Practical Resolution of the National Question

Iosif Stalin, Report at the Fourth Conference of the Central Committee with Nationalities Officials on the Practical Measures for Applying the Resolution on the National Question of the Twelfth Party Congress. June 10, 1923


Original Source: Sochineniia (Moscow, 1946-1951), Vol. V, pp. 313-39.

Comrades, you must have received by now the Politbiuro’s draft program on the national question …The proposals of the Politbiuro may be divided into three groups.

The first group of problems deals with the consolidation of communist cadres of local people in the Republics and provinces.

The second group of problems deals with the practical application of the concrete resolutions on the national question of the XIIth Congress, namely: the questions of how to draw the working elements of the local population into the process of building up of the party and the Soviets, the questions of what measures are required to raise the cultural level of the local population, the questions of improving the economic position of the Republics and provinces with regard to the specific peculiarities of their daily life; and finally the questions of the co-operative movement in the provinces and Republics, of the transfer of factories, the establishment of industrial centers and so forth. This group of problems affects the economic, cultural and governmental tasks of the provinces and Republics in conformity with local conditions.

The third group of questions deals with the Constitution of the Union of Republics in general and, in particular, with the question of amending the Constitution so as to establish a second chamber of the Central Executive Committee of the Union of Republics …

I now pass to the first group of problems — the methods of training and consolidating Marxist cadres of local people, cadres capable of serving as the most important and, in the long run, decisive stronghold of the Soviet regime in the peripheries. If we examine the development of our party (I take its Russian section, which is the basic section) and follow the main stages of its development, and if in the same way we draw up an outline of the development in the immediate future of our communist organizations in the provinces and Republics, then I think we shall be able to find the key to the specific features which, in those countries, mark the development of our party in the peripheries.

The basic task in the first period of the development of our party, of its Russian section, was to create cadres. These Marxist cadres were made and forged in our fight with Menshevism. The task of these cadres at that period — I take the period from the foundation of the Bolshevik Party to the expulsion from the party of the liquidators, the most complete embodiments of Menshevism — their basic task was to win over to the side of the Bolsheviks the most alert, honest and outstanding members of the working class, to create cadres, to forge a vanguard. In this respect the struggle was waged primarily against tendencies of a bourgeois nature — especially against Menshevism — which impeded the consolidation of cadres and their fusion into a single unit, into the basic core of the party. At that time the party was not yet faced with the task of establishing, as a matter of immediate and vital urgency, extensive links with the millions of the working class masses and the toiling peasantry, nor with the task of gaining control over these masses, and in winning a majority in the country. The party had not reached that stage yet.

Only in the following stage in the development of our party, only in its second phase, when these cadres had matured, when they had become the basic core of our party, when the sympathies of the best elements of the working class had already been won or almost won only then did it become the task of the party, as a matter of immediate urgency, to gain control of the millions of working masses, to transform the party cadres into a real workers’ mass party. During this period the core of our party had to struggle not so much against Menshevism as against the ‘left’ elements within our party, the Otzovists of all kinds, who were attempting to substitute revolutionary verbiage for a serious study of the distinctive features of the new conditions after 1905, impeding by their over-simplified ‘revolutionary’ tactics the conversion of the cadres of our party into a genuine mass party and threatening, by their activities, to divorce the party from the broad working masses. There is hardly any need to prove that had the party not resolutely struggled against, and overcome, this ‘left’ danger it could not have gained control over the millions of the working masses.

Such, roughly, is the picture of the struggle on two fronts, against the ‘right-wingers’, i.e. the Mensheviks, and the ‘left-wingers,’ the picture of the development of the basic, the Russian, section of our party.

Comrade Lenin has outlined convincingly enough this essential and inevitable development of Communist Parties in his pamphlet ‘Left Wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder. In it Lenin showed that the Communist Parties in the West must pass, and are already passing, through approximately the same stages of development. We will add for our own part that this applies also to the development of our communist organizations and Communist Parties in the peripheries.

It should, however, be noted that, despite the analogy between the experiences of our party in the past and the present experiences of our party organizations in the peripheries, there are none the less some essential peculiarities in the development of our party in the national republics and regions, which we must under all circumstances allow for. For, if we fail to take them thoroughly into account, we run the risk of committing the grossest errors when defining the tasks of training Marxist cadres from the local people in the peripheries.

Let us now examine these peculiarities.

The fight against the right-wing and ‘left’-wing elements in our organizations in the peripheries is necessary and obligatory, for otherwise we shall not succeed in training Marxist cadres which are closely connected with the masses. That is obvious. But the peculiarity of the situation in the peripheries and its difference from the past development of our party lies in the fact that the forging of cadres and their conversion into a mass party in the peripheries is taking place not under a bourgeois system, as was the case in our party’s past, but under a Soviet system, under the dictatorship of the proletariat. At that time, under the bourgeois system, it was possible and necessary, in accordance with the previous circumstances, to struggle first against the Mensheviks (in order to forge Marxist cadres) and then against the Otzovists (in order to turn these cadres into a mass party); and the struggle against these two deviations made up two entire periods in the history of our party. Now, under the present conditions, we cannot do this at all, for now the party is in power; and, being in power, the party needs in the peripheries dependable Marxist cadres of local people who are, at the same time, connected with the broad masses of the population. Now we can no longer struggle first against the right-wing menace with the help of the ‘left’-wingers, as we did in the past history of our party, and then against the ‘left’ danger with the help of the right-wingers. Now we must struggle on both fronts and overcome both dangers simultaneously in order to obtain in the peripheries cadres of local people schooled in Marxism and linked with the masses. In the past we could speak of cadres not yet linked with the broad masses, but to be linked with the latter in the next stage of development. Now it would be ridiculous even to discuss such a thing, because it is impossible, under the Soviet regime, to imagine Marxist cadres not connected in one way or other with the broad masses. Such cadres would have nothing in common either with Marxism or with a mass party. All this complicates matters considerably and makes it imperative for our party organizations in the peripheries to struggle simultaneously against both the right-wingers and the ‘leftists’. That is why our party has taken the position of fighting on two fronts, against both deviations simultaneously.

Furthermore, the fact should be noted that the development of our communist organizations in the peripheries does not proceed in isolation, as was the case in the past history of our party, as regards its Russian section, but under the direct influence of the basic core of our party which is experienced not only in forming Marxist cadres but also in linking them with the broad masses of the population, and in revolutionary maneuvering in the struggle for Soviet power. The peculiarity of the situation in the peripheries in this respect lies in the fact that our party organizations in those countries, in accordance with the conditions under which the Soviet regime is developing there, can and must, in their maneuvers designed to strengthen their links with the broad masses of the population, draw for this purpose on the rich store of experience accumulated by our party in the preceding period. Until recently the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party used to make these maneuvers in the peripheries by itself, over the heads of the communist organizations there, sometimes even by-passing these organizations, and drawing into the general work of Soviet construction all and sundry more or less loyal national elements. But this work must be performed by the party organizations in the peripheries themselves. They can do it, and must do it, bearing in mind that this is the best way of converting the Marxist cadres of local people into a genuine mass party capable of rallying the majority of the population in the country.

Such are the two peculiarities which must strictly be taken into account when defining our party line in the peripheries regarding the training of Marxist cadres and their gaining control of the broad masses of the population.

I now pass to the second group of problems…

In the first place: ‘measures for attracting the proletarian and semi-proletarian elements into the process of building up the party and the soviets.’ What is the purpose of this? It is to bring the apparatus of the party, and especially of the soviets, close to the people. These apparatuses must function in languages understood by the broad masses of the population, or else there can be no closeness between them. If it is the task of our party to convince the masses that the soviet system is their own system, then this can only be done when that system is understood by them. The people directing state institutions, and the institutions themselves, must conduct their work in a language intelligible to the population. The chauvinist elements which are destroying the feelings of friendship and solidarity among the peoples of the Union of Republics must be expelled from our institutions both in Moscow and in the Republics. Local people who are familiar with the language and customs of the population must be appointed to the management of state institutions in the Republics.

I remember that, two years ago, the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars in the Kirghiz Republic was Pestkovskii, a man who did not know the Kirghiz language. This circumstance made it very difficult, at that time, to strengthen the links of the government of the Kirghiz Republic with the Kirghiz peasant masses. That is precisely why the party has seen to it that the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Kirghiz Republic should be a Kirghiz.

I remember, too, that a group of comrades from Bashkiria last year proposed to nominate a Russian comrade as chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of Bashkiria. The party resolutely rejected this proposal and secured the nomination of a Bashkir for that post.

It is our task to apply this line and, in general, the line of gradually nationalizing the governmental institutions in all the National Republics and provinces and, above all, in such an important Republic as the Ukraine.

Secondly: ‘the selection and inclusion of the more or less loyal elements of the local intelligentsia, coupled with simultaneous efforts to form soviet cadres from members of the party.’ This clause requires no special explanation. Now that the working class is in power and has rallied the majority of the population, there is no reason to be afraid of drawing into the building up of the soviets the more or less loyal elements, including even former Octobrists. It is, on the contrary, absolutely necessary to draw all these elements into the work in the national provinces and Republics in order to assimilate and sovietize them in the course of that work.

Thirdly: ‘convocation of non-party conferences of workers and peasants, for members of the government to report on the measures taken by the Soviet regime.’ I know that many People’s Commissars in the Republics, for example in the Kirghiz Republic, have no desire to visit the localities, to attend peasants’ gatherings, to speak at meetings, to acquaint the broad masses with the work of the party and the Soviet Government in matters which are of particular importance to the peasants. This state of affairs must be ended. It is absolutely necessary to hold non-party conferences of workers and peasants to acquaint them with what the Soviet Government is doing. Without this, the contact between the state apparatus and the people is unthinkable.

Furthermore: ‘measures to raise the cultural level of the local population.’ Several measures, which cannot of course be considered exhaustive, have been proposed, namely: (a) ‘to organize (non-party) clubs and other educational institutions for popular enlightenment in the local languages’; (b) ‘to extend the network of educational establishments of all grades in the local languages’; (c) ‘to draw in the more or less loyal national teachers’; (d) ‘to establish a network of societies spreading literacy in the local languages’; (e) ‘to organize the publishing business.’ All these measures are obvious and intelligible. They require no special explanation.

Further: ‘economic development in the National Republics and provinces in line with the peculiarities of national character and day-to-day life.’ In this respect the Politbiuro proposes the following measures: (a) ‘to regulate and where required, to stop migration’; (b) ‘to provide the local working population with land out of the state land fund’; (c) to grant the local population agricultural credit on easy terms’; (d) ‘to intensify irrigation work’; (e) ‘to move factories and plants to Republics which are rich in raw materials’; f) ‘to set up trade and technical schools’; (g) ‘to arrange courses on agriculture’, and finally, (h) ‘to assist in every way the co-operative movement and, in particular, the producers’ co-operatives (in order to attract the handicraftsmen).’

I have to dwell on this last point because of its particular importance. Whereas formerly under the Tsar the development proceeded in such a way that the kulak grew in wealth, agricultural capital expanded, the situation of the mass of medium farmers was unstable, while the broad peasant masses, the broad mass of petty farmer proprietors were compelled to flounder in the grip of ruin and impoverishment, now, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, when credit, land and power are in the hands of the working class, the development cannot take the old course-despite NEP and the revival of private capital. It is quite incorrect to allege, as some comrades do, that owing to the development of NEP, we are compelled to re-enact the old story of nurturing the kulaks by bringing about the mass ruin of the peasant majority. This is not our way. Under the new conditions with the proletariat in power and holding all the basic threads of the economy, the development is bound to take a different course-that of drawing together the petty village proprietors in all kinds of co-operatives, and giving them state support in their struggle against private capital, gradually drawing the millions of petty farmers through the co-operatives into socialist construction, gradually improving (instead of worsening) their economic position. In this sense, ‘assistance of every kind to the co-operative movement’ in the peripheries, in those predominantly peasant countries, is of paramount importance for the future economic development of the Union of Republics.

Further: ‘on the practical measures of setting up national army units.’ I think that we are rather late in the matter of working out measures for this purpose. We must set up national army units. Obviously this cannot be done in a day, but it is possible and necessary at once to proceed with establishing military schools in the Republics and provinces so as to train, within a certain time, a staff of commanders from local people, capable of serving later as a core for organizing national army units. It is absolutely essential to make a start in this matter and to push it ahead. If we had reliable national army units with a reliable commanding staff in Republics such as Turkestan, the Ukraine, Belorussia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, then our Republic would be far better provided than is now the case both in respect of defense and of offensive operations if such should be forced upon us. We must make an immediate start. Owing to this, of course we shall have to increase the number of our troops by 20-25 thousand, but this cannot be considered an insurmountable obstacle.

I shall not enlarge on the remaining points (see the draft program) since they are self-evident and require no explanation.

The third group of problems is connected with the establishment of the Second Chamber of the Central Executive Committee of the Union and the organization of People’s Commissariats of the Union of Republics. In this respect the most striking questions have been selected, but they do not, of course, cover everything.

The Politbiuro envisages the Second Chamber as an organic part of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR. It had been proposed to set up, side by side-with the existing Central Executive Committee, a Supreme Soviet of Nationalities which would not form part of the Central Executive Committee. This draft was rejected, and the Politbiuro arrived at the conclusion that it is more expedient to divide the Central Executive Committee itself into two chambers. Of these, the First Chamber may be called the Soviet of the Union, which is to be elected at a Congress of the Soviets of the Union of Republics, while the Second Chamber, which ought to be called the Soviet of Nationalities, is elected by the Central Executive Committees of the Republics and the Provincial Soviet Congresses of the National Regions at the ratio of five representatives from each Republic and one from each province. The elected representatives are to be confirmed by the Congress of Soviets of the Union of Republics.

As regards the powers of the Second Chamber in relation to the First Chamber, we have arrived at the principle of equal powers for both. The two chambers have each a Presidium without legislative functions. Both chambers elect in joint session the common Presidium which holds supreme power in the interval between the sessions of the Central Executive Committee. No bill tabled in one of the chambers acquires the force of law without having been passed by both chambers, so that a complete balance between the two chambers is established.

Now to the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee, which I mentioned in passing. The Politbiuro considers that the existence of two legislative Presidiums is inadmissible. The Presidium as the holder of supreme power cannot be divided into two or more parts; the supreme power must be undivided. With this in view, it is considered expedient to form a joint Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, from the Presidiums of the two chambers with the addition of some individuals elected in a joint session of both chambers, i.e. in a plenary session of the Central Executive Committee.

Now, the question of the number of All-Union Commissariats. You know that under the old constitution, as confirmed last year at the Congress of Soviets of the Union of Republics, the Commissariats of War, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Posts and Telegraphs, and Railroads are concentrated in the hands of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Republics, that five other Commissariats, i.e. those of Food, Finance, Labor, the Supreme Council for National Economy and the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate are subordinated to the respective Republican governments and at the same time to the All-Union Government, while the remaining six Commissariats are independent Republican Commissariats. This draft was criticized by several Ukrainians, Rakovskii, Skrypnik and others, but the Politbiuro has rejected the proposal of the Ukrainians to transfer the People’s Commissariats for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade from the category of All-Union Commissariats to the second category and has adopted basically the main clauses of the Constitution in the sense of last year’s decisions.

I take it that, as regards the Constitution of the Union of Republics and the Second Chamber, the conference will have to confine itself to a short exchange of views, especially since this question is being dealt with in the commission of the plenary session of the Central Committee. The question of what practical measures must be taken in pursuance of the resolution of the XIIth Congress will, in my opinion, have to be discussed in greater detail. A great part of the debate will have to be devoted to the question of how to consolidate Marxist cadres from local people.

I think that, before opening the debate, it would be expedient to hear the reports of the comrades from the Republics and provinces on the material from the local authorities.

Stalin’s Concluding Remarks, June 12, 1923

First of all, I should like to say a few words on the reports made by the comrades, and in general on the nature of the conference in the light of these reports. Although this conference is the fourth since the establishment of the Soviet regime, it is nevertheless the only one which has been complete, with more or less complete and well-based reports from the Republics and provinces. It can be seen from the reports that the communist cadres in the provinces and Republics have matured, and that they are learning to work independently. I assume that the rich material put before us by the comrades at the conference, and the practical working experience revealed by them at the conference must without fail be made accessible to our entire party in the form of minutes of this conference. The people have matured and are going ahead. They are acquiring the art of administration-such is the first conclusion, the first impression derived from these reports.

As for the content of the reports, the materials presented can be divided into two groups: reports from socialist Republics, and reports from non-socialist People’s Republics (Bukhara, Khorezm).

Let us examine the first group of reports. The reports show that, in the sense of closeness of the party and, particularly, the state apparatus to the language and daily life of the people, Georgia is the most highly developed and advanced Republic. Georgia is followed by Armenia, and after them come the other Republics and provinces. This conclusion, in my opinion, is incontestable. This fact is due to the higher degree of culture achieved by Georgia and Armenia. In Georgia, the percentage of literacy is fairly high — it reaches 80 and in Armenia not less than 40. This is the secret why these two countries are ahead of the other Republics: the higher the degree of culture and literacy of a country, Republic or province, the closer the party and soviet apparatus is to its people, its language and daily life — all other conditions being equal, of course. This is clear, and there is nothing new in that conclusion; but precisely because it contains nothing new, that conclusion is often forgotten; and not infrequently the attempt is made to blame cultural backwardness and the consequent backwardness in state organization on ‘errors’ in party policy, on conflicts and so forth, whereas, in fact, it is a matter of inadequate literacy and cultural standards. If you want your country to advance to a higher form of state organization, then raise the level of literacy among the population, raise the standard of culture of your country — the rest will follow.

If we appraise from this angle the ‘position in the individual Republics in the light of the reports at hand, we have to admit that the present position in Turkestan is the most unfavorable and alarming one. The picture is one of cultural backwardness, a devastatingly low percentage of literacy, isolation of the state apparatus from the language and life of the peoples of Turkestan, a devastatingly slow rate of development. Yet it is clear that, of all the Soviet Republics, Turkestan is the most important from the point of view of revolutionizing the East, not only because Turkestan is a combination of nationalities which have more links with the East than any others, but also because, geographically, it cuts into the heart of that part of the East which is the most exploited and most explosive in the struggle against imperialism. That is why Turkestan as it is now is the weakest point of the Soviet regime. The task is to transform Turkestan into a model Republic, into the outpost of revolution in the East. That is precisely why it is necessary to concentrate attention on Turkestan for the purpose of raising the cultural level of the masses, nationalizing the state apparatus and so forth. We have to solve this task, cost what it may, without sparing our strength or shirking sacrifices.

As the second weak point of the Soviet regime we have to consider the Ukraine. The state of affairs here, in respect of culture, literacy and so forth, is the same, or almost the same, as in Turkestan. The state apparatus in the Ukraine is as far removed from the language and life of the people as in Turkestan. Yet the Ukraine has the same importance for the peoples of the West as Turkestan has for the peoples of the East. The position in the Ukraine is further complicated by some peculiarities in the industrial development of the country. The point is that, in the Ukraine, the basic branches of industry-coal and metallurgy-have not arisen in the Ukraine from below, through a natural development of national economy, but have been introduced from above, by artificial implantations from outside. Owing to this, the workers in these branches of industry are not of local origin, not Ukrainian in language. And this brings about a situation in which the cultural influence of the town on the village and the fusion of the proletariat and peasantry are very much impeded by these differences in the national composition of the proletariat and the peasantry. All these circumstances must be taken into account in our efforts to transform the Ukraine into a model Republic, but transform her into a model Republic, in view of her immense importance for the peoples of the West, we must.

I pass now to the reports on Khorezm and Bukhara. I shall say nothing on Khorezm because of the absence of the representative from it. It is awkward to criticize the work of the Khorezm Communist Party and the Khorezm government only on the basis of the materials at the disposal of the Central Committee. What Broido has said here on Khorezm refers to the past and has little relevance to its present position. As regards the party, he said that 50 per cent of its members are merchants and so forth. Perhaps this was so in the past, but at present there is a purge on there; not one of the unified party tickets has yet been issued to Khorezm; strictly speaking the party does not exist there; there will be a question of the party there only after the purge. There are said to be several thousand party members in Khorezm. I think that no more than a few hundred will be left after the purge. It was exactly the same thing in Bukhara last year, when they had 16,000 party members, of whom, after the purge, not more than a thousand were left.

I come to the report on Bukhara. Speaking of Bukhara, I have first to say a few words on the general tenor and nature of the reports made. I consider that the reports on the Republics and provinces have on the whole been truthful, and that on the whole they did not diverge from reality. Only one report did radically diverge from reality-the report on Bukhara. This was not even so much a report as a wholesale display of diplomacy, for everything negative in Bukhara was concealed and glossed over, while everything superficially bright and striking was boosted for show. The conclusion is that all is well in Bukhara. I think that we have not come to this meeting to play diplomats, nor to make sheep’s eyes to one another and, at the same time, diddle one another when backs are turned. I think that we have come here to tell the whole truth, to reveal, in a communist way, all the sores, to open them up, and to work out the remedies. Only under this condition can we advance. From this point of view, the report on Bukhara distinguishes itself from all the others by its untruthfulness. It was not by accident that I have questioned here the speaker on the composition of the Council of Nazirs in Bukhara. The Council of Nazirs is the Council of People’s Commissars. Does it include any dekkans, i.e. ordinary peasants? The speaker did not reply. But I have information on this, and, you see, it appears that there is not a single peasant in the Bukhara government. Out of 9 or 11 members of the government, one is the son of a rich merchant, another a trader, yet another an intellectual, then a mullah, one more trader, an intellectual, and again a trader, but there is not a single dekkan. And yet Bukhara, as is well known, is exclusively a peasant country.

This question has a direct bearing on the question of the policy of the Bukhara government. What is the policy of that government, which is headed by communists? Does it consider the interests of the peasantry, of its own peasantry? I should like to mention only two facts which illustrate the policy of the Bukhara government at the head of which are communists. A document signed by the most responsible comrades and old members of the party shows, for example, that, during the time of its existence, the Bukhara State Bank has advanced 75 per cent of its credits to private merchants, but only 2 per cent to peasant co-operatives. In absolute figures: 7 million gold rubles to the merchants, and 220,000 gold rubles to the peasants. Furthermore, no land has been confiscated in Bukhara. They did confiscate the emirs’ cattle — for the benefit of the peasantry. And what was the result? From the same document it appears that, while some 2,000 head of cattle have been confiscated for the peasants, only some 200 head of cattle have passed into their hands the rest has been sold-of course to the well-to-do.

And this government calls itself a soviet-a people’s government! It is hardly necessary to say that there is nothing soviet, nothing popular in these actions of the Bukhara government.

The speaker has dealt in very rosy hues with the question of the relations of the people of Bukhara to the RSFSR and the Union of Republics. According to him, in this respect too, all is well. The Bukhara Republic, it appears, wishes to become part of the Union. The speaker seems to think that it is sufficient to wish to enter the Union of Republics for its gates to burst wide open. No, comrades, it is not as easy as all that. You must also enquire whether the Union of Republics will admit you. Before being able to become a part of the Union, you must, in the eyes of the Soviet people of the Union, deserve the right of entry, you must become worthy of that right. I have to remind the comrades from Bukhara that the Soviet Union cannot be regarded as a dumping place.

Finally, in finishing the first part of my concluding remarks on the reports, I should like to mention one characteristic feature of these reports. No one, not a single speaker, has answered the question on the agenda of the conference as to what unused reserves of local officials are available. No answer was given to that question, nor has anyone touched on it, except Grinko who, however, was not making a report. And yet this is a question of paramount importance. Are there, in the Republics and provinces, officials from local people available but not being made use of ? If there are-why have they not been made use of? But if there are no such reserves, while the shortage of such officials still prevails-with which national elements will the vacant party and soviet posts be staffed? All these questions are of the utmost importance for the party. I know that in the Republics and provinces a proportion of leading officials, mainly Russian, sometimes stand in the way of officials from the local people, impede their promotion to certain posts, and refuse to give them a chance. Such things have happened, which is one of the causes of discontent in the Republics and provinces. But the main and basic reason of discontent lies in the appalling shortage, or rather the total absence, of reserves of local people capable of work. This is a crucial point. If there is a shortage of local officials then, obviously, it is necessary to employ non-local officials, people of other nationalities, for time does not stand still, you must build and run the administration, while cadres of local people are maturing slowly. I think that, at the conference, the officials from the provinces and Republics have somewhat cunningly passed over this circumstance. Yet it is clear that nine-tenths of the misunderstandings are due to the shortage of officials recruited from local people. Hence there can be only one conclusion: the party must be given the urgent task of accelerating the formation of cadres of soviet and party officials from local people.

From the reports I pass over to the speeches. Comrades, I have to note that no one, not one speaker, has criticized the statement of principles in the draft program proposed by the Politbiuro. (A voice from the floor: ‘It is beyond criticism.’) I take this to imply the consent of the conference, as an expression of the solidarity of the conference with the theses set forth in the statement of principles in the program. (Voices from the floor: ‘Correct.’)

Trotsky’s amendment, which he had spoken about, or the amendment (which relates to principles) should be adopted, for it makes absolutely no change in the character of the statement of principles in the resolutions: it follows naturally from it. This all the more, since Trotsky’s amendment is essentially a reiteration of the well-known clause of the resolution of the Xth Congress on the national question, according to which it is inadmissible mechanically to transplant Petrograd and Moscow standards into the provinces and Republics. This would of course be a repetition, but I consider that to repeat certain things does no harm sometimes. In view of this I do not intend to dwell on the statement of principles in the resolution. Skrypnik’s speech gives some grounds for concluding that he is interpreting this statement of principles in his own way. While facing up to the basic task — the struggle against Great-Russian chauvinism, which is the main danger — he is trying to gloss over the other danger, that of local nationalism. But such an interpretation is profoundly erroneous.

The second part of the Politbiuro program deals with the questions of the nature of the Union of Republics, and some amendments to the Constitution of the Union of Republics with a view to establishing a so-called Second Chamber. I must say that, in this respect, the Politbiuro has some difference of opinion with the Ukrainian comrades. The draft program of the Politbiuro has been adopted unanimously by it. But some points are contested by Rakovskii. This was expressed, inter alia, in the commission of the plenary session of the Central Committee. Perhaps I ought not to speak about it, because this question is not being decided here. I have already reported on this part of the program, when I said that this question is being worked out in the commission of the plenary session of the Central Committee and in the commission of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the Union. But once we have touched on this question I cannot evade it.

It is incorrect to say that the question of whether it is to be a confederation or federation is a trivial one. Was it by accident that the Ukrainian comrades, when examining the well-known draft constitution adopted by the congress of the Union of Republics, have crossed out the phrase that the Republics ‘are uniting in a single Union state’? Was this an accident, or have they not done so? Why have they crossed out that phrase? Was it by accident that the Ukrainian comrades proposed in their counter draft, that the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade and the Peoples Commissariat of Foreign Affairs should not be merged, but transferred to the category of Republican Commissariats subject to mere directives from Union Commissariats? What sort of a Union is this, if every Republic keeps its own People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade? Was it by accident that, in their counter draft, the Ukrainians have reduced to zero the power of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee, by dividing it between two presidiums of two chambers? All these amendments by Rakovskii have been recorded, examined by the commission of the plenary session of the Central Committee, and rejected. Then why repeat them again here? I perceive in this persistence of some Ukrainian comrades the desire to obtain, in the definition of the nature of the Union, something between a confederation and federation, with the odds in favor of a confederation. Yet it is clear that we are not establishing a confederation, but a federation of Republics, a single Union, unifying the Departments of War, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and others, a state which does not diminish the sovereignty of the individual Republics.

If we should have in the Union a People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, a People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade, and others, and if, at the same time, such People’s Commissariats should also operate in the Republics forming part of the Union, then-as far as the outside world is concerned-the Union as a whole, as a single state, would obviously cease to exist; for there can be only one of two alternatives: either we merge these apparatuses and act, in face of the external enemy, as a single Union, or we do not merge them and do not establish a Union, but a conglomerate of Republics -in which case each Republic must have its own apparatus parallel to that of the others. In my opinion Comrade Manuilskii is right here and not Rakovskii and Skrypnik.

I cannot pass over in silence one of Grinko’s proposals that certain preferential conditions should be introduced to facilitate the entry into the party and the promotion to its leading organs of local people of the less cultured and, perhaps, less proletarian nationalities. This is a correct proposal, and should, in my opinion, be adopted.

I have not dwelt on the question of establishing, under the Central Committee, a commission on the national question. Comrades, I have some doubts about the expediency of establishing such an organization, in the first place because the Republics and provinces will certainly not give us leading officials for this business. I am convinced of that. In the second place, I think that the provincial committees and the national Central Committees will not consent to yield to the commission attached to the Central Committee a fraction of their rights in the matter of allocating officials. At present, when distributing our forces, we generally consult the provincial committees and the national Central Committees. If there is a commission, the center of gravity will naturally shift to it. There is no analogy between a commission on the national question and the commissions on the co-operative movement or on work among the peasants. The commission on work in the village and the commission on the co-operative movement usually work out general instructions. But in the national question we require not general instructions but specific measures for the individual Republics and provinces, a thing which the general commission would not be in a position to do. A commission of this kind would hardly be able to work out and adopt decisions of any sort, say for the Ukrainian Republic: two or three people from the Ukraine cannot act as substitutes for the Central Committee of the Ukrainian CP(B). That is why I think that such a commission will give us nothing substantial. The step which is contemplated here-the introduction of national elements into the basic departments of the Central Committee-is, in my opinion, quite sufficient for the time being. If we have no particular successes in half a year, then it will be possible to raise the question of establishing a special commission.

Source: Rudolf Schlesinger, ed., Changing Attitudes in Soviet Russia; the nationalities problem and Soviet administration (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1956), pp. 61-77.

Comments are closed.