Vladimir Lenin

Report at a Joint Session off the All-Russia Central Executive Committee,

The Moscow Soviet, Factory Committees and Trade Unions[1]

October 22, 1918

Written: 22 October, 1918.
First Published Newspaper reports published October 23, 1918 in Pravda No. 229 and Izvestia No. 231; Published in full in 1919 in the book All-Russia Central Executive Committee, Fifth Convocation. Verbatim Report, Moscow; Published according to the book checked with the verbatim report and the newspaper texts
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1974, pages 113-126
Translated (and edited): Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
Online Version: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive, 2002

(Stormy, prolonged applause and shouts of “hurrah”.) Comrades, I think our present situation, for all its contradictions might be expressed by saying, firstly, that never before have we been so near the world workers’ revolution, and, secondly, that never have we been in such a perilous position. It is these two propositions, especially the second, that I want to go into today. I think the people at large scarcely realise the full danger bearing down on us, and as we can only act with popular support, the chief task of the representatives of the Soviet government is to bring home to the people the full truth of the present situation, however difficult this may sometimes be. As far as our being near the world socialist revolution is concerned, I shall be brief since it has been spoken about time and again. Indeed, one of the chief reproaches levelled at the Soviet government both by the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie who have lost faith in socialism, as well as by many so-called socialists who are used to times of peace and never did believe in socialism, is that we are taking a rash step in carrying through the socialist revolution in Russia, for the revolution in the West is not yet ripe.

Comrades, this is the fifth year of the war and the universal collapse of imperialism is as plain as can be; everyone can now see revolution must come in every country in the war. And we, who were not given more than a few days or weeks at the beginning, have done more in this year of revolution than any proletarian party in the world has ever done. Our revolution has become a world-wide phenomenon. Even the entire bourgeoisie say that Bolshevism is a world-wide phenomenon. This admission goes to show that our revolution has spread from the East to the West and is falling on more and more receptive soil. You know that revolution has flared up in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian soldiers have begun to form Soviets. And now news has come that Soviets are being set up in Serbia too. Even though the Anglo-French Entente is promising the peoples thousands of blessings if they rebel and break with Germany, even though the capitalists of America, Britain and France, the richest and most powerful in the world, are so lavish with their promises, it is becoming obvious that the bourgeoisie of the various small countries into which Austria is now disintegrating cannot hold out under any circumstances, that their rule and power in these countries will be short-lived and transitory, for the workers’ revolution is knocking on the door everywhere.

The bourgeoisie of individual countries know that the only way they can hold on to power in their states is with the help of foreign bayonets. And we see that revolution has begun not only in Austria, but even in Germany, both of whose positions seemed so stable only a little while ago. News has come that the German press is already talking about the Kaiser’s abdication and that the press of the Independent Social-Democratic Party has already received permission from the Chancellor to talk about a German republic. That certainly is something. We know demoralisation is increasing among the troops and that there are direct appeals for an army mutiny. We know that revolutionary military committees have been set up in Eastern Germany and that they are issuing revolutionary publications which are stirring up the soldiers. There is therefore every justification to say that revolution is growing in leaps and bounds. And we are not the only ones to say so; it is being said by all Germans in the war party and among the bourgeoisie who feel that the ministers are tottering, that the people do not trust them, and that they and their government will not hold on much longer. That is what everybody who knows anything about the state of affairs is saying, which just goes to show how inevitable a popular revolution, and perhaps a proletarian revolution, has become in Germany.

We know very well what an immense workers’ movement has sprung up in other countries as well. We saw how Gompers went to Italy and, with Entente money and the help of all the Italian bourgeoisie and social-patriots, toured every town in Italy calling upon the Italian workers to carry on the imperialist war. We saw how the Italian socialist papers wrote articles about this in which all that was left was Gompers’s name, after the censor had deleted everything else; or articles which jeered: “Gompers is banqueting and tonguewagging.” And the bourgeois papers admitted Gompers was hissed everywhere. The bourgeois papers wrote: “The Italian workers are behaving as if they would allow only Lenin and Trotsky to tour Italy.” During the war the Italian Socialist Party has made tremendous strides forward, that is, to the left. We know there have been too many patriots among the workers in France; they were told that Paris and French territory were in grave danger. But there, too, the workers’ attitude is changing. There were cries of “Hurrah for the Socialist Republic!” at the last congress,[2] when a letter was read about what the Allies, the British and French imperialists, were doing. And yesterday news was received that a meeting had been held in Paris attended by two thousand metalworkers, which hailed the Soviet Republic in Russia. We see that of the three socialist parties in Great Britain,[3] only one, the Independent Socialist Party, is not openly supporting the Bolsheviks, whereas the British Socialist Party and the Socialist Labour Party of Scotland have definitely prociaimd their support for the Bolsheviks. Bolshevism is also beginning to spread in Britain. And the Spanish parties are hailing the Russian Bolsheviks at their congresses[4] although they had formerly sided with British and French imperialism and had had only one or two men on the outbreak of the war with even a remote conception of what internationalists were. Bolshevism has become the worldwide theory and tactics of the international proletariat! (Applause.) It has accomplished a thoroughgoing socialist revolution for all the world to see. To be for or against the Bolsheviks is actually the dividing line among socialists. As a result of what Bolshevism has done, a programme for the creation of a workers’ state is the vital question of the day. Workers who had no idea of what was going on in Russia, because they only read the bourgeois papers which were full of lies and slander, began to realise, on seeing the workers’ government winning one victory after another over its counter-revolutionaries, that our tactics and the revolutionary form of action of our workers’ government was the only way out of this war. Last Wednesday there was a demonstration in Berlin, and the workers expressed their disgust with the Kaiser by trying to march past his palace; then they proceeded to the Russian Embassy to express their solidarity with the actions of the Russian Government.

That is what Europe has come to in this fifth year of war! That is why we say we have never been so near the world revolution, it has never been so obvious that the Russian workers have established their might. It is clear that millions and scores of millions of workers of the world will follow our example. That is why, I repeat, we have never been so near the world revolution, and never have we been in such a perilous position, because this is the first time Bolshevism has been regarded as a world force. It had seemed to be only a result of the fatigue of the Russian soldiers, an outburst of discontent on the part of the war-weary Russian soldiers; it had seemed that as soon as this discontent had passed and peace had been established, even a peace of the most coercive character, all steps towards building a new state and towards socialist reforms would have been crushed. Everyone had been certain of that, but it turned out that as soon as we emerged from the imperialist war, which ended in very harsh peace terms, to take the first steps in building our state, as soon as we were able to give the peasants a real chance of living without landowners, of establishing relations against the landowners, and of convincing themselves in practice that they were building their own lives on the expropriated land, really for the labouring people and not for the kulaks or the new capitalists; as soon as the workers saw they had a chance to build their lives without capitalists and learn that difficult but great business without which they will never escape from exploitation-it became obvious to all, and was shown in practice, that no force, no counter-revolution could overthrow the Soviet government.

It took months before we in Russia arrived at this conviction. It is said that in the countryside it was only in the summer of 1918, only towards autumn, that the peasants came to realise the meaning and significance of our revolution. In the town this was realised some time ago, but it took many a long month for it to reach every district, every remote rural area and village, for the peasant to see from his own experience, not from books or speeches, that the land has to go to those who till it, and not to the kulak, and that the kulak has to be fought, has to be defeated by organisation, that the revolts which swept over the country this summer were supported by the landowners, kulaks and whiteguards; to learn from his own bitter experience, at his own cost, what the rule of the Constituent Assembly meant. And now,the countryside is emerging steeled and tempered, and the mass of poor peasants, who do not exploit the labour of others, have only now learnt from their own experience, not from books, from which the working people will never derive firm convictions, that Soviet government means thegovernment of the exploited working people, and that now every village can proceed to lay the foundations of a new, socialist Russia.

It took many long months for us to be able to say with conviction, basing ourselves on the reports of people with practical experience, that after 1918 in the rest of Russia, too, in every village, however remote, the people know what Soviet government means and uphold it. For the peasants have seen what a menace the capitalists and landowners are. They have also seen the difficulties of the socialist transformation, yet were not deterred; they said: “We shall put our millions of hands to this work; we have learnt a lot in a year, and we shall learn even more.” This is what scores of millions in Russia are now saying with full conviction, on the basis of their own experience.

This is just getting through to the West-European bourgeoisie as well. Up to now they had not taken the Bolsheviks seriously; now they begin to realise that the only stable form of state has been set up here, a state which works hand in hand with the working people and can rouse them to real heroic self-sacrifice. And when this workers’ state began to infect Europe, it turned out that this was by no means something peculiar to Russia alone, and that four years of war had caused demoralisation of the armies all over the world. Before, they used to say that owing to her backwardness and inefficiency, only Russia had reached such a stage when her army had fallen to pieces in the fourth year of war, and that this could never happen in civilised, parliamentary countries.

Now, however, everybody can see that after four years of world war, when millions have been slaughtered and crippled for the profit of the capitalists, and when there are tens of thousands of deserters, this extraordinary thing is happening in Austria as well as Russia, and even in Germany, which boasts of her good order. When that happened, the world bourgeoisie realised they had to contend with a more serious enemy, and they began to rally together; and the nearer we approached the world workers’ revolution, the more the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie rallied together.

In some countries people are still ignoring revolution, just as in October the coalition ministers ignored the Bolsheviks and said Russia would never fall under Bolshevik rule. In France, for example, they say the Bolsheviks are a gang of traitors who are selling their people to the Germans. The French bourgeoisie are more to be excused for saying that than the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, for it is only to be expected that the bourgeoisie will spend millions on fabricating lies. But when the French bourgeoisie saw Bolshevism developing in France and even non-revolutionary parties backing the Bolsheviks with revolutionary slogans, they saw they were confronted with a more formidable enemythe collapse of imperialism and the superiority of the workers in the revolutionary struggle.

Everyone knows that the danger to the workers’ revolution is particularly great just now owing to the imperialist war, because the workers’ revolution develops unevenly in different countries, since the crnditions of political life differ. In one country the proletariat is too weak and in another it is stronger. In one country the top section of workers is weak, and in other countries the bourgeoisie are able to split the ranks of the workers for a time as was the case in Britain and France. That is why the workers’ revolution develops unevenly, and that is why the’ bourgeoisie recognised that their most powerful enemy is the’revolutionary proletariat. They are rallying together to ward off the collapse of world imperialism.

Now our situation has changed and events are moving tremendously fast. At first there were two groups of imperialist marauders who tried to annihilate each other, but now they see-especially by the example of German imperialism, which had only recently considered itself the match of Britain and France-that their chief enemy is the revolutionary proletariat. Now, when Germany is being torn apart by the revolutionary movement at home, the British and French imperialists consider themselves masters of the world. They are convinced their chief enemy is the Bolsheviks and the world revolution. The more the revolution develops, the more the bourgeoisie rally together. That is why some of us, and many especially among the people at large, who are now convinced they can defeat our counter-revolutionaries—the Cossacks, officers and Czechs—and think that settles everything, do not realise this is not enough for us now, that there is a new enemy, a far more formidable one: British and French imperialism. So far this enemy has not had very much success in Russia, as, for example, in the case of the Archangel landing. A French writer who published a newspaper called periodicals La Victoire said that victory over the Germans was not enough for France, that she also needed victory over Bolshevism, and that the campaign against Russia was not an attack on Germany, but a campaign against the Bolshevik revolutionary proletariat and against the contagion that is spreading all over the world.

That is why a new danger has appeared, a danger which has not yet fully developed and is not yet fully apparent, a danger which the British and French imperialists are plotting surreptitiously and which we must clearly realise so as to open the people’s eyes to it through their leaders. For although it is true the British and French have not achieved any great success in Siberia or in Archangel—in fact they have suffered a number of setbacks—they are now directing their efforts for an attack on Russia from the South, either through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea, or else overland, through Bulgaria and Rumania. As they keep their moves a military secret, we cannot tell how far advanced the preparations for this campaign are, and which of the two plans, or perhaps even a third, has been selected; there lies the danger, for we cannot know for certain. But we do know absolutely for certain that these preparations are being made, for the newspapers of these countries are not always very cautious, and now and again some journalist openly announces the chief aims, and discards all the false talk about a league of nations.

Among the German ruling circles, we now clearly perceive two tendencies, two plans of salvation-if salvation is still possible. Some say: Let us play for time and keep going until spring, and perhaps we may yet be able to put up military resistance along the fortified line. Others see their chief hope of salvation in Britain and France; they concentrate on reaching an agreement with Britain and France against the Bolsheviks; their attention is centred on this. And while it is true that Wilson now replies to peace overtures with a blunt and contemptuous refusal, this is scarcely enough to induce the party of the German capitalists who are seeking agreement with Britain to renounce their plans. They know that agreements are sometimes reached tacitly, and that they may be rewarded if they are of service to the British and French capitalists against the Bolsheviks. In capitalist society they do pay for services rendered. They think: “Perhaps if we help the British and French capitalists grab something, they will leave a portion of the spoils for us.” One good turn deserves another—such are the ethics of the capitalist world. And I think that in laying claim to a certain share of British and French capital, these people know what they are up to and are counting on billions, no less. Some of these gentlemen are past masters at this sort of calculations.

A tacit bargain has most definitely been struck between the German bourgeoisie and that of the Entente powers. The gist of it is that the British and French say to the Germans: “We shall get to the Ukraine, but don’t withdraw your troops until our occupational forces arrive, otherwise the workers will take power and the Soviet government will triumph there too.” That is the way they reason, for they realise that the bourgeoisie of all the occupied countriesFinland, the Ukraine, Poland—know they cannot hold out for a single day if ’the German army of occupation withdraws. And that is why the bourgeoisie of these countries-which yesterday sold themselves to the Germans, went cap in hand to the German imperialists and concluded an alliance with them against their own workers, just as the Ukrainian Mensheviks did and the Socialist-Revolutionaries did in Tiflisare now ready to sell their country to anybody. Yesterday they sold it to the Germans, and today they are selling it to the British and French. That is the sort of bargaining going on behind the scenes. Seeing that the British and French bourgeoisie are winning, they are all going over to them and preparing to make a deal with the British and French imperialists against us and at our expense.

When they tell their future Anglo-French multimillionaire master they are siding with him, they say: “Your Excellency will defeat the Bolsheviks, you must help us, because the Germans will not save us.” This conspiracy by the bourgeoisie of all countries against the revolutionary workers and the Bolsheviks is increasingly taking shape and becoming openly blatant. And it is our direct duty to indicate this danger to the workers and peasants of all countries in the war.

Take the Ukraine as an example. Imagine her position and what the workers and intelligent Communists must do in the present situation. On the one hand they see the indignation against the German imperialists, against the dreadful plunder of the Ukraine, and on the other they see that some of the German troops, the greater part perhaps, have been withdrawn. They may think of giving vent to their pent-up hatred and resentment by attacking the German imperialists at once, regardless of everything. But others say: “We are internationalists, we must look at things from the point of view both of Russia and of Germany; even from Germany’s point of view we know that the government there cannot hold out; we are firmly convinced that if the victory of the workers and peasants in the Ukraine is accompanied by the consolidation and success of the government of Russia, then socialist proletarian Ukraine will not only win but will be invincible!” Such intelligent Ukrainian Communists say: We must be very cautious. Tomorrow we may have to exert every effort and stake everything in the struggle against imperialism and the German troops. That may be so for tomorrow, but not for today; and today we know that the troops of the German imperialists are being demoralised, we know that beside the Ukrainian troops, the East-Prussian and German troops are publishing revolutionary literature.[5] At the same time, our chief task is to carry on propaganda for a revolt in the Ukraine. That is correct from the standpoint of the world revolution because Germany is the main link in this chain, since the German revolution is already ripe; and the success of the world revolution most of all depends on it.

We shall take care that our interference will not harm their revolution. One must understand the changes and growth of every revolution. The revolution proceeds in its own way in every country-we ought to know after seeing and experiencing it-and these ways are so diverse that it may be delayed for a year or two. World revolution is not so smooth as to proceed in the same way everywhere, in all countries. If it were, we should have been victorious long ago. Every country has to go through definite political stages. Everywhere we find the compromisers making the same efforts, the same attempts “to save the people from the bourgeoisie"in conjunction with the bourgeoisie. Tsereteli and Chernov did it here, and the Scheidemannites are doing it in Germany; in France they are doing it in their own way. And now that the revolution is making its way into Germany, the country where the workers’ movement is strongest, and where it is distinguished for its organisation and endurance, where the workers have been patient longest of all-but perhaps have accumulated more revolutionary hatred and are better able to settle scores with their enemies-interference in these events by people who do not know how fast the revolution is growing may hamper those intelligent Communists who say: “My prime purpose is to make this a deliberate process.” Now that the German soldier has seen that he is being driven to the slaughter on the pretext that he is going to defend his country, while in fact going to defend the German imperialists, the time is coming when the revolution will break out in Germany with such force and organisation as to solve a hundred international problems. That is why intelligent Ukrainian Communists say “We must make every sacrifice for the victory of the world revolution, but we should realise that the future depends on us and we must march in step with the German revolution.”

Those are the difficulties I wanted to point out, using the reasoning of the Ukrainian Communists as an example. These difficulties also affect Soviet Russia’s position. We can now say that the workers of the world have awoken and are making immense strides; but this makes our position all the more difficult, for our “ally” of yesterday is attacking us as his chief enemy. He is now out to fight international Bolshevism, not hostile armies. Now that Krasnov’s troops are mustering on the Southern Front (and we know they have received ammunition from the Germans), now that we have exposed imperialism in the eyes of the world, the people who blamed us for the Brest-Litovsk Peaceand sent Krasnov to get ammunition from the Germans with which to bombard the Russian workers and peasants, are currently getting ammunition from the British and French imperialists, auctioning off Russia to the highest millionaire bidder. That is why our general conviction that a change has set in is now not enough. We have our old enemies, and behind them new forces are now rallying to their aid. We know and see all that. Six months ago, in February or March, we had no army. The army could not fight. The army which had been through four years of imperialist war, without knowing what it was fighting for, but vaguely feeling that it was fighting in the interests of others, that army took to its heels, and no force on earth could stop it.

No revolution is worth anything unless it can defend itself; but a revolution does not learn to defend itself at once. The revolution has awakened millions to a new life. In February and March these millions did not know why they were being sent to continue the slaughter to which the tsars and the Kerenskys had driven them, and whose aim was exposed by the Bolshevik Government only in December. All they knew was that it was not their war, and nearly six months were required before a turn in the tide. This turn has now come; it is changing the force of the revolution. In February and March, the people, exhausted and tormented by four years of war, abandoned everything and said there must be peace and the war terminated. They were in no state to ask what the war was about. If these people have now created a new discipline in the Red Army, not the discipline of the rod and of the landowner but the discipline of the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies; if they are now ready to make the greatest sacrifices; if a new unity has sprung up among them, it is because for the first time a new discipline, a socialist discipline, has been born in the minds and experience of tens of millions, a Red Army has been born. It was born only when these tens of millions of people saw from their own experience that they had overthrown the landowners and capitalists, that a new life was being built, that they had begun to build it themselves, and that they would get it built if they were not prevented by foreign invasion.

When the peasants saw who their chief enemy was and began the struggle against the village kulaks, when the workers overthrew the manufacturers and began to organise the factories in accordance with a proletarian principle of national economy, they saw all the difficulty this work of reorganisation entailed, but they proved equal to the task. It took months to get things going. These months have passed, and the turn has come. Gone is the time when we were impotent. We have begun to advance with giant strides. Gone is the time when we had no army and no discipline; a new discipline has been created, and new people are joining the army and laying down their lives by the thousand.

That means that the new discipline, the comradely alliance, has re-educated us in the struggle at the front and in the struggle in the countryside against the kulak. This turning-point has been a difficult one, but now we feel that things are beginning to move, and that we are passing from unorganised, decree-made socialism to true socialism. The chief task facing us is to fight imperialism, and this fight we must win. We make no secret of all the difficulty and danger this fight entails. We know that the tide of feeling has changed in the Red Army; it has begun to win victories, it is promoting from its ranks thousands of officers who have been through training courses in the new proletarian military colleges and thousands of other officers who have been through no other training than the hard training of war. Thus, without the least exaggeration, and fully recognising the danger, we can now say that we have an army; and this army has created discipline and has achieved fighting efficiency. Our Southern Front is not just a front-it is a front against British and French imperialism, against the most powerful foe in the world. But we are not afraid, for we know the foe will he unable to cope with its own enemy at home.

Three months ago, people used to laugh when we said there might be a revolution in Germany. They said that only half-crazy Bolsheviks could believe in a German revolution. Not only the entire bourgeoisie, but the Mensheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries as well, called the Bolsheviks traitors to patriotism and said that revolution in Germany was impossible. But we knew that our help was needed there, and that to render that help we had to sacrifice everything and consent even to the most onerous terms of peace. That was how these people were talking and trying to prove their point to us only a few months ago, but in these few months Germany, from a mighty empire, has become a rotten hulk. The force which has corroded it is operating in America and England as well; today it is weak, but with every step the British and French try to take in Russia, with every step they try to take to occupy the Ukraine, as the Germans did, this force will loom larger and larger and become even more formidable than the Spanish ’flu.

That, comrades, is why I repeat that the chief task of every class-conscious worker now is to reveal the whole truth, not to conceal anything from the people, who may not fully realise the acuteness of the situation. The workers are mature enough to be told the truth. We have to defeat world imperialism as well as the whiteguards. We have to defeat, and we shall defeat, not only that enemy, but an enemy even more formidable. And for this we need the Red Army more than anything else. Every organisation in Soviet Russia must always give its prime attention to the army. Today, when everything is clear, the war and the strengthening of the army must take first place. We are absolutely confident we shall cope with the counter-revolution. We know we have the forces, but we also know that British and French imperialism is stronger than we are, and we want the working people to realise this quite clearly. We say that the army must be ten times stronger, and more; we must go on strengthening discipline, and every class-conscious, enlightened, organised and genuine leader must show ten times more attention and concern for this. Then this growth of the world revolution will not be confined to the defeated countries. Revolution is now beginning in the victor countries as well. Our forces must grow daily, and this constant growth is, as it was, our chief and complete guarantee that world socialism will triumph!

(Comrade Lenin’s speech is repeatedly interrupted by loud applause and ends in ovation. All rise and greet the leader of the world revolution.)


[1] The session was held in the Hall of Columns of Trade Union House, Moscow. It discussed the international situation, the question of convening the Extraordinary Sixth All-Russia Congress of Soviets and the dispatch to the front of 300 participants in the session. Lenin spoke about the international situation for the first time since his recovery, P. G. Smidovich and Y. M. Sverdlov conveyed a message of greetings to those leaving for the front. The session adopted a resolution drafted by Lenin and endorsed with slight amendments by the Sixth Congress of Soviets on the basis of Lenin’s report on the international situation. The session unanimously decided to convene the Extraordinary Sixth All-Russia Congress of Soviets and approved the agenda for it.

[2] At the Congress of the French Socialist Party, held in Paris from October 6-11, 1918, Longuet, one of the party leaders, read a letter from Captain Sadoul, a member of the French military mission in Russia, to Remain Rolland, in which he condemned the actions of the Entente in Russia. According to the Geneva correspondent of Pravda, “the letter produced an enormous impression. There were cries from the left: ’Long live the Soviet Republic!" (Pravda No. 221, October 13.)

[3] This refers to the British Socialist Party, Socialist Labour Party and Independent Labour Party.

[4] Reference is to the resolution unanimously adopted by the Eighth Congress of the Spanish workers, held in October 1918, to send greetings to the Soviet Republic.

[5] This evidently means the Military Revolutionary Council which was established in the German army on the Eastern Front and which published the newspaper Krasny Soldat (Red Soldier).