Letter to Alexandra Kollontai, March 5, 1917

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 5 March 1917

First published in t924 in Lenin Miscellany II. Sent from Zurich to Christiania (Oslo). Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1976, Moscow, Volume 35, pages 290-293.

March 5, 1917

Dear A. M.,

Newspaper reports speak of a congress of the Young being called in Sweden on May 12 to found a new party “on Zimmerwald principles”.

I must admit that this news particularly disturbs and angers me. For “Zimmerwald” is clearly bankrupt, and a good word is once again serving to cover up decay! The Zimmerwald majority—Turati and Co., Kautsky and Ledebour, Merrheim—have all gone over to the position of social-pacifism, condemned so solemnly (and so fruitlessly!) at Kienthal. The manifesto of Kautsky and Co. of January 7, 1917, a number of resolutions of the Italian Socialist Party, the resolutions of Merrheim—Jouhaux and Longuet—Bourderon (+Raffin-Dugens in unity with Renaudel), is not this the bankruptcy of Zimmerwald? And the Zimmerwald “Centre”—R. Grimm, who on January 7, 1917 entered into an alliance with the social-patriots of Switzerland to fight the Left!! Grimm, who abuses the social-patriots of all countries except the Swiss, whom he covers up! C’est dégoûtant![1] I am beside myself with fury at these scoundrels; it is revolting to listen to them and to hear about them; it is even more revolting to think of working with them. Buffoonery!

We intend to collect material for you about this bankruptcy of R. Grimm. Write whether you can get the Zurich Volksrecht. You will find the principal material there in the preamble to the referendum, in the resolution of the Left at Töss (February 11, 1917), etc., etc.

But the majority of the Swedish Left, I am sure, are sincere. This is clear. And it is necessary at all costs to help them before May 12 to understand beforehand the utter banality of social-pacifism and Kautskianism, all the vileness of the Zimmerwald majority, to help them work out a good programme and tactics for themselves, for the new party.

Really, we must (all of us, the Left in Sweden and those who can get into touch with them) unite, bend every effort, help—for the moment in the life of the Swedish party, the Swedish and Scandinavian labour movement, is a decisive one.

Since you read Swedish (and speak it too), a considerable share of responsibility falls on you, if we understand “internationalism” not in the sense of “it’s no concern of mine”.

I am sure you are doing a great deal. One would like to rally and unite the Lefts to help the Swedes at such a difficult moment in their life. Could not one organise in Christiania, Copenhagen and Stockholm for this purpose a group of Russian Bolsheviks and Lefts who know Swedish and can help? The work could be divided: to collect the main documents and articles (I was sent the polemic between Nerman and Mauritz Västberg in Politiken of November 28, 1916 on the theme, “first a programme, then a new party”—but I could not unterstand it); to work out one’s own theses to help them; to print a number of articles to aid them. Swedes able to write in German, French or English could also enter such a group.[2]

What is your opinion, is this possible or not? Is it worth while worrying with it?

My opinion is that it is worth while, but of course I am not in a position to judge from far away, outside. I only see and know in the firmest way possible that the question of the programme and tactics of a new socialism, genuinely revolutionary Marxism and not rotten Kautskianism, is on the agenda everywhere. This is clear both from the S.L.P. and The Internationalist in America, and from the data about Germany (the resolutions of the Lefts, January 7, 1917) and about France (the pamphlet of the Lefts in Paris, Les socialistes de Zimmerwald et la guerre[3] ), and so on.

In Denmark Trier and others would, I am sure, join in the cause of setting up a new, Marxist, party in Scandinavia; part of the Norwegian Lefts also. The struggle with Branting and Co. is a serious business: necessity must force them to take a more serious attitude to questions of the theory and tactics of revolutionary Marxism.

In my opinion, the work of preparing for May 12 should be pushed intensively, and from three sides simultaneously: (1) the assistance group mentioned earlier; (2) groups of the Scandinavian Lefts: write an article (in the Swedish papers) about the necessity of founding at once such groups to prepare a programme and tactics for May 12.

(3)—the third interests me particularly, not because it is the most important (initiative from within is more important), but because we can help here. If, for example, you were immediately, after looking through the main literature of the Left and Right in Sweden, to rough out on the basis of it theses on these lines:

theoretical (programme) and practical (tactical) differences

defence of the fatherland;

conception of imperialism;

character of the war;



dictatorship of the proletariat

{{the nationalities question;


“mass actions”;

civil war;

attitude to trade unions;

opportunism and struggle against it, etc.

Every thesis should include (a) what has been said about it (“the essence”) by the Left in Sweden; (b) by the Right there.

On this basis, taking account of the position of the Left in Russia, Germany and America (the main countries in this respect), we could work out our own theses and, by publishing them in Swedish, help the Swedes to make preparations for May 12.

Some of the main points from the most important resolutions and articles of the Right and the Left wing in Sweden ought for this purpose to be translated into Russian or German, or French, or English.

In essence, morally and politically, we are all responsible for the Swedish Young and must help them.

You are in an exceptionally favourable position to give such aid. Write at once what you think about it.

It would be useful, probably, to send this letter on to Lyudmila also, together with your views.

All the very best. I wish you every success.

Yours, Lenin

  1. It is disgusting!—Ed.
  2. What sort of a figure is Lindhagen? “S.R.”? “Narodnik”? “Radical-socialist”? Hervé? —Lenin
  3. The Socialists of Zimmerwald and the War.—Ed.