Written: May 12 or 13, 1918
First Published: In 1929 In Lenin Miscellany XI; Published according to the manuscript
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 27, pages 360-364
Translated: Clemens Dutt; Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002
The extreme instability of the international situation of the Soviet Republic, surrounded as it is by imperialist powers, has been frequently pointed out in the Bolshevik press and has been admitted in the resolutions of the higher organs of Soviet power.
During the past few days, i.e., the first ten days of May 1918, the political situation has become extremely critical owing to both external and internal causes:
First, the direct offensive of the counter-revolutionary forces (Semyonov and others) with the aid of the Japanese in the Far East has been stepped up, and in connection with it there are a number of signs indicating the possibility of the entire anti-German imperialist coalition coming to an agreement on the presentation of an ultimatum to Russia either fight against Germany, or there will be a Japanese invasion aided by us.
Secondly, since Brest the war party has gained the upper hand in German politics in general, and this party could now, at any moment, gain the upper hand on the question of an immediate general offensive against Russia, i.e., it could completely overcome the other policy of German bourgeois-imperialist circles that strive for fresh annexations in Russia but for the time being want peace with her and not a general offensive against her.
Thirdly, the restoration of bourgeois-landowner monarchism in the Ukraine with the support of the Constitutional-Democratic and Octobrist elements of the bourgeoisie of all Russia arid with the aid of the German troops was bound to make the struggle against the counter-revolution in Russia more intense., was bound to encourage the plans and raise the spirit of our counter-revolutionaries.
Fourthly, the disorganised food situation has become extremely acute and in many places has led to real hunger because we were cut off from Rostov-on-Don and because of the efforts of the petty bourgeoisie and the capitalists in general to sabotage the grain monopoly, accompanied by insufficiently firm, disciplined and ruthless opposition on the part of the ruling class, i.e., the proletariat, to those strivings, efforts and attempts.
The foreign policy of Soviet power must not be changed in any way. Our military preparations are not yet complete, and our general slogan. therefore, will remain as before—manoeuvre, withdraw, bide our time, and continue our preparations with all our. might.
Although we do not ill general reject military agreements with one of the imperialist coalitions against the other ill those cases in which such an agreement could, without undermining the basis of Soviet power, strengthen its position and paralyze the attacks of any imperialist power, we cannot at the present moment enter into a military agreement with the Anglo-French coalition. For them, the importance of such an agreement would be the diversion of German troops from the West, i.e., by means of the advance of many Japanese army corps into the interior of European Russia, which is an unacceptable condition since it would mean the complete collapse of Soviet power. If the Anglo-French coalition were to present us with an ultimatum of this kind we should reject it, because the danger of the Japanese advance can more easily be paralysed (or can be delayed for a longer time) than the threat of the Germans occupying Petrograd, Moscow and a large part of European Russia.
In considering the tasks of the foreign policy of Soviet power at the present moment, the greatest caution, discretion and restraint must be observed in order not to hel the extreme elements in the war parties of Japan and Germany by any ill-considered or hasty step.
The fact of the matter is that the extreme elements in the war parties of both these countries favour an immediate general offensive against Russia for the purpose of occupying all her territory and overthrowing Soviet power. At any moment these extreme elements may gain the upper hand.
On the other hand, however, it is an undoubted fact that the majority of the imperialist bourgeoisie in Germany are against such a policy and at the present moment prefer the annexationist peace with Russia to a continuation of the war for the simple reason that war would divert forces from the West and increase the instability of the internal situation in Germany that is already making itself felt; it would also make it difficult to obtain raw materials from places involved in insurrection or that are suffering from damage to railways, from failure to plant sufficient crops, etc., etc.
The Japanese urge to attack Russia is being held back, first, by the danger of the movement and of revolts in China, and secondly, there is a certain antagonism on the part of America, the latter fearing the strengthening of Japan and hoping to obtain raw materials from Russia more easily under peaceful conditions.
It goes without saying that it is quite possible for the extreme elements of the war parties in both Germany and Japan to gain the upper hand at any moment. There can be no guarantee against this until the revolution breaks out in Germany. The American bourgeoisie may plot together with the Japanese bourgeoisie, or the Japanese with the German. It is, therefore, our imperative duty to make the most energetic preparations for war.
As long as there remains even a slight chance of preserving peace or of concluding peace with Finland, the Ukraine and Turkey, at the cost of certain new annexations or losses, we must not take a single step that might aid the extreme elements in the war parties of the imperialist powers.
The primary task in undertaking more energetic military training, as in the question of combating famine, is that of orgainsation.
There cannot be any really serious preparation for war unless the food difficulties are overcome, unless the population is properly supplied with bread, unless the strictest order is introduced on the railways, unless truly iron discipline is established among the masses of the working people (and not only at the top). It is in this field that we are most backward.
Guiltiest of all of a complete lack of understanding of this truth are the Left Socialist-Revolutionary and anarchist elements with their screaming about “insurrectionary committees” and their howls of “to arms”, etc. Such screams and howls are the quintessence of stupidity and are nothing but pitiful, despicable and disgusting phrase-making; it is ridiculous to talk about “insurrection” and “insurrectionary committees” when Soviet central power is doing its utmost to persuade the people to start military training and arm themselves, when we have more weapons than we can count and distribute, when it is precisely the economic ruin and the lack of discipline that prevent us from using the weapons available and compel us to lose valuable time that could be used for training.
Intensified military training for a serious war cannot be done by means of a sudden impulse, a battle-cry, a militant slogan; it requires lengthy, intense, persistent and disciplined work on a mass scale. We must deal ruthlessly with the Left Socialist-Revolutionary and anarchist elements that do not wish to understand this, and must not give them an opportunity to infect certain elements of our proletarian Communist Party with their hysteria.
It is essential to wage a ruthless struggle against the bourgeoisie, which on account of the above circumstances has raised its head during the past few days, and to declare a state of emergency, close newspapers, arrest the leaders and so on. These measures are as necessary as the military campaign against the rural bourgeoisie, who are holding back grain surpluses and infringing the grain monopoly. There will he no salvation either from the counter-revolution or from famine without iron discipline on the part of the proletariat.
In particular it must be borne in mind tat during the past few days the bourgeoisie have been making extremely skilful and cunning use of panic-spreading as a weapon against proletarian power. Some of our comrades, especially those who are less resolute in their attitude to the Left Socialist-Revolutionary and anarchist revolutionary phrases, have allowed themselves to be diverted, have got into a panic or have failed to observe the line that divides legitimate and necessary warning of the coming danger from the spreading of panic.
The basic specific features of the entire present economic and political situation in Russia must be kept firmly in mind; because of these features our cause cannot be helped by outbursts. We must become firmly convinced ourselves and try to convince all workers of the truth that only restraint and patient creative work to establish iron proletarian discipline, including ruthless measures against hooligans, kulaks and disorganising elements, can protect Soviet power at this moment, one of the most difficult and dangerous periods of transition, unavoidable owing to the delay of the revolution in the West.
 Theses on the Present Political Situation were drafted by Lenin on May 10, 1918 and discussed on the same day at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Part (Bolsheviks). The final, edited version of the theses was approve by the Central Committee on May 13; all members of the Central Committee who attended the meeting voted in favour, except G. Y. Sokolnikov and J. V. Stalin. Later, the majority of members of the Central Committee living in Petrograd gave their support to the theses. The Central Committee entrusted Lenin with the task of making the reports to the Moscow City Conference of the R.C.P.(B.) and the Joint Meeting of the All-Russia C.E.C. and the Moscow Soviet, and of moving these theses as a resolution. The same day Lenin delivered a report based on the theses at the Moscow City Party Conference, which voted its approval.