V. I.   Lenin


To:   N. Y. VILONOV[4]

Written: Written between December 17 and December 22, 1903
Published: First published in 1929. Sent from Geneva to Ekaterinoslav. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 207-210.
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.README

Dear comrade,

I was very glad to have your letter because here abroad we have too little opportunity of hearing the frank and independent voices of those engaged in local activities. For a Social-Democratic writer living abroad it is extremely important to have a frequent exchange of opinions with advanced workers who are active in Russia, and your account of the impact our dissensions have upon the committees interested me very much. I shall, perhaps, even publish your letter if the occasion offers.[5]

It is impossible to answer your questions in a single letter, since a detailed account of the Majority and the Minority would take up a whole book. I have now published in leaflet form my “Letter to the Editors of Iskra (Why I Resigned From the Iskra Editorial Board),”[1] where I give a brief account of the reasons why we parted company and try to show how the matter is misrepresented in Iskra No. 53 (beginning with No. 53, the editorial board consists of four representatives of the Minority in addition to Plekhanov). I hope that this letter (a small printed sheet of eight pages) will soon be in your hands, because it has already been taken to Russia and it will probably not to difficult to distribute it.

I repeat: in this letter the matter is set out very briefly. It cannot at present be set out in greater detail until the minutes of the Party Congress and of the League Congress have been issued (it is announced in Iskra No. 53 that the minutes of both these congresses will be published in full   very soon. I have information that the minutes of the Party Congress will be issued as a book of over three hundred pages; nearly 300 pages are now ready and the book will probably come out in a week or two at the latest). Most probably a pamphlet[2] will have to be written when the two sets of minutes are published.

My personal view of the matter is that the split is primarily and mainly due to dissatisfaction with the composition of the central bodies (the Central Organ and the Central Committee). The Minority wanted to keep the old six-man board of the C.O., but the Congress selected three of the six, apparently finding them better suited for political leadership. The Minority was similarly defeated over the composition of the Central Committee, that is to say, the Congress did not elect those whom the Minority wanted.

In consequence of this the dissatisfied Minority began exaggerating minor differences of opinion, boycotting the central bodies, mustering its supporters and even preparing to split the Party (very persistent and, probably, trust worthy rumours are current here that they have already decided to found, and have begun to set up, their own newspaper to be called Kramola.[3] No wonder the feuilleton in Iskra No. 53 has been set up in a type which does not exist at all in the Party print-shop!).

Plekhanov decided to co-opt them on to the editorial board to avoid a split, and wrote the article “What Should Not Be Done” in Iskra No. 52. After No. 51, I resigned from the editorial board, for I considered this modification of the congress under the influence of the rows taking place abroad to be incorrect. But personally, of course, I did not want to prevent peace if peace were possible, and therefore (since now I do not consider it possible for me to work in the Six) I withdrew from the editorial board, without, however, refusing to contribute.

The Minority (or opposition) wants to force its people into the Central Committee too. For the sake of peace, the C.C. agreed to take two of them, but the Minority is still not satisfied and continues to spread vile rumours about   the C.C. being ineffectual. In my opinion, that is the most outrageous violation of discipline and Party duty. More over, it is sheer slander, for the C.C. was elected by the Congress from persons for whom the majority of the Iskra organisation had expressed support. And the Iskra organisation, of course, knew better than anyone else who was fitted for this important role. A Central Committee of three persons[6] was elected at the Congress—all three long-standing members of the Iskra organisation; two of them were members of the Organising Committee; the third had been invited to serve on the O.C. but did not do so because he was personally unwilling, yet for a long time he worked for the O.C. on general Party matters. It follows that the most reliable and experienced persons were elected to the C.C. and I consider it a shabby trick to shout about their “ineffectiveness”, when it is the Minority itself that hinders the C.C. from working. All the charged against the C.C. (about formalism, bureaucracy, and so forth) are nothing but malicious inventions devoid of any foundation.

It goes without saying that I fully share your opiniom as to the unseemliness of an outcry against centralism and against the congress on the part of people who previously spoke in a different tone and who are dissatisfied because on one particular issue the congress did not do what they wanted. Instead of admitting their mistake, these people are now disrupting the Party! I believe, the comrades in Russia should vigorously oppose, all disruption and insist that the congress decisions be implemented and prevent the squabble about who should be on the C.O. and the C.C. from hindering the work. The squabbles abroad among the writers and all the other generals (whom you too harshly and bluntly call intriguers) will cease to be dangerous to the Party only when the leaders of committees in Russia become more independent and capable of firmly demanding the fulfilment of what their delegates decide at the Party congress.

Concerning the relations between the Central Organ and the Central Committee, you are quite right that neither the one nor the other should be given the upper hand once for all. The congress itself, I think, should make a separate   decision on each occasion. At present, too, according to the Rules, the Party Council stands above both the C.O. and the C.C. And the Council has two members from the C.O. and two from the C.C., the fifth member having been elected by the congress. Hence the congress itself has decided who should be given the upper hand on this occasion. Stories about us wanting the C.O. abroad to overrule the C.C. in Russia are sheer gossip in which there is not a word of truth. When Plekhanov and I were on the editorial board we had even in the Council three Social-Democrats from Russia and only two from abroad. Now, under the Martovites, the reverse is the case! Now judge for yourself what their talk is worth!

I send you warm greetings and earnestly request you to let me know whether you received this letter, whether you have read my letter to the editorial board and Nos. 52, 53 of Iskra, and how in general things are now in the Committee.

With comradely greetings,


[1] See present edition, Vol. 7.—Ed.

[2] Lenin has in view his pamphlet One Step Forward, Two Steps Back which appeared in May 1904 (see present edition, Vol. 7),—Ed. —Lenin

[3] Meaning “Sedition”—Ed.

[4] Vilonov, Nikifor Yefremovich (1883–1910)—professional revolutionary. Began his revolutionary activities in 1901, In 1902 joined the Kiev Social-Democratic organisation, became a supporter of Iskra. After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (1903)—a Bolshevik. Took an active part in the revolution of 1905–07.

[5] Vilonov’s letter, slightly abridged, was published by Lenin in his “Postscript to the Pamphlet A Letter to a Comrade on Our Organisational Tasks” (see ^^Vol. 7^^ of this edition).

[6] The three persons were G. M. Krzhizhanovsky, F. V. Lengnik and V. A. Noskov.

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