Volume 45 contains letters, notes, telegrams and telephone messages written from November 1920 to March 1923. They are connected with Lenin's works which make up volumes 31, 32, 33, 35 and 36 of the present edition, and largely supplement them.
These documents cover the new historical period in the life of the Soviet state which began after the rout of the foreign armed intervention and domestic counter revolution, a period of peaceful socialist construction.
This had to be carried on in the midst of economic dislocation, a shortage of food and a lack of fuel. The international situation was also complicated. The imperialists did their utmost in hampering the Soviet people's effort to heal the economic wounds and to establish ties with other countries. Faced with these serious internal and external political difficulties, Lenin did a vast amount of work in guiding the Communist Party and the Soviet state, socialist construction and foreign policy, charting the ways of transition from “War Communism” to the New Economic Policy (NEP), and directing the implementation of the measures mapped out by the Party to put NEP through.
A number of letters set out major propositions on the substance and importance of NEP, which, Lenin said, should be viewed in the context of the general tasks and prospects of socialist construction, and in the light of the GOELRO plan, which was designed to lay the economic foundation of the new society. He wrote that the “New Economic Policy does not change the single state economic plan, and does not go beyond its framework, but alters the approach to its realisation” (present edition, Vol. 35, p. 530).
The principal task of NEP was to ensure a strong alliance between the working class and the peasantry, as the highest principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the basis of the Soviet power. Socialist construction could not be a success unless all the toiling peasantry was involved. Elaborating NEP, Lenin marked out the concrete forms of the link-up between town and country, and the ways of rehabilitating all the branches of the national economy, and laying the foundation of a socialist society.
Lenin tackled this intricate task after making a thorough analysis of the political and economic state of the country, and a deep study of the state of the peasant economy. This volume contains a record of Lenin's talks with the peasants I. A. Chekunov and A. R. Shaposhnikov, and shows his concern for boosting agriculture. Thus, in a letter to I. A. Teodorovich, Lenin says that the combating of the drought was a great task before the whole state (see p. 134 of this volume). It was he who initiated the decree of the Council of Labour and Defence (CLD) recognising the efforts to combat the drought as “an undertaking of primary importance for the country's agricultural life, and measures taken in that direction, as being of great urgency”.
The documents contained in this volume shed light on the activity of Lenin, the Party and the Government in rehabilitating industry and transport, normalising the operation of the Donets coal-fields (Donbas), developing metallurgy, etc. They also show Lenin's concern for implementing the GOELRO plan, and his handling of various matters arising from the construction of the Kashira, Volkhov and other electric-power stations. Many of Lenin's telegrams and notes contain instructions for providing these early projects in the Soviet electrification drive with the necessary materials, equipment and foodstuffs.
One of the most complicated tasks in the first year of NEP was establishing normal economic ties and starting an exchange of goods between industry and agriculture. The documents in this volume reveal Lenin's role in solving the tasks of developing domestic and foreign trade, and creating a stable financial and monetary system on that basis. He wrote: “The important, the most important, the basic task is to make a practical start on this," it is the only way to transform NEP into “a base for socialism, a base which, this being a peasant country, no power on earth can vanquish” (pp. 446, 477).
Lenin gave concrete instructions on measures to develop trade, called for information on the growth of trade, especially in the countryside, and welcomed the successes of the co-operative movement. He devoted much attention to matters of financial policy, the need for regular stock taking of commodities throughout the state, kept an eye on the state of the gold reserve, and urged its sparing use.
The crop failure of 1921 brought about starvation for millions of people in the country, especially in the Volga area. One of the urgent tasks of the Soviet state was to organise famine relief. Documents in this volume reflect the main measures taken by the Party and the Government to muster and correctly distribute the domestic foodstuff resources, create a stock of goods to be exchanged for grain, improve the supply of food from the grain-rich gubernias, and the purchase of foodstuffs abroad.
The Soviet Government resolutely opposed every attempt on the part of world imperialism to make use of the famine to put political pressure to bear on the Soviet Republic, and Lenin's letters show him exposing these imperialist manoeuvres. In a letter to the members of the Political Bureau, he wrote: “This game is an extremely intricate one. There is rank duplicity on the part of America, Hoover and the League of Nations Council” (p. 250).
Lenin devoted a great deal of attention to the working-class movement in the capitalist countries to provide assistance to the starving people of Russia.
A large section of the material deals with efforts to over come the fuel crisis. Lenin headed the CLD 's fuel commission, which took a number of urgent steps to increase the extraction of coal and oil, and to extend hydraulic peat-digging and firewood cutting.
The transition to NEP called for a restructuring of economic management, strict practice of the principle of democratic centralism, improvement in planning, development of local initiative, extension of the rights of enterprises, introduction of material incentives and economic accounting, and operation of enterprises at a profit. All these matters are dealt with extensively in Lenin's letters.
The documents testify to Lenin's great emphasis on the organisation and style of work in Party, government and economic establishments, improvement of the state apparatus, reduction of staffs and running costs, and introduction of scientific principles in all its work. Lenin urged that a struggle against bureaucracy and red tape should be conducted “in a business-like manner, according to all the rules of warfare”. Lenin insisted that malicious bureaucrats should be subjected to strict administrative penalties, removed from their posts and put on trial. Lenin repeatedly stressed that everything depended not on institutions, but on people and the verification of practical experience.
He called for the strict practice of the principle of collective leadership, observance of Party and state discipline, with personal responsibility for assignments. Lenin himself never adopted any decisions alone on matters which were subject to collective discussion, and took counsel with the members of the Party's Central Committee, the People's Commissars, and other leading workers on all matters of any importance.
Lenin marked out a programme for reconstructing the government and economic apparatus in his “Instructions of the Council of Labour and Defence to Local Soviet Bodies”. A number of documents show the thoroughness with which Lenin prepared the Instructions, the draft of which was widely discussed.
Lenin devoted exceptional attention to the correct selection and appointment of personnel. This is clearly seen from his letter to Y. M. Yaroslavsky of December 24, 1921, concerning a prospective candidate for the post of People's Commissar for Agriculture. Lenin asked him to obtain answers to the following questions as regards this comrade: “Age? Experience? Respect of peasantry? Knowledge of economics? Strength of mind? Brains? Loyalty to the Soviet power?" (pp. 419-20). Lenin valued vigorous men, who had knowledge and displayed initiative. He sharply condemned “administration by flat”, the ordering of people about, and rudeness to colleagues and subordinates; he fought against formalism, red tape, lack of punctuality, rashness and undue haste.
The Communist Party was implementing the programme of the country's transformation on socialist lines in sharp struggle against all sorts of oppositionists who were trying to undermine the unity of the Party's ranks. Lenin opposed everyone who tried to distort or to cast doubt on the correctness of the path charted by the Party. He believed it was necessary to give a resolute rebuff to bourgeois ideologists, Right-wing socialists and Mensheviks, who distorted the New Economic Policy of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and to the Left-wing opportunists, who took the wrong view of NEP, notably of the role of “state capitalism” under the dictatorship of the working class. Lenin emphasised that “state capitalism in a state with proletarian power can exist only as limited in time and sphere of extension, and conditions of its application, mode of supervision over it, etc." (p. 444).
An important part of the volume consists of material dealing with the development of culture, science and technology, which Lenin viewed in the context of the country's economic construction tasks. He called attention to the need to co-ordinate the work of inventors throughout the whole country, and proposed regular procedures for examining and recording reported inventions. Of great interest is his letter entitled “To the Inventions Section of the Scientific and Technical Department of the Supreme Economic Council”, which set before this body a number of concrete tasks in organising its work (pp. 50-51). These documents show Lenin's vigorous support for every scientific discovery and technical improvement whose application in practice he believed to be an important factor in raising labour productivity. He attached great importance to the regular flow of information on scientific and technical achievements abroad, and the use in this country of the best foreign technical experience.
A number of letters and notes in this volume deal with improving the work of the People's Commissariat for Education, and secondary and higher schools, the wiping out of illiteracy, and other cultural problems (protection of art values, publication of a dictionary of modern Russian and a school atlas). Lenin supported the realistic trend in art, and warned artists against being carried away by futurism. In a letter to M. N. Pokrovsky, Lenin wrote: “I request you to help us fight futurism, etc.... Could you find some reliable anti-futurists?" (p. 139).
In the NEP period, with some growth of the capitalist elements, the Party's ideological, political and educational work, the propaganda of Marxism and resolute struggle against bourgeois ideology had an especially big role to play. Great importance attaches to Lenin's instructions on developing the social sciences. He proposed collecting all the published works and photostatic copies of documents of the founders of Marxism, and this helped to set up the Marx and Engels Institute; he edited a collection of their selected letters, and made remarks on Béla Kun's pamphlet, From Revolution to Revolution (p. 66), which are of fundamental importance to historical science.
Socialist construction is inseparably bound up with the correct solution of the national question. Lenin's correspondence reveals his guidance in the implementation of the national policy. Lenin advised Communists in the non-Russian republics to take account of local conditions and specifics in effecting NEP in the construction of socialism. He said the correct solution of the national question in the Soviet East was of tremendous importance, and wrote: “This is a world-wide question, and that is no exaggeration. There you must be especially strict. It will have an effect on India and the East; it is no joke, it calls for exceptional caution” (p. 298). A number of documents reflect Lenin's concern for all the peoples of the Land of Soviets, for their unity, friendship and co-operation, and his resolute struggle against Great-Power chauvinism and local nationalism.
A major question dealt with in this volume is the foreign policy activity of the Soviet state: the work of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs, and the People's Commissariat for Foreign Trade, preparations for the Genoa Conference, establishment of relations with various countries, extension of trade between the Soviet Republic and capitalist states, and negotiations on concessions. The documents reflect the Soviet Government's steadfast struggle to implement us peaceable foreign policy, basing it self on the principles of peaceful coexistence, and working to establish business relations with all countries. Some documents show Lenin's resolute defence of the foreign trade monopoly. He warned against the possibility of another armed intervention by the foreign imperialists against the Soviet state. In view of such a danger, he wrote to G. V. Chicherin in October 1921 that “nothing can be done to prevent this except strengthening our defence capacity” (p.355).
Lenin devoted much attention to the establishment of friendly relations with the countries of the East. The treaties of peace and friendship concluded in 1921 between Soviet Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey offered examples of good interstate relations based on trust and mutual respect.
A number of letters deal with the international communist and working-class movement. The documents show that Lenin was consistent in working to strengthen the Communist Parties, the monolithic unity of their ranks, the unity of the international communist movement, and the practice of the principle of proletarian internationalism. In several letters and notes he makes some important pro positions on the activity of the Communist International and the Red International of Trade Unions.
A large part of the documents are biographic; many letters and notes show Lenin's exceptional modesty, his touching concern for his comrades, the health and living conditions of Party and government workers and leaders of the International communist movement.
Volume 45 completes the publication of the additional volumes to the Fourth (Russian) Edition of the Collected Works of V. I. Lenin.
Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee, CPSU