V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written not later than September 4, 1900
Published: First published in 1930 in Lenin Miscellany XIII. Sent from Nuremberg to Paris. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 29-31.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   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

Letter to Nakhamkis

1. We shall carry it.

2. The plusses of the article. [Remarks about the mass and Social-Democratic mass movement—the impossibility for Social-Democrats to renounce their strict Social– Democratic principles even for a moment—about propaganda and agitation, and the relationship between political rights and political freedom. About not narrowing down the significance of May Day, etc. ]

3. The minus. Some minor alterations in the article are desirable, and we suggest what they might be, hoping that joint discussions of them will bring us to complete agreement.

Firstly, there is need for a summing-up of what has been said, a résumé, a conclusion, as you yourself have already pointed out. Secondly, in connection with this, a rewording of some passages and a shortening of the rest of the article (whose total length must not exceed 1 printed sheet) are desirable (for example, the following passages might be cut down: p. 3 [N.B. 2]; p. 39 [N.B. 16] and some others). It seems to us that the rewording should consist in the following: the whole form of the article has become something of a challenge (“open letter”, the official form of address, etc.), and this is hardly desirable. You yourself pointed out some of the extremes in the present polemics (“Mr.  G.’s stalwarts”,[3] and similar things) and you were quite right; but since these extremes were there, we should now be more careful—not in the sense of conceding one iota of principle, but in the sense of refraining from needlessly embittering those who are working for Social-Democracy within the limits of their understanding. Perhaps a   criticism of the Rabocheye Dyelo programme in the third person would be better in this respect?

For the same reasons it would be appropriate to make some “allowance” for the formal side of the Rabocheye Dyelo programme. After all, it is not the programme of a party, nor even the draft programme of a party, so that it is incorrect to compare it with the programmes of the French and German Social-Democrats (at any rate, when such a comparison is made without reservations, as it is on your p. 42 [N.B. 17]). The criticism of the formal side of the programme could be abbreviated (you yourself expressed the desire, on p. 2, to “leave aside” the formal defects), reducing the formal shortcomings, as particular cases, to the general defect of the programme in principle. We think that such an alteration is desirable with respect to the critical remarks on pp. 45 (N.B. 20), 39 (N.B. 16), 20 (N.B. 9) and 6 (N.B. 6). The brusque formulation of these remarks here and there might give the people occasion to speak (and not entirely without foundation) of faultfinding. The superfluous (from the strictly theoretical standpoint) reminder of the need to reckon with local conditions, etc., could be the result, not of the editorial board having failed to master scientific socialism, but of its wishing to emphasise this quite obvious point just at this moment, when it saw the need to do so. And is there not sometimes a need to stress even self-evident things? We do not deny at all that, in the present case, 75 per cent—only 75 per cent—of the “need” boiled down to the “need” of bowing and scraping before Rabochaya Mysl. If we forget about the remaining 25 per cent, we shall give the people a chance to accuse us of faultfinding, whereas if we reduce these formal defects, as particular instances, to the general defect of principle, we shall take the faultfinding edge off our remarks and reinforce our line of argument.

Now a few more detailed remarks:

P. 17 (N.B. 8), footnote 1. The remark “What does this dream augur?” is obscure.

P. 24 (N.B. 11). You cannot say that Social-Democracy “is little concerned about whether its demands are attainable”. We understand your idea and accept it, but it should be expressed with greater care and precision; “cannot make   the immediate possibility of attainment the supreme test” would indicate the road that needs to be taken, not the possibility of early practical success, or something of that sort.

P. 32 (N.B. 13)—“to use its own expression”: isn’t that too strong?

P. 33 (N.B. 14)—“to seize, etc.”: an awkward, incautious expression, because of the word “seize”.

P. 35 (footnote in fine[1] ). (N.B. 15.)

Gendarmes” and so forth. Would it not be better to strike out or change this?

P. 43 (N.B. 18). Too strong. “Peasantry” is a term we cannot eschew.

P. 44 (N.B. 19). Too strong and blunt. The question of what the peasantry can provide is still far from settled by the Russian Social-Democrats (compare the footnote to the 1885 Programme of the Emancipation of Labour group[4]), and is hardly likely to be decided in the sense that the political role of the peasants is equal to zero (cf. Der 18. Brumaire[5]).

I hope to have a letter from you in reply to this, and not a letter alone, but the article as well (preferably not later than in 2 weeks’ time, 3 weeks at the outside).

G. V. has looked through the article and has also decided in favour of it, noting only the passage on p. 24 (about the possibility of attainment).

P.S. The “we” in this letter are those with whom you had a talk at Bellerive.[6] We do not undertake as yet to speak for the whole editorial board with complete certainty, but hope this will not produce any unpleasant consequences either for you or for us.


[1] At the end.—Ed.

[2] A review of D. B. Ryazanov’s article, “Remarks on the Rabocheye Dyelo Programme”, sent in by Steklov. The article was published in the journal Zarya (Dawn) No. 1, April 1901.

The Rabocheye Dyelo Programme” (“Editorial Note”) was issued in Rabocheye Dyelo No. 1 in April 1899 and published separately that same year under the title “Programme of Rabocheye Dyelo, a periodical organ of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats”.

Rabocheye Dyelo (The Workers’ Cause)—a magazine of the Economists, and an organ of the Union of Russian Social– Democrats Abroad, published in Geneva from April 1899 to February 1902 and edited by B. N. Krichevsky, A. S. Martynov and V. P. Ivanshin.

A criticism of the views of Rabocheye Dyelo group is given in Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? (See present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 347–529.)

[3] Mr. Grishin’s stalwarts—an expression used by Plekhanov in a postscriptum to his publication, Iz zapisnoi knizhki Sotsial-Demokrata (From a Social-Democrat’s Notebook), Sheet 1, Geneva, 1900, p. 6.

Grishin—the party name of T. M. Kopelsohn, the Bund’s representative abroad and a member of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad.

[4] A reference to the concluding paragraph of the first draft programme of the Emancipation of Labour group, published in 1884 (not as erroneously stated in the letter). In the second draft programme (1888) it was altered into a special note appended to the draft.

[5] Karl Marx, Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Moscow, 1960).

[6] A conference held at Bellerive near Geneva in August 1900 and attended by V. I. Lenin, N. E. Bauman, V. I. Zasulich, G. V. Plekhanov, A. N. Potresov and Y. M. Steklov. It discussed a programme for Iskra and Zarya.

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