V. I. Lenin

Session Of The Petrograd Soviet

March 12, 1919


Report On The Foreign And Home Policy Of The Council Of People’s Commissars

Brief Newspaper Report

Written: 12 March, 1919
First Published: First published in the Fourth (Russian) Edition of the Collected Works according, to the Verbatim Report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 19-38
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.

(Lenin’s appearance on the platform is greeted by a lengthy ovation. All rise.)

“This hail reminds me of the first time I spoke at a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, when the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries still ruled it. We have forgotten the recent past too soon, but today, the way the revolution is developing in other countries reminds us of what we experienced not so long ago. Formerly it was assumed that in the West, where class antagonisms are much more developed, because of the more intensive development of capitalism, the revolution would proceed on lines differing somewhat from those of this country, and that power would pass directly from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat. Events in Germany, however, indicate the contrary. The German bourgeoisie have united to counteract the masses of the proletariat who have raised their heads; they acquire strength from the greater experience gained by the Western bourgeoisie, and are waging a systematic struggle against the proletariat. The German revolutionary masses, however, still lack experience, and can gain it only in the course of this struggle. Everybody remembers the revolution of 1905, when the Russian proletariat entered the struggle without any previous experience. In the present revolution, however, we have taken into account and made use of the experience we gained in the revolution of 1905.”

Lenin then proceeded to review the work of the Council of People’s Commissars. He recalled the first period of therevolution when the masses did not yet know what to do and still lacked sufficiently authoritative and powerful guiding centres.

“We knew perfectly well,” Lenin continued, “that to achieve success in the struggle that had been started the greatest possible cohesion of the exploited masses and all elements of the entire working population was essential, and this inevitably brought us face to face with the question of forms of organisation. We remembered very well the part the Soviets had played in 1905, and revived them as the most suitable means of uniting the working people in their struggle against the exploiters. Before the revolution in Germany we always said that the Soviets were the most suitable organs of government for Russia. At that time we could not say that they were equally suitable for the West, but events have shown that they are. We see that Soviets are gaining popularity in the West, and that the fight for them is going on not only in Europe, but also in America. Soviet-type councils are being set up everywhere, and sooner or later they will take power into their own hands.

“The present situation in America, where such councils are being set up, is extremely interesting. Perhaps the movement there will not develop as it is developing in this country, but the important thing is that there, too, the Soviet form of organisation has gained extensive popularity. This form has superseded all other forms of proletarian organisation. The anarchists were formerly opposed to all government but after they had got to know the Soviet form they accepted it, and thereby demolished the whole theory of anarchism, which repudiates every form of government. Two years ago the compromising idea of collaboration with the bourgeoisie was dominant in our Soviets. A certain amount of time was required to clear the minds of the masses of the old rubbish that prevented them from understanding what was going on. This could be achieved only when the Soviets had undertaken the practical work of building the state. The masses of the workers in Germany are now in the same position, and their minds, too, must be cleared of the same old rubbish, although in that country the process is more intense, cruel and bloody than in Russia.

“I have digressed somewhat from the subject on which the Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet has asked me to speak, but this could not be helped.

“The activities of the Council of People’s Commissars during the past year can be understood only by appraising the role of the Soviets in the light of the world revolution. Often the minor daily affairs of administration and the inevitable petty problems of the work of organisation distract our attention and make us forget the great cause of the world revolution. But only by gauging the role of the Soviets on a world scale can we properly understand the minor details of the internal life of our country, and regulate them in proper time. The bigwig inspectors from Berne[1] say that we advocate violence, but they deliberately shut their eyes to the practices of their own bourgeoisie which governs exclusively with the aid of violence.

“Before we adopted the Soviet form of government there was a period of several months during which the masses prepared themselves for this new, hitherto unprecedented form of government. We tore the Kerensky government to shreds; we compelled the Provisional Government to keep on changing its Cabinet, to jump from right to left, up and down, and this definitely proved to the masses that the clique of compromisers with bourgeoisie who claimed the right to power at that time were unfit to govern the country, and only after this did we take power into our hands.

“The matter is much more complicated when taken on a world scale. In that case, revolutionary violence is not enough; revolutionary violence must be preceded by a period of preparation, like the one we passed through, but of somewhat longer duration, of course. At one time the Treaty of Brest was a vexed question, and certain gentlemen called it a compromise and decided to take advantage of this step of the Soviet government to serve their demagogic aims. But if this is called a compromise, it would also be correct to say that we compromised with the tsar when we went into the State Duma in order to disrupt it from within. We concluded the Treaty of Brest because we expected the development of conditions in Germany that would bring about the overthrow of Wilhelm, and this shows how correct our calculations were.

“In the Entente[2] countries we see the awakening of the masses which the governments of these countries are doing their utmost to prevent. For this purpose the thoughts of the as yet politically unenlightened masses are being diverted to ‘patriotic’ channels. The masses are being lured by promises of the advantages of a victorious peace, they are being promised incalculable blessings when peace is concluded. They are being sustained with illusions. But the extent to which these illusions are likely to become reality may be gauged by the conversation I had recently with an American, a shrewd and level-headed businessman, whose interests differ entirely from ours. He described the situation in France as follows. The French Government is promising the masses piles of gold which, it claims, will be obtained from the Germans but the Germans have to have something to pay with, for if a debtor has nothing, nothing can be got front him and all the illusions based on the prospect of concluding an advantageous peace with Germany will be dispelled, for the peace that has been concluded will be a bankrupt peace. Even the enemies of the revolution realise this, for they see no way out of the present situation except the overthrow of capitalism. In this respect the temper of the Paris crowds, which are extremely sensitive and responsive, is typical. Six months ago people were quite tolerant towards speakers at meetings who roundly abused the Bolsheviks. But now, if any speaker dares to say anything against the Bolsheviks, they refuse to give him a hearing. The bourgeoisie have helped us a great deal to popularise our ideas. Their attacks on us made the masses think and discuss and, as a consequence, those of the masses of Paris who are able to think for themselves have come to the conclusion that since the bourgeoisie detest the Bolsheviks so much the Bolsheviks must know how to fight them. The Entente has now turned its attention to its and wants to pay the bills it owes out of our pocket. We have to reckon with a powerful enemy whose military strength is superior to ours, but not for long. Disillusionment with the victory is bound to set in, and this will lead to the collapse of all the ‘Allied’ machinations, that is, if they do not quarrel with each other before that. All countries are now suffering from hunger and no victory will hell) overcome it.. We are confronted with complicated problems of foreign policy. In this respect we have the experience of the Brest peace, time most important step in the foreign policy of the Council of People’s Commissars. The Brest peace was concluded with a powerful enemy who was far superior to us in military strength, and this caused disagreement even in our own ranks, but the proletarian state had to take such a first step because it was surrounded on all sides by imperialist predators. The Brest peace sapped the strength of our powerful enemy. In a very short time the Germany which had forced these predatory terms upon its collapsed, and the same fate awaits the other countries, the more so that everywhere we see the armies falling to pieces.

“We must recall the time when the disintegration of our army was ascribed to the impatience of the Russians, but this seems to be the lot of all countries that take the path of revolution. The downright robbery now being perpetrated by the ‘democratic’ governments in Paris is opening the eyes of the masses, the more so that their bickering over the spoils, which at times grows into a serious quarrel, is no longer a secret.[3] Unfavourable though the conditions under which Soviet Russia exists may be, we have this one advantage, which even the bourgeois Times lays stress upon. In an article written by its military expert it spoke of the growing disintegration of the armies of all countries except Russia. According to time Times, Russia is the only country in which the army is not falling to pieces but is being built up. This has been one of the most important features of our development during the past year. We are surrounded by enemies, we are defending ourselves and fighting to regain every inch of Soviet Russia’s territory, and every month of struggle brings us nearer and nearer to the world revolution. We were the first in the world to take power, and today Soviets of working people govern our country. Shall we succeed in retaining power? If we do not, it will prove that historically we were not justified in seizing power. But today we can be justly proud of having withstood this test and of having upheld the power of the working people in spite of the incalculable suffering we have been compelled to undergo.”

Lenin then went on to deal with the question of the specialists.

Some of our comrades, he said, express indignation at the fact that former officers and others who served the tsar are at the head of the Red Army. “Naturally, in organising the Red Army this question acquires special significance and success in this work depends on its correct presentation. But the question of specialists must be discussed on a broader scale. We must make use of them in all spheres of organisation, wherever we, lacking the experience and scientific training of the old bourgeois specialists, are ourselves naturally unable to cope with our tasks. We are not utopians who think that socialist Russia must be built up by men of a new type; we must utilise the material we have inherited from the old capitalist world. We are placing people of the old type in new conditions, keeping them under proper control, under the vigilant supervision of the proletariat, and making them do the work we need. This is the only way we can build. If you are unable to erect the edifice with the materials bequeathed to us by the bourgeois world, you will not be able to build it at all, and you will not be Communists, but mere phrase-mongers. For the purpose of building socialism, we must make the fullest use of the science, technology and, in general, everything that capitalist Russia bequeathed to us. Of course there will be great difficulties in our way. Mistakes are inevitable. There are deserters and deliberate saboteurs everywhere. Against these, force had to be the primary weapon. But after that we must make use of the moral weight of the proletariat, strong organisation and discipline. There is no need whatever to reject useful specialists, but they must be kept within definite limits so that the proletariat can keep them under control. They must be entrusted with certain work, but a vigilant eye must also be kept on them, commissars must be placed over them to thwart their counter-revolutionary scheming. At the same time we must also learn from them. Above all, no political concessions whatever must be made to these gentlemen whose services we are using wherever possible. We have already succeeded in doing this to some extent. We have passed from the stage of suppressing the capitalists to the stage of using their services, and this, perhaps, is one of the most important achievements in the field of internal development during the past year.

“One of the most serious problems affecting our cultural development is that of the rural districts. Soviet power presupposes the widest. possible support of the working people. This sums up our entire rural policy during this period. It was necessary to link up the urban proletariat with the rural poor, and this we have done. Today they are most intimately connected by thousands of imperceptible threads. Here, as elsewhere, we encounter considerable difficulties, for the peasants are accustomed to feel that they are independent proprietors. They are accustomed to sell their grain freely, and every peasant regarded this as his inalienable right. Now a tremendous effort is needed to convince them definitely that only by means of the communist organisation of production shall we be able to cope with the devastation caused by the war. This must be done by persuasion and not by force. Of course, among the peasants too we have open enemies, the kulaks; but the bulk of the poor peasants, and of the middle peasants who are close to them, are on our side. Against the kulaks, who are our inveterate enemies, we have but one weapon—force. When we began to carry out our food policy on the principle that the peasants must surrender their surplus stocks for the benefit of the famine-stricken, some people began to shout to the peasants: ‘They’re robbing you!’ These were the inveterate enemies of the peasants, workers and communism, enemies arrayed in Menshevik, Left Socialist-Revolutionary, or other clownish costumes, and these we shall continue to treat in the same way as we have treated them up to now.”

Severruya Kornnlna No. 58,
March 14, 1919

Published according to the Severnaya Kommuna text


Replies to Written Questions

Comrades, I now want to reply to the written quest ions, two of which are not quite clear. However, one of them appears to contain two main ideas. In the first place, its author has a grudge against the Bolsheviks who went at things with a rush, and sympathises with the Mensheviks because of their love of the gradual. Secondly, he asks about peasant revolts.

Insofar as concerns the first question, let me say that if you make this sort of accusation against the Bolsheviks you must say what they did in a rush, and what is good about gradualness. The main thing that distinguishes us from the Mensheviks was our insistence on the transfer of all power to the Soviets and we rushed things to such an extent that in October of the year before last we took power. The Mensheviks advocated procrastination since they did not desire that transfer of power. The well-known socialist Kautsky, for instance, a man who sympathises with the Mensheviks, said in a pamphlet in August 1918 that the Bolsheviks should not take power because they would not be able to hold out, that they would perish and in that way destroy a whole party. I think that view has been disproved by the course of events and that it is not worth while wasting time on it, especially as there have not been any clear objections. In Germany, Kautsky insisted on democracy, on a Constituent Assembly. The German Mensheviks and ours said that power should not be given to the Soviets. The Constituent Assembly assembled in Germany, and in January and March there were several huge workers’ revolts, a civil war, the result of which was that the German Mensheviks, headed by Hilferding, proposed in recent articles to combine the Constituent Assembly with Workers’ Councils in such a way as to give the Central Committee of the Councils the right to hold up decisions made by the Constituent Assembly and submit questions to a plebiscite. This shows that the German Mensheviks, even the best of them, are in an absolute muddle. The idea of combining the Constituent Assembly and the Workers’ Councils, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the dictatorship of the proletariat, deserves nothing but ridicule.

With regard to the peasant revolts—there is a question on that subject here. We have, of course, experienced a number of kulak revolts and they are still occurring. Last summer there was a whole string of them. The kulak is our implacable enemy. And here we can hope for nothing unless we crush him. The middle peasant is a different case, he is not our enemy. It is not true that there have been peasant revolts in Russia that involved a large number of peasants who were not kulaks. An individual village or a volost does join the kulaks, but under Soviet power there have been no peasant revolts that involved all the peasants in Russia. There have been kulak revolts and there will be more under a government that insists on surplus grain being sold to the hungry at fixed prices. Such revolts are inevitable because the kulak who has a big stock of grain can sell it at several hundred rubles a pood; we all know what prices the food profiteers are getting. If we allow the kulaks so much freedom, the rich man who has a secret cache of Kerensky paper money[4] will fill his belly, but the majority who have nothing hidden will go hungry. And so we do not close our eyes to the inevitability of kulak revolts against Soviet power. When the capitalists were in power workers’ revolts against them arid peasant revolts against the landowners were inevitable. Now that the landowners and capitalists have been smashed kulak revolts will occur less and less frequently. You have to take your choice. If there is anyone who wants everything to go smoothly without any revolts, who wants the rich people to hand us a declaration of love on a salver and promise to hand over all surpluses peacefully, I don’t think we can take him seriously.

The other unclear note contains the following. What is to be done when workers, misled by the appeals of the SocialistRevolutionaries, do not work, go on strike, and come out against Soviet power because of the food shortage? I cannot, of course, count on all workers, down to the last, supporting Soviet power. When the Paris workers revolted in 1871, quite a large number of workers in other towns fought against them in the whiteguard troops and crushed the Paris workers. That did not prevent politically-conscious socialists from asserting that the Paris Communards represented the entire proletariat, that is, all that was best and honest—only backward sections of the workers served in the whiteguard troops. We, too, have backward workers who are not politically conscious and who have not yet understood Soviet power; we are doing our best to enlighten them. No other government has satisfied the demands for standing representative bodies of workers to the extent the Soviets have, which are willing to give any representative of a factory a place in a government institution. We are, as far as possible, drawing workers into the implementation of the policy of the state; under capitalism, even in republics, the workers were kept out of it but Soviet power does its best to attract workers, although some of them will feel the attraction of the old for quite a long time to come.

There are very few people among you, probably only an individual or two, who remember serfdom; only very old people can remember that, but there are people who remember what things were like thirty or forty years ago. Anyone who was in the rural districts knows that some thirty years ago there were quite a number of old people in the villages who said, “It was better under serfdom, there was more order, things were strict and the women did not dress extravagantly.” If you now read Gleb Uspensky—we are erecting a monument to him as one of the best writers about peasant life you will find descriptions dating back to the eighties and nineties of honest old peasants and sometimes just ordinary elderly people who said frankly that it had been better under serfdom. When an old social order is destroyed it cannot be destroyed immediately in the minds of all people, there will always be some who are drawn to the old.

Some workers, printers, for instance, say that capitalism was good, there were a lot of newspapers whereas now there are few, in those days they earned a decent wage and they do not want any socialism. There were quite a number of branches of industry that depended on the rich classes or on the production of articles of luxury. Under capitalism quite a number of workers in big cities lived by producing articles of luxury. In the Soviet Republic we shall have to leave those workers unemployed for a time. We shall say to them, “Get down to some other, useful work.” And the worker will say, “I did delicate work, I was a jeweller, it was clean work, I worked for gentlemen; now the muzhik is in power, the gentlemen have been scattered and I want to go back to capitalism.” Such people will preach going back to capitalism, or, as the Mensheviks say, going forward to healthy capitalism and sound democracy. A few hundred workers are to be found who will say, “We lived well under a healthy capitalism.” The people who lived well under capitalism were an insignificant minority—we defend the interests of the majority that lived badly under capitalism. (Applause.) Healthy capitalism led to world slaughter in the countries with the greatest freedom. There can be no healthy capitalism, there can be capitalism of the sort obtaining in the freest republic, one like the American republic, cultured, rich, technically developed; and that democratic and most republican capitalism, led to the most savage world slaughter over the plunder of the whole world. Out of fifteen million workers you will find a few thousand who lived well under capitalism. In the rich countries there are more such workers because they work for a greater number of millionaires and multimillionaires. They served that handful and received particularly high wages from them. Take hundreds of British millionaires—they have accumulated thousands of millions because they have plundered India and a large number of colonies. It meant nothing to them to make gifts to 10,000 or 20,000 workers, giving them double or higher wages so that they would work well for them. I once read the reminiscences of an American barber whom a multimillionaire paid a dollar a day to shave him. And that barber wrote a whole book praising that multimillionaire and his own wonderful life. For a daily visit of one hour to his financial majesty he received a dollar, wassatisfied and did not want anything but capitalism. We have to be on our guard against such an argument. The vast majority of workers were not in such a position. We, the Communists of the whole world, defend the interests of the vast majority of working people, and it was a small minority of working people whom the capitalists bribed with high wages and made them the loyal servants of capital. Under serfdom there were people, peasants, who said to the landowners, “We are your slaves (that was after emancipation), we hall not leave you.” Were there many of them? An insignificant few. Can you deny that there was a struggle against serfdom by reference to theni? Of course not. And today communism cannot be denied by reference to the minority of workers who earned good money on bourgeois newspapers, on the production of articles of luxury and for their personal services to multimillionaires.

I shall now deal with the questions that were presented clearly, first of all with the question of concessions in general and of the Great Northern Railways[5] in particular. It is said that it would be allowing predators to plunder the wealth of the nation. In answer to this I say that the question is closely connected with bourgeois specialists and the question of world imperialism. Can we smash world imperialism today? It would be our duty to do it if we could, but you know that we cannot do it today any more than we could have overthrown Kerensky in March 1917; we had to wait for the Soviet organisations to develop, we had to work for that and not revolt against Kerensky immediately. And today, is an offensive war against world imperialism any more possible? Of course not. If we had been strong enough, if we could have obtained a lot of grain quickly, and had machinery and so on, we would not have allowed the Scheidernanns to mow down the Spartacists but would have kicked them out. Today, however, that is misplaced fantasy, today our country alone cannot overthrow world imperialism; other countries are experiencing a period in which there is no Soviet majority and in many countries Soviets are only just beginning to appear so that we have to make concessions to imperialism. Today we cannot build railways on a large scale—God grant that we can handle those already existing. We are short of grain and fuel, we have not got enough locomotives, several million poods of grain are lying on the Volga-Bugulma Railway and we cannot bring it away. In the Council of People’s Commissars a few days ago we passed a decision to send representatives with extensive powers to get the grain away from there. The people are hungry in Petrograd and Moscow while millions of poods of grain are stored there and we cannot get them away because we have not got enough locomotives and there is no fuel. And we say that it is better to pay tribute to foreign capitalists as long as they build railways. We shall not perish on account of that tribute but if we do not organise railway transport we may perish because the people are hungry; great as the endurance of the Russian worker may he, there is a limit to it. It is, therefore, our duty to take measures to improve railway facilities even at the expense of paying tribute to capitalism. Good or had, there is so far no choice. We shall not ruin Soviet power by paying tribute to world capitalism until it is finally overthrown. We paid gold to the German imperialists, we had to under the terms of the Treaty of Brest, and now the Entente countries are taking that gold away from them—the victorious bandit is robbing the defeated bandit. We say today that as long as the world movement of the proletariat does not bring victory we shall either fight or pay those bandits to buy them off and do not see anything bad in it. While we were buying off the German bandits by paying them a few hundred million we strengthened our Red Army, but the German bandits now have nothing left. That’s what will happen to other imperialist bandits. (Applause.)

The comrade adds that lie was under arrest for four days for opposing the ruin of the middle peasants; he asks what the middle peasant is and refers to a number of peasant revolts. If the comrade was arrested for protesting against the ruin of the middle peasants that was, of course, incorrect, and judging by his speedy release I imagine that either the one who arrested him or some other representative of Soviet power found the action incorrect. Now about the middle peasant. He differs from the kulak in not exploiting the labour of others. The kulak steals other people’s money and other people’s labour. The poor peasants, the seini-proletarians, are those who are themselves exploited; the middle peasant does not exploit other people, gets his living from his own farni, has approximately enough grain, is no kulak but is not to be classed as poor either. Such peasants waver between us and the kulaks. A few of them may become kulaks if they are lucky, that is why they are attracted to the kimlaks, but the majority of then will never be kulaks. If the socialists and Communists are able to talk intelligently to the middle peasant they can prove to him that the Soviet government is more advantageous than any other, because other governments oppress and crush the middle peasant. The middle peasant, however, wavers. Today he is for us, tomorrow for some other power; partly for us and partly for the bourgeoisie. In the programme we shall adopt in a few days we are against any kind of force in respect of the middle peasant. Our Party makes this declaration. If there are arrests we condemn them and will put matters right. In respect of the kulak we are for force but in respect of the middle peasant we are against force. To him we say, “If you are oil time side of Soviet power we shall not drive you into a commune by force, we have never forced peasants into communes and no decree to that effect exists.” If it happens in the localities, it is abuse of power for which the people in office are removed and indicted. This is a big question. The middle peasant stands between two camps. But, comrades, in this case the policy is quite clear—we are against force where the middle peasants are concerned, we favour agreement with them we favour concessions to them. The middle peasant can and will come to communism by a slow journey. In the freest capitalist republic the middle peasant is threatened by capital that oppresses and crushes him in some way or other.

The next note asks my opinion of the Baltic Fleet. I have not studied the question of the. Baltic Fleet and cannot answer at the moment; the speech by the comrade from the fleet probably exhausted that question.

Then there is a question about the mouldiness, moss and red tape that has grown in the localities and about the need to fight it. That is perfectly true. When the October Revolution kicked out the old bureaucrats it did so because it had created the Soviets. It turned out the old judges and made the court a people’s court. The court could have been simplified; for this there was no need to know the old laws but simply to be guided by a sense of justice. It was easy to get rid of bureaucratic methods in the courts. In other areas it was much more difficult. We threw out the old bureaucrats, but they have come back, they call themselves “commonists” when they can’t bear to say the word Communist, and they wear a red ribbon in their buttonholes and creep into warm corners. What to do about it? We must tight this scum again and again and if the scum has crawled back we must again and again clean it up, chase it out,keep it under the surveillance of communist workers and peasants whom we have known for more than a month and for more than a year. There is still another question here, a note which says that it is a bad thing to give advantages to members of the Party because scoundrels will worm their way in. We are fighting against that and will continue to do so, comrades; we have passed a decision not to allow members who have been in the Party less than a year to be delegates to a Party congress; we shall continue to adopt such measures. When a party is in power it has to give preference to its members—let us suppose that two men apply, one of them shows a Party membership card and the other has no Party card and both of them are equally unknown; it is natural that preference should be given to the Party member, the one who has the Party card. How can one really decide whether a person is in the Party because of his convictions or for gain? The date he joined the Party must be entered on his Party card, he must not be given the card until he has been tested, until he has been through probation, etc.

There is also a note about the revolutionary tax[6] to the effect that it is a burden on the middle peasant. There has been a special session on this question, there were many complaints, and in order to verify them we did the following. We have a Central Statistical Board in which the best specialists in statistics in Russia are employed, most of them Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and even Cadets; there are very few Communists, Bolsheviks—they were more concerned with the fight against tsarism than with practical work. As far as I have been able to see these specialists are working satisfactorily, although that does not mean that we do not have to fight against some individuals. We gave them the job of making probes in a few volosts to see how the peasants have distributed time revolutionary tax. There are very many complaints; when we realise, however, that they amount to about a thousand for the whole country, then we see that it is an insignificant number for Russia—if there are a thousand complaints to several million farms that is a mere bagatelle; if three people a day come to the Central Executive Committee that makes 90 complaints a month, but it creates the impression that we are snowed under with complaints. To cheek up on this we decided to investigate a few volosts and we got a precise answer in Popov’s report which was repeated at a sitting of the Central Executive Committee in the presence of workers. The report showed that in the majority of cases the peasants distribute the tax justly. Soviet power demands that the poor do not pay anything, the middle peasants a moderate amount and the rich peasants a lot, although it is, of course, impossible to determine exactly who is rich and who is poor and there have been mistakes, but on the whole the peasants distribute the tax correctly. That’s as it should be. (Applause.) There have been mistakes, of course. For instance, there was a petty clerk on the railway who complained that the house committee had taxed him unjustly. He informed the Soviet authorities of this. And they said, search his place, he is a profiteer. And they found several sacks containing a million rubles in Kerensky notes. This will continue until we have found a way of changing all the old notes for new ones. When we change these notes for new ones all the profiteers will be exposed. All of them will have to change old notes for new. (Stormy applause.) If you present the small amount of money necessary for a working man you will get a ruble for a ruble, if you present one or two thousand—ruble for ruble. If you present more we shall give you some of it in new money and the rest will go into a bookyou can wait for it. (Applause.) In order to do that sort of thing we have to get the new notes ready. There are about 60,000 million of the old money. We do not need to change such a huge sum for new money, but specialists have computed that we shall need no less than 20,000 million rubles’ worth. We already have 17,000 million. (Applause.) The question has been raised at the Council of People’s Commissars of making the final preparations in the near future for this measure that will strike a 1)10W at the profiteers. This measure will expose those who are concealing Kerensicy notes, The measure will require a lot of organisational work, for it is no easy one.

Then there is a question on how matters stand with the sowing, since it is difficult to get enough seed. That, of course, is true. A Cultivated Land Committee[7] has been set up. Here, at the Commissariat of Agriculture, a Working Committee[8] has been formed in accordance with a Soviet decree and its work will be organised jointly with the trade unions. Its job will be to see that the land is not left vacant and that any land left vacant by the landowners is given to workers. There is an order to the effect that if the peasants do not take the land the government will try to adapt it to its needs. There is a shortage of seed, of course. In this case the poor peasants must drag out into the open those kulaks who have a hidden surplus grain and have mot given it up for seed. It is important to time kulak to conceal these surpluses because he will get a thousand rubles a pood for it in time hungry months and it does not worry him that grain will not be planted and that he will be doing harm to thousands of workers. He is an enemy of time people and lie must be exposed.

The next question is about wages; the specialist gets three thousand, he goes from place to place and is difficult to catch. I say this about the specialists—they are people who have a knowledge of bourgeois science and engineering at a higher level than the overwhelming majority of workers and peasants; such specialists are needed and we say that at the moment we cannot introduce equalitarian wages, and are in favour of paying more than three thousand. Even if we pay several million a year in wages it will not be too much as long as we learn to work well with their help. We do not see any other way of arranging things so that they do not work under time lash, and as long as there are few specialists we are compelled to retain high wages. I recently had a talk on this question with Schmidt, the Commissar for Labour, and he agrees with our policy and says that formerly, under capitalism, the wages of an unskilled worker were 25 rubles a month and those of a good specialist not less than 500 rubles, a ratio of 20 to 1; now the lowest wages amount to 600 rubles and the specialists get 3,000, a ratio of 5 to 1. We have, therefore, done a lot to equalise low and high wages and we shall continue in the same vein. At the moment we cannot equalise wages and as long as there are few specialists we shall not refuse to raise their wages. We say that it is better to pay out an extra million or a thousand million as long as we can employ all the specialists, for what they will teach our workers and peasants is worth more than that thousand million.

Next comes a question about agricultural communes and whether former landowners can 1)0 allowed to remain in them. That depends on what the landowner was like. There has been no decree forbidding the landowner admission to the commune. The landowner, of course, does not inspire confidence because lie has been oppressing the peasants for centuries and they hate him, but if there are landowners that the peasants know as decent people you not only can but must admit them. We must use such specialists, they are used to organising big farms and there is a lot they can teach peasants and farm workers.

Then it is asked whether the middle peasants should be allowed on public ploughiands. Of course they should. Whole uyezds have recently decided to go over to collective ploughing—to what extent it will be carried out I don’t know; for this it is important to attract the middle peasants, because the poor peasants are on our side but the middle peasantsriot always, and they have to be won over. We are in favour of using force against the capitalists and against the landowners, and are riot only in favour of the use of force but of the confiscation of everything they have accumulated; we are in favour of the use of force against the kulak, but not of his complete expropriation, because he farms the land and part of what he has accumulated comes from his own labour. This is a difference that must be fully understood. The complete expropriation of the landowner and capitalists; not all the property of the kulak can be confiscated, there has been no such order; we want to convince the middle peasant and draw him over to us by example and persuasion. That is our programme. If there are deviations from it in the localities, they are infringements of the decrees of Soviet power either by people who do not want to carry out our decrees or by those who do riot understand them.

Then there is a question on how to smarten imp the railway workers, and also about the cessation of traffic on the railways. This question has been heatedly discussed by the Council of People’s Commissars and many measures have been adopted. This is a fundamental question. Millions of poods of grain are lying on the Volga-Bugulma Railway arid may be ruined because in some places the grain is lying in the snow and when the thaw sets in the grain will be spoiled. It is already damp (tip to 20 per cent humidity). This grain must he brought away or it will be destroyed. The main thing is that the railwaymen themselves are badly in need of grain. For this purpose it will be necessary, according to the estimate of our comrades in the Commissariat of Railways, to stop passenger traffic from March 18 to April 10. This cancelling of passenger traffic can give its the three and a half million poods of grain that can be brought out using even light passenger locomotives. If profiteers were to carry grain on those trains they would, at most, bring half a million poods. Those who complain about the cessation of passenger traffic are not in the right. Profiteers would, at best, transport half a million poods and we shall bring in three and a half million, if we fill the cars with grain and if the railwaymen help us, and in this way we shall improve the food situation. That is why we say that all comrades who are more developed and more organised must work for the war and for food. Give us people again and again, no matter how difficult it may be. We know very well that Petrograd has given more people than any other town in Russia, because the most developed arid best organised workers are in Petrograd. This, however, is going to be a difficult six months. The first half-year of 1918 produced 27 million poods, and in the second we got 67 million poods. We have reached a hungry half-year. March, April, May and June will he difficult months. We must bend all efforts to prevent this. The question must he raised at every factory and at every study circle of whether there is a man who can be sent to work at a railway workshop and replaced by a woman, and if there is, to send him to that work. In every study circle, in every group and in every organisation thought must he given to this, new workers must be supplied if we are to cope with this difficult half-year. (Applause.)


[1] This refers to a commission appointed to visit Soviet Russia by the Borne Conference of the Second International which took place from February 3 to February 10, 1919. In reply to a request for the commission to be allowed to enter the country, the Soviet Government said on February 10, 1910, that, although it did not consider the Berne Conference to be in the least either socialist or representative of the working class; it would nevertheless permit the commission to visit Soviet Russia. The visit did not take place.

[2] Entente or the, “Allies’—Britain, France, the U.S.A., Japan and other countries that took part in the intervention against Soviet Russia. It should not be confused with the Entente cordiale, the alliance of France and Great Britain and, later, tsarist Russia.

[3] This refers to the Paris Peace Conference that was called on the conclusion of the First World War. The Conference opened on January 18, 1919 and ended its deliberations on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

[4] This refers to paper money that was issued by the Provisional Government in the summer of 1917.

[5] The question of granting a concesion to build the Great North-ern Railway, to link the River Oh with Petrograd and Murmansk via Kotlas was discussed at a meeting of the Council of Peoples Commissars on February 4, 1919. The Council adopted Lenin’s motion which recognised as permissible the granting of concessions to foreign capital for the purpose of developing the country’s productive forces. No contract for this railway was concluded.

[6] The decree introducing this tax was passed by a session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on October 30, 4918, The extaerdinary tax to raise the sum of 10,000 million rubles was to be imposed, mainly on the kulaks and the urban bourgeoisie; the middle strata of the population were lightly taxed. The urban and rural poor and persons whose wages constituted their only source of income were exempted. On April 9, 1919, the All-Russia Central Executive Committee adopted an additional decree granting certaik exemptions from this tax to the middle peasants.

[7] Cultivated Land Committee was at up at the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture by it decree of the Council of People s Commissars of January 28, 1919. The decree stated that all unused arable land would be taken over by the state for the purpose of grain production, The Committee’s duties included general guidance and the implementation of measures to extend the area under crops.

[8] Working Committee was organised in February 1919 at the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture on the basis of the "Statuteon’ Socialist Land Settlement and the Measures for the Transition to Socialist Farming" that had been approved by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. The Committee was responsible for sending experienced organisers from among the workers to gubernia and district state-farm boards and to individual state farms, recruiting industrial workers for farm work, arranging for all kinds of technical equipment for the state farms and for the neighbouring rural population, helping organise trade unions for farm workers, etc.