Soziales aus Russland:
The Polemic between Friedrich Engels and Petr Tkachev,

A quick translation, annotation and contextualization of key documents
for the students of Russian political culture

© 2010fe:Alan Kimball

((I am much indebted to Sven Gormsen for his assistance in the translation of Engels' third and fourth "Flüchtlingsliteratur...,"
"Vorbemerkung," and "Nachwort."))

Chronology of texts
which serves as a table of contents for what follows =

[0] Ein Komplott gegen die Internationale (Den Haag: 1873)
[1] Lavrov, "Letopis'..." (Zurich:1873)
* [2] Tkachev, "Zadachi..." (London:1874)
[3] Lavrov, "Russkoi...molodezhi" (London:1874)
* [4] Engels, "Flüchtlings..., III" (October 1874)
* [5] Tkachev, "Offener Brief..." (Fall 1874)
[6] Engels, "Flüchtlings..., IV" (Mar.-Ap. 1875)
[7] Engels, "Flüchtlings..., V" (April 1875)
[8] Engels, "Vorbemerkung" (April 1875)
[9] Engels, "Nachwort" (1894)

The polemical exchanges which are the subject of this web page were set in motion by the collapse of the International Workingmen's Association ("First International"). As it fell apart, the Hague Congress of the First International officially censored and expelled the associates of the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin's rival Alliance of Socialist Democracy. Bakunin's 1872 self defense has long been available to the reading public [TXT].

Friedrich Engels' brochure "Soziales aus Russland" ("Flüchtlings...V") has been widely published (e.g., Selected Works, ii [1958], pp. 49-61; and on the internet below).  The 1894 Afterword has lately been translated and published on the internet below. But the 1875 Introduction appears still to be unavailable in English. In other words, items number 7 and 9 in the chronology above, without number 8 attached, is apparently the only part of the polemic currently available in English. Lavrov's and Tkachev's contributions to the polemic have never appeared in English, to my knowledge. Nor has the full range of Engels' contribution. Nor has the full context of this debate been laid out with the central texts. The Marx/Engels Archive on the internet helps by providing key texts that illustrate how the views of Marx and Engels on Russia matured over the years. The purpose of this web page is provide the Russian side of the 1874-1875 polemics and to flesh out Engels' contributions, better to understand the European social-democratic context.


[0] Ein Komplott gegen die Internationale (Den Haag: 1873)

<>1873su:An official investigatory commission of the First International presented the evidence and arguments against Bakunin and his associates =

English translation of this TXT

<>1874wi:This report, originally in French, was translated into German and published as Ein Komplott gegen die Internationale [A conspiracy ("Plot") against the International] (Braunschweig).

German TXT


[1] Lavrov, "Letopis'..." (Zurich:1873)

<>1873au:1874; Lavrov published "Letopis' rabochego dvizheniia" [Chronicle of the workers' movement] in his journal Vpered! [Forward] vols. 1 (Zurich:1873) and 2 (Zurich:1874). Lavrov here dealt with the Marx-Bakunin split and the spectacular negative publicity aroused by the publication of Ein Komplott. Lavrov emphasized the harm caused international socialism in general and refused to take sides. He argued that polemics among socialists damaged the general cause.


[2] Tkachev, "Zadachi..." (London:1874)

<>1874ap:Tkachev wrote brochure, "Zadachi revoliutsionnoi propagandy v Rossii" [Tasks of revolutionary propaganda in Russia] (London). Tkachev had come abroad from Russia to London to join the editorial board of Vpered! (which had moved its offices from Zurich to London), he concluded that he could not work with the "moderate revolutionist" Lavrov and in secret composed and published a harsh polemic against the journal Vpered!. Tkachev was not inspired directly or singly by Lavrov's article "Letopis'...". He reacted to the whole complex of Lavrovist ideas about the need to put agitation and propaganda at the center of party tasks.


[3] Lavrov, "Russkoi...molodezhi" (London:1874)

<>1874:Lavrov had spoken out against divisive polemics in connection with the Marx-Bakunin split in the First International, and he now found himself caught in the middle of a polemic with the young and brash Tkachev = Lavrov wrote "Russkoi sotsial'no-revoliutsionnoi molodezhi" [To the Russian social-revolutionary youth] (London).


[4] Friedrich Engels, "Flüchtlingsliteratur, III" (October 1874)

<>1874jy:se; Engels wrote "Flüchtlingsliteratur, III," [Emigrant literature no. 3] for the journal Der Volksstaat [Government of the people], no. 117 (6 October) and no. 118 (8 October), reacting peevishly to Lavrov's refusal to join sides in the Marx-Bakunin struggle and, particularly, assaulting Lavrov's account of the struggle in "Letopis'...." Engels chided Lavrov for his polemic with Tkachev. After all, Lavrov criticized the Marx-Bakunin struggle, all in the name of "unity." Engels used Tkachev to make this point, offhandedly belittling Tkachev along the way. Here at the beginning of Engels' essays, Tkachev was little more than a convenient polemical device. Engels could not have guessed what a storm he was unleashing.

Here are Engels’ words =

In London a Russian review named Vpered! (Forward) is published on a non-periodic schedule. It is edited by a personally highly honorable scholar whose name we are not allowed to mention, in accordance with the rigorous etiquette prevailing in Russian political emigrant literature. For example, even those Russians who pass themselves off as downright revolutionary cannibals, who insist that it is treason against the revolution to respect anything, even they, in their polemics, respect anonymity with a conscientiousness which is comparable only to the sort we find in the English bourgeois press. They even respect it when it is ridiculous to do so, when all Russian émigrés and the Russian government know the name perfectly well. It would never enter our minds needlessly to expose such a well-kept secret. But since the child has to have a name we hope the editor of "Forward" will forgive us if for the sake of brevity in this article we call him by the popular Russian name Peter. [The editor was, of course, Peter Lavrov.]

Our friend Peter is, with respect to his philosophy, an eclectic who chooses the best things from all the different systems and theories: examine everything and keep the best! He knows that everything has its good side and its bad side, and that the real task is to choose the good side of everything without also taking the bad side. Therefore, since everything -- every person and every theory -- is in this respect about as good and as bad as the next, it would thus [536/7] be foolish to esteem one over the other. Consequently the struggles and quarrels among revolutionists and socialists must seem tasteless [ Abgeschmaktheiten], serving no purpose but to delight the enemy. Nothing is more natural than for a person who thinks this way to try to reconcile all those who fight among themselves, seriously urging them to cease presenting such a scandalous spectacle to the forces of reaction and to concentrate their attack on the common enemy. This is all the more understandable in the case where the person has just come in from Russia where, as we all know, the workers' movement is so far advanced.

So "Forward" is full of admonitions for the unity of all socialists or at least for the avoidance of all public discord. When the Bakunists tried to subjugate the International to their power by false pretences, fraud and lies, and when they caused the notorious split in the association, it was again "Forward" that urged unity. This unity could be achieved only by doing at once what the Bakunists wished, surrendering the International, bound hand and foot, to their secret conspiracy. One would have to be unscrupulous to do this, so the challenge was taken up. The Hague Congress made its choice, threw the Bakunists out, and voted to publish reports on the justifications for the expulsion.

So loud were the lamentations from the editorial board of "Forward" that it seemed they were ready to sacrifice the whole workers' movement for the sake of their beloved "unity." But even greater was their horror when the compromising documents were published in the report of the committee (see Ein Komplott gegen die Internationale [German edition, Braunschweig, Bracke]). Let "Forward" speak for itself:

This publication...bears the character of spiteful polemic against persons who stand in the first ranks of the federalists...its pages are filled with private matters which are nothing more than a gathering of rumours the incredibility of which should thus have been obvious to the authors.

And to show the people who carried out the decision of the Hague Congress what an enormous crime they had committed, "Forward" points to a column written by a certain Karl Thaler in Neue Freie Presse, which [537/8]

having originated in the bourgeois sphere deserves special attention, because it demonstrates most clearly that the pamphlets written by those who are struggling for power in the workers' ranks, accusing one another, are helping the common enemies of the working class, the bourgeoisie and the government.

Let us first notice that the Bakunists are introduced here as "federalists" in contrast to the alleged " centralists," suggesting that the author believes in this non-existent contradiction invented by the Bakunists. We will soon discover however that this contradiction does not in fact exist. Let us secondly notice the author's conclusion that real revolutionaries were not allowed to expose the solely pretender revolutionaries, because mutual accusations of this sort amuse the bourgeoisie and the government; he draws this conclusion from a feuilleton written to order in a bourgeois paper that is offered for sale as such. I think Neue Fr. Presse and all such journalistic riff-raff could write 10,000 feuilletons without ever having the least bit of influence on the attitudes of the German workers party. Every struggle includes moments in which it is impossible to prevent the enemy from having a certain satisfaction unless one wants to come to positive grief oneself. We have been fortunate enough to reach a point where we can permit the enemy this private pleasure in order to gain thereby a real success.

But the main accusation is that the report was full of private matters whose credibility the author felt obliged to question because they were collected merely by hearsay. We do not discover just where friend Peter learned that an organization like the International, with its regular agencies all over the civilized world, gathered these facts merely by hearsay. His assertion is however very ill considered. The facts in question are verified in authentic documents, and those concerned have taken care not to deny them.

But friend Peter is of the opinion that private things like private letters are sacred and may not be made public in political debates. If this position is maintained uniformly, then all history would be prohibited along with it. Louis XV's relationship with Du Barry or Pompadour was a private matter but without it the full background to the French Revolution would be incomprehensible. Or take a step closer to the present: If an innocent Isabella is forced into marriage with a man whom the experts (for example assessor Ulrich) say could not stand women and loved only men, if this neglected Isabella takes [538/539] men wherever she finds them, then this is a purely private matter. But if the aforesaid innocent Isabella is Queen of Spain and one of the young men she keeps is a young officer named Serrano, if this Serrano is first promoted to Fieldmarshal and Prime Minister as a reward for heroic deeds performed tête-a-tête and is then pushed aside and overthrown by another of the Queen's favorites, and is forced to chase his unfaithful sweetheart out of the country with the help of other fellow-sufferers, and finally after all sorts of adventures even becomes dictator of Spain and such a great man that Bismarck does everything to have the great powers acknowledge him--then the private story between Isabella and Serrano becomes a piece of Spanish history. And he who would write about Spanish history and conceal this piece from his readers would quite certainly falsify history. And if the history of a gang like the Alliance is written in which there are to be found, besides the deceived, such a collection of deceivers, adventurers, rogues, police spies, swindlers and cowards, should this history be falsified by passing over in silence the individual villainy of those gentlemen because it is "a private matter?" Friend Peter may become upset about it, but he may be assured that we are a long way from being finished with those "private matters." The material piles higher and higher.


[5] Petr Tkachev, "Offener Brief an Herrn Friedrich Engels"

<>1874fa:Tkachev published a polemical brochure, "Offener Brief an Herrn Friedrich Engels" [Open letter to Mr Friedrich Engels] (Zurich), Translated in Izbranie sochinenii..., 3:88-98, as "Otkrytoe pis'mo gospodinu Friedrikhu Engel'su, avtoru statei 'Emigrantskaia literature' v 117 i 118 NoNo. Volksstaat'a, god 1874". Tkachev posed issues that went quite a bit beyond Engels' original intent.

Here is his text =

Dear Sir:

In numbers 117 and 118 of Volksstaat you devoted two lead articles to Russian émigré literature, or, more precisely, to a journal Vpered! published abroad and to a brochure published by me, "Zadachi revoliutsionnoi propagandy v Rossii," which of course represent but a small portion of Russian émigré literature.

In writing these articles you were guided, generally speaking, by a praiseworthy desire first of all to inform the German revolutionary workers' party about the goals of Russian revolutionists, and secondly to give the latter a bit of advice and practical instruction which in your view were very much in their interests to abide. What a wonderful goal! But in order to achieve wonderful goals one must unfortunately have more than good intentions. One must additionally be in possession of a certain degree of understanding. And this bit of knowledge is just what you do not have.

Your instructional lessons therefore are bound to inspire in us Russians the very same feelings that would be inspired in you too no doubt if you were to have the experience of some Chinaman or Japanese who had casually studied the German language but who had not in this connection visited Germany, and who had not read any of German literature, but who had suddenly conceived the original thought to give a lesson from the heights of his Chinese or Japanese grandeur to the German revolutionists about what they must do and what they must not do. But this Chinaman's pronouncements could only be extremely funny and altogether harmless.

It is quite another matter with respect to your pronouncements. They are not only funny in the highest degree, they are also able to do great harm. You describe us, the representatives of the Russian social-revolutionary party abroad, our goals and our [88/89] literature, in a light which is most unfavorable to us. You present us this way to the world of German laborers, who are themselves insufficiently well informed about us, and who are of necessity forced to believe the words of a man who speaks in the tones of a self-assured authority, particularly since this is a man who is taken by them to be a grand personage.

By presenting us this way you are in offence of the fundamental principles of the program of the International Morking Men's Association. This situation does not prevent you however from inviting us in the conclusion of your last article to unite with you in order to avoid the possibility of causing even one bit of harm.

It must be well known to you that we Russians are the first to extend a brotherly hand to the great union of West European workers, that we have taken a most active part in this union, more active than our interests recommended perhaps. But unfortunately it was impossible for you to understand that although we were in full solidarity with the fundamental socialist principles of the European workers' party, we were at the same time unable also to be in solidarity with the party's tactics. We will never be in solidarity, could never be (least of all with that faction at the head of which Mr Marx and Engels stand) with respect to questions which touch exclusively on the practical realization of these principles and the revolutionary struggle for them.

The character of our country is absolutely exceptional, it has nothing in common with the character of any other nation of western Europe. The means of struggle taken up by the latter are, to say the least, completely inappropriate to our struggle. We require an absolutely unique revolutionary program which must be as different from the German program as the social-political conditions in Germany are different from those in Russia. To judge our program from the German point of view (i.e., from the point of view of the social conditions of the German people) would be just as absurd as to look upon the German program from the Russian point of view. You do not understand this, you are unable to take the Russian point of view, but you nonetheless make so bold as to open deliberations with us and to give us advice!

If it were possible to imagine that this boldness and ignorance will not certainly discredit the Russian revolutionary emigration in general, or that the German public will be able to check your information, then I would not seek your attention with my letter. Unfortunately it is not possible to imagine any such thing. I therefore feel it my obligation to do something to alleviate your ignorance in order somewhat to restrain your insolence.


Let it be known to you, first of all, that we in Russia have at our disposal not even one of those revolutionary means of struggle which are to be found in the West in general and in Germany in particular. We have no urban proletariat, we have no freedom of the press, no representative assemblies, in a word nothing that would grant us the right even to hope someday to unite the frightened, crippled, ignorant masses of the laboring people (if it should be that the economic status quo remains unaltered) in a well-structured and disciplined union of all workers who understand fully what their situation is and furthermore what the means for its improvement are. A workers' literature is unthinkable in Russia, but even if it were a possibility it would be absolutely useless because the immense majority of our people are unable to read. Direct personal involvement with the people is hardly able to yield significant long-term results, but even if this were able to be of actual use, it is absolutely impossible in Russia. On the basis of a state decree handed down not so long ago, every attempt of the educated classes to grow close to the "dark" (that's what we call them) peasants would be taken to be some degree of state crime. It is possible to live among the people proper only if you dress up in strange clothes and carry a false passport.

You would, you will agree, my dear sir, that under such circumstances as these, to dream of introducing the International Working Men's Association onto Russian soil would be more than childish. This circumstance need not lead you however to the thought that the victory of the socialist revolution in Russia is more problematic or less likely than in the West. Not in the least degree! If we are not blessed with those positive circumstances that are found among you, we might still mention a number of other circumstances that are not found among you [sic? us?].

The urban proletariat does not exist among us, this is of course true. But for that reason we do not have a bourgeoisie either. Between the suffering people and the state which suppresses them, there is no middle class among us. Our workers are faced only with a struggle against a political power; capitalist power is found in Russia up to now only in embryo.

You, dear sir, must know that the struggle with the first is considerably easier than with the second.

Our people are ignorant [undeveloped], and that's a fact. But for that reason the folk, for the most part (particularly in the northern, central, north- and south-easterly parts of Russia) have instilled in them the princi- [90/91] ple of communal rule. The folk are, so to speak, communist by instinct, by tradition. The idea of collective property is so firmly infused in the world view of the Russia people that now when the state begins to understand that this idea is not compatible with its principles of "well-ordered" society, and when in the name of these principles it sets out to introduce into popular consciousness and popular life the idea of private property, it finds itself forced for this purpose to seek the help of bayonets and the whip.

From this it is clear that our people, despite their ignorance [lack of development; lack of culture], stand significantly closer to socialism than the peoples of Western Europe, although the latter are more educated [developed; cultured].

Our people are accustomed to slavery and submission--true, it is impossible to dispute that. But you must not conclude from this that they are content with their lot. No, they protest, and they protest without interruption... [sic] Whatever form this protest takes, whether it be the form of religious sects--"raskol" as we call them--or the form of a refusal to pay taxes, or the form of bands of thieves or arsonists, or even, finally, the form of uprising or open opposition to authority--the people are always protesting, and occasionally quite energetically. You cannot of course know anything about all this: Europe is never informed about this, and even in Russia it is forbidden to speak out loud about this.

These protests, it is true, are inconsequential and disorganized. Nonetheless they do to a very considerable degree clearly indicate that the condition of the people has become unbearable and that they are employing every means to give vent to the feeling of anger and hatred of their oppressors which swells inside them. That is why one may call the Russian people instinctive revolutionists, despite their apparent crudity, despite the absence of a clear understanding among them of their interests.

Our intelligentsia revolutionary party is small in number--this is also true. But for that very reason they do not pursue any other ideals except socialist ideals, and their enemies are, if you please, still less strong than they, their very strengthlessness comes to the aid of our weakness. Our upper classes (the aristocracy and merchantry) have developed no strength, neither economic (they are too poor for that) nor political (they are too undeveloped and excessively given to faith in the great wisdom of the police). Our clergy is quite devoid of significance, either among the people or beyond them.

Our state only gives the appearance of power when viewed from afar. In actuality its strength is only apparent, imaginary. It has no roots in the economic life of the people, it does not have embodied in it the interests of a particular class [ sosloviia]. The state equally sup- [91/92] presses all social classes [ klassy], and all social classes equally hate the state. The classes of society patiently suffer the state, they apparently tolerate its barbaric despotism with absolute indifference. But this patience, this indifference should not mislead us. It is merely the product of deception: society has created for itself the illusion of Russian state power and finds itself under a spell cast by this illusion.

The state, for its part, tries of course to sustain the illusion. But with every day this becomes all the more difficult. Fifteen years ago, directly after the Crimean War, the Russian state became convinced that very little was needed in order to break the state into parts.

Indeed, very little is needed--two or three military defeats, simultaneous uprising of the peasants in several provinces, open rebellion in the capital in time of peace--and that spell under which the middle and higher social classes [ klassy] still to some degree find themselves will swiftly break, and the state will stand alone, altogether desolate.

You see therefore that in this respect also we have greater chances for success of our revolution than you. Your state is not merely an apparent power. It stands with both feet in money. It embodies in itself defined economic interests. It is supported not only by police and the army (as with us), but also the whole order of the bourgeois regime strengthens it. And until you pull down that regime, there can be no thought among you about victory over the state. In Russia a quite opposite relationship obtains--our social formation [forma; structure] exists thanks to the state, to a state which, so to speak, hangs in thin air, to a state which has nothing in common with the current social structure, and the roots of which are to be found in the past, not in the present.

After all this exposition you will certainly recognize that we who believe in the possibility and practicability of a Russian social revolution in the near future, we are not idle dreamers, not "green high school lads [ gimnazisty]" (as you are pleased to call us), but that we stand on firm ground, that our faith is not built on sand, and that they are much more precisely a logical conclusion drawn from what we know about the conditions of life of the Russian people.

Perhaps you now have grasped why and just how our path of revolutionary activity cannot correspond to yours? First of all, for us in Russia no variety of open struggle is possible against the existing or- [92/93] der of things. Our laws, our institutions do not allow us the slightest opportunity to distribute our propaganda on a legal basis. You now have that opportunity: this is fortunate, but it may be that it is also unfortunate. But there was a time when even you were denied this opportunity. What did you do then? You formed secret societies and associations, but engaged in underground activities. Why do you hold our conspiracy in reproach? If we were forced to abandon conspiracy, secret underground activity, then we would be forced to abandon all revolutionary activity whatsoever.

But you chastise us also because we are here, in western Europe, where in your view one may operate without secret conspiracy, and because even here we show no inclination to abandon our conspiratorial habits, as a result of which we are a blot (your expression) on the international workers' movement and even do it harm. You are forgetting in this that independently of us and beyond us there are in the West in a majority of "well structured" states circumstances which powerfully promote the development of secret, conspiratorial activity. In Spain, Italy, France there is not the slightest opportunity to carry on social-revolutionary propaganda, and the Italian revolutionists appeared before the Brussels Congress [of the International Working Men's Association] to declare that they were faced with the necessity to adopt a secret, conspiratorial form in their activity.

It is possible that even Germany in the near future will find itself in the same position. Can it be that you have not noticed that, thanks to the sharp shooting of the police, now only a fragment remains of that shield of legality with which you so vainly strive to defend the German workers? One need not be a prophet to predict with confidence that very soon even these few fragments will be wrenched from your hands. What will you do then? One of two things: either do nothing or enter into conspiracy. You will not discover another solution, just as we have not discovered another solution.

But for us it is not only true that no form of open propaganda is imaginable (not even the sort of propaganda put about in Germany), but also for us a secret organization of workers in one or several social-revolutionary societies (like the Spanish or Italian) is equally unimaginable. It is unimaginable for the following reasons:

1) the immense majority of our workers are agricultural and as such they are not a proletariat (as in England) but they are property holders. They are members of small obshchinas which completely isolate them from one another. None of their general interests bind them [93/94] together (at least beyond the "volost", and they are accustomed to deciding questions which touch on their interests from a narrow, local point of view.

[Tkachev attached a footnote = "Volost" is the word applied in Russia to a specific administrative unit which represents a combination of several obshchinas.]

2) In the history of our laboring classes [ klassov] no precedent exists for the formation of such unions. We of course know that workers unions in the West are the product of historical and not logical necessity. Neither you nor your friends created the International. History created the International. Its earliest shoots [ zarodyshi] appeared as long ago as the middle ages. It is the inevitable consequence of all the professional, cooperative, strike, credit and other unions and associations in which long ago the masses of European proletariats have joined together (of course for the most part in cities) and traces of which you vainly seek in Russia. Our "artels" (workers' societies), organized on an ad hoc basis, have nothing in common with the unions mentioned above. And as for the new Russian cooperatives, artificially established in Russia on the German model, they have been greeted by our workers with a most thorough indifference and almost everywhere have ended in fiasco.

3) Finally, to these two hardly negligible obstacles one must add yet a whole heap of others, the explanation of which one must seek in the circumstances of our political life and in the spiritual immaturity of our people.

You must come to understand, dear sir, that a revolutionary struggle, involving the participation of workers unions (either secret or open) like the West European unions, is currently absolutely impossible in any form on Russian soil. Then what is possible in Russia? Our social-revolutionary party answers this question in two ways.

One faction [ chast'], whose ideas the journal Vpered! fairly well represents, is a more moderate and less practical faction. They think that at this time in Russia there re still not sufficiently strong revolutionary elements, that these elements must still be created, and this by developing in the people a consciousness of there rights and needs, by clarifying their ideals for them and the way to realize them. Furthermore this tendency feels that when the people achieve the proper consciousness, when they understand in what manner and to what end they must fight, they will on their own unite in revolutionary unions (similar to the West European workers' unions). These unions will represent an all-powerful revolu- [94/95] tionary force before which the old oppressive world of social lies and injustice will be scattered to dust.

The other faction of our revolutionists, to which all belong who represent the young, the bold, the intelligent and the energetic in our revolutionary intelligentsia, adhere to quite another program. This faction is convinced that the moderate revolutionists have set goals for themselves which are, for reasons explained above, neither practical nor effective, and while we are in pursuit of the unachievable, our enemies gather strength, our nascent bourgeoisie in the mean time may to a significant degree solidify their position, so as to become staunch supporters of the state.

The other group is of the opinion that the present historical period represents the most favorable for the realization of the social evolution and that at the present there are no difficulties along the way. One must only provoke simultaneously in several localities of Russia that swelling feeling of anger and hatred which, as I have already said, always boils in the breast of our people. Daily experience demonstrates to us just how easily this feeling expresses itself in every sort of circumstance. If this feeling were simultaneously expressed suddenly in many places, the unification of revolutionary forces would take place on its own, and the struggle between the state and the rebellious people which ensues will certainly end well for the cause of the people. Practical necessity and the instinct for self-defense will achieve what our moderate revolutionists, down the false path which they choose, have never been able to achieve, and really will never achieve. But a solid and indestructible union of protesting obshchinas cannot be created in Russia by popular consciousness, but by simultaneous revolutionary protest.

Based on this point of view, the party of consequential revolutionists--a party which is able with full right to be called the party of action--considers it to be its obligation, on the one hand, to issue a direct call to the people to rise up against the existing authority, and, on the other hand, to introduce into its ranks that discipline and organization which is best able to serve as a guarantee that this uprising is simultaneous, at least in several provinces.

This is the program, in its general outline for sure, of the most active and intelligent part of our revolutionists. The fundamental idea of the latter I described in my brochure, "Zadachi revoliutsionnoi propagandy v Rossii." This is the very same brochure which received such severe criticism from your quarter. You affirmed first of all that I, despite my im- [95/96] maturity, take it upon myself nonetheless to express the confidence that the social revolution may easily be called to life. "If it is that easy to call it into life," you remark, "then why don't you do it, instead of talking about it." To you this seems a joke, childish behavior, and, in accordance with your assertion, one might be led to believe that all your fellow countrymen adhere to the same point of view in these matters.

But you slander them! Germans love literary exercises too much to fail to recognize an authentic purpose and reason for literary activity, or to fail to recognize a distinction between the latter and direct, practical activity. You know that literature only theoretically solves defined problems and indicates only the possibility of practical applications and the conditions of defined activity. Applications in and of themselves do not get the job done. You are of the opinion that if the solution of a problem is simple, if there are no difficulties in the pursuit of an application, then there is no particular reason they should be dealt with in the literature. You err seriously.

For example, I and those who agree with me on this, are certain that the realization of the social revolution in Russia presents no particular difficulty, that at any moment the Russian people might rise up in general revolutionary protest. Such a certainty obligates us, it is true, to a certain amount of practical activity, but it does not in the slightest degree speak against the usefulness and necessity of literary propaganda. We are sufficiently convinced of this simply because we want others to share our certainty with us. The more supporters of our point of view we gain, the more we will feel as we do, the easier it will be for us to complete our practical task.

Doesn't it annoy you that we "barbarians" must explain such an elementary thing to you, a civilized man of the West! I would willingly believe that you actually had no desire in any sense to begin to present us in a confused light to German readers. You were not constrained to give the impression that you do not understand the necessity of literary propaganda and the significant of those problems in various forms which occupy and will continue to occupy everyone who is dissatisfied with the existing social order and who strive for the realization of the social revolution.

You express the most profound contempt for us Russians because, says you, we are too "stupid" and "immature" to interest ourselves in serious questions, such as the following: when and under what conditions will the social revolution be called into being in Russia; are our people yet ready for a revolution; do we have the right to wait and post- [96/97] pone the revolution until such time as the people have matured to the proper understanding of their rights; etc. These questions, as you are sufficiently able to determine from everything that has already been said, are the main points which divide the party of action from the party of moderate revolutionists. In order to shame us you with pride point to your fellow countrymen who, as you assert, have long ago settled these questions and do not bother themselves any longer with such empty chitchat.

In pursuit of your polemical goal you further slander the Germans when you say that they would not be interested in questions related to the conditions and means for the social revolution. What are we to do then with this eternal argument: should one remove oneself from politics or not, should we employ the state or is it better absolutely to refuse help from it, must we centralize revolutionary forces under a single general leadership or not, would it not be useful to provoke local revolutionary uprisings, with what sort of organization of forces might we count on the swiftest success of the revolution, what circumstances promote the revolution and what do not, etc. Are these not the very questions that occupy all of us? With only one difference: we raise these questions and we formulate them differently than you, and also the conditions under which our revolutionary party operates are altogether different. In any case, if you judge only the general sense of those two revolutionary programs which divide our revolutionists into two halves, it will become clear to you that our questions are as precisely related to our program as your questions are with yours.

If you had actually read the journal Vpered! and my brochure, however, then this would already have been clear to you. I would like to think that you do actually known this. As I already indicated, you found it necessary to discredit us in the eyes of your readers. You forgot that as we struggle against the Russian state we struggle not only in the interests of our nation, but in the interests of all Europe, in the interests of workers everywhere, and that consequently this common cause makes us your allies. You forgot as you laughed at us that, in so doing, you rendered good service to our common enemy, to the Russian state.

You forgot all this and thought only how we Russians had the unheard-of boldness not to stand with you under one banner in the time of the great argument which split the International Working Men's Association into two parts. You reproached Vpered! severely because in its report to Russian readers about this argument it called your [97/98] tactless brochure against "Alliance" a pamphlet, because it did not wish to immerse itself in that polemical dirt with which you and your friends tried to smear one of the greatest and most unselfish representatives of the revolutionary epoch in which we live.

Against me you exercise yourself with a variety of invective. For example you have found "Bakunist phrases" in my brochure that were unknown to me until this time. From these you deduce that our sympathies, as indeed the sympathies of the larger part of our harmoniously assembled revolutionary party, are not on your side, but are on the side of the man who was brave enough to raise the banner of uprising against you and your friends, and who since then has become your sworn enemy, has become a nightmare—the bête noire of your apocalypse.

Thus the Russian emigrant literature convinced you that our revolutionists, both the "moderate" and the "radical," on many points differ from you and furthermore made so bold as to have and to express their own opinion about many questions. Additionally, in order to approve our independence or, if we make a mistake, to turn our attention to our errors and to show their faults, you become angry and abuse us without giving sufficient cause.**

(**Tkachev entered a second footnote = You made an exception only for those of our fellow countrymen who are not carried away by vain conceit and are peacefully hiding in the side pocket of your dictator's overcoat. You value these youths. Just how much they deserve your esteem, you know very well. But since you are unable to agree to name them for us, then we do not consider it necessary to inform you what we know about them. We must mention only one thing here: to our pleasure, the number of these well-behaved boys is not very large.)

That is precisely the manner in which higher chinovniki [bureaucrats] predictably react when they confront opposition of whatever sort. Their chinovnik nature becomes angry at persons who do not agree with them and who allow themselves to have other views than those of their excellencies. With your anger directed our way you show that you are yourself a member of that race of high-placed chinovniki. And how can you, of all people, accuse us Russians of having dictatorial inclinations? Wouldn't Mr Bakunin be fully justified to answer thusly to all your insinuations: "Doctor, heal thyself!"

Petr Tkachev


[6] Friedrich Engels, "Fluechtlings..., IV"

<>1875mr:Engels wrote "Flüchtlings..., IV," Der Volksstaat, no. 36 (28 March) and no. 37 (2 April), turning his full attention to Tkachev, now in ironic defense of Lavrov.


[7] Friedrich Engels, "Fluechtlings..., V"

<>1875ap:Engels wrote "Flüchtlings..., V," Volksstaat, no. 43 (16 April), no. 44 (18 April 1875), no. 45 (21 April 1875), translated into English in *1958: Selected Works,2:49-61. Engels now expanded more fully on his own (and Marx's) views on Russia, views teased out by Tkachev’s sharp critique.

Kindersley in Legal Marxism (p. 11) turned his attentions to "Flüchtlings...V", and possibly incorporated "Vorbemerkung" and "Nachwort" (listed below) with his analysis. He wrote that "the burden of Engels's article was such as to attack the central economic doctrine of narodnichestvo, and it may reasonably be seen as the first skirmish in the Marxist- narodnik conflict." By narodnichestvo Kindersley meant a doctrine of economic development of Russia in which "capitalism could be avoided, evolution could be telescoped, the leap into Socialism could be made" (p. 8). The economic development of Russia was the "central theme" of Engels’ polemic, says Kindersley (p. 10). Consideration of all ten moments [0-9] in the history of the full polemic, outlined above [??ID], suggests a far richer set of theoretical and tactical issues clustered together as central “themes” of the whole polemic.

In his assessment of the "central theme" Kindersley passed over the larger issues of international socialist development, particularly the Marx-Bakunin conflict. He dropped the question of "federalists" vs. "centralists" in the fledgling European international socialist movement. And he avoided the problem of direct political activism as well as the debates on the role of the state in the future socialist society. Specifically Russian issues came increasingly to the fore as the polemic progressed. Before he finished, Engels had shifted focus from Lavrov and the Marx-Bakunin split to Tkachev's "Jacobin" or "Blanquist" insurrectionism, in the process he penned the first extended statement of "marxist" opinion on the place of Russia in the "world" revolutionary movement. But the polemic was not focused narrowly or solely on problems of so-called narodnichestvo (a term which had probably never been used as of the middle of the 1870s and, in any event, had no single "doctrine" attached to it, early or late). The polemic raised a significant range of issues central to the history of European, including Russian, socialism.

English translated TXT

[8] Friedrich Engels, "Vorbemerkung"

<>1875my:Engels wrote short "Vorbemerkung" [Introduction] for "Fluechtlings..., V," and issued the two together as a brochure titled "Soziales aus Russland" [Social conditions in Russia] (Leipzig). Tkachev thus provoked Engels (who consulted with Marx) to make a major statement on the nature of Russia and the Russian Revolution.


[9] Friedrich Engels, "Nachwort"

<>1894:In the last year of his life, Engels reprinted "Soziales..." in a publication titled "Internationales aus dem 'Volksstaat' (1871-75)" (Berlin), with a newly composed "Nachwort" [Afterword].

English translated TXT