Written: 2 February, 1919
First Published: 1931;Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 28, pages 443-444
Translated: Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive May, 2002
The question of the co-operatives and consumers’ communes (see Izvestia, February 2) recently discussed in the Council of People’s Commissars involves the most vital problem of the day, measures of transition from the bourgeois co-operatives to a communist consumers’ and pro-ducers’ union of the whole population.
Let us imagine co-operatives embrace 98 per cent of the population. This happens in the countryside.
Does this make them communes?
No, if the co-operative (1) gives advantages (dividends on shares, etc.) to a group of special shareholders; (2) pre-serves its own special apparatus which shuts out the popu-lation at large, in particular the proletariat and semi-proletariat; (3) does not give preference in produce distri-bution to the semi-proletariat over the middle peasants, to the middle peasants over the rich; (4) does not confis-cate the surplus produce first from the rich, then from the middle peasants, and does not rely on the proletariat and semi-proletariat. And so on and so forth.
The whole difficulty of the task (and the whole essence of the present task which confronts us right now) springs from the fact that we have to work out a system of practical measures governing the transition from the old co-ope-ratives (which are bound to be bourgeois since they have a group of shareholders who constitute a minority of the population, as well as for other reasons) to a new and to a real commune. These are measures for the transition from bourgeois-co-operative to proletarian-communist supply and distribution.
It is essential:
(1) to discuss this question in the press;
(2) to organise the movement of all the central and local government institutions (particularly of the Supreme Eco-nomic Council and the other Economic Councils, the Food Commissariat and food departments, the Central Statisti-cal Board and the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture) to tackle this task;
(3) to instruct the Co-operative Department of the Supreme Economic Council and the institutions enumerated in par. 2 to work out a programme of these measures and a form for collecting information on such measures and facts which enable us to develop these measures;
(4) to award a bonus for the best programme of measures, for the most practicable programme, for the most conve-nient and effective form and means of collecting information about it.
 On Lenin’s instructions this letter was forwarded to the People’s; Commissariat of Food, the People’s Commissariat of Finance and to the Supreme Economic Council. The question of the co-operatives and consumers’ communes was discussed at the Council of People’s Commissars on January 28, 1919.