V. I.   Lenin




Written: Written earlier than January 8, 1913
Published: First published in 1925 in Lenin Miscellany III. Sent from Cracow to Capri. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 69-72.
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.
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Dear A. M.,

New Year’s greetings to you, too! I wish you all the very best, and above all health! We have Malinovsky,[1] Petrovsky and Badayev staying with us just now. Yesterday I received your letter and read it out to them. They were all extraordinarily pleased. Malinovsky wanted to visit you, but probably the distance will be a barrier. Ah, if only you could be nearer to us.... If your health permitted, you could transfer to the local Galician health resorts like Zakopane, find a healthy place in the mountains, two days nearer to Russia; we could get more frequent visits from the workers, once again organise a workers’ school[2]: crossing the frontier is not difficult, the price of the journey from Petersburg is 12 rubles, contacts with the workers of Moscow and the South are also possible.... I’ve been really day-dreaming in connection with M. F.’s journey.... That was a wonderful idea of hers, really wonderful. Make sure to drop me a line, when you have a chance, whether she has succeeded in getting her legal papers ( probably she will succeed). Also let me know how Malinovsky can find her in Petersburg or in Moscow. Through Tikhonov? If we can’t find some cash to expand and strengthen Pravda, it will perish. The deficit is now 50–60 rubles a day. We have to increase the circulation, reduce costs, expand the paper. We have held out for 200 issues—a record. After all, we are influencing twenty to thirty thousand worker–   readers systematically in a Marxist spirit: it is something really big, and we should be damnably sorry if the paper went under. We are discussing with the deputies, from every point of view and in every possible way, how to get Pravda out of its difficulties, but fear that without financial help from outside we won’t succeed.

Malinovsky, Petrovsky and Badayev send you warm greetings and best wishes. They are good fellows, especially the first. Really, it is possible to build a workers’ party with such people, though the difficulties are incredibly great. The base at Cracow has proved to be useful: our move to Cracow has fully “paid for itself” (from the point of view of the cause). The deputies confirm that a revolutionary mood is unquestionably growing among the mass of the workers. If we now create a good proletarian organisation, without obstacles from the treacherous liquidators—the devil knows what victories we can then win when the movement from below develops....

What you write about letters from Russia is remarkably interesting and characteristic. Menshevik workers say that Russia has outlived Marx!! And this is not the only case. The liquidators introduce such corruption, such a spirit of treachery, such desertion, as it is difficult to imagine. And in addition, thousands of intrigues for “uniting” with them: the only way to make a mess of the whole cause, to spoil the building of the Party, which has had a difficult start, is once again to begin the intrigues =“unity” with the liquidators. Well, the battle isn’t over yet....

I am ready to share with all my heart in your joy at the return of the Vperyod group, if... if your supposition is justified that “Machism, god-building[3] and all that nonsense has been dumped for ever”, as you write. If that is so, if the Vperyod people have understood this or will understand it now, then I warmly join in your delight at their return. But I underline “if” because this, so far, is still a hope rather than a fact. Do you remember, at Capri in the spring of 1908, our “last meeting” with Bogdanov, Bazarov and Lunacharsky[4]? Do you remember how I said that we should have to part company for two or three years, and how then M. F., in the chair, furiously protested, calling me to order, etc.![5]

It has turned out to be four and a half, nearly five years. And this is not very long, for such a period of the most profound collapse as occurred in 1908–11. I don’t know whether Bogdanov, Bazarov, Volsky (a semi-anarchist), Lunacharsky, Alexinsky[6] are capable of learning from the painful experience of 1908–11. Have they understood that Marxism is a more serious and more profound thing than it seemed to them, that one cannot scoff at it, as Alexinsky used to do, or dismiss it as something dead, as the others did? If they have understood this—a thousand greetings to them, and everything personal (inevitably brought in by the sharpness of the struggle) will in one moment be thrown on the scrap-heap. But if they haven’t understood it, if they haven’t learned anything, then don’t hold it against me: friendship is friendship, but duty is duty. Against attempts to abuse Marxism or to confuse the policy of the workers’ party we shall fight without sparing our lives.

I am very glad it is through Pravda, which did not directly attack them, that the way has been found for the gradual return of the Vperyod people. Very glad. But for the sake of a lasting rapprochement, we must now move towards it slowly and cautiously. That is what I have written to Pravda too. And friends of the reunion of the Vperyodists with us must bend their efforts to this also: a careful, tested return of the Vperyodists from Machism, otzovism,[7] god-building can yield great results. The least carelessness, any “recurrence of the Machist, otzovist, etc., disease”, and the struggle will burst, out still more violently.... I have not read the new “Philosophy of Living Experience” by Bogdanov, probably the same old Machism in a new dress....

We have excellent connections with Sergei Moiseyev in Paris. We have known him a long time, and are working together. He is a real Party man and Bolshevik. It, is with such people that we are building the Party, but there are damnably few of them left.

Once again I wish you the best: I must finish this letter, which has become indecently long. Good health!


N. K. sends her warm greetings!

(Some more good workers from Russia have gathered here. We are organising a conference.[8] Alas, we haven’t the money, or we could get a devil of a lot done from this base!)

I am writing to Pravda today that they, after asking Tikhonov, should print a notice that Tikhonov and you are in charge of the literary ^department of Pravda. Isn’t that so? Write to them yourself, if they don’t print it.


[1] Malinovsky was subsequently exposed as an agent provocateur.

[2] Reference is to the Party school at Poronin, which the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. planned to organise in 1913, during the Duma’s summer recess, for members of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, workers and Party activists. Lenin intended giving an important series of lectures on political economy, the theory and practice of socialism in Russia, and on the agrarian and nationalities problems. Difficulties, such as lack of funds, etc., prevented the school from being organised.

[3] Machism, or empirio-criticism—reactionary subjective-idealist philosophical trend which became widespread in Western Europe at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Its founders were the Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach and the German philosopher Richard Avenarius. In Russia, during the years of reaction, the influence of Machism made itself felt among some intellectuals of the R.S.D.L.P., particularly Menshevik intellectuals (N. Valentinov, P. Yushkevich and others). Some literary men among the Bolsheviks also adopted Machist positions (V. Bazarov, A. Bogdanov and others). Though they claimed to advocate Marxism, the Russian Machists were trying to revise the fundamental principles of Marxist philosophy. In his book Materialism and Empirio-criticism Lenin revealed the reactionary essence of Machism, defended Marxist philosophy from   revisionist attacks and in the new historical conditions obtaining at the time pushed forward the development of dialectical and historical materialism in all respects. The defeat of Machism was a crippling blow to the ideology of Menshevism, otzovism and god-building.

God-building—A religious-philosophical trend hostile to Marxism. It arose during the period of reaction among certain Party intellectuals who departed from Marxism after the defeat of the 1905–07 revolution. The god-builders (A. V. Lunacharsky, V.  Bazarov and others) advocated a new “socialist” religion and tried to reconcile Marxism with religion. Maxim Gorky was at one time associated with them.

[4] Bogdanov, A. = (Malinovsky, A. A.; = Maximov, N.) (1873–1928)— Social-Democrat, philosopher, sociologist, economist; by training, a doctor. After the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. he joined the Bolsheviks and was elected a member of the Central Committee. He was on the editorial boards of the Bolshevik newspapers Vperyod and Proletary, = and worked as an editor of the Bolshevik newspaper Novaya Zhizn (New Life). In the years of reaction (1907– 10) and the subsequent revolutionary revival ho headed the otzovists, and the Vperyod anti-Party group. In philosophy he tried to create his own system of “empiric-monism” (a variety of subjective-idealist philosophy), which Lenin criticised sharply in his Materialism and Empirio-criticism. At a meeting of the enlarged editorial board of the newspaper Proletary in June 1909 Bogdanov was expelled from the Bolshevik Party. After the October Socialist Revolution he became one of the organisers and leaders of the Proletcult (Proletarian Culture Organisation). From 1926 onwards he was director of the Blood-Transfusion Institute which he had founded.

Bazarov, V. (real name Rudnev, V. A.) (1874–1939)— philosopher and economist, joined the Social-Democratic movement in 1896.

Between 1905 and 1907 he contributed to a number of Bolshevik publications, gave up Bolshevism in the years of reaction, and became one of the main representatives of the Machist revision of Marxism.

Lunacharsky, A. V. (1875–1933)—professional revolutionary, prominent Soviet statesman.

Having entered the revolutionary movement in the early nineties, he became a Bolshevik after the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. During the years of reaction he turned away from Marxism, took part in the anti-Party Vperyod group, and called for the merging of religion and Marxism.

[5] Lenin visited Capri for a few days at Gorky’s request in April 1908. During his stay he told A. Bogdanov, V. Bazarov and A. V. Lunacharsky that he definitely disagreed with them in matters of philosophy.

[6] Alexinsky, G. A. (b. 1879)—started his political career as a Social-Democrat. An otzovist and one of the organisers of the anti-Party   Vperyod group in the years of reaction, he became a social– chauvinist during the world war and worked for a number of bourgeois papers. In July 1917 he made slanderous allegations against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. In April 1918 he fled the country.

[7] Otzovism (from the Russian “otozvat”—to recall)—an opportunist trend among the Bolsheviks, which was led by A. Bogdanov. Under cover of revolutionary phrases the otzovists (besides Bogdanov the group included G. A. Alexinsky, S. Volsky, A. V. Lunacharsky and M. N. Lyadov) demanded the recall of the Social-Democratic deputies from the Third Duma. They also refused to work in legal organisations. Declaring that under conditions of reaction the Party should conduct only illegal work, the otzovists refused to participate in the Duma, the trade unions, the cooperatives or any mass legal and semilegal organisations.

A variety of otzovism was ultimatumism. The ultimatumists proposed that the Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma should be presented with an ultimatum demanding implicit obedience to the decisions of the Party Central Committee and, if they rejected it, that they should be recalled. Ultimatumism was actually a masked form of otzovism. Lenin called the ultimatumists “bashful otzovists”.

The otzovists caused great harm to the Party. Their policy would have isolated the Party from the masses and converted it into a sectarian organisation.

[8] Reference is to the Conference of the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. with Party workers, known for conspiratorial purposes as the “ February Conference”. It look place in Cracow on December 26, 1912, lasting till January 1, 1913 (January 8–14, 1913).

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