At the beginning of 1906, Machajski arrived in St. Petersburg and proceeded to organise a small band of his followers in the capital. Their primary objective was to persuade the workers to repudiate the political program of the socialist parties - a "bourgeois revolution" to replace autocracy with a parliamentary democracy - and instead to insist on the immediate satisfaction of their economic demands. Briefly, at least, Makhaevism achieved a measure of visibility as an organised movement, although in fact a variety of groups and individuals professing Makhaevist ideas had been appearing on the Russian scene for several years before this.
Before tracing the activities of the Makhaevists themselves, we have to turn our attention to that aspect of Russian life with which they were primarily concerned: the relations between workers and intelligentsia in the labour and revolutionary movements. In the two decades or so before the 1905 revolution, both of these movements were preoccupied with this crucial issue. The workers, striving to organise so as to press their demands for improved wages and working conditions, often had to avail themselves of the organisational skills and communications resources the intelligentsia alone could provide, especially at a time when most forms of labour association were illegal and had to be conducted underground. The revolutionary intelligentsia needed a mass base to use as a lever for prying loose the tsarist autocracy. The populists having been rebuffed by the peasantry in the 1860s and 1870s, a sizeable part of the intelligentsia adopted Marxism in the 1880s and 1890s and sought to rally the industrial workers under the banner of Social Democracy. The two social elements were drawn to each other by mutual need and, so it seemed, mutual interest.
As their contacts grew, however, the social and cultural barrier that separated the Western-educated stratum from the mass of the population in the society at large replicated itself in the relations between intelligenty and workers in the underground organisations. This is not to say that reciprocal trust and co-operation were unattainable; representatives of the two groups did work together productively and harmoniously. Even at the best of times, however, relations between them were fraught with a considerable degree of underlying tension which could erupt in outbursts of anti-intelligentsia hostility. So insistently does anti-intelligentsia sentiment recur throughout this period, in fact, that any attempt to treat it exhaustively would not only go well beyond the scope of the present work but would amount to a virtual recapitulation of the history of the Russian labour movement and of the Russian Social-Democratic party. My purpose here will be to examine some of its principal manifestations and their relationship to Makhaevism. The Makhaevists were unique in placing anti-intelligentsia sentiment at the very centre of their doctrines and agitation, but they were by no means alone in giving voice to it. Machajski's attack on the intelligentsia drew attention precisely because it probed at one of the most painful spots in the development of Russian socialism. Here, as in so many areas, Makhaevism focused on an issue of great importance, even if it could not itself provide an adequate resolution of it.
Anti-intelligentsia sentiment appeared at the very dawn of the Russian labour movement, even before Social Democracy arose. Beginning with the Chaikovskii Circle in 1872, populist students during the 1870s were organising propaganda circles among the metalworkers and textile workers of St. Petersburg. Almost immediately, a series of frictions arose between the workers and their mentors. When the students, disappointed with the response of the workers to their revolutionary aspirations, went off to the countryside to propagandise the peasants, the workers felt that their immediate interests were being sacrificed to the larger social and political objectives of the intelligenty; they were repelled by the ideological bickering of the different intelligent factions; and, increasingly, they resented manipulation by domineering "generals," as they termed them, leading some workers to demand the exclusion of intelligenty from their organisations.' These same complaints and accusations, along with new ones, would be repeated again and again in subsequent decades.
The first conscious and systematic questioning of the intelligentsia's motivations and sense of commitment to the workers found expression in the Tochiskii Circle of St. Petersburg in the mid-1880s. Pavel Varfolomeevich Tochiskii was born in 1864 (given in some sources as i865) in Ekaterinburg. His father, a Russian Pole of noble origin, was an officer in the Russian army, and his mother was of French origin. Tochiskii attended a gymnasium in Ekaterinburg but dropped out and made his way to St. Petersburg in 1884. There he became a metalworker, both to make contact with other workers and to earn a living, having broken with his father. In late 1885 he began to form an underground circle based on an amalgam of socialist ideas, including, but not limited to, Marxism. Called at first the Society to Help Raise the Material, Moral, and Intellectual Level of the Working Class in Russia - an unwieldy but accurate reflection of Tochiskii's aims - it subsequently adopted the name Tovarishchestvo peterburgskikh masterovykh (Association of Petersburg Artisans), and, all told, operated for something over two years.
Tochiskii himself left no writings from this period of his life, but to judge from the account by his close associate Andrei Breitfus, his views foreshadowed Machajski's in a number of respects. Breitfus, at the time attracted to populism, made Tochiskii's acquaintance in i88~ and found him highly critical of the Narodnaia Volia organisation's use of terror, which, he believed, "in the last analysis was only a means of gaining power for the growing class of bourgeoisie." The people were too backward to take advantage of the intelligentsia's efforts: "the latter, supposedly struggling in the name of the people, could only help new enemies of the people take power." Real change was possible only as a result of a social movement by the one truly revolutionary class - neither the peasantry nor the intelligentsia, but the proletariat.According to Tochiskii's sister, who was a member of the circle, Tochiskii rejected political struggle entirely and sought to organise the workers solely on the basis of their economic interests.
Given these principles, Tochiskii's attitude toward the intelligentsia was, at best, ambivalent. On the one hand, he felt that the intelligentsia's assistance was essential for organising the proletariat and developing its class consciousness, but on the other "he considered the revolutionary intelligentsia in general to be ideologists of the bourgeoisie." Therefore the intelligentsia must be regarded as a "casual guest in the revolution," to be tolerated only as long as the proletariat needed it. "He often said: 'You are with us until the first turning point, the first constitution which you will obtain from the government and which you need, and then our paths will diverge sharply."'To protect the workers from being drawn into political struggle, which at this time meant terrorist activities, he tried his best to minimise direct contact between workers and intelligenty within the circle, considering it "superfluous," as his sister put it, "to let the intelligentsia get close to the workers" and even trying to avoid those workers who had already been exposed to revolutionary propaganda and thus "corrupted by revolutionary adventurism."With the intelligentsia supplying funds, literature, and other practical assistance, the circle concentrated on worker education and consciousness-raising, building an impressive library of legal publications as well as a much smaller stock of illegal literature. When some intelligent members undertook a more vigorous distribution of illegal literature to the workers, Tochiskii objected, fearing that it would merely excite them and increase their chances of arrest. (Thanks to Tochiskii's precautions, in fact, the worker members of his organisation were not discovered by the police, and only the intelligentsia leaders were eventually arrested.) He now attempted, in effect, to exclude the intelligentsia members from active participation in the work of the circle and to reduce them to "passive" or auxiliary members. He was opposed by other members of the organisation who agreed, over his objections, to widen the intelligentsia's role, but the issue became moot when the police broke up the association in 1888.
Conflicts between workers and intelligenty punctuated the history of the Jewish labour movement within the western Pale of Settlement. In the early 1890s, a vehement wave of protest arose over the decision of the movement's leaders to shift from "propaganda," that is, worker education conducted in small study circles, to "agitation," a program aimed at reaching a broader mass of workers by concentrating on their practical economic needs, through strikes, demonstrations, and factory organisation. The protest first surfaced in Vilna in 1893, led by Avram Gordon, an engraver and a member of a study circle. Gordon believed that the dissemination of knowledge to the people was the true source of historical progress, and such educational work was the proper function of the intelligentsia. The latter's abandonment of cultural work was a deliberate act of treason to the labour movement. Historical events such as the French Revolution and the revolutions of 1848 had demonstrated that the intelligentsia wanted to delude the people and use them for its own selfish interests.Keeping the workers ignorant and dependent was an important part of this effort. The agitation campaign, Cordon declared in terms that strikingly anticipate Machajski, was the intelligentsia's way of preserving its monopoly on the precious commodity of knowledge.Similar views were expressed in cities across the Pale. One of the opposition groups generated by this wave of protest, the Group of Worker Revolutionaries, active in Belostok in 1897, was headed by another engraver named Moisei Lur'e, who, as we shall see, subsequently espoused Makhaevism. The antagonism between workers and intelligentsia that erupted in the nineties never entirely disappeared from the Russian Jewish labour movement.
A second wave of anti-intelligentsia sentiment broke over the movement after the organisation in 1897 of the Bund, the Marxist socialist party that spoke for the interests of the Jewish work-mg class in Russia. The Bund soon began to place a greater emphasis on political action than on economic activity, and it sought to impose a more centralised organisational structure on the labour movement. Both endeavours generated new worker-intelligent fractions. By the early years of the twentieth century, workers were accusing intelligenty of behaving in a dictatorial, undemocratic manner, and were attacking the "despotism of the intellectuals." Hostility to political action, which to many workers seemed both overly abstract and overly dangerous, and hostility to those who advocated it, also began to be voiced. Demands arose that the movement be led solely by workers, and in some cities the latter excluded the intelligentsia from the local committees. ii Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the Zubatov experiment (discussed below) received its first application in the Jewish labour movement of the Pale. In its effort to separate the workers from the revolutionary propagandists who sought to lead them, Zubatovism exploited precisely the kinds of tensions that existed in this region, and it found a fertile field for its activity within the jurisdiction of the Bund.
The question of the intelligentsia's relationship to the labour movement was a major theme in the first great "heresy" within the Russian Social-Democratic movement, the current that arose at the end of the 1890s and came to be known as Economism. This label was applied to several groups and shades of thought which were in fact quite distinct and not necessarily in agreement. In general terms, however, and with varying degrees of emphasis, those of the Economist persuasion held two basic positions: the priority of economic improvement for the workers over large-scale political change (although the necessity of political change was generally recognised), and the need for vigorous organisational development of the labour movement. The most "radical" expression of Economism was the clandestine newspaper Rabochaia mysl' (Workers' Thought), issued from 1897 to 1902. The newspaper itself was the product of a conflict between workers and intelligentsia within the St. Petersburg Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, the Social-Democratic organisation formed in 1895. The workers of the city, aroused by the great textile strikes of 1896 and 1897, had demanded a greater voice in the affairs of the union. They were supported by such labour-oriented intelligenty as Konstantin Takhtarev, who became one of the editors of Rabochaia mysl but were opposed by most of the other intelligenty in the Union of Struggle. The latter wanted to maintain the union's tightly knit conspiratorial character and felt that this precluded admission of workers into its inner circles, because the workers were not well versed in the ways of the underground.From the thinking of the Takhtarev group came Rabochaia mysl. Unlike most Social-Democratic publications, it was specifically intended to give expression to the workers' own views, and it devoted a large portion of its space to reports by workers on conditions in their factories.It also gave voice to a broad streak of anti-intelligentsia sentiment, which, given the nature of the newspaper, must have reflected feelings widely held among the workers and not just by the editors.
In its first issue the newspaper proclaimed the independence of the labour movement from the intelligenty who had hitherto guided it, and the primacy of economic over political goals. The editorial asserted that the Russian labour movement owed its new vitality "to the fact that the worker himself is taking over the struggle, having wrested it from the hands of the leaders. . . . As long as the movement was merely a means of calming the suffer-mg conscience of the repentant intellectual, it was alien to the worker himself. "The labour movement would now concentrate on the struggle to improve the workers' economic status, using strikes as its principal weapon, and political change would ultimately occur as a by-product of the economic struggle.
The paper was soon charged with harbouring a distinctly unfriendly attitude toward the intelligentsia, and in a later issue the editors responded to this accusation. They declared that the primary task of Rabochaia mysl was to give the worker a forum of his own. Since he could more easily understand the words of his fellow worker than "the abstract writings of the intelligenty," the paper gave preference to articles written by workers themselves. The editors, however, did admit to the charge that the paper was "against the intelligentsia," and described in highly unflattering terms those categories of intelligenty whose participation in the labour movement the paper opposed. They rejected as completely unreliable the members of the professions, such as lawyers, artists, writers, and priests. They were only slightly more favourably disposed to students. Like Tochiskii, they valued the services the students could provide, such as collecting funds and distributing literature, but considered them irrevocably part of the ruling classes by virtue of their education and social origins. "It must never be forgotten that while they are revolutionaries today, tomorrow they will be procurators, judges, engineers, factory inspectors, in short, officials of the Russian government."Therefore, while their contributions to the labour movement might be useful, they must not be allowed any significant influence in the workers' affairs. The only intelligenty who would be warmly welcomed were those few "ideologists," or "white crows," who selflessly devoted themselves to the struggle for liberty and equality.
Rabochaia mysl' expressed the hope that the labour movement by itself, without the mediation of the revolutionary intelligentsia, could persuade the authorities through pressure and persuasion to improve the conditions of industrial work. At least some of the editors were clearly thinking in terms of the legalisation of the labour movement. The editors announced that they had been sending copies of the newspaper to the ministers of finance and internal affairs, the over-procurator of the Holy Synod, and all the factory inspectors of Petersburg, in order to acquaint them with the workers' views. Had they been sure it would reach him, they added, they would even have sent a copy to the tsar, for "it would be very useful for him, too, to acquaint himself with the life and thought of the workers."
Machajski had the opportunity to learn about Economism from some of the exiles in Viliuisk, and he was familiar with Rabochaia mysl At one point in The Intellectual Worker he even seems to have borrowed its characterisation of the students as future rulers of the proletariat. His few references to the newspaper and to Economism in general, however, were ambivalent. On the one hand, he could not but approve of the emphasis the Economists placed on economic improvement over political objectives; on the other, Machajski could conceive of the labour movement only as an underground, revolutionary struggle, whereas the strand of Economism represented by Rabochaia mysl though critical of the intelligentsia, led toward legalisation of the labour movement. Therefore he could not regard Economism as a significant exception to the efforts of the socialist intelligentsia as a whole to curb the true revolutionary spirit of the working class. In the early years of the new century, what remained of the Economist tendency within the Social-Democratic party gave way before the forces grouped around the émigré' newspaper Iskra (The Spark), with Lenin in the forefront. The adherents of Iskra reasserted the primacy of political goals, maintaining that the first task on Russia's historical agenda must be the overthrow of tsarist absolutism. At the same time, they placed renewed emphasis on the party as an underground, conspiratorial organisation, requiring a centralised, hierarchical structure which would serve both to safeguard the party's doctrinal purity and to ensure the fulfilment of its revolutionary tasks. The imposition of these views was achieved only at the high cost of intensified discord between the intelligenty who staffed the party's local committees in the Russian towns and the workers among whom they operated. The frequently autocratic ways of the self-appointed committeemen provoked increasingly bitter resentment, and the "Iskra period" of the Social-Democratic party saw the rise of numerous "worker opposition" groups within its local organisations.
The most frequent demand of the workers was for a more democratic form of organisation, one in which the workers themselves would elect their own leaders and have a voice in the determination of policy. In 1902, for example, the workers in Kremenchug rebelled against the attempt to reconstitute their party organisation along the centralised lines advocated by Iskra. "The members of the committee were all newcomers whom the workers did not know personally. They declared themselves the committee without any sanction on the part of the workers, and in the latter's eyes they were like uninvited 'Varangians' who had come to 'rule and reign' over them."
Similar discords arose in Ekaterinoslav and Odessa - two cities, significantly, where Makhaevist organisations made their appearance. The Ekaterinoslav committee had a long history of worker independence and worker control of the organisation. The efforts of newly arrived intelligenty to assert control over the committee's activities nearly provoked an open breach with the workers, who insisted on maintaining their influence. A compromise was worked out under which the two groups maintained separate but co-operating committees, but at the beginning of 1903 the issue of centralisation produced a new schism in the Ekaterinoslav organization.The Odessa workers had also begun to express the opinion that "in a workers' movement, workers ought to be the leaders." In 1901, a workers' opposition group formed, demanding that the members of all party organs be elected. Attempts by the intelligenty on the Odessa committee to justify the existing system of cooptation on the grounds of conspiratorial necessity were received as evidence that they distrusted the workers. Finally, in 1902, the workers' opposition withdrew from the Social-Democratic organisation and formed an independent group called the Workers' Will (Rabochaia volia), which lasted until 1903 25 Descriptions of similar frictions in other cities, such as St. Petersburg and Tula, appear in the reports submitted by local committees to the Second Party Congress in 1903.26 Worker dissidence and opposition cropped up also in Kharkov, Kiev, Tiflis, and Ivanovo-Voznesensk.As previously mentioned, the Bund was experiencing a similar wave of worker opposition in its local organisations.
Nor was it only intelligentsia high-handedness and worker independence that generated frictions between the two elements. The intelligentsia's preoccupation with doctrinal orthodoxy, which the workers often found incomprehensible, also created antagonism -a problem which the Bolshevik-Menshevik disputes would later exacerbate even further. On one occasion in Kharkov, for example, when a group of factory workers got together on their own initiative and asked the local Social-Democratic committee for propaganda literature and speakers, they were rebuffed on the grounds that they were "trade unionists." When asked if this was true, one worker replied: "We haven't gone into these questions; the devil only knows what we are."
Into the breach between workers and intelligentsia stepped Sergei Zubatov, the creator of the experiment in so-called police socialism. (Like Makhaevism, Zubatov's effort was dubbed zu-batovshchina by its critics and is frequently referred to by that pejorative term in the literature.) Zubatov became the chief of the Moscow Okhrana, the tsarist political police, in 1896, then served in St. Petersburg from 1902 until his dismissal from the government in 1903. A devoted monarchist, Zubatov was well aware of the gulf that existed between the industrial workers and the intelligentsia, and he set out to capitalise on it by persuading the workers that the autocracy, not the revolutionaries, understood their true interests. The themes sounded by Zubatov and his representatives are so close to those of Makhaevism that it is worth examining the rhetoric and aims of the Zubatov experiment in some detail.
The basic premises of Zubatovism were set forth in 1898 in a memorandum sent by General D. F. Trepov, then police chief of Moscow, to Grand Duke Sergei, the Moscow governor-general. This memorandum was actually the work of Zubatov himself,and it asserted that the intelligentsia regarded the labour movement primarily as an instrument for furthering its own political purposes.
The history of the revolutionary movement has shown that the intelligentsia alone does not have the forces to struggle with the government, even when armed with explosives. With this in mind, all the opposition groups are now applauding the Social-Democratic movement, in the calculation that by drawing the workers into anti-govemmental undertakings they will have at their disposal a mass force which the government will have to take into serious consideration.
The German Social Democrats, the document contended, had originated the method of joining "their own ideal aspirations with the everyday, more vital demands of the workers," and their Russian counterparts were now adopting it by engaging in economic agitation and supporting strikes. "If the petty needs and demands of the workers are being exploited by the revolutionaries for such deeply anti-govemment purposes, shouldn't the government as quickly as possible tear this . . . weapon from their hands?" In order to thwart the spread of revolutionary activities among the workers, the government must take the initiative in satisfying their economic grievances through legal channels, "keeping in mind that only the most youthful and energetic part of the crowd will follow an agitator, while the average worker always prefers a less glittering but more peaceful and legal solution." Problems arose not just from the unruliness of the workers but from the failure of the factory owners themselves to observe the laws and respect the workers' rights. The solution was for the police to supervise relations between workers and employers and to demonstrate to the worker that there was a better way out of his difficulties than that offered by the revolutionaries: "What occupies the revolutionary must necessarily interest the police."The ideas set forth in the report won the firm support of both Trepov and Grand Duke Sergei, and Zubatov was able to proceed with their practical application.
Zubatov had been a radical in his student days, and he brought a firsthand knowledge of the revolutionary movement and the psychology of its participants to his work in the political police. The first object of his attention was the Bund. In the summer of 1898 a number of Bund leaders were arrested and brought to Moscow for questioning. In the course of the interrogations, Zubatov concluded that the situation among the Jewish workers of the Pale was favourable for his plans. When another group of arrested Bundists was brought to Moscow in 1900, Zubatov made a concerted effort to persuade them of his views. He treated them benevolently, engaged them in long discussions of the labour movement, and gave them books by judiciously selected authors, including Eduard Bernstein. (He referred to Bernstein as "our ally against the outrageous Russian Social Democracy. ") He described in the following terms the form his gentle brainwashing took when political prisoners came before him:
In the interrogations I am separating the anti-govemment element from the mass with brilliant success, I can honestly say. In the Russian movement, and perhaps also in the Jewish movement, I am successfully persuading my public that the workers' movement is one thing while the Social Democratic movement is another. In the former the goal is a kopeck, in the latter it is an ideological theory. . . the Social Democrats, ignoring [the worker's immediate interests, call upon him to help the "privileged" classes achieve their interests (to carry out a revolution), promising him all kinds of benefits afterwards.
Zubatov succeeded in winning some of the Bundists over to his ideas, perhaps aided by the fact that several members of his captive audience were quite young and impressionable. Mania (Mania) Viltushevich, for instance, who became Zubatov's chief organiser in Minsk, was only nineteen or twenty at the time of her arrest, and some of the other activists were not much older.
Zubatov's converts returned to Minsk and in 1901, having broken definitively with the Bund, formed their own organisation, called the Jewish Independent Workers' party. The principal point of the manifesto the new party issued was the rejection of politics. It was criminal, the Independents declared, to sacrifice "the material interests of the working class for political goals which at present are alien to it," and they denounced the Bund for regarding economic demands primarily as an instrument for revolutionising the workers. Their own objectives would be limited to material and cultural improvement of the Jewish workers,or, as they phrased it, to the attainment of "bread and knowledge." Their program called for the establishment of a variety of non-political economic and cultural organisations open to workers of any political persuasion (or none at all), and promised that the party would be democratically organised and governed by the rank and file.
The Zubatov organisation in Minsk was perfectly calculated to appeal to both currents of opposition that had arisen previously in the development of the Jewish labour movement. On the one hand, it promised peaceful educational and cultural development, and on the other it championed legal economic activity over political action. At the same time, it offered a democratic form of organisation responsive to the needs and wishes of the workers themselves. Not surprisingly, it became immensely popular among the Jewish artisans of the city, especially when the Independents proved effective in promoting strikes. The factory owners, aware of the Independents' connection with the police, were often quick to grant concessions. In some cases the Minsk police acted as mediators in labour disputes or even actively sided with the workers.In a report at the end of 1901, Zubatov claimed a membership of more than fifteen hundred in the organisation.
By the summer of 1903, however, the Independent Workers' party in Minsk had collapsed, undermined by the acute contradictions in the tsarist government 5 policies. The Zubatov organisation existed in a kind of legal limbo; it operated with the sanction of the police but did not have full legal status. It was therefore subject to all the whims of the Petersburg bureaucracy and the opposition of some of the local authorities. When the gains which the workers had initially wrested from their employers proved ephemeral, they began to withdraw their support from the Independents.At the same time, events occurred which made it increasingly difficult to represent the autocracy as the protector of the Jewish proletariat. The Kishinev pogrom in April 1903 was widely considered to have occurred with government complicity; and in June of that year Interior Minister Plehve, who was regarded as anti-Semitic to begin with, banned the further activity of Zionism in Russia, a movement with which a number of the Zubatovites in the Pale were closely identified.Even before the general strike of 1903, which brought an abrupt end to the Zubatov experiment as a whole, the Minsk Independents had disbanded.
The same themes, with some variations, were repeated in Moscow and Odessa, the other two cities where Zubatov's agents succeeded in creating mass organisations. In Moscow, the organisers were mainly factory workers, members of the "worker-intelligentsia," rather than intelligenty, as in Minsk.Their rhetoric, however, was similarly filled with anti-intelligentsia sentiment. They urged the workers to separate themselves from the "petty intelligenty," as they termed the revolutionary socialists. (They did, however, welcome the services of liberal intellectuals such as the Moscow academics who participated for a time in the Zubatovites' educational program, giving lectures which proved quite popular with the workers.) The revolutionaries, they maintained, were interested only in using the workers for their own political ends, deflecting them from their economic demands and bringing them only suffering and prison terms. In 1901, they formed a Society of Machine Workers, the first of several associations devoted to mutual aid, education, and peaceful organisational activity in allegiance to the autocracy.
The high point of the Zubatov experiment in Moscow came on February 19, 1902, when Zubatov's agents demonstrated their influence over the workers by ushering a peaceful crowd estimated at some fifty thousand to Alexander II's monument in the Kremlin, to commemorate the anniversary of the emancipation of the serfs. Soon, however, thanks to pressure from the factory owners as well as apprehension on the part of some government authorities over the Zubatovites' involvement in strike actions, the character of the movement changed. It took on a more conservative cast, overtly religious and monarchist, thereby anticipating the Gapon organisation that was to arise in St. Petersburg in 1904. The activities of the Zubatovites were curtailed and the organisation lost most of its effectiveness, although remnants of it survived into 1905.
The site of Zubatovism's greatest success - and spectacular collapse - was the city of Odessa. The chief Zubatov organiser in Odessa was Genrikh (Khunia) Shaevich, a young Zionist who claimed to hold a doctoral degree from the University of Berlin. He had met Mania Viltushevich at a Zionist congress in Minsk and then returned to Odessa to form a branch of the Independents.In August 1902 the Independent Workers' Group of Odessa (soon renamed the Independent Workers' party) issued a manifesto to the Odessa workers
Various parties have long been trying to organise us, but until now we have not had one purely workers' organisation. Those parties which work among us set themselves very large but very distant goals. They are striving for a world-wide overturn, i.e., they want to change all of human life. Setting themselves such enormous goals, which embrace all social life, those parties have neither the time nor the opportunity to pursue our particular workers' interests with sufficient attention, or to satisfy them.
What labour really needed, the manifesto continued, was not lofty abstractions but trade unions. Although these were forbidden in Russia, the reason for the ban was the association between the labour movement and the revolutionary parties. If purely economic unions were organised, independent of any political parties, there was no doubt that the government would be persuaded to allow them. The rejection of politics as the preoccupation of the intelligentsia pervaded the rhetoric of the Odessa Zubatovites. The manifesto of the Union of Odessa House-Painters, one of the constituent unions of the Independent Workers' party, contained the following statement:
The purely economic union of house-painters should be distinguished from the various political workers' parties. The union is completely independent of political parties. We do not yet know how the government will regard our union, but we can be sure that its members will not be exiled to Siberia as political criminals.
Going somewhat beyond the bounds of strict loyalty to the throne, the independents declared, in response to criticism from the Socialist-Revolutionary party, that it was irrelevant to the workers' needs whether they had a monarchy, a republic, or a constitutional state. Instead of inciting the workers against the autocracy, the socialists might inform them that "even in republics, socialist ministers deport strikers (Millerand)." The workers' welfare depended not on the system of government but on the strength of their organisations. As they had elsewhere, the workers of Odessa responded enthusiastically to the formation of non-political labour organisations, an official report putting the membership of the Independent Workers' Party in April 1903 at 2,000.50 Remarkably, the Independents were able to transcend the national and religious cleavages of this polyglot city, bringing together Russian and Ukrainian as well as Jewish workers.
Zubatov's agents in Odessa carried out their mission only too well, for their efforts generated a well organised and increasingly independent labour movement in Odessa. In the summer of 1903, this movement slipped from the grasp of its creators and produced Russia's first general strike - the South Russian strike of 1903, which so impressed Machajski. The strike began in Odessa in early July and lasted for several weeks; order was restored in Odessa with a minimum of violence, but the strike spread to other cities throughout the southern part of the empire. It was a spontaneous phenomenon, but there can be little doubt that the agitation of the Independents played a major role in provoking it.In any case, it was too much for the authorities. Shaevich was arrested and sentenced to five years in Siberia, although his sentence was commuted the following year. Zubatov himself was dismissed from government service, and with the end of his career came the end of the experiment in "police socialism."
The enthusiastic response of the workers to the Zubatovites' message in three such disparate cities as Minsk, Moscow, and Odessa, indicates how shrewdly Zubatov had perceived the tensions between the workers and the intelligentsia. His enterprise failed to sustain itself for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that most of his agents were sincerely devoted to the interests of the workers and were not mere tools of the police.Therefore Zubatov could not always control the mechanism he had constructed or keep it on the course he had set for it. The major share of blame for Zubatovism's downfall, however, appears to lie with the tsarist government, which treated the Zubatov experiment with the utmost ambivalence and inconsistency. The ministry of the interior was opposed on the issue by Count Witte's ministry of finance, and the interior ministry itself was deeply divided at every level. The bureaucratic infighting that resulted was problem enough, but it was symptomatic of an even deeper flaw in the government's approach. Zubatov himself put his finger on it when he complained of the confusion displayed by some of the provincial authorities, a confusion stemming from "their inability to distinguish a revolutionary labour movement from a peaceful one."It was a handicap that pervaded the entire autocracy. The intrinsic contradictions of Zubatovism could have been resolved only by some form of legalisation of trade unions - a step which many of the participants, including Zubatov himself, anticipated as its logical outcome. But if the autocracy was deeply suspicious of "self-activity" even among the educated and property-owning segments of society, still less could it countenance organisation by the working class - one which, despite impressive displays of self-discipline, was still raw and volatile and had to be dealt with very carefully. With the Zubatov episode the government in a sense did what some scholars believe Social Democracy had done: it helped to foster a labour movement which it was then unable to handle. As a result, the Zubatov organisations served to increase the sense of frustration with the government which they were intended to overcome.
As far as Makhaevism is concerned, it seems to have had no points of contact, either personal or ideological, with Zubatovism.If Machajski could not approve of Economism because it led toward trade unionism rather than revolution, he could hardly have had any sympathy for a tendency that led in the same direction under the sponsorship of the tsarist police. He kept silent about the Zubatov phenomenon, however, and his writings contain only a few ironic but fleeting references to it.Makhaevism and Zubatovism arose independently of each other and developed separately, but their attacks on the revolutionary intelligentsia, coming as they did from opposite ends of the Russian ideological spectrum, showed a remarkable similarity. This is additional evidence, if such be needed, of just how widespread and acute the "question of the intelligentsia" in its relationship to the working class had become.
The socialist parties had for the most part been powerless to counter the rise of the Zubatov organizations (although the Bund had some success on this score in Vilna), and they were in no position to capitalise on their collapse. The Social-Democratic leadership, after the party's second congress in 1903, became almost totally immersed in the factional dispute between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks which had rent the party. To many workers, the party schism was both incomprehensible and inexcusable. It seemed to them that the intelligenty were indulging in doctrinal hair-splitting at the expense of the workers' interests, and the squabbling reinforced anti-intelligentsia feelings. In a letter to the Bolshevik newspaper Vpered (Forward), for example, a group of St. Petersburg metalworkers declared that the working class was impatiently awaiting the restoration of unity among the party leaders. "If it is not forthcoming, then we will know that we have no intelligentsia proletariat [intelligentskii proletariat], and if we did have one, then it no longer exists: they have sold the labour movement to the capitalists. Long live the worker proletariat!"The breach between workers and intelligenty within the party remained unhealed, and the approach of the 1905 revolution caught the Social Democrats unprepared and unable to mobilise the working class under its banner.
The domination of the party by the intelligentsia generated worker apathy as well as worker hostility. Excluded from the inner councils of the local committees and unable to influence their decisions, the workers tended to lose interest in their operation. The lack of communication that had developed between the two elements became forcefully apparent in the events of 1905. Several witnesses testify to the shock the party experienced when the Petersburg workers failed to respond to the Social Democrats' call for a May Day demonstration. Despite the carefully laid plans of the local party organisation, an embarrassingly insignificant number of workers actually appeared for the march.According to S. I. Somov, a Menshevik active in the Petersburg organisation, this episode dramatised the extent to which Russian Social Democracy had remained a party of revolutionary intelligenty rather than a party of workers. The latter had come to regard the party "not as their own business but someone else's, the intelligentsia's," and they felt little sense of personal responsibility for it. As a result, they left it to the party leaders to organise the May Day demonstration without deeming it necessary to take an active part in it themselves. Although the party proclaimed itself a proletarian party, it was run by intelligenty at every level. As one worker complained, whenever workers succeeded in forming a district organisation, an "intelligent-tsar" would inevitably arrive to supervise it. Some were benevolent tsars, perhaps, "but we need neither good nor evil tsars, we ourselves want to rule in our own party, and we must set up our own procedures in it."Even in the heat of revolution the gulf between the two forces was not easily bridged, as in the case of a leader of the precious-metalworkers' union in Petersburg who attempted to address a meeting on November 13, 1905: the workmen allowed him to proceed only after they were assured that he was "neither an intellectual nor a student."It was only under the impact of the 1905 revolution that the Social Democrats, and particularly the Mensheviks, began to address themselves seriously to the task of creating a party of the workers and not just for the workers.
The prolonged effort by Russia's revolutionaries to bring together their own grievances against the tsarist autocracy and those of the industrial workers had not been crowned with success by the time the 1905 revolution erupted. Russian Marxists, for all their dedication to the "working class," all too often found themselves rebuked and rebuffed when it came to organising actual workers. The sources of the tension that arose between them were numerous and complex: issues of leadership and subordination, exacerbated by underground conditions; the divergence between the political objectives of most intelligenty and the economic pre-occupations of most of the workers; educational, cultural, and social differences. Some of these antagonisms were specific to the Social-Democratic movement, but others were more deeply rooted in the nature of the Russian intelligentsia and its relationship to the uneducated masses. All this provided fertile soil for Makhaevism, and as its doctrines circulated and became known, individuals and groups of various sorts found in it a persuasive explanation of their dissatisfaction with the intelligentsia.
The history of the Makhaevists twined in and around the anti-intelligentsia currents discussed above, intersecting with some, closely paralleling others.A wide variety of individuals were drawn to Machajski's doctrines, whether they actually joined Makhaevist groups or merely expressed approval of his views. For some, Machajski's criticism of the intelligentsia provided sanction for a crude social resentment of the privileged classes. One example is the testimony of a Jewish worker named B. A. Breslav, whose brief memoir, published in 1928, begins as a tribute to Gorky and ends as a tribute to Machajski. When he was arrested for labour activity in 1901 Breslav was illiterate, and he learned to read only in prison and exile. Discovering Gorky's works, he was greatly impressed by their descriptions of life among the lower classes. He was particularly struck by a line in The Lower Depths, where one of the characters says of a nobleman he encounters that lordliness (barstvo) is like the smallpox -the disease may go away, but it leaves traces on the face.This remark "on the impossibility of a complete regeneration and merger with the proletariat on the part of those who came from a class milieu alien to us" fell on fertile soil, for Breslav was already becoming disillusioned with the intelligentsia. At first he had idealised those intelligenty he had encountered in underground circles for their apparent selflessness and dedication, but "when I came into close contact with the intelligentsia in prison and exile, my initial idealization fast disappeared, and a strong reaction even set in against my original enthusiasm."
These sentiments found confirmation when, in exile in eastern Siberia in 1902, he came across Machajski's two essays, "which literally called for a pogrom against the intelligentsia."The essays showed him how the intelligentsia used the struggle of the workers for its own class interests - and, remembering the remark in Gorky about "lordliness," he felt that it underscored Machajski's views.
A more sophisticated example of the kind of social envy to which Makhaevism could appeal appears in the reminiscences of M. Vetoshkin, a village schoolteacher who had been expelled from his post in 1903 for propagandising his pupils. Having come across Machajski's Intellectual Worker, he arrived at the beginning of 1904 in Irkutsk - the city where Machajski had organised his first group, in 1902-hoping to support himself by giving lessons and to pursue the interest in Marx which his reading of Machajski had aroused. "I was full of Makhaevist attitudes," he recalled. "The Intellectual Worker had made such a strong impression on me that I knew this book, which at the time passed from hand to hand in an illegal lithographed edition, almost by heart. The intelligentsia seemed to me almost the main enemy of the working class."He hoped also to organise a Makhaevist circle in opposition to the local Social-Democratic committee, but this plan was cut short by his arrest. In prison he encountered Social Democrats who succeeded in re-educating him, and he renounced Makhaevism in favour of Marxism.
In the second instalment of his memoirs, however, he admits that he had not fully overcome his Makhaevist sentiments. While engaged in party work in Tomsk in 1905, he found himself envying the articulateness of the university-educated intelligenty in the party, especially their ability to use Latin and German words. "It must be said that along with some envy of the oratorical skills of the Tomsk intelligenty, I also harboured a certain degree of alienation in regard to them, which I had underscored from Machajski's book and of which, evidently, I had not been completely cured in prison, although it seemed to me that I had broken decisively with Makhaevism."After a meeting, for example, he had thought to himself: "There they are, with a good education, while our brother, coming out of a worker's poverty, feeds on crumbs from the table of the educated gentlemen."He himself had had only the meagre education a teachers' seminary could offer, and his father, a labourer in a saltworks, had always scorned those who lived by "light work," including the intelligentsia. His father's influence had no doubt predisposed him to Makhaevism, he concluded, and although intellectually he had overcome it, some of it had remained within him.
As Vetoshkin's memoir indicates, Makhaevism left a lasting legacy in Irkutsk even after the arrest of Machajski's group. As late as 1908, when an attempt was made to reconstitute the previously arrested Social-Democratic committee there, the workers insisted that no intelligenty be allowed as members. The Social-Democratic organiser, M. M. Konstantinov, later professed not 'to have been surprised at the mistrustful and even hostile attitude of the workers. Even before this time he had encountered among the workers "a distrust for [the intelligentsia's] commitment and sincerity" and a desire to run their own organisations: "'They can help us with advice and carry out the organisation's decisions, but not direct us."'He hastens to add, however, that this attitude was not "what at this time was still fresh in the memory of many of us under the name of 'Makhaevism."' He knew that Machajski had propagated his views in Irkutsk before the revolution but asserts, not convincingly, that they had enjoyed popularity not with the workers but with other intelligenty.
Makhaevism's advocacy of worker independence of the intelligentsia was the main source of its appeal to individuals who were active in the labour movement. One example was the Jewish printer Moisei Lur'e, mentioned above. Born in Kovno gubernia in 1871 or 1372, he became a highly individualistic Social Democrat, retaining his early connections with the Polish Socialist party and sometimes collaborating with populist revolutionaries.In the mid-1890's, he and his brother Mikhail organised the Group of Worker Revolutionaries, which operated in several cities of south Russia from a base in Belostok. By 1898, it had evolved into the Workers' Banner (Rabochee znamia), which issued an underground journal by that name. One of the continuities of Lur'e's political outlook was his hostility to the intelligentsia. He accused it of wanting to withhold "real knowledge" from the masses in order to be able to use them as a "blind tool," and in Kiev he and his followers made common cause with some narodovol'tsy in opposition to the Social Democrats' turn from propaganda to agitation. According to one of his close associates in the Group of Worker Revolutionaries, he was deeply suspicious of what he regarded as the intelligentsia's "rightist tendency." In his opinion, "the intelligentsia in its majority latches onto the workers' movement to try to use the hands of the workers to pull the bourgeoisie's chestnuts out of the fire for it, or with its own group interests in mind."
Given this attitude, it is not surprising that Lur'e was drawn to Makhaevism. Arrested in 1901, after twenty months in prison he was sent to Iakutsk to serve a term of exile. In Siberia, he encountered Machajski's doctrines and found himself very much impressed with them.Even after his return to St. Petersburg in 1906, where he organised armed detachments for the Bolsheviks, he was still "raving over Machajski."Lur'e himself never joined a Makhaevist group, but, according to one source, a worker who had belonged to his early group in Kiev turned up in the ranks of Machajski's adherents in 1905.
Vera Davidovna Gurari, a revolutionary and labour organiser, did formally join the Makhaevists. A Jew converted to Orthodoxy, Gurari was born in Poltava in 1865 and had attended gymnasium. She had a long and rather eclectic revolutionary career. We first hear of her in the 1880s as the organiser of several underground circles in St. Petersburg. In this period when the demarcation between populists and Marxists was still hazy, she is described as "a social democrat, terrorist, and narodovolka."In 1897, upon returning to Petersburg from a term of administrative exile, she was drawn into Social-Democratic activities in the capital. From the fall of 1898 to her arrest in April 1899 she led a workers' circle called the Group for the Self-Emancipation of the Working Class. As its name suggests, the organisation was critical of intelligentsia domination of the labour movement. Its manifesto complained of the intelligenty's tendency to form an exclusive "areopagus," a "touching union of intelligenty" to which they refused to admit workers, and declared that the workers must take their cause into their own hands. It also asserted that political goals must be subordinated to, and grow out of, the economic struggle.This position was very close to that of the Economists, and, in fact, one of the group's activities was to distribute the newspaper Rabochaia mysl' to its members. It also succeeded in issuing May Day proclamations to several of the factories of St. Petersburg, listing economic demands for which the workers should strive.
With the arrest of her Petersburg group, Gurari was exiled to Siberia. There she became a convert to Makhaevism and was a member of Machajski's Irkutsk group.She surfaces again in Ekaterinoslav in 1903. Ekaterinoslav, it will be remembered, was one of the towns where relations between workers and intelligenty in the Social-Democratic committee were most antagonistic. Apparently taking advantage of this friction, Gurari organised a Makhaevist group consisting of several dozen Jewish workers who had previously belonged to the Social-Democratic organisation. She soon found herself back in Siberia but retained her ties with Machajski: she reappears one last time as a Makhaevist in the Workers' Conspiracy in St. Petersburg.
It was in Odessa that Makhaevism as an organised movement showed the greatest staying power. Odessa was particularly susceptible to the penetration of Machajski's doctrines. The "worker opposition" within the local Social-Democratic organisation was so vehement that it generated an actual schism, and it was in Odessa that Zubatovism had proved particularly popular. By 1902, a mimeographed copy of The Intellectual Worker was circulating in Odessa, and Machajski's views were beginning to make headway among both unemployed artisans and workers antagonised by the Social-Democratic committeemen.
In 1903 or 1904, a group calling itself the Implacables (Ne-primirimye), consisting of both Makhaevists and anarchists, arose in Odessa. Two of its members, Mitkevich and Chuprina, were alumni of Machajski's group in Irkutsk. The Makhaevist influence manifested itself in the group's rejection of utopian ideals, its emphasis on the economic goals of the labour movement, and its denunciation of the intelligentsia as a parasitical class. In addition, the Implacables circulated copies of The Intellectual Worker. The police soon put an end to their activities and seized the printing press they had established.Before their dispersal, however, they had made their presence felt sufficiently for kindred groups to turn to them for support. At the beginning of 1904, a group of anarchists in Belostok, having heard that the Implacables were supplied both with funds and with literature, sent an emissary in quest of financial assistance, and he did not come back empty-handed.
After another attempt at joint activity with the anarchists, the Makhaevists formed a group of their own, calling it The Workers' Conspiracy (Rabochii zagovor). It succeeded in issuing a hecto-graphed pamphlet setting forth its views but then disappeared. The Odessa anarchists belonged to a third category of individuals to whom Makhaevism proved attractive: revolutionary militants. Rejecting the main socialist parties' program of achieving a "bourgeois revolution" as a stepping-stone to a classless society, such revolutionaries could find in Makhaevism a persuasive explanation of what they regarded as foot-dragging on the part of the socialists. One example is N. M. Erdelovskii, originally a Social Democrat, who became a Makhaevist briefly and ended up as an anarchist terrorist. Erdelovskii was a participant in the bombing of the Libman Cafe' in Odessa in December 1905. This was one of the more notorious instances of what anarchists of a certain stripe called "unmotivated terror,"that is, indiscriminate acts of terror directed not against specific individuals but against members of the ruling classes in general.
Another revolutionary activist who stopped briefly at Makhaevism on his way to terrorism was Vladimir Lapidus, known as "Striga." Born into a comfortable Jewish family, Striga became a revolutionary animated by a burning hatred of the "bourgeois order' and a passionate desire to bring it down. Unable to accept the slow-moving strategy of the Social Democrats, he was attracted to Machajski's doctrine that the intelligentsia was pursuing its own class interest, and in Odessa he joined the Implacables. Subsequently, however, he became an anarchist terrorist, for the anarchist vision of the future society provided him with positive ideals to which he could commit himself. Ultimately he met a more dramatic end than Makhaevism could offer him: after engaging in terrorist activities in Belostok and Warsaw, he accidentally blew himself up in Paris with one of his own bombs.
Thus, Makhaevism's field of operation was not only the labour movement, where it sought to challenge the Social Democrats for the loyalty of the industrial workers, but also the extremist fringe of the Russian revolutionary movement, where it interacted with both anarchist and Socialist-Revolutionary elements. As might be expected, given the similarity of many of their positions and especially their shared Bakuninist heritage, Makhaevism and anarchism had a particularly close relationship. Even when they did not explicitly voice approval of Makhaevism, anarchists often expressed views similar to Machajski's, for anti-intelligentsia attitudes were deeply rooted in Russian anarchism. Danul Novomirskii, for example, who headed a group of anarcho-syndicalists in Odessa from 1905 to 1907, like Machajski branded Social Democracy the ideology of "a new middle class" consisting of the "bourgeois and petty-bourgeois intelligentsia." He accused the Social Democrats of wanting to maintain the state for the benefit of the managerial and technical elite, which would direct the socialist economy and govern the working class through its control of parliamentary institutions. In distinction to Machajski, however, Novomirskii adhered to the anarcho-syndicalist program of replacing the state with a system of federated workers' associations to administer the economy.
Even if they did not always go as far as Novomirskii in their charges against the intelligentsia, anarchists were receptive to criticism of it. As one anarchist critic of Makhaevism put it, the anarchists believed that the relationship between proletariat and intelligentsia should be "not sharply hostile, as Mr. Lozinskii preaches, but not overly intimate either, as Social Democracy would have it. "Given the many points in common between the Makhaevists and the anarchists, a considerable degree of interchange, both personal and ideological, took place between them, although Makhaevism always maintained its distinct identity.
Besides its close relations with anarchism, Makhaevism may also have played a role in the emergence of Socialist-Revolutionary Maximalism. One of the forerunners of Maximalism was a dissident group called the agrarniki, or "agrarians," which arose in 1904 among the younger Socialist-Revolutionary émigrés in Geneva. These were proponents of agrarian terror, acts of terrorism directed against landowners. Their leading practitioner was M. I. Sokolov, but the group's theorist, who at the time called himself E. Ustinov, was none other than Evgenii tozinskii. As a pamphleteer and journalist, Lozinskii was serving on the editorial board of the Socialist-Revolutionary newspaper Revoliutsionnaia Rossiia (Revolutionary Russia). It was Lozinskii who drafted a resolution embodying the young insurgents' position that was adopted at a Socialist-Revolutionary conference in Geneva in October 1904. As a result, these dissidents were sometimes known as Ustinovites.In the spring and summer of 1905, the group published three issues of a newspaper called Vol'nyi diskussionnyi listok (The Free Discussion Page), which sharply criticised the official party program. In particular, the paper rejected parliamentary forms of struggle and political activity in general, and it opposed the party's distinction between "minimum" and "maximum" objectives. Instead of aiming merely for a "bourgeois" revolution which would establish a parliamentary order and socialise agricultural land but not industrial enterprises, the group called for the immediate establishment of a full-scale socialist order in both town and countryside through mass social action.Most notably for a Socialist-Revolutionary group, the dissidents assigned a prominent role in the forthcoming revolution to the urban workers, taking the Paris Commune as their model in much the same way that Machajski had drawn inspiration from the June Days of 1848.
The agitation of the Ustinov group was not well received by the party leadership; by the end of 1905, the party had not only officially repudiated the dissidents' positions but had forced them out of the party itself. The second issue of VoI'nyi diskussionnyi listok quoted a declaration in Revoliutsionnaia Rossiia that "the editorial group of Vol'nyi diskussionnyi listok, as such, stands outside the party of Socialist-Revolutionaries."In December 1905 the group published one issue of a newspaper called Kommuna (The Commune), in which it announced that it had withdrawn from the Socialist-Revolutionary party and joined the newly formed Union of Revolutionary Socialists, under whose imprint Kommuna appeared.Even more than its predecessor, this publication looked to the urban workers as the revolutionary vanguard and even detailed a program for organising a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in the towns.'
The Ustinov group was one of several left-wing currents within the Socialist-Revolutionary party which, under Sokolov's leadership, in 1906 came together to form a new Maximalist party. Lozinskii himself, however, seems to have played no further role in this development, having by now broken with the Socialist-Revolutionaries entirely and turned to Makhaevism. Between February and May 1907, three issues of a newspaper entitled Protiv techeniia (Against the Current) appeared in St. Petersburg under his guidance. It called itself a "journal of social satire and literary criticism," and it consisted of commentary on social and political issues of the day from the point of view of familiar Makhaevist positions on the intelligentsia and socialism. It was published legally, with Lozinskii as editor, and in it he explicitly repudiated Socialist-Revolutionary Maximalism.It is uncertain who, besides Lozinskii himself, may have contributed to this little publication if, indeed, there were any other contributors: all of the signed articles in the three issues bore either Lozinskii's name, his initials, or one of his pseudonyms. To the uninitiated reader, Lozinskii had transformed himself into an entire group.
Whether, and to what degree, Machajski's ideas actually contributed to the emergence of the Ustinovites, and ultimately of Maximalism, is unclear, for it is unclear whether Lozinskii or any of his fellow Socialist-Revolutionary militants adopted Makhaev-ism prior to 1907. Certainly, party dissidents had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with Machajski's doctrines much earlier. The main centre of their émigré activity was Geneva, and this was where Machajski had settled in 1903 and where his writings were published in 1904-1905.There is no mention of Machajski in Vol"iyi diskussionnyi listok or Kommuna, however, and neither publication displays the attitude toward the intelligentsia that was the hallmark of Makhaevism. It is more likely that the immediate influence on the Ustinovites was anarchism, as suggested not only by their anti political and anti-parliamen-tary stance but also by the pains they took to distinguish themselves from the anarchists.'Lozinskii's ideological evolution, however, provides further evidence of the extent to which Ma-khaevism interacted with, and helped to fertilise, those currents that stood on the militant left-wing fringe of the Russian revolutionary spectrum.
The organised activities of the Makhaevists culminated with Machajski's St. Petersburg group in 1906 and 1907. The group called itself the party of the Workers' Conspiracy (Rabochii za-govor) and established an underground printing press in Finland.The Makhaevists were also able to finance legal editions of The Intellectual Worker, parts 1 and 2, and The Bourgeois Revolution and the Workers' Cause, both of which appeared in 1906. They began issuing proclamations and agitating in the factories as well as among the unemployed. They also appeared at workers' meetings to criticise the representatives of the socialist parties and urge the workers to expel intelligenty from the labour movement. The socialists responded by accusing the Makhaevists of "provocation" and by sponsoring condemnations of them whenever possible. From the latter, some idea of the message the Makhaevists were trying to convey to the workers can be gleaned. In February 1907, for example, a meeting of the unemployed in one of the city's districts adopted the following resolution:
After listening to the representatives of the Workers' Conspiracy with indignation, the meeting rejects their proposals directed against a democratic republic, against the organisations of the working class, and against the socialists, and expresses its confidence that only by rallying around the socialist banner can the workers overthrow capitalism and thereby rid themselves of capitalism's inseparable companion, unemployment .
This did not stop the Makhaevists, however. On April 18, the Marxist newspaper Tovarishch (Comrade) reported the appearance of representatives of the Workers' Conspiracy party at another meeting of the unemployed. Debates with the Social Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries ensued, and the meeting adopted a resolution rejecting the Workers' Conspiracy's demands and tactics.
A month later, Tovarishch reprinted an item from Rech' (Speech), the newspaper of the liberal Constitutional-Democratic, or Kadet, party. It described the participation of Makhaevists in a workers' meeting called to hear a report on the recent Fifth Congress of the Social-Democratic party in London.
After the reading of the report, orators of the Workers' Conspiracy group ("Makhaevists") came forward and subjected the report on the congress to severe criticism. They tried to show that the congress had ignored the most burning issues of worker life, such as lockouts, the trade-union movement, etc. The orators attributed this to the influence of the intelligentsia on the congress. The Makhaevists called on the workers to form a new party. The meeting, however, adopted a resolution expressing confidence in the Social-Democratic Party.
In August, Tovarishch reported the reappearance of Makhaevist agitators among the workers of Vasilevskii Island and the Petersburg Side, commenting that "their influence is especially strong on the unemployed of these districts." To halt the spread of that influence, a workers' meeting had been held on August 24 at which the Socialist-Revolutionary speaker "pointed out that the Makhaevists say nothing about the ideal of the future, while the socialist parties advocate perfectly clear goals." The Social-Democratic representative concurred, and, the response of the Makhaevists having met with little sympathy, the meeting adopted the following resolution:
Taking into account the fact that the organisation under the name of the Workers' Conspiracy propagates slogans among the workers which are fundamentally harmful and hinder the proper conduct of the class struggle; that the Workers' Conspiracy, in calling the workers to an armed uprising and a general political strike consciously engages in provocation of [provotsiruetl the worker masses; and that, finally, the Workers' Conspiracy, which does not acknowledge socialist doctrine, hampers the triumph of socialism, the meeting does not recognise the Workers' Conspiracy as a party of the working class and calls on all those who have fallen under its influence to return to the bosom of the socialist parties.
The Makhaevists remained undaunted. At a meeting in the Vyborg district in September a representative of the Workers' Conspiracy declared that the political parties which claimed to represent the proletariat had led the labour movement onto a false path. He attributed this to the social composition of the parties, "more than three-quarters of which consist of half-proletarianised intelligenty." Only labour organisations which excluded "the party intelligentsia element" could properly represent the workers.
The socialists, in turn, kept up their attacks on the Makhaevists. At a meeting of factory workers in the Narva Gate district several weeks later, the Social-Democratic and Socialist-Revolutionary representatives, after a spirited debate with the Makhaevists, succeeded in passing a resolution branding their activity "extremely harmful and provocational," and recommending that their meetings be boycotted. Such condemnations evidently did not prevent the Workers' Conspiracy from calling a "crowded meeting" of workers of the Vyborg Side on October 17. According to the report in Tovarishch, however, the speeches of the Makhaevists were met with a total lack of sympathy on the part of the workers, who dispersed shouting "provocateurs," 'hooligans," and other epithets.
Exactly what course of action the Makhaevists urged upon the workers of St. Petersburg remains unclear. Since the Makhaevists concentrated particularly on agitation among the unemployed, Vladimir Voitinskii, at the time a Bolshevik, encountered them frequently in his capacity as chairman of the Petersburg Council of the Unemployed. "They summoned the workers to 'direct action,"' he states in his memoirs, "understanding by this the forcible seizure of all of life's necessities and revenge on the enemies of the toilers. In practical terms it came down to expropriations and individual terror."'At one rally, Voitinskii claims, an offended Makhaevist drew a gun on him but backed down when Voitinskii produced a pistol of his own.'
Machajski himself, on the other hand, presented the activities of the Makhaevists in a very different light. In a letter to Zeromski in January of 1911, he stoutly denied that they had engaged in either terrorism or banditry. There was only one place in the whole of Russia, he maintained, evidently referring to St. Petersburg, where the Makhaevists for an extended period of time had been able to disseminate their literature, print a series of proclamations, and conduct agitation. To do so, they had had to concentrate all their forces on this organisation during its two-year existence.Even here, however, they had fielded no armed detachments, and, in fact, "no Makhaevist even carried a Browning, either his own or a borrowed one." As evidence of their non violent behaviour he claimed that no Makhaevist had been brought before a military court (which tried terrorists), or had even been sentenced to hard labour, only to administrative exile. Charges and insinuations of banditry and expropriations had been the work of the socialist and liberal press. The sole objective of the Makhaevist organisation had been "a mass strike with economic demands and the demand for the most comprehensive public works for the unemployed."
Neither account can be accepted at face value. The Makhaevists, like the anarchists, did tend to attract a motley assortment of characters to their organizations, and it is possible that some of them engaged in unsavoury activities. But Makhaevist propaganda caused the socialists a good deal of embarrassment, and it was convenient to try to dismiss the Makhaevists themselves as mere hoodlums. Even Voitinskii concedes that Makhaevism found a decided response among the workers. At times the Makhaevists succeeded in introducing resolutions expressing "distrust of the socialists," and even when the workers, after heated debate between the Makhaevists and Social Democrats, declared their continued faith in socialism, "even then the appeals of the Workers' Conspiracy left a certain trace."Nor were the socialists above the use of smear tactics to discredit their opponents. According to Max Nomad, "the Socialists of the various schools spread leaflets among the workers and the unemployed warning them that the 'Makhayevtzy' . . . were agents of the tsarist police. (I myself saw one of these leaflets in the Museum of the Revolution in Moscow during my visit in 1930). "
On the other hand, as we shall see in the next chapter, Machajski wrote his letter to Zeromski from a Galician prison at a time when he was trying to fend off rumours that he had engaged in banditry and possibly in terrorist activity as well. He therefore had every incentive to emphasise the peaceable nature of the organisation he had headed in the Russian capital. There is no evidence that Machajski himself ever participated in terrorist acts or armed expropriations, or that he advocated them. Nevertheless, the highly militant tone of his writings, as well as the company the Makhaevists kept on the extremist fringe of the revolutionary movement, could not help but leave him and his followers open to such charges.
Outside of St. Petersburg, the only other site of Makhaevist activity during the period of the 1905 revolution was Warsaw. Upon his arrival in Petersburg, Machajski had despatched his Viliuisk disciple Porebski to the Polish capital in the hopes of creating a Makhaevist organisation there.The results, according to his 1911 letter to Zeromski, were very meagre. There was one Warsaw worker," he wrote without naming him, who, as an old acquaintance," had some knowledge of Makhaevism and during the time of the revolution may have disseminated that knowledge. "He was the sole Warsaw Makhaevist." Lacking any literature to distribute, and unable to compose any himself, he was unable to create a movement or an organisation. Therefore the Warsaw Makhaevists, Machajski claimed, were limited to a circle of a few sympathizers.He acknowledged that a group calling itself the Workers' Conspiracy (Zmowa Robotnicza) had appeared in Warsaw and engaged in armed robbery in 1906-1907. He vehemently denied any connection with it, however: "the one authentic Warsaw Makhaevist and his closest associates of course had nothing to do with any assault" and were never accused of such a connection by the police. He himself, he maintained, had heard of the "Conspirators" only in the middle of 1907, half a year or so after their appearance. They only used the name of the Ma-khaevists, he insisted, and if the Makhaevists had not existed they would have carried out their attacks under some other label, perhaps that of anarchism.'
As already mentioned, the circumstances under which Machajski wrote this letter gave him every reason to dissociate himself from terrorist activities of any sort. Max Nomad's account of the Warsaw Workers' Conspiracy suggests the possibility of a somewhat closer connection between this group and the Makhaevists - though just how close cannot be determined.In any event, the Warsaw Makhaevists accomplished little, and, aside from those groups which have already been discussed, there is no firm evidence that Makhaevist organisations operated anywhere else.'By the time the Petersburg Makhaevists established their presence, the revolutionary wave was already ebbing, and they soon had to carry on their efforts without their leader. At the end of 1906, some members of the Workers' Conspiracy were arrested, and Machajski himself fled to Finland and thence to Ger-many. By the spring of 1907 he was in Cracow.By the end of 1907, Makhaevism as an organised movement, at least on the territory of the Russian Empire, had come to an end.
Two general themes stand out in the troubled history of intelligentsia-worker relations and Makhaevism's place in it. One is the depth and pervasiveness of anti-intelligentsia sentiment among Russia's workers, dating from the very beginnings of the labour movement. Such sentiment emanated from virtually every segment of the highly variegated industrial working class: from non-political workers as well as active members of Social-Democratic organisations, from barely educated individuals and "conscious" members of the worker elite. At some point the intelligeny's education, values, and way of life - what made him an intelligent - made him alien to the world of the worker and his outlook, and the workers themselves were acutely aware of the existence of a sharp dividing line. Depending on individual circumstances and personalities, the two worlds could be, and often were, effectively bridged. But hostility to the intelligentsia was never far beneath the surface, and even when clashes occurred over specific, practical matters, they were frequently nourished by a deeper resentment. The Menshevik B. I. Gorev put his finger on this emotional undercurrent when he attributed the workers' receptivity to Makhaevism to "animosity toward the 'committee-men on the one hand, and "the instinctive distrust of many workers for 'gentlemen' [gospodam]" on the other.The deep social and cultural gulf that separated the Western-educated elite from the traditionalistic mass of the population found reflection in the labour and Social-Democratic movements as it did in other spheres of Russian life.
The second theme that permeates this history is the degree to which the intelligentsia itself endorsed this hostility. Intelligenty of various stripes voiced suspicion of the intelligentsia's motivations and doubts as to its selfless commitment to the workers' interests. Makhaevism was merely the most extreme and consistent expression of a deep ambivalence about itself which the intelligentsia harboured. Therefore ideas closely similar to Machajski's could emanate from intelligenty who had nothing to do with Makhaevism. Even while claiming, as the country's "critically thinking individuals," ideological and organisational leadership in the battle against the existing order, many intelligenty, afflicted by the intelligentsia's guilt-ridden sense of its own privileged place in the world of consciousness, undermined the intelligentsia's moral claim to such leadership. They were, in effect, "Makhaevists from above," as a journalistic wit termed the critics of the intelligentsia who contributed to the Signposts collection of 1909.As such, they articulated the spontaneous anti-intelligentsia impulses that welled up from below, reinforcing them and lending them a degree of legitimacy. Some such sentiment was probably inevitable, given the fissures within the country's culture and social structure, but it was intelligenty themselves who gave it an ideology, nurturing the image of the intelligentsia as a parasitic and self-interested class.
If hostility to the intelligentsia was so significant among both workers and intelligenty, and Makhaevism was the sharpest and clearest expression of it, why did the Makhaevists have so little success as an organised revolutionary force? Aside from embarrassing the socialist parties and provoking the bitter attacks which the latter felt constrained to level against them, the Makhaevists were able to put forth only a few ephemeral groups in a few towns. Purely practical obstacles such as lack of resources and Machajski's forced emigration obviously had their effect, but inherent ideological limitations seem to have been the principal factor in Makhaevism's failure as a revolutionary current. Makhaevism was both too broad and too narrow to serve as an effective revolutionary ideology. Its criticism of the intelligentsia appealed to people of such divergent viewpoints and interests that it could not weld them together as a cohesive force; it might provide them with a gratifying explanation and justification of their frustrations, but those frustrations were so diverse that they had little in common besides a shared interest in Machajski's doctrines. At the same time, Makhaevism was too narrow in that it was an essentially negative standpoint. While criticising and rejecting the ideals and programs of the other revolutionary movements, it offered in their place only the haziest vision of a new and better world and no prospect of achieving it in the near future. This was not enough to galvanise the energies or justify the commitment of those who were taking great risks to overthrow the existing order. As a result, Makhaevist groups could at best serve as temporary way stations on the road to some more positive and satisfying ideology; they could not compete with the other revolutionary parties. The Workers' Conspiracy petered out as the revolution of 1905 subsided, and it was to play very little role in the revolution of 1917. That revolution, however, while settling the fate of the autocracy and capitalism in Russia, did not resolve the question of the intelligentsia's role in the new order. Therefore the history of Makhaevism as an expression of anti-intelligentsia sentiment by no means came to an end in 1917.