V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1934. Sent from Geneva to the Isle of Capri (Italy). Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 379-382.
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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February 7, 1908

Dear A. M.,

I shall consult A. A. about your statement; since you did not know him personally I think it is not worth while publishing it.[1]

To what Bolshevik symposium have you sent the article on cynicism? I am puzzled, because people write to me a good deal about Bolshevik symposia, but I have never heard of this one. I hope it is to the St. Petersburg one.[2] Send me a copy of your letter to Sienkiewicz, if you have one (indicating when it was sent)—but Sienkiewicz will no doubt publish it since it is an opinion poll.[3]

Your plans are very interesting and I should like to come. But, you will agree, I cannot very well throw up the Party job, which needs organising immediately.[4] It is difficult to get a new job going. I can’t throw it up. We shall have it going in about a couple of months or so, and then I shall be free to tear myself away for a week or two.

I agree with you a thousand times about the need for systematically combating political decadence, renegadism, whining, and so forth. I do not think that there would be any disagreement between us about “society” and the “youth”. The significance of the intellectuals in our Party is declining; news comes from all sides that the intelligentsia is fleeing the Party. And a good riddance to these scoundrels. The Party is purging itself from petty-bourgeois dross. The workers are having a bigger say in things. The role of the worker-professionals is increasing. All this is wonderful, and I am sure that your “kicks” must be under stood in the same sense.

Now—how are we to exert influence, what exactly should our literature be? Symposia or Proletary? Of course, the easier thing is to reply: not or, but and—the reply will be irreproachable but of little practical value. We must have legal symposia, of course; our comrades in St. Petersburg are working on them by the sweat of the brow, and I, too, have been working on them after London, while sitting in Kwakalla.[5] If possible, all efforts should be made to support them and continue these symposia.[6]

But my experience from London up to November 1907 (half a year!) has convinced me that no systematic legal literature can now be produced. I am convinced that what the Party now needs is a regular political organ, consistently and vigorously pursuing a policy of struggle against disintegration and despondency—a Party organ, a political newspaper. Many people in Russia do not believe in a foreign-based organ. But this is an error, and our collegium knew what it was doing when it decided to transfer Proletary here. That it is difficult to organise, set it up and run it—goes without saying. But it has to be done and it will be done.

Why shouldn’t literary criticism be included in it? Too little space? I don’t know, of course, your system of working. Unfortunately, when we have met, we spent more time chattering than talking business. If you don’t like writing small, short, periodical (weekly or fortnightly) articles, if you prefer to work on big things—then, of course, I would not advise you to interrupt it. It will be of greater benefit!

If, however, you are inclined towards joint work in a political newspaper—why not continue and make a regular feature of the genre which you began with “Notes on Philistinism” in Novaya Zhizn, and began very well, in my opinion? I wrote to you about this “with an ulterior motive” in one of the first letters, thinking: if it appeals to him, he will seize on the idea. And it seems to me that in your last letter you are seizing on it after a fashion. Or am I mistaken? How great would be the gain, both- for Party work through the newspaper, which would not be so one-sided as it previously was, and for literary work, which would be more closely linked with Party work,   with systematic, continuous influence on the Party! There should be not “forays”, but a solid onslaught all along the line, without stops or gaps; Bolshevik Social-Democrats should not only attack all kinds of duffers piecemeal, but should conquer all and everything as the Japanese conquered Manchuria from the Russians.

Of the three subjects that you mention for the symposia (philosophy, literary criticism, and current tactics) one- and-a-half would go into the political newspaper, into Proletary, viz.: current tactics and a good half of the literary criticism. Ah, there is nothing good about all those special, long articles of literary criticism scattered through various semi-Party and non-Party periodicals! We should try to take a step away from this old, intellectualist, stuff ed shirt manner, that is, we should link literary criticism, too, more closely with Party work, with Party leadership. That is what the adult Social-Democratic Parties in Europe are doing. That is what we should do, too, without being afraid of the difficulties of the first steps of collective news paper activity in this field.

Large works of literary criticism—in books, partially in periodicals.

Systematic, periodic articles, in the concert of a political newspaper, linked with Party work, in the spirit, of what was begun by Novaya Zhizn—tell me, have you any inclination towards this, or not?

The third subject is philosophy. I am fully aware of my unpreparedness in this sphere, which prevents me from speaking about it in public. But, as a rank-and-file Marxist, I read attentively our Party philosophers, I read attentively the empirio-monist Bogdanov and the empirio-critics Bazarov, Lunacharsky, etc.—and they drive me to give all my sympathy to Plekhanov! It takes physical strength to keep oneself from being carried away by the mood, as Plekhanov does! His tactics are the height of ineptitude, and baseness. In philosophy, however, he upholds the right cause. I am for materialism against “empirio-” etc.

Can, and should, philosophy be linked with the trend of Party work? With Bolshevism? I think this should not be done at the present time. Let our Party philosophers put in some more work on theory for a while, let them dis-   pute and ... seek a meeting of minds. For the time being, I would stand for such philosophical disputes as those between materialists and “empirios” being separated from integral Party work.

I look forward to your reply, meanwhile I must conclude.



[1] This refers to Gorky’s statement for the press in connection with the arrest of Semashko.

[2] The article “On Cynicism” was written by Gorky for the French magazine Les Documents du Progrès and was first published in the symposium Literaturny Raspad (Zerno Publishers, St. Petersburg, which appeared in 1908) and afterwards in the March issue of the French magazine. The article contained erroneous ideas of a god-building nature.

[3] Gorky’s letter of January 30, 1908, to Henryk Sienkiewicz was an answer to the opinion poll organised by the latter on the attitude to the seizure of the Poznan landowners’ estates by the Prussian government.

Gorky’s letter was an accusatory document directed against Sienkiewicz’s defence of big private landownership in Poznan. Gorky wrote to Sienkiewicz that, while he appreciated his gift as an artist, he protested against Sienkiewicz appealing to Wilhelm II with such arguments as the “peaceful” behaviour of the Poles, who were “not kindling in the fire of revolution”, were punctually paying their taxes and providing soldiers for the Prussian army. “These words give me reason to doubt the strength of your love for the Polish people,” Gorky wrote in conclusion.

The 252 replies to Sienkiewicz’s questionnaire were published by him in book form in Paris, but Gorky’s reply was left out.

[4] Lenin was engaged in the work of issuing the newspaper Proletary, publication of which had been transferred from Finland to Geneva at the end of 1907.

[5] Kwakalla—a jocular name for the village Kuokkala, in Finland, where Lenin lived during May–November 1907.

[6] The Bolshevik symposia were published after the coup of June 3rd when the legal newspapers and periodicals were obliged to close down owing to censorship persecution. The year 1907 and beginning of 1908 saw the publication of the symposia Golos Zhizni (The Voice of Life), Zarnitsy (Summer Lightning), Kalendar dlya vsekh (Popular Calendar) for 1908, Tyemi Dnya (Topics of the Day), Tekushchaya Zhizn (Current Life), O Veyaniakh Vremeni (Spirit of the Times).

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