From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965,
POSTSCRIPT TO THE PAMPHLET
A LETTER TO A COMRADE
ON OUR ORGANISATIONAL TASKS
The editors of Iskra state in its 55th issue that the Central Committee and the opposition "agreed to consign to oblivion" the facts mentioned in my "Letter to the Editors of Iskra " ("Why I Resigned from the Iskra Editorial Board").* This statement of the editors is an evasion which (to use Comrade Axelrod's admirable style) really is formalistic, official and bureaucratic. In reality there was no such agreement, as the Central Committee's foreign representative has plainly stated in a leaflet published immediately following the appearance of the 55th issue of Iskra. And there could not have been any such agreement, as should be clear to anyone who reads my letter attentively; for the opposition rejected the "peace and good will" offered by the Central Committee, one condition of which would certainly have been to consign to oblivion everything that deserved it. When the editors rejected the peace offer and declared war on the famous bureaucracy in No. 53, can they have been so naïve as to hope that the other side would keep quiet about the real origin of these fables about bureaucracy?
The editors were very much displeased when I described the real origin of these fables as squabbling (Literatengezänk -- writers' squabbling). And no wonder! But, after all, you cannot dispose of this truly unpleasant fact by mouthing sorry phrases about it.
We will take the liberty of asking our worthy editors two questions.
* See pp. 119-25 of this volume. --Ed.
First question. Why is one person merely amused by the most violent charges of being an autocrat, of instituting a Robespierre regime, of staging a coup, and so on and so forth, while others are mortally offended by a calm statement reciting the facts and telling of a demand for generals' posts that actually was put forward -- so offended as to indulge in absolutely "rubbishy" talk about "personalities", "moral aspersions", and even "low" (where did they get that from??) "motives"? Why this difference, my good friends? Not because the "post" of general is "lower" than that of autocrat, surely?
Second question. Why don't the editors explain to the reader why (in that remote past when they belonged to the opposition and really were "in the minority") they expressed the desire to have certain facts consigned to oblivion ? Do not the editors think that the very idea of desiring to "consign to oblivion" differences of principle is absurd and could not have occurred to any right-minded person?
So you see how clumsy you are, my dear "political opponents"! You wanted to annihilate me with the charge that it was I who was reducing a dispute over principles to the level of a squabble; instead, you have only confirmed my contention as to the real origin of some of your "differences of opinion".
Further, while admitting, out of clumsiness, that there were squabbles, the editors do not trouble to explain to the reader where, in their opinion, the difference of principle ends and the squabbling begins. They pass over the fact that in my letter I endeavour to draw a perfectly clear line between the two. I show there that the difference of principle (which was by no means so profound as to cause a real divergence ) arose over Paragraph 1 of the Rules and was widened by the Iskra-ist minority joining forces with the non-Iskra-ist elements towards the end of the Congress. I further show that the talk about bureaucracy, formalism and the rest is chiefly just an echo of squabbles that occurred after the Congress.
The editors probably do not agree with this demarcation between what relates to "principle" and what should be "consigned to oblivion". Then why have they not troubled to give their own opinion as to what a "correct" demarcation
between them would be? Is it not because they have not yet drawn (and cannot draw) any line between the two things in their own minds?
From the article by our esteemed Comrade Axelrod in this same 55th issue of Iskra the reader may judge what this . . . inability to discriminate leads to and what our Central Party Organ is turning into. Comrade Axelrod does not say a single word about the substance of our controversy over Paragraph 1 of the Rules, but confines himself to hints about "peripheral societies" that mean absolutely nothing to anyone who was not at the Congress. Comrade Axelrod has probably forgotten how long und closely we argued over Paragraph 1! -- but, on the other hand, he has evolved a "theory" to the effect that "the majority of the Iskra-ists at the Congress were convinced that their main task was . . . to fight the internal enemy". "In the face of this mission", our esteemed Comrade Axelrod is firmly convinced, "the immediate positive task became overshadowed" in the eyes of the majority. "The prospects of positive work were relegated to the dim remoteness of an indefinite future"; the Party was faced with the more urgent "military task of pacifying the internal enemy". And Comrade Axelrod cannot find words severe enough to brand this "bureaucratic* [or mechanical] centralism", these "Jacobin" (!!?) plans, these "disrupters" who "repress and persecute" people as "mutineers".
In order to demonstrate the true worth of this theory -- or, rather, of these accusations against the Congress majority of a disruptive tendency to repress mutiny (imaginary mutiny, it is to be supposed) and of ignoring positive work, I have only to remind the forgetful Comrade Axelrod of one (to begin with) little fact. On October 6, 1903, after repeatedly pleading with the members of the minority on account of the stupidity and disruptiveness of their boycott, Plekhanov and I officially invited the "mutinous" writers
* By the way, I should like the editors to note that my pamphlet is appearing with the "established imprint". As a convinced centralist, I obey the "principles" laid down by our Central Organ which in its 55th issue has instituted a section where Party publications are reviewed from the standpoint of their "imprints" (as a contribution to the fight against formalism).
(Comrade Axelrod among them) to get down to positive work; we officially told them that it was unreasonable to withdraw from this work, whether because of personal irritation or of differences of opinion (for an exposition of which we were throwing open the columns of our publications).[*]
Comrade Axelrod has forgotten this. He has forgotten that his reply then was a flat refusal, without any reasons stated. He has forgotten that in his view at that time, in those distant days, "positive work was relegated to the dim remoteness of an indefinite future", which future became a much-desired present only on November 26, 1903.
Comrade Axelrod has not only "forgotten" this, but generally would like, would he not, to have such "personalities" "consigned to oblivion".
To point out to the minority that for months on end they have been disrupting the Party, neglecting positive work, and taking up an immense amount of the energies of the Central Committee by their squabbling is to indulge in "personalities", cast moral aspersions, and reduce a struggle between trends to the level of a squabble. There is no place in the columns of the Central Organ for that.
But to accuse the Party Congress majority of having dared to waste time by pleading with the "mutineers", of having disrupted the Party by their fight against (imaginary ) disrupters -- that is a difference of principle, for which the columns of Iskra should be "reserved". Isn't that your view, most esteemed Comrade Axelrod?
It is possible that even today, if Comrade Axelrod looks around him, he will find plenty of examples of the minority's practical workers, too, relegating "positive work" to the dim remoteness of an also desirable but still indefinite future.
No, it would have been wiser for you not to say anything about the attitude of the majority and the minority to positive work! It would have been wiser not to bring up a subject about which, for instance, a factory worker in the town of -- -- writes to me as follows:
"We have been informed lately, that is, since the Second Party Congress, that the Central Committee was not elected by the Congress unanimously, that the Congress split in two over the relations between
* See p 354-55 of this volume. --Ed. [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. -- DJR]