Written: Written on May 30, 1921
Published: First published in part in 1957 in the magazine Voprosy Istorii KPSS No. 2. Published in full in 1959 in Lenin Miscellany XXXVI. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1976, Moscow, Volume 45, pages 160b-165.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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I have read your letter of 20/V, arid it has left me with a very sad impression. I expected that in Berlin, having had a rest, having recovered from your illness, having taken a look “from outside” (you always get a clearer view from outside), and having thought things out, you would arrive at clear-cut and exact conclusions. Over here, you were in a “mood” of dissatisfaction. A mood which was almost unconscious, a blind feeling, not resulting from thought. So I expected you to have clear-cut and exact conclusions instead of the mood. Perhaps, I thought, We would differ over the conclusions, but these would still be clear-cut and exact conclusions drawn by one of the “founders” of the “opposition” (as you admit yourself to be in your letter).
Your letter leaves a sad impression because, instead of clarity and precision, there is again this dark mood with the addition of “tough words”.
You must not allow this.
Facts—you will recall this yourself—are stubborn things. So have a look at what are the facts you mention. I list all your factual statements:
1) The railwaymen’s C.C. is made up of “old bureaucrats”.
Is that a fact? The names? I don’t know anyone except Rudzutak, but I do know that it was made up with care. There could have been mistakes. They must be corrected. But for that they should be first pinpointed, so as to leave no room for any dark moods (and the gossip which frequently lurks in this darkness: gossip loves darkness and anonymity).
You have not given any names. There are no facts.
Rudzutak? What’s wrong with him as a worker? “He is physically worn-out”? Is there anyone among us who isn’t? We shall get him back from Turkestan as soon as we put Joffe and Sokolnikov back on their feet.
What then does our “tendentious factionalism” consist of? Is it the fact that a supporter of the Party congress majority is put at the head of the railwaymen’s C.C.? Is that what you call “factionalism”? If that is so, please explain to me what meaning should be given to factionalism and to the Party spirit.
Surely you will not declare that it was acting in the “Party spirit” for the leader of the former Workers’ Opposition to introduce a C.C. list at the Metalworkers’ Congress a few days ago, where of the 22 R.C.P. members, 19 are supporters of the old Workers’ Opposition? If that is not “tendentious factionalism”, if that is not reviving the faction, then I must say that you have been using the concept of factionalism in a most specific way, most unusually, even out of the human context.
2) You say that at the head of the All-Russia Central T.U.C. there is a “physically worn-out person”, i.e., Tomsky? He was to have been replaced by a trio of secretaries, and has now been removed altogether. Thus, your shot at factionalism has ricocheted against you. There’s already a fact for you.
3) In your struggle against the outrages of the Berlin mission you have come up against “fierce resistance from Moscow all the way up to Ilyich”.
You will pardon me if I say that this is an invention.
You gave excessive praise to Stomonyakov, who was defended by Krasin. Kopp was at the head of the old mission. Kopp was removed, Stomonyakov has remained.
What is this? Is it “fierce resistance from Moscow”?
Or is it a fierce lie about Moscow?
In the light of the “facts”, which of these tough words is closer to the truth? What about that?
There have been scandalous practices at the Berlin mission, Moscow (and Krasin) did not hamper or resist you, but helped you to combat them, by giving more authority to Stomonyakov, whom you extolled most decidedly.
4) You say you have discovered there, in Berlin, a number of the “most brazen scoundrels and thieves”, and Moscow has not removed them.
Their names? There is not a single one.
Is that a fact or a piece of gossip?
Perhaps you are not aware of the way complaints are addressed to the C.C.? to the Orgbureau? to the Politbureau? to the C.C. Plenary Meeting?
There has not been a single complaint from you either in the Politbureau or the Plenary Meeting. There’s a fact for you.
(In brackets: you and I had a difference over Shklovsky, but you did not put it before the Politbureau. I knew Shklovsky as a Bolshevik for years before the revolution. Being an honest man, he would have helped you to combat the “scoundrels and thieves”. But you impeded Shklovsky’s departure for Berlin, although over here he is not much of a worker, not doing anything important.)
5) Grzhebin. About him, and only about him, I read yesterday the protest you and Stomonyakov sent in to the C.C. We shall examine it at the earliest sitting.
We in the C.C. have had our differences over Grzhebin. Some said: he should be removed altogether, because he might be cheating as a publisher. Others said: as a publisher he will publish at a lower cost. We prefer to have him cheat us out of 10,000, but put out the cheaper and better publication.
A commission of both sides equally represented was elected. I was not on it, because of my “partiality” (some said) to Gorky, who defended Grzhebin.
The commission decided the case unanimously, I don’t remember what it decided exactly. I think it was to buy from Grzhebin if it was cheaper.
Consequently, your conclusion: “they were not guided by state considerations”, but were trying to pacify Gorky— is a downright untruth. And you write: “I am sure”!!! What do you call it when the people work out a “conviction” for themselves before checking on the facts, which are easily checked?
6) Lomonosov is a brilliant specialist, but has been “exposed by Krasin as engaging in the most criminal commercial transactions”.
That is not true. If Krasin had exposed Lomonosov committing a crime, Lomonosov would have been removed and prosecuted. You heard a rumour and turned it into a piece of scandal.
Krasin wrote me and the C.C.: Lomonosov is a brilliant specialist, but is less suitable in trade and has made mistakes. Having come over here, and having met Lomonosov and examined the documents, Krasin said nothing about mistakes, let alone crime.
Here is your choice: either to start a serious case in the Control Commission (or wherever else you wish) about Lomonosov’s crimes, or to retract the rumour you have so flippantly picked up.
7) “We are having appointments to the trade department here of rogues like this one: in the past a manufacturer whom the Soviet power deprived of all his furs, and he is now being sent to sell these furs. For pity’s sake, what are things coming to?”
That is what you write. This is indeed good reason to feel sad. The founder of the whole opposition reasoning on such lines!
It’s the same thing as an ignorant muzhik saying: “A thousand tsarist generals were deprived of their land and rank, and these generals have now been attached to the RedArmy”! Indeed, we have possibly over a thousand of those who had been generals and landowners under the tsar, serving in key posts in the Red Army. But it has won.
God will forgive the ignorant muzhik. Who’s going to forgive you?
If you know that there is a “rogue”, how can you, a person in office under the Soviet power, hush up his name? Not start proceedings against this so-and-so?
But if you don’t know his name, it means this is just another rumour? just another piece of scandal?
I have gone over virtually everything in your letter that has any semblance at all of being a fact. The result is an absolute zero.
If I did not know you, then having received such a letter as yours, I should have said:
either this man has had a nervous breakdown and is hysterically snatching at scraps of gossip, and is quite unable to think, reason and verify;
or it is a man who is helpless because of his backwardness and ignorance, and who has fallen victim to scandal-mongering;
or it is a disguised Menshevik deliberately engaging in scandal-mongering.
Because I know you, I say to you that your letter is a remarkable “human document” which shows how the “founder of the opposition” has allowed himself to give way to a desire to play opposition at all costs, and to shout, for no good reason, about patronage, about stick-in-the-mud commissars, about the system, etc.
You write: “After all, it is not personalities, but the system itself that matters. Just now I raise this question: i$ this the proletariat or a demagnetised, declassed petty-bourgeois intelligentsia.”
That is ridiculous. In fact, your own letter is a fine human document showing up the author as a specimen of the demagnetised petty-bourgeois intelligentsia. For the professional proletarians have repeatedly yielded up in actual life demagnetised petty-bourgeois intellectuals, according to their real class role.
The demagnetised petty-bourgeois intellectual keeps whimpering and wailing, is put out by any sign of evil or scandalous practice, loses his self-possession, echoes any piece of scandal, and is all puffed up in his efforts to say something incoherent about a “system”.
The proletarian (not one by reason of an old profession but one by his actual class role), when faced with evil, takes up the fight in a business-like manner: he gives open and official support to the candidacy of the good worker Ivan, proposes the removal of the bad Peter, starts a case— and conducts it vigorously, firmly and to the end—against the rogue Sidor, against the act of patronage on the part of Tit, against Miron’s most criminal transaction, and (after two or three mouths of experience in his new job, and practical acquaintance with his new environment) works out business-like and practical proposals: to introduce such-and-such a system of commissars or political commissars, to make the following changes in the routine here, and to assign so many well-known Communists (with the following record) to the specified posts.
That is the kind of proletarians, who, even after they have lost their proletarian profession, were able to build the Red Army and to win with it (despite the thousand traitors and rogues, of whom thousands still remain among the military specialists and the military bureaucrats).
That is the kind of proletarians who will never descend to the class role of the demagnetised petty-bourgeois intellectuals, thrashing about in impotence, yielding to scandal, and calling scraps of gossip a “system”.
There you have my frank answer. I can afford to reply in full once in a while—mostly I haven’t the time to do so.
For old time’s sake, let me tell you this: you need to do something about your nerves. Then the mood will give way to reasoning.
With comradely greetings,
 A reference to A. G. Shlyapnikov.
The Fourth All-Russia Congress of Metalworkers’ Union was held in Moscow from May 26 to 30, 1921. The composition of the C.C. of the Metalworkers’ Union was discussed by the Politbureau of the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee on May 28 and 31, 1921. At the Central Party Archives there is a list of candidates with Lenin’s remarks and this inscription: “19 of the old Workers’ Opposition.”
 A possible reference to Y. Kh. Lutovinov’s reply to Lenin’s telegram of May 7, 1921. Lutovinov said that he considered as incorrect the R.C.P.(B.). C.C. decision to send G. L. Shklovsky to work in Berlin at the disposal of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Trade, and would protest against it.
 In a statement to the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee of May 25, 1921, B. S. Stomonyakov and Y. Kh. Lutovinov protested against the Politbureau’s decision on the desirability of Z. I. Grzhebin’s, printing “Vsemirnaya literatura” books in Germany. They said that the publishing apparatus set up by the R.S.F.S.R. trade mission in Germany would print the books cheaper than Grzhebin, who had been artificially raising the prices for Soviet orders.
On this statement, Lenin wrote a note to G. Y. Zinoviev: “Write me a couple of words: what is the decision of your commission? Has the C.C. endorsed it?” (This was a reference to the R.C.P.(B.) C.C. decision on the Grzhebin case. It was approved by the Politbureau on April 27, 1921.) In reply, Zinoviev wrote: “The commission was deciding mainly on the past (old orders). No new assignments have been given. We have agreed only to have last year’s order completed” (Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.P.S.U. Central Committee).
On May 31, the Politbureau examined the statement by Stomonyakov and Lutovinov, and instructed Zinoviev to send them the exact text of the commission’s decision on the Grzhebin case which was approved by the Politbureau, together with his explanations.