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
Speech In Opening The Congress March 27
Comrades, on behalf of the Central Committee of the Party I declare the Eleventh Congress of the R.C.P. open.
Comrades, you have gathered in congress after a whole year, in the course of which we have, for the first time, been free from the intervention and invasion of capitalist countries, at all events, in their most direct form. This is the first year that we have had the opportunity of devoting our efforts to the real, main and fundamental tasks of socialist construction.
In this field we have undoubtedly taken only the first steps. But I am sure that if we soberly appraise what we have achieved and are not afraid to look facts—which are not always pleasant, and sometimes very unpleasant—straight in the face, we shall certainly overcome all the difficulties that only now are looming ahead of us in all their magnitude.
The disasters that befell us in the past year were, if anything, even more severe than those of the preceding years.
It seemed as if all the consequences of the imperialist war and of the war which the capitalists forced upon us had combined and hurled themselves upon us in the shape of famine and the most desperate ruin. These disasters have as yet been far from overcome; and none of us expects that they can be overcome soon.
But if we maintain and strengthen the unity of our Party, if we emerge from international difficulties as successfully as we have done up to now, if we concentrate all our efforts on the tasks that now necessarily arise from present conditions, there can be no doubt that we shall overcome these difficulties.
All over the world the communist movement is growing, if not as fast as those of us who measured it by wartime and immediate post-war standards expected, at all events it is growing and is becoming sound, solid, broad and deep. And if we, in co-operation with the Communist Parties that now exist in all, or nearly all, countries, soberly assess our position and are not afraid to admit our mistakes, we shall victoriously emerge from all these difficulties.
Political Report Of The Central Committee Of The R.C.P. (B.) March 27
(Applause.) Comrades, permit me to start the political report of the Central Committee from the end and not from the beginning of the year. The political question most discussed today is Genoa. But since a great deal has already been said on the subject in our press, and since I have already said what is most essential to it in my speech on March 6, which has been published, I would ask you to permit me to refrain from going into details unless you particularly wish me to do so.
On the whole you know everything about Genoa, because much has been written about it in the newspapers—in my opinion too much, to the detriment of the real, practical and urgent requirements of our work of construction in general, and of our economic development in particular. In Europe, in all bourgeois countries, of course, they like to occupy people’s minds, or stuff their heads, with all sorts of trash about Genoa. On this occasion (I would say not only on this occasion) we are copying them, and copying them far too much.
I must say that in the Central Committee we have taken very great pains to appoint a delegation of our best diplomats (we now have a fair number of Soviet diplomats, which was not the case in the early period of the Soviet Republic). The Central Committee has drawn up sufficiently detailed instructions for our diplomats at the Genoa Conference; we spent a long time discussing these instructions and considered and reconsidered them several times. It goes without saying that the question here is, I shall not say of war, because that term is likely to be misunderstood, but at all events one of rivalry. In the bourgeois camp there is a very strong trend, much stronger than any other, that wants to wreck the Genoa Conference. There are trends which greatly favour the Genoa Conference and want it to meet at all costs. The latter have now gained the upper hand. Lastly, in all bourgeois countries there are trends which might be called pacifist trends, among which should be included the entire Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals. It is this section of the bourgeoisie which is advocating a number of pacifist proposals and is trying to concoct something in the nature of a pacifist policy. As Communists we have definite views about this pacifism which it would be superfluous to expound here. Needless to say, we are going to Genoa not as Communists, but as merchants. We must trade, and they must trade. We want the trade to benefit us; they want it to benefit them. The course of the issue will be determined, if only to a small degree, by the skill of our diplomats.
Insofar as we are going to Genoa as merchants it is obviously by no means a matter of indifference to us whether we shall deal with those people from the bourgeois camp who are inclined to settle the problem by war, or with those who are inclined towards pacifism, even the worst kind of pacifism, which from the communist viewpoint will not stand the slightest criticism. It would be a bad merchant, indeed, if he were unable to appreciate this distinction, and, by shaping his tactics accordingly, achieve practical aims.
We are going to Genoa for the practical purpose of expanding trade and of creating the most favourable conditions for its successful development on the widest scale. But we cannot guarantee the success of the Genoa Conference. It would be ridiculous and absurd to give any guarantees on that score. I must say, however, that, weighing up the present possibilities of Genoa in the most sober and cautious manner, I think that it will not be an exaggeration to say that we shall achieve our object.
Through Genoa, if the other parties in the negotiations are sufficiently shrewd and not too stubborn; bypassing Genoa if they take it into their heads to be stubborn. But we shall achieve our goal!
The fact of the matter is that the most urgent, pressing and practical interests that have been sharply revealed in all the capitalist countries during the past few years call for the development, regulation and expansion of trade with Russia. Since such interests exist, we may argue, we may quarrel, we may disagree on specific combinations—it is highly probable that we shall have to disagree—this fundamental economic necessity will, nevertheless, after all is said and done, make a way for itself. I think we can rest assured of that I cannot vouch for the date; I cannot vouch for success; but at this gathering we can say with a fair amount of certainty that regular trade relations between the Soviet Republic and all the capitalist countries in the world are certain to continue developing. When I come to it in another part of my report I shall mention the hitches that may possibly occur; but I think that this is all that need be said on the question of Genoa.
Needless to say, the comrades who desire to study the question in greater detail and who are not content with the list of delegates published in the newspapers may set up a commission, or a section, and acquaint themselves with all the material of the Central Committee, and all the correspondence and instructions. Of course, the details we have outlined are provisional, for no one up to now knows exactly who will sit round the table at Genoa, and what terms, or preliminary terms or provisions will be announced. It would be highly inexpedient, and I think practically impossible, to discuss all this here. I repeat, this Congress, through the medium of a section, or a commission, has every opportunity to collect all the documents on this question—both the published documents and those in the possession of the Central Committee.
I shall not say any more, for I am sure that it is not here that our greatest difficulties lie. This is not the question on which the attention of the whole Party should be focussed. The European bourgeois press is artificially and deliberately inflating and exaggerating the importance of this Conference in order to deceive the masses of the working people (as nine-tenths of the bourgeois press in all these free democratic countries and republics always does). We have succumbed to the influence of this press to some extent. As usual, our press still yields to the old bourgeois habits; it refuses to adopt new, socialist methods, and we have made a greater fuss about this subject than it deserves. In fact, for Communists, especially for those who have lived through such stern years as we have lived through since 1917, and witnessed the formidable political combinations that have appeared in that period, Genoa does not present any great difficulties. I cannot recall any disagreement or controversy on this question either in the Central Committee or in the ranks of the Party. This is natural, for there is nothing controversial here from the point of view of Communists, even bearing in mind the various shades of opinion among them. I repeat: we are going to Genoa as merchants for the purpose of securing the most favourable terms for promoting the trade which has started, which is being carried on, and which, even if someone succeeded in forcibly interrupting it for a time, would inevitably continue to develop after the interruption.
Hence, confining myself to these brief remarks about Genoa, I shall now proceed to deal with the issues which, in my opinion, have been the major political questions of the past year and which will be such in the ensuing year. It seems to me that the political report of the Central Committee should not merely deal with the events of the year under review, but also point out (that, at any rate, is what I usually do) the main, fundamental political lessons of the events of that year, so that we may learn something for the ensuing year and be in a position to correctly determine our policy for that year.
The New Economic Policy is, of course, the major question. This has been the dominant question throughout the year under review. If we have any important, serious and irrevocable gain to record for this year (and I am not so very sure that we have), it is that we have learnt something from the launching of this New Economic Policy. If we have learnt even a little, then, during the past year, we have learnt a great deal in this field. And the test of whether we have really learnt anything, and to what extent, will probably be made by subsequent events of a kind which we ourselves can do little to determine, as for example the impending financial crisis. It seems to me that in connection with the New Economic Policy, the most important things to keep in mind as a basis for all our arguments, as a means of testing our experience during the past year, and of learning practical lessons for the ensuing year are contained in the following three points.
First, the New Economic Policy is important for us primarily as a means of testing whetherwe are really establishing a link with the peasant economy. In the preceding period of development of our revolution, when all our attention and all our efforts were concentrated mainly on, or almost entirely absorbed by, the task of repelling invasion, we could not devote the necessary attention to this link; we had other things to think about. To some extent we could and had to ignore this bond when we were confronted by the absolutely urgent and overshadowing task of warding off the danger of being immediately crushed by the gigantic forces of world imperialism.
The turn towards the New Economic Policy was decided on at the last Congress with exceptional unanimity, with even greater unanimity than other questions have been decided by our Party (which, it must be admitted, is generally distinguished for its unanimity). This unanimity showed that the need for a new approach to socialist economy had fully matured. People who differed on many questions, and who assessed the situation from different angles, unanimously and very quickly and unhesitantly agreed that we lacked a real approach to socialist economy, to the task of building its foundation; that the only means of finding this approach was the New Economic Policy. Owing to the course taken by the development of war events, by the development of political events, by the development of capitalism in the old, civilised West, and owing also to the social and political conditions that developed in the colonies, we were the first to make a breach in the old bourgeois world at a time when our country was economically, if not the most backward, at any rate one of the most backward countries in the world. The vast majority of the peasants in our country are engaged in small individual farming. The items of our programme of building a communist society, that we could apply immediately, were to some extent outside the sphere of activity of the broad mass of the peasantry, upon whom we imposed very heavy obligations, which we justified on the grounds that war permitted no wavering in this matter. Taken as a whole, this was accepted as justification by the peasantry, not withstanding the mistakes we could not avoid. On the whole, the mass of the peasantry realised and understood that the enormous burdens imposed upon them were necessary in order to save the workers’ and peasants’ rule from the landowners and prevent it from being strangled by capitalist invasion, which threatened to wrest away all the gains of the revolution. But there was no link between the peasant economy and the economy that was being built up in the nationalised, socialised factories and on state farms.
We saw this clearly at the last Party Congress. We saw it so clearly that there was no hesitation whatever in the Party on the question as to whether the New Economic Policy was inevitable or not.
It is amusing to read what is said about our decision in the numerous publications of the various Russian parties abroad. There are only trifling differences in the opinions they express. Living with memories of the past, they still continue to reiterate that to this day the Left Communists are opposed to the New Economic Policy. In 1921 they remembered what had occurred in 1918 and what our Left Communists themselves have forgotten; and they go on chewing this over and over again, assuring the world that these Bolsheviks are a sly and false lot, and that they are concealing from Europe that they have disagreements in their ranks. Reading this, one says to oneself, “Let them go on fooling themselves.” If this is what they imagine is going on in this country, we can judge the degree of intelligence of these allegedly highly educated old fogies who have fled abroad. We know that there have been no disagreements in our ranks, and the reason for this is that the practical necessity of a different approach to the task of building the foundation of socialist oconomy was clear to all.
There was no link between the peasant economy and the new economy we tried to create. Does it exist now? Not yet. We are only approaching it. The whole significance of the New Economic Policy—which our press still often searches for everywhere except where it should search—the whole purpose of this policy is to find a way of establishing a link between the new economy, which we are creating with such enormous effort, and the peasant economy. That is what stands to our credit; without it we would not be communist revolutionaries.
We began to develop the new economy in an entirely new way, brushing aside everything old. Had we not begun to develop it we would have been utterly defeated in the very first months, in the very first years. But the fact that we began to develop this new economy with such splendid audacity does not mean that we must necessarily continue in the same way. Why should we? There is no reason.
From the very beginning we said that we had to undertake an entirely new task, and that unless we received speedy assistance from our comrades, the workers in the capitalistically more developed countries, we should encounter incredible difficulties and certainly make a number of mistakes. The main thing is to be able dispassionately to examine where such mistakes have been made and to start again from the beginning. If we begin from the beginning, not twice, but many times, it will show that we are not bound by prejudice, and that we are approaching our task, which is the greatest the world has ever seen, with a sober outlook.
Today, as far as the New Economic Policy is concerned the main thing is to assimilate the experience of the past year correctly. That must be done, and we want to do it. And if we want to do it, come what may (and we do want to do it, and shall do it!), we must know that the problem of the New Economic Policy, the fundamental, decisive and overriding problem, is to establish a link between the new economy that we have begun to create (very badly, very clumsily, but have nevertheless begun to create, on the basis of an entirely new, socialist economy, of a new system of production and distribution) and the peasant economy, by which millions and millions of peasants obtain their livelihood.
This link has been lacking, and we must create it before anything else. Everything else must be subordinated to this. We have still to ascertain the extent to which the New Economic Policy has succeeded in creating this link without destroying what we have begun so clumsily to build.
We are developing our economy together with the peasantry. We shall have to alter it many times and organise it in such a way that it will provide a link between our socialist work on large-scale industry and agriculture and the work every peasant is doing as best he can, struggling out of poverty, without philosophising (for how can philosophising help him to extricate himself from his position and save him from the very real danger of a painful death from starvation?).
We must reveal this link so that we may see it clearly, so that all the people may see it, and so that the whole mass of the peasantry may see that there is a connection between their present severe, incredibly ruined, incredibly impoverished and painful existence and the work which is being done for the sake of remote socialist ideals. We must bring about a situation where the ordinary, rank and-file working man realises that he has obtained some improvement, and that he has obtained it not in the way a few peasants obtained improvements under the rule of landowners and capitalists, when every improvement (undoubtedly there were improvements and very big ones) was accompanied by insult, derision and humiliation for the muzhik, by violence against the masses, which not a single peasant has forgotten, and which will not be forgot ten in Russia for decades. Our aim is to restore the link, to prove to the peasant by deeds that we are beginning with what is intelligible, familiar and immediately accessible to him, in spite of his poverty, and not with some thing remote and fantastic from the peasant’s point of view. We must prove that we can help him and that in this period, when the small peasant is in a state of appalling ruin, impoverishment and starvation, the Communists are really helping him. Either we prove that, or he will send us to the devil. That is absolutely inevitable.
Such is the significance of the New Economic Policy; it is the basis of our entire policy; it is the major lesson taught by the whole of the past year’s experience in applying the New Economic Policy, and, so to speak, our main political rule for the coming year. The peasant is allowing us credit, and, of course, after what he has lived through, he cannot do otherwise. Taken in the mass, the peasants go on saying: “Well, if you are not able to do it yet, we shall wait; perhaps you will learn.” But this credit cannot go on for ever.
This we must know; and having obtained credit we must hurry. We must know that the time is approaching when this peasant country will no longer give us credit, when it will demand cash, to use a commercial term. It will say: “You have postponed payment for so many months, so many years. But by this time, dear rulers, you must have learnt the most sound and reliable method of helping us free ourselves from poverty, want, starvation and ruin. You can do it, you have proved it.” This is the test that we shall inevitably have to face; and, in the last analysis, this test will decide everything: the fate of NEP and the fate of communist rule in Russia.
Shall we accomplish our immediate task or not? Is this NEP fit for anything or not? If the retreat turns out to be correct tactics, we must link up with the peasant masses while we are in retreat, and subsequently march forward with them a hundred times more slowly, but firmly and unswervingly, in a way that will always make it apparent to them that we are really marching forward. Then our cause will be absolutely invincible, and no power on earth can vanquish us. We did not accomplish this in the first year. We must say this frankly. And I am profoundly convinced (and our New Economic Policy enables us to draw this conclusion quite definitely and firmly) that if we appreciate the enormous danger harboured by NEP and concentrate all our forces on its weak points, we shall solve this problem.
Link up with the peasant masses, with the rank-and-file working peasants, and begin to move forward immeasurably, infinitely more slowly than we expected, but in such a way that the entire mass will actually move forward with us. If we do that we shall in time progress much more quickly than we even dream of today. This, in my opinion, is the first fundamental political lesson of the New Economic Policy.
The second, more specific lesson is the test through competition between state and capitalist enterprises. We are now forming mixed companies—I shall have something to say about these later on—which, like our state trade and our New Economic Policy as a whole, mean that we Communists are resorting to commercial, capitalist methods. These mixed companies are also important because through them practical competition is created between capitalist methods and our methods. Consider it practically. Up to now we have been writing a programme and making promises. In its time this was absolutely necessary. It is impossible to launch on a world revolution without a programme and without promises. If the whiteguards, including the Mensheviks, jeer at us for this, it only shows that the Mensheviks and the socialists of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals have no idea, in general, of the way a revolution develops. We could proceed in no other way.
Now, however, the position is that we must put our work to a serious test, and not the sort of test that is made by control institutions set up by the Communists themselves, even though these control institutions are magnificent, even though they are almost the ideal control institutions in the Soviet system and the Party; such a test may be mockery from the point of view of the actual requirements of the peasant economy, but it is certainly no mockery from the standpoint of our construction. We are now setting up these control institutions but I am referring not to this test but to the test from the point of view of the entire economy.
The capitalist was able to supply things. He did it inefficiently, charged exorbitant prices, insulted and robbed us. The ordinary workers and peasants, who do not argue about communism because they do not know what it is, are well aware of this.
“But the capitalists were, after all, able to supply things—are you? You are not able to do it.” That is what we heard last spring; though not always clearly audible, it was the undertone of the whole of last spring’s crisis. “As people you are splendid, but you cannot cope with the economic task you have undertaken.” This is the simple and withering criticism which the peasantry—and through the peasantry, some sections of workers—levelled at the Communist Party last year. That is why in the NEP question, this old point acquires such significance.
We need a real test. The capitalists are operating along side us. They are operating like robbers; they make profit; but they know how to do things. But you—you are trying to do it in a new way: you make no profit, your principles are communist, your ideals are splendid; they are written out so beautifully that you seem to be saints, that you should go to heaven while you are still alive. But can you get things done? We need a test, a real test, not the kind the Central Control Commission makes when it censures somebody and the All-Russia Central Executive Committee imposes some penalty. Yes, we want a real test from the viewpoint of the national economy.
We Communists have received numerous deferments, and more credit has been allowed us than any other government has ever been given. Of course, we Communists helped to get rid of the capitalists and landowners. The peasants appreciate this and have given us an extension of time, longer credit, but only for a certain period. After that comes the test: can you run the economy as well as the others? The old capitalist can; you cannot.
That is the first lesson, the first main part of the political report of the Central Committee. We cannot run the economy. This has been proved in the past year. I would like very much to quote the example of several Gos-trests (if I may express myself in the beautiful Russian language that Turgenev praised so highly)* * An ironical reference to the habit, then emerging, of abbreviating the names of various institutions. Here the abbreviation stands for state trusts. —Ed to show how we run the economy.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, and largely owing to ill health, I have been unable to elaborate this part of my report and so I must confine myself to expressing my conviction, which is based on my observations of what is going on. During the past year we showed quite clearly that we cannot run the economy. That is the fun damental lesson. Either we prove the opposite in the coming year, or Soviet power will not be able to exist. And the greatest danger is that not everybody realises this. If all of us Communists, the responsible officials, clearly realise that we lack the ability to run the economy, that we must learn from the very beginning, then we shall win—that, in my opinion, is the fundamental conclusion that should be drawn. But many of us do not appreciate this and believe that if there are people who do think that way, it can only be the ignorant, who have not studied communism; perhaps they will some day learn and understand. No, excuse me, the point is not that the peasant or the non-Party worker has not studied communism, but that the time has passed when the job was to draft a programme and call upon the people to carry out this great programme. That time has passed. Today you must prove that you can give practical economic assistance to the workers and to the peasants under the present difficult conditions, and thus demonstrate to them that you have stood the test of competition.
The mixed companies that we have begun to form, in which private capitalists, Russian and foreign, and Communists participate, provide one of the means by which we can learn to organise competition properly and show that we are no less able to establish a link with the peasant economy than the capitalists; that we can meet its requirements; that we can help the peasant make progress even at his present level, in spite of his backwardness; for it is impossible to change him in a brief span of time.
That is the sort of competition confronting us as an absolutely urgent task. It is the pivot of the New Economic Policy and, in my opinion, the quintessence of the Party’s policy. We are faced with any number of purely political problems and difficulties. You know what they are: Genoa, the danger of intervention. The difficulties are enormous but they are nothing compared with this economic difficulty. We know how things are done in the political field; we have gained considerable experience; we have learned a lot about bourgeois diplomacy. It is the sort of thing the Mensheviks taught us for fifteen years, and we got something useful out of it. This is not new.
But here is something we must do now in the economic field. We must win the competition against the ordinary shop assistant, the ordinary capitalist, the merchant, who will go to the peasant without arguing about communism. Just imagine, he will not begin to argue about communism, but will argue in this way—if you want to obtain something, or carry on trade properly, or if you want to build, I will do the building at a high price; the Communists will, perhaps, build at a higher price, perhaps even ten times higher. It is this kind of agitation that is now the crux of the matter; herein lies the root of economics.
I repeat, thanks to our correct policy, the people allowed us a deferment of payment and credit, and this, to put it in terms of NEP, is a promissory note. But this promissory note is undated, and you cannot learn from the wording when it will be presented for redemption. Therein lies the danger; this is the specific feature that distinguishes these political promissory notes from ordinary, commercial promissory notes. We must concentrate all our attention on this, and not rest content with the fact that there are responsible and good Communists in all the state trusts and mixed companies. That is of no use, because these Communists do not know how to run the economy and, in that respect, are inferior to the ordinary capitalist salesmen, who have received their training in big factorics and big firms. But we refuse to admit this; in this field communist conceit—komchvanstvo,* * Literally, “comconceit”. —Ed to use the great Russian language again—still persists. The whole point is that the responsible Communists, even the best of them, who are unquestionably honest and loyal, who in the old days suffered penal servitude and did not fear death, do not know how to trade, because they are not businessmen, they have not learnt to trade, do not want to learn and do not understand that they must start learning from the beginning. Communists, revolutionaries who have accomplished the greatest revolution in the world, on whom the eyes of, if not forty pyramids, then, at all events, forty European countries are turned in the hope of emancipation from capitalism, must learn from ordinary salesmen. But these ordinary salesmen have had ten years’ warehouse experience and know the business, whereas the responsible Communists and devoted revolutionaries do not know the business, and do not even realise that they do not know it.
And so, comrades, if we do away with at least this elementary ignorance we shall achieve a tremendous victory. We must leave this Congress with the conviction that we are ignorant of this business and with the resolve to start learning it from the bottom. After all, we have not ceased to be revolutionaries (although many say, and not altogether without foundation, that we have become bureaucrats) and can understand this simple thing, that in a new and unusually difficult undertaking we must be prepared to start from the beginning over and over again. If after starting you find yourselves at a dead end, start again, and go on doing it ten times if necessary, until you attain your object. Do not put on airs, do not be conceited because you are a Communist while there is some non-Party salesman, perhaps a whiteguard—and very likely he is a whiteguard—who can do things which economically must be done at all costs, but which you cannot do. If you, responsible Communists, who have hundreds of ranks and titles and wear communist and Soviet Orders, realise this, you will attain your object, because this is something that can be learned.
We have some successes, even if only very tiny ones, to record for the past year, but they are insignificant. The main thing is that there is no realisation nor widespread conviction among all Communists that at the present time the responsible and most devoted Russian Communist is less able to perform these functions than any salesman of the old school. I repeat, we must start learning from the very beginning. If we realise this, we shall pass our test; and the test is a serious one which the impending financial crisis will set—the test set by the Russian and international market to which we are subordinated, with which we are connected, and from which we cannot isolate ourselves. The test is a crucial one, for here we may be beaten economically and politically.
That is how the question stands and it cannot be otherwise, for the competition will be very severe, and it will be decisive. We had many outlets and loopholes that enabled us to escape from our political and economic difficulties. We can proudly say that up to now we have been able to utilise these outlets and loopholes in various combinations corresponding to the varying circumstances. But how we have no other outlets. Permit me to say this to you without exaggeration, because in this respect it is really “the last and decisive battle”, not against international capitalism—against that we shall yet have many “last and decisive battles”—but against Russian capitalism, against the capitalism that is growing out of the small peasant economy, the capitalism that is fostered by the latter. Here we shall have a fight on our hands in thc immediate future, and the date of it cannot be fixed exactly. Here the “last and decisive battle” is impending; here there are no political or any other flanking movements that we can undertake, because this is a test in competition with private capital. Either we pass this test in competition with private capital, or we fail completely. To help us pass it we have political power and a host of economic and other resources; we have everything you want except ability. We lack ability. And if we learn this simple lesson from the experience of last year and take it as our guiding iine for the whole of 1922, we shall conquer this difficulty, too, in spite of the fact that it is much greater than the previous difficulty, for it rests upon ourselves. It is not like some external enemy. The difficulty is that we ourselves refuse to admit the unpleasant truth forced upon us; we refuse to undertake the unpleasant duty that the situation demands of us, namely, to start learning from the beginning. That, in my opinion, is the second lesson that we must learn from the New Economic Policy.
The third, supplementary lesson is on the question of state capitalism. It is a pity Comrade Bukharin is not present at the Congress. I should have liked to argue with him a little, but that had better be postponed to the next Congress. On the question of state capitalism, I think that generally our press and our Party make the mistake of dropping into intellectualism, into liberalism; we philosophise about how state capitalism is to be interpreted, and look into old books. But in those old books you will not find what we are discussing; they deal with the state capitalism that exists under capitalism. Not a single book has been written about state capitalism under communism. It did not occur even to Marx to write a word on thissubject; and he died without leaving a single precise statement or definite instruction on it. That is why we must overcome the difficulty entirely by ourselves. And if we make a general mental survey of our press and see what has been written about state capitalism, as I tried to do when I was preparing this report, we shall be convinced that it is missing the target, that it is looking in an entirely wrong direction.
The state capitalism discussed in all books on economics is that which exists under the capitalist system, where the state brings under its direct control certain capitalist enterprises. But ours is a proletarian state it rests on the proletariat; it gives the proletariat all political privileges; and through the medium of the proletariat it attracts to itself the lower ranks of the peasantry (you remember that we began this work through the Poor Peasants Committees). That is why very many people are misled by the term state capitalism. To avoid this we must remember the fundamental thing that state capitalism in the form we have here is not dealt with in any theory, or in any books, for the simple reason that all the usual concepts connected with this term are associated with bourgeois rule in capitalist society. Our society is one which has left the rails of capitalism, but has not yot got on to new rails. The state in this society is not ruled by the bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat. We refuse to understand that when we say “state” we mean ourselves, the proletariat, the vanguard of the working class. State capitalism is capitalism which we shall be able to restrain, and the limits of which we shall be able to fix. This state capitalism is connected with the state, and the state is the workers, the advanced section of the workers, the vanguard. We are the state.
State capitalism is capitalism that we must confine within certain bounds; but we have not yet learned to confine it within those bounds. That is the whole point. And it rests with us to determine what this state capitalism is to be. We have sufficient, quite sufficient political power; we also have sufficient economic resources at our command, but the vanguard of the working class which has been brought to the forefront to directly supervise, to determine the boundaries, to demarcate, to subordinate and not be subordinated itself, lacks sufficient ability for it. All that is needed here is ability, and that is what we do not have.
Never before in history has there been a situation in which the proletariat, the revolutionary vanguard, possessed sufficient political power and had state capitalism existing along side it. The whole question turns on our understanding that this is the capitalism that we can and must permit, that we can and must confine within certain bounds; for this capitalism is essential for the broad masses of the peasantry and for private capital, which must trade in such a way as to satisfy the needs of the peasantry. We must organise things in such a way as to make possible the customary operation of capitalist economy and capitalist exchange, because this is essential for the people. Without it, existence is impossible. All the rest is not an absolutely vital matter to this camp. They can resign themselves to all that. You Communists, you workers, you, the politically enlightened section of the proletariat, which under took to administer the state, must be able to arrange it so that the state, which you have taken into your hands, shall function the way you want it to. Well, we have lived through a year, the state is in our hands; but has it operated the New Economic Policy in the way we wanted in this past year? No. But we refuse to admit that it did not operate in the way we wanted. How did it operate? The machine refused to obey the hand that guided it. It was like a car that was going not in the direction the driver desired, but in the direction someone else desired; as if it were being driven by some mysterious, lawless hand, God knows whose, perhaps of a profiteer, or of a private capitalist, or of both. Be that as it may, the car is not going quite in the direction the man at the wheel imagines, and often it goes in an altogether different direction. This is the main thing that must be remembered in regard to state capitalism. In this main field we must start learning from the very beginning, and only when we have thoroughly understood and appreciated this can we be sure that we shall learn.
Now I come to the question of halting the retreat, a question I dealt with in my speech at the Congress of Metalworkers. Since then I have not heard any objection, either in the Party press, or in private letters from comrades, or in the Central Committee. The Central Committee approved my plan, which was, that in the report of the Central Committee to the present Congress strong emphasis should be laid on calling a halt to this retreat and that the Congress should give binding instructions on behalf of the whole Party accordingly. For a year we have been retreating. On behalf of the Party we must now call a halt. The purpose pursued by the retreat has been achieved. This period is drawing, or has drawn, to a close. We now have a different objective, that of regrouping our forces. We have reached a new line; on the whole, we have conducted the retreat in fairly good order. True, not a few voices were heard from various sides which tried to convert this retreat into a stampede. Some—for example, several members of the group which bore the name of Workers’ Opposition (I don’t think they had any right to that name)—argued that we were not retreating properly in some sector or other. Owing to their excessive zeal they found themselves at the wrong door, and now they realise it. At that time they did not see that their activities did not help us to correct our movement, but merely had the effect of spreading panic and hindering our effort to beat a disciplined retreat.
Retreat is a difficult matter, especially for revolutionaries who are accustomed to advance; especially when they have been accustomed to advance with enormous success for several years; especially if they are surrounded by revolutionaries in other countries who are longing for the time when they can launch an offensive. Seeing that we were retreating, several of them burst into tears in a disgraceful and childish manner, as was the case at the last extended Plenary Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. Moved by the best communist sentiments and communist aspirations, several of the comrades burst into tears because—oh horror!—the good Russian Communists were retreating. Perhaps it is now difficult for me to understand this West-European mentality, although I lived for quite a number of years in those marvellous democratic countries as an exile. Perhaps from their point of view this is such a difficult matter to understand that it is enough to make one weep. We, at any rate, have no time for sentiment. It was clear to us that because we had advanced so successfully for many years and had achieved so many extraordinary victories (and all this in a country that was in an appalling state of ruin and lacked the material resources!), to consolidate that advance, since we had-gained so much, it was absolutely essential for us to retreat. We could not hold all the positions we had captured in the first onslaught. On the other hand, it was because we had captured so much in the first onslaught, on the crest of the wave of enthusiasm displayed by the workers and peasants, that we had room enough to retreat a long distance, and can retreat still further now, without losing our main and fundamental positions. On the whole, the retreat was fairly orderly, although certain panic-stricken voices, among them that of the Workers’ Opposition (this was the tremendous harm it did!), caused losses in our ranks, caused a relaxation of discipline, and disturbed the proper order of retreat. The most dangerous thing during a retreat is panic. When a whole army (I speak in the figurative sense) is in retreat, it cannot have the same morale as when it is advancing. At every step you find a certain mood of depression. We even had poets who wrote that people were cold and starving in Moscow, that “everything before was bright and beautiful, but now trade and profiteering abound”. We have had quite a number of poetic effusions of this sort.
Of course, retreat breeds all this. That is where the serious danger lies; it is terribly difficult to retreat after a great victorious advance, for the relations are entirely different. During a victorious advance, even if discipline is relaxed, everybody presses forward on his own accord. During a retreat, however, discipline must be more conscious and is a hundred times more necessary, because, when the entire army is in retreat, it does not know or see where it should halt. It sees only retreat; under such circumstances a few panic-stricken voices are, at times, enough to cause a stampede. The danger here is enormous. When a real army is in retreat, machine-guns are kept ready, and when an orderly retreat degenerates into a disorderly one, the command to fire is given, and quite rightly, too.
If, during an incredibly difficult retreat, when everything depends on preserving proper order, anyone spreads panic—even from the best of motives—the slightest breach of discipline must be punished severely, sternly, ruthlessly; and this applies not only to certain of our internal Party affairs, but also, and to a greater extent, to such gentry as the Mensheviks, and to all the gentry of the Two-and-a-Half International.
The other day I read an article by Comrade Rakosi in No. 20 of The Communist International on a new book by Otto Bauer, from whom at one time we all learned, but who, like Kautsky, became a miserable petty bourgeois after the war. Bauer now writes: “There, they are now retreating to capitalism! We have always said that it was a bourgeois revolution.”
And the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, all of whom preach this sort of thing, are astonished when we declare that we shall shoot people for such things. They are amazed; but surely it is clear. When an army is in retreat a hundred times more discipline is required than when it is advancing, because during an advance everybody presses forward. If everybody started rushing back now, it would spell immediate and inevitable disaster.
The most important thing at such a moment is to retreat in good order, to fix the precise limits of the retreat, and not to give way to panic. And when a Menshevik says, “You are now retreating; I have been advocating retreat all the time, I agree with you, I am your man, let us retreat together,” we say in reply, “For the public manifestations of Menshevism our revolutionary courts must pass the death sentence, otherwise they are not our courts, but God knows what.”
They cannot understand this and exclaim: “What dictatorial manners these people have!” They still think we are persecuting the Mensheviks because they fought us in Geneva. But had we done that we should have been unable to hold power even for two months. Indeed, the sermons which Otto Bauer, the leaders of the Second and Two-and-a Half Internationals, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries preach express their true nature—“The revolution has gone too far. What you are saying now we have been saying all the time, permit us to say it again.” But we say in reply: “Permit us to put you before a firing squad for saying that. Either you refrain from expressing your views, or, if you insist on expressing your political views publicly in the present circumstances, when our position is far more difficult than it was when the whiteguards were directly attacking us, then you will have only yourselves to blame if we treat you as the worst and most pernicious whiteguard elements.” We must never forget this.
When I speak about halting the retreat I do not mean that we have learned to trade. On the contrary, I am of the opposite opinion; and if my speech were to create that impression it would show that I had been misunderstood and that I am unable to express my thoughts properly.
The point, however, is that we must put a stop to the nervousness and fuss that have arisen with the introduction of NEP—the desire to do everything in a new way and to adapt everything. We now have a number of mixed companies. True, we have only very few. There are nine companies formed in conjunction with foreign capitalists and sanctioned by the Commissariat of Foreign Trade. The Sokolnikov Commission has sanctioned six and the Northern Timber Trust has sanctioned two. Thus we now have seventeen companies with an aggregate capital amounting to many millions, sanctioned by several government departments (of course, there is plenty of confusion with all these departments, so that some slip here is also possible). At any rate we have formed companies jointly with Russian and foreign capitalists. There are only a few of them. But this small but practical start shows that the Communists have been judged by what they do. They have not been judged by such high institutions as the Central Control Commission and the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. The Central Control Commission is a splendid institution, of course, and we shall now give it more power. For all that, the judgement these institutions pass on Communists is not--just imagine—recognised on the international market. (Laughter.) But now that ordinary Russian and foreign capitalists are joining the Communists in forming mixed companies, we say, “We can do things after all; bad as it is, meagre as it is, we have got something for a start.” True, it is not very much. Just think of it: a year has passed since we declared that we would devote all our energy (and it is said that we have a great deal of energy) to this matter, and in this year we have managed to form only seventeen companies.
This shows how devilishly clumsy and inept we are; how much Oblomovism still remains, for which we shall inevitably get a good thrashing. For all that, I repeat, a start, a reconnaissance has been made. The capitalists would not agree to have dealings with us if the elementary conditions for their operations did not exist. Even if only a very small section of them has agreed to this, it shows that we have scored a partial victory.
Of course, they will cheat us in these companics, cheat us so that it will take several years before matters are straightened out. But that does not matter. I do not say that that is a victory; it is a reconnaissance, which shows that we have an arena, we have a terrain, and can now stop the retreat.
The reconnaissance has revealed that we have concluded an insignificant number of agreements with capitalists; but we have concluded them for all that. We must learn from that and continue our operations. In this sense we must put a stop to nervousness, screaming and fuss. We received notes and telephone messages, one after another asking, “Now that we have NEP, may we be reorganised too?” Everybody is bustling, and we get utter confusion, nobody is doing any practical work; everybody is continuously arguing about how to adapt oneself to NEP, but no practical results are forthcoming.
The merchants are laughing at us Communists, and in all probability are saying, “Formerly there were Persuaders-in-Chief, now we have Talkers-in-Chief.” That the capitalists gloated over the fact that we started late, that we were not sharp enough—of that there need not be the slightest doubt. In this sense, I say, these instructions must be endorsed in the name of the Congress.
The retreat is at an end. The principal methods of operation, of how we are to work with the capitalists, are outlined. We have examples, even if an insignificant number.
Stop philosophising and arguing about NEP. Let the poets write verses, that is what they are poets for. But you economists, you stop arguing about NEP and get more companies formed; check up on how many Communists we have who can organise successful competition with the capitalists.
The retreat has come to an end; it is now a matter of regrouping our forces. These are the instructions that the Congress must pass so as to put an end to fuss and bustle. Calm down, do not philosophise; if you do, it will be counted as a black mark against you. Show by your practical efforts that you can work no less efficiently than the capitalists. The capitalists create an economic link with the peasants in order to amass wealth; you must create a link with peasant economy in order to strengthen the economic power of our proletarian state. You have the advantage over the capitalists in that political power is in your hands; you have a number of economic weapons at your command; the only trouble is that you cannot make proper use of them. Look at things more soberly. Cast off the tinsel, the festive communist garments, learn a simple thing simply, and we shall beat the private capitalist. We possess political power; we possess a host of economic weapons. If we beat capitalism and create a link with peasant farming we shall become an absolutely invincible power. Then the building of socialism will not be the task of that drop in the ocean, called the Communist Party, but the task of the entire mass of the working people. Then the rank-and-file peasants will see that we are helping them and they will follow our lead. Consequently, even if the pace is a hundred times slower, it will be a million times more certain and more sure.
It is in this sense that we must speak of halting the retreat; and the proper thing to do is, in one way or another, to make this slogan a Congress decision.
In this connection, I should like to deal with the question: what is the Bolsheviks’ New Economic Policy—evolution or tactics? This question has been raised by the Smena Vekh people, who, as you know, are a trend which has arisen among Russian émigrés; it is a socio-political trend led by some of the most prominent Constitutional-Democrats, several Ministers of the former Kolchak government, people who have come to the conclusion that the Soviet government is building up the Russian state and therefore should be supported. They argue as follows: “What sort of state is the Soviet government building? The Communists say they are building a communist state and assure us that the new policy is a matter of tactics: the Bolsheviks are making use of the private capitalists in a difficult situation, but later they will get the upper hand. The Bolsheviks can say what they like; as a matter of fact it is not tactics but evolution, internal regeneration; they will arrive at the ordinary bourgeois state, and we must support them. History proceeds in devious ways.”
Some of them pretend to be Communists; but there are others who are more straightforward, one of these is Ustryalov. I think he was a Minister in Kolchak’s government. He does not agree with his colleagues and says: “You can think what you like about communism, but I maintain that it is not a matter of tactics, but of evolution.” I think that by being straightforward like this, Ustryalov is rendering us a great service. We, and I particularly, because of my position, hear a lot of sentimental communist lies; “communist fibbing”, every day, and sometimes we get sick to death of them. But now instead of these “communist fibs” I get a copy of Smena Vekh, which says quite plainly: “Things are by no means what you imagine them to be. As a matter of fact, you are slipping into the ordinary bourgeois morass with communist flags inscribed with catchwords stuck all over the place.” This is very useful. It is not a repetition of what we are constantly hearing around us, but the plain class truth uttered by the class enemy. It is very useful to read this sort of thing; and it was written not because the communist state allows you to write some things and not others, but because it really is the class truth, bluntly and frankly uttered by the class enemy. “I am in favour of supporting the Soviet government,” says Ustryalov, although he was a Constitutional-Democrat, a bourgeois, and supported intervention. “I am in favour of supporting Soviet power because it has taken the road that will lead it to the ordinary bourgeois state.”
This is very useful, and I think that we must keep it in mind. It is much better for us if the Smena Vekh people write in that strain than if some of them pretend to be almost Communists, so that from a distance one cannot tell whether they believe in God or in the communist revolution. We must say frankiy that such candid enemies are useful. We must say frankly that the things Ustryalov speaks about are possible. History knows all sorts of metamorphoses. Relying on firmness of convictions, loyalty, and other splendid moral qualities is anything but a serious attitude in politics. A few people may be endowed with splendid moral qualities, but historical issues are decided by vast masses, which, if the few do not suit them, may at times treat them none too politely.
There have been many cases of this kind; that is why we must welcome this frank utterance of the Smena Vekh people. The enemy is speaking the class truth and is pointing to the danger that confronts us, and which the enemy is striving to make inevitable. Smena Vekh adherents express the sentiments of thousands and tens of thousands of bourgeois, or of Soviet employees whose function it is to operate our New Economic Policy. This is the real and main danger. And that is why attention must be concentrated mainly on the question: “Who will win?” I have spoken about competition. No direct onslaught is being made on us now; nobody is clutching us by the throat. True, we have yet to see what will bappen tomorrow; but today we are not being subjected to armed attack. Nevertheless, the fight against capitalist society has become a hundred times more fierce and perilous, because we are not always able to tell enemies from friends.
When I spoke about communist competition, what I had in mind were not communist sympathies but the development of economic forms and social systems. This is not competition but, if not the last, then nearly the last, desperate, furious, life-and-death struggle between capitalism and communism.
And here we must squarely put the question: Wherein lies our strength and what do we lack? We have quite enough political power. I hardly think there is anyone here who will assert that on such-and-such a practical question, in such and-such a business institution, the Communists, the Communist Party, lack sufficient power. There are people who think only of this, but these people are hopelessly looking backward and cannot understand that one must look ahead. The main economic power is in our hands. All the vital large enterprises, the railways, etc., are in our hands. The number of leased enterprises, although considerable in places, is on the whole insignificant; altogether it is infinitesimal compared with the rest. The economic power in the hands of the proletarian state of Russia is quite adequate to ensure the transition to communism. What then is lacking? Obviously, what is lacking is culture among the stratum of the Communists who perform administrative functions. If we take Moscow with its 4,700 Communists in responsible positions, and if we take that huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can truthfully be said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth they are not directing, they are being directed. Some thing analogous happened here to what we were told in our history lessons when we were children: sometimes one nation conquers another, the nation that conquers is the conqueror and the nation that is vanquished is the conquered nation. This is simple and intelligible to all. But what happens to the culture of these nations? Here things are not so simple. If the conquering nation is more cultured than the vanquished nation, the former imposes its culture upon the latter; but if the opposite is the case, the vanquished nation imposes its culture upon the conqueror. Has not something like this happened in the capital of the R.S.F.S.R.? Have the 4,700 Communists (nearly a whole army division, and all of them the very best) come under the influence of an alien culture? True, there may be the impression that the vanquished have a high level of culture. But that is not the case at all. Their culture is miserable, insignificant, but it is still at a higher level than ours. Miserable and low as it is, it is higher than that of our responsible Communist administrators, for the latter lack administrative ability. Communists who are put at the head of departments—and sometimes artful saboteurs deliberately put them in these positions in order to use them as a shield—are often fooled. This is a very unpleasant admission to make, or, at any rate, not a very pleasant one; but I think we must admit it, for at present this is the salient problem. I think that this is the political lesson of the past year; and it is around this that the struggle will rage in 1922.
Will the responsible Communists of the R.S.F.S.R. and of the Russian Communist Party realise that they cannot administer; that they only imagine they are directing, but are, actually, being directed? If they realise this they will learn, of course; for this business can be learnt. But one must study hard to learn it, and our people are not doing this. They scatter orders and decrees right and left, but the result is quite different from what they want.
The competition and rivalry that we have placed on the order of the day by proclaiming NEP is a serious business. It appears to be going on in all government offices; but as a matter of fact it is one more form of the struggle between two irreconcilably hostile classes. It is another form of the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It is a struggle that has not yet been brought to a head, and culturally it has not yet been resolved even in the central government departments in Moscow. Very often the bourgeois officials know the business better than our best Communists, who are invested with authority and have every opportunity, but who cannot make the slightest use of their rights and authority.
I should like to quote a passage from a pamphlet by Alexander Todorsky. It was published in Vesyegonsk (there is an uyezd town of that name in Tver Gubernia) on the first anniversary of the Soviet revolution in Russia, on November 7, 1918, a long, long time ago. Evidently this Vesyegonsk comrade is a member of the Party—I read the pamphlet a long time ago and cannot say for certain. He describes how he set to work to equip two Soviet factories, and for this purpose enlisted the services of two bourgeois. He did this in the way these things were done at that time—threatened to imprison them and to confiscate all their property. They were enlisted for the task of restoring the factories. We know how the services of the bourgeoisie were enlisted in 1918 (laughter ); so there is no need for me to go into details. The methods we are now using to enlist the bourgeoisie are different. But here is the conclusion he arrived at: “This is only half the job. It is not enough to defeat the bourgeoisie, to overpower them; they must be compelled to work for us.”
Now these are remarkable words. They are remarkable for they show that even in the town of Vesyegonsk, even in 1918, there were people who had a correct understanding of the relationship between the victorious proletariat and the vanquished bourgeoisie.
When we rap the exploiters’ knuckles, render them innocuous, overpower them, it is only half the job. In Moscow, however, ninety out of a hundred responsible officials imagine that all we have to do is to overpower, render innocuous and rap knuckles. What I have said about the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and whiteguards is very often inter preted solely as rendering innocuous, rapping knuckles (and, perhaps, not only the knuckles, but some other place) and overpowering. But that is only half the job. It was only half the job even in 1918, when this was written by the Vesyegonsk comrade; now it is even less than one-fourth. We must make these hands work for us, and not have responsible Communists at the head of departments, enjoying rank and title, but actually swimming with the stream together with the bourgeoisie. That is the whole point.
The idea of building communist society exclusively with the hands of the Communists is childish, absolutely childish. We Communists are but a drop in the ocean, a drop in the ocean of the people. We shall be able to lead the people along the road we have chosen only if we correctly determine it not only from the standpoint of its direction in world history. From that point of view we have determined the road quite correctly, and this is corroborated by the situation in every country. We must also determine it correctly for our own native land, for our country. But the direction in world history is not the only factor. Other factors are whether there will be intervention or not, and whether we shall be able to supply the peasants with goods in exchange for their grain. The peasants will say: “You are splendid fellows; you defended our country. That is why we obeyed you. But if you cannot run the show, get out!” Yes, that is what the peasants will say.
We Communists shall be able to direct our economy if we succeed in utilising the hands of the bourgeoisie in building up this economy of ours and in the meantime learn from these bourgeoisie and guide them along the road we want them to travel. But when a Communist imagines that he knows everything, when he says: “I am a responsible Communist, I have beaten enemies far more formidable than any salesman. We have fought at the front and have beaten far more formidable enemies”—it is this prevailing mood that is doing us great harm.
Rendering the exploiters innocuous, rapping them over the knuckles, clipping their wings is the least important part of the job. That must be done; and our State Political Administration and our courts must do it more vigorously than they have up to now. They must remember that they are proletarian courts surrounded by enemies the world over. This is not difficult; and in the main we have learned to do it. Here a certain amount of pressure must be exercised; but that is easy.
To win the second part of the victory, i.e., to build communism with the hands of non-Communists, to acquire the practical ability to do what is economically necessary, we must establish a link with peasant farming; we must satisfy the peasant, so that he will say: “Hard, bitter and painful as starvation is, I see a government that is an unusual one, is no ordinary one, but is doing something practically useful, something tangible.” We must see to it that the numerous elements with whom we are co-operating, and who far exceed us in number, work in such a way as to enable us to supervise them; we must learn to understand this work, and direct their hands so that they do something useful for communism. This is the key point of the present situation; for although individual Communists have understood and realised that it is necessary to enlist the non-Party people for this work, the rank-and-file of our Party have not. Many circulars have been written, much has been said about this, but has anything been accomplished during the past year? Nothing. Not five Party committees out of a hundred can show practical results. This shows how much we lag behind the requirements of the present time; how much we are still living in the traditions of 1918 and 1919. Those were great years; a great historical task was then accomplished. But if we only look back on those years and do not see the task that now confronts us, we shall be doomed, certainly and absolutely. And the whole point is that we refuse to admit it.
I should now like to give two practical examples to illustrate how we administer. I have said already that it would be more correct to take one of the state trusts as an example, but I must ask you to excuse me for not being able to apply this proper method, for to do so it would have been necessary to study the concrete material concerning at least one state trust. Unfortunately, I have been unable to do that, and so I will take two small examples. One example is the accusation of bureaucracy levelled at the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade by the Moscow Consumers’ Co-operative Society. The other example I will take from the Donets Basin.
The first example is not quite relevant—I am unable to find a better—but it will serve to illustrate my main point. As you know from the newspapers, I have been unable to deal with affairs directly during these past few months. I have not been attending the Council of People’s Commissars, or the Central Committee. During the short and rare visits I made to Moscow I was struck by the desperate and terrible complaints levelled at the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade. I have never doubted for a moment that the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade functions badly and that it is tied up with red tape. But when the complaints became particularly bitter I tried to investigate the matter, to take a concrete example and for once get to the bottom of it; to ascertain the cause, to ascertain why the machine was not working properly.
The M.C.C.S. wanted to purchase a quantity of canned goods. A French citizen appeared and offered some. I do not know whether he did it in the interests of the international policy and with the knowledge of the leadership of the Entente countries, or with the approval of Poincaré and the other enemies of the Soviet government (I think our historians will investigate and make this clear after the Genoa Conference), but the fact is that the French bourgeoisie took not only a theoretical, but also a practical interest in this business, as a French bourgeois turned up in Moscow with an offer of canned goods. Moscow is starving; in the summer the situation will be worse; no meat has been delivered, and knowing the merits of our People’s Commissariat of Railways, probably none will be delivered.
An offer is made to sell canned meat for Soviet currency (whether the meat is entirely bad or not will be established by a future investigation). What could be simpler? But if the matter is approached in the Soviet way, it turns out to be not so simple after all. I was unable to go into the matter personally, but I ordered an investigation and I have before me the report which shows how this celebrated case developed. It started with the decision adopted on February 11 by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party on the report of Comrade Kamenev concerning the desirability of purchasing food abroad. Of course, how could a Russian citizen decide such a question without the consent of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party! Think of it! How could 4,700 responsible officials (and this is only according to the census) decide a matter like purchasing food abroad without the consent of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee? This would be something supernatural, of course. Evidently, Comrade Kamenev understands our policy and the realities of our position perfectly well, and therefore, he did not place too much reliance on the numerous responsible officials. He started by taking the bull by the horns—if not the bull, at all events the Political Bureau—and without any difficulty (I did not hear that there was any discussion over the matter) obtained a resolution stating: “To call the attention of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade to the desirability of importing food from abroad; the import duties . . . “, etc. The attention of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade was drawn to this. Things started moving. This was on February 11. I remember that I had occasion to be in Moscow at the very end of February, or about that time, and what did I find? The complaints, the despairing complaints of the Moscow comrades. “What’s the matter?” I ask. “There is no way we can buy these provisions.” “Why?” “Because of the red tape of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade.” I had not been taking part in affairs for a long time and I did not know that the Political Bureau had adopted a decision on the matter. I merely ordered the Executive Secretary of our Council to investigate, procure the relevant documents and show them to me. The matter was settled when Krasin arrived. Kamenev discussed the matter with him; the transaction was arranged, and the canned meat was purchased. All’s well that ends well.
I have not the least doubt that Kamenev and Krasin can come to an understanding and correctly determine the political line desired by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. If the political line on commercial matters were decided by Kamenev and Krasin, ours would be the best Soviet Republic in the world. But Kamenev, a member of the Political Bureau, and Krasin—the latter is busy with diplomatic affairs connected with Genoa, affairs which have entailed an enormous, an excessive amount of labour—cannot be dragged into every transaction, dragged into the business of buying canned goods from a French citizen. That is not the way to work. This is not new, not economic, and not a policy, but sheer mockery. Now I have the report of the investigation into this matter. In fact, I have two reports: one, the report of the investigation made by Gorbunov, the Executive Secretary of thc Council of People’s Commissars, and his assistant, Miroshnikov; and the other, the report of the investigation made by the State Political Administration. I do not know why the latter interested itself in the matter, and I am not quite sure whether it was proper for it to do so; but I will not go into that now, because I am afraid this might entail another investigation. The important thing is that material on the matter has been collected and I now have it before me.
On arriving in Moscow at the end of February I heard bitter complaints, “We cannot buy the canned goods”, although in Libau there was a ship with a cargo of canned goods, and the owners were prepared to take Soviet currency for real canned goods! (Laughter.) If these canned goods are not entirely bad (and I now emphasise the “if”, because I am not sure that I shall not call for another investigation, the results of which, however, we shall have to report at the next Congress), if, I say, these goods are not entirely bad and they have been purchased, I ask: why could not this matter have been settled without Kamenev and Krasin? From the report I have before me I gather that one responsible Communist sent another responsible Communist to the devil. I also gather from this report that one responsible Communist said to another responsible Communist: “From now on I shall not talk to you except in the presence of a lawyer.” Reading this report I recalled the time when I was in exile in Siberia, twenty-five years ago, and had occasion to act in the capacity of a lawyer. I was not a certified lawyer, because, being summarily exiled, I was not allowed to practise; but as there was no other lawyer in the region, people came and confided their troubles to me. But sometimes I had the greatest difficulty in understanding what the trouble was. A woman would come and, of course, start telling me a long story about her relatives, and it was incredibly difficult to get from her what she really wanted. I said to her: “Bring me a copy.” She went on with her endless and pointless story. When I repeated, “Bring me a copy”, she left, complaining: “He won’t hear what I have to say unless I bring a copy.” In our colony we had a hearty laugh over this copy. I was able, however, to make some progress. People came to me, brought copies of the necessary documents, and I was able to gather what their trouble was, what they complained of, what ailed them. This was twenty five years ago, in Siberia, in a place many hundreds of versts from the nearest railway station.
But why was it necessary, three years after the revolution, in the capital of the Soviet Republic, to have two investigations, the intervention of Kamenev and Krasin and the in structions of the Political Bureau to purchase canned goods? What was lacking? Political power? No. The money was forth coming, so they had economic as well as political power. All the necessary institutions were available. What was lacking, then? Culture. Ninety-nine out of every hundred officials of the M.C.C.S.—against whom I have no complaint to make whatever, and whom I regard as excellent Communists—and of the Commissariat of Foreign Trade lack culture. They were unable to approach the matter in a cultured manner.
When I first heard of the matter I sent the following written proposal to the Central Committee: “All the officials concerned of the Moscow government departments—except the members of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, who, as you know, enjoy immunity—should be put in the worst prison in Moscow for six hours, and those of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade for thirty-six hours.” And then it turned out that no one could say who the culprits were (laughter ), and from what I have told you it is evident that the culprits will never be discovered. It is simply the usual inability of the Russian intellectuals to get things done—inefficiency and slovenliness. First they rush at a job, do a little bit, and then think about it, and when nothing comes of it, they run to complain to Kamenev and want the matter to be brought before the Political Bureau. Of course, all difficult state problems should be brought before the Political Bureau—I shall have to say something about that later on—but one should think first and then act. If you want to bring up a case, submit the appropriate documents. First send a telegram, and in Moscow we also have telephones; send a telephone message to the competent department and a copy to Tsyurupa saying: I regard the transaction as urgent and will take proceedings against anyone guilty of red tape.” One must think of this elementary culture, one must approach things in a thoughtful manner. If the business is not settled in the course of a few minutes, by telephone, collect the documents and say: “If you start any of your red tape I shall have you clapped in gaol.” But not a moment’s thought is given to the matter, there is no preparation, the usual bustle, several commissions, everybody is tired out, exhausted, run down, and things begin to move only when Kamenev is put in touch with Krasin. AlI this is typical of what goes on not only in the capital, Moscow, but also in the other capitals, in the capitals of all independent republics and regions. And the same thing, even a hundred times worse, constantly goes on in the provincial towns.
In our struggle we must remember that Communists must be able to reason. They may be perfectly familiar with the revolutionary struggle and with the state of the revolutionary movement all over the world; but if we are to extricate ourselves from desperate poverty and want we need culture, integrity and an ability to reason. Many lack these qualities. It would be unfair to say that the responsible Communists do not fulfil their functions conscientiously. The overwhelming majority of them, ninety-nine out of a hundred, are not only conscientious—they proved their devotion to the revolution under the most difficult conditions before the fall of tsarism and after the revolution; they were ready to lay down their lives. Therefore, it would be radically wrong to attribute the trouble to lack of conscientiousness. We need a cultured approach to the simplest affairs of state. We must all understand that this is a matter of state, a business matter; and if obstacles arise we must be able to overcome them and take proceedings against those who are guilty of red tape. We have proletarian courts in Moscow; they must bring to account the persons who are to blame for the failure to effect the purchase of several tens of thousands of poods of canned food. I think the proletarian courts will be able to punish the guilty; but in order to punish, the culprits must be found. I assure you that in this case no culprits will be found. I want you all to look into this business: no one is guilty; all we see is a lot of fuss and bustle and nonsense. Nobody has the ability to approach the business properly; nobody understands that affairs of state must not be tackled in this way. And all the whiteguards and saboteurs take advantage of this. At one time we waged a fierce struggle against the saboteurs ; that struggle confronts us even now. There are saboteurs today, of course, and they must be fought. But can we fight them when the position is as I have just described it? This is worse than any sabotage. The saboteur could wish for nothing better than that two Communists should argue over the question of when to appeal to the Political Bureau for instructions on principles in buying food; and of course he would soon slip in between them and egg them on. If any intelligent saboteur were to stand behind these Communists, or behind each of them in turn, and encourage them, that would be the end. The matter would be doomed for ever. Who is to blame? Nobody, because two responsible Communists, devoted revolutionaries, are arguing over last year’s snow; are arguing over the question of when to appeal to the Political Bureau for instructions on principles in buying food.
That is how the matter stands and that is the difficulty that confronts us. Any salesman trained in a large capitalist enterprise knows how to settle a matter like that; but ninety-nine responsible Communists out of a hundred do not. And they refuse to understand that they do not know how and that they must learn the ABC of this business. Unless we realise this, unless we sit down in the preparatory class again, we shall never be able to solve the economic problem that now lies at the basis of our entire policy.
The other example I wanted to give you is that of the Donets Basin. You know that this is the centre, the real basis of our entire economy. It will be utterly impossible to restore large-scale industry in Russia, to really build socialism—for it can only be built on the basis of large scale industry—unless we restore the Donets Basin and bring it up to the proper level. The Central Committee is closely watching developments there.
As regards this region there was no unjustified, ridiculous or absurd raising of minor questions in the Political Bureau; real, absolutely urgent business was discussed.
The Central Committee ought to see to it that in such real centres, bases and foundations of our entire economy, work is carried on in a real business-like manner. At the head of the Central Coal Industry Board we had not only undoubtedly devoted, but really educated and very capable people. I should not be wrong even if I said talented people. That is why the Central Committee has concentrated its attention on it. The Ukraine is an independent republic. That is quite all right. But in Party matters it sometimes—what is the politest way of saying it?—takes a roundabout course, and we shall have to get at them. For the people in charge there are sly, and their Central Committee I shall not say deceives us, but somehow edges away from us. To obtain a general view of the whole business, we discussed it in the Central Committee here and discovered that friction and disagreement exist. There is a Commission for the Utilisation of Small Mines there and, of course, severe friction between it and the Central Coal Industry Board. Still we, the Central Committee, have a certain amount of experience and we unanimously decided not to remove the leading people, but if there was any friction it was to be reported to us, down to the smallest detail. For since we have not only devoted but capable people in the region, we must back them up, and enable them to complete their training, assuming that they have not done so. In the end, a Party Congress was held in the Ukraine—I do not know what happened there; all sorts of things happened. I asked for information from the Ukrainian comrades, and I asked Comrade Orjonikidze particularly—and the Central Committee did the same—to go down there and ascertain what had happened. Evidently, there was some intrigue and an awful mess, which the Commission on Party History would not be able to clear up in ten years should it undertake to do so. But the upshot of it all was that contrary to the unanimous instructions of the Central Committee, this group was superseded by another group. What was the matter? In the main, notwithstanding all its good qualities, a section of the group made a mistake. They were overzealous in their methods of administration. There we have to deal with workers. Very often the word “workers” is taken to mean the factory proletariat. But it does not mean that at all. During the war people who were by no means proletarians went into the factories; they went into the factories to dodge the war. Are the social and economic conditions in our country today such as to induce real proletarians to go into the factories? No. It would be true according to Marx; but Marx did not write about Russia; he wrote about capitalism as a whole, beginning with the fifteenth century. It held true over a period of six hundred years, but it is not true for present-day Russia. Very often those who go into the factories are not proletarians; they are casual elements of every description.
The task is to learn to organise the work properly, not to lag behind, to remove friction in time, not to separate administration from politics. For our administration and our politics rest on the ability of the entire vanguard to maintain contact with the entire mass of the proletariat and with the entire mass of the peasantry. If anybody forgets these cogs and becomes wholly absorbed in administration, the result will be a disastrous one. The mistake the Donets Basin officials made is insignificant compared with other mistakes of ours, but this example is a typical one. The Central Committee unanimously ordered: “Allow this group to remain; bring all conflicts, even minor ones, before the Central Committee, for the Donets Basin is not an ordinary district, but a vital one, without which socialist construction would simply remain a pious wish.” But all our political power, all the authority of the Central Committee proved of no avail.
This time there was a mistake in administration, of course; in addition, a host of other mistakes were made.
This instance shows that it is not a matter of possessing political power, but of administrative ability, the ability to put the right man in the right place, the ability to avoid petty conflicts, so that state economic work may be carried on without interruption. This is what we lack; this is the root of the mistake.
I think that in discussing our revolution and weighing up its prospects, we must carefully single out the problems which the revolution has solved completely and which have irrevocably gone down in history as an epoch-making departure from capitalism. Our revolution has such solutions to its credit. Let the Mensheviks and Otto Bauer of the Two-and-a-Half International shout: “Theirs is a bourgeois revolution.” We say that our task was to consummate the bourgeois revolution. As a certain whiteguard newspaper expressed it: Dung had accumulated in our state institutions for four hundred years; but we cleaned it all out in four years. This is the great service we rendered. What have the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries done? Nothing. The dung of medievalism has not been cleared out either in our country, or even in advanced, enlightened Germany. Yet they reproach us for doing what stands very much to our credit. The fact that we have consummated the revolution is an achievement that can never be expunged from our record.
War is now in the air. The trade unions, for example, the reformist trade unions, are passing resolutions against war and are threatening to call strikes in opposition to war. Recently, if I am not mistaken, I read a report in the newspapers to the effect that a certain very good Communist delivered an anti-war speech in the French Chamber of Deputies in the course of which he stated that the workers would prefer to rise in revolt rather than go to war. This question cannot be formulated in the way we formulated it in 1912, when the Basle Manifesto was issued. The Russian revolution alone has shown how it is possible to emerge from war, and what effort this entails. It showed what emerging from a reactionary war by revolutionary methods means. Reactionary imperialist wars are inevitable in all parts of the world; and in solving problems of this sort mankind cannot and will not forget that tens of millions were slaughtered then, and will be slaughtered again if war breaks out. We are living in the twentieth century, and the only nation that emerged from a reactionary war by revolutionary methods not for the benefit of a particular government, but by overthrowing it, was the Russian nation, and it was the Russian revolution that extricated it. What has been won by the Russian revolution is irrevocable. No power on earth can erase that; nor can any power on earth erase the fact that the Soviet state has been created. This is a historic victory. For hundreds of years states have been built according to the bourgeois model, and for the first time a non-bourgeois form of state has been discovered. Our machinery of government may be faulty, but it is said that the first steam engine that was invented was also faulty. No one even knows whether it worked or not, but that is not the important point; the important point is that it was invented. Even assuming that the first steam engine was of no use, the fact is that we now have steam engines. Even if our machinery of government is very faulty, the fact remains that it has been created; the greatest invention in history has been made; a proletarian type of state has been created. Therefore, let all Europe, let thousands of bourgeois newspapers broadcast news about the horrors and poverty that prevail in our country, about suffering being the sole lot of the working people in our country; the workers all over the world are still drawn towards the Soviet state. These are the great and irrevocable gains that we have achieved. But for us, members of the Communist Party, this meant only opening the door. We are now confronted with the task of laying the foundations of socialist economy. Has this been done? No, it has not. We still lack the socialist foundation. Those Communists who imagine that we have it are greatly mistaken. The whole point is to distinguish firmly, clearly and dispassionately what constitutes the historic service rendered by the Russian revolution from what we do very badly, from what has not yet been created, and what we shall have to redo many times yet.
Political events are always very confused and complicated. They can be compared with a chain. To hold the whole chain you must grasp the main link. Not a link chosen at random. What was the central event in 1917? Withdrawal from the war. The entire nation demanded this, and it overshadowed everything. Revolutionary Russia accomplished this withdrawal from the war. It cost tremendous effort; but the major demand of the people was satisfied, and that brought us victory for many years. The people realised, the peasants saw, every soldier returning from the front understood perfectly well that the Soviet government was a more democratic government, one that stood closer to the working people. No matter how many outrageous and absurd things we may have done in other spheres, the fact that we realised what the main task was proved that everything was right.
What was the key feature of 1919 and 1920? Military resistance. The all-powerful Entente was marching against us, was at our throats. No propaganda was required there. Every non-Party peasant understood what was going on. The landowners were coming back. The Communists knew how to fight them. That is why, taken in the mass, the peasants followed the lead of the Communists; that is why we were victorious.
In 1921, the key feature was an orderly retreat. This required stern discipline. The Workers’ Opposition said: “You are underrating the workers; the workers should display greater initiative.” But initiative had to be displayed then by retreating in good order and by maintaining strict discipline. Anyone who introduced an undertone of panic or insubordination would have doomed the revolution to defeat; for there is nothing more difficult than retreating with people who have been accustomed to victory, who are imbued with revolutionary views and ideals, and who, in their hearts, regard every retreat as a disgraceful matter. The greatest danger was the violation of good order, and the greatest task was to maintain good order.
And what is the key feature now? The key feature now—and I would like to sum up my report with this—is not that we have changed our line of policy. An incredible lot of nonsense is being talked about this in connection with NEP. It is all hot air, pernicious twaddle. In connection with NEP some people are beginning to fuss around, proposing to reorganise our government departments and to form new ones. All this is pernicious twaddle. In the present situation the key feature is people, the proper choice of people. A revolutionary who is accustomed to struggle against petty reformists and uplift educators finds it hard to understand this. Soberly weighed up, the political conclusion to be drawn from the present situation is that we have advanced so far that we cannot hold all the positions; and we need not hold them all.
Internationally our position has improved vastly these last few years. The Soviet type of state is our achievement; it is a step forward in human progress; and the information the Communist International receives from every country every day corroborates this. Nobody has the slightest doubt about that. From the point of view of practical work, however, the position is that unless the Communists render the masses of the peasants practical assistance they will lose their support. Passing laws, passing better decrees, etc., is not now the main object of our attention. There was a time when the passing of decrees was a form of pro paganda. People used to laugh at us and say that the Bolsheviks do not realise that their decrees are not being carried out; the entire whiteguard press was full of jeers on that score. But at that period this passing of decrees was quite justified. We Bolsheviks had just taken power, and we said to the peasant, to the worker: “Here is a decree; this is how we would like to have the state administered. Try it!” From the very outset we gave the ordinary workers and peasants an idea of our policy in the form of decrees. The result was the enormous confidence we enjoyed and now enjoy among the masses of the people. This was an essential period at the beginning of the revolution; without it we should not have risen on the crest of the revolutionary wave; we should have wallowed in its trough. Without it we should not have won the confidence of all the workers and peasants who wanted to build their lives on new lines. But this period has passed, and we refuse to understand this. Now the peasants and workers will laugh at us if we order this or that government department to be formed or reorganised. The ordinary workers and peasants will display no interest in this now, and they will be right, because this is not the central task today. This is not the sort of thing with which we Communists should now go to the people. Although we who are engaged in government departments are always over whelmed with so many petty affairs, this is not the link that we must grasp, this is not the key feature. The key feature is that we have not got the right men in the right places; that responsible Communists who acquitted themselves magnificently during the revolution have been given commercial and industrial functions about which they know nothing; and they prevent us from seeing the truth, for rogues and rascals hide magnificently behind their backs. The trouble is that we have no such thing as practical control of how things have been done. This is a prosaic job, a small job; these are petty affairs. But after the greatest political change in history, bearing in mind that for a time we shall have to live in the midst of the capitalist system, the key feature now is not politics in the narrow sense of the word (what we read in the newspapers is just political fireworks; there is nothing socialist in it at all), the key feature is not resolutions, not departments and not reorganisation. As long as these things are necessary we shall do them, but don’t go to the people with them. Choose the proper men and introduce practical control. That is what the people will appreciate.
In the sea of people we are after all but a drop in the ocean, and we can administer only when we express correctly what the people are conscious of. Unless we do this the Communist Party will not lead the proletariat, the proletariat will not lead the masses, and the whole machine will collapse. The chief thing the people, all the working people, want today is nothing but help in their desperate hunger and need; they want to be shown that the improvement needed by the peasants is really taking place in the form they are accustomed to. The peasant knows and is accustomed to the market and trade. We were unable to introduce direct communist distribution. We lacked the factories and their equipment for this. That being the case, we must provide the peasants with what they need through the medium of trade, and provide it as well as the capitalist did, otherwise the people will not tolerate such an administration. This is the key to the situation; and unless something unexpected arises, this, given three conditions, should be the central feature of our activities in 1922.
The first condition is that there shall be no intervention. We are doing all we can in the diplomatic field to avoid it; nevertheless, it may occur any day. We must really be on the alert, and we must agree to make certain big sacrifices for the sake of the Red Army, within definite limits, of course. We are confronted by the entire bourgeois world, which is only seeking a way in which to strangle us. Our Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries are nothing more nor less than the agents of this bourgeoisie. Such is their political status.
The second condition is that the financial crisis shall not be too severe. The crisis is approaching. You will hear about that when we discuss financial policy. If it is too severe and rigorous we shall have to revise many things again and concentrate all efforts on one thing. If it is not too severe it may even be useful; it will give the Communists in all the state trusts a good shaking; only we must not forget to do it. The financial crisis will shake up government departments and industrial enterprises, and those that are not equal to their task will be the first to burst; only we must take care that all the blame for this is not thrown on the specialists while the responsible Communists are praised for being very good fellows who have fought at the fronts and have always worked well. Thus, if the financial crisis is not too severe we can derive some benefit from it and comb the ranks of the responsible Communists engaged in the business departments not in the way the Central Control Commission and the Central Verification Commission comb them, but very thoroughly.
The third condition is that we shall make no political mistakes in this period. Of course, if we do make political mistakes all our work of economic construction will be disrupted and we shall land ourselves in controversies about how to rectify them and what direction to pursue. But if we make no sad mistakes, the key feature in the near future will be not decrees and politics in the narrow sense of the word, not departments and their organisation—the responsible Communists and the Soviet institutions will deal with these things whenever necessary—the main thing in all our activities will be choosing the right people and making sure that decisions are carried out. If, in this respect, we learn something practical, if we do something practically useful, we shall again overcome all difficulties.
In conclusion I must mention the practical side of the question of our Soviet institutions, the higher government bodies and the Party’s relation to them. The relations between the Party and the Soviet government bodies are not what they ought to be. On this point we are quite unanimous. I have given one example of how minor matters are dragged before the Political Bureau. It is extremely difficult to get out of this by formal means, for there is only one governing party in our country; and a member of the Party cannot be prohibited from lodging complaints. That is why everything that comes up on the Council of People’s Commissars is dragged before the Political Bureau. I, too, am greatly to blame for this, for to a large extent contact between the Council of People’s Commissars and the Political Bureau was maintained through me. When I was obliged to retire from work it was found that the two wheels were not working in unison and Kamenev had to bear a treble load to maintain this contact. Inasmuch as it is barely probable that I shall return to work in the near future, all hope devolves on the fact that there are two other deputies—Comrade Tsyurupa, who has been cleansed by the Germans, and Comrade Rykov, whom they have splendidly cleansed. It seems that even Wilhelm, the German Emperor, has stood us in good stead—I never expected it. He had a surgeon, who happened to be the doctor treating Comrade Rykov, and he removed his worst part, keeping it in Germany, and left the best part intact, sending that part of Comrade Rykov thoroughly cleansed to us. If that method continues to be used it will be a really good thing.
Joking aside, a word or two about the main instructions. On this point there is complete unanimity on the Central Committee, and I hope that the Congress will pay the closest attention to it and endorse the instructions that the Political Bureau and the Central Committee be relieved of minor matters, and that more should be shifted to the responsible officials. The People’s Commissars must be responsible for their work and should not bring these matters up first on the Council of Peeple’s Commissars and then on the Political Bureau. Formally, we cannot abolish the right to lodge complaints with the Central Committee, for our Party is the only governing party in the country. But we must put a stop to the habit of bringing every petty matter before the Central Committee; we must raise the prestige of the Council of People’s Commissars. The Commissars and not the Deputy Commissars must mainly attend the meetings of the Council. The functions of the Council must be changed in the direction in which I have not succeeded in changing them during the past year, that is, it must pay much more attention to executive control. We shall have two more deputies—Rykov and Tsyurupa. When Rykov was in the Extraordinary Authorised Council of Workers’ and Peasants’ Defence for the Supply of the Red Army and Navy he tightened things up and the work went well. Tsyurupa organised one of the most efficient People’s Commissariats. If together they make the maximum effort to improve the People ’s Commissariats in the sense of efficiency and responsibility, we shall make some, even if a little, progress here. We have eighteen People’s Commissariats of which not less than fifteen are of no use at all—efficient People’s Commissars cannot be found everywhere, and I certainly hope that people give this more of their attention. Comrade Rykov must be a member, of the Central Committee Bureau and of the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee because there must be a tie-up between these two bodies, for without this tie-up the main wheels some times spin in the air.
In this connection, we must see to it that the number of commissions of the Council of People’s Commissars and of the Council of Labour and Defence is reduced. These bodies must know and settle their own affairs and not split up into an infinite number of commissions. A few days ago the commissions were overhauled. It was found that there were one hundred and twenty of them. How many were necessary? Sixteen. And this is not the first cut. Instead of accepting responsibility for their work, preparing a decision for the Council of People’s Commissars and knowing that they bear responsibility for this decision, there is a tendency to take shelter behind commissions. The devil himself would lose his way in this maze of commissions. Nobody knows what is going on, who is responsible; everything is mixed up, and finally a decision is passed for which everybody is held responsible.
In this connection, reference must be made to the need for extending and developing the autonomy and activities of the regional economic conferences. The administrative division of Russia has now been drawn up on scientific lines; the economic and climatic conditions, the way of life, the conditions of obtaining fuel, of local industry, etc., have all been taken into account. On the basis of this division, district and regional economic conferences have been instituted. Changes may be made here and there, of course, but the prestige of these economic conferences must be enhanced.
Then we rnust see to it that the All-Russia Central Executive Committee works more energetically, meets in session more regularly, and for longer periods. The sessions of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee should discuss bills which sometimes are hastily brought before the Council of People’s Commissars when there is no need to do so. It would be better to postpone such bills and give the local workers an opportunity to study them carefully. Stricter demands should be made upon those who draft the bills. This is not done.
If the sessions of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee last longer, they can split up into sections and subcommissions, and thus will be able to verify the work more strictly and strive to achieve what in my opinion is the key, the quintessence of the present political situation: to concentrate attention on choosing the right people and on verifying how decisions are carried out.
It must be admitted, and we must not be afraid to admit, that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the responsible Communists are not in the jobs they are now fit for; that they are unable to perform their duties, and that they must sit down to learn. If this is admitted, and since we have the opportunity to learn—judging by the general international situation we shall have time to do so—we must do it, come what may. (Stormy applause.)
Closing Speech On The Political Report Of The Central Committee Of The R.C.P.(B.) March 28
(Applause. ) First of all I shall have to devote a little time to criticising the remarks made here by Comrades Preobrazhensky and Osinsky. I think that on the most important and fundamental question Comrades Preobrazhensky and Osinsky were wide of the mark, and their own statements have proved their line of policy to be wrong.
Comrade Preobrazhensky spoke about capitalism and said that we ought to open a general discussion on our Programme. I think that this would be the most unproductive and unjustified waste of time.
First of all about state capitalism.
“State capitalism is capitalism,” said Preobrazhensky, “and that is the only way it can and should be interpreted.” I say that that is pure scholasticism. Up to now nobody could have written a book about this sort of capitalism, because this is the first time in human history that we see anything like it. All the more or less intelligible books about state capitalism that have appeared up to now were written under conditions and in a situation where state capitalism was capitalism. Now things are different; and neither Marx nor the Marxists could foresee this. We must not look to the past. When you write history, you will write it magnificently; but when you write a textbook, you will say: State capitalism is the most unexpected and absolutely unforeseen form of capitalism—for nobody could foresee that the proletariat would achieve power in one of the least developed countries, and would first try to organise large-scale production and distribution for the peasantry and then, finding that it could not cope with the task owing to the low standard of culture, would enlist the services of capitalism. Nobody ever foresaw this; but it is an incontrovertible fact.
Comrade Larin, in his speech, revealed that he has a very vague conception of the New Economic Policy and of how it should be handled.
Not a single serious objection has been raised to our adoption of the New Economic Policy. The proletariat is not afraid to admit that certain things in the revolution went off magnificently, and that others went awry. All the revolutionary parties that have perished so far, perished because they became conceited, because they failed to see the source of their strength and feared to discuss their weaknesses. We, however, shall not perish, because we are not afraid to discuss our weaknesses and will learn to overcome them. (Applause. ) The capitalism that we have permitted is essential. If it is ugly and bad, we shall be able to rectify it, because power is in our hands and we have nothing to fear. Everybody admits this, and so it is ridiculous to confuse this with panic-mongering. If we were afraid to admit this our doom would be sealed. But the fact that we will learn and want to learn this is proved by the experience of the past three, four, five years, during which we learnt more complicated matters in a shorter period. True, then we were driven by necessity. During the war we were driven very hard; I think there was neither a front nor a campaign in which we were not hard pressed. The enemy came within a hundred versts of Moscow; was approaching Orel; was within five versts of Petrograd. That was the time we really woke up and began to learn and to put the lessons we had learnt into practice, and we drove out the enemy.
The position now is that we have to deal with an enemy in mundane economics, and this is a thousand times more difficult. The controversies over state capitalism that have been raging in our literature up to now could at best be included in textbooks on history. I do not in the least deny that textbooks are useful, and recently I wrote that it would be far better if our authors devoted less attention to newspapers and political twaddle and wrote textbooks, as many of them, including Comrade Larin, could do splendidly. His talent would prove most useful on work of this kind and we would solve the problem that Comrade Trotsky emphasised so well when he said that the main task at the present time is to train the younger generation, but we have nothing to train them with. Indeed, from what can the younger generation learn the social sciences? From the old bourgeois junk. This is disgraceful! And this is at a time when we have hundreds of Marxist authors who could write textbooks on all social problems, but do not do so because their minds are taken up with other things.
As regards state capitalism, we ought to know what should be the slogan for agitation and propaganda, what must be explained, what we must get everyone to understand practically. And that is that the state capitalism that we have now is not the state capitalism that the Germans wrote about. It is capitalism that we ourselves have permitted. Is that true or not? Everybody knows that it is true!
At a congress of Communists we passed a decision that state capitalism would be permitted by the proletarian state, and we are the state. If we did wrong we are to blame and it is no use shifting the blame to somebody else! We must learn, we must see to it that in a proletarian country state capitalism cannot and does not go beyond the framework and conditions delineated for it by the proletariat, beyond conditions that benefit the proletariat. It was quite rightly pointed out here that we had to give consideration to the peasants as a mass, and enable them to trade freely. Every intelligent worker appreciates that this is necessary for the proletarian dictatorship, and only Comrade Shlyapnikov can joke about and mock it. This is appreciated by everybody and has been chewed over a thousand times, but you simply refuse to understand it. If under present conditions the peasant must have freedom to trade within certain limits, we must give it to him, but this does not mean that we are permitting trade in raw brandy. We shall punish people for that sort of trade. It does not mean that we are permitting the sale of political literature called Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary and financed by the capitalists of the whole world.
That is what I meant when I mentioned machine-guns, and Comrade Shlyapnikov should have understood it. What he says is nonsensical!
You will not frighten anybody and you will not win any sympathy! (Applause. Laughter. )
Poor Shlyapnikov! Lenin had planned to use machine-guns against him!
What I had in mind was Party disciplinary measures, and not machine-guns as such. When we talk about machine-guns we have in mind the people in this country whom we call Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries and who argue as follows: “You say you are retreating towards capitalism, and we say the same thing; we agree with you!” We are constantly hearing this sort of thing; and abroad a gigantic propaganda campaign is being conducted to prove that while we Bolsheviks are keeping the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries in prison, we ourselves are permitting capitalism. True, we are permitting capitalism, but within the limits that the peasants need. This is essential! Without it the peasants could not exist and continue with their husbandry. But we maintain that the Russian peasants can do very well without Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik propaganda. To those who assert the contrary we say: We would rather perish to the last man than yield to you! And our courts must understand all this. Now that we are passing from the Cheka to state-political courts we must say at this Congress that there is no such thing as above-class courts. Our courts must be elected, proletarian courts; and they must know what it is that we are permitting. They must clearly understand what state capitalism is.
This is the political slogan of the day and not a controversy about what the German professors meant by state capitalism and what we mean by it. We have gone through a great deal since then, and it is altogether unseemly for us to look back.
The degree to which Comrade Preobrazhensky goes off the political track is shown by what he said about an Economic Bureau and about the Programme. What a magnificent thing our Programme is, but how frightfully we garble it! How is that possible? Because some people read it word for word and line by line, and beyond that they will not look. They pick out a passage and say: “There was a controversy over this.” Some say that the line of the Workers’ Faculties and of the Communist local cells was correct, but the line of those who said: “Go easy, treat those specialists more carefully”, was wrong. True, the Communist cells are splendid and so are the Workers’ Faculties, but they are not infallible; they are not saints. . . .
Yes, the Communist cells are the representatives of our Party, and the Workers’ Faculties are the representatives of our class; but the fact that they make mistakes and that we must correct them is an elementary truism. How they are to be corrected I do not know, because I did not attend the meetings of the Central Committee at which this question was discussed. But I do know that the Workers’ Faculties and the Communist cells overdo things in the line they have taken against the professors. After our Central Committee has examined this question in all its aspects and has decided that things have been overdone and that a more cautious line must be adopted towards these professors, who are the representatives of an alien class, Comrade Preobrazhensky comes along, takes out the Programme and says: “No political concessions to this stratum; that would be an infringement of the Programme.”
If we start guiding the Party in this way we shall inevitably go under. And this is not because Comrade Preobrazhensky has wrong ideas about politics in general, a but because he approaches everything from the angle of what is his strongest point; he is a theoretician whose mind is restricted by what is customary and usual; he is a propagandist whose mind is taken up with measures directed to the purpose of propaganda. Everybody is aware of and appreciates this strong point of his, but when he approaches things from the political and administrative angle the result is simply monstrous. Set up an Economic Bureau?! But everybody has just said, everybody has agreed, and we have complete unanimity on the point (and this is very important, for action depends upon this unity) that the Party machinery must be separated from the Soviet government machinery.
It is terribly difficult to do this; we lack the men! But Preobrazhensky comes along and airily says that Stalin has jobs in two Commissariats. Who among us has not sinned in this way? Who has not undertaken several duties at once? And how can we do otherwise? What can we do to preserve the present situation in the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities; to handle all the Turkestan, Caucasian, and other questions? These are all political questions! They have to be settled. These are questions that have engaged the attention of European states for hundreds of years, and only an infinitesimal number of them have been settled in democratic republics. We are settling them; and we need a man to whom the representatives of any of these nations can go and discuss their difficulties in all detail. Where can we find such a man? I don’t think Comrade Preobrazhensky could suggest any better candidate than Comrade Stalin.
The same thing applies to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. This is a vast business; but to be able to handle investigations we must have at the head of it a man who enjoys high prestige, otherwise we shall become submerged in and overwhelmed by petty intrigue.
Comrade Preobrazhensky proposes that an Economic Bureau should be set up; but if we do that all our talk about separating Party activities from Soviet government activities will be just hot air. Comrade Preobrazhensky proposes what appears to be a splendid scheme: on the one hand the Political Bureau, then the Economic Bureau, and then the Organising Bureau. But all this is very fine only on paper; in actual practice it is ridiculous! I positively cannot understand how, after Soviet power has been in existence for five years, a man who has an intuition for vital politics can make and insist upon such a proposal.
What is the difference between the Organising Bureau and the Political Bureau? You cannot draw a hard and fast line between a political question and an organisation question. Any political question may be an organisation question, and vice versa. Only after established practice had shown that questions could be transferred from the Organising Bureau to the Political Bureau was it possible to organise the work of the Central Committee properly.
Has anybody ever proposed anything different? No, because no other rational solution can be proposed. Political questions cannot be mechanically separated from organisation questions. Politics are conducted by definite people; but if other people are going to draft documents, nothing will come of it.
You know perfectly well that there have been revolutions in which parliamentary assemblies drafted documents which were put into effect by people from another class. This led to friction, and they were kicked out. Organisation questions cannot be separated from politics. Politics are concentrated economics.
Comrade Kosior complained about the Central Committee and mentioned names (I have written them all down). I am not personally familiar with the subject, and so I can not answer; but if you, as the Party Congress, are interested, it is your duty to elect a commission to investigate every case and subject Kosior and the persons concerned to examination by third degree. The whole point here is that if the Central Committee is deprived of the right to distribute forces, it will be unable to direct policy. Although we make mistakes when we transfer people from one place to another, nevertheless, I take the liberty of asserting that all the time it has been functioning, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee has made the minimum of mistakes. This is not self-praise. The activities of the Political Bureau are tested not by commissions, not by people appointed by our Party, but by the whiteguards, by our enemies; and the proof is the results of its policy, in which no serious mistakes have been committed.
Comrade Osinsky’s strong point is that if he undertakes anything he pursues it with energy and vigour. We must do all we can to cultivate this strong point of his and to curb his weak points (even if Osinsky raises a howl—he is such a vigorous fellow—this must be done; otherwise, as a worker, he will be done for). We on the Central Committee have taken measures which, I think, will combine his weak points with his strong ones.
If I wanted to polemise with Comrade Osinsky—which I do not want to do—I would say that the weightiest evidence that could be brought against him is the speech he delivered here today. I would have it printed and posted up on a board. . . . There was once a man. . . .
A Deputy People’s Commissar and a leading figure in one of the most important People’s Commissariats, and foremost among those who can draw up a platform on any question, this man proposes that we should adopt the Cabinet system. I assert that this man is absolutely done for. . . . I will not go into this in detail, or polemise; what interests me most is that Comrade Osinsky’s vast energy should be directed into proper channels. If Comrade Osinsky does not, in a comradely way, heed the advice that has been often given to him by the Central Committee, and for which I have been largely responsible, and if he does not moderate his zeal in this matter, he will inevitably find himself in the mire, as he found himself today.
This is very unpleasant for a man who is fond of displaying his character; and it is quite legitimate for a man gifted with a strong character to want to display it. Would to God that everybody had such a character to display. But the Central Committee must see to it that this character is displayed for a useful purpose. The Central Committee must see to it that this talk about a Cabinet is cut short, even if the man who undergoes this circumcision, so to speak, complains about it. This will be beneficial. He must put a curb on his talents to prevent himself from landing in the mire; and he must consult comrades in the other People’s Commissariats and adhere to the general line. Has any one of our Commissariats done anything without controversy? No.
“Improvement of the system of administration and the psychological mobilisation of the masses.” This is sheer murder! If the Congress were to adopt this politically reactionary point of view it would be the surest and best method of committing suicide.
“Improvement of the system of administration”?! Pray God that we succeed, at least, in getting out of the muddle that we are in today.
We have no system?! For five years we have been spending our best efforts in the endeavour to create this system! This system is a tremendous step forward.
The machinery of state is faulty! Do we know what the trouble is? We do not! But Comrade Osinsky talks as if he does. Why, he can sit down and in ten minutes devise a whole system of administration. It will be harmful and a political mistake if his zeal is not curbed. In other channels, however, the zeal he is displaying now will be very useful.
Well, that’s one illustration. And then Comrades Preobrazhensky and Osinsky bore out in their comments what I said about the most important thing, and Comrade Larin proved it still more thoroughly. Look what he did. He hurled accusations at me and laughed and jested very merrily.
He does this magnificently; this is his strong point. If Comrade Larin could display this strong point of his in some field other than that of state activities he would be a thousand times more useful for our Republic; for he is a very capable man and has a vivid imagination. This quality is extremely valuable; it is wrong to think that only poets need imagination. That is a silly prejudice! It is needed even in mathematics; it would have been impossible to discover the differential and integral calculus without imagination. Imagination is a very valuable asset; but Comrade Larin has a little too much of it. I would say, for example, that if Comrade Larin’s stock of imagination were divided equally among all the members of the R.C.P., there would be very good results. (Laughter. Applause. ) But until we can perform this operation, Comrade Larin must be kept away from state, administrative, planning, and economic affairs. Otherwise, we shall have the same thing occurring as did in the old Supreme Economic Council, when Comrade Rykov had not yet recovered, and affairs were directed and documents signed by “Y. Larin” on behalf of the entire Supreme Economic Council. Things were run badly not because Comrade Larin displayed his worst qualities, but on the contrary; it was because he displayed his best qualities—and nobody can have even a shadow of doubt about his devotion and knowledge of affairs. Nevertheless, things were run badly.
This is exactly what I said. True, all these are copybook maxims. As for copybook maxims, even Kamkov poked fun at me for this at the Congress of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. He said: “Today, Lenin is preaching: ’Thou shalt not steal’; and tomorrow he will add: ’Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ This is all that Lenin’s wisdom amounts to.” I heard this from Kamkov, the Socialist-Revolutionary, as far back as 1918. And if Kamkov, who backed these arguments with artillery, made no impression on anyone, what impression can Comrade Larin’s jokes make? Now we must concentrate all our attention on the major problems of our New Economic Policy. Here Comrade Larin tried to divert the Party on to the wrong road. If he were engaged with matters on which he could usefully display his numerous talents, where he could be of great benefit to the younger generation, and where he would not play such a trick as he played in the State Planning Commission, it would be entirely different. If he were engaged in such work he would make an impression on the younger generation—I think I am speaking plainly enough—and we should not have the confusion that he has caused here.
I said that Comrade Kamenev proposed on the Political Bureau that a resolution be adopted to the effect that it would be useful to import food and that canned goods be purchased with Soviet currency. Larin sat here, heard this perfectly well, and remembering it perfectly well, said as soon as he got on to the platform: “Lenin forgot, owing to ill health—we shall forgive him this time—that the permission of the Political Bureau has to be obtained for disbursements from the gold reserve.” Had Comrade Kamenev proposed that we should take money out of the gold reserve and give it to French profiteers in exchange for canned goods we would not have listened to him. We did not offer a single gold kopek for the canned goods, we offered Soviet paper cumncy and—just imagine—it was accepted. Wolfson even assured me yesterday that these canned goods were of good quality (although they have not arrived yet); but I shall not believe him until we have tasted them, because here they may try to cheat us. The point is, however, that Comrade Larin garbled the facts; we did not spend a single gold kopek; we spent 160,000 million Soviet paper rubles.
Of course, it would be ridiculous and absurd to think that Comrade Larin did this with malicious intent. No, that is not the point. The point is that his imagination soars a trillion kilometres high and, as a consequence, he mixes everything up.
Then he went on to say that the State Planning Commission had proposed to lease out three-fourths of our railways. It is a good thing that he said this at the Party Congress, where Krzhizhanovsky immediately refuted him. It does not often happen like that. You think that talk of this sort is heard only at Party congresses? Inquire at the Central Control Commission and they will tell you how they examined the case of the Moscow Debating Club, and what brought up the case of the Moscow Debating Club, where Comrades Larin and Ryazanov. . . . (Ryazanov from his seat : “I said nothing about the gold reserve there; worse things were said.”) I was not in Moscow and took no part in the investigation of this case, I merely had a brief report. . . . (Ryazanov : “Don’t believe every rumour.”) I learned this from a conversation I had with Comrade Solts; it is not a rumour, but a conversation I had with a man whom our supreme body, the Party Congress, had appointed to the Central Control Commission. It was he who told me; and what he told me cannot rouse the slightest doubt. One must be very thoughtless to call this a rumour. The Central Control Commission investigated the affair of the Debating Club and was obliged to state unanimously that it was not being run properly. What is wrong is quite clear to me. Today, Larin, in passing, carried away by his own eloquence, went to the length of saying that a proposal had been made to lease out three-fourths of our railways, but that the Central Committee had put the matter right. Krzhizhanovsky said that nothing of the kind had happened; the Central Committee had put nothing right; Larin had simply muddled up his facts. This is constantly happening.
For four years we have been unable to put a useful worker like Larin to really useful work and to relieve him of work where he causes harm, in spite of himself.
The situation is rather unnatural, I think. We have the dictatorship of the proletariat, a reign of terror, victory over all the armies in the world, but no victory over Larin’s army! Here we have suffered utter defeat! He is always doing what he has no business to do. His vast knowledge and his ability to enthuse people would be of real benefit to the younger generation, which is groping in the dark. We are unable to utilise his knowledge, and this gives rise to friction and resistance. Here the Political Bureau, the Organising Bureau of the Central Committee and the Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, which are accused of enjoying too much authority, turn out to have insufficient authority, or prestige, to distribute all the comrades properly.
We must think this question over and discuss it seriously. This is the pivot of our work, and we must set things right here. If we do, we shall emerge from our difficulties. We shall achieve this by rectifying things, but not by talking about the new tasks of the Agrarian Programme as Osinsky and Larin did. I wrote a review of this programme for the Central Committee. I shall not discuss it now; every member of the Party interested in the subject has a right to go to the Secretariat and read it there. Please do so. If we divert the efforts of Larin and Osinsky into the proper channels and curb their misguided zeal, enormous benefit will accrue.
In conclusion I shall say a few words about Shlyapnikov. I intended to speak about him at greater length, but ninety nine per cent of this subject has been covered by Trotsky and Zinoviev, who on instructions of the Central Committee replied to the Statement of the Twenty-Two at the meeting of the Communist International.
Firstly, Comrade Shlyapnikov pretended not to understand why I referred to machine-guns and panic-mongers; and he jokingly said that he had been tried lots of times. Of course, comrades, it is not a bad thing to make a joke. One cannot speak at a big meeting without cracking a joke or two, because one’s audience gets weary. One must be human. But there are certain things that one must not joke about; there is such a thing as Party unity.
At a time when we are completely surrounded by enemies; when the international bourgeoisie is sufficiently astute to shift Milyukov to the left, to supply the Socialist-Revolutionaries with money for the publication of all sorts of newspapers and to incite Vandervelde and Otto Bauer to launch a campaign against the trial of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and to howl that the Bolsheviks are brutes; when all these people, who have studied politics for ages and have thousands of millions of gold rubles, francs, etc., at their disposal, are arrayed against us, for Comrade Shlyapnikov to crack jokes and to say: “I have been tried by the Central Committee”, and so forth, is a deplorable thing, comrades. The Party Congress must draw definite conclusions. We do not arrange trials at the Central Committee for nothing! Comrade Shlyapnikov was tried by the Central Committee, and we were short of three votes to expel him from the Party. The members of the Party gathered at this Congress should interest themselves in the matter and read the minutes of that meeting of the Central Committee. This is no laughing matter!
You have a legitimate right to appeal to the Communist International. But a long time before that appeal was lodged a large majority of the Central Committee was in favour of expelling Comrade Shlyapnikov; only the necessary two-third vote was lacking. You cannot trifle with a thing like that! It will do you no harm to know that at the meeting of the Communist group at the Metalworkers’ Congress Comrade Shlyapnikov openly advocated a split.
Comrade Trotsky has already dealt with the significance of Comrade Kollontai’s pamphlet.
If we trifle with things like this it will be utterly hopeless to expect that we shall hold on in the difficult situation in which we now find ourselves. I have indicated the three conditions under which it will be possible for us to hold on: first, that there shall be no intervention; second, that the financial crisis shall not be too severe; and third, that we shall make no political mistakes.
One of the speakers stated that I said political complications. No, I said political mistakes. If we make no political mistakes, I say, 99 per cent of the Party membership will be with us, and so also will the non-Party workers and peasants, who will understand that this is the time to learn.
I remember that in the article he wrote on the anniversary of the Red Army Comrade Trotsky said: “A year of tuition.” This slogan applies equally to the Party and to the working class. During this period we have rallied around us a vast number of heroic people who have undoubtedly made the turn in world history permanent. But this does not justify our failure to understand that we now have ahead of us a “year of tuition”.
We are standing much more firmly on our feet today than we stood a year ago. Of course, even today the bourgeoisie may attempt another armed intervention, but they will find it much more difficult than before; it is much more difficult today than it was yesterday.
To ensure ourselves the opportunity to learn we must make no political mistakes. We must waste no time playing with the unity of the Party, as Comrade Shlyapnikov is doing. We cannot afford games of that kind! We know that the conflict within the Party is costing us a great deal. Comrades, we must not forget this lesson! Concerning the past year, the Central Committee has every right to say that at the opening of this Congress there was less factional strife in the Party, it was more united than last year. I do not want to boast that all factionalism in the Party has vanished. But it is an incontrovertible fact that there is less factionalism in the Party today. This has been proved.
You know that the present Workers’ Opposition is only a wreck of the former Workers’ Opposition. Compare the signatures appended to the Statement of the Twenty-Two with those appended to the platform that was issued before the Tenth Congress. You will find that many of those signatures are missing. We must tell those people who legitimately used their right to appeal to the Communist International that they had no right to appeal on behalf of Myasnikov. The Myasnikov case came up last summer, I was not in Moscow at the time, but I wrote Myasnikov a long letter, which he inserted in his pamphlet. I saw that he was a capable man and that it was worth while having a talk with him; but this man must be told that if he comes out with criticism of this sort it will not be tolerated.
He writes a letter saying: “Collect all the discontented in the district.” Yes, it is not a very difficult matter to collect all the discontented in a district. Take the speeches that Shlyapnikov delivers here, and which Comrade Medvedyev delivers elsewhere. (Medvedyev from his seat : “Where did you obtain your information?”) I obtained my information from the bodies appointed by the Congress of the R.C.P.: the Organising Bureau of the Central Committee, the Secretariat of the Central Committee, and the Central Control Commission. Make inquiries there, if you like, and you will learn what sort of speeches Comrade Medvedyev delivers. If we do not put a stop to this sort of thing we shall be unable to maintain unity which, perhaps, is our greatest asset. We must ruthlessly expose our mistakes and discuss them. If we clearly understand this—and we are beginning to understand it at this Congress—there is not the slightest doubt that we shall be able to overcome them. (Stormy applause. )
Speech In Closing The Congress April 2
Comrades, we have reached the end of our Congress.
The first difference that strikes one in comparing this Congress with the preceding one is the greater solidarity, the greater unanimity and greater organisational unity that have been displayed.
Only a small part of one of the sections of the opposition that existed at the last Congress has placed itself outside the Party.
On the trade union question and on the New Economic Policy no disagreements, or hardly any disagreements, have been revealed in our Party.
The radically and fundamentally “new” achievement of this Congress is that it has provided vivid proof that our enemies are wrong in constantly reiterating that our Party is becoming senile and is losing its flexibility of mind and body.
No. We have not lost this flexibility.
When the objective state of affairs in Russia, and all over the world, called for an advance, for a supremely bold, swift and determined onslaught on the enemy, we made that onslaught. If necessary, we shall do it again and again.
By that we raised our revolution to a height hitherto unparalleled in the world. No power on earth, no matter how much evil, hardship and suffering it may yet cause millions and hundreds of millions of people, can annul the major gains of our revolution, for these are no longer our but historic gains.
But when in the spring of 1921 it turned out that the vanguard of the revolution was in danger of becoming isolated from the masses of the people, from the masses of the peasants, whom it must skilfully lead forward, we unanimously and firmly decided to retreat. And on the whole, during the past year we retreated in good revolutionary order.
The proletarian revolutions maturing in all advanced countries of the world will be unable to solve their problems unless they combine the ability to fight heroically and to attack with the ability to retreat in good revolutionary order. The experience of the second period of our struggle, i.e., the experience of retreat, will in the future probably be just as useful to the workers of at least some countries, as the experience of the first period of our revolution, i.e., the experience of bold attack, will undoubtedly prove useful to the workers of all countries.
Now we have decided to halt the retreat.
This means that the entire object of our policy must be formulated in a new way.
The central feature of the situation now is that the vanguard must not shirk the work of educating itself, of remoulding itself, must not be afraid of frankly admitting that it is not sufficiently trained and lacks the necessary skill. The main thing now is to advance as an immeasurably wider and larger mass, and only together with the peasantry, proving to them by deeds, in practice, by experience, that we are learning, and that we shall learn to assist them, to lead them forward. In the present international situation, in the present state of the productive forces of Russia, this problem can be solved only very slowly, cautiously, in a business-like way, and by testing a thousand times in a practical way every step that is taken.
If voices are raised in our Party against this extremely slow and extremely cautious progress, these voices will be isolated ones.
The Party as a whole has understood—and will now prove by deeds that it has understood—that at the present time its work must be organised exactly along these lines, and since we have understood it, we shall achieve our goal.
I declare the Eleventh Congress of the Russian Communist Party closed.
 The Eleventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) was held in Moscow on March 27-April 2, 1922.
It was convened a year after the Civil War ended and the country went over to peaceful economic devolopment. Its purpose was to sum up the results of the first year of the New Economic Policy and map out the further plan of socialist construction.
This was the last Party Congress in which Lenin participated. It was attended by 522 delegates with a casting vote and 165 delegates with a consultative voice. It discussed 1) the political report of the Central Committee, 2) the organisation report of the Central Committee, 3) the report of the Auditing Commission, 5) the report of thc Central Control Commission, 5) the report of the Communist International, 6) the trade unions, 7) the Red Army, 8) the financial policy, 9) the results of the Party purge and the accompanying strengthening of the Party ranks, and the co-reports on work with young people and on the press and propaganda, and 10) elections to the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission.
Lenin opened the Congress, delivered the political report of the R.C.P.(B.), a closing speech on the report and a speech closing the Congress.
 Here Lenin refers to Matyas Rakosi’s article “The New Economic Policy in Soviet Russia, which analyses Otto Bauer’s pamphlet “Der neue Kurs” in Sowjetrussland (“The New Policy” in Soviet Russia), published in Vienna in 1921. Rakosi’s article appeared in March 22 in the magazine Communist International, No. 20. Communist International, organ of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, was published in Russian, German, French, English, Spanish and Chinese. The first issue was put out on May 1, 1919. Publication was stopped in June 1943 following the decision of the Presidium of the Comintern Exccutive Committee of May 15, 1943 to dissolve the Conmunist International.
 Lenin has in mind the struggle waged abroad between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.
 The Commission for Mixed Companies under the Council of Labour and Defence. This Commission was set up by a decision of the Council of Labour and Defence on February 15, 1922. Its Chairman was Sokolnikov.
 The Northern Timber Trust was a special administrative body of the timber industry of the North White Sea area. It was established in 1921.
 Persuader-in-Chief was the nickname given by the soldiers to A. F. Kerensky, then the War and Navy Minister of the Provisional Government, for trying to persuade the soldiers to start an offensive when he toured the front in the summer of 1917. This attempt was made on orders from the Anglo-French imperialists and the Russian bourgeoisie.
 Alexander Todorsky’s book A Year With a Rifle and a Plough was published in 1918 by the Vesyegonsk Uyezd Executive Committee of Soviets, Tver Gubernia. Lenin speaks of this book in his article “A Little Picture in Illustration of Big Problems” (see present edition, Vol. 28, pp. 386-89).
 The Central Verification Commission was set up on June 25, 1921 by the C.C., R.C.P.(B.) to direct the work of local verification commissions during the period of the Party purge. It consisted of five men.
 At the Congress E. A. Preobrazhensky suggested that another organ of the Central Committee, an Economic Bureau, should be set up in addition to the Political Bureau and the Organising Bureau. He accused the Central Committee of violating that part of the Party Programme dealing with bourgeois specialists, which stated that while creating a comradely atmosphere for the work of these people and showing concern for their material welfare no political concessions should be made to them and their counter-revolutionary impulses should be curbed. He alleged that the C.C. had made a political concession to the professors who had taken part in the strikes at institutions of higher learning in Moscow, Kazan, Petrograd and other cities in 1921-22. One of their basic demands was that the new Rules of Institutions of Higher Learning, drawn up by the Central Administration of Vocational and Political Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning and endorsed in the autumn of 1921 by the Council of People’s Commissars, should be revised. They objected to the Workers Faculties at institutions of higher learning and to the procedure, laid down in the new Rules, of forming the boards of these institutions with the participation of representatives of the students, trade unions and the Central Administration of Vocational and Political Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning. They demanded that the latter right be transferred to the teachers’ boards, and also made a number of economic demands. The Central Administration of Vocational and Political Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning, which was at that time headed by Preobrazhensky, made the mistake of insisting on stern measures, including detention, against the striking instructors. The same stand was taken by the Communist cells and Workers’ Faculties of some institutions of higher learning. The Political Bureau of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.) took this question up several times. In view of the need for a flexible approach to specialists, it rectified the mistake of the Central Administration of Vocational and Political Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning, instructing A. V. Lunacharsky, M. N. Pokrovsky and other leading officials of the People’s Commissariat of Public Education to examine the teachers’ demands and, without making any fundamental, political concessions, to reach agreement with them. In February 1922 the Political Bureau set up a commission consisting of representatives of the People’s Commissariat of Public Education, the Central Committee of the Trade Union of Public Education Workers and teachers to examine the economic position of institutions of higher learning and recognise the need or new Rules of Institutions of Higher Learning. After repeated conferences between the teachers and the commission, and a number of other measures that were taken by the People’s Commissariat of Public Education on instructions from the Party C.C., the strikes were stopped.
 J. V. Stalin was People’s Commissar of Nationalities from the time the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities was set up on October 26 (November 8), 1917 to its dissolution in July 1923. As from March 1919, he was also People’s Commissar of State Control, and after the reorganisation of this Commissariat in February 1920, he was People’s Commissar of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection until April 25, 1922.
 N. Osinsky (V. V. Obolensky), speaking at the Congress, proposed that a “Cabinet” of Commissars be set up. His suggestion was that it should be formed not by the All-Russia Central Executive Cornmittee but unilaterally by its Chairman, who would be responsible to A.R.C.E.C. While Osinsky spoke Lenin made the following entry in his note book: “(Set up a cabinet! ) one member should form the Cabinet” (Lenin Miscellany XIII, 1930, p. 22).
 At the Congress Y. Larin alleged that an authorised body of the State Planning Commission had proposed that at the Genoa Conference the Soviet delegation should offer to lease (as a concession) three-quarters of the country’s railways, the Petrograd-Rybinsk waterway, the iron and steel plants in the Urals with a railway network of 3,000 versts, and the power engineering industry. This allegation was refuted by G. M. Krzhizhanovsky.
 The Debating Club at the Moscow Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) was organised in August 1921. Similar clubs were opened in various parts of Moscow. They debated Party and Soviet development, the Soviet Republic’s economic policy and other problems. However, the Debating Club soon began to be used by opposition groups as a forum for propagandising their views. On February 20,1922, the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) examined the question of the Debating Club on the basis of a report from the Central Control Commission and instructed the Moscow Committee to reconsider the composition of the Club’s board and to organise its work in conformity with the Party’s tasks.
 See present volume, To Comrade Molotov For The Members Of The Political Bureau .
 This anti-Party statement was sent on February 26, 1922 to the Presidium of the Extended Plenary Meeting of the Comintern Executive Committee by a group of members of the former Workers’ Opposition (A. G. Shlyapnikov, S. P. Medvedyev, A. M. Kollontai, G. I. Myasnikov and others, which continued to exist as a faction despite the resolution “On Party Unity” passed by the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.). The statement claimed that “matters were unsatisfactory with regard to a united front in our country”, that the leading Party bodies were ignoring the requirements and interests of the workers and that a split was impending in the Party. The Comintern Executive Committee appointed a commission consisting of Clara Zetkin, Marcel Cachin, Jacob Friis, Vasil Kolarov, Karl Krejbich, Umberto Terracini and Arthur McManus to look into the Statement of the Twenty-Two. On March 4, on the basis of the report of this commission, a Plenary Meeting of the Comintern Executive Committee, with four abstentions, passed a resolution rejecting the accusations in the statement and censured the stand of the twenty-two as running counter to the decisions of the Tenth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.). The Eleventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) appointed a commission of 19 persons to examine the Statement of the Twenty Two. On April 2, on the basis of the report of this commission, a closed session of the Congress adopted a special resolution “On Certain Members of the Former Workers’ Opposition”, in which it stigmatised the anti-Party behaviour of members of the Workers’ Opposition group, and warned the leaders of the group that they would be expelled from the Party if they renewed their factional activity.
 On a motion proposed by Lenin, the joint sitting of the Plenary Meeting of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission on August 9, 1921, exmined the question of expelling A. Shlyapnikov from the Central Committee and from the Party for anti-Party activity.
 In Motovilikha District, Perm Gubernia, G. I. Myasnikov organised an anti-Party group which opposed the Party’s policy. On July 29, 1921, the Organising Bureau of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.) examined Myasnikov’s statements in the Perm organisation, found that they were directed against the Party and set up a commission to investigate Myasnikov’s activities. On August 22, acting on the basis of the report of this commission, the Organising Bureau found Myasnikov’s theses incompatible with Party interests, prohibited him from speaking of his theses at official Party meetings, recalled him from the Perm organisation and placed him at the disposal of the Central Committee. Myasnikov disobeyed the Central Committee, returned to Motovilikha and continued his anti-Party activities. At the same time, he tried to organise an anti-Party group in Petrograd. After investigating his activities, the C.C., R.C.P.(B.) commission proposed that he should be expelled from tho Party for repeated violations of Party discipline and for organising a special anti-Party group in defiance of the Tenth Party Congress decision on Party unity. On February 20, 1922, the Political Bureau approved the commission’s decision on Myasnikov’s expulsion from the Party, with the provision that he should have the right to apply for Party membership in a year (see Eleventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.). Verbatim Report, Moscow, 1961, pp. 748-49).
 See present edition, Vol. 32, pp. 504-09.