Intelligentsia / Lenin to Gorky
15 September 1919
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
"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
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.
[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?