G. Zinoviev

The Tasks of the Russian
Communist Party

The 12th Party Convention on April 15, 1923

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 33 [15], 19 April 1923, pp. 275–278.
On-line Publication: Zinoviev Internet Archive, October 2021.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


“What is the new economic policy of the Bolsheviki – evolution or tactics? Thus has the question been formulated by the followers of the party of the “Smerm Vekh” (that section of the bourgeois emigrants which has aided the Soviet government of late years from national motives – Ed.) The enemy tells the class truth by pointing out the danger threatening us. The enemy endeavors to render the danger inevitable. Therefore the greatest attention must be devoted to the question: Who will be the actual victor?” Lenin

The word of comrade Lenin are particularly applicable at the present juncture, when we are approaching the 12th Party conference of the CPR. and when our Party must once again sum up the progress made during another year.

Who will be the victor? This is one of those questions which will not be decided in one or two years, tie who laughs last laughs the longest – and we communists are fully convinced that by means of the Nep we shall arrive at the complete victory of socialism. Our enemies and “friendly enemies” (the “Smena Vekh” party) differ from us only in that they believe the Nep to be steering us towards the complete victory of capitalism.

This question will not be decided within one year. At least ten years will probably be required. But the direction in which it is lending can be already ascertained. In this respect the past year is of great significance.

Oh! The followers of the “Smena Vekh” by no means desire the abolition of the proletarian dictatorship.

“It is not a question of abolishing the dictatorship of the proletariat, but of its transformation into a workers’ state, in which organized labor will maintain political and economic ascendancy to the fullest extent.” Thus wrote S. Lukyanov, of the “Smena Vekh” lately.

Not at all, gentlemen of the “Smena Vekh”: Pardon me, we old-fashioned Marxians will not only refrain from transposing the “guide-posts” (literally translated, “Smena Vekh” means: the transposition of the guide-posts. – Ed.). Give us at least ten years more – in view of the international situation we shall scarcely be able to manage with less –, and we shall leave the dictatorship of the proletariat behind. But until the Soviet power has been victorious and is firmly established in at least two or three countries of decisive importance – at present capitalist, we shall not enter into any discussion with you as to a “milder’’ formula of ‘‘the predominance of organized labor!” ...

What does this mean? The degeneration of the dictatorship in its earlier sense, or the birth of democracy in new, more effective, and more living forms?

This question, put by Leshnev in the Moscow periodical Rossiya, is rousing great interest, although it has not yet shown its political face unequivocally.

And Leshnov replies:

“I think that both will be the case, simultaneously and in juxtaposition ... We can well imagine that beneath the prickly outer shell of the dictatorship a real democracy might stretch its limbs and arise to life – The will of the impersonal and passive majority then becomes a sovereign command for the competent active minority.”

Anyone who has hitherto held the opinion that the “competent active minority” has any independent interests, differing from the interests of the majority of the workers, has not understood one iota of the essential character of a dictatorship of the proletariat. Naturally, he is now likely to rub his eyes, look around, and discover such Americas as ... “we are now witnessing the birth of a new democracy, not pleasing externally, but firmly constituted’’, or that “the fundamentals of the new social and political order will consist of the combination, the synthesis, of two views of life: the dictatorship, and the right of the people ...” (Leshnev, Rossiya, No. 4)

What is the real import of the epoch? What does the new economic policy really signify? – an “evolution” that is, a social alteration of the proletarian dictatorship, or a line of “tactics”, that is, a great strategic manoeuvre made by the working class of the first victorious revolutionary country, which is waiting for. the arrival of international reinforcements, and filling up its ranks with the peasants of its own country? History will speak the last word on this question – and according to our calculations in about ten years. But even today it is not too optimistic to say, that important symptoms show that it will be decided in our favor, that is, in favor of international Communism.

Let us observe the estimate formed by the working class on the new economic policy.

When our new economic policy first appeared, all our enemies shouted that the new economic policy would perhaps revive commercial relations and in a certain sense contribute to increasing production, but would; on the other hand, lead to a worsening of the position of the working class; they predicted increase of wealth and luxury for a small minority on the one hand, increase of misery and hatred of Soviet rule on the other.

It is not long since we read in an anonymous organ, that the “new economic policy increases the internal disorganization of the working class”, that “the re-arrangement of state undertakings on a commercial basis, the unfettered exchange of commodities, enhances the likelihood of the workers being infected by, the psychology of producers of goods”.

It has been, and is still being predicted, that the new economic policy will alienate the workers from us, and will result in an “aberration in the direction of the peasantry” and then in “degeneration”.

What can we learn from the past year in this respect? Our Party is not only not losing the sympathies of the working masses, but during the past year our Party captured the broadest strata of the proletariat for the second time. The new economic policy has not damaged the material position of the workers, but on the contrary, has improved it. Real wages have considerably increased. There is not a single branch of industry fi h the workers are not living on a much better scale than a year ago. The country is stretching its stiffened limbs. We all have the feeling that we are living m a convalescent country. The plainest workman knows that the worst is already over, that not only the civil war is over, but also the famine and epidemics. The question of bread, of the food ration, is no longer the one burning question in the dwellings of the workers.

Agriculture is reviving. Large industry is beginning to develop. On the whole, the right economic methods for the present transition have been found. Every worker knows this.

Political interest is again awakening among the broad masses. The masses have been enriched by the most valuable experience of the revolution. They see that our Party has been in the right, that it alone has pointed out the right path. In many places sympathy with our Party is more firmly established than even in the year 1917. Even those classes of workers who vacillated at the acutest point of our difficulties in 1920–1921, even those classes of peasant and semi-peasant masses who were hostile to the Soviet power in 1920–1921, those classes which made it appear doubtful whether we were really backed up by the majority of productive workers – even these classes are being gradually convinced of the correctness of the path we pursue.

The country is returning to sound health. Economics are gradually reviving. The standard of living among the workers is also improving, with painful slowness, but incontestably improving.

Have we paid dearly for all this? Yes, indeed we have! Four years of civil war, following on four years of imperialist war, nave cost our country much. The revolution demanded enormous sacrifices. But every event taking place on the international field of battle – from the large or small economic strike, to the events in the Ruhr – serves, to give our Russian workers an object lesson in the fact that our way, the way of civil war and proletarian dictatorship, proves in the end the cheapest, most economical, and most effectual way.

The lowest strata of the proletariat feel as never before the inner truth of our Party. Every election demonstrates this. Every mass campaign, gives unshakeable proofs of it. [1] The authority of the trade unions under the leadership of our Party has grown extraordinarily during this year. The position of the communist nuclei in the factories and workshops is incomparably better than two or even one year ago. The mutual relations between members of the Party and non-partisan workers have improved enormously. The communist has regained his authority over the non-partisan masses.

When out Party is reproached with regarding the “maintenance of power as an object in itself “; when demands are made that our Party do away with the “communist monopoly of responsible positions”; when it is urged that “it is necessary to secure for all non-partisans and especially for non-partisan intelligentzia and skilled workers a really broad and unhindered access to all Soviet offices” (these are the main watchwords of the above named anonymous organ which presents the Menshevist idea under a banner of the “left”) – then our Party can reply to all this liquidatory wisdom by pointing out the trend of opinion among the masses. The whole wisdom contained in the watchwords here adduced has no other significance than to preach the liquidation of the dictatorship of the Party and with it that of the proletariat. For after 5 years of revolution after the mighty illustrations given us by the civil war in Russia, it is only Kautsky’s disciples who do not grasp that the dictatorship of the Party is only the outward form, only the function of class dictatorship.

At the 12th Party conference the question of our state industry, and of agriculture will be discussed in detail. These are the questions of questions! The economic problems – on these depends the final decision as to “who will be the victor”. Shall we hold our own in state industry, improve it, and be able to sell cheap goods to the villages? And shall we on the other hand be able to help the villages to improve their economics, and to sell sufficient of their products to enable them to purchase the products of town industry? We approach the final decision on this question.

At our last party conference comrade Lenin did not speak simply on the alliance with the peasantry, as is frequently stated. He spoke on the alliance with agrarian economics, which is not the same thing. An alliance between state town industry and agrarian economics is what we need. And we shall obtain it too. The preparatory work being done by the plenum of the Central Committee in this direction, and the unanimous decisions which it will submit to the Party congress, give us every guarantee – that in this question, the congress will come to the right decisions.

The national question is of no less importance, and the Party is again devoting attention to this. In the national question Bolshevism has created a complete school. When Bolshevism, long before die revolution, and also after October, defended with an outspokenness unknown, the slogan of the right of self-determination of all oppressed nations until complete separation from the central state, our antagonists cried out that this slogan signified the ruin of Russia. There was a considerable number of sincere revolutionists who were also unable to grasp the meaning of this slogan. But in the national question, as in all others, Bolshevism followed its own path, and proved by deeds that this consistent and ultimately proletarian statement of the question, is the sole one capable of winning the confidence of the tens of millions belonging to those nationalities formerly oppressed by Great Russian Tzarism, and Great Russian “democracy”. The gigantic experiences rained during the four years of avil war, proved with incontestable clarity the rightness of the Bolshevist standpoint in the national question. It may be safely maintained that the defeats suffered by Denikin, Koltchak, Yudenitch, and the earlier defeats of Gutchkov, Milyukov, and Kerensky, are to be greatly attributed to their chauvinism in the national question.

The masses of the people are with us. The workers have the same faith in the Party as they had in 1917. A change in our favor is observable among the broad strata of the student youth. We have won the masses for the second time. And this because the proletarian dictatorship has established itself firmly on its fundamental positions, and has proceeded with the broadest working masses along that path of proletarian realism which consists of allying the socialist industry of the city with the agrarian economics of the village.


All revolutionary parties which have gone under up to now, have tailed to recognize themselves, to sec where power lay; we, however, shall not go under, for we are not afraid to speak of our weaknesses, or to learn how to overcome them. Lenin.

Now, on the eve of the 12th party conference, let us take a glance at the inner situation of the Party. Above all, we must understand clearly that Petrograd is not the Party, nor Moscow, nor Ivanovo-Vosnessensk. There is no doubt as to the leading role played by these most important labor centres, but still they do not form the whole Party.

The following figures, based on the All-Russian Party census which was taken, and supplemented by other data, give us an idea of the condition of the Party at this 12th Party conference.

The Party consists (in round numbers) of 32,000 nuclei; of these only 14,000 are town nuclei. The Party possesses 410,000 members, of which 200,000 are in the towns. The number of candidates is 117,000; 50,000 in the towns. (We omit here the numbers of the Youth League, although this organization is of gigantic importance for the future of our Party.) Each 1,000 members of the C.P.R. comprises on an average, 444 workers, 267peasants, 222 clerks, and 67 without ascertainable vocation. The percentage of workers among the members of the Party has risen slightly, approximately from 41 to 44. If we add together the number of workers, and the number of clerks and other Party members who have only had elementary school education, or no schooling whatever, our Party statistics yield a percentage of 67 proletarian elements.

Out of the 400,000 – or more members of the Party, there are only 10,000 who were members of the Party before 1917. This is the core, the old guard, of the Party. In 1917 35,000 members joined the Party. The main mass of our present entered the Party in 1919 (108,000) and in 1920 (122,000). The Party has 23,000 members who were formerly members of other parties (S.R., Mensheviki, anarchists, etc.).

Out of the total number of working class members, there is only a comparatively small number occupied directly in production. Up to January 1922 the percentage of communist workers doing direct manual work was only 11.6 per cent, in Moscow itself only 8.9%.

It is true that today the situation is incomparably better. The demobilisation, the upward tendency of industry, and the general improvement in working conditions, has greatly raised the percentage of Party members engaged in manual labor.

The great majority of communist workers are occupied in civil service work. And this is naturally unavoidable in a country where the working class rules the state. That which we now see in Russia is, in a certain sense, the process of reproduction of the “class” of professional revolutionists of whom comrade Lenin spoke. Thousands and thousands of the best workers, trained by the Party, are now at the head of economics and of the whole state, fulfilling the role of vocational revolutionists. It is much to be desired that the Party succeed in keeping bureaucracy and other evils away from this class, and in exterminating these evils where they have already found their way in.

The analysis of the social stratification of the candidates waiting for admission to the Party is of particular importance. According to the figures yielded by the All-Russian Party census, the 112,774 candidates are to be classified under the following categories: factory nuclei 6,932, transport workers’ nuclei 4,294, peasant nuclei 51,763, military nuclei 27,728, Soviet nuclei 13,881, miscellaneous 8,146. Even in the Moscow organization 17.4% candidates fall to the workers’ nuclei, 23.6% to the Soviet nuclei, 26.4% to the military nuclei, 28.7% to the educational establishments, 3.9% to the transport nuclei. There are of course, in the large organizations in Moscow, Petrograd etc., besides the candidates, a large number of what are known as “individuals”, that is, non-partisan workers who are employed for individual propaganda, who attend the political school belonging to the Party nuclei, etc. In Moscow there are about 6,000 of these “individuals”, and the organization has chosen 1,840 persons for purposes of systematic connection with them. The attendance of non-partisan workers at Party meetings assumes an ever-growing mass character. For instance, meetings held between September 1922 till January 1923, in the largest proletarian quarter of Moscow, were attended by:

Members of
the C.P.R.




This phenomenon is general. The connections between the non-partisan workers and our organizations increase in a great variety of forms.

The percentage of workers who are members of the Party increases gradually. But still the present social composition of the Party cannot be regarded as ideal. The social composition is ultimately one of the most important guarantees that the Party does not deviate from its historic path. During the next two or three years we must at all costs attain a great and absolute ascendancy of workers in the Party. The Party is in possession of power. It is unavoidable that foreign elements will endeavor to intrude themselves into the Party for some years. And since this is the case the regulation of the social composition of the Party, by means of extensive manoeuvring measures, is of the utmost importance. It is highly probable that at every Party congress we shall have to take extensive measures towards such a regulation. From the above it may plainly be seen that the 12th Party congress will have to pass two resolutions, to the following effects:

  1. The admission to the Party of those candidates who do not belong to the class of industrial workers is to be prevented, at least for the coming year.
  2. Various measures are to be taken towards facilitating the admission of purely industrial workers into the Party; for instance from the ranks of the so-called “individuals , the constant attenders of Party meetings, the attenders of the political schools conducted by the Party nuclei, etc.


This still inadequate proletarian representation in the Party is one of the dangers of the present day. But this does not exhaust the difficulties which confront tne Party in the period of the new economic policy.

Let us for instance take the question of the role played by the communist “economists”. There is no doubt whatever but that in the new – economic – stage now reached by the revolution, that wing of the Party which can be comprised under the name of “economists” plays a part of the utmost importance, in many respects a decisive part. The success of the whole depends on their work, and on their willingness to learn business methods. They, the functionaries of the trusts, the factory managers, co-operative leaders, “Red business people”, in a word, the “chiefs”, have been commissioned by the Party to carry out the work which today is of leading importance; it is nothing more or less than the fate of industry and of the alliance of industry with agrarian economics. It is a matter of course that this great task can only be carried out successfully when this most important troop of functionaries receives complete support on all sides from the Party.

But it must not be forgotten that it is precisely this wing of the Party (the economists) which, by the very nature of its work, is brought nearest to the bourgeois camp; this wing is obliged to come most in contact with the bourgeoisie, with bourgeois tradespeople, in a word, with the bourgeois aspect of the new economic policy. Those “warners” are entirely wrong when they predict that many of our communist economists, having learned the art of trading, will forget how to be communists. These people are wrong when they announce that a rupture is inevitable between the communist functionaries of the trusts, who draw comparatively high salaries, and the poor communists whose families are starving on the Volga. Perhaps this might be the case if no Party existed, a Party endeavoring to reduce inequality to a minimum by a whole system of measures. But there is a danger, and it is impossible not to see it.

The plan for the reorganization of the central organs of the Party, and of the state organs, proposed by comrade Lenin, is one of those great ideas of comrade Lenin’s which, taking us by surprise at first, require time before we fully realise their comprehensiveness. Apart from the significance of this plan for the improvement of the whole state apparatus, it also offers a solution of the problem named above. The central Control Commission, as proposed by comrade Lenin, can and must – find a practical means of overcoming all difficulties arising out of the position of the economists receiving salaries above the average. The Party cannot and will not take the place of the state and economic organs; it attaches the greatest importance to a strict division of work, as decided upon by the first Party conference; but the leadership of the state and economic organs must remain in its hands at any price. But in order to lead in actual fact, and not merely in words, the Party must above all possess the possibility of re-examining, controlling, appointing, and discharging. And this aim can lie best fulfilled by a reorganized and broadly based central Control Commission.

One of the most important tasks, one whose significance we still underestimate, is the increase of educational work in the Party. No-one will deny that we have accomplished much in this direction in the course of the year lying between the 11th and 12th party conferences. But we must fully recognize that all we have done up to now is merely a modest beginning, a drop in the ocean. The activity of the Youth League, by which fresh masses of workers are continually brought into the Party, is indeed of eminent importance, We do not always take into account the fact that a new generation has sprung up before our eyes amidst the confusion of events of the last few years, and that much depends on this new generation. The ordinary Party member has attained a position in which he is able to think of increasing his knowledge. He has considerably changed his attitude towards newspapers, books, Marxist circles, and lectures. The task of raising the standard of culture in the whole mass of Party members is equally important as the task of improving state industry. The success of the Party’s educational work is one of the most weighty factors for combatting the degeneration of the Party, and for overcoming the dangers of the new economic policy. Every member of the Party must really understand the tasks of communism. Not until then shall we be really able to laugh at the so-called menaces of the new economic policy.

When every member of the Party is able to understand tlx new economic policy, to recognize its negative aspect, to realize its full significance as a great strategic manoeuvre, then the victory is already half won. But we must not conceal our shortcomings, we must openly admit that by no means do all the members of the Party possess a complete comprehension of the new economic policy.


Last but not least is the question of the connections to be maintained with the communist workers of those countries where they do not form the governmental party, but the revolutionary opposition.

It is superfluous to mention that our Party is permeated with a feeling of international solidarity for every section of revolutionary workers fighting against the international bourgeoisie. Our Party is incontestably one of the leading parties of the Communist International. But the tie binding us must become closer, must be felt daily. The C.P.R. has held it, and still holds it, to be its greatest honor and happiness to support the various divisions ot the international army of communist workers in every possible way. But these divisions increase in strength with every year, and now it is their turn to lend their support in many ways to our Party, to the first Party to seize power, and now defending communism under the condition i imposed by the new economic policy. The struggle of flu workers is now becoming internationalized as never before. Every question of foreign politics, and even of home politics, in our Soviet republic, is closely bound up with the interests of the communist workers of all countries. And vice versa. When we are two years older, then it will be plainly evident that every great political step taken by the Soviet republic is indissolubly bound up with the practical daily interests of the communist workers of the most important countries of Europe.


To sum up, the period of the new economic policy is one of difficult transition. Dangers exist. Comrade Lenin spoke openly of these dangers at the 11th party conference. The Party will not conceal them.

The immediate tasks of the Party are:

  1. To systematically improve the social composition of the Party and to guard our organizations from the intrusion of petty Bourgeois elements who run with the crowd.
  2. To support the communist economists with the whole authority and apparatus of the Party, by appointing the best of our members for economic work. At the same time to adopt a number of measures for protecting the economic wing of our Party from the danger ot degenerating in consequence of the bourgeois aspect of the new economic policy.
  3. To devote a hundredfold more attention to the educational work of the Party, and to the enlightenment of the ordinary Party members.
  4. To bring about a closer and permanent alliance with the communist workers of all countries.



1. The following small but exceedingly instructive incident is of value: Before the day on which the Party celebrated its 25th anniversary, the following spontaneous movement arose among the non-partisan workers of Petrograd. The contributed one hour’s wages and arranged special collections in the workshops (with great success) in order to be able to present the Communist Party with flags on the anniversary day. This movement extended to dozens of factories. Anyone knowing the fine political feeling of the Petrograd workers will not doubt that this is a symptom of the greatest significance.

Last updated on 18 October 2021