J. V. Stalin
Source: Works, Vol. 6, January-November, 1924, pp. 315-326
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
First Published: Pravda, No. 242, October 23, 1924
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Comrades, I would like first of all to deal with the defects in the reports that were heard here. In my opinion, there were two principal defects.
The first defect is that the delegates spoke all the time about successes and scarcely mentioned the defects of our work in the countryside, although there are hosts of them. They told us about the Party standing, date of birth and the number of members in the units, and so forth, but said almost nothing about the defects in our work. And yet, the question of the defects in our work in the countryside is the fundamental question of our practical work. Hence, if you will excuse my saying so, there was a certain touch of officialdom about the reports. Any outsider who heard the reports might have thought that people had come to give an account of themselves to the Central Committee, saying: “the work is proceeding satisfactorily,” or “all is well.” That is of no use, comrades, for we all know, both we and you, that all is not well with the work, either with your work in the localities, or with our work in the Central Committee.
The second defect in the reports is that they dealt mainly with the Party units themselves, with the mood prevailing in them, but, for some reason, no mention was made of the mood of the millions of non-Party peasants. It turns out that the Communists are concerned mainly with themselves: the internal life of the units, how many lectures have been delivered, what kind of propaganda is conducted, and so forth. It turns out that the Communists mostly keep their eyes on themselves and forget that they are surrounded by an ocean of non-Party people, without whose support the entire work of the units stands in danger of being reduced to useless botch-work. What are the relations between the Party organisations and the non-Party masses? About this nothing, or almost nothing, was said. It is wrong to keep your eyes only on yourselves. You must look first of all at the millions of non-Party peasants, study their needs and wishes and reckon with their requirements and moods. This explains the dryness of and the bureaucratic touch about the reports.
Those are the two principal defects that I wanted to mention in order that the comrades should take note of them.
I shall ask you again, comrades, to excuse me for telling you the blunt truth. But I earnestly ask you to tell us in your turn the truth about the defects and mistakes in the work of the Central Committee.
And now to business.
What is our Party’s chief defect at the present time, under the conditions of the NEP, when the peasantry is displaying greater political activity, and when much more is demanded of the Party than was demanded, say, two years ago?
The chief defect of our Party is the weakness of its work in the countryside, its lack of organisation and its poor quality. What is the cause of this weakness? How are we to explain the fact that Party work in the towns is going full steam ahead, whereas in the countryside it is in a bad way? Is not agriculture developing? Have not the conditions of the peasants improved during the past two years since the surplus-appropriation system was abolished? Are not the growth of industry and the supply of urban manufactures easing the conditions of the peasants? Has not the stable currency eased the conditions of the peasants? What is the source, then, of the weakness of our Party’s work in the countryside? To answer this question it is necessary, first of all, to decide another question: What is the source of our Party’s strength in the towns?
And so, wherein lies the strength of our Party in the towns? Its chief strength in the towns lies in the fact that it has around it a wide non-Party active of workers, numbering several hundred thousand, which serves as a bridge between the Party and the vast mass of the working class. Our Party is strong in the towns because between the Party and the vast mass of the working class there is not a wall, but a connecting bridge, in the shape of a mass active of non-Party workers numbering several hundred thousand. The Party recruits forces from this active. Through it the Party wins the confidence of the masses. You have heard that six months ago over 200,000 workers joined our Party. Where did they come from? From the non-Party active, which creates an atmosphere of confidence around our Party, links it with the rest of the non-Party masses. Hence, the non-Party active is not only a connecting bridge, but also the very ample reservoir from which our Party draws new forces. Without such an active our Party could not develop. The Party grows and gains strength if a wide non-Party active grows and gains strength around the Party. The Party grows sick and feeble if there is no such active.
And so, wherein lies the weakness of our Party work in the countryside?
It lies in the fact that the Party does not have in the countryside a wide non-Party active of peasants that could link the Party with the tens of millions of toiling peasants in our country.
What is the situation in the countryside? There is a thin network of Party units in the countryside. Then comes an equally thin network of non-Party peasants who sympathise with the Party. Beyond it stretches an ocean of non-Party people, tens of millions of peasants, whom the thin network of the non-Party active does not and cannot link with the Party. This, properly speaking, explains why this thin network cannot stand the strain, why it often breaks and, instead of a connecting bridge, a blank wall sometimes rises between the Party and the non-Party masses in the countryside.
Hence, our Party’s chief task in the countryside is to create a numerous, non-Party peasant active, numbering several hundred thousand, capable of linking the Party with the tens of millions of toiling peasants. Comrades! Either we create such an active and thereby raise our Party’s position in the countryside to the level existing in the towns, and then no problems and no difficulties need daunt us, or we fail to create such an active, in which case all our work in the countryside will be in a bad way. It is this that we must now make the focal point of all our work. Unless our Party creates such an active, which must be numerous, and must consist of genuine peasants, our Party is doomed to chronic ailment in the countryside. Of course, this is a difficult task; such an active cannot be created in one year. But created it must be, and the sooner we begin to create it, the better.
But how is such an active to be created? How is, this problem to be solved? To think that it can be solved by means of verbal propaganda, by quoting from books, would be a great mistake. A wide, non-Party peasant active can be created around the Party only in the course of mass work in connection with the practical needs of the countryside, in the course of extensive Soviet constructive work in the countryside, by drawing the peasants into the work of volost, district, uyezd and gubernia administration. To revitalise the Soviets, to put them on their feet, to draw all the best elements of the peasantry into the Soviets—that is the way in which a wide, non-Party peasant active can be built up.
Lenin said that the Soviets are the organ of the bond between the workers and the peasants, the organ through which the workers lead the peasants. And so, if we want to ensure that the political activity of the toiling peasants does not become detached from the leadership of the workers, we must take all measures to ensure that the peasants are drawn into the Soviets, that the Soviets are revitalised and put on their feet, that the peasantry find an outlet for their political activity by participating unfailingly in the administration of the country. Only in the course of such work can the peasantry provide extensive cadres of a non-Party active. Only from such an active can the Party select tens of thousands of members in the countryside.
To revitalise the Soviets, however, apart from everything else, one condition must be fulfilled. To achieve this the very approach to the peasants must be radically changed. What must be the nature of this change? It consists in the Communist learning to approach the non-Party man as an equal. He must not domineer, but carefully heed the voice of the non-Party people. He must not only teach the non-Party people, but also learn from them. And we have something to learn from the non-Party people. The question of the relations between Party and non-Party people is a major question of our Party practice. Lenin defined those relations by the term: mutual confidence. But the non-Party peasant cannot display confidence when he is not treated as an equal. In such cases, instead of confidence, distrust is created, and often the result is that a blank wall rises between the Party and the non-Party people, the Party is divorced from the masses and the bond between the workers and peasants is converted into estrangement.
A vivid illustration of such a turn of affairs is the recent revolt in Georgia.2 Our newspapers write that the events in Georgia were stage-managed. That is true, for, in general, the revolt in Georgia was an artificial, not a popular revolt. Nevertheless, in some places, thanks to the bad link between the Communist Party and the masses, the Mensheviks succeeded in drawing a section of the peasant masses into the revolt. It is characteristic that they are the localities that are the most saturated with communist forces. There are relatively far more Communists in those localities than in the rest. And yet it was there that our people missed, overlooked, failed to notice the fact that there was unrest among the peasants, that something was brewing among them, that there was discontent among them, that it had been growing day by day, and the Party knew nothing about it. In the places that were most saturated with Communists, the latter proved to be most divorced from the sentiments, thoughts and aspirations of the non-Party peasantry. That is the crux of the problem.
How could this incongruous thing have happened? It happened because the Communists did not know how to approach the peasants in the Leninist way; instead of an atmosphere of confidence they created an atmosphere of mutual distrust and thus divorced the Party from the non-Party peasants. An interesting point is that one of the most active responsible workers in Georgia attributes this incongruity to the weakness of the local Soviets and to the Party being divorced from the non-Party people. “Undoubtedly,” he says, “the prime reason why we failed to see that a revolt was brewing is to be found in the weakness of the local Soviets.” Lenin said that the Soviets are the surest barometer, the surest indicator of the mood of the peasantry. Now, it was just this barometer that the Communist Party in some of the uyezds of Georgia lacked.
Comrades, the events in Georgia must be regarded as symptomatic. What happened in Georgia may be repeated all over Russia if we do not radically change our very approach to the peasantry, if we do not create an atmosphere of complete confidence between the Party and the non-Party people, if we do not heed the voice of the non-Party people, and, lastly, if we do not revitalise the Soviets in order to provide an outlet for the political activity of the toiling masses of the peasantry.
One thing or the other: either we succeed in adopting the correct Leninist approach to the non-Party peasants in order to direct the growing political activity of the peasantry into the channel of constructive Soviet work and thus ensure that the peasants are led by the workers, or we fail to do this, in which case the political activity of the masses will by-pass the Soviets, will pass over the heads of the Soviets, and take the form of bandit revolts like that which occurred in Georgia.
That is how the question stands, comrades.
To illustrate how tactlessly the peasants are approached sometimes, a few words must be said about anti-religious propaganda. Occasionally, some comrades are inclined to regard the peasants as materialist philosophers and to think that it is enough to deliver a lecture on natural science to convince the peasant of the nonexistence of God. Often they fail to realise that the peasant looks on God in a practical way, i.e., he is not averse to turning away from God sometimes, but he is often torn by doubt: “Who knows, maybe there is a God after all. Would it not be better to please both the Communists and God, as being safer for my affairs?” He who fails to take this peculiar mentality of the peasant into account totally fails to understand what the relations between Party and non-Party people should be, fails to understand that in matters concerning anti-religious propaganda a careful approach is needed even to the peasant’s prejudices.
And so we arrive at the following conclusions:
1) The chief defect of Party work in the countryside is the absence of a wide, non-Party peasant active between the Party and the tens of millions of non-Party peasants.
2) The Party’s immediate task is to create such an active around the Party in the countryside to serve as a source from which the Party could recruit new forces.
3) Such an active can be created only by revitalising the Soviets and by drawing the peasants into the work of governing the country.
4) To revitalise the Soviets a radical change must be made in our approach to the non-Party peasants; there must be no domineering, and an atmosphere of mutual confidence must be created between Party and non-Party people.
Such are the Party’s tasks.
Are there favourable conditions for carrying out these tasks? Undoubtedly, there are. There are three such conditions—I have in mind the principal ones.
Firstly. The growing political activity of the rural poor. Attention should be paid to certain specific features of the development of agriculture. Whereas the development of industry is uniting the workers, putting an end to the declassing of the working class and restoring it as an integral whole, in the countryside, on the contrary, the development of agriculture is leading to the disintegration, to the differentiation, of the peasantry, to the formation of two camps: the camp of the kulaks, who are striving to capture the commanding positions in the countryside, and the camp of the poor peasants, who are seeking allies against the kulaks. Undoubtedly, revitalising the Soviets will provide an outlet for the growing activity of the rural poor in order to create a united front, headed by the workers, against the domination of the kulaks, profiteers and usurers.
Secondly. The institution of local budgets as the material basis for revitalising the Soviets. Needless to say, budget questions, the collections of taxes and modes of expenditure, are of major importance for the peasantry. Hence, the participation of the peasantry in constructive Soviet work is now of more urgent importance than ever before.
Thirdly. The timely assistance rendered by the Soviet government to the famine-stricken districts of our country. Undoubtedly, this assistance has created among the peasants an atmosphere of confidence towards the Soviet government. It scarcely needs proof that this atmosphere will facilitate the work of revitalising the Soviets.
And so, we have before us not only certain immediate tasks which our Party must carry out in the countryside, but also a number of favourable conditions which facilitate the fulfilment of these tasks. It is now a matter of setting to work with a will on their fulfillment.
In this connection we must bear in mind Lenin’s immortal words to the effect that our Party’s strength lies in maintaining living contact with the millions of non-Party people, that the more effective this contact is, the more durable will be our successes. He uttered those words at the Eleventh Congress of our Party. Here they are:
“Among the mass of the people we (the Communists—J. St.) are after all but a drop in the ocean, and we can administer only when we properly express 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.”* 3
1. The conference of secretaries of rural Party units called by the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) took place on October 21-24, 1924. There were present 62 local Party workers, of whom 4 represented central regions and Gubernia Committees, 15 represented Area and District Committees, 17 represented Volost Committees, 11 represented village units, 11 represented Y.C.L. units and 4 were volost organisers of peasant women. The conference heard the following reports: “Immediate Tasks of Rural Units,” by V. M. Molotov; “The New Regulations Governing Peasant Mutual Aid Contatittees,” by M. I. Kalinin; “The Local Soviet Apparatus,” by L. M. Kaganovich, and “Political and Educational Work in the Countryside,” by N. K. Krupskaya. Reports were also delivered on the situation in the localities, and other questions were discussed. J. V. Stalin took part in the proceedings, and at the sitting on October 22 he spoke on “The Party’s Immediate Tasks in the Countryside.”
2. This refers to the counter-revolutionary revolt in Georgia at the end of August 1924, organised by the Georgian Mensheviks and bourgeois nationalists, who were supported by the leaders of the Second International and by agents of foreign governments. The revolt was quickly put down with the active assistance of the Georgian workers and toiling peasant masses.
* My italics.—J. St.
3. See V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 33, p. 273.