V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written in the second half of July 1901
Published: First published in 1925. Sent from Munich to Vilna. Printed from the typewritten copy found in police records.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 76-79.
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

We have just received a letter with the plan of Pakhomy’s Brother, Yablochkov and Bruskov. We cannot conceal that not only are we unable to agree with any part of this plan (though the first part is perhaps debatable), but we were simply astonished by it, especially by the second part, namely: 1) that everyone move to St. Petersburg, 2) that a regional organ of the Iskra organisation in Russia be established. So astonished that we apologise beforehand for any too sharp word that may slip into our comments.

It is unbelievable! After a whole year of desperate efforts we have barely succeeded in starting to form a staff of leaders arid organisers in Russia for this vast and most urgent task (this staff is still terribly small, for we have only 2-3 persons in addition to the three mentioned above, whereas an all-Russia organ requires more than one dozen such energetic collaborators, taking this word not merely in a literary sense), and suddenly the edifice is to be dismantled again and we are to return to the old primitive methods! I cannot imagine more suicidal tactics for Iskra! A regional organ like the existing Yuzhny Rabochy[2] means a mass of money and personnel expended all over again on editorial offices, technical facilities, delivery arrangements, etc., and for the sake of what? For the sake of five issues in eighteen months! Even this it will not be able to do now in eighteen months, for Yuzhny Rabochy had the advantage of being founded by a full-formed Committee, i.e., by a whole organisation at the apogee of its development. At present there are only three of you. If, instead of combating the narrowness which makes the St. Petersburger forget about Moscow, the Muscovite about St. Petersburg, the Kiev   man about everything except Kiev, if instead of training people to handle all-Russia affairs (it takes years to train them for this, if we want to build a political party worthy of the name), if, instead of this, we shall again encourage primitive methods, local narrowness and the development of a Gothamite instead of an all-Russia Social-Democracy, it will be nothing but Gothamite foolishness, it cannot be anything else. It has been found out by experience how unequipped we are for creating a really political organ, how few contributors and reporters we have, how few people with political connections, how few practical workers to handle technical jobs and distribution.

Russia has few of them, as it is, without our splintering them still further and dropping an all-Russia undertaking that has already been launched and which needs all-round support, for the sake of founding a new local enterprise. At best, in the event of this new plan being a shining success, it will lower the standard of Russian Social-Democracy, lower its political significance, because there cannot be a “local” political newspaper, since in a local organ the general-political section is always bound to suffer. You write: a “mass” organ. We totally fail to understand what kind of animal this is. Do you mean to say that Pakhomy’s Brother, too, has begun to think that we must descend to a lower level, from the advanced workers to the mass, that we must write more simply and closer to life? Do you mean to say our aim is to descend closer to the “mass” instead of raising this already stirring mass to the level of an organised political movement? Is it letters from factories and workshops that we lack, and not political exposures, political knowledge and political generalisations? And in order to extend and deepen our political generalisations we are invited to fragment our work as a whole into regional undertakings! And besides depreciating the cause politically they will inevitably depreciate it technically by the plan for a regional organ. By combining all forces on Iskra, we can set up a monthly newspaper (this has now been proved after a year’s experience) with really political material, but in the case of a regional organ it is impossible just now to think even of four issues per annum. If we don’t skip impatiently from one plan to another, and are not put

out by temporary setbacks and the slow growth of an all-Russia undertaking, it would be quite possible after six months or a year to achieve, a fortnightly organ (which is persistently in our thoughts). We assume, of course, that Pakhomy’s Brother, Yablochkov and Bruskov stand by the previous line, approving both the political trend and the organisational plan of Iskra, but if they have altered their views on these matters, that is quite a different question, of course. We are quite at a loss to understand why these people have lost confidence in this plan, and so quickly too (because they cannot fail to see that the new plan destroys the old one). Is it because of shipments? So far we have attempted only once to arrange a route and this attempt has not yet led to a complete failure—and even after two or three failures we ought not to throw up the sponge. Have not these people begun to sympathise with publication in Russia, rather than abroad? Surely they know that everything was done for the former and about 1,000 rubles spent, but so far without result. We must say that in general we consider that any plan for publishing any sort of regional Or local organ of the Iskra organisation in Russia is decidedly incorrect and harmful. The Iskra organisation exists to support and develop the paper, and to unite the Party through it, and not for a dispersion of our forces, of which there is more than enough without this organisation. As for everyone going to St. Petersburg, we can only say that we have very few Party workers like P. B. and Pakhomy’s Brother and we need to preserve them. Living in one place, the danger of a general roundup is a hundred times greater. If they find that one person there is not enough (it’s for them to decide), let them add to him the one who is being released in the autumn (Pakhomy’s Brother), but not both. And then, for the sake of both security and united work, let them not forget that it is extremely desirable to change their place of residence from time to time. If, finally, success were achieved in winning over the Committee in St. Petersburg, it should, of course, be made to devote itself heart and soul to Iskra and its more frequent publication, and to oppose all new primitive undertakings. Primitivism is a much more dangerous enemy than Economism, for vital roots of Economism, we are profoundly convinced,   are deeply buried in primitivism. And there will never be any political movement (political not in words only, but in fact, i.e., one directly influencing the government and preparing a general assault) until we overcome this primitivism and eradicate all belief in it. If St. Petersburg has bought 400 copies of Yuzhny Rabochy, the Sotsialist[3] group has set about distributing 1,000 copies of Iskra Let them organise the distribution of this number of copies, let them arrange for it to contain a detailed St. Petersburg section (if necessary, it will be a special supplement), and then there will have been accomplished the very task that has overshadowed for you all other tasks of winning over St. Petersburg. Let us remind you that all “practical workers” are agreed that Yuzhny Rabochy has no advantages over Iskra as regards accessibility to workers, so that this argument, too, falls to the ground. It is absurd and criminal to disperse forces and funds—Iskra has no money, not a single Russian agent is obtaining a farthing for it, and yet everyone is thinking up some new undertaking requiring new funds. All this shows a lack of self-discipline. We must be more patient; by means of our plan we shall achieve our ends, albeit not so soon, whereas what can be reckoned on by implementing the proposed plan is clear from the lamentable experience of Rabocheye Znamya.[4] Our friends began to carry out their plan in such haste that Yablochkov travelled to St. Petersburg in defiance of the condition laid down, abandoning Odessa, in which the presence of our agent was essential. We demand that the new plan be discarded. If our arguments are thought unconvincing, let all new plans be put off until our congress, which we shall convene, if necessary, when the thing has been got going. As far as popular literature is concerned, the idea is to extend the publication of popular pamphlets. This letter expresses the opinion not only of our group but also of the Emancipation of Labour group.


[1] Tsederbaum, Sergei Ostpovich (1879-1939)—joined the Social-Democratic movement in 1898. Worked on the organisation of transport facilities for Iskra publications. After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. became an active Menshevik. After the October Socialist Revolution retired from political activities. p. 76

[2] Yuzhny Rabochy (Southern Worker)—a Social-Democratic illegal newspaper, published from January 1900 to April 1903 by a group of this name. At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. the group’s delegates adopted a “Centre” position (that of “middling opportunists”, as Lenin called the representatives of the Centre). The Second Congress decided to dissolve the Yuzhny Rabochy group as well as all separate Social-Democratic groups and organisations. p. 76

[3] The Sotsialist group was organised in St. Petersburg in the summer of 1900. It was one of the groups that were dissatisfied with the Economist tendency of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle, and gave prominence to the political struggle. In January 1901 it amalgamated with the Rabocheye Znamya group. The group broke up after the arrests in the spring of 1901. p. 79

[4] The Rabocheye Znamya group (Workers’ Banner) came into being during the second half of 1897. It disapproved of Economism and set itself the aim of conducting political propaganda among the workers. It published the newspaper Rabocheye Znamya (three issues were put out) and several pamphlets and leaflets. In January 1901 the St. Petersburg Rabocheye Znamya group amalgamated with the Sotsialist group, but in the course of January-April the members of the united group who were in Russia were arrested. Most of the members of the St. Petersburg Rabocheye Znamya group joined the Iskra organisation. p. 79

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