V. I. Lenin

Eighth All-Russia Conference Of The R.C.P(B.)[1]

December 2-4 1919

Written & Delivered: December 2-4, 1919
First Published: Part 1: Izvestia No. 271, December 3, 1919; Published according to the verbatim report, verified with the Izvestia text; Part 2: Bulletin of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.), No. 9 December 20, 1919; Published according to the text of the Bulletin of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.), verified with the verbatim report; Part 3: Bulletin of the CC., R.C.P.(B.) No. 9,; December 20, 1919; Published according to the text of the Bulletin of the CC., R.C.P,(B.), verified with the verbatim report; Part 4: Written on December 2, 1919; First published in 1932; Published according to the manuscript; Part 5: First published in 1932; Published according to the verbatim report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, pages 167-194
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


Speech At The Opening Of The Conference December 2

Comrades, on behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) I declare the All-Russia Party Conference open.

Comrades, according to Party Rules this type of conference should be convened every three months, but the difficult situation obtaining a few months ago in connection with the war forced us to bend our efforts and to reduce all bodies, both government and Party, to such an extent that we were unfortunately unable to carry out the Rules to the letter and the conference was postponed.

Comrades, we are calling this conference in connection with the Congress of Soviets[2] at a time when we have succeeded in achieving a tremendous improvement on the fronts, and when we are certain that we are on the eve of a gigantic change for the better in the international situation, in respect of the war and in respect of our internal development. The tasks that are unfolding before us have been frequently discussed at Party meetings and in the press, and we shall return to them when discussing definite individual items on the agenda. I shall, therefore, get right down to business and propose that you elect a presidium for the conference.

Let me have your proposals on that point, please.


Political Report Of The Central Committee December 2

(Applause.) Comrades, the present report of the Central Committee should, from the formal point of view, give you mainly a summary of experience acquired during the period under review. I must say that such an approach—confining oneself to history or, at any rate, making a report that turns mainly on history—is too far removed from the spirit of the times in which we live and from the tasks that confront us. In the present report, which I should also like to present to the Congress of Soviets, I intend to transfer the centre of gravity more to the lessons we are receiving, and which we must receive for our immediate practical activity, rather than to a description of what we have passed through.

Although we may say, without any exaggeration, that in the period under review we have achieved tremendous successes, although our main difficulty is now behind us, we still have ahead of us difficulties that are without doubt very, very great. The Party must naturally concentrate its attention wholly on the solution of those problems and may permit itself excursions into history only insofar as it is absolutely necessary for the solution of the problems facing us.

It stands to reason that in the past period of Soviet power the war question has persistently been the one on which we have mostly fixed our attention. The Civil War has involved everyone and everything, of course, and it goes without saying that in our struggle for existence we had to divert the Party’s best forces from other work and other activities and use them for war work. It was all we could do under war conditions. And no matter how much we have suffered from this withdrawal of creative forces from many spheres of government and Party activity, in the military sphere we have actually managed to effect a concentration of forces and achieve excellent results such as not only our enemies, not only the waverers, but probably even most of our own milieu would formerly have considered impossible. To hold out for two years against all our enemies who were supported directly and indirectly, first by German imperialism and then by the much more powerful Entente imperialism that has mastered the whole world—to hold out for two years in a country so badly ruined and so backward was such a problem that its solution was an undoubted “miracle”. It seems to me, therefore, that we must look closely to see how this “miracle” was effected and what practical deductions are to be made from it, deductions which will enable us to say conclusively—and I think we may say conclusively that great as the difficulties of internal organisation are we shall surmount them in the near future with a success equal to that with which we have solved the problems of military defence.

World imperialism, that in reality brought about the Civil War in our country and is responsible for protracting it, has suffered defeat in these two years, and we must first of all ask ourselves the question, how could it have happened that we were able to achieve such tremendous success in the struggle against world imperialism that even today is undoubtedly many times stronger than we are? To find an answer to this question we must make a general review of the history of the Civil War in Russia, the history of Entente intervention. In this war we must distinguish two periods that differ radically according to the methods of Entente activity employed, two periods or two basic methods of conducting military operations against Russia.

When the Entente had defeated Germany, at first it naturally relied on its own troops to crush the Soviet Republic in Russia. It stands to reason that if the Entente had used but a fraction of the gigantic armies that were released after the defeat of Germany, if it had been able to use even one-tenth of those armies in a proper manner against the Russian Soviet Republic we should not, of course, have been able to hold out. It is typical of the first period of the Civil War in Russia that the attempt of the Entente to smash the Soviet Republic using its own troops was a failure. The Entente had to withdraw the British troops operating on the Archangel Front. The landing of French forces in the South of Russia ended in a number of mutinies on the part of French sailors, and today, no matter how frantically the wartime censor may operate—there is no war but the former wartime censor, now the non-war-time censor, continues to function in the supposedly free countries, Britain and France—and although copies of newspapers reach us on rare occasions we have very precise documentary evidence from Britain and France to the effect that information concerning, for instance, the mutiny of the sailors on French warships in the Black Sea has got into the French press, that the sentencing of several French sailors to penal servitude has become known in France, that the entire communist, the entire revolutionary working-class press in France and Britain refers to the facts; the name of Comrade Jeanne Labourbe, whom the French shot in Odessa for Bolshevik propaganda, has become a slogan for the French working-class socialist press, not only for the Communist wing, but even for a newspaper like l’Humanité that in its basic principles is actually closer to the point of view of our Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, even for that newspaper the name of Labourbe has become a slogan of struggle against French imperialism, for non-intervention in Russian affairs. In the same way letters from British soldiers on the Archangel Front have been discussed in the British working-class press. We have very exact documentary evidence of this. It is quite obvious to us, therefore, that the tremendous change that formerly we always spoke of and which we so deeply hoped for has taken place; it has undoubtedly become a fact even though the process is an unusually slow one.

This change had to be evoked by the very course of events. It is specifically those countries that always have been and still are regarded as the most democratic, civilised and cultured that conducted a war against Russia by the most brutal means, without even a shade of legality. The Bolsheviks are accused of violating democracy—this is the most popular argument against us among the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries and in the entire European bourgeois press. But not one of those democratic states has taken or would dare to take the risk under the laws of its own country of declaring war on Soviet Russia. Parallel to this there is a protest, outwardly unnoticeable but nevertheless a profound protest on the part of the working-class press which asks where, in their constitution, in the constitution of France, Britain or America, are to be found laws permitting the conduct of war without having declared war and without having consulted parliament? The press of Britain, France and America has proposed to arraign their heads of state for a crime against the state, for declaring war without the permission of parliament. Such proposals have been made, although it is true that it was in papers that come out not more than once a week and are probably confiscated not less than once a month and have a circulation of a few hundred or a few thousand copies. The leaders of the responsible government parties could afford to ignore such papers. But here we have to consider two different tendencies; the ruling classes throughout the world publish well-known capitalist dailies in millions of copies and these are packed with unprecedented lies and slander against the Bolsheviks. But down below, the working-class masses learn about the falsity of that whole campaign from the soldiers who have returned from Russia. That is why it became necessary for the Entente to withdraw its forces from Russia.

When we said at the very outset that we place our stakes on the world revolution we were laughed at, and hundreds of times it was said and is still being said that it cannot be realised. During the past two years we have obtained precise material with which to verify it. If we speak of that stake as meaning hopes for a rapid, immediate insurrection in Europe, then we know there has not been one. That stake, however, proved to be fundamentally a true one and from the very outset it removed all possibility of an armed intervention on the part of the Entente; after two years and especially since the defeat of Kolchak and since the withdrawal of British forces from Archangel and from the entire Northern Front this has become an undoubted historical fact. A very small part of the armies at the disposal of the Entente would have been enough to crush us. But we were able to defeat the enemy because the sympathy of the workers of the whole world made itself felt at the most difficult moment. And thus we succeeded in emerging honourably from this first period of the Entente invasion. I remember some article, Radek’s I think, said that the Entente troops’ contact with the hot soil of Russia, the country that had started the fire of the socialist revolution, would also set those troops on fire. Events showed that this really did happen. It goes without saying, furthermore, that the processes that are taking place among the British and French soldiers and sailors who know the names of those who have been shot for Bolshevik agitation, no matter how weak these processes are, no matter how weak the communist organisations are over there, are doing a gigantic job. The results are visible they have compelled the Entente countries to withdraw their forces. This alone gave us our first major victory.

The second method or second system employed by the Entente in its struggle was to use small states against us. It was reported in a Swedish newspaper[3] at the end of last August that the British Secretary for War, Churchill, had said that fourteen states would attack Russia so that the fall of Petrograd and Moscow was certain in the near future, at any rate by the end of the year. I believe Churchill later denied having made this statement and said that the Bolsheviks had invented it. We have, however, exact information as to which Swedish newspaper published it. We therefore insist that the report came from European sources. Furthermore it is supported by facts. We know from the example of Finland and Estonia that the Entente has bent all its efforts to force them to attack Soviet Russia. I personally read one leading article in the British newspaper The Times on the question of Finland[4] at the time when Yudenich’s troops were a few versts from Petrograd and the city was in tremendous danger. The article was seething with wrath and indignation, and was written in an unprecedentedly impassioned style, unusual for that newspaper (such newspapers usually write in diplomatic language similar to that used in Milyukov’s Rech in Russia). It was the wildest proclamation addressed to Finland and presenting the question bluntly—the fate of the world depended on Finland and the eyes of all civilised capitalist countries were fixed on her. We know that that was the decisive moment when Yudenich’s troops were a few versts from Petrograd. It makes no difference whether Churchill made the statement quoted or not, he certainly pursued that policy. It is well known what pressure the Entente brought to bear on those small countries that had been hastily formed, were weak and wholly dependent on the Entente even in such basic questions as that of food and in all other respects. They cannot break away from that dependence. All kinds of pressure—financial, food, military—have been applied to force Estonia, Finland, and no doubt Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as well, to force that whole group of states to make war on us. The history of Yudenich’s last campaign against Petrograd has shown to the full that the Entente’s second method of conducting war has failed. There can be no doubt that the least bit of aid from Finland or—a little more aid—from Estonia would have been enough to decide the fate of Petrograd. Nor is there any doubt that the Entente, realising the gravity of the situation, did everything it could to obtain that aid but nevertheless suffered defeat.

This was the second major international victory that we achieved and it was a more complicated victory than the first. The first was achieved because it turned out that British and French troops could not be retained on the territory of Russia; they did not fight but provided Britain and France with rebels who raised the British and French workers against their own governments. And so it has happened that although Russia has been deliberately encircled by a ring of small states obviously created and maintained for the struggle against Bolshevism, this weapon, too, has turned against the Entente. There are bourgeois governments in all these states and almost everywhere there are bourgeois collaborators in those governments, people who, because of their class position, go against the Bolsheviks. Every one of these nations, of course, is definitely hostile to the Bolsheviks, but we, nevertheless, have managed to turn those bourgeois and collaborators to our side. This seems improbable, but it is true, because each of those states, after what it has experienced in the imperialist war, is bound to hesitate on the question of whether it is now worth its while to fight against the Bolsheviks when the only other claimant to power in Russia—a claimant that they have reason to consider serious—is either Kolchak or Denikin, that is, representatives of old imperialist Russia; and there is no doubt that Kolchak and Denikin represent old Russia. We have, therefore, been given an opportunity to rely on another crack in the imperialist camp. During the first months following our revolution we were able to hold out because the German and British imperialists were at each other’s throats, but after those six months we were able to hold out for more than another six months because the troops of the Entente were in no condition to fight against us; the following year, however, the year that we now have mainly to render account for, we held out successfully because the attempt of the Great Powers under whose influence the small countries undoubtedly are, the attempt of those Great Powers to mobilise the small countries against us has been a failure because of the contradiction between the interests of world imperialism and the interests of those countries. The Entente has already had its paws on each of the small countries. They know that when the French, American or British capitalists say, “We guarantee you independence”, that means in practice, “We shall buy from you all the sources of your wealth and shall hold you in bondage. Furthermore, we shall treat you with the insolence of an officer who has come to a foreign country to administer it and to speculate in it and who will not consider anybody’s opinion”. They know that the British Ambassador in almost all such countries is of greater significance than a local king or parliament. And if petty-bourgeois democrats have so far been unable to comprehend this verity, reality has now compelled them to understand it. It has turned out that as far as concerns the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements of the small countries the imperialists are plundering, we are, maybe, not allies, but at any rate more reliable and more valuable neighbours than the imperialists.

That is the second victory over world imperialism that we have won.

That is why we now have every right to say that the main difficulties are behind us. There is no doubt that the Entente will make many more attempts at armed intervention in our affairs. Although the latest victories over Kolchak and Yudenich have now given spokesmen of all those powers cause to say that a campaign against Russia is hopeless and to offer us peace, we must realise clearly the meaning of such statements. What I am now going to say is not for the record ....

Since we have managed to extract admissions of this kind from bourgeois intellectuals, from our merciless enemies, we have every right to say that the sympathies, not only of the working class, but also of extensive circles of bourgeois intellectuals are on the side of Soviet power. The philistines, the petty bourgeoisie, those who wavered in the savage fight between labour and capital, have now come over definitely to our side, and we may to some extent anticipate their support.

We must take this victory into consideration and if we link it up with the way we, in the long run, achieved the victory over Kolchak, the conclusion becomes more convincing ... now you may begin writing again, the diplomacy is finished.

If we ask the question as to what forces made our victory over Kolchak possible, we have to admit that the victory over Kolchak, despite his having operated on territory where the proletariat was in a minority and we were unable to give the peasantry direct, real help to overthrow the power of the landowners as we did in Russia, despite Kolchak’s having begun on a front supported by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries who established the front of the Constituent Assembly, despite there having been the most favourable conditions for the formation of a government that could rely on the aid of world imperialism—despite all this the experiment ended in the complete defeat of Kolehak. We have the right to draw the following conclusion from this, a conclusion that is very significant to us and should guide us in all our activities—the class that can lead the mass of the population must triumph historically. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries are still talking about the Constituent Assembly, about the will of the nation, and so on, but during this period experience has convinced us that in revolutionary times the class struggle is carried on in the most terrible forms but can lead to victory only when the class conducting the struggle is capable of giving leadership to the majority of the people. In this respect, the comparison that was made, not by voting with tickets, but by more than a year’s experience of the most arduous, most bloody struggle that demanded a hundred times more sacrifices than any political struggle—this experience in respect of Kolchak has shown that more than any other party we are putting into effect the rule of that class the majority of which we have proved capable of leading and that we are adding the peasantry to our ranks as friends and allies.The example of Kolchak demonstrated this. In the social sphere this exam ple has been the latest lesson for us; it shows on whom we can depend and who will go against us.

No matter how greatly the working class may have been weakened by the imperialist war and the economic ruin it is nevertheless effecting political leadership, but it would not be able to if it had not gained the majority of the working population, under Russian conditions the peasantry, as friends and allies. This has taken place in the Red Army where we have been able to employ specialists, the majority of whom were against us, and create the army which, according to the admission of our enemies, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, as evidenced by a resolution of the last Council of their party, is a people’s and not a mercenary army.[5] The working class was able to build up an army the majority of which does not belong to that class and was able to employ specialists hostile to it only because it led and made friends and allies of that mass of working people connected with petty proprietorship, who have property connections and who, therefore, have a profound interest in free trading, i. e., in capitalism, in the return to the power of money. This is at the bottom of everything we have achieved in the past two years. In all our further work, in all our further activities, in those activities that must be begun in the Ukraine now being liberated, in all the organisational work that will he developing in all its difficulty and importance after the victory over Denikin, we must keep this basic lesson always before our eyes, we must remember it more than anything else. This, in my opinion, sums up the political results of all our work.

Comrades, it has been said that war is a continuation of politics. We have experienced that in our own war. The imperialist war that was a continuation of the politics of the imperialists, of the ruling classes, of landowners and capitalists, brought forth the hostility of the masses of the people and was the best means of revolutionising them. Here in Russia the war helped overthrow the monarchy, helped abolish landed proprietorship and overthrow the bourgeoisie, all of which was done with unparalleled ease only because the imperialist war was a continuation and an aggravation of imperialist politics that had become more insolent. And our war was a continuation of our communist politics, the politics of the proletariat. We still read in the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary papers and we hear from non-party and from wavering people, “You promised peace and have given us war, you have deceived the working people.”And we say that the masses of the working people who have not studied Marxism have nevertheless learned full well the difference between imperialist and civil war, learned it through their class instinct, the instinct of oppressed people who have themselves for decades experienced what the landowner and capitalist are. Those who have experienced oppression for decades all realise that there is a difference between wars. The imperialist war was a continuation of imperialist politics; it aroused the masses against their masters. The Civil War is a war against the landowners and capitalists and is a continuation of the policy of overthrowing the power of those landowners and capitalists, and each month the development of the war has strengthened the bonds between the mass of working people and the proletariat that has assumed the leadership in the war. No matter how great the trials may have been, no matter how frequent the big defeats, no matter how serious those defeats have been, no matter how many times the enemy has achieved tremendous victories and the existence of Soviet power has hung by a thread—there have been such moments, and there is no doubt the Entente will again try to fight against us—it must be said that the experience we have gained is a very sound one. That experience has shown that war strengthens the political consciousness of the working people and shows them the advantages of Soviet power. Na•ve people or those who are wholly wrapped up in the prejudices of the old petty bourgeoisie or of the old bourgeois-democratic parliamentarisrn expect the peasant to decide through an election slip whether he will follow the Bolshevik Communists or the Socialist-Revolutionaries; they do not want to recognise any other decision because they are in favour of rights for the people, freedom, the Constituent Assembly, etc. Events made it necessary for the peasant to verify the issue in practice. After having given the Socialist-Revolutionaries the majority in the Constituent Assembly, after the policy of the Socialist-Revolutionaries had failed and the peasants had to deal with the Bolsheviks in practice, they realised that our government is a sound one, it is a government that demands rather a lot, it is a government that is able to ensure the fulfilment of those demands at all costs, it is a government that regards the loan of bread to the hungry to be the absolute duty of the peasants even if they receive no equivalent in return, they realised that ours is a government that will ensure the supply of bread to the hungry no matter at what cost. The peasant saw this and compared our government with that of Kolchak and Denikin, and he made his choice, not through the ballot-box but by deciding the issue in practice when he ..ad had the experience of both kinds of government. The peasant is deciding and will continue to decide the question in our favour.

That is what the history of Kolchak’s defeat has taught us and that is what our victories in the South have proved. That is why we say that literally masses, millions of people living in the villages, millions of peasants are coming over completely to our side. I think this is the chief political lesson that we have learned in this period and which we must apply to the problems of internal organisation that will, with the victory over Denikin near, be placed on the order of the day now that it has become possible for us to concentrate on internal development.

The chief accusation made against us by the European petty bourgeoisie concerns our terrorism, our crude suppression of the intelligentsia and the petty bourgeoisie. “You and your governments have forced all that upon us,” we say in reply. When people shout about terror we answer, “When countries who have the world’s fleets at their disposal and have armed forces that are a hundred times greater than ours pounced upon us and compelled small states to make war on us—was that not terrorism?”

That was real terrorism when all the powers united against a country that was one of the most backward and most weakened by war. Even Germany kept helping the Entente from the time before her defeat when she was supplying Krasnov and up to the present day, when that same Germany is blockading us and giving direct help to our enemies. This attack by world imperialism, this campaign against us, this bribery of conspirators inside the country—was this not terrorism? The reason for our terrorism was that we were attacked by armed forces against which we had to bend all our efforts. Inside the country we had to act with all persistence, we had to muster all our forces. In this case we did not want to be—and we decided that we would not be—in the position in which those who collaborated with Kolchak in Siberia found themselves, the position in which the German collaborationists will find themselves tomorrow, those who imagine they represent a government and are relying on the Constituent Assembly although at any moment a hundred or a thousand officers can push that government out of office. This can be understood because those officers constitute a trained, organised mass with an excellent knowledge of the art of war, that holds all the strings in its hands, that is well informed about the bourgeoisie and the landowners and enjoys their sympathies.

This has been demonstrated by the history of all countries since the imperialist war, and today, when faced with such terrorism on the part of the Entente, we have the right to resort to terror ourselves.

It follows from this that the accusation of terror, insofar as it is justified, should be against the bourgeoisie and not against us. They forced terror upon us. And we shall be the first to take steps to confine it to the lowest possible minimum as soon as we put an end to the chief source of terrorism—the invasion of world imperialism, the war plots and the military pressure of world imperialism on our country.

While speaking of terrorism we must say something about our attitude to that middle stratum, the intelligentsia, that mostly complain about the brutality of Soviet power and that Soviet power puts them in a worse position than before.

Whatever we, with the meagre means at our disposal, can do for the intelligentsia we are doing. We know, of course, the little significance of the paper ruble, but we also know the significance of the black market as an aid to those who cannot get enough food through our food organisations. In this respect we give the bourgeois intelligentsia an advantage. We know that at the moment when world imperialism pounced on us we had to introduce strict military discipline and defend ourselves with all the forces we could muster. When we are pursuing a revolutionary war we cannot, of course, do what all bourgeois states do—leave the working people to bear the brunt of the war. The burden of the Civil War must be and will be shared by the entire intelligentsia, all the petty bourgeoisie, and all middle-class elements—all of them will bear the burden. It will naturally be more difficult for them to bear that burden because they have been privileged for decades, but in the interests of the social revolution we must place that burden on their shoulders, too. This is the way we reason and the way we act, and we cannot do otherwise.

The end of the Civil War will be a step towards improving the conditions of those groups. We have already shown by our tariff policy and by the declaration in our programme that we recognise the need to give these groups better conditions because the transition from capitalism to communism is impossible unless the bourgeois specialists are used; and all our victories—all the victories of the Red Army led by the proletariat that has drawn over to its side the peasantry who are half labourers and half property-owners—were achieved partly because of our ability to use bourgeois specialists. This policy of ours as expressed in matters military must become the policy of our internal development.

The experience gained in this period tells us that while laying the foundations of the building we have often undertaken work on the dome, on all sorts of ornament, etc. Perhaps this was, to a certain extent, necessary for a socialist republic. Perhaps we had to build up in all spheres of national life. The craving to build up in all spheres is perfectly natural. If we were to look at what has been done in the sphere of state organisation we would see almost everywhere many things begun and abandoned; these are the sort that make one want to say when looking at them that they could have waited and we should have begun with the main thing. It is quite natural that all our leading people should be interested in the tasks that can be carried out only after the foundations have been laid. But on the basis of this experience we can now say that in future we shall concentrate our efforts more on the main job, on the foundation, on those simple problems that are the most difficult to solve but which we shall nevertheless solve. These are the problem of bread, the problem of fuel and the problem of fighting the lice. These are three simple problems that will make possible the building of a socialist republic and then our victory throughout the world will be a hundred times more certain and more triumphant than that with which we repulsed the attack of the Entente.

The bread problem. We have achieved much with our requisitioning system. Our food policy has made it possible in the second year to acquire three times as much grain as in the first. During three months of the last campaign more grain was procured than during three months of last year, although, as you will hear in the report by the People’s Commissar for Food, it was accompanied by what were, without doubt, great difficulties. One raid by Mamontov that took in the whole southern part of the central agricultural zone cost us very dear. But we have learned to carry out the requisitioning system, i.e., we have learned to make the peasants sell their grain to the state at fixed prices, without an equivalent in exchange. We know full well, of course, that paper money is not the equivalent of grain. We know that the peasant is loaning us his grain, and we ask him, “Should you hold back your grain waiting for an equivalent so that the workers can die of starvation? Do you want to trade on a free market and take us thereby back to capitalism?” Many intellectuals who have read Marx do not understand that freedom to trade is a return to capitalism; the peasant, however, understands it more easily. He knows that to sell bread at free prices, when the starving are prepared to pay anything for it, are prepared to give up all they have to escape death from starvation—he knows that this is a return to exploitation, that it is freedom for the rich to make a profit and ruination for the poor. We say that this is a crime against the state and we shall not yield an inch in this struggle.

In this struggle to requisition grain the peasant will have to loan his grain to the hungry worker—that is the only way to begin proper organisation, to restore industry, etc. If the peasant does not do this, there will be a return to capitalism. If the peasant feels that he has ties with the workers he will be prepared to surrender his grain surpluses at fixed prices, i. e., for a simple piece of coloured paper—this is something essential without which the starving worker cannot be saved from death, without which industry cannot be rehabilitated. It is an extremely difficult problem and it cannot be solved by force alone. NO matter bow much shouting there may be about the Bolsheviks being a party that coerces the peasantry, we still say, “Gentlemen, it is a lie!” If we were a party that coerces the peasantry, how could we have held out against Kolchak, how could we have formed a conscript army in which four-fifths of the, soldiers are peasants, all of whom are armed and who have the example of the imperialist war to show them that a rifle can easily be turned in any direction? How can we be a party that coerces the peasants—we, a party that is putting into effect the alliance between the working class and the peasantry, a party that tells the peasantry that the transition to free trading is a return to capitalism and that our requisitioning of surpluses by force is directed against the profiteer and not against the working people?

The requisitioning of grain must be the basis of all our activity. The food problem is at the basis of all problems. We have to devote a great deal of effort to defeat Denikin. There must not be the slightest hesitation or carelessness until the victory is complete, for all sorts of turns are possible. Whenever there is the slightest improvement in the war situation, however, we must devote ’greater effort to the work of food supplies because that is the basis of everything. The requisitioning must be carried out in full. Only when we have solved that problem shall. we have a socialist foundation, and on that socialist foundation we shall be able to erect the splendid edifice of socialism that we have so often begun to build from the top and which has so often collapsed.

Another basic problem is tha’t of fuel, the main foundation for our development. This is the problem we have come up against now, since we cannot take advantage of our successes in food supplies, since we cannot transport the grain, cannot make full use of our victories because there is no fuel. We still do not have a proper apparatus to settle the fuel problem, but it is possible to settle it.

There is a shortage of coal throughout Europe today. If the fuel problem is so acute in the richest of the victor countries, even those like America that has never been attacked or invaded, it naturally affects us too. It will take us several years to rehabilitate the coal industry, even under the best conditions.

We have to save ourselves with firewood. We are devoting more and more Party forces to this work. During the last week the greatest attention has been paid to this problem in the Council of People’s Commissars and the Council of Defence and a number of measures have been adopted that should effect a turningpoint in this sphere similar to that effected by our armies on the Southern Front. Our activities in this field must not slacken and every step must bring us closer to victory in the battle against the fuel hunger. The material supplies are available. Until we have restored the coal industry we can manage with firewood and keep industry supplied with fuel. We must devote all Party forces, comrades, to that basic problem.

Our third problem is that of the fight against lice, against the lice that carry typhus. Typhus among a population that is exhausted by hunger, is ill, has no bread, soap or fuel, may prove a calamity that will prevent our tackling any sort of socialist development.

This is the first step in our struggle for culture and this, too, is a struggle for existence.

These are the main problems. To these I should like to draw the attention, more than to anything else, of comrades who are members of the Party. So far the attention we have been paying to these problems is so little as to be out of all proportion. Nine-tenths of the forces that are not engaged in war activities—which must not be lessened for a single minute—must be directed to these priority tasks. We now have a clear picture of the issues at stake. Everyone must make the best possible effort; all our forces must be devoted to these tasks.

With this I shall end the political section of the report. As far as the international, part is concerned, Comrade Chicherin will report on that in detail and will read you the proposal we should like to make to the belligerent countries in the name of the Congress of Soviets.

I shall deal very briefly with Party tasks. In the course of the revolution our Party has been confronted with a most important task. It is natural, on the one band, that all the worst elements should cling to the ruling party merely because it is the ruling party. On the other hand, the working class is exhausted and is naturally weak in a country that is in ruins. Nevertheless it is only the advanced section of the working class, its vanguard, that is capable of leading the country. To accomplish this task in the sphere of state organisation we have employed subbotniks as one of the means. The slogan we have put forward is this—the first who can join our Party are those who have volunteered for the front; those who cannot fight must show in their own places that they understand what the workers’ party is, they must show it by applying the principles of communism in practice. And communism, if you take that word in its strict meaning, is voluntary unpaid work for the common good that does not depend on individual differences, that wipes out all memories of everyday prejudices, wipes out stagnation, tradition, differences between branches of work, differences in the rate of pay for labour, etc. This is one of the greatest guarantees that we are drawing the working class and all working people into the work of peace-time organisation as well as into war-time activities. The further development of communist subbotniks must be a school.. Every step must be accompanied by the attraction into the Party of working-class elements and the most reliable people from other classes. We achieve this by means of re-registration. We are not afraid to remove those who are not fully reliable. We also achieve this by trusting a Party member who comes to us in a difficult time. Those Party members, as today’s Central Committee report shows, who came to us in hundreds and thousands when Yudenich was a few versts from Petrograd and Denikin was north of Orel, when the bourgeoisie were already jubilant—those Party members are worthy of our trust. We value the extension of the Party on these lines.

After we have carried out the expansion of the Party on these lines we must shut the gates, we must be particularly cautious. We must say that now the Party is victorious we do not need new Party members. We know ’full well that in a disintegrating capitalist society a mass of harmful people will try to worm their way into the Party. We must create a party that will be a party of workers in which there is no place for alien elements, but we must also draw the masses into the work, those who are outside the Party. How is this to be done? The means to this end—workers’ and peasants’ non-party conferences. An article on non-party conferences[6] was recently published in Pravda. This article, written by Comrade Rostopehin, deserves special attention. I do not know any other way of solving this problem of profound historical importance. The Party cannot throw its doors wide open, because it is absolutely inevitable that in the epoch of disintegrating capitalism it will gather to itself the worst elements. The Party must be so narrow that it draws into its ranks only those elements from other classes that it has an opportunity to test with great caution.

But we have several hundred thousand.Party members in a country with a population of more than a hundred million. How can such a party govern? In the first place there are, and must be, the trade unions to assist it, and these have millions of members; the second assistant is non-party conferences. At these non-party conferences we must be able to approach the non-proletarian section, we must overcome prejudice and petty-bourgeois vacillation—that is one of our most important, fundamental tasks.

We must assess the success of our Party organisations, not only by the number of Party members engaged in some kind of work, not only by the degree of success in carrying out the re-registration, but by non-party workers’ and peasants’ conferences, whether they are arranged correctly and often enough, that is, by the ability of the organisation to approach those masses that cannot at the moment join the Party but which we must draw into the work.

If we have beaten the Entente it is probably because we have earned the sympathy of the working class, and of the non-party masses. If we have succeeded in defeating Kolchak it is probably because he was no longer able to draw more forces from the reservoir of the working people. We have a reservoir that no other government in the world has and which no government in the world except the government of the working class can have, because only the government of the working class can draw with absolute confidence on the most downtrodden and most backward working people. We can and must draw our forces from among the non-party workers and peasants because they are our true friends. For the solution of the bread and fuel problems and for the fight against typhus we can draw forces from these masses that were the most oppressed, by the capitalists and landowners. And we are assured of the support of those masses. We shall continue to draw more and more forces from these masses and we may say that in the end we shall defeat all our enemies. And we shall work miracles in the sphere of peaceful construction (to be developed in proper style after Denikin has been defeated) that will be greater than those we have worked in the military sphere in the past two years.


Concluding Speech On The Political Report Of The Central Committee December 2

I should have declined to reply to the discussion if Comrade Sapronov had not egged me on; I want to polemise a little with him. There is no doubt that we should listen to what experienced local functionaries have to say. All their advice is valuable to us. But I ask you, what is there bad in what is written here? I was not acquainted with that point. Sapronov gave it to me. It says here, “Draft Instructions to Gubernia, Uyezd and Volost Committees on Work in the Countryside.”[7] So the instructions are addressed to those local functionaries through whom the work in the localities is carried on. When agitators, commissars, agents or representatives of the Central Committee are sent they are undoubtedly always given instructions. Clause 9 here says: “Obtain from state farms and from communes help for the neighbouring peasants, immediate and real help.” I assumed that even an agent of the Central Committee would have a head on his shoulders. If regulations have been approved, how can he demand that they give up a cart, a horse or something? On this score we have instructions enough—some people say there are too many of them. And an agent of the C.C. can make demands only insofar as the instructions allow it, and no commune manager would allow a cart, a horse or a cow to be given away. But this is a serious question, because it often spoils our relations with the peasants, and in the Ukraine they may be spoiled a second time, if we are unable to put our political line into effect. It is not difficult to carry it out, and the peasant will he glad of even a little help. It is not enough to adopt an instruction, you must be able to carry it out. If Comrade Sapronov is afraid that a state farm will be robbed of a cow, a horse or a cart, let him share his tremendous experience in this field with us and say “Let us give the peasants implements free of charge or at low cost”. That I can understand. And in any case Clause 9 will not be abolished by that, it will, on the contrary, receive confirmation. The relations between the communes and state farms and the neighbouring peasants is one of the most painful aspects of our entire policy. It will be still more serious in the Ukraine and tomorrow it will be the same in Siberia. Today we have won over the Siberian peasant ideologically by liberating him from Kolchak. But it will not be of any duration unless we can so arrange matters that the peasant gets real assistance, and it stands to reason that every agent working in the countryside must be given the relevant instructions. And when an agent makes his report he must be asked: “Where and in what way did the state farms help time peasant?” Comrade Sapronov’s directives on this point were incorrect. It is our basic, unconditional duty to make use of the experience of local Party functionaries. (Applause.)


Draft Resolution On Foreign Policy[8]

The Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic wishes to live in peace with all peoples and devote all its efforts to internal development so as to put production, transport and government affairs in order on the basis of the Soviet system; this has so far been prevented by the intervention of the Entente and the starvation blockade.

The workers’ and peasants’ government has made repeated peace proposals to the Entente powers—the message from the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs to the American representative, Mr. Poole, on August 5, 1918; to President Wilson on October 24, 1918; to all Entente governments through representatives of neutral countries on November 3, 1918; a message from the Sixth All-Russia Congress of Soviets on November 7, 1918; Litvinov’s Note in Stockholm to all Entente representatives on December 23, 1918; then there were the messages of January 12, January 17 and February 4, 1919, and the draft treaty drawn up jointly with Bullitt on March 12, 1919; and a message through Nansen on May 7, 1919.

The Seventh Congress of Soviets fully approves these many steps taken by the Council of People’s Commissars and the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, once more confirms its lasting desire for peace and again proposes to the Entente powers, Britain, France, the United States of America, Italy and Japan, individually and collectively, to begin immediately negotiations on peace; the Congress instructs the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, the Council of People’s Commissars and the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs to continue this peace policy systematically (or: to continue this peace policy systematically, taking all appropriate measures to ensure its success).


Speech Summing Up The Debate On Soviet Power In The Ukraine December 3

Comrades, there is little for me to say, although unfortunately I shall have to raise objections, not so much to Comrade Yakovlev who spoke before me, as to Comrades Bubnov and Drobnis who spoke after me. Nevertheless I shall have to make only a partial comment.

Insofar as Comrade Rakovsky’s speech is concerned, I must say that when he said that state farms must be the basis of our communist construction he was wrong. Under no circumstances can we organise our affairs in that way. We must accept the fact that we should convert only a very small part of the progressive farms into state farms, otherwise we shall not effect a bloc with the petty peasants—and we need that bloc. When some of the comrades said that I recommend a bloc, with the Borotba Party64 they mistook my meaning. Here I compared the policy that must be pursued in respect of the Borotba Party with the policy we had pursued in respect of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries. We were then accused, in the first week after October—at peasant congresses, incidentally—of not wanting to use the forces of the peasantry once we had seized power. In reply I said that we had taken over their programme in its entirety so as to use the forces of the peasantry—we want to do that, but we don’t want an alliance with Socialist-Revolutionaries. Comrade Manuilsky, like Comrades Drobnis and Bubnov, was, therefore, making an extremely strange mistake in asserting that I recommend a bloc with the Borotba Party. My opinion is that we must demonstrate that we need a bloc with the Ukrainian peasantry, and in order to achieve that bloc we must polemise with the Borotba people in away that differs from the present polemics. All those who spoke about the national question—Comrades Drobnis and Bubnov and many others spoke about it—show by their criticism of the C.C. resolution that they are pursuing the very same policy of “independence” we reproved the Kiev people for. Comrade Manuilsky is making a peculiar mistake in thinking that we accused them of independence in the national sense, in the sense of Ukrainian self-determination. We reproved them for their “independence” in the sense of their not wanting to consider Moscow’s views, the views of the Central Committee in Moscow. The word was used jokingly and had a completely different meaning.

The issue is now the following. Do we need a bloc with the Ukrainian peasantry, do we need a policy of the.type we needed at the end of 1917 and for many months in 1918? I maintain that we do and that for this reason most of the state farms must be handed over for actual distribution. We need a struggle against kulak farms, we need a struggle against petty-bourgeois prejudices, we need a struggle against the guerrilla bands. The Borotba Party talk a lot about the national question but they say nothing about the guerrillas. We must demand that the Borotba people disband the teachers’ union even though it uses the Ukrainian language and bears the state seal of the Ukraine—it must be disbanded for the sake of those principles of proletarian communist policy for which we disbanded our own All-Russia Teachers’ Union; we disbanded it because it did not implement the principles of proletarian dictatorship but defended the interests and pursued the policy of the petty bourgeoisie.


[1] The Conference was held in Moscow, and was attended by 45 delegates with the right to vote. The agenda consisted of the following items: (1) Report of the CC.; (2) Report on the international situation; (3) The agenda of the Seventh All-Russia Congress of Soviets (state organisation); (4) Soviet power in the Ukraine; (5) The Party Rules; (6) Work with new Party members; (7) Fuel question.

Lenin directed the work of the Conference. He made a speech at the opening session, delivered the political report of the C.C. of the Party and closed the debate on it. Lenin spoke on Soviet power in the Ukraine and closed the discussion on this subject. The Conference delegates unanimously approved the C.C. political line and organisational work. Chicherin, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, delivered a detailed report on the international situation explaining the foreign policy of the Soviet state and the efforts being made for the immediate conclusion of peace. Another important question discussed at the Conference was state organisation. M. F. Vladimirsky made a report on this subject on behalf of the CC., R.C.P.(B, and T. V. Sapronov delivered a co-report. Vladimirsky summed up the results in organising the Soviet state and submitted concrete proposals for amending the Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R. Sapronov, Osinsky and their adherents opposed the C.C. line; they rejected one-man management and demanded preservation of “ the unlimited corporate principle” . This group of opportunists tried to impose their views on the Conference, which would have undermined centralism and the leading role of the Party in the Soviets. The Conference rejected the views of Sapronov and his followers as being contrary to the interests of the Party, and approved Lenin's principle of democratic centralism in the organisation of government bodies and in the interrelations of those bodies.

The Conference adopted a number of decisions directed at consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat and at involving working masses in Soviet state development.

The Conference adopted new Party Rules which contained a new section on “Candidates” to Party Membership" introducing a probationary period for all new members, the length of which depended on social category; it was two months for factory workers and peasants, and no less than six months for other categories. A new section on “Groups in the Extra-Party Institutions and Organisations” was added to the Party Rules in order to spread Party influence to the extra-Party organisations and institutions, conduct them in accordance with the Party line and establish Party control over their activities. The new Party Rules had a special section on “Party Discipline” , which stated that strict observance of Party discipline was the prime duty of all Party members and all Party organisations.

The Conference approved the “Theses on the Employment of New Party Members” which outlined measures to raise the educational and ideological level of Communists, give them military training, and strengthen Party discipline. The Eighth Party Conference was of great significance; it summed up the experience gained by the Party in the two-year struggle to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat and implement the decisions of the Eighth Party Congress. The decisions of the Seventh All-Russia Congress of Soviets were based on the Conference's decisions on state, economic and military organisation.

[2] Lenin refers to the Seventh All-Russia Congress of Soviets held from December 5 to 9, 1919 in Moscow.

[3] Lenin refers to Folkets Dagblad Politikem, a newspaper of the Swedish Left Social-Democrats, who in 1917 founded the Left Social-Democratic Party of Sweden. It was published in Stockholm from April 1916, at first every other day, subsequently, daily (up to November 1917 it appeared under the name Politiken). In 1918-19 it was edited by Fredrik Strom. In 1921 the Left Social-Democratic Party joined the Communist International and became the Communist Party of Sweden, and the newspaper became its Central Organ. After the Communist Party of Sweden split in October 1929 the newspaper was taken over by the Right wing. Its publication ceased in May 1945.

[4] Lenin refers to the article "Finland and the Bolshevists", published in The Times No. 42239 on October 24, 1919.

[5] This refers to the resolution of the Ninth Council of the S.R. Party On the Attitude to the Red Army published in the Supplement to Lislok Dyela Naroda No, 2.

[6] Lenin refers to N. P. Rostopchin's article Peasants— Non-Party Conferences published in Pravda No. 20 on November 20, 1919.

[7] The Draft Instructions to Gubernia, Uyezd and Volost Committees of the R.C.P. on Work in the Countryside were drawn up by the relevant department of the C.C., R.C.P.(B.) and published for discussion in Bulletin of the C .C., R.C.P.(B.) on September 20, 1919; it defined the duties of local Party organisers who were to secure help for local peasants from neighbouring state farms and farming co-operatives. The draft was adopted with slight amendments by the First All-Russia Conference on Party Work in the Countryside and finally endorsed by the Eighth All-Russia Conference of the R.C.P.(B.).

[8] The draft resolution on foreign policy was written by Lenin at the session of the Eighth All-Russia Conference of the R.C.P.(B.), December 2, 1919. It was adopted by the Conference with slight amendments, and afterwards (on December 5) read out by Lenin in his report at the Seventh All-Russia Congress of Soviets (see p. 231 of this volume), which adopted it unanimously as a peace proposal to the countries of the Entente. The resolution of the Congress was published in the press on December 6, 1919. The peace proposal of the Congress was sent to the Entente powers on December 10, 1919. The governments of Britain, France, the U.S.A. and Italy refused to examine it.