J. V. Stalin

Letter to A. M. Gorky

Source: Works, Vol. 12, April 1929 - June 1930, pp. 179-183
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.

Dear Alexei Maximovich,

Heaps of apologies, and please don’t be down on me for my tardy (too tardy!) reply. I am dreadfully overworked. What is more, I have not been altogether well. That, of course, is no excuse. But it may serve as a sort of explanation.

1) We cannot do without self-criticism. We simply cannot, Alexei Maximovich. Without it, stagnation, corruption of the apparatus, growth of bureaucracy, sapping of the creative initiative of the working class, are inevitable. Of course, self-criticism provides material for our enemies. You are quite right about that. But it also provides material (and a stimulus) for our advancement, for unleashing the constructive energies of the working people, for the development of emulation, for shock brigades, and so on. The negative aspect, is counterbalanced and outweighed by the positive aspect.

It is possible that our press gives too much prominence to our shortcomings, and sometimes even (involuntarily) advertises them. That is possible and even probable. And, of course, it is bad. You demand, therefore, that our shortcomings should be counterbalanced (I would say: outweighed) by our achievements. You are, of course, right about that too. We shall most certainly repair this defect, and without delay. You need have no doubt of that.

2) Our youth are of various kinds. There are the grumblers, the tired and the despairing (like Zenin). There are those who are cheerful, high-spirited, of strong will and indomitably determined to achieve victory. It cannot be the case that now, when we are breaking the old relations in life and building new ones, when the customary roads and paths are being torn up and new, uncustomary ones laid, when whole sections of the population who used to live in plenty are being thrown out of their rut and are falling out of the ranks, making way for millions of people who were formerly oppressed and downtrodden—it cannot be the case that the youth should represent a homogeneous mass of people who sympathise with us, that there should be no differentiation and division among them. Firstly, among the youth there are sons of wealthy parents. Secondly, even if we take the youth who are our own (in social status), not all of them have the hardiness, the strength, the character and the understanding to appreciate the picture of the tremendous break-up of the old and the feverish building of the new as a picture of something which has to be and which is therefore desirable, something, moreover, which has little resemblance to a heavenly idyll of “universal bliss” that is to afford everyone the opportunity of “taking his ease” and “basking in happiness.” Naturally, in such a “racking turmoil,” we are bound to have people who are weary, overwrought, worn-out, despairing, dropping out of the ranks and, lastly, deserting to the camp of the enemy. These are the unavoidable “overhead costs” of revolution.

The main thing now is that the tone among the youth is set not by the grumblers, but by our militant Young Communist Leaguers, the nucleus of a new and numerous generation of Bolshevik destroyers of capitalism, of Bolshevik builders of socialism, of Bolshevik deliverers of all who are oppressed and enslaved. Therein lies our strength. And therein lies the pledge of our victory.

3) That, of course, does not mean that we should not try to diminish the number of grumblers, whiners, doubters, and so on, by bringing organised ideological (and all other) influence to bear on them. On the contrary, one of the chief tasks of our Party, our cultural organisations, our press and our Soviets is to organise this influence and to secure substantial results. We (our friends) therefore, wholeheartedly accept your suggestions:

a) to start a magazine, Za Rubezhom,1 and

b) to publish a series of popular symposia on The Civil War, inviting the participation of A. Tolstoy and other literary artists.

It is only necessary to add that neither of these undertakings can be placed under the direction of Radek or any of his friends. It is not a question of Radek’s good intentions or good faith. It is a question of the logic of the factional struggle, which (i.e., the struggle) he and his friends have not fully renounced (certain important disagreements have remained and these will impel them to fight). The history of our Party (and not only the history of our Party) teaches that the logic of things is stronger than the logic of human intentions. It will be safer to entrust the direction of these undertakings to politically staunch comrades, and to invite Radek and his friends as collaborators. That will be safer.

4) After thoroughly discussing the question of starting a special magazine, O Voine (On War), we came to the conclusion that there are no grounds at the present time for publishing such a magazine. We think that it is more expedient to deal with questions of war (I am referring to imperialist war) in the existing political journals. The more so as questions of war cannot be severed from questions of politics, of which war is an expression.

As to war stories, they will have to be published with great discrimination. The book market is filled with a mass of literary tales describing the “horrors” of war and inculcating a revulsion against all war (not only imperialist but every other kind of war). These are bourgeois-pacifist stories, and not of much value. We need stories which will lead the reader from the horrors of imperialist war to the necessity of getting rid of the imperialist governments which organise such wars. Besides, we are not against all wars. We are against imperialist wars, as being counter-revolutionary wars. But we are for liberating, anti-imperialist, revolutionary wars, despite the fact that such wars, as we know, are not only not exempt from the “horrors of bloodshed” but even abound in them.

It seems to me that Yoronsky’s line in wanting to launch a campaign against the “horrors” of war differs very little from the line of the bourgeois pacifists.

5) You are quite right in saying that here, in our press, great confusion prevails on the subject of anti-religious propaganda. Extraordinary stupidities are sometimes committed, which bring grist to the mill of our enemies. There is a great deal of work before us in this field. But I have not yet had the opportunity of discussing your suggestions with our comrades engaged in anti-religious work. I shall write to you about this next time.

6) I cannot do what Kamegulov asks. No time! Besides, what sort of a critic am I, the devil take it!

That’s all.

I warmly clasp your hand and wish you good health.

Thanks for your greetings.

J. Stalin

I am told you need a physician from Russia. Is that so? Whom do you want? Let us know and we shall send him.

J. Stalin
January 17, 1930



1. Za Rubezhom (Abroad)—a magazine founded in 1930 by Maxim Gorky. From 1932 to 1938 it appeared as a magazine-newspaper.