V. I. Lenin

Everybody On Food And Transport Work!

Written: 26 January, 1918
First Published: Pravda No. 19, January 28, 1919; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 28, pages 439-442
Translated: Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive May, 2002

I have already had occasion at the last session of the Central Executive Committee to point out that the next six months will be particularly difficult for the Soviet Re-public. During the first six months of 1918 we procured 28,000,000 poods of grain, and during the second 67,000,000 poods. The first six months of 1919 will be more difficult than the preceding.

The food shortage is growing more and more acute. Typhus is becoming an extremely serious menace. Heroic efforts are required, but what we are doing is far from enough.

Can we save the situation?

Certainly. The capture of Ufa and Orenburg, our victo-ries in the South and the success of the Soviet uprising in the Ukraine[1] open up very favourable prospects.

We are now in a position to procure far more grain than is required for semi-starvation food rations.

Millions of poods of grain have already been delivered in the East. They are being held up by the bad state of the transport system. In the South, the liberation of the entire Voronezh Gubernia and part of the Don region from Krasnov’s Cossacks makes it fully possible to procure considerable quantities of grain, over and above our previous calculations. Finally, the grain surplus in the Ukraine is truly enormous, and the Soviet Government of the Ukraine is offering to help us.

Not only can we now obviate famine, but we can even fully satisfy the starving population of non-agricultural Russia.

The whole trouble lies in the bad state of transport and the tremendous shortage of food workers.

Every effort must be made and we must stir the mass of workers into action. We must definitely get out of the habitual, everyday rut of life and work. We must pull ourselves together. We must set about the revolutionary mobilisation of people for food and transport work. We must not confine ourselves to “current” work, but go beyond its bounds and discover new methods of securing additional forces.

On the most “cautious” and even pessimistic estimate, we now have very weighty grounds for believing that a victory over famine and typhus in these six months (and such a victory is perfectly feasible) will lead to a radical improvement in the whole economic situation, for the es-tablishment of contact with the Ukraine and Tashkent removes the main and basic causes of the shortage and dearth of raw materials.

Of course, the hungry masses are exhausted, and that exhaustion is at times more than human strength can endure. But there is a way out, and renewed energy is undoubtedly possible, all the more since the growth of the proletarian ossi revolution all over the world is becoming increasingly apparent and promises a radical improvement in our foreign as well as our home affairs.

We must pull ourselves together.

Every Party organisation, every trade union, every group of organised workers, and even workers who are not organised but are anxious to “tackle” the famine-every group of Soviet workers and citizens generally must ask themselves the following questions:

What can we do to extend and intensify the national crusade against the famine?

Can we replace male labour by female labour and thus release more men for the difficult duties of transport and food work?

Can we provide commissars for the engine and carriage repair shops?

Can we provide rank-and-file workers for the food army?

Should we not assign every tenth or fifth man from our midst, from our-group, from our factory, etc., to the food army, or for exceptionally difficult and arduous work in the railway shops?

Are not some of us engaged in Soviet or other work which might be relaxed or even suspended altogether without undermining the main foundations of the state? Is it not our duty to mobilise such workers immediately for food and transport work?

Let as many people as possible go into action and deal one more blow to that accursed maxim of the old capital-ist society, a maxim which we have inherited from that society and which infects and spoils every one of us in one degree or another, the maxim “every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost". It is this heritage from predatory, sordid and bloody capitalism that is stifling us, crushing us, oppressing, ruining and frustrating us more than anything else. We cannot rid ourselves of this heritage at once. It must be fought incessantly; more than one cru-sade will have to be declared and conducted against it.

We can save the millions and tens of millions from fa-mine and typhus. Salvation is at hand. The famine and typhus crisis hovering over us can be vanquished, and vanquished completely. It would be absurd, foolish, shame-ful to give way to despair. To stampede pelimell, every man for himself, and each as he knows best, just to “get out of the fix” oneself somehow, to shove back the more feeble and push forward alone, would be to desert, to aban-don the sick and exhausted comrades and to make the over-all situation even worse.

We have created the firm foundation of a Red Army, which has now forced its way through incredible difficulties, through the iron wall of the armies of the landowners and capitalists supported by the fabulously wealthy British and French multimillionaires, forced its way through to the principal sources of raw materials, to grain, cotton and coal. We created that foundation by working in a new way, by political propaganda at the front, by organising the Communists of our army, by the self-sacrificing organisation and struggle of the best of the workers.

We have gained a number of successes botli on the exter-nal, military front and on the home front, in the fight against the exploiters, against sabotage, and for the difficult, arduous, thorny but correct path of socialist construction. We are on the verge of a complete and decisive victory both at home and on an international scale.

A little more effort, and we shall escape from the tenacious clutches of famine.

What we have done and are doing for the Red Army we must also do, and with redoubled energies, to step up, extend and intensify food and transport work. All our best workers must do this work. A place will be found for every-body who is anxious and able to work. Everybody who wishes can help to achieve an organised and mass victory over devastation and famine. Every active force, every talent, every speciality, every trade, every thoughtful individual can and must be found employment in this peace army of food and transport workers-a peace army which, to achieve complete victory, must now support the Red Army and consolidate and follow up its victories.

Everybody on food and transport work!

N. Lenin

January 26, 1919


[1] In November-December 1918 the Ukrainian workers and peasants rose up against the German invaders and their stooge, Hetman Skeropadsky. On December 14 Skoropadsky fled from Kiev. On January 3, 1919, the Red Army occupied Kharkov, and on February 5, Kiev, capital of the Ukraine.