V. I. Lenin

Joint Session of the All-Russian Entral Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Deputies and the Trade Unions[1]

June 4, 1918

Written: 4 June, 1918
First Published: Newspaper reports published on June 5, 1918 in Pravda No. 111 and Izvestia VTsIK No. 113; Published according to the text of the book: Minutes of the Sessions of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, 4th Convocation. Verbatim Report, Moscow, 1920, collated with the shorthand report and the text of the pamphlet N. Lenin, The Struggle for Grain, Moscow, 1918
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pages 419-444
Translated: Clemens Dutt; Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

Part I: Report On Combating The Famine

Part II: Reply To The Debate On The Report On Combating The Famine

Part III: Draft Resolution On The Report On Combating The Famine


Part I

Report On Combating The Famine

June 4, 1918

Comrades, the subject I am about to speak of today is the great crisis which has overtaken all modern countries and which perhaps weighs most heavily on Russia, or, at any rate, is being felt by her far more severely than by other countries. I must speak of this crisis, the famine which has afflicted us, in conjunction with the problems that confront us as a result of the general situation. And when we speak of the general situation, we cannot of course confine ourselves to Russia, particularly as all countries of modern capitalist civilisation are now bound. together more painfully and more distressingly than ever before.

Everywhere, both in the belligerent countries and in the neutral countries, the war, the imperialist war between two groups of gigantic plunderers, has resulted in an utter exhaustion of productive forces. Ruin and impoverishment have reached such a pitch that the most advanced, civilised and cultured countries, which for decades, nay for centuries, had not known what famine means, have been brought by the war to the point of famine in the genuine and literal sense of the term. It is true that in the advanced countries, especially in those in which large-scale capitalism has long since trained the population to the maximum level of economic organisation possible under that system, they have succeeded in properly distributing the famine, in keeping it longer at bay and in rendering it less acute. But Germany and Austria, for example, not to speak of the countries that have been defeated and enslaved, have for a long time been suffering from real starvation. We hardly a single issue of a newspaper without coming across numerous reports from a number of the advanced and cultured countries—not only belligerent, but also neutral countries, such as Switzerland and certain of the Scandinavian countries—regarding the famine and the terrible hardships that have overtaken humanity as a result of the war.

Comrades, for those who have been following the development of European society it has for long been indisputable that capitalism cannot end peacefully, and that it must lead either to a direct revolt of the broad masses against the yoke of capital or to the same result by the more painful and bloody way of war.

For many years prior to the war the socialists of all countries pointed out, and solemnly declared at their congresses, that not only would a war between advanced countries be an enormous crime, that not only would such a war, a war for the partition of the colonies and the division of the spoils of the capitalists, involve a complete rupture with the latest achievements of civilisation and culture, but that it might, that, in fact, it inevitably would, undermine the very foundations of human society. Because it is the first time in history that the most powerful achievements of technology have been applied on such a scale, so destructively and with such energy, for the annihilation of millions of human lives. When all means of production are being thus devoted to the service of war, we see that the most gloomy prophecies are being fulfilled, and that more and more countries are falling a prey to retrogression, starvation and a complete decline of all the productive forces.

I am therefore led to recall how justified Engels, one of the great founders of scientific socialism, was, when in 1887, thirty years before the Russian revolution, he wrote that a European war would not only result, as he expressed it, in crowns falling from crowned heads by the dozen without anybody to pick them up, but that this war would also lead to the brutalisation, degradation and retrogression of the whole of Europe; and that, on the other hand, war would result either in the domination of the working class or in the creation of the conditions which would render its domination indispensable.[2] On this occasion the co-founder of Marxism expressed himself with extreme caution, for he clearly saw that if history took this course, the result would be the collapse of capitalism and the extension of socialism, and that a more painful and severe transition period, greater want and a severer crisis, disruptive of all productive forces, could not be imagined.

And we now clearly see the significance of the results of the imperialist slaughter of the peoples which has been dragging on for more than three years, when even the most advanced countries feel that the war has reached an impasse, that there is no escape from war under capitalism, and that it will lead to agonising ruin. And if we, comrades, if the Russian revolution—which is not due to any particular merit of the Russian proletariat but to the general course of historical events, which by the will of history has temporarily placed that proletariat in a foremost position and made it for the time being the vanguard of the world revolution—if it has befallen us to suffer particularly severe and acute agony from the famine, which is afflicting us more and more heavily, we must clearly realise that these misfortunes are primarily and chiefly a result of the accursed imperialist war. This war has brought incredible misfortunes on all countries, but these misfortunes are being concealed, with only temporary success, from the masses and from the knowledge of the vast majority of the peoples.

As long as military oppression continues, as long as the war goes on, as long as, on the one hand, it is accompanied by hopes of victory and a belief that this crisis may be resolved by the victory of one of the imperialist groups, and, on the other hand, an unbridled military censorship prevails and the people are intoxicated by the spirit of militarism, as long as this continues the mass of the population of the majority of the countries, will be kept in ignorance of the abyss into which they are about to fall and into which half of them have already fallen. And we are feeling this with particular intensity now, because nowhere but in Russia is there such a glaring contrast to the vastness of the tasks the insurgent proletariat has set itself, realising that it is impossible to end the war, the world war between the world’s most powerful imperialist giants, that this war cannot be ended without a mighty proletarian revolution, also embracing the whole world.

And since the march of events has placed us in one of the most prominent positions in this revolution and forced us to remain for a long time, at least since October 1917, an isolated contingent, prevented by events from coming quickly enough to the aid of other contingents of international socialism, the position we find ourselves in is now ten times more severe. Having done all that can be done by the directly insurgent proletariat, and the poor peasantry supporting it, to overthrow our chief enemy and to protect the socialist revolution, we find nevertheless that at every step oppression by the imperialist predatory powers surrounding Russia and the legacy of the war are weighing on us more and more heavily. These consequences of the war have not yet made themselves fully felt. We are now, in the summer of 1918, facing what is perhaps one of the most difficult, one of the most severe and critical transitional stages of our revolution. And the difficulty is not confined to the international arena, where our policy is inevitably bound to be one of retreat as long as our true and only ally, the international proletariat, is only preparing, is only maturing, for revolt, but is not yet in a position to act openly and concertedly, although the whole course of events in Western Europe, the furious savagery of the recent battles on the Western front, the crisis which is growing increasingly acute in the belligerent countries, all go to show that the revolt of the European workers is not far off, and that although it may be delayed it will inevitably come.

It is in a situation like this that we have to experience enormous internal difficulties, owing to which considerable vacillations have been caused mainly by the acute food shortage, by the agonising famine which has overtaken us and which compels us to face a task demanding the maximum exertion of effort and the greatest organisation, and which at the same time cannot be tackled by the old methods. We shall undertake the solution of this problem together with the class that was with us in opposing the imperialist war, the class together with which we overthrew the imperialist monarchy and the imperialist republican bourgeoisie of Russia, the class that must forge its weapons, develop its forces and create its organisation in the midst of increasing difficulties, increasing tasks and the increasing scope of the revolution.

We are now facing the most elementary task of human society—to vanquish famine, or at least to mitigate at once the direct famine, the agonising famine which has afflicted both our two principal cities and numerous districts of agricultural Russia. And we have to solve this problem in the midst of a civil war and the furious and desperate resistance of the exploiters of all ranks and colours and of all orientations. Naturally, in such a situation those elements in the political parties which cannot break with the old and cannot believe in the new find themselves in a state of war, which is being exploited for only one aim—to restore the exploiters.

The news we are receiving from every corner of Russia demands that we shall face this question, the connection between the famine and the fight against the exploiters, against the counter-revolution which is raising its head. The task confronting us is to vanquish the famine, or at least to mitigate its severities until the new harvest, to defend the grain monopoly and the rights of the Soviet state, the rights of the proletarian state. All grain surpluses must be collected; we must see to it that all stocks are brought to the places where they are needed and that they are properly distributed. This fundamental task means the preservation of human society; at the same time it involves incredible effort, it is a task which can be performed in only one way—by general and increased intensification of labour.

In the countries where this problem is being solved by means of war, it is being solved by military servitude, by instituting military servitude for the workers and peasants; it is being solved by granting new and greater advantages to the exploiters. In Germany, for instance, where public opinion is stifled, where every attempt to protest against the war is suppressed, but where a sense of reality, of socialist hostility to the war nevertheless persists, you will find no more common method of saving the situation than the rapid increase in the number of millionaires who have grown rich on the war. These new millionaires have been enriching themselves fantastically.

In all the imperialist countries the starvation of the masses offers a field for the most furious profiteering; incredible fortunes are being amassed on poverty and starvation.

This is encouraged by the imperialist countries, e.g., Germany, where starvation is organised best of all. And not without reason is it said that Germany is a centre of organised starvation, where rations and crusts of bread are distributed among the population better than anywhere else. We see there that new millionaires are a common feature of the imperialist state; indeed, they know no other way of combating starvation. They permit twofold, threefold and fourfold profits to be made by those who possess plenty of grain and who know how to profiteer and to turn organisation, rationing, regulation and distribution into profiteering. We do not wish to follow that course, no matter who urges us to do so, whether wittingly or unwittingly. We say that we have stood and shall continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the class together with which we opposed the war, together with which we overthrew the bourgeoisie and together with which we are suffering the hardships of the present crisis. We must insist on the grain monopoly being observed, not so as to legitimise capitalist profiteering, large or small, but so as to combat deliberate racketeering.

And here we see greater difficulties and greater dangers than those that faced us when we were confronted by tsarism armed to the teeth against the people; or when we were confronted by the Russian bourgeoisie, which was also armed to the teeth, and which in the offensive of last June did not consider it a crime to shed the blood of hundreds of thousands of Russian workers and peasants while it kept in its pocket the secret treaties providing it with a share in the spoils, but which does consider it a crime for the toilers to wage war against the oppressors, the only just and sacred war, the war of which we spoke at the very outset of the imperialist slaughter and which events at every step are now inevitably associating with the famine.

We know that the tsarist autocracy from the very beginning instituted fixed prices for grain and raised those prices. Why not? It remained faithful to its allies, the grain merchants, the profiteers and the banking magnates who made millions out of it.

We know how the compromisers of the Constitutional Democratic Party—together with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks—and Kerensky introduced a grain monopoly, because all Europe was saying that without a monopoly they could not hold out any longer. And we know how this same Kerensky in August 1917 evaded the democratic law of the time. That is what democratic laws and artfully interpreted regimes are for—to be evaded. We know that in August Kerensky doubled those prices and that at that time socialists of every shade and colour protested against and resented this measure. There was not a single newspaper at the time that was not outraged by Kerensky’s conduct and that did not expose the fact that behind the republican Ministers, behind the Cabinet of Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, were the manipulations of the profiteers, that the doubling of grain prices was a concession to the profiteers, that the whole business was nothing but a concession to the profiteers. We know that story.

We can now compare the course of the grain monopoly and of the fight against the famine in European capitalist countries with the course taken in our country. We see what use the counter-revolutionaries are making of these events. They are a lesson from which we must draw definite and rigorous conclusions. The crisis, having reached the pitch of a severe famine, has rendered the civil war still more acute. It has led to the exposure of parties like the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, who differ from that avowed capitalist party, the Constitutional Democrats, only in that the Constitutional-Democratic Party is an open party of the Black Hundreds. The Constitutional Democrats have nothing to say and are not obliged to address themselves to the people, they are not obliged to conceal their aims, whereas these parties, who compromised with Kerensky and shared power and the secret treaties with him, are obliged to address themselves to the people. (Applause.) And so they are from time to time forced to expose themselves, despite their wishes and their plans.

When, as a result of the famine, we see on the one hand an outbreak of uprisings and revolts of starving people and on the other a series of counter-revolutionary rebellions spreading like fire from one end of Russia to the other, obviously fed with funds from the Anglo-French imperialists, and aided by the efforts of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, we say to ourselves the picture is clear and we leave it to whoever so desires to dream of united fronts.

And we now see very clearly that after the Russian bourgeoisie was defeated in open military conflict, all the open collisions between the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces in the period from October 1917 to February and March 1918 proved to the counter-revolutionaries, even to the leaders of the Don Cossacks, in whom the greatest hopes had been placed, that their cause was lost, lost because everywhere the majority of the people were opposed to them. And every new attempt, even in the most patriarchal districts, where the agriculturists are most wealthy and most socially isolated, from the outside world, as, for instance, the Cossacks—every new attempt without exception has resulted in new sections of the oppressed toilers actually rising against them.

The experience of the civil war in the period from October to March has shown that the masses of the working people, the Russian working class and the peasants who live by their own labour and not by exploiting others, are all over Russia, the vast majority of them, in favour of Soviet power. But those who thought that we were already on the path of greater organic development have been obliged to admit that they were mistaken.

The bourgeoisie saw that it was defeated. . . . Then there came a split among the Russian petty bourgeoisie. Some of them are drawn towards the Germans, others towards the Anglo-French orientation, while both have this in common, that they are united by the famine orientation.

In order that it may be clear to you, comrades, that it is not our Party but its enemies and the enemies of Soviet power who are reconciling the German orientation and the Anglo-French orientation and uniting them on a common programme, viz., to overthrow the Soviet power as the result of famine—in order to make it clear how this is taking place, I will take the liberty of briefly quoting from the report of the recent conference of the Mensheviks.[3] This report appeared in the newspaper Zhizn.[4] (Commotion and applause.)

From this report, printed in No. 26 of Zhizn, we learn that Cherevanin, who made a report on economic policy, criticised the policy of the Soviet government and proposed a compromise solution of the problem—to enlist the services of representatives of merchant capital, as practical businessmen, to act as commission agents on terms which would be very favourable for them. We learn from this report that the chairman of the Northern Food Board, Groman, who was present at the conference, announced the following conclusions, which he had arrived at, so that report states, on the basis of a vast store of personal and of all sorts of other observations—observations, I would add, made entirely in bourgeois circles. “Two methods,” he said, “must be adopted: the first is that present prices must be raised; the second, that a special reward must be offered for prompt deliveries of grain,” etc. (Voice : “What is wrong with that?") Yes, you will hear what is wrong with that, although the speaker, who has not been given the floor, but has taken it from that corner over there (applause ), thinks he can convince you that there is nothing wrong with it. But he has presumably forgotten the course the Menshevik conference took. This same paper, Zhizn, states that Groman was followed by the delegate Kolokolnikov, who said the following: “We are being invited to participate in the Bolshevik food organisations.” Very wrong, is it not? That is what we have to say, recalling the interjection of the previous speaker. And if this speaker, who refuses to calm down and is taking the floor although he has not been granted it, cries out that it is a lie and that Kolokolnikov did not say that, I take note of the statement and request you to repeat that denial coherently and so that all may hear you. I take the liberty of recalling the resolution proposed at the conference by Martov, who is not unknown to you, and which on the question of the Soviet government literally says the same thing, although in different terms and phrases. (Commotion, shouting.) Yes, you may laugh, but the fact remains that in connection with a report on the food situation Menshevik representatives say that the Soviet government is not a proletarian organisation, that it is a useless organisation.

And at such a time, when counter-revolutionary uprisings are breaking out owing to the famine, and taking advantage of the famine, no denials and no tricks will avail, for the fact is obvious. We see the policy on this question effectively developed by Cherevanin, Groman and Kolokolnikov. The Civil War is reviving, counter-revolution is raising its head, and I am convinced that ninety-nine per cent of the Russian workers and peasants have drawn—although not everybody yet knows this—are drawing and will draw their conclusion from these events, and that this conclusion will be that only by smashing counter-revolution, only by continuing a socialist policy over the famine, to combat the famine, shall we succeed in vanquishing both the famine and the counter-revolutionaries who are taking advantage of the famine.

Comrades, we are in fact approaching a time when Soviet power, after a long and severe struggle against numerous and formidable counter-revolutionary enemies, has defeated them in open conflict, and, having overcome the military resistance of the exploiters and their sabotage, has come to grips with the task of organisation. This difficult struggle with famine, this tremendous problem is actually explained by the fact that we have now come directly face to face with a task of organisation.

Success in an uprising is infinitely more easy. It is a million times easier to defeat the resistance of counter-revolution than to succeed in the sphere of organisation. This particularly applies to the cases when we dealt with a task in which the insurgent proletarian and the small property-owner, i.e., the broad sections of the petty bourgeoisie, among whom there were many general-democratic and general-labour elements, could to a considerable extent act together. We have now passed from this task to another serious famine has driven us to a purely communist task. We are being confronted by a revolutionary socialist task. Incredible difficulties face us here.

We do not fear these difficulties. We were aware of them. We never said that the transition from capitalism to socialism would be easy. It will involve a whole period of violent civil war, it will involve taking painful measures, when the contingent of the insurgent proletariat in one country is joined by the proletariat of another country in order to correct their mistakes by joint efforts. The tasks that face us here are organisational tasks, concerned with articles of general consumption, concerned with the deepest roots of profiteering, which are connected with the upper strata of the bourgeois world and of capitalist exploitation, and which cannot be so easily removed by mere mass pressure. We have to deal here with the roots and runners of bourgeois exploitation, the shallow ones and those that have taken a deep or shallow hold in all countries in the form of the small property-owners, their whole system of life, and in the habits and sentiments of the small property-owner and the small master; we have to deal here with the small profiteer, with his unfamiliarity with the new system of life, his lack of faith in it and his despair.

For it is a fact that when they sensed the tremendous difficulties that confront us in the revolution, many members of the working masses gave way to despair. We do not fear that. There never has been a revolution anywhere in which certain sections of the population were not overcome by despair.

When the masses put up a certain disciplined vanguard, and that vanguard knows that this dictatorship, this firm government, will help to win over all the poor peasants—this is a long process, involving a stern struggle—it is the beginning of the socialist revolution in the true sense of the term. But when we see that the united workers and the mass of poor peasants, who were about to organise against the rich and the profiteers, against the people to whom intellectuals like Groman and Cherevanin are wittingly or unwittingly preaching profiteers’ slogans, when these workers, led astray, advocate the free sale of grain and the importing of freight transport, we say that this means helping the kulaks out of a hole! That path we shall never take. We declare that we shall rely on the working elements, with the help of whom we achieved the October victory, and that only together with our own class, and only by establishing proletarian discipline among all sections of the working population, shall we be able to solve the historic tasks now confronting us.

We have vast difficulties to overcome. We shall have to gather up all surpluses and stocks, properly distribute them and properly organise transportation for tens of millions of people. We shall have to see that the work proceeds with the regularity of clockwork. We shall have to overcome the disruption which is being fostered by the profiteers and by the doubters, who are spreading panic. This task of organisation can be accomplished only by the class-conscious workers, meeting the practical difficulties face to face. It is worth devoting all one’s energies to this task; it is worth engaging in this last, decisive fight. And in this fight we shall win. (Applause.)

Comrades, the recent decrees on the measures taken by the Soviet government[5] show us that the path of the proletarian dictatorship, as every socialist who is a real socialist can see, will obviously and undoubtedly involve severe trials.

The recent decrees deal with the fundamental problem of life—bread. They are all inspired by three guiding ideas. First, the idea of centralisation: the uniting of everybody for the performance of the common task under leadership from the centre. We must prove that we are serious and not give way to despondency, we must reject the services of the bag-traders and merge all the forces of the proletariat; for in the struggle against the famine we rely on the oppressed classes and we see the solution only in their energetic resistance to all exploiters, in uniting all their activities.

Yes, we are told that the grain monopoly is being undermined by bag-trading and profiteering on every hand. We frequently hear the intellectuals say that the bag-traders are helping us, are feeding us. Yes, but the bag-traders are feeding us on kulak lines: they are doing just what is needed to establish, strengthen and perpetuate the power of the kulaks, to enable those who have power to extend that power over those around them with the help of their profits and through various individuals. And we assert that if the forces of those whose chief sin at the present moment is their lack of belief were to be united, the fight would he considerably easier. If there ever existed a revolutionary who hoped that we could pass to the socialist system with out difficulties, such a revolutionary, such a socialist, would not be worth a brass farthing.

We know that the transition from capitalism to socialism is a struggle of an extremely difficult kind. But we are prepared to overcome a thousand difficulties, we are prepared to make a thousand attempts; and having made a thousand attempts we shall go on to the next attempt. We are now enlisting all the Soviet organisations in this new creative life, we are getting them to display new energies. We count on overcoming the new difficulties with the help of new strata, by organising the poor peasants. and now I shall pass to the second main task.

I have said that the first idea that runs through all these decrees is that of centralisation. Only by collecting all the grain in common bag shall we be able to overcome the famine. And even then grain will barely suffice. Nothing is left of Russia’s former abundance, and all minds must be deeply imbued with communism, so that everybody regards surplus grain as the property of the people and is alive to the interests of the working people. And this can be achieved only by the method proposed by the Soviet government.

When they tell us of other methods, we reply as we did at the session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.[see Report on Foreign Policy Delivered at a Joint Meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Moscow Soviet] When they talked of other methods, we said: Go to Skoropadsky, to the bourgeoisie. Teach them your methods, such as raising grain prices or forming a bloc with the kulaks. There you will find willing ears. But the Soviet government says only one thing, that the difficulties are immense and you must respond to every difficulty by new efforts of organisation and discipline. Such difficulties cannot be overcome in a single month. There have been cases in the history of nations when decades were devoted to overcoming smaller difficulties, and these decades have gone down in history as great and fruitful decades. You will never cause us to despond by referring to the failures of the first half year or the first year of a great revolution. We shall continue to utter our old slogan of centralisation, unity and proletarian discipline on an all-Russia scale.

When they say to us, as Groman says in his report, that “the detachments you have sent to collect grain are taking to drink and are themselves becoming moonshiners and robbers”, we reply that we are fully aware how frequently this is the case. We do not conceal such facts, we do not whitewash them, we do not try to avoid them with pseudo-Left phrases and intentions. No, the working class is not separated by a Chinese wall from the old bourgeois society. And when a revolution takes place, it does not happen as in the case of the death of an individual, when the deceased is simply removed. When the old society perishes, its corpse cannot be nailed up in a coffin an lowered into the grave. It disintegrates in our midst; the corpse rots and infects us.

No great revolution has ever proceeded otherwise; no great revolution can proceed otherwise. The very things we have to combat in order to preserve and develop the sprouts of the new order in an atmosphere infested with the miasmas of a decaying corpse, the literary and political atmosphere, the play of political parties, which from the Constitutional-Democrats to the Mensheviks are infested with these miasmas of a decaying corpse, are all going to be used against us to put a spoke in our wheel. A socialist revolution can never be engendered in any other way; and not a single country can pass from capitalism to socialism except in an atmosphere of disintegrating capitalism and of painful struggle against it. And so we say that our first slogan is centralisation and our second slogan is the unity of the workers. Workers, unite and unite again! That is not new, it may not sound sensational or novel. It does not promise the specious successes with which you are being tempted by people like Kerensky, who in August 1917 doubled prices, just as the German bourgeois has raised them to twice and even ten times their level. These people promise you direct and immediate successes, as long as you offer new inducements to the kulaks. Of course that is not the road we shall follow. We say that our second method may be an old method, but it is a permanent method: Unite! (Applause.)

We are in a difficult situation. The Soviet Republic is perhaps passing through one of its most arduous periods. New strata of workers will come to our aid. We have no police, we shall not have a special military caste, we have no other apparatus than the conscious unity of the workers. They will save Russia from her desperate and tremendously difficult situation. (Applause.) The workers must unite, workers’ detachments must be organised, the hungry people from the non-agricultural districts must be organised—it is to them we turn for help, it is to them our Commissariat for Food appeals, it is they we call upon to join the crusade for bread, the crusade against the profiteers and the kulaks and for the restoration of order.

A crusade used to be a campaign in which physical force was supplemented by faith in something which centuries ago people were compelled by torture to regard as sacred. But we desire, we think, we are convinced, we know that the October Revolution has led the advanced workers and the advanced representatives of the poor peasants to regard the preservation of their power over the landowners and capitalists as sacred. (Applause.) They know that physical force is not enough to influence the masses of the population. We need physical force because we are building a dictatorship, we are applying force to the exploiters, and we shall cast aside with contempt all who fail to understand this, so as not to waste words in talking about the form of socialism. (Applause.)

We say that a new historical task is confronting us. We must get the new historical class to understand that we need detachments of agitators from among the workers. We need workers from the various uyezds of the non-producing gubernias. We need them to go thence as conscious advocates of Soviet power; they must sanctify and legitimise our food war, our war against the kulaks, our war against disorders; they must make possible the carrying on of socialist propaganda; they must establish in the countryside the distinction between the poor and the rich, which every peasant can understand and which is a profound source of our strength. It is a source which it is difficult to get to flow at full pressure, because the exploiters are numerous. And these exploiters resort to the most varied methods in order to subjugate the masses, such as bribing the poor peasants by permitting the latter to make money out of illicit distilling or to make a profit of several rubles on every ruble by selling at profiteering prices. Such are the methods to which the kulaks and the rural bourgeoisie resort in order to establish their hold over the masses.

We cannot blame the poor peasants for this, for we know that they have been enslaved for hundreds, thousands of years, that they have suffered from serfdom and from the system which was left by serfdom in Russia. Our approach to the poor peasants must consist not only in the guns directed against the kulaks, but also in the propaganda of enlightened workers who bring the strength of their organisation into the countryside. Representatives of the poor, unite!—that is our third slogan. This is not making advances to the kulaks, and it is not the senseless method of raising prices. If we were to double prices, they would say: “They are raising prices. They are hungry. Wait a bit, they will raise prices still higher.”

It is a well-trodden path, this path of playing up to the kulaks and profiteers. It is easy to take this path and to hold out tempting prospects. Intellectuals, who call themselves socialists, are quite prepared to paint such prospects for us; and the number of such intellectuals is legion. But we say to you: “You who wish to follow the Soviet government, you who value it and regard it as a government of the working people, as a government of the exploited class, on you we call to follow another path”. This new historical task is a difficult thing. If we accomplish it, we shall raise a new stratum, give a new form of organisation to those sections of the working and exploited people, who are mostly downtrodden and ignorant, who are least united and have still to be united.

All over the world the foremost contingents of the workers of the cities, the industrial workers, have united, and united unanimously. But hardly anywhere in the world have systematic, supreme and self-sacrificing attempts been made to unite those who are engaged in small-scale agricultural production and, because they live in remote out-of-the-way places and in ignorance, have been stunted by their conditions of life. The task that faces us here unites for a single purpose both the fight against the food shortage and the fight for the profound and important system of socialism. The fight for socialism which faces us now is one to which it is worth devoting all our energies, for which it is worth staking everything, because it is a fight for socialism (applause ), because it is a fight for the state power of the working and exploited people.

In following this path we shall regard the working peasants as our allies. Solid achievements await us along this path, not only solid, but inalienable. That is our third significant slogan!

Such are the three fundamental slogans: centralisation of food work, unity of the proletariat and organisation of the poor peasants. And our appeal, the appeal of our Commissariat for Food, to every trade union, to every factory committee, says: Life is hard for you, comrades; then help us, join your efforts to ours, punish every breach of the regulations, every evasion of the grain monopoly. It is a difficult task; but fight bag-trading, profiteering and the kulaks, again and again, a hundred times, a thousand times, and we shall win. For this is the path on to which the majority of the workers are being led by the whole course of their lives and by the severity of our failures and trials in the matter of food supply. They know that, whereas when there was still no absolute shortage of grain in Russia the shortcomings of the food supply organisations were corrected by individual and isolated actions, this can no longer be the case now. Only the joint effort and the unity of those who are suffering most in the hungry cities and gubernias can help us. That is the path the Soviet government is calling on you to follow—unity of the workers, of their vanguard, for the purpose of carrying on agitation in the villages and of waging a war for grain against the kulaks.

According to the calculations of the most cautious experts, not far from Moscow, in gubernias quite close by—Kursk, Orel and Tambov—there is still a surplus of up to ten million poods of grain. We are very far from being able to collect this surplus for the common state fund.

Let us set about this task energetically. Let an enlightened worker go to every factory where despair is temporarily in the ascendant, and where, driven by hunger, people are prepared to accept the specious slogans of those who are reverting to the methods of Kerensky, to an increase of the fixed prices, and let him say: “We see people who are despairing of the Soviet government. Join our detachments of militant agitators. Do not be dismayed by the many cases in which these detachments have disintegrated and turned to drink. We shall use every such example to show not that the working class is not fit, but that the working class has still not rid itself of the shortcomings of the old predatory society and cannot rid itself of them at once. Let us unite our efforts, let us form dozens of detachments, let us combine their activities, and in this way we shall get rid of our shortcomings.”

Comrades, allow me in conclusion to draw your attention to some of the telegrams which are being received by the Council of People’s Commissars and particularly by our Commissariat for Food.

Comrades, in this matter of the food crisis, of the torments of hunger that are afflicting all our cities, we observe that, as the proverb says, ill news hath wings. I should like to read you certain documents which were received by Soviet government bodies and institutions after the issue of the decree of May 13 on the food dictatorship, in which it is stated that we continue to rely only on the proletariat. The telegrams indicate that in the provinces they have already started to organise the crusade against the kulaks and to organise the rural poor, as we proposed. The telegrams we have received are proof of this.

Let the Cherevanins and the Gromans blow their trumpets, let their raucous voices sow panic and demand the destruction and abolition of the Soviet government! Those who are hard at work will be least disturbed by this; they will see the facts, they will see that the work is progressing and that new ranks are forming and uniting.

A new form of struggle against the kulaks is emerging, namely, an alliance of the poor peasants, who need assistance and who need to be united. It is proposed that awards be given for deliveries of grain, and we must help. We are willing to make such awards to the poor peasants, and we have already begun to do so. But against the kulaks, the criminals who are subjecting the population to the torments of hunger, and on account of whom millions of people are suffering, against them we shall use force. We shall give every possible inducement to the rural poor, for they are entitled to it. The poor peasant has for the first time obtained access to the good things of life, and we see that he is living more meagerly than the worker. We shall encourage and give every possible inducement to the poor peasants and shall help them if they help us to organise the collection of grain, to secure grain from the kulaks. We must spare no resources to make that a reality in Russia.

We have already adopted this course, and it will be still further developed by the experience of every enlightened worker and by the new detachments.

Comrades, the work has been started and is progressing. We do not expect dazzling success, but success there certainly will be. We know that we are now entering a period of new destruction, one of the most severe and difficult periods of the revolution. We are not in the least surprised that counter-revolution is raising its head, that the number of waverers and despairers in our ranks is growing. We say: stop your wavering; abandon your despair, of which the bourgeoisie will take advantage, because it is in its interests to sow panic; get to work; with our food decrees and our plan based on the support of the poor peasants we are on the only right road. In the face of the new historical tasks we call upon you to make a new exertion of effort. This task is an infinitely difficult one, but, I repeat, it is an extremely rewarding one. We are here fighting for the basis of communist distribution and for the actual creation of the foundations of a communist society. Let us all set to work. We shall vanquish the famine and achieve socialism. (Applause.)

Part II

Reply To The Debate On The Report On Combating The Famine

June 4, 1918

Comrades, the speeches of the representatives of the various groups have, in my opinion, shown what might have been expected.

Notwithstanding the differences that exist between the Bolsheviks and certain other parties and groups, we have convinced ourselves that the tremendous enthusiasm of the masses is uniting them in the struggle against the famine, and not only the Bolshevik organisations. And we have no doubt that the further the struggle against the famine proceeds and the more the counter-revolutionaries hiding behind the Czechoslovak and other bands show their faces, the more actively will the supporters of the Bolsheviks—the workers and the working peasant masses—dissociate themselves from those enemies, whatever they may call themselves, whose arguments we are disputing. These enemies go on using the old, hackneyed arguments about the Brest peace and the civil war, as though during the three months that have elapsed since the Brest peace was concluded events had not convincingly borne out the views of those who said that only the tactics of the Communists could bring the people peace and leave them free for the work of organising and uniting their forces in preparation for the new and great wars which are now about to take place, this time under different conditions. The events fully show that the European proletariat, which at that time was not yet in a position to come to our aid, is now with every month—that can be said today without exaggeration—approaching the point when the necessity for revolt will be fully realised and revolt become inevitable. Events have fully shown that we had only one choice, namely, to accept a forced and predatory peace.

Every thinking person felt that the resolution moved by the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries at the Fourth Congress of Soviets was counter-revolutionary[6]; and every thinking person must feel the same about the resolution of the Mensheviks, who to this day keep crying, “Down with the Brest peace!" and who pretend they do not know that in doing so they actually want to embroil us in a war with the German bourgeoisie through the Czechoslovak mutineers[7] and agents hired for the purpose.

It is not worth while dwelling on the accusations that the Communists are responsible for the famine. We had the same thing during the October Revolution. No socialist or anarchist, call him what you will, who has not taken leave of his senses will venture to get up at any meeting and assert that socialism can be reached without civil war.

You may examine all the publications of all the more or less responsible socialist parties, factions and groups, and you will not find a single responsible and serious socialist saying anything so absurd as that socialism can ever come except through civil war, or that the landowners and capitalists will voluntarily surrender their privileges. That would be naïve to the point of stupidity. And now, after the bourgeoisie and its supporters have suffered a number of defeats, we hear admissions like that of Bogayevsky, for example, who on the Don had the best soil in Russia for counter-revolution, but who has also admitted that the majority of the people are against them—and therefore no subversive activities of the bourgeoisie will be of any avail without the aid of foreign bayonets. Yet the Bolsheviks are being attacked here for the civil war. That is tantamount to going over to the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, no matter what slogans are used to mask the fact.

As before the revolution, so now, we say that when international capital throws war on to the scales of history, when hundreds of thousands of people are perishing, and when war is remoulding people’s habits and accustoming them to settle issues by armed force, to think that we can emerge from the war in any other way than by converting it into a civil war is more than strange. And what is brewing in Austria, in Italy, in Germany shows that civil war in those countries will assume even keener forms, will be even more acute. There is no other way for socialism; and whoever wages war on socialism, betrays socialism completely.

As to food measures, it has been said that I have not dwelt on them in detail. But that was not part of my task. The report on the food question has been made by my colleagues,[8] who have been specially working on that problem, and doing so not for months but for years, studying it not only in the offices of Petrograd and Moscow, but in the provinces, and making a practical study of how to store grain, how to fit up the granaries, and so on. These reports were made to the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and to the Moscow Soviet, and there you will find the material on the subject. As to specific criticism and practical recommendations, that was not part of my task. My task was to outline the principles of the problem that faces us, and I have not heard here any criticism worthy of any attention or any sensible objection worthy of examination from the standpoint of principle. And let me say in conclusion, comrades, that I am convinced, in fact I am sure, that this will be the conviction of the vast majority, for the purpose of our meeting is not to adopt a definite resolution—although, of course, that, too, is important, because it will show that the proletariat is capable of uniting its forces; but this is not enough, it is very, very far from enough—what we have to do now is to tackle practical problems.

We know, and our worker comrades know it especially, that at every step in practical life, in every factory, at every meeting, at every chance gathering in the streets, this same question of the famine is brought up, and in ever more acute forms. And therefore our chief task should be to make this meeting, too, where we have assembled with representatives from the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet and the trade unions, the starting-point for a radical change in all our practical work. Everything else must be entirely subordinated to the success of our propaganda, agitation and organisational work in combating famine, that must be put before everything else and completely merged with the proletarian and ruthlessly firm war on the kulaks and profiteers.

Our Commissariat for Food has already appealed to the factory committees, the trade unions and the big proletarian centres, where we are operating directly, to those close and numerous links which unite the Moscow workers with hundreds of thousands of organised factory workers in all the big industrial districts.

All the more must we make use of them.

The situation is critical. Famine is not only threatening, it is already upon us. Every worker, every Party functionary must at once make it his practical job to change the fundamental trend of his activities.

Out into the factories, among the masses, all of you! Tackle the practical job at once! It will give us a host of practical hints as to far more fertile methods, and at the same time will help to discover and promote new forces. With the aid of these new forces we shall launch the work on a broad scale, and we are firmly convinced that the three months, which will be far more difficult than the preceding ones, will serve to steel our forces and will lead us to complete victory over famine and help to realise all the plans of the Soviet government. (Applause.)

Part 3

Draft Resolution On The Report On Combating The Famine

June 4, 1918[9]

This joint meeting draws the attention of all workers and working peasants to the fact that the famine which has overtaken many parts of the country demands of us the most vigorous and determined measures to combat this calamity.

The enemies of Soviet power, the landowners, capitalists and kulaks and their numerous hangers-on, want to take advantage of the calamity to engineer revolts, aggravate the chaos and disorder, overthrow the Soviet government, resurrect the old system of servitude and slavery for the working people, and restore the power of the landowners and capitalists, as has been done in the Ukraine.

Only the utmost exertion of all the efforts of the working class and the working peasantry can save the country from famine and safeguard the gains of the revolution from the attacks of the exploiting classes.

This joint meeting considers that the firm policy pursued by the Soviet government in combating the famine is an absolutely correct policy and the only correct one.

Only the strictest revolutionary order in every sphere of activity, and especially on the railways and in the water transport system, only the strictest discipline among the workers, and their self-sacrificing aid in the form of detachments of agitators and fighters against the bourgeoisie and the kulaks, and only the independent organisation of the rural poor can save the country and the revolution.

This joint meeting urgently appeals to all workers and peasants to set about this work, and by concerted and united effort to vanquish chaos, disorder and unco-ordinated effort.


[1] The Joint Session of the All-Russia C.E.C., the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Deputies, the A.C.C.T.U. and the trade unions, factory committees and other workers’ organisations was held on June 4, 1918 in the Bolshoi Theatre. There was only one question on the agenda—the struggle against famine in connection with the general situation. Opening the session, Y. M. Sverdlov, Chairman of the All-Russia C.E.C., said that such a widely representative meeting had been called in view of the extreme urgency of the problem and in order to draw all the workers of Moscow into an energetic campaign against famine. The report at the session was delivered by Lenin. Left and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks made sharp attacks on the Soviet Government and criticised its food policy. The resolution moved by the Bolshevik group, which was based on Lenin’s draft, was passed by a majority vote.

[2] Lenin is expounding an idea expressed by Engels in his Einleitung zu Sigismund Borkheims Broschüre zur Erinnerune für die deutschen Mordspatrioten. 1886-1887 (Marx/Engels, Werke, Band 21, S. 346 51).

[3] Lenin has in mind the All-Russia Conference of Mensheviks (held in Moscow, May 21-27, 1918), which showed up the counter-revolutionary nature of the Mensheviks’ activity. In their speeches N. Cherevanin, V. G. Groman and other Mensheviks tried to exploit the country’s food difficulties for anti-Soviet purposes. They described the organisation of food detachments and the “crusade” for grain which Lenin was urging upon the workers as “the last convulsive efforts” of Soviet power to save itself.

[4] Zhizn (Life )—a newspaper published in Moscow from April 23 to July 6, 1918 under the editorship of the anarchistic writers A. Borovoi and Y. Novomirsky. Made use of by various anti-Soviet elements, it was eventually banned along with other counter-revolutionary newspapers.

[5] Lenin is referring to the All-Russia C.E.C. decrees: On the Emergency Powers of the People’s Commissar for Food of May 13 (The Food Dictatorship Decree) and On the Reorganisation of the Commissariat for Food and Local Food Bodies of May 27, 1918 (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol. 2, 1959, pp. 261-64 and 307-12) These decrees instituted complete centralisation of food supply, both procuring and distribution; they also envisaged measures for the organisation of a workers’ grain campaign and help for the poor in their struggle against the kulaks.

[6] Lenin has in mind a resolution moved at the Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets by the Right and Centre S.R.s, in which they expressed strong opposition to the Peace Treaty of Brest and demanded the immediate abolition of Soviet power and the holding of a Constituent Assembly.

[7] The reference is to the counter-revolutionary armed revolt of the Czechoslovak Army Corps organised by the imperialists of the Entente with the active connivance of Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Czechoslovak corps had been formed in Russia before the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution out of Czech and Slovak prisoners-of-war. By the summer of 1918 it numbered over 60,000 men (the total number of Czech and Slovak war prisoners in Russia was nearly 200,000). After the setting up of Soviet power the financing of the corps was taken over by the countries of the Entente, which had decided to use it against the Soviet Republic. T. Massarik, leader of the Czech bourgeois nationalists and president of the Czechoslovak National Council, declared the corps to be part of the French army and the representatives of the Entente raised the question of its evacuation to France. The Soviet Government agreed to the evacuation of the Czechoslovaks on condition that the Russian soldiers in France were sent home. By the agreement of March 26, 1918 the corps was granted permission to quit Russia via Vladivostok on condition that they handed in their arms and deposed their counter-revolutionary commanders, who were Russian officers. But the counter-revolutionary commanders of the corps treacherously broke the agreement with the Soviet Government on the surrendering of arms and, on instructions from the imperialists of the Entente instigated an armed revolt at the end of May. The governments of the United States, Britain and France openly and whole-heartedly supported the revolt and French officers took a direct part in it. Operating in close contact with the whiteguards and the kulaks, the corps occupied a large part of the Urals, the Volga area and Siberia, everywhere restoring the rule of the bourgeoisie. With the support of Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries whiteguard governments were set up in the occupied areas. A Siberian government was set up in Omsk, a Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly in Samara, and so forth. Soon after the revolt started, on June 11, the Central Executive Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist groups in Russia issued a manifesto to the soldiers of the corps, exposing the counter-revolutionary nature of the revolt and appealing to these Czech and Slovak workers and peasants to put a stop to it and join the Czechoslovak units of the Red Army. The majority of the Czech and Slovak prisoners-of-war were sympathetic towards Soviet power and refused to be taken in by the anti-Soviet propaganda of the reactionary clique in command. Realising that they were being tricked, many of the rank and file left the corps and refused to fight against Soviet power. Nearly 12,000 Czechs and Slovaks served in the ranks of the Red Army. The Volga area was liberated by the Red Army in the autumn of 1918 and the whiteguard Czechoslovaks were finally defeated during the victorious campaign against Kolchak.

[8] The reference is to the reports delivered at the All-Russia C E.C. meetings by the People’s Commissar for Food A. D. Tsyurupa (May 9, 1918) and A. I. Svidersky (May 27) on reorganisation of the food bodies and the system of food supply.

[9] This draft resolution formed the basis of the resolution submitted by the Bolshevik group at the meeting of June 4, 1918. It was accepted by a joint meeting of the All-Russia C.E.C., the Moscow Soviet and the Trade Unions, which rejected the Left S.R. resolution aimed against organisation of the poor, against fixed prices for grain and other measures initiated by the Soviet Government.