V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written October 26, 1900
Published: First published in 1930. Sent from Munich to London. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 51-54.
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

October 26

I received your letter of October 24 yesterday and am replying at once as requested.

I cannot forward the letter just now, as I am not sending any pasted-in things to the address I have, and only use the chemical method. I have no time to copy the letter by this means. I wrote to the addressee[3] yesterday giving the substance of the letter, and I hope in the near future to communicate the whole letter to him. But if you can copy it into an unbound book by the chemical method, then I will send it at once.

I will give my sister the address: she was not in Paris in September, so you could hardly have been there at the same time. I hope you dropped her a few lines at the address I gave you.

Now, to business.

Your letter to me creates a strange impression. Apart from information concerning addresses and forwarding, it contains nothing but reproaches—bare reproaches without any explanations. You even go to the extent of attempting caustic remarks “(are you sure that you have done this for the benefit of the Russian workers’ movement and not for the benefit of Plekhanov?”)—but, of course, I am not going to exchange caustic remarks with you.

You reproach me for having “advised against”.[4] You quote me very inaccurately. I remember very well that I did not express myself categorically, absolutely. I wrote: “We find it hard at the moment to advise anything”; that is to say, I made our decision depend directly on a preliminary elucidation of the matter. What this elucidation   should have been, is clear from my letter: it was essential for us to be perfectly sure whether there had really been a “turn” in Rabochaya Mysl[5] (as we had been told and as we were entitled to conclude from the fact that you proposed to Plekhanov that he should participate) and what kind of turn.

On this basic and main question you do not say a word.

That we regard Rabochaya Mysl as an organ of a special trend with which we differ in the most serious way is something of which you have long been aware. Some months ago both the addressee of your long letter and I flatly refused to take part in an organ of that trend, and obviously, in doing so ourselves, we could not but advise others to do the same.

The news of a “turn” in Rabochaya Mysl, however, put us in a “difficulty”. A real turn could substantially alter the situation. It is natural therefore that in my letter I expressed above all the desire to learn all the details of the turn—but you have not said a word in reply to this.

Perhaps, however, you consider that the answer to my question about the turn is contained in your letter to my friend[6]? Perhaps, if you approached Plekhanov on behalf of the editorial board of Rabochaya Mysl, your letter to my friend could be regarded as an authentic expression of the board’s views? If so, then I am inclined to draw the conclusion that there has been no turn. If I am mistaken, please explain my mistake to me. The other day, another close supporter of Plekhanov wrote to me about the turn in Rabochaya Mysl. But, being in correspondence with you, I cannot, of course, believe these “rumours” of a turn which are not in any way confirmed by you.

Again, I had better say openly and straightaway (even at the risk of incurring further reproaches) that, being in complete solidarity with my friend (to whom you write), I subscribe to his words: “We shall have to fight you”—if there is no turn. But if there is—you must explain in full detail exactly what this turn is.

You write to my friend: “fight us, if you are not ashamed to do so”. He will answer you himself, of course, but I for my part beg leave to reply to this. I am not in the least ashamed to fight—seeing that things have gone so far that   the disagreements have concerned fundamental issues, that an atmosphere has been created of mutual non-comprehension, mutual distrust and complete discordance of views (I am not speaking of Rabochaya Mysl alone; I am speaking about everything I have seen and heard, and not so much here as at home), inasmuch as a number of “splits” has already arisen on this basis. To get rid of this oppressive atmosphere, even a furious thunderstorm, and not merely a literary polemic, can (and should) be welcomed.

And there is no reason to be so much afraid of a struggle: a struggle may cause annoyance to some individuals, but it will clear the air, define attitudes in a precise and straightforward manner, define which differences are important and which unimportant, define where people stand—those who are taking a completely different path and those Party comrades who differ only on minor points.

You write that there have been mistakes in Rabochaya Mysl. Of course, we all make mistakes. Without a struggle, however, how is one to distinguish these minor mistakes from the trend which stands clearly revealed in Rabochaya Mysl and attains its culmination in the “Credo”.[1] Without struggle there cannot be a sorting out, and without a sorting out there cannot be any successful advance, nor can there be any lasting unity. And those who are beginning the struggle at the present time are by no means destroying   unity. There is no longer any unity, it has already been destroyed all along the line. Russian Marxism and Russian Social-Democracy are already a house divided against itself, and an open, frank struggle is one of the essential conditions for restoring unity.

Yes, restoring! The kind of “unity” that makes us conceal “Economic” documents from our comrades like a secret disease, that makes us resent the publication of statements revealing what views are being propagated under the guise of Social-Democratic views—such “unity” is not worth a brass farthing, such “unity” is sheer cant, it only aggravates the disease and makes it assume a chronic, malignant form. That an open, frank and honest struggle will cure this disease and create a really united, vigorous and strong Social-Democratic movement—I do not for a moment doubt.

Perhaps it is very inappropriate that in a letter to you of all people I have to speak so often of a struggle (literary struggle). But I think that our old friendship most of all makes complete frankness obligatory.

All the best.

P.S. In a week or two I shall have another address: Herr Philipp Roegner, Cigarrenhandlung, Neue Gasse, Nürnberg (only for letters and in two envelopes). [Please do not write any initials in the letters—heaven knows whether the post here is quite reliable.]


[1] Note. In your letter to my friend, for example, there is both misunderstanding and the Economic trend. You are right in stressing that an economic struggle is necessary, that one must know how to make use of legal societies, that all kinds of responses and so forth are necessary, that one should not turn one’s back on society. All that is legitimate and true. And if you think that revolutionaries have a different view, that is a misunderstanding. Revolutionaries say merely that every effort must be made to ensure that legal societies and so forth do not separate the workers’ movement from Social-Democracy and the revolutionary political struggle but, on the contrary, unite them as closely and indissolubly as possible. In your letter, however, there is no effort to combine, but there is an effort to separate, that is, there is Economism or “Bernsteinism”,[7] for example, in the statement: “The labour question in Russia, as it stands in reality, was first raised by Rabochaya Mysl”—in its arguments about the judicial struggle and so forth.

I apologise if my reference to your letter to my friend offends you; I wanted only to illustrate my thought.—Lenin

[2] Yakubova, Apollinaria Alexandrovna (1870-1917)—a participant in the Social-Democratic movement from 1893, prominent exponent of Economism. A member of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class; in 1897-98   was one of the organisers of the St. Petersburg publication of the Economists’ newspaper Rabochaya Mysl. In 1998 was exiled to Siberia for a term of four years and emigrated in the summer of 1899. Assisted in the organisation of the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. which she attended as a non-voting delegate. After the split in the Party, she sympathised with the Mensheviks. Retired from political activities after 1905. p. 51

[3] The reference is to Plekbanov. p. 51

[4] The reference is to Lenin’s reply to Plekhanov, who asked Lenin’s advice concerning the Economists’ invitation to contribute to their newspaper Rabochaya Mysl. p. 51

[5] Rabochaya Mysl (Workers’ Thought)—a newspaper, organ of the Economists, published from October 1897 to December 1902. Sixteen issues were published (St. Petersburg—Berlin—Warsaw—Geneva). Edited by K. M. Takhtarev and others. A criticism of Rabochaya Mysl views, described as the Russian variety of international opportunism, was given by Lenin in his article “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy” (see Vol. 4 of this edition) and in articles published in Iskra and in his book What Is To Be Done? (see Vol. 5 of this edition). p. 52

[6] This apparently refers to Y. O. Martov. p. 52

[7] Bernsteinism—an opportunist anti-Marxist trend in the international Social-Democratic movement, which originated in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century and was named after Eduard Bernstein, the German Social-Democrat. Bernstein tried to revise Marx’s revolutionary doctrine in the spirit of bourgeois liberalism and to turn the Social-Democratic Party into a petty-bourgeois party of social reform. In Russia this trend found support among the “legal Marxists” and the Economists. p. 53

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