V. I. Lenin

Integrated Economic Plan

Delivered: 21 February , 1921
First Published: Pravda No. 39, February 22, 1921; Signed: N. Lenin; Published according to the Pravda text collated with the proofs containing Lenin’s corrections
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 1st English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 32, pages 137-145
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
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

What is being said and written on this subject leaves a very painful impression. Take L. Kritsman’s articles in Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn [1] (I—December 14, 1920; II—December 23; III—February 9; IV—February 16; and V—February 20). There is nothing there but empty talk and word-spinning, a refusal to consider and look into what has been done in this field. Five long articles of reflection on how to approach the study of facts and data, instead of any actual examination of them.

Take Milyutin ’s theses (Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn, February 19), or Larin’s (ibid., February 20); listen to the speeches of “responsible” comrades: they all have the same basic defects as Kritsman’s articles. They all reveal the dullest sort of scholasticism, including a lot of twaddle about the law of concatenation, etc. It is a scholasticism that ranges from the literary to the bureaucratic, to the exclusion of all practical effort.

But what is even worse is the highbrow bureaucratic disdain for the vital work that has been done and that needs to be continued. Again and again there is the emptiest “drawing up of theses” and a concoction of plans and slogans, in place of painstaking and thoughtful study of our own practical experience.

The only serious work on the subject is the Plan for the Electrification of the R.S.F.S.R., the report of GOELRO (the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia) to the Eighth Congress of Soviets, published in December 1920 and distributed at the Congress. It outlines an integrated economic plan which has been worked out—only as a rough approximation, of course—by the best brains in the Republic on the instructions of its highest bodies. We have to make a very modest start in fighting the complacency born of the ignorance of the grandees, and the intellectualist conceit of the Communist literati, by telling the story of this book, and describing its content and significance .

More than a year ago—February 2-7, 1920—the All-Russia Central Executive Committee met in session and adopted a resolution on electrification which says:

“ Along with the most immediate, vital and urgent tasks in organising transport, coping with the fuel and food crises, fighting epidemics, and forming disciplined labour armies, Soviet Russia now has, for the first time, an opportunity of starting on more balanced economic development, and working out a nation-wide state economic plan on scientific lines and consistently implementing it. In view of the prime importance of electrification . . . mindful of the importance of electrification for industry, agriculture and transport, . . . and so on and so forth . . . , the Committee resolves: to authorise the Supreme Economic Council to work out, in conjunction with the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture, a project for the construction of a system of electric power stations. . . .”

This seems to be clear enough, doesn’t it? “A nationwide state economic plan on scientific lines": is it possible to misread these words in the decision adopted by our highest authority? If the literati and the grandees, who boast of their communism before the “experts”, are ignorant of this decision it remains for us to remind them that ignorance of our laws is no argument.

In pursuance of the All-Russia C.E.C. resolution, the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council, on February 21, 1920, confirmed the Electrification Commission set up under the Electricity Department, after which the Council of Defence endorsed the statute on GOELRO, whose composition the Supreme Economic Council was instructed to determine and confirm by agreement with the People ’s Commissariat for Agriculture. On April 24, 1920, GOELRO issued its Bulletin No. 1,[2] containing a detailed programme of works and a list of the responsible persons, scientists, engineers, agronomists and statisticians on the several subcommissions to direct operations in the various areas, together with the specific assignments each had undertaken. The list of persons and their assignments runs to ten printed pages of Bulletin No. 1. The best talent available to the Supreme Economic Council, the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture and the People’s Commissariat for Communications has been recruited.

The GOELRO effort has produced this voluminous—and first-class—scientific publication. Over 180 specialists worked on it. There are more than 200 items on the list of works they have submitted to GOELRO. We find, first, a summary of these works (the first part of the volume, running to over 200 pages): a) electrification and a state economic plan; followed by b) fuel supply (with a detailed “fuel budget” for the R.S.F.S.R. over the next ten years, with an estimate of the manpower required); c) water power; d) agriculture; e) transport; and f) industry.

The plan ranges over about ten years and gives an indication of the number of workers and capacities (in 1,000 hp). Of course, it is only a rough draft, with possible errors, and a “rough approximation”, but it is a real scientific plan. We have precise calculations by experts for every major item, and every industry. To give a small example, we have their calculations for the output of leather, foot wear at two pairs a head (300 million pairs), etc. As a result, we have a material and a financial (gold rubles) balance sheet for electrification (about 370 million working days, so many barrels of cement, so many bricks, poods of iron, copper, and other things; turbine generator capacities, etc.). It envisages (“at a very rough estimate”) an 80 per cent increase in manufacturing, and 80-100 per cent, in extracting industry over the next ten years. The gold balance deficit (+ 11,000 million - 17,000 million leaves a total deficit of about 6,000 million) “can be covered by means of concessions and credit operations".

It gives the site of the first 20 steam and 10 water power district electric stations, and a detailed description of the economic importance of each.

The general summary is followed, in the same volume, by a list of works for each area (with a separate paging): Northern, Central Industrial (both of which are especially well set out in precise detail based on a wealth of scientific data), Southern, Volga, Urals? Caucasian (the Caucasus is taken as a whole in anticipation of an economic agreement between its various republics), Western Siberia and Turkestan. For each of the areas, electric power capacities are projected beyond the first limits; this is followed by the “GOELRO Programme A”, that is, the plan for the use of existing electric power stations on the most rational and economic lines. Here is another small example: it is estimated that a grid of the Petrograd stations (Northern Area) could yield the following economy (p. 69): up to one-half of the capacities could be diverted to the logging areas of the North, such as Murmansk and Archangel, etc. The resulting increase in the output and export of timber could yield “up to 500 million rubles’ worth of foreign exchange a year in the immediate period ahead”.

“ Annual receipts from the sale of our northern timber could very well equal our gold reserves over the next few years” (ibid., p. 70), provided, of course, we stop talking about plans and start studying and applying the plan already worked out by our scientists.

Let me add that we have an embryonic calendar programme for a number of other items (though not for all, of course). This is more than a general plan: it is an estimate for each year, from 1921 to 1930, of the number of stations that can be run in, and the proportions to which the existing ones can be enlarged, provided again we start doing what I have just said, which is not easy in view of the ways of our intellectualist literati and bureaucratic grandees.

    A look at Germany will bring out the dimensions and value of GOELRO’s effort. Over there, the scientist Ballod produced a similar work: he compiled a scientific plan for the socialist reconstruction of the whole national economy of Germany.[3] But his being a capitalist country, the plan never got off the ground. It remains a lone-wolf effort, and an exercise in literary composition. With us over here it was a state assignment, mobilising hundreds of specialists and producing an integrated economic plan on scientific lines within 10 months (and not two, of course, as we had originally planned). We have every right to be proud of this work, and it remains for us to understand how it should be used. What we now have to contend with is failure to understand this fact.

The resolution of the Eighth Congress of Soviets says: “The Congress . . . approves the work of the Supreme Economic Council, etc., especially that of GOELRO in drawing up the plan for the electrification of Russia . . . regards this plan as the first step in a great economic endeavour, authorises the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, etc., to put the finishing touches to the plan and to endorse it, at the very earliest date. . . . It authorises the adoption of all measures for the most extensive popularisation of this plan. . . . A study of this plan must be an item in the curricula of all educational establishments of the Republic, without exception”,[4] etc.

The bureaucratic and intellectualist defects of our apparatus, especially of its top drawer, are most glaringly revealed by the attitude to this resolution taken by some people in Moscow and their efforts to twist it, to the extent of ignoring it altogether. Instead of advertising the plan, the literati produce theses and empty disquisitions on how to start working out a plan. The grandees, in purely bureaucratic fashion, lay stress on the need to “approve” the plan, by which they do not mean concrete assignments (the dates for the construction of the various installations, the purchase of various items abroad, etc.) but some muddled idea, such as working out a new plan. The misunderstanding this produces is monstrous, and there is talk of partially restoring the old before getting on with the new. Electrification, it is said, is something of an “electrofiction". Why not gasification, we are asked; GOELRO, they also say, is full of bourgeois specialists, with only a handful of Communists; GOELRO should provide the cadre of experts, instead of staffing the general planning commission, and so forth.

The danger lies in this discord, for it betrays an inability to work, and the prevalence of intellectualist and bureaucratic complacency, to the exclusion of all real effort. The conceited ignoramus is betrayed by his jibes at the “fantastic” plan, his questions about gasification, etc. The nerve of their trying, offhand, to pick holes in something it took an army of first-class specialists to produce! Isn’t it a shame to try to shrug it off with trite little jokes, and to put on airs about one’s right “to withhold approval"?

It is time we learned to put a value on science and got rid of the “communist” conceit of the dabbler and the bureaucrat; it is time we learned to work systematically, making use of our own experience and practice.

Of course, “plans” naturally give rise to endless argument and discussion, but when the task is to get down to the study of the only scientific plan before us, we should not allow ourselves to engage in general statements and debates about underlying “principles". We should get down to correcting it on the strength of practical experience and a more detailed study. Of course, the grandees always retain the right to “give or withhold approval". A sober view of this right, and a reasonable reading of the resolution of the Eighth Congress concerning the approval of the plan, which it endorsed and handed down to us for the broadest popularisation, show that approval must be taken to mean the placing of a series of orders and the issue of a set of instructions, such as the items to be purchased, the building to be started, the materials to be collected and forwarded, etc. Upon the other hand, “approval” from the bureaucratic standpoint means arbitrary acts on the part of the grandees, the red-tape runaround, the commissions-of-inquiry game, and the strictly bureaucratic foul-up of anything that is going.

Let us look at the matter from yet another angle. There is a special need to tie in the scientific plan for electrification with existing short-term plans and their actual implementation. That this must be done is naturally beyond doubt. But how is it to be done? To find out, the economists, the literati, and the statisticians should stop their twaddle about the plan in general, and get on with a detailed study of the implementation of our plans, our mistakes in this practical business, and ways of correcting them. Otherwise we shall have to grope our way long. Over and above such a study of our practical experience, there remains the very small matter of administrative technique. Of planning commissions we have more than enough. Take two men from the department under Ivan Ivanovich and integrate them with one from the department under Pavel Pavlovich, or vice versa. Link them up with a subcommission of the general planning commission. All of which boils down to administrative technique. Various combinations should be tried out, and the best selected. That is elementary.

The whole point is that we have yet to learn the art of approach, and stop substituting intellectualist and bureaucratic projecteering for vibrant effort. We have, and have had, short-term food and fuel plans, and there are glaring mistakes in both. That is unquestionable. But the efficient economist, instead of penning empty theses, will get down to a study of the facts and figures, and analyse our own practical experience. He will pin-point the mistakes and suggest a remedy. This kind of study will suggest to the efficient administrator the transfers, alterations of records, recasting of the machinery, etc., to be proposed or put through. You don’t find us doing anything of the sort.

The main flaw is in the wrong approach to the relationships between the Communists and the specialists, the administrators and the scientists and writers. There is no doubt at all that some aspects of the integrated economic plan, as of any other undertaking, call for the administrative approach or for decisions by Communists alone. Let me add that new aspects of that kind can always come to the fore. That, however, is the purely abstract way of looking at it. Right now, our communist writers and administrators are taking quite the wrong approach, because they have failed to realise that in this case we should be learning all we can from the bourgeois specialists and scientists, and cutting out the administrative game. GOELRO’s is the only integrated economic plan we can hope to have just now. It should be amplified, elaborated, corrected and applied in the light of well scrutinised practical experience. The opposite view boils down to the purely “pseudo-radical conceit, which in actual fact is nothing but ignorance”, as our Party Programme puts it.[5] Ignorance and conceit are equally betrayed by the view that we can have another general planning commission in the R.S.F.S.R. in addition to GOELRO, which, of course, is not to deny that some advantage may be gained from partial and business-like changes in its membership. It is only on this basis—by continuing what has been started—that we can hope to make any serious improvements in the general economic plan; any other course will involve us in an administrative game, or high-handed action, to put it bluntly. The task of the Communists inside GOELRO is to issue fewer orders, rather, to refrain from issuing any at all, and to be very tactful in their dealings with the scientists and technicians (the R.C.P. Programme says: “Most of them inevitably have strong bourgeois habits and take the bourgeois view of things”). The task is to learn from them and to help them to broaden their world-view on the basis of achievements in their particular field, always bearing in mind that the engineer’s way to communism is different from that of the underground propagandist and the writer; he is guided along by the evidence of his own science, so that the agronomist, the forestry expert, etc., each have their own path to tread towards communism. The Communist who has failed to prove his ability to bring together and guide the work of specialists in a spirit of modesty, going to the heart of the matter and studying it in detail, is a potential menace. We have many such Communists among us, and I would gladly swap dozens of them for one conscientious qualified bourgeois specialist.

There are two ways in which Communists outside GOELRO can help to establish and implement the integrated economic plan. Those of them who are economists, statisticians or writers should start by making a study of our own practical experience, and suggest corrections and improvements only after such a detailed study of the facts. Research is the business of the scientist, and once again, because we are no longer dealing with general principles, but with practical experience, we find that we can obtain much more benefit from a “specialist in science and technology”, even if a bourgeois one, than from the conceited Communist who is prepared, at a moment’s notice, to write “theses”, issue “slogans” and produce meaningless abstractions. What we need is more factual knowledge and fewer debates on ostensible communist principles.

Upon the other hand, the Communist administrator’s prime duty is to see that he is not carried away by the issuing of orders. He must learn to start by looking at the achievements of science, insisting on a verification of the facts, and locating and studying the mistakes (through reports, articles in the press, meetings, etc.), before proceeding with any corrections. We need more practical studies of our mistakes, in place of the Tit Titych[6] type of tactics (“I might give my approval, if I feel like it”).

Men’s vices, it has long been known, are for the most part bound up with their virtues. This, in fact, applies to many leading Communists. For decades, we had been working for the great cause, preaching the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, teaching men to mistrust the bourgeois specialists, to expose them, deprive them of power and crush their resistance. That is a historic cause of world-wide significance. But it needs only a slight exaggeration to prove the old adage that there is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous. Now that we have convinced Russia, now that we have wrested Russia from the exploiters and given her to the working people, now that we have crushed the exploiters, we must learn to run the country. This calls for modesty and respect for the efficient “specialists in science and technology”, and a business-like and careful analysis of our numerous practical mistakes, and their gradual but steady correction. Let us have less of this intellectualist and bureaucratic complacency, and a deeper scrutiny of the practical experience being gained in the centre and in the localities, and of the available achievements of science.

February 21, 1921


[1] Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn (Economic Life )—a daily published from November 1918 to November 1937. It was initially the organ of the Supreme Economic Council and the economic People’s Commissariats, and later, the organ of the People’s Commissariat for Finance of the U.S.S.R., the State Bank, other financial agencies and the Central Committee of the Bank Employees’ Union.

[2] Bulleten Gosudarstvennoi Komissii po Elektrifikatsii Rossii (Bulletin of the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia ) was published by the State Publishing House of Technical Literature under the Science and Technology Department of the Supreme Economic Council in Moscow from April to August 1920. There were five issues in all.

[3]The reference is to Der Zukunftsstaat. Produktion und Konsum im Sozialstaat (The State of the Future. Production and Consumption in the Socialist State ), a book by Karl Ballod, a professor of political economy, which was published in Germany in 1898. The second revised edition appeared in 1919, and a Russian translation, in Moscow, in 1920.

[4] The quotations are from the resolution on electrification adopted by the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets on December 29, 1920. The draft resolution was written by Lenin.

[5]This and subsequent quotations are from the Party Programme adopted by the Eighth Party Congress in March 1919. See K.P.S.S. v rezolutsiakh . . . (The C.P.S.U. in the Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and C.C. Plenary Meetings, Part 1, 1954, p. 423).

[6] Tit Titych—a rich tyrannical merchant in A. N. Ostrovsky’s comedy, Shouldering Another’s Trouble.