V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1964 in Collected Works, Fifth (Russian) Ed., Vol. 49. Printed from the original. Translated from the German.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1977], Moscow, Volume 43, pages 513b-516a.
Translated: Martin Parker and Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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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8/III. 1916

Dear Comrade,

Excuse me for not having answered your letter earlier. I have been lecturing in various towns of Switzerland.

I thank you very much for your friendly reply. I shall be very pleased if our collaboration proceeds without any friction.

Frankly speaking, there was never any question about you and Comrade Pannekoek being “decent people”, as you term it. What worried us was the sudden change in the editorial regulations. Under the first draft we were given editorial rights (Editorial Board =a union between your group (you+Trotsky) and the “Zimmerwald Left”; and in the bureau of this Left, as you know, we had two votes out of the three: Radek’s, Zinoviev’s and my own). With the change in the draft we lost our editorial rights a-nd became mere contributors. Of course, we could not challenge your right to draw up the regulations. But it is only natural—is it not?—that we, as contributors, should nevertheless wish to have certain guarantees of our rights.

I trust the matter is now clear and definitely settled.

Immediately on receipt of your letter I gave orders to the forwarding office to send you our organ (Sotsial-Demokrat—non-periodical; Nos. 33–51 were issued since the be ginning of the war). Are you receiving it?

I take this opportunity to discuss important questions relating to our collaboration.

(1) Our theses (on the right to self-determination)[1] were sent to you by Radek (please forward them on to Gorter too; I am writing to him about this in detail in connection with his pamphlet). I consider the Dutch-Polish standpoint to be altogether erroneous theoretically and a result of the policy of the small states practically. Cannot our joint struggle against old and new annexations (what are annexations?) draw us somewhat closer together? The German, English and Russian standpoint is after all more important (and objectively more correct) than the Dutch and Polish! Gorter demands “national independence” for the Dutch East Indies. Very good! But this is precisely the right to self-determination!! If Kautsky and the Russian Kautskyites (including Trotsky) present the question wrongly, this is only another argument against the Kautskyites! (If you are interested in this question, ask Gorter to send you my letter. I shall be very pleased to discuss this question more fully with the Dutch Marxists.)

(2) The German group Die Internationale. Have you read their theses in No. 3 of Grimm’s Bulletin?[4]

In my opinion this is a decisive step to the right after the first issue of the journal Die Internationale. Not a word against the Kautskian Centre—and that is the main thing for the German party. Not a word about the split (Otto Rühle is quite right—and they keep silent about this after his article!!). Not a word about obvious methods of struggle—about the illegal organisation, etc.

And the phrase: “in the era of imperialism there can no longer be national wars”! This is theoretically false. Colonial wars are national wars. (India against Britain, etc.) This—practically—is chauvinism: we representatives of the Great Powers forbid the oppressed peoples to wage national wars!!

My conclusion is this: Die Internationale wishes to come to an agreement with the Kautskyites. These theses cannot be interpreted in any other way. On top of it all, Ströbel in Neue Zeit lauds Bernstein![5] Zetkin in Gleichheit   is against the Zimmerwald Left: diplomatic phrase against “Bolshevik sectarianism” (!!). A phrase worded so diplomatically that no one can understand where our “sectarianism” comes in!! Zetkin stands for “aurea mediocritas” between Ledebour and the Zimmerwald Left. But how this is to be achieved—of this not a word. What is our mistake?—so far, not a word about it, not a single line in Switzer land, where there is no censorship.

How else can you account for it, other than as a desire to come to an agreement with Kautsky & Co.?

(3) The “draft” (Bulletin No. 3) drawn up by you and the S.D.P. strikes me as being a very bad one.[6] Not even Radek could defend this draft. Why this curtailment of the Party’s Programme? The programme of socialist revolution? Today there is no need for it—and such a programme lacks a point dealing with the conquest of political power. In such a programme § 6 (A) and § 5 (B) are very odd; § 6 (B), too, sounds queer: it is precisely in the event of a socialist revolution that we shall have need of a militia to defend the new order. We are not pacifists, are we? We cannot count on a victory simultaneously all over the world (without civil wars? without wars?)! The colonial programme is absent altogether.

Only in the event of our being quite sure that we are right on the threshold of such a revolution shall we need such a programme—but even then it would have to be formulated quite differently.

Today, however, we need something quite different: the labour movement needs clear views on the necessity of breaking with the social-chauvinists and Kautskyites, on the illegal organisation, on the means and methods of mass struggle, etc.

(4) We shall soon send you our theses to points 5–8 of the agenda of the second conference.[2] It would be a very good thing if we could come to an agreement—on some of the points, if not on all of them.

(5) What are our differences with Trotsky? This must   probably interest you. In brief—he is a Kautskyite, that is, he stands for unity with the Kautskyites in the Inter national and with Chkheidze’s parliamentary group in Russia. We are absolutely against such unity. Chkheidze with his phrases (that he is for Zimmerwald: see his recent speech, Vorwärts 5/III) cloaks the fact that he shares the views of the Organising Committee and of the people taking part in the war committees.[3] Trotsky at present is against the Organising Committee (Axelrod and Martov) but for unity with the Chkheidze Duma group!!

We are decidedly against.

With best regards to you, Comrade Pannekoek and the other Dutch comrades!

N. Lenin

My address is: Wl. Ulianow
Spiegelgasse. 12.
(Schuhladen Kammerer)
Zurich. I.

P.S. Is there any truth in the newspaper reports about the connections between the New Review (New York) and Vorbote (see Internationale Korrespondenz[7] No. 69)?

Don’t you think it would be essential to put out No. 2 of Vorbote in March?


[1] See V. I. Lenin, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination” (present edition, Vol. 22, pp. 143–56).—Ed.

[2] See “Proposals Submitted by the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. to the Second Socialist Conference” (present edition, Vol. 22, pp. 169–79).—Ed.

[3] Meaning the war industries committees.—Ed.

[4] The theses of the Internationale group were published in No. 3 of the I.S.C. Bulletin for February 29, 1916, under the heading “Em Vorschlag deutscher Genossen” (A Proposal of the German Comrades).

[5] Ströbel’s article “Die Ursachen der sozialistischen Krise” (Causes of the Socialist Crisis) was published in Neue Zeit No. 12, December 17, 1915.

[6] This refers to the joint draft programme of the Revolutionary Socialist League and the Social-Democratic Party of Holland published in No. 3 of the I.S.C. Bulletin.

[7] Internationale Korrespondenz—a weekly journal of the German social-chauvinists appeared from late September 1914 to October 1, 1918, in Berlin.

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