What follows is an excerpt from Maurice Cornforth’s 1952 Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics.
II. THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM
(C) HISTORY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION (BOLSHEVIKS)
J. V. Stalin. History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course. International Publishers, 1939.
- Chapter 4: The Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in the Period of the Stolypin Reaction. The Bolsheviks Constitute Themselves an Independent Marxist Party (1908-1912), pp. 97-144.
1. Stolypin Reaction. Disintegration Among the Oppositional Intelligentsia. Decadence. Desertion of a Section of the Party Intelligentsia to the Enemies of Marxism and Attempts to Revise the Theory of Marxism. Lenin’s Rebuttal of the Revisionists in His Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and His Defence of the Theoretical Foundations of the Marxist Party. pp. 97-105.
2. Dialectical and Historical Materialism. pp. 105-131.
3. Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in the Period of the Stolypin Reaction. Struggle of the Bolsheviks Against the Liquidators and Otzovists. pp. 132-135.
4. Struggle of the Bolsheviks Against Trotskyism. Anti-Party August Bloc. pp. 136-138.
5. Prague Party Conference, 1912. Bolsheviks Constitute Themselves an Independent Marxist Party. pp. 138-143.
Brief Summary, pp. 143-144.
B. The Period of Reaction and of the New Rise of the Working Class Movement, 1905-14.
Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the period of reaction which followed the defeat of the 1905-7 Revolution, and with the new rise of the working class movement before the First Imperialist War (1914).
After the defeat of the revolution the Bolsheviks showed how to retreat in good order, how to regroup the forces of the working class, how to combine legal with illegal work and to prepare for a new offensive against the landlords and capitalists. In this they had to fight traitors and opportunists of all kinds, and above all the “liquidators,” who wanted to abandon all efforts to preserve the illegal organisation of the party.
At the same time, a number of intellectuals began a campaign to revise the fundamental ideas of Marxism in the light of the “latest” thing in bourgeois idealism. It was against them that Lenin in this period wrote his book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism; and in dealing with this, the History of the C.P.S.U.(B) contains a classical exposition of the basic ideas of dialectical and historical materialism.¹
In this period, the Bolsheviks expelled the Mensheviks from the party and constituted themselves an independent Marxist Party (1912). The Bolshevik Party was able to extend its mass connections with the workers, to take the lead of the new struggles which were developing, to establish a mass daily newspaper (Pravda), and to carry on revolutionary propaganda and agitation through the Tsarist Duma.
What are the principal points taught by the study of these chapters?
- How to retreat in good order after a defeat, regrouping forces, preserving the illegal organisation of the party and combining legal with illegal work.
- The necessity of preserving the organisation of the party, fighting against liquidationist tendencies, purging the party of opportunist elements and constituting an independent Marxist party of the working class.
- The necessity to preserve intact, defend and develop the theoretical foundation of the party—dialectical and historical materialism.
- How the party can extend its mass connections with the working class and take the lead of rising working class struggle.
- How the party can carry forward the working class struggle in a reactionary parliament.
- The role of a daily newspaper as leader and organiser of the mass movement.
¹ See Stalin, Dialectical and Historical Materialism.