V. I.   Lenin

Two Letters to I. I. Radchenko

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 176-185.
Translated: ??? ???
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
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Dear Friend,

First of all, my heartiest congratulations to you (and your friends) on a tremendous success: the beginning of the reorganisation of the Local Committee.[2] This may be come a turning-point for our whole movement, and it is therefore of the utmost importance and urgency to carry through this reorganisation to the end. Take particular care of yourself, so that you should manage to complete it.

Let me get down to business now. You ask me to help you with a concrete outline of a plan for local work in connection with all-Russian activities." In order to meet your request immediately, I am for the time being writing to express my personal opinion (so as not to delay matters by having to contact the other members of the Editorial Board, who are at present scattered in different places; they will possibly also send you a few words themselves later). I am not quite sure whether I understand your request correctly. My sources now are: your letter of June 21 and the letter of 2a 3b[3] about the two meetings (you, 2a 3b, and Krasikov) with Vanya (the St. Petersburg League[4]). Judging from these sources (especially the latter), Vanya “now shares our views and frankly acknowledges the demerits of his former stand.” Proceeding from this, I shall continue to write, addressing myself both to you and to Vanya, and I leave it entirely to you to decide whether to transmit my letter to Vanya (and Manya=the Workers’ Organisation[5]) immediately or later, whether to give it in full or with certain amendments, which in case of necessity I   likewise authorise you to make (informing us of all such amendments as far as possible, of course).

Strictly speaking, I am of course unable to give you just now a “concrete outline of a plan for local work in connection with all-Russian activities”: it is impossible for me to do this without a number of detailed conferences both with Vanya and with Manya. All that I can offer is an outline of the practical steps that Vanya should take immediately and before all else, once he has become a new Vanya or wants to become so de facto. It seems to me that the steps planned by all of you at the second meeting with Vanya (and described in the letter of 2a 3b) are wholly correct. I fully agree that “the first thing to do is openly to declare oneself an adherent of certain views.” This is the very thing that must come first, and it can be done only by an open declaration.[6] I am fully aware of the fact that most or many of Vanya’s comrades (i.e., the committees and their members) are strongly prejudiced against such open declarations or at least are unaccustomed to them. This trait is quite comprehensible from the angle of the stage of the movement that has already been passed and of the mistakes that have already been rejected. But just because Vanya holds such an important position, just because in the past he openly declared his old views, which were decidedly at variance with the Iskra views, just because of all this I would particularly earnestly advise the comrades (=Vanya) to overcome this feeling of estrangement and this prejudice. Hitherto our local work has suffered mostly from narrowness and isolation, from the reluctance of the local leaders to tackle actively and resolutely the job of working out general Party questions. Then let Vanya, as he comes over to the adherents of revolutionary Social-Democracy, break with this tradition at once and declare for all to hear that these are his fundamental theoretical views and organisational ideas and that he himself is now going to fight for the realisation of these ideas, urging all other committees to follow suit. This declaration will be of enormous importance both to Vanya and to the whole of Russia; it will be a big event in itself. We need not be afraid of offending Vanya’s old friends, who held different views; every shadow of offence will be removed by the very fact   that Vanya himself will openly and frankly admit that circumstances and experience have convinced him of the erroneousness of the former theoretical views, tactical principles, and organisational plans, in one way or another bound up with “economism.” There will not be even the sem blance of an attack on these old views here, but merely an avowal of his own evolution. The frank straightfor wardness of this avowal will exert an influence on the actual unification of all Russian Social-Democrats and on the full cessation of the “polemics” between them, which will be ten times as great as a hundred protests against the “polemics.”

And so, first and foremost, an open and printed decla ration (in a local bulletin or in Iskra, preferably in both). This step should absolutely not be delayed even for a single week, for without it all other steps may easily prove futile (arrests, etc.), while with it the new road would be estab lished at once.

What should this declaration contain? If Vanya were to ask my comradely advice on this point (but not before he asked me, of course) I would reply: 1) an express repudiation of his old views (theoretical, tactical, and organisational) with a most general description of these views (in one or two words, if possible). 2) A declaration that he is joining the Iskra supporters, subscribes to its theoretical, tactical, and organisational views, and recognises it as the leading organ (N.B., the word “leading” does not at all mean that one necessarily has to agree with it in everything. It merely implies solidarity with the guiding principles of a certain organ. This declaration is fully compatible both with a reference to particular differences, should any exist, and with an intimation that I want the following changes and that I, now an Iskra supporter, will strive to effect them, and try to get these changes made in Iskra). 3) Special emphasis on the demand for the unification or, more accurately, the actual restoration of a united all- Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, by means of joint work, which should begin with a rallying about Iskra so as to convert it into an instrument of genuinely nation-wide agitation and which (the work) should lead to the creation of a militant all-Russian organisation, capable   of launching a determined onslaught on the autocracy. 4) An acknowledgement (already made, but not yet published by Vanya) of the need to reorganise the structure and functioning of Vanya and Manya (their relationships, etc.), an announcement (so to speak) of a revision of their structure. 5) An acknowledgement of the need for closer links and fusion with the Russian Iskra organisation[7] so as to accomplish the tasks Vanya and this organisation will henceforth share. 6) The assignment of one or several members (perhaps from Vanya and from Manya, etc.) of the St. Petersburg Committee for the matter of immediately beginning the practical realisation of the above-mentioned task, i.e., fusion with Iskra and unification of the Party.[1]

Of these six points, the sixth, of course, can by no means be made public, which may likewise be the case with some of the other points as well. The declaration could conclude with an ellipsis, and make the frank reservation that such and such (or “subsequent”) points cannot be made public for reasons of secrecy. But I repeat: if Vanya has really come over to our side he should not postpone this declaration for even a single week.

It is at such a meeting of delegates from the St. Peters burg Committee with Sonya (the Russian Iskra organisation) and with the Iskra Editorial Board (abroad) that a really concrete plan will be prepared, not only for the reorganisation of work in St. Petersburg, but also for the actual unification of the Party, the constitution of an Organising Committee to prepare the Second Party Congress, etc., etc., etc.

Further, at your second meeting it was proposed that “before proceeding to carry out the above-mentioned plan [to send delegates abroad in July] a preliminary examination be made of the state of affairs in various areas of our vast fatherland so as to have a basis for discussion at the congress.” I consider this decision (I say so quite frankly) a mistake, and I would advise you to abandon it. It means delaying matters and dispersing your forces. Let us first achieve a single objective: let us (we and Vanya) reach   an understanding among ourselves. This will already be equivalent to complete solidarity between Vanya and Sonya. And given this solidarity, the next practical task (a tour of Russia) will be accomplished by Vanya=+Sonya (+or=?) quite easily. But there is no sense in dispersing our efforts now: first (1) let us finally convince Vanya and Manya, then (2) publicly announce our standpoint, further (3) come to an immediate understanding with Iskra (abroad, where Iskra already has a whole file of material on the state of affairs in the various localities of our vast father land; don’t disdain this file, comrades!) and (4) with Sonya, and only then (5) tour Russia with the express practical aim of the actual unification of the work (and the convocation of a general Party congress).

There, if you please, is a “concrete outline of a plan” of immediate practical tasks. If § 2 presents difficulties, § 3 can be moved to first place (this, of course, will entail some delay, but under certain circumstances an unavoidable delay). But both 2 and 3 must be insisted on at all costs. Moreover, it is of the utmost importance that the members of Vanya who are coming here should be invested with the fullest possible powers and that if possible there be two of them rather than one (although this really depends entirely on the local conditions, and of those you are in a better position to judge).

I believe I can conclude with this. Please let me know your opinion as soon as possible: have I understood your request correctly? is my “concrete plan” feasible? etc. I am afraid that things are not yet so good and that Vanya is not yet a full adherent. What is particularly suspicious is that Manya has not yet been given What Is to Be Done?[See present edition, Vol. 5.—Ed.] It would be a good thing if you could meet with Vanya again in pleno (i.e., at a full session of the St. Petersburg Committee): this would be of the utmost importance in accurately establishing whether there are any opponents, just who they are, and what main points they advance. It would be of equal importance that you meet with Manya directly. You must hasten Vanya’s trip here (and it would be good for Manya to come too!) a s   m u c h   a s   p o s s i b l e   a n d   a t   a l l   c o s t s (have them come straight to London; give them the London address without fail and also Meshcheryakov’s Belgian address for all eventualities). If you succeed in doing this, it will already be a great achievement guaranteeing that your work will bear fruit even if you are all arrested now. And don’t forget a contingency like that is quite possible, and that it is therefore imperative to accomplish the first real step (declaration, trip) as quickly as possible and without the slightest delay.

If in fact Vanya unreservedly becomes one of us, then we shall hold the Second Party Congress within a few months and make Iskra a fortnightly or even a weekly organ of the Party. Try to convince Vanya that we haven’t the slightest intention of distracting him from local work, that St. Petersburg is a “locality” which is of direct importance to the whole of Russia as well, that the merger of Vanya with Sonya will greatly intensify local work, and will at the same time immediately lift the whole Party out of its semi-spectral state and raise it to the stage not only of reality, but also of a power of prime importance.

Warmly shaking your hand,


Written before July 3 (16), 1902 Published according to the manuscript
First Published in 1924, in the magazine Proletarskaya Revolutsia, No. 3



Dear Friend,

The news you sent us recently about the release of Vanya’s friends—the “allies” (=supporters of Rabocheye Dyelo)—again gives rise to some doubts in our mind. Will Vanya hold out now? At all events, put the question to him squarely, get a direct reply, and if it is in the negative make him feel ashamed of himself, using no uncertain language; in any case, let us know immediately how matters stand. If Vanya has again got (or even is about to get) out of our hands, it is all the more imperative that you devote trebled efforts to Manya, if possible to her directly; if not, through your new friends, the conversation with whom you have described to us in such detail and so interestingly.

You should make it your business (if Vanya shows even the slightest signs of unreliability or evasiveness) to prepare the St. Petersburg Iskra-ists for war on the remnants of “economism.” Naturally, there is no need to say anything to them about this war, but all efforts must be put into preparing for it, and as far as possible on both flanks. That is, firstly, try to maintain your established personal relations with our friends in the intellectual half of Vanya, try to see them, influence them, make them feel ashamed, meet the young people among them, and prepare the Iskraists to break with the waverers. The second flank—the workers—is far more important. Your study circle is excellent vantage-ground, and you must above all see to it that this circle develops, becomes conscious of and gives expression to its hostility towards Vanya. Try to supply this circle with What Is to Be Done? and to achieve (judging by your letter, this is not at all difficult) complete unanimity; moreover, you must particularly and emphatically stress the   fact that What Is to Be Done? is levelled precisely and mainly against just this “St. Petersburg” type of people. Dot your i’s in your discussions with them, constantly referring to Vanya as a bad example, an example of what should not be done. I am more than ready to help you in any way I can—for instance, through a series of letters to the circle. First, let this circle become Iskra-ist consciously and in full, become consciously and unreservedly hostile to all of the old “St. Petersburg truck,” to Rabochaya Mysl, to Rabocheye Dyelo, and to all shilly-shallying. Then (and only then) we shall do the following: the declaration you advised Vanya to make and I wrote to you about in detail will be made, in somewhat altered form of course, by the circle, which will raise the “banner of insurrection” against Vanya’s “economists,” and announce a direct campaign for the purpose of winning all of Manya over to its side.

I do not doubt for a moment that this, campaign will end in complete and rapid victory, and I consider that it is not this campaign which constitutes the main difficulty, but the matter of getting people to the point of embarking on an open campaign, of not slipping into compromises with Vanya once more, into making concessions to him, into procrastination, etc. Absolutely no compromises whatever, and ruthless war against the slightest remnants of “economism” and amateurishness—that, in my opinion, is the task you should set yourself in the circle. Better lose three months, half a year, or even more on preparations, and create a militant Iskra-ist circle rather than unite unprepared people with Vanya’s diplomats and cunctators.

Make use of the fact that you have a free hand in the circle and pursue your policy resolutely, keeping people who are not entirely with you well at a distance.

If you manage matters in this way, you will be independent of Vanya’s waverings and vacillations; you will have y o u r   o w n foothold. And if you occasionally have to manoeuvre in your dealings with Vanya, you must not resort to the slightest attempt at manoeuvring in the circle, but at all times maintain an attitude of irreconcilability towards Vanya there. Your tactics will then be quite simple: if Vanya comes closer to you, pat him on the head, but keep tight hold of the stick in your other   hand, i.e., don’t conceal from him the fact that this is not enough, that it is necessary to come over the whole way and come in, and that a little will not satisfy you. If Vanya drifts away, don’t let him get away with a single mistake, with a single misstep. It should be one of your main tasks to fasten on to each of Vanya’s blunders, and make it a subject of merciless exposure and condemnation in the circle (and as far as possible in Iskra too from time to time).

In a word, in your relations with Vanya hold steadfastly to the principle: I want peace with you and to that end I am preparing thoroughly for war against you.

A piece of practical advice in conclusion. By nature Vanya is a diplomat and a pedant. He has now raised the question of alterations in the hovel and it is most likely that on the plausible pretext of this “revision of structure” he will drag things out, invent thousands of compromises, etc. Don’t fall for this bait. Mercilessly deride love of compiling rules. It is not a matter of rules, and whoever thinks it possible to draw up model rules on the basis of certain tactical and organisational ideas understands absolutely nothing at all and must be thoroughly hounded for this lack of understanding. If Vanya imagines that they will discuss the new rules from all angles, rewrite forty para graphs out of the fifty, and then “to a good feast and the wedding,” i.e., that the new work will then begin in accordance with the new rules—if he (as is obvious from everything) imagines this, then it means that he has discarded his old prejudices only in word and that actually he still retains hundreds of stupid ideas against which we must fight and fight again. Castigate pedantry and formalism, and point out that it is not a matter of rules but of 1) coming to an agreement on views, thinking them over thoroughly, and 2) of reaching mutual understanding in the practical work itself.

With this as our standpoint, we snap our fingers at your (Vanya’s) game of rules and state flatly—who we are, what we want and how we work is something you know, and should know, not only from our publications, but also from personal meetings in Russia and abroad (such meetings are unavoidable in the revolutionary movement). If you do not care to go hand in hand with us, say so outright, don’t   hedge, and bear in mind that we will wage a real war against all hedging. Don’t imagine that you will be able to conceal your hedging from us behind revisions of rules, and the like. But if you want to go hand in hand with us, get down to work at once, and then you will see that this work in connection with an all-Russian newspaper, on the paper and with it as a basis, will itself show what new forms are required, and will probably (and even undoubtedly) show that, given a genuine and live movement, these forms will take shape of themselves, without any rules. And when we are strong, we shall organise meetings and conferences four times a year in Russia and twice abroad (or vice versa, depending on circumstances), and all rules will be determined at these conferences (to put it more plainly—we shall send all rules to the devil).

I warmly shake your hand, and I am waiting impatiently for your reply. Do my letters hit the nail on the head, i.e., do they give you what you want?



Written on July 9 (22), 1902 Published according to the manuscript
First Published in 1928 in V. I. Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. V


[1] This (§ 6) has also already been settled de facto at your second meeting: sending comrades abroad for the purpose of coming to a final understanding. —Lenin

[2] The Local Committee—the St. Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.

[3] 2a 3b—the pseudonym of the Bolshevik P. N. Lepeshinsky, a member of the Organising Committee for the convocation of the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

[4] The St. Petersburg League—the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, was organised by Lenin in the autumn of 1895 and united all the Marxist workers’ study circles in St. Petersburg. The League of Struggle was head ed by a Central Group, which was led by Lenin. The League of Struggle was the first in Russia to begin bringing about the union of socialism with the working-class movement, as well as the transition from propaganda of Marxism among a small group of advanced workers to political agitation among the broad masses of the working class.

In December 1895 the tsarist government dealt the League of Struggle a severe blow: during the night of December 8-9 (20-21), 1895, a large number of the League’s leaders, with V. I. Lenin at their head, were arrested, and the first issue of the newspaper Rabocheye Dyelo (Workers’ Cause), which was ready for the press, was seized.

  From prison V.I. Lenin continued to guide the League’s activities: he helped it with advice, sent out letters and leaflets in cipher, wrote a pamphlet, On Strikes (which has not been discovered), and the “Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party” (see present edition, Vol. 2, pp. 93-121).

As Lenin put it, the League’s importance lay in its being the embryo of a revolutionary party based on the working-class movement and guiding the proletariat’s class struggle.

The older members of the League who had escaped arrest took part in preparing for and conducting the First Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. and in drafting the “Manifesto” published in the name of the Congress. However, the prolonged absence of the League’s founders serving terms of exile in Siberia, and, above all, of V. I. Lenin, facilitated the adoption of an opportunist policy by the “young” Social-Democrats, the “economists,” who from 1897, through the newspaper Rabochaya Mysl (Workers’ Thought), implanted the ideas of trade-unionism and Bernsteinism on Russian soil. From the second half of 1898 the most outspoken “economists”—the Rabochaya Mysl supporters—gained leadership of the League.

[5] The Workers’ Organisation (for secrecy dubbed Manya)—an organisation of supporters of “economism,” which arose in St. Petersburg in the summer of 1900. In the autumn of the same year it merged with the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, and the St. Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. was formed, consisting of two parts: the “Committee” proper and the “Committee of the Workers’ Organisation.” After the Iskra trend triumphed in the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic organisation (1902), the group of “economist”-influenced Social-Democrats broke away from the St. Petersburg Committee and re created an independent “Workers’ Organisation,” which existed until the beginning of 1904.

[6] The Declaration of the St. Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. on solidarity with Iskra and Zarya, and on their recognition as the leading organs of Russian Social-Democracy was published in leaf let form in July 1902, and later printed in Iskra, No. 26, October 15, 1902.

[7] The Russian Iskra organisation (called Songa for secrecy) united Iskra supporters operating inside Russia. In the early period of its existence (February 1900-January 1902) the Russian Iskra organisation had not yet taken shape as an organised entity. The groups of Iskra’s supporters and “agents” (P. N. and 0. B. Lepeshinsky, P. A. Krasikov, A. M. Stopani, and others in Pskov; V. P. and M. G. Artsybushev, K. K. Gazenbush, and others in Samara; L. N. Radchenko, 5. 0. Tsederbaum, and others in Poltava; S. I. Radchenko in St. Petersburg; A. D. Tsurupa in Kharkov; N. E. Bauman in Moscow; I. V. Babushkin in Orekhovo-Zuyevo, and so on) were not at first united by any kind of centre operating   in Russia, and maintained direct relations with the Iskra Editorial’ Board. But as Iskra’s influence increased, its Russian organisation more and more became the hub of the Russian Social-Democratic movement; there was a considerable increase in the volume of practical work carried out by the Iskra-ists (arranging stores of Party literature and its transport and distribution among the Social-Democratic organisations, collecting money and dispatching correspondence to Iskra, etc.). All this urgently required the formation of an all-Russian centre of the Iskra supporters’ activity, and the formation of a Russian Iskra organisation.

V. I. Lenin gives the date of the founding of the Russian Iskra organisation as January 1902, when a congress of Iskra supporters working in Russia was held in Samara, with the active participation of G. M. and Z. P. Krzhizhanovsky, F. V. Lengnik, and others. The congress elected a Bureau and adopted the rules of the organisation, worked out tactical principles and defined the duties of the organisation’s members. “Your initiative,” wrote V. I. Lenin to the organisers of the congress, “has heartened us tremendously. Hurrah! That’s the right way! Reach out wider! And operate more independently, with greater initiative—you are the first to have begun in such a broad way that it means that the continuation, too, will be successful” (Lenin Miscellany VIII, p. 221).

The Russian Iskra organisation played a prominent part in restoring actual unity in the R.S.D.L.P. With its members most active participation, an Organising Committee was formed in November 1902 to prepare and convene the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. The Russian Iskra organisation handed over its contacts and Iskra literature to the Organising Committee; it also placed at the Committee’s disposal Iskra supporters sent to work in Russia. At the same time the Russian Iskra organisation was not merged in the Organising Committee, but was preserved until the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., chiefly for the purpose of influencing the Organising Committee, which included unstable and opportunist elements from among the Yuzhny Rabochy group (see Note 88) and members of the Bund.

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