V. I. Lenin

Questions To Delegates To The Army Congress On The Demobilisation Of The Army[1]

Delivered: 17 December, 1917
First Published: 1927 in Transactions of the Lenin Institue, Volume II
Source:Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 388-390
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna
Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive November, 2000


(1) Is the likelihood of the Germans starting an offensive in the near future great or small—

(a) from the viewpoint of the physical and technical possibility of a winter offensive;

(b) from the viewpoint of the mood of the mass of the German soldiers; is that mood capable of preventing an offensive, or at least of retarding it?

(2) Can it be assumed that the Germans, if we immediately break off peace negotiations, and if their troops immediately take the offensive, are capable of inflicting a decisive defeat upon us? Will they be able to take Petrograd?

(3) Is it to be feared that the news of the peace negotiations having been broken off will result in widespread anarchist sentiments in the army and in desertions from the front, or may we be confident that the army will staunchly hold the front even after the receipt of such news?

(4) Would our army be capable, from the military viewpoint, of resisting a German offensive, if it began on January 1? If not, when would our army be in a position to resist a German offensive?

(5) In the event of a swift German advance, could our army retire in good order and preserve its artillery, and if so. could the Germans’ advance into the heart of Russia be held up for long?

(6) General conclusion: from the point of view of the state of the army, should we strive to drag out the peace negotiations, or would it be preferable to break them off immediately in revolutionary fashion, because of the Germans annexationist policy and as a decisive and firm step which would prepare the ground for a possible revolutionary war?

(7) Should we at once undertake intensive agitation against the Germans’ annexationist policy and for a revolutionary war?

(8) Would it be possible at very short notice (5-10 days, say) to arrange a canvass of fairly wide sections of the army at the front with a view to obtaining fuller replies to the above questions in more suitable form?

(9) Is it to be hoped that the dissensions with the Ukrainians will weaken, or even yield place to a firm consolidation of forces when they hear of the Germans’ annexationist demands, or it may be expected that the Ukrainians will take advantage of the Great Hussians’ greater difficulties to step up the struggle against them?

(10) If the army could vote would it be in favour of immediate peace on annexationist (loss of the occupied regions) and economically very harsh terms for Russia, or would it favour the maximum effort for a revolutionary war, i.e., resistance to the Germans?


[1] The questions were raised by Lenin on December 17 (30), 1917. at a conference of delegates to the Army Congress on the Demobilisation of the Army whom the Congress had elected to participate in a Commission for the Demobilisation of the Army under the People’s Commissariat for the Army. No answers or summaries of answers have been discovered in the archives. It would appear that the answers helped Lenin to arrive at the firm conviction that it would be impossible to continue the war with the Germans, and were taken into account in working out the Party’s tactics at the peace talks with Germany. The results of the questionnaire were discussed by the government on December 18 (31) after a report given by N. V. Krylenko on the situation at the front and the morale of the army. The government resolved to recognise the results of the questionnaire as being exhaustive and adopted a resolution drafted by Lenin.

The manuscript of Lenin’s questionnaire has not come down to us; the text published here was given in a letter from a man who was present at the conference, D. S. Vitebsky, to the Lenin Institute in 1924.

The Army Congress on the Demobilisation of the Army was held in Petrograd from December 15 (28), 1917, to January 3 (16), 1918. It was attended by delegates from the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies front-line arid corps committees, engineers, artillery units and brigades, staffs, etc. When the Congress opened there were 234 delegates, 119 of them Bolsheviks and 45 Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Mensheviks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries appeared to have formed the so-called extra-factional group. The number of delegates subsequently increased to 272. The task of the Congress was to control the spontaneous demobilisation of the army and to discuss the creation of a new army of the socialist state. The Congress was for all purposes a caretaker organ to guide the army demobilisation and did a great deal of work to that effect.

On December 28, 1917 (January 10, 1918), the Congress discussed the organisation of a socialist army, and the Bolshevik group motioned a project for the formation of a workers’ and peasants’ army. It was opposed by the Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries. After some hesitation the Left-wingers supported the Bolsheviks. The project was adopted by 153 to 40 with 13 abstentions.

Lenin was expected to speak at the Congress but was unable to do so because of pressure of work. On January 3 (16), the closing day, he sent a message of greetings to the delegates.