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Home page > 06- Livre Six : POLITIQUE REVOLUTIONNAIRE > 4- Ce qu’est le socialisme et ce qu’il n’est pas > 1922-1923 : Last struggle of Lenin against the bureaucracy and the (...)

1922-1923 : Last struggle of Lenin against the bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie - Dernier combat de Lénine contre la bureaucratie et la bourgeoisie

Sunday 19 June 2011, by Robert Paris

Last works of Lenin : against the bureaucracy

In one of his last articles, Better Fewer But Better, Lenin wrote:

"Our state apparatus is so deplorable, not to say wretched, that we must first think very carefully how to combat its defects, bearing in mind that these defects are rooted in the past, which, although it has been overthrown, has not yet been overcome, not yet reached the stage of a culture that has receded into the past."

The October revolution had overthrown the old order, ruthlessly suppressed and purged the Tsarist state; but in conditions of chronic economic and cultural backwardness, the elements of the old order were everywhere creeping back into positions of privilege and power in the measure that the revolutionary wave ebbed back with the defeats of the international revolution. Engels explained that in every society where art, science and government are the exclusive of a privileged minority, then that minority will always use and abuse its positions in its own interests. And this state of affairs is inevitable, so long as the vast majority of the people are forced to toil for long hours in industry and agriculture for the bare necessities of life.

After the revolution, with the ruined condition of industry, the working day was not reduced, but lengthened. Workers toiled ten, twelve hours and more a day on subsistence rations; many worked weekends without pay voluntarily. But, as Trotsky explained, the masses can only sacrifice their "today" for their "tomorrow" up to a very definite limit. Inevitably, the strain of war, of revolution, of four years of bloody Civil War, of a famine in which five million perished, all served to undermine the working class in terms of both numbers and morale.

The NEP stabilised the economy, but created new dangers by encouraging the growth of small capitalism, especially in the countryside where the rich "kulaks" gained ground at the expense of the poor peasants. Industry revived, but, being tied to the demand of the peasantry, especially the rich peasants, the revival was confined almost entirely to light industry (consumer goods). Heavy industry, the key to socialist construction, stagnated. By 1922 there were two million unemployed m the towns. At the Ninth Congress of Soviets in December, 1921, Lenin remarked:

"Excuse me, but what do you describe as the proletariat? That class of labourers which is employed by large-scale industry. But where is this large-scale industry? What sort of proletariat is this? Where is your industry? Why is it idle?"

In a speech at the Eleventh Party Congress in March, 1922, Lenin pointed out that the class nature of many who worked in the factories at this time was non-proletarian; that many were dodgers from military service, peasants and de-classed elements:

"During the war people who were by no means proletarians went into the factories; they went into the factories to dodge war. And are the social and economic conditions in our country today such as to induce real proletarians to go into the factories? No. It would be true according to Marx; but Marx did not write about Russia; he wrote about capitalism as a whole, beginning with the fifteenth century. It held true over a period of six hundred years, but it is not true for present-day Russia. Very often those who go into the factories are not proletarians; they are casual elements of every description."

The disintegration of the working class, the loss of many of the most advanced elements in the Civil War, the influx of backward elements from the countryside, and the demoralisation and exhaustion of the masses was one side of the picture. On the other side, the forces of reaction, those petty bourgeois and bourgeois elements who had been temporarily demoralised and driven underground by the success of the revolution in Russia and internationally, everywhere began to recover their nerve, thrust themselves to the fore, taking advantage of the situation to insinuate themselves into every nook and cranny of the ruling bodies of industry, of the state and even of the Party.

Immediately after the seizure of power, the only political party which was suppressed by the Bolsheviks was the fascist Black Hundreds. Even the bourgeois Cadet Party was not immediately illegalised. The government itself was a coalition of Bolsheviks and Left Social-Revolutionaries. But, under the pressure of the Civil War, a sharp polarisation of class forces took place in which the Mensheviks, SRs and "Left SRs" came out on the side of the counter-revolution. Contrary to their own intention, the Bolsheviks were forced to introduce a monopoly of political power. This monopoly, which was regarded as an extraordinary and temporary state of affairs, created enormous dangers in the situation where the proletarian vanguard was coming under increasing pressure from alien classes.

In February, 1917, the Bolshevik Party had no more than 23,000 members in the whole of Russia. At the height of the Civil War, when party membership involved personal risk, the ranks were thrown open to the workers, who pushed the membership to 200,000. But as the war grew to a close, the party membership actually trebled reflecting an influx of careerists and elements from hostile classes and parties.

Lenin at this time repeatedly emphasised the danger of the Party succumbing to the pressures and moods of the petty-bourgeois masses; that the main enemy of the revolution was:

"everyday economics in a small-peasant country with a ruined large industry. He is the petty-bourgeois element which surrounds us like the air, and penetrates deep into the ranks of the proletariat. And the proletariat is de-classed, i.e. dislodged from its class groove. The factories and mills are idle - the proletariat is weak, scattered, enfeebled. On the other hand the petty-bourgeois element within the country is backed by the whole international bourgeoisie, which retains its power throughout the world."

The "purge" initiated by Lenin in 1921 had nothing in common with the monstrous frame-up trials of Stalin; there was no police, no trials, no prison-camps; merely the ruthless weeding out of petty-bourgeois and Menshevik elements from the ranks of the Party, in order to preserve the ideas and traditions of October from the poisonous effects of petty-bourgeois reaction. By early 1922, some 200,000 members (one-third of the membership) had been expelled.

Lenin’s correspondence and writings of this period. when illness was increasingly preventing him from intervene in the struggle; clearly indicate his alarm at the encroachment of the Soviet bureaucracy, the insolent parvenus in every corner of the state apparatus. Thus, in a letter to Sheinman in February, 1922:

"At present the State Bank is a bureaucratic power game. There is the truth for you, if you want to hear not the sweet communist-official lies (with which everyone feeds you as a high mandarin), but the truth. And if you do not want to look at this truth with open eyes, through all the communist lying, you are a man who has perished in the prime of life in a swamp of official lying. Now that is an unpleasant truth, but it is the truth."

Contrast this fearless honesty of Lenin with all the saccharine falsehoods with which all the Communist Party leaders and "theoreticians" fed the international communist movement about the Soviet Union for generations, and judge for yourself the depths of degradation in which the self-styled "Friends of the Soviet Union" have plunged the ideas and traditions of Lenin! Again, in a letter dated April 12, 1922:

"The more such work is done, the deeper we go into living practice, distracting the attention of both ourselves and our readers from the stinking bureaucratic and stinking intellectual Moscow (and, in general, Soviet bourgeois) atmospheres, the greater will be our success in improving both our press and all our constructive work."

At the Eleventh Congress, Lenin placed before the Party a searing indictment of bureaucratisation of the state apparatus:

"If we take Moscow," he said, "with its 4,700 Communists in responsible positions, and if we take the huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be truthfully said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed."

To carry out the work of weeding bureaucrats and careerists out of the state and party apparatus, Lenin initiated the setting up of RABKRIN (the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate) with Stalin in charge. Lenin saw the need for a strong organiser to see that this work was carried out thoroughly; Stalin’s record as a party organiser appeared to qualify him for the post. Within in a few years, Stalin occupied a number of organisational posts in the Party: head of RABKRIN, member of the Central Committee and Politburo, Orgburo and Secretariat. But his narrow, organisational outlook and personal ambition led Stalin to occupy the post, in a short space of time, as the chief spokesman of bureaucracy in the party leadership, not as its opponent.

As early as 1920, Trotsky criticised the working of RABKRIN, which from a tool in the struggle against bureaucracy was becoming itself a hotbed of bureaucracy. Initially, Lenin defended RABKRIN against Trotsky. His illness prevented him from realising what was going on behind his back in the state and party. Stalin used his position, which enabled him to select personnel to leading posts in the state and party to quietly gather round himself a bloc of allies and yes-men, political nonentities who were grateful to him for their advancement. In his hands, RABKRIN became an instrument for building up his own position and eliminating his political rivals.

Lenin only became aware of the terrible situation when he discovered the truth about Stalin’s handling of relations with Georgia. Without the knowledge of Lenin or the Politburo, Stalin, together with his henchmen Dzerzhinsky and Ordzhonikidze, had carried out a coup d’etat in Georgia. The finest cadres of Georgian Bolshevism were purged, and the party leaders denied access to Lenin, who was fed a string of lies by Stalin. When he finally found out what was happening, Lenin was furious. From his sick-bed late in 1922 he dictated a series of notes to his stenographer on "the notorious questions of autonomisation, which, it appears, is officially called the question of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics".

Lenin’s notes are a crushing indictment of the bureaucratic and chauvinist arrogance of Stalin and his clique. But Lenin does not treat this incident as an accidental phenomenon - a "regrettable mistake", like the invasion of Czechoslovakia, or a "tragedy", like the crushing of the Hungarian worker’s commune, but the expression of the rotten, reactionary nationalism of the Soviet bureaucracy. It is worth quoting Lenin’s words on the state apparatus at length.

"It is said that a united state apparatus was needed. Where did that assurance come from? Did it not come from the same Russian apparatus, which, as I pointed out in one of the preceding sections of my diary, we took over from Tsarism and slightly anointed with Soviet oil?

"There is no doubt that that measure should have been delayed until we could say, that we vouched for our apparatus as our own. But now, we must, in all conscience, admit the contrary; the state apparatus we call ours is, in fact, still quite alien to us; it is a bourgeois and Tsarist hotchpotch and there has been no possibility of getting rid of it in the past five years without the help of other countries and because we have been "busy" most of the time with military engagements and the fight against famine.

"It is quite natural that in such circumstances the ’freedom to secede from the union’ by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riff-raff like a fly in milk."

After the Georgian affair, Lenin threw the whole weight of his authority behind the struggle to remove Stalin from the post of General Secretary of the party which he occupied in 1922, after the death of Sverdlov. However, Lenin’s main fear now more than ever was that an open split in the leadership, under prevailing conditions, might lead to the break-up of the party along class lines. He therefore attempted to keep the struggle confined to the leadership, and the notes and other material were not made public. Lenin wrote secretly to the Georgian Bolshevik-Leninists (sending copies to Trotsky and Kamenev) taking up their cause against Stalin "with all my heart". As he was unable to pursue the affair in person, he wrote to Trotsky requesting him to undertake the defence of the Georgians in the Central Committee.

Needless to say, the documentary evidence of Lenin’s last fight against Stalin and the bureaucracy has been suppressed for decades. Lenin’s last writings were hidden from the Communist Party rank-and-file in Russia and internationally. Lenin’s last letter to the Party Congress, despite the protests of his widow, was not read out at the Congress and remained under lock and key until 1956 when Khruschev and Co. published it. along with a few other items (including the letters on Georgia) as part of their campaign to throw the blame for all that had happened in the past thirty years on to Stalin’s shoulders. - Woods and Grant -

Letter to L. D. TROTSKY

Written: Written on December 12, 1922

Comrade Trotsky:

I am sending you Krestinsky’s letter Write me as soon as possible whether you agree; at the plenum, I am going to fight for the monopoly.

What about you?



P.S. It would be best returned soon.[1]


[1] A reference to a letter from N. N. Krestinsky, R.S.F.S.R. Plenipotentiary Representative in Germany, of December 3, 1922. He gave a positive evaluation to the work of the trade mission in Berlin, reported agreements with some German firms, described the talks being conducted and the great prospects in this respect. He wrote that these would be destroyed with the lifting of the foreign trade monopoly. It is indicative, he added, that “some comrades who have been abroad are becoming supporters of the monopoly (Tsyurupa, Vladimirov, Rykov, Avanesov)”. On the strength of the experience gained abroad, Krestinsky took a firm stand in favour of the foreign trade monopoly (Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.P.S.U. Central Committee). See also next document.

Letter to: L. D. TROTSKY

Dictated: Dictated on December 12, 1922 by phone

Copy to Frumkin and Stomonyakov

Comrade Trotsky:

I have received your comments on Krestinsky’s letter and Avanesov’s plans.[2] I think that you and I are in maximum agreement, and I believe that the State Planning Commission question, as presented in this case, rules out (or postpones) any discussion on whether the State Planning Commission needs to have any administrative rights.[3] At any rate, it is my request that at the forthcoming plenum you should undertake the defence of our common standpoint on the unquestionable need to maintain and consolidate the foreign trade monopoly. Since the preceding plenum passed a decision in this respect which runs entirely counter to the foreign trade monopoly, and since there can be no concessions on this matter, I believe, as I say in my letter to Frumkin and Stomonyakov,[1] that in the event of our defeat on this question we must refer the question to a Party Congress. This will require a brief exposition of our differences before the Party group of the forthcoming Congress of Soviets.[4] If I have time, I shall write this, and I would be very glad if you did the same. Hesitation on this question is doing us unprecedented harm, and the negative arguments boil down entirely to accusations of shortcomings in the apparatus. But our apparatus is everywhere imperfect, and to abandon the monopoly because of an imperfect apparatus would be throwing out the baby with the bath water.




[1] The letter has not been found.—Ed.

[2] A reference to L. D. Trotsky’s letter of December 12, 1922. By “Avanesov’s plans” Lenin means the “Proposals of the C.P.C. Commission of Inquiry into the Work of R.S.F.S.R. Missions Abroad on the Question of the Slate Monopoly of Foreign Trade”. Its main conclusion was that the foreign trade monopoly must not be abolished for both economic and political reasons, “either fully or even in part” (Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.P.S.U. Central Committee).

[3] In his letter, L. D. Trotsky wrote that there was need for a flexible regulation of foreign trade, adapted to overall economic requirements, and said he believed it was the State Planning Commission’s job to do this.

[4] A reference to the Tenth All-Russia Congress of Soviets.

V. I. Lenin

Letter To J. V. Stalin

For Members of The C.C., R.C.P.(B.)

Dictated by Telephone: 15 December, 1922

I have now finished winding up my affairs and can leave with my mind at peace. [1] I have also come to an agreement with Trotsky on the defence of my views on the monopoly of foreign trade. Only one circumstance still worries me very much; it is that it will be impossible for me to speak at the Congress of Soviets. [2] My doctors are coming on Tuesday and we shall see if there is even a small chance of my speaking. I would consider it a great inconvenience to miss the opportunity of speaking, to say the least. I finished preparing the summary a few days ago. I therefore propose that the writing of a report which somebody will deliver should go ahead and that the possibility be left open until Wednesday that I will perhaps personally make a speech, a much shorter one than usual, for example, one that will take three-quarters of an hour. Such a speech would in no way hinder the speech of my deputy (whoever you may appoint for this purpose), but would be useful politically and from the personal angle as it would eliminate cause for great anxiety. Please have this in mind, and if the opening of the Congress is delayed, inform me in good time through my secretary. [3]


December 15, 1922

I am emphatically against any procrastination of the question of the monopoly of foreign trade. If any circumstance (including the circumstance that my participation is desirable in the debate over this question) gives rise to the idea to postpone it to the next Plenary Meeting, I would most emphatically be against it because, firstly, I am sure Trotsky will uphold my views as well as I; secondly, the statements that you, Zinoviev and, according to rumours, Kamenev have made prove that some members of the C.C. have already changed their minds; thirdly, and most important, any further vacillation over this extremely important question is absolutely impermissible and will wreck all our work.


December 15, 1922


[1] When Lenin’s health deteriorated his doctors ordered him to move to Gorki, a suburb of Moscow.

[2] The Tenth All-Russia Congress of Soviets, which opened in Moscow on December 23, 1922. It was attended by 2,215 delegates, of whom 488 were representatives from the Transcaucasian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Lenin was elected honorary chairman. A message of greetings to Lenin was adopted amidst stormy applause and the singing of The Internationale. The Congress discussed the report of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars on the home and foreign policy of the Soviet Republic, and also the reports of the Supreme Economic Council, the People’s Commissariat of Education, the People’s Commissariat of Finance and the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture. Fully endorsing the work of the Soviet Government, the Congress passed decisions mapping out a series of measures aimed at further promoting industry, agriculture and finances. On December 26 the Congress heard a report on the unification of the Soviet republics, and on the next day, at its last sitting, it passed a decision on this question, finding it necessary to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Moreover, the Congress adopted an address to all the peoples of the world, in which on behalf of the workers and peasants of Russia it solemnly reaffirmed its desire for peace and called upon the working people of all countries to combine their efforts with those of the peoples of the Soviet Union in order to secure peace and save mankind from monstrous wars of extermination.

[3] Due to a further deterioration of his health, Lenin was unable to attend the Tenth All-Russia Congress of Soviets.

Letter to L. D. TROTSKY

Written: Written on December 15, 1922

Comrade Trotsky:

I consider that we have quite reached agreement. I ask you to declare our solidarity at the plenum. I hope that our decision will be passed, because some of those who had voted against it in October have now partially or altogether switched to our side.[1] If for some reason our decision should not be passed, we shall apply to the group of the Congress of Soviets, and declare that we are referring the question to the Party congress. In that case, inform me and I shall send in my statement.



P.S. If this question should be removed from the present plenum (which I do not expect, and against which you should, of course, protest as strongly as you can on our common behalf), I think that we should apply to the group of the Congress of Soviets anyway, and demand that the question be referred to the Party congress, because any further hesitation is absolutely intolerable. You can keep all the material I have sent you until after the plenum.[2]


[1] The words “to our side” are in Lydia Fotieva’s hand.—Ed.

[2] P.S. is written in Fotieva’s hand.—Ed.

Letter to L. D. TROTSKY

Dictated: Dictated by phone on December 15, 1922

Comrade Trotsky

I am sending on to you Frumkin’s letter which 1 have received today.[1] I also think that it is absolutely necessary to have done with this question once and for all. If there are any fears that I am being worried by this question and that it could even have an effect on my health, I think that this is absolutely wrong, because I am infinitely more worried by the delay which makes our policy on one of the most basic questions quite unstable. That is why I call your attention to the enclosed letter and ask you to support an immediate discussion of this question. I am sure that if we are threatened with the danger of failure, it would be much better to fail before the Party congress, and at once to apply to the group of the congress, than to fail after the congress. Perhaps, an acceptable compromise is that we pass a decision just now confirming the monopoly, and still bring up the question at the Party congress, making an arrangement about this right away. I do not believe that we could accept any other compromise either in our own interests or the interests of the cause.




[1] The letter has not been found. The reference is to the foreign trade monopoly.

Letter to: L. D. TROTSKY[1]

Published: Printed from a typewritten copy on December 21, 1922.

It looks as though it has been possible to take the position without a single shot, by a simple manoeuvre. I suggest that we should not stop and should continue the offensive, and for that purpose put through a motion to raise at the Party congress the question of consolidating our foreign trade, and the measures to improve its implementation. This to be announced in the group of the Congress of Soviets. I hope that you will not object to this, and will not refuse to give a report in the group.

N. Lenin

December 21, 1922


[1] On December 18, 1922, the Plenum of the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee rescinded a decision taken by the plenum in October, and reaffirmed “the absolute need to maintain and effect the organisational strengthening of the foreign trade monopoly” (Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.P.S.U. Central Committee). The Twelfth Party Congress, held in Moscow from April 17 to 25, 1923, also confirmed that the foreign trade monopoly was not to be tampered with.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

On Cooperation

Written: January 4 & 6, 1923

It seems to me that not enough attention is being paid to the cooperative movement in our country. Not everyone understands that now, since the time of the October revolution and quite apart from NEP (on the contrary, in this connection we must say—because of NEP), our cooperative movement has become one of great significance. There is a lot of fantasy in the dreams of the old cooperators. Often they are ridiculously fantastic. But why are they fantastic? Because people do not understand the fundamental, the rock-bottom significance of the working-class political struggle for the overthrow of the rule of the exploiters. We have overthrown the rule of the exploiters, and much that was fantastic, even romantic, even banal in the dreams of the old cooperators is now becoming unvarnished reality.

Indeed, since political power is in the hands of the working-class, since this political power owns all the means of production, the only task, indeed, that remains for us is to organize the population in cooperative societies. With most of the population organizing cooperatives, the socialism which in the past was legitimately treated with ridicule, scorn and contempt by those who were rightly convinced that it was necessary to wage the class struggle, the struggle for political power, etc., will achieve its aim automatically. But not all comrades realize how vastly, how infinitely important it is now to organize the population of Russia in cooperative societies. By adopting NEP we made a concession to the peasant as a trader, to the principal of private trade; it is precisely for this reason (contrary to what some people think) that the cooperative movement is of such immense importance. All we actually need under NEP is to organize the population of Russia in cooperative societies on a sufficiently large-scale, for we have now found the degree of combination of private interest, of private commercial interest, with state supervision and control of this interest, that degree of its subordination to the common interests which was formerly the stumbling block for very many socialists. Indeed, the power of the state over all large-scale means of production, political power in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of small and very small peasants, the assured proletarian leadership of the peasantry, etc. — is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society out of cooperatives, out of cooperatives alone, which we formerly ridiculed as huckstering and which from a certain aspect we have the right to treat as such now, under NEP? Is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society? It is still not the building of socialist society, but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for it.

It is this very circumstance that is underestimated by many of our practical workers. They look down upon cooperative societies, failing to appreciate their exceptional importance, first, from the standpoint of principal (the means of production are owned by the state), and, second, from the standpoint of transition to the new system by means that are the simplest, easiest and most acceptable to the peasant. But this again is a fundamental importance. It is one thing to draw out fantastic plans for building socialism through all sorts of workers associations, and quite another to learn to build socialism in practice in such a way that every small peasant could take part in it. That is the very stage we have now reached. And there is no doubt that, having reached it, we are taking too little advantage of it.

We went too far when we reintroduced NEP, but not because we attached too much importance to the principal of free enterprise and trade — we want too far because we lost sight of the cooperatives, because we now underrate cooperatives, because we are already beginning to forget the vast importance of the cooperatives from the above two points of view.

I now propose to discuss with the reader what can and must at once be done practically on the basis of this “cooperative” principle. By what means can we, and must we, start at once to develop this “cooperative" principle so that its socialist meaning may be clear to all? Cooperation must be politically so organized that it will not only generally and always enjoy certain privileges, but that these privileges should be of a purely material nature (a favorable bank rate, etc.). The cooperatives must be granted state loans that are greater, if only by a little, than the loans we grant to private enterprises, even to heavy industry, etc.

A social system emerges only if it has the financial backing of a definite class. There is no need to mention the hundreds of millions of rubles that the birth of “free” capitalism cost. At present we have to realize that the cooperatives system is a social system we must now give more than ordinary assistance, and we must actually give that assistance. But it must be it assistance in the real sense of the word, i.e., it will not be enough to interpret it to mean assistance for any kind of cooperative trade; by assistance we must mean aid to cooperative trade in which really large masses of the population actually take part. It is certainly a correct form of assistance to give a bonus to peasants who take part in cooperative trade; but the whole point is to verify the nature of this participation, to verify the awareness behind it, and to verify its quality. Strictly speaking, when a cooperator goes to a village and opens cooperative store, the people take no part in this whenever; but at the same time guided by their own interests they will hasten to try to take part in it.

There is another aspect this question. From the point of view of the “enlightened” European there is not much left for us to do to induce absolutely everyone to take not a passive, but inactive part in cooperative operations. Strictly speaking, there is “only” one thing we have left to do and that is to make our people so “enlightened” that they understand all the advantages of everybody participating in the work of the cooperatives, and organizes participation. “only” the fact. There are now no other devices needed to advance to socialism. But to achieve this “only", there must be a veritable revolution—the entire people must go through a period of cultural development. Therefore, our rule must be: as little philosophizing and as few acrobatics as possible. In this respect NEP is an advance, because it is adjustable to the level of the most ordinary peasant and does not demand anything higher of him. But it will take a whole historical epoch to get the entire population into the work of the cooperatives through NEP. At best we can achieve this in one or two decades. Nevertheless, it will be a distinct historical epoch, and without this historical epoch, without universal literacy, without a proper degree of efficiency, without training the population sufficiently to acquire the habit of book reading, and without the material basis for this, without a certain sufficiency to safeguard against, say, bad harvests, famine, etc.—without this we shall not achieve our object. The thing now is to learn to combine the wide revolutionary range of action, the revolutionary enthusiasm which we have displayed, and displayed abundantly, and crowned with complete success—to learn to combine this with (I’m almost inclined to say) the ability to be an efficient and capable trader, which is quite enough to be a good cooperator. By ability to be a trader I mean the ability to be a cultured trader. Let those Russians, or peasants, who imagine that since they trade they are good traders, get that well into their heads. This does not follow that all. They do trade, but that is far from being cultured traders. They now trade in an Asiatic manner, but to be a good trader one must trade in the European manner. They are a whole epoch behind in that.

In conclusion: a number of economic, financial and banking privileges must be granted to the cooperatives—this is the way our socialist state must promote the new principle on which the population must be organized. But this is only the general outline of the task; it does not define and depict in detail the entire content of the practical task, i.e., we must find what form of “bonus” to give for joining the cooperatives (and the terms on which we should give it), the form of bonus by which we shall assist the cooperative sufficiently, the form of bonus that will produce the civilized cooperator. And given social ownership of the means of production, given the class victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, the system of civilized cooperators is the system of socialism.

January 4, 1923


Whenever I wrote about the New Economic Policy I always quoted the article on state capitalism which I wrote in 1918 ["Left-Wing” Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality; part III]. This has more than once aroused doubts in the minds of certain young comrades but their doubts were mainly on abstract political points. It seemed to them that the term “state capitalism” could not be applied to a system under which the means of production were owned by the working-class, a working-class that held political power. They did not notice, however, that I use the term “state capitalism", firstly, to connect historically our present position with the position adopted in my controversy with the so-called Left Communists; also, I argued at the time that state capitalism would be superior to our existing economy. It was important for me to show the continuity between ordinary state capitalism and the unusual, even very unusual, state capitalism to which I referred in introducing the reader to the New Economic Policy. Secondly, the practical purpose was always important to me. And the practical purpose of our New Economic Policy was to lease out concessions. In the prevailing circumstances, concessions in our country would unquestionably have been a pure type of state capitalism. That is how I argued about state capitalism.

But there is another aspect of the matter for which we may need state capitalism, or at least a comparison with it. It is a question of cooperatives.

In the capitalist state, cooperatives are no doubt collective capitalist institutions. Nor is there any doubt that under our present economic conditions, when we combine private capitalist enterprises—but in no other way than nationalized land and in no other way than under the control of the working-class state—with enterprises of the consistently socialist type (the means of production, the land on which the enterprises are situated, and the enterprises as a whole belonging to the state), the question arises about a third type of enterprise, the cooperatives, which were not formally regarded as an independent type differing fundamentally from the others. Under private capitalism, cooperative enterprises differ from capitalist enterprises as collective enterprises differ from private enterprises. Under state capitalism, cooperative enterprises differ from state capitalist enterprises, firstly, because they are private enterprises, and, secondly, because they are collective enterprises. Under our present system, cooperative enterprises differ from private capitalist enterprises because they are collective enterprises, but do not differ from socialist enterprises if the land on which they are situated and means of production belong to the state, i.e., the working-class.

This circumstance is not considered sufficiently when cooperatives are discussed. It is forgotten that owing to the special features of our political system, our cooperatives acquire an altogether exceptional significance. If we exclude concessions, which, incidentally, have not developed on any considerable scale, cooperation under our conditions nearly always coincides fully with socialism.

Let me explain what I mean. Why were the plans of the old cooperators, from Robert Owen onwards, fantastic? Because they dreamed of peacefully remodeling contemporary society into socialism without taking account of such fundamental questions as the class struggle, the capture of political power by the working-class, the overthrow of the rule of the exploiting class. That is why we are right in regarding as entirely fantastic this “cooperative” socialism, and as romantic, and even banal, the dream of transforming class enemies into class collaborators and class war into class peace (so-called class truce) by merely organizing the population in cooperative societies. Undoubtedly we were right from the point of view of the fundamental task of the present day, for socialism cannot be established without a class struggle for the political power and a state.

But see how things have changed now that the political power is in the hands of the working-class, now that the political power of the exploiters is overthrown and all the means of production (except those which the workers’ state voluntarily abandons on specified terms and for a certain time to the exploiters in the form of concessions) are owned by the working-class.

Now we are entitled to say that for us the mere growth of cooperation (with the “slight” exception mentioned above) is identical with the growth of socialism, and at the same time we have to admit that there has been a radical modification in our whole outlook on socialism. The radical modification is this; formerly we placed, and had to place, the main emphasis on the political struggle, on revolution, on winning political power, etc. Now the emphasis is changing and shifting to peaceful, organizational, “cultural” work. I should say that emphasis is shifting to educational work, were it not for our international relations, were it not for the fact that we have to fight for our position on a worldscale. If we leave that aside, however, and confine ourselves to internal economic relations, the emphasis in our work is certainly shifting to education.

Two main tasks confront us, which constitute the epoch—to reorganize our machinery of state, which is utterly useless, in which we took over in its entirety from the preceding epoch; during the past five years of struggle we did not, and could not, drastically reorganize it. Our second task is educational work among the peasants. And the economic object of this educational work among the peasants is to organize the latter in cooperative societies. If the whole of the peasantry had been organized in cooperatives, we would by now have been standing with both feet on the soil of socialism. But the organization of the entire peasantry in cooperative societies presupposes a standard of culture, and the peasants (precisely among the peasants as the overwhelming mass) that cannot, in fact, be achieved without a cultural revolution.

Our opponents told us repeatedly that we were rash in undertaking to implant socialism in an insufficiently cultured country. But they were misled by our having started from the opposite end to that prescribed by theory (the theory of pedants of all kinds), because in our country the political and social revolution preceded the cultural revolution, that very cultural revolution which nevertheless now confronts us.

This cultural revolution would now suffice to make our country a completely socialist country; but it presents immense difficulties of a purely cultural (for we are illiterate) and material character (for to be cultured we must achieve a certain development of the material means of production, we must have a certain material base).

January 6, 1923

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

How We Should Reorganise the Wokers’ and Peasants’ Inspection Recommendation to the Twelfth Party Congress

Written: January 23, 1923

It is beyond question that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is an enormous difficulty for us, and that so far this difficulty has not been overcome. I think that the comrades who try to overcome the difficulty by denying that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is useful and necessary are wrong. But I do not deny that the problem presented by our state apparatus and the task of improving it is very difficult, that it is far from being solved, and is an extremely urgent one.

With the exception of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, our state apparatus is to a considerable extent a survival of the past and has undergone hardly any serious change. It has only been slightly touched up on the surface, but in all other respects it is a most typical relic of our old state machine. And so, to find a method of really renovating it, I think we ought to turn for experience to our Civil War. How did we act in the more critical moment of the Civil War? We concentrated our best Party forces in the Red Army; we mobilised the best of our workers; we looked for new forces at the deepest roots of our dictatorship.

I am convinced that we must go to the same source to find the means of reorganising the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. I recommend that our Twelfth Party Congress adopt the following plan of reorganisation, based on some enlargement of our Central Control Commission.

The Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee of our Party are already revealing a tendency to develop into a kind of supreme Party conference. They take place, on the average, not more than once in two months, while the routine work is conducted, as we know, on behalf of the Central Committee by our Political Bureau, our Organising Bureau, our Secretariat, and so forth. I think we ought to follow the road we have thus taken to the end and definitely transform the Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee into supreme Party conferences convened once in two months jointly with the Central Control Commission.

The Central Control Commission should be combined with the main body of the reorganised Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection along the following lines:

I propose that the Congress should elect 75 to 100 new members to the Central Control Commission. They should be workers and peasants, and should go through the same Party screening as ordinary members of the Central Committee, because they are to enjoy the same rights as the members of the Central Committee. On the other hand, the staff of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should be reduced to three or four hundred persons, specially screened for conscientiousness and knowledge of our state apparatus. They must also undergo a special test as regards their knowledge of the principles of scientific organisation of labour in general, and of administrative work, office work, and so forth, in particular.

In my opinion, such a union of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection with the Central Control Commission will be beneficial to both these institutions. On the one hand, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection will thus obtain such high authority that it will certainly not be inferior to the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs. On the other hand, our Central Committee, together with the Central Control Commission, will definitely take the road of becoming a supreme Party conference, which in fact it has already taken, and along which it should proceed to the end so as to be able to fulfil its functions properly in two respects: in respect to its own methodical, expedient and systematic organisation of work, and in respect to maintaining contacts with the broad masses through the medium of the best of our workers and peasants.

I foresee an objection that, directly or indirectly, may come from those spheres which make our state apparatus antiquated, i.e., from those who urge that its present, utterly impossible, indecently pre-revolutionary form be preserved (incidentally, we now have an opportunity which rarely occurs in history of ascertaining the period necessary for bringing about radical social changes; we now see clearly what can be done in five years, and what requires much more time). The objection I foresee is that the change I propose will lead to nothing but chaos. The members of the Central Control Commission will wander around all the institutions, not knowing where, why or to whom to apply, causing disorganisation everywhere and distracting employees from their routine work, etc., etc.

I think that the malicious source of this objection is so obvious that it does not warrant a reply. It goes without saying that the Presidium of the Central Control Commission, the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and his collegium (and also, in the proper cases, the Secretariat of our Central Committee) will have to put in years of persistent effort to get the Commissariat properly organised, and to get it to function smoothly in conjunction with the Central Control Commission. In my opinion, the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, as well as the whole collegium, can (and should) remain and guide the work of the entire Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, including the work of all the members of the Central Control Commission who will be "placed under his command". The three or four hundred employees of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection that are to remain, according to my plan, should, on the one hand, perform purely secretarial functions for the other members of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and for the supplementary members of the Central Control Commission; and, on the other hand, they should be highly skilled, specially screened, particularly reliable, and highly paid, so that they may be relieved of their present truly unhappy (to say the least) position of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection officials.

I am sure that the reduction of the staff to the number I have indicated will greatly enhance the efficiency of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection personnel and the quality of all its work, enabling the People’s Commissar and the members of the collegium to concentrate their efforts entirely on organising work and on systematically and steadily improving its efficiency, which is so absolutely essential for our workers’ and peasants’ government, and for our Soviet system.

On the other hand, I also think that the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should work partly combining and partly co-ordinating those higher institutions for the organisation of labour (the Central Institute of Labour, etc.), of which there are now no fewer than twelve in our Republic. Excessive uniformity and a consequent desire to unity will be harmful. On the contrary, what is needed here is a reasonable and expedient mean between combining all these institutions and properly delimiting them, allowing for a certain independence in each of them.

Our own Central Committee will undoubtedly gain no less from this reorganisation than the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. It will gain because its contacts with the masses will be greater and because the regularity and effectiveness of its work will improve. It will then be possible (and necessary) to institute a stricter and more responsible procedure of preparing for the meetings of the Political Bureau, which should be attended by a definite number of members of the Central Control Commission determined either from a definite period of by some organisation plan.

In distributing work to the members of the Central Control Commission, the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, in conjunction with the Presidium of the Central Control Commission, should impose on them the duty either of attending the meetings of the Political Bureau for the purpose of examining all the documents pertaining to matters that come before it in one way or another; or of devoting their working time to theoretical study, to the study of scientific methods of organising labour; or of taking a practical part in the work of supervising and improving our machinery of state, from the higher state institutions to the lower local bodies, etc. I also think that in addition to the political advantages ocurring from the fact that the members of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission will, as a consequence of this reform, be much better informed and better prepared for the meetings of the Political Bureau (all the documents relevant to the business to be discussed at these meetings should be sent to all the members of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission not latter than the day before the meeting of the Political Bureau, except in absolutely urgent cases, for which special methods of informing the members of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission and of settling these matters must be devise), their will also be the advantage that the influence of purely personal and incidental factors in our Central Committee will diminish, and this will reduce the danger of a split.

Our Central Committee has grown into a strictly centralised and highly authoritative group, but the conditions under which this group is working are not concurrent with its authority. The reform I recommend should help to remove this defect, and the members of the Central Control Commission, whose duty it will be to attend all meetings of the Political Bureau in a definite number, will have to form a compact group which should not allow anybody’s authority without exception, neither that of the General Secretary [Stalin] nor of any other member of the Central Committee, to prevent them from putting questions, verifying documents, and, in general, from keeping themselves fully informed of all things and from exercising the strictest control over the proper conduct of affairs.

Of course, in our Soviet Republic, the social order is based on the collaboration of two classes: the workers and peasants, in which the "Nepmen", i.e., the bourgeoisie, are now permitted to participate on certain terms. If serious class disagreements arise between these classes, a split will be inevitable. But the grounds for such a split are not inevitable in our social system, and it is the principal tasks of our Central Committee and Central Control Commission, as well as of our party as a whole, to watch very closely over such circumstances as may cause a split, and to forestall them, for in the final analysis the fate of our Republic will depend on whether the peasant masses will stand by the working class, loyal to their alliance, or whether they will permit the "Nepmen", i.e., the new bourgeoisie, to drive a wedge between them and the working class, to split them off from the working class. The more clearly we see this alternative, the more clearly all our workers and peasants understand it, the greater are the chances that we shall avoid a split which would be fatal for the Soviet Republic.

January 23, 1923

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Better Fewer, But Better

Written: March 2, 1923

First Published: Pravda (No. 49), March 4, 1923

This document is the second part of Lenin’s letter to the 12th Congress How we Should Reorganise the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. This is the last document written by Vladimir Lenin.

In the matter of improving our state apparatus, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should not, in my opinion, either strive after quantity or hurry. We have so far been able to devote so little thought and attention to the efficiency of our state apparatus that it would now be quite legitimate if we took special care to secure its thorough organisation, and concentrated in the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection a staff of workers really abreast of the times, i.e., not inferior to the best West-European standards. For a socialist republic this condition is, of course, too modest. But our experience of the first five years has fairly crammed our heads with mistrust and scepticism. These qualities assert themselves involuntarily when, for example, we hear people dilating at too great length and too flippantly on "proletarian" culture. For a start, we should be satisfied with real bourgeois culture; for a start we should be glad to dispense with the crude types of pre-bourgeois culture, i.e., bureaucratic culture or serf culture, etc. In matters of culture, haste and sweeping measures are most harmful. Many of our young writers and Communists should get this well into their heads.

Thus, in the matter of our state apparatus we should now draw the conclusion from our past experience that it would be better to proceed more slowly.

Our state apparatus is so deplorable, not to say wretched, that we must first think very carefully how to combat its defects, bearing in mind that these defects are rooted in the past, which, although it has been overthrown, has not yet been overcome, has not yet reached the stage of a culture, that has receded into the distant past. I say culture deliberately, because in these matters we can only regard as achieved what has become part and parcel of our culture, of our social life, our habits. We might say that the good in our social system has not been properly studied, understood, and taken to heart; it has been hastily grasped at; it has not been verified or tested, corroborated by experience, and not made durable, etc. Of course, it could not be otherwise in a revolutionary epoch, when development proceeded at such break-neck speed that in a matter of five years we passed from tsarism to the Soviet system.

It is time we did something about it. We must show sound scepticism for too rapid progress, for boastfulness, etc. We must give thought to testing the steps forward we proclaim every hour, take every minute and then prove every second that they are flimsy, superficial and misunderstood. The most harmful thing here would be haste. The most harmful thing would be to rely on the assumption that we know at least something, or that we have any considerable number of elements necessary for the building of a really new state apparatus, one really worthy to be called socialist, Soviet, etc.

No, we are ridiculously deficient of such an apparatus, and even of the elements of it, and we must remember that we should not stint time on building it, and that it will take many, many years.

What elements have we for building this apparatus? Only two. First, the workers who are absorbed in the struggle of socialism. These elements are not sufficient educated. They would like to build a better apparatus for us, but they do not know how. They cannot build one. They have not yet developed the culture required for this; and it is culture that is required. Nothing will be achieved in this by doing things in a rush, by assault, by vim or vigour, or in general, by any of the best human qualities. Secondly, we have elements of knowledge, education and training, but they are ridiculously inadequate compared with all other countries.

Here we must not forget that we are too prone to compensate (or imagine that we can compensate) our lack of knowledge by zeal, haste, etc.

In order to renovate our state apparatus we must at all costs set out, first, to learn, secondly, to learn, and thirdly, to learn, and then see to it that learning shall not remain a dead letter, or a fashionable catch-phrase (and we should admit in all frankness that this happens very often with us), that learning shall really become part of our very being, that it shall actually and fully become a constituent element of our social life. In short, we must not make the demands that were made by bourgeois Western Europe, but demands that are fit and proper for a country which has set out to develop into a socialist country.

The conclusion to be drawn from the above are the following: we must make the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection a really exemplary institution, an instrument to improve our state apparatus.

In order that it may attain the desired high level, we must follow the rule: "Measure your cloth seven times before you cut."

For this purpose, we must utilise the very best of what there is in our social system, and utilise it with the greatest caution, thoughtfulness and knowledge, to build up the new People’s Commissariat. For this purpose, the best elements that we have in our social system- such as, first, the advanced workers, and, second, the really enlightened elements for whom we can vouch that they will not take the word for the deed, and will not utter a single word that goes against their conscience- should not shrink from admitting any difficulty and should not shrink from any struggle in order to achieve the object they have seriously set themselves.

We have been bustling for five years trying to improve our state apparatus, but it has been mere bustle, which has proved useless in these five years, of even futile, or even harmful. This bustle created the impression that we were doing something, but in effect it was only clogging up our institutions and our brains.

It is high time things were changed.

We must follow the rule: Better fewer, but better. We must follow the rule: Better get good human material in two or even three years than work in haste without hope of getting any at all.

I know that it will be hard to keep to this rule and apply it under our conditions. I know that the opposite rule will force its way through a thousand loopholes. I know that enormous resistance will have to be put up, that devilish persistence will be required, that in the first few years at least work in this field will be hellishly hard. Nevertheless, I am convinced that only by such effort shall we be able to achieve our aim; and that only by achieving this aim shall we create a republic that is really worthy of the name of Soviet, socialist, and so on, and so forth.

Many readers probably thought that the figures I quoted by way of illustration in my first article [ How We Should Reorganise the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection] were too small. I am sure that many calculations may be made to prove that they are. But I think that we must put one thing above all such and other calculations, i.e., our desire to obtain really exemplary quality.

I think that the time has at last come when we must work in real earnest to improve our state apparatus and in this there can scarcely be anything more harmful than haste. That is why I would sound a strong warning against inflating the figures. In my opinion, we should, on the contrary, be especially sparing with figures in this matter. Let us say frankly that the People’ s Commissariat of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection does not at present enjoy the slightest authority. Everybody knows that no other institutions are worse organised than those of our Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, and that under present conditions nothing can be expected from this People’s Commissariat. We must have this firmly fixed in our minds if we really want to create within a few years an institution that will, first, be an exemplary institution, secondly, win everybody’s absolute confidence, and, thirdly, prove to all and sundry that we have really justified the work of such a highly placed institution as the Central Control Commission. In my opinion, we must immediately and irrevocably reject all general figures for the size of office staffs. We must select employees for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection with particular care and only on the basis of the strictest test. Indeed, what is the use of establishing a People’s Commissariat which carries on anyhow, which does not enjoy the slightest confidence, and whose word carries scarcely any weight? I think that our main object in launching the work of reconstruction that we now have in mind is to avoid all this.

The workers whom we are enlisting as members of the Central Control Commission must be irreproachable Communists, and I think that a great deal has yet to be done to teach them the methods and objects of their work. Furthermore, there must be a definite number of secretaries to assist in this work, who must be put to a triple test before they are appointed to their posts. Lastly, the officials whom in exceptional cases we shall accept directly as employees of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection must conform to the following requirements:

First, they must be recommended by several Communists. Second, they must pass a test for knowledge of our state apparatus. Third, they must pass a test in the fundamentals of the theory of our state apparatus, in the fundamentals of management, office routine, etc.

Fourth, they must work in such close harmony with the members of the Central Control Commission and with their own secretariat that we could vouch for the work of the whole apparatus. I know that these requirements are extraordinarily strict, and I am very much afraid that the majority of the "practical" workers in the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection will say that these requirements are impracticable, or will scoff at them. But I ask any of the present chiefs of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, or anyone associated with that body, whether they can honestly tell me the practical purpose of a People’s Commissariat like the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection? I think this question will help them recover their sense of proportion. Either it is not worth while having another of the numerous reorganisations that we have had of this hopeless affair, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, or we must really set to work, by slow, difficult and unusual methods, and by testing these methods over and over again, to create something really exemplary, something that will win the respect of all and sundry for its merits, and not only because of its rank and title.

If we do not arm ourselves with patience, if we do not devote several years to this task, we had better not tackle it at all.

In my opinion we ought to select a minimum number of the higher labour research institutes, etc., which we have baked so hastily, see whether they are organised properly, and allow them to continue working, but only in a way that conforms to the high standards of modern science and gives us all its benefits. If we do that it will not be utopian to hope that within a few years we shall have an institution that will be able to perform its functions, to work systematically and steadily on improving our state apparatus, an institution backed by the trust of the working class, of the Russian Communist Party, and the whole population of our Republic.

The spade-work for this could begin at once. If the People’s Commissariat of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection accepted the present plan of reogranisation, it could not take the preparatory steps and work methodically until the task is completed, without haste, and not hesitating to alter what has already been done.

Any half-hearted solution would be extremely harmful in this matter. A measure for the size of the staff of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection based on any other consideration would, in fact, be based on the old bureaucratic considerations, on old prejudices, on what has already been condemned, universally ridiculed, etc.

In substance, the matter is as follows: Either we prove now that we have really learned something about state organisation (we ought to have learned something in five years), or we prove that we are not sufficiently mature for it. If the latter is the case, we had better not tackle the task. I think that with the available human material it will not be immodest to assume that we have learned enough to be able to systematically rebuild at least one People’s Commissariat. True, this one People’s Commissariat will have to be the model for our entire state apparatus. We ought to at once announce a contest in the compilation of two or more textbooks on the organisation of labour in general, and on management in particular. We can take as a basis the book already published by Yermansky, although it should be said in parentheses that he obviously sympathises with Menshevism and is unfit to compile textbooks for the Soviet system.

We can also take as a basis the recent book by Kerzhentsev, and some of the other partial textbooks available may be useful too. We ought to send several qualified and conscientious people to Germany, or to Britain, to collect literature and to study this question. I mention Britain in case it is found impossible to send people to the U.S.A. or Canada.

We ought to appoint a commission to draw up the preliminary programme of examinations for prospective employees of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection; ditto for candidates to the Central Control Commission. These and similar measures will not, of course, cause any difficulties for the People’s Commissar or the collegium of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, or for the Presidium of the Central Control Commission.

Simultaneously, a preparatory commission should be appointed to select candidates for membership of the Central Control Commission. I hope that we shall now be able to find more than enough candidates for this post among the experienced workers in all departments, as well as among the students of our Soviet higher schools. It would hardly be right to exclude one or another category beforehand.

Probably preference will have to be given to a mixed composition for this institution, which should combine many qualities, and dissimilar merits. Consequently, the tasks of drawing up the list of candidates will entail a considerable amount of work. For example, it would be least desirable for the staff of the new People’s Commissariat to consist of people of one type, only of officials, say, or for it to exclude people of the propagandist type, or people whose principal quality is sociability or the ability to penetrate into circles that are not altogether customary for officials in this field, etc.

I think I shall be able to express my idea best if I compare my plan with that of academic institutions. Under the guidance of their Presidium, the members of the Central Control Commission should systematically examine all the paper and documents of the Political Bureau. Moreover, they should divide their time correctly between various jobs in investigating the routine in our institutions, form the very small and privately-owned offices to the highest state institutions. And lastly, their functions should include the study of theory, i.e., the theory of organisation of the work they intend to devote themselves to, and practical work under the guidance of other comrades or of teachers in the higher institutes for the organisation of labour.

I do not think, however, that they will be able to confine themselves to this sort of academic work. In addition, they will have to prepare themselves for working which I would not hesitate to call training to catch, I will not say rouges, but something like that, and working out special ruses to screen their movements, their approach, etc.

If such proposals were made in West-European government institutions they would rouse frightful resentment, a feeling of moral indignation, etc.; but I trust that we have not become so bureaucratic as to be capable of that. NEP has not yet succeeded in gaining such respect as to cause any of us to be shocked at the idea somebody may be caught. Our Soviet Republic is of such recent construction, and there are such heaps of the old lumber still lying around that it would hardly occur to anyone to be shocked at the idea that we should delve into them by means of ruses, by means of investigations sometimes directed to rather remote sources or in a roundabout way. And even if it did occur to anyone to be shocked by this, we may be sure that such a person would make himself a laughing-stock. Let us hope that our new Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection will abandon what the French call pruderie, which we may call ridiculous primness, or ridiculous swank, and which plays entirely into the hands of our Soviet and Party bureaucracy. Let it be said in parentheses that we have bureaucrats in our Party offices as well as in Soviet offices. When I said above that we must study and study hard in institutes for the higher organisation of labour, etc., I did not by any means imply "studying" in the schoolroom way, nor did I confine myself to the idea of studying only in the schoolroom way. I hope that not a single genuine revolutionary will suspect me of refusing, in this case, to understand "studies" to include resorting to some semi-humourous trick, cunning device, piece of trickery or something of that sort. I know that in the staid and earnest states of Western European such an idea would horrify people and that not a single decent official would even entertain it. I hope, however, that we have not yet become as bureaucratic as all that and that in our midst the discussion of this idea will give rise to nothing more than amusement. Indeed, why not combine pleasure with utility? Why not resort to some humourous or semi-humorous trick to expose something ridiculous, something harmful, something semi-ridiculous, semi-harmful, etc.?

It seems to me that our Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection will gain a great deal if it undertakes to examine these ideas, and that the list of cases in which our Central Control Commission and its colleagues in the Workers and Peasants’ Inspection achieved a few of their most brilliant victories will be enriched by not a few exploits of our future Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and Central Control Commission members in places not quite mentionable in prim and staid textbooks.

How can a Party institution be amalgamated with a Soviet institution? Is there not something improper in this suggestion?

I do not ask these questions on my own behalf, but on behalf of those I hinted at above when I said that we have bureaucrats in our Party institutions as well as in the Soviet institutions.

But why, indeed, should we not amalgamate the two if this is in the interests of our work? Do we not all see that such an amalgamation has been very beneficial in the case of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, where it was brought about at the very beginning? Does not the Political Bureau discuss from the Party point of view many questions, both minor and important, concerning the "moves" we should make in reply to the "moves" of foreign powers in order to forestall their, say, cunning, if we are not to use a less respectable term? Is not this flexible amalgamation of a Soviet institution with a Party institution a source of great strength in our politics? I think that what has proved its usefulness, what has been definitely adopted in our foreign politics and has become so customary that it no longer calls forth any doubt in this field, will be at least as appropriate (in fact, I think it will be much more appropriate) for our state apparatus as a whole. The functions of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection cover our state apparatus as a whole, and its activities should affect all and every state institution without exception: local, central , commercial, purely administrative, educational, archival, theatrical, etc.- in short, all without any exception.

Why then should not an institution, whose activities have such wide scope, and which moreover requires such extraordinary flexibility of forms, be permitted to adopt this peculiar amalgamation of a Party control institution with a Soviet control institution?

I see no obstacles to this. What is more, I think that such an amalgamation is the only guarantee of success in our work. I think that all doubts on this score arise in the dustiest corners of our government offices, and that they deserve to be treated with nothing but ridicule.

Another doubt: is it expedient to combine educational activities with official activities? I think that it is not only expedient, but necessary. Generally speaking, in spite of our revolutionary attitude towards the West-European form of state, we have allowed ourselves to become infected with a number of its most harmful and ridiculous prejudices; to some extent we have been deliberately infected with them by our dear bureaucrats, who counted on being able again and again to fish in the muddy waters of these prejudices. And they did fish in these muddy waters to so great an extent that only the blind among us failed to see how extensively this fishing was practised.

In all spheres of social, economic and political relationships we are "frightfully" revolutionary. But as regards precedence, the observance of the forms and rites of office management, our "revolutionariness" often gives way to the mustiest routine. On more than one occasion, we have witnessed the very interesting phenomenon of a great leap forward in social life being accompanied by amazing timidity whenever the slightest changes are proposed.

This is natural, for the boldest steps forward were taken in a field which was long reserved for theoretical study, which was promoted mainly, and even almost exclusively, in theory. The Russian, when away from work, found solace from bleak bureaucratic realities in unusually bold theoretical constructions, and that is why in our country these unusually bold theoretical constructions assumed an unusually lopsided character. Theoretical audacity in general constructions went hand in hand with amazing timidity as regards certain very minor reforms in office routine. Some great universal agrarian revolution was worked out with an audacity unexampled in any other country, and at the same time the imagination failed when it came to working out a tenth-rate reform in office routine; the imagination, or patience, was lacking to apply to this reform the general propositions that produced such brilliant results when applied to general problems.

That is why in our present life reckless audacity goes hand in hand, to an astonishing degree, with timidity of thought even when it comes to very minor changes. I think that this has happened in all really great revolutions, for really great revolutions grow out of the contradictions between the old, between what is directed towards developing the old, and the very abstract striving for the new, which must be so new as not to contain the tiniest particle of the old.

And the more abrupt the revolution, the longer will many of these contradictions last.

The general feature of our present life is the following: we have destroyed capitalist industry and have done our best to raze to the ground the medieval institutions and landed proprietorship, and thus created a small and very small peasantry, which is following the lead of the proletariat because it believes in the results of its revolutionary work. It is not easy for us, however, to keep going until the socialist revolution is victorious in more developed countries merely with the aid of this confidence, because economic necessity, especially under NEP, keeps the productivity of labour of the small and very small peasants at an extremely low level. Moreover, the international situation, too, threw Russia back and, by and large, reduced the labour productivity of the people to a level considerably below pre-war. The West-European capitalist powers, partly deliberately and partly unconsciously, did everything they could to throw us back, to utilise the elements of the Civil War in Russia in order to spread as much ruin in the country as possible. It was precisely this way out of the imperialist war that seemed to have many advantages. They argued somewhat as follows: "If we fail to overthrow the revolutionary system in Russia, we shall, at all events, hinder its progress towards socialism." And from their point of view they could argue in no other way. In the end, their problem was half-solved. They failed to overthrow the new system created by the revolution, but they did prevent it from at once taking the step forward that would have justified the forecasts of the socialists, that would have enabled the latter to develop the productive forces with enormous speed, to develop all the potentialities which, taken together, would have produced socialism; socialists would thus have proved to all and sundry that socialism contains within itself gigantic forces and that mankind had now entered in to a new stage of development of extraordinarily brilliant prospects.

The system of international relationships which has now taken shape is one in which a European state, Germany, is enslaved by the victor countries. Furthermore, owing to their victory, a number of states, the oldest states in the West, are in a position to make some insignificant concessions to their oppressed classes- concessions which, insignificant though they are, nevertheless heard the revolutionary movement in those countries and create some semblance of "class truce."

At the same time, as a result of the last imperialist war, a number of countries of the East, India, China, etc, have been completely jolted out of the rut. Their development has definitely shifted to general European capitalist lines. The general European ferment has begun to affect them, and it is now clear to the whole world that they have been drawn into a process of development that must lead to a crisis in the whole of world capitalism.

Thus, at the present time we are confronted with the question- shall we be able to hold on with our small and very small peasant production, and in our present state of ruin, until the West-European capitalist countries consummate their development towards socialism? But they are consummating it not as we formerly expected. They are not consummating it through the gradual "maturing" of socialism, but through the exploitation of some countries by others, through the exploitation of the first of the countries vanquished in the imperialist war combined with the exploitation of the whole of the East. On the other hand, precisely as a result of the first imperialist war, the East has been definitely drawn into the revolutionary movement, has been definitely drawn into the general maelstrom of the world revolutionary movement.

What tactics does this situation prescribe for our country? Obviously the following. We must display extreme caution so as to preserve our workers’ government and to retain our small and very small peasantry under its leadership and authority. We have the advantage that the whole world is now passing to a movement that must give rise to a world socialist revolution. But we are labouring under the disadvantage that the imperialists have succeeded in splitting the world into two camps; and this split is made more complicated by the fact that it is extremely difficult for Germany, which is really a land of advanced, cultured, capitalist development, to rise to her feet. All the capitalist powers of what is called the West are pecking at her and preventing her from rising. On the other hand, the entire East, with its hundred of millions of exploited working people, reduced to the last degree of human suffering, has been forced into a position where its physical and material strength cannot possibly be compared with the physical, material and military strength of any of the much smaller West-European states.

Can we save ourselves from the impending conflict with these imperialist countries? May we hope that the internal antagonisms and conflicts between the thriving imperialist countries of the East will give us a second respite as they did the first time, when the campaign of the West-European counter-revolution in support of the Russian counter-revolution broke down owing to the antagonisms in the camp of the counter-revolutionaries of the West and the East, in the camp of th Eastern and Western exploiters, in the camp of Japan and the U.S.A.?

I think the reply to this question should be that the issue depends upon too many factors, and that the outcome of the struggle as a whole can be forecast only because in the long run capitalism itself is educating and training the vast majority of the population of the globe for the struggle.

In the last analysis, the outcome of the struggle will be determined by the fact that Russia, India, China, etc., account for the overwhelming majority of the population of the globe. And during the past few years it is this majority that has been drawn into the struggle for emancipation with extraordinary rapidity, so that in this respect there cannot be the slightest doubt what the final outcome of the world struggle will be. In this sense, the complete victory of socialism is fully and absolutely assured.

But what interests us is not the inevitability of this complete victory of socialism, but the tactics which we, the Russian Communist Party, we the Russian Soviet Government, should pursue to prevent the West-European counter-revolutionary states form crushing us. To ensure our existence until the next military conflict between the counter-revolutionary imperialist West and the revolutionary and nationalist East, between the most civilised countries of the world and the Orientally backward countries which, however, compromise the majority, this majority must become civilised. We, too, lack enough civilisation to enable us to pass straight on to socialism, although we do have the political requisites for it. We should adopt the following tactics, or pursue the following policy, to save ourselves.

We must strive to build up a state in which the workers retain leadership of the peasants, in which they retain the confidence of the peasants, and by exercising the greatest economy remove every trace of extravagance from our social relations.

We must reduce our state apparatus to the utmost degree of economy. We must banish from it all traces of extravagance, of which so much has been left over from tsarist Russia, form its bureaucratic capitalist state machine.

Will not this be a reign of peasant limitations?

No. If we see to it that the working class retains its leadership over the peasantry, we shall be able, by exercising the greatest possible thrift in the economic life of our state, to use every saving we make to develop our large-scale machine industry, to develop electrification, the hydraulic extraction of peat, to complete the Volkhov Power Project [A], etc.

In this, and in this alone, lies our hope. Only when we have done this shall we, speaking figuratively, be able to change horses, to change from the peasant, muzhik horse of poverty, from the horse of an economy designed for a ruined peasant country, to the horse which the proletariat is seeking and must seek — the horse of large-scale machine industry, of electrification, of the Volkhov Power Station, etc. That is how I link up in my mind the general plan of our work, of our policy, of our tactics, of our strategy, with the functions of the reorganised Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. This is what, in my opinion, justifies the exceptional care, the exceptional attention that we must devote to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection in raising it to an exceptionally high level, in giving it a leadership with Central Committee rights, etc.,etc.

And this justification is that only by thoroughly purging our government machine, by reducing it to the utmost everything that is not absolutely essential in it, shall we be certain of being able to keep going. Moreover, we shall be able to keep going not on the level of a small-peasant country, not on the level of universal limitation, but on a level steadily advancing to large-scale machine industry.

These are the lofty tasks that I dream of for our Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. That is why I am planning for it the amalgamation of the most authoritative Party body with an "ordinary" People’s Commissariat.

March 2, 1923

Letter to L. D. TROTSKY[2]

Dictated: Dictated by phone on March 5, 1923

Top secret


Dear Comrade Trotsky:

It is my earnest request that you should undertake the defence of the Georgian case in the Party C.C. This case is now under “persecution” by Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, and I cannot rely on their impartiality. Quite to the contrary. I would feel at ease if you agreed to undertake its defence. If you should refuse to do so for any reason, return the whole case to me. I shall consider it a sign that you do not accept.[3] With best comradely greetings



[1] A separate sheet, appended to the present letter, contains this note by a secretary: “Comrade Trotsky: To the letter communicated to you by phone, Vladimir Ilyich asked to add for your information that Comrade Kamenev is going to Georgia on Wednesday, and wants to know whether you wish to send anything there yourself. March 5, 23.”—Ed.

[2] The letter is connected with the “Georgian question”. After the October (1922) Plenum of the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee, there was a sharpening of the conflict between the Transcaucasian Territorial Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) and the Mdivani group (see Note 723). Having met with resistance from the Georgian Communists, the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Georgia, on which the Mdivani group had a majority, resigned on October 22 on the plea of its differences with the Transcaucasian Territorial Committee. Mdivani’s supporters lodged a complaint with the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee. On November 25, 1922, the Politbureau adopted a decision to send a commission to Georgia, with F. E. Dzerzhinsky at its head, to examine urgently the statements by members of the Central Committee of the Georgian Communist Party who had resigned, and to work out measures to establish tranquility in the Georgian Communist Party.

Lenin was highly anxious over the “Georgian question”. On December 12, Dzerzhinsky reported to Lenin the results of his trip. Lenin was dissatisfied with the work of the commission, believing that it had taken a biased approach to the conflict, and had failed to note the grave errors made by G. K. Orjonikidze. Lenin connected the “Georgian question” with the general question of establishing the U.S.S.R., expressing alarm over whether the principles of proletarian internationalism would be consistently implemented in the unification of the Republics. In his letter, “The Question of Nationalities, or ‘Autonomisation’”, he censured Orjonikidze’s action and the connivance at it on the part of the Dzerzhinsky Commission, and of Stalin. Lenin placed the political responsibility for the whole affair chiefly on Stalin, who was the C.C. Secretary General, with reference to his grave mistakes in unifying the Republics (see present edition, Vol. 36, pp. 605–11).

Lenin, far from supporting, in fact criticised the fundamentally erroneous stand of Mdivani and his supporters on various aspects of the Transcaucasian Federation and the formation of the U.S.S.R. (see this volume, Document 777); but considering that at the time the main danger lay in dominant-nation chauvinism, and that the task of fighting the latter was to be shouldered mainly by the Communists of the formerly dominant nation, Lenin concentrated attention on the mistakes made by Stalin, Dzerzhinsky and Orjonikidze on the “Georgian question”. He pointed out that in this matter, especially when, in connection with the unification of the Republics, there was need for “particular circumspection, tact and tractability”, and that “in this case it is better to overdo the tractability and mildness in treating the national minorities than to underdo them”. That is the context in which to view Lenin’s words about his being “on the side of the ‘offended’ in the ‘Georgian conflict’” (see this volume, Document 814, and also Collected Works, Fifth (Russian) Edition, Vol. 45, p. 486). Lenin’s letter to Trotsky was written in connection with the forthcoming discussion of the “Georgian question” at a Plenum of the R.C.P.(B.) Central Committee.

[3] This letter was read to Trotsky the same day on the phone by Maria Volodicheva, assistant secretary of the C.L.D. and the C.P.C. On the plea of ill health, Trotsky said he could not undertake such an obligation.

Letter to Stalin on March 5, 1923

Top secret


Copy to Comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev

Dear Comrade Stalin:

You have been so rude as to summon my wife to the telephone and use bad language. Although she had told you that she was prepared to forget this, the fact nevertheless became known through her to Zinoviev and Kamenev. I have no intention of forgetting so easily what has been done against me, and it goes without saying that what has been done against my wife I consider having been done against me as well. I ask you, therefore, to think it over whether you are prepared to withdraw what you have said and to make your apologies, or whether you prefer that relations between us should be broken off.[1]

Respectfully yours,


March 5, 1923


[1] A reference to the following fact. After Lenin, with the permission of his doctors, had, on December 21, 1922, dictated a letter to Trotsky on the foreign trade monopoly (see this volume, Document 811), J. V. Stalin, whom a C.C. Plenum decision of December 18 had made personally responsible for the observance of the medical regimen ordered for Lenin, used offensive language against Nadezhda Krupskaya and threatened to take the case to the Control Commission for having taken down the said letter. On December 23, 1922, Krupskaya sent Kamenev a letter asking for protection from “the gross interference in my personal life, offensive language and threats”.

Nadezhda Krupskaya apparently told Lenin of this fact in early March 1923. Having learned about this Lenin dictated the document here published.

Maria Ulyanova later wrote in a letter to the presidium of the July (1926) Joint Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the R.C.P.(B.), at which the question had been raised by G. Y. Zinoviev, one of the leaders of the “new opposition”, that Stalin had offered his apologies.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Published: Printed from a typewritten copy on March 6, 1923.

Top secret

Comrades Mdivani, Makharadze and others

Copy to Comrades Trotsky and Kamenev

Dear Comrades:

I am following your case with all my heart. I am indignant over Orjonikidze’s rudeness and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. I am preparing for you notes and a speech.[1]

Respectfully yours,


March 6, 1923


[1] See Note 765.

Lenin was unable to prepare the letter and the speech on the “Georgian question”. On March 10, 1923, there was an acute deterioration in his condition.

This letter is the last document dictated by Lenin.

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