V. I.   Lenin


Published: First published in part in 1924 in the book: Pyaly Vserossiisky syezd deyatelei sovetskoi yustitsii. Stenografichesky otchot (Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviet Judiciary. Stenographic Report), Juridical Publishing House of the People’s Commissariat for Justice of the R.S.F.S.R., Moscow. First published in full in V. I. Lenin, Sobraniye Sochineny (Collected Works), Fifth Edition. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 560-565.
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


Letter to D. I. Kursky

Copies to: 1)Molotov for members of the Political Bureau
2) A. D. Tsyurupa
3) Rykov (when he returns)
4) Comrade Yenukidze for members of the
Presidium of the All-Russia Central
Executive Committee

| _ | _ Special request: Please, do not duplicate; let read and sign; prevent divulging; prevent blabbing out to enemies.

February 20, 1922

Comrade Kursky,

The activity of the People’s Commissariat for Justice is apparently not yet at all adapted to the New Economic Policy.

Previously, the militant organs of the Soviet power were chiefly the People’s Commissariat for the Army and the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission. An especially militant role now falls to the People’s Commissariat for Justice (P.C.J.); unfortunately, there is no evidence of any understanding of this on the part of the leadership and the senior members of the P.C.J.

Intensification of reprisals against the political enemies of the Soviet power and the agents of the bourgeoisie ( specifically the Mensheviks and S.R.s); mounting of these reprisals by revolutionary tribunals and people’s courts in the swiftest, most revolutionary and expedient manner;   compulsory staging of a number of model (as regards speed and force of repression, and explanation of their significance to the masses of people through the courts and the press) trials in Moscow, Petrograd, Kharkov and several other key centres; influence on the people’s judges and members of revolutionary tribunals through the Party in the sense of improving the activity of the courts and intensifying the reprisals—all of this must be conducted systematically, persistently, with doggedness and mandatory reports (in the most concise, telegraphic style but business-like and exact, with obligatory statistics of how the P.C.J. chastises and learns to chastise the “communist” scoundrels who predominate among us and who know how to chatter and put on airs, but not how to work).

The fighting role of the P.C.J. is equally important in the sphere of NEP, and here the P.C.J.’s weakness and apathy is even more outrageous. There is no evidence of any understanding of the fact that we recognise and will continue to recognise only state capitalism, and it is we— we conscious workers, we Communists—who are the state. That is why we should brand as good-for-nothing Communists those who have failed to understand their task of restricting, curbing, checking and catching red-handed and inflicting exemplary chastisement on any kind of capitalism that goes beyond the framework of state capitalism in our meaning of the concept and tasks of the state.

It is the P.C.J., it is the people’s courts that are here faced with an especially militant and especially responsible task. There is no sign that it has been grasped. The papers make noises about the abuse of NEP. These abuses are innumerable.

But where is the noise about model trials of the scoundrels abusing the New Economic Policy? There is no such noise, because there are no such trials. The P.C.J. has “forgotten” that that is its business, that it is its duty to pull up, shake up and rouse the people’s courts and teach them to be ruthless and swift in chastising—with every means, including the firing squad—for abuse of the New Economic Policy. It is responsible for this. There is no evidence of any vibrant activity in this sphere on the part of the P.C.J., because there is no such activity.

The educational role of the courts is tremendous. How do we show concern for this? How do we take account of the real results? There is nothing of the sort, but that happens to be the ABC of juridical work.

It is just as elementary that triple penalties should be inflicted on Communists, as compared with non-Party people. There again the P.C.J. has shown little concern.

Under the tsar, the procurators were sacked or promoted on the strength of the percentage of cases they won. We managed to adopt the worst of tsarist Russia—red tape and sluggishness—and this is virtually stifling us, but we failed to adopt its good practices. Every member of the P.C.J. Collegium, every worker of this Commissariat should be assessed according to his record, on the strength of the following figures: how many Communists have you jailed with triple sentences, as compared with non-Party people, for the same offences? How many bureaucrats have you jailed for red tape and procrastination? How many merchants caught abusing NEP have you sentenced to be shot or to some other no-joke penalty (for ridiculous penalties are frequently imposed in Moscow, under the very nose of the P.C.J.)? You can’t answer the question? This means that you are an idler who should be expelled from the Party for “communist chatter” and for “communist conceit”.

The new civil legislation is being drafted. I find that the P.C.J. is “swimming with the tide”. But its task is to swim against the tide. Its task is to create a new civil law, and not to adopt (rather, not to allow itself to be duped by the old and stupid bourgeois lawyers who adopt) the old, bourgeois concept of civil law. It should not give in to the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, which “ex officio” conducts the line of “adaptation to Europe”, but combat this line and work out a new civil law, a new attitude to “private” contracts, etc. We do not recognise anything “private”, and regard everything in the economic sphere as falling under public and not private law. We allow only state capitalism, and as has been said, it is we who are the slate. Hence, the task is to extend the application of state intervention in “private legal” relations; to extend the right of the state to annul “private” contracts; to apply to “civil legal relations”   not the corpus juris romani but our revolutionary concept of law; to show systematically, persistently, with determination, through a series of model trials, how this should be done wisely and vigorously; to brand through the Party and expel those members of revolutionary tribunals and people’s judges who fail to learn this or refuse to understand it.

Unless the P.C.J. rouses itself at once and vigorously starts working in a new, militant way, along new lines, it will be disgraced before Genoa (and the whole world).

I propose to you that 

1) you read my letter to all members of the P.C.J. Collegium;

2) ditto—at a meeting of 100–200 Communists exclusively, who practise in the sphere of civil, criminal and constitutional law;

3) prohibit, on pain of Party responsibility, to chatter about it (about this letter), for it is stupid to disclose our strategy to the enemy;

4) get a number of Communists, working in the courts and in the P.C.J., who are quite agreed with the spirit of this letter, to publish some articles in the press and give a number of public lectures on these topics;

5) allocate responsibility between all members of the Collegium (and if possible between other prominent Communists working in the P.C.J.):

a) for the sections in charge of the new civil legislation (specifically and highly important);

b) ditto criminal legislation;

c) ditto constitutional
and political legislation
}} less urgent

d) for staging and conducting model, widely publicised and educational trials in the said centres;

e) for the business-like—and not just for the record— control over people’s courts and revolutionary tribunals, to see that they manage in fact to intensify reprisals also against the political enemies of the Soviet power (the P.C.J. will be the first to blame if these reprisals are not also intensified) and against NEP abuses.

|| We allow you to trade and make money, but insist that you be thrice as honest, that you submit truthful and exact accounts, that you abide not only by the letter but also by the spirit of our, communist legislation, that you do not allow the slightest departure from our laws—that is what the P.C.J. should adopt as its main commandment in respect of NEP. If the P.C.J. fails to make our capitalism “disciplined” and “decent”; if the P.C.J. fails to prove by a series of model trials that it knows how to trap offenders against this rule and chastise, not with the disgracefully stupid fine of 100 or 200 millions—which is shortsighted from the communist standpoint—but with shooting, then the P.C.J. is good for nothing and I shall deem it my duty to get the Central Committee to agree to a total replacement of all senior workers of the P.C.J.

Please inform me as soon as possible of the allocation of the said work between all members of the P.C.J. Collegium to show me, with the utmost precision, who specifically (with the exception of the People’s Commissar, who is responsible for everything) is responsible for which departments of civil law, (and then also of criminal law, etc.), and for the staging of model trials (each member of the Collegium must show his mettle in staging and conducting several model trials) and for the business-like control over revolutionary tribunals and people’s courts, judicial investigators, etc., in such-and-such a gubernia or such-and-such a district of Moscow.

What we need is not a division of “departments” and bureaucratic slumber on that, but personal responsibility on the part of every Communist on the Collegium for a specific area of live revolutionary work. That is what the People’s Commissar must achieve and prove that he is capable of achieving it.

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

P.S. There must not be the slightest mention of my letter in the press. Let anyone, who so wishes, write in his own name, without any mention of mine, and provide as many concrete data as possible.


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