V. I.   Lenin

Letter to the Members of the Central Committee

Written: Written on May 13 (26), 1904
Published: Published, with some changes, in the pamphlet The Fight for a Congress by N. Shakhov, Geneva, 1904. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, publisher??, pubdate??, Moscow, Volume 7, pages 426-429.
Translated: Fineberg Abraham
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2002). 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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Dear Friends,

Boris has informed me that five Central Committee members (he, Loshad, Valentin, Mitrofan,[2] and Travinsky) have passed a vote of censure on me for having voted in the Council in favour of a congress and for agitating on behalf of a congress. I request each of the five to confirm this fact or to explain it to me, for I cannot conceive how a member of a body can be censured for doing what it is his right and duty to do. You may not agree with him, you may recall him from the Council, but to “censure” him is strange indeed; for as long as I sat on the Council I could not do otherwise than vote in accordance with my convictions. And to agitate for a congress is likewise the right of every Party member and every member of the Central Committee, so that the powers of a Party body in relation to its members do not entitle it (either formally or morally) to restrict any of us in the exercise of that right. All I am obliged to do is to announce that half or more of the Central Committee are opposed to a congress.

As regards the Council, the matter has now been arranged as follows: Boris has been appointed (by five votes, he says) in place of Kol. My resignation (he says) has not been accept ed. I withdraw my resignation and remain on the Council. As far as that is concerned, the conflict has been settled, and I only ask for an explanation of the “censure”.

But far more important is the following conflict: Boris has informed me that he finds it impossible to remain a member of the Central Committee unless I (1) stop agitating for a congress, and (2) work against a congress. Naturally, I can do neither of these things, and I have accordingly told Boris that I shall discuss the matter with all my colleagues on the Central Committee and shall then let him   have my reply, which will say whether I am resigning from the Central Committee or not. As regards this conflict, which threatens to lead to the resignation of one of us (or even of one of the two sections of the Central Committee), I consider it of the utmost importance to discuss it thoroughly, without heat, and with a proper knowledge of the facts. I think Boris is much to blame for having presented his “ultimatum” without reading either the Council minutes (highly important!) or my pamphlet,[1] in which I set forth the principles on which I take my stand. Is it wise to aggravate the conflict without going to the bottom of the matter, which is a highly complicated one?? Is it wise to aggravate it when basically we agree (at any rate, the declaration writ ten in the name of the Central Committee by Valentin, which was sent to us but did not reach us and which Boris told me about, stresses our common stand on principles of organisation, as against the opportunist stand of the minority)? Even as regards the congress, we differ only as to the date, for Boris has no objection to a congress being convened six months or a year later. See what emerges. According to the Rules, there should be a congress next summer; I consider that at best, assuming that our agitation is an unqualified success, it will be impossible to convene one in under six months, and most likely it will take even longer. It turns out that our “difference” boils down to a matter of the date! Does it make sense to part company over that? Look at the matter from the purely political angle: Boris declares that agitation for a congress is incompatible with building up positive work, that the former is injurious to the latter. I do not agree that they are incompatible; but even assuming that Boris is right, what would be the result if he succeeded in getting those who disagree with him about this to resign from the Central Committee? The result would unquestionably be to intensify the agitation enormously, to exacerbate relations between the majority and the Central Committee, and to aggravate for Boris himself the business— which he finds so unpleasant—of working against a congress. Is there any sense in aggravating matters in this way? Boris says that he is against a congress because it would mean   a split. I think he misjudges the position as it is today and as it is likely to be tomorrow; but even if he is right, by securing our resignation from the Central Committee he would enormously increase the likelihood of a split, because he would undoubtedly be aggravating the situation. To aggravate the conflict within the Central Committee would be unwise from any angle.

Essentially, the only difference of opinion between Boris and me is that he considers a split at the Third Congress inevitable, while I consider it unlikely. We both believe that the majority at the Third Congress will be on our side. Boris thinks that the minority will leave the Party: neither we nor Martov, he feels, will be able to restrain the extremists. I think that he fails to take account of the swiftly moving situation, which today is not what it was yesterday, and tomorrow will not be what it is today. Boris sees the situation as it existed yesterday (when the squabbling pushed principles into the background, when there could be hopes of smoothing things over, of toning them down, of personal concessions being successful). That situation exists no longer, as I show at length in my pamphlet, and as is shown by the general dissatisfaction with the new Iskra (even on the part of such mild people as the writers’ group of the Central Committee in Russia). The situation today is different: principles are pushing the squabbling into the back ground. Today it is no longer co-optation that is the issue, not by any means. The issue is whether the new “Iskra” is right in principle. And it is the dissatisfaction with the new Iskra’s principles, which is bound to keep growing, that is producing an ever stronger agitation for a congress. That is what Boris does not appreciate. Tomorrow the squabbling will recede even further into the background. On the one hand, the minority will not be in a position, morally and politically, to quit (the moment for that which existed after the League Congress is gone). On the other hand, as I already declared at the Council (I once more beg you all to be sure to read the Council minutes before rushing at this difficult problem), we by no means refuse to make terms. I say to all and sundry that I for one am absolutely prepared (1) to give all the old editors a guarantee that everything they write will be published at the Party’s expense, without   alteration or comment; (2) to suspend until the Fourth Congress the Central Committee’s right to appoint and dismiss members of the local committees; (3) to guarantee, in a special resolution, the more sensitively-felt rights of the minority, and even (4) conditionally, a s a l a s t r e s o r t, to make Iskra neutral, keeping its columns free of mutual controversy (with the help of a commission of practical workers from both sides, etc.). I think that under such circumstances the minority at the Third Congress, being only a small minority, will not venture to withdraw from the Congress. I think that at the Third Congress we shall, by. formally adopted decisions, finally dispel the fantasy of a “state of siege” and bring about a position where controversies will take their course without interfering with positive work. And that, after all, is the crux of the whole crisis, that is what I tried to secure at the Council, and four- fifths of the congress are bound to support it! I know very well that this is what Boris wants too, but there is no achieving it without a congress. Boris is mistaken in thinking that we started the onslaught (by agitating for a congress) and that put the minority’s back up. Quite the contrary: it was only after a number of letters and appeals, prior to the Council and at the Council itself, that we pronounced for a congress, and by the agitation we have only shown our strength a little. Whoever does not want to land in the ridiculous (if not worse) position of Plekhanov (read his article in No. 65) must frankly and openly take up a stand in the struggle. Nothing can now stop the agitation for a congress. One must be tolerant—neutral, if you will—towards it, and then it will not interfere with positive work. To rage against this agitation is useless.

I earnestly request a reply from each of the Central Committee members. It is essential to come to an understanding and clear up the matter, so that we may work together, not without some differences, perhaps, but without conflicts and without attempts to oust one another.


[1] See pp. 203-425 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] Boris, Loshad, Valentin, Mitrofan—pseudonyms of the conciliators V. A. Noskov (Glebov), L. B. Krasin, L. Y. Galperin, and F. V. Gusarov.

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