On Cooperation

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

On Cooperation


an article by V. I. Lenin that sets forth ways of enlisting the toiling peasants in the construction of socialism. First published in the newspaper Pravda on May 26 and 27, 1923, it is contained in the 45th volume of the fifth edition of Lenin’s Complete Collected Works.

In the article, Lenin generalized the basic questions of the theory and practice of the development of cooperation under capitalism and the initial experience of the use of cooperation in building a socialist society. He analyzed the general tendencies of the socioeconomic evolution of cooperation in the transitional period from capitalism to socialism. Lenin showed that the fundamental change in the socioeconomic nature of cooperation—that is, the transformation into socialist cooperation, into one of the most important tools for the construction of socialism—takes place only after the conquest of political power by the working class and the socialization of the means of production. If, wrote Lenin, state power is in the hands of the working class and there is social ownership of the basic means of production, the all-out development of cooperation is “still not the building of socialist society, but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for it” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 45, p. 370). Under such conditions, cooperative enterprises do not differ essentially from socialist enterprises.

Lenin took as basic the requirements of the economic law of the correspondence of production relations to the nature of productive forces and the necessity of ensuring the development of all branches of the economy on a single economic foundation. He then argued that the socialist transformation of agriculture should be grounded on the organization of the peasantry into production cooperatives. He pointed out the chief methods, forms, and principles of cooperative organization and showed the necessity of approaches entailing the least possible damage to the peasant economy in the initial period. He called for, in particular, making use of the elementary forms of cooperation that the peasants already knew well and had themselves created in the sphere of circulation of money and goods (supply and marketing cooperatives, consumer cooperatives, and credit cooperatives) as transitional steps toward the organization of producers’ cooperatives. Lenin emphasized that all the toiling peasants should be drawn gradually and voluntarily into the cooperatives. This was to be done in such a way that the peasants had a material stake in the activity of the cooperative associations. It was important that the people understand “all the advantages of everybody participating in the work of the cooperatives, and organize this participation” (ibid., p. 372). In addition, the personal interests of the members of the cooperatives must be correctly combined with social interests.

In Lenin’s view, the successful organization of peasant cooperatives and the consequent socialist transformation of agriculture depended chiefly on two factors: (1) the country’s industrialization, particularly the intensive development of heavy industry and the mechanization of agriculture, and (2) the granting of practical aid by the state to the cooperative system, especially economic and financial support and privileges with regard to property, taxes, and so on. Lenin also stressed that the organization of the peasantry in cooperatives required fundamental raising of the cultural level of the masses. Most important were the spread of literacy and the development of mass educational work among the rural population, that is, the realization of a cultural revolution.

The new approach to cooperation was reflected in the economic policies of the Soviet state. Lenin’s teaching on the reorganization of individual small-scale farms into large-scale socialist production units has become the property of the world communist movement and all progressive forces.


Kuibyshev, V. V. Lenin i kooperatsiia. [Moscow] 1925.
Sergeev, I. I. Razrabotka Leninym kooperativnogo plana, 1917–1923 gg. Saratov, 1966.
Morozov, L. F., and V. M. Selunskaia. “Vazhneishii etap v razrabotke kooperativnogo plana (K 50-letiiu stat’i V. I. Lenina ‘O kooperatsii’).” Voprosy istorii KPSS, 1973, no. 1.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.