Speech Delivered at a Meeting of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ and Red Army Deputies

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March 6, 1920[edit source]

Comrades, I very much regret that there is little probability of my being able to discharge the duties hinted at by the Chairman in reference to my membership of the Moscow Soviet.[1] I am nevertheless very glad to have the opportunity of greeting the new Moscow Soviet. Permit me to say a few words about the tasks which, owing to the general situation in the country, fall particularly to the lot of the Moscow workers, and first and foremost of the Moscow Soviet.

Comrades, it seems there is every hope that we shall, in the near future, emerge completely victorious from the war which was forced upon us by the landowners and capitalists of Russia in alliance with the capitalists of the whole world. I have just received a telegram from a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasian Front, the last remaining front of any importance. This telegram states that the resistance of the enemy has been broken in all directions (applause), so that now that we have finished with the Kolchak front and the Archangel front, the day is apparently not far off when the Denikin front, too, will be completely eliminated. But, comrades, no matter how greatly the results of the Civil War and the international situation may favour us, and even though the imperialist powers are obviously on the eve of a complete break-down, and all their attempts to unite anybody at all for a war against us have ended in failure—no matter how favourable this situation may be, it must be said that the danger, even the foreign danger, is not yet over. Attempts are still being made, especially by imperialist France, to incite Poland to make war on Russia. You all know, of course, from the press, from the decisions of the Central Executive Committee, and from all the statements made at the Cossack Congress and many other congresses, that the Soviet Republic, on its part, has done all it could to prevent this war, that we have proposed peace to the Polish nation not only officially but in the most friendly way, and have most solemnly recognised the independence of the Polish state, and have made the most positive declarations to this effect. From the military standpoint, we have done everything we could to prevent the Polish landowners and capitalists from carrying out their designs—perhaps not so much their own designs as those of imperialist France, who stands behind their back and to whom they are up to their ears in debt. We have done everything we could to prevent these capitalists and landowners from carrying out their design of inciting the Polish nation to make war on Russia. But although we have done everything we could, future action does not depend upon us. Even the Polish landowners and capitalists themselves do not know what they will do tomorrow. The internal situation in Poland is so grave that they may embark on such a dubious venture because of the obvious danger to their class position, because they feel their end approaching. Consequently, although we have won many victories, we have no guarantee at all that we are secure against foreign attack, and we must be on our guard, we must preserve, develop and strengthen our military pre-paredness, so as to accomplish the task that confronts the working class. If, in spite of all our efforts, the Polish imperialists, supported by France, embark on a war against Russia, if they launch their military venture, they must receive, and will receive, such a rebuff that their fragile capitalism and imperialism will fail to pieces.

We do not conceal from ourselves, especially from the Moscow and other Russian workers, that fresh effort and new and gigantic sacrifices are now demanded of us, which will be all the more severe because we are just now at the end of a winter—February and March—that has broughta new aggravation of want, hunger and suffering owing to the ruined state of our railway system. Arid I must tell you that the war on the bloody front, the civil war directed against the imperialists, is to all appearances coming to an end, and that anyway the enemy can offer no serious menace to us since the attempts of the Entente to launch a general war against us have suffered decisive defeat; the war on the bloodless front, however, still continues and will continue for a long time to come. For the more we leave the military danger behind us the more we are faced with the tasks of internal development; and these have to be carried out by the working class, which has taken upon itself the mission of leading the working masses. These tasks—the restoration of a ruined country and a ruined economy, and the organisation of a socialist society—cannot be accomplished without a war on the bloodless front. That is what the advanced workers, who are now forming the new Moscow Soviet, must impress most firmly on their minds, for the Moscow workers have always been a model, and for some time to come must continue to be a model, which will be followed by the workers of other cities.

We must remember that we are grappling with the task of making a socialist revolution in a country where peasants form the greater part of the population. We have now been joined by the peasant masses of Siberia, where the peasants have surpluses of grain, where they have been corrupted by capitalism, cling to the old freedom of trade, and consider it their sacred right—in this respect they are being led astray by the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries (that is their sad lot—there is nothing else for them to do)—they consider it their sacred right to practise freedom of trade in grain surpluses, believing that they can retain this right. It does not matter to them that this supposed civil equality implies the exploitation of the hungry by the well-fed; for peasants who have grain surpluses and refuse to let the starving have them are putting into effect the principles of capitalist relations. They are people who, after having been exploited for hundreds of years, have now become their own masters for the first time, and are in a position, owing to their grain surpluses, to enslave the workers, who, as a result of the collapse of industry, are unable to give any equivalent in return for the grain. For this reason our attitude towards these petty-bourgeois property-owners, towards the small profiteers, who number millions and who think that because they possess surpluses of grain the farther we go the more they will make, and that the worse the famine the more profitable it will be for those who have grain—our attitude towards them must he one of war. This we say bluntly, and this is the basis of the dicta-torship of the proletariat, which openly declares to the work-er and peasant masses: “The working peasant is our ally, our friend and brother; but when the peasant acts as a prop-erty-owner holding a surplus of grain not required by his household, and acts towards us as a property-owner, as a well-fed man towards a hungry man, such a peasant is our enemy, and we will fight him with the utmost determina-tion, the utmost ruthlessness.” Victory over the small prop-erty-owners, over the small profiteers, is no easy matter. They cannot be eliminated in one year, many years will be required; it will take organised resistance, stubborn and steadfast work, step by step over a long period of time -it will take an incessant day-to-day struggle, which it is particularly difficult to wage and in which the profiteering peasant is very often victorious over the worker. But we will fight on the bloodless front so that the hungry may secure from the well-fed the surpluses they possess, despite all obstacles and despite the desire of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks to introduce freedom of trade and leave these surpluses in the possession of the well-fed.

We have done a great deal of work during the past two years. We have enlisted the peasant and worker masses in this work, and have everywhere been able to secure what we needed. At a time when the whiteguard officers, the former tsarist officers, were fighting us on the side of our enemies, we enlisted tens and hundreds of these experts in our work, which helped to remake them. They helped us do our work, in conjunction with our commissars. They themselves learned from us how the work should be done, and in return gave us the benefit of their technical knowledge. And it was only with their help that the Red Army was able to win the victories it did. We must now divert all this work into another channel. It must be work of a peaceful character; we must devote everything to the work on the labour front. We must direct our former property-owners, who were our enemies. We must mobilise all who are capable of working and compel them to work with us. We must at all costs wipe from the face of the earth the last traces of the policy o the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries—the policy which talks of personal freedom, etc.—because it would doom us to starvation. This attitude must be adopted in all our work. The advanced section of the proletariat is assuming the leadership of the rest of the population, and it says: “We must get you to understand our ideas fully and to put them into effect, just as we got you to come over more and more to our side.”

The first task that confronts us here is to clean up Moscow, to put an end to the filth and state of neglect into which it has sunk. We must do this so as to set an exam-ple to the whole country, where this filth, which brings with it epidemics and disease, is becoming more and more prevalent. We must set this example here, in Moscow, an example such as Moscow has set many times before.

We must bear in mind that we are faced with the task of restoring the transport system. In the spring we must intro-duce control by the worker masses. We must effect it in respect of those market gardeners in the vicinity of Moscow who are taking advantage of the fact that there are starving fellow-beings around them to pocket millions. The fact that any rich market gardener can squeeze untold profits out of his poor neighbours is an atrocious injustice, which we cannot tolerate.

What must we do? Specialists must give us the benefit of their knowledge so that we may carry our ideas into effect. The class which has just elected the new Moscow Soviet must tackle this work, and carry it out more practi-cally and in greater detail than hitherto.

We know that the proletariat is not very large numeri-cally; but we also know that the Petrograd workers, who were in the front ranks of the Red Army, gave us their best forces whenever we needed them, gave them for the fight against the enemy in greater numbers than we thought possible. We have said that Petrograd, Moscow and Ivanovo-Voznesensk have given us a vast number of people. But that is not enough; they must give us all we need. We have to utilise all the bourgeois specialists who accumulated knowledge in the past and who must pay with this knowledge now. It is with the help of these people that we must do our work; it is with their help that we must conquer all we need-conquer, and create our own militant contingents of workers who will learn from them and direct them, and who will always turn to the broad masses of the workers to explain this experience. That is what the Moscow Soviet, as one of the most important and one of the biggest of the proletarian Soviets, must accomplish at all costs. The fifteen hundred members of the Moscow Soviet, plus the alternate members, constitute an apparatus through which you can draw upon the masses and constantly enlist them, inexperienced though they are, in the work of administering the state.

The worker and peasant masses who have to build up our entire state must start by organising state control. You will obtain this apparatus from among the worker and peas-ant masses, from among the young workers and peasants who have been fired as never before with the independent desire, the readiness and determination to set about the work of administering the state themselves. We have learned from the experiences of the war and shall promote thousands of people who have passed through the school of the Soviets and are capable of governing the state. You must recruit the most diffident and undeveloped, the most timid of the workers for the workers’ inspection and promote them. Let them progress in this work. When they have seen how the workers’ inspection participates in state affairs, let them gradually proceed from the simple duties they are able to carry out—at first only as onlookers—to more important functions of state. You will secure a flow of assistants from the widest sources who will take upon themselves the burden of government, who will come to lend a hand and to work. We need tens of thousands of new advanced workers. Turn for support to the non-party workers and peasants, turn to them, for our Party must remain a narrow party, surrounded as it is by enemies on all sides. At a time when hostile elements are trying by every method of warfare, deceit and provocation to cling to us and to take advantage of the fact that membership of a government party offers certain privileges, we must act in contact with the non-party people. The laws on the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection grant the right to enlist non-party workers and peasants and their conferences in the work of government. This apparatus is one of the means whereby we can increase the number of workers and peasants who will help us to achieve victory on the internal front in a few years. For a long time this victory will not be as simply, decisively and clearly apparent as the victory on the war front. This victory demands vigilance and effort, arid you can ensure it by carrying out the job of development of Moscow and its environs and helping in the general work of restoring the transport system, of restoring that general economic organi-sation which will help us to get rid of the direct and indi-rect influence of the profiteers and to vanquish the old traditions of capitalism. We should not grudge a few years for this. Even if we had these conditions, such social re-forms as these would be without parallel, and here to set ourselves tasks designed only for a short period of time would be a great mistake.

Allow me to conclude by expressing the hope and assurance that the new Moscow Soviet, bearing in mind all the experience gained by its predecessor in the course of the Civil War, will draw new forces from among the youth and will tackle the affairs of economic development with all the energy, firmness and persistence with which we tackled military affairs, and so gain victories which, if not as brilliant, will be more solid and substantial.

  1. On February 16, 1920, Lenin was elected deputy to the Moscaw Soviet from State Confectionery Factory No. 3 (new the Bolshevik Factory) and from the workers and employees of Khovrine Station, Nikolayevskaya (new Oktyabrskaya) Railway. On February 20 his rights as member of the Moscow Soviet were confirmed by the cre-dentials commission and he was issued with Deputy’s Identification Card No. 1. Ever since then at every convocation of the Moscow City Soviet Deputy’s identification Card No. 1 has been issued in Lenin’s name.