First published in 1928.
Sent from London to Marseilles.
Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 108-109.
Translated: Clemens Dutt
Transcription\Markup: D. Moros
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I received your letter, and I reply, to start with, in a couple of words: I don’t feel at all well, I am all done up.
On the point you have raised, I have not seen a single letter. I think you are under a misapprehension. Who could think of “unorganising” the workers’ circles, groups and organisations instead of increasing and strengthening them? You write that I have not indicated how a strictly secret organisation can have contact with the mass of workers. That is hardly the case, for (although that is vient sans dire) you yourself quote the passage on p. 96 concerning the need “in as large a number as possible (Lenin’s italics) and with the widest variety of functions” for “a large number (N.B.!) [ a large number!] I of other organisations” (i.e., besides the central organisation of professional revolutionaries). But you are wrong in finding an absolute antithesis where I have merely established a gradation and marked the limits of the extreme links of this gradation. For a whole chain of links occurs, beginning from the handful making up the highly secret and close-knit core of professional revolutionaries (the centre) and ending with the mass “organisation without members”. I point out merely the trend in the changing character of the links: the greater the “mass” character of the organisation, the less definitely organised and the less secret should it be—that is my thesis. And you want to understand this as meaning that there is no need for intermediaries between the mass and the revolutionaries! Why, the whole essence lies in these intermediaries! And since I point out the characteristics of the extreme links and stress (and I do stress) the need for intermediate links, it is obvious that the latter will have their place between the “organisation of revolutionaries” and the “mass organisation”—between between as regards the type of their structure, i.e., they will be less narrow and less secret than the centre, but more so than a “weavers” union”, and so forth. In a “factory circle” (needless to say, we must aim at having a circle of intermediaries in each factory), for example, it is essential to find a “middle” course: on the one hand, the whole, or almost the whole, factory must inevitably know such and such a leading worker, trust him and obey him; on the other hand, the “circle” should arrange things so that all its members cannot be identified, so that the one in closest contact with the mass cannot be caught red-handed, cannot be exposed at all. Doesn’t that follow logically from what is said in Lenin’s book?
The ideal of a “factory circle” is quite clear: four or five (I am speaking by way of example) revolutionary workers—they must not all be known to the mass. One member, probably, must be known, and he needs to be protected from exposure; let it be said of him: he is one of us, a clever chap, although he does not take part in the revolution (not visibly). One member maintains contact with the centre. Each of them has an alternate member. They conduct several circles (trade-union, educational, distribution, spy—catching, arming, etc., etc.), the degree of secrecy, naturally, of a circle for catching spies, for example, or for procuring arms, being quite different from that of one devoted to the reading of Iskra or the reading of legal literature, and so on and so forth. The degree of secrecy will be inversely proportional to the number of members of the circle and directly proportional to the remoteness of the circle’s aims from the immediate struggle.
I do not know whether it is worth while writing specially about this: if you think it is, return this letter to me together with yours, as material, and I shall think it over. I hope to meet the St. Petersburg comrade here and talk things over with him in detail.
All the very best.
 What Is To Be Done? (See present edition, Vol. 5, p. 466).—Ed.
 Smidovich, Pyotr Germogenovich (1874-1935)—Social-Democrat, Iskrist; after the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.—a Bolshevik. By profession an electrical engineer. Started his revolutionary activities in St. Petersburg in the late nineties, at first was inclined towards Economism, and then joined Iskra. At the end of 1900 was arrested and in 1901 deported abroad; was a member of the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad. In 1900 worked in the Moscow District Committee of the Party. After the October Socialist Revolution occupied important administrative and business posts. p. 108