Delivered: 29 January, 1920
First Published: Pravda No 92, April 30, 1920; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 119-122
Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. 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
Yesterday brought us two pieces of news: the first is very bad—a report about a manifesto by Pilsudski, head of the Polish Government. I have not yet seen the text of this manifesto; I was told of it on the telephone. One thing is certain, however, that it is tantamount to Poland’s declaration of war on the Ukraine. The French imperialists’ influence has evidently gained the upper hand in Poland’s government circles. The Polish Government has decided to drop its recent policy of tacking and manoeuvring around the peace negotiations with us, and to start hostilities on a wider front. The Poles have already captured Zhitomir and are marching on Kiev. This demands of us the most determined and urgent defence of the interests of the proletariat. We do not doubt that we shall be able to defend those interests; we do not doubt that this new attempt by the Entente imperialists to strangle Soviet Russia will fall through just as the Denikin and. the Kolchak ventures have. Poland is obviously getting all her military support from France, Britain, and the entire Entente It is highly characteristic, in this connection, that in the last stage of the negotiations with us about the Crimea the British Government has considerably changed its originally favourable attitude. In reply to Great Britain’s call to us to show clemency to Denikin’s soldiers, who are being driven into the sea, we have said that we were prepared to spare the lives of the Crimean whiteguards if, for its part, the Entente shows clemency to the defeated Hungarian Communists and allows them to enter Soviet Russia. We do not need to shed the blood of these Crimean whiteguards; we are not vindictive. We have, however, received no reply to our Note from the British Government, which, in connection with Poland’s action, seems in no hurry to reply. But we are sure that no supporters of intervention are to be found among the British workers, even the most opportunistically minded.
We have information to the effect that even in Poland the Polish Socialist Party, which has persecuted Polish Communists, has stated in its newspaper that Poland should not break off peace negotiations with Soviet Russia by presenting an ultimatum demanding that these talks should be conducted in Borisov. This newspaper considers such conduct by the Polish Government a crime. The Poles have proposed that the peace talks should take place in Borisov without any cessation of hostilities. Conducting negotiations in this particular place would prevent us from continuing hostilities during the talks, while giving Poland complete freedom of action in this respect. Of course, we could not conduct peace negotiations on such terms, and we proposed that they should be transferred to Paris, Revel, Warsaw, Moscow or some other city mutually agreed upon with Poland. The reply to this proposal was an extensive Polish offensive along the entire front. We have no doubt that the Polish Government started this war of aggression in defiance of the wishes of its workers. That is why we face this new military gamble quite calmly; we know that we shall emerge the victors. But you know, comrades, that any war is accompanied by tremendous difficulties, to overcome which we have more than onoe appealed to the worker masses for support. The war with Poland has been forced upon us. We have no designs whatever on Poland’s independence, just as we have no designs on the independence of Lithuania or Byelorussia. Yet, despite all our willingness to come to terms, war has been forced upon us; that being the case, we must rise up as one man to defend both ourselves and the Ukraine from the onslaught of the Polish imperialists. (Loud applause.) For that purpose we must again make a certain change of plans. However much we might desire to go over to peaceful construction as soon as possible and on the greatest possible scale, the fact that war has been forced upon us makes it imperative that we subordinate everything to the demands of that war so as to achieve the most successful and rapid results. We must explain to the workers and peasants why an Entente-instigated Poland has launched a war against us. We must explain that this has been done in order to widen the barrier and deepen the gulf separating the proletariat of Germany from us.
On the other hand, we received news from Baku yesterday which shows that the position of Soviet Russia is improving. We know that our industry is at a standstill owing to lack of fuel. News has come in that the Baku proletariat has taken over power and overthrown the Azerbaijan Government. This means that we now have an economic base that may put life into our whole industry. In Baku there is a million poods of oil which could not be sold, with the result that even Nobel, the oil magnate, tried to start, talks with us for the delivery of this oil to Soviet Russia. Thus our railways and industry will receive very substantial aid from the Baku oilfields.
Comrade Tsyurupa, the People’s Commissar for Food, informed me today that in Kuban Region and in the Caucasus there are vast stocks of grain which we can count on having sent here. That means that we shall have fuel for industry and bread for the people. By exerting every effort to restore the transport system, we shall be able to secure bread and oil, which will serve as a sound economic basis for relations between the workers and the peasants. We say that the peasants must give their surplus grain to the workers because under present-day conditions, the sale of these surpluses would be a crime. Consequently, as soon as we get our industry going, we shall make every effort to satisfy the peasants’ need of manufactured goods from the cities.
After outlining the Republic’s general position today in these few words and to the extent permitted by the time, I shall take the liberty of concluding by expressing the conviction that at the present moment, at this new stage of our relations with Poland, when both Kuban grain and Baku oil have been made available to us, the four million workers organised in the trade unions, through whom we have conducted our Soviet policy with the backing of the broad strata of the peasants, will, without confining themselves to the narrow limits of their trade union life, go on giving every support to the further success and development of the proletariat’s common cause. We know that the workers’ class-consciousness and unity and the complete solidarity of the trade unions. have been the only force that have made possible the brilliant victories of the Red Army, an army which has been the finest medium of spreading political enlightenment among the peasants, teaching them to oust self-seekers from their ranks so as to keep power in the hands of the workers. Now, too, we need that class-consciousness, that unity and complete solidarity of the trade unions in the war against Poland and in the work of restoring industry. What we need today is the further maintenance and tightening of the discipline necessary in all branches of production. The class-conscious workers know that if you, the workers, had not displayed this discipline hitherto, we might have suffered the fate of Hungary. Let the comrades remember that and, in their localities, ensure the complete subordination of all to the one fundamental task: we must abolish, we must eliminate as soon as possible the accursed motto-every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. Proletarian labour discipline must be raised to the highest pitch of intensity-and then we shall be invincible. We will show that the Soviet Republic cannot be overthrown and that we shall succeed in winning the aid of all the other republics of the world. (Continuous applause from all members of the Congress; cries of “Long live our leader Comrade Lenin!”)