V. I. Lenin

On A Business Like Basis

Written: March 1, 1918
First Published: Pravda No. 38, March 1, 1918; Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 27, 1972, pages 76-77
Translated: Clemans Dutt, Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription\HTML Markup:Robert Cymbala and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

We are witnessing an upsurge of revolutionary enthusiasm called forth by the treacherous assault of the German whiteguards on the Russian revolution. Telegrams are pouring in from everywhere expressing readiness to rise in defence of Soviet power and to fight to the last man. No other attitude on the part of the workers and peasants towards their own workers’ and peasants’ power could have been expected.

But enthusiasm alone is not enough for the conduct of war against such an adversary as German imperialism. A frivolous attitude towards this real, stubborn and bloody war would be the sheerest simple-mindedness, even a crime.

War must be waged in earnest, or not waged at all. There can be no ’middle course. Since the German imperialists are forcing war upon us, it is our sacred duty soberly to weigh our situation, calculate our forces and check up the economic machinery. All this must be done at wartime speed, for any procrastination in our present situation would be truly “similar to death". Hannibal is at the gates-that we must not forget for a single minute.

To wage the war in earnest we need a strong and organised rear. Even the best of armies, even people most sincerely devoted to the revolutionary cause will be immediately exterminated by the enemy, if they are not adequately armed, supplied with food and trained. That is so obvious as to need no explanation.

What is the state of the rear of our revolutionary army? Most deplorable, to say the least. The preceding war has utterly disorganised our transport services; exchange between town and countryside has been disrupted, and the direct and immediate result of this is famine in the large cities.

Our army is radically reshaping itself under the blows of the enemy. The old army, which was familiar with conditions of modern warfare, no longer exists. Utterly worn out by the preceding war, and tired to death by three and a half years in the trenches, it is a nonentity as far as its fighting capacity is concerned. The Red Army is undoubtedly splendid fighting material, but raw and unfinished material. In order that it may not become cannon fodder for the German guns, it must be trained and disciplined.

We are facing colossal difficulties. All local Soviets must immediately, following upon their telegrams announcing readiness to fight the external enemy, report how many truckloads of grain they have dispatched to Petrograd, what number of troops they are in a position to send to the front immediately, and how many Red Army men are undergoing training. Stock must be taken of all arms and shells, and the production of new arms and shells must be resumed immediately. The railways must be cleared of bag-traders and hooligans. The strictest revolutionary discipline must be restored everywhere. Only if all these conditions are observed can we talk of war seriously. Otherwise, all the talk about the “most revolutionary of wars” will be phrase-making. And phrase-mongering, which is always harmful, may at this critical juncture play a fatal role.

I am profoundly convinced that our revolution will cope with the colossal difficulties of the moment. It has already performed an immense work, but if our cause is to be successfully accomplished we must multiply our efforts a hundredfold.

Only then shall we win.