V. I. Lenin

Where is the Mistake?[1]

Written: February 23 or 24, 1918
First Published: 1929 in Lenin Miscellany XI Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 27, 1972, pp. 48-50
Translated: Clemans Dutt, Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription\HTML Markup:Robert Cymbala and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

The outstanding and most responsible opponents of the conclusion of a separate peace on the Brest terms have set out the essence of their arguments in the following form:

Classification of .

Here are advanced the most concentrated, the most important arguments, set out almost in the form of a resolution. For convenience in analysing the arguments, we have numbered each proposition separately.

When one examines these arguments, the authors’ main error immediately strikes the eye. They do not say a word about the conerete conditions of a revolutionary war at the present moment. The chief and fundamental consideration for the supporters of peace, namely, that it is impossible for us to fight at the present time, is altogether evaded. In reply—in reply, say, to my theses,* well-known to the authors since January 8—they put forward exclusively general considerations, abstractions, which inevitably turn into empty phrases. For every general historical statement applied to a particular case without a special anal,ysis of the conditions of that particular case becomes an empty phrase. * See present edition, Vol. 26, pp. 442-50.-Ed.

Take the first proposition. Its whole “point” is a reproach, an exclamation, a declamation, an effort to “shame” the opponent, an appeal to sentiment. See what bad people youi are, they say: the imperialists are attacking you, “proclaiming” as their aim the suppression of the proletarian revolution, and you reply by agreeing to conclude peacel But our argumeiit, as the authors are aware, is that by rejecting an onerous peace we actually make it easier for the enemy to suppress the prcletarian revolution. And this conclusion of ours is reinforced (for example, in my theses) by a number of very concrete indications about the state of the army, its class composition, etc. The authors have avoided everything concrete and the result they arrive at is an empty phrase. Forif the enemy are “proclaiming” that their aimis to suppress the revolution, then he is a bad revolutionary who by choosing an admittedly impossible form of resistance helps to achieve a transition from the “proclamation” to the realisation of the enemy’s aims.

Second argument: “reproaches” are being intensified. You, they sayu agree to peace at the first onslaught of the enemy .... Do the authors seriously suppose that this can be convincing for those who ever since January, long before the “onslaught ”, analysed the relationship of forces and the concrete conditions of the war at that time? Is it not phr~semaking if “reproach” is regarded as argument against analysis? ?

Agreeing to peace under the present conditions, we are told, “is a sihrrender of the foremost contingent of the international proletariat to the international bourgeoisie ”.

Again an empty phrase. General truths are inflated in such a way that they become untrue and are turned into declamation. The German bourgeoisie is not “international ”, for the Anglo-French eapitalists welcome our refusal to conclude peace. “Surrender ”, generally speaking, is a bad thing, but this praiseworthy truth does not decide every individual proposition, for refusal to fhght under obviously unfavourable conditions can also be called surrender, but such surrender is obligatory for a serious revolutionary. Agreeing to enter the Third Duma, the concluding of peace Witlh Stolypin, as the “Left” declamationists called it at that time, was also, generally speaking, a surrender.

We are the foremost contingent in tlhe seilse of the revolutionary beginning, that is indisputable, but in order to be the foremost contingent in the senso of a military clash with the forces of foremost imperialism, that .... [Here the maniuseript breaks off.—Ed.]


[1] This article examines the statement submitted to the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) on February 22 by the “Left Communists” and signed by a group of members of the Central Committee and People’s Commissars-A. Lomov (G. I. Oppokov), M. S. Uritsky, N. I. Bukharin, A. S. Bubnov, V. M. Smirnov, I. N. Stukov, M. G. Bronsky, V. N. Yakovleva, A. P. Spunde, M. N. Pokrovsky and G. L. Pyatakov.

The copy of the statement on which Lenin made notes in preparation for quoting it in his article has not survived.