V. I.   Lenin

Letter to G. Y. Zinoviev and Instructions to the Secretary

Written: August 13 and 16, 1921
Published: First published in 1965 in the Fifth Russian Edition of the Collected Works, Vol. 53. Printed from the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 1st English Edition, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 42, pages 333c-336a.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). 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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Type 6 copies and send to

1) Radek
2) me
3) Trotsky
4) Kamenev
5) Stalin
6) extra copy

To Comrade Zinoviev


Obviously, we cannot properly organise in Russia a bureau for properly summarising and selecting information on the international labour movement. We haven’t the people for it, nor the libraries, etc.

I suggest that such a bureau be set up in Germany. Employ one manager (a non-work-fit Communist, better still a non-Communist) plus 2 assistants (+2-3 typists).

A definite monthly sum should be earmarked for this purpose. We should try to arrange legally, under some trade name, something like Zeitungskorrespondenz, a supply of articles and copy to the newspapers.

Three Germans (knowing English, French, Italian and Czech—enough to start with) could of course be found. Radek, if I am not mistaken, even had someone in mind.

This bureau, if we could find efficient men to run it under contract (intellectuals in Germany are hard up, and we could select a good staff), would carry on systematic research work for us in collecting literary and special newspaper material and working it up on two cardinal and main points:

A) international imperialism;

B) the international labour movement.

We could (with Radek and with his help) probably find 2-3 dozen Communists doing journalistic work in all countries to act as contributors (and writer-consultants) to this bureau.

Such a bureau would work for a start in German (for the continent of Europe now undoubtedly the most international language); and at the first opportunity it would add to its publications translations into French and English. Russian translations could easily be arranged: we would simply give the job through official state channels to 2-3 bourgeois professors, so as not to divert communist forces on purely technical work.

On both these questions (A and B) the bureau should systematically keep abreast of the international literature, especially newspaper literature, and compile lists of valuable books and newspaper articles on these questions.

The most important thing here would be to detail and arrange these questions correctly—to compile a rational and classified list of these questions and supplement it in good time according to the needs of the moment.

And then—commentaries of not more than 3-10 lines on books and on very rare and specially important newspaper articles (1 out of 100,. or maybe I out of 500), so that you can tell at once what to look for and what the respective book or article deals with.

The writer-consultants could write these commentaries (or rather a statement of the contents) easily, if the German centre organised this work and paid them for it.

Further, the bureau should run a summary of important items of information from the newspapers and press-cuttings (at least 3-4 sets to begin with: one for the files, one for Moscow, and one extra set to meet any contingency).

With the help of consultants and Radek at their head, we could make up a list of subjects, for example:

— —shadings and controversial issues within communism;

— — " " " and on the fringe of communism (II½[1] and anarchists);

— — " " " also within the trade union movement;

— — elections and their statistics (or results) to judge the strength of the trends in the labour movement;

— —the history of outstanding strikes and “incidents” (demonstrations, actions, etc.) and so on.

I believe that, properly organised, this bureau would bring in a certain income, as its bulletins would be purchased by certain newspapers and libraries as important information material.

But this income, of course, would at best cover only a small part of the expenses. We can and should bear these expenses. All the material, as far a. we are concerned, will serve the cause of public education and the work of propaganda and agitation.

Such a bureau can and should be organised. It can be very useful. Without it we have no eyes, ears or hands for participation in the international movement—and we do it casually, always dependent (for information) on someone who is closer, near at hand, who has happened to read about it, who has just dropped in, happened to mention it, and so on.

I propose that the Politbureau discuss this plan and set up a small commission for its preliminary drafting, say:

+ ?

  Perhaps only two would be better to start with. They can enlist the co-operation of Steklov and Béla Kun (and many others), invite to Moscow a candidate for the post of bureau manager, and then be able to make up an estimate and submit the whole elaborated plan to the Politbureau for consideration.[2]

16/ VIII.



[1] Meaning the Centrist II½ International.—Ed.

[2] The question of setting up an information bureau abroad to collect material on the international labour movement was discussed at the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Comintern on August 17, 1921. Lenin’s proposal was adopted.

Shortly afterwards E. Varga sent Learn his project for the ”Organisation of Information in the Comintern Executive”. This called for the establishment of an Information Institute which would supply the Comintern Executive with the necessary material. The project suggested methods of work for the Institute ay’d outlined instructions for compiling socio-eonomic reports and political information.

On August 31, 1921, Lenin sent Varga his remarks on the projectct—“Tentative Amendments or Theses” (see pp. 337.39 of this volume).

Lenin’s letter of September 1, 1921 (see p. 339 of this volume) was a reply to Varga’s letter dated August 31, 1921, on the subject of Lenin’s theses or, the organisation of an Information Institute, in which Varga reported that there were “deep-going basic differences in regard to the aims of such an Institute”, Trotsky, Zinoviev and Radek, wrote Verge, considered that this Institute was designed primarily to supply information for the internal use of the Comintern Executive. “In your theses, on the other hand, the weight of emphasis seems to be on press information on the labour movement in Central Europe, whereas information for the Comintern Executive is relegated to the background. This change of aim affects all other changes (legality, complete inde-pendence of the Comintern)”. “Consequently, it would be neces-sary to decide in principle: is the aim of the Institute to be. a) information for. the Comintern Executive? b) influencing the labour press by its publications? c) linking both aims? All questions of organisation depend, it seems to me, on the solution of this question” (Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C., C.P.S.U.). The plan for setting up an Information Institute did not materialise.

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