V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written on July 24, 1912
Published: First published in 1923 in the book Iz epokhi “Zvezdy” i “Pravdy” (1911–14), Part III. Sent from Cracow to St. Petersburg. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 42-44.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   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.README

Dear Colleague,

I have received your long letter, and I see that you and T must most certainly have it out.

First of all, a detail. You won’t find correspondents at two kopeks a line. So long as you have no money, you will have to make do with our articles about affairs abroad.

Now for the main thing. You complain of monotony. But this will always be the case if you don’t print polemics— if, in particular, you cut down Kamenev (he writes in a different tone)—if you reduce everything to “positive liquidationism”. And in addition you will lose all your contributors if you don’t print them, and don’t even reply and don’t send back articles (for example, mine: the reply to Blank—important! “Unquenchable Hopes”[2] and a number of others!!).

Just look at Nevsky Golos: it’s more lively. It is not afraid of polemics. It attacks. It boldly makes its point to the bitter end.

By avoiding “painful questions”, Zvezda and Pravda make themselves dry and monotonous, uninteresting, uncombative organs. A socialist paper must carry on polemics: our times are times of desperate confusion, and we can’t do without polemics. The question is whether they are to be carried on in a lively way, attacking, putting forward questions independently, or only on the defensive, in dry and boring fashion.

For example, the “Supporter of Zvezda” in No. 16 gave a good reply. Clearly he is a man of principle. But all the same he did not dissipate the terrible fears aroused everywhere (I have a series of letters) by No. 6 of Nevsky Golos.[3] What did happen, after all? Was there a conference? Called by whom? What for? None of this is clear! And until this is cleared up no one wants to work. Everyone is saying: haven’t I the right to know who I am working for, whom I am helping to get elected to the Duma? Maybe it’s a liquidator? Maybe it’s some muddled Trotskyist conciliator? Perhaps I am taking part (indirectly) in drawing up a “common platform”??

Such questions paralyse energy and introduce demoralisation.

Meanwhile Nevsky Golos is attacking briskly and takes a more challenging line. You can’t hide differences from the workers (as Pravda is doing): it’s harmful, fatal, ridiculous. You can’t leave it to the adversary, to Nevsky Golos, to open up discussion of differences. Pravda will perish if it is only a “popular”, “positive” organ, that is certain .

It would certainly be victorious if it were not afraid of polemics, talked straight about the liquidators, became lively through argument, by an article against Axelrod,[4] etc. Such articles as Axelrod’s attract: all the workers hear about the differences and are attracted to Axelrod’s open explanations, because he says things straight out a hundred times more boldly than we do. All the workers hear the talk about a united platform, all the leading workers know Axelrod’s article[5]—and if you are silent, you have fallen behind! And the paper which falls behind is lost. A paper must be a step ahead of everyone, and that goes for both Nevskaya Zvezda and for Pravda. Side by side with the two “positive” little articles, Pravda must provide polemics—Kamenev’s literary note—a feature article ridiculing the liquidators—and so forth. Monotony and lateness are incompatible with the newspaper business. And Pravda has in addition a special and exceptionally important duty: “whom is it going to lead”—this is what everyone is asking, what everyone is trying to read between the lines. It would be important to have a meeting (once in four years, before   the elections)—you can’t carry on the paper without even infrequent meetings with your constant contributors. Think over this well and quickly, for time won’t bear delay.

Best wishes,


[1] Nevskaya Zvezda (Neva Star)—legal Bolshevik newspaper published in St. Petersburg from February to October 1912. Lenin directed the paper’s policy from abroad. It was constantly persecuted by the government. Of the 27 numbers that appeared 9 were confiscated, and for 2 the editors were fined. The editors were frequently prosecuted.

[2] The articles Lenin mentions here, “Petty Artifices (A Reply to Blank)” and “Unquenchable Hopes”, have not been discovered to this day.

[3] The liquidators’ paper Nevsky Golos (Neva Voice) No. 6, for July  5, 1912, carried a report on meetings held in St. Petersburg by representatives of various Social-Democratic trends (allegedly including supporters of Pravda and Nevskaya Zvezda) to discuss the Fourth Duma election campaign. The editors of Nevskaya Zvezda and Pravda denied any participation by their representatives in these meetings.

[4] Axelrod, P. B. (1850–1928)—a Menshevik leader. During the years of reaction and the subsequent revolutionary revival, he was one of the leaders of the liquidators and a member of the editorial board of the Menshevik liquidators’ newspaper Golos Sotsial– Demokrata. During the First World War he maintained a position of social-chauvinism under cover of Centrist phrases. He was hostile to the October Socialist Revolution.

[5] The article Lenin refers to was “On Current Themes (From P. B. Axelrod’s Letters to Friends)”, published in Nevsky Golos No. 6 on July 5, 1912, and in Nasha Zarya No. 6 for 1912. Lenin criticises the article in his work How P. B. Axelrod Exposes the Liquidators (see present edition, Vol. 18, pp. 175–86).

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