V. I.   Lenin



Private, from Lenin

Written: Written later than May 22, 1903
Published: First published in 1928. Sent from Geneva to Kiev. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 156-159.
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

I have read your long letter, for which many thanks. Better late than never. You ask me not to be very cross. As a matter of fact, I was hardly cross at all, and was more inclined to smile at the recollection of my last conversation at the door of the “den”[4] with a certain Jacques, who considered at that time (at that time!) that we did too little bossing. That things take a long time adjusting themselves within the O.C., that there is still a huge amount of disorder and anarchy, I was quite aware and have not expected anything else. The only cure for that is persistent treatment (time and experience) and a single potent remedy (a general Party congress). I wrote long ago and I repeat it: hurry up, for heaven’s sake, with this remedy as much as you can, otherwise there is a risk of your experience being lost altogether.

I am not going to write about the questions of 1) Yuri,[5] 2) the Bureau, and 3) Ignat’s dispute with Bundist. In part, they have become obsolete; in part, they require to be settled on the spot, and as regards this last part my ad vice at best would be to no purpose (despite the opinion of my friend Jacques). This part you (all of you) have to decide for yourselves, “have to” not in the sense of sollen[1] but of müssen.[2]

I will say something about tile Bund, the P.P.S.[6] and “heresy”.

Formally, I think, our attitude to the Bund should be studiously correct (no hitting straight in the teeth), but   at the same time icily cold, buttoned up to the neck, and on legitimate grounds we should press hard against the Bund relentlessly and all the time, going right to the end without being afraid. Let them get out, if they want to, but we should not give them the slightest occasion, the shadow of an excuse, for a break. We must, of course, observe the formalities prior to the Congress, but there is no point in showing our cards. You write: Bundist knows we are working for Iskra but keeps silent, although we have no right to do so in the name of the O.C. In my opinion, this should not be done from the O.C. but from each member personally, referring not to the O.C., but to the committees which have recognised Iskra. The result is the same and even much stronger (there are no “agents”), and the formal aspect is irreproachable. Preparing the committees against the Bund is one of the most important tasks of the present moment, and it, too, is fully possible without any violation of form.

Similarly, it was wrong to speak to the P.P.S. about the “convictions of members of the Organising Committee”. It should have been said of the O.C.: we are preparing the congress, and the congress will decide; and on the question of “convictions” one should not remain silent but refer, not to the O.C., but to Iskra and still more to the commit tees that have recognised Iskra. Furthermore, we should obtain from the P.P.S. a formal if only short document (a letter), and not say to them “we are anti-nationalists” (why frighten people needlessly?), but gently persuade them that our programme (recognition of the right of national self-determination) is adequate for them too, drawing from them definite counter-declarations and a formal approach to the O.C. and the Congress. Our trump card against the P.P.S. is that we recognise national self-determination in principle, but within reasonable limits determined by the unity of the proletarian class struggle.

Before I forget: I really do not know the representatives of the Russian organisation of Iskra in the O.C. Nor do I know why I should know this, and why there should be “representatives”. The Organising Committee has long ago co-opted all sorts of good people, but they were not “representatives”, were they? Or is this untrue?

It is important, I think, to make use of the distinction between the Russian organisation of Iskra and the O.C. precisely for the sake of formal irreproachability.

Now about “heresy”. Either I misunderstand you, or this is a great mistake. In view of the extreme brevity of your letter on this (highly important) point, I can only take your words á la lettre. Four delegates “organise” both the C.C. and the Central Organ! Frankly, this is simply ridiculous, for you ought to know that the only people competent (i.e., having the knowledge and necessary experience) to “organise” the Central Organ are the members of the editorial board+ individuals from outside for consultation, while the only people competent to organise the C.C. are experienced practical workers+individuals for consultation (if you know of such persons). Or do you, perhaps, know of a “foursome” who have experience and knowledge of all these things? If you do, then name them—seriously, I am not joking, for this letter of mine is a personal one and it is important for me to be clear about your idea.

You are out for a single centre of power and a “strong hand”, if I am not mistaken. It would be a good thing and you are absolutely right that that is what we need. But no one can achieve it in such a forthright way as you are thinking of. For nine-tenths of current affairs, two central bodies are absolutely essential; they would immediately arise of themselves, even if we did not want this. For form’s sake, however, we should try to achieve 1) a formal way of uniting these two central bodies (for example, a committee with delegates from both of them), 2) a reduction in the number of members of the two central bodies, or the selection of an executive committee within each central body, and—most important—3) a strict, formal distribution of functions among individual members of the central bodies, so that their whole membership should know precisely which member is charged with managing what, which member (in each centre) has the right to decide (and even to speak) in each sphere of problems, and in what way matters can be transferred to a plenary meeting of one or both of the central bodies.

I am confident that you will considerably moderate your demands and will agree that this is the maximum immediately   desirable. Even that is very, very difficult and I do not see any people who are fully suitable, informed, and experienced enough for such a distribution of functions. There is a great deal, a vast amount of mismanagement both among you and us (you, members of the O.C., should not think only of yourselves, you “organise” the whole Party), and we must think out not pia desideria, but practical, firm, “first steps”.

I have expressed my views to you frankly and I should be very glad of a further exchange of letters with you. Really and truly, you ought to write more often and in more detail on such questions. I have nothing against this letter being communicated to the whole O.C., I should even welcome it, but I leave the decision to you. You did well to mention to whom your letter was addressed.

All the best. Moderate your demands and hurry, hurry, hurry with the “potent remedy”. Best regards.



[1] Should.—Ed.

[2] Must.—Ed.

[3] Alexandrova, Yekaterina Mikhailovna (1864-1943)—joined the revolutionary movement in 1890. In 1902, during her residence abroad, joined the Iskra organisation, then worked as its agent in Russia. At the Orel meeting of the O.C. for convening the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (February 1903) was elected to the O.C.; at the Congress she joined the Mensheviks; after the Congress became an active Menshevik. After the October Socialist Revolution worked in cultural and educational institutions.

[4] The “den” was the common room in the London flat shared by V. I. Zasulich, Y. O. Martov and. I. S. Blumenfeld, so called on account of its constantly disorderly state.

[5] Meaning the Yuzhny Rabochy group. (See ^^Note 106^^.)

[6] P.P.S. (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna)—the Polish Socialist Party, a reformist nationalist party founded in 1892.

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