Marxism in Russia: Key Documents 1879-1906 by Neil Harding, Richard Taylor

By Neil Harding, Richard Taylor

This ebook is a documentary list of the statements and debates that outlined the formative interval of a move that has affected glossy politics and background greater than the other. it truly is quite often said that not just have been the theoretical difficulties confronted by way of Russian Marxists in this interval extra complicated than these encountered somewhere else yet that additionally they delivered to the answer of those difficulties an originality and highbrow rigour moment to none within the Marxist culture. As predominantly a flow of intellectuals in the course of those years they accomplished a degree of articulation and class unsurpassed within the literature of Marxism, and that makes them this kind of worthwhile topic of analysis. Plekhanov, Akselrod, Lenin, Struve, Martov, Trotsky, Luxemburg and Kautsky all characteristic in either celebrated and little-known texts along nameless pamphleteers and writers of resolutions, editorials, flysheets and programmes.

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Iskra, the journal of the orthodox, took advantage of the network Lenin had built up and was itself meant to provide an organisational framework for the spread of their influence. There can be no doubt either that the publication and wide circulation of Lenin's What Is To Be Done? provided the Iskra agents in Russia with a compendium of powerful arguments against all those groups which had strayed from the narrow path of orthodoxy. Lenin's pamphlet, as I have argued elsewhere, 104 was explicitly intended as a re-statement of the old current, the orthodoxy of Russian Marxism, and it was received precisely as such both by his fellow editors of Iskra (the only people after all with a claim to have created and defended that orthodoxy) as well as by his opponents.

It was a resume of the recent past of the Jewish movement that struck the many Russians as a convincing diagnosis of their own present ills. The new programme (for such, in effect, On Agitation became) pulled no punches: its first paragraph bluntly declared that 'the first steps taken by the Russian Social Democrats were the wrong ones and that, in the interests of the cause, their tactics must be changed'. 63 According to On Agitation, propaganda conducted through the circles had done more harm than good.

The meeting had not been very cordial. The veterans suspected the youngsters of insufficient theoretical preparation with the consequent inclination to follow the workers rather than lead them. How far these recollections were blessed with hindsight is, as ever in examining reminiscences of the Russian revolutionary movement, impossible to tell. What is beyond doubt is that within a year or so of taking effective control of the social democratic movement in Russia (if we date this from the arrests of the remaining veterans in spring of 1898) the young praktiki had precipitated a severe crisis by renouncing the specification of social democratic politics hitherto agreed upon by all the orthodox Russian Marxists.

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