To A. N. Potresov

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V. I. Lenin



[January 26, 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. 28-31.

Translated from the Russian
by Clemens Dutt
Edited by Bernard Isaacs

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

page 28





January 26, 1899 

    I have received your letter of December 24. I am very glad that you have at last got rid of your illness, of which rumours had even reached us. I heard of it during the holidays while I was in Minusinsk, and kept thinking where and how I could obtain news of you. (I thought it inconvenient to write to you directly, as you were said to be<"p28"> seriously ill.) Well, you have now revived just in time for a literary undertaking which is also being revived. Of course, you know already about Nachalo,[25] which is to be started in the middle of February. I hope you have now fully recovered -- it is already a month since you wrote the last letter -- and that you will be able to work. You are probably fairly well provided for in the matter of books and order the chief new ones? If you are not too short of funds for ordering books, I think you can work even in the backwoods -- at least I judge by myself, comparing my life in Samara seven years ago, when I was reading almost exclusively other people's books, and now, when I have begun to acquire the habit of ordering books.

    In regard to the Heritage I have had to agree with your opinion that to consider it as something of an integral nature is a bad tradition of the bad years (the eighties).<"p28a"> Perhaps I really ought not to tackle historico-literary themes. . . . My justification is that nowhere do I propose acceptance of Skaldin's heritage.[26] That one must take over the heritage from other<"p28b"> people is indisputable. It seems to me that my defence (from possible attacks of opponents) will be the note on p. 237, where it was precisely Chernyshevsky[27] I had in mind and where I gave reasons why it was inconvenient to take him as a parallel.* It is admitted there that Skaldin is a Liberalkonservativ, that he is "not typical"

    * "The Heritage We Renounce" (see present edition, Vol. 2, pp. 491-534, footnote on p. 505). --Ed.

page 29

of the sixties, that it is "inconvenient" to take "typical" writers; I did not have Chernyshevsky's articles and do not have them, moreover the chief ones have still not been republished, and I should hardly be able to avoid snags here. Furthermore, I would begin defending myself by pointing to the fact that I gave an exact definition of what I understand by the "heritage" of which I am speaking. Of course, if the article nevertheless gives the impression that the author proposes to accept precisely Skaldin's heritage, this is a fault that cannot be remedied. I forgot what is perhaps my chief "defence", namely, that if Skaldin is a "rarity", then bourgeois liberalism, more or less consistent and free from Narodism, is by no means a rarity, but a very broad trend of the sixties and seventies. You retort: "Coincidence and continuity are poles apart". But the crux of the matter is that the article says it is necessary to purge bourgeois liberalism of Narodism. If this is true and if it is feasible (a particularly important condition!), then the result of the purge, the residue after it, will be bourgeois liberalism that not only coincides with Skaldin's but is its successor. Thus, if I am accused of accepting Skaldin's heritage, I shall be entitled to answer that I am merely undertaking to purge it of admixtures, but that I myself have nothing to do with it and, in addition to cleaning various Augean stables, have more congenial and more positive occupations. . . . Well, I'm afraid I have let myself be carried away and really imagine myself a "defendant"!

    We have not corresponded for such a long time that to tell you the truth I have forgotten when I last wrote you about the articles "Die historische Berechtigung ". I believe I wrote before I received them?* Now I have read them and have found that the author's main idea is fully acceptable (especially at the end concerning the two extremes or snags that have to be avoided). In giving the reasons, however, one should really bring out more sharply the Klassencharakter of the Bewegung ** of which the author speaks (he mentioned it, but only in passing and very briefly), and furthermore not to regard the Fronde-like

    * See p. 26 of this volume. --Ed.  [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's letter of September 2, 1898, "To A. N. Potresov". -- DJR]
    ** Movement. --Ed.

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agrarians with such favour; in their liberalism there is more of the Fronde and of a sense of grievance on account of einundsechzig [*] than of a desire for "the most rapid industrialisation" of the country. It is worth while recalling their attitudes towards seasonal work, migration, etc. The author should have formulated the task more accurately: to free all fortschrittliche Strömungen [**] from the rubbish of Narodism and agrarianism and to utilise all of them in this purified form. In my opinion, "utilise" is a much more exact and suitable word than Unterstützung und Bundesgenossenschaft.[***] The latter indicates the equality of these Bundesgenossen,[****] yet they must (in this I fully agree with you) follow in the wake, sometimes even "with clenched teeth"; they have absolutely not grown so far as to reach equality and will never grow to reach it, owing to their cowardice, disunity, etc. Unterstützung, however, will come by no means from the Intelligenz und fortschrittliche Grundbesitzer [5] alone, but also from many others, both from Semites and from fortschrittliche Kaufleute und Industrielle [6] (the author has quite wrongly passed them over: it is still a question whether they constitute a smaller percentage in their milieu than in that of the Grundbesitzer [7]) and those Bauern [8] who tend to represent Urteil and not Torurteil, Kukunft and not Vergangenheit [9] of their class, and very many others. In two respects the author has tipped the scales in the other direction: firstly, in combating the Economists he has left aside praktische, immediate Forderungen,[10] which are important not only for industriellen Arbeiter, but also for Hausindustrielle and Landarbeiter,[11] etc. Secondly, he has fought against an abstract, <"fnp30">

    * Sixty-one (1861). --Ed.
    ** Progressive trends. --Ed.
    *** Support and alliance. --Ed.
    **** Allies. --Ed.
    5  Intelligentsia and progressive landowners. --Ed.
    6  Progressive tradesmen and industrialists. --Ed.
    7  Landowners. --Ed.
    8  Peasants. --Ed.
    9  Reason and not prejudice, the future and not the past. --Ed.
  10  Demands. --Ed.
  11  Not only for industrial workers, but also for handicraftsmen and agricultural workers. --Ed.

page 31

neglectful attitude to gemässigten, fortschrittlichen [*] elements (it is fair to say that they should by no means be entirely neglected, they should be utilised) and thereby, as it were, obscured the independent and more resolute position adopted by the Bewegung he represents.<"p31"> In the historico-philosophical sense the proposition which he advances (and which was earlier advanced by Inorodzew in Soziale Praxis [28]) is indisputable, viz., that among our present Genossen [**] there are no few verkleideten Liberalen.[***] To a certain extent this can also be said of Deutschland versus England. That is, so to speak, our good fortune; it enables us to count on an easier and swifter beginning; it compels us to utilise all these verkleideten. But the author's formulation can, perhaps, give rise to some misinterpretation (one Old-Believer told me: but this is belittling and depersonalising. . .), on the, one hand, and a certain feeling of distrust and embarrassment among Genossen. In this respect Inorodzew's formulation, too, in my opinion, was unfortunate.

    As regards the heart of the matter, however, I think there are no differences of opinion with the author.

    About Parvus, I haven't the slightest notion of his personal cHaracter and do not at all deny his great talent. Unfortunately, I have read very few of his works.

    Do you expect to obtain Kautsky's Die Agrarfrage,**** which has recently come out?

    Regarding Wert, Yevg, Solovyov and M. Filippov, I must say that the first-named I do not know at all, and I have read very little of the other two. That there is and will be "weathering", I have not an iota of doubt. Hence it is especially necessary to have not only verkleidete Literatur.*****

All the best.        
V. U.    


    * Moderately progressive. --Ed.
    ** Comrades. --Ed.
    *** Disguised liberals. --Ed.
    **** The Agrarian Question. --Ed.
    ***** Disguised literature. --Ed.

page 455



  <"en25">[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. 28]

  <"en26">[26] The reference is to Lenin's article "The Heritage We Renounce" (see Vol. 2, pp. 491-534, of this edition).

    Skaldin (Yelenev, Fyodor Pavlovich ) (1828-1902) -- a Russian publicist and author; in the sixties of the 19th century a spokesman of bourgeois liberalism, contributed to the journal Otechestvenniye Zapiski. Subsequently Slaldin sided with the extreme reactionaries.    [p. 28]

  <"en27">[27] Chernyshevsky, Nikolai Cavrilovich (1828-1889) -- great Russian revolutionary democrat, materialist philosopher, author and literary critic, leader of the revolutionary-democratic movement of the sixties in Russia.    [p. 28]

  <"en28">[28] Soziale Praxis -- a German monthly, published from 1895 to 1910, after which it came out under another name.    [p. 31]