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Vpered (1909 - 1912) was an organization within Russian Social Democracy set up by Alexander Bogdanov in December 1909. Alongside Bogdanov, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Mikhail Pokrovsky, Grigory Aleksinsky, Stanislav Volski and Martyn Liadov were involved in the group. Although it emerged from the Bolshevik wing of Russian Social Democracy, the group soon became highly critical of Lenin.
Rupture with Bolshevism
The group envisaged a strong role for the intellectuals featured in Lenin in What is to be done?. The seeds of Vpered were sown when Bogdanov presented his Statement to the Editorial Board of Proletarii to the conference of the Extended Editorial Board of Proletary which Lenin called in June 1909 in Paris. In this text, he raised the issue of the "practical work" of "widening and deepening of fully socialist propaganda" among the working class. He claimed that the editors of Proletarii had not properly attended to the intellectual development of workers. He said that the lack of any "theoretical and historical" elaboration of the people's armed struggle against the autocracy meant the absence of "conscious leaders" in workers' organizations.
He claimed the intelligentsia were necessary to train workers as conscious leaders. With the departure of many intellectuals from the Party, those remaining in its ranks would form the new party leadership. Bogdanov proposed to meet this challenge by organizing the "Proletarian Universities" such as the Capri Party School that autumn. During a period of counter-revolution, they focused on creating organizations for party intellectuals to "systematize" the socialist education of workers. This would allow workers to play a deserved leadership role in the Party.
The Paris Conference completely disavowed Bogdanov's proposal, who promptly turned on his heels and left. Bogdanov worked closely with Leonid Krasin to produce a Report which appeared in July 1909. This was to serve as an outline of Vpered viewpoint: That Lenin and his allies had fundamentally deviated from "revolutionary Marxism" and the centrality of the hegemonic role of the proletariat in the coming democratic revolution. The defeat of the 1905 Revolution entailed the rise of "bourgeois liberalism" during the "Duma period" in the Social Democratic movement. They accused Lenin and his partisans of extending this period through "parliamentarism at any price". The Otzovists constituted a reassertion of revolutionary Marxism. However, it was necessary to criticize the Otzovists from a tactical point of view, as the recall of the Duma deputies was impractical.
Bogdanov and Krasin complained Proletarii failed to produce one pamphlet in 18 months and abandoned socialist propaganda work. After reviewing propaganda work prior to 1905, they called for propaganda of a "much higher type." They hoped to nurture an "influential nucleus of workers" who could act as conscious leaders in all forms of proletarian struggle. Party schools were the way to do this. They would enable workers to gain the intellectual discipline obtained at the university.
The Vperedists created experimental proletarian universities on the Isle of Capri from August to December 1909, and then in Bologna from November 1910 to March 1911. According to Lenin, they also had 80,000 roubles at this time. He also argued that the Vperedists should be expelled from the RSDLP. While Bogdanov and Lunacharsky had become disenchanted with party politics and sought to focus on education and "proletarian culture", Alexinsky saw Vpered as perpetuating the "illegals" tradition which sought to use traditional means of subversion. Joined by Pokrovsky and Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, this current gained control of the editorial board and disassociated the journal from "proletarian culture and science".
- Marot, John Eric (July 1990). "Alexander Bogdanov, Vpered, and the Role of the Intellectual in the Workers' Movement". Russian Review (Blackwell Publishing) 49 (3 (Special Issue on Alexander Bogdanov)): 241–264. JSTOR 130152.
- Biggart, John (1989), Alexander Bogdanov, Left-Bolshevism and the Proletkult 1904 - 1932, University of East Anglia, p. 150