V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1927. Sent from Geneva to Dresden. Printed from a copy written out by N. K. Krupskaya.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 160-163.
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.
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September 7, 1903

I have just received your letter and hasten to reply. Yes, I see that you are already well informed and that the sum of the information that makes you so is tinctured—as well it would be—a definite colour. I understand also that what has happened is bound to worry you.

But it is one thing to know and another to understand, as you justly write, and I am deeply convinced that it is impossible to understand what has happened from the stand point of “the effect of a nervous breakdown”. A nervous breakdown could only give rise to sharp animosity, fury and a reckless attitude to results, but the results them selves are utterly inescapable and their advent has long been merely a question of time.

Riffraff” and “praetorians”—you say. That is not the case. The political alignment was im Grossen und Ganzen as follows: five Bundists, three Rabocheye Dyelo-ists, four Yuzhny Rabochy-ists, six from the “Marsh” or indecisives, nine Iskrists of the soft line (or Zickzackkurs) and twenty-four Iskrists of the firm line; these are voting members, and, of course, approximate. There have been cases when everything was mixed up differently, but à vol d’oiseau this, on the whole, was how the groups worked out. The biggest shuffle (over equality of languages), when many Iskrists vacillated, left us with not less than 23 (out of a total of 33 Iskrists) and even among these 23 the “Martovites” were in a minority. And do you know the result of the vote at the meeting of the 16? Sixteen members of the Iskra organisation, and not “riffraff” nor “praetorians”? Do you know that here, too, Martov was in the minority both on the question of the person who had been the apple of discord and on the question of lists?

The minority of Iskrists of the soft or zigzag line defeated the majority (on the question of the Rules, and more than once) by a coalition of the Bund+the Marsh+the Yuzhny Rabochy-ists. And when the Bund and Rabocheye Dyelo withdrew, the majority of the Iskrists had their own back. Voilà tout. And not a single person has any doubt that, if the Bund had not withdrawn, Martov would have beaten us over the central bodies. And to make such a finale a reason for resentment, offence, a split in the Party! It is madness. The story goes that the “praetorians” ousted people because of a slanderous accusation of opportunism, that they cast slurs on and removed active people, etc. That is mere idle talk, the fruit of an imaginary grievance, rien de plus. No one, absolutely no one had “slurs” cast upon him or was removed, prevented from taking part in the work. Some one or other was merely removed from the central body—is that a matter for offence? Should the Party be torn apart for that? Should a theory of hypercentralism be constructed on that account? Should there be talk of rule by a rod of iron, etc., on that account? Never for a moment, have I doubted or been capable of doubting that a trio of editors is the sole genuinely business-like trio, which does not break up anything, but adapts the old “family” collegium to the role of someone in an official capacity. It is precisely the family character of the Six that has been tormenting us all these three years, as you know only too well, and from the moment Iskra became the Party and the Party became Iskra, we had to, were obliged to, break with the Six and its family character. It was for this reason that already prior to the Congress I declared that I was, going to demand freedom of election of the editorial board—or the trio—which is the sole basis also for sensible co-optation.

The break with the “family character” was absolutely essential and I am confident the Six would have peacefully accepted this trio but for the accompanying squabbles over 1 and over the C.C. It is only these squabbles that in their eyes painted the trio in this “horrible”, absolutely false hue. There is nothing “horrible” in it at all, and it was essential to impose a restraint on the Zickzackkurs, and the majority of the Iskrists (both at the Congress and within the Iskra organisation) understood this perfectly well.

No, I repeat, the finale is not an “unforeseen calamity”, it is not a “division of the whole”. That is untrue. It is untrue that one can curse the day of “promotion”—or all our old work would remain for ever a torment of Tantalus. And in the Party, on its formal basis, With subordination of everything to the Rules[1] (over which we quarrelled desperately not without reason, quarrelled over every trifle with Martov, who beat us on this point), in such a Party the old family editorial board (not once in three years—this is a fact—did it meet with the full number of six members) was impossible, the more so because the non-Iskrists entered the Party in a bunch by right, on formal grounds. And this called for a firm and consistent line, and not a zig zag policy. There is no returning to the old, and only a disordered imagination can picture Martov being led to the slaughter instead of to joint work with comrades, of whom each has his shade of the political line. Actually, I would add, this trio, throughout these three years, in 99 cases out of a hundred, had always been the decisive, politically decisive(and not literary) central body.

Now, after Martov beat the majority of the Iskrists by alliance with the Bund and made every preparation for beating them by this alliance on the question of the central bodies as well, I find “their” complaints about riffraff and praetorians, their laments about the “crystal” of Iskra’s editorial board ludicrous. He beat them by an alliance, I say, and not by a deal; I would not think of accusing them of a deal with the Marsh and the Bund, nothing of the sort. When “they” talk about “defamatory rumours” (of being allies of the Bundists) being spread against them, “they” are repeating their usual mistake of confusing the personal and the political. A deal would be personally ugly. The alliance did not depend on their will, their alliance was caused by their mistake; it was not they who went with the Bund+the Marsh, but the Bund+the+Marsh+Yuzhny Rabochy, etc., who followed them, having grasped at once which of the Iskrists had to be supported from the anti Iskrist standpoint. The Bund+the Marsh, etc., only   revealed politically Martov’s organisational and tactical mistake.

For one who knows all the facts of the Congress and especially the distribution of Iskrist votes (both at the Congress and in the underground organisation of Iskra) there cannot be any doubt that there is no going back. The Iskrists have parted company, but Iskra could not exist apart from the Iskrists. And, I repeat, among the Iskrists Martov was definitely in a minority, and a split in the Party (towards which Martov is fatally heading, more and more each day) will be a revolt of the minority, a minority that is in the wrong both juridically and still more in all essentials.

We “cast slurs” neither on Martov nor on anyone else for their mistake, but call all of them to the work.

As regards the “material means” of which you speak, we are hard up just now, it goes without saying, and the Californian[3] sources have gone up in smoke. But, if it came to that, we could endure even extreme need, so long as all the work of many years is not allowed to be wrecked through dissatisfaction with the composition of the central bodies (for objectively “their” dissatisfaction amounts only to this).

Must the bucket too be shared?”[4] you ask. I could hardly answer this question, for I make no claim to impartiality in “sharing”, and you do not need an answer that is not impartial. I am convinced that there are no “fractional parts”, but there is a senseless attempt to break to pieces, smash and scatter the whole (to build a new hearth, as you put it) owing to defeat on a single question where the defeated Iskrists were utterly wrong.

All the best.


[1] That is why “arrangements among ourselves” are impossiblenow, absolutely impossible, both judicially and morally. —Lenin

[2] Kalmykova, Alexandra Mikhailovna (1849-1926)—progressive public worker; ran a bookstore in 1889-1902, which served as a rendezvous for Social-Democrats; rendered financial aid to Iskra   and Zarya. In 1902 she was deported abroad for three years; after the split in the Party she gave financial aid to the Bolsheviks.

[3] By “Californian” sources Lenin is apparently referring to the financial aid which Iskra had been regularly receiving. These sources have not been ascertained.

[4] This refers to the financial aid for Iskra.

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