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V. I. Lenin
A LETTER TO THE COMRADES
(WITH REFERENCE TO THE FORTHCOMING PUBLICATION OF THE ORGAN OF THE PARTY MAJORITY)
Written on November 29
(December 12), 1904
Published in leaflet form
in December 1904
Published according to
the leaflet text
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965
Vol. 7, pp. 523-28.
Translated by Abraham Fineberg and by Naomi Jochel
Edited by Clemens Dutt
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo,
firstname.lastname@example.org (April 2002)
A LETTER TO THE COMRADES
(WITH REFERENCE TO THE FORTHCOMING PUBLICATION
OF THE ORGAN OF THE PARTY MAJORITY)
Today, at a meeting of a close circle of Bolsheviks abroad, a final decision was taken on a question that in principle has long been decided: the publication of a Party periodical that will uphold and develop the principles of the majority against the organisational and tactical discord brought into the Party by the minority, and will serve the needs of the positive work of the organisations in Russia, against whom such a bitter fight is now being carried on by minority agents practically all over the country -- a fight that terribly disorganises the Party at this vital historical juncture, and one that is carried on throughout by the most shameless splitting methods and tactics, amid hypocritical deploring of the split by the so-called Central Organ of the Party. We have done everything in our power to steer the struggle into a Party channel; ever since January we have been fighting for a congress, as the only worthy Party way to end this impossible situation. By now it is perfectly clear that the activities of the Central Committee following its desertion to the minority consist almost entirely in desperately resisting a congress, and that the Council is resorting to the most outrageous and unpardonable tricks to put off convening it. The Council is directly sabotaging a congress; whoever has still<"p523">to be convinced of that after its latest decisions, printed in the supplement to Nos. 73-74 of Iskra, will see it from Orlovsky's pamphlet The Council Against the Party, which we published the other day. It is perfectly clear now that unless they unite and resist our so-called central institutions, the
majority will not be able to uphold their position, to uphold the party spirit in its struggle against the circle spirit. Union of the Bolsheviks in Russia has long been put forward by them as an urgent need. Recall the tremendous sympathetic response to the programmatic resolution of the twenty two[*] (programmatic for our struggle within the Party); recall the proclamation of the nineteen, issued in printed form by the Moscow Committee (October 1904);<"p524">lastly, nearly all Party committees are aware that a number of private conferences of majority committees have lately been held, and in part are still being held, and that the most vigorous and definite efforts are being made to solidly unite the majority committees for resistance to the overweening Bonapartists on the Council, Central Organ, and Central Committee.
We hope that these efforts (or rather steps) will be made generally known in the very near future, when the results will allow of a definite statement of what has already been achieved. It need hardly be said that the majority would have been quite unable to conduct their self-defence without a publishing house of their own. As you may already know from our Party literature, the new Central Committee simply ejected our pamphlets (and even the covers of pamphlets already set up) from the Party printing office, thus turning the latter into the printing office of a circle, and refused the direct request of the majority members abroad and of committees in Russia -- the Riga Committee, for instance -- to have majority literature delivered to Russia. It became quite evident that falsification of Party opinion was a systematic tactic of the new Central Committee. We found ourselves faced unavoidably with the necessity of expanding our publishing activities and setting up our own transport arrangements. The committees that<"p524a"> had broken off comradely relations with the editorial board of the Central Organ (see Dan's admission in his account of the Geneva meeting of September 2, 1904 -- an interesting pamphlet) could not and cannot do without a periodical organ. A party without an organ, an organ without a party! This tragic formulation put forward by the majority as <"fnp524">
* See pp. 454-61 of this volume. --Ed. [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's "To the Party". -- DJR]
far back as August inexorably decreed the one solution -- the starting of our own organ. The young literary forces that have been coming abroad to uphold the vital cause of the majority of the comrades in Russia need a field for their energies. A number of Party writers in Russia likewise call insistently for an organ. In starting this organ, which will probably be called Vperyod, we are acting in full agreement with the mass of the Bolsheviks in Russia, and in full harmony with our conduct in the Party struggle. We are resorting to this weapon after a whole year spent in trying every, absolutely every way that is simpler, more economical for the Party, more perfectly in accordance with the interests of the working-class movement. We are by no means abandoning the struggle for a congress; on the contrary, we want to extend, co-ordinate, and support this struggle, want to help the committees to decide the new question now facing them -- that of arranging a congress with out the Council and Central Committee, and against the wishes of the Council and Central Committee -- a question that requires the fullest and most serious discussion. We openly champion views and aims that have long since been stated, in a number of pamphlets, before the whole Party. We are fighting and will continue to fight for the consistent revolutionary line, against discord and wabbling in matters of both organisation and tactics<"p525"> (see the monstrously muddled letter of the new Iskra to the Party organisations, printed for Party members only and concealed from the eyes of the world). The announcement about the new organ will probably appear in a week or so, and the first issue somewhere between January 1 and 10, New Style. The editorial board will include all the majority writers that have so far come to the fore (Ryadovoy, Galyorka, Lenin, Orlovsky, who contributed regularly to Iskra from its 46th to 51st issue, when it was conducted by Lenin and Plekhanov, and also very valuable younger forces).<"p525a"> The body practically directing and organising the complex business of distribution, agencies, etc., etc., will be formed (has already been formed in part) through direct assignment of definite functions to definite comrades by a number of Russian committees (the Odessa, Ekaterinoslav, and Nikolayev committees! the four Caucasian committees, and several
northern ones, more particulars of which you will receive shortly). We now appeal to all comrades to give us all the support they can. We shall conduct the organ on the understanding that it is the organ of the movement in Russia, not of any émigré circle. This requires, first and foremost, the most vigorous "literary " support, or rather literary participation, from Russia. I have put the word "literary" in italics and inverted commas in order to draw attention from the first to its special sense and caution against a misconception that is very common and highly detrimental to the work. It is a misconception that writers and only writers (in the professional sense of the term) can success fully contribute to a publication; on the contrary, it will be vital and alive only if for five leading and regularly contributing writers there are five hundred or five thousand contributors who are not writers. One of the shortcomings of the old Iskra, one which I always tried to rid it of (and which has grown to monstrous proportions in the new Iskra ) was that too little was done for it from Russia. We always used to print everything, practically without exception, that we received from Russia. A really live organ should print only a tenth of what it receives, using the rest as material for the information and guidance of the journalists. We must have as many Party workers as possible correspond with us, correspond in the ordinary, not the journalistic sense of the term.
Isolation from Russia, the engulfing atmosphere of the accursed émigré slough, weighs so heavily on one here that living contact with Russia is our only salvation. Let all remember that who want in fact, and not just in word, to consider (and to make ) our organ the organ of the entire "majority", the organ of the mass of Russian comrades. Let everyone who regards this organ as his own and who is conscious of the duties of a Social-Democratic Party member abandon once and for all the bourgeois habit of thinking and acting as is customary towards legally published papers -- the habit of feeling: it is their business to write and ours to read. All Social-Democrats must work for the Social-Democratic paper. We ask everyone to contribute, and especially the workers. Give the workers the widest opportunity to write for our paper, to write about positively everything, to
write as much as they possibly can about their daily lives, interests, and work -- without such material a Social-Democratic organ will not be worth a brass farthing and will not deserve the name. In addition, please send us private letters, not intended as contributions to the paper, i.e., not for publication, but by way of comradely intercourse with the editors and to keep them informed, and not only about facts and incidents, but about the prevailing sentiment and the everyday, "uninteresting", humdrum, routine side of the movement. People who have not lived abroad cannot imagine how much we need such letters (there is absolutely nothing secret about them either, and to write such an uncoded letter once or twice a week is really something the busiest person can do). So write to us about the discussions at the workers' study circles, the nature of these discussions, the subjects of study, and the things the workers ask about; about the state of propaganda and agitational work, and about contacts among the general public, in the army, and among the youth; above all write about any dissatisfaction the workers feel with us Social-Democrats, about the things that trouble them, about their suggestions, criticisms, etc. Matters relating to the practical organisation of the work are particularly interesting now, and there is no way of acquainting the editors with them except by a lively correspondence not of a journalistic nature, but simply of a comradely kind. Of course, not everyone has the ability or inclination to write, but . . . don't say "I can't", say "I don't want to"; given the desire, one or two comrades who could write can be found in any circle, any group, even the smallest, even the most minor (the minor groups are often especially interesting, for they sometimes do the most important, though inconspicuous, part of the work). We here have from the start placed the secretarial work on a broad footing, drawing on the experience of the old Iskra ; and you for your part should know that anybody, absolutely anybody who sets about it with patience and determination can without much difficulty make sure that all his letters, or nine-tenths of them, reach their destination. I say this on the basis of the three years' experience of the old Iskra, which had many such an informal correspondent (often unacquainted with any of the editors) who wrote with the utmost regularity.
The police have long been quite unequal to the task of intercepting all foreign correspondence (they only seize a letter occasionally, if the writer has been unusually careless); and the great bulk of the old Iskra's material always used to arrive in the most usual way, in ordinary letters sent to our addresses. A special word of warning against the practice of concentrating correspondence only in the hands of the committee and the secretaries. Nothing could be more harmful than such a monopoly. Essential as unity is in actions and decisions, in the matter of general information, of correspondence, it is quite wrong. It very often happens that the most interesting letters are from comparative "outsiders" (people more remote from the committees), who perceive more freshly much that old experienced workers overlook because they are too used to it. Give every opportunity to the younger people to write to us -- to the youth, to Party workers, to "centralists", to organisers, and to ordinary rank-and-filers at impromptu meetings and mass rallies.
Only given such a wide correspondence can we, by our joint efforts, make our paper a real organ of the working class movement in Russia. We earnestly request, to have this letter read to every kind of meeting, study circle, subgroup, etc., etc. -- as widely as possible -- and to be informed how the workers receive this appeal. As to the idea of publishing a separate workers' ("popular") organ and a general -- guiding -- intellectual organ, we are very sceptical about it; we should like to see the Social-Democratic newspaper the organ of the whole movement, to see the workers' paper and the Social-Democratic paper fused in one. This can be achieved only if we have the most active support of the working class.
With comradely greetings, N. Lenin <"NOTES">
<"en162"> The Council Against the Party, by Orlovsky (V. V. Vorovsky), was issued in Geneva in November 1904 by the Bolshevik Bonch-Bruyevich and Lenin Publishing House of Social-Democratic Party Literature. [p. 523]
<"en163"> Three conferences of Bolshevik local committees were held in September-December 1904: 1) the Southern (Odessa, Ekaterinoslav, and Nikolayev committees); 2) the Caucasian (Baku, Batum, Tiflis, and Imeretian-Mingrelian committees); and 3) the Northern (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tver, Riga, Northern, and Nizhni-Novgorod committees).
At Lenin's suggestion, the conferences elected a Bureau of Majority Committees for preparing and convening the Third Party Congress, consisting of Gusev, Zemlyachka, Lyadov, Litvinov, and others. The Bureau, of which Lenin became a member, was formally constituted in December 1904. [p. 524]
<"en164"> The meeting in Geneva on August 20 (September 2), 1904, was called by the Mensheviks by way of providing support for the "July Declaration" of the Central Committee. Both Mensheviks and Bolsheviks were invited. The Bolsheviks refused, however, to take part, and their representative withdrew after announcing that the meeting was not competent to pass resolutions in the name of both minority and majority. The Mensheviks were obliged to admit at this meeting that the Party committees in Russia opposed the conciliation policy of the Central Committee and that the great majority of them had broken off all relations with the Menshevik Iskra. [p. 524]
<"en165"> Lenin is referring to the letter to the Party organisations issued by the Menshevik Iskra in November 1904, a criticism of which will be found in The Zemstvo Campaign and "Iskra's" Plan (pp. 497-518 of this volume). [p. 525]
<"en166"> Lenin is referring to the Bureau of Majority Committees. [p. 525]