V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written December 2, 1909
Published: First published in 1922. Sent from Paris to St. Petersburg. Printed from the typewritten copy found in police record.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 407-410.
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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Dear friend,

I have received your letter of September 20, 1909, and was extremely glad to hear from you. It is a pity there was no news from you earlier—we are now terribly isolated here; we tried to get in touch with you and Vyach., but failed. These are indeed hellishly difficult years and a possibility of contacts with old friends is ten times more valuable for that reason. I shall answer your letter point by point. You have seen the newspaper up to December 1908. Since then much water has flowed under the bridge.

With the so-called “Lefts” we have a complete split, which was made good in the spring of 1909. If you come across my book on philosophy (I sent it to you immediately it came out, i.e., in the beginning of the summer of 1909) and the newspaper for 1909, you will hardly say that we are making concessions to the silly Lefts. There is a complete and formal split with Maximov and the Maximovites. An out-and-out fight. They may set up their own organ, or they may not. They are stirring things up in St. Petersburg and Odessa, but they cannot become a force; it is the death agony of “otzovism-ultimatumism”, in my opinion. The split with Maximov and Co. cost us no little energy and time, but I think it was inevitable and will be useful in the long run. Knowing your views, I think, I am even confident, that we are in agreement here.

As to what you say about it being time to “liquidate the belief in a second coming of the general-democratic onset”, I definitely do not agree with you there. You would only be playing into the hands of the otzovists (who are very prone to such “maximalism”: the bourgeois revolu-   tion is behind us—ahead is the “purely proletarian” one) and the extreme Right-wing Menshevik liquidators. (Incidentally: have you heard about the split among the Mensheviks? Plekhanov has left the editorial board of their newspaper, Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, and the editorial hoard of their collective work: The Social Movement in Russia in the Twentieth Century. In August 1909 he published Dnevnik No. 9, where he called the Mensheviks the accomplices of the liquidators,[4] and said about Potresov “he is no comrade of mine”, and that Potresov had ceased to be a revolutionary, and so on. Things with us are moving towards an alignment with the Plekhanovite Mensheviks with the aim of strengthening the Party.) But the main thing, in my opinion, is that such a view is theoretically wrong. The “German line” is possible—without doubt. And we frankly recognised that as early as the beginning of 1908. But this possibility can become a reality only through a number of “general-democratic” onsets (or upsurges, or crises, etc.) just as France came to the end of the “general-democratic” onsets not after 1789-93, but after 1871 (i.e., after 1830, 1848, and 1871), and Germany not in 1849-50, but also after 1871, i.e., after the Verfassungsstreit[1] of the sixties. Struve, Guchkov and Stolypin are trying their hardest to “copulate” and produce a Bismarckian Russia—but nothing comes of it. Nothing. They’re impotent. All the signs show, and they themselves admit, that nothing comes of it. Stolypin’s agrarian policy[5] is correct from the point of view of Bismarckianism. But Stolypin himself “asks” for 20 years to make something “come of it”. But twenty years, and even a shorter time, is impossible in Russia without 1830-1848-1871 (if in the French style) and 1863-1865 (if in the German style). It is impossible. And all these dates (both 1830-1848-1871 and 1863-1865) are a “general-democratic onset”.

No, we cannot “liquidate” the idea of “a general-democratic onset”—that would be a cardinal mistake. We should recognise the possibility of a “German line”, but we should not forget that so far it does not exist. It simply   does not. We should not link the destinies of the proletarian party with the success or failure of the bourgeois revolution—that is indisputable. We should organise the work so that, whatever the turn events take, it will be a stable, unalienable achievement—that is true. But we are obliged to do our duty as leaders of a democratic, “general-democratic”, movement right to the end, until the Russian 1871, until the complete turn of the peasantry to the side of an Ordnungspartei.[2] And such a turn, as far as Russia is concerned, is still a long way off! We cannot deny the possibility of a “German”, that is to say, a “rotten”, solution of “general-democratic” problems, but we are obliged to do everything, we are obliged to work long and hard in order that this solution will be not “rotten”, not German, but French, i.e., that of the 1830-1848-1871 type, and not of the 1863-65 type (merely a “constitutional” crisis). There is no guarantee that our 1863-65 will turn out to be “rotten” or successful, but it is our business, the business of the working-class party, to do everything to make the “rotten” develop into the successful, to make the German Verfassungsstreit develop into a real French scrimmage. There are no historical laws to prevent a rotten crisis from turning into a real scrimmage. There are no such laws. Every thing depends on the circumstances, on the mass of poor peas ants (whom Stolypin has suppressed but not satisfied), on the strength of the workers’ party, on the conditions, friction and conflicts between Guchkov and the “spheres”, etc., etc. We should see to it that we are stronger (and by the time of our 1863-1865 we shall be stronger than the Germans were then), and that the peasants then do what we tell them, and not what the liberals tell them. Only the struggle will decide how far this will be achieved. We shall demand everything in the sense of a “general-democratic onset”: if successful we shall gain everything, if unsuccessful,—a part; but, in going into battle, we must not confine ourselves to demanding a part. To build in a new way, to organise in a new way, to enter the crisis in a new way—such is the crucial feature of the moment, but all the old   slogans, the demand for “everything”, must be maintained, developed and strengthened.

All the very, very best. I wish you health and good cheer.

Yours whole-heartedly, Old Man


[1] Constitutional Conflict.—Ed.

[2] Party of order.—Ed.

[3] Skvortsov-Stepanov, Ivan Ivanovich (1870–1928)—one of the oldest participants in the Russian revolutionary movement, a Marxist writer. Joined the revolutionary movement in 1892; from, the close of 1904 a Bolshevik. In 1906 a delegate to the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., at which he adopted a Leninist stand. In the period of reaction (1907–10) adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the Vperyod faction, but under the influence of Lenin he rectified these errors. He was repeatedly arrested and exiled for his revolutionary activities.

After the October Socialist Revolution he occupied important government and Party posts.

[4] Liquidators—adherents of an opportunist trend dominant among the Mensheviks during the period of reaction following the defeat of the first Russian revolution of 1905–07. They demanded the liquidation of the revolutionary illegal party of the proletariat and the creation in its stead of an opportunist party operating legally within the framework of the tsarist regime. Lenin and other Bolsheviks untiringly denounced the liquidators, who were betraying the cause of the revolution. The Prague Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. (January 1912) expelled the liquidators from the Party.

[5] Meaning Stolypin’s agrarian reform aimed at using the kulaks as a bulwark of the regime in the countryside. The tsarist government issued a Ukase on November 9 (22), 1906, regulating the peasants’ withdrawal from the communes and the establishment of their proprietary rights on the allotment lands. Under this Stolypin law (which got its name from P. A. Stolypin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers) the peasant was free to with draw from the village commune, take possession of his allotment on a proprietorship basis, and sell it. The rural community was obliged to give the peasants who withdrew from the commune an allotment of land in one place (an otrub, homestead). The Stolypin reform speeded up the development of capitalism in the countryside and the process of differentiation among the peasantry, and sharpened the class struggle in the village. The Stolypin reform is characterised and evaluated in a number of works by Lenin, notably in his The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–1907^^See Vol. 13 of this edition)^^.

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