V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered at a Meeting Organised by the Moscow Committee of the R. C. P. (B. )[1]

In Honour of Lenin’s Fiftieth Birthday

April 23, 1920

Delivered: April 23, 1920
First Published: Published in brief in Pravda No. 87, April 24, 1920; Published in full in October 1920 in the pamphlet Fiftieth Birthday of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov-Lenin (1870-April 23-1920); Published according to the pamphlet
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, pages 526-528
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

(Stormy applause ) Comrades, I must naturally begin by thanking you for two things: firstly, for the congratula-tions addressed to me today, and secondly, even more for having spared me congratulatory speeches (Applause. ) I think that perhaps in this va we may gradually, not all at once, of course, devise a more suitable method of celebrat-ing anniversaries than the one hitherto in vogue, which has sometimes formed the subject of remarkably good car-toons. Here is one such cartoon drawn by a prominent artist in celebration of such a jubilee. I received it today with an extremely cordial letter. And as the comrades have been kind enough to spare me congratulatory speeches, I will hand this cartoon round for all to see, so as to save us in future from such jubilee celebrations altogether. [2]

Next, I would like to say a few words about the present status of the Bolshevik Party. What brought these thoughts to my mind was some lines written by a certain writer eight-een years ago, in 1902. This writer is Karl Kautsky, with whom we have now had to part ways very definitely, and whom we have to fight, but who in the struggle against German opportunism used lobe one of the leaders of the proletarian party, and with whom we at one time collaborated. There were no Bolsheviks then, but all the future Bolsheviks who collaborated with him appraised him very highly. Here is what this writer wrote in 1902:

“At the present time [in contrast to 18481 it would seem that not only have the Slays entered the ranks of the revolutionary nations, but that the centre of revolutionary thought and revolutionary action is shifting more and more to the Slays. The revolutionary centre is shifting from the West to the East. In the first half of the nineteenth century it was located in France, at times in England. In 1848 Germany too joined the ranks of the revolutionary nations. . . . The new century opens with events which induce us to think that we are approaching a further shift of the revolutionary centre. , namely, to Russia . . . . Russia, who has borrowed so much revolutionary initiative from the West, is now perhaps herself ready to serve as a source of revolutionary energy for the West. The Russian revolutionary movement that is now flaring up will perhaps prove to he a most potent means of exorcising that spirit of flabby philistinism and temperate politics which is beginning to spread in our midst, and it may cause the thirst for battle and the passionate devotion to our great ideals to flare up in bright flames again. Russia has long ceased to be merely a bulwark of reaction and absolutism in Wemem Europe. It might be said that today the very opposite is the case. Western Europe is becoming a bulwark of reaction and absolutism in Russia . . . . The Russian revolutionaries might perhaps have settled with the tsar long ago had they not been compelled at the same time to fight his ally, European capital. Let us hope that this time they will succeed in settling with both enemies, and that the new ’Holy Alliance’ will collapse more quickly than its predecessors. But no matter how the present struggle in Russia ends, the blood and happiness of the martyrs, whom, unfortunately, she is producing in too great numbers, will not have been sacrificed in vain. They will nourish the shoots of social revolution throughout the civilised world and cause them to grow more luxuriantly and rapidly. In 1848 the Slays were a black frost which blighted the flowers of the peoples’ spring. Perhaps they are now destined to be the storm that will break the ice of reaction and will irresistibly bring a new and happy spring for the nations.” (K. Kautsky, “The Slays and Revolution”, Iskra No. 18, March 10, 1902. )

That is what a prominent socialist, with whom we have now had to break so drastically, wrote about the revolutionary movement in Russia eighteen years ago. These words lead me to think that our Party may now find itself in a very dangerous position—the position of a man with a swelled head. It is a very stupid, shameful and ridiculous position. We know that the failure and decline of political parties have very often been preceded by a state of affairs in which a swelled head is possible. And, indeed, what was expected of the Russian revolution by the man I have quoted and who is now our bitterest enemy, was immense beyond measure. But after all, the brilliant successes and brilliant victories we have gained so far were gained at a time when it was still impossible to grapple with our main difficulties. It was a time when we were confronted by war tasks, the tasks of waging a most profound and most energetic struggle against the landowner and tsarist reactionaries, and against reactionary generals. And so, the tasks that are the substance of the socialist revolution had to be postponed in order to grapple with the task of organising the struggle against the common, everyday manifestations of petty-bourgeois instincts, division and disunity, that is, against everything that would drag us back to capitalism. These tasks were postponed both in the economic and political spheres; we were unable to tackle them properly. And therefore the danger suggested to us by the words I have quoted should be seriously borne in mind by all Bolsheviks both severally and as an integral political party. We must realise that the decisions of our last Party Congress must he carried out at all costs, and this means that a tremendous job faces us, and that a far greater exertion of effort will be demanded than hitherto.

Let me conclude with the hope that under no circumstances will we allow our Party to contract swelled head. (Applause


[1] On April 23, 1920 the Moscow Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) organised a meeting in honour of Lenin's fiftieth birthday. It was attended by Moscow Party functionaries. People who knew Lenin well, who had worked with him before the October Revolution, spoke at the meeting, Gorky, Lunacharsky, Olminsky and the proletarian poets Kirillov and Alexandrovsky spoke of Lenin with great warmth and deep respect. Lenin was given an ovation when he appeared.

[2] Lenin refers to a cartoon by the well-known artist Karrik who drew it in 1900 on the birthday of the Narodnik N. K. Mikhailovsky. Yelena Stasova sent the cartoon to Lenin on his fiftieth birthday. The drawing depicted Marxists as children who came to congratulate Mikhailovsky. Stasova wrote on the cartoon that at the time of Mikhailovsky's birthday the Party had been in its childhood, had few members, whereas it had since grown, “and this is the result of your work, this is thanks to your mind and talent”.