Vladimir Lenin

Theses On The Food Question[1]

For The Commissariats Of Food, Agriculture; The Supreme Economic, Council, Finance, Trade And Industry

Written: 2 August, 1918.
First Published: 1931; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1965, pages 44-46
Translated (and edited): Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
Online Version: V.I.Lenin Internet Archive, 2002

I propose that these Commissariats hurry to debate and formulate the following measures no later than today (August 2) so that they can be put through the Council of People's Commissars today or tomorrow.

(Some of these measures should be in decrees, others in unpublished decisions.)

(1) Out of the two schemes-lowering prices on manufactured and other goods or raising the purchasing price of grain-we must certainly choose the latter for, though the two are essentially the same, only the latter can help us in quickly getting more grain from a number of grain growing provinces like Simbirsk, Saratov, Voronezh, etc., and help us neutralise as many peasants as possible in the Civil War.

(2) I suggest raising the grain prices to 30 rubles a pood, and correspondingly (and even more) to raise prices on manufactured and other goods.

(3) I suggest for discussion: whether to make this a temporary rise (so that we can sum up the practical indications as to the correct principle on which our trade exchange should be organised), say, for a month or month and a half, promising to lower prices afterwards (thereby offering bonuses for quick collection).

(4) To enact several very urgent measures for requisitioning all the products of urban industry for exchange (and put up their prices after requisitioning to a greater extent than the rise in grain prices).

(5)To preface the decree on grain price rise with a popular elucidation of the measure connected with the trade exchange and the establishment of the correct correlation between the prices of grain, manufactured and other goods.

(6) The decree should immediately compel the co-operatives a) to set up a grain-collection point in each village shop; b) to give goods only according to the customers' ration books; c) not to give a single item to peasant-farmers except in exchange for grain.

To establish forms and means of control over the implementation of these measures and introduce stern punishment (confiscation of all property) for their violation.

(7) To confirm (or to formulate more precisely) the rules and regulations concerning property confiscation for not handing over to the state (or the co-operatives) grain surpluses and all ether food products for registration.

(8) To impose a tax in kind, in grain, on the rich peasants. This category could include those whose amount of grain (including the new harvest) is double or more than double their own consumption (taking into account needs for their family, lives to and sowing).

This is to be designated as an income and property tax and made progressive.

(9) To establish for workers of the hungry regions temporarily, let's say for one month, preferential carriage of 1.5 poods of gain on condition of special certificate and special control.

The certificate must contain the exact address and authority a) from a factory committee; b) from a house committee; c) from a trade union; and control must establish that it is for personal consumption, with a very severe penalty to anyone who cannot prove the impossibility of its reselling.

(10) To make it a rule to issue a receipt, two or three copies, for literally every requisition (particularly in the countryside and on the railway). To print forms of the receipt. Shooting to be the penalty for not giving a receipt.

(11) To enforce the same penalty for members of all kinds of requisitioning, food and other teams for any blatantly unjust action towards the working people or any infringement of the rules and regulations or actions liable to rouse the indignation of the population, as well as for failure to keep a record and to hand over a copy to anyone who has already suffered requisitioning or punishment.

(12) To make it a rule that the workers and poor peasants in the hungry regions should have the right to have a goods train delivered to their station directly, under certain conditions: a) authorisation of local organisations (Soviet of Deputies plus the trade union without fail and others); b) making up a responsible team; c) inclusion in it of teams from other regions; d) participation of an inspector and Commissar from the Food, War, Transport and other Commissariats; e) their control of the train load and the distribution of grain. They must see that a compulsory part (a third to a half or more) goes to the Food Commissariat.

(13) As an exception, in view of the acute hunger among some railway workers and the particular importance of railways for grain delivery, to establish temporarily that: requisitioning or anti-profiteering teams, in requisitioning the grain, shall issue receipts to those from whom it has been taken, and put the grain into the goods waggons and dispatch these waggons to the Central Food Bureau, while observing the following forms of control: a) sending a telegram to the Food and Transport Commissariats notifying them about each goods waggon; b) summoning officials from both Commissariats to meet the goods waggon and distribute the grain under the Food Commissariat's supervision.


[1] Lenin wrote the theses a t the time when the country was in the grip of a very severe food crisis and was beating off the foreign interventionists and couter-revolutinaries at home.

The theses provided the basis for the six decrees on the food question which were dicussed and adopted at the sessions of the Council of People’s Commissars on August 3, 4, 5 and 6, 1918: On the Enlistment of the Service of the Workers’ Organisations in Grain Collection; decree on Harvesting and Requisitioning Teams;Regulations on Guard Requisitioning Teams on Railways and Water Routes; Decree on Obligatory Commodity Exchange in the Grain-Growing Areas; On Fixed Prices for the Grain Harvested in 1918, and the appeal of the Council of People’s Commissars to all working people entitled "Join the Grain Campaign". The decrees were all published in Izvestia on August 6 and 8.

The decree on tax in kind mentioned in Clause 8 of the theses was drafted later and adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on October 26, 1918.