Bolshevik Writers: J. V. Stalin (1879-1953)

J.V. Stalin

The Political Tasks of the University of the
Peoples of the East

Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Students
of the Communist University
of the Toilers of the East


First Published: Pravda, No. 115, May 22, 1925
Source: J. V. Stalin, Works, Volume 7, pages 135 - 154. Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription: Hari Kumar for Alliance-ML


 May 18, 1925

Comrades, permit me, first of all, to greet you on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the existence of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. Needless to say, I wish your University every success on the difficult road of training communist cadres for the East.

And now let us pass to the matter in hand.

Analysing the composition of the student body of the University of the Toilers of the East, one cannot help noting a certain duality in it. This University unites representatives of not less than fifty nations and national groups of the East. All the students at this University are sons of the East. But that definition does not give any clear or complete picture. The fact is that there are two main groups among the students at the University, representing two sets of totally different conditions of development. The first group consists of people who have come here from the Soviet East, from countries where the rule of the bourgeoisie no longer exists, where imperialist oppression has been overthrown, and where the workers are in power. The second group of students consists of people who have come here from colonial and dependent countries, from countries where capitalism still reigns, where imperialist oppression is still in full force, and where independence has still to be won by driving out the imperialists.

Thus, we have two Easts, living different lives, and developing under different conditions.

Needless to say, this duality in the composition of the student body cannot but leave its impress upon the work of the University of the Toilers of the East. That explains the fact that this University stands with one foot on Soviet soil and the other on the soil of the colonies and dependent countries.

Hence the two lines of the University's activity: one line having the aim of creating cadres capable of serving the needs of the Soviet republics of the East, and the other line having the aim of creating cadres capable of serving the revolutionary requirements of the toiling masses in the colonial and dependent countries of the East.

Hence, also, the two kinds of tasks that face the University of the Toilers of the East.

Let us examine these tasks of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East separately.

I.
The Tasks of the Communist University
of the Toilers of the East
in Relation to the Soviet Republics of the East

What are the characteristic features of the life and development, of these countries, of these republics, which distinguish them from the colonial and dependent countries?

Firstly, these republics are free from imperialist oppression.

Secondly, they are developing and becoming consolidated as nations not under the aegis of the bourgeois order, but under the aegis of Soviet power. That is a fact unprecedented in history, but it is a fact for all that.

Thirdly, inasmuch as they are industrially under-developed, they can in their development rely wholly and entirely on the support of the industrial proletariat of the Soviet Union.

Fourthly, being free from colonial oppression, enjoying the protection of the proletarian dictatorship, and being members of the Soviet Union, these republics can and must be drawn into the work of building socialism in our country.

The main task is to make it easier to draw the workers and peasants of these republics into the work of building socialism in our country, to create and develop the prerequisites, applicable in the specific conditions of life in these republics, that can promote and hasten this process.

Hence, the immediate tasks that face the leading cadres in the Soviet East are:

1) To create industrial centres in the Soviet republics of the East to serve as bases for rallying the peasants around the working class. You know that this work has already begun, and it will advance together with the economic growth of the Soviet. Union. The fact that these republics possess all kinds of raw materials is a guarantee that in time this work will be completed.

2) To raise the level of agriculture, above all irrigation. You know that this work has also been pushed forward, at any rate in Transcaucasia and in Turkestan.

3) To start and further promote the organisation of co-operatives for the broad masses of the peasants and handicraftsmen as the surest way of drawing the Soviet republics in the East into the general system of Soviet economic construction.

4) To bring the Soviets closer to the masses, to make them national in composition, and in this way implant national-Soviet statehood, close to and comprehensible to the toiling masses.

5) To develop national culture, to set up a wide net-work of courses and schools for both general education and vocational-technical training, to be conducted in the native languages for the purpose of training Soviet, Party, technical and business cadres from the local people.

It is precisely the fulfilment of these tasks that will facilitate the work of building socialism in the Soviet republics of the East.

There is talk about model republics in the Soviet East. But what is a model republic? A model republic is one which carries out all these tasks honestly and conscientiously, thereby attracting the workers and peasants of the neighbouring colonial and dependent countries to the liberation movement.

I have spoken above about bringing the Soviets closer to the toiling masses of the different nationalities-about making the Soviets national in character. But what does that mean, and how does it manifest itself in practice? I think that the national delimitation recently completed in Turkestan (1) can serve as a model of the way the Soviets should be brought closer to the masses. The bourgeois press regards this delimitation as "Bolshevik cunning. " It is obvious, however, that this was a manifestation not of "cunning," but of the deep-rooted aspiration of the masses of the people of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to have their own organs of power, close to and comprehensible to them. In the pre-revolutionary epoch, both these countries were torn to pieces and distributed among various khanates and states, thus providing a convenient field for the exploiting machinations of "the powers that be." The time has now come when it has become possible for these scattered pieces to be reunited in independent states, so that the toiling masses of Uzbekistan and of Turkmenistan may be brought closer to the organs of power and linked solidly with them. The delimitation of Turkestan is, above all, the reunion of the scattered parts of these countries in independent states. That, these states later expressed the wish to join the Soviet Union as equal members of it merely shows that the Bolsheviks have found the key to the deep-rooted aspirations of the masses of the people of the East, and that the Soviet Union is a voluntary union of the toiling masses of different nationalities, the only one in the world. To reunite Poland, the bourgeoisie needed a whole series of wars. To reunite Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, however, the Communists needed only a few months of explanatory propaganda.

That is the way to bring the organs of government, in this case the Soviets, closer to the broad masses of the toilers of different nationalities.

That is the proof that the Bolshevik national policy is the only correct policy.

I spoke, further, about raising the level of national culture in the Soviet republics of the East. But what is national culture? How is it to be reconciled with proletarian culture? Did not Lenin say, already before the war, that there are two cultures — bourgeois and socialist; that the slogan of national culture is a reactionary slogan of the bourgeoisie, who try to poison the minds of the working people with the venom of nationalism?(2) How is the building of national culture, the development of schools and courses in the native languages, and the training of cadres from the local people, to be reconciled with the building of socialism, with the building of proletarian culture? Is there not an irreconcilable contradiction here? Of course not! We are building proletarian culture. That is absolutely true. But it is also true that proletarian culture, which is socialist in content, assumes different forms and modes of expression among the different peoples who are drawn into the building of socialism, depending upon differences in language, manner of life, and so forth. Proletarian in content, national in form-such is the universal culture towards which socialism is proceeding. Proletarian culture does not abolish national culture, it gives it content. On the other hand, national culture does not abolish proletarian culture, it gives it form. The slogan of national culture was a bourgeois slogan as long as the bourgeoisie was in power and the consolidation of nations proceeded under the aegis of the bourgeois order. The slogan of national culture became a proletarian slogan when the proletariat came to power, and when the consolidation of nations began to proceed under the aegis of Soviet power. Whoever fails to understand the fundamental difference between these two situations will never understand either Leninism or the essence of the national question.

Some people (Kautsky, for instance) talk of the creation of a single universal language and the dying away of all other languages in the period of socialism. I have little faith in this theory of a single, all-embracing language. Experience, at any rate, speaks against rather than for such a theory. Until now what has happened has been that the socialist revolution has not diminished but rather increased the number of languages; for, by stirring up the lowest sections of humanity and pushing them on to the political arena, it awakens to new life a number of hitherto unknown or little-known nationalities. Who could have imagined that the old, tsarist Russia consisted of not less than fifty nations and national groups? The October Revolution, however, by breaking the old chains and bringing a number of forgotten peoples and nationalities on to the scene, gave them new life and a new development. Today, India is spoken of as a single whole. But there can scarcely be any doubt that, in the event of a revolutionary upheaval in India, scores of hitherto unknown nationalities, having their own separate languages and separate cultures, will appear on the scene. And as regards implanting proletarian culture among the various nationalities, there can scarcely be any doubt that this will proceed in forms corresponding to the languages and manner of life of these nationalities.

Not long ago I received a letter from some Buryat comrades asking me to explain serious and difficult questions concerning the relations between universal culture and national culture. Here it is:

"We earnestly request you to explain the following, for us, very serious and difficult questions. The ultimate aim of the Communist Party is to achieve a single universal culture. How is one to conceive the transition to a single universal culture through the national cultures which are developing within the limits of our individual autonomous republics? How is the assimilation of the specific features of the individual national cultures (language, etc.) to take place?"

I think that what has just been said might serve as an answer to the anxious question put by these Buryat comrades.

The Buryat comrades raise the question of the assimilation of the individual nationalities in the course of building a universal proletarian culture. Undoubtedly, some nationalities may, and perhaps certainly will, undergo a process of assimilation. Such processes have taken place before. The point is, however, that the process of assimilation of some nationalities does not exclude, but presupposes the opposite process of the strengthening and further development of quite a number of existing and developing nations; for the partial process of assimilation of individual nationalities is the result of the general process of development of nations. It is precisely for this reason that the possible assimilation of some individual nationalities does not weaken, but confirms the entirely correct thesis that proletarian universal culture does not exclude, but presupposes and fosters the national culture of the peoples, just as the national culture of the peoples does not annul, but supplements and enriches universal proletarian culture.

Such, in general, are the immediate tasks that face the leading cadres of the Soviet republics of the East.

Such are the character and content of these tasks.

Advantage must be taken of the period that has begun of intense economic construction and of new concessions to the peasantry to promote the fulfilment of these tasks, and thereby to make it easier to draw the Soviet republics in the East, which are mainly peasant countries, into the work of building socialism in the Soviet Union.

It is said that the Party's new policy towards the peasantry, in making a number of new concessions (land on short lease, permission to employ hired labour), contains certain elements of retreat. Is that true? Yes, it is. But those are elements of retreat that we permit alongside the retention of an overwhelming superiority of forces on the side of the Party and the Soviet power. Stable currency, developing industry, developing transport, a credit system which is growing stronger, and by means of which it is possible, through preferential credits, to ruin or to raise to a higher level any stratum of the population without causing the slightest upheaval-all these are reserves at the command of the proletarian dictatorship by means of which certain elements of retreat on one sector of the front can only facilitate the preparation of an offensive along the whole front. Precisely for this reason, the few new concessions that the Party has made to the peasantry should, at the present time, make it easier rather than more difficult to draw the peasantry into the work of building socialism.

What can this circumstance mean for the Soviet republics in the East? It can only mean that it places in the hands of the leading cadres in these republics a new weapon enabling these countries to be more easily and quickly linked with the general system of Soviet economic development.

Such is the connection between the Party's policy in the countryside and the immediate national tasks confronting the leading cadres in the Soviet East.

In this connection, the task of the University of the Peoples of the East in relation to the Soviet republics of the East is to train cadres for these republics along lines that will ensure the fulfilment of the immediate tasks I have enumerated above.

The University of the Peoples of the East must not isolate itself from life. It is not, nor can it be, an institution standing above life. It must be connected with actual life through every fibre of its being. Consequently, it cannot ignore the immediate tasks confronting the Soviet republics in the East. That is why the task of the University of the Peoples of the East is to take the immediate tasks that face these republics into account in training the appropriate cadres for them.

In this connection, it is necessary to bear in mind the existence of two deviations in the practice of the leading cadres in the Soviet East, deviations which must be combated within the precincts of this University if it is to train real cadres and real revolutionaries for the Soviet East.

The first deviation lies in simplification, a simplification of the tasks of which I have spoken above, an attempt mechanically to transplant models of economic construction which are quite comprehensible and applicable in the centre of the Soviet Union, but which are totally unsuited to the conditions of development in the so-called border regions. The comrades who are guilty of this deviation fail to understand two things. They fail to understand that conditions in the centre and in the "border regions" are not alike and are far from being identical. Furthermore, they fail to understand that the Soviet republics themselves in the East are not alike, that some of them, Georgia and Armenia, for example, are at a higher stage of national formation, whereas others, Chechnya and Kabarda, for example, are at a lower stage of national formation, and others again, Kirghizia, for example, occupy a middle position between these two extremes. These comrades fail to understand that if the work is not adapted to local conditions, if all the various specific features of each country are not carefully taken into account, nothing of importance can be built. The result of this deviation is that they be-come divorced from the masses and degenerate into Left phrasemongers. The task of the University of the Peoples of the East is to train cadres in the spirit of uncompromising struggle against this simplification.

The second deviation, on the other hand, lies in the exaggeration of local specific features, forgetfulness of the common and main thing that links the Soviet republics of the East with the industrial areas of the Soviet Union, the hushing up of socialist tasks, adaptation to the tasks of a narrow and restricted nationalism. The comrades who are guilty of this deviation care little about, the internal development of their countries and prefer to leave that development to the natural course of things. For them, the main thing is not internal development, but "external" policy, the expansion of the frontiers of their republics, litigation with surrounding republics, the desire to snatch an extra piece of territory from their neighbours and thus to get into the good graces of the bourgeois nationalists in their respective countries. The result of this deviation is that they become divorced from socialism and degenerate into ordinary bourgeois nationalists. The task of the University of the Peoples of the East is to train cadres in the spirit of uncompromising struggle against this concealed nationalism.

Such are the tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East in relation to the Soviet republics of the East.

II.
The Tasks of the Communist University
Of the Toilers of the East in Relation to the
Colonial and Dependent Countries of the East

Let us pass to the second question, the question of the tasks of the Communist University of the Toilers of the East in relation to the colonial and dependent countries of the East.

What are the characteristic features of the life and development of these countries, which distinguish them from the Soviet republics of the East?

Firstly, these countries are living and developing under the oppression of imperialism.

Secondly, the existence of a double oppression, internal oppression (by the native bourgeoisie) and external oppression (by the foreign imperialist bourgeoisie), is intensifying and deepening the revolutionary crisis in these countries.

Thirdly, in some of these countries, India for example, capitalism is growing at a rapid rate, giving rise to and moulding a more or less numerous class of local proletarians.

Fourthly, with the growth of the revolutionary movement, the national bourgeoisie in such countries is splitting up into two parts, a revolutionary part (the petty bourgeoisie) and a compromising part (the big bourgeoisie), of which the first is continuing the revolutionary struggle, whereas the second is entering into a bloc with imperialism.

Fifthly, parallel with the imperialist bloc, another bloc is taking shape in such countries, a bloc between the workers and the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie, an anti-imperialist bloc, the aim of which is complete liberation from imperialism.

Sixthly, the question of the hegemony of the proletariat in such countries, and of freeing the masses of the people from the influence of the compromising national bourgeoisie, is becoming more and more urgent.

Seventhly, this circumstance makes it much easier to link the national-liberation movement in such countries with the proletarian movement in the advanced countries of the West.

From this at least three conclusions follow:

1) The liberation of the colonial and dependent countries from imperialism cannot be achieved without a victorious revolution: you will not get independence gratis.

2) The revolution cannot be advanced and the complete independence of the capitalistically developed colonies and dependent countries cannot be won unless the compromising national bourgeoisie is isolated, unless the petty-bourgeois revolutionary masses are freed from the influence of that bourgeoisie, unless the policy of the hegemony of the proletariat is put into effect, unless the advanced elements of the working class are organised in an independent Communist Party.

3) Lasting victory cannot be achieved in the colonial and dependent countries without a real link between the liberation movement in those countries and the proletarian movement in the advanced countries of the West.

The main task of the Communists in the colonial and dependent countries is to base their revolutionary activities upon these conclusions.

What are the immediate tasks of the revolutionary movement in the colonies and dependent countries in view of these circumstances?

The distinctive feature of the colonies and dependent countries at the present time is that there no longer exists a single and all-embracing colonial East. Formerly the colonial East was pictured as a homogeneous whole. Today, that picture no longer corresponds to the truth. 'We have now at least three categories of colonial and dependent countries. Firstly, countries like Morocco, which have little or no proletariat, and are industrially quite undeveloped. Secondly, countries like China and Egypt, which are under-developed industrially, and have a relatively small proletariat. Thirdly, countries like India, which are capitalistically more or less developed and have a more or less numerous national proletariat.

Clearly, all these countries cannot possibly be put on a par with one another.

In countries like Morocco, where the national bourgeoisie has, as yet, no grounds for splitting up into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, the task of the communist elements is to take all measures to create a united national front against imperialism. In such countries, the communist elements can be grouped in a single party only in the course of the struggle against imperialism, particularly after a victorious revolutionary struggle against imperialism.

In countries like Egypt and China, where the national bourgeoisie has already split up into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, but where the compromising section of the bourgeoisie is not yet able to join up with imperialism, the Communists can no longer set themselves the aim of forming a united national front against imperialism. In such countries the Communists must pass from the policy of a united national front to the policy of a revolutionary bloc of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie. In such countries that bloc can assume the form of a single party, a workers' and peasants' party, provided, however, that this distinctive party actually represents a bloc of two forces -the Communist Party and the party of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie. The tasks of this bloc are to expose the half-heartedness and inconsistency of the national bourgeoisie and to wage a determined struggle against imperialism. Such a dual party is necessary and expedient, provided it does not bind the Communist Party hand and foot, provided it does not, restrict the freedom of the Communist Party to conduct agitation and propaganda work, provided it does not hinder the rallying of the proletarians around the Communist Party, and provided it facilitates the actual leadership of the revolutionary movement by the Communist Party. Such a dual party is unnecessary and inexpedient if it does not conform to all these conditions, for it can only lead to the communist elements becoming dissolved in the ranks of the bourgeoisie, to the Communist Party losing the proletarian army.

The situation is somewhat different in countries like India. The fundamental and new feature of the conditions of life of colonies like India is not only that the national bourgeoisie has split up into a revolutionary party and a compromising party, but primarily that the compromising section of this bourgeoisie has already managed, in the main, to strike a deal with imperialism. Fearing revolution more than it fears imperialism, and concerned more about its money-bags than about the interests of its own country, this section of the bourgeoisie, the richest and most influential section, is going over entirely to the camp of the irreconcilable enemies of the revolution, it is forming a bloc with imperialism against the workers and peasants of its own country. The victory of the revolution cannot be achieved unless this bloc is smashed. But in order to smash this bloc, fire must be concentrated on the compromising national bourgeoisie, its treachery exposed, the toiling masses freed from its influence, and the conditions necessary for the hegemony of the proletariat systematically prepared. In other words, in colonies like India it is a matter of preparing the proletariat for the role of leader of the liberation movement, step by step dislodging the bourgeoisie and its mouthpieces from this honourable post. The task is to create a revolutionary anti-imperialist bloc and to ensure the hegemony of the proletariat in this bloc. This bloc can assume, although it need not always necessarily do so, the form of a single workers' and peasants' party, formally bound by a single platform. In such countries, the independence of the Communist Party must be the chief slogan of the advanced communist elements, for the hegemony of the proletariat can be prepared and brought about only by the Communist Party. But the Communist Party can and must enter into an open bloc with the revolutionary wing of the bourgeoisie in order, after isolating the compromising national bourgeoisie, to lead the vast masses of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie in the struggle against imperialism.

Hence, the immediate tasks of the revolutionary movement in the capitalistically developed colonies and dependent countries are:

1) To win the best elements of the working class to the side of communism and to create independent Communist Parties.

2) To form a national-revolutionary bloc of the workers, peasants and revolutionary intelligentsia against the bloc of the compromising national bourgeoisie and imperialism.

3) To ensure the hegemony of the proletariat in that bloc.

4) To fight to free the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie from the influence of the compromising national bourgeoisie.

5) To ensure that the liberation movement is linked with the proletarian movement in the advanced countries.

Such are the three groups of immediate tasks confronting the leading cadres in the colonial and dependent countries of the East.

These tasks assume a particularly important character and particularly great significance when examined in the light of the present international situation. The characteristic feature of the present international situation is that the revolutionary movement has entered a period of temporary lull. But what is a lull, what does it mean at the present time? It can only mean an intensification of the pressure on the workers of the West, on the colonies of the East, and primarily on the Soviet Union as the standard-bearer of the revolutionary movement in all countries. There can scarcely be any doubt that preparation for this pressure on the Soviet Union has already begun in the ranks of the imperialists. The campaign of slander launched in connection with the insurrection in Estonia, (3) the infamous incitement against the Soviet Union in connection with the explosion in Sofia, and the general crusade that the bourgeois press is conducting against our country, all mark the preparatory stage of an offensive. It is the artillery preparation of public opinion intended to accustom the general public to attacks against the Soviet Union and to create the moral prerequisites for intervention. What will be the outcome of this campaign of lies and slander, whether the imperialists will risk undertaking a serious offensive, remains to be seen; but there can scarcely be any doubt that those attacks bode no good for the colonies. Therefore, the question of preparing a counter-blow by the united forces of the revolution to the blow likely to be delivered by imperialism is an inevitable question of the day.

That is why the unswerving fulfilment of the immediate tasks of the revolutionary movement in the colonies and dependent countries acquires particular importance at the present time.

What is the mission of the University of the Peoples of the East in relation to the colonial and dependent countries in view of all these circumstances? Its mission is to take into account all the specific features of the revolutionary development of these countries and to train the cadres coming from them in a way that will ensure the fulfilment of the various immediate tasks I have enumerated.

In the University of the Peoples of the East there are about ten different groups of students who have come here from colonial and dependent countries. We all know that these comrades are thirsting for light and knowledge. The task of the University of the Peoples of the East is to make them into real revolutionaries, armed with the theory of Leninism, equipped with practical experience of Leninism, and capable of carrying out the immediate tasks of the liberation movement in the colonies and dependent countries with all their heart and soul.

In this connection it is necessary to bear in mind two deviations in the practice of the leading cadres in the colonial East, two deviations which must be combated if real revolutionary cadres are to be trained.

The first deviation lies in an under-estimation of the revolutionary potentialities of the liberation movement and in an over-estimation of the idea of a united, all-embracing national front in the colonies and dependent countries, irrespective of the state and degree of development of those countries. That is a deviation to the Right, and it is fraught with the danger of the revolutionary movement being debased and of the voices of the communist elements becoming drowned in the general chorus of the bourgeois nationalists. It is the direct duty of the University of the Peoples of the East to wage a determined struggle against that deviation.

The second deviation lies in an over-estimation of the revolutionary potentialities of the liberation movement and in an under-estimation of the role of an alliance between the working class and the revolutionary bourgeoisie against imperialism. It seems to me that the Communists in Java, who not long ago mistakenly put forward the slogan of Soviet power for their country, arc suffering from this deviation. That is a deviation to the Left, and it is fraught with the danger of the Communist Party becoming divorced from the masses and converted into a sect. A determined struggle against that deviation is an essential condition for the training of real revolutionary cadres for the colonies and dependent countries of the East.

Such, in general, are the political tasks of the University of the Peoples of the East in relation to the peoples of the Soviet East and of the colonial East.

Let us hope that the University of the Peoples of the East will succeed in carrying out these tasks with honour.

 


Notes

(1) This refers to the national-state delimitation of the Soviet republics in Central Asia (the Turkestan, Bukhara and Khoresm republics) carried through in 1924. As a result of this national delimitation there were formed: the Turkmenian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as part of the Uzbek S.S.H., the Kara-Kirghiz Autonomous Region of the R.S.F.S.R. (subsequently it became the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic), and the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Region of the Kirghiz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (later of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic). The Third Congress of Soviets of the U.S.S.R. held in May 1925 accepted the Uzbek and Turkmenian Soviet Socialist Republics into the U.S.S.R. and amended the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. accordingly. The national-stale delimitation of the Soviet republics in Central Asia was carried through under the immediate direction of J. V. Stalin.

(2) See V. I. Lenin's article, "Critical Remarks on the National Question" (Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 20, pp. 1-34).

(3) This refers to the armed uprising of the workers in Revel (Tallinn) on December 1, 1924, provoked by the sentence passed by an Estonian court at the end of November 1924 on 149 political offenders accused of conducting communist propaganda. The majority of the accused were sentenced to long terms of penal servitude, thirty- nine were sentenced to penal servitude for life, and Tomp, the leader of the Estonian workers, was shot. The uprising was cruelly suppressed by the reactionary Estonian government.