Lenin’s Rejection of Narodnik Terrorism


‘A secret Narodnik society known as “Narodnaya Volya” (“People’s Will”) began to plot the assassination of the tsar. On March 1, 1881, members of the “Narodnaya Volya”  succeeded in killing Tsar Alexander II with a bomb. But the people did not benefit from this in any way. The assassination of individuals could not bring about the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy or the abolition of the landlord class. The assassinated tsar was replaced by another, Alexander III, under whom conditions of the workers and peasants became worse still.

The method of combating tsardom chosen by the Narodniks, namely, by the assassination of individuals, by individual terrorism, was wrong and detrimental to the revolution. The policy of individual terrorism was based on the erroneous Narodnik theory of active “heroes” and a passive “mon”, which awaited exploits from the “heroes”. This false theory maintained that it is only outstanding individuals who make history, while the masses, the people, the class, the “mob”, as the Narodnik writers contemptuously called them, are incapable of conscious, organised activity and can only blindly follow the “heroes”. For this reason the Narodniks abandoned mass revolutionary work among the peasantry and the working class and changed to individual terrorism. They induced one of the most prominent revolutionaries of the time, Stepan Khalturin, to give up his work of organising a revolutionary workers’ union and to devote himself entirely to terrorism.

By these assassinations of individual representatives of the class of exploiters, assassinations that were of no benefit to the revolution, the Narodniks diverted the attention of the working people from the struggle against that class as a whole. They hampered the development of the revolutionary initaitive and activity of the working class and the peasantry. 

The Narodniks prevented the working class from understanding its leading role in the revolution and retarded the creation of an independent party of the working class.

Although the Narodniks’ secret organisation had been smashed by the tsarist government, Narodnik views continued to persist for a long time among the revolutionary-minded intelligentsia. The surviving Narodniks stubbornly resisted the spread of Marxism in Russia and hampered the organisations of the working class. 

Marxism in Russia could therefore grow and gain strength only by combating Narodism.’

History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) – Short Course: Edited by a Commission of the CC of the CPSU (B), Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow (1939), Pages 10-11

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