On the revolution of the Finnish workers -1918
[ collection of quotations ]
arranged by Wolfgang Eggers
on occasion of the
95th Anniversary of the
Finnish Revolution and the Civil War
The Finnish Revolution - 1918
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The revolution in Finland broke out in mid-January 1918 in the southern industrial areas. On January 15 (28), the Finnish Red Guard occupied Helsingfors, the capital, and overthrew the reactionary bourgeois government of Svinhufvud . A revolutionary government of Finland, the Council of People’s Representatives, was setup on January 16 (29). Power in the towns and villages in the south of Finland passed into the hands of the workers. The Svinhufvud government was entrenched in the north and appealed to the German Government for help. Following the intervention of the German armed forces and a bitter civil war, the revolution in Finland was crushed in May 1918.
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 others. 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.
On March 1, 1918 a treaty was signed in Petrograd between the Finnish Socialist Workers’ Republic and the R.S.F.S.R. It was based on the principles of complete equality and sovereignty, and was the first treaty in the world between two socialist countries.
However the proletarian revolution was victorious only in the towns and countryside of the South of Finland. The Svinhufvud government established itself in the North and appealed to the German Government for assistance. As a result of the intervention of the German armed forces, the revolution in Finland was defeated in May 1918 after a bitter civil war. The Finnish bourgeoisie resorted savage terror to suppress the proletarian revolution in 1918. Over 90,000 people were imprisoned or sent to concentration camps, nearly 18,000 were executed and nearly as many died of hunger or tortures. The number of victims of White Terror ten times exceeded the number of Finnish workers killed in the battles for the revolution.
Nobody can deny the historical truth:
"Finland got its independence from the Bolsheviks in November 1917".
Neuvostohallituksen asetus Suomen itsenäisyyden tunnustamisesta.
On December 18 (31), 1917, Lenin handed Svinhufvud, head of the Finnish bourgeois government, the decree of the Council of People’s Commissars granting independence to Finland.
The decree was endorsed by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on December22, 1917 (January 4, 1918).
Lenin - Statue - Turku - Finland
April 1917 Lenin returned to St. Petersburg via the Finnish towns of Tornio, Tampere and Riihimäki.
Finland and Russia
Pravda No. 46, May 15 (2), 1917.
Finland’s attitude to Russia has become the topic of the day. The Provisional Government has failed to meet the demand of the Finnish people, which, so far, is not for secession, but only for broad autonomy.
The Provisional Government’s undemocratic, annexationist policy was formulated and “defended” the other day by Rabochaya Gazeta. It could not have made a more “damning” defence than it did. This is indeed a fundamental issue, an issue of state significance, which deserves the closest attention.
“The Organising Committee believes,” writes Rabochaya Gazeta No. 42, “that the general problem of Finnish-Russian relations can and should be settled only by an agreement between the Finnish Diet and the Constituent Assembly. Pending this the Finnish comrades [the Organising Committee has had talks with the Finnish Social-Democrats] should bear in mind that if separate tendencies in Finland were to increase, this would be likely to strengthen the centralist tendencies of the Russian bourgeoisie.”
That is the point of view of the capitalists, the bourgeoisie, the Cadets, but not of the proletariat. The programme of the Social-Democratic Party, namely, 9, which recognises the right of self-determination for all nation members of the state, has been thrown overboard by the Menshevik Social-Democrats. They have, in effect, renounced this programme and taken sides with the bourgeoisie, just as they did on the question of the replacement of the standing army by the universally armed people, and so on.
The capitalists, the bourgeoisie, including the Cadet Party, never did recognise the right of nations to political self-determination, i.e., freedom to secede from Russia.
The Social-Democratic Party recognised this right in § 9 of its programme, adopted in 1903.
When the Organising Committee “recommended” to the Finnish Social-Democrats an ’agreement’ between the Finnish Diet and the Constituent Assembly, they were, on this question, taking sides with the bourgeoisie. One merely has to compare the positions of all the principal classes and parties to see the truth of this.
The tsar, the Rights, the monarchists are not for an agreement between the Diet and the Constituent Assembly—they are for subjecting Finland to the Russian nation. The republican bourgeoisie are for an agreement between the Finnish Diet and the Constituent Assembly. The class-conscious proletariat and the Social-Democrats, true to their programme, are for the right of Finland, as of all the other underprivileged nations, to secede from Russia. We have here a clear, precise, and indisputable picture. Under the guise of an agreement”, which cannot settle anything—for what are you going to do if an agreement is not reached?—the bourgeoisie is pursuing the same old tsarist policy of subjection and annexation.
For Finland was annexed by the Russian tsars as the result of a deal with the suppressor of the French revolution, Napoleon, etc. If we are really against annexations, we should say: give Finland the right of secession! Not until this has been said and accomplished can an “agreement” with Finland be a really free and voluntary agreement, a real agreement, and not just a fake.
Agreement is possible only between equals. If the agreement is to be a real agreement, and not a verbal screen for subjection, both parties to it must enjoy real equality of status, that is to say, both Russia and Finland must have the right to disagree. That is as clear as daylight.
Only by “freedom of secession” can that right be expressed. Only when she is free to secede will Finland really be in a position to enter into an “agreement” with Russia as to whether she should secede or not. Without this condition, without recognising the right of secession, all phrase-mongering about an “agreement” is self-deception and deception of the people.
The Organising Committee should have told the Finns plainly whether it recognises the right of secession or not. It befogged the issue, like the Cadets, and thereby repudiated the right of secession. It should have attacked the Russian bourgeoisie for denying the oppressed nations the right to secede, a denial which is tantamount to annexation. Instead, the Organising Committee attacks the Finns and warns them that “separate” (they should have said separatist) tendencies would strengthen centralist inclinations! In other words, the Organising Committee threatens the Finns with the strengthening of the annexationist Great-Russian bourgeoisie—just what the Cadets have always done, the very guise under which Rodichev and Co. are pursuing their annexationist policy.
We have here a clear and practical commentary on the question of annexations, which “everybody” is now talking about, though afraid to face the issue squarely. To be against the right of secession is to be for annexations.
The tsars pursued a crude policy of annexation, bartering one nation for another by agreement with other monarchs (the partition of Poland, the deal with Napoleon over Fin land, and so on), just like the landowners, who used to ex change peasant serfs. The bourgeoisie, on turning republican, is carrying on the same policy of annexation, only more subtly, less openly, by promising an “agreement” while taking away the only effective guarantee of real equality in the making of an agreement, namely, the right of secession. The Organising Committee is dragging at the tail-end of the bourgeoisie, and in practice taking its side. (Birzhevka was therefore quite right in reprinting all the salient points of the Rabochaya Gazeta article and approving the Organising Committee’s reply to the Finns. which it called a “lesson by Russian democracy” to the Finns. Rabochaya Gazeta deserved this kiss from Birzhevka.)
At its conference, the party of the proletariat (the “Bolsheviks”) once more confirmed the right of secession in its resolution on the national question.
The alignment of classes and parties is clear.
The petty bourgeois are letting themselves be frightened by the spectre of a frightened bourgeoisie—that is the whole crux of the policy of the Menshevik Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. They are “afraid” of secession.
The class-conscious proletarians are not afraid of It. Both Norway and Sweden gained from Norway’s free secession from Sweden in 1905: it made for mutual trust between the two nations, it drew them closer together on a voluntary basis, it did away with the stupid and destructive friction, it strengthened the economic and political, the cultural and social gravitation of the two nations to each other, and strengthened the fraternal alliance between the workers of the two countries.
Comrades, workers and peasants, do not be influenced by the annexationist policy of the Russian capitalists, Guchkov, Milyukov, and the Provisional Government towards Finland, Kurland, Ukraine, etc.! Do not fear to recognise the right of all these nations to secede! Nations must be won over to the idea of an alliance with the Great Russians not by force, but by a really voluntary and really free agreement, which is impossible without the right of secession.
The freer Russia is, and the more resolutely our republic recognises the right of non-Great-Russian nations to secede, the more strongly will other nations be attracted towards an alliance with us, the less friction will there be, the more rarely will actual secession occur, the shorter the period of secession will last, and the closer and more enduring—in the long run—will the fraternal alliance be between the Russian proletarian and peasant republic and the republics of all other nations.
Lenin, Volume 24, pages 335 - 338
The annexation of Belgium, Serbia, etc., will not cease being annexation if the German Cadets take the place of Wilhelm, just as the annexation of Khiva, Bokhara, Armenia, Finland, Ukraine, etc., has not ceased being annexation because the Russian Cadets, the Russian capitalists, have taken the place of Nicholas.
Lenin, Volume 24, page 344
Letter To I. T. Smilga
Chairman Of The Regional Committee Of The Army, Navy And Workers Of Finland
September 27 (October 10). 1917
I am taking advantage of a favourable opportunity to talk with you in greater detail.
The general political situation causes me great anxiety. The Petrograd Soviet and the Bolsheviks have declared war on the government. But the government has an army, and is preparing systematically. (Kerensky at General Headquarters is obviously entering into an understanding— a business-like understanding with the Kornilovites to use troops to put down the Bolsheviks.)
And what are we doing? We are only passing resolutions. We are losing time. We set "dates"(October 20, the Congress of Soviets—is it not ridiculous to put it off so long? Is it not ridiculous to rely on that?). The Bolsheviks are not conducting regular work to prepare their own military forces for the overthrow of Kerensky.
Events have fully proved the correctness of the proposal I made at the time of the Democratic Conference, namely, that the Party must put the armed uprising on the order of the day.[See The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power] Events compel us to do this. History has made the military question now the fundamental political question. I am afraid that the Bolsheviks forget this, being busy with "day-to-day events," petty current questions, and "hoping" that "the wave will sweep Kerensky away". Such hope is naïve; it is the same as relying on chance, and may prove criminal on the part of the party of the revolutionary proletariat.
It is my opinion that inside the Party we must agitate for an earnest attitude towards the armed uprising, for which reason this letter should be typed and delivered to the Petrograd and Moscow comrades.
Now about your role. It seems to me we can have completely at our disposal only the troops in Finland and the Baltic fleet and only they can play a serious military role. I think you must make most of your high position, shift all the petty routine work to assistants and secretaries and not waste time on "resolutions"; give all your attention to the military preparation of the troops in Finland plus the fleet for the impending overthrow of Kerensky. Create a secret committee of absolutely trustworthy military men, discuss matters thoroughly with them, collect (and personally verify) the most precise data on the composition and the location of troops near and in Petrograd, the transfer of the troops from Finland to Petrograd, the movement of the fleet, etc.
If we fail to do this, we may turn out to be consummate idiots, the owners of beautiful resolutions and of Soviets, but no power! I think it is possible for you to select really reliable and competent military men, to make a trip to Ino40 and other most important points, to weigh and study the matter earnestly, not relying on the boastful general phrases all too common with us.
It is obvious that we can under no circumstances allow the troops to be moved from Finland. Better do anything, better decide on an uprising, on the seizure of power, later to be transferred to the Congress of Soviets. I read in the papers today that in two weeks the danger of a landing will be nil. Obviously, you have very little time left for preparation.
To continue. We must utilise our "power" in Finland to conduct systematic propaganda among the Cossacks now stationed in Finland. From Vyborg, for instance, Kerensky and Co. purposely removed some of them, fearing "Bolshevisation", and stationed them in Uusikirkko and Perkjärvi, between Vyborg and Terijoki, in Bolshevik-proof isolation. We must study all the information about the location of the Cossacks, and must organise the dispatch of propaganda groups to them from among the best forces of the sailors and soldiers in Finland. This is imperative. Do the same thing about literature.
To continue. Of course, both sailors and soldiers go home on furloughs. Out of these men we must form groups of propagandists to travel over the provinces systematically and to carry on both general propaganda and propaganda in favour of the Constituent Assembly in the villages. Your situation is exceptionally good because you are in a position to begin immediately to form that bloc with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries which alone can give us stable power in Russia and a majority in the Constituent Assembly. While things are being settled, organise such a bloc immediately in your place, organise the publication of leaflets (find out what you can do about them technically as well as in the matter of transporting them into Russia). Then each propaganda group for work in the rural areas should consist of not less than two persons—one from the Bolsheviks and one from the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Socialist-Revolutionary "trade mark"is still popular among village folk and you must make the most of your good fortune (you have some Left Socialist-Revolutionaries) to effect a bloc of the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries under this "trade mark" in the countryside, a bloc of peasants and workers and not of peasants and capitalists.
It seems to me that in order to prepare people's minds properly we must immediately circulate the following slogan: transfer power now to the Petrograd Soviet which will transfer it to the Congress of Soviets. Why should we tolerate three more weeks of war and Kerensky's "Kornilovite preparations"?
Propaganda in favour of this slogan by the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in Finland can do nothing but good.
Since you are vested with "power" in Finland, you have to do one more very important, though in itself modest job—organise the illegal transport of literature from Sweden. Without this all talk of an "International" is an empty phrase. This can be done, first, by creating our own organisation of soldiers at the frontier; secondly, if this is impossible, by organising regular trips of at least one reliable man to a certain place where I began to organise the transport with the aid of the person in whose house I lived for one day before moving to Helsingfors (Rovio knows him). Perhaps we must help with some money. Get this done by all means!
[ The reference is to Deputy of the Finnish Diet K. Vijk, in whose coutnry-house at Mälm station Lenin stayed for a day when on his way to Helsingfors.]
I think we should meet to talk all these things over. You could come here; it would take you less than a day; if you come only to see me, have Rovio phone Huttunen and ask him whether Rovio's "sister-in-law"(meaning you) may see Huttunen's "sister"(meaning myself). I may have to leave suddenly.
Do not fail to acknowledge the receipt of this letter (burn it) through the comrade who will bring it to Rovio and who will soon go back.
In case I stay here longer, we must organise postal connections. You could help by sending envelopes through railway workers to the Vyborg Soviet (inside envelope: "for Huttunen").
Send me by the same comrade identification papers (as formal as possible, either typewritten, or in very clear handwriting on the stationery of the Regional Committee, stamped and with the signature of the chairman), in the name of Konstantin Petrovich Ivanov, to the effect that the chairman of the Regional Committee vouches for comrade so-and-so, and requests all Soviets, the Vyborg Soviet of Soldiers' Deputies as well as others, to give him full confidence, aid and support.
I need it in case of some emergency, since a "conflict" and a "meeting" are equally possible.
Have you a copy of the Moscow collection of articles On the Revision of the Programme?] Try to find one among the comrades in Helsingfors and send it to me by the same comrade.
Bear in mind that Rovio is a fine fellow, but lazy. He must be looked after and reminded of things twice a day. Otherwise he won't do them.
Greetings, K. Ivanov
Lenin, Volume 26, pages 69 - 73
The important thing for us is not where the state border runs, but whether or not the working people of all nations remain allied in their struggle against the bourgeoisie, irrespective of nationality.(Stormy applause.)
“If the Finnish bourgeoisie are buying arms from the Germans in order to use them against their workers, we offer the latter an alliance with the Russian working people. Let the bourgeoisie start their filthy petty squabbles and their trading over frontiers, the workers of all countries and nationalities will not fall out over that sort of thing. (Stormy applause.)
“We are now ’conquering’ Finland—this is using a nasty word—but not the way the robber barons of international capitalism conquered it. We are winning Finland over by giving her complete freedom to live in alliance with us or with others, guaranteeing full support for the working people of all nationalities against the bourgeoisie of all countries. It is not an alliance based on treaties, but on the solidarity of the exploited against the exploiters.
Speech At The First All-Russia Congress Of The Navy ; November 22 (December 5), 1917; Lenin, Volume 26, pages 341 - 346
We have not taken a single step, in the sense of restricting the Finnish people’s national rights or national independence, against the bourgeois Finnish Republic, which still remains bourgeois, nor shall we take any steps restricting the national independence of any nation which had been—or desires to be—a part of the Russian Republic.
Manifesto To The Ukrainian People;
Lenin, Volume 26; page 361
3. For the transition from the bourgeois to the socialist system, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Republic of Soviets (of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies) is not only a higher type of democratic institution (as compared with the usual bourgeois republic crowned by a Constituent Assembly), but is the only form capable of securing the most painless transition to socialism.
12. Recent events in the Ukraine (partly also in Finland and Byelorussia, as well as in the Caucasus) point similarly to a regrouping of class forces which is taking place in the process of the struggle between the bourgeois nationalism of the Ukrainian Bada, the Finnish Diet, etc., on the one hand, and Soviet power, the proletarian-peasant revolution in each of these national republics, on the other.
Theses On The Constituent Assembly ; 12 of December, 1917 ; Lenin, Volume 26, pages 379 - 383
21. A really revolutionary war at this juncture would be a war waged by a socialist republic against the bourgeois countries, with the aim—an aim clearly defined and fully approved by the socialist army—of overthrowing the bourgeoisie in other countries. However, we obviously cannot set ourselves this aim at the present moment. Objectively, we would be fighting now for the liberation of Poland, Lifland and Courland. But no Marxist, without renouncing the principles of Marxism and of socialism generally, can deny that the interests of socialism are higher than the interests of the right of nations to self-determination. Our socialist republic has done all it could, and continues to do all it can to give effect to the right to self-determination of Finland, the Ukraine, etc. But if the concrete situation is such that the existence of the socialist republic is being imperilled at the present moment on account of the violation of the right to self-determination of several nations (Poland, Lifland, Courland, etc.), naturally the preservation of the socialist republic has the higher claim.
On The History Of The Question Of The Unfortunate Peace, February 24, 1918, Lenin, Volume 26, pages 442 - 450
Let us take a look at what the new socialist principle of government has yielded in the sphere of our domestic policy. Comrades, you will recall that just recently the bourgeois press was vociferously accusing us of destroying the Russian state and saying that we were incapable of running the country, and so all the nationalities — Finland, the Ukraine, etc—were leaving us. The bourgeois press, transported with malicious joy, carried almost daily reports of such “secessioris”. We, comrades, had a better understanding than they of the main causes of this phenomenon which were rooted in the working people’s mistrust of the conciliatory imperialist government of Kerensky and Co. We kept silent, being quite sure that our just principles and our government would demonstrate our true purposes and aspirations to all the working people better than words.
We proved to be right. We see now that our ideas have won out in Finland and the Ukraine and are winning out on the Don, that they are awakening the working people’s class-consciousness and are organising them into a solid alliance. We acted without any diplomatists or the use of the old imperialist methods, but can point to the greatest result: the revolution has won, and those who have won are allied with us in a mighty revolutionary federation. We do not rule by dividing, as ancient Rome’s harsh maxim required, but by uniting all the working people with the unbreakable bonds of living interests and a sense of class. This our union, our new state is sounder than power based on violence which keeps artificial state entities hammered together with lies and bayonets in the way the imperialists want them.
Thus, no sooner had the Finnish workers and peasants taken power than they sent us their expressions of loyalty to the world proletarian revolution and greetings which reveal unflinching determination to march with us along the path of the International.
The reference is to the Message of the Revolutionary Finish Government to the Council of Peoples Commissars of the Russian Republic, published in Pravda (evening edition) No. 13, on January 17 (31), 1918.
There is the basis of our federation and I am profoundly convinced that more and more diverse federations of free nations will group themselves around revolutionary Russia. This federation is invincible and will grow quite freely, without the help of lies or bayonets. The laws and the state system which we are creating over here are the best earnest of its invincibility. You have just heard a reading of the law on the socialisation of land. Isn’t it a pledge of the unbreakable unity of the workers and peasants, isn’t it a guarantee that in this unity we shall be able to overcome all obstacles on the way to socialism?
I must tell you that these obstacles are tremendous. You can depend on the bourgeoisie to resort to every trick, to stake their all on crushing our unity. They can be expected to make use of liars, provocateurs, traitors, possibly, dupes, but henceforth we have nothing to fear, because we have established our own new state power and because we hold the reins of government. We shall throw the full weight of our power against any counter-revolutionary attempt. But the chief pillar of the new system is the organisational measures we shall be implementing for the sake of socialism. In this respect we are faced with a vast amount of work. You must bear in mind, comrades, that the imperialists, the world’s brigands, who had embroiled the nations in war, have disrupted the economic life of the world to its very roots. They have left us an onerous legacy, the work to restore what they had destroyed.
Of course, the working people had no experience in government but that does not scare us. The victorious proletariat looks out on a land that has now become a public good, and it will be quite able to organise the new production and consumption on socialist lines. In the old days, human genius, the brain of man, created only to give some the benefits of technology and culture, and to deprive others of the most essential—education and development. From now on all the marvels of science and the gains of culture belong to the nation as a whole, and never again will man’s brain and human genius be used for oppression and exploitation. Of this we are sure, so shall we not dedicate ourselves and work with abandon to fulfil this greatest of all historical tasks? The working people will perform this titanic historical feat, for in them lie dormant the great forces of revolution, renascence and renovation.
We are no longer alone. In the last few days, momentous events have taken place not only in the Ukraine and the Don area, not only in the realm of our Kaledins and Kerenskys, but in Western Europe as well. You have already heard of the telegrams on the state of the revolution in Germany. The flames of a revolutionary wildfire are leaping higher and higher over the whole of this rotten old world system. It was no pie-in-the-sky theory, no armchair pipe dream that once we had established Soviet power we would induce others to make similar attempts in other countries. For I must repeat that the working people had no other way out of the slaughter. These attempts are now being consolidated as gains of the international revolution. We close this historic Congress of Soviets under the sign of the mounting world revolution, and the time is not far off when the working people of all countries will unite into a single world-wide state and join in a common effort to build a new socialist edifice. The way to this construction runs through the Soviets, as a form of the incipient world revolution.
Summing-Up Speech At The Congress January 18 (31)
Lenin, Volume 26, pages 453 - 482
In Finland, the affairs of the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries are hopeless, and workers' resentment is running extremely high.
Wireless Message Addressed To All, Lenin, Volume 26, page 510
In Finland, the victory of the Finnish workers' government is being rapidly consolidated, the counter-revolutionary whiteguard troops have been pushed back to the North, and the workers' victory over them is certain.
Wireless Message Addressed To All, Lenin, Volume 26, page 511
History will say that you have surrendered the revolution. We could have concluded a peace which held no threat to the revolution. We have nothing, we have not even got the time to blow up anything as we retreat. We have done our best to help the revolution in Finland, but now we can do no more. This is not the time for an exchange of notes, and this temporising must stop. It is too late to put out feelers, because it is quite clear now that the Germans can launch an offensive. We cannot argue against the advocates of a revolutionary war, but we can and must argue against the temporisers. An offer of peace must be made to the Germans.
Comrade Lenin. Bukharin failed to notice how he went over to the position of a revolutionary war. The peasants do not want war and will not fight. Can we now tell the peasants to fight a revolutionary war? But if that is what we want we should not have demobilised the army. It is a utopia to want a permanent peasant war. A revolutionary war must not be a mere phrase. If we are not ready, we must conclude peace. Since we have demobilised the army it is ridiculous to talk of a permanent war. There is no comparison at all with a civil war. The muzhik will not have a revolutionary war, and will overthrow anyone who openly calls for one. The revolution in Germany has not yet started, and we know that over here, too, our revolution did not win out all at once. It has been said here that they would take Lifland and Estland; but we can give them up for the sake of the revolution. If they should want us to withdraw our troops from Finland, well and good-let them take revolutionary Finland. The revolution will not be lost if we give up Finland, Lifland and Estland. The prospects with which Comrade Joffe tried to scare us yesterday do not at all spell ruin to the revolution.
I propose a declaration that we are willing to conclude the peace the Germans offered us yesterday; should they add to this non-interference in the affairs of the Ukraine, Finland, Lifland and Estland, we should unquestionably accept all that as well. Our soldiers are in a poor state; the Germans want grain, they will take it and go back, making it impossible for Soviet power to continue in existence. To say that the demobilisation has been stopped is to be overthrown.
Speeches At The Evening Sitting Of The Central Committee Of The R.S.D.L.P.(B.) ; February 18, 1918, Lenin, Volume 26, pages 522 - 524
When we are told that the Bolsheviks have invented this utopian idea of introducing socialism in Russia, which is an impossible thing, we reply: How did it happen that utopians and dreamers enjoy the sympathy of the majority of the workers, peasants and soldiers? Did not the majority of the workers, peasants and soldiers side with us because they had acquired a first-hand knowledge of the war and its effects? They realised that there was no way out of the old society, that the capitalists with all their marvels of technology and culture were engaged in a destructive war, and that men had degenerated to a state of frenzy, savagery and starvation. That is what the capitalists have done, and that is why we are faced with the alternative of perishing or demolishing the old bourgeois society. That explains why our revolution has depth.
Then take Finland, where the Diet spoke on behalf of the nation, and the bourgeoisie demanded that we should recognise her independence. We were not going to use force to keep under Russia’s control or in one Russian state any of the nations tsarism had kept in by oppression. We had not planned to attract other nations—the Ukraine or Finland—by force or imposition but by allowing them to set up their own socialist system, their own Soviet republics. We now find that a working-class revolution is expected to break out in Finland almost any day. This is the same Finland that had enjoyed complete internal freedom for 12 years—since 1905—and had the right to elect democratic institutions. Between 1905 and 1917, the sparks of the fire which the Bolsheviks are alleged to have fanned artificially, also penetrated into that country which is distinguished for its high culture, its efficient economy and its history, and we find the socialist revolution beginning there as well. This proves that we are not blinded by party struggles, that we had not acted according to plan, and that it was nothing but mankind’s hopeless state since the war began that brought on the revolution, and made the socialist revolution invincible.
Lenin, collected works, Volume 26, Extraordinary All- Russia Railwaymen’s Congress - January 5-30 (January 18-February 12), 1918 - Report Of The Council Of People’s Commissars January 13 (26)
The week from February 18 to 24, 1918, has been one that will be remembered as a great turning-point in the history of the Russian—and the international-revolution.
On February 27, 1917, the Russian proletariat, jointly with part of the peasantry who had been aroused by the course the war was taking, and also with the bourgeoisie, overthrew the monarchy. On April 21, 1917, the proletariat overthrew the absolute rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie and shifted power into the hands of the petty-bourgeoisie advocates of compromise with the bourgeoisie, On July 3, the urban proletariat gave the compromisers’ government a severe shock by its spontaneous demonstration. On October 25, it overthrew that government and established the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasantry.
This victory had to be defended in civil war. It took about three months, beginning with the victory over Kerensky near Gatchina, continued in the victories over the bourgeoisie, the officer cadets and part of the counter-revolutionary Cossacks in Moscow, lrkutsk, Orenburg and Kiev, and ending with the victory over Kaledin, Kornilov and Alexeyev at Restov-on-Don.
The fire of proletarian insurrection flared up in Finland, and the conflagration spread to Rumania.
Victories on the home front were achieved with relative ease since the enemy did not possess any material or organisational advantage, and, furthermore, did not have any sound economic basis or any support among the masses, the case with which these victories were gained was bound to turn the heads of many leaders, Their attitude has been: “We’ll have a walk-over.”
They have disregarded the widespread disintegration of the army, which is rapidly demobilising itself and abandoning the front. They have become intoxicated with revolutionary phrases. They have applied them to the struggle against world imperialism. They have mistaken Russia’s temporary “freedom” from imperialist pressure for something normal, although actually that “freedom” was due only to an interruption in the war between the German and Anglo-French plunderers, they have mistaken the mass strikes that are beginning in Austria and Germany for a revolution that is supposed to have delivered us from any serious danger from German imperialism. Instead of serious, effective, sustained work to aid the German revolution, which is coming to birth in a particularly difficult and painful manner, we have had people waving their arms—“what can those German imperialists do—with Liebknecht en our side we’ll kick them out in no time!”
The week from February 18 to February 24, 1918, from the capture of Dvinsk to the capture of Pskov (later recaptured), the week of imperialist Germany’s military offensive against the Soviet Socialist Republic, has been a bitter, distressing, and painful lessen, but it has been a necessary, useful and beneficial one. How highly instructive it has been to compare the two groups of telegraphic and telephonic communications that have reached the central government in the past week! On the one hand there has been the unrestrained flood of “resolution-type” revolutionary phrases—one might call them Steinberg phrases, if one recalls a chefd’oeuvre in that style, the speech of the “Left” (hm ... hm) Socialist-Revolutionary Steinberg at the Saturday meeting of the Central Executive Committee. On the other hand there have been the painful and humiliating reports of regiments refusing to retain their positions, of refusal to defend even the Narva Line, and of disobedience to the order to destroy everything in the event of a retreat, not to mention the running away, the chaos, ineptitude, helplessness and slovenliness.
A bitter, distressing, painful but necessary, useful and beneficial lesson!
The thoughtful, class-conscious worker will draw three conclusions from this historic lessen—on our attitude to the defence of the fatherland, its defence potential and to socialist revolutionary war; on the conditions under which we may come into collision with world imperialism; on the correct presentation of the question of our attitude to the world socialist movement.
"A Painful But Necessary Lesson" - February 25, 1918 – Lenin, Volume 27, pages 62 -63
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.
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.
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.
Lenin, Volume 27; Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) MARCH 6-8, 1910 - Political Report Of The Central Committee March 7
It seems to me that the Marxist view on the state has been distorted in the highest degree by the official socialism that is dominant in Western Europe, and that this has been splendidly confirmed by the experience of the Soviet revolution and the establishment of the Soviets in Russia. There is much that is crude and unfinished in our Soviets, there is no doubt about that, it is obvious to everyone who examines their work; but what is important, has historical value and is a step forward in the world development of socialism, is that they are a new type of state. The Paris Commune was a matter of a few weeks, in one city, without the people being conscious of what they were doing. The Commune was not understood by those who created it; they established the Commune by following the unfailing instinct of the awakened people, and neither of the groups of French socialists was conscious of what it was doing. Because we are standing on the shoulders of the Paris Commune and the many years of development of German Social-Democracy, we have conditions that enable us to see clearly what we are doing in creating Soviet power. Despite all the crudity and lack of discipline that exist in the Soviets—this is a survival of the petty-bourgeois nature of our country—despite all that the new type of state has been created by the masses of the people. It has been functioning for months and not weeks, and not in one city, but throughout a tremendous country, populated by several nations. This type of Soviet power has shown its value since it has spread to Finland, a country that is different in every respect, where there are no Soviets but where there is, at any rate, a new type of power, proletarian power.
[Lenin has in mind the revolutionary government of Finland—the Council of People’s Representatives—set up on January 29, 1918 after the overthrow of Svinhufvud’s bourgeois government. In addition to the Council of People’s Representatives there was also the Main Council of Workers’ Organisations, which was the supreme organ of government. State power was based on the “seims of workers’ organisations’, which were elected by the organised workers.]
This is, therefore, proof of what is theoretically regarded as indisputable—that Soviet power is a new type of state without a bureaucracy, without police, without a regular army, a state in which bourgeois democracy has been replaced by a new democracy, a democracy that brings to the fore the vanguard of the working people, gives them legislative and executive authority, makes them responsible for military defence and creates state machinery that can re-educate the masses.
Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) MARCH 6-8, 1910 – (9) - Report on the Review of the Programme and on Changing the Name of the Party , March 8 ; Volume 27
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.
Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) MARCH 6-8, 1910 – (9) - Report on the Review of the Programme and on Changing the Name of the Party , March 8 ; Volume 27
They tell us we have betrayed the Ukraine and Finland—what disgrace! But the situation that bas arisen is such that we are cut off from Finland, with whom we concluded an unwritten treaty before the revolution and have now concluded a formal treaty.
[ remark: ]
The reference is to the Treaty between the Russian and Finnish Socialist Republics, the first treaty in history between socialist countries. In the middle of February 1918, the revolutionary government of the Finnish republic proposed a treaty of friendship to the Soviet Government. The Russia-Finland Co-ordinative Commission was formed to draw up the treaty and its draft was discussed at several meetings of the Council of People’s Commissars, Lenin making several amendments to it. The treaty was signed on March 1 by a special commission headed by Lenin. It was endorsed by the Council of People’s Commissars and published on March 10, 1918 in Izvestia VTsIK No. 45 (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol: 1, 1957, pp. 503-10). Based on recognition of the state sovereignty of Finland, the treaty provided evidence of the Soviet Government’s consistent adherence to the principle of the right of nations to self-determination.
They say we are surrendering the Ukraine, which Chernov, Kerensky and Tsereteli are going to ruin; they say we are traitors, we have betrayed the Ukraine! I say: Comrades, I’ve seen enough of the history of revolution not to be embarrassed by the hostile glances and shouts of people who give way to their feelings and are incapable of clear judgement. I will give you a simple example. Suppose that two friends are out walking at night and they are attacked by ten men. If the scoundrels isolate one of them, what is the other to do? He cannot render assistance, and if he runs away is he a traitor? And suppose that it is not a matter of individuals or of spheres in which questions of direct feelings are being settled, but of five armies, each a hundred-thousand strong, that surround an army of two hundred thousand, and that there is another army that should come to the embattled army’s assistance. But if that second army knows that it is certain to fall into a trap, it should withdraw; it must withdraw, even if the retreat has to be covered by the conclusion of an obscene, foul peace—curse as much as you like, but it is necessary to conclude the peace. There is no reason for considering the feelings of a duelist who draws his sword and says that he must die because he is being compelled to conclude a humiliating peace. But we all know that, however we may decide, we have no army, and no gestures will save us from the necessity of withdrawing to gain time and enable our army to recuperate; everybody who looks reality in the face and does not deceive himself with revolutionary phrase-making will agree with this. Anyone who faces the facts without blinding himself with phrase-making and arrogance must know this.
If we know this, it is our revolutionary duty to conclude even this harsh, super-harsh and rapacious treaty, for by so doing we shall reach a better position for ourselves and for our allies. Did we actually lose anything by concluding the peace treaty of March 3? Anyone who wants to look at things from the point of view of mass relations, and not from that of the aristocratic duelist, will realise that without an army, or having only the sick remnant of an army, it would be self-deception, it would he the greatest deception of the people, to accept battle and call it a revolutionary war. It is our duty to tell the people the truth; yes, the peace is a harsh one. The Ukraine and Finland are perishing but we must accept this peace and all class-conscious working people in Russia will accept it because they know the unvarnished truth, they know the meaning of war, they know that to stake everything on one card on the assumption that the German revolution will begin immediately is self-deception. By concluding peace we have obtained what we gave our Finnish friends—a respite, help and not destruction.
Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress Of Soviets; March 14-16, 1918; Lenin, Volume 27, pages 169 - 201
Remember all this, and think of the mass scale on which the struggle against international imperialism is developing, think how difficult the transition to this situation is, and what the Russian Republic had to undergo when it found itself ahead of all the other contingents of the socialist army.
I know that there are, of course, wiseacres with a high opinion of themselves and even calling themselves socialists, who assert that power should not have been taken until the revolution broke out in all countries. They do not realise that in saying this they are deserting the revolution and going over to the side of the bourgeoisie. To wait until the working classes carry out a revolution on an international scale means that everyone will remain suspended in mid-air. This is senseless. Everyone knows the difficulties of a revolution. It may begin with brilliant success in one country and then go through agonising periods, since final victory is only possible on a world scale, and only by the joint efforts of the workers of all countries. Our task consists in being restrained and prudent, we must manoeuvre and retreat until we receive reinforcements. A change over to these tactics is inevitable, no matter how much they are mocked by so-called revolutionaries with no idea of what revolution means.
Having dealt with the general questions I now want to examine the causes of the recent alarm and panic which have again enabled the counter-revolutionaries to start activities intended to undermine Soviet power.
I have already mentioned that the outward legal form and outer aspect of all international relations of the Soviet Socialist Republic are, on the one hand, the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, and, on the other, the general law and custom defining the status of a neutral country among other, belligerent countries; this status accounts for the recent difficulties. The conclusion of peace with Finland, the Ukraine and Turkey should have been the natural consequence of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, yet we are still at war with these countries, and this is not due to our internal development, but to the influence of the ruling classes of these countries. In these conditions the only temporary way out lay in the temporary breathing-space provided by the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the breathing-space which provoked so many futile and unnecessary words about its being impossible but which nevertheless turned out to be possible and in two months brought results, made itself felt on the majority of Russian soldiers, enabled them to return home and see how things were going, to take advantage of the revolution’s gains, to work the land, to look around and draw new strength for the fresh sacrifices ahead.
Report On Foreign Policy - Delivered At A Joint Meeting Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee And The Moscow Soviet, May 14, 1918, Lenin, Volume 27, Pages 365 - 381
The situation with regard to peace with Finland may be summed up in the words: Fort Ino and Murmansk. Fort Ino, which defends Petrograd, lies geographically within the Finnish state. In concluding peace with the workers’ government of Finland we, the representatives of socialist Russia, recognised Finland’s absolute right to the whole territory, but it was mutually agreed by both governments that Fort Ino should remain in Russia’s hands “for the defence of the joint interests of the Socialist Republics”, as stated in the treaty that was concluded.
[ remark: ]
The reference is to the Treaty between Russia and Finnish Socialist Republics, which was endorsed in Petrograd on March 1, 1918 (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol. 1, 1957, pp. 505-10
It is natural that our troops should conclude this peace in Finland, should sign these terms. It is natural that bourgeois and counter-revolutionary Finland was bound to raise a hue and cry against this. It is natural that the reactionary and counter-revolutionary Finnish bourgeoisie should lay claim to this stronghold. It is natural that, because of this, the issue should become acute on a number of occasions and should still remain acute. Matters hang by a thread. It is natural that the question of Murmansk, to which the Anglo-French have laid claim, should give rise to even greater aggravation, because they have spent tens of millions on the port’s construction in order to safeguard their military rear in their imperialist war against Germany. Their respect for neutrality is so wonderful that they make use of everything that is left unguarded. Furthermore, sufficient excuse for their grabbing is their possession of a battle ship, while we have nothing with which to chase it away. It is natural that all this should have aggravated the situation. There is an outer aspect, a legal expression resulting from the international position of the Soviet Republic, which presumes that it is impossible for armed forces of any belligerent state to set foot on neutral territory without being disarmed. The British landed their military forces at Murmansk, and we were unable to prevent this by armed force. Consequently, we are presented with demands almost in the nature of an ultimatum: if you cannot protect your neutrality, we shall wage war on your territory.
A worker-peasant army, however, has now been formed, it has rallied in the uyezds and gubernias the peasants who have returned to their land, land wrested from the landowners; they now have something to defend. An army has been formed which has started to build Soviet power, and which will become the vanguard if an invasion against Russia breaks out; we shall rise as one man to meet the enemy.
My time is up, and I want to conclude by reading a telegram received by radio from Comrade Joffe, Soviet Ambassador in Berlin. This telegram will show you that, on the one hand, you have confirmation from our Ambassador of whether my analysis of the international situation is correct and, on the other hand, that the foreign policy of our Soviet Republic is a responsible one—it is a policy of preparation for defence of our country, a steadfast policy, not allowing a single step to be taken that would aid the extremist parties of the imperialist powers in the East and West. This is a responsible policy with no illusions. There always remains the possibility that any day military forces may be thrown against us and we, the workers and peasants, assure ourselves and the whole world, and shall be able to prove, that we shall rise to a man to defend the Soviet Republic. I hope, therefore, that the reading of this telegram will serve as an appropriate conclusion to my speech and will show us the spirit in which the representatives of the Soviet Republic work abroad in the interests of the Soviets, of all Soviet institutions and the Soviet Republic.
“The latest radio-telegrams received today report that the German War Prisoners’ Commission is leaving on Friday, May 10. We have already received a Note from the German Government proposing the setting up of a special commission to consider all legal questions in regard to our possessions in the Ukraine and in Finland. I have agreed to such a commission and have asked you to send the appropriate military and legal representatives. Today I had a talk about further advances, demands for clearing Fort Ino, and the attitude of the Russians to Germany. Here is the reply: The German High Command states that there will be no further advances; Germany’s role in the Ukraine and Finland has ended. Germany is willing to assist our peace talks with Kiev and Helsingfors and is entering into negotiations with the governments concerned. As regards Fort Ino, in connection with the Finnish Peace talks: according to the treaty, the forts should be destroyed. Germany considers that when defining the frontiers the agreement with the Reds can be accepted; the Whites have not yet replied. The German Government declares officially: Germany abides firmly by the Brest Treaty, she wants peaceful relations with us, she has no aggressive plans and has no intention of attacking us in any way. It is promised that, in accordance with my request, Russian citizens in Germany will be treated on a par with other neutrals.”
Report On Foreign Policy - Delivered At A Joint Meeting Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee And The Moscow Soviet, May 14, 1918, Lenin, Volume 27, Pages 365 - 381
Either the advanced and class-conscious workers triumph and unite the poor peasant masses around themselves, establish rigorous order, a mercilessly severe rule, a genuine dictatorship of the proletariat-either they compel the kulak to submit, and institute a proper distribution of food and fuel on a national scale; or the bourgeoisie, with the help of the kulaks, and with the indirect support of the spineless and muddle-headed (the anarchists and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries), will overthrow Soviet power and set up a Russo-German or a Russo-Japanese Kornilov, who will present the people with a sixteen-hour working day, an ounce of bread per week, mass shooting of workers and torture in dungeons, as has been the case in Finland and the Ukraine.
There is no middle course.
"On the famine"
Lenin, Volume 27, pages 391 - 398
We have now reached the stage when the revolution is maturing in all West-European countries, when it is becoming clear that the situation of the armies of German workers is hopeless. We know that over there in the West, the working people are not confronted with the rotten regime of Romanov and empty boasters but by a bourgeoisie that is fully organised and can rely on all the achievements of modern civilisation and engineering. That is why it was so easy for us to start the revolution and more difficult to continue it, and why over there in the West it will be more difficult to start and easier to continue. Our difficulty is that everything has to be done by the efforts of the proletariat of Russia alone, and that we have to maintain our position until our ally, the international proletariat of all countries, grows strong enough. Every day impresses it on us that there is no other way out.
The broad masses of the workers may not immediately realise that we are face to face with disaster. What is needed is a workers’ crusade against disorganisation and against the concealment of grain. And a crusade is needed to establish throughout the country the labour discipline you have passed a resolution on and have been talking about within the limits of the factories; the masses must be made to understand that there is no other way out. In the history of our revolution, the strength of the politically conscious workers has always been their ability to look the most bitter and dangerous reality straight in the face, to harbour no illusions but calculate their forces exactly. We can count on the politically conscious workers alone; the remaining mass, the bourgeoisie and the petty proprietors, are against us; they do not believe in the new order and take advantage of every opportunity to worsen the plight of the people. What we see in the Ukraine and in Finland may serve as an example: the incredible atrocities and the seas of blood in which the bourgeoisie and its supporters, from the Constitutional-Democrats to the Socialist-Revolutionaries, are drowning the towns they conquer with the aid of their allies. All this goes to show what awaits the proletariat in the future if it does not fulfil its historic task. We know how small is the section of advanced and politically conscious workers in Russia. We also know the plight of the people and know that the broad masses are certain to realise that we cannot get out of the situation by half-measures, that there will have to be a proletarian revolution. We live at a time when countries are being ruined and millions of people are doomed to perish or subjected to military slavery. Hence, the revolution that history has forced on us, not by the evil will of individuals, but because the entire capitalist system is breaking up, because its foundations are cracking.
Speech At The Second All-Russia Congress Of Commissars For Labour ; May 22, 1918; Lenin, Volume 27, pages 399 - 403
A wave of kulak revolts is sweeping across Russia. The kulak hates the Soviet government like poison and is prepared to strangle and massacre hundreds of thousands of workers. We know very well that if the kulaks were to gain the upper hand they would ruthlessly slaughter hundreds of thousands of workers, in alliance with the landowners and capitalists, restore back-breaking conditions for the workers, abolish the eight-hour day and hand back the mills and factories to the capitalists.
That was the case in all earlier European revolutions when, as a result of the weakness of the workers, the kulaks succeeded in turning back from a republic to a monarchy, from a working people’s government to the despotism of the exploiters, the rich and the parasites. This happened before our very eyes in Latvia, Finland, the Ukraine and Georgia. Everywhere the avaricious, bloated and bestial kulaks joined hands with the landowners and capitalists against the workers and against the poor generally. Everywhere the kulaks wreaked their vengeance on the working class with incredible ferocity. Everywhere they joined hands with the foreign capitalists against the workers of their own country.
"Comrade Workers, Forward To The Last, Decisive Fight!"
Lenin, Volume 28, page 54
There is quite reliable information to show that the German army is becoming demoralised, and has taken to profiteering. It could hardly be otherwise. The moment the soldier wakes up and begins to understand that he is being maimed and killed solely in the interests of the bourgeoisie, demoralisation is bound to spread among the mass of soldiers.
All this is but the herald of events similar to those in Russia, except that in the civilised countries the civil war will be far more brutal than in Russia.
We can see that in the case of Finland, the most democratic country in Europe, the first country to give women the vote. Yet this country took savage and ruthless reprisals on the Red Army men; and the latter did not surrender easily. This shows what a terrible fate awaits these civilised countries.
You can see for yourselves how absurd it was to accuse the Bolsheviks of demoralising the Russian army.
We represent only one detachment, a detachment which has advanced some way ahead of the other workers' detachments—not because it is any better than the others, but because the stupid policy of our bourgeoisie enabled the working class of Russia to throw off its chains sooner. Today, in fighting for a socialist system in Russia, we are fighting for socialism all over the world. Today, the Bolsheviks are the sole subject of discussion at all workers' meetings and gatherings in all countries. They know us; they know that what we are now doing is furthering the cause of the whole world, that we are working for them.
Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, pages 78 - 83
The workers of the world feel that the cause of the Russian revolution is their own cause no matter how great the obstacles in our way, no matter how many tens of millions in money are lavished in all countries to disseminate lies and slander about the Russian revolution. Parallel with the war between the two groups of imperialists, another war is beginning everywhere, the war which the working class, inspired by the example of the Russian revolution, is declaring against its own bourgeoisie.
The collapse of the capitalist system and the capitalist war is inevitable.
The German imperialists have been unable to stifle the socialist revolution. The price Germany had to pay for crushing the revolution in Red Latvia, Finland and the Ukraine was the demoralisation of her army.
Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 85
Marx said that the revolutionary dictatorship of rthe proletariat lies between capitalism and communism. The more the proletariat presses the bourgeoisie, the more furiously they will resist. We know what vengeance was wreaked on the workers in France in 1848. And when people charge us with harshness we wonder how they can forget the rudiments of Marxism. We have not forgotten the mutiny of the officer cadets in October, and we must not forget that a number of revolts are now being engineered. We have, on the one hand, to learn to work constructively, and, on the other, to smash the bourgeoisie’s resistance.
The Finnish whiteguards, for all their much-vaunted democracy, had no scruples about shooting down workers.
The realisation of the need for dictatorship has taken deep root in the people’s minds, arduous and difficult though it is. There is no way of emancipating the people except by forcibly suppressing the exploiters.
Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 28, page 170
Less than five months have passed since those words were written, and it must be said that during this time, in view of the fact that workers of various countries have turned to communism and Bolshevism, the maturing of the world proletarian revolution has proceeded very rapidly.
Then, on August 20, 1918, only our Party, the Bolshevik Party, had resolutely broken with the old, Second International of 1889-1914 which so shamefully collapsed during the imperialist war of 1914-18. Only our Party had unreservedly taken the new path, from the socialists and social-democracy which had disgraced themselves by alliance with the predatory bourgeoisie, to communism; from petty-bourgeois reformism and opportunism, which had thoroughly permeated, and now permeate, the official Social-Democratic and socialist parties, to genuinely proletarian, revolutionary tactics.
Now, on January 12, 1919, we already see quite a number of communist proletarian parties, not only within the boundaries of the former tsarist empire—in Latvia, Finland and Poland, for example—but also in Western Europe—Austria, Hungary, Holland and, lastly, Germany. The foundation of a genuinely proletarian, genuinely internationalist, genuinely revolutionary Third International, the Communist International, became a fact when the German Spartacus League, with such world-known and world-famous leaders, with such staunch working-class champions as Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin and Franz Mehring, made a clean break with socialists like Scheidemann and Südekum, social-chauvinists (socialists in words, but chauvinists in deeds) who have earned eternal shame by their alliance with the predatory, imperialist German bourgeoisie and Wilhelm II. It became a fact when the Spartacus League changed its name to the Communist Party of Germany. Though it has not yet been officially inaugurated, the Third International actually exists.
Letter to the Workers of Europe and America ; December 21, 1919; Lenin, Volume 28, page 453
“I want to recognise only the right of the working classes to self-determination,” says Comrade Bukharin. That is to say, you want to recognise something that has not been achieved in a single country except Russia. That is ridiculous.
Look at Finland:
she is a democratic country, more developed, more cultured than we are. In Finland a process of separation, of the differentiation of the proletariat is taking a specific course, far more painful than was the case with us. The Finns have experienced the dictatorship of Germany; they are now experiencing the dictatorship of the Allied powers. But thanks to the fact that we have recognised the right of nations to self-determination, the process of differentiation has been facilitated there. I very well recall the scene when, at Smolny, I handed the act to Svinhufvud which in Russian means “pighead”—the representative of the Finnish bourgeoisie, who played the part of a hangman. He amiably shook my hand, we exchanged compliments. How unpleasant that was! But it had to be done, because at that time the bourgeoisie were deceiving the people, were deceiving the working people by alleging that the Muscovites, the chauvinists, the Great Russians, wanted to crush the Finns. It had to be done.
Our programme must not speak of the self-determination of the working people, because that would be wrong. It must speak of what actually exists. Since nations are at different stages on the road from medievalism to bourgeois democracy and from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy, this thesis of our programme is absolutely correct. With us there have been very many zigzags on this road. Every nation must obtain the right to self-determination, and that will make the self-determination of the working people easier. In Finland the process of separation of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie is remarkably clear, forceful and deep. At any rate, things will not proceed there as they do in our country. If we were to declare that we do not recognise any Finnish nation, but only the working people, that would be sheer nonsense. We cannot refuse to recognise what actually exists; it will itself compel us to recognise it.
Lenin, Volume 29
We must demonstrate scientifically how this communist revolution will progress. All the other proposals fall short in this respect. Nobody wanted to delete it entirely. There was some vague talk about it being possible to abbreviate it, about not quoting from the old programme because it is wrong. But if the old programme were wrong, how could it have served as the basis of our activities for so many years? Perhaps we shall have a common programme when the world Soviet Republic is set up; by that time we shall probably have drafted several more programmes. But it would be premature to draft one now, when only one Soviet Republic exists in what was formerly the Russian Empire. Even Finland, which is undoubtedly advancing towards a Soviet Republic, has not yet reached it. And yet the Finnish people are the most cultured of the peoples that inhabit what was formerly the Russian Empire. Consequently, it is utterly wrong to demand that the programme should now reflect a finished process. It would be on a par with inserting the demand for a world Economic Council.
Lenin, Volume 29
Speech Closing The Debate On The Party Programme; March 19
A Finnish representative told me that among the Finnish bourgeoisie, who hated the Great Russians, voices are to be heard saying: “The Germans proved to be more savage brutes, the Entente proved to be more savage, we had better have the Bolsheviks.” This is the tremendous victory we have gained over the Finnish bourgeoisie in the national question. This does not in the least prevent us from fighting it as our class enemy and from choosing the proper methods for the purpose. The Soviet Republic, which has been established in the country where tsarism formerly oppressed Finland, must declare that it respects the right of nations to independence. We concluded a treaty with the short-lived Red Finnish Government and agreed to certain territorial concessions, to which I heard quite a number of utterly chauvinistic objections, such as: “There are excellent fisheries there, and you have surrendered them.” These are the kind of objections which induce me to say, “Scratch some Communists and you will find Great Russian chauvinists.”
I think that the case of Finland, as well as of the Bashkirs, shows that in dealing with the national question one cannot argue that economic unity should be effected under all circumstances. Of course, it is necessary! But we must endeavour to secure it by propaganda, by agitation, by a voluntary alliance.
Lenin, Volume 29
Speech Closing The Debate On The Party Programme; March 19
The economics of capitalist society are such that the ruling power can be only capital or the proletariat which has overthrown capital.
There are no other forces in the economics of this society.
The Kolchaks are right from the point of view of capital; their economic and political programme ties up neatly, there are no loose ends; they know there is a connection between freedom for peasants to trade and shooting down the workers. They are connected even though Citizen Sher is unaware of it. Freedom to trade in grain is the economic programme of Kolchak; the shooting of tens of thousands of workers—as occurred in Finland—is a necessary means of realising this programme, because the workers will not voluntarily surrender their gains.
First All-Russia Congress on Adult Education ; May 6-19, 1919
Lenin, Volume 29, page 333 - 376
Forces friendly to us are growing up in all hostile states. Take the small countries Finland, Latvia, Poland, Rumania. All attempts to set up a coalition of the big and petty bourgeoisie in those countries to fight against us have ended in a break-down and ours turns out to be the only form of government possible there.
The Domestic and Foreign Situation of the Republic; Report Delivered To The Moscow Conference of The R.C.P. (B.); July 12, 1919 ; Lenin; Volume 29, Pages 489 - 493
The question of “terrorism” is, apparently, basic to Kautsky’s book. That is evident from the title, also from Stampfer’s remark that “Kautsky is doubtlessly right in asserting that the fundamental principle of the Commune was not terrorism, but universal suffrage”. In my Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky I cited ample evidence to show that all this talk of a “fundamental principle” is a sheer travesty of Marxism. My purpose here is a different one. To show what Kautsky’s disquisitions on the subject of “terrorism” are worth, whom, which class, they serve, I shall cite in full a short article by a liberal writer. It is a letter to The New Republic (June 25, 1919), a liberal American journal which, generally speaking, expresses the petty-bourgeois viewpoint. However, it is preferable to Kautsky’s in not presenting that viewpoint either as revolutionary socialism or Marxism.
This is the full text of the letter:
MANNERHEIM AND KOLCHAK
Sir: The Allied governments have refused to recognise the Soviet Government of Russia because, as they state:
1.; The Soviet Government is—or was—pro-German.
2.; The Soviet Government is based on terrorism.
3.; The Soviet Government is undemocratic and unrepresentative of the Russian people.
Meanwhile the Allied governments have long since recognised the present whiteguard Government of Finland under the dictatorship of General Mannerheim, although it appears:
1.; That German troops aided the whiteguards in crushing the Socialist Republic of Finland, and that General Mannerheim sent repeated telegrams of sympathy and esteem to the Kaiser. Meanwhile the Soviet Government was busily undermining the German Government with propaganda among troops on the Russian front. The Finnish Government was infinitely more pro-German than the Russian.
2.; That the present Government of Finland on coming into power executed in cold blood within a few days’ time 16,700 members of the old Socialist Republic, and imprisoned in starvation camps 70,000 more. Meanwhile the total executions in Russia for the year ended November 1, 1918, were officially stated to have been 3,800, including many corrupt Soviet of officials as well as counter-revolutionists. The Finnish Government was infinitely more terroristic than the Russian.
3.; That after killing and imprisoning nearly 90,000 socialists, and driving some 50,000 more over the border into Russia—and Finland is a small country with an electorate of only about 400,000—the white guard government deemed it sufficiently safe to hold elections. In spite of all precautions, a majority of socialists were elected, but General Mannerheim, like the Allies after the Vladivostok elections, allowed not one of them to be seated. Meanwhile the Soviet Government had disenfranchised all those who do no useful work for a living. The Finnish Government was considerably less democratic than the Russian.
And much the same story might be rehearsed in respect to that great champion of democracy and the new order, Admiral Kolchak of Omsk, whom the Allied governments have supported, supplied and equipped, and are now on the point of officially recognising.
Thus every argument that the Allies have urged against the recognition of the Soviets, can be applied with more strength and honesty against Mannerheim and Kolchak. Yet the latter are recognised, and the blockade draws ever tighter about starving Russia.
This letter written by a bourgeois liberal, effectively exposes all the vileness of the Kautskys, Martovs, Chernovs, Brantings and other heroes of the Berne yellow International and their betrayal of socialism.
For, first, Kautsky and all these heroes lie about Soviet Russia on the question of terrorism and democracy. Secondly, they do not assess developments from the standpoint of the class struggle as it is actually developing on a world scale and in the sharpest possible form, but from the standpoint of a petty-bourgeois, philistine longing for what might have been if there had been no close link between bourgeois democracy and capitalism, if there were no whiteguards in the world, if they had not been supported by the world bourgeoisie, and so on and so forth. Thirdly, a comparison of this American letter with the writings of Kautsky and Co. will clearly show that Kautsky’s objective role is servility to the bourgeoisie.
The world bourgeoisie supports the Mannerheims and Kolchaks in an attempt to stifle Soviet power, alleging that it is terrorist and undemocratic. Such are the facts. And Kautsky, Martov, Chernov and Co. are only singing songs about terrorism and democracy in chorus with the bourgeoisie, for the world bourgeoisie is singing this song to deceive the workers and strangle the workers’ revolution. The personal honesty of “socialists” who sing the same song “sincerely”, i.e., because they are extremely dull-witted, does not in any way alter the objective role played by the song. The “honest opportunists”, the Kautskys, Martovs, Longuets and Co., have become “honest” (in their unprecedented spinelessness) counter-revolutionaries.
Such are the facts.
An American liberal realises—not because he is theoretically equipped to do so, but simply because he is an attentive observer of developments in a sufficiently broad light, on a world scale—that the world bourgeoisie has organised and is waging a civil war against the revolutionary proletariat and, accordingly, is supporting Kolchak and Denikin in Russia, Mannerheim in Finland, the Georgian Mensheviks, those lackeys of the bourgeoisie, in the Caucasus, the Polish imperialists and Polish Kerenskys in Poland, the Scheidemanns in Germany, the counter-revolutionaries (Mensheviks and capitalists) in Hungary, etc., etc.
But Kautsky, like the inveterate reactionary philistine he is, continues snivelling about the fears and horrors of civil war! All semblance of revolutionary understanding, and all semblance of historical realism (for it is high time the inevitability of imperialist war being turned into civil war were realised) have disappeared. This is, furthermore, directly abetting the bourgeoisie, it is helping them, and Kautsky is actually on the side of the bourgeoisie in the civil war that is being waged, or is obviously being prepared, throughout the world.
His shouting, groaning, weeping and hysteria about the civil war serve to cover up his dismal failure as a theoretician. For the Bolsheviks have proved to be right; in the autumn of 1914 they declared to the world that the imperialist war would be transformed into civil war. Reactionaries of every shade were indignant or laughed; but the Bolsheviks were right. To conceal their complete failure, their stupidity and short-sightedness, the reactionaries must try to scare the petty bourgeoisie by showing them the horrors of civil war. That is just what Kautsky as a politician is doing.
To what absurd lengths he has gone can be seen from the following. There is no hope of a world revolution, Kautsky asserts—and what do you think he used as an argument? A revolution in Europe an the Russian pattern would mean “unleashing (Entfessellung) civil war throughout the world for a whole generation ”, and moreover not simply unleashing a veritable class war, but a “fratricidal war among the proletarians ”. The italicised words belong to Kautsky and are—admiringly of course—quoted by Stampfer.
Yes, Scheidemann’s scoundrels and hangmen have good reason to admire them! Here is a “socialist leader” scaring people with the spectre of revolution and scaring them away from revolution! But, curiously enough, there is one thing Kautsky overlooks; for nearly two years the all powerful Entente has been fighting against Russia and thereby stirring up revolution in the Entente countries. If the revolution were even to begin now, even if only in its compromising stage and in only one or two of the Entente Great Powers this would immediately put an end to the civil war in Russia, would immediately liberate hundreds of millions in the colonies, where resentment is at boiling-point and is kept in check only by the violence of the European powers.
Kautsky now obviously has another motive for his actions in addition to the foulness of his servile soul that he demonstrated throughout the imperialist war—he is afraid of protracted civil war in Russia. And fear prevents him from seeing that the bourgeoisie of the whole world is fighting Russia. A revolution in one or two of the European Great Powers would completely undermine the rule of the world bourgeoisie, destroy the very foundations of its domination and leave it no safe haven anywhere.
The two-year war of the world bourgeoisie against Russia’s revolutionary proletariat actually encourages revolution aries everywhere, for it proves that victory on a world scale is very near and easy.
Lenin: "How the Bourgeoisie Utilises Renegades"
- 20. September 1919, Volume 30, pages 27 - 37
Transformation of imperialist war into civil war - Russia, Hungary, Finland, Germany.
("Dictatorship of the proletariat")
Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 30, page 95
British capital flung itself on Finland and faced her with an ultimatum: The eyes of the whole world are on Finland, said the British capitalists, the entire fate of Finland depends on whether she understands her role, whether she will help to crush the filthy, dirty, bloody wave of Bolshevism and liberate Russia. And in return for this “great and moral” work, for this ‘noble, civilised” work, Finland was promised so many million pounds, such-and-such a piece of territory, and such-and-such benefits. And what was the result? There was a time when Yudenich’s troops were a few versts away from Petrograd, when Denikin stood to the north of Orel, when the slightest assistance to them would have quickly settled the fate of Petrograd to the advantage of our enemies, in a minimum of time and at negligible cost.
The entire pressure of the Entente countries was brought to hear on Finland, a country that is up to its neck ill debt to them. And not only in debt: Finland cannot carry on for one month without the aid of these countries. But how did the “miracle” of our having won the battle against such an enemy happen? And win it we did. Finland did not enter the war, Yudenich was defeated, so was Denikin, and that at a time when joint action by them would most surely, most swiftly have settled the whole struggle to the advantage of international capitalism. We won the battle with international imperialism in this most serious and desperate trial of strength. But how did we do it? How could such a ‘miracle” have taken place? It took place because the Entente backed the same card as all capitalist states, which operate wholly and solely by deception and pressure; that was why everything they did aroused such resistance that the result was to our advantage. We were very poorly armed, worn out, and we said to the Finnish workers, whom the Finnish bourgeoisie had crushed, “You must not fight against us.” The Entente countries appeared strong in their armaments, with all their outward might, with the food they were in a position to supply to these countries, and demanded that they fight against us. We won this battle. We won because the Entente countries had no troops of their own to fling against us, they had to resort to the forces of the small nations, but here, not only the workers and peasants, but even the considerable section of that very bourgeoisie that had crushed the working class did not in the end go against us.
When the Entente imperialists spoke of democracy and independence, these nations had the impudence from the Entente viewpoint, and foolishness from our viewpoint, to take these promises seriously and to understand independence as really implying independence, and not a means of enriching the British and French capitalists, They thought that democracy meant living as free men, and not that all American multimillionaires would be able to plunder their country, or that every tinpot aristocrat of an officer should be able to behave like a swine and turn into a brazen black-marketeer prepared, for the sake of a few hundred per cent profit, to do the filthiest of jobs. That was how we won! The Entente encountered opposition to its pressure on these small countries, on each of these 14 countries. The Finnish bourgeoisie who employed White Terror to crush tens of thousands of Finnish workers know that this will not he forgotten, and that the German bayonets that made it possible no longer exist these Finnish bourgeois hate the Bolsheviks as intensely as an exploiter would hate the workers who kicked him out. Nevertheless the Finnish bourgeoisie said to themselves, “If we follow the instructions of the Entente, that means we shall undoubtedly lose all hope of independence.” And this independence was given to them by the Bolsheviks in November 1917, when Finland had a bourgeois government. The attitude of wide sections of the Finnish bourgeoisie, therefore, proved to be one of vacillation. We won the battle with the Entente countries because they counted on the small nations and at the same time repelled them.
This experience confirms, on an enormous, global scale, what we have always said. There are two forces on earth that can decide the destiny of mankind. One force is international capitalism, and should it be victorious it will display this force in countless atrocities as may be seen from the history of every small nation’s development. The other force is the international proletariat that is fighting for the socialist revolution through the dictatorship of the proletariat, which it calls workers’ democracy.
Neither the vacillating elements here in Russia, nor the bourgeoisie of the small countries believed us; they called us utopians or bandits or even worse, for there is no stupid and monstrous accusation that they will not fling at us. But when they faced up squarely to the issue of either going with the Entente countries and helping thent to crush the Bolsheviks, or of helping the Bolsheviks by neutrality, we proved to have won the battle and to have got that neutrality. We had no treaties, whereas Britain, France and America had all sorts of promissory notes, all sorts of treaties; nevertheless the small nations did as we wanted them to; they did so not because the Polish, Finnish, Lithuanian or Latvian bourgeoisie derived satisfaction from conducting their policy in a way that suited the Bolsheviks—that, of course, is nonsense—but because our definition of the historical forces involved was correct, namely, that either brute capital would be victorious, and then, even if it were in the most democratic republic, it would crush all the small nations of the world—or the dictatorship of the proletariat would be victorious, which is the sole hope of all working people and of the small, downtrodden and weak nations. It turned out that we were right not only in theory, but also in practical world politics. When this battle for the troops of Finland and Estonia took place we won it, although they could have crushed us with insignificant forces. We won the battle despite the Entente countries having thrown the enormous weight of their financial pressure, their military might, and their food supplies into the fray in order to compel Finland to take action.
When representatives of the British and American bourgeoisie appeared in Finland and Estonia, the acts of suppression they began were more brazen than those of the Russian imperialists had been, because the Russian imperialists had belonged to an older period and did not know how to suppress properly, whereas these people do know, and go about it thoroughly.
Seventh All-Russia Congress Of Soviets Reportof The All-Russia Central Executive Committee And The Council Of Peoples Commissars December 5, 1919;
Lenin, Volume 30, pages 205-252
“Let the revolutionary proletariat first overthrow the bourgeoisie, break the yoke of capital, and smash the bourgeois state apparatus, then the victorious proletariat will be able rapidly to gain the sympathy and support of the majority of the non-proletarian working people by satisfying their needs at the expense of the exploiters“—say we. The opposite will be rare exception in history (and even in such an exception the bourgeoisie can resort to civil war, as the example of Finland showed.
16 December, 1919, Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 30, pages 253-275; The Constituent Assembly Elections and The Dictatorship of the Proletariat
After the campaign of the powers against Russia had failed, they tried another weapon. The bourgeoisie of those countries have hundreds of years of experience, and were able to replace their own unreliable weapons by others. At first they tried to use their own soldiers to crush and stifle Russia; now they are trying it with the help of the border states.
Tsarism, the landowners and the capitalists used to oppress a number of the border nations—Latvia, Finland, and so on, where they aroused hatred by centuries of oppression. “Great Russian” became a most hateful word to all these nations, which had been drenched in blood. And so the Entente, having failed in fighting the Bolsheviks with the help of its own soldiers, is now banking on the small states, hoping to strangle Soviet Russia with their help.
Churchill, who is pursuing the same sort of policy as Nicholas Romanov, wants to fight, and is fighting, without paying the slightest heed to parliament, He boasted that he would lead fourteen states against Russia—that was in 1919—and that Petrograd would he captured in September and Moscow in December. He was a little too boastful. He banked on the hatred of Russia in all these small states; but he forgot that in these small states there is a clear understandiiig of what Yudenich, Koichak and Denikin mean. They were once within a few weeks of complete victory. During Yudenicii’s campaign, when he was quite close to Petrograd, an article appeared in The Times, the richest of the British newspapers— I read this editorial myself—which implored, ordered, demanded that Finland help Yudenich—the eyes of the whole world are upon you; you will save liberty, civilisation and culture all over the world. Take the field against the Bolsheviks! This is what Britain said to Finland, and Britain has Finland completely in her pocket; it was said to Finland, who is up to her ears in debt, and who dares not utter a squeak because without Britain she has not enough grain to last her a week.
Such was the pressure brought to bear on all these small states to make them fight Bolshevism. And it failed twice. It failed because the peace policy of the Bolsheviks turned out to be a serious one, and was judged by its enemies to be more honest than the peace policy of any other country, and because a number of countries thought, “Much as we hate Great Russia, which used to suppress us, we know that it was Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin who suppressed us, and not the Bolsheviks.” The former head of the Finnish white-guard government has not forgotten that in November 1917 he personally received a document from my hands in which we said without the slightest hesitation that we unreservedly recognised Finland’s independence. At that time this seemed a mere gesture.
It was thought that the revolt of the Finnish workers would cause it to be forgotten. But no, such things are not forgotten when they are corroborated by the whole policy of a definite party.
And even the Finnish bourgeois government said, “Let’s think it over. After all, we have learned something during a hundred and fifty years of oppression by the Russian tsars. If we take the field against the Bolsheviks, we shall help to install Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin. And who are they? Don’t we know? Are they not the same breed of tsarist generals who stifled Finland, Latvia, Poland and many other nationalities? And shall we help these enemies of ours to fight the Bolsheviks? No, let us wait!”
They did not dare to refuse outright—they are dependent on the Entente. They did not help us directly; they waited, temporised, wrote Notes, sent delegations, formed commissions, sat in conference, and did so until Yudenich, Kolchak and Denikin had been crushed and the Entente defeated in the second campaign too. We were the victors.
If all these small states had taken the field against us—they were supplied with hundreds of millions of dollars and the finest guns and weapons, and had British instructors who had been through the war—if they had taken the field against us, there is not the slightest doubt that we would have been defeated. Everybody knows that very well. But they did not take the field against us, because they realised that the Bolsheviks are more honest. When the Bolsheviks say that they recognise the independence of any nation, that tsarist Russia was based on the oppression of other nations, and that the Bolsheviks never supported this policy, do not support it and never will support it, and that they will never go to war to oppress other nations—when they say that, they are believed. We know this not from the Latvian or Polish Bolsheviks, but from the bourgeoisie of Poland, Latvia, the Ukraine and so on.
Here the international significance of the Bolshevik policy had its effect. It was a test on international and not on Russian soil. It was a test by fire and sword, and not by words. It was a test in the last decisive struggle. The imperialists realised that they had no soldiers of their own, that they could strangle Bolshevism only by mustering international forces; but all international forces were beaten.
What does imperialism mean? It means that a handful of rich powers have a stranglehold on the whole world, when they know that they have the fifteen hundred million people of the world in their hands and have a stranglehold on them, and when these fifteen hundred million feel what British culture, French culture and American civilisation mean—rob for all you are worth! Today three-quarters of Finland has already been bought up by American multimillionaires. The officers who came from Britain and France to our border states to instruct their troops behaved like insolent scions of the Russian nobility in a defeated country. They all profiteered right and left. And the more the Finnish, Polish and Latvian workers starve, the more they are squeezed by a handful of British, American and French multimillionaires and their henchmen. And this is going on all over the world.
The Russian Socialist Republic alone has raised the standard of war for real emancipation; and sympathy is turning in its favour all over the world. Through the small countries, we have won the sympathy of all the nations of the world, and they represent hundreds of millions of people.
Speech Delivered at the First All-Russia Congress of Working Cossacks; March 1, 1920; Lenin, Collected works, Volume 30, pages 380 - 400
After the experience gained, after what has happened in Russia, Finland and Hungary, after a year’s experience in the democratic republics, in Germany, one cannot object to, and write disquisitions about, the need for a central authority, for dictatorship and a united will to ensure that the vanguard of the proletariat shall close its ranks, develop the state and place it upon a new footing, while firmly holding the reins of power. Democracy has completely exposed itself; that is why signs of the strengthening of the communist movement for Soviet rule, for the dictatorship of the proletariat, have increased tremendously in all countries and have taken on the most diverse forms.
Speech at a Meeting of the Moscow Soviet in Celebration of the First Anniversary of the Third International - March 6, 1920 – Lenin, Volume 30, page 423
The bourgeoisie and the pseudo-socialist gentry of the Second International have declared this to be mere propagandist talk. But it is not, it is historical reality, borne out by the bloody and painful experience of the Civil War in Russia. For this Civil War was a war against world capital; and world capital disintegrated of itself, devoured itself, amidst strife, whereas we, in a country where the proletariat was perishing from hunger and typhus, emerged more hardened and stronger than ever. In this country we won the support of increasing numbers of working people. What the compromisers formerly regarded as propagandist talk and the bourgeoisie were accustomed to sneer at, has been transformed in these years of our revolution, and particularly in the year under review, into an absolute and indisputable historical fact, which enables us to say with the most positive conviction that our having accomplished this is evidence that we possess a world-wide basis, immeasurably wider than was the case in any previous revolution. We have an international alliance, an alliance which has nowhere been registered, which has never been given formal embodiment, which from the point of view of “constitutional law” means nothing, but which, in the disintegrating capitalist world, actually means everything. Every month that we gained positions, or merely held out against an incredibly powerful enemy, proved to the whole world that we were right and brought us millions of new supporters.
This process has been a difficult one; it has been accompanied by tremendous defeats. In this very year under review the monstrous White terror in Finland was followed by the defeat of the Hungarian revolution, which was stifled by the governments of the Entente countries that deceived their parliaments and concluded a secret treaty with Rumania.
Ninth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) March 29, 1920
Lenin, Volume 30, pages 439 - 490
Let the bourgeoisie rave, work itself into a frenzy, go to extremes, commit follies, take vengeance on the Bolsheviks in advance, and endeavour to kill off (as in India, Hungary, Germany, etc.) more hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands of yesterday’s and tomorrow’s Bolsheviks. In acting thus, the bourgeoisie is acting as all historically doomed classes have done. Communists should know that, in any case, the future belongs to them; therefore, we can (and must) combine the most intense passion in the great revolutionary struggle, with the coolest and most sober appraisal of the frenzied ravings of the bourgeoisie. The Russian revolution was cruelly defeated in 1905; the Russian Bolsheviks were defeated in July 1917; over 15,000 German Communists were killed as a result of the wily provocation and cunning manoeuvres of Scheidemann and Noske, who were working hand in glove with the bourgeoisie and the monarchist generals, White terror is raging in Finland and Hungary. But in all cases in all countries, communism is becoming steeled and is growing; its roots are so deep that persecution does not weaken or debilitate it but only strengthens it.
Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder - Several Conclusions
Lenin, Volume 31, pages 17 - 118
Communism has developed, grown strong, and created parties in all the leading countries. During this period, the cause of the international revolution has suffered a number of reverses in some small countries, where assistance in crushing the movement has come from such huge predators as Germany, which helped to crush the Finnish revolution, or those giants of capitalism, Britain, France and Austria, which crushed the revolution in Hungary. By doing so, however, they have multiplied a thousandfold the elements of revolution in their own countries.
The Moscow Committee Of The R.C.P.(B.) And The Moscow City Trade Union Council,
Dedicated To The Third Anniversary Of The October Revolution - November 6, 1920;
Lenin, Volume 31, pages 397 - 402
This letter was written in connection with the upswing of the revolutionary working-class movement in Finland sparked off by the October Socialist Revolution in Russia.
Kuusinen turned out to be not only an enemy of the revolutionary proletariat of Finland, but also as a traitor within the ECCI of the Comintern. He eventually became a loyal lackey of the Khrushchev revisionists, particularly with regard to his crimes against Stalin.
Manner, Sirola, Kuusinen, Valpas and Viiku
With the greatest happiness I have heard from, my Finnish friends that yon are at the head of the revolutionary wing of the Finnish Social-Democratic. Labour Party and are carrying on a struggle for the cause of the proletarian socialist revolution. I can state with confidence on behalf of the revolutionary proletariat of Russia that the great, organising talent of the Finnish workers, their high level of development arid their prolonged political schooling in democratic institutions will help them successfully to effect the socialist reorganisation of Finland. We count on the fraternal aid of the revolutionary Social-Democrats of Finland.
Long live the international socialist revolution!
With best greetings,
November 11, 1917
Lenin, Volume 35, page 325
Several members of your delegation questioned me with surprise about the Red terror, about the absence of freedom of the press in Russia, of freedom of assembly, about our persecution of Mensheviks and pro-Menshevik workers, etc. My reply was that the real cause of the terror is the British imperialists and their “allies", who practised and are still practising a White terror in Finland and in Hungary, in India and in Ireland, who have been supporting Yudenich, Kolchak, Denikin, Pilsudski and Wrangel. Our Red terror is a defence of the working class against the exploiters, the crushing of resistance from the exploiters with whom the Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks and an insignificant number of pro-Menshevik workers have sided. Freedom of the press and assembly under bourgeois democracy is freedom for the wealthy to conspire against the working people, freedom for the capitalists to bribe and buy up the press. I have explained this in newspaper articles so often that I have derived no pleasure in repeating myself.
Letter to English Workers, Lenin, Volume 31, page 142