First published in 1926
Published according to
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972
First printing 1962
Second printing 1965
Third printing 1972
Translated from the Russian by
Abraham Fineberg and Julius Katzer
Edited by George Hanna
October 16, 1905
Many thanks for sending 1) the report of the Combat Committee and 2) a memorandum on the organisation of preparations for insurrection +3) a scheme of the organisation. After reading these documents, I think it my duty to write directly to the Combat Committee for a comradely exchange of opinions. I need hardly say that I do not undertake to judge of the practical side of the matter; there can be no doubt that everything possible is being done under the difficult conditions in Russia. However, judging by the documents, the whole thing threatens to degenerate into office routine. All these schemes, all these plans of organisation of the Combat Committee create the impression of red tape -- forgive me my frankness, but I hope that you will not suspect me of fault-finding. Schemes, and disputes and discussions about the functions of the Combat Committee and its rights, are of the least value in a matter like this. What is needed is furious energy, and again energy. It horrifies me -- I give you my word -- it horrifies me to find that there has been talk about bombs for over six months, yet not one has been made! And it is the most learned of people who are doing the talking. . . . Go to the youth, gentlemen! That is the only remedy! Otherwise -- I give you my word for it -- you will be too late (everything tells me that), and will be left with "learned" memoranda, plans, charts, schemes, and magnificent recipes, but without an organisation, without a living cause. Go to the youth. Form fighting squads at once everywhere,
among the students, and especially among the workers, etc., etc. Let groups be at once organised of three, ten, thirty, etc., persons. Let them arm themselves at once as best they can, be it with a revolver, a knife, a rag soaked in kerosene for starting fires, etc. Let these detachments at once select leaders, and as far as possible contact the Combat Committee of the St. Petersburg Committee. Do not demand any formalities, and, for heaven's sake, forget all these schemes, and send all "functions, rights, and privileges" to the devil. Do not make membership in the R.S.D.L.P. an absolute condition -- that would be an absurd demand for an armed uprising. Do not refuse to contact any group, even if it consists of only three persons; make it the one sole condition that it should be reliable as far as police spying is concerned and prepared to fight the tsar's troops. Let the groups join the R.S.D.L.P. or associate themselves with the R.S.D.L.P. if they want to; that would be splendid. But I would consider it quite wrong to insist on it.
The role of the Combat Committee of the St. Petersburg Committee should be to help these contingents of the revolutionary army, to serve as a "bureau" for contact purposes, etc. Any contingent will willingly accept your services, but if in such a matter you begin with schemes and with talk about the "rights" of the Combat Committee, you will ruin the whole cause; I assure you, you will ruin it irreparably.
You must proceed to propaganda on a wide scale. Let five or ten people make the round of hundreds of workers' and students' study circles in a week, penetrate wherever they can, and everywhere propose a clear, brief, direct, and simple plan: organise combat groups immediately, arm yourselves as best you can, and work with all your might; we will help you in every way we can, but do not wait for our help ; act for yourselves.
The principal thing in a matter like this is the initiative of the mass of small groups. They will do everything. Without them your entire Combat Committee is nothing. I am prepared to gauge the efficiency of the Combat Committee's work by the number of such combat groups it is in contact with. If in a month or two the Combat Committee does not have a minimum of 200 or 300 groups in St. Petersburg, then it is a dead Combat Committee. It will have to be
buried. If it cannot muster a hundred or two of groups in seething times like these, then it is indeed remote from real life.
The propagandists must supply each group with brief and simple recipes for making bombs, give them an elementary explanation of the type of the work, and then leave it all to them. Squads must at once begin military training by launching operations immediately, at once. Some may at once undertake to kill a spy or blow up a police station, others to raid a bank to confiscate funds for the insurrection, others again may drill or prepare plans of localities, etc. But the essential thing is to begin at once to learn from actual practice: have no fear of these trial attacks. They may, of course, degenerate into extremes, but that is an evil of the morrow, whereas the evil today is our inertness, our doctrinaire spirit, our learned immobility, and our senile fear of initiative. Let every group learn, if it is only by beating up policemen: a score or so victims will be more than compensated for by the fact that this will train hundreds of experienced fighters, who tomorrow will be leading hundreds of thousands.
I send you warm greetings, comrades, and wish you success. I have no desire to impose my views on you, but I consider it my duty to tender my word of advice.