Letter to the District Committees of the Petrograd Organisation of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks)

First published in 1925 in the journal Krasnaya Letopis (Red Annals), No. 3 (14).

Dear comrades,

I enclose a resolution of the Petrograd Committee concerning the establishment of a paper of its own, and two resolutions introduced by me on behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party at a meeting of the P.C. held on Tuesday, May 30.[1] Will you please discuss these three resolutions and give us your well-considered opinion on them in the fullest possible detail.

On the question as to whether a separate paper for the Petrograd organisation is needed or not, the P.C. [Petrograd Committee of the Bolshevik Party] and the C.C. [Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party] hold conflicting views. It is essential and desirable that the greatest possible number of Party members in Petrograd should take an active part in the discussion of this growing conflict and help, by their decision, to settle it.

The Executive of the P.C. has expressed itself unanimously in favour of a separate press organ for the Petrograd Committee, despite the C.C.’s decision to establish two newspapers in place of Pravda, the size of which is obviously inadequate. These two papers are: the old Pravda, as the Party’s Central Organ, and a small Narodnaya Pravda (the names of the two papers have not yet been definitely decided upon), as a popular organ for the masses. The two papers, according to the decision of the C.C., are to have a single editorial board, and the P.C. is to have a representative on each paper (one with a consultative voice on the Central Organ, and a voting representative on the popular organ). A Press Committee is to be set up (consisting of workers from the districts who are in close touch with the masses) and a definite number of columns in both papers are to be set aside for the needs of the local labour movement.

That is the plan of the C.C.

The Executive of the P.C., on the other hand, wants a special paper of its own. The Executive has decided upon this unanimously.

At the meeting of the P.C. held on May 30, after the report by Comrade M. Tomsky and his speech winding up the debate, after my own speech and the discussion in which many comrades participated, there was an equal division of votes—fourteen in favour of the Executive and fourteen against it. My motion was rejected by sixteen votes to twelve.

My own view is that there is no fundamental need for a special organ of the P.C. In view of the capital’s leading role and country-wide influence [Petrograd was the capital of Russia at the time], only one organ of the Party is needed there, namely, the Central Organ, and a popular pa per to be put out in a specially popular form by the same editorial board.

A special organ of the P.C. is bound to create obstacles towards harmonious work and may even give rise to different lines (or shadings) of policy, which would be extremely harmful, especially at a time of revolution.

Why should we split up our forces?

We are all terribly overworked and have few people to do the work; the party writers are siding more and more with the defencists. Under the circumstances we cannot afford any dispersion of efforts.

We must concentrate our efforts, not disperse them.

Are there any grounds for mistrusting the C.C., for believing that it will not select the editorial board properly, or not give sufficient space in both papers to local activities, or that it will “bully” the P.C.’s editors, who will be in the minority, and so on?

In my second draft resolution I specially listed some of these arguments (which I heard mentioned at the P.C. meeting on May 30) in order to put the issue frankly before all members of the Party so as to make them weigh each of the two arguments carefully and arrive at a well-considered decision.

If you, comrades, have weighty and serious reasons for not trusting the C.C., then say so openly. It is the duty of every member of our democratically organised Party to do so, and then it would be the duty of our Party’s C.C. to give special consideration to this distrust of yours, report it to the Party congress and enter into special negotiations with a view to overcoming this deplorable lack of confidence in the C.C. on the part of the local organisation.

If there is no such lack of confidence, then it is unfair and wrong to challenge the C.C.’s right, vested in it by the Party congress, to direct the activities of the Party in general and its activities in the capital in particular.

Is our C.C. asking too much in wanting to direct the Petrograd papers? It is not. In the German Social-Democratic Party, in its best days, when Wilhelm Liebknecht stood at the head of the party for scores of years, he was the editor of the party’s Central Organ. The C.O. was published in Berlin. The Berlin organisation never had a special Berlin paper of its own. There was a Press Committee of workers, and there was a local section in the party’s Central Organ. Why should we depart from this good example which our comrades in other countries have set us?

If you, comrades, desire special guarantees from the C.C., if you want changes made in one or another point of the C.C.’s plan for the establishment of two papers, I would ask you on behalf of the C.C to carefully consider the matter and present your views.

I believe that the decision of the P.C.’s Executive to establish a special newspaper in Petrograd is utterly wrong and undesirable, because it splits up our forces and introduces into our Party the elements of conflict. In my opinion—and on this point I merely voice the view of the C.C.—it is desirable that the Petrograd organisation should support the decision of the C.C., give itself time to check results from the experience of the two papers working according to the C.C.’s plan, and then, if need be, pass a special decision on the results of that experiment.

With comradely Social-Democratic greetings,

May 31, 1917

N. Lenin


[1] See p. 545 [Draft Resolutions Introduced] of this volume.—Ed.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.