V. I.   Lenin


To:   N. I. BUKHARIN[3]

Published: First published in 1932 in Bolshevik No. 22. Sent from Zurich to Christiania. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1977], Moscow, Volume 43, pages 575-579a.
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.README

14.X. 1916

Dear N. I.,

As regards the “ill-fated” article, as you call it, you argue very strangely, really, or rather you don’t argue at all, but get excited and skip your arguments. Now just look, really—from a distance—what you make of it:

“... I simply have a feeling (!) that it is not a matter (!) of points of accusation (!), but ‘generally’...”.

This is what you write, word for word!! How can one argue like this? It amounts to stopping the mouth of every person who wants to argue and discuss. The Editorial Board’s letter gives precise indications and formulations of the differences, but you work yourself up: feeling, accusation, generally....

You read a lecture “on the same subject”, and none of the O.C. writers “so much as mentioned anarchism”.

But again—is that an argument? There is nothing about anarchism in the Editorial Board’s letter either. What exactly you said at the lecture cannot be established. That the O.C. writers are foolish—is a fact. But you add: “I gave it to them hot on other points”....

Opportunism is fear of what the liquidationist-yellow Maria Alexeyevna[4] [Potresov] will say.”

Pretty strong. Yes. But it’s wide of the mark! For I maintain that Potresov here is right against Bazarov.[5]

(1) Is this correct or not? You do not go into it.—(2) Is it a bad thing for the yellows to be right against the errors of our people? You disposed of the issue by the use of strong language. It works out that it is you who “fear” to give thought to the significance of Potresov’s being right against Bazarov!

“...You cannot impute to me denial of the struggle for democracy....” I impute to you a number of mistakes on this question and point out exactly which. But you avoid the issue.

You formulate three “statements”, alleged to be “absolutely indisputable and orthodoxically Marxist”, to which the first chapter “could be reduced”.

But these statements (1) are so general that they are still a long way off from concreteness; (2nd and most important of all) it is not what the article says!!

Neither Gr. nor you even attempt to tell me where the heresy is.”

Pardon me, this is untrue. This is stated most precisely in the Editorial Board’s letter, but you do not answer the things we said and pointed out. Not a sound in reply to any of our numerous and precise remarks!!

One of our remarks: you break off quotations from Marx and Engels in a way that misrenders the sense or makes for inexact conclusions. You answer only on this point, and how do you answer? That “I know the continuation (of the quotations) perfectly well”. “But on the points in question they had views which are not liable to misinterpretation.”

And that’s that!! It would be funny were it not so sad. “Misinterpretation” is just what we write about precisely; without examining a single argument or producing a single quotation (I compared them purposely; I did not write you for nothing; I compared more than one quotation!), you dismiss the matter: “not liable to misinterpretation”. The blame rests fully upon you—instead of a discussion of differences, you wave the matter away.

No one accused you either of “heresy” or of “anarchism” in this connection, but we wrote: “let it mature”. These are “two big differences”. You not only do not answer our remarks, but you read a different meaning into them. You can’t do that!

The article has been lying a long time....” Now this is backdated cavilling. We corresponded with Gr. on this for a long time, as we had other articles to attend to. You had not fixed any dates yet, and no one could know of your possible departure. This is just cavilling.

As for “chucking out” and polemic in a non-break tone, I must say that I have not yet entered into polemic with you in the press, but exchanged letters with you before any polemic and in order to avoid it. That’s a fact. Facts are stubborn things.[1] You can’t beat facts by gossip. My answer   to P. Kievsky is for the press (not to you, but to P. Kievsky) and we grant him a privilege we have never granted anyone before: we send the article to him first for his “agreement”. (Unfortunately, the copyist fell ill in the middle of the work: that is why we haven’t got the article yet, and you probably won’t see it before your departure; but we have the mail with America, and P. Kievsky will probably forward it on to you. We cannot take it from, this copyist and give it to another, because he is in a different town; we have no other one in view; he is hard up, and we can not deprive him of even these tiny earnings promised him beforehand.)

P. Kievsky’s article is very bad and he’s hopelessly muddled (generally on the question of democracy).[2]

That we always thought highly of you and spent months, many months, corresponding in detail and pointing out since the spring of 1915 that on the question of a minimum programme and democracy you were vacillating—you are aware. I would sincerely be pleased if we had a polemic only with P. Kievsky, who started it, and if our differences with you were ironed out. To achieve this, however, it is necessary that you should go into the questions at issue carefully and attentively, and not wave them away.

I am very, very pleased that we both see eye to eye against “disarmament”. I was also very glad to make the acquaintance of Franz: he must have had some good work done on him in the way of Bolshevik propaganda; no small credit for this is probably due to you. The man tries to go deep into things and promises well.

I am enclosing the certificate. Correspondence with America can be conducted only through Scandinavia: otherwise everything gets lost; the French censorship is brazen.

Regarding America. I wrote a number of letters there in 1915: all were confiscated by the accursed French and British censors.

I would very much like

(1) To have the manifesto of the Zimmerwald Left published there in English.

(2) Ditto—our pamphlet on the war (revised for the new edition).

(3) To arrange, if possible, for the most important publications and pamphlets of the Socialist Party and the Socialist Labour Party (I have only the Appeal to Reason) to be sent gratis to the C.C.

(4) Cahan, editor of a Jewish New York newspaper, visited me in Cracow in 1912 and promised me, among other things, to send publications of official economic statistics of the United States (these publications are given out to newspaper offices free of charge there), saying that his paper had such a huge forwarding office that this would be no trouble. He did not keep his promise. If you meet him, put out feelers as to whether it is hopeless or not.

(5) It would be a good thing to form a small group of Russian Bolsheviks and Lettish Bolsheviks capable of following interesting literature, sending it, writing about it, translating and printing what we send from here, and in general discussing together and “pushing” all kinds of questions about the III International and about the “Left” in the international socialist movement.

If a couple of Bolsheviks were actively linked with a couple of Letts possessing a good knowledge of English, then the thing might work.

(6) Generally, give special attention to the Letts. Try in particular to see Berzin. He can probably be traced through Strahdneks.

(7) At the end of 1914 or in 1915 I received from America a leaflet of the Socialist Propaganda League with a profession de foi in the spirit of the Zimmerwald Left. I am enclosing their address. I sent them a long letter in English. Probably went astray? I shall try and find the copy and send it to you, if you think it worth while on inquiry. I also wrote to the Letts about the League through Strahdneks: must have gone astray too.

(8) There should be a base in America for work against the English bourgeoisie, which has carried the censorship to crazy lengths. This to § 5.

(9) Try and answer us without delay, if only by a couple of lines in a postcard, so that we can make an attempt to establish proper contact with America; and give us notice (1–1 1/2, months) beforehand of the date of your return.


[1] This italicised sentence is in English in the original.—Ed.

[2] I don’t know what Grigory wrote you, and I cannot answer you on this point. You call what he has written you “impertinent non sense”.... H’m.... H’m! Aren’t you afraid of this being a “break” tone? I never push things that far in my polemic with P. Kievsky. —Lenin

[3] This is a reply to Bukharin’s letter, received early in October 1916, in which he questioned the critical remarks to his article “A Contribution to the Theory of the Imperialist State”.

[4] The reference is to the closing sentence in Griboyedov’s comedy Wit Works Woe: “Goodness me! What will Princess Maria Alexeyevna say!” (Cf. Mrs. Grundy).

[5] The journal Letopis No. 5 for May 1916 published an article by V. Bazarov, “The Present Situation and Perspectives”, giving an analysis of the economic crisis in Russia caused by the imperialist war. In this article Bazarov called the division of the Party’s Programme into minimum and maximum an “anachronism” and stated that the struggle for democratic reforms was needless.

Potresov in his article “Notes of a Publicist”, published in August 1916 in No. 1 of the Menshevik journal Dyelo, wrote that “Maximalist optimism” (this was how he characterised Bazarov s views) which does away with “all immediate tasks of democracy” “is the greatest enemy of the democratic movement, its best and most reliable disorganiser”.

It is probably this statement in Potresov’s article that Lenin has in view.

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