Where we stand on the situation in Ukraine

Maidan protests and the overthrow of Yanukovich

a) What were the causes behind this ?

The Maidan protests between January to February this year was a high point of class struggle in the post-soviet history of Ukraine. If there was ever needed a proof that the working class was still a living force, despite over 70 years of Stalinist counter-revolution, it was there on the Maidan square.

The protests were aimed at the pro-Russian oligarch Yanukovich. Upon taking power he went about shaping Ukraine in the image of modern Russia, a bonapartist run gangster state which zealously (and more often than not violently) guards the interests of its corrupt leadership. While this was not new to Ukraine, which has only seen the transfer of power from one bonapartist ruler to another . The only difference was one had a pro-russia another had a pro-EU outlook.

Upon taking power Yanukovich started a series of unpopular policy measures aimed at placating both foreign power blocs (Russia and the EU).The natural gas tariffs were growing; the government launched medical reform which will eventually lead to closure of many medical institutions and to introducing the universal medical insurance instead of the unconditional coverage; they pushed through extremely unpopular pension reform (raising pension age for women) against the will of more than 90% of population; there was an attempt at passing the new Labour Code which would seriously affect workers’ rights; the railway is being corporatized; finally, they passed a new Tax Code which hit small business. Most of these measures failed only because of the pressure of the masses prevented it.

It was nearly 5 years of this corrupt and autocratic rule that proved to be the last straw for the people. The sheer force of the popular mobilization in the Maidan square and other cities around Ukraine brought down the corrupt and incompetent rule of Yanukovich. This was achieved despite some of the worst repressive measures like ordering snipers to fire on protestors, killing dozens.

However, what was and still stands as a progressive process has been hijacked and turned against the interests of the people, by right wing reactionary forces, backed openly by the likes of US imperialism.

b) What were the social and political forces at play ?

The protests at the Maidan began with its occupation by a relatively small crowd of 400 students who came out in protest against Yanukovich’s failure to sign the agreement with the EU at Brussels. However, this did not draw mass sympathy nor did it prove to affect the regime. What changed the scene was Yanukovich’s violent reaction. The attacks by the police on the Maidan proved to be his undoing as it incited the populace across the country against him. The centre of the mobilizations of course was Kiev itself.

The composition of the protests right from the beginning was overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois with significant participation from the youth. Overall, the perspectives raised were oriented towards Ukrainian nationalism and anti-Russian sentiments. Under the guidance of reactionary leaderships like the far-right Svoboda Party, this expressed itself through the language of nationalism rather than socialist class struggle. The people had very real and legitimate grievances against the regime in power.

Ultimately however, the reactionary elements held sway over the power of the popular democratic mobilizations. This was the reason why after the removal of Yanukovich, the new regime was unable to build a progressive democratic structure. Not only did it incorporate Ukrainian chauvinist forces in the government, one of the first steps that the new government took was to declare Ukrainian as the only official language in Ukraine. This was an extremely provocative measure deliberately attacking the Russian-speaking population. It is not the kind of measure any government takes if it is serious about running a unified state.

The developments after Yanukovich’s ouster showed clearly what were the worst weaknesses of the Ukrainian movement. Firstly, it was started as a ‘leaderless’ movement with multiple nationalistic political forces involved in it. This is a feature typical among most petty-bourgeois uprisings be it the anti-corruption movement in India or the mass protests in Turkey against Erdogan. Secondly, the movement failed to overcome the ethnic and cultural division within Ukraine between the Russian-speaking East and South, which are the industrial centres of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian speaking West and Central regions, which are the agrarian centres of the country.

This in particular was to have devastating consequences for the whole democratic movement which emerged around the Maidan square.

c) Conclusion of the Maidan protests – What is the character of the regime now in place

The Maidan protests achieved their first overarching objective, the ouster of president Yanukovich. This was a high mark of the movement. Thereafter, the movement was tasked with reconstructing a new regime which ought to have been founded on the democratic aspirations of the people. However, the new regime composed of a hodge-podge of pro-EU liberals and far right chauvinists was patently incapable of achieving this.

Among the first measures taken by the new government was the enforcing of Ukrainian as the only national language in Ukraine. This together with a fear among Russian speakers of possible victimization (like the long-time resident Russian nationals in Latvia, Estonia and other post-soviet states had to face) led to counter-protests in the South and East. Some provinces with a Russian majority started separatist movements, chief among them was Crimea. Seeing the opportunity in the ensuing chaos Russia decided to intervene to defend its strategic interests in Ukraine. The result was the successful secession of Crimea and joining the Russian federation after a referendum.

The smooth and bloodless secession of Crimea from Ukraine showed just how precarious the hold of the Kiev-based government was over the Russian-speaking provinces. After Crimea, other provinces with a Russian majority witnessed mass mobilizations as well. Among the most striking features of the mobilizations was the utter impotence of the government’s repressive machinery. The police and the military found themselves outgunned and surrounded every time. Reports still come out of desertions from the Ukrainian army and of garrisons being overrun, most recently in the city of Mariupol.

Meanwhile in Odessa, a Russian-speaking city in the south-west of Ukraine on the Black Sea coast, pro-Ukraine demonstrators torched the trade union building in which both pro-Russia demonstrators and “non-combatants” had taken shelter, killing dozens of people. This show of murderous violence alienated the people of Odessa from the Kiev government and its militant (often extreme rightists or active Nazis) supporters in the same way as Yanukovich’s snipers created revulsion in Kiev.

Not only has the new regime failed to win over the broad masses of Ukraine, but in the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine it now stares at the collapse of its state power in the face of overwhelming pressure from within and without. From within from the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine and from without from the sub-imperialist great power of Russia, its military economic and political machinery at work.

Imperialist interests and their impact

a) The interests of Russian sub-imperialism (Putin’s plan)

The most dominant foreign power in Ukraine is undoubtedly Russia. Russia has multiple strategic interests in Ukraine, not in the least its massive naval base in the Crimea. First, is its geo-strategic importance owing to its access to the Black Sea and its standing as the second largest European country. Thus, for Russia, a pliable and subservient Ukraine can provide open access to the Black Sea and the European heartland. Second is its economic importance as a transit country. Several of Russia’s oil pipelines to Europe pass through Ukraine. Ukraine as such is dependent on Russian oil and gas for its energy needs. Likewise it also serves as a transit country for the supply of oil and gas to the rest of mainland Europe. Thus, Ukraine is surrounded by Russia militarily in the East at the border and in the South in the Crimea, and it is dominated economically by Russian capital. This was shown very clearly when Russia didn’t hesitate to cut off the supply of oil and gas during the winter to pressurize the then Tymoshenko government to pay its debts to the Russians.

This domination must be seen in the context of Ukraine’s history which has since the time of the Tsarist empire been treated as a strategic province of the Russian Empire. The conquest of Crimea in the late 18th century from the Ottomans increased the importance of the region for the Russians that much more, due to the access to warm water ports on the Black Sea. Russian ambitions in the Ukraine culminated in the Crimean war of 1854 which brought in the leading powers of Europe to intervene on the side of the Turks against the Russians. As a result Russia lost the major strategic holding of Sevastopol. In the long run however, Russia continued its hold of Ukraine and deepened its influence in Eastern Europe. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Ukraine along with other former colonies of the Russian empire joined the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine was affected in much the same ways as other former Soviet republics. There was rampant corruption, deindustrialization, the annihilation of life-time savings and a general collapse of living standards. Among other things, one of the consequences was the formation of a highly bureaucratized oligarchy, formed from members of the old ruling bureaucratic clique which has since dominated Ukrainian politics. However, Ukraine’s ethnic diversity and social complexity made it impossible for this bureaucracy to develop the same level of bonapartism as in Russia or Belarus. The oligarchy in Ukraine thus became divided between a more “conservative” pro-Russia clique and a pro-EU clique with support from the Central and Western regions.

Another important element of Soviet society carried over to the post-Soviet republics after 1991 along with the bureaucratic elite (the Nomenklatura) was the pulverization of working class consciousness and organization that had been accomplished by Stalinism’s murderous bureaucratic counter-revolution. No independent workers’ parties or socialist movements were able to arise like some red Phoenix from the ashes of anti-communist “Communist” Russia. First the working class would need to raise its political and social consciousness from zero, and take the first halting steps of self-organization. None of the legacy “communist” “pro-Soviet” parties or movements did any of this. In fact they did just the opposite, prolonging the anti-Bolshevik, anti-Marxist traditions of the Stalinist regime, often attempting to use the same thuggery and arrogance in the process.

With Russia re-emerging as an imperialist power, old historic trajectories of contest between a hegemonic Russia and the established powers of European imperialism seem to be returning. Russia is zealously protecting its strategic interests in Crimea while manipulating the downfall of its anti-Russian rivals. Here what is most to the advantage of Russia is the substantial Russian-speaking and ethnically Russian population within Ukraine (a legacy of the prolonged domination of the Russian empire and thereafter, of the forced russification policies under Stalin and his successors). This gives Russian sub-imperialism a powerful lever to influence the affairs of Ukraine.

Russia has the edge where military power and political clout is concerned. The West, however, in particular the EU, has the edge where economic strength is concerned.

b) The interests of EU imperialism

European imperialism today is beleaguered. It is being challenged in its own turf with crisis threatening it all across Southern Europe. The European bourgeoisie is finding itself besieged by the working class as the continent witnesses an upsurge in class struggle. Be it Britain, France, Spain, Italy or Germany, all the major powers of Europe are faced with the ire of the working class on the move.

This is in addition to the situation of impending financial doom. The EU imperialists like blood-thirsty vampires need fresh new blood to feast on. This is why they have set their sights on the ‘untapped potential’ of Europe’s underdeveloped East. Ukraine here would be the juiciest slice of meat for the EU. Since the crisis set in, we have seen Europe becoming far more aggressive and belligerent than before worldwide. France in particular is focusing on increasing its otherwise diminishing military and political clout over Africa, while Germany shows its ruthlessness in dealing with Greece. However, the interests of the Europe’s imperialists are posed now against the resurgent might of Russia which is clawing back its influence over Eastern Europe.

Thus, the EU poses itself as the chief imperialist rival against Russian hegemony over Ukraine. This is reflected in the politics of the oligarchs of Ukraine with one segment vying openly for European and another vying for Russian favours. In course of the Maidan protests, it was the former wing of the oligarchical interests which triumphed over the interests of the people at large. The new regime has thus been hard at work begging to get the EU to intervene on its side, seeing the EU as its protector. The pact signed with the IMF which brings with it stringent austerity measures should be seen in this context.

However, this plan is proving itself to be a complete failure. European imperialism today is in truth a declining power. Its passivity over Russian actions in Ukraine has proven on the one hand its military incapability in facing a great power as well as its economic dependence on Russian oil and gas, without which most of Europe would come to a standstill. Gone are the days when France and Britain could send their navies to bombard Sevastopol and drive the Russians out. Europe meekly stands by as Russia eats Ukraine. This leaves only US imperialism with both the military might and political will to challenge Russia.

c) Role of US imperialism

The role of US imperialism in Ukraine, should be seen against the background of the fall of the Soviet Union. The US had given the Soviet Union an assurance that NATO would not expand. However, the US has progressively expanded NATO and its own military pressure in East Europe, the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, in an effort to surround Russia.

This trend is continuing with the US preparing to build a missile defence system over Russia, on the pretext of defending Europe against Iran. While the US is in no way the dominant economic force in the EU or even in Ukraine itself, its role as de facto protector of capitalist Europe after the second world war continues to give it tremendous influence over European affairs. Notably, US influence is deepest in Poland.

The forces of US imperialism were present and active in the course of the Maidan protests preparing well in advance all means to hijack the process and place parties favorable to its interests in a leading position. The notorious phone conversation between the US ambassador and the far right Svoboda party reveals the connections between the chauvinist forces and US imperialism.

When the Russians intervened in Crimea, the US was quick to move in with economic sanctions. However, these have proven themselves to be toothless. Russia is simply too well entrenched and too large an economy to successfully impose sanctions against. Most European powers would shudder at the thought of Russian reprisals should they commit to these US sanctions. The US has also refrained from taking any overt military action to dislodge the Russians from Ukraine, notwithstanding the sabre rattling from its crazed right wing loons.

The Crimean question and the situation of Russian speakers

a) The nature of the protests in South-East Ukraine – popular democratic mobilizations

We declare first of all that the movement to oust Yanukovich was a progressive movement. At the same time, we declare that the movement against the regime it created is also a democratic movement. The apparently contradictory movements are in fact fundamentally identical. The protests of the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine are the result of the aggressively divisive policies of the new Kiev regime which is refusing to acknowledge the equal official status of the Russian language. This is a disturbing parallel to the right wing government in Sri Lanka which came to power after the expulsion of the British, which started pursuing chauvinist monopoly Sinhala policies and instituted an apartheid regime against the island’s Tamil minority.

The Russian population of Ukraine has the full right of self-determination against such a regime. They are currently mobilizing to defend their interests. In addition, we must consider the threat posed by the agreement with the IMF which seeks to impose vicious austerity measures. The more proletarian population of East and South Ukraine, who have already suffered considerably from the deindustrialization after the fall of the Soviet Union, are liable to be more affected than people in other regions.

The questions facing the Russian-speaking population and ethnic Russians are posed most sharply in the Crimea, which is also home to a sizeable Tatar minority.

b) The historical background of the Crimean peninsula

The Crimean peninsula was annexed to the Russian empire in the 1780s from the Crimean khanate.
From then on Crimea was subjected to colonial policies at the hands of the Russian empire which saw Russian settlers coming in large numbers and the development of Crimea as a strategic military naval base for the Russian Empire with its warm water ports. In the Soviet Union after Stalin’s counter-revolutionary take-over in the mid-1920s, the Crimean Tatars were subjected to the oppressive policies of deportation. The mass deportations which had been initiated under the Tsar’s rule were revived. Hundreds of thousands were deported to Central Asia and many died. The Tatar population was practically wiped out after the second world war. Russian settlers had already come in their hundreds of thousands under the Russian empire, and kept coming in large numbers as part of a russification drive under the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The result was a demographic shift in the population of Crimea and in general of Ukraine with a very large Russian population and an even larger share of native Russian speakers. For generations this Russian population has lived in Ukraine and made it their home, and this is where the bulk of the present Russian population has its roots. Incidentally, this pattern is not exclusive to Russia but is common among most East European states which belonged to the Soviet Union before 1991.

When the republic of Ukraine was created after the fall of the USSR in 1991­, Crimea became an autonomous region under its rule.

c) The dynamics of the Crimean referendum

The Crimean referendum has been explained by most western sources as an act of annexation. However, there are more complex dynamics at play which cannot be ignored. Firstly, the Crimean peninsula is a region with a Russian majority, where even the majority of Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. The other major minority were the Tatars who largely speak their own language.

The protests in Crimea like elsewhere in Eastern and Southern Ukraine paralyzed the infant regime in Kiev with the armed forces of the state failing at every turn. Russia already had a sizeable naval military presence in Crimea which was mobilized in support of the Crimean protestors. The referendum which was conducted eventually was done so under Russian military protection. Thus, what was a democratic process took on the appearance of a military occupation.

This was sub-imperialist Russia’s move to hijack and ultimately undermine the democratic movement evolving in Ukraine’s East and South. It is the same story in Ukraine’s East which is seeing the most intense of the protests, and where the armed forces of the state are on the verge of a complete collapse reminiscent of the crisis in Albania in the late 1990s.

Here we must view Russia’s action in the context of a developing revolutionary situation where the masses are in full mobilization. The movement to oust Yanukovich which put the new regime in power was a democratic movement, as is the movement against its arbitrary and chauvinistic policies which favour Western imperialism. The nature of this movement is being seen in its relation to the state and the reaction it’s provoking in the armed forces. We have a people’s movement that is openly challenging the state forces to the point where they are deserting their barracks. Ukraine has been left with little or no power on its eastern and southern borders.

In response to this the fascistic elements in Kiev’s ruling regime has resorted to violent attacks on Communists and leftist activists exemplified in the burning of the trade union building in Odessa which killed nearly 50 activists.

The stand we must take

In Ukraine, the forces of revolutionary bolshevism are faced with a very contradictory situation. On the one hand there was the movement to oust Yanukovich, which was essentially progressive. On the other hand, the movement against the chauvinism of the new regime is also essentially progressive.

We do not have the luxury to pick and choose which democratic struggle to support and which not to. In the tradition of revolutionary bolshevism, we support every democratic struggle with the aim of clearing the way for the socialist struggle. This is the essence of tactics based on the theory of permanent revolution. Where the bourgeoisie is incapable of fulfilling the democratic aspirations of the masses it falls to the the proletariat to resolve the questions of the democratic revolution. The proletariat does not tackle these democratic tasks as separate from the socialist struggle, but as part of it.

Thus, we supported the movement to oust Yanukovich, and we also support the movement for autonomy for Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.

We do this despite the persistent weakness of the consciousness and organization of the proletariat. Independent working-class political consciousness and organization are still hardly even embryonic, so crushingly effective was the annihilation of revolutionary socialism by the Stalinist counter-revolution. This means that the working class in its present condition is completely incapable of leading the people of Ukraine (or any other people in a similar situation) in resolving the contradictions of the democratic revolution in the direction of socialism. As in the Middle East and North Africa the proletariat will need to preserve and build on the democratic conquests that have been achieved in order to consign the bourgeois capitalist society – the root cause of all its problems – to the garbage dump of history once and for all.

Our slogans :

a) For the right of self-determination! No to chauvinist policies of any kind!

b) Unconditional support to struggles of the Russians in Ukraine!

c) No to imperialism! Neither Russia nor the West!


Lenin on Guerrilla warfare

– V. I Lenin

( The text was originally written in 1906 in the context of the raging guerrilla warfare in the Russian countryside. This was Lenin’s position on the same which we believe to be the correct and more consistent revolutionary Marxist position on the issue of Guerrilla warfare. Seen in the Indian context this text assumes a more profound importance in the light of the intensifying guerrilla warfare lead by the Naxalites in East and Central India ) .

The question of guerrilla action is one that greatly interests our Party and the mass of the workers. We have dealt with this question in passing several times, and now we propose to give the more complete statement of our views we have promised.


Let begin from the beginning. What are the fundamental demands which every Marxist should make of an examination of the question of forms of struggle? In the first place, Marxism differs from all primitive forms of socialism by not binding the movement to any one particular form of struggle. It recognises the most varied forms of struggle; and it does not “concoct” them, but only generalises, organises, gives conscious expression to those forms of struggle of the revolutionary classes which arise of themselves in the course of the movement. Absolutely hostile to all abstract formulas and to all doctrinaire recipes, Marxism demands an attentive attitude to the mass struggle in progress, which, as the movement develops, as the class-consciousness of the masses grows, as economic and political crises become acute, continually gives rise to new and more varied methods of defence and attack. Marxism, therefore, positively does not reject any form of struggle. Under no circumstances does Marxism confine itself to the forms of struggle possible and in existence at the given moment only, recognising as it does that new forms of struggle, unknown to the participants of the given period, inevitably arise as the given social situation, changes. In this respect Marxism learns, if we may so express it, from mass practice, and makes no claim what ever to teach the masses forms of struggle invented by “systematisers” in the seclusion of their studies. We know—said Kautsky, for instance, when examining the forms of social revolution—that the coming crisis will introduce new forms of struggle that we are now unable to foresee.

In the second place, Marxism demands an absolutely historical examination of the question of the forms of struggle. To treat this question apart from the concrete historical situation betrays a failure to understand the rudiments of dialectical materialism. At different stages of economic evolution, depending on differences in political, national-cultural, living and other conditions, different forms of struggle come to the fore and become the principal forms of struggle; and in connection with this, the secondary, auxiliary forms of struggle undergo change in their ·turn. To attempt to answer yes or no to the question whether any particular means of struggle should be used, without making a detailed examination of the concrete situation of the given movement at the given stage of its development, means completely to abandon the Marxist position.

These are the two principal theoretical propositions by which we must be guided. The history of Marxism in Western Europe provides an infinite number of examples corroborating what has been said. European Social-Democracy at the present time regards parliamentarism and the trade union movement as the principal forms of struggle; it recognised insurrection in the past, and is quite prepared to recognise it, should conditions change, in the future—despite the opinion of bourgeois liberals like the Russian Cadets and the Bezzaglavtsi. Social-Democracy in the seventies rejected the general strike as a social panacea, as a means of overthrowing the bourgeoisie at one stroke by non-political means—but Social-Democracy fully recognises the mass political strike (especially after the experience of Russia in 1905) as one of the methods of struggle essential under certain conditions. Social-Democracy recognised street barricade fighting in the forties, rejected it for definite reasons at the end of the nineteenth century, and expressed complete readiness to revise the latter view and to admit the expediency of barricade fighting after the experience of Moscow, which, in the words of K. Kautsky, initiated new tactics of barricade fighting.


Having established the general Marxist propositions, let us turn to the Russian revolution. Let us recall the historical development of the forms of struggle it produced. First there were the economic strikes of workers (1896-1900), then the political demonstrations of workers and students (1901-02), peasant revolts (1902), the beginning of mass political strikes variously combined with demonstrations (Rostov 1902, the strikes in the summer of 1903, January 9, 1905), the all-Russian political strike accompanied by local cases of barricade fighting (October 1905), mass barricade fighting and armed uprising (1905, December), the peaceful parliamentary struggle (April-June 1906), partial military revolts (June 1905-July 1906) and partial peasant revolts (autumn 1905-autumn 1906).

Such is the state of affairs in the autumn of 1906 as concerns forms of struggle in general. The “retaliatory” form of struggle adopted by the autocracy is the Black-Hundred pogrom, from Kishinev in the spring of 1903 to Sedlets in the autumn of 1906. All through this period the organisation of Black-Hundred pogroms and the beating up of Jews, students, revolutionaries and class-conscious workers continued to progress and perfect itself, combining the violence of Black-Hundred troops with the violence of hired ruffians, going as far as the use of artillery in villages and towns and merging with punitive expeditions, punitive trains and so forth.

Such is the principal background of the picture. Against this background there stands out—unquestionably as something partial, secondary and auxiliary —the phenomenon to the study and assessment of which the present article is devoted. What is this phenomenon? What are its forms? What are its causes? When did it arise and how far has it spread? What is its significance in the general course of the revolution? What is its relation to the struggle of the working class organised and led by Social-Democracy? Such are the questions which we must now proceed to examine after having sketched the general background of the picture.

The phenomenon in which we are interested is the armed struggle. It is conducted by individuals and by small groups. Same belong to revolutionary organisations, while others (the majority in certain parts of Russia) do not belong to any revolutionary organisation. Armed struggle pursues two different aims, which must be strictly distinguished: in the first place, this struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs and subordinates in the army and police; in the second place, it aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go partly into the treasury of the Party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of persons en gaged in the struggle we are describing. The big expropriations (such as the Caucasian, involving over 200,000 rubles, and the Moscow, involving 575,000 rubles) went in fact first and foremost to revolutionary parties—small expropriations go mostly, and sometimes entirely, to the maintenance of the “expropriators”. This form of struggle undoubtedly be came widely developed and extensive only in 1900, i.e., after the December uprising. The intensification of the political crisis to the point of an armed struggle and, in particular, the intensification of poverty, hunger and unemployment in town and country, was one of the important causes of the struggle we are describing. This form of struggle was adopted as the preferable and even exclusive form of social struggle by the vagabond elements of the population, the lumpen proletariat and anarchist groups. Declaration of martial law, mobilisation of fresh troops, Black-Hundred pogroms (Sedlets), and military courts must be regarded as the “retaliatory” form of struggle adopted by the autocracy.

The usual appraisal of the struggle we are describing is that it is anarchism, Blanquism, the old terrorism, the acts of individuals isolated from the masses, which demoralise the workers, repel wide strata of the population, disorganise the movement and injure the revolution. Examples in support of this appraisal can easily be found in the events reported every day in the newspapers.

But are such examples convincing? In order to test this, let us take a locality where the form of struggle we are examining is most developed—the Lettish Territory. This is the way Novoye Vremya (in its issues of September 9 and 12) complains of the activities of the Lettish Social-Democrats. The Lettish Social-Democratic Labour Party (a section of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party) regularly issues its paper in 30,000 copies. The announcement columns publish lists of spies whom it is the duty of every decent person to exterminate. People who assist the police are proclaimed “enemies of the revolution”, liable to execution and, moreover, to confiscation of property. The public is instructed to give money to the Social-Democratic Party only against signed and stamped receipt. In the Party’s latest report, showing a total income of 48,000 rubles for the year, there figures a sum of 5,600 rubles contributed by the Libau branch for arms which was obtained by expropriation. Naturally, Novoye Vremya rages and fumes against this “revolutionary law”, against this “terror government”.

Nobody will be so bold as to call these activities of the Lettish Social-Democrats anarchism, Blanquism or terrorism. But why? Because here we have a clear connection between the new form of struggle and the uprising which broke out in December and which is again brewing. This connection is not so perceptible in the case of Russia as a whole, but it exists. The fact that “guerrilla” warfare became wide spread precisely after December, and its connection with the accentuation not only of the economic crisis but also of the political crisis is beyond dispute. The old Russian terrorism was an affair of the intellectual conspirator; today as a general rule guerrilla warfare is waged by the worker combatant, or simply by the unemployed worker. Blanquism and anarchism easily occur to the minds of people who have a weakness for stereotype; but under the circumstances of an uprising, which are so apparent in the Lettish Territory, the inappropriateness of such trite labels is only too obvious.

The example of the Letts clearly demonstrates how incorrect, unscientific and unhistorical is the practice so very common among us of analysing guerrilla warfare without reference to the circumstances of an uprising. These circumstances must be borne in mind, we must reflect on the peculiar features of an intermediate period between big acts of insurrection, we must realise what forms of struggle inevitably arise under such circumstances, and not try to shirk the issue by a collection of words learned by rote, such as are used equally by the Cadets and the Novoye Vremya-ites: anarchism, robbery, hooliganism!

It is said that guerrilla acts disorganise our work. Let us apply this argument to the situation that has existed since December 1905, to the period of Black-Hundred pogroms and martial law. What disorganises the movement more in such a period: the absence of resistance or organised guerrilla warfare? Compare the centre of Russia with her western borders, with Poland and the Lettish Territory. It is unquestionable that guerrilla warfare is far more widespread and far more developed in the western border regions. And it is equally unquestionable that the revolutionary movement in general, and the Social-Democratic movement in particular, are more disorganised in central Russia than in the western border regions. Of course, it would not enter our heads to conclude from this that the Polish and Lettish Social-Democratic movements are less disorganised thanks to guerrilla warfare. No. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that guerrilla warfare is not to blame for the state of disorganisation of the Social-Democratic working-class movement in Russia in 1906.

Allusion is often made in this respect to the peculiarities of national conditions. But this allusion very clearly betrays the weakness of the current argument. If it is a matter of national conditions then it is not a matter of anarchism, Blanquism or terrorism—sins that are common to Russia as a whole and even to the Russians especially—but of something else. Analyse this something else concretely, gentle men! You will then find that national oppression or antagonism explain nothing, because they have always existed in the western border regions, whereas guerrilla warfare has been engendered only by the present historical period. There are many places where there is national oppression and antagonism, but no guerrilla struggle, which sometimes develops where there is no national oppression whatever. A concrete analysis of the question will show that it is not a matter of national oppression, but of conditions of insurrection. Guerrilla warfare is an inevitable form of struggle at a time when the mass movement has actually reached the point of an uprising and when fairly large intervals occur between the “big engagements” in the civil war.

It is not guerrilla actions which disorganise the movement, but the weakness of a party which is incapable of taking such actions under its control. That is why the anathemas which we Russians usually hurl against guerrilla actions go hand in hand with secret, casual, unorganised guerrilla actions which really do disorganise the Party. Being in capable of understanding what historical conditions give rise to this struggle, we are incapable of neutralising its deleterious aspects. Yet the struggle is going on. It is engendered by powerful economic and political causes. It is not in our power to eliminate these causes or to eliminate this struggle. Our complaints against guerrilla warfare are complaints against our Party weakness in the matter of an uprising.

What we have said about disorganisation also applies to demoralisation. It is not guerrilla warfare which demoralises, but unorganised, irregular, non-party guerrilla acts. We shall not rid ourselves one least bit of this most unquestionable demoralisation by condemning and cursing guerrilla actions, for condemnation and curses are absolutely incapable of putting a stop to a phenomenon which has been engendered by profound economic and political causes. It may be objected that if we are incapable of putting a stop to an abnormal and demoralising phenomenon, this is no reason why the Party should adopt abnormal and demoralising methods of struggle. But such an objection would be a purely bourgeois-liberal and not a Marxist objection, because a Marxist cannot regard civil war, or guerrilla warfare, which is one of its forms, as abnormal and demoralising in general. A Marxist bases himself on the class struggle, and not social peace. In certain periods of acute economic and political crises the class struggle ripens into a direct civil war, i.e., into an armed struggle between two sections of the people. In such periods a Marxist is obliged to take the stand of civil war. Any moral condemnation of civil war would be absolutely impermissible from the standpoint of Marxism.
In a period of civil war the ideal party of the proletariat is a fighting party. This is absolutely incontrovertible. We are quite prepared to grant that it is possible to argue and prove the inexpediency from the standpoint of civil war of particular forms of civil war at any particular moment. We fully admit criticism of diverse forms of civil war from the standpoint of military expediency and absolutely agree that in this question it is the Social-Democratic practical workers in each particular locality who must have the final say. But we absolutely demand in the name of the principles of Marxism that an analysis of the conditions of civil war should not be evaded by hackneyed and stereo typed talk about anarchism, Blanquism and terrorism, and that senseless methods of guerrilla activity adopted by some organisation or other of the Polish Socialist Party at some moment or other should not be used as a bogey when discussing the question of the participation of the Social-Democratic Party as such in guerrilla warfare in general.

The argument that guerrilla warfare disorganises the movement must be regarded critically. Every new form of struggle, accompanied as it is by new dangers and new sacrifices, inevitably “disorganises” organisations which are unprepared for this new form of struggle. Our old propagandist circles were disorganised by recourse to methods of agitation. Our committees were subsequently disorganised by recourse to demonstrations. Every military action in any war to a certain extent disorganises the ranks of the fighters. But this does not mean that one must not fight. It means that one must learn to fight. That is all.

When I see Social-Democrats proudly and smugly declaring “we are not anarchists, thieves, robbers, we are superior to all this, we reject guerrilla warfare”,—I ask myself: Do these people realise what they are saying? Armed clashes and conflicts between the Black-Hundred government and the population are taking place all over the country. This is an absolutely inevitable phenomenon at the present stage of development of the revolution. The population is spontaneously and in an unorganised way—and for that very reason often in unfortunate and undesirable forms—reacting to this phenomenon also by armed conflicts and attacks. I can under stand us refraining from Party leadership of this spontaneous struggle in a particular place or at a particular time because of the weakness and unpreparedness of our organisation. I realise that this question must be settled by the local practical workers, and that the remoulding of weak and unprepared organisations is no easy matter. But when I see a Social-Democratic theoretician or publicist not displaying regret over this unpreparedness, but rather a proud smugness and a self-exalted tendency to repeat phrases learned by rote in early youth about anarchism, Blanquism and terrorism, I am hurt by this degradation of the most revolutionary doctrine in the world.

It is said that guerrilla warfare brings the class-conscious proletarians into close association with degraded, drunken riff-raff. That is true. But it only means that the party of the proletariat can never regard guerrilla warfare as the only, or even as the chief, method of struggle; it means that this method must be subordinated to other methods, that it must be commensurate with the chief methods of warfare, and must be ennobled by the enlightening and organising influence of socialism. And without this latter condition, all, positively all, methods of struggle in bourgeois society bring the proletariat into close association with the various non-proletarian strata above and below it and, if left to the spontaneous course of events, become frayed, corrupted and prostituted. Strikes, if left to the spontaneous course of events, become corrupted into “alliances”—agreements between the workers and the masters against the consumers. Parliament becomes corrupted into a brothel, where a gang of bourgeois politicians barter wholesale and retail “national freedom”, “liberalism”, “democracy”, republicanism, anti-clericalism, socialism and all other wares in demand. A newspaper becomes corrupted into a public pimp, into a means of corrupting the masses, of pandering to the low instincts of the mob, and so on and so forth. Social-Democracy knows of no universal methods of struggle, such as would shut off the proletariat by a Chinese wall from the strata standing slightly above or slightly below it. At different periods Social-Democracy applies different methods, always qualifying the choice of them by strictly defined ideological and organisational conditions.


The forms of struggle in the Russian revolution are distinguished by their colossal variety compared with the bourgeois revolutions in Europe. Kautsky partly foretold this in 1902 when he said that the future revolution (with the exception perhaps of Russia, he added) might be not so much a struggle of the people against the government as a struggle between two sections of the people. In Russia we undoubtedly see a wider development of this latter struggle than in the bourgeois revolutions in the West. The enemies of our revolution among the people are few in number, but as the struggle grows more acute they become more and more organised and receive the support of the reactionary strata of the bourgeoisie. It is therefore absolutely natural and inevitable that in such a period, a period of nation-wide political strikes, an uprising cannot assume the old form of individual acts restricted to a very short time and to a very small area. It is absolutely natural and inevitable that the uprising should assume the higher and more complex form of a prolonged civil war embracing the whole country, i.e., an armed struggle between two sections of the people. Such a war cannot be conceived otherwise than as a series of a few big engagements at comparatively long intervals and a large number of small encounters during these intervals. That being so—and it is undoubtedly so—the Social-Democrats must absolutely make it their duty to create organisations best adapted to lead the masses in these big engagements and, as far as possible, in these small encounters as well. In a period when the class struggle has become accentuated to the point of civil war, Social-Democrats must make it their duty not only to participate but also to play the leading role in this civil war. The Social-Democrats must train and prepare their organisations to be really able to act as a belligerent side which does not miss a single opportunity of inflicting damage on the enemy’s forces.

This is a difficult task, there is no denying. It cannot be accomplished at once. Just as the whole people are being retrained and are learning to fight in the course of the civil war, so our organisations must be trained, must be reconstructed in conformity with the lessons of experience to be equal to this task.

We have not the slightest intention of foisting on practical workers any artificial form of struggle, or even of deciding from our armchair what part any particular form of guerrilla warfare should play in the general course of the civil war in Russia. We are far from the thought of regarding a concrete assessment of particular guerrilla actions as indicative of a trend in Social-Democracy. But we do regard it as our duty to help as far as possible to arrive at a correct theoretical assessment of the new forms of struggle engendered by practical life. We do regard it as our duty relentlessly to combat stereotypes and prejudices which hamper the class-conscious workers in correctly presenting a new and difficult problem and in correctly approaching its solution.