V. I.   Lenin


Published: Iskra, No, 48, September 15, 1903. Published according to the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, publisher??, pubdate??, Moscow, Volume 7, pages 35-40.
Translated: Fineberg Abraham
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2002 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
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"Well, and what if your sonorous, bombastic and florid assurances should inspire distrust because of their very nature?"

"I should like to see who would dare doubt my word!"

"But still, suppose it is doubted?"

"I repeat, I will not allow anyone to doubt the word of a revolutionary, I shall stop at nothing, I shall go to any length, I shall demand either a direct expression of disbelief or a direct withdrawal, I...."

"What if your demand for a direct expression of disbelief is accepted?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if you are told plainly and bluntly that you are not believed?"

"I shall proclaim the man who dares say that a gross slanderer, I shall publicly brand his unparalleled conduct...."

"But what if in reply he begins to show point by point that your whole behaviour has long since made it impossible to trust you?"

"I shall go about everywhere collecting protests against this fratricidal controversy, I shall make emotional speeches about truth and justice, about crystal purity soiled by unclean hands, about the coarse and sordid husk of petty vanity, about the purifying flame which fills my soul with a supreme enthusiasm. I shall liken my enemies to Pontius Pilate...."

"And suppose they liken you to Tartuffe for such talk?"

"In that case I shall demand a court of arbitration!"

"You will at once be told that your challenge is gladly accepted, and asked to agree that the court examine whether   your adversary had legitimate grounds for doubting your statements."

"In that case ... in that case ... I shall declare that ’after all that has happened’ it is ridiculous to talk of any ‘agreement’ between the ‘parties concerned’!”

*     *

Such was what Revolutsionnaya Rossiya[2] calls “the unparalleled campaign over the affair of April 2”[3] For very understandable reasons, that worthy publication hates to admit that that is what happened. It takes refuge in a whole series of subterfuges, which we shall have to examine in detail.

Firstly, Revolutsionnaya Rossiya is surprised that, “instead of the organised Russian Social-Democratic movement”, to which Balmashov’s friends addressed their statement, it is the Iskra editorial board that replies. Balmashov’s friends, we are told, “have received no answer to their quite definite offer, addressed to a quite definite quarter”.

That is not so, gentlemen. Like everyone else, you know very well what the organised Russian Social-Democratic movement consists of, you know all the organisations we have. Unlike some other people, we do not have new organisations springing up overnight. We have our Party committees, we have Iskra, we have the Organising Committee, which has for some time been making preparations for the Second Congress of the Party. Just to which “definite quarter” did you address yourselves? To the Second Congress? To the Organising Committee? No, though you talk of a definite quarter, you said absolutely nothing to define that quarter. You yourselves say that Iskra is recognised by the majority of the committees; consequently, no one could answer you but Iskra. If the Second Congress of our Party adopts Iskra as the Party organ, then Iskra’s reply will be the reply of the Party. If not, you will have some other organ to deal with. That is simple enough for a child of six to understand.

Revolutsionnaya Rossiya is “surprised that, instead of a plain answer to the plain offer of Balmashov’s friends” (an offer, supposedly, to give the Social-Democrats the   opportunity to acquaint themselves with the true facts of the affair of April 2), “it is proposed that they should regard themselves and Iskra as two parties between whom there could, after all that has happened, be some kind of preliminary negotiations or ’agreements’ as to the presentation of the issue”. And so, Revolutsionnaya Rossiya now asserts that we were not offered a court of arbitration, but only an opportunity of acquainting ourselves. That is not so. The “Statement” in No. 27 of Revolutsionnaya Rossiya speaks literally of an “uninvestigated charge of slander” (against Iskra), of having an investigation of the charge, of submitting “the following evidence to a person on whose integrity and secrecy both we and the Central Organ [mark that!] of the Russian Social-Democratic Party could rely”. “Investigation of the charge”, “examination of evidence” by a per son on whom both accuser and accused can rely—what is that but a court of arbitration? Is that only an offer to acquaint ourselves with the facts?? You are a comic lot, gentlemen. After calling upon us to agree about selecting a person of integrity, you now declare with the inimitable lofty air of a Nozdrev[4] caught red-handed that no agreement is possible!

Revolutsionnaya Rossiya “further asks whom Iskra is trying to make a fool of when it talks about an agreement as to the presentation of the issue, and in the same breath decrees its own presentation and categorically asserts that no other is possible”. In court, everyone categorically asserts his own opinion and claims that it is the only correct one. Instead of in turn giving his own definite presentation of the issue, our haughty opponent begins to bluster and make fine speeches!

After a certain amount of bluster, however, Revolutsionnaya Rossiya condescends to make also a few remarks about our presentation of the issue. In its opinion, Iskra is dodging and retreating. It isn’t, we are told, as if “the Combatant Organisation denied Iskra’s right to have its own free opinion [I I, to judge political acts from its own point of view, or even [sic! I to have its private doubts about anything it liked”. This “private doubts” is really priceless! The “Combatant Organisation” is so extraordinarily broad- minded as to be prepared (now, after a year and more of   warfare!) to permit us even to doubt—but only privately, that is, presumably, in such a way that no one but the doubter shall know anything about it.... Perhaps when these combatant people allow us to hold our own “free opinion” they also mean us to do so privately?

"One might think," Revolutsionnaya Rossiya says, “that it was only Iskra’s refusal to accede to this demand that was the reason for accusing it of slander." Then follow quotations from the article “Tartuffes of Revolutionary Morality” and the remark that “what we have here is not modest and indefinite doubts, but very immodest and very definite charges”.

We invite our readers to recall certain generally known facts. In No. 20 of Iskra (May 1,1902), we give our opinion of Balmashov’s act, without having the slightest idea of the existence of any combatant organisation. The latter thereupon writes us a letter demanding that we seek the motives for Balmashov s decision in its official statements. We silently drop this letter from an unknown organisation into the wastepaper basket. The letter is then published in Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, No. 7 (June 1902), the editors of which, for no other reason than our silence, begin to cry that a slur has been cast on the moral aspect, that the significance of the act is being belittled, and so on. We reply with an article entitled “An Enforced Controversy” (Iskra, No. 23, August 1, 1902), in which we laugh at this angry Jupiter, uphold our opinion of the act of April 2, and declare that in our view it is “more than doubtful” whether Balmashov be longed to any “combatant organisation”. Thereupon Messieurs the Socialist-Revolutionaries, having extorted from us a public expression of our private doubts, raise an hysterical outcry about “unparalleled conduct” and talk about nothing less than “mud-slinging” and “insinuations” (Revolatsionnaya Rossiya, No. 11, September 1902).

Such, in the briefest outline, are the main facts of our press controversy. Someone who knows very well that his opponent regards his utterances with silent distrust publicly forces him to the wall and demands an open expression of either belief or disbelief, and when he gets the latter answer, beats his breast and complains urbi et orbi[1] what a   noble creature he is and how shamefully he has been insulted. What is this but Nozdrev conduct? What is it but revolutionary swashbuckling? Did not such a person deserve to be called a Tartuffe?

Where does Revolutsionnaya Rossiya get the idea that we are retreating and refuse to answer for our article and for the articles about Tartuffes? Is it from the fact that in our presentation of the issue we do not set forth the theses of these articles? But was the arbitration offer issued in connection with any particular articles—was it not rather in connection with Iskra’s general attitude towards the assurances of the “Socialist-Revolutionary Party"? Do not Balmashov’s friends, at the very beginning of their statement in No. 27 of Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, cite precisely the starting-point of the whole controversy, namely, Iskra’s remark, in No. 23, that in its view it was more than doubtful whether Balmashov belonged to any “combatant organisation"? We make so bold as to assure Revolutsionnaya Rossiya that we answer for all our articles; that we are prepared to supplement our questions for the arbitration court by references to any issue of Iskra; that we are ready to prove to anyone that we had every moral right and valid reason to describe as Tartuffes those on Revolutsionnaya Rossiya who, on account of our presumptuous doubts as to the veracity of that paper’s utterances, indulged in the expressions we have quoted.

"Dodging and retreating"—yes, but on whose part? Is it not on the part of those who are now magnanimously prepared to recognise our right to a free opinion and to private doubts, after indulging for over a year in disgusting bombast against Iskra for stubbornly persisting in its doubts and maintaining that every serious person was in duty bound to have doubts about revolutionary romancing? When you saw that your emotional talk about probity and honour actually moved your hearers to laughter, not tears, you decided you must have a new sensation, and came out with your demand for an arbitration court. The scandal loving element in the colonies abroad rubbed their hands with glee and went about eagerly whispering: “They have summoned them to court ... at last! Now we shall see!" And now they have seen—have seen the last act of a vaudeville,   whose hero, with an ineffable air of injured innocence, declares that “after all that has happened” no agreements as to the presentation of the issue to the court are possible.

Just carry on in the same spirit, gentlemen! But bear in mind that no torrents of wretched words will prevent us from discharging our duty of exposing phrase-mongering and mystification wherever they may occur—whether in the programmes” of revolutionary adventurers, or in the tinsel of their romancing, or in grandiloquent sermons about truth and justice, purifying flames, crystal purity, and all the rest.


[1] To the world at large .—Ed.

[2] Revolutsionnaya Rossiya (Revolutionary Russia) was a Socialist-Revolutionary newspaper published from the close of 1900 to 1905; from January 1902 on, the central organ of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

[3] The affair of April 2—the reference is to the assassination of Minister of the Interior Sipyagin on April 2 (15), 1902, by the student Balmashov.

[4] Nozdrev—a notorious braggart and cheat in Gogol’s Dead Souls.

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