J. V. Stalin

Talk With Colonel Robins

May 13 1933

(Brief Record)

Source: J. V. Stalin, Works, Volume 13, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1955, p. 267-279
Transcription/HTML Markup: Hari Kumar for Alliance Marxist-Leninist (North America) and Charles Farrell
Online Version: Stalin Reference Archive (marxists.org) 2000


Stalin: What can I do for you?

Robin: I consider it a great honor to have an opportunity of paying you a visit.

Stalin: There is nothing particular in that. You are exaggerating.

Robins (smiles) : What is most interesting to me is that throughout Russia I have found the names Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, Lenin-Stalin, linked together.

Stalin: That, too, is an exaggeration. How can I be compared to Lenin?

Robin: (smiles) : Would it also be an exaggeration to say that all this time the oldest government in the world has been the government of Soviet Russia -- the Council of People's Commissars?

Stalin: That, to be sure, is not exaggerated.

Robin: The interesting and important point is that this government has not taken a reactionary direction in its work and that it is the government set up by Lenin that has proved strong. It resists all hostile lines.

Stalin: That is true.

Robins: At the May Day demonstration Russia's development during the past fifteen years impressed itself upon me with particular clarity and sharpness, for I witnessed the May Day demonstration in 1918, and now in 1933.

Stalin: We have managed to do a few things in recent years. But fifteen years is a long period of time.

Robins: Still, in the life of a country it is a short period for such great progress as Soviet Russia has achieved during this time.

Stalin: We might have done more, but we did not manage to.

Robins: It is interesting to compare the underlying motives, the basic lines followed in the two demonstrations. The 1918 demonstration was addressed to the outside world, to the proletariat of the whole world, to the international proletariat, and was a call to revolution. Now the motive was different. Now men, women and the youth went to the demonstration to proclaim: This is the country we are building, this is the land we shall defend with all our strength!

Stalin: At that time the demonstration was agitational, but now it is a summing up.

Robins: You probably know that during these fifteen years I have interested myself in establishing rational relations between our two countries, and have endeavored to dispel the existing hostile attitude of the ruling circles in America.

Stalin: I knew of this in 1918 from what Lenin had said, and afterwards on the basis of facts. Yes, I know it.

Robins: I have come here in the capacity of a purely private citizen and speak only for myself. The chief aim of my visit is to ascertain the prospects of establishing relations, to ascertain the actual facts concerning the ability to work and the creative, inventive capacity of the Russian workers. Anti-Soviet propaganda has it that the Russian worker is lazy, does not know how to work, and ruins the machines he handles; that such a country has no future. I want to counteract this propaganda not merely with words, but armed with the facts.

The second question of interest to me in this connection is the situation in agriculture. It is being asserted that industrialization has played havoc with agriculture, that the peasants have stopped sowing, have stopped gathering in the grain. Every year it is asserted that this year Russia is sure to die of famine. I should like to learn the facts about agriculture in order to refute these assertions. I expect to see the areas where new kinds of crops have been sown this year for the first time. What interests me in particular is the development of the principal grain crops of the Soviet Union.

The third question that interests me is public education, the development of children and the youth, their upbringing; how far public education has developed in the fields of art and literature, as regards what is called creative genius, inventive capacity. In America two types of creativeness are recognized -- one is the creativeness of the study and the other is broad, life-inspired creativeness, manifestations of the creative spirit in life. I am interested in knowing how children and young people are developing. I hope to see in real life how they study, how they are brought up and how they develop.

On the first and third questions I have already obtained some valuable information and count on getting additional data. On the second question, concerning the development of agriculture, I expect to be able to discover the real facts during my trip to Magnitogorsk and from there to Rostov, Kharkov and back. I expect to have a look at collective farms and see how the archaic strip system of cultivation is being eliminated and large-scale agriculture developed.

Stalin: Do you want my opinion?

Robins: Yes, I would like to have it.

Stalin: The notion that the Soviet worker is by nature incapable of coping with machines and breaks them is quite wrong.

On this score I must say that no such thing is happening here as occurred in Western Europe and America, where workers deliberately smashed machines because these deprived them of their crust of bread. Our workers have no such attitude to machinery, because in our country machines are being introduced on a mass scale in conditions where there is no unemployment, because the machines do not deprive the workers of their livelihood, as with you, but make their work easier.

As far as inability to work, the lack of culture of our workers is concerned, it is true that we have few trained workers and they do not cope with machinery as well as workers in Europe or America do. But with us this is a temporary phenomenon. If, for example, one were to investigate where throughout history the workers learned to master new technical equipment quickest - in Europe, America, or Russia during the last five years - I think it will be found that the workers learned quicker in Russia, in spite of the low level of culture. The mastery of the production of wheeled tractors in the West took several years, although, of course, technology was well developed there. Mastery of this matter in our country was quicker. For example, in Stalingrad and Kharkov the production of tractors was mastered in some 12-14 months. At the present time, the Stalingrad Tractor Works is not only working to estimated capacity, not only turns out 144 tractors per day, but sometimes even 160, that is, it works above its planned capacity. I am taking this as an example. Our tractor industry is new, it did not exist before. The same thing is true of our aircraft industry - a new, delicate business, also swiftly mastered. The automobile industry is in a similar position from the viewpoint of rapidity of mastery. The same applies to machine tool building

In my opinion, this rapid mastery of the production of machines is to be explained not by the special ability of the Russian workers but by the fact that in our country the production of, say, aircraft and engines for them, of tractors, automobiles and machine tools is considered not the private affair of individuals, but an affair of the state. In the West the workers produce to get wages, and are not concerned about anything else. With us production is regarded as a public matter, a state matter, it is regarded as a matter of honor. That is why new technique is mastered so quickly in our country.

In general, I consider it impossible to assume that the workers of any particular nation are incapable of mastering new technique. If we look at the matter from the racial point of view, then in the United States, for instance, the Negroes are considered "bottom category men," yet they master technique no worse than the whites. The question of the mastery of technique by the workers of a particular nation is not a biological question, not a question of heredity, but a question of time: today they have not mastered it, tomorrow they will learn and master it. Everyone, including the Bushman, can master technique, provided he is helped.

Robins: The ambition, the desire to master, is also required.

Stalin: Of course. The Russian workers have more than enough desire and ambition. They consider the mastery of new technique a matter of honor.

Robins: I have already sensed this in your factories where I have seen that socialist emulation has resulted in the creation of a new kind of ardour, a new sort of ambition that money could never buy, because the workers expect to get for their work something better and greater than money can procure.

Stalin: That is true. It is a matter of honor.

Robins: I shall take with me to America diagrams showing the development of the workers' inventiveness and their creative proposals, which improve production and effect considerable savings in production. I have seen the portraits of quite a few such worker-inventors who have done very much for the Soviet Union in the way of improving production and achieving economies.

Stalin: Our country has produced a comparatively large number of such workers. They are very capable people.

Robins: I have been in all your big Moscow factories-the AMO Automobile Works, the Ball Bearing Works, the Freser Works and others - and everywhere I came across organizations for promoting workers' inventive-ness. The tool room in a number of these factories impressed me particularly. As these tool rooms provide their factories with highly valuable tools the workers there exert all their faculties to the utmost, give full play to their creative initiative and achieve striking results.

Stalin: In spite of that, we have many shortcomings as well. We have few skilled workers, while a great many are required. Our technical personnel is also small. Each year their number grows, and still there are fewer of them than we need. The Americans have been of great help to us. That must be admitted. They have helped more effectively than others and more boldly than others. Our thanks to them for that.

Robins: I have witnessed an internationalism in your enterprises which produced a very strong impression on me. Your factory managements are ready to adopt the technical achievements of any country - France, America, Britain or Germany - without any prejudice against these countries. And it seems to me that it is just this internationalism that will make it possible to combine in one machine all the advantages possessed by the machines of other countries and thus create more perfect machines.

Stalin: That will happen.

On the second question, about industrialization allegedly ruining agriculture, that notion is also wrong. Far from ruining agriculture in our country, industrialization is saving it, and saving our peasants. A few years ago we had a greatly disunited, small and very small, peasant economy. With the increasing division of the land, the peasant allotments shrank so much that there was no room to keep a hen. Add to this the primitive farming equipment, such as wooden ploughs and emaciated horses, which were incapable of turning up not only virgin soil, but even the ordinary, rather hard, soil, and you will have a picture of the deterioration of agriculture. Three or four years ago there were about 7,000,000 wooden ploughs in the USSR The only choice left for the peasants was this: either to lie down and die or to adopt a new form of land tenure and cultivate the land with machines. This indeed explains why the Soviet Government's call to the peasants issued about that time - to unite their tiny plots of land into large tracts and accept from the government tractors, harvesters and threshers for working these tracts, for gathering and threshing the harvest-found a very lively response among the peasants. They naturally seized on the proposal of the Soviet Government, began to unite their plots of land into large fields, accepted the tractors and other machines and thus emerged on the broad high-way of making agriculture large scale, the new road of the radical improvement of agriculture.

It follows that industrialization, as a result of which the peasants receive tractors and other machines, has saved the peasants, has saved agriculture.

The process of uniting small peasant farms by whole villages into large farms we call collectivization, and the united large farms themselves - collective farms. The absence in our country of private property in land, the nationalization of the land, makes collectivization much easier. The land is transferred to the collective farms for their use in perpetuity and, owing to the absence of private property in land, no land can be bought or sold here. All this considerably facilitates the formation and development of collective farms.

I do not mean to say that all this, i.e., collectivization and the rest, is proceeding smoothly with us. There are difficulties, of course, and they are not small ones.

Collectivization, like every great new undertaking, has not only friends, but also enemies. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of the peasants are in favor of collectivization, and the number of its opponents is becoming smaller and smaller.

Robins: Every advance involves certain outlays, and this we take into account and include in our calculations.

Stalin: In spite of these difficulties, however, one thing is clear - and I have not the slightest doubt on this score: nineteen-twentieths of the peasantry have recognized, and most of the peasants accept the fact with great joy, that the collectivization of agriculture has become an irreversible fact. So then this has already been achieved. The predominant form of agriculture in our country now is the collective farm. Take the grain sowing or harvesting figures, the figures for grain production, and you will see that at the present time the individual peasants provide something like 10-15 per cent of the total gross output of grain. The rest comes from the collective farms.

Robins: I am interested in the question whether it is true that last year's crop was gathered in unsatisfactorily, that at the present time the sowing campaign is proceeding satisfactorily, while last year the harvesting proceeded unsatisfactorily.

Stalin: Last year the harvesting was less satisfactory than the year before.

Robins: I have read your statements, and I believe they warrant the conclusion that this year the harvesting will be more successful.

Stalin: It will most probably proceed much better.

Robins: I think you appreciate no less than I do the tremendous achievement embodied in your successful industrialization of agriculture, a thing which no other country has been able to do. In all capitalist countries agriculture is undergoing a deep crisis and is in need of industrialization. The capitalist countries manage somehow or other to cope with industrial production, but not one of them can cope with agriculture. The great achievement of the Soviet Union is that it has set about the solution of this problem and is successfully coping with it.

Stalin: Yes, that is a fact.

Such are our achievements and shortcomings in the sphere of agriculture.

Now the third question -- about the education of children and of the youth as a whole. Ours is a fine youth, full of the joy of life. Our state differs from all others in that it does not stint the means for providing proper care of children and for giving the youth a good upbringing.

Robins: In America it is believed that in your country the child is restricted in its development within definite, rigid bounds and that these bounds leave no freedom for the development of the creative spirit and freedom of the mind. Do you not think that freedom for the development of the creative spirit, freedom to express what is in one, is of extremely great importance?

Stalin: First, concerning restrictions -- this is not true. The second is true. Undoubtedly a child cannot develop its faculties under a regime of isolation and strict regimentation, without the necessary freedom and encouragement of initiative. As regards the youth, all roads are open to it in our country and it can freely perfect itself.

In our country children are not beaten and are very seldom punished. They are given the opportunity of choosing what they like, of pursuing a path of their own choice. I believe that nowhere is there such care for the child, for its upbringing and development, as among us in the Soviet Union.

Robins: Can one consider that, as a result of the new generation being emancipated from the burden of want, being emancipated from the terror of economic conditions, this emancipation is bound to lead to a new flourishing of creative energy, to the blossoming of a new art, to a new advance of culture and art, which was formerly hampered by all these shackles?

Stalin: That is undoubtedly true.

Robins: I am not a Communist and do not understand very much about communism, but I should like America to participate in, to have the opportunity of associating itself with, the development that is taking place here in Soviet Russia, and I should like Americans to get this opportunity by means of recognition, by granting credits, by means of establishing normal relations between the two countries, for example, in the Far East, so as to safeguard the great and daring undertaking which is in process in your country, so that it may be brought to a successful conclusion.

Stalin (with a smile) : I thank you for your good wishes.

Robins: One of my closest friends is Senator Borab, who has been the staunchest friend of the Soviet Union and has been fighting for its recognition among the leaders of the American Government.

Stalin: That is so; he is doing much to promote the establishment of normal relations between our two countries. But so far, unfortunately, he has not met with success.

Robins: I am convinced that the true facts are now having a much greater effect than at any time during the past fifteen years in favor of establishing normal relations between our two countries.

Stalin: Quite true. But there is one circumstance that hinders it. Britain, I believe, hinders it (smiles) .

Robins: That is undoubtedly so. Still, the situation forces us to act above all in our own interests, and the conflict between our own interests and the course towards which other countries are driving us is impelling America, at the present time more than at any other, to establish such reciprocal relations. We are interested in the development of American exports. The only big market with great possibilities that have not been adequately utilized hitherto by anybody is the Russian market. American businessmen, if they wanted to, could grant long-term credits. They are interested in tranquillity in the Far East, and nothing could promote this more than the establishment of normal relations with the Soviet Union. In this respect, Mr. Litvinov's Geneva declaration on the definition of an aggressor country follows entirely the line of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, which has played an important role in the matter of peace. Stabilization of reciprocal economic relations throughout the world is in the interest of America, and we fully realize that normal reciprocal economic relations cannot be attained while the Soviet Union is outside the general economic system.

Stalin: All that is true.

Robins: I was and I remain an incorrigible optimist. I believed in the leaders of the Bolshevik revolution as long as fifteen years ago. They were then depicted as agents of German imperialism; Lenin, in particular, was considered a German agent. But I considered and still consider Lenin a very great man, one of the greatest leaders in all world history.

I hope that the information I have received at first hand may help towards carrying out the plan of rapprochement and cooperation between our two countries about which I have spoken.

Stalin (smiling) : I hope it will!

Robins (smiles) : If you had expressed yourself in the American manner you would have said: "More power to your elbow." He is not sure of having much strength left in his elbow.

Stalin: May be.

Robins: I think there is nothing greater and more magnificent than to participate in the making of a new world, to participate in what we are now engaged in. Participation in the creation and building of a new world is something of paramount significance not only now, but thousands of years hence.

Stalin: All the same this matter presents great difficulties (smiles).

Robins (smiles) : I am very grateful to you for the attention you have given me.

Stalin: And I thank you for having remembered the Soviet Union after an absence of fifteen years and for paying it another visit. (Both smile. Robins bows.)