Our Tasks (1914)
|Written||22 April 1914|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 281-284
We have given a brief review of the history of the working-class press in Russia and of the origin of Pravda. We have tried to show how the age-long history of democratic movements in Russia led to the formation of an independent working-class democratic movement under the ideological banner of Marxism—and how the twenty years’ history of Marxism and the working-class movement in Russia, as a result of the long struggle of the workers’ vanguard against petty-bourgeois opportunist trends, led to the rallying of the vast majority of class-conscious workers around Pravda, which was created by the famous upsurge of the working-class movement in the spring of 1912.
We have seen how, during the paper’s two years, class-conscious Pravdist workers united ideologically, and to a certain extent also organisationally, by their efforts creating and supporting, strengthening and developing a consistently Marxist workers’ press. Strictly insisting on their continuity with the organised Marxists of the preceding historical epoch, not breaking any of their decisions, building the new on the foundations of the old, and going systematically, unswervingly ahead to the firmly and precisely stated aim of consistent Marxism, the Pravdist workers have begun the solution of an unusually difficult historic task.
A whole host of enemies, a whole mass of difficulties, both external and internal, arose in the way of the labour movement in the 1908–11 epoch. In no country in the world has the working-class movement hitherto succeeded in emerging from such crises while maintaining its continuity, its organised character, its loyalty to the old decisions, programme and tactics.
But the Russian workers—or more exactly the workers of Russia—succeeded in this; they succeeded in emerging with flying colours from an incredibly painful crisis, remaining loyal to the past and maintaining continuity of organisation, while mastering new forms of training for their forces, new methods of education and mobilisation of fresh generations of the proletariat for the solution by old methods of old but still outstanding historic problems.
Of all the classes of Russian society, the working class of Russia alone succeeded in this—not, of course, because it stood higher than the workers of other countries: on the contrary, it is still far behind them in organisation and class-consciousness. It succeeded in this because it relied at once on the experience of the workers of the whole world, both on their theoretical experience, on the achievements of their class-consciousness, their science and experience summed up by Marxism and on the practical experience of the proletarians of neighbouring countries, with their magnificent workers’ press and their mass organisations.
The Pravdist workers, having safeguarded their own line in the most difficult and painful of periods against persecution from without and against despondency, scepticism, timidity and betrayal within, can now say to themselves, with full awareness and resolution: we know that we are on the right path, but we are taking only the first steps along that path, and the principal difficulties still lie ahead of us, we still have to do a great deal to consolidate our own position completely, and to raise to conscious activity millions of backward, dormant and downtrodden proletarians.
Let the petty-bourgeois “fellow-travellers” of the proletariat, slavishly following the liberals, hold forth contemptuously against “the underground”, against “ advertising the illegal press”; let them cherish illusions about the June Third “legality”. We know the fragile nature of that “legality”, we shall not forget the historic lessons of the importance of an illegal press.
Developing further our “Pravdist” work, we shall push ahead with the purely newspaper side hand in hand with all sides of the workers’ cause.
Put Pravdy must be circulated in three, four and five times as many copies as today. We must put out a trade union supplement, and have representatives of all trade unions and groups on the editorial board. Our paper must have regional (Moscow, Urals, Caucasian, Baltic, Ukrainian) supplements. We must consolidate—despite all the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalists of all nations without exception—the unity of the workers of all the nationalities of Russia, and for this purpose, incidentally, start supplements in our paper devoted to the workers’ movement of the various nationalities of Russia.
Both the foreign department of Put Pravdy and the chronicle of the organisational, ideological and political life of the class-conscious workers should be expanded many times over.
We must create a kopek Vechernaya Pravda. Put Pravdy in its present shape is essential for the class-conscious worker and should be still further enlarged, but it is too dear, too difficult, too big for the worker in the street, for the rank-and-filer, for any of the millions not yet drawn into the movement. The advanced worker will never forget about them, for he knows that craft isolation, the emergence of a labour aristocracy and its separation from the masses mean degradation and brutalisation of the proletarian and his transformation into a miserable philistine, a pitiful flunkey; it means loss of all hope of his emancipation.
There is need to start a kopek Vechernaya Pravda, with a circulation of 200,000 or 300,000 copies in the very thick of the proletarian and semi-proletarian masses, showing them the light of the world-wide working-class movement, inspiring them with faith in their strength, impelling them towards unity and helping them to rise to full class-consciousness.
We must secure a much greater degree of organisation on the part of the readers of Put Pravdy than there is now, in their various factories, districts, etc., and more active participation in correspondence and running and circulating the paper. We must get the workers to take a regular part in editorial work.
We must have—there is in fact a great deal more that we must have! We cannot list here everything that we need; we would even be ridiculous (and worse) if we attempted here to enumerate all spheres, or even the principal fields of our work!
We know that we are on the right path. We know that we are marching hand in hand with the forward-looking workers of all countries. We know that this field of our work is only a small part of the whole, and that we are still at the beginning of our great road to emancipation. But we also know that nothing on earth can stop us on that road.