V. I.   Lenin

Plan of a Letter to the Baku Comrades[1]

Written: Written late February, 1921
Published: First published in 1959 in Lenin Miscellany XXXVI. Printed from the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 3nd English Printing, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 42, pages 277b-280a.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README


A Letter to the Baku Comrades

(On the question of concessions)

Preliminary plan:

1. Differences are beginning to arise on an extremely important question. (Decision of the C.P.C. 1921, its text.)

2. Concessions in Baku? example and crux of all differences, their “focus”.

3-8. Counter-arguments (A 1 - a 6). +8 b i s.

9. Examine and refute them.

10. Economic crux of the matter.

11. Gigantic political mistake.

12. Issue of principle.

13. Suggested agreement.

14. Conclusion.

NB [Transcriber’s Note: The following sets of text, I through III and IV through VI are bracketed with ‘ { ’and ‘ }’]

a I Chief phases of chief
II “arguments” (and chief
III errors) of opponent

IV opponent’s “retreat”
V “line of trenches behind
VI which prejudice is trying to hide”

3. (a I) “Will not want to work for the capitalists, when others next door are working for themselves.”

4. (a II) “Krasin is backed by Bogdatyan.”

Krasin: What, in point of principle, is the gist of the disputes concerning Krasin’s personality?
Simply “a bourgeois specialist”!

Specialists’ deceit
question of the significance of specialists and the attitude . towards them

4 a. “Bourgeois specialist”? Out with him!

We must learn to use the “bourgeois specialist”, learn to demand of him, to understand where his “strength” lies.

4 b. “Well-behaved communist musicians”, who, may be a bit out of tune, but don’t touch a drop.[2]

5. (a III) “Private capitalism is a predator, only state power (nationalisation) is capable of running things rationally.”

6. (a IV) “It isn’t proved that we shall not be able to obtain equipment ourselves.” ( =we’ll cope ourselves).

7. (a V) Won’t be able to control foreigners.

8. (a VI) Our specialists say: “problematical” (what exactly is problematical and what must we be able to demand of the specialist).

8 bis (a VII) Baku: catastrophe.
I. Grozny: Variant.

¼ of oil wells, gear, etc.—the rear” of advanced capitalism.

10. Economic question: is advanced capitalism superior to us now in techniques and organisation?

10 a. Can we now set ourselves the task of coping on our own, or is this Left-wing childishness, or stupid doctrinairism?

10 b. Should the problem necessarily be put this way: in view of the gigantic danger of Soviet power’s breakdown as a result of economic chaos and backwardness, the danger of falling behind, not catching up’ the problem must be put only this way-to catch up by means of an alliance with foreign capital?

If we give up 1/4 and keep up with two-quarters that is the ideal, which we shall not attain in a year, and if we do it in five years it will be a great victory.”

This is a business-like, not infantile, way of putting the question.

11. Why does Σ mean a gigantic political error?
Wrong evaluation of perspectives, relations of classes both in Russia (proletariat, peasantry, bourgeoisie) and throughout the world.

12. Economic significance = (a) bloc with advanced state capitalism against petty-bourgeois and backward element = () bloc with one imperialist trust against another. “Won’t be able to control?” Who? Tsarist and bourgeois officials? We.

Give up ¼? Training ideal. Give up ¼, catch up with two-quarters (three-quarters unattainable ideal). Then in 30 years (average concession term) we shall have a peaceful victory, and in 15 probably buy it back.

13. § 1. Observation of up-to-date engineering rules.
§ 2. Import of breadstuff, clothes, and other consumer goods (for the workers of “their” enterprises).
§ 3. Import of machinery.
§ 4. All imports from abroad ( 2 and § 3) give us one-quarter-one-third of the same product. (One “case” out of three falls to our lot.)
§ 5. We give a minimum (timber, for example) and for special payment.  
§ 6. Our laws are compulsory.
§ 7. We give “him” 50-75% of oil.
§ 8. We feed up our workers and specialists in relays.
§ 9. We learn in earnest, and don’t shout about “winning an easy victory”.

14. Should we try to find such concessionaires on such conditions? This is the only right way of putting the question.


[1] The main part of this document (from the words “will not want to work...” to the end) is in the form of notes made during a dis-cussion of oil concessions, probably at a plenary meeting of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.) on February 24, 1921. Lenin later rearranged the notes, numbered them (points 3-14) and used the free upper margin for a preliminary plan of his letter (points 1-14). Lenin’s letter written according to this plan is not in the Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC. of the C.P.S.U. The chief questions outlined in the plan were dealt with in Lenin’s letter to A. P. Serebrovsky, Chairman of Aznef-tekom, Baku, dated April 2, 1921 (see Collected Works, Vol. 52, Fifth Russian Edition, Document 219).

Lower down the page mention is made of the decision of the C.P.C. on oil concessions passed on February 1, 1921. The Coun- cil adopted Lenin’s draft and approved in principle the granting of concessions on certain oil districts of Baku and Grozny and other oilfields. For oil concessions see also Collected Works, Vol. 42, Fifth Russian Edition, pp. 334-36, and Vol. 52., Documents 143 and 205).

[2] Lenin here quotes from Krylov’s fable “Musicians”. In this fable a landowner boasts of his serf choir to his neighbour. The singers had neither ear nor voice, but the landowner did not think this mattered, as the thing he most appreciated in people was sobriety and good behaviour.

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