Letter to Pavel Axelrod, April 25, 1901

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April 25, 1901

Dear P. B.,

I haven’t had a talk with you for a long time, I could not get down to it and, besides, Alexei has written to you about all business matters,[1] but the need of a talk has become too great for me to put it off any longer. I should like to consult you about both the Parisians and Zurichers,[2] as well as about matters in general.

Do you know that the Parisians (long ago, about two or three weeks) have “dissolved the Iskra promotion group” and have refused (for the second time) to co-operate, on the grounds of our having “violated organisational -7 neutrality” (sic! that we were unfair to the Union[3] and wrongly attacked it in Zarya). This was written by the author of “Comments on the Programme of Rabocheye Dyelo”,[4] who hinted most unambiguously that Rabocheye Dyelo was on the mend (in Listok No. 6[5] it has even over-mended itself, in our opinion!) and consequently... consequently ... -3 Vivrons verrons[6] —this “dear comrade” concluded. Obviously (like certain “young forces” about whom G. V. wrote), he is aiming at a better position in Rabocheye Dyelo, The sheer scoundrelism of it made us so indignant that we did not even answer them. In Iskra No. 4 (we have been promised that No. 3 will be ready by May 1 and intend to start on No. 4 immediately) we are going to flay Rabocheye Dyelo for its shilly-shallying.

I really don’t know whether to give these intrigants up as a bad job or to make yet another attempt. They are,

undoubtedly, capable people, they have written, they have (both of them) supplied material (Danevich as well), they have collected money skilfully (as much as 350 -2 frs—nowhere yet has so much been collected abroad for Iskra). As a matter of fact, we are not blameless either in regard to them: we have not paid them sufficient attention, we have not sent a single article for examination and -3 “comradely advice”, we have not offered any “section” (if only a foreign review in Iskra or comments in a social chronicle on certain issues). Apparently, under the conditions -6 obtaining abroad, it is impossible, quite impossible, not to have something of the sort. Now take the Berliners[7] (Arsenyev was there recently)—they too want a definite position; simply to help Iskra, they say, can satisfy a student, but we or Dvinskaya (she and her husband are withdrawing from the Union, in which, when the members were questioned, only three—Grishin[8] y compris!—expressed themselves in favour of the conference. Vive camarade G.!) require, they say, something of the sort, you know....

I just don’t know what to do! It is necessary to “invent” an organisation—without that es geht nicht.[9]

It has occurred to me that the following plan of -8 organisation could be tried: the Sotsial-Demokrat organisation,[10] the editorial board of Zarya and various groups (the -3 Berliners, for example, the Parisians, perhaps, etc.), or various persons, unite in a League,[11] let us say. Literary activity to be handled in three ways: the Emancipation of Labour group has its print-shop, Zarya has its own, with an elected Literary Committee as closest collaborator, taking part in periodic joint editorial sessions and publishing (over the signature of the Literary Committee) pamphlets, etc., in the print-shops of Sotsial-Demokrat and Zaryaeventuell also in a third print-shop should the League set one up (there is such a prospect). The supreme decision on literary questions in the League will belong to a conference of three members: from the Emancipation of Labour group, from Zarya, and from the Literary Committee, There will be a joint, elected management.

Such, in substance, is my plan (of course, Iskra, being a Russian publication, does not formally come into the League). In principle this plan is approved here—by Elder Sister too. I believe that such a “constitution” (“Austrian” Alexei jokingly calls it) holds no dangers for us, and something of the kind is absolutely necessary, otherwise there will be general dissatisfaction and we may lose all our people. In this way we shall be fully guaranteed against dissensions and squabbles, keeping full control of our printshops and editorial boards, while giving people the requisite scope without which they will not agree to co-operate.

Please write what you think of this idea, and talk it over with G. V. (to whom I am not writing, for he should soon be here and will, of course, call on you on the way). I am not going into details; they can be easily settled. If we all (i.e., the whole Sotsial-Demokrat) agree on this, the chances are that the Berliners (who have a print-shop and are eager to “work” from a definite “position”) will join us, and then we shall be able to counterpose to the Union a united “League” developing extensive activities.

There is no need to fear an elected management, for it will only control transport and the collection of money abroad, divided in a definite proportion between Sotsial-Demokrat, Zarya, etc., but it will not have anything to do with Iskra, which informally will be behind Zarya and together with Zarya. Formally the League can be declared the ally abroad of the Iskra organisation in Russia, which we are already establishing.

Nor is there any need to fear literary stupidities, for (1) the Literary Committee can be bound by its Rules as far as independent publishing is concerned; (2) it will publish over its own signature: the Emancipation of Labour group and Zarya will not be confused with it; (3) our people as well can be in it; (4) it will be subordinated to the conference, in which we have a majority.

I don’t know, of course, whether this will satisfy the Parisians—they are so proud. We feel awkward about approaching them. If you approve of the plan, would you care to write to them and throw out a feeler, seeing that they spoke to you earlier in Paris about their sad situation; you could now suggest this way out to them. If you ap- prove of the idea, we shall get in touch with Koltsov and ask him to draft Rules for the League.[12]

Now about the Lettish Zurichers. I don’t know whether you have heard that the transport arranged with their help came to grief: 3,000 copies of Iskra (No. 1) were seized by the police, who got hold of the smuggler as well. Later one of them wrote to us, asking for more fare money. We replied that we could not give any more for this route— we would not dare to put it before our organisation—but if he would undertake specially to get one pood across (as he undertook to do when he talked with me), then let him come and pick it up.

There was not a word in reply. Do you know whether, perhaps, they have taken offence? What are they doing and planning? If you see any of them, please have a talk to find out how matters stand.

We are beginning to think about No. 2 of Zarya—it is time to do so. The Witte memorandum will soon be finished,[13] in about 2-3 weeks (for some reason Dietz is incredibly slow with it; so far only 9 sheets are ready). So far we have no material apart from Nevzorov’s article on the historical preparation of Russian Social-Democracy which you already know about. We are hoping for a leading article by G. V. on recent events, his article contra Struve, your article (from editorial comments)—that’s true, isn’t it?; an article by Luxemburg is promised (a new introduction to her articles “Die sozialistische Krise in Frankreich”,[14] which articles we intend to translate), and Kautsky has promised an article on academicians and proletarians.

We have no foreign reviews. How do matters stand with the “Austrian” article? Isn’t anything coming from America?—and from Switzerland? It is said that Danevich is ill. There is no one we can ask to write about Germany—^M apart from Parvus, who promised (?) a foreign review but that is not quite the thing.

In the fourth issue of Iskra it is proposed to have an article on terrorism (by Alexei); there is: “The Autocracy and the Zemstvo” (continuation), “The Autocracy and Finance” (by Parvus), something for the social chronicle (there is a supplement on demonstrations) and the working-class movement. We are thinking of issuing No. 4 in a single sheet (No. 3 has expanded so much, to two sheets, 8 pages (seven pages are now ready), like No. 1—and part had to be left out!). We must exert every effort to expedite the publication, of Iskra—to make it a monthly.

Good-bye! All the best. Regards to all your family. From my wife too.



P.S. Write to me at Rittmeyer’s.

Before I forget: on the instructions of Elder Sister I inform you that 250 frs. has been received. The report on this is published in Iskra No. 3 (“From America through Axelrod”). I am sending you via Stuttgart 10 copies of Zarya—send them to Ingerman, Mokrjyevich, etc. Elder Sister is writing an article for the Germans on the demonstrations.

  1. I have been ill here for a week with influenza. —Lenin
  2. Parisians—the Borba (Struggle) literary group abroad who considered themselves affiliated to the RSDLP The group was dissolved by decision of the Second Congress of the Party (see Note 93).
    Zurichers—Lettish Social-Democrat students living in Zurich who handled the shipment of illegal publications to Russia. p. 60
  3. This refers to the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad (see Note 39). p. 60
  4. The author of “Comments” was D. Ryazanov.
    Ryazanov, David Borisovich (1870-1938)—participant in the Social-Democratic movement of the nineties. In 1900 went abroad and was one of the organisers of the Borba literary group, which opposed the Party programme worked out by Iskra and Lenin’s principles of Party organisation. The Second Congress of the RSDLP declared against the participation of the Borba group in the Congress proceedings and rejected a motion inviting Ryazanov to the Congress in the capacity of its representative.
    In 1909 he was lecturer at the Capri school of the Vperyod faction. p. 60
  5. Listok Rabochevo Dyela (Rabocheye Dyelo Supplement)—a non-periodic publication of the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad; appeared in Geneva in 1900-01. p. 60
  6. We shall wait and see.—Ed.
  7. This refers to members of the Iskra promotion group in Berlin. p. 61
  8. See Note 57. p. 61
  9. There is nothing doing.—Ed.
  10. The revolutionary organisation Sotsial-Demokrat was formed by members of the Emancipation of Labour group and their followers in May 1900 after the split in the Union of Russian Social-Democrats Abroad which took place at its Second Conference. In October 1901 Sotsial-Demokrat, on Lenin’s proposal, united with the foreign section of the Iskra organisation into the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad. p. 61
  11. Lenin’s plan was carried out in October 1901, when the League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad was founded. Affiliated to the League were the foreign section of the Iskra organisation, and the Sotsial-Demokrat organisation. The task the League was to disseminate the ideas of revolutionary Social-Democracy and promote the building up of a militant Social-Democratic organisation. The League was the representative abroad of the Iskra organisation. It issued several bulletins and pamphlets, including Lenin’s To the Rural Poor (see Vol. 6 of this edition).
    The RSDLP’s Second Congress endorsed the League as the only Party organisation abroad having the status of a committee and working under the guidance and control of the Central Committee of the RSDLP After the Second Congress the Mensheviks entrenched themselves in the League and launched a struggle against the Bolsheviks. At the League’s second congress in October 1903 the Mensheviks slandered the Bolsheviks, upon which Lenin and his followers walked out. The Mensheviks got new Rules adopted, directed against the Party Rules approved by the Second Congress of the RSDLP From then on the League became a stronghold of Menshevism. It existed until 1905. p. 61
  12. It would be good to come before our people with a joint draft of Sotsial-Demokrat and Zarya.—Lenin
  13. The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism” (see present edition, Vol. 5).—Ed.
  14. The Socialist Crisis in France.”—.Ed.—Lenin