Letter to Martyn Liadov, November 10, 1903

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 10 November 1903

Written in Geneva
Published: First published in 1928. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 34, pages 193-198.
Keywords : Letter, Martyn Liadov

Lyadov, Martyn Nikolayevich (1872–1947)—professional revolutionary. Began revolutionary activities in 1891. At the Second Congress of the RSDLP—a Bolshevik, afterwards carried on an active struggle against the Mensheviks in Russia and abroad. Took an active part in the revolution of 1905–07.

November 1O, 1903[1]

Dear Lidin,

I should like to give you our “political news”.

To begin with, here is a chronology of recent events. Wednesday (October 27 or 28?) was the third day of the League Congress. Martov yelled hysterically about “the blood of the old editorial board” (Plekhanov’s expression) being upon us, and that on the part of Lenin there was something in the nature of intrigue at the Congress, etc. I calmly challenged him in writing (by a statement to the bureau of the Congress[2] ) to make his accusations against me openly before the whole Party; I would undertake to publish everything. Otherwise, I said, it was mere Skandalsucht.[3] Martov, of course, “nobly withdrew”, demanding (as he still does) a court of arbitration; I continued to demand that he should have the courage to make his accusations openly, otherwise I would ignore it all as pitiful tittle-tattle.

Plekhanov refused to speak in view of Martov’s discreditable behaviour. Some dozen of our people submitted a statement to the Congress bureau, branding Martov’s “discreditable behaviour” in reducing the dispute to the level of squabbling, suspicions, etc. I would remark in parenthesis that my two hours’ speech about “Comrade Martov’s histor- ical turn”[4] at the Party Congress towards Versumpfung[5] did not evoke even from the Martovites a single protest about the issue being reduced to the level of squabbling.

Friday. We decided to introduce eleven new members into the League. In the evening at a private meeting with these “grenadiers” (as we jokingly called them), Plekhanov rehearsed all the steps by which we should utterly rout the Martovites. A stage scene. Thunderous applause.

Saturday. The CC read its statement about n6t endorsing the League’s Rules and about the meeting being unlawful (a statement previously discussed with Plekhanov in all details, word by word). All our people walked out amid the Martovites’ cries of “gendarmes” and so forth.

Saturday evening. Plekhanov. “surrendered”. He did not want a split. He demanded the opening of peace negotiations.

Sunday (November 1). I tendered my resignation in writing to Plekhanov (not wishing to be a party to such depravity as the revision of the Party Congress under the influence of a row adroad; to say nothing of the fact that from the purely strategical aspect a more stupid moment I or concessions could not have been chosen).[6]

November 3. Old Believer gave Plekhanov, who began the negotiations, a written statement of the conditions of peace with the opposition: 1) Negotiations to be con ducted by the editorial board of the CO and by the CC 2) Restoration of the old editorial board of Iskra. 3) Co optation on to the CC, the number to be decided during the negotiations. Cessation of co-optation on to the CC from the moment negotiations begin. 4) Two seats (sic!) on the Party Council and 5) recognition of the lawfulness of the League Congress.

Plekhanov was not put out. He demanded that the CC give way (!). The CC refused and wrote to Russia. Plekhanov declared that he would resign if the CC did not give way. I turned over to Plekhanov (November 6) all editorial matters, convinced that Plekhanov was capable of surrendering to the Martovites not merely the newspaper but the entire CC. for nothing.[7]

The state of affairs: Iskra would hardly come out on time. The Martovites were rejoicing over their “victory”. All our people (except the two Axelrod maids,[8] who are faithful to Plekhanov even in his Treulosigkeit[9] dissociated themselves from Plekhanov and at a meeting (November 6 or 7) told him some home truths (on the subject of the “second Isari”).

A pretty picture, is it not? I shall not join the editorial board, but I shall write. Our people want to defend the CC, insofar as that is possible, and to continue an intensified agitation against the Martovites—the right plan, in my opinion.

Let Plekhanov leave us; the Party Council will then turn over Iskra to a committee and convene an Extraordinary Party Congress. Do you mean to say the League Abroad will be allowed by a majority of three or four votes to revise the Party Congress? Do you mean to say it is proper, after carrying the fight to the lengths of the greatest publicity and almost a rupture, to sound the retreat and accept peace terms dictated by the Martovites?

I should like to know your opinion.

I think that to act à la Plekhanov means subverting the Party Congress and betraying its majority. I think that we must agitate with all our strength here and in Russia for subordination to the Party Congress and not to the League Congress.

A boycott of Iskra (even a Martovite Iskra) is, of course, stupid. Moreover it would be a boycott not of a Martovite but, possibly, of a Plekhanovite Iskra, for Zasulich and Axelrod will soon give Plekhanov three votes in the Five. And that’s called an editorial hoard! As an illustration to your witty remark about the saintly relics of Sarovsky, I will quote the following statistical item: in the 45 issues of Iskra under six editors, there were 39 articles and feuilletons written by Martov, 32 by me, 24 by Plekhanov, 8 by Old Believer, 6 by Zasulich, and 4 by P. B. Axelrod. This in the course of three years! Not a single issue was made up (in the sense of technical editorial work) by anyone other than Martov or myself. And now—as a reward for the row, as a reward for Old Believer cutting off an important source of finance—they are to be taken on to the editorial board! They fought over “differences of principle”, which, in Old Believer’s letter of November 3 to Plekhanov were so expressively converted into figuring out how many seats they needed. And we have to legitimise this fight for seats, to make a deal with this party of discarded generals or ministers (grève générale des généraux,[10] as Plekhanov said) or with the party of hysterical brawlers! What’s the use of Party congresses if things are done by nepotism abroad, by hysteria and brawling?

Further about the notorious “trio”, which the hysterical Martov sees as the pivot of my “intriguing”. You probably remember from as far back as the time of the Congress my programme for the Congress and my commentary on this programme. I should very much like all Party members to know this document, and so once again I quote it for you precisely. “Item 23 (Tagesordnung[11] ). Election of the Central Committee and the editorial board of the Central Organ of the Party.

My commentary: “The Congress shall elect three persons to the editorial board of the Central Organ and three to the Central Committee. These six persons in conjunction shall, if necessary, co-opt by a two-thirds majority vote additional members to the editorial board of the CO and to the CC, and report to this effect to the Congress. After the report has been endorsed by the Congress, subsequent co-optation shall be effected by the editorial board of the CO and by the CC separately.”

Is it not clear that this means renewal of the editorial board, a thing which cannot be done without the consent of the CC (four out of six are necessary for co-optation), while the question of enlarging the original trio or leaving it as it was is left open (co-optation “if necessary”)? I showed this draft to everyone (including Plekhanov, of course) prior to the Congress. Of course, renewal was necessary owing to dissatisfaction with the Six (and especially with Plekhanov, who in fact had the votes of P. B. Axelrod, who almost never took part, and of the pliable V. I. Zasulich), and, of course, in a private conversation with Martov, I sharply expressed this dissatisfaction, “scolded” all three—Plekhanov (especially) and Axelrod and Zasulich—for their caprices, and proposed even enlarging the Six to Seven, etc. Is it not hysteria to give a twist now to these private conversations and raise a howl that “the trio was aimed against Plekhanov” and that I had laid a “trap” for Martov, and so forth? Of course, when we agreed with Martov, the trio would be against Plekhanov, and when Plekhanov agreed with Martov (on the subject of demonstration, for example) then the trio would be against me, and so on. The hysterical howling merely covers up a pitiful incapacity to understand that the editorial board must have real, and not fictitious, editors, that it must be a business-like and not a philistine collegium, and that each of its members should have his own opinion on each question (which was never the case with the unelected trio).

Martov approved my plan of two trios, but when it turned out to be against him in one question, he went into a fit of hysteria and began to howl about intrigue! It was not for nothing that in the corridors of the League Congress Plekhanov called him a “pitiful person”!

Yes ... the dirty squabble abroad—that is what over ruled the decision of the majority of Russian Party workers. Plekhanov’s betrayal, too, was partly due to fear of a row abroad, and partly to a feeling (perhaps) that in the Five he was sure to have three votes....

A fight for the CC, for a new congress to be held soon (in the summer)—that is what is left to us.

Get hold of my notebook.[12] It was sent by Poletayev (Bauman) to Vecheslov alone and personally. Shergov could have taken it only by trickery, only by a breach of trust. Read it to anyone you like, but don’t let anyone have It, and return it to me.

You must oust Vecheslov from all positions. Take a letter for yourself from the CC, tell the Parteivorstand[13] that you are the agent of the CC, and take all German contacts wholly into your hands.

I owe you an apology about your pamphlet. I have only managed to read it through once. It needs revising, but I have not had time to map out the revision.



  1. The letter bears Lenin’s note: “unmailed”.—Ed.
  2. Statement Concerning Martov’s Report” (see present edition, Vol. 7).—Ed.
  3. Mania for provoking a row.—Ed.
  4. Report on the Second Congress of the RSDLP” (see present edition, Vol. 7, pp. 73-83).—Ed.
  5. Sinking into the Marsh.—Ed.
  6. See present edition, Vol. 7, p. 91,—Ed.
  7. See pp. 189–90 of this volume.—Ed.
  8. This refers to I. I. and L. I. Axelrod.
  9. Treachery.—Ed.
  10. A general strike of generals.—Ed.
  11. Agenda.—Ed.
  12. The reference is to the “Report on the Second Congress of the RSDLP” (see present edition, Vol. 7).—Ed.
  13. The Executive Committee (of the German Social-Democratic Party).—Ed.