The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government
First Published on April 28, 1918 in Pravda No. 83 and Izvestia VTsIK No.85; Published according to the text of the pamphlet: N. Lenin, The Immediate Task of the Soviet Government 2nd ed., Moscow, 1918, collated with the manuscript
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, Volume 27, pages 235-77
In the manuscript, Lenin’s work The Immediate rasks of the Soviet Gouernment was headed “Theses on the Tasks of the Soviet Government in the Present Situation”. Lenin’s theses were discussed at a meeting of the Party Central Committee on April 26, 1918.
The Central Committee unanimously approved them and passed a decision to have them published as an article in Pravda and Izvestia, and also as a separate pamphlet. In 1918 the pamphlet went through more than ten editions, in Moscow, Petrograd, Saratov, Kazan, Tambov and other cities of Russia. It was published in the same year in English in New York, and in French in Geneva; an abridged version in German, edited by F. Platten, appeared in Zurich under the title Am Tage nach der Revolution.
The Central Committee instructed Lenin to give a report on the immediate tasks of the Soviet government at a meeting of the All-Russia CEC and to formulate the Theses briefly as a resolution (see Six Theses on the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government).
The International Position Of The Russian Soviet Republic And The Fundamental Tasks Of The Socialist Revolution[edit source]
Thanks to the peace which has been achieved—despite its extremely onerous character and extreme instability—the Russian Soviet Republic has gained an opportunity to concentrate its efforts for a while on the most important and most difficult aspect of the socialist revolution, namely, the task of organisation.
This task was clearly and definitely set before all the working and oppressed people in the fourth paragraph (Part 4) of the resolution adopted at the Extraordinary Congress of Soviets in Moscow on March 15, 1918, in that paragraph (or part) which speaks of the self-discipline of the working people and of the ruthless struggle against chaos and disorganisation.
Of course, the peace achieved by the Russian Soviet Republic is unstable not because she is now thinking of resuming military operations; apart from bourgeois counter-revolutionaries and their henchmen (the Mensheviks and others), no sane politician thinks of doing that. The instability of the peace is due to the fact that in the imperialist states bordering on Russia to the West and the East, which command enormous military forces, the military party, tempted by Russia’s momentary weakness and egged on by capitalists, who hate socialism and are eager for plunder, may gain the upper hand at any moment.
Under these circumstances the only real, not paper, guarantee of peace we have is the antagonism among the imperialist powers, which has reached extreme limits, and which is apparent on the one hand in the resumption of the imperialist butchery of the peoples in the West, and on the other hand in the extreme intensification of imperialist rivalry between Japan and America for supremacy in the Pacific and on the Pacific coast.
It goes without saying that with such an unreliable guard for protection, our Soviet Socialist Republic is in an extremely unstable and certainly critical international position. All our efforts must be exerted to the very utmost to make use of the respite given us by the combination of circumstances so that we can heal the very severe wounds inflicted by the war upon the entire social organism of Russia and bring about an economic revival, without which a real increase in our country’s defence potential is inconceivable.
It also goes without saying that we shall be able to render effective assistance to the socialist revolution in the West which has been delayed for a number of reasons, only to the extent that we are able to fulfil the task of organisation confronting us.
A fundamental condition for the successful accomplishment of the primary task of organisation confronting us is that the people’s political leaders, i.e., the members of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and following them all the class-conscious representatives of the mass of the working people, shall fully appreciate the radical distinction in this respect between previous bourgeois revolutions and the present socialist revolution.
In bourgeois revolutions, the principal task of the mass of working people was to fulfil the negative or destructive work of abolishing feudalism, monarchy and medievalism. The positive or constructive work of organising the new society was carried out by the property-owning bourgeois minority of the population. And the latter carried out this task with relative ease, despite the resistance of the workers and the poor peasants, not only because the resistance of the people exploited by capital was then extremely weak, since they were scattered and uneducated, but also because the chief organising force of anarchically built capitalist society is the spontaneously growing and expanding national and international market.
In every socialist revolution, however—and consequently in the socialist revolution in Russia which we began on October 25, 1917—the principal task of the proletariat, and of the poor peasants which it leads, is the positive or constructive work of setting up an extremely intricate and delicate system of new organisational relationships extending to the planned production and distribution of the goods required for the existence of tens of millions of people. Such a revolution can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the population, and primarily the majority of the working people, engage in independent creative work as makers of history. Only if the proletariat and the poor peasants display sufficient class-consciousness, devotion to principle, self-sacrifice and perseverance, will the victory of the socialist revolution be assured. By creating a new, Soviet type of state, which gives the working and oppressed people the chance to take an active part in the independent building up of a new society, we solved only a small part of this difficult problem . The principal difficulty lies in the economic sphere, namely, the introduction of the strictest and universal accounting and control of the production and distribution of goods, raising the productivity of labour and socialising production in practice.
The development of the Bolshevik Party, which today is the governing party in Russia, very strikingly indicates the nature of the turning-point in history we have now reached, which is the peculiar feature of the present political situation, and which calls for a new orientation of Soviet power, i.e., for a new presentation of new tasks.
The first task of every party of the future is to convince, the majority of the people that its programme and tactics are correct. This task stood in the forefront both in tsarist times and in the period of the Chernovs’ and Tseretelis’ policy of compromise with the Kerenskys and Kishkins. This task has now been fulfilled in the main, for, as the recent Congress of Soviets in Moscow incontrovertibly proved, the majority of the workers and peasants of Russia are obviously on the side of the Bolsheviks; but of course, it is far from being completely fulfilled (and it can never be completely fulfilled).
The second task that confronted our Party was to capture political power and to suppress the resistance of the exploiters. This task has not been completely fulfilled either, and it cannot be ignored because the monarchists and Constitutional-Democrats on the one hand, and their henchmen and hangers-on, the Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, on the other, are continuing their efforts to unite for the purpose of overthrowing Soviet power. In the main, however, the task of suppressing the resistance of the exploiters was fulfilled in the period from October 25, 1917, to (approximately) February 1918, or to the surrender of Bogayevsky.
A third task is now coming to the fore as the immediate task and one which constitutes the peculiar feature of the present situation, namely, the task of organising administration of Russia. Of course, we advanced and tackled this task on the very day following October 25, 1917. Up to now, however, since the resistance of the exploiters still took the form of open civil war, up to now the task of administration could not become the main, the central task.
Now it has become the main and central task. We, the Bolshevik Party, have convinced Russia. We have won Russia from the rich for the poor, from the exploiters for the working people. Now we must administer Russia. And the whole peculiarity of the present situation, the whole difficulty, lies in understanding the specific features of the transition from the principal task of convincing the peopIe and of suppressing the exploiters by armed force to the principal task of administration.
For the first time in human history a socialist party has managed to complete in the main the conquest of power and the suppression of the exploiters, and has managed to approach directly the task of administration. We must prove worthy executors of this most difficult (and most gratifying) task of the socialist revolution. We must fully realise that in order to administer successfully, besides being able to convince people, besides being able to win a civil war, we must be able to do practical organisational work. This is the most difficult task, because it is a matter of organising in a new way the most deep-rooted, the economic, foundations of life of scores of millions of people. And it is the most gratifying task, because only after it has been fulfilled (in the principal and main outlines) will it be possible to say that Russia has become not only a Soviet, but also a socialist, republic.
The General Slogan Of The Moment[edit source]
The objective situation reviewed above, which has been created by the extremely onerous and unstable peace, the terrible state of ruin, the unemployment and famine we inherited from the war and the rule of the bourgeoisie (represented by Kerensky and the Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries who supported him), all this has inevitably caused extreme weariness and even exhaustion of wide sections of the working people. These people insistently demand—and cannot but demand—a respite. The task of the day is to restore the productive forces destroyed by the war and by bourgeois rule; to heal the wounds inflicted by the war, by the defeat in the war, by profiteering and the attempts of the bourgeoisie to restore the overthrown rule of the exploiters; to achieve economic revival; to provide reliable protection of elementary order. It may sound paradoxical, but in fact, considering the objective conditions indicated above, it is absolutely certain that at the present moment the Soviet system can secure Russia’s transition to socialism only if these very elementary, extremely elementary problems of maintaining public life are practically solved in spite of the resistance of the bourgeoisie, the Mensheviks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries. In view of the specific features of the present situation, and in view of the existence of Soviet power with its land socialisation law, workers’ control law, etc., the practical solution of these extremely elementary problems and the overcoming of the organisational difficulties of the first stages of progress toward socialism are now two aspects of the same picture.
Keep regular and honest accounts of money, manage economically, do not be lazy, do not steal, observe the strictest labour discipline—it is these slogans, justly scorned by the revolutionary proletariat when the bourgeoisie used them to conceal its rule as an exploiting class, that are now, since the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, becoming the immediate and the principal slogans of the moment. On the one hand, the practical application of these slogans by the mass of working people is the sole condition for the salvation of a country which has been tortured almost to death by the imperialist war and by the imperialist robbers (headed by Kerensky); on the other hand, the practical application of these slogans by the Soviet State, by its methods, on the basis of its laws, is a necessary and sufficient condition for the final victory of socialism. This is precisely what those who contemptuously brush aside the idea of putting such “hackneyed” and “trivial” slogans in the forefront fail to understand. In a small-peasant country, which overthrew tsarism only a year ago, and which liberated itself from the Kerenskys less than six months ago, there has naturally remained not a little of spontaneous anarchy, intensified by the brutality and savagery that accompany every protracted and reactionary war, and there has arisen a good deal of despair and aimless bitterness. And if we add to this the provocative policy of the lackeys of the bourgeoisie (the Mensheviks, the Right Socialist-Revolulionaries, etc.) it will become perfectly clear what prolonged and persistent efforts must be exerted by the best and the most class-conscious workers and peasants in order to bring about a complete change in the mood of the people and to bring them on to the proper path of steady and disciplined labour. Only such a transition brought about by the mass of the poor (the proletarians and semi-proletarians) can consummate the victory over the bourgeoisie and particularly over the peasant bourgeoisie, more stubborn and numerous.
The New Phase Of The Struggle Against The Bourgeoisie[edit source]
The bourgeoisie in our country has been conquered, but it has not yet been uprooted, not yet destroyed, and not even utterly broken. That is why we are faced with a new and higher form of struggle against the bourgeoisie, the transition from the very simple task of further expropriating the capitalists to the much more complicated and difficult task of creating conditions in which it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie to exist, or for a new bourgeoisie to arise. Clearly, this task is immeasurably more significant than the previous one; and until it is fulfilled there will be no socialism.
If we measure our revolution by the scale of West-European revolutions we shall find that at the present moment we are approximately at the level reached in 1793 and 1871. We can be legitimately proud of having risen to this level, and of having certainly, in one respect, advanced somewhat further, namely: we have decreed and introduced through out Russia the highest type of state—Soviet power. Under no circumstances, however, can we rest content with what we have achieved, because we have only just started the transition to socialism, we have not yet done the decisive thing in this respect.
The decisive thing is the organisation of the strictest and country-wide accounting and control of production and distribution of goods. And yet, we have not yet introduced accounting and control in those enterprises and in those branches and fields of economy which we have taken away from the bourgeoisie; and without this there can be no thought of achieving the second and equally essential material condition for introducing socialism, namely, raising the productivity of labour on a national scale.
That is why the present task could not be defined by the simple formula: continue the offensive against capital. Although we have certainly not finished off capital and although it is certainly necessary to continue the offensive against this enemy of the working people, such a formula would be inexact, would not be concrete, would not take into account the peculiarity of the present situation in which, in order to go on advancing successfully in the future, we must “suspend” our offensive now.
This can be explained by comparing our position in the war against capital with the position of a victorious army that has captured, say, a half or two-thirds of the enemy’s territory and is compelled to halt in order to muster its forces, to replenish its supplies of munitions, repair and reinforce the lines of communication, build new storehouses, bring up new reserves, etc. To suspend the offensive of a victorious army under such conditions is necessary precisely in order to gain the rest of the enemy’s territory, i.e., in order to achieve complete victory. Those who have failed to understand that the objective state of affairs at the present moment dictates to us precisely such a “suspension” of the offensive against capital have failed to understand anything at all about the present political situation.
It goes without saying that we can speak about the “suspension” of the offensive against capital only in quotation marks, i.e., only metaphorically. In ordinary war, a general order can be issued to stop the offensive, the advance can actually be stopped. In the war against capital, however, the advance cannot be stopped, and there can be no thought of our abandoning the further expropriation of capital. What we are discussing is the shifting of the centre of gravity of our economic and political work. Up to now measures for the direct expropriation of the expropriators were in the forefront. Now the organisation of accounting and control in those enterprises in which the capitalists have already been expropriated, and in all other enterprises, advances to the forefront.
If we decided to continue to expropriate capital at the same rate at which we have been doing it up to now, we should certainly suffer defeat, because our work of organising proletarian accounting and control has obviously— obviously to every thinking person—fallen behind the work of directly “expropriating the expropriators”. If we now concentrate all our efforts on the organisation of accounting and control, we shall be able to solve this problem, we shall be able to make up for lost time, we shall completely win our “campaign” against capital.
But is not the admission that we must make up for lost time tantamount to admission of some kind of an error? Not in the least. Take another military example. If it is possible to defeat and push back the enemy merely with detachments of light cavalry, it should be done. But if this can be done successfully only up to a certain point, then it is quite conceivable that when this point has been reached, it will be necessary to bring up heavy artillery. By admitting that it is now necessary to make up for lost time in bringing up heavy artillery, we do not admit that the successful cavalry attack was a mistake.
Frequently, the lackeys of the bourgeoisie reproached us for having launched a “Red Guard” attack on capital. The reproach is absurd and is worthy only of the lackeys of the money-bags, because at one time the “Red Guard” attack on capital was absolutely dictated by circumstances. Firstly, at that time capital put up military resistance through the medium of Kerensky and Krasnov, Savinkov and Gotz (Gegechkori is putting up such resistance even now), Dutov and Bogayevsky. Military resistance cannot be broken except by military means, and the Red Guards fought in the noble and supreme historical cause of liberating the working and exploited people from the yoke of the exploiters.
Secondly, we could not at that time put methods of administration in the forefront in place of methods of suppression, because the art of administration is not innate, but is acquired by experience. At that time we lacked this experience; now we have it. Thirdly, at that time we could not have specialists in the various fields of knowledge and technology at our disposal because those specialists were either fighting in the ranks of the Bogayevskys, or were still able to put up systematic and stubborn passive resistance by way of sabotage. Now we have broken the sabotage. The “Red Guard” attack on capital was successful, was victorious, because we broke capital’s military resistance and its resistance by sabotage.
Does that mean that a “Red Guard” attack on capital is always appropriate, under all circumstances, that we have no other means of fighting capital? It would be childish to think so. We achieved victory with the aid of light cavalry, but we also have heavy artillery. We achieved victory by methods of suppression; we shall be able to achieve victory also by methods of administration. We must know how to change our methods of fighting the enemy to suit changes in the situation. We shall not for a moment renounce “Red Guard” suppression of the Savinkovs and Gegechkoris and all other landowner and bourgeois counter-revolutionaries. We shall not be so foolish, however, as to put “Red Guard” methods in the forefront at a time when the period in which Red Guard attacks were necessary has, in the main, drawn to a close (and to a victorious close), and when the period of utilising bourgeois specialists by the proletarian state power for the purpose of reploughing the soil in order to prevent the growth of any bourgeoisie whatever is knocking at the door.
This is a peculiar epoch, or rather stage of development, and in order to defeat capital completely, we must be able to adapt the forms of our struggle to the peculiar conditions of this stage.
Without the guidance of experts in the various fields of knowledge, technology and experience, the transition to socialism will be impossible, because socialism calls for a conscious mass advance to greater productivity of labour compared with capitalism, and on the basis achieved by capitalism. Socialism must achieve this advance in its own way, by its own methods—or, to put it more concretely, by Soviet methods. And the specialists, because of the whole social environment which made them specialists, are, in the main, inevitably bourgeois. Had our proletariat, after capturing power, quickly solved the problem of accounting, control and organisation on a national scale (which was impossible owing to the war and Russia’s backwardness), then we, after breaking the sabotage, would also have completely subordinated these bourgeois experts to ourselves by means of universal accounting and control. Owing to the considerable “delay” in introducing accounting and control generally, we, although we have managed to conquer sabotage, have not yet created the conditions which would place the bourgeois specialists at our disposal. The mass of saboteurs are “going to work”, but the best organisers and the top experts can be utilised by the state either in the old way, in the bourgeois way (i.e., for high salaries), or in the new way, in the proletarian way (i.e., creating the conditions of national accounting and control from below, which would inevitably and of itself subordinate the experts and enlist them for our work).
Now we have to resort to the old bourgeois method and to agree to pay a very high price for the “services” of the top bourgeois experts. All those who are familiar with the subject appreciate this, but not all ponder over the significance of this measure being adopted by the proletarian state. Clearly, this measure is a compromise, a departure from the principles of the Paris Commune and of every proletarian power, which call for the reduction of all salaries to the level of the wages of the average worker, which urge that careerism be fought not merely in words, but in deeds.
Moreover, it is clear that this measure not only implies the cessation—in a certain field and to a certain degree—of the offensive against capital (for capital is not a sum of money, but a definite social relation); it is also a step backward on the part of our socialist Soviet state power, which from the very outset proclaimed and pursued the policy of reducing high salaries to the level of the wages of the average worker.
Of course, the lackeys of the bourgeoisie, particularly the small fry, such as the Mensheviks, the Novaya Zhizn people and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, will giggle over our confession that we are taking a step backward. But we need not mind their giggling. We must study the specific features of the extremely difficult and new path to socialism without concealing our mistakes and weaknesses, and try to be prompt in doing what has been left undone. To conceal from the people the fact that the enlistment of bourgeois experts by means of extremely high salaries is a retreat from the principles of the Paris Commune would be sinking to the level of bourgeois politicians and deceiving the people. Frankly explaining how and why we took this step backward, and then publicly discussing what means are available for making up for lost time, means educating the people and learning from experience, learning together with the people how to build socialism. There is hardly a single victorious military campaign in history in which the victor did not commit certain mistakes, suffer partial reverses, temporarily yield something and in some places retreat. The “campaign” which we have undertaken against capitalism is a million times more difficult than the most difficult military campaign, and it would be silly and disgraceful to give way to despondency because of a particular and partial retreat.
We shall now discuss the question from the practical point of view. Let us assume that the Russian Soviet Republic requires one thousand first-class scientists and experts in various fields of knowledge, technology and practical experience to direct the labour of the people towards securing the speediest possible economic revival. Let us assume also that we shall have to pay these “stars of the first magnitude"—of course the majority of those who shout loudest about the corruption of the workers are themselves utterly corrupted by bourgeois morals—25,000 rubles per annum each. Let us assume that this sum (25,000,000 rubles) will have to be doubled (assuming that we have to pay bonuses for particularly successful and rapid fulfilment of the most important organisational and technical tasks), or even quadrupled (assuming that we have to enlist several hundred foreign specialists, who are more demanding). The question is, would the annual expenditure of fifty or a hundred million rubles by the Soviet Republic for the purpose of reorganising the labour of the people on modern scientific and technological lines be excessive or too heavy? Of course not. The overwhelming majority of the class-conscious workers and peasants will approve of this expenditure because they know from practical experience that our backwardness causes us to lose thousands of millions, and that we have not yet reached that degree of organisation, accounting and control which would induce all the “stars” of the bourgeois intelligentsia to participate voluntarily in our work.
It goes without saying that this question has another side to it. The corrupting influence of high salaries—both upon the Soviet authorities (especially since the revolution occurred so rapidly that it was impossible to prevent a certain number of adventurers and rogues from getting into positions of authority, and they, together with a number of inept or dishonest commissars, would not be averse to becoming “star” embezzlers of state funds) and upon the mass of the workers—is indisputable. Every thinking and honest worker and poor peasant, however, will agree with us, will admit, that we cannot immediately rid ourselves of the evil legacy of capitalism, and that we can liberate the Soviet Republic from the duty of paying an annual “tribute” of fifty million or one hundred million rubles (a tribute for our own-backwardness in organising country-wide accounting and control from below ) only by organising ourselves, by tightening up discipline in our own ranks, by purging our ranks of all those who are “preserving the legacy of capitalism”, who “follow the traditions of capitalism”, i.e., of idlers, parasites and embezzlers of statefunds (now all the land, all the factories and all the railways are the “state funds” of the Soviet Republic). If the class-conscious advanced workers and poor peasants manage with the aid of the Soviet institutions to organise, become disciplined, pull themselves together, create powerful labour discipline in the course of one year, then in a year’s time we shall throw off this “tribute”, which can be reduced even before that . . . in exact proportion to the successes we achieve in our workers’ and peasants’ labour discipline and organisation. The sooner we ourselves, workers and peasants, learn the best labour discipline and the most modern technique of labour, using the bourgeois experts to teach us, the sooner we shall liberate ourselves from any “tribute” to these specialists.
Our work of organising country-wide accounting and control of production and distribution under the supervision of the proletariat has lagged very much behind our work of directly expropriating the expropriators. This proposition is of fundamental importance for understanding the specific features of the present situation and the tasks of the Soviet government that follow from it. The centre of gravity of our struggle against the bourgeoisie is shifting to the organisation of such accounting and control. Only with this as our starting-point will it be possible to determine correctly the immediate tasks of economic and financial policy in the sphere of nationalisation of the banks, monopolisation of foreign trade, the state control of money circulation, the introduction of a property and income tax satisfactory from the proletarian point of view, and the introduction of compulsory labour service.
We have been lagging very far behind in introducing socialist reforms in these spheres (very, very important spheres), and this is because accounting and control are insufficiently organised in general. It goes without saying that this is one of the most difficult tasks, and in view of the ruin caused by the war, it can be fulfilled only over a long period of time; but we must not forget that it is precisely here that the bourgeoisie—and particularly the numerous petty and peasant bourgeoisie—are putting up the most serious fight, disrupting the control that is already being organised, disrupting the grain monopoly, for example, and gaining positions for profiteering and speculative trade. We have far from adequately carried out the things we have decreed, and the principal task of the moment is to concentrate all efforts on the businesslike, practical realisation of the principles of the reforms which have already become law (but not yet reality).
In order to proceed with the nationalisation of the banks and to go on steadfastly towards transforming the banks into nodal points of public accounting under socialism, we must first of all, and above all, achieve real success in increasing the number of branches of the People’s Bank, in attracting deposits, in simplifying the paying in and withdrawal of deposits by the public, in abolishing queues, in catching and shooting bribe-takers and rogues, etc. At first we must really carry out the simplest things, properly organise what is available, and then prepare for the more intricate things.
Consolidate and improve the state monopolies (in grain, leather, etc.) which have already been introduced, and by doing so prepare for the state monopoly of foreign trade. Without this monopoly we shall not be able to “free ourselves” from foreign capital by paying “tribute”. And the possibility of building up socialism depends entirely upon whether we shall be able, by paying a certain tribute to foreign capital during a certain transitional period, to safeguard our internal economic independence.
We are also lagging very far behind in regard to the collection of taxes generally, and of the property and income tax in particular. The imposing of indemnities upon the bourgeoisie—a measure which in principle is absolutely permissible and deserves proletarian approval—shows that in this respect we are still nearer to the methods of warfare (to win Russia from the rich for the poor) than to the methods of administration. In order to become stronger, however, and in order to be able to stand firmer on our feet, we must adopt the latter methods, we must substitute for the indemnities imposed upon the bourgeoisie the constant and regular collection of a property and income tax, which will bring a greater return to the proletarian state, and which calls for better organisation on our part and better accounting and control.
The fact that we are late in introducing compulsory labour service also shows that the work that is coming to the fore at the present time is precisely the preparatory organisational work that, on the one hand, will finally consolidate our gains and that, on the other, is necessary in order to prepare for the operation of “surrounding” capital and compelling it to “surrender”. We ought to begin introducing compulsory labour service immediately, but we must do so very gradually and circumspectly, testing every step by practical experience, and, of course, taking the first step by introducing compulsory labour service for the rich. The introduction of work and consumers’ budget books for every bourgeois, including every rural bourgeois, would be an important step towards completely “surrounding” the enemy and towards the creation of a truly popular accounting and control of the production and distribution of goods.
The Significance Of The Struggle For Country-Wide Accounting And Control[edit source]
The state, which for centuries has been an organ for oppression and robbery of the people, has left us a legacy of the people’s supreme hatred and suspicion of everything that is connected with the state. It is very difficult to overcome this, and only a Soviet government can do it. Even a Soviet government, however, will require plenty of time and enormous perseverance to accomplish it. This “legacy” is especially apparent in the problem of accounting and control—the fundamental problem facing the socialist revolution on the morrow of the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. A certain amount of time will inevitably pass before the people, who feel free for the first time now that the landowners and the bourgeoisie have been overthrown, will understand—not from books, but from their own, Soviet experience—will understand and feel that without comprehensive state accounting and control of the production and distribution of goods, the power of the working people, the freedom of the working people, cannot be maintained, and that a return to the yoke of capitalism is inevitable.
All the habits and traditions of the bourgeoisie, and of the petty bourgeoisie in particular, also oppose state control, and uphold the inviolability of “sacred private property”, of “sacred” private enterprise. It is now particularly clear to us how correct is the Marxist thesis that anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism are bourgeois trends, how irreconcilably opposed they are to socialism, proletarian dictatorship and communism. The fight to instill into the people’s minds the idea of Soviet state control and accounting, and to carry out this idea in practice; the fight to break with the rotten past, which taught the people to regard the procurement of bread and clothes as a “private” affair, and buying and selling as a transaction “which concerns only myself"—is a great fight of world-historic significance, a fight between socialist consciousness and bourgeois-anarchist spontaneity.
We have introduced workers’ control as a law, but this law is only just beginning to operate and is only just beginning to penetrate the minds of broad sections of the proletariat. In our agitation we do not sufficiently explain that lack of accounting and control in the production and distribution of goods means the death of the rudiments of socialism, means the embezzlement of state funds (for all property belongs to the state and the state is the Soviet state in which power belongs to the majority of the working people). We do not sufficiently explain that carelessness in accounting and control is downright aiding and abetting the German and the Russian Kornilovs, who can overthrow the power of the working people only if we fail to cope with the task of accounting and control, and who, with the aid of the whole of the rural bourgeoisie, with the aid of the Constitutional-Democrats, the Mensheviks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, are “watching” us and waiting for an opportune moment to attack us. And the advanced workers and peasants do not think and speak about this sufficiently. Until workers’ control has become a fact, until the advanced workers have organised and carried out a victorious and ruthless crusade against the violators of this control, or against those who are careless in matters of control, it will be impossible to pass from the first step (from workers’ control) to the second step towards socialism, i.e., to pass on to workers’ regulation of production.
The socialist state can arise only as a network of producers’ and consumers’ communes, which conscientiously keep account of their production and consumption, economise on labour, and steadily raise the productivity of labour, thus making it possible to reduce the working day to seven, six and even fewer hours. Nothing will be achieved unless the strictest, country-wide, comprehensive accounting and control of grain and the production of grain (and later of all other essential goods) are set going. Capitalism left us a legacy of mass organisations which can facilitate our transition to the mass accounting and control of the distribution of goods, namely, the consumers’ co-operative societies. In Russia these societies are not so well developed as in the advanced countries, nevertheless, they have over ten million members. The Decree on Consumers’ Co-operative Societies, issued the other day, is an extremely significant phenomenon, which strikingly illustrates the peculiar position and the specific tasks of the Soviet Socialist Republic at the present moment.
The decree is an agreement with the bourgeois co-operative societies and the workers’ co-operative societies which still adhere to the bourgeois point of view. It is an agreement, or compromise, firstly because the representatives of the above-mentioned institutions not only took part in discussing the decree, but actually had a decisive say in the matter, for the parts of the decree which were strongly opposed by these institutions were dropped. Secondly, the essence of the compromise is that the Soviet government has abandoned the principle of admission of new members to co-operative societies without entrance fees (which is the only consistently proletarian principle); it has also abandoned the idea of uniting the whole population of a given locality in a single co-operative society. Contrary to this principle, which is the only socialist principle and which corresponds to the task of abolishing classes, the “working-class co-operative societies” (which in this case call themselves “class” societies only because they subordinate themselves to the class interests of the bourgeoisie) were given the right to continue to exist. Finally, the Soviet government’s proposal to expel the bourgeoisie entirely from the boards of the co-operative societies was also considerably modified, and only owners of private capitalist trading and industrial enterprises were forbidden to serve on the boards.
Had the proletariat, acting through the Soviet government, managed to organise accounting and control on a national scale, or at least laid the foundation for such control, it would not have been necessary to make such compromises. Through the food departments of the Soviets, through the supply organisations under the Soviets we should have organised the population into a single co-operative society under proletarian management. We should have done this without the assistance of the bourgeois co-operative societies, without making any concession to the purely bourgeois principle which prompts the workers’ co-operative societies to remain workers’ societies side by side with bourgeois societies, instead of subordinating these bourgeois co-operative societies entirely to themselves, merging the two together and taking the entire management of the society and the supervision of the consumption of the rich in their own hands.
In concluding such an agreement with the bourgeois co-operative societies, the Soviet government concretely defined its tactical aims and its peculiar methods of action in the present stage of development as follows: by directing the bourgeois elements, utilising them, making certain partial concessions to them, we create the conditions for further progress that will be slower than we at first anticipated, but surer, with the base and lines of communication better secured and with the positions which have been won better consolidated. The Soviets can (and should ) now gauge their successes in the field of socialist construction, among other things, by extremely clear, simple and practical standards, namely, in how many communities (communes or villages, or blocks of houses, etc.) co-operative societies have been organised, and to what extent their development has reached the point of embracing the whole population .
Raising the Productivity of Labour[edit source]
In every socialist revolution, after the proletariat has solved the problem of capturing power, and to the extent that the task of expropriating the expropriators and suppressing their resistance has been carried out in the main, there necessarily comes to the forefront the fundamental task of creating a social system superior to capitalism, namely, raising the productivity of labour, and in this connection (and for this purpose) securing better organisation of labour. Our Soviet state is precisely in the position where, thanks to the victories over the exploiters—from Kerensky to Kornilov—it is able to approach this task directly, to tackle it in earnest. And here it becomes immediately clear that while it is possible to take over the central government in a few days, while it is possible to suppress the military resistance (and sabotage) of the exploiters even in different parts of a great country in a few weeks, the capital solution of the problem of raising the productivity of labour requires, at all events (particularly after a most terrible and devastating war), several years. The protracted nature of the work is certainly dictated by objective circumstances.
The raising of the productivity of labour first of all requires that the material basis of large-scale industry shall be assured, namely, the development of the production of fuel, iron, the engineering and chemical industries. The Russian Soviet Republic enjoys the favourable position of having at its command, even after the Brest peace, enormous reserves of ore (in the Urals), fuel in Western Siberia (coal), in the Caucasus and the South-East (oil), in Central Russia (peat), enormous timber reserves, water power, raw materials for the chemical industry (Karabugaz), etc. The development of these natural resources by methods of modern technology will provide the basis for the unprecedented progress of the productive forces.
Another condition for raising the productivity of labour is, firstly, the raising of the educational and cultural level of the mass of the population. This is now taking place extremely rapidly, a fact which those who are blinded by bourgeois routine are unable to see; they are unable to understand what an urge towards enlightenment and initiative is now developing among the “lower ranks” of the people thanks to the Soviet form of organisation. Secondly, a condition for economic revival is the raising of the working people’s discipline, their skill, the effectiveness, the intensity of labour and its better organisation.
In this respect the situation is particularly bad and even hopeless if we are to believe those who have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the bourgeoisie or by those who are serving the bourgeoisie for their own ends. These people do not understand that there has not been, nor could there be, a revolution in which the supporters of the old system did not raise a howl about chaos, anarchy, etc. naturally, among the people who have only just thrown off an unprecedentedly savage yoke there is deep and widespread seething and ferment; the working out of new principles of labour discipline by the people is a very protracted process, and this process could not even start until complete victory had been achieved over the landowners and the bourgeoisie.
We, however, without in the least yielding to the despair (it is often false despair) which is spread by the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois intellectuals (who have despaired of retaining their old privileges), must under no circumstances conceal an obvious evil. On the contrary, we shall expose it and intensify the Soviet methods of combating it, because the victory of socialism is inconceivable without the victory of proletarian conscious discipline over spontaneous petty-bourgeois anarchy, this real guarantee of a possible restoration of Kerenskyism and Kornilovism.
The more class-conscious vanguard of the Russian proletariat has already set itself the task of raising labour discipline. For example, both the Central Committee of the Metalworkers’ Union and the Central Council of Trade Unions have begun to draft the necessary measures and decrees.This work must be supported and pushed ahead with all speed. We must raise the question of piece-work and apply and test it in practice; we must raise the question of applying much of what is scientific and progressive in the Taylor system; we must make wages correspond to the total amount of goods turned out, or to the amount of work done by the railways, the water transport system, etc., etc.
The Russian is a bad worker compared with people in advanced countries. It could not be otherwise under the tsarist regime and in view of the persistence of the hangover from serfdom. The task that the Soviet government must set the people in all its scope is—learn to work. The Taylor system, the last word of capitalism in this respect, like all capitalist progress, is a combination of the refined brutality of bourgeois exploitation and a number of the greatest scientific achievements in the field of analysing mechanical motions during work, the elimination of superfluous and awkward motions, the elaboration of correct methods of work, the introduction of the best system of accounting and control, etc. The Soviet Republic must at all costs adopt all that is valuable in the achievements of science and technology in this field. The possibility of building socialism depends exactly upon our success in combining the Soviet power and the Soviet organisation of administration with the up-to-date achievements of capitalism. We must organise in Russia the study and teaching of the Taylor system and systematically try it out and adapt it to our own ends. At the same time, in working to raise the productivity of labour, we must take into account the specific features of the transition period from capitalism to socialism, which, on the one hand, require that the foundations be laid of the socialist organisation of competition, and, on the other hand, require the use of compulsion, so that the slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat shall not be desecrated by the practice of a lily-livered proletarian government.
The Organisation Of Competition[edit source]
Among the absurdities which the bourgeoisie are fond of spreading about socialism is the allegation that socialists deny the importance of competition. In fact, it is only socialism which, by abolishing classes, and, consequently, by abolishing the enslavement of the people, for the first time opens the way for competition on a really mass scale. And it is precisely the Soviet form of organisation, by ensuring transition from the formal democracy of the bourgeois republic to real participation of the mass of working people in administration, that for the first time puts competition on a broad basis. It is much easier to organise this in the political field than in the economic field; but for the success of socialism, it is the economic field that matters.
Take, for example, a means of organising competition such as publicity. The bourgeois republic ensures publicity only formally; in practice, it subordinates the press to capital, entertains the “mob” with sensationalist political trash and conceals what takes place in the workshops, in commercial transactions, contracts, etc., behind a veil of “trade secrets”, which protect “the sacred right of property”. The Soviet government has abolished trade secrets; it has taken a new path; but we have done hardly anything to utilise publicity for the purpose of encouraging economic competition. While ruthlessly suppressing the thoroughly mendacious and insolently slanderous bourgeois press, we must set to work systematically to create a press that will not entertain and fool the people with political sensation and trivialities, but which will submitthe questions of everyday economic life to the people’s judgement and assist in the serious study of these questions. Every factory, every village is a producers’ and consumers’ commune, whose right and duty it is to apply the general Soviet laws in their own way ("in their own way”, not in the sense of violating them, but in the sense that they can apply them in various forms) and in their own way to solve the problem of accounting in the production and distribution of goods. Under capitalism, this was the â“private affairâ” of the individual capitalist, landowner or kulak. Under the Soviet system, it is not a private affair, but a most important affair of state.
We have scarcely yet started on the enormous, difficult but rewarding task of organising competition between communes, of introducing accounting and publicity in the process of the production of grain, clothes and other things, of transforming dry, dead, bureaucratic accounts into living examples, some repulsive, others attractive. Under the capitalist mode of production, the significance of individual example, say the example of a co-operative workshop, was inevitably very much restricted, and only those imbued with petty-bourgeois illusions could dream of "correcting” capitalisim through the example of virtuous institutions. After political power has passed to the proletariat, after the expropriators have been expropriated, the situation radically changes andeas prominent socialists have repeatedly pointed out—force of example for the first time is able to influence the people. Model communes must and will serve as educators, teachers, helping to raise the backward communes. The press must serve as an instrument of socialist construction, give publicity to the successes achieved by the model communes in all their details, must study the causes of these successes, the methods of management these communes employ, and, on the other hand, must put on the “black list” those communes which persist in the “traditions of capitalism”, i.e., anarchy, laziness, disorder and profiteering. In capitalist society, statistics were entirely a matter for “government servants”, or for narrow specialists; we must carry statistics to the people and make them popular so that the working people themselves may gradually learn to understand and see how long and in what way it is necessary to work, how much time and in what way one may rest, so that the comparison of the business results of the various communes may become a matter of general interest and study, and that the most outstanding communes may be rewarded immediately (by reducing the working day, raising remuneration, placing a larger amount of cultural or aesthetic facilities or values at their disposal, etc.).
When a new class comes on to the historical scene as the leader and guide of society, a period of violent “rocking”, shocks, struggle and storm, on the one hand, and a period of uncertain steps, experiments, wavering, hesitation in regard to the selection of new methods corresponding to new objective circumstances, On the other, are inevitable. The moribund feudal nobility avenged themselves on the bourgeoisie which vanquished them and took their place, not only by conspiracies and attempts at rebellion and restoration, but also by pouring ridicule over the lack of skill, the clumsiness and the mistakes of the “upstarts” and the “insolent” who dared to take over the “sacred helm” of state without the centuries of training which the princes, barons, nobles and dignitaries had had; in exactly the same way the Kornilovs and Kerenskys, the Gotzes and Martovs, the whole of that fraternity of heroes of bourgeois swindling or bourgeois scepticism, avenge themselves on the working class of Russia for having had the “audacity” to take power.
Of course, not weeks, but long months and years are required for a new social class, especially a class which up to now has been oppressed and crushed by poverty and ignorance, to get used to its new position, look around, organise its work and promote its own organisers. It is understandable that the Party which leads the revolutionary proletariat has not been able to acquire the experience and habits of large organisational undertakings embracing millions and tens of millions of citizens; the remoulding of the old, almost exclusively agitators’ habits is a very lengthy process. But there is nothing impossible in this, and as soon as the necessity for a change is clearly appreciated, as soon as there is firm determination to effect the change and perseverance in pursuing a great and difficult aim, we shall achieve it. There is an enormous amount of organising talent among the “people”, i.e., among the workers and the peasants who do not exploit the labour of others. Capital crushed these talented people in thousands; it killed their talent and threw them on to the scrap-heap. We are not yet able to find them, encourage them, put them on their feet, promote them. But we shall learn to do so if we set about it with all-out revolutionary enthusiasm, without which there can be no victorious revolutions.
No profound and mighty popular movement has ever occurred in history without dirty scum rising to the top, without adventurers and rogues, boasters and ranters attaching themselves to the inexperienced innovators, without absurd muddle and fuss, without individual “leaders” trying to deal with twenty matters at once and not finishing any of them. Let the lap-dogs of bourgeois society, from Belorussov to Martov, squeal and yelp about every extra chip that is sent flying in cutting down the big, old wood. What else are lap-dogs for if not to yelp at the proletarian elephant? Let them yelp. We shall go our way and try as carefully and as patiently as possible to test and discover real organisers, people with sober and practical minds, people who combine loyally to socialism with ability without fuss (and in spite of muddle and fuss) to get a large number of people working together steadily and concertedly within the framework of Soviet organisation. Only such people, after they have been tested a dozen times, by being transferred from the simplest to the more difficult tasks, should be promoted to the responsible posts of leaders of the people’s labour, leaders of administration. We have not yet learned to do this, but we shall learn.
“Harmonious Organisation” And Dictatorship[edit source]
The resolution adopted by the recent Moscow Congress of Soviets advanced as the primary task of the moment the establishment of a “harmonious organisation”, and the tightening of discipline. Everyone now readily “votes for” and “subscribes to” resolutions of this kind; but usually people do not think over the fact that the application of such resolutions calls for coercion—coercion precisely in the form of dictatorship. And yet it would be extremely stupid and ahsurdly utopian to assume that the transition from capitalism to socialism is possible without coercion and without dictatorship. Marx’s theory very definitely opposed this petty-bourgeois-democratic and anarchist absurdity long ago. And Russia of 1917-18 confirms the correctness of Marx’s theory in this respect so strikingly, palpably and imposingly that only those who are hopelessly dull or who have obstinately decided to turn thelr backs on the truth can be under any misapprehension concerning this. Either the dictatorship of Kornilov (if we take him as the Russian type of bourgeois Cavaignac), or the dictatorship of the proletariat—any other choice is out of the question for a country which is developing at an extremely rapid rate with extremely sharp turns and amidst desperate ruin created by one of the most horrible wars in history. Every solution that offers a middle path is either a deception of the people by the bourgeoisie—for the bourgeoisie dare not tell the truth, dare not say that they need Kornilov—or an expression of the dull-wittedness of the petty-bourgeois democrats, of the Chernovs, Tseretelis and Martovs, who chatter about the unity of democracy, the dictatorship of democracy, the general democratic front, and similar nonsense. Those whom even the progress of the Russian Revolution of 1917-18 has not taught that a middle course is impossible, must be given up for lost.
On the other hand, it is not difficult to see that during every transition from capitalism to socialism, dictatorship is necessary for two main reasons, or along two main channels. Firstly, capitalism cannot be defeated and eradicated without the ruthless suppression of the resistance of the exploiters, who cannot at once be deprived of their wealth, of their advantages of organisation and knowledge, and consequently for a fairly long period will inevitably try to overthrow the hated rule of the poor; secondly, every great revolution, and a socialist revolution in particular, even if there is no external war, is inconceivable without internal war, i.e., civil war, which is even more devastating than external war, and involves thousands and millions of cases of wavering and desertion from one side to another, implies a state of extreme indefiniteness, lack of equilibirium and chaos. And of course, all the elements of disintegration of the old society, which are inevitably very numerous and connected mainly with the petty bourgeoisie (because it is the petty bourgeoisie that every war and every crisis ruins and destroys first), are bound to “reveal themselves” during such a profound revolution. And these elements of disintegration cannot “reveal themselves” otherwise than in an increase of crime, hooliganism, corruption, profiteering and outrages of every kind. To put these down requires time and requires an iron hand.
There has not been a single great revolution in history in which the people did not instinctively realise this and did not show salutary firmness by shooting thieves on the spot. The misfortune of previous revolutions was that the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people, which sustained them in their state of tension and gave them the strength to suppress ruthlessly the elements of disintegration, did not last long. The social, i.e., the class, reason for this instability of the revolutionary enthusiasm of the people was the weakness of the proletariat, which alone is able (if it is sufficiently numerous, class-conscious and disciplined) to win over to its side the majority of the working and exploited people (the majority of the poor, to speak more simply and popularly) and retain power sufficiently long to suppress completely all the exploiters as well as all the elements of disintegration.
It was this historical experience of all revolutions, it was this world-historic—economic and political—lesson that Marx summed up when he gave his short, sharp, concise and expressive formula: dictatorship of the proletariat. And the fact that the Russian revolution has been correct in its approach to this world-historic task has been proved by the victorious progress of the Soviet form of organisation among all the peoples and tongues of Russia. For Soviet power is nothing but an organisational form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the dictatorship of the advanced class, which raises to a new democracy and to independent participation in the administration of the state tens upon tens of millions of working and exploited peoples who by their own experience learn to regard the disciplined and class-conscious vanguard of the proletariat as their most reliable leader.
Dictatorship, however, is a big word, and big words should not be thrown about carelessly. Dictatorship is iron rule, government that is revolutionarily bold, swift and ruthless in suppressing both exploiters and hooligans. But our government is excessively mild, very often it resembles jelly more than iron. We must not forget for a moment that the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois element is fighting against the Soviet system in two ways; on the one hand, it is operating from without, by the methods of the Savinkovs, Gotzes, Gegechkoris and Kornilovs, by conspiracies and rebellions, and by their filthy “ideological” reflection, the flood of lies and slander in the Constitutional-Democratic, Right Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik press; on the other hand, this element operates from within and takes advantage of every manifestation of disintegration, of every weakness, in order to bribe, to increase indiscipline, laxity and chaos. The nearer we approach the complete military suppression of the bourgeoisie, the more dangerous does the element of petty-bourgeois anarchy become. And the fight against this element cannot be waged solely with the aid of propaganda and agitation, solely by organising competition and by selecting organisers. The struggle must also be waged by means of coercion.
As the fundamental task of the government becomes, not military suppression, but administration, the typical manifestation of suppression and compulsion will be, not shooting on the spot, but trial by court. In this respect also the revolutionary people after October 25, 1917 took the right path and demonstrated the viability of the revolution by setting up their own workers’ and peasants’ courts, even before the decrees dissolving the bourgeois bureaucratic judiciary were passed. But our revolutionary and people’s courts are extremely, incredibly weak. One feels that we have not yet done away with the people’s attitude towards the courts as towards something official and alien, an attitude inherited from the yoke of the landowners and of the bourgeoisie. It is not yet sufficiently realised that the courts are an organ which enlists precisely the poor, every one of them, in the work of state administration (for the work of the courts is one of the functions of state administration), that the courts are an organ of the power of the proletariat and of the poor peasants, that the courts are an instrument for inculcating discipline. There is not yet sufficient appreciation of the simple and obvious fact that if the principal misfortunes of Russia at the present time are hunger and unemployment, these misfortunes cannot be overcome by spurts, but only by comprehensive, all-embracing, country-wide organisation and discipline in order to increase the output of bread for the people and bread for industry (fuel), to transport these in good time to the places where they are required, and to distribute them properly; and it is not fully appreciated that, consequently, it is those who violate labour discipline at any factory, in any undertaking, in any matter, who are responsible for the sufferings caused by the famine and unemployment, that we must know how to find the guilty ones, to bring them to trial and ruthlessly punish them. Where the petty-bourgeois anarchy against which we must now wage a most persistent struggle makes itself felt is in the failure to appreciate the economic and political connection between famine and unemployment, on the one hand, and general laxity in matters of organisation and discipline, on the other—in the tenacity of the small-proprietor outlook, namely, I’ll grab all I can for myself; the rest can go hang.
In the rail transport service, which perhaps most strikingly embodies the economic ties of an organism created by large-scale capitalism, the struggle between the element of petty-bourgeois laxity and proletarian organisation is particularly evident. The “administrative” elements provide a host of saboteurs and bribe-takers; the best part of the proletarian elements fight for discipline; but among both elements there are, of course, many waverers and “weak” characters who are unable to withstand the “temptation” of profiteering, bribery, personal gain obtained by spoiling the whole apparatus, upon the proper working of which the victory over famine and unemployment depends.
The struggle that has been developing around the recent decree on the management of the railways, the decree which grants individual executives dictatorial powers (or “unlimited” powers), is characteristic. The conscious (and to a large extent, probably, unconscious) representatives of petty bourgeois laxity would like to see in this granting of “unlimited” (i.e., dictatorial) powers to individuals a departure from the collegiate principle, from democracy and from the principles of Soviet government. Here and there, among Left Socialist-RevoIutionaries, a positively hooligan agitation, i.e., agitation appealing to the base instincts and to the small proprietor’s urge to “grab all he can”, has been developed against the dictatorship decree. The question has become one of really enormous significance. Firstly, the question of principle, namely, is the appointment of individuals, dictators with unlimited powers, in general compatible with the fundamental principles of Soviet government? Secondly, what relation has this case—this precedent, if you will—to the special tasks of government in the present concrete situation? We must deal very thoroughly with both these questions.
That in the history of revolutionary movements the dictatorship of individuals was very often the expression, the vehicle, the channel of the dictatorship of the revolutionary classes has been shown by the irrefutable experience of history. Undoubtedly, the dictatorship of individuals was compatible with bourgeois democracy. On this point, how ever, the bourgeois denigrators of the Soviet system, as well as their petty-bourgeois henchmen, always display sleight of hand: on the one hand, they declare the Soviet system to be something absurd, anarchistic and savage, and carefully pass over in silence all our historical examples and theoretical arguments which prove that the Soviets are a higher form of democracy, and what is more, the beginning of a socialist form of democracy; on the other hand, they demand of us a higher democracy than bourgeois democracy and say: personal dictatorship is absolutely incompatible with your, Bolshevik (i.e., not bourgeois, but socialist ), Soviet democracy.
These are exceedingly poor arguments. If we are not anarchists, we must admit that the state, that is, coercion, is necessary for the transition from capitalism to socialism. The form of coercion is determined by the degree of development of the given revolutionary class, and also by special circumstances, such as, for example, the legacy of a long and reactionary war and the forms of resistance put up by the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie. There is, therefore, absolutely no contradiction in principle between Soviet (that is, socialist) democracy and the exercise of dictatorial powers by individuals. The difference between proletarian dictatorship and bourgeois dictatorship is that the former strikes at the exploiting minority in the interests of the exploited majority, and that it is exercised—also through individuals—not only by the working and exploited people, but also by organisations which are built in such a way as to rouse these people to history-making activity. (The Soviet organisations are organisations of this kind.)
In regard to the second question, concerning the significance of individual dictatorial powers from the point of view of the specific tasks of the present moment, it must be said that large-scale machine industry—which is precisely the material source, the productive source, the foundation of socialism—calls for absolute and strict unity of will, which directs the joint labours of hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of people. The technical, economic and historical necessity of this is obvious, and all those who have thought about socialism have always regarded it as one of the conditions of socialism. But how can strict unity of will be ensured? By thousands subordinating their will to the will of one.
Given ideal class-consciousness and discipline on the part of those participating in the common work, this subordination would be something like the mild leadership of a conductor of an orchestra. It may assume the sharp forms of a dictatorship if ideal discipline and class-consciousness are lacking. But be that as it may, unquestioning subordination to a single will is absolutely necessary for the success of processes organised on the pattern of large-scale machine industry. On the railways it is twice and three times as necessary. In this transition from one political task to another, which on the surface is totally dissimilar to the first, lies the whole originality of the present situation. The revolution has only just smashed the oldest, strongest and heaviest of fetters, to which the people submitted under duress. That was yesterday. Today, however, the same revolution demands—precisely in the interests of its development and consolidation, precisely in the interests of socialism—that the people unquestioningly obey the single will of the leaders of labour. Of course, such a transition cannot be made at one step. Clearly, it can be achieved only as a result of tremendous jolts, shocks, reversions to old ways, the enormous exertion of effort on the part of the proletarian vanguard, which is leading the people to the new ways. Those who drop into the philistine hysterics of Novaya Zhizn or Vperyod, Dyelo Naroda or do not stop to think about this.
Take the psychology of the average, ordinary representative of the toiling and exploited masses, compare it with the objective, material conditions of his life in society. Before the October Revolution he did not see a single instance of the propertied, exploiting classes making any real sacrifice for him, giving up anything for his benefit. He did not see them giving him the land and liberty that had been repeatedly promised him, giving him peace, sacrificing “Great Power” interests and the interests of Great Power secret treaties, sacrificing capital and profits. He saw this only after October 25, 1917, when he took it himself by force, and had to defend by force what he had taken, against the Kerenskys, Gotzes, Gegechkoris, Dutovs and Kornilovs. Naturally, for a certain time, all his attention, all his thoughts, all his spiritual strength, were concentrated on taking a breath, on unbending his back, on straightening his shoulders, on taking the blessings of life that were there for the taking, and that had always been denied him by the now overthrown exploiters. Of course, a certain amount of time is required to enable the ordinary working man not only to see for himself, not only to become convinced, but also to feel that he cannot simply “take”, snatch, grab things, that this leads to increased disruption, to ruin, to the return of the Kornilovs. The corresponding change in the conditions of life (and consequently in the psychology) of the ordinary working men is only just beginning. And our whole task, the task of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks), which is the class-conscious spokesman for the strivings of the exploited for emancipation, is to appreciate this change, to understand that it is necessary, to stand at the head of the exhausted people who are wearily seeking a way out and lead them along the true path, along the path of labour discipline, along the path of co-ordinating the task of arguing at mass meetings about the conditions of work with the task of unquestioningly obeying the will of the Soviet leader, of the dictator, during the work.
The “mania for meetings” is an object of the ridicule, and still more often of the spiteful hissing of the bourgeoisie, the Mensheviks, the Novaya Zhizn people, who see only the chaos, the confusion and the outbursts of small-proprietor egoism. But without the discussions at public meetings the mass of the oppressed could never have changed from the discipline forced upon them by the exploiters to conscious, voluntary discipline. The airing of questions at public meetings is the genuine democracy of the working people, their way of unbending their backs, their awakening to a new life, their first steps along the road which they themselves have cleared of vipers (the exploiters, the imperialists, the landowners and capitalists) and which they want to learn to build themselves, in their own way, for themselves, on the principles of their own Soviet, and not alien, not aristocratic, not bourgeois rule. It required precisely the October victory of the working people over the exploiters, it required a whole historical period in wllich the workillg people themselves could first of all discuss the new conditions of life and the new tasks, in order to make possible the durable transition to superior forms of labour discipline, to the conscious appreciation of the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat, to unquestioning obedience to the orders of individual representatives of the Soviet government during the work.
This transition has now begun.
We have successfully fulfilled the first task of the revolution; we have seen how the mass of working people evolved in themselves the fundamental condition for its success: they united their efforts against the exploiters in order to overthrow them. Stages like that of October 1905, February and October 1917 are of world-historic significance.
We have successfully fulfilled the second task of the revolution: to awaken, to raise those very “lower ranks” of society whom the exploiters had pushed down, and who only after October 25, 1917 obtained complete freedom to overthrow the exploiters and to begin to take stock of things and arrange life in their own way. The airing of questions at public meetings by the most oppressed and downtrodden, by the least educated mass of working people, their coming over to the side of the Bolsheviks, their setting up every where of their own Soviet organisations—this was the second great stage of the revolution.
The third stage is now beginning. We must consolidate what we ourselves have won, what we ourselves have decreed, made law, discussed, planned—consolidate all this in stable forms of everyday labour discipline. This is the most difficult, but the most gratifying task, because only its fulfilment will give us a socialist system. We must learn to combine the “public meeting” democracy of the working people—turbulent, surging, overflowing its banks like a spring flood—with iron discipline while at work, with unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the Soviet leader, while at work.
We have not yet learned to do this.
We shall learn it.
Yesterday we were mennced by the restoration of bourgeois exploitation, personified by the Kornilovs, Gotzes, Dutovs, Gegechkoris and Bogayevskys. We conquered them. This restoration, this very same restoration menaces us today in another form, in the form of the element of petty-bourgeois laxity and anarchism, or small-proprietor “it’s not my business” psychology, in the form of the daily, petty, but numerous sorties and attacks of this element against proletarian discipline. We must, and we shall, vanquish this element of petty-bourgeois anarchy.
The Development Of Soviet Organisation[edit source]
The socialist character of Soviet, i.e., proletarian, democracy, as concretely applied today, lies first in the fact that the electors are the working and exploited people; the bourgeoisie is excluded. Secondly, it lies in the fact that all bureaucratic formalities and restrictions of elections are abolished; the people themselves determine the order and time of elections, and are completely free to recall any elected person. Thirdly, it lies in the creation of the best mass organisation of the vanguard of the working people, i.e., the proletariat engaged in large-scale industry, which enables it to lead the vast mass of the exploited, to draw them into independent political life, to educate them politically by their own experience; therefore for the first time a start is made by the entire population in learning the art of administration, and in beginning to administer.
These are the principal distinguishing features of the democracy now applied in Russia, which is a higher type of democracy, a break with the bourgeois distortion of democracy, transition to socialist democracy and to the conditions in which the state can begin to wither away.
It goes without saying that the element of petty-bourgeois disorganisation (which must inevitably be apparent to some extent in every proletarian revolution, and which is especially apparent in our revolution, owing to the petty-bourgeois character of our country, its backwardness and the consequences of a reactionary war) cannot but leave its impress upon the Soviets as well.
We must work unremittingly to develop the organisation of the Soviets and of the Soviet government. There is a petty-bourgeois tendency to transform the members of the Soviets into “parliamentarians”, or else into bureaucrats. We must combat this by drawing all the members of the Soviets into the practical work of administration. In many places the departments of the Soviets are gradually merging with the Commissariats. Our aim is to draw the whole of the poor into the practical work of administration, and all steps that are taken in this direction—the more varied they are, the better—should be carefully recorded, studied, systematised, tested by wider experience and embodied in law. Our aim is to ensure that every toiler, having finished his eight hours’ “task” in productive labour, shall perform state duties without pay; the transition to this is particularly difficult, but this transition alone can guarantee the final consolidation of socialism. Naturally, the novelty and difficulty of the change lead to an abundance of steps being taken, as it were, gropingly, to an abundance of mistakes, vacillation—without this, any marked progress is impossible. The reason why the present position seems peculiar to many of those who would like to be regarded as socialists is that they have been accustomed to contrasting capitalism with socialism abstractly, and that they profoundly put between the two the word “leap” (some of them; recalling fragments of what they have read of Engels’s writings, still more profoundly add the phrase “leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom”. The majority of these so-called socialists, who have “read in books” about socialism but who have never seriously thought over the matter, are unable to consider that by “leap” the teachers of socialism meant turning-points on a world historical scale, and that leaps of this kind extend over decades and even longer periods. Naturally, in such times, the notorious “intelligentsia” provides an infinite number of mourners of the dead. Some mourn over the Constituent Assembly, others mourn over bourgeois discipline, others again mourn over the capitalist system, still others mourn over the cultured landowner, and still others again mourn over imperialist Great Power policy, etc., etc.
The real interest of the epoch of great leaps lies in the fact that the abundance of fragments of the old, which sometimes accumulate more rapidly than the rudiments (not always immediately discernible) of the new, calls for the ability to discern what is most important in the line or chain of development. History knows moments when the most important thing for the success of the revolution is to heap up as large a quantity of the fragments as possible, i.e., to blow up as many of the old institutions as possible; moments arise when enough has been blown up and the next task is to perform the “prosaic” (for the petty-bourgeois revolutionary, the “boring”) task of clearing away the fragments; and moments arise when the careful nursing of the rudiments of the new system, which are growing amidst the wreckage on a soil which as yet has been badly cleared of rubble, is the most important thing.
It is not enough to be a revolutionary and an adherent of socialism or a Communist in general. You must be able at each particular moment to find the particular link in the chain which you must grasp with all your might in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next link; the order of the links, their form, the manner in which they are linked together, the way they differ from each other in the historical chain of events, are not as simple and not as meaningless as those in an ordinary chain made by a smith.
The fight against the bureaucratic distortion of the Soviet form of organisation is assured by the firmness of the connection between the Soviets and the “people”, meaning by that the working and exploited people, and by the flexibility and elasticity of this connection. Even in the most democratic capitalist republics in the world, the poor never regard the bourgeois parliament as “their” institution. But the Soviets are “theirs” and not alien institutions to the mass of workers and peasants. The modern “Social-Democrats” of the Scheidemann or, what is almost the same thing, of the Martov type are repelled by the Soviets, and they are drawn towards the respectable bourgeois parliament, or to the Constituent Assembly, in the same way as Turgenev, sixty years ago, was drawn towards a moderate monarchist and noblemen’s Constitution and was repelled by the peasant democracy of Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky.
It is the closeness of the Soviets to the “people”, to the working people, that creates the special forms of recall and other means of control from below which must be most zealously developed now. For example, the Councils of Public Education, as periodical conferences of Soviet electors and their delegates called to discuss and control the activities of the Soviet authorities in this field, deserve full sympathy and support. Nothing could be sillier than to transform the Soviets into something congealed and self-contained. The more resolutely we now have to stand for a ruthlessly firm government, for the dictatorship of individuals in definite processes of work, in definite aspects of purely executive functions, the more varied must be the forms and methods of control from below in order to counteract every shadow of a possibility of distorting the principles of Soviet government, in order repeatedly and tirelessly to weed out bureaucracy.
An extraordinarily difficult, complex and dangerous situation in international affairs; the necessity of manoeuvring and retreating; a period of waiting for new outbreaks of the revolution which is maturing in the West at a painfully slow pace; within the country a period of slow construction and ruthless “tightening up”, of prolonged and persistent struggle waged by stern, proletarian discipline against the menacing element of petty-bourgeois laxity and anarchy—these in brief are the distinguishing features of the special stage of the socialist revolution in which we are now living. This is the link in the historical chain of events which we must at present grasp with all our might in order to prove equal to the tasks that confront us before passing to the next link to which we are drawn by a special brightness, the brightness of the victories of the international proletarian revolution.
Try to compare with the ordinary everyday concept “revolutionary” the slogans that follow from the specific conditions of the present stage, namely, manoeuvre, retreat, wait, build slowly, ruthlessly tighten up, rigorously discipline, smash laxity. . . . Is it surprising that when certain “revolutionaries” hear this they are seized with noble indignation and begin to “thunder” abuse at us for forgetting the traditions of the October Revolution, for compromising with the bourgeois experts, for compromising with the bourgeoisie, for being petty bourgeois, reformists, and so on and so forth?
The misfortune of these sorry “revolutionaries” is that even those of them who are prompted by the best motives in the world and are absolutely loyal to the cause of socialism fail to understand the particular, and particularly “unpleasant”, condition that a backward country, which has been lacerated by a reactionary and disastrous war and which began the socialist revolution long before the more advanced countries, inevitably has to pass through; they lack stamina in the difficult moments of a difficult transition. Naturally, it is the “Left Socialist-Revolutionaries” who are acting as an “official” opposition of this kind against our Party. Of course, there are and always will be individual exceptions from group and class types. But social types remain. In the land in which the small-proprietor population greatly predominates over the purely proletarian population, the difference between the proletarian revolutionary and petty-bourgeois revolutionary will inevitably make itself felt, and from time to time will make itself felt very sharply. The petty-bourgeois revolutionary wavers and vacillates at every turn of events; he is an ardent revolutionary in March 1917 and praises “coalition” in May, hates the Bolsheviks (or laments over their “adventurism”) in July and apprehensively turns away from them at the end of October, supports them in December, and, finally, in March and April 1918 such types, more often than not, turn up their noses contemptuously and say: “I am not one of those who sing hymns to ’organic’ work, to practicalness and gradualism.”
The social origin of such types is the small proprietor, who has been driven to frenzy by the horrors of war, by sudden ruin, by unprecedented torments of famine and devastation, who hysterically rushes about seeking a way out, seeking salvation, places his confidence in the proletariat and supports it one moment and the next gives way to fits of despair. We must clearly understand and firmly remember the fact that socialism cannot be built on such a social basis. The only class that can lead the working and exploited people is the class that unswervingly follows its path without losing courage and without giving way to despair even at the most difficult, arduous and dangerous stages. Hysterical impulses are of no use to us. What we need is the steady advance of the iron battalions of the proletariat.
- Bogayevsky, M. P. (1881-1918)—counter-revolutionary leader and organiser of the civil war against Soviet power on the Don. He was defeated and surrendered in the spring of 1918.
- On November 18 (December 1), 1917 the Council of People’s Commissars, acting on a proposal made by Lenin, passed a decision “On the Remuneration of People’s Commissars and Senior Government Employees and Officials” (published on November 23 [December 6], 1917 in No. 16 of the Newspaper of the Provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government ). Drafted by Lenin it fixed the maximum monthly salary of a People’s Commissar at 500 rubles with an additional 100 rubles for every member of his family unable to work. This corresponded roughly to the worker’s average monthly wage. On January 2 (15),1918, in answer to an inquiry from the People’s Commissar for Labour A. G Shlyapnikov, the Council of People’s Commissars issued a decision written by Lenin explaining that the Decree of November 18 (December 1), 1917 fixed no limit for the payment of experts and thus sanctioned higher remuneration for scientific and technical experts.
- Control over foreign trade was initiated in the early days of Soviet power. At first this was handled by the Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee, which considered applications for the import and export of goods and supervised the work of the customs. By a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of December 29 1917 (January 11, 1918) foreign trade was placed under the control of the People’s Commissariat for Trade and Industry. This kind of control and customs inspection, however, was not enough to protect the Soviet economy from foreign capital. Lenin emphasised later that the working class of Soviet Russia “would be totally unable to build up its own industry and make Russia an industrial country without the protection, not of tariffs, but of the monopoly of foreign trade” (see V. I. Lenin, On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet State, Moscow, p. 424). In December 1917 Lenin proposed introducing a state monopoly on foreign trade, a decree on which was passed by the Council of People’s Commissars on April 22, 1918 (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol. 2, 1959, pp. 158-60).
- In the first months of Soviet power indemnities and special taxes were one of the principal sources of revenue, particularly in the provinces. When Soviet power became more firmly establisiled the question arose of how to devise a regular system of taxation based primarily on a progressive income tax and a property tax which would make it possible to place the main burden of taxation on the well-to-do sections of the population. At the First All-Russia Congress of Representatives of the Financial Departments of the Soviets, Lenin pointed out: “We have many plans in this sphere and have cleared the ground on which to build the foundation, but the actual foundation of that building has not yet been built. The time for this has now come” (see this volume, pp. 384-85). The Congress accepted Lenin’s proposal on the need to introduce an income tax and property tax and elected a special commission to draw up the requisite Statute on the basis of Lenin’s theses.
On June 17,1918 the Council of People’s Commissars approved the Decree on the Amendment of the Decree of November 24, 1917 on the Levying of Direct Taxes, which laid down a strict system of income and property taxation (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol. 2, 1959, pp. 441-43).
- Decree on Consumers’ Co-operative Societies was passed by the Council of People’s Commissars on April 10, 1918, approved at a meeting of the All-Russia CEC on April 11, and published over Lenin’s signature in Pravda No. 71 of April 13 and Izvestia VTsIK No. 75 of April 16.
The first draft of the decree, written by Lenin, was worked out in detail by the People’s Commissariat for Food and published on January 19 (February 1) in Izvestia TsIK No. 14. The draft decree was bitterly opposed by bourgeois co-operators, who insisted that co-operative societies should be independent of the organs of Soviet power. In order to use the existillg co-operative apparatus for accounting and control of the distribntion of foodstuffs the Council of People’s Commissars made several concessions during its negotiations with bourgeois co-operators (March to the beginning of April 1918). On April 9 and 10 the CPC discussed the draft decree proposed by the co-operators. Lenin revised the draft considerably (he rewrote points 11, 12 and 13), and the decree with his amendments was passed by the Council of People’s Commissars, and then by the All-Russia CEC.
- The organisation of social production on socialist principles made it necessary to draw up new internal regulations for the nationalised enterprises, and new regulations on labour discipline and on enrolling all able-bodied persons for socially useful work. These questions acquired special importance in the period of the peaceful breathing-space in the spring of 1918.
The first regulations concerning labour discipline were worked out by the Soviet trade unions in conjunction with managerial bodies. They were discussed at a number of meetings of the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council with representatives of the central organs of the trade unions taking part. On March 27 the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council after a debate in which Lenin participated passed a decision charging the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions with the task of drawing up a general statute on labour discipline. On April 1, with Lenin taking part, the Presidium examined the draft resolution on labour discipline drawn up by the ACCTU and proposed that it should be re-worded as a decree, taking into account Lenin’s remarks and suggestions. The re-worded Statute on Labour Discipline passed by the ACCTU on April 3 was published in the magazine Narodnoye Khozyaistvo No. 2, for April 1918. In this statute the ACCTU stated that strict regulations regarding internal management should be introduced at all state-owned enterprises, that output quotas and account of labour productivity should be established, that piece-work and a system of bonuses for exceeding output quotas should be introduced, and that stern action should be taken against those who violated labour discipline. On the basis of the Statute speciflc internal regulations were drawn up at factories and these played an important part in the organisation of socialist industry. The Central Committee of the Metalworkers’ Union was one of the first to carry out Lenin’s instructions on raising labour productivity by introducing a system of piece-work and bonuses. When the question of improving labour discipline was discussed by the ACCTU representatives of the Central Committee of the Metalworkers’ Union got the thesis on the need for piece rates included in the resolution submitted on April 1 for consideration by the Presidium of the Supremc Economic Council. In April, on the basis of the decisions taken by the ACCTU the Central Committee of the Metalworkers’ Union instructed all the lower organisations of the union to adopt piece-work and the bonus system in the metal industry.
- After the October Revolution piece-work was almost everywhere superseded by a time system of payment, which had an adverse effect on labour productivity and labour discipline.
The introduction of piece-work, which came closest to the socialist principle of “to each according to his work”, began at the first nationalised enterprises. During the period of respite, piece work was widely adopted in industry. By July 1918, for instance, a quarter of the workers of Petrograd went over to piece-work. The principle of payment according to the piece was finally endorsed by the pubucation in December 1918 of the Soviet Labour Code.
- This refers to the right protected by bourgeois law to keep secret all production, trade and financial operations and also all the relevant documents at private capitalist enterprises.
In his work The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It Lenin showed that commercial secrecy in the hands of the bourgeoisie was “an instrument for concealing financial swindles and the fantastically high profits of big capital” (see present edition, Vol. 25, p. 339), and showed why commercial secrecy should be abolished. The resolution of the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP(b) “On the Economic Situation” demanded the abolition of commercial secrecy as an essential measure for making workers’ control effective (see The CPSU in the Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenums of the Central Committee, Part 1, Russ. ed., 1954, p. 378). After the October Revolution commercial secrecy was abolished by the Statute on Workers’ Control passed by the All-Russia CEC and the Council of People’s Commissars on November 14 (27), 1917.
- The reference is to the decree of the Council of People’s Commissars “On Centralisation of Management, Protection of Roads and the Improvement of Their Carrying Capacity” (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Vol. 2 Russ. ed., 1959, pp. 18-20). Having considered on March 18, 1918 the draft decree proposed by the People’s Commissariat for Ways of Communication on non-interference by various institutions in the affairs of the Railway Department, the Council of People’s Commissars instructed a special commission to revise the decree on the basis of the following theses put forward by Lenin: (1) Considerable centralisation. (2) Appointment of responsible executives at every local centre as elected by the railway organisations. (3) Unquestioning obedience to their orders. (4) Dictatorial rights to be given to the military detachments for maintaining order. (5) Steps to be taken immediately to take account of rolling stock and its whereabouts. (6) Steps to be taken to set up a technical department. (7) Fuel.
Lenin made several important amendments to the draft, which was submitted by the commission and considered at a meeting of the Council of People’s Commissars on March 21, before being approved by the government. In view of the hostilily with which the decree was greeted by the All-Russia Executive Committee of Railwaymen (Vikzhedor), which was strongly influenced by the Mensheviks and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, the People’s Commissariat for Ways of Communication on March 23 proposed amending the decree at a meeting of the Council of People’s Commissars. The representatives of Vikzhedor who attended the meeting attacked the decree on the grounds that it meant the “destruction of the role of Vikzhedor and its replacement by the individual authority of a Commissar”. Arguing against the opponents of the decree, Lenin explained the need for taking the very firmest measures to eliminate sabotage and inefficiency on the railways and introduced amendments making the decree even more categorical. With these amendments the decree was finally approved by the government on March 23 and published over Lenin’s signature on March 26 in No. 57 of Izvestia VTsIK.
- Vperyod (Forward )—a Menshevik daily newspaper, which began to appear in March 1917 in Moscow as the organ of the Moscow organisation of Mensheviks, and subsequently as the organ of the committees of the RSDLP (Mensheviks) of the Moscow organisation and the Central Region On April 2, 1918 the newspaper became the organ of the Mensheviks’ Central Committee as well, and L. Martov, F. I. Dan and A. S. Martynov joined its editorial board, It was banned for its counter-revolutionary activities in February 1919 by decision of the All-Russia CEC.
- Nash Vek (Our Age )—one of the names of the newspaper Rech, the central organ of the counter-revolutionary party of the Constitutional-Democrats. After it had been banned by a decision of the Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee of October 26 (November 8), 1917, the newspaper continued to appear until August 1918 under various names: Nasha Rech (Our Speech ), Svobodnaya Rech (Free Speech ), Vek (Age ), Novaya Rech (New Speech ) and Nash Vek.
- Lenin is referring to and quoting from Anti-Dühring by F. Engels, Section Three. Socialism. Chapter II. Theoretical.
- Chernyshevsky describes Turgenev’s attitude to Dobrolyubov and himself in an account of a conversation he had with Turgenev in the early sixties of the last century (see the article “An Expression of Gratitude” in Complete Collected Works by N. G. Chernyshevsky, Vol. 10, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1951, pp. 122-23).