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Marx and Engels on

Insurrection
The Menshevik N. H. 1 knows that audacity wins the day
and . . . has the audacity to accuse the Bolsheviks once
again of being Blanquists (see Simartleh, 2 No. 7).

There is nothing surprising in this, of course. Bernstein


and Vollmar, the German opportunists, have for a long
time been saying that Kautsky and Bebel are Blanquists.
Jaures and Millerand, the French opportunists, have been
for a long time accusing Guesde and Lafargue of being
Blanquists and Jacobins. Nevertheless, everyone knows
that Bernstein, Millerand, Jaures and the others, are
opportunists, that they are betraying Marxism, whereas
Kautsky, Bebel, Guesde, Lafargue and the others are
revolutionary Marxists. What is there surprising in the fact
that the Russian opportunists, and their follower N. H.,
copy the European opportunists and call us Blanquists? It
shows only that the Bolsheviks, like Kautsky and Guesde,
are revolutionary Marxists. 3

We could here conclude our talk with N. H., but he


makes the question "more profound" and tries to prove his
point. Very well, let us not offend him and hear what he
has to say.

N. H. disagrees with the following opinion expressed by


the Bolsheviks :

"Let us suppose that4 the people in the towns are


imbued with hatred for the government 5 ; they can
always rise up for the struggle if the opportunity
offers. That means that quantitatively we are ready.
But this is not enough. If an uprising is to be
successful, it is necessary to draw up in advance a
plan of the struggle, to draw up in advance the tactics
of the battle; it is necessary to have organised
detachments, and so forth" (see Akhali
Tskhovreba, No. 6)

N. H. disagrees with this. Why? Because, he says, it is


Blanquism! And so, N. H. wants neither "tactics of the
battle," nor "organised detachments," nor organised
actionall that, it appears, is unimportant and
unnecessary. The Bolsheviks say that by itself "hatred for
the government is not enough," consciousness by itself "is
not enough"; it is necessary to have, in addition,
"detachments and tactics of the battle." N. H. rejects all
that and calls it Blanquism.

Let us note this and proceed.

N. H. dislikes the following idea expressed by Lenin: We


must collect the experience of the uprisings in Moscow, the
Donets Basin, Rostov-on-Don and other
places, disseminate this experience, perseveringly and
painstakingly prepare new fighting forces and train and
steel them in a series of militant guerilla actions. The new
upheaval may not yet break out in the spring, but it is
approaching; in all probability it is not very far off. We
must meet it armed, organised in military fashion, and be
capable of taking determined offensive action" (see
Partiiniye Izvestia).6

N. H. disagrees with this idea of Lenin's. Why? Because,


he says, it is Blanquism!

And so, in N. H.'s opinion, we must not "collect the


experience of the December uprising" and
must not "disseminate it." True, an upheaval is
approaching, but in N. H.'s opinion we must not "meet it
armed," we must not prepare "for determined offensive
action." Why? Probably because we are more likely to be
victorious if we are unarmed and unprepared! The
Bolsheviks say that we can expect an upheaval and,
therefore, our duty is to prepare for it both in respect to
consciousness and in respect to arms. N. H. knows that an
upheaval is to be expected, but he refuses to recognise
anything more than verbal agitation and therefore doubts
whether it is necessary to arm, and thinks it superfluous.
The Bolsheviks say that consciousness and organisation
must be introduced into the sporadic insurrection which
has broken out spontaneously. But N. H. refuses to
recognise thisit is Blanquism, he says. The Bolsheviks
say that at a definite moment "determined offensive
action" must be taken. But N. H. dislikes
both determination and offensive actionall this is
Blanquism, he says.

Let us note the foregoing and see what attitude Marx and
Engels took towards armed insurrection.

Here is what Marx wrote in the fifties:

". . . The insurrectionary career once entered upon,


act with the greatest determination, and on the
offensive.

The defensive is the death of every armed rising. . . .


Surprise your antagonists while their forces are
scattering, prepare new successes, however small,
but daily keep up the moral ascendant which the first
successful rising has given to you; rally thus those
vacillating elements to your side which always follow
the strongest impulse and which always look out for
the safer side; force your enemies to a retreat before
they can collect their strength against you; in the
words of Danton, the greatest master of
revolutionary policy yet known : de l'audace, de
l'audace, encore de l'audace!" (See Karl
Marx, Historical Sketches, p. 95.) 7

This is what Karl Marx, the greatest of Marxists, says.

As you see, in Marx's opinion, whoever wants


insurrection to triumph must take the path of the
offensive. But we know that whoever takes the path of
the offensive must have arms, military knowledge and
trained detachments. Without these an offensive is
impossible. Bold offensive action, in Marx's opinion, is the
flesh and blood of every uprising. N. H., however, ridicules
everything: bold offensive action, the policy of offensive,
organised detachments and the dissemination of military
knowledge. All that is Blanquism, he says! It appears, then,
that N. H. is a Marxist, but Marx is a Blanquist! Poor
Marx! If only he could rise from his grave and hear N. H.'s
prattle.

And what does Engels say about insurrection? In a


passage in one of his pamphlets he refers to the Spanish
uprising, and answering the Anarchists, he goes on to say :

"Nevertheless, the uprising, even if begun in a


brainless way, would have had a good chance to
succeed, if it had only been conducted with some
intelligence, say in the manner of Spanish military
revolts, in which the garrison of one town rises,
marches on to the next, sweeps along with it that
town's garrison that had been influenced beforehand
and, growing into an avalanche, presses on to the
capital, until a fortunate engagement or the coming
over to their side of the troops sent against them
decides the victory. This method was particularly
practicable on that occasion. The insurgents had long
before been organised everywhere into volunteer
battalions (do you hear, comrade, Engels talks about
battalions!) whose discipline, while wretched, was
surely not more wretched than that of the remnants
of the old, and in the main disintegrated, Spanish
army. The only dependable government troops were
the gendarmes (guardias civiles), and these were
scattered all over the country. It was primarily a
question of preventing a concentration of the
gendarme detachments, and this could be brought
about only by assuming the offensive and
the hazard of open battle . . . (attention, comrades,
attention!). For any one who sought victory, there
was no other means. . . ."

Engels then goes on to take to task the Bakuninists, who


proclaimed as their principle that which could have been
avoided: "the splitting up and isolation of the revolutionary
forces, which permitted the same government troops to
quell one uprising after another" (see Engels's The
Bakuninists at Work). 8

This is what the celebrated Marxist, Frederick Engels,


says. . . .

Organised battalions, the policy of offensive, organs-ing


insurrection, uniting the separate insurrection that, in
Engels's opinion, is needed to ensure the victory of an
insurrection.

It appears then that N. H. is a Marxist, but Engels is a


Blanquist! Poor Engels!

As you see, N. H. is not familiar with the views of Marx


and Engels on insurrection.

That would not be so bad. We declare that the tactics


advocated by N. H. belittle and actually deny the
importance of arming, of Red detachments, and of military
knowledge. His are the tactics of unarmed insurrection.
His tactics push us towards the "December defeat." Why
did we have no arms, no detachments, no military
knowledge and so forth in December? Because the tactics
advocated by comrades like N. H. were widely accepted in
the Party. . . .

But both Marxism and real life reject such unarmed


tactics.

That is what the facts say.