Lenin Collected Works: Volume 43: Preface by Progress Publishers

Lenin Collected Works:
Volume 43

Preface by Progress Publishers

Volume 43 contains letters, notes and telegrams written from 1893 to the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917 and published in volumes 46, 47, 48 and 49 of the Fifth (Russian) Edition of the Collected Works. They are an essential complement to the correspondence published in volumes 34, 35 and 36 of the present edition.

Noteworthy are Lenin's letters to P. P. Maslov relating to the beginnings of the working-class movement and the early spread of Marxism in Russia. They reveal his keen interest in the economic situation in Russia and contain a scientific critique of the economic views of the liberal Narodniks (V. Y. Postnikov, V. P. Vorontsov, and others).

Included in the present volume are many documents from the period of struggle for the creation of a Marxist party in Russia. Uncompromising struggle against Right opportunism (Economism and, later, Menshevism) and the anarchistic petty-bourgeois revolutionariness of the Left Narodniks, on the one hand, and against bourgeois liberalism, which sought to subordinate the working-class and democratic movement to its ends, on the other, is the main theme of the letters written in this period.

Stressing the need to build an independent proletarian Marxist party of a new type, Lenin underscored the importance of open political struggle against opportunists of all shades, for the political independence and unity of the working class movement in Russia. “Of course," he wrote, “struggle in the press will cause more ill feeling and give us a good many hard knocks, but we are not so thin-skinned as to fear knocks! To wish for struggle without knocks, differences without struggle, would be the height of naïveté, and if the struggle is waged openly it ... will lead, I repeat, a hundred times faster to lasting unity” (p. 48).

The letters throw light on the vast effort Lenin invested into founding Iskra, the first all-Russia political newspaper, and the journal Zarya, which played an exceptional role in the establishment of a Marxist party of the new type. All of Lenin's editorial and organisational work, which ranged from laying down the ideological guidelines, selecting the authors and discussing and reviewing the materials submitted for publication to the transportation and circulation of the paper in Russia, is vividly reflected in these letters.

A number of letters written after the Second Congress of the Party have been included in this volume. They do much to round out the picture of the struggle waged by the Bolsheviks against the Menshevik splitters, showing how, at a time when the Menshevik leaders sought to break up the united party that had just taken shape, Lenin passionately fought for its unity, to prevent the division of local Party organisations. Of particular interest are the letters to Yelena Stasova, F. V. Lengnik, V. P. Nogin, and I. I. Radchenko, and to the Moscow and other local Party committees.

Stressing the revolutionary services rendered by the old Iskra and exposing the Mensheviks, including Trotsky, who denied in a slanderous pamphlet the importance of both Iskra and the Second Party Congress, Lenin wrote: "Beading a pamphlet of this kind you can see clearly that the 'Minority' has indulged in so much lying and falsehood that it will be incapable of producing anything viable, and one wants to fight, here there is something worth fighting for” (p. 129).

The letters show what colossal effort Lenin devoted to restoring the central institutions of the Party, launching the Bolsheviks' Central Organ, the newspaper Vperyod, and preparing for the Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

This volume also contains a number of letters relating to the period of the first Russian revolution, shedding light on the tactics of the Bolsheviks in the bourgeois-democratic revolution. For instance, the letter to l'Humanité correspondent Etienne Avenard demonstrates the importance of the hegemony of the proletariat in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the correctness of the Bolshevik tactical line and the need for the alliance of the proletariat and the democratic peasantry against the “baseness and treachery of the bourgeoisie, who are day by day becoming more and more counter-revolutionary” (p. 174).

A considerable number of letters relate to the period of reaction, among them many to Camille Huysmans, Secretary of the International Socialist Bureau of the Second International, with whom Lenin corresponded in the capacity of representative of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. There are also letters to other leaders of the international working-class movement testifying to the broad connections Lenin and the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. had with this movement. They illustrate the unflagging struggle Lenin waged against opportunism, for revolutionary tactics in the working-class movement, for unity in the ranks of the revolutionary Marxists and for the fraternal solidarity of the working people the world over.

A notable place among the letters of this period is occupied by correspondence bearing on the struggle against the Mensheviks and Trotsky, who impeded and sabotaged the work of the Party's central institutions, and also against the Vperyod group, the otzovists and ultimatumists, whose “Left” phraseology and adventuristic policy threatened to isolate the Party from the working class, to divorce it from the masses, and virtually to liquidate it. Lenin exposed the organisation by the otzovists of a Party school on Capri as a factional scheme and worked for a long time to organise a real Party school for revolutionary workers.

The letters written in the period of the new revolutionary upswing deal with the consolidation of the under ground proletarian party and with the struggle against liquidationism. Liquidationism, which first asserted itself among the Mensheviks in the period of reaction, continued to cause great harm to the, working class and its Party even after a new upsurge had begun in the revolutionary movement. Combating the liquidators, who underrated illegal work and urged renouncing underground methods, Lenin focussed the attention of Party cadres on combining illegal and legal forms of activity—utilisation of the Duma rostrum, participation in workers' funds and other legal societies, etc. This volume includes several documents exposing the conference called by the liquidators, who set up the short-lived August anti-Party bloc.

A number of letters are directed against the conciliators. “You cannot sit between two stools," Lenin wrote, “either you are with the liquidators or against them” (p. 271). These letters afford an idea of the difference between the tactics used to combat the anti-Party trends and the approach to those who sought reconciliation with these trends. While calling for uncompromising struggle against the liquidators on the main issues of principle, Lenin counselled taking a different line towards the conciliators, explaining things to them in order to win them over. In a letter to L. B. Kamenev commenting on the latter's pamphlet Two Tactics, he wrote: “We must not call for a break with the conciliators. This is quite uncalled for and incorrect. A 'persuasive' tone should be adopted towards them, by no means should they be antagonised” (p. 279).

The irreconcilable struggle waged by the Bolsheviks against the liquidators ended in the expulsion of the latter from the Party at the Sixth (Prague) Conference.

The volume includes a large number of letters to the editorial boards of the legal Bolshevik newspapers Zvezda, Nevskaya Zvezda, and especially Pravda. The advice contained in these letters (as well as his articles) determined the political and ideological orientation of Pravda, its uncompromising stand towards the liquidators and their news paper Luch. In the spring of 1913 Pravda was reorganised, its contents greatly improved and its size increased in accordance with Lenin's instructions. Congratulating the editors and staff on the improvement of content, Lenin set the task of fighting “to win 100,000 readers.... The great (and sole) danger for Pravda now is the loss of the broad reader ship, loss of a position to fight for it” (p. 350).

A prominent place is occupied by documents written in connection with the preparations for and the convocation of many Party conferences and meetings. These include letters in which Lenin gives his assessment of the Cracow and Poronin meetings of the C.C. with Party functionaries, the Fourth Congress of the Latvian Social-Democrats, etc. Speaking of the Cracow meeting held in January 1913, Lenin wrote: “It's going wonderfully. It will be no less significant than the 1912 January Conference. There will be resolutions on all important issues, unity included” (p. 327).

The volume includes many letters written to Inessa Armand in connection with the convocation of the Brussels “unity” conference by the International Socialist Bureau in July 1914. Guided by Lenin's instructions, the delegation of the Central Committee exposed at this conference the harm caused by liquidationism and called for unity of the working-class movement from below. The liquidators did not achieve their ends, the support given them by international opportunism did not yield the results they had expected. “The liquidators' last card is the help of the foreign organisations, but that card, too, will be beaten," Lenin wrote (p. 424).

The large number of letters written during the imperialist world war (1914-17) afford an idea of the tremendous theoretical and practical work Lenin accomplished in elaborating and propagating the Bolshevik tactics of struggle against imperialist war, and of his uncompromising attitude towards social-chauvinism and Kautskyism. The letters to V. A. Karpinsky, Sophia Ravich, G. L. Shklovsky, M. N. Pokrovsky and others throw light on the circumstances in which some of Lenin's most important articles and books were written and published—Socialism and War, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, etc. The letters are a complement to such works as “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, “The Junius Pamphlet”, “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism” and others, and offer a model of the creative approach to the revolutionary theory of Marxism. In them Lenin, through profound study and generalisation of the historical experience of proletarian class struggle, outlines the tasks of international Social Democracy and the working-class movement at the time of the imperialist world war, and develops the fundamental Marxist propositions concerning just and unjust wars and the defence of the country. The volume also contains letters criticising the anti-Marxist views of N. I. Bukharin, G. L. Pyatakov and Yevgenia Bosh. Firmly and consistently upholding the basic principles of Marxism, Lenin combated at the same time the conciliatory position taken by G. Y. Zinoviev.

The letters to V. A. Karpinsky reflect the tremendous practical work done by Lenin in connection with the resumption of publication of Sotsial-Demokrat, the Central Organ of the Party. Transporting the paper to Russia, arrangements with contributors and many other things all the way to minor details (type and paper) claimed his attention. For instance, in a letter to Karpinsky dated November 22, 1914, he wrote: “Write and let us know for how many issues you have thin paper. If there is plenty (we shall probably get some more from Paris) and if it is not too bad for local use, we shall increase the % of thin paper” (p. 436).

Despite the difficulty of establishing contacts with the local Party organisations, the Central Committee headed by Lenin arranged for the circulation in Russia of Bolshevik literature exposing the imperialist character of the war, educating the workers, soldiers and peasants politically and teaching them how to combat the war, and calling on them to rise against their own exploiters. The Central Committee maintained contact with the Party organisations in Russia through Stockholm and later through Oslo, where A. G. Shlyapnikov was representative of the Central Committee and the Petersburg Committee at the time. Some of the letters to Shlyapnikov may therefore be regarded as letters to the Central Committee Bureau in Russia. Contact with Russia was maintained also through M. M. Litvinov, Alexandra Kollontai, and others.

Lenin attached prime importance to rallying the forces of the Left Social-Democrats in the various countries of Europe and America. Included in the present volume are his letters to Left Social-Democrats in Holland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and other countries. He arranged for the circulation of the Central Organ, Bolshevik publications, resolutions of the Conference of R.S.D.L.P. Groups Abroad, etc., among the revolutionary Social-Democrats of many countries, and established personal contacts with them. In a letter to H. Gorter he supported the idea of founding an international journal of the Left Social-Democrats to counter the social-chauvinists' mean way of “defending opportunism of the worst brand by means of sophisms” (p. 453). In a letter to David Wijnkoop Lenin pointed out: “What we need is not the solemn declarations of leaders ... but a consistent revolutionary declaration of principles to help the workers find the correct path” (p. 478).

From the beginning of the war, when the Second Inter national collapsed ideologically and politically and in effect broke up, with the various Social-Democratic parties at loggerheads with one another, Lenin advocated the establishment of a Third International to include the Left, genuinely revolutionary internationalists. Writing to G. Y. Zinoviev, he said: “I am sending Wijnkoop's letter. Return it immediately.... I shall snatch at this 'little kernel' of a Left International with both hands. We must work as hard as we can to get closer together with them” (p. 461).

A number of letters deal with the preparations for the Zimmerwald and Kienthal International Socialist Conferences and also the popularisation of their decisions. In the course of the preparatory work for the Kienthal Conference Lenin advised the Dutch internationalists to contact the minority of the British Socialist Party and urge them to send “either a representative, or at least a declaration. If, as a result of this conference, we receive ... a Left Marxist international declaration of principles, it will be a very useful thing” (p. 482).

Of particular interest are the letters written in early 1917 and in the last days spent by Lenin abroad, when it became known that the February bourgeois-democratic revolution had been successful. They constitute a valuable addition to other Lenin documents containing an analysis of the revolutionary developments in Russia and the new tasks he set before the proletarian party, the workers, peas ants and soldiers. Several letters relate to arrangements for Lenin's return, together with other Party workers, from Switzerland to Russia.

The volume closes with a note to Margarita Fofanova written late at night on October 24 (November 6), 1917: “I am going where you did not want me to go. Good-bye. Ilyich” (p. 638). Lenin had left for the Smolny, the headquarters of the revolution, to lead the October armed uprising.

Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.C., C.P.S.U.

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