V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1922 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Sobraniye Sochinenii (Collected Works), Vol. XV. Printed from the manuscript minutes.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 467-470.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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Comrade Lenin speaks first and points out that at the meeting on January 8 (21) three standpoints were brought out on this question, and asks whether the question should be discussed point by point on the theses he put forward, or whether a general discussion should be opened. The second alternative is adopted, and Comrade Lenin has the floor.

He begins by setting forth the three standpoints brought out at the previous meeting (1) signing a separate annexationist peace, (2) waging a revolutionary war, and (3) proclaiming the war ended, demobilising the army, but not signing a peace treaty. At the previous meeting, the first standpoint received 15 votes, the second 32 and the third 16.

Comrade Lenin points out that the Bolsheviks have never renounced defence, but this defence and protection of the fatherland must have a definite, concrete context, which exists at the present time, namely, defence of the Socialist Republic against an extremely strong international imperialism. The question is only one of how we should defend our fatherland, the Socialist Republic. The army is excessively fatigued by the war; the horses are in such a state that in the event of an offensive we shall not be able to move the artillery; the Germans are holding such favourable positions on the islands in the Baltic that if they start an offensive they could take Reval and Petrograd   with their bare hands. By continuing the war in such conditions, we shall greatly strengthen German imperialism, peace will have to be concluded just the same, but then the peace will be still worse because it is not we who will be concluding it. The peace we are now forced to conclude is undoubtedly an ignominious one, but if war begins, our government will be swept away and peace will be concluded by a different government. At present, we are relying not only on the proletariat but also on the poor peasantry, which will abandon us if the war continues. Drawing out the war is in the interest of French, British and American imperialism, and proof of this, for example, is the offer made at Krylenko’s headquarters by the Americans to pay 100 rubles for every Russian soldier. Those who take the standpoint of revolutionary war stress that we shall then be engaged in a civil war with German imperialism, and shall thereby awaken revolution in Germany. But Germany, after all, is still only pregnant with revolution, whereas we have already given birth to a quite healthy infant, the Socialist Republic, which we may kill if we start the war. We are in possession of a circular letter of the German Social-Democrats, there is information about the attitude to us of two trends in the Centre, of which one considers that we have been bought, and that the current events in Brest are a farce, with the actors playing out their parts. This section is attacking us for the armistice. The other section of the Kautskyites says that the personal honesty of the leaders of the Bolsheviks is beyond all doubt, but that the Bolsheviks’ behaviour is a psychological riddle.[1] We don’t know the opinion of the Left-wing Social-Democrats. The British workers are supporting our efforts for peace. Of course, the peace we conclude will be an ignominious one, but we need a breathing space in order to carry out social reforms (take transport alone); we need to consolidate ourselves, and this takes time. We need to complete the crushing of the bourgeoisie, but for this we need to have both our hands free. Once we have done this, we shall free both our hands, and then we should be able to carry on a revolutionary war against international imperialism. The echelons of the revolutionary volunteer army which have now been formed are the officers of our future army.

What Comrade Trotsky is proposing—an end to the war, refusal to sign a peace treaty and demobilisation of the army—is an international political demonstration. The only thing we achieve by withdrawing our troops is handing over the Estonian Socialist Republic to the Germans. It is said that by concluding peace we are giving a free hand to the Japanese and Americans, who will immediately occupy Vladivostok. By the time they have even reached Irkutsk, we shall have been able to strengthen our Socialist Republic. By signing a peace treaty we of course betray self-determined Poland, but we retain the Estonian Socialist Republic and win a chance to consolidate our gains. Of course, we make a turn to the right, which leads through a very dirty stable, but we must do it. If the Germans start an offensive, we shall be forced to sign any peace treaty, and then, of course, it will be worse. An indemnity of three thousand million is riot too high a price for saving the Socialist Republic. By signing peace now, we give the broad masses a visual demonstration that the imperialists (of Germany, Britain and France), having taken Riga and Baghdad, are continuing to fight, whereas we are developing, the Socialist Republic is developing.


Comrade Lenin points out that he is not in agreement on some points with his supporters Stalin and Zinoviev.[2] Of course, there is a mass movement in the West, but the revolution there has not yet begun. But if we were to alter our tactics because of that, we should be traitors to international socialism. He does not agree with Zinoviev that the conclusion of peace will for a time weaken the movement in the West. If we believe that the German movement can develop immediately, in the event of an interruption of the peace negotiations, then we must sacrifice ourselves, for the German revolution will have a force much greater than ours. But the whole point is that the movement there has not yet begun, but over here it already has a newborn and loudly shouting infant, and unless we now say clearly that we agree to peace, we shall perish. It is important for   us to hold out until the general socialist revolution gets under way, but this we can only achieve by concluding peace.


Comrade Lenin motions a vote on the proposition that we drag out the signing of a peace treaty in every possible way.


[1] A possible quotation from the unsigned article of “a prominent member of the German Independent Social-Democratic Party”, which appeared in Novaya Zhizn (New Life) No. 7, January 11 (24), 1918.

[2] A reference to the following words of J. V. Stalin as entered in the minutes: “Comrade Stalin believes that in adopting the   slogan of a revolutionary war we play into the hands of imperialism. Comrade Trotsky’s stand is not a stand. There is no revolutionary movement in the West—no facts of it—only a potential, and that is something we cannot reckon on. If the Germans start an offensive this will strengthen the counter-revolution over here.”

Lenin’s reference to G. Y. Zinoviev’s speech applies to the following words: “Of course, we are faced with a serious surgical operation, because if we conclude a peace we shall strengthen chauvinism in Germany and for a time weaken the movement all over the West. Beyond that is another prospect—the collapse of the socialist republic” = (Protokoly Tsentralnogo Komiteta RSDRP[b]. Avgust 1917–fevral 1918 [Minutes of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.). August 1917–February 1918], Moscow, 1958, pp. 171–72).

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