V. I. Lenin

Session of the All-Russia C.E.C..

April 29 1918[1]

Delivered:April 29, 1918
First Published: 1920 in the book: Minutes of the Sessions of the All-Russia C.E.C., 4th Convocation. Verbatim Report, Moscow; Published according to the text of the book, collated with the verbatim report and with the text of the pamphlet: N. Lenin (V. I. Ulyanov), Old Articles on Almost New Subjects, Moscow, 1922
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pages 279-313
Translated: Clemens Dutt; Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

Table of Contents

1. Report On The Immediate Tasks Of The Soviet Government

2. Reply To The Debate On The Report On The Immediate Tasks .


Report On The Immediate Tasks Of The Soviet Government

Comrades, as regards my report, I shall have to present the question today in a somewhat unusual fashion. The point is that the real report is my article on the immediate tasks of the Soviet government, which was published on Sunday in two newspapers, and with which I presume the majority of those present are acquainted.

Hence I consider that there is no need for me now to repeat here what was said in the report and I can confine myself merely to additions to and explanations of the report. I think that the most suitable form for such explanations now will be that of a polemic, because the question I have touched on in these theses on immediate tasks is nothing but a development of the resolution already adopted by the All-Russia Extraordinary Congress in Moscow on March 15, a resolution which was not confined to the question of peace then under discussion, but pointed out also the chief task of the present time, the organisational task, the task of self-discipline, the task of combating disorganisation.

It is this that has been the basis, it seems to me, of our political trends, or the chief lines of our political trends, which have become fairly definitely marked in the recent period. I think, therefore, that a polemical form can most clearly confirm what I tried to sketch in a positive form in my article on immediate tasks.

Comrades, if you look at the political trends of contemporary Russia you are above all confronted with the task—here too, as always, so as not to make any mistake in your appraisal—of trying to look at all the trends taken together, for only in this way, only on this condition, can we safeguard ourselves from the errors involved in selecting particular examples. It is clearly possible to find any number of examples to confirm some particular proposition. But that is not the essence of the matter. We can try to get near to elucidating the connection between what is happening to the political trends in the country, taking these trends as a whole, and what is happening to the class interests, which are always manifested in big, serious and powerful political trends, only if we examine these trends as a whole, in their totality.

And so, if we take a look at the big political trends in Russia, it cannot be disputed, I think, that they are clearly and unquestionably divisible into three big groups. In the first group we have the entire bourgeoisie, united wholly and strongly, as one man, in the most determined, one might say reckless, “opposition” to the Soviet government. It is, of course, an opposition in quotation marks, because in fact we have here a furious struggle, which at this moment has drawn to the side of the bourgeoisie all those petty-bourgeois parties which agreed with Kerensky during the revolution. These are the Mensheviks, the Novaya Zhizn adherents and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, who outdid even the bourgeoisie in the fury of their attacks on us, for it is well known that very often the fury of attacks and the loudness of yelping are inversely proportional to the strength of the political elements from which the furious attacks proceed. (Applause.)

The entire bourgeoisie and all its yes-men and servitors, of the Chernov and Tsereteli type, joined in furious attacks against the Soviet system. With an eye to the pleasant prospect which has been realised by their friends, their political fellow-thinkers in the Ukraine, they are all longing to conclude a peace which would allow them, with the help of German bayonets and the bourgeoisie at home, to suppress the influence of the Bolsheviks. This is only too well known. We see a beautiful example of such friends in the shape of Chkhenkeli in the Caucasus. Everyone will remember this from the newspapers.

It is obvious that the proletariat, having taken power and launched the dictatorship of the working people, the dictatorship of the very poor over the exploiters, could not, of course, meet with anything else.

On the one hand, we have one flank, one front, completely united. If we are sometimes proffered dreams of a united democratic front, I at least, in the rare moments when I have occasion to pick up bourgeois newspapers, in the rare event of having the pleasure of reading such newspapers as Nash Vek, Dyelo Naroda, etc., even if only glancing at all these newspapers, I always think: what more do you need for unity of the democratic front?

All this unity of the democratic front they have to the full, and we can only rejoice at this unity, for—in so far as fragments of this bourgeois journalism come the way of the masses—it is not unity of a democratic front but unity of attacks on the Bolsheviks. And this unity of the front, from Milyukov to Martov, has deserved that we should put it on a roll of honour on May Day for excellent propaganda in favour of the Bolsheviks.

Comrades, if you take the other, opposite camp, you will see there now only our Party, the Party of Communist Bolsheviks. Events have developed in such a way that our allies during a great part of the post-October period—the Left S.R.s—have at present resigned from formal participation in the government. Their last Congress marked especially vividly the extreme vacillation in this party,[2] and this has now been shown more clearly than ever, since even in the press this party also gives expression to its complete confusion and complete vacillation.

If you decided to draw a graph showing how this party from February 1917—of course, prior to the split of the S.R.s into a Left and a Right wing—if you decided to draw a graph showing month by month on which side this party stood, on the side of the proletariat or on the side of the bourgeoisie, and if you were to continue drawing it for a year, the result would be a graph looking like a medical chart, at the sight of which everyone would say: here is a remarkable case of fever, a remarkably persistent fever!

In point of fact, hardly any other party has undergone such permanent and continual vacillations in the history of the revolution.

And so, if we take all these three main trends and look at them, it will become clear to us that such an alignment is not accidental, that it fully confirms what we Bolsheviks had occasion to point out in 1915, while still abroad, when the first news began to arrive that the revolution in Russia was growing, that it was inevitable—and when we had to answer questions about what the situation of the party would be if events put it in power while the war was still going on. At that time we had to say: it is possible that the revolution will win a decisive victory, this is possible from the class standpoint if at the decisive moments and decisive points the leading elements of the petty bourgeoisie waver to the side of the proletariat[See present edition, Vol. 21, p. 403.—Editor;]; and that is literally what happened, that is the course the history of the Russian revolution took and is taking at the present moment. Of course, in these vacillations of the petty-bourgeois elements we cannot find the slightest grounds for pessimism, not to speak of despair. It is clear that revolution in a country which has turned against the imperialist war earlier than other countries, revolution in a backward country which, to a considerable extent owing to this backwardness, events have put—of course, for a short time and, of course, in particular questions—in front of other, more advanced countries, this revolution, of course, is inevitably doomed to experience moments of the greatest difficulty and gravity, and most disheartening as well in the near future. For it to hold its front and its allies, for it to manage without waverers at such moments, would be absolutely unnatural; it would mean completely leaving out of account the class character of the revolution, and the nature of the parties and political groupings.

And so, if we look at the sum total of the political trends in Russia from the standpoint of the immediate tasks, from the standpoint of how the real, immediate and prime tasks confront us, the tasks of organisation and discipline, the tasks of accounting and control, we see that there is not the slightest attempt to make a real assessment of this task in the camp which is united in a single democratic front from Milyukov to Martov. There is not and cannot be such an assessment because there is only a single malevolent desire there—and the more vicious it is, the more it does honour to us—to find some possibility, or hint, or dream, of the overthrow of the Soviet regime, and nothing else. Unfortunately, representatives of the party of Left S.R.s have actually expressed most of all—in spite of the very great devotion to the revolution displayed by a large number of members of this party who have always shown much initiative and energy—they have displayed vacillation precisely over the immediate tasks of the present moment in regard to proletarian discipline, accounting, organisation and control, tasks which became natural for socialists when power had been won and the military attacks ranging from the Kerenskys and Krasnovs to the Kornilovs, Gegechkoris and Alexeyevs had been repulsed.

Now, when for the first time we have come to the vital core of the development of the revolution, the question is whether proletarian discipline and organisation will prevail, or whether victory will go to the petty-bourgeois element, which is especially strong in Russia.

For our opponents from the petty-bourgeois camp, the chief arena of struggle against us is the sphere of home policy and economic construction; their weapon is the undermining of everything that the proletariat decrees and endeavours to bring about in the matter of building an organised, socialist economy. Here the petty-bourgeois element—the element of petty proprietors and unbridled selfishness—acts as the determined enemy of the proletariat.

And in the graph shown by the petty bourgeoisie through out the events of the revolution we see their most marked withdrawal from us. Naturally we find here in this camp the chief opposition to the immediate and current tasks of the moment, opposition in the more exact sense of the word; here we have the opposition of people who do not reject agreement with us in principle, who support us on more essential questions than those on which they criticise, an opposition that is combined with support.

We shall not be surprised if in the pages of the Left S.R. press we come across such statements as those I found in Znamya Truda [3] of April 25. It writes: “The Right-wing Bolsheviks are ratifiers” (a horribly contemptuous nickname). What would happen if the opposite nickname was given to the warriors? Would it produce a less horrible impression? Well, if one encounters such trends in Bolshevism, it is an indication of something. It was on April 25 that I happened to look at the theses in a newspaper that gave a political characterisation of us. When I read this thesis I thought this must be someone from Kommunist, the newspaper of the “Left Communists” or from their magazine—there is so much that is similar here; but I was destined to disillusionment, because it turned out to be a thesis of Isuv’s, published in the newspaper Vperyod.[4] (Laughter, applause.)

And so, comrades, when we observe such political phenomena as the solidarity of Znamya Truda with a particular trend of Bolshevism or with some sort of formulation of Menshevik theses of the very party that pursued the policy of an alliance with Kerensky, of the very party in which Tsereteli concluded an agreement with the bourgeoisie, when we meet with attacks exactly coinciding with those emanating from the group of Left Communists and the new magazine—there is something amiss here. There is something here which sheds light on the real significance of these attacks, and it is worth while paying attention to these attacks if only because we have here an opportunity of assessing the chief tasks of the Soviet government in disputes with people with whom it is worth while disputing, because here we have Marxist theory, and we can take into consideration the significance of the events of the revolution and the undoubted desire to seek out the truth. Here the main basis for a real debate is provided by devotion to socialism and the obvious resolve to be on the side of the proletariat, against the bourgeoisie, whatever errors—in the opinion of particular persons, groups or trends—may have been committed in this respect by the proletariat in fighting against the bourgeoisie.

When I say that it is worth while disputing with them, I mean by a worth-while dispute, of course, not a polemic, but the fact that the question concerns a dispute over the most essential, fundamental problem of the present time. It is no accident that it is along this line that disputes are taking place. Objectively, it is along this line that the cardinal task lies at the present time—the task of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, which is dictated by the existing conditions in Russia and which has to be carried out in every way in the presence of an abundance of the most diverse petty-bourgeois trends, and when there is every need for the proletariat to say to itself that on this point it cannot make any concessions, because the socialist revolution, begun by wresting power from the bourgeoisie and continued by smashing all resistance of the bourgeoisie, places firmly in the forefront the problems of proletarian discipline and organisation of the working people and ability to tackle the work with strictly businesslike methods and knowledge of the interests of large-scale industry. These problems the proletariat must solve in practice, for otherwise it will suffer defeat.—Here is the chief, real difficulty of the socialist revolution.—This is the reason why it is so worth while, so important, in the historical and political sense of the word, to argue with the representatives of the group of Left Communists, in spite of the fact that, taking their position and theory and examining it, we see there, I repeat—and I shall prove it in a moment—absolutely nothing but the same petty-bourgeois waverings. The comrades of the group of Left Communists, whatever they call themselves, strike a blow primarily at their own theses. I assume that their views are known to the great majority of those at this meeting, because we have discussed the essence of them in Bolshevik circles, starting from the beginning of March, while those who have not taken an interest in the major political literature must have got to know and must have discussed these views in connection with the disputes that arose at the last All-Russia Congress of Soviets.

And so, we see in their theses primarily the same thing that we see now in the whole S.R. party, the same thing that we see now both in the Right-wing camp and in the camp of the bourgeoisie from Milyukov to Martov, for whom these present difficulties of the situation for Russia are especially painful from the point of view of the loss of her position as a Great Power, from the point of view of her conversion from the old nation, an oppressing state, into an oppressed country, from the standpoint of deciding not on paper but in practice whether the hardships of the road to socialism are worth while, whether the hardships of the newly-begun socialist revolution are worth while, whether it is worth while that the country should undergo the most difficult situations as regards its statehood, as regards its national independence.

Here the deepest division of all is between those for whom that state independence is, as it is for all the bourgeoisie, an ideal and a boundary, their holy of holies—a boundary which must not be crossed and an encroachment on which is a denial of socialism—and those who say that in the age of frenzied imperialist slaughter for redivision of the world the socialist revolution cannot proceed without very heavy defeats for many nations which were formerly considered oppressors. And so, however painful it is for mankind, socialists, class-conscious socialists are ready to undergo all such trials.

The Left S.R.s have wavered most of all on this basis, which is most of all unacceptable to them, and it is just on this basis that we see the greatest waverings among the Left Communists.

In their theses, which, as we know, they discussed with us on April 4,[5] and which they published on April 20, they keep returning to the question of peace.

They devote the greatest attention to appraising the question of peace and thereby try to prove that peace is a manifestation of the psychology of the exhausted and declassed masses.

How very comic their arguments are, when they quote their figures: that 12 were against and 28 were for the conclusion of peace.[6] But if one is to collect statistics, and if the vote of a month and a half ago is to be recalled, should one not take more recent figures. If political significance is to be attached to that vote, should one not call to mind the vote of the All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets[7] before saying that the healthy South was against peace, while the exhausted, declassed, industrially weakened North was allegedly for peace. Should one not call to mind the vote of the majority of the group at the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, in which not even one-tenth were against peace. If figures are to be recalled and political significance attached to them, the political voting needs to be taken as a whole, and then you will see at once that the parties which learnt certain slogans by heart, which made a fetish of these slogans, proved to be on the side of the petty bourgeoisie, while the mass of the working and exploited people, the mass of workers, soldiers and peasants, did not reject peace.

And now, when alongside the criticism of this stand for peace the allegation is made that it was insisted upon by the exhausted, declassed masses, while we see clearly that it was the declassed intelligentsia that was against peace, when we are given the appraisal of events that I read in the newspapers—this fact shows us that on the question of the conclusion of peace the majority of our Party was absolutely right, that when we were told that the game was not worth the candle, that all the imperialists had already combined against us and would in any case strangle us, bring us into disgrace, etc.—we nevertheless concluded peace. It not only seemed to them disgraceful, it seems to them of no avail. They told us that we would not gain a respite. And when we replied: it is impossible to know how international relations will develop, but we do know that the imperialist enemies are fighting one another, events confirmed this, and it was acknowledged by the group of Left Communists, our opponents in ideology and principle, who by and large adopt the standpoint of communism.

This phrase alone is a complete recognition of the correctness of our tactics and the fullest condemnation of those waverings on the question of peace which most of all drove away from us a certain wing of our supporters, both the entire wing grouped in the party of Left S.R.s, and the wing which has existed and still exists in our Party, and which one can confidently say will remain there, and which in its vacillations especially clearly reveals the source of these vacillations. Yes, the peace which we have arrived at is in the highest degree unstable; the respite which we have gained may be cut short any day both from the West and from the East—of this there is no doubt. Our international situation is so critical that we must exert all our strength to hold out as long as possible, until the Western revolution matures, the Western revolution which is maturing much more slowly than we expected and desired, but is undoubtedly maturing; it is undoubtedly absorbing and accumulating more and more inflammable material.

If we, as a separate contingent of the world proletariat, have been the first to go forward, it is not because this contingent has been more strongly organised than others. No, it is worse, more weakly and less organised than others, but it would be the height of stupidity and pedantry to argue, as many do: well, if things had been begun by the most organised contingent, and if it had been followed by one less well organised, and after that by one with a third-rate organisation, then we should willingly have been supporters of the socialist revolution. But since things did not go according to the book, since it turned out that the leading contingent was not supported by other contingents, our revolution is doomed to perish. We, on the other hand, say: no, our task is to transform the organisation in general; our task, since we are alone, is to maintain the revolution, to preserve for it at least a certain bastion of socialism, however weak and moderately sized, until the revolution matures in other countries, until other contingents come up to us. But to expect history to set the socialist contingents of the various countries in motion in strict sequence and according to a plan, means to have no notion of revolution or, out of stupidity, to renounce support of the socialist revolution.

At a time when we have found out for ourselves and proved that we have a firm position in Russia but do not have forces to oppose international imperialism, we have only one task, our tactics become those of manoeuvring, waiting and retreat. I am very well aware that these words cannot claim to be popular and that if they are given an appropriate turn and put in association with the word “coalition”, then the way is wide open here for piquant comparisons and for all kinds of reproaches and scoffing. But however much our adversaries—the bourgeoisie—on the Right and Our friends of yesterday on the Left, the Left S.R.s, and our friends—friends, I am sure, of yesterday, today and tomorrow—the Left Communists, however much they aim the shafts of their wit at this, and whatever proofs they give of their petty-bourgeois vacillations, they cannot refute these facts. Events have confirmed us, we have gained a respite solely because the imperialist slaughter in the West continues, and in the Far East imperialist rivalry nares up ever more extensively—only this explains the existence of the Soviet Republic, for the time being hanging by the weakest of threads, to which we are holding tight in this political situation. Of course, no piece of paper, no peace treaty, will protect us, nor the circumstance that we do not want to fight against Japan; it is true that she is plundering us, without being deterred by any treaties or formalities. We shall be protected, of course, not by a paper treaty or “state of peace”, but by the continuing struggle between the two “giants” of imperialism in the West, and by our endurance. We have not forgotten the basic Marxist lesson which has been so clearly confirmed by the Russian revolution: that it is necessary to reckon forces in tens of millions; anything less is not taken into account in politics; politics discard anything less as a magnitude of no importance. If we look at the international revolution from this aspect, the matter is as clear as it could possibly be: a backward country can easily begin because its adversary has become rotten, because its bourgeoisie is not organised, but for it to continue demands of that country a hundred thousand times more circumspection, caution and endurance. It will be different in Western Europe; there it will be immeasurably more difficult to begin but immeasurably easier to go on. It could not be otherwise, because the degree of organisation and solidarity of the proletariat there is incomparably greater. So long as we are alone, we must say to ourselves, taking all the forces into account: we have just one chance until the outbreak of the European revolution, which will solve all our difficulties—the continuation of the struggle of the international imperialist giants; we have estimated this chance correctly, we have held on to it for several weeks, but it may be shattered tomorrow. Hence the conclusion is: to continue in our foreign policy what we began in March, which can be formulated in the words: to manoeuvre, to retreat, to wait. When the words “an active foreign policy” turn up in this Left-wing Kommunist, when the expression defence of the socialist fatherland is put in quotation marks, which are bound to be ironical, then I say to myself: these people have understood absolutely nothing of the position of the Western proletariat. While they call themselves Left Communists, they are going over to the standpoint of the wavering petty bourgeoisie, which regards the revolution as a means for ensuring its own specific system. International relations indicate as plainly as could be: any Russian who contemplated the task of overthrowing international imperialism on the basis of Russian forces would be a lunatic. While over there in the West the revolution is maturing, although it is now maturing more rapidly than yesterday, our task is only this: we, being the contingent that has come to the forefront despite our weakness, must do everything, take advantage of every chance, so as to hold out in the positions we have won. AIl other considerations must be subordinated to this, to taking full advantage of our chance, so that we can put off for a few weeks the moment when international imperialism will unite against us. If we act in that way we shall advance along a road that will be approved by every class-conscious worker in the European countries, for he knows what we have learnt since 1905, whereas France and Britain have been learning it for centuries—he knows how slowly revolution grows in the free society of the united bourgeoisie, he knows that against such forces it will be necessary to set in operation an agitational bureau which will conduct propaganda in the true sense of the word when we stand side by side with the German, French and British proletariat which have risen in revolt. Until then, however distressing it may be, however repugnant to revolutionary traditions, the only tactics are: to wait, manoeuvre and retreat.

When people say that we have no foreign, international policy, I say: every other policy consciously or unconsciously slips into playing a provocatory role and makes Russia a tool of alliance with imperialists of the type of Chkhenkeli or Semyonov.

And we say: it is better to endure and be patient, to suffer infinitely greater national and state humiliations and hardships, but to remain at our post as a socialist contingent that has been cut off by the force of events from the ranks of the socialist army and compelled to wait until the socialist revolution in other countries comes to its aid. And it is coming to our aid. It comes slowly but it is coming. The war that is now going on in the West is revolutionising the masses more than before and is bringing near the hour of an uprising.

The propaganda conducted up to now has said that the imperialist war is a most criminal and most reactionary war for the sake of annexations. But it is now being confirmed that on the Western front, where there are hundreds of thousands and millions of French and German soldiers engaged in slaughter, the revolution cannot fail to mature more rapidly than hitherto, although this revolution is coming more slowly than we expected.

I have dwelt on the question of foreign policy more than I intended, but it seems to me that we see here very clearly that in this question we are, strictly speaking, faced with two main lines—the proletarian line, which says that the socialist revolution is what is dearest and highest for us, and that we must take account of whether it will soon break out in the West, and the other line—the bourgeois line—which says that for it the character of the state as a Great Power and national independence are dearer and higher than anything else.

In regard to domestic issues, we see the same thing on the part of the group of Left Communists, who repeat the main arguments levelled against us from the bourgeois camp. For example, the main argument of the group of Left Communists against us is that there can be observed a Right Bolshevik deviation, which threatens the revolution by directing it along the path of state capitalism.

Evolution in the direction of state capitalism, there you have the evil, the enemy, which we are invited to combat.

When I read these references to such enemies in the newspaper of the Left Communists, I ask: what has happened to these people that fragments of book-learning can make them forget reality? Reality tells us that state capitalism would be a step forward. If in a small space of time we could achieve state capitalism in Russia, that would be a victory.

How is it that they cannot see that it is the petty proprietor, small capital, that is our enemy? How can they regard state capitalism as the chief enemy? They ought not to for get that in the transition from capitalism to socialism our chief enemy is the petty bourgeoisie, its habits and customs, its economic position. The petty proprietor fears state capitalism above all, because he has only one desire—to grab, to get as much as possible for himself, to ruin and smash the big landowners, the big exploiters. In this the petty proprietor eagerly supports us.

Here he is more revolutionary than the workers, because he is more embittered and more indignant, and therefore he readily marches forward to smash the bourgeoisie—but not as a socialist does in order, after breaking the resistance of the bourgeoisie, to begin building a socialist economy based on the principles of firm labour discipline, within the framework of a strict organisation, and observing correct methods of control and accounting—but in order, by grabbing as much as possible for himself, to exploit the fruits of victory for himself and for his own ends, without the least concern for general state interests and the interests of the class of working people as a whole.

What is state capitalism under Soviet power? To achieve state capitalism at the present time means putting into effect the accounting and control that the capitalist classes carried out. We see a sample of state capitalism in Germany. We know that Germany has proved superior to us. But if you reflect even slightly on what it would mean if the foundations of such state capitalism were established in Russia, Soviet Russia, everyone who is not out of his senses and has not stuffed his head with fragments of book learning, would have to say that state capitalism would be our salvation.

I said that state capitalism would be our salvation; if we had it in Russia, the transition to full socialism would he easy, would be within our grasp, because state capitalism is something centralised, calculated, controlled and socialised, and that is exactly what we lack: we are threatened by the element of petty-bourgeois slovenliness, which more than anything else has been developed by the whole history of Russia and her economy, and which prevents us from taking the very step on which the success of socialism depends. Allow me to remind you that I had occasion to write my statement about state capitalism some time before the revolution and it is a howling absurdity to try to frighten us with state capitalism. I remind you that in my pamphlet the Impending CatastropheSee present edition, Vol. 25, pp. 319-65.—Editor. I then wrote. . . . (He reads the passage.)

I wrote this about the revolutionary-democratic state, the state of Kerensky, Chernov, Tsereteli, Kishkin and their confreres, about a state which had a bourgeois basis and which did not and could not depart from it. I wrote at that time that state capitalism is a step towards socialism; I wrote that in September 1917, and now, in April 1918, after the proletariat’s taking power in October, when it has proved its capacity: many factories have been confiscated, enterprises and banks nationalised, the armed resistance of the bourgeoisie and saboteurs smashed—now, when they try to frighten us with capitalism, it is so ludicrous, such a sheer absurdity and fabrication, that it becomes surprising and one asks oneself: how could people have this idea? They have forgotten the mere trifle that in Russia we have a petty-bourgeois mass which sympathises with the abolition of the big bourgeoisie in all countries, but does not sympathise with accounting, socialisation and control— herein lies the danger for the revolution, here you have the unity of social forces which ruined the great French revolution and could not fail to do so, and which, if the Russian proletariat proves weak, can alone ruin the Russian revolution. The petty bourgeoisie, as we see, steeps the whole social atmosphere with petty-proprietor tendencies, with aspirations which are bluntly expressed in the statement: I took from the rich, what others do is not my affair.

Here is our main danger. If the petty bourgeois were subordinated to other class elements, subordinated to state capitalism, the class-conscious worker would be bound to greet that with open arms, for state capitalism under Kerensky’s democracy would have been a step towards socialism, and under the Soviet government it would be three-quarters of socialism, because anyone who is the organiser of state capitalist enterprises can be made one’s helper. The Left Communists, however, adopt a different attitude, one of disdain, and when we had our first meeting with the Left Communists on April 4, which incidentally proved that this question from remote history, which had been long discussed, was already a thing of the past, I said that it was necessary, if we properly understood our tasks, to learn socialism from the organisers of the trusts.

These words made the Left Communists horribly indignant, and one of them—Comrade Osinsky—devoted his whole article to inveighing against them. That is substantially what his arguments amounted to.—The fact is, we do not want to teach them, but to learn from them.—We, “Right-wing” Bolsheviks, we want to learn from the organisers of the trusts, but these “Left Communists” want to teach them. But what do you want to teach them? Socialism, perhaps? Teach socialism to merchants, to businessmen? (Applause.) No, take on the job yourselves, if you like. We are not going to help you, it is labour in vain. It is no use our teaching these engineers, businessmen and merchants. It is no use teaching them socialism. If we had a bourgeois revolution, then there would be nothing to learn from them—except perhaps that you should grab what you can and have done with it, there is nothing more to learn. But that is not a socialist revolution—that is something that happened in France in 1793, that occurs where there is no socialism but only an approach to socialism.

The landowners have to be overthrown, the bourgeoisie has to be overthrown, and all the actions of the Bolsheviks, all their struggle, their violence against the landowners and capitalists, expropriation and forcible suppression of the resistance of the landowners and capitalists, will be justified and proved a million times correct by history. Taken as a whole, this was a very great historical task, but it was only the first step. What matters now is the purpose for which we crushed them. Was it in order to say that now, having finally crushed them, we shall bow down before their capitalism? No, we shall now learn from them because we lack knowledge, because we do not have this knowledge. We know about socialism, but knowledge of organisation on a scale of millions, knowledge of the organisation and distribution of goods, etc.—this we do not have. The old Bolshevik leaders did not teach us this. The Bolshevik Party cannot boast of this in its history. We have not done a course on this yet. And we say, let him be a thorough-paced rascal even, but if he has organised a trust, if he is a merchant who has dealt with the organisation of production and distribution for millions and tens of millions, if he has acquired experience—we must learn from him. If we do not learn this from them, we shall not get socialism, the revolution will remain at the stage it has now reached. Only the development of state capitalism, only the painstaking establishment of accounting and control, only the strictest organisation and labour discipline, will lead us to socialism. Without this there is no socialism. (Applause.)

It is no use our undertaking the ridiculous task of teaching the organisers of trusts—there is nothing to teach them. We have to expropriate them. That is not where the hitch lies. There is no difficulty whatsoever in that. (Applause.) That we have sufficiently demonstrated and proved.

I told every workers’ delegation with which I had to deal when they came to me and complained that their factory was at a standstill: you would like your factory to be confiscated. Very well, we have blank forms for a decree ready, they can be signed in a minute. (Applause.) But tell us: have you learnt how to take over production and have you calculated what you will produce? Do you know the connection between what you are producing and the Russian and international market? Whereupon it turns out that they have not learnt this yet; there has not been anything about it yet in Bolshevik pamphlets, and nothing is said about it in Menshevik pamphlets either.

The situation is best among those workers who are carrying out this state capitalism: among the tanners and in the textile and sugar industries, because they have a sober, proletarian knowledge of their industry and they want to preserve it and make it more powerful—because in that lies the greatest socialism.[8] They say: I can’t cope with this task just yet; I shall put in capitalists, giving them one-third of the posts, and I shall learn from them. And when I read the ironical statement of the Left Communists: it is yet to be seen who is taking advantage of whom, I find their short-sightedness strange. Of course, if, after taking power in October and after a victorious campaign against the whole bourgeoisie from October to April, we could still be doubtful as to who is taking advantage of whom—whether the workers of the trust organisers, or the businessmen and rascals of the workers—if that were the case, we should have to pack up our belongings and go home, leaving the field to the Milyukovs and Martovs. But that is not the case. The class-conscious worker will not believe it, and the fright of the petty bourgeoisie is laughable; they know that socialism begins where larger-scale industry begins, that the merchants and businessmen have learnt this by their own experience.

We have said: only these material conditions, the material conditions of large-scale machine industry serving tens of millions of people, only these are the basis of socialism, and to learn to deal with this in a petty-bourgeois, peasant country is difficult, but possible. Revolution comes at the price of civil war, but that is something that is the more serious the more the country is civilised and developed. In Germany, state capitalism prevails, and therefore the revolution in Germany will be a hundred times more devastating and ruinous than in a petty-bourgeois country—there, too, there will be gigantic difficulties and tremendous chaos and imbalance. Therefore I do not see the slightest shadow of a reason for despair or despondency in the fact that the Russian revolution accomplished the easier task to start with—that of overthrowing the landowners and bourgeoisie—and is faced now by the more difficult socialist task of organising nation-wide accounting and control. It is facing the task with which real socialism begins, a task which has the backing of the majority of the workers and class-conscious working people. Yes, the majority of the workers, who are better organised and have gone through the school of the trade unions, are wholeheartedly with us.

This majority raised the questions of piece-work and Taylorism—questions which the gentlemen from Vperyod are scoffingly trying to reject—in the trade union councils before we did, even before the coming of Soviet power with its Soviets; they got busy and set about working out standards of labour discipline. These people showed that for all their proletarian modesty they were well acquainted with the conditions of factory labour, they grasped the essence of socialism better than those who spouted revolutionary phrases but in reality consciously or unconsciously descended to the level of the petty bourgeoisie, whose standpoint was: throw out the rich but it’s not worth while putting oneself under the accounting and control of an organisation; that’s not needed for small proprietors, they don’t want that—but in that alone lies the guarantee of the stability and triumph of our revolution.

Comrades, I shall not touch on further details and quotations from the newspaper Levi Kommunist,[9] but I shall say briefly: it is time to cry out when people have gone so far as to say that the introduction of labour discipline will be a step back. And I must say that I regard this as such an unheard-of reactionary thing, such a threat to the revolution, that if I did not know that it was said by a group without any influence, and that it would be refuted at any class-conscious meeting of workers, I would say: the Russian revolution is lost.

The Left Communists write: “The introduction of labour discipline, coupled with restoring the leadership of capitalists in industry, cannot substantially raise labour productivity but it will lower the class initiative, activity and organised character of the proletariat. It threatens serfdom for the working class. . . .” This is untrue; if it were the case, our Russian revolution as regards its socialist tasks and its socialist essence would be on the point of collapse. But this is not true. The declassed petty-bourgeois intelligentsia does not understand that the chief difficulty for socialism lies in ensuring labour discipline. Socialists wrote about this long ago, they thought most of all about this in the distant past, they devoted the greatest concern to it and its analysis, they understood that the real difficulties for the socialist revolution begin here. More than once up to now there have been revolutions which ruthlessly overthrew the bourgeoisie, no less vigorously than we did, but when we went so far as to establish Soviet power we thereby showed that we were making the practical transition from the abolition of economic serfdom to the self-discipline of labour, that our rule is one which must really be the rule of labour. When people say to us that the dictatorship of the proletariat is recognised in words but that in reality it is mere phrases that are written, this actually shows that they have no notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat, for it by no means merely consists in over throwing the bourgeoisie or the landowners—that happened in all revolutions—our dictatorship of the proletariat is the establishment of order, discipline, labour productivity, accounting and control by the proletarian Soviet power, which is more stable and firmly based than the previous one. That is what you won’t solve, that is what we have not yet taught, that is what is needed by the workers, that is why it is good to show them a mirror in which all these shortcomings are plainly visible. I consider that this is a useful task for it will cause all thinking, class-conscious workers and peasants to devote their main efforts to it. Yes, by overthrowing the landowners and bourgeoisie we cleared the way but we did not build the edifice of socialism. On the ground cleared of one bourgeois generation, new generations continually appear in history, as long as the ground gives rise to them, and it does give rise to any number of bourgeois. As for those who look at the victory over the capitalists in the way that the petty proprietors look at it—"they grabbed, let me have a go too"—indeed, every one of them is the source of a new generation of bourgeois. When they tell us that the introduction of labour discipline coupled with restoring capitalists as leaders is a threat to the revolution, I say: it is just the socialist character of our revolution that these people have failed to understand, they repeat the very thing that easily unites them with the petty bourgeois, who fear discipline, organisation, accounting and control as the devil fears holy water.

They may say: you are actually proposing here to give us capitalists as leaders among the working-class leaders. Yes, they are being brought in because in the matter of practical organisation they have knowledge that we do not possess. The class-conscious worker will never be afraid of such a leader, because he knows that Soviet power is his power, that it will stand firm in his defence, because he knows that he wants to learn the practice of organisation.

We organised thousands under the tsar and hundreds of thousands under Kerensky. That is nothing, it does not count in politics. It was preparatory work, it was a preparatory course. Until the leading workers have learnt to organise tens of millions, they will not be socialists or creators of a socialist society, they will not acquire the necessary knowledge of organisation. The road of organisation is a long road and the tasks of socialist construction demand stubborn, long-continued work and appropriate knowledge, of which we do not have enough. Even the more developed generation of the immediate future will hardly achieve the complete transition to socialism.

Recall what former socialists wrote about the future socialist revolution; it is doubtful whether it would be possible to pass to socialism without learning from the organisers of trusts, for they have been concerned with this type of production on a large scale. We do not need to teach them socialism, we need to expropriate them and to break their sabotage. These two tasks we have carried out. We have to make them submit to workers’ control. And if our critics among the Left Communists have levelled against us the reproach that we are not leading to communism by our tactics but are going back, their reproaches are ridiculous: they forget that we have lagged behind with accounting and control because it has been very difficult to smash this resistance and bring the bourgeoisie and its technicians and bourgeois specialists into our service. But we need their knowledge, their experience and labour, without which it is impossible, in fact, to gain possession of the culture that was created by the old social relations and has remained as the material basis of socialism. If the Left Communists have not noticed this, it is because they do not see life as it really is but concoct their slogans by counterposing state capitalism to ideal socialism. We, however, must tell the workers: yes, it is a step back, but we have to help ourselves to find a remedy. There is only one remedy: organise to the last man, organise accounting over production, organise accounting and control over consumption and act so that we do not have to turn out hundreds of millions in currency from the printing press,[10] and so that not a single hundred-ruble note is lost to the state treasury by falling into the wrong hands. This cannot be done by any outburst of revolutionary fervour, by any knock-out blow to the bourgeoisie. It can be done only by self-discipline, only by organising the labour of the workers and peasants, only by accounting and control. This we do not have yet and for it we have paid tribute by paying the capitalist organisers a higher remuneration than they paid you. This we have not learnt, but must learn, it is the road to socialism, the sole road—that of teaching the workers the practical business of managing gigantic enterprises, of organising big industry and large-scale distribution.

Comrades, I am very well aware how easy it is to talk of accounting, control, discipline and self-discipline when the speaker is someone occupying a definite social position. What a lot of material for witticisms this provides, and for saying: when your Party was not in power it promised the workers rivers flowing with milk and honey, mountains of sugar candy, but when these people are in power there is the usual transformation, they begin to talk of accounting, discipline, self-discipline, control, etc. I am very well aware what promising material this is for publicists of the type of Milyukov and Martov.

I am very well aware what rich material this is for persons whose concern is hack writing or showmanship, and who are inclined to use the flimsiest arguments, which receive scant sympathy from class-conscious workers.

In the newspaper Levi Kommunist I came across a review of my book[11] by such an eminent publicist as Bukharin; it was moreover a sympathetic review, but anything of value in it lost all its value for me when I had read through this review to the end. I perceived that Bukharin had not seen what should have been seen, and this happened because he wrote his review in April but quoted what had already become out of date for April, what belonged to a previous day, viz., that it was necessary to smash the old state. This we have already done, it is a task which belongs to a previous day, and we have to go forward and look not at the past but at the future and create a state based on the commune; he wrote about what is already embodied in Soviet organisations, but said nothing about accounting, control and discipline. What a frame of mind these people have, and how their psychology coincides with the sentiments of the petty bourgeoisie: let us overthrow the rich, but there is no need for control. That is how they look at it; it holds them captive and it divides the class-conscious proletarian from the petty bourgeoisie and even from the extreme revolutionaries. This is when the proletarian says: let us organise and brace up, or some petty kulak, and there are millions of them, will overthrow us.

Here is the division between the class-conscious proletarian and the petty bourgeois; here the revolution takes leave of the petty bourgeoisie. And how blind are those people who do not say anything about this.

I shall venture to remind you of some more of my quotations; I said that people will be able to do without coercion when they are accustomed to act without it; such a custom, of course, may be the result of long training.

When the Left Communists hear this, they clutch their heads and say: how is it that we didn’t notice this? Bukharin, why didn’t you criticise it? We showed our strength in suppressing the landowners and the bourgeoisie, and now we have to show our strength as regards self-discipline and organisation, because this is known from thousands of years of past experience and the people must be told that only in this lies the strength of our Soviet power, of the workers’ dictatorship, of our proletarian authority. The petty bourgeois, however, hide from this truth behind the shield of revolutionary phraseology.

We have to show our strength. Yes, the small employers, petty proprietors, are ready to help us proletarians to overthrow the landowners and capitalists. But after this our paths diverge. They have no love for organisation, discipline, they are hostile to it. And here we have to wage the most determined, ruthless struggle against these proprietors and small employers. Because it is here, in the sphere of organisation, that socialist construction begins for us. And when I express my dissent to those people who claim to be socialists and who promise the workers they shall enjoy as much as they like and whatever they like, I say that communism presupposes a productivity of labour that we do not have at present. Our productivity is too low, that is a fact. Capitalism leaves us as a heritage, especially in a backward country, a host of customs through which all state property, all public property, is regarded as something that may be maliciously spoilt. This psychology of the petty-bourgeois mass is felt at every step, and the struggle in this sphere is a very difficult one. Only the organised proletariat can endure everything. I wrote: “Until the higher phase of communism arrives, the socialists demand the strictest control by society and by the state."[The State and Revolution]

I wrote this before the October Revolution and I stand by it now.

Now, having suppressed the bourgeoisie and broken their sabotage, the time has come when we have an opportunity of dealing with this matter. While this was not the case, the heroes of the day and the heroes of the revolution were the Red Guards who performed their great historic deeds. They took up arms without the consent of the propertied classes. They performed this great historic work. They took up arms in order to overthrow the exploiters and make their arms an instrument for defence of the workers, and in order to look after the standards of production and labour and the standard of consumption.

We have not produced this, but it contains the kernel and the basis of socialism. If there are any to whom such work seems boring and uninteresting, they are representatives of petty-bourgeois laziness.

If our revolution halted here, it would go down in history no less than the revolution of 1793. But people will say: that was in the eighteenth century. For the eighteenth century that sufficed, but for the twentieth it is not enough. Accounting and control—that is mainly what is needed for the proper functioning of communist society. So I wrote before the October Revolution.[The State and Revolution] I repeat, it was impossible to tackle this matter until the Alexeyevs, Kornilovs and Kerenskys were crushed. Now the armed resistance of the bourgeoisie has been crushed. Our task is to put all the saboteurs to work under our control, under the control of the Soviet power, to set up managerial bodies so that accounting and control will be strictly carried out. The country is being ruined because after the war it has been through it lacks the elementary conditions for normal existence. Our enemies who are attacking us seem terrible only because we have not instituted accounting and control. When I hear hundreds of thousands of complaints about famine, when you see and know that these complaints are justified, that we have grain and cannot transport it, when we encounter the scoffing of the Left Communists and their objections to such measures as our railway decree—they have mentioned it twice—these are trifles.

At the meeting with the Left Communists on April 4, I said: give us your draft of the decree; after all, you are citizens of the Soviet Republic, members of Soviet institutions, you are not critics standing apart from us, outside the gate, like the bourgeois traders and saboteurs who criticise in order to vent their spleen. You, I repeat, are leaders of Soviet organisations; try to give us your draft decree. They cannot give it and will never be able to, because our railway decree is correct, because by introducing dictatorship our decree has the sympathy of the masses and class-conscious working people of the railways, but is opposed by those managers who plunder and accept bribes, because a vacillating attitude to it is shown by all those who waver between the Soviet government and its enemies— whereas the proletariat, which learnt discipline from large-scale production, knows that there cannot be socialism until production is organised on a large scale and until there is even stricter discipline.

This proletariat supports us in the railway movement; it will combat the anarchy of the petty proprietors and will show that the Russian revolution, which is capable of winning brilliant victories, is capable also of overcoming its own lack of organisation. And among the May Day slogans, from the standpoint of immediate tasks, it will appreciate the slogan of the Central Committee which reads: “We conquered capital, we shall conquer also our own lack of organisation”. Only then shall we reach the full victory of socialism! (Loud applause.)


Reply To The Debate On The Report On The Immediate Tasks

First of all I must reply to Comrade Bukharin’s speech. In my first speech I remarked that we were nine-tenths in agreement with him, and so I think it is a pity that we should disagree as regards the other tenth. He is one-tenth in the position of having to spend half his speech disassociating and exorcising himself from absolutely everyone who spoke in support of him. And no matter how excellent his intentions and those of his group, the falsity of their position is proved by the fact that he always has to spend time making excuses and disassociating himself on the issue of state capitalism.

Comrade Bukharin is completely wrong; and I shall make this known in the press because this question is extremely important. I have a couple of words to say about the Left Communists’ reproaching us on the grounds that a deviation in the direction of state capitalism is to be observed in our policy; now Comrade Bukharin wrongly states that under Soviet power state capitalism is impossible. So he is contradicting himself when he says that there can be no state capitalism under Soviet power—that is an obvious absurdity. The large number of enterprises and factories under the control of the Soviet government and owned by the state, this alone shows the transition from capitalism to socialism, but Comrade Bukharin ignores this. Instead, he recalls that we were against him in the Left Zimmerwald,[12] but that was ages ago and to recall that now, after Soviet power has been in existence for six months, after we have performed all the experiments we could when we had expropriated, confiscated and nationalised—after all that to recall what we wrote in 1915 is absurd. . . . Now we cannot help bringing up the problem of state capitalism and socialism, of how to act in the transitional period, in which you have bits of capitalism and socialism existing side by side under Soviet power. Comrade Bukharin refuses to understand this problem; but I think we cannot throw it out all at once, and Comrade Bukharin does not propose throwing it out and does not deny that this state capitalism is something higher than what is left of the small proprietor’s mentality, economic conditions and way of life, which are still extremely prevalent. Comrade Bukharin has not refuted that fact, for it cannot be refuted without forgetting the word Marxist.

Ghe’s position that the proletariat in Europe is unclean, that in Germany the proletariat is corrupted,[13] is so crudely nationalistic, so obtuse that I don’t know what he will say next. The proletariat in Europe is not one bit more unclean than in Russia, but to start a revolution there is more difficult because the people in power are not idiots like Romanov or boasters like Kerensky but serious leaders of capitalism, which was not the case in Russia.

Finally I come to the chief objections that have been showered upon my article and my speech from all sides. Particularly heavy fire was directed at the slogan: “steal back the stolen”, a slogan in which, no matter how I look at it, I can find nothing wrong, when history comes on the scene. If we use the words “expropriate the expropriators”, why can’t we do without Latin words? (Applause.)

I think history will fully justify us, and the masses of the working people are coming over to our side even before history; but if the slogan “steal back the stolen” has shown itself unrestrainedly in the activity of the Soviets, and if it turns out that in a practical and fundamental matter like famine and unemployment we are confronted by enormous difficulties, it is appropriate to say that after the words “steal back what was stolen” the proletarian revolution makes a distinction, which runs: “Count up what was stolen and don’t let it be filched piecemeal, and if people start filching for themselves directly or indirectly, these infringers of discipline must be shot. . . .”

And when they start yelling and shouting that this is dictatorship, when they start yelling about Napoleon III and Julius Caesar, when they say this is the working class’s inability to act seriously, when they accuse Trotsky, it means there is the same muddle-headedness, the same political mood induced by petty-bourgeois anarchy, which has been protesting not against the “steal back the stolen” slogan, but against the slogan of strict accounting and correct distribution. There will be no famine in Russia if we calculate how much grain there is, check up on all stocks, and if any breaking of the regulations is followed by the most severe punishment. That is where the difference lies. And it arises from the situation that obtains when the socialist revolution is seriously supported only by the proletariat while the petty bourgeoisie approaches it with hesitation, a fact we have always been aware of and always taken into account; and in this wavering they are against us. This will not make us hesitate and we shall continue to follow our path in the certainty that half the proletariat will follow us because it knows perfectly well how the factory owners robbed and stole merely so that the poor should have nothing.

It is just a lot of verbal trickery, all this talk about a dictatorship, Napoleon III, Julius Caesar and so forth. People can be fooled with that kind of talk here, but in the provinces, at every factory, in every village they know perfectly well that we are lagging behind in this respect; no one will question this slogan, everyone knows what it means. And there can be no doubt either that we shall direct all our efforts towards organising accounting, control and correct distribution.

Bukharin told us: “I disassociate myself from those who embrace me.” But there are so many of them that Bukharin cannot extricate himself. They don’t tell us what their proposals are because they have nothing to propose. Do you know what to propose? I have reproached you in the press and in my speeches. Over the matter of the railway decree we had the pleasure of recalling April 4. There is a reference to this in your magazine, and I have said that if you are not quite satisfied with the decree, give us a new decree. But there has not been a word about this in the first issue, nor in the second issue, the proofs of which have kindly been given to me to look at; and there was not a word about it in Comrade Bukharin’s speech either—a complete coincidence. Both Comrade Bukharin and Comrade Martov have got on their hobby horse—the railway decree—and are riding it to death. They talk about the dictatorship of Napoleon III, Julius Caesar and so on, providing material for a hundred issues that no one will read. But this is a little nearer the point. This is about the workers and the railways. Without railways not only will there be no socialism but everyone will starve to death like dogs while there is grain to be had close by. Everyone knows this perfectly well. Why don’t you answer? You are closing your eyes. You are throwing dust in the eyes of the workers—the adherents of Novaya Zhizn and the Mensheviks deliberately, Comrade Bukharin by mistake. You are concealing the main issue from the workers when you talk of construction. What can be constructed without railways? And when I see some merchant or other, who tells me during a meeting of some kind, or when I am receiving a delegation, that there has been some improvement on such and such a railway, that praise is worth a million times more to me than 20 resolutions by Communists or anyone else, or any speeches.

When the practical people—engineers, merchants and so on—say that if this government copes at least to some extent with the railways, they will admit that it is a government, their opinion matters more than anything else. Because the railways are the key, they are one of the most striking manifestations of the connection between town and country, between industry and agriculture, on which socialism is entirely based. To make this connection good for the sake of planned activity in the interests of the whole population, we need railways.

All these phrases about dictatorship and so on, over which the Martovs and Karelins have found common ground and which have been masticated twice over by the Constitutional-Democratic press—they amount to nothing.

I have given you the example of the workers’ organisations that are doing it, and the state capitalism of other enterprises, other branches of industry; the tobacco workers and tanners have more state capitalism than others, and their affairs are in better order, and their road to socialism is more certain. There is no concealing this fact, and another thing you can’t do is to come out with absurd phrases as Ghe does, when he says that with a rifle he can force anyone. That is a complete absurdity and a complete failure to understand what a rifle is for. After that one might think that a rifle is a bad thing, unless it is anarchist Ghe’s head that is the bad thing. (Applause.) A rifle was a very good thing when the capitalist who was waging war against us had to be shot, when thieves had to be caught at their thievery and shot. But when Comrade Bukharin said there were people who were receiving salaries of 4,000 and they ought to be put up against a wall and shot, he was wrong. We have got to find such people. We have not very many posts where people get 4,000. We pick them up here and there. The whole point is that we have no experts, that is why we have got to enlist 1,000 people, first-class experts in their fields, who value their work, who like large-scale industry because they know that it means improvements in technology. When people here say that socialism can be won without learning from the bourgeoisie, I know this is the psychology of an inhabitant of Central Africa. The only socialism we can imagine is one based on all the lessons learned through large-scale capitalist culture. Socialism without postal and telegraph services, without machines is the emptiest of phrases. But it is impossible to sweep aside the bourgeois atmosphere and bourgeois habits all at once; it needs the kind of organisation on which all modern science and technology are based. To say a rifle will do the job is the greatest stupidity. Everything depends on nation-wide organisation—the whole population’s paying income tax, the introduction of labour service, everyone’s being registered; while a person is not registered, we have to pay him. When Bukharin said he could not see the principle, he was missing the point. Marx envisaged buying up the bourgeoisie as a class. He was writing about Britain, before Britain had imperialism, when a peaceful transition to socialism was possible—it certainly is not a reference to the earlier type of socialism.[14] We are talking not about the bourgeoisie but about recruiting experts. I have given one example. One could cite thousands. It is simply a question of attracting people who can be attracted either by buying them with high salaries or by ideological organisation, because you can’t deny the fact that it is they who are receiving all the high wages. We know from the example I gave—up to now you have been criticising only tacitly, yet the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries know perfectly well that the salaries paid are high. And the Left Communists and Novaya Zhizn adherents know it too.

And they don’t criticise this. That’s their sincere criticism of the Soviet government! When they saw that their engineers were getting 1,500, they kept quiet. Far better to pay these engineers. And no mention of Julius Caesar or dictatorship. This is political education of the masses. But if I say we are going to pay from 1,500 to 2,000 a month, that’s a step back. Then out come Julius Caesar and Napoleon III and the Brest-Litovsk peace and everything; but not a word about your experts, about your engineers. And when they say, when Bukharin says, this is no violation of principle, I say that here we have a violation of the principle of the Paris Commune. State capitalism is not money but social relations. If we pay 2,000 in accordance with the railway decree, that is state capitalism. Comrade Bukharin referred to the Zimmerwald resolution of 1915 and he can’t free himself of that ill-digested theory. Free yourself, Comrade Bukharin. Now Comrade Bukharin has said that I am attacking the petty-bourgeois element.

I was not attacking the working peasants when I spoke of the petty-bourgeois element. Let us leave the working peasants alone—that’s not what I am talking about. But among the peasantry there are working peasants and petty-bourgeois peasants, who live like petty proprietors at the expense of others; the working peasants are exploited by others, but they want to live at their own expense. So Comrade Karelin in thinking that the working peasants are being attacked is wrong. The poor peasants who have nothing to gain from stealing what is stolen are on our side. They will accept our slogans. We know very well and have seen how people in the villages understand the slogan “steal back the stolen”. If people go there agitating about dictatorship and spouting phrases about the Brest peace and so forth, these people who are arguing against us will find themselves isolated and will receive no support. The proletariat, the mass of the peasants, who are ruined and have no hopes as regards individual farming, will be on our side because they know perfectly well that Russia cannot be kept going simply by stealing. We all know that quite well and everyone can see and feel it in his own, everyday affairs.

In this we are keeping up with economic demands and the mood of the masses of the working people. So when the declassed intellectuals among the Left Communists hurl their thunderbolts at us, we must remain confident that no matter how much they curse us, this slogan of the socialist revolution is the only correct slogan, which the masses of the working people must understand and use if we are to consolidate and complete the socialist revolution. You won’t wriggle out of that problem at any workers’ meeting; you will be pursued with this decree, this problem. We do not claim to be infallible; many of our decrees are bad. Put them right; you have various magazines and groups of writers. Tell us what is wrong with the railway decree. We suggested you should do so at the meeting of April 4, and today it is April 29th. Twenty-five days have passed and a whole group of splendid writers is silent because they have nothing to say.

You know that our railway decree, in spite of all its mistakes, which we are quite ready to correct, got down to the core of what is needed. It pivots on that mass of workers who respond to the strictest discipline, who need to be organised by a single authority which the Soviets can appoint and which the Soviets can replace and from whom they demand unfailing execution of assignments so that large-scale industry will operate like a machine and thousands of people will be directed by a single will, obey the orders of a single Soviet manager. (Applause.) And to bring up Napoleon and Julius Caesar on these grounds is either to go mad or to become completely lost in the literature of the privileged classes whose sole purpose in life is to curse the Bolsheviks. The railway decree, comrades, is a step that shows we are on the right road. In my speech I informed you why we had taken that road; in the Council of People’s Commissars we did not spend our time discussing Napoleon the Great and Julius Caesar but we did go over the question a hundred times of how to get the railways in order, and we know the response from the provinces, and we know from any number of talks with the railway organisations that the proletarians are for us, that they seek discipline and expect order. They see that people in Central Russia are starving while there is grain, but that owing to the transport muddle it is hard to deliver it.

But if there are people who are wavering, lost, in a petty-bourgeois mood, who have been frightened by one-man management, who go into hysterics and refuse to support us, why is this? Is it because there is a Right wing, or because people have got hysterics, particularly the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries? In their case the confusion is complete, no one could sort it out. So to avoid a lot of useless argument we say: get down to the main issue and deal with it in specific terms.

When people here talk of conciliation with the bourgeoisie, as Karelin and Martov have done, that is nonsense. I will remind you from Kautsky’s authoritative pamphlet how he conceived life the day after the social revolution. I will tell you approximately what he wrote; the trust organisers will not be left without work to do. That was written by a man who realised that to organise tens of millions of people for the production and distribution of goods is some job! We have not learned this and there is nowhere to learn it, but the trust organisers know that without this there will be no socialism. And we need to know it too. So all these phrases about conciliation and agreement with the bourgeoisie are empty chatter. You cannot refute Kautsky’s premise that large-scale industry must be learned through experience.


[1] The politically active workers of Moscow and many Party and Soviet workers were invited to a meeting of the All-Russia C.E.C. on April 29, 1918.

N. K. Krupskaya wrote of Lenin’s speech at this meeting, “To enable the workers’ active of Moscow to hear Ilyich’s report on the immediate tasks of the Soviet government, the meeting was held at the Polytechnical Museum. Ilyich was greeted with a tumultuous ovation and listened to with rapt attention. Obviously, the question was one of keen interest to everybody. Ilyich spoke there with extraordinary fervour” (see N. K. Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin.

[2] The reference is to the Second Congress of the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party, which was held from April 17 to 25, 1918 in Moscow. Two trends emerged during the discussion of the party’s tasks in the current situation. One section of the delegates led by B. D. Kamkov defended the activities of the Central Committee directed against the conclusion of the Brest peace and approved the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries’ refusal to work in the central organs of the Soviet Government because the treaty had been ratified by the Extraordinary Fourth Congress of Soviets. Another section, led by M. A. Spiridonova, criticised the Central Committee, accused it of extreme “Leftism” and insisted that the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries should participate in the Soviet Government in order to get their agrarian programme adopted. After a heated debate the Congress passed an ambivalent decision. While approving the position of the Central Committee on the question of the Brest peace and the withdrawal of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries from the Council of People’s Commissars, it advocated participation in the central and local administrative bodies with the aim of “straightening out the general line of Soviet policy”.

[3] Znamya Truda (Banner of Labour)—daily newspaper of the Petrograd Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. It first appeared on August 23 (September 5), 1917. After the First All-Russia Congress of the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party, as from No. 105, which appeared on December 28, 1917 (January 10, 1918), the newspaper became the central organ of the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party. It was banned in July 1918 during the Left Socialist-Revolutionary revolt.

[4] This refers to the third point in the theses passed at the proposal of the Menshevik I. A. Isuv by the plenum of the Moscow Regional Committee of Social-Democrats (Mensheviks), held in April 1918. In his article “ ’Left-Wing’ Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality” Lenin compared this thesis (a “perfect example of bourgeois provocatory speech-making") with the economic propositions put forward by the “Left Communists”, showing that they were the same and that the position the “Left Communists” had taken up meant their complete renunciation of communism in practice and complete desertion to the camp of the petty bourgeoisie” (see this volume, p. 348).

[5] Theses on the Present Situation put forward by the “Left Communists” were discussed at a joint meeting of members of the Party Central Committee and the “Left Communist” group on April 4, 1918. Lenin examined and criticised these theses in detail in his article “Left-Wing” Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality” (see this volume, pp. 323-54).

[6] The reference is to the voting on the ratification of the peace treaty at the Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B). Distorting the facts, the “Left Communists” quoted the number who voted for the peace treaty according to the results of the preliminary voting on the two resolutions—Lenin’s and that of the “Left Communists” (the former, Lenin’s resolution, gained 28 votes, the latter only 9, and was immediately turned down). But when speaking of how many votes were cast against conclusion of the peace treaty the “Left Communists” quoted the results of the final voting on Lenin’s resolution alone (30 votes in favour, 12 against, and 4 abstentions).

[7] The Second All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets was held in Ekaterinoslav (now Dniepropetrovsk) March 17-19, 1918. The Congress was attended by 964 delegates: 428 Bolsheviks, 414 Left Socialist- Revolutionaries, 82 non-Party, and 40 other delegates. The Bolsheviks had to fight not only the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the bourgeois nationalists but also the “Left Communists”, who tried to use the Congress to promote their adventuristic policy and put forward a disruptive motion of censure against the Soviet Government’s conclusion of the Brest Treaty. The Bolshevik group, however led by Y. B. Gamarnik, A. V. Ivanov, F. A. Sergeyev (Artyom) and N. A. Skrypnik, staunchly defended Lenin’s position over the matter of peace and got the Congress to approve the decision of the Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets on the ratification of the peace treaty with Germany.

In its Resolution on the Political Situation, which expressed the will of the Ukrainian people, the Congress stated that the mass of the working people of the Ukraine together with the workers and peasants of Russia and the other republics would fight resolutely for Soviet power. In view of the situation that had arisen in connection with the Brest peace, the Congress declared the Ukraine an independent Soviet republic and called on the working people of the Ukraine to wage a ruthless struggle against the Austro-German invaders and the Central Rada. At the same time the Congress stressed that the terms of the peace treaty insisted on by imperialist Germany were unjust, that the Ukraine’s federative connection with Russia was only formally broken, and that essentially her relations with the R.S.F.S.R. remained unchanged.

[8] Lenin is referring to the state-capitalist combines set up in the leather, textile and sugar industries. At the beginning of 1918 the Tanners’ Union came to an agreement with the All-Russia Society of Manufacturers and Factory-owners of the Leather Industry, under which the tanneries were to work on a subsidised basis for the Soviet Government and place all their output at the disposal of the state. The industry was administered by the Central Leather Board (Glavkozha), on which two-thirds of the seats were held by workers and one-third by private manufacturers and bourgeois technical experts. Analogous agreements were concluded in textiles, sugar and some other branches of the light and food industries. The state retained the right to confiscate any enterprises that were part of a state-capitalist combine.

Lenin approved the “proletariat’s attempts to make contracts with the manufacturers’ associations” under conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and stated that agreements of this kind could ensure the workers’ control over whole branches of industry”.

[9] Levi Kommunist (Left Communist) was how Lenin ironically dubbed the magazine Kommunist, the mouthpiece of the anti-Party group of “Left Communists”.

[10] Lenin is referring to the issue of money and banknotes by the Soviet Government to make good its insufficient revenues from the usual sources (industry, transport, regular taxes and so on). Thanks to Party and Government measures to improve the country’s financial position, this emission was reduced in the middle of 1918.

[11] The reference is to Lenin’s book The State and Revolution, which was reviewed on April 20, 1918 in the “Left Communist” magazine Kommunist No. 1.

[12] The Left Zimmerwald—a group of Left Internationalists founded on Lenin’s initiative at the International Socialist Conference in Zimmerwald, September 1915. See also Glossary Entry for Zimmerwald Left.

[13] Speaking on Lenin’s report at a meeting of the All-Russia C.E.C., the anarchist A. Y. Ghe stated that “hope of assistance from the German proletariat is a utopia”. According to Ghe, the German proletariat, like the whole West-European proletariat was “unclean” and “hypnotised by its depraving orthodox Social Democratic education”.

[14] Karl Marx spoke of the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism under certain specific conditions in a speech at a meeting in Amsterdam on September 8, 1872 (Marx/Engels, Werke, Band 18, S. 160, Dietz Verlag, Berlin). Marx regarded purchasing the means of production from the capitalists as one of the specific ways of bringing about such a transition. Engels wrote: “We are certainly not of the opinion that buying up is inadmissible under any circumstances; Marx has stated his opinion to me—and how often!—that the cheapest thing for us would be if we could buy off the whole gang of them” (Marx/Engels, Werke, Band 22, S. 504).