cleaned-up Jj Plant Lenin post

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Tue May 7 14:08:59 MDT 1996

(I got rid of the line-wrap problem with the post below. It would seem a
shame for folks to miss something as interesting because if was
unreadable. Maybe when the revolution comes, we'll all know how to avoid

From: Jj Plant <jplant at>

On Saturday 4 May 1996 The Guardian (a well known UK newspaper)
celebrated 175 of years of publication. In the course of this celebration,
it reprinted a full page from its October 21 1919 issue (when it
operated under its former name "The Manchester Guardian"),
including the following interview with Lenin.






The interview with Lenin had been a matter of some difficulty to
arrange; not because he is unapproachable - he goes about with as
little external trappings or precautions as myself - but because his time
is so precious. He, even more than the other Commissaries, is
continuously at work. But at last I had secured a free moment and
drove from my room, across the city, to one of the gates of the
Kremlin. I had taken the precaution at the beginning of my stay to
secure a pass that set me free from any possible molestation from
officials or police, and this gave me admission to the Kremlin
enclosure. Entrance to the Kremlin is naturally guarded; it is the seat
of the Executive Government; but the formalities are no more than
have to be observed at Buckingham Palace or the House of Commons.
A small wooden office beyond the bridge, where a civilian grants
passes, and a few soldiers, ordinary Russian soldiers, one of whom
receives and verifies the pass, were all there was to be seen at this
entrance. It is always said that Lenin is guarded by Chinese. There
were no Chinese here.

I entered, mounted the hill, and drove across to the building where
Lenin lives, in the direction of the large platform where formerly stood
the Alexander statue, now removed. At the foot of the staircase were
two more soldiers, Russian youths, but still no Chinese. I went up by a
lift to the top floor, where I found two other young Russian soldiers,
but no Chinese, nor in any of the three visits which I paid to the
Kremlin did I see any.

I hung up my hat and coat in the ante-chamber, passed through a room
in which clerks were at work, and entered the room in which the
Executive Committee of the Council of People's Commissaries holds
its meetings - in other words, the Council Chamber of the Cabinet of
the Soviet Republic. I had kept my appointment strictly to time, and
my companion passed on (rooms in Russia are always en suite) to let
Lenin know that I had arrived. I then followed into the room in which
Lenin works and waited a minute for his coming. Here let me say that
there is no magnificence about this suite of rooms. They are well and
solidly furnished; the Council Chamber is admirably arranged for its
purpose, but everything is simple, and there is an atmosphere of hard
work about everything. Of the meretricious splendour I had heard so
much there is not a trace.


I had but the time to make these observations, mentally, when Lenin
entered the room. He is a man of middle height, about fifty years old,
active, and well proportioned. His features, at first sight, seem to have
a slight Chinese cast, and his hair and pointed beard have a ruddy
brown tinge. The head is well domed, and his brow broad and well
raised. He has a pleasant expression in talking, and indeed his manner
can be described as distinctly prepossessing. He speaks clearly in a
well modulated voice, and throughout the interview he never hesitated
or betrayed the slightest confusion. Indeed, the one clearly cut
impression he left on one was that here was a clear, cold brain, a man
absolutely master of himself and of his subject, expressing himself
with a lucidity that was as startling as it was refreshing.

My companion had seated himself on the other side of the table to act
as interpreter in case of need; he was not wanted. After a word of
introduction I asked what I should speak, French or German. He
replied that if I did not object he would prefer to speak in English, and
that if I would only speak clearly and slowly he would be able to follow
everything. I agreed, and he was as good as his word, for only once
during the three- quarters of an hour that the meeting lasted did he
stumble at a word, and then only for an instant; he had seized me
meaning almost immediately.

The Questions.

I ought to state here that the thought of the interview had engaged me
>from the moment I had entered Russia. There were so many things I
wanted to know, scores of questions occurred to me, and to secure the
answers I longed to have would have required a discursive talk of
hours had I begun my task with this interview. But by leaving it to the
last my month's work had brought the answer to many of the
questions, and others had been settled by the radiographic interview
submitted from Lyons by a combination of American journalists.  It
behoved me therefore to utilise to the best advantage the time rigidly
apportioned to me, wedged in between two important meetings. I had
therefore reduced all my curiosity to three questions, to which the
authoritative answers could be given only by Lenin himself, the head
of the Government of the Soviet Republic. He knew quite well who I
was; he did not know what I wanted. There could therefore be no
question of preparation as far as he was concerned.

I had spoken of my questions to only one man, the commissary who
accompanied me, and he became very depressed and gave it as his
opinion that Lenin would not answer them. To his unfeigned
astonishment, the questions were answered promptly, simply and
decisively, and when the interview was ended my companion naively
expressed his wonderment.

The guidance of the interview was left to me. I began at once. I wanted
to know how far the proposals which Mr Bullitt took to the Conference
at Paris still held good. Lenin replied that they still held good, with
such modifications as the changing military situation might indicate.
Later he added that in the agreement with Bullitt it had been stated
that the changing military situation might bring in alterations.
Continuing, he said that Bullitt was unable to understand the strength
of British and American capitalism, but that if Bullitt were President
of the United States peace would soon be made.

Then I took up again the thread by asking what was the attitude of the
Soviet Republic to the small nations who had split off the Russian
Empire and had proclaimed their independence.

He replied that Finland's independence had been recognised in
November, 1917; that he (Lenin) had personally handed to
Swinhufrod, then head of the Finnish Republic, the paper on which
this recognition was officially stated; that the Soviet Republic had
announced some time previously that no soldiers of the Soviet
Republic would cross the frontier with arms in their hands; that the
Soviet Republic had decided to create a neutral strip or zone between
their territory and Esthonia, and would declare this publicly; that it
was their principle to recognise the independence of all small nations,
and that finally they had just recognised the independence of the
Bashkir Republic - and, he added, the Bashkir are a weak and
backward people.


For the third time I took up the questioning, asking what guarantees
could be offered against official propaganda among the Western
peoples, if by any chance relations with the Soviet Republic were
opened. His reply was that they had declared to Bullitt that they were
ready to sign an agreement not to make official propaganda. As a
Government they were ready to  undertake that no official propaganda
should take place. If private persons undertook propaganda they would
do it at their own risk and be amenable to the laws of the country in
which they acted. Russia has no laws, he said, against propaganda by
British people. England has such laws; therefore Russia is the more
liberal-minded. They would permit, he said, The British, or French, or
American Government to carry out propaganda of their own. He cried
out against the Defence of the Realm Act, and, as for freedom of the
press in France, he declared that he had just been reading Henri
Barbusse's novel "Clarte" in which there were two censored  patches.
"They censor novels in free, democratic France?"

I asked if he had any general statement to make, upon which he
replied that the most important thing for him to say was that the Soviet
system is the best, and that English workers and agricultural labourers
would accept it if they knew it. He hoped that after peace the British
Government would not prohibit the publication of the Soviet
Constitution. That, morally, the Soviet system is even now victorious,
and that the [proof of this statement is seen in the persecution of
Soviet literature in free, democratic countries.

My allotted time had expired, and, knowing that he was needed
elsewhere, I rose and thanked him, and making my way back though
Council Chamber and clerks' room to the stair and courtyard, where
were the young Russian guards, I picked up my droshky and drove
back to my room to think over my meeting with Vladimir Ulianoff.

[A new photograph of Lenin, taken in the courtyard of the Kremlin,
was brought back by Mr. Goode, and appears on another page.]


THE BULLITT PEACE TERMS. In the account of his mission in
Soviet Russia which Mr Bullitt gave to the Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations, he says that he received a note from Mr. Kerr, Mr.
Lloyd George's confidential secretary, giving the conditions upon
which, in Mr. Kerr's opinion, peace could be concluded with the
Bolsheviks. He took these with him to Moscow and received from the
Bolshevik Government a "projected peace proposal" which the
Bolsheviks were prepared on their part to accept if it should be put
forward formally by the Allies. This "peace proposal" may be
summarised as follows:-

1.    All the Governments formed within the territory of the old
Russian Empire to keep full power over the territories occupied by
them until the inhabitants should declare the form of Government
preferred by them.

2.    None of such Governments to overthrow another by force.

3.    The blockade of Russia to be raised.

4.    Re-establishment of commercial relations.

5.    All produce existing or received in Russia to be accessible to all
classes of the population, without any distinction.

6.    All the above Russian Governments to grant full and complete
amnesty to political opponents, soldiers included.

7.    The Allied troops to evacuate Russia.

8.    Simultaneous reduction of the Soviet and anti-Soviet armies to
peace footing.

9.    All the above Russian Governments to recognise, jointly, the
financial obligations of the former Russian Empire.

10.   Freedom of residence and movement of all Russian subjects over
all parts of Russia.

11.   Repatriation of all prisoners of war.

Mr Bullitt said that the Soviet Government wished to add a further
clause to these terms, viz.:-

      The Soviet Government is most anxious to have a semi-official
guaranty from the American and British Governments that they will
do their utmost to see to it that France lives up to the conditions of the

Mr Bullitt, however, says that he refused to embody this clause in his
final document.

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