V. I. Lenin

Letters To

The Central Statistical Board

Written: 16 August & September 1, 1921
First Published: 1933; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 30-35
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. 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

To The Manager Of The Central Statistical Board

August 16

Comrade Popov,

The correspondence with the Central Statistical Board, particularly the data supplied to me on August 3 all current industrial statistics, has made it perfectly clear to me that my instructions (in the letter of June 4, 1921) are not being carried out at all and that the entire work, the entire organisation of the Central Statistical Board is wrong.

The data given to me on August 3 as current industrial statistics are obsolete and were supplied multa non multum—of considerable volume but small content! That is exactly like the bureaucratic institutions”, from winch you said in your letter of June 11, 1921 you want to separate the Central Statistical Board.

Elconornicheskaya Zhizn[1] has already printed much fuller data in the supplement to its No. 152 issue, i. e., in July!

From the same Elconomicheskaya Zhizn I have already had data for the first quarter of 1921!

The Central Statistical Board, which lags behind an unofficial group of writers, is a model bureaucratic institution. In about two years’ time it may provide a heap of data for research, but that is not what we want.

Nearly two and a half months have passed since my letter of June 4, 1921, but nothing has changed. The same shortcomings are in evidence. There is no sign of your promised ’calendar programme” and so forth (letter of June 11).

Once more I draw your attention to the incorrectness of all this and to the need to accelerate the reorganisation of the work of the Central Statistical Board.

In particular:

1) the chairman or manager of the Central Statistical Board must work in closer contact with the State Planning Commission and in accordance with the direct instructions of and tasks set by the Chairman of the State Planning Commission and its Presidium;

2) current statistics (both industrial and agricultural) must give summarised, practical key data (postponing academic analyses of “full” data) never later but necessarily earlier than our press.

You must learn to pick out what is practically important and urgent, and shelve data of academic value;

3) together with the State Planning Commission, a kind of index number[The words “index-number” are in English in the original—Editor.] must he prepared by which to appraise the state of our entire economy; it must be done at least once a month and must be given in comparison with pre-war figures and then with the figures for 1920 and, where possible, for 1917, 1918 and 1919.

Approximate, presumed, preliminary data (with a special reservation on each such or similar category) must be given where exact figures are unobtainable.

For our practical work we must have figures and the Central Statistical Board must have them before anybody else. Let the checking of the accuracy of the figures, the determining of the percentage of error and so forth be postponed for some time.

The figures to be used for the index-number must be determined by the Central Statistical Board and the State Planning Commission. (Roughly: main, key figures—population, territory, output of principal products, main results of the work of transport, and so forth—at least 10-15 figures conformably with the way these “index-numbers” have for a long time been compiled by statisticians abroad.)

4) Immediately, without any red tape (for it was absolutely impermissible to have done nothing about it for two and a half months) organise the prompt delivery of data on the eight questions I indicated on June 4 in my “approximate list” and also a summary report both general and in particular:

-without delay on Moscow (Moscow must be exemplary);

-then on Petrograd,

-and on each gubernia (singling out those gubernias where the people do their work quickly, without red tape, not in accordance with old academic customs).

Have nine-tenths of the available personnel at the Central Statistical Board and the Gubernia Statistical Bureaus put at once to the job of processing these eight questions correctly and rapidly, and put one-tenth on the academic work of studying complete and all-embracing data. If that cannot be done, ninety-nine per cent of the personnel must be put on processing data practically and urgently required for our economy, and the rest of the work should be postponed until better times, until the time when there will be surplus personnel.

5) Every month the Central Statistical Board must submit to the Council of Labour and Defence[2]—it must be done before it is in the press—preliminary data on key problems of the economy (with a compulsory comparison with the preceding year). These key problems, key figures, both those that go into the “index-number” and those that do not, must be worked on immediately.

Please send me the programme of these questions and the reply on other points without delay.

V. Ulyanov (Lenin), Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars

To The Manager Of The Central Statistical Board Or His Deputy

September 1, 1921

The undated “programme” of work sent to me boils down to a request for additional funds.

We cannot afford it at present.

The entire programme must, therefore, be cut down in such a way as to enable the necessary work to be continued (more regularly and completed faster) with the funds at present available.

I suggest that this cut be made at once; while the question of additional funds be postponed to approximately November.

I suggest that the programme be cut in such a way as to leave (until more funds are available) only the most necessary processes. They must include:

1. Monthly reports on the distribution of food by the state.

Forms for obtaining information roust be established jointly with the People’s Commissariat of Food roughly as follows:

a) the number of people receiving bread (1 think that as a start it would be more prudent to limit the data to bread if no personnel is available to add data on all other issued products, both foodstuffs and non-foodstuffs)
¼ lb each
½ lb each
¾ lb each
1 lb each and so forth;

b) their grades by profession, occupation and so on;

c) summary: total number of recipients and total quantity of bread issued.

The data for Moscow and Petrograd are the most urgent; then for Moscow and Petrograd guhernias, the key industrial gubernias (Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Donbas, Baku, the Urals and so on) and, lastly, the other gubernias.

2. Monthly reports on enterprises transferred to collective supply.

While there are not many of Ihem, all must be kept tinder observation (as you have suggested in your memo, p. 2, paragraph). Later, when there are very many, inspect in detail one-fifth or one-tenth selectively.

In short—all enterprises on collective supply.

The reports you require from these enterprises are far too sweeping (end of p. 2, paragraph 2). They can and must be shorter and show only what is most important.

3. Current industrial statistics for monthly reports must be reduced, with first place given, as absolutely essential, to data on the quantity of articles produced, specifically on the most important items.

These data are absolutely necessary every month.

The rest are not absolutely essential and may be compiled not so urgently, as the personnel and funds of the Central Statistical Board permit.

4. Production, distribution and consumption of fuel.

This must be in the report every month.

The programme must be drawn up jointly with the Central Fuel Board with as few changes as possible in the forms now in operation.

5. Monthly summaries of commodity exchanges (Commissariat of Food arid the Central Council of Co-operative Societies) in the briefest possible form: such-and-such a quantity of such-and-such products issued to uyezds in exchange for such-and-such a quantity of bread.

6. As you indicate in Supplement No. 1, paragraph IV, it is of course difficult to keep an account of the work of Soviet institutions. But difficulty is not impossibility. If not monthly reports, then reports once in two or three months are absolutely necessary at least, as a start, on available personnel” as compared with the pre-war staff or that of other departments, other gubernias and so on, with a rational subdivision of all employees into grades (responsible posts, purely office workers, service staff’an approximate list of certain grades).

A comparison of the largest and smallest staffs by gubernias and so on. First and foremost, for Moscow and Petrograd.

The decisions of the last Congress of Soviets make it obligatory for the Central Statistical Board to tackle the statistical study of the work of our Soviet offices, the number of employees, and so forth.[3];

7. Selection for study of a small number of typical enterprises (factories, state farms) and institutions—a) the best, exemplary, b) middling and c) worst.

Cut down all the rest, except these seven paragraphs.

Inform me of your conclusion on the substance of the programme of work arid the time limit for its compilation.

Lenin, Chairman of the Council of Labour and Defence


[1] Elconornicheskaya Zhizn—a daily newspaper published in Moscow from November 1918 to November 1937.

[2] From December 1920 the Council of Labour and Defence was a permanent organ of the Council of Poeple’s Commissars. It existed until 1937. It emerge in April 1920 on the basis of the Council of Workers’s and Peasnat’a Defense, set up by decision of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of November 30, 1918, with the purpose of mobilising manpower and means for the country’s defence. The Council of Labour and Defence was also headed by Lenin.

[3] Lenin was in mind the Eight All-Russia Congress of Soviets December 22-29, 1920) decision “On Soviet Construction”