V. I. Lenin

An Unfortunate Peace

Written: February 24, 1918
First Published: Pravda No. 34, February 24, 1918; published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 27, 1972, pp. 51-52
Translated: Clemans Dutt, Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription\HTML Markup:Robert Cymbala and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

Trotsky was right when he said: the peace may be a triply unfortunate peace, but the peace ending this hundredfold obscene war cannot be an obscene, disgraceful, dirty peace.

It is incredibly, unprecedentedly hard to sign an unfortunate, immeasurably severe, infinitely humiliating peace when the strong has the weak by the throat. But it is impermissible to give way to despair, impermissible to forget that history has examples of still greater humiliations, still more unfortunate, onerous peace terms. Yet even so, the peoples crushed by bestially cruel conquerors were able to recover and rise again.

Napoleon I crushed and humiliated Prussia immeasiarably more heavily than Wilhelm is now crushing and humiliating Russia,[1] For a number of years Napoleon I was completely victorious on the continent; his victory over Prussia was much more decisive than Wilhelm’s victory over Russia, Yet after a few years Prussia recovered and in a war of liberation, not without the aid of robber states that waged against Napoleon by no means a war of liberation but an imperialist war, threw off the Napoleonic yoke.

Napoleon’s imperialist wars continued for many years, took up a whole epoch and exhibited an extremely complex complex of imperialist[2] relationships interwoven with national liberation movements, Arid as a result, through all this epoch, unusually rich in wars and tragedies (tragedies of whole peoples), history went forward from feudalism to "free" capitalism.

History is now advancing still more swiftly, the tragedies of whole nations that are being crushed or have been crushed by imperialist war are immeasurably more terrible. The interweaving of imperialist and national liberation trends, movements and aspirations is also in evidence, with the immense difference that the national liberation movements are immeasurably weaker and the imperialist ones immeasurably stronger. But history goes steadily forward, and in the depths of all the advanced countries there is maturing— despite everything—the socialist revolution, a revolution infinitely deeper, closer to the people and more powerful than the previous bourgeois revolution.

Hence, again and yet again: of all things the most impermissible is despair. The peace terms are intolerably severe. Nevertheless history will come into its own; to our aid will come—even if not so quickly as we should like—the steadily maturing socialist revolution in other countries.

The plunderer has besieged us, oppressed and humiliated us—we are capable of enduring all these burdens. We are not alone in the world. We have friends, supporters, very loyal helpers. They are late—owing to a number of conditions independent of their will-but they will come.

Let us work to organise, organise and yet again organise! The future, in spite of all trials, is ours.


[1] The reference is to the Peace of Tilsit signed in July 180 between France and Prussia, which imposed onerous and humiliating obligations on Prussia. Prussia lost a large part of her territory an was compelled to pay an indemnity of 100 million francs; she undertook to reduce her army to 40,000 men, to provide auxiliaries for Napoleon on demand, and to cease trading with England.

[2] I call here imperialism the plunder of foreign countries in general and an imperialist war the war of plunderers for the division of such booty.—Lenin