Written: March 1919, Ludovic Naudeau, special correspondent of Les temps, and first published in English in The Manchester Guardian;
Source: The Furnishing Worker (Australia), August 4, 1919, under the headline “An Interview With Head of Soviet Russia, Will Deal with Nations who Respect Soviet Principles, States the World is Moving Inevitably to Socialism.”
Public Domain: this text is free of copyright;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.
We are exceedingly anxious to adapt ourselves to circumstances during the period of transition through which Europe is passing. Can a communal State like ours, surrounded by capitalist States, exist? Why not? Of course it is very difficult for a people like the Russian people, young and little developed, to live without numerous ties with neighbouring and more advanced nations. We need technicians, scientists, and all the apparatus of universal industry. Particularly to-day, when the productive powers of Russia are destroyed, we are unable alone to develop the immense resources of this country. Under such conditions, however disagreeable the admission, we must admit that our principles, though applying within our own frontiers, must beyond our frontiers give place to political agreements which will allow us to live. Thus we very seriously propose to recognise that we must pay the income on foreign loans, and, as we have no money, we shall pay it with corn, oil, and all kinds of raw materials of which we shall have enough once normal production is resumed.
We have decided to grant timber and mining concessions to the citizens of the Entente Powers, on condition that the essential principles of Soviet Russia are respected. Further, we should be resigned to ceding territories of the old Russian Empire to certain Entente Powers. English, Japanese, and American capitalists are very anxious for such concessions. As for France, we are not clear. There seems to be two opposed currents in France so far as we are concerned. We shall not resist any responsible demands that will give us peace. If too much is asked we shall fight and defend ourselves. The Western Powers are beginning to see that it is not quite so easy to make war on us as they thought at first. An honest peace would be the best thing for the whole world. We are ready to make a bargain.
To show our sincerity, I can tell you that we have granted a concession to an international company for the building of the Veliki Severni Pont — that is to say, the Great Northern Railway. It is a line three thousand versts long, to run from Soroka, a station on the middle of the Murman railway, via Kotlas and the Urals, to the junction of the Obi and the Irtish. Immense virgin forests of eight millions of hectares and all kinds of unexploited mines will fall within the domain of the construction company. As we have not the means to develop these ourselves, there is no harm in giving the job to a foreign country. It is a case of ceding property of the State for a fixed term, probably eight years, with the right of repurchasing. Our conditions will not be hard. The laws of the Soviet fixing the eight-hour day and control by workmen’s organisations will be respected, and that will suffice. Of course, this is a great departure from pure communism, and there has been much controversy over the project, but we have decided to accept what the period of transition through which we are passing renders necessary. The Bolshevik Government will keep any bond it signs.
You ask me about the future of the world? I am no prophet, but of this I am sure: that the old State of capitalists and free trade, such as England was, is dying. The State of the future will monopolise everything, buy everything, sell everything. The evolution of the world is moving inevitably towards Socialism. There are various transitional forms and phases, but the goal is one. Who would have believed a few years ago in the possibility of the nationalisation of the railways in America, or that this republic would buy up all the wheat to put it to the use most convenient to the State? The League of Nations will be extremely difficult to constitute, but out of these experiments a new form of civilisation will in the end emerge. Clearly, our communist experience here is not a decisive proof. Russia is a nation apart, whose intellectual culture does not correspond at all to Western culture. The land question here has problems unknown to you. Remember that private rural property was created only a few years ago by Stolypin. In Russia, when the old autocratic government founded there was no power to oppose the explosion of the social revolution. In Germany and in France, where the ancient pillars are enormously more solid than they were with us, a revolution is much more difficult to commence than was the case in Russia.
On the other hand, if a Socialist regime established itself in France or in Germany, it would be much easier with them than with us to perpetuate it. Socialism would find in the West the staffs, the talent, the organism, every variety of intellectual and material help which we lack here.
I sum up by saying that experience proves that every human group is moving towards Socialism by its own road. The old world can no longer exist. The economic situation engendered by the war will precipitate its downfall. All that has been said, all that can be said, against the State as employer has not prevented or checked this evolution. The remedy the defects of the State employer we shall have to strike out new forms of control, but to-day it is hopeless to prevent the State becoming the employer. That it must happen will come as by its own weight.