V. I.   Lenin




Published: First published in 1924. Sent from Paris to the Isle of Capri (Italy). Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 437-440.
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 3, 1911

Dear A. M.,

I have long been intending to reply to your letter but intensification of the squabbling[1] here (a hundred thousand devils take it!) distracted me.

But I should like to have a chat with you.

First of all, before I forget: Tria has been arrested together with Jordania and Ramishvili. It is reported as being true. A pity, for he is a good chap. A revolutionary.

Regarding Sovremennik. In Rech today I read the contents of the first issue and I am cursing and swearing. Vodovozov on Muromtsev ... Kolosov on Mikhailovsky, Lopatin “Not ours”, etc. You can’t help swearing. And here are you, teasing as it were: “realism, democracy, activity”.

Do you think these are good words? They are bad words, used by all the bourgeois tricksters in the world, from the Cadets and S.R.s in our country to Briand or Millerand here, Lloyd George in Britain, etc. The words are bad, turgid, and they carry a S.R.-Cadet message. It’s not good.

As regards Tolstoy, I fully share your opinion that hypocrites and rogues will make a saint of him. Plekhanov, too, was infuriated by all the lying and sycophancy around Tolstoy, and in here we see eye to eye. He criticises Nasha Zarya for it in the C.O. (the next issue),[3] and I am doing so in Mysl[2] (No. 1 arrived today. Congratulate us on our own little journal in Moscow, a Marxist one. This has been a happy day for us). Zvezda No. 1. (it appeared on December   16 in St. Petersburg) also contains a good article by Plekhanov with a trivial comment, for which we have already scolded the editors. It was probably concocted by that ninny Yordansky, together with Bonch! But how come Sovremennik to combat the “legend about Tolstoy and his religion”. Is it Vodovozov with Lopatin? You must be joking.

That they have started hitting out at the students is, in my opinion, comforting, but Tolstoy must not be allowed to get away with either “passivism” or anarchism or Narodism or religion.

As regards quixotism in the international policy of Social-Democracy, I think, you are wrong. It is the revisionists who have long been asserting that colonial policy is progressive, that it implants capitalism and that therefore it is senseless to “accuse it of greed and cruelty”, for “without these qualities” capitalism is “hamstrung”.

It would be quixotism and whining if Social-Democrats were to tell the workers that there could be salvation some where apart from the development of capitalism, not through the development of capitalism. But we do not say this. We say: capital devours you, will devour the Persians, will devour everyone and go on devouring until you overthrow it. That is the truth. And we do not forget to add: except through the growth of capitalism there is no guarantee of victory over it.

Marxists do not defend a single reactionary measure, such as banning trusts, restricting trade, etc. But to each his own. Let Khomyakov and Co. build railways across Persia, let them send Lyakhovs,[4] but the job of the Marxists is to expose them to the workers. If it devours, say the Marxists, if it strangles, fight back.

Resistance to colonial policy and international plunder by means of organising the proletariat, by means of defending freedom for the proletarian struggle, does not retard the development of capitalism but accelerates it, forcing it to resort to more civilised, technically higher methods of capitalism. There is capitalism and capitalism. There is Black-Hundred-Octobrist[5] capitalism and Narodnik (“realistic, democratic”, full of “activity”) capitalism. The more we expose capitalism before the workers for its “greed and cruelty”, the more difficult is it for capitalism   of the first order to persist, the more surely is it bound to pass into capitalism of the second order. And this just suits us, this just suits the proletariat.

You think I have fallen into a contradiction? In the be ginning of the letter I considered the words “realism, democracy, activity” bad words, and now I find them good? There is no contradiction here; what is bad for the proletariat is good for the bourgeois.

The Germans have an exemplary journal of the opportunists: Sozialistische Monatshefte. There gentlemen like Schippel and Bernstein have long been attacking the international policy of the revolutionary Social-Democrats by raising an outcry that this policy resembles the “lamentations of compassionate” people. That, brother, is a trick of opportunist swindlers. Ask for this journal to be sent to you from Naples and have their articles translated if you are interested in international politics. You probably have such opportunists in Italy too, only there are no Marxists in Italy, that’s what makes her so nasty.

The International proletariat is pressing capitalism in two ways: by converting Octobrist capitalism into democratic capitalism and, because it drives Octobrist capitalism away from itself, by transplanting this capitalism to the savages. This, however, enlarges the basis of capitalism and brings its death nearer. There is practically no Octobrist capitalism left in Western Europe; practically all capitalism is democratic. Octobrist capitalism has gone from Britain and France to Russia and Asia. The Russian revolution and the revolutions in Asia=the struggle for ousting Octobrist capitalism and replacing it by democratic capitalism. And democratic capitalism=the last of its kind. It has no next stage to go on to. The next stage is its death.

What do you think of Zvezda and Mysl? The former is dull, in my opinion. But the latter is all ours and I am delighted with it. I’m afraid they’ll soon close it down, though.

I was wondering whether you could arrange for my book on the agrarian question to go to Znaniye. Talk it over with Pyatnitsky. I just can’t find a publisher, not for love or money.[6]

Reading your postscript: “my hands are shaking and freezing” makes me indignant. What wretched houses you   have on Capri! It’s a disgrace, really! Even we here have central heating; and your “hands are freezing”. You must revolt.

All the very best.

I have received from Bologna an invitation to come to the school there (20 workers). I have turned it down.[7] I don’t want to have anything to do with the Vperyodists. We’re trying again to get the workers to come here.


[1] That rascal Trotsky is uniting the Golosists and Vperyodists against us. It is war! —Lenin

[2] See “Heroes of ’Reservation”’ (present edition, Vol. 16).—Ed.

[3] This refers to Plekhanov’s article “Karl Marx and Leo Tolstoy” published in the newspaper Sotsial-Demokrat No. 19–20, for January 13 (26), 1911.

[4] Lyakhov V.—a tsarist army colonel, commanded the Russian troops who suppressed the revolutionary movement in Persia in 1908.

[5] The Black Hundreds were monarchist gangs of pogromists organised by the tsarist police to fight the revolutionary movement.

Octobrists—members of the Octobrist party (or Union of October Seventeenth), a counter-revolutionary party of the big industrial bourgeoisie and landowners who engaged in capitalist farming. It was founded in November 1905. While paying lip service to the Manifesto of October 17, in which the tsar, frightened by the revolution, promised the people “civil liberties” and a constitution, the Octobrists unreservedly supported the home and foreign policies of the tsarist government. The leaders of the Octobrists were the well-known industrialist A. Guchkov and the owner of vast estates M. Rodzyanko.

[6] Lenin is apparently referring to his book The Agrarian Question in Russia Towards the Close of the Nineteenth Century written in 1908 for the Granat Bros. Encyclopaedia. It was not published there for censorship reasons, and Lenin intended, as his letter indicates, to have it published by the Znaniye book publishers. However, it was first published in Moscow in 1918 as a separate booklet by the Zhizn i Znaniye Publishing House ^^(see Vol. 15 of this edition)^^.

[7] The anti-Party school in Bologna (November 1910–March 1911) was a continuation of the Capri school. Lecturers at this school were Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Trotsky, Lyadov, Maslov, Sokolov and others. An invitation to read lectures there was turned down by Lenin in view of the anti-Party tendency and splitting activities of the school’s organisers. Lenin invited the students to Paris, where he promised to read them a number of lectures on the questions of tactics, the situation within the Party and the agrarian question. The lectures in Paris did not take place.

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