V. I. Lenin

Plenary Meeting Of The All-Russia Central Coucncil Of Trade Unions

April 11, 1919[1]

Delivered: 11 April, 1919
First Published: Brief report published in Izvestia No. 80, April 13, 1919; First published In full in 1932; Published according to the verbatim report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, paged 281-301
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License


Report on the Tasks of the
Trade Unions In The Mobilisation For The Eastern Front

Comrades, you, of course, are all familiar with the decree published today on the mobilisation in the nonagri-cultural gubernias, and there is no need for me to deal at length with the reasons for this decree at a meeting like this; we may take it that you are well aware from what you have read in the newspapers that Kolchak’s victories on the Eastern Front have suddenly made our position extremely grave.

You are aware that, in view of the situation at the front, all government instructions have for a long time been directed towards concentrating our main forces on the Southern Front. Krasnov’s forces were concentrated in such large numbers on the Southern Front, and the avowedly counter-revolutionary Cossacks, who since 1905 have remained as monarchist as ever, were so strongly entrenched there, that without a victory on the Southern Front, the consolidation of Soviet proletarian power at the centre would have been impossible. It was in the South, in the Ukraine, that the Allied imperialists attempted to launch an offensive, and wanted to convert the Ukraine into a springboard against the Soviet Republic, making the Southern Front still more important for us; consequently, we have no reason to repent of having concentrated our attention and our forces on the Southern Front. I think that we were not mistaken in so doing. The latest news about the capture of Odessa, and the news received today about the capture of Simferopol and Eupatoria show the situation there; this region, which has played the decisive role throughout the war, has now been cleared.

You know perfectly well what tremendous effort it is costing to continue the Civil War after four years of imperialist war, how weary the masses are, how incredibly vast the sacrifices which the workers have been making during two years of Civil War. You know that this war is imposing an immense strain upon us. This concentration of all forces on the Southern Front greatly weakened the Eastern Front. We were unable to send reinforcements there and the army on the Eastern Front endured incredible hardships and sustained heavy losses. It fought for months, and a number of comrades working there sent us telegrams stating that it was becoming exceedingly difficult for the embattled Red Army to bear such an extremely heavy strain; the strength of our forces on the Eastern Front had been over-taxed. Meanwhile, Kolchak, by means of tsarist or “big stick” discipline, had mobilised the Siberian peasants. He weeded all men who had seen active service out of his army, and succeeded in concentrating there the old officers, as leaders, and the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. Relying o these, he has lately achieved successes on the Eastern Front which place the Volga in jeopardy; it must be admitted that to force him back we shall have to go all out. Forces must be sent from here, for we cannot shift any from the South; that would mean leaving the field to the main enemy, who has not yet been completely smashed.

Since our victories in the South and in the Don region, and because of the international situation, our general position has been improving daily. Not a day passes but what we receive news which indicates that our international situation is improving.

Three months ago, the British, French and American capitalists not only appeared to be, but actually were, a tremendous force, which, of course, could have crushed us had they at that time been in a position to use their vast material resources against us—they could have but did not and now it is obvious that they cannot. Their recent defeat in Odessa clearly shows that vast as the material resources of the imperialists were, from the purely military point of view, their campaign against Russia has collapsed completely. If we bear in mind that there are Soviet Republics in the heart of Europe, and that the growth of the Soviet form of government is becoming irresistible, we may say without exaggeration, taking an absolutely sober view of the situation, that our victory on an international scale is absolutely certain.

If this were all, we could speak calmly, but in view of Kolchak’s recent successes, it must be said that several months of strenuous effort still lie ahead of us before we can defeat his forces. There can be no doubt that we shall fail if we stick to the old methods; during the eighteen months of Soviet power our methods have become so familiar, sometimes even routine, that as a result, the energy of the advanced section of the working class has been largely exhausted. We do not shut our eyes to the extreme weariness that is felt among certain sections of the working class, and to the increasing difficulty of the struggle, but now our prospects are much simpler and clearer. Even those who do not side with Soviet power, and who regard themselves as rather important figures in politics, clearly see that on an international scale our victory is certain.

We have to go through one more phase of fierce civil war against Koichak. We have therefore decided that the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions—a most authoritative body, which unites the broad masses of the proletariat—should, on its part, propose a number of most rigorous measures which should help us to finish off the war within the next few months. This is quite feasible, because our international situation is improving, we need have no doubts on that score. The European and American rear is in the best possible state for us, although five months ago we could not even dream of such a thing. We might say that Messrs. Wilson and Clemenceau have set out to help us. The cables which every day bring us news about their quarrels, about their desire to slam the door in each other’s faces, show that these gentlemen are at each other’s throats.

But the more clear it becomes that the victory of our cause on an international scale is certain, the more desperate and fierce become the efforts of the Russian landowners, capitalists and kulaks who fled across the Urals. This disreputable crowd is fighting desperately. You, of course, have read in the newspapers about how far white-guard terror has gone in Wa; there is no doubt that these whiteguard elements, these bourgeois, are staking everything on a last attempt. The bourgeoisie are desperate. They believe that by their desperate attack they will compel us to divert part of our forces from the decisive Southern Front. We shall not do that, and we say openly to the workers that this involves ever greater efforts in the East.

Permit me to propose a number of practical measures which, in my opinion, should create a regrouping of forces and set the trade unions new and definite tasks, and which I consider essential in view of the situation I have briefly outlined to you. There is no need for me to deal with this any further, you are all aware of it. It is possible in this situation—looking at it most soberly—to put an end to the war, both internal and international, within the next few months. But during those few months we shall have to bend every effort. The first task that should be set to the trade unions is the following:

“1. Support in every way the mobilisation ordered on April 11, 1919.

“All the forces of the Party and the trade unions must be mobilised Immediately so as to render, within the next few days, without the slightest delay, the most energetic assistance to the mobilisation decreed by the Council of People’s Commissars on April 10, 1919.

“The mobilised men must at once be made to see the active participation of the trade unions and to feel that they have the support of the working class.

“In particular, it must be made clear to every mobilised man that his immediate departure for the front will mean an improvement in his food situation; firstly, because of the better ration received by the soldiers in the grain-producing front-line zone; secondly, because of the fact that the food brought into the hungry gubernias will be distributed among fewer people; thirdly, because of the widely organised dispatch of food parcels by Red Army men in the front areas to their families at home ....”

Of course, I have referred to the food situation here only very briefly; but you all realise that this is our main, internal difficulty, and were it not for the possibility of linking up the mobilisation with our rapid advance in the areas near the front and the grain-producing districts, with the organisation of the units there, and not here, were it not for this possibility, the mobilisation would be hopeless; that is to say, it would be no use hoping for success. But at present we have this possibility. The mobilisation is to take place mainly in the non-agricultural gubernias, in the districts where the workers and peasants are suffering most from hunger. We can shift them primarily to the Don—the whole of the Don region is now in our hands, the fight against the Cossacks has been going on for a long tune; we shall be able to improve the food supplies of our advanced units on the spot, and also organise the sending home of food parcels. Steps have already been taken in this direction, and permission has been given to send food parcels weighing twenty pounds twice a month. An agreement on this point has been reached. Thus, the privilege we were obliged to grant last year in the form of the right to carry one-and-a-half poods[2] can be compared with this wider measure, namely, the sending of food parcels, by means of which the men of the Red Army will be able to support their families at home.

By developing activities of this nature we shall combine assistance to the front with an improvement in the food situation in the chief non-agricultural districts, which are suffering most in this respect. Naturally, the dispatch of men to the Don will be linked up with the movement of men to the Volgaside area, where the enemy has now inflicted such a severe blow on us that beyond the Volga, in the East, we have already lost several million poods of grain that had been collected. There, the war is directly an out-and-out war for grain. The task of the trade unions is to see to it that this mobilisation is not carried out on the ordinary lines, but that it should be combined with trade union assistance to the Soviets. The thesis I have just read to you does not define this concretely enough. I think that this all-round assistance should be at first embodied in a series of tentative measures, which should be followed by definite instructions and a practical plan showing how, the trade unions, by mobilising all their forces, should promote the mobilisation in such a way that it assumes the character of a major political measure rather than a mere military and food supply measure, in such a way that it is made the task of a working class which realises that we can end the war within the next few months, because on an International scale we are assured of the arrival of fresh allies. Only proletarian organisations, only trade unions, can do this. I cannot enumerate the practical measures, I think that only the trade unions can do it. They can carry out the task, making allowances for specific local conditions, and organising the whole business on a practical basis. Our job is to give the main political directions to the working class, which must rally once again and take cognisance of this bitter truth; there will be new burdens to bear, but this is at the same time a truth that indicates the real and practical way to overcome our difficulties as quickly as possible. By sending large numbers of workers to the fertile South, we shall reinforce our forces there, and if the whiteguard and landowners’—forces count on being able by their victories in the East to compel us to weaken the South, I think we shall prove to them that they are mistaken. I am quite sure that we shall not weaken the South and shall be able to provide support for the East. The enemy has mobilised the young men of Siberia and has avoided taking men who had seen active service—he is afraid of them and has mobilised the Siberian peasants. That is his last effort, his last resource. He has no support and no manpower. The Allies were unable to help him. It was beyond their power.

That is why I appeal to the representatives of the trade union movement to devote the greatest possible attention to this question and to see to it that the mobilisation is not carried out on the old lines. This must be a huge working-class political campaign; it is not merely a military and food supply campaign, but also a great political campaign. If the situation is weighed up soberly in the light of factors of the war and of class relationships, nobody can doubt that the issue should be settled within the next few months. To achieve this, the trade unions must not confine themselves to activity within the old limits. If they do they will be unable to carry out this task, which requires activity on a wider scale. They must act not only as trade unionists, but also as revolutionaries deciding the basic question of the Soviet Republic, a question similar to the one decided in October—that of bringing the imperialist war to a close and launching socialist construction. Today, the trade unions must work as revolutionaries, on a mass scale; they must not keep within the old limits in settling the practical question of ending the Civil War in Russia. The end is very near, but it is extremely difficult. To proceed:

“2. In the areas near the front, especially in the Volga-side region, trade union members must be armed to a man, and in the event of a shortage of arms, they must all be mobilised to render every possible aid to the Red Army, to replace casualties, etc.

“3. The most serious attention must be given to intensifying agitational work, especially among those to he mobilised, those already mobilised and Red Army men. The usual methods of agitation—lectures, meetings, etc.—are not enough; agitation should b carried on among Red Army men by workers, singly or in groups; such groups of ordinary workers, members of trade unions, should be appointed specifically to barracks, Red Army units and factories. The trade unions must institute a check to see that every one of their members takes part in house-to-house agitation, distribution of leaflets and personal talks.”

We, of course, have grown somewhat unaccustomed to the methods of agitation we employed in the old days when we as a party were persecuted, or were fighting for power. Political power has placed a vast state machine in our hands, and through it agitation has been organised on new lines. During the past eighteen months it has been conducted on a different scale; but you know that because of the chaos we inherited from the imperialist war and which was intensified by the Civil War, and the terrible difficulties caused by the invasion of a number of Russian gubernias, our agitation has not done all that it should have done. Compared with past agitation it has done wonders but it is not all that is needed, and things have not been carried through to the end. Vast masses of peasants and workers are practically untouched by our agitation. That is why we must not keep within the old limits; under no circumstances must we depend on our having state Soviet organisations for this purpose. If we were to rely on that, we would not be able to solve our problem. In this respect we should recall the past, pay more attention to personal initiative arid say that if this personal initiative is developed on a mass scale, we shall do more than we did in the past, because the working class, even though most of its members are exhausted, has now instinctively understood the nature of the task. Even the Merisheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries who owing to their political ideology fought tooth and nail to prevent themselves from understanding the situation, who hid behind an iron fence and failed to understand reality—even these people now realise that all over the world the struggle is going on between the old bourgeois system and the new Soviet system. Ever since the German revolution revealed its real character, ever since the German Government showed that all it could do was murder the best leaders o the proletariat with the support of the social-patriots of the majority, and ever since Soviet power triumphed in a number of European countries, this question has been settled in practice. The question is—Soviet power or the old bourgeois order? It has been settled in practice on a historical scale. The workers’ instinct decided the issue; this must be embodied in agitation increased tenfold.

We cannot increase food supplies when there is no food; we cannot increase the number of professional agitators and intellectuals tenfold when none are available. This we cannot do. But we can tell the broad masses of the workers that today they are not what they were until yesterday. If you set out to conduct personal agitation you will win by sheer weight of numbers.

And we shall have a mobilisation that is not an ordinary one, but is a real campaign to decide the ultimate fate of the working class which realises that only the next few months separate us from the last and decisive battle—not in the sense that this is meant in song and verse, but in the literal sense of the word, for we have weighed up our practical forces in other spheres and not only insofar as concerns the whiteguards.

During this year we have made a practical estimate of our forces relative to international imperialism. At one time the Germans tried to throttle us, but we knew that they were hampered, that the British and French imperialists were hanging on to them with one hand. At one time we had the British arid French against us. They had both hands free. Had they attacked us in December 1918, we could not have held out; we have now stood up to them for several more trying months and we know that their bourgeois order is decaying. Even their best troops were not fit for anything but to retreat before units of insurgents operating in the Ukraine. Our reasoning, therefore, is perfectly clear, and the working class has instinctively realised that we are on the eve of the last battle, that the next few months will decide whether we shall achieve final victory, or whether we shall have to go through fresh difficulties.

I shall read to you those of the other measures that are outlined here:

“4. All male office workers are to be replaced by women, for which purpose a new registration, both Party and trade union, shall be carried out ....

“5. Aid Bureaus or Committees of Action, local and central, are to be instituted immediately through the trade unions, factory committees, Party organisations, co-operative societies, etc. Their addresses shall be published. The public shall be informed of them in the widest possible manner. Every man liable to mobilisation, every Red Army man, and every person desirous of leaving for the South, for the Don or the Ukraine for food supply work should know that there is an aid bureau or a committee of action nearby; that it is accessible to every worker and peasant and he can obtain advice or instruction there, that contact with the army authorities will be facilitated for him, etc.

“It shall be the special task of these bureaus to help to equip the Red Army. We can greatly increase the strength of our army if we improve the supply of arms, clothing, etc. And among the population there are still considerable quantities of arms which have been hidden or are not being used for the army. There are still considerable factory stocks of goods of various kinds needed by the army, and they must be quickly found and dispatched to the army.. The army organisations in charge of supplies should be given immediate, broad and effective assistance by the general public. Every effort must be devoted to this matter.”

I shall now touch upon the several different periods of our war tasks. Our first war problem we tackled by guerrilla, irregular insurrections such as the comrades in—Ukraine are now resorting to. There is not so much a regular war in the Ukraine as a guerrilla movement and spontaneous insurrection. It results in very rapid attacks and creates extreme chaos in the midst of which the job of using stocks of food is one of incalculable difficulty. There is no old machinery, not even of the kind that we inherited from the Smolny period of our rule—and that was bad enough, and worked against us rather than for us. But why is there no such machinery in the Ukraine? Because it has not yet passed out of the phase of partisan warfare and spontaneous insurrection into the regular army phase, which is always characteristic of the consolidated power of every class, including the proletariat. We created our machinery after several months of untold difficulties.

We set up special food supply organisations. For a time we made some use of the services of the food supply experts, keeping them under Party supervision; now, however, we have everywhere army organisations in charge of supplies. When a period of extreme exertion of effort sets in, we say that we shall not revert to the old partisan methods, we have suffered enough from them; we urge that members of the working class shall be enlisted into the existing organised bodies, the regular organisations for supplying the Red Army. The working class In the mass can do that. You know that chaos reigns in the matter of equipment, in the matter of finding this equipment, of dispatching it, and so forth. Here help is needed in the work of supplying the Red Army. Our army exports say that we shall make progress if we mobilise a large number of soldiers who will speedily and finally decide the issue on the Eastern Front. But this is being held up mainly by the shortage of supplies, which is not surprising in view of the state of ruin we inherited from the imperialist war and the Civil War. But this means that we must appreciate and understand the new situation with its new tasks. A year ago we began to establish regular organisations, but this is not enough; these regular organisations must receive the assistance of the mass movement, of the mass energy of the working class. Here we have an approximate outline of what the trade unions could do in this matter. The trade unions alone can do this, because they are closest to industry, and head the largest section of the workers, a section numbering millions. This task calls for a change in the tempo and the character of their activities for the next few months. In this way we shall be certain of complete victory within a few months.

“6. The trade unions must organise the extensive enlistment of peasants, especially of peasant youths in the nou agricultural gubernias, for the ranks of the Red Army, for the formation of food detachments and for the food army in the Don and the Ukraine.

“This activity can and should be expanded to many times its present volume; it helps both to assist the hungry population of the metropolitan cities and the non-agricultural gubernias and to strengthen the Red Army.”

I have already said that our food supply and war tasks are closely connected, and you understand perfectly well that they must be. They must be linked up. One cannot be carried out without the other.

“7. As regards the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Party line in the present situation is to imprison those who assist Koichak, whether deliberately or unwittingly. In our republic of working people we shall not tolerate anybody who does not help us by deeds in the fight against Kolchak. Among the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries there are people who are willing to render such help. These people should be encouraged and given practical jobs, principally in the way of technical assistance to the Red Army in the rear, and their work must be strictly supervised ....”

In this respect we must say that lately we have been through an exceedingly severe and unpleasant experience. You know that the leading groups of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries looked at the matter in this way”In spite of everything, we want to remain parliamentarians and condemn the Bolsheviks and Kolchak’s followers alike.” We had to tell them politely that this is not the time for parliaments. Our enemies are trying to get us by the throat, and we are fighting the last and decisive battle. We shall not joke with them. When they foment strikes like this, they commit a heinous crime against the working class. Every strike costs the lives of thousands and thousands of Red Army men as we can see. The cessation of arms production in Tula means the death of thousands of workers and peasants; to deprive us of a number of factories in Tula means depriving thousands of workers of their lives. We say that we are fighting, we are spending our last ounce of strength, we regard this war as the only just and 1egitihate war. We have lit the torch of socialism at home and all over the world. We shall fight ruthlessly against anyone who hinders this struggle in the slightest. He who is not for us is against us. But what if there are people—and we know that there are such among the Mensheviks—who cannot, or will not understand what is taking place in Russia? Who are not yet convinced that although in Russia the “wicked” Bolsheviks made such a revolution, in Germany, the birthpangs of the revolution are immeasurably more severe? The democratic republic there—what is it? What is German freedom? It is freedom to murder the genuine leaders of the proletariat—Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, and scores of others. In this way the Scheidemann gang is only putting off the hour of its defeat. Obviously, those people cannot govern. Since November 9 there have been five months of freedom in the German Republic, and either the Scheidemann gang or their accomplices have been in power. But you know there is more squabbling among them than ever. This example proves that the only alternative is either the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or the dictatorship of the proletariat. The fact that there is no middle course is shown, for example, by what we read today in the Frankfurter Zeitung. It says that the example of Hungary shows we must go forward to socialism. Hungary has proved that the bourgeoisie voluntarily surrenders power to the Soviets when they know that the country is in such a desperate position that nothing can save it, that nothing can lead the people along the difficult path of salvation but the Soviets. And to those who, wavering between the old and the new, say that although ideologically they do not recognise the dictatorship of the proletariat they are, nevertheless, prepared to assist oviet power and keep their convictions to themselves because they understand that in the midst of fierce war we must not argue, but fight—to those people we say: “If you want to engage in politics, meaning by politics that you, in front of the. weary and tormented masses, will freely criticise Soviet power, not realising that in this way you are helping Kolchak—we say there will be ruthless war against you.” It is not easy to grasp the significance of and carry out such a policy at one stroke. We cannot pursue the same policy with regard to all of them. We tell them that if they want to engage in their politics, we shall provide a place for them in prison, or in other countries which are willing to receive them. We shall make these countries a present of several hundred Menshevjks. Or do you, at last, want to offer to help Soviet power, because otherwise there will be several more years of untold disaster, and in the end Soviet power will be victorious anyway. To people who talk like that we must give every encouragement; and we must give them practical work to do. This policy cannot be defined so easily and at one stroke as a policy which proceeds in one, single direction. But I am sure that every worker who has had practical experience of what the burden of war means, who knows what supplying the Red Army means, who knows the horrors every Red Army man at the front must go through—every worker will fully appreciate this lesson in jolitics. That is why I ask you to adopt these theses, and to concentrate all the efforts of the trade unions on the task of putting them into operation as speedily and vigorously as possible.


Reply To A Question On The Tula Strike

I have no definite information about Tula and cannot speak as authoritatively on this matter as the preceding comrades did. But I do know the political physiognomy of the newspaper Vsegda Vperyod! This Is nothing more nor less than incitement to strike. It is aiding and abetting our enemies, the Mensbeviks, who are fomenting strikes. Somebody asked me if this had been proved. My reply is that if I were a barrister, a solicitor, or a member of Parliament, I would be obliged to present proof. But I am not the first, the second, or the third, and so I do not intend to and there is no reason why I should. Even supposing the Menshevik Central Committee is better than the Mensheviks in Tula who have been definitely exposed as fomentors of strikes—in fact I have no doubt some of the regular members of the Menshevik Committee are better—in a political struggle, when the whiteguards are trying to get us by the throat, is it possible to draw distinctions? Have we time for it? Facts are facts. Let us suppose that they were not aiding and abetting, but were weak and yielded to the Right Mensheviks; so what of it? The Right Mensheviks foment strikes, and Martov, or others, condemned these Rights in the newspapers. What does this teach us? We get a note saying “I, too, condemn, but”... (A voice: “What else can they do?”). They can do what the Bolshevik Party does take their stand, not in words, but in deeds. Does not propaganda abroad take advantage of the conduct of the Mensheviks here? Did not the Berne Conference support all the imperialists when they said that the Bolsheviks were usurpers? We say—you have taken this stand at a time when Kolchak’s gangs are striking a blow that is causing the death of thousands of Red Army men in a country which the imperialists of the whole world are trying to crush. In two years’ time, perhaps, after we have beaten KoJchak, we shall examine this matter, but not now. Now we must fight in order to defeat the enemy within the next few months; and you know what this enemy will do to the workers. You know this from what happened at Ivashchenkovo.[3] You know what Koichak is doing.


Speech Closing The Discussion

Comrades, one of the speakers, who was called the speaker for the Opposition, demanded in a resolution that we should turn to our Constitution. When I heard that I wondered whether the speaker was not confusing our Constitution with the Scheidemann Constitution. Scheidemann’s, like that of all democratic republics, promises all citizens all sorts of liberties. Bourgeois republics have promised this to everybody for hundreds and thousands of years. You know what became of these bourgeois republics; you know that on a world-wide scale they have all collapsed. The vast majority of the workers side with the Communists. The word “Sovietist”, which does not exist in the Russian language, is heard everywhere in the world. And we can say that no matter what country we go to, if we say the word “Sovietist”, everybody will understand us and follow our lead. Clause 23 of the Constitution says:

”Guided by the interests of the working class as a whole, the R.S.F.S.R, deprives individual persons and individual groups of rights used to the detriment of the socialist revolution.”

We did not promise liberties right and left; on the contrary, we, in our Constitution, which has been translated into all languages—into German, English, Italian and French—said definitely that we shall deprive socialists of their liberties if they use them to the detriment of the socialist revolution, if they are used to cover up liberties for the capitalists. That is why this reference to the Constitution was wrong even from the formal point of view. We have openly stated that in the transition period, the period of fierce struggle, we not only refrain from promising liberties right and left, but say in advance that we shall deprive of their liberties those citizens who hinder the socialist revolution. Who will judge whether they do so or not? The proletariat will.

Attempts have been made here to turn the question into one of parliamentary struggle. I have always said: parliamentarism is an excellent thing, but these are not parliamentary times. Hearing the government declare that the situation is grave, Comrade Lozovsky says that this is exactly the time for the people to present scores of demands. That is what all parliamentarians did in the “good old days”; but this is not the time for that sort of thing. I know that we suffer from a host of defects, I know that in Hungary Soviet power will be better than in this country. But when we are told in a period of mobilisation that this, that and the other are proposed, and that we should bargain over it, I say that these old parliamentary methods are useless; the class-conscious workers have already rejected them. This is not what we want.

We defined our main line as class struggle against the kulaks, against the rich elements who are opposed to us. Success in this being assured, we say that we must now establish more correct relations with the middle peasants. This is a very difficult job. In a period of grave danger you must help Soviet power, such. as it is. We shall not change within the next few months. Here there is not and cannot be any middle course. Any attempt to create this middle course by artificial parliamentary methods would be stepping on to slippery ground. When one speaker said that the peasants are all opposed to us, this was one of those “little” exaggerations which in practice encourage the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. The vast majority of the people know that by far most of the peasants are with us. For the first time they have Soviet power. Even the slogans of the insurrection (in which only an insignificant section of the peasant masses was involved) were “For Soviet power. For the Bolsheviks. Down with the cornmunia”. We say that the fight against this will be a very stubborn one, because the intelligentsia are sabotaging us on the sly. We have been obliged to take a larger number of bad elements than good. Since the better elements of the intelligentsia turned their backs on us, we were obliged to take those that are not so good.

Comrade Romanov proposed a resolution which he himself formulated after his comrades had been arrested. “We demand freedom for all...” they declare. (Lenin reads the resolution.) The workers later resumed work, but this cost us several thousands of lost days and several thousands of lives of Red Army men, workers and peasants, on the Eastern Front.

I ask calmly and categorically which is better, to imprison several scores or hundreds of instigators, guilty or innocent, deliberate or unwitting, or lose thousands of Red Army men and workers? The first is better. I don’t care. whether I am accused of committing every mortal sin imaginable and of violating liberties, I plead guilty, but the interests of the workers will be furthered. At a time like this, when the people are exhausted, politically conscious elements should help them to hold on for the next few months. It was not we who were victorious in Odessa. It is ridiculous to think that we were victorious. We captured Odessa because their soldiers refused to go into battle. I received a telegram from the Northern Front saying, “Send the British prisoners of war to the front.” The comrades here say that the British are wailing and saying they will not go back into the army. What does that show? Their troops refuse to go into battle. They are ten times stronger than we are, and yet they refuse to fight.

That is why, when we are told that we promised a lot, but have done nothing, we say that we have done the main thing. We promised to start a revolution which will become a world revolution; it has begun, and it now stands so firmly on its feet that our international position is splendid. We fulfilled our main promise and, evidently, the vast majority f the class-conscious workers realise this. They realise that now only a few months separate us from victory over the capitalists all over the world. What are we to do in these few months if certain elements are exhausted; what should we do, play with them, incite them or, on the contrary, help the exhausted to hold out for those few months that will decide the fate of the entire war. You can see that in the South we shall get the war over in less than a few months, we shall finish it off completely and release the army for the East. It is obvious, therefore, that the plans or the Entente—of the British, French and Americans—have gone awry. In Odessa, they had ten thousand men and a fleet—that is what the position was. This is not a matter of parliamentarism, or of concessions—on this we make no promises and undertake no obligations. We put the question this way—when the people are war weary, and are hard pressed by hunger, what should the class-conscious proletariat, the class-conscious section of the workers do? Permit people to play on this weariness, for it is beoming a game. If we say stop the war, the ignorant masses will vote for it, but the class-conscious section of the masses says that we can bring the war to a close within the next few months. The weary must be encouraged, sustained and led. The comrades themselves see that every class-conscious worker leads scores of tired people. We say this and we demand it. This is exactly what the dictatorship of the proletariat means—one class leads the other, because it is more organised, more solid and more class-conscious. The ignorant masses fall to every bait, and because of their weariness are ready to yield to anything. But the class-conscious section says that we must hold out, because in a few months we shall be victorious all over the world. This is how the matter stands. I take the liberty of thinking that the time has not yet come for parliamentary debates. We must make another big effort to achieve victory, and this time final victory, within the next few months.


[1] Following Lenin s report to this Plenary Meeting on the tasks of the trade unions in connection with the mobilisation for the Eastern Front, Lenin’s Theses of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) on the Situation on the Eastern Front were adopted and were next day published in Pravda.

[2] The Moscow Soviet (August 24) and the Petrograd Soviet (September 5, 1918) passed decisions permitting factory and office workers of those cities, in view of the grave food situation, to transport up to one-and-a-half poods of foodstuffs for their personal use. A resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars made these decisions effective until October 1, 1918.

[3] Lenin refers to the whiteguards’ brutal treatment of workers from the Sergievsky Plant and the Tomylovo Artillery Warehouses at the station of Ivashehenkovo, near Samara, on October 1 and 2, 1918. On the approach of Red Army units the workers decided to prevent the whiteguards from removing factory equipment. With the aid of the Czechoslovaks the whiteguards broke the resistance of the workers and shot over a thousand of them.