V. I. Lenin



[April 27, 1899]


Sent from Shushenskoye village
to Orlov, Vyatka Gubernia
First published in 1925

Printed from the original

From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1966

Vol. 34, pp. 32-37.

Translated from the Russian
by Clemens Dutt
Edited by Bernard Isaacs

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo,
 (March 2002)

    page 32



    April 27, 1899 

        I was very glad, A. N., to receive your letter of March 27, which at last broke your long and persistent silence. A heap of questions to be discussed has indeed accumulated but there is no opportunity of having any detailed conversation here on subjects that are mainly of a literary nature. And now there is the journal[29]: without talks with one's colleagues one feels too cut off for writing. There is only Julius, who takes all this quite closely and actively to heart, but the accursed "long distances" prevent sufficiently detailed conversation with him.

        I shall begin with what interests and agitates me now most of all -- Bulgakov's article in issues 1-2 and 3 of Nachalo. On reading your opinion of him, I was exceedingly pleased to meet with sympathy on the most essential point -- the more so because, apparently, one cannot count very much on sympathy from the editorial board. . . . If Bulgakov's article made a "repellent" and "pitiful" impression on you, it absolutely infuriated me. Up till now, though I have read and re-read Bulgakov, I simply cannot understand how he could write an article so completely nonsensical and in such an extremely unbecoming tone, and how the editors found it possible not to dissociate themselves by at least a single comment from such a slashing attack on Kautsky. Like you, I am "convinced that our people are utterly [just so!] confused and puzzled". And who wouldn't be puzzled when told -- in the name of "modern science" (No. 3, p. 34) -- that Kautsky is all wrong, arbitrary, socially incredible, "with equally little of both real agronomics and real economics" (No. 1-2) and so forth? Moreover, Kaut-

    page 33

    sky is not expounded, but simply distorted, while Bulgakov's own views as part of any coherent system are entirely lacking. No man with any sense of party spirit or sense of responsibility to all the Genossen and their whole programme and practical activity would dare to take such "side kicks" (to use your apt expression) at Kautsky, without giving anything himself, but merely promising . . . a learned work on "Ost-Elbe"! Apparently, he feels himself free from all comradely obligations and responsibility, a "free" and individual spokesman of professorial science. I do not forget, of course, that under Russian conditions it is impossible to demand of a journal that it admit some Genossen and exclude others -- but a journal like Nachalo is not an almanac, allowing Marxism just because it is the mode (à la Mir Bozhy,[30] Nauchnoye Obozreniye,[31] etc.), but an organ of a definite trend. It is incumbent on such a journal, therefore, to put a certain restraint on learned "kickers" and on all "outsiders" in general. It is to the fact that its editors have run it as an organ of a definite trend and not as an almanac that Novoye Slovo [32] owes its great success.

        I read through Kautsky's book before Bulgakov's article appeared and I did not find in the latter a single at all intelligent argument against Kautsky. What I did find was a heap of distortions of Kautsky's ideas and theses. What sheer nonsense Bulgakov talks when he asserts, for example, that Kautsky confuses technics and economics, that he tries to prove the "ruin of agriculture" (No. 3, p. 31. Kautsky says just the opposite: S. 289), that he denies agriculture any tendency to develop (No. 3, p. 34), and so on!

        I have already written, and sent to the editorial board a fortnight ago, a first article on "Capitalism in Agriculture (Kautsky's Book and Mr. Bulgakov's Article)" and am now starting on a second dealing with the end of Bulgakov's article.* I greatly fear that P. B. will reject it, either on account of its considerable length (it turns out to be larger than Bulgakov's article, firstly, because I have to give reasons for refuting such unsupported and carelessly pronounced verdicts as, for example, that Marx was wrong in teaching that the ratio [v/c] decreases in agriculture; secondly, because

        * See present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 105-59. --Ed.

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    it is essential to expound Kautsky), or because a polemic is considered undesirable (of course, I have not used in the article a single abusive expression, like those above, and in general I have tried to avoid anything personal against Bulgakov. The tone in general is in no way sharper than in my article against Tugan-Baranovsky[33] on the theory of the market[*]). I should be very glad to hear your opinion, when you have read Kautsky's book and finished reading Bulgakov: what exactly do you find "true" in Bulgakov? And do you think it possible to let Bulgakov's article in the journal go unanswered?

        In general, all this "new critical trend" in Marxism, espoused by Struve and Bulgakov (P. B. is apparently in favour of Bulgakov), looks highly suspicious to me: resounding phrases about "criticism" against "dogma" and so forth -- and absolutely no positive results of the criticism. Moreover, compiling an article à la Bulgakov required, besides "criticism" and sympathy for professorial "modern science", tactlessness nec plus ultra.

        I sent Struve a reply to his article on the market.** My sister[34] writes to me that this reply will be published in Nauchnoye Obozreniye and that P. B. intends to answer it in the same journal. I cannot agree with you that "the crux of the question lies in the concrete impossibility of an abstractly conceivable proposition" and my main argument against P. B. is precisely that he mixes up abstract-theoretical and concrete-historical questions. "Concretely impossible" is not only realisation as put forward by Marx, but also land rent as put forward by him, and average profit, and the equality between wages and the value of labour power, and much more besides. But the impossibility of something being realised in a pure form is not a refutation. I am quite unable to see any contradiction between my assertions in the Studies [35] and in Nauchnoye Obozreniye, nor do I see the "bourgeois apologetics" with which Struve has been trying to frighten readers. What I find most objec-

        * "A Note on the Question of the Market Theory (Apropos of the Polemic of Messrs. Tugan-Baranovsky and Bulgakov)" (see present edition, Vol. 4). --Ed.
        ** "Once More on the Theory of Realisation" (see present edition, Vol. 4). --Ed.

    page 35

    tionable in his article is the fact that he drags in critical philosophy and that he makes remarks such as that Marx's theory of value and profit "indisputably suffers from a contradiction". P. B. is perfectly well aware that this is disputable -- why then sow confusion in the minds of our people, who so far have received no systematic proof of this contradiction and its correction from any single spokesman of the "new critical trend"?

        And Bulgakov's sally (No. 3, p. 34, note) against the theory of Zusammenbruch [*]! -- without any mention of Bernstein and with the irrevocable authority of a "learned" decree! I know about the publication of Bernstein's new book and I have ordered it but it is hardly likely to be sent. The article about it in the Frankfurter Zeitung [36]and in Zhizn [37] (not a bad journal! Its literary section is really good, even better than any others!) has quite convinced me that I did not rightly understand Bernstein's disjointed articles and that he has got himself so tangled up in lies that he really deserves to be begraben,** as the author of Beiträige zur Geschichte des Materialismus *** expressed it in an open letter to Kautsky. Bernstein's arguments, which are new to me, against the materialist conception of history,**** etc., are (according to Zhizn ) astonishingly feeble. If P. B. is such an ardent defender of Bernstein that he is all but prepared to "quarrel" over him, it is very, very sad, because his "theory" against Zusammenbruch -- excessively narrow for Western Europe -- is altogether unsuitable and dangerous for Russia. Do you know that it is already being made use of by our "young" people (ultra-Economists), who in one publication gave an account of the Stuttgart debates in such a way that for them Bernstein, Peus, and others were defenders of "economics, not politics"? What does P. B.

        * Collapse (of capitalism). --Ed.
        ** Buried. --Ed.
        *** Contributions to the History of Materialism. --Ed.
        **** Incidentally, do you remember how one of our common friends[
    38] in the "beautiful faraway" maliciously ridiculed and soundly scolded me for having called the materialist conception of history a "method"? And behold, it turns out that Kautsky, too, in using the same word: "method", is guilty of the same grievous sin. (Zhizn, January, Book II, p. 53.) Have you any news of this friend? Is his health better? Is there any hope that he will write?

    page 36

    think of such "allies"? If by the successes of the ultra-Economists you mean the resignation of Volgin and his closest comrades, I know about it[39]; it was a great shock to me and I am now puzzled as to how matters stand and what the future has in store. I think it terribly harmful that this dispute with the ultra-Economists was not fully and completely ventilated in the press: it would have been the only serious way of clearing things up and establishing certain precise theoretical propositions. Instead, there is now complete chaos!

        My book has come out[*] and I have asked that it should be sent to you (I have not yet received it myself). I have heard that the P. S. to the preface was late, came under the preliminary censorship and, it seems, "got into trouble". I shall await your comments with interest.

        I ordered Karelin's book and read it before I received it from you. I liked it very much; it is devilishly annoying that it was pared down! Aren't you going to write a review of it?

        An acquaintance of mine has sent me A. P.'s "Magazine Notes" (on the "heritage" and the "inheritors"). I wonder whether the continuation intended to carry on a further polemic with me or not? I liked A. P.'s article very much; the issue was much the worse for the cuts in the article. Truth to tell, I see no differences of opinion between us: you deal with a different question -- not what the attitude of the disciples is to Russian democracy in general and whether they reject it (I wrote exclusively about this),** but what the relations were between democrats of various types in the good old days. I was concerned only with Mikhailovsky's[40] mistake in supposing that we reject democracy altogether -- whereas you fasten on his other mistake, the "slurring over" of substantially important distinctions in the "heritage". I saw Maslov's note in No. 3 of Nauchnoye Obozreniye directed against me, but to tell you the truth I was not interested in it. By the way, the cuts in A. P.'s article confirmed my opinion that it is "inconvenient" to

        * The Development of Capitalism in Russia (see present edition, Vol. 3). --Ed.
        ** "The Heritage We Renounce" (see present edition, Vol. 2). --Ed.

    page 37

    take a more striking testator than Skaldin (a sad confirmation!). In general, I find the tone of the journal that of a dying body. If that is so, the end and death is only a question of time. It is simply speculation on Ratlosigkeit [*] and bureaucracy in the department which, etc. One could hold one's tongue without any harm and not without advantage to the cause. As a matter of fact, compared with the modern tone, our Materials could be a model of "moderation" and "solidity". . . .[41]

    All the best.           
    V. U.       

        Write more often, if it's not too much bother, otherwise I am quite unable to get press news from anyone.

        I am sending the Historische Berechtigung ** by registered post. Please don't think me careless about returning books: you did not mention any time limit and so I did not refuse comrades who asked to be allowed to read it. I shall be very grateful for the end of Karelin.

        Do you have any German reviews of Kautsky? I have read only that in the Frankfurter Zeitung -- irate and empty à la Bulgakov.

        I am very pleased on the whole with the issues of the journal.[42] It is splendidly edited. Have you read Gvozdyov's book[43] and what do you think of it?



        * Perplexity. --Ed.
        ** Historical Justification. --Ed.

page 455


  [29] Meaning the journal Nachalo (see Note 25).

    [Note 25 -- Nachalo (The Beginning ) -- a scientific literary and political monthly, organ of the "legal Marxists", published in St. Petersburg in the early months of 1899 under the editorship of P. B. Struve, M. I. Tugan-Baranovsky and others. G. V. Plekhanov, V. I. Zasulich and others contributed to it. Lenin wrote a number of book reviews for the journal (see present edition Vol. 4, pp. 65-73 [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's reviews of "Parvus. The World Market and the Agricultural Crisis", "R. Gvozdev. Kulak Usury, Its Social and Economic Significance" and "[A. A. Blau, ed.] Commercial and Industrial Russia". -- DJR] and 94-103 [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's reviews of "Karl Kautsky. Die Agrarfrage" and "Hobson. The Evolution of Modern Capitalism". -- DJR]) which also published the first six paragraphs of Chapter III of his book The Development of Capitalism in Russia (see Vol. 3 of this edition).]    [p. 32]

  [30] Mir Bozhy (God's World ) -- a monthly literary and popular science journal of a liberal trend published in St. Petersburg from 1892 to 1906. From 1906 to 1918 it was issued under the name of Sovremenny Mir (The Contemporary World ).    [p. 33]

  [31] Nauchnoye Obozreniye (Scientific Review ) -- a journal, published in St. Petersburg from 1894 to 1903, accepted contributions from publicists and scientists of all schools and trends; widely used by liberals and "legal Marxists ". The journal published occasional articles by Marxists.    [p. 33]

  [32] See Note 11.

    [Note 11 -- This refers to the journal Novoye Slovo in which two articles of Lenin's were published in 1897: "A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism" and "About a Certain Newspaper Article" (see Vol. 2 of this edition).
    Novoye Slovo (New Word ) -- a scientific, literary and political monthly published in St. Petersburg from 1894 by the liberal Narodniks, and from the spring of 1897 by the "legal Marxists". The journal was closed down by the government in December 1897.]    [p. 33]

  [33] Tugan-Baranovsky, Mikhail Ivanovich (1865-1919) -- Russian bourgeois economist, in the nineties a prominent spokesman of "legal Marxism", contributed to the journals Novoye Slovo, Nachalo and others.    [p. 34]

page 456

  [34] This refers to Anna Ilyinichna Ulyanova-Yelizarova.    [p. 34]

  [35] This refers to a miscellany of Lenin's, Economic Studies and Essays, published in October 1898 (the cover and title-page bore the date 1899).    [p. 34]

  [36] Frankfurter Zeitung -- a daily newspaper, mouthpiece of the German merchants of Change. Published in Frankfurt am Main from 1856 to 1943.    [p. 35]

  [37] Zhizn (Life ) -- a literary. scientific and political journal published in St. Petersburg from 1897 to 1901.
    Publication was resumed abroad in April 1902 by the Zhizn Social-Democratic group (V. D. Bonch-Bruyevich, V. A. Posse, V. M. Velichkina and others); six issues of the journal, twelve of Listok Zhizni and several volumes of the Zhizn Library series were published.
    The group ceased to exist in December 1902 and the publishing-house was liquidated.    [p. 35]

  [38] Apparently this refers to Plekhanov, with whom Lenin had talks in 1895 during his visit to Switzerland.    [p. 35]

  [39] This refers to the split that took place at the First Conference of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad held in Zurich (Switzerland) in November 1898.

    The Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad was founded in Geneva in 1894 on the initiative of the Emancipation of Labour group (see Note 58). It had its own press where it printed revolutionary literature and published the non-periodic miscellany Rabotnik. At first the Emancipation of Labour group controlled the Union and edited its publications. Eventually control passed to the opportunist elements -- the Economists or the so-called "young" group. At the First Conference of the Union held in November 1898 the Emancipation of Labour group announced their refusal to edit the Union publications. The Group finally broke with the Union and left its ranks in April 1900 at the Second Conference of the Union, when the Emancipation of Labour group and its supporters walked out and established their own Sotsial-Demokrat organisation.
    At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. held in 1903 the Union's representatives took an extremely opportunist stand and walked out after the Congress declared the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad to be the only organisation of the Party abroad. The Second Congress declared the Union dissolved.

    [Note 58 -- This refers to the Emancipation of Labour group, the first Russian Marxist group, founded by Plekhanov in Geneva in 1883. Other members of the group were P. B. Axelrod, L. G. Deutsch, V. I. Zasulich and V. N. Ignatov. The E. L. group did a great deal to disseminate Marxism in Russia. It translated into Russian, published abroad and distributed in Russia the works of the founders of Marxism: Manifesto of the Communist Party by Marx and Engels; Wage-Labour and Capital by Marx; Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Engels and other works. Plekhanov and his group dealt a severe blow to Narodism. The two drafts of a programme for Russian Social-Democrats written by Plekhanov in 1883 and 1885 and published by the E. L. group were an important step towards preparing the ground for and establishing a Social-Democratic Party in Russia. An important part in spreading Marxist views in Russia was played by Plekhanov's essays: Socialism and the Political Struggle (1883), Our Differences (1885) and The Development of the Monist View of History (1895). The E. I. group, however, committed serious errors; they clung to remnants of the Narodnik views, underestimated the revolutionary capacity of the peasantry and overestimated the role of the liberal bourgeoisie. These errors were the embryo of the future Menshevik views held by Plekhanov and other members of the group.
    Lenin pointed out that the E.L. group "only laid the theoretical foundations for the Social-Democratic movement and took the first step towards the working-class movement" (see Vol. 20, p. 278 of this edition  [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's "The Ideological Struggle in the Working-Class Movement". -- DJR]).
    At the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. in August 1903 the E. L. group announced that it had ceased its activities as a group.]    [p. 36]

  [40] Mikhailovsky, Nikolai Konstantinovich (1842-1904) -- a prominent theoretician of liberal Narodism, publicist and literary critic; a representative of the subjective school in sociology; editor of the journals Otechestvenniye Zapiski and Russkoye

page 457

Bogatstvo. Lenin criticised Mikhailovsky's views in his book What the "Friends of the People" Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats (see Vol. 1 of this edition) and other writings.    [p. 36]

  [41] Lenin refers to the miscellany Material for a Characterisation of Our Economic Development containing his article (over the pen name K. Tulin) "The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of It in Mr. Struve's Book. (The Reflection of Marxism in Bourgeois Literature)" directed against legal Marxism (see Vol. 1 of this edition).    [p. 37]

  [42] This refers to Die Neue Zeit (see Note 19).

    [Note 19 -- Lenin refers to Plekhanov's articles "Bernstein and Materialism" in Die Neue Zeit No. 44 (1897-98. Band II) and "Conrad Schmidt against Marx and Engels" in the same journal, issue No. 5 (1898-99. Band I).
    Die Neue Zeit -- a theoretical journal of the German Social-Democratic Party, published in Stuttgart from 1883 to 1923. Up to October 1917 it was edited by K. Kautsky, and after him by Heinrich Cunow.    [p. 37]

  [43] Gvozdyov (Zimmerman, Roman Emilievich ) (1866-1900) -- author, whose short stories and economic articles were published in Russkoye Bogatstvo, Zhizn and Nauchnoye Obozreniye.    [p. 37]