V. I. Lenin

Third All-Russia Congress Of Soviets Of Workers’, Soldiers’ And Peasants’ Deputies[1]

January 10-18 (23-31), 1918

Written: 10-18 January, 1918
First Published: 26-27 January and February 2, 1918 in Pravda Nos. 9, 10 and 15 and in Izvestia Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 15 of January 12, 13, 14 and 20. Draft decreee on expunging references to the Constiutent Assembly from Soviet legislation first published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVIII
Source:Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 453-482
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 On The Activities Of The Council Of People’s Commissars

January 14(24)

Comrades, on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars I must submit to you a report of its activities for the two months and fifteen days that have elapsed since the establishment of Soviet power and the Soviet Government in Russia.

Two months and fifteen days—that is only five days more than the preceding workers’ power lasted and ruled over a whole country, or over the exploiters and the capitalists, the power of the Paris workers at the time of the Paris Commune of 1871.

We must first of all remember this workers’ power, we must cast our minds back and compare it with the Soviet power that was formed on October 25. And if we compare the preceding dictatorship of the proletariat with the present one we shall see at once what a gigantic stride the international working-class movement has made, and in what an immeasurably more favourable position Soviet power in Russia finds itself, notwithstanding the incredibly complicated conditions of war and economic ruin.

After retaining power for two months and ten days, the workers of Paris, who for the first time in history established the Commune, the embryo of Soviet power, perished at the hands of the French Cadets, Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries of a Kaledin type. The French workers had to pay an unprecedentedly heavy price for the first experience of workers’ government, the meaning and purpose of which the overwhelming majority of the peasants in France did not know.

We find ourselves in immeasurably more favourable circumstances because the Russian soldiers, workers and peasants were able 'to create the Soviet Government, an apparatus which informed the whole world of their methods of struggle. It is this that puts the Russian workers and peasants in a position that differs from the power of the Paris proletariat. They had no apparatus, the country did not understand them; we were immediately able to rely on Soviet power, and that is why we never doubted that Soviet power enjoys the sympathy and the warmest and most devoted support of the overwhelming majority of the people, and that therefore Soviet power is invincible.

Those who were sceptical of Soviet power and frequently, either consciously or unconsciously, sold and betrayed it for compromise with the capitalists and the imperialists, raised a deafening clamour about the power of the proletariat alone not being able to be maintained in Russia. As if any Bolsheviks or their supporters forgot even for a moment that in Russia only that power could last for any length of time that would be able to unite the working class and the majority of the peasants, all the working and exploited classes, in a single, inseparably interconnected force fighting against the landowners and the bourgeoisie.

We never doubted that only the alliance of the workers and the poor peasants, the semi-proletarians, mentioned in our Party Programme, can, in Russia, embrace the majority of the population arid ensure firm support for the government. And after October 25 we were immediately able, in the course of several weeks, to overcome all difficulties and establish a government on the basis of this firm alliance.

Yes, comrades! When the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, in its old form—when the peasants did not yet understand who in this party were real advocates of socialism—put forward the slogan of egalitarian land tenure, without caring who was to put it through, whether it was to be effected in alliance with the bourgeoisie or not, we branded that as a fraud. And this section, which has now realised that the people are not with it and that it is a bubble, claimed that it could carry out egalitarian land tenure in alliance with the bourgeoisie. In this lay the basic fraud. And when the Russian revolution presented an example of collaboration between the working people and the bourgeoisie, in the greatest moment in the life of the people; when the war had been ruining the people and dooming millions to death from starvation and its consequences showed what compromise meant in practice; when the Soviets themselves experienced it and felt it after having passed through the school of compromise, it became obvious that there was a sound, virile and great socialist core in the teachings of those who wanted to unite the working section of the peasants with the great socialist movement of the workers of the whole world.

And as soon as this became a clear and distinct practical question to the peasants, something happened of which no one had any doubt, as has now been proved by the Peasants’ Soviets and Congresses: when the time came to implement socialism, the peasants were able to see clearly these two main political lines—alliance with the bourgeoisie, or alliance with the working people. They then realised that the party which expressed the real aims and interests of the peasants was the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party. And when we concluded our government alliance with this party, we, from the very outset, arranged it so that the alliance rested on the clearest and most obvious principles. If the peasants of Russia want to socialise the land in alliance with the workers who will nationalise the banks and establish workers’ control, then they are our loyal colleagues, our most loyal and valuable allies. Comrades, no socialist would refuse to admit the obvious truth that between socialism and capitalism there lies a long, more or less difficult transitional period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and that the forms this period will take will be determined to a large extent by whether small or big ownership, small or large-scale farming, predominates. It goes without saying that the transition to socialism in Estland, that small country in which the whole population is literate, and which consists of large-scale farms, cannot be the same as the transition to socialism in Russia, which is mainly a petty-bourgeois country. This must be taken into account.

Every politically-conscious socialist says that socialism cannot be imposed upon the peasants by force and that we must count only on the power of example and on the mass of the peasants assimilating day-to-day experience. How would the peasants prefer to pass to socialism? This is the problem which now confronts the Russian peasants in practice. How can they support the socialist proletariat and begin the transition to socialism? The peasants have already tackled this transition, and we have complete confidence in them.

The alliance we concluded with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries is built on a firm basis and is growing stronger and stronger by the hour. At first we on the Council of People’s Commissars feared that factional struggle would hinder the work, but now, after the experience of two months’ work together, I must say definitely that on the majority of questions we arrive at unanimous decisions.

We know that only when experience has shown the peasants, for example, the kind of exchange there must be between town and country they will themselves, from below, on the basis of their own experience, establish their own connections. On the other hand, the experience of the Civil War has demonstrated to the peasants that there is no other road to socialism except the dictatorship of the proletariat and the ruthless suppression of the rule of the exploiters. (Applause)

Comrades, every time we touch upon this theme, at the present meeting, or in the Central Executive Committee, I, from time to time, hear from the Right side of the meeting the exclamation “Dictator!” Yes, “when we were socialists” everyone recognised the dictatorship of the proletariat; they even wrote about it in their programmes, they were indignant at the widespread false idea that it was possible to persuade and prove to the population that the working people ought not to be exploited, that this was sinful and disgraceful, and that once people were persuaded of this there would be paradise on earth. No, this utopian notion was smashed in theory long ago, and now our task is to smash it in practice.

We must not depict socialism as if socialists will bring it to us on a plate all nicely dressed. That will never happen. Not a single problem of the class struggle has ever been solved in history except by violence. When violence is exercised by the working people, by the mass of exploited against the exploiters—then we are for it! (Stormy applause.) And we are not in the least disturbed by the howls of those people who consciously or unconsciously side with the bourgeoisie, or who are so frightened by them, so oppressed by their rule, that they have been flung into consternation at the sight of this unprecedentedly acute class struggle, have burst into tears, forgotten all their premises and demand that we perform the impossible, that we socialists achieve complete victory without fighting against the exploiters and without suppressing their resistance.

As far back as the summer of 1917 the exploiters understood that it is a matter of “the last and decisive battles”, and that if the Soviets came to power the last bulwark of the bourgeoisie, their principal source for suppressing the working people, would be torn out of their hands.

That is why the October Revolution began this systematic and unswerving struggle to compel the exploiters to cease their resistance and to become reconciled to the idea, no matter how difficult that may be for even the best of them, that the rule of the exploiting classes has gone never to return, that from now on the ordinary peasant will give the orders and that they must obey, however unpleasant that may be.

This will entail many difficulties, sacrifices and mistakes; it is something new, unprecedented in history and cannot be studied from books. It goes without saying that this is the greatest and most difficult transition that has ever occurred in history; but there is no other way to make this great transition and the fact that Soviet power has been established in Russia has shown that it is the revolutionary people who are richest of all in revolutionary experience—when millions come to the assistance of a few score of Party people—the people who actually take their exploiters by the throat.

That is why civil war has acquired predominance in Russia at the present time. Against us is advanced tile slogan: “Down with civil war!” I happened to hear this shouted from the Bight benches of the so-called Constituent Assembly. Down with civil war.... What does that mean? Civil war against whom? Against Kornilov, Kerensky and Byabushinsky who are spending millions to bribe vagabonds and officials? Against the saboteurs who, consciously or unconsciously, are accepting these bribes? Undoubtedly, among the latter there are ignorant people who accept these bribes unconsciously, because they cannot even imagine that the old bourgeois system can and must be destroyed to the very foundation and that an entirely new, socialist society can and must be built up on its ruins. Undoubtedly there are people like that, but does that alter the situation?

That is why the representatives of the propertied classes are staking their all, that is why these are the last and decisive battles for them, and they would stop at no crime in their efforts to smash Soviet power. Does not the whole history of socialism, particularly of French socialism, which is so rich in revolutionary striving, show us that when the working people themselves take power in their hands the ruling classes resort to unheard-of crimes and shootings if it is a matter of protecting their money-bags. When these people talk to us about civil war we answer them with ridicule; but when they spread their slogans among the students we say—you are deceiving them!

The class struggle did not accidentally assume its latest form, the form in which the exploited class takes all the means of power in its own hands in order to completely destroy its class enemy, the bourgeoisie, in order to sweep from the land of Russia not only the bureaucrats, but also the landowners, as the Russian peasants in several gubernias have done.

We are told that the sabotage with which the bureaucrats and the landowners met the Council of People’s Commissars is an indication of their unwillingness to assist socialism, as if it were not clear that the whole of this gang of capitalists and swindlers, vagabonds and saboteurs, represent a single gang bribed by the bourgeoisie and resisting the power of the working people. Of course, those who thought that it was possible to leap straight from capitalism to socialism, or those who imagined that it was possible to convince the majority of the population that this could be achieved through the medium of the Constituent Assembly—those who believed in this bourgeois-democratic fable, can go on blithely believing it, but let them not complain if life destroys this fable.

Those who have come to understand what the class struggle means, what the sabotage organised by the bureaucrats means, know that we cannot leap straight into socialism. There remained the bourgeoisie, capitalists, who hope to restore their rule and who defend their money-bags. There remained vagabonds, a section of corrupt people who are absolutely downtrodden by capitalism and who are unable to grasp the idea of the proletarian struggle. There remained office employees, bureaucrats who believe that it is in the interests of society to protect the old system. how can anyone imagine that the victory of socialism can come about except by the complete collapse of these sections, except by the complete destruction of the Russian and European bourgeoisie? Do you think the Ryabushinskys do not understand their class interests? It is they who are paying the saboteurs not to work. Or do they operate disunited? Are they not operating in conjunction with the French, British and American capitalists by buying up securities? It remains to be seen whether they will get much out of these transactions. Will not the heaps of securities they are now buying up turn out to be merely useless heaps of scrap-paper?

That is why, comrades, our reply to all the reproaches and accusations hurled against us of employing terror, dictatorship, civil war, although we are far from having resorted to real terror, because we are stronger than they— we have the Soviets, it will be sufficient if we nationalise the banks and confiscate their property in order to compel them to submit—our reply to all these charges of instigating civil war is: yes, we have openly proclaimed what no other government has been able to proclaim. The first government in the world that can speak openly of civil war is the government of the workers, peasants and soldiers. Yes, we have started and we are waging civil war against the exploiters. The more straightforwardly we say this, the more quickly will this war come to an end, the more quickly will all the working and exploited people understand us, will understand that Soviet power is fighting for the real, vital cause of all the working people.

Comrades, I do not think we shall achieve victory in this struggle quickly, but we are very rich in experience: we have managed to achieve a great deal in the course of two months. We have experienced Kerensky’s attempt to launch an attack against Soviet power and the complete

failure of this attempt. We have experienced the organisation of power of the Ukrainian Kerenskys—t.he struggle has not yet ended there, but to anyone who has watched it., who has heard at least a few truthful reports from representatives of Soviet power, it is obvious that tile bourgeois elements of the Ukrainian Rada are living their last days. (Applause) There cannot be the slightest doubt about the victory of Soviet power, of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, over the Ukrainian bourgeois Rada.

As for the struggle against Kaledin—here, indeed, everything rests on the basis of the exploitation of the working people, on the basis of the bourgeois dictatorship—if there is any social basis at all against Soviet power. The Peasants’ Congress has clearly demonstrated that Kaledin’s cause is hopeless; the working people are against him. The experience of Soviet power, propaganda by deeds, by the example of the Soviet organisations, is having its effect, and Kaledin’s stronghold in the Don Region is how collapsing—not so much externally as internally.

That is why, looking at the civil war front in Russia, we can say with complete conviction: here the victory of Soviet power is complete and absolutely assured. And, comrades, the victory of Soviet power is being achieved because right from the outset it began to realise the age-old aspirations of socialism, while consistently and determinedly relying on the people and considering it to be its duty to awaken the most oppressed and downtrodden sections of society to active life, to raise them to socialist creative work. That is why the old army with its barrack-square drilling and torture of soldiers has retreated into the past. It has been thrown on the scrap-heap, nothing remains of it. (Applause) The complete democratisation of the army has been carried out.

Permit me to relate an incident that occurred when I was in the carriage of a Finnish train and I overheard a conversation between several Finns and an old woman. I could not take part in the conversation because I cannot speak Finnish. But one of the Finns turned to me and said: “Do you know the curious thing this old woman said? She said, 'Now there is no need to fear the man with the gun. I was in the woods one day and I met a man with a gun, and instead of taking the firewood I had collected from me, he added some more.”’

When I heard that, I said to myself: let the hundreds of newspapers, no matter what they call themselves—socialist, near-socialist, etc.—let hundreds of extremely loud voices shout at us, “dictators”, “violators”, and similar words. We know that another voice is now rising from among the people; they say to themselves: now we need not be afraid of the man with the gun because lie protects the working people and will be ruthless in suppressing the rule of the exploiters. (Applause) This is what the people have felt, and that is why the propaganda that simple and uneducated people are carrying on when they relate how the fled Guards are turning their might against the exploiters—that propaganda is invincible. It will spread among millions and tens of millions, and will firmly create what the French Commune of the nineteenth century began to create, but was able to continue for only a very short time because it was wrecked by the bourgeoisie—it will create a socialist Red Army, something all socialists have always aimed at, i.e., the general arming of the people. It will create new Red Guard cadres that will enable us to train the working people for the armed struggle.

It used to be said about Russia that she would be unable to fight because she would have no officers. But we must not forget what these very bourgeois officers said as they observed the workers fighting against Kerensky and Kaledin. They said: “The Red Guards’ technical level is very low, but if these people had a little training they would have an invincible army.” This is because, for the first time in the history of the world struggle, elements have entered the army which are not the vehicles of bureaucratic knowledge, but are guided by the idea of the struggle to emancipate the exploited. And when the work we have commenced is completed, the Russian Soviet Republic will be invincible. (Applause)

Comrades, the road which Soviet power has traversed insofar as concerns the socialist army has also been traversed insofar as concerns another instrument of the ruling classes, an even more subtle, an even more complicated instrument—the bourgeois court, which claimed to maintain order, but which, as a matter of fact, was a blind, subtle instrument for the ruthless suppression of the exploited, an(h an instrument for protecting the interests of the moneybags. Soviet power acted in the way all the proletarian revolutions had shown that it must act; it immediately threw the 01(1 court on to the scrap-heap. Let them shout that we, without reforming the old court, immediately threw it on to the scrap-heap. By that we paved the way for a real people’s court, and not so much by the force of repressive measures as by massive example, the authority of the working people, without formalities; we transformed the court from an instrument of exploitation into an instrument of education on the firm foundations of socialist society. There is no doubt whatever that we cannot attain such a society at once.

These, then, are the main steps Soviet power has taken along the road indicated by the experience of the great popular revolutions throughout the world. There has not been a single revolution in which the working people did not begin to take some steps along this road in order to set up a new state power. Unfortunately, they only began to do this, but were unable to finish, they were unable to create the new type of state power. We have created it—we have already established a socialist Republic of Soviets.

I have no illusions about our having only just entered the period of transition to socialism, about not yet having reached socialism. But if you say that our state is a socialist Republic of Soviets, you will be right. You will be as right as those who call many Western bourgeois republics democratic republics although everybody knows that not one of even the most democratic of these republics is completely democratic. They grant scraps of democracy, they cut off tiny bits of the rights of the exploiters, but the working people are as much oppressed there as they are everywhere else. Nevertheless, we say that the bourgeois system is represented by both old monarchies and by constitutional republics.

And so in our case now. We are far from having completed even the transitional period from capitalism to socialism. We have never cherished the hope that we could finish it without the aid of the international proletariat. We never had any illusions on that score, and we know how difficult is the road that leads from capitalism to socialism. But it is our duty to say that our Soviet Republic is a socialist republic because we have taken this road, and our words will riot be empty words.

We have initiated many measures undermining the capitalists’ rule. We know that our power had to unite the activities of all our institutions by a single principle, and this principle we express in the words: “Russia is declared to be a Socialist Republic of Soviets.” (Applause) This will be that truth which rests on what we must do and have already begun to do, this will be the best unification of all our activities, the proclamation of our programme, a call to the working people and the exploited of all countries who either do not know at all what socialism is, or, what is worse, believe that socialism is the Chernov-Tsereteli mess of bourgeois reforms which we have tasted and tried during the ten months of the revolution and which we have become convinced is a falsification and not socialism.

And that is why 'free” Britain and France did all they could during the ten months of our revolution to prevent a single copy of Bolshevik and Left Socialist-Revolutionary newspapers from entering their countries. They had to act in this way because they saw that the workers and peasants in all countries instinctively grasped what the Russian workers were doing. There was not a single meeting where news about the Russian revolution and the slogan of Soviet power was not hailed with stormy applause. The working people and the exploited everywhere have already come into conflict with their party top leadership. The old socialism of these leaders is not yet buried like that of Chkheidze and Tsereteli in Russia, but it is already done for in all countries of the world, it is already dead.

A new state—the Republic of Soviets, the republic of the working people, of the exploited classes that are breaking down the old bourgeois barriers, now stands against the old bourgeois system. New state forms have been created, which make it possible to suppress the exploiters, to overcome the resistance of this insignificant handful who are still strong because of yesterday’s money-bags and yesterday’s store of knowledge. They—the professors, teachers and engineers—transform their knowledge into an instrument for the exploitation of the working people, saying they want their knowledge to serve the bourgeoisie, otherwise they refuse to work. But their power has been broken by the workers’ and peasants’ revolution, and a state is rising against them in which the people themselves freely elect their own representatives.

It is precisely at the present time that we can say that we really have- an organisation of power which clearly indicates the transition to the complete abolition of any power, of any state. This will be possible when every trace of exploitation has been abolished, that is, in socialist society.

Now I shall deal briefly with the measures which the socialist Soviet Government of Russia has begun to realise. The nationalisation of the banks was one of the first measures adopted for the purpose, not only of wiping the landowners from the face of Russian earth, but also of eradicating the rule of the bourgeoisie and the possibility of capital oppressing millions and tens of millions of the working people. The banks are important centres of modern capitalist economy. They collect fantastic wealth and distribute it over this vast country; they are the nerve centres of capitalist life. They are subtle and intricate organisations, which grew up in the course of centuries; and against them were hurled the first blows of Soviet power which at first encountered desperate resistance in the State Bank. But this resistance did not deter Soviet power. We succeeded in the main thing, in organising the State Bank; this main thing is in the hands of the workers and peasants. After these basic measures, which still require a lot of working out in detail, we proceeded to lay our hands on the private banks.

We did not act in the way the compromisers would probably have recommended us to do, i.e., first wait until the Constituent Assembly is convened, then perhaps draft a bill and introduce it in the Constituent Assembly and by that inform the bourgeoisie of our intentions and enable them to find a loophole through which to extricate themselves from this unpleasant thing; perhaps draw them into our company, and then make state laws—that would be a “state act”.

That would be the rejection of socialism. We acted quite simply; not fearing to call forth the reproaches of the “educated” people, or rather of the uneducated supporters of the bourgeoisie who were trading in the remnants of their knowledge, we said we had at our disposal armed workers and peasants. This morning they must occupy all the private banks. (Applause) After they have done that, after power is in our hands, only after this, we shall discuss what measures to adopt. In the morning the banks were occupied and in the evening the Central Executive Committee issued a decree: “The banks are declared national property”— state control, the socialisation of banking, its transfer to Soviet power, took place.

There was not a man among us who could imagine that an intricate and subtle apparatus like banking, which grew out of the capitalist system of economy in the course of centuries, could be broken or transformed in a few days. We never said that. And when scientists, or pseudo-scientists, shook their heads and prophesied, we said: you can prophesy what you like. We know only one way for the proletarian revolution, namely, to occupy the enemy’s positions-to learn to rule by experience, from our mistakes. We do not in the least belittle the difficulties in our path, but we have done the main thing. The source of capitalist wealth has been undermined in the place of its distribution. After all this, the repudiation of the state loans, the overthrow of the financial yoke, was a very easy step. The transition to confiscation of the factories, after workers’ control had been introduced, was also very easy. When we were accused of breaking up production into separate departments by introducing workers’ control, we brushed aside this nonsense. In introducing workers’ control, we knew that it would take much time before it spread to the whole of Russia, but we wanted to show that we recognise only one road —changes from below; we wanted the workers themselves, from below, to draw up the new, basic economic principles. Much time will be required for this.

From workers’ control we passed on to the creation of a Supreme Economic Council. Only this measure, together with the nationalisation of the banks and railways which will be carried out within the next few days, will make it possible for us to begin work to build up a new socialist economy. We know perfectly well the difficulties that confront us in this work; but we assert that only those who set to work to carry out this task relying on the experience and the instinct of the working people are socialists in deed. The people will commit many mistakes, but the main thing has been done. They know that when they appeal to Soviet power they will get whole-hearted support against the exploiters. There is not a single measure intended to ease their work that was not entirely supported by Soviet power. Soviet power does not know everything and cannot handle everything in time, and very often it is confronted with difficult tasks. Very often delegations of workers and peasants come to the government and ask, for example, what to do with such-and-such a piece of land. And frequently I myself have felt embarrassed when I saw that they had no very definite views. And I said to them: you are the power, do all you want to do, take all you want, we shall support you, but take care of production, see that production is useful. Take up useful work, you will make mistakes, but you will learn. And the workers have already begun to learn; they have already begun to fight against the saboteurs. Education has been turned into a fence which hinders the advance of the working classes; it will be pulled down.

Undoubtedly, the war is corrupting people both in the rear and at the front; people who are working on war supplies are paid far above the rates, and this attracts all those who hid themselves to keep out of the war, the vagabond and semi-vagabond elements who are imbued with one desire, to “grab” something and clear out. But these elements are the worst that has remained of the old capitalist system and are the vehicles of all the old evils; these we must kick out, remove, and we must put in the factories all the best proletarian elements and form them into nuclei of future socialist Russia. This is not an easy task, it will give rise to many conflicts, to much friction and many clashes. We, the Council of People’s Commissars, and I personally, have heard complaints and threats from them, but we have remained calm, knowing that now we have a judge to whom we can appeal. That judge is the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. (Applause). The word of this judge is indisputable, and we shall always rely upon it.

Capitalism deliberately differentiates the workers in order to rally an insignificant handful of the upper section of the working class around the bourgeoisie. Conflicts with this section are inevitable. We shall not achieve socialism without a struggle. But we are ready to fight, we have started it and we shall finish it with the aid of the apparatus called the Soviets. The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies will easily solve any problem we bring before it. For however strong the group of privileged workers may be, when they are brought before the representative body of all the workers, then this court, I repeat, will be indisputable for them. This sort of adjustment is only just beginning. The workers and peasants have not yet sufficient confidence in their own strength; age-old tradition has made them far too used to waiting for orders from above. They have not yet fully appreciated the fact that the proletariat is the ruling class; there are still elements among them who are frightened and downtrodden and who imagine that they must pass through the despicable school of the bourgeoisie. This most despicable of bourgeois notions has remained alive longer than all the rest, but it is dying and will die out completely. And we are convinced that with every step Soviet power takes the number of people will constantly grow who have completely thrown off the old bourgeois notion that a simple worker and peasant cannot administer the state. Well, if he sets to doing it, he can and will learn! (Applause).

And it will be our organisational task to select leaders and organisers from among the people. This enormous, gigantic work is now on the agenda. There could even be no thought of carrying it out if it were not for Soviet power, a filtering apparatus which can promote people.

Not only have we a state law on control, we have something even far more valuable—attempts on the part of the proletariat to enter into agreements with the manufacturers’ associations in order to guarantee the workers’ management over whole branches of industry. Such an agreement has begun to be drawn up, and is almost completed, between the leather workers and the all-Russia leather manufacturers’ society. I attach very special importance to these agreements,[2] they show that the workers are becoming aware of their strength.

Comrades, in my report I have not dealt with the particularly painful and difficult questions of peace and the food supply, because they are special items on the agenda and will be discussed separately.

My purpose in making this brief report was to show, as it appears to me and to the whole of the Council of People’s Commissars, the entire history of what we have experienced during the past two and a half months, how the relation of class forces took shape in this new period of the Russian revolution, how a new state power was formed and what social tasks confront it.

Russia has started to achieve socialism in the right way— by the nationalisation of the banks and the transfer of all the land entirely to the working people. We are well aware of the difficulties that lie ahead, but we are convinced, by comparing our revolution with previous revolutions, that we shall achieve enormous successes and that we are on the road that guarantees complete victory.

And with us will go the masses of the more advanced countries, countries which have been divided by a predatory war, whose workers have passed through a longer period of training in democracy. When people depict the difficulties of our task, when we are told that the victory of socialism is possible only on a world scale, we regard this merely as an attempt, a particularly hopeless attempt, on the part of the bourgeoisie and of its voluntary and involuntary supporters to distort the irrefutable truth. The final victory of socialism in a single country is of course impossible. Our contingent of workers and peasants which is upholding Soviet power is one of the contingents of the great world army, which at present has been split by the world war, but which is striving for unity, and every piece of information, every fragment of a report about our revolution, every name, the proletariat greets with loud and sympathetic cheers, because it knows that in Russia the common cause is being pursued, the cause of the proletariat’s uprising, the international socialist revolution. A living example, tackling the job somewhere in one country is more effective than any proclamations and conferences; this is what inspires the working people in all countries.

The October strike in 1905—the first steps of the victorious revolution—immediately spread to Western Europe and then, in 1905, called forth the movement of the Austrian workers; already at that time we had a practical illustration of the value of the example of revolution, of the action by the workers in one country, and today we see that the socialist revolution is maturing by the hour in all countries of the world.

If we make mistakes and blunders and meet with obstacles on our way, that is not what is important to them; what is important to them is our example, that is what unites them. They say: we shall go together and conquer, come what may. (Applause).

The great founders of socialism, Marx and Engels, having watched the development of the labour movement and the growth of the world socialist revolution for a number of decades saw clearly that the transition from capitalism to socialism would require prolonged birth-pangs, a long period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the break-up of all that belonged to the past, the ruthless destruction of all forms of capitalism, the co.-operation of the workers of all countries, who would have to combine their efforts to ensure complete victory. And they said that at the end of the nineteenth century “the Frenchman will begin it, and the German will finish it”[164]—.the Frenchman would begin it because in the course of decades of revolution he had acquired that intrepid initiative in revolutionary action that made him the vanguard of the socialist revolution.

Today we see a different combination of international socialist forces. We say that it is easier for the movement to start in the countries that are not among those exploiting countries which have opportunities for easy plunder and are able to bribe the upper section of their workers. The pseudo-socialist, nearly all ministerial, Chernov-Tsereteli parties of Western Europe do not accomplish anything, and they lack firm foundations. We have seen the example of Italy; during the past few days we witnessed the heroic struggle of the Austrian workers against the predatory imperialists.185 Though the pirates may succeed in holding up the movement for a time, they cannot stop it altogether, it is invincible.

The example of the Soviet Republic will stand before them for a long time to come. Our socialist Republic of Soviets will stand secure, as a torch of international socialism and as an example to all the working people. Over there—conflict, war, bloodshed, the sacrifice of millions of people, capitalist exploitation; here—a genuine policy of peace and a socialist Republic of Soviets.

Things have turned out differently from what Marx and Engels expected and we, the Russian working and exploited classes, have the honour of being the vanguard of the international socialist revolution; we can now see clearly how far the development of the revolution will go. The Russian began it—the German, the Frenchman and the Englishman will finish it, and socialism will be victorious. (Applause)


Concluding Speech
On The Report Of The Council Of People’s Commissars

January 12 (25)

Having listened today to the speakers on the Right, who voiced objections to my report, I am surprised that they have not yet learned anything and have forgotten all that they in vain call “Marxism”. One of the objectors declared that we had favoured the dictatorship of democracy, that we had recognised the rule of democracy. That declaration was so absurd, so utterly meaningless, that it is merely a collection of words. It was just like saying “iron snow”, or something similar. (Laughter.) Democracy is a form of bourgeois state championed by all traitors to genuine socialism, who now find themselves at the head of official socialism and who assert that democracy is contrary to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Until the revolution transcended the limits of the bourgeois system, we were for democracy; but as soon as we saw the first signs of socialism in the progress of the revolution, we took a firm and resolute stand for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

It is strange that people who cannot or refuse to understand this plain truth, this definition of the meaning of the terms “democracy” and “dictatorship of the proletariat”, should make bold to bring-before so numerous an assembly old, utterly worthless rubbish, such as that in which all the objecting gentlemen’s speeches abound. Democracy is formal parliamentarism, but in reality it is a continuous, cruel mockery, heartless, unbearable oppression of the working people by the bourgeoisie. And this can only be denied by those who are not true spokesmen for the working class but wretched men in mufflers who have kept away from life all the time, who have been sleeping with an old, shabby little book carefully stowed away under the pillow, the unwanted book that serves them as a guide and manual in implanting official socialism. But the minds of tens of millions of those who are doing things create something infinitely loftier than the greatest genius can foresee. Genuine, revolutionary socialism did not break away today but at the beginning of the war. This significant break, this rift in socialist theory, has come about in every country and every state. And it is splendid that socialism has split!

We can counter the accusation that we are fighting against “socialists” by saying merely that in the epoch of parliamentarism these supporters of the latter no longer have anything in common with socialism but have become decayed, obsolete and backward, and have ended by deserting to the bourgeoisie. “Socialists” who shouted about “defending the country” during a war resulting from the imperialist urge of international robbers are not socialists but hangers-on of the bourgeoisie, their dish-lickers.

Those who talk so much about the dictatorship of democracy merely utter meaningless, absurd phrases which indicate neither economic knowledge nor political understanding.

One of the objectors said here that the Paris Commune can be proud of the fact that during the Paris workers’ uprising there was no violence or arbitrary action on their part; but it is beyond doubt that the Commune fell only because it did not make proper use of armed force at the right moment, although it won undying fame in history, for it was the first to put the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat into practice.

Commenting briefly on the struggle against the bourgeoisie, landowners and capitalists, the speaker declared firmly and resolutely, amidst a burst of applause: “Say what you may, the bourgeoisie will in the end be forced by the will of the revolutionary people either to capitulate, or to perish.”

Drawing a parallel between anarchism and Bolshevik views, Comrade Lenin said that at that time, in the period of a radical break-up of the bourgeois system, the concept of anarchism was finally assuming concrete features. But if the oppression of the bourgeois system was to be abolished, there would have to be firm revolutionary power of the working classes, the power of a revolutionary state. This was the essence of communism. When the masses were themselves taking up arms to start an unrelenting struggle against the exploiters, when a new people’s power was being applied that had nothing in common with parliamentary power, it was no longer the old state, outdated in its traditions and forms, that they had before them, but something new, something based on the creative power of the people. And while some anarchists spoke of the Soviets with fear because they were still influenced by obsolete views, the new, fresh trend in anarchism was definitely on the side of the Soviets, because it saw their vitality and their ability to win the sympathy of the working masses and arouse their creative energy.

“Your sin and blindness,” said the speaker, turning to the “objectors”, “are due to your failure to learn anything from the revolution. As early as April 4, I affirmed, speaking in this hail, that the Soviets are the highest form of democracy. Either the Soviets will perish and then the revolution will be irrevocably lost, or the Soviets will live and then it will be ridiculous to talk of a bourgeois-democratic revolution at a time when the socialist system is on the way to its full development and capitalism is collapsing. The Bolsheviks spoke of a bourgeois-democratic revolution in 1905, but today, when the Soviets are in power, when the workers, soldiers and peasants have said—in a war situation unprecedented for hardships and horrors, in an atmosphere of ruin, and in the face of death by starvation—that they will assume full power and will themselves set about building a new life, there can be no question of a bourgeois-democratic revolution. And the Bolsheviks said as much at their congresses and meetings and conferences, and in their resolutions and decisions, as early as last April.

'“To those who say that we have done nothing, that we have been inactive all the time, that Soviet rule has borne no fruits, we can say this: Look wherever there are working people, look among the masses, and you will see organisational, creative work in full swing, you will see the stir of a life that is being renewed and hallowed by the revolution. The peasants are taking over the land in the countryside, the workers are seizing the factories, and all kinds of organisations are springing up everywhere.

“Soviet power is striving to bring the war to an end, and we are confident that it will achieve this goal earlier than Kerensky government spokesmen have promised. For the revolution has become a factor in the matter of ending the war, a factor which has denounced treaties and repudiated loans. The war will come to an end due to the international revolutionary movement.”

In conclusion, the speaker commented in a few words on counter-revolutionary saboteurs, saying that they were groups bribed by the bourgeoisie, which showered its gifts on the sabotaging officials who declared war on the Soviet state, for the triumph of reaction. To them it was doomsday, the irrevocable end of everything when they saw the people striking vigorously at the bourgeoisie with a peasants’ and workers’ axe. “Our only fault, if any, is that we were much too humane, much too kind-hearted, towards the monstrously treacherous representatives of the bourgeois-imperialist system.

“A few days ago some Novaga Zhizn writers visited me, saying they had come on behalf of bank employees who wanted to take up service and submit fully to Soviet power, stopping the policy of sabotage. High time, I answered. But, speaking confidentially, if they imagine that having begun those talks, we shall cede our revolutionary positions one iota, they are sorely mistaken.

“The world has never seen anything like that which is now taking place here in Russia, in this vast country broken up into a number of separate states and containing an enormous number of heterogeneous nationalities and peoples. I refer to the immense organisational work in every uyezd and region, the organisation of the lower strata, the work of the masses themselves, the creative, constructive activity, which encounters obstacles raised by various bourgeois representatives of imperialism. They, the workers and peasants, are engaged in an effort unprecedented in its titanic aims; together with the Soviets, they will smash capitalist exploitation, and bourgeois oppression will in the end be abolished once and for all.”


Draft Decree On Expunging References To The
Constituent Assembly From Soviet Legislation


A number of laws, decrees and decisions taken by the Soviet Government contain references to the Constituent Assembly and its legislative character.

All these references naturally become irrelevant and lapse with the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by the Central Executive Committee and the approval of this step by the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets.

Accordingly, the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets resolves: any references to the forthcoming Constituent Assembly shall be expunged from all new editions of decrees and laws of the Soviet Government.

Writtin on January 18 (31). 1918


Summing-Up Speech At The Congress January 18 (31)

Comrades, before the Third Congress of Soviets closes we must establish with complete impartiality the momentous part it has had to play in the history of the international revolution and of mankind. There are incontestable grounds for saying that the Third Congress of Soviets has opened a new epoch in world history and there is growing awareness of its significance in these times of world revolution. It has consolidated the organisation of the new state power which was created by the October Revolution and has projected the lines of future socialist construction for the whole world, for the working people of all countries.

The new system of the socialist Soviet Republic, as a federation of free republics of the different nations inhabiting Russia, has been finally accepted in this country in the sphere of domestic politics. It is now clear to all, and even to our enemies, I daresay, that the new system, the Soviet power, is not an invention or a party trick, but is the result of the development of life itself, the outcome of the world revolution as it spontaneously takes shape. You will recall that all great revolutions invariably strove to raze the old capitalist system to the ground; they strove not only to win political rights but also to wrest the very reins of government from the hands of the ruling classes, and all the exploiters and oppressors of the working people, so as to put an end to all exploitation and all oppression for good. Great revolutions strove to demolish this old exploiting state machine but had not managed to bring it off until now. And now Russia, in virtue of the peculiarities of her economic and political position, has first achieved this transfer of government powers into the hands of the working people. We shall now proceed to build, on the space cleared of historical rubbish, the airy towering edifice of the socialist society. A new type of state power is being created for the first time in history, a power that the will of the revolution has called upon to wipe out all exploitation, oppression and slavery the world over.

Let us take a look at what the new socialist principle of government has yielded in the sphere of our domestic policy. Comrades, you will recall that just recently the bourgeois press was vociferously accusing us of destroying the Russian state and saying that we were incapable of running the country, and so all the nationalities — Finland, the Ukraine, etc—were leaving us. The bourgeois press, transported with malicious joy, carried almost daily reports of such “secessioris”. We, comrades, had a better understanding than they of the main causes of this phenomenon which were rooted in the working people’s mistrust of the conciliatory imperialist government of Kerensky and Co. We kept silent, being quite sure that our just principles and our government would demonstrate our true purposes and aspirations to all the working people better than words.

We proved to be right. We see now that our ideas have won out in Finland and the Ukraine and are winning out on the Don, that they are awakening the working people’s class-consciousness and are organising them into a solid alliance. We acted without any diplomatists or the use of the old imperialist methods, but can point to the greatest result: the revolution has won, and those who have won are allied with us in a mighty revolutionary federation. We do not rule by dividing, as ancient Rome’s harsh maxim required, but by uniting all the working people with the unbreakable bonds of living interests and a sense of class. This our union, our new state is sounder than power based on violence which keeps artificial state entities hammered together with lies and bayonets in the way the imperialists want them. Thus, no sooner had the Finnish workers and peasants taken power than they sent us their expressions of loyalty to the world proletarian revolution and greetings which reveal unflinching determination to march with us along the path of the International.[3] There is the basis of our federation and I am profoundly convinced that more and more diverse federations of free nations will group themselves around revolutionary Russia. This federation is invincible and will grow quite freely, without the help of lies or bayonets. The laws and the state system which we are creating over here are the best earnest of its invincibility. You have just heard a reading of the law on the socialisation of land[4] Isn’t it a pledge of the unbreakable unity of the workers and peasants, isn’t it a guarantee that in this unity we shall be able to overcome all obstacles on the way to socialism?

I must tell you that these obstacles are tremendous. You can depend on the bourgeoisie to resort to every trick, to stake their all on crushing our unity. They can be expected to make use of liars, provocateurs, traitors, possibly, dupes, but henceforth we have nothing to fear, because we have established our own new state power and because we hold the reins of government. We shall throw the full weight of our power against any counter-revolutionary attempt. But the chief pillar of the new system is the organisational measures we shall be implementing for the sake of socialism. In this respect we are faced with a vast amount of work. You must bear in mind, comrades, that the imperialists, the world’s brigands, who had embroiled the nations in war, have disrupted the economic life of the world to its very roots. They have left us an onerous legacy, the work to restore what they had destroyed.

Of course, the working people had no experience in government but that does not scare us. The victorious proletariat looks out on a land that has now become a public good, and it will be quite able to organise the new production and consumption on socialist lines. In the old days, human genius, the brain of man, created only to give some the benefits of technology and culture, and to deprive others of the most essential—education and development. From now on all the marvels of science and the gains of culture belong to the nation as a whole, and never again will man’s brain and human genius be used for oppression and exploitation. Of this we are sure, so shall we not dedicate ourselves and work with abandon to fulfil this greatest of all historical tasks? The working people will perform this titanic historical feat, for in them lie dormant the great forces of revolution, renascence and renovation.

We are no longer alone. In the last few days, momentous events have taken place not only in the Ukraine and the Don area, not only in the realm of our Kaledins and Kerenskys, but in Western Europe as well. You have already heard of the telegrams on the state of the revolution in Germany. The flames of a revolutionary wildfire are leaping higher and higher over the whole of this rotten old world system. It was no pie-in-the-sky theory, no armchair pipe dream that once we had established Soviet power we would induce others to make similar attempts in other countries. For I must repeat that the working people had no other way out of the slaughter. These attempts are now being consolidated as gains of the international revolution. We close this historic Congress of Soviets under the sign of the mounting world revolution, and the time is not far off when the working people of all countries will unite into a single world-wide state and join in a common effort to build a new socialist edifice. The way to this construction runs through the Soviets, as a form of the incipient world revolution. (Stormy applause.)

In greeting you I urge you to build this new edifice. You will return to your various places and will bend every effort to organise and consolidate our great victory. (The delegates rise and greet Comrade Lenin with stormy applause.)


[1] See Encyclopedia of Marxism entry.

[2] The reference is to the talks between the All-Russia Leather Workers’ Union with their employers for wider workers’ representation on the Central Leather Committee and its remoulding on democratic lines. The Central Committee and the district committees were reorganised in early 1918, with the workers getting two-thirds of the votes. On April 6. 1918, a telegram signed by Lenin was sell to all Soviets on the need to democratise the local organs of the leather industry and fulfil precisely the instructions issued by the Central and district committees of the leather industry.

[3] The reference is to the Message of the Revolutionary Finish Government to the Council of Peoples Commissars of the Russian Republic, published in Pravda (evening edition) No. 13, on January 17 (31), 1918.

The revolution in Finland broke out in mid-January 1918 in the southern industrial areas. On January 15 (28), the Finnish fled Guard occupied Helsingfors, the capital, and overthrew the reactionary bourgeois government of Svinhufvud . A revolutionary government of Finland, the Council of People’s Representatives, was setup on January 16 (29). Power in the towns and villages in the south of Finland passed into the hands of the workers. The Svinhufvud government was entrenched in the north and appealed to the German Government for help. Following the intervention of the German armed forces and a bitter civil war, the revolution in Finland was crushed in May 1918.

[4] The reference is to the Basic Law on the Socialisation of Land tabled for approval at the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets. The draft was edited by a commission of the Congress in which Lenin took part. In January 18 (31), 1918. the law (Section One—General Provisions) was approved by the Congress. It was further elaborated at joint sittings of the Congress of Land Committees and the peasant section of the Third Congress of Soviets. The final text of the law was approved by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on January 27 (February 9).