First Published: Dervensky Kommunist, No 10 May 15, 1927;
Source: J. V. Stalin, Selected Works, The “8 Nëntori” Publishing House, Albania, 1979;
Transcription and Mark-up: B. and Mike B.
Reply to Comrade Marchulin:
Your letter to the ‘Derevensky Kommunist’  on the question of Soviets in China has been forwarded to me by the editorial board for reply. Presuming that you will have no objection, I am sending you a brief answer to your letter.
I think, Comrade Marchulin, that your letter is based upon misunderstanding. And for the following reasons:
1) Stalin’s theses for propagandists oppose the immediate formation of Soviets of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies in present-day China. You, however, join issue with Stalin and refer to Lenin’s theses and speech at the Second Congress of the Comintern, where he speaks only of peasants’ Soviets, of toilers’ Soviets, of Soviets of the working people, but does not utter a single word about the formation of Soviets of workers’ deputies.
Why does Lenin say nothing about the formation of Soviets ‘workers’ deputies either in his theses or in his speech? Because, both in his speech and in his theses, Lenin has in mind countries where there can be no question of a purely proletarian movement, where there is practically no industrial proletariat (see Vol. XXV, p. 353). Lenin definitely says in his speech that he has in mind such countries as Central Asia, Persia, where there is practically no industrial proletariat (ibid).
Can one include among such countries China, with its industrial centres, such as Shanghai, Hankow, Nanking, Changsha, where there are already some three million workers organized in trade unions? Obviously not.
It is clear that in the case of present-day China, where there is a certain minimum of industrial proletariat, one must envisage the formation not simply of peasants’ Soviets, or toilers’ Soviets, but Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies.
It would be another matter if we were considering Persia, Afghanistan, etc. But, as you know, Stalin’s theses deal not with Persia, Afghanistan, etc., but with China.
Consequently your objection to Stalin’s theses and your reference to Lenin’s speech and theses at the Second Congress of the Comintern are mistaken and pointless.
2) You quote in your letter a passage from the Supplementary Theses of the Second Congress of the Comintern on the national and colonial question, where it is said that in the East “the proletarian parties must carry on intensive propaganda of communist ideas and at the first opportunity establish workers’ and peasants’ Soviets.” In so doing, you make it appear as if these Supplementary Theses and the passage you quote from them are Lenin’s. That is not so, Comrade Marchulin. You have simply made a mistake. The Supplementary Theses are Roy’s. It was indeed as Roy’s theses that they were submitted at the Second Congress and adopted as a supplement to Lenin’s theses (see verbatim report of the Second Congress of the Comintern, pp. 122-26).
Why were the Supplementary Theses needed? In order to single out from the backward colonial countries which have no industrial proletariat such countries as China and India, of which it cannot be said that they have practically no industrial proletariat. Read the Supplementary Theses, — and you will realise that they refer chiefly to China and India (see verbatim report of the Second Congress of the Comintern, p. 122).
How could it happen that Roy’s special theses were needed to supplement Lenin’s theses? The fact is that Lenin’s theses had been written and published long before the Second Congress opened, long before the representatives from the colonial countries had arrived, and prior to the discussion in the special commission of the Second Congress. And since the discussion in the congress commission revealed the necessity for singling out from the backward colonies of the East such countries as China and India, the necessity for the Supplementary Theses arose.
Consequently, Lenin’s speech and theses must not be confused with Roy’s Supplementary Theses, nor must it be forgotten that, in the case of countries like China and India, one must envisage the formation of workers’ and peasants’ Soviets, and not simply of peasants’ Soviets.
3) Will it be necessary to form workers’ and peasants’ Soviets in China? Yes, it certainly will. That is plainly stated in Stalin’s theses for propagandists, which say:
The principal source of strength of the revolutionary Kuomintang lies in the further development of the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants and the strengthening of their mass organizations — revolutionary peasant committees, workers’ trade unions and other mass revolutionary organizations — as the preparatory elements of the future Soviets, . . . [*]
The whole question is when to form them, in what circumstances, in what situation.
Soviets of workers’ deputies are an all-embracing, and therefore the best, revolutionary organisation of the working class. But that does not necessarily mean that they can be formed at any time and in any circumstances. When Khrustalyov, the first chairman of the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, suggested the formation of soviets of workers’ deputies in the summer of 1906, after the tide of revolution had receded, Lenin objected and said that at that moment, when the rearguard (the peasantry) had not yet caught up with the vanguard (the proletariat), the formation of Soviets of workers’ deputies was inexpedient. And Lenin was quite right. Why? Because Soviets of workers’ deputies are not a simple workers’ organisation. Soviets of workers’ deputies are organs of the struggle of the working class against the existing power, organs of an uprising, organs of a new revolutionary power, and only as such can they develop and gain strength. And if the conditions do not exist for a direct mass struggle against the existing power, for a mass uprising against that power, for the organisation of a new revolutionary power, then the formation of workers’ Soviets is inexpedient, since, in the absence of these conditions, they run the risk of decaying and becoming mere talkshops.
Here is what Lenin said about Soviets of workers’ deputies:
Soviets of workers’ deputies are organs of direct struggle of the masses. ... It was not some kind of theory, not appeals on somebody’s part, not tactics of somebody’s invention, not a party doctrine, but the logic — facts that faced these non-Party, mass organs with the necessity of an uprising, and made them organs of an uprising. And to establish such organs at the present time would mean creating organs of an uprising,[**] and to call forth their establishment would mean calling for an uprising. To forget this, or to veil it from the eyes of the broad mass of the people would be the most unpardonable short-sightedness and the worst of policies (see Vol. X, p. 15).
The whole experience of both revolutions, that of 1905 and that of 1917, and all the decisions of the Bolshevik Party, all its political statements for many years past, boil down to this-that a Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is practicable only as the organ of an uprising, only as an organ of revolutionarv power. . . . If this is not their purpose, Soviets become empty playthings that are bound to lead to apathy, indifference and disillusionment among the masses, who quite naturally become fed up with the endless repetition of resolutions and protests (see Vol. XXI, p. 288).
That being the case, what would it mean to call for the immediate formation of Soviets of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies in present-day South China, in the area, say, of the Wuhan government, where the revolutionary Kuomintang is now in power, and the movement is developing under the slogan ‘All power to the revolutionary Kuomintang’ ? To call now for the formation of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies in this area would mean calling for an uprising against the power of the revolutionary Kuomintang. Would that be expedient? Obviously not. Obviously, whoever at the present time calls for the immediate formation of Soviets of workers’ deputies in this area is trying to skip over the Kuomintang phase of the Chinese revolution, is running the risk of putting the revolution in China in a most difficult position.
That, Comrade Marchulin, is how matters stand with the question of the immediate formation of Soviets of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies in China.
At the Second Congress of the Comintern a special resolution was adopted entitled: ‘When and in What Circumstances Soviets of Workers’ Deputies May Be Formed.’ Lenin was present when that resolution was adopted. I would advise you to read it. It is not without interest (see verbatim report of the Second Congress of the Comintern, pp. 580-83).
4) When will it be necessary to form Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies in China? Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies will necessarily have to be formed in China at the moment when the victorious agrarian revolution has developed to the full, when the Kuomintang, as a bloc of the revolutionary Narodniks of China (the Kuomintang Left) and the Communist Party, begins to outlive its day, when the bourgeois-democratic revolution, which has not yet triumphed and will not triumph so soon, begins to manifest its negative features, when it becomes necessary to pass step by step from the present, Kuomintang type of state organisation to a new, proletarian type of organisation of the state.
It is in this way that the passage on workers’ and peasants’ Soviets in Roy’s Supplementary Theses adopted at the Second Congress of the Comintern should be understood.
Has that moment already arrived?
There is no need to prove that it has not yet arrived.
What, then, is to be done at this moment? The agrarian revolution in China must be broadened and deepened. Mass workers’ and peasants’ organisations of every kind must be created and strengthened — from trade-union councils and strike committees to peasant associations and peasant revolutionary committees — with a view to converting them, as the revolutionary movement grows and achieves success, into organisational and political bases for the future Soviets of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies.
That is the task now.
 May 9, 1927 The magazine Dervensky Kommunist, No 10 May 15, 1927
[*] See this volume, pp. 261-62. – Ed.
[**] My italics — J. St.