[Book] Lenin and Trotsky - What they really stood for

Appendix C – Lenin’s Last Letters

To Leon Trotsky[1]

December 12, 1922

Comrade Trotsky,

I am sending you Krestinsky’s[*] letter. Write to me as soon as possible whether you agree; at the plenum, I am going to fight for the monopoly.

What about you?




P.S. It would be best returned soon.


To M.I. Frumkin and B.S. Stomonyakov[2]

December 12, 1922

To Comrades Frumkin and Stomonyakov, copy to Trotsky.

In view of my increasing sickness, I cannot be present at the plenum. I am fully aware how awkwardly, and even worse than awkwardly, I am behaving in relation to you, but all the same, I cannot possibly speak.

Today I received the enclosed letter from Comrade Trotsky, with which I agree in all essentials, with the exception perhaps of the last lines about the State Planning Commission. I will write Trotsky of my agreement with him and ask him to take upon himself, in view of my sickness, the defence of my position at the plenum.

I think that this defence ought to be divided into three parts.

First, defence of the fundamental principle of the monopoly of foreign trade, giving it full and final confirmation.

Second, delegating to a special commission the detailed consideration of those practical plans for realising this monopoly advanced by Avanesov. At least half of this commission ought to consist of representatives from the Commissariat of Foreign Trade.

Third, separate consideration of the work of the State Planning Commission. By the way, I think that there will probably be no disagreement between Trotsky and me, if he confines himself to the demand that the work of the State Planning Commission, carried on under the heading of the development of state industry, should have repercussions on all aspects of the activity of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade.

I hope to write again today or tomorrow and send you my declaration to the Central Committee plenum on the essence of this problem. At any rate, I think this question is of such fundamental importance that in case I do not get the agreement of the plenum, I must take it into the party congress, and before that, announce the existence of this disagreement in the fraction of our party at the coming Congress of Soviets.



Taken down by L.F. [Lydia Fotieva]


To Leon Trotsky[3]

December 13, 1922

Copy to Frumkin and Stomonyakov

Comrade Trotsky,

I have received your comments on Krestinsky’s letter and Avanesov’s plans. I think that you and I are in maximum agreement, and I believe that the State Planning Commission question, as presented in this case, rules out (or postpones) any discussion on whether the State Planning Commission needs to have any administrative rights.

At any rate, I would urge that at the forthcoming plenum you should undertake the defence of our common standpoint on the unconditional need to maintain and consolidate the foreign trade monopoly. The preceding plenum passed a decision in this respect which runs entirely counter to the foreign trade monopoly, and there can be no concessions on this matter. I believe, therefore, as I say in my letter to Frumkin and Stomonyakov, that in the event of our defeat on this question we must refer the question to a party congress. This will require a brief exposition of our differences before the party group of the forthcoming congress of Soviets. If I have time, I shall write this, and I would be very glad if you did the same. Hesitation on this question is doing us unprecedented harm and the negative arguments boil down entirely to accusations of shortcomings in the apparatus. But our apparatus is everywhere imperfect, and to abandon the monopoly because of an imperfect apparatus would be throwing out the baby with the bath water.




To Leon Trotsky[4]

December 15, 1922

Comrade Trotsky,

I send you a letter received today from Frumkin. I also think that it is absolutely necessary to settle this question once and for all. If there is any fear that this question excites me and might have a bad effect on my health, I think this is wholly wrong because I should be ten thousand times more excited by a delay which would make completely unstable our policy upon one of the fundamental questions. Therefore, I call your attention to the enclosed letter and earnestly ask you to support an immediate consideration of this question. I am convinced that if we are in danger of losing out, it would be far more advantageous to lose out before the party congress, and immediately turn to the fraction of the Soviet congress than to lose out after the congress. Perhaps such a compromise as this would be acceptable: adopt the decision about confirmation of the monopoly now but raise the question nevertheless at the party congress and make that agreement now. No other compromise, in my opinion, would be to our interest in any circumstances.



Taken down by L.F.


To Leon Trotsky[5]

December 15, 1922

Comrade Trotsky,

I consider that we have quite reached agreement. I ask you to declare our solidarity at the plenum. I hope that our decision will be passed because some of those who had voted against it in October have now partially or all together switched to our side.

If for some reason our decision should not be passed we shall turn to our fraction at the Congress of Soviets and declare that we are referring the question to the Party congress.

In that case, inform me and I shall send in my statement.



P.S. If this question should be removed from the present plenum (which I do not expect and against which you should, of course, protest as strongly as you can on our common behalf), I think that we should apply to our fraction at the Congress of Soviets anyway and demand that the question be referred to the party congress, because any further hesitation is absolutely intolerable. You can keep all the material I have sent you until after the plenum.


Letter to Joseph Stalin for Central Committee Members[6]

December 15, 1922

I have now finished winding up my affairs and can leave with my mind at peace. I have also come to an agreement with Trotsky on the defence of my views on the monopoly of foreign trade. Only one circumstance still worries me very much; it is that it will be impossible for me to speak at the Congress of Soviets. My doctors are coming on Tuesday and we shall see if there is even a small chance of my speaking. I would consider it a great inconvenience to miss the opportunity of speaking, to say the least. I finished preparing the summary a few days ago. I therefore propose that the writing of a report which somebody will deliver should go ahead, and that the possibility be left open until Wednesday that I will perhaps personally make a speech, a much shorter one than usual, for example, one that will take three-quarters of an hour. Such a speech would in no way hinder the speech of my deputy (whoever you may appoint for this purpose), but would be useful politically and from the personal angle, as it would eliminate cause for great anxiety. Please have this in mind, and if the opening of the congress is delayed, inform me in good time through my secretary.



P.S. I am emphatically against any procrastination on the question of the monopoly of foreign trade. If any circumstance (including the circumstance that my participation is desirable in the debate over this question) gives rise to the idea to postpone it to the next plenary meeting, I would most emphatically be against it because, first, I am sure Trotsky will uphold my views as well as I; second, the statements that you, Zinoviev, and, according to rumours, Kamenev have made prove that some members of the CC have already changed their minds; third, and most important, any further vacillation over this extremely important question is absolutely impermissible and will wreck all our work.



To Leon Trotsky[7]

December 21, 1922

It looks as though it has been possible to take the position without a single shot, by a simple manoeuvre. I suggest that we should not stop and should continue the offensive and for that purpose put through a motion to raise at the party congress the question of consolidating our foreign trade and of measures to improve its implementation. This to be announced in our fraction at the Congress of Soviets. I hope that you will not object to this, and will not refuse to give a report in the group.


N. Lenin

P.S. Vladimir Ilyich also asks that you telephone your reply. N.K. Ulyanova [Krupskaya].[8]


Letter to the Congress[9]

December 23, 1922

I would urge strongly that at this Congress a number of changes be made in our political structure.

I want to tell you of the considerations to which I attach most importance.

At the head of the list I set an increase in the number of Central Committee members to a few dozen or even a hundred. It is my opinion that without this reform our Central Committee would be in great danger if the course of events were not quite favourable for us (and that is something we cannot count on).

Then, I intend to propose that the Congress should on certain conditions invest the decisions of the State Planning Commission with legislative force, meeting, in this respect, the wishes of Comrade Trotsky to a certain extent and on certain conditions.

As for the first point, i.e. increasing the number of CC members, I think it must be done in order to raise the prestige of the Central Committee, to do a thorough job of improving our administrative machinery and to prevent conflicts between small sections of the CC from acquiring excessive importance for the future of the Party.

It seems to me that our Party has every right to demand from the working class 50 to 100 CC members, and that it could get them from it without unduly taxing the resources of that class.

Such a reform would considerably increase the stability of our Party and ease its struggle in the encirclement of hostile states, which, in my opinion, is likely to, and must, become much more acute in the next few years. I think that the stability of our Party would gain a thousand fold by such measure.



Taken down by M.V. [Maria Volodicheva]


Letter to the Congress (The Testament of Lenin)

December 25, 1922

By stability of the Central Committee, of which I spoke above, I mean measures against a split, as far as such measures can at all be taken. For, of course, the White Guard in Russkaya Mysl (it seems to have been S.S. Oldenburg) was right when, first, in the White Guards’ game against Soviet Russia he banked on a split in our Party, and when, secondly, he banked on grave differences in our Party to cause that split.

Our Party relies on two classes and therefore its instability would be possible and its downfall inevitable if there were no agreement between those two classes. In that event this or that measure, and generally all talk about the stability of our CC, would be futile. No measure of any kind could prevent a split in such a case. But I hope that this is too remote a future and too improbable an event to talk about.

I have in mind stability as a guarantee against a split in the immediate future, and I intend to deal here with a few ideas concerning personal qualities.

I think that from this standpoint the prime factors in the question of stability are such members of the CC as Stalin and Trotsky. I think relations between them make up the greater part of the danger of a split, which could be avoided, and this purpose, in my opinion, would be served, among other things, by increasing the number of CC members to 50 or 100.

Comrade Stalin, having become General Secretary, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggle against the CC on the question of the People’s Commissariat of Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present CC, but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.

These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present CC can inadvertently lead to a split, and if our Party does not take steps to avert this, the split may come unexpectedly.

I shall not give any further appraisals of the personal qualities of other members of the CC. I shall just recall that the October episode with Zinoviev and Kamenev was, of course, no accident, but neither can the blame for it be laid upon them personally, any more than non-Bolshevism can upon Trotsky.

Speaking of the young CC members, I wish to say a few words about Bukharin and Pyatakov. They are, in my opinion, the most outstanding figures (among the youngest ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and major theorist of the Party; he is also rightly considered the favourite of the whole Party, but his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him. (He has never made a study of the dialectics, and, I think, never fully understood it.)

As for Pyatakov, he is unquestionably a man of outstanding will and outstanding ability, but shows too much zeal for administrating and the administrative side of the work to be relied upon in a serious political matter.

Both of these remarks, of course, are made only for the present, on the assumption that both these outstanding and devoted Party workers fail to find an occasion to enhance their knowledge and amend their one-sidedness.



Taken down by M.V.

P.S. Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a General Secretary. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from the standpoint of safeguards against a split and from the standpoint of what I wrote above about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky it is not a [minor] detail, but it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.



Taken down by L.F.

January 4, 1923


Note on Enlargement of the Central Committee

December 26, 1922

The increase in the number of CC members to 50 or even 100 must, in my opinion serve a double or even a treble purpose: the more members there are in the CC, the more men will be trained in CC work and the less danger there will be of a split due to some indiscretion. The enlistment of many workers to the CC will help the workers to improve our administrative machinery, which is pretty bad. We inherited it, in effect, from the old regime, for it was absolutely impossible to reorganise it in such a short time, especially in conditions of war, famine, etc. That is why those “critics” who point to the defects of our administrative machinery out of mockery or malice may be calmly answered that they do not in the least understand the conditions of the revolution today. It is altogether impossible in five years to reorganise the machinery adequately, especially in the conditions in which our revolution took place. It is enough that in five years we have created a new type of state in which the workers are leading the peasants against the bourgeoisie; and in a hostile international environment this in itself is a gigantic achievement. But knowledge of this must on no account blind us to the fact that, in effect we took over the old machinery of state from the tsar and the bourgeoisie and that now, with the onset of peace and the satisfaction of the minimum requirements against famine, all our work must be directed towards improving the administrative machinery.

I think that a few dozen workers, being members of the CC, can deal better than anybody else with checking, improving and remodelling our state apparatus. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection on whom this function devolved at the beginning proved unable to cope with it and can be used only as an “appendage” or, on certain conditions, as an assistant to these members of the CC. In my opinion, the workers admitted to the Central Committee should come preferably not from among those who have had long service in Soviet bodies (in this part of my letter the term workers everywhere includes peasants), because those workers have already acquired the very traditions and the very prejudices which it is desirable to combat.

The working class members of the CC must be mainly workers of a lower stratum than those promoted in the last five years to work in Soviet bodies; they must be people closer to being rank and file workers and peasants, who, however, do not fall into the category of direct or indirect exploiters. I think that by attending all sittings of the CC and all sittings of the Political Bureau, and by reading all the documents of the CC, such workers can form a staff of devoted supporters of the Soviet system, able, first, to give stability to the CC itself, and second, to work effectively on the renewal and improvement of the state apparatus.



Taken down by L.F.


Granting Legislative Functions to Gosplan[10]

December 27, 1922

This idea was suggested by Comrade Trotsky, it seems, quite a long time ago. I was against it at the time, because I thought that there would then be a fundamental lack of coordination in the system of our legislative institutions. But after closer consideration of the matter I find that in substance there is a sound idea in it, namely: Gosplan (State Planning Commission) stands somewhat apart from our legislative institutions, although, as a body of experienced people, experts, representatives of science and technology, it is actually in a better position to form a correct judgement of affairs.

However, we have so far proceeded from the principle that Gosplan must provide the state with critically analysed material and the state institutions must decide state matters. I think that in the present situation, when affairs of state have become unusually complicated, when it is necessary time and again to settle questions of which some require the expert opinion of the members of Gosplan and some do not, and, what is more, to settle matters which need the expert opinion of Gosplan on some points but not on others. I think that we must now take a step towards extending the competence of Gosplan.

I imagine that step to be such that the decisions of Gosplan could not be rejected by ordinary procedure in Soviet bodies, but would need a special procedure to be reconsidered. For example, the question should be submitted to a session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, prepared for reconsideration according to a special instruction, involving the drawing up, under special rules, of memoranda to examine whether Gosplan decision is subject to reversal. Lastly, special time-limits should be set for the reconsideration of Gosplan decisions, etc.

In this respect I think we can and must accede to the wishes of Comrade Trotsky, but not in the sense that specifically any one of our political leaders, or the Chairman of the Supreme Economic Council, etc., should be Chairman of Gosplan. I think that personal matters are at present too closely interwoven with the question of principle. I think that the attacks which are now made against the Chairman of Gosplan, Comrade Krzhizhanovsky, and Comrade Pyatakov, his deputy, and which proceed along two lines, so that, on the one hand, we hear charges of extreme leniency, lack of independent judgement and lack of backbone, and, on the other, charges of excessive coarseness, drill-sergeant methods, lack of solid scientific background, etc. I think these attacks express two sides of the question, exaggerating them to the extreme, and that in actual fact we need a skilful combination in Gosplan of two types of character, of which one may be exemplified by Comrade Pyatakov and the other by Comrade Krzhizhanovsky.

I think that Gosplan must be headed by a man who, on the one hand, has scientific education, namely, either technical or agronomic, with decades of experience in practical work in the field of technology or of agronomics. I think this man must possess not so much the qualities of an administrator as broad experience and the ability to enlist the services of other men.



Taken down by L.F.


December 28, 1922

I have noticed that some of our comrades who are able to exercise a decisive influence on the direction of state affairs, exaggerate the administrative side, which, of course, is necessary in its time and place, but which should not be confused with the scientific side, with a grasp of the broad facts, the ability to recruit men, etc.

In every state institution, especially in the Gosplan, the combination of these two qualities is essential; and when Comrade Krzhizhanovsky told me that he had enlisted the services of Comrade Pyatakov for the Commission and had come to terms with him about the work, I, in consenting to this, on the one hand, entertained certain doubts and, on the other, sometimes hoped that we would thus get the combination of the two types of statesmen. To see whether those hopes are justified, we must now wait and consider the matter on the strength of somewhat longer experience, but in principle, I think, there can be no doubt that such a combination of temperaments and types (of men and qualities) is absolutely necessary for the correct functioning of state institutions. I think that here it is just as harmful to exaggerate “administrating” as it is to exaggerate anything at all. The chief of a state institution must possess a high degree of personal appeal and sufficiently solid scientific and technical knowledge to be able to check people’s work. That much is basic. Without it the work cannot be done properly. On the other hand, it is very important that he should be capable of administering and should have a worthy assistant, or assistants, in the matter. The combination of these two qualities in one person will hardly be found, and it is hardly necessary.



Taken down by L.F.


December 29, 1922

Gosplan is apparently developing in all respects into a commission of experts.

Such an institution cannot be headed by anybody except a man with great experience and an all-round scientific education in technology. The administrative element must in essence be subsidiary. A certain independence and autonomy of the Gosplan is essential for the prestige of this scientific institution and depends on one thing, namely, the conscientiousness of its workers and their conscientious desire to turn our plan of economic and social development into reality.

This last quality may, of course, be found now only as an exception, for the overwhelming majority of scientists, who naturally make up the Commission, are inevitably infected with bourgeois ideas and bourgeois prejudices. The check on them from this standpoint must be the job of several persons who can form the Presidium of the Commission. These must be Communists to keep a day-to-day check on the extent of the bourgeois scientists’ devotion to our cause displayed in the whole course of the work and see that they abandon bourgeois prejudices and gradually adopt the socialist standpoint.

This work along the twin lines of scientific checking and pure administration should be the ideal of those who run the State Planning Commission in our Republic.



Taken down by M.V.


December 29, 1922

Is it rational to divide the work of the State Planning Commission into separate jobs? Should we not, on the contrary, try to build up a group of permanent specialists who would be systematically checked by the Presidium of the Commission and could solve the whole range of problems within its ambit? I think that the latter would be the more reasonable and that we must try to cut down the number of temporary and urgent tasks.



Taken down by M.V.


December 29, 1922

In increasing the number of its members, the CC, I think, must also, and perhaps mainly, devote attention to checking and improving our administrative machinery, which is no good at all. For this we must enlist the services of highly qualified specialists, and the task of supplying those specialists must devolve upon the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection.

How are we to combine these checking specialists, people with adequate knowledge, and the new members of the CC? This problem must be resolved in practice.

It seems to me that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection (as a result of its development and of our perplexity about its development) has led all in all to what we now observe, namely, to an intermediate position between a special People’s Commissariat and a special function of the members of the CC; between an institution that inspects anything and everything and an aggregate of not very numerous but first-class inspectors, who must be well paid. (This is especially indispensable in our age when every thing must be paid for and inspectors are directly employed by the institutions that pay them better.)

If the number of CC members is increased in the appropriate way, and they go through a course of state management year after year with the help of highly qualified specialists and of members of the Workers’ and Peasants Inspection who are highly authoritative in every branch then, I think, we shall successfully solve this problem which we have not managed to do for such a long time.

To sum up, 100 members of the CC at the most and not more than 400-500 assistants, members of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, engaged in inspecting under their direction.



Taken down by M.V.


The Question of Nationalities or ‘Autonomisation’

December 30, 1922

I suppose I have been very remiss with respect to the workers of Russia for not having intervened energetically and decisively enough in the notorious question of autonomisation, which, it appears, is officially called the question of the Soviet Socialist Republics.

When this question arose last summer, I was ill. Then in the autumn I relied too much on my recovery, and on the October and December plenary meetings giving me an opportunity of intervening in this question. However, I did not manage to attend the October plenary meeting (when this question came up) or the one in December, and so the question passed me by almost completely.

I have only had time for a talk with Comrade Dzerzhinsky, who came from the Caucasus and told me how this matter stood in Georgia. I have also managed to exchange a few words with Comrade Zinoviev and express my apprehensions on this matter. From what I was told by Comrade Dzerzhinsky, who was at the head of the commission sent by the CC to “investigate” the Georgian incident, I could only draw the greatest apprehensions. If matters had come to such a pass that Ordzhonikidze could go to the extreme of applying physical violence, as Comrade Dzerzhinsky informed me, we can imagine what a mess we have got ourselves into. Obviously the whole business of “autonomisation” was radically wrong and badly timed.

It is said that a united apparatus was needed. Where did that assurance come from? Did it not come from that same Russian apparatus which, as I pointed out in one of the preceding sections of my diary, we took over from tsarism and slightly anointed with Soviet oil?

There is no doubt that that measure should have been delayed somewhat until we could say that we vouched for our apparatus as our own. But now, we must, in all conscience, admit the contrary; the apparatus we call ours is, in fact, still quite alien to us; it is a bourgeois and tsarist hotch-potch and there has been no possibility of getting rid of it in the course of the past five years without the help of other countries and because we have been “busy” most of the time with military engagements and the fight against famine.

It is quite natural that in such circumstances the “freedom to secede from the union” by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riffraff like a fly in milk.

It is said in defence of this measure that the People’s Commissariats directly concerned with national psychology and national education were set up as separate bodies. But there the question arises: can these People’s Commissariats be made quite independent? And secondly: were we careful enough to take measures to provide the non-Russians with a real safeguard against the truly Russian bully? I do not think we took such measures although we could and should have done so.

I think that Stalin’s haste and his infatuation with pure administration, together with his spite against the notorious “nationalist-socialism”, played a fatal role here. In politics spite generally plays the basest of roles.

I also fear that Comrade Dzerzhinsky, who went to the Caucasus to investigate the “crime” of those “nationalist-socialists”, distinguished himself there by his truly Russian frame of mind (it is common knowledge that people of other nationalities who have become Russified overdo this Russian frame of mind) and that the impartiality of his whole commission was typified well enough by Ordzhonikidze’s “manhandling”. I think that no provocation or even insult can justify such Russian manhandling and that Comrade Dzerzhinsky was inexcusably guilty in adopting a light-hearted attitude towards it.

For all the citizens in the Caucasus Ordzhonikidze was the authority. Ordzhonikidze had no right to display that irritability to which he and Dzerzhinsky referred. On the contrary, Ordzhonikidze should have behaved with a restraint which cannot be demanded of any ordinary citizen, still less of a man accused of a “political” crime. And, to tell the truth, those nationalist-socialists were citizens who were accused of a political crime, and the terms of the accusation were such that it could not be described otherwise.

Here we have an important question of principle: how is internationalism to be understood?



Taken down by M.V.


December 31, 1922

In my writings on the national question I have already said that an abstract presentation of the question of nationalism in general is of no use at all. A distinction must necessarily be made between the nationalism of an oppressor nation and that of an oppressed nation, the nationalism of a big nation and that of a small nation.

In respect of the second kind of nationalism we, nationals of a big nation, have nearly always been guilty, in historic practice, of an infinite number of cases of violence; furthermore, we commit violence and insult an infinite number of times without noticing it. It is sufficient to recall my Volga reminiscences of how non-Russians are treated; how the Poles are not called by any other name than Polyachiska, how the Tatar is nicknamed Prince, how the Ukrainians are always Khokhols and the Georgians and other Caucasian nationals always Kapkasians.

That is why internationalism on the part of oppressors or “great” nations, as they are called (though they are great only in their violence, only great as bullies), must consist not only in the observance of the formal equality of nations but even in an inequality of the oppressor nation, the great nation, that must make up for the inequality which exists in actual practice. Anybody who does not understand this has not grasped the real proletarian attitude to the national question, he is still essentially petty bourgeois in his point of view and is, therefore, sure to descend to the bourgeois point of view.

What is important for the proletarian? For the proletarian it is not only important, it is absolutely essential that he should be assured that the non-Russians place the greatest possible trust in the proletarian class struggle. What is needed to ensure this? Not merely formal equality. In one way or another, by one’s attitude or by concessions, it is necessary to compensate the non-Russian for the lack of trust, for the suspicion and the insults to which the government of the “dominant” nation subjected them in the past.

I think it is unnecessary to explain this to Bolsheviks, to Communists, in greater detail. And I think that in the present instance, as far as the Georgian nation is concerned, we have a typical case in which a genuinely proletarian attitude makes profound caution, thoughtfulness and a readiness to compromise a matter of necessity for us. The Georgian [Stalin] who is neglectful of this aspect of the question, or who carelessly flings about accusations of “nationalist-socialism” (whereas he himself is a real and true “nationalist-socialist”, and even a vulgar Great-Russian bully), violates, in substance, the interests of proletarian class solidarity, for nothing holds up the development and strengthening of proletarian class solidarity so much as national injustice; “offended” nationals are not sensitive to anything so much as to the feeling of equality and the violation of this equality, if only through negligence or jest to the violation of that equality by their proletarian comrades. That is why in this case it is better to overdo rather than underdo the concessions and leniency towards the national minorities. That is why, in this case, the fundamental interest of proletarian class struggle, requires that we never adopt a formal attitude to the national question, but always take into account the specific attitude of the proletarian of the oppressed (or small) nation towards the oppressor (or great) nation.



Taken down by M.V.


December 31, 1922

What practical measures must be taken in the present situation?

Firstly, we must maintain and strengthen the union of socialist republics. Of this there can be no doubt. This measure is necessary for us and it is necessary for the world communist proletariat in its struggle against the world bourgeoisie and its defence against bourgeois intrigues.

Secondly, the union of socialist republics must be retained for its diplomatic apparatus. By the way, this apparatus is an exceptional component of our state apparatus. We have not allowed a single influential person from the old tsarist apparatus into it. All sections with any authority are composed of Communists. That is why it has already won for itself (this may be said boldly) the name of a reliable communist apparatus purged to an incomparably greater extent of the old tsarist, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements than that which we have had to make do with in other People’s Commissariats.

Thirdly, exemplary punishment must be inflicted on Comrade Ordzhonikidze (I say this all the more regretfully as I am one of his personal friends and have worked with him abroad) and the investigation of all the material which Dzerzhinsky’s commission has collected must be completed or started over again to correct the enormous mass of wrongs and biased judgments which it doubtlessly contains. The political responsibility for all this truly Great-Russian nationalist campaign must, of course, be laid on Stalin and Dzerzhinsky.

Fourthly, the strictest rules must be introduced on the use of the national language in the non-Russian republics of our union, and these rules must be checked with special care. There is no doubt that our apparatus being what it is, there is bound to be, on the pretext of unity in the railway service, unity in the fiscal service and so on, a mass of truly Russian abuses. Special ingenuity is necessary for the struggle against these abuses, not to mention special sincerity on the part of those who undertake this struggle. A detailed code will be required, and only the nationals living in the republic in question can draw it up at all successfully. And then we cannot be sure in advance that as a result of this work we shall not take a step backward at our next Congress of Soviets, i.e. retain the union of Soviet socialist republics only for military and diplomatic affairs, and in all other respects restore full independence to the individual People’s Commissariats.

It must be borne in mind that the decentralisation of the People’s Commissariats and the lack of co-ordination in their work as far as Moscow and other centres are concerned can be compensated sufficiently by Party authority, if it is exercised with sufficient prudence and impartiality; the harm that can result to our state from a lack of unification between the national apparatuses and the Russian apparatus is infinitely less than that which will be done not only to us, but to the whole International, and to the hundreds of millions of the peoples of Asia, which is destined to follow us on to the stage of history in the near future. It would be unpardonable opportunism if, on the eve of debut of the East, just as it is awakening, we undermined our prestige with its peoples, even if only by the slightest crudity or injustice towards our own non-Russian nationalities. The need to rally against the imperialists of the West, who are defending the capitalist world, is one thing. There can be no doubt about that and it would be superfluous for me to speak about my unconditional approval of it. It is another thing when we ourselves lapse, even if only in trifles, into imperialist attitudes towards oppressed nationalities, thus undermining all our principled sincerity, all our principled defence of the struggle against imperialism. But the morrow of world history will be a day when the awakening peoples oppressed by imperialism are finally aroused and the decisive long and hard struggle for their liberation begins.



Taken down by M.V.


How We Should Reorganise the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection
(Recommendation to the Twelfth Party Congress)[11]

January 23, 1923

It is beyond question that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is an enormous difficulty for us, and that so far this difficulty has not been overcome. I think that the comrades who try to overcome the difficulty by denying that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection is useful and necessary are wrong. But I do not deny that the problem presented by our state apparatus and the task of improving it is very difficult, that it is far from being solved, and is an extremely urgent one.

With the exception of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, our state apparatus is to a considerable extent a survival of the past and has undergone hardly any serious change. It has only been slightly touched up on the surface, but in all other respects it is a most typical relic of our old state machine. And so, to find a method of really renovating it, I think we ought to turn for experience to our Civil War.

How did we act in the more critical moment of the Civil War?

We concentrated our best Party forces in the Red Army; we mobilised the best of our workers; we looked for new forces at the deepest roots of our dictatorship.

I am convinced that we must go to the same source to find the means of reorganising the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. I recommend that our Twelfth Party Congress adopt the following plan of reorganisation, based on some enlargement of our Central Control Commission.

The plenary meetings of the Central Committee of our Party are already revealing a tendency to develop into a kind of supreme Party conference. They take place, on the average, not more than once in two months, while the routine work is conducted, as we know, on behalf of the Central Committee by our Political Bureau, our Organising Bureau, our Secretariat, and so forth. I think we ought to follow the road we have thus taken to the end and definitely transform the plenary meetings of the Central Committee into supreme Party conferences convened once in two months jointly with the Central Control Commission.

The Central Control Commission should be combined with the main body of the reorganised Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection along the following lines:

I propose that the Congress should elect 75 to 100 new members to the Central Control Commission. They should be workers and peasants, and should go through the same Party screening as ordinary members of the Central Committee, because they are to enjoy the same rights as the members of the Central Committee.

On the other hand, the staff of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should be reduced to three or four hundred persons, specially screened for conscientiousness and knowledge of our state apparatus. They must also undergo a special test as regards their knowledge of the principles of scientific organisation of labour in general, and of administrative work, office work, and so forth, in particular.

In my opinion, such a union of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection with the Central Control Commission will be beneficial to both these institutions. On the one hand, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection will thus obtain such high authority that it will certainly not be inferior to the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs. On the other hand, our Central Committee, together with the Central Control Commission, will definitely take the road of becoming a supreme Party conference, which in fact it has already taken, and along which it should proceed to the end so as to be able to fulfil its functions properly in two respects: in respect to its own methodical, expedient and systematic organisation of work, and in respect to maintaining contacts with the broad masses through the medium of the best of our workers and peasants.

I foresee an objection that, directly or indirectly, may come from those spheres which make our state apparatus antiquated, i.e. from those who urge that its present, utterly impossible, indecently pre-revolutionary form be preserved (incidentally, we now have an opportunity which rarely occurs in history of ascertaining the period necessary for bringing about radical social changes; we now see clearly what can be done in five years, and what requires much more time). The objection I foresee is that the change I propose will lead to nothing but chaos. The members of the Central Control Commission will wander around all the institutions, not knowing where, why or to whom to apply, causing disorganisation everywhere and distracting employees from their routine work, etc., etc.

I think that the malicious source of this objection is so obvious that it does not warrant a reply. It goes without saying that the Presidium of the Central Control Commission, the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and his collegium (and also, in the proper cases, the Secretariat of our Central Committee) will have to put in years of persistent effort to get the Commissariat properly organised, and to get it to function smoothly in conjunction with the Central Control Commission. In my opinion, the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, as well as the whole collegium, can (and should) remain and guide the work of the entire Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, including the work of all the members of the Central Control Commission who will be “placed under his command”. The three or four hundred employees of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection that are to remain, according to my plan, should, on the one hand, perform purely secretarial functions for the other members of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection and for the supplementary members of the Central Control Commission; and, on the other hand, they should be highly skilled, specially screened, particularly reliable, and highly paid, so that they may be relieved of their present truly unhappy (to say the least) position of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection officials.

I am sure that the reduction of the staff to the number I have indicated will greatly enhance the efficiency of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection personnel and the quality of all its work, enabling the People’s Commissar and the members of the collegium to concentrate their efforts entirely on organising work and on systematically and steadily improving its efficiency, which is so absolutely essential for our workers’ and peasants’ government, and for our Soviet system.

On the other hand, I also think that the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection should work partly combining and partly co-ordinating those higher institutions for the organisation of labour (the Central Institute of Labour, etc.), of which there are now no fewer than twelve in our Republic. Excessive uniformity and a consequent desire to unity will be harmful. On the contrary, what is needed here is a reasonable and expedient mean between combining all these institutions and properly delimiting them, allowing for a certain independence in each of them.

Our own Central Committee will undoubtedly gain no less from this reorganisation than the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. It will gain because its contacts with the masses will be greater and because the regularity and effectiveness of its work will improve. It will then be possible (and necessary) to institute a stricter and more responsible procedure of preparing for the meetings of the Political Bureau, which should be attended by a definite number of members of the Central Control Commission determined either from a definite period by some organisation plan.

In distributing work to the members of the, Central Control Commission, the People’s Commissar of the Workers’ and Peasants’ inspection, in conjunction with the Presidium of the Central Control Commission, should impose on them the duty either of attending the meetings of the Political Bureau for the purpose of examining all the documents pertaining to matters that come before it in one way or another; or of devoting their working time to theoretical study, to the study of scientific methods of organising labour; or of taking a practical part in the work of supervising and improving our machinery of state, from the higher state institutions to the lower local bodies, etc.

I also think that in addition to the political advantages occurring from the fact that the members of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission will, as a consequence of this reform, be much better informed and better prepared for the meetings of the Political Bureau (all the documents relevant to the business to be discussed at these meetings should be sent to all the members of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission not later than the day before the meeting of the Political Bureau, except in absolutely urgent cases, for which special methods of informing the members of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission and of settling these matters must be devised), there will also be the advantage that the influence of purely personal and incidental factors in our Central Committee will diminish, and this will reduce the danger of a split.

Our Central Committee has grown into a strictly centralised and highly authoritative group, but the conditions under which this group is working are not concurrent with its authority. The reform I recommend should help to remove this defect, and the members of the Central Control Commission, whose duty it will be to attend all meetings of the Political Bureau in a definite number, will have to form a compact group which should not allow anybody’s authority without exception, neither that of the General Secretary [Stalin] nor of any other member of the Central Committee, to prevent them from putting questions, verifying documents, and, in general, from keeping themselves fully informed of all things and from exercising the strictest control over the proper conduct of affairs.

Of course, in our Soviet Republic, the social order is based on the collaboration of two classes: the workers and peasants, in which the “Nepmen”, i.e. the bourgeoisie, are now permitted to participate on certain terms. If serious class disagreements arise between these classes, a split will be inevitable. But the grounds for such a split are not inevitable in our social system, and it is the principal tasks of our Central Committee and Central Control Commission, as well as of our party as a whole, to watch very closely over such circumstances as may cause a split, and to forestall them, for in the final analysis the fate of our Republic will depend on whether the peasant masses will stand by the working class, loyal to their alliance, or whether they will permit the “Nepmen”, i.e. the new bourgeoisie, to drive a wedge between them and the working class, to split them off from the working class. The more clearly we see this alternative, the more clearly all our workers and peasants understand it, the greater are the chances that we shall avoid a split which would be fatal for the Soviet Republic.




To Leon Trotsky[12]

March 5, 1923

Top secret



Dear Comrade Trotsky,

It is my earnest request that you should undertake the defence of the Georgian case in the Party CC. This case is now under “persecution” by Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, and I cannot rely on their impartiality. Quite to the contrary. I would feel at ease if you agreed to undertake its defence. If you should refuse to do so for any reason, return the whole case to me. I shall consider it a sign that you do not accept.

With best comradely greetings,



To Joseph Stalin[14]

March 5, 1923

Top secret


Copy to Comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev


Dear Comrade Stalin,

You have been so rude as to summon my wife to the telephone and abuse her. Although she had told you that she was prepared to forget this, the fact nevertheless became known through her to Zinoviev and Kamenev. I have no intention of forgetting so easily what has been done against me, and it goes without saying that what has been done against my wife I consider having been done against me as well. I ask you, therefore, to think it over whether you are prepared to withdraw what you have said and to make your apologies, or whether you prefer that relations between us should be broken off.

Respectfully yours,




To P.G. Mdivani, F.Y. Makharadze, and Others[15]

March 6, 1923

Top secret

Comrades Mdivani, Makharadze, and others

Copy to Comrades Trotsky and Kamenev

Dear comrades,

I am following your case with all my heart. I am indignant over Ordzhonikidze’s rudeness and the connivance of Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. I am preparing for you notes and a speech.

Respectfully yours,




[1] LCW, vol. 45, p. 601.

[*] N. N. Krestinsky, RSFSR representative in Germany, had written about improving trade with Germany and the need to maintain the state monopoly of foreign trade.

[2] From Trotsky’s ‘Letter to the Bureau of Party History’. See Trotsky, The Stalin School of Falsification, London, 1974, p. 47.

[3] LCW, vol. 45, pp. 601-2.

[4] Trotsky, op. cit., p. 49.

[5] LCW, vol. 45, p. 604.

[6] LCW, vol. 33, pp. 460-61.

[7] LCW, vol. 45, p. 606.

[8] This postscript was omitted from the English edition and has been translated from the fifth Russian edition, vol. 54, p. 672.

[9] LCW, vol. 36, pp. 593-97.

[10] LCW, vol. 36, pp. 598-611.

[11] LCW, vol. 33, pp. 481-86.

[12] LCW, vol. 45, p. 607.

[13] A separate sheet, appended to the letter, contains this note by one of Lenin’s secretaries: “Comrade Trotsky, To the letter communicated to you by phone, Vladimir Ilyich asked to add for your information that Comrade Kamenev is going to Georgia on Wednesday, and wants to know whether you wish to send anything there yourself. March 5, 1923.” (LCW, vol. 45, p. 607.)

[14] LCW, vol. 45, pp. 607-8.

[15] LCW, vol. 45, p. 608.

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