V. I. Lenin

Speech at the Fourth Session Of

The All-Russia Central Executive Committee

Ninth Convocation October 31, 1922[1]

Delvered: 31 October 1922
First Published: Pravda No. 217, November 1, 1922; Published according to the Pravda text checked with the verbatim report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 390-395
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

(Stormy, prolonged applause. All rise.) Comrades, permit me to confine myself to a few words of greeting. We should first of all, of course, send our greetings to the Red Army, which has recently given further proof of its valour by capturing Vladivostok and clearing the entire territory of the last of the republics linked with Soviet Russia. I am sure that I am expressing the general opinion when I say that we all welcome this new feat of the Red Army, and also the fact that apparently a very important step has been taken towards bringing the war to a close; the last of the whiteguard forces have been driven into the sea. (Applause.) I think that our Red Army has rid us for a long time of the possibility of another whiteguard attack on Russia or on any of the republics that are directly or indirectly, closely or more or less remotely, connected with us.

At the same time, however, in order to avoid adopting a tone of inordinate self-adulation, we must say that the strength of the Red Army and its recent victory were not the only factors in this; other factors were the international situation and our diplomacy.

Some time ago Japan and the United States signed a pact to support Koichak. But that was so long ago that many people have probably forgotten it completely. But that was the case. We have made such pacts impossible now, and, due to our efforts, the Japanese, in spite of their military strength, declared that they would withdraw, and have kept their promise; our diplomacy must also be given credit for this. I shall not drag out my brief greeting by saying what brought us that success. I shall only say that in the near future our diplomats will once again have to display their skill in a matter of immense importance, and one in which we are vitally interested. I have in mind the Middle East Conference that Great Britain is convening in Lausanne on November 13. I am sure that there, too, our diplomats will prove their mettle, and that we shall be able to vindicate the interests of all our federated republics, and of the H.S.F.S.R. At all events, we shall succeed in revealing to the masses where and what the obstacle is, and to what extent it is an obstacle to the legitimate desires and aspirations not only of ourselves, but of all countries interested in the question of the Straits.

I shall limit my utterances on foreign politics to these brief remarks and shall now deal with the proceedings of this session.

I think that here we have achieved no small success in spite of the fact that to some people the questions dealt with may at first sight appear to be not so very important. Take the first code of laws that you have already passed-the Code of Labour Laws. Our adoption of a code of laws which firmly lays down the principles of labour legislation such as the eight-hour day at a time when in all other countries the working class is being heavily attacked is a tremendous achievement for Soviet rule. True, there are people who, perhaps, would desire something more from this code; but I think that such a desire would be totally unjustified.

We must bear in mind that compared with all the countries where fierce capitalist competition is raging, where there are millions and tens of millions of unemployed, and where the capitalists are forming vast combinations and are launching an offensive against the working class—if we compare ourselves with those countries, we are the least cultured, our productivity of labour is the lowest, and we are the least efficient. This is, I would say, a very unpleasant thing to have to admit. I think, however, that precisely because we do not disguise such things with platitudes and stereotyped catchwords, but candidly admit them, precisely because we all admit, and are not afraid to proclaim from this rostrum, that we are exerting more efforts than any other country to rectify all this, we shall succeed in catching up with these countries faster than they ever dreamed possible.

This will not be done at a fantastic speed, of course, it will naturally take us several years of laborious effort to achieve it. It goes without saying that nothing can he done overnight. We have been in existence for five years, we have seen at what speed social relations change, and have learned to appreciate what time means; and we must go on learning what it means. Nobody believes that any important change can be achieved at a fantastic speed; but we do believe in real speed, speed compared with the rate of development in any period in history you like to take—especially if progress is guided by a genuinely revolutionary party; and this speed we shall achieve at all costs.

I will now touch upon the Land Code that you have passed. You are aware that in the very first days after the famous 25th of October, 1917, our laws, unlike any other laws, propounded a land principle[2] which, though very imperfect from the technical and perhaps also from the juridical point of view, nevertheless, provided the peasants with all that was vital and essential for them, and ensured their alliance with the workers. From that time onwards, difficult as it has been for us to pull through these five years of continuous war, we have never relaxed our efforts to satisfy to the utmost the peasants’ desire for land. And if it turns out that the law which you have just passed also needs amending in some way or other, we shall adopt such amendments and improvements as readily as you have just adopted amendments and improvements to our Criminal Code. We regard the land question, the question of improving the living conditions of the peasants, who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population, as one of fundamental importance. In this respect we have already succeeded in convincing the Russian peasants that in our supreme legislative body every proposal to change the old laws will always meet, not with opposition, but with the most favourable consideration and support.

You have also had before you for your consideration the Civil Code and the Law on the Judicial System. You know that in the light of the policy which we have firmly adopted, and concerning which there can be no wavering in our ranks, this is a most important question for the vast masses of the population. You know also that here, too, we have tried to maintain the dividing line between what can satisfy the ordinary citizen’s legitimate needs in present day economic conditions, and what is abuse of the New Economic Policy—the things that are legal in all other countries, but which we do not want to legalise. The future will show to what extent the amendments you have approved of and adopted specifically for this purpose are effective. We shall leave ourselves a perfectly free hand in this matter. If everyday experience reveals abuses which we have not foreseen, we shall forthwith introduce the necessary amendments. As far as this is concerned, you are all well aware, of course, that, unfortunately, no other country can as yet vie with us in the speed with which we legislate. We shall see whether events in the near future will not compel them to try to catch up with Soviet Russia a little in this matter.

Further, I must speak about another important matter that you have finally settled here, and that is the question of the local congresses of Soviets and of the gubernia executive committees. This is a question that was always kept in the background under all previous legislative systems and in all constitutions. It was regarded as a matter of no importance; the opinion was that the local government bodies could continue to follow the old rut. We are of a contrary opinion. We are convinced that the successes our revolution has achieved are due to our having always devoted most of our attention to the local government bodies and to local experiences. The revolution of October 1917 at one stroke achieved such successes that it seemed to us in the spring of 1918 that the war had drawn to a close —actually, it had only just started in its worst form, the form of civil war; actually, peace with the Germans meant that they assisted the worst elements in the Civil War; actually, the peace treaty we then signed with the Germans and which collapsed in the autumn, in many cases meant that assistance was given to these worst elements by the Allied Powers who blamed us for concluding peace with the Germans—and, I say, our revolution accomplished its task so quickly in a few months, a few weeks even, because we relied entirely on the forces in the localities, we gave them full scope for their activities, and we looked to the localities for the enthusiasm that made our revolution swift and invincible. 1 am aware that since then our localities have undergone many different perturbations, so to say. The problem of the relations between the localities and the centre has been one of no little difficulty, and I do not want to suggest that we have always found the ideal solution for it. Considering our general level of culture, it was useless dreaming of an ideal solution. But we may confidently say that we have solved it more sincerely, justly and durably than it has been solved in any other country.

In conclusion I shall touch only upon one other question that particularly interests me, and which, I think, should interest you, although officially it does not appear either on your agenda or in the list of questions. This is the question of our machinery of state; an old and eternally new question.

In August 1918 we took a census of public officials in Moscow. We obtained a total of 231,000 state and Soviet employees; this figure covered the number employed both in central government offices and in the local, Moscow municipal offices. Recently, in October 1922, we took another census in the belief that we had cut down these inflated staffs and that they would certainly be smaller. The figure obtained, however, was 243,000. This, then, was the result of all the reductions of staffs that we carried through. A great deal of effort will still have to he spent on investigating and comparing these figures. When we took the first census in 1918, in the first flush of reforms, we, to put it bluntly, could make next to nothing of the returns. We had no time for that sort of thing. The Civil War did not leave us a minute to spare. Now, however, we hope that this work will be done. We are convinced that our machinery of state, which suffers from many defects, is inflated to far more than twice the size we need, and often works not for us, but against us—we need not be afraid to admit this truth even from the rostrum of the supreme legislative body of our Republic —we are convinced that this machinery of state will be improved. Much effort and skill will be required to improve it. We have made a beginning in the serious study of the problem of how to improve it, but this is only a beginning—a few essays and material from local research. If we all leave this session determined to devote more attention to this problem than we have done up to now, determined to spend less time on bustle and fuss—and all too often we spend a vast amount of time on this—if we really make a thorough study of our machinery of state and work for a number of years to improve it, that will be a great asset and a guarantee of success. We must have the courage to say that up to now we have built up our machinery of state spontaneously. Our best workers undertook the most arduous duties in both the civil and military fields, and very often they went about them in the wrong way, but they learned to rectify their mistakes and get things done. The proportion of these, perhaps, scores of courageous men and women, relative to the hundreds of those who sabotaged—or half-sabotaged, floundering among their voluminous papers—this proportion was very often such that our vital affairs became submerged in a deluge of paper. We have not been able to study this question up to now, but henceforth we must study it in the most comprehensive manner. This will take years and years; we shall have to study hard for years, for the cultural standard of our workers is low, they find it difficult to undertake the new tasks of production, but it is only on their sincerity and enthusiasm that we can rely. It will take us years and years to secure an improvement in our machinery of state, to raise it—not merely individuals, but as a whole—to a higher cultural level. I am sure that if we continue to devote our efforts to such work, we shall certainly and inevitably achieve better and better results. (Prolonged applause.)


[1] The Fourth Session of the Ninth All-Russia Central Executive Committee was held o October 23-31, 1922. Lenin spoke at the closing sitting.

[2] The Decree on Land adopted by the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (see present edition, Vol. 26, pp. 258-60)