V. I. Lenin

Extraordinary All- Russia Railwaymen’s Congress

January 5-30 (January 18-February 12), 1918[1]

Delivered: 5-30 January, 1918
First Published: 1918 in the book, Transactions of the All Russia Railwaymen’s Congress, Petrograd. Published according to the book.
Source:Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 485-500
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



Report Of The Council Of People’s Commissars January 13 (26)

Comrades, I am unfortunately unable to report on all points and hope that those of you who take a closer interest in the state of affairs have got a full and accurate picture of the present position of Soviet power, its attitude to other institutions and the tasks now facing it, partly from newspaper reports and partly from personal impressions at the Congress of Soviets. Allow me, therefore, to confine myself to a few brief additional remarks. In order to characterise the tasks and position of Soviet power, I must tell you of its attitude to the organisation of the railway proletariat, the railway workers.

Comrades, you are aware that Soviet power clashed with the Constituent Assembly and that all the propertied classes—the landowners, the bourgeoisie, the Kaledinites and their supporters—are now berating us for having dissolvedit. But the louder these complaints in the few bourgeois papers, the louder is the voice of the workers, the soldiers, the working and exploited people. The peasants say that they have never doubted that Soviet power was head and shoulders above any other power, and that the workers, soldiers and peasants would never let any institution take over from their own Soviets, which they had elected, and set up and which they control and verify. You are well aware that Soviet power clashed with the Constituent Assembly mainly because it had been elected on lists drawn up before the October Revolution. The Constituent Assembly was elected on the basis of proportional representation through universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot. That is the most perfect electoral system but it can be a correct expression of the people’s will only on one condition, namely, that the parties which under that system alone have the right and possibility of drawing up electoral lists are truly representative of the mood, the wishes, the interests and the will of the groups of population electing them, because under another electoral system, when individual candidates or deputies are each elected by a separate district, the people, depending on their mood or any political changes, can very easily correct their mistakes. Under the system of proportional representation, the lists had to be drawn up by each party as a whole long before the elections actually took place; this explains how it came about that the parties had to draw up their lists back in September and early October for a Constituent Assembly that was to have met on November 12. You all remember that there was a statutory period within which all the parties had to submit their lists, and that no changes were allowed after that. That is how it came about thatRussia’s biggest party—the one that was undoubtedly the biggest that summer and autumn, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party—had to present its lists by the beginning of October 1917 on behalf of the whole Socialist-Revolutionary Party. That is what actually took place. The lists of candidates were presented in early October, including that of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, as if such a party continued to exist as an entity. It turned out that the conciliation with Kerensky came to an end after the list had been drawn up, after the Russian workers and peasants had travelled a long, hard and strenuous way in setting up their Soviets. After all, Kerensky was also regarded as a Socialist-Revolutionary—he was believed to be both a socialist and a revolutionary—although in actual fact he was an imperialist who hid in his pocket secret treaties with the French and British imperialists, the very same treaties that had been concluded by the tsar, who was deposed in February, the very same treaties which doomed the Russian people to participation in the bloodbath over whether or not the Russian capitalists would seize Constantinople, the Dardanelles and Armenia or a piece of Galicia; some who really let themselves go, like the famous Milyukov, made maps, well in advance, showing the strip of Eastern Prussia which was to be the Russian people’s own reward for the blood shed by millions of its workers and soldiers. There you have a true picture of the dominant Russian bourgeois-imperialist republic of Kerensky, who continued to be regarded as, and in fact was, a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

The Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies met in late October, by which time the people were fed up with placating the imperialists, and the June offensive had cost us hundreds of thousands of lives, and had clearly shown why the war was dragging on, how these secret treaties doomed the soldiers to the slaughter, and why talk of peace remained nothing but talk. That was why the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets overthrew the rule of the bourgeois-imperialist government and established Soviet power. The elections to the Constituent Assembly fell on November 12 and confronted the workers, soldiers and especially the peasants with a situation in which they had to vote on the old lists, because there were no others, and none could be drawn up. So when we are now told, “You have dissolved the Constituent Assembly which represents the majority of the people”, when this is chorused by bourgeois pen-pushers and newspapers of the Kerensky-socialist stamp, we respond: “Why is it that you cannot make a single straightforward statement to the people about the argument which I have just set forth and which was contained in the decree dissolving the Constituent Assembly?” We cannot consider the Constituent Assembly to be expressive of the people’s will because it was elected on old lists. The workers and especially the peasants voted for the Socialist-Revolutionaries as a whole party, but it split after the elections, and appeared before the people as two parties: the Right-wingers, who sided with the bourgeoisie, and the party of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who sided with the working class and the working people, and came down on the side of socialism. Did the people have any chance to choose between the Right and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries under the Constituent Assembly? No, they did not, and so we say that, even from this formal standpoint of the lists and the election, no one can refute our assertion that the Constituent Assembly was unable to give a correct expression to the people’s will. The revolution is not to blame for having come after the lists had been drawn up and before the elections to the Constituent Assembly had been held; the revolution is not to blame that the Socialist-Revolutionary Party had kept the people, especially the peasants, in the dark and misled them with talk for so long; that only after October 25, when the Second Peasants’ Congress was convened, we saw that there could be no reconciliation between the Right and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, and it was then that there came a series of congresses, starting with the soldiers’ and peasants’ and ending with the railwaymen’s congress.

Everywhere we found the same picture: everywhere there was, on the one hand, the vast majority of those who truly belonged to the working and exploited people, and came down fully, unconditionally and irrevocably on the side of Soviet power, and on the other, the top layers of the bourgeoisie, the civil servants, the executives, the rich peasants, all of whom sided with the propertied classes and the bourgeoisie, and put out the slogan: “All power to the Constituent Assembly”, the assembly that was elected before the revolution, when the people had no way of distinguishing between Right and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. No, indeed, the revolution of the working classes comes first and not the old lists; the interests of the working and exploited people who were oppressed before the revolution are paramount. If the Constituent Assembly goes against the will of Soviet power, the will of a clear majority of the working people, we say: Down with the Constituent Assembly, and long live Soviet power. (Applause.) Comrades, it is our daily experience that Soviet power is meeting with ever greater support from the poor, the working and exploited people in every branch of the economy and in every part of the country, and no matter how we may be slandered by bourgeois and by “socialist” newspapers, like those of Kerensky’s party, the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, no matter how they may lie that our power is against the people and does not have their support, they will still be patently lying. We got some very strong confirmation of this just today. It was a report from the Don area (a night telegram) about a congress held by a section of the Cossacks in Voronezh, and a congress of 20 Cossack regiments and 5 batteries in Kamenskaya village. The Cossacks at the front convened their own congress because they saw that Kaledin was rallying officers, cadets and landowners’ sons who do not want the Soviets to take power in Russia and want the Don to have self-determination. A party is being formed there around Kaledin, who styles himself the great chieftain, And so the congress of the front-line Cossacks had to be dispersed.’8’ The Cossacks countered by, firstly, uniting with the Voronezh Congress, and secondly, by declaring war on Kaledin, thirdly, arresting the Cossack atamans, and fourthly, occupying all the main stations.

Let the Ryabushinskys, who sent millions abroad and donated millions over here to pay the saboteurs for obstructing Soviet power, let the Ryabushinskys, and the capitalists of France and Britain, together with the king of Rumania, let them all bewail their fate; their last stake has been lost even in the Don area, where there were the greatest number of rich peasants who lived on hired labour, who exploited the labour of others, and carried on a constant struggle against the migrant labourers driven to those parts from afar by privation; even there, where exploiter-peasants were most numerous, the people resent this organisation of cadets, officers and property-owners who have decided to oppose Soviet power. Even there we find the same division which everyone ignores and for which the blame is being put on us. “The Bolsheviks have declared civil war.” Is it possible that we have invented Kaledin; is it possible that the Bolsheviks have invented Ryabushinsky? We all know that they were the mainstay of the tsarist regime, and are now merely lying in wait, biding their time to turn the Russian. Republic into the kind of bourgeois republic that you have in most countries where, with all the liberty and representation, the working people are oppressed just as much as, if not more than, in any monarchy. When we hear it said that the Bolsheviks are kindling a fratricidal war, a civil war, when curses are heaped on the Bolsheviks for having brought about the criminal fratricidal civil war, we reply: “What kind of fratricidal war is this? Are the Ryabushinskys and Kaledins the working people’s brothers? It is strange that the sailors, the soldiers, the workers and the peasants had no inkling of this; it is strange that they had never noticed this before; and it is strange that they firmly demand that the Ryabushinskys and Kaledins submit to Soviet power.”

The absurd, madcap attempt on the part of the cadets and officers to stage an uprising in Petrograd and Moscow fizzled out because the vast majority of the workers and soldiers are clearly on the side of Soviet power. They were aware that if they started a war, the soldiers would be armed and would not give up their arms to anyone. The people rallied to take their destiny into their own hands, and that was why they started the revolution. They were very well aware that over here, in Petrograd, the people were solidly behind Soviet power, and so when they were routed both in Petrograd and Moscow they rushed to the Don area to engineer a counter-revolutionary plot against the working people over there, hoping to get support from the bourgeois Rada in Kiev, which is on its last legs because it no longer commands confidence. Having declared civil war on the working people everywhere, they accused us of starting it. They said: You are fostering civil war, down with civil war. We replied: Down with the Ryabushinskys and Kaledins and all their accomplices. (Applause.)

That is why, comrades, we say it is not true that we are destroying democracy as the bourgeoisie’s grave charge and assertion runs; nor is it true that we have destroyed faith in the forms of democracy, in the cherished democratic institutions which have for so long supported and fed the revolutionary movement in Russia; it is not true that we have destroyed the highest form of democracy, the Constituent Assembly. Under the republic of the socialist Kerensky—a republic of the imperialist chieftains, the chieftains of the bourgeoisie with secret treaties in thier pockets, driving the soldiers to war (and calling it a just war)—the Constituent Assembly was naturally preferable to the Pre-parliament, in which Kerensky, by agreement with Chernov and Tsereteli, conducted the same policy. We have been openly and straightforwardly saying from the very start of the revolution—April 1917—that the Soviets were a much higher, a very much more perfect and purposeful form of democracy—a working people’s democracy—than the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly unites all classes, which means also the exploiter classes, the propertied classes, hence, the bourgeoisie and those who received their education at the expense of the people, at the expense of the exploited, and abandoned the people to join the capitalists, turning their knowledge, the greatest achievements of knowledge, into a tool for oppressing the people, and fighting the working classes. For our part we declare that when a revolution of the working and exploited classes breaks out, all power in the state goes to their organisation. This form of democracy is incomparably higher than the old one. No party invented the Soviets. You know very well that no party could have invented them. They were brought to life by the 1905 revolution. And although at that time the Soviets were short-lived, it was clear that they were the people’s only reliable bulwark in the struggle against the autocracy. Whenever the Soviets declined and gave way to some national representative institutions—as all these Dumas, congresses and assemblies have shown—the Constitutional-Democrats, the capitalists and exploiters came to the fore, deals were made with the tsar, the organs of the people’s movement declined and the revolution collapsed. That is why when the 1917 Revolution did not merely revive the Soviets but extended a network of them across the country, they taught the workers, soldiers and peasants that they could and should take all state power into their own hands, not as in bourgeois parliaments, where every citizen has the same rights as the next man. Life will not be sweeter for the poor if the worker proclaims that he is the equal of Ryabushinsky, and the peasant the equal of a man who owns 12,000 dessiatines of land. That is why the best form of democracy, the best democratic republic is power without the landowners and the rich.

The Russian people gained a great deal of experience much faster and came to a decision in a matter of months because of the war, the unprecedented dislocation, the famine, the danger of extinction, the physical destruction of millions of people. From April 20 on, when the wounded Linde marched his soldiers out into a street in Petrograd to overthrow the government of Milyukov and Guchkov, through the long period of ministerial leapfrogging, when all the parties kowtowed the Constitutional-Democrats and vied with each other in displaying loud and alluring programmes, the people saw for themselves that it was no use at all: they had been promised peace, but were in fact driven into an offensive. In June 1917, tens of thousands of soldiers died because of this secret treaty between the tsar and the European imperialists, which Kerensky honoured. It was not propaganda but this first-hand experience that helped the people to make a comparison between the socialist power of the Soviets and the bourgeois republic. They carried away the conviction that there was nothing in the old reforms and the old institutions of bourgeois imperialism for the working and exploited people, and that only the power of the Soviets was good enough for them. The people—and this includes workers, soldiers, peasants and railwaymen, in fact, all working people—are free to elect their own deputies to the Soviets and are free to recall them when they do not satisfy the people’s demands and wishes. You don’t sit in a Soviet to interpret laws or make brilliant parliamentary speeches but to implement the freedoms and throw off the yoke of exploitation. The workers, on their own, will build their state on new lines; they will build a new life in the new Russia without any room for exploiters. That is what produced the Soviets, and that is why we say that the experience of the Russian revolution showed the people and went to confirm something we had said long ago, namely, that Soviet power is a much higher form of democracy than any bourgeois republic that has taken shape in Western Europe; in a real democracy, the working classes can and must control the non-working elements, the exploiting section of society; workers, soldiers, peasants and railwaymen can be their own masters; they can arrange an exchange of goods between towns and villages, and set a fair wage, without the capitalists and landowners.

That is why the Soviet Republic in Russia has now taken the shape of a fully socialist republic which has taken away the land from the landowners, established workers’ control in industry, and put the banks in the hands of socialist workers’ organisations, giving the people access to the immense wealth accumulated and stockpiled by the capitalists to manage and use for the greater welfare and cultural growth of all the working people and not for their oppression. That is the task facing the Soviet Republic. And this is why we have so much sympathy among the people, the working classes abroad, in spite of the military censorship of the tsars, and the harassment of socialist newspapers by the Kerenskys abroad. The bourgeois newspapers over there tell lies about this country in a most shameful fashion; our newspapers are suppressed: not a single issue of Pravda has been allowed to go through. A few days ago a friend of mine returned from Switzerland, from that part of the country where I recently spent so many miserable days, and he said that people in free Switzerland were not aware of the fact that the free republics of free Europe were not letting through any issues of our paper, that they read only the wholesale lies circulated by the bourgeois newspapers, which do nothing but rail at the Bolsheviks. Yet the workers in all countries have understood that Soviet power in Russia is truly a working people’s government. You will not find a single worker in Europe today—either in Britain, France, Germany or any other country—who does not applaud news of the Russian revolution, because they all regard it with hope and see it as a torch that will light the flame all over Europe.

The Russian revolution was such a simple affair only’ because Russia had been under the most savage oppression of tsarism and because no other country had been torn and tortured by the war as she had been.

The Russian people were the first to raise the torch of the socialist revolution, but they are aware that they are not alone in their struggle and that they will accomplish their task with the help of the most loyal comrades and friends. We don’t know how long it will take for the socialist revolution to break out in the other countries—it may take a long time. You know how revolutions generally take place in other countries. Everyone here has been through 1917, and you all know that three months before the revolution started, no one knew that it was coming. We know that workers’ strikes have already spread to Austria. When the European parties headed by their local Chernovs and Tseretelis began to lose control of events and felt they had lost all touch, there was talk of martial law there, and of military dictatorship, in Germany; the strikes in Vienna have now been stopped and the papers are out again. I have received a telegram from our Stockholm representative, Vorovsky, and he says that the movement has undoubtedly halted but that it is impossible to crush it altogether, and that it would go on. There you have one of the results of the fact that the peace negotiations have opened at Brest and that we have kept our promise. The secret treaties have been abrogated, published and exposed to public shame. We have shown that we regard these commitments of the old capitalists—whether they are known as secret treaties or loans— as mere scraps of paper to be swept aside because they hamper us, the working masses, in our construction of socialist society. The working masses are beginning to realise the impudence of the German demands at Brest, which revealed the same plunderous and predacious urge behind a screen of promises to accept a just peace. The delay is artificial, and the masses are clear on this: they say that the war can be stopped, because the Russian workers and peasants have stopped it, and that an offensive can be started against the governments. On October 17, 1905, the first great nationwide strike was suppressed by the autocracy, but it sparked off a chain of events and workers’ demonstrations in Austria, in Vienna and Prague, and that was when the Austrians won their universal suffrage. Although the Russian revolution of 1905 was crushed by tsarism, it gave hope to the West-European workers of great reforms in the future, that is, the very events now taking place.

When the Third Congress of Soviets opened, you all saw a number of delegates from foreign parties who said in one voice that from their observation of the working-class movement in Britain, Switzerland and America they drew the conclusion that the socialist revolution in Europe was becoming a task of the day. The bourgeoisie over there is stronger and cleverer than our Kerenskys; it has managed to get organised to make the uprising of the masses more difficult. Over there the workers have a measure of prosperity, which is why it is more difficult to shake up the old socialist parties which had been there for decades, had come to power, and had acquired authority in the eyes of the people. But that kind of authority is already running out, the masses are surging, and there is no doubt at all that in the nearer possibly more remote—future, the socialist revolution will be on the order of the day in all countries, because the oppression of capital is at an end.

When we are told that the Bolsheviks have invented this utopian idea of introducing socialism in Russia, which is an impossible thing, we reply: How did it happen that utopians and dreamers enjoy the sympathy of the majority of the workers, peasants and soldiers? Did not the majority of the workers, peasants and soldiers side with us because they had acquired a first-hand knowledge of the war and its effects? They realised that there was no way out of the old society, that the capitalists with all their marvels of technology and culture were engaged in a destructive war, and that men had degenerated to a state of frenzy, savagery and starvation. That is what the capitalists have done, and that is why we are faced with the alternative of perishing or demolishing the old bourgeois society. That explains why our revolution has depth. That is why we find that in tiny neighbouring Estland, where the people are literate, there was recently a congress of farm-hands who elected agents to take control of all the efficient farms. This is a world-shaking development: farms are controlled by farm-hands who had always been at the very bottom of the social scale in the capitalist economy. Then take Finland, where the Diet spoke on behalf of the nation, and the bourgeoisie demanded that we should recognise her independence. We were not going to use force to keep under Russia’s control or in one Russian state any of the nations tsarism had kept in by oppression. We had not planned to attract other nations—the Ukraine or Finland—by force or imposition but by allowing them to set up their own socialist system, their own Soviet republics. We now find that a working-class revolution is expected to break out in Finland almost any day. This is the same Finland that had enjoyed complete internal freedom for 12 years—since 1905—and had the right to elect democratic institutions. Between 1905 and 1917, the sparks of the fire which the Bolsheviks are alleged to have fanned artificially, also penetrated into that country which is distinguished for its high culture, its efficient economy and its history, and we find the socialist revolution beginning there as well. This proves that we are not blinded by party struggles, that we had not acted according to plan, and that it was nothing but mankind’s hopeless state since the war began that brought on the revolution, and made the socialist revolution invincible.

Comrades, let me point out in conclusion that the same thing has happened at this railwaynien’s congress. We saw your hard fight against your top-drawer railway organisations. You railwaymen have seen for yourselves that the mass of working railway proletarians bore the brunt of the effort to get the railways running. Things did not come to such a pass by pure chance: either they had been deliberately hampered by the bourgeoisie, bribed by the millionaires who threw in hundreds of thousands of rubles and were prepared to go to any length to destroy Soviet power, or had been caused by the bourgeoisie’s refusal to change the system, because it held that that was how God had ordained all things—there have always been masters and servants, and the rich have always abused the poor who worked for them. In effect the railway officials thought that such a state of affairs had been ordained by God, which meant there could be no other system, and that chaos would result from any attempt to change it. But that did not happen. The unity of the working masses is paramount; they will establish their own discipline of equals and, using the technical and cultural achievements, make the railways run like clockwork, and carry on the exchange of goods between town and country to help the workers and peasants organise the economy on a Russia-wide scale and enable the working masses to make use of the products of their labour without the capitalists and landowners. When this is done scientific and technical knowledge will no longer help a handful of men to get rich and stuff their money-bags, but will help to improve the operation of the railway system as a whole. This is of especial importance to us. You know how much corruption, swindling and speculation there is at each junction; you also know that the exploiters are spending millions to disrupt transportation and get cars into places where they cannot be found. All this is being done to aggravate the famine and incite the people against Soviet power. But you all know that if the majority of railway organisations unite and set themselves the task of supporting Soviet power, all the swindlers, saboteurs, capitalists and exploiters—all these remnants of bourgeois society will be ruthlessly swept away. Only then will it be possible to organise the railways in a proper manner and achieve the complete liberation of the workers, soldiers and peasants from the power of the oppressors. Only then we shall have socialism. (The entire audience joins in stormy applause.)


Replies To Notes

Comrades, the notes lying before me fall into two groups: one raises the question of the Constituent Assembly, the other, of the famine and the economic chaos. I shall reply on these two points, putting those notes together that more or less refer to the same topic. About the Constituent Assembly we are being asked: Was it fair to dissolve it, and shouldn’t another one be convened? Or wouldn’t it have been more correct to refer the question to a popular referendum before dissolving the Constituent Assembly? No, comrades, neither a referendum nor a new constituent assembly can help matters. That is how the parties in Russia have taken shape. We have seen where the sympathies of the capitalists, and where those of the workers and peasants lie. Soviet power was not established by decree or party resolution, because it is above parties, and is the outcome of revolutionary experience, the experience of millions of men: it was no accident at all that the Soviets first emerged in 1905, and in 1917 grew to full stature and established a new republic, the likes of which do not exist in any European country, and will not exist in any of them so long as they are ruled by capital. But the Soviet Republic will triumph everywhere, and that is when the decisive blow will be dealt at capital. I must point out that the Constituent Assembly and the referendum are based on the old bourgeois parliamentary pattern and because capital holds sway, any popular poll has to reckon and bargain with it. Soviet power does not produce men who fence in parliament and exchange brilliant speeches, the while consolidating the rule of capital and the bureaucracy. Soviet power springs from the working masses themselves;.it does not produce a parliament, but an assembly of working people’s representatives who enact laws which are implemented immediately, are translated into life and are aimed at fighting the exploiters. The old-type constituent assembly and referendum were designed to unite the will of the whole nation and create the possibility of the sheep living side by side with the wolves, the exploited with the exploiters. That is something we don’t want. It is something we have tried out and gone through. We’ve had enough. And we are sure that the majority of the workers, peasants and soldiers feel that way too. At a time when the war has forced us to make a series of heroic efforts to escape the grip of capital or perish in the attempt, we are invited to put on an experiment which had already been tried out in some European countries, and which would give us the old bourgeois capitalism and national representation, instead of the representation of the working masses. We do not want bourgeois representation but the representation of the exploited and the oppressed that would wage a ruthless fight against the exploiters. That is the intention of Soviet power, which does not include either parliament or referendum. It is superior to both, because if the working people are dissatisfied with their party they can elect other delegates, hand power to another party and change the government without any revolution at all, for their experience of Kerensky-Kaledin and the bourgeois Rada has shown that it is impossible to fight against Soviet power. There might be a handful of men in Russia today fighting against Soviet power, but such eccentrics are few, and they will disappear in a matter of weeks, while Soviet power will triumph as an organisation of the oppressed class for the overthrow of the oppressors and removal of the exploiters.

I now come to the famine, this horrible curse of our time which threatens us. What is the main cause of the chaos? The main cause of the chaos which threatens the towns and industrial areas with famine js the sway of saboteurs, and the economic chaos these saboteurs keep stirring up, while blaming it on us. We are very well aware that there is enough grain in Russia and that it is stored in Kaledin’s realm, in far-away Siberia and in the grain producing gubernias. I must say that the exploited classes will never succeed in liberating themselves unless they set up a firm, ruthless and revolutionary government. About the saboteurs, let me say, comrades, that we know the addresses at which sabotaging civil servants called to collect and sign for a three-month advance on their salaries, to which Ryabushinsky had contributed 5 million, the Anglo-French imperialists so much, and the Rumanian, so much. Here is what sabotage means: it means people, senior officials, who are bribed and whose only purpose is to overthrow Soviet power, although many of them are not aware of this. Sabotage is the effort to restore the old paradise for the exploiters and the old hell for the working people. But if we are to frustrate them in this purpose, we must break down their resistance.

Railwaymen’s pay is another point that has been brought to our notice. This is nothing but a misunderstanding. It may have been that one commissar took this view of the affair and issued a decree but amended it’70 as soon as he received instructions from the Council of People’s Commissars, so that anyone who says that that had been the Soviet Government’g intention doesn’t know what he is talking about.

What are we to do to eliminate the famine and the chaos? Firstly, the capitalists’ resistance must be broken, and the saboteurs driven to the wall. When the supporters of Novaya Zhizn and other ostensibly socialist periodicals say that sabotage has not been stopped in these ten weeks, I say: why don’t you help us stop it? The banks have now passed under the authority of the Soviets. Here is what happened yesterday: a certain specialist writer by the name of Finn Yenotayevsky came to see me on behalf of 50,000 persons and declared that the banks were prepared to operate entirely under the authority of Soviet power. (Loud applause.) “High time, too,” I said to this spokesman of the bank officials. We will not refuse to negotiate with any organisation, be it an organisation of bank officials or any other, provided such recognition of Soviet power is actually accepted by the majority of the working people. That is what we were told by the bank officials who are in the habit of putting through unheard-of speculative deals to turn an honest penny, all of which keeps their pockets bulging with profits running into millions of rubles.

Now they want to negotiate with us, but these negotiations will differ from those of Kerensky. We shall not discuss any reform of banking. After occupying the banks with armed force, we enter into negotiations and issue orders and instructions. It is important for us to break down the resistance of the saboteurs before opening negotiations. That is the way to fight the famine and the chaos, and this alone can help us to overcome the horrors of capitalism and anarchy. You know of the terrible chaos that has spread everywhere in the world, especially in Russia, where tsarism has left a legacy of graft, violence, hatred and humiliation of the working people. This is followed by complaints about chaos; I put it to you: can the war-weary men who have stood in the trenches for three years fight to increase the profits of the Russian capitalists and capture Constantinople for them? On every hand they see that millions are being spent to overthrow Soviet power and get the country under control.

Comrades, such changes cannot be expected to take place overnight. The socialist revolution is on, and everything now depends on the establishment of a discipline of equals, the discipline of the working masses themselves, which must take the place of capitalist barrack-room discipline. When the railway workers take power into their own hands, they will wipe out sabotage and speculation through their armed organisation, and set themselves the task of prosecuting those who engage in graft and disrupt railway traffic. Such people should be prosecuted as arch-criminals, fighting against the people’s power. It is on such a well-knit, vigorous organisation—a Soviet organisation—that the fight against the capitalists, the saboteurs, the swindlers and the Ryabushinskys depends. That is the way to defeat the famine, because Russia has everything she needs: iron, oil and grain, in short, everything it takes to have a decent life. If we defeat the exploiters, we shall establish Soviet power and economic control in Russia, and that is the way it is going to be. (Stormy applause.)


[1] Extraordinary AIl-Russia Railwaymen’s Congress was held in Petrograd from January 5 to 30 (January 18 to February 12), 1918. The Left wing of the Second Extraordinary Railwaymen’s Congress called by the Vikzhel on December 19, 1917 (January 1, 1918), walked out a held a separate congress when the Right wing (Right Socialist-Revolutionaries Mensheviks, etc.) adopted a resolution by a majority of 12 to the effect that all power in the country must belong to the Constituent Assembly.

The resolution adopted by the Extraordinary All-Russia Railwaymen’ s Congress said that it was solidly behind Soviet power. It worked out new wage rates for railway workers and officials; adopted railway regulations and rules for the peoples railway militia, heard a report oil the nationalisation of private railways, etc.. It elected a new All-Russia Railway’s Executive Committee (Vikzhedor).