Cooperative Plan of V. I. Lenin

Cooperative Plan of V. I. Lenin


a plan for the socialist reorganization of small-scale (especially peasant) commodity enterprises through cooperation, by means of a gradual, voluntary merger of small private farms into large collective enterprises. The plan was designed to realize part of Lenin’s general plan for building socialism in the USSR—that is, the enlistment of the peasant masses in socialist construction. Lenin expounded the cooperative plan in several of his works, among which the article “On Cooperation,” which was written in 1923, is particularly important.

“V. I. Lenin scientifically substantiated the need and methods for placing millions of small-scale commodity producers on the socialist track. For these enterprises, unlike large-scale producers, Lenin believed that cooperative forms of socialization were most appropriate. As a result of the collectivization of private peasant farms and the extensive development of sovkhozes, the small-scale commodity producers and the capitalist tenure systems in the countryside gave way to the socialist system” (“K 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia V. I. Lenina,” Tezisy TsK KPSS, 1969, p. 27).

Lenin’s cooperative plan was based on K. Marx’ and F. En-gels’ theoretical propositions on the importance of socializing small-scale production during the transition from capitalism to socialism. A combination of economic, political, and cultural tasks, the plan called for the formation of a single system of socialist production relations in agriculture and industry. On the basis of this, the alliance between the working class and the peasantry was to be developed and strengthened. Under Lenin’s cooperative plan, the exploitation of the peasant masses by the rural and urban bourgeoisie would be ended, the peasants would be delivered from poverty, the consciousness of individual toilers would be raised, and they would be brought up in a spirit of collectivism and mutual aid. The peasants would be taught collective management, and the culture and specialized knowledge of the rural population would be raised to enable them to manage their farms on the basis of advanced technology and agronomy.

In the age of large-scale, mechanized production the creation of large production associations in agriculture is one of the general, lawlike regularities of economic development. However, there are fundamental differences between the ways and means in which this regularity is realized under capitalism and under socialism. Only the dictatorship of the proletariat—the most important political condition for building socialism—can ensure a transformation of agriculture that agrees as much as possible with the interests of the toiling peasants. Guidance from the Communist Party and the state is decisive in the successful transition of private farms to socialism. The Communist Party and the state prepare the masses for this transition, organize the participation of the toiling peasantry and the nonproletarian strata of the urban working people in the cooperative system, and guide the development of the system at every stage.

In the works Current Tasks of Soviet Power and Theses on the Current Tasks of Soviet Power (1918), Lenin formulated a number of propositions on the need for the total cooperation of the people through their involvement, first, in consumers’ and other simple types of cooperatives, and later, in producers’ cooperatives, which entail a higher form of cooperation. In the initial stage of cooperation the private producers gradually come to understand the economic benefits and advantages of cooperation, and there is a rapprochement between the peasants and the workers on the basis of their common consumer interests. Advanced workers provide concrete leadership for the cooperatives and increase their influence over the peasant masses, thereby strengthening the alliance of workers and peasants. During this stage the party exercises general ideological and organizational leadership over the cooperative movement, and the state gains prestige among the peasants because of its comprehensive efforts to aid the toiling peasantry through cooperation.

Lenin finished working out the cooperative plan after the Soviet state had adopted the New Economic Policy (NEP). He was motivated by the need to go beyond the country’s mixed economy and above all, by the need to gradually eliminate small-scale commodity production, which is the source of capitalist relations. Therefore, he attached exceptional importance to the transition of peasant farms to socialist development. The attainment of this goal was made extremely difficult by two factors. First, age-old traditions and customs that had originated under the system of private farming were still strong. Second, the allotment of considerable amounts of land under the Decree on Land had transformed the majority of the peasants into middle peasants, thereby reinforcing property-owning tendencies in the countryside. In addition, the extensive development of market trade in the first years of NEP had a considerable influence on the growth of petit bourgeois aspirations among the peasantry.

The decisive role of cooperation in the transformation of the small-scale commodity-producing economy was due to its specific new role under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin wrote that “cooperative enterprises differ from private capitalist enterprises because they are collective enterprises, but they do not differ from socialist enterprises if the land on which they are situated and the means of production belong to the state, i.e., the working class. . . . Cooperation under our conditions nearly always coincides fully with socialism” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 45, p. 375). At the same time, cooperation—the most correct form of combining the private interests of the toiling peasantry with the public interest—provides an opportunity for “transition to the new system by means that are the simplest, easiest and most acceptable to the peasant” (ibid., p. 370).

As cooperation grows, private farms establish and develop economic relations with each other and with the cities, and the functions of cooperation are extended to supply and marketing. This leads to the growth of economic contacts between industry and agriculture (the “union of city and countryside”) and, correspondingly, reinforces the educational influence of the party and the working class on the peasantry.

Lenin particularly stressed one point: the state would extend large-scale financial, credit, and banking aid to the cooperatives and grant them various privileges, and it would offer material incentives to peasants who joined cooperatives. In every possible way the party and the state would stimulate the formation of producers’ cooperatives and support them ideologically and organizationally by training managers and specialists and supplying them with agricultural machines and equipment. At the Tenth Congress of the RCP (Bolshevik), which was held in 1921, Lenin pointed out that the socialist transformation of the small-scale economy calls for a “material basis, technical equipment, the extensive use of tractors and other farm machinery, and electrification on a mass scale” (ibid., vol. 43, p. 60).

Lenin stated emphatically that cooperation must be strictly voluntary and that it must be promoted exclusively by explanation and persuasion, by bringing the peasants gradually and systematically to an understanding of the expediency of merging small farms and the advantages of collective production. He considered any kind of administrative measures or coercion inadmissible in the development of cooperatives. Thus, he as-signed the party and the working class a leading role in raising the cultural level and consciousness of the peasants. “Without universal literacy, without a proper degree of efficiency, without training the population sufficiently to acquire the habit of book-reading ... we shall not achieve our object. But the organization of the entire peasantry in cooperative societies . . . cannot, in fact, be achieved without a cultural revolution” (ibid., vol. 45, pp. 372, 376). Only after one or two decades of work could this goal be achieved, Lenin pointed out. He emphatically recom-mended dispatching to the villages advanced workers who could help the peasants to form producers’ cooperatives and who could, if necessary, manage the cooperatives. The party consistently fulfilled Lenin’s directives. The dispatch of 25,000 workers to the countryside at the time of the mass collectivization played a special role in the socialist reorganization of agriculture.

In drawing up the cooperative plan, Lenin was aware that various forms of cooperation already existed in the country when Soviet power was established, including some newly formed producers’ cooperatives. In the countryside there were the associations for joint cultivation of the land (TOZ’s), the agricultural artels (later widely known as kolkhozes), and the agricultural communes; in the cities there were producers’ (industrial) artels, which depended primarily on manual labor, as opposed to machines. Consumers’, supply-and-marketing, and credit cooperatives were among the forms of cooperation developing in the cities and in the countryside. Already, the activity of these cooperative organizations was strongly influencing the broad masses of the rural working people and helping them to understand the advantages of collective management, at first through concrete examples and later, as they joined the cooperative movement, through their own experience.

The implementation of Lenin’s cooperative plan in the 1920’s and 1930’s was, therefore, a multifaceted process whose chief goal was the transition of the peasantry to the socialist mode of production. During this period all types of cooperatives interacted with each other, with state industry, and with the system of supply and credit. The simplest cooperatives developed to the point where they were transformed into more complex cooperatives and, ultimately, into the highest form of producers’ cooperatives—the kolkhozes. These in turn became the only and all-encompassing form of peasant farm producers’ cooperation.

From the very beginning the struggle against the rural bourgeoisie—the kulaks—was a major function of the cooperatives in the countryside. Lenin considered the cooperatives a mighty force capable of gradually isolating the kulaks politically and economically and preparing the preconditions for their elimination. In carrying out Lenin’s cooperative plan, the Communist Party and the Soviet state did a great deal to develop and strengthen all forms of cooperation. To bring about the cooperation of the peasantry, the party had to overcome the resistance of various opportunist trends and groups, such as the Trotskyites and, in particular, the right deviation in the ACP (Bolshevik). The crowning stage in the implementation of the cooperative plan was the complete collectivization of agriculture in the USSR, which created the kolkhoz system and engendered a new class in socialist society—the kolkhoz peasantry.

The experience of the socialist cooperation of peasant farms in the USSR had international significance. It confirmed the propositions of the Marxist-Leninist theory on the lawlike regularity of the transition from small-scale commodity production to large-scale socialist agriculture, as well as the propositions on the ways, methods, and means of this transition. The chief propositions of Lenin’s cooperative plan are the foundation for the agricultural policy of the ruling fraternal Communist and workers’ parties and are fully applicable to all countries building socialism.


Lenin, V. I. “Ocherednye zadachi Sovetskoi vlasti.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36.
Lenin, V. I. “Ekonomika i politika v epokhu diktatury proletariata.” Ibid., vol. 39.
Lenin, V. I. “O kooperatsii.” Ibid., vol. 45.
K 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia V. I. Lenina: Tezisy TsK KPSS. Moscow, 1970.
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