V. I.   Lenin


To:   V. A. NOSKOV[2]

Published: First published in 1925. Sent from London to Zurich. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 110-113.
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.
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August 4, 1902

Dear B. N.,

I received both your letters and was very glad to see from them that the imaginary “misunderstandings” are really just smoke, as I already said in writing to Cook (I wrote that I was convinced of this).

You complain of our “agents”. I want to talk this over with you—it is such a painful subject with me too, “Agents have been recruited too lightly.” I know it, I know it only too well, I never forget it, but that is just the tragedy of our situation (believe me, tragedy is none too strong a word!)—that we are obliged to act in this way, that we are powerless to overcome the Jack of management prevailing in our affairs. I am well aware that your words contained no reproach to us. But try to put yourself in our place and adopt such an attitude as to make you say not “your agents” but “our agents”. You could, and in my opinion should, adopt such an attitude—and only then will all possibility of misunderstandings have been removed once for all. Substitute the first person for the second, keep an eye yourself on “our” agents, help to search for, change and replace them, and then you will speak not of our agents being “unpleasant” (such language is bound to be misunderstood: it is regarded as an expression of estrangement, it is regard ed as such in general and by the members of our editorial collegium who have not had an opportunity of clearing up the question with you), but of the shortcomings of our common cause. The mass of these shortcomings weighs more and more heavily upon my mind as time goes on. The time is now fast approaching (I feel it) when tho question will face us squarely: either Russia will appoint its   people, put forward people who will come to our aid and set matters right, or.... And although I know and see that such people are being put forward and that their number is growing, this is taking place so slowly and with such interruptions, and the “creaking” of the machinery is so nerve-racking, that ... sometimes it becomes extremely painful.

Agents have been recruited too lightly.” Yes, but after all we don’t make the “human material”, we take and have to take what we are given. We couldn’t live without it. A man is going to Russia—“I want to work for Iskra,” he says. He is an honest man, devoted to the cause. Well, he goes, of course, and passes for an “agent”, although none of us had ever handed out such a title. And what means have we for checking “agents”, guiding them or appointing them to other places? More often than not we can’t even get letters, and in nine cases out of ten (I speak from experience) all our plans in regard to the future activity of the “agent” end in smoke as soon as the frontier is crossed, and the agent muddles along just anyhow. Believe me, I am literally losing all faith in routes, plans, etc., made here, because I know beforehand that nothing will come of it all. We “have to” make frantic efforts doing (for lack of suitable people) other people’s jobs. In order to appoint agents, to look after them, to answer for them, to unite and guide them in practice—it is necessary to be everywhere, to rush about, to see all of them on the job, at work. This requires a team of practical organisers and leaders, but we haven’t got any; at least, very, very few to speak of.... That’s the whole trouble. Looking at our practical mismanagement is often so infuriating that it robs one of the capacity for work; the only consolation is that it must be a vital cause if it is growing—and obviously it is—despite all this chaos. That means when the ferment is over we shall have good wine.

Now do you understand why the mere remark by an Iskrist: “those agents of ’yours’ are rather lightweight” can almost drive us to distraction? Try taking the place of these “lightweights” yourselves instead, we feel like saying. We keep repeating and even writing in our booklets that the whole trouble is that “there are plenty of people   and there are no people”, yet we have this lack of people thrust under our nose. There is only one way out, only one solution that is most imperatively necessary, urgent in the most literal, unexaggerated sense of the word—for time will not wait and our enemies are growing too, including Osvobozhdeniye[3]and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and all the various new Social-Democratic groups, beginning with the lightheads of Zhizn and ending with the Borbist[4] intriguers. The solution is for the Iskrists in Russia to get together at last, find the people and take the management of “Iskra” into their own hands, for truly it is said: our land is great and abundant, but disorder reigns in it. People must be found, for there are people, but they must be guard ed more carefully than the apple of one’s eye, not merely in the direct sense of guarding from the police, but guarded for this urgent matter, without allowing them to be divert ed by other, generally useful but untimely tasks. When, owing to a complete lack of people, we are compelled to seize on the most “lightweight”, it is not surprising that we cannot stand by calmly watching others postponing our work “for later on”.

If all the present, available supporters of Iskra were at once, without delaying, to take up the management of Iskra, its independent equipment with the means for sending across the frontier, its distribution, and supply of material, etc., we would have already an actual Central Committee, a C.C. disposing de facto of “agents” (for the C.C. and not the editorial board should dispose of the agents) and managing all practical matters.

It is being said: if there are no people, where is the C.C. to get them? But we do find the people, even if only light weights. One heavyweight among ten lightweights does not take the lead, but the experience will not have been wasted. People learn in the course of the work: some drop out, others replace them, and once things have been set going it is ten times easier for the others to take up this work which has been running smoothly. If we were to set up a C.C. today (not formally), tomorrow it would be formal and would already be drawing capable people from every local organisation ten times more energetically than now. And it is only this “drawing from the local organisations”   that can create a state of affairs under which these local organisations would be properly served.

That is why I am so jealous, so devilishly jealous about Semyon Semyonich[5] and why the glance (the mere glance) at an “outsider” worries me. I can’t adopt any other attitude, for unless the Iskrists say: this is my business, unless they say it out loud, unless they come to grips with the job, tackle it tooth and nail, unless they begin to upbraid the others for lack of tenacity [you once said to me: upbraid the Iskrists! And I replied: it is not I but you should do so, for only one who takes part practically in the work itself and who knows it thoroughly has the right to do so]— unless the Iskrists do this, it means that they want to leave us “only with lightweights”, and that would be the beginning of the end.

It is time to conclude. I am extremely desirous that you and Cook should have as concrete an idea as possible of our position, understand it and say not you, but we. In any case, it is essential that Cook should write to us frequently, and directly, and keep us in closer touch with Semyon Semyonich and the latter with us.

As to your visit here, if you still have to be in Zurich, that is a different matter. Why are you feeling bad? Is your health quite all right? Should you not take a little rest?

I am still unwell, so it is no use even thinking of a journey.

Write me your opinion of Zernova and Sanin. I have heard something about the latter from various persons and got the impression that he is no worker, that he is much too “wild”.[1] Is it true that Zernova is a bad person, that is, not merely in the sense of being fond of “adventure” (that, in itself, is not so bad) but as being unreliable?

All the very best.


[1] This word is in English in the original.—Ed.

[2] Noskov, Vladimir Alexandrovich (1878-1913)—a Social-Democrat. In the late nineties joined the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. In April 1902 attended the Zurich meeting of the Iskra editorial board where the Party’s draft programme was discussed. In 1902-03 organised the transportation of illegal Social-Democratic literature to Russia and took part in organising the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. At the Second Congress joined the Bolsheviks and was elected to the Central Committee; after the Congress adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the Mensheviks; came out against the convocation of the Third Congress. p. 110

[3] Osvobozhdeniye (Emancipation)—a fortnightly, published abroad from June 18 (July 1), 1902 to October 5 (18), 1905, edited by P. B. Struve. The journal was the organ of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie and expounded the ideas of moderate-monarchist   liberalism. In 1903 the Osvobozhdeniye League formed around the journal (officially it came into existence in January 1904). The League existed up till October 1905. p. 112

[4] Lenin here refers to the members of the Borba group (see Note 93). p. 112

[5] Semyon Semyonovich—a code name for the Northern League of the R.S.D.L.P. (or the Northern Labour League), which arose in 1900-01. The League united the Social-Democratic organisations of the Vladimir, Yaroslavl and Kostroma gubernias. From the outset the Northern League was linked with Iskra and supported the latter’s political line and plan of organisation.

After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L P. the Northern Labour League was reconstituted as the Northern Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., the local committees becoming groups of the Northern Committee. At the conference of Northern organisations of the R.S.D.L.P. held in Kostroma in July 1905 the Northern Committee was liquidated and separate committees were formed in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Yaroslavl and Kostroma. p. 113

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