Lenin’s Testament

Vladimir Lenin, Letter to the Thirteenth Party Congress. December 23, 1922


Notes from the 1957 Pravda publication: Below are published notes dictated by V. I. Lenin, December, 1922-January, 1923, including the “Letter to the Congress,” known as the “Testament”; the letter “On Conferring Legislative Functions Upon the State Planning Commission,” and the letter “On the Question of Nationalities or ‘Autonomizing.'” These documents belong among V. I. Lenin’s last works of programmatic significance: “Pages From a Diary,” “On Cooperatives,” “On Our Revolution (Concerning N. Sukhanov’s Memoranda),” “How We Should Reorganize the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection (Proposal to the 12th Party Congress),” and “Better Less, but Better,” which were dictated in January-February, 1923, and published at that time in Pravda. In the “Letter to the Congress” V. I. Lenin stressed the need of preserving unity in the Communist Party. As one of the measures for ensuring Party unity, raising the authority of the Central Committee and improving the Party apparatus, V. I. Lenin proposed increasing the number of members of the Central Committee, then composed of 27 persons, to 50-100. V. I. Lenin’s letter gives a characterization of certain members of the Party Central Committee, noting both their positive and negative features. Lenin wrote of Trotsky’s non-Bolshevism, he recalled the latter’s struggle against the Central Committee and pointed out that Trotsky was “possessed by excessive self-confidence and overly attracted by the purely administrative side of matters.”‘ Lenin also stressed that the anti-Party position of Kamenev and Zinoviev in the period of preparation of the October armed uprising was not fortuitous. He drew attention to the fact that it is very doubtful whether Bukharin’s theoretical views could be classified as completely Marxist. V. I. Lenin described Piatakov as a man too much given to administration and the administrative aspect of matters to be relied on in a serious political issue. V. I. Lenin pointed out Stalin’s shortcomings, his rudeness, his capriciousness, his disloyalty and insufficient attentiveness to comrades. Noting that as General Secretary of the Party Central Committee Stalin had acquired immense power, Lenin expressed fears as to whether Stalin would always know how to use this power with sufficient caution and proposed that thought be given to the question of replacing Stalin in the post of General Secretary. In accordance with V. I. Lenin’s wish, this letter was made public to the delegations to the 13th Party Congress, which discussed the question of removing Stalin from the post of General Secretary. The delegations to the Congress expressed themselves in favor of leaving J. V. Stalin in the office of General Secretary, with the idea that he would take note of V. I. Lenin’s critical remarks and would be able to remedy his shortcomings. After V. I. Lenin’s death the Communist Party, under the leadership of the Central Committee, ideologically routed the Trotskyites, Zinovievites and Bukharinites, upheld Leninism, led the Soviet people along the path of carrying out Lenin’s behests, and ensured the building of socialism in our country. J. V. Stalin played a major role in the struggle against the Trotskyites and Bukharinites. However, as time passed, especially in the final years of J. V. Stalin’s life, his negative traits, which had aroused V. I. Lenin’s apprehensions, became stronger and led to grave consequences for the Party and the state. J. V. Stalin began to violate grossly the Lenin principle of collective leadership, he indulged in arbitrariness, abuse of power and violations of socialist legality, and he committed serious errors in the management of agriculture, in military affairs and in the sphere of foreign policy.

Original Source: Pravda, 22 April 1957, p. 1.

I recommend very much that at this Congress a number of changes be undertaken in our political system.

I wish to share with you the considerations which I regard as the most important.

I give first place to increasing the number of members of the Central Committee to several dozen or even to a hundred. It seems to me that our Central Committee would be threatened by great dangers if the trend of events were to be not completely favorable to us (and we cannot count on this), if we did not undertake this reform.

Next, I am thinking of inviting the attention of the Congress to the idea of imparting a legislative character to the decisions of the State Planning Commission on certain conditions, in this respect moving toward Comrade Trotsky’s views to a certain extent and under certain conditions.

As regards the first item, that is, increasing the number of members of the Central Committee, I think that such a thing is necessary for raising the authority of the Central Committee, for serious work to improve our apparatus, and for averting a situation in which conflicts among small sections of the Central Committee might become of inordinate significance for all the destinies of the Party.

It seems to me that our party has the right to demand 50-100 Central Committee members from the working class and can obtain them without excessive strain upon it.

Such a reform would considerably increase the stability of our party and lighten for it the struggle among hostile states which, in my opinion, can and must grow much sharper in the next few years. It seems to me that the stability of our party, thanks to this measure, would gain a thousand fold. -LENIN. 23/XII/22. Dictated to M. V.

Continuation of Notes. II Dec. 24, 1922.

By the stability of the Central Committee, to which I referred above, I mean measures against a split, insofar as such measures can be taken in general. For, of course, the White-Guard in Russkaia mysl (S. F. Oldenburg, I think it was) was right when, firstly, in their game against Soviet Russia he banked on a split in our party and when, secondly, he banked for this split on extremely serious dissensions within the Party.

Our party rests on two classes, and therefore its instability is possible, and its collapse is inevitable if there could not be agreement between these two classes. In that event it would be useless to take any measures or in general to discuss the stability of our Central Committee. In that case no measures would prove capable of preventing a split; But I trust that this is too remote in the future and is too improbable an event to talk about.

I have in mind stability as a guarantee against a split in the near future and I intend to examine here a number of considerations of a purely personal nature.

I think that fundamental in the question of stability from this point of view are such members of the Central Committee as Stalin and Trotsky. The relations between them constitute, in my opinion, a good half of the danger of a split which could be avoided and the avoidance of which, in my opinion, should be furthered by, among other things, raising the number of members of the Central Committee to 50 or 100.

Having become General Secretary, Comrade Stalin has acquired immense power, and I am not sure that he will always know how to use this power with sufficient caution. On the other hand, Comrade Trotsky, as already shown by his struggle against the Central Committee over the question of the People’s Commissariat of Railroads, is distinguished not only by outstanding abilities. Personally, he is no doubt the most able man in the present Central Committee, but he is also possessed by excessive self confidence and overly attracted by the purely administrative side of matters.

These two qualities in the two outstanding leaders of the present Central Committee may inadvertently lead to a split and, unless our party takes measures to prevent it, the split may occur unexpectedly.

I shall not go on to characterize the other members of the Central Committee as to personal traits. I shall recall only that the October episode of Zinoviev and Kamenev was not, of course, fortuitous, but that it ought as little to be held against him personally as the non-Bolshevism of Trotsky.

Of the young members of the Central Committee I wish to say a few words about Bukharin and Piatakov. These are in my opinion the most outstanding forces (among the youngest) and the following should be borne in mind in regard to them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and most eminent Party theoretician, he is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole Party, but it is very doubtful whether his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist, because there is something pedantic in them (he never studied and, I think, never fully understood dialectics).

25/XII.-Next, Piatakov, a man of undoubtedly outstanding will and outstanding ability, but too much given to administration and the administrative aspect of matters to be relied on in a serious political issue.

Of course, I make both comments only as regards the present, on the assumption that both these outstanding and devoted workers may find occasion to increase their knowledge and correct their one-sidedness. -LENIN. 25/XII/22. Dictated to M. V.


Stalin is too rude [Russian: grubyi] and this failing, which is quite tolerable in our midst and in relations among us Communists, becomes intolerable in the office of General Secretary. Therefore, I propose to the comrades that they think of a way of removing Stalin from this post and appointing to it another person who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in one advantage alone, namely, that he be more tolerant, more loyal, more courteous and more considerate to comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may seem an insignificant trifle. But I think that from the point of view of averting a split and from the point of view of the mutual relations between Stalin and Trotsky, of which I wrote above, it is not a trifle, or it is such a trifle as may acquire decisive importance. LENIN. Dictated to L. F. Jan. 4, 1923.

Source: Current Soviet Policies (New York: F. A. Praeger, 1957), pp. 210-216.


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