V. I.   Lenin




Written: Written in Geneva
Published: First published in 1934. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 287-290.
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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January 6, 1905

Dear friend,

Thank you for your detailed letter. It will be very welcome if you tackle local affairs more energetically.

As for my view of the arguments of the editorial board in its second “secret” leaflet[4] quoted by you, I can only say the following so far. First of all one is struck by the glaring absurdity of “secret” when 1) there is nothing secret about it, and 2) the same ideas were repeated in No. 79 (the Ekaterinodar demonstration, the article of a correspondent, and the editors’ comment). No. 79 is analysed in Vperyod No. 1. [1] You will receive it before Monday and will see how we present the issue. Secrecy technique by means of a leaflet nowadays is simply absurd, and I would attack it particularly sharply.

In essence, the “ideas” of the editors in this new production of theirs offer, as it were, two points of vantage: 1) Old Believer’s position, to which the editors refer and which is clarified in Iskra, and 2) playing at parliamentarism, “parades and manoeuvres”, lack of faith in the proletariat, a bashful attempt to retract on the question of panic (as much as to say, those words about panic were perhaps “superfluous” (!)).

This should be strongly emphasised

Ad 1. Old Believer’s position, which clearly emerged also in No. 77 (the leading article)—N.B., N.B., in my   opinion, is sheer muddle. I shall analyse it in the press.[5]To justify his muddled resolution lie is obliged to “invent” a good bourgeoisie. A “bourgeois democracy” is invented distinct from the Zemstvo people and liberals (as if the Zemstvo people were not bourgeois democrats!), which, practically speaking, includes the intelligentsia (by attentively reading No. 77 and No. 79 you will clearly see that bourgeois democracy is identified with the “radical intelligentsia”, “democratic intelligentsia” and “intellectualist democracy”—e.g., No. 78, p. 3, column 3, 9th line up, and passim).

To class the intelligentsia, in contrast to the Zemstvo people, etc., as bourgeois democrats is sheer nonsense. To call on them to become an “independent force” (No. 77, Iskra’s italics) is claptrap. The real basis of broad democracy (the peasants, handicraftsmen, etc.) is ignored here, as are also the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who are the natural and inevitable left elements of the radical intelligentsia. I can only outline these propositions here, as it is necessary to deal with them in greater detail in the press.

Old Believer is chockful of pretentious drivel about the “democratic intelligentsia” being the “motor nerve” (!) of liberalism, and so on. His attempt to represent as a “new word” the term “third element”, used to describe the uplift intelligentsia, the intellectuals among the Zemstvo employees, etc., is amusing. See my review of home affairs in Zarya No. 2–3, where there is a whole chapter entitled “The Third Element”. [2] Only the new Iskra could find a “new word here.

It is not true that the Social-Democrats, as a vanguard, can influence only the democratic intelligentsia. They can influence and are influencing the Zemstvo people too. Our influence on them and on Mr. Struve is a fact overlooked only by people enamoured of the “evident, tangible results” of gala performances.

It is untrue that, apart from the Zemstvo people and democratic intelligentsia, there is no one to influence (peas ants, handicraftsmen, etc.).

It is untrue that it is the intelligentsia, in contrast to the liberals, that constitutes “bourgeois democracy”.

It is untrue that the French Radicals and Italian Republicans have not obscured the class-consciousness of the proletariat.

it is untrue that the “agreement” (of which the editors wrote in the first leaflet) could have referred to Old Believer’s “conditions”. That is absurd. The editors are hedging, clearly aware that in fact the conditions have gone by the board.

Ad 2. In my opinion, the second point stands out particularly clearly in a sentence of the second leaflet:

We should, in our view, follow our class enemy and temporary political ally in that very sphere in which they are fulfilling the role of political leader entrusted them by history, that of emancipating the nation; in this sphere the proletariat should measure its strength against the bourgeoisie”. [3]

This is playing at parliamentarism with a vengeance! “Measure its strength”—to what depths our despicable intellectualist gasbags degrade this great concept by reducing it to the demonstration of a handful of workers at a Zemstvo meeting! What a hysterical fuss, trying to snatch an advantage from a momentary situation (just now the Zemstvo people are “in the limelight” —fire away about the sphere in which they fulfil the role entrusted them by history! For pity’s sake, gentlemen! Don’t talk so pretty!). “Full contact of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie that is politically in the limelight” What can be “fuller” than that! “Argufying” with the Mayor of Ekaterinodar him self!

The defence of the idea about the “highest type of mobilisation” is not quite clear, for here you are paraphrasing and not quoting. But this idea contains the key to their confusion. The distinction between an “ordinary” and a “political demonstration” (does the second leaflet really say that in so many words? Is it a printed leaflet? Can you get a copy? a specimen?) is a real gem. This, I think, is where the opponent should be brought to bay, for it is   here that he comes to grief. It is not demonstrations in the Zemstvos that are bad, but high-faulting judgements about the highest type that are fatuous.

I shall leave it at that for the time being. I am preparing for my lecture today. [6] It is said that the Mensheviks have decided not to come.

No. 1. of Vperyod comes out today.[7]

Write in some detail about your impression of Vperyod, obtain letters for it, especially for the workers’ section.

[I advise you to compare the second leaflet of the editorial board with No. 77 and No. 78. Old Believer, and No. 79.]

N. Lenin


[1] See Lenin’s article “Good Demonstrations of Proletarians and Poor Arguments of Certain Intellectuals” (present edition, Vol. 8).— Ed.

[2] See present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 281-89.—Ed.

[3] The italics are Lenin’s—Ed.

[4] This refers to the second Mensheviks’ “Letter to Party Organisations” published in leaflet form in December 1904 over the signature of the Iskra editorial board. A critical analysis of Iskra’s first letter mentioned by Lenin lower down was given by him in the pamphlet The Zemstvo Campaign and Iskra’s Plan. ^^(see Vol. 7 of this edition.)^^ Lenin also deals with these letters in his article “Two Tactics”. ^^(see Vol. 8 of this edition)^^

[5] The editorial “Democrats at the Parting of the Ways” in No. 77 of the Menshevik Iskra was criticised by Lenin in his article “Working-Class and Bourgeois Democracy” published in Vperyod No. 3, for January 24 (11), 1905. ^^(see Vol. 8 of this edition.)^^

[6] On January 6, 1905 (December 24, 1904), Lenin read a lecture on working-class and bourgeois democracy to an audience of political emigrants in Geneva.

[7] Issue No. 1 of Vperyod was dated January 4, 1905 (December 22, 1904).

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