V. I. Lenin

Speech At A Joint Plenum
Of The Moscow Soviet Of Workers’, Peasants’ And Red Army Deputies,

The Moscow Committee Of The R.C.P.(B.) And The Moscow City Trade Union Council,

Dedicated To

The Third Anniversary Of The October Revolution

November 6, 1920

Delivered: 6 of November, 1920
First Published: in Verbatim Reports of the Plenums of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Deputies; Published according to the text in the book
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 397-402
Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: Translated: Julius Katzer
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters & R. 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

(Prolonged applause.) Comrades, we have gathered here today to commemorate our proletariat’s days of struggle and our revolutionary achievements. Today we can celebrate our victory. Despite the unparalleled difficulties of life and the unparalleled efforts of our enemies, we have won. We have been winning for three years. This is a gigantic victory, one that previously none of us would have believed possible. Three years ago, when we were at Smolny, the Petrograd workers’ uprising showed us that it was more unanimous than we could have expected, but had we been told that night that, three years later, we would have what now exists, that we would have this victory of ours, nobody, not even the most incurable optimist, would have believed it. We knew at that time that our victory would be a lasting one only when our cause had triumphed the world over, and so when we began working for our cause we counted exclusively on the world revolution. The imperialist war changed all the forms of life we had lived in till then, and we had no way of knowing what forms would be assumed by the struggle, which had dragged on much longer than could have been expected. Now, after three years, it turns out that we are immeasurably stronger than we were before, but the world bourgeoisie are still very strong, too; yet, despite the fact that they are far stronger than we are, we can say that we have won. We have directed all our energies to disintegrating this bourgeoisie, and in this respect our work has not been without success. The reason for this is that we staked our chances on world revolution, and were undoubtedly right in doing so. We knew that the whole world was heading for destruction; we knew that, after the imperialist war, things could not go on in the old way because the imperialist war had thoroughly destroyed all the old economic and legal relations, all the conditions of existence on which the old order had till then been based. And if, at a time when the imperialist war had done a thousand times more than our propaganda did to pave the way for a débâcle, the proletariat in even a single country took action ending in victory, this would be sufficient to undermine the forces of the world bourgeoisie.

If we now cast a glance at the international situationand we have always stressed that we regard things from the international standpoint-and examine the history of the wars that have been waged against Soviet Russia, we shall see that we are at peace with almost all the little bourgeois states bordering on us, states in winch Bolsheviks are persecuted and executed. These states are servants and slaves to the Entente, and they want to ruin and destroy Soviet Russia, yet we have concluded peace with them-against the Entente’s wishes. Three such mighty powers as Britain, France and America could not unite against us, and were defeated in a war they had begun against us with their joint forces. Why has that been? It has been because their economies and life in their countries have been undermined, because they are moribund, because they cannot go on living in the old way, and because the class at whose will they exist-the bourgeois class-has gone rotten. That class drove over 10 million people into the imperialist war and to destruction. For what purpose? For the purpose of partitioning the world among a handful of capitalists. In doing so, however, it has come to the end of its strength, and has undermined the foundations of its own existence; however strong it may seem militarily, it is internally impotent. This is no longer a proclamation in the Bolshevik spirit, but a fact that has been proved with fire and sword. However rich and strong that class may be, it is doomed, whereas we are a class that is advancing towards victory. Even though we are weaker than our enemies, we have been winning for three years, and we have the right to say, without the least boasting, that we have won.

In saying that, we should not forget another aspect of the matter. We should not forget that we have won no more than half of the victory. We have won because we have been able to hold out against states that are stronger than we are, and moreover have joined forces with our émigré exploiters-the landowners and capitalists. We have always known and shall never forget that ours is an international cause, and until the revolution takes place in all lands, including the richest and most highly civilised ones, our victory will be only a half-victory, perhaps still less. At present we are gaining the upper hand in the fighting against Wrangel; we are expecting news that will bear out our expectations.[1] We are confident that if we do not succeed in capturing the Crimea within the next few days, we shall do so several days later, but we have no guarantee that this is the last effort against us on the part of the world bourgeoisie. On the contrary, facts in our possession show that this effort will be repeated in the spring. We know that their chances of success will be negligible, and we know too that our military forces will be more powerful than those of any other country. For all that, however, the danger is not yet over; it still exists and will continue to do so until the revolution is victorious in one or in several advanced countries.

We know that things are moving in that direction; we know that the Second Congress of the Third International, wlieli was held in Moscow during the summer, did an immense job, one that has no precedent. Some of you may have been present when Comrade Zinoviev delivered his report, in which he dealt in detail with the congress of German Independents at Halle.[2] Many of you may have heard his graphic description of developments in a country in which the chances of a revolution are the greatest. Similar things are taking place in all countries. Communism has developed, grown strong, and created parties in all the leading countries. During this period, the cause of the international revolution has suffered a number of reverses in some small countries, where assistance in crushing the movement has come from such huge predators as Germany, which helped to crush the Finnish revolution, or those giants of capitalism, Britain, France and Austria, which crushed the revolution in Hungary. By doing so, however, they have multiplied a thousandfold the elements of revolution in their own countries. Today the main reason why they have been weakened by the struggle is that their rear lines are not assured, because in all countries the workers and peasants do not want to light against us, and heroic sailors have come to the fore, not only in our country, in Kronstadt, but also in their countries. Throughout France the names of the sailors who served in our Black Sea are associated with recollections of the Russian revolution; the French workers know that those who are now serving terms of penal servitude in France mutinied in the Black Sea because they refused to become butchers of the Russian workers and peasants.[3] That is why the Entente has grown weak; that is why we say with confidence that our position is secure in the international field.

However, our victory is far from complete, comrades; we have won less than half of it. Yes, we have won a gigantic victory thanks to the self-sacrifice and enthusiasm of the Russian workers and peasants; we have been able to show that Russia is capable of producing not only the individual heroes who entered the struggle against tsarism and died at a time when the workers and peasants did not support them. We were right when we said that Russia would produce such heroes from among the masses, that she would be able to do so by the hundreds and thousands We said that it would come about, and that then capitalism would be a lost cause. The main reason of our victory, its chief source, is the heroism, the self-sacrifice, and the unparalleled tenacity displayed by our lied Army men who have laid down their lives at the front, and by the workers and peasants who have suffered so much, especially the industrial workers, most of whom have suffered more during these three years than the workers did during the early years of capitalist slavery. They have endured cold, hunger and suffering-all this in order to retain power. Thanks to this tenacity and this heroism, they have created a rear that has proved the only strong rear existing at the moment among the belligerent forces. That is why we are strong and firm, whereas the Entente is steadily disintegrating before our very eyes.

However, with this enthusiasm and heroism alone, the cause of the revolution cannot be completed, carried on to full victory. These qualities were sufficient to hurl hack the enemy when he flung himself on us and tried to strangle us; they were sufficient for victory in a bloody conflict, but not for the ultimate goal. They are not enough because we are now faced with the second half of our task, the major and more difficult part. Our triumph of today, our confidence that we shall win, must be imbued with a quality that will enable us to gain a victory just as decisive in the second half of the task. Mere enthusiasm, the mere readiness of the workers and peasants to face death in accomplishing the second half of our task are not enough, because the second task is a most difficult one of constructive and creative work. From capitalism we inherited not only a ruined culture, not only wrecked factories, not only a despairing intelligentsia; we inherited a disunited and backward mass of individual proprietors; we inherited inexperience, an absence of the team spirit and of all understanding that the past must be buried.

Such are the problems we have to solve today. We must remember that today’s temper has to be put to work for a long time to come, so that fragmentation of our economic life may be done away with. We cannot return to the old ways. By overthrowing the rule of the exploiters we have already accomplished the greater part of the job. We must now unite all working men and women and get them to work together. We have come here like conquerors entering now territory; yet, despil o difficult conditions we are working in, we have been victorious at the front. We see that our work is progressing today better than it did a year ago. We know that we cannot provide sufficient food for all, and we are not certain that hunger and cold will not knock at the doors of homes and cottages, but we do know that we have won. We know that our productive power is enormous even now, after the severe imperialist and civil wars; we know that we shall not let the workers and peasants starve and freeze; however, to be able to do that, we must count all our resources and share them out properly. We do not yet know how to do that because capitalism taught every petty proprietor to look alter his own interests, to think of how to get rich, and become one of the moneybags as quickly as possible; it did not teach anybody how to wage a common struggle for some definite idea. We must now be guided by another principle. The other and more difficult part of our task now faces us. The enthusiasm that now fills us may last another year, perhaps even five years. However we should remember that the struggle we shall have to wage is made up of ordinary workaday tasks. Around us are small-scale economic tasks. Furthermore, you know that the little units that keep our economic life going are the same that served in the past-petty officials, petty bureaucrats accustomed to the old and selfish way of doing things. The struggle against such things must become the task of the hour. On the occasion of these festivities, the occasion of this triumphant mood of ours, the occasion of the third anniversary of the establishment of Soviet rule we must become imbued with the labour enthusiasm, the will to work, and the persistence on which the speedy salvation of the workers and peasants, the salvation of the national economy now depends. We shall then see that our victory in the accomplishment of this task will be more effective and lasting than in all bloody battles of the past. (Prolonged applause.)


[1] The Red Army’s drive against Wrangel began at the end of Octo-ber 1920. After heavy fighting Wrangel was hurled back into the Crimea. On the night of November 7 the Red Army troops launched an offensive on the Perekop Isthmus and by November 16 cleared the Crimea of the whiteguards. Thus the period of the Civil war and foreign intervention was in the main brought to an end. [See also Leon Trotsky, How the Revolution Armed, Volume 3]

[2] The extraordinary congress of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany met in Halle on October 12-17, 1920. The main question on the agenda was the terms of admission into the Communist International. The fierce struggle over this question caused a split in the party, 237 delegates voting for affiliation to the Comintern, and 156 against. The Right wing called its own congress and elected an executive committee, retaining the old name of the party. The Left wing and the Communist Party (the Spartacists) formed the United Communist Party of Germany.

[3] The mutiny in the Second Black Sea squadron of the French navy, which broke out in April-May 1919, was directed against the French Government’s policy in sending 300,000 soldiers and sailors to Russia to crush Soviet power. The interventionists troops in the South numbered over 130,000 men. The Odessa undergroundcommittee of the Bolshevik Party headed by Smirnov (Lastochkin), and its Foreign Collegium with Joanne Labourbe as a member of its Bureau, played an important role in fostering the revolutionary spirit of the soldiers and sailors of the interventionist troops. The Collegium included such experienced Communist agitators as Yakov Yelin, Vladimir Dyogot and others, who established contacts with soldiers and the crews of a number of ships. The mutiny began on April 20 on the battleships France and Jean Bart, which were riding off Sevastopol harbour. Other ship crews and soldiers of the 175th French Infantry Regiment supported their action. Then the mutiny spread to the ships in Odessa harbour. The mutineers demanded that the intervention should be stopped at once and the troops sent home, threatening to join the Red Army if their demands were not granted. The French command arrested the mutineers’ leaders and sent them off to France, where they were treated most harshly. The mutiny was defeated because the mutineers did not have a clear revolutionary aim or capable leadership, as no Communist Party yet existed in France. However, the action of the French soldiers and sailors, who gave revo-lutionary support to the world’s first working people’s state stimulated the growth of the revolutionary movement in France.The successes of the Red Army, revolutionary action in the French army and navy, and the workers’ pressure compelled the French Government to withdraw its troops from Russia.