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About the text:

From: V.I. Lenin: On Imperialism and Opportunism, Futura 1974, 103 p., pp. 82-84


Written 12 March, 1919
First published in the Fourth
(Russian) Edition of
the”Collected Works”.


2. Replies to Written Questions.


The other unclear note contains the following. What is to be done when workers, misled by the appeals of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, do not work, go on strike, and come out against Soviet power because of the food shortage? I cannot, of course, count on all workers, down to the last, supporting Soviet power. When the Paris workers revolted in 1871, quite a large number of workers in other towns fought against them in the whiteguard troops and crushed the Paris workers. That did not prevent politically-conscious socialists from asserting that the Paris Communards represented the entire proletariat, that is, all that was best and honest – only backward sections of the workers served in the whiteguard troops. We, too, have backward workers who are not politically conscious and who have not yet understood Soviet power; we are doing our best to enlighten them. No other government has satisfied the demands for standing representative bodies of workers to the extent the Soviets have, which are willing to give any representative of a factory a place in a government institution. We are, as far as possible, drawing workers into the implementation of the policy of the state; under capitalism, even in republics, the workers were kept out of it but Soviet power does its best to attract workers, although some of them will feel the attraction of the old quite a long time to come.

There are very few people among you, probable only an individual or two, who remember serfdom; only very old people can remember that, but there are people who remember what things were like thirty or forty years ago. Any one who was in the rural districts knows that some thirty years ago there were quite a number of old people in the villages who said, “It was better under serfdom, there was more order, things were strict and the women did not dress extravagantly.” If you now read Gleb Uspensky – we are erecting a monument to him as one of the best writers about peasant life – you will find descriptions dating back to the eighties and nineties of honest old peasants and sometimes just ordinary elderly people who said frankly that it had been better under serfdom. When an old social order is destroyed it cannot be destroyed immediately in the minds of all people, there will always be some who are drawn to the old.

Some workers, printers, for instance, say that capitalism was good, there were a lot of newspapers whereas now there are few, in those days they earned a decent wage and they do not want any socialism. There were quite a number of branches of industry that depended on the rich classes or on the production of articles of luxury. Under capitalism quite a number of workers in big cities lived by producing articles of luxury. In the Soviet Republic we shall have to leave these workers unemployed for a time. We shall say to them, “Get down to some other, useful work.” And the worker will say, “I did delicate work, I was a jeweller, it was clean work, I worked for gentlemen; now the muzhik is in power, the gentlemen have been scattered and I want to go back to capitalism.” Such people will preach going back to capitalism, or, as the Mensheviks say, going forward to healthy capitalism and sound democrary. A few hundred workers are to be found who will say, “We lived well under a healthy capitalism.” The people who lived well under capitalism were an insignificant minority – we defend the interests of the majority that lived badly under capitalism. (Applause.) Healthy capitalism led to world slaughter in the countries with the greatest freedom. There can be no healthy capitalism, there can be capitalism of the sort obtaining in the freest republic, one like the American republic, cultured, rich, technically developed; and that democratic and most republican capitalism, led to the most savage world slaughter over the plunder of the whole world. Out of fifteen million workers you will find a few thousand who lived well under capitalism. In the rich countries there are more such workers because they work for a greater number of millionaires and multimillionaires. They served that handful and received particularly high wages from them. Take hundreds of British millionaires – they have accumulated thousands of millions because they have plundered India and a large number of colonies. It meant nothing to them to make gifts to 10,000 or 20,000 workers, giving them double or higher wages so that they would work well for them. I once read the reminiscences of an American barber whom a multimillionaire paid a dollar a day to shave him. And that barber wrote a whole book praising that multimillionaire and his own wonderful life. For a daily visit of one hour to his financial majesty he received a dollar, was satisfied and did not want anything but capitalism. We have to be on our guard against such an argument. The vast majority of workers were not in such a position. We, the Communists of the whole world, defend the interests of the vast majority of working people, and it was a small minority of working people whom the capitalists bribed with high wages and made them the loyal servants of capital. [43] Under serfdom there were people, peasants, who said to the landowners, “We are your slaves (that was after emancipation), we shall not leave you.” Were there many of them? An insignificant few. Can you deny that there was a struggle against serfdom by reference to them? Of course not. And today communism cannot be denied by reference to the minority of workers who earned good money on bourgeois newspapers, on the production of articles of luxury and for their personal services to multimillionaires. (…)

LCW Vol. 29, p. 27-30.

[43] “Gotfred Appel: There Will Come a Day …”, Futura, 1971, p. 18.

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