V. I. Lenin


To An American Journalist’s Questions[1]

Interviewed: 20 July,1919
First Published: Pravda No. 162, July 25, 1919; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 515-519
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

I answer the five questions put to me on condition of the fulfilment of the written promise that my answers will be printed in full in over a hundred newspapers in the United States of America.

1. The governmental programme of the Soviet Government was not a reformist, but a revolutionary one. Reforms are concessions obtained from a ruling class that retains its rule. Revolution is the overthrow of the ruling class. Reformist programmes, therefore, usually consist of many items of partial significance. Our revolutionary programme consisted properly of one general item—removal of the yoke of the landowners arid capitalists, the overthrow of their power and the emancipation of the working people from those exploiters. This programme we have never changed. Some partial measures aimed at the realisation of the programme have often been subjected to change; their enumeration would require a whole volume. I will only mention that there is one other general point in our governmental programme which has, perhaps, given rise to the greatest number of changes of partial measures. That point is—the suppression of the exploiters’ resistance. After the Revolution of October 25 (November 7), 1917 we did not close down even the bourgeois newspapers and there was no mention of terror at all. We released not only many of Kerensky’s ministers, but even Krasnov who had made war onus. It was only after the exploiters, i.e., the capitalists, had begun developing their resistance that we began to crush that resistance systematically, applying even terror. This was the proletariat’s response to such actions of the bourgeoisie as the conspiracy with the capitalists of Germany, Britain, Japan, America and France to restore the rule of the exploiters in Russia, the bribery of the Czechoslovaks with Anglo-French money, the bribery of Mannerheirn, Denikin and others with German and French money, etc. One of the latest conspiracies leading to “a change”—to put it precisely, leading to increased terror against the bourgeoisie in Petrograd—was that of the bourgeoisie, acting jointly with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries; their conspiracy concerned the surrender of Petrograd, the seizure of Krasnaya Gorka by officer-conspirators, the bribing by British and French capitalists of employees of the Swiss Embassy and of many Russian employees, etc.

2. The activities of our Soviet Republic in Afghanistan, India and other Moslem countries outside Russia are the same as our activities among the numerous Moslems and other non-Russian peoples inside Russia. We have made it possible, for instance, for the Bashkirian people to establish an autonomous republic within Russia, we are doing everything possible to help the independent, free development of every nationality, the growth and dissemination of literature in the native language of each of them, we are translating and propagandising our Soviet Constitution which has the misfortune to be more pleasing to more than a thousand million inhabitants of the earth who belong to colonial, dependent, oppressed, underprivileged nations than the constitutions of the West-European and American bourgeois—” democratic” states that perpetuate private property in land and capital, i.e., strengthen the oppression of the working people of their own countries and of hundreds of millions of people in the colonies of Asia, Africa, etc., by a small number of “civilised” capitalists.

3. As far as the Uhited States and Japan are concerned, our first political objective is to repulse their shameless, criminal, predatory invasion of Russia that serves only to enrich their capitalists. We have many times made solemn proposals of peace to both these countries, but they have not even answered us and continue to make war on us, helping Denikin and Kolchak, plundering Murmansk and Archangel, ruining and laying waste to, especially, Eastern Siberia, where the Russian peasants are offering heroic resistance to the capitalist bandits of Japan and the United States of America.

We have one further political and economic objective in respect of all peoples—including those of the United States and Japan—fraternal alliance with the workers and all working people of all countries without exception.

4. We have, on many occasions, given a precise, clear and written exposition of the terms upon which we agree to conclude peace with Kolchak, Denikin and Mannerheimfor instance to Bullitt[2] who conducted negotiations with us (and with me personally in Moscow) on behalf of the United States Government, in a letter to Nansen,[3] etc. It, is not our fault that the governments of the United States and other countries are afraid to publish those documents in full and that they hide the truth from the people. I will mention only our basic condition; we are prepared to pay all debts to France and other countries provided there is a real peace and not peace in words alone, i.e., if it is formally signed and ratified by the governments of Great Britain, France, the United States, Japan and Italy—Denikin, Koichak, Mannerheirn and the others being mere pawns in the hands of those governments.

5. More than anything else I should like to state the following to the American public:

Compared to feudalism, capitalism was an historical advance along the road of “liberty”, “equality”, “democracy” and “civilisation” . Nevertheless capitalism was, and remains, a system of wage-slavery, of the enslavement of millions of working people, workers and peasants, by an insignificant minority of modern slave-owners, landowners and capitalists. Bourgeois democracy, as compared to feudalism, has changed the form of this economic slavery, has created a brilliant screen for it but has not, and could not, change its essence. Capitalism and bourgeois democracy are wage-slavery.

The gigantic progress of technology in general, and of means of transport in particular, and the tremendous growth of capital and banks have resulted in capitalism becoming mature and over mature. It has outlived itself. It has become the most reactionary hindrance to human progress. It has become reduced to the absolute power of a handful of millionaires and multimillionaires who send whole nations into a bloodbath to decide whether the German or the Anglo-French group of plunderers is to obtain the spoils of imperialism, power over the colonies, financial “spheres of influence” or “mandates to rule” , etc.

During the war of 1914-18 tens of millions of people were killed or mutilated for that reason and for that reason alone. Knowledge of this truth is spreading with, indomitable force and rapidity among the working people of all countries, the more so because the war has everywhere caused unparalleled ruin, and because interest on war debts has to be paid everywhere, even by the “victor” nations. What is this interest? It is a tribute of thousands of millions to the millionaire gentlemen who were kind enough to allow tens of millions of workers and peasants to kill and maim one another to settle the question of the division of profits by the capitalists.

The collapse of capitalism is inevitable. The revolutionary consciousness of the masses is everywhere growing; there are thousands of signs of this. One small, sign, unimportant, but impressive to the man in the street, is the novels written by Henri Barbusse (Le Feu, Clarté) who was a peaceful, modest, law-abiding petty bourgeois, a philistine, a man in the street, when lie went to the war.

The capitalists, the bourgeoisie, can at “best” put off the victory of socialism in one country or another at the cost of slaughtering further hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants. But they cannot save capitalism. The Soviet Republic has come to take the place of capitalism, the Republic which gives power to the working people and only to the working people, which entrusts the proletariat with the guidance of their liberation, which abolishes private property in land, factories and other means of production, because this private property is the source of the exploitation of the many by the few, the source of mass poverty, the source of predatory wars between nations, wars that enrich only the capitalists.

The victory of the world Soviet republic is certain.

A brief illustration in conclusion: the American bourgeoisie are deceiving the, people by boasting of the liberty, equality and democracy of their country. But neither this nor, any other bourgeoisie nor any government in the world can accept, it is afraid to accept, a contest with our government on the basis of real liberty, equality and democracy; let us suppose that an agreement ensured our government and any other government freedom to exchange ... pamphlets published in the name of the government in any language and containing the text of the laws of the given country, the text of its constitution, and an explanation of its superiority over the others.

Not one bourgeois government in the world would dare conclude such a peaceful, civilised, free, equal, democratic treaty with us.

Why? Because all of them, with the exception of Soviet governments, keep in power by the oppression and deception of the masses. But the great war of 1914-18 exposed the great deception.

July 20, 1919


[1] The five questions put to Lenin by the United Press Agency were:
1. Has the Russian Soviet Republic introduced any small or big changes into the original government programme of domestic and foreign policy and into the economic programme, when and what changes?
2. What tactics does the Russian Soviet Republic pursue in respect of Afghanistan, India and other Moslem countries out-side the frontiers of Russia?
3. What political and economic aims do you pursue in respect of the United States and Japan?
4. On what terms would you be willing to conclude peace with Kolchak Denikin and Mannerheim?
5. What else would you care to bring to the notice of American public opinion?

The Left socialist journal The Liberator published an article in October 1919 under the heading “A Statement and a Challenge” in which it gave Lenin’s answer to the fifth question. In an editorial note the journal said that the United Press Agency had distributed Lenin’s answers to the newspapers but had omitted the fifth as being purely Bolshevik propaganda.

[2] The talks with William Bullitt, who came to Moscow on the instructions of President Wilson of the U.S.A., took place in March 1919. The Soviet Government introduced a number of amendments and addenda to the proposals submitted by the U.S.A. and Britain after which a draft agreement was drawn up. Those governments did not accept the Soviet proposals because Kolchak had begun his offensive in the spring of that year and they hoped for the rout of the Soviet forces.

[3] The letter to Fridtjof Nansen (the Norwegian Arctic explorer) on the Soviet Government’s readiness to start talks with the Entente governments on the cessation of hostilities was dispatched by the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs on May 7, 1919. The Soviet Government’s proposal was transmitted by Nansen to the Entente governments but no replies were received.