V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered At A Meeting

In The People’s House, Petrograd

March 13, 1919

Newspaper Report

Delivered: 13 March, 1919
First Published: Severnaya Kommuna No. 58, 14 March, 1919. Published acording to the Severnaya Kommuna text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 47-53
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.

“The question that mainly interests most of you is the food situation, and what the Council of People’s Commissars has done in the matter. Permit me to tell you briefly what it has done. We have entered into a severe, hungry half--year, and all our enemies at home and abroad, including the Right and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Menshe-viks, knowing what hardships the people are suffering, are trying to make capital out of it, are trying to overthrow the Soviet government and thus, whether they realise it or not, restore the rule of the landowners and capitalists. We have entered a period when the collection of grain at its source is exceeding deliveries, and the establishment of Soviet power in the Ukraine gives us grounds for hoping that we shall be able to cope with the food situation in the coming half-year better than we did last year, although we shall now have to pull through a half-year that will be more severe than the preceding one. The fact that a considerable section of the peasant masses has turned in favour of Soviet power is a great gain for us. In those regions where the Czechoslovaks[1] were, the Trans-Volga region and Ufa Gubernia, the attitude of even the well-to-do peasants has changed abruptly in favour of Soviet power, for the Cze-choslovaks taught them a severe lesson. Only a few days ago a delegation of peasants representing five volosts in the Sarapul Uyezd came to see me. These are the volosts which quite recently sent 40,000 poods of grain each to Moscow and Petrograd. 1 asked the delegation to tell me what the attitude of the peasants was towards the Soviet government, and I received the following reply. ’Yes, the Czechoslovaks taught us a lesson, and now, nobody will turn us away from the Soviet government.’ In other regions, too, in the Urals, for example, where, incidentally, there are huge stocks of grain, the peasants are now on the side of the Soviets. At one time, influenced by the Mensheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries—you will remember the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Muravyov nearly succeeded in opening our front to the Czechoslovak—the peasants in these regions were hostile to the Soviets. But the atrocities perpetrated by the officers of the Czechoslovak army, their brutal treatment of the population, their attempts to restore the old tsarist and landowner system in its entirety—all this taught the peasants a lesson. At the present time Soviet activities are being carried on in those gubernias with a zest that you here can scarcely imagine, for here, in the large centres, the people are exhausted by lengthy under-nourishment, whereas in those regions, where there are fairly large stocks of grain, problems of filling the stomach recede into the background.

“I now come to the details. In Ufa Gubernia there are stocks of grain amounting to 60,000,000 poods, procurement is proceeding rapidly, but we are encountering colossal transport difficulties. On the railways, on the Kazan-Sarapul and Volga-Bugulma lines, we have about 10,000,000 poods of grain already collected, but we cannot transport it owing to the shortage of locomotives, trucks and fuel and the exceedingly bad state of the available locomo-tives. To increase the carrying capacity, of our railways we have been obliged to resort to an extremely radical measure; we have decided to suspend all passenger traffic on the rail-ways all over Russia for a period extending from March 18 to April 10. Before deciding on this measure we discussed it three times with our railwaymen comrades and with prominent railway experts. Only after we had discussed the matter from every angle and had weighed up all probable consequences did we make the decision. Our calculations showed that the suspension of passenger traffic will release 220 locomotives; although they are of low power they are capable of transporting 3,500,000 poods of grain. If we calculate the amount of grain the private profiteers carry-there were weeks when we were obliged to allow them to transport food unhindered—we shall find that in a period of three weeks these profiteers might bring in no more than 200,000 poods. That decided the issue.. The kulaks, profiteers, and even individual workers, will, of course, raise a howl about this and say that we are depriving the people of the only opportunity they have of bringing in even a pood or so of grain. We know that the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks will appear on the scene and try to take advantage of the famine to turn the people against the Soviet government. But here.,. as in all other cases of difficulty, we rely exclusively on the class-con-sciousness of the masses of the advanced workers. Better suffer privation, better encounter the hostile agitation of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, but face up to the danger and say frankly, ’We shall not extricate ourselves from our food difficulties unless we adopt the most radical measures and strain every nerve to transport the grain.’ In many places grain intended for delivery has been piled near the railway stations on the bare ground and is in danger of being swept away by the spring floods. Meas-ures must be taken to accelerate loading and transport. In deciding on this radical measure we took into account all the contingent circumstances. We know that before Easter there is a heavy increase in the number of working-men passengers on the railways and that is why we decided to restore passenger traffic by that time. We know, too, that the suburban services are absolutely essential for the workers, and we therefore decided not to suspend them. We have sent our most energetic and experienced comrades to various localities. To Ufa Gubernia we have sent Comrade Bryukhanov, Deputy Commissar for Food, who is closely familiar with conditions in that gubernia. He will be assist-ed by comrades from the ’War Department, for the front is not far away. We have also sent comrades from the War Department to the other railway line, K.azan-Sarapul. They have been instructed to mobilise the local peasants and to strain every nerveto get the grain moved, at least as far as Kazan. In this way we shall save it and ensure its delivery to the metropolitan cities and the non-agricultural districts. On this we base our hope of defeating the famine. The attempt of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries to make capital out of the people’s misfortunes will be thwarted once again.

“Unlike the situation last year, when the Czechoslovaks were attacking us and had deprived us of our most fertile regions, we now have two new sources of grain supply, on which our food supply authorities could not count last autumn when they drew up their food supply plans for the whole year. These sources are the Ukraine and the Don region. Last autumn the Germans were still in occupation of the Ukraine. The German imperialists counted on shipping 60,000,000 poods of grain from the Ukraine to Germany, and with this flood of foodstuff hoped to destroy the germs of Bolshevism among the masses of the German people. But something entirely different happened. Instead of 60,000,000 poods the Germans shipped only 9,000,000 poods from the Ukraine. But they shipped the seeds of Bolshevism with this grain and they are growing splendidly in Germany. In Germany— today, Bolshevism is fighting the social-traitors in the streets of Berlin, where workers’ blood is flowing, shed by the social-traitors. We are convinced that the Ger-man social-traitors will be vanquished just as Kerensky was vanquished in this country. (Applause.)

“But in addition to the Ukraine we have the Don region. Krasnov’s Cossacks have been able to hold out all this time with the aid of foreign gold, first German and later Anglo--French. But this does not help—our victory over the Cos-sacks is certain. At the present time we are holding the Tsa-ritsyn-Likhaya line, the link between grain and coal sup-plies. Thus, we have two sources of supply—the Ukraine and the Don region. The Ukraine is a fraternal Soviet republic, with which we are on the best of terms. This republic is settling the question of assisting us not as a huckster, not as a profiteer; the Ukraine is guided exclusively by an ardent desire to assist the hungry North. The first socialist duty of every citizen of the Ukraine is to come to the aid of the North. But in the Ukraine, too, we are encountering tremen-dous difficulties. The Council of People’s Commissars has repeatedly invited Comrade Rakovsky to meet us to discuss the matter, and has sent military men to the Ukraine. But it appears that as regards organisation, matters are in a worse state in the Ukraine than they were here after the October Revolution. Kerensky left us something of a food supply organisation. The fond supply officials sabotaged us, of course, and came to the Smolny not to co-operate but to bargain with us. But we broke the resistance of these groups and in the end compelled them to work. In the Ukraine they have no food supply organisation whatever. The Germans, when they were there, only engaged in plunder; they plundered as long as they had the power to do so, and, of course, they left no food supply organisation. The Ukraine has no officials experienced in handling food supplies, or large working-class centres from which capable men could be drawn. The Donets Basin has been devastated to a degree that one cannot even imagine. To this day gangs of Cossacks are roaming in the remoter parts of the region robbing the local population. From all parts of the Ukraine we hear the cry ’Send us workers!’ We have set up a food supply bureau there consisting of representatives of the trade union move-ment. We are transferring there the more experienced food supply officials from Voronezh and Tambov gubernias, and we are enlisting the more capable urban proletarians for the food supply organisations. Nevertheless no grain has been procured in the Ukraine, there are no purchasing organisa-tions, the peasants have no confidence in our currency, and we have no goods with which to barter. Notwithstanding all these unfavourable circumstances, we have given the Ukrain-ian comrades the assignment to ship to Russia 50,000,000 poods of grain by June 1, 1919. I do not think this will be carried out in full, but it will be good if only a half, or two- thirds is delivered!"

Lenin then went on to say that the victories we have gained in the Don region were due entirely to the intensification of Party activities and to cultural and educational work in the ranks of the Red Army.

“This brought about a psychological change, and as a result our Red Army won the Don region for us.” (Stormy applause.)

“Generally speaking, our Red Army is growing stronger day after day. Even the bourgeois military experts admit that in the imperialist countries the armies are disintegrat-ing, whereas our army is becoming sounder, is maturing and growing stronger. In the Don region, too, there are large stocks of grain, and there is no food supply organisation there; but we have there our disciplined army, and this is already an organisation by means of which we shall obtain grain with the minimum of expenditure and the maximum results.

“I must say that the Czechoslovaks and the Cossacks are continuing their tactics of destroying all they can. They blew up the railway bridge across the Volga and then destroyed all other railway bridges and put all the Trans-Volga main lines out of commission. The Council of People’s Commissars for a long time discussed ways and means of restoring at least two lines: Liski-Rostov and Likhaya-Tsaritsyn. Radical measures have been adopted, and at time last meeting of the Council of Defence held on Monday, March 10, it was reported that all the necessary tools and materials had already been delivered to these lines and that they would be restored before the spring thaw makes the roads impassable."

Referring once again to the assistance which the Don region and the Ukraine will render us in the way of food supplies, Lenin exclaimed: ’This half-year is time last severe half-year!” (Applause.)

“The international situation, though still acute, is nevertheless improving. All of you saw and heard the foreign dele-gates to the Third International[2] who in their speeches and reports emphasised that the road we have taken is the right one. Bolshevism has become an international force. This is evident from the fact that the most advanced bourgeois democracies, which boast so much of their liberties, are taking stern measures against the Bolsheviks. The United States of America, one of the richest bourgeois republics in the world, with its hundred million population, is hastening to deport several hundred Russian Bolsheviks, most of whom do not even speak English. Whence this horror of Bolshevism? As the newspapers report, at workers’ meetings in Paris, even those workers who do not sympathise with the Bolsheviks refuse to give a hearing to speakers who are hostile to Bolshevism. (Applause.) Notwithstanding the flood of lies and calumny which the bourgeois press of Western Europe daily turns against the Bolsheviks, the people have learned the truth and are siding with the Bolsheviks. Let the French bourgeois press say that the Bolsheviks are inhuman monsters who gobble up little children—the French workers do not trust that press. “We have succeeded in making the word ’Soviet’ intelligible in all languages. The masses have realised that their salvation lies in a workers’ and peasants’ government, in Soviets. That is why it was so easy for us to reach agreement at the Congress of the Third International in Moscow. In the most remote corners, in sonic Italian Poshiekhonye,[3] farm labourers and workers gather together and declare, ’We greet the German Spartacists and the Russian “Sovietists"and demand that their programme shall become the programme of the workers of the world.’ I shall repeat here what I have already said in Moscow.[4] This shows that victory will be ours, and there call be no doubt about this whatever. We have won the sympathies of the workers in spite of the lies uttered by the bourgeois press. Meanwhile, the imperialists at the peace conference cannot reach an agreement and are ready to fly at each other’s throats. The Bolshevik contagion has already spread to all the countries of Europe and Amer-ica. Deporting Bolsheviks will 1)0 of no avail. Even if West-em Europe were to isolate itself from us by means of a Chinese Wall, even if all the Russian Bolsheviks disappeared into the underworld, it would not relieve time position of the Western imperialists. The masses of the people have realised that they cannot improve their conditions with the aid of parlia-ment. A workers’ government, Soviets, are needed. Huge debts accrue from the war, and the imperialists have lost their senses to such an extent that they are demanding that the nations should pay their war debts. They say to the nations, ’Pay us millions and millions for having been kind enough to permit the slaughter of 10,000,000 men to settle the question of our profits!’ In all countries imperialism is slipping into the abyss into which German imperialism has fallen.” (Stormy applause.)


[1] This refers to the counter-revolutionary revolt of the Czechoslo-vak Corps engineered by the Entente imperialists with the active participation of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Corps was formed in Russia before the October Revolution from Czechoslovak prisoners of war. After the establishment of Soviet power the counter-revolutionary officers of the Corps were used by the Entente imperialists and Russian reactionaries to struggle against the Soviet Republic. The revolt began at Chelya- binsk in May 1918 and by the beginning of June the Czechoslovak troops had occupied Omsk and Samara, (now Kutbyshev), Where the Committee of the Constituent Assembly Members was formed; the Committee declared itself the provisional authority over the territory occupied by the mutineers, On July 5, the eve of the Loft Socialist-Revolutionary revolt in Moscow, the Czechoslovaks occupied Ufa. The position on the Eastern Front was worsened as a result of the treachery of the commander of that front, the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Muravyov, who on July 11 tried to conclude an agreement with the Czechoslovaks and advance on Moscow to support the revolt of the Left SocialistRevoIutionaries there; Muravyoy was killed at the very beginning of this venture. The Czechoslovak mutiny was finally put down at the end of 1919 at the time KolchAk was routed.

[2] This refers to the First Congress of the Communist International held in Moscow, March 2-6, 1919.

[3] Poshekhonye was an uyezd town in tsarist Russia that became a synonym for everything extremely backward and provincial, after M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin published his Old Times in Poshekhoaye.

[4] See present edition, Vol. 28, Speech on the Founding of he Communist International