V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1959 in Lenin Miscellany XXXVI. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1976, Moscow, Volume 45, pages 496-499a.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
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


Comrade Kamenev:

I have been thinking for some time about our talk (with you, Stalin and Zinoviev) on Vneshtorg[1] and the Krasin and the Sokolnikov line.

My conclusion is that Krasin is absolutely right. We cannot now afford to retreat on our foreign trade monopoly beyond what Lezhava has proposed and is proposing in his theses. Otherwise, foreigners will buy up and carry away everything that is valuable.

Here and in all of his work, Sokolnikov is making a great mistake, which is sure to ruin us, unless the C.C. corrects his line in time, and actually secures implementation of the corrected line. His mistake is abstract enthusiasm for a scheme (something of which Sokolnikov has always been guilty, as a talented journalist and a politician who is easily carried away). An example: Sokolnikov has proposed a draft decree on importing foreign foodstuffs to Russia. In the decree he says, in passing: as for the “guarantees”, special provision will be made for them (i.e., guarantees that the values taken out of Russia allegedly in exchange for foodstuffs do really and entirely go for food).

This is downright childishness!

The whole point is in the guarantees, and it is this point that Sokolnikov “puts off”, shrugging it off with an empty phrase or a pious wish.

What are the real guarantees?

Is it to be a pledge?

Just think what this means:

1) I want to buy 100,000 gold rubles’ worth of foodstuffs abroad. I deposit this amount at the State Bank as a pledge?

In that case, all the red tape is still there (unless we “teach” Vneshtorg & Co. how to get rid of the red tape).

Furthermore, where are the “guarantees” that in remitting 100,000 gold rubles abroad, I am not remitting 20,000   gold rubles of them fictitiously? A check-up on the prices? By whom? How? This is a bureaucratic Utopia!

Sokolnikov’s project shows that our kind, talented and most valuable Comrade Sokolnikov knows nothing at all about practical commerce. And it is going to ruin us if it is set in motion.

It is the greatest mistake to think that NEP has put an end to terrorism. We shall yet return to terrorism, and it will be an economic terrorism.

The foreigners are already buying up our officials with bribes, and “carting out what there is left of Russia”. They may well succeed.

Monopoly is a polite warning: my dear sirs, the time will come when I shall hang you for this.

The foreigners, knowing that the Bolsheviks are in earnest, have to reckon with this seriously.

That is why 

1) the foreign trade monopoly should not be undermined, in any case;

2) Lezhava’s theses should be adopted not later than tomorrow;

3) publish right away (we have lost heaps of time), on behalf of the All-Russia C.E.C. Presidium, a firm, cold, fierce statement that we do not intend to retreat in the economy any farther, and that those who attempt to cheat us (or circumvent the monopoly, etc.) will face terrorism; this word should not be used, but the likelihood of it should be “hinted at subtly and politely”.

If this is not done through the All-Russia C.E.C. Presidium, it can be done otherwise (a letter of mine? that is worse!); but it needs to be done and fast. Then, here is an example.

The Moscow Gubernia Economic Conference offers to buy tinned food (or any kind of food) for Soviet rubles. The talks with Vneshtorg last for two weeks. It objects.

The deal falls through.


Are we to give the Gubernia Economic Conference the necessary rights? This would mean “duplicating” a bad Vneshtorg with bad little Vneshtorgs, of which the capitalists will buy up 90 per cent.

Another conclusion: stop this game of decrees (there was an indispensable period of propaganda by decree; that was necessary for the success of the revolution. This is over).

There should not be the slightest trust in decrees or institutions. The only thing is to verify practice and take people to task for red tape.

That is the only thing clever people should engage in. Anything else should entail ... prison for the rest.

Here is what I would propose: authorise the All-Russia C.E.C. Presidium to adopt the following decision right away:

In view of the scandalous red tape on the deal (such-and-such) involving the purchase of food for Soviet rubles, order the State Political Administration (they need a little scaring!) to find those guilty of red tape and incarcerate for 6 hours those working for the Moscow Gubernia Economic Conference, and for 36 hours those working at Vneshtorg (of course, with the exception of All-Russia C.E.C. members: after all, we enjoy almost parliamentary immunity).

After this, instruct the press to ridicule both groups and pour dirt on them. For the disgraceful thing here is that Muscovites (in Moscow!) have failed to cope with the red tape. For this they should be beaten with a stick.

They “did not know how” to send a telephone message saying:

urgent advantageous deal. Demand Vneshtorg’s reply within 3 hours. Copy to Molotov for the C.C., to Tsyurupa and Yenukidze for the C.P.C. and the All-Russia C.E.C.”

No reply within 3 hours? Another 4 lines of complaint by phone.

But we find these idiots walking around and talking for two weeks! They deserve to be left to rot in gaol instead of being given exemptions. The Muscovites deserve 6 hours in the bughouse for stupidity. The Vneshtorg people, 36  hours in the bughouse for stupidity plus for “central-responsibility”.

That is the only way to teach them. Otherwise, Soviet personnel, local and central, will never learn. We cannot afford to trade freely: that is Russia’s ruin.

But we can and will learn to transfer our red tapists   on to a percentage basis: on every deal you get so much per cent (fraction of a per cent), and jail—for failure to work.

And the men at the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Trade need to be changed. The same applies to our state trusts, which are “headed” by holier-than-thou members of the All-Russia C.E.C. and “famous” Communists, who are being duped by businessmen.

Order to the People’s Commissar for Finance: either you will manage to expel these holier-than-thou Communists from the state trusts through the State Bank (no credits; I prosecute you for delinquency, for inefficiency, etc.), or, the whole of your People’s Commissariat for Finance and the State Bank are quite useless, being nothing but empty talk and a paper chase.

That is how the work both of the C.P.C. and the C.L.D. (I have already written to Tsyurupa, and have worked out the draft of a relevant directive[2] ) and of the Politbureau should be re-arranged; otherwise, our ruin is inevitable.

Please, let the members of the Politbureau and Molotov read this in secret and return to me with each one’s remarks in a couple of words at least.



[1] The People’s Commissariat for Foreign Trade.—Ed.

[2] See present edition, Vol. 35, Document 310.—Ed.

[3] Written in connection with a discussion of the question of the foreign trade monopoly which was carried on in the Party’s governing circles at the end of 1921 and throughout the whole of 1922.

The foreign trade monopoly, established by the C.P.C. decree of April 22, 1318, was repeatedly confirmed by Soviet Government decisions. The transition to the New Economic Policy and the extension of trade ties with foreign countries called for various additions to legislation on foreign trade. The “Theses on Foreign Trade” prepared on Lenin’s instructions by A. M. Lezhava, Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Trade, emphasised the need to consolidate the foreign trade monopoly, and defined the terms for the export and import of goods in the new conditions. The theses were endorsed by Lenin and adopted by the Supreme Economic Commission of the C.P.C. on January 4, 1922. The retention of the foreign trade monopoly was opposed by G. Y. Sokolnikov, N. I. Bukharin and G. L. Pyatakov. J. V. Stalin, G. Y. Zinoviev and L. B. Kamenev favoured an easing of the foreign trade monopoly.

On March 4, 1922, the Politbureau of the R.C.P.(B.) C.C. adopted, with some amendments, the “Theses on Foreign Trade” approved by Lenin. In their final form they wore approved on March  10. On the basis of these theses, the Presidium of the All-Russia C.E.C. on March 13 adopted its decision “On Foreign Trade”, which was published in Izvestia VTsIK No. 60, on March 15, 1922.

Despite the Politbureau decision of March 4 and 10, Sokolnikov again put forward the plan to allow the trusts, co-operatives and others to purchase food abroad; Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Trade, M. I. Frumkin, also came out in favour of easing the foreign trade monopoly, suggesting; that only the wholesale trading in four or five products should be left in the hands of the state as a firm monopoly. The inner-Party struggle over the foreign trade monopoly was having a negative effect on business negotiations with foreign capitalists. In connection with this, Lenin proposed on May 15, 1922, the following Politbureau directive, which was adopted on May 22: “The C.C. confirms the foreign trade monopoly and resolves to stop everywhere the elaboration and preparation of the question of integrating the Supreme Economic Council with the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Trade” (Lenin Miscellany XXXVI, p. 484).

However, the struggle did not cease. On October 6, 1922, the C.C. Plenum, with Lenin ill and absent, adopted, on a motion by G. Y. Zinoviev, a resolution on the basis of Sokolnikov’s theses allowing freedom of import and export for some types of goods or across some frontiers. On October 11, L. B. Krasin sent in a request to the Party Central Committee that the October G decision and the “Theses of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Trade on the Foreign Trade Regime” should be rescinded. Lenin supported Krasin and protested the decision of the C.C. Plenum, pointing out that it was in fact thwarting the foreign trade monopoly, and proposed that the question should be   referred for settlement to the next C.C. Plenum in December 1922 (see present edition, Vol. 33, pp. 375–78). N. I. Bukharin came out with objections to Lenin’s letter and L. B. Krasin’s theses.

Attaching great importance to the stability of the foreign trade monopoly, but being unable, because of his illness, to attend the C.C. Plenum on December 18, 1922, Lenin addressed a letter to it on December 13, in which he sharply condemned Bukharin’s stand. Considering Lenin’s insistent demands and the Politbureau decisions, J. V. Stalin was forced to abandon his erroneous stand. The C.C. Plenum condemned the standpoint of Bukharin and Sokolnikov, rescinded the C.C. decision of October 6, and reaffirmed the absolute necessity of maintaining the foreign trade monopoly, without allowing any departures from it. The Party’s Twelfth Congress, which was held from April 17 to 25, 1923, and in which Lenin was also unable to take part because he was unwell, resolved: “The congress categorically reaffirms the stability of the foreign trade monopoly and the inadmissibility of any circumvention of it or hesitations in implementing it, and instructs the new C.C. to take systematic measures to consolidate and develop the regime of foreign trade monopoly” (KPSS v resolutsiyakh i resheniyakh syezdov, conferentsii i plenumov TsKa, Part 1, 1954, p. 682).

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