V. I. Lenin

Report On

Concessions at a Meeting of the Communist Group

Of The All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions

April 11, 1921[1]

Written: 11 April, 1921
First Published: 1932; Published according to the verbatim report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 1st English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 32, pages 300-315
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Comrades, the concessions question has, rather unexpectedly, brought out some differences among us, for it appeared to have been finally settled in principle as long ago as the autumn of last year, and when the Council of People’s Commissars issued its concessions decree on November 23, there was no sign of protest, or of any disagreement, in Party circles, among the responsible workers, at any rate. You are, of course, aware that the Party Congress had to take a special decision confirming the concessions decree and specifically extending it to cover any concessions in Baku and Grozny.[2] This had to be done at the Party Congress to prevent any vacillation on policy in the Central Committee, whose division on this very question has to some extent proved to be quite out of line with earlier groupings, but which is largely connected with Baku. Some Baku comrades resented the idea that Baku too—or, perhaps, specifically—is to have concessions, and that it is desirable to lease out a major part of its oilfields. Their arguments were highly diverse, and ranged from references to their own "exploration", which could be done without any foreigners, to assertions that the old workers, who spent a lifetime fighting the capitalists, refuse to be saddled with their yoke once again, etc.

I am not going to say offhand how much of these arguments was based on general principles and how much on Baku "patriotism" and localism. Let me say for my part that I have opposed this view most vigorously in the belief that if we do not manage to conduct a concessions policy and attract foreign capital to our concessions, we can hardly consider any serious practical measures to improve our economic position. We cannot seriously entertain the idea of an immediate improvement of the economic situation, unless we operate a policy of concessions, unless we discard our prejudices, our local patriotism, discard to some extent our craft patriotism, and to some extent the idea that we can do our own "exploring". We must be prepared for inconveniences, hardships and sacrifices; we must be ready to break our habits and possibly our addictions as well, for the sole purpose of working a marked change and improvement in the economic state of the key industries. This must be done at all costs.

The Party Congress concentrated on the policy in respect of the peasants and on the tax in kind, which has, in general, a high legislative priority and is, in particular, central to the Party’s political efforts. In the context of both these issues, we have become aware that we are unable to boost productivity in large-scale industry as swiftly as the satisfaction of peasant needs demands, without the makeshifts of unrestricted trade and free production. These are the two crutches we must now use to move on, for, otherwise, as everyone in his right mind will see, we shall be unable to keep abreast of developments. After all, the situation is worsening, if only because the floating this spring has been largely hampered by various factors, chiefly the weather. There is a looming fuel crisis. The spring also holds out the threat of another crop failure, again because of the weather; this is liable to create a fodder shortage, which may, in its turn, still further reduce the fuel supply. If on top of this we happen to have a drought, the crisis threatens to be truly exceptional. We must understand that in these conditions what the Programme says—chiefly about the great need to increase the food supply—is not intended Ior admiration or for a show of great love for various resolutions (which the Communists have been doing with great zeal), but as a call to increase the quantity of foodstuffs at any cost. That is something we cannot do without the help of foreign capital. This should be plain to everyone who takes a realistic view of things. That is why the concessions question became important enough to be dealt with by the Party Congress.

After a short debate, the Council of People’s Commissars adopted the basic principles of concessions agreements.[3] I shall now read them and underscore those which are of especial importance or have given rise to disagreements. We cannot seriously entertain the idea of economic development unless all members of the Party, specially the leaders of the trade union movement, that is, of the organised masses of the proletariat—its organised majority—understand the present situation and draw the appropriate conclusions. I shall read out the basic principles of the concessions agreement one by one, as they were adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars. Let me add that we have not yet concluded a single concessions agreement. We have already given expression to our disagreements of principle—we are past masters at that sort of thing—but have not yet secured any concessions. I suppose this will make some people happy, which is unfortunate, because if we fail to attract capital to our concessions, we shall merely prove that we are poor businessmen. But then, of course, the Communists can always have a field day with resolutions, filling up all the stocks of paper that we have. Here is Point One:

"1.  The concessionaire shall improve the condition of the workers employed at the concession enterprises (as compared with that of other workers employed at similar enterprises in the area) up to the average standard abroad."

We have inserted this basic provision in the agreement to bring out the gist of the matter at once for our Communists and chiefs of economic agencies. What is the most important aspect of any concession? It is, of course, an increase in the quantity of goods. That is self-evident. But what is also highly—if not much more—important is that we can secure an immediate improvement in the condition of the workers employed at the oil concession enterprises. These provisions of the concession agreement were adopted after several discussions, in particular, on the basis of the talks the plenipotentiaries of the R.S.F.S.R., specifically Comrade Krasin, have had with some of the financial magnates of modern imperialism. Let me say—and you are of course all aware of this—that the great majority of our Communists have a book knowledge of capitalism and finance capital; they may even have written a pamphlet or two on the subject, but 99 per cent of them don’t know how to do business with financial magnates and, I’m afraid, will never learn.

In that respect, Comrade Krasin has had some exceptional experience, for he has made a study of the practices and organisation of industry in Germany and Russia. We informed him of these terms, and he replied that they were, on the whole, acceptable. The concessionaire is above all duty bound to improve the condition of the workers. This very point was discussed by Krasin in his exploratory talks with an oil king, and the West-European capitalists were quite clear on the point that, the condition of the workers being what it is, it was absolutely impossible to expect greater productivity. The proviso that the concessionaire must improve the workers’ condition is not a humanitarian but a purely business proposition. Point Two:

"2.  Account shall be taken of the lower productivity of the Russian worker and provision made for the possibility of a revision of the Russian worker’s rate of labour productivity, depending on the improvement of his living conditions."

We had to make this reservation to prevent a one-sided reading of the clause. All these provisions are rules and directives for any representatives of the Soviet power who may have to deal with the concessions, and are the basis on which the agreements are to be worked out. We have drafts of an oil agreement, an agreement on ball-bearing plants, a draft timber concession, and an agreement on Kamchatka, which is being aired for a long time but is not being implemented for various reasons. Point Two was required to prevent a literal reading of Point One. We must consider the fact that labour productivity will not rise until the workers’ condition improves. Refusal to consider this would be so unbusiness-like that the capitalist would not even bother to negotiate. Point Three:

"3.  It shall be the duty of the concessionaire to supply the workers employed at the concession enterprises with the necessary means of subsistence from abroad, selling them to the workers at no higher than cost price plus a certain percentage for overhead expenses."

There was a proposal to set the figure at 10 per cent, but it was discarded in the final discussion. The important thing here is that we stipulate the supply of the means of subsistence for the workers from abroad. We know that with the present state of peasant farming and the fuel problem we shall be unable, within the next few years, to effect a radical improvement in the workers’ condition, and, consequently, to increase labour productivity. It is, therefore, necessary for the concessionaire to include in the agreement a provision covering the supply of all the means of consumption from abroad, something he can easily do, and we already have the tentative consent of some capitalist sharks on this point. The concessionaires will accept these terms because they are extremely anxious to obtain the tremendously valuable raw materials. For them the supply of raw materials is a prime necessity. Whether these priority enterprises will be employing 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000 workers, the concessionaires will have no trouble in obtaining the necessaries for the workers, considering the ties between modern syndicates and trusts, for very few capitalists today are not syndicated and trustified, and all large enterprises are based on monopoly, instead of the free market; consequently, they can always block supplies of raw materials and foodstuffs for other capitalists and obtain all they require under all manner of provisional agreements. These syndicates operate with hundreds of millions of dollars. They will have vast stocks of food at their disposal, and will, consequently, be able to obtain foodstuffs and other necessaries for several tens of thousands of workers, and transport them to Russia.

They will not find it an economic problem at all. They will regard these enterprises as being on the priority list—they will make a profit of 100, if not 1,000, per cent—and supply them with food. I repeat, that will be no economic problem for them at all. We must put at the heart of our concessions policy the task of improving the condition of the workers at the enterprises of the first category, and then at the rest. Here is Point Four:

"4.  It shall also be the duty of the concessionaire, in the event of a request on the part of the R.S.F.S.R. Government, to import another 50-100 per cent over and above the supplies he brings in for the workers employed at the concession enterprises, handing it over to the R.S.F.S.R. Govern- ment in return for a payment of similar size (cost plus a certain percentage for overhead expenses). The R.S.F.S.R. Government shall have the right to meet this payment with a part of the product extracted by the concessionaire (that is, to deduct it from its own share)."

This stipulation was also accepted by the financial magnates in the exploratory talks because they put the concession enterprises on the priority list.

They will be in a position to monopolise the marketing of the oil which they can obtain from us, and this is why they can supply foodstuffs not only to the workers employed at their enterprises but also a certain percentage over and above that. A comparison of this clause with Point One shows that the pivot of our concessions policy is improvement of the condition of the workers, initially of those employed at the concession enterprises, and then, to a somewhat lesser extent, of the other workers as well, with some of the consumer goods being obtained from abroad. Even if we had the wherewithal to pay for them, we ourselves are not in a position to purchase them in the international market. You may have the currency, say, gold, but you must bear in mind that there is no free market, for it is all, or nearly all, controlled by the syndicates, cartels and trusts, which are ruled by their imperialist profits. They will supply consumer goods only to workers of their own enterprises, and not for those of others, because the old capitalism—meaning the free market—is no longer there. That shows the essence of our concessions policy in the context of the present conditions of finance capital and the behemoth struggle between the trusts. The concessions policy is an alliance concluded by one side against another, and so long as we are not strong enough, we must play off their hostile rivalry, so as to hold out until the victory of the international revolution. They can assure the workers of their maintenance because it is no trouble at all for a large modern enterprise to supply an extra 20,000 or 30,000 workers. This would allow us to meet the expenditure with raw materials, say, oil. If we were able to pay for this additional quantity of necessaries for the workers with an additional quantity of timber or ore—our chief resources—we should be in a position to start by improving the condition of the workers employed at the concession enterprises and use what is left to improve, to a lesser extent, the condition of other workers. Point Five:

"5.  It shall be the duty of the concessionaire to abide by the laws of the R.S.F.S.R., in particular, those relating to working conditions, terms of payment, etc.; and enter into agreements with the trade unions (in the event of the concessionaire’s demand we are prepared to add that under such agreements both parties shall be bound by the average norm of American or West-European workers)."

This reservation is being made to remove any fears the capitalists may have in respect of our trade unions. We say that agreements must be entered into with our trade unions because their participation is stipulated by all the relevant laws—all essential laws stipulate the participation of trade unions which enjoy statutory status in accordance with socialist principles. The well-informed capitalist is aware that the trade unions are guided by Communist groups and, through them, by the Party, and he would be highly suspicious if we told him that he would have to enter into agreements with our trade unions, because he would be apprehensive of all sorts of absurdities on the part of these Communists, and would, in consequence, make the most incredible demands. Such fears are quite natural from the capitalist standpoint. That is why we must say that we favour a business agreement—otherwise there is nothing to discuss. That is why we say we are prepared to make that addendum. We are prepared to accept, for ourselves and our trade unions, a norm equal to the average American or West European labour norm. Otherwise, I repeat, there can be no question at all of any agreement adapted to capitalist relations. Point Six:

"6.  It shall be the duty of the concessionaire strictly to observe the scientific and technical regulations in conformity with Russian and foreign legislation (details to be stated in each agreement)."

This point is to be elaborated in the agreement in particular detail. The oil agreement, for instance, contains 10 clauses setting forth and describing detailed scientific regulations. Inability to attend to the proper scientific exploitation of labour-power, as of the land, is the hallmark of capitalist economic operations. Scientific and technical regulations are a way of overcoming it. Incorrect or insufficiently correct working of oilfields is known to result in their flooding. It is clearly very important for us to obtain the technical equipment. You will recall that The Plan for the Electrification of Russia estimated just how much of that equipment we needed. I do not remember the exact figure, but the overall expenditures for electrification were estimated at 17,000 million gold rubles, with the priority projects taking about a decade to fulfil. We expect to cover up to 11,000 million from our own resources—gold and exports—which leaves 6,000 million outstanding. The authors of the plan say that we shall either have to borrow or lease. The deficit has to be made good. The plan was worked out for the whole Republic by the best brains and provides for a balanced development of all branches of industry. The chief problem is fuel and its most economic, rational and efficient use in the key industries. We should be unable to solve it if we did not have any concessions or credit facilities. These conditions may suddenly turn out to be non-existent, and that at the most welcome moment, say, after a large strike, like the one now on in Britain, or the one which was recently defeated in Germany.[4] But a successful strike and a successful revolution will come in the wake of an unsuccessful one, and we shall then find ourselves with socialist, instead of capitalist, relations.

Stoppages in oil extraction may prove to be disastrous. The capitalists have failed to reach Baku’s 1905 rate. It turns out that the danger of flooding is also reckoned with abroad, for instance, in California and Rumania. Insufficient pump-off of water results in ever greater flooding.

There are detailed regulations on this score in Russian and foreign legislation. When dealing with this matter in Baku, we sought the opinion of our experts on Rumanian and Californian legislation. If we are to safeguard our oil resources, we must see that the scientific and technical regulations are observed. If we are to lease, say, a tract of forest we must see that the lumbering is done in a proper manner. If it should be an oil lease, we must stipulate measures to prevent flooding. In each case, there must be observance of scientific and technical regulations and rational exploitation. Where are the regulations to come from? They are to be taken from Russian and foreign legislation, and this will allay any suspicions that they are our own invention, in which case no capitalist will bother to negotiate with us. We intend to take what there is in Russian and foreign legislation. If we take the best of what there is in Russian and any foreign legislation, we shall have a basis to guarantee the standards attained by the leading capitalists. These are well-known business standards borrowed from capitalist practice, and not a Communist flight of fancy which the capitalists fear most of all. We guarantee that none of the terms, aspects or clauses of our concession agreement will go beyond the framework of capitalist legislation. We must never lose sight of this key proposition. We must take capitalist relationships as a basis to show that the capitalists will find these terms acceptable and profitable, but we, for our part, must turn them to good advantage. Otherwise, it is a waste of time to talk about concessions. But to return to what is recognised in capitalist legislation. Advanced capitalism is known to be superior to our own industry in technical organisation and improvements. For that reason, we are not confining ourselves to Russian legislation, and in the case of oil we have started to borrow from Russian, Rumanian and Californian legislation. We are entitled to take any law, which will dispel any suspicions of arbitrariness or whim. That will be easily understood by the modern advanced capitalist and financial magnate, in fact, finance capital as a whole, for our terms and standards will conform to those prevalent abroad, and we are proposing them with an eye to the business practices of capitalism. In this case, we are not indulging in any flights of fancy, but are setting ourselves the practical goal of improving our industry and raising it to the levels of modern advanced capitalism. Anyone who has an idea of the state of our industry will see that this will be a tremendous improvement. If we were to do this even in respect of a certain section of our industry, say, one-tenth of it, we should still be taking a great step forward, which would be feasible for them, and highly desirable for us. Point Seven:

"7.  A rule similar to that set forth in Point Four shall also apply to the equipment imported by the concessionaire from abroad."

Point Four says that the concessionaire shall be bound, in the event the clause is written into the agreement, to import a certain quantity of goods for sale, against a special payment, over and above what he imports for his own operations. If the capitalist should import improved types of bores and tools for himself, we shall be entitled to demand that he import, say, an extra 25 per cent for us, over and above the bores he imports for himself, the payment arrangements to be the same as those specified in Point Four, that is, cost plus a definite percentage for overhead expenses.

The future is very bright, but we should never confuse our activity in these two planes: on the one hand, there is the agitation which brings nearer this future, and on the other, the ability now to adapt ourselves to and exist in the capitalist encirclement. If we fail to do that we might find ourselves in the position of one who has had his chance but was not alert enough to act in time. We must manage, by taking advantage of the peculiarities of the capitalist world and the capitalist avidity for raw materials, to derive all the benefits that would help us to consolidate our economic positions among the capitalists, strange as that may sound. The task seems to be an odd one: How can a socialist republic improve its positions with capitalist support? We had an instance of this during the war. We did not win the war because we were stronger, but because, while being weaker, we played off the enmity between the capitalist states. Either we now succeed in playing off the rivalry between the trusts, or we shall find ourselves unadapted to capitalist conditions and unable to exist in the capitalist encirclement. Point Eight:

"8.  A special clause in each agreement shall regulate the question of payment to the workers employed at the concession enterprises of wages in foreign currency special coupons, Soviet currency, etc."

You see that in this case we are prepared to accept payment in any currency, whether foreign or Soviet, or in coupons, and show goodwill by being prepared to consider any of the businessmen’s proposals. Of the concrete proposals there is the one Vanderlip made to our representatives. He said: "I should like to pay the workers an average wage of, say, a dollar and a half a day. On my concession territory I would set up stores carrying all the goods the workers may need, and these will be available to those who receive special coupons; these coupons will be issued only to workers who are employed at my concession enterprises." Whether things work out as he says, remains to be seen, but we find this acceptable in principle. A great many difficulties naturally arise. It is, of course, no easy task to harmonise a concession geared to capitalist production with the Soviet standpoint, and every effort of that kind is, as I have said, a continuation of the struggle between capitalism and socialism. This struggle has assumed new forms, but it remains a struggle nonetheless. Every concessionaire remains a capitalist, and he will try to trip up the Soviet power, while we, for our part, must try to make use of his rapacity. We say: "We shall not grudge him even 150 per cent in profits, provided the condition of our workers is improved." That is the pivot of the struggle. In this sphere, of course, you need to be even more skilled than in struggling for the conclusion of a peace treaty. The capitalist powers behind the scenes take part in the struggle for the conclusion of any peace treaty. There was a foreign power pulling the strings behind each of the countries with whom we have signed a peace treaty—Latvia, Finland and Poland. We had to conclude these treaties in such a way that, on the one hand, they allowed the bourgeois republics to exist, and on the other, they secured advantages for the Soviet power from the standpoint of world diplomacy. Every peace treaty with a capitalist power is a record of certain war clauses. In much the same way, each clause of a concession agreement records some aspect of a war, and we should organise things in such a way as to safeguard our own interests in that war. This can be done because the capitalist will be receiving big profits from the concession enterprise, while we shall be obtaining some improvement in the condition of our workers, and some increase in the quantity of goods from our share in the output. If the wages should be paid in foreign currency, this will give rise to a number of complex problems: how is this currency to be exchanged for Soviet currency? how are we to fight speculation? etc. We have accepted the idea that we have an answer to all these problems, and need not fear any of them. This point tells the capitalists that they are free to invent anything they like. It makes no difference to us whether you bring in the goods and sell them for special coupons, on special terms, or only upon presentation of special certificates issued personally to workers employed at the concession. We shall manage to adapt ourselves to any terms in such a way as to fight the capitalists on these terms and secure a certain improvement in the condition of our workers. This is the task we have set ourselves. We can’t tell how it will be resolved in a concession agreement, for we can’t very well offer the same terms of payment in some place like Kamchatka as over here or in Baku. If the concession should be located in the Donets Basin, the forms of payment cannot conceivably be the same as for one in the far North. We are not holding down the capitalists to some specific form of payment. Every clause of the agreement will contain an element of struggle between capitalists and socialists. We are not afraid of this struggle, and are sure that we shall manage to derive every possible benefit from the concessions. Point Nine:

"9.  The concessionaire shall be free to make his own terms of employment, living conditions and remuneration with foreign skilled workers and employees.

"The trade unions shall not have the right to demand application of Russian pay rates or of Russian rules of employment to that category of workers."

We believed Point Nine to be absolutely indispensable because it would be quite absurd to expect the capitalists to trust the Communists. This is clearly stated both from the standpoint of principle and especially from the businessman’s standpoint. For if we insisted on trade union endorsement of these terms of employment, if we told the capitalists that we accepted any foreign technician or specialist but only within the framework of the Labour Code of the R.S.F.S.R., it would be too much to expect any of the latter to accept, and the demand would be a mere formality. It could be said that the government says one thing and the trade unions another, because they are two distinct bodies, thereby leaving a legal loophole. But this was not written for lawyers but for Communists, and it was done on the basis of the decisions of the Tenth Party Congress on how to conduct the concessions policy. All of our writings, to which people in Europe have access, say that the concessions policy is being directed by the Communist Party, which is the ruling party. This has been rendered into all foreign languages, and there is no catch in it. We would not be in a position to consider any concessions policy at all, if we, being the political leadership, failed to say that in this case we were unable and unwilling to make use of our influence with the trade unions. There is no sense in teaching communism to the capitalists. We are fine Communists, but we are not going to usher in the communist order through concessions. After all, a concession is an agreement with a capitalist power. We would surely have committed to a lunatic asylum any Communist who decided to go and conclude a treaty with a capitalist power on the basis of communist principles. We would tell him that he was a fine Communist in his way but a complete flop as a diplomatist in a capitalist country. The Communist who tried to demonstrate his communism in respect of the concessions policy in an agreement would be just as near to being committed to a lunatic asylum. What you need to have is a good idea of capitalist trade, and if you haven’t got it, you’re no good. Either don’t go in for concessions at all, or make an effort to understand that we must try to use these capitalist conditions in our own interest, by allowing the foreign technicians and workers complete freedom. That we shall not insist on any restrictions in this sphere goes without saying.

Section Three of Point Nine, which follows, does contain a restriction:

"The proportion of foreign workers and employees to Russians, both in total and within the several categories, shall be agreed upon by the parties in concluding each concession agreement separately."

We cannot, of course, object to the importation of foreign workers into areas which we are unable to supply with Russian workers, as, for instance, in the Kamchatka timber industry. In the case of, say, the mining industry, where there is a lack of drinking water or foodstuffs, and where the capitalists would wish to build, we shall also allow them to bring in the greater part. On the other hand, where Russian workers are available, we stipulate a proportion to give our workers a chance, a) to learn, and b) to improve their condition. After all, we do want our workers to benefit from an improvement of our enterprises according to the last word in capitalist technology. The capitalists have not raised any objections in principle to any of these provisions. And here is Point Ten, the last one:

"10.  The concessionaire may, by agreement with the government organs of the R.S.F.S.R., be granted the right to invite highly skilled specialists from among Russian citizens, the terms of employment being agreed with central government bodies in each case."

Plainly, we cannot guarantee full scope in this respect, as we can in respect of foreign technicians and workers. In the latter case, we refrain from interfering, and they are left entirely within the framework of capitalist relations. We promise no such scope for our specialists and technicians, for we cannot have our best men working at the concession enterprises. We have no desire to shut off all access for them to that area, but there must be supervision over the performance of the agreement from above and from below the workers, members of the Communist Party, who will be employed at these enterprises, must supervise the performance of the terms of the agreement, both in respect of their technical training and observance of our laws. There were no objections in principle on this point in the exploratory talks with some of the magnates of modern capitalism.

All these points have been confirmed by the Council of People’s Commissars, and I hope they give you a clear picture of the concessions policy we intend to conduct.

Each concession will undoubtedly be a new kind of war—an economic war—the fight carried into another plane. This calls for adaptation, but one that is in line with the Party Congress. If we are to attain our goal, we must have a respite and must be prepared to make sacrifices and endure hardships. Our goal is: in the capitalist encirclement to make use of the greed of the capitalists for profit and the rivalry between the trusts, so as to create conditions for the existence of the socialist republic, which cannot exist without having ties with the rest of the world, and must, in the present circumstances, adjust its existence to capitalist relations. There is the question of actual terms. For oil agreements, they are as follows: from one-quarter to one-third of the whole of Grozny and of the whole of Baku. We have worked out our share of the output: we shall be retaining from 30 to 40 per cent of the oil extracted. We have inserted a commitment to increase output within a certain period to, say, 100 million, and another commitment to extend the oil pipeline from Grozny and Petrovsk to Moscow. Whether we shall have to make any extra payments is to be stipulated in each agreement. But we should be quite clear on the type of agreement concluded in these conditions. The important thing, from the trade union standpoint, is for the Party leadership to see the specific features of this policy and set themselves the task of securing such concessions at any cost, in pursuance of the decisions of the Party Congress, in the context of tasks facing the socialist system in the capitalist encirclement. Every concession will be a gain and an immediate improvement in the condition of a section of the workers and peasants. The latter will stand to gain because each concession will mean the production of additional goods, which we are unable to produce ourselves, and which we shall be exchanging for their products, instead of taking them through a tax.

This is a very difficult operation, especially for the organs of the Soviet power. With this point as pivotal we must set about to secure concessions, overriding the prejudices, inertia, ingrained customs, and the inconvenience of some workers having a bigger pay packet than the others. We could invent any number of excuses, in the way of objections and inconveniences, to frustrate any practical improvement, and that is what the foreign capitalists are really banking on. I know of no other point that has drawn so many objections from the most intelligent writers in the Russian whiteguard press, the men the Kronstadt events proved to be head and shoulders above Martov and Chernov. They are very well aware that if we fail to improve the condition of our workers and peasants because of our prejudices, we shall multiply our difficulties and altogether undermine the prestige of the Soviet power. You know that we must have that improvement at all costs. We shall not grudge the foreign capitalist even a 2,000 per cent profit, provided we improve the condition of the workers and peasants. It is imperative that we do it.


[1] The meeting was held on April 11, 1921, to discuss the concessions question, because some leading trade unionists were hesitant, while A. G. Shlyapnikov and D. B. Ryazanov carried on demagogic propaganda against the idea of concessions.

Lenin gave a report on the issue, argued against Shlyapnikov’s and Ryazanov’s statements in the debate and made notes of all the arguments, which he used in his summing-up speech. He defined the essence of the concessions policy and its importance for the Soviet state.

[2]The reference is to the resolution of the Tenth Party Congress, "The Soviet Republic in Capitalist Encirclement". See K.P.S.S. v rezolutsiakh . . . (The C.P.S.U. in the Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and C.C. Plenary Meetings, Part 1, 1954, pp. 566-67).

[3] On February 1, 1921, the Council of People’s Commissars adopted a decree on oil concessions in Baku and Grozny, which made it necessary to work out the basic principles of concessions agreements. A. I. Rykov, Chairman of the Supreme Economic Council, was assigned to draft the project. As the work dragged out, Lenin studied the relevant material and in late March came out with a project, "The Basic Principles of Concessions Agreements". He made some additions and corrections (the document is at the Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism under the C.C., C.P.S.U.) in the original (see Lenin Miscellany XX, p. 148), and his draft project was adopted as the basis of the March 29 resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars.

[4]In March 1921, the workers of Mansfeld, led by Communists, went on strike against an order setting up police patrols at plants and factories in Central Germany. In some places there were armed clashes with the police. The workers of Berlin, Hamburg and several other towns expressed their solidarity with the heroic strikers, but the Communist Party of Germany failed to unite the working-class forces against the bourgeoisie because of the treacherous behaviour of Paul Levi and other opportunists in the party leadership.

The miners’ strike in Britain lasted from April until June 1921, in protest of the mineowners’ intention to cut wages. More than a million workers participated in the strike, with all the miners taking part. The miners’ federation called on the executive committees of the transport and railway unions to strike in solidarity, but their reformist leaders were secretly negotiating with the government and the mineowners for a compromise to break up the strike. The miners had to return to work after a heroic three-month struggle.