V. I. Lenin

Our Foreign and Domestic Position and Party Tasks

Speech Delivered To The Moscow Gubernia Conference Of The R.C.P.(B.)[1]

November 21, 1920

Delivered: 21 November, 1920 or earlier.
First Published: Published in 1920 in the pamphlet: Current Questions of the Party’s present work. Published by the Moscow Committee, R.C.P.(B.) the text of the pamphlet
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 408-426
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, in speaking of the international position of the Soviet Republic we naturally have to deal mainly with the Polish war and Wrangel’s defeat. I think that at a meeting of Party workers who have, of course, followed the Party press and have frequently heard major reports on this question, there is no need and indeed it would be superfluous, for me to speak in detail on this period or on each phase of the war against Poland, on the character of our offensives, or on the significance of our defeat at Warsaw. I presume that most of the comrades are so familiar with this aspect of the matter that I would only be repeating myself, which would be unsatisfactory to these comrades. I shall therefore speak, not on the various episodes and turns of our Polish campaign but on the results we now have before us.

After the Red Army’s brilliant victories in the summer, the serious defeat at Warsaw, and the conclusion of a preliminary peace with Poland, which at this very moment, in Riga, is being or at least should be turned a conclusive peace, the chances of that preliminary peace really becoming conclusive have greatly increased as a result of Wrangel’s débâcle. Now that the latter has become an established fact the imperialist press in the Entente countries is beginning to show its cards and disclose what it has most of all kept in the dark.

I do not know whether you noticed a brief news item published in the papers today or some days ago to the effect that the newspaper Temps, mouthpiece of the French imperialist bourgeoisie, now speaks of the peace with Poland having been signed against France’s advice. There can be no doubt that the French bourgeoisie’s spokesmen are admitting a truth they would have preferred to cover up and indeed have covered up for a very long time. Despite the unfavourable terms of the Polish peace (which are more advantageous than those we ourselves offered to the Polish landowners this April in order to avoid any war), and they are indeed unfavourable as compared to what might have been achieved but for the extremely serious situation at Warsaw, we succeeded in getting terms that frustrate the greater part of the imperialists’ over-all plan. The French bourgeoisie have now acknowledged that they insisted on Poland continuing the war, and were opposed to the conclusion of a peace, because they feared the rout of Wrangel’s army and wished to support a new intervention and campaign against the Soviet Republic. Though Polish imperialism’s conditions have impelled it to go to war against Russia—despite this—the French imperialists’ plans have collapsed, and as a result we now have gained something more than a mere breathing-space.

Of the small states formerly belonging to the Russian Empire, Poland has been among those that have been most of all at odds with the Great-Russian nation during the last three years, and made the greatest claims to a large slice of territory inhabited by non-Poles. We concluded peace with Finland, Estonia and Latvia[2] also against the wishes of the imperialist Entente, but this was easier because the bourgeoisie of Finland, Estonia and Latvia entertained no imperialist aims that would call for a war against the Soviet Republic, whereas the Polish bourgeois republic had an eye, not only to Lithuania and Byelorussia but the Ukraine as well. Furthermore, it was impelled along the same direction by the age-old struggle of Poland, who used to be a great power and is now pitting herself against another great power—Russia. Even at present, Poland cannot hold back from this age-long struggle. That is why Poland has been far more bellicose and stubborn in her war plans against our Republic, and why our present success in concluding peace against the wishes of the Entente is so much more resounding. Among the states which have preserved the bourgeois system and border on Russia, there is no other country but Poland on which the Entente can rely in a long-term plan of military intervention; that is why in their common hate of the Soviets, all the bourgeois states are directly interested in having Eastern Galicia under the control of the Polish landed proprietors.

Moreover, Poland lays claim to the Ukraine and Lithuania. This gives the campaign a particularly acute and stubborn character. Keeping Poland supplied with war materials has, naturally, been the main concern of France and certain other powers, and it is quite impossible to estimate just how much money has gone into this. Therefore, the importance of the Red Army’s final victory despite our defeat at Warsaw, is particularly great, for it has placed Poland in a position in which she is unable to prosecute the war. She has had to agree to peace terms that have given her less than those we proposed in April 1920, before the Polish offensive, when we, unwilling to discontinue our work of economic construction, proposed boundaries that were highly disadvantageous to us. At that time, the press of the petty-bourgeois patriots, to whose number both our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks belong, accused the Bolsheviks of submissiveness, and an almost Tolstoyan attitude displayed by the Soviet government. The latter term was used to qualify our acceptance of peace along the proposed Pilsudski line, which left Minsk in Polish hands, the boundary lying some 50 vests and at places some 100 vests east of the present line. Of course, I do not have to tell a meeting of Party workers why we accepted, and had to accept, worse boundaries if indeed our work of economic construction was to go on. The outcome was that, by waging war, Poland, which had retained her bourgeois system, brought about an acute dislocation of her entire economy, a tremendous growth of discontent, and a bourgeois reign of terror, not only against the industrial workers but against the farm labourers as well. Poland’s entire position as a bourgeois state became so precarious that there could be no question of continuing the war.

The successes scored in this respect by the Soviets have been tremendous. When, three years ago, we raised the question of the tasks and the conditions of the proletarian revolution’s victory in Russia, we always stated emphatically that victory could not be permanent unless it was followed up by a proletarian revolution in the West, and that a correct appraisal of our revolution was possible only from the international point of view. For victory to be lasting, we must achieve the victory of the proletarian revolution in all, or at any rate in several, of the main capitalist countries. After three years of desperate and stubborn struggle, we can see in what respect our predictions have or have not materialised. They have not materialised in the sense that there has been no rapid or simple solution of the problem. None of us, of course, expected that such an unequal struggle as the one waged by Russia against the whole of the capitalist world could last for three years. It has emerged that neither side—the Russian Soviet Republic or the capitalist world—has gained victory or suffered defeat; at the same time it has turned out that, while our forecasts did not materialise simply, rapidly and directly, they were fulfilled insofar as we achieved the main thing—the possibility has been maintained of the existence of proletarian rule and the Soviet Republic even in the event of the world socialist revolution being delayed. In this respect it must be said that the Republic’s international position today provides the best and most precise confirmation of all our plans and all our policy.

Needless to say, there can be no question of comparing the military strength of the R.S.F.S.R. with that of all the capitalist powers. In this respect we are incomparably weaker than they are, yet, after three yeas of war, we have forced almost all of these states to abandon the idea of further intervention. This means that what we saw as possible three years ago, while the imperialist war was not yet over, i.e., a highly protracted situation, without any final decision one way or the other, has come about. That has been, not because we have proved militarily stronger and the Entente weaker, but because throughout this period the disintegration in the Entente countries has intensified, whereas our inner strength has grown. This has been confirmed and proved by the war. The Entente was unable to fight us with its own forces. The workers and peasants of the capitalist countries could not be forced to fight us. The bourgeois states were able to emerge from the imperialist war with their bourgeois regimes intact. They were able to stave off and delay the crisis hanging over them, but basically they so undermined their own position that, despite all their gigantic military forces, they had to acknowledge, after three years, that they were unable to crush the Soviet Republic with its almost non-existent military forces. It has thus turned out that our policy and our predictions have proved fundamentally correct in all respects and that the oppressed people in any capitalist country have indeed shown themselves our allies, for it was they who stopped the war. Without having gained an international victory, which we consider the only sure victory, we are in a position of having won conditions enabling us to exist side by side with capitalist powers, who are now compelled to enter into trade relations with us. In the course of this struggle we have won the right to an independent existence.

Thus a glance at our international position as a whole will show that we have achieved tremendous successes and have won, not only a breathing-space but something much more significant. By a breathing-space we understand a brief period during which the imperialist powers have had many opportunities to renew in greater force the war against us. Today, too, we do not underestimate the danger and do not deny the possibility of future military intervention by the capitalist countries. It is essential for us to maintain our military preparedness. However, if we cast a glance at the conditions in which we defeated all attempts made by the Russian counter-revolutionaries and achieved a formal peace with all the Western states, it will be clear that we have something more than a breathing space: we have entered a new period, in which we have won the right to our fundamental international existence in the network of capitalist states. Domestic conditions have not allowed a single powerful capitalist state to hurl its army against Russia; this has been due to the revolution having matured within such countries, preventing them from overcoming us as quickly as they might have done. There were British, French and Japanese armies on Russian territory for three years. There can be no doubt that the most insignificant concentration of forces by these three powers would have been quite enough to win a victory over us in a few months, if not in a few weeks. We were able to contain that attack only on account of the demoralisation among the French troops and the unrest that set in among the British and Japanese. We have made use of this divergence of imperialist interests all the time. We defeated the interventionists only because their interests divided them, thereby enhancing our strength and unity. This gave us a breathing-space and rendered impossible the complete victory of German imperialism at the time of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk.

These dissensions have become more aggravated of late, especially because of the project of an agreement on concessions with a group of American capitalist sharks, with the toughest of them, headed by a multimillionaire who expects to form a group of multimillionaires.[3] We know that almost all reports from the Far East bear witness to the extreme resentment felt in Japan over the conclusion of this agreement, although so far there has been no agreement, but only the draft of one. Japanese public opinion, however, is already seething, and today I read a communication which said that Japan is accusing Soviet Russia of wanting to set Japan against America.

We have correctly appraised the intensity of the imperialist rivalry and have told ourselves that we must make systematic use of the dissension between them so as to hamper their struggle against us. Political dissension is already apparent in the relations between Britain and France. Today we can speak, not merely of a breathing space, but of a real chance of a new and lengthy period of development. Until now we have actually had no basis in the international sense. We now have this basis, the reason being the attitude of the smaller powers that are completely dependent on the Great Powers both in the military and in the economic sense. It now appears that, despite the pressure brought to bear by France, Poland has signed a peace with us. The Polish capitalists have a hate of Soviet power; they crush the most ordinary strikes with unparalleled ferocity. They want war with Soviet Russia more than anything else, yet they prefer to make peace with us rather than carry out the conditions set by the Entente. We see that the imperialist powers dominate the whole world although they comprise an insignificant part of the world’s population. The fact that a country has appeared that for three years has resisted world imperialism has considerably changed the international situation; the minor powers—and they form the majority of the world’s population—are therefore all inclined to make peace with us.

The entry of the socialist country into trade relations with capitalist countries is a most important factor ensuring our existence in such a complex and absolutely exceptional situation.

I have had occasion to observe a certain Spargo, an American social-chauvinist close to our Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, one of the leaders of the Second International and member of the American Socialist Party, a kind of American Alexinsky, and author of a number of anti-Bolshevik books, who has reproached us—and has quoted the fact as evidence of the complete collapse of communism—for speaking of transactions with capitalist powers. He has written that he cannot imagine better proof of the complete collapse of communism and the break down of its programme. I think that anybody who has given thought to the matter will say the reverse. No better proof of the Russian Soviet Republic’s material and moral victory over the capitalists of the whole world can be found than the fact that the powers that took up arms against us because of our terror and our entire system have been compelled, against their will, to enter into trade relations with us in the knowledge that by so doing they are strengthening us. This might have been advanced as proof of the collapse of communism only if we had promised, with the forces of Russia alone, to transform the whole world, or had dreamed of doing so. However, we have never harboured such crazy ideas and have always said that our revolution will be victorious when it is supported by the workers of all lands. In fact, they went half-way in their support, for they weakened the hand raised against us, yet in doing so they were helping us.

    I shall not dwell any further on this question but shall only remark that at the moment conditions in the Caucasus are becoming most complex and extremely difficult to analyse, with the likelihood that war may be forced on us any day. But with the peace with Poland almost assured and Wrangel wiped out, this war cannot be so alarming and, if forced on us, only promises to strengthen and fortify our position even more. Newspaper reports of events in Armenia and Turkey give us some idea of this.[4] An extremely confused situation has arisen, but I am absolutely confident that we shall emerge from it, preserving peace on the present basis, which in some respects is extremely favourable, on a basis that is satisfactory to us and permits our economic existence. We are doing all we can to ensure this. It is, however, quite likely that circumstances may arise which will directly force war on us or indirectly lead to it. We can view this prospect quite calmly—this will be a war in a distant region, with the balance of forces fully in our favour, probably ensuring greater advantages than the Polish war. The Polish war was a war on two fronts, with a threat from Wrangel, and it could not be called peripheral, because the Pilsudski line did not run so far from Moscow. With this, I shall conclude my review of the international situation.

I now turn to the state of affairs at home. The failure of a number of attempts at military intervention has led to a considerable improvement in our economic position. The main cause of our former desperate position was that we in Central Russia, industrial Russia, proletarian Russia—Petrograd, Moscow, and Ivanovo-Voznesensk—were cut off from all the main grain-producing areas such as Siberia, the South and the South-East; we were cut off from the Donets Basin, one of the main sources of fuel, and from the sources of oil, and it seemed absolutely impossible for the Republic to hold out. You know what appalling distress, what extreme privation, what grain shortages and famine we experienced because we were cut off from the richest grain-producing areas and the most important economic regions. The return of these territories is to a considerable extent responsible for the improvement now to be seen. Thanks to the possibility of drawing on Siberia and the Caucasus, and to the social changes developing in our favour in the Ukraine, there is promise that with the state food procurements in the forthcoming food campaign we shall not only emerge without an actual shortage as we did this year, but shall have sufficient food for all industrial workers. This is the first campaign when we can hope that, as a result of the doubtless improvement in the transport system, the government will dispose of such food stocks—between 250 and 300 million poods of grain—that we shall not merely be talking about socialist construction and doing precious little, as at present, but shall actually operate with real armies of labour; we shall be able to transfer hundreds of thousands of industrial workers, or workers now engaged in provisioning for industry, to really urgent and essential work, and to improve that work in the same way as the improved fuel situation made it possible to restore the textile industry. The Ivanovo-Voznesensk Gubernia mills have begun to work. At first, not more than a quarter of a million spindles were operating but at present there are already half a million, perhaps 600,000, and by the end of the year we count on a million spindles in operation. We think the number will go up to four million next year. Whereas quite recently we made both ends meet with the greatest difficulty by using up old stocks, conditions have now set in in which we are starting to rehabilitate Russia’s ruined industry, and shall be able, while collecting grain from the countryside, to supply the peasants in return with salt and paraffin oil, and, though in small quantities, with textiles. Without this it is useless to talk of socialist construction.

While in the international sense we have gained a footing by concluding a series of military campaigns and by wresting peace treaties from a number of states, it has only now become economically possible for us to supply the industrial workers with bread and to provide the bread of industry, namely fuel, on a scale enabling us to set about the construction of socialism. That is our main task, the root of the problem, a transition we have several times tried to make. I remember that at a meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee in April 1918, I said that our military tasks appeared to be ending and that we had not only convinced Russia, not only won her from the exploiters, for the working people but had now to tackle other tasks in order to govern Russia in the interests of her economic construction.[5] Our breathing-space at the time proved quite brief. The war that was forced on us, starting with the Czechoslovak revolt in the summer of 1918, was most ferocious. However, we made several attempts, both in the spring of 1918 and, on a broader scale, in the spring of this year when the question of labour armies was posed in practice. We must now once again give top priority to this transitional stage and exert every effort to achieve it. Regarded from the international point of view, from the standpoint of victory over capitalism in general, this is a paramount task of the entire socialist revolution To defeat capitalism in general, it is necessary, in the first place, to defeat the exploiters and to uphold the power of the exploited, namely, to accomplish the task of overthrowing the exploiters by revolutionary forces; in the second place, to accomplish the constructive task, that of establishing new economic relations, of setting an example of how this should be done. These two aspects of the task of accomplishing a socialist revolution are indissolubly connected, and distinguish our revolution from all previous ones, which never went beyond the destructive aspect.

If we do not accomplish this second task, nothing will follow from our successes, from our victories in overthrowing the exploiters, and from our military rebuff to international imperialism, and a return to the old system will be inevitable. In the theoretical sense, that is beyond question. In this instance, the transitional stage is abrupt and most difficult, and calls for new methods, a different deployment and use of forces, a different emphasis, a new psychological approach, and so on. In the place of methods of the revolutionary overthrow of the exploiters and of repelling the tyrants, we must apply the methods of constructive organisation; we must prove to the whole world that we are a force capable, not only of resisting any attempt to crush us by force of arms but of setting an example to others. All the writings of the greatest socialists have always provided guidance on these two aspects of the task of the socialist revolution which, as two aspects of the same task, refer both to the outside world, to those states that have remained in capitalist hands, and to the non-proletarians of one’s own country. We have convinced the peasants that the proletariat provides them with better conditions of existence than the bourgeoisie did; we have convinced them of this in practice. When the peasants, though they were dissatisfied with Bolshevik government, compared it in practice with the rule of the Constituent Assembly, Kolchak and the others they drew the conclusion that the Bolsheviks guaranteed them a better existence and defended them militarily from violence by world imperialism. Yet, under conditions of bourgeois rule, half of the peasantry lived in a bourgeois fashion, and this could not have been otherwise. The proletariat must now solve the second problem: it must prove to the peasant that the proletariat can provide him with the example and practice of economic relations of a higher level than those under which every peasant family farms on its own. The peasant still believes only in this old system; he still considers this the normal state of affairs. That is beyond doubt. It would be absurd to think that the peasant will change his attitude to vital economic problems, as a result of our propaganda. His is a wait-and-see attitude. From being neutrally hostile, he has become neutrally sympathetic. He prefers us to any other form of government because he sees that the workers’, the proletarian state, the proletarian dictatorship, does not mean brute force or usurpation, as it has been described, but is a better defender of the peasants than Kolchak, Denikin, and the rest are.

But all that is not enough; we have not achieved the main object: to show that the proletariat will restore large-scale industry and the national economy so that the peasants can be transferred to a higher economic system. After proving that, by revolutionary organisation, we can repel any violence directed against the exploited, we must prove the same thing in another field by setting an example that will convince the vast mass of the peasants and petty bourgeois elements, and other countries as well, not in word but in deed, that a communist system and way of life, can be created by a proletariat which has won a war. This is a task of world-wide significance. To achieve the second half of the victory in the international sense, we must accomplish the second half of the task, that which bears upon economic construction. We discussed this at the last Party conference, so I think there is hardly any need or possibility to go into detail on the various points; this is a task that embraces every aspect of economic construction. I have briefly described the conditions ensuring bread for the industrial workers and fuel for industry. These conditions are fundamental in providing the possibility of further construction. I should add that, as you have seen from the agenda published in the newspapers! the question of economic construction will be the main item to be discussed at the forthcoming Congress of Soviets. The entire agenda has been drawn up so that the entire attention and concern of all delegates and of the whole mass of Government and Party workers throughout the Republic will be concentrated on the economic aspect, on the restoration of transport and industry, on what is cautiously termed “aid to the peasant economy” but which implies far more—a system of carefully thought-out measures to raise to the appropriate level the peasant economy, which will continue to exist for some time to come.

The Congress of Soviets will, therefore, discuss a report on the electrification of Russia, so that an all-over economic plan for the rehabilitation of the national economy, of which we have spoken, can be drawn up in the technological aspect. There can be no question of rehabilitating the national economy or of communism unless Russia is put on a different and a higher technical basis than that which has existed up to now. Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country, since industry cannot be developed without electrification. This is a long-term task which will take at least ten years to accomplish, provided a great number of technical experts are drawn into the work. A number of printed documents in which this project[6] has been worked out in detail by technical experts will be presented to the Congress. We cannot achieve the main objects of this plan—create so large regions of electric power stations which would enable us to modernise our industry—in less than ten years. Without this reconstruction of all industry on lines of large-scale machine production, socialist construction will obviously remain only a set of decrees, a political link between the working class and the peasantry, and a means of saving the peasants from the rule by Kolchak and Denikin; it will remain an example to all powers of the world, but it will not have its own basis. Communism implies Soviet power as a political organ, enabling the mass of the oppressed to run all state affairs—without that, communism is unthinkable. We see proof of this throughout the world, because the idea of Soviet power and its programme are undoubtedly becoming victorious throughout the world. We see this in every phase of the struggle against the Second International, which is living on support from the police, the church and the old bourgeois functionaries in the working-class movement.

This guarantees political success. Economic success, however, can be assured only when the Russian proletarian state effectively controls a huge industrial machine built on up-to-day technology; that means electrification. For this, we must know the basic conditions of the application of electricity, and accordingly understand both industry and agriculture. This is an enormous task, to accomplish which will require a far longer period than was needed to defend our right to existence against invasion. However, we are not afraid of such a period and we think we have won a victory by attracting to this work tens and hundreds of engineers and scientists imbued with bourgeois ideas, whom we have given the mission of reorganising the entire economy, industry and agriculture, in whom we have aroused interest and from whom we have received a great deal of information being summarised in a number of pamphlets. Each region earmarked for electrification is dealt with in a separate pamphlet. The plan for the electrification of the Northern region is ready, and those interested may receive it. Pamphlets dealing with each region, with the over-all plan for reorganisation, will be published by the time the Congress of Soviets meets. It is now our task to carry on systematic work throughout the country, in all Party cells, in every Soviet institution, according to this all-over plan covering many years, so that we may in the near future have a clear idea of how and in what measure we are progressing, without deceiving ourselves or conceal- ing the difficulties confronting us. The entire Republic is faced with the task of accomplishing this single economic plan at any cost. All the Communist Party’s activities, propaganda and agitation must be focussed on this task. From the angle of theory, it has been dealt with on more than one occasion; nobody argues against it, but scarcely a hundredth part of what has to be done has been accomplished.

It is natural that we have grown used to a period of political warfare; we have all been steeled in the political and military struggle and, therefore, what has been accomplished by the present Soviet government is only an approach to a task which demands that the train should be switched over to other rails; this is a train which has to carry tens of millions of people. The switching of this heavy load on to other rails, along a track on which there are no rails at all in places, calls for concentrated attention, knowledge and very great persistence. The cultural level of the peasants and the workers has not been high enough for this task and, at the same time, we have become almost totally accustomed to tackling political and military tasks; this has led to a revival of bureaucratic methods. This is generally admitted. It is the task of the Soviet government to completely destroy the old machinery of state as it was destroyed in October, and to transfer power to the Soviets. However, our Programme recognises that there has been a revival of bureaucratic methods and that at present no economic foundation yet exists for a genuinely socialist society. A cultural background, literacy, and in general a higher standard of culture are lacking in the mass of workers and peasants. That is because the best forces of the proletariat have been engaged with militally tasks. The proletariat has made tremendous sacrifices to assure the success of military tasks into which tens of millions of peasants had to be drawn, and elements imbued with bourgeois views had to be put to work, because no others were available. That is why we had to state in the Programme—in a document like the Party Programme—that there has been a revival of bureaucratic methods, against which a systematic struggle has to be waged. It is natural that the bureaucratic methods that have reappeared in Soviet institutions were bound to have a pernicious effect even or Party organisations, since the upper ranks of the Party are at the same time the upper ranks of the state apparatus; they are one and the same thing. Since we recognise that the evil consists in the old bureaucratic methods which have been able to appear in the Party apparatus, it is obvious and natural that all the symptoms of this evil have revealed themselves in the Party organisations. Since that is so, the question has been placed on the agenda of the Congress of Soviets and has received a great deal of attention from this Conference. That is how it should be, because a disease that has affected the Party and has been acknowledged in the resolutions of the general Party Conference exists, not in Moscow alone, but has spread throughout the entire republic. It is a result of the need to carry on political and military work, when we had to involve the peasant masses and were unable to increase our demands for a broader plan to raise the level of the peasant economy, and that of the mass of peasants.

Allow me in conclusion to say a few words about the situation within the Party, about the struggle and the appearance of an opposition, of which all those present are fully aware and which took up a great deal of energy and attention at the Moscow City and Gubernia Conference perhaps considerably more than we would have all liked. It is quite natural that the great transition now in progress at a time when all the forces drawn by the Republic from the proletariat and the Party during three years of struggle have been exhausted, has placed us in a difficult position in the face of a task to accurately assess which is beyond our powers. We have to acknowledge that we do not know the real extent of the evil, and that we cannot determine the relationships and the exact groupings. The Party Conference’s main task is to raise the question, not cover up the existing evil, but to draw the Party’s attention to it, and call on all Party members to work on remedying the evil. From the point of view of the Central Committee and also, I think, of the immense majority of Party comrades, it is perfectly natural and beyond doubt (as far as I am aware of the views, which nobody has repudiated), that in connection with the crisis in the Party the opposition which exists, not only in Moscow but throughout Russia, reveals many tendencies that are absolutely healthy, necessary and inevitable at a time of the Party’s natural growth and the transition from a situation in which all attention was concentrated on political and military tasks to a period of construction and organisation, when we have to take care of dozens of bureaucratic institutions, this at a time when the cultural level of the majority of the proletariat and the peasants is unequal to the task. After all, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection exists more as a pious wish; it has been impossible to set it in motion because the best workers have been sent to the front, and the cultural level of the peasant masses is such that they have been unable to produce a sufficient number of officials.

Of course the opposition, whose slogan urges a more speedy transition, the enlistment of the greatest number of fresh and young forces and the promotion of local workers to more responsible posts, has extremely sound aspirations, trend and programme. No doubts on this score exist either in the Central Committee or among comrades who hold positions of any responsibility, as far as can be seen from their statements. It is, however, equally beyond doubt that, besides the sound elements which are united on the platform of fulfilment of Conference decisions, others also exist. At aIl meetings, including preliminary meetings attended by a larger number of delegates than this Conference, opinions on this question were unanimous. Our general Programme must be carried out’that is beyond doubt, and difficult work awaits us. Of course, the important thing is not to confine ourselves to overthrowing the opponent and repelling him. Here we have petty-bourgeois elements surrounding us and numbering tens of millions. We are fewer in number; there are very few of us compared with this petty-bourgeois mass. We must educate this mass and prepare it, but it has so happened that all the organised forces engaged in such preparatory work have had to be directed elsewhere and employed in an undertaking that is essential, arduous and very risky, involving great sacrifices, i.e., warfare. War calls for every ounce of effort, and there is no getting away from this fact.

The question we must ask ourselves in connection with this state of affairs is; is the Party quite healthy again?Have we a complete victory over bureaucratic methods so as to place economic construction on a more correct foundation, and get the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection operating, not only in the sense of issuing decrees but by actually drawing the masses of workers into the work? This is a difficult matter, and our main task’if we are to speak of Party tasks’must be the speediest possible elimination of the so-called line of the opposition. If this is a question of diverging views, differing interpretations of current events, different programmes or even of future activities, the Central Committee must devote the greatest attention to the matter at all meetings of the Political Bureau and at plenary meetings, where various shades of opinion are voiced. Harmonious work by the entire Party will ensure the accomplishment of this task. We regard this as a matter of the utmost importance. We now face an economic effort that is more taxing than the military task we have accomplished thanks to the enthusiasm of the peasants, who undoubtedly preferred the workers’ state to that of Kolchak. Things are quite different today when the peasant masses have to be switched over to construction work that is quite unfamiliar to them, which they do not understand and cannot have any faith in. This task calls for more systematic work, greater perseverance, and greater organising skill, and so far as the latter quality is concerned, the Russian is not in the picture. This is our weakest point, so we must try rapidly to eliminate everything that hampers this work. The opposition, which is a reflection of this period of transition, no doubt contains a sound element, but when it turns into an opposition for the sake of opposition, we should certainly put an end to it. We have wasted a great deal of time on altercations, quarrels and recrimination and we must put an end to all that, and try to come to some agreement to work more effectively. We must make certain concessions, better greater than smaller, to those who are dissatisfied, who call themselves the opposition, but we must succeed in making our work harmonious, for otherwise we cannot exist when we are surrounded by enemies at home and abroad.

There can be no doubt that the old petty-bourgeois elements’small property-owners’outnumber us. They are stronger than the socialist sector of an economy geared to meet the requirements of the workers. Anyone who has had contacts with the rural areas and has seen the speculation in the cities, realises perfectly well that this social sector, which is based on small-scale economy units is stronger than we are: hence the necessity of absolutely harmonious effort. We must achieve it at all costs. When I had occasion to observe the controversies and the struggle in the Moscow organisations, and saw the numerous debates at meetings, and the altercations, and quarrels there, I came to the conclusion that it was high time to put an end to all this and to achieve general unity on the Conference platform. It should be said that we have paid a heavy price for this. It was sad, for example, to see hours wasted at Party meetings on altercation as to whether someone had arrived at the meeting punctually or not, or whether a particular individual had made his stand clear in one way or another. Do people attend meetings for this sort of thing? For that we have a special commission, which decides whether or not an individual on the list of delegates has made his stand clear in one way or another. Here, however, it is a question of the content of the meeting. For instance, take an experienced Party comrade like Bubnov. I heard his speech on the platform proposed by the Conference. This platform boils down to greater freedom of criticism. The Conference, however, was held in September, and it is now November. Freedom of criticism is a splendid thing’but once we are agreed on this, it would be no bad thing to concern ourselves with the content of criticism. For a long time the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and others tried to scare us with freedom of criticism, but we were not afraid of that. If freedom of criticism means freedom to defend capitalism then we shall suppress it. We have passed that stage. Freedom of criticism has been proclaimed, but thought should be given to the content of criticism.

And here we have to admit something that is highly regrettable: criticism is devoid of content. You visit a district and ask yourself what criticism actually contains. The Party organisations cannot overcome illiteracy by using the old bureaucratic methods. What methods of defeating red tape are there other than bringing workers and peasants into the work? Meanwhile, criticism at district meetings is concerned with trifles, and I have not heard a single word about the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. I have not heard of a single district encouraging workers and peasants to take part in this work. Genuine construction work means applying criticism which must be constructive. For instance, the management of every small block of flats, every large plant, every factory in Moscow must have its own experience. If we wish to combat bureaucratic methods, we must draw people from below into this work. We must acquaint ourselves with the experience of certain factories, learn what steps they have taken to remove their bureaucrats, and study the experience of a house management or of a consumers’ society. A most rapid functioning of the entire economic machine is needed, but meanwhile you do not hear a word about this, although there is plenty of altercation and recrimination. Of course, such a gigantic upheaval could not have taken place without a certain amount of dirt and some scum coming to the surface. It is time we posed the question, not only of freedom of criticism but also of its content. It is time we said that, in view of our experience, we must make a number of concessions but that in future we shall not tolerate the slightest tendency to recrimination. We must break with the past, set about genuine economic construction, and completely overhaul all Party work so as to enable it to guide Soviet economic construction, ensure practical successes, and conduct propaganda more by example than by precept. Today neither the worker nor the peasant will be convinced by words; that can be done only by example. They have to be persuaded that they can improve the economy without the capitalists, and that conflicts can be abolished without the policeman’s truncheon or capitalist starvation; for that they need Party leadership. This is the attitude we must adopt; if we do so, we shall achieve successes in future economic construction which will lead to our complete victory on a world-wide scale.


[1] The Conference was held in the Kremlin between November 20 and 22, 1920, during the discussion on trade unions, which had begun in the Party. The acute struggle waged by opposition groups against the Party’s policy created a tense atmosphere at the Conference. The anti-Party “Democratic Centralism”, “Workers’ Opposition” and Ignatov’s groups demagogically attacked the Party’s policy. Before and during the Conference they tried to gain decisive influence in the Party’s Moscow organisation. In an attempt to get the maximum number of their supporters elected to the Moscow Committee the “Workers’ Opposition” group held a special conference of their supporters from among the worker delegates.

Directed by Lenin, the Conference repulsed the anti-Party attacks and pointed to the need of combating the unscrupulous groups bred by an atmosphere of recriminations. After hearing the report of the Moscow Committee, the Conference passed a resolution reflecting the viewpoint of the Central Committee. The list of candidate members of the Moscow Committee, drawn up by the opposition at the private conference was blackballed, and only those delegates were elected who had been nominated by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee.

[2] Peace between the R.S.F.S.R. and Finland was signed on October 14, 1920. The treaty terminated the state of war, confirmed Finland’s independence and sovereignty as granted by the Soviet Government in 1917, and laid down the state frontiers between the two countries.

Peace between the R.S.F.S.R. and Estonia was signed in Yuryev (now Tartu) on February 2, 1920. Under the treaty Soviet Russia recognised Estonia’s independence.

Latvian ruling circles were also compelled to sign peace with the R.S.F.S.R., following the defeat of the foreign interventionists and the whiteguards in 1919 and the resulting consolidation of Soviet Russia’s international position. On March 25, 1920, the Latvian Foreign Ministry approached the Soviet Government suggesting that peace talks be started. On April 16, the Soviet and Latvian representatives started peace talks in Moscow and on August 11 a treaty was signed with Latvia in Riga.

[3] In the autumn of 1920 Washington Vanderlip, who represented the U.S. Vanderlip Syndicate, arrived in Moscow to negotiate a concession for fishing, prospecting and extracting oil and coal in Kamchatka and elsewhere in Siberia, east of the 160th meridian.

In agreeing to the concession, the Soviet Government intended not only to establish mutually advantageous co-operation with American businessmen but also to normalise relations between Soviet Russia and the United States. Vanderlip’s move, however, did not get the support of the U.S. Administration and financial tycoons, and the agreement was never signed.

[4] To incite Turkey against Soviet Russia and torpedo the talks between the two countries on the establishment of friendly relations, the Entente diplomats provoked Dashnak Armenia’s attack on Turkey. The Dashnak nationalist party, then in power in Armenia (1918-20), pursued an aggressive policy with regard to Turkey and aimed at establishing a “Greater Armenia” that would include nearly half of Asia Minor. On September 24, 1920 the Dashnak government began hostilities against Turkey, but five days later the Turkish troops checked the Dashnak offensive and, in a counter-offensive lasting from September to November occupied Sarykamysh, Kars and Alexandropol. The Turkish Government decided to take advantage of the adventurist Dashnak policy and occupy the whole of Armenia.

On November 11 the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the R.S.F.S.R. offered its mediation to the warring parties. Turkey rejected Soviet mediation, and the Dashnak government had to agree to a shackling treaty which made Armenia a Turkish protectorate. The treaty, however, did not go into force, because by November 29, when it was to be signed, the Dashnak government bad been overthrown and Soviet power proclaimed in Armenia. Claiming that the treaty was still valid, the Turkish Government held up the evacuation of Alexandropol district. Only after the Soviet Government had, in the middle of May 1921, firmly demanded the evacuation of the district, were the Turkish forces withdrawn. Lenin is referring to his Report on the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government which he delivered at a session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on April 19, 1918

[5] The reference is to the book Plan for the Electrification of the R.S.F.S.R. Report of the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia to the Eighth Congress of Soviets published in Moscow in 1920. The outcome of collective work by leading scientists and specialists, the plan was the first long-term plan for the creation of the material foundation of socialism on the basis of the country’s electrification. Lenin called this plan “the Party’s second programme”.

[6] Lenin is referring to the resolutions of the Ninth All-Russia Conference of the R.C.P.(B.) (see VKP(B) v rezolutsiyakh i resheniyakh syezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK [the C.P.S.U.(B.) in the Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses, Conferences and Plenums of the Central Committee ], Part. I, 1940, pp. 349-54).