The general situation on our fronts can be regarded as quite satisfactory. If we view it with a degree of historical perspective and look forward over the next two or three months, this situation can be considered more than satisfactory.
Undoubtedly, our army has been created. We have an army. And a good one. Though not yet so large as to correspond in numbers to the enemy, it is growing. We have formed strong, reliable cadres on every front. We shall reinforce these cadres and in a very short time develop a good, strong, united army that will Show our enemies that Russia does not lie at their mercy.
If we turn now to consider the fronts taken separately, we see that, on the Northern Front, we can note a stable situation, with its disadvantageous side turned towards our enemies.
We lost Archangel, but the Allies’ initial successes were not followed up. Their expeditionary force was to have constituted the axe from which the soldier cooked his soup, [In Russian folklore there is a story about a soldier who knocked at an old peasant woman’s hut and asked for food. When she said she had none, he suggested that he boil an axe to make some soup. The idea intrigued the old woman, and she let him have an axe, which he put in a pot, filling this with water. As the water heated, he asked the old woman for ‘a bit of turnip’, ‘some carrots’, and so on, and in the end had all the ingredients needed for some real soup.] but the Anglo-French soup has cooked much more slowly than the Allies had expected. The cold season is coming on. The White Sea will freeze over, and if the Anglo-French expeditionary force has not linked up with the Czechoslovaks before the beginning of winter, and it will not link up with them, then the position of that expeditionary force will become extremely difficult, and all we shall need to do is to chuck it out on to the ice of the White Sea – or under that ice.
On the Eastern Front the situation is completely favorable. The initiative is held by our forces. On the Volga, two important places are still in the enemy’s hands: Syzran and Samara. Operations on a wide scale are now being carried on against these two strong points. I can say that they will be taken in the very near future. That will mean that we have cleared the entire Volga, that the Volga has become what it ought to be, an honest Soviet river.
As you know, extensive operations are also taking place in the Urals, and after the liberation of the Volga these operations will, of course, proceed with much greater success, but it is difficult to foresee and estimate in advance the pace at which these operations will develop. It can, however, be said wtth confidence that the zone occupied at present by the forces supporting the Constituent Assembly will be cleared, and soon there will be nothing that is only half-and-half separating the area of the Soviet dictatorship from that held by the Black Hundreds.
On the Southern Front the battle has been proceeding until recently with varying success. There are grounds for thinking that here too we are on the eve of a decisive turn in our favor, that Krasnov’s successes will soon come to an end and that Northern Caucasia will be liberated for Soviet Russia.
Trotsky’s point is that the Anglo-French expeditionary force, which was in itself too small to have much significance, was intended to attract to itself counter-revolutionary elements from all over Russia, whose adhesion would make it a serious threat to the Soviets.
I must say that our successes have been due to the rapid tempering that our army has received, and I cannot refrain from mentioning the regiment which is named after the institution in which I am now speaking – the regiment which was raised in Tula province, under Comrade Panyushkin’s leadership [V.L. Panyushkin (1888-1960), a Party member since 1907, led a force of workers and sailors from Tula to the Eastern Front], and whose actions decided the fate of Kazan. Our enemies’ abandonment of Kazan was catastrophic for them, as can be seen by the fact that they left there more guns than they had captured from us. They also left behind quartermaster’s stores which had not been touched. We recovered everything that had been stored there, and, as regards artillery, even something extra.
We have also had success in the matter of commanding personnel. I have spoken about how, on the one hand, some capable commanders have emerged from among our soldiers and officers, while, on the other, we now have from the ranks of the old officer corps dozens of commanders who have linked their fate with that of the Red Army, not to mention Comrade Vatsetis, to whom belongs the honour of our successes before Kazan.
The Czechoslovaks did us a splendid service in the areas they occupied. The volosts they occupied are welcoming the Red Army as deliverers.
Our successes are also having another important result: they are intensifying conflict among our enemies. We are now happy to tell each other that not only our Party but also the entire Soviet system has never been so unanimous as at present, while the camp of our enemies is splitting at every seam.
There can be no question now, in the weeks that lie immediately ahead of any sort of catastrophe suddenly descending on us. The eyes of the White Guards are fixed on Japan and America, who do undoubtedly represent a real danger, but this is thousands of versts away from us, and we have the possibility of using the whole winter to strengthen our forces.
There is now some sort of agreement in being between Japan and the United States: what its scope is and what the relation is between the parties to it we do not know. But during this war we have seen too many examples of allies becoming trans-formed into sworn enemies, and the nearer we draw to the end of the world-wide slaughter the sharper will become the world-wide contradictions through which the friends of yesterday will become enemies.
Germany is now, in the period that lies immediately ahead, ceasing to be a force that is dangerous to us. Bulgaria is pulling out. She will be followed by Turkey, Romania and Austria- Hungary, and the rulers of present-day Germany will hardly possess either the material means or the incentive to continue with their policy in relation to the East.
Bulgaria’s departure from the war weakens Germany, reduces to the minimum the political terror she can exercise against us. In answer to the weakening of Germany will come the revolt of the French proletariat.
These are the prospects before us. Two months ago our position was very difficult. But we did not give up, and if we have lasted till now, no power exists that will overthrow us. We must make use of the next few months to strengthen and develop our army.
Basing ourselves on the authority of the CEC and the sympathy of the worker and peasant masses, we shall within a short time turn Russia, not in words but in deeds, into an armed camp, and we shall overcome the conservatism of the Soviet people in the provinces who do not always appreciate this.
Comrade Krasin has now been given charge of providing supplies for the army. He will push this work ahead, and the survey which he produced recently shows that the work of supply is going by no means badly.
The new call-up of young men will give us several first-class divisions to constitute reserves for the army. You will back with your authority the work of forming the army. We must convince the British and French that their enterprise is not merely a dishonourable crime but also a very shameful folly. Our resistance on the Eastern Front will produce a powerful jolt on the other side of the ocean, and we shall show to all our enemies, and likewise to all our friends, that we are a power, that we want to live, and that we shall live.
The South-Eastern extremity of Europe, the Balkan Peninsula, presents a picture of monstrous economic and national entanglements, antagonisms and conflicts. All the contradictions and clashes of interest that are rending capitalist Europe are to be found on a reduced scale in the small area of the Balkan Peninsula. And since this peninsula is an economically backward part of Europe, and therefore attracts the appetites of the large- scale predators of the great powers, Balkan interests and antagonisms have become complicated, intersected and amplified under pressure from the contradictions of all Europe. The Balkan peninsula has long since become the hornets’ nest of European politics, a seething cauldron out of which from time to time burst, or threaten to burst, tongues of fire of Europe’s volcano and of world-wide slaughter.
In 1912 the Balkan Peninsula was the arena of the Balkan Wars between Turkey on the one hand and, on the other, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro, which then were allies. Already at that time the revolutionary socialists forecast that this bloody brawl in the Balkans was merely the threshold, the precursor of the great world war.
In 1914 that great war began. It emerged from that region, from that same South-eastern corner of Europe, from the Balkan peninsula. A conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was the starting-point for the subsequent course of events, and we are now seeing that a new turn m this European and world wide slaughter, and, along with it, the beginning of a new turn in world history, finds its starting point again in the Balkan peninsula, where, I repeat, all the accursed features of the capitalist world are concentrated.
At the very beginning of the war we saw Serbia at the centre of events. The enormous superiority of Germany and Austria-Hungary, which seemed, in their alliance, to be invincible, brought about, for a start, the crushing defeat of Serbia. It seemed that Bulgaria, the hireling of the Central Empires, would now be the dominant country in the Balkan Peninsula. But we now perceive that the defection of Bulgaria, while not, of course, the cause, is nevertheless the obvious expression of a sharp turn in the fortunes of the imperialist slaughter. In the first period of the war Germany was dominant, her domination increased steadily, accustoming the whole world to believe in the unshakability of Germany’s military and imperialistic domination. Her superiority was due to the superiority of her capitalist technique: by turning out incomparable engines of mass extermination, this gave Germany’s machine of militarism equality, and more than equality, with her enemies, despite their numbers and their wealth.
At the other pole, in the opposite camp, France alone possessed a centralized army with warlike traditions. Britain was obliged to resort to military improvisation, that is, to create an army from scratch. This was why the whole of the first period of the war was Germany’s. Her war industry, the more caste-like organization of the German nobility, the greater degree of discipline and of education possessed by the German people, all this, in combination, constituted a war machine before which the united forces of France, Italy, Russia and the other, smaller Allies, fell back. Later, after long delay, the United States of America entered the war – without a big army, but with powerful technique.
By that time the huge machine of German imperialism was aleady getting worn out, and this was especially true of the labor-force and the factories making the means of extermination. At the same time, the military might of Britain and America was living and developing, because they had formed a market into which their human material was poured, and then the United States turned upon Germany its military might, its machines for extermination, and this it did not because it was drawn into the war movement by the workers and peasants. No, during the first three years of the war America held aloof, the American Shylock supplied Europe with the instruments and means of extermination, and only when Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare threatened to cut off the American producers’ access to the markets of the Entente countries did the American Shylock demand that a domestic market be created for guns, shells and rifles, which had piled up on the shores of America, since they could not be exported to Europe. This was where the final impulse came from, which, developed by American diplomacy, hurled America on to the road of a new adventure, this was the basis on which America played its tremendous role in the development of the European war. To be sure, there were in Germany obtuse Junkers who thoughtlessly welcomed the entry of the United States into the war. We shall with one blow put an end to all our enemies, that is, with our competitors throughout the world, they said; but they miscalculated. The enormously powerful American machine also possessed colossal reserves, and this was under stood only by those who appreciated the nature of the events which had taken place and who retained a clear and sober political outlook, and evaluated events from the standpoint of historical materialism. Now, when we Marxists review the road that has been traversed and examine the programme that was developed by the imperialists, their lackeys the democrats, and the lackeys of their lackeys, the Scheidemannites and Renaudelites, we see that these four years have been strewn not only with the corpses of workers killed in this struggle but also with the corpses of a variety of programmes, plans and theories.
Only one programme has survived the world-wide crossfire – the programme of those who did not lose control of their five senses. We can say that we alone, the materialists, saw the nature of events and forecast their outcome. History moves, maybe, contrary to our desire, but it moves along the line traced by us. And although many victims have been sacrificed along that road, its end will be that which we foresaw: the downfall of all the gods of imperialism and capitalism. It is as though history had decided to teach mankind one last and graphic lesson. The working people were, apparently, too sluggish, immobile and irresolute. Of course we should not have had this war if the world’s working class had proved in 1914 to be sufficiently resolute to come out against the imperialists of all countries. But that did not happen: the working class needed another cruel lesson from history. And now history drew into the arena the mightiest, most highly organized of countries and allowed it to rise to an unprecedented height. Germany dictated her will to the whole world through the muzzles of her 42-centimetre guns. She seemed to have enslaved all Europe for an indefinite period. She seized an immense area of France. With her innumerable submarines she undermined Britain’s domination of the seas. It seemed that Germany’s ascendancy would last for whole generations, if not forever. History, which had granted unparalleled power to the capitalism of Germany, was saying, as it were, to the workers of Germany: you are slaves, you do not dare to lift your heads, to free your necks from the yoke of capitalism. Behold this capital, armed with the pro ducts of your labor: this capital which rules over the whole world will tomorrow rule over all the rest of the planets, and there will be no end to its power. And then this same history, which had raised German imperialism to such a dizzying height and hypnotised the consciousness of the masses, hurled it down from that height, with catastrophic rapidity, into a gulf of humiliation and helplessness, as though saying: you see how it has been smashed – now it is up to you to wipe out every vestige of it from all Europe, from the whole world. Thus speaks history.
We lived through the frightful period of the unrestricted domination of German imperialism. I have had occasion to mention to the CEC one little episode connected with the fact that a representative of omnipotent Germany spoke of Russia with an ironical, malicious intonation when he called her ‘mighty’. With that phrase, ‘mighty Russia’, he mentally, and transparently, was saying this: ’Here you are, nearly 200 million Russians, who once considered yourselves a mighty power, but now you are under our heel, and we shall dictate our will to you.
However, in spite of that, none of us is disposed in the slightest degree to gloat because Germany has suffered a colossal catastrophe. We shall be filled with joy when this catastrophe becomes the lot of militarism and capitalism as a whole, and when the sentence of history is executed not by Anglo-French and American guns but by die guns of the revolutionary proletariat risen in revolt. We know that present, for the time being, what is happening is a shift of power from one camp to the other and, as Vladimir Ilyich says in his letter [For Lenin’s letter, see Collected Works, Vol.28, pp.101-104.], the catastrophic weakening of Germany can and must, in the next few days and weeks, perhaps, at worst, in the next few months, lead to a growth in the power, insolence and predatoriness of Anglo-French and Japano-American imperialism. The one is just as hostile to us as the other and today, even with the radical change in the international situation, we are as far from an alliance with victorious Anglo-French imperialism as we were yesterday from an alliance with German imperialism. We remain independent on both flanks, as an independent force, as a unit of the advancing proletarian world revolution. We say: let not the Anglo-French and Japano-American rulers of destiny try to extent the scope of their victory, as Von Ku himann put it at Brest-Litovsk. History, in the person of Hoffmann, had not yet given its final verdict in the sense that the fate of peoples is determined solely by treaties.
While we have a serious attitude to treaties and to the obligations that we undertake, we must at the same time declare that the fates of peoples such as Germany, and such also as the Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic countries and Finland, cannot depend upon a document signed at a particular moment of political development.
New forces are arising both within Germany and beyoyd her borders, and we do not doubt that the moment is near when the treaty of Brest-Litovsk will be reviewed by those forces which are striving for power. The bearer of this force in Germany is the working class. The fact that, in capitulating, absolutism in Germany is turning towards popular parliamentarism means that both those smart fellow who were at the head of affairs and also the ones who served them have suffered shipwreck. If in our country, just over a year and a half ago, in February 1917, the Cadets came to power, along with the SRs and Mensheviks, and if the latter, quite new-baked and only just arrived from the barricades, needed no more than eight months to use up and wear threadbare their strength and their reputation, and to vacate their position, the German Tseretelis will need for this purpose not eight months but only eight weeks. That is why, when people ask our Soviet power – and they have grounds here for asking this – how it estimates the prospects that are opening up before Germany, and what it thinks concerning the fate of the Brest treaty, the Soviet power replies that the German Government itself has declared that it is incapable, in the present situation, both international and domestic, of coping with the state of affairs.
What government will take over from it: a government of the German clerical Centre, of the Conservatives, of the National Liberals, or of the compromisers? But the Right wing has already ruled the destiny of Germany, through her monarchs and bureaucrats, and through her Junkers and the Left wing of the new, incoming government has already wiped away all the dirty marks left by the Right wing. What will this German coalition bring about that’s new? It will open the eyes of the masses. Consequently, in our international policy we cannot reckon seriously with a coalition government in Germany as a force capable of determining the fate of that country for a long period of time.
What force remains? Where Germany is concerned, the idea of a united front of all democrats is even more pitiful, senseless and paltry than in the case of Russia – let me call it a sickly utopia. What is the democratic movement in Germany? Such a movement barely exists there. There were some miserable remnants of a petty bourgeoisie, with miserable remnants of their political influence. The merciless imperialist war finally ruined and killed off the petty bourgeoisie, leaving not one stone upon another of their former importance. There are now only two camps: one, the conscious, solid camp of the imperialists, the other, the camp of the proletariat, on whom history has carried out a colossal, cruel experiment, the pro letariat who have undergone terrible trials and are now faced, point-blank, with the following task: either to take charge of the destiny of their country, taking power into their own hands, or to suffer ruin along with their country and their culture as a whole. This is what history has said to the German working class. And while we are now profoundly convinced that history is working for us and with us, and therefore also with the German working class, while we are not going to hamper its salutary work, we nevertheless do not conceal from anyone, either from ourselves or from the German working class, that we await and welcome its mounting advance towards power. Moreover, we recognise, with deep confidence, that the only force in Germany which can save her and make possible her further economic and cultural development is the German working class.
The taking of power by that class would bring tremendous, radical changes in the whole world situation. Germany would be transformed into a powerful centre of attraction for the sympathies of the people, of the oppressed masses of the whole world, and above all, of France. And without French cadres, without French territory as their theatre of operations, the British and American armies will not be able to crush and dismember Germany. The French working class, which has suffered more than any other, waits in its revolutionary heart only for the first signal from Germany to rise against its masters, Clemenceau and the rest. One does not have to be a prophet and fantasist to say that the day after it has become clear that the German working class has stretched out its hand to take power, proletarian barricades will be erected in the streets of Paris. History works with us and for us, and therefore also for the German, for the French and for the international working class.
When we look back, we have to say, with complete satisfaction, that it was not in vain that we kept the Soviet power in being until this moment, through very great difficulties, which many considered a humiliation. I regard it as my duty to declare, in this authoritative assembly, that at the time when many of us, myself included, doubted whether it was necessary or permissible for us to sign the peace of Brest-Litovsk, whether perhaps doing this would not have a hampering effect on the development of the world proletarian revolution, it was Comrade Lenin alone, in opposition to many of us, who with persistence and incomparable perspicacity maintained that we must undergo this experience in order to be able to carry on, to hold out, until the coming of the world proletarian revolution. And now, against the background of recent events, we who opposed him are obliged to recognise that it was not we who were right. [Prolonged applause] Whatever the immediate situation of the fortunes of Europe and the world may be, our own situation is now incomparably better. We are getting stronger and stronger, and our enemies are bleeding from every wound, they are weak, and those who now seem to be all-powerful will suffer, today or tomorrow, the same downfall as Germany’s but with even greater rapidity, for if history repeats itself, it always does so at a faster pace. And the collapse of France, America and Japan, when it comes, will be more catastrophic than that of Austria and Germany.
In this favourably developing situation we shall not, of course, engage in such reckless adventuristic steps as declaring war on Germany in alliance with Britain and France, so as thereby to help the extreme representatives of German militarism, who are now preparing to bring about a bloodbath and, like the stable fly in autumn, to inflict a painful sting upon the German people. No, we are now far from political adventures, farther than ever, for history is also more than ever on our side.
Tomorrow, German militarism will be still weaker, and we shall be stronger, so there is no point in hurrying, artificially forcing the pace of historical development, and still less should we do this hand in hand with Britain, whose desire is to dismember and destroy Germany.
When we concluded the peace of Brest-Litovsk we were reproached with surrendering the Ukraine. That really was one of the gravest moments, when we had to sign a treaty giving up the Ukraine to rule by Germany and Austria-Hungary. News arrived today, from a well-informed comrade, about the state of feeling in the Ukraine. I will quote some of the most striking passages: ‘A revolutionary situation is increasingly taking shape here. Even before the latest events in Bulgaria and Germany, as soon as it became known that Germany was to withdraw her forces from the Ukraine, confidence that Soviet power would triumph here, and very soon, became universal.’
Furthermore, there is information that prominent representatives of the late Rada are saying that, of course, no government other than the Soviet power is to be expected in the Ukraine. And then comes news of a whole series of manifestations of the revolutionary movement in the Ukraine.
But, in addition to this, a comrade who is extremely well informed and with good contacts writes about what is happening in Bulgaria. He tells us that underground Soviets have long been in existence there, and that two Socialist deputies, Lukansky and Dmitriev, who have now been sentenced to five or six years’ imprisonment, were nominated at the front. They belonged to the party which corresponds to the Communists in Russia. That is the news in brief regarding the situation in the Ukraine and Bulgaria.
In our time; we were told, where the Ukraine was concerned, that we had lost it. Yes, we did lose it, temporarily, but only so as to find it again, and this time stronger than before. The Ukrainian worker and peasant have been through a harsh school, and if they now adhere to the Soviets they will adhere so strongly that no power will be able to detach them. In the panic of Brest Soviet Russia was dismembered. But in the course of events she has developed a very great revolutionary power of attraction. We do not doubt that this attraction will accomplish a great task. When the German working class stretches out its hand to take power, and when it comes to power, it too will develop a very powerful attractive force, and the criminal hand of Anglo-French imperialism will be smitten with paralysis and be unable to resist.
If the proletariat of Germany does try to take power, the fundamental duty of Soviet Russia will be to acknowledge no national frontiers in the revolutionary struggle. The revolutionary struggle of the German people will be our struggle too. It is clear to everyone that Soviet Russia feels that it is only the vanguard of the German and European proletarian revolution. However, the possibility is not excluded that for a certain period, for some months, a revolutionary Germany will have to beat off the gangs of imperialism. And, in anticipation of this, we can say with confidence that the German proletariat, armed with all its technique, on the one hand, and our Russia, disorganized but very rich in natural wealth and with 200 million inhabitants, on the other, will form a mighty bloc on which all the waves of imperialism will break in vain. We can have no allies in the imperialist camp. The revolutionary camp of the proletarians going forward into open struggle against imperialism – there are our allies. Liebknecht does not need to make a treaty with us: even without that we shall help him in his struggle, with all our power and resources. We shall give everything for the common proletarian world struggle. In his open letter Comrade Lenin said clearly and distinctly that we have striven to create a million-strong army to defend the Soviet Republic. That is a narrow programme. History says to us: your task is not merely to protect the breathing-space, your task has been widened. A crisis is maturing already in Germany and throughout Central Europe. Perhaps tomorrow the working class of Germany will appeal to us for help and we shall create not a million-strong army but an army of two millions, since our task will have doubled or trebled. And we are ready to strain our forces doubly and trebly. These forces are increasing day by day. The German proletariat is suffering hunger worse than ours. Let it stretch out its hand for power, let it take power, and, on that basis, let it help us to put our railways in order, and we shall fetch the wealth of grain from Samara province and from the Don, where I have seen inexhaustible stocks of grain, and share it fraternally with the German working class, for the triumph of our common struggle. That is the will of the working class of Russia and of the poor peasantry, for here are assembled their authoritative and influential representatives – all that is best in the Russian Republic. We have here the Central Executive Committee, the Moscow Soviet, representatives of the trade unions and of the factory committees. All this constitutes the cream, and the will, of Russia. We shall be wholly with the working class of Germany in its struggle. As with the Communards, our Communist outlook extends to the working class of Germany as well. Everything that is ours is theirs. Our forces and our grain are their forces and their grain, for the common proletarian revolution.
We shall, of course, form an alliance tomorrow with the new Germany, the revolutionary Germany of labor. And that is why this alliance will not be directed in any way against the proletariat and working people of France, Britain, America or Japan. You understand this and, what is still more important, to our good fortune it is very well understood by all the revolutionary workers of the Entente countries. At the moment, and this moment is near, when a fundamental frontier, a fundamental trench, will be drawn across Europe, between the forces of the proletarian revolution and those of militarism, the French workers, the British workers, the flower of the American proletariat and the Japanese workers will be on the same side where we shall form the alliance of Soviet Russia and proletarian Germany. And this is the only way, the only means of putting an end to this accursed slaughter.
All our darkest prophecies, our most terrible denunciations have not merely been proved right, they have been surpassed by reality. The imperialists said: ’We proclaim that we are going to liberate the weak, poor, oppressed and small nationalities.’ Just look: all the small states and nations lie torn and crushed.
Bulgaria grabbed what she could from Serbia and Greece. Turkey grabbed what she could from us in Caucasia. Bulgaria, which yesterday was turned into a German province, has now been turned into a British colony. Turkey too! I have received a report only today that Turkey is opening her Straits to the British fleet. This means that Constantinople will become a city where a British governor will have his seat. This means that the domination of Britain is to be established over those who yesterday were Germany’s allies. Yesterday’s friend of Germany is today transformed into a miserable, powerless, crucified vassal of Britain. For all the weak, all the oppressed nations and peoples, the little states, and above all, for the worker masses of those countries and of the powerful nations alike, there is no way out of this slaughter but the shifting of armed force from one camp to the other. We forecast that first when we published the secret treaties, when we exposed predatory militarism and imperialism. And we can now say to the workers of Germany that if, a year ago, they had had the strength to get rid of their ruling classes and make peace on the basis proclaimed by the working class, then the workers of France, Britain and Japan would be the richer and happier for it. We should have taken a colossal step forward on the road of progress and humanity. During that year, fresh millions of lives and milliards of riches were consumed in the flames. But the lesson has not been in vain. We are still where we were, and others have drawn closer to us. Our enemy has become weaker, and we say, therefore: the banner of Soviet power has been lifted higher, we must fight with all our resolution, we have become stronger, we have more friends, we are advancing, and the workers of Germany, Britain, France and all countries are coming to meet us. Our banner is raised over Europe – the banner of the international republic of labor.
We have again been given a breathing-space. There can be no question of our being attacked by any military force in the next few weeks. In the White-Guard papers they now write about the Anglo-French expedition as a false hope that has vanished away, and so their eyes are now all turned towards Japan and America. From that quarter a real danger does undoubtedy threaten us, or may do so. But this danger, too, is far away, very many versts or kilometres distant. We have been given the chance to utilise the whole winter for strengthening our forces, and we shall now not merely capture towns but also quickly fortify them according to all the rules of the art. And even if we presume that the Japanese or the Americans, with the support of the White Guards or of the Czechoslovaks, who are lining the Trans-Siberian Railway, will get as far as the Urals, they will encounter before spring comes a stout and mighty barrier in their path. As yet they have not traversed that path. Our floes are only at its very beginning. They will have to move across a huge country, with only enemies to left and right of them. While the Czechoslovak Corps may have cavalry as rearguatrd, and, thanks to its high quality (which, however, is declinling day by day), may help with the central sector of the theatre of operations, the Japanese and American forces will have no rearguard: they will find that to the right and to the left of the narrow railway zone there are hostile partisans who are Prepared to do everything to defend their land and their grain, and they will be obliged to drag behind them a long, an enormous supply column. However rich in technique the Americans may be, and however powerful Japanese militarism although, it must be said, during the war they supplied Russia with extremely poor materiel, useless shells and guns – they will need to spend many weeks and months overcoming the resistance and obstacles they will meet in colossal Siberia before they can reach the European borders of the Soviet Republic. And, meanwhile, the Red Army will, unperceived by them, grow stronger and develop further.
There is at present some sort of agreement in being between Japan and the United States. Whether this agreement will hold till the spring cannot be forecast by any astrologer, and how deep the opposition to this agreement will be, inside Japan and America, is also impossible to foretell with astronomical accuracy. But only a month ago we observed a tremendous move ment taking place in Japan, involving millions of workers. If the Japanese bourgeoisie has shown ability to adapt and imitate, we cannot doubt that the Japanese proletariat, tempered in the crucible of the world-wide slaughter, will also show immense capacity for revolutionary imitation, and The Japanese bourgeoisie will come up against greater resistance to its chimerical hopes regarding Siberia with every month that passes. The same applies to America. There has been talk here of the growth of the movement on the other side of the ocean. The American worker has undoubtedly lost in the last two or three years his previous privileged position as the aristocrat of the world’s labor. Tremendous tribute is demanded from him: upon him weighs the old federal democracy, a concentrated and centralized imperialist power which in no way falls short of any monarchical-autocratic power. Faced with this colossal upheaval, imperialism is experiencing a catastrophic turn: the revolution must develop with incredible speed, and the resistance of the American proletariat will develop all the faster the more vigorously we resist American intervention, the greater the obstacle that is encountered in their advance by American and Japanese militarism, which are our principal enemies at the present time.
As a force dangerous to us, Germany is certainly leaving the stage now. Bulgaria is pulling out, and is being followed by Turkey, Romania and Austria-Hungary. It is difficult to sup pose that the rulers of present-day Germany, quite apart from the formal treaties which should bind them, will have the material possibility or the motives to change their Eastern policy. If they do make changes in this policy, it is most likely to be in the direction of extricating some corps which is now bogged down in the Ukraine, so as to use it for other duties. We are now convinced of that by the course of events. It may be said that Bulgaria’s departure will strengthen our direct opponents of the present period, the Allies, and that is true, but only momentarily. Actually, the whole of the world’s diplomacy is now determining its tasks only from moment to moment, and it cannot do otherwise. It is unable to make judgements in the light of precise historical prospects, because no prospect but doom appears before it. Russia’s departure from the war undoubtedly strengthened Germany. I recall – his intonation still rings in my ears – how Von Kuhlmann said: ‘Of course Germany wants to live at peace with her mighty Eastern neighbour.’ That word ‘mighty’ was spoken with an intonation that had to mean: ‘Yes, Russia was a mighty country, but now you are grovelling in the dust at our feet.’ The sound of Von Kuhlmann’s voice has remained with me, but Hertling is now no more, neither is Hintze,[Count von Hertling was Germany’s Chancellor when the Brest-Litovsk negotiations began, and Rear-Admiral von Hintze negotiated the ‘supplentary treaty’ of August 27, 1918 between Soviet Russia and Germany.]and indeed much else has changed in Germany.
I think that, while Russia’s departure from the war did temporarily strengthen Germany, in the process of history, the departure today of Bulgaria, where a Soviet of Soldiers’ Deputies has been organized, and tomorrow’s departure of Austria-Hungary (the revolution is passing through a fateful period in that country), are all results of those events which took Russia out of the war and temporarily strengthened Ger many, and which are nothing other than most profound signs of the downfall of world capitalism.
Comrades, allow me first of all to express my pleasure in the fact that we are able to talk together in Voronezh, which our enemies were not long ago disposed to think of as theirs. This gives me grounds for supposing that Voronezh will remain inseparably within Soviet Russia and that this assembly, attended by so many people and which, so far as I can judge by first impressions, is united by a single feeling, is the pledge of a spirit that will make of Voronezh an impregnable Soviet for tress.
For it has been said that Voronezh, one of the southernmost points in Soviet Russia, is still unquestionably in danger, because the principal threat to our country as a whole now comes from the South, from that front, so close to you, behind which recently were hidden Cossack-German forces, German resources, German plans, and where, behind those same deceived Cossacks, the forces and resources of the opposite camp are now grouping.
We live in an epoch which is above all an epoch of international politics. In ’peaceful’, ‘tranquil’ times, questions of international politics seem to the ordinary man problems on an astral plane which have no practical significance for his personal destiny. But a few years ago, we entered an epoch in which, through the events of this epoch, the destiny of each and every citizen, whether he likes it or not, is bound up with the destinies not only of his class and his country but with international destinies as a whole. This is the merit, or, if you prefer, the curse, of capitalism. Capitalism has bound the peoples together in one single mighty organism, and, at the same time, has set the ruling classes of these peoples against each other. It can be said that, through international exchange, through the world market capitalism has bound the peoples together by force with a convict-labor chain, and the peoples, striving to live within the context of the slavery of the capitalist world economy, are obliged to smash this chain and in so doing tear their own bodies into pieces. This is the significance of the present imperialist war. It grew out of the contradictions between the world-wide character of production and the national character of appropriation, capitalist misappropriation. The bourgeoisie cannot cope with this contradiction. At first there was hope, on the part of the bourgeoisie of one camp or the other, that through permanent military victory it would solve all problems. I recall the first period of the war, which I spent in Western Europe – the first days in Austria-Hungary, then in Switzerland, then nearly two years in France, whence I was expelled, through Spain, a neutral country, to America, at the very moment of that country’s entry into the war. Consequently, fate gave me the opportunity, during the first two-and-a-half years of the war, to observe how it was reflected in the consciousness and in the politics of the bourgeois classes and of the worker masses of a number of countries. In Zurich, in about the second month of the war, I happened to talk with one of the most prominent compromisers, Molkenbuhr, who, when I asked how his party saw the course that the war would take, replied, repeating the opinion of the German bourgeoisie: ‘During the next two months we shall finish with France, and we shall then turn to the East, dispose of the forces of your Tsar, and within three, or at the most four, months we shall give Europe a solid peace. Such was the illusion of this social-patriot.
More than four years have passed since that time. Germany has now bitten the dust. Only the developing workers’ revolution gives promise of rescuing her from the frightful, bloody dead-end into which she has been driven by the policy of her bourgeoisie, defended in its day by the party of Molkenbuhr.
It was the same in France. There, the bourgeois deputies and the social-patriots promised victory day after day, week after week, then month after month, and, eventually, year after year. To be sure, it can be claimed that this promised victory has now been achieved. France, with her allies, has now planted her jackboot upon Germany, but nevertheless, in France less than anywhere else do politicians possessed of any sense, even in the bourgeois camp, expect that military victory will solve even one of the problems which brought about the present war. None other than Jules Guesde, one of the former leaders of the former Second International, used often to say, in the days of his revolutionary prime, that war is the mother of revolution, and we have now entered an epoch when – too slowly, indeed, for our legitimate revolutionary impatience, but none the less surely – revolution, the daughter of war, is advancing, follow ing in the footsteps of war, shod with iron sandals, as they used to say in olden times.
We, the Russian working class, a class in the most deprived of countries, were the first to begin the revolution. We were the first, but we shall not be the last. We took the risk of being left on our own. But was there any other way out for us? You know what mockery and scoffing arose in reply to our prophecies about the inevitability of revolutionary developments through out the world, and especially in Germany But the facts are before us: in the last analysis it was we who were right, we who relied on the sound materialist method of investigating historical destinies, the method which is used in all sciences – the method of strict, cold, severe examination of accumulated facts, in order thereby to establish well-defined conclusions, an accurate prognosis for the future. And only this cold scientific method, which in no way conflicts with the most ardent revolutionary temperament, only Marxism enables us not to lose our heads but to find our bearings in the world situation and forecast the inevitability of proletarian revolution as a result of the present war.
Many of us, of course, expected that this would happen sooner. We thought that the German working class would not let the compromisers lead them by the nose for so long. We are still today looking with hatred towards the France of the Bourse, and are sometimes inclined to stamp our feet impatiently because the French working class, with its rich revolutionary traditions, is submitting patiently for so long to the rule of Poincar? and Clemenceau. Nevertheless, by and large, events are proceeding as we Marxists foresaw they would, Those features of capitalism and of the working class in particular countries which were known to us before have developed and had their effect on the character and tempo of events.
We know that the German working class, lacking a revolutionary past, needed exceptional events, exceptional shocks, if it was to be knocked out of the rut of legalism to which history had confirmed it for so long. Those shocks came, and we can see the results.
You know that the whole of this last war has been nothing but a gigantic duel between Germany and Britain. Britain is an old Imperialist, colony-owning country, an old-established robber firm which, with its navy, stands on every road and at every crossroads of the world’s seaways and will not let any other world-scale brigand compete with it. For that very reason it watched with unprecedented fury and hatred when, in the shape of industrial Germany, an extremely dangerous rival, on land and sea alike, began to emerge. The characteristic feature of the British working class, due to the history of British capitalism, is a feature to which I referred just now a sense of being privileged, a certain aristocratism. In the second half of last century the British working class became bound up with the world-wide privileges of British industry, which held the dominant position on the world market. Since the time when that situation was established, that is since the 1850s and 1860s, the British working class has experienced no revolutionary shocks.
The German proletariat has remained without them for other reasons. Germany arrived later at the door of capitalist development. It developed at colossal speed. German industry, including war industry took shape very quickly, and along with this, the German working class appeared, forming its trade unions and its political party, directing all its energy to that end. While the bourgeoisie grew rich there was still in power in Germany a caste of nobles which was closely united and well – schooled, and was made up, unlike our own nobility, not of idlers, thieves and embezzlers, but of extremely capable military leaders and ministers who knew how to rule over the masses. Education in government and its traditions was concentrated in the nobility which, by means of wars for the unification of Germany, had created the conditions for the bourgeoisie to develop. That was why the German bourgeoisie, which developed in the course of a few decades into a gigantic force, decided to leave affairs of state, and especially military affairs, in the hands of the nobility. It said to itself: ’The nobility has a strong fist, it possesses traditions of government, it will know how to bridle the proletariat.’ This nobility created the huge German army. For this there existed a mighty bourgeois industry, exploiting the workers. And to this army, based on this war industry, the nobility contributed a strong caste of officers, with warlike traditions, with iron discipline and the mentality of feudal knights. Out of a powerful industry and a disciplined class without revolutionary traditions, out of this combination was produced the terrifying machine for mass killing which was called the German army. This army held its ground against Britain, against France, against Russia, then against the American army. For more than four years the German army withstood that tremendous pressure.
If we leave out of account the imperialist nature of the war and look at it merely as a military contest between economic organisms, we must above all be astonished at the colossal might of the forces which capitalism has created and released. And capitalism found its most complete and striking expression in the German army. However, we have seen that German militarism proved unable to sustain this effort – not because against it was brought the pressure of the huge and powerful armies of Britain, France and, in the last few months, the United States, with its fresh and mighty resources, but because it could not withstand the internal ideological pressure of a new mood, the prophet of which was the Russian working class.
And it was no accident but rather the conscious will of history that, precisely on the anniversary of our October revolution, there was hoisted over Berlin the red flag of the Berlin Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. We could wish for, or ask from history, no greater satisfaction than that.
The German revolution is apparently going forward at a faster pace than our own. On the other hand, though, it would be a mistake to expect the German working class to make all at once the leap from its old legalism to the regime we look forward to, that is, to the regime of Communist dictatorship.
No people and no class have ever really learnt from books or newspapers, or from the experience of other countries.
True, we did learn something from the Germans. In our time we said that we had learnt much from them. That was so. But this ‘much’ was appropriate to a peaceful epoch, and it proved to be very little when set against the standard of great events. If the Russian working class has really learnt anything, it has learnt it in the school of its own direct experience of harsh struggle, face to face with its own enemies, as a result of which it overthrew party after party, wrested power from the hands of the bourgeoisie, founded its own state with its own blood, and is now showing its enemies that, having taken power, it will surrender that power to no-one. [Applause] It is there, and only there, in continuous, protracted, harsh struggle, that the will to power is trained, with the ability to conquer and hold power. The working class has never and nowhere learnt from books, or in academies or from newspapers, what its principal tasks are, and what the methods are of accomplishing them.
That applies to the German workers as well. They have formed revolutionary councils of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies. But there can be no doubt that these councils will for a certain time – let us hope, only for a short time – waver from one side to the other, limping and hobbling. They are still headed by compromisers, those very same men who bear an immense share of guilt before the German people for the mis-fortunes and humiliations into which Germany has fallen. For there can be no doubt that if in July 1914 the German Social- Democrats had found in themselves the resolution, courage and clear consciousness to call on the working class of Germany even, at first, only to offer passive resistance, so as later to go over from this to open revolt, the war would have been greatly shortened, and perhaps would never even have got started. That is why the principal responsibility was borne, as we said at that time, by the strongest party by the German Social Democrats. And yet, nevertheless, the German working class, having broken out of the vicious circle of the war, has left in position at its head the old party structures made up of the leaders of the old Social-Democratic Party. We needed eight months in order to outlive the regime of Kerensky and Tsereteli and the rest of the compromisers. Our Kerenskys and Tseretelis were for our working class unknowns, strangers who at first imposed themselves on the mass of the workers and were trusted as being the representatives of a certain party which was marching, soit seemed, at the head of the worker masses, and it took us eight months to expose and destroy this false reputation.
In Germany David, Ebert and Scheidemann are no strangers. Throughout the war they worked hand in hand with the German government and with the German bourgeoisie, as its helpers and servants. But so great is the force of organizational inertia, organizational automatism, that it was hard for the German working class to free itself of its own party machine at the same time as it freed itself of the state machine. The old party had been formed in old conditions for old peaceful tasks. It had created a huge organizational apparatus. The further they were from the masses the more petrified, stagnant and calloused were the representatives of this mighty party and of the trade-union apparatus.
I had occasion to spend a fairly long time in Germany and got a comparatively close look at these leaders; and now, in the light of recent gigantic events I see clearly how and why these men possessed in their hearts not a single spark of revolutionary proletarian enthusiasm, not a shadow of understanding of what is meant by proletarian revolution, but instead were filled with profound, servile adrnlration for the wisdom of planned and peaceful constructive work by the parliamentary state. The working class, after smashing the old state machine, thrust forward its old party, and Scheidemann and Ebert became ministers of revolutionary Germany – although they had done more than anyone to prevent the German revolution. They were made into ‘revolutionaries’ against their will. Even six weeks ago they were saying that there would be no revolution in Germany, that the Russian Bolsheviks were mistaken: they openly spat on our hopes, and, furthermore, the leading organ of German Social-Democracy, Vorwärts, wrote not long ago that, when the Bolsheviks asserted that there would be a revolution in Germany, they were consciously deceiving the Russian workers, feeding them with false promises.
So said the German ‘leaders’ who, one might have thought, should have been better informed about conditions in Germany.
They accused us of deceiving the Russian workers by prophesying that a revolution would inevitably take place in Germany. And now it is they, the wretched sloths and pedants, who are themselves shown to have been deceived. We told the truth. And this truth now stands before the whole world: there is revolution in Germany. [Applause]
As I said at the beginning, the life of every country, every class, and even every individual depends now, to a frightening degree, upon the international situation. The international situation in Germany is extremely grave.
The peace which it has turned out that the German Govern ment are going to be obliged to sign is in all respects harsher and more merciless than the peace which we were obliged to sign at Brest.
Our Kerenskys and Tseretelis charged us Bolsheviks with committing a crime by signing a terrible peace treaty. But in Germany the Kerensky and Tsereteli of that country, namely, Scheidemann and Ebert, have found themselves forced to sign a peace treaty which is much more terrible. Thus, putting one’s signature to a peace treaty is not just a matter of goodwill. One signs a terrible peace treaty when there is no other way out. When a hostile imperialism has you by the throat and you have no weapon in your hand, you sign a terrible peace treaty. That was how we were compelled to act. And there can be no doubt that if Kerensky and Tsereteli had been in power at that time, they too would have signed at Brest, and signed a peace treaty that was ten times worse. The best proof of this is that they and their like handed over Georgia, Armenia and Poland wholly to the tyranny and plundering of German imperialism, just as tomorrow they will hand over. Transcaucasia to Anglo-French imperialism. Negotiations to this end are already going on now ... Germany’s situation is extremely grave. What can save the country is that which saved us, namely, a revolution in the enemy state – in this case, in France and Britain, with the development, the extension, of the proletarian Communist revolution on an international scale. But, for that to happen sooner and more surely, it is necessary that in Germany itself the revolution should advance farther along its natural path, it is necessary that, in place of the cowardly compromisers who are trying to shorten, dock and clip the wings of the German revolution, to keep it within the bourgeois framework and deprive it of the agitational power it must develop – it is necessary, in short, that, in place of the Scheidemanns and Eberts a revolutionary government should come to power, headed by Liebknecht. Here, however, the difference between Germany’s fate and our own makes itself felt. We lived for a long time under the conditions of Tsardom. We developed revolutionary underground practices and traditions, first among the Narodniki and the members of Narodnaya Volya, and later among the Social-Democrats. This illegal, clandestine, revolutionary work, proceeding at first from the under ground intelligentsia to the advanced workers, found its legitimate and vivid expression in the Communist Party.
At the moment when, under the frightful blows of history, the Russian working class rose to its feet, that class did not need to start from scratch. It had at its head a centralized party, united by the closest ties of historical doctrine and internal revolutionary solidarity, which marched along with it through all the obstacles in its way, and which is now in power – our Communist Party.
In Germany there is still no such party, because there the energy of the working class has for decades been poured into the channel of legalism, of parliamentarism. And when the work mg class of Germany was hurled by the will of events into the revolutionary arena, it found there no organized revolutionary party. There is still today no such party in Germany. The working class made use, willy-nilly, of the organization which is represented by Scheidemann. But there can be no doubt that the lack of conformity between this organization, its practices and mentality, and the needs of revolutionary proletarian development will be revealed more and more clearly with every passing day. The German working class is faced with a twofold task: to carry out its revolution and, in the process of doing that, to create the instrument of its revolution, that is, to build a genuine revolutionary party. We have no doubt that it will cope with this twofold task, and this is the gnarantee that this new, Communist revolution will be met by a revolution in France.
Already today the wireless is bringing us news of large-scale strikes and revolutionary demonstrations in Lyons, Paris and other places. It would indeed be monstrous if the French working class were not to come out against its class enemies.
We know the French working class from its past. If any proletariat at all has old revolutionary traditions, it is the workers of France, who carried out the Great French revolution, the revolution of 1830, the revolution of 1848, the Days of June, and, finally, the Paris Commune. But just because the French working class was the first to take the path of revolutionary action, that class has developed a certain political aristocratism, comparable to the economic aristocratism of the British working class.
The British working class looked down for a long time upon the workers of all other countries: in their eyes the latter were pariahs, paid low wages, living in semi-starvation, ruled by soldiers, ignorant of sport, and so on, whereas the British working class, that is, its skilled upper stratum, enjoyed a privileged situation. Hence their contemptuous attitude toward revolutionary struggle. The French working class, contrariwise, regarded itself for a long time as the sole revolutionary force in Europe. They were the Messiah, called upon to save all the other peoples. Beyond the borders of France everyone was wallowing in barbarism and ignorance. In Ger many there was absolutism, in Russia Tsardom. Even Britain had a King and Lords. In France the working class had established a republic, and it would be the first to achieve socialism. That was how the upper stratum of the French workers thought. With this revolutionary aristocratism the French working class combined patriotism. Their line of thought was this: ‘If the Kaiser crushes us, France will perish – France the sole focus of revolutionary struggle. Consequently, saving France, at whatever cost, means saving socialism.’ The upper stratum of the French working class accepted the fact that the government of France, by making an alliance with Russia, thereby gave support to Tsardom. There was opposition, of course. But the broad masses were deceived, lulled, put to sleep by the notion that the danger from German absolutism was too great, that alliance with Imperial Russia was the only way out of the situation, since otherwise the German Bashi-Bazouks would crush France, and, by so doing, strangle the socialist revolution. Only gradually were the workers convinced, by their experience of the war, that both camps were equally hostile to the proletariat. Threatening voices arose more and more frequently from the French trenches. True, by combining patriotic lies with police persecution, Clemenceau still holds the French workers in his grip. But now, when the old imperialist Germany lies prostrate on the ground, when the French working class are no longer threatened by any external foe but, on the contrary, their own bourgeoisie itself constitutes a frightful, deadly danger to other peoples acting, to be sure, at the beck and call of the British and American bourgeoisies – there can be no doubt that, in response to soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies in Germany and Austria-Hungary, barricades will soon appear in Paris.
It is highly probable that the French proletariat will be outstripped by the revolutionary working class of Italy. As you know, the Italian Socialist Party has sustained with honour the trials of the present war. The reasons for this are, on the one hand, that the Italian party had purged itself of the opportunist element already before the war, and, on the other, that the Italian bourgeoisie and monarchy took nearly nine months to go over from the camp of the Central Powers to that of the Entente countries, and start to wage war on the side of France and Russia. During those nine months the Italian party was able to convince itself, from the experience of other countries, of the demoralisation and prostitution which results from the policy of ‘national’ unity between socialists and capitalists. These circumstances enabled the Italian party to take the initiative in calling the Zimmerwald conference. The young Italian proletariat is distinguished by a stormy temperament and has more than once already transformed the stones of Italian roadways into revolutionary barricades. All the information that is reaching us from Italy testifies that a decisive clash between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is on the agenda there. The proletarian revolution possesses in the Apennine Peninsula one of its most militant and reliable detachments.
In Britain things are now not much different. True, Britain has been accustomed to stand aloof from Europe. The bourgeoisie has educated the British people in the belief that the Continent is one thing and Britain another. The Government of Britain intervened in the old wars of Europe, supporting with money, and to some extent with its Navy, the weaker against the stronger side, until the moment came when a balance of power had been achieved on the Continent. In this, comrades, consisted for centuries the entire world policy of Britain – dividing Europe into two camps and not allowing one camp to strengthen itself at the expense of the other. The rulers of Britain supported their allies in the same way that the rope supports the man being hanged, that is, so as to tighten the noose around their necks as close as possible, in the form of all sorts of obligations, in order thereby to exhaust the strength not only of Britain’s enemies but also of her ‘allies’. But this time it did not work out like that – Germany developed too strongly, showed herself too strong, and Britain was obliged to involve herself in this war, to get deeply into it, not only with money but with flesh, with human blood. But it has been said that ‘blood is very special stuff’. This intervention by the British bourgeoisie will not pass without its consequences ... Britain’s privileged position, fundamentally undermined by German competition, has vanished forever. The British trade-unionist workers used to say: ‘We have no militarism here: I am a free citizen on my own island, which is protected by the Navy. There are a few tens of thousands of sailor mercenaries in the Navy, and that’s all.’
But now militarism has taken this ‘free’ British proletarian by the scruff of the neck and thrown him on to the territory of Europe, and the war has brought with it a fearful increase in taxes and in the cost of living. All this has radically undermined the old ‘privileged’ economic situation even of the upper stratum of the British working class.
The more privileged the British proletariat considered itself formerly, the prouder its self-esteem, the more terrible will be its consciousness of catastrophe. Britain’s economy is ruined, destroyed. There are a colossal number of cripples and other disabled persons. All this is the consequence of the war. To suppose that, after the victory over Germany, Britain can abolish, or greatly restrict, her militarism, would mean making a big mistake. Britain’s strongest adversary tomorrow will be the United States. There is already today a profound inner antagonism between them. There are now only two possibilities left for the British proletariat: either economic and class degradation, or social revolution.
To be sure, there is a prejudice to the effect that the British working class lacks revolutionary temperament. A subjectively nationalist theory exists according to which a people’s history is to be explained by the national temperament. That is rubbish. Those who think and write like that are superficial chatterboxes who have observed the British only in smart restaurants in Switzerland or France. Having observed the so-called cream of British society, whose members, depraved and exhausted from one generation to the next, have lost their strength and will to live, they present these as representative of the British nation.
But anyone who knows the history of the British people and the British working class, the history of the English revolution of the 17th century, and then of the Chartist movement in l8h-century Britain, knows that the British, too, have ‘a devil in their bodies’. There have been many times when the British took up the cudgels against oppressors. And there can be no doubt that the time will soon come when they will take up the cudgels against the King, against Lloyd George, against their Lords, and against the cruel and cunning, clever and perfidious British bourgeoisie. The first rolls of thunder of that great storm can already be heard in the British Isles.
It seems that the most serious, most long-term danger to us comes from America and from Japan. Let us look at what we may now expect from America.
The United States is a powerful capitalist country which entered the war after the countries of Europe had already been wearing each other out for three years. During the critical months, January and February of 1917, I was in America, and witnessed the period of preparation for the United States’ entry into the war. Perhaps you remember how our patriotic press, and the press of all the Entente countries, wrote in those days about how the noble President Wilson, infuriated by all the outrages and crimes committed by German militarism, and in particular by the submarine campaign, the sinking of passenger ships, and so on, had at last cast his sword into the scales of the world war, ‘in order that good might outweigh evil’. In reality, the matter looked very much more prosaic than as it appeared in the bourgeois press.
America adopted from the very outset the attitude towards both camps which Britain had taken up in previous wars in relation to the Continent: it did this through the organization and support of various diplomatic combinations and alliances. I said earlier that Britain used to divide Europe into two opposing camps; she sat tight on her island and said: ‘Let them weaken each other, then I shall support the weaker lot, so that no rivals that are too strong may rise up against me.’ When Germany became too strong, Britain was obliged to enter the camp of Germany’s overt enemies. Then America, on her gigantic island on the other side of the ‘big water’, as the Americans call the ocean, remained in a waiting posture and said: ‘Europe, together with Britain, has been split into two camps. We Americans will, to start with, watch them let each other’s blood and exhaust themselves. While remaining observers we shall not, however, be passive, but shall engage, as much as ever we can, in business, in speculation, in moneymaking. We shall sell dynamite, shells and rifles to both sides, and all the time pocket good capitalist percentages as the price of our neutrality.’
That was the original policy of the bourgeois class of North America. And from the very beginning of the war the ‘honorable’ American merchants guided in this direction the policy of the ‘honourable’ President Wilson. They thrust their noses into both of the belligerent camps, with their honou sable dynamite, and offered it to both sides at a very honourable, usurer’s price. But Britain declared a blockade, and said to America: ‘No, you shall not supply your dynamite to Germany.’ Relations between America and Britain at once became very strained. Wilson told his stock-exchange: ‘Justice has been flouted, the freedom of the seas profaned, America’s honorable dynamite cannot get to Germany.’ Naturally, the whole stock-exchange, the whole of the arms industry, seethed with righteous indignation against Britain for having established the blockade. Anxious meetings were held between the big men of the arms industry, the heads of the banks, and the diplomats, and they debated whether or not they should declare war on Britain. The neutral Wilson expressed himself thus: ‘We are now cut off by the blockade from the Central Empires. If we break with Britain, the Anglo-French, Russian and Italian markets for our arms industry will also disappear, and we shall be left with nothing for our pains.’ The interests of American industry and trade required that Wilson stand up for a neutrality which would allow the American merchant to export his goods in immense quantities to the countries of the Entente.
In fact, the foreign trade of the United States expanded two and a half times during the war. This was not the old sort of trade, when what was exported was grain, machinery, and in general all the products needed for human life. It was in the main trade in the instruments of death and destruction. This, Wilsonian neutrality enabled American industry to do splendid business.
But now Germany took the offensive against Britain, with her unrestricted submarine warfare. That was in January l917. This was then the situation: all over America there were arms industries that relied on the European market. They had been cut off from the Central Empires by the British blockade, and now the German submarine blockade threatened to cut them off from Britain, France, Russia and Italy. Naturally, his exhausted the patience of the arms industry and, therefore, also of Wilson’s ‘pacifism’ and ‘neutrality’.
I had forgotten to tell you that Wilson was an apostle of ‘pacifism’, that is of the idea of peaceful co-existence between the nations, so long as this idea served as the flag under which trade in America ‘neutral’ dynamite could be carried on. But, from the moment when the two blockades barred the way, the great apostle of hypocrisy, Wilson, began to incline towards the view that it was now time to intervene. The American bourgeoisie gave him plenty of time to make up his mind. They said to him: ‘Just look at this Tower of Babel, our arms industry, just look at this Mont Blanc of shells and cartridges that we have manufactured for Europe – what are we to do with them?’ Wilson spread his hands and declared that he had discovered po means of combating the submarine campaign. They said to him: ‘You must take these goods for the American state. If you can’t get them all across to Europe, then pay for them out of the pockets of the American workers and farmers.’
There you have the origin of American militarism, which has grown so monstrously in such a short time: American industry prepared this militarism for export to Europe, but then it overwhelmed the American people, and they were obliged to absorb it at home. Wilson’s intervention in the war was thus, on the one hand, an attempt to subdue Germany, and all Europe along with her, and, on the other, direct profit-seeking by the American arms industry. Such were the moral principles of that old hypocrite Wilson.
But this experience did not fail to leave its mark on the American working class. This class has some features that make it akin to the British working class. In both countries there are conservative trade unions. The upper stratum of the American working class considered that it was an even bigger aristocrat than its British equivalent. The British working class has a King, a noble estate, Lords, but not so the American working class. The United States is a ’free’ republic, a federation, with plenty of land, plenty of grain, and so on and so forth.
All that was now left behind. It was no longer the case. No trace remained of the so-called free federal republic. The war finally put an end to that. We see now in the United States of America a centralized, militarist, imperialist country. The power of the American president in no way falls short of that of any King or Tsar. Where all fundamental questions of life and death, questions of war and peace, are concerned, the American president, as executant of the will of finance capital, has concentrated all power in his own hands for the duration of the war. Over there militarism has assumed a truly American size and scale. The living standards of the masses have worsened to an extreme degree. I was able to see this with my own eyes even before America openly entered the war. All the energy of the working people was being expended not on producing articles needed for existence, consumer goods, but on producing articles for extermination. Prices of necessities of life rose in America to a level never previously known there.
In January and February 1917, when colossal masses of war material were concentrated in all the eastern railway termini and ports and jams were forming on all the railways, prices for articles of consumption made a frenzied jump, and in New York I saw tens of thousands of housewives demonstrating in the streets, smashing up and pillaging shops that sold consumer goods, and overturning hawkers’ stalls. It was a chaotic, stormy movement, the first precursor of social upheavals to come.
We thus arrive at the conclusion that, in America, this war has prepared all the material and ideological preconditions for a revolutionary outbreak by the working class of that country.
And this working class, comrades, is not made tip of poor material. The American working class was formed from representatives of a great variety of nationalities, and not from their worst representatives, either. Who emigrated to America? To America there emigrated, from the beginning, rebellious workers and peasants who were persecuted in their home lands. To America emigrated tens of thousands of workers and peasants after all the revolts and revolutions that were suppressed – after 1848 from Germany and Austria, from France after the suppression of the 1848 revolution and after the Commune of 1871. To America emigrated from Russia, after 1905, an enormous number of advanced workers belonging both to the oppressed nationalities and to the basic Russian nationality – it was revolutionary elements, militant forces, that emigrated across the ocean. True, they found there opportunities of better pay and a better life than in their old homeland. But the war did away with all those privileges, destroyed them, and this first-class proletariat was locked in the unbearable fetters of imperialism. There can be no doubt that they will smash these fetters, and the American proletariat will reveal all its revolutionary qualities.
French Communards, German organizers and our own Russian Bolsheviks settled over there. Our Bolshevik comrades play an important role there in all the revolutionary organizations. All this in combination will undoubtedly cause the American revolution to assume American dimensions.
A couple of words, comrades, about Japan. Japan is the country that we know least about: it lies in the Far East like an Asiatic Britain, like a guard-dog beside the continent of Asia, just as Britain lies beside the continent of Europe. Japan wants to carve and re-carve Asia in accordance with its own interests and ambitions, acting even more imperiously and barbarously than Britain has acted for centuries towards the continent of Europe.
But this is not the age for that sort of thing. Japan has set out on that road too late to be able to occupy the hegemonic position, as the master, the economic dictator, which alone enables a bourgeoisie to control its own working class over a long period.
Information has reached us in recent months that a powerful revolutionary strike movement has developed in Japan, involving about two million workers, under the slogan: ‘Rice and peace!’ These were our slogans, except that instead of ‘bread’ the Japanese say ‘rice’.
Apart from that, this was the slogan of our own working class when it was tired out by militarism and war. Japan, as you know, is famous for its great imitativeness, its capacity for imitation. This is not a special gift of nature, a national characteristic, but a feature of a nation which has taken the road of world development later than others and has been obliged to run and jump in order to catch up with the others. Consequently it has cultivated an ability to imitate other nations, to borrow their practices, procedures and techniques. A nation like that learns how to act in the European way more quickly than to think in the European way.
The heads of the Japanese bourgeoisie are still full of old feudal superstitions, the conceptions of the clan and caste way of life, the prejudices of the Samurai caste, the old ‘heathen’ religions, and so on. But it is already able to rake in profits in conformity with all the methods of capitalist bookkeeping.
The Japanese working class, too, is undoubtedly far less advanced in its consciousness than in its practice. In general, comrades, what is consciousness? It is a very sluggish thing, even if it is man’s mind. Subjectivists, such as our SRs, considered that all progress is due to consciousness. That is not true. Indeed, if men’s consciousness were the vanguard factor, we should not have had this accursed war, these degradations and crimes.
Was not all this written about earlier, in books? It was all foretold, down to the last detail. Therefore, if consciousness were what moves men, they would long ago have understood this and would long since have sent their ruling classes to the devil. Why did this not happen? Because, in fact, consciousness is the most sluggish factor in all history. And it is necessary that external material facts should impel, thumping peoples and classes on the back, on the back of the head, on the temple, before this accursed consciousness will rouse itself, at last, and start to toddle along in the wake of these facts.
All this is shown with particular clarity from the example of Japan, just because Japan was obliged by its entire situation to introduce European tools as quickly as possible, on pain of being crushed. For tools you need factories, and for factories you need technology. And so Japan set about creating in a hurry its own technology and science, its own industry. The philosophical part of consciousness, the political, critical sphere, did not develop parallel with this, it did not have time, and the mass of the Japanese are still stuck in mediaeval ideological barbarism. But precisely because this is the situation, leaps forward are bound to occur.
We look upon the Japanese working class as a backward working class. That is true. In the mass it is extremely backward. But weren’t people saying to us only yesterday, about the Russian working class: ‘So you think that in Russia there will be not only a revolution but also a dictatorship of the working class. But, after all, the Russian proletariat is extremely backward. It is sunk in peasant superstition.’ We replied: ‘If we built our hopes only on the consciousness of the proletariat as a whole, as it is today, then, certainly, your criticism would be correct. But there is an objective logic, the logic of our centralised industry, the logic of Russia’s Tsardom, the logic of the counter-revolutionary nature of the Russian bourgeoisie and of the insignificance of the petty-bourgeois democratic elements, the logic of the international situation. This external, objective logic will be transformed into an historical stick that will drive the Russian working class, at first even in conflict with its consciousness, on to the road of the conquest of power.’
We were proved right. The same can be said of the Japanese working class, which entered even later than we did the path of historical development, and which is obliged to develop even faster. These three million workers, striking with the slogan:
‘Bread and peace,’ are experiencing a moment in their development which combines our 1903, when our first mighty, spontaneous strike movement took place, our 1905, when the revolution still went cap- in hand to the Tsar, and even the beginning of the 1917 revolution, when our working men and woman demanded peace and bread. All that has been combined into one event.
The predatoriness of the Japanese bourgeoisie, its militaristic fury, will get stronger and stronger, because the USA is now more frightening than ever for Japan. Previously, America had no army, but now she has a huge one. Her navy is being strengthened. Japan is poor in comparison with America, and on the basis of her poverty she has to create a powerful army: for this purpose the Japanese working class has to be exploited without mercy, fleeced to the skin. These are the objective factors which tell us that a revolution in Japan is inevitable.
The Japanese bourgeoisie has, within a short space of time, more or less caught up with the European bourgeoisie where the technique of production and the technique of plundering are concerned. The Japanese working class will have to catch up with the European working class so far as the technique of proletarian revolution is concerned.
From my necessarily cursory survey of the working-class movement in various countries it follows, comrades, that the war has everywhere brought fully to light the fundamental class antagonism which in peacetime is not so clearly perceived by the working class, not so vividly noticed and felt.
It has now been stripped bare, and the workers of all countries are faced with this fateful choice: either to be destroyed by history or to seize state power. This is why war is the mother of revolution.
Even if we assume that America and Japan will lag behind while all Europe is enveloped in the flames of social revolution, they will not crush us.
If the German working class takes a step forward – which it will do – and takes power into its own hands, expropriating its bourgeoisie and applying itself to the organizing of a Communist economy, it will be a thousand times stronger than us in its organization and technique, and our alliance with it, the alliance of Soviet Russia with the German Communist working class, or the alliance of Soviet Russia with Soviet Germany, this alliance alone will constitute a power strong enough for the waves of the European and world-wide counter-revolution to break against it.
As regards these fundamental prospects of the period immediately ahead, our affairs are in better shape than ever, comrades.
Everything that for decades we, the revolutionaries of the older generations, thought about, hoped for, looked forward to, has now come true.
But, comrades, it would be a very great blunder if from this we were to draw conclusions that are too optimistic, if we were to say to ourselves that the Communist revolution is now, so to speak, in the bag. That is not the case!
A very great threat to the revolution, and, above all, to Soviet Russia, has not yet been eliminated. This is the imperialism which has not yet been killed off.
Until recently Germany constituted such a threat. Now, imperialist Germany has left the stage. But that does not mean that the danger has decreased. The direct, immediate threat to us has increased.
The entire world is now, in the fullest sense of the word, divided into two parts: the Bolsheviks and all the rest. The last fight, a fight to the death, has begun. That is not just an agitational phrase, comrades, it is an actual reality. Take the newspapers of all countries, the leading bourgeois papers and the compromisers’ papers, and you will see that there is no problem that is now being considered otherwise than from the standpoint of what sjgnificance the solution of this problem will have for the fight against Bolshevism.
When arguments were going on in Germany in the last few days about whether or not, Wilhelm having been overthrown, the country should make peace, there were some who said that peace must be concluded forthwith, because peace itself is such a great blessing that this alone, however burdensome the peace treaty might be, would curb the revolutionary elements and make it possible to deal with Bolshevism, which had raised its head. Others said that peace should not be made, for any wavering would be fatal: ‘If we falter before British imperialism, we shall show that we are weak. The German working class will see it, and that will provide grounds for the development of Bolshevism.’ Bourgeois and compromiser thinking is dominated exclusively now by the fight against Bolshevism, that is, against Communism, and so is the entire policy and strategy of the ruling classes of all Europe and the whole world. This is a fact of tremendous importance. In it we see, first, the recognition of our party as the leading force in history, and, further, we see in it an expression of the dismay, the lack of confidence, the fear felt by the ruling classes of all countries. And that is the most important condition for our success. But before complete success is attained, comrades, we may have to live through a few more years or a few more months, if things go well. And in our time major events may take place in a few months, both on our side and on theirs.
Remember that, only eight, seven, six months ago, German imperialism was dictating its will to the whole world, while we were pinned to the ground. Compare that situation with what is happening now. What tremendous changes! History is working now not with small, finely-sharpened instruments, but with a heavy steam-hammer, with a gigantic club, beating it down on the heads of classes, nations, peoples and States, smashing some, lining up others. And in this titanic activity such a formidable blow may still fall upon us, too, comrades, and we have to keep that in mind.
Revolutionary enthusiasm does not consist in shutting one’s eyes to danger. And danger there is, threatening us with particular clarity on the Southern Front. Not from Krasnov, not from Denikin, but from Anglo-French imperialism, for which Krasnov and Denikin may serve as point of departure.
You know what changes of orientation are going on now in all the neutral and all the occupied countries, in those that were till lately being towed by Germany, and in those where the bourgeoisie was still recently kissing Wilhelm’s jackboots: they are all now declaring for the whole world to hear, that the one person really responsible for the war was the German Kaiser, and they are all turning themselves into vassals of Anglo- French militarism. Needless to say, while yesterday, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, Turkey was fighting against Britain and her agent Bicherakhov, tomorrow Bicherakhov will be marching alongside the Turkish hordes against us.
Krasnov and Denikin were adversaries, for Krasnov obtained his pieces of silver from Germany, from Wilhelm, whereas Denikin received his from Lloyd George and Clemenceau. Today this antagonism – in which there was no element of principle, since British and French pieces of silver ring exactly the same as German – today this antagonism has vanished, and Krasnov is united with Denikin on the part of Anglo-French imperialism.
In the Ukraine, Skoropadsky was in the service of the German Government. Now this Skoropadsky has joined Romania. Romania, which previously went over from the Allies to Germany, has now, by the same route, through the same gate, returned from the German camp to that of the Allied imperialists. They are all united and are levelling out their front against us. And everything in the Balkan Peninsula that is still intact will, of course, be directed against Soviet Russia.
The attempts to crush us from the Northern Front have so far come to nothing. It is not out of the question, of course, that the Northern Front may wake up again in the spring, if major events have not taken place in Britain and France before then. But at present, during the winter months, no danger threatens us from the North.
Nor do we expect any danger from the Fast. We have cleared the Volga, and in the Urals the work, though proceeding perhaps more slowly than we should like, is going ahead solidly and well. We have grounds to hope that Ufa and Orenburg will be ours in the very near future. [Applause]
As regards the former Western Front, that is, the German front, you know that the White Guards have recently been grouping themselves there. Before Pskov an army was formed, under General Dragomirov, which was to have threatened Petrograd. Throughout the Western zone German militarism created counter-revolutionary forces to fight us, and did the same in the Ukraine. Now, with the revolution in Germany, all these forces are left hanging in the air, and, of course, for us the only conclusion to be drawn from a revolution in Germany would be to proclaim the treaty of Brest-Litovsk null and void. [Applause] But that would mean that instead of Dragomirov marching against us from Pskov or Vilna, somebody else would march, carrying the Soviet flag, towards Pskov, Vilna, Riga, and all the centres of the occupied regions. And it is no secret to any of us that today, in all those regions, our party, the Communist Party, is leading the workers, and to a considerable extent the peasant masses too, and that the Soviet power will not remain indifferent to the struggle which has already developed there, and which will develop tomorrow in full force in the Ukraine.
This struggle is now losing even the slightest aspect of a conflict between us and Germany, for free Latvia, free Poland and Lithuania, and free Finland, together with, on the other side, free Ukraine, will not be a wedge but a connecting link between Soviet Russia and the future Soviet Germany and Austria-Hungary. This is the beginning of a federation, of a European Communist federation, a union of the proletarian republics of Europe.
Consequently, our Western Front presents at this time no threat to us: on the contrary, we can finish off our work with that quarter, establishing Russia within the borders that confirm to the will of the masses inhabiting the former Tsarist Empire.
But the Southern Front remains for us, as before, a front full of menace. It is here, comrades, that the knot of fate could be tied. Germany strove to get, through the Ukraine and Trans-caucasia, to the British dominions in Asia: here lay Germany’s proposed imperialist highway. Now imperialist Germary has been overthrown. But now along this same route march the British and the French, uniting all the counter-revolutionaries around them. Turkey, the Ukraine, the Don Cossacks, the Transcaucasian nationalities – that is, their bourgeois classes – all will be welded into one by the single cement of class hatred against the proletarian Communist revolution.
You have read how the first vessels have already appeared in the waters of the Bosphorus, under the walls of Constantinople, and the radio reports that, soon, dozens of Anglo-FrenclL pennants will be flying in the Black Sea, at Odessa, at Sevastopol and at Novorossiisk. With this is connected the question of an Anglo-French landing on the Black Sea coast and an advance into the Ukraine. Things are, of course, not done as quickly as they can be said. To land a few tens of thousands of Anglo-French soldiers would signify nothing. Germany and Austria-Hungary needed to keep half a million soldiers in the Ukraine merely so as to control the railway junctions and to prevent a country that was constantly on the boil from exploding. That was the temporary state of semi-order which enabled the German troops to plunder the Ukrainian peasants The Anglo-French will need an army no smaller than the Germans had, for the sympathy felt by the Ukrainian peasants and workers towards these liberators will be no more ardent than it was towards the German soldiers. And it is not just a matter of the Ukraine alone, but of all Russia. True, the German ‘White Guards and the Ukrainian bourgeoisie will help them. The cadres of the Great-Russian bourgeoisie, the Great-Russian imperialists will rush to the Ukraine and come to the aid of the Anglo-French aggressors.
Nevertheless, this is a task that requires not just days, not just weeks, but months. However, the danger is great, especially great because the Allies now have their hands free. With Germany defeated, enormous military forces have been made available.
True, the threat of revolution has increased throughout Europe, but this revolution has not yet taken place, it is only at its beginning. It will come. But it is not here today. We have to take account of the situation that exists today. And so it is still materially possible for them to throw large forces into the Ukraine. Our salvation lies in preventing Anglo-French imperialism from linking up with the Russian counter revolution.
The German troops are forming their Soviets all over the Ukraine and spontaneously returning home, or coming over to us. They are leaving their weapons with us. But, as the German troops depart, others are trying to come in, and are already knocking at the door. We must take advantage of this moment, and as one lot departs and the other tries to enter, we must thrust a wedge between them, we must say, along with the Ukrainian workers and peasants, regarding the whole of the Ukraine: ‘This is also part of our Soviet house,’ and lock the door securely, telling the foreign scoundrels, both German and British: ‘No entry here.’ [Applause]
Comrades, all history is now condensed for us in this question, as though in a single lump. Shall we be able to do this, shall we succeed in it? If we do not succeed, I won’t say that the revolution is doomed to fail – the world revolution cannot fail. There was the Paris Commune, which was put down. There was the year 1905, when we were put down. But we rose again. And if we are again put down, the revolution will arise once more, from our bones. But we are not content with the idea of gaining the victory in the last analysis, in 25 or 50 years’ time, we ourselves want to win, and you who are sitting here, our generation, having taken power, don’t want to give it up. That is the point. [Applause]
We must accomplish the task history has set before us. It was for that reason that the Central Executive Committee proclaimed that our Soviet Republic was to be turned into an armed camp. There is no task so urgent, so obligatory, so imperative for us as that of waging armed struggle on the Southern Front.
I sometimes encounter, let me call it, departmental narrowness and professional conservatism on the part of a section of our Soviet officials. They frequently send me complaints, by telegraph, that our war machine is hindering certain cultural tasks, some cultural work or other. I know that, perfectly well. The war machine, which seizes hold of many forces and resources, often acts clumsily, barbarously, roughly. This is all quite plain to me and I am ready to acknowledge it. But alas, comrades, this is a consequence of the fact that we are fighting a life-and-death battle, and war is a harsh trade. War is a merciless thing. And, of course, in every town, in Voronezh, Kursk, Moscow or Tambov, here, there and everywhere, the circumstance that we are waging a struggle to the death is expressed in the fact that the Commissariat for Education suffers, the Commissariat of Justice suffers, Social Security suffers – they find that they have had taken from them not only material resources but also men, their best men, who are sent to the front.
When Soviet officials complain that teachers have been taken from the schools, and that we need these teachers, that they are good proletarian teachers, I invariably give the same answer: ‘They will undoubtedly make excellent Red officers, and I shall not let you have them back.’ I received a telegram from the workers in a hospital fund complaining that we had taken their best doctors. We need doctors, first and foremost, for the army, and good doctors in the service of a hospital fund will be good doctors for soldiers. The fact that Russia has been turned into an armed camp is expressed in the fact that, so far as possible, all material resources and all human forces are collected and mobilised, and this has to be done with tenfold vigour. In addition, we have to mobilise the consciousness of all Soviet officials, so that they all understand and feel that the fate of our country is now being decided on the Southern Front. If we give way here, if we stumble here, then you may be sure, nothing will be left of the hospital funds and the educational work. We have to ensure the possibility of our very existence, and, therefore, of our cultural work. That is why all forces and all resources must be devoted to serving the army.
I know that the Voronezh comrades have done a great deal, but, allow me to say, not everything, so far. The work can and must be carried on in a more centralized and intense way. There was a moment when the question arose of evacuating Voronezh. There can and must be no question of that. [Applause]
Voronezh cannot be evacuated under any conditions, in any circumstances, it must be defended. You must here do what the Soviets are doing throughout the Volga region, where they have learnt the bitter lesson of the Czechoslovak rising. There, every town has now been turned into a fortress. The workers are undergoing military training. A section of the workers have been formed into a garrison, which has been stationed in different parts of the town. Each district has its commandant, a reliable revolutionary worker. Every worker knows where he must go at the moment of danger, what trench he has to occupy. In short all the towns of the Volga region have now been transformed into fortresses, and if the fortune of war betrays us, if, to assume the impossible, our enemies from the East again reach the Volga, then they will find there a line of fortifications against which they will break many of their teeth.
And you, comrades, must transform Voronezh in this way, into one of our Southern fortresses. The working class of the factories and railways of Voronezh must be the garrison of this fortress.
That is the first and most immediate task for the local military authorities, together with the Soviet and all the trade-union organizations, in the factories and works – turning Voronezh into a good fortress of the Southern Front. I do not doubt that this task will be performed.
The task of our provincial Soviet in relation to the province as a whole is to secure the railway lines which pass through the province. The Cossacks always break through to the railways with the help of the kulaks in the neighbouring villages. The railway zone must be guarded more strictly. The kulaks of the villages and hamlets situated along the railway lines must be made directly responsible for the inviolability of the permanent way. Take the last kulak uprisings that have occurred here in Voronezh province – they spread a zone of fire all along the railway lines. This is a system which the Cossacks and kulaks, led by officers, derived from the experience of the German occupation of the Ukraine, where the Germans held the railway junctions. Only a small armed force is needed to fight when this system of insurrection is employed. A conspiracy of this type was prepared which was to have come to a head on the anniversary of our October revolution. All these revolts – the revolt of a band of sailors in Petrograd, the revolts by kulaks in various localities, in various provinces, are all – this is now an established fact – separate fragments of an unrealised gigantic plan for a revolt timed to coincide with the anniversary of our revolution. But in Petrograd it broke out earlier – the organization did not hold firm. The revolt flared up prematurely, and in other places too it fell to pieces. But it may be renewed tomorrow, and it will take place along the railway line. Revolts will continue so long as there is a Southern Front. We can put an end forever to the kulak revolts by one means alone – by liquidating the Southern Front, the great hope of the bourgeois and the kulaks. Hither, to the Southern Front, we have sent large armed forces. We shall give our Voronezh front still more tens and hundreds of our advanced workers, to serve as regimental commissars, commanders and rank-and-file warriors, who will exert influence above all by the example of their own courage. We shall then have strength enough to liquidate the Cossack bands once and for all. We must win, because what is now being decided in our South is the fate not only of the Russian revolution but also of the world revolution for the next few years. If we let the enemy consolidate his position here and crush us, that would have the gravest consequences for the working class of all countries.
Comrades! We are standing today, like a beacon, on a high place. They want to throw us down, at whatever cost. The fact that we, surrounded by a ring of enemies, have held out till now, has at last evoked an outburst of revolution in Germany and in Austria-Hungary. If we were to fall, that would be an immense gain for our class enemies and a dreadful blow to our friends throughout the world. Comrades! We have no right to fall. We have risen too high. As the Soviet power, as the Party, we have taken on too great an obligation to the international working class. We must win. And what we have here is our most important front, we must give everything we possess to this front. You will make this front impregnable. Furthermore you will give us forces that will carry us to Novocherkassk, Rostov, to Poltava, to Kharkov, to Kiev. And through Kiev runs a line leading straight to junction with the Austro Hungarian revolution, just as through Pskov and Vilna runs a line leading straight to Junction with the revolution in Germany.
The period of retreat which lasted from the moment of the Brest-Litovsk peace until recent weeks, that period of retreat on all fronts, is finished. The breathing space given us by history has been liquidated. By retreating until now we have accumulated strengths. We have now to put that strength into action. Into the offensive on all fronts! Into the offensive on the Western Front and on the Southern Front – on all the fronts of the revolution. History is working for us. But we are ourselves a living force of history. Once we have become penetrated to the marrow of our bones with the historical task imposed upon us, no danger can make us quail. The obligation to the international working class which Soviet Russia has undertaken will be fulfilled. We shall guard, we shall secure, we shall protect our Soviet Republic as a fortress of social revolution, until the time comes for it to be united with the world revolution.
Last updated on: 16.12.2006