Workers Vanguard No. 939

3 July 2009


Lenin on the Struggle Against Opportunism

(Quote of the Week)

In his struggle against opportunism, which represents the pernicious influence of bourgeois ideology in the workers movement, V.I. Lenin led what became a historic fight at the 1903 Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, resulting in a split in the Russian Marxist movement. The majority (the Bolsheviks), led by Lenin, and the minority (the Mensheviks), led by Julius Martov, broke nominally over the definition of party membership. However, as Lenin emphasizes in the excerpt below from One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (1904), a key component of the fight was over opportunism. The 1903 split bore world-historic fruit when in opposition to the Mensheviks, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party led the Russian workers to the seizure of power in the October Revolution of 1917.

One step forward, two steps back.... It happens in the lives of individuals, and it happens in the history of nations and in the development of parties. It would be the most criminal cowardice to doubt even for a moment the inevitable and complete triumph of the principles of revolutionary Social-Democracy, of proletarian organisation and Party discipline. We have already won a great deal, and we must go on fighting, undismayed by reverses, fighting steadfastly, scorning the philistine methods of circle wrangling, doing our very utmost to preserve the hard-won single Party tie linking all Russian Social-Democrats, and striving by dint of persistent and systematic work to give all Party members, and the workers in particular, a full and conscious understanding of the duties of Party members, of the struggle at the Second Party Congress, of all the causes and all the stages of our divergence, and of the utter disastrousness of opportunism, which, in the sphere of organisation as in the sphere of our programme and our tactics, helplessly surrenders to the bourgeois psychology, uncritically adopts the point of view of bourgeois democracy, and blunts the weapon of the class struggle of the proletariat.

—V.I. Lenin, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (The Crisis in Our Party) (1904)