Lenin’s last congress: Lenin’s report to the Eleventh Congress of the RCP(B)

The Stance Lenin took when making notes at a Party Congress

The Eleventh Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) was held from March 27th to April 2nd in 1922. The congress was the last attended by Lenin in person and the second to last congress before his death in 1924. This post will analysis the Political Report of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) given by Lenin which underlines the main task of the government and Party for the coming year.

One year of the New Economic Policy

The Congress marked one year of the N.E.P, which was passed at the Tenth Party congress the previous year. At the beginning of his report Lenin states plainly that the N.E.P has not had the desired effects as of yet and then proceeds to highlight three lessons the previous year has taught the Party and the Country.

Lesson 1: Establishing a Link

Lenin points out that the main task of the country and party should be to firmly establish the link between the “new socialist economy” and the “old peasant economy”. He states that the Party until now has had the urgent task of repelling foreign invasion, be it the Entente, German imperialist, or the internal counter revolution, and because of this had to place significant burden on the peasantry. These threats are also what lead to the rapid development of the “new socialist ecnomey” without the peasant economy, which shattered the link between the two. However, Lenin justifies this rapid development as it was needed in light of the desperate circumstances the country found itself in the early years after the Revolution.

“But the fact that we began to develop this new economy with such splendid audacity does not mean that we must necessarily continue in the same way. Why should we? There is no reason.”

Vladimir Lenin

Lenin then highlights the fact that even though this rapid development was needed for the time, now it his harmful, and threatens the very existence of the Proletarian State. Now that the threat of foreign invasion has subsided, (not completely disappeared), the main task was now to provide the peasants with practical solutions, not Communist ideals. One of the most critical things to remember, Lenin notes is that the peasants were providing the Communist with time and understanding to show that they can indeed run the country effectively, and if the Communist were unable to show the peasants that they could run the country effectively, they would then indeed be “sent to the devil”.

Lesson 2: The Competition between State and Capitalist Enterprises

Following the establishment of the N.E.P, mixed state and bourgeois companies were formed, while many comrades at the time viewed these companies with suspicion, Lenin held a more of a practical view of them. He felt that these companies provided “practical competition” between capitalist and socialist methods.

“The capitalist was able to supply things. He did it inefficiently, charged exorbitant prices, and insulted and robbed us. The ordinary workers and peasants, who do not argue about communism because they do not know what it is, are well aware of this.”

Vladimir Lenin

Here Lenin is trying to stress that the most important task at the present moment is the country’s economy and is driving home the point that Communist must learn practical work to benefit the people. He then states that it does not matter how many good Communist we have, because if they can not run the economy, then they are not worth even a few capitalist.

3rd lesson: State Capitalism

Lenin begins this part of his speech by stating that all the material written about State capitalism, even that written by Marx was not applicable to Russia, because of one crucial point. That all the material written about state capitalism up until now was written about state capitalism under a capitalist state, not a Proletarian one. This is critical Lenin points out, because once again the Soviet State was navigating through uncharted waters, and thus had to find its own way. Lenin then acknowledges that the job of the Proletarian state under state capitalism was to regulate and control capitalism, and at present the Soviet State had all the resources it needed to do so, other than the “ability”. And that more practical and effective methods of administration and control must be established before it could be properly regulated.

“Capitalism under a proletarian state is capitalism we can and must permit to satisfy the peasantry.”

Vladimir Lenin

Grasping the main link

At the end of Lenin’s speech he outlines some more areas of practical work the Bolsheviks can improve on. The first, is the essential task of the reduction of “red tape” and placing the right people in the right jobs. This task is essential in efforts to improve the administrative capabilities of the state. This also meant utilizing and learning from the capitalist proper ways of running the economy. And secondly he once again stresses the need to provide practical improvements to the lives of peasants and to stop “philosophizing about communism”.

Finale Notes

Lenin’s speech highlights the countries need for practical solutions to their economic problems, and marks a major shift in tone. In the previous years the major problem facing the state was military annihilation, however after the Kronstadt rebellion and the passing of the New Economic Policy the major task was obviously economic development. In the Congress Lenin states that this enemy was far worse than the others the state has faced, because this enemy will never go away and must be faced constantly. The urgency of the situation can be seen by the fact that Lenin argues for the need of capitalist specialist in running of the economy and the many capitalist concessions made to the peasantry. Lenin argues that all this is needed in order to establish a firm link between the peasant and socialist economies and continue the march to communism together at a slower, but more definite pace.

Sources

lenin’s Speech to the eleventh Party Congress

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia: The eleventh congress of the RCP(B)

This post earned a “Red Star” award from the editorial team.

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Published by De'Vonte A Tinsley

Russian and Soviet history has been an avid passion of mine since I was ten. Subsequently, in my freshman year of high school, I made a commitment to be fluent in Russian by the time I graduate college. Ever since then, I have been independently studying Russian history, culture, and language for years.

18 thoughts on “Lenin’s last congress: Lenin’s report to the Eleventh Congress of the RCP(B)

  1. De’Vonte, I enjoyed your post about Lenin’s speech and found it very informative. In an attempt to come up with practical solutions quickly Lenin was able to create short-term relief. Maybe the urgency of trying to fix all of Russia’s problems at once was a reason for the NEP’s contradictory performance and ultimate failure. I also thought the direct quotes from Lenin were a great asset to your post.

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    1. I think you hit the jackpot when you said “short term relief”. While the NEP had many faults it completed its main task, to prevent the collapse of economy and serve as a vehicle towards socialist construction, which was started by Stalin’s 5 year plans. So when evaluating Lenin’s NEP I think it is important to look at it through that lens.

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  2. I found this post very helpful in understanding Lenin’s goals just before his death. The first thing that stood out to me was he described the consequences of not being able to show the peasants that the Communists could run the country. It was a funny way to describe it in my opinion but I understand why he may intended it to have been more of a harsh reaction because he did not want the peasants to be showing him up. The other thing that stood out to me was his view on capitalism. He, compared to others that I’ve heard about, has a more acceptable approach to capitalism. Although he still believes communism is the best, he at least understands that capitalists can still supply the public, even if it is more expensive.

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    1. You are right, after the lessons of War communism and the kronstadt rebellion Lenin saw that the country was moving to fast in socialist construction and leaving many people, mostly the peasants, which was dangerous in a mostly peasant nation. Additionally many Communist were hostile to the peasants and Lenin sought to correct this. His position on capitalism shifted from wanting to eliminate outright, to wanting to use it to the advantage of the proletarian state.

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  3. I enjoyed reading your post De’Vonte especially about not only trying to figure out how to become economically stable but to still have fears of an invasion from a foreign country due to the Revolution. It is interesting how Lenin was trying to connect the rich to the poor in order for the betterment of the nation and to me that is not only an economic strategy but also a political power move in order to gain more leverage for himself and to bring in communism without much of a challenge from the opposition if there was any due to the banning of parties.

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    1. You are right in that it is not only an economic strategy, but a political one as well. After the civil war the Bolsheviks main base of support the working class had almost been completely displaced. Much of the working class had been drafted in the red army and so non proletarian forces were in the factories, not only that but the policy of war communism made many of the peasants resentful to the Bolsheviks. This threatened to throw the country into another civil war, so the Bolsheviks had to think of a way to draw in the majority of the population to if not support them, then to at least not resist Soviet power.

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  4. De’Vonte I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and how you broke down the lessons of the New Economic policy. When someone dives into a topic and breaks down policy it is very helpful for the reader to understand. I found it very interesting at the end of your post you went into depth in connecting all major points that Lenin aimed for in creating solutions for the Bolsheviks. Additionally, you provide analysis on how swift action needed to made in order to ensure economic stability within Russia which is a focal point in understanding the state of Russia during this time. Overall, amazing post!

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    1. Yes, it is absolutely essential to look at Lenin’s New economic policy, to understand Russia at this point in time. Looking at the NEP by itself is pointless, because individually it looks like a failure. However taking into account its usefulness as a transition between socialism and capitalism proves the brilliance of this policy.

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  5. I don’t have much to add! You’ve out-Lenined Lenin here by making the case for using a capitalist economic policy to grow socialism — while at the same time letting everyone know how distressful the whole situation is. Nice!

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  6. I appreciate that, I was really interested in his speech here. It very surprising to see him say how much the country actually needed the capitalist in order to understand the economy. Also how he advocates to slow down the pace of socialist construction, basically pulling the breaks on some of the more radical communist methods in the economy, and it reminds me a little of Stalin’s “dizzy with success” that would come later.

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  7. Hi De’Vonte, I enjoyed reading your blog. I am glad that Lenin recognized that if the peasants were not going to advance in society or progress up on the social ladder, then something bad would happen, especially for the Soviet Union. I liked how Lenin pointed out that they would be sent to the devil if the could not help the peasants. Also, if capitalism was used to progress socialism, did nobody in the Soviet Union pick up on that? Opponents of socialism would use that to their advantage to discredit socialism and the Soviet Union.

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  8. The question on rather or not the NEP was ideologically against socialism was answered by Lenin upon the introduction of the NEP at the Tenth Party congress. The economic models of war communism and the militarization of labor had outlived there usefulness after the end of the civil war, and where now doing more harm then good. The party and the entire country realized a new path to socialism had to be created, and until this path was defined, the NEP was necessary. The NEP did its job in stabilizing the nations economy until new ways to advance to socialism could be found.

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  9. Andrew Grant
    – The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks very much differed in how they envisioned how revolution would occur and about the need for going through the stages of historical developments to achieve a Marxist society. I find it interesting that the Bolsheviks had to concede (because of peasant unrest) that Russia was not ready for that transition towards Socialism. The Bolsheviks had to slowly move through the stage of historical development, having to implement State Capitalism to achieve some of their aims. I believe that much of the 20’s in the Soviet Union, would have been largely similar in policies if the Mensheviks had been in charge. I believe that state capitalism, was inevitable, for any socialist revolutionary to achieve their aims of gaining the capital required for a socialist society in Russia.

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    1. I disagree with your assessment of the NEP as a concession. This is because Lenin said the Bolshevik policies before the NEP were not wrong, and were absolutely essential to victory in the civil war. I think anyone will agree that without War and communism and the militarization of labor the Bolsheviks would have lost the civil war. However, Lenin argued now that the war was over, these policies were incorrect, the situation had changed and a new situation deemed new solutions.

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  10. I feel like I understand more about why the NEP was put into place and Lenin’s reasoning behind it! My only question is that, why exactly was Lenin willing to use capitalism as a tool to transition to a more socialist economy?

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    1. Because he saw that if the country continued on its current development path it would doom Soviet power. And now that the Workers held political power it was possible to use capitalist methods to learn how to more efficiently manage the economy, before proficient Socialist methods could be developed. Remember the age old communist saying, capitalism is ultimately its own grave digger.

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  11. Excellent article De’Vonte, I was just wondering what the Soviet reaction was to Lenin’s death and how did they, in retrospect, look at his last days? Was he regarded in the end as a just hero, or was he viewed as a raw leader with great theory but not as acute execution?

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    1. Lenin was always seen as a hero to the Soviet people and to the communist party in Russia and all around the world. Unfortunately Lenin had been sick for a long time before he died, so the party had been working around a year without him. One thing to remember is that even though Lenin was the leader he was not all powerful, so institutions like the central committee and the politburo could makes decisions without him. After his death the party used his legacy to build the “cult of Lenin” which was a mix of actual affection for him from the Russian people and state propagated legends about the “Great Lenin”, his body was embalmed and is still on Red Square today, children were read stories about grandpa Lenin, and almost every policy in the Soviet union was justified by using some of Lenin’s previous works. Lenin reached a god like level in the USSR, every public building had a portrait of him, thousands of cities were renamed in his honor(petrograd became Leningrad) and every Soviet city had a statue of Lenin in its main square(which most of the time was called Lenin square) and those statues still remain in Russia today.

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