Written: Written in the second half of January 1903
Published: First published in 1924 in the magazine Molodaya Gvardia, No. 2-3. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 6, pages 312-318.
Translated: ??? ???
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). 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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I am writing under the fresh impression of your letter, which I have just read. Its senseless twaddle is so exasperating that I am unable to suppress the desire to state my opinion frankly. Please send my letter on to the author and tell him that he need not take offence at the severe tone. After all, it is not meant for publication.
The letter deserves a reply, in my opinion, because it shows up in particularly bold relief a characteristic trait in the mood of many present-day revolutionaries: waiting for instructions; demanding everything from above, from others, from outside; looking lost when faced by failures caused by local inactivity; piling up complaint after complaint, and inventing recipes for a cheap and simple cure of the evil.
You will not invent anything, gentlemen! If you yourselves are inactive, if you permit splits to take place under your very noses and then heave sighs and make complaint— no recipes will help you. And it is utterly absurd to shower us with complaints on this score. Don’t imagine that you offend us by your accusations and attacks: you see, we have become inured, so devilishly inured to them that they do not provoke us!
“Mass” literature “by the hundredweight” —this battle-cry of yours is nothing but an imaginary recipe for someone else to cure you of your own inactivity. Believe me, no such recipes will ever work! If you yourselves are not energetic and alert, no one will help you in any way. It is highly unreasonable to wail, “g i v e us this or that, d e l i v e r something or other,” when you yourselves should do the getting and delivering. It is useless to write about it to us, for we cannot do it from here, whereas you can and should do it by yourselves: I am referring to the delivery of literature we are publishing and have on hand.
Some local “activists” (so called because they are inactive), who have seen no more than a few issues of Iskra and who do not work actively to get and distribute it in mass quantities, invent the flimsy excuse: “That is not what we want. Give us mass literature, for the masses! Masticate it for us, put it into our mouths, and perhaps we’ll manage to do the swallowing ourselves.”
How phenomenally absurd these plaints appear to those who know and see that they, these local “activists,” are unable to organise the distribution of even what is available. Is it not ridiculous to read: give us hundredweights, when you are unable to take and transport even a f e w p o u n d s? Do that first, worthy “dreamers for an hour” (for the first mishap makes you abandon everything, even all your convictions!). Do that, and then, when you have done it not once, but dozens of times, the publication, too, will grow with the demand.
I say it will grow, for your plaints about mass literature (which you have uncritically and senselessly copied from the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Svoboda people, and all sorts of confused “inactivists”) are caused by forgetfulness of a small ... a very small trifle, namely, forgetfulness of the fact that you are unable to take and distribute even a hundredth part of the mass literature we are publishing now. I shall take one of the recent lists of one of our few (miserably, pitifully, shamefully few) consignments. The Nizhni-Novgorod speeches, the Rostov struggle, the pamphlet on strikes, the Dikstein pamphlet –I shall limit myself to these. Four, only four small items! So little!!
Yes, it is very little! Yes, we need four hundred, not four.
But, permit me to ask you, have you been able to distribute at least these four things by the ten thousand? No, you have not been able to do this. You have not been able to distribute them by the hundred even. That is why you shout: give us hundredweights! (No one will ever give you anything if you are unable to take it: bear that in mind.)
Have you been able to make use of the hundreds of copies which have been delivered to you, brought to you, and placed into your mouths?? No, you have not been able to do that. Even in this trifle you have not been able to link up the masses with Social-Democracy. Every month we get tens and hundreds of Leaflets, reports, news items, and letters from all parts of Russia, but we have had not a single (give good thought to the exact meaning of the words, “not a single”!) report about the distribution of these hundreds of copies among the masses, about the impression they made on the masses, about the reaction of the masses, about discussions among the masses on t h e s e things! You are placing us in a position wherein the writer does the writing and the reader (the intellectual) does the reading—after which this same slothful reader fulminates against the writer because he (the writer!!!) does not furnish literature “by the hundredweight” everywhere. The person whose sole business it is to l i n k u p the writer with the masses sits like a ruffled turkey and gobbles away: give us mass literature, while at the same time he is unable to make use of even a h u n d r e d t h p a r t of what is available.
You will of course say that it is impossible, impossible in general, to get, for instance, Iskra, our main product, linked up with the masses. I know you will say that. I have heard it hundreds of times and have always replied that this is untrue, that it is a subterfuge, shirking, inability, and indolence, the desire to have roast duck fly straight into your mouths.
I know from the facts that enterprising people have been able to “link up” Iskra (this super-intellectual Iskra, as the sorry little intellectuals consider it) with the masses of even such backward and uneducated workers as those in the industrial gubernias around Moscow. I have known workers who have themselves distributed Iskra among the masses (there) and who merely remarked that there were too few copies. Quite recently I heard a “soldier from the field of battle” tell of how in one such out-of-the-way factory area in central Russia Iskra is read at one and the same time in numerous circles, at gatherings numbering from ten to fifteen people, the committee and subcommittees themselves reading over every issue in advance, planning jointly just how to use each article in agitation talks. And they were able to make use of even those paltry five to eight (maximum: eight!!) copies which were all that they got owing to the helpless inactivity of the activists stationed near the border (who are never even able to make arrangements for reception of literature consignments and hope that the writer will give birth not only to articles but to people to do the work for them!).
Come now, tell us with your hand over your heart: have many of you made such use of e v e r y copy of Iskra you received (delivered to you, brought to you)? You are silent! Well then, let me tell you: one out of a hundred copies that get to Russia (by the will of the fates and due to the inactivity of the “readers”) is being used in this way, with discussions on the agitation value of every item, with readings of every item in workers’ study circles, in all circles of all workers who are accustomed to foregather in a particular town. And yet people who are unable to assimilate even a hundredth part of the material that gets to them wail: give us hundred weights!! Shchedrin’s formula (the writer does the writing) still regards the “reader” far, far too optimistically!!
The present-day reader (from among the Social-Democratic intellectuals) has gone so far as to complain about the writers because the local intellectuals are lazy and “order” the workers about, without doing anything for them. The complaint is justified, a thousand times justified, only ... is it directed to the proper quarter? Won’t you permit us to return this complaint to the sender, with a double charge as punishment?? What about yourselves, my worthy complainants? If your friends are unable to make use of Iskra for readings in workers’ study circles, if they are unable to assign people for the delivery and distribution of literature, if they are unable to assist the workers to set up circles for this purpose, why d o n’ t y o u t h r o w such helpless friends o v e r b o a r d?? Just think, in what sort of pretty situation do you find yourselves when you complain to us about y o u r o w n helplessness?
It is a f a c t that the “practicians” do not make use of even a hundredth part of all they could take. And it is a no less indubitable fact that the special varieties of “mass” literature which these people have thought up are only pretexts and dodges. In the letter of "7 Ts. 6 F.,” for instance, three varieties are recommended to “us” (ii would be to us, of course):
1) A popular newspaper. Chew over every fact so as to make its assimilation possible without digestion, so that w e, “activists,” should need no stomachs at all.
It does not matter that the world has never yet seen such a “popular” “newspaper,” since a newspaper giver answers to everything, while popular literature gives instruction on a few things. It does not matter that all our examples of such literature, beginning with Rabochaya Mysl, on through Vperyods, Rabocheye Dyelos, Krasnoye Znamyas,” and the like, have unavoidably and necessarily proved mongrels, being neither popular nor newspapers. It does not matter that all efforts of the “workers’” news papers have merely nurtured, and always will nurture, the absurd division into an intellectual movement and a working-class movement (a division caused by the dull-wittedness and bungling of the intellectuals, who go so far as to send complaints about their own bungling from the seat of the trouble to the ends of the earth!). It does not matter that all the efforts of the “workers’” newspapers so far have been breeding, and will always breed among us, amateurishness and special, profound, Kazan and Kharkov theories. All this does not matter. Look at the captivating Svoboda group and the captivating (“breath-taking”) Socialist-Revolutionaries; what a mass (ugh, what a mass!) of popular newspapers and periodicals they are publishing!! Narodnoye Dyelo, Krasnoye Znamya, Svoboda—a magazine for workers, Otkliki—a newspaper and magazine for workers, Luchina—for peasants, Rabochaga Mysl—the Geneva news paper of the St. Petersburg workers!! It does not matter that all this is trash, but it is m a s s trash for all that.
And all you have is just one Iskra; after all, it gets monotonous! Thirty-one issues and all Iskra, while with the captivating people every two issues of one title (of trash) are immediately followed by three issues of another title (of trash). Now, this is energy, this is jolly, this is new! But our Social-Democrats....
2) And “they” are always having new pamphlets. Each reprint is considered a pamphlet and all this is meretriciously trumpeted forth, and the printed sheets are added up (a million printed sheets: see No. 16 of Revolutsionnaya Rossiya. They have broken all records! Champions!).
But in our case! Reprints are not counted as pamphlets— that is highbrowism, bookishness!! The ancient Dikstein pamphlets are being republished, when every girl in Paris and in Chernigov knows that ten new pamphlets (trash) are worth a hundred times more than one old pamphlet, even a good one.
It is only the Germans who do things in such a way that, for example, in 1903 Bebel’s Our Aims, written thirty-four years ago, is being republished for the eleventh time!! That is so boring. Our “captivating” Socialist-Revolutionaries are pouring out stuff. But our local “activists” are able to use neither the o l d Plekhanov pamphlets (twenty years old: ancient stuff! To the archives with them!), nor “some” one (one!) pamphlet on strikes and on the Witte memorandum!
This quite apart from the fact that the local “activist” does not lift a finger to squeeze g o o d pamphlets out of authors now in exile—and to get local writers to contribute to “Iskra.” Why do that? It is much easier to complain than to undertake such a troublesome business! And the present-day reader unblushingly calls himself an Iskra-ist on the grounds that he writes complaints to Iskra. Nor does it trouble his conscience in the slightest that 90 per cent of the articles are written by the one and the same three and a half writers. Nor does he find it necessary even to think about the fact that Iskra must not be allowed to stop publication and that the fortnightly issue of one and a half to two signatures calls for a lot of work. Still, he continues to shout with simply unparalleled fatuity: thirty-one issues, and there are still many fools in the localities and much helpless wailing!! A truly crushing argument.... Only whom and what does it crush?
G i v e us leaflets! The committees cannot do it!! Write, deliver, bring (and distribute?) leaflets!
Well, now, this is indeed consistent. I open my mouth and you shovel it in: here we have the new formula for the relations between the “writer” and the Iskra practician! To go so far as to state that the local organisations (consisting of slothful “activists”?) cannot manage to issue local leaflets, that these leaflets should be delivered from abroad, that is the limit. This is such a splendid (in my opinion) crowning touch to the whole letter of “7 Ts. 6 F.” that it only remains for me to conclude with this “crown.” Any further remarks or comments will only dim its shining lustre.
 “This is old stuff!” you wail. Yes. All parties that have good popular literature have been distributing o l d s t u f f:   Guesde and Lafargue, Bebel, Bracke, Liebknecht, etc., f o r d e c a d e s. Do you hear: for decades! And the o n l y popular literature that is good, the only popular literature that is suitable is that which can serve for decades. For popular literature is a series of textbooks for the people, and textbooks teach the ABC, which remains unchanged for f i f t y y e a r s at a time. The “popular” literature which “captivates” you and which the Svoboda group and Socialist-Revolutionaries publish by the hundredweight every month is waste paper and charlatanism. Charlatans always bustle and make the greatest noise, and some naïve people mistake that for energy. —Lenin
 7 Ts. 6. F.—pseudonym of the Bolshevik F. V. Lengnik.
 The Nizhni-Novgorod speeches—the reference is to the speeches made by Nizhni-Novgorod revolutionary workers during their trial for participation in demonstrations. These speeches were published in Iskra and then as a pamphlet.
The Roslov struggle—the reference is to the pamphlet, The Struggle of the Rostov Workers, published by Iskra.
The pamphlet on strikes refers to the pamphlet, The Autocracy and Strikes, published in Geneva by the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy.
The Dikstein pamphlet—this refers to a popular Marxist pamphlet, The Ways People Live, by Dikstein.
 Vperyod (Forward)—a newspaper of the “economist” trend, published in Kiev between 1896 and 1900.
 Krasnoye Znamya (Red Banner)—organ of the “economists,” was published by the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad from November 1902 to January 1903 to take the place of Rabocheye Dyelo. Three numbers were issued.
 Lenin is referring to the pamphlet, The Autocracy and Strikes.