Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.)

MARCH 7, 1918



Political Report Of The Central Committee

March 7

A political report might consist of an enumeration of measures taken by the Central Committee; but the essential thing at the present moment is not a report of this kind, but a review of our revolution as a whole; that is the only thing that can provide a truly Marxist substantiation of all our decisions. We must examine the whole preceding course of development of the revolution and ascertain why the course of its further development has changed. There have been turning-points in our revolution that will have enormous significance for the world revolution. One such turning-point was the October Revolution.

The first successes of the February Revolution were due to the fact that the proletariat was followed, not only by the masses of the rural population, but also by the bourgeoisie. Hence, the easy victory over tsarism, something we had failed to achieve in 1905. The spontaneous formation of Soviets of Workers’ Deputies in the February Revolution was a repetition of the experience of 1905—we had to proclaim the principle of Soviet power. The masses learned the tasks of the revolution from their own experience of the struggle. The events of April 20-21[2] were a peculiar combination of demonstrations and of something in the nature of armed uprising. This was enough to cause the fall of the bourgeois government. Then began the long period of the collaboration policy, which stemmed from the very nature of the petty-bourgeois government that had come to power. The July events[3] could not then establish the dictatorship of the proletariat—the masses were still not prepared for it. That was why not one of the responsible organisations called upon them to establish it. But as a reconnoitring operation in the enemy’s camp, the July events were of enormous significance. The Kornilov revolt[4] and the subsequent events served as practical lessons and made possible the October victory. The mistake committed by those who even in October wished to divide power[5] was their failure to connect the October victory with the July days, with the offensive, with the Kornilov revolt, etc., etc., events which caused the millions of the common people to realise that Soviet power had become inevitable. Then followed our triumphal march throughout Russia, accompanied by a universal desire for peace. We know that we cannot achieve peace by a unilateral withdrawal from the war. We pointed to this as far back as the April Conference. In the period from April to October, the soldiers clearly realised that the policy of collaboration was prolonging the war and was leading to the savage, senseless attempts of the imperialists to start an offensive and to get still more entangled in a war that would last for years. That was the reason why it was necessary at all costs to adopt an active policy of peace as quickly as possible, why it was necessary for the Soviets to take power into their own hands, and abolish landed proprietorship. You know that the latter was upheld not only by Kerensky but also by Avksentyev, who even went so far as to order the arrest of the members of the Land Committees. The policy we adopted, the slogan of “Power to the Soviets”, which we instilled into the minds of the majority of the people, enabled us, in October, to achieve victory very easily in St. Petersburg, and transformed the last months of the Russian revolution into one continuous triumphal march.

Civil war became a fact. The transformation of the imperialist war into civil war, which we had predicted at the beginning of the revolution, and even at the beginning of the war, and which considerable sections of socialist circles treated skeptically and even with ridicule, actually took place on October 25, 1917, in one of the largest and most backward of the belligerent countries. In this civil war the overwhelming majority of the population proved to be on our side, and that is why victory was achieved with such extraordinary ease.

The troops who abandoned the front carried with them wherever they went the maximum of revolutionary determination to put an end to collaboration; and the collaborationist elements, the whiteguards and the landowners’ sons found themselves without support among the population. The war against them gradually turned into a victorious triumphal march of the revolution as the masses of the people and the military units that were sent against us came over to the side of the Bolsheviks. We saw this in Petrograd, on the Gatchina front, where the Cossacks, whom Kerensky and Krasnov tried to lead against the Red capital, wavered; we saw this later in Moscow, in Orenburg and in the Ukraine. A wave of civil war swept over the whole of Russia, and everywhere we achieved victory with extraordinary ease precisely because the fruit had ripened, because the masses had already gone through the experience of collaboration with the bourgeoisie. Our slogan “All Power to the Soviets”, which the masses had tested in practice by long historical experience, had become part of their flesh and blood.

That is why the Russian revolution was a continuous triumphal march in the first months after October 25, 1917. As a result of this the difficulties which the socialist revolution immediately encountered, and could not but encounter, were forgotten, were pushed into the background. One of the fundamental differences between bourgeois revolution and socialist revolution is that for the bourgeois revolution, which arises out of feudalism, the new economic organisations are gradually created in the womb of the old order, gradually changing all the aspects of feudal society.The bourgeois revolution faced only one task—to sweep away, to cast aside, to destroy all the fetters of the preceding social order. By fulfilling this task every bourgeois revolution fulfils all that is required of it; it accelerates the growth of capitalism.

The socialist revolution is in an altogether different position. The more backward the country which, owing to the zigzags of history, has proved to be the one to start the socialist revolution, the more difficult is it for that country to pass from the old capitalist relations to socialist relations. New incredibly difficult tasks, organisational tasks, are added to the tasks of destruction. Had not the popular creative spirit of the Russian revolution, which had gone through the great experience of the year 1905, given rise to the Soviets as early as February 1917, they could not under any circumstances have assumed power in October, because success depended entirely upon the existence of available organisational forms of a movement embracing millions. The Soviets were the available form, and that is why in the political sphere the future held out to us those brilliant successes, the continuous triumphal march, that we had; for the new form of political power was already available, and all we had to do was to pass a few decrees, and transform the power of the Soviets from the embryonic state in which it existed in the first months of the revolution into the legally recognised form which had become established in the Russian state—i.e., into the Russian Soviet Republic. The Republic was born at one stroke; it was born so easily because in February 1917 the masses had created the Soviets even before any party had managed to proclaim this slogan. It was the great creative spirit of the people, which had passed through the bitter experience of 1905 and had been made wise by it, that gave rise to this form of proletarian power. The task of achieving victory over the internal enemy was an extremely easy one. The task of creating the political power was an extremely easy one because the masses had created the skeleton, the basis of this power. The Republic of Soviets was born at one stroke. But two exceedingly difficult problems still remained, the solution of which could not possibly be the triumphal march we experienced in the first months of our revolution—we did not doubt, we could not doubt, that the socialist revolution would be later confronted with enormously difficult tasks.

First, there was the problem of internal organisation, which confronts every socialist revolution. The difference between a socialist revolution and a bourgeois revolution is that in the latter case there are ready-made forms of capitalist relationships; Soviet power—the proletarian power—does not inherit such ready-made relationships, if we leave out of account the most developed forms of capitalism, which, strictly speaking, extended to but a small top layer of industry and hardly touched agriculture. The organisation of accounting, the control of large enterprises, the transformation of the whole of the state economic mechanism into a single huge machine, into an economic organism that will work in such a way as to enable hundreds of millions of people to be guided by a single plan—such was the enormous organisational problem that rested on our shoulders. Under the present conditions of labour this problem could not possibly be solved by the “hurrah” methods by which we were able to solve the problems of the Civil War. The very nature of the task prevented a solution by these methods. We achieved easy victories over the Kaledin[6] revolt and created the Soviet Republic in face of a resistance that was not even worth serious consideration; the course of events was predetermined by the whole of the preceding objective development, so that all we had to do was say the last word and change the signboard, i.e., take down the sign “The Soviet exists as a trade union organisation”, and put up instead the sign “The Soviet is the sole form of state power"; the situation, however, was altogether different in regard to organisational problems. In this field we encountered enormous difficulties. It immediately became clear to everyone who cared to ponder over the tasks of our revolution that only by the hard and long path of self-discipline would it be possible to overcome the disintegration that the war had caused in capitalist society, that only by extraordinarily hard, long and persistent effort could we cope with this disintegration and defeat those elements aggravating it, elements which regarded the revolution as a means of discarding old fetters and getting as much out of it for themselves as they possibly could. The emergence of a large number of such elements was inevitable in a small-peasant country at a time of incredible economic chaos, and the fight against these elements that is ahead of us, that we have only just started, will be a hundred times more difficult, it will be a fight which promises no spectacular opportunities. We are only in the first stage of this fight. Severe trials await us. The objective situation precludes any idea of limiting ourselves to a triumphal march with flying banners such as we had in fighting against Kaledin. Anyone who attempted to apply these methods of struggle to the organisational tasks that confront the revolution would only prove his bankruptcy as a politician, as a socialist, as an active worker in the socialist revolution.

The same thing awaited some of our young comrades who were carried away by the initial triumphal march of the revolution, when it came up against the second enormous difficulty—the international question. The reason we achieved such an easy victory over Kerensky’s gangs, the reason we so easily set up our government and without the slightest difficulty passed decrees on the socialisation of the land and on workers’ control, the reason we achieved all this so easily was a fortunate combination of circumstances that protected us for a short time from international imperialism. International imperialism, with the entire might of its capital, with its highly organised war machine, which is a real force, a real stronghold of international capital, could not, under any circumstances, under any conditions, live side by side with the Soviet Republic, both because of its objective position and because of the economic interests of the capitalist class embodied in it, because of commercial connections, of international financial relations. In this sphere a conflict is inevitable. This is the greatest difficulty of the Russian revolution, its greatest historical problem—the need to solve international problems, the need to evoke a world revolution, to effect the transition from our strictly national revolution to the world revolution. This problem confronts us in all its incredible difficulty. I repeat, very many of our young friends who regard themselves as Lefts have begun to forget the most important thing: why in the course of the weeks and months of the enormous triumph after October we were able so easily to pass from victory to victory. And yet this was due only to a special combination of international circumstances that temporarily shielded us from imperialism. Imperialism had other things to bother about besides us. And it seemed to us that we, too, had other things to bother about besides imperialism. Individual imperialists had no time to bother with us, solely because the whole of the great social, political and military might of modern world imperialism was split by internecine war into two groups. The imperialist plunderers involved in this struggle had gone to such incredible lengths, were locked in mortal combat to such a degree, that neither of the groups was able to concentrate any effective forces against the Russian revolution. These were the circumstances in which we found ourselves in October. It is paradoxical but true that our revolution broke out at so fortunate a moment, when unprecedented disasters involving the destruction of millions of human beings had overtaken most of the imperialist countries, when the unprecedented calamities attending the war had exhausted the nations, when in the fourth year of the war the belligerent countries had reached an impasse, a parting of the ways, when the question arose objectively—could nations reduced to such a state continue fighting? It was only because our revolution broke out at so fortunate a moment as this, when neither of the two gigantic groups of plunderers was in a position immediately either to hurl itself at the other, or to unite with the other against us; our revolution could (and did) take advantage only of a situation such as this in international political and economic relations to accomplish its brilliant triumphal march in European Russia, spread to Finland and begin to win the Caucasus and Rumania. This alone explains the appearance of Party functionaries, intellectual supermen, in the leading circles of our Party who allowed themselves to be carried away by this triumphal march and who said we could cope with international imperialism; over there, there will also be a triumphal march, over there, there will be no real difficulties. This was at variance with the objective position of the Russian revolution which had merely taken advantage of the setback of international imperialism; the engine that was supposed to bear down on us with the force of a railway train bearing down on a wheelbarrow and smashing it to splinters, was temporarily stalled—and the engine was stalled because the two groups of predators had clashed. Here and there the revolutionary movement was growing, but in all the imperialist countries without exception it was still mainly in the initial stage. Its rate of development was entirely different from ours. Anyone who has given careful thought to the economic prerequisites of the socialist revolution in Europe must be clear on the point that in Europe it will be immeasurably more difficult to start, whereas it was immeasurably more easy for us to start; but it will be more difficult for us to continue the revolution than it will be over there. This objective situation caused us to experience an extraordinarily sharp and difficult turn in history. From the continuous triumphal march on our internal front, against our counter-revolution, against the enemies of Soviet power in October, November and December, we had to pass to a collision with real international imperialism, in its real hostility towards us. From the period of the triumphal march we had to pass to a period in which we were in an extraordinarily difficult and painful situation, one which certainly could not be brushed aside with words, with brilliant slogans—however pleasant that would have been—because in our disorganised country we had to deal with incredibly weary masses, who had reached a state in which they could not possibly go on fighting, who were so shattered by three years of agonising war that they were absolutely useless from the military point of view. Even before the October Revolution we saw representatives of the masses of the soldiers, not members of the Bolshevik Party, who did not hesitate to tell the bourgeoisie the truth that the Russian army would not fight. This state of the army has brought about a gigantic crisis. A small-peasant country, disorganised by war, reduced to an incredible state, has been placed in an extremely difficult position. We have no army, but we have to go on living side by side with a predator who is armed to the teeth, a predator who still remains and will continue to remain a plunderer and is not, of course, affected by agitation in favour of peace without annexations and indemnities. A tame, domestic animal has been lying side by side with a tiger and trying to persuade the latter to conclude a peace without annexations and indemnities, although the only way such a peace could be attained was by attacking the tiger. The top layer of our Party—intellectuals and some of the workers’ organisations—has been trying in the main to brush this prospect aside with phrases and such excuses as “that is not the way it should be”. This peace was too incredible a prospect for them to believe that we, who up to now had marched in open battle with colours flying and had stormed the enemy’s positions with “hurrahs”, could yield and accept these humiliating terms. Never! We are exceedingly proud revolutionaries, we declare above all: “The Germans cannot attack.”[7]

This was the first argument with which these people consoled themselves. History has now placed us in an extraordinarily difficult position; in the midst of organisational work of unparalleled difficulty we shall have to experience a number of painful defeats. Regarded from the world-historical point of view, there would doubtlessly be no hope of the ultimate victory of our revolution if it were to remain alone, if there were no revolutionary movements in other countries. When the Bolshevik Party tackled the job alone, it did so in the firm conviction that the revolution was maturing in all countries and that in the end—but not at the very beginning—no matter what difficulties we experienced, no matter what defeats were in store for us, the world socialist revolution would come—because it is coming; would mature— because it is maturing and will reach full maturity. I repeat, our salvation from all these difficulties is an all Europe revolution. Taking this truth, this absolutely abstract truth, as our starting-point, and being guided by it, we must see to it that it does not in time become a mere phrase, because every abstract truth, if it is accepted without analysis, becomes a mere phrase. If you say that every strike conceals the hydra of revolution, and he who fails to understand this is no socialist, you are right. Yes, the socialist revolution looms behind every strike. But if you say that every single strike is an immediate step towards the socialist revolution, you will be uttering perfectly empty phrases. We have heard these phrases “every blessed time in the same place” and have got so sick and tired of them that the workers have rejected these anarchist phrases, because undoubtedly, clear as it is that behind every strike there looms the hydra of socialist revolution, it is equally clear that the assertion that every strike can develop into revolution is utter nonsense. Just as it is indisputable that all the difficulties in our revolution will be overcome only when the world socialist revolution matures—and it is maturing now everywhere—it is absolutely absurd to declare that we must conceal every real difficulty of our revolution today and say: “I bank on the international socialist movement—I can commit any piece of folly I please.” “Liebknecht will help us out, because he is going to win, anyhow.” He will create such an excellent organisation, he will plan everything beforehand so well that we shall be able to take ready-made forms in the same way as we took the ready-made Marxist doctrine from Western Europe—and maybe that is why it triumphed in our country in a few months, whereas it has been taking decades to triumph in Western Europe. Thus lt would have been reckless gambling to apply the old method of solving the problem of the struggle by a triumphal march to the new historical period which has set in, and which has confronted us, not with feeble Kerensky and Kornilov, but with an international predator—the imperialism of Germany, where the revolution has been maturing but has obviously not yet reached maturity. The assertion that the enemy would not dare attack the revolution was such a gamble. The situation at the time of the Brest negotiations[8] was not yet such as to compel us to accept any peace terms. The objective alignment of forces was such that a respite would not have been enough. It took the Brest negotiations to show that the Germans would attack, that German society was not so pregnant with revolution that it could give birth to it at once; and we cannot blame the German imperialists for not having prepared that outbreak by their conduct, or, as our young friends who regard themselves as Lefts say, for not having created a situation in which the Germans could not attack. When we tell them that we have no army, that we were compelled to demobilise—we were compelled to do so, although we never forgot that a tiger was lying beside our tame, domestic animal—they refuse to understand. Although we were compelled to demobilise we did not for a moment forget that it was impossible to end the war unilaterally by issuing an order to stick the bayonets in the ground.

Generally speaking, how is it that not a single trend, not a single tendency, not a single organisation in our Party opposed this demobilisation? Had we gone mad? Not in the least. Officers, not Bolsheviks, had stated even before October that the army could not fight, that it could not be kept at the front even for a few weeks longer. After October this became obvious to everybody who was willing to recognise the facts, willing to see the unpleasant, bitter reality and not hide, or pull his cap over his eyes, and make shift with proud phrases. We have no army, we cannot hold it. The best thing we can do is to demobilise it as quickly as possible. This is the sick part of the organism, which has suffered incredible torture, has been ravaged by the priva tions of a war into which it entered technically unprepared, and from which it has emerged in such a state that it succumbs to panic at every attack. We cannot blame these people who have experienced incredible suffering. In hundreds of resolutions, even in the first period of the Russian revolution, the soldiers have said quite frankly: “We are drowning in blood, we cannot go on fighting.” One could have delayed the end of the war artificially, one could have committed the frauds Kerensky committed, one could have postponed the end for a few weeks, but objective reality broke its own road. This is the sick part of the Russian state organism which can no longer bear the burden of the war. The quicker we demobilise the army, the sooner it will become absorbed by those parts that are not so sick and the sooner will the country be prepared for new severe trials. That is what we felt when we unanimously, without the slightest protest, adopted the decision—which was absurd from the point of view of foreign events—to demobilise the army. It was the proper step to take. We said that it was a frivolous illusion to believe that we could hold the army. The sooner we demobilised the army, the sooner would the social organism as a whole recover. That is why the revolutionary phrase, “The Germans cannot attack”, from which the other phrase ("We can declare the state of war terminated. Neither war nor the signing of peace.") derived, was such a profound mistake, such a bitter over-estimation of events. But suppose the Germans do attack? “No, they cannot attack.” But have you the right to risk the world revolution? What about the concrete question of whether you may not prove to be accomplices of German imperialism when that moment comes? But we, who since October 1917 have all become defencists, who have recognised the principle of defence of the fatherland, we all know that we have broken with imperialism, not merely in word but in deed; we have destroyed the secret treaties,[9] vanquished the bourgeoisie in our own country and proposed an open and honest peace so that all the nations may see what our intentions really are. How could people who seriously uphold the position of defending the Soviet Republic agree to this gamble, which has already produced results? And this is a fact, because the severe crisis which our Party is now experiencing, owing to the formation of a “Left” opposition within it, is one of the gravest crises the Russian revolution has experienced.

This crisis will be overcome. Under no circumstances will it break the neck of our Party, or of our revolution, although at the present moment it has come very near to doing so, there was a possibility of it. The guarantee that we shall not break our neck on this question is this: instead of applying the old method of settling factional differences, the old method of issuing an enormous quantity of literature, of having many discussions and plenty of splits, instead of this old method, events have provided our people with a new method of learning things. This method is to put every thing to the test of facts, events, the lessons of world history. You said that the Germans could not attack. The logic of your tactics was that we could declare the state of war to be terminated. History has taught you a lesson, it has shattered this illusion. Yes, the German revolution is growing, but not in the way we should like it, not as fast as Russian intellectuals would have it, not at the rate our history developed in October—when we entered any town we liked, proclaimed Soviet power, and within a few days nine-tenths of the workers came over to our side. The German revolution has the misfortune of not moving so fast. What do you think? Must we reckon with the revolution, or must the revolution reckon with us? You wanted the revolution to reckon with you. But history has taught you a lesson. It is a lesson, because it is the absolute truth that without a German revolution we are doomed—perhaps not in Petrograd, not in Moscow, but in Vladivostok, in more remote places to which perhaps we shall have to retreat, and the distance to which is perhaps greater than the distance from Petrograd to Moscow. At all events, under all conceivable circumstances, if the German revolution does not come, we are doomed. Nevertheless, this does not in the least shake our conviction that we must be able to bear the most difficult position without blustering.

The revolution will not come as quickly as we expected. History has proved this, and we must be able to take this as a fact, to reckon with the fact that the world socialist revolution cannot begin so easily in the advanced countries as the revolution began in Russia—in the land of Nicholas and Rasputin, the land in which an enormous part of the population was absolutely indifferent as to what peoples were living in the outlying regions, or what was happening there. In such a country it was quite easy to start a revolution, as easy as lifting a feather.

But to start without preparation a revolution in a country in which capitalism is developed and has given democratic culture and organisation to everybody, down to the last man—to do so would be wrong, absurd. There we are only just approaching the painful period of the beginning of socialist revolutions. This is a fact. We do not know, no one knows, perhaps—it is quite possible—it will triumph within a few weeks, even within a few days, but we cannot stake everything on that. We must be prepared for extraordinary difficulties, for extraordinarily severe defeats, which are inevitable because the revolution in Europe has not yet begun, although it may begin tomorrow; and when it does begin, then, of course, we shall not be tortured by doubts, there will be no question about a revolutionary war, but just one continuous triumphal march. That is to come, it will inevitably be so, but it is not so yet. This is the simple fact that history has taught us, with which it has hit us very painfully—and it is said a man who has been thrashed is worth two who haven’t. That is why I think that now history has given us a very painful thrashing, because of our hope that the Germans could not attack and that we could get everything by shouting “hurrah!”, this lesson, with the help of our Soviet organisations, will be very quickly brought home to the masses all over Soviet Russia. They are aIl up and doing, gathering, preparing for the Congress, passing resolutions, thinking over what has happened. What is taking place at the present time does not resemble the old pre-revolutionary controversies, which remained within narrow Party circles; now all decisions are submitted for discussion to the masses, who demand that they be tested by experience, by deeds, who never allow themselves to be carried away by frivolous speeches, and never allow themselves to be diverted from the path prescribed by the objective progress of events. Of course, an intellectual, or a Left Bolshevik, can try to talk his way out of difficulties. He can try to talk his way out of such facts as the absence of an army and the failure of the revolution to begin in Germany. The millions-strong masses—and politics begin where millions of men and women are; where there are not thousands, but millions, that is where serious politics begin—the masses know what the army is like, they have seen soldiers returning from the front. They know—that is, if you take, not individual persons, but real masses—that we cannot fight, that every man at the front has endured everything imaginable. The masses have realised the truth that if we have no army, and a predator is lying beside us, we shall have to sign a most harsh, humiliating peace treaty. That is inevitable until the birth of the revolution, until you cure your army, until you allow the men to return home. Until then the patient will not recover. And we shall not be able to cope with the German predator by shouting “hurrah!"; we shall not be able to throw him off as easily as we threw off Kerensky and Kornilov. This is the lesson the masses have learned without the excuses that certain of those who desire to evade bitter reality have tried to present them with.

At first a continuous triumphal march in October and November—then, suddenly, in the space of a few weeks, the Russian revolution is defeated by the German predator; the Russian revolution is prepared to accept the terms of a predatory treaty. Yes, the turns taken by history are very painful. All such turns affect us painfully. When, in 1907, we signed the incredibly shameful internal treaty with Stolypin, when we were compelled to pass through the pigsty of the Stolypin Duma and assumed obligations by signing scraps of monarchist paper,[10] we experienced what we are experiencing now but on a smaller scale. At that time, people who were among the finest in the vanguard of the revolution said (and they too had not the slightest doubt that they were right), “We are proud revolutionaries, we believe in the Russian revolution, we will never enter legal Stolypin institutions.” Yes, you will, we said. The life of the masses, history, are stronger than your protestations. If you won’t go, we said, history will compel you to. These were very Left people and after the first turn in history nothing remained of them as a group but smoke. Just as we proved able to remain revolutionaries, proved able to work under terrible conditions and emerge from them, so shall we emerge now because it is not our whim, it is objective inevitability that has arisen in an utterly ruined country, because in spite of our desires the European revolution dared to be late, and in spite of our desires German imperialism dared to attack.

Here one must know how to retreat. We cannot hide the incredibly bitter, deplorable reality from ourselves with empty phrases; we must say: God grant that we retreat in what is half-way good order. We cannot retreat in good order, but God grant that our retreat is half-way good order, that we gain a little time in which the sick part of our organism can be absorbed at least to some extent. On the whole the organism is sound, it will overcome its sickness; But you cannot expect it to overcome it all at once, instantaneously; you cannot stop an army in flight. When I said to one of our young friends, a would-be Left, “Comrade, go to the front, see what is going on in the army”, he took offence at this proposal. He said, “They want to banish us so as to prevent our agitating here for the great principles of a revolutionary war.” In making this proposal I really had no intention whatever of banishing factional enemies; I merely suggested that they go and see for themselves that the army had begun to run away in an unprecedented manner. We knew that even before this, even before this we could not close our eyes to the fact that the disintegration of the army had gone on to such an unheard-of extent that our guns were being sold to the Germans for a song. We knew this, just as we know that the army cannot be held back, and the argument that the Germans would not attack was a great gamble. If the European revolution is late in coming, gravest defeats await us because we have no army, because we lack organisation, because, at the moment, these are two problems we cannot solve. If you are unable to adapt yourself, if you are not inclined to crawl on your belly in the mud, you are not a revolutionary but a chatterbox; and I propose this, not because I like it, but because we have no other road, because history has not been kind enough to bring the revolution to maturity everywhere simultaneously.

The way things are turning out is that the civil war has begun as an attempt at a clash with imperialism, and this has shown that imperialism is rotten to the core, and that proletarian elements are rising in every army. Yes, we shall see the world revolution, but for the time being it is a very good fairy-tale, a very beautiful fairy-tale—I quite understand children liking beautiful fairy-tales. But I ask, is it proper for a serious revolutionary to believe in fairy-tales? There is an element of reality in every fairy-tale. If you told children fairy-tales in which the cock and the cat did not converse in human language they would not be interested. In the same way, if you tell the people that civil war will break out in Germany and also guarantee that instead of a clash with imperialism we shall have a field revolution on a world-wide scale,[11] the people will say you are deceiving them. In doing this you will be overcoming the difficulties with which history has confronted us only in your own minds, by your own wishes. It will be a good thing if the German proletariat is able to take action. But have you measured it, have you discovered an instrument that will show that the German revolution will break out on such-and-such a day? No, you do not know that, and neither do we. You are staking everything on this card. If the revolution breaks out, everything is saved. Of course! But if it does not turn out as we desire, if it does not achieve victory tomorrow—what then? Then the masses will say to you, you acted like gamblers—you staked everything on a fortunate turn of events that did not take place, you proved unfitted for the situation that actually arose instead of the world revolution, which will inevitably come, but which has not yet reached maturity.

A period has set in of severe defeats, inflicted by imperial ism, which is armed to the teeth, upon a country which has demobilised its army, which had to demobilise. What I predicted has come to pass; instead of the Brest peace we have a much more humiliating peace, and the blame for this rests upon those who refused to accept the former peace. We knew that through the fault of the army we were concluding peace with imperialism. We sat at the table beside Hoffmann and not Liebknecht—and in doing so we assisted the German revolution. But now you are assisting German imperialism, because you have surrendered wealth valued at millions in guns and shells; and anybody who had seen the state—the incredible state—of the army could have predicted this. Everyone of integrity who came from the front said that had the Germans made the slightest attack we should have perished inevitably and absolutely. We should have fallen prey to the enemy within a few days.

Having been taught this lesson, we shall overcome our split, our crisis, however severe the disease may be, because an immeasurably more reliable ally will come to our assistance—the world revolution. When the ratification of this Peace of Tilsit, this unbelievable peace, more humiliating and predatory than the Brest peace, is spoken of, I say: certainly, yes. We must do this because we look at things from the point of view of the masses. Any attempt to apply the tactics applied internally in one country between October and November—the triumphant period of the revolution—to apply them with the aid of our imagination to the progress of events in the world revolution, is doomed to failure. When it is said that the respite is a fantasy, when a newspaper called Kommunist—from the word “Commune”, I suppose—when this paper fills column after column with attempts to refute the respite theory, I say that I have lived through quite a lot of factional conflicts and splits and so I have a great deal of experience; and I must say that it is clear to me that this disease will not be cured by the old method of factional Party splits because events will cure it more quickly. Life is marching forward very quickly. In this respect it is magnificent. History is driving its locomotive so fast that before the editors of Kommunist bring out their next issue the majority of the workers in Petrograd will have begun to be disappointed in its ideas, because events are proving that the respite is a fact. We are now signing a peace treaty, we have a respite, we are taking advantage of it the better to defend our fatherland—because had we been at war we should have had an army fleeing in panic which would have had to be stopped, and which our comrades cannot and could not stop, because war is more powerful than sermons, more powerful than ten thousand arguments—. Since they did not understand the objective situation they could not hold back the army, and cannot do so. This sick army infected the whole organism, and another unparalleled defeat was inflicted upon us. German imperialism struck another blow at the revolution, a severe blow, because we allowed ourselves to face the blows of imperialism without machine-guns. Meanwhile, we shall take advantage of this breathing-space to persuade the people to unite and fight, to say to the Russian workers and peasants: “Organise self-discipline, strict discipline, otherwise you will have to remain lying under the German jackboot as you are lying now, as you will inevitably have to lie until the people learn to fight and to create an army capable, not of running away, but of bearing untold suffering.” It is inevitable, because the German revolution has not yet begun, and we cannot guarantee that it will come tomorrow.

That is why the respite theory, which is totally rejected in the flood of articles in Kommunist, is advanced by reality. Everyone can see that the respite is a fact, that everyone is taking advantage of it. We believed that we would lose Petrograd in a few days when the advancing German troops were only a few days’ march away, and when our best sailors and the Putilov workers,[those employed at the giant Putilov Works in Petrograd.—Transcriber] notwithstanding all their great enthusiasm, remained alone, when incredible chaos and panic broke out, which compelled our troops to flee all the way to Gatchina, and when we had cases of positions being recaptured that had never been lost—by a telegraph operator, arriving at the station, taking his place at the key and wiring, “No Germans in sight. We have occupied the station.” A few hours later I received a telephone communication from the Commissariat of Railways informing me, “We have occupied the next station. We are approaching Yamburg. No Germans in sight. Telegraph operator at his post.” That is the kind of thing we had. This is the real history of the eleven days’ war.[12]It was described to us by sailors and Putilov workers, who ought to be brought to the Congress of Soviets. Let them tell the truth. It is a frightfully bitter, disappointing, painful and humiliating truth, but it is a hundred times more useful, it can be understood by the Russian people.

One may dream about the field revolution on a world-wide scale, for it will come. Everything will come in due time; but for the time being, set to work to establish self-discipline, subordination before all else, so that we can have exemplary order, so that the workers for at least one hour in twenty-four may train to fight. This is a little more difficult than relating beautiful fairy-tales. This is what we can do today; in this way you will help the German revolution, the world revolution. We do not know how many days the respite will last, but we have got it. We must demobilise the army as quickly as possible, because it is a sick organ; meanwhile, we will assist the Finnish revolution.[13]

Yes, of course, we are violating the treaty; we have violated it thirty or forty times. Only children can fail to understand that in an epoch like the present, when a long painful period of emancipation is setting in, which has only just created and raised the Soviet power three stages in its development—only children can fail to understand that in this case there must be a long, circumspect struggle. The shameful peace treaty is rousing protest, but when comrades from Kommunist talk about war they appeal to sentiment and forget that the people are clenching their fists with rage, are “seeing red”. What do they say? “A class-conscious revolutionary will never live through this, will never submit to such a disgrace.” Their newspaper bears the title Kommunist, but it should bear the title Szlachcic [Szlachcic—a Polish nobleman —Ed.] because it looks at things from the point of view of the szlachcic who, dying in a beautiful pose, sword in hand, said: “Peace is disgraceful, war is honourable.” They argue from the point of view of the szlachcic ; I argue from the point of view of the peasant.

If I accept peace when the army is in flight, and must be in flight if it is not to lose thousands of men, I accept it in order to prevent things from getting worse. Is the treaty really shameful? Why, every sober-minded peasant and worker will say I am right, because they understand that peace is a means of gathering forces. History knows—I have referred to it more than once—the case of the liberation of the Germans from Napoleon after the Peace of Tilsit. I deliberately called the peace a Peace of Tilsit although we did not undertake to do what had been stipulated in that treaty, we did not undertake to provide troops to assist the victor to conquer other nations—things like that have happened in history, and will happen to us if we continue to place our hopes in the field revolution on a world-wide scale. Take care that history does not impose upon you this form of military slavery as well. And before the socialist revolution is victorious in all countries the Soviet Republic may be reduced to slavery. At Tilsit, Napoleon compelled the Germans to accept incredibly disgraceful peace terms. That peace had to be signed several times. The Hoffmann of those days—Napoleon—time and again caught the Germans violating the peace treaty, and the present Hoffmann will catch us at it. Only we shall take care that he does not catch us soon.

The last war has been a bitter, painful, but serious lesson for the Russian people. It has taught them to organise, to become disciplined, to obey, to establish a discipline that will be exemplary. Learn discipline from the Germans; for, if we do not, we, as a people, are doomed, we shall live in eternal slavery.

This way, and no other, has been the way of history. History tells us that peace is a respite for war, war is a means of obtaining a somewhat better or somewhat worse peace. At Brest the relation of forces corresponded to a peace imposed upon the one who has been defeated, but it was not a humiliating peace. The relation of forces at Pskov corresponded to a disgraceful, more humiliating peace; and in Petrograd and Moscow, at the next stage, a peace four times more humiliating will be dictated to us. We do not say that the Soviet power is only a form, as our young Moscow friends[14] have said, we do not say that the content can be sacrificed for this or that revolutionary principle. We do say, let the Russian people understand that they must become disciplined and organised, and then they will be able to withstand all the Tilsit peace treaties. The whole history of wars of liberation shows that when these wars involved large masses liberation came quickly. We say, since history marches forward in this way, we shall have to abandon peace for war, and this may happen within the next few days. Everyone must be prepared. I have not the slightest shadow of doubt that the Germans are preparing near Narva, if it is true that it has not been taken, as all the newspapers say; if not in Narva, then near Narva, if not in Pskov, then near Pskov, the German~ are grouping their regular army, making ready their railways, to capture Petrograd at the next jump. And this beast can jump very well. He has proved that. He will jump again. There is not a shadow of doubt about that. That is why we must be prepared, we must not brag, but must be able to take advantage of even a single day of respite, because we can take advantage of even one day’s respite to evacuate Petrograd, the capture of which will cause unprecedented suffering to hundreds of thousands of our proletarians. I say again that I am ready to sign, and that I consider it my duty to sign, a treaty twenty times, a hundred times more humiliating, in order to gain at least a few days in which to evacuate Petrograd, because by that I will alleviate the sufferings of the workers, who otherwise may fall under the yoke of the Germans; by that I facilitate the removal from Petrograd of all the materials, gunpowder, etc., which we need; because I am a defencist, because I stand for the preparation of an army, even in the most remote rear, where our present, demobilised, sick army is being healed.

We do not know how long the respite will last—we will try to take advantage of the situation. Perhaps the respite will last longer, perhaps it will last only a few days. Anything may happen, no one knows, or can know, because all the major powers are bound, restricted, compelled to fight on several fronts. Hoffmann’s behaviour is determined first by the need to smash the Soviet Republic; secondly, by the fact that he has to wage war on a number of fronts, and thirdly, by the fact that the revolution in Germany is maturing, is growing, and Hoffmann knows this. He cannot, as some assert, take Petrograd and Moscow this very minute. But he may do so tomorrow, that is quite possible. I repeat that at a moment when the army is obviously sick, when we are taking advantage of every opportunity, come what may, to get at least one day’s respite, we say that every serious revolutionary who is linked with the masses and who knows what war is, what the masses are, must discipline the masses, must heal them, must try to arouse them for a new war—every such revolutionary will admit that we are right, will admit that any disgraceful peace is proper, because it is in the interests of the proletarian revolution and the regeneration of Russia, because it will help to get rid of the sick organ. As every sensible man understands, by signing this peace treaty we do not put a stop to our workers’ revolution; everyone understands that by concluding peace with the Germans we do not stop rendering military aid; we are sending arms to the Finns, but not military units, which turn out to be unfit.

Perhaps we will accept war; perhaps tomorrow we will surrender even Moscow and then go over to the offensive; we will move our army against the enemy’s army if the necessary turn in the mood of the people takes place. This turn is developing and perhaps much time is required, but it will come, when the great mass of the people will not say what they are saying now. I am compelled to accept the harshest peace terms because I cannot say to myself that this time has arrived. When the time of regeneration arrives everyone will realise it, will see that the Russian is no fool; he sees, he will understand that for the time being we must refrain, that this slogan must be carried through—and this is the main task of our Party Congress and of the Congress of Soviets.

We must learn to work in a new way. That is immensely more difficult, but it is by no means hopeless. It will not break Soviet power if we do not break it ourselves by utterly senseless adventurism. The time will come when the people will say, we will not permit ourselves to be tortured any longer. But this will take place only if we do not agree to this adventure but prove able to work under harsh conditions and under the unprecedentedly humiliating treaty we signed the other day, because a war, or a peace treaty, cannot solve such a historical crisis. Because of their monarchic organisation the German people were fettered in 1807, when after several humiliating peace treaties, which were transformed into respites to be followed by new humiliations and new infringements, they signed the Peace of Tilsit. The Soviet organisation of the people makes our task easier.

We should have but one slogan—to learn the art of war properly and put the railways in order. To wage a socialist revolutionary war without railways would be rank treachery. We must produce order and we must produce all the energy and all the strength that will produce the best that is in the revolution.

Grasp even an hour’s respite if it is given you, in order to maintain contact with the remote rear and there create new armies. Abandon illusions for which real events have punished you and will punish you more severely in the future. An epoch of most grievous defeats is ahead of us, it is with us now, we must be able to reckon with it, we must be prepared for persistent work in conditions of illegality, in conditions of downright slavery to the Germans; it is no use painting it in bright colours, it is a real Peace of Tilsit. If we are able to act in this way, then, in spite of defeats, we shall be able to say with absolute certainty—victory will be ours. (Applause.)





[2] On April 18,1917, Milyukov, the Foreign Minister of the bourgeois Provisional Government, circulated a Note to the Allied Powers stating that the Provisional Government would observe all the tsarist treaties and undertook to continue the imperialist war. On April 20 the soldiers of the Petrograd garrison, on learning about Milyukov’s Note, demonstrated in the streets with the slogans “All power to the Soviets” and “Down with war”. On April 21 the Petrograd workers in response to a call made by the Bolshevik Party stopped work and held a demonstration. The chief demand of the 100,000 demonstrators was for peace. By confronting the broad masses with the question of “who to support?” and showing that only the working class by taking power could put an end to the war, the April demonstration hastened the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution. The bourgeoisie replied to it with the new manoeuvre of forming a coalition government in which Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries participated.

[3] Lenin refers to the demonstration in Petrograd of July 3-4 (16-17), 1917. Spontaneous demonstrations against the Provisional Government began in Vyborg District on July 3 (16). The 1st Machine-Gun Regiment was the first to demonstrate. It was joined by other army units and factory workers. The demonstration threatened to develop into an armed attack on the Provisional Government.

At this time the Bolshevik Party was against an armed uprising because it considered that the revolutionary crisis had not yet matured, that the army and the provinces were not ready to support an uprising in the capital. At a joint meeting of the Central Committee with the Petrograd Committee and the Military Organisation of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) at 4 p. m. on July 3 (16), it was decided to refrain from armed actiom The Second Petrograd City Conference of Bolsheviks, which was being held simultaneously, took an analogous decision. The conference delegates went out to the factories and various districts of the city to restrain the masses from taking armed action. But the uprising had already begun and it could not be stopped.

Taking into account the mood of the massos, the Contral Committee in consultation with the Petrograd Committee and the Military Organisation decided late in the evening on July 3 (16) to participate in the demonstration in order to give it an organised and peaceful character. Lenin, who was not in Petrograd at the time, came straight to the capital when he heard what was happening. He arrived in the morning on July 4 (17). More than 500,000 people took part in the demonstration of July 4 (17), which was conducted under the main slogan of the Bolsheviks, “All power to the Soviets”.

With the knowledge and consent of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary Central Executive Committee, detachments of officers and officer cadets were sent against the peacefully demonstrating workers and soldiers, and opened fire on the demonstrators. Counter-revolutionary military units were recalled from the front to smash the revolutionary movement.

On the night of July 4 (17) the Bolshevik Central Committee decided to halt the demonstration. Late at night Lenin visited the Pravda editorial office to look at the current issue, half an hour after he left, the office was wrecked by a detachment of officer cadets and Cossacks.

The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, in effect, aided and abetted the counter-revolution. Having helped to smash the demonstration, they associated themselves with the bourgeoisie in attacking the Bolshevik Party. The Bolshevik newspapers Pravda, Soldatskaya Pravda and others were banned by the Provisional Government. Mass arrests, searches and pogroms began. The revolutionary units of the Petrograd garrison were withdrawn from the capital and sent to the front.

After the July Days the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government took over complete control of the country and the Soviets were reduced to the role of a helpless appendage. The period of dual power was over, the peaceful state of the revolution was also over. The Bolsheviks were now faced with the task of preparing an armed uprising for the overthrow of the Provisional Government.

[4] Kornilov revolt—a counter-revolutionary conspiracy organised in August 1917 by the Russian bourgeoisie and landowners and led by the tsarist general Kornilov. On August 25 Kornilov began with drawing troops from the front to march against Petrograd. In response to a Bolshevik appeal the common people rose against Kornilov. The workers of Petrograd took up arms and began to form detachments of Red Guards. The attempt at counter-revolution was quickly crushed and Kornilov himself arrested.

[5] The reference is to the defeatist position taken up by L. B. Kamenev, G. Y. Zinoviev, A. I. Rykov and certain other members of the Central Committee of the Party and the Soviet Government, who after the October Socialist Revolution supported the Socialist-Revolutionary demand for the setting up of a “homogeneous socialist government” (see present Resolution of C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P.(B) on the Opposition and From the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks)).

[6] Kaledin, A. M. (1861-1918) was a tsarist general. At the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918 he became one of the leaders of the monarchist counter-revolution and organiser of the Civil War against Soviet power on the River Don. When defeated in January 1918, he shot himself.

[7] This argument against the signing of the peace terms dictated by Germany was put forward by the “Left Communists” at a meeting of members of the Central Committee with Party workers on January 8 (21), 1918. V. V. Obolensky (N. Osinsky) asserted that “the German soldier will not agree to take part in an offensive”, and Y. A. Preobrazhensky tried to prove that the German army was “technically incapable of advancing: winter, no roads . . .”. The wrongness and harmfulness of such arguments was exposed by Lenin in his article The Revolutionary Phrase.

[8] Soon after the publication of Lenin’s Decree on Peace, which was passed by the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets, the Soviet Government sent a Note to the Entente powers proposing the immediate conclusion of an armistice on all fronts and the starting of peace negotiations. The refusal of the imperialists of the Entente to support the initiative of the Soviet Government and their active opposition to the conclusion of peace compelled the Council of People’s Commissars to begin separate peace negotiations with Germany. After preliminary negotiations and the conclusion of an armistice, the peace conference opened at Brest-Litovsk on December 9 (22), 1917. It was attended by a delegation from Soviet Russia and a delegation from the powers of the Quadruple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey). At the conference the Soviet delegation made a declaration, based on the propositions of the Decree on Peace, setting forth proposals for the conclusion of a just and democratic peace without annexations and indemnities. After going through a series of manoeuvres, the delegation from the German bloc stated that the Soviet proposals were inacceptable and on January 5 (18), 1918 offered Soviet Russia onerous and predatory peace terms stipulating that Poland, Lithuania and parts of Latvia, Estonia, the Ukraine and Byelorussia should be placed under German control.

On January 8 (21), 1918 at a meeting between members of the Central Committee and Party workers Lenin gave detailed arguments proving the need to conclude peace even on these onerous terms. These arguments were expounded in his “Theses on the Question of the Immediate Conclusion of a Separate and Annexationist Peace” (see present edition, Vol. 26, pp. 442-44). Questions of war and peace were discussed at meetings of the Central Committee on January 11 (24), January 19 (February 1), January 21 (February 3), and on February 18, 22, 23 and 24, 1918. To prevent the collapse of the peace negotiations and to stop the adventuristic policy of the “Left Communists” and Trotsky being put into effect, Lenin got the Central Committee of the Party to pass a decision on the need for sustaining the peace negotiations for as long as possible and signing the peace terms only if the Germans should present an ultimatum. On January 27 (February 9), however, when the Germans demanded in the form of an ultimatum that the Soviet delegation should sign the peace terms they had proposed on January 5 (18), Trotsky, who was leading the Soviet delegation at this stage, ignored the Central Committee’s decision and in spite of Lenin’s demand refused to sign the peace treaty while stating simultaneously that Russia would cease waging war and would demobilise her army.

The German imperialists took advantage of this. On February 18, German troops broke the armistice agreement and launched an offensive all along the Russo-German front. The same day, on Lenin’s insistence the Party Central Committee passed a decision to sign the peace treaty with Germany. But on February 22, imperialist Germany presented a fresh ultimatum stipulating even more onerous and humiliating peace terms: in addition to the territory they had occupied the Germans demanded that Soviet Russia should cede provinces of Latvia and Estonia that were not in German hands, and that she should conclude peace wlth the Ukrainian Central Rada, withdraw Soviet troops from the Ukraine and Finland, pay Germany a huge indemnity and demobilise her army. On February 23 the Central Committee came out in favour of Lenin’s proposal to conclude peace immediately on the terms proposed by Germany. On the morning of February 24, the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and then the Council of People’s Commissars decided to accept the new peace terms, and this was immediately made known to the German Government. On March 1, 1918 the peace negotiations were reopened and the Peace Treaty was signed on March 3.

The revolution in Germany of November 1918 deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Soviet Government was able to annul the Treaty of Brest.

[9] The Soviet Government published the secret diplomatic papers and the secret treaties between the tsarist government (and subsequently the bourgeois Provisional Government) of Russia and the governments of Britain, Franco, Italy, Japan, Austria-Hungary and otber imperialist powers, On November 10 (23), 1917 the newspapers began publishing these secret diplomatic papers and treaties, which afterwards appeared in the Collections of Secret Documents from the Archives of the Former Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Seven of these collections came out between December 1917 and February 1918.

[10] The reference is to the signed oath of loyalty to the tsar that was obligatory for deputies of the Third State Duma. Since refusal to take this oath meant losing the platform in the Duma that was needed to mobilise the proletariat for revolutionary struggle, the Social-Democrat deputies signed the oath along with the rest of the members of the Duma.

[11] The term “fleld revolution on a world-wide scale” was used by V. V. Obolensky (N. Osinsky) in the “Theses on the Question of War and Peace”, which he wrote for the meeting of the Party Central Committee on January 21 (February 3), 1918 and published on March 14 in the “Left Communist” newspaper Kommunist No. 8. Explaining what he meant by this term, Obolensky wrote: “Revolutionary war, as a field civil war, cannot resemble in character the regular military actions of national armies when they are carrying out strategic operations. . . . Military action assumes the character of guerrilla warfare (analogous to barricade fighting) and is mixed with class agitation.”

[12] Lenin appears to be referring to the period between the launching of the German offensive, on February 18, and the arrival of the Soviet delegation in Brest-Litovsk on February 28, 1918. The German offensive continued until March 3, the day the peace treaty was signed.

[13] The revolution in Finland which began on January 27, 1918 in response to a call from the leaders of the Social-Democratic Party of Finland, deposed Svinhufvud’s bourgeois government and placed power in the hands of the workers. On January 29 a revolutionary government of Finland was set up in the shape of the Council of People’s Representatives, which included E. Gylling, O. W. Kuusinen, Y. Sirola, A. Taimi and othcrs. This government’s most important acts were the passing of a law making land less peasants sole owners of the land they tilled, the freeing of the poorest sections of the population of all taxes the expropriation of enterprises belonging to owners who had fled the country, and the setting up of state control over private banks.

The proletarian revolution was victorious, however, only in the south of Finland. The Svinhufvud government made good its losses in the north of the country, where a build-up of counter-revolutionary forces took place, and appealed to the government of Kaiser Germany for aid. On May 2, 1918 German armed forces intervened and the workers’ revolution was crushed after a bitter civil was lasting three months. During the White Terror that ensued thousands of revolutionary workers and peasants were executed or tortured to death in prison.

[14] This refers to the resolution passed by the Moscow Regional Bureau of the R.S.D.L.P. on February 24, 1918. For a criticism of this anti-Party document see Lenin’s article Strange and Monstrous.




Reply to the Debate on the Political Report of the Central Committee
March 8

Comrades, let me begin with some relatively minor remarks, let me begin from the end. At the end of his speech Comrade Bukharin went so far as to compare us to Petlyura. If he thinks that is so, how can he remain with us in the same party? Isn’t it just empty talk? If things were really as he said, we should not, of course, be members of the same party. The fact that we are together shows that we are ninety per cent in agreement with Bukharin. It is true he added a few revolutionary phrases about our wanting to betray the Ukraine. I am sure it is not worth while talking about such obvious nonsense. I shall return to Comrade Ryazanov, and here I want to say that in the same way as an exception that occurs once in ten years proves the rule, so has Comrade Ryazanov chanced to say a serious word. (Applause.) He said that Lenin was surrendering space to gain time. That is almost philosophical reasoning. This time it happened that we heard from Comrade Ryazanov a serious phrase—true it is only a phrase—which fully expresses the case; to gain time I want to surrender space to the actual victor. That and that alone is the whole point at issue. All else is mere talk—the need for a revolutionary war, rousing the peasantry, etc. When Comrade Bukharin pictures things as though there could not be two opinions as to whether war is possible and says—“ask any soldier” (I wrote down his actual words)—since he puts the question this way and wants to ask any soldier, I’ll answer him. “Any soldier” turned out to be a French officer that I had a talk with. That French officer looked at me, with anger in his eyes, of course—had I not sold Russia to the Germans?—and said: “I am a royalist, I am also a champion of the monarchy in France, a champion of the defeat of Germany, so don’t think I support Soviet power—who would, if he was a royalist?—but I favour your signing the Brest Treaty because it’s necessary.”[15] That’s “asking any soldier” for you. Any soldier would say what I have said—we had to sign the Brest Treaty. If it now emerges from Bukharin’s speech that our differences have greatly diminished, it is only because his supporters have concealed the chief point on which we differ.

Now that Bukharin is thundering against us for having demoralised the masses, he is perfectly correct, except that it is himself and not us that he is attacking. Who caused this mess in the Central Committee?—You, Comrade Bukharin. (Laughter.) No matter how much you shout “No”, the truth will out; we are here in our own comradely family, we are at our own Congress, we have nothing to hide, the truth must be told. And the truth is that there were three trends in the Central Committee. On February 17 Lomov and Bukharin did not vote. I have asked for the record of the voting to be reproduced and copies made so that every Party member who wishes to do so can go into the secretariat and see how people voted—the historic voting of January 21, which shows that they wavered and we did not, not in the least; we said, “Let us accept the Brest peace—you’ll get nothing better—so as to prepare for a revolutionary war”. Now we have gained five days in which to evacuate Petrograd. Now the manifesto signed by Krylenko and Podvoisky[16] has been published, they were not among the Lefts, and Bukharin insulted them by saying that Krylenko had been “dragged in”, as though we had invented what Krylenko reported. We agree in full with what they said; that is how matters stand, for it was these army men who gave proof of what I had said; and you dismiss the matter by saying the Germans won’t attack. How can this situation be compared with October, when the question of equipment did not arise? If you want to take facts into consideration, then consider this one—that the disagreement arose over the statement that we cannot start a war that is obviously to our disadvantage. When Comrade Bukharin began his concluding speech with the thunderous question “Is war possible in the near future?” he greatly surprised me. I answer without hesitation—yes, it is possible, but today we must accept peace. There is no contradiction in this.

After these brief remarks I shall give detailed answers to previous speakers. As far as Radek is concerned I must make an exception. But there was another speech, that of Comrade Uritsky. What was there in that speech apart from Canossa,[17] “treachery”, “retreated”, “adapted”? What is all this about? Haven’t you borrowed your criticism from a Left Socialist-Revolutionary newspaper? Comrade Bubnov read us a statement submitted to the Central Committee by those of its members who consider themselves very Left-wing and who gave us a striking example of a demonstration before the eyes of the whole world—“the behaviour of the Central Committee strikes a blow at the international proletariat”. Is that anything but an empty phrase? “Demonstrate weakness before the eyes of the whole world!” How are we demonstrating? By proposing peace? Because our army has run away? Have we not proved that to begin war with Germany at this moment, and not to accept the Brest peace, would mean showing the world that our army is sick and does not want to give battle? Bubnov’s statement was quite empty when he asserted that the wavering was entirely of our making—it was due to our army’s being sick. Sooner or later, there had to be a respite. If we had had the correct strategy we should have had a month’s breathing space, but since your strategy was incorrect we have only five days—even that is good. The history of war shows that even days are sometimes enough to halt a panic-stricken army. Anyone who does not accept, does not conclude this devilish peace now, is a man of empty phrases and not a strategist. That is the pity of it. When Central Committee members write to me about “demonstrations of weakness”, “treachery”, they are writing the most damaging, empty, childish phrases. We demonstrated our weakness by attempting to fight at a time when the demonstration should not have been made, when an offensive against us was inevitable. As for the peasants of Pskov, we shall bring them to the Congress of Soviets to relate how the Germans treat people, so that they can change the mood of the soldier in panic- stricken night and he will begin to recover from his panic and say, “This is certainly not the war the Bolsheviks promised to put an end to, this is a new war the Germans are waging against Soviet power.” Then recovery will come. But you raise a question that cannot be answered. Nobody knows how long the respite will last.

Now I must say something about Comrade Trotsky’s position. There are two aspects to his activities; when he began the negotiations at Brest and made splendid use of them for agitation, we all agreed with Comrade Trotsky. He has quoted part of a conversation with me, but I must add that it was agreed between us that we would hold out until the Germans presented an ultimatum, and then we would give way. The Germans deceived us—they stole five days out of seven from us.[18] Trotsky’s tactics were correct as long as they were aimed at delaying matters; they became incorrect when it was announced that the state of war had been terminated but peace had not been concluded. I proposed quite definitely that peace be concluded. We could not have got anything better than the Brest peace. It is now clear to everybody that we would have had a month’s respite and that we would not have lost anything. Since history has swept that away it is not worth recalling, but it is funny to hear Bukharin say, “Events will show that we were right.” I was right because I wrote about it back in 1915—“We must prepare to wage war, it is inevitable, it is coming, it will come.” But we had to accept peace and not try vain blustering. And because war is coming, it was all the more necessary to accept peace, and now we are at least making easier the evacuation of Petrograd—we have made it, easier. That is a fact. And when Comrade Trotsky makes fresh demands; “Promise not to conclude peace with Vinnichenko”, I say that under no circumstances will I take that obligation upon myself.[19] If the Congress accepts this obligation, neither I, nor those who agree with me, will accept responsibility for it. It would mean tying our hands again with a formal decision instead of following a clear line of manoeuvre—retreat when possible, and at times attack. In war you must never tie yourself down with formal decisions. It is ridiculous not to know the history of war, not to know that a treaty is a means of gathering strength—I have already mentioned Prussian history. There are some people who are just like children, they think that if we have signed a treaty we have sold ourselves to Satan and have gone to hell. That is simply ridiculous when it is quite obvious from the history of war that the conclusion of a treaty after defeat is a means of gathering strength. There have been cases in history of one war following immediately after another, we have all forgotten that, we see that the old war is turning into. . . [Several words are missing in the verbatim report. —Ed.] If you like, you can bind yourselves for ever with formal decisions and then hand over all the responsible posts to the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. We shall not accept responsibility for it. There is not the least desire for a split here. I am sure that events will teach you—March 12 is not far away, and you will obtain plenty of material.[20]

Comrade Trotsky says that it will be treachery in the full sense of the word. I maintain that that is an absolutely wrong point of view. To demonstrate this concretely, I will give you an example: two men are walking together and are attacked by ten men, one fights and the other runs away—that is treachery; but suppose we have two armies of a hundred thousand each and there are five armies against them; one army is surrounded by two hundred thousand, and the other must go to its aid; knowing that the other three hundred thousand of the enemy are ambushed to trap it, should the second army go to the aid of the first? It should not. That is not treachery, that is not cowardice; a simple increase in numbers has changed all concepts, any soldier knows this; it is no longer a personal concept. By acting in this way I preserve my army; let the other army be captured, I shall be able to renew mine, I have allies, I shall wait till the allies arrive. That is the only way to argue; when military arguments are mixed up with others, you get nothing but empty phrases. That is not the way to conduct politics.

We have done everything that could be done. By signing the treaty we have saved Petrograd, even if only for a few days. (The secretaries and stenographers should not think of putting that on record.) The treaty requires us to withdraw our troops from Finland, troops that are clearly no good, but we are not forbidden to take arms into Finland. If Petrograd had fallen a few days ago, the city would have been in a panic and we should not have been able to take anything away; but in those five days we have helped our Finnish comrades—how much I shall not say, they know it themselves.

The statement that we have betrayed Finland is just a childish phrase. We helped the Finns precisely by retreating before the Germans in good time. Russia will never perish just because Petrograd falls. Comrade Bukharin is a thousand times right in that, but if we manoeuvre in Bukharin’s way we may ruin a good revolution. (Laughter.)

We have not betrayed either Finland or the Ukraine. No class-conscious worker would accuse us of this. We are helping as best we can. We have not taken one good man away from our army and shall not do so. You say that Hoffmann will catch us—of course he may, I do not doubt it, but how many days it will take him, he does not know and nobody knows. Furthermore, your arguments about his catching us are arguments about the political alignment of forces, of which I shall speak later.

Now that I have explained why I am absolutely unable to accept Trotsky’s proposal—you cannot conduct politics in that way—I must say that Radek has given us an example of how far the comrades at our Congress have departed from empty phrases such as Uritsky still sticks to. I certainly cannot accuse him of empty phrases in that speech. He said, “There is not a shadow of treachery, not a shadow of disgrace, because it is clear that you retreated in the face of overpowering military force.” That is an appraisal that destroys Trotsky’s position. When Radek said, “We must grit our teeth and prepare our forces,” he was right—I agree with that in full—don’t bluster, grit your teeth and make preparations.

Grit your teeth, don’t bluster and muster your forces. The revolutionary war will come, there is no disagreement on this; the difference of opinion is on the Peace of Tilsit—should we conclude it or not ? The worst of it is that we have a sick army, and the Central Committee, therefore, must have a firm line and not differences of opinion or the middle line that Comrade Bukharin also supported. I am not painting the respite in bright colours; nobody knows how long it will last and I don’t know. The efforts that are being made to force me to say how long it will last are ridiculous. As long as we hold the main lines we are helping the Ukraine and Finland. We are taking advantage of the respite, manoeuvring and retreating.

The German worker cannot now be told that the Russians are being awkward, for it is now clear that German and Japanese imperialism is attacking—it will be clear to everybody; apart from a desire to strangle the Bolsheviks, the Germans also want to do some strangling in the West, everything is all mixed up, and in this war we shall have to and must be able to manoeuvre.

With regard to Comrade Bukharin’s speech, I must say that when he runs short of arguments he puts forward something in the Uritsky manner and says, “The treaty disgraces us.” Here no arguments are needed; if we have been disgraced we should collect our papers and run, but, although we have been “disgraced”, I do not think our position has been shaken. Comrade Bukharin attempted to analyse the class basis of our position, but instead of doing so told us an anecdote about a deceased Moscow economist. When you discovered some connection between our tactics and food speculation—this was really ridiculous—you forgot that the attitude of the class as a whole, the class, and not the food speculators, shows that the Russian bourgeoisie and their hangers-on—the Dyelo Naroda and Novaya Zhizn writers—are bending all their efforts to goad us on to war. You do not stress that class fact. To declare war on Germany at the moment would be to fall for the provocation of the Russian bourgeoisie. That is not new because it is the surest—I do not say absolutely certain, because nothing is absolutely certain—the surest way of getting rid of us today. When Comrade Bukharin said that events were on their side, that in the long run we would recognise revolutionary war, he was celebrating an easy victory since we prophesied the inevitability of a revolutionary war in 1915. Our differences were on the following—would the Germans attack or not; that we should have declared the state of war terminated; that in the interests of revolutionary war we should have to retreat, surrendering territory to gain time. Strategy and politics prescribe the most disgusting peace treaty imaginable. Our differences will all disappear once we recognise these tactics.




[15] Lenin is referring to his conversation with the French officer, the Comte de Lubersac, which took place on February 27, 1918.

[16] The reference is to the appeal of the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs, which called upon all workers and peasants to take up voluntary military training. Military training had to be made voluntary because the Russian Army under the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was to be completely demobilised. The appeal was published on March 5, 1918 in the newspaper Izvestia VTsIK No. 40.

[17] Canossa—castle in Northern Italy. In 1077, the Roman Emperor Henry IV, who had been defeated by Pope Gregory VII, stood for three days in the robes of repentance before the gates of this castle in order to save himself from excommunication and regain his power as emperor. Hence the phrase “to go to Canossa”, i.e., to humiliate oneself before a person whom one has previously resisted.

[18] According to the terms of the armistice concluded on December 2 (15), 1917 at Brest-Litovsk between the Soviet Government and the powers of the Quadruple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey), either side could renew hostilities at seven days’ notice. The German military command broke this condition by launching an offensive along the whole front on February 18, two days after denouncing the armistice.

[19] According to Clause VI of the Treaty of Brest, signed on March 3, 1918 Russia undertook to conclude peace with the counter-revolutionary Ukrainian Central Rada. The peace negotiations between the Soviet Government and the Rada did not take place, however. On April 29, 1918 the German occupation forces in collusion with the Constitutional-Democrat and Octobrist bourgeoisie engineered a coup in the Ukraine. The Rada was overthrown and replaced by the dictatorial regime of Hetman Skoropadsky. Negotiations between Soviet Russia and the Skoropadsky government began on May 23 and an armistice was signed on June 14, 1918.

[20] March 12 was the provisional date for the assembly of the Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets to decide the ques- tion of ratifying the peace treaty. The Congress was held March 14-16, 1918.





Resolution On War And Peace



The Congress recognises the necessity to confirm the extremely harsh, humiliating peace treaty with Germany that has been concluded by Soviet power in view of our lack of an army, in view of the most unhealthy state of the demoralised army at the front, in view of the need to take advantage of any, even the slightest, possibility of obtaining a respite before imperialism launches its offensive against the Soviet Socialist Republic.

In the present period of the era that has begun, the era of the socialist revolution, numerous military attacks on Soviet Russia by the imperialist powers (both from the West and from the East) are historically inevitable. The historical inevitability of such attacks at a time when both internal, class relations and international relations are extremely tense, can at any moment, even immediately, within the next few days, lead to fresh imperialist aggressive wars against the socialist movement in general and against the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic in particular.

The Congress therefore declares that it recognises the primary and fundamental task of our Party, of the entire vanguard of the class-conscious proletariat and of Soviet power, to be the adoption of the most energetic, ruthlessly determined and Draconian measures to improve the self-discipline and discipline of the workers and peasants of Russia, to explain the inevitability of Russia’s historic advance towards a socialist, patriotic war of liberation, to create everywhere soundly co-ordinated mass organisations held together by a single iron will, organisations that are capable of concerted, valorous action in their day-to-day efforts and especially at critical moments in the life of the people, and, lastly, to train systematically and comprehensively in military matters and military operations the entire adult population of both sexes.

The Congress considers the only reliable guarantee of consolidation of the socialist revolution that has been victorious in Russia to be its conversion into a world working-class revolution.

The Congress is confident that the step taken by Soviet power in view of the present alignment of forces in the world arena was, from the standpoint of the interests of the world revolution, inevitable and necessary.

Confident that the working-class revolution is maturing persistently in all belligerent countries and is preparing the full and inevitable defeat of imperialism, the Congress declares that the socialist proletariat of Russia will support the fraternal revolutionary movement of the proletariat of all countries with all its strength and with every means at its disposal.




[21] The resolution on war and peace was passed on March 8 at the morning session of the Party Congress. On Lenin’s proposal, which was affirmed by the Congress, the resolution was not made public. It was first published on January 1, 1919 in the workers’ daily Kommunar, which was issued by the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) in Moscow from October 9, 1918 to June 1, 1919.





Speeches Against Trotsky’s Amendments to the Resolution on War and Peace
March 8 (Morning)


Comrades, in my speech I have already said that neither I nor those who support me consider it possible to accept this amendment. We must in no way bind our hands in any strategic manoeuvre. Everything depends on the relationship of forces and the time of the attack against us by these or those imperialist countries, the time when the rehabilitation of our army, which is undoubtedly beginning reaches the point when we shall be in a position and obliged not merely to refrain from concluding peace but to declare war. Instead of the amendments which Comrade Trotsky proposes, I am ready to accept the following:

First, to say—and this I shall certainly uphold—that the present resolution is not to be published in the press but that a communication should be made only about the ratification of the treaty.

Secondly, in the forms of publication and content the Central Committee shall have the right to introduce changes in connection with a possible offensive by the Japanese.

Thirdly, to say that the Congress will empower the C.C of the Party both to break all the peace treaties and to declare war on any imperialist power or the whole world when the C.C. of the Party considers that the appropriate moment for this has come.

We must give the C.C. full power to break the treaties at any moment but this does not in any way imply that we shall break them just now, in the situation that exists today. At the present time we must not bind our hands in any way. The words that Comrade Trotsky proposes to introduce will gain the votes of those who are against ratification in general, votes for a middle course which will create afresh a situation in which not a single worker, not a single soldier, will understand anything in our resolution.

At the present time we shall endorse the necessity of ratifying the treaty and we shall empower the Central Committee to declare war at any moment, because an attack against us is being prepared, perhaps from three sides; Britain or France wants to take Archangel from us—it is quite possible they will, but in any case we ought not to hamper our central institution in any way, whether in regard to breaking the peace treaty or in regard to declaring war. We are giving financial aid to the Ukrainians, we are helping them in so far as we can. In any case we must not bind ourselves to not signing any peace treaty. In an epoch of growing wars, coming one after the other, new combinations grow up. The peace treaty is entirely a matter of vital manoeuvring—either we stand by this condition of manoeuvring or we formally bind our hands in advance in such a way that it will be impossible to move; neither making peace nor waging war will be possible.


It seems to me that I have said: no, I cannot accept this. This amendment makes a hint, it expresses what Comrade Trotsky wants to say. There should be no hints in the resolution.

The first point says that we accept ratification of the treaty, considering it essential to utilise every, even the smallest, possibility of a breathing-space before imperialism attacks the Soviet Socialist Republic. In speaking of a breathing space, we do not forget that an attack on our Republic is still going on. There you have my opinion, which I stressed in my reply to the debate.




Speech Against The Statement Of The “Left Communist” Group In Support Of Trotsky’s Amendment
March 8

I am unable to give an immediate answer to Comrade Radek’s polemic[22]—since I am not voting, I cannot give grounds for my vote. According to the usual procedure, I cannot reply; I do not want to hold up the Congress by requesting to be given the floor in order to reply to this polemic. I merely remind you, therefore, of what was said in my reply to the debate and, secondly, register my protest against a speech on grounds for voting being turned into a polemic to which I am not in a position to reply.





[22] K. Radek made a statement on behalf of the group of “Left Communists”, in which he tried to continue the polemic over the question of war and peace.





Addendum To The Resolution On War And Peace March 8


The Congress deems it essential not to publish the resolution that has been adopted and requires of all Party members that they keep this resolution secret. The only communication to be made to the press—and that not today but on the instructions of the Central Committee—will be that the Congress is in favour of ratification.

Furthermore, the Congress lays special stress on the authority granted to the Central Committee to denounce at any moment all peace treaties concluded with imperialist and bourgeois states, and also to declare war on them.

Published according tothe manuscript





Speech Against Zinoviev’s Amendment To The Addendum To The Resolution On War And Peace
March 8


I think, comrades, that there is no need for this amendment which Comrade Zinoviev has moved.[23] I hope that only members of the Party are in the hall; in view of the state importance of the question, I think that we can adopt a decision to take the personal signature of everyone present in this hall.

This is by no means a superfluous measure; we are in conditions in which military secrets become very important questions, the most essential questions, for the Russian Republic. If we say in the press that the Congress has decided on ratification there cannot be any misunderstanding. I only propose that this should not be voted on just now because there may be changes: further information should reach us today. We have taken special measures to obtain information from the North-East and the South—this news may cause some change. Since the Congress agrees that we must manoeuvre in the interests of a revolutionary war—will even empower the Central Committee to declare war—it is obvious that we have the agreement of both sections of the Party on this; the dispute was only over whether or not to continue the war without any respite. I consider that in moving this amendment I am saying something indisputable for the majority and for the opposition; I think that there cannot be any other interpretations. I consider it more practical merely to confirm that it must be kept secret. And in addition, to adopt supplementary measures and on this account to take the personal signature of each person present in the hall.




[23] G. Y. Zinoviev proposed instructing the new Central Committee to find a form for the publication of the resolution on war and peace. Zinoviev’s amendment was not accepted; by a majority vote the Congress affirmed Lenin’s proposed addition to the resolution.




Proposal Concerning The Resolution On War And Peace
March 8


In view of the fact that the resolution has been distributed, can we not at once adopt a decision that everyone who has received a copy should bring it to this table immediately? That is one means of preserving a military secret.



I ask for the vote to be taken. Our Party centres consist of adult people who will understand that communications containing a military secret are made orally. Therefore I absolutely insist that all texts of the resolution in anyone’s possession shall immediately be put on the table here.