Delivered: 19 December, 1919
First Published: Brief report published December 20, 1919 in Izvestia No. 286; First published in full in the Fourth (Russian) Edition of the Collected Works; Published according to the verbatim report
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 30, pages 277-282
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 are gathered here today to celebrate the anniversary of the December uprising in Moscow and the battle that took place in Presnya District fourteen years ago.
Comrades, the 1905 insurrection in Moscow was one of the greatest movements by Russian worker revolutionaries and although it could not have been a success at that time it was nevertheless of tremendous significance. It is only today, when we have before us a picture of the many years of historical preparatory work for the Russian revolution, that we can properly appreciate the significance of the December uprising in 1905 and of the battles that the workers of Red Presnya then fought against the forces of tsarism. Comrades, we now see clearly how insignificant the forces of the Russian workers then were; and we see that the sacrifices made at that time have been repaid a hundredfold.
I must say, however, that in December 1905, tsarism had to muster all its forces in order to suppress the still weak, embryonic revolt of the workers. The Moscow organisation of our Party has recently published two collections of reminiscences of the December insurrection, the events in Presnya, and about the way the weak underground Party organisation of that time prepared the insurrection and about the tremendous enthusiasm with which not only factory workers, but all the working people of Moscow supported it. Among these newly published articles there is a particularly interesting one by a gendarme and police officer which admits that the revolutionaries in December 1905 still did not know how weak they, the supporters of tsarism, were at that time. “If the blow struck by the revolutionaries had been a little more powerful and had lasted a little longer,” admits this servant of the tsar, “we should not have been able to hold out, with the disorder that was beginning to make itself felt among us.” This admission, made by a member of the secret police, is especially interesting; it shows that the sacrifices made by the workers of Presnya in the cause of freedom and the emancipation of the workers were not made in vain, that even then their heroic example demonstrated the strength of the working class to all enemies and at the same time ignited those millions of sparks that later, in a long and toilsome manner, over a period of many years, burst into flame and produced the victorious revolution.
After 1905 the working-class movement in Russia experienced the most difficult and bloody period of its history. Tsarism showed unprecedented brutality in dealing with the heroes who revolted in Moscow in 1905. After the suppression of the Moscow uprising the working class of Russia made several more attempts to rise to the level of a mass struggle. In the spring of 1906 there were mass strikes and the beginnings of a peasant movement; in 1907 another attempt was made these attempts, however, could only slow down the forces of reaction but were unable to check them. And long years passed during which the movement was forced to hide in the underground, when hundreds and thousands of the sons of the working class perished on the gallows, in prisons, in exile and in penal colonies.
Then we saw that in 1910, 1911 and 1912 the working class again began to muster its forces and we saw how, after the Lena massacre in April 1912, a wave of powerful mass strikes began to rise which spread from one end of the country to the other and gave tsarism such a jolt that by the summer of 1914 events went as far as barricades in Petrograd; it is possible that one of the reasons accelerating the tsarist government’s desperate decision to start the war was their hope of crushing the revolutionary movement in that way. Instead of crushing it, however, the war was the cause of the revolutionary movement spreading to all advanced countries.
As we can see clearly enough, the four-year war was carried on by predators, not only by German but also by British and French imperialism, for the purpose of plunder. When the Germans, in 1918, imposed the plundering Treaty of Brest-Litovsk upon us, there was no end to the shouts disapproving of that treaty in France and Britain, and when a year later, in that same year of 1918, Germany was defeated and the German Empire collapsed, the French and British capitalists then imposed the Treaty of Versailles on conquered Germany; this is now an example of measures still more brutal, more violent, than we had at Brest-Litovsk.
We now see how, week by week, the eyes of hundreds, thousands and millions of workers in France, Britain and America are being opened; they were duped and were assured that they were fighting a war against German imperialism and they have now seen that millions of people were killed and maimed in that war. And for what? For the enrichment of an insignificant handful of millionaires who since the war have become multimillionaires and who have brought all countries to the brink of ruin.
Comrades, we are living in difficult times insofar as concerns the misfortunes that have overtaken the industrial, especially the urban, workers. You know how difficult this situation is and how hungry and cold our working class is. And we also know that not only backward Russia who was torn by war for four years and after that has had for another two years to pursue a war imposed on her with the help of Britain and France-Russia was not the only country that has been ruined, but the most advanced and wealthy countries, the victor countries such as, for instance, France and the U.S.A., have also been brought to the brink of ruin. They are experiencing a coal crisis, they have to curtail the railway services because their industry and transport were crushed and ruined to an unparalleled degree by four years of war. Huge productive forces were destroyed in that imperialist war and we see as a result that the road which the Russian working class showed all workers, showed the whole world as far back as 1905 when it revolted against tsarism, the path which was followed by the Russian working class when it overthrew the bourgeoisie—that path is now attracting the attention and winning the sympathy of workers of all, even the most advanced, countries.
I have already said, comrades, that this winter we have to endure unparalleled hardships and calamities. We say to ourselves, however, that we shall stand firm to the end, because the best of the workers, the most politically conscious workers and peasants, have, despite all calamities and hardships, been helping us, helping us by forming the Red Army which is bringing us to final victory. We know that now that Kolchak’s forces have been completely routed and the recent revolts in Siberia have seemingly deprived the remnants of Kolchak’s army of the possibility of joining up with Denikin, and now that huge military forces have been captured at Novo-Nikolayevsk, there is obviously no longer Kolchak’s army. In the South, where Denikin was able to boast of his successes, we now see the steadily growing offensive of our Red Army. You know that Kiev, Poltava and Kharkov have been captured and our advance on the Donets Basin, the source of coal supplies, is proceeding at an extremely rapid rate.
We therefore see, comrades, that all those terrible misfortunes which the working class has borne for the sake of our full victory over capital, all the sacrifices that have been made are now bringing good results. We see that capitalists abroad who have, until now, been handing out millions of rubles and every kind of war materiel, first to Kolchak, and then to Yudenich and Denikin, are now beginning to hesitate.
You know that they cut Russia off from other countries by the iron ring of the blockade and you know that they did not let our representatives go to other countries. You know that Comrade Litvinov, one of the revolutionaries who fought with the Bolsheviks against tsarism even before 1905, was our Ambassador to Great Britain and that there was not a workers’ meeting that did not greet him with such applause and with such stormy protests against their own government, that the British went to the trouble of deporting him. Today, those people who hate Litvinov so heartily have given him permission to go to Copenhagen, and not merely permission, but also the means (Comrade Litvinov arrived there on a British cruiser). We also know that every day of Comrade Litvinov’s stay in Copenhagen is an ever greater victory for Russia. Workers’ representatives and the correspondents of thousands of bourgeois newspapers are constantly approaching him for an explanation of the change that has taken place. We know that the change has come because the Western bourgeoisie can no longer keep up the blockade and help the Russian counter-revolutionary generals with millions of rubles because the working class of each of those rich and advanced countries will not let them.
Perhaps the most vivid expression of the turn that has come in the politics of the European countries is the voting of the deputies in the Italian chamber which we know of from the report sent by wireless from France to America and picked up by our wireless station. The report was this. When the question of Russia was discussed in the Italian chamber, and when the socialists proposed the immediate recognition of the Soviet Republic, a hundred voted for and two hundred against the proposal; that means that only the workers were in favour of recognising the Soviet Republic and all the bourgeois deputies rejected it. After that, however, the Italian chamber passed a unanimous motion to the effect that the Italian Government approach the allies with a view to stop the blockade altogether and put an end to all intervention in Russian affairs. That was a decision adopted by a chamber that consists to the extent of two thirds, if not three-quarters, of landowners and capitalists, that was adopted in one of the victor countries and that was adopted simply under pressure from the working-class movement.
The decision shows clearly that a real turning-point in international politics is approaching arid that the tremendous inner forces of the working-class movement of every country have actually brought about what we have always hoped for, which we told the workers of Russia would happen, and for the sake of which, we told them, it was worth while struggling and making heavy sacrifices, that the sacrifices would have to be made, so that the troubles and torments, the hunger and cold that we are suffering from will not have been in vain. In this way we are not merely saving Russia, we are winning the sympathy and support of millions and millions of workers of other countries with every week of struggle. That is why today, when we remember our comrades who fell, the heroes of Red Presnya, the memory of them gives us greater enthusiasm and firm resolution to bring victory near.
Despite all difficulties and all sacrifices we shall go forward ourselves and will lead the workers of all countries to full victory over capital. (Applause.)