V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered at the

First All-Russia Congress of Working Cossacks[1]

March 1, 1920

Delivered: 1 March, 1920
First Published: Pravda Nos. 47, 48 and 49, March 2, 3 and 4, 1920; Published according to the Pravda text, verified with the booklet, V. I. Lenin, Speech Delivered at the First All-Russia Congress of Working Cossacks, Moscow, 1920
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, page 380-400
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

Comrades, allow me first of all to greet the Congress on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars. I very much regret that I was unable to attend your meeting on the opening day and did not hear Comrade Kalinin’s report. But from what he has told me I conclude that many things relating to the direct and immediate tasks of Soviet development, and especially to the Cossacks, were dealt with in his speech. I should, therefore, like to deal mostly with the international situation of the Soviet Republic and the tasks which confront all the working masses, including the Cossacks, because of this situation.

Never has the international position of the Soviet Republic been as favourable and as triumphant as it is now. If some thought is given to the way our international situation has evolved in the course of two years of untold difficulties and incredible sacrifices, if some thought is given to the reasons for it, any intelligent person will discern the main forces, the mainsprings, and the chief alignment of forces in the incipient world revolution.

When, over two years ago, at the very beginning of the Russian revolution, we spoke about this approaching international, world revolution, it was a prevision, and to a certain extent a prediction. And the vast majority of the working people who did not live in the large cities and who had no had a schooling in the Party greeted this talk of an approaching world revolution with either mistrust or indifference, and at any rate with scanty understanding. And, indeed, it was impossible and would have been unnatural to expect the vast mass of the working population, especially the peasant, farming population, who are scattered over an immense territory, to form in advance anything like a correct idea of why world revolution was approaching, and whether it really was international. Our experience during these two incredibly difficult years and the experience of the working masses of remote border regions are worthy of attention, and not of merely being brushed aside with the remark that times were hard but have now become easier. Yes, we must give thought to the reason why things happened as they did, to the significance of their happening as they did, and to the lessons that are to be drawn from this; we must see which party’s views have been borne out by what our own history and world history have demonstrated during these two years. That is what I would like to deal with first of all.

From the standpoint of the international situation the issue is quite clear; when the matter is taken on a broad scale and regarded not from the standpoint of one party or of one country, but from the standpoint of all countries together, when the matter is taken on a broad scale, then particular and trifling details recede into the background and the chief motive forces of world history become apparent.

When we began the October Revolution by overthrowing the power of the landowners and capitalists, appealing for the termination of the war, and addressing this appeal to our enemies; when after this we came under the yoke of the German imperialists; when after this, in October and November 1918, Germany was crushed, and Britain, France, America and the other Entente countries became the lords of the earth—what was our situation then? The vast majority asked whether it was not then obvious that the cause of the Bolsheviks was hopeless. And many added, “Not only is it hopeless, but the Bolsheviks have turned out to be frauds. They promised peace, but instead, after the German yoke had been thrown off and Germany defeated, they were found to be enemies of the whole Entente—that is, of Britain, France, America and Japan, the most powerful countries in the world; and Russia, ruined, weakened and exhausted by the imperialist war, and moreover by the Civil War, has now to hold out in a fight against the foremost countries of the world.” This was easy to believe; and it is not surprising that lack of faith made indifference and often actual hostility to the Soviet government more and more widespread. There is nothing surprising in it. What is surprising is that we emerged victorious from the struggle against Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin who were supported in every possible way by all the wealthiest powers in the world, powers which no other military force on earth can even approximately equal. The truth of this is clear to everybody, even to the blind, and even to those who are worse than blind, those who refuse to see at any price—even to them it is clear that we have emerged from this struggle victorious.

How did this miracle happen? It is to this question that I would like most of all to direct your attention, because it most clearly reveals the chief motive forces of the entire international revolution. By analysing this question in a practical way, we can supply an answer to it, for this is something we have already been through; we are able to say what happened after the event.

We were victorious because we could be and were united, and because we were able to win over allies from the camp of our enemies. And our enemies, who are immeasurably stronger than we are, suffered defeat because they were not, never could be and never will be united, and because every month they fought against us brought them further disintegration within their own camp.

I shall now speak about the fact which proves these statements.

You know that after Germany was defeated, there was nobody in the world to oppose Britain, France and America. They had robbed Germany of her colonies, and there was no corner on earth, there was not a single country, where the military might of the Entente did not prevail. It would seem that under such circumstances, enemies of Soviet Russia as they were, they must have clearly realised that Bolshevism aims at world revolution. We have never made a secret of the fact that our revolution is only the beginning, that its victorious end will come only when we have lit up the whole world with these same fires of revolution. And we realised quite clearly that the capitalists were frenzied enemies of the Soviet government. It should be mentioned that when the European struggle was over they had an army of millions, and a powerful navy, to which we could not oppose even the semblance of a navy or an army of any strength. And all they had to do was to employ a few hundred thousand soldiers of this army of millions in the war against us in the same way as they were employed in the war against Germany, and the Entente would have crushed us. There cannot be the slightest doubt of this in the minds of those who have examined this question from the theoretical standpoint, and especially of those who went through the last war and know it from their own experience and observation.

Both Britain and France tried to seize Russia in this way. They concluded a treaty with Japan, who had taken practically no direct part in the imperialist war but who supplied a hundred thousand or so soldiers to crush the Soviet Republic, acting from the Far East. Britain at that time landed troops at Murmansk and Archangel, not to mention the movement in the Caucasus, while France landed soldiers and sailors in the South. This was the first historical phase of the struggle we sustained.

The Entente at that time had an army of millions and its soldiers were, of course, far superior to the whiteguard troops which were mustering in Russia and which had neither organisers nor arms. And it sent these soldiers against us. But what the Bolsheviks had predicted happened. They said that it was not only the Russian revolution that was concerned, but the world revolution as well, and that the Bolsheviks had allies in the workers of all civilised countries. These prophecies were not realised in their direct form at the time we proposed peace to all countries.[2] Our appeal did not meet with a general response. But the strike in Germany in January 1918[3] showed us that there we had the support of fairly large forces of workers and not only of Liebknecht, who even in the days of the Kaiser had the courage to declare publicly that the government and the bourgeoisie of Germany were robbers. This strike ended in bloodshed and the suppression of the workers. In the Entente countries, of course, the bourgeoisie deceived the workers, either lying about our appeal or not publishing it at all. For this reason the appeal we made in November 1917 to all the nations produced no direct result, and those who thought that this appeal alone would call forth revolution were bound, of course, to be bitterly disappointed. But we did not count only upon the appeal; we counted upon more profound motive forces. We said that the revolution would proceed differently in different countries, and that of course it was not merely a matter of removing a protégé of Rasputin or a villainous landowner, but of a struggle against the more developed and enlightened bourgeoisie.

And so, when the British landed troops in the North and the French in the South, the decisive test and the final denouement began. The question of who was right was now to receive its answer. Were the Bolsheviks right when they said that in order to win the fight they had to rely upon the workers? Or were the Mensheviks right when they said that an attempt to make a revolution in one country would be senseless and foolhardy, because it would be crushed by other countries? You heard this kind of talk not only from Party people but even from people who were just beginning to think about politics. And then came the acid test. For a long time we did not know what the result would be; for a long time we could not judge the result; but now, after the event, we know what it was. Even in the English newspapers, in spite of the frenzied lies about the Bolsheviks told by all the bourgeois papers—even in those papers letters began to appear from British soldiers near Archangel, saying that on Russian soil they had come across leaflets in English explaining to them that they had been deceived, that they were being led against workers and peasants who had set up their own state. These soldiers wrote that they did not want to fight. As for France, we know that there was a mutiny in the navy for which tens, hundreds, and perhaps thousands of Frenchmen are still doing penal servitude. These sailors declared that they would not fight the Soviet Republic. We can now see why neither French troops nor British troops are fighting us at present, why the British soldiers have been removed from Archangel, and why the British Government dare not bring them on to our soil.

One of our political writers, Comrade Radek, wrote that the Russian soil would prove to be such that no soldier from any other country who set foot on it would be able to fight. This seemed to be too boastful a promise, it seemed a delusion. But it proved correct. The soil on which the Soviet revolution had taken place proved to be very dangerous to all countries. It seems that the Russian Bolsheviks were right; they had already managed to bring about unity among the workers during the time of the tsar, and the workers had managed to create small cells, which greeted all who believed them, whether French workers or British soldiers, with propaganda in their own languages. True, we had only tiny sheets, whereas in the British and French press propaganda was carried on by thousands of newspapers and every phrase was publicised in tens of thousands of columns. We issued only two or three quarto sheets a month; at best it worked out at only one copy for every ten thousand French soldiers.[4] I am not certain whether even that many reached their destination. Why, then, did the French and British soldiers believe them? Because we told the truth, and because when they came to Russia they saw that they had been deceived. They had been told that they were to defend their own country; but when they came to Russia they found that they were to defend the rule of the landowners and capitalists, that they were to crush the revolution. The reason we were able to win over these people in two years was that although they had forgotten that they had once executed their own kings, the moment they stepped on to Russian soil, the Russian revolution and the victories of the Russian workers and peasants reminded the soldiers of France and Britain of their own revolutions, and, thanks to the events in Russia, they recalled what had once happened in their own countries.

And this showed that the Bolsheviks were right, that our hopes were better founded than those of the capitalists, although we had neither funds nor arms, while the Entente had both arms and an invincible army. But we won the sympathy of these invincible armies, so much so that they dare not bring either British soldiers or French soldiers against us, knowing from experience that every such attempt turns against them. That is one of the miracles that have occurred in Soviet Russia.

Now, after four years of war, when ten million people have been killed and twenty million crippled, when the imperialists are asking themselves what the war was for—such questions lead to some very interesting revelations. Certain negotiations which took place in 1916 were recently made public in France—the Austrian monarch began peace negotiations with France as early as 1916, but France kept quiet about it, and Albert Thomas, who called himself a socialist and who was then a member of the Cabinet, came to Russia to promise Constantinople, the Dardanelles and Galicia to Nicholas II. All these facts have now become widely known, they have been published in a French newspaper. The French workers are now saying to Albert Thomas: “You said that you had joined the Cabinet in order to protect our French fatherland and the interests of the French workers; yet in 1916, when the Austrian monarch proposed peace, you, Albert Thomas, concealed the fact, and as a result millions of people perished in order that the French capitalists might make more profit.” These exposures are not ended yet. We began them by publishing the secret treaties, and the whole world saw why millions of people had perished, why rificed in order that Nicholas II might secure the Dardanelles and Galicia. All the imperialists knew this. So did the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries; and if they did not, they were downright idiots not to have studied politics and diplomacy enough to have known what has now been made public in the French papers. These exposures are now becoming more profound, and there will be no end to them. Thanks to this, the workers and peasants in every country are beginning more and more keenly to sense the truth and to realise what the imperialist war was about. That is why they are beginning to believe us, to see that we spoke the truth, and to see that the imperialists were lying when they led them to defend the fatherland.

That explains the miracle of our having won the sympathies of the soldiers of Britain and France, weakend helpless as we were from the military standpoint. It is no longer a prediction, but a fact. True, the victory cost us untold hardships and incredible sacrifices. During the past two years we have suffered untold torments of starvation which became particularly acute when we were cut off from the grain of the East and the South. Nevertheless, we gained a victory, and a victory that is not only for our country, but for all countries, for all mankind. Never before has there been a case in history when powerful military states have been unable to fight a country so helpless in the military field as the Soviet Republic. Why did this miracle happen? Because when we, the Bolsheviks, led the Russian people into the revolution, we knew very well that this revolution would be a painful one, that it would cost millions of lives; but we knew that we would have the working masses of all countries behind us, and that our truth, by exposing all lies, would triumph more and more as time went on.

After the campaign of the powers against Russia had failed, they tried another weapon. The bourgeoisie of those countries have hundreds of years of experience, and were able to replace their own unreliable weapons by others. At first they tried to use their own soldiers to crush and stifle Russia; now they are trying it with the help of the border states.

Tsarism, the landowners and the capitalists used to oppress a number of the border nations—Latvia, Finland, and so on, where they aroused hatred by centuries of oppression. “Great Russian” became a most hateful word to all these nations, which had been drenched in blood. And so the Entente, having failed in fighting the Bolsheviks with the help of its own soldiers, is now banking on the small states, hoping to strangle Soviet Russia with their help.

Churchill, who is pursuing the same sort of policy as Nicholas Romanov, wants to fight, and is fighting, without paying the slightest heed to parliament, He boasted that he would lead fourteen states against Russia—that was in 1919—and that Petrograd would he captured in September and Moscow in December. He was a little too boastful. He banked on the hatred of Russia in all these small states; but he forgot that in these small states there is a clear understandiiig of what Yudenich, Koichak and Denikin mean. They were once within a few weeks of complete victory. During Yudenicii’s campaign, when he was quite close to Petrograd, an article appeared in The Times, the richest of the British newspapers— I read this editorial myself—which implored, ordered, demanded that Finland help Yudenich—the eyes of the whole world are upon you; you will save liberty, civilisation and culture all over the world. Take the field against the Bolsheviks! This is what Britain said to Finland, and Britain has Finland completely in her pocket; it was said to Finland, who is up to her ears in debt, and who dares not utter a squeak because without Britain she has not enough grain to last her a week.

Such was the pressure brought to bear on all these small states to make them fight Bolshevism. And it failed twice. It failed because the peace policy of the Bolsheviks turned out to be a serious one, and was judged by its enemies to be more honest than the peace policy of any other country, and because a number of countries thought, “Much as we hate Great Russia, which used to suppress us, we know that it was Yudenich, Koichak and Denikin who suppressed us, and not the Bolsheviks.” The former head of the Finnish white-guard government has not forgotten that in November 1917 he personally received a document from my hands in which we said without the slightest hesitation that we unreservedly recognised Finland’s independence.[5]

At that time this seemed a mere gesture. It was thought that the revolt of the Finnish workers would cause it to be forgotten. But no, such things are not forgotten when they are corroborated by the whole policy of a definite party. And even the Finnish bourgeois government said, “Let’s think it over. After all, we have learned something during a hundred and fifty years of oppression by the Russian tsars. If we take the field against the Bolsheviks, we shall help to install Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin. And who are they? Don’t we know? Are they not the same breed of tsarist generals who stifled Finland, Latvia, Poland and many other nationalities? And shall we help these enemies of ours to fight the Bolsheviks? No, let us wait!”

They did not dare to refuse outright—they are dependent on the Entente. They did not help us directly; they waited, temporised, wrote Notes, sent delegations, formed commissions, sat in conference, and did so until Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin had been crushed and the Entente defeated in the second campaign too. We were the victors.

If all these s–aall states had taken the field against us—they were supplied with hundreds of millions of dollars and the finest guns and weapons, and had British instructors who had been through the war—if they had taken the field against us, there is not the slightest doubt that we would have been defeated. Everybody knows that very well. But they did not take the field against us, because they realised that the Bolsheviks are more honest. When the Bolsheviks say that they recognise the independence of any nation, that tsarist Russia was based on the oppression of other nations, and that the Bolsheviks never supported this policy, do not support it and never will support it, and that they will never go to war to oppress other nations—when they say that, they are believed. We know this not from the Latvian or Polish Bolsheviks, but from the bourgeoisie of Poland, Latvia, the Ukraine and so on.

Here the international significance of the Bolshevik policy had its effect. It was a test on international and not on Russian soil. It was a test by fire and sword, and not by words. It was a test in the last decisive struggle. The imperialists realised that they had no soldiers of their own, that they could strangle Bolshevism only by mustering international forces; but all international forces were beaten.

What does imperialism mean? It means that a handful of rich powers have a stranglehold on the whole world, when they know that they have the fifteen hundred million people of the world in their hands and have a stranglehold on them, and when these fifteen hundred million feel what British culture, French culture and American civilisation mean—rob for all you are worth! Today three-quarters of Finland has already been bought up by American multimillionaires. The officers who came from Britain and France to our border states to instruct their troops behaved like insolent scions of the Russian nobility in a defeated country. They all profiteered right and left. And the more the Finnish, Polish and Latvian workers starve, the more they are squeezed by a handful of British, American and French multimillionaires and their henchmen. And this is going on all over the world.

The Russian Socialist Republic alone has raised the standard of war for real emancipation; and sympathy is turning in its favour all over the world. Through the small countries, we have won the sympathy of all the nations of the world, and they represent hundreds of millions of people. They are at present oppressed and downtrodden, they are the most backward part of the population; but the war has enlightened them. Huge masses of people were drawn into the imperialist war. Britain brought regiments from India to fight the Germans. France called millions of Africans to the colours to fight the Germans. They were formed into shock units and hurled into the most dangerous sectors, where they were mown down like grass by machine-guns. But they learned something. Under the tsar the Russian soldiers said, “If die we must, then let it be fighting the landowners”—now the Africans say, “If die we must, then let it not be to help the French predators rob the German capitalist predators, but to emancipate ourselves from the capitalists, German and French.” In every country of the world, even in India, where three hundred million people are oppressed and treated as labourers by the British, minds are awakening and the revolutionary movement is growing from day to day. They all look towards one star, the star of the Soviet Republic, because they know that it made tremendous. sacrifices in order to fight the imperialists, and that it has withstood the most severe trials.

This was the significance of the second card of the Entente to he beaten—victory on an international scale. It means that our peace policy is approved by the vast majority of people all over the world. It means that the number of our allies in all countries is growing—much more slowly than we would like, it is true, but growing nevertheless.

The victory we won in the offensive engineered against us by Churchill shows that our policy was right. And after that we won a third victory—a victory over the bourgeois intelligentsia, over the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks, who in all countries were rabidly hostile to us, They all began to oppose the war against Soviet Russia. In all countries the bourgeois intelligentsia, the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks—this breed, unfortunately, is to be found in all countries (applause) —condemned interference in Russian affairs. They declared in all countries that it was a disgrace.

When Britain proposed that the Germans blockade Soviet Russia, and Germany refused, this exhausted the patience of the British and other Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. They said, “We are enemies of the Bolsheviks and regard them as violators and robbers. But we cannot support the proposal that the Germans join us in strangling Russia by a hunger blockade.” And so, within the camp of the enemies, inside their own countries, in Paris, London and so on, where Bolsheviks are being hounded and treated in the way revolutionaries were treated under the tsar—in all cities, the bourgeois intelligentsia have issued the call “Hands off Soviet Russia I” In Great Britain this is the slogan under which the bourgeois intelligentsia are summoning meetings and issuing manifestos.

That is why the blockade had to be lifted. They could not restrain Estonia, and we have concluded peace and can trade with her. We have cut a window open on the civilised world. We have the sympathy of the majority of the working people, and the bourgeoisie are anxious to start trade with Russia as soon as possible.

Now the imperialists are afraid of us and they have reason to be, for Soviet Russia has emerged from this war stronger than ever. British writers have written that the armies all over the world are disintegrating, and that if there is any country in the world whose army is gaining strength, that country is Soviet Russia. They tried to slander Comrade Trotsky and said that this was so because the Russian army is being kept under iron discipline, which is enforced by ruthless measures, as well as by skilful and widespread agitation.

We have never denied this. War is war, and it demands iron discipline. Have you capitalist gentlemen not employed the same methods? Have you not carried on agitation? Have you not a hundred times more paper and printing works? To compare our literature with yours is like comparing a molehill to a mountain. Yet your propaganda has failed, and ours has succeeded.

The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks tried an experiment to see whether it was not possible to get along with the capitalists peacefully, and to pass from them to social reform. In Russia they wanted to go over to social reform in an amicable way, so as not to offend the capitalists. They forgot that capitalists are capitalists, and that the only thing to do with them is to vanquish them. They say that in the Civil War the Bolsheviks have drenched the country in blood. But, my dear Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, did you not have eight months to experiment in? Were you not in power with Kerensky from February to October 1917, during which period you had the help of all the Cadets, of the whole Entente, of all the richest countries in the world? Your programme then was one of social reform, without civil war. Is there a fool in the. world who would have resorted to revolution if you had really begun social reform? Why did you not do so? Because your programme was a blank, an absurd dream. Because it is impossible to come to terms with the capitalists and secure their obedience peacefully, especially after four years of imperialist war. Do you think there are no clever people in Britain, France and Germany who understand that they went to war for the division of colonies, and that ten million people were killed and twenty million crippled over the division of the spoils? That is what capitalism means. How can you expect to persuade, how can you expect to come to terms with this capitalism which has crippled twenty million people and killed ten million? And we say to the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, “You had the opportunity of trying your experiment. Why did nothing come of it? Because your programme was a sheer utopia, a utopia not only for Russia, but even for Germany, the Germany where the German Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, whom nobody will listen to, are now in power, the Germany where a German Kornilov, armed from head to foot, is preparing reaction,[6] the German republic where fifteen thousand workers have been slaughtered in the streets of the cities. And this is called a democratic republic!” Yet the German Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have the hardihood to say that the Bolsheviks are a wicked lot, that they have reduced the country to a state of civil war, whereas in their own country social peace prevails and only fifteen thousand workers have been killed in the streets!

They say that the Civil War and bloodshed in Russia are due to the fact that it is a backward country. But tell us, why is the same thing happening in countries like Finland which are not backward? Why is there a White Terror in Hungary which has shocked the whole world? Why were Luxemburg and Liebknecht assassinated in the German republic, where, since the overthrow of the Kaiser, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have been in power? And why is it not the Mensheviks who are strong there, but Kornilov—and the Bolsheviks too, who, although they are crushed, are strong because of their faith in the justice of their cause and because of their influence over the masses?

There you have the world revolution—which they said the Bolsheviks were using to deceive the people with, when as a matter of fact all hopes of compromise proved to be sheer nonsense.

A big tussle is developing among the bourgeois countries themselves. America and Japan are on the verge of flinging themselves at each other’s throats because Japan sat snug during the imperialist war and has grabbed nearly the whole of China, which has a population of four hundred million. The imperialist gentlemen say, “We are in favour of a republic, we are in favour of democracy; but why did the Japanese grab more than they should under our very noses?” Japan and America are on the verge of war, and there is absolutely no possibility of preventing that war, in which another ten million will be killed and twenty million crippled. France, too, says, “Who got the colonies?—Britain.” France was victorious, but she is up to her ears in debt; she is in a hopeless position, whereas Britain has piled up wealth. Over there, new combinations and alliances are already being engineered. They want to fling themselves at each other’s throats again over the division of colonies. And an imperialist war is again brewing and cannot be prevented. It cannot be prevented, not because the capitalists, taken individually, are vicious—individually they are just like other people —but because they cannot free themselves of the financial meshes in any other way, because the whole world is in debt, in bondage, and because private property has led and always will lead to war.

All this is causing the roots of the international revolution to strike deeper and deeper. Because of this we have won over the French and British soldiers; because of this we have won the confidence of the small states, and our international position is now better than ever before. And on the basis of a simple calculation we can say that though many hardships still await us, the worst difficulties have already been overcome. The all-powerful Entente no longer holds out any terrors for us: we have defeated it in decisive battles. (Applause.)

True, they may still incite Poland against us. The Polish landowners and capitalists are growling and threatening, saying that they want to get back the territory of I772,[7] that they want to subjugate the Ukraine. We know that France is inciting Poland, flinging millions into that country, because France is bankrupt anyhow and is now putting her last stake on Poland. And we say to the comrades in Poland that we respect her liberty as we respect the liberty of every other nation, and that the Russian workers and peasants, who have experienced the yoke of tsarism, know very well what that yoke meant. We know that it was a heinous crime to divide Poland up among the German, Austrian and Russian capitalists, and that this division doomed the Polish nation to long years of oppression, when the use of the native language was regarded as a crime, and when the whole Polish nation was brought up in one idea, namely, to throw off this treble yoke. We therefore understand the hatred the Poles feel, and we declare to them that we shall never cross the line on which our troops are now stationed—and they are stationed a long way from any Polish population. We are proposing peace on this basis, because we know that this will be a tremendous acquisition for Poland. We do not want war on account of frontiers, because we want to obliterate that accursed past when every Great Russian was regarded as an oppressor.

But since Poland responds to our peace proposal by silence, since she continues to give a free hand to French imperialism, which is inciting her to a war against Russia, since fresh trainloads of munitions are arriving in Poland every day and the Polish imperialists threaten to start a war on Russia, we say, “Just try it! You’ll get a lesson you’ll never forget.” (Applause.)

When soldiers died during the imperialist war for the enrichment of the tsar and the landowners, we said frankly and openly that defence of the fatherland in the imperialist war was treachery, that it meant defence of the Russian tsar, who was to get the Dardanelles, Constantinople and so on. But now that we have published the secret treaties, now that we have embarked on a revolution against imperialist war, now that we have borne untold hardships for the sake of that revolution, now that we have shown that the capitalists in Russia have been suppressed and dare not even dream of returning to the old system, we say that we are not defending the right to plunder other nations, but are defending our proletarian, revolution, and will defend it to the very end. The Russia which has been emancipated and which for two years has borne untold suffering for the sake of her Soviet revolution—that Russia we shall defend to our last drop of blood! (Applause.)

We know that the time is gone when we were pressed on all sides by imperialist armies and when the working folk of Russia still did not understand the tasks that confronted us. Guerrilla methods prevailed then, each tried to grab a weapon for himself without consideration for the cause as a whole, and disorder and robbery prevailed in the localities. In the course of, these two years we have created a united and disciplined army. It has been a very difficult task. You know that the science of war cannot be learned all at once and you also know that only the officers, the colonels and generals, who have remained from the tsarist army, know that science. You have heard, of course, that these old colonels and generals have been responsible for a great deal of treachery, which cost us tens of thousands of lives. All such traitors had to he cleared out, and at the same time we had to select a corps of commanders from among the former officers, so that the workers and peasants might learn from them; for a modern army cannot be built up without science, and we have had to put it in the hands of military experts. It has been a difficult task, but that, too, we have accomplished.

We have created a united army, an army which is now directed by the advanced section, by experienced Communists, who have everywhere succeeded in putting agitation and propaganda on a proper footing. True, the imperialists are also carrying on propaganda, but the peasants are already beginning to understand that there are different kinds of propaganda. They are beginning to tell by instinct what is true and what is false. At any rate, the propaganda which is being carried on by the Mensheviks and which was carried on by Kolchak and Denikin is no longer as successful as it was. Take their posters and pamphlets. They talk about a Constituent Assembly, they talk about liberty and a republic. But the workers and peasants, who have secured liberty at the price of their blood, now understand that the term “Constituent Assembly” serves as a screen for the capitalists; and if anything decided the issue of the struggle against Kolchak and Denikin in our favour, despite the fact that they were supported by the Great Powers, it was that both the peasants and working Cossacks, who for a long time remained in the other camp, have in the end come over to the workers and peasants—and it was only this that finally decided the war and brought about our victory.

With this victory behind us, we must now do our utmost to consolidate it on another front, the bloodless front, the front of the war against the economic chaos to which we have been reduced by the war against the landowners and capitalists, against Kolchak and Denikin. You know what this victory has cost us; you know what a desperate fight we had to put up when we were cut off from the graingrowing regions, from the Urals and Siberia. At that time the Moscow and Petrograd workers had to suffer intolerable torments of hunger. Attempts were made to frighten you with the term “dictatorship of the proletariat”, to frighten the peasants and working Cossacks, and instil into their minds the idea that dictatorship meant the arrogant rule of the worker. Actually, however, while Britain and America were doing all they could to support Kolchak and Denikin, the workers of the central cities, exercising their dictatorship, did their best to show everyone by their example how to break away from the landowners and capitalists and march with the working people; for labour unites, while property disunites. That was the thesis we stuck to throughout these two years, and it led us to victory. We were united by labour, whereas the Entente is steadily disintegrating, because property has turned the imperialists into wild beasts, who from first to last are always squabbling over the division of spoils. Labour has made us a force that is uniting all the working people. And now “dictatorship” is a word that can frighten only utterly ignorant people, if such are still to be found in Russia.

I do not know if any person still remains who has not been taught a lesson by Kolchak and Denikin, and who has not come to realise what the dictatorship of the proletariat means—it means that never has the proletariat of Petrograd, Moscow and the industrial centres suffered such hardships as during these past two years. The peasants of the producing gubernias are now in such a position that they, having possession of the land, get the whole product for themselves. Since the Bolshevik revolution the Russian peasants, for the first time in thousands of years, are working for themselves and can feed better. Yet at the same time, during these two years of struggle the workers, the proletariat, while exercising their dictatorship, have been suffering untold torments of hunger. You now see that dictatorship means leadership, the union of the disunited and scattered working masses, a single, closely—knit whole directed against the capitalists in order to defeat them and to prevent a recurrence of the bloodshed in which ten million people perished and twenty million were crippled. The union of all the labouring people, a single iron will is required to defeat a force like this, which can rely on mighty armies and modern culture. This single iron will can be furnished only by the working masses, only by the workers, the proletariat, only by those class-conscious workers whom decades of strikes and demonstrations have trained in struggle, and who have succeeded in overthrowing tsarism. It can be furnished only by the workers who have borne the brunt of the two years of unparalleled civil war, fighting in the front ranks and creating a united Red Army, which has been joined by tens of thousands of the finest workers, peasants and military and political students, who have been the first to perish and who, in Moscow, Petrograd, I vanovo-Voznesensk, Tver, Yaroslavi and all the industrial cities, have been suffering the terrible torments of hungers And this hunger has welded the workers together and brought the peasants and working Cossacks of the producing gubernias to see for themselves that the Bolsheviks were right, for the workers were thus enabled to hold their own in the struggle against the whiteguards.

That is why the working class is entitled to say that by these two years of sacrifice and war it has proved to all the working peasants and to every working Cossack that we must unite and join forces. We must fight those who are profiteering on the famine because they find it more profitable to sell grain at a thousand rubles a pood than to sell it at the fixed price. There is money to be made that way, but it leads back to the old times, and we shall once more find ourselves in that accursed pit where tsarisin ruled and where the capitalists condemned humanity to the imperialist slaughter for the sake of their profits. It would turn us back, and that i something that cannot be allowed. After the struggle against Kolchak and Denikin, the working peasants and Cossacks came to realise the truth that we need unity, and they are taking their places by the side of the workers and looking upon the working class as their leaders. The working peasants saw that no injury derived from the workers’ government for there was none to see; it was only the landowners, capitalists and kulaks who did, but then, they are the worst enemies of the working people, they are the allies of those imperialists who were the cause of the bloody war and all the miseries of the people. All working people must unite—only then shall we be victorious.

The bloody war is over and we are now waging a bloodless war, a war against the economic chaos, ruin, poverty and disease to which we have been reduced by four years of imperialist war and two years of civil war. You know that the economic chaos is terrible. In the border regions of Russia, in Siberia and in the South there are today tens of millions of poods of grain; millions of poods have already been collected and transported, yet there is a terrible famine in Moscow, people are dying of starvation because grain cannot be delivered; and it cannot be delivered because the Civil War has completely devastated the country, wrecked the railways and destroyed scores of bridges. Locomotives have broken down, and we are unable to repair them quickly. We are now trying with great difficulty to secure aid from abroad. We know, however, that it is now possible to start on the complete restoration of industry.

How are we going to restore industry when we cannot exchange manufactured goods for grain because there aren’t any?

We know that when the Soviet government takes grain from the peasants at a fixed price it pays them only in paper. What is this paper worth? Although it is not the price of the grain we can only pay in paper money. But we say that this is essential, that the peasants must give their grain as a loan. Is there a single well-fed peasant who would refuse bread to a hungry worker if he knew that this worker, once he had been fed, would repay him in goods? No honest and politically-conscious peasant would refuse to give grain as a loan. Peasants who have surplus grain must let the state have it for paper money—and that means a loan. The only people who do not understand, who do not realise this, are the supporters of capitalism and exploitation, those who want the well-fed man to profit even more at the expense of the hungry man. The workers’ government cannot tolerate that, and we shall stop at no sacrifice to combat it. (Applause.)

We have now concentrated all our forces on the restoration of industry and are steadfastly waging this new war, in which we shall be as victorious as we have been hitherto. We have instructed a commission of scientists and engineers to draw up a plan for the electrification of Russia. The plan will be ready in two months and will enable us to got a full and clear picture of how, in a few years, the whole of Russia will be covered by a network of electric transmission lines, will be restored in a new way, not the old way, and how she will achieve that culture which our prisoners of war saw in Germany.

That is the way we must restore our industry, and that is the way we shall return a hundredfold the loan of grain we are taking from the peasants. We know that this cannot be done in a year or two; the minimum programme of electrification is calculated for a period of not less than three years, and the complete success of this advanced industry will require not less than ten years. But if we were able to I hold on for two years in such a bloody war, we shall be able to hold on for ten years and more in face of any difficulties. We have gained that experience in leading the masses with the help of urban workers which will carry us through all difficulties on this bloodless front of struggle against economic chaos and will lead to greater victories than those we gained in the war against international imperialism. (Applause.)


[1] The First All-Russia Congress of Working Cossacks was held February 29-March 6, 1920. It was attended by 339 delegates from nearly all Cossack regions. The agenda of the Congress was the following: Soviet development in Cossack regions; food policy; organisation of national economy, etc. Lenin took part in the work of the Congress, and showed the true road for the working Cossacks in his speech on March 1. The Congress denounced the attempts of the upper strata of Cossacks, in company with the landowners and bourgeoisie, to separate the Cossacks from the common cause of all the working people . The Congress resolution stressed that the chief task of the working Cossacks was to unite with the workers and peasants of Soviet Russia. The Congress expressed in favour of the participation of working Cossacks in Soviet governmental bodies on the same conditions as all workers and peasants, called upon the Cossacks to strengthen the union of workers and peasants and concentrate all efforts on overcoming the economic devastation in the country.

[2] Lenin refers to the Decree on Peace adopted by the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies on October 26 (November 5), 1917 (see present edition, Vol. 26, pp. 249-53).

The Decree on Peace proposed to all belligerent nations and their governments that they immediately sign an armistice and start negotiations on a just democratic peace.

[3]Lenin refers to a strike of workers in Germany which began on January 28, 1918 in protest against the rapacious peace terms pro-posed by the German delegation during the Brest-Litovsk peace talks. Over 500,000 workers at armaments factories went on strike. The strikers demanded peace without annexations and indemnities as proposed by the Soviet delegation, the participation of worker representatives of all countries in peace talks, the repeal of the war-time laws in the country and granting of democratic civil rights to the people. The workers of Hamburg, Kid, Leipzig, the Ruhr region and other industrial centres also went on strike. All in all, over 1,000,000 people took part in the January political strike. Arbeiterrkte were set up in a number of cities during the strike.

At the head of the strike were revolutionary stewards elected by workers mainly from among the active trade unionists. However, the majority of revolutionary stewards were members of the Independent Social-Democratic Party, the activities of which were directed by collaborators. This weakened the forces of the strikers.

Though the January political strike ended in the defeat of the workers, its significance was very great. Lenin considered that this strike "marks a turn of sentiment among the German proletariat (see present edition, Vol. 27, p. 546)

[4] This refers to the newspapers published in 1918-19 in English German and French by the groups of foreign Communists set up at the C.C., R.C.P.(B.); they were for distribution among soldiers of the interventionist armies and among prisoners of war. The English newspaper The Call was distributed on the Northern Front. Two German publications, Der Vdlkerfriede (Peace of the Peoples and Revolution (World Revolution), were distributed among the German prisoners of war and in the Ukraine. The French weekly La Lanserne was distributed in the South of Russia

[5] On December iS (31), 1917, Lenin handed Svinhufvnd, head of the Finnish bourgeois government, the decree of the Council of People’s Commissars granting independence to Finland. The decree was endorsed by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on December22, 1917 (January 4, 1918).

[6] Lenin refers to the preparations for a military-monarchist putsch in Germany. The leader of the German reactionaries, Kapp, gave his name to the revolt known as the "Kapp putsch" to which the Social Democratic government offered no resistance. On March 13, 1920, army units were moved to Berlin and meeting with no resistance from the government declared it dissolved and set up a military junta. The German working class responded with a general strike and on March 17, under pressure from the working class, Kapp’s government fell and state power again passed into the hands of the Social-Democrats, who by deceit succeeded in frustrating the general strike.

[7] The slogan calling for restoration of the 1772 frontiers implied the seizure of Byelorussia, Lithuania, part of the Ukraine as far as the middle Dnieper, and the southern part of Latvia; it reflected the aggressive tendencies of the Polish bourgeoisie and landowners.