In passing from Mr. Potresov to Bazarov, we must note, to begin with, that, as regards the philosophical controversy, our answers to the former also hold good for the latter. There is only one point to be added: one can quite under stand V. Bazarov’s tolerant attitude to Mr. Potresov, his insistence on finding “some truth” in Potresov’s arguments, for Mr. Potresov (like all the liquidators), while disavowing Machism formally and in words, yields to it, as a matter of fact, on the most essential point. The Machists as representatives of a trend, and as a group with a “platform” of its own, have never really dared to demand, anything more than that their departure from Marxism be regarded as “a private affair”! It is therefore not surprising that Potresov and Bazarov are ogling each other. The group of liquidationist writers and the group of Machist writers are, in our period of disintegration, indeed at one in defending the “freedom of disintegration” from the adherents of Marxism, from the champions of the theoretical foundations of Marxism. And, as even Bazarov has proved by his article, this solidarity is not confined to questions of philosophy.
I say “even”, for Bazarov, in particular, has always been distinguished for his very thoughtful attitude to serious political problems. This fact must be mentioned if we are to appreciate the meaning of the incredible vacillations of this man, and not merely for the purpose of stressing the very useful past activity of a writer who is now out to earn the laurels of Herostratus.
Bazarov, for instance, made the following statement of a Herostratean nature: “In my opinion, the biggest and yet most trivial misunderstanding of our times is the notorious question of the hegemony of the working class”. There seems to be some fate pursuing the Machists in our midst. Some of them defend the “freedom of disintegration”, declaring that otzovism is a legal shade of opinion; others, who see the folly and harm of otzovism, frankly hold out their hands to the liquidators in the sphere of politics. It is the liquidators in Nasha Zarya, and in Zhizn, and in The Social Movement, who are waging a direct and indirect struggle against the idea of this hegemony. We are sorry to state that Bazarov has joined their camp.
What are his arguments on the substance of the matter? Five years ago such hegemony was a fact. “At present, for quite obvious reasons, that hegemony has disappeared. More—it has turned into its direct opposite.” The proof: “In our days, in order to become popular in democratic circles of society, it has become a necessity to kick at Marxism”. Example: Chukovsky.
You read these lines and you can hardly believe your eyes. Bazarov, who claimed to be a Marxist, has turned into a has-been, into one capable of flirting with the Potresovs.
You have no fear of God in you, V. A. Bazarov. Chukovsky and other liberals, as well as a host of Trudovik democrats, have always “kicked” at Marxism, and particularly ever since 1906; but was not “hegemony” a fact in 1906? Get out of your liberal-journalistic cubby-hole, consider at least the attitude of the peasant deputies in the Third Duma to the working-class deputies. The mere juxtaposition of the unquestionable facts of their political behaviour during the past three years, even a mere comparison between their formulations of motions for next business and the cadet formulations, to say nothing of a comparison between the political declarations made in the Duma and the conditions under Which the large masses of the population have been living during this period, proves incontrovertibly that even today hegemony is a fact. The hegemony of the working class is the political influence which that class (and its representatives) exercises upon other sections of the population by helping them to purge their democracy (where there is democracy) of undemocratic admixtures, by criticising the narrowness and short-sightedness of all bourgeois democracy, by carrying on the struggle against “Cadetism” (meaning the corrupting ideological content of the speeches and policy of the liberals), etc., etc. There is nothing more characteristic of our present times than the fact that Bazarov could write such incredible things, and that a group of journalists who also consider themselves friends of the workers and adherents of Marxism patted him indulgently on the back for this!
“It is absolutely impossible to foretell what will be the state of affairs at the moment of the coming revival,” Bazarov assures the readers of the liquidationist magazine. “If the spiritual character of urban and rural democracy is approximately the same as it was five years ago, then the hegemony of Marxism will again become a fact.... But there is absolutely nothing out of the way in the supposition that the character of democracy will undergo a substantial change. Imagine, for instance, that among the petty bourgeoisie of the Russian villages and cities a sufficiently radical sentiment exists against the political privileges of the ruling classes, that it is sufficiently united and active, but is permeated with a strongly nationalistic spirit. Since Marxists, cannot think of any compromises with nationalism or anti-Semitism, it is obvious that under such circumstances there will not be even a trace of hegemony.”
In addition to being wrong, all this is monstrously absurd. If certain sections of the population combine hostility to privilege with nationalist sentiments, surely it is the duty of the leader to explain to them that such a combination hinders the abolition of privilege. Can the struggle against privilege be waged unless it is combined with the struggle of the petty bourgeois who suffer from nationalism, against the petty bourgeois who gain from it? Every struggle of every petty bourgeois against every kind of privilege always pears the imprint of petty-bourgeois narrow-mindedness and half-heartedness, and it is the business of the “leader” to combat these qualities. Bazarov argues like the Cadets, like the Vekhi writers. Or, more correctly, Bazarov has joined the camp of Potresov and Co., who already have been arguing this way for a long time.
What cannot be seen on the surface does not exist. What the Chukovskys and Potresovs do not see is not real. Such are the premises of Bazarov’s arguments, which fly in the face of Marxism. Marxism teaches us that so long as capitalism exists the petty-bourgeois masses must inevitably suffer from undemocratic privileges (theoretically, such privileges are “not indispensable” under pure capitalism, but the purification of capitalism will continue until its death), that they must suffer from economic oppression. Therefore, so long as capitalism exists it will always be the duty of the “leader” to explain the source of these privileges and this oppression, to expose their class roots, to provide an example of struggle against them, expose the falsity of the liberal methods of struggle, etc., etc.
That is how Marxists think. That is how they regard the duties of the “leader” in the camp of those whose condition does not permit any reconciliation with privilege, in the camp, not only of the proletarians, but also of the semi-proletarian and petty-bourgeois masses. The Chukovskys, however, think that once that camp has suffered reverses, has been hard-pressed and driven underground, “hegemony has disappeared”, and the “question of hegemony has become a most trivial misunderstanding”.
When I see Bazarov, who says such disgraceful things, marching hand in hand with the Potresovs, Levitskys and Co., with those who assure the working class that what it needs is not the leadership, but a class party; when, on the other hand, I see Plekhanov starting (to use the contemptuous expression of the magnificent Potresov) “a row” at the slightest indications of serious vacillation in the question of leadership, I say to myself, the Bolsheviks would indeed be the wild fanatics obsessed by factionalism their enemies represent them to be, if, the circumstances being as they are, they wavered even for a moment, if they doubted even for one second that their duty, the duty emanating from all the traditions of Bolshevism, from the very spirit of its teachings and policies, is to hold out their hands to Plekhanov and to express their full comradely sympathy with him. We differed, and still differ, on the questions as to how the leading classes (“hegemons”) should have acted at one time or another in the past. But in the present period of disintegration, we are comrades in the struggle against those to whom the question of hegemony is nothing but “a most trivial misunderstanding”. As for the Potresovs, Bazarovs, etc., they are strangers to us, no less strangers than the Chukovskys.
Let this be taken note of by those good fellows who think that the policy of rapprochement with Plekhanov is a narrow policy that “smacks of factionalism”; who would like to “extend” the policy to include a reconciliation with the Potresovs, Bazarovs, etc.; and who absolutely refuse to understand why we regard such “conciliationism” as either hopeless stupidity or abject intrigue-mongering.
 The Social Movement in Russia at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century—a five-volume Menshevik publication (four volumes were published) under the editorship of L. Martov, P. Maslov, A. N. Potresov. Plekhanov, who was a member of the original editorial board, left it at the end of 1908 because he disagreed with the inclusion of a liquidationist article by A. N. Potresov in the first volume.