J. V. Stalin

Emulation and Labour Enthusiasm of the Masses

Foreword to E. Mikulina’s Pamphlet “Emulation of the Masses”

Source: Works, Vol. 12, April 1929-June 1930, pp. 114-117
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
First Published: Pravda, No. 114, May 22, 1929
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.

It is hardly open to doubt that one of the most important features—if not the most important—of our constructive work at the present moment is the wide development of emulation among the vast masses of the workers. Emulation between whole mills and factories in the most diverse corners of our boundless country; emulation between workers and peasants; emulation between collective farms and state farms; registration of these mass-scale production challenges in specific agreements of the working people—all these are facts which leave no doubt whatever that socialist emulation among the masses has already become a reality.

A mighty upsurge of production enthusiasm. among the masses of the working people has begun.

Now even the most confirmed sceptics are forced to admit this.

“Far from extinguishing emulation,” Lenin says, “socialism for the first time creates the opportunity for employing it on a really wide and on a really mass scale, for really drawing the majority of the working people into the arena of such work as enables them to display their abilities, develop their capacities, reveal their talents, of which there is an untapped spring among the people, and which capitalism crushed, suppressed and strangled among thousands and millions.”. . .

. . .“Only now is the opportunity created on a wide scale for a truly mass display of enterprise, emulation and bold initiative”. . . because "for the first time after centuries of working for others, of working under compulsion for the exploiters, it has become possible to work for oneself.”. . .

. . .“Now that a socialist Government is in power, our task is to organise emulation.” 1

It was from these propositions of Lenin that the Sixteenth Conference of the C.P.S.U.(B.) proceeded when it issued the special appeal for emulation to the workers and all labouring people.

Certain “comrades” of the bureaucratic type think that emulation is just the latest Bolshevik fashion, and that, as such, it is bound to die out when the "season" passes. These bureaucratic “comrades” are, of course, mistaken. In point of fact, emulation is the communist method of building socialism, on the basis of the maximum activity of the vast masses of the working people. In point of fact, emulation is the lever with which the working class is destined to transform the entire economic and cultural life of the country on the basis of socialism.

Other “comrades” of the bureaucratic type, frightened by the powerful tide of emulation, are trying to compress it within artificial bounds and canalise it, to “centralize” the emulation movement, to narrow its scope and thus deprive it of its most important feature—the initiative of the masses. It goes without saying that the hopes of the bureaucrats will not be realised. At any rate, the Party will make every effort to shatter them.

Socialist emulation must not be regarded as a bureaucratic undertaking. Socialist emulation is a manifestation of practical revolutionary self-criticism by the masses, springing from the creative initiative of the vast masses of the working people. All who, wittingly or unwittingly, restrict this self-criticism and creative initiative of the masses must be brushed aside as an impediment to our great cause.

The bureaucratic danger manifests itself concretely above all in the fact that it shackles the energy, initiative and independent activity of the masses, keeps concealed the colossal reserves latent in the depths of our system, deep down in the working class and peasantry, and prevents these reserves from being utilised in the struggle against our class enemies. It is the task of socialist emulation to smash these bureaucratic shackles, to afford broad scope for the unfolding of the energy and creative initiative of the masses, to bring to light the colossal reserves latent in the depths of our system, and to throw them into the scale in the struggle against our class enemies both inside and outside our country.

Socialist emulation is sometimes confused with competition. That is a great mistake. Socialist emulation and competition exhibit two entirely different principles.

The principle of competition is: defeat and death for some and victory and domination for others.

The principle of socialist emulation is: comradely assistance by the foremost to the laggards, so as to achieve an advance of all.

Competition says: Destroy the laggards so as to establish your own domination.

Socialist emulation says: Some work badly, others work well, yet others best of all—catch up with the best and secure the advance of all.

That, in fact, explains the unprecedented production enthusiasm which has gripped the vast masses of the working people as a result of socialist emulation. It goes without saying that competition can never call forth anything resembling this enthusiasm of the masses.

Of late, articles and comments on emulation have been more frequent in our press. They discuss the philosophy of emulation, the roots of emulation, the possible results of emulation and so on. But one rarely finds an article which gives any coherent description of how emulation is put into effect by the masses themselves, what the vast masses of the workers experience when practising emulation and signing agreements, a description showing that the masses of the workers regard emulation as their own cause, near and dear to them. Yet this side of emulation is of the highest importance for us.

I think that Comrade E. Mikulina’s pamphlet is the first attempt to give a coherent exposition of data from the practice of emulation, showing it as an undertaking of the masses of the working people themselves. The merit of this pamphlet is that it gives a simple and truthful account of those deep-lying processes of the great upsurge of labour enthusiasm that constitute the inner driving force of socialist emulation.

May 11, 1929



1. V. I. Lenin, “How to Organise Emulation?” (See Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 26, pp. 367, 368).