V. I. Lenin

Secret Document

Published: Iskra No. 5, June 1901. Printed from the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 35.2-36.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  

We draw readers’ attention to Witte’s minute published by Zarya,{1} which appeared in the hands of Dietz in Stuttgart. The minute, aimed against the draft of the former Minister for the Interior Goremykin on the   introduction of Zemstvos in non-Zemstvo gubernias,{2} is interesting as a document giving a brazen exposé of our rulers’ most secret yearnings. We hope to deal in detail with this remarkable document and with Mr. R.N.S.’s introduction to it in the next issue of our newspaper.{3} This introduction, while showing that its author is aware of the political importance of the Russian working-class movement, is in all other respects marked with the usual immaturity of political thinking so characteristic of our liberals.


{1} A reference to Minister of Finance S. Y. Witte’s confidential minute, “The Autocracy and the Zemstvo” (1899), with an introduction and notes by R.N.S. (P. B. Struve), published by the Zarya Publishers in 1901.

{2} The Zemstvos were introduced in the central gubernias of Russia in 1864 and were local organs of self-government led by the gentry. Their writ was confined to local economic matters (hospitals, highways, statistics, insurance, etc.). Their activity was entirely under the control of the governors and the tsarist Ministry of the Interior, who could suspend any decisions the government did not like. p. 36

{3} A reference to the newspaper Iskra, the first all-Russia illegal Marxist newspaper, founded by Lenin in 1900, which played a decisive part in organising the revolutionary Marxist party of the working class.

The first issue of Lenin’s Iskra dated December 1900 appeared in Leipzig; subsequent issues appeared in Munich; from July 1902, in London; and from the spring of 1903, in Geneva. German Social-Democrats, Clara Zetkin, Adolf Braun and others, the Polish revolutionary Julian Marchlewski who was living in Munich at the time, and Harry Quelch, a leader of the British Social-Democratic Federation, rendered great assistance in starting the newspaper (organising a secret printing-press, buying Russian type, etc.).

On Iskra’s Editorial Board were V. I. Lenin, G. V. Plekhanov, L. Martov, P. B. Axelrod, A. N. Potresov and V. I. Zasulich. Its secretary was I. G. Smidovich-Lehmann, and from the spring of 1901, N. K. Krupskaya, who was also in charge of Iskra’s correspondence with Social-Democratic organisations in Russia. Lenin was the virtual editor-in-chief and head of Iskra; he wrote articles on all the cardinal aspects of Party organisation and the class struggle of the proletariat in Russia.

Iskra became the centre round which the Party forces rallied and which gathered and trained the Party cadres. R.S.D.L.P. groups and committees, supporting the views put forward by Lenin’s Iskra, were set up in a number of cities in Russia (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Samara, etc.) and the Iskra organisation in Russia was set up at a congress of Iskra followers in Samara in January 1902.

On Lenin’s initiative and with his direct participation, the Iskra Editorial Board worked out a draft art programme (published in Iskra No. 21) and prepared the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. In a special resolution, the Congress noted the exceptional role played by Iskra in the struggle for the Party and proclaimed it the Central Organ of the R.S.D.L.P.

Soon after the Second Congress of the Party, the Mensheviks, wish Plekhanov’s support, took over control of Iskra. From its No. 52 Iskra ceased to be an organ of revolutionary Marxism. p. 36

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