Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Remarks on Books:

G. V. Plekhanov.
N. G. Chernyshevsky.
Shipovnik Publishing House.
St. Petersburg, 1910

(Part One)


Written not earlier than October 1909
and not later than April 1911.
Published in part in 1933
in Lenin Miscellany XXV.
Published in full for the
first time.
Published according
to the original.

Lenin’s Remarks in G. V. Plekhanov’s book “N. G. Chernyshevsky,” St. Petersburg, 1910—-written not earlier than October 1909 (the actual date of the book’s appearance) and not later than April 1911. They were first published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXV.

Many of Lenin’s comments are devoted to a comparison of statements by Plekhanov in his book published in 1910 with his articles on Chernyshevsky published in 1890 and 1892 in Sotsial-Demokrat, a literary and political review (see Sotsial-Demokrat, Book 1, London, 1890; Book 2, Geneva, 1890; Book 3, Geneva, 1890; Book 4, Geneva, 1892).

These four articles by Plekhanov were brought together in the book N. G. Chernyshevsky appearing in Germany in 1894 in German. Plekhanov’s book, which gave, in the main, a correct characterisation of Chernyshevsky’s views and which sharply attacked the Narodniks, was favourably commented upon by Lenin in the article “A Retrograde Trend in Russian Social-Democracy” (see pres. ed., Vol. 4, Moscow, 1961, p. 271).

Plekhanov’s book N. G. Chernyshevsky published in 1910 was written at a time when he had already gone over to Menshevism. It was in effect directed against Bolshevism against the Bolshevist evaluation of the world outlook and activity of Chernyshevsky and the revolutionary democrats of the 19th century. In this book, Plekhanov abandons a number of basic propositions in his earlier evaluation of Chernyshevsky, obscuring his revolutionary democratism, his resolute struggle against liberalism and his backing of the peasant revolution.

Lenin carefully collates the text of the book published in 1910 with Plekhanov’s articles in Sotsial-Demokrat, noting which of Plekhanov’s basic formulations remained unchanged and which underwent radical change.

Lenin’s remarks and notations in Plekhanov’s book are inseparably linked with his numerous statements on Chernyshevsky—in the writings published before he became acquainted with Plekhanov’s book (What the “Friends of the People” Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats, The Heritage We Renounce, On “Vekhi”;, and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism) as well as in those written afterwards (Peasant Reform and Proletarian Peasant Revolution, In Memory of Herzen, From the Past of the Workers’ Press in Russia, etc.).



[51]...The unfortunate outcome [52] of the
Crimean War compelled the Government to make
a few concessions to educated society and effect
at least the more pressing reforms that had long
since become indispensable. Soon the problem
of freeing the peasants was placed on the order

Click for Note #1

of the day, a problem plainly affecting the inter-
ests of all social-estates. Needless to say, Niko-
lai Gavrilovich[2] eagerly set about elaborating
the problem. His excellent articles on the peasants’

cause were written in 1857 and 1858. The mutual
relations of our social forces in the epoch of the
abolition of serfdom are now fairly well known.
We shall, therefore, mention them only in passing

only insofar as it may be necessary to elucidate the
role adopted in this matter by our advanced publi-
, chief of whom then was N. G. Chernyshevsky.
It is well known that these writers zealously
defended the interests of the peasants.
Our author
wrote one article after another, advocating the
emancipation of the peasants and giving them
land, and maintaining that the Government would
find no difficulty whatever in redeeming the lands
allotted to the peasants. He supported his thesis
both with general theoretical considerations and
with the most detailed estimates. “Indeed, in
what way can the redemption of land prove dif
ficult? How can it be too much for the people to
hear? That is improbable,” he wrote in the article
“Is Land Redemption Difficult?” “It runs counter
to the fundamental concepts of economics. Political
economy teaches clearly that all the material
capital which a certain generation takes over from
previous generations is not too considerable in
value compared with the mass of values produced
by the labour of that generation. For example,
all of the land belonging to the French people,
together with all the buildings and their contents,
together with all the ships and cargoes, all the
livestock and money and other riches belonging
to that country, is hardly worth a hundred thou-
sand million francs, while the labour of the French
people produces fifteen or more thousand million
francs’ worth of values annually, i.e., in no more
than seven years the French people produce a mass
of values equal to that of the whole of France from
the Channel to the Pyrenees. Consequently, if the
French had to redeem all France, they could do
so in the lifetime of one [53] generation, using
only one-fifth of their revenue for the purpose.
And what is the point at issue in our country?
Is it the whole of Russia that we must redeem
with all her riches? No, only the land. And is it
to be all the Russian land? No, the redemption
would affect only those gubernias of European
Russia alone where serfdom is deep-rooted,” etc.[3]
After showing that the lands to be redeemed would
constitute no more than one-sixth of the area of
European Russia, he puts forward as many as eight
plans for carrying out redemption. According to
him, if the Government were to accept any one
of these plans, it could redeem the allotted lands
not only without burdening the peasants, but
also to the great advantage of the state treasury.
Chernyshevsky’s plans were all based on the con-
cept that it is “necessary to fix the
most moderate prices possible
in determining the amount of
redemption payments
.” We know now
how much consideration the Government gave to the
interests of the peasantry in the abolition of
serfdom and how much it heeded Chernyshevsky’s
advice regarding moderation in fixing redemption
payments. Whereas our government, in freeing
the peasants, never for a moment forgot the bene-
fits to the state treasury, it thought very little
about the interests of the peasants. In the re-
demption operations fiscal and landlord interests
were exclusively borne in mind.


...[57] It was not on economic problems alone
that Chernyshevsky had to wage a fierce polemic.
Neither were his opponents only liberal econo-

No. 1,
p. 152

mists. As the influence of the Sovremennik circle[4]
in Russian literature grew, the greater were the
number of attacks launched from the most varied

[58] quarters both on that circle in general and
on our author in particular. The contributors to
Sovremennik were regarded as dangerous people
who were prepared to destroy all the notorious
“foundations.” Some of “Belinsky’s friends,” who at
first considered it possible to go along with Cherny-

Page corner NB

shevsky and those holding his views, repudiated
the Sovremennik as an organ of the “Nihilists,”
and began to exclaim that Belinsky would never

Up to here So-

No. 1, p. 152

have approved of its trend. Such was I. S. Turge-
nev’s attitude.[5] Even Herzen grumbled at the
“clowns,” in his Kolokol.
[6] He warned them that:

“while exhausting all their ridicule over the litera-
ture of exposures, our dear clowns forget that
on this slippery path they may not merely ‘whistle’
themselves into becoming like Bulgarin and Grech,
but even into being decorated with the Stanislav
Order.” Herzen affirmed that there were excellent
things in the “literature of exposures” that the
“clowns” were ridiculing. “Do you imagine that
all the tales of Shchedrin and others can just be
hurled into the water together with Oblomov[7] on
their necks? You indulge yourselves too much,
gentlemen!”[8].... The reference to Shchedrin was
extremely unfortunate since Chernyshevsky him-

self was well able to appreciate his works. In gen-
eral, everything shows that Herzen was misled
by his liberal friends, such as Kavelin
. The


“clowns”—or “whistlers,” as they were called in
Russia—were not ridiculing the exposures, but
the naive people who could not or would not go
beyond innocent exposures, forgetting the moral
of Krylov’s fable The Cat and the Cook[9]....

Herzen himself was to see very soon how bad
in a political sense were those liberal friends who

kept questioning his relations with Chernyshevsky.
When he had to break with K. D. Kavelin, he
perhaps told himself that the “jaundiced ones”
were not entirely wrong.
[10] [59]

Incidentally, the majority of the articles in

Page corner NB

Svistok which evoked the especial dissatisfaction
of the well-bred liberals
did not belong to the


pen of N. G. Chernyshevsky. Only rarely did
he contribute to it, as he was overwhelmed with
other work. In the closing years of his literary
activity he contributed regularly to every issue
of Sovremennik; what is more, every issue usually
contained several articles by him. As a general
rule, his articles were distributed among the
various sections of the journal as follows: first
of all, be contributed an article on some general
theoretical problem, then he wrote a political
survey, reviewed several new books, and, lastly,
by way of relaxation and diversion, as it were,
he made polemical sorties against his opponents.
The Sovremennik of 1861 was particularly rich in
polemical articles written by him. It was at that
time that he wrote his well-known “Polemical
Gems,” “National Tactlessness” (attacking Slovo
of Lvov), “Popular Muddleheadedness” (attacking
Aksakov’s Den; we shall speak of this article
later), and numerous other polemical notes in the
section of Russian and foreign literature.

What is now especially interesting in “Polemi-
cal Gems” is our author’s views on his own literary
activity. We shall cite them here. Chernyshevsky
was very well aware that he held a prominent
place in Russian literature, His opponents dreaded
him, and occasionally even paid him compliments.
But his growing renown did not make him happy
in the least. He had too low an opinion of Russian
literature to consider the prominent place he
occupied in it to be honourable. He was “com-
pletely cold to his literary reputation.” The only
thing he was interested in was whether he would
be able to preserve the freshness of his thought
and feeling till those better days when our litera-
ture would become really useful to society. “I know
that better times will come for literary activity,
when it will be of real benefit to society, and
when he who possesses talent will really earn a good
name. And so I am wondering whether when the
time comes I shall still be able to serve society
properly. Fresh strength and fresh convictions
are needed for this. But I see that I am beginning
to join the company of ‘respected’ writers, that is
to say, of those writers who have been wrung dry,
who lag behind the movement of social require-
ments. This rouses a feeling of bitterness.
But what is there to be done? Age takes its toll.
Youth does not come twice, [60] I can’t help
envying those who are younger and fresher
than I....”[11]

[61] Meanwhile, feelings were rising, at least
in a section of Russian “society.” The student
youth were filled with unrest and secret revolu-
tionary organisations were springing up which
printed their own manifestoes and programmes
and awaited an imminent peasant uprising. We
already know that Chernyshevsky fully recognised
the possibility of impending “troubled times”[12]

in Russia and we shall yet see how strongly the
rise of the social mood was reflected in his activity
as a publicist.
But was he in any way connected


with the secret societies? It is not yet possible
to reply with certainty to this question, and who
knows whether we shall ever have the facts to
answer it. In the opinion of M. Lemke, who made
an excellent study of the N. G. Chernyshevsky
case, “it can be presumed (his italics) that he
was the author of the proclamation ‘To the Manorial
Peasants,’ which the court found him guilty of
having written.” Mr. Lemke supports his conjecture
by pointing to the style and content of the procla-
mation. We find these arguments not without
foundation. But we hasten to repeat with Mr. Lem-
ke that “all these are more or less probable consider-
ations, and no more.”[13] We also consider fairly
well founded Mr. Lemke’s opinion that the famous
paper Velikoruss was, in part, the work of Cherny-
shevsky. Mr. Lemke supports his hypothesis by
quoting Mr. Stakhevich, who for several years
lived with Chernyshevsky in Siberia: “I noticed
that Chernyshevsky was obviously sympathetically
inclined towards the paper which appeared at
irregular intervals under the title of Velikoruss;
I recall three issues coming out. As I listened to
Nikolai Gavrilovich’s conversation, I sometimes
noticed that both his thoughts and the way he
expressed them [62] strongly reminded me of the
paper Velikoruss, and I decided in my own mind
that he was either the author or, at least, co-
author of the paper which advocated the need for
constitutional reforms.”[14] We are in full agreement

with Mr. Stakhevich: the style and content of
Velikoruss are indeed very reminiscent of Cherny-
shevsky’s journalistic articles. And if Cherny-


shevsky was in fact the author, then that, of course,
explains the circumstance that Velikoruss was
far wiser and more tactful than other such papers
of the time.

Simultaneously with the rise of the extreme
party in Russia, there was a growth of the rev-
olutionary movement in Poland. Had Cherny-
shevsky any formal relations with the Polish
revolutionaries of whom there were not a few
in St. Petersburg at that time? Again, there are
no data on this point. Not wishing to indulge in
conjectures, we shall limit ourselves, in clarifying
Chernyshevsky’s general sympathies towards the
Polish cause, to data obtainable from his writings;
however, even such data are not numerous.


We know that the Slavophils[15] very much
approved of the struggle of the Galician Ruthen-
ians against the Poles. Chernyshevsky was always
sympathetically inclined towards the Little Rus-

No 1,
p. 157

sians. He regarded Belinsky’s negative attitude
to the emerging Little Russian literature to be
a great mistake. In the January issue of Sovremen-
for 1864 he published a very sympathetic article
on the occasion of the appearance of Osnova, the
organ of the Little Russians. But his attitude
towards the struggle of the Galician Ruthenians
against the Poles could not be one of unconditional
approval. First of all, he did not like the fact
that the Ruthenians sought the support of the
Viennese Government. Neither did he like the
influential role of the clergy in the movement of
the Galician Ruthenians. “Lay affairs,” he wrote,
“should be the concern of laymen.” Finally, Cherny-
shevsky did not like the exiusively national
formulation of this question, which he regarded as
primarily an economic one. In an article
entitled “National Tactlessness” (Sovremennik,
July 1861) attacking the Lvov Slovo, Cherny-
shevsky [63] sharply criticised the excessive nation-
alism of that organ. “It is very possible that a
careful examination of existing relations,” he
wrote, “would show the Lvov Slovo that at the
basis of the matter there is a question that is far
removed from the racial question—the question
of social-estates. It is very possible that it would
see Ruthenians and Poles on each of the two sides—
people differing in race, but of the same social
position. We do not believe that the Polish peasant
should be hostile to the alleviation of the obliga-
tions and, in general, of the living conditions of
the Ruthenian settlers. We do not believe that the
sentiments of the Ruthenian landowners should
differ very much in this matter from the sentiments
of the Polish landowners. If we are not mistaken,
the root of the Galician question lies not in rela-
tions of race, but of social-estate.”

The mutual hostility of the peoples composing
Austria ought to have appeared even more tactless
to Chernyshevsky, in that the Viennese Govern-
ment then, as previously, derived great advantages
from it. “When one reflects carefully, one is not
surprised at the many years of existence of the
Austrian Empire,” he wrote in a political review
in the same issue of Sovremennik that published
the article “National Tactlessness”; “and why
should it not maintain itself when there is such
‘excellent’ political tact on the part of the nationa-
lities embraced within its borders.” To Cherny-
shevsky the Austrian Germans, Czechs, Croats
and, as we have seen, Ruthenians seemed equally
“slow-witted”. He was afraid that the Slav “slow-
wittedness” which was particularly evident in
1848-49 would again go very far. At the beginning
of the sixties Hungary was waging a stubborn
struggle against the Viennese reactionary central-
ists. The discontent of the Hungarians was running
so high that at one time it could have been expected
that there would be a revolutionary outburst in
their country. In his political reviews, our author
repeatedly expressed the fear that, in the event
of a revolutionary movement in Hungary, the
Austrian Slavs would again become obedient
tools of reaction. The tactics of many Slav races
in Austria at that time could only strengthen such
fears, since the Austrian Slavs even ventured
to boast of the disgraceful role they had played
in the 1848-49 events. Chernysheysky strongly
condemned these tactics and showed that it would
have been more to their advantage if, on the
contrary, they had supported the enemies of the
Viennese Government, enemies from whom they
could have obtained substantial concessions. He
said this concerning the attitude of the Croats
to the Hungarians [64], and repeated this to the
Ruthenians. “The social-estate party, hostile to
the Ruthenians,” we read in his article “National
Tactlessness,” “is now ready for concessions....
It would do no harm for the Lvov Slovo to give
this some thought; perhaps the concessions which
people who seem to it to be enemies are sincerely
prepared to make, perhaps these concessions are
so great that they would thoroughly satisfy the

Ruthenian settlers; in any event these concessions
are without doubt far greater and far more impor-
tant than the concessions the Ruthenian settlers
can get from the Austrians....”

Up to here Sot-

No. 1. p. 158

[65]...Finally, the first part of the novel Prologue[16]
depicts the friendly attitude of Volgin to Sokolovsky
(Sierakowski). Volgin likes Sokolovsky’s utter
devotion to his [66] convictions, the absence of
conceited pettiness, his self-control, combined
with the passionate zeal of the true agitator.

Page corner NB

Volgin calls him a  real man and thinks that
our liberals could learn a great deal from him.

All this is very interesting,[17] but it too in no way


explains Chernyshevsky’s practical relations with
the Polish affair.[18]


At that time Chernyshevsky was about 34 years
of age. He was in the prime of his mental powers,
and who knows to what heights he might not have
risen in his development! But he had not long to
live in freedom. He was the recognised leader of
the extreme party, a highly influential exponent
of materialism and socialism. He was considered
the “ringleader” of the revolutionary youth, and
was blamed for all their outbursts and agitation.
As always happens in such cases, rumour exagger-
ated the affair and ascribed to Chernyshevsky
intentions and actions which were foreign to him.
In “Prologue to a Prologue,”[19] Chernyshevsky


No. 1,
pp. 165-166

himself describes the liberal sympathetic gossip
spread in St. Petersburg concerning Volgin’s
(i.e., his own) alleged relations with the London
circle of Russian exiles.[20] The gossip was occa-
sioned by the most insignificant incidents that
had absolutely nothing to do with politics. And,
as usual, things did not stop at mere gossip. The
police-inspired press had long been engaged in
literary denunciations of Chernyshevsky. In 1862,
Sovremennik was suspended for some time. Then
came non-literary denunciations as well. “The
Director of the Third Department of His Imperial
Majesty’s Own Chancellery,” said the indictment
of Chernyshevsky, “has received an anonymous
letter warning the Government against Cherny-
shevsky, ‘that youth ringleader and wily socialist’;
‘he himself has said that he will never be convict-
ed’; he is said to be a pernicious agitator, and
people ask to be spared from such a man; ‘all
of Chernyshevsky’s former friends, seeing that his
tendencies were finding expression in deeds and
not merely in words, liberal-minded people...
have dissociated themselves from him. Unless you
remove Chernyshevsky, writes the author of the
letter [67], there will be trouble and bloodshed;
they are a band of rabid demagogues, of reckless
people.... Perhaps they will eventually be eliminat-
ed, but just think how much innocent blood will
be shed because of them.... There are committees
of such socialists in Voronezh, Saratov, Tambov
and elsewhere, and everywhere they inflame the
youth.... Send Chernyshevsky away wherever you
like, but be quick to deprive him of the opportunity
to act.... Deliver us from Chernyshevsky for the
sake of public peace”....

[71]... What is the secret of the extraordinary
success of What Is To Be Done?[21] It is the same as
is generally responsible for the success of literary
works, the fact that this novel gave a living and
universally understood answer to questions in
which a considerable section of the reading public
was keenly interested. In themselves, the thoughts
expressed in it were not new; Chernyshevsky had
taken them wholly from West-European literature.
In France,[22] George Sand had much earlier advocat-
ed free and, most important, sincere and honest
relations in the love of a man for a woman. As re-
gards the moral demands she puts on love, Lucrezia
Floriani differs in no way from Vera Pavlovna
Lopukhova-Kirsanova. And as for the novel
Jacques [72], it would be simple to copy out a fairly
large number of passages from it to show that
in the novel What Is To Be Done? the thoughts
and reasonings of George Sand’s[23] freedom-loving,
selfless hero are at times reproduced almost in their
entirety. And George Sand was not the only one
to advocate freedom in relations of this kind.
It is well known that they were also advocated by
Robert Owen and Fourier, who had a decisive
influence on Chernyshevsky’s outlook.[25] And
as early as the forties all these ideas met with
warm sympathy in our country. In his articles
Belinsky often called passionately for freedom
and sincerity in relations of love. The reader will
recall, of course, how bitterly the “impetuous
Vissarion” reproached Pushkin’s Tatyana because,
while loving Onegin, she did not follow the dictates
of her heart; she belonged to “another,” her aged
husband, whom she did not love but continued to
live with. In their attitude to women, the best
people of the “forties” adhered to the same principles
as those of Lopukhov and Kirsanov. However,
prior to the appearance of the novel What Is To
Be Done?
, these principles were shared only by
a “select” handful; the mass of the reading public

did not understand them at all. Even Herzen
hesitated to expound them fully and clearly in
his [73] novel Who Is To Blame? A. Druzhinin
handles the question more resolutely in his story
Polenka Saks.[26] But this story is too colourless,
and its characters, belonging to so-called high

Page corner NB

society—officials and titled personages—did not

at all appeal to the non-gentry, who, after the

fall of Nicholas’ regime, formed the left wing
of the reading public.
With the appearance of


What Is To Be Done? everything changed, every-
thing became clear, precise and definite. There was
no more room left for doubt. Thinking people
were faced with the alternative of being guided
in love by the principles of Lopukhov and Kirsa-
nov, or of bowing to the sanctity of marriage and
resorting, should a new sentiment arise, to the
old, tested method of secret amorous adventures,
or else completely subduing all affection in their
hearts in view of the fact that they belonged to
a marriage partner, whom they no longer loved.
And the choice had to be made quite consciously.
Chernyshevsky dealt with the issue in such a way
that what had been natural instinctiveness and
sincerity in love relations became utterly impos-
sible. Mind control extended to love, and the gener-
al public adopted a conscious view of the relations
between man and woman. And this was particu-
larly important in our country in the sixties. The
reforms which Russia had undergone turned
upside down both our social and family relations.
A ray of light reached into recesses that had been
in complete darkness. Russian people were com-
pelled to examine themselves, to take a sober
view of their relation to their kin, to society and
family. A new element came to play a big role in
family relations, in love and friendship: viz.,
convictions, which formerly only the very smallest
handful of “idealists” had possessed. Differences
of conviction led to unexpected ruptures. A woman
“given in marriage” to a certain man often discov-
ered with honor that her lawful “lord” was an
obscurantist,, a bribe-taker, a flatterer grovelling
before his superiors. A man who had enjoyed the
“possession” of his beautiful wife, and unexpectedly
was affected by the current of new ideas, often
realised in dismay that what his charming play-
thing was interested in was not at all “new people”
or “new views,” but new dresses and dances, and
also [74] the title and salary of her husband....

[75]...In Vera Pavlovna’s dreams we see that
side of Chernyshevsky’s socialist views to which,
unfortunately, Russian socialists up to now have
not paid sufficient attention. That which attracts
us in these dreams is the fact that Chernyshevsky
fully realised that the socialist system can only

be based on the broad application to production of
the technical forces developed by the bourgeois

period. In Vera Pavlovna’s dreams huge armies
of labour are jointly engaged in production, pass-
from Central Asia to Russia, from hot climate

countries to the cold countries. All this, of course,
could have been conceived with the aid of Fourier
as well, but it is evident even from the subsequent
history of so-called Russian socialism that the
Russian reading public was not aware of this.
In their ideas of socialist society our revolution-
aries frequently went so far as to conceive it in

the form of a federation of peasant communities,
cultivating their fields with the same antiquated
as that used to scrape the soil in the time

of Basil the Blind. But obviously such “socialism”
cannot be recognised as socialism. The emancipa-
tion of the proletariat can come about only through

cf. Sotsial-

the emancipation of man from the “power of
the land
” and nature in general. And this

No. 1.

emancipation has made absolutely indispensable
those [76] armies of labour and that extensive
application of modern productive forces to produc-
tion which Chernyshevsky spoke of in Vera Pav-
lovna’s dreams and which we have completely
forgotten in our desire to be “practical.”

Chernyshevsky was present at the birth of the

new type of “new people” in our country. He has
drawn this type in the shape of Rakhmetov. Our
author joyfully welcomed the emergence of this
new type and could not deny himself the satisfac-
tion of depicting at least a vague profile of him

1—“the revo-
lutionary” in

(No. 1.
p. 173)[27]

At the same time he foresaw with sorrow how many
trials and sufferings there were in store for the
Russian revolutionary whose life must be one of
severe struggle and great self-sacrifice. And so,
in Rakhmetov, Chernyshevsky presents us with
the true ascetic. Rakhmetov positively tortures
himself. He is completely “merciless towards him-
self,” as his landlady says. He even decides to
test whether he can bear torture by spending
a whole night lying on a length of felt with nails
sticking through it. Many people, including Pisa-
rev, regarded this as mere eccentricity. We agree
that some aspects of Rakhmetov’s character could
have been drawn differently. But the character as
a whole nevertheless remains completely true
to life. Almost every one of our prominent

[socialists of the sixties and seventies] possessed
[no small] share of the Rakhmetov spirit.

We should like to say in closing our introduc-
tion that Chernyshevsky’s significance in Russian

mous” (Sot-

No. 1, p. 174)

literature has yet to be appraised properly. How
much he is misunderstood in our country even
by many of those who think very well of him
can be seen from V. G. Korolenko’s reminiscences
of him. This gifted and intelligent author portrays
him as a sort of “rationalistic economist” who,
moreover, believes “in the power of Comte’s orga-
nising reason.”[28] If the words about “organising
reason” mean anything at all, then they mean
that Chernyshevsky regarded social phenomena
from an idealistic standpoint, from which they
were considered by Comte himself. But he who
looks on social phenomena from an ideal-
standpoint cannot be called an econo-
for the simple reason that this name is ap-
plied, even if not very properly, to those who,
while not believing [77] in the power of organising
reason, do believe in the organising power of eco-
nomics. An “economist” who believed in the power
of organising reason would be like a Darwinist who
accepted the cosmogony of Moses. But this is
not the most important thing here. What is most
important is the fact that Mr. Korolenko counter-
poses the sociological views of our “subjectivists”[29]

to the “economism” of Chernyshevsky. “We, too,
did not stand still when we ceased to be ‘rationalis-
tic economists.’ Instead of purely economic patterns,
the literary trend, represented chiefly by N. K. Mi-
khailovsky, has opened to us a veritable vista of
laws and parallels of a biological character, while

Page corner NB

the play of economic interests was assigned a sub-
ordinate role.”[30]

Did not stand still,” indeed! The
“vista of laws and parallels of a biological char-
acter,” revealed by Mikhailovsky, was an
enormous step backwards
in com-
parison with Chernyshevsky’s social views.[31]
N. K. Mikhailovsky was a disciple of P. L. Lavrov,
whose views on the course of social development
corresponded to those of Bruno Bauer, as we have
shown in the book The Development of the Monist
View of History
. Hence whoever would like to
understand the relation between N. G. Cherny-
shevsky’s world outlook and that of our “subjectiv-
ists” should first of all try to understand the rela-
tion between Feuerbach’s philosophy, to which
Chernyshevsky adhered, and Bruno Bauer’s views.
And this is clear and simple: Feuerbach is far
ahead of Bruno Bauer.


As an epigraph to our first article on Cherny-
, written
while the news of his death
was still fresh in mind, and completely revised in the
present edition
, we have taken the following


words from Chernyshevsky’s letter to his wife:
“My life and yours belong to history; hundreds of
years will pass and our names will still be dear
to people who will recall them with gratitude
when those who lived with us are no more.” This
letter was written on October 5, 1862, i.e., when
the author was already incarcerated.





Chapter One

[81]... In the first edition of this work, the first
article of which, dealing, inter aim, with Cherny-
sky’s philosophical views, was written in late

18|9|9, we expressed the conviction that in his


philosophical views our author was a follower
of Feuerbach. Naturally, this conviction of ours
was based above all on a comparison of those ideas
of Chernyshevsky which had a more or less direct
bearing on philosophy, with Feuerbach’s views....

Chapter Three

... [101] Yurkevich ascribes to Chernyshevsky
the idea that there is no difference at
between material and psychical phenomena,
and inquires triumphantly how it is that sensa-
tions arise from the movement of a nerve. This is the
old nonsense that has long been flung at material-
ists and from which it merely follows that the
people who want to “criticise” materialism do not
even know the ABC of materialism. Nowhere in his
article does Chernyshevsky say that there is no
difference at all between so-called [102] physical
phenomena, on the one hand, and psychical pheno-
mena, on the other. On the contrary, he categori-
cally admits the existence of this difference; but
he believes that it in no way justifies attributing
psychical phenomena to a particular non-material
factor. We are already acquainted with his re-
mark to the effect that there are very many differ-
ent qualities in every object. Now we shall discuss
it in more detail. “For example,” Chernyshevsky
says, “a tree grows and burns; we say it has two
qualities: the power of growth and combustibility.
What similarity is there between these two quali-
ties? They are totally different; there is no concept
under which one could put both these qualities,
except the general conception—quality; there
is no concept under which we could put both series
of phenomena corresponding to these qualities,
except the concept—phenomenon. Or, for example,
ice is hard and sparkles; what is there common to
hardness and sparkle? The logical distance from
one of these qualities to the other is immeasurably
great or, it would be better to say, there is no
logical distance between them, whether near or
far, because there is no logical relation between
them. From this we see that the combination of
quite heterogeneous qualities in one object is the

general law of things.” The same also with the
quality we call the capacity for sensation and
thought. Its distance from the so-called physical
qualities of the living organism is immeasurably

great. But this does not prevent it being a quality

not immeasur-
ably (al-
though we still
do not know
this “mea-

of the same organism which, at the same time,
possesses extension and capacity for movement....


[103]... Even J. Priestley remarked in his
Disquisitions that the idea that brain vibrations
are identical with perception would be a very
great abuse of materialist doctrine. “It is easy
to form an idea of there being vibrations without
any perceptions accompanying them. But it is

Page corner NB

supposed that the brain, besides its vibrating
, has superadded to it a percipient
or sentient power
, likewise; there being
no reason that we know why this power may not
be imparted to it.”[32] This is precisely the point
of view held by all the prominent materialists of
modern times, including, of course, Feuerbach
and Chernyshevsky. The opponents of material-
ism—the consistent or inconsistent, conscious or
unconscious idealists—ought, in their criticism
of this doctrine, to convince us above all that
they know more about it than Priestley does, and
show us what grounds specifically prevent them
from recognising, together with Priestley, that
the brain, besides having the ability to vibrate,
may also be capable of perceiving. They undoubt-
edly have such grounds. But these amount to the
spiritualistic prejudice that by itself, i.e., unless
animated by spirit, matter is dead and incapable
not only of perception, but even of motion. To re-
fer, in arguing with the materialists, to such
grounds means to commit an obvious petitio
principii, i.e., to argue from the very same proposi-
tion which has to be proved. The opponents of
materialism themselves more or less vaguely sense
this. Therefore, they are usually very careful not to
show the grounds which hinder them from recognis-
ing the capacity for perceiving one of the prop-
erties of matter, and prefer to refute what no
single prominent materialist has ever stated, at
least in modern times, i.e., that perception is the
same as motion.
[33] We leave it to the reader to judge
of this sort of criticism, a criticism which is more
widespread in our country than anywhere else,
and is more so now than ever before....

[105]... “It stands to reason,” Chernyshevsky
admits, “that when we speak of the difference in
the state of the body during a chemical process
and at a time when it is not in that process, we
mean only the quantitative distinction between
a vigorous, rapid course of that process and a very
feeble slow course of it. Properly speaking, every
body is constantly going through a chemical pro-
cess. For example, a log, even if it is not set on
fire or burnt in a stove but lies quietly, seemingly
undergoing no changes, in the wall of a house,
will nevertheless come in time to the same end
to which burning brings it: it will gradually decay,
and nothing will be left of it, too, but ashes (the
dust of decayed wood, of which in the end nothing
remains but the mineral particles of ash). But if
this process—e.g., in the case of the ordinary decay
of a log in a house wall—takes place very slowly
and feebly, then qualities which are proper to
a body going through the process manifest them-
selves with a microscopic feebleness that is com-
pletely imperceptible under ordinary conditions.
For example, the slow decay of a piece of wood
in a house wall also generates heat; but that quan-
tity of it which in burning would have been con-
centrated into a few hours, in this case becomes
diluted, so to speak, into several decades, so that
it does not achieve any result that is easily per-
ceptible in practice; the existence of this heat is
negligible for practical purposes. It is the same as
the taste of wine in a whole pond of water into
which one has let fall a drop of wine: from the
scientific point of view, the pond contains a mixture
of water and wine, but to all practical purposes
it can be assumed that there is no wine at all
in it.”

[106] This brilliant passage allows one to sur-
mise that for Chernyshevsky in this respect too
there was no cleavage between organised matter
on the one hand and unorganised matter, on the
other. To be sure, the organism of the animal (and
even more so of the animal at the top of the zoologi-
cal tree, that is, man) displays in the respect that
is of interest to us such properties as are altogether
alien to unorganised matter. But, after all, the
burning of a piece of wood, too, is accompanied
by a number of phenomena that are not to be
observed during the process of its slow decay.
However, there is no essential difference between
these two processes. On the contrary, this is one
and the same process, with this difference only
that in the one case it is very rapid and in the
other, extremely slow. Therefore, in the one case
the properties which belong to a body undergoing
this process manifest themselves with great force,
while in the other case they do so “with microscopic
feebleness that is completely imperceptible under
ordinary conditions.” In regard to the question of

psychical phenomena this means that in an unor-
ganised form also, matter is not devoid of the
basic capacity for “sensation,” which provides
such rich “spiritual” fruits among the higher
But in unorganised matter this capacity


exists to an extremely small extent. Therefore
it is totally imperceptible to the investigator and,
without risk of committing any appreciable error,
we can equate it to nil. Nevertheless, it must not
be forgotten that this capacity in general is inher-
ent in matter and that in consequence there are no
grounds for regarding it as something miraculous
where it manifests itself particularly strongly, as
can be seen, for example, among the higher animals
in general, and pre-eminently in man. In express-
ing this idea—with the caution necessary under the
conditions of our press at that time—Chernyshevsky
came close to such materialists as Lamettrie and
who, in turn, adopted the view of Spinoz-
ism, freed of the unnecessary theological append-

[107]... Yurkevich also asserted that quantita-
tive differences are transformed into qualitative
differences not in the object itself but in its re-
lation to the sentient subject. But this is a very

gross logical mistake. In order to become changed
in its relation to the sentient subject, the object
must undergo a preliminary change ||in itself.||

not logical,
but episte-

If for us ice does not have the same properties as
steam, it is because the mutual relations of the
water particles in the former case are entirely
different from those in the latter. But enough
of this....

We know how contemptuous Chernyshevsky
was of Yurkevich’s arguments. He did not analyse
these arguments—and had no possibility of doing
so under the conditions of the censorship—but sim-
ply declared them to be obsolete and not in the
least convincing.

“I am a seminarian myself,” he wrote in his
Polemical Gems. “I know from my own experience
the position of people who get their education as
Yurkevich did. I have seen people in the same
position as he is. I therefore find it hard to laugh
at him; it would mean laughing at the impossibility
of having decent books available, laughing at the
complete helplessness in the matter of developing
oneself, at a situation that is unimaginably re-
stricted in all possible respects.

“I don’t know Mr. Yurkevich’s age; if he is no
longer a young man, it is too late to worry about
him. But if he is still young, I gladly offer him
the small collection of books in my possession.”

Mr. Volynsky still finds this reply highly [108]
unsatisfactory. He thinks that Chernyshevsky
replied in this way solely because of his inability
to decisively refute Yurkevich. Evidently some
journalists at the beginning of the sixties also
reasoned in this manner. For example, Dudyshkin,
enumerating Yurkevich’s allegedly irrefutable
arguments point by point, wrote the following in
Otechestvenniye Zapiski, addressing himself to

“The matter would appear to be clear; it now
concerns not someone else, but you; not philosophy
or physiology in general, but your ignorance of
these sciences. Why drag in the red herring of
seminary philosophy? Why confuse totally differ-
ent things and say that you knew all that when you
were in the seminary and even now remember it
all by heart?”

To this Chernyshevsky replied that Dudyshkin’s
lack of acquaintance with seminary notebooks
prevented him from understanding what was at
issue. “If you took the trouble to look through
these notebooks,” he continues, “you would see
that all the shortcomings which Mr. Yurkevich
discovers in me, these notebooks discover in
Aristotle, Bacon, Gassendi, Locke, etc., etc.,

in all the philosophers who were not idealists.
Consequently, these reproaches by no means apply
to me as an individual writer; they apply properly


to the theory which I consider it useful to popular-
ise. If you are incredulous, take a look at the
Philosophical Dictionary, published by Mr. S.G.,
which takes the same line as Mr. Yurkevich, and
you will see that the same thing is said there of
every non-idealist: he does not know psychology,
he is not acquainted with the natural sciences, he
rejects inner experience, he is overwhelmed by
facts, he confuses metaphysics with the natural
, he degrades man, etc., etc....”

Chapter Four

[111]... In general, very noticeable in Cherny-
shevsky’s view of rational egoism is the endeavour,
characteristic of all “periods of enlightenment”
(Aufklärungsperioden), to seek support for morality
in reason, and in the more or less well-founded
calculations of the individual an explanation of
his character and behaviour. Sometimes Cherny-
shevsky’s arguments in this connection are as
similar as two peas in a pod to the arguments of
Helvétius and those who shared his ideas. They
recall almost as strongly the arguments of Socrates,
the typical representative of the epoch of enlight-
enment in ancient Greece, who, in coming forward
as a champion of friendship, showed that it is
advantageous to have friends because

they may [112] be of some use in times of mis-
fortune. The explanation for such |extremes of
is that the enlighteners were usually
incapable of adopting the viewpoint of

Page corner NB

We know that, according to Chernyshevsky’s
theory, man is by nature neither good nor evil
but becomes good or evil depending on circum-
stances.[35] Were we to recognise that man is always
prompted by calculation in his behaviour, then
we should have to formulate Chernyshevsky’s
view on human nature differently; we should have
to say that man is by nature neither good nor
evil but only calculating, this property of his
becoming more or less marked depending on cir-
cumstances. But such a formulation would hardly
be to our author’s liking.

What is good, and what is evil, according to
his theory? This question is answered by the same
article, “The Anthropological Principle in Philos-
ophy”—a very informative one, as the reader can
see. “Individuals,” says Chernyshevsky in it,
“regard as good the actions of other people that
are beneficial to them; society holds as good, what
is good for the whole of society, or for the majority
of its members. Lastly people in general, irrespec-
tive of a nation or a class, describe as good that
which is beneficial for mankind in general.” It often
happens that the interests of different nations or
estates run counter to one another or to human
interests generally; it is also a frequent occurrence
that the interests of one estate are opposed to those
of the whole nation. How is one to decide in this
case what is good and what is bad?


Chapter Two

[159]... Chernyshevsky applied Feuerbach’s views
to aesthetics and in this, as we shall see below,
he achieved results that in a certain sense are
most remarkable. But here, too, his conclusions
were not quite satisfactory because tbe perfectly
correct idea of the aesthetic development of man-
kind implies the preliminary elaboration of a general
conception of history. As regards this general con-

ception of history, Chernyshevsky succeeded in
making only a few, if very correct, steps towards
its elaboration. One may cite as examples of such
steps the large quotations from his writings that
we have just made [160]....

Chapter Three

Here is what we read in his article dealing with
V. P. Botkin’s well-known-book Letters of Spain
, 1857, Book 2):

“The division of a people into hostile castes is
one of the greatest obstacles to the improvement
of its future; in Spain, there is no such disastrous
division, no irreconcilable enmity between social-
estates every one of which would be prepared to
sacrifice the most precious historical achievements

if only it could do harm to another estate; in Spain
the entire nation feels itself a single whole. This
peculiarity is so extraordinary among the peoples
of Western Europe that it deserves the greatest

attention and may in itself be considered an

earnest of the country’s happy future.”[36]


This is not a slip of the pen, because, several
pages further below in the same article, Cherny-
shevsky says: “The Spanish people have an indis-
putable advantage over most civilised nations in

one, exceedingly important respect: the Spanish
[161] estates are not divided either by deep-rooted
hatred or by substantial conflicting interests; they
do not constitute castes inimical to one another,
as is the case in many other West-European coun-
tries; on the contrary, in Spain, all the estates may
strive jointly for a common goal....”[37]

[163]... Utopian socialists took an idealist view
of the entire future of contemporary society. They
were convinced that the fate of that society would
be decided by the “views” held by its members,
i.e., the standpoint which they took, with
regard to social reorganisation plan put forward
by a particular reformer. They did not ask
themselves why it was that the dominant
views in that particular society were such
and not others. That is why they were not
eager for a further elaboration of those elements
of a materialist interpretation of history which
their doctrines undoubtedly were replete with.
In fact, they were prone to look on mankind’s past
history as well from an idealist standpoint. For
this reason, in their statements about that history
we very often encounter the most undoubted and,
it would seem, most obvious contradictions: facts
which have apparently been interpreted in an

entirely materialist sense are suddenly given an
entirely idealist explanation; and, on the other
hand, idealist interpretations are every now and
again upset by perfectly materialist eruptions.
This lack of stability, this recurrent shift from
materialism to idealism and from idealism to
materialism, a shift perceptible to the modern
reader but imperceptible to the author, makes
itself felt also in the historical statements of
Chernyshevsky, who in this respect is very reminis-
cent of the great utopians of the West. In the
final analysis he inclines like them, we repeat,
to idealism.


This can be clearly seen from his interesting
article “On the Causes of the Fall of Rome (an
Imitation of Montesquieu),” published in Sovre-
for 1861 (Book 5). In it he vigorously

opposes the very widespread opinion that the
Roman Empire in the West [164] fell because of
its inherent inability to develop further, whereas
the barbarians who put an end to its existence
brought new seeds of progress with them....

No mention is made here either of the internal
social relations in Rome, which accounted for its
weakness and which were pointed out even by
Guizot in his first article “Essais sur l’histoire de
France”, or of the forms of communal life to which
the German barbarians owed their strength at the
time of the fall of the Roman Empire in the West.
Chernyshevsky forgot even the famous words of
Pliny, which he himself quotes elsewhere: lati-
fundia perdidere Italiam (“latifundia were the
undoing of Italy”). In his “formula of progress”,
as the phrase went in our country afterwards,

[165] there is no room for the internal relations in
the country concerned. Everything is reduced to
intellectual development. Chernyshevsky states

emphatically that progress is based on intellectual
development and that “its fundamental aspect
consists precisely in the successes and develop-
ment of knowledge.” It does not occur to him that
“the successes and development of knowledge”
may depend on social relations, which in some
cases are conducive to those successes and that
development and in others hinder them. He de-
picts social relations as a mere corollary of the
spread of certain views. We have just read this:
“historical knowledge is broadened; this reduces
the number of false notions that prevent people
from organising their social life, which is, there-
fore, organised more successfully than before.”
This is very unlike what our author said in his
article on Roscher’s book. From what he said
there it followed, moreover, that it is impossible,

and indeed ridiculous, to judge scholars as if
they were schoolboys, saying that a particular
scholar was unfamiliar with a particular science
and therefore came to hold erroneous views. It also

followed from what he said there that what matters
is not the amount of knowledge acquired by a partic-
ular scholar, but the interests of the group which
he represents. In short, it followed from what he
said there that social views are determined by
social interests; and social thought, by social life.
Now, it is the other way round. Now, it appears
that social life is determined by social thought and
that if a social system has certain shortcomings,

it is because society, like a schoolboy, has studied
poorly or little and therefore has conceived er-
roneous notions. It would be hard to think of a more
striking contradiction....


[170]... Herzen formed his view of Russia’s
attitude to the “old world” under the strong in-

fluence of Slavophils and this view was wrong.
But one can arrive at an erroneuos view even
when one employs a more or less correct method,
just as a correct view may result from the employ-
ment of a more or less erroneous method. It is
therefore fair to ask oneself how the method by

which Herzen formed his erroneous view was related
to the method which led Chernyshevsky to a com-
pletely justified repudiation and ridicule of that


Chapter Five

[188]...We may be reminded that, as we have
remarked, the reviews by Chernyshevsky which
we have examined appeared after the historical

views of Marx and Engels shaped themselves into
a harmonious whole. We are not forgetful of this.
But we believe that this matter cannot be settled
by mere reference to chronology. The main writings
of Lassalle, too, did not appear until after the
historical views of Marx and Engels assumed
a harmonious form, and yet, in ideological content,

those writings, too, belong to the period of transi-

tion from historical idealism to historical material-
ism. The point is not when a particular work ap-
peared but rather what was its content.


If in previous historical periods the advance of
knowledge depended on the character of economic
relations, in passing to our own period Cherny-
shevsky should have asked himself: what are the
economic peculiarities of it that led to the discovery
of social truth and ensured the future realisation
of the latter. But in order to ask himself that
question, he should have broken resolutely with
idealism and firmly adopted a materialist interpre-

tation of history. We shall not reiterate that
Chernyshevsky was still far from a break with
idealism and that his conception of the further
trend of social development was completely ideal-
ist. We merely ask the reader to note that Cherny-

shevsky’s historical idealism compelled him in his
considerations of the future to give first place to
“advanced” people—to the intellectuals,
as we [189] now call them—who should disseminate

the ultimately discovered social truth among the
masses. The masses are allotted the role of back-
ward soldiers in the advancing army. Of course,
no sensible materialist will assert that the average
“man in the street”, just because he is an ordinary
person, i.e., “one of the masses”, knows no less

Page corner NB

than tho average “intellectual”. Of course he
knows less. But it is not a matter of the knowledge
of the “man in the street,” but of his actions.

The actions of people are not always determined
by their knowledge and are never determined only
by their knowledge, but also—and chiefly—by
their position, which is merely made clear and
comprehensible by the knowledge they possess


Here again one has to remember the fundamental
proposition of materialism in general, and of the
materialist explanation of history in particular:
it is not being that is determined by consciousness,
but consciousness by being. The “consciousness”
of a man from the “intelligentsia” is more highly
developed than the consciousness of a man from the

“masses.” But the “being” of a man from the masses
prescribes to him a far more definite method of
action than that which the social position of the
intellectual prescribes to the latter.
That is why


the materialist view of history allows one only
in a certain and, moreover, very limited sense to
speak of the backwardness of the man from the
“masses,” compared with the man from the intel-
ligentsia; in a certain sense, the “man in the street”
undoubtedly lags behind the “intellectual”, but
in another sense he undoubtedly is in advance of
. And precisely because this is so, an adherent
of the materialist interpretation of history, while
by no means repeating the absurd attacks on the
intelligentsia that are coming from the Black-
Hundred and syndicalist camp, would never agree
to assign the intelligentsia the role of a demiurge
of history which is generally assigned to it by
idealists. There are various kinds of aristocratical-
ness. Historical idealism is guilty of an “aristocrat-
icalness of knowledge.”


What in Chernyshevsky’s historical views was
a shortcoming resulting from the insufficient
elaboration of Feuerbach’s materialism
, later
became the basis of our subjectivism, which had

nothing in common with materialism and vigor-
ously opposed it not only in the field of history
but also in the field of philosophy. The subjectivists
boastfully called themselves continuers of the
best traditions of the sixties. In reality, they
continued only the weak aspects [190] of the
world outlook peculiar to that period....


Chapter Six

[199]...Had Chernyshevsky consistently elabo-
rated the idea expressed here, he would have had
to renounce completely the idealist views expressed
by him in the article—now familiar to us—con-
cerning the causes for the fall of Rome. But the
point is that he expresses such ideas only in pass-
ing, he does not enlarge on them. In expressing
them, he does not at all find it necessary to repu-
diate historical idealism, and this is not due to

a predilection for idealism as a philosophical
theory. Chernyshevsky’s attitude to this theory
was in general extremely negative. While expound-
ing the idealist view of the trend of historical
development, he continues to regard himself as
a consistent materialist. He is wrong. But the
root of his error lies in one of the chief shortcom-
ings of Feuerbach’s materialist system. Marx
expressed it rather aptly: “Feuerbach wants sen-
suous objects, really differentiated from the thought

triangular lines

objects, but he does not conceive of human activity
itself as being objective activity. Hence, in
the Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoreti-
cal attitude as the only genuinely human atti-
tude....“[38] ...Like his teacher, Chernyshevsky directs
his attention almost exclusively to the “theoretical”

This is also the
shortcoming of
book on

activity of mankind, and, as a result, mental
development becomes for him the most basic
cause of historical movement....

triangular lines

[205]... It follows from Chernyshevsky that in
history vice is always punished as it deserves.
In reality, however, the historical facts known
to us do not at all warrant this view, which may

be comforting but is certainly naÏve. The only

question of interest to us is how it came to be
held by our author. This question can be answered

by reference to the period when Chernyshevsky
lived. It was a period of social upsurge, a period
having a moral need, so to speak, for such views
as would bolster faith in the inevitable defeat of




On to Part Two >>


[1] Here and elsewhere, an NB underscored with two slanting lines implies that Lenin’s NB is in the corner of the page and apparently refers to all of it. The full text of the page in question is therefore given in such cases.—Ed.

[2] ChernyshevskyEd.

[3] Collected Works, Vol. IV, pp. 335-336. (Here and elsewhere Plekhanov refers to the first Russian edition of N. G. Chernysheveky’s works published in St. Petersburg in 1905-06.—Ed.

[4] The Sovremennik circle included, among others, the revolutionary democrats N. G. Chernyshevsky, N. A. Dobrolyubov, N. A. Nekrasov, M. I. Mikhailov.

Sovremennik (Contemporary)—a monthly scientific-political and literary journal, founded by A. S. Pushkin in 1836. In 1847 the journal was taken over by N. A. Nekrasov. From the mid-fifties on the journal became a militant organ of the revolutionary democrats, who advocated a peasant revolution and the overthrow of tsarism. Chernyshevsky was a most prominent contributor until his arrest in 1862. In 1866 Sovremennik was closed down by the tsarist government.

In 1859-62 the satirical magazine Svistok (Whistle) appeared as a supplement to Sovremennik. It wittily ridiculed the vain hopes of the liberals for bringing about a change in the political system of Russia through literary denunciations of government officials, and without resorting to revolutionary struggle.

[5] Chernysheviky relates that Turgenex could still
tolerate him to some extent but had no patience at all
with Dobrolyubov. “You’re just a snake, but Dobrolyubov
is a cobra,”
he said to Chernysbeveky (see the letter
diready quoted: “By Way of an Expression of Gratitude,”
Collected Works, Vol. IX, p. 103).Plekhanov.

[6] Kolokol (The Bell)—journal founded by A. I. Herzen in London and illegally circulated in Russia. It appeared from 1857 to 1868. The journal attacked the autocratic regime and serfdom. It played an important role in the development of the revolutionary movement in Russia. “Clowns” and “whistlers” were nicknames given by liberals to the revolutionary democrats of Sovremennik and Svistok.

[7] Oblomov—the title of a well-known novel by the Russian author A. I. Goncharov which depicts the corruption of the serf-owning system in 19th-century Russia.

[8] The article “Very Dangerous!” in Kolokol, No. 44.—Plekhanov.

[9] Regarding the article “Very Dangerous” and its more or less conjectural consequences, see, among others Vetrinaky’s book Herzen, St. Petersburg, 1908, p. 354.—Plekhanov.

[10] The history of this break may be followed in the letters of K. D. Kavelin and I. S. Turgenev to A. I. Herzen, published by M. Dragomanov in Geneva in 1892.—Plekhanov.

[11] Collected Works, Vol. VIII, p. 231.—Plekhanov.

[12] i. e., the possibility of a revolution.—Ed.

[13] M. K. Lemke, “The Case of N. G. Chernyshevsky,” Byloye, 1906, No. 4, p. 179.—Plekhanov.

[14] K. K. Lemke, “The Trial of the Velikoruss Publishers,” Byloye, 1906, No. 7, p. 92. Mr. Stakhevich’s article was published in Zakaspiiskoye Obozrenie, 1905, No. 143.—Plekhanov.

[15] Slavophils represented a trend of social thought arising in mid-19th-century Russia, which held that Russia’s development would take place along a distinct path of its own. This, according to them, stemmed from the communal system in Russia and its orthodoxy. The Slavophils were confirmed opponents of the revolutionary movement in Russia and the West.

[16] Chernyshevsky wrote the novel Prologue while serving at hard labour in 1865-70. With great difficulty, his friends smuggled the manuscript to St. Petersburg and then to London where it was published in 1877.

The novel describes Russia in the late fifties. A revolutionary situation was maturing in the country and the tsarist government, preferring to free the peasants “from above” rather than wait till they took action “from below,” was preparing for the abolition of serfdom (the so-called Peasant Reform). The book describes the sharp struggle between various classes and groups over the reform and portrays real people of the day under fictitious names. Thus, Chernyshevsky himself, who headed the revolutionary party, appears under the name of Volgin; Kavelin, the liberal, appears under the name of Ryazantsev; Sierakowski, a prominent figure in the Polish liberation movement—under the name of Sokolovsky, etc.

[17] Volgin particularly prized in Sokolovsky his “balanced judgment” which he displayed in 1848 when of all his companions-in-arms in Volhynia Region he was the only one not to lose his head and to weigh coolly the chances of the armed insurrection. These proved to be all but nil.—Plekhanov.

[18] The reference here is to the uprising in Poland in 1863-64, one of the organisers of which was Zygmunt Sierakowski. The uprising against tsarist autocracy aimed at Polish national liberation. Broad support for the uprising came from the szlachta intelligentsia, students, clergy, artisans, workers and some sections of the peasantry. The Russian revolutionary democrats also sympathised with the uprising. Members of the secret organisation Zemlya i Volya, which had connections with Chernyshevsky, sought to render help to the insurrection. A. I. Herzen published a number of articles in Kolokol supporting the struggle of the Polish people.

However, the insurrection was ruthlessly suppressed by the tsarist government, and its leaders, including Sierakowski, were executed.

[19] Prologue to a Prologue—the title of the first part of the novel Prologue.

[20] The circle of Russian revolutionary emigrants in London who were grouped around A. I. Herzen and N. A. Ogaryov.

[21] The reference is to Chernyshevsky’s novel which exerted great influence on several generations of Russian revolutionary youth. Chernyshevsky wrote the novel in 1862-63 in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where he was imprisoned in the summer of 1862. The novel was published in Sovremennik in 1863.

Vera Pavlovna, Lopukhov, Kirsanov and Rakhmetov mentioned by Plekhanov are the chief characters in the novel.

[22] Let us note in passing that Goethe’s Wahlverwandschaften also represents a word in defence of such relations. This is well understood by some German historians of German literature who, while not daring to decry such an authoritative writer, and at the same time not daring to agree with him hecause of their own philistine virtuousness, usually mutter something totally unintelligihie ahout the apparently strange paradoxes of the great German.—Plekhanov.

[23] On March 26, 1853, Chernyshevsky recorded in his
diary the following conversation with his fiancée: “‘Can
you possibly think that I will deceive you?‘ ’I don’t think
that, I don’t expect it, but I have considered such an event
too.’ ‘What, then, would you do?’ I told her of George
Sand’s Jacques. ‘Then you, too, would shoot yourself?’
‘I don't think so’; and I told her I would try to obtain
George Sand for her (she had not read it, or at any rate does
not remember the ideas in it)” (Collected Works, Vol. X,
Part 2, Section 3, p. 78). We consider that It is not su-
perfluous to note another passage from Chernyshevsky’s
conversations with his fiancée: “But what these relations
would be like—the day before yesterday she said: ‘We
would have separate halves of the house and you ought
not to come to me without permission’; I would have
liked to arrange things that way myself, perhaps I think
more seriously about it than she does;—she probably only
means that she doesn’t want me to bore her, while I un-
derstand it to mean that in general every husband should
be extremely considerate to his wife in his matrimonial
relations” (ibid., p. 82). Almost literally the same con-
versation takes place between Vera Pavlovna and Lo-
pukhov in the novel What Is To Be Done?Plekhanov.

[24] These numbers, inserted by Lenin, correspond to the lines on p. 72 of Plekhanov’s book.—Ed.

[25] It seems hardly necessary to recall what an ener-
getic advocate Robert Owen was in this respect. As for
Fourier, we quote here his very profound words: “les 41
coutumes en amour ... ne sont que tormes temporaires et
variables, et non pas fond immuabie” (Oeuvres complètes
de Ch. Fourier, tome IV, p. 84).—Plekhanov.

[26] Sovremennik, No. 12, 1847.—Plekhanov.

[27] Lenin is referring to the following passage in Sotsial-Demokrat (Book 1, London, 1890, pp. 173-174):

“Chernyshevsky was present at the birth of the new type of ‘new people’ in our country—the revolutionary. He joyfully welcomed the emergence of this new type and could not deny himself the satisfaction of depicting at least a vague profile of him. At the same time, he foresaw with sorrow how many trials and sufferings there were in store for the Russian revolutionary, whose life must be one of severe struggle and great self-sacrifice. And so, in Rakhmetov, Chernyshevsky presents us with the true ascetic. Rakhmetov positively tortures himself. He is completely ‘merciless towards himself’, as his landlady says. He even decides to test whether he can bear torture by spending a whole night lying on a length of felt with nails sticking through it. Many people, including Pisarev, regarded this as mere eccentricity. We agree that some aspects of Rakhmetov’s character could have been drawn differently. But the character as a whole nevertheless remains completely true to life. Every prominent Russian revolutionary possessed much of the Rakhmetov spirit.”

[28] Korolenko, Those Who Are Gone, p. 78.—Plekhanov.

[29] 0ur “Subjectivists”—supporters of the Narodnik doctrine which denied the existence of objective laws of social development and held that individual outstanding personalities, not the masses, make history. The chief exponents of this trend were P. L. Lavrov and N. K. Mikhailovsky.

[30] Korolenko, op. cit., pp. 79-80.—Plekhanov.

[31] No wonder Chernyshevsky’s attitude to those “laws and parallels” was entirely negative, according to the selfsame Mr. Korolenko.—Plekhanov.

[32] Disquisitions Relating to Matter and Spirit. By Joseph Priestley, Vol. I. The second edition, Birmingham, MDCCLXXX, II, p. 121.—Plekhanov.

[33] We allow that among the ancient materialists—
Democritus and Epidurus, for example—there could have
been a certain lack of clarity on this account, although
this is far from having been proved; it has to be remem-
bered that the views of these thinkers have only reached
us in an incomplete form

[34] See for particulars in our book Beitrage zur Geschichte der Materialismus—Holbach, Helvetius und Karl Marx, Stuttgart, 1896.—Plekhanov.

[35] It is worth noting, however, that in the past our author expressed a different view of human nature. According to that view, man is “a being which by nature is inclined to respect and love truth and good, and to abhor all that is bad, a being capable of violating the laws of good and truth only through ignorance, error or under the influence of circumstances stronger than his character and reason, but a being never capable of preferring evil to good of his own free will.” (See the article on Shchedrin’s Provincial Sketches in Sovremennik, No. 6, 1857, reprinted in The Complete Works, Vol. III. The lines quoted are on pp. 221-222 of the volume.) This is closer to Socrates than to the present-day doctrine of development.—Plekhanov.

[36] Collected Works, Vol. III, p. 38.—Plekhanov.

[37] Ibid., p. 44.—Plekhanov.

[38] See his Theses on Feuerbach, written as early as the spring of 1845.—Plekhanov.


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