V. I.   Lenin



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 38-43.
Translated: Clemens Dutt
Transcription\Markup: D. Moros
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2005). 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.
Other Formats:   TextREADME

June 27, 1899

Last Friday, the 18th, I received your letter of June 2, but I have not received either Mehring or Karelin, about which you write. I waited a little at first, thinking there was a delay in the post, but now I am forced to believe that either the parcel has been lost or you put off sending it. If the former is the case, lodge a complaint at once.

Your comments on my book[1] gave me great joy. All the same, I think you are exaggerating in speaking about a translation of it: I doubt whether the Germans would want to read a thing so crammed with facts of purely local and minor significance. True, they translated N.—on[8] (but then he already had a great reputation and the recommendation, probably, of Engels, although the latter had intended to make hay of it, according to Monist). Have you come across reviews of it in the German literature? If I am not mistaken, they have translated him into French too. I was somewhat surprised at your statement that you “at last succeeded in obtaining” my book.... Didn’t you receive it from Moscow or St. Petersburg? I asked that it should be sent to you, as to all the rest of my friends, and they all got it. If you have not received it, let me know and I shall write again to Moscow. So far I have not seen any reviews of it in the press, but I don’t expect to find any before the autumn—but then the only newspaper I read is Russkiye Vedomosti,[9] which continues to maintain a “tactful silence”....

I have read Bulgakov’s article in Archly. I do not in tend to write a reply to him for the German public too: for one thing, I couldn’t do it in German; secondly—and this is the chief thing, for it would be possible, perhaps, to find a translator from Russian—an article of the kind that I wrote for the Russian public, i.e., with a detailed exposition of Kautsky’s book, would be quite unsuitable for the German public. I cannot answer Bulgakov’s special references (from German statistical data) for I have no material. Nor would I undertake to write for the Germans about his general standpoint (Kantian and ... Bernsteinian, if one can use the term). I think it really is necessary to correct the Germans’ idea of the Russian disciples, but for this (unless someone would undertake to write a special article) a simple paragraph about my article against Bulgakov, when this article is published in a Russian journal, would suffice.[2] But if it is not published at all—owing to the demise of Nachalo and the refusal of Zhizn, or the censorship—then the matter will take quite a different turn.

Regarding the “sensational discoveries” of the Russian disciples and their neo-Kantianism, I am becoming more and more indignant. I have read Tugan-Baranovsky’s article in No. 5 of Nauchnoye Obozreniye.... What utterly stupid and pretentious nonsense! Without any historical study of Marx’s doctrine, without any new researches, on the basis of schematic errors (arbitrary alteration of the norm of surplus-value), on the basis of elevating to a general rule an exceptional case (raising the productivity of labour without decreasing the value of the product: an absurdity if this is taken as a general phenomenon)—on the basis of this to talk about a “new theory”, about Marx’s mistake, about reconstruction.... No, I cannot believe your statement that Tugan Baranovsky is becoming more and more a Genosse. Mikhailovsky was right in calling him an “echo man”: his article in Mir Bozhy (“according to Beltov”, you remember? in   1895) and this article confirm the severe judgement of the prejudiced critic. It is confirmed also by what I have heard about his personal qualities from you and from Nadya. Of course, all this is not enough to draw a final conclusion, and I am quite likely to be mistaken. It would be interesting to know your opinion of his article.

And then there’s this idea of distinguishing between “sociological” and “economic” categories, set going by Struve (in No. 1 of Nauchnoye Obozreniye) and repeated both by P. Berlin (in Zhizn) and by Tugan-Baranovsky. In my view it promises nothing but an utterly meaningless and scholastic play at definitions, to which the Kantians give the resounding name of “critique of concepts” or even “gnosiology”. I simply cannot understand what sense there is in such a distinction. How can there be something economic apart from social?

Incidentally, concerning neo-Kantianism. What stand do you take? I have read and re-read with great pleasure Beiträge zur Geschichte des Materialismus, I have read the articles of the same author in Neue Zeit against Bernstein and Conrad Schmidt (Neue Zeit, No. 5, 1898–99; the later issues I have not seen),[10] I have read Stammler “(Wirtschaft und Recht)”[3] whom our Kantians (P. Struve and Bulgakov) have so highly praised, and I definitely side with Monist. Stammler especially rouses my indignation; I fail to see in him even a hint of anything fresh and significant.... Sheer erkenntnistheoretische Scholastik[4] ! Stupid “definitions” of a mediocre lawyer, in the worst sense of this last word, and no less stupid “conclusions” drawn from them. After Stammler, I re-read the articles of Struve and Bulgakov in Novoye Slovo and found that neo-Kantianism was a thing to be seriously reckoned with. I could no longer restrain myself and stuck in my comments and attacks against it, both in reply to Struve (on his article in Nauchnoye Obozreniye.[5] Why and by whom the publication of this reply is being held up—I fail to understand. It was to have   appeared in No. 6 of Nauchnoye Obozreniye. But it is not there. Meanwhile, my silence is beginning to make things awkward for me: for example, Nezhdanov’s article in Zhizn No. 4 [11]) and in reply to Bulgakov. I say, “I could no longer restrain myself” for I am only too well aware of my lack of philosophical education and I do not intend to write on these subjects until I have learned more. That is just what I am now doing—I have started with Holbach and Helvètius, and am now taking up Kant. I have got hold of the chief works of the chief classical philosophers, but I do not have the neo-Kantian books (I have only ordered Lange). Tell me, please, whether you or your comrades have them and whether you could not share them with me.

On the same subject I have been greatly interested by the review in No. 5 of Nachalo (May issue, which is in the last stages of consumption) on Bogdanov’s book. I don’t understand how I could have missed the notice of this book’s publication. I have only now ordered it. Already from Bogdanov’s first book I suspected Monist, and the title and contents of the second book strengthen my suspicions. And how disgustingly pointless and disgustingly supercilious this review is! Not a word on the real issue and ... a reprimand for ignoring Kantianism, although it is evident from the reviewer’s own words that Bogdanov does not ignore Kantianism, but refutes it, having a different standpoint in philosophy.... I think (if I am not mistaken, about Bogdanov) it is impossible to let this review go unanswered.[12] The only thing I can’t understand is how Kamensky could have left unanswered the articles of Struve and Bulgakov in Novoye Slovo against Engels! Could you explain this for me?

Your information about the reaction against Marxism which has begun in St. Petersburg was news to me. I am puzzled. “Reaction”—does that mean among the Marxists? And which ones? P. B. again? Is it he and his Co. who are developing a tendency to unite with the liberals? I am looking forward to your explanations with great impatience. I fully agree that the “critics” are only confusing our people, while giving absolutely nothing, and that a serious fight with them (especially over Bernstein) will be necessary (only will there be somewhere to fight...?). If P. B. “absolutely   ceases to be a Genosse”—so much the worse for him. It will be a great loss, of course, for all Genossen, for he is very talented and knowledgeable, but, of course, “friendship is friendship, but service is service”, and this does not do away with the need to fight. I fully understand and share your “fury” (caused by the epithet “loathsome” [sic!] in regard to Monist—because of what? because of the article in Neue Zeit? because of the open letter to Kautsky about who will begraben whom?) and I am eager to know about his answer to your letter giving vent to this fury. (I have not yet seen Bernstein’s book). Gründliche Auseinandersetzung is necessary, of course, but it will not and cannot appear in Nachalo or Zhizn: only specific articles against the “critics” of Marxism will be published. What is required for it is a third kind of literature[6] and Platform (if I have understood you rightly). Only then, at last, the Genossen will be dissociated from “outsiders” and “kickers”, and only then will no kind of personal whimsies or theoretical “sensational discoveries” be able to produce confusion and anarchy. The accursed Russian disorganisation is wholly to blame here!

It is not clear to me in what way your article on the heritage (I have read only the first one) was aimed at the St. Petersburgers, I have not seen the article “Out of Turn”. Send it to me.

I should very much like to have a more detailed and circumstantial talk about the Blitzableiter.[7] But this, evidently, will have to be left for another time. My term of exile ends on January 29, 1900. I hope they don’t extend it—a calamity that not infrequently strikes exiles in Eastern Siberia. I am dreaming of Pskov. And you?

Nadya sends her regards.

All the very best.
V. U.

P.S. I have just re-read the end of my article against Bulgakov in the rough copy ... and I have noticed that my tone there is conciliatory; implying, as it were: I am an   “orthodox” and vigorous opponent of the “critics” (that I said plainly), but we must not exaggerate these disagreements [as Mr. Bulgakov does] in the face of common enemies. It is quite possible that this “conciliatory” tone [I have tried my hardest to be mild and polemise as a Genosse] will prove inappropriate or even ridiculous if expressions like “loathsome” are employed, and if the “critics” cause a definitive cleavage. In that case I should find myself “guilty though guiltless”; not having seen Bernstein’s book, not knowing all the views of the “critics”, and being at a “respectable distance”, my view [when I wrote that article] Was quite an “old one”, simply that of a contributor to Nachalo.... It looks as if my statement about the theory of the class struggle not having been touched on by the “critics” is incorrect?[13]


[1] The Development of Capitalism in Russia (see present edition, Vol. 3).—Ed.

[2] Lenin refers to the article “Capitalism in Agriculture (Kautsky’s Book and Mr. Bulgakov’s Article)” (see present edition, Vol. 4). The article was published in the journal Zhizn in Jan.-Feb. 1900.—Ed.

[3]Economy and Law”.—Ed.

[4] Epistemological scholasticism.—Ed.

[5]Once More on the Theory of Realisation” (see present edition, Vol. 4).—Ed.

[6] Illegal Marxist literature.—Ed.

[7] Lightning conductor.—Ed.

[8] (N.—on)—Danielson, Nikolai Frantsevich (1844-1918)—Russian writer and economist, an ideologue of liberal Narodism of the eighties and nineties; in his political activities he reflected the evolution of the Narodniks away from revolutionary action against tsarism towards a conciliatory attitude to it. Completed the translation of Marx’s Capital into Russian, which was begun by G. A. Lopatin. While working on this translation he carried on a correspondence with Marx and Engels in which he touched on the problems of Russia’s economic development. Danielson, however, failed to grasp the essence of Marxism and subsequently came out against it.

Lenin here refers to Danielson’s book Sketches of Our Post-Reform Social Economy in which its author elaborates Narodnik views on the development of post-reform national economy in Russia. The German edition appeared in 1899 in Munich. The French edition was published in 1902. p. 38

[9] Russkiye Vedomosti (Russian Recorder)—a newspaper published in Moscow from 1863 onwards; it expressed the views of the moderate liberal intelligentsia. In 1905 it became the organ of the Right wing of the bourgeois Cadet Party. It was closed down In 1918 together with other counter-revolutionary newspapers. p. 38

[10] Lenin refers to Plekhanov’s article “Konrad Schmidt gegen Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels” published in Die Neue Zeit No. 5 for 1898-99. p. 40

[11] Nezhdanov’s article mentioned here is entitled “Markets under Capitalist Production (Apropos of Ratner’s, Ilyin’s and Struve’s Articles)”. Lenin replied to this in his article “Reply to Mr. P. Nezhdanov” (see Vol. 4 of this edition). p. 41

[12] This refers to the review of A. Bogdanov’s book Fundamentals of the Historic View on Nature, which came out in St. Petersburg in 1899. The first book by the same author A Short Course of Economic Science was reviewed by Lenin in Mir Bozhy No. 4 for April 1898 (see Vol. 4 of this edition, pp. 46-54).

Bogdanov, A. (Malinovsky, Alexander Alexandrovich) (1873-1928)—philosopher, sociologist and economist, by education a physician. During the nineties took part in the work of the Social-Democratic circles. After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (1903) joined the Bolsheviks. During the years of reaction (1907-10) he became the leader of the otzovists and of the Vperyod group, which came out against Lenin and the Party. In questions of philosophy he attempted to set up a system of his own, known as “empirio-monism”, a species of subjective-idealist Machian philosophy, which was sharply criticised by Lenin in his book Materialism and Empirio-criticism (1909) (see Vol. 14 of this edition). p. 41

[13] The remarks referring to the end of Lenin’s article “Capitalism in Agriculture” were taken into consideration by Lenin when publishing the article (see Vol. 4 of this edition). p. 43

< backward   forward >
Works Index   |   Volume 34 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index