V. I. Lenin

Speech at the Second All-Russia Congress

Of Internationalist Teachers[1]

January 18, 1919

Sent: 14 January, 1919
First Published: Short report published in Izvestia No. 13, January 19, 1919; First published in full in 1926; Published according to the verbatim report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 28, pages 407-410
Translated: Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive May, 2002

(Stormy applause passing into ovation.) Comrades, greetings to your Congress on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars. The teachers are now faced with tasks of the highest importance. I hope that after the year we have just been through, after a year of struggle, after what has taken place in international affairs, the struggle—that has been going on among the teachers—between those who took their stand from the very first with the Soviet government to work for the socialist revolution, and those who have so far stood by the old system, by the old prejudices that teaching can continue to be based on the old system—must come to an end, and is in fact coming to an end. There can be no doubt that the vast majority of teachers, who stand close to the working class and the working peasants, are now convinced that the socialist revolution is deeply rooted and is inevitably spreading all over the world. And I think that now the vast majority of teachers will quite sincerely come over to the side of the government of working and exploited people in the struggle for the socialist revolution and against those teachers who still stand by the old bourgeois prejudices, the old system and hypocrisies, and imagine that some part of that system can be salvaged.

One of these bourgeois hypocrisies is the belief that the school can stand aloof from politics. You know very well how false this belief is. The bourgeoisie themselves, who advocated this principle, made their own bourgeois politics the cornerstone of the school system, and tried to reduce schooling to the training of docile and efficient servants of the bourgeoisie, to reduce even universal education from top to bottom to the training of docile and efficient servants of the bourgeoisie, of slaves and tools of capital. They never gave a thought to making the school a means of developing the human personality. And now it is clear to all that this can be done only by socialist schools, which have inseparable bonds with all the working and exploited people and wholeheartedly support Soviet policy.

Of course, the reconstruction of education is no easy matter. And, naturally, mistakes have been and still are being made, as are attempts to misinterpret the principle of the ties between education and politics and to give it a crude and distorted meaning. Awkward attempts are being made to put politics into the minds of the younger generation when they have not been prepared enough for it. Undoubtedly, we shall always have to combat such crude applications of this basic principle. But today the chief task of those members of the teaching profession who have sided with the International and the Soviet government is to work for the creation of a wider and, as nearly as possible, an all-embracing teachers’ union.

There is no place in your union, the union of internationalists, for the old teachers’ union, which clung to bourgeois prejudices and revealed a lack of understanding. It has been fighting longest of all to uphold these privileges, longer even than other top unions, which were formed at the very beginning of the 1917 revolution and which we combated in all spheres of life. In my opinion, your internationalist union may very well become a single schoolteachers’ trade union, siding, like all the other trade unions—as has been very clearly shown by the Second All-Russia Trade Union Congress—with Soviet government policy. The task facing the teachers is immense. They have to combat the survivals of the slackness and disunity left by the last revolution.

Next, as regards propaganda and agitation. It is only natural that disunity should still prevail in every sphere of propaganda and education when we consider the lack of confidence in the teachers caused by the sabotage and prejudices of the bourgeois section of the teaching body, who are accustomed to thinking that only the rich are entitled to real education, while the majority of the working people need only be trained to be good servants and good workers, but not real masters of life. This condemns a section of the teachers to a narrow sphere, the sphere of pseudo-education, and has prevented us from properly creating a single apparatus in which all scholastic forces would merge and collaborate with us. We shall only succeed when we discard the old bourgeois prejudices. This is where it is your union’s task to draw the broad mass of teachers into your family, to educate the most backward sections of the teaching profession, to bring them under general proletarian policy, and weld them together into one common organisation.

In trade union organisation, the teachers have a big job on their hands with our country in its present predicament, when all the issues of the Civil War are becoming quite clear, and when the petty-bourgeois democratic people are being compelled by the logic of events to come over to the Soviet government. For they have seen for themselves that any other course will, whether they like it or not, drive them towards defending the whiteguards and international imperialism. Now that the whole world is faced with one cardinal task, the issue is: either extreme reaction, military dictatorship and shootings—of which we have had striking illustrations from Berlin—either this vicious reaction from the capitalist brutes who feel they will not go unpunished for these four years of war, and are therefore prepared to go to any lengths, to go on drenching the earth in the blood of the working people, or the complete victory of the working people in a socialist revolution. Today there can be no middle course. Hence, those teachers who sided with the International from the very first, and who now clearly perceive that their opponents among the teachers of the other camp cannot put up any serious resistance, must launch into far wider activities. Your union should now become a broad teachers’ trade union embracing vast numbers of teachers, a union which will resolutely stand by Soviet policy and the struggle for socialism through the dictatorship of the proletariat.

This is the formula adopted by the Second Trade Union Congress now in session. The Congress demands that everyone engaged in a given trade, in a given sphere of activity, should join a single union. At the same time it declares that the trade union movement cannot hold aloof from the fundamental tasks of the struggle for the emancipation of labour from capital. And, consequently, only those unions which recognise the revolutionary class struggle for socialism by the dictatorship of the proletariat can be full and equal members of the trade unions. Your union is a union of this kind. If you stand by that position, you will be sure of success in winning over the greater bulk of the teachers and in working to make knowledge and science no longer something for the privileged, no longer a medium for reinforcing the position of the rich and exploiters, but a weapon for the emancipation of the working and exploited people. Allow me to wish you every success in this endeavour.


[1] The Congress was held in Moscow from January 12 to January 19, 1919. The union of internationalist teachers was formed shortly after the organisation of the People’s Commissariat of Education and assisted the latter in its work. The union played a considerable role in the struggle against the former All-Russia Teachers’ Union whose Socialist-Revolutionary and Cadet leadership took a counter-revolutionary, anti-Soviet stand, and which was dissolved in December 1918. Members of the internatiodalist teachers’ union popularised socialist ideas and actively fought against politically backward teachers who maintained that the school should be divorced from politics and separated from the state. Speaking at the Congress, Lenin advocated setting up “a wider and, as nearly as possible, an all-embracing teachers’ union” The Congress resolutioln recognised the need for an “All-Russia Union of Workers in Education and Socialist Culture” The Congress heard several reports on a single labour school and worked out measures for the improvement of cultural and educational work in the Red Army.