Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library


Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library (1970), 54, (1), 6–10.


- 6 LENIN IN LONDON Most.people in the labour movement know that Lenin was at various times in London, nnd that his longest stay was for the purpose of producing "Iskra", the newspaper of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, printed in thE:J building thnt is now our Library. RQaders of the many biographies of Lenin, and reminisce-nces of those who lived and worked with him, know n grl::lat deal more. Many of our newer, and especially youngep members, 'however, confess that they ~ave not yet a v~ry clear . pictu:qe of why hEj. should have come to Britain, or what he did hero. '· It isnop~d, therefore, that moru widely-read members will b~ar with'us if on this centenary we summarise, for thu benefit of thase new friends, facts with which they .themselves nrc already very familiar, and add a · list of works· which givG fuller information. The First Visit Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Konst~tinovna Krupskaya, arrived first in April 1902,. because the too-close attontions of tsarist agents and the German police were ·throatoning th~ printing of "Iskra" .in Munich. To preserv~ ·tho existence of this· vi tal organ, created to guide and organise tho scattored Marxist groups in Russia and abroad, to effect reliable communication between. the Social-Democrats in. exile and those working inside tho country, and prepare the 2nd Congress of the young Russian Social-Democratic Labour Pnrty, the editorial board was obligod to conf!ide~ transferring its production to a safer place. They chose. London; and at their request Martov cnme here to explore possibilities. The li.beral tradition of the right of asylum, on which the British capitalist class prided i tsE:Jlf in i 1:is heyday, was still strong in 1902 ;... and refugees :.from tyrannical· regimes in Europe, for whom thure was gruat sympat'hi in the: British working;.:,ciass movemont, continued to arrive and to live"'in the main unmolest~d. Another favourable circumstance was tha.tthore was a well-establish'i)d printing press already producing Marxist li teraturo, whose ·help might be· sought· - the Twentieth Century Press'~ . -· printing hou~e of tho Socinl-Doinocratic Feddration, turning out "Justice", weekly organ of the S.D.F., the monthly "Social-Democrat", and a stream of pamphlets. Tho <:ditor of "Justice", Harry Quelch, readily agreod to arrange for the pr:l.ntipg of "Iskra", and to share his office - tho now famous, tiny ·room which wns separated by n wooden partition from tho machines which occupied the rest of tho upper floor. Huro Lenin rl::lad tho proofs; and in this way Nos. 22 to 38 of "Iskra" were produced, on cigarette paper, for smuggling into Russia. The twelv-e·~ months whioh followed his arrival in London war~ a time of colossal - at times exhausting - work for Lenin, exchanging ideas with comrades in Geneva, Zurich, Moscow, Petersburg, and many provincial ~owns of.Russia, patiuntly and forcefully combatting false ideas, explain1ng, urg1ng, sympathising, encouraging. Timu prossud. The gr~at strikes in Russia, peasant rebellions, and ~nti-governmont student move-

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