V. I. Lenin

Peace or War?

Written: Morning of February 23, 1918
First Published: Pravda No. 34, the evening edition, published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 27, 1972, pp. 36-39
Translated: Clemans Dutt, Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription\HTML Markup:Robert Cymbala and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

The Germans’ reply, as the reader sees, sets us peace terms still more onerous than those of Brest-Litovsk. Nevertheless, I am absolutely convinced that only complete intoxication by revolutionary phrase-making can impel some people to refuse to sign these terms. It was precisely on that account that, by articles in Pravda (signed Karpov) on “The Revolutionary Phrase” and on “The Itch”, I began a relentless struggle against revolutionary phrase-making, which I saw and see now as the greatest menace to our Party (and, consequently, to the revolution as well). On many occasions in history revolutionary parties which were strictly carrying out revolutionary slogans became infected with revolutionary phrase-making and perished as a result.

Hitherto I have been trying to persuade the Party to fight against revolutionary phrase-making. Now I must do this publicly. For—alasl—my very worst suppositions have proved justified.

On January 8, 1918, at a meeting of about 60 of the chief Party workers of Petrograd I read out my “Theses on the Question of the Immediate Conclusion of a Separate and Annexationist Peace” (17 theses, which will be published tomorrow). In these theses (paragraph 13) 1 declared war against revolutionary phrase-making, doing so in the mildest and most comradely fashion (I now profoundly condemn this mildness of mine). I said that the policy of refusing the proposed peace “would, perhaps, answer the needs of someone who is striving for an eloquent, spectacular and brilliant effect, but would completely fail to reckon with the objective relationship of class forces and material factors at the present period of the socialist revolution that has begun”.

In the the thesis I wrote that if we refuse to sign the proposed peace, “very heavy defeats will compel Russia to conclude a still more unfavourable separate peace”.

Things have turned out still worse, for our army, which is retreating and demobilising, is refusing to fight at all.

Under such conditions, only unrestrained phrase-making is capable of pushing Russia into war at the present time and I personally, of course, would not remain for a second either in the government or in the Central Committee of our Party if the policy of phrase-making were to gain the upper hand.

The bitter truth has now revealed itself with such terrible clarity that it is impossible not to see it. The entire bourgeoisie in Russia is rejoicing and gloating over the arrival of the Germans. Only those who are blind or intoxicated by phrases can close their eyes to the fact that the policy of a revolutionary war (without an army ... ) brings grist to the mill of our bourgeoisie. In Dvinsk, Russian officers are already going about wearing their shoulder-straps.

In Rezhitsa, the bourgeoisie exultantly welcomed the Germans. In Petrograd, on Nevsky Prospekt, and in bourgeois newspapers (Rech, Dyelo Naroda, Novy Luch, etc.), they are licking their lips with delight at the impending overthrow of Soviet power by the Germans.

Let everyone know: he who is against an immediate, even though extremely onerous peace, is endangering Soviet power.

We are compelled to endure an onerous peace. It will not halt the revolution in Germany and in Europe. We shall set about preparing a revolutionary army, not by phrases and exclamations (after the manner of those who since January 7 have done nothing even to halt our fleeing troops), b~t by organisational work, by deeds, by the creation of a proper, powerful army of the whole people.