V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written later than October 3, 1916
Published: First published in 1924 in Lenin Miscellany II. Sent from Zurich to Stockholm. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 232-236.
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 Friend,

Evidently Belenin’s decision about his “trip” has already been taken, judging by the letter which Grigory has sent me today. And the time is quite short! Yet we have particular reason to exchange letters and come to an understanding with him: this is now incredibly important. Therefore I most earnestly request you to take all possible steps to see Belenin personally, to pass on to him all that follows, and frankly and also in detail write to me (without fail!) how matters stand, i. e., whether or not there are difference?, divergencies, etc., between us and Belenin, and what they are (and how to eliminate them, if they exist).

The elimination of James[4] (I earnestly ask you not to say one word about this elimination to a single person abroad: you cannot imagine, how dangerous in all respects is chatter abroad on these subjects, and in connection with such events)—the elimination of James makes the position critical and once again raises the question of the general plan of work.

In my convinced opinion, this plan is composed, first, of the theoretical line, secondly, of the most immediate tactical tasks and, thirdly, of direct organisational tasks.

(1) On the first point, the order of the day now is not only the continuation of the line we have endorsed (against tsarism, etc.) in our resolutions and pamphlet[1] (this line has   been remarkably confirmed by events, by the split in Britain,[5] etc.), but also cleansing it of the stupidities which have accumulated, and the muddle about rejecting democracy (this includes disarmament, repudiation of self– determination, the theoretically wrong rejection “in general” of defence of the fatherland, the wobblings on the question of the role and significance of the state in general, etc.).

It will be an extreme pity if Belenin does not receive my article in reply to Kievsky (just yesterday it was sent to be transcribed, and will be ready only in a few days). What are we to do? Don’t neglect the necessity of coming to an understanding on theoretical questions: really and truly, it is essential for work in such difficult times. Think over whether we could not put into effect the following plan (or something similar); I am beginning to realise that Belenin’s wife is not in America, as I thought, but in Spain, through which Belenin will of course travel now. Could we not organise the copying and passing on of manuscripts to his wife in Spain? In that case perhaps my article, too, even if sent in a week from now, would reach Belenin in time, because he will certainly spend a few days in Spain.

Think it over; apart from this special case, regular correspondence with Belenin’s wife, and with Spain in general, is extremely important. Spain is a supremely important point just now, because it is still more convenient to work there than in Britain and elsewhere.

I cannot dwell more fully on theoretical agreement. The enemy has already seized on the stupid repudiation of the significance of democracy (Potresov[6] in No. 1 of Dyelo). Bazarov has made a fool of himself in Letopis. Bogdanov is talking another kind of balderdash, but also balderdash in Letopis. An exceptionally suspicious bloc of the Machists and the O.C.–ists has come into being there. A shameful bloc! It’s hardly likely that we can break it up.... Should we perhaps try a bloc with the Machists against, the O.C.– ists? Hardly likely to succeed!! Gorky is always supremely spineless in politics, a prey to emotion and passing moods.

The legal press in Russia is acquiring exceptional, importance, and therefore the question of the correct line, too, becomes still more and more important, because it is easier for the enemy to “bombard” us in this field.

The best thing would be, probably, if Belenin could have a “base” in Spain and receive our letters and manuscripts there: we could continue our discussion, exchange letters, Belenin could return there soon after his short trip further on (for the danger is very great, and it would be much more useful for our cause if Belenin made brief trips round a few cities and then returned to Spain, or to where he is now, or to a neighbouring country to consolidate contacts, etc.).

On the second point. The main thing now, I think, is to publish popular leaflets and manifestos against tsarism. Consider whether this could be organised in Spain? If not, we shall prepare them here and send them on. For this the most efficient transport contacts are essential. You were quite right: the Japanese have proved absolutely useless. Best of all would be foreigners, with whom we could correspond in English or some other foreign language. I will not dwell on the question of transport, because you yourself realise and know this. The trouble is that there is no money, but they should collect some in Petersburg.

The main Party question in Russia has been and remains the question of “unity”. Trotsky in the 500 or 600 issues of his paper has not managed to speak out, or to think out, fully whether there is to be unity with Chkheidze, Skobelev and Co., or not. I think there are still some “unifiers” in Petersburg as well, though very weak (was it not they who published Rabochiye Vedomosti in Petersburg?).[7] “Makar”, they say, is in Moscow and also playing the conciliator. Conciliationism and unificationism is the most harmful thing for the workers’ party in Russia—not just idiocy, but the destruction of the Party. For in practice “ unification” (or conciliation and the like) with Chkheidze and Skobelev (they are the key point, because they give themselves out to be “internationalists”) is “unity” with the O.C., and through it with Potresov and Co., i.e., in practice it is playing the lackey to the social-chauvinists. If Trotsky and Co. have not understood this, so much the worse for them. Dyelo No. 1 and—especially—the participation of the workers in the war industries committees, prove that this is so.

Not only in elections to the Duma the day after peace is signed, but in general on all questions of Party practice, “unity” with Chkheidze and Co. is the essential question   today. We can rely only on those who have understood just how deceptive the idea of unity is and how necessary it is to break with that fraternity (Chkheidze and Co.) in Russia. Belenin ought to rally only such people as leaders.

By the way, a split on the international scale is also due. I consider it quite timely now that all class-conscious leading workers in Russia should understand this, and should adopt resolutions in favour of an organisational break with the Second International, with the International Bureau of Huysmans, Vandervelde and Co., in favour of building a Third International only against the Kautskians of all countries (Chkheidze and Co., also Martov and Axelrod = the Russian Kautskians). only in rapprochement with people who lake the stand of the Zimmerwald Left.

On the third point. The most pressing question now is the weakness of contacts between us and leading workers in Russia!! No correspondence!! No one but James, and now he has gone!! We can’t go on like that. We cannot organise either the publication of leaflets or transport, either agreement about manifestos or sending over their drafts, etc., etc., without regular secret correspondence. That is the key question!

This Belenin did not do on his first visit (probably he couldn’t at the time). Convince him, for Christ’s sake, that this must be done on the second visit! It must be done!! The immediate success of the visit, really and truly, must be measured by the number of contacts!! (Of course the personal influence of Belenin is still more important, but ho will not be able to stop anywhere for long without destroying himself and harming the cause.) The number of contacts in each city will be the measure of the success of his visit!!

Two-thirds of the contacts, as a minimum, in each city, should be with leading workers, i.e., they should write themselves, themselves master secret correspondence (artists are made, not born), should themselves each train up 1–2 “heirs” in case of arrest. This should not be entrusted to the intelligentsia alone. Certainly not. It can and must be done by the loading workers. Without this it is impossible to establish continuity and purpose in our work—and that is the main thing.

That’s all, I think.

As regards legal literature, I will also add: 

it is important to ascertain whether they will accept my articles in Letopis (if the O.C.–ists cannot be thrown out by moans of a bloc with the Machists). With restrictions? Which?

We must find out in greater detail about Volna.[8]

As regards myself personally, I will say that I need to earn. Otherwise we shall simply die of hunger, really and truly!! The cost of living is devilishly high, and there is nothing to live on. The cash must be dragged by force[2] out of the publisher of Letopis, to whom my two pamphlets[3] have been sent (let him pay at once and as much as possible!). The same with Bonch. The same as regards translations. If this is not organised I really will not be able to hold out, this is absolutely serious, absolutely, absolutely.

I shake you firmly by the hand and send a thousand best wishes to Belenin. Drop me a line that you have received this immediately, just two words.


P.S. Write frankly, in what state of mind Bukharin is leaving? Will he write to us or not? Will he carry out our requests or not? Correspondence (with America) is possible only through Norway. Tell him this and arrange it.


[1] The resolutions of the Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. Groups Abroad and the pamphlet Socialism and War (see present edition, Vol. 21, pp. 158–64, 295–338).—Ed.

[2] About cash Belenin will have a talk with Katin, and with Gorky himself, of course if it is not inconvenient.—Lenin

[3] Reference is to New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture and Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (see present edition, Vol. 22, pp. 13–102, 185–304).—Ed.

[4] Elimination of James meant the arrest of Anna Yelizarova in Petrograd.

[5] Reference is to the split in the British Socialist Party at the Manchester Conference in April 1916, at which the Right, opportunist wing of the party, Hyndman and his supporters, were outvoted and left the party. The leadership of the British Socialist Party was then taken over by internationalist elements, which actively opposed the imperialist war. The British Socialist Party laid the foundation for the Communist Party of Great Britain, which was formed in 1920.

[6] Potresov, A. N. (1869–1934)—a Menshevik leader. In the years of reaction and subsequent revolutionary revival he was an ideologist of liquidationism. During the First World War he became a social-chauvinist.

[7] Pokrovsky, M. N. (1868–1932)—member of the Bolshevik Party from 1905, prominent Soviet statesman and historian.

From 1908 to 1917 he lived abroad. During the years of reaction he became associated with the otzovists and ultimatumists, and then with the anti-Party Vperyod group, with which he broke in 1911. During the imperialist world war he worked for the Centrist newspapers Golos and Nashe Slovo, returning to Russia in 1917. From November 1917 to March 1918, he was Chairman of the Moscow Soviet, from 1919, Deputy Commissar for Education of the R.S.F.S.R., and from 1929 onwards, a member of the Academy of Sciences.

[8] Organising Committee—the Mensheviks’ leading centre, was formed in 1912 at the August Conference of Menshevik liquidators, Trotskyists and other anti-Party groups and trends.

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