From: A Speech at Graduation Exercises at he Sverdlov University May 30, 1926;
First Published: Izvestia, June 27, 1926;
Source: On Communist Education: Selected Speeches and Articles, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1950;
HTML Markup: For marxists.org in 2002.
AT THE present moment we are going through an extremely complicated period. With every passing year our life is becoming increasingly complex. In our work of building the Soviet State we need more and more highly skilled personnel. Nowadays it is highly unfeasible to approach social phenomena in a primitive manner. On the contrary, Marxist dialectics teaches us that what was black yesterday has become white today. And what was red yesterday is white today. We must be able on each occasion to approach each social phenomenon in a profound, Marxist way. We must be able to grasp the subject as a whole and at the same time to analyze all its inner content. To be able to grasp subjects as a whole, to analyze their inner essence requires, of course, an enormous amount of preliminary Marxist training. Particularly is such training necessary when the person concerned has had no extensive practical experience previously.
And so, I say, at the present time both the work of building the Soviet State and the activities of the Party stand in very great need of highly qualified personnel. Our Soviet Union, I dare say, is ahead of all European and non-European countries as regards political education, political activity of the masses, and political-mindedness. There can be hardly any doubt on this score, but for all that political activity has not yet reached a sufficiently high level to cope with the enormous, systematic and regular constructive work being done.
Without a doubt our job is to make use of the activity of the masses, their desire to understand political problems, in the cultural work of our Party. At times of great uplift (as now, during the British General Strike) every worker who was an indifferent bystander yesterday becomes a hero--he fights for the workers' interests, and the uplift among the masses brings heroes to the forefront, one after the other, in the struggle for the masses. But, comrades, the forward movement is not always rapid. We frequently have to retreat--and the drab uneventful years, the years of routine humdrum work occupy ninety-nine percent of a person's life. The most valuable quality in a Party worker is the ability to work with enthusiasm in an ordinary, humdrum situation, and to overcome, day in and day out, one obstacle after another; the ability to preserve his enthusiasm in face of the obstacles with which practical life confronts him daily, hourly, and to let the humdrum, cumbrous obstacles develop and strengthen his zeal; the ability in this day-to-day work to keep in mind and never lose sight of the ultimate aims for which the Communist movement is fighting.
Our Party headquarters' staff--using the term in its broadest sense--as members of which you, too, will be working, should not become so engrossed in current work as to forget these ultimate aims. And whatever the obstacles that may confront it, it is firm in the knowledge that these obstacles will be overcome, if not today, then tomorrow. What is needed is that it should be able to pass on, to instil into the minds of wide masses of non-Party workers and peasants, its firm faith in the final victory of Communism, and do so on the basis of everyday practical work and concrete examples. Only then does the worker value a leader. And not only the worker; you, too, value only the teacher or leader who, together with the masses, is fired with enthusiasm, and who transmits his burning enthusiasm into the minds of the people among whom he works. Therefore, comrades, to work in the Party, where the work itself to a certain degree involves self-sacrifice, and to find pleasure, to find satisfaction in this self-sacrificing work, one must be profoundly convinced of the justness and beauty of the principles for which we are fighting. Who, indeed, can be more convinced of the justness of these principles, of these ideas taught by Marxism than those who have spent three years studying them....
To be a Marxist does not mean merely to read or even study Lenin, Marx, Engels and Plekhanov. Of course if it is a matter of knowing Marxism, it will be enough if you read the works of these four authors, and you will know it. But it is one thing to know Marxism, and another to apply this Marxism daily, hourly, in the most diverse, peculiar, unprecedented circumstances. Textual knowledge of Marxism does not necessarily mean the ability to approach each question in a Marxist way. If to be a Marxist it were sufficient to be familiar with or to have made some study of the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Plekhanov, then, of course, we would turn out Marxists like hotcakes. However difficult it may be to make a deep study of these four great Marxists, it nevertheless can be done by expending a certain amount of time. Indeed, there are people in the ranks of our Communist Party who know Marx textually....
To study Marxism--its method and its outlook--means to study not only the works of the above-mentioned authors but also the historical march of events; its real test is practical activity. You have only mastered the Marxist method (if you have mastered it, I think you have not yet done so completely), but you have mastered it like the military man who graduates at the Academy of the General Staff. Of course, the bulk of commanders-in-chief the world over are graduates of Academies; that is true enough. But it would be wrong to say that every Academy graduate makes a first-rate commander-in-chief. None of the army commanders in our revolutionary army are Academy men. What does that mean? Marxism is one of the most vital of sciences, and not an abstract theory. When you read Volume One of Marx's Capital you are entirely in a world of abstractions. Since you have read--as a duty if nothing more--Volume One of Marx's Capital, you also experienced that feeling. You are in a world of abstraction and you wonder how to apply this theory in practice, in life. This abstract theory is at the same time the most vital theory, a theory studied more than any other, day in and day out, in the process of practical activity.
To be a Marxist you must saturate theory with life, link up your daily work with theory; to be a Marxist means to do creative work.
What do we mean by doing creative work? What is the difference between one who does creative work and one who is a mere craftsman? The same as between an artist and a plain dauber. Take the ikons done by the painters of Vladimir and Suzdal. They are all alike; not a single ikon has a face with life in it...A person who does creative work is another matter. He puts his heart and soul into the simplest job he does, even if he happens to be making a pair of bast shoes. A craftsman can be an outstanding artist if he puts his heart and soul into the work he does. And an artist may be a craftsman if all he does is daub, without putting his heart into his work. Thus Marxism into which one does not put one's heart, Marxism that is not bound up with creative work, that is not always alive to all that is going on, is quasi-Marxism. If, when you get back to your localities, you apply the knowledge you have acquired scholastically in hackneyed fashion, you will be journeymen of Leninism. You will not carry the masses along with you. Your application of the Marxist method will be a wrong one. The Marxist method is correctly applied when we employ Marx's theory to make a study of the phenomenon confronting us. And the decision we take will be a new one each time. If you settle a problem one way today, tomorrow you will settle the same problem in a new way, for the situation tomorrow will be different. The situation is constantly changing. History moves on, it does not mark time, but everlastingly moves forward. And the Marxist must constantly move forward, in step with historical progress. The Marxist must always be able to find his exact bearings. The mind of the Marxist, however simple the work he is doing, must always be in a ferment, studying, creating. You, comrades, have now finished a three years' course of Marxism. Naturally enough you are all moved by the lofty desire to work as fruitfully as possible. For what greater reward can a person want than to know that he has been of some benefit to society! There is no greater reward! However beautiful the pictures you may conjure up in your minds, nothing will give you greater satisfaction than the thought that you are useful. Awareness of this brings one complete satisfaction.
The younger generation cannot as yet have undergone this practical experience of life, the political experience of revolutionary struggle, the experience of the struggle between classes, the experience of winning; the masses, of enlisting their support. It lacks that experience.
I would like you to understand, to be imbued with .. the consciousness that if you wish to win the masses, you have to be aflame with enthusiasm, that if you rise to address a meeting without feeling excited yourself, if you would rather be sleeping, then the mood of your audience will undoubtedly correspond to your own. Let me tell you this outright--there is nothing more sensitive than an audience. It is the most sensitive barometer in existence. You may stutter and stammer on the platform, but if you are excited, if the questions you raise are of importance, if you solve a problem while speaking, you will carry the masses. What does that show? It shows that if you wish the masses to follow your lead, you have to be fired by the same enthusiasm as they are.
And finally, comrades, one more little item for your edification. Without doubt you are now and will be in the future, a cultural force in the localities.
Our Soviet Union is now a great country, our Party is now passing the million mark. But in this party of a million members, as well as throughout the whole of our country, culture is still at a low level. Hence, in your future work never flaunt your culture before the masses. Never. In this regard the masses are very sensitive. The only way to talk to the masses is openly, frankly, realizing that they are people possessed of as much common sense as yourself, and as capable of solving the problem at issue just as intelligently as the speaker or author himself.
These are the few words I thought necessary to say to you today as you are about to take leave of school. ...