“At last we have launched Vpered...Issue No. 2 will appear the day after tomorrow. We intend to bring it out weekly…We are sure that things will go well, so long as we don’t go bankrupt…unless we can make it a regular publication, the entire position of the Majority will be dealt a terrific, well-nigh irreparable blow…Workers’ correspondence is very badly needed, and there is so little of it. What we need is scores and hundreds of workers corresponding directly with Vpered…If we tackle this properly, my word, we could revolutionize the distribution of underground literature in Russia.”
-From Vladimir Lenin’s January 10, 1905 letter to Vpered editorial board member Alexander Bogdanov
“Both our old acquaintance, Comrade Martynov, and the new Iskra are guilty of the sin peculiar to the intelligentsia — lack of faith in the strength of the proletariat; in its ability to organize, in general, and to create a party organization, in particular; in its ability to conduct the political struggle…We have had enough of this new revision that leads to the old rubbish! It is time to go forward and stop covering up disorganization.”
-Vladimir Lenin (from the first issue of Vpered, January 4, 1905)
Vpered introduced Bolshevik strategy and led to Lenin’s dominance during the Russian Revolution. A complete run with noted provenance.
In the early twentieth century, the fate of Marxism hung in the balance as various revolutionary factions used journals and party congresses to exert control. We have on offer the full run of Vpered, a newspaper published from January to May 1905 in Geneva and smuggled into Russia. Vladimir Lenin contributed more than 40 articles to Vpered (Forward) and several issues were entirely written by him. Lenin was joined on Vpered’s editorial board by Alexander Bogdanov, Anatoly Lunacharsky, and Mikhail Olminsky. Financial support was provided by the founder of socialist realism, Maxim Gorky, who also contributed articles to several issues.
Iskra (Spark), the predecessor to Vpered and the first underground newspaper of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), was founded in 1900 by Lenin, at the time a ruthless organizer and political tactician who moved to Western Europe in 1900 after three years in Siberian exile. Lenin left Iskra in late 1903 after it was taken over by the Mensheviks, a minority Marxist faction of the RSDLP that supported more progressive political change through legal means. Lenin disparagingly referred to the loosely assembled Mensheviks as “disorganizers” of the party. Lenin’s followers would come to be known as Bolsheviks, which means majority.
After a brief respite in the mountains with his wife in 1904, Lenin settled in Switzerland to begin his next publishing venture, Vpered, following “the direction of the old Iskra” and directly competing with the new Iskra. Published during a critical period in Russian history — the Russian Revolution of 1905, the first major challenge to the autocratic rule of Russian Czar Nicholas II and a precursor to the more famous Russian Revolution of 1917 — Vpered was an influential underground publication that was crucial to the formation of the distinct political identity of the Bolshevik faction of the RSDLP.
Vpered was central to the success of Lenin’s revolution, enabling him to bring disparate groups together and outflank his competitors (namely, the Mensheviks). Lenin’s writing in Vpered reflects his willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. Though he continued to advocate for a centralized and disciplined revolutionary party (the Bolsheviks), he also emphasized the use of violent insurrection by local revolutionaries and mass actions by workers and peasants, a central tenet of the evolving Bolshevik ideology. This shift in strategy was a response to the political and social unrest of the 1905 revolution. Lenin wrote, “the proletariat must fight in the front rank for a republic and must contemptuously reject the advice that is given to it to take care not to scare the bourgeoisie.” Unlike the Mensheviks who wanted the bourgeois to lead, Lenin advocated for an alliance that would establish a “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.”(Faulkner)
Ultimately, Lenin and the Bolsheviks dominated the revolutionary movement against the czar while the Mensheviks struggled to stay relevant. The final issue of Vpered was printed just before Lenin’s departure from Geneva for the Third Congress of the RSDLP in London on April 25, 1905. Following this conference, Lenin began work on a new publication, Proletarii (Proletarians), which we also have on offer. Vpered represents a pivotal moment in his political evolution and explains the pragmatism of Bolshevik strategy that helped them successfully overthrow Czar Nicholas II.
Provenance: With stamp on first page (issue 1) of the Bund Archive (“Archiv Bunda”). The Bund Archive is the collection of a social democratic organization founded by two Russian Jewish revolutionaries, John Mill and Tsemakh Kopelson, who fled their native land to avoid political persecution. Mill and Kopelson established the Bund Archive in 1899 in Geneva, Switzerland, then a safe haven for European socialist émigrés, and served as the library of the Jewish Labor Bund of Russia, Poland, and Lithuania (founded in 1897). The items in the Bund collection are exceptional because of their age, their comprehensiveness, and their founders’ resolve to preserve the past. The Bund Archive was moved to Germany in 1919 but came under threat with the rise of Hitler and was smuggled into France in French Diplomatic pouches, nominally sold to the French government. Though the Nazis looted the archive in 1944, much of it survived the war. Much of the Bund Archive has been at YIVO (Institute for Jewish Research) since 1992. [Note: We confirmed with the Bund Archive that this has indeed been deaccessioned.]
Geneva: [The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party], 1905. Tall folio (440x292mm), early half-linen over marbled boards. Complete in 18 issues. (Issues 1-8, four pages each; 9-18, six pages each). Issue 13 with a few water spots, issue 14 with small corner tear affecting a few words of text. RARE.
Neil Faulkner. A People’s History of the Russian Revolution. London: Pluto Press, 2017.
V.I. Lenin. Lenin Collected Works: Volume 8, January- July 1905. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962.
V.I. Lenin. Vperyod, No. 1, January 4 , 1905.
Christopher Read. Lenin: A Revolutionary Life. Routledge: New York, 2005.
Albert Resis. "Vladimir Lenin". Encyclopedia Britannica, June 8, 2023.
Price: $7,500 .