V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered at a Joint Session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee,

The Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Deputies, Trade Unions, And Factory Committees

May 5, 1920[1]

Delivered: 5 May, 1920
First Published: Published in 1920 in the book Verbatim Reports of the Plenary Meetings of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Deputies; Published according to the text in the book
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 129-134
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

(Applause.) Comrades, I should like to draw your attention to a feature that, from the international point of view or more correctly from the point of view of Russia’s international position, distinguishes the present war from previous wars. Of course, none of you doubt, or could doubt, that this war is a link in a long chain of events revealing the international bourgeoisie’s frantic resistance to the victorious proletariat, a frantic attempt by the international bourgeoisie to crush Soviet Russia, to overthrow the first Soviet state at all costs and by all means. There cannot be the least doubt that there is a connection between these events, between the international bourgeoisie’s previous attempts and the present war. At the same time, however, we see the tremendous difference between this war and previous wars, from the point of view of our international position. We see the tremendous impetus our struggle has given to the international working-class movement. We see how the international proletariat reacts to Soviet Russia’s victories, how the world proletarian struggle is mounting and gaining strength, and what gigantic work has been carried out in the little more than the two years of the Soviet Republic’s existence.

You remember how the most responsible and most powerful ministers of the mightiest and unrivalled capitalist powers announced quite recently that they had prepared an alliance of fourteen powers against Russia; you know how, under pressure from the powerful capitalists of France and Britain, this alliance brought Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin together, and how it drew up a really grandiose and comprehensive war plan. If we destroyed that plan, it was because the imperialists’ unity was illusory, and the forces of the international bourgeoisie cannot stand up to a single trial when it comes to sacrificing oneself. It appeared that, after four years of the imperialist slaughter, the working people do not recognise the justice of a war against us, and in them we have a great ally. The Entente’s plan was really destructive, but it came to grief because, despite their most powerful alliance, the capitalist states could not carry it through, proved powerless to give it effect. None of the powers, any one. of which could have the advantage over us, could show unity, because the organised proletariat does not support it; no army-neither the French nor the British-could get its soldiers to fight on Russian soil, against the Soviet Republic.

If, in our mind’s eye, we follow the desperate situations our republic was faced with when, in fact, it was standing up to the whole world, against powers far more powerful than it, and if we recollect how we emerged fully victorious from these formidable trials, then these recollections will give us a clear idea of what we are confronted with now. Here we see a plan that is not new and at the same time does not at all resemble the really comprehensive and single plan we were faced with six months ago. What we have is the relics of the former plan and, in the light of the international alignment of forces, this is the greatest assurance of the futility of the present attempt. The former plan was an attempt on the part of all the imperialist powers to crush the workers’ and peasants’ republic, in alliance with all the small border states of the former Russian Empire, which had been shamelessly and outrageously oppressed by the tsarist and capitalist government of Great Russia. At present, several powers, in alliance with one of the border states, are attempting to accomplish that which proved impossible to all the imperialist powers in alliance with all the border states, and was undertaken by them twelve and six months ago in alliance with Kolchak, Denikin and others. We now see the relics of the imperialists’ plan. The great tenacity being shown by the bourgeoisie is a feature of the imperialist plans. They know that they are fighting to retain power at home, and that it is not the Russian or the Polish question that is being decided, but the question of their own survival. It is therefore to be expected that they will try to salvage the former and unsuccessful plan from the wreck.

We can all clearly see the clash of the imperialist states’ interests. Despite all pronouncements by their ministers about the peaceful settlement of questions in dispute, the imperialist powers cannot in reality take a single serious step in political matters without disagreeing. The French need a powerful Poland and a powerful Russia of the tsarist brand, and they are prepared to make every sacrifice to this end. Because of her geographical position, Britain wants something else-the break-up of Russia and a weak Poland, so as to ensure a balance between France and Germany which would give the imperialist victors control of colonies acquired by robbing Germany as a consequence of the world war. Here the clash of interests is really striking; no matter how the representatives of the imperialist powers at San Remo[2] try to assure us that there is full unanimity among the Allies, we know that this is not the case.

We know that Poland’s offensive is a relic of the old plan that once united the entire international bourgeoisie. If that ambitious plan failed at that time, even though from the purely military standpoint it was assured of success, it is hopeless today, even in that aspect. Furthermore, we know that the imperialist powers, who have entered into an alliance with the Polish bourgeoisie, and the Polish Government are in a bigger mess than ever. Each political move made by the Polish bourgeoisie over the past months, weeks and days has shown them up to their own working people. They have been quarrelling with their allies, and cannot make a single consistent move in their policy. At one moment they announce their unyielding attitude to Soviet Russia and the impos3ibility of conducting any kind of talks with her, while at the next moment they raise the blockade, and solemnly announce this on behalf of an allegedly existing alliance, an allegedly existing League of Nations, and then they again commence a policy of vacillation. In consequence of all this, the imperialists have enabled us to prove that our policy is peaceful, and that our international policy has nothing in common either with tsarist policies or those of the Russian capitalists or the Russian bourgeoisie, even a democratic bourgeoisie. We have proved to the entire world that our foreign policy has nothing in common with the policy constantly ascribed to us by all the bourgeois press. Consequently, the Poles themselves have exposed every piece of deception in their policy. The experience of three Russian revolutions has shown us how they were prepared, and how each served as the basis for the further development of home and foreign policy. This experience has proved that in the preparation of revolution those ruling classes are our most faithful. assistants which, laying claim to all kinds of coalitions, constituent assemblies and so on, and asserting that they represent the will of the people, in fact reveal-through their own policy at every serious, difficult or crucial moment in the life of the country-the self-interest of squabbling bourgeois groups that cannot come to terms, rival capitalist groups that unmask themselves a hundred times more effectively than communist propaganda can do. In no country or state can the working class-even if it is most revolutionary-ever he revolutionised by any propaganda and agitation unless that agitation is backed up in practice by the behaviour of the ruling classes of that country.

What is now taking place in all capitalist countries (and this will develop even more with time, particularly in a country like Poland) makes us confident that, if we emerged victorious from a war undoubtedly far more arduous, and if we have correctly assessed the discord and the impossibility of reconciliation among the bourgeoisie of various groups and parties at times when. they stand in particular need of such unity, the present improvement in our international position is enormous. This fills us with confidence, not only in view of the internal alignment of forces, but also of our international position. If we consider the entire system of present-day imperialist states, and all their strivings-and we know-that their urge to use any moment for an attack on Russia is irresistible-and appraise them quite objectively in the light of the incontrovertible facts of the history of recent years and particularly of the past six months, we shall see that the international enemy is weakening, that all attempts at an alliance between the imperialists are becoming more and more futile, and that, from this aspect, our victory is assured.

However, comrades, while working on economic problems and concentrating all our attention on peaceful economic construction, we must rapidly re-form our ranks as we face the approach of a new war. Our entire army, which has recently been a labour army,[3] must now turn its attention to other matters. We must discontinue everything else and concentrate on this new war. We are perfectly aware that, after all that we have been through, we do not have to fear the enemy now facing us, but he may impose new and heavy sacrifices on the workers and peasants, may greatly impede our economic construction, and bring about the devastation and ruin of tens, hundreds and thousands of peasant households. He may also, by his temporary success, revive the extinct hopes of the imperialists we have defeated, who will of course not fail to join forces with this enemy. We must, therefore, declare that the rule we have followed throughout all previous wars must be resolutely reinforced. Since, despite all our most conciliatory intentions and the fact that we made great concessions and renounced all national claims, the Polish landowners and the Polish bourgeoisie have forced a war on us; since we are certain, and we must be certain, that the bourgeoisie of all countries, even those that at present are not helping the Poles, will help them when the war flares up, because it is not only a Russian or a Polish issue, but one of the survival of the entire bourgeoisie-then we must remember and at all costs implement the rule which we have followed in our policy and which has always been a guarantee of our success. That rule is: once things have led to war, everything must be subordinated to the war effort; the entire internal life of the country must he subordinated to wartime needs; the slightest hesitation on this score is inexcusable. No matter how hard it is for the great majority of comrades to tear themselves away from their work, which has only recently been switched onto a new course, more gratifying and essential to the tasks of peaceful construction, it must be remembered that the least oversight or inattention may often mean the deaths of tens of thousands of our best comrades, our younger generation of workers and peasants, our Communists who, as always, are in the front ranks of the lighters. Therefore, once more—everything for the war effort. No meeting, no conference should he held without having as its first item the question: have we done everything possible to help the war effort; have our forces been sufficiently mobilised; have we sent sufficient help to the front? Only those people who cannot help at the front should remain here. Every sacrifice, every assistance for the front, without the least hesitation! And, by concentrating all efforts and making every sacrifice, we shall undoubtedly triumph again. (Applause.)


[1] The joint session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet, and representatives of Moscow trade unions and factory committees, held on May 5, 1920, was called in connection with the offensive launched by the whiteguard Poles against Soviet Russia. The session was also attended by 300 worker Communists from Petrograd who ware going to the Polish front. A single item was discussed-the position on the Polish front. The session unanimously adopted a resolution calling upon the workers and peasants to bend every effort for the defeat of bourgeois-landowner Poland.—Editor.

[2] The reference is to the Conference of the Entente Powers held at San Remo (Italy) in April 1920. Among questions discussed at the Conference were the draft peace treaty with Turkey, and Germany’s observation of the Treaty of Versailles. —Editor.

[3] The use of Red Army regular units as labour detachments for construction work was occasioned by the situation in the country during the peaceful respite early in 1920, when any day could bring a resumption of the imperialists’ armed intervention. In February 1920, in connection with the formation of the labour army, Lenin pointed out, “The task of the transition from war to peaceful development arises in such peculiar conditions that we cannot disband the army, since we have to allow, say, for the possibility of an attack by that selfsame Poland or any of the powers which the Entente continues to incite against us” (See Report On The Work Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee And The Council Of People’s Commissars Delivered At The First Session Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee, Seventh Convocation).

The war that broke out against bourgeois-landowner Poland and Wrangel made necessary the transfer of the labour detachments to a wartime footing.—Editor.