V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written on December 25, 1916
Published: First published in 1949 in Bolshevik No. 1. Sent from Zurich to Clarens (Switzerland). Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 266-269.
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 Friend,

About Radek you, following Grigory, seem to have got confused between personal impressions and sadness over the “dark” political picture in general and politics. You are sorry, you regret, you sigh—and nothing more. No other policy than that which was followed could have been pursued. We could not renounce correct views and surrender to “Tyszka’s methods”. The picture is “dark” not because of this, and the Lefts are weak not because of this, and Vorbote is not appearing not because of this—but because the revolutionary movement grows extremely slowly and with difficulty. This has to be put up with; rotten blocs with a certain person (or with E. B. + Kii) would only interfere with performing the difficult task of standing fast in difficult times.

As regards “imperialist Economism”, it somehow turns out that we are “talking past each other”. You evade the definition I gave, pass it by and put the question again.

The “Economists” did not “renounce” political struggle (as you write)—that is inaccurate. They defined it wrongly. The “imperialist Economists” do the same.

You write: “Would even the complete rejection of democratic demands mean rejecting the political struggle? Is not the direct struggle for the conquest of power political struggle?”

The whole point is that with Bukharin (and partly with Radek as well) this is just the kind of thing you get and it is wrong. “The direct struggle for the conpuest   of power” while “completely rejecting democratic demands” is something unclear, unthought-out, confused. This is just what Bukharin is confused about.

More precisely, you approach the question from rather a different point of view, when you see a contradiction between §§ 2 and 8.

In § 2 there is a general statement: the socialist revolution is impossible without the struggle for democracy. This is unquestionable, and this is just the weakness of Radek + Bukharin that they, while disagreeing (like you), don’t venture to challenge it!!

But further, in a certain sense for a certain period, all democratic aims (not only self-determination! Note that! You have forgotten that!) are capable of hindering the socialist revolution. In what sense? At what moment? When? How? For example, if the movement has already developed, the revolution has already begun, we have to seize the banks, and we are being appealed to: wait, first consolidate, legitimise the republic, etc.!

An example: in August 1905, the boycott of the Duma was correct, and was not rejection of political struggle.

((§ 2 in general, refusal to participate in representative institutions is an absurdity; § 8 there are cases when we have to refuse; there is a visual comparison for you which makes clear that there is no contradiction between § 2 and § 8.))

Against Junius. The situation is the imperialist war. The remedy for it? Only a socialist revolution in Germany. Junius did not draw this conclusion, and took democracy without the socialist revolution.

One should know how to combine the struggle for democracy and the struggle for the socialist revolution, subordinating the first to the second. In this lies the whole difficulty; in this is the whole essence.

The Tolstoyans and the anarchists throw out the first. Bukharin and Radek have become confused, failing to combine the first with the second.

But I say: don’t lose sight of the main thing (the socialist revolution); put it first (Junius has not done this); put all the democratic demands, but subordinating them to it, co-ordinating them with it (Radek + Bukharin unwisely   eliminate one of them), and bear in mind that the struggle for the main thing may blaze up even though it has begun with the struggle for something partial. In my opinion, only this conception of the matter is the right one.

A war of France + Russia against Germany in 1891. You take “my criterion”, and apply it only to France and Russia!!!! For pity’s sake, where is the logic here? That’s just what I say, that on the part of France and Russia it would have been a reactionary war (a war in order to turn back the development of Germany, to return her from national unity to dismemberment). But on the part of Germany? You are silent. Yet that is the chief thing. For Germany in 1891, the war did not, and could not, have an imperialist character.

You have forgotten the main thing—that in 1891 no imperialism existed at all (I have tried to show in my pamphlet that it was born in 1898–1900, not earlier), and there was no imperialist war, there could not be, on the part of Germany. (By the way, there was no revolutionary Russia then either; that is very important.)

Furthermore, you write: “The ‘possibility’ of the dismemberment of Germany is not excluded in the 1914–17 war either”, simply sliding away from the assessment of what exists to what is possible.

That is not historical. It is not political.

What exists today is an imperialist war on both sides. This we have said 1,000 times. This is the essence.

And the “possible”!!?? All kinds of things are “possible”!

It is ridiculous to deny the “possibility” of transforming the imperialist war into a national war (though Usiyevich was horrified at the idea!). What is not “possible” on this earth! But so far it has not been transformed. Marxism buttresses its policy on the actual, not on the “possible”. It is possible that one phenomenon will change into an other—and our tactics are not fossilised. Parlez-moi de la réalité et non pas des possibilités![1]

Engels was right. In my day I have seen an awful lot of hasty charges that Engels was an opportunist, and my   attitude to them is supremely distrustful. Try, I say and prove first that Engels was wrong!! You won’t prove it!

Engels’s foreword to The Class Struggles in France[2]? Don’t you know that it was distorted in Berlin against his will? Is that serious criticism?

His statement about the Belgian strike[3]? When? Where? What? I don’t know it.

No. No. Engels was not infallible. Marx was not infallible. But if you want to point out their “fallibility” you have to set about it differently, really, quite differently. Otherwise you are 1,000 times wrong.

Very, very best greetings.

Yours, Lenin


[1] Talk to me of reality and not of possibilities!—Ed.

[2] Reference is to Engels’s Introduction to Marx’s The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, pp. 118–38).

[3] This apparently refers to what Engels said in a letter to F. A. Sorge dated April 8, 1891.

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