Report On The Work Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee And The Council Of People’s Commissars Delivered At The First Session Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee, Seventh Convocation

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The first session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, Seventh Convocation, was held in Moscow, February 2-7, 1920. The agenda of the session was the following: report of the Presidium of the All-Russia CEC; international situation; economic policy in connection with the organisation of labour and supplies; labour mobilisation and utilisation of the Army; transport; food problem; Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection; peace negotiations with Estonia, and other questions. On February 2, Lenin delivered a report on the work of the All-Russia CEC and the Council of People’s Commissars. The session endorsed the Rules for Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection, according to which the People’s Commissariat of State Control was to be reorganised into workers’ and peasants’ inspection with the enrolment of broad masses of workers and peasants into this work. The session passed a resolution on “Transport” which stated that the restoration of transport and improvement of its work were the primary task of the Soviet government.

Another resolution underscored the tremendous importance of the electrification of the economy. The session endorsed the appeal to the Polish people and resolved to ratify the peace treaty with Estonia.

February 2, 1920[edit source]

Comrades, my report on the activities of the Council of People’s Commissars and the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, whose functions in periods between meetings have been carried out by the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, falls naturally into two main subdivisions—the first on foreign policy, the Soviet Republic’s international position, and the second on internal development and our main economic tasks. Allow *me to present to you in that order the main facts of our work during the period under review, i.e., during the past two months.

As far as the Soviet Republic’s international position is concerned, it has been determined in the main by the successes of the Red Army. As you know, the last remnants of Kolchak’s army in the Far East have been almost wiped out, while the rivalry and enmity between Japan and America, nominally allies, are becoming more and more obvious and prevent them from fully developing their onslaught against the Soviet. Republic. After the annihilation of Yudenich’s troops and after the capture, in the South, of Novocherkassk and Rostov-on-Don in early January, their main forces suffered so decisive a blow that the Soviet Republic’s military position radically changed, and although the war was nOt over, every country saw clearly that its former hopes of crushing the military forces of the Soviet Republic had collapsed.

Acknowledgement of this radical change in the Soviet Republic’s international position was shown by the wireless message to us (not delivered officially) of the decision of the Allied Council adopted on January 16 to lift the blockade against the Soviet Republic. The main section of the decision taken by the Council says... (reads).[1]

There is no need for me to criticise the diplomacy contained in this formulation; it i so striking that it is not worth wasting time saying that the attitude of the Allies to Russia remains unchanged. If that is how the Allies understand their policy—that the lifting of the blockade does not change it—then it shows how unsound their policy is. The importance of this decision for us, however, is in its economic, not its political, aspect. Lifting the blockade is a fact of major international significance showing that a new stage in the socialist revolution has begun. For the blockade was in fact the principal, really strong weapon with which the imperialists of the world wanted to strangle Soviet Russia.

At the last Congress of Soviets I had occasion to state and expand the idea that the struggle against Soviet Russia had resulted, not only in the workers and peasants of France, Britain and other advanced countries forcing the imperialists to renounce the struggle, but in the mass of the petty. bourgeoisie within these countries becoming opponents of the blockade. And of course, this opposition by the middle sections of the population in countries like Britain and France was bound to influence international imperialist policy. Knowing their brand of diplomacy, we cannot expect them to act in a straightforward manner, without any reservations, without wanting to restore the past, or by some cunning trick or other return to their previous policy, which they cannot pursue openly at the moment. It must be said, however, that on the whole we have gained tremendous victories, that we have even been able to deprive the Allies of a weapon which only they possessed—the navy, despite the fact that waverers tried to scare us by saying the navy was invincible. Nevertheless, the development of political relations showed that even this invincible navy was in no fit state to fight us. We, who were unable to put up any naval resistance, forced the imperialist powers to abandon this weapon.

Of course, this change in policy on the international scene does not have an immediate effect, but the fact remains that we have now entered the sphere of world-wide international relations, and this enables us to get support from the more advanced countries. It is true that economically and financially these countries are in a sorry plight, they are all going downhill, and we cannot expect much from them; but with the opportunity to develop our own industry, we can count on receiving machinery for production, machinery for the restoration of our industry. And above all, that which had cut us off completely, by means of the blockade, from the advanced countries, has been broken down.

After the Allied Council had been forced to abandon this weapon our victories in the field of international politics continued, the greatest of them being that we succeeded in concluding peace with Estonia. We received a communication from Joffe and Gukovsky today saying: “Today, February 2, at 2 a.m. Moscow time, peace was concluded between Russia and Estonia. The Estonian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Birk, arrived from Revel to sign the document.”

Comrades, the text of this peace document which was discussed at great length and is of tremendous importance has been sent by messenger who should arrive tomorrow morning, but we have now received the exact text by telegraph, and it will be distributed tomorrow. It will be discussed and ratified. This document is of the highest importance to us. The peace treaty between Russia and Estonia is of epoch-making significance. We have succeeded in concluding a peace treaty with a government which is also becoming democratic and whose relations with us will now be stable, but which up to now has been supported by the whole imperialist world. Therefore we must regard this as an act of tremendous historical importance.

We know that people who stand between imperialism and democracy usually go over to one side or the other. So you see, we have undoubtedly gained a victory, because peace has been concluded, and this government must now proceed against our enemy. The theoretical significance of this fact is that in the imperialist epoch the whole world is split into a vast number of big and small states, the small states being absolutely helpless, an insignificant group compared to the rich powers which completely dominate a number of small, weak states. Imperialism is the epoch in which the division of the whole world takes place, when the whole of the world’s population is divided into a minority of exploiting, oppressor countries, and a majority of countries with small, weak populations that exist in a state of colonial dependence on the minority.

When we won peace with Estonia we proved that we were able to go forward as a proletarian and communist state. How have we done this? We have shown all the belligerent Entente powers who are opposed to peace that the sympathy we are able to evoke among our opponents and bourgeois governments, the sympathy of a small country, is more powerful than all that military oppression, all that financial aid and all those economic ties which link that small country to the powerful world states. The Entente has seen that it is not only when we use force that we are able to win; we are in a position to refute the lie and slander spread against us by the bourgeois governments of the world when they say the Bolsheviks retain power by force alone. What was it that enabled us to prevail over the combined forces of world imperialism in regard to Estonia, a country which had always suffered violence at the hands of the Russia of the tsars and landowners? It was our proving our ability to renounce, in all sincerity, the use of force at the appropriate moment, in order to change to a peace policy, and so win the sympathy of the bourgeois government of a small country, regardless of all the support given it by international capital. This is a fact of historical significance. Estonia is a small country, a small republic, but she is oppressed economically and militarily in a thousand and one ways by world imperialist capital, so much so that her entire population comes under this oppression. And this peace now proves that we can, in spite of our exhaustion, weakness and disarray, gain the upper hand over the whiteguard army with its imperialist backing. The powerful Entente knows how to reply to force with even more triumpliant force, but this peace proves that we do not have to resort to force to win the sympathy and support of the bourgeoisie.

A most difficult international problem has arisen here. The rate of capitalist development in different countries varies; this development takes place under different conditions, in various ways and by various means. A socialist republic in one country exists alongside all the capitalist countries of the world and causes their bourgeoisie to waver. From this they concluded that our position was a hopeless one; we had defeated the whiteguards by force, but what, they asked, were we going to do about the rest of the world? We shall defeat that too. The peace with Estonia proves that this is no empty phrase. The entire pressure of international capital was overcome in that area where our rejection of the use of force was recognised to be sincere. “Don’t make peace with the Bolsheviks, otherwise we shall conquer you by starvation; we shall give you neither financial nor economic aid,” said world capital, And Estonia proved to be one of the small, formally independent countries which said to herself, “We rely more on the fact that the Bolsheviks are able to live in peace with other, weaker nations, even with a bourgeois government, than we do on the whole powerful democratic countries of the Entente.”

Democracy is most clearly manifested in the fundamental question of war and peace. All the powers are preparing a fresh imperialist war, and this is seen daily by the workers of the world. Any day now America and Japan will hurl themselves at each other; Britain grabbed so many colonies after her victory over Germany that the other imperialist powers will never resign themselves to this. A new fanatical war is being prepared, and the people are aware of this. And just at this moment Russia, with her huge forces, who is accused of intending to fling those forces against a small state as soon as she has finished with Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin—Russia has concluded a democratic peace with Estonia. Furthermore, the terms of the peace treaty provide for a number of territorial concessions on our part which do not completely correspond to the strict observance of the principle of self-determination of nations, and prove in practice that the question of frontiers is of secondary importance to us; the question of peaceful relations, however, the question of our ability to await the development of the conditions of life of each nation, is not only an important question of principle, it is also a matter in which we have succeeded in winning the confidence of nations hostile to us. It is no accident that we have achieved this in relation to Estonia; it is evidence that the weak proletarian republic, existing in isolation and apparently helpless, has begun to win to its side countries dependent on the imperialist states—and they constitute the vast majority. That is why our peace with Estonia is of such great historical significance. No matter how the Entente strives to start a war—even if it succeeds in turning peace once again into war—the fact will remain, firmly established in history, that despite all the pressure of international capital we were able to inspire greater confidence in a small country ruled by the bourgeoisie than the so-called democratic, but in reality predatory, imperialist bourgeoisie.

We by chance came to possess some very interesting documents showing how our policy compared with that of the allegedly democratic, but in actual fact predatory, powers of the whole world, which please permit me to read to you. These documents were furnished by a whiteguard officer or official named Oleinikov who was commissioned by one whiteguard government to hand over some highly important documents to another. But he handed them over to its instead.[2](Applause.) It proved possible to send these documents to Russia, and I shall read them to you, although it will take some time to do so. Nevertheless, they are very interesting for they very clearly reveal the hidden springs of policy. The first document is a telegram to Minister Gulkevich from Sazonov:

Paris, October 14, 1919, No. 668.

S. D. Saonov conveys his respects to Konstantin Nikolayevich, and has the honour to enclose for his information copies of a telegram from B. A. Bakhmetev, No. 1050, and a telegram from I. I. Sukin, No. 23, on the situation in the Baltic Provinces.

Then comes a more interesting document—a telegram from Washington dated October 12:

Received October 12, 1919. File No. 3346.

Bakhmetev to the Minister.

Washington, October 11, 1919, No. 1050.

Further to my telegram No. 1045.

(In code) The State Department acquainted me verbally with the instructions given to Gade. He is appointed the Commissar of the American Government in the Baltic Provinces of Russia. He is not accredited to any Russian Government. His mission is to observe and inform. His behaviour must not lead the local population to expect that the American Government could agree to support separatist trends going beyond autonomy. On the contrary, the American Government trusts that the population of the Baltic Provinces will help their Russian brothers in their work of general state importance. The instructions are based on the interpretation of the agreement of the Allied governments with the Supreme Ruler as outlined in my memorandum of June 17 to the government. Gade has been given extracts from the recent speeches of the President in which he fulminates against Bolshevism.

So, the American Government intimates that its representative can issue any kind of instructions but may not support independence, i.e., may not guarantee the independence of these states. This is what directly or indirectly came to light, and Estonia could not be kept in ignorance of the fact that she was being deceived by the Great Powers. Of course, everyone could have guessed this, but now we have the documents and they will be published:

Received October 12, 1919. File No, 3347

Sukin to the Minister.

Omsk, October 9, 1919, No. 28.

(In code) Knox has given the Supreme Ruler the message of the British War Office in which the latter warns of the inclination of the Baltic states to conclude a peace with the Bolsheviks who guarantee them immediate recognition of their independence. At the same time the British War Office raises the question of the advisability of paralysing this pledge by satisfying, in its turn, the wishes of the states indicated. We replied to Knox by referring to the principles outlined in the Note of the Supreme Ruler to the Powers on June 4, and, in addition, we pointed out that the conclusion of a peace between the Baltic states and the Bolsheviks would be undoubtedly fraught with danger since this would permit the release of part of the Soviet forces and would clear the way to the infiltration of Bolshevism in the West. The mere fact that they are ready to talk peace is in our opinion evidence of the utter demoralisation of the parties of these self-governing entities which cannot protect themselves from the penetration of aggressive Bolshevism.

Expressing the conviction that the Powers could not approve of the further spread of Bolshevism, we pointed to the necessity of withdrawing all aid from the Baltic states since this would be a real means of exerting influence by the Powers, and is more advisable than competition in promises with the Bolsheviks, who now have nothing to lose.

In transmitting the above, I would request you to make similar representations in Paris and London; we are making a special approach to Bakhmetev.

Received October 9, 1910. File No. 3286,

Sablin to the Minister.

London, October 7, 1919, No. 677.

(In code) In a letter to Guchkov, the Director of Military Operations of the War Office, to whom Guchkov made an offer of our shipping in order to facilitate the delivery of supplies to Yudenich by the British, states that in the opinion of the War Office Yudenic.h has all that he requires at the moment, and that Britain is experiencing some difficulty in providing further supplies. He adds, however, that as we have shipping, we could arrange supplies for Yudenich on a commercial basis, providing we obtain credits. At the same time General Radcliffe admits that Yudenich’s army must be properly equipped since it is “the only force among the Baltic states able to engage in active operations against the Bolsheviks”.

Minister to Bakhmetev in Washington.

Paris, September 30, 1919, No. 2442.

(In code) From a strictly confidential Swedish source I learn that the American envoy in Stockholm. Morris, is talking about growing sympathy in America towards the Bolsheviks and of intentions to cease aid to Kolchak in order to enter into contacts with Moscow in the interests of American trade. Such statements on the part of an official representative make a strange impression.

Received October 5, 1919. File No. 3244

Bakhmetev to the Minister.

Washington, October 4, 1919, No. 1021.

Further to your telegram No. 2442.

(In code) The State Department informed me in confidence that it is true that the envoy in Stockholm, Morris, and particularly Hapgood in Copenhagen, are well known for their Left sympathies, but that they have no influence or authority here, and that the government is obliged to admonish them from time to time, categorically pointing out that American policy is one of undeviating support of our government in the struggle against the Bolsheviks.

Here are all the documents which we shall publish and which clearly show how the battle went on around Estonia, how the Entente, Britain and France, together with Kolchak and America, all brought pressure to hear on Estonia with the one aim of preventing the signing of a peace treaty with the Bolsheviks, and how the Bolsheviks, pledging themselves to territorial concessions and guaranteeing independence, won this trial of strength. I state that this victory is of gigantic historical significance, because it has been gained without the use of force. This victory over world imperialism is a victory that is bringing the Bolsheviks the sympathy of the whole world. This victory by no means denotes that universal peace will be concluded immediately; but it does show that we represent the peace interests of the majority of the world’s population against the imperialist war-mongers. Such an assessment of the situation has induced bourgeois Estonia, an opponent of communism, to conclude peace with us. Since we, a proletarian state, a Soviet republic, are concluding a peace treaty, since we are acting in a spirit of peace towards bourgeois governments oppressed by the great magnates of imperialism, we must be able to decide from this how our international policy is to be shaped.

The main task we set ourselves is to defeat the exploiters and to win to our side the waverers—this is a task of historic significance. Among the waverers are a whole number of bourgeois states which, as bourgeois states, detest us, but which, on the other hand, as oppressed states, prefer peace with us. This explains the peace with Estonia. This peace is, of course, only a first step, and its influence will only be felt in the future, but that it will be felt is a fact. Up to now we have negotiated with Latvia only through the Red Cross,[3] and the same is true of our negotiations with the Polish Government. I repeat—the peace with Estonia is bound to influence events because the basis is identical; the same attempts are being made to goad Latvia and Poland into making war on Russia as were made in the case of Estonia. Perhaps these attempts will prove successful, and since war with Poland is possible, we must be vigilant, but we are certain—this has been demonstrated by our main achievements—that we can conclude peace and make concessions which permit the development of any form of democracy. This is now especially important because the Polish question is particularly acute. We have received a number of communications indicating that apart from bourgeois, conservative, landowning Poland, apart from the pressure being exerted by all capitalist parties in Poland, all the Entente powers are doing their utmost to incite Poland to make war against us.

As you know, the Council of People’s Commissars has issued an appeal to the working people of Poland.[4] We are going to ask you to endorse this appeal as a means of fighting that campaign of calumny in which Polish landowning circles are engaged. We shall submit an additional text of an appeal to the working people of Poland. This appeal will be a blow to the imperialist powers, who are doing their utmost to incite Poland against us; for us the interests of the majority of the people take first place.

I shall now acquaint you with a telegram intercepted by us yesterday, which illustrates the attempts of American capital to present us in a certain light and thereby drag us into a war with Poland. The telegram says (reads). I have said and heard nothing of the sort, but they are able to lie because it is not for nothing that they spend their money on spreading lying rumours that have a definite aim. Their bourgeois government guarantees them this. (Continues reading the telegram.) This telegram was sent from Europe to America and was paid for out of capitalist funds; it serves as a shameless means of provoking a war with Poland. American capital is doing its utmost to bring pressure to bear on Poland and does this unashamedly, making it appear that the Bolsheviks want to finish with Kolchak and Denikin in order to throw all their “iron troops” against Poland.

It is important that we should here and now endorse the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars, and then we must do what we did previously in relation to other states, and also what we did in regard to the troops of Kolchak and Denikin. We must immediately appeal to the Polish people and explain the real state of affairs. We know full well that this method of ours has a most positive effect in tending to disrupt the ranks of our enemy. And in the end, this method will lead on to the path we need, the path on to which it has led the working population of all countries. This policy must make a definite beginning—no matter how difficult this may prove—and once a beginning is made, we shall carry it through to completion.

I must mention that we have been pursuing the same policy in respect of all other countries. We invited Georgia and Azerbaijan to conclude an agreement against Denikin. They refused, pleading non-interference in the affairs of other countries. We shall see how the workers and peasants of Georgia and Azerbaijan regard this.

This policy has been applied even more cautiously in respect of the Western nations than in dealing with the nations of Russia. It involved such countries as Latvia, Estonia, Poland and, on the other hand, a number of Eastern countries whose developmental level is the same as that of most of those colonial countries which constitute the majority of the world’s population. They are kept down by Britain, who continues to hold colonial slaves under her sway. Our policy in relation to West-European countries has been very cautious—it will take some time for them to get over their own Kerensky period—but our policy in the East must be even more cautious and patient, for here we are dealing with countries that are much more backward, are under the oppressive influence of religious fanaticism, are imbued with greater distrust of the Russian people, and for decades and centuries were oppressed by the tsarist government’s capitalist and imperialist policy, by the policy conducted towards these nations by Russia as the dominant nation.

We have granted autonomy to the Bashkir Republic.[5] We must found an autonomous Tatar Republic.[6] We shall continue the same policy in relation to all the Eastern peoples, and say to ourselves that we, who are faced by a huge front of imperialist powers, we, who are fighting imperialism, represent an alliance that requires close military unity, and any attempt to violate this unity we regard as absolutely impermissible, as a betrayal of the struggle against international imperialism. However, in implementing this policy we must be even more cautious. For if the European countries have to go through a Kerensky period, in the countries that are at a lower developmental level there are even greater elements of distrust, and it will require more time to influence them. We support the independence and sovereignty of these countries. We appeal to their working people. We say: unity of the military forces is imperative; any deviation from this unity is impermissible.

We are confident that, by systematically pursuing our policy of close alliance, we shall achieve greater success than before in our relations with the peoples of the East. And our success is already great. The Soviet Republic enjoys tremendous popularity among all the Eastern peoples for the same reason that made it possible for us to conclude a peace treaty with a small Western state, because they see in us an unswerving fighter against imperialism, because ours is the only republic which is waging a war against imperialism and is capable of utilising every situation without the use of force, and which is also able to gain a victory by renouncing the use of force.

Needless to say, a far more perfected variety of this policy is being implemented in relation to the Ukrainian Republic. Here the problem has been simplified by the prior conclusion of an agreement between the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Central Executive Committee of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.[7] On the basis of this agreement, which implies a close federation of both republics in the struggle against the imperialist countries, we are building an ever closer alliance. As a result of their bitter experience of Denikin’s rule, the mass of Ukrainian peasants and workers are becoming convinced that only the closest alliance between the Ukraine and the Russian Republic will be really invincible in the face of international imperialism, and that at the time of struggle against imperialism there is nothing to be gained by the separation of the Ukrainian state, since imperialism will take advantage of every division to crush Soviet power. Such a division is criminal. Our policy is taking deep root in the Ukraine, and we are confident that the forthcoming All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets of Workers and Peasants will officially endorse this policy. These are the few remarks to which I must limit myself on the question of the international situation. I shall ask this session to endorse all the practical proposals I have to make (I have enumerated them) on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars and the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.

In passing on to the work of internal development I must first deal with certain measures taken by our government, and then proceed to the most important matter of all—the change-over to a new course, the transition from military tasks to those of state organisation.

In regard to our internal policy for the two months under review, among the main measures which more or less stand out from a number of current tasks, the following decision requiring the endorsement of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee is of particular importance. This is the decision to abolish the death penalty. As you know, immediately after the main victory over Denikin, after the capture of Rostov, Comrade Dzerzhinsky, the People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs, who is in charge of the Cheka, submitted a proposal to the Council of People’s Commissars, and had it endorsed in his own department, that the passing of all death sentences by the Cheka be abolished. When bourgeois democracy in Europe does all in its power to spread the lie that Soviet Russia is predominantly terrorist, when this lie is spread about us by bourgeois democracy and by the socialists of the Second International, when Kautsky writes a special book entitled Terrorism and Communism in which he declares that communist power is based on terrorism, then you can well imagine the kind of lies spread on this subject. In order to refute this lie we have decided on the step taken by Comrade Dzerzhinsky, endorsed by the Council of People’s Commissars, and which now needs the approval of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.

We were forced to use terror in response to the terror employed by the Entente, when the mighty powers of the world flung their hordes against us, stopping at nothing. We could not have lasted two days had we not replied to these attempts of officers and whiteguards in a merciless fashion. This meant the use of terror, but this was forced on us by the terrorist methods of the Entente. But as soon as we had gained, a decisive victory, even before the end of the war, immediately after the capture of Rostov, we renounced capital punishment, and have therefore proved that we intend to carry out our own programme as we had promied. We say that the use of violence arises from the need to crush the exploiters, the landowners and capitalists. When this is accomplished we shall renounce all extraordinary measures. We have proved this in practice. And I think, I hope, and I am confident that the All-Russia Central Executive Committee will unanimously endorse this measure of the Council of People’s Commissars and will implement it in such a way that it will be impossible to apply the death penalty in Russia. Needless to say, any attempt by the Entente to resume methods of war will force us to reintroduce the former terror; we know that we are living in a time of the law of the jungle, when kind words are of no avail. This is what we had in mind, and as soon as the decisive struggle was over, we immediately began to abolish measures which all other powers apply without any time limit having been set.

Further, I should like to refer to the discussion on Workers’ Inspection. There is to be a special report on this subject, and it would be wrong of me to dwell too long on it. The most important problem confronting us here is that of drawing the mass of people into administrative work. This is a more acute problem than the task of large-scale development. You will be presented with detailed plans, and when you have discussed and amended them, you will understand that this development must continue with far greater participation by the mass of the workers. This is our main task, with which it is extremely difficult to get to grips in the existing chaos, but nevertheless we are approaching it steadily.

There is another question before us—the question of the co-operatives. We have set ourselves the task of uniting the whole population in co-operatives that differ from those previously existing and which at best embraced only the upper sections of the population.

Socialism would be impossible if it did not make use of the technical knowledge, culture and the apparatus created by bourgeois, capitalist civilisation. Part of this apparatus is the co-operative movement whose growth is all the greater the higher the level of capitalist development in a country. We have set our co-operative movement the task of embracing the whole country. Up to now the co-operative movement involved only top sections and benefited those able to pay their dues. The working people, however, were unable to make use of its services. We have resolutely broken with this type of co-operative, but not so that the cooperative movement as such is completely wiped out, for in March and April 1918 we set the co-operatives the task of drawing in the whole population. If there are any co-operators who value the ideas of the founders of the co-operative movement (the old aims of co-operation were to satisfy the needs of the working people), they will sympathise with this aim. We are certain that we have the sympathy of the majority of the members of the co-operative organisations, although we are by no means under the illusion that we have won to our side the majority of the leaders, who subscribe to bourgeois and petty-bourgeois views, who see co-operation merely as another form of capitalist economy and as the notorious freedom of trade which means fortunes for the few and ruin for the majority. Instead of this, we announced the country-wide task of the co-operatives to really begin catering for the working people so that they embrace the whole population. This could not be accomplished at once. We have set ourselves this aim and have worked systematically, and will go on working, to achieve it, so that ultimately all the population will be united in cooperatives; and we can say with certainty that the whole of the Soviet Republic, perhaps in a few weeks, or in a few months, will become one great co-operative of working people. After this the development of independent activity by the working people, their participation in state development will proceed along even broader lines.

In accomplishing this, we have decided that all types, not only consumers’, but producers’, credit, and other cooperatives should, by appropriate stages and with due care, be amalgamated into a Central Union of Consumers’ Societies. We are confident that our steps in this direction will meet with the approval of the Central Executive Committee and functionaries in the localities who, after the formal amalgamation of the co-operatives, will, by their work of economic development, into which they will draw the majority of the workers and peasants, achieve what we regard as one of the major tasks—that of making the co-operative movement another prime factor in the struggle against red tape, this legacy from the old capitalist state, a struggle which our programme also declares to be of the highest importance. We shall carry on this struggle in all offices and departments by every means and, incidentally, through the amalgamation of the co-operatives and by shifting the appeal from the bourgeois top people in the co-operatives to the genuine working people, who must all undertake independent work in co-operative organisation.

From among the problems of internal development I now wish to refer to what has been done in the sphere of agriculture. In order to place land tenure on a proper basis, the People’s Commissar for Agriculture in July 1919 issued a circular on measures against the frequent redistribution of allotted land. This circular was published on July 1 in Izvestia and was included in the Collection of Statutes and Decrees of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. This circular is important because it meets the many suggestions and demands of the peasants who pointed out that the frequent reallotment of the land in conditions of small-scale farming prevented better labour discipline and the higher productivity of labour. This view is shared by the Council of People’s Commissars which has instructed the Commissariat of Agriculture to work out a draft decree on reallotment procedures. This draft will be considered shortly. Similarly, the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture has set itself the task of implementing a number of urgent measures to restore livestock and farm equipment. In this connection the systematic efforts of local officials themselves are extremely important, and we hope that the members of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee will bring the appropriate pressure to bear on the authorities and render assistance, so that these measures of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture can be put into effect in the shortest space of time.

I shall now turn to the last, and in reality, the most important problem of our development—the problem of the labour armies and the labour mobilisation of the population. The most difficult task in the sharp turns and changes of social life is that of taking due account of the peculiar features of each transition. How socialists should fight within a capitalist society is not a difficult problem and has long since been settled. Nor is it difficult to visualise advanced socialist society. This problem has also been settled. But the most difficult task of all is how, in practice, to effect the transition from the old, customary, familiar capitalism to the new socialism, as yet unborn and without any firm foundations. At best this transition will take many years, in the course of which our policy will be divided into a number of even smaller stages. And the whole difficulty of the task which falls to our lot, the whole difficulty of politics and the art of politics, lies in the ability to take into account the specific tasks of each of these transitions.

We have only just solved—though not yet fully—the problem of the war in its principal and basic features. Our main task was to repel at all costs the attack of the whiteguards. Everything for the war effort, we said, and this was the correct policy. We are fully aware that it caused unparalleled hardships in the rear such as cold, famine and devastation. But the very fact that the Red Army which, incidentally, is appreciated in the way shown by the examples I have read out to you—has resolved this problem in a most backward country proves that new forces do exist in the country. Otherwise the creation of this model army, and its victory over far better equipped armies, would have been inconceivable. But now we have geared the entire state apparatus to this task and have succeeded in surmounting the specific features of the problem—the subordination of everything to the war effort—the situation demands a swift and sharp change in policy. We have not yet finished the war. We must maintain our military readiness intact, we must destroy Denikin’s troops, we must show the landowners and capitalists of every country that if they want to deal with Russia by war, they will meet the same fate as Kolchak and Denikin. We must not take a single step, therefore, which would weaken our military strength. At the same time, however, we must switch the whole country on to a different course, reconstruct its whole mechanism. We can no longer gear everything to the war effort, and we have no need to, because in the main the problem of the war has been solved.

The task of the transition from war to peaceful development arises in such peculiar conditions that we cannot disband the army, since we have to allow, say, for the possibility of an attack by that selfsame Poland or any of the powers which the Entente continues to incite against us. This specific feature of the problem of not being able to reduce our military forces, yet at the same time having to switch the whole of the Soviet state machine which is geared to war on to the new course of peaceful economic development, demands exceptional attention. It is the type of problem that general formulas, the general provisions of a programme, general communist principles cannot cope with, but which requires that the specific features of the transition from capitalism to communism be taken into consideration, the transition from the position of a country whose whole attention has been concentrated on the war, to the position of a country which has won a decisive military victory and must go on to solve economic questions by military methods, because the situation, as you all realise, is extremely grave. The end of the winter will bring, has already brought, the working people unbelievable hardships—cold, famine, devastation. We must overcome this at all costs. We know that we can do this. It has been proved by the enthusiasm of the Red Army.

If, up to the present, we were able to battle on, surrounded on all sides and cut off from the richest areas of grain and coal, now that we possess a]! this, now that it is possible to solve the problems of economic development jointly with the Ukraine, we can solve the main problem—to acquire large quantities of grain and foodstuffs, deliver them to the industrial centres so that industrial development can begin. We must concentrate all our efforts on this task. It is inadmissible to allow ourselves to be diverted from it to any other practical task. It has to be solved by military methods, with absolute ruthlessness and by the absolute suppression of all other interests. We know that a whole number of perfectly legitimate demands and interests will go by the board, but if it were not for these sacrifices, we should not have won the war. The situation now demands that we make a sharp and, swift turn towards the creation of a basis for peaceful economic development. This basis must be the acquisition of great stocks of food and their transportation to the central region; it is the task of the railways to deliver raw materials and provisions. From August 1917 to August 1918 we collected 30 million poods of grain, in the second year 110 million, and now in five months 90 million have been collected by our Commissariat of Food, collected by socialist, not capitalist methods, by compulsory delivery of grain by the peasants at fixed prices, and not by selling on the free market—and this means that we have found the way. We are certain that it is the correct way and that it will enable us to achieve results which will ensure tremendous economic development.

All our forces must be dedicated to this task, all our military forces, which came to the fore in war-time organisation, must be switched on to this new path. This is the specific situation, the specific transition, which engendered the idea of labour armies and led to the law on the creation of the first labour army in the Urals and of the Ukrainian labour army. It was followed by the law on the utilisation of the army reserves for civilian labour and the decree issued by the Soviet government on the Committees for Labour Conscription.[8] All these laws will be outlined to you by a member of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee in a fully detailed report. I naturally cannot trespass on this ground because the special report will throw sufficient light upon it. I only emphasise its significance in relation to our general policy, the significance of this transition which confronts us with its specific tasks, for which we must redouble our efforts like soldiers, to organise them so that we can lay in large stocks of food and deliver them to the industrial centres. To achieve this we must at all costs create labour armies, organise ourselves like an army, reduce, even close down a whole number of institutions so that in the next few months, no matter what happens, we can overcome transport dislocation, and emerge from this desperate situation of cold, famine and impoverishment brought by the end of winter. We must and can get out of this situation. When the All-Russia Central Executive Committee endorses all the measures connected with labour conscription and the labour armies, when it has succeeded in instilling these ideas in the broad mass of the population and demands that they be put into practice by local officials—we are absolutely convinced that then we shall be able to cope with this most difficult of tasks, while not in the least degree weakening our military readiness.

We must at all costs, without weakening our military readiness, switch the Soviet Republic on to the new course of economic development. This task must be accomplished in the next few weeks, possibly months. Every Soviet or Party organisation must do everything in its power to end the transport dislocation and increase the grain stocks.

Then, and only then, shall we have a basis, a sound basis for industrial development on a wide scale, for the electrification of Russia. In order to prove to the population, and in particular to the peasants, that our extensive plans in this field are not fantasies, but are borne out by and based on technology and science, I think we should adopt a resolution—1 hope the Central Executive Committee will endorse it—recommending that the Supreme Economic Council and the Commissariat of Agriculture jointly draft a plan for the electrification of Russia.

Thanks to the aid of the State Publishing House and the energy of the workers at the former Kushnerev Printing Works, now the 17th State Printing Works, I succeeded in getting Krzhizhanovsky’s pamphlet The Main Tasks of the Electrification of Russia published at very short notice, and tomorrow it will be distributed to all members of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. This pamphlet of Comrade Krzhizhanovsky’s, who works in the ElectroTechnical Sub-Department of the Supreme Economic Council, summarises what has already been achieved and raises questions, the popularisation of which, not the practical application, is now one of the most important tasks.

I hope that the Central Executive Committee will adopt this resolution which, in the name of the Central Executive Committee, instructs the Supreme Economic Council and the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture to work out in the course of the next few months—our practical tasks during this period will be different—with the aid of scientists and engineers a broad and complete plan for the electrification of Russia. The author of this pamphlet is absolutely correct in choosing as its motto the saying: “The age of steam is the age of the bourgeoisie, the age of electricity is the age of socialism.” We must have a new technical foundation for the new economic development. This new technical foundation is electricity, and everything will have to be built on this foundation, but it will take many long years. We shall not be afraid of working ten or twenty years, but we must prove to the peasants that in place of the old separation of industry from agriculture, this very deep contradiction on which capitalism thrived and which sowed dissension between the industrial and agricultural workers, we set ourselves the task of returning to the peasant the loan we received from him in the form of grain, for we know that paper money, of course, is not the equivalent of bread. We must repay this loan by organising industry and supplying the peasants with its products. We must show the peasants that the organisation of industry on the basis of modern, advanced technology, on electrification which will provide a link between town and country, will put an end to the division between town and country, will make it possible to raise the level of culture in the countryside and to overcome, even in the most remote corners of the land, backwardness, ignorance, poverty, disease and barbarism. We shall tackle the problem as soon as we have dealt with our current, basic task, and we shall not allow ourselves to be deflected for a single moment from the fundamental practical task.

In the next few months all our energies must be concentrated on food deliveries and the extension of our resources of food supplies. There must not be the slightest departure from this. At the same time let the scientists and technicians produce a long-term plan for the electrification of all-Russia.[9] Let the links which we have established with the outside world, with capitalist Europe, that gateway which we made for ourselves by concluding peace with Estonia, serve to provide us immediately with essential technical aid. When, in the next few months, we have solved the basic problems of transport and food supplies, when we have solved the problem of labour conscription, on which problems we shall wholly concentrate all our energies, not allowing ourselves to be deflected from this by anything else for a few months—when we have accomplished this we shall prove that we can go on with developmental tasks that will last many years and put the whole of Russia on to an advanced technological footing, abolishing the division between town and country, and making it possible to conquer completely and decisively the backwardness of the countryside, its scattered economy and its ignorance, from which stem all the stagnation, all the backwardness, all the oppression that have existed up to now. And in this matter, that of the peaceful struggle on the bloodless front of the reorganisation of industry, we shall, if we employ all our military skill and all our energy, and concentrate all our forces on the fulfilment of this task, achieve success that will be even more decisive, even more glorious, than those we have won in the military field. (Applause.)

  1. Lenin read the report published in the central newspapers of January 18, 1920, that the governments of the Entente countries intended to lift the blockade and sanction trade with Soviet Russia. The decision passed by the Allied Council on January 16, 1920 stressed however that these measures did not mean any change in the policy of the Allied governments towards the Soviet Government.
  2. Oleinikov, the whiteguard officer mentioned, was carrying documents from S. D. Sazonov in Paris, through Sweden to Yudenich. He came over to the side of the revolution and handed the documents over to the Soviet authorities. The persons mentioned in the documents were: Sazonov, Foreign Minister in the tsarist government and Kolchak’s government and the representative of Kolchak and Denikin in Paris; Gulkevich, Kolchak’s envoy in Sweden; Bakhmetev, Kolchak’s ambassador in Washington; Sukin, head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kolchak’s government in Omsk; Sablin, Kolchak’s chargé d’affaires in London; Knox, an English general, the British representative to Kolchak’s government.
  3. Lenin refers to the Red Cross negotiations on an exchange of prisoners, the return of refugees, and so on.
  4. Lenin refers to the Declaration of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR addressed to the Government of Poland and the Polish people on January 28, 1920.
    The Poland of the bourgeoisie and landowners depended entirely on the imperialists of the Entente. At the instigation of the British and French governments she made preparations for a criminal war against the young Soviet Republic. The Soviet Declaration stated that the policy of the RSFSR in respect of Poland proceeded from the principle of the right of nations to self-determination and unreserved recognition of the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Poland. The Soviet Government confirmed that it had no aggressive designs against Poland. On February 2, 1920, a meeting of the First Session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, Seventh Convocation, endorsed an appeal to the Polish people. This appeal exposed the lies spread by the imperialist powers that Soviet Russia intended annexing parts of Poland, and stressed the Soviet Government’s unwavering effort to achieve peace and establish friendly, good-neighbourly relations with independent Poland.
  5. The Bashicir Autonomous Soviet Republic was formed by an agreement between the central Soviet authorities and the Bashkir Government. The agreement confirmed the formation of the Bashkir Autonomous Soviet Republic in conformity with the Soviet Constitution and defined its boundaries and administrative division.The agreement was published in Izvestia No. 63, March 23, 1919.
  6. The Tatar Autonomous Soviet Republic was formed on May 27, 1920; the decree of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars on the formation of the republic was signed by Lenin and Kalinin. p. 325
  7. See Note 53.
  8. Lenin refers to a number of government decrees aimed at combating the economic disruption and at rehabilitating the national economy. The decision to use the Third Army, renamed the First Revolutionary Army of Labour, on the labour front in the Urals was adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on January 15, 1920. The Statute of the Ukrainian Soviet Army of Labour was adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR in agreement with the All-Ukraine Revolutionary Committee on January 21. The decision to make use of the reserve army forces of the Republic to improve the railway transport in the area served by the Moscow-Kazan Railway was passed by the Council of Defence on January 23. The decree on labour conscription and the Statute of the Committees for Labour Conscription were adopted by the Council of People’s Commissars on January 29, 1920.
  9. The plan for the electrifidation of all Russia was the first scientifically based, long-term state plan for the rehabilitation and development of the economy of the Soviet Republic. It was elaborated by the State Commission for the Electrification of Russia (GOELRO) in 1920 on Lenin’s instructions. The plan was calculated for 10 to 15 years and provided for the building of 20 thermal power stations (Kizel, Kashira, Shterovka and others) and 10 hydropower stations (on the l)nieper, Svir, Volkhov and other rivers); total planned capacity was 1.5 million kw. The total yearly output of electric power was to be 8,800 million kwh; in 1913 Russia produced 1,900 million kwh. The plan envisaged rational, proportionate deployment of industry throughout the country. It envisaged an increase of 80-100 per cent in industrial output over the 1913 level, and a huge increase over the 1920 level. The GOELRO plan was in the main completed by 1931. The output of electric power in the U.S.S,R. reached 10,700 million kwh, which was twenty times more than in 1921.