V. I.   Lenin




Written: Written in August, prior to 24th, 1900
Published: First published in 1924. Sent from Switzerland to Ufa. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 44-47.
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.README

I have long been intending to write to you about affairs, but various circumstances have always interfered. My life here is all bustle, even painfully so—and this (N.B.) despite the extraordinary precautions taken against it! I live almost, one might say, in solitude—and yet there is this bustle. But then I suppose it’s unavoidable in every new situation, and it would be a sin to complain, seeing that I am not half as nervy as our dear bookseller[2] who succumbs to black melancholy and momentary prostration under the influence of this bustle. But there is much that is good besides the bustle. Well, I shall now tell you something about the affairs of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad, and I shall do so on the basis of facts and accounts of the other side....

In the first place, a completely wrong idea of Vademecum prevails in Russia as a result of the cock-and-bull stories of the Rabocheye Dyelo supporters. To hear them—it is nothing but indulgence in personalities, and so forth, nothing but acting general and making mountains out of molehills for the sake of denigrating individuals, nothing but the use of “impermissible” methods, etc. Actually, this thing is a major issue of principle, and the attacks on individuals are merely an appendage, an appendage that is inevitable in view of the confused relations which the “young” have tried to create and aggravate to the utmost. Vademecum is an outcry, a forthright outcry against banal Economism, against the “shame and disgrace” of Social-Democracy. “I never thought I would have to experience such shame,” exclaims Plekhanov at the end of the preface to the documents he has published. “We   must get out of this chaotic and disgraceful situation at all costs. Woe to the party that patiently tolerates such confusion!” And against all the various accusations levelled at Plekhanov we must first of all categorically establish that the whole essence of his pamphlet is precisely a declaration of war against the “disgraceful” principles of “Credoism” and “Kuskova-ism”, precisely a split over principles, and the split and “fracas” in the Union are merely a side effect of this dissension over principles.

If the split over principles has been combined with this “fracas” (at the Congress of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad in April 1900, things literally came to the pitch of brawling, hysteria, and so on and so forth, which led to Plekhanov’s resignation), if things took this turn, the blame for it rests with the young. It was from the standpoint of Economism that the young waged a systematic, stubborn and dishonest struggle against the Emancipation of Labour group during 1898—“dishonest” because they did not show their colours openly, because they baselessly put all the blame on “Russia” (keeping silent about the anti-“Economist” Social-Democrats of Russia), and because they have used their connections and practical resources to push aside the Emancipation of Labour group in order to declare the latter’s unwillingness to let in “disgraceful” ideas and disgraceful stupidity to be an unwillingness to let in all “young forces” in general. This struggle against the Emancipation of Labour group, this pushing it aside, was carried out on the sly, in a “private” fashion, by means of “private” correspondence and “private” conversations—plainly and bluntly speaking, by means of intrigue, because the role of the Emancipation of Labour group in the Russian Social-Democratic movement never was, never will be and never can be a private matter. The young proclaimed “new” views against the old, but concealed those views so artfully and diplomatically (thereby showing that for them the very question of views was a private matter) that it was left for the old to set forth the gist of the disputes. “We sent to St. Petersburg an account of our disputes with the young ones” writes Plekhanov (p. XLVII of Vademecum Thus, as early as 1898 the Emancipation of Labour group proved that for it the whole question lay in the vacillation   over principles on the part of the young, who were capable of sinking as low as complete denial of socialism. As early as 1898 the Emancipation of Labour group came out with an appeal to Russian Social-Democrats against ideological waverings,[3] but this appeal proved to be the voice in the wilderness, since after the arrests in the summer of 1898 all outstanding leaders of the Party were swept from the battlefield and only the voice of the Economists responded to the appeal.

It is not surprising that after this the Emancipation of Labour group resigned from the editorial board, it is not surprising that open war against Economism became more and more urgent and inevitable. But here, to the aid of the Economic trend, came people who were united to these Economists by long-standing hostility towards the Emancipation of Labour group and these people did not shrink from the attempt to abet Economism, without washing dirty linen in public, and to enable the Economists to continue, with greater convenience than ever before, the tactics of “private” propaganda of their views under the flag of Social-Democracy and under cover of ambiguous statements by the new editorial board, which wanted to imitate that dear little calf who sucked two mothers at once.

In the very first issue of Rabocheye Dyelo the new editors declared that they “do not know what young comrades P. B. Axelrod is talking about” in attacking the Economists. They declared this despite the fact that the whole history of the Union in recent years was a history of its struggle with the “young”; they declared this despite the fact that one of the members of the editorial board of Rabocheye Dyelo was himself an adherent of the Economic trend (Mr. V. I—n).[4] To an outsider, to one who has not pondered over the history of Russian Social-Democracy and the Social-Democratic Union Abroad during the last few years, it may seem quite incomprehensible and strange that such a slight and (apparently) casual remark dropped by the editors of Rabocheye Dyelo “(we do not know what young comrades P. B. Axelrod is talking about”) could spark off the most passionate polemics, ending in the split of the Union and its disintegration. Yet there is nothing strange about this seemingly strange phenomenon. The   slight remark of Rabocheye Dyelo’s editors in connection with their publication of Mr. V. I—n’s articles fully and clearly revealed the cardinal distinction between two conceptions of the immediate tasks and most urgent demands of Russian Social-Democracy. The first conception can be expressed in the words laissez faire, laissez passer in relation to Economism. These are tactics of a conciliatory attitude to Economism, the tactics of concealing the “extremes” of Economism, of defending Economism against open struggle against it, the tactics of “free criticism”, i.e., free criticism of Marxism on the part of all overt and covert ideologists of the bourgeoisie. The other conception required a resolute struggle against Economism, an open protest against the threatening vulgarisation and narrowing of Marxism, an irrevocable break with bourgeois “criticism”.


[1] Krupskaya, Nadezhda Konstantinovna (1869-1939)—a professional revolutionary and outstanding member of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government; the wife of V. I. Lenin. Joined the revolutionary movement in 1890. In 1895 was one of the organisers of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. In 1901 emigrated and worked as secretary of the Iskra editorial board. Took an active part in preparing the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. which she attended as a non-voting delegate. After the Congress she was secretary of the editorial boards of the Bolshevik newspapers Vperyod and Proletary. During the first Russian revolution (1905-07) worked as secretary to the Central Committee of the Party in Russia. Took an active part in preparing and carrying out the October Socialist Revolution. p. 44

[2] Apparently this refers to A. N. Potresov. p. 44

[3] This refers to the announcement concerning the resumption of publications by the Emancipation of Labour group issued at the end of 1899. The date given by Lenin is a slip of the pen. p. 46

[4] (V. I—n) Ivanshin, Vladimir Pavlovich (1869-1904)—one of the editors of the journal Rabocheye Dyelo, organ of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad; maintained close contact also with Rabochaya Mysl, the newspaper of the St. Petersburg Economists. In his articles he drew a line between the immediate economic interests of the workers and the political tasks of Social-Democracy.

After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (1903) he joined the Mensheviks. p. 46

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