V. I.   Lenin

A Letter to A. A. Bogdanov and S. I. Gusev

Published: First published in 1925 in the magazine Proletarskaya Revolutsia, No. 4 (39). Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 143-147.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Isidor Lasker
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). 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

February 11, 1905

I wired my consent to your changes yesterday, although I emphatically do not agree with what I could gather from your letter. But I am so sick of this procrastination, and your questions seemed such a mockery, that I just gave it up, thinking, If only they did something! If only they gave notice of the Congress, any kind of notice, so long as they gave it, instead of just talking about it. You will be surprised at my use of the word mockery. But just stop and think: two months ago I sent my draft to all members of the Bureau.[1] Not one of them is interested in it or finds it necessary to discuss it. And now—by wire.... A nice business: we talk of organisation, of centralism, while actually there is such disunity, such amateurism among even the closest comrades in the centre, that one feels like chucking it all in disgust. Just look at the Bundists: they do not prate about centralism, but every one of them writes to the centre weekly and contact is thus actually maintained. You only have to pick up their Posledniye Izvestia[2] to see this contact. We, however, here are issuing the sixth number of yet one of our editors (Rakhmetov) has not written a single line, either about or for Vperyod. Our people “talk” of extensive literary connections in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, and of the Majority’s young forces, while we here, two months after the issuance of the call for collaboration (the announcement of Vperyod and a letter in connection with it), have seen or heard nothing from them. The Russian committees   (Caucasus, Nizhni-Novgorod, not to speak of the Volga region or the South) consider the Bureau a “myth”, and with perfect justification. We did “hear” from strangers about some sort of alliance between the St. Petersburg Committee of the Majority and a group of Mensheviks, but from our own people not a word. We refuse to believe that Bolsheviks could have taken such an imbecilic, suicidal step. We did “hear” from strangers about a conference of Social-Democrats and the formation of a “bloc”, but from our own people not a word, although there are rumours that this is a fait accompi. Evidently, the members of the Majority are anxious to be imposed upon again.

Our only strength lies in utter frankness, in solidarity, and indetermined assault. But people, it seems, have gone soft now that we have a “revolution”! At a time when organisation is needed a hundred times more than ever before they sell out to the disrupters. It is evident from the proposed changes in the draft of the declaration and Congress call (set forth in the letter so vaguely as to be almost unintelligible) that “loyalty” has been put on a pedestal. Papasba[3] actually uses that word, adding that if the centres are not mentioned, no one will come to the Congress! Well, gentlemen, I can wager that if   t h i s is the way you are going to act, you will never have a congress and never escape from under the thumb of the Bonapartists of the Central Organ and the Central Committee. To call a congress against the central bodies, in which lack of confidence has been expressed, to call this Congress in the name of a revolutionary bureau (which, if we are to pay slavish obeisance to the loyal Party Rules, is non-existent and fictitious), and to recognise the unqualified right of the nine Bonapartists, the League (ha! ha!), and the Bonapartist creatures (the freshly hatched committees) to attend that Congress, means to make our selves ridiculous and to lose all right to respect. The centres may and should be invited, but to accord them voting status is, I repeat, madness. The centres, of course, will not come to our Congress anyway; but why give them another chance to spit in our faces? Why this hypocrisy, this game of hide-and-seek? It is a positive shame! We bring the split into the open,   we call the Vperyod-ists to a congress, we want to organise a Vperyod-ist party, and we break immediately any and all connections with the disorganisers—and yet we are having loyalty dinned into our ears, we are asked to act as though a joint congress of Iskra and Vperyod were possible. What a farce! The very first day, the very first hour of the Congress (if it does take place) will beyond doubt ring down the curtain on this farce; but until the Congress meets such deceit can do us untold harm.

Really, I sometimes think that nine-tenths of the Bolsheviks are actually formalists. Either we shall rally all who are out to fight into a really iron-strong organisation and with this small but strong party quash that sprawling monster, the new-Iskra motley elements, or we shall prove by our conduct that we deserve to go under for being contemptible formalists. How is it that people do not understand that prior to the Bureau and prior to “Vperyod” we did all we could to save loyalty, to save unity, to save the formal, i.e., higher methods of settling the conflict?! But now, after the Bureau, after “Vperyod”, the split is a fact. And when the split had become a fact it became evident that materially we were very much weaker. We have yet to convert our moral strength into material strength. The Mensheviks have more money, more literature, more transportation facilities, more agents, more “names”, and a larger staff of contributors. It would be unpardonable childishness not to see that. And if we do not wish to present to the world the repulsive spectacle of a dried-up and anaemic old maid, proud of her barren moral purity, then we must understand that we need war and a battle organisation. Only after a long battle, and only with the aid of an excellent organisation can we turn our moral strength into material strength.

We need funds. The plan to hold the Congress   i n   L o n d o n is sublimely ridiculous, for it would cost twice as much. We cannot suspend publication of Vperyod, which is what a long absence would mean. The Congress must be a simple affair, brief, and small in attendance. This is a congress for the organisation of the battle. Clearly, you are cherishing illusions in this respect.

We need people to work on Vperyod. There are not enough of us. If we do not get two or three extra people from Russia   as permanent contributors, there is no sense in continuing to prate about a struggle against Iskra. Pamphlets and leaflets are needed, and needed desperately.

We need young forces. I am for shooting on the spot any one who presumes to say that there are no people to be had. The people in Russia are legion; all we have to do is to recruit young people more widely and boldly, more boldly and widely, and again more widely and again more boldly, without fearing them. This is a time of war. The youth—the students, and still more so the young workers—will decide the issue of the whole struggle. Get rid of all the old habits of immobility, of respect for rank, and so on. Form hundreds of circles of Vperyod-ists from among the youth and encourage them to work at full blast. Enlarge the Committee threefold by accepting young people into it, set up half a dozen or a dozen subcommittees, “co-opt” any and every honest and energetic person. Allow every subcommittee to write and publish leaflets without any red tape (there is no harm if they do make a mistake; we on Vperyod will “gently” correct them). We must, with desperate speed, unite all people with revolutionary initiative and set them to work. Do not fear their lack of training, do not tremble at their inexperience and lack of development. In the first place, if you fail to organise them and spur them on to action, they will follow the Mensheviks and the Gapons, and this very inexperience of theirs will cause five times more harm. In the second place, events themselves will teach them in our spirit. Events are already teaching everyone precisely in the Vperyod spirit.

Only you must be sure to organise, organise, and organise hundreds of circles, completely pushing into the back ground the customary, well-meant committee (hierarchic) stupidities. This is a time of war. Either you create new, young, fresh, energetic battle organisations everywhere for revolutionary Social-Democratic work of all varieties among all strata, or you will go under, wearing the aureole of “committee” bureaucrats.

I shall write of this in Vperyod[4] and speak of it at the Congress. I am writing to you in one more endeavour to evoke   an exchange of ideas, to call upon you to bring a dozen y o u n g,   f r e s h workers’ (and other) circles into direct contact with the Editorial Board, although ... although between ourselves be it said, I do not cherish the slightest hope that these daring ideas will be fulfilled, unless, perhaps, two months from now you will ask me to wire whether I agree to such-and-such changes in the “plan”.... I reply in advance that I agree to everything. Good-bye until the Congress.


P.S. You must make it your aim to revolutionise the delivery of Vperyod into Russia. Carry on widespread propaganda for subscriptions from St. Petersburg. Let students and especially workers subscribe for scores and hundreds of copies to be sent to their own addresses. It is absurd to have fears on this score in times like these. The police can never intercept all the copies. Half the number or a third will arrive, and that amounts to very much. Suggest this idea to any youth circle, and it will find hundreds of ways of its own to make connections abroad. Distribute addresses more widely, as widely as possible, for the transmission of letters to Vperyod.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 7, pp. 540-42.—Ed.

[2] The Latest News.—Ed.

[3] See Note 22.—Ed.

[4] See pp. 211-20 of this volume.—Ed.

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