J. V. Stalin

To Comrade Felix

Copy to Comrade Kolotilov, Secretary, Regional Bureau of the Central Committee, Ivanovo-Voznesensk Region

Source: Works, Vol. 12, April 1929 - June 1930, pp. 118-121
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
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.

Comrade Kon,

I have received Comrade Russova’s article on Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet (Emulation of the Masses). Here are my observations:

1) Comrade Russova’s review gives the impression of being too one-sided and biassed. I am prepared to grant that there is no such person as the spinner Bardina, and that there is no spinning shed in Zaryadye. I am also prepared to grant that the Zaryadye mills are “cleaned once a week.” It can be admitted that Comrade Mikulina was perhaps misled by one of her informants and was guilty of a number of gross inaccuracies, which, of course, is blameworthy and unpardonable. But is that the point? Is the value of the pamphlet determined by individual details, and not by its general trend? A famous author of our time, Comrade Sholokhov, commits a number of very gross errors in his Quiet Flows the Don and says things which are positively untrue about Syrtsov, Podtyolkov, Krivoshlykov and others; but does it follow from this that Quiet Flows the Don is no good at all and deserves to be withdrawn from sale?

What is the merit of Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet? It is that it popularizes the idea of emulation and infects the reader with the spirit of emulation. That is what matters, and not a few individual mistakes.

2) It is possible that, because of my foreword to Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet, the critics expected too much of it and thought it must be something out of the ordinary, and being disappointed in their expectations they decided to punish its author. But that is wrong and unfair. Of course, Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet is not a scientific work. It is an account of the emulation deeds of the masses, of the practice of emulation. Nothing more. Comrade Mikulina is not to blame if my foreword gave rise to an exaggerated opinion about her—actually very modest—pamphlet. That is no reason for punishing the author or the readers of the pamphlet on that account, by withdrawing it from sale. Only works of a non-Soviet trend, only anti-Party and anti-proletarian works may be withdrawn from sale. There is nothing anti-Party or anti-Soviet in Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet.

3) Comrade Russova is particularly incensed with Comrade Mikulina for having “misled Comrade Stalin.” One cannot but appreciate the concern shown by Comrade Russova for Comrade Stalin. But it does not seem to me that there is any call for it.

In the first place, it is not so easy to “mislead Comrade Stalin.”

Secondly, I do not in the least repent having furnished a foreword to an inconsiderable pamphlet by a person unknown in the literary world, because I think that, notwithstanding its individual and, perhaps, gross mistakes, Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet will be of great value to the masses of the workers.

Thirdly, I am emphatically opposed to supplying forewords only to pamphlets and books by the “bigwigs” of the literary world, by literary “lights,” “coryphees” and so on. I think it is high time for us to abandon this aristocratic habit of giving prominence to literary “bigwigs,” who are prominent enough as it is, and from whose “greatness” young literary forces have to suffer, writers who are known to none and ignored by all.

We have hundreds and thousands of young and capable people who are striving with might and main to rise to the surface and contribute their mite to the common treasury of our work of construction. But their efforts are often unavailing, because they are very often kept down by the vanity of the literary “lights,” by the bureaucracy and callousness of some of our organisations, and, lastly, by the envy (which has not yet evolved into emulation) of men and women of their own generation. One of our tasks is to break down this blank wall and to give scope to the young forces, whose name is legion. My foreword to an inconsiderable pamphlet by an author unknown in the literary world is an attempt to take a step towards accomplishing this task. I shall in the future, too, provide forewords only to simple and unassuming pamphlets by simple and unknown authors belonging to the younger forces. It is possible that this procedure may not be to the liking of some of the snobs. But what do I care? I have no fondness for snobs anyhow. . . .

4) I think that the Ivanovo-Voznesensk comrades would do well to call Comrade Mikulina to Ivanovo-Voznesensk and give her a “rap on the knuckles” for the errors she has committed. I am by no means opposed to having Comrade Mikulina properly taken to task in the press for her errors. But I am decidedly opposed to having this undeniably capable authoress done to death and buried.

As to withdrawing Comrade Mikulina’s pamphlet from sale, in my opinion that wild idea should be left “without sequel.”

With communist greetings,
J. Stalin
July 9, 1929