V. I. Lenin

Letter To The Central Committee Of The R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

Written: 19 October, 1917
First Published: 1 November, 1927 in Pravda No. 250. Published according to the typewritten text.
Source:Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 223-227
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna
Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive November, 2000


Dear Comrades,

No self-respecting party can tolerate strike-breaking and blacklegs [Scabs—Transcriber] in its midst. That is obvious. The more we reflect upon Zinoviev's and Kamenev's statement in the non-Party press, the more self-evident it becomes that their action is strike-breaking in the full sense of the term. Kamenev's evasion at the meeting of the Petrograd Soviet is something really despicable. He is, don't you see, in full agreement with Trotsky: But is it so difficult to understand that in the face of the enemy, Trotsky could not have said, he had no right to say, and should not have said more than he did? Is it so difficult to understand that it is a duty to the Party which has concealed its decision from the enemy (on the necessity for an armed uprising, on the fact that the time for it is fully ripe, on the thorough preparations to be made for it, etc.), and it is this decision that makes it obligatory in public statements to fasten not only the "blame", but also the initiative upon the adversary? Only a child could fail to understand that. Kamenev's evasion is a sheer fraud. The same must be said of Zinoviev's evasion, at least of his letter of "justification"(written, I think, to the Central Organ), which is the only document I have seen(for, as to a dissenting opinion, "an alleged dissenting opinion", which has been trumpeted in the bourgeois press, I, a member of the Central Committee, have to this very day seen nothing of it). Among Zinoviev's "arguments" there is this: Lenin, he says, sent out his letters "before any decisions were adopted", and you did not protest. That is literally what Zinoviev wrote, himself underlining the word before four times. Is it really so difficult to understand that before a decision has been taken on a strike by the centre, it is permissible to agitate for and against it; but that after a decision in favour of a strike (with the additional decision to conceal this from the enemy), to carry on agitation against the strike is strike-breaking? Any worker will understand that. The question of insurrection has been discussed in the centre since September. That is when Zinoviev and Kamenev could and should have come out in writing, so that everybody, upon seeing their arguments, would have realised that they had completely lost their heads. To conceal one's views from the Party for a whole month before a decision is taken, and to send out a dissenting opinion after a decision is taken—that is strike-breaking.

Zinoviev pretends not to understand this difference, he pretends not to understand that after a decision to strike has been taken by the centre, only blacklegs can carry on agitation among the lower bodies against that decision. Any worker will understand that.

And Zinoviev did agitate and attempted to defeat the centre's decision, both at Sunday's meeting, where he and Kamenev secured not a single vote, and in his present letter. For Zinoviev has the effrontery to assert that "the opinion of the Party has not been canvassed" and that such questions "cannot be decided by ten men". Just think! Every member of the Central Committee knows that more than ten C.C. members were present at the decisive meeting, that a majority of the plenary meeting were present, that Kamenev himself declared at the meeting that "this meeting is decisive", that it was known with absolute certainty that the majority of the absent members of the Central Committee were not in agreement with Zinoviev and Kamenev. And now, after the Central Committee has adopted a decision at a meeting which Kamenev himself admitted to be decisive, a member of the Central Committee has the audacity to write that "the opinion of the Party has not been canvassed", and that such questions "cannot be decided by ten men".That is strike-breaking in the full sense of the term. Between Party congresses, the Central Committee decides. The Central Committee has decided. Kamenev and Zinoviev, who did not come out in writing before the decision was taken, began to dispute the Central Committee's decision after it had been taken.

That is strike-breaking in the full sense of the term. After a decision has been taken, any dispute is impermissible when it concerns immediate and secret preparations for a strike. Now Zinoviev has the insolence to blame us for "warning the enemy". Is there any limit to his brazenness? Who is it that has damaged the cause, frustrated the strike by "warning the enemy", if not those who came out in the non-Party press?

How can one come out against a "decisive" resolution of the Party in a paper which on this question is hand in glove with the entire, bourgeoisie?

If that is tolerated, the Party will become impossible, the Party will be destroyed.

It is ridiculing the Party to give the name of "dissenting opinion" to that which Bazarov learns about and publishes in a non-Party paper.

Kamenev's and Zinoviev's statement in the non-Party press was especially despicable for the additional reason that the Party is not in a position to refute their slanderous lie openly. I know of no decisions regarding the date, Kamenev writes and publishes his writings in his own name and in the name of Zinoviev. (After such a statement, Zinoviev bears full responsibility for Kamenev's conduct and statements.)

How can the Central Committee refute this?

We cannot tell the capitalists the truth, namely, that we have decided on a strike and have decided to conceal the moment chosen for it.

We cannot refute the slanderous lie of Zinoviev and Kamenev without doing even greater damage to the cause. And the utter baseness, the real treachery of these two individuals is precisely in their having revealed the strikers' plan to the capitalists, for, since we remain silent in the press, everybody will guess how things stand.

Kamenev and Zinoviev have betrayed to Rodzyanko and Kerensky the decision of the Central Committee of their Party on insurrection and the decision to conceal from the enemy preparations for insurrection and the date appointed for it. That is a fact and no evasions can refute it. Two members of the Central Committee have by a slanderous lie betrayed the decision of the workers to the capitalists. There can and must be only one answer to that: an immediate decision of the Central Committee:

"The Central Committee, regarding Zinoviev's and Kamenev's statement in the non-Party press as strike-breaking in the full sense of the term, expels both of them from the Party."

It is not easy for me to write in this way about former close comrades. But I should regard any hesitation in this respect as a crime, for otherwise a party of revolutionaries which does not punish prominent blacklegs would perish.

The question of insurrection, even if the blacklegs have now delayed it for a long time by betraying it to Rodzyanko and Kerensky, has not been removed from the agenda, it has not been removed by the Party. But how can we prepare ourselves for insurrection and lay plans for it, if we tolerate "prominent" strike-breakers in our midst? The more prominent, the more dangerous they are, and the less deserving of "forgiveness". On n'est trahi que par les siens, the French say. Only your own people can betray you.

The more "prominent" the strike-breakers are, the more imperative it is to punish them by immediate expulsion.

That is the only way for the workers' party to recuperate, rid itself of a dozen or so spineless intellectuals, rally the ranks of the revolutionaries, and advance to meet great and momentous difficulties hand in hand with the revolutionary workers.

We cannot publish the truth, namely, that after the decisive meeting of the Central Committee, Zinoviev and Kamenev at Sunday's meeting had the audacity to demand a revision, that Kamenev had the effrontery to shout: "The Central Committee has collapsed, for it has done nothing for a whole week" (I could not refute that because to say what really had been done was impossible), while Zinoviev with an air of innocence proposed this resolution, which was rejected by the meeting: "No action shall be taken before consulting with the Bolsheviks who are to arrive on October 20 for the Congress of Soviets."

Just imagine! After the centre has taken a decision to call a strike, it is proposed at a meeting of the rank and file that it be postponed (until October 20, when the Congress was to convene. The Congress was subsequently postponed—the Zinovievs trust the Lieberdans) and be referred to a body such as the Party Rules do not provide for, that has no authority over the Central Committee, and that does not know Petrograd.

And after this Zinoviev still has the insolence to write: "This is hardly the way to strengthen the unity of the Party."

What else can you call it but a threat to effect a split?

My answer to this threat is that I shall go the limit, I shall win freedom of speech for myself before the workers, and I shall, at whatever cost, brand the blackleg Zinoviev as a blackleg. My answer to the threat of a split is to declare war to a finish, war for the expulsion of both blacklegs from the Party.

The Executive Committee of a trade union, after a month of deliberation, decides that a strike is inevitable, that the time is ripe, but that the date is to be concealed from the employers. After that, two members of the Executive Committee appeal to the rank and file, disputing the decision, and are defeated. Thereupon these two come out in the press and with a slanderous lie betray the decision of the Executive Committee to the capitalists, thus more than half wrecking the strike, or delaying it to a less favourable time by warning the enemy.

Here we have strike-breaking in the full sense of the term. And that is why I demand the expulsion of both the black-legs, reserving for myself the right (in view of their threat of a split) to publish everything when publication becomes possible.