The Socialist Revolutionaries Maximalists (SRs Maximalists)

Submitted by meerov21 on September 24, 2014

The Socialist Revolutionaries Maximalists (SRs Maximalists) is the radical wing of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, based on a synthesis of the ideas of the Russian narodniks and European revolutionary syndicalism. It is an example of the synthesis of different political currents and open non-sectarian thinking. This form of anti-authoritarian socialism existed in 1905-1930 in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania.

The union of SR Maximalists (SSRM) was founded as an independent organisation in the begining of 1906 on the basis of the radical part of the Socialist Revolutionaries Party (SRs). Maximalists, unlike most of the SRs, were in favor of socialization (transfer into the hands of workers' self-management) factories and land.
Like many anarchists, they favored illegal methods of struggle, as only a struggle, in their opinion, could prepare people's minds for a revolutionary change in society as a whole. Submissive enforcement of laws of the state during the strike, appeal to the court, the subordination of the police instructions - all this is unacceptable. All this creates a social habit to submit to authority posed by the elites.

The first Russian revolution was something similar to the modern revolutions in Egypt and Ukraine. The vast majority of the activists of the revolutionary movements did not go beyond the overthrow of the dictatorship and its replacement with bourgeois democracy.

Maximalists, of course, knew that the majority of the activists of the first Russian revolution (1905-1907) supports the parliamentary republic. Supporting the struggle of the majority against autocracy (for a dictatorship allows neither basic freedom of assembly or demonstrations, nor minimum freedom from police harassment – that is why Maximalists supported the overthrow of the tsar family, no social development was possible without that), Maximalists, nevertheless did not support a parliamentary republic. All the same, the deputies will act in the interests of big business, and people will live in poverty.

Maximalists thought it is necessary to create a classless society based on worker’s self-government; factories and plants must pass under the control of federations of labor collectives, and the land should be transferred to the hands of local rural communities. This system was called the Labor Republic.

Genuine democracy, according to the Maximalists, will be possible only when the means of production and all social wealth pass into the hands of labor collectives. Only then will people really be able to rule their life. It's as if today in Ukraine or Egypt supporters of the revolution would support Maidan\Tahrir and the struggle against the dictatorship of Yanukovych\Mubarak, but not struggle for a parliamentary system, and transfer Maidan to the factories.

But how would the Labor Republic look like in general, what would be its structure?

In 1905, in Russia there were workers' councils. Their creation was not the result of the initiative of any political party. Сouncils were the result of spontaneous self-organization. The first workers' councils were inter-factory strike committees. Assemblies of the labor collectives chose delegates and gave a mandate on how and what to do. Voters could at any time withdraw a delegate from the council and replace it with another one. In addition to organizing strikes, councils took on other tasks. It was struggle with the strikebreakers, the creation of the fighting squads to protect strikers from the police, the supply of working-class neighborhoods with food during the strike, order maintenance during the strike. Very quickly, the councils had become a local labor power.

This is how the system of councils had to work ideally. It seems like there is a fundamental difference between the workers' councils and modern Maidan\ Tahrir\ Occupy self-organisation. Workers' councils were created strictly according to the class (factory) principle. At the same time, Occupy\Maidan\Tahrir movements begun on the city's central squares, where workers and the bourgeoise stood side by side.

But, in practice, the difference is not so great. Delegates were not always controlled by worker's assemblies. Councils were not purely class workers’ organisations. Strong political parties (the Socialist Revolutionary Party and the Social Democratic Party), controlled the majority of the councils. These parties fought in 1905-1907 for a bourgeois democracy. In addition, they received large sums of money from the liberal bourgeoisie. Thus, the Bolsheviks received money from the millionaire Morozov. And (according to modern Russian researcher Grigory Kan), the whole top of the SR party consisted of relatives and managers of the tea king, multimillionaire David Vysotsky. Parties parasitized on the people's movement. Thus, in practice, workers' councils have become only an embryo of self-government.

Maximalists didn’t have a single point of view on how the Labor Republic should be organised. However, the idea of the councils had gradually established in the Maximalists’ outlook. Leading ideologue of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, Viktor Chernov, wrote that Maximalists from the outset fell in love with the councils. They saw in them the cornerstone of the future Labor Republic. Factory collectives would choose the general council (or congress delegates) with which they would manage production. They would organize the distribution of wealth, as well as make political and legislative decisions. Maximalists were the first to raise the slogan "All Power to the Soviets". But, unlike the Bolsheviks, they never wanted to replace government of workers with the government of one party.

Union of the Socialist Revolutionaries Maximalists was never considered by its participants as a party. Maximalists did not seek to seize power. They strived to become an active revolutionary minority. Word and action should have encouraged workers to class struggle and self-government.

Also, Maximalists did not support trade unions.

First, they rejected such methods of struggle as going to court or sending complaints to the state. Such methods never led to revolutionary changes and only supported workers’ slavish dependence on the state laws, obedience to the state.

Second, they thought that the struggle for wages alone can not awaken people to a new non-capitalist consciousness. Fighting for a salary should be combined with agitation for wider socio-revolutionary aims.
It can be seen that the tactics of the SR Maximalists was close to the early organizations of the German-Dutch left Communists, especially KAPD.

However, there were exceptions. Maximalists and anarchists initiated the creation of a large organization of unions in the city of Odessa (1). This organization, however, set goals of transforming society, partly similar to the Maximalist progam. In addition, in terms of tactics it was a strictly radical, militant organization.

So, Maximalists considered the creation of radical ideological cells at the factory as the main method of struggle. These cells, in turn, would be united in territorial groups. They could initiate major illegal economic strikes, distribute social revolutionary ideas and initiate the radicalization of the councils.

1. Odessa, the homeland of anarcho-syndicalism


7 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

In regards to Maximalists, their theory of "economic terror" against class of proprietors as a whole should be remembered and criticized.


7 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

"economic terror" - good theory! ;)
But that was not special Maximalists theory. That was tipical for all libertarian socialists in Russia like anarcho-communists (Belostok, Baku etc), anarcho-syndicalists (in Odessa they make some armed attaks against business).


7 years 10 months ago

In reply to by

"Economic terror" means violent action against bosses (in general during the strikes), and lendlodrs.
if you mean ""no-motives terror"" - that was something els - that was just idea of a small part of the anarchists and i never red about maximalist organisations did this. Only few maximalist individuals were like that.