V. I.   Lenin

Draft of a Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra[2] and Zarya[3]

Written: Written in the spring of 1900
Published: First published in 1925 in Lenin Miscellany IV. Published according to a manuscript copied by an unknown hand.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 4, pages 320-330.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). 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.README


In undertaking the publication of two Social-Democratic organs—a scientific and political magazine and an all-Russian working-class newspaper—we consider it necessary to say a few words concerning our programme, the objects for which we are striving, and the understanding we have of our tasks.

We are passing through an extremely important period in the history of the Russian working-class movement and Russian Social-Democracy. All evidence goes to show that our movement has reached a critical stage. It has spread so widely and has brought forth so many strong shoots in the most diverse parts of Russia that it is now striving with unrestrained vigour to consolidate itself, assume a higher form, and develop a definite shape and organisation. Indeed, the past few years have been marked by an astonishingly rapid spread of Social-Democratic ideas among our intelligentsia; and meeting this trend in social ideas is the spontaneous, completely independent movement of the industrial proletariat, which is beginning to unite and struggle against its oppressors and is manifesting an eager striving for socialism. Study circles of workers and Social-Democratic intellectuals are springing up everywhere, local agitation leaflets are beginning to appear, the demand for Social- Democratic literature is increasing and is far outstripping the supply, and intensified government persecution is powerless to restrain the movement.

The prisons and places of exile are filled to overflowing. Hardly a month goes by without our hearing of socialists   “caught in dragnets” in all parts of Russia, of the capture of underground couriers, of the arrest of agitators, and the confiscation of literature and printing-presses; but the movement goes on and is growing, it is spreading to ever wider regions, it Is penetrating more and more deeply into the working class and is attracting public attention to an ever-increasing degree. The entire economic development of Russia and the history of social thought and of the revolutionary movement in Russia serve as a guarantee that the Social-Democratic working-class movement will grow and surmount all the obstacles that confront it.

The principal feature of our movement, which has be come particularly marked in recent times, is its state of disunity and its amateur character, if one may so express it. Local study circles spring up and function in almost complete isolation from circles in other districts and—what is particularly important—from circles that have functioned and now function simultaneously in the same districts. Traditions are not established and continuity is not maintained; local publications fully reflect this disunity and the lack of contact with what Russian Social-Democracy has already achieved. The present period, therefore, seems to us to be critical precisely for the reason that the movement is outgrowing this amateur stage and this disunity, is insistently demanding a transition to a higher, more united, better and more organised form, which we consider it our duty to promote. It goes without saying that at a certain stage of the movement, at its inception, this disunity is entirely inevitable; the absence of continuity is natural in view of the astonishingly rapid and universal growth of the movement after a long period of revolutionary calm. Undoubtedly, too, there will always be diversity in local conditions; there will always be differences in the conditions of the working class in one district as compared with those in another; and, lastly, there will always be the particular aspect in the points of view among the active local workers; this very diversity is evidence of the virility of the movement and of its sound growth. All this is true; yet disunity and lack of organisation are not a necessary consequence of this diversity. The maintenance of continuity and the unity of the movement do not by any means exclude diversity, but,   on the contrary, create for it a much broader arena and a freer field of action. In the present period of the movement, however, disunity is beginning to show a definitely harmful effect and is threatening to divert the movement to a false path: narrow practicalism, detached from the theoretical clarification of the movement as a whole, may destroy the contact between socialism and the revolutionary movement in Russia, on the one hand, and the spontaneous working-class movement, on the other. That this danger is not merely imaginary is proved by such literary productions as the Credo—which has already called forth legitimate protest and condemnation—and the Separate Supplement toRabochaya Mysl” (September 1899). That supplement has brought out most markedly, the trend that permeates the whole of Rabochaya Mysl; in it a particular trend in Russian Social-Democracy has begun to manifest itself, a trend that may cause real harm and that must be combated. And the Russian legal publications, with their parody of Marxism capable only of corrupting public consciousness, still further intensify the confusion and anarchy which have enabled the celebrated Bernstein (celebrated for his bankruptcy) to publish before the whole world the untruth that the majority of the Social-Democrats active in Russia support him.

It is still premature to judge how deep the cleavage is, and how far the formation of a special trend is probable (at the moment we are not in the least inclined to answer these questions in the affirmative and we have not yet lost hope of our being able to work together), but it would be more harmful to close our eyes to the gravity of the situation than to exaggerate the cleavage, and we heartily welcome the resumption of literary activity on the part of the Emancipation of Labour group, and the struggle it has begun against the attempts to distort and vulgarise Social-Democracy.[4]

The following practical conclusion is to be drawn from the foregoing: we Russian Social-Democrats must unite and direct all our efforts towards the formation of a single, strong party, which must struggle under the banner of a revolutionary Social-Democratic programme, which must maintain the continuity of the movement and systematically support its organisation. This conclusion is not   a new one. The Russian Social-Democrats reached it two years ago when the representatives of the largest Social-Democratic organisations in Russia gathered at a congress in the spring of 1898, formed the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, published the Manifesto of the Party, and recognised Rabochaya Gazeta as the official Party organ. Regarding ourselves as members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, we agree entirely with the fundamental ideas contained in the Manifesto and attach extreme importance to it as the open and public declaration of the aims towards which our Party should strive. Consequently, we, as members of the Party, present the question of our immediate and direct tasks as follows: What plan of activity must we adopt to revive the Party on the firmest possible basis? Some comrades (even some groups and organisations) are of the opinion that in order to achieve this we must resume the practice of electing the central Party body and instruct it to resume the publication of the Party organ.[5] We consider such a plan to be a false one or, at all events, a hazardous one. To establish and consolidate the Party means to establish and consolidate unity among all Russian Social-Democrats; such unity cannot be decreed, it cannot be brought about by a decision, say, of a meeting of representatives; it must be worked for. In the first place, it is necessary to develop a common Party literature—common, not only in the sense that it must serve the whole of the Russian movement rather than separate districts, that it must discuss the questions of the movement as a whole and assist the class-conscious proletarians in their struggle instead of dealing merely with local questions, but common also in the sense that it must unite all the available literary forces, that it must express all shades of opinion and views prevailing among Russian Social-Democrats, not as isolated workers, but as comrades united in the ranks of a single organisation by a common programme and a common struggle. Secondly, we must work to achieve an organisation especially for the purpose of establishing and maintaining contact among all the centres of the movement, of supplying complete and timely information about the movement, and of delivering our newspapers and periodicals regularly to all parts of Russia. Only when such an organisation has been founded,   only when a Russian socialist post has been established, will the Party possess a sound foundation, only then will it be come a real fact and, therefore, a mighty political force. We intend to devote our efforts to the first half of this task, i.e., to creating a common literature, since we regard this as the pressing demand of the movement today, and a necessary preliminary measure towards the resumption of Party activity.

The character of our task naturally determines the programme for conducting our publications. They must devote considerable space to theoretical questions, i.e., to the general theory of Social-Democracy and its application to Russian conditions. The urgent need to promote a wide discussion of these questions at the present time in particular is beyond all doubt and requires no further explanation after what has been said above. It goes without saying that questions of general theory are inseparably connected with the need to supply information about the history and the present state of the working-class movement in the West. Furthermore, we propose systematically to discuss all political questions—the Social-Democratic Labour Party must respond to all questions that arise in all spheres of our daily life, to all questions of home and foreign politics, and we must see to it that every Social-Democrat and every class-conscious worker has definite views on all important questions. Unless this condition is fulfilled, it will be impossible to carry on wide and systematic propaganda and agitation. The discussion of questions of theory and policy will be connected with the drafting of a Party programme, the necessity for which was recognised at the congress in 1898. In the near future we intend to publish a draft programme; a comprehensive discussion of it should provide sufficient material for the forthcoming congress that will have to adopt a programme.[6] A further vital task, in our opinion, is the discussion of questions of organisation and practical methods of conducting our work. The lack of continuity and the disunity, to which reference has been made above, have a particularly harmful effect upon the present state of Party discipline, organisation, and the technique of secrecy. It must be publicly and frankly owned that in this respect we Social-Democrats   lag behind the old workers in the Russian revolutionary movement and behind other organisations functioning in Russia, and we must exert all our efforts to come abreast of the tasks. The attraction of large numbers of working-class and intellectual young people to the movement, the increasing failures and the cunningness of governmental persecution make the propaganda of the principles and methods of Party organisation, discipline, and the technique of secrecy an urgent necessity.

Such propaganda, if supported by all the various groups and by all the more experienced comrades, can and must result in the training of young socialists and workers as able leaders of the revolutionary movement, capable of over coming all obstacles placed in the way of our work by the tyranny of the autocratic police state and capable of serving all the requirements of the working masses, who are spontaneously striving towards socialism and political struggle. Finally, one of the principal tasks arising out of the above-mentioned issues must be the analysis of this spontaneous movement (among the working masses, as well as among our intelligentsia). We must try to understand the social movement of the intelligentsia which marked the late nineties in Russia and combined various, and sometimes conflicting, tendencies. We must carefully study the conditions of the working class in all spheres of economic life, study the forms and conditions of the workers’ awakening, and of the struggles now setting in, in order that we may unite the Russian working-class movement and Marxist socialism, which has already begun to take root in Russian soil, into one integral whole, in order that we may combine the Russian revolutionary movement with the spontaneous upsurge of the masses of the people. Only when this contact has been established can a Social-Democratic working-class party be formed in Russia; for Social-Democracy does not exist merely to serve the spontaneous working-class movement (as some of our present-day “practical workers” are sometimes inclined to think), but to combine socialism with the working-class movement. And it is only this combination that will enable the Russian proletariat to fulfil its immediate political task—to liberate Russia from the tyranny of the autocracy.

The distribution of these themes and questions between the magazine and the newspaper will be determined exclusively by differences in the size and character of the two publications—the magazine should serve mainly for propaganda, the newspaper mainly for agitation. But all aspects of the movement should be reflected in both the magazine and the newspaper, and we wish particularly to emphasise our opposition to the view that a workers’ newspaper should devote its pages exclusively to matters that immediately and directly concern the spontaneous working-class movement, and leave everything pertaining to the theory of socialism, science, politics, questions of Party organisation, etc., to a periodical for the intelligentsia. On the contrary, it is necessary to combine all the concrete facts and manifestations of the working-class movement with the indicated questions; the light of theory must be cast upon every separate fact; propaganda on questions of politics and Party organisation must be carried on among the broad masses of the working class; and these questions must be dealt with in the work of agitation. The type of agitation which has hitherto prevailed almost without exception—agitation by means of locally published leaflets—is now inadequate; it is narrow, it deals only with local and mainly economic questions. We must try to create a higher form of agitation by means of the newspaper, which must contain a regular record of workers’ grievances, workers’ strikes, and other forms of proletarian struggle, as well as all manifestations of political tyranny in the whole of Russia; which must draw definite conclusions from each of these manifestations in accordance with the ultimate aim of socialism and the political tasks of the Russian proletariat. “Extend the bounds and broaden the content of our propagandist, agitational, and organisational activity”—this statement by P. B. Axelrod must serve as a slogan defining the activities of Russian Social-Democrats in the immediate future, and we adopt this slogan in the programme of our publications.

Here the question naturally arises: if the proposed publications are to serve the purpose of uniting all Russian Social-Democrats and mustering them into a single party, they must reflect all shades of opinion, all local specific features, and all the various practical methods. How can   we combine the varying points of view with the maintenance of a uniform editorial policy for these publications? Should these publications be merely a jumble of various views, or should they have an independent and quite definite tendency?

We hold to the second view and hope that an organ having a definite tendency will prove quite suitable (as we shall show below), both for the purpose of expressing various viewpoints; and for comradely polemics between contributors. Our views are in complete accord with the fundamental ideas of Marxism (as expressed in the Communist Manifesto, and in the programmes of Social-Democrats in Western Europe); we stand for the consistent development of these ideas in the spirit of Marx and Engels and emphatically reject the equivocating and opportunist corrections à la Bernstein which have now become so fashionable. As we see it, the task of Social-Democracy is to organise the class struggle of the proletariat, to promote that struggle, to point out its essential ultimate aim, and to analyse the conditions that determine the methods by which this struggle should be conduct ed. “The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.”[7] But while we do not separate Social-Democracy from the working-class movement, we must not forget that the task of the former is to represent the interests of this movement in all countries as a whole, that it must not blindly worship any particular phase of the movement at any particular time or place. We think that it is the duty of Social-Democracy to support every revolutionary movement against the existing political and social system, and we regard its aim to be the conquest of political power by the working class, the expropriation of the expropriators, and the establishment of a socialist society. We strongly repudiate every attempt to weaken or tone down the revolutionary character of Social Democracy, which is the party of social revolution, ruthlessly hostile to all classes standing for the present social system. We believe the historical task of Russian Social Democracy is, in particular, to overthrow the autocracy: Russian Social-Democracy is destined to become the vanguard fighter in the ranks of Russian democracy; it is destined to achieve the aim which the whole social development   of Russia sets before it and which it has inherited from the glorious fighters in the Russian revolutionary movement. Only by inseparably connecting the economic and political struggles, only by spreading political propaganda and agitation among wider and wider strata of the working class, can Social-Democracy fulfil its mission.

From this point of view (outlined here only in its general features, since it has been dealt with in greater detail and more thoroughly substantiated on many occasions by the Emancipation of Labour group, in the Manifesto of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and in the “commentary” to the latter—the pamphlet, The Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats[1] –and in The Working-Class Cause in Russia [a basis of the programme of Russian Social Democracy]), we shall deal with all theoretical and practical questions; and we shall try to connect all manifestations of the working-class movement and of democratic protest in Russia with these ideas.

Although we carry out our literary work from the stand point of a definite tendency, we do not in the least intend to present all our views on partial questions as those of all Russian Social-Democrats; we do not deny that differences exist, nor shall we attempt to conceal or obliterate them. On the contrary, we desire our publications to become organs for the discussion of all questions by all Russian Social-Democrats of the most diverse shades of opinion. We do not reject polemics between comrades, but, on the contrary, are prepared to give them considerable space in our columns. Open polemics, conducted in full view of all Russian Social-Democrats and class-conscious workers, are necessary and desirable in order to clarify the depth of existing differences, in order to afford discussion of disputed questions from all angles, in order to combat the extremes into which representatives of various views, various localities, or various “specialities” of the revolutionary movement inevitably fall. Indeed, we regard one of the drawbacks of the present-day movement to be the absence of open polemics between avowedly differing views, the effort to conceal differences on fundamental questions.

Moreover, while recognising the Russian working class and Russian Social-Democracy as the vanguard in the struggle for democracy and for political liberty, we think it necessary to strive to make our publications general-democratic organs, not in the sense that we would for a single moment agree to forget the class antagonism between the proletariat and other classes, nor in the sense that we would consent to the slightest toning-down of the class struggle, but in the sense that we would bring forward and discuss all democratic questions, not confining ourselves merely to narrowly proletarian questions; in the sense that we would bring forward and discuss all instances and manifestations of political oppression, show the connection between the working-class movement and the political struggle in all its forms, attract all honest fighters against the autocracy, regardless of their views or the class they belong to, and induce them to support the working class as the only revolutionary force irrevocably hostile to absolutism. Consequently, although we appeal primarily to the Russian socialists and class-conscious workers, we do not appeal to them alone. We also call upon all who are oppressed by the present political system in Russia, on all who strive for the emancipation of the Russian people from their political slavery to support the publications which will be devoted to organising the working-class movement into a revolutionary political party; we place the columns of our publications at their disposal in order that they may expose all the abominations and crimes of the Russian autocracy. We make this appeal in the conviction that the banner of the political struggle raised by Russian Social-Democracy can and will become the banner of the whole people.

The tasks we set ourselves are extremely broad and all-embracing, and we would not have dared to take them up, were we not absolutely convinced from the whole of our past experience that these are the most urgent tasks of the whole movement, were we not assured of the sympathy and of promises of generous and constant support on the part of: 1. several organisations of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and of separate groups of Russian Social-Democrats working in various towns; 2. the Emancipation of Labour group, which founded Russian Social-Democracy   and has always been in the lead of its theoreticians and literary representatives; 3. a number of persons who are unaffiliated with any organisation, but who sympathise with the Social-Democratic working-class movement, and have proved of no little service to it. We will exert every effort to carry out properly the part of the general revolutionary work which we have selected, and will do our best to bring every Russian comrade to regard our publications as his own, to which all groups would communicate every kind of information concerning the movement, in which they would express their views, indicate their needs for political literature, relate their experiences, and voice their opinions concerning Social-Democratic editions; in a word, the medium through which they would thereby share whatever contribution they make to the movement and whatever they draw from it. Only in this way will it be possible to establish a genuinely all-Russian Social-Democratic organ. Russian Social-Democracy is already finding itself constricted in the underground conditions in which the various groups and isolated study circles carry on their work. It is time to come out on the road of open advocacy of socialism, on the road of open political struggle. The establishment of an all-Russian organ of Social-Democracy must be the first step on this road.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 2, p. 323.—Ed.

[2] Iskra (The Spark) was the first all-Russian Illegal Marxist newspaper; it was founded by Lenin in 1900 and it played an important role in building the Marxist revolutionary party of the working class in Russia.

It was impossible to publish the revolutionary newspaper in Russia on account of police persecution, and, while still in exile in Siberia, Lenin evolved a plan for its publication abroad. When his exile ended (January 1900) Lenin immediately set about putting his plan into effect. In February, in St. Petersburg, he negotiated with Vera Zasulich (who had come from abroad illegally) on the participation of the Emancipation of Labour group in the publication of the newspaper. At the end of March and the beginning of April a conference was held—known as the Pskov Conference—with V. I. Lenin, L. Martov (Y. 0. Zederbaum), A. N. Potresov, S. I. Radchenko, and the ’legal Marxists” P. B. Struve and M. I. Tugan-Baranovsky participating, which discussed the draft declaration, drawn up by Lenin, of the Editorial Board of the all-Russian newspaper (Iskra) and the scientific and political   magazine (Zarya) on the programme and the aims of these publications. During the first half of 1900 Lenin travelled in a number of Russian cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Riga, Smolensk, Nizhni Novgorod, Ufa, Samara, Syzran) and established contact with Social-Democratic groups and individual Social-Democrats, obtaining their support for Iskra. In August 1900, when Lenin arrived in Switzerland, be and Potresov conferred with the Emancipation of Labour group on the programme and the aims of the newspaper and the magazine, on possible contributors, and on the editorial board and its location. The conference almost ended in failure (see pp. 333-49 of this volume), but an agreement was finally reached on all disputed questions.

The first issue of Lenin’s Iskra was published in Leipzig in December 1900; the ensuing issues were published in Munich; from July 1902 the paper was published in London, and from the spring of 1903 in Geneva. Considerable help in getting the newspaper going (the organisation of secret printing-presses, the acquisition of Russian type, etc.) was afforded by the German Social-Democrats Clara Zetkin, Adolf Braun, and others; by Julian Marchlewski, a Polish revolutionary residing in Munich at that time; and by Harry Quelch, one of the leaders of the English Social-Democratic Federation.

The Editorial Board of Iskra consisted of: V. I. Lenin, G. V. Plekhanov, L. Martov, P. B. Axelrod, A. N. Potresov, and V. I. Zasulich. The first secretary of the board was I. G. Smidovich-Leman; the post was then taken over, from the spring of 1901 by N.K. Krupskaya, who also conducted the correspondence between Iskra and the Russian Social-Democratic organisations. Lenin was in actuality editor-in-chief and the leading figure in Iskra, in which he published his articles on all basic questions of Party organisation and the class struggle of the proletariat in Russia, as well as on the most important events in world affairs.

Iskra became the centre for the unification of Party forces, for the gathering and training of Party workers. In a number of Russian cities (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Samara, and others) groups and committees of the R.S.D.L.P. were organised on Leninist Iskra lines and a conference of Iskra supporters held in Samara in January 1902 founded the Russian Iskra organisation. Iskra organisations grew up and worked under the direct leadership of Lenin’s disciples and comrades-in-arms: N. E. Bauman, I. V. Babushkin, S. I. Gusev, M. I. Kalinin, P. A. Krasikov, G. M. Krzhizhanovsky, F. V. Lengnik, P. N. Lepeshinsky, I. I. Radchenko, and others.

On the initiative and with the direct participation of Lenin, the Iskra Editorial Board drew up a draft programme of the Party (published in No. 21 of Iskra) and prepared the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., held in July and August 1903. By the time the Congress was convened the majority of the local Social-Democratic organisations in Russia had adopted the Iskra position, approved its programme, organisational plan, and tactical line, and recognised the newspaper as their leading organ. A special   resolution of the Congress noted Iskra’s exceptional role in the struggle to build the Party and adopted the newspaper as the central organ of the R.S.D.L.P. The Congress approved an editorial board consisting of Lenin, Plekhanov, and Martov. Despite the Congress decision, Martov refused to participate, and Nos. 46-51 of Iskra were edited by Lenin and Plekhanov. Later Plekhanov went over to the Menshevik position and demanded that all the old Menshevik editors be included in the Editorial Board of Iskra, although they had been rejected by the Congress. Lenin could not agree to this and on October 19 (November 1), 1903, he resigned from the Iskra Editorial Board. He was co-opted to the Central Committee, from where he conducted a struggle against the Menshevik opportunists. Issue No. 52 of Iskra was edited by Plekhanov alone. On November 13 (26), 1903, Plekhanov, on his own initiative and in violation of the will of the Congress, co-opted all the old Menshevik editors to the Editorial Board. Beginning with issue No. 52, the Mensheviks turned Iskra into their own organ.

[3] Zarya (Dawn)—a Marxist scientific and political magazine published legally in Stuttgart in 1901-02 by the Iskra Editorial Board. Altogether four numbers (in three issues) appeared: No. 1—April 1901 (it actually appeared on March 23, New Style); No. 2-3—December 1901; and No. 4—August 1902.

[4] Lenin refers to the “Announcement on the Renewal of Publications of the Emancipation of Labour Group” published at the beginning of 1900 in Geneva, after the appearance of Lenin’s “A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats.” In their “Announcement” the Emancipation of Labour group supported Lenin’s appeal in the “Protest” for decisive struggle against opportunism in the ranks of Russian and international Social-Democracy.

[5] By groups and organisations Lenin means the Social-Democrats grouped round the newspaper Yashny Rabochy (Southern Worker), the Bond, and the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad, the leadership of which had been transferred from the Emancipation of Labour group to the “young” supporters of “economism.” These organisations planned to call the Second Congress of the Party in Smolensk in the spring of 1900. The circumstances surrounding the preparation for the Congress are discussed in Chapter 5 of Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? (see present edition, Vol. 5).

[6] Lenin refers to “A Draft Programme of Our Party” which he wrote at the end of 1899 for No. 3 of Rabochaya Gazeta that never came to be published (see present volume, pp. 227-54). A draft programme of the Party was elaborated for the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., on Lenin’s suggestion, by the Editorial Board of Iskra and Zarya and was printed in Iskra, No 21, on June 1, 1902; it was adopted by the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. in August 1903.

[7] Lenin quotes the basic postulate of the “General Rules of the International Working Men’s Association” (First International) drawn up by Karl Marx (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1956, p. 386.

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