Comments on a Letter of V.M. Molotov

Vijay Singh

Readers of this journal are aware that Molotov had defended the views of Lenin in his conversations with the Soviet poet Feliks Chuyev.1 In his letter to Kommunist given below Molotov defends the stand of Lenin that the dictatorship of the proletariat must remain until such time as classes disappear. Lenin held that Soviet Russia had overthrown the landowners and capitalists in the October revolution but it had yet to abolish the difference between the factory worker and the peasant. Until all had become workers the abolition of classes could not take place under socialism. Socialism entailed the abolition of the commodity system: 'Socialism, as we know, means the abolition of the commodity economy.'2

Lenin's positions were maintained and defended by the CPSU(b) after his death. At the 18th Congress of the party in 1939 Molotov argued that the Third Five-Year Plan had to be linked to the task of completing the creation of a classless socialist society and the gradual transition to communism.3 Stalin defended Lenin's theses as well. The principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat was retained in the Soviet Constitution of 1936.4 Stalin argued, after the elimination of the kulaks as a class, that antagonistic classes no longer existed in the Soviet Union, society consisted only of the two friendly classes of workers and peasants.5 This did not mean, as has been argued in some quarters, that Stalin considered that a classless socialist society had already been created in the 1930s. Stalin saw this as a task for the future. Regarding the new Soviet intelligentsia which had been created from within the working people he argued that they were 'engaged in building the new, classless, socialist society.'6 In his discussion of the changes which had taken place in the class structure of Soviet society Stalin referred not to the existence of a classless society in the USSR but that the dividing lines between the working class and the peasantry and between these classes and the intelligentsia were being obliterated and declining as were the economic and political contradictions betweens these sections.7 In the Report to the 17th Congress of the CPSU(b) Stalin referred to the existence of social contradictions in the following terms:

'Naturally, a classless society cannot come of its own accord, as it were. It has to be achieved and built by the efforts of all the working people, by strengthening the organs of the dictatorship, by intensifying the class struggle, by abolishing classes, by eliminating the remnants of the capitalist classes, and in battles with enemies, both internal and external.'9

The letter of Molotov published here helps to elucidate the content of the theoretical and political collision which took place between Molotov and the Khrushchev group in February, 1955 on the stage of development of socialist construction in the USSR. Molotov had stated the following at the session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR:

'Alongside the Soviet Union where the foundations of socialist society have already been built, there are also peoples democracies which have made only the first, but quite important, steps towards socialism.'10

In terms of Lenin's views given in Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Molotov was suggesting that only the basis of socialism had been constructed in the USSR and that the task of building a complete classless socialist society had yet to be constructed. In contrast Khrushchev argued that the edifice of socialist society had already been completed. With the majority of the CPSU leadership now abandoning Leninism, Molotov was compelled to recant. In an integrated way Khrushchev substituted 'the state of the whole people' for the dictatorship of the proletariat, and denied the necessity of the abolition of classes and the commodity system under socialism.11

Elsewhere Molotov indicated the implications of Lenin's notions for the understanding of the Brezhnev period when the stage of 'developed socialism' was the order of the day. Whereas Lenin had propounded the need for the abolition of classes to take place under socialism, ideologues such as the philosopher Glezerman argued that this would take place only in the distant communist future.12 Molotov continued to defend the positions elaborated by Stalin in his last major work Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR that there could not be any complete socialism in the Soviet Union while there existed two forms of property, state and cooperative and while commodity and money relations still continued to exist.13

A Leninist evaluation of parallel developments in the state and economy of the People's Republic of China is also facilitated by a reading of Molotov's letter to Kommunist.

The people's democracies of Central, South-Eastern Europe and China, Korea and Vietnam did not see the immediate establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the transition to socialism after liberation. They passed through different stages and dependent on this the class content changed. The first stage was that of the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolution in the course of which People's Democracy arose as the organ of revolutionary power, representing in its class content something akin to the dictatorship of the working class and peasantry, with the working class in the leading role. In this stage the new popular power directed its sharp edge against imperialist oppression, fascism, as well as against the prop of imperialism and fascism within the country - big, monopoly capital and landlordism. The second stage was that of the socialist revolution which required the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat at. The countries of Central and South-East Europe, with the exception of Yugoslavia, established the proletarian dictatorship and embarked upon the transition to socialism in 1948. The people's democracies of China, Korea and Vietnam did not at the close of the Stalin period fulfil the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat.14

The immediate tasks of the people's democratic state in China at its first stage was directed against imperialism, against the feudal landlords and the big (compradore) bourgeoisie which was a representative of foreign capital. The people's government annulled all the privileges of the imperialist countries in China, confiscated the capital of the big (compradore) bourgeoisie and converted it into state property, eradicated the semi-feudal system of ownership and the use of the land and transferred the land to the possession of the peasants; it protected the state and cooperative property and the economic interests and private property of the workers, peasants and national bourgeoisie; it pursued a policy of industrialisation.

The CPSU(b) differentiated between the people's democracies of Central and South-East Europe and the People's Republic of China in the following terms:

'While noting the fact that the Chinese People's Republic is a people's democratic state and that it fights with the whole democratic camp for common aims and tasks, one cannot fail to see the difference between the people's democracy in China and in the countries of Central and South-East Europe. It is known that in the Central and South-East European countries the people's democratic regime is performing the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the struggle of building the foundation of Socialism.

'At the present stage, the people's democracy in China is not a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Socialist construction has not yet been placed on the immediate order of the day in China.'15

The annulling of imperialist interests in China and the completion of the agrarian revolution meant that the anti-feudal and anti-imperialist tasks of the revolution had been achieved by 1952. The People's Republic of China stood on the brink of the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the transition to socialism:

'At present the Chinese people under the leadership of the working class at its head [is - ed. R.D.] set to realize the tasks of the socialist revolution and of the socialist transformation of society.'16

It is clear from Lenin's article Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a precondition for the transition to socialism. These theses were valid for the people's democracies. Dimitrov noted that the 'transition to socialism cannot be carried out without the dictatorship of the proletariat against the capitalist elements and for the organization of the socialist economy.'17 Development along socialist lines required that the urban bourgeoisie be economically liquidated and that the village bourgeoisie, the kulaks, had to be squeezed out of its economic positions as an exploiter of the toiling peasants while the development of the collective farms would create the conditions for their complete liquidation.18 The transition to socialism required the political defeat of the bourgeoisie and the concentration of the entire state power in the hands of the working class led by the Communists.19

Did the state of people's democracy in China after 1952 carry out the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat? The Constitution of China of 1954 was described as a 'constitution of socialist type.'20 Mao asserted that Lenin's theory on the dictatorship of the proletariat was by no means 'outmoded'.21 Yet the CPC avoided removing the political parties of the middle bourgeoisie from state power. Mao defended - in contrast to Lenin and Dimitrov - the retention of the 'democratic parties' under the 'socialist constitution'.22 As is known the political parties of the middle bourgeoisie have been retained in the National People's Congress to this very day. This clearly establishes that the people's democratic dictatorship was not transformed into the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The logical corollary of the failure to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat was that the economic basis, the relations of production of Chinese society, failed to develop towards laying the foundations of a socialist society. The middle bourgeoisie, while subjected to restrictions in the form of the joint state-private enterprises and subsequently faced economic restrictions to the utmost degree by having its interest on its capital frozen for 12 years during the cultural revolution, was not economically abolished. Mao Zedong went back on his statement of 1949 that the enterprises of the national bourgeoisie would be nationalised under socialism.23 This statement had been in consonance with the understanding of Dimitrov that development along socialist lines required that the 'last vestiges of the exploiters' classes in the towns - the urban bourgeoisie - will be economically liquidated'.24 This was necessary he argued because on the path to socialism 'the economic roots of capitalism are not yet extirpated; capitalist vestiges still persist and develop, trying to restore their rule.'25

'The compromising stance of the CPC extended to the landlords and the rich peasantry. The teachings of Marxism confined the membership of the cooperative farms to the small peasants. This is clear from the discussion of Engels in The Peasant Question in France and Germany.26 Accordingly, the rich peasantry in the USSR were not accepted in general into the collective farms.27 When in Yugoslavia the 'cooperative farms' were established in 1948 which incorporated the kulaks as members, the Cominform noted that 'the compulsory pseudo-cooperatives in the countryside are in the hands of kulaks and their agencies and represent an instrument for the exploitation of wide masses of working peasants.'28 In China the former landlords and rich peasants were permitted to become members of the agricultural cooperatives after 1955.29 During the upsurge of agricultural cooperation most of the rich peasantry and the former landlords were taken into the cooperatives.30 These relations of production were carried over to the agricultural communes established in 1958.

In terms of the analysis made by Lenin in Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat the People's Republic of China failed to carry out the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and failed to complete the overthrow of the power of the capitalists and landlords - which Lenin considered as 'not the most difficult' task. Necessarily, the People's Republic of China could not begin to abolish the difference between the factory worker and the peasant which alone could lead to the abolition of classes and commodity relations under socialism.

Molotov's letter to Kommunist thus has an extraordinary value when we attempt to analyse the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.


  1. C.N. Subramaniam, 'V.M. Molotov and the Liquidation of Socialism in the USSR', Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1995, pp. 20-29.
  2. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 15, Moscow, 1973, p. 138.
  3. 'XVIII S"ezd vsesoyuznoi kommunisticheskoi party (b)', Stenograficheskii otchet, Moscow, 1939, pp. 282-3.
  4. J. Stalin, 'On the Draft Constitution of the USSR', Moscow, 1945, p. 30.
  5. Ibid., p. 21.
  6. Ibid., p. 15.
  7. Loc. cit.
  8. J. Stalin, 'Problems of Leninism', Moscow, 1954, p. 635.
  9. J. Stalin, Works, Vol. 13, Moscow, 1956, p. 357.
  10. 'Meeting of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR', February 8th and 9th, Soviet News Booklet, London, 1955, p. 19.
  11. Albert Resis ed, 'Molotov Remembers', Chicago, 1993, pp. 348-49.
  12. Ibid., pp. 381-82.
  13. Ibid., pp. 383-84.
  14. A.I. Sobolov, 'People's Democracy, A New Form of Political Organization of Society', Moscow, 1954, p. 10.
  15. 'The People's Democracy in China', Pravda, September 23, 1950 in 'People's Democracy in China', Editorials from the Cominform journal and Pravda, Bombay, 1950, p. 15.
  16. A.I. Sobolov, op. cit., p. 77.
  17. G. Dimitrov 'Political Report Delivered to the V Congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Sofia, 1949, p. 93.
  18. Ibid., p. 78.
  19. A.I. Sobolov, op. cit., p. 89.
  20. 'Selected Works of Mao Tsetung', Vol. V, Peking, 1977, p. 297.
  21. Loc. cit.
  22. Loc. cit.
  23. 'Selected Works of Mao Tsetung', Vol. IV, Peking, 1975, p. 419.
  24. G. Dimitrov, loc. cit.
  25. Ibid., p. 52.
  26. K. Marx and F. Engels, 'Selected Works', London, 1968, p. 645.
  27. 'Model Statutes of the Agricultural Artel', Inprecor, Vol. 15, No. 13, 23rd March, 1935, p. 370.
  28. 'Communist Party of Yugoslavia in the Power of Murderers and Spies', Resolution of the Information Bureau, in 'The Struggle for Peace, National Independence, Working Class Unity', Bombay, 1950, p. 56.
  29. 'Selected Works of Mao Tsetung', Vol. V, Peking, 1977, p. 277.
  30. Chi An, 'Agricultural Cooperation: A Record of Achievement', People's China, October, 1956, p. 13.

To the Editor of the Journal Kommunist

Respected Comrade Editor!

I request you to publish the following text in your journal as "A Letter to the Editorial Board of the Kommunist Journal'

V. Molotov
15. XI. 77. My telephone: 561-**-**
P.S. I request to be intimated through a reply.


What Is This: Irresponsibility, or Lack of Principle?

Not long ago on 29th October Pravda published an article Lenin on Revolution which is signed by A. Kosichev, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor. This article has been written on the occasion of the publication of a Collection (in two volumes) under the heading 'V. Ulyanov (Lenin) On the Socialist Revolution.'

In this extremely superficial article of Prof. Kosichev the following quotation may be found:

'As was foreseen by Lenin, after the completion of the process of the liquidation of the exploiting classes the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat in conformity with natural law grows into the state of the whole people, into a democracy for all people.'

Prof. Kosichev does not indicate where and when Lenin said this. Nothing of this sort is printed in the two volumes of Lenin's work on the basis of which this article is based. All that the Doctor of Philosophy Kosichev says regarding Lenin is his own one hundred per cent fabrication. And yet the Editorial Board of Pravda, maybe because of its kindness, publishes this professorial gibberish. It is not difficult to ascertain Lenin's exact opinion on this given question. Here are some of Lenin's views. In the article Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat written in 1919 (Volume 39 [of the Russian edition, ed. R.D.]) Lenin wrote:

'Socialism means the abolition of classes.

'In order to abolish classes it is necessary, first, to overthrow the landowners and capitalists. This part of our task has been accomplished, but it is only a part, and moreover, not the most difficult part. In order to abolish classes it is necessary, secondly, to abolish the difference between factory worker and peasant, to make workers of all of them. This cannot be done all at once. This task is incomparably more difficult and will of necessity take a long time.' (pp. 276-277 [V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 30, Moscow, 1974, p. 112 in the English edition]).

In this very article Lenin again explains the essence of socialism and what is necessary for the victory of socialism from the point of view of the internal conditions of the country which is building Socialism (namely the necessity for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat).

Here is what Lenin says: about this:

'Socialism means the abolition of classes. The dictatorship of the proletariat has done all it could to abolish classes. But classes cannot be abolished at one stroke.

'And classes still remain and will remain in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship will become unnecessary when classes disappear. Without the dictatorship of the proletariat they will not disappear.' (p. 279 [V.I. Lenin, op. cit. pp. 114-115 in the English edition)].

From these (as well as other) quotations of Lenin it is not difficult to determine the views of Lenin on socialism and the socialist state. On comparing Lenin's words with the ones which have been quoted in the article mentioned it is apparent that Prof. Kosichev's reference to Lenin is unfounded. First, Lenin says definitely 'Socialism means the abolition of classes.' From this we can see that socialism will come into force fully only when classes will be liquidated, when the division of society into classes in the country will be destroyed. Kosichev (as some others) are not able to and do not want to understand this. He is satisfied with the liquidation of the exploiting classes only and simply remains quiet regarding the complete liquidation of classes. This Professor Kosichev misconstrues Lenin's idea, distorts the teachings of Marxism-Leninism under the garb of defending Lenin's view on Socialism. Second, Lenin points at the straight and unbreakable link between the building of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat not leaving any scope for any sort of evasiveness. Professor Kosichev (unfortunately not he alone) stands on a different position which is not that of Lenin. In such a situation is it permissible to hide one's non-Leninist positions by taking shelter under the name of Lenin?

The following question arises: perhaps the ideas of Lenin cited above in the course of 60 years of building socialism in the USSR (and also in other countries) have not been confirmed or have become outdated? Then why do we not talk of this in a straightforward and honest manner as Lenin taught us in such situations.

Such questions as is apparent do not bother the Doctor of Philosophy Professor Kosichev. But they rightfully confront the Communists, they confront all those who are fighting for socialism and for the victory of Communism.

As regards Kosichev's article in Pravda - what exactly is this - professorial free-willed irresponsibility or lack of political principle, or both of these together?

V. Molotov (Member of the CPSU from 1906 to 1962)
15th November 1977

'Marxist' No. 2, 1994, pp. 112-113

Translated from the Russian by Neelakshi Suryanarayan.

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