V. I.   Lenin

To the Party Membership[1]

Written: Written in the latter half of January 1904
Published: First published in 1929 in Lenin Miscellany X. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, publisher??, pubdate??, Moscow, Volume 7, pages 140-144.
Translated: Fineberg Abraham
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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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A circle or a party? That is the question our Central Organ has posed for discussion.

We consider discussion of this question to be exceed ingly timely. We invite the editorial board of our Central Organ to begin by taking a look at itself. What is this editorial board? Is it a circle of persons who have been together for so-and-so many years and who have now forced their way on to the editorial board by means of a boycott, disruptive activities and the threat of a split, or is it a body of officials of our Party?

Do not try to evade the point by saying that you were co-opted legally, in accordance with the Rules. We do not question the legality of it; but we invite you not to con fine yourselves to the formal aspect, but to answer the sub stance of our question. We want, not merely a juridical, but a political answer. And we want that answer from you, gentlemen, “editors” who were never elected by the Congress, never appointed by the Party, and not from Comrade Plekhanov, who, perhaps, had no alternative but to co-opt you in order to avoid a split.

Are you a circle or a body of Party officials?

If you are a circle, then why this hypocrisy and sham, these phrases about a party? Have you not, in reality, disrupted that Party, mocking for weeks and months at its institutions and its Rules? Have you not, in reality, repudiated the decisions of the Second Congress of that Party, have you not brought matters to the point of a split, have you not refused to submit to the Central Committee and the Council? Have you not placed yourselves outside the Party   by saying that for you Party congresses are not divine, i.e., not binding? You trample upon the institutions and laws of the Party and at the same time are pleased to use the imprint “Central Party Organ"!

But if you are Party officials, would you mind explaining to the Party why, and in the name of what, persons who were not appointed by the Congress insisted on ensconcing themselves in a central Party institution? Perhaps in the name of the “continuity” of the old family circle of editors? To think that people who at the League Congress passed resolutions about this philistine “continuity” now want to bamboozle us with talk of the Party! Why, what right have you to talk of a party?

You describe as formalists those who take their stand on the formal decisions of the Second Congress—because you must blur and gloss over the fact that you have betrayed the trust of your comrades,who, every one of them, pledged themselves over and over again to obey the decisions of the Congress. You do not submit to formal decisions when they are against you, but at the same time you unblushingly invoke the formal rights of the League when those rights are to your advantage, you invoke the formal decisions of the Party Council now that you have managed, against the Party’s will, to insinuate yourselves into this, the supreme Party institution.

You describe as bureaucrats those who hold Party posts by the will of the Party Congress, not the caprice of an 6migr6 circle of writers. You have to do this to cover up the disagreeable fact that it is indeed a spirit of bureaucracy, a spirit of place-hunting that obsesses those who just could not bring themselves to work in the Party except as members of its central institutions. Yes, your behaviour has indeed clearly shown us that our Party suffers from a spirit of bureaucracy that puts office above work and shuns neither boycott nor disruption in the effort to get into office.

You describe as grossly mechanical decisions passed by a majority vote at the Party Congress, but you do not consider grossly mechanical and scandalous the methods of struggle in the colonies abroad and at the League Congress which gained you your shameful victory over our Party editorial board! You do not see anything hypocritical in   protestations of recognising the Party being made by people who have fought for and obtained control of the Central Party Organ although they were a minority at the Party Congress!

And you call these hypocritical efforts to whitewash your indecent, anti-Party behaviour, this preaching of anarchy, this mockery of the Party Congress, this opportunist justifying of circle philistinism—you call this your new organisational standpoint!

Comrades! Those who are serious in counting themselves members of the Party must raise an emphatic voice of pro test and put a stop to this shameful state of affairs! Those who are serious about Iskra’s three years of work and the Party Congress which it prepared, and which expressed the will of those Russian Social-Democrats who are really convinced on the basis of principle and are really working, will never allow an 6migr6 circle to trample underfoot all that this Party Congress achieved.


Either we have no party and are completely in the power of an 6migr6 writers’ editorial circle that our Congress rejected—and in that case, away with this hypocritical talk of a party, away with the false imprints of “Party” publications, organs and institutions! We are not the Socialist-Revolutionaries, we have no need of painted scenery. The party of the proletariat demands the truth. The party of the proletariat demands the ruthlessly outspoken exposure of the obsolete circle spirit. We must have the courage to admit that there is no party and set to work from the beginning, from the very beginning, to create and build up a real party. We shall not be daunted by the temporary victory of the circle spirit, we believe and know that the class-conscious Russian proletariat will be able to build itself a party in fact, and not just in name, a party in the sense of genuine party institutions, not in the sense of false imprints.

Or we do have a party—and in that case, away with all circle interests, away with gatherings of 6migr6 rowdies! In that case, let our Party editorial board be vacated at once by those not appointed to it by the Party Congress. In that case, let the editorial board of the Central Organ be   restored as elected by the Congress. In that case, let our Party organ advocate the views of the Party majority, let our Party organ defend Party organisation and the Party institutions instead of trampling them in the mud.

Down with the circle spirit, and, first of all, down with it on our Party editorial board!

Down with disrupters!

Long live the party of the proletariat, a party able to observe in practice the decisions of the Party Congress and to respect Party discipline and organisation!

Down with hypocritical talk and false imprints!


[1] This appeal was written by Lenin in connection with Martov’s article “Problems of the Day (A Circle or a Party?)" in Iskra, No. 56 (January 1,1904).

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