V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered At A Non-Party

Conference Of Workers And Red Army Men

Of Presnya District, Moscow

January 24, 1920

Newspaper Report

Delivered: 24 January, 1920
First Published: Pravda No. 18, January 28, 1920; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, pages 302-306
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

“In connection with the recent victories of the Red Army there has been a marked change in our international situation, and we must seek new ways of solving our international problems.

“As soon as the Soviet government was formed all the forces of international capital were hurled against it. These forces are far stronger than those of the Soviet government, so that waverers might have doubted whether the Soviet government could be victorious. Yet it has been victorious. And it is worth reflecting on the reasons for the Soviet government’s victory in order to know what must be done to be victorious in the future.”

Comrade Lenin shows how great has been the victory over the forces of capital and how complete the rout of Kolchak, which has compelled the Allies to remove the blockade and to abandon their plan to strangle Russia.

“This victory over a far stronger enemy has shown that the Bolsheviks were right, and not those who asserted that in taking up arms against the world bourgeoisie we were embarking on a hopeless cause. Although the removal of the blockade has eased our position somewhat, the bourgeoisie of the West will probably attempt to fight us again. Even though they have now removed the blockade, they are inciting the Polish whiteguards against us. We must, therefore, be once more on our guard, prepare for new attacks, draw the lessons from the two years of struggle and employ the methods by which we have been victorious hitherto.

“The Mensheviks have often said that the proletarians of the West are not supporting us, are allowing us to be strangled as they allowed Hungary to be strangled.[1] That would seem to be true. But why did the Entente troops quit the North and Odessa? Because the more deeply their soldiers, who were themselves workers, penetrated into Soviet Russia, the more emphatically they refused to fight against us. That means that one of the reasons for our victory was this: we can be fought only by a big force, but a big army can be recruited only from among the workers and peasants, and the workers of the West do not want to fight us. We were therefore victorious not because we were the stronger, but because the working folk of the Entente countries proved to be closer to us than to their own governments.

“The second reason for our victory was the failure of the ‘Campaign of the Fourteen States’.[2] This shows that the small states cannot unite to fight the Bolsheviks, because they are afraid that their own victory and the simultaneous victory of Denikin’s forces would mean the restoration of the Russian Empire which would again rob the little nations of the right to live. We are concluding peace with Estonia, which is already a virtual breach in the blockade, even if the formal removal of the blockade is just a blind.

“The big powers of the Entente cannot unite to fight the Soviet government because they are too hostile to each other. Germany is harbouring thoughts of vengeance against France for the predatory Peace of Versailles, France is inciting Poland against us, while Britain is allowing Estonia to make peace with us, as long as Estonia trades with her. Japan, who has a stronger army than ours in Siberia, cannot fight us because she fears attack by America, with whom she is at loggerheads over imperialist, colonialist interests in China. That means that a second reason for our victory was this: whereas the workers are united, the bourgeoisie, being bourgeois, cannot help getting at each other’s throats and fighting for an extra bit of profit.

“And so we have emerged victorious from the first two years of the Civil War, which were the hardest years of all, because we had been ruined by the imperialist war and were cut off from grain and coal supplies. But now we have grain and fuel in abundance. In Siberia the grain requisitioned alone amounted to twenty-one million poods. It is true that we cannot get it out immediately, but then, the transport system has broken down all over Europe, and in our country it was deliberately disrupted by the whiteguards. They blew up all the bridges on the Dnieper, except the Kiev bridge, and this explains both the delay in the military operations and the delay in the transport of grain. We have the Guryev oil and shall transport it as soon as the offshore ice on the Caspian melts. We are bearing all this in mind, and are preparing to transport the oil. We are creating labour armies to restore the railways; one of them has already started to build a railway from Alexandrov-Gai to Guryev for the transport of oil. We cannot demobilise the army because we still have enemies, such as Poland. Demobilisation is also being hampered by the transport break-down. We shall therefore use the army to restore the railways.

“The whiteguards keep saying in their sheets that the Bolsheviks are doing fine propaganda and are sparing no money for the purpose. But the people have heard all sorts of propaganda—they have heard the propaganda of the whiteguards and the propaganda of the Constituent Assembly supporters. It is absurd to think that they have followed the Bolsheviks because their propaganda was the more skilful. No, the point is that their propaganda was truthful.

“The very deeds of Denikin and Kolchak were propaganda against them and in favour of the Soviet system. That is why we won. We overthrew the tsar easily in a few hours. We overthrew the landowners and capitalists in a few weeks. But that was only half the job. We have to learn to work in a new way. Formerly it was the exploiter who organised labour and hunger that united labour; now labour must be united by the workers and peasants realising that they must work in order to escape from this dire situation.

“But this is not yet implanted in everyone’s mind, and we are starting a new and bloodless fight to bring it home. All previous revolutions ended to the advantage of a handful of capitalists and exploiters. That was because the insurrectionary working people had no sense of solidarity, each thought only of himself, they all fought one another, and it was the swindlers and profiteers who came out on top.

“You have a peasant who has grain, and side by side with him there is a hungry man, and the peasant prefers to sell grain to the hungry man for a thousand rubles rather than loan it to the workers’ government. Somebody here even says ‘Hear, hear!’ Well, both Denikin and Koichak tried freedom of trade, but the best, politically-conscious workers and peasants saw what this meant in practice and turned their backs on them.

“In the old days they used to say, ‘Each for himself, and God for all.’ And how much misery resulted from it.

“We say, Each for all, and we’ll somehow manage without God.’ And we shall strive for a fraternal alliance between the workers and the peasants who loan their grain to the state—it has to be a loan, because at present we are unable to give anything in return; bits of coloured paper are not money. Hitherto we have had to fight just to prevent the enemy from strangling us; but now, when an enemy much stronger than us has been defeated, our hands are free, and we must set about the job of building a new life and, in the first place, must restore the railways.

“In the South we have repair shops captured by the Red Army in places where grain is close, so let these repair shops work at full speed, in three shifts, and not in the way starving people work.

“We must concentrate the whole force of our Communist propaganda, with the help of which we defeated the foreign enemy, on the restoration of the railways.

“We once had a ‘splendid’ foreign trade and used to export 700,000,000 poods of grain annually. Russian and foreign millionaires made fortunes on this business, while the Russian workers and peasants starved. Now we must convince everybody that the only salvation is, ‘Everyone for all!’ We must, whatever the cost, abolish freedom of trade and profiteering, which mean bread for a small handful and starvation for the rest. We must convince the peasants—and they will believe us, because Denikin demonstrated to them the ‘blessings’ of freedom of profiteering, they will understand that the only salvation is for them to give grain as a loan to the worker and artisan, and that these will repay the loan not in bits of coloured paper but in textiles and other goods.

“We have started a great war, a war which we shall not end soon. This is a bloodless war waged by the armies of labour on starvation, cold and typhus, a war for an enlightened, bright, well-fed and healthy Russia. But we shall end this war with a victory as decisive as the one with which we ended the struggle against the whiteguardn ....”

In reply to a question about the terms of the peace with Estonia, Comrade Lenin said that we had made many concessions, the chief of which was the cession of disputed territory inhabited by a mixed population—Russians and Estonians. But we did not want to shed the blood of workers and Red Army soldiers for the sake of a piece of land, all the more that this concession was not being made for ever. Estonia was passing through a Kereneky period; the workers were beginning to realise the vileness of their Constituent Assembly leaders, who had plundered the trade unions and had murdered twenty Communists. They would soon overthrow this government and set up a Soviet Estonia, he said, which would conclude a new peace with us.


[1] This refers to the armed intervention of the Entente imperialists in the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. The republic was formed on March 21, 1919 and in August 1919 was crushed by the united efforts of the imperialist intervention and internal counter-revolution.

[2] This refers to the negotiations between Britain and France and the small bourgeois states, neighbours of the Soviet Republic, concerning a joint and simultaneous attack on Soviet Russia. According to Churchill "fourteen states" were to take part in the campaign (see Note 11). The initiators of the campaign planned to capture Petrograd and Moscow in December 1919. But the campaign failed, although, as Lenin pointed out, “all kinds of pressure-financial, food, military-have been applied to force Estonia, Finland, and no doubt Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as well, to force that whole group of states to make war on us” (see p. 175 of this volume).

The bourgeois governfnents of the Baltic states avoided active participation in hostilities against Soviet Russia, because the Soviet republic repeatedly proposed peace and did not violate the sovereignty and independence of the small states which formerly belonged to the Russian Empire, whereas Kolchak and Denikin proclaimed the slogan of “a united and indivisible” Russia. In addition, the participation of the Baltic states in the anti-Soviet campaign was hindered by the protests of the people who came out for the cessation of the war against Soviet Russia and for the conclusion of a peace treaty. In autumn 1919 the British Government, the initiator and inspirer of the campaign, had to withdraw its troops from Archangel under the pressure of the British workers, and on January 16, 1920, the Allied Council resolved to lift the economic blockade and resume trade and commercial relations with the “population of Soviet Russia”.