V. I. Lenin

Interview Given to Michael Farbman,

Observer and Manchester Guardian Correspondent

Written: 27 October 1922
First Published: Pravda No. 254, November 10, 1922; Published according to a typewritten copy corrected by Lenin; published in Observer and Manchester Guardian also
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 33, pages 383-389
Translated: David Skvirsky and George Hanna
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

1. Question. The anti-Russian press describes Herriot’s recep-tion in Moscow and the Franco-Russian negotiations as a definite change in Soviet Russia’s foreign policy.

Is that true? Is it true that Russia regards British policy in the Middle East as a challenge and is ready to conclude an agreement with France directed against Britain?

Answer. I consider it absolutely incorrect to describe Herriot’s reception in Moscow and the France-Russian negotiations as a change, even a slight one, in Soviet Russia’s policy in general, or as being anti-British in particular.[1] We certainly value very highly both Herriot’s reception in Moscow and the step taken towards a rapprochement with France or towards negotiations with her, which have now become possible, probable and, I should like to believe, essential. Any rapprochement with France is something we very much desire, especially in view of the fact that Russia’s commercial interests imperatively demand closer relations with this strong continental power. But we are convinced that this rapprochement does not in the least imply that some change must necessarily take place in our policy towards Britain. We believe fully friendly relations with both powers to be quite possible, and that is our aim. We believe that the development of commercial relations will inevitably go a very long way towards achieving this aim. We believe that the interests of Britain and France, rightly understood, will likewise operate in that direction. We believe that the mutual interests of both Britain and France. insofar as they have points of contact with Russia, do not under any circumstances contain elements of inevitable hostility between Britain and France. On the contrary, we even think that peaceful and friendly relations between these powers and Russia are a guarantee (I am almost prepared to say—the strongest guarantee) that peace and friendship between Britain and France will last a long time, and that all possible, and under present circumstances probable, differences between France and Britain will most speedily and truly find a happy solution.

2. Question. Is not the virtual termination of the Greco-Turkish War, a war supported by Britain, an opportune nionieiit for the conclusion of an Anglo-Russian agreement?

Answer. Of course, the termination of the Greco-Turkish War, which had Britain’s support, is a factor that, to a certain extent, improves the chances of an Anglo-Russian agreement being concluded. We looked for such an agreement even before that war ended and shall now continue to seek it with the utmost energy. True, some of the problems connected with the termination of that war are objects of our disagreement with Britain. But, first of all, the peace which has followed the Greco-Turkish War is in our opinion such an advantage to international politics as a whole that we hope for an improvement in the general conditions under which they are conducted, thanks to the Greco-Turkish peace. Secondly, we do not consider the differences between Britain and ourselves to be in any way insurmountable. On the contrary, we expect that, with the Middle East problem entering various stages, the near future will show us to what extent we are right in hoping that the end of the Greco-Turkish War will also be the end of the conflicts and differences which placed that war in the forefront of international politics. We are doing everything in our power to make the end of that war also the end of all friction and disagreement with Britain, and we hope that the interests of the British Government will rise on this occasion, too, above any promptings and the frequently insincere utterances of the anti-Russian press.

3. Question. Do you consider Russia’s participation in the eastern question a matter of prestige alone, or do you proceed exclusively from Russia’s real interests? Does the Russian ’Government agree to the French proposal to permit Russia’s participation in only that part of the Conference that will decide the question of the Straits?

Answer. I consider Russia’s participation in the settlement of the Middle East question[2] to have nothing to do with prestige. I hope that our international politics as a whole over a period of five years have shown completely that we are quite indifferent to questions of prestige and that we are incapable of putting forward any demand whatsoever or of worsening the real chances of peace between states solely on account of prestige. I am confident that in no other country are the masses so indifferent to prestige and even so prepared to treat the question of prestige as such with happy ridicule. We are of the opinion that modern diplomacy will rapidly come to regard questions of prestige precisely in this way.

Our Middle East policy is a matter of Russia’s most real, immediate and vital interest and of the interest of a number of states federated with her. If all these states did not succeed in getting their demand to participate in the Middle East Conference satisfied, there would remain a huge mass of elements of hostility, conflict and discontent; their non-participation would involve such difficulties in purely commercial affairs between Eastern Europe on the one hand, and all other states on the other, that either there would remain no grounds whatever for peaceful coexistence or that such existence would be extraordinarily difficult.

The Russian Government, therefore, is not satisfied with the proposal from Paris to allow Russia to participate only in that part of the Conference which will settle the problem of the Straits. We are of the opinion that such a limitation would inevitably lead to a number of very practical, immediate inconveniences, in particular economic inconveniences, from which France and Britain would themselves suffer, most probably in the near future.

4. Question. What is the Russian programme for the solution of the Straits problem?

Answer. Our Straits programme (still only approximate, of course) contains, among other things, the following:

First, the satisfaction of Turkey’s national aspirations. We consider this essential, and not only in the interests of national independence. Our five years’ experience in settling the national question in a country. that contains a tremendous number of nationalities such as could hardly be found in any other country, gives us the full conviction that under such circumstances the only correct attitude to the interests of nations is to meet those interests in full and provide conditions that exclude any possibility of conflicts on that score. Our experience has left us with the firm conviction that only exclusive attention to the interests of various nations can remove grounds for conflicts, can remove mutual mistrust, can remove the fear of any intrigues and create that confidence, especially on the part of workers and peasants speaking different languages, without which there absolutely cannot be peaceful relations between peoples or anything like a successful development of everything that is of value in present day civilisation.

Secondly, our programme includes the closing of the Straits to all warships in times of peace and of war. This is in the direct commercial interests of all powers, not only of those whose territory is in the immediate vicinity of the Straits, but of all others, too. It must be remembered that all over the world there has been an inordinate amount of pacifist talk, an unusual number of pacifist phrases and assurances, and even vows against war and against peace,[The Versailles Peace Treaty] although there is usually little preparedness on the part of the majority of states, especially on the part of the modern civilised states, to take any realistic steps, even the most simple, to ensure peace. On this, and on similar questions, we should like to see a minimum of general assurances, solemn promises and grandiloquent formulas, and the greatest possible number of the simplest and most obvious decisions and measures that would certainly lead to peace, if not to the complete elimination of the war danger.

Thirdly, our programme on the Straits includes complete freedom of commerce by sea. After what I have said above I do not think it at all necessary to explain this point or make it more concrete.

5. Question. Would the Russian Government agree to the League of Nations controlling the Straits if the League were to include in its composition Russia, Turkey, Germany and the United States?

Or would Russia insist on the establishment of a special commission to control the Straits?

Answer. We are, of course, opposed to the League of Nations, and I do not think that it is only our economic and political system with its specific features that accounts for our negative attitude towards the League; the interests of peace, regarded from the point of view of the concrete conditions of modern international politics in. general, also fully justify that negative attitude. The League of Nations hears so many marks of its world war origin, it is so intimately hound up with the Versailles Treaty and is so marked by the absence of anything resembling the establishment of the, real equality of rights between nations, anything resembling a real chance of their peaceful coexistence, that I think our negative attitude to the League can he appreciated and does not stand in need of further comment.

6. Question. Does the refusal to ratify the agreement with Urquhart mean a victory of the “Left Communists” ? What are the objective conditions which would make possible a resumption of negotiations and the ratification of the agreement with Urquhart?

Answer. The question of concluding an agreement with Urquhart124 was raised by our government when I was ill and was unable to take part in affairs of state. Therefore I am not yet fully informed of all the details of this matter. Nevertheless I can assert quite definitely that there is not, nor can there now he, any question of a victory for the Left Communists. I know this from my direct observation of the course of government affairs.

The fact of the matter is that Britain’s act of injustice, expressed in her unwillingness to admit us to the Conference, was so unexpected, aroused such indignation in Russia and so firmly united not only the Right with the Left Communists but also united the huge mass of the non-Party population of Russia, the workers and peasants, that things did not and could not reach the point of disagreement between the Left and Right Communists.

The reason given for our rejection of the Urquhart agreement was a direct expression, one may say, not only of the general Party sentiment but of that of the entire people, i.e., the sentiment of the entire mass of the workers and peasants.

The resumption of negotiations and the subsequent ratification of an agreement with Urquhart depend primarily on the elimination of the flagrant injustices committed against Russia by Britain in curtailing her right to participate in the Middle East Conference. As far as the concrete terms submitted to us by Urquhart are concerned, I have not yet had time to look into this matter in sufficient detail, and can only say that the government has decided to let the supporters and opponents of this agreement have their say in our press as soon as possible, in order to obtain, from the most objective and motivated discussion, material for the overall verification of all the pros and cons and for a decision on the issue in a manner that best accords with Russia’s interests.

7. Question. To what extent are the accusations of the anti Russian press in Britain justified when they assert that the recent arrests of industrialists in Moscow signify the end of the New Economic Policy and a reversion to the policy of nationalisation and confiscation?

Answer. As to your question concerning the accusations made against us in the British anti-Russian press that “Moscow industrialists” were being arrested, I must say that I have today just read in our newspaper (Izvestia) an item headed “Arrests of Black Marketeers” . None other than Comrade Z. B. Katsnelson, chief of the Economic Division of the State Political Administration, tells us in this article that there was no question of arrests of industrialists, and that “rumours circulated by enemies of Soviet power, both within the R.S.F.S.R. and abroad, that the arrests are infringements on the freedom to trade are actually nothing but nonsensical inventions that have the definite counter-revolutionary intent of disrupting the economic relations that are being established with Western Europe” .

Indeed, those arrested were exclusively profiteers on the so-called black market and our authorities are in possession of evidence establishing connection between these black-market currency profiteers and, certain employees of foreign missions in Moscow. This evidence shows not only the sale of platinum and of gold bars but also the organisation the contraband shipments of these valuables abroad.

From this you can see how absolutely unfounded are the rumours that we are putting an end to the New Economic Policy and how utterly false are the accusations made by the anti-Russian press in Britain, which is trying by the most unheard of distortion and deception to present our policy in a false light. Actually, there has never been any mention in any government circles whatsoever of discontinuing the New Economic Policy and returning to the old. Incidentally, the whole work of the government during the session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee now in progress is aimed at obtaining the widest possible legislative sanction for what is known as the New Economic Policy, so as to eliminate all possibility of any deviation from it.

October 27, 1922


[1] Edouard Herriot, leader of the Radical Socialist Party, member of Parliament and Mayor of Lyons, visited Russia unofficially on September 20-October 10, 1922. He toured the country with the aim of elucidating economic and political possibilities for estab-lishing relations between France and the R.S.F.S.R.

[2] The Lausanne Conference, which took place on November 20, 1922-July 24, 1923.