Written:March 13, 1918
First Published: Pravda Nos. 47, 38 & 49 for March 16 through 18, 1918
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pp. 169-201.
Translated: Clemens Dutt Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002
1. Draft Resolution On Wilson’s Message
2. Report On Ratification Of The Peace Treaty, March 14
3. Reply To The Debate On The Report On Ratification Of The Peace Treaty, March 15
4. Resolution On Ratification Of The Brest Treaty
The Congress expresses its gratitude to the American people, and primarily to the working and exploited classes of the United States of America, in connection with President Wilson’s expression of his sympathy for the Russian people through the Congress of Soviets at a time when the Soviet Socialist Republic of Russia is passing through severe trials.
The Russian Soviet Republic, having become a neutral country, takes advantage of the message received from President Wilson to express to all peoples that are perishing and suffering from the horrors of the imperialist war its profound sympathy and firm conviction that the happy time is not far away when the working people of all bourgeois countries will throw off the yoke of capital and establish the socialist system of society, the only system able to ensure a durable and just peace and also culture and well-being for all working people.
Written on March 13 or 16, 1918 Published on March 15, 1918 in Pravda No. 49 Published according to the manuscript
Comrades, today we have to settle a question that marks a turning-point in the development of the Russian revolution, and not only of the Russian but also of the international revolution, and in order to decide correctly on this very harsh peace which representatives of Soviet power have concluded at Brest-Litovsk, and which Soviet power asks you to approve, or ratify—in order to settle this question correctly it is more than ever necessary for us to get an understanding of the historical meaning of the turning-point we are at, an understanding of the main feature of the development of the revolution up to now and the main reason for the severe defeat and the period of stern trials we have passed through.
It seems to me that the chief source of disagreement among the Soviet parties  on this question is that some people too easily give way to a feeling of just and legitimate indignation over the defeat of the Soviet Republic by imperialism, too easily give way at times to despair instead of considering the historical conditions of the revolution as they developed up to the time of the present peace, and as they appear to us since the peace; instead of doing that they try to answer questions of the tactics of the revolution on the basis of their immediate feelings. The entire history of revolutions, however, teaches us that when we have to do with a mass movement or with the class struggle, especially one like that at present developing not only throughout a single country, albeit a tremendous country, but also involving all international relations—in such a case we must base our tactics first and foremost on an appraisal of the objective situation, we must examine analytically the course of the revolution up to this moment and the reason it has taken a turn so menacing and so sharp, and so much to our disadvantage.
If we examine the development of our revolution from that point of view we see clearly that it has so far passed through a period of relative and largely imaginary self-dependence, and of being temporarily independent of international relations. The path travelled by our revolution from the end of February 1917 to February 11 of this year,  when the German offensive began, was, by and large, a path of easy and rapid successes. If we study the development of that revolution on an international scale, from the standpoint of the Russian revolution alone, we shall see that we have passed through three periods in the past year. The first period is that in which the working class of Russia, together with all advanced, class-conscious and active peasants, supported not only by the petty bourgeoisie but also by the big bourgeoisie, swept away the monarchy in a few days. This astounding success is to be explained by the fact that on the one hand, the Russian people had acquired a big reserve of revolutionary fighting potential from the experience of 1905, while on the other hand, Russia, an extremely backward country, had suffered more than any other from the war and had, at an especially early date, reached a stage when it was absolutely impossible to continue the war under the old regime.
This short tempestuous success when a new organisation was created—the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies—was followed by the long months of the period of transition of our revolution, the period in which the government of the bourgeoisie, immediately undermined by the Soviets, was kept going and strengthened by the petty bourgeois compromising parties, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who supported it. It was a government that supported the imperialist war and the imperialist secret treaties, fed the working class on promises, did literally nothing, and preserved the state of economic ruin. The Soviets mustered their forces in this period, a period that for us, for the Russian revolution, was a long one; it was a long period for the Russian revolution but it was a short one from the international point of view, because in most of the leading countries the period of overcoming petty-bourgeois illusions, of compromise by various parties, groups and trends had been taking not months but long decades. The span of time, from April 20 to the moment Kerensky renewed the imperialist war in June (he had the secret imperialist treaty in his pocket), was decisive. This second period included our July defeat and the Kornilov revolt, and only through the experience of the mass struggle, only when the working-class and peasant masses had realised from their own experience and not from sermons that petty-bourgeois compromise was all in vain—only then, after long political development, after long preparations and changes in the moods and views of party groups, was the ground made ready for the October Revolution; only then did the Russian revolution enter the third period of its initial stage, a stage of isolation, or temporary separation, from the world revolution.
This third, or October, period, the period of organisation, was the most difficult; at the same time it was a period of the biggest and most rapid triumphs. After October, our revolution—the revolution that placed power in the hands of the revolutionary proletariat, established its dictatorship and obtained for it the support of the vast majority of the proletariat and the poor peasantry—after October our revolution made a victorious, triumphal advance. Throughout Russia civil war began in the form of resistance by the exploiters, the landowners and bourgeoisie, supported by part of the imperialist bourgeoisie.
Civil war broke out, and in that war the forces of the enemies of Soviet power, the forces of the enemies of the working and exploited masses, proved to be insignificant; the civil war was one continuous triumph for Soviet power because its opponents, the exploiters, the landowners and bourgeoisie, had neither political nor economic support, and their attacks collapsed. The struggle against them was not so much a military operation as agitation; section after section, mass after mass, down to the working Cossacks, abandoned the exploiters who were trying to lead them away from Soviet power.
This period of the victorious, triumphal advance of the dictatorship of the proletariat and Soviet power, when great masses of the working and exploited people of Russia were drawn to the side of Soviet power definitely and irrevocably— this period constituted the final and highest point of development of the Russian revolution, which had been progressing all this time, apparently, independently of world imperialism. That was the reason why a country which was extremely backward and was the most prepared for the revolution by the experience of 1905 was able to promote one class after another to power rapidly, easily and systematically, getting rid of various political alignments until at last that political structure was reached which was the last word, not only in the Russian revolution, but also in the West-European workers’ revolutions, for Soviet power has been consolidated in Russia and has won the absolute sympathy of the working and exploited people because it has destroyed the old state apparatus that was an instrument of oppression and has laid the foundation of a state of a new and higher form of which the Paris Commune was the prototype. The Commune destroyed the old state machine and replaced it by the armed force of the masses themselves, replaced bourgeois parliamentary democracy by the democracy of the working people, which excluded the exploiters and systematically suppressed their resistance.
That is what the Russian revolution did in this period and that is why a small vanguard of the Russian revolution is under the impression that this rapid triumphal advance can be expected to continue in further victory. That is precisely their mistake because the period when the Russian revolution was developing, passing state power in Russia from one class to another and getting rid of class compromise within the bounds of Russia alone—this period-was able to exist historically only because the predatory giants of world imperialism were temporarily halted in their advance against Soviet power. A revolution that overthrew the monarchy in a few days, exhausted all possibilities of compromise with the bourgeoisie in a few months and overcame all the resistance by the bourgeoisie in a civil war of a few weeks, this revolution, the revolution of a socialist republic, could live side by side with the imperialist powers, among the international plunderers, the wild beasts of international imperialism, only so long as the bourgeoisie, locked in mortal struggle with each other, were paralysed in their offensive against Russia.
And then began the period that we feel so keenly and see before our eyes, the period of disastrous defeats and severe trials for the Russian revolution, the period in which the swift, direct and open offensive against the enemies of the revolution is over while in its place we are experiencing disastrous defeats and have to retreat before forces that are immeasurably greater than ours, before the forces of international imperialism and finance capital, before the military might that the entire bourgeoisie with its modern weapons and its organisation has mustered against us in the interests of plunder, oppression and the strangling of small nations; we had to think of bringing our forces up to their level; we had to face a task of tremendous difficulty, that of direct combat with enemies that differed from Romanov and Kerensky who could not be taken seriously; we had to meet the forces of the international imperialist bourgeoisie, all its military might, we had to stand face to face with the world plunderers. In view of the delay in getting help from the international socialist proletariat we naturally had to take upon ourselves a conflict with these forces and we suffered a disastrous defeat.
And this epoch is one of disastrous defeats, an epoch of retreat, an epoch in which we must save at least a small part of our position by retreating before imperialism, by awaiting the time when there will be changes in the world situation in general, when the forces of the European proletariat arrive, the forces that exist and are maturing but which have not been able to deal with their enemy as easily as we did with ours; it would be a very great illusion, a very great mistake, to forget that it was easy for the Russian revolution to begin but difficult for it to take further steps. This was inevitable because we had to begin with the most backward and most rotten political system. The European revolution will have to begin against the bourgeoisie, against a much more serious enemy and under immeasurably more difficult conditions. It will be much more difficult for the European revolution to begin. We see that it is immeasurably more difficult to make the first breach in the system that is holding back the revolution. It will be much easier for the European revolution to advance to the second and third stages. Things cannot be different with the alignment of forces of the revolutionary and reactionary classes that at present obtains in the world. This is the main turn in events that is always overlooked by people who view the present situation, the extremely serious position of the revolution, from the stand point of their own feelings and their indignation, and not from the historical standpoint. Historical experience teaches us that always, in all revolutions, at a time when a revolution takes an abrupt turn from swift victory to severe defeats, there comes a period of pseudo-revolutionary phrase-making that invariably causes the greatest damage to the development of the revolution. And so, comrades, we shall be able to appraise our tactics correctly only when we set out to consider the turn in events that has hurled us back from swift, easy and complete victories to grave defeats. This is an extremely difficult and extremely serious question arising out of the present turning-point in the development of the revolution, the turn from easy victories within the country to exceptionally heavy defeats without; it is also a turning-point in the entire world revolution, a turn from the period of propaganda and agitation on the part of the Russian revolution, with imperialism biding its time, to the offensive of imperialism against Soviet power, and this turn puts a particularly difficult and acute question before the international movement in Western Europe. If we are not to ignore this historical aspect of the situation we must try to understand how Russia’s basic interests in the question of the present harsh, or obscene, as it is called, peace took shape.
When arguing against those who refused to see the need to accept that peace, I have often come up against the statement that the idea of concluding the peace expresses only the interests of the exhausted peasant masses, the declassed soldiers, and so on and so forth. Whenever I hear such statements, whenever I hear such things referred to, I am always amazed that the class aspect of national development is forgotten by comrades—people who limit themselves exclusively to seeking explanations. As though the Party of the proletariat on taking power had not counted on the alliance of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat, i. e., the-poor peasantry (i. e., the majority of the peasantry of Russia), had not known that only such an alliance would be able to hand the government of Russia over to the revolutionary power of the Soviets, the power of the majority, the real majority of the people, and that without this alliance it would be senseless to make any attempt to establish power, especially at difficult turning-points in history! As though we could now abandon this verity that was accepted by all of us and confine ourselves to a contemptuous reference to the exhausted state of the peasantry and the declassed soldiers! With regard to the exhausted state of the peasantry and the declassed soldiers we must say that the country will offer resistance, and that the poor peasants will be able to offer resistance only in so far as those poor peasants are capable of directing their forces to the struggle.
When we were about to take power in October it was obvious that events were inevitably leading up to it, that the turn towards Bolshevism in the Soviets indicated a turn throughout the country, and that the Bolsheviks must inevitably take power. When we, realising this, took power in October, we said to ourselves and to all the people, very clearly and unequivocally, that it was a transfer of power to the proletariat and the poor peasantry, that the proletariat knew the peasantry would support it—you know yourselves in what—in its active struggle for peace and its readiness to continue the fight against big finance capital. In this we are making no mistake, and nobody who sticks to the concept of class forces and class alignments can get away from the indisputable truth that we cannot ask a country of small peasants, a country that has given much for the European and world revolution, to carry on the struggle in a difficult situation, a most difficult situation, when help from the West-European proletariat has undoubtedly been delayed, although there is no doubt that it is coming to us, as the facts, the strikes, etc., show. That is why I say that such references to the exhaustion of the peasant masses, etc., are made by people who simply have no arguments, who are absolutely helpless when they seek such arguments, and who are quite unable to grasp class relations as a whole, in their entirety, the relations of the revolution of the proletariat and of the peasant masses; it is only when, at every sharp turn in history, we appraise the class relations as a whole, the relations of all classes, and do not select individual examples and individual cases, that we feel ourselves firmly supported by an analysis of probable facts. I realise full well that the Russian bourgeoisie are today urging us on towards a revolutionary war when it is absolutely impossible for us to have such a war. This is essential to the class interests of the bourgeoisie.
When they shout about an obscene peace and do not say a word about who brought the army to its present state, I realise quite well that it is the bourgeoisie together with the Dyelo Naroda people, the Tsereteli and Chernov Mensheviks and their yes-men (applause )—I know quite well that it is the bourgeoisie who are bawling for a revolutionary war. Their class interests demand it, their anxiety to see Soviet power make a false move demands it. It is not surprising that this comes from people who, on the one hand, fill the pages of their newspapers with counter-revolutionary scribbling. . . . (Voices : “They’ve all been suppressed!”) Unfortunately, not yet all of them, but we will close them all down. (Applause.) I should like to see the proletariat that would allow the counter-revolutionaries, those who support the bourgeoisie and collaborate with them, to continue using the monopoly of wealth to drug the people with their bourgeois opium. There is no such proletariat. (Applause.)
I realise, of course, that nothing but shouts, howls and screams about an obscene peace comes from those publications, I realise full well that the people who favour this revolutionary war—from the Constitutional-Democrats to the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries—are those who meet the Germans as they advance and say triumphantly, here come the Germans, and then allow their officers, again wearing their badges of rank, to strut about in the places that have been occupied by the German imperialist invaders. Oh no, I am not a bit surprised at these bourgeois, these collaborators, preaching a revolutionary war. They want Soviet power to be caught in a trap. They have shown their hand, these bourgeois and collaborators. We have seen them and can still see live specimens, we know that in the Ukraine there are Ukrainian Kerenskys, Ukrainian Chernovs and Ukrainian Tseretelis—there they are, the Vinnichenkos. Those gentlemen, the Ukrainian Kerenskys, Chernovs and Tseretelis, concealed from the people the peace they concluded with the German imperialists, and today they are trying to overthrow Soviet power in the Ukraine with the help of German bayonets. That is what those bourgeois and those collaborators and their accomplices have done. That is what they have done, those Ukrainian bourgeois and collaborators, whose example you have before your very eyes; they concealed and are still concealing their secret treaties from the people, they are attacking Soviet power with the aid of German bayonets. That is what the Russian bourgeoisie want, that is where the bourgeois yes-men are trying to push Soviet power, wittingly or unwittingly; they know that under no circumstances can Soviet power undertake an imperialist war against the might of imperialism at the present moment. That is why it is only in this international situation, in this general class situation, that we can understand the full depth of the mistake of those who, like the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party, have allowed themselves to be carried away by a theory that is common to the history of all revolutions at moments of difficulty, a theory that is half desperation and half empty phrases; according to this theory, instead of taking a sober view of reality and appraising the tasks of the revolution in respect of the internal and external enemy from the standpoint of class forces, you are asked to settle a serious and very grave problem only under the impact of your feelings, merely from standpoint of feelings. The peace is incredibly harsh and shameful. ln my statements and speeches I have had occasion to liken it to the Peace of Tilsit that the conqueror Napoleon forced on the Prussian and German peoples after a series of heavy defeats. Yes, the peace is a grave defeat and is humiliating to Soviet power, but if you, proceeding from this, and limiting yourselves to it, appeal to feelings and arouse discontent in an attempt to settle a gigantic historical problem, you will get into that ridiculous and pitiful situation into which the Socialist-Revolutionary Party once got itself, when in 1907, in a situation that was somewhat similar in certain respects, that party also appealed to the feelings of revolutionaries, when, after our revolution had suffered heavy defeats in 1906 and 1907, Stolypin presented us with the laws on the Third Duma—shameful and extremely difficult conditions of work in one of the rottenest of representative institutions—when our Party, after brief internal wavering (the wavering on the question was greater than it is today), decided the question in this way: we have no right to give way to feelings; no matter how great our indignation and dissatisfaction with the shameful Third Duma, we have to recognise that it was not chance but the historical necessity of a developing class struggle which lacked the strength to continue but which could muster that strength even in the shameful conditions that have been imposed. We proved to be right. Those who tried to attract people by revolutionary phrases, by appeals to justice (since they were expressing feelings that were trebly legitimate)—those people were given a lesson that will not be forgotten by any revolutionary capable of thought and possessing ideas.
Revolutions do not go smoothly enough to ensure rapid and easy progress. There has never been any great revolution, even on a national scale, that did not experience a hard period of defeat, and the attitude of a revolutionary towards the serious question of mass movements, of developing revolutions, must not be one of declaring the peace obscene and humiliating and then saying he cannot reconcile himself to it; it is not sufficient to quote agitational phrases, to shower reproaches on us because of the peace—that is the known ABC of the revolution, the experience of all revolutions. Our experience since 1905—and if we are rich in anything, if there is any reason why the Russian working class and poor peasantry have taken upon themselves the most difficult and honourable task of beginning the world socialist revolution, it is because the Russian people have been able, owing to specific historical conditions, to make two great revolutions at the beginning of the twentieth century—we have to learn from the experience of those revolutions, we have to learn to understand that only by studying the changes in the class connections between one country and another is it possible to prove definitely that we are in no condition to accept battle at the moment; we have to take this into consideration and say to ourselves, whatever respite we may obtain, no matter how unstable, no matter how brief, harsh and humiliating the peace may be, it is better than war, because it gives the masses a breathing-space, because it provides us with an opportunity to correct what the bourgeoisie have done, the bourgeoisie that are shouting wherever they have an opportunity to shout, especially under the protection of the Germans in the occupied regions.
The bourgeoisie are shouting that the Bolsheviks are responsible for the disintegration of the army, that there is no army and the Bolsheviks are to blame for it; but let us look at the past, comrades, let us look, firstly, at the development of our revolution. Do you not know that desertion and the disintegration of our army began long before the revolution, in 1916, and that everybody who has seen the army will have to admit that? And what did our bourgeoisie do to prevent it? Is it not clear that the only chance for salvation from the imperialists at that time was in their hands, that a chance presented itself in March and April, when Soviet organisations could have taken power by a simple motion of the hand against the bourgeoisie. And if the Soviets had then taken power, if the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, together with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, instead of helping Kerensky deceive the people, conceal the secret treaties and lead the army to an offensive—if they had then come to the aid of the army, had supplied it with munitions and rations and had compelled the bourgeoisie to help the fatherland—not the fatherland of the hucksters, not the fatherland of treaties that help to slaughter the people (applause )—and had themselves participated; if the Soviets had forced the bourgeoisie to help the fatherland of the workers and all working people, and had helped the ragged, barefoot and hungry army, then, perhaps, we should have had a period of ten months, long enough to rest the army and gain unanimous support for it, so that without the army having moved one step from the front a general, democratic peace could have been proposed, the secret treaties could have been torn up and the line held without retreating a single step. There would then have been a chance of peace, which the workers and peasants would have willingly supported and approved. That would have been the tactics of the defence of the fatherland, not the fatherland of the Romanovs, Kerenskys, or Chernovs, a fatherland with secret treaties, a fatherland of the treacherous bourgeoisie—not that fatherland but the fatherland of the working people. That is who is responsible for having made the transition from war to revolution and from the Russian revolution to world socialism a period of severe trials. That is why such proposals as a revolutionary war sound like empty phrases, when we know that we have no army, when we know that it would have been impossible to hold the army, and people with a knowledge of the situation could not help seeing that our decree on demobilisation was not an invention but the result of obvious necessity, because it would have been impossible to hold the army. The army could not have been held. That officer, not a Bolshevik, was right who, before the October Revolution, said that the army could not and would not fight.  This is what has come of months of bargaining with the bourgeoisie and of all the speeches about the need to continue the war; no matter what noble sentiments on the part of many revolutionaries, or of few revolutionaries, may have dictated them, they proved to be empty revolutionary phrases that played into the hands of international imperialism so that it could plunder as much again and more, just as it has been doing since our tactical or diplomatic error, since the time we did not sign the Brest Treaty. When we told those who opposed concluding peace that if we had a respite of any length they would realise that the recuperation of the army and the interests of the working people were more important than anything else, and that peace should have been concluded for this reason—they maintained that there could be no respite.
But our revolution differs from all previous revolutions in having aroused among the masses a desire to build and create, and the working people in the most out-of-the-way villages, people humiliated, downtrodden and oppressed by tsars, landowners, and bourgeoisie, have been aroused; this is a period of the revolution that is only now being accomplished, now that the rural revolution is under way, the revolution that is building a new way of life. And for the sake of this respite, no matter how brief and how small it may be, it was our duty to sign the treaty, since we place the interests of the working people above the interests of the bourgeois warriors who rattle their sabres and call on us to fight. That is what the revolution teaches. The revolution teaches that when we make diplomatic mistakes, when we assume that the German workers will come to our aid tomorrow, when we hope that Liebknecht will be victorious immediately (and we know that one way or another Liebknecht will win, that is inevitable in the development of the working-class movement [applause]), it means that, when used unthinkingly, the revolutionary slogans of the difficult socialist movement turn into empty phrases. There is not a single representative of the working people, there is not a single honest worker who would refuse to make the greatest sacrifice to help the socialist movement of Germany, because during all this time at the front he has learned to distinguish between the German imperialists and the soldiers tormented by German discipline, most of whom are in sympathy with us. That is why I say that the Russian revolution has corrected our mistake in practice, has corrected it by giving us the respite. It is very probable that it will be an extremely brief one, but we have the chance of at least a brief respite in which the army, worn out and hungry as it is, will become conscious of the fact that it has been given an opportunity to recuperate. It is clear to us that the period of the old imperialist wars is over and we are threatened with the further horrors of an outbreak of fresh wars, but there have been such periods of war in many historical epochs, and they have always become most fierce towards the end. This must be understood, not only at meetings in Petrograd and Moscow; it must be understood by the many tens of millions in the countryside; and the more enlightened part of the rural population, those returning from the front, those who have experienced the horrors of war, must help them understand it; the huge masses of peasants and workers must become convinced of the necessity for a revolutionary front—they will then say we have acted correctly.
They tell us we have betrayed the Ukraine and Finland—what disgrace! But the situation that bas arisen is such that we are cut off from Finland, with whom we concluded an unwritten treaty before the revolution and have now concluded a formal treaty. They say we are surrendering the Ukraine, which Chernov, Kerensky and Tsereteli are going to ruin; they say we are traitors, we have betrayed the Ukraine! I say: Comrades, I’ve seen enough of the history of revolution not to be embarrassed by the hostile glances and shouts of people who give way to their feelings and are incapable of clear judgement. I will give you a simple example. Suppose that two friends are out walking at night and they are attacked by ten men. If the scoundrels isolate one of them, what is the other to do? He cannot render assistance, and if he runs away is he a traitor? And suppose that it is not a matter of individuals or of spheres in which questions of direct feelings are being settled, but of five armies, each a hundred-thousand strong, that surround an army of two hundred thousand, and that there is another army that should come to the embattled army’s assistance. But if that second army knows that it is certain to fall into a trap, it should withdraw; it must withdraw, even if the retreat has to be covered by the conclusion of an obscene, foul peace—curse as much as you like, but it is necessary to conclude the peace. There is no reason for considering the feelings of a duelist who draws his sword and says that he must die because he is being compelled to conclude a humiliating peace. But we all know that, however we may decide, we have no army, and no gestures will save us from the necessity of withdrawing to gain time and enable our army to recuperate; everybody who looks reality in the face and does not deceive himself with revolutionary phrase-making will agree with this. Anyone who faces the facts without blinding himself with phrase-making and arrogance must know this.
If we know this, it is our revolutionary duty to conclude even this harsh, super-harsh and rapacious treaty, for by so doing we shall reach a better position for ourselves and for our allies. Did we actually lose anything by concluding the peace treaty of March 3? Anyone who wants to look at things from the point of view of mass relations, and not from that of the aristocratic duelist, will realise that without an army, or having only the sick remnant of an army, it would be self-deception, it would he the greatest deception of the people, to accept battle and call it a revolutionary war. It is our duty to tell the people the truth; yes, the peace is a harsh one. The Ukraine and Finland are perishing but we must accept this peace and all class-conscious working people in Russia will accept it because they know the unvarnished truth, they know the meaning of war, they know that to stake everything on one card on the assumption that the German revolution will begin immediately is self-deception. By concluding peace we have obtained what we gave our Finnish friends—a respite, help and not destruction.
I know of examples from history of much more rapacious peace treaties having been concluded, treaties that surrendered viable nations to the mercy of the conqueror. Let us compare our peace to the Peace of Tilsit; the Peace of TiIsit was enforced on Prussia and Germany by a conqueror. That peace was so harsh that not only were all the capital cities of all the German states seized, not only were the Prussians thrown back to Tilsit, which would be the same as throwing us back to Omsk or Tomsk; not only that—the worst of all was that Napoleon compelled the conquered peoples to supply him with auxiliary troops for his wars; but nevertheless, when the situation became such that the German peoples had to withstand the attacks of the conquer or, when the epoch of revolutionary wars in France gave place to the epoch of imperialist wars of conquest, then came the revelation which those people who wax enthusiastic over empty phrases do not want to understand, those people, that is, who picture the conclusion of peace as a downfall. This psychology is understandable in an aristocratic duelist but not in a worker or peasant. The latter has been through the hard school of war and has learned to calculate. There have been even greater trials, and nations even more backward have come through them. Harsher peace treaties have been concluded, the Germans concluded one in an epoch when they had no army, or when their army was sick like ours. They concluded a very harsh peace with Napoleon. But that peace was not the downfall of Germany—on the contrary, it was the turning-point, national defence, renewal. We are on the eve of just such a turning-point and are experiencing analogous conditions. We must look truth in the face and banish all empty phrases and declarations. We must say, peace, if it is necessary, must be concluded. The war of liberation, the class war, the war of the people will take the place of the Napoleonic wars. The system of the Napoleonic wars will change, war will give place to peace and peace to war, and from every harsh peace there has always emerged a more extensive preparation for war. The harshest of peace treaties—the Peace of Tilsit—has gone down in history as a turning-point towards the time when the German people began to swing round; when they retreated to Tilsit, to Russia, they were actually gaining time, waiting for the international situation that had, at one time, favoured Napoleon—he was another plunderer like Hohenzollern or Hindenburg—waiting until the situation changed, until the mentality of the German people, tormented by decades of Napoleonic wars and defeats, had recuperated and the German people were resuscitated. That is what history teaches us, that is why all despair and empty phrases are criminal, that is why everyone will say yes, the old imperialist wars are ending—an historical turning-point has come.
Our revolution has been one long triumph since October, and now the lengthy times of hardship have come, we do not know for how long, but we do know that it will be a long and difficult period of defeats and retreats, because the alignment of forces is what it is, because by retreating we shall give the people a chance to recuperate. We shall make it possible for every worker and peasant to realise the truth that will enable him to understand that new wars waged by the imperialist plunderers against the oppressed peoples are beginning, and every worker and peasant will realise that we must rise in defence of the fatherland, because we have been defencists since October. Since October 25 we have said openly that we stand for the defence of the fatherland, because we have a fatherland, the one from which we have driven the Kerenskys and Chernovs, because we have torn up the secret treaties, because we have crushed the bourgeoisie—badly so far, but we shall learn to do it better.
Comrades, there is another important difference between the condition of the German people and of the Russian people who have suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the German invaders—there is a tremendous difference that must be mentioned, although I have already touched upon it briefly in the preceding part of my speech. Comrades, when the German people, over a hundred years ago, entered a period of the most cruel wars of conquest, a period when they had to retreat and conclude one shameful treaty after another before they were awakened—at that time the German people were weak and backward, just that and nothing more. They had against them not only the military forces and the might of the conqueror Napoleon, they had against them a country that was far above Germany in the revolutionary and political sense and in every other respect, a country that had risen far above all others, a country that had reached the top. That country was far above the people who were languishing in subjection to the imperialists and landowners. A people that, I repeat, had been nothing but a weak and backward people, managed to learn from its bitter lessons and to raise itself up. We are in a better position; we are not merely a weak and backward people, we are the people who have been able—not because of any special services or of historical predestination, but because of a definite conjunction of historical circumstances—who have been able to accept the honour of raising the banner of the international socialist revolution. (Applause.)
I am well aware, comrades, that the banner is in weak hands, I have said that outright several times already, and the workers of the most backward country will not be able to hold that banner unless the workers of all advanced countries come to their aid. The socialist reforms that we have accomplished are far from perfect, they are weak and insufficient; they will serve as a guide to the advanced West-European workers who will say to themselves, “The Russians haven’t made a very good beginning on the job that has to be done”; the important thing is that our people are not merely a weak and backward people as compared with the Germans, they are the people who have raised the banner of revolution. Although the bourgeoisie of any country you like are filling the columns of their press with slander of the Bolsheviks, although the voice of the imperialist press in France, Britain, Germany, etc., curses the Bolsheviks in unison, you will not find a meeting of workers in any country at which the names and slogans of our socialist government give rise to bursts of indignation. (Voice : ’That’s a lie!”) No, it is not, it is the truth, and anyone who has been in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or America during the past few months will tell you it is the truth and not a lie, that the names and slogans of representatives of Soviet power in Russia are greeted with the greatest enthusiasm by the workers and that, despite all the lies of the bourgeoisie of Germany, France, etc., the working-class masses have realised that no matter how weak we may be, their cause is being served here in Russia. Yes, our people have a very heavy burden to bear, the burden they have themselves taken up; but a people that has been able to establish Soviet power cannot perish. Again I repeat—there is not a single politically conscious socialist, not a single worker among those who think over the history of the revolution, who can dispute the fact that Soviet power— despite all the defects that I know only too well and fully appreciate—is the highest type of state, the direct successor to the Paris Commune. It has ascended a step higher than the other European revolutions so that we are not experiencing the difficult conditions that the German people experienced a hundred years ago; the change in the balance of forces among the plunderers, taking advantage of the conflict and satisfying the demands of plunderer Napoleon, plunderer Alexander I and the plundering British monarchy—that was the only thing left, the one chance, for the German people, oppressed by feudalism; and yet the German people did not perish from the Peace of Tilsit. But we, I say again, have better conditions, we have a powerful ally in all West-European countries, the international socialist proletariat, the proletariat that is on our side no matter what our enemies may say. (Applause.) True, it is not easy for that ally to raise his voice, any more than it was easy for us until the end of February 1917. That ally is living in the underground, under conditions of the military prison into which all imperialist countries have been turned, but he knows us and understands our cause; it is difficult for him to come to our aid, and Soviet troops, therefore, will need much time and patience and will have to go through many trials before the time comes when he will aid us—we shall use even the slightest chance of procrastination, for time is working on our side. Our cause is gaining strength, the forces of the imperialists are weakening, and no matter what trials and defeats may emerge from the “Tilsit” peace, we are beginning the tactics of withdrawal and, once more I say it, there is no doubt the politically-conscious proletariat and, likewise, the politically-conscious peasants are on our side, and we shall be able not only to make heroic at tacks, but also to make a heroic retreat and we shall wait until the international socialist proletariat comes to our aid and shall then begin a second socialist revolution that will be world-wide in its scope. (Applause.)
Pravda (Sotsial-Demokrat ) Nos. 47 and 48, March 16 and 17, 1918; Published according to the verbatim report, collated with the Pravda text
Comrades, had I desired to find a confirmation of what was said in my first speech about the nature of the revolutionary war that was proposed to us, the best and clearest confirmation would have been given me by the report of the representative of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. I think it will be most expedient if I quote his speech from the verbatim report and we shall see what arguments they adduce in confirmation of their propositions.
Here is a specimen of the arguments on which they rely. There has been talk here of the volost gathering. Those who consider this meeting a volost gathering can resort to such arguments, but it is clear that these people are repeating our words but are incapable of thinking them out. People repeat what the Bolsheviks taught the Left S.R.s when the latter were still among the Rights, and when they speak it is evident that they have learnt by rote what we said, but they have not understood on what it was based, and now they repeat it. Tsereteli and Chernov were defencists, and now we are defencists, we are “traitors”, we are “betrayers”. The accomplices of the bourgeoisie speak here about a volost gathering—they make eyes when they say this—but every worker understands very well the aims of the defencism by which Tsereteli and Chernov were guided and the grounds which cause us to be defencists.
If we were to support the Russian capitalists who wanted to be given the Dardanelles, Armenia and Galicia, as it was written in the secret treaty, that would be defencism in the spirit of Chernov and Tsereteli, and that defencism was disgraceful then, but now our defencism is honourable. (Applause.)
And when, alongside such arguments, in the verbatim report of Kamkov’s speech I find twice repeated the statement that the Bolsheviks are agents of German imperialism (applause from the Right ), a harsh term—I am very glad that all those who pursued Kerensky’s policy emphasise it by their applause. (Applause. ) And indeed, of course, it is not for me to object to harsh words. I shall never raise any objection to that. Only, in order to be harsh one must have the right to be so, and the right to be harsh is given by one’s words not differing from one’s deeds. That is the little condition which many intellectuals do not appreciate, but which the workers and peasants have grasped even at volost gatherings—it is such a meagre thing, the volost gathering—they have grasped it both at volost gatherings and in Soviet organisations, and their word does not differ from their deed. But we are very well aware that they, the Left S.R.s, remained in the party of the Right S.R.s until October, during the time when the latter were sharing the rewards of office, when they acted as agents because they had been promised ministerial posts in return for keeping silent about the secret treaties. (Applause.) But it is quite impossible to call agents of imperialism people who actually proclaimed war against it, tore up the treaties and undertook the risk that this involved, undertook to drag out the negotiations in Brest, knowing that this would ruin the country, endured the military attack and a series of unprecedented defeats, and did not conceal the slightest thing from the people.
Martov has assured us here that he has not read the treaty. Let those who like to, believe him. We know that these people are accustomed to read a lot of newspapers, but they have not read the treaty. (Applause.) Let those who wish, believe it. But I tell you that, while the party of the S.R.s knows very well that we are giving way in the face of violence, which has been fully exposed by us, that we are doing so deliberately, frankly saying that we are unable to fight just now but are giving way—history. knows of a number of most shameful treaties and a number of wars—when people in reply to this produce the word “agents”, this harshness exposes them, and when they assure us that they disclaim responsibility for what they are doing—is it not hypocrisy, when people disclaim responsibility but continue to be in the government? I maintain that when they say that they disclaim responsibility—they do not divest themselves of it, and they are quite wrong in thinking this is a volost gathering. No, this is everything that is honest and best among the working masses. (Applause.) This is no bourgeois parliament to which people are elected once or twice a year to take their seats and receive a salary. These are people sent from the provinces and tomorrow they will be in the provinces and will relate that if the party of Left S.R.s is losing votes, it deserves to, because the party which acts in this way is the same soap bubble among the peasantry as it proved to be among the working class. (Applause, voices: “Quite right.”)
Further, I will quote you one more passage from Kamkov’s speech to show how every representative of the working and exploited people reacts to it. “When yesterday Comrade Lenin asserted here that Comrades Tsereteli and Chernov and others had demoralised the army, can we really not find the courage to say that Lenin and I also demoralised the army?” He is a long way wide of the mark. (Applause.) He has heard that we were defeatists, and he has recalled this when we have ceased to be defeatists. He has recalled it at the wrong time. They have learnt the word by heart, they have a revolutionary-sounding toy rattle to play with, but they are incapable of giving some thought to the actual state of affairs. (Applause.) I assert that out of a thousand volost gatherings where Soviet power has been consolidated, in more than nine hundred there are people who will tell the Party of Left S.R.s that they do not deserve any confidence. They will say—all right; we demoralised the army and we must recall that now. But how did we demoralise the army? We were defeatists at the time of the tsar, but at the time of Tsereteli and Chernov we were not defeatists. We published in Pravda a proclamation which Krylenko, who was then still being persecuted, addressed to the army: “Why I am going to Petrograd.” He said: “We are not calling on you for mutinies.” That was not demoralisation of the army. Those who declared this war to be a great war were the ones who demoralised the army.
It was Tsereteli and Chernov who demoralised the army because they spoke grand words to the people, words which many Left Socialist-Revolutionaries were accustomed to throw out at random. It is easy to play with words, but the Russian people at volost gatherings are accustomed to think over them and take them seriously. If, however, the people were told that we were striving for peace and discussing the conditions of the imperialist war, then I ask: and what about the secret treaties and the June offensive? That is how they demoralised the army. If they spoke to the people about the struggle against the imperialists, about defence of the homeland, the people asked themselves: do they seize the capitalists by the scruff of the neck somewhere?—that is how they demoralised the army, and that is why I said, and no one has refuted it, it would have been the salvation of the army if we had taken power in March or April, and if instead of the furious hatred of the exploiters because we suppressed them—they quite justifiably hate us—if instead of this they had put the interests of the homeland of the working and exploited people higher than the interests of the homeland of Kerensky and Ryabushinsky’s secret treaties, and of designs on Armenia, Galicia and the Dardanelles, that would have spelt salvation. And in this connection—beginning with the great Russian Revolution, and especially from March, when a half-hearted appeal to the peoples of all countries was issued—the government, which issued the appeal that called for the overthrow of the bankers of all countries, was itself sharing profits and favours with the bankers—that is what demoralised the army and why the army could not keep going. (Applause.)
And I assert that we—beginning from this appeal of Krylenko’s, which was not the first,  and which I am recalling because it stuck in my mind—we did not demoralise the army but said: hold the front—the sooner you take power the easier will it be to retain it, and to say now: we are against civil war and for an uprising—how unworthy this is and how despicable this chatter of some people. When this reaches the countryside and when the soldiers there, who have seen war not as the intellectuals have, and who know that it is easy to wave only a cardboard sword, when they say that at the critical moment they, unshod, badly clothed and suffering, were helped by being driven into an offensive—they are now being told that it doesn’t matter that there will be no army, there will be an uprising instead. To drive the people against a regular army with superior technical equipment—that is criminal, and we, as socialists, taught that it is so. Indeed, the war taught a great deal, not only that people suffered, but also that those who have the greatest technical equipment, organisation and discipline, and the best machines, will gain the upper hand; the war taught this, and it is excellent that it did so. It has to be learnt that it is impossible to live in modern society without machines, without discipline—one has either to master modern techniques or be crushed. Years of most painful suffering have taught the peasants what war is. And when anyone goes speech-making at the volost gatherings, when the party of Left S.R.s goes there, they will receive well-merited punishment. (Applause.)
One more example, another quotation from Kamkov’s speech. (He reads it.)
It is sometimes surprisingly easy to raise questions; only there is a saying—an impolite, rude one—which refers to such questions—I’m afraid I can’t change the proverb—I will remind you of it: one fool can ask more questions than ten wise men can answer.
Comrades, in the quotation I have just read out I am invited to answer the question: will the respite last one week, two weeks, or will it last more? I assert that at any volost gathering or at any factory a person who in the name of a serious party comes out with such a question will be laughed at by the people and chased away, because at any volost gathering they will understand that there is no point in raising questions about something that cannot be known. That will be understood by any worker and peasant. (Applause.) If you absolutely insist on an answer, I will tell you that of course any Left S.R. who writes in the newspapers or speaks at meetings will say what this duration depends on: it depends on when Japan attacks, with what forces, and what resistance it encounters; on the extent to which the Germans get into difficulties in Finland, in the Ukraine; on when the offensive on all fronts begins; on how it develops; on the further course of the internal conflict in Austria and Germany, and on many other things as well. (Applause.)
Therefore, when at a serious meeting people with an air of triumph raise the question: answer me, what kind of a respite will it be?—I say that such people will be chased out of workers’ and peasants’ meetings by those who understand that after three years of war torment, every week of respite is a very great boon. (Applause.) And I assert that whatever the abuse now heaped on us here, if tomorrow all the abusive terms addressed to us from the Rights, almost-Rights, near-Rights, Left S.R.s, Cadets, and Mensheviks were collected together and published, even if some hundreds of poods were the result, as far as I am concerned all this would weigh as light as a feather compared with the fact that among us in the Bolshevik group nine-tenths of its representatives have said: we know war and we see that now, when we have secured this short respite, it is an advantage for the recovery of our sick army. And at every peasant meeting nine-tenths of the peasants will say what everyone who concerns himself with the matter knows, and when able to help in any way we have not rejected and do not reject any practical proposal.
We have gained the possibility of a respite, even if only for twelve days, thanks to the policy which has countered revolutionary phrase-making and “public” opinion. When Kamkov and the Left S.R.s play a game with you and make eyes at you, then, on the one hand, they are making eyes at you and, on the other, they are saying to the Constitutional-Democrats: put that down in our favour, indeed, we are heart and soul with you. (Voice from the hall : “It’s a lie.”) And when one of the representatives of the S.R.s, apparently not even of the Lefts, but of the super-Lefts, a Maximalist, spoke about phrase-making, he said that phrase-making was everything that concerned honour. (A voice : “Quite right.”) Well, of course, in the Right-wing camp they call out “quite right”; this exclamation is pleasanter to me than the exclamation “it’s a lie”, although that does not impress me in the slightest either. But if I were to accuse them of phrase-making without giving any clear and precise confirmation of it, but the fact is I quoted two examples and I took them not from my imagination but from actual occurrence.
Remember, were not the representatives of the S.R.s in the same situation when in 1907 they gave their signatures to Stolypin that they would faithfully and truly serve the Emperor Nicholas II? I hope that I have learnt something from the long years of the revolution, and when I am defamed by accusations of treachery, I say: one must first of all be able to find one’s way in history. If we wanted to alter the course of history and it turns out that it was we who altered course and not history—then execute us. History is not to be convinced by speeches, and history will show that we were right, that we brought the workers’ organisations into the Great October Revolution of 1917, but only thanks to the fact that we rose above phrase-making and knew how to look at the facts, to learn from them. And when now, on March 14-15, it has become clear that if we had fought we should have helped imperialism, we should have finally wrecked the transport system and lost Petrograd—we see that to play with words and wave a cardboard sword is useless. But when Kamkov comes to me and asks “will this respite be for long?”, it is impossible to give an answer because internationally there has not been an objective revolutionary situation. There cannot be a long respite for reaction now because the objective situation is everywhere revolutionary, because everywhere the working-class masses are indignant, are at the limit of their patience, at the limit of exhaustion from the war; that is a fact. It is impossible to escape from this fact, and therefore I have been proving to you that there was a period when the revolution went ahead and we went in front and the Left S.R.s stepped out perkily behind us. (Applause.) But now a period has begun when we have to retreat in the face of overwhelming force. That is an absolutely concrete description. No one will rebut me on this. Historical analysis is bound to confirm it. Here you have our Marxist, almost Marxist, Martov, speaking ill of the volost gathering; he speaks ill of the closing down of newspapers; he boasts that the oppressed and offended newspapers were closed down because they were helping to overthrow Soviet power, he speaks ill of. . . About this he does not keep silent. Such things he sets before you, but an attempt to answer the historical question put point-blank by me, whether it is the truth or not that since October we have made a triumphant advance. . . . (Voices from the Right : “No.”) You say “no”, but all these say “yes”. I ask: can we now make a victorious advance in an offensive against world imperialism. We cannot, and everyone knows it. When this, a frank simple statement, is made forthrightly in order to teach people revolution—revolution is a profound, difficult and complex science—in order to teach both the workers and the peasants, the people who are making the revolution, how to do so, our enemies cry out: cowards, traitors, the flag has been abandoned; they fall back on words, they wave their arms. No. The whole history of revolutions has shown many such revolutionary phrase-mongers and nothing is left of them but stench and smoke. (Applause.)
Another example I cited, comrades, was that of Germany, of Germany which was crushed by Napoleon, of Germany which witnessed shameful peace alternating with wars. I am asked: are we going to observe the treaties for a long time? If it were a three-year-old child who asked me: are you going to observe the treaty or not?—it would be both pleasant and naïve. But when grown-up Kamkov of the party of Left S.R.s asks it, I know a few adult workers and peasants will believe in the naïveté, but the majority of them will say: “Stop being hypocritical.” For the historical example I cited shows as clearly as can be that emancipatory wars of peoples that have lost an army—and that has happened more than once—of peoples crushed to the extent of complete loss of all their territory, crushed to such an extent that they have surrendered auxiliary corps to the conqueror for new annexationist campaigns—cannot be struck out of history, and can in no way be erased. If, however, the Left S.R. Kamkov, in rebutting me, said, as I saw in the verbatim report: “In Spain, however, there were revolutionary wars,” he thereby confirmed what I am saying, indeed he hit out at himself. Spain and Germany precisely confirm my example that to decide the question of the historical period of annexationist wars on the basis of “are you going to observe the treaty and, when you violate it, when will they catch you. . . ?” is indeed worthy of children. History tells us that every treaty results from a cessation of struggle and a change in the relationship of forces, that there have been peace treaties which were shattered in a few days, that there have been peace treaties which were shattered after a month, that there were periods of many years when Germany and Spain concluded peace and violated it after a few months, violated it several times, and in a series of wars the peoples learnt what waging war means. When Napoleon led German armies in order to strangle other peoples he taught them revolutionary war. Such was the course of history.
That is why I tell you, comrades, that I am deeply convinced that the decision adopted by nine-tenths of our Bolshevik group will be approved by nine-tenths of all the politically-conscious working people of Russia—workers and peasants. (Applause.)
We have a means of checking whether I spoke the truth or whether I am mistaken, for you will go into the provinces and each one of you will report to the local Soviets, and everywhere there will be local decisions. I will say in conclusion: do not succumb to provocation. The bourgeoisie knows what it is doing, the bourgeoisie knows why it rejoiced in Pskov, rejoiced recently in Odessa, the bourgeoisie of the Vinnichenkos, of the Ukrainian Kerenskys, of Tsereteli and Chernov. It rejoiced because it understood perfectly what a tremendous mistake in diplomacy, in taking account of the situation, Soviet power had committed by trying to wage war with a fleeing, sick army. The bourgeoisie is trying to draw you into the pitfall of war. One has not only to attack but also to retreat. Every soldier knows that. Realise that the bourgeoisie is trying to draw both you and us into a trap. Realise that the whole bourgeoisie and all its voluntary and involuntary accomplices are setting this trap. You will be able to endure the most severe defeats and to maintain the most difficult positions, and by retreating to gain time. Time is on our side. The imperialists, having glutted themselves, will burst, and in their womb a new giant is developing; it is growing more slowly than we should like, but it is growing, it will come to our aid, and when we see that it is beginning to strike its first blow, we shall say: the time for retreat has come to an end, the era of the world offensive and the era of the victory of the world socialist revolution is beginning. (Stormy applause, continuing for a long time.)
Pravda No. 49, March 16, 1918; Published according to the verbatim report, collated with the Pravda text
The Congress confirms (ratifies) the peace treaty signed by our representatives at Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918.
The Congress recognises as correct the actions of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars in deciding to conclude the present incredibly harsh, rapacious and humiliating peace in view of our having no army and of the extreme war weariness of the people, who in their distress have received no support from the bourgeoisie and bourgeois intelligentsia, but have seen that distress made use of for selfish class purposes.
The Congress also recognises the undoubted correctness of the actions of the peace delegation that refused to enter into a detailed discussion on the German peace terms, because those terms were imposed on us in the form of an obvious ultimatum and by undisguised force.
The Congress most insistently urges upon all workers, soldiers and peasants, all the working and oppressed masses, the main, immediate and most urgent task of the moment—the improvement of the discipline and self-discipline of the working people; the creation throughout the country of strong, well-founded organisations that cover, as far as possible, all production and distribution; a ruthless struggle against the chaos, disorganisation and economic ruin which are historically inevitable as the legacy of a most agonising war, but which are, at the same time, the main obstacle to the complete victory of socialism and the strengthening of the foundations of socialist society.
Today, after the October Revolution, after the overthrow of the political power of the bourgeoisie in Russia, after our denunciation and publication of all secret imperialist treaties, after the cancellation of the foreign loans, after the workers’ and peasants’ government has proposed a just peace to all peoples without exception, Russia, having escaped from the clutches of the imperialist war, has the right to announce that she is not a participant in the plunder and suppression of other countries.
The Russian Soviet Federative Republic, having unanimously condemned predatory wars, from now on deems it its right and its duty to defend the socialist fatherland against all possible attacks by any of the imperialist powers.
The Congress therefore deems it the unconditional duty of all working people to muster all forces to re-establish and improve the defence potential of our country, to re-establish its military strength on the basis of a socialist militia and the universal military training of all adolescents and adults of both sexes.
The Congress expresses its absolute confidence that Soviet power, which has valiantly fulfilled all the obligations of the international solidarity of the workers of all countries in their struggle for socialism against the yoke of capital, will in future do everything possible to promote the international socialist movement, to secure and shorten the road leading mankind to deliverance from the yoke of capital and from wage slavery, to the creation of a socialist society and to an enduring, just peace between the peoples.
The Congress is firmly convinced that the international workers’ revolution is not far away, that the full victory of the socialist proletariat is assured despite the fact that the imperialists of all countries do not hesitate to use the most brutal means for the suppression of the socialist movement.
Pravda (Sotsial-Demokrat) No. 47, March 16, 1918 Published according to the Pravda text, collated with the manuscript
1. Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets, which was held to decide the question of the ratification of the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, was held in Moscow from March 14 to 16, 1918. On March 13 this question was discussed by the Communist group of the Congress; Lenin spoke at the meeting (for the secretarial record of this speech see Lenin Miscellany XI, pp. 68-70). By 453 votes to 36 the group approved the signing of the treaty. Not all the delegates had arrived at the time and the group was not present in full strength.
According to the minutes, the Congress was attended by 1,232 delegates with a vote; they included 795 Bolsheviks, 283 Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, 25 Socialist-Revolutionaries of the Centre, 21 Mensheviks, and 11 Menshevik-Internationalists. The questions on the agenda were: ratification of the peace treaty; transfer of the capital; election of the All-Russia C.E.C. After a statement on the peace treaty by G. V. Chicherin, People’s Deputy Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Lenin gave the report on the main question on the agenda on behalf of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee; the second report on behalf of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries against ratification of the treaty was given by B. D. Kamkov.
The Mensheviks, Right and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, Maximalists, anarchists and others put up a solid front against ratification of the treaty. After a keen debate a signed vote was taken and the Congress adopted Lenin’s resolution in favour of ratification by an overwhelming majority. There were 784 votes in favour, 261 against and 115 delegates abstained. In connection with the ratification of the Brest Treaty the Left S.R.s withdrew from the Council of People’s Commissars. The “Left Communists” refused to take part in the voting and stated in a special declaration that the conclusion of peace would undermine the country’s defence and the gains of the revolution. By refusing to vote, the “Left Communists” violated the decisions of the Seventh Party Congress and the Communist group of the Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets and the decision taken by the Central Committee, which met while the Congress was on, that there should be no action against the decisions of the Party.
The Congress passed a resolution on the transfer of the capital of the Soviet state to Moscow and elected a Central Executive Committee consisting of 200 members.
The decision of the Congress on ratification of the peace treaty was approved by the local Soviets, the Party organisations and the working people at numerous meetings and conferences held at the time.
2. The draft resolution was written by Lenin in reply to a message from Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, in which he tried, by expressing sympathy he probably did not feel for the Russian people over the German occupation of the Baltic States, Byelorussia and the Ukraine, to influence the decision of the Congress and prevent Soviet Russia from ratifying the peace treaty with Germany. The draft resolution was read out by Y. M. Sverdlov and approved by the Congress.
3. The reference is to the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties, which were represented in the Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, however, soon took the path of direct counter-revolution and on June 14, 1918 the All-Russia C.E.C. passed a decision expelling the counter-revolutionary Socialist-Revolutionaries (the Rights and the Centre) and the Mensheviks from the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the local Soviets. The decision was published on June 18 in Izvestia VTsIK No. 123.
4. Lenin appears to connect the new turn in the development of the revolution with February 10, when Germany broke off peace negotiations in Brest-Litovsk. The German action was facilitated by L. D. Trotsky’s refusal to conclude peace on the terms proposed by the German imperialists. Lenin also mentions this date in the plan he made for his report to the Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets on ratification of the Brest Treaty. In another document, the plan for his speech at a meeting of the Communist group of the Congress of Soviets, Lenin defines the turning point in the development of the revolution as February 17. The German offensive along the whole front began on February 18, 1918.
5. Lenin has in mind the speech at the meeting of the Petrograd Soviet on September 21 (October 4), 1917 by Dubasov, an army officer who had returned from the front. Describing the mood of the soldiers, Dubasov stated that they wanted only one thing, an end to the war, and that they would not go on fighting.
6. The reference is to the Treaty between the Russian and Finnish Socialist Republics, the first treaty in history between socialist countries. In the middle of February 1918, the revolutionary government of the Finnish republic proposed a treaty of friendship to the Soviet Government. The Russia-Finland Co-ordinative Commission was formed to draw up the treaty and its draft was discussed at several meetings of the Council of People’s Commissars, Lenin making several amendments to it. The treaty was signed on March 1 by a special commission headed by Lenin. It was endorsed by the Council of People’s Commissars and published on March 10, 1918 in Izvestia VTsIK No. 45 (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol: 1, 1957, pp. 503-10). Based on recognition of the state sovereignty of Finland, the treaty provided evidence of the Soviet Government’s consistent adherence to the principle of the right of nations to self-determination.
7. Lenin is referring to the second report, by B. D. Kamkov, on the question of ratification of the peace treaty.
8. In his speech at the Congress the Menshevik L. Martov claimed that the contents of the treaty were not known to the Congress delegates and compared them to peasants at a volost gathering, forced by the local authorities to sign papers without knowing what was in them.
9. Lenin is referring to the appeal of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies “To the Peoples of the Whole World”, which was published in the leading newspapers on March 15 (28), 1917. For an appraisal of this half-hearted Menshevik-Socialist-Revolutionary appeal see Lenin’s speech on war, delivered June 9 (22) 1917 at the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets (present edition, Vol. 25, pp. 29-42).
10. The Appeal to the Soldiers of All the Belligerent Countries was the first appeal written by Lenin on behalf of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, the St. Petersburg Committee and the editorial board of Pravda (see present edition, Vol. 24, pp. 186-88).
11. When the resolution on ratification of the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was put to the vote at the Communist group of the Extraordinary Fourth All-Russia Congress of Soviets on March 13, 1918, 453 votes were cast in favour of ratification and 36 against.