V. I. Lenin

Speech Delivered at the

Ninth All-Russia Conference of the Russian Communist Party


September 22, 1920

Newspaper Report

Delivered: 22 September, 1920
First Published: Pravda No. 216,September 29. 1920; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 275-279
Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. 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

The war against Poland, or, to be more precise, the July-August campaign, has radically changed the international political situation.

The Poles’ attack against us was preceded by an episode typical of the international relations existing at the time. When, in January, we offered Poland peace terms that were most favourable to her and most unfavourable to us, the diplomatists of all lands interpreted the fact in their own way: since the Bolsheviks were making such tremendous concessions, that should be taken to mean that they were very weak. This was merely more confirmation of bourgeois diplomacy’s inability to understand the methods employed by our new diplomacy, that of direct and frank declarations. That was why our proposals evoked merely an outburst of savage chauvinism in Poland, France and other countries, and prompted Poland to attack us. At first the Poles captured Kiev, but our forces’ counter-attack then brought them right up to Warsaw. Then came a turn in the events, and we fell back for over a hundred versts.

The undoubtedly difficult situation that resulted has not been a total loss to us. We have completely upset the diplomatists’ expectations to make use of our weakness and have proved that Poland cannot defeat us, whereas we have never been and are not far from victory over Poland. At present we still hold a hundred versts of captured territory. Finally, our advance on Warsaw has had such a powerful effect on Western Europe and on the entire world situation that it has profoundly changed the alignment of the struggling internal and external political forces.

Our army’s close approach to Warsaw has incontestably shown that the centre of world imperialism’s entire system, which rests on the Treaty of Versailles, lies somewhere very close to the Polish capital. Poland, the last anti-Bolshevik stronghold fully controlled by the Entente, is such an important element in that system that when the Red Army threatened that stronghold the entire structure was shaken. The Soviet Republic has become a major factor in world politics.

The new situation which has arisen has, in the first place, revealed the tremendously significant fact that the bourgeoisie of the Entente-oppressed countries is in the main for us, and these countries contain seventy per cent of the world’s population. We have already seen that the small states, which have had such a bad time under Entente tutelage (Estonia, Georgia, etc.), and have been hanging their Bolsheviks, have made peace with us, against the will of the Entente. This has been manifesting itself with special force throughout the world. All Germany began to seethe when our forces approached Warsaw. In that country a situation arose very much like that which could be seen in Russia in 1905, when the Black Hundreds aroused and involved in political life large and most backward sections of the peasantry, which were opposed to the Bolsheviks one day, and on the next were demanding all the land from the landed proprietors. In Germany too we have seen a similar unnatural bloc between the Black Hundreds and the Bolsheviks. There has appeared a strange type of Black-Hundred revolutionary, like the backward rustic youth from East Prussia who, as I read in a German non-Bolshevik newspaper the other day, says that the Kaiser will have to return because there is no order, but one has to follow the Bolsheviks.

Our presence at the walls of Warsaw has had, as another consequence, a powerful effect on the revolutionary movement in Europe, particularly in Britain. Though we have not been able to affect the industrial proletariat of Poland beyond the Vistula and in Warsaw (this being one of the main reasons for our defeat), we have succeeded in influencing the British proletariat and in raising the movement there to an unprecedented level, to an absolutely new stage in the revolution. When the British Government presented an ultimatum to us, it transpired that it would first have to consult the British workers. The latter, nine-tenths of whose leaders are out-and-out Mensheviks, replied to the ultimatum by forming a Council of Action.[2]

Alarmed by these developments, the British press raised a hullabaloo about what it called.this “duality of government”. It had every reason to say so. Britain found herself at the same stage of political relationships as Russia after February 1917, when the Soviets were obliged to scrutinise every step taken by the bourgeois government. This Council of Action unites all workers, irrespective of party, just like our All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the period when Gotz, Dan and others were running things, a kind of association which runs parallel with the government, and in which the Mensheviks are forced to act in a semi-Bolshevik way. Just as our Mensheviks finally got confounded and helped win over the masses to our side, the Mensheviks in the Council of Action have been forced by the inexorable course of events to clear the way to the Bolshevist revolution for the worker masses of Britain. According to testimony by competent persons, the British Mensheviks already consider themselves a government, and are prepared to replace the bourgeois government in the near future. This will be the next step in the general process of the British proletarian revolution.

These tremendous changes in the British working-class movement are exerting a powerful influence on the world working-class movement, and first and foremost on the working-class movement in France.

Such are the results of our recent Polish campaign in its effect on world politics and the relations emerging in Western Europe.

We are now faced with the question of war or peace with Poland. We want to avoid a winter campaign that will be hard on us, and are again offering Poland a peace that is to her advantage and our disadvantage. However, the bourgeois diplomatists, following their old habit, may possibly interpret our frank statement as a sign of weakness. They have probably decided on a winter campaign. At this stage we have to ascertain the conditions in which we shall probably have to enter a new period of the war.

In Western Europe our defeat has brought about certain changes and rallied against us heterogeneous elements that are hostile to us. However, we have on more than one occasion seen even more powerful groups and currents hostile to us, which nevertheless could not achieve anything.

We have against us a bloc consisting of Poland, France and Wrangel. France pins her hopes on the latter. However, this bloc suffers from the same old malady-the antagonism among its elements, and the fear felt by the Polish petty bourgeoisie with regard to Black-Hundred Russia and to Wrangel, its typical representative. Petty-bourgeois and patriotic Poland, the Polish Socialist Party, the Ludowa Party, i.e., the well-to-do peasants-all of these want peace. Here is what spokesmen of these parties said to us in Minsk, “We know that it was not the Entente that saved Warsaw and Poland; it was unable to save us. It was the upsurge of patriotism, that saved us.” Such lessons are not to be forgotten. The Poles realise very clearly that this war will ruin them financially. War has to be paid for, and France upholds the “sanctity of private property”. The representatives of the petty-bourgeois parties are aware that Poland was on the eve of a crisis even before the war, and that a war will mean further ruination; that is why they prefer peace. We want to make use of this by offering peace to Poland.

Another factor of the utmost importance has appeared the change in the social composition of the Polish army. We defeated Kolchak and Denikin only after the social composition of their armies had changed, when their basic cadres were watered down in the mass of mobilised peasants. The same kind of process is under way in the Polish army, the government has been obliged to call up workers and peasants of the older age groups, who have gone through the even harsher imperialist war. This army is now made up, not of youngsters, who can easily be “brain-washed”, but of older men, who will not let themselves be talked over. Poland has passed the point which at first assured her total victory, and then total defeat.

If we have to wage a winter campaign, we shall win despite exhaustion and fatigue. There can be no doubt on that score. Our economic situation also vouches for that outcome. It has improved considerably. Compared with last year, we have acquired a firm economic basis. 11 11917-18 we gathered in 30 million poods of grain, in 1918-19- 110 million poods, and in 1919-20-260 million; next year we expect to collect 400 million poods. These are far higher figures than those of the time when we struggled desperately to make both ends meet. No longer shall we look with such horror upon the multi-coloured banknotes that run into the thousands of millions, and today clearly show us that they are the wreckage, the tatters, of the old bourgeois vestments.

We now have over a hundred million poods of oil. The Donets Basin now provides us with between twenty and thirty million poods of coal a month. The firewood situation has greatly improved. As recently as last year we had only firewood-no oil or coal.

All this gives us the right to say that, if we close our ranks and bend every effort, we shall win the victory.


[1] The Ninth All-Russia Conference of the R.C.P.(B.), held in Moscow from September 22 to September 25, 1920, was attended by 241 delegates (110 with the right to vote and 125 with voice but no vote). Among the items on the agenda were: the political and organisational reports of the Central Committee; the immediate tasks of Party development; a report of the commission in charge of the Party history studies, and a report on the Second Congress of the Communist International. The Conference also heard a report from the Polish Communists’ delegate. Lenin opened the Conference, delivered the Central Committee’s political report, and took the floor during the debate on the immediate tasks of Party development. The political report dealt mainly with the two subjects-the question of war and peace with Poland, and the organisation of Wrangel’s defeat. The Conference passed a unani- mous resolution on the conditions of peace with Poland, and approved the statement by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on the specific peace terms drawn up on Lenin’s instructions and edited by Lenin. The resolution on “The Immediate Tasks of Party Development” provided for practical measures to extend inner-Party democracy, strengthen Party unity and discipline, combat red tape in government and economic bodies and improve the communist training of young Party members. The Conference deemed it necessary to set up a Control Commission, to be elected at Party congresses, and Party commissions under gubernia Party committees, to be elected at gubernia Party conferences. The Conference gave a rebuff to the “Democratic Centralism” group, who denied Party discipline and the Party’s guiding role in the Soviets and the trade unions.

[2] The Council of Action was set up at a joint conference of representatives from the Parliamentary Committee of the trade unions, the Labour Party Executive Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party on August 9, 1920. Its aim was to prevent Britain making war on Russia. Besides the Central Council of Action in London, local councils of action were also set up. There were 150 councils by the end of August, the figure doubling within the next month. The Communist Party was largely instrumental in getting councils organised. It called upon its members to extend Communist representation in the councils and to win key positions on the strike committees in order to “withstand any attempts by trade union and Labour leaders to frustrate the desires of the rank and file, by capitulating at the crucial moment” (The (Communist No. 2, London, August 12, 1920).