15 September 1919
Lenin to Gorky

English translation of Russian original


Sept. 15, 1919

Dear Aleksei Maksimovich [Gorky]!

I saw Tankov, and even before his visit and your letter, we had decided in the Central Committee [TSeka] to appoint Kamenev and Bukharin to review and confirm the arrests of the bourgeois intellectuals of the quasi-Constitutional Democrat [Kadet] stripe and to free everyone possible. For it is clear to us that here indeed mistakes were made.

It is also clear that, in general, the arrest of the Kadets and quasi-Kadets was the necessary and correct measure to take.

When I read your frank opinion on this subject, I recall a phrase you used during our conversations in London, Capri, and elsewhere that made a deep impression on me:

"We artists are irresponsible people."

Just so! What gives you cause to say these improbably angry words? This cause, that dozens or even hundreds of these Kadet and quasi-Kadet little gentlemen will spend several days in prison in order to prevent conspiracies similar to the surrendering of the Krasnaia Gorka Fort, conspiracies that threaten the lives of thousands of workers and peasants!

What a tragedy, you're thinking! What an injustice! Intellectuals in prison for several days or even weeks just to prevent the massacre of tens of thousands of workers and peasants!

"Artists are irresponsible people."

...Recently I read his [Korolenko's] War, Motherland, and Mankind, a pamphlet written in August 1917. Korolenko, you know, is the best of the "quasi-Kadets," almost a Menshevik. But what a vile, despicable, rotten defense of the imperialist war, dressed up with sugar-coated phrases! A pitiful petty bourgeois captivated by bourgeois prejudices! For such gentlemen, 10,000,000 men killed during an imperialist war is a matter deserving support (by deeds, while mouthing sugar-coated phrases "against" the war), but the death of hundreds of thousands in a just civil war against landlords and capitalists evokes only aahs, oohs, sighs, and hysteria.

No. It isn't a sin to jail such "men of talent" for short periods if that's what it takes to prevent plots (such as the one at Krasnaia Gorka) and the deaths of tens of thousands. We uncovered the conspiracies of the Kadets and quasi-Kadets. And we know that quasi-Kadet professors are giving assistance heart and soul to the conspirators. That is a fact.

The intellectual forces of the workers and peasants are growing and getting stronger in their fight to overthrow the bourgeoisie and their accomplices, the educated classes, the lackeys of capital, who consider themselves the brains of the nation. In fact they are not its brains but its shit.

We pay above-average salaries to those "intellectual forces" who want to bring learning to the people (rather than toadying to capital). That is a fact. We cherish them. That is a fact. Tens of thousands of officers are serving in the Red Army and are winning in spite of hundreds of traitors. That is a fact.

Regarding your frame of mind, I know how to "understand" it (once you asked whether I would understand you). Several times, on Capri and elsewhere, I told you, "You let yourself be surrounded by the worst elements of the bourgeois intelligentsia , and you give in to their whining. You hear and listen to the wail of hundreds of intellectuals about their "terrible" incarceration lasting several weeks, but you do not hear or listen to the voices of the masses, of millions -- workers and peasants -- who are threatened by Denikin, Kolchak, Lianozov, Rodzianko, the Krasnaia Gorka (and other Kadet) conspirators. I quite, quite understand that this is how you can end your letter with the statement that these "Reds are just as much enemies of the people as the Whites" (fighters for the overthrow of capitalists and landlords are just as much enemies of the people as are the capitalists and the landlords), or even end up believing in a tin divinity or in "our father the tsar." I quite understand.

Really and truly you will die* if you don't break away from this situation with the bourgeois intelligentsia. With all my heart I wish that you would break away as soon as possible.

Best regards

[signed] Yours, Lenin.

*But you're not writing! To waste yourself on the whining of decaying intellectuals and not to write -- is that not death for an artist, is that not a shame?

Created: 9 March 1996, 15:41:44 Last Updated: 9 March 1996, 15:41:44