V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1924. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 48-50.
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

September 5, 1900 Nuremberg


It looks as if we shall not be able to meet—we are not going to either Mainz or Paris and leave here tomorrow.[2] It is a, great pity, but we must accept the situation and confine ourselves to conversing by post.

Firstly, I hasten to correct a remark in your first letter, a correction I would ask you to convey also to the person who told you of my “promise to meet”. That is not true. I did not promise to meet, but said that we would officially (i.e., on behalf of our group[3]) get in touch with the Union[4] when we were abroad, if this appeared to be necessary. It was wrong of G.[5] to forget about this condition, and to forget besides to tell you that I spoke with him in a personal capacity and, consequently, could not have promised anything definite in anticipation of our group’s decision. When we heard out the other side here[6] and learned about the congress and the split, we saw that there was now no need for an official contact. That’s all. Consequently, the Union has no right whatever to “lay claim” to me, whereas I claim that G. told certain other persons of our conversation, although he had formally promised me that, prior to our group making contact with the Union, he would inform no one except the arrested person. Since you have informed me of his claim, I hope you will not refuse, being in Paris, to inform him likewise of this claim of mine. If “the rumour is heavy on the ground”,[7] it is G. who is to blame for it.[1]

Now passing to the heart of the matter. Amalgamation is impossible. So is federation, if the word is understood in its real sense, i.e., a certain agreement, a treaty, mutual obligations, etc. “The endeavour to afford each other as much help as possible”—is, I think, not bound up with federation, but is possible also without it, and is possible in general, although I do not know whether it is easily practicable. If the Union sincerely desired this, it would hardly have started with ultimatums and the threat of a boycott (that was precisely the meaning of the words used by the person who delivered your letter); that cannot serve to improve relations.

We are an independent literary group. We want to remain independent. We do not consider it possible to carry on without such forces as Plekhanov and the Emancipation of Labour group, but no one is entitled to conclude from this that we shall forego even a particle of our independence. That is all we can say at the moment to people who want to know above all what our attitude is to the Emancipation of Labour group. To anyone who is not satisfied with this, we have nothing to say except: judge us by our deeds if you do not believe our words. If, however, it is a question not of the present moment, but of the more or less near future, then, of course, we shall not refuse to impart to people with whom we shall have close relations more detailed information on the form of the relations between us and the Emancipation of Labour group.

You will ask: what kind of relations will you have with the Union? For the time being none, because it is our unalterable decision to remain an independent group and enjoy the closest co-operation of the Emancipation of Labour group. This decision, however, is distrusted by the Union, which fears that we will not be capable of sustaining our complete independence, that we will fall into an “impossible” (your expression) polemical tone. If our activity dispels this distrust on the part of the Union, good relations can be established between us, otherwise they cannot. Voilà tout. You write: “The Union is looking to you”; but obviously we can only help the Union with writings, and it is no less obvious that at the present time, when all our vital juices must go to nourish our coming offspring,[8] we cannot afford to feed other people’s children.

You write that 1) there are no disagreements in principle, and that 2) the Union is ready to prove in practice its determination to fight the “Economic trend”. We are certain that on both these points you are mistaken. Our conviction is based on such writings as the postscript to the Anti-Credo,[9] the reply to Vademecum,[10] No. 6 of Rabocheye Dyelo,[11] the preface to the pamphlet A Turning Point in the Jewish Labour Movement, and others. We intend to come out in writing with a refutation of the opinion that there are no disagreements in principle (so that we shall have some relations with the Union: relations between parties engaged in a polemic).

Now for the last and main point: are we right or not in regarding you as having had “a very, very sharp change of views”? Let us recall how things stood in Russia: you knew that we wanted to found an independent literary enterprise, you knew that we were for Plekhanov. Consequently, you knew everything, and not only did not refuse to participate, but, on the contrary, yourself used such an expression as “our” enterprise (do you remember our last talk in your flat en troits?), thus giving us grounds for expecting the closest participation from you. Now, however, it turns out that you are silent on the question of your participation, that you set us the “task” of “settling the conflict abroad at all costs”, that is to say, a task which we have not undertaken and are not undertaking—without, of course, giving up the hope that our foundation of an independent enterprise with the co-operation of the Emancipation of Labour group may create a basis for settling the conflict. Now, apparently, you doubt the expediency of our group establishing an independent enterprise, for you write that the existence of two organisations with “each leaving the other to act as the spirit moves it” will be bad for the cause. It seems indubitable to us that your views have undergone a sharp change. We have now set before you with complete frankness how matters stand with us, and we should be very glad if our exchange of views on the question of “impending tasks” were not limited to this.

Address: Nürnberg, Ph. Roegner.


[1] Secondly, yet another little departure: I heard out both G., whom I met in the course of several days, and the other side. You, on the other hand, heard out only the Unionists; but no more or less influential and authoritative representatives of the other side. Hence it seems to me that it is you, if anybody, who has violated the rule of “audiatur et altera pars” “(hear the other side as well”—Ed.)—Lenin

[2] On September 6 Lenin left Nuremberg for Munich, which was chosen as the residence for the members of the editorial board of the all-Russia illegal Marxist newspaper Iskra. p. 48

[3] This refers to the group consisting of V. I. Lenin, Y. O. Martov and A. N. Potresov formed on Lenin’s initiative upon his return from exile at the beginning of 1900 with the object of setting up abroad an all-Russia illegal Marxist newspaper. p. 48

[4] This refers to the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad (see Note 39). p. 48

[5] Here and elsewhere the reference is to Lenin’s talks with Ts. Kopolson (“Grishin”), a member of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad. p. 48

[6] This refers to the Emancipation of Labour group, the first Russian Marxist group, founded by Plekhanov in Geneva in 1883. Other members of the group were P. B. Axelrod, L. G. Deutsch, V. I. Zasulich and V. N. Ignatov. The E. L. group did a great deal to disseminate Marxism in Russia. It translated into Russian, published abroad and distributed in Russia the works of the founders of Marxism: Manifesto of the Communist Party by Marx and Engels; Wage-Labour and Capitalism by Marx; Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Engels and other works. Plekhanov and his group dealt a severe blow to Narodism. The two drafts of a programme for Russian Social-Democrats written by Plekhanov in 1883 and 1885 and published by the E. L. group were an important step towards preparing the ground for and establishing a Social-Democratic Party in Russia. An important part in spreading Marxist views in Russia was played by Plekhanov’s essays: Socialism and the Political Struggle (1883), Our Differences (1885) and The Development of the Monist View of History (1895). The E. L. group, however, committed serious errors; they clung to remnants of the Narodnik views, underestimated the revolutionary capacity of the peasantry and overestimated the role of the liberal bourgeoisie. These errors were the embryo of the future Menshevik views held by Plekhanov and other members of the group.

Lenin pointed out that the E. L. group “only laid the theoretical foundations for the Social-Democratic movement and took the first step towards the working-class movement” (see Vol. 20, P. 278 of this edition).

At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. in August 1903 the E. L. group announced that it had ceased its activities as a group. p. 48

[7] The rumour refers to the forthcoming publication of the newspaper Iskra.

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

As it was impossible to publish a revolutionary newspaper in Russia on account of police persecution, Lenin, while still in exile in Siberia, evolved a detailed plan for its publication abroad. When his exile ended (in January 1900) Lenin immediately set about putting his plan into effect.

The first issue of Lenin’s Iskra was published in Leipzig in December 1900; later 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 organization of secret printing-presses, the acquisition of Russian type, etc.) was rendered by the German Social-Democrats Clara Zetkin, Adolf Braun and others, as well as by Julian Marchlewski, a Polish revolutionary residing at Munich at the 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, Y. O. Martov, P. B. Axelrod, A. N. Potresov and V. 1. Zasulich. The first secretary of the board was I. G. Smidovich-Leman; in the spring of 1901 this post was taken over by N. K. Krupskaya, who also conducted the correspondence between Iskra and the Social-Democratic organisations in Russia. Lenin was virtually Editor-in-Chief and the leading figure in Iskra, in which he published his articles on all fundamental issues of Party organisation and the class struggle of the proletariat in Russia, and dealt with the most important international events.

Iskra became the centre for the unification of Party forces, for the gathering and training of Party cadres. R.S.D.L.P. groups and committees of a Leninist Iskra trend were set up in a number of Russian cities (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Samara and others). Iskrist organisations sprang up and worked under the direct leadership of Lenin’s disciples and associates N. E. Bauman, I. V. Babushkin, S. I. Gusev, M. I. Kalinin, P. A. Krasikov, G. M. Krzhizhanovsky, P. 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 Iskra No. 21), and prepared the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., which was held in July-August 1903. By the time the Congress was convened most of the local Social-Democratic organisations in Russia had adopted the Iskra position, approved its tactics, programme and plan of organisation, 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 Second Congress approved an editorial board consisting of Lenin, Plekhanov and Martov. Despite the Congress decision Martov refused to participate, and issues Nos. 46-51 of Iskra were edited by Lenin and Plekhanov. Later Plekhanov adopted a Menshevik stand 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 52 was edited by Plekhanov alone. On November 13 (26), 1903, Plekhanov, on his own initiative and in defiance of the will of the Congress, co-opted all the old Menshevik editors to the editorial board. Beginning with issue 52 the Mensheviks turned Iskra into their own organ. p. 48

[8] Meaning the newspaper Iskra. p. 49

[9] In August 1899, upon receiving from A. I. Ulyanova-Yelizarova in St. Petersburg the manifesto of the Economists which she called “the Credo of the ‘young’ group”, Lenin wrote his Anti-Credo—“A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats” (see Vol. 4, pp. 167-82 of this edition). The author of the Credowas Y. D. Kuskova, then a member of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad. The manifesto of the Economists was not intended for the press, and, as Lenin pointed out, was published “without the consent and perhaps even against the will of its authors”, because the Economists feared public criticism of their opportunist views (see Vol. 5, p. 364 of this edition). p. 50

[10] Vademecum for the Editors of Rabocheye Dyelo. A Collection of Material Published by the Emancipation of Labour Group, with a Preface by G. V. Plekhanov (Geneva, February 1900) was in the ranks of the R.S.D.L.P., chiefly against Economism of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad and of its organ the journal Rabocheye Dyelo. p. 50

[11] Rabocheye Dyelo (Workers’ Cause)—a journal, organ of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad, published in Geneva from April 1899 to February 1902. Twelve numbers (nine books) were issued in all. The editorial board of Rabocheye Dyelo was the centre of the Economists abroad. Rabocheye Dyelo supported Bernstein’s slogan of “freedom of criticism” of Marxism, and took an opportunist stand on questions of the tactics and organisational tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats. Its supporters propagated opportunist ideas making the proletariat’s political struggle subservient to the economic struggle; they exalted spontaneity in the working-class movement and denied the leading role of the Party. V. P. Ivanshin, one of the journal’s editors, also took part in editing Rabochaya Mysl, organ of the outspoken Economists, which Rabocheye Dyelo supported. At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. the Rabocheya Dyelo group represented the extreme Right, opportunist wing of the Party. p. 50

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