Letter to Georgi Plekhanov, November 9, 1900

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November 9

I received your letter today, dear Georgi Valentinovich, and at once sent you by registered book-post (1) the article “What Has Happened?” by Puttman; (2) the article by Byvaly, and (3) the article by D. Koltsov about the Paris Congress.[1]

Vera Ivanovna found this last article quite unacceptable and I entirely agree with her. The article is uninteresting, quite unsuitable for the journal (especially since you will be writing about Millerand[2]) and much too long for the paper. It contains 22,000–27,000 letters, whereas for the paper we need an item of 6,000-9,000 letters or only a little more. We would therefore like to ask Rakovsky to write an article of that size for the paper, and to reject Koltsov’s article. We decided to send it on to you, all the more since you were going to reply to Rakovsky. So do as you find most appropriate—either reject Koltsov’s article and order one from Rakovsky, or request Koltsov to rewrite and shorten the article, under your guidance. It seems to us more probable that you will choose the first alternative, and in that case you can of course refer to us when informing Koltsov, and we can write to him ourselves as soon as we get your reply.

I am sending the article by Byvaly for polishing up and insertion of some corrections which you indicated. Of course you may make corrections: please do so with all the articles, either making them in pencil right in the manuscript or on separate sheets. I can, if you like, write to Byvaly afterwards about these corrections—he is not likely to take a rigid stand, but if he does, we shall have to discuss the matter and make a choice: whether or not to take the whole as it is. The only thing I cannot agree with you on at all is the suggestion to cut out the mention of Bakharev’s pamphlet,[3] and this not so much because it would be extremely unpleasant for the author, as because I, too, consider Bakharev’s pamphlet useful (in spite of its defects), for it raises a really important point and, on the whole, deals with it correctly. Byvaly writes not only about the old but also about the new; if serious revolutionaries had no need of such pamphlets in the 1870s, we nowadays certainly have need of them, and we had the firm intention to print a critical but approving note about it (possibly in the paper, but not in No. 1). The fact that quite young workers and intellectuals are being drawn into the mass movement, who have almost completely forgotten, or rather have no knowledge of what used to happen in the old days and how, and the absence of organisation of “ experienced” revolutionaries—all this makes it necessary to publish pamphlets about rules of behaviour for socialists. The Poles have such a pamphlet,[4] which seems to give a great deal more than Bakharev’s does. Vera Ivanovna agrees that the mention of Bakharev should not be cut out. In certain conditions, if you think it useful, a discussion in the journal on the question of the possible importance of such pamphlets might perhaps not be altogether irrelevant. We intend Byvaly’s article for the journal and not the paper. Vera Ivanovna says that our paper turns out to be at a lower level, in terms of the readers for whom it is intended, than you probably imagine. Vera Ivanovna is on the whole rather dissatisfied with the paper: she says it is of the Rabocheye Dyelo type, only somewhat more literary, more brushed up. I have sent one article to Pavel Borisovich, asking him to send it on to you. It would be quite inconvenient to have the question of Kautsky’s resolution shortened and abridged to the size of a newspaper article and that is why we should like the journal to carry an article or item on this question by you. Or perhaps you intend to confine yourself to something very small? Probably even an item on this subject will require about 10 printed pages, i.e., about 20,000 letters, if not more?

I must say that I thought you would be willing to write an item about Solovyov. Puttman is hardly likely to take it on. I shall write to him, but I am not very hopeful.

Vera Ivanovna is prepared to write about the Decembrists,[5] but what about the material? We shall write immediately to have them send us what they can. Perhaps you too will suggest what it would be particularly important to have for this work. I think the most important thing is the historical journals, which are not available here.

Gurevich is writing a big article for the journal on French affairs, and for the newspaper on the national congress. Goldendakh or Nakhamkis was going to write about the International Congress, but did not.

Please send us your article, “Socialism and the Political Struggle” (it can be sent by registered book-post to the same address of Lehmann); I doubt that Alexei would not like the article because of the comradely criticism, for I remember him telling me that he found the objections of Pavel Borisovich to be justified.

We shall number the separate sheets (unless they have been numbered already) and I don’t think the compositors will lose anything; after all, they always have to deal with separate sheets, and the same applies to our paper, and so far they have never lost anything. The question of “ responsible editor” will evidently be settled favourably, I think, tomorrow or the day after (today I received news that two have agreed, and am expecting vital information tomorrow). We think that all the same we shall not manage (initially, at least) without the help of Blumenfeld, whom Dietz has agreed to take on as a compositor, and who would put the thing on its feet for us, train the Germans, etc. As soon as all this is finally cleared up, I shall write or telegraph to him at once. But I should very much like to have your article, “Once More”, etc.,[6] as soon as possible, because we might have to send it for setting immediately.

Against Rabochaya Mysl—more precisely, only against the article “Our Reality” in the Separate Supplement— I had an article, “The Retrograde Movement in Russian Social-Democracy”,[7] written as far back as a year ago. It has now been sent here to me, and I am thinking of rewriting it for the journal, with additional material directed against Rabocheye Dyelo.

I don’t quite understand to which “latest No.” of Rabochaya Mysl you refer. No. 8 was the last issue of the paper (a new editorial board “from page 5”), which, incidentally, carries a repudiation of the famous parallels at the end of the article on Chernyshevsky in the Separate Supplement. Is that what you have in mind?

I would think the item, “To What Lengths They Have Gone”,[8] a useful one, though now I doubt the “ belligerency” of Rabochaya Mysl: they nevertheless want to take a few steps “towards us” (passez moi le mot[9] ), and we ought to try to consider them verbesserungsfähig.[10] But of course there should be an attack in any case: they won’t change unless attacked. I have been corresponding lately with Vetrinskaya, an old comrade of mine in the League,[11] and told her that I supported Alexei’s words: “We shall have to wrestle with you.” Go ahead, if you are not ashamed, she told Alexei. I wrote to say that I was not in the least ashamed.

I should also like to have a talk with you about the economic trend and Alexei’s views, but it is already very late, and I will confine myself to a few words. The economic trend, of course, was always a mistake, but then it is very young, while there has been overemphasis of “ economic” agitation (and there still is here and there) even without the trend, and it was the legitimate and inevitable companion of any step forward in the conditions of our movement which existed in Russia at the end of the 1880s or the beginning of the 1890s. The situation then was so murderous that you cannot probably even imagine it, and one should not censure people who stumbled as they clambered up out of that situation. For the purposes of this clambering out, some narrowness was essential and legitimate: was, I say, for with this tendency to blow it up into a theory and tie it in with Bernsteinism, the whole thing of course changed radically. But that the overemphasis of “ economic” agitation and catering to the “mass” movement were natural, you too, unless I’m mistaken, recognised in “The New Campaign” written in 1896, when Vilna Economism[12] was already à l’ordre du jour,[13] while St. Petersburg economism was emerging and taking shape.

Every good wish, and please excuse the disorderly writing.



  1. The article by Puttman (the pen-name of A. N. Potresov), “What Has Happened?”, and the article by Byvaly (the pen-name of Bogucharsky [V. Y. Yakovlev]), “About the Old and the New”, to which the reference is made in the letter, were carried in Zarya No. 1 in April 1901. The article by D. Koltsov (B. A. Ginzburg) on the international congress in Paris did not appear in Zarya.
  2. A reference to G. V. Plekhanov’s article, “A Few Words about the Latest International Socialist Congress in Paris (An Open Letter to the Comrades Who Have Authorised Me as Their Delegate)”, = which was carried in Zarya No. 1 in April 1901.
  3. Bakharev—the pen-name of V. P. Makhnovets. The reference is to his pamphlet, “How to Behave at Interrogations”, Geneva, 1900, issued by the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad.
  4. The name of the pamphlet is unknown.
  5. V. I. Zasulich’s article on the Decembrists did not appear in the press. On December 14 (27), 1900, Plekhanov spoke at a meeting of Russian political émigrés in Geneva on. “The 14th of December, 1825”. This speech was published in Zarya No. 1 in April 1901.
  6. A reference to G. V. Plekhanov’s article, “Once More on Socialism and the Political Struggle”, carried in Zarya No. 1 in April 1901.
  7. See present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 255–85.
  8. G. V. Plekhanov did not write the item because he included the gist of it in his article, “Once More on Socialism and the Political Struggle”.
  9. Excuse the expression.—Ed.
  10. Capable of improvement, not entirely hopeless.—Ed.
  11. A reference to the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class founded by Lenin in the autumn of 1895.
  12. A reference to the Economist trend, which emerged in Vilna in the mid-1890s. It was led by A. I. Kremer, who issued a pamphlet in 1896, entitled “On Agitation”. The St. Petersburg trend, which arose later, was led by Takhtarev and others.
  13. On the agenda.—Ed.