Nadezhda K. Krupskaya

On Communist Ethics

Written: 1924-1936;
Source: Communist Morality, compiled by N. Bychkova, R. Lavrov and V. Lubisheva, Progress Publishers, 1962;
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan for, September, 2002.

From the Speech at the Sixth Congress of the Russian Leninist Young Communist League

July 12, 1924

...We should try to link our personal lives with the cause for which we struggle, with the cause of building communism.

This, of course, does not mean that we should renounce our personal life. The Party of communism is not a sect, and so such asceticism should not be advocated. At a factory, I once heard a woman addressing her work-mates say: "Comrades working women, you should remember that once you join the Party you have to give up husband and children."

Of course, this is not the approach to the question. It is not a matter of neglecting husband and children, but of training the children to become fighters for communism, to arrange things so that the husband becomes such a fighter, too. One has to know how to merge one's life with the life of society. This is not asceticism. On the contrary, the fact of this merging, the fact that the common cause of all working people becomes a personal matter, makes personal life richer. It does not become poorer, it offers deep and colourful experiences which humdrum family life has never provided. To know how to merge one's life with work for communism, with the work and struggle of the working people to build communism, is one of the tasks that face us. You, young people, are only just starting out on your lives, and you can build them so that there is no gap between your personal life and that of society....

From the Article "Lenin as a Man"

Lenin was a revolutionary Marxist and collectivist to the depths of his being. All his life and work was devoted to one great goal--the struggle for the triumph of socialism. This left its imprint on all his thoughts and feelings. He had none of the pettiness, petty envy, anger, revengefulness and vanity so much to be found in small-property-minded individualists.

Lenin fought, he put questions sharply; in argument he introduced nothing personal but approached questions from the point of view of the matter in question, and, because of this, comrades were not usually offended at his sharp manner. He observed people closely, listened to what they had to say, tried to grasp the essential point, and so he was able, out of a number of insignificant points, to catch the nature of the person, he was able to approach people with remarkable sensitivity, to find in them all that was good and of value and could be put to the service of the common cause.

I often noticed how after meeting Ilyich people became different, and for this the comrades loved Ilyich and he himself gained as much from his meetings with them, as very few people could gain. Not everyone can learn from life, from other people. Ilyich knew how to. He never used artifice or diplomacy in dealing with people, never hoodwinked them, and people sensed his sincerity and candour.

Concern for his comrades was characteristic of him. He was concerned about them when he was in prison, at liberty, in exile, in emigration and when he became Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars. He was concerned not only about his comrades, but even about people complete strangers who needed his help. The only letter to me from Ilyich which I have preserved contains this phrase: "The letters for help which sometimes come to you I read and try to do what is possible." This was in the summer of 1919, when Ilyich had more than enough other concerns. The civil war was at its height. In the same letter he wrote: "It seems the Whites are in control of the Crimea again. There were more than enough things to see to, but I never heard Ilyich say he had no time, when it was a matter of helping people.

He was always telling me that I should be more concerned about the comrades I worked with and once, when during a party purge one of my workers from the People's Commissariat for Education was unjustly attacked, he found time to look through back numbers of publications in order to find material confirming that the worker, even before October, when still a member of the Bund, had defended the Bolsheviks.

Lenin was kind, some people say. But the word "kind" from the old language of "virtue" hardly suits Ilyich, it is somehow inadequate and inaccurate.

The family or group clannishness so characteristic of the old days was alien to Ilyich. He never separated the personal from the social. With him it was all merged into one. He could never have loved a woman whose views differed from his own, who was not his comrade in work. He had a habit of becoming passionately attached to people. His attachment to Plekhanov from whom he got so much, was typical in this respect, but it never prevented him from fighting hard against Plekhanov when he saw that Plekhanov was wrong, that his point of view harmed the cause; it did not prevent him from breaking completely with him when Plekhanov became a defencist.

Successful work delighted Ilyich. Work for the cause was the mainspring of his life, what he loved and what carried him away. Lenin tried to get as close as he could to the masses and he was able to do so. Association with workers gave him a very great deal. It gave him a real understanding of the tasks of the struggle of the proletariat at every stage. If we attentively study how Lenin worked as a scholar, a propagandist, a man of letters, an editor and organiser, we shall also understand him as a man. ...

From the Article "Lenin on Communist Morality"

Lenin was of the generation that grew up under the influence of Pisarev, Shchedrin, Nekrasov, Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky, of the revolutionary-democratic poets of the sixties. The Iskra poets mercilessly ridiculed the survivals of the old serfdom, they flayed depravity, servility, toadying, double-dealing, philistinism and bureaucratic methods. The writers of the 1860's advocated making a closer study of life and disclosing the survivals of the old feudal system. From his earliest years Lenin loathed philistinism, gossip, futile time-wasting, family life "separated from social interests", making women a plaything, an amusement, or a submissive slave. He despised the sort of life that is full of insincerity and easy adaptation to circumstances. Ilyich was particularly fond of Chernyshevsky's novel What Is to Be Done?; he loved the keen satire of Shchedrin, loved the Iskra poets, many of whose verses he knew by heart, and he loved Nekrasov.

For many long years Vladimir Ilyich had to live in emigration in Germany, Switzerland, England and France. He went to workers' meetings, looked closely at the lives of the workers, saw how they lived at home and spent their leisure hours in cafes or out walking.....

...Abroad we lived pretty poorly, for the most part lodging in cheap hired rooms where all kinds of people lived; we were bearded by a variety of landladies and ate in cheap restaurants. Ilyich was very fond of the Paris cafes, where in democratic songs singers sharply criticised bourgeois democracy and the day-to-day aspect of life. Ilyich particularly liked the songs of Montegus, the son of a Communard, who wrote good verses about life in the faubourgs (city outskirts). Ilyich once met and talked with Montegus at an evening party, and they conversed long after midnight about the revolution, the workers' movement and how socialism would create a new, socialist way of life.

Vladimir Ilyich always closely associated the questions of morality with those of the world outlook....

...In his speech on October 2, 1920, at the Third Congress of the Young Communist League, Vladimir Ilyich dwelt on communist morality, gave simple, concrete examples to explain the essence of communist morality. He told his audience that feudal and bourgeois morality is downright deception, the hoodwinking and befooling of workers and peasants in the interests of the landlords and capitalists; and that communist morality derives from the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat. He said that communist morality should aim at raising human society to a higher level, getting rid of the exploitation of labour. At the root of communist morality lies the struggle to strengthen and finally achieve communism. Lenin gave concrete examples to show the importance of solidarity, the ability to master oneself, to work tirelessly for what is needed to consolidate the new social system, the need for great and conscious discipline to this end, the need for strong solidarity in the fulfilment of set tasks. Ilyich told the young people that it was necessary for them to devote all their work, all their efforts to the common cause.

And Lenin's own life was a model of how this should be done. Ilyich could not live any other way, he did not know how to. But he was not an ascetic; he loved skating and fast cycling, mountain-climbing and hunting; he loved music and life in all its many-sided beauty; he loved his comrades, loved people in general. Everyone knows of his simplicity, his merry, infectious laughter. But everything about him was subordinated to the one thing--the struggle for a bright, enlightened, prosperous life of meaning and happiness for all. And nothing gladdened him so much as the successes achieved in this struggle. The personal side of him merged naturally with his social activity....

From a Letter to A. M. Gorky

1 September 20, 1932

...To build socialism means not only building gigantic factories and flour mills. This is essential but not enough for building socialism. People must grow in mind and heart. And on the basis of this individual growth of each in our conditions a new type of mighty socialist collective will in the long run be formed, where "I" and "we" will merge into one inseparable whole. Such a collective can only develop on the basis of profound ideological solidarity and an equally profound emotional rapprochement, mutual understanding.

And here, art, and literature in particular, can play a quite exceptional role. In Capital, Marx has a marvellous chapter [Ed. note--Ch. XI] which I want to translate into the simplest language that even the semi-literate can understand, the chapter on co-operation, where he writes that the collective gives birth to a new force. It is not just the sum-total of people, the sum-total of their forces, but a completely new, much more powerful, force. In his chapter on co-operation Marx writes about the new material force. But when, on its basis, unity of consciousness and will springs up, it becomes an indomitable force....

Letter to Working Men and Women
at the Trekhgornaya Manufaktura Mills

It is to be welcomed in every way that the Trekhgornaya Manufaktura Mills has seriously taken up the question of educating children. It is a highly important question.

Much attention has recently been devoted to universal education, strengthening the schools and improving teaching methods. But not everything, by a long way, has yet been done. Working men and women need to get closer to the school, to take a deeper interest in its work. They can help a great deal in the teaching work and in communist education.

Children spend the greater part of their time outside the school. Here they come under the influence of the street and frequently of hostile hooligan elements. Questions concerning the organisation of the children's out-of-school hours, the Young Pioneer movement, the provision of libraries and workshops and social work for the children, are of tremendous importance, Here, working men and women can do a very great deal. I firmly trust that this discussion of school and out-of-school education by the working people of the Trekhgornaya Manufaktura Mills will provide an impetus to this work.

N. Krupskaya

From a Letter
to the Party and Komsomol Members,
the Factory Committee, the Management
and the Entire Collective
of the Clara Zetkin Factory


...The woman today is not simply a man's wife, she is a social worker, she wants to educate her children in the new way, she wants her whole day-to-day life to be rearranged of new lines. At every step she feels she lacks knowledge.

It is necessary that at your factory, which bears the name of the great revolutionary Clara Zetkin, a woman who fought passionately for the emancipation of women-workers, it should be a matter of honour for all factory organisations to see to it that not a single person remains illiterate at the factory, that every working woman should become more literate.

It is not only the youth that is studying today; everyone for whom the cause of Marx, Engels and Lenin is dear is studying. All politically-conscious working people in our Land of Soviets which has travelled such a hard road of struggle and has trained in this struggle self-sacrificing fighters who have achieved tremendous successes, are studying hard....

Letter to a Budding Writer

July 3, 1936

Dear Comrade!

It seems to me that you are not on the right road. If you wish to become a real poet, a writer, whom the masses would love and appreciate, you have to work a great deal on yourself. Here no universities, no writers' unions will help.

I cannot see from your letter what grieves your heart, what--apart from your own literary career--disturbs you. He who looks with indifference on life all round him "from the writer's carriage window" will never become a real writer. You have been in the Mining Institute, but have you any idea about the life of the miners, about their state of mind? They are one of the leading sections of the proletariat, and you are not interested in them ... so far, I hope.

In my opinion, you will not make an engineer, that needs a different make-up, a different training.

I would advise you to go to work in a pit, to make use of the knowledge you have acquired, to work side by side with ordinary workers, to take a look at the way they live, their home conditions. Then the themes for poems will come true to life, and there will be something that would stir you.

There is often a great deal of snobbish conceit in budding writers--and even frequently in workers' children, but [it] has to be thoroughly washed away.

With comradely greetings,

N. Krupskaya