V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written on May 16, 1921
Published: First published in Pravda No. 1, January 1, 1924. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 491-493.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

May 16

Comrade M. Sokolov, Secretary of the Department
for Management of Property Evacuated from Poland

Dear Comrade,

I have received and read your draft report for May 18.[2] You write that I have “slipped up”. On the one hand, you say, by leasing forests, land, etc., we are introducing state capitalism, and on the other hand, he (Lenin) “talks” about “expropriating the landowners”.

This seems to you a contradiction.

You are mistaken. Expropriation means deprivation of property. A lessee is not a property-owner. That means there is no contradiction.

The introduction of capitalism (in moderation and skilfully, as I say more than once in my pamphlet[1] ) is possible without restoring the landowners’ property. A lease is a contract for a period. Both ownership and control remain with us, the workers’ state.

What fool of a lessee will spend money on model organisation,” you write, “if he is pursued by the thought of possible expropriation...”

Expropriation is a fact, not a possibility. That makes a big difference. Before actual expropriation not a single capitalist would have entered our service as a lessee. Whereas now “they”, the capitalists, have fought three years,   and wasted hundreds of millions of rubles in gold of their own (and those of the Anglo-French, the biggest money-bags in the world) on war with us. Now they are having a bad time abroad. What choice have they? Why should they not accept an agreement? For 10 years you get not a bad income, otherwise ... you die of hunger abroad. Many will hesitate. Even if only five out of 100 try the experiment, it won’t be too bad.

You write:

Independent mass activity is possible only when we wipe off the face of the earth that ulcer which is called the bureaucratic chief administrations and central boards.”

Although I have not been out in the provinces, I know this bureaucracy and all the harm it does. Your mistake is to think that it can be destroyed all at once, like an ulcer, that it can be “wiped off the face of the earth”.

This is a mistake. You can throw out the tsar, throw out the landowners, throw out the capitalists. We have done this. But you cannot “throw out” bureaucracy in a peasant country, you cannot “wipe it off the face of the earth”. You can only reduce it by slow and stubborn effort.

To “throw off” the “bureaucratic ulcer”, as you put it in another place, is wrong in its very formulation. It means you don’t understand the question. To “throw off” an ulcer of this kind is impossible. It can only be healed. Surgery in this case is an absurdity, an impossibility; only a slow care—all the rest is charlatanry or naïveté.

You are naïve, that’s just what it is, excuse my frankness. But you yourself write about your youth.

It’s naïve to wave aside a healing process by referring to the fact that you have 2–3 times tried to fight the bureaucrats and suffered defeat. First of all, I reply to this, your unsuccessful experiment, you have to try, not 2–3 times, but 20–30 times—repeat your attempts, start over again.

Secondly, where is the evidence that you fought correctly, skilfully? Bureaucrats are smart fellows, many scoundrels among them are extremely cunning. You won’t catch them with your bare hands. Did you fight correctly? Did you encircle the “enemy” according to all the rules of the art of war? I don’t know.

It’s no use your quoting Engels.[3] Was it not some “intellectual” who suggested that quotation to you? A futile quotation, if not something worse. It smells of the doctrinaire. It resembles despair. But for us to despair is either ridiculous or disgraceful.

The struggle against bureaucracy in a peasant and absolutely exhausted country is a long job, and this struggle must be carried on persistently, without losing heart at the first reverse.

Throw off” the “chief administrations”? Nonsense. What will you set up instead? You don’t know. You must not throw them off, but cleanse them, heal them, heal and cleanse them ten times and a hundred times. And not lose heart.

If you give your lecture (I have absolutely no objection to this), read out my letter to you as well, please.

I shake your hand, and beg you not to tolerate the “spirit of dejection” in yourself.



[1] See “The Tax in Kind” (present edition, Vol. 32, pp. 329–65).—Ed.

[2] Reference is to the co-report by Sokolov “On the Tax in Kind and the Change in the Policy of Soviet Power” at the general meeting of the R.C.P.(B.) group at the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, May 18, 1921. Sokolov sent it to Lenin, requesting him to read it and reply to a number of questions which it raised.

[3] In the draft of his co-report Sokolov quoted the following passage from Engels: “The worst thing that can befall a leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to take over a government at a time when society is not yet ripe for the domination of the class he represents and for the measures which that domination implies” ( = Engels, The Peasant War in Germany, Moscow, 1965, p. 112).

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