V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written January 6, 1917
Published: First published in 1966 in Collected Works, Fifth (Russian) Ed., Vol. 49. Sent from Zurich to Clarens. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1977], Moscow, Volume 43, pages 590b-593.
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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I’d like to share with you my ideas concerning the following plan.

I have set going my theses on the tasks of the Swiss Lefts, both in German and in French. In this connection I have hit on the plan of founding a small publishing business and issuing sheets, leaflets and small pamphlets elaborating these theses.

I wrote to Abramovich. He answers that he undertakes to distribute 1,500 copies. He has credit in Imprimerie co-opérative for six months. A leaflet will cost 50–70 frs. He promises to find out the details and let me know (I asked for details as to the cost of 2, 4 and 8 pages for 2,000 and 5,000 copies; the cost of the matrices; and how soon they can be issued). But so far I have heard nothing from him!

Told Abramovich in reply that the plan would have to be abandoned for the time being owing to difficulties, of which more below. I was compelled, or rather impelled, to answer in this way by the fact that Abramovich appears to be in the blues or something: he sometimes doesn’t answer for weeks!! He’s not used to carrying on correspondence, if you please, and is in the blues!! You can’t work like this.

To rely solely on Abramovich in this business seemed to me rather risky.

Further. I wrote to Guilbeaux—he answered: the theses are “excellent”. Very well: will you help distribute the leaflets!? How many copies?

No reply to this day! (Obviously, because of the plan for their own little journal.)

I went to Münzenberg: will you help? I will. But we can’t handle more than 1,500 (this is terribly little!!)—we are overloaded with literature!

I have no German translator. Nobs half-promised, but obviously won’t do it.

What’s more, the party (i.e., the Parteivorstand) is deciding only tomorrow (7.I) whether to postpone the congress or not. A lot depends on this, of course.

Such is the state of affairs that produced my “bold plan” and then its abandonment (for a time).

Would you care to tackle this business?

Tentatively and approximately in the following manner:

You will be publisher of the French pamphlets. I take upon myself the editing (writing and editing). You will also be the translator. You would go to La Chaux-de-Fonds (for a short time, for a few days; I don’t think there would be any need to live there) and ascertain the financial and technical details. You would also find out whether you could raise money (or get an advance) for this publishing business (how much?—I don’t know. I think from 100 frs. to several   hundred, up to 300–500 frs. depending on the answer of the printing shop and on what scale the business is contemplated).

You could visit several centres of French Switzerland (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Fribourg, Genève, Lausanne, Bern, Neuch&ahat;tel and so on—this list is given only as an example) forming distributing groups, reading lectures, etc., making contacts and arrangements, checking.

I repeat: this is a tentative plan of work at its widest scope (probably only part of it would be practicable). A French publishing business might get the Germans moving.

I don’t think Abramovich is lying—he will distribute 1,500. We can add a minimum of 500 for Geneva, etc. Total=2,000. We could make matrix-moulds so as not to risk losing money on a large number. The youth leagues to be paid 20% for distribution.

(a) Will it pay? (b) And how long will it take for the money to come back?

Everything depends on these two questions (a+b).

If (a) it does not pay at all, then we should not start it, for we have no donors. We can only go in for what can pay for itself. If (b) the money takes a long time in turning over, i.e. (this is most important), if the pamphlets are not paid for punctually and regularly, then the business either cannot be started altogether or else a large sum must be assigned to put several leaflets into circulation (there may always be need for issuing a polemical reply, as our enemies will not keep silent; the enemies have newspapers; to answer them we should have the possibility of issuing an extra pamphlet or leaflet).
[[ The situation in the Party is such that a furious struggle may flare up. ]]

These are the advantages and disadvantages, the bright prospects and difficulties.

If this idea generally does not interest you, or if, for one reason or another, you do not consider it possible or suitable for you to undertake and organise this publishing business, then please drop the thing without ceremony. This will remain just a talk of mine with you on the subject of one of my plans (until I am eventually able, perhaps, to find a chance of resuming my plans).

If you are interested, then go and see Abramovich, go   into all this in a businesslike manner and drop me a line at once giving the results. We shall then discuss the plan again together most thoroughly and exchange letters.

The leaflets, in my opinion, should be of two kinds: (αα) for the masses and (ββ) for socialists.

Both of them small: from 2 to 8 printed pages of small size (small close-set type).

Subjects (tentatively):

(αα)—against defence of the fatherland; against indirect taxation; high cost of living; introduction of socialism as an immediate aim; expropriation of the banks, etc.

(ββ)—poor and sound arguments for rejecting defence of the fatherland; against the social-patriots and the Centre; against the Grütlianer[1] people outside and inside the party, etc., etc.

How to prepare for the party congress; a bourgeois-reformist labour party or a socialist party?

The leaflets could all be under a single trade name, Svet, say, or any other name.

Münzenberg told me that they (the “Young”) would distribute even without commission charges, but that, I think, is impossible. At 20% (1 c. per every 5 c. of sales price) they would probably distribute energetically.

I hope I have made this all clear to you now, that is, I have written everything I know (as regards plans and information) to help you form an opinion of the whole enterprise.

I would consider it extremely important to publish the same things in German and Italian. But for that we need (1) translators; (2) more money. So far we have neither. I think that if the French job started, the Germans would find translators, maybe.

Possibly, the thing may not work with us simply because we may not be able to take the right tone as far as the French mentalité is concerned!

This worries me greatly and scares me very much.


[1] Grütlianer—a newspaper, organ of the Swiss bourgeois-reformist Grütli-Verein; founded in Zurich in 1851. During the imperialist world war (1914–18) the paper adopted a social-chauvinist stand. Lenin described, it as a newspaper of “the consistent and avowed servants of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement”.

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