In 1918, Lenin wrote an open letter to American workers, asking for their support in the global proletariat revolution.
NATHAN: A final note. In 1930, veterans of the Polar Bear expedition were honored with a monument near Detroit, in Troy, Michigan. It’s a scowling polar bear made of white marble. The surviving Polar Bears held annual reunions at the monument through the early 1980s.
JOANNE: We were just talking about the Wilson administration’s covert involvement in the Russian Civil War. In response, Lenin penned an open letter to American workers in August of 1918, around the same time that Wilson was sending troops into Russia.
NATHAN: In his note, Lenin critiqued Wilson’s choice to fight the Red Army, and the American war effort more broadly. But he also sought to remind America’s workers of the role they could play in the global proletariat revolution.
BRIAN: John Reed helped circulate the letter in the United States. It first appeared in socialist newspapers in New York and Boston in December 1918. Here’s some excerpts.
VLADIMIR LENIN: Comrades, a Russian Bolshevik who for many years lived in your country has offered to transmit these letters to you. I have grasped this opportunity joyfully for the revolutionary proletariat of America, insofar as it is the enemy of American imperialism is destined to perform an important task at this time.
The history of modern civilized America opens with one of those really revolutionary wars of liberation, of which there have been so few compared with the enormous number or wars, of conquest that were caused by the present imperialist war by squabbles among kings, landholders, and capitalists.
The best representatives of the American proletariat, those representatives who have repeatedly given expression to their full solidarity with us, the Bolsheviki, are the expression of this revolutionary tradition in the life of the American people. The American working class will not follow the lead of its bourgeoisie. It will go with us against the bourgeoisie.
We know that it may take a long time before help can come from you, comrades, American working men, for the development of the revolution in the different countries proceeds along various paths. How could it be otherwise?
We are in a beleaguered fortress so long as no other international socialist revolution comes to our assistance with its armies. While these armies exist, they are stronger than ours. They grow, they strive, they become more invincible the longer imperialism with its brutality continues. We are invincible, for invincible is the proletarian revolution.
BRIAN: That was Lenin’s letter to American workers. He wrote it in August 1918.