Lenin Against Liberalism
In October 1912, when “Two Utopias” was written, Lenin’s Bolsheviks had decisively split from the Mensheviks, whose fundamental politics were to rally the working class in support of the liberal bourgeoisie. Lenin fought for independent class struggle not only against the tsarist autocracy, which was backed by the pogromist Purishkeviches, but also against the liberals, whose deceptions were and are an obstacle to any such struggle.
The liberal bourgeoisie in general, and the liberal-bourgeois intelligentsia in particular, cannot but strive for liberty and legality, since without these the domination of the bourgeoisie is incomplete, is neither undivided nor guaranteed. But the bourgeoisie is more afraid of the movement of the masses than of reaction. Hence the striking, incredible weakness of the liberals in politics, their absolute impotence. Hence the endless series of equivocations, falsehoods, hypocrisies and cowardly evasions in the entire policy of the liberals, who have to play at democracy to win the support of the masses but at the same time are deeply anti-democratic, deeply hostile to the movement of the masses, to their initiative, their way of “storming heaven,” as Marx once described one of the mass movements in Europe in the last century.
The utopia of liberalism is a utopia of impotence in the matter of the political emancipation of Russia, a utopia of the self-interested moneybags who want “peacefully” to share privileges with the Purishkeviches and pass off this noble desire as the theory of “peaceful” victory for Russian democracy. The liberal utopia means day-dreaming about how to beat the Purishkeviches without defeating them, how to break them without hurting them. Clearly, this utopia is harmful not only because it is a utopia, but also because it corrupts the democratic consciousness of the masses. If they believe in this utopia, the masses will never win freedom; they are not worthy of freedom; they fully deserve to be maltreated by the Purishkeviches.…
The liberal utopia is a veil for the self-seeking desire of the new exploiters to share in the privileges of the old exploiters.…
Clearly, the Marxists, who are hostile to all and every utopia, must uphold the independence of the class which can fight feudalism with supreme devotion precisely because it is not even one-hundredth part involved in property ownership which makes the bourgeoisie a half-hearted opponent, and often an ally, of the feudal lords.
—V.I. Lenin, “Two Utopias” (October 1912)