V. I. Lenin

Tenth All-Russian Conference of the R.C.P.(B.)[1]

May 26-28, 1921

Written: 26 May, 1921
First Published: 1921, Published in Byulleten Vserossiiskoi Konferentsii R.K.P.( Bolshevikov) ( Bullitin of the All-Russia Conference of the R.C.P.[ B.] ) Nos. 1 and 2, May 27 and 28, 1921; Published according to the Byulleten text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 1st English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 32, pages 399-437
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

1. Speech In Opening The Conference May 26

Comrades, permit me to declare the All-Russia Conference of the R.C.P. open.

You are aware, comrades, that this conference has been convened earlier than is prescribed by the Rules. Consequently, it is not an ordinary, or at least, not quite an ordinary conference. You are also aware that the main item on the agenda—the main question—that has compelled us to convene the conference before the planned date is that of economic policy—the tax in kind. It is central at the present time.

I propose that we proceed to elect the presidium of the conference.

2. Report On The Tax In Kind May 26

Comrades, I had occasion to discuss, for the benefit of the Party, the question of the tax in kind in a pamphlet with which, I suppose, the majority of you are familiar. That this question has been brought up for discussion at a Party conference came as a surprise to me, for I had not seen anything to indicate that this was called for. But very many of the comrades who have visited the localities, notably Comrade Osinsky upon his return from a tour of a number of gubernias, informed the Central Committee—and this was corroborated by several other comrades—that locally the policy which had taken shape in connection with the tax in kind remained largely unexplained and partly even misunderstood. In view of its exceptional importance, additional discussion at a Party conference seemed so necessary that it was decided to convene the conference earlier than scheduled. You are aware that we in the Central Committee have decided to divide the report on this point into four parts, to be given by four rapporteurs : Kamenev, on the work of the co-operatives; Milyutin, on small-scale industry; Comrade Svidersky, on the precise calculations and proposals of the People’s Commissariat for Food, and the related organisational measures; the instructions and regulations on the tax system, partly approved, and partly to be approved shortly, by the Council of People’s Commissars, are of especial importance in this connection. Finally, Comrade Khinchuk is to be the fourth rapporteur ; he has been relieved of all his duties in the People’s Commissariat for Food to allow him to concentrate entirely on the co-operatives, as Chairman of Tsentrosoyuz.[Central Council of Co-operative Societies.—Translator.]

It has been decided, as the chief principle, that the commodity exchange in this case is to be handled by the People’s Commissariat for Food, mostly and even chiefly, through Tsentrosoyuz and the co-operatives. These relations between the People’s Commissariat for Food and Tsentrosoyuz should be formalised in an agreement, stating that all the goods available for exchange shall be handed over by the People’s Commissariat for Food to Tsentrosoyuz. This makes the latter’s role quite clear, and there is no need to go into it in detail. Thus, it has fallen to me to introduce the question of the general significance of this policy, and I should merely like to supplement what I have already said in the pamphlet. I have no direct information as to how this question is being presented in the localities or to the flaws, defects and unclarity that there prevail. I may have to elaborate certain points later on, when it becomes clearer from the questions that are raised at the conference, or from the subsequent debate, how the local officials and the Party are to be oriented.

As far as I can see, the misunderstandings and lack of clarity on the political tasks connected with the tax in kind and the New Economic Policy are perhaps due to the exaggeration of this or that aspect of the matter. But until we have organised this work on practical lines, these exaggerations are absolutely inevitable; and until we have carried out at least one food campaign on the new lines, it will hardly be possible at all to give any precise definition to the real limits for the application of this or that specific feature of this policy. I shall deal only in general outline with some of the contradictions which, as far as I could judge from several notes sent up at the meeting, have given rise to most misunderstanding. The tax in Knd and the attendant changes in our policy are often interpreted as a sign of a drastic reversal of policy. It is not surprising that this interpretation is taken up and made most of by the whiteguard, particularly the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik, press abroad. I do not know whether it is due to the operation of similar influences which have made themselves felt on the territory of the R.S.F.S.R., or to the acute discontent which was, and perhaps still is, evident in certain circles, owing to the extreme aggravation of the food situation, but this sort of perplexity may have spread to some extent even in this country and created what is largely a wrong conception of the significance of the change that has been brought about and of the character of the new policy.

Naturally, in view of the fact that the peasantry preponderates enormously among the population, the principal task—of our policy in general, and of our economic policy in particular—is to establish definite relations between the working class and the peasantry. For the first time in modern history we have a social system from which the exploiting class has been eliminated but in which there are two different classes—the working class and the peasantry. The enormous preponderance of the peasantry could not but have an effect on our economic policy, and our policy in general. The principal problem that still confronts us—and will inevitably confront us for many years to come—is that of establishing proper relations between these two classes, proper from the standpoint of abolishing classes. The enemies of the Soviet power discuss the formula of agreement between the working class and the peasantry with such frequency, and so very often use it against us, because it is so vague. Agreement between the working class and the peasantry may be taken to mean anything. Unless we assume that, from the working-class standpoint, an agreement is possible in principle, permissible, and correct only if it supports the dictatorship of the working class and is one of the measures aimed at the abolition of classes, then, of course, it remains a formula on which all the enemies of the Soviet-power, all the enemies of the dictatorship, operate. How is this agreement to be realised in the first period of our revolution, i.e., the period which we can now approximately consider as coming to a close? How was the dictatorship of the proletariat maintained and consolidated amidst the enormous preponderance of the peasant population? It is the Civil War that was the principal reason, the principal motive force, and the principal determinant of our agreement. Although, in many cases, the Civil War was started with the whiteguards, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the Mensheviks jointly participating in the alliance against us, it invariably led to all the Socialist-Revolutionary Constituent Assembly and Menshevik elements finding themselves—either through a coup d’etat or otherwise—driven into the background, which left the capitalist and landowner elements to head the whiteguard movement. That was the case under Kolchak and Denikin, and all the numerous smaller regimes and during campaigns against us. It was the principal factor that determined the form of the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry. This circumstance multiplied our incredible difficulties, but upon the other hand, it spared us the necessity of racking our brains over how to apply the alliance formula, for it and the conditions of its realisation were both dictated by the circumstances of war, leaving us no choice whatsoever.

Only the working class could exercise the dictatorship in the form demanded by the Civil War and its conditions. The participation of the landowners in this war united the working class and the peasantry absolutely, unreservedly and irrevocably. In that respect there was no internal political wavering whatsoever. Amidst the gigantic difficulties that confronted us because Russia was cut off from her principal grain areas and food hardships had been aggravated to the extreme, we could not have carried out our food policy in practice without the appropriation of surplus grain. This meant taking not only the surplus stocks of grain, which would hardly have sufficed even if they had been properly distributed. I cannot here deal in detail with the irregularities which the system brought in its train. At all events, it served its main purpose—keeping industry going even when we were almost completely cut off from the grain districts. But this could have been at all satisfactory only in conditions of war. As soon as we had finally done away with the external enemy—and this became a fact only in 1921—another task confronted us, the task of establishing an economic alliance between the working class and the peasantry. It was only in the spring of 1921 that we actually got down to this task, and that was when the 1920 crop failure had worsened the condition of the peasantry to an incredible degree, and when we first witnessed some internal political wavering, which did not result from external enemy pressure, but from the relations between the working class and the peasantry. If wehad had a very good, or at least a good, harvest in 1920, if the surplus appropriations had yielded 400 million out of the planned 420 million poods of grain, we would have been able to fulfil the greater part of our industrial programme and would have had a stock of manufactured urban goods to exchange for agricultural produce. But the opposite happened. A fuel crisis, even more acute than the food crisis, developed in some places and it was utterly impossible to satisfy the needs of the peasant farms in urban manufactures. Peasant farming was gripped by an incredibly acute crisis. Those were the circumstances that suggested that we could not possibly continue with the old food policy. We had to bring up the question of what economic basis we required immediately for the alliance between the working class and the peasantry as a stepping stone to further measures.

The stepping stone is to prepare the exchange of industrial goods for agricultural produce; to create a system under which the peasant would not have to surrender his produce otherwise than in exchange for urban and factory-made goods, but which would not subordinate him to any of the forms existing under the capitalist system. In view of the prevailing economic conditions, however, we could not even think about that. That is why we have adopted the transitional form I have spoken about, namely, to take produce in the form of a tax without giving any equivalent, and to obtain additional produce through the medium of exchange. But this requires an appropriate fund; ours is extremely small, and the possibility of augmenting it through foreign trade has arisen only this year, as a result of a number of agreements with capitalist countries. It is true that these are as yet a mere introduction, a foreword; no real trade has yet begun. There is continued sabotage and all sorts of attempts to disrupt these agreements by most or the greater part of the capitalist circles, and the most characteristic thing is that the Russian whiteguard press, including the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik press, is hammering away at these agreements with more venom than at anything else. It is absolutely clear that the bourgeoisie is better prepared for the fight, that it is more developed than the proletariat, that its class-consciousness has been given a keener edge by all the “trouble” it has had to put up with, and that it is betraying an abnormal sensitiveness. A close look at the whiteguard press will show that it is hitting out at the very point that is the centre, the pivot, of our policy.

After the failure of the military invasion, which has quite obviously collapsed, although the struggle is still on, the whole of the whiteguard Russian press has set itself an unattainable aim: to tear up the trade agreements. The campaign which was started this spring on an extremely extensive scale, with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks in the forefront of the counter-revolutionary forces, had a definite aim—to tear up the economic agreements between Russia and the capitalist world by this spring; and to a considerable extent they succeeded in achieving their aim. It is true that we have concluded the principal agreements—their number is increasing—and we are overcoming the growing resistance to them. But there has been a very dangerous delay; for, without some assistance from abroad, rehabilitation of large-scale industry and restoration of regular exchange of commodities will either be impossible or will mean very dangerous delay. These are the conditions in which we are obliged to act, and these are the conditions which for the peasants have brought the question of restoring trade to the forefront. I shall not deal with the question of concessions, because it has been debated most at Party meetings, and has not lately given rise to any perplexity. The position is that we are continuing our assiduous offers of concessions, but the foreign capitalists have not yet received a single sizable concession, and we have not yet concluded any really serious concessions agreement. The whole difficulty lies in finding a way of enlisting West-European capital that has been tested in practice.

Theoretically, it is absolutely indisputable—and it seems to me that everyone ‘s doubts on this score have been dispelled—theoretically, I say, it is absolutely clear that it would be to our advantage to pay off European capital with a few score or hundreds of millions, which we could give it in order to augment, in the shortest possible time, our stocks of equipment, materials, raw materials and machinery for the purpose of restoring our large-scale industry.

Large-scale industry is the one and only real basis upon which we can multiply our resources and build a socialist society. Without large factories, such as capitalism has created, without highly developed large-scale industry, socialism is impossible anywhere; still less is it possible in a peasant country, and we in Russia have a far more concrete knowledge of this than before; so that instead of speaking about restoring large-scale industry in some indefinite and abstract way, we now speak of the definite, precisely calculated and concrete plan of electrification. We have a precise plan projected by the best Russian specialists and scientists, a plan which gives us a definite picture of the resources, considering Russia’s natural features, with which we can, must and will lay the basis of large-scale industry for our economy. Without it, no real socialist foundation for our economic life is possible. This remains absolutely indisputable, and if, in connection with the tax in kind, we have lately spoken about it in abstract terms, we must now say definitely that we must first of all restore large-scale industry. I myself have heard statements of this kind from several comrades, and all I could do in reply was, of course, to shrug my shoulders. It is absolutely ridiculous and absurd to assume that we could ever lose sight of this fundamental aim. The only question that arises here is: how could such doubts and perplexity arise in the minds of comrades, and how could they think that this key task, without which the material production basis of socialism is impossible, has been pushed into the background? These comrades must have misunderstood the relation between our state and small industry. Our main task is to restore large-scale industry, but in order to approach this task at all seriously and systematically we must restore small industry. Both this year, 1921, and last year, we had great gaps in our efforts to restore large-scale industry.

In the autumn and winter of 1920 we started several important branches of our large-scale industry, but we had to suspend them again. Why? Many factories were able to obtain enough manpower and sufficient supplies of raw materials; why then was work at these factories suspended? Because we were short of food and fuel. Without a state reserve of 400 million poods of grain (I take an approximate figure) backed up by regular monthly allotments, it is difficult to talk about any sort of regular economic development or of restoring large-scale industry. Without it we find that after having started work on restoring large-scale industry and continuing it for several months we have had to suspend it again. Most of the few factories that were started are now idle. Without fully assured and adequate food stocks the state cannot concentrate on systematically organising the rehabilitation of large-scale industry, organising it on a modest scale, perhaps, but in such a way as to keep it going continuously.

As regards fuel, until the Donbas is restored, and until we obtain a regular supply of oil, we shall have to continue to rely on timber, on firewood, which again means dependence on small-scale production.

That explains the mistake of those comrades who failed to understand why it is the peasant who must now be placed in the centre of things. Some workers say: the peasants are being favoured, but we get nothing. I have heard such talk, but I must say I think it is not very widespread, for such talk is dangerous, because it echoes the Socialist-Revolutionaries. It is an obvious political provocation; and is, besides, a survival of craft—not class—but craft-union prejudices of workers, when the working class regards itself a part of equitable capitalist society and fails to realise that it still stands on the old capitalist basis. These workers say, in fact: the peasant is being favoured, he has been relieved of surplus-grain appropriation, he is allowed to retain his grain surplus for the purpose of exchange; we workers at the bench want to have the same thing.

What is at the bottom of this point of view? It is, in essence, the old petty-bourgeois ideology: since the peasants are a component part of capitalist society, the working class also remains a component part of this society; hence, if the peasant trades, we too must trade. Here we undoubtedly see a revival of the old prejudices which grapple the worker to the old world. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks are the most ardent and, in fact, the only sincere, champions of the old capitalist world. You will find none among the hundreds, the thousands, and even the hundreds of thousands in all the other camps. But these rare specimens remain among the so-called pure democrats, whom the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks represent. And the more persistently they advocate their views, the more dangerous is their influence over the working class. They are doubly dangerous when the working class has to go through periods of suspended production. The principal material basis for the development of proletarian class-consciousness is large-scale industry, where the worker sees the factories running, and daily feels the power that can really abolish classes.

When the workers lose their footing in this material production basis, some of them are beset by a sense of instability, uncertainty, despair and skepticism, and this has a definite effect when combined with outright provocations by our bourgeois democrats, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. This produces a mentality which makes people, even in the ranks of the Communist Party, reason in this way: the peasants were given a handout; for the same reasons, and by the same methods, a handout should be given to the workers. We have had to yield to this mentality to some extent. The decree on bonuses to workers in the form of a part of the goods they produce is, of course, a concession to these sentiments, which have their roots in the past and are engendered by skepticism and despair. Within certain small limits, this concession was necessary. It has been made. But we must not for a moment forget that we have been making a concession that is necessary from no other standpoint but the economic one: the interests of the proletariat. Its basic and most vital interests are bound up with the rehabilitation of large-scale industry as a solid economic foundation. When that is done, it will consolidate its dictatorship, it will be sure to carry its dictatorship to success, in the teeth of all the political and military difficulties. Why, then, were we obliged to make a concession, and why would it be extremely dangerous to give it a wider interpretation than it deserves? It is only because temporary food and fuel difficulties compelled us to take this path.

What is the principal economic determinant of the policy when we say, “We must not base our relations with the peasants on surplus-grain appropriation but on a tax"? It is that under the surplus-grain appropriation system the small peasant farms have no proper economic basis and are doomed to remain dead for many years. Small farming cannot exist and develop, because the petty farmer loses interest in consolidating and developing his activity and in increasing his output, all of which leaves us without an economic basis. We have no other basis or source, and unless the state is able to accumulate large stocks of food it is no use thinking about the rehabilitation of large-scale industry. That is why we are first of all applying this policy which is changing our food relations.

We are conducting this policy so as to have a fund for the rehabilitation of large-scale industry; to relieve the working class from all interruption of work, which should not be experienced even by our large-scale industry, miserable though it is when compared with that of the advanced colmtries; to relieve the proletarian of the need to find the means of subsistence by resorting to the petty-bourgeois method of profiteering, which is not a proletarian method and threatens us with the gravest economic dangers. Owing to our present deplorable conditions, proletarians are obliged to earn a living by methods which are not proletarian and are not connected with large-scale industry. They are obliged to procure goods by petty-bourgeois profiteering methods, either by stealing, or by making them for themselves in a publicly-owned factory, in order to barter them for agricultural produce—and that is the main economic danger, jeopardising the existence of the Soviet system. The proletariat must now exercise its dictatorship in such a way as to have a sense of security as a class, with a firm footing. But the ground is slipping from under its feet. Instead of large, continuously running factories, the proletarian sees something quite different, and is compelled to enter the economic sphere as a profiteer, or as a small producer.

We must spare no sacrifice in this transitional period to save the proletariat from this. To ensure the continuous, if slow, rehabilitation of large-scale industry we must not hesitate to throw sops to the greedy foreign capitalists, because, from the standpoint of building socialism, it is at present to our advantage to overpay the foreign capitalists some hundreds of millions in order to obtain the machines and materials for the rehabilitation of large-scale industry, which will restore the economic basis of the proletariat, and will transform it into a steadfast proletariat, instead of one engaged in profiteering. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have deafened us with their shouts that since the proletariat has been declassed, we ought to abandon the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They have been shouting that since 1917, and the surprising thing is that they have not grown tired of shouting it up to 1921. But when we hear these attacks we do not say that there has been no declassing, and that there are no flaws. What we say is that Russian and international realities are such that even though the proletariat has to go through a period when it is declassed, and has to suffer from these handicaps, it can nevertheless fulfil its task of winning and holding political power.

It would be absurd and ridiculous to deny that the fact that the proletariat is declassed is a handicap. By 1921, we realised that after the struggle against the external enemy, the main danger and the greatest evil confronting us was our inability to ensure the continuous operation of the few remaining large enterprises. This is the main thing. Without such an economic basis, the working class cannot firmly hold political power. In order to ensure the continued rehabilitation of large-scale industry we must organise the food supply in such a way as to collect and properly distribute a fund of, say, 400 million poods. It would be utterly impossible for us to collect it through the old surplus-grain appropriation system: 1920 and 1921 are proof of this. Now we see that we can nonetheless fulfil this extremely difficult task by means of the tax in kind. We cannot fulfil it with the old methods, and so we must try some new ones. It can be done by means of the tax in kind and by establishing proper relations with the peasant as a small producer. We have devoted considerable effort to prove this theoretically.

I think, judging by the Party press and by what is being said at meetings, that it has been fully proved theoretically that this task can be fulfilled if the proletariat retains possession of the transport system, the big factories, the economic basis as well as political power. We must give the peasant a fair amount of leeway as a small producer. Unless we revive peasant farming we shall not solve the food problem.

It is within this framework that we must deal with the question of developing small industry on the basis oI unrestricted trade and free turnover. This free turnover is a means to establish economically stable relations between the working class and the peasantry. We now have more and more precise data on agricultural output. A pamphlet on grain output was distributed at the Party Congress; it was still in proofs when it was distributed to the delegates. Since then the material contained in it has been supplemented and circulated. The pamphlet in its final form has now been sent to the press, but it is not yet ready for the conference, and I am unable to say whether it will be ready before the conference comes to a close and the delegates disperse. We shall do all we can to get it out in time, but we cannot promise to do so.

This is a small part of our effort to determine, as precisely as possible, the position in regard to agricultural output, and the resources at our disposal.

Still, we can say that there is evidence that we are quite able to solve this economic problem, particularly this year, when the harvest prospects are not too bad, or not as bad as we anticipated in spring. This assures us of the possibility of accumulating an agricultural reserve that will enable us to devote ourselves entirely to the task of steadily, even if slowly, restoring our large-scale industry.

In order to solve the problem of accumulating food stocks for industry we must devise a form of relations with the peasant, the small proprietor, and there is no other form except that of the tax in kind; no one has come up with another form, and one can be imagined. But we must have a practical solution of this problem: we must arrange to have the tax collected in a proper manner, and not in the old way, when grain was taken two or three times, leaving the peasant in a worse plight than ever, inflicting the most suffering on the more industrious and destroying every possibility of establishing economically stable relations. The tax in kind, while also a levy on every peasant, must be collected in a different way. On the basis of the collected and published data we can say that the tax in kind will now bring about a crucial change, but whether it will cover everything is still, to some extent, an open question. Of one thing we can be quite certain, however, and it is that we must bring about an immediate improvement in the condition of the peasant.

The task that confronts the local workers is to collect the tax in kind in full, and do so in the shortest possible time. The difficulties are increased by the fact that the harvest promises to be an unusually early one this year, and if our preparations are based on the customary dates, we run the risk of being too late. That is why the early convocation of the Party conference was important and opportune. We must work more quickly than before to prepare the apparatus for collecting the tax in kind. The accumulation of a minimum state fund of 240 million poods of grain and the possibility of making the position of the peasant secure depend on the speed with which the tax in kind is collected. Delay in collecting it will cause a certain amount of inconvenience to the peasant. The tax will not be paid voluntarily, we shall not be able to dispense with coercion, for the levy imposes some restrictions on the peasant farm. If we drag out the process of collecting the tax, the peasant will be discontent and will say that he is not free to dispose of his surplus. If the freedom is to be such in practice, the tax must be collected quickly; the tax-collector must not hover over the peasant for long, and so the period between the harvesting and the collection of the tax in full must be reduced to a minimum.

That is one task. The other is to maximise the peasant’s freedom of trade and the revival of small-scale industry, so as to allow some leeway to the capitalism that grows up on the basis of small private property and petty trade. We should not be afraid of it, for it is not dangerous to us in the least.

We need not fear it at all in view of the general economic and political situation that has now arisen, with the proletariat controlling all the sources of large-scale production, and denationalisation in any shape or form entirely out of the question. At a time when we are suffering most of all from a severe shortage of goods and utter impoverishment, it is ridiculous to fear the threat of capitalism based on small commercial agriculture. To fear it is to fail altogether to take account of the relation of forces in our economy. It means to fail to understand that the peasant economy, as a small-scale peasant economy, cannot be stable at all without some free exchange and the attendant capitalist relations.

This is what you must firmly impress on your minds, comrades. And our main task is to give a push to the comrades in all the localities, to give them the utmost scope for initiative, to stimulate them to display the utmost self-reliance and boldness. In this respect we are still suffering from the fear of doing things on a really wide scale. We have no more or less definitely tabulated local data showing from practical experience what the situation is in regard to local goods exchange and trade, what success has been achieved in restoring and developing small industry—which can alleviate the condition of the peasant right away, without the great effort of transporting large stocks of food and fuel to the industrial centres that large-scale industry entails. From the general economic standpoint, not enough is being done locally in this respect. We have no information on this from the localities, we do not know what the position is all over the Republic, we have no examples of really well-organised work; and my impression is that the Trade Union Congress and the Congress of the Supreme Economic Council[2] have none either.

Here again, the principal defect of these congresses is that we devote ourselves mainly to such threadbare things as theses, general programmes and arguments, instead of giving the participants a chance to swap local experience and say, on returning home: “Out of a thousand examples we heard one good one, and we shall follow it.” Actually, we have not only one good example in a thousand, we have many more; but least of all do we see congress work arranged in this way.

I have no wish to forestall events, but I must say a word or two about collective supplies for the workers, i.e., about the proposal to substitute for the ration system a system under which certain factories that are actually in operation will be assured of a certain quantity of food in proportion to their output. The idea is an excellent one, but we have turned it into something semi-fantastic, without however doing any real preparatory work for it. We have no example as yet of any particular factory, even one employing a small number of workers, in a particular uyzed, having tried out this system and having secured such-and-such results. That is something we do not as yet have, and it is one of the greatest drawbacks in our work. We must keep repeating that instead of discussing general problems, which was all very well in 1918, i.e., in the long distant past, we must, in this 1921, discuss practical problems. By telling congresses first of all about the examples of well-organised work—there are quite enough of them—we would make it an obligation for the rest to strive to imitate the best that has been achieved in a few rare and exceptional localities. I have in mind the work of the Trade Union Congress, but it also applies to all work connected with the food problem.

Quite a lot has been done in some cases, in a few localities, to prepare for the collection of the tax in kind, the organisation of trade, etc., but we have not managed to study this experience; and the great task that confronts us now is to induce the vast majority of the localities to follow the example of the best. Our task now is to study practical experience and raise the backward and medium uyzeds and volosts, the standard of which is absolutely unsatisfactory, to the level of the insignificant number of highly satisfactory ones. At our congresses we must shift our main attention from the study of general theses and programmes of meetings to the study of practical experience, to the study of the examples set by the satisfactory and highly satisfactory districts, and to raising the backward and medium ones, which predominate, to the level of these good ones, which may be few but are still there.

Those are the remarks to which I must confine myself. (Applause.)

3. Summing-Up Speech On The Tax In Kind May 27

Comrades, although many comrades from the provinces have expressed dissatisfaction with the reports and the debate, it seems to me that we have, at any rate, achieved one object—we have ascertained how the new policy is understood and applied locally. The conference could hardly have set itself any other aim than that of securing an exchange of opinion for the purpose of thoroughly assimilating this new policy and of unanimously proceeding to its proper application. This we have achieved. True, there has been some perplexity and even wavering, which, unfortunately, in some cases, went far beyond perplexity over practical questions and conjectures about whether the new policy was meant “seriously” or “notseriously", and for how long. What Comrade Vareikis said, for example, was really not communist at all, and in content smacked of Menshevism. I must say this quite bluntly. How could he keep asking: “Tell us, is the peasantry a class, or not a class?” Of course, it is a class. In that case, he says, it must have political concessions, or, if not that, then certain measures should be taken in that direction, which will resemble Zubatovism[3] just the same.

Reference was made here to the fact that Martov had put the case squarely, whereas Vareikis was adding: “To a certain extent", “to some degree", “partly". This caused incredible, monstrous confusion. It is the same sort of confusion that was displayed when we were being accused of employing force. Again we have to explain that when we speak of dictatorship we mean the employment of coercion. Every-state implies employment of coercion; but the whole difference lies in whether it is employed against the exploited or against the exploiters. Is it employed against the toiling and exploited class? The same applies to the reference to Zubatovism. What was Zubatovism? It was support for the oppressor class by means of small economic concessions to the oppressed classes. That is why the response at that time was: economic concessions will not help you to induce the proletariat, the class that is fighting for the emancipation of all the oppressed, to abandon the idea of capturing political power and of destroying the system of oppression. At present the proletariat holds power and guides the state. It guides the peasantry. What does that mean? It means, first, pursuing a course towards the abolition of classes, and not towards the small producer. If we strayed from this bedrock course we should cease to be socialists and would find ourselves in the camp of the petty bourgeoisie, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who are now the proletariat’s most bitter enemies. Not long ago Comrade Bukharin quoted in Pravda some utterances of such a serious political thinker as Milyukov (Chernov and Martov come nowhere near him), who argued that only a socialist party could occupy the arena of political struggle in Russia today. And since the “socialist” parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, desire to take the trouble of fighting the Bolsheviks, they “are welcome to try". That is literally what Milyukov said, and it proves that he is cleverer than Martov and Chernov, simply because he is a representative of the big bourgeoisie (even if he personally had less brains than Chernov and Martov). Milyukov is right. He takes a very sober account of the stages of political development and says that Socialist-Revolutionism and Menshevism are the necessary stepping stones leading to a reversion to capitalism. The bourgeoisie needs such stepping stones, and whoever does not understand this is stupid.

From the standpoint of the interests of the bourgeoisie, Milyukov is absolutely right. Since we, being the party of the proletariat, are leading the peasantry, we must pursue a course towards strengthening large-scale industry, and must therefore be prepared to make economic concessions. The proletariat led the peasantry, and did it in such a way that during the Civil War the peasantry obtained more economic benefits than the proletariat. In Martov’s terms, this is Zubatovism. Economic concessions have been made to the peasantry. These concessions were made to a section of the working people constituting the majority of the population. Is this policy wrong? No, it is the only correct one! And no matter what you say about Martov’s catchwords, about it heing impossible to deceive a class, I ask you nevertheless: where is our deception? We say that there are two paths to choose: one following Martov and Chernov—and through them to Milyukov—and the other following the Communists. As for us, we are fighting for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of communism. Ours is a very hard road, and many are weary and lack faith. The peasants lack faith. But are we deceiving them? It is ridiculous to say that we are deceiving a class, and have lost our way amidst three pines, or even two, for the working class and the peasantry are only two classes. The proletariat leads the peasantry, which is a class that cannot be driven out as the landowners and capitalists were driven out and destroyed. We must remould it by prolonged and persistent effort, entailing great privation. It depends on us, the ruling party, how much of the suffering will fall to the lot of the proletariat and how much to that of the peasantry. How is this suffering to be shared? Is it to be on a basis of equality? Let Chernov and Martov say that. We say that we must be guided by the interests of the proletariat, that is, we must obtain safeguards against the restoration of capitalism and ensure the road to communism. Since the peasantry is now wearier and more exhausted, or rather it thinks that it is so, we make more concessions to it in order to obtain safeguards against the restoration of capitalism and to ensure the road to communism. That is the correct policy, and we are guided exclusively by class considerations. We tell the peasants frankly and honestly, without any deception: in order to hold the road to socialism, we are making a number of concessions to you, comrade peasants, but only within the stated limits and to the stated extent; and, of course, we ourselves shall be the judge of the limits and the extent. The concession itself is being made with an eye to distributing the burdens which, up to now, the proletariat has borne to a larger extent than the peasantry. During the three and a half years of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it has voluntarily borne more hardships than the peasantry. This is an absolutely obvious and incontrovertible truth. This is how the question stands in regard to the relations between the proletariat, and the peasantry: either the peasantry comes to an agreement with us and we make economic concessions to it—or we fight. That is why all other arguments are but evidence of a terrible confusion. As a matter of fact, any other road leads to Milyukov, and the restoration of the landowners and capitalists. We say that we shall agree to make any concession within the limits of what will sustain and strengthen the power of the proletariat, which, in spite of all difficulties and obstacles, is unswervingly advancing towards the abolition of classes and towards communism.

The next point is that much of the criticism of Comrade Svidersky’s speech was wrong. All the members of the opposition at once hurled themselves upon him with what might be called brilliant parliamentary speeches, Comrade Larin proving to be the most brilliant representative of the “parliamentary opposition". The Soviet system does not provide many opportunities for making parliamentary speeches; but nature asserts herself, and although we have no parliamentary institutions, the parliamentary manner survives. Concerning Comrade Svidersky they complained that he had proposed the introduction of a food supply inspectorate, and had even gone to the length of talking about a food dictatorship. Comrade Svidersky may have overstated his case, but he is right in substance. We distributed the reporters’ roles in such a way that each played on a different instrument, as it were. The report on the question of exchange was made by the representative of Tsentrosoyuz, Comrade Khinchuk—the co-operator. As you are well aware, Tsentrosoyuz has concluded an agreement with the state. If some of the comrades have not read it, this only goes to show that they have not treated the material of the conference in a business-like way. Our state concludes an agreement with the representative of Tsentrosoyuz: the representative of the People’s Commissariat for Food concludes an agreement with the representative of the co-operative societies, and co-operators abroad must reckon with our agreement. Under the agreement all goods are delivered to the co-operative societies, so that the co-operators may trade on our behalf—on behalf of the centralised state, the big factories, and the proletariat—but not on their own behalf. This is a major and most important condition, because there can be no other arrangement. Petrograd and Moscow are starving, while the well-fed gubernias, as Comrade Bryukhanov’s figures show, have eaten twice as much, and sent us half as much as they should have. What do you say: in the circumstances, do we or do we not need a food dictatorship? I think we do; we need it very much, indeed, because there is any amount of this laxity all over the country. You must realise that we cannot do without coercion, and Tsentrosoyuz must do the distributing under our control.

We say to Tsentrosoyuz: you have traded well and we will give you a bonus in the form of a definite percentage. This is stipulated in the agreement, and we will encourage this commission-basis trading by every sort of bonus system. We will give a bonus for profitable trade; but we will demand that this trade is carried on for our benefit, for the benefit of the state, which has centralised large-scale industry, and which is governed by the proletariat. Does large-scale industry stand to gain? Who stands to gain?

How can you ensure food supplies without a tax? You cannot. We do not know whether the tax or the exchange will yield most, but we do know—and it is a fact—that we lack an adequate fund for exchange. At the present time, you cannot get what you need without an instrument of coercion. Never! This is obvious. And in this, Svidersky, as a representative of his line, is absolutely right. We have approved of the establishment of a food supply inspectorate, and the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee will bring more pressure to bear on you because you know who ought to be appointed; that is your business; but once you make the appointment, see that the man does his job. Things being what they are, unless the state is assured of approximately 400 million poods of grain, it is no use talking about large-scale industry and socialist construction. Those who have not learned this in the course of the past three years are not worth arguing with. But in spite of our numerous mistakes, we have increased this fund. True, while increasing the fund in 1920, we blundered over distribution, but enormous progress was made nonetheless. We must approach the subject soberly and say that to collect the tax in kind we need an expeditious apparatus, and it is no use making liberal speeches and hinting that a food supply inspectorate is such a nasty thing.

I am not aware of the existence of a “communist” system under which you could expect to collect—without coercion—a tax from the peasantry constituting a majority of the population in the period of transition from capitalism to communism. If you want to sustain large-scale industry—the basis of the proletarian dictatorship—then you must want this apparatus to function. And this, naturally, demands centralism. Look at the figures. Unfortunately, few of you are sufficiently familiar with them. See how much the localities have kept for themselves, in spite of the orders from the centre. The comrades from Moscow and Petrograd have quoted figures here showing that the orders from the centre are not being fully carried out. It turns out that three reminders were given, and an equal number of censures. What else is there to do? There remains nothing but dismissal, arrest and so forth. (A voice : “How many such cases were there?") There were many cases of infringements, but few dismissals. That is what I wanted to say in defence of this line of policy.

The harvest this year will evidently be a fair one in many parts, and will set in earlier than we expected. Hence, we must make preparations beforehand, the situation now being such that we must swiftly collect the main fund. Consequently, it is absolutely wrong to take the approach that many did here.

As for Comrade Larin, his talents lie more in the sphere of parliamentary opposition and journalism than business efficiency. He is tireless in the drawing-up of projects. He mentioned that he had proposed a good plan as early as January 1920, but if we were to collect all of his projects and pick out the good ones, we would probably find that they add up to one in ten thousand.

On May 10, he submitted a scheme to the Central Committee’s Political Bureau for a general introduction of a collective supply system. Its main principle is alluring, but when was it proposed? On May 10, 1921, when there was an absolute shortage of food in centres like Moscow and Petrograd, when these important centres of the Russian Republic were temporarily doomed to semi-starvation and even worse. It is ridiculous to propose a reshuffle of the food supply organisations at a time when men are on their last legs, and are overworking the trunk-lines to Siberia, the Caucasus and the Ukraine, in an effort to track down every trainload, every car almost. What the devil is the use of introducing a collective supply system at a time like that? The Political Bureau adopted the following resolution: “That the scheme proposed by Larin and the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions [the A.C.C.T.U., of course, hastened to put its signature to it] be rejected; that the author of the scheme be instructed to re-examine the question with greater care, in the light of the actual possibilities of obtaining supplies. . . .” This principle was reiterated (in Chubar’s and Holtzmann’s theses, if you have read them) at the Trade Union Congress; Chubar had formulated the main parts of his theses in harmony with the policy of circumspection laid down by the Party’s Central Committee. Holtzmann and Larin behaved according to the rule which Larin, half in jest, whispered in my ear at the end of the meeting of the Political Bureau. (I don’t think I shall be committing an indiscretion if I relate this conversation.) When Larin saw that the resolution had been adopted he said to me: “You have given us your little finger, but we will take your hand.” Then I said to myself—although I had known it before—now we know how to bargain with Larin. If he asks for a million rubles, offer him fifty kopeks. (Laughter.) During the debate, when Larin was asked for the facts, he quoted the example (which he said was “brilliant") of the construction of the Kizlyar-Staro-Terek railway. Although it has already been shown that there is nothing new in this example, that similar experiments have been made before, it is a sign of progress to hear definite examples and results of experience, instead of general arguments and countless theses, It would be disastrous if everyone began reading and discussing these theses, nine-tenths of which you cannot read to the end without a splitting headache.

It is not theses, but a record of local experience, that we need. Let us study this experience, instead of piling system upon system and drawing up laws on collective supplies when we lack even the minimum of real supplies. Practical work is going on in the localities. We were told: it is not right to reproach the localities for not sharing their experiences. The Central Committee was reproached here for not giving publicity to local experience. But we have none of it: our time is taken up entirely with decrees. The majority of us are immersed in this unpleasant work, and that is why we cannot see local experience. It is your business to bring it to us. Larin was right in quoting the fine example of the Kizlyar-Terek railway, for it was a piece of local experience. But even here he allowed his imagination to run away with him, and Chubar and Osinsky had to put him right. This is not the only example. He said that a worker received 28 pounds under the old system and four poods under the new system. I was doubtful about the figures and so I asked him: Where did you get that from? He replied that they had been certified by the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. But we know that Larin is not only a parliamentary man, but also a cartoonist. First, he drew a cartoon satirising the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. And now he says: four poods instead of 28 pounds—certified by the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. First, he undermines confidence in the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection by relating anecdotes of that kind, and then presents the certificate of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection as sole proof. Chubar and Osinsky say that this system has been repeatedly employed in the timber industry. The whole point is to compare the experience of one locality with that of another. The best part of Larin’s statement was his description of the work on the Kizlyar-Terek railway. But what we need to know is whether things have not been done better in Tula or Tambov. The centre cannot tell you that, because we do not know. You should bring us this information from the localities, show us the facts, teach us, and we will all learn, and try to follow the best example.

The number of local centres, on the uyed or district level, with such experience is two or three per thousand, possibly more, but surely two or three can be found. This experience must be thoroughly studied in a business-like fashion. We must carefully sift the evidence and verify the figures, and not rely merely on speeches by the opposition. If we do this, the centre will be able to learn.

I think the most important outcome of the debate has been the information we got on how the exchange of commodities was begun; the only thing lacking was the precise facts. Donbas comrades cabled to say: We have obtained 3,000 poods of wheat through exchange. This referred to a small district, but there were no details. I expected the comrades to come forward here and tell us what they gave in return, and through what organisation the exchange was made: the Commissariat for Food, a lessee, concessionaire or private entrepreneur? This we do not know; and yet it is far more important than our decrees. Decrees can be read, and it is hardly worth getting together to discuss them; but it is certainly worth while to come together to discuss how they obtained 3,000 poods of wheat in the Donbas, and whether the comrades in Volhynia or Tambov have not done better. Quite a good deal has been done locally. The comrades should come here and tell us the results of their practical experience over there. One will say: “I started doing so and so, but was hindered by the central organisation.” Another will say: “I managed to bring the central organisation to heel.” As for Tambov Gubernia, the comrade who delivered a parliamentary speech and thundered against the Commissariat for Food vaguely hinted that they had set up co-operative shops and agencies. The comrades had accepted this. Over there they have to put up with a number of additional difficulties; part of the area has not been sown, severe conditions generally, handicap upon handicap. Nevertheless, from what he said it is evident that exchange has begun and the co-operatives are functioning. Even pomade was mentioned. How much pomade did you take? And on what terms was it distributed? You must even trade in pomade; when you are trading you must reckon with the demand. If there is a demand for pomade, we must supply it. If we run things properly we can restore large-scale industry even with the aid of pomade. What we must calculate, though, is how much of it we need to buy, or obtain, to be able to purchase 1,000 poods of grain. (Voice : What about icons; there’s a demand for icons.) As for icons, someone has just given a reminder that the peasants are asking for icons. I think that we should not follow the example of the capitalist countries and put vodka and other intoxicants on the market, because, profitable though they are, they will lead us back to capitalism and not forward to communism; but there is no such danger in pomade. (Laughter.) As for church bells, we differ on that, and some comrades think that in some places the bells will soon be voluntarily recast into copper wire for electrification. Besides, there are so many of them in Russia at the moment that they can hardly be used by religious people for their original purpose, because the need is no longer there. As regards Volhynia, it was stated that there are places there where they give a pood of grain for ten pounds of salt. But how was this transacted? Did you have any agents? How did you trade? Who looked after the goods? Who locked up the warehouses? How much was stolen? That is the main thing but nothing was said about it at all. Instead, we were told that the Poles had given a pood of salt for a pood of grain. In conversation with the comrade I said that if the Poles offered a pood of salt for a pood of grain and the peasants offered you a pood of grain for ten pounds of salt, then you could have traded something for yourselves. What prevented you from doing that? The centre, it was said. I’m sorry but I simply cannot believe that the centre prevented you from obtaining four poods of grain for a pood of Polish salt. We could not have opposed a thing like that; I refuse to believe it. The comrades complained that before, when the army was there, everything had to be done through the military authorities; but now that the army is no longer there and there is no war, permission must be obtained from the centre. A comrade said that now they had the Southern Paper Trust and that they were fighting this Trust. But when I asked to whom they had complained about this organisation he answered that he did not know. But this is very important.

They were unable to name the body to whom they had sent their complaint about the Southern Paper Trust. I do not know what this Paper Trust is. In all probability it is a body that suffers from the same bureaucratic distortion that all our Soviet organisations are afflicted with. The capitalists are still fighting us. We have compelled many of them to seek protection under Milyukov’s wing abroad; but many thousands are still here, waging war against us according to all the rules of the art of bureaucracy. But how are you combating this, comrades? Do you think you can take this Paper Trust and all the rest of them with your bare hands? We did not fight Denikin with bare hands, but armed ourselves strongly, and organised an army. But here we have excellent officials, who consider that it is in the interests of their class to play dirty tricks on us, to hamper our work; they think that they are saving civilisation by helping to bring about the downfall of the Bolsheviks, and they know how to run an office a hundred times better than we do. There was nowhere for us to learn this business. We must fight them according to all the rules of the art and take proceedings against Party comrades who go about lodging complaints, or telling anecdotes about the dirty tricks that are being played in some office or other. They go about Moscow telling anecdotes about the bureaucratic tricks that are being played. But you, comrades, who are intelligent Communists, what have you done to combat this?—"I lodged a complaint."—Where did you file your complaint? It turns out that no complaint had been filed, whereas it should have been sent to the Council of People’s Commissars and to the All-Russia Central Executive Committee; in other words, they should have exercised all their rights provided for by our Constitution. Of course, we may suffer a reverse here and there in this war. But has there ever been a war, even the most victorious, without any reverses? In this one reverses are also possible, but the fight must go on. Many of us, however, are not taking it seriously. Have you taken legal proceedings against those who are responsible for red tape? Has any people’s court convicted anyone for making a worker or a peasant call at an office four or five times and finally sending him off with an answer which is formally correct, but is essentially sheer mockery? You are Communists, aren’t you? Then why don’t you set a trap for these bureaucratic gentlemen and then haul them before a people’s court, and into prison, for this red tape? How many people have you put into prison for red tape? Everyone will say, of course, that it is a troublesome business: Someone may be offended. Many take this view, but do not find it too much trouble to complain and tell anecdotes. Very often one cannot tell the difference between these anecdotes and the slander published by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries in foreign journals. The Mensheviks write: “We have our own correspondents in all the Soviet offices in Moscow.” (Laughter.) Quite often the anecdotes that are told here, and those with which the speeches of the parliamentary opposition are replete, appear in the Menshevik journals a few days later. But you should know where to draw the line; you must see the difference between a serious struggle and the telling of anecdotes. Of course, when people are tired, an anecdote told by a capable speaker may help to let off steam. Judging from my own observations this is so, and I have no objections from this point of view. But we need something more: we must study the methods used to catch the culprits, count up how many were caught and brought to trial, and sum up the results obtained. If we proceed on these lines we will win this war, although it takes far more skill than the Civil War.

I should like to say a word or two about Nikolayev Gubernia. The comrade from Nikolayev Gubernia gave us a number of valuable facts, but in most cases he gave no details. He said: “There is a demand for textiles and iron, but not for pomade.” Others said, however, that there was no demand for textiles. The comrade came up against the profiteers, and being obliged to pursue the free market policy, he wants to know how to combat them. We cannot fight them in the old way; and to fight them in the new way we have mounted guards in the transport system, and a number of new decrees have been passed; but, of course, no quick results can be expected. But where is your local experience in this matter? A number of decrees have now been passed for the protection of the transport system, not against the profiteers, but against its “improper use". Special commissions, Extraordinary Three-Man Commissions have been set up by the Cheka and the Transport Cheka; the War Department and the People’s Commissariat for Railways are also taking a hand. But what are the bodies functioning in your districts? How do they co-ordinate their work? What is being done about the complaints that the profiteers are getting the upper hand? How do they operate? This is what we ought to discuss. But comrades come here and complain: “The profiteers have got the upper hand.” We have adopted the decrees. Perhaps they are no good, they must be put to the test, but how is this to be done? We test our decrees by publishing them. You know them; you come here to discuss them and tell us how they are applied. You must tell us: in such and such a place, such and such a Transport Three-Man Commission has done the following. In one place it was successful, in another it was not. Perhaps the speeches will not be as brilliant as those we heard about the food dictatorship; but unless we do this we shall never learn to make fewer mistakes in drafting decrees, and that is the main thing.

Let me deal in conclusion with the deductions which, I think, Comrade Osinsky has quite rightly drawn, and which sum up our activities. His deductions were three. First: “Seriously and for a long time". I think he is quite right. The policy is a long-term one and is being adopted in earnest. We must get this well into our heads and remember it, because, owing to the gossip habit, rumours are being spread that we are indulging in a policy of expedients, that is to say, political trickery, and that what is being done is only for the present day. That is not true. We are taking class relationships into account and have our eyes on what the proletariat must do to lead the peasantry in the direction of communism in spite of everything. Of course, we have to retreat; but we must take it very seriously and look at it from the standpoint of class forces. To regard it as a trick is to imitate the philistines, the petty bourgeoisie, who are alive and kicking not only outside the Communist Party. But I would not go along with Comrade Osinsky in his estimate of the period. He said “seriously and for a longtime” meant 25 years. I am not that pessimistic; I shall refrain from estimating the period, but I think his figure is a bit too pessimistic. We shall be lucky to project our policy for some 5 or 10 years, because we usually fail to do so even for 5 weeks.

We must promote enterprising non-Party workers. We must reiterate over and over again that, after all is said and done, meetings, congresses and conferences held by the Communist Party and other organisations in Soviet Russia must not be what they have been in the past, and still are, that is to say, assemblies with speeches in the spirit of parliamentary oppositions and the drawing up of resolutions. We have so many resolutions that nobody even takes the trouble to file them, let alone read them. We must devote our attention to business and not to resolutions. Under the bourgeois system, business matters were managed by private owners and not by state agencies; but now, business matters are our common concern. These are the politics that interest us most. Of course, we can denounce the Mensheviks for the 999th time, they deserve it; but after all is said and done, this is mere repetition, and many of us have now been doing it these thirty years. Most of us have had enough of it.

What is much more interesting is how, in this socialist state, we are to exchange textiles, pomade and other things for grain, and obtain an extra pood of flour in exchange for Polish salt. Although it is not our custom, Party meetings must take up the question of enterprise and initiative. The whole capitalist world is starving. They have an abundance of salt, pomades, and other things of that sort, and if we apply the slogan of local exchange properly and show initiative, we shall obtain extra poods of grain.

Comrade Gusev has handed me a draft of the rules and regulations for a Communist Producers’ Co-operative Society. Its substance is contained in Point 5, in which the members of the society ask to be assured a “healthy, hygienic ration". (Laughter.) A “healthy, hygienic ration” is the goal of our whole food policy. We must collect 240 million poods of grain by means of the tax, and 160 million through commodity exchange, making a total of 400 million poods, so that the peasants may feel that this system is economically stable.

The surplus-grain appropriation system could not be continued any longer. The policy had to be changed. In this respect, we are facing what is, perhaps, the most difficult period of our construction effort. If we were to compare the whole work of the Communist Party to a four-year course in the higher sciences, we could say that our present position is as follows: we are taking our examination to pass from the third course to the fourth; we have not yet passed the examination, but there is every sign that we shall. We can say that the first course lasted from the 1870s to 1903; it was the initial introductory period, ranging from Narodnaya Volya, Social-Democracy and the Second International to Bolshevism. That was the first course.

The second course lasted from 1903 to 1917, with a serious preparatory course for revolution, and the first essay in revolution in 1905. The third course lasted from 1917 to 1921, a period of four years, which in content was more important than the first forty years. This was a very practical test, when the proletariat came to power, but it was not yet the crucial test. Although in our anthem we sing: “The last fight let us face", I must say that, unfortunately, it was not the last fight, but one of the fights just before the last, to be absolutely exact. At present we are taking our examination to pass from the third course to the fourth. Taking Osinsky’s example of years, I think we should allow ten, because we shall have to take an exam to pass from the third course to the fourth. After that we must do well in the fourth course and then we shall really be invincible. We can win on the economic front. If we are victorious in relation to the peasantry and collect a “healthy, hygienic ration” this year, we shall pass to the fourth course. After that, all the work of construction that we are planning will be more serious.

This is the task confronting us. That is why I take the liberty, once again, in conclusion to express the hope that, in spite of the difficulties, and all the old traditions which frown on the idea of discussing local questions of minor economics at congresses, conferences and fine parliamentary assemblies, we shall, nevertheless, say to ourselves: being Communists, we shall have to devote ourselves to these tasks. We must study the practical experience gained in economic work in the localities, where the decrees are being applied, where they are tested, where their defects should be rectified, where we must begin to do the things that are later summed up at our meetings. If we do that, our work of construction will make real and durable progress. (Stormy applause.)

4. Draft Resolution On Questions Of The New Economic Policy

1. The fundamental political task of the moment is for all Party and Soviet workers to gain a complete understanding of the New Economic Policy and to implement it to the letter.

The Party regards this policy as being established for a long period of years, and demands that everyone should carry it out unconditionally with thoroughness and diligence.

2. Commodity exchange is brought to the fore as the principal lever of the New Economic Policy. It is impossible to establish a correct relationship between the proletariat and the peasantry, or an altogether stable form of economic alliance between these two classes in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism, without regular commodity exchange or the exchange of products between industry and agriculture.

The exchange of commodities, in particular, is required to stimulate the extension of the peasants’ area under crop and improvement of peasant farming.

Local initiative and enterprise must be given all-round support and development at all costs.

gubernias with the greatest grain surpluses must be placed on the priority list for commodity exchange.

3. Considering co-operatives to be the main apparatus for commodity exchange, the conference recognises as correct the policy of contracts between the agencies of the People’s Commissariat for Food and the co-operative societies, and the transfer, under government control, by the former to the latter of commodity-exchange stocks to fulfil the assignments of the government;

the co-operatives to be given broad opportunities for procurement and all-round development of local industry and revival of economic life in general;

support for credit operations by the co-operatives;

anarchic commodity exchange (that is, exchange which eludes all control and state supervision) to be combated by concentration of exchange chiefly in the hands of the co-operatives, without, however, any restrictions on regular free market operations;

market analysis.

4. Support for small and medium (private and co operative) enterprises, chiefly those not requiring supplies from state raw material, fuel and food reserves.

Permission to lease government enterprises to private persons, co-operatives, artels and associations. The right of local economic agencies to conclude such contracts without authorisation from superior agencies. Obligatory notification of the Council of Labour and Defence in each such case.

5. Review of (certain sections of) production programmes for large-scale industry towards increasing the manufacture of consumer goods and peasant household articles.

Extension of enterprise and initiative by each large establishment in the disposal of financial and material resources. Submission of a precise decree to that effect for approval by the Council of People’s Commissars.

6. Development of the system of bonuses in kind and the establishment by way of experiment of a collective supply system.

Establishment of a more correct distribution of foodstuffs with the aim of increasing labour productivity.

7. The need to maintain and enlarge the apparatus for the full and expeditious collection of the tax in kind everywhere. Investment of food agencies with the necessary Party authority for that purpose. Maintenance and enhancement of the centralisation of the food apparatus.

8. To concentrate all the enumerated measures on the current year’s practical and urgent task: collection of at least 400 million poods of grain stocks as a basis for the rehabilitation of large-scale industry and the implementation of the electriccation plan.

9. To adopt in principle the draft Instructions of the C.L.D., authorising the All-Russia Central Executive Committee group to enact them into law.

To recognise the strict fulfilment of the Instructions in general and the recruitment and promotion of non-Party people for work, in particular, as the Party’s unconditional and primary task.

10. To establish special responsibility on the part of central agencies for any hampering of local initiative and insufficient support of it. To authorise the All-Russia Central Executive Committee group to work out a corresponding decision and have it adopted at the very next session.

11. The conference authorises the Central Committee and all Party organisations to carry out a system of measures to intensify agitation and propaganda and effect the necessary transfer of Party cadres to ensure complete understanding and steady implementation of the enumerated tasks.

12. To set as the Party’s most important task the careful and all-round publicising and study in the press and at trade union, Soviet, and Party meetings, conferences, congresses, etc., of the practical experience gained in economic development locally and at the centre.

First published in full according to page proofs with Lenin’s corrections.

5. Speech In Closing The Conference May 28

Comrades, I think that I can confine myself to a very short speech. As you are aware, we convened this special conference mainly for the purpose of achieving complete understanding on economic policy between the centre and the localities, among Party and all Soviet workers. I think that the conference has fully achieved its object. Some speakers noted that Comrade Osinsky gave the correct expression to the feelings of very many, probably, the majority of local Party workers when he said that we must remove all doubt about the fact that the policy adopted by the Tenth Party Congress and subsequently reinforced by decrees and orders has unquestionably been accepted by the Party in earnest and for a long time. This is what the conference most emphatically expressed and amplified by a number of points. When the comrades return to their localities, not the slightest possibility of wrong interpretation will remain. Of course, in adopting a policy to be pursued over a number of years we do not for a moment forget that everything may be altered by the international revolution, its rate of development and the circumstances accompanying it. The current international situation is such that some sort of a temporary, unstable equilibrium, but equilibrium for all that, has been established; it is the kind of equilibrium under which the imperialist powers have been compelled to abandon their desire to hurl themselves at Soviet Russia, despite their hatred for her, because the disintegration of the capitalist world is steadily progressing, unity is steadily diminishing, while the onslaught of the forces of the oppressed colonies, which have a population of over a thousand million, is increasing from year to year, month to month, and even week to week. But we can make no conjectures on this score. We are now exercising our main influence on the international revolution through our economic policy. The working people of all countries without exception and without exaggeration are looking to the Soviet Russian Republic. This much has been achieved. The capitalists cannot hush up or conceal anything. That is why they so eagerly catch at our every economic mistake and weakness. The struggle in this field has now become global. Once we solve this problem, we shall have certainly and finally won on an international scale. That is why for us questions of economic development become of absolutely exceptional importance. On this front, we must achieve victory by a steady rise and progress which must be gradual and necessarily slow. I think that as a result of the work of our conference we shall certainly achieve this goal. (Applause.)

Published in Pravda No. 19, June 2, 1921; Published according to the Pravda text .


[1] An extraordinary conference, held in Moscow from May 26 to 28, 1921, was attended by 239 delegates from Party and Soviet organisations. On its agenda were the following questions: 1) Economic policy: a) tax in kind; b) co-operatives; c) financial reform; d) small industry; 2) The current role of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, 3) The Third Congress of the Comintern; 4) Information on the Fourth Trade Union Congress; 5) Organisational question.

The Conference centred on the question of the New Economic Policy (NEP) because it was not yet clear enough to the people in the localities.

Lenin guided the work of the Conference: he delivered the opening speech, spoke on the agenda, was elected to the Presidium, gave a report and a summing-up speech on the tax in kind, and the closing speech of the Conference. Substantiating the New Economic Policy, he exposed the false rumours about NEP and distortions of this policy, and stressed that it was a policy whose aim was the construction of a socialist society, that it was to be carried out “in earnest and for a long time". The Conference adopted Lenin’s draft resolution, “On Economic Policy", which confirmed NEP’s basic principles and gave concrete instructions for their implementation. It said: “The basic political task of the moment is for all Party and Soviet workers to master and implement to the letter the New Economic Policy. 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. 574).

After the Conference had heard information on the work of the Fourth Trade Union Congress, Lenin sharply criticised the factional activity of the trade union leadership, first and foremost M. P. Tomsky, Chairman of the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions.

Another question of great importance was the organisational work of the Party, the report on which was given by V. M. Molotov. The Conference adopted a “Plan for the Work of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.)” which demanded the training and promotion of new Party workers and activisation of all Party and Soviet work. Lenin stressed that Party organisations had to establish closer ties with the non-Party masses and that it was necessary to collect and study the experience of local Party organisations. His remarks were taken into account in the resolution.

Representatives of the Communist Parties of Germany and the United States conveyed greetings to the Conference, and, on the motion of the Presidium, the Conference cabled a message of greetings to workers detained in prison.

[2] The reference is to the Fourth All-Russia Congress of Trade Unions, held in Moscow from May 17 to 25, 1921, and the Fourth All-Russia Congress of Economic Councils, held there from May 18 to 24, 1921.

The Fourth Congress of Trade Unions had the following items on its agenda: report of the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions; report of the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council the role and tasks of the trade unions and economic development organisational question; wage-rate policy and workers’ supply; trade unions and co-operatives; labour protection, etc.

The Fourth Congress of Economic Councils had on its agenda: report of the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council, economic policy of the S.E.C. in connection with the decree on the tax in kind and the co-operatives, S.E.C. organisation, report of the State Planning Commission; report on foreign trade; electrification of Russia; material resources of the Republic and organisation of supply in industry.

The most important questions were discussed at joint sittings of the two congresses with the participation of specialists and public figures.

[3] Colonel of the gendarmerie Zubatov, Chief of the Secret Political Police, proposed the setting up of legal workers’ organisations in 1901-03 to divert the workers from political struggle against the tsarist autocracy, and to switch their attention to narrow economic demands which the government, he asserted, was ready to meet. The Minister for the Interior, V. K. Plehve, approved Zubatov’s activity and the first organisation, called “Workers’ mutual aid in mechanical industries society", was set up in Moscow in May 1901, and later such societies made their appearance in Minsk, Odessa, Vilno, Kiev, and other towns.

The Second Coneress of the R.S.D.L.P., in its resolution “On the Trade Union Struggle", defined Zubatovism as a policy of “systematic betrayal of working class interests for the benefit of the capitalists", and in order to fight it, called on Party organisations to support and lead any strikes started by legal workers’ organisations.

Revolutionary Social-Democrats made use of such organisations to draw the masses of working people into the struggle against the tsarist government, exposing the reactionary nature of Zubatov’s policy. Lenin wrote in 1905: “And now the Zubatov movement is outgrowing its bounds. Initiated by the police in the interests of the police, in the interests of supporting the autocracy and demoralising the political consciousness of the workers, this movement is turning against the autocracy and is becoming an outbreak of the proletarian class struggle.”

The tsarist government had to close down the Zubatov organisations in 1903 because of the mounting revolutionary movement.

Lenin believed it was highly important to give the working people a thorough explanation of these Instructions and put them into practice as soon as possible.