V. I. Lenin

Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets

Part III

Reply To The Debate On The Report On The Work Of The Council Of People’s Commissars December 23

(Applause.) Comrades, I must confine myself to a few remarks on the speeches and declarations you have just heard. One of the notes I have received expresses perplexity and asks what is the use of the Congress of Soviets hearing such declarations and speeches. I think most of you will disagree with this opinion. It is no doubt always very useful to have a reminder of what some catchwords, now perhaps quite popular—as set forth by certain parties, sections of which have just made their declarations—may lead to in the present political situation. Take for example the reasoning of the representative of the Menshevik Party, or to be more exact, a certain section of that party. It is not our fault that the Menshevik Party and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, which still preserve their old titles, constitute a conglomeration of heterogeneous parts that are constantly changing camps, which turns them into voluntary or involuntary, conscious or unconscious, accomplices of international imperialism. This is evident from their declarations and speeches at this Congress.

For example, I have been reproached for advancing a new theory about an impending new period of wars. I need not go far back into history to show what my statements were based upon. We have only just finished with Wrangel; but Wrangel’s troops exist somewhere, not very far from the frontiers of our Republic, and are biding their time. Therefore, whoever forgets about the danger that is constantly threatening us and will never cease as long as world imperialism exists, whoever forgets about this forgets about our working people’s republic. To say to us that we are conducting secret diplomacy; to say that we must wage only a war of defence, at a time when the sword still hangs over us, when to this day, despite the hundreds of offers we have made and the incredible concessions we are prepared to make, not a single big power has concluded peace with us—to say such things means repeating the old phrases of petty-bourgeois pacifism which have long become meaningless. If, in the face of these ever actively hostile forces, we pledged ourselves—as we have been advised to do—never to resort to certain actions which from a military-strategical point of view may prove to be aggressive, we would be, not only fools but criminals. This is whet these pacifist phrases and resolutions lead to. They lead to a situation wherein the Soviets, surrounded by enemies, will be tied hand and foot and thrown to the predators of world imperialism to be torn to pieces.

When, further, we hear talk about the unity of the proletariat and about our disrupting that unity, it is hard not to smile. We in this country have heard about the unity of the proletariat and now see in fact that the unity of the proletariat in the epoch of social revolution can be achieved only by the extreme revolutionary party of Marxism, and only through a relentless struggle against all other parties. (Stormy applause.)

Further, we are told about the arming of the whole people; we hear the ABC of the old bourgeois-democratic slogan repeated at a time when a most decisive class struggle is raging among the people.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being present—regrettably, for only a short while—at a small private conference of non-Party peasant delegates to our Congress and I learned a great deal from their discussion of some of the most burning questions of rural life, the questions of food supplies, of their destitution and want, of which you all know.[1] The most striking impression that I obtained from this discussion was the depth of the struggle between the poor peasants—the real toilers—and the kulaks and idlers. The supreme significance of our revolution lies in our having helped the lowest sections in the rural districts, the mass of politically the least educated, the mass of the non-Party peasantry, to raise this fundamental question of the social revolution, not only from the theoretical but also from the broad and practical point of view. In all the villages and hamlets throughout our boundless Soviet Russia, people are discussing and finding out who benefits from our political and economic measures. Every where, even in the most remote villages, people understand the problem of the working peasantry and the kulaks. Sometimes they accuse each other too heatedly and passionately, but at any rate they look into the matter and realise that it is necessary, imperatively necessary, to help the working peasant and put him on his feet and to repulse all sorties by the insolent kulaks.

The class struggle has become a reality in the rural districts, deep down among the masses of the peasantry; we have been doing all we can to make this struggle a conscious one. And when, after all this, the leaders of a certain special “International” come before us and talk about arming the people, one feels as if one has been transformed into a pupil of a preparatory class on questions of Marxism and socialism. To forget about the class struggle which is raging all over the world means involuntarily aiding the imperialists of the whole world against the fighting proletariat. The arming of the people is the slogan of our enemies; we stand on the basis of an armed class; we have achieved victory on this basis, and on it we will always win. (Stormy applause.)

The representatives of the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries asked how we could think of such a thing as granting concessions without a special referendum, and why we did not make labour equality the corner-stone of our economic policy (in the Socialist-Revolutionaries’ resolution this labour equality was called “rule of labour", while in the Mensheviks’ resolution it was paraphrased and called equality between toilers of town and countryside). But what else are these phrases about the “rule of labour” but agitation for the trade unions’ independence of the class rule of the proletariat? Jointly with the Menshevik~ and Socialist-Revolutionaries, the whole of the West-European bourgeois press is showing concern for, and wailing about, this “independence” of the trade unions.

What happened when Martov appeared at the Congress of the Independent Social-Democrats in Halle, where, free of any constraint from the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks, which he dislikes, he said everything he wanted to say? A few days later Martov’s speech was published in its entirety, as a titbit, in the most reactionary and imperialist newspapers in Britain. These newspapers thanked Citizen Martov for having disclosed the designs of the Bolsheviks. (Incidentally, over there they use Mr., not Citizen as the form of address.) When such speeches are made in the thick of a world-wide struggle against us, what are they but a piece of Entente politics? You may, of course, say that such a presentation of your ideas of the rule of labour, etc., is petty-bourgeois nonsense, but in actual fact, I repeat, it is nothing more and nothing less than a piece of Entente politics. Tomorrow, if there is an agent of the Entente present here, your speech will be sent to all the capitalist countries and there printed in millions of copies, so that your speech, Citizen Dan, may mislead and dupe the politically unintelligent section of the European workers.

Citizen Dan argued that when I spoke about labour discipline, I was advocating only coercion. The Socialist-Revolutionary Party’s representative was more explicit and said that I advocated compulsion based on persuasion. Our entire policy is a clear reply to this. We do not claim that we make no mistakes; but please point out these mistakes and show us better ways of doing things. We have heard nothing like that here. Neither the Mensheviks nor the Socialist-Revolutionaries say: “Here there is want, here there is destitution among the peasants and workers; here is the way to get rid of this poverty.” No, they do not say anything of the kind. They only say that what we are doing is compulsion. Yes, that cannot be denied. But we ask you, Citizen Dan: Are you for or against? That is the essence, the crux of the matter. Answer categorically: yes or no? “Neither yes nor no,” is the reply. You see, they only want to talk about the rule of labour, to say that we are encroaching on the freedom of the peasants. But who are the peasants? Does not our Soviet Constitution say that the peasants are toilers, working people? We respect such peasants and regard them as the equals and brothers of the workers. Without such a peasantry we could not take a single step in our Soviet policy. Between the working peasantry and the workers there is a fraternal understanding, embodied in our Constitution. But there is another element in the peasantry, the element that constitutes a vast “Sukharevka”. I hope that any assembly, even of non-Party people, will be able to see that after careful examination. Do the profiteering peasants represent the working people? This is the crux of the economic problems in the rural districts. The peasants, as petty proprietors, and the workers are two different classes, and we shall abolish the difference between them when we abolish the basis of small-scale production, and create a new basis of gigantic, large-scale, machine production, as I have already pointed out in my report. This is economically inevitable, but the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries who spoke here came out with incoherent talk of some kind of labour equality between all the peasants and the workers. These are mere phrases, which are fallacious in terms of economics and are refuted by scientific Marxism. Take our revolution in Siberia and in Georgia, take the experience of the international revolution, and you will see for yourselves that these resonant words about labour equality are false. They are part and parcel of the policy the bourgeoisie is pursuing against us, and nothing more.

Dan has asserted here that, in the offices of the Cheka, there is a document to the effect that the Mensheviks are not to come under the October amnesty; from this Citizen Dan draws the conclusion that the Cheka instructs and controls the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. Can we, who are in power, believe a thing like that? Do not the Communists here, who constitute 70 to 80 per cent of all delegates, know that the Cheka is headed by Comrade Dzerzhinsky, a member of the Central Executive Committee and of the Central Committee of the Party, and that in the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee there are six members of the Central Committee of our Party? There are no grounds whatever for believing that, under these circumstances, the Presidium of the Cheka or its Operations Department instructs and runs the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee. That is simply ridiculous. Of course, there is nothing of interest in this, and the representative of the Menshevik Party was simply putting on a comedy. I would, however, like you to take up, in a few days’ time, any bourgeois newspaper published in Western Europe or America in half a million or a million copies. There you will find printed in the boldest type that Citizen Dan has disclosed that the Cheka instructs and controls the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.

Speech Delivered At A Meeting Of The R.C P.(B.) Group Of The Eighth Congress Of Soviets December 24[2]

Comrades, in the first place I will say a word or two about the wrong construction that has been put on the question of force. To bring out this wrong construction, I shall read three lines from the minutes of the Eighth Congress.[3]

The whole argument against force was connected with the question of the communes. I think that the slightest use of force in this sphere will be harmful. Attempts have been made to apply this argument—i.e., that it is foolish to resort to force in establishing communes—to the entire question of persuasion and compulsion in general. This is obviously stretching the point, and is wrong. As regards the bill we are introducing and the exchange of opinions that has commenced, I must say that I think that the effort to give the question a more Leftist bias is the least business-like. I saw nothing concrete or business-like in the proposal made by Comrade Khanov, who claimed to belong to the extreme Left. I considered that Comrade Schlichter’s advice to refrain from passing the bill, and leave it to the next session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee to do so, was most reprehensible. We in the Council of People’s Commissars tried to lick the bill into shape as quickly as possible so that the Congress of Soviets, consisting in the main of representatives from the localities, might adopt a final decision. We are threatened with the danger of being too late in conducting this campaign at district level. To conduct the campaign instructions are needed. It must take at least two or three weeks to draw up such instructions. There can be nothing more injurious than the advice given by Schlichter in his speech on another item of the agenda, regarding the rights of the Gubernia Executive Committees. In substance, the bill proposes that practical measures should at once be taken to assist individual peasant farming, which is the predominating system, and that this assistance should take the form, not only of encouragement but of compulsion as well.

I must say that the bill definitely indicates the measures we have in mind. Clause 11, the most important one, states that the Gubernia Sowing Committees may, under the direction and control of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture, issue “compulsory regulations governing the principal methods of mechanical cultivation of the fields and of improving meadows, sowing, and the methods of preserving the natural fertility of the soil”. Where are these compulsory regulations to come from? The bill goes on to say that the methods mainly employed by the more efficient farmers should be adopted. What methods should we make compulsory by law? Well-known methods of improving agriculture—these must be made compulsory by law and popularised. At the end we read the following: “It is forbidden to introduce regulations and demands: 1) that will cause a radical change in peasant farming, unless such regulations and demands are proposed by volost congresses, or unless the state supplies the given locality with improved implements and means of production; 2) that are difficult of fulfilment by the household of average means, and 3) that involve risks.”

A comrade expressed the opinion that the shortcoming in Comrade Osinsky’s report consisted in its being too practical and specific; this, he said, prevented him from presenting the problem properly. On the contrary, the most valuable feature of Comrade Osinsky’s report was that he took the bull by the horns and called upon you to set to work and discuss immediate practical questions, such as the question of seeds, of taking measures to prevent seed grain from being consumed. In European Russia this will be much more difficult than in the extremely rich Altai Region, where, it appears, it is so easy to issue orders. If it is so easy to issue orders there, and if you can achieve practical results by issuing orders, then every gubernia land department—the Altai or any other—will deserve the utmost encouragement.

Unfortunately, this is far from being the case in the poorer gubernias of European Russia. Here, the whole task of the present campaign, like the whole task of our Congress, is to keep this question as far away as possible from all arguments of a general character, which Schlichter and other comrades called upon us to indulge in. I would like to call for a more practical and business-like presentation of questions, and I welcome the turn which Osinsky has given to the matter. Let us discuss the question of seeds. They will be consumed, unless we do something about preserving them. What is the most practical method of doing that? They must be stored in the public granaries, and the peasants must be given guarantees that they will not be tied up by red tape and improperly distributed. We must convince them that our object at present is to put in the safekeeping of the state the quantity of seeds required to sow all the fields. We shall certainly convince the middle peasant of this, because it is an obvious necessity. If any objection is raised, and if some say that they cannot work for Tsyurupa, and try to depict him as some sort of beast of prey, we will say: “Stop joking; give us a straight reply to the question: How do you propose to restore industry?” The peasants must be supplied with agricultural machinery and implements. If the state is to be in a position to meet all requirements and to provide all the necessary agricultural and technical equipment it will need a steadily growing fund. But we are reaching this position very slowly. That is why I think it is wrong to confuse the issue with the tasks of the state farms and collective farms. The collective farms are not an immediate problem. I know that the collective farms are still in such a state of disorganisation, in such a deplorable position, that they deserve the name of alms-houses. I have no objection to the delegates of the Eighth All-Russia Congress impressing on the Council of People’s Commissars or the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, the necessity of taking special measures to improve the work of the All-Russia Union of Land and Forest Workers. In this respect, this union is a bulwark, if only it unites in its ranks real semi-proletarian elements who are capable of helping us to become real business-like organisers. I have no objection to that whatever.

However, the object of the present bill is a different one. The present condition of the overwhelming majority of the state farms is below the average. We must base ourselves on the individual peasant; we must take him as he is, and he will remain what he is for some time to come, and so it is no use dreaming about going over to socialism and collectivisation at present. We must drop general arguments and discuss the first practical steps we must take this very spring, and no later; only such a presentation of the question will be business-like. To do that, we must at once pass this bill in the form it has been drafted by the Council of People’s Commissars, introduce the necessary changes and amendments at once, and not delay matters for a moment.

As for the socialisation of agricultural implements, I think you are best able to judge what compulsory regulations may be issued in the name of the state. I would warn you against that. We already have a law which grants the right to socialise the implements of the rich peasants.[4] In the districts where this can be successfully carried out, complete freedom to municipalise these implements is allowed by this law; however, the methods to be used are not always and everywhere fully established. Therefore, to introduce that into an act whose immediate object is different would create the danger of scattering our forces instead of concentrating on the most urgent tasks and wherever pressure may be needed. Let us rather concentrate all our efforts on what is absolutely urgent, on collecting a sufficient quantity of seeds at all costs so as to ensure that the entire plan of sowing is carried out, and on introducing, on a mass scale, and wherever the toilers, the poor and middle peasants, predominate, improved methods of farming that have been tested by experience. That is the point. The fewer measures of this kind we draw up now, the better, because, by making sure of carrying out a few measures, we shall put on the proper basis the entire machinery for improving agriculture, and thoroughly convince the peasants that the road we have taken is the right one. If, however, we undertake more than we can do we shall discredit ourselves in the eyes of the peasants. If there are gubernias where more can be done by issuing orders, there is nothing to prohibit that. The bill says: take into account your own peasant experience; consider what you are able to do in the way of collecting livestock and implements. If agricultural implements in good condition are still available in the gubernia that will be done successfully. However, to apply the law in gubernias where the situation in this respect is far worse and where the peasants are unable to carry out such orders means that the orders will remain a dead letter and will be left hanging in mid-air, as it were; instead of understanding the importance of these measures, the peasants will be disappointed, and that is what I fear most of all for the future. That is why we must first of all start with what is absolutely essential, that is, with preserving the seeds.

Let us now go over to the measures for improving small peasant individual farming, which are quite feasible and must be discussed immediately, in detail, and here decreed and made compulsory by law, to be enforced by order and compulsion, so that what is passed after repeated discussion shall be carried out without fail. I would propose that we at once set up committees, without waiting until the committees are formed officially at the plenary session of the Congress after the report. This unofficial committee can be set up at once, or at all events some time today. The official committee can be set up later, but it would be a mistake to put this off for a day, or even half a day. We have a total of 2,500 delegates, and I think that at least one-tenth of this number have a practical knowledge of this question, after several years of work; if we have 250, that is, over 25 for each district, since our Republic is divided up into nine agricultural districts, I think this number of representatives is sufficient to enable us to proceed at once to a discussion of the practical questions, the concrete measures we should adopt.

What measures to improve agriculture should be adopted in the various districts? In one district, perhaps, steps may be taken towards compulsory sowing; in another, perhaps, the ground may be prepared for a more vigorous order, like the one proposed by the comrade who investigated conditions in the Altai Gubernia only this spring. In still another district, perhaps, measures could be taken, with the help of agronomists and non-Party peasants, for more timely ploughing and harrowing. I think we ought at once to form committees and divide the regions into districts, since the same measures cannot be employed in all districts, and devote a half a day or a day to the discussion of questions that are not directly mentioned in the decree, but constitute the most important part of the bill. This bill says: appropriate measures should be taken to convince the non-Party peasants. If we are lagging behind in this respect, then, with the mass agitation which we are developing and will develop a hundred times more vigorously and widely than we have done up to now, we can draw up measures for each district and each gubernia; we shall endeavour to make them successful, and do that no less strenuously than we did when we strove to achieve success in our food policy. In the latter case the task was not so complex: we demanded that the peasants yield up a certain quantity of foodstuffs. Here, however, we are demanding that the peasants introduce on their own farms the changes which the state regards as necessary. The chief thing is to make no mistake in defining these changes. That is the most important thing. The fact that Comrade Kurayev put these questions concretely indicates that he is on the right track; however to go over from this to arguments about the general plan of collectivisation, the role of the state farms, which sometimes play a very nasty role, and the Marxist method of approach to purchases, means dragging us away from the immediately practical affairs, back to general arguments which may be useful, but not at a Congress of Soviets which is to pass a law of supreme importance. To prepare the ground for this step, we must carefully consider what the activities and role of the village Soviets should be. We must carefully consider whether the chairman of a village Soviet is the person to be consulted, since he is mainly responsible for carrying out these measures among the peasants. Will it be useful to combine the functions of chairman of the village Soviet and of chairman of the Committee of Assistance in one person? I am throwing this out as a suggestion. I would like the comrades who are familiar with the work at district level to pay careful attention to this question. The Committees of Assistance ought to discuss what measures should be made compulsory by law. In discussing this question there is no need to be afraid of non-Party people. We shall carefully weigh all their proposals, and we shall know definitely who is for us and who is against us. Clarity must be achieved in every volost and every village. The demands proposed are quite feasible and, with a certain amount of effort, they can be carried out this spring. I would propose that this conference of the group now adjourn. When you consider that the general debate has ended, we should form committees for the various districts with specific agricultural conditions, and immediately proceed to discuss the question. That will be the proper thing to do from the practical point of view, and will ensure the success of the bill.

Draft Resolution Of The Eighth Congress Of Soviets On The Report On Electrification

The Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets,

after hearing the report of the Chairman of the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia, expresses its thanks, in the first place, to the Presidium of tho Supreme Council of the National Economy and also to the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture and the People ’s Commissariat of Railways, and particularly to the Commission for the Electrification of Russia for their work in drawing up the plan for the electrification of Russia.

The Congress instructs the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, the Council of People’s Commissars, the Council of Labour and Defence, the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the National Economy and also the other People’s Commissariats to complete the elaboration of this plan and to endorse it without fail at the earliest date.

The Congress further instructs the government and requests the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions and the All-Russia Congress of Trade Unions to take all measures to conduct the widest possible propaganda for this plan and to make the broadest sections of the population in town and countryside familiar with it. The study of this plan must be introduced into all educational establishments in the Republic without exception; every electric power station and every tolerably well organised factory and state farm must become a centre for teaching the principles of electricity and modern industry, a centre of propaganda for the plan of electrification, and of its systematic study. All persons possessing sufficient scientific or practical knowledge must be mobilised for the purpose of conducting propaganda for the electrification plan and for imparting to others the knowledge necessary to understand it.

The Congress expresses its firm conviction that all Soviet institutions, all Soviets, and all industrial workers and working peasants will exert every effort and shrink from no sacrifice to carry out the plan for the electrification of Russia at all costs, and despite all obstacles.

Published according to the manuscript

Draft Resolution Of The R.C.P.(B.) Group Of The Eighth Congress Of Soviets

It is obligatory upon all members of the R.C.P., by the time the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P. is held (February 6, 1921):

1); to make the fullest possible study of the plan of electrification;

2); to take measures to ensure the widest and most detailed study of the local plan in every district;

3); to draw up, for the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P., practical proposals:

for methods of making all working people more widely familiar with the plan of electrification,

as well as for ways and means of immediately proceeding with the practical fulfilment of this plan in all its aspects.


[1] On December 22, 1920, Lenin attended a private conference of non-Party peasant delegates to the Eighth Congress of Soviets, which was called on Lenin’s request by M. I. Kalinin, then Chairman of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. The conference discussed the bill on measures to strengthen and develop agriculture adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on December 14, and submitted for consideration by the Congress. Lenin closely followed the debate, and took notes of the speeches.

[2] The meeting of the Communist group of the Congress, called in the morning of December 24, 1920, was devoted to a discussion of the bill presented by the Council of People’s Commissars on measures to promote peasant farming.

[3]Lenin is referring to the following passage in his report on work in the countryside, which he delivered at the Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) on March 23, 1919: “Coercion applied to the middle peasants would cause untold harm” (see present edition Vol. 29, p. 210)

[4]The reference is to the law on the socialisation of the land passed on January 18 (31), 1918, by the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets which was held on January 10-18 (23-31), 1918. Clause 6 of the law read: “All livestock and agricultural implements in private possession shall pass, without indemnification, from the hands of the non-working farmers exploiting the labour of others into the hands of uyezd, gubernia, regional and federative Soviets, depending on the importance of the implements and livestock transferred.”