1925 - N I Bukharin: "Enrich yourselves"

Excerpt from a report to a conference of Moscow party activists: "On the New Economic Policy and Our Tasks"

17 April 1925

...Among the working class and within our party we find comrades whose attitude towards the peasantry resembles narrow craft unionism: what, they ask, has the countryside to do with us? This way of thinking must be abandoned, for there is nothing so harmful at the present moment as failure to understand that our industry depends on the peasant market.

Socialist industry depends on quantitative and qualitative changes in peasant demand. And what does demand from the peasant economy mean? The peasant economy presents two kinds of demand: consumer demand, i.e., demand for textiles, cottons, etc., and productive demand, i.e., demand for agricultural implements and for all kinds of means of production.

What determines the agricultural sector's consumer demand, i.e., what determines, say, the quantity of textiles demanded by the peasantry? It depends on the condition and rate of development of the peasant economy.

The effective demand of the peasantry is determined primarily by the state of the peasant economy, its level, and the development of its productive forces. This demand will expand in proportion to the extent that productive demand develops, i.e., to the degree that the peasantry improves its economy, moves it forward, introduces more and better equipment, raises the level of farming techniques, improves methods of cultivation, etc. etc. It is quite clear from this that a process of accumulation is needed in the peasant economy, so that rather than everything being wasted and consumed, part of the resources will be used for the purchase of agricultural implements, etc.

Even now certain remnants of war-communist relations can be found in our country, which are hindering to our further growth. One of these is the fact that the prosperous upper stratum of the peasantry, and the middle peasants, who are also striving for prosperity, are currently afraid to accumulate. This leads to the position where the peasant is afraid to buy an iron roof for fear that he will be declared a kulak; if he buys a machine, he makes certain that the communists do not see it. Advanced technology has become a matter for conspiracy. Thus, on the one hand the prosperous peasant is unhappy because we prevent him from accumulating and hiring labourers; on the other hand the village poor, the victims of overpopulation, sometimes grumble at us for preventing them from hiring themselves out to this same prosperous peasant.

An excessive fear of hired labour, fear of accumulation, fear of a capitalist peasant stratum, etc., can lead us to adopt an incorrect economic strategy in the countryside. We are too eager to tread on the toes of the prosperous peasant. But this means that the middle peasant is afraid to improve his farm and lay himself open to heavy administrative pressure; while the poor peasant complains that we are preventing him from selling his labour power to the rich peasant, etc.

...Overall, we need to say to the entire peasantry, to all its different strata: enrich yourselves, accumulate, develop your farms. Only idiots can say that the poor must always be with us. We must now implement a policy which will result in the disappearance of poverty.

[Source: N. I. Bukharin, Izbrannye proizvedeniya, Moscow, Izdatel'stvo politicheskoy literatury, 1988, pp 195 - 196, 197. Bukharin's speech, of which just a fragment is reproduced here, has been regarded as marking the high point of NEP and its policy of permitting the peasants to develop their farms without too much interference from the authorities. However, his call to the peasants to enrich themselves was regarded by his opponents in the Soviet Communist Party as indicative of the dangerous capitalist implications of official policy at that time. - FK]