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Image: Detail from poster encouraging literacy:
“Lenin is dead; Leninism lives”
From Krupskaia’s Reminiscences of Lenin
Lenin’s solicitude for the children was strikingly manifested during the famine that prevailed in 1919. The food situation became critical in May. At the second meeting of the Economic Commissium Ilyich raised the question of rendering relief in kind to the children of the workers.
Towards the end of May 1919 the situation got worse. There were lots of grain, thousands of tons of it, in the Ukraine, the Caucasus and in the East, but the civil war had cut off all communications, the central industrial districts were starving. The Commissariat of Education was swamped with complaints about there being nothing to feed the children with.
On May 14, 1919, the army of the North-Western Government launched an offensive against Petrograd. On May 15 General Rodzyaako had taken Gdov, the Estonian and Finnish White Guard troops started to advance, and fighting began at Koporskaya Bay. Ilyich was concerned about Petrograd. It was characteristic of him that at this very same time, on May 17, he put through a decree for children to be fed free of charge. This decree provided for the improvement of the food supply for children and the welfare of the working people, and ordered that such supplies should be issued free of charge to all children up to 14 irrespective of their parents’ ration class. The decree applied to the large industrial centres of sixteen non-agricultural gubernias.
June 12 brought news of the treachery of the Krasnaya Gorka garrison. On the same day Ilyich signed an order of the Council of People’s Commissars extending the decree of May 17 concerning free food supplies for children to a number of other localities. The age limit was raised to 16 years.
Red tape in the matter of rendering relief to the needy was particularly hateful to Ilyich. On January 6, 1919, he wired to the Cheka in Kursk:
Immediately arrest Kogan, member of the Yursk Central Purchasing Board, for not having helped 120 starving workers of Moscow and sent them away empty-handed. Publish it in newspapers and leaflets so that all employees of purchasing agencies and food supply authorities should know that those guilty of a formal and bureaucratic attitude and failure to help the starving workers will be severely punished, if need be — shot.
— Chairman of the Council
of People’s Commissars,