V. I.   Lenin


Published: First published in Pravda No. 35, February 15, 1919. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 500-503.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

Izvestia of February 2 carried a letter from a peasant, G. Gulov, who asks a question about the attitude of our Workers’ and Peasants’ Government to the middle peasantry, and tells of rumours that Lenin and Trotsky are not getting on together, and that there are big differences between them on this very question of the middle peasant.

Comrade Trotsky has already replied to that in his “ Letter to the Middle Peasants”, which appeared in Izvestia of February 7. In this letter Comrade Trotsky says that the rumours of differences between him and myself are the most monstrous and shameless lie, spread by the landowners and capitalists, or by their witting and unwitting accomplices. For my part, I entirely confirm Comrade Trotsky’s statement. There are no differences between us, and as regards the middle peasants there are no differences either between Trotsky and myself, or in general in the Communist Party, of which we are both members.

In his letter Comrade Trotsky has explained clearly and in detail why the Communist Party and present Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, elected by the Soviets and belonging to that Party, do not consider the middle peasants to be their enemies. I fully subscribe to what Comrade Trotsky has said.[2]

There is not a single decree (law) or decision of the Soviet government which fails to draw a distinction between the three main groups of peasants. The first group is the poor peasants (proletarians and semi-proletarians, as they are usually called in economic science). They are very numerous. When the landowners and capitalists were in power, the brunt of their yoke fell on the poor peasants. In all the countries of the world, the workers and the rural, poor supporting them are the firmest basis for the true   socialist movement. The second group is the kulaks, that is, the rich peasants who exploit the labour of others, either hiring them for work, or lending money at interest, and so forth. This group supports the landowners and capitalists, the enemies of the Soviet power. The third group is the middle peasants. They are not enemies of the Soviet power. They can be its friends; we are working for this, and will bring it about. All the teachers of socialism have always recognised that the workers will have to overthrow the landowners and the capitalists in order to build socialism, but that with the middle peasants an agreement is possible and essential.

Under the landowners and capitalists, only very few of the middle peasants, perhaps one in a hundred, managed to secure a stable welfare, and then only by becoming kulaks, and saddling the poor peasants, whereas the vast majority of the middle peasants inevitably must suffer from poverty and ill-treatment by the rich. That is the case in all capitalist countries.

Under socialism, all workers and all middle peasants to a man can have full and stable welfare, without robbing someone else’s labour. No Bolshevik, no Communist, no intelligent socialist has ever entertained the idea of violence against the middle peasants. All socialists have always spoken of agreement with them and of their gradual and voluntary transition to socialism.

Our country has been ruined more than other countries by the criminal four-year war of the capitalists. Everywhere there is ruin and dislocation, lack of goods for sale, and a terrible and tormenting famine in the towns and nonagricultural gubernias. We have to strain every effort to overcome the breakdown, to overcome the famine, to overcome the troops of the landowners and capitalists, who are trying to restore to power the tsar and the rich, the exploiters. In the South, on the Don and in the Ukraine, the white-guards have been beaten, and the road to fuel (coal) and grain is being opened up. A few final efforts, and we shall be saved from the famine. But the destruction left behind by the war is great, and only long and self-sacrificing work by all toiling people can bring our country out on to the road to sustained prosperity.

Two kinds of complaints must be noted among those being voiced by middle peasants. First, there are complaints at the excessively “bossy”, undemocratic, and sometimes absolutely disgraceful behaviour of the local authorities, especially in the backwoods. Surely it is more difficult to organise proper control and supervision of the local authorities’ work in the countryside, and the worst elements and dishonest people sometimes worm their way into the ranks of the Communists. Those who, contrary to the laws of the Soviet power, treat the peasants unjustly must be ruthlessly fought, immediately removed and most severely prosecuted. All the efforts of honest workers and peasants are being directed to purging Russia of these “relics” of the landowners’ and capitalists’ system who allow themselves to behave like “bosses” when, under the laws of our Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic, they should behave like men elected by the Soviets and set an example of conscientiousness and strict observance of the laws. The Soviet power has already shot quite a few such officials caught, for example, taking bribes, and the struggle against such scoundrels will be carried on to the end.

Another kind of complaint is made against the requisitioning of grain and the strict prohibition of free sale of grain. Our government is fighting inexorably against arbitrary action and breaches of the law. But can we allow free sale of grain? In our ruined country, there is not enough, or barely enough, grain, and in addition the railways have been so spoiled by the war that supplies are going very badly.

When there is not enough grain, the free sale of it means terrific profiteering and inflation of prices up to hundreds of rubles per pood, because a hungry man will give anything for a piece of bread. The free sale of grain in a hungry country means frenzied profiteering by the kulaks, the shameless rich peasants who fill their money-bags out of the people’s need and the hunger. The free sale of grain in a hungry country means a victory of the rich over the poor, because the rich will buy grain even at a mad, fantastic price, while the poor will have nothing. The free sale of grain is freedom for the rich to make profits, and freedom for the poor to die. The free sale of grain means a return   to the domination and unbridled power of the capitalists.

No. We don’t want to go back, and will not go back, to the restoration of the rule of the capitalists, the rule of money, and freedom to profiteer. We want to go forward to socialism, to the proper distribution of grain among all the working people. All grain surpluses must be handed over to the Soviet state at a fair price; and the state must distribute them equally among the working people. This cannot be achieved all at once, it is not easy to establish such a fair socialist system. It will take a great deal of work and effort, and strict comradely discipline among the workers and peasants, to root out the old, capitalist, freedom to trade, freedom to make profits, freedom to fight, freedom to oppress—a freedom that has covered the whole world with blood.

But this difficult work has now been taken up by millions and millions of workers and peasants. Every honest peasant and worker has realised the importance of socialism, and is persistently fighting for it.

The socialist revolution is growing-throughout the world. The power of the capitalists, “freedom to trade”, will not return. Socialism will win.

N. Lenin

February 14, 1919


[1] The letter of G. Gulov, a Red Army man of peasant stock, was published in Izvestia No. 24, February 2, 1919. Gulov quoted his talks with middle peasants and said that they were still “not clear about the status of the middle peasant and the attitude of the Communist Party to him”. = He asked Lenin to explain to Communists “who the middle peasant was and what assistance he would be able to render our socialist government, given the right approach to him”. = For a detailed explanation of the Party’s attitude to the middle peasantry, see Lenin’s report on work in the countryside, which he gave at the Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) on March 23, 1919, and the resolution of the Congress on the attitude to the middle peasants (see present edition, Vol. 29, pp. 198–215 and 217–20).

[2] After the October Revolution, Trotsky for a time formally accepted the Party’s policy on the peasant question, and he follows this line in his letter to middle peasants, which Lenin mentions. In saying that, he had no differences with Trotsky on current policy in the peasant question, Lenin did not touch upon his differences with Trotsky on the basic, principled problems of the socialist revolution and socialist construction in connection with Trotsky’s “theory of permanent revolution”, which was fundamentally erroneous and politically harmful. While Lenin and the Party worked on the premise that, given a correct policy in respect of the middle peasants, and a sound alliance between the working class and the peasantry, socialist society could be built in Russia, Trotsky denied the possibility of socialism winning out in one country, and spoke, of an inevitable clash between the proletariat and the peasantry. In 1923, in his theses for the Twelfth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.), Trotsky put forward the slogan of a “ dictatorship of industry”, which meant the development of industry through the exploitation of the peasantry. This policy would have broken up the alliance of the working class and the   peasantry and ruined the Soviet system. In subsequent years, Trotsky openly opposed Lenin’s plan for the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union and the Party’s policy and openly waged a counter-revolutionary struggle against the Soviet power. The Communist Party routed Trotskyism and other defeatist trends, secured a sound alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry and brought the Soviet people to the victory of socialism.

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