V. I. Lenin

Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) March 18-23, 1919


Speech Closing The Congress

March 23

Comrades, all the items on our agenda have been dealt with. Permit me to say a few words in closing the Congress.

Comrades, it is not only the loss of one of our best organisers and practical leaders, Yakov Mikhailovich Sverdlov, that has made the time at which we assembled here a very difficult one. It is a particularly difficult time because international imperialism is making a last and exceptionally strenuous effort to crush the Soviet Republic—of this there is now no doubt. We do not doubt that the fierce attacks launched in the West and the East, accompanied as they are by a number of whiteguard revolts and attempts to dismantle the railway line in several places, are deliberate measures apparently decided on in Paris by the Entente imperialists. We all know, comrades, how difficult it was for Russia, after four years of imperialist war, to take up arms in defence of the Soviet Republic against the imperialist plunderers. We all know what a burden this war is, how it is exhausting us. But we also know that this war is being fought with redoubled vigour and dauntless courage only because for the first time in world history, an army, an armed force, has been created, which knows what it is fighting for; and because, for the first time in world history, workers and peasants are making incredible sacrifices in the knowledge that they are defending the Soviet Socialist Republic, the rule of the working people over the capitalists; they know that they are defending the cause of the world proletarian socialist revolution.

Amidst these difficult conditions we accomplished a great deal in a very short time. We managed to endorse our programme unanimously, as was the case with every vital decision of the Congress. We are convinced that in spite of its numerous literary and other shortcomings, this programme has already gone into the history of the Third International as the programme which sums up the results of the new stage in the world movement for the emancipation of the proletariat. We are convinced that in many countries, where we have far more allies and friends than we imagine, the mere translation of our programme will provide the most effective answer to the question as to what has been done by the Russian Communist Party, which is one of the units of the international proletariat. Our programme will serve as extremely effective material for propaganda and agitation; it is a document which will lead the workers to say, “Here are our comrades, our brothers; here our common cause is becoming reality.”

Comrades, we succeeded in passing a number of other important decisions at this Congress. We approved of the formation of the Third, Communist International, which was founded here in Moscow. We adopted a unanimous decision on the military question. Vast though the differences of opinion may have appeared at first, diverse as may have been the views of the many comrades who very frankly criticised the shortcomings of our military policy, we on the commission found no difficulty in arriving at an absolutely unanimous decision, and we shall leave this Congress convinced that our chief defender, the Red Army, for the sake of which the whole country is making such incalculable sacrifices, will find in every delegate to the Congress, in every member of the Party, a warm, unselfish and devoted assistant, leader, friend and collaborator.

Comrades, we were able to solve the organisational problems confronting us with such ease because the solutions had been indicated by the entire history of the relations between the Party and the Soviets. All we were called upon to do was sum up. On the subject of our work in the rural districts; the Congress, in a unanimous decision speedily arrived at, laid down our policy on a question that is particularly important and particularly difficult, and one that in other countries is even regarded as insoluble—the attitude of the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie towards the vast masses of middle peasants. We are all convinced that this Congress decision will help to consolidate our power. We are convinced that in the trying period through which we are now passing, when the imperialists are making their final effort to overthrow the Soviet government by force, and when an acute food shortage and the chaotic state of the transport have once again rendered the position of hundreds, thousands and millions of people desperate, the resolution we adopted and the spirit which animated the delegates to this Congress will help us to bear these trials and to live through this difficult half-year.

We are convinced that this will be the last difficult half-year. This conviction of ours is greatly strengthened by the news we announced to the Congress the other day—the news of the success of the proletarian revolution in Hungary. Up to now Soviet power has been victorious in only one country, among the peoples which once constituted the former Russian Empire; and short-sighted people, who found it exceptionally difficult to abandon routine and old habits of thought (even though they may have belonged to the socialist camp), imagined that this surprising swing towards proletarian Soviet democracy was due entirely to the peculiar conditions prevailing in Russia; they thought that perhaps the specific features of this democracy reflected, as in a distorting mirror, the peculiar features of former, tsarist Russia. If there was ever any foundation for such an opinion, there is certainly none whatever now. Comrades, the news received today gives us a picture of the Hungarian Revolution. We learn from today’s news that the Allied powers have presented a brutal ultimatum to Hungary demanding free passage for their troops. The bourgeois government, seeing that the Allied powers wanted to move their troops through Hungary, seeing that Hungary would be subjected to the frightful sufferings of a new war—this government of bourgeois compromisers voluntarily resigned, voluntarily opened negotiations with the Communists, our Hungarian comrades, who were in prison, and voluntarily admitted that there was no way out of the situation except by transferring power to the working people. (Applause.)

It was said that we were usurpers. At the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918, the only words with which the bourgeoisie and many of their followers described our revolution were “violence” and “usurpation”. Even now we hear statements to the effect that the Bolshevik government is holding on by force, although we have repeatedly demonstrated that this is absurd. But if such absurdities could be uttered in the past, they have now been silenced by what has occurred in Hungary. Even the bourgeoisie has realised that there can be no government authority except that of the Soviets. The bourgeoisie of a more cultured country sees more clearly than our bourgeoisie did on the eve of October 25 that the country is perishing, that trials of increasing severity are being imposed on the people, and that, therefore, political power must be transferred to the Soviets, that the workers and peasants of Hungary, the new, Soviet, proletarian democracy must save her.

Comrades, the difficulties which face the Hungarian revolution are immense. Hungary is a small country compared with Russia and can be stifled by the imperialists much more easily. However great the difficulties which undoubtedly still face Hungary, we have achieved a moral victory in addition to a victory for Soviet power. A most radical, democratic and compromising bourgeoisie realised that at a moment of extreme crisis, when a new war is menacing a country already exhausted by war, a Soviet government is a historical necessity, that in such a country there can be no government but a Soviet government, the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Comrades, behind us there is a long line of revolutionaries who sacrificed their lives for the emancipation of Russia. The lot of the majority of these revolutionaries was a hard one. They suffered the persecution of the tsarist government, but it was not their good fortune to see the triumph of the revolution. A better fortune has fallen to our lot. Not only have we seen the triumph of our revolution, not only have we seen it become consolidated amidst unprecedented difficulties, create new forms of government and win the sympathy of the whole world, but we are also seeing the seed sown by the Russian revolution springing up in Europe. This imbues us with the absolute and unshakable conviction that no matter how difficult the trials that may still befall us, and no matter how great the misfortunes that may be brought upon us by that dying beast, international imperialism, that beast will perish, and socialism will triumph throughout the world. (Prolonged applause.)

I declare the Eighth Congress of the Russian Communist Party closed.