V. I. Lenin

Speech At A Meeting Of

The Railwaymen Of Moscow Junction

April 16, 1919

Delivered: 16 April, 1919
First Published: Pravda No. 85, April 23, 1919; Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 314-319
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

Comrades, we all know that our country is now passing through difficult times. We have had to declare a mobili-sation to repel the last onslaught of the counter-revolu-tionaries and of international imperialism. At the present time we need the effective assistance of the masses of the working people themselves to carry out this mobilisation successfully.

Comrades, all of you, of course, know perfectly well what colossal difficulties the war is causing and what enormous sacrifices it demands, particularly at the present time, when the country has to face the food difficulties and transport chaos as a result of the war. Owing to this, the sufferings that the masses of the working people have to bear as a consequence of this war have now become more acute than ever.

But we have every reason to think and assert that our position has improved, and that we shall surmount all our difficulties. We are not, however, harbouring any illusions. We know that at the present time our enemies, the capital-ists of Britain, France and America, who are obviously working jointly with the Russian capitalists, are making a last effort to overthrow Soviet power. We see that the representatives of the landowners and the capitalists have been conferring in Paris for a long time now. We see that day after day and hour after hour they have greater hopes that Soviet power will collapse. But we also see that to this day, five months after their victory over Germany, they have failed to conclude peace. Why? Because they are quarrelling among themselves over the division of the dainty morsels—who is to get Turkey, who is to get Bul-garia, how is Germany to be plundered, which titbits Brit-ain, France and America are to have, how many billions to take in the form of indemnities from the Germans? It is obvious that they will get nothing from Germany, because that country has been ruined by the war, and the masses of the working people there are more and more vigorously resisting the oppression of the bourgeois government.

Comrades, because of all this we may be sure that at the present time, in view of Kolchak’s victory on the East-ern Front, there has been a fresh burst of hope on the part of the Russian and foreign capitalists. But even though Kolchak may succeed in winning partial victories, they will never realise their hopes in respect of the Soviet Rus-sian Republic.

We know that after their victory over Germany, the Al-lies were left with capital, an army millions strong, and a navy that knows no rival. Immediately after the defeat of Germany they had every opportunity of utilising all these forces for the purpose of conquering the Soviet Rus-sian Republic. All that the Allied imperialists did in South Russia, their landing on the Black Sea coast and their occupation of Odessa, was directed against Soviet power.

But what do we see today, five months later? Did they not have military forces, a million-strong army, and a navy? Why did they have to retreat before the badly armed army of Ukrainian workers and peasants?

Because there is disaffection among their troops; this is proved by the information we have received, and which has been corroborated. A war for the division of capitalists’ profits cannot be waged for four years with impunity. And now they have defeated Wilhelm, upon whom they put all the blame, they are unable to continue the war. We know that in the military sense the Entente countries were, and strictly speaking, still are, immeasurably stronger than we are. Nevertheless, we say that they have lost the war against us. This is not merely our imagination, or enthusiasm on our part, it has been proved by the events in the Ukraine. They cannot fight after all countries have been exhausted by war, worn out by it, when it is becoming obvious to everybody that the war is being continued only for the purpose of preserving the power of capital over the working people. The Allies are still postponing the inevitable con-clusion of peace with Russia, for the sake of which we have taken a number of steps, and have even offered terms that will be most burdensome for us. But we know that heavy financial burdens are immeasurably easier to bear than the continuation of the war, which deprives us of the younger generation of the workers and peasants. The imperialist governments know they cannot wage war against us. They know what the advance of Kolchak, who has mobilised several tens of thousands of young Siberian peasants, is really worth. He dared not recruit men who have seen active service, for he knew that they would not follow him, and he is able to keep control over these peasant lads only by brutal discipline and deception.

That is why we say with absolute conviction, although our position has become more acute, that we are in a posi-tion to bring this war to a close within the next few months and the Allies will be compelled to conclude peace with us. They are relying on Kolchak, they are counting on the food difficulties causing the collapse of Soviet power; nothing of the kind, we say. Of course, our food situation is by no means an easy one, and we know that still greater difficulties lie ahead. Nevertheless, we say that our position is nowhere near as bad as it was last year. At that time, last spring, the food shortage and the transport chaos were a greater threat than now.

In the first half of 1918 our food supply organisations were able to procure only twenty-eight million poods of grain, but in the second half of that year they obtained sixty-seven million poods. The first half of the year is always more difficult and the food shortage more severe. Last year, when the whole of the Ukraine was under the heel of the Germans, when Krasnov in the Don region re-ceived scores of carloads of military supplies from the Germans, and when the Czechoslovaks had captured the Volga area, the food situation was incomparably worse.

Now, the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic has been joined by others. The Latvian Republic has recently con-solidated its position. There is disaffection among the German troops who advanced so rapidly, and the German soldiers say that. they will not fight to restore the power of the barons. And the Ukraine, which Petlyura’s gang captured for a short, period, has now been entirely cleared of them and our Red troops are marching on to Bessarabia. We know that the international position of the Soviet Republic is becoming more stable every day, we may say, every hour. You all know that Soviet power has been es-tablished in Hungary, too, that a Soviet Republic has been set up there, and when it became evident that the Allies intended to plunder the country the bourgeoisie resigned and its place was taken by the workers.

Now, with the conquest of the Ukraine and the consoli-dation of Soviet power in the Don region, we are gaining strength. We can now say that we have sources of grain and food, and an opportunity of obtaining fuel from the Donets Basin. We are convinced, that, although the most difficult months are approaching, although the food crisis is more acute and our transport system is worn out and ruined, we shall nevertheless get over this crisis. In the Ukraine there are huge stocks of grain, surpluses that are difficult to take all at once; partisan warfare is still raging there, and the peasants, intimidated by the brutal rule of the Germans, are afraid to seize the landed estates. The first organisational steps in the Ukraine are difficult, just as they were here in the period when the Soviet government had its headquarters at Smolny.

We must send no less than three thousand railwaymen and a number of peasants from starving North Russia to the Ukraine. The Ukrainian Government has already issued a decree fixing the exact amount of grain that we may take at once at a hundred million poods.

According to our information, in one of the districts of the Donets Basin there are also a million poods of grain at a distance of not more than ten versts from the railway.

Last year we had no such stocks, no such resources, but we have them now. This shows that if we exert all our efforts for a short time we shall be able to bring the war to a close within the next few months. We have decisive preponderance in the South. The Allies—the French and British—have lost their campaign and have discovered that with the insignificant number of troops at their com-mand they cannot wage war against the Soviet Republic. The lies that they spread about us are being dispelled; nobody now believes the fairy-tale that the Bolsheviks overthrew the former government by force and are main-taming power by force. Everybody knows that the Soviet Republic is gaining strength every day.

We are mobilising you now because the outcome of the war depends on this mobilisation. We have every reason for stating that it will decide this issue in our favour, and the imperialists will be compelled to accept our offer of peace because their strength is waning day by day.

Comrades, this is why the Soviet government has decided to strain every nerve, to mobilise mainly the workers and the peasants of the non-agricultural gubernias. We think that this mobilisation, assuming we make a rapid advance at the front, will enable us also to improve the food situa-tion, for it will reduce the number of consumers in the non-agricultural gubernias, where the famine is more acute. The tens of thousands of men who will be sent to the front-and we are fighting in the most fertile and well-fed districts of the country—will be able to obtain food for themselves, and if we develop the parcel post system, they will be able immediately to assist their families at home to a no less and perhaps even to a larger extent than under the pood-and-a-half system.

The possibility of bringing the war to a speedy close depends on this mobilisation; and on this mobilisation we base our hopes that Kolchak’s advance will be checked and his forces routed. We do not want to weaken our forces in the South where they are winding up their victory over the remnants of Krasnov’s gangs because we want to make sure of our hold over this most fertile district. We have captured almost the whole of the Don region; in the North Caucasus there are even larger stocks of grain which we are sure of getting hold of if we do not weaken the Southern Front.

Comrades, for the first time in the history of the world we are waging a war in which the workers and peasants, knowing, feeling and seeing that the burden of war is im-mense, suffering the pangs of starvation in a country which is surrounded by the imperialists like a besieged fortress, understand that they are fighting for the land and factories. A nation in which the majority of the workers and peasants realise, feel and see that they are fighting for their own Soviet power, for the rule of the working people, for the cause whose victory will ensure them and their children all the benefits of culture, of all that has been created by human labour—such a nation can never he vanquished. And we are convinced, comrades, that this mobilisation will he carried through much better than previous mobilisations, that you will support it, that iii addition to speakers at meetings, every one of you, and every one of your friends, will become a propagandist and go to his fellow-workers in the factories and on the railways and explain to them in plain language why it is necessary now to exert all efforts so as to crush the enemy within the next few months. The masses themselves will rise, they will all become agitators to a man, and create an invincible force that will ensure the existence of the Soviet Republic not only in Russia, but all over the world.