V. I.   Lenin

Interview with Lincoln Eyre, Correspondent of the American Newspaper The World[3]

Published: First published in Russian in 1957 in the journal Kommunist No. 15. Published in English February 21, 1920 in the newspaper The World No. 21368. Printed from the original newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 2nd English Printing, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 42, pages 175b-180a.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). 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.
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Allies Playing “Chess Game”

Of the Allies’ reported decision to lift the blockade Lenin said:

It is hard to see sincerity behind so vague a proposal, coupled as it seems to be with preparations to attack us afresh through Poland. At first glance the Supreme Council’s proposition looks plausible enough-the resumption of commercial relations through the medium of the Russian co-operatives. But the co-operatives do not any longer exist, having been assimilated into our Soviet distribution organs. Therefore what is meant when the Allies talk of dealing with the co-operatives? Certainly it is not clear.

Therefore I say that closer examination convinces us that this Paris decision is simply a move in the Allied chess game the motives of which are still obscure.”

Lenin paused a moment, then added with a broad grin:

Far obscurer, for instance, than Marshal Foch’s intended visit to Warsaw.”

I asked if he deemed the probability of a Polish offensive serious (it must be recalled that in Russia the talk was of a drive by the Poles against the Boisheviki, not vice versa).

Beyond doubt,” Lenin replied, “Clemenceau and Foch are very, very serious gentlemen, and the one originated and the other is going to carry out this offensive scheme. It is a grave menace, of course, but we have faced graver ones. It does not cause us fear so much as disappointment that the Allies should still pursue the impossible. For a Polish offensive can no more settle the Russian problem for them than did Kolchak’s and Denikin’s. Poland has many troubles of her own, remember. And it is obvious that she can get no help from any of her neighbours, including Roumania,”

Yet peace seems nearer than before,” I suggested.

Yes, that’s true. If peace is a corollary of trade with us, the Allies cannot avoid it much longer. I have heard that Millerand, Clemenceau’s successor, expresses willingness to envisage commercial relations with the Russian people. Perhaps this heralds a change of front among the French capitalists. But Churchill is still strong in England, and Lloyd George, who probably wants to do business with us, dare not risk an open rupture with the political and financial interests supporting the Churchill policy.”

United States Oppresses Socialists

And America?”

It is hard to see clearly what is going on there. Your bankers seem to fear us more than ever. At any rate, your Government is instituting more violently repressive measures not only against the socialists but against the working class in general than any other government, even the reactionary French. Apparently it is persecuting foreigners. And yet, what would America be without her foreign workers? They are an absolute necessity to your economic development.

Still, some American manufacturers appear to have begun to realise that making money in Russia is wiser than. making war against Russia, which is a good sign. We shall need American manufactures- locomotives, automobiles, etc.-more than those of any other country.”

And your peace terms?”

It is idle to talk further about them,” Lenin returned emphatically. “All the world knows that we are prepared to make peace on terms the fairness of which even the most imperialistic capitalists could not dispute. We have reiterated and reiterated our desire for peace, our need for peace and our readiness to give foreign capital the most generous concessions and guarantees. But we do not propose to be strangled to death for the sake of peace.

I know of no reason why a socialistic commonwealth like ours cannot do business indefinitely with capitalistic countries. We don’t mind taking their capitalistic locomotives and farming machinery, so why should they mind taking our socialistic wheat, flax and platinum. Socialistic corn tastes the same as any other corn, does it not? Of course, they will have to have business relations with the dreadful Bolsheviks-that is, the Soviet Government. But it should not be harder for American steel manufacturers, for instance, to deal with the Soviets than it was for them to deal with Entente governments in their war-time munition deals.”

Europe Dependent on Russia

That is why this talk of reopening trade with Russia through co-operatives seems to us insincere, or at least, obscure-a move in a game of chess rather than a frank, straightforward proposition that would be immediately grasped and acted upon. Moreover, if the Supreme Council really means to lift the blockade, why doesn’t it tell us of its intentions? We are without official word from Paris. What little we know is derived from newspaper despatches picked up by our wireless.

The statesmen of the Entente and the United States do not seem to understand that Russia’s present economic distress is simply a part of the world’s economic distress. Until the economic problem is faced from a world standpoint and not merely from the standpoint of certain nations or group of nations, a solution is impossible. Without Russia, Europe cannot get on her feet. And with Europe prostrate, America’s position becomes critical. What good is America’s wealth if she cannot buy with it that which she needs?   America cannot eat or wear the gold she has accumulated, can she? She can’t trade profitably, that is, on a basis that will be of real value to her, with Europe until Europe is able to give her the things she wants in exchange for that which she has to give. And Europe cannot give her those things until she is on her feet economically.”

World Needs Russian Goods

In Russia we have wheat, flax, platinum, potash and many minerals of which the whole world stands in desperate need. The world must come to us for them in the end, Bolshevism or no Bolshevism. There are signs that a realisation of this truth is gradually awakening. But meanwhile not only Russia but all Europe is going to pieces, and the Supreme Council still indulges in tergiversation.[1] Russia can be saved from utter ruin and Europe too, but it must he done soon and quickly. And the Supreme Council is so slow, so very slow. In fact, it has already been dissolved, I believe, in favour of a Council of Ambassadors, leaving nothing settled and with only a League of Nations which is nonexistent, still-born, to take its place. How can the League of Nations possibly come to life without the United States to give it backbone!”

I inquired as to whether the Soviet Government was satisfied with the military situation.

Very much so,” Lenin replied promptly. “The only symptoms of further military aggression against us are those I spoke of in Poland. If Poland embarks on such an adventure there will be more suffering on both sides, more lives needlessly sacrificed. But even Foch could not give the Poles a victory. They could not defeat our Red Army even if Churchill himself fought with them.”

Here Lenin threw back his head and laughed grimly. Then he went on in a graver vein:

We can he crushed, of course, by any one of the big Allied Powers if they can send their own armies against us. But that they dare not do. The extraordinary paradox is that weak as Russia is compared with the Allies’ boundless   resources she has not only been able to shatter every armed force, including British, American and French troops that they have managed to send against her, but to win diplomatic and moral victories as well over the cordon sanitaire countries. Finland refused to fight against us. We have peace with Estonia, and peace with Serbia[2] and Lithuania[4] is at hand. Despite material inducements offered to and sinister threats made against these small countries by the Entente, they preferred to establish pacific relations with us.”

Internal Situation Hopeful

This assuredly demonstrates the tremendous moral force we hold. The Baltic states, our nearest neighbours, appreciate that we alone have no designs against their independence and well-being.”

And Russia’s internal situation?”

It is critical but hopeful. With spring the food shortage will be overcome to the extent at least of saving the cities from famine. There will be sufficient fuel then too. The reconstruction period is under way, thanks to the Red Army’s stupendous performances. Now parts of that army are transformed into armies of labour, an extraordinary phenomenon only possible in a country struggling toward a high ideal. Certainly it could not be done in capitalist countries. We have sacrificed everything to victory over our armed antagonists in the past; and now we shall turn all our strength to economic rehabilitation. It will take years, but we shall win out in the end.”

When do you think Communism will be complete in Russia?” The question was a poser, I thought, but Lenin replied immediately:

We mean to electrify our entire industrial system through power stations in the Urals and elsewhere. Our engineers tell us it will take ten years. When the electrification is accomplished it will be the first important stage on the road to the communistic administration of public   economic life. All our industries will receive their motive power from a common source, capable of supplying them all adequately. This will eliminate wasteful competition in the quest of fuel, and place manufacturing enterprise on a sound economic footing, without which we cannot hope to achieve a full measure of interchange of essential products in accordance with Communist principles.

Incidentally, in three years we expect to have 50,000,000 incandescent lamps burning in Russia. There are 70,000,000 in the United States, I believe, but in a land where electricity is in its infancy more than two-thirds of that number is a very high figure to achieve. Electrification is to my mind the most momentous of the great tasks that confront us.”

Scores Socialist Leaders

At the close of our talk Lenin delivered himself, not for publication, however, of some cutting criticism of certain Socialist leaders in Europe and America which revealed his lack of faith in the ability or even desire of these gentry to promote world revolution effectively. He evidently feels that Bolshevism will come to pass in spite of, rather than because of, the “official” chieftains of Socialism.


[1] 1 : evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement : EQUIVOCATION 2 : desertion of a cause, party, or faith. —L.I.A. Ed. —Lenin

[2] This is a mistake on the part of the newspaper. Serbia was not at war with Soviet Russia. This obviously refers to Latvia.—Ed.

[3] This interview was given by Lenin in the middle of February 1920, at a time when Soviet Russia, having gained a peaceful respite, was planning the country’s economic rehabilitation and reconstruction, and when the Soviet Government embarked on a broad programme for establishing diplomatic and commercial relations with the capitalist countries. Lincoln Eyre of The World was sent to Russia to obtain an interview from Lenin, and was received by him in the company of cameraman Victor Kubes. The interview was conducted in English, first in Lenin’s private office, then at his rooms in the Kremlin. It lasted an hour and touched on questions of topical interest. Lenin’s interview was published in The World and reprinted by many newspapers in Western Europe and America.

[4] The Peace Treaty between the R.S.F.S.R. and Lithuania was signed in Moscow on July 12, 1920. The Peace Treaty between the R.S.F.S.R. and Latvia was signed at Riga on August 11, 1920.

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