V. I. Lenin
The New Economic Policy

And The Tasks Of The Political Education Departments

Report To The Second All-Russia Congress Of Political Education Departments, October 17, 1921[1]
, 17 1921 .

Delivered: 17 October, 1921 
First Published: Published in the Vtoroi Vserossiishy syezd politprosvetov. Bulleten syezda (Bulletin of the Second All-Russia Congress of Political Education Departments) No. 2, October 19, 1921; Published according to the Bulletin proofs corrected by Lenin
Source: Lenins Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 60-79
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive ( 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

I intend to devote this report, or rather talk, to the New Economic Policy, and to the tasks of the Political Education Departments arising out of this policy, as I understand them. I think it would be quite wrong to limit reports on questions that do not come within the scope of a given congress to bare information about what is going on generally in the Party or in the Soviet Republic.

Abrupt Change Of Policy Of The Soviet Government And The R.C.P.
[, lovely Josephine,
(may be, ) ,
is impossible;
is incoherent with the &

While I do not in the least deny the value of such information and the usefulness of conferences on all questions, I nevertheless find that the main defect in the proceedings of most of our congresses is that they are not directly and immediately connected with the practical problems before them. These are the defects that I should like to speak about both in connection with and in respect of the New Economic Policy.

I shall speak about the Now Economic Policy briefly and in general terms.
the overwhelming majority of you are Communists, and although some of you are very young, you have worked magnificently to carry out our general policy in the first years of our revolution. Having done a large part of this work you cannot help seeing the abrupt change made by our Soviet government and our Communist Party in adopting the economic policy which we call new", new, that is, in respect of our previous economic policy.

In substance, however, this new policy contains more elements of the old than our previous economic policy did.

Why? Because our previous economic policy, if we cannot say counted on (in the situation then prevailing we did little counting in general), then to a certain degree assumedwe may say uncalculatingly assumedthat there would be a direct transition from the old Russian economy to state production and distribution on communist lines.

If we recall the economic literature that we ourselves issued in the past, if we recall what Communists wrote before and very soon after we took power in Russiafor example, in the beginning of 1918, when the first political assault upon old Russia ended in a smashing victory, when the Soviet Republic was created, when Russia emerged from the imperialist war, mutilated, it is true, but not so mutilated as she would have been had she continued to defend the fatherland as she was advised to do by the imperialists, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionariesif we recall all this we shall understand that in the initial period, when we had only just completed the first stage in the work of building up the Soviet government and had only just emerged from the imperialist war, what we said about our tasks in the field of economic development was much more cautious and circumspect than our actions in the latter half of 1918 and throughout 1919 and 1920.

The 1918 Decision Of The All-Russia 
Central Executive Committee On The Role Of The Peasantry

Even if all of you were not yet active workers in the Party and the Soviets at that time, you have at all events been able to make, and of course have made, yourselves familiar with decisions such as that adopted by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee at the end of April 1918.[2] That decision pointed to the necessity to take peasant farming into consideration, and it was based on a report which made allowance for the role of state capitalism in building socialism in a peasant country; a report which emphasised the importance of personal, individual, one-man responsibility; which emphasised the significance of that factor in the administration of the country as distinct from the political tasks of organising state power and from military tasks.

Our Mistake

At the beginning of 1918 we expected a period in which peaceful construction would be possible. When the Brest peace was signed it seemed that danger had subsided for a time and that it would be possible to start peaceful construction. But we were mistaken, because in 1918 a real military danger overtook us in the shape of the Czechoslovak mutiny and the outbreak of civil war, which dragged on until 1920. Partly owing to the war problems that overwhelmed us and partly owing to the desperate position in which the Republic found itself when the imperialist war endedowing to these circumstances, and a number of others, we made the mistake of deciding to go over directly to communist production and distribution. We thought that under the [surplus-food] appropriation system the peasants would provide us with the required quantity of grain, which we could (re)distribute among the factories and thus achieve communist production and distribution. , -, , . [Oh, do you want, , ? Do you love redistributionism, - , - of (BG, EU) (), the () ?]

I cannot say that we pictured this plan as definitely and as clearly as that; but we acted approximately on those lines. That, unfortunately, is a fact. I say unfortunately, because brief experience convinced us that that line was wrong, that it ran counter to what we had previously written about the transition from capitalism to socialism, namely, that it would be impossible to bypass the period of socialist accounting and control in approaching even the lower stage of communism. Ever since 1917, when the problem of taking power arose and the Bolsheviks explained it to the whole people, our theoretical literature has been definitely stressing the necessity for a prolonged, complex transition through socialist accounting and control from capitalist society (and the less developed it is the longer the transition will take) to even one of the approaches to communist society.

A Strategical Retreat

At that time, when in the heat of the Civil War we had to take the necessary steps in economic organisation, it seemed to have been forgotten. In substance, our New Economic Policy signifies that, having sustained severe defeat on this point, we have started a strategical retreat. We said in effect: Before we are completely routed, let us retreat and reorganise everything, but on a firmer basis. If Communists deliberately examine the question of the New Economic Policy there cannot be the slightest doubt in their minds that we have sustained a very severe defeat on the economic front. In the circumstances it is inevitable, of course, for some people to become very despondent, almost panic-stricken, and because of the retreat, these people will begin to give way to panic. That is inevitable. When the Red Army retreated, was its flight from the enemy not the prelude to its victory? Every retreat on every front, however, caused some people to give way to panic for a time. But on each occasionon the Kolchak front, on the Denikin front, on the Yudenich front, on the Polish front and on the Wrangel frontonce we had been badly battered (and sometimes more than once) we proved the truth of the proverb: A man who has been beaten is worth two who havent. After being beaten we began to advance slowly, systematically and cautiously.

Of course, tasks on the economic front are much more difficult than tasks on the war front, although there is a general similarity between the two elementary outlines of strategy. In attempting to go over straight to communism we, in the spring of 1921, sustained a more serious defeat on the economic front than any defeat inflicted upon us by Kolchak, Denikin or Pilsudski. This defeat was much more serious, significant and dangerous. It was expressed in the isolation of the higher administrators of our economic policy from the lower and their failure to produce that development of the productive forces which the Programme of our Party regards as vital and urgent.

The surplus-food appropriation system in the rural districtsthis direct communist approach to the problem of urban developmenthindered the growth of the productive forces and proved to be the main cause of the profound economic and political crisis that we experienced in the spring of 1921. That was why we had to take a step which from the point of view of our line, of our policy, cannot be called anything else than a very severe defeat and retreat. Moreover, it cannot be said that this retreat islike retreats of the Red Armya completely orderly retreat to previously prepared positions. True, the positions for our present retreat were prepared beforehand. That can be proved by comparing the decisions adopted by our Party in the spring of 1921 with the one adopted in April 1918, which I have mentioned. The positions were prepared beforehand; but the retreat to these positions took place (and is still taking place in many parts of the country) in disorder, and even in extreme disorder.

Purport Of The New Economic Policy

It is here that the task of the Political Education Departments to combat this comes to the forefront. The main problem in the light of the New Economic Policy is to take advantage of the situation that has arisen as speedily as possible.

The New Economic Policy means substituting a tax for the requisitioning [ with ! , ?! taxation is ; is  of private ] of food; it means reverting to capitalism to a considerable extentto what extent we do not know. Concessions to foreign capitalists (true, only very few have been accepted, especially when compared with the number we have offered) and leasing enterprises to private capitalists definitely mean restoring capitalism, and this is part and parcel [.. ] of the New Economic Policy; for the abolition of the surplus-food appropriation system means allowing the peasants to trade freely in their surplus agricultural produce, in whatever is left over after the tax is collectedand the tax~ takes only a small share of that produce. The peasants constitute a huge section of our population and of our entire economy, and that is why capitalism must grow out of this soil of free trading.

That is the very ABC of economics as taught by the rudiments of that science, and in Russia taught, furthermore, by the profiteer, the creature who needs no economic or political science to teach us economics with. From the point of view of strategy the root question is: who will take advantage of the new situation first? The whole question iswhom will the peasantry follow? The proletariat, which wants to build socialist society? Or the capitalist, who says, Let us turn back; it is safer that way; we dont know anything about this socialism they have invented?

Who Will Win, The Capitalist Or Soviet Power?

The issue in the present war iswho will win, who will first take advantage of the situation: the capitalist, whom we are allowing to come in by the door, and even by several doors (and by many doors we are not aware of, and which open without us, and in spite of us), or proletarian state power? What has the latter to rely on economically? On the one hand, the improved position of the people. In this connection we must remember the peasants. It is absolutely incontrovertible and obvious to all that in spite of the awful disaster of the famineand leaving that disaster out of the reckoning for the momentthe improvement that has taken place in the position of the people has been due to the change in our economic policy.

On the other hand, if capitalism gains by it, industrial production will grow, and the proletariat will grow too. The capitalists will gain from our policy and will create an industrial proletariat, which in our country, owing to the war and to the desperate poverty and ruin, has become declassed, i. e., dislodged from its class groove, and has ceased to exist as a proletariat. The proletariat is the class which is engaged in the production of material values in large-scale capitalist industry. Since large-scale capitalist industry has been destroyed, since the factories are at a standstill, the proletariat has disappeared. It has sometimes figured in statistics, but it has not been held together economically.

The restoration of capitalism would mean the restoration of a proletarian class engaged in the production of socially useful material values in big factories employing machinery, and not in profiteering, not in making cigarette-lighters for sale, and in other work which is not very useful, but which is inevitable when our industry is in a state of ruin.

The whole question is who will take the lead. We must face this issue squarelywho will come out on top? Either the capitalists succeed in organising firstin which case they will drive out the Communists and that will be the end of it. Or the proletarian state power, with the support of the peasantry, will prove capable of keeping a proper rein on those gentlemen, the capitalists, so as to direct capitalism along state channels and to create a capitalism that will be subordinate to the state and serve the state. The question must be put soberly. All this ideology, all these arguments about political liberties that we hear so much of, especially among Russian ßmigrßs, in Russia No. 2, where scores of daily newspapers published by all the political parties extol these liberties in every key and every mannerall these are mere talk, mere phrase-mongering. We must learn to ignore this phrase mongering.

The Fight Will Be Even Fiercer

During the past four years we have fought many hard battles and we have learnt that it is one thing to fight hard battles and another to talk about themsomething onlookers particularly indulge in. We must learn to ignore all this ideology, all this chatter, and see the substance of things. And the substance is that the fight will be even more desperate and fiercer than the fight we waged against Kolchak and Denikin. That fighting was war, something we were familiar with. There have been wars for hundreds, for thousands of years. In the art of human slaughter much progress has been made.

True, nearly every landowner had at his headquarters Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who talked loudly about government by the people, the Constituent Assembly, and about the Bolsheviks having violated all liberties.

It was, of course, much easier to solve war problems than those that confront us now; war problems could be solved by assault, attack, enthusiasm, by the sheer physical force of the hosts of workers and peasants, who saw the landowners marching against them. Now there are no avowed landowners. Some of the Wrangels, Kolchaks and Denikins have gone the way of Nicholas Romanov, and some have sought refuge abroad. The people no longer see the open enemy as they formerly saw the landowners and capitalists.
The people cannot clearly picture
[to themselves]
that the enemy is the same,
that he is now in our very midst,
that the revolution is on the brink of the precipice which all previous revolutions reached and recoiled from
they cannot picture this
because of their profound ignorance and illiteracy. It is hard to say how long it will take all sorts of extraordinary commissions to eradicate this illiteracy by extraordinary means.

How can the people know that instead of Kolchak, Wrangel and Denikin we have in our midst the enemy who has crushed all previous revolutions? If the capitalists gain the upper hand there will be a return to the old regime. That has been demonstrated by the experience of all previous revolutions. Our Party must make the masses realise that the enemy in our midst is anarchic capitalism and anarchic commodity exchange. We ourselves must see clearly that the issue in this struggle is: Who will win? Who will gain the upper hand? and we must make the broadest masses of workers and peasants see it clearly. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the sternest and fiercest struggle that the proletariat must wage against the whole world, for the whole world was against us in supporting Kolchak and Denikin.

Now the bourgeoisie of the whole world are supporting the Russian bourgeoisie, and they are still ever so much stronger than we are. That, however, does not throw us into a panic. Their military forces were stronger than ours. Nevertheless, they failed to crush us in war, although, being immeasurably superior to us in artillery and aircraft, it should have been very easy for them to do so. Perhaps they would have crushed us had any of the capitalist states that were fighting us mobilised a few army corps in time, and had they not grudged a loan of several millions in gold to Kolchak.

However, they failed because the rank-and-file British soldiers who came to Archangel, and the sailors who compelled the French fleet to leave Odessa, realised that their rulers were wrong and we were right. Now, too, we are being attacked by forces that are stronger than ours; and to win in this struggle we must rely upon our last source of strength. That last source of strength is the mass of workers and peasants, their class-consciousness and organisation.

Either organised proletarian powerand the advanced workers and a small section of the advanced peasants will understand this and succeed in organising a popular movement around themselvesin which case we shall be victorious; or we fail to do thisin which case the enemy, being technologically stronger, will inevitably defeat us.

Is This The Last Fight?

The dictatorship of the proletariat is fierce war. The proletariat has been victorious in one country, but it is still weak internationally. It must unite all the workers and peasants around itself in the knowledge that the war is not over. Although in our anthem we sing: The last fight let us face", unfortunately it is not quite true; it is not our last fight. Either you succeed in uniting the workers and peasants in this fight, or you fail to achieve victory.

Never before in history has there been a struggle like the one we are now witnesses of; but there have been wars between peasants and landowners more than once in history, ever since the earliest times of slavery. Such wars have occurred more than once; but there has never been a war waged by a government against the bourgeoisie of its own country and against the united bourgeoisie of all countries.

The issue of the struggle depends upon whether we succeed in organising the small peasants on the basis of the development of their productive forces with proletarian state assistance for this development, or whether the capitalists gain control over them. The same issue has arisen in scores of revolutions in the past; but the world has never witnessed a struggle like the one we are waging now. The people have had no way of acquiring experience in wars of this kind. We ourselves must create this experience and we can rely only on the class-consciousness of the workers and peasants. That is the keynote and the enormous difficulty of this task.

We Must Not Count On Going Straight To Communism

We must not count on going straight to communism. We must build on the basis of peasants personal incentive. We are told that the personal incentive of the peasants means restoring private property [ in fact the right -- principle, ! real ().]. But we have never interfered with personally owned articles of consumption and implements of production as far as the peasants are concerned. We have abolished private ownership of land. Peasants farmed land that they did not ownrented land, for instance. That system exists in very many countries. There is nothing impossible about it from the standpoint of economics. The difficulty lies in creating personal incentive. We must also give every specialist an incentive to develop our industry.

Have we been able to do that? No, we have not! We thought that production and distribution would go on at communist bidding in a country with a declassed proletariat. We must change that now, or we shall be unable to make the proletariat understand this process of transition. No such problems have ever arisen in history before. We tried to solve this problem straight out, by a frontal attack, as it were, but we suffered defeat. Such mistakes occur in every war, and they are not even regarded as mistakes. Since the frontal attack failed, we shall make a flanking movement and also use the method of siege and undermining.


The (absofuckinlutely right) Principle Of Personal Incentive And Responsibility
[Omfg, ! , , , / -
its absofuckinlutely
with the (evolurion of) !
, ,
rationally with the delusion of communism/!]


We say,
that every important branch of the economy
must be built up on the principle of personal incentive. [-! Amin!]
There must be collective discussion, but individual responsibility.
At every step
we suffer from our inability to apply this principle. The New Economic Policy
demands this line of demarcation
to be drawn with absolute sharpness and distinction! When the people found themselves under new economic conditions they immediately began to discuss what would come of it, and how things should be reorganised. We could not have started anything without this general discussion because for decades and centuries the people had been prohibited from discussing anything, and the revolution could not develop without a period in which people everywhere hold meetings to argue about all questions.

This has created much confusion. This is what happenedthis was inevitable, but it must be said that it was not dangerous. If we learn in good time to separate what is appropriate for meetings from what is appropriate for administration we shall succeed in raising the position of the Soviet Republic to its proper level. Unfortunately, we have not yet learnt to do this, and most congresses are far from business-like.

In the number of our congresses we excel all other countries in the world. Not a single democratic republic holds as many congresses as we do; nor could they permit it.

We must remember that ours is a country that has suffered great loss and impoverishment, and that we must teach it to hold meetings in such a way as not to confuse, as I have said, what is appropriate for meetings with what is appropriate for administration. Hold meetings, but govern without the slightest hesitation; govern with a firmer hand than the capitalist governed before you. If you do not, you will not vanquish him. You must remember that government must be much stricter and much firmer than it was before.

After many months of meetings, the discipline of the Red Army was not inferior to the discipline of the old army. Strict, stern measures were adopted, including capital punishment, measures that even the former government did not apply. Philistines wrote and howled, The Bolsheviks have introduced capital punishment. Our reply is, Yes, we have introduced it, and have done so deliberately.

We must say: either those who wanted to crush usand who we think ought to be destroyedmust perish, in which case our Soviet Republic will live or the capitalists will live, and in that case the Republic will perish. In an impoverished country either those who cannot stand the pace will perish, or the workers and peasants republic will perish. There is not and cannot be any choice or any room for sentiment. Sentiment is no less a crime than cowardice in wartime. Whoever now departs from order and discipline is permitting the enemy to penetrate our midst.

That is why I say that the New Economic Policy also has its educational aspect. You here are discussing methods of education. You must go as far as saying that we have no room for the half-educated. When there is communism, the methods of education will be milder. Now, however, I say education must be harsh, otherwise we shall perish.

Shall We Be Able To Work For Our Own Benefit?

We had deserters from the army, and also from the labour front. We must say that in the past you worked for the benefit of the capitalists, of the exploiters, and of course you did not do your best. But now you are working for yourselves, for the workers and peasants state. Remember that the question at issue is whether we shall be able to work for ourselves, for if we cannot, I repeat, our Republic will perish. And we say, as we said in the army. that either those who want to cause our destruction must perish, or we must adopt the sternest disciplinary measures and thereby save our countryand our Republic will live.

That is what our line must be, that is why (among other things) we need the New Economic Policy.

Get down to business, all of you! You will have capitalists beside you, including foreign capitalists, concessionaires and leaseholders. They will squeeze profits out of you amounting to hundreds per cent; they will enrich themselves, operating alongside of you. Let them. Meanwhile you will learn from them the business of running the economy, and only when you do that will you be able to build up a communist republic. Since we must necessarily learn quickly, any slackness in this respect is a serious crime. And we must undergo this training, this severe, stern and sometimes even cruel training, because we have no other way out.

You must remember that our Soviet land is impoverished after many years of trial and suffering, and has no socialist France or socialist England as neighbours which could help us with their highly developed technology and their highly developed industry. Bear that in mind! We must remember that at present all their highly developed technology and their highly developed industry belong to the capitalists, who are fighting us.

We must remember that we must either strain every nerve in everyday effort, or we shall inevitably go under.

Owing to the present circumstances the whole world is developing faster than we are. While developing, the capitalist world is directing all its forces against us. That is how the matter stands! That is why we must devote special attention to this struggle.

Owing to our cultural backwardness we cannot crush capitalism by a frontal attack. Had we been on a different cultural level we could have approached the problem more directly; perhaps other countries will do it in this way when their turn comes to build their communist republics. But we cannot do it in the direct way.

The state must learn to trade in such a way that industry satisfies the needs of the peasantry, so that the peasantry may satisfy their needs by means of trade. We must see to it that everyone who works devotes himself to strengthening the workers and peasants state. Only then shall we be able to create large-scale industry. [ delusional ! Oh, Lenin, 70 after you]

The masses must become conscious of this, and not only conscious of it, but put it into practice. This, I say, suggests what the functions of the Central Political Education Department [ - , !] should be. After every deep-going political revolution the people require a great deal of time to assimilate the change. And it is a question of whether the people have assimilated the lessons they received. To my deep regret, the answer to this question must be in the negative. Had they assimilated the lessons we should have started creating large-scale industry much more quickly and much earlier.

After we had solved the problem of the greatest political revolution in history, other problems confronted us, cultural problems, which may be called minor affairs". This political revolution must be assimilated; we must help the masses of the people to understand it. We must see to it that the political revolution remains something more than a mere declaration.

Obsolete Methods

At one time we needed declarations, statements, manifestos and decrees. We have had enough of them. At one time we needed them to show the people how and what we wanted to build, what new and hitherto unseen things we were striving for. But can we go on showing the people what we want to build? No. Even an ordinary labourer will begin to sneer at us and say: What use is it to keep on showing us what you want to build? Show us that you can build. If you cant build, were not with you, and you can go to hell! And he will be right.

Gone is the time when it was necessary to draw political pictures of great tasks; today these tasks must be carried out in practice. Today we are confronted with cultural tasks, those of assimilating that political experience, which can and must be put into practice. Either we lay an economic foundation for the political gains of the Soviet state, or we shall lose them all. This foundation has not yet been laidthat is what we must get down to.

The task of raising the cultural level is one of the most urgent confronting us. And that is the job the Political Education Departments must do, if they are capable of serving the cause of political education", which is the title they have adopted for themselves. It is easy to adopt a title; but how about acting up to it? Let us hope that after this Congress we shall have precise information about this. A Commission for the Abolition of Illiteracy was set up on July 19, 1920. Before coming to this Congress I purposely read the decree establishing that commission. It says: All-Russia Commission for the Abolition of Illiteracy. . . . More than thatExtraordinary Commission for the Abolition of Illiteracy. Let us hope that after this Congress we shall receive information about what has been done in this field, and in how many gubernias, and that the report will be concrete. But the very need to set up an Extraordinary Commission for the Abolition of Illiteracy shows that we are (what is the mildest term I can use for it?), well, something like semi-savages because in a country that was not semi-savage it would be considered a disgrace to have to set up an Extraordinary Commission for the Abolition of Illiteracy. In such countries illiteracy is abolished in schools. There they have tolerably good schools where people are taught. What are they taught? First of all they are taught to read and write. If we have not yet solved this elementary problem it is ridiculous to talk about a New Economic Policy.

The Greatest Miracle Of All

What talk can there be of a new policy? God grant that we manage to stick to the old policy if we have to resort to extraordinary measures to abolish illiteracy. That is obvious. But it is still more obvious that in the military and other fields we performed miracles. The greatest miracle of all, in my opinion, would be if the Commission for the Abolition of Illiteracy were completely abolished, and if no proposals, such as I have heard here, were made for separating it from the Peoples Commissariat of Education. If that is true, and if you give it some thought, you will agree with me that an extraordinary commission should be set up to abolish certain bad proposals.

More than thatit is not enough to abolish illiteracy, it is necessary to build up Soviet economy, and for that literacy alone will not carry us very far. We must raise culture to a much higher level. A man must make use of his ability to read and write; he must have something to read, he must have newspapers and propaganda pamphlets, which should be properly distributed and reach the people and not get lost in transit, as they do now, so that no more than half of them are read, and the rest are used in offices for some purpose or other. Perhaps not even one-fourth reach the people. We must learn to make full use of the scanty resources we do possess.

That is why we must, in connection with the New Economic Policy, ceaselessly propagate the idea that political education calls for raising the level of culture at all costs. The ability to read and write must be made to serve the purpose of raising the cultural level; the peasants must be able to use the ability to read and write for the improvement of their farms and their state.

Soviet laws are very good laws, because they give everyone an opportunity to combat bureaucracy and red tape, an opportunity the workers and peasants in any capitalist state do not have. But does anybody take advantage of this? Hardly anybody! Not only the peasants, but an enormous percentage of the Communists do not know how to utilise Soviet laws to combat red tape and bureaucracy, or such a truly Russian phenomenon as bribery. What hinders the fight against this? Our laws? Our propaganda? On the contrary! We have any number of laws! Why then have we achieved no success in this struggle? Because it cannot be waged by propaganda alone. It can be done if the masses of the people help. No less than half our Communists are incapable of fighting, to say nothing of those who are a hindrance in the fight. True, ninety-nine per cent of you are Communists, and you know that we are carrying out an operation on these latter Communists. The operation is being carried out by the Commission for Purging the Party, and we have hopes of removing a hundred thousand or so from our Party. Some say two hundred thousand, and I much prefer that figure.

I hope very much that we shall expel a hundred thou sand to two hundred thousand Communists who have attached themselves to the Party and who are not only incapable of fighting red tape and bribery, but are even a hindrance in this fight.

Tasks Of Political Educationalists
[Oh, those ! () + !]

If we purge the Party of a couple of hundred thousand it will be useful, but that is only a tiny fraction of what we must do. The Political Education Departments must adapt all their activities to this purpose. Illiteracy must be combated; but literacy alone is likewise not enough. We also need the culture which teaches us to fight red tape and bribery. It is an ulcer which no military victories and no political reforms can heal. By the very nature of things, it cannot be healed by military victories and political reforms, but only by raising the cultural level. And that is the task that devolves upon the Political Education Departments. (!)

Political educationalists must not understand their job as that of functionaries, as often seems to be the case when people discuss whether representatives of Gubernia Political Education Departments should or should not be appointed to gubernia economic conferences.[3] Excuse me for saying so, but I do not think you should be appointed to any office; you should do your job as ordinary citizens. When you are appointed to some office you become bureaucrats; but if you deal with the people, and if you enlighten them politically, experience will show you that there will be no bribery among a politically enlightened people. At present bribery surrounds us on all sides. You will be asked what must be done to abolish bribery, to prevent so-and-so on the Executive Committee from taking bribes. You will he asked to teach people how to put a stop to it. And if a political educationalist replies that it does not come within the functions of his department, or that pamphlets have been published and proclamations made on the subject, the people will say that he is a bad Party member. True, this does not come within the functions of your department, we have the Workers and Peasants Inspection for that; but are you not members of the Party? You have adopted the title of political educationalists. When you were about to adopt that title you were warned not to choose such a pretentious one, to choose something more modest. But yon wanted the title of political educationalists, and that title implies a great deal. You did not take the title of general educationalists, but of political educationalists. You may be told, It is a good thing that you are teaching the people to read and write and to carry on economic campaigns; that is all very well, but it is not political education, because political education is the sum total of everything.

We are carrying on propaganda against barbarism and against ulcers like bribery, and I hope you are doing the same, but political education is much more than this propagandait means practical results, it means teaching the people how to achieve these results, and setting an example to others, not as members of an Executive Committee, but as ordinary citizens who, being politically better educated, are able not only to hurl imprecations at red tapethat is very widely practised among usbut to show how this evil can really be overcome. This is a very difficult art, which cannot be practised until the general level of culture is raised, until the mass of workers and peasants is more cultured than now. It is to this function that I should like most of all to draw the attention of the Central Political Education Department.

I should now like to sum up all that I have said and to suggest practical solutions for the problems that confront the Gubernia Political Education Departments.

The Three Chief Enemies

In my opinion, three chief enemies now confront one, irrespective of ones departmental functions; these tasks confront the political educationalist, if he is a Communistand most of the political educationalists are. The three chief enemies that confront him are the following: the first is communist conceit; the secondilliteracy [; devaluated  & ], and the thirdbribery [corruption].

The First EnemyCommunist Conceit

A member of the Communist Party, who has not yet been combed out, and who imagines he can solve all his problems by issuing communist decrees, is guilty of communist conceit. Because he is still a member of the ruling party and is employed in some government office, he imagines this entitles him to talk about the results of political education. Nothing of the sort! That is only communist conceit. The point is to learn to impart political knowledge; but that we have not yet learnt; we have not yet learnt how to approach the subject properly.

The Second EnemyIlliteracy

As regards the second enemy, illiteracy, I can say that so long as there is such a thing as illiteracy in our country it is too much to talk about political education. This is not a political problem; it is a condition without which it is useless talking about politics. An illiterate person stands outside politics, he must first learn his ABC. Without that there can be no politics; without that there are rumours, gossip, fairy-tales and prejudices, but not politics.

The Third EnemyBribery

Lastly, if such a thing as bribery is possible it is no use talking about politics. Here we have not even an approach to politics; here it is impossible to pursue politics, because all measures are left hanging in the air and produce absolutely no results. A law applied in conditions which permit of widespread bribery can only make things worse. Under such conditions no politics whatever can be pursued; the fundamental condition for engaging in politics is lacking. To be able to outline our political tasks to the people, to be able to say to the masses what things we must strive for (and this is what we should be doing!), we must understand that a higher cultural level of the masses is what is required. This higher level we must achieve, otherwise it will be impossible really to solve our problems.

Difference Between Military And Cultural Problems

A cultural problem cannot be solved as quickly as political and military problems. It must be understood that conditions for further progress are no longer what they were. In a period of acute crisis it is possible to achieve a political victory within a few weeks. It is possible to obtain victory in war in a few months. But it is impossible to achieve a cultural victory in such a short time. By its very nature it requires a longer period; and we must adapt ourselves to this longer period, plan our work accordingly, and display the maximum of perseverance, persistence and method. Without these qualities it is impossible even to start on the work of political education. And the only criterion of the results of political education is the improvement achieved in industry and agriculture. We must not only abolish illiteracy and the bribery which persists on the soil of illiteracy, but we must get the people really to accept our propaganda, our guidance and our pamphlets, so that the result may be an improvement in the national economy.

Those are the functions of the Political Education Departments in connection with the New Economic Policy, and I hope this Congress will help us to achieve greater success in this field.


[1] Held in Moscow on October 17-22, 1921, this Congress was attended by 307 delegates.

Its main object was to endorse a plan of work for 1922 and work out the forms and methods of agitation and propaganda in the situation called forth by the New Economic Policy.

Lenin, who was given an ovation by the delegates, spoke at the evening session on October 17.

The Political Education Departments were formed by local (volost, uyezd and gubernia) public education bodies in conformity with a decree issued on February 23, 1920. Their work was guided by the Central Political Education Committee at the Peoples Commissariat of Education.

[2] The All-Russia Central Executive Committee passed its decision of April 29, 1918 on the basis of Lenins report On the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government. The propositions in that report and in the article The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government were summed up by Lenin in six theses, which, with some additions, were unanimously endorsed by the Party Central Committee on May 3, 1918. See Six Theses on the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.

[3] Gubernia economic conferences were local organs of the Council of Labour and Defence. They were set up by the Executive Committees of the gubernia Soviets in conformity with the decision passed by the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets in December 1920.

Collected Works Volume 33 
Collected Works Table of Contents 
Lenin Works Archive




, lovely Jos,
, beware, be aware:

Von Mises [Human Action]: There are two patterns for the realization of socialism. 
The first pattern (we may call it the Lenin or Russian pattern) . . . 
the second pattern (we may call it the Hindenburg or
German Pattern)
nominally and seemingly preserves private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary markets, prices, wages, and interest rates. 
There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs, but only shop managers bound to obey unconditionally the orders issued by government.




V. I. Lenin

The Work Of The Peoples Commissariat For Education

Delivered: 7 February, 1921 
First Published:Pravda No. 28, February 9, 1921; Signed: N. Lenin Published According to the Pravda text 
Source: Lenins Collected Works, 1st English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 32, pages 123-132
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive ( 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Pravda No. 25 of February 5 carried Instructions of the Central Committee of the R.C.P. to Communists Working in the Peoples Commissariat for Education (in connection with the reorganisation of the Commissariat)

Unfortunately, there are three misprints in Point I distorting the meaning: the text said political" instead of polytechnical education.

I should like to draw our comrades attention to these instructions and to call for an exchange of opinion on some of the more important points.

A five-day Party Conference on educational questions was held in December 1920.
It was attended by 134 delegates with voice and vote, and 29 with voice. A report of its proceedings is given in a Supplement to the Bulletin of the Eighth Congress of Soviets on the Party Conference on Education(published by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, January 10, 1921). The resolutions of the Conference, the report of the proceedings, all the articles published in the above-mentioned Supplementexcept for the introductory article by Comrade Lunacharsky and the article by Comrade Grinko reveal a wrong approach to polytechnical education. They suffer from the very defect on combating which the Central Committee in its instruc tions urges the Peoples Commissar and the Collegium to concentrate their attention, namely, too many genera arguments and abstract slogans.

The question of polytechnical education has in the main been settled by our Party Programme in its paragraphs 1 and 8 of the section dealing with the peoples education. It is these paragraphs that are dealt with in the Central Committees Instructions. Paragraph I deals with polytech meal education up to the age of seventeen; and Paragraph 8 speaks of the extensive development of vocational training for persons of the age of seventeen and upwards in conjunction with general polytechnical education.

Thus, the Party Programme puts the question squarely. The arguments about "polytechnical or monotechnical education" (the words I have put in quotes and italics, monstrously absurd though they are, are the very words that we find on page 4 of the Supplement) are fundamentally wrong and downright impermissible for a Communist; they betray ignorance of the Programme and an idle inclination for abstract slogans. While we are temporarily compelled to lower the age (for passing from general polytechnical education to polytechnical vocational training) from seventeen to fifteen, the "Party must regard" this lowering of the age as only" (point I of the Central Committees Instructions) a practical expedient necessitated by the "countrys poverty and ruin.

General arguments with futile efforts to substantiate" this lowering are claptrap. Lot us stop this game of general arguments and theorising"! Attention must be concentrated on the recording and verification of practical experience" and the systematic application of its lessons.

We may have very few competent people with knowledge and practical pedagogical experience but we do have some. We suffer from our inability to find them, install them in the proper executive posts, and join them in studying the practical experience of Soviet state development. Now this is precisely what the Party Conference in December 1920 failed to do, and if this was not done at a conference of 163one hundred and sixty three!educational workers, it is quite evident that there must be a general, fundamental flaw in the organisation of this work, which made it necessary for the Partys Central Committee to issue special instructions.

In the Commissariat for Education there are twojust twocomrades who have special assignments. These are the Peoples Commissar, Comrade Lunacharsky, who exercises general direction, and Deputy Commissar, Comrade Pokrovsky, who directs affairs, firstly, as Deputy Peoples Commissar, and secondly, as official adviser (and director) on scientific matters and questions of Marxism in general. The whole Party knows both Comrade Lunacharsky and Comrade Pokrovsky very well and has no doubt, of course, that in this respect both are, in their way, specialists" in the Peoples Commissariat for Education. None of the other workers of the Commissariat can afford to specialise" in this way: their speciality must lie in skilfully organising the enlistment of expert teachers, in organising their work properly, and in systematically applying the lessons of practical experience. The Central Committees instructions refer to this in points 2, 3 and 5.

The Party workers conference should have heard reports by specialists-teachers with some ten years practical experience who could have told us what is being clone and has been done in the various spheres, say, vocational training, how we are coping with it in our Soviet organisation, what has been achieved, illustrated with examples (which could surely be found, even if in small number), what were the main defects, and how these could be removed, stated in concrete terms.

The Party workers conference made no such record of practical experience, and heard no teachers on their application of this experience; but fatuous efforts were made to produce general arguments" and appraise abstract slogans. The whole Party, all the workers of the Peoples Commissariat for Education, must realise this defect and correct it in a common effort. Local workers should exchange experience and help the Party to give publicity to the exemplary guhernias, uyezds, districts, schools, or expert teachers who have achieved good results in on relatively narrow, local or special field. Taking as a basis the achievements that have stood the test of practice, we must press on and, after proper verification, apply this local experience on a nation-wide scale, promoting talented, or simply capable, teachers to more responsible posts, giving them a wider sphere of activity, etc.

The touchstone of a Communists work in education (and educational institutions)
should be his efforts in organising the enlistment of specialists, his ability to find them, utilise their knowledge, secure the cooperation of expert teachers with the Communist leadership, and verify what and how much is
being done. He must show ability to make progresseven if very slowly and on a very small scaleso long as it is achieved in practical matters, on the basis of practical experience! But we shall not move forward if the Peoples Commissariat for Education continues to be full of people who pretend to provide Communist leadership" while there is a vacuum in the practical sphere, a shortage, or total lack, of practical specialists, inability to promote them, hear what they have to say and take account of their experience. The Communist leader must prove his claim to leadership by recruiting a growing number of experienced teachers to help him, and by showing his ability to help them. in their work, to promote them, and take account of and bring out their experience. [, , , ( ) , because full of the (wishful thinking of) mysticism, , - centralized (young) ppl , , , cannot be efficient! The huge of them irrational ppl-, lovely Josephine, cannot understand, -indroducing- the capitalist of free market competition ! , free market , , - (; ) can never be FOR THE PPL in the long term! , absofuckinlutely incoherent with the reality & ! () , by the same irrational principle, but with - means, absofreakinlutely , by the inefficient (BG) intellectuals! !]

In this sense the invariable slogan must be: less leadership, more practical work, that is to say, fewer general arguments and more facts, and I mean verified facts, showing where, when and what progress we are making or whether we are marking time, or retreating. The Communist who is a real leader will correct the curricula drawn up by the experienced teachers, compile a good textbook and achieve practical, even if slight, improvements in the content of the work of a score, a hundred, or a thousand expert teachers. But there is not much use in the Communist who talks about leadership, but is incapable of enlisting any specialists for practical work, getting them to achieve practical results in their work, and utilising the practical experience gained by hundreds upon hundreds of teachers. [, , wishful thinking, incoherent with the objective reality!]

That this is the main flaw in the work of the Peoples Commissariat for Education is evident from a paging through the fine booklet, The Peoples Commissariat for Education. October 1917October 1920. Brie! Report. Comrade Lunacharsky admits this when he refers in the preface (p. 5) to the obvious lack of the practical approach. But much more effort will be needed to drive this home to all the Communists in the Peoples Commissariat for Education and make them practise these truths [ !]. This booklet shows that our knowledge of the facts is poor, very poor indeed; we do not know how to collect them; we are unable to judge how many questions we ought to raise and the number of answers we can expect to get (taking into consideration our level of culture, our customs, and our moans of communication). We dont know how to collect evidence of practical experience and sum it up. We indulge in empty general arguments and abstract slogans, but do not know how to utilise the services of competent teachers, in general, and of competent engineers and agronomists for technical education, in particular; we dont know how to utilise factories, state farms, tolerably well-organised enterprises and electric power stations for the purpose of polytechnical education.

In spite of these defects, the Soviet Republic is making progress in public education; there is no doubt about that. There is a mighty urge for light and knowledge down below, that is to say, among the mass of working people whom capitalism had been hypocritically cheating out of an education and depriving of it by open violence. We call be proud that we are promoting and fostering this urge. But it would be a real crime to ignore the defects in our work, and the fact that we have not yet learned properly to organise the state apparatus of education [ , lovely Jos, always -really & really expensive- practical , in the longer run! , -, because the organizing principle remains the same, ( ) of the state (managed) education & science 21 ! Same-same.].

Take also the distribution of newspapers and books, the question dealt with in the last point of the Central Committees Instructions, point 7.

The Council of Peoples Commissars issued its decree on The Centralisation of Libraries" (p. 439, Collection of Statutes, 1920, No. 87) on November 3, 1920, providing for the creation of a single network of libraries of the R.S.F.S.R.

Here are some of the data I have been able to obtain on the question from Comrade Malkin of the Central Periodicals Administration, and from Comrade Modestov of the Library Section of the Moscow Department of Education. In 38 gubernias, 305 uyezds, the number of libraries in central Soviet Russia (excluding Siberia and North Caucasus) was as follows:

Central libraries


District, urban libraries


Volost libraries


Travelling Volost libraries

1, 601

Village reading rooms

14 739

Miscellaneous (rural, juvinile, reference, libraries of various institutions and organisations)




Comrade Modestov believes, on the basis of his experience, that about three-quarters of this number actually exist, while the rest are only listed as such. For Moscow Gubernia, the Central Periodicals Administration gives the figure of 1,223 libraries, while Comrade Modestovs figure is 1,018; of these 204 are in the city proper and 814 in the gubernia, net counting the trade union libraries (probably about 16) and the army libraries (about 125).

As far as can be judged from a comparison of the different gubernias, these figures are not very reliablelet us hope the actual figure does net turn out to be under 75 per cent! In Vyalka Guhernia, for example, there are 1,703 village readingrooms, in Vladimir Gubernia37, in Petrograd Gubernia98, in IvanovoVoznesensk Guhernia75, etc. Of the miscellaneous" libraries there are 36 in Petrograd Gubernia, 378 in Voronezh Gubernia, 525 in Ufa Gubernia, 31 in Pskov Gubernia, etc.

These figures seem to show that the thirst for knowledge among the mass of workers and peasants is tremendous, and that the striving for education and the establishment of libraries is mighty and popular in the real sense of the word. But we are still very short of ability in organising, regulating, shaping and properly satisfying this popular urge. Much remains to be done in creating a real integrated network of libraries.

How are we distributing the newspapers and books? According to the Administrations 1020 figures for elovcii months, we distributed 401 million copies of newspapers and 14 million books. Here are the figures for three newspapers (January 12, 1921), compiled by tho Periodicals Section of the Central Ad miij istrat ion for ilte Distribution of Books.[1]




Branches of the Central Periodicals Administration




Military Bureau for the Supply of Literature and Newspapers to Divisional Dispatch Offices.




Railway organisations, Railway Dept., Central Periodicals Administration and Agitation Centres




City of Moscow 65,000



Commandant of the City of Moscow




Passenger trains 1,000



Public Reading stands and Files








The figure for public reading stands, i.e., the really massive distribution, is astonishingly small, as against the enormous figures for the establishments, etc., in the capital, evidently the papers grabbed and bureaucratically utilised by Soviet bureaucrats, both military and civilian.

Here are a few more figures taken from the reports of the local branches of the Central Periodicals Administration. In September 1920, its Voronezh Gubernia branch received newspapers twelve times (that is to say, there were no papers on eighteen of the thirty days in September). Those received were distributed as follows: Izvestia (to 210rJ105 of the G.P.A.): uyezdt,986 copies (4,020; 4,310)[First figurePravda, second, Bednota.]; uistncti.215 (5,850; 10,064); voiost3,370 (3,200; 4,285); Party organisations447 (569; 3,880); Soviet establishments1,765 (1,641; 509)note that Soviet establishments received nearly three times as many copies of Pravda as Party organisations! Then follow: Agitation and Educational Department of the Military Commissariat5,532 (5,703; 12,832); agitation centres352 (400; 593); village readingroomsnil. Subscribers7,167 (3,080; 764). Thus, subscribers (actually, of course, Soviet bureaucrats") received a fat slice. Public reading stands460 (508; 500). Total: 32,517 (25,104; 37,237).

In November 1920, Ufa Gubernia received 25 consignments, that is to say, there was no delivery on five days only. Distribution: Party organ isations1I3 (1,572; 153); Soviet establishments2,7[53 (1,296; 1,267); Agitation and Educational Department of the Military Commissariat687 (470; 6,500); Volost Executive Committees903 (308; 3,511); village readingrooms36 (Pravda8, eight copies! 2,538); subscribersnil; various uyezd organisations--1,044 (219; 991). Total: 5,841 (4,069; 15,429).

Lastly, the report of the branch in Pustoshensk Volost, Sudogoda Uyezd, Vladimir Gubernia for December 1920. Party organisations1 (1; 2); Soviet offices2 (1; 3); Agitation and Educational Department of the Military Commissariat2 (1; 2); Volost Executive Committees2 (1; 3); post and telegraph offices1 (1; 1); Urshelsky Works Committee1 (1; 2); District Department of Social Maintenance1 (0; 3). Total: 10 (6; 16).

What is the conclusion to he drawn from these fragmentary data? I believe it is what our Party Programme says, namely: Only the first steps in the transition from capitalism to communism are being taken ... at the present time.

Under capitalism, a newspaper is a capitalist enterprise, a moans of enrichment, a medium of information and entertainment for the rich, and an instrument for duping and cheating the mass of working people. We have smashed this instrument of profitmaking and deceit. We have begun to convert the newspapers into an instrument for educating the masses and for teaching them to live and run their economy without the landowners and capitalists. But we are only at the start of the road. Not much has been done during the last three years or so. A great deal remains to he done: the road ahead is very long indeed. Let us have less political fireworks, fewer general arguments and abstract slogans from inexperienced Communists who fail to understand their tasks; let us have more production propaganda and, above all, more efficient and capable application of practical experience to fit the development of the masses.

We have abolished newspaper subscriptions (I have no data on the distribution of books; there the situation is probably even worse). This is a step from capitalism to communism. But capitalism cannot be killed at one stroke; it rears its head in the form of Soviet bureaucrats grabbing the newspapers on various pretextsthey must he grabbing a great number, though we cannot say just how many. There must be a sustained drive in this field against the Soviet bureaucrats, who must be rapped over the knuckles for grabbing books and newspapers. Their shareand they themselvesmust be steadily reduced. Unfortunately, we are unable to slash their number down to onetenth, or onehundredthit would be a fraud to promise this at our present level of culture, but we can and must whittle it down. No real Communist will fail to do this.

We must see to it that books and newspapers are, as a rule, distributed gratis only to the libraries and readingrooms, which provide a proper reading service for the whole country and the whole mass of workers, soldiers and peasants. This will accelerate, intensify and make more effective the peoples eager quest for knowledge. That is when education will advance by leaps and bounds.

Here is some simple arithmetic by way of illustration: there are 350,000 copies of Izvestia and 250,000 copies of Pravda for the whole of Russia. We are poor. We have no newsprint. The workers are short of fuel, food, clothes and footwear. The machines are worn out. The buildings are falling apart. Let us assume that we actually have for the country as a wholethat is some 10,000 odd volosts50,000 libraries and readingrooms. This would give no less than three for each volost, and certainly one for each factory and military unit. Let us further assume that we have not only learned to take the first stop from capitalism to communism, but also the second and the third. Let us assume that we have learned to distribute three copies of newspapers to every library and readingroom, of which, say, two go on the public reading stands (assuming Uat we have taken the fourth stop from capitalism to communism, I make the bold assumption that instead of pasting newspapers on walls in the barbarous way which spoils them, we fix them with wooden pegswe have no metal tacks, and there will be a shortage of metal even at the fourth step"!to a smooth board for convenient reading and to keep the papers from spoiling). And so, two copies each for 50,000 libraries and readingrooms for pasting up and one copy to be kept in reserve. Let us also assume that we have learned to allow the Soviet bureaucrats, the pampered grandees of the Soviet Republic, a moderate number of newspapers for them to waste, let us say, no more than a few thousand copies.

On these bold assumptions the country will have a much better service with 160,000, or, say, 175,000 copies. The papers will be there for everyone to read the news (if the travelling libraries which, in my opinion, Comrade F. Dobler so successfully defended in Pravda just the other day, are properly organised[2]). All this needs is 350,000 copies of two newspapers. Today, there are 600,000 copies, a large part of which is being grabbed by the Soviet bureaucrats, wasted as cigarette paper, etc., simply through the habits acquired under capitalism. This would give us a saving of 250,000 copies, or, despite our extreme poverty, a saving equal to two dailies with a circulation of 125,000 each. Each of these could carry to the people every day serious and valuable literary material and the best modern and classical fiction, and textbooks on general educational subjects, agriculture and industry. Long before the war, the French bourgeoisie learned to make money by publishing popular fiction, not at 3.50 francs a volume for the gentry, but at 10 centimes (i.e., 35 times as cheaper, 4 kopeks at the prewar rate) in the form of a proletarian newspaper [ of the free market!]; why, in that case, cant we do the sameat the second step from capitalism to communism. Why cant we do the same thing and ]earn, within a year, even in our present state of poverty, to give the people two copies of a newspaper through each of the 50,000 libraries and reading-rooms, all the necessary textbooks and world classics, and books on modern science and engineering.

We shall learn to do this, I am sure [, but you are absofuckinlutely wrong! , ! As real all do! , ! , !].

February 7, 1921


[1] The Central Administration for the Distribution of Books under the State Publishing House was set up in December 1919 to work out a national plan for the stocktaking and distribution of literature.

[2] F. Doblers article "Modern Library Network" was published in Pravda No. 24, February 4, 1921.

Collected Works Volume 32 
Collected Works Table of Contents 
Lenin Works Archive

, lovely Josephine,
& (BG) &
absofuckinlutely pravitization of the sector!
inefficient -,
() !