V. I. Lenin

Food Detachments[1]

Speech At Workers’ Meetings In Moscow

June 20, 1918
Brief Newspaper Report

Delivered: 20 June, 1918
First Published: 21 June, 1918, Bednota No. 69; Published according to the Bednota text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pages 448-449
Translated: Clemens Dutt; Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

From my visits to working-class areas in Moscow I have gained the firm conviction that the idea of the need to form food detachments has spread through the entire mass of the workers. A “distrustful” attitude is shown only by the print workers, who usually live better than the other workers, paid for by the bourgeoisie which is poisoning the minds of the poor with its newspaper slanders. The class-conscious attitude of the broad mass of the workers to such a basic issue of the Russian revolution as the struggle against famine gives me grounds for believing that socialist Russia will successfully survive all temporary failures and the devastation of the old regime. Even if we do not succeed in speedily dealing with the Czechoslovaks (which is most improbable), the large stocks of grain hidden by the kulaks in Voronezh, Orel and Tambov gubernias will enable us to get through the last two difficult months before the new harvest. The food problem is the most urgeiit problem of our revolution. All workers without exception must understand that the struggle for grain is their own vital concern.

The task undertaken by the food detachments is only that of helping to collect grain surpluses from the kulaks, and not (as our enemies are trying in advance to frighten the countryside into believing) to plunder all and sundry in the countryside .... Manufactured goods, thread and household and agricultural articles will definitely be provided in return for grain.

Steps will be taken to iiial(e it impossible for the detach-ments sent to the countryside to be joined by hooligans and swindlers, who always endeavour to fish in muddy waters. It is better to send fewer people, but ones who are suitable for the job.

It is true there have been cases of detachments being infiltrated by unstable, weak-willed workers, whom the kulaks have bribed with home-distilled vodka. But atten-tion has been paid tothis .... It is necessary to have accurate information of the past history of every worker going with a detachment. Inquiries must be made in the factory coramittee, the trade union and also in Party cells, as to the person-al character of everyone whom the working class entrusts with such an important task.

Party comrades in many factories are unwilling to accept non-Party” people in the detachment. This is quite wrong. A person who is “non-Party”, but completely honest and with no stain on his reputation, can be a very valuable com-rade in the starving people’s campaign for grain.

To class-conscious detachments of this kind the Council of People’s Commissars will give the broadest assistance by providing money and manufactured goods, and also arms.

What matters is that the workers should actively and with the utmost speed take up their own vital cause-the struggle against famine!...


[1] Lenin delivered this speech on the food detachments to workers’ meetings in Moscow and it was published in Bednota (The Poor), a daily newspaper issuied by the C.C. of the R.C.P.(B.). The first food detachments were sent out from Petrograd and Moscow to the grain-growing provinces in November 1917. Mass recruiting for the detachments among the advanced workers began in the sum-mer of 1918, when the food crisis was at its height. The food detach-ments were formed by the Party, Soviet and trade union organisations of Petrograd, Moscow and other industrial centres. There were about 3,000 people in them by June 15, and by the end of August the number had risen to nearly 17,000. In 1918 there were 122 detachments and in 1919, more then 1,000, with an enrolment of about 30,000 men. These workers’ food detachments plaed a big part in procuring food for the population and the Red Arm in fighting the kulaks and rallying the rural poor.