V. I. Lenin


Written in September 1902        
First published in 1902        
in a hectograph edition        

Published according to the text of
the pamphlet printed
by the Central Committee,

From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964

Second Impression 1964

Vol. 6, pp. 231-52.

Translated from the Russian
Edited by Clemens Dutt and Julius Katzer

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, (May 1997)

    page 552


      [89] A Letter to a Comrade on Our Organisational Tasks was a reply to a letter from the St. Petersburg Social-Democrat A. A. Shneyerson (Yeryoma) criticising the way Social-Democratic work was organised in that city.
        After the arrest of V. I. Lenin and his close associates in December 1895, the "economists" gradually gained control of the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. Unlike the revolutionary Marxists, who fought for the creation of an underground and centralised organisation of revolutionaries, the "economists" derogated the significance of political struggle and came out for creation of a broad working-class organisation based on the elective principle and pursuing the primary aim of immediate defence of the workers' economic interests, formation of mutual aid banks, and the like. The "economists'" long control of the League of Strug-

    page 553

    gle left an imprint on its organisational structure too: its working-class membership (the so-called Workers' Organisation) was artificially separated from the intellectual members. The League's clumsy organisation was more adapted for a trade-union form of struggle than for leadership of the workers' mass revolutionary struggle against the autocracy and the bourgeoisie. The struggle between the Iskra-ists and the "economists" which developed in the St. Petersburg organisation culminated in the St. Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. going over to the Iskra stand in the summer of 1902.
        "Two questions were raised," it was reported in Iskra's No. 30 of December 15, 1902, "at a meeting held in the outskirts of St. Petersburg in June, which was attended by workers representing all five wards of the Workers' Organisation (who comprised the highest body of the then Workers' Organisation). These questions were: 1) the two trends in Russian Social-Democracy: the old 'economist' trend, which hitherto obtained in St. Petersburg, and the revolutionary, as represented by Iskra and Zarya, and 2) principles of organisation (so-called 'democratism' or an 'organisation of revolutionaries'). On both issues all the workers came out unanimously against 'economism' and 'democratism' and in favour of the Iskra trend."
        To reconstruct the St. Petersburg League of Struggle in the spirit of Iskra organisational principles, a committee was set up composed of representatives of the Iskra organisation, the Workers' Organisation, and the St. Petersburg Committee. However, the "economists," headed by Tokarev, stated that they disagreed with the St. Petersburg Committee's decision on support for the Iskra stand, formed the so-called Workers' Organisation's Committee and launched a struggle against the Iskra-ists. The latter, with the support of the workers, were able to retain their positions and fortify their standing in the St. Petersburg organisation.
        A Letter to a Comrade, in which Lenin developed and gave concrete shape to his plan for the Party's organisation, was received in St. Petersburg at the height of the struggle against the "economists." It was hectographed, copied by hand, and distributed among St. Petersburg Social-Democrats. In June 1903 it was illegally published by the Siberian Social-Democratic League under the title of On Revolutionary Work in the Organisations of the R.S.D.L.P. (A Letter to a Comrade ). This Letter was published by the R.S.D.L.P.'s Central Committee as a separate pamphlet, with a preface and postscript by Lenin, who also prepared the pamphlet for the press. The Letter was widely distributed in Social-Democratic organisations, police archives for 1902-05 revealing that it was found during police raids in Moscow, Riga, Rostov-on-Don, Nakhichevan, Nikolayev, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, and elsewhere.
        The Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.P.S.U.'s Central Committee contain only the first manuscript page of the Letter, with the following inscription in Lenin's hand: "To the St. Petersburg Committee in general and to Comrade Yeryoma in particular (from Lenin)."    [p.231]