Iskra, No. 16, February 1, 1902.
Published according to the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Volume 5, pages 344-346.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
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The following letter has been received by the Editorial Board:
“In dealing with the question of agitation (if I am not mistaken, in No. 13) Iskra opposes agitational leaflets (pamphlets of two or three pages) on political subjects. In the opinion of the editors, news papers can successfully replace such literature. Newspapers are, of course, a fine thing. Nobody would dream of disputing that. But can they replace leaflets that are specially intended for widespread distribution among the masses? The editors have received a letter from Russia in which a group of workers-agitators gave their opinion on this subject. Iskra’s reply is obviously due to a misunderstanding. The question of agitation is as important today as the question of demonstrations. It is, therefore, to be desired that the editors raise this question once again and on this occasion devote to it greater attention.
Anyone who takes the trouble to read our reply to the letter from “Southern Workers” in No. 13 of Iskra[See present volume, p. 326.—Ed.] together with this letter will easily convince himself that it is precisely the author of the letter who labours under an obvious misunderstanding. There was no question of Iskra’s “opposing agitational leaflets”; it never entered anyone’s head that a newspaper could “replace leaflets”. Our correspondent did not notice that leaflets are in fact proclamations. Such literature as proclamations cannot be replaced by anything and will always be absolutely essential—on this point the “Southern Workers” and Iskra are in full accord. But they are also agreed that this type of literature is not sufficient. If we speak of good housing for the workers and at the same time say that good food is not enough for them, that would hardly be taken to mean that we are against” good food. The question is—which is the highest form of agitational literature? The “Southern Workers” did not say a word about the newspaper when they raised this question. Their silence could, of course, have been due to local circumstances, but we, although we did not in the least wish to enter into “disputes” with our correspondents, naturally could not refrain from reminding them that the proletariat should also organise its own newspaper just as the other classes of the population have done, that fragmentary work alone is not enough, and that the regular, active, and general work of all localities for a revolutionary organ is essential.
As far as the three- or four-page pamphlets are concerned, we did not speak “against” them in the least, but merely doubted the practicability of a plan to develop them into regular literature distributed “simultaneously through out Russia”. If they consist of three or four pages, they will be, essentially, only proclamations. In all parts of Russia we have many very good proclamations that are not in the least heavy reading, both student and workers’ proclamations, that sometimes run to six or eight small pages. A really popular pamphlet, capable of explaining even one single question to a completely unprepared worker, would probably be much bigger in size and there would be no need and no possibility of distributing it “simultaneously throughout Russia” (since it is not only of topical significance). Fully recognising, as we do, every variety of political literature, old and new, so long as it is really good political literature, we would advise working, not upon an invention of a midway type of agitational medium— something between leaflet and popular pamphlet, but for a revolutionary organ that really deserves the name of periodical (appearing, not once, but at least two or four times, a month) and which is an All-Russian organ.