V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Activists Of

The Moscow Organisation of the R.C.P.(B.)

December 6, 1920

Delivered: December 6, 1920
First Published: 1923; Published according to the verbatim report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 438-459
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

Comrades, I have noticed with great pleasure, although, I must confess, with surprise, that the question of concessions is arousing enormous interest. Cries are to he heard on all sides, mostly from the rank and file. “How can that be?” they ask. “We have driven out our own exploiters, and yet we are inviting others from abroad.”

It will readily be understood why these outcries give me pleasure. The fact that a cry of alarm has gone up from the rank and file about the possibility of the old capitalists returning, and that this cry has gone up in connection with an act of such tenth-rate significance as the decree on concessions, shows that there is a very keen consciousness of the danger of capitalism and the great danger of the struggle against it. That is excellent, of course, and it is all the more excellent because, as I have already said, alarm is being voiced by the rank and file.

From the political point of view, the fundamental thing in the question of concessions—and here there are both political and economic considerations—is a rule we have not only assimilated in theory, but have also applied in practice, a rule which will remain fundamental with us for a long time until socialism finally triumphs all over the world: we must take advantage of the antagonisms and the contradictions that exist between the two imperialisms, the two groups of capitalist states, and play them off against each other. Until we have conquered the whole world, and as long as we are economically and militarily weaker than the capitalist world, we must stick to the rule that we must be able to take advantage of the antagonisms and contradictions existing among the imperialists. Had we not adhered to this rule, every one of us would have long ago been strung up by the neck, to the glee of the capitalists. We gained our chief experience in this respect when we concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It should not be inferred that all treaties must be like that of Brest-Litovsk, or the Treaty of Versailles. That is not true. There may be a third kind of treaty, one that is advantageous to its.

Brest-Litovsk was significant in being the first time that we were able, on an immense scale and amidst vast difficulties, to take advantage of the contradictions among the imperialists in such a way as to make socialism the ultimate gainer. During the Brest-Litovsk period there were two immensely powerful groups of imperialist predators— the Austro-German and the Anglo-France-American. They were locked in a furious struggle which was to decide the fate or the world for the immediate future. That we were able to hold on—though from the military standpoint our forces were non-existent, we possessed nothing and were steadily sinking into the depths of economic chaos—the fact that we were able to hold on was a miracle that resulted from our having taken due advantage of the conflict between German and American imperialism. We made a tremendous concession to German imperialism; by doing so we at once safeguarded ourselves against persecution by both imperialisms. Germany was unable to concentrate on stifling Soviet Russia either economically or politically; she was too busy for that. We let her have the Ukraine, from which she could get all the grain and coal she wanted provided, of course, she was able to get them, and had the strength for the purpose. Anglo-France-American imperialism was unable to attack us because we first made an offer of peace. A big book by Robins has just appeared in America, in which the author describes the US. talks with Lenin and Trotsky, who gave their consent to the conclusion of peace. Although the Americans were helping the Czechoslovaks and making them take part in the military intervention, they were unable to interfere because they were busy with their own war. The outcome might have seemed something like a bloc between the first Socialist Republic and German imperialism, against another imperialism. However, we did not conclude a bloc of any kind; we nowhere exceeded the borderline that would undermine or defame the socialist state; we simply took advantage of the conflict between the two imperialisms in such a way that both were ultimately the losers. Germany obtained nothing from the Brest Peace except several million poods of grain, but she brought the disintegrating force of Bolshevism into the country. We, however, gained time, in the course of which the formation of the Red Army began. Even the tremendous distress suffered by the Ukraine proved reparable, although at a heavy price. What our antagonists had counted on, namely, the rapid collapse of Soviet rule in Russia, did not come to lass. We made use of the interval history had accorded us as a breathing-space in order to consolidate ourselves to a degree that would make it impossible to vanquish us by military force. We gained time, a little time, but in return had to sacrifice a great deal of territory. In those days, I recall, people used to philosophise and say that to gain time we must surrender territory. It was in accordance with the phi-losophers’ theory of time and space that we acted in practice and in policy: we sacrificed a great deal of territory, but won sufficient time to enable us to muster strength. Then, when all the imperialists wanted to launch a full-scale war against us, that proved impossible: they had neither the means nor the forces for such a war. At that time we sacrificed no fundamental interests; we conceded minor interests and preserved what was fundamental.

This, incidentally, raises the question of opportunism. Opportunism means sacrificing fundamental interests so as to gain temporary and partial advantages. That is the gist of the matter, if we consider the theoretical definition of opportunism. Many people have gone astray on this point. In the case of the Brest-Litovsk Peace, we sacrificed Russia’s interests, as understood in the patriotic sense, which were, in fact, secondary from the socialist point of view. We made immense sacrifices, yet they were only minor ones. The Germans hated Britain implacably. They hated the Bolsheviks too, but we held out a bait, and they fell for it.

They had all the time asserted that they would not go as far as Napoleon did. Indeed, they did not reach Moscow, but they penetrated into the Ukraine where they came to grief. They thought they had learnt a lot from Napoleon, but things worked out otherwise. We, on the other hand, gained a great deal.

The example of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk has taught us a lot. At present, we stand between two foes. If we are unable to defeat both of them, we must be able to dispose our forces in such a way as to make them fall out among themselves; whenever thieves fall out, honest men come into their own. However, as soon as we are strong enough to overcome capitalism as a whole, we shall immediately seize it by the scruff of the neck. Our strength is growing, and very rapidly. The Peace of Brest-Litovsk was a lesson we shall never forget, one which, in respect of the conclusions to be drawn from it, was worth more than any propaganda or preaching. We have now won in the sense that we stand on our own feet. We are surrounded by imperialist states which detest the Bolsheviks and are spending vast sums of money, using ideological means, the power of the press, and soon, and yet have been unable to defeat us in three years of war, although we are infinitely weak from the military and economic standpoint. We do not possess one-hundredth of the forces of the combined imperialist states, yet they are unable to stifle us. They cannot crush us because their soldiers will not obey; their war-weary workers and peasants do not want a war against the Soviet Republic. Such is the position now, and that is what we must proceed from. We do not know what the position will be like several years from now, since with every year the Western powers are recovering from the war.

Since the Second Congress of the Third International we have secured a firm foothold in the imperialist countries, not only in the sphere of ideology but also in that of organisation. In all countries there are groups which are carrying on independent work and will continue to do so. That has been accomplished. But the rate, the tempo of development of the revolution in the capitalist countries is far slower than in our country. It was evident that the revolutionary movement would inevitably slow down when the nations secured peace. Therefore, without surmising as to the future, we cannot now rely on this tempo becoming rapid. We have to decide what we are to do at the present time. Every people lives in a state, and every state belongs to a system of states, which are in a certain system of political equilibrium in relation to one another.

Let us bear in mind that all over the world the capitalists have bought up the vast majority of the richest sources of raw materials, or, if they have not actually bought them, they have seized them politically; since there is a, balance based on capitalism, that must be reckoned with and turned to account. We cannot go to war with the present-day Entente. Our agitation has been and is being conducted splendidly—of that we are certain. We must take political advantage of the differences among our opponents, but only of major differences that are due to profound economic causes. If we try to exploit minor and fortuitous differences, we shall be behaving like petty politicians and cheap diplomats. There is nothing of value to be gained by that. There are swarms of diplomats who play this game; they do so for several months, make careers, and then come to grief.

Are there any radical antagonisms in the present-day capitalist world that must be utilised? Yes, there are three principal ones, which I should like to enumerate. The first, the one that affects us closest, is the relations between Japan and America. War is brewing between them. They cannot live together in peace on the shores of the Pacific, although those shores are three thousand versts apart. This rivalry arises incontestably from the relation between their capitalisms. A vast literature exists on the future Japanese-American war. It is beyond doubt that war is brewing, that it is inevitable. The pacifists are trying to ignore the matter and obscure it with general phrases, but no student of the history of economic relations and diplomacy can have the slightest doubt that war is ripe from the economic viewpoint and is being prepared politically. One cannot open a single book on this subject without seeing that a war is brewing. The world has been partitioned. Japan has seized vast colonies. Japan has a population of fifty million, and she is comparatively weak economically. America has a population of a hundred and ten million, and although she is many times richer than Japan she has no colonies. Japan has seized China, which has a population of four hundred million and the richest coal reserves in the world. How can this plum be kept? It is absurd to think that a stronger capitalism will not deprive a weaker capitalism of the latter’s spoils. Can the Americans remain indifferent under such circumstances? Can strong capitalists remain side by side with weak capitalists and not be expected to grab everything they can from the latter? What would they be good for if they did not? But that being the case, can we, as Communists, remain indifferent and merely say: “We shall carry on propaganda for communism in these countries.” That is correct, but it is not everything. The practical task of communist policy is to take advantage of this hostility and to play one side off against the other. Here a new situation arises. Take the two imperialist countries, Japan and America. They want to fight and will fight for world supremacy, for the right to loot. Japan will fight so as to continue to plunder Korea, which site is doing with unprecedented brutality, combining all the latest technical inventions with purely Asiatic tortures. We recently received a Korean newspaper which gives an account of what the Japanese are doing. Here we find all the methods of tsarisin and all the latest technical perfections combined with a purely Asiatic system of torture and unparalleled brutality. But the Americans would like to grab this Korean titbit. Of course, defence of country in such a war ’would be a heinous crime, a betrayal of socialism. Of course, to support one of these countries against the other would he a crime against communism; we Communists have to play one off against the other. Are we not committing a crime against communism? No, because we are doing that as a socialist state which is carrying on communist propaganda and is obliged to take advantage of every hour granted it by circumstances in order to gain strength as rapidly as possible. We have begun to gain strength, but very slowly. America and the other capitalist countries are growing in economic and military might at tremendous speed. We shall develop far more slowly, however we muster our forces.

We must take advantage of the situation that has arisen. That is the whole purpose of the Kamchatka concessions. We have had a visit from Vanderlip, a distant relative of the well-known multimillionaire, if he is to he believed; but since our intelligence service in the Choke, although splendidly organised, unfortunately does not yet extend to the United States of America, we have not yet established the exact kinship of these Vanderlips. Some even say there is no kinship at all. I do not presume to judge: my knowledge is confined to having read a book by Vanderlip, not the one that was in our country and is said to be such a very important person that he has been received with all the honours by kings and ministers—from which one must infer that his pocket is very well lined indeed. He spoke to them in the way people discuss matters at meetings such as ours, for instance, and told then in the calmest tones how Europe should be restored. If ministers spoke to him with so much respect, it must mean that Vanderlip is in touch with the multimillionaires. His book reveals the outlook of a man of business who knows nothing else but business and who, after observing Europe, says: ’It looks as if nothing will come of it and everything will go to the devil.” The book is full of hatred of Bolshevism, but it does take up the matter of establishing business contacts. It is a most interesting hook from the point of view of agitation too, better than many a communist book, because its final conclusion is: “I’m afraid this patient is incurable—though we have lots of money and the means for his treatment.”

Well, Vanderlip brought a letter to the Council of People’s Commissars. It was a very interesting letter, for, with the utter frankness, cynicism and crudity of an American tightfist, the writer of the letter said: “We are very strong now, in 1920, and in 1923 our navy will be still stronger. However, Japan stands in the way of our growing might and we shall have to fight her, and you cannot fight without oil. Sell us Kamchatka, and I can vouch that the enthusiasm of the American people will be so great that we shall recognise you. The presidential elections in March will result in a victory for our party. If, however, you let us have only the lease of Kamchatka, I assure you there will be no such enthusiasm.” That is almost literally what he said in his letter. Here we have an unblushing imperialism, which does not even consider it necessary to veil itself in any way because it thinks it is magnificent just as it is. When this letter was received, we said that we must grasp at the opportunity with both hands. That he is right, economically speaking, is shown by the fact that in America the Republican Party is on the eve of victory. For the first time in the history of America, people in the South have voted against the Democrats. It is therefore clear that here we have the economically correct reasoning of an imperialist. Kamchatka belonged to the former Russian Empire. That is true. Who it belongs to at the present moment is not clear. It seems to be the property of a state called the Far Eastern Republic, but the boundaries of that state have not been precisely fixed.[1] True, certain documents are being drawn up on the subject, but, first, they have not yet been drawn up, and, second, they have not yet been ratified. The Far East is dominated by Japan, who can do anything she pleases there. If we lease to America Kamchatka, which legally belongs to us but has actually been seized by Japan, we shall clearly he the gainers. That is the basis of my political reasoning, and on that basis we at once decided to conclude an immediate agreement with America. Of course, we have to bargain, as no businessman will respect us if we do not. Comrade Rykov accordingly began to bargain, and we drafted an agreement. But when it came to the actual signing, we said: “Everybody knows who we are, but who are you?” It transpired that Vanderlip could provide no guarantee, whereupon we said that we were ready to accommodate. Why, we said, this is merely a draft, and you said yourself that it would conic into force when your party gained the upper hand; it has not gained the upper hand as yet, so we shall wait. Things worked out as follows: we drew up a draft of the treaty, as yet unsigned, giving Kamchatka—a big slice of the territory of the Far East and North-East Siberia to America for a period of sixty years, with the right to build a naval harbour in a port that is ice-free the year round, and has oil and coal.

A draft agreement is not binding in any way. We can always say that it contains unclear passages, and back out at any moment. In that case we shall only have lost time in negotiating with Vanderlip, and a few sheets of paper; yet we have already gained something. One has only to take the reports from Europe to see that. There is hardly a report from Japan which does not speak of the great concern caused by the expected concessions. “We shall not tolerate it,” Japan declares, “it infringes our interests.” Go ahead then, and defeat America; we have no objections. We have already set Japan and America at loggerheads, to put it crudely, and have thereby gained a point. We have also gained as far as the Americans are concerned.

Who is Vanderlip? We have not established who he is—but it is a fact that in the capitalist world telegrams are not dispatched all over the world about rank-and-file citizens. And when he left us, telegrams went to all corners of the earth. Well, he went about saying that he had obtained a good concession and, wherever he went, began to praise Lenin. That was rather funny, but let me tell you that there is a bit of politics in this funny situation. When Vanderlip had concluded all his negotiations here, he wanted to meet me. I consulted representatives of the appropriate departments and asked whether I should receive him. They said, “Let him leave with a sense of satisfaction.” Vanderlip came to see me. We talked about all these things, and when he began to tell me that lie had been in Siberia, that he knew Siberia and came of a worker’s family, just like most American multimillionaires, and so on, that they valued only practical things, and that they believed a thing only when they saw it, I replied, ’Well, you are a practical people, and when you see the Soviet system you will introduce it in your own country.” FIe stared at me in amazement at this turn in the conversation, and said to me in Russian (the whole conversation had been in English), “Mozhet byt.”* I asked in surprise where he had got his knowledge of Russian. “Why, I covered most of Siberia on horseback when I was twenty-five”. I will tell you of a remark by Vanderlip which belongs to the sphere of the humorous. At parting he said: “I shall have to tell them in America that Mr. Lenin has no horns.” I did not grasp his meaning at once, as I don’t understand English very well. “What did you say? Will you please repeat that?” He is a spry old fellow; pointing to his temple, he said, “No horns here.”

* Perhaps-Ed.

There was an interpreter present who said, “That is exactly what he says.” In America they are convinced that I have horns here, that is, the bourgeois say that I have been marked by the devil. ’And now I shall have to tell them that you have no horns,” said Vanderlip. We parted very amicably. I expressed the hope that friendly relations between the two states would be a basis not only for the granting of a concession, but also for the normal development of reciprocal economic assistance. It all went off in that kind of vein. Then telegrams came telling what Vanderlip had said on arriving home from abroad. Vanderlip had compared Lenin with Washington and Lincoln. Vanderlip had asked for my autographed portrait. I had declined, because when you present a portrait you write, “To Comrade So-and-so”, and I could not write, “To Comrade Vanderlip”. Neither was it possible to write: “To the Vanderlip we are signing a concession with” because that concession agreement would be concluded by the Administration when it took office. I did not know what to write. It would have been illogical to give my photograph to an out-and-out imperialist. Yet these were the kind of telegrams that arrived; this affair has clearly played a certain part in imperialist politics. When the news of the Vanderlip concessions came out, Harding—the man who has been elected President, but who will take office only next March issued an official denial, declaring that he knew nothing about it, had no dealings with the Bolsheviks and had heard nothing about any concessions. That was during the elections, and, for all we know, to confess, during elections, that you have deahngs with the Bolsheviks may cost you votes. That was why he issued an official denial. He had this report sent to all the newspapers that are hostile to the Bolsheviks and are on the pay roll of the imperialist parties. The political advantages we can gain in respect of America and Japan are perfectly clear to us. This report is significant because it concretely shows the kind of concessions we want to sign, and on what terms. Of course this cannot be told to the press. It can be told only to a Party meeting. We must not be silent in the press about this agreement. It is to our advantage, and we must not say a single word that may hamper the conclusion of such an agreement because it promises us tremendous advantages and a weakening of both U.S. and Japanese imperialism with regard to us.

All this deal means deflecting the imperialist forces away from us—while the imperialists are sighing and waiting for an opportune moment to strangle the Bolsheviks, we are deferring that moment. When Japan was becoming involved in the Korean venture, the Japanese said to the Americans “Of course, we can heat the Bolsheviks, but what will you give us for it? China? We shall take her anyway, where as here we have to go ten thousand versts to beat the Bolsheviks, with you Americans in our rear. No, that is not politics.” Even then the Japanese could have beaten us in a few weeks, had there been a double-track railway and America’s aid in transport facilities. What saved us was the fact that while Japan was busy gobbling up China she could not advance westward, through all of Siberia, with America in her rear; moreover, she did not want to pull America’s chestnuts out of the fire.

A war between the imperialist powers would have saved us even more. If we are obliged to put up with such scoundrels as the capitalist robbers, each of whom is ready to knife us, it is our prime duty to make thorn turn their knives against each other. Whenever thieves fall out, honest men come into their own. The second gain is purely political. Even if this concession agreement does not materialise, it will be to our advantage. As for the economic gain, it will provide us with part of the products. If the Americans received part of the products, it would be to our advantage. There is so much oil and ore in Kamchatka that we are obviously not in a position to work them.

I have shown you one of the imperialist antagonisms we must take advantage of that which exists between Japan and America. There is another—the antagonism between America and the rest of the capitalist world. Practically the entire capitalist world of ’victors” emerged from the war tremendously enriched. America is strong; she is everybody’s creditor and everything depends on her; she is being more and more detested; she is robbing all and sundry and doing so in a unique fashion. She has no colonies. Britain emerged from the war with vast colonies. So did France. Britain offered America a mandate—that is the language they use nowadays—for one of the colonies she had seized, but America did not accept it. U.S. businessmen evidently reason in some other way. They have seen that, in the devastation it produces and the temper it arouses among the workers, war has very definite consequences, and they have come to the conclusion that there is nothing to be gained by accepting a mandate. Naturally, however, they will not permit this colony to be used by any other state. All bourgeois literature testifies to a rising hatred of America, while in America there is a growing demand for an agreement with Russia. America signed an agreement with Koichak giving him recognition and support but here they have already come to grief, the only reward for their pains being losses and disgrace. Thus we have before us the greatest state in the world, which by 1923 will have a navy stronger than the British, and this state is meeting with growing enmity from the other capitalist countries. We must take this trend of things into account. America cannot come to terms with the rest of Europe—that is a fact proved by history. Nowhere has the Versailles Treaty been analysed so well as in the book by Keynes, a British representative at Versailles. In his book Keynes ridicules Wilson and the part he played in the Treaty of Versailles. Here, Wilson proved to be an utter simpleton, whom Clemenceau and Lloyd George twisted round their little fingers. Thus everything goes to show that America cannot come to terms with the other countries because of the profound economic antagonism between them, since America is richer than the rest.

We shall therefore examine all questions of concessions from this angle: if the least opportunity arises of aggravating the differences between America and the other capitalist countries, it should be grasped with both hands. America stands in inevitable contradiction with the colonies, and if she attempts to become more involved there she will be helping us ten times as much. The colonies are seething with unrest, and when you touch them, whether or not you like it, whether or not you are rich—and the richer you are the better—you will be helping us, and the Vanderlips will be sent packing. That is why to us this antagonism is the main consideration. The third antagonism is that between the Entente and Germany. Germany has been vanquished, crushed by the Treaty of Versailles, but she possesses vast economic potentialities. Germany is the world’s second country in economic development, if America is taken as the first. The experts even say that as far as the electrical industry is concerned she is superior to America, and you know that the electrical industry is tremendously important. As regards the extent of the application of electricity, America is superior, but Germany has surpassed her in technical perfection. It is on such a country that the Treaty of Versailles has been imposed, a treaty she cannot possibly live under. Germany is one of the most powerful and advanced of the capitalist countries. She cannot put up with the Treaty of Versailles. Although she is herself imperialist, Germany is obliged to seek for an ally against world imperialism, because she has been crushed. That is the situation we must turn to our advantage. Everything that increases the antagonism between America and the rest of the Entente or between the entire Entente and Germany should be used by us from the viewpoint of the concessions. That is why we must try and attract their interest; that is why the pamphlet Milyut iii promised to bring, and has brought and will distribute, contains the decrees of the Council of People’s Commissars written in a way that will attract prospective concessionaires. The booklet contains maps with explanations. We shall get it translated into all languages and encourage its distribution with the aim of setting Germany against Britain, because concessions will be a lifeline to Germany. We shall likewise set America against Japan, the entire Entente against America, and all Germany against the Ent elite.

These, then, are the three antagonisms that are upsetting the imperialists’ applecart. That is the crux of the matter; that is why, from the political standpoint, we should be heart and soul—or rather with all our wits—in favour of concessions.

I now go over to the economics. When we were speaking of Germany we came up to the question of economics. Germany cannot exist from the economic standpoint following the Peace of Versailles; neither can all the defeated countries, such as Austria-Hungary in her former boundaries, for although parts of that country now belong to the victor states, she cannot exist under the Treaty of Versailles. These countries form, in Central Europe, a vast group with enormous economic and technical might. From the economic standpoint they are all essential to the restoration of the world economy. If you carefully read and reread the Decree on Concessions of November 23, you will find that we stress the significance of the world economy, and we do so intentionally. That is undoubtedly correct. For the world economy to he restored, Russian raw materials must be utilised. You cannot get along without them—that is economcally true. It is admitted oven by a bourgeois of the first water, a student of economics, who regards things from a purely bourgeois standpoint. That man is Keynes, author of The Economic Consequences of the Peace. Vanderlip, who has travelled all over Europe as a financial magnate, also admits that the world economy cannot be restored because it appears that there is very little raw material available in the world, it having been dissipated in the war. He says that Russia must be relied on. And Russia now comes forward and declares to the world: we undertake to restore the international economy—here is our plan. That is sound economics. During this period Soviet government has grown stronger; not only has it grown stronger, but it has advanced a plan for the restoration of the entire world economy. The rehabilitation of the international economy by means of a plan of electrification is scientifically sound. With our plan we shall most certainly attract the sympathy, not only of all the workers but of sensible capitalists as well, regardless of the fact that in their eyes we are “those terrible Bolshevik terrorists”, and so forth. Our economic plan is therefore correct; when they read this plan, all the petty-bourgeois democrats will swing over towards its, for while the imperialists have already fallen out among themselves, here is a plan to which engineers and economists can offer no objection. We are entering the field of economics and are offering the world a positive programme of construction; we are opening up prospects based on economic considerations, prospects which Russia regards not as a selfish plan to destroy the economies of other lands, as was the rule in the past, but as a way to restore those economies in the interests of the whole world.

We are shifting the question to the anti-capitalist plane. We say that we undertake to build the whole world on a rational economic foundation; there can be no doubt that this idea is a correct one. There can be no doubt that if we set to work properly, with modern machinery and the help of science, the whole world economy can be restored at once.

We are conducting a kind of industrial propaganda when we say to the master class: “You capitalists are useless; while you are going to rack and ruin, we are building in our own way; so don’t you think, gentlemen, it is time to come to terms with us?” To which all the capitalists of the world will have to reply, though grudgingly: “Yes, perhaps it is. Let us sign a trade agreement.”

The British have already made a draft and sent it to us.[2] It is under discussion. New times are setting in. Their war schemes have miscarried and they now have to fight in the economic field. We fully understand that. We never imagined that with the fighting over and the advent of peace, the capitalist wolf would lie down with the socialist lamb. No, we did not. Yet the fact that you have to fight us in the economic field is a tremendous step forward. We have presented you with a world programme by regarding concessions from the standpoint of the world economy. That is indisputable from the viewpoint of economics. No engineer or agronomist who has anything to do with the national economy will deny that. Many capitalists say there cannot be a stable system of capitalist states without Russia. Yet we have advanced such a programme in the capacity of builders of a world economy based on a different plan. That is of tremendous propaganda value. Even if they do not sign a single concession—which I regard as quite possible—even if the sole outcome of all this talk of concessions will be a certain number of Party meetings and decrees, without a single concession being granted, we shall still have gained something. Besides advancing a plan of economic reconstruction, we are winning over all states that have been ruined by the war. At the congress of the Third, Communist International I said that the whole world is divided into oppressed and oppressor nations.

The oppressed nations constitute not less than seventy per cent of the population of the earth. To these the Peace of Versailles has added another hundred or hundred and fifty million people.

We now stand, not only as representatives of the proletarians of all countries but as representatives of the oppressed peoples as well. A journal of the Communist International recently appeared under the title of Narody Vostoka.[3] It carries the following slogan issued by the Communist International for the peoples of the East: “Workers of all countries and all oppressed peoples, unitel” “When did the Executive Committee give orders for slogans to be modified?” one of the comrades asked. Indeed, I do not remember that it ever did. Of course, the modification is wrong from the standpoint of the Communist Manifesto, but then the Communist Manifesto was written under entirely different conditions. From the point of view of present-day politics, however, the change is correct. Relations have become tense. All Germany is seething; so is all of Asia. You have read how the revolutionary movement is developing in India. In China there is a fierce hatred of the Japanese, and also of the Americans. InGermany there is such seething hatred of the Entente as can only be understood by those who have seen the hatred of the German workers for their own capitalists. As a result, they have made Russia the immediate representative of the entire mass of the oppressed population of the earth; the events are teaching the peoples to regard Russia as a centre of attraction. A Menshevik newspaper in Georgia recently wrote: “There are two forces in the world: the Entente and Soviet Russia.” What are the Menslioviks? They are people who trim their sails to the wind. When we were weak internationally, they cried, “Down with the Bolsheviks!” When we began to grow stronger, they cried, “We are neutral!” Now that we have beaten off the enemies, they say, “Yes, there are two forces.”

In the concessions decree we come forward, on behalf of all humanity, with an economically irreproachable programme for the restoration of the world’s economic forces by utilising all raw materials, wherever they are to be found. What we consider important is that there should be no starvation anywhere. You capitalists cannot eliminate it; we can. We are speaking for seventy per cent of the population of the earth. This is sure to exert an influence. Whatever comes of the project, no exception can be taken to it from the angle of economics. The economic aspect of concessions is important, regardless of whether they are signed or not.

As you see, I have been obliged to make a rather long introduction and to demonstrate the advantages of concessions. Of course, concessions are important to us also as a means of obtaining commodities. That is unquestionably true, but the chief thing is the political aspect. By the time the Congress of Soviets meets you will receive a book of six hundred pages—the plan for the electrification of Russia. This plan has been devised by the leading agronomists and engineers. We cannot expedite its realisation without the help of foreign capital and means of production. But if we want assistance, we must pay for it. So far, we have been fighting the capitalists, and they said that they would either strangle us or compel us to pay up twenty thousand millions. However they are in no position to strangle us, and we shall not pay the debts. For the time being we are enjoying a certain respite. As long as we are in need of economic assistance we are willing to pay you—that is the way we put the matter, and any other way would be economically unsound. Russia is in a state of industrial ruin; she is ten times or more worse off than before the war. Had we been told three years ago that we would be fighting the entire capitalist world for three years, we would not have believed it. But now we shall be told that to restore the economy, with only one-tenth of the pre-war national wealth is a still more difficult task. And indeed it is more difficult than fighting. We could fight with the help of the enthusiasm of the working-class masses and the peasants, who were defending themselves against the landowners. At present it is not a question of defence against the landowners, but of restoring economic life along lines the peasants are not accustomed to. Here victory will not depend on enthusiasm, dash, or self-sacrifice, but on day-by-day, monotonous, petty and workaday effort. That is undoubtedly a more difficult matter. Where are we to procure the means of production we need? To attract the Americans, we must pay: they are men of business. And what are we to pay with? With gold? But we cannot throw gold about. We have little gold left. We have too little even to cover the programme of electrification. The engineer who drew up the programme has estimated that we need at least a thousand and one hundred million rubles of gold to carry it out. We do not have such a stock of gold. Neither can we pay in raw materials, because we have not yet fed all our own people. When, in the Council of People’s Commissars, the question arises of giving 100,000 poods of grain to the Italians, the People’s Commissar for Food gets up and objects. We are bargaining for every trainload of grain. Without grain we cannot develop foreign trade. What then shall we give? Rubbish? They have enough rubbish of their own. They say, let us trade in grain; but we cannot give them grain. We therefore propose to solve the problem by means of concessions.

I pass to the next point. Concessions create new dangers. I shall mention what I said at the beginning of my speech, namely, that an outcry is going tip from the rank and file, from the working-class masses: “Don’t yield to the capitalists; they are clever and crafty.” It is good to hear that, because it is a sign of the development of that vast mass which will fight the capitalists tooth and nail. There are some sound ideas in the articles of Comrade Stepanev, which he planned on pedagogical lines (first set forth all the arguments against concessions, and then say that they must be accepted; but certain readers, before they get to the good part, may stop reading, convinced that concessions are unnecessary); but when he says that we must net give concessions to Britain because that will mean some Lockhart coming here, I cannot agree. We coped with him at a time when the Cheka was still in its infancy, not as effective as it is now. If we cannot catch spies after three years of war, then all that can be said is that such people should not undertake to run the state. We are solving far more difficult problems. For instance, there are at present 300,000 bourgeois in the Crimea. These are a source of future profiteering, espionage and every kind of aid to the capitalists. However, we are net afraid of them. We say that we shall take and distribute them, make them submit, and assimilate them.

To say after this that foreigners who will be attached to the various concessions will be a danger to us, or that we shall not be able to keep an eye on them, is ridiculous. Why, then, should we have started the whole business? Why, then, should we have undertaken to run the state? The task here is purely one of organisation, and it is not worth dwelling on at length.

It would, of course, be a great mistake to think that concessions imply peace. Nothing of the kind. Concessions are nothing but a new form of warfare. Europe waged war on us, and now the war is shifting to new sphere. Previously, the war was conducted in a field in which the imperialists were infinitely stronger than we were—the military field. If you count the number of cannon and machine-guns they have and the number we have, the number of soldiers their governments can mobilise and the number our government can mobilise, then we certainly ought to have been crushed in a fortnight. Nevertheless, we held our own in this field, and we undertake to continue the fight and are going over to an economic war. We definitely stipulate that next to a concession area, a concession square of territory, there will be our square, and then again their square; we shall learn from them how to organise model enterprises by placing what is ours next to theirs. If we are incapable of doing that, there is no use talking about anything. Operating up-to-date equipment nowadays is no easy matter, and we have to learn to do so, learn it in practice. That is something that no school, university or course will teach you. That is why we are granting concessions on the chequer-board system. Come and learn on the job.

We shall get a tremendous economic gain from concessions. Of course, when their dwelling areas are created they will bring capitalist customs along with them and will try to demoralise the peasantry. We must be on the alert and exercise our communist counter-influence at every step. That too is a kind of war, a duel between two methods, two political and economic systems—the communist and the capitalist. We shall prove that we are the stronger. We are told: “Very good, you have held your own on the external front; well, start construction, go ahead and build, and we shall see who wins Of course, the task is a difficult one, but we have said, and still say, that socialism has the force of example. Coercion is effective against those who want to restore their rule. But at this stage the significance of force ends, and after that only influence and example are effective. We must show the significance of communism in practice, by example. We have no machinery; the war has impoverished us and deprived Russia of her economic resources. Yet we do not fear this duel, because it will be advantageous to us in all respects.

That, too, will be a war in which we will not yield an inch. This war will be to our advantage in every respect; the transition from the old war to this new one will also be of advantage, to say nothing of the fact that there is a certain indirect guarantee of peace. At the meeting which was so poorly reported in Pravda, I said that we had passed from war to peace, but that we had not forgotten that war will return. While capitalism and socialism exist side by side, they cannot live in peace: one or the otherwill ultimately triumph—the last obsequies will be observed either for the Soviet Republic or for world capitalism. This is some respite from war. The capitalists will seek pretexts for going to war. If they accept our proposal and agree to concessions, that will be harder for them. On the one. hand, we shall have the best conditions in the event of war; on the other hand, those who want to go to war will not agree to take concessions. The existence of concessions is an economic and political argument against war. States that might go to war with us will not be able to do so if they take concessions. This will bind them. We set such a high value by this that we shall not be afraid to pay, the more so that we shall be paying from the means of production that we cannot develop. For Kamchatka we shall pay in terms of 100,000 poods of oil, taking only 2 per cent for ourselves. If we do not pay up we shall not get even two poods. This is an exorbitant price, but while capitalism exists we cannot expect a fair price from it. Yet the advantages are beyond doubt. From the angle of the danger of a collision between capitalism and Bolshevism, it can be said that concessions are a continuation of the war, but in a different sphere. Each step of the enemy will have to be watched. Every means of administration, supervision, influence and action will be required. And that is also warfare. We have fought a much bigger war; in this war we shall mobilise even larger numbers of people than in the preceding. In this war all working people will be mobilised to a man. They will be told and given to understand: ’Jf capitalism does this or that, you workers and peasants who have overthrown the capitalists must do no less. You must learn!”

I am convinced that the Soviets will overtake and out-strip the capitalists and that our gain will not be a purely economic one. We shall get the miserable two per cent very little indeed, yet it is something. But then we shall be getting knowledge and training; no school or university is worth anything without practical knowledge. You will see from the map appended to the pamphlet Comrade Milyutin will show you that we are granting concessions principally in the outlying regions. In European Russia there are 70,000,000 dessiatines of northern forest land. About 17,000,000 dessiatines are being set aside for concessions. Our timber enterprises are mapped out chequerwise: these forests are in West Siberia and in the Far North. We have nothing to lose. The principal enterprises are located in West Siberia, whose wealth is immense. We cannot develop a hundredth part of it in ten years. However, with the help of foreign capitalists, by letting them have, say, a single mine, we shall be able to work our own mines. In granting concessions, we do the choosing of the locations.

How are the concessions to be organised as regards supervision? They will try to demoralise our peasantry, our masses. A small master by his very nature, the peasant is inclined to freedom of trade, something we consider criminal. That is a matter for the state to combat. Our task here is to contrapose the socialist system of economy to the capitalist system. That, too, will be a war in which we shall have to fight a decisive battle. We are suffering from a tremendous crop failure, lack of fodder and loss of livestock, yet at the same time vast areas of land are uncultivated. In a few days a decree will be issued providing that every effort be exerted to achieve the largest possible sowing of crops and the greatest possible improvement of agriculture.[4]

Next, we have a million dessiatines of virgin soil which we cannot bring under the plough because we have not enough draught animals and implements, whereas with tractors this land can be ploughed to any depth. It is therefore to our advantage to let out this land on lease. Even if we surrender half of the produce, or even three-quarters, we shall be the gainers. That is the policy we are guided by, and I can say that our actions must be guided, not only by economic considerations and the trend of the world economy, but also by profound political considerations. Any other approach to the matter would be short-sighted. If it is a question of whether concessions are economically advantageous or disadvantageous, the reply is that the economic advantages are beyond dispute. Without concessions, we shall not be able to carry out our programme and the electrification of the country; without them, it will be impossible to restore our economic life in ten years; once we have restored it we shall be invincible to capital. Concessions do not mean peace with capitalism, but war in a now sphere. The war of guns and tanks yields place to economic warfare. True, it also holds out new difficulties and new dangers, but I am certain that we shall overcome them. I am convinced that if the question of concessions is posed in this way, we shall easily he able to convince the vast majority of the Party comrades of the necessity of concessions. The instinctive apprehension I have spoken of is a good and healthy sentiment, which we shall convert into a driving force that will secure us a more rapid victory in the impending economic war.


[1] The Far Eastern Republic was set up in April 1920 and included the Trans-Baikal, Amur, Maritime and Kamchatka regions and Northern Sakhalin. Formally a bourgeois-democratic state, it, actually pursued a Soviet polity. Its formation was in keeping with the interests of Soviet Russia, which needed a prolonged respite from war in the Far East and wanted to stave off war with Japan. At the same time, however, its creation was a step the Soviet Government had been compelled to take by the pressure of circumstances (see p. 465 in this volume). After the interventionists and whiteguards were driven out,of the Soviet Far East (except Northern Sakhalin), the People’s Assembly of the Republic voted for entry into the R.S.F.S.R.on November 14, 1922.

[2] This refers to the draft of a trade agreement between Great Britain and the R.S.F.S.R., which President of the Beard of Trade Edward F. Wise presented to L. B. Krasin, head of the Soviet trade delegation in London, on November 29, 1920. The talks to normalise economic and political contacts, which had started in May 1920, dragged on and nearly broke down on several occasions. On March 16, 1921, they ended in the signing of atrade agreement.

[3] Narodl Vostoka (Peoples of the East)-a monthy journal, organ of the Council for Propaganda and Guiding the Activities of the Peoples of the East, published by a decision of the First Congress of the Peoples of the East, which was held in Baku from Septem-ber 1. to September 7, 1920. Only one issue appeared—in October 1920. It came out in Russian, Turkish, Persian and Arabic.

[4] Lenin is referring to the bill “On Measures to Strengthen and Develop Peasant Farming” which the Council of People’s Commissars submitted to the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee for consideration by the Eighth All-Russia Congress of Soviets. It was published in Izvestia No. 281 on December 14, 1920.