V. I.   Lenin



To:   A. N. POTRESOV[5]

Published: First published in 1925. Sent from Shushenskoye village to Orlov, Vyatka Gubernia. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 25-27.
Translated: Clemens Dutt
Transcription\Markup: K. Smith
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). 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.

September 2, 1898

Yesterday I received your letter of August l1 with the list of books and the printed matter—the Archiv.[6] The article of the “eminent political economist” is highly interesting and excellently composed. The author evidently disposed of very rich material, which had luckily fallen into his hands. Generally speaking, in the journalistic field, he appears to be even a better writer than in the purely economic field. Archiv, in general, is an interesting journal and I shall certainly subscribe to it for next year. I should like also to subscribe to some English periodical or newspaper (weekly); can you advise me which to select? I have no idea what there is in the English publicistic field that is most interesting and is available in Russia.

As regards Struve’s article,[7] on which we hold different opinions, it has to be said, of course, that it is impossible to judge accurately of the author’s views from it alone. It seemed to me, for instance, and still seems to me, that he definitely set himself “general classificatory tasks” (the title itself indicates this), whereas you consider that he set himself “no such tasks”.\dots That “it is necessary to win our handicraft workers away from so-called people’s industry” is something with which, of course, I am wholly and definitely in agreement, and I think that this still confronts our “disciples”[8] as an unsolved problem. It was in Struve’s article that I saw a plan for solving this problem.

Have you paid attention to N. G.’s articles in Russkoye \n Bogatstvo[9] (in the two last issues) against “materialism and dialectical logic”. They are highly interesting—from the negative aspect. I must admit that I am not competent

to deal with the questions raised by the author, and I am extremely surprised that the author of Beiträge zur Geschichte des Materialismus[1] has not expressed his opinion in the Russian literature and does not vigorously oppose neo-Kantianism, letting Struve and Bulgakov[10] polemise on specific questions of this philosophy, as if it had already become part of the views of Russian disciples.[11] Space would surely be found for philosophical articles in more than one of our periodicals; moreover, a book could get through easily. His polemic with Bernstein and Conrad Schmidt interests me greatly, and I very much regret that I am quite unable to obtain Zeit.[12] I should be greatly obliged to you if you could help me in this. It would be quite sufficient, of course, to receive this journal even for a short period. Do you have the issue of Die Neue Zeit (of a few years ago) which carried an article by the same author on Hegel (the 30th anniversary of his death—something of that kind)?[13] Neither I nor any of the comrades here get Die Neue Zeit, although they promised to send it from St. Petersburg! The devil take all those people who make promises and do not keep them!

Another interesting article is that of Ratner’s on Capital in Russkoye Bogatstvo (for July). I cannot stand such lovers of the golden mean, who do not dare to come out openly against doctrines with which they have no sympathy, but wriggle, make “amendments”, evade the main issues (such as the theory of the class struggle) and beat about the bush of particulars.

The articles by another author in Die Neue Zeit on social trends in Russia also sound very interesting[14]: your mentioning them is extremely tantalising. If I have understood you rightly, this author expresses an idea already expounded by him elsewhere (on the danger of einer politischen Isolierung des russischen Proletariats[2] ). It seems to me that “alienation from society” does not necessarily signify “isolation ”,[3] for there is society and society: in fighting Narodism[15]   and all of its offshoots, the disciples thereby come closer to those gauches[4] who tend to break decisively with Narodism and adhere consistently to their views. From such people the disciples would hardly begin dissociating themselves unreservedly. Rather the contrary. A “conciliatory” (or, rather, alliancist) attitude towards such people is wholly compatible, in my opinion, with the fight against Narodism and all its manifestations.

Please write. All the best.

V. Ulyanov

Well, well, you have already come to blows—and how!—with sticks and what not! Fortunately, Eastern Siberia seems to be lagging somewhat behind the Vyatka Gubernia in bellicosity.[16]


[1] The author of this book was G. V. Plekhanov.—Ed.

[2] Political isolation of the Russian proletariat.—Ed.

[3] That we must by no means allow such “isolation”—in this I believe the author to be wholly and a thousand times right, especially against narrow adherents of “economics”[17] .—Ed.

[4] Lefts.—Ed.

[5] Potresov, Alexander Nikolayevich (1869-1934)—joined the Marxists in the nineties of the 19th century. For participating in the St. Petersberg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, was exiled. In 1900 went abroad, where he took part in founding Iskra and Zarya. After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (1903) joined the Mensheviks. During the years of reaction (1907-10) was an ideologist of liquidationism; played a leading role in the Menshevik publications Vosrozhdeniye, Nasha Zarya, and others.

After the October he Revolution he emigrated. p. 25

[6] This refers to the preparations for publishing abroad a non-periodical Miscellany entitled Rabotnik. It was published in 1896-99 by the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad and edited by the Emancipation of Labour group. The publication was sponsored by Lenin. In May 1895, during his stay in Switzerland, Lenin made arrangements for its publication with G. V. Plekhanov, P. B. Axelrod and other members of the Emancipation of Labour group. On his return to Russia in September 1895 Lenin developed extensive activities aimed at supplying articles from Russia for the Miscellany and organising financial support for the publication. During his trips to Vilna, Moscow and Orekhovo-Zuyevo Lenin made arrangements with the local Social-Democrats for assistance to be rendered this publication.

Altogether 6 issues of Rabotnik in three volumes and 10 issues of Listok Rabotnika were published. p. 20

[7] Struve, Pyotr Bernhardovich (1870-1944)—a bourgeois economist and publicist. In the nineties a leading spokesman of “legal Marxism”, “suplemented” and criticised the economic and philosophical theories of Marx, and tried to adapt Marxism and the working-class movement to the interests of the bourgeoisie; contributor to and editor of the journals Novoye Slovo, Nachalo and Zhizn. Struve was one of the theoreticians and organisers of the liberal-monarchist Osvobozhdeniye League (1903-05). With the formation of the Cadet Party in 1905—a member of its Central Committee. After the October Revolution—a white émigré. p. 25

[8] Disciples—followers of Marx and Engels. This term was used in the nineties as a legal designation for Marxists. p. 25

[9] Russkoye Bogatstvo (Russian Wealth)—a monthly journal published from 1876 to 1918 in St. Petersburg. In the early nineties it passed into the bands of the liberal Narodniks headed by N. K. Mikhailovsky. The journal advocated a conciliatory attitude towards the tsarist government and conducted a bitter fight against Marxism and the Russian Marxists. In 1906 it became the organ of the semi-Cadet Trudovik Popular Socialist Party. p. 25

[10] Bulgakov, Sergei Nikolayevich (1871-1944)—bourgeois economist and idealist philosopher. In the nineties a “legal Marxist”. Advocated a revision of Marx’s doctrine on the agrarian question. After the Revolution of 1905-07 joined the Cadets, preached philosophical mysticism, participated in the counter-revolutionary miscellany Vekhi.

In 1922 he was deported for counter-revolutionary activities. p. 26

[11] Lenin refers to the polemic between Bulgakov and Struve over the book Wirtschaft und Recht nach der materialistischen Geschicht-sauffassung by the German Kantian Stammler. p. 26

[12] Die Neue Rheinische Zeitung—a daily, published in Cologne from July 1, 1848, to May 19, 1849, edited by K. Marx. “No German newspaper, before or since,” wrote Engels, “has ever had the same power and influence or been able to electrify the proletarian masses as effectively as the Neue Rheinische Zeitung” (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 11, Moscow, 1962, pp. 336-37). In his article “Karl Marx” Lenin called this newspaper “the finest and unsurpassed organ of the revolutionary proletariat” (see present edition, Vol. 21, p. 81). p. 82

[13] The reference is to Plekhanov’s article “The Sixtieth Anniversary of Hegel’s Death” in the journal Die Neue Zeit Nos. 7, 8, 9 (1891-92. Band I).

Lenin’s reference to “the 30th anniversary” is obviously a slip of the pen. p. 26

[14] The reference is to Axelrod’s articles “Die historische Berechtigung der russischen Sozialdemokratie” (later issued in Russia as a separate pamphlet under the title The Historical Position and the Mutual Relations between the Liberal and Socialist Democracy in Russia), published in the journal Die Neue Zeit No. 30 and No. 31 (1897-98. Band II).

Lenin’s comments on Axelrod’s articles will be found on pp. 29-31 of this volume. p. 26

[17] The reference is to Economism, an opportunist trend in Russian Social-Democracy at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. The Economists hold that the political struggle against tsarism was mainly the business of the liberal bourgeoisie, while the workers were to confine themselves to an economic struggle for better working conditions, higher wages, etc. They denied the leading role of the party of the working class and the significance of revolutionary theory in the labour movement, and maintained that that movement could only develop spontaneously. Lenin gave a devastating criticism of Economism in his book What Is To Be Done? p. 26

[15] Narodism—a petty-bourgeois trend in the Russian revolutionary movement, which arose between the 1860s and 1870s. The Narodniks were out to abolish the autocracy and hand over the landowners’ land to the peasantry. At the same time they denied the development of capitalist relations in Russia to be a natural tendency, and accordingly regarded the peasantry, and not the proletariat, as the main revolutionary force, and the village commune as the embryo of socialism. With the object of rousing the peasants to the struggle against the autocracy the Narodniks went into the country, “among the people”, but gained no support there.

In the eighties and nineties the Narodniks took a conciliatory stand towards tsarism, expressed the interests of the kulaks, and waged a bitter fight against Marxism. p. 27

[16] Lenin refers to the heated disputes between the Marxists and the Narodniks that raged among the exiles. It was of one such clash in Orlov, Vyatka Gubernia, that Potresov wrote to Lenin about. p. 27

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