V. I. Lenin
Original publication: marxists.org

Civilized Barbarism (1913)

2 minutes | English | The Soviet Union

Britain and France are the most civilized countries in the world. London and Paris are the world’s capitals, with populations of six and three million, respectively. The distance between them is an eight- to nine-hour journey. One can imagine how great is the commercial intercourse between these two capitals, what masses of goods and of people are constantly moving from the one to the other. And yet the richest, the most civilized and the freest countries in the world are now discussing, in fear and trepidation — by no means for the first time! — the “difficult” question of whether a tunnel can be built under the English Channel (which separates Britain from the European Continent).

Engineers have long been of the opinion that it can. The capitalists of Britain and France have mountains of money. Profit from capital invested in such an enterprise would be absolutely certain. What, then, is holding the matter up?

Britain is afraid of — invasion! A tunnel, you see, would, “if anything should happen,” facilitate the invasion of Britain by enemy troops. That is why the British military authorities have, not for the first time, wrecked the plan to build the tunnel. The madness and blindness of the civilized nations makes astonishing reading. Needless to say, it would take only a few seconds with modern technical devices to bring traffic in the tunnel to a halt, and to wreck the tunnel completely. But the civilized nations have driven themselves into the position of barbarians.

Capitalism has brought about a situation in which the bourgeoisie, in order to hoodwink the workers, is compelled to frighten the British people with idiotic tales about “invasion.” Capitalism has brought about a situation in which a whole group of capitalists who stand to lose “good business” through the digging of the tunnel are doing their utmost to wreck this plan and hold up technical progress. The Britishers’ fear of the tunnel is fear of themselves.

Capitalist barbarism is stronger than civilization. On all sides, at every step one comes across problems which man is quite capable of solving immediately, but capitalism is in the way. It has amassed enormous wealth — and has made men the slaves of this wealth. It has solved the most complicated technical problems — and has blocked the application of technical improvements because of the poverty and ignorance of millions of the population, because of the stupid avarice of a handful of millionaires.

Civilization, freedom and wealth under capitalism call to mind the rich glutton who is rotting alive but will not let what is young live on. But the young is growing and will emerge supreme in spite of all.