V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written in German
Published: First published in Pravda No. 60, March 1, 1932. Sent from Zurich to Vienna. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 237-239.
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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October 25, 1916

Dear Friend,

We regret very much that you haven’t written a single line to us so far. One must hope that the big events in Vienna will stimulate you at long last to write to us in detail.

Berner Tagwacht (and then other papers) printed a report that at a war factory in Speyer (Austria) there was a strike of 24,000 workers, that Czech soldiers opened fire, and that 700 (seven hundred!) workers were killed! How much truth is there in this? Please let us know about it in as much detail as you can.

As regards the act of Friedrich Adler,[3] I would beg you to let us know the details.

The papers here (Berner Tagwacht and Volksrecht—do you get them both, or neither?) extol this act. Avanti! (does Avanti! reach you?) states that Friedrich Adler was the author of the famous manifesto of the Austrian internationalists. Is that true? And is it now convenient to speak about this openly?

(1) Did Friedrich Adler tell anyone about his plan? (2) Did he give any friend any documents, letters, statements to be published later? (3) Is it true, as the Vienna Arbeiter Zeitung writes, that everywhere (both in the railway club and in other places) be was in a minority (and how big was that minority?), (4)——that his position in the organisation had become “unbearable” (?)—(5)—that at the last party conference he received only seven votes?—(6) that at the last two meetings of trusted agents he attacked the   party extremely sharply and demanded “demonstrations”? (What kind precisely?)

Please write us in as much detail as possible about all these questions, and in general give us more information and details about Friedrich Adler. Unless you give us special instructions to (he contrary, we shall print in our papers everything that we get from you (and will also publish them—as material from our editorial office—in the local German-language press).

As regards the political assessment of the act, we maintain, of course, our old conviction, confirmed by decades of experience, that individual terrorist acts are inexpedient methods of political struggle.

Killing is no murder,”[1] wrote our old Iskra about terrorist acts; we are not at all opposed to political killing (in this sense the servile writings of the opportunists in Vorwärts and the Vienna Arbeiter Zeitung are simply revolting), but as revolutionary tactics individual attacks are inexpedient and harmful. Only the mass movement can be considered genuine political struggle. Only in direct, immediate connection with the mass movement can and must individual terrorist acts be of value. In Russia the terrorists (against whom we always struggled) carried out a number of individual attacks; but in December 1905, when matters at last reached the stage of a mass movement, insurrection— when it was necessary to help the masses to use violence— then just at that moment the “terrorists” were missing. That is where the terrorists make their mistake.

Adler would have been of much greater help to the revolutionary movement if, without being afraid of a split, he had systematically gone over to illegal propaganda and agitation. It would be very good if some Left group were found to publish a leaflet in Vienna which would inform the workers of its view; if it branded in the sharpest possible way the servile behaviour of the Vienna Arbeiter Zeitung and Vorwärts, morally justified Adler’s act (“ killing is no murder”), but as a lesson for the workers declared: not terrorism but systematic, prolonged, self-sacrificing activity in revolutionary propaganda and agitation,   demonstrations, etc., etc., against the lackey-like opportunist party, against, the imperialists, against one’s own governments, against the war that is what is needed.

Tell us also, please, how right it would be to regard Adler’s act as a gesture of despair? I think that politically it is so. He had lost his faith in the party, he could not bear the fact that it was impossible to work with this party, that it was impossible to work with Victor Adler, he could not accept the idea of a split and take upon himself the burdensome task of a struggle against the party. And as a result of his despair came this attempt.

An act of despair of a Kautskian (Volksrecht writes that Adler was not a supporter of the Zimmerwald Left, but rather a Kautskian).

But we revolutionaries cannot fall into despair. We are not afraid of a split. On the contrary, we recognise the necessity of a split, we explain to the masses why a split is inevitable and necessary, we call for work against the old party and for revolutionary mass struggle.

What trends (resp. what individual shades of opinion) exist in Vienna and in Austria in assessing Adler’s act? I am afraid that the Vienna Government will declare Friedrich Adler insane, and not let matters come to a trial. But if they do, it will certainly be essential to organise the distribution of leaflets.

Write more and in greater detail, and observe exactly all technical precautions.

Best greetings!

N. Lenin


[1] These words were written by Lenin in English.—Ed.

[2] Koritschoner, Franz (Nadin) (1891–1942)—one of the men who founded the Austrian Communist Party in 1918, and a member of its Central Committee until 1927. He edited the party’s central organ, Die Rote Fahne (The Red Banner).

[3] Friedrich Adler, one of the leaders of the Austrian Social-Democrats, had murdered the Austrian Prime Minister Karl Stürgkh.

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