Menshevikism

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ajjohnstone
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Mar 20 2017 08:44
Menshevikism

https://www.marxists.org/archive/martov/1920/07/thesis.htm

Theses approved by the Pan-Russian Conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Mensheviks) on April 10 1920.

In 1920 when a British Labour Delegation visited Russia the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries each issued a full statement of their position. These were included in the Report of the Delegation.

The Menshevik document has now been uploaded to the internet

Noa Rodman
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Mar 24 2017 17:19

It could already be found online at archive.org

According to Boris Nikolaevskij (see ff p. 82 Меньшевики после октябрьской революции, 1990) the theses were sort of an attempt at a new party program (the old one still dated from 1903). The Bolsheviks allowed its publication but refused to provide paper, so the Mensheviks found a way around this by printing it on the back of posters. Nikolaevskij also talks a bit about the conference itself (held in Moscow). Because of difficulty in transportation of delegates, it was planned to coincide with a trade union congress (that way menshevik trade-unionists could attend at the same time the party conference).

It warns about extension of methods of oppression, though it accepts the necessity, under circumstances, of disenfranchisement of bourgeoisie. And mensheviks took part in the civil war against the Whites. It is reasonable to insist on their right of criticism/disagreement in the abstract (indeed within the bolshevik party similar concerns were voiced), but it seems that due to the logic of events a number of mensheviks finally decided to join the bolsheviks.

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jondwhite
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Mar 24 2017 20:55

I think the "logic" of accepting some oppression temporarily as "necessary" was summed up best by Martin Niemoller in the famous poem;

Quote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

A lot of people seem to think this is about some ideologies posing unique or hidden dangers (e.g. fascism or Stalinism), but actually it seems to me to be about how incrementally people trade away their freedoms, in particular freedom of speech, and failing to think about the bigger picture. Mensheviks joining the Bolsheviks seem to have made this mistake and laid the groundwork for Stalin's seizure of power and themselves paid for it when he went about his purges.

Noa Rodman
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Mar 24 2017 22:34

My point was more that the Menshevik position was not practically effective (once the civil war got under way).

By the way, in the discussions among mensheviks (and with Kautsky) about the nature of soviet Russia, you find much the same "academic" questions that troubled Trotskyism.

On Menshevik's own record in power (Georgia), see Trotsky's Between Red and White. (Trotsky relies eg on a brochure of Н. Л. Мещеряков: «В меньшевистском раю». who also wrote «Легкомысленный путешественник».) All the Menshevik criticism of Bolshevism can be more or less symmetrically returned to them where they were in power.