“The job of our workers’ newspaper, Proletarii, is to build a bridge to the working masses, to win their sympathy and their support for the programme of the revolutionary party of the proletariat.”
“[Lenin moved to] establish a grip on key Party institutions…[with] a new paper, Proletarii, set up as the official Party newspaper under Lenin’s editorship…Lenin even wrote to the International Socialist Bureau in Brussels demanding it recognise Proletarii as the only official newspaper."
-Christopher Read, Lenin: A Revolutionary Life
Complete run of one of the earliest and most important revolutionary Bolshevik émigré newspapers: Proletarii.
Lenin’s journal Proletarii (Proletarians), the official organ of the Bolshevik Center, shaped the ideological and political direction of the Bolshevik Party and laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Soviet Union. In this rare complete bound collection of all twenty-six issues of Proletarii, Lenin wrote an astonishing ninety articles. (Read, 64) The journal published articles, essays, and speeches that addressed the concerns of the proletariat and played a crucial role in educating party members and the wider working class about socialist theory, political strategy, and the goals of the Bolshevik Party. Published by the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in Geneva, it was smuggled into Russia and aimed to awaken class consciousness, advocate for the overthrow of capitalism, and energize revolutionary sentiments amongst workers. Used as a tool for propaganda and mobilization, it reached the masses and rallied support for the Bolshevik cause.
Like his mentor Karl Marx, Lenin saw himself as a political analyst, not just as a passionate revolutionary. At times, Lenin described himself on official documents as a journalist; writing for Iskra, Vpered, Proletarii and Pravda occupied the core of his life during the exile years. More than any other publication, Proletarii helped Lenin to disseminate ideas and maintain cohesion within the Bolshevik Party.
Proletarii helped solidify the Bolshevik Center as the leading revolutionary force in Russia and counteracted the influence of rival factions. In reality Bolshevism was a fractious movement of émigré intellectuals and professionals but tensions were largely concealed from the public eye. Lenin used Proletarii to present a united front, despite the reality of continual conflict and division. This is a testament to Lenin’s political genius and his commitment to the revolution. One of Lenin’s opponents explained, “There is no other man who is absorbed by the revolution twenty-four hours a day, who has no other thoughts but the thought of revolution, and who even when he sleeps, dreams of nothing but revolution.” (Resis)
While still in exile in 1899, Lenin realized that an effective nationwide revolutionary party needed a single theoretical journal, accessible to all party members, that presented a party program for all to follow. By following a central organ, party members felt confident they were participating in a united, nation-wide movement. While Iskra and Vpered were the early party journals, it was Proletarii that provided a platform for Lenin to mobilize the working class, engage in revolutionary propaganda, and unify the Bolshevik forces during the period of greatest division within the party. Proletarii played a crucial role in communicating a consistent party viewpoint, advancing Lenin’s goals and moving Bolsheviks towards a successful revolution.
Provenance: Although there are no internal markings, this volume is from the celebrated book collection of Chimen Abramsky. Abramsky (1916-2010) was "an extraordinary polymath and bibliophile who amassed a vast collection of socialist literature and Jewish history. For more than fifty years Chimen and his wife, Miriam, hosted epic gatherings in their house of books that brought together many of the age’s greatest thinkers." His library is at the center of a popular account of his life, The House of Twenty Thousand Books, written by his grandson, Sasha Abramsky. (New York Review of Books).
Geneva: Kooperative Druckerei, 1905. Tall folio (445 x 295 mm). 26 issues (complete) bound in one volume. 20th-century red cloth with gilt titling on spine. Text with uniform age-toning, generally clean and very well-preserved. RARE.
Christopher Read. Lenin: A Revolutionary Life. Routledge: New York, 2005.
Albert Resis. “Vladimir Lenin.” Encyclopedia Britannica, June 8, 2023.
David G. Rowley. Millenarian Bolshevism, 1900 to 1920. Routledge: New York, 2017.
Robert C. Williams. The Other Bolsheviks: Lenin and His Critics, 1904-1914. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1986.
Price: $8,500 .