Speech Delivered At The First (Inaugural) All-Russia Congress Of Mineworkers
|Written||1 April 1920|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, pages 495-501
The First (Inaugural) All-Russia Congress of Mineworkers was held in Moscow, April 1-6, 1920. It met at the height of the struggle for the rehabilitation of the national economy. It was attended by 173 people, of whom 153 were delegates with the right to vote and 13 with voice but no vote; 85 were Communists. The Congress represented about 200,000 workers in the mining industry. Delegates from the oil industry could not attend the Congress, because the Caucasus was not yet freed from the whiteguards.
The delegates endorsed the following agenda: report of the organising bureau, tasks of the trade unions, the organisational question, tariffs, the state of the mining industry, the state of the coal industry, forms of participation of the unions in the organisation and management of industry, elections. Lenin, who was elected honorary chairman of the Congress, made a speech at one of its meetings. The Congress addressed greetings to miners in all countries.
Comrades, allow me first of all to convey the greetings of the Council of People’s Commissars to the First Congress of Mineworkers.
Comrades, this Congress and this whole branch of industry are of the highest importance to the Soviet Republic. You all know, of course, that without the coal industry there would be no modern industry, no factories. Coal is the veritable bread of industry; without it industry comes to a standstill; without it the railways are in a sorry state and can never be restored; without it the large-scale industry of all countries would collapse, fall to pieces and revert to primitive barbarity; today the coal shortage and crisis are having the most dire effects even in the victor countries, even in countries far more advanced than Russia and which have suffered far less in the war. It is, therefore, all the more necessary to us that you, comrades, who have assembled to form a solid, strong, powerful and class-conscious union of mineworkers, should clearly realise the tremendous tasks with which the entire Soviet Republic, the workers’ and peasants’ government confront this Congress, confront the mineworkers. After two years of desperate struggle against the whiteguards and capitalists, who were supported b the capitalists of the whole world, today, after all the victories we have won, we are again faced with a stern struggle, as severe as the previous one but a more grateful one—the struggle on the bloodless front, on the front of labour.
When, on the bloody front of war, the landowners and capitalists tried to break the Soviet power in Russia, itseemed as if the cause of the Soviet Republic was hopeless, as if Soviet Russia, the weakest, most backward and most devastated of all countries, would be unable to hold its own against the capitalists of the whole world. The richest powers in the world assisted the Russian whiteguards in this struggle, assigned hundreds of millions of rubles to help them, supplied them with munitions, established special camps abroad for the training of officers—and to this day these recruiting bureaus still exist abroad, where, with the help of the richest capitalists in the world, Russian prisoners of war and volunteers are being recruited for the war against Soviet Russia. It naturally looked as if this was a hopeless undertaking, as if Russia could not hold out against the military powers of the world, who are stronger than we are. Nevertheless, this miracle proved possible; Soviet Russia performed this miracle in two years.
Soviet Russia proved to be the victor in a war against all the richest powers in the world. Why? Not because we were stronger from the military standpoint, of course—that is not the case—but because in the civilised countries there were soldiers who could no longer be deceived, although reams of paper were devoted to proving to them that the Bolsheviks were German agents, usurpers, traitors and terrorists. As a result of this, we find that soldiers returned from Odessa either convinced Bolsheviks or declaring that they “would not fight the workers’ and peasants’ government”. The chief reason for our victory was that the workers of the advanced West-European countries understood and sympathised with the working class of the world so strongly that, despite the lies of the bourgeois press, which in publications issued in millions of copies showered disgusting calumnies on the Bolsheviks—despite all this, the workers were on our side; and this fact determined the issue of our war. Everybody realised that if hundreds of thousands of soldiers had fought against us as they had fought against Germany, we would not have been able to hold on. This was obvious to anybody who knows what war means. Nevertheless, a miracle happened: we defeated them, they were split owing to their wrangling, and their famous League of Nations turned out to resemble a league of mad dogs who are snatching each other’s bones and cannot come to terms over a single question; however, the number of Bolshevik supporters, direct and indirect, conscious and not altogether so, is growing daily and hourly in every country.
Everybody who sympathises with socialism knows what happened to the Second International: for twentyfive years, from 1889 to 1914, it directed the socialist movement in all countries, but when the imperialist war broke out the socialists of the Second International went over to the side of their governments, each defending his own. All those who called themselves republicans, Socialist-Revolutionaries or Merisheviks, in every country, took the side of their own governments, defended their own fatherland and helped to conceal the secret treaties—did not publish them. The socialists who were considered the leaders of the working class went over to the capitalists, went against the Russian working class. The German Government is headed by the Scheidemann gang, who to this day call themselves Social-Democrats but who are the foulest of butchers; in alliance with the land-owners and capitalists, they have murdered the leaders of the German working class, Rosa Luxemburg arid Karl Liebknecht, and slaughtered fifteen thousand German proletarians. In the period since its foundation a year ago, the Third (Communist) International has gained a complete victory. The Second International has fallen to pieces.
So you see what a strong influence the Soviet power in Russia has had on the workers of the whole world, despite all the lies and calumnies directed against it. The soldiers and workers hold that power should be vested in those who work—he who does not work, shall not eat, but he who does work is entitled to a voice in the state, he can influence matters of state. That is a simple truth, and millions of working-class people have understood it.
You are now faced with a difficult task, namely, to follow up our military victories by a much more difficult victory. This will be all the more difficult because here mere heroism is not enough; here results can be achieved only by persistent work, and years of intense effort will be required.
All over the world the capitalists are mustering labour-power and increasing output. But the workers say in reply, first feed the workers, first put a stop to the wrangling for which the workers pay with their lives, first put an endto the carnage, for millions of people perished in the recent bloodbath to decide whether the British or some other predators were to rule. As long as power is in the hands of the capitalists we are not thinking of increasing production but of overthrowing them.
But now that the capitalists have been overthrown, prove that you are able to increase productivity without them; refute the lie which the capitalists spread about the class-conscious workers, when they say that this is not a revolution, not a new order, but sheer destruction, mere revenge on the capitalists; they say the workers alone can never organise the country and lead it out of economic chaos, that they will only create anarchy. That is the lie which the capitalists of all countries are spreading in milions of ways, and which non-party people, opponents of the Bolsheviks, are conveying in thousands of ways to Russian workers too, especially to those who are under-educated, have been most corrupted by capitalism or are most ignorant. But if, as we have seen, we have been able, in the two years of Soviet power, to stand up to the whole world, it has been largely due to the heroism of the workers.
We are reproached for having established the dictatorship of the proletariat, for the iron, relentless and firm rule of the workers, which stops at nothing and which says that whoever is not with us is against us, and that the slightest resistance to this rule will be crushed. But we are proud of it and say that were it not for this iron rule of the workers, of this workers’ vanguard, we should not have been able to hold out for two months, let alone two years. What this dictatorship has given us is this—every time a difficult situation arose during the war, the Party mobilised Communists, and it was they who were the first to perish in the front ranks; they perished in thousands on the Yudenich and Kolchak fronts. The finest members of the working class perished; they sacrificed themselves, realising that although they perished they would save future generations, that they would save thousands upon thousands of workers and peasants. They ruthlessly pilloried and hounded the self-seekers—those who during the war were concerned only for their own skins—and shot them without mercy. We are proud of this dictatorship, of this iron rule of the workers, which said: “We have overthrown the capitalists and we will lay down our lives to prevent any attempt of theirs to restore their rule.” Nobody during these two years went as hungry as the workers of Petrograd, Moscow and Ivanovo-Voznesensk. It has now been computed that during these two years they received not more than seven poods of bread a year, whereas the peasants of the grain-producing gubernias consumed no less than seventeen poods. The workers have made great sacrifices, they have suffered epidemics, and mortality among them has increased. But they will prove that the workers did not rise up against the capitalists out of vengeance, but with the inflexible determination to create a social system in which there will be no land-owners and capitalists. It was for the sake of this that these sacrifices were made. It was only because of those unparalleled sacrifices that were made consciously and voluntarily and, were backed up by the discipline of the Red Army, without recourse to old methods of discipline—it was only because of these tremendous sacrifices that the advanced workers were able to maintain their dictatorship and earned the right to the respect of the workers of the whole world. Those who are so eager to slander the Bolsheviks should not forget that the dictatorship entailed the greatest sacrifice and starvation on the part of the workers who were exercising it. During these two years the workers of Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Petrograd and Moscow suffered more than anybody fighting on the Red fronts did.
This is what should be, first and foremost, borne in mind and well remembered by the comrades in the coal industry. You are a vanguard. We are continuing the war—not the bloody war, that, fortunately, is over, nobody will now dare to attack Soviet Russia, because they know that they will he defeated since the class-conscious workers cannot be led against us; they will blow up ports, as they did in Archangel under the British and also in Odessa. This has been proved; this much we have gained. But we are continuing the war, we are nevertheless continuing it as an economic war. It is the speculators we are now fighting, the handful of workers who have been corrupted by the old capitalist system and who say to themselves, “I must have higher pay, and to hell with the rest.” “Give me double pay, give me two or three pounds of bread a day,” they say, heedless of the fact that they are working for the defence of the workers and peasants, for the defeat of the capitalists. They must be combated by means of comradely education, by comradely persuasion, and there is nobody to do this except the trade unions. It must be explained to such workers that if they side with the speculators and profiteers, with the rich peasants who say, “the more grain I have the more money I shall make” and “each for himself, and God for all”, they will be following the precepts of the capitalist gentry and of all who preserve the old capitalist traditions; they must be told that we regard all who act on the old precepts as apostates and traitors whom the working class must brand and put to shame. There are mostly capitalist countries surrounding us and all over the world they are uniting against us, they are joining forces with our speculators; they want to overthrow us by force, and think they are stronger than we are. We continue to be a besieged fortress towards which the eyes of the world’s workers are turned, for they know that their freedom will come from here, and in this besieged fortress we must act with military ruthlessness, with military discipline and self-sacrifice. In the ranks of the workers we cannot tolerate self-seekers who refuse to combine the interests of their group with the interests of the workers and peasants in general.
We must, with the help of the trade unions, create the comradely discipline which existed in the Red Army, which is being worked out by the best of our trade unions, and which I am convinced you who have now founded the mineworkers’ union will also establish.
Your union will be one of the foremost unions, and it will have all the state assistance we can possibly give. And I am sure that you too will make similar sacrifices to create a firm labour discipline, raise the productivity of labour and foster the spirit of self-sacrifice among the workers in the coal industry, among those who are engaged in what is probably the hardest, dirtiest and most exhausting labour, and which technicians are striving to abolish altogether.
But in order to save Soviet power now, industry must be fed, that is, provided with coal. Unless this is done, it will be impossible to restore the economy and the railways, it will be impossible to set the factories going and provide goods to be exchanged for the peasants’ grain; the peasants cannot, of course, be content with bits of coloured paper, they are granting us a loan, because it is their duty to grant a loan to the hungry workers. But it is our duty to repay this loan, and production, therefore, must be increased ten-fold and all the factories started.
That, comrades, is the tremendous task which faces all class-conscious workers, i.e., those workers who realise that the issue is one of preserving and consolidating Soviet power and socialism in order to save all future generations from the yoke of the landowners and capitalists for all time. Those who refuse to understand this must be driven from the ranks of the workers. The trade unions, with their training, influence and propaganda, and their deep concern for production and discipline, will see to those who do not understand it sufficiently. That is the way to strengthen the workers’ and peasants’ government. And by this slow but most important work you will achieve, you must achieve, victories even more important than those gained by our Red Army at the front.