Written: 24 August, 1919
First Published: Pravda No. 190, August 28, 1919; Published according to the text of the pamphlet V. I. Lenin, Letter to the Workers and Peasants Apropos the Victory Over Kolchak, Moscow, 1919
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 552-560
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, Red troops have liberated the entire Urals area from Kolchak and have begun the liberation of Siberia. The workers and peasants of the Urals and Siberia are enthusiastically welcoming Soviet power, for it is sweeping away with an iron broom all the landowner and capitalist scum who ground down the people with exactions, humiliations, floggings, and the restoration of tsarist oppression.
Although we all rejoice at the liberation of the Urals and the entry of the Red troops into Siberia we must not allow ourselves to be lulled into a sense of security. The enemy is still far from being destroyed. He has not even been definitely broken.
Every effort must be made to drive Kolchak and the Japanese and other foreign bandits out of Siberia, and an even greater effort is needed to destroy the enemy, to prevent him from starting his banditry again and again.
How is that to be achieved?
The harrowing experience of the Urals and Siberia, as well as the experience of all countries which have been through the torments of the four years of imperialist war, must not be without its lessons for us.
Here are the five chief lessons which all workers and peasants, all working people, must draw from this experience so as to ensure themselves against a repetition of the calamities of the Kolchak rule.
First lesson. In order to defend the power of the workers and peasants from the bandits, that is, from the landowners and capitalists, we need a powerful Red Army. We have proved—not by words but by actual deeds—that we are capable of creating it, that we have learned to direct it and to defeat the capitalists notwithstanding the lavish assistance in arms and equipment they are receiving from the richest countries in the world. That much the Bolsheviks have proved by actual deeds. All workers and peasants—if they are class-conscious—must place their faith in them, not on the strength of their word (for to believe a man on the strength of his word is foolish), but on the strength of the experience of millions upon millions of people in the Urals and Siberia. It is a most difficult problem to combine two elements—arming the workers and peasants and giving the command to ex-officers, who for the most part sympathise with the landowners and capitalists. It can be solved only given splendid organising ability, strict and conscious discipline, and the confidence of the broad masses in the guiding force, the worker commissars. This most difficult problem the Bolsheviks have solved; cases of treachery on the part of ex-officers are very numerous, nevertheless the Red Army is not only in our hands, but has learned to defeat the generals of the tsar and the generals of Britain, France, and America.
Consequently, everyone who seriously wishes to rid him self of the rule of Kolchak must devote all his energies, means and ability without reservation to the task of building up and strengthening the Red Army. Obey all the laws on the Red Army and all orders conscientiously and scrupulously, support discipline in it in every way, and help the Red Army, each to the best of his ability—such is the prime, fundamental, and principal duty of every class-conscious worker and peasant who does not want the rule of Kolchak.
Fear like the plague the unruly guerrilla spirit, the arbitrary actions of isolated detachments and disobedience to the central authorities, for it spells doom as the Urals, Siberia, and the Ukraine have demonstrated.
He who does not unreservedly and selflessly assist the Red Army, or support order and discipline in it with all his might, is a traitor and treason-monger, a supporter of the rule of Kolchak, and should be shown no mercy.
With a strong Red Army we shall be invincible. Without a strong army we shall inevitably fall victim to Kolchak, Denikin, and Yudenich.
Second lesson. The Red Army cannot be strong without large state stocks of grain, for without them it is impossible to move an army freely or to train it properly. Without them we cannot maintain the workers who are producing for the army.
Every class-conscious worker and peasant must know and remember that the chief reason now that our Red Army successes are not swift and stable enough is precisely the shortage of state stocks of grain. He who does not give his surpluses of grain to the state is helping Kolchak, he is a traitor and betrayer of the workers and peasants and is responsible for the unnecessary death and suffering of tens of thousands of workers and peasants in the Red Army.
Rogues and profiteers and very ignorant peasants argue in this way—better sell my grain at the open market price, I will get far more for it than the fixed price paid by the state.
But the whole point is that free sale promotes profiteering; a few get rich, only the wealthy are sated, while the working masses go hungry. We saw that in practice in the richest grain-bearing-districts of Siberia and the Ukraine.
With the free sale of grain capital triumphs, while labour starves and suffers.
With the free sale of grain the price rises to thousands of rubles per pood, money loses its value, a handful of profiteers benefit while the people grow poorer.
With the free sale of grain the government granaries are empty, the army is powerless, industry dies, and the victory of Kolchak and Denikin is inevitable.
Only the rich, only the worst enemies of the workers’ and peasants’ government are consciously in favour of the free sale of grain. Those who out of ignorance are in favour of the free sale of grain should learn to understand from the example of Siberia and the Ukraine why it means victory for Kolchak and Denikin.
There are still unenlightened peasants who argue as follows: let the state first give me in exchange for my grain good wares at pre-war prices, then I will give up my surplus grain, otherwise I will not. And by this sort of argument the rogues and supporters of the landowners often hoodwink the unenlightened peasants.
It should not be difficult to understand that the workers’ state which the capitalists completely devastated by four years of a predatory war for the sake of Constantinople, and which the Kolchaks and Denikins are now devastating again by way of revenge with the help of the capitalists of the whole world—it should not be difficult to understand that such a state cannot at this moment supply the peasants with goods, for industry is at a standstill. There is no food, no fuel, no industry.
Every sensible peasant will agree that the surplus grain must be given to the starving worker as a loan on condition of receiving industrial goods in return.
That is the way it is now. All class-conscious and sensible peasants, all except the rogues and profiteers will agree that all surplus grain without exception must be turned over to the workers’ state as a loan, because then the state will restore industry and supply industrial goods to the peasants.
But, we may be asked, will the peasants trust the workers’ state sufficiently to loan their surplus grain to it?
Our reply is that first, the state gives a bond for the loan in the shape of treasury notes. Secondly, all peasants know by experience that the workers’ state, that is, Soviet power, helps the working people and fights the landowners and capitalists. That is why Soviet power is called workers’ and peasants’ power. Thirdly, the peasants have no other alternative—either they trust the worker or they trust the capitalist; they give their confidence and a loan either to the workers’ state or to the capitalist state. There is no other alternative either in Russia or in any country in the world. The more class-conscious the peasants become, the more firmly they stand by the workers and the more resolute they are in their decision to help the workers’ state in every way so as to make the return of the power of the landowners and capitalists impossible.
Third lesson. If Kolchak and Denikin are to he completely destroyed the strictest revolutionary order must be maintained, the laws and instructions of the Soviet government must be faithfully observed, and care must be taken that they are obeyed by all.
Kolchak’s victories in Siberia and the Urals have been a clear example to all of us that the least disorder, the slightest infringement of Soviet laws, the slightest laxity or negligence at once serve to strengthen the landowners and capitalists and make for their victory. For the landowners and capitalists have not been destroyed and do not consider themselves vanquished; every intelligent worker and peasant sees, knows, and realises that they have only been beaten and have gone into hiding, are lying low, very often disguising themselves by a “Soviet” “protective” colouring. Many landowners have wormed their way into state farms, and capitalists into various “chief administrations” and “central boards”, acting the part of Soviet officials; they are watching every step of the Soviet government. waiting for it to make a mistake or show weakness, so as to overthrow it, to help the Czechoslovaks today and Denikin tomorrow.
Everything must be done to track down these bandits, these landowners and capitalists who are lying low, and to ferret them out, no matter what guise they take, to expose them and punish them ruthlessly, for they are the worst foes of the working people, skilful, shrewd, and experienced enemies who are patiently waiting for an opportune moment to set a conspiracy going; they are saboteurs, who stop at no crime to injure Soviet power. We must be merciless towards these enemies of the working people, towards the landowners, capitalists, saboteurs, and counter-revolutionaries.
And in order to be able to catch them we must be skilful, careful, and class-conscious, we must watch out most attentively for the least disorder, for the slightest deviation from the conscientious observance of the laws of the Soviet government. The landowners and capitalists are strong not only because of their knowledge and experience and the assistance they get from the richest countries in the world, but also because of the force of habit and the ignorance of the broad masses who want to live in the “good old way” and do not realise how essential it is that Soviet laws be strictly and conscientiously observed.
The slightest lawlessness, the slightest infraction of Soviet law and order is a loophole the foes of the working people take immediate advantage of, it is a starting-point for Kolchak and Denikin victories. It would be criminal to forget that the Kolchak movement began through some slight lack of caution in respect of the Czechoslovaks, with insignificant insubordination on the part of certain regiments.
Fourth lesson. It is criminal to forget not only that the Kolchak movement began with trifles but also that the Mensheviks (”Social-Democrats”) and S.R.s (”Socialist Revolutionaries”) assisted its birth and directly supported it. It is time we learned to judge political parties not by their words, but by their deeds.
The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries call themselves socialists, but they are actually abettors of the counter-revolutionaries, abettors of the landowners and capitalists. This was proved in practice not only by isolated facts, but by two big periods in the history of the Russian revolution: (1) the Kerensky period, and (2) the Kolchak period. Both times the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, while professing to be “socialists” and “democrats”, actually played the role of abettors of the whiteguards. Are we then going to be so foolish as to believe them now they are suggesting we let them “try again”, and call our permission a “united socialist (or democratic) front”? Since the Kolchak experience, can there still be peasants other than few isolated individuals, who do not realise that a “united front” with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries means union with the abettors of Kolchak?
It may be objected that the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have realised their mistake and renounced all alliance with the bourgeoisie. But that is not true. In the first place, the Right Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have not renounced such an alliance, and there is no definite line of demarcation from these “Rights”. There is no such line through the fault of the “Left” Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries; for although they verbally “condemn” their “Rights”, even the best of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, in spite of all they say, are actually powerless compared with them. Secondly, what even the best of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries advocate are actually Kolchak ideas which assist the bourgeoisie and Kolchak and Denikin and help to mask their filthy and bloody capitalist deeds. These ideas are: A people’s government, universal, equal, and direct suffrage, a constituent assembly, freedom of the press, and the like. All over the world we see capitalist republics which justify capitalist rule and wars for the enslavement of colonies precisely by this lie of “democracy”. In our own country we see that Kolchak, Denikin, Yudenich or any other general readily hands out such “democratic” promises. Can we trust a man who on the strength of verbal promises helps a known bandit? The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, all without exception, help known bandits, the world imperialists, using pseudo-democratic slogans to paint their state power, their campaign against Russia, their rule and their policy in bright colours. All the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries offer us an “alliance” on condition that we make concessions to the capitalists and their leaders, Kolchak and Denikin; as, for example, that we “renounce terror” (when we are faced with the terror of the multi-millionaires of the whole Entente, of the whole alliance of the richest countries, that are engineering plots in Russia), or that we open the way for freedom to trade in grain, and so on. What these “conditions” of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries boil down to is this: we, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, are wavering towards the capitalists, and we want a “united front” with the Bolsheviks, against whom the capitalists taking advantage of every concession are fighting! No, my Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary gentlemen, look no more in Russia for people capable of believing you. In Russia class-conscious workers and peasants now realise that the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries are abettors of the whiteguards—some deliberate and malicious, others unwitting and because of their persistence in their old mistakes, but abettors of the whiteguards nevertheless.
Fifth lesson. If Kolchak and his rule are to be destroyed and not allowed to recur, all peasants must unhesitatingly make their choice in favour of the workers’ state. Some people (especially the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries—all of them, even the “Lefts” among them) are trying to scare the peasants with the bogey of the “dictatorship of one party”, the Party of Bolsheviks, Communists.
The peasants have learned from the Kolchak regime not to be afraid of this bogey.
Either the dictatorship (i.e., the iron rule) of the landowners and capitalists, or the dictatorship of the working class.
There is no middle course. The scions of the aristocracy, intellectualists and petty gentry, badly educated on bad books, dream of a middle course. There is no middle course anywhere in the world, nor can there be. Either the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (masked by ornate Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik phraseology about a people’s government, a constituent assembly, liberties, and the like), or the dictatorship of the proletariat. He who has not learned this from the whole history of the nineteenth century is a hopeless idiot. And we in Russia have all seen how the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries dreamed of a middle course under Kerensky and under Kolchak.
To whom did these dreams do service? Whom did they assist? Kolchak and Denikin. Those who dream of a middle course are abettors of Kolchak.
In the Urals and Siberia the workers and peasants had an opportunity of comparing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with the dictatorship of the working class. The dictatorship of the working class is being implemented by the Bolshevik Party, the party which as far back as 1905 and even earlier merged with the entire revolutionary proletariat.
Dictatorship of the working class means that the workers’ state will unhesitatingly suppress the landowners and capitalists and the renegades and traitors who help these exploiters, and will defeat them.
The workers’ state is an implacable enemy of the landowner and capitalist, of the profiteer and swindler, an enemy of the private ownership of land and capital, an enemy of the power of money.
The workers’ state is the only loyal friend and helper the working people and the peasantry have. No leaning towards capital but an alliance of the working people to fight it, workers’ and peasants’ power, Soviet power—that is what the “dictatorship of the working class” means in practice.
The Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries want to scare the peasants with these words. They won’t succeed. After Kolchak, the workers and peasants even in the most remote backwoods realise that these words mean precisely that without which there can be no salvation from Kolchak.
Down with the waverers, with the spineless people who are erring in the direction of helping capital and have been captivated by the slogans and promises of capital! An implacable fight against capital, and an alliance of the working people, an alliance of the peasants and the working class—that is the last and most important lesson of the Kolchak regime.
August 24, 1919