Draft Decree on Consumers' Communes (Preliminary Theses)

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Draft Decree on Consumers’ Communes was written by Lenin on December 25–28, 1917 (January 7–10, 1918), and published in part in Sobraniye Sochineny (Collected Works) of V. I. Lenin, Fourth Edition (see present edition, Vol. 26, pp. 416–17). It was fiercely opposed by bourgeois co-operators. The Soviet government believed that the bourgeois apparatus of accounting and control should be utilised, and made some concessions to the co-operators. Negotiations with them were conducted in March and early April 1918. At first, the co-operators insisted on complete independence of co-operative societies from the organs of the Soviet power and on servicing their own members only. The draft decree worked out in late March was adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on April 10, with Lenin making a number of amendments in the draft. Clauses 11, 12 and 13 were fully written by Lenin.

The decree was approved by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on April 11, 1918, and the following resolution of the Bolshevik group was adopted: “Consumers’ co-operatives, which cater for a sizable section of the population, have until now been pursuing an economic policy which frequently ran counter to, or outside, the economic policy conducted by the Soviet government. This was due to the fact that the leadership of consumers’ co-operative societies was chiefly in the hands of the non-labouring classes. At present, with the consolidation of the Soviet power, consumers’ co-operatives have expressed their readiness to work under the direct guidance and control of Soviet organs of power. The decree on consumers’ co-operatives, worked out on the basis of negotiations between the central co-operative organisations and the Council of People’s Commissars, is a compromise solution with essential shortcomings. But, considering the organisation of the proper distribution of food and goods among the population to be one of the most important and urgent tasks of the present period, whose solution requires a number of socialist measures in this sphere and the substitution of a state trade apparatus for the private commercial apparatus, the Central __PRINTERS_P_689_COMMENT__ 44—39 Executive Committee adopts the decree on consumers’ co-operatives as a transitional measure leading to the implementation of state distribution of food and goods in the country” = (Protokoly zasedany VTsIK 4-go sozyva [Minutes of the Fourth All-Russia Central Executive Committee], Moscow, 1920, p. 104). The decree was published over the signature of the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, Vl. I. Ulyanov (Lenin), in Pravda No. 71, April 13 (March 31), 1918, and Izvestia No. 75, April 16 (April 3), 1918.


The drafts put forward by the Commissariat for Food for “supply boards”, “delegate committees”, etc., and similarly the draft of the Supreme Economic Council for “ district economic councils”[1] suggest the need to amalgamate such bodies.

Preliminary theses:

( Etwa[2] ): [ supply and marketing committees? ]

The basic unit should be consumer and producer (better than purchasing and trading, etc.) volost societies, playing the part both of supply committees and marketing agencies. In case of need, volost boundaries could be made alterable.

In the towns a similar place could perhaps be taken by block committees or committees for sections of blocks.

If we manage to set up such committees, basic units, in the localities, the amalgamation of these committees would provide a network capable of properly organising the supply of the whole population with all essentials, and of organising production on a national scale.

Possibly instead of “societies” these could be Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, with the participation of commercial employees, etc., etc.

Every such society or committee or Soviet (or supply and marketing committee) would be divided up into sections or departments, according to goods marketed and types of products supplied, for the general regulation of production and consumption (a department for finance, or for cash receipts and disbursements, should be attached to every supply and marketing committee). With the right of levying income tax and granting interest-free credits to the poor, and also universal labour service, this might be the basic unit of socialist society. The volost banks would then have to be amalgamated with the state savings banks, being transformed into a state-wide accounting department, aggregate of the state’s receipts and disbursements accounts.

The transportation of products, and likewise their purchase and sale, would then be permitted only from one supply and marketing committee to another, all individual marketing being prohibited. On certificates issued by volost (or generally the “basic”, lowest) supply and marketing committees, products could be sold also to individuals from central stores, provided that these transactions are recorded in the books of the volost or other supply and marketing committees (except within small units, or for trifles). No transportation of products would be permitted without certificates from the supply and marketing committee.

[[BOX: This would be the unification of the Commissariats for Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Labour, and Food, and the Supreme Economic Council, and the Commissariats for Finance and Communications. ]]


N.B.: “Supply and marketing committees”: volost, uyezd, gubernia and district. (σσ=the SEC) Their departments: Central Textile Board, Central Sugar Board, Central Coal Board, etc. (σσ=the S.E.C ), Central Bank, etc.

[ N.B.: Representatives of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies should superintend the well-to-do quarters in towns (or well-to-do country-house settlements, etc.), i.e., those quarters, etc., where the percentage of workers and peasants is lower than, say, 60 per cent. ]

  1. ↑ A reference to the directive issued by the People’s Commissariat for Food to local Soviets on organising a food supply apparatus, its draft for a Commissariat for Supply, and the statute of the Supreme Economic Council on district economic councils.
    Because the old food supply agencies sabotaged the decrees of the Soviet government, the People’s Commissariat for Food issued a directive to local Soviets on December 22, 1917 ( January 4, 1918) that they should rely on the delegate organisations from the consuming gubernias and armies (delegates’ committees), set up under the food supply agencies, take over the food supply effort and organise their own food supply apparatus. At the same time, the People’s Commissariat for Food was working out a draft for its reorganisation into a Commissariat for Supply, which was to take charge of supplying the population not only with foodstuffs but other goods as well, sharply curtailing private trade in the process. The local agencies of the Commissariat for Supply were to be turned into supply departments under the Soviets.
    On December 23, 1917 (January 5, 1918), the Supreme Economic Council adopted the Statute of District (Regional) and Local Economic Councils, which were to organise and regulate local production under the guidance of the SEC
  2. ↑ Roughly.—Ed.