V. I.   Lenin




Published: First published in 1924 in the journal Proletarskaya Revolyutsiya No. 3. Sent from the remand prison in St. Petersburg. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 37, pages 82-84.
Translated: The Late George H. Hanna
Transcription\Markup: D. Moros
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

January 2, 1896

I have a plan that has occupied my mind ever since I was arrested, and the more I think of it the more interested I become. I have long been engaged on a certain economic problem (on the sale of manufactured goods on the home market). I had gathered some literature on the subject, drawn up a plan of operations, and had even written something, expecting to publish as a book if the size exceeds that of an article for a journal. I am very anxious not to abandon this work but I am apparently now faced with the alternative—either write it here or give it up altogether.

I am well aware that the plan to write it here will meet with many serious obstacles. Perhaps, however, it is worth while trying.

Obstacles that one might call “independent” will, I think, be removed. Prisoners are allowed to do literary work; I made a special point of asking the prosecutor about this, although I knew beforehand (even convicts in prison are allowed to write). He also confirmed that there is no limit to the number of books I may receive. Books, moreover, may be returned; consequently one can make use of libraries. And so everything is all right from that point of view.

There are other, more serious obstacles—getting the books. I need a lot of books—I am giving a list below of those which I have in mind at present—and to obtain them will require a considerable amount of trouble. I do not even know whether they can all be obtained. It will probably be all right to count on the library of the Free Economic Society,[7][1]   which allows books to be taken away for two months on payment of a deposit, but that library is not very complete. If it were possible to use (through some writer or professor[2] ) the University library or the library of the learned committee of the Ministry of Finance, the question of obtaining books would be settled. Some books would have to be bought, of course, and I think I can allot a certain sum for that.

The last and most difficult problem is that of delivering the books. It is not merely a matter of bringing a couple of books or so; at regular intervals, over a lengthy period they will have to be obtained from the libraries, brought here[3] and taken back. That is something I do not yet know how to arrange. Unless it can be done this way—find some door porter or janitor, or a messenger or some boy whom I could pay to go for books. The exchange of books— because of the conditions under which I work and also because of the terms on which books are lent from the library—would, of course, have to be done correctly and punctually, so all that must be arranged.

Easier said than done”.... I have/a very strong feeling that this business will not be easy to carry out and that my “plan” may turn out to be mere fantasy. Perhaps you will think it useful to pass this letter on to somebody, to get some advice—and I will await an answer.

The book list is divided into the two parts into which my essay is divided: A. The general theoretical part. This requires fewer books and I hope, at any rate, to write this part, even though it requires greater preparation. B. The application of theoretical postulates to Russian data. This part requires very many books. The chief difficulties will be caused by (1) publications of local authorities—some of them, incidentally, I have; some can be ordered (minor monographs) and some can be obtained through statisticians with whom we are acquainted; (2) government publications—the records made by commissions, the reports and   minutes of congresses, etc. This is very important; it is more difficult to get these. Some of them, probably most of them, are in the library of the Free Economic Society.

The list I am appending is a long one, because it is drawn up for work on an extensive scale.[4] If it should turn out that certain books, or certain classes of books, cannot be obtained, I shall have to narrow down the subject somewhat to suit the situation. This is quite possible, especially as concerns the second part.

I have omitted from the list books that are in the library here; those that I have are marked with a cross.

Since I am quoting from memory I may have mixed up some of the titles and in such cases I have placed (?) against them.[5]


[1] I have taken books from there and left a deposit of 16 rubles.—Lenin

[2] Lenin had in mind P. B. Struve, A. N. Potresov and their connections.—Ed.

[3] I think that once a fortnight would be enough, or perhaps, even, once a month—if a larger number of books were delivered at a time.—Lenin

[4] If it is possible to work on this scale, the list will, of course, be considerably extended in the course of the work.—Lenin

[5] The list of books appended to the letter has been lost.—Ed.

[6] This letter was sent from prison to A. K. Chebotaryova, wife of I. N. Chebotaryov, a close friend of the Ulyanov family; since Lenin had boarded with the Chebotaryovs she was officially recognised as a person to whom he was allowed to write a letter from prison. The letter, however, was actually addressed to acquaintances who had not been arrested,including Nadezhda Krupskaya, and its purpose was to find out who else had been arrested besides Lenin. To avoid mentioning names, Lenin linked up the nicknames of his acquaintances with the contents of scientific books he asked to be sent to him.

This is the first of the letters written in prison that have been preserved. Here Lenin outlines his plan of work on his book The Development of Capitalism in Russia which he began in prison and finished in exile.

[7] Free Economic Society—a privileged learned body, one of the oldest in Europe, founded in St. Petersburg in 1765 for the dissemination throughout the state (says its charter) of information useful in agriculture and industry.

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