Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, The

Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, The

 

On April 7, Lenin presented the main points of his article at a session of the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik), which instructed him to prepare theses on the subject. On April 26 his “Theses on the Tasks of the Soviet Government in the Present Situation” were discussed by the Bureau of the Central Committee, and on April 28 they were published in Pravda and in a supplement to Izvestiia, under the title “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.” The article was subsequently published as a pamphlet. On April 29 the All-Russian Central Executive Committee approved the theses, and on May 3 the Central Committee of the RCP(B) confirmed them and proposed that they be made the basis for all party and government work. (In 1918, Lenin’s article was published in English in New York and in French in Geneva. An abridged version was issued in Zürich in German under the title Am Tage nach der Revolution [The Day After the Revolution].)

After the conquest of power and Soviet Russia’s withdrawal from the imperialist war (the Brest Treaty of 1918), the party faced the task of making use of the peaceful respite to restore the war-ravaged economy and bring about an economic upswing. Lenin pointed out the necessity for establishing the management of the economy on a statewide scale, for creating conditions in which the bourgeoisie could neither survive nor reappear, and for reorganizing the economy along socialist lines. The immediate task was the establishment of a system of government accounting and control over the production and distribution of goods. Without this the victory of socialism over capitalism was unthinkable, especially in a country where small-scale commodity production still prevailed, serving as the basis for the preservation and continual regeneration of capitalism. “What we are discussing is shifting the center of gravity of our economic and political work,” wrote Lenin. “Up to now measures for the direct expropriation of the expropriators were in the forefront. Now the organization of accounting and control in those branches of the economy in which the capitalists have already been expropriated, and in all other branches of the economy, advances to the forefront” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36, p. 176). The weapons of the proletarian state were nationwide accounting and control, through which it would be possible to exert a planned and regulatory influence on small-scale commodity production. Lenin proposed that consumers’ cooperatives and some features of state capitalism be used to combat the petit bourgeois element and to organize accounting and control. However, he believed that the most important, the most essential condition for the victory of the new social system was raising the productivity of labor. The necessary prerequisites for achieving this were the development of heavy industry, the foundation of socialism; raising the cultural and educational level of the poulation; inculcating conscious labor discipline; and organizing socialist emulation. To build up heavy industry and raise the productivity of labor, Lenin proposed that bourgeois specialists in various branches of science and technology be employed until new personnel from the working people could be trained. The party faced the task of using every means possible to attract bourgeois specialists to the Soviet side, of offering them the best material conditions, and of trying patiently to reeducate them. In addition, it was necessary to discover and freely promote talented organizers from among the people.

Lenin explained that socialism could be built only by the labor of millions of people. The party had to organize the masses and show them that labor had acquired a purpose and character that were entirely new in principle. Lenin also spelled out the chief slogan for the initial period of socialist construction: “Keep regular and honest accounts of money, manage economically, do not be lazy, do not steal, observe the strictest labor discipline” (ibid., p. 174). To replace the old discipline of hunger and force, it was necessary to create a conscious sense of discipline and to develop mass initiative and motivation. Persuasion was to be the basic method of training for this new discipline. The goal of developing conscious labor discipline would also be served by exercising strict control over the amount of labor performed and the quantity of goods consumed and by giving all workers a material stake in the products of their labor. At the same time, coercive measures were not ruled out in dealing with loafers and scroungers.

In the effort to inculcate a new sense of discipline, an important role was assigned to emulation. Lenin emphasized the importance of providing the participants in socialist emulation with comprehensive knowledge of its progress and results, because for the first time it was possible for the power of a good example in labor to have a mass impact. He also indicated the basic method for economic management—the principle of democratic centralism, which meant combining centralized direction of the economy by the state and one-man management at the production level with the active and conscious participation of the masses in the economy. Lenin paid special attention to the problem of the dictatorship of the proletariat. He called on the party and the working class to work indefatigably on the task of strengthening Soviet power, the governmental form of the proletarian dictatorship; to broaden the ties between the soviets and the toiling masses; and to strengthen the alliance between the working class and the toiling peasantry, the decisive condition for building socialism.

After the Civil War of 1918–20 the party shifted its priorities, adopting certain basic features of economic policy outlined in Lenin’s article. These features, which came to be known as the New Economic Policy, included the introduction of taxes based on property and income to replace indemnities, the use of state capitalism to raise labor productivity, the establishment of economic links between the working class and the peasantry, and the state monopoly of foreign trade.

Under the conditions of building a communist society, the CPSU continues to be guided by ideas developed by Lenin in “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government”: the scientific assessment of the prospects for the country’s economic development, the promotion of socialist emulation, the strengthening of labor and economic discipline, and the correct combination of moral and material incentives for labor.

By January 1973, Lenin’s essay had gone through 172 printings in the USSR, for a total of 6,656,000 copies in 53 languages. By 1970 it had been printed 74 times abroad.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Pervonachal’nyi variant stat’i ‘Ocherednye zadachi Sovet-skoi vlasti.’” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36.
Lenin, V. I. “Ocherednye zadachi Sovetskoi vlasti.” Ibid., vol. 36.
Istoriia Kommunisticheskoi partii Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 3, book 2. Moscow, 1968.
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