Letter to Pavel Axelrod, November 8, 1900

From Marxists-en
Jump to navigation Jump to search

November 8

Dear P. B.,

I have received your letter of the 5th and the article.[1] Many thanks. The alterations probably involved a great deal of work and must have caused even more annoyance, because condensing such a subject must be extremely uninteresting work. It is all the more valuable to us that you undertook to do it. Please excuse us for not sending you the articles: our “secretary” is, unfortunately, burdened with serious family duties, and therefore the copying proceeds very slowly. I enclose an article, “New Friends of the Russian Proletariat”, which we want to publish in No. 1 as a feature.[2] Please let us know your opinion (you can pencil it on the article) and then be kind enough to send it onto G. V.

As regards the Parisians, we decided on the very tactics you advised: on the one hand, “not to arm”, and on the other, “to abstain”. Of course, they are dissatisfied with our abstention and we were recently obliged (of necessity) to give such a rebuff to their expression of dissatisfaction that we feared a “cooling-off” (feared is not quite the right word, because we decided to give this rebuff even if it should inevitably lead to a rupture). Yesterday, we received a reply from the “secretary” of the group they have formed in Paris[3]; judging by the reply, our rebuff has had no harmful consequences, and “all is well”. Let’s hope that this will continue to be so in the future. It is quite true that later on we shall probably have to think of the “rules” and the other pleasant and interesting things you mention; but it was a master-stroke on your part to have set approximately six months for this. It would be premature so long as the undertaking is not “in full working order”; we are completely in agreement with you in this respect.

But I cannot agree with you about beginning to appear here openly. I cannot as yet think that “legality has already been lost”. To my mind, it has not yet been lost, and this “yet” may last another few months, during which time much will be clarified. (My brother is already in Russia, and so far all is well. The traveller[4] is also wandering successfully, so far.) And even if there were a complete and final loss of legality, there might be weighty considerations against coming out openly (for example, considerations about journeys home). Therefore, until the first issues have appeared, and until all of us (including Alexei and my brother) get together, I shall, in any case, remain in hiding. If the undertaking is destined to be a success, this decision may soon change, but my earlier “optimism” about this condition has been thoroughly shaken by “the humdrum of life”.[5]

As regards the journal, it will soon be clear, I suppose, whether we shall organise it here or seek refuge in other countries. As soon as this is cleared up, I shall let you know.

I find it very inconvenient to write to America, for after all I know no one there, and no one there knows me, and all the same it will be necessary to use you as an intermediary. Would it not, therefore, be better for you to write direct, and to send the statement, informing them that it comes from a Russian group, stating your attitude to this group and saying that a pamphlet, May Day Demonstrations in Kharkov, is now being set at the same printing press, and that when it is finished the paper will be set; that the statement says nothing about a journal (or a miscellany) for technical reasons of secrecy, but that for No. 1 there are being written (or are ready) such-and-such articles by G. V., yourself and Kautsky ( Erinnerungen[6] , an interesting piece which V. I. is already translating), and others. It seems to me that all the aims you mention will be attained much better and much more directly by your letter, while your dispatch of the statement to America no longer entails (I think) any undesirable publicity, particularly the sending of one copy for the secretary of the society there to read out at its meeting.[7]

All best wishes,



P.S. I have received the cushion and the book.

  1. A reference to Axelrod’s article, “Wilhelm Liebknecht”.
  2. L. Martov’s article, “New Friends of the Russian Proletariat”, appeared in No. 1 of Iskra in December 1900.
  3. A reference to the Borba group (D. B. Ryazanov, Y. M. Steklov and E. L. Gurevich), which emerged in Paris in the summer of 1900 and was formed into a separate group in 1901, following the “unity” conference. The group’s publications distorted Marxist theory, rejected Iskra’s revolutionary tactics and took a hostile attitude to Lenin’s organisational principles of party building. In view of these departures from Social-Democratic views and tactics, its splitting activities and lack of contact with Social-Democratic organisations in Russia, the group was not allowed to attend the Second Congress of the RSDLP and was dissolved by its decision.
  4. A reference to L. Martov.
  5. During preparations for the publication of Iskra, differences on the place of publication arose between Lenin and A. N. Potresov, on the one hand, and G. V. Plekhanov and P. B. Axelrod, on the other. The latter opposed Iskra’s publication in Germany and wanted to have it issued in Switzerland, under their immediate direction. Lenin and Potresov opposed this. Following the conference in Corsier (near Geneva) in August 1900 with members of the Emancipation of Labour group, Lenin and Potresov decided that in the interest of the cause Iskra and Zarya = should be published in Germany. The essence of these differences of principle was described by Lenin in “How the ‘Spark’ Was Nearly Extinguished ” (see present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 333–49). Lenin and Potresov won out and the publication of Iskra was started in Germany, initially in Leipzig and then in Munich. Zarya was published legally in Stuttgart.
  6. Reminiscences.—Ed.
  7. See pp. 39–40