J. V. Stalin

Reply to the Sverdlov Comrades1

Source: Works, Vol. 12, April 1929 - June 1930, pp. 190-196
First Published: Pravda, No. 40, February 10, 1930
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.

The Sverdlov Student’s Questions

1. In the theses on the tactics of the R.C.P.(B.), adopted by the Third Congress of the Comintern,2 Lenin spoke of the existence of two main classes in Soviet Russia.

We now speak of eliminating the kulaks and the new bourgeoisie as a class.

Does this mean that in the NEP period a third class has taken shape in our country?

2. In your address to the conference of Marxist students of agrarian questions, you said: “If we adhere to NEP it is because it serves the cause of socialism. When it ceases to serve the cause of socialism we shall get rid of it.” How is this “getting rid of” to be understood, and what form will it take?

3. What amendments will the Party, as decisive successes in collectivisation and in eliminating the kulaks as a class are achieved, have to make in the slogan which now determines the relations between the proletariat and the various strata of the peasantry: “To come to an agreement with the middle peasant, while never for a moment renouncing the fight against the kulak, and firmly relying solely on the poor peasant” (Lenin)?3

4. By what methods should the elimination of the kulaks as a class be brought about?

5. Will not the simultaneous application of two slogans: one for the areas of complete collectivization—elimination of the kulaks as a class, and the other for the areas of incomplete collectivization—restriction and ousting of the kulaks, lead in the latter areas to the self-elimination of the kulaks (dissipation of their property, means of production)?

6. What influence may the elimination of the kulaks as a class and the sharpening of the class struggle in our country, and the economic crisis and the rise of the tide of revolution in the capitalist countries, have on the duration of the “respite”?

7. What is your opinion of the possibility of the present revolutionary upsurge in the capitalist countries passing into a direct revolutionary situation?

8. How should the new advances among the working class, characterised by the decision of entire factory shops to join the Party, be assessed from the standpoint of the further relations between the Party and the working class?

9. In connection with the tremendous scope of the collective-farm movement, the extension of the Party Organisation in the countryside becomes a practical question. What should be our policy in relation to the limits of such extension, and in relation to admission of the various groups of collective farmers into the Party?

10. What is your attitude towards the disputes that are taking place among the economists on cardinal problems of political economy?


Comrade Stalin’s Reply

First question. Lenin spoke of two main classes. But he knew, of course, that there was a third, the capitalist class (the kulaks, the urban capitalist bourgeoisie). The kulaks and the urban capitalist bourgeoisie did not, of course, “take shape” as a class only after the introduction of NEP. They existed also before NEP, but as a secondary class. NEP, in its first stages, to some extent facilitated the growth of this class. But it assisted the growth of the socialist sector to an even greater extent. With the launching by the Party of an offensive along the whole front, matters have taken a sharp turn towards the undermining and abolition of the class of rural, and partly of urban, capitalists.

For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that the Party has not given instructions to extend the slogan of eliminating the kulaks as a class to the new, urban bourgeoisie. It is necessary to distinguish between the Nepmen, who were in the main deprived of their production base long ago, and therefore play no substantial part in our economic life, and the kulaks, who until very recently possessed enormous economic weight in the countryside, and whom we are only now depriving of their production base.

It seems to me that some of our organisations forget this difference and commit the error of trying to “supplement” the slogan of eliminating the kulaks as a class with the slogan of eliminating the urban bourgeoisie.

Second question. The sentence in my speech at the conference of Marxist students of agrarian questions should be understood as meaning that we shall “get rid of NEP” when we are no longer under the necessity of permitting a certain freedom for private trade, when permitting it would yield only adverse results, and when we are in a position to establish economic relations between town and country through our own trading organisations, without private trade with its private turnover and tolerance of a certain revival of capitalism.

Third question. It is clear that as the collectives come to embrace the majority of the areas of the U.S.S.R., the kulaks will be eliminated—hence this part of Ilyich’s formula will lapse. As regards the middle and poor peasants in the collective farms, they will, as the latter become equipped with machines and tractors, merge into a single category of working members of the collectivised countryside. Correspondingly, the concepts “middle peasant” and “poor peasant” should in the future disappear from our slogans.

Fourth question. The principal method of bringing about the elimination of the kulaks as a class is that of mass collectivisation. All other measures must be adapted to this principal method. Everything that runs counter to this method or detracts from its effectiveness must be rejected.

Fifth question. The slogans, “elimination of the kulaks as a class” and “restriction of the kulaks” must not be conceived as two independent and equal slogans. From the moment we passed to the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class, this slogan became the chief slogan; and in the areas of incomplete collectivisation the slogan of restricting the kulaks changed from an independent slogan into a subsidiary slogan, an auxiliary of the chief slogan, into a slogan which facilitates the creation in these areas of the conditions for a transition to the chief slogan. As you see, in the new conditions of today, the status of the slogan “restriction of the kulaks” is radically different from what it was a year ago and earlier.

It is to be noted that, unfortunately, some of our press organs do not appreciate this specific feature. It is possible and probable that in the areas of incomplete collectivisation a section of the kulaks, in anticipation of dekulakisation, will resort to “self-elimination” and “dissipate their property and means of production.” Measures, of course, must be taken to prevent this. But it does not at all follow that we should permit dekulakisation, not as part of collectivisation, but as something independent, undertaken before and without collectivisation. To permit that would be to replace the policy of socializing confiscated kulak property in the collective farms by a policy of sharing out this property for the personal enrichment of individual peasants. Such replacement would be a step backward, not forward. There is only one way of preventing “dissipation” of kulak property, and that is to work harder for collectivisation in the areas where it is incomplete.

Sixth question. The means and conditions you enumerate may considerably shorten the duration of the “respite.” But they are certainly bound to strengthen and multiply our means of defence. Very much will depend on the international situation, on the growth of the contradictions within the camp of international capitalism, on the further development of the international economic crisis. But that is another question.

Seventh question. No hard and fast line can be drawn between a “revolutionary upsurge” and a “direct revolutionary situation.” One cannot say: “Up to this paint we have a revolutionary upsurge; beyond it, we have a leap to a direct revolutionary situation.” Only scholastics can put the question in that way. The first usually passes “imperceptibly” into the second. The task is to prepare the proletariat at once for decisive revolutionary battles, without waiting for the “onset” of what is called a direct revolutionary situation.

Eighth question. The desire of entire factory shops and even of whole factories to join the Party is a sign of the tremendous revolutionary upsurge of the vast masses of the working class, a sign of the correctness of the Party’s policy, a sign of publicly expressed approval of this policy by the broad mass of the working class. But it does not at all follow from this that we must admit into the Party all who desire to join it. In the shops and factories there are all sorts of people, even saboteurs. The Party must therefore continue to apply its tried and tested method of individual approach to each applicant for membership, and of individual admission to the Party. We need not only quantity, but quality.

Ninth question. It goes without saying that numerically the Party in the collective farms will grow at a more or less rapid rate. It is desirable that all the elements of the collective-farm movement who have been most steeled in fighting against the kulaks, especially farm labourers and poor peasants, should find application for their energies in the ranks of the Party. Naturally, individual approach and individual admission into the Party must be applied here with especial persistence.

Tenth question. It seems to me that in the disputes among the economists there is much that is scholastic and far-fetched. Setting aside the external aspect of the disputes, the main errors of the contending sides are the following:

a) neither side has proved capable of properly applying the method of fighting on two fronts: both against “Rubinism” and against “mechanism”;4

b) both sides have been diverted from the basic questions of Soviet economy and world imperialism into the realm of talmudic abstractions, thus wasting two years of effort on abstract themes—to the satisfaction and advantage, of course, of our enemies.

With communist greetings,
J. V. Stalin
February 9, 1930




1. Students of the Y. M. Sverdlov Communist University.

2. See V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 32, p. 431.

3. V. I. Lenin, “Valuable Admissions of Pitirim Sorokin” (see Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 28, p. 171).

4. “Rubinism” and “mechanism”—anti-Marxist revisionist trends in political economy. Rubin, a Menshevik, revised Marx’s teaching from an idealist bourgeois standpoint, emasculated its revolutionary content and criminally diverted the attention of economists from the study of questions of Soviet economy and led them into the realm of scholastic disputes and abstractions. “Mechanism” distorted Marxism in philosophy and political economy from the vulgar mechanistic standpoint, and was equivalent to denying materialist dialectics and replacing it by the bourgeois theory of equilibrium. One of the chief exponents of mechanism was Bukharin, ideologist of the Right deviators. In the sphere of political economy, the mechanists denied the internal contradictions of capitalist society and the historically transient character of its laws of development, and extended the laws of capitalism to Soviet socialist society.