LETTER TO THE CONGRESS
I would urge strongly that at this Congress [Communist Party Congress#12] a number of changes be made in our political structure.
[... NB! the center of Lenin's attention at this time was political structure, i.e., institutions of governance. The revolution was now in power, and the working class was following its leadership, bringing sympathetic elements from among the peasantry along with them. The social revolution was moving along just fine, but the institutional revolution was turning ugly, as the Mensheviks and others predicted it would.]
At the head of the list I set an increase in the number of [Communist Party] Central Committee members to a few dozen or even a hundred. [...]
Then, I intend to propose that the Congress should on certain conditions invest the decisions of the State Planning Commission with legislative force, meeting, in this respect, the wishes of Comrade Trotsky--to a certain extent and on certain conditions.
[... NB! The two recommendations for institutional change specify high organs of the Party and the state apparati. Many accounts of Lenin's so-called "testament" concentrate on the negative personal evaluation of Stalin which follows, beginning in the next section. Thus the startling emphasis on institutional and political reform has been put in the shadow of Lenin's satisfying attack on everyone's favorite ogre, Stalin.]
Such a reform would considerably increase the stability of our Party and ease its struggle in the encirclement of hostile states, which in my opinion, is likely to, and must, become much more acute in the next few years. I think that the stability of our Party would gain a thousandfold by such a measure.
December 23, 1922
Taken down by M.V.
Continuation of the notes.
December 24, 1922
By the stability of the Central Committee, of which I spoke above, I mean measures against a split, as far as such measures can at all be taken. For, of course, the whiteguard in Russkaya mysl' [Russian thought] (it seems to have been S. S. Oldenburg) was right when, first, in the whiteguards' game against Soviet Russia he banked on a split in our Party, and when, secondly, he banked on grave differences in our Party to cause that split.
Our Party relies on two classes and therefore its instability would be possible and its downfall inevitable if there were no agreement between those two classes. In that event, this or that measure, and generally all talk about the stability of our C.C. [Central Committee], would be futile. No measures of any kind could prevent a split in such a case. But I hope that this is too remote a future and too improbable an event to talk about.
I have in mind stability as a guarantee against a split in the immediate future, and I intend to deal here with a few ideas concerning personal qualities.
I think that from this standpoint, the prime factors in the question of stability are such members of the C.C. as Stalin and Trotsky. I think relations between them make up the greater part of the danger of a split, which could be avoided, and this purpose, in my opinion, would be served, among other things, by increasing the number of C.C. members to 50 or 100.
Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General [of the Party Central Committee], has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggles against the C.C. on the question of the People's Commissariat for Communications [a government or administrative institution] has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.
[NB! movement back and forth between Party and state institutions. The USSR always maintained a strict "legal" distinction between these two structures, although in fact the Party controlled all appointments or elections to position in the state apparatus or administration, what Lenin will below also call "Soviet bodies" and "Soviet system". The Party "governed" through the institutions of state "administration". It is hard to miss the negative connotations Lenin gave to the word "administration", as in the phrase just above about Trotsky. At the same time it is hard to miss the fact that Lenin has not lost faith in the ability of the Party to control and, now, to reform the administration inherited from the tsarist past. However, Lenin perceived that leading figures in the Party had already been influenced by the "traditions" and "prejudices" of tsarist statist centralism, and he asked here for an infusion of fresh elements into the Party Central Committee, a massive "democratization" from out of the workplace, through the school of Party Central Committee deliberations, and into the offices of governmental authority. In other words, big institutional issues lurked behind the personal evaluations here offered. When Lenin got to Pyatakov, he said it directly = over-concentration of the purely administrative side of things weakened "political" abilities. The governing role of the Party was being undermined by a dangerous emphasis on administration.]
These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present C.C. can inadvertently lead to a split, and if our Party does not take steps to avert this, the split may come unexpectedly.
I shall not give any further appraisals of the personal qualities of other
members of the C.C. I shall just recall that the October episode with Zinoviev and Kamenev
was, of course, no accident, but neither can the blame for it be laid upon them
personally, any more than non-Bolshevism can upon Trotsky.
Speaking of the young C.C. members, I wish to say a few words about Bukharin and Pyatakov. They are, in my opinion, the most outstanding figures (among the younger ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and major theorist of the Party; he is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole Party, but his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of dialectics, and, I think, never fully appreciated it).
December 25. As for Pyatakov, he is unquestionably a man of outstanding will and outstanding ability, but shows far too much zeal for administrating and the administrative side of the work to be relied upon in a serious political matter.
Both of these remarks, of course, are made only for the present, on the
assumption that both these outstanding and devoted Party workers fail to find an occasion
to enhance their knowledge and amend their one-sidedness.
December 25, 1922
Taken down by M. V. [Maria Volodicheva, a secretary]
ADDITION TO THE LETTER OF DECEMBER 24, 1922
Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing somebody else differing in all other respects from Comrade Stalin solely in the degree of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from the standpoint of safeguards against a split, and from the standpoint of what I wrote above about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky, it is not a detail, or it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.
January 4, 1923
Taken down by L. F. [Lydia Fotieva]
Continuation of the notes.
December 26, 1922
The increase in the number of C.C. members to 50 or even 100 must, in my opinion, serve a double of even a treble purpose: the more members there are in the C.C., the more its work will be studied and the less danger there will be of a split due to some indiscretion. The enlistment of many workers to the C.C. will help the workers to improve our administrative machinery, which is far from perfect. We inherited it, in effect from the old regime, for it was absolutely impossible to reorganize it in such a short time, especially considering the war, famine, etc. That is why those "critics" who point to the defects of our administrative machinery out of mockery or malice, may be calmly answered that they do not in the least understand the conditions of the revolution today. It is altogether impossible in five years to reorganize the machinery adequately, especially in the conditions in which our revolution took place. It is enough that in five years we have created a new type of state in which the workers are leading the peasants against the bourgeoisie; and in a hostile international environment this in itself is a gigantic achievement. But the knowledge of this must on no account hide from us the fact that, in effect, we took over the old machinery of state from the tsar and the bourgeoisie and that now, with the onset of peace and the satisfaction of the minimum requirements against famine, all our work must be directed towards improving the administrative machinery.
It seems to me that a few dozen workers, being members of the C.C., can deal better than anybody else with the testing, improving and remodeling of our state apparatus. The Workers' and Peasants' Inspection, on whom this function devolved at the beginning, proved unable to cope with it and can be used only as an "appendage" or, on certain conditions, as an assistant to these members of the C.C. The workers admitted to the Central Committee must not, in my opinion, come mainly from among those who have had long service in Soviet bodies (in this part of my letter the term workers everywhere includes peasants), because those workers have already acquired the very traditions and the very prejudices which it is desirable to combat.
The working-class members of the C.C. must be mainly workers of a lower stratum than those promoted in the last five years to work in Soviet bodies; they must be people closer to being rank-and-file workers and peasants, and who are not of the category of direct exploiters [a reference to class identity in the pre-revolutionary times intended to exclude from the C.C. only the higher elite of the old tsarist social structure]. I think that by attending all sittings of the C.C. and all sittings of the Political Bureau, and by reading all the documents of the C.C., such workers can form a staff of devoted supporters of the Soviet system, able, first, to give stability to the C.C. itself, and second, to work effectively on the renewal and improvement of the state apparatus.
Taken down by L.F. [Lydia Fotieva]
December 26, 1922
[SOURCE: Vladimir Il'ich Lenin, Selected Works (MVA:1966) 3:792-95.]