V. I. Lenin

Letter Over the Publication of “Leaflet on the Capture of Riga”{1}

Written: Written after August 22 (September 4), 1917
Published: First published in 1962 in Vol. 34 of the Fifth Russian edition of the Collected Works. Printed from a typewritten copy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 443.2-446.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
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This leaflet cannot, of course, be published legally, but everything must be done to have it published illegally. It would be extremely stupid of us to jeopardise our legal newspapers (which are so terribly important for us, and which it has taken such a great effort to keep going) and fail to do what we had managed to do in 1912–14: to use our legal possibilities. We should neither print the article (leaflet) legally nor spoil it by rewriting it for legal publication.

It would be not only stupid but base on our part to confine ourselves to the legal word, when its freedom has so drastically been curtailed by the government and is being further curtailed from day to day.

I am aware that the sluggishness of our Bolsheviks is   great and that it will take a great deal of effort to secure the publication of illegal leaflets. But I shall go on insisting because those are the demands of life, the demands of the movement.

We must issue illegally free leaflets and handbills which are not curtailed and which speak out at the top of their voice. They should be signed: “A group of persecuted Bolsheviks”. We can confine ourselves to that signature or add below in small type: “The group of persecuted Bolsheviks consists of those Bolsheviks whom the government’s persecution has forced to work illegally.” Or: “The group of persecuted Bolsheviks consists of Bolsheviks whom the government’s persecution and withdrawal of press freedom have forced to publish free leaflets illegally, and to act outside the framework of the legal Bolshevik Party.”


Workers, soldiers and all working people!

The enemy troops have taken Riga. We have suffered another heavy defeat. The incredible calamities inflicted on the people by the war are being aggravated and dragged out.

Why is the war being dragged out? The reason is still a division of the spoils between the capitalist brigands, the point at issue is still whether the German capitalist predators will retain Belgium, Serbia, Poland, Riga, etc., whether the British capitalist p a ors [predators] will retain Baghdad and the German colonies they have seized, whether the Russian capitalist predators will retain Armenia, etc. The Kerensky government, with the participation and support of the Mensheviks and the S.R.s, has been brazenly cheating the people, lulling them with empty talk about their desire for peace, talk which is not binding in any way, while actually dragging out the predatory war, and refusing to publish the secret treaties which the tsar concluded with the British and French capitalists for the enrichment of the Russian capitalists who had been promised Constantinople, Galicia and Armenia.

Even under the Republic, the Russian people are shedding their blood for the fulfilment of the secret treaties, the predatory treaties between the capitalists.

For months, the “republicans”, Kerensky, Skobelev, Chernov & Co., have been cheating the Russian workers and peasants, instead of abrogating the secret predatory treaties, instead of offering precise, clear-cut and fair peace terms to all the belligerent nations.

Kerensky together with the Mensheviks and the S.R.s has cheated the people. Only a workers’ government can save the country, and safeguard it from the losses of the war and the plunder of the capitalist marauders.

In connection with the Riga defeat, the bourgeoisie is already anticipating the introduction of new harsh laws and strict disciplinary measures against soldiers, workers and peasants. Already the peasants are being deprived of their grain, while, through the blocking of workers’ control, the capitalists are allowed to retain their outrageously high profits and to safeguard their sacrosanct “commercial secrets”, which shield the bankers and millionaires from exposure.

Meanwhile, the Mensheviks and the S.R.s, disgracefully crawling to the bourgeoisie, continue to give it their support and shout about the need to “leave off” “all party strife”, which means leaving full power in the hands of the capitalists, and the country’s continued plunder by them, and leaving them the “freedom” to protract the war....

Tens and hundreds of thousands of people have died in the offensive, which the Kerensky, Menshevik, and S.R. government started in June. Tens and hundreds of thousands will die in the protracted war, so long as the people continue to tolerate such a government.

Only a workers’ government can save the country. It alone will not cheat the people, but will immediately offer to all countries precise, clear-cut and fair peace terms.

The bourgeoisie has been trying to intimidate the people and create a panic, in an effort to get the ignorant people to believe that peace cannot be offered right away, as this would mean “losing Riga” and so on. That is cheating the people.

Even if peace were to be negotiated by the governments, i.e., the governments safeguarding the sacred rights of the capitalists to their plundered wealth and seizures of foreign lands (annexations), even then the offer of peace would not mean abandonment of Riga. Riga is the booty of the German capitalist brigands. Armenia is the booty of the Russian capitalist brigands. When brigands negotiate on peace they either each keep their own booty or swap pieces of it. That is how all wars have ended and will end, so long as power remains in the hands of the capitalists.

But we speak of a workers’ government which alone can offer just peace terms right away, and this has been stated hundreds of times by workers and peasants throughout Russia in their countless man dates and resolutions. These terms are: peace without annexations, i.e., without the seizure of foreign lands. This means: neither the Germans nor the Russians will be able forcibly, without the voluntary consent of the Poles, to integrate Poland or the Latvian Territory; neither the Turks nor the Russians will be able to seize Armenia, and so on.

These just peace terms will at once be offered by a workers’ government to all the belligerent countries without exception. Until this has been done, until precise, clear-cut, formal proposals of peace have been made, until there has been an overthrow of the total power of the marauding capitalists, who are making hundreds of millions on war contracts, and so long as the secret predatory treaties remain intact—all talk of peace comes to nothing but gross and utterly shameless deception of the people.

All the capitalist governments, including the Kerensky, S. R. and Menshevik government, have been practising this deception   of the people. They have all been mouthing phrases of peace, which are not binding in any way, no one has been offering any precise peace terms, no one has abrogated the secret treaties, and in fact everyone has continued to drag out the criminal predatory war over the capitalists’ profits, which is mining the peoples.

Down with the war! Down with the Kerensky, Menshevik and S.R. government, which is cheating the people, protracting the war, safeguarding the predatory interests of the capitalists, putting off the elections to the Constituent Assembly!

Only a workers’ government supported by the poor peasants will offer peace, putting an end to the capitalist plunder, and give the working people bread and freedom. Let every worker and soldier explain to the people the need to overthrow the Kerensky government and set up a workers’ government.


{1} The letter was written after the text of the leaflet, and judging by its content was intended for the Party Central Committee, The leaflet was not published. Lenin may have been the author of the leaflet. p. 443

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