V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written later than November 5, 1916
Published: First published in 1925 in Lenin Miscellany III. Sent from Zurich to Geneva. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 242-245.
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 Comrade,

You question my remark as to the possibility of transforming the present imperialist war, too, into a national war.

Your argument? “We shall have to defend an imperialist fatherland”....

Is that logical? If the fatherland remains “imperialist”, how can the war then be national??

The talk about “possibilities”, in my opinion, has been theoretically wrongly introduced by Radek, and by § 5 of the theses of the Internationale.[5]

Marxism takes its stand on the facts, and not on possibilities.

A Marxist must, as the foundation of his policy, put only precisely and unquestionably demonstrated facts.

That is what our (Party) resolution does.[1]

When instead of it we are presented with “ impossibility”, I reply: untrue, un-Marxist, a cliché. All kinds of (transformation are possible.

And I quote a historical fact (the wars of 1792–1815). I take this example to illustrate the possibility of something like that nowadays (if there is a development backwards).

In my opinion, you are confusing the possible (about which it was not I who began talking!!) with the real, when you think that the recognition of a possibility allows us to alter our tactics. That is the height of illogicality.

I recognise the possibility that a Social-Democrat may be transformed into a bourgeois, and the reverse.

An indubitable truth. Does it follow from this that I will now recognise a particular bourgeois, Plekhanov, as a Social-Democrat? No, it does not follow. But what about the possibility? Let’s wait for it to be transformed into reality.

That’s all. It is precisely in “methodology” (about which you write) that one must distinguish the possible from the real.

All kinds of transformation are possible, even of a Tool into a wise man, but such a transformation rarely becomes actual. And merely because of the “possibility” of such a transformation I shall not cease to consider the fool to be a fool.

Your perplexities about “dualistic” training are not clear to me. For I concretely gave the example (Norway) both in Prosveshcheniye[2] and in my article against Kievsky.[3]

You don’t reply to that!! You choose the quite unclear example of Poland.

This is not “dualistic” training, but reducing different things to a common denominator, bringing Nizhni and Smolensk to a common Moscow.

A Swedish Social-Democrat who does not stand for the freedom of secession for Norway is a scoundrel. This you do not challenge. A Norwegian Social-Democrat may be either for secession or against it. Is unity on such a question obligatory for all Social-Democrats of all countries? No. That would be a cliché, a ridiculous cliché, a ridiculous pretension.

We never blamed the Polish Social-Democrats (I wrote this in Prosveshcheniye) because they were against the independence of Poland.

Instead of a simple, clear, theoretically unchallengeable argument: we cannot now be for the kind of democratic   demand (for an independent Poland) that in practice subordinates us completely to one of the imperialist powers or coalitions

(this is unquestionable, this is enough; it is essential and sufficient)

instead of this they talked themselves into an absurdity: “It is unrealisable.”

We laughed this out of court in 1903 and in April 1916.

The good Polish Social-Democrats almost, almost proved the unrealisability of a new Polish state, only ... only the imperialist Hindenburg interfered: he went and realised it.[6]


To what ridiculous pedantry people descend when they desire (from the Cracow point of view[7]) to make more profound (or more foolish?) the “economic” aspect!!

The P.S.D. have got themselves into the position of repudiating “Staatenbau[4] !! But is not all democracy Staatenbau? And the independence for the Dutch Indies which Gorter demands, is not that the Staatenbau?

We are for freedom of secession for the Dutch Indies. But is a Social-Democrat of the Dutch Indies bound to be for secession? There is another example for you of what you call “dualistic” training!!


War is the continuation of politics. Belgium is a colonialist country, you argue. Nevertheless, shall we really be unable to determine which politics the present war continues, the politics of Belgian slave-owning or of Belgian liberation??

I think we shall be able to.

And if anyone loses his way, that will be a question of fact.

One cannot, after all, “prohibit” national wars (as Radek wants) out of fear that brainless people or swindlers again pretend that the imperialist war is a national one!! That is ridiculous, yet that is the conclusion from what Radek is saying.

We are not against a national insurrection, we are for it. That is clear. And we cannot go further than that: we shall consider each case concretely, and I don’t think we shall take the rebellion of the South in the United States in 1863 as a “national insurrection”....


I had Engels’s article from the Grünberg Archives,[8] but sent it away to Grigory. I shall get it back from him and send it to you.

Very best greetings,

Yours, Lenin

N. K. asks me very much to send her greetings too.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 21, pp. 158–64.—Ed.

[2] See “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination” (present edition, Vol. 20, pp. 425–30).—Ed.

[3] See “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism” (ibid., Vol. 23, pp. 48–55).—Ed.

[4]Building of a state.”—Ed.

[5] These theses of the Internationale group were published on February 29, 1916 in the Bulletin of the International Socialist Commission in Berne (“Bulletin” Internationale sozialistische Kommission zu Bern) No. 3. The fifth paragraph contains the assertion that national wars are impossible in the epoch of imperialism.

[6] In the Declaration of the German and Austro-Hungarian Governments published on November 5, 1916, Poland was proclaimed a constitutional monarchy under the protection of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

[7] The views on the nationalities problem developed by Rosa Luxemburg in the magazine of the Polish Social-Democrats, Przeglad   Socjaldemokratyczny (Social-Democratic Review), published in Cracow. (See Lenin’s article “The Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, present edition, Vol. 20, pp. 393–454.)

[8] This refers to a series of articles by Engels entitled “What Have the Working Classes to Do With Poland?” which was reprinted in 1916 in the Archiv für die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung, published by Grünberg.

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