Vladimir Lenin

Speech At The First All-Russia Congress On Education[1]

August 28, 1918

Delivered: 28 August, 1918.
First Published:Short report published August 29, 1918 in Vecherniye Izvestia Moskovshovo Soveta No. 39; First published in full in 1919 in the book minutes of the First All-Russia Congress on Education, Moscow; Published according to the text of the book
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1965, pages 84-87
Translated (and edited): Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
Online Version: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive, 2002

(All rise as Comrade Lenin appears in the hail. Stormy, prolonged applause.) Comrades, we are passing through one of the most critical, important and interesting moments of history—a moment when the world socialist revolution is in the making. It is now becoming apparent even to those who stood remote from socialist theories and forecasts that this war will not end as it began, that is, by the conclusion of peace in the usual way between the old imperialist governments. The Russian revolution has shown that the war is inevitably leading to the disintegration of capitalist society in general, that it is being converted into a war of the working people against the exploiters. Therein lies the significance of the Russian revolution.

The workers of the world feel that the cause of the Russian revolution is their own cause no matter how great the obstacles in our way, no matter how many tens of millions in money are lavished in all countries to disseminate lies and slander about the Russian revolution. Parallel with the war between the two groups of imperialists, another war is beginning everywhere, the war which the working class, inspired by the example of the Russian revolution, is declaring against its own bourgeoisie. All the signs go to show that Austria and Italy are on the verge of revolution. The old order in these countries is disintegrating rapidly. In the stronger and more stable countries such as Germany, Britain and France, the same process is going on, although in a somewhat different and less noticeable form. The collapse of the capitalist system and the capitalist war is inevitable.

The German imperialists have been unable to stifle the socialist revolution. The price Germany had to pay for crushing the revolution in Red Latvia, Finland and the Ukraine was the demoralisation of her army. The defeat of Germany on the Western front is largely due to the fact that her old army no longer exists. What the German diplomats joked aboutthe "Russification" of the German soldiers-now turns out to be no joke at all, but the bitter truth. The spirit of protest is rising, "treason" is becoming a common thing in the German army.

On the other hand, Britain and France are making a last effort to save their own situation. They are hurling themselves on the Russian Republic and straining capitalism to breaking point. Even the bourgeois papers have to admit that a definite change of spirit has appeared among the working people: in France, the idea of "national defence" is breaking down; in Britain, the working class is denouncing the "civil truce". That means the British and French imperialists have staked their last card-and we can say with the utmost confidence that that card will be trumped. (Stormy applause.) No matter how loudly certain groups cry that the Bolsheviks are backed by a minority, they have to admit they cannot find the forces inside Russia to fight the Bolsheviks, and are compelled to resort to foreign intervention. The working class of France and Britain is thus being forced to take part in a blatant war of conquest, whose purpose is to crush the Russian revolution. That means that British and French, and, consequently, world imperialism is at its last gasp. (Stormy applause.)

We have surmounted all difficulties, even though it was hard to declare martial law again in a country where the people themselves had suppressed the war and smashed the old army, and even though it was hard to form an army in the midst of acute civil war. The army has been formed, and victory over the Czechs, the whiteguards, the landowners, the capitalists and the kulaks is assured. (Stormy applause.) The working people realise they are fighting for their own cause and not in the interests of a handful of capitalists. The Russian workers and peasants have for the first time got a chance to run the factories and dispose of the land themselves, and that experience was bound to have its effect. Our army has been formed from chosen people, from the classconscious peasants and workers. Each of them goes to the front aware that he is fighting for the destiny of the world revolution as well as the Russian revolution; for we may rest assured that the Russian revolution is only a sample, only the first step in the series of revolutions in which the war is bound to end.

Education is one of the component parts of the struggle we are now waging. We can counter hypocrisy and lies with the complete and honest truth. The war has shown plainly enough what the "will of the majority" means, a phrase used as a cover by the bourgeoisie. It has shown that a handful of plutocrats drag whole nations to the slaughter in their own interests. The belief that bourgeois democracy serves the interests of the majority has now been utterly discredited. Our Constitution, our Soviets, which were something new to Europe, but with which we were already acquainted from the experience of the 1905 Revolution, serve as splendid agitation and propaganda material, completely exposing the lying and hypocritical nature of bourgeois democracy. We have openly proclaimed the rule of the working and exploited peopleand there lies the source of our strength and invincibility.

The same is true of education: the more cultured the bourgeois state, the more subtly it lied when declaring that schools could stand above politics and serve society as a whole.

In fact the schools were turned into nothing but an instrument of the class rule of the bourgeoisie. They were thoroughly imbued with the bourgeois caste spirit. Their purpose was to supply the capitalists with obedient lackeys and able workers. The war has shown that the marvels of modern technology are being used as a means of exterminating millions of workers and creating fabulous profits for the capitalists who are making fortunes out of the war. The war has been internally undermined, for we have exposed their lies by countering them with the truth. We say that our work in the sphere of education is part of the struggle for overthrowing the bourgeoisie. We publicly declare that education divorced from life and politics is lies and hypocrisy. What was the meaning of the sabotage resorted to by the best educated representatives of the old bourgeois culture? This sabotage showed better than any agitator, better than all our speeches, better than thousands of pamphlets that these people regard learning as their monopoly and have turned it into an instrument of their rule over the so-called common people. They used their education to frustrate the work of socialist construction, and came out openly against the working people.

The revolutionary struggle has been the finishing school for the Russian workers and peasants. They have seen that our system alone assures their genuine rule, they have been able to convince themselves that the state is doing everything to assist the workers and the poor peasants in completely crushing the resistance of the kulaks, the landowners and the capitalists.

The working people are thirsting for knowledge because they need it to win. Nine out of ten of the working people have realised that knowledge is a weapon in their struggle for emancipation, that their failures are due to lack of education, and that now it is up to them really to give everyone access to education. Our cause is assured because the people have themselves set about building a new, socialist Russia. They are learning from their own experience, from their failures and mistakes, and they see how indispensable education is for the victorious conclusion of their struggle. In spite of the apparent collapse of many institutions and the jubilation of the intellectuals carrying out sabotage, we find that experience in the struggle has taught the people to take their fate into their own hands. All who

really sympathise with the people, all the best teachers will come to our aid, and that is a sure pledge that the socialist cause will triumph. (Ovation.)


[1] The Congress was held in Moscow in the building of the Higher Women's Courses from August 26 to September 4, 1918. The 700-odd delegates represented departments of education, teachers and educationalists. Lenin was elected honorary chairman and invited to attend. He spoke at the Congress on August 28, the third day of the proceedings. The Congress discussed the Regulations on the Single Labour School of the R.S.F.S.R., which were later endorsed by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and published in Izvestia on October 10. The regulations played a very important part in building the Soviet education system.

In connection with the attempt on Lenin's life made by the Socialist-Revolutionary terrorist Fanny Kaplan on August 30, 1918, the Congress met in emergency plenary session the next day and adopted a resolution conveying a message of sympathy to Lenin and Krupskaya and expressing firm conviction in the triumph of the revolutionary cause.