Vladimir Lenin


At A Congress Of Chairmen Of Gubernia Soviets[1]

July 30 1918

Newspaper Report

Delivered: 30 July, 1918.
First Published: Izvestia No. 161, July 31, 1918; Published according to the Izvestia text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1965, pages 34-36
Translated (and edited): Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
Online Version: V.I.Lenin Internet Archive, 2002

Comrades, your job is one of administration, which plays a dominant part in the affairs of the Council of People’s Commissars. Quite naturally, many difficulties lie ahead of you. In the majority of gubernia Executive Committees it is evident that the masses are at last beginning to tackle the work of administration themselves. There are certainly bound to be difficulties. One of our greatest shortcomings has been that we still draw too little on the workers for our staffs. But it was never our intention to adapt the old apparatus to the new system of administration, and we do n ot regret that with the abolition of the old apparatus everything has to be built anew with so much difficulty. The workers and peasants possess greater constructive abilities than might have been expected. It is to the revolution’s credit that it swept away the old administrative apparatus. Yet at the same time we must admit that the people’s chief shortcoming is their timidity and reluctance to take things into their own hands.

Some of our gubernia Soviets have been inefficient, but now the work is steadily improving. Information has been coming in from may parts of the country stating that the work is progressing without any misunderstandings or conflicts. Although only eight months have elapsed, the Russian revolution has proved that the new class which has taken administration into its own hands is capable of coping with the task. Although it is short-staffed, the administrative apparatus is running more smoothly every day. Our apparatus is till at a stage where no definite results are visible, a fact which the enemy keeps harping on. Nevertheless, quite a lot has already been done. The transfer of land and industry to the working people, the exchange of goods and the organisation of food supply are being carried into effect in face of fantastic difficulties. The working people must be promoted to independent work in building up and running the socialist state. Only practice will teach them that the old exploiting class is finished and done with.

Our chief and most urgent task is administration, organisation and control. This is a thankless and inconspicuous job; but it is in doing this job that the managerial and administrative talents of the workers and peasants will develop more and more effectively.

Now to the new Constitution.[2] It embodies what experience has already given, and will be corrected and supplemented as it is being put into effect. The main thing about the Constitution is that the Soviet government is completely dissociating itself from the bourgeoisie, preventing them from participating in building up the state.

The workers and peasants, upon whom the government has called to run the country, and who have remained remote from such affairs for so long, were bound to want to build the state by their own experience. The effect of the slogan "All Power to the Soviets!" was that the people in the localities wanted to gain experience in building the state by learning from their own mistakes. Such a transitional period was unavoidable, ad it has proved beneficial. In this tendency towards separatism, there was much that was healthy and wholesome in the sense that it displayed a creative spirit. The Soviet Constitution has defined the relations between the volost authority and the uyezd authority, between the uyezd authority and the gubernia authority, and between the latter and the centre.

Only large-scale, planned construction, which aims at evenly utilising economic ad business values, deserves to be called socialist. The Soviet government certainly does not intend to belittle the importance of the local authorities or kill their autonomy ad initiative. Even the peasants realise through their own experience the need for centralism.

Now that the Constitution has been endorsed and is being put into effect, an easier period in our state affairs is beginning. But, unfortunately, it is hard for us just now to devote ourselves to an economic, business and agricultural policy. We have to divert all our attention to more elementary things-the food question. The condition of the working class in the hungry provinces is really drastic. Until the new harvest is brought in, every effort must be made to overcome somehow the food difficulties and other troubles.

Besides this, there are military tasks. You know that the Czech movement, financed and instigated by the British and French imperialists, has caught Russia in a semicircle. You also know that the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and the kulak peasants are joining this movement. We have received news from the localities that Soviet Russia’s recent reverses have convinced the workers and the revolutionary peasants by their own experience that control is needed in the military sphere as well as in state development.

I am convinced that things will get better in future. I am convinced that the gubernia Executive Committees will create a strong socialist army by organising control over the commanding staff with the help of the peasants. The lessons of the revolution have at last taught the classes of the workers and exploited peasants the need to take up arms. The peasants and workers, besides having won the land, control, etc., base learnt to understand the need to control the army. By carrying their efforts into the sphere of military affairs, they will make the army of their creation fully worthy of the title of a socialist army, an army which will successfully fight the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and the imperialists until the international revolutionary proletariat comes to our aid. (Comrade Lenin ’s speech is greeted with stormy applause from all delegates.)


[1] The Congress was held in Moscow from July 30 to August 1, 1918, There were 122 delegates, of whom 120 were Communists. G. I. Petrovsky, People's Commissar for the Interior of the R.S.F.S.R., delivered a report on the work of the Commissariat of the Interior and its immediate tasks. Other speakers at the Congress dealt with the activity of the local Soviets, the character, tasks and organisational forms of Soviet militia, housing and other subjects. Lenin spoke at the evening session on July 30. The resolutions called for the improvement of the Soviet apparatus and emphasised the need for greater harmony between all its parts, close contact with the centre and complete obedience to the Constitution. The Congress called on the workers and peasants of the Republic to rise in arms in defence of the socialist fatherland.

[2] Reference is to the Constitution of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, unanimously adopted at the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets on July 10, 1918, and publisheden July 19 as the Fundamental Law which went into force on publication.

It was the first Soviet Constitution. It gave force of law to the great gains of the October Revolution-the new, Soviet state system, the abolition of private capitalist property and landed proprietorship, equality of all nations inhabiting Russia, etc. It gave force of law to the dictatorship of the proletariat in the shape of Soviet power, provided for the participation of all working people in state administration and disfranchised the exploiters. Lenin pointed out:“The world has never known such a constitution as ours. It embodies the workers’ experience of struggle and organisation against the exploiters both at home and abroad.”