V. I. Lenin

Speeches At The Evening Sitting
Of The Central Committee Of The R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

February 18, 1918[1]

Delivered: 23 January, 1918
First Published: 1922 in N. Lenin (V. Ulynanov), Works Volume XV.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 522-524
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna
Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive December, 2000




Comrade Lenin. This is a basic question. Uritsky's proposal is amazing. The Central Committee voted against a revolutionary war, but we have neither war nor peace, and are being drawn into a revolutionary war. War is no joke. We are losing railway cars, and our transport is breaking down. We cannot wait any longer because the situation has fully crystallised. The people will not understand this: since there is a war on, there should have been no demobilisation; the Germans will now take everything. This thing has gone so far that continued sitting on the fence will inevitably ruin the revolution. Loffe wrote from Brest that there was no sign of a revolution in Germany; if that is so the Germans will find their advance very rewarding. We cannot afford to wait, which would mean consigning the Russian revolution to the scrap-heap. If the Germans said that they wanted to overthrow Bolshevik power, we would naturally have to fight; no more procrastination is permissible. It is now no longer a matter of the past but of the present. If we apply to the Germans, all we have is a piece of paper. You can't call that a policy. The only thing we can do is offer the Germans a resumption of the talks. There is no half-way house in this. If it is to be revolutionary war it must be declared, and the demobilisation stopped, but we can't go on in this manner. While we engage in paperwork, they take warehouses and railway cars, leaving us to perish. The issue now is that while playing with war we have been surrendering the revolution to the Germans.

History will say that you have surrendered the revolution. We could have concluded a peace which held no threat to the revolution. We have nothing, we have not even got the time to blow up anything as we retreat. We have done our best to help the revolution in Finland, but now we can do no more. This is not the time for an exchange of notes, and this temporising must stop. It is too late to put out feelers, because it is quite clear now that the Germans can launch an offensive. We cannot argue against the advocates of a revolutionary war, but we can and must argue against the temporisers. An offer of peace must be made to the Germans.


Comrade Lenin. Bukharin failed to notice how he went over to the position of a revolutionary war. The peasants do not want war and will not fight. Can we now tell the peasants to fight a revolutionary war? But if that is what we want we should not have demobilised the army. It is a utopia to want a permanent peasant war. A revolutionary war must not be a mere phrase. If we are not ready, we must conclude peace. Since we have demobilised the army it is ridiculous to talk of a permanent war. There is no comparison at all with a civil war. The muzhik will not have a revolutionary war, and will overthrow anyone who openly calls for one. The revolution in Germany has not yet started, and we know that over here, too, our revolution did not win out all at once. It has been said here that they would take Lifland and Estland; but we can give them up for the sake of the revolution. If they should want us to withdraw our troops from Finland, well and good-let them take revolutionary Finland. The revolution will not be lost if we give up Finland, Lifland and Estland. The prospects with which Comrade Joffe tried to scare us yesterday do not at all spell ruin to the revolution.

I propose a declaration that we are willing to conclude the peace the Germans offered us yesterday; should they add to this non-interference in the affairs of the Ukraine, Finland, Lifland and Estland, we should unquestionably accept all that as well. Our soldiers are in a poor state; the Germans want grain, they will take it and go back, making it impossible for Soviet power to continue in existence. To say that the demobilisation has been stopped is to be overthrown.


[1] The evening sitting of the Central Committee on February 18, 1918, was held in a highly tense atmosphere. It was called in view of the fact that the Germans had launched an offensive that day and had taken Dvinsk in their headlong advance. The Left Communists once again opposed Lenin's proposals, but Trotsky proposed that inquiries should be sent to Berlin and Vienna about the German Government's demands, without informing it of the consent to conclude a peace. Sverdlov, Stalin and Zinoviev favoured the dispatch of a telegram to the German Government informing it of readiness to resume the talks. It was at this sitting that Lenin first succeeded, after a bitter struggle, to secure a majority in favour of concluding a peace: his proposal for an immediate message to the German Government offering to conclude peace was adopted by 7 votes to 6.

The general position of Trotsky's is often misnamed "Neither Peace nor War". Readers should keep in mind that Trotsky's proposals were all within the parameters of Lenin's position: figuring out a way to back out of the war while holding the Bolshevik faction in the Soviet together, preventing the front from collapsing by continued German offensives and preventing the triumph of the counter-revolution. Trotsky knew there had to peace, but he was conserned that of the effect on the German Revolution if the terms of the "peace" were not explained in such a way as to assure the German working class of the Soviet's continued support for the overthrow of the Kaiser and the end of the war.

Trotsky's consistant position on this question and his eventual abstention on the final terms of the Treaty actually allowed for Lenin's position to triumph and end the war on with the German army, dealing a blow to the imperialist war, the Left-Communists and solidifying the Bolshevik support among the demoralized and haggard rements of the Russian Army.