V. I. Lenin

To Comrade Molotov For The Members Of The Political Bureau

Re: Comrade Preobrazhensky’s Theses[1]

Written: 16 March, 1922
First Published: 1925; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 237-242
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
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. The heading will not do. These are not “fundamental principles”, which have already been laid down by our Programme, but theses on “The Organisation of the Russian Communist Party’s Work in the Rural Districts Under Present Conditions”.

I propose that the author be instructed to shorten and partly alter the theses in conformity with this new subject. In particular, he should shorten the recapitulation of general principles (these should be given in a leaflet explaining and commenting on the decision to be adopted by the Congress) and enlarge in greater detail on the practical and, particularly, the organisational conclusions.

2. In the heading of § I: “social relations” instead of the singular. (The typing is careless: “obyedineniya” instead of “obedneniya ”, “besploshchadnykh” instead of “bezloshadnykh”. . . .)[i.e., “amalgamation” instead of “impoverishment"; “plotless” instead of horseless.—Editor. “]

3. In § I, particularly, many of the passages are too long; much of this should be transferred to a pamphlet.

4. Statements about “co-operation” in § I, and in other places, are bare and abstract. Too much has been said about this, and we are sick of it. It must be formulated quite differently, without repeating the bare slogan: “Co-operate!” but showing concretely what practical experience has already been acquired in the field of co-operation, and how it can be promoted. If the author lacks this material, then the decision of the Congress must contain a demand that it be collected and analysed not academically, but practically . (All Comrade Preobrazhensky ’s theses are ultra- and super-academic; they smack of the intelligentsia, the study circle and the littérateur, and not of practical state and economic activity.)

5. “With the exception of collective farms” we have no development, but a “tendency to decline” (among the poor peasants). This will not do. In the first place, there is no proof that the “collectives” are, in general, better. We must not irritate the peasants with false communist self-adulation. In the second place, not “tendency to decline” but retarded development everywhere ; decline—often.

6. The “good husbandmen” are “carried away ” by “the task of improving farming methods”. This is a clumsy expression and, unfortunately, is also a piece of “communist self-adulation”. It should read: “are beginning, although slowly” (§ I).

7. “Peasant (?) equality is dissolving” (?). You cannot say a thing like that.

The end of § I is no good at all; it is an article, not a thesis; an assumption unsupported by facts.

8. The beginning of § II is far too abstruse. Properly speaking, it has no business to be in these theses. It is quite out of context.

9. The second sentence in § II (levelled against the “methods of the Poor Peasants’ Committees [2]”) is pernicious and wrong, because war, for example, may compel us to resort to the methods of the Poor Peasants’ Committees.

This must be said quite differently; in this way, for example: in view of the supreme importance of reviving agriculture and increasing the output of farm produce, the proletariat’s policy towards the kulaks and well-to-do peasantry must, at present, mainly pursue the object of curbing their exploiting appetites, etc.

The whole point is: How can and should our state curb these appetites and protect the poor peasants? This must be studied, and we must compel people to study it practically; general phrases are useless.

10. The last words in § II are correct, but they are abstruse and insufficiently enlarged upon. This must be explained in greater detail.

11. In § III the sentence starting with “The divorcement” is badly distorted.

12. Strictly speaking, the whole of § III teems with commonplaces. This is no use. To repeat them so emptily is harmful; it causes nausea, ennui and irritation at the useless chewing over of phrases.

Instead of irritating the peasants by this foolish communistic playing at co-operation it would be far better to take at least one uyezd and show by a practical analysis how “co-operation” can be promoted; to show how we have actually helped to improve farming methods, etc., how we ought to help, etc.

This is not the right approach to the subject. It is a harmful approach. The general phrases are nauseating. They breed bureaucracy and encourage it.

13. The beginning of § IV is particularly unhappy. It is an abstruse article and not a thesis for a congress.

Further. “Instructions in the form of decrees” is what the author proposes. It is radically wrong. Bureaucracy is throttling us precisely because we are still playing with “instructions in the form of decrees”. The author could not have invented anything worse or more pernicious than this.

Further. To say at a congress of the Russian Communist Party that “we must put into effect the decisions of the Ninth Congress of Soviets” is positively scandalous. To write theses for that!

This whole section is bad. Commonplaces. Phrases. Pious wishes that everybody is sick of. It is typical of contemporary “communist bureaucracy”.

Instead of that it would be far better to take the practical experience even of one uyezd—even of one volost—and examine the facts not academically, but in a practical way and say: Learn, dear communist bureaucrats, not to do things like this (give concrete examples, the names of places and definite facts) but like that (also giving the concrete facts).

As regards “co-operation”, this defect in the theses is particularly striking and particularly harmful in § IV.

14. In § V the “workers employed on the state farms” are declared to be the “cadres of the agricultural proletariat”. That is wrong. It is an example of “communist conceit”. Far more often they are not proletarians but “paupers”, petty bourgeois, or what you will. We must not delude ourselves with lies. That is harmful. It is the main source of our bureaucracy. And it quite unnecessarily irritates and offends the peasants. It would be far wiser for the time being to keep silent about the “cadres of the agricultural proletariat” employed on our state farms.

Further on it is quite rightly stated that it is “very difficult “ to organise this “proletariat “ ( “which is of a very heterogeneous composition”: quite right! And therefore more like . . . something indecent, but not “cadres”).

Quite true! And therefore one should not say such things as “the staffs of the state farms must be purged of the petty proprietor elements”, for this will only excite ridicule and legitimately so (it sounds like: purging the peasants’ huts of bad air).

Far better say nothing about it.

15. § VI begins (at last!) to approach practical tasks. But this approach is so feeble and backed by so little practical experience that one is inevitably driven to the conclusion that (in place of the proposal made above, in § I):

the theses are unsuitable;

the author plus Osinsky plus Teodorovich pius Yakovenko should be instructed to make arrangements at the Congress for a conferenGe of delegates who are working in the rural districts;

the object of this conference should not be to discuss “principles”, etc., but solely to study and appraise practical experience of :

how to organise co-operatives?

how to combat the bad organisation of state farms? the bad organisation of co operatives and collective farms?

how to strengthen the All-Russia Trade Union of Land and Forestry Workers? (send the author to work there for a long period).

The Central Committee should instruct this conference not to repeat generalities, but solely to study in detail local (uyezd, volost, village) practical experience. If there is not enough information about this experience (as is probably the case, because nobody has taken the trouble to collect it; but there is a lot of uncollected information), then it would be better for the Congress:

(a) to elect a commission to study this practical experience;

(b) the commission to be subordinate to the Central Committee;

(c) to include Comrade Preobrazhensky in this com mission;

(d) to include him also in the All-Russia Trade Union of Land and Forestry Workers. . . .

(e) to instruct the commission to collect information on the experience acquired, to study it and draft (after publishing a series of articles)

a letter on behalf of the (new) Central Committee on the organisation of work in the rural districts in which the most concrete directions must be given on how to organise co-operatives, how to “curb” the kulaks, while not checking the growth of the productive forces, how to run the All-Russia Trade Union of Land and Forestry Workers, how to strengthen it, etc., etc.

The Central Committee’s resolution for the Congress should be drafted on the following lines (approximately):

The facts show, and the special commission of the Congress confirms it, that the main defect in the Party’s work in the rural districts is the failure to study practiGal experience. This is the root of all evil, and the root of bureaucracy. The Congress instrusts the Central Committee, first and foremost, to combat this—among other things, with the aid of such-and-such a commission, one (or two, or three)

of the members of which should be sent for permanent work in the All-Russia Trade Union of Land and Forestry Workers.

The commission should publish leaflets and pamphlets, and systematically study experience so as to be able to advise and to order how the work should and should not be done.


March 16, 1922


[1] On March 10, 1922, E. A. Preobrazhensky’s theses “Fundamental Principles of the Policy of the R.C.P. in the Present-Day Countryside”, prepared by him for the Eleventh Party Congress, were circulated to all members of the Organising Bureau and the Political Bureau of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.). Lenin wrote the letter published in this volume after reading these theses. The Political Bureau discussed Preobrazhensky’s theses on March 18 and endorsed the proposals formulated by Lenin in Paragraph 15 of his letter.

[2] Poor Peasants’ Committees were instituted by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee in conformity with its decree “On Organising and Supplying the Village Poor” of June 11, 1918. The functions of these committees were to register the food reserves of the peasant farms, bring to light food surpluses at the kulak farms, help Soviet food organs to requisition these surpluses, supply the poor peasants with food at the expense of the kulak farms, distribute farm implements and manufactured goods, and so forth. However their practical activities embraced all aspects of the work in the countryside and they became centres and organs of the proletarian dictatorship in the countryside. The organisation of these committees ushered in the further development of the socialist revolution in the countryside. At the end of 1918, having fulfilled their tasks, the Poor Peasants’ Committees were merged with volost and village Soviets.