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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 18, April 20, 2013

Lenin and New International Economic Order

Monday 22 April 2013, by Anil Rajimwale

April 22 this year marks V.I. Lenin’s 143rd birth anniversary. On this occasion we are carrying the following piece by a well-known Marxist ideologue and senior CPI leader.

It was way back in 1922 that Lenin advanced the concept of new international economic order (NIEO). That was in the context of the Genoa conference of European nations, where a reordering and reconstruction of the post-First World War Europe was to be discussed, basically in the economic field. It was also in this context that Lenin presented his theses on peaceful coexistence between countries of different social systems.

It is interesting to note that many of these concepts are more relevant today, particularly when we are discussing events like BRICS. The question relates to what positions the developing and socialist-oriented countries should adopt in the long period of transition to a new society based on justice and equality.

When one goes through the writings of Lenin of the period 1920-23, one is struck by the extreme maturity, realism and scientific attitude adopted by him. He did not give a call for immediate socialist revolutions in all the countries, as the Trotskyites have the habit to do. He weighed the existing situation in Europe and the world, and made it clear that Soviet Russia was ready take part in the NIEO on just and equitable basis. His interviews at the time are a lesson for us even today in their realism, flexibility and independence. Having led the Soviet Revolution in 1917, Lenin now was quite prepared to establish lasting and peaceful economic and other relations with the countries of the West.

In reply questions put to him by the Berlin correspondent of the Universal Service, he uses
the word ‘peaceful coexistence’ in the USSR’s relations with the Western countries, both the governments and the peoples. He emphasises the need for peace and development in Asia, Europe and the world over. When asked what would be the basis of peace with America, Lenin answered: “Let the American capitalists leave us alone. We shall not touch them. We are even ready to pay them in gold for any machinery, tools, etc. useful to our transport and industries. We are ready pay not only in gold but in raw materials too.” Russia was prepared to exchange grain, flax etc. for machinery from Europe. Lenin clearly stated that Soviet Russia was ready to enter into business relations with America and other Western countries. Russia was even prepared to give industrial concessions.

A number of international economic conferences were held in Genoa, Lausanne, The Hague etc. wherein dozens of countries took part including Soviet Russia. Lenin spent much time in preparing economic documents of trade and exchange, though he himself could not go because of ill-health.

The Communists in Soviet Russia and elsewhere were at first at a loss to understand what Lenin was trying to convey so soon after a great Revolution had been made. Lenin therefore emphasised that the Communists and Russian Government must understand how to trade, how to behave as traders and not as ‘revolutionaries’ in the strict sense of term. He repeatedly underlined that “from the very beginning we declared that we understand Genoa and would attend it”. “We are establishing relations as merchants; we know what your are...,” he said

Lenin’s correspondence with G.V. Chicherin on these questions is highly illuminating. Chicherin was the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs (Foreign Minister) and a highly respected figure of the Russian Revolution. Lenin had high praise for his economic proposals. Lenin approved of the plans to participate in the international order on an equal basis. He said that the Soviet regime was ready to contribute to the betterment of the world economy in cooperation with the Western countries, while simultaneously opposing any interference. An extensive programme of world-wide economic cooperation was essential. Chicherin and Lenin proposed that a train line from London through Moscow to Vladivostok be constructed to further economic cooperation.

Lenin asked the revolutionaries to learn modern post-revolution realities and act accor-dingly.

Decades after the Russian Revolution, there is much to learn from Lenin’s great theoretical and practical work. He used the dialectical method to act in the new and changing circumstances. Today, China and other countries, ruled by the Communist Parties, are facing problems of development of the economy and productive forces. China has taken several new initiatives. The countries of the BRICS are trying to play a positive economic and independent role in the world economy, when for the first time in history, they are posing a challenge to the advanced countries in the field of the economy.

The scientific writngs of Lenin in this field provide us a flexible and dialectical approach to the new world economic challenges.

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