full title, Great Beginning (On the Heroism of the Workers in the Rear: Concerning the (“Communist Subbotniks”), an article by V. I. Lenin (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, pp. 1-29), dealing with the problems of forming new production relationships and new labor discipline in the process of socialist construction. The article was first published as a separate pamphlet in Moscow in July 1919. As of 1969 it had been printed 130 times in 51 languages in the USSR and 38 times outside the country. The article contains a comprehensive analysis of the significance of the communist subbotniks (unpaid voluntary mass workdays), and it draws some generalizations from the experience of the masses in advancing the economy. The article represented a response to a decision of the Communists and sympathizers of the Moscow-Kazan Railway to hold communist subbotniks in order to more rapidly restore normal economic functioning. This innovation of the railroad workers was taken up at industrial establishments. Lenin saw in these communist subbotniks a demonstration of the heroism of the toiling masses, who were beginning the practical building of socialism. In a state of economic ruin, hunger, and decline in labor productivity, the subbotniks were an expression of a new, communist attitude toward labor. Specifying the guiding principles in the building of Communism, Lenin wrote: “Communism is the higher productivity of labor—compared with that existing under capitalism—of voluntary, class-conscious, and united workers employing advanced techniques” (ibid., p. 22).
In this work Lenin gave a characterization of the basic features of social classes. “Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labor, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people, one of which can appropriate the labor of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy” (ibid., p. 15). Lenin pointed out that the historic mission of the working class is not only to lead the masses in the struggle to overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie and to eliminate private ownership of the means of production, but also to create new social relationships and a new labor discipline and organization of labor. Educating the masses in a new attitude toward labor is one of the main tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat, one of the forms of the class struggle in the transitional period from capitalism to socialism. The communist subbotniks took on an enormous significance because they showed “the conscious and voluntary initiative of the workers ... in creating socialist conditions of economy and life” (ibid., p. 18). Lenin stressed that the new models of communist labor that were just coming into being needed the support of government and public organizations. He called for the most careful study of these budding models: “It is our common and primary duty to nurse these shoots of communism” (ibid., p. 25). This task touches on every aspect of the life of society. The rise of communist subbotniks and other initiatives of the toilers, which signified “the actual beginning of Communism” (ibid., p. 22), Lenin regarded as a phenomenon of universal historical importance. The article Great Beginning had great importance in developing competition on a mass scale through all the stages of socialist construction and retains its significance for the period of building communism.
V. P. DMITRIENKO