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The Reality of History and the Myths of Politics

Selected articles from the book “Lenin's political testament: the reality of history and the myths of politics” by Sakharov V.A.

Translation from Russian by Comrade Svitlana, Marxist Leninist Discussion Group, and few by paid translator. (Final book and articles here may have slight differences) PDF Download book

 Introduction (below)

Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky

How To Turn Nep Russia into Socialist Russia


The 20th century has ended. A century that has passed for Russia under the sign of major reforms and grandiose revolutions, in which the country was looking for a solution to the problems facing it. An important turning point in this process was the Great October Socialist Revolution, which is inextricably linked with the name and work of V.I. Lenin and the organization of revolutionaries he created a hundred years ago, in 1903, the Bolshevik Party. 1917 was the year of the triumph of V.I. Lenin. The tactics he proposed enabled the Bolsheviks, whose authority and influence as far back as the summer of 1917 could not be compared with the political strength of their opponents, in September-October to lead the rising people's revolution and give it a socialist character.

In the course of the struggle to retain power and implement the program for the socialist reorganization of society, the Bolsheviks accumulated vast political and social experience, which allowed Lenin to significantly refine and develop the concept of building socialism. An important place in this process is occupied by the latest works of V.I. Lenin, known as his "Political testament".

Decades have passed. A socialist society was formed in the USSR, which had a huge impact on world development in the 20th century. However, having failed to defend the political, social, and moral-psychological positions it had won in the struggle against modern capitalism, Soviet socialism itself became the property of history. The cycle of the country's historical development has come to an end.

The political and ideological battles of the times of “perestroika” died down, during which the authority of V.I. Lenin and his "Political Testament" were used as a weapon to crush socialism. In society, the former interest in the history of the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Party and its main figures has faded. The problems of the " Testament " of V.I. Lenin, which excited the minds, has lost its former political relevance. Now other problems worry society.

The political interest of the new government forced it to slightly open the archives of the defeated enemy - the CPSU and the Soviet state and open access to previously inaccessible documents. It became possible to explore not only the archival texts of the Testament, but also those problems that had previously been covered only by memoir sources. And it immediately became clear that with these documents, not everything is as simple and unambiguous as it seemed before, that Lenin's Testament, which had great potential for ideological and psychological influence on Soviet people, was for a long time considered by the leadership of the CPSU as a means to achieve political goals that had nothing to do with an objective analysis of historical experience.

Unfortunately, historians use newly discovered documents mainly to argue for positions long accepted in historiography, so the study of the problem, despite the abundance of literature and the success achieved in clarifying individual issues, should be recognized as insufficient. Insufficient both in terms of the possibilities that the currently available sources provide, and the range of problems to be investigated, as well as the argumentation of many conclusions and assessments.

The most important problem left without due attention of historians and being the key to the entire problematics of the Testament is the establishment of Lenin’s authorship of each of the texts included in it.

The grounds for posing this question appeared already in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when new documents became available to a wide range of historians, from which a picture emerged that was significantly different from that which was accepted in historiography. The need to study the Testament became obvious in the context of the political struggle that took place in the leadership of the RCP (b) and which in many ways still remained unexplored. A need arose in historical science, and it became possible to carry out a comprehensive analysis of Lenin's latest works.

An attempt by the author of this book to draw the attention of researchers to these problems, undertaken at the international conference "Russia in the 20th century", caused a sharply negative reaction. The authors of the book "Confrontation: Krupskaya - Stalin" V.A. Kumanev and I.S. Kulikova wrote:

“The statement of one “researcher” at the International Conference “Russia in the 20th Century” (1993) that “Krupskaya forged some provisions in the Testament” [1] looks completely groundless and absurd.

The words attributed to me have nothing in common with what I said at this conference, but they quite accurately convey the reaction of most of its participants to the question of the dubiousness of the Lenin’s authorship of some texts of the Testament [2].

Awareness of the need to establish Lenin’s authorship of individual texts of the "Testament" radically changes the general approach to the study of both each of the texts included in it, and their entire complex as a whole.

The texts of the Testament, with their assessments and proposals, should turn from the starting point of all discussions about Lenin's views and intentions, from an indisputable "verdict", as was the case in traditional historiography, into an object of comprehensive source study. First of all. And only after that will it be possible to study their content in order to study Lenin's views, attitudes, moods, etc.

The scientific relevance and significance of the topic chosen by the author are determined, firstly, by the fact that it, as a focus, collects many of the most important questions of the history and theory of the socialist revolution, and, secondly, by the fact that it itself organically enters into a wide range of problems of national history. The political significance of the topic is determined by the importance of the intellectual process in which Lenin's "Testament" turns out to be inscribed - the process of comprehending the grandiose socio-economic, political, and spiritual experience of the Russian revolution.

The book offered to the reader is an attempt at a systematic analysis of the history of the creation of the "Political Testament", its content and use in the political struggle of the 1920s.

We did not initially question Lenin’s authorship of any of the texts of the Testament and therefore did not intend to prove that they do not belong to V.I. Lenin. The scientific formulation of the problem, in our opinion, consists in the need to prove that this or that document belongs to V. I. Lenin. In other words, only a document whose Lenin’s authorship has been proven can be considered Lenin’s.

The source base available to historians, despite certain shortcomings, makes it possible to conduct a study to establish Lenin’s authorship of each of the texts of the Testament. The author considers the main condition for success to be the identification of a real connection between the content of the texts of the Testament and the political struggle that took place within the Central Committee of the RCP (b), as well as a comprehensive analysis of all available sources.

The immediate objectives of the study are to study the political conditions in which V.I. Lenin; studying the history of the creation of each of his texts; analysis of their political content; clarification of the circumstances of the promulgation of the texts of the "Testament" and their use in the course of the inner-party struggle.

The methodological basis of the study is dialectical materialism in an organic combination with the so-called "civilizational approach", which, as the author believes, does not oppose dialectical materialism, but organically combines with it [3].

It is impossible for a historian in the course of his research to abstract from the views, feelings, predilections inherent in him, like any other citizen. In world outlook, ideological, and political terms, the author is also not indifferent. However, in our opinion, a conscious and, if possible, clear delineation of political and scientific interests makes it possible to increase the independence of scientific conclusions from political predilections. This is important, because deceit in historical science for the sake of political gain can only give tactical advantages but predetermines a strategic loss. To achieve strategic goals in the political struggle, it is necessary to have the most accurate knowledge of the historical past and an understanding of the laws governing the development of society.

The specific features of the complex of documents under study pose a difficult task for us to establish a conceptual apparatus. In everyday political life and in historiography, no consensus has been developed regarding the name of Lenin's last works. The complex of Lenin's last documents, dictated by him in the period from December 23, 1922, to the beginning of March 1923, entered historical science under different names: “Last Letters and Articles”, “Political Testament” (or “Testament”). It includes texts published in 1923 and called articles, regardless of whether Lenin prepared them for publication or not. These include articles published in January-March 1923 in accordance with his will, “Pages from a Diary”, “How We Can Reorganize the Labor Committee (Proposal to the XII Party Congress)” and “Better Less, But Better”, as well as texts presented by N.K. Krupskaya in May 1923 in the Politburo and published in the newspaper Pravda with the titles given by the publishers: “On cooperation”, “On our revolution (on the notes of N. Sukhanov)”.

Calling these texts "articles", we will use this word in quotation marks to set off the conventionality of the title, which does not belong to Lenin, and the purpose and nature of these materials.

The other part of the texts was not published for various reasons: either in view of an official ban, or because the question of their publication was not raised at all.

The former includes the dictations of December 24-25, 1922 (the so-called "characteristics") and January 4, 1923 (the "addition" to them), as well as the text known as the notes "On the question of nationalities or on "autonomization"" (other names of these notes are also used in historiography: letter, article).

To the second - dictations on December 26-29, 1922, devoted to the issues of reforming the Central Committee of the RCP (b) and the Workers 'and Peasants' Inspectorate (RKI), as well as notes on the State Planning Commission, known as "On giving legislative functions to the State Planning Commission." These texts, which were not published as articles in 1923, are usually called "Letter to the Congress." The set of texts included in this "letter" varies from author to author. Often, under "Letter to the Congress" they mean only the dictations of December 24-25 and January 4. Sometimes it includes all the dictations from December 23 to 31, 1922 (including the notes "On the Question of Nationalities or "Autonomization""). Sometimes notes on the national question are not included in it. Thus, there is no established system in the use of these terms.

Since a number of documents published as articles were not such, they were not letters, but represent primary studies of individual problems, it would be more correct to call this full set of documents, taking into account the accepted in historiography and well-established terminology, Lenin's last letters, notes, and articles.

At the same time, by "Letter to the Congress" we will mean only the so-called "characteristics" and "addition" to them - texts dated December 24-25, 1922, and January 4, 1923. Using the term "Political testament" ("Testament") and keeping in mind the conventionality of this name, we will have in mind all the texts traditionally considered to be Lenin's, regardless of whether they really belonged to Lenin.

This is justified, since it was under this name that they entered the political life of the country and, as such, influenced the position of the members of the Communist Party, the public consciousness of the Soviet people and world public opinion.


[1] Kumanev V.A., Kulikova I.S. Confrontation: Krupskaya - Stalin. M., 1994. S. 58.

[2] Sakharov V.A. Historical legends in the political struggle // Russia in the XX century: The fate of historical science. M., 1996. S. 649-669.

[3] See: Sakharov V.A. Formational and civilizational approaches to the study of the features of the historical development of Russia in the works of K. Marx // Civilizational and formational approaches to the study of national history: theory and methodology (Concrete historical problems). Issue. 4, part 1. M., 1996. S. 110–120.

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