The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 1, 1918

How the Revolution Armed



Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

* * *

Lecture given in Moscow on April 21, 1918

Comrades! Communist teaching has as one of its most important tasks the achievement of a situation in this old, sinful world of ours in which men will cease to shoot at each other. One of the fundamental tasks of Communism is to arrive at the establishment of an order under which man may for the first time become worthy of the name he bears. We are used, to be sure, to saying that the word ‘man’ (chelovyek) has a proud sound. Gorky said, in one of his works, ‘“man” that has a proud sound’. Actually, though, it is enough to survey the years spent in bloody slaughter to find oneself wanting to say: ‘man that has a shameful sound.’

And so, to create a system and order under which the present mutual extermination of peoples would not happen, is the simple and clear task which Communist teaching sets before us. But at the same time, comrades, you see that the Communist Party, fighting to accomplish this task, is forming a Red Army, is calling on the masses to organize themselves in a military way and to arm. It would seem, at first glance, that there is a profound contradiction here: on the one hand, we stand for creating conditions under which no man would deprive another of his most precious possession, namely, life, and this constitutes one of the principal tasks of our Party, the world party of the working class, while, on the other, we are calling on the workers to join the Red Army and saying: ‘Arm, unite, learn to shoot, study persistently and well, so as not to miss your target!’

I repeat, it may seem that there is something amiss here. And there were, indeed, socialists in the past who advanced towards their goals by other paths and employed different means: these socialists, instead of addressing the oppressed with the slogan: ‘Unite and arm!’, addressed the oppressors, exploiters and aggressors with words of humble homily and admonition: ‘Disarm, stop exterminating your fellow-men, stop oppressing.’ Naive creatures! They advised the wolf to put his wolf’s teeth on the shelf. These homilies by the early socialists and communists were extremely naive, and their views were so mistaken that present-day scientific socialism has named them, with justification, utopians. This, of course, does not mean that the aspirations of the utopians were not noble in the highest degree. The ideas of the utopians recall to us that great writer and great man of our country Lyov Nikolayevich Tolstoy, who also aspired to establish the best of systems on this earth, but thought it could be achieved through inward regeneration of the oppressors. Can that happen? Here we come to the heart of the matter.

Mankind’s experience, the whole of history, refutes this policy of utopian and Tolstoyan pacifism. The oppressors have inherited, from one generation to the next, their views, feelings and aspirations as oppressors; they drink in with their mothers’ milk the striving for power, for oppression, for domination, and they consider everybody else, the working masses, to have been created merely so as to serve as basis and foundation for the rule of a small group of members of a privileged estate who are born, so to speak, with spurs on their heels, ready to ride on the backs of the working people.

Yes, we are trying to establish the Communist order, under which there will be no hostility between classes because there will be no classes, and no hostility between peoples, because the peoples will not live separated from each other, cut off by barriers between states, but in one world common to all, and engaged in a common task. Our aims are the same as those of our predecessors, the utopians. But, in our working towards the same order of things, we proceed differently from them, and this is what distinguishes us from them – not ends, but means. We say, not to the exploiters but to the working people:

‘Until the Communist order has been attained, remember that you are the only force that is capable of bringing it about. And remember (and we in Russia know this all too well, from experience), that the ruling classes of the whole world will yield not an inch to you on the road to that end without a fight: that they will cling to their privileges and profits, to their rule, tooth and nail, to their last breath: that they will try to bring confusion, chaos and discord into the ranks of the working class itself – all so as to maintain their power.’

And, guided firmly by awareness that it is impossible to change social relations otherwise than by bloody struggle, we in Russia took the first step towards communism precisely by overthrowing the rule of the bourgeois classes and establishing the political rule of the working classes. This is already, in itself, a great victory that we have won. The bourgeoisie is not in power here: power belongs to the working class. Having acquired this political advantage, it is able to fight to fulfill its fundamental tasks.

Thus, the question of power is of primary importance. Saying that Soviet power, as such, is a bad thing means fostering self-distrust in the working class. Under the Soviet system the proletariat can establish whatever kind of authority it wants, and responsibility for that authority rests with the proletariat. The authority which exists in Petrograd, in Moscow and in other cities, since it has been created by the workers, can be changed by them. The workers can convene the All-Russia Congress of Soviets whenever they choose, and re-elect therein the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, and they can re-elect the local soviets.

The Soviets are the power of the working class and the poorest peasantry, forming the foundation on which this power stands. And yet they ask us: ‘Why is this power not established on the basis of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage, in the form of the Constituent Assembly? After all, you yourselves were for the Constituent Assembly, weren’t you?’ Right, we were for it! We always thought that a Constituent Assembly would be much better than the Tsarist system, than the autocracy, than the rule of Plehve, of Stolypin’s beasts of prey, of the nobility. Of two evils we chose the one that was the lesser for the working class.

However, let us look into the question of this Constituent Assembly, this universal suffrage by which it was elected. It signifies a referendum by the whole people, a universal roll-call – ‘who wants what?’ The whole population of the country are called upon – the working people, the oppressed, and also the exploiters, the oppressors, and the Servants of the exploiters from among the intelligentsia, the overwhelming majority of whom are tied spiritually to the bourgeoisie and serve its aims. All are called upon to say, through universal suffrage, what they want, in the political field. And if Kerensky had convened the Constituent Assembly, let’s say in March or April of last year, that would have meant a definite step forward, when the Tsar had only just been overthrown and the bureaucracy ousted, when power was not yet in the hands of the workers but was held by Guchkov, Milyukov and the rest. Even then, though, if, through the Constituent Assembly, the workers and peasants had been asked: ‘What do you want, working people of Russia?’, the answer given by their representatives in the Constituent Assembly would have been, all the same, directly opposite to that which the bourgeoisie and its servants, who were then in power, would have wanted. After all, what the revolution means is that the oppressed lower orders rise up against the upper strata who oppress them. For the Krestovnikovs and Ryabushinskys, of course, the revolution is just right if the Tsar is got rid of and the old ministers are replaced by new ones, and that’s the end of it. For us, though, the essence of the revolution is that it awakens and raises to their feet the exhausted, harassed, ill-treated masses who have suffered day after day without hope or respite, like beasts of burden. The revolution arouses them and shows them that, as regards their position in society, they are nothing but cattle, nothing but slaves of the other classes. That’s what the revolution is! And for that reason it did not stop at the removal of the Tsar and of a couple of his ministers. If it had stopped at that, it would not have been a revolution, but, if the expression be permitted, a miscarriage. History has its abortions. The true births, the healthy historical births of revolution happen when the working class, rising up, takes power throughout the land and proceeds to make use of it to establish a new order in which there is no exploitation of one class by another, in which all the means of production, all the country’s riches are in the hands of or subject to the working class. Then the working class acts like a good master on a good individual holding in agriculture: he knows how much land and how much seed he has, how many cattle and what implements, which field he must sow at each season: all this he knows, all this is written down and calculated. But that is a private individual holding. Alongside it other holdings are being worked, and they compete with each other. That is capitalism.

We want the working class as a whole to become the master of the whole country, so that it may know how much land it has, what natural wealth, iron-ore, coal, how many machines, how much raw material, labor-power, grain – so that all this may be reckoned up precisely and assigned in a planned way for the purpose of work. The proletariat must work like a good master: it is both worker and master. And this comradely working team (artel), covering the whole country with its activities, is what is meant by a communist economy.

Such plans are called utopian. Our enemies say that this economic revolution will never take place. But they say this either because it would not suit them if it did take place or because they have sold their souls to the ruling class. For them, naturally, the communist economy is ‘unrealizable’. We, however, say that if men were unfit to carry out a radical reconstruction of their own society, incapable of realizing communism, then all mankind would not be worth a rotten egg: it would remain forever like draft animals, and worse than them, since these animals do not know division into classes, with the rule of one ox over another, one horse over another. No, mankind can and must better its mode of existence. We have passed through the school of class struggle precisely in order to abolish classes themselves and raise our way of life to a higher level. But we have to fight against class division, and to fight for a long time, because it cannot be abolished all at once.

If it should turn out that we are unable to cope with these trials which have now come upon us since we have taken power, that we do not fulfil our tasks, then it follows that all our hopes, expectations and plans, the sciences and arts, everything that is of interest to man, the ideals for which man struggles – all are so much falsehood, and mankind is nothing but a dunghill: especially after four years of slaughter, in which men have been exterminating each other in tens of thousands, in millions, for no other purpose than for everything to remain in the same position as before!

We say to our enemies who criticize us: we know perfectly well that we have not yet reached communism, that there is still a long road ahead of us, and much work and effort is needed. But we have, all the same, accomplished something – namely, the political preparation. When one has to put up a new building on a site where there has been a fire, one first of all sweeps and clears away the debris and ashes left behind. We took power from the bourgeoisie so as to build the edifice of a new society. We have taken this power in our hands and we declare to all our foes that the working class will never give up this power, for it is not a question of power as such but of the future of mankind, of the creation of a new world, on new, Communist principles.

This is the gigantic work, the radical break with the past, which is involved in our concept of the revolution. And when it is made to depend on the Constituent Assembly, that’s ridiculous. It is not hard to convince oneself of that, if one thinks about it.

I come back to this important question: what, in general, is meant by universal, direct, equal and secret suffrage? It is merely a referendum, a roll-call. What if we were to have tried to carry out this roll-call through the Constituent Assembly? One section would have decided one way, the other section the other way. But we had to do something – the people’s needs don’t wait. And, obviously, these two opposing sections would have separated off on different sides, each in order to fight for the cause that concerned it. A Constituent Assembly is all right for a roll-call. But for revolutionary creative work it is not all right. After all, we did carry out such a roll-call even without the Constituent Assembly. At the outset, first Milyukov and then Kerensky delayed, month after month, the convening of the Constituent Assembly. And when at last it was convened, by us, after the October revolution, convened in sharply altered political circumstances, it proved to be a harmful hindrance. And of what use would the Constituent Assembly be now, if its corpse were to be revived, though there is no medicine and no sorcery in the world that could do that? Suppose that we were to reconvene the Constituent Assembly, what would that signify? In one corner, on the Left, the working class would sit, in the persons of its representatives, who would say: ‘We desire that governmental power should at last be an instrument for rule by the working class and for abolishing every kind of oppression and exploitation.’ In the other corner would sit the representatives of the bourgeoisie, who would demand that governmental power remain, as before, in the hands of the bourgeois class. They would doubtless express themselves cautiously and courteously, talking in a devious way about ‘the educated class’ and not openly about ‘the bourgeois class’, but, essentially, it would amount to the same thing. And, in the middle there would be those politicians who look both to the Left and to the Right. These representatives of the Mensheviks and Right SRs would say: ‘Power must be shared, half-and-half.’ [16] That is what would have come of such an unnecessary experiment. That is what, in reality, happened, on January 5, 1918, the one and only day that the Constituent Assembly actually existed.

But, comrades, power, after all, is not a sort of cottage loaf which can be shared half-and-half, or divided into four pieces. Power is the instrument by means of which a certain class secures its domination. Either this instrument serves the working class, or it serves against the working class. There is no choice in this matter. Since there are two adversaries, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, together with the poorest peasantry, and since these two adversaries are fighting each other, they cannot possess one instrument common to them both. After all, one and the same rifle or gun cannot serve both of two opposing armies at once. Similarly, state power can either serve the working class against the bourgeoisie, or, contrariwise, it can serve the bourgeoisie against the working class. Those who stand in the middle and ask whether power cannot somehow be shared, half and half, are nothing but brokers, go-betweens, and though they swear that they have in their pockets a secret by means of which they can arrange for the gun of state power to serve both the working class and the bourgeoisie at one and the same time, history does not know of such miracles. On the contrary, when such secrets were revealed in the policy of Tsereteli and Chernov, we were given reason to be sure that their gun would fire in one direction only against the working class. Naturally, we have no desire, no aspiration, to go back to that situation.

Yes, we were, under Tsardom, in favor of a Constituent Assembly, as a big step forward. When the people overthrew the Tsar and then split into two camps, methods of struggle changed, and we said to the masses: ‘Now get to work yourselves: power must now be taken by the class which is called upon to reconstruct Russia on new, socialist principles, the working class.’ And in saying this we did not in the least deceive either the masses or ourselves. We said that on that road there would be tremendous difficulties to overcome, colossal obstacles, fierce resistance by the hostile classes – not only the Russian bourgeoisie, which itself is weak, but also the international bourgeoisie, because the Russian bourgeoisie is only an offshoot of the bourgeois classes of all countries. And though wars and conflicts are going on amongst them at present, they are nevertheless absolutely united on the main and fundamental question of defending property and all the privileges connected therewith.

Among the ruling classes in Russia, among the landlords and the big and middle bourgeoisie, we saw, not so long ago, before the revolution and at its beginning a whole series of parties. There were the Rights – the open Black Hundreds, the nationalists, the Octobrists, the Octobrist-Zemstvo-ists, the Left Octobrists, the Progressives, the Cadets, and so on, a whole swarm of parties. [17] Where did they spring from? They were different groups of property-owners. Some upheld the interests of the big landowners, others those of the middling and minor landowners; some upheld the interests of bank capital, others the interests of industrial capital, yet others the interests of the graduate intelligentsia – the professors, doctors, barristers, engineers, and so on and so forth. Amid the bourgeoisie, among the possessing classes generally, there are different groups, divisions and parties. But when our revolution raised the working class to its feet, the whole bourgeoisie united, all party barriers vanished, and only the Cadet Party was left, embracing all the possessing classes, the entire sacred camp of the property-owners, uniting them in the fight for property against the working classes.

The same thing is happening, comrades, in a certain sense, with the international bourgeoisie as well. It is waging a frightfull and bloody war, but as soon as the revolutionary class, the proletariat, rises up, threatening the very foundations of capitalism, the bourgeois class of the different countries proceed to make concessions to each other, so as to form together a single camp against the terrible advancing specter of revolution. And until the international revolution is victorious we must be prepared to experience the greatest difficulties, with intense conflict both inside our country and on its borders, because the further and more extensively the revolutionary movement develops, both here and abroad, the more firmly will the bourgeoisie of all countries close their ranks. Europe itself will pass through very great trials, through the fire and flame of civil war, and the Russian bourgeoisie will make more than one bloody effort, relying on the bourgeoisie of Europe and the world. All this forces us to say: ‘Yes, we are advancing towards peace, but by way of armed struggle by the working masses against the oppressors, against the exploiters, against the imperialists of all countries. By this, the only possible road, we shall either win through to the end or we shall perish. We have no choice, and we need to understand that clearly.’

Of course, whoever supposes that by the mere conquest of power we have achieved everything has no clear appreciation of the tasks before us and the ways of accomplishing them.

History is no indulgent, soft mother who will protect the working class: she is a wicked stepmother who will teach the work through bloody experience how they must attain their aims. The working people are readily inclined to forgive and forget is enough for the conditions of struggle to have become a bit easier, enough for them to have won something, for it to seem them that the main job has been done, and they are disposed show magnanimity, to become passive, to stop fighting. In it lies the misfortune of the working people. But the possessing classes never give up the struggle. They have been educated offer constant opposition to the pressure of the worker masse and any passivity, indecision or wavering on our part results our exposing our weak spot to the blows of the possessor classes so that tomorrow or the next day they inevitably launch new onslaught upon us. The working class needs not the universal forgiveness that Tolstoy preached, but hard tempering intransigence, profound conviction that without struggle for every step, every inch of the road leading to betterment of it life, without constant, irreconcilable harsh struggle, and without organization of this struggle, there can be no salvation and liberation.

It is for this reason that we are calling into the ranks of the Communist Party, first and foremost, workers who are filled with clear understanding of the tasks imposed by history upon the working class, and then, after them, all the devoted and reliable friends of the working class. Let him who has doubt or hesitation in his heart stay out of our ranks. It is far more useful] for us to have one well-tempered fighter than ten irresolute ones, because, when the fight begins, the ten irresolute will surround the one well-tempered fighter and hold him back: if the more resolute, welded into a single fighting team, hurl themselves against the enemy, they will, in their wake, draw the waverers into the fight. Therefore we call into the ranks of our army only those who have clearly understood that we have taken the road of protracted, irreconcilable struggle against the oppressors of all countries who have marched against us. In our midst there is no place for the compromiser, who would stand in the middle and appeal for conciliation. The policy of compromise is false. The bourgeoisie will never willingly surrender its domination and power, and the proletariat will never again submit of its own free will to be its slave.

The principal task of the Communist Party, led by the Soviets, the organs of power, consists in ensuring that every worker receives a firm spiritual tempering, so that he will say to himself: ‘Yes, of course, in the struggle which is now going on, I may perhaps have to give my life. But what is a life of slavery without hope, under the oppressor’s heel, compared with the glorious death of a warrior who hands on his banner to new generations, and who dies knowing that he has given his life not for the interests of the oppressors, the Tsars and the rich, but for the interests of his own class?’

We must teach our comrades to live and die for the interests of the working class and to be faithful to it down to their last moment. That is the task to which we are summoning you!

Our revolution grew directly out of the war. The war itself grew out of capitalism. We predicted long before the war that the struggle between the bourgeoisie of one country and the bourgeoisie of another country, for profits and markets, accompanied by a colossal growth of armaments, must culminate in a frightful catastrophe. At present the bourgeoisie of Germany is saying that it was the British bourgeoisie that was guilty of starting the war, while the British bourgeoisie blames the German. Like clowns bouncing a ball amongst themselves with their foreheads, the bourgeoisies of the contending countries cast on each other the responsibility for this bloody slaughter. But, in forecasting the inevitability of the war, we at the same time understood that its inevitability resulted not from the wills of one or two kings or ministers, but from the very essence of the capitalist system. This war is a test for the entire capitalist order, its entire economic, political and moral system. That is why, when the war began, we said that it would bring with it a tremendous revolutionary movement among the working masses, and not of Russia alone.

I have lived during this war in a number of countries. At the start of it I had to quit Austria, so as not to be put in prison. [18] Then I lived in Switzerland, which, as you know, occupies the corner between Germany, Austria, Italy and France. After that I spent about two years in France, and from there moved to America, just at the time when the United States was getting ready to enter the war. And everywhere I noticed one and the same thing: at the beginning, the war stuns the working masses, deceives them, leads them into delusion, but later on it revolutionizes them, driving them into protest and indignation – first against the war itself, then against the system which has led to the war. Why does the war first of all arouse patriotic feelings among the working masses? Because, despite the fact that a country possesses a parliament, socialist parties and even Communists, around these there are also millions of toilers who are without any spiritual or social life. It is our greatest misfortune that there are millions of toilers who live in an automatic way. They work, eat and sleep, eating and sleeping only just enough and working too hard for their strength, and they think only about how to make ends meet. Their horizon is restricted to that: their intellect, their thoughts and conscience, slumber during normal times, and now and again, from gloom and knowledge of the hopelessness of their situation, when a holiday comes along they swill raw spirit. Such is often the worker’s existence – tragic and terrible. This is the tragic and terrible fate of many millions of toilers: it is the capitalist system that dooms them to it. May that system be accursed for dooming the toilers to such a dreadful life!

But now war comes, the people are mobilized, they come out into the streets, dressed in soldiers’ greatcoats. They are told: ‘Let’s go for the enemy and win the war, and after that everything will be different.’ And hopes arise in the hearts of the masses. Men leave the plough and the lathe. In peacetime, perhaps, a man bent under the weight of his everyday work load would no more have thought about anything than a beast of burden would, but now he willy-nilly starts to reflect: all around him are hundreds of soldiers, every one excited, military music is being played, the newspapers are announcing great victories, and it begins to seem to him that life really is going to be different) and different means better ... Because it couldn’t be worse. He begins to persuade himself that the war is a liberating event that will bring him something new.

For this reason we observed, at the beginning of the war, in every country without exception, an upsurge of patriotism. At that moment the bourgeoisie grew stronger. It said: ‘The whole people are with me.’ The toilers of town and country rallied under the banners of the bourgeoisie. All were fused, so to speak, in a single national elan. But, as it went on, the war exhausted the country more and more and bled the people white, while enriching a handful of plunderers, speculators and army contractors and bringing promotion to diplomats and generals. The working masses became poorer and poorer. For wet-nurses, wives, mothers and working women it became harder and harder to answer the sharp question: how to feed the children? And that brought about a spontaneous revolution in the minds of the working masses. At first the war uplifted them, arousing false hopes, but then, having uplifted them, it hurled them to the ground, breaking the backbone of the working class: and the workers began to ponder on how this had happened and what it meant.

However, the bourgeoisie is not stupid, that is a merit one cannot deny it. The bourgeoisie foresaw the danger from the very beginning of the war, and with the aid of its zealous generals delayed the onset of the revolution as long as possible.

Already in the first years of the present war, when it looked as though the intoxication of patriotism had poisoned everyone, I happened to have a conversation in Paris with some bourgeois politicians, and they whispered to me that, as a result of this war, a great revolution would burst forth, but they hoped to be able to deal with it. Bourgeois newspapers and periodicals (for example, the British periodical The Economist in August, September or October 1914) predicted that, as a result of the war, there would arise, in the countries that were drawn into it, a movement for social revolution. They appreciated how inevitable this was, and they were quite right, just as we were right when we said that in Russia the war would inevitably lead to revolution, and that, if the revolution in Russia was fated to develop through to the end, it would bring the working class to power.

At the same time we took into account the peculiarities of Russia’s development. In Russia capital had been created with the help of West-European finance-capital and this circumstance imposed special conditions upon the course of development of the Russian Revolution. If we take France, there big industrial capital developed gradually in the course of long centuries. In the Middle Ages the craft system prevailed, there were small enterprises, corporations, guilds: later, large and middle-sized enterprises emerged, and eventually the French stock-exchange began to draw behind it a whole succession of middle-sized and small enterprises. In France even the petty-bourgeoisie possess political influence.

But what is the position in our country as regards the political influence of the bourgeoisie?

The finance-capital of other countries France, Germany, Britain and so on – invaded us and set up huge factories, somehow all at once, in empty places, somewhere in Yekaterinoslav province, in the South or the South-West. There, amid the steppes and the isolated farmsteads, there are huge enterprises to be seen, just like those in Petrograd, Moscow and other big towns. Western capital transported hither entire factories, implanting at one blow some very large-scale enterprises. Generally speaking, in Russia no section of the bourgeoisie, neither the big bourgeoisie nor the petty-bourgeoisie, if we do not include the peasantry – and our peasantry contains many semi-proletarian elements, very poor, hungry masses – managed to secure any influence.

The main problem of the revolution when it broke out amounted to this: whom will the poor peasantry follow? The bourgeoisie, which had cheated them, giving them false hopes, or the working class? The whole problem lay there. There was no question of Chernov, or of Tsereteli or Kerensky, no question of those brokers and go-betweens. The problem was would the peasant poor follow the workers, and who would win the support of the peasants who were not well off – the working class or the bourgeois class? We can now say, positively, that this problem has already been three-quarters solved, thanks to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. It can be said that the policy of the bourgeoisie, its influence in the countryside, has almost completely collapsed: and there can be no doubt that the rural poor will follow the working class, will follow it all the more resolutely the stronger and more conscious the urban proletariat becomes, and the firmer and more complete becomes the role of the working class. The urban proletariat is a minority of the population of our country. The overwhelming majority of the population are peasants. Consequently if the rural masses, the lower strata of the peasantry, do not support the working class, the latter cannot hold on to power. But the working class is getting this support from the peasantry, because it is fighting not just for itself, but comes forward as the defender of the peasant masses and the champion of the interests of wide sections of the people. It will emerge as a people’s hero, in the true sense of the word, if it can fulfill this, its historic role to the very end.

In the revolutions in which the bourgeoisie was the leader, it drew the peasant masses behind it. That happened at the time of the Great French Revolution and at the time of the 1848 revolution [19] in the old Germany of those days: it was like that throughout all the revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries. That was how things always were, until the Russian revolution. Here, a striking change happened, a tremendous step forward was taken: for the first time, the working class threw off the tutelage and spiritual superiority of the bourgeoisie, stood firmly on its own feet, and, furthermore, wrested the peasant foundation from under the feet of the bourgeoisie and drew the peasant masses behind it. This is the imperishable conquest made by the Russian revolution. This is the bulwark of the Russian revolution. We owe this to the Soviets, as the centers of struggle against the bourgeoisie and as the organs of mass-scale unification of the peasants with the workers.

That is why the Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies have aroused the hatred of the bourgeoisie of all countries.

The February revolution found me in America. When the first newspapers arrived in New York with the news about the events in Russia, the American bourgeois press took a very sympathetic attitude towards our revolution. At that time, you see, it was being said that Nicholas II was negotiating peace with Germany. America was getting ready to enter the war, and three weeks later did so. The Russian papers reported that the Tsar had abdicated and that a Ministry of Milyukov and Guchkov had been formed, precisely for the purpose of continuing the war. All this evoked sympathy from the whole bourgeois press. When, after that, the news was published that a Soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies had been formed in Petersburg, which had begun to come into conflict with Milyukov and Guchkov, then, although this was only the compromising Soviet of Kerensky and Chernov, the newspapers at once changed their tone.

The first clashes and conflicts between the Soviets and the Government began even when the workers still followed the compromisers: the proletarian class character of the Soviet inevitably made itself felt, under pressure from below, even in the days when the compromise policy was flourishing. In conformity with this, a sharp turn-round was observed in the attitude of the bourgeois press of all countries towards the Russian revolution. The entire bourgeois press anxiously warned Milyukov and Guchkov that, if the Soviets eventually became well established and took power, then this would create a serious threat to Russia and even to the whole world. And since we, comrades, were at that time severely criticizing Milyukov and Guchkov and their policy, at workers’ meetings, and predicting that the Soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies must inevitably take power, the bourgeois press wrote that we were going to Russia for the purpose of putting power into the hands of sinister gangs. The matter went so far that we, as a little group of six émigrés returning to Russia, were carried off as prisoners to Canada by a British naval vessel. There we were held, along with German sailors, and accused of making our way to Russia in order to overthrow Guchkov and Milyukov and put power into the hands of the Soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies.

And this happened in March 1917, that is, in the first month of the revolution. Already at that time the British and American bourgeoisies felt that Soviet power constituted a tremendous danger for them. At the same time, it was becoming ever clearer to the American workers that the Russian revolution was not a repetition of the old revolutions, with one upper tier replacing another, while both sat together on the back of the working class: they were beginning to realize that this was a revolution in which the lower orders were rising up with the aim of reconstructing the social system. And, the clearer their realization that this was so, the warmer their sympathy with our revolution, the higher their enthusiasm. And if our revolution did not evoke, as quickly as at first we expected, immediate echoes in all countries, in the form of revolutionary movements in Germany, Britain and France, the blame for this lies, to a considerable extent, with our workers, who supported the policy of the compromisers and thereby, at the outset, discredited the Russian revolution in the eyes of the working class of all countries.

Many leaders of the working masses abroad hoped that the Russian revolution would lead at once to the conclusion of universal peace. And so great was the confidence in this prospect at that time that, if the Government of Kerensky and Milyukov, or any other government that occupied their position, had then appealed to all the peoples with a proposal for immediate peace, the upsurge of the worker masses and of the army in favor of peace would have been colossal. Instead of which, the Provisional Government supported, step by step, the policy of the old Tsarist diplomats, and even refrained from publishing the secret treaties: it prepared a new offensive at the front, which was put into effect on June 18, and ended in a frightful bloody debacle and retreat.

The mass of the workers in all countries, who had expected that the Russian revolution would rise to its full height and show the world something new, were obliged to say to themselves that nothing new was going to come of it, that everything was staying the same as before – the same allies, the same war, the same offensive, in the name of the same old plundering aims. And the bourgeoisie of all lands knew how to use this situation cunningly so as to damage, so to speak, the reputation of the Russian revolution, to besmirch it. The bourgeois press wrote: ‘There’s your revolution for you! They’ve only overthrown one government and replaced it by another, and the new government has said that there can be no change in policy. Consequently there is no point in overthrowing the old governments, since new ones would behave in the same way.’ That signified that the revolution was a frivolous affair, an empty enterprise, a hollow illusion. And a cold feeling about the Russian revolution entered the hearts of the workers.

Kerensky’s offensive of June 18 was a very heavy blow both to the working class of all countries and to the Russian revolution. And if we now have the peace of Brest-Litovsk, a very burdensome peace, this is the result, on the one hand, of the policy of the Tsarist diplomats and, on the other, of the policy of Kerensky and the offensive of June 18. Those who bear the guilt of the Brest-Litovsk peace are the Tsarist bureaucrats and diplomats who involved us in the dreadful war, squandering what the people had accumulated, robbing the people – they who kept the working masses in ignorance and slavery. On the other hand, no less guilt rests with the compromisers, the Kerenskys, Tseretelis and Chernovs, who strove to carry on the old policy, going so far as to launch the offensive of June 18. The first group, the Tsarist diplomats, ruined our country materially, while the second group, the compromisers, ruined our country, above all, spiritually.

Yes, this peace treaty is the bill for Tsardom, the bill for Kerensky and Co.! This is the cruelest of crimes, which has placed on the shoulders of the working class the immense responsibility for the sins of the international imperialists and their servants. And, after all that, these same persons come up to us and say: ‘You signed the treaty of Brest!’ Yes, we signed it, clenching our teeth, for we knew how weak we were. Is there anything shameful in the fact that we were too weak to tear away the noose that was being tightened round our neck? Yes, we agreed to make peace with German imperialism, just as a hungry worker, clenching his teeth, goes to a kulak employer and sells the labor of himself and his wife for half its worth, because he has no other means of existence. We have found ourselves in just that situation now, being compelled to sign a most terrible and shameful peace. [20] I repeat, in this peace treaty we draw the balance of the criminal doings of international imperialism and its servants, the compromisers. We are meeting a promissory note which clearly bears the signatures:

Nicholas II, Milyukov, Kerensky

But, comrades, this does not at all mean that if we have identified the guilty ones, if we have found the historical reasons for our weakness, we can rest content with that! Not in the least. Yes, we are weak, and that is our historical crime, because in history one must not be weak. Whoever is weak becomes prey to the strong. Utopian homilies and lofty, beautiful words will not save us here.

Let us look from this standpoint at Europe as a whole. Here is little Portugal – she did not want to fight, but Britain forced her to. A small, poor nation of two-and-a-half millions did not want to fight, but was forced to. What is Portugal? A vassal, a slave of Britain. And Serbia? Germany crushed her! Turkey is Germany’s ally. But what is Turkey today? Turkey today is also a slave to Germany. Greece! Who made her come into the war? The Allies. She, a small, weak country, did not want to. But the Allies dragged her in. Romania, too, did not want to enter the war, the mass of the people were especially against it, but this country, too, was drawn into the war by the Allies. All the countries I have named are now slaves either of Germany or of Britain. Why? Because they are weak, because they are small. And Bulgaria? She hesitated, the masses did not want to fight, but Germany made Bulgaria fight too. And what is Bulgaria today? She has no will or voice of her own: she is, like the rest, a slave to Germany. Austria-Hungary is a large country, an ally of Germany, and, so to speak, one of the victors. But what, actually, is Austria-Hungary’s situation? Austria-Hungary is a very much poorer country than Germany, already exhausted to a great extent and therefore she lacks independence, she tails after Germany, and the latter gives orders to the Austrian Government. Why? Because Germany is strong. And he who is strong is right – that is the morality, law and religion of capitalist governments.

And who rules the roost in the camp of the so-called ‘Allies’? Britain! Who knuckles under every time? France! Russia had to submit to both of them, because she was poorer than either. It therefore had to be clear to us from the start that, the longer the war dragged on, the more Russia would be exhausted, and the smaller would shrink her bit of independence. In the end we should inevitably find ourselves under somebody’s heel – either Germany’s or Britain’s – for we were weak, poor and exhausted. It might have seemed that we needed to decide which heel to choose. The Provisional Government saw the problem like that, and decided to choose the ‘Allies’. But we act in a different way from the bourgeoisie. We said, and we say now, that we want neither the British heel nor the German. We count on keeping our independence by relying upon the sympathy and revolutionary feeling of the working class of all countries. Along with this, though, and just because we place our hopes in the development of the revolution in the capitalist states and in the camps of imperialism we declare that we need to accumulate strength, to bring order into our country, to transform our economy and to create an armed force for the Russian Soviet Republic, a Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. Creating this army is the principal task that history has entrusted to us. We shall accomplish this task, even though we are only now getting down to it.

I said that the working class took power into its own hands, and that it will remain in those hands and will not be yielded to anyone. That is true! However, power is for the working class only an instrument, only a tool. And if I do not know how to use this tool, what good is it to me? If I take up, for example, some carpentry tool, and I don’t know how to set it to work, what good is it to me? It is necessary that the working class, having taken state power into its hands, should learn how to use it in practice, both for organizing the economy on new principles and for self-defense. Some say: what good is it for us to have taken power without first having learned how to wield it? To these wiseacres we reply: but how could we learn the joiner’s trade if we had never held a joiner’s tool? In order to learn how to run a country you need to be in charge of its administration, you need to hold state power. Up to now nobody has learnt how to ride a horse while sitting in a room. To learn that art you have to saddle a horse and get on its back. Perhaps the horse will rear up and throw its inexperienced rider a few times. Well so what, we get up, we get on again, we have another go – and we learn to ride!

Is it not plain that those people who say: ‘Power should not have been taken’ are, essentially, defending the interests of the bourgeoisie? They preach to the working class that it should not have taken power, that power is the sacred, hereditary right of the bourgeois, educated classes, who have capital, universities, newspapers, learning, libraries – they hold state power, and the toilers, the worker masses, must first of all learn how to rule. But where are the masses to learn this? In the factory, amid their day-to-day convict labor? No, if you don’t mind! What convict labor in the factories has taught us is precisely this, that we must take power into our own hands. That we have been thoroughly taught. That, in itself, is also a very big thing to have learnt. It is a tremendous piece of learning! The working class learnt that in the factories during the decades in which it experienced convict labor, the shooting-down of the workers of whole factories, the Lena massacre and went through all that not in vain, since, in the end, it took power into its hands. Now we must learn how to use the power to organize the economy and establish order, and we have not achieved either of these aims yet. To achieve them is our principal task.

I said that we need to carry out a stocktaking of the whole country. We shall do this through the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies and through their central organ, the Central Executive Committee, and through the Council of People’s Commissars. Now we must be accurate and careful, like good book keepers. We must know precisely what we possess, how much raw material, how much grain, what instruments of production, how many workers and what their trades are, and all this we must arrange, like the keys on a piano, so that each economic instrument may function as precisely as the keys do: so that, for example, in case of need, we can at any moment, transfer a certain number of metal-workers from one place to another. Our work must be sound and efficient, but also intense. Every worker must work hard for a certain number of hours in the day, and for the rest of his time feel that he is a free citizen and cultured person.

This is a great task, and not a simple one. We have a lot to learn if we are to accomplish it. We know that we have at present many factories which we do not need. There is unemployment and hunger in the country because not everything is where it ought to be. There are factories which are manufacturing things we have no need of and also, contrariwise, factories which are manufacturing necessities but which lack the materials required, these being elsewhere. There is immense wealth in the country which we do not know of, because the war has disorganized the whole state. In the Republic there are masses of unemployed, hungry and ill-clothed people while at the same time we are discovering in the quartermasters’ stores huge supplies of cloth, canvas and soldiers’ clothing. Sometimes immense stocks of food come to light which we knew nothing of. In the countryside the kulaks have concentrated in their hands millions of poods of grain, as, for example, in Tula, Kursk and Orel provinces.

The kulaks are not surrendering this grain, and we have not as yet made them understand that they are not going to play a game with us in these matters, since what is at stake is life or death for the working masses. And if we possessed, here and now, the right organization, then, of course, no kulak would dare to conceal masses of grain from the hungry working masses, and our situation as regards food would be very much better.

On the railways, as everywhere else, there is in general much disorder, much abuse. The railway-worker comrades know how many persons there are among the railway staffs – principally at the top, but also lower down – who use rolling-stock for their own business purposes, carrying on a smuggling trade in all sorts of goods, so that often entire trucks disappear. What is the source of these disorders? They are a legacy of the past. We are not yet as well educated as we should be, and, also, the war has disrupted us in every possible way. All concepts have got muddled. Seeing all this, the worker, too, says: ‘If things are so bad in the country, why should I exert myself specially? Whether I work a lot or a little, well or badly, it won’t make things any better.’

Comrades, the country’s grave situation dictates to us the need to effect a turn in the mood and the consciousness of the workers and peasants. They must clearly realize that it is not now a question of defending the interests of the toilers from the bourgeoisie. Since we now hold power, our task consists in ourselves organizing the economy in the interests of the whole people. Therefore we must introduce labor order into the factories and everywhere. What do we mean by labor order? Labor order, revolutionary discipline, is an order under which everyone understands that, for the working class to retain power and reconstruct the entire economy, for us not to sink but to rise, for the country to overcome the state of ruin it is in, it is necessary for everyone to work honestly at his post. In our state things must be as they are in an individual family: if the family is harmonious, every one of its members will work for the well-being of the family as a whole. And our family is no small one: what it involves is the well-being of millions of people. Our consciousness must inspire us with the sense that our Soviet Russia, our workers’ and peasants’ republic, is one huge fraternal family of labor. And if even one of its members is idle, wastes raw material, has a negligent attitude to his work, to his tools, damages machinery either through carelessness through ill-will, then he is doing damage to the entire working class; to Soviet Russia as a whole, and, in the last analysis, to the working class of the whole world. Once I declare that the establishment, here and now, of labor discipline, of firm order, is a matter of the most urgent necessity. And if we can establish an order under which the workers will work for a certain number of hours in the factory, and for the rest of their tune lead a cultured life, if in our country everyone does his duty honestly wherever he is placed, we shall be moving appreciably nearer to the Communist system. This is why we need to implement the firm, iron-hard, strict discipline of labor order.

This, comrades, is not the discipline that prevailed under the bourgeoisie and the Tsar. Some of the old generals whom we have set to work, under our supervision, in the Red Army say to us: ‘With your way of doing things, can there be discipline? It seems to us that there cannot!’ We answer them: ‘And with your way of doing things, was there discipline?’ There was! Why was there? Above, there was the Tsar, there were the nobles, and below, there was the soldier, and you held that soldier under discipline. No wonder! The soldier was a slave, he worked for you, he served you against himself, firing on his own father and mother on behalf of your interests – and you were able to establish discipline, and for a long time kept the masses under it in conditions of slavery. We, however, want the soldier to fight and struggle on his own behalf, we want the workers to work for themselves, and it is only for the sake of that that we wish to introduce labor discipline. With such a radical distinction between the social regime of the Soviet Republic and that of the nobles’ monarchy, I am profoundly convinced that we shall establish the order we need, with our combined forces, however much the black crows may croak. You have only to realize and keep steadily in mind that, without this, downfall and ruin are inevitable.

At the present time we are forming the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. The Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Cossacks’ Deputies has already passed a law for universal military training, by which, during some eight or six weeks every year, for two hours a day, every citizen will have to study the art of war under the guidance of experienced instructors. In this connection, comrades, we had to consider the question: shall universal military training be introduced for women, too? That question we have answered like this: we provided that women should have the right to undergo military training if they themselves chose to do so. We want to carry out an experiment where this problem is concerned. Therefore, it was stated in the decree that women, if they so desire, may undergo military training on the same basis as men. But once a woman puts herself on the same level as a man, she must, in the event of danger to the Soviet Republic, take up arms at the call of the Soviet power, just like a man.

At the same time, we are forming the cadres of the Red Army. These cadres are not numerous, they are, so to speak, the skeleton of the army. But, after all, the army today is not those thousands and tens of thousands of Red Army men who are under arms and who need to be disciplined and trained. The army is the whole of the working people, it is the immense reserves of workers in the towns and factories and peasants in the villages who are under instruction. And when we face a fresh menace from the counter-revolution or onslaught by the imperialists, the cadre-skeleton of the army must at once be clothed with flesh and blood on a mass scale that is, with the reserves of workers and peasants who have had military training. For this reason we are, on the one hand, creating a Red Army, and, on the other, introducing universal training for all workers, and for all peasants who do not exploit the labor of others. That is a restriction we have to apply at present. We do not want to arm the bourgeoisie. We shall not at this time give rifles to the bourgeois, to the exploiters, who have not renounced their rights to private property. We say: it is the duty of every citizen without exception, in a country which is ruled by the working class, to defend it honestly when it is threatened. But our bourgeoisie has not yet given up its pretensions to power. It is bristling, it is still struggling, sending its agents, the Mensheviks and SRs, to agitate for the Constituent Assembly. At present, so long as this bourgeoisie has not yet given up its pretensions to state power and rule over our country, until it feels that we have finally driven out the bourgeois spirit itself, we shall not put weapons in its hands. If necessary, however, let those bourgeois who do not want to attack go and dig trenches or perform some other work in the rear.

We must not repeat the mistakes of former revolutions. I have already said that the working class is too forgiving, and easily forgets the oppressions of the nobles’ power, which for centuries enslaved the serfs, robbing, destroying, coercing them. The working class is inclined to be generous, to be soft. We say to it: ‘No! Until the enemy has finally been smashed, we must rule with a rod of iron!’

To train the Red Army we are enlisting former generals. Naturally, we are choosing these among the more decent and honest of them. Some people say: ‘How can you enlist generals? Surely, that’s dangerous?’ Of course, everything under the sun has its dangerous side. But, you see, we need instructors who know about military matters. Of course, we say frankly to these generals: ‘There is a new master in the land, the working class: it needs instructors to train the workers in the art of war so as to fight the bourgeoisie.’

Many of the generals scattered at first in all directions, taking cover like cockroaches in nooks and crannies, in the hope that perhaps the Lord would somehow arrange matters like this:

‘The Soviet power will last for a week or two and then it will fall, and they, the generals, will return to their old position as generals.’ And in that hope the generals tailed behind the bourgeoisie, which also thought that the working class, after taking power, would hold on to it for a fortnight or so, have its bit of fun, and quit. But it has turned out that the working class is holding firmly on to power and not getting ready to let go thereof. And now the saboteurs of yesterday – the generals, engineers, statisticians, agronomists and so on, are gradually crawling out of their holes, like cockroaches, and stirring their antennae to find out how the land lies: ‘Is it not possible to come to some arrangement with the new master?’ Of course the Soviet power does not reject the services of the specialists in science and technique. It says: ‘Welcome, Messrs. engineers: please come along to the factory and teach the workers there how to run factories. The workers don’t know much about that: help them, come on to their payroll, into their service, the service of the workers. Up to now you have served the bourgeoisie: now enter the service of the working class.’ To the generals the Soviet power says: ‘You have studied the art of war, and learnt it well. You have been on courses at the military academy. The art of war, that’s a complex subject, involving intricate work, especially, when it’s directed against the Germans, whose enormous machinery for killing and destroying functions wonderfully well. We now need to prepare ourselves in military matters, and for that we need to learn: but, in order to learn, we must have specialists. If you please, Messrs. specialists, former generals and officers, we will assign you to the appropriate places.’ But hardly had the thing got that far than certain comrades began to have doubts: if we take generals into our service, suppose they start to engage in counter revolutionary activity? I don’t know, some of them may wish to. It is quite possible that some may even try it; but, as the saying goes: ‘If you’re afraid of wolves, don’t go into the forest.’

Since we are planning to build an army, we have to enlist specialists for this task. We are trying to get the old generals to serve us. If they serve honestly, they will be assured of our full support. Many of the generals (and I have already talked with a number of them) have understood that there is now a new spirit in the country, that now everyone who wishes to defend Russia, to protect her, to establish order in the country, must honestly serve the working people. I have seen many people in my time, and I think that I can distinguish between a man who speaks sincerely and a dishonest one. Some of the generals said quite sincerely that they realize that the working masses have to create an armed force, and that they honestly wish, not from fear but from conscience, to help in this task. But for dealing with those who are thinking of utilizing the workers’ and peasants’ armament for counter-revolutionary conspiracy, we shall find special measures! They know very well that we have eyes everywhere, and if they were to try and make use of the organization of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, we should show them the iron fist we showed in the October days. They can be sure that towards those who try to use our own organizations against us we shall be doubly ruthless. Consequently, comrades, I have not much fear regarding that aspect of the matter. I consider that we are sufficiently firmly established, that the Soviet power is sufficiently stable, and our generals in Russia will no more be able to smash it by means of plots and betrayals than the Kaledinites, Kornilovites and Dutovites were able to. The danger does not lie there: it is in ourselves, in our internal dislocation. The danger also comes from without, from world imperialism.

For the fight against the internal dislocation we must establish strict discipline and organize firm labor order. Every part must be subordinated to the whole. And against counter-revolutionary attacks from within we shall advance our organized, trained Red Army. Against the militarism and imperialism of other countries we have, as well as this, comrades, a trusty ally: the European working class, and, in particular, the working class of Germany. On that subject it is sometimes said: the snail is moving, it will get there one of these days. That was the principal objection that was put to us under Milyukov and under Kerensky, and it is put to us now as well. We can say in reply: yes, the European revolution is developing slowly, very much more slowly than we should have liked, but when did our Russian revolution make its entry on the scene? The Romanovs ruled for three hundred years, for three centuries they sat on the people’s neck. The Russian autocracy played the role of gendarme in relation to all countries, it strangled the revolution at home and likewise every revolutionary movement in Europe: and everywhere all the exploiters reckoned that they possessed a firm bulwark in Russia’s Tsardom. The very name of Russia became hateful to the workers of the Western countries. More than once I had, when in Germany, Austria and other countries, to convince the workers that there were two Russias: one was the Russia of the upper strata, the bureaucracy, Tsardom, the nobles; the other was the Russia of the lower orders, which was gradually rising up, the revolutionary Russia of the workers, for which we are sacrificing everything. But they reacted skeptically to my words. ‘Where is it,’ they asked me, ‘where is this second, revolutionary Russia? In 1905 the revolution showed itself for a moment and then vanished.’ [21] The pseudo-socialists, the compromisers played continually on that theme – the Germans and the French alike. They said that in Russia only the autocracy and the bourgeoisie were strong, that the working class was weak, that one could not hope for a revolution in Russia, and soon and so forth. That was how they talked, flinging mud at the Russian workers, those compromisers who had betrayed their own working class. But our Russian proletariat, which experienced age-old slavery, oppression and degradation, has now shown how it can rise to its full height, square its shoulders, and turn to the rest of the workers all over the world with the call to follow its example. And whereas before our revolution – the February revolution, and especially before the October revolution, we had to lower our eyes to the ground, we now have the right to be proud that we are citizens of Russia! We were the first to raise the standard of revolt and win power for the working class. That makes it legitimate for the working class and for us to be proud!

However, this pride must not become transformed into conceit. Although the workers of other countries are following the same road as we are, their road is more difficult. They have a mighty organization, and their movement is slowly growing. They have a huge army, but, as against that, they have a bigger ‘tail’, and, besides, the enemy they face is stronger than ours. In Russia, Tsardom was rickety, cracked, rotten from top to bottom, and we merely struck it the final blow. The state machine in Germany, France and Britain is a great deal more robust. There, the builders of that machine are much abler and better educated, and there, in order to smash the bourgeois state, the working class needs a much greater exertion of force.

We, of course, can voice our complaint. The revolutionary movement in the West is developing too slowly for our justified impatience. We should all have wished that the revolution had happened sooner over there, and we curse the sluggishness of history, which day by day, to be sure, but all too slowly, is accumulating the anger of the working masses against their hunger and exhaustion. But, one fine day, all the accumulated anger and all the curses against the bourgeoisie and the possessing classes will burst out. Until that moment comes, until this protest has matured in the hearts of the workers, we must wait patiently. The working class in the West is more highly trained than ours, it is richer in experience, it is better educated than the Russian proletariat, and when the time comes for it to begin the last decisive struggle against the oppressors it will firmly seize an iron broom and sweep from its states, without leaving a trace, all the bourgeois and noble scum.

Faith in this is our principal hope. It is still Russia’s fate to experience a great epoch. And if the kites of the bourgeoisie and the compromisers prove correct and the revolution in Europe does not develop at all, or develops only after a century or after some decades, that would mean that Russia as an independent proletarian country would die. For, comrades, in any epoch of history, whoever is weak and poor inevitably falls victim to the stronger beasts of prey, the imperialists and militarists armed to the teeth. This is the law of the world capitalist order, and nobody can do anything about it. If you were to put Milyukov or Guchkov in power, they would not make our country richer, they would only exhaust it. On the other hand, the mere fact that the working class is in power in Russia is in itself a mighty call to revolt for the workers of other countries. Every worker in France and in Germany says: ‘If it has proved possible in Russia, in a backward country like that, for the working class to hold power and to set itself the task of reconstructing the country, organizing the economy on new principles, if in Russia the working class is establishing discipline and labor order everywhere, building an army – why, then, history itself is calling on us to carry out a socialist revolution.’ Consequently, by maintaining the power of the workers and peasants here, among us, we are not only fighting for ourselves and for the interests of Russia, we are at the same time fighting as the advanced detachment of the working class of the whole world: we are fulfilling both our own task and theirs.

And the workers of all countries are looking toward us in hope and fear – are we going to miscarry, shall we shame the red flag of the working class? And if we were to be destroyed by the counter-revolution and our own disorderliness – this would mean that the hopes of the worker masses in the other countries perished, and the bourgeoisie would tell them: ‘There you are, see, the Russian working class tried to rise up, but then it fell down again, and now it lies on the ground, shattered and crushed.’ Such an outcome of our revolution would deprive the world proletariat of faith in its own power and would morally strengthen the bourgeoisie. Therefore we must, in defending our position, fight with twofold and threefold energy, with tenfold heroism. We have to remember that we are now not only the masters of our own fate, but in our hands are the dreams of all mankind for a world set free. Against us is the bourgeoisie of all countries, but with us is the working class of all countries, and its hopes. Let us then, comrades, brace ourselves more strongly, clasping each other’s hands so as to fight to the end, to complete victory, for the rule of the working class!

And when the workers of Europe call to us, we shall go to their aid, all as one man, with rifles in our hands and with red flags, we shall go forth to meet them, in the name of the brotherhood of the peoples, in the name of socialism!


16. At this time the Left SRs supported the Soviet power.

17. The Black Hundreds were monarchist groups organised by Tsardom in order to suppress the revolutionary movement. The Octobrists were supporters of the Tsar’s Manifesto of October 17, 1905, they, the Progressives and the Cadets were Russian bourgeois parties of differing shades.

18. See on this L. Trotsky, Voina i Revolyutszya (War and Revolution), Vols.I and II, Gosizdat, 1922.

19. The 1848 revolution in Germany: This was an attempt made by the liberal bourgeoisie, with the help of the workers and peasants risen in revolt, to deprive the reactionary Junker landlords of their political positions and put an end to the fragmentation of Germany. At the parliament which was convened in Frankfurt the bourgeoisie, frightened by the radical demands of the proletariat, made a deal with the ruling classes, and the reaction was soon able to restore the old order.

20. The Brest peace: On October 26, 1917, the day after the revolution, the Second Congress of Soviets adopted a Decree on Peace. Commander-in-Chief Dukhonin, having refused to begin negotiations with the Germans, was dismissed, and on November 14 the newly-appointed Commander-in-Chief, Krylenko, sent out the first party under the flag of truce to propose negotiations. On November 20 our delegates held a meeting with the Germans, and on the 22nd an armistice was signed. The Council of People’s Commissars issued two appeals to the governments of the Entente, inviting them to join in the negotiations at Brest. Receiving no reply, the Soviet Government continued to negotiate separately. These negotiations dragged on, with interruptions, until March 3, 1918, when Soviet Russia was compelled by force of bayonets to accept very severe conditions. What were the motives that caused our delegates to drag out the negotiations and why did they not sign the peace treaty before the German offensive began? In January a general strike began in Germany. There were powerful disturbances in Austria. The agitational significance of the negotiations, reckoning on a revolution in Germany in the near future, gave hope of escape from the war. The Central Committee of our Party proved to be not unanimous at this moment of crucial importance for the revolution. Comrade Lenin was alone in insisting from the outset that we must make peace with Germany, even on conditions that were hard for us. On January 9 the majority of the Central Committee voted for dragging out the negotiations, and this view was backed by the majority at the Third Congress of Soviets. On February 10 the negotiations at Brest were broken off. Trotsky refused to sign the robber peace, but declared that Russia would not continue with the war and was demobilising her army. On the evening of February 17, that is, a few hours before the German offensive began, Comrade Krylenko asked the Central Committee what action was to be taken in the event of such an offensive. Only five members (Lenin, Stalin, Sverdlov, Sokolnikov and Smilga) declared in favour of immediately proposing to Germany a resumption of negotiations with a view to signing a peace treaty. The other six members of the CC voted against this. During the night of February 17-18 the German troops began advancing all along the line. On February 19, after further discussion in the CC, a radio message was sent out, agreeing to make peace immediately. The Germans were advancing without meeting any resistance not only marching but also travelling along the railways. Not having received any reply from the German Government, the Council of People’s Commissars called on the country to defend the socialist fatherland. The reply which was received from the Germans on February 22 laid down conditions that were even worse than those presented earlier. On February 23 the CC discussed Von Kuhlmann’s reply. Comrade Lenin spoke for immediate acceptance of the German conditions. Comrade Trotsky supported him. Bukharin continued to advocate a revolutionary war. The outcome of the voting was: 7 for accepting the German proposals, 4 against, and 4 abstentions. On March 3 the treaty was signed, subsequently being ratified by the Seventh Party Congress and the Fourth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets.

By the provisions of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Russia was deprived of the Ukraine, Courland, Estonia and Livonia. The towns of Kars, Batum and Ardahan [These towns were ceded by the treaty of Brest-Litovsk not to Germany but to Turkey.] and also the Aaland Islands were ceded to Germany. Soviet Russia was obligated to demobilise her army and disarm her navy within the shortest possible time. The revolution of November 1918 in Germany annulled the treaty of Brest, thereby entirely justifying Comrade Lenin’s tactical line.

For the details of the Brest negotiations see Yu. Kamenev, Borba zamir (The Struggle for Peace): the official reports of the peace negotiations at Brest: Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.15: and the stenographic reports of the Seventh Congress of the Russian Communist Party and the Fourth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets.

21. The year 1905 as prologue to the revolution of 1917: The revolution reached its highest point of development in the last three months of that year: the October strike in Petrograd, which developed into a general strike, the activity of the Union of Unions, the concessions granted by the autocracy and the Manifesto of October 17, and, finally, the armed uprising in Moscow in December and its bloody suppression. The backwardness of the rural areas, uncertainty in the attitude of the soldiers, and the organisational weakness of the worker masses – these were the reasons for the defeat of the proletariat. But ‘the revolution did not vanish’ with that defeat. The lessons of 1905 were fully utilised by the Communist Party in 1917. See L.D. Trotsky, 1905.

return return

Last updated on: 15.12.2006