V. I. Lenin

From The First Subbotnik On The Moscow-Kazan Railway

To The All-Russia May Day Subbotnik[1]

Written: 2 May, 1920
First Published: Pervomaisky Subbotnik, May 2, 1920; Published according to the newspaper text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 123-125
Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

The distance indicated in the above title has been covered in a single year. This is an enormous distance. Although all our subbotniks are still weak, and each subbotnik reveals a host of defects in arrangement, organisation and discipline, the main thing has been done. A heavy and ponderous mass has been shifted, and that is the essence of the matter.

We are not deceiving ourselves in the least about the little that has yet been done and about the infinite amount of work that has yet to be done; however, only malicious enemies of the working people, only malicious supporters of the bourgeoisie, can treat the May 1 subbotnik with disdain; only the most contemptible people, who have irrevocably sold themselves to the capitalists, can condemn the utilisation of the great First of May festival for a mass-scale attempt to introduce communist labour.

This is the very first time since the overthrow of the tsars, the landowners and tho capitalists that the ground is being cleared for the actual building of socialism, for the development of new social links, a new discipline of work in common and a new national (and later an international) system of economy of world-historic importance. This is a matter of transforming the very habits of the people, habits which, for a long time to come, have been defiled and debased by the accursed private ownership of the means of production, and also by the entire atmosphere of bickering, distrust, enmity, disunity and mutual intrigue that is inevitably generated—and constantly regenerated—by petty individual economy, the economy of private owners in conditions of “free” exchange among them. For hundreds of years, freedom of trade and of exchange has been to millions of people the supreme gospel of economic wisdom, the most deep-rooted habit of hundreds and hundreds of millions of people. This freedom is just as utterly false, serving to mask capitalist deception, coercion and exploitation, as are the other “freedoms” proclaimed and implemented by the bourgeoisie, such as the “freedom to work” (actually the freedom to starve), and so on.

In the main we have broken irrevocably with this “freedom” of the property-owner to be a property-owner, with this “freedom” of capital to exploit labour, and we shall finish the job. We are combating its remnants ruthlessly, with all our might.

Down with the old social links, the old economic relationships, the old “freedom” of labour (subordinated to capital), the old laws, the old habits!

Let us build a new society!

We were not daunted by defeats during the great revolutionary war against tsarism, against the bourgeoisie, against the omnipotent imperialist world powers.

We shall not be daunted by the gigantic difficulties and by the errors that are inevitable at the outset of a most difficult task; the transformation of all labour habits and customs requires decades. We solemnly and firmly promise one another that we shall make every sacrifice, that we shall hold out and win in this most arduous struggle—the struggle against the force of habit—that we shall work indefatigably for years and decades. We shall work to do away with the accursed maxim: “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost”, the habit of looking upon work merely as a duty, and of considering rightful only that work which is paid for at certain rates. We shall work to inculcate in people's minds, turn into a habit, and bring into the day-by-day life of the masses, the rule: “All for each and each for all”; the rule: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”; we shall work for the gradual but steady introduction of communist discipline and communist labour.

We have shifted a huge mountain, a huge mass of conservatism, ignorance, stubborn adherence to the habits of “freedom of trade” and of the “free” buying and selling of human labour-power like any other commodity. We have begun to undermine and destroy the most deep-rooted prejudices, the firmest, age-long and ingrained habits. In a single year our subbotniks have made an immense stride forward. They are still infinitely weak, but that will not daunt us. We have seen our “infinitely weak” Soviet state, before our very eyes, gaining strength and becoming a mighty world force, as a result of our own efforts. We shall work for years and decades practising subbotniks, developing them, spreading them, improving them and converting them into a habit. We shall achieve the victory of communist labour.


[1] The first communist subbotnik was held on April 12, 1919, by railwaymen of the Sortirovochnaya marshalling yards of the Moscow-Kazan Railway. Subbotniks were soon being held at many other enterprises in various cities. The experience of the first communist subbotniks was summed up by V. I. Lenin in A Great Beginning (Heroism of the Workers of the Rear. “Communist Subbotniks” ).

An all-Russia subbotnik was held on May 1, 1920, with over 425,000 people in Moscow alone participating, including V. I. Lenin, who, together with Kremlin army cadets, worked on clearing away building rubble on the territory of the Kremlin.

Lenin's article “From the First Subbotnik on the Moscow-Kazan Railway to the All-Russia May Day Subbotnik” was brought out on May 2, 1920, in a specially published handbill Pervomaisky Subbotnik, which was drawn up, set and printed during the May Day subbotnik by the staff of the newspapers Pravda, Izvestia, Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn, Bednota, the ROSTA Telegraph Agency, and by workers at the printing-house of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.—Editor.