V. I. Lenin

The Fight To Overcome The Fuel Crisis

Circular Letter To Party Organisations[1]

Delivered: 22 November, 1919
First Published: Pravda No. 254, November 13, 1919; Published according to the Pravda text, verified with the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, pages 139-142
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Comrades, to our Party, as the organised vanguard of the proletariat, has fallen the duty of uniting the working class in its struggle and of leading it in the fight for the victory of the workers’ and peasants’ Soviet power. We have carried on that fight triumphantly for two years and now know by what means we succeeded in overcoming the incredible difficulties placed in our way by the impoverishment of the country that resulted from four years of imperialist war and the resistance of all exploiters, Russian and international.

Comrades, the chief source of our strength is the class--consciousness and heroism of the workers, who had, and still have, the sympathies and support of the labouring peasants. Our victories were due to the direct appeal made by our Party and by the Soviet government to the working masses, with every new difficulty and problem pointed out as it arose; to our ability to explain to the masses why it was necessary to devote all energies first to one, then to another aspect of Soviet work at a given moment; to our ability to arouse the energy, heroism and enthusiasm of the masses and to concentrate every ounce of revolutionary effort on the most important task of the hour.

Comrades, at this juncture the most important task of the hour is the struggle to overcome the fuel crisis. We are finishing off olchak, we have vanquished Yudenich, we have begun a successful offensive against Denikin. We have considerably improved matters as regards the procure-ment and storage of grain. But the fuel crisis threatens to disrupt all Soviet work: factory workers and office employees are abandoning their jobs to escape cold and hunger, trains carrying grain are brought to a standstill, and veritable disaster is impending precisely on account of the fuel shortage.

The fuel problem has become the central problem. The fuel crisis must be overcome at all costs, otherwise it will be impossible to solve the food problem, or the war problem, or the general economic problem.

And the fuel crisis can be overcome. For although we have lost the coal of the Donets Basin, and although we are not in a position rapidly to increase the output of coal in the Urals and Siberia, we still have plenty of forests and we can cut and deliver a sufficient quantity of wood.

The fuel crisis can be overcome. The thing now is to concentrate our main forces against what is (at present) our main enemy: the fuel shortage. We must arouse enthu-siasm in the working masses and achieve a revolutionary harnessing of energies for the swiftest possible procurement and delivery of the largest possible quantity of fuel of every kind-coal, shale, peat, etc., and in the first place wood, wood and wood.

The Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party is confident that all Party organisations and all Party members, who in the past two years have demonstrated their capacity and ability to solve problems no less and even more difficult in a revolutionary way, will solve this problem too.

The Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party proposes in particular the following measures to all Party organisations:

1. All Party organisations must henceforth make the fuel problem and measures to combat the fuel crisis a per-manent item on the agenda of Party meetings and espe-cially meetings of Party committees. What more can be done, what must be done to combat the fuel crisis, how can the work he intensified, how can it be made more produc-tive?-let these questions now occupy the attention of all Party organisations.

2. The same applies to all gubernia, city, uyezd and olost executive committees-in a word, to all leading Soviet bodies. Party people must assume the initiative in strengthening, co-ordinating and intensifying the work on a country-wide scale.

3. The widest possible propaganda must be carried on everywhere, especially in the countryside, to explain what the fuel problem means to the Soviet state. In particular, local, parochial, narrow egoistical interests in the matter of fuel supplies must he combated. It must be explained that without devoted effort to meet the general need of the state it will be impossible to save the Soviet Republic, to uphold the power of the peasants and workers.

4. The most careful supervision must be exercised over the way the assignments of the Party and the instructions, demands and commissions of the Soviet government are carried out. New members of the Party who joined during the last Party Week should all be enlisted in the work of checking up on the way everyone is performing his duties.

5. Labour conscription for the whole population must be carried out, or certain age categories must be mobilised as quickly as possible and in the most imperative fashion for the work of procuring and carting coal and shale or cutting wood and carting it to the railway station. Fix labour quotas and see that they are carried out at all costs. Punish with ruthless severity those who despite repeated insistence, demands and orders are found to have shirked the work. Any lenience or weakness will be a crime against the revolution.

We have improved discipline in the army. We must also improve labour discipline.

6. Subbotniks must be arranged more frequently, ener-getically and systematically, and must be better organised, primarily for fuel work. Party members must set an example to all in labour discipline and energy. Decisions of the Council of People’s Commissars, of the Council of Defence and of other central and also local Soviet bodies on the fuel question must be carried out conscientiously and scrupulously.

7. Local fuel bodies must be reinforced with the best of the Party workers. For this purpose the distribution of forces should be revised and appropriate changes made.

8. Comrades sent from the centre must be given the utmost assistance and the largest possible number of young people must be trained-and practically trained at that -in organising, arranging and maintaining fuel work. The local press must devote more attention to this work and must take pains to bring to public attention examples of really fine work and wage an implacable campaign against backwardness, lack of zeal or lack of ability displayed by any particular district, department or institution. Our press must become an instrument for bringing the backward into line and for inculcating industry, labour discipline and organisation.

9. The chief task of the food bodies must be to supply food and fodder for those engaged on fuel supply work. They must be given every assistance, their work must be intensified, and a check kept on the way it is carried out.

10. Indefatigable efforts must be made to ensure that in every fuel body (as in every Soviet institution generally) everyone is held personally responsible for a definite, strictly and precisely defined job or part of a job. Committee dis-cussion must be reduced to an absolute minimum and never be allowed to interfere with swiftness and firmness of decision or minimise the responsibility of each and every worker.

11. The clerical work connected with fuel matters must be particularly prompt and accurate. The slightest tendency towards red tape must be punished ruthlessly. Reporting to the centre must be put on exemplary lines.

12. All fuel work in general must be organised in mili-tary fashion, with the energy, speed and strict dis-cipline that is demanded in war. Without that we shall never overcome the fuel shortage. Without it we shall not escape from the crisis.

The Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party is confident that all comrades will bend every effort to carry out these instructions energetically and faithfully.

The fuel shortage must he fought and overcome!

Central Committee, Russian Communist Party


[1] The Central Committee’s letter was drafted by Lenin, and was published in Pravda on November 13. The appeal of the C.C. of the Party met with a warm response in the country. On November 14 the Communists of Red Presnya district in Moscow adopted a decision to hold a ‘fuel week“ of communist labour and instructed all Party members to take part in subbotniks. The Moscow City Party Committee mobilised 200 Communists to the fuel front on November 18. The Vladimir Gubernia Party Conference resolved to send hundreds of worker Communists to the countryside to mobilise the local population to supply fuel and horses to deliver it to the cities. Labour enthusiasm in organising fuel supplies that swept the cities spread to the countryside. The week from November 24 to December 1 was proclaimed ‘fuel week“ by the Red Army. Measures adopted by the Party led to the easing of the fuel crisis. In October an average of 1,941 wagons were loaded per day and in December this figure rose to 2,895 wagonloads.