V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written on January 30, 1917
Published: First published in 1949 in Bolshevik No. 1. Sent from Zurich to Clarens (Switzerland). Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 279-281.
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,

I have received the cuttings. Merci!

We were recently visited by two escaped prisoners of war. It was interesting to see “live” people, not corroded by emigrant life. As types: one is a Jew from Bessarabia, who has seen life, a Social-Democrat or nearly a Social- Democrat, has a brother who is a Bundist, etc. He has knocked about, but is uninteresting as an individual because commonplace. The second is a Voronezh peasant, a man of the soil, from an Old Believers’ family. A breath from the Black Earth. It was extremely interesting to watch him and listen. He spent a year in a German prison camp (a mass of horrors) with 27,000 Ukrainians. The Germans build up camps according to nations, and do their utmost to break them away from Russia; for the Ukrainians they sent in skilful lecturers from Galicia. The results? Only 2,000, according to him, were for “self-rule” (independence in the sense more of autonomy than of separation) after months of effort by the agitators!! The remainder, he says, were furious at the thought of separation from Russia and going over to the Germans or Austrians.

A notable fact! One cannot but believe him. 27,000 is a big number. A year is ample time. The conditions for the Galician propaganda were exceptionally favourable. And yet closeness to the Great Russians got the upper hand! This does not imply, of course, that “freedom of separation” is in any way wrong. On the contrary. But it follows from   this that, maybe, fate will free Russia from the “Austrian type” of development.

As regards defence of the fatherland our Voronezh man is like Troyanovsky and Plekhanov. He sympathises with socialism, but “if the Germans are pushing on, why shouldn’t we defend ourselves?” He doesn’t understand. He is deeply hurt (both he and the Jew!!) that the Germans are so mercilessly beating “our people”. As regards the tsar and God, all the 27,000, he says, have finished with them completely, as regards the big landowners too. They will return to Russia embittered and enlightened.

All the yearning of the Voronezh man is to get back home, to the land, to his farm. He traipsed around the German villages working, kept his eyes open and learned a lot.

They praise the French (in the prison camps) as good comrades. “The Germans also curse their Kaiser.” They hate the English: “Swelled heads; won’t give you a piece of bread if you won’t wash the floor for them” (that’s the kind of swine you get, perverted by imperialism!).

To change the subject, what a splendid row has arisen over the referendum, especially its preamble! Delightful! You should have seen the articles by Grimm and Co. in Berner Tagwacht and the “provincial” Social-Democratic press! One continuous howl and groan! We’ve hit the scoundrels just where it hurt. I did my utmost to incite Radek (he is still here, and we are maintaining—you didn’t expect it?—the utmost friendship, as always against the “Centre”, when there is no ground for Radekite twisting, diplomacy about “rights”, etc.) to write a little pamphlet: we walked about Zurich for hours with me “nagging” him. He sat down and wrote it. Our “Lefts”, frightened by Nobs and Platten (those heroes were frightened by Grimm, who him self was frightened by Greulich and Co.!!), heard it read and turned it down (!!): it must not be printed, or they would be expelled from the Party (!!). We shall print it separately.

The situation is such that interest has been heightened, and that all who are internationalists not merely in words must help the Swiss workers and the Left. And we shall help them!

And yet another subject. I have been rereading Engels’s Zur Wohnungsfrage[2] with his preface of 1887. Do you know it? Wonderful! I am still “in love” with Marx and Engels, and cannot calmly stand any abuse of them. No, these were real people! We must learn from them. We must not leave that basis. It was from that basis that both the social-chauvinists and the Kautskians departed. (By the way, have you seen the Loriot-Rappoport, Saumoneau resolution?[3] Also 3/4 Kautskian. I want to write something for the French, to demolish it and pacifism as a whole. I will ask Grisha whether he will publish it. He did not reply about my answer to Souvarine![1] ). Well, each and every good wish, I’ve chattered three bags full.

All the best.

Yours, Lenin

P.S. I hope that the referendum will bring much benefit in French Switzerland as well. I await news from Abramovich, Olga, etc.


[1] See “An Open Letter to Boris Souvarine” (present edition, Vol. 23, pp. 195–204).—Ed.

[2] See F. Engels, “The Housing Question” (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1962, pp. 546–635).

[3] This refers to the resolution on peace proposed on behalf of Loriot-Rappoport and Saumoneau in December 1916, at the congress of the Seine Federation of the French Socialist Party. The resolution was voted down.

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