There has long been a dispute as to whether Keynes's attribution to Lenin of the statement that “the best way to destroy the capitalist system [is] to debauch the currency” was authentic or apocryphal. It has been resolved.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
Research by two eminent monetary scholars, Michael V. White and Kurt Schuler published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives as Retrospectives: Who Said “Debauch the Currency”: Keynes or Lenin? concludes that Keynes’s attribution to Lenin was authentic.
They introduce the controversy by noting:
"Nearly 60 years later, the economist and economic historian Frank W. Fetter (1977, pp. 77, 78) observed that “the story [about Lenin’s remarks] has circulated among economists, journalists, businessmen, politicians and bankers” since then. Fetter doubted, however, that Keynes was really quoting Lenin. After extensive inquiries, Fetter reported that no such statement could be found in Lenin’s published writings and that the “first attribution in English, and probably in any language,” was by Keynes.
Given the hostility of classical liberals both to Lenin and Keynes it is of more than passing interest to note, as did the scholars, Lenin's use of, and hostility toward, Keynes who he termed "British philistine," observing that Keynes had "arrived at conclusions which are more weighty, more striking and more instructive than any a Communist revolutionary could draw."
Lenin argued that Keynes had concluded that “Europe and the whole world are headed for bankruptcy. He has resigned, and thrown his book in the government’s face with the words: ‘what you are doing is madness.’” Lenin (1920 , pp. 220, 227) approved of Keynes’s proposals for settling intergovernmental debt, sardonically suggesting that they were equivalent to the Soviet government’s: “As you know . . . these [Russian] debts do not disturb us, because we followed Keynes’s excellent advice just a little before his book appeared—we annulled all our debts (Stormy applause.)”