable to the Party rank and file.

    For the reviewer, Martov’s arguments at this stage are clear. Unfortunately, his exposition of them is not clear to me. From where I stand, Martov is inconsistent owing to the way he opposed and denounced a Party constitution in which the Editorial Board of the Central Party Newspaper was, according to his analysis, the leading body. This opposition included an initial refusal to serve on the supposedly noxious Editorial Board alongside Plekhanov and Lenin, these two both being ‘hards’ at the time and not, as the reviewer states, one ‘soft’ and one ‘hard’. It also involved a boycott of elections to the Central Committee on the improbable grounds that this Central Committee was nothing but a slave to the editorial board. Yet with Lenin removed, these objections melted away and Martov seemed to have no problem with the Central Committee being enslaved, so long as it was his faction and not Lenin’s doing the slave-driving. That is to say, he and his supporters accepted editorial posts.

    As far as I am concerned, the process and results of elections to a Party leadership are better respected than undermined by disruptive protests from the losing side, unless some definite corruption can be demonstrated. The reviewer’s characterisation of my attitude towards Lenin in the post-Congress period is therefore entirely fair: I am in agreement with Lenin’s analysis regarding this period. Conversely, I find his own lack of critical distance from those that clamoured for leading positions despite having lost elections to be perturbing. I believe he is altogether seduced by rhetoric, Plekhanov’s in particular, and this distracts him from some fairly ugly facts, cited at length in my critical commentary to the documents, which all this eloquence seems designed to hide.

    Like so many historians of Bolshevism, I think the reviewer falls into the trap of allowing something to pass as true merely because somebody said or wrote it. He does not examine ideas or arguments with enough critical distance. ‘Lenin wanted barracks discipline’.’ ‘Lenin was a Bonapartist.’ Surely a historian of ideas has the right to request evidence in support of these and other claims and to say so when no such evidence is apparent? Alas, it seems my reviewer prefers to appeal to supposedly unimpeachable authorities such as Trotsky, rather than to ask challenging questions of him and other Socialist leaders.

    I’ll finish by thanking once again my reviewer for taking the time to read and publicise my work and for his various flattering comments which occasionally peer out from among the reproaches. However, as goes his remarks about one-sidedness and subjectivity, he would do well to take some of his own advice when it comes to reviewing other people’s work.

  2. Richard Mullin has performed an outstanding service in laying bare how ‘one-sidedness and subjectivity’, distortions and even ‘slander’ have characterize many a polemic launched against Lenin — in Lenin’s day as well as since. I agree with Richard — and my own experience has confirmed it — that, with a few exceptions, Lenin can be trusted to give a more honest account of his opponents’ positions than his opponents’ accounts can give of Lenin’s position. The truth is revolutionary.

  3. Thanks to Richard for responding at such length to my review. What was my purpose in writing it? Firstly to tell the story of the collection, and in particular to highlight new and interesting points raised by it, Secondly, to evaluate the collection as a whole, and Thirdly to assess Richard’s commentary against the collection. The review is constrained by the length, in fact it was only slightly longer than Richard’s comments, but this is a good thing in my opinion as it forces the reviewer to get to the point. People can ultimately judge for themselves the points at issues, but I will respond to the above and a few other specific points below.
    Firstly, from reading Richard’s responses he points to various other parts of the book I may have overlooked or should have been included in his opinion. Fair enough, I’m not saying my selection was the only possible one. I put this down to a subjective difference and think that overall my summary did cover the major themes and issues included in the book. Secondly, I also think my overall assessment of the collection is vindicated by Richard’s comments, he has a political disagreement with the authors of most of the pieces and by implication with myself, that’s what makes life interesting. Finally, there is the question of my assessment of the author’s introductions to the pieces themselves. Once again, I don’t think I have misrepresented Richard’s standpoint, which I think can be fairly summarised as a repetition of what Lenin thought, at least as far as that is possible at the distance of a century. In other words, it is, in my opinion, a basically uncritical repetition of “Leninist orthodoxy” and none the better for that.
    Finally in response to some of the specific points raised.
    On the question of whether the collection as a whole can be characterised as “anti-Lenin”. My point is straightforward, before the Bolshevik-Menshevik split, there was no specific “Lenin” point of view, so there was no specific “anti-Lenin” point of view. Before then Lenin was an advocate of the dominant Isrka trend and so the Economists opposed Iskra and not Lenin, except inasmuch as Lenin was a member of Iskra.
    Does the State of Siege “denounce Lenin obsessively”? Hardly. Martove was against Lenin, as Lenin was the leader of the other faction in the party, it’s natural that Martov criticised Lenin. There’s nothing obsessive about that. Richard says “the idea that Pavlovich ‘repeats’ Lenin’s line from One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward ‘second hand’ is slightly comical, because Pavlovich’s work was written first” is only in fact comical if you think that Pavlovich was the originator of the line Lenin expressed in One Step Forward. Given that hierarchical nature of the Bolsheviks, with Lenin at the apex – Bukharin’s comment that Lenin could only tolerate “one brain” comes to mind – it seems a bit far-fetched to image that Pavlovich’s ideas were not in fact, an expression of Lenin’s line. The date of publication is essentially irrelevant once it is remembered who was in charge of the Bolsheviks. Not Pavlovich.
    As for Martov’s ideas being “unclear”. Richard seems to be confusing a lack of clarity with a lack of agreement. He doesn’t like them. He doesn’t agree with them. Fair enough. But he knows what they are. Their meaning is perfectly clear.
    As for the final point about barracks’ discipline, it does seem to be corroborated by Lenin’s later behaviour. In 1921 he said Shliapnikov deserved to be shot for expressing views that disagreed with the majority. Ironically of course in April 1917, when his April thesis were defeated in the Central Committee, Lenin threatened to resign from the leadership to use his rights as a rank and file member to campaign against the “democratically agreed decision of the leadership” among the party and in the Soviets. As Plekhanov pointed out, revolutionaries are rebellious, they don’t always obey commands. See? Lenin wasn’t all bad!

  4. In his latest remarks, Bill Jeffries raises several objections to what I said in my commentary on his review. These points further reveal his insufficient knowledge of this subject he is writing about and some of them confirm my suspicion that he read only a few short passages from my book before criticising it in public.

    He tells me there was ‘no specific Lenin point of view’ prior to the Bolshevik-Menshevik split. Now, to discuss this we first have to disregard the fact that, in his review, he completely misrepresented my argument about when the Bolshevik-Menshevik split actually started (I say it was somewhat earlier than is generally argued) owing to the fact that he had not read the relevant section of the book.

    Setting that aside, I cannot agree with that statement, which implies a kind of harmonious unity in the Iskra organisation prior to (according to my analysis) the latter part of 1902. This simply is not true, the editorial board’s internal correspondence clearly shows otherwise. Two major issues that marked Lenin out from his Iskra colleagues were, firstly, his attitude to the peasantry and the agrarian question and secondly, the activities of the Iskra’s support group in Russia, its agents and their volunteer supporters.

    Without going too deeply into either of these issues, I’ll note that they are both raised in Martynov’s article against Iskra. Though Martynov is nominally polemicizing against Iskra, these two ideas, which play a central role in the polemic, are clearly attributable to Lenin and not to Plekhanov, Martov or any other future Menshevik.

    Consequently, and not for the first time, Jeffries is wrong.

    As goes his attempt to mitigate his earlier error regarding Pavlovich, poor Jeffries has to rely on bald assertion: ‘Lenin was a Bonapartist’ ‘Lenin wanted barracks discipline’, the usual unreflecting dogma. No serious evidence is advanced in support of these propositions and again he appeals to authority, this time to Bukharin. However, all this is by the bye. The ‘comedy’ I saw in his remarks arose from yet more evidence that the reviewer was again criticising a book, or a section of it, that I could see he hadn’t actually read.

    Had he read my introduction to the Pavlovich document, it would have been abundantly clear that this document was written well in advance of Lenin’s One Step Forward. Had he but read this short section before commenting, he might also have better understood that I don’t just make criticisms of Mensheviks and Economists, but also of leading Bolsheviks who agreed with Lenin in all the essentials.

    And yet it turns out that it is me who is confused! I confused, in my innocent naivety, my own disagreement with Martov’s point of view with this view’s objective lack of clarity. But didn’t I already discuss this point in my first ‘reply’, where I pointed to Martov’s inconsistency over time as the source of the lack of clarity? At least, this is how I recall the matter.

    I can only assume Jeffries didn’t bother to read these remarks (he really has form in this area), or at least pay attention to them. At any rate he makes no reference to them it his renewed attack on my work. He only rehearses his previous idea (that Martov believes Lenin have tyrannical, dictatorial intentions, a view which had not escaped my attention the first time it was described to me), parrot fashion. I’m not sure debate can move forward productively on the basis of such methods, i.e., without the introduction of new evidence.

    And so on to 1917. Lenin ‘threatened to resign from the leadership to use his rights as a rank and file member to campaign against the “democratically agreed decision of the leadership” among the party and in the Soviets’. All this is very informative, but I’m amazed we needed to go forward 13 years to find an example of this tactic in Lenin’s political activity. Why, even in 1903 and 1904 Lenin resigned and agitated among against the Party rank and file against leadership of the Mensheviks … as I describe at great length in the book Jeffries has just pretended to review!

    I think the point is now sufficiently clear. Bill Jeffries has rather more patience for his own words than the words of others. He only reads small sections of the books he reviews and he alleges ‘bias’ the moment the least word of criticism is raised against his heroes, partially because he is so ignorant of the facts that he can find no way of telling excessive from fair criticism and partially because, not having read the book properly, he doesn’t pay attention to the author’s overall argument, perspective or method, misrepresenting it severely.

    A recognition of these shortcomings on his behalf, and, perhaps even an apology would not be out of place here, I think.

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