V. I. Lenin

Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ Peasants’, Soldiers’ and Red Army Deputies[1]

July 4-10, 1918

Delivered: 4-10 July, 1918
First Published: Newspaper report published: on 6 July, 1 1918 in Izvestia VTsIK No. 139; Published according to the text or the book: Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets. Verbatim Report, All-Russia C.E.C. Publishers, 1918; first five paragraphs of the reply to the debate published according to the text of the magazine Bulletin of Ways of Communication No. 7-8, 1918
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pages 505-532
Translated: Clemens Dutt; Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

Comrades, permit me, even though the previous speaker was at times extremely excited,[2] to submit my report on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars in the usual way, that is, to deal with the main questions of principle in order of merit, and not enter into the argument which the previous speaker would so much like to have, and which, of course, I have no intention of declining altogether. You know that since the last Congress, the chief factor which has determined our position, changed our policy and shaped our tactics and attitude towards certain other parties in Russia has been the Brest Treaty. You will recall how many reproaches were hurled at us at the last Congress, how many accusations were levelled at us, and how many voices were raised declaring that this famous respite would not help Russia, that in any case an international imperialist alliance had been concluded, and that in practice the retreat we were advocating would lead nowhere. This basic factor determined the whole position of the capitalist states, too, and we must naturally dwell on it. I think that the past three and a half months have made it absolutely indisputable that despite all reproaches and accusations we were right. We may say that the proletariat and the peasantry, who do not exploit others, do not make profits out of the people’s hunger, are entirely and unreservedly on our side, and at any rate are against those unwise people who would embroil them in war, who are against the Brest Treaty. (Commotion.)

Nine-tenths of the people are on our side, and the clearer the situation becomes, the more certain it is that now, when the West-European imperialist parties, the two chief imperialist groups, are locked in a life-and-death struggle, when with every month, every week, every day they are pushing each other nearer and nearer to the abyss whose outlines we can clearly perceive, at such a time it is clearer than ever to us that our tactics were right. That is best felt and realised by those who have been through the war, who have seen what war means and do not talk about it in airy terms. To us it is perfectly clear that as long as each of these groups is stronger than we are, and as long as that radical change which will permit the workers, and the working people of Russia in general, to enjoy the fruits of the revolution, to recover from the blow that has been dealt them and to rise to their full stature, so as to create a now, organised and disciplined army on new lines, in order that we may, not merely in words, but in deeds ... (loud applause on the Left. Voice from the Right: “Kerensky!”), as long as that radical change has not come, we have to wait. Therefore, the deeper we go down among the masses of the people, and the nearer we get to the workers of the mills and factories and to the working peasants, who do not exploit hired labour, do not defend the profiteering interests of the kulak, who conceals his grain and fears the food dictatorship, the more surely may we say that there too we shall meet and are meeting in fact we may say with absolute conviction that we have already met-with full sympathy and unanimous accord. Yes, it is a fact that at present the people do not want to fight, cannot fight, and will not fight these enemies-the imperialists-however much some may try, in their ignorance or infatuation with phrases, to drive them into this war, and no matter what catchwords they may use as a camouflage. No, comrades, anyone who now calls for war directly or indirectly, in open or veiled form, anyone who howls about the Brest Peace Treaty being a noose, fails to see that it is Kerensky and the landowners, capitalists and kulaks who are putting a noose around the necks of the workers and peasants of Russia... (Voice: “Mirbach!” Commotion.) Let them scream, as they do at every meeting; among the people their cause is hopeless! (Applause and commotion.)

I am not a bit surprised that, in view of the predicament these people are in, the only way they can answer is by shouts, hysterical outeries, abuse and wild behaviour (applause), when they have no other arguments .... (Voice: “We have arguments!” Commotion.)

Ninety-nine out of every hundred Russian soldiers know what incredible suffering it cost to get the mastery of this war. They know that in order to put war on a new socialist and economic basis (cries of “Mirbacb won’t let you!”), tremendous effort will be required, and first of all we had to put an end to the war of plunder. Knowing that the frenzied forces of imperialism are continuing to fight, and that in the three months which have elapsed since the last Congress they have moved several steps nearer to the abyss, they will not join in this war. After we had performed our duty to all the nations, realising the value of a declaration of peace and bringing its value home to the workers of all countries through our Brest delegation, headed by Comrade Trotsky, when we openly proposed an honest democratic peace, this proposal was frustrated by the frenzied bourgeoisie of all countries. Our position cannot be any other but to wait, and the people will yet see these frenzied imperialist cliques, strong though they still are today, tumble into the abyss which they are now approaching, as everybody can see .... (Applause) Everybody can see that who does not deliberately close his eyes. In these three and a half months, during which the frenzied imperialist party has been doing its best to drag out the war, this abyss has undoubtedly drawn nearer. We know, feel and realise that we are not yet ready for war; that is what the soldiers, the men under arms, who know what war means in practice, are saying. And as for the cries that we should throw off the Brest noose at once, they come from the Mensheviks, the Right SocialistRevolutionaries and the followers of Kerensky, the Constitutional-Democrats. You know where the followers of the landowners and the capitalists, where the hangers-on of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Constitutional-Democrats still stand. In that camp, the speeches of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also incline towards war, will be greeted with loud applause. The Left SocialistRevolutionaries, as the previous speakers have said, find themselves in an awkward predicament: they have landed in the wrong box. (Applause)

We know that great revolutions arise from the very depths of the people, that this takes months and years, and we are not surprised that in the course of the revolution the Left Socialist-Revolutionary party has shown such incredible vacillations. Trotsky has told us about these vacillations here, and it only remains for me to add that on October 26, when we invited the Left Socialist-Revolutionary comrades to join the government, they refused, and when Krasnov was at the gates of Petrograd, they were not with us, with the consequent result that they helped not us, but Krasnov. We are not surprised at these vacillations. Yes, this party has been through a great deal. But, comrades, there is a limit to everything.

We know that revolution is a thing that is learned by experience and practice, that a revolution becomes a real revolution only when tens of millions of people rise up with, one accord, as one man. (Lenin’s words are drowned by applause. Cries of “Long live the Soviets!”) This struggle, which is raising us to a new life, has been begun by one hundred and fifteen million people: this great struggle must be examined with the utmost attention.(Loud applause.) In October, when the Soviet regime was founded, on October 26, 1917, when ... (commotion, shouts and applause) our party and its representatives on the Central Executive Committee invited the Left Socialist-Revolutionary party to join the government, it refused. When the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries refused to join our government they were not with us, but against us. (Commotion on the Left Socialist-Revolutionary benches.) I am very sorry to have to say things you do not like. (The commotion on the Right becomes louder.) But what’s to be done? If Krasnov, the Cossack general .... (The commotion and outcries prevent Lenin from continuing.) When, on October 26, you vacillated, not knowing yourselves what you wanted, and refused to join us .... (Commotion lasting several minutes.) The truth is hard to swallow! Let me remind you that those who vacillated, who do not know themselves what they want and refuse to join us, willingly listen to the fables of others. I have told you that the soldier who has been in the war .... (Commotion and applause.) When the previous speaker had the floor the vast majority of the delegates did not interrupt her. Well, it is only to be expected. If these people prefer to withdraw from the Congress, well, then, good riddance! (Commotion and excitement on the Right benches.)

And so, comrades, the whole course of events has shown that we were right in concluding the Brest peace. And those who tried at the last Congress of Soviets to crack feeble jokes about the respite have seen and learnt that we have secured a breathing-space; true, it cost us incredible effort, but during this breathing-space our workers and peasants have taken a tremendous step forward to socialist construction, while the Western powers, on the contrary, have taken a tremendous step towards that abyss for which imperialism is heading faster and faster with every week of this war.

And so the only way I can explain the conduct of those who denounce our tactics because of the difficulty of our situation is that they are completely bewildered. I repeat that one only has to recall the past three and a half months. I would remind those who were at the last Congress of some of the things that were said there, and would recommend those who were not to read the minutes or the newspaper reports of that Congress, which will convince them that events have fully corroborated our tactics. There can be no boundary line between the victories of the October Revolution and the victories of the international socialist revolution; outbursts are bound to begin in other countries. And in order to hasten them we did all we could in the Brest period. Those who have been through the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, those who have pondered over them and examined them thoughtfully and seriously, will know that these revolutions in our country were engendered with incredible difficulty.

Two months before January 1905 or February 1917 no revolutionary, whatever his experience and knowledge, however familiar he was with the life of the people, could have foreseen that Russia would be shaken by such explosions. To fasten on individual cries and launch appeals to the masses which are tantamount to terminating the peace and plunging us into war is the policy of people who are utterly bewildered and have lost their heads completely. And to prove that this is so, I will cite the words of a person whose sincerity neither I nor anybody else will question-the words of Comrade Spiridonoval from the speech which was published in Golos Trudovovo Krestyanstva[3], and which has not been repudiated. In this speech of June 30, Comrade Spiridonova inserted three totally irrelevant lines to the effect that the Germans had presented us with an ultimatum to deliver to them 2,000million rubles’ worth of textiles.

A party which drives its most sincere representatives into such an awful quagmire of lies and deceit, such a party is absolutely doomed. The workers and peasants cannot help knowing what tremendous effort and anguish it cost us to sign the Brest Treaty. Surely, it is not necessary to exaggerate the hardships of that peace by the kind of fables and fabrications to which even the sincerest members of that party resort. But we know that truth is with the people, and we are guided by it, while this party writhes in hysterics. From that standpoint, conduct inspired by such utter bewilderment is worse than any provocation. Especially if we compare all the parties of Russia as a whole, as a scientific attitude towards the revolution requires. One must never neglect to examine the relations of all the parties as a whole. Individual persons or groups may be mistaken, maybe baffled, may not be able to explain their own conduct; but if we take all the parties of Russia as a whole and examine their mutual relations, there can be no mistake. Just see what the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, Kerensky, Savinkov and the rest, are saying now, when they hear the appeals of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries .... Why, they applaud like mad. They would be glad to embroil Russia in a war just now, when it would suit Milyukov’s purpose. And to talk like that, to talk now about the Brest peace being a noose, is to cast the landowner’s noose around the neck of the Russian peasant. When they talk here about fighting the Bolsheviks, like the previous speaker, who spoke about a quarrel with the Bolsheviks, my reply is: no, comrades, this is no quarrel, but a genuine and irrevocable rupture, a rupture between those who are hearing the whole onus of the situation by telling the people the truth, and not allowing themselves to be intoxicated by outcries, and those who are intoxicating themselves with such outcries and involuntarily doing the work of the enemy, the work of provocateurs. (Applause)

I will now conclude the first part of my report. During these three and a half months of frantic imperialist war, the imperialist states have drawn nearer to the abyss into which they are driving the people. This wounded beast has torn many a lump of flesh from our living organism. Our enemies are nearing this abyss so fast that even if they had more than three and a half months at their disposal, and even if the imperialist carnage were again to inflict just as heavy losses on us, it is they who would perish, not we; for the rapidity with which their power of resistance is diminishing is drawing them rapidly nearer to the abyss. We, on the other hand, in spite of the tremendous difficulties, which we do not conceal from the people, after these three and a half months have many a healthy shoot of a healthy organism to show; both in industry and everywhere else, small-scale constructive work is going on, unpretentious and unsensational though it may be. It has already yielded very fruitful results, and, given another three months, six months, a whole winter season of such work, we shall march forward, while the West-European imperialist beast, worn out by the struggle, will be unable to stand such a contest, because within it forces are maturing which, although they have no faith in themselves as yet, will lead imperialism to its doom. And what has already been begun there, and begun radically and fundamentally, is not likely to be changed in three and a half months. Far too little is being said about this constructive, small-scale, creative work, and it seems to me that we should talk about it more. I, for my part, cannot pass over this fact in silence, if only because the attacks of the previous speaker must be taken into accouiit. I would mention the resolution of the Central Executive Committee of April 29, 1918.[See Six Theses of the Soviet Government—Editor] At the time I made a speech in which I spoke of the immediate tasks of the Soviet government,[Session of the All-Russian C.E.C.—Editor] and I pointed out that notwithstanding the incredible difficulties of our position prime attention at home must be given to constructive work.

And here we must cherish no illusions, and must say that to this work, difficult though it may be, we must devote all our efforts. Our experience, which I can tell you about, shows that in this respect we have undoubtedly made big strides. To be sure, if one looks only for outward results, as the bourgeoisie do, seizing on our individual mistakes, one can scarcely speak of success; but we look at it from a totally different angle. The bourgeoisie picks on the administration of the river fleet, for example, and points out how often we have set about reconstructing it and proclaims with malicious glee that the Soviet government cannot cope with the job. To which I reply that it is true that we have time and again reconstructed the administration of our river fleet, as we have the administration of the railways, and now are about to undertake an even bigger reorganisation of the Economic Council. That is the whole meaning of the revolution, namely, that socialism has passed from the sphere of a dogma, which can be discussed only by people who understand nothing at all, from the sphere of book knowledge, of a programme, to the sphere of practical work. And today the workers and peasants are making socialism with their own hands.

The times have passed, and in Russia, I am sure, have passed beyond recall, when we used to argue about the socialist programme on the basis of book knowledge. Today socialism can be discussed only on the basis of experience. The whole meaning of the revolution lies in the fact that it has for the first time in history discarded the old apparatus of bourgeois officialdom, the bourgeois system of administration, and has created conditions which enable the workers and peasants themselves to set about this job, a job of incredible difficulty, whose difficulties it would be absurd to conceal from ourselves; for the capitalists and landowners have for centuries been hounding and persecuting tens of millions of people even for harbouring the thought of administering the land. Now, in the space of a few weeks, a few mouths, in the midst of desperate and frightful disruption, when the whole body of Russia has been bruised and battered by the war, so that the people are like a man who has been thrashed within an inch of his life—at such a time, when the tsars, the landowners and the capitalists have left us with a country in a state of utter disruption, the new job, the new work of building must be shouldered by the new classes, by the workers and those peasants who do not exploit hired workers and do not profiteer in grain. Yes, this is an extremely difficult task, but an extremely rewarding one. Every month of such work and such experience is worth ten, if. not twenty, years of our history. Yes, we are not afraid to confess what an acquaintance with our decrees will show, namely, that we have constantly to alter them; we have not yet produced anything finished and complete, we do not yet know a socialism that can be embodied in clauses and paragraphs. If we are now able to submit a Soviet Constitution[4] to this Congress, it is only because Soviets have been set up and tested in all parts of the country, because you yourselves have created that Constitution and tested it in all parts of the country; only six months after the October Revolution, and nearly a year after the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets, are we able to write down what already exists in practice.

In the economic sphere, where we are only just beginning to build socialism, and where a new discipline must be built up, we have no such experience—we are acquiring it by dint of alteration and reconstruction. That is our prime task. We say that every new social order demands new relations between man and man, a new discipline. There was a time when economic life was impossible without feudal discipline, when there was only one kind of discipline the discipline of the lash; and there was a time of the rule of the capitalists, when the disciplinary force was starvation. But now, with the Soviet revolution, with the beginning of the socialist revolution, discipline must be built on entirely new principles; it must be a discipline of faith in the organising power of the workers and poor peasants, a discipline of comradeship, a discipline of the utmost mutual respect, a discipline of independence and initiative in the struggle. Anyone who resorts to the old capitalist methods, anyone who at a time of famine and want argues in the old, capitalist way—if I sell grain on my own, I shall make a bigger profit; if 1 set out on my own to get grain, I shall get it easier—anyone who argues in that way may be choosing the easier road, but he will never arrive at socialism.

It is simple and easy to keep within the old realm of customary capitalist relations; but we want to take a new road. It is one which demands of us and of all the people a high level of political consciousness and organisation; it demands more time and involves graver mistakes. But we say that only those who attempt nothing practical make no mistakes.

If, in the opinion of the meeting, the period under review includes experiments in which one frequently meets with changes, amendments, reversions to the old, that is not the chief thing, the chief meaning and value of this period. The old government apparatus of bureaucrats, for whom it was enough to order an increase of salary, is a thing of the past. We have now to deal with workers’ organisations which are taking economic administration into their own hands. We have to deal with the railway workers, who used to be worse off than others, and who have a legitimate right to demand an improvement of conditions. Tomorrow the river transport workers will submit their demands, and the day after, the middle peasants—I shall speak of them at greater length who often feel they are worse off than the worker, whom we treat with the utmost attention, and to whose interest all our decrees are devoted—a thing the previous speaker has absolutely failed to grasp. All this creates enormous difficulties, but they are difficulties which are due to the fact that the workers and poor peasants for the first time in centuries are themselves, with their own hands, organising the whole economic life of Russia. And so, we have to find means of satisfying just demands; we have to alter decrees and reconstruct the system of administration. Side by side with cases of mistakes and failures—cases which the bourgeois press seizes upon and which, of course, are numerous—we achieve successes, we learn by these partial mistakes and failures, we learn by experience how to build the edifice of socialism. And when we are showered with new demands from all sides, we say: that is as it should be, that is just what socialism means, when each wants to improve his condition and all want to enjoy the benefits of life. But the country is poor, the country is poverty-stricken, and it is impossible just now to satisfy all demands; that is why it is so difficult to build the new edifice in the midst of disruption. But those who believe that socialism can be built at a time of peace and tranquillity are profoundly mistaken: it will everywhere be built at a time of disruption, at a time of famine. That is how it must be. And when we see before us people with real ideas, we say: all the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of workers and working peasants have set about building the new, socialist edifice with their own hands. A profound revolution is now beginning in the countryside, where the kulaks are agitating and trying to interfere with the working peasants who do not exploit the labour of others or profiteer in grain, and there the task is different. In the towns the thing is to organise the factories, the metal industry; and what with the havoc of the war, to distribute production, to distribute raw materials and other materials is a very difficult task.

There the workers are learning to do this and are forming central organs of administration; there we are having to reconstruct the Supreme Economic Council; for the old laws, passed at the beginning of the year, are already out of date, the workers’ movement is marching ahead, the old workers’ control is already antiquated, and the trade unions are becoming the embryos of administrative bodies for all industry. (Applause) In this sphere quite a lot has already been done, but still we cannot boast of any brilliant successes. We know that in this sphere the bourgeois elements, the capitalists, landowners and kulaks will for a long time yet have the opportunity to carry on their propaganda and say that, as usual, a decree has been passed but is not being enforced, another has only just been passed, yet after three months it is already being altered, while profiteering is going on just the same as under capitalism. Yes, it is true that we do not know of any universal quack panacea for putting an end to profiteering at one stroke. The habits of the capitalist system are too strong; to reeducate the people who have been brought up to these habits for centuries is no easy matter and will take a long time. But we say that our fighting weapon is organisation. We must organise everything, take everything into our own hands, keep a check on the kulaks and profiteers at every step, declare implacable war on them and never allow them to breathe freely, controlling their every move.

We know from experience that alterations of decrees are unavoidable, for new difficulties are encountered which are a source of fresh changes. And if in the matter of food supply we have now arrived at the point of organising the poor peasants, and if our former comrades, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, say in all sincerity—which cannot be doubted—that our ways have parted, our firm reply to them is: all the worse for you, for that means that you have turned your back on socialism. (Applause)

Comrades? The food question is the main question, it is the one to which we are devoting most attention in our policy-making. A host of small measures which are imperceptible to the outsider, but which the Council of People’s Commissars has adopted—such as the steps to improve the water and rail transport systems, the clearing up of the war commissariat stores, the fight against profiteering—were all directed towards putting food supply on a proper footing. Not only our country, but even the most civilised countries, which never knew what famine meant before the war, are now all in a state of utmost distress, created by the imperialists In their struggle for the supremacy of one group or another. In the West, tens of millions of people are suffering the torments of starvation. It is this that makes social revolution inevitable, for social revolution stems not from programmes but from the fact that tens of millions of people say: “Rather than live and starve, we prefer to die for the revolution.” (Applause)

A terrible disaster—famine—has befallen us, and the more difficult our situation, the more acute the food crisis, the more the capitalists intensify their struggle against Soviet power. You know that the Czechoslovak mutiny is a mutiny of men who have been bought by the British and French imperialists. We are constantly hearing of revolts against the Soviets in one. place or another. The kulak risings are spreading from region to region. In the Don region, there is Krasnov, whom the Russian workers magnanimously allowed to go free in Petrograd when he came and surrendered his sword, for the prejudices of the intellectual are still strong and the intellectuals protested against capital punishment— Krasnov was allowed to go free because of the intellectual’s prejudice against capital punishment. But I would like to see the people’s court today, the workers’ or peasants’ court, which would not sentence Krasnov, who is shooting workers and peasants, to be shot. We are told that when people are sentenced to he shot by Dzerzhinsky[5] commission` it is all right, but if a court were to declare publicly and openly that a man was a counter-revolutionary and deserved to he shot, that would be wrong. People who have sunk to such depths of hypocrisy are political corpses. (Applause) No, a revolutionary who does not want to be a hypocrite cannot renounce capital punishment. There has never been a revolution or a period of civil war without shootings.

Our food supply has been reduced to an almost catastrophic state. We have reached the direst period in our revolution. We are facing the most distressful period of all there never has been a more difficult period in workers’ and peasants’ Russia—the period that remains until the harvest. I have seen plenty of party differences and revolutionary disputes in my day, and I am not surprised to find that in such a time of stress an increasing number of people are giving way to hysterics and crying: “I will resign from the Soviets,” and talking of the decrees abolishing capital punishment. But be is a poor revolutionary who at a time of acute struggle is halted by the immutability of a law. In a period of transition laws have only a temporary validity; and when a law hinders the development of the revolution, it must be abolished or amended. Comrades, the worse the famine becomes, the clearer it becomes that this desperate calamity must he combated by equally desperate measures. Socialism, I repeat, has ceased to be a dogma, just as it has perhaps ceased to be a programme. Our Party has not yet drawn up a new programme, but the old one is already worthless. The proper and equitable distribution of bread—that is what constitutes the basis of socialism today. (Applause) The war has bequeathed to us a legacy of economic disruption; the efforts of Kerensky and the landowners and kulaks saying, “After us the deluge”, have reduced the country to such a state that they say, “The worse it gets, the better.” The war has bequeathed us such hardships that in this matter of the food supply we have the very essence of the whole socialist system, and we must take this matter into our hands and find a practical solution for it. And we ask ourselves what is to he done about bread: are we to continue along the old, capitalist lines, with peasants taking advantage of the situation and making thousands of rubles profit out of grain, at the same time calling themselves working peasants, and sometimes even Left Socialist-Revolutionaries? (Applause and commotion.) They argue like this: if people are starving, grain prices will rise; if the towns are starving, I will stuff my pockets; and if the starvation becomes worse, I will make thousands more. But I know very well that the blame for this kind of argument does not lie with individuals. The whole abominable heritage of landowner and capitalist society has taught people to argue, to think and to live like this; and to reform the life of tens of millions of people is terribly difficult; it will require long and persistent work, and this work we have only just begun. We would never think of blaming people who, tormented by hunger and seeing no benefit in the organisation of a socialist system of bread distribution, scurry to look after themselves and let everything else go hang. These people cannot he blamed. But we do say that when it is a case of representatives of parties, when it is a case of people belonging to a definite party, when it is a case of large bodies of people, we expect them to look at the matter, not from the standpoint of the suffering, tormented, hungry individual, against whom nobody would think of raising his hand, but from the standpoint of the building of a new society.

I repeat, it will never be possible to build socialism at a time when everything is running smoothly and tranquilly; it will never be possible to realise socialism without the landowners and capitalists putting up a furious resistance. The worse our situation is, the more gleefully they rub their hands and the more they resort to revolt; the worse our situation is and the more saboteurs there are in our midst, the more eagerly they embark on all kinds of Czechoslovak and Krasnov affairs. And we say that the old way is not the way to cope with this, hard though it may be to drag the cart forward, uphill, instead of allowing it to slip back downhill. We know very well that not a week or even a day passed without the Council of People’s Commissars considering the food problem, without our issuing thousands of recommendations, orders and decrees, and discussing how to combat famine. Some say there is no need for special prices, for fixed prices, for a grain monopoly: give people a free hand to trade. The rich will get richer still, and if the poor die of starvation, well, they always have. But a socialist cannot argue like that; at this moment, when the hill is steeper than ever and the cart has to be dragged up the steepest inclines, socialism has ceased to be a matter of party differences and has become a practical issue; it is a question of whether we can hold out against the kulaks, by allying ourselves with the peasants who do not profiteer in grain; it is a question of whether we can hold out now, when we have to fight, and work of the heaviest kind lies ahead of us. They talk about the Poor Peasants’ Committees. Those who have seen the torments of hunger for themselves will clearly realise that in order to break and ruthlessly crush the kulaks, the most drastic and ruthless measures are required. When we proceeded to organise unions of poor peasants, we fully realised what a severe and drastic measure this was; but only an alliance of the towns with the rural poor and with those who have stocks but do not profiteer, with those who want to cope vigorously with the difficulties and ensure that the grain surpluses go to the state and are distributed among the working peoplesuch an alliance is the sole method of waging this struggle. And the way to wage this struggle is not by means of programmes and speeches; this struggle with famine will show who is going the direct route to socialism, despite all trials and hardships, and who is succumbing to the trickery and deceit of the kulaks.

If there are people in the Left Socialist-Revolutionary party who, like the previous speaker—one of the sincerest, and therefore one who is most liable to be carried away, most subject to changes of opinion—say that they cannot work with the Bolsheviks and are quitting, we shall not regret it for a minute. Socialists who quit at a moment like this, when hundreds and thousands of people are dying of hunger while others have such large surpluses of grain that they had not sold them before last August, when the fixed prices for grain were doubled—against which all democrats protested—those who know that the people are suffering untold torments of hunger yet do not want to sell their grain at the price at which the middle peasants are selling it, are enemies of the people, they are out to ruin the revolution and are landing their support to oppression—they are friends of the capitalists! War on such people, relentless war on them! (General applause, in which a large number o/ Left Socialist-Revolutionaries take part.) A thousand times wrong, a thousand times mistaken is he who allows himself even for a moment to he carried away by enemy talk and to say that this is a fight against the peasantry—as incautious or thoughtless Left Socialist-Revolutionaries sometimes do. No, this is a fight against that insignificant minority, the village kulaks, this is a fight to save socialism and to distribute bread in Russia properly. (Voices: “What about goods?”) We shall fight in alliance with the overwhelming majority of the peasants; we shall win this fight, and then every European worker will see in practice what socialism means.

We shall get help in this struggle from anyone who has been toiling all his life and who may not know scientifically what socialism means, but who knows that he earned his bread at a bard price. He will understand us. That man will be on our side. As for the kulaks who—possess surpluses of grain and are capable of concealing that grain at a moment of extreme national calamity, at a moment when all the gains of the revolution are at stake, when the Skoropadskys of every hue and in every part of the country, occupied or not, are craning their necks and only waiting for the moment to overthrow the power of the workers and peasants by famine and reinstate the landowners—at such a moment it is our cardinal socialist duty to proclaim ruthless war on the kulaks. He is a poor socialist who at this moment of grave difficulty and severe trial for the starving people and for the socialist revolution washes his hands and repeats the lying tales of the bourgeoisie.

It is false, a thousand times false, to say this is a fight against the peasantry! I have seen this said hundreds of times in the columns of the Constitutional-Democratic news papers, and I am not surprised to hear them crying that the workers have split with the peasantry. When they hysterically cry: “Peasants, open your eyes, come to your senses and have done with the Bolsheviks!”’when I hear and read things like this, I am not at all surprised. There it is quite in place. These people are serving the master it is their function to serve. But I would not like to be in the skin of a socialist who sinks to talk like this! (Loud applause.) Comrades, we fully realise what incredible difficulties the solution of the food problem entails. Here the prejudices are most profound; here the interests are most deep-rooted kulak interests; here division, stagnation, the scattered character of village life, ignorance—all, in many cases, are united against us. But we say that in spite of these difficulties, we cannot withdraw; famine is not a thing to be trifled with; and if the masses of the people do not receive assistance in this famine, hunger is capable of driving them even into the arms of Skoropadsky. It is false to say that this is a fight against the peasantry! Anyone who says that is an out-and-out criminal; those who have allowed themselves to be driven by hysteria to such talk are victims of a terrible misfortune. No, we are not even fighting the middle peasant, let alone the poor peasant. All over Russia, the middle peasants have only the smallest surpluses of grain. The middle peasants for decades before the revolution lived worse than the workers. Before the revolution their life was one of unrelieved want and oppression. Our policy towards these middle peasants is one of agreement. The socialist revolution means equality for all the working people; it would be unfair for the urban worker to receive more than the middle peasant, who does not exploit the labour of others by hiring labour or profiteering; the peasants suffer from greater want and oppression than the workers, and fare even worse than the workers. They have no organisations or trade unions to work for the improvement of their conditions. Even with the workers’ unions we find it necessary to hold dozens of meetings to try and level out wages among the various trades, and all the same cannot get them levelled. Every sensible worker knows that this will require a long time. See how many complaints are received by the Commissariat for Labour! You will find that every trade is raising its head; they don’t want to live in the old way; they don’t want to live like slaves, they say. In this poverty-stricken, destitute country we want to heal the wounds it has suffered. We must somehow or other save economic life, which has almost completely broken down. This can only he done by organisation. In order to organise the peasantry, we issued the decree about the Poor Peasants’ Committees. Only the enemies of socialism can be opposed to this decree. We said that we considered it fair to lower the price of textiles. We are registering and nationalising positively everything. (Applause) And that will permit us to regulate the distribution of the products of industry.

We said: cut the prices of textiles for the poor peasants by half, and for the middle peasants by 25 per cent. Perhaps these scales are wrong. We do not claim that our solution of the problem is right. We do not say that. To solve the problem rightly, go and do it together. (Applause) Sitting in your armchairs in the chief administrations, fighting profiteering and trying to catch swindlers who are doing their dirty work in secret, is not going to solve the problem.

Only when the Commissariat for Food, in conjunction with the Commissariat for Agriculture, nationalises all goods and fixes prices—do we really come close up to socialism. It is only the working people of the towns and the rural poor, all those who labour, do not rob others, do not exploit the labour of others either by hiring or by profiteering, only they come close to socialism—for the man who demands a hundred rubles or more for grain is no less a profiteer than the man who employs hired labour; perhaps he is even a worse, a more arrant profiteer. After a desperately difficult half-year of Soviet rule, we have now arrived at the organisation of the poor peasants. It is a pity we did not arrive at it after half a week—that is where we are to blame! If we had been reproached with having brought in the decree on the organisation of the poor peasants and the food dictatorship six months too late, we should have welcomed the reproof. We say that only now that we have taken this path has socialism ceased to be a mere phrase and is becoming a practical thing. It is possible that the decree is unhappily conceived, that the scales are wrong. How were we to determine them? Only by your experience. How many times have we altered the railwaymen’s scales, even though they have their trade unions, whereas the poor peasants have none! Let us co-operate in checking whether the scales laid down in the decree on the poor peasants are right, whether it is right to lower prices for the poor peasants by half and for the middle peasants by a quarter, and to take everything away from the rich peasants—whether these scales are right or not.

If there is to be a fight, we shall wage that fight by bold decrees without hesitating for a moment. It will be a real fight for socialism—not for a dogma, not for a programme, for a party, for a faction, but for living socialism, for the distribution of bread among hundreds of thousands and millions of starving people in the foremost districts of Russia, for taking grain wherever it is to he found and distributing it properly. I repeat, we do not doubt for a moment that ninety-nine peasants out of every hundred, when they learn the truth, when they receive the decree, test it, try it in practice and tell us how to correct it—and we will correct it, we will alter the scales—when they tackle this job and get an idea of its practical difficulty, these peasants will be on our side and will say, we are displaying the healthy instinct of the working man, and that this, and only this, will decide the real issue, the fundamental and vital issue socialism. We shall establish proper prices for goods, we shall establish a monopoly on grain, on textiles and on all products; and then the people will say: “Yes, the distribution of labour, the distribution of bread and other products inaugurated by socialism is better than it has before.” And that is what the people are beginning to say. In spite of a host of mistakes, in spite of incidents which we make no attempt to conceal, but rather drag into the light and hold up to shame—cases when our detachments themselves succumb to profiteering, sink down into that slippery gulf into which all the capitalist habits and customs tend to drag people—yes, there are such cases everywhere, we know that people cannot be remoulded all at once, that you cannot inspire tens of millions of people with faith in socialism all at once (where are they to get this faith from? Not out of their own heads, surely? No, from their experience)—but in spite of all this, people are beginning to say that bread can be secured without profiteering, and that the only salvation from famine lies in an alliance of the urban, factory, industrial workers with the poor peasants, for only the poor peasant does not profiteer in grain. Yes, as soon as the middle peasant sees our decrees, reads them for himself, compares them with the talk and slanders of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and the champions of the kulak, he will say that in establishing one scale for the poor peasants and another for the middle peasants, and in taking grain from the kulaks without compensation, we are acting rightly. He may not say that we are acting like socialists—he may not know that word—but he is our sure ally, for he does not profiteer in grain, and he will realise and agree that to profiteer in grain at a moment of direst danger to the socialist revolution is a heinous crime against the people.

Bread cannot be distributed by decree. But when, after long and persistent effort in establishing and improving the alliance of the factory, urban workers with the rural poor, with the working peasants who do not hire any labourers and do not engage in profiteering, we get this thing properly going, no hysterical outcries against our Party will succeed in rupturing that alliance. (Applause)

When we promised the peasants socialisation of the land, we made a concession; for we understood that nationalisation could not be introduced at one stroke. We know that we may have made a mistake in embodying your socialisation of the land in our law of October 26.[See Meeting Of The Petrograd Soviet Of Workers’ And Soldiers’ DeputiesEditor] It was a concession to the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who refused to be in the government and said they would only remain if this law were passed. Spiridonova is a thousand times wrong in bringing forward unconnected facts and saying that she came to see me, humbled herself and implored. Comrades, many of you have been to see me and know that that cannot have been the case, that no comrade could have been treated like that. It must be a bad party indeed whose best spokesmen stoop to spreading fairy-tales. (Commotion.) I have a letter from Comrade Spiridonova—she has often written to me. I shall find that letter tomorrow and make it known. She writes: “Why do you refuse to grant two million for agricultural communes?” And this on the very day when Sereda, the People’s Commissar for Agriculture, whose work she does not understand, submitted a proposal to assign ten million for agricultural communes.[6] (Prolonged applause). You heard Comrade Spiridonova say the same thing in her speech; but it must be a bad party indeed whose sincerest people stoop to spreading fairy-tales for propaganda purposes. I repeat, it must be a bad party indeed whose best and sincerest spokesmen go to the length of spreading such fairy-tales about the Soviet government! All the worse for them! Every peasant who comes to the Commissariat for Agriculture and reads that ten million have been assigned for agricultural communes will see and believe his own eyes and ears more than somebody else’s speeches, and will understand that these people have sunk so low as to spread fairy-tales, and he will turn his back on this party. (Applause) I want to say only one thing in concluding my speech. Until the new harvest, until that harvest is brought to the starving localities of Petrograd and Moscow, a hard period of the Russian revolution lies before us. A really close alliance between the urban workers and the rural poor, the rural working masses who do not profiteer in grain, is the only thing that can save the revolution.

Our Congress shows that in spite of everything the alliance of all the working people is growing, spreading and gaining strength not only in Russia, but all over the world. Absurdly little, terribly little is known abroad about our revolution. The military censorship there lets nothing through. The comrades who returned from abroad have told us that; yet, in spite of everything, guided by sheer instinct, the European workers sympathise with the Bolshevik Government. And ever more numerous are voices showing that sympathy for the socialist revolution is growing in Europe in the countries where the imperialist war is still in progress. The Bolshevik Government is receiving expressions of gratitude, sympathy and support from German socialists and other men and women whose names are known to every enlightened worker and peasant, people like Clara Zetkin and Franz Mehring. In Italy, Lazzari, the old secretary of the party, who at Zimmerwald regarded the Bolsheviks with mistrust, is now in prison for having expressed his sympathy with us.

Understanding of the revolution is growing. In France, comrades and workers, who at the Zimmerwald Conference treated the Bolsheviks with profound mistrust, the other day issued a manifesto in the name of the Committee of International Relations[7] earnestly appealing for support of the Bolshevik Government and opposing adventures by any party.

And so, comrades, however difficult and arduous the period that lies ahead of us may he, it is our duty to tell the truth and to open people’s eyes to this, for only the people, by their initiative and organisation, by advancing demand after demand and defending the socialist republic, can help us. And we say, comrades, that there is not a shadow of doubt that if we follow the path which we have chosen and which events have confirmed, if we follow this path firmly and unswervingly, if we do not allow ourselves to be diverted from the right path by any phrase-making, illusions, deceit or hysterics, we have every chance in the world of maintaining our position and of resolutely furthering the victory of socialism in Russia, and thus furthering the victory of the world socialist revolution! (Loud and prolonged applause and cheers.)


Reply To The Debate

July 5, 1918

All the objections of the opposition concerning my report begin with the question of the Brest Treaty. But such a formulation of the question could be called practical only if it led to practical results. None of their speeches about this have produced results, nor can they produce any. (Applause)

If the party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries happened to have a majority, they would not be making so much fuss about this matter as they are making now. What should be discussed are the real achievements of the Soviet Republic on the road to socialism. We can assert—and not one speaker has denied this—that in this respect great success has been achieved since the last Congress. Nor have the representatives of the opposition refuted the fact that all who are in favour of tearing up the Brest peace are acting in the interests of restoring the power of the landowners and capitalists and rely for their strength on the support of Anglo-French imperialism. When I said that the Czechoslovaks in return for ten or fifteen million are also out to bring about this break, no one denied it. Can anyone deny that the Czechoslovaks, hiding behind the slogan of the Constituent Assembly, are aiming at dragging us into war?

The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries said it was impossible to create an army in a short time, but everything depends on how soon we put the fuel situation riglit, how the peasants get on, and what happens to the harvest.

Your appeals for the creation of guerilla detachments to fight a regular imperialist army are recognised as absurd by any soldier.

When people force us to go back to the question of the Brest peace, we say: “That peace will be violated if you overthrow Soviet power, and that will not happen!” (Applause.) Only then, on the basis of tearing up the Brest peace, will you be able to drag the masses of the working people into a war to the delight of the landowners, capitalists and white guards, who have been bribed with the millions of the Anglo-French imperialists. Sabotage of the Brest peace will in practice stem from forces hostile to the masses of the working people. None of the objections concerning the Brest peace can be considered practical. They are merely the hysterics of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries.

When it was said here that the Bolsheviks were yielding, and that their reports contained nothing of practical value, I recalled the words uttered here by one Socialist-Revolutionary, a Maximalist I think he was, to the effect that the Supreme Economic Council is passing from the control of production to its administration.[8] Isn’t that statement of practical value? What, then, are those workers doing, who by their own efforts, through their trade unions, have begun to learn from the bosses the business of administering enterprises? You say that it is an easy thing to learn to administer, but every day we in the Supreme Economic Council have to settle thousands of conflicts and incidents which show that the worker has learnt a lot, and we must conclude that the workers are beginning to learn—slowly, to be sure, and with mistakes; but it is one thing to utter fine phrases, and another to see how with every passing month the worker is beginning to find his feet, how he is beginning to lose his timidity and to feel that he is the ruler. Rightly or wrongly, he is acting as the peasant does in an agricultural commune. Time has shown that the worker had to learn to administer industry, and all the rest is just empty talk and not worth a brass farthing. If, after six months of Soviet rule, we are now beginning to find that control is out of date, that is a big step forward.

The cry has been raised here that we are marking time, or even retreating. Nothing of the kind. You may persuade the kulak of that, but not the ordinary worker; he knows what we mean when we say, let us have better people than the ones you sent, make them learn better than you are learning. And so, when the cry is raised here about concessions, let us ask any worker or peasant what he prefers: to pay in concessions the debt the Germans imposed upon us, or to fight? When we signed the Peace Treaty of Brest, we said of the imperialists that until they were vanquished by an international socialist revolution, we should not be able to defend ourselves in any other way than by retreating. That is unpleasant, but it will remain a fact’and it is better to tell the people so’until we have built up an army, for which we shall need only a few years, not decades, provided we introduce a proper system of bread distribution, so that there will be stocks of grain for the army, gathered and stored. In what uyezd or gubernia have the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries done that? They have done nothing of the kind! And until it is done, we declare that all your cries are just empty talk; whereas when we take a step towards administration by the workers, we take a step forward. My words have been misquoted here. What I said was that it must be a bad party whose sincere members are obliged to stoop to such talk.

We have assigned a thousand million to our Commissariat for Food—isn't that a step forward? Much still remains to be arranged, and you can do it if you only have the desire. But through whom, I do not know. Not through the old officials, surely? Our workers and peasants on the Soviets are learning to do it (applause), and so the purchases of textiles and the appropriations are having their effect. Hundreds of times the Council of People’s Commissars has discussed through whom to purchase textiles, how to exercise control, and how to get them distributed as quickly as possible. And we know that as the weeks go by measures have been devised for combating profiteering and catching profiteers, and that with every month the workers are getting a firmer mastery of this job—and this success of ours nobody can deny. We are advancing, not marking time. On June 28, we carried out nationalisation[9] to the extent perhaps of several hundred millions, yet you keep on objecting and repeating the talk of the bourgeois intellectuals. Socialism is not a job that can be done in a few months. We are not marking time, but are continuing to move towards socialism, and since the Brest peace we have come closer to it The workers have derived experience from a number of mistakes, they realise the gravity and difficulty of the struggle, while the peasants have experience in the socialisation of the land, and there can he no doubt that the more experienced and intelligent peasants are saying: “In the first spring we took land for ourselves; in the autumn we’ll take over the whole job, the whole business of distributing the land.” Do not forget that we are selling the peasants textiles at a 50 per cent rebate, that is, at half-price. Who else would have given the poor peasants textiles at such a price? We shall proceed towards socialism by way of grain, textiles and implements, which will not fall into the hands of the profiteers, but will go first and foremost to the poor peasants. That is socialism. (Applause) After six months of socialist revolution, the people who get all their ideas from books understand nothing. We have arrived at a stage where we are taking the concrete step of distributing bread and exchanging textiles for bread in such a way that it is the poor that benefit, and not the rich profiteers. We are not a bourgeois republic; if we were we should not need Soviets. It is the poor that must benefit from the distribution of grain and textiles—that is something no republic in the world has attempted, but we are attempting it now. (Applause) We are doing a noble work; we have the experience; and we are doing everything in our power to get the poor to organise. Cases of extortion and hooliganism are practically disappearing; for every such case there are a dozen others when the poor peasants and the middle peasants say: we must get rid of the kulak and the landowner! Since the Brest peace we have made tremendous strides in the education of the peasants, and they are now no longer novices in the struggle for socialism.


[1] Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets opened on July 4, 1918 in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. It was attended by 1,164 delegates with the right to vote. These included 773 Bolsheviks, 353 Left S.R.s, 17 Maximalists (a variety of Left S.R.s), 4 anarchists, 4 Menshevik-Internationalists, 3 members of other parties and 10 non-party people. Among the delegates there were representatives of the German-occupied areas of the Ukraine, Latvia, and Transcaucasia, who brought greetings and described the situation in these areas. The Congress was greeted by the representative of the British Socialist Party Joseph Fineberg, who read out a resolution passed by his party’s conference declaring its support for the socialist revolution in. Russia. The Congress also received greetings from the working people of Germany and Norway, and from Russian prisoners-of-war interned in various countries.

The Congress approved the agenda proposed by the Presidium of the All-Russia C.E.C., which included the following items: reports of the All-Russia C.E.C. and the Council of People’s Commissars; the food question; organisation of the socialist Red Army; Constitution of the Russian Soviet Republic; elections to the All-Russia C.E.C. The Congress rejected the Left S.R. demand that reports from the provinces and a discussion on the Soviet Government’s decision to introduce capital punishment for treason should be added to the agenda.

After the agenda had been approved, the Congress discussed a question that was not on the agenda concerning incidents in the area bordering on the Ukraine, where Mensheviks and S.Rs were agitating among the military units in the area with the aim of causing a clash with the Germans and thus sabotaging the peace treaty with Germany and drawing the country into war. In their explanation to the Congress the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries demagogically accused the Communist Party of not wishing to help the working people of the occupied areas, refused to discuss the resolution moved by the Communist group and walked out of the meeting. The Congress unanimously resolved that “decisions on matters of war and peace rest solely with the All-Russia Congress of Soviets” and the central organs of Soviet power-the All-Russia C.E.C. and the Council of People’s Commissars, and advised the Soviet Government to deal firmly with all agents provocateurs.

Y. M. Sverdlov delivered the report on the work of the Aull-Russia C.E.C.; Lenin reported on the work of the Council of .People’s Commissars. After stormy debates on the two reports the Congress passed the Communist group’s resolution expressing “complete approval of the foreign and domestic policy of the Soviet Government”. The Left S.R. resolution calling for a vote of no confidence in the Soviet Government, denunciation of the Brest Peace Treaty, and a change in the home and foreign policy of Soviet power was rejected.

Defeated at the Congress, the Left S.R.s resorted to use of force, and on July 6 launched an armed counter-revolutionary insurrection in Moscow. The Congress adjourned until July 9. When it met again to discuss the events of July 6-7, the Congress fully approved the government’s resolute measures to deal with the criminal venture of the Left S.R.s and stated that the Left S.R.s who shared the views of their ruling clique “can have no place in the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies”.

In a resolution on the report by the People’s Commissar for Food A. D. Tsyurupa the Congress endorsed the grain monopoly, stressed the need for resolute suppression of kulak resistance and approved the setting up of the poor peasants’ committees.

At its final session on July 10, the Congress heard a report on the organisation of the Red Army and unanimously approved the Communist group’s resolution outlining essential measures for organising and consolidating the Red Army on the basis of compulsory military service by the working people.

The Congress completed its work with an act of the greatest historical significance. It passed the first Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R., thus legislatively consolidating the gains of the working people of Soviet Russia.

[2] The “previous speaker”. was M. A. Spiridonova, one of the Left S.R. leaders. She had delivered a supplementary report to the Congress on the work of the peasant section of the All-Russia C.E.C., which contained a number of attacks on the policy of the Soviet Government and the Communist Party.

[3] Golos Trudovovo Krestyanstva (Voice of the Labouring Peasantry)—daily newspaper that appeared in Petrograd from the end of November 1917 as the organ of the Executive Committee of the All-Russia Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies, Second Convocation (until December 9 [221 it was known as Izvestia of the All-Russia Peasant Congress). On January 20 (February 2), 1918, it became the organ of the peasant section of the All-Russia C.E.C. Up to July 10, 1918, the paper was controlled by the Left S.R.s. On November 6, 1918, Became the organ of the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture. It continued to appear until May 31, 1919.

[4] The reference is to the Draft Constitution of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, which was submitted for the approval of the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets.

A decisionon pre aration of a draft constitution of the R.S. F.S.R. had been pass11 in January 1918 by the Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets. But the Soviet Government was able to begin work on the draft only after the peaceful breathing-space had been gained. Lenin played a decisive part in drawing up the first Soviet Constitution.

The work of preparing the draft was done by the constitution commission set up by the All-Russia C.E.C. on April 1, 1918, under the chairmanship of Y. M. Sverdlov.

On Sverdlov’s suggestion at a meeting of the All-Russia C.E.C. on June 14 the question of the Soviet Constitution was included on the agenda of the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets. The final drafting of the Constitution for submission to the Congress was entrusted to a commission of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) under the chairmanship of Lenin. On July 3 this commission considered two drafts of the Soviet Constitution-one made by the constitution commission of the All-Russia C.E.C. and another submitted by the People’s Commissariat for Justice. The commission of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) took as the basis for the constitution the draft submitted by the constitution commission of the All-Russia C.E.C., adding some of the proposals put forward by the People’s Commissariat for Justice. On Lenin’s suggestion the following amendments were made: a Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People was included as a preamble to the Constitution; an article on national and racial equality in the Soviet Republic, and articles on the political rights of foreigners resident in the R.S.F.S.R. for purposes of work (Lenin’s “Rough Draft of Point 20 of the Second Section of the Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R.”, which defines their rights) and on the granting of the right of asylum to all foreigners subjected to persecution for their political and religious beliefs (Lenin’s amendments, see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol. 2, 1959, pp. 546-49) were added. The commission of the C.C. of the R.C.P.(B . ) also introduced a number of other important amendments and corrections. The draft passed by the C.C. of the R.C.P.(B.) was submitted for approval by the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets.

On the first day of the Congress Sverdlov proposed setting up a commission to consider the draft Constitution and report on it to the Congress. The commission was formed from among representatives of the various groups; it made a few changes of a stylistic nature, added several articles to the section on budget rights and introduced a new section on the arms and flag of the R.S.F.S.R. At its final session on July 10 the Congress heard the report of the commission on the draft Constitution, after which it unanimously approved the Constitution of the R.S.F.S.R. and entrusted the final work of editing the text to the new All-Russia C.E.C.

On July 19, 1918, the Constitution of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic was published as the Fundamental Law and came into force as from the date of publication.

[5] The reference is to the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission of the Council of People’s Commissars, whose Chairman was F. B. Dzerzhinsky.

The All-Russia Extraordinary Commission (Cheka) was set upon December 7 (20), 1917 by decision of the Council of People’s Commissars for the purpose of “ruthlessly combating counterrevolution, sabotage and profiteering”. As the strong right arm of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Cheka played an enormous part in checking counter-revolutionary sabotage and in protecting the security of the Soviet Republic. Appraising the work of this commission, Lenin pointed out in his report to the Ninth All-Russia Congress of Soviets in December 1921: “... It was our effective weapon against the numerous plots and numerous attacks on Soviet power” (see V. 1. Lenin, Report on Peace, Moscow, p. 262). In its Resolution on the Cheka the Ninth Congress noted the commission’s heroic work in protecting the gains of the October Revolution and, in view of the consolidation of Soviet power, proposed curtailing the commission’s sphere of activity. This resolution reflected proposals made by Lenin in a draft decision of the Political Bureau of the C.C,. of the R.C.P.(B.) on the Cheka, which he wrote on December 1, 1921 (see Lenin Miscellany XXXVI, p. 369). On February 6, 1922 the All-Russia C.E.C. passed a decree abolishing the Cheka.

[6] In the very first months of its existence Soviet rower gave the collective farming enterprises considerable material and financial assistance. Estimates of the Current Land Policy Department of the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture show that in the second half of 1918 fifteen million rubles were assigned to the organisation of agricultural communes and artels in the form of interest free loans. Additionally the government assigned 10 million rubles for the same purpose in July 1918. A decree passed on November 2, 1918 “for the purpose of improving and developing agriculture and bringing about its speediest reorganisation on socialist principles” set up a fund of one thousand million rubles for financial and technical assistance to the labour associations and communes. The actual amount disbursed to communes and artels on the basis of this decree was considerably more than one thousand million rubles.

The collective farms enjoyed great advantages during the distribution of complex agricultural machinery, livestock and farm implements, and seed. State farms and collective farms were given priority by the state agricultural machine-hire points and repair stations that had been set up.

[7] Committee of International Relations was set up by the French Internationalists in January 1916. This was the first attempt to set up in France a revolutionary-internationalist organisation of socialists to counter the social-chauvinist organisations there. Lenin saw the value of the committee’s work in rallying internationalists and on his instructions I. F. Armand took part in the committee’s work.

Thanks to the influence of the October Revolution in Russia and the growing strength of the French working-class movement the committee became a centre for people with revolutionary internationalist views. In 1920 it merged with the French Communist Party.

The manifesto referred to by Lenin was published on June 29, 1918 in Pravda No. 131.

[8] Lenin is referring to a speech by a representative of the S.R.Maximalist group Svetlov.

[9] Lenin has in mind the historic Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars on the Nationalisation of Large-Scale Industry, passed on June 28, 1918 and published on June 30 in Izvestia VtsIK No. 134. “According to a plan that had been outlined long before,” Lenin wrote of this decree, “after extensive preparatory work a decree, whose appearance was impatiently awaited by the masses of the people of Russia was finally published on June 28” (Lenin Miscellany XXXV, p. 27). The decree made all large industrial enterprises public property. In spite of enormous difficulties the work of nationalisation was carried out in a short period thanks to the organising work of the Communist Party and the energetic participation of the workers. By August 31, 1918 there were over 3,000 nationalised enterprises in the country.

Under the same decree, all private railways and also the public utilities (water supply, gasworks, urban transport, etc.) were made public property and put under the control of the local Soviets.