J. V. Stalin

Talk with Mr. Duranty, Correspondence of The New York Times

December 25, 1933

Source: Works, Vol. 13, 1930 - January 1934
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/HTML Markup: Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Duranty : Would you agree to send a message to the American people through The New York Times?

Stalin: No. Kalinin has already sent one,1 and I cannot interfere in what is his prerogative.

If it is a question of relations between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., I am, of course, satisfied with their renewal, as being an act of tremendous significance: politically, because it increases the chances of preserving peace; economically, because it removes extraneous elements and makes it possible for our two countries to discuss questions of interest to them on a business basis; lastly, it opens up the way to mutual co-operation.

Duranty: What in your opinion will be the possible volume of Soviet-American trade?

Stalin: What Litvinov said at the London economic conference2 still holds good. We are the biggest market in the world and are ready to order and pay for a large quantity of goods. But we need favourable credit terms and, moreover, must be sure that we shall be able to pay. We cannot import without exports, because we do not want to place orders without being sure of our ability to pay on time.

Everybody is surprised that we are paying and are able to pay. I know that just now it is not the fashion to pay back credits. But we do. Other governments have stopped payment, but the U.S.S.R. has not and will not do so. Many believed we were unable to pay, that we lacked the wherewithal to pay, but we have shown them that we can pay and they have had to acknowledge this.

Duranty: What about gold-mining in the U.S.S.R.?

Stalin: We have many auriferous districts and they are being rapidly developed. Our output is already double that of tsarist times and now amounts to over a hundred million rubles a year. We have improved our prospecting methods, particularly during the last two years, and have discovered large deposits. But our industries are still young—not only the gold industry but also industries concerned with pig iron, steel, copper and all metallurgy—and for the time being our young industries are not in a position to give proper assistance to the gold industry. Our rates of development are rapid but the volume of output is not yet large. We could quadruple gold production within a short period if we had more dredges and other machinery.

Duranty: What is the total Soviet indebtedness on foreign credits?

Stalin: A little over 450,000,000 rubles. During the last few years we have paid back large sums—two years ago we owed 1,400 millions on credit accounts. We have paid back all this and we shall be paying back, in the period to the end of 1934 or the beginning of 1935, at the due dates.

Duranty: Granted there is no longer any doubt about Soviet willingness to pay, but how about Soviet ability to pay?

Stalin: With us there is no difference between the first and the second, because we assume no obligations that we cannot discharge. Look at our economic relations with Germany. Germany declared a moratorium on a considerable portion of her foreign debts and we could have taken advantage of the German precedent and acted in the same way towards her. But we are not doing so. And, incidentally, we are now not so dependent on German industry as before. We ourselves can manufacture the equipment we need.

Duranty: What do you think of America? I heard you had a lengthy talk with Bullitt. What is your opinion of him? Do you consider, as you did three years ago, that our crisis, as you told me at the time, is not the last crisis of capitalism?

Stalin: Bullitt made a good impression on me and my comrades. I had never met him before but had heard much about him from Lenin, who also liked him. What I like about him is that he does not talk like the ordinary diplomat—he is a straightforward man and says what he thinks. In general he produced a very good impression here.

Roosevelt, by all accounts, is a determined and courageous politician. There is a philosophical system, solipsism, which holds that the external world does not exist and the only thing that does exist is one's own self. It long seemed that the American Government subscribed to this system and did not believe in the existence of the U.S.S.R. But Roosevelt evidently is not a supporter of this strange theory. He is a realist and knows that reality is as he sees it.

As for the economic crisis, it really is not the last. The crisis, of course, disrupted all business but lately, it seems, business is beginning to recover. It is possible that the lowest point of the economic decline has already been passed. I do not think that the 1929 boom level will be attained, but a transition from crisis to depression and to a certain revival of business in the near future—true, with certain fluctuations upwards and down-wards—is not only not precluded but maybe even probable.

Duranty: And what about Japan?

Stalin: We should like to maintain good relations with Japan, but unfortunately this does not depend on us alone. If a sensible policy gains the upper hand in Japan, our two countries can live in friendship. But we are afraid that the bellicose elements may push a sensible policy into the background. That is where the real danger lies and we are compelled to prepare against it. No nation can have any respect for its government if the latter sees the danger of an attack and does not take measures of self-defence. In my opinion Japan would be acting unwisely should she attack the U.S.S.R. Her economic condition is not particularly good, she has weak spots such as Korea, Manchuria and China, and besides she can hardly count on obtaining support from other countries in this adventure. Unfortunately, good military specialists are not always good economists and they can not always distinguish between the force of arms and the force of economic laws.

Duranty: And what about Britain?

Stalin: I think a trade agreement will be signed with Britain and economic relations will develop, inasmuch as the Conservative Party is bound to realise that it stands to gain nothing by putting obstacles in the way of trade with the U.S.S.R. But I doubt whether under present conditions the two countries will be able to derive such great advantages from trade as one might suppose.

Duranty: What do you think of the reform of the League of Nations as proposed by the Italians?

Stalin: We have received no proposals on that score from Italy, although our representative did discuss the matter with the Italians.

Duranty: Is your attitude towards the League of Nations always exclusively negative?

Stalin: No, not always and not under all circumstances. You perhaps do not fully understand our point of view. In spite of Germany's and Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations—or possibly just because of it—the League may become a certain factor in retarding the outbreak of hostilities or in preventing them altogether. If that is so, if the League can prove to be something of an obstacle that would make war at least somewhat more difficult and peace to some extent easier, then we shall not be against the League. Yes, if such is the course of historical events, the possibility is not excluded that we shall support the League of Nations despite its colossal shortcomings.

Duranty: What is now the U.S.S.R.'s most important problem of internal policy?

Stalin: The development of trade between town and country and the improvement of all forms of transport, particularly railways. Solving these problems is not easy, but is easier than the problems that we have already solved, and I am confident that we shall solve them. The problem of industry is solved. The problem of agriculture, that of the peasants and the collective farms—the most difficult of all—may also be considered already solved. Now we have to solve the problem of trade and transport.

Pravda, No. 4, January 4, 1934


1. This refers to M. I. Kalinin's radio address to the American people, on November 20, 1933, in connection with the establishment, on November 16, 1933, of diplomatic relations between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A.

2. A world economic conference was held in London from June 12 to July 27, 1933. Its initiators—Britain and other capitalist countries—tried to represent i t as a sovereign remedy for putting an end to the economic crisis and for the “rehabilitation" of capitalism. The conference was intended to discuss the problems of stabilising currencies, organising production and trade, abolishing customs barriers and establishing economic peace among all the capitalist countries. Expressing the U.S.S.R.'s unalterable desire to further the cause of peace and strengthen commercial ties, the Soviet delegation at the conference submitted a proposal for the conclusion of an economic non-aggression pact and likewise declared that the Soviet Union was prepared to place orders abroad to the value of $1,000,000,000 on the basis of receiving long-term credits and the creation of normal conditions for Soviet exports. The Soviet delegation's proposals were not supported by the conference.

The conference revealed the complete inability of the capitalist world to find a way out of the economic crisis and the further intensification of the contradictions between the capitalist countries, primarily between Britain and the U.S.A. and between Germany and her creditors. After fruitless discussions the conference ended in failure, without settling a single one of the questions it had raised.