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

* * *

Report read at a public meeting in Sokolniki, Moscow, June 9, 1918


* * *

Comrades, I come before you in days and weeks that are very trying for our young Soviet Republic. Among all the problems that concern our hearts there is one problem which, though simple, weighs upon us more heavily than all the rest. It is the problem of our daily bread. All our thoughts, all our ideals are now dominated by one care, one fear – how are we to survive through the next day. Everyone inevitably worries about himself and his family. This is especially the case with housewives, wives, mothers, before whom every day, when they have to prepare meals for their children and husbands, the problem of famine arises in all its acuteness. And, it must be said, this problem becomes harder and harder every day. Though things are bad in Petrograd and in Moscow, there are many localities in Russia where people look with envy upon those cities. I have with me some telegrams which the People’s Commissar for Food has received from small towns. There the population is, literally and in the exact meaning of the word, on the brink of complete starvation and exhaustion. From Vyksa, in Nizhny Novgorod province, they wired on May 31: ‘The storehouses at Vyksa are empty, work is proceeding with extensive interruptions and stoppages, 30 per cent of the workers are absent, not in protest but, genuinely, owing to starvation. There have been cases where men have been picked up after fainting from exhaustion at their lathes.’ From Sergiyev-Posad: ‘Give us bread, or we perish’ ... From Bryansk, May 30: ‘There is a very high death-rate in the factories of Maltsovsk and Bryansk, especially among the children: there is hunger-typhus in the uyezd.’ From Klin they sent this on June 2: ‘Klin has been for two weeks completely without bread.’ From Pavlov-Posad, on May 21: ‘The population is starving, there is no bread, we cannot get it anywhere. From Dorogobuzh [24] on June 3: ‘Great hunger and mass sickness.’

I could quote many more such telegrams from other places, but it would be superfluous, for they all sound the same note. In our country there are places where the most terrible of Tsars reigns – ‘Tsar Famine’. To be sure, our agricultural, peasant Russia knew even in the old days the meaning of famine, death from starvation, and hunger-typhus. Even in peacetime, when the harvest failed, there were places in Russia where the peasants, the agricultural population, perished in thousands, dying of hunger, typhus and cholera. Under Alexander III and Nicholas the Americans sent charity to agricultural Russia in the form of steamships loaded with grain.


The heart of the matter is that today famine reigns not only in our Russia but also in all the countries of Europe without exception. In some countries it is worse, in others not so bad, but everywhere the population, and especially the working classes, are suffering from unprecedented hunger.

Let us look to the north. Here, adjoining us, is Finland, which separated from us not long ago. It now has a bourgeois government headed by Svinhufvud, who walks hand in hand with the imperialist government of Germany, which has crushed the Finnish working class. [25] Our bourgeois press looks forward to the day when Svinhufvud’s government will form a counter-revolutionary army in little Finland and march on Petrograd. But the latest information is that unprecedented famine reigns in Finland, that the White Guard soldiers there, recruited from the bourgeois classes, are dropping down dead in the border zone, from hunger and exhaustion. That’s not a situation that lends itself to military expeditions.

Further off, to the north-west, next to Finland, lies Sweden. I passed through that small country more than a year ago. At that time the food situation was much better than now, but even then everyone was issued with ration-cards for bread, so that a traveller passing through got only one small slice of dry bread. In Holland, a neutral maritime country which did not fight, hunger riots have broken out. In Switzerland, another small neutral country, continual disturbances and demonstrations are occurring on account of the shortage of food.

France and Britain are in a better position than the rest of Europe. Around them is the open ocean, they have big navies, both for war and for commerce, they receive supplies from America – and yet, even so, in France about two years ago, when I left it, the working-class population was suffering from hunger – not so much because there was no bread or meat there as because the prevailing prices were quite beyond the purses of the worker masses.

Last, let us take Austria and Germany, which may seem now to be the most powerful and victorious countries. [26] Here I will quote the words of a big Austrian merchant who recently visited Moscow. These words were printed in a bourgeois newspaper, and you know that the bourgeois press is now trying to show that everywhere, throughout Europe and the whole world, everything is going well, splendidly, and only here, in workers’ and peasants’ Russia, is there disorder and hunger. This is what is said by the big Austrian merchant whom I have mentioned:

‘In Vienna the famine is, in any case, undoubtedly worse than in your country. Over there everything, literally everything, has already been eaten up. There is no bread, no sausages, no vegetables – nothing. In the coffee-houses they serve coffee only, without milk or sugar, and, as for beer, we can only dream about it. The streets of Vienna are, like yours, streaked with queues, which in many cases formed the night before. It often happens that, after waiting all through the night and for half a day, the people disperse without having got what they wanted. Things are no better in Berlin, where I spent ten days on my way here. There too they have eaten everything that was edible. The population are living, So to speak, on their own juices. Everyone feels extremely depressed. Even the victories on the Western Front have not cheered people up.’

There, comrades, you have a rough picture of what Europe has become after nearly four years of war. At one time our people’s poet Nekrasov [Nekrasov (1821-1877) wrote poems, especially about rural life, which enjoyed great popularity in the 1860s and 1870s.] spoke of the crushed and plundered Russian village of Neyelovka. Now, on the heights of bourgeois civilisation, as a result of the accursed war, which has taken the workers and working peasants from their workplaces, armed them and flung them against each other, as a result of these 48 months of exhaustion of all the forces, all the juices, all the resources of Europe, we see how this rich old part of the world which not long ago was a focus of culture, power and progress, has been turned into one dreadful devastated all-European Neyelovka. And this is the result of the war, the result of the crimes committed by the ruling classes: the bourgeoisie, the kings, the bureaucrats, the old generals, the ambitious ones. Curses upon them for this terrible war and for the famine which has exhausted all the peoples of Europe!


While, contrary to the lies of the bourgeois press about world wide prosperity, the war has all at once put us on an equal footing, in our conditions, with Europe as a whole, in the sense that the reign of famine and exhaustion has been established everywhere there is, all the same, a difference, and a big one, between us and the greater part of the rest of Europe. In Europe famine exists because the common stocks of grain are insig nificant in quantity. Besides which, of course, the bourgeois classes that rule in Europe lay their hands on more than the masses get. There, everything is weighed, to the last ounce, and distributed in accordance with state regulations. But here? Is there grain in our country, or isn’t there? Why are we starving – is it because all our stocks of grain have been consumed, or is it because we have not learned to get hold of all our grain, to weigh it properly, and distribute it with a firm working-class hand? I affirm that our food difficulties here are not due to absence of grain in the country. There is grain in the country, but, to our shame, the working class and the rural poor have not yet learnt the art of managing the life of the state, taking over all its stocks and distributing them properly in the interests of the working and starving masses.

For proof, comrades, I will quote a few figures. My task is not confirmed to carrying on agitation among you. We need to talk in a businesslike way about the food situation in the country, to talk about what we have and what we lack. According to our statistics, in 1917 the surplus of grain in those localities where grain was produced for export, was 882,000,000 poods. [A pood is 36lb or 16.38 kilogrammes] On the other hand, there are regions in the country where the locally-grown grain is not sufficient. If we work it out, we find they are short of 322,000,000 poods. Thus, in one part of the country there is a surplus of 882,000,000 poods, and in the other a deficit of 322,000,000 poods. If we cover the deficit with the surplus, there remain 560,000,000 poods available for export. True, the lion’s share of this surplus comes from the Ukraine and New Russia, [‘New Russia’ meant the territories bounding the Black Sea which were conquered by Russia in the late 18th and early 19h century – Kherson and Taurida provinces and the Kuban territory, plus Bessarabia.] but even without those lands and regions which have been taken from us (let us hope, for a short time only) it turns out that in 1917 we had, in all the rest of the country, a surplus of not less than 34,000,000 poods. That means that, if we meet all the requirements of the population on the basis of the normal ration needed to support life in a working man, we should still have left, even without the Ukraine and New Russia, a surplus of 34,000,000 poods. That is just from the harvest of 1917. But have we consumed the harvests of 1916 and 1915? Not at all! There are immense areas where the harvest of 1916 not only has not been eaten, it has not even been threshed. It is said that in Turgal and Semipalatinsk regions [27] they still have something left from the harvest of 1914. In North Caucasia alone the grain surplus is now not less than 140,000,000 poods: and yet, to relieve the hunger in all the places where people are now suffering from shortage of food we need, for the whole country, only 15,000,000 poods a month. Just work it out: the surplus of 140,000,000 poods which exists in North Caucasia alone, would be enough therefore, to feed the whole country for ten months. And what about Western Siberia? And here, not far from Moscow, in the nearby provinces – Tula, Tambov, Kursk, Voronezh – there are not less than 15,000,000 poods, forming a stock of supplies which we are not drawing on at present.

Consequently, it cannot be said that we are starving because we have no grain. We have grain, and not only enough to last us until the new harvest. It is possible to say with confidence that if we were able now to dispose of the available grain as we ought, and to distribute it throughout the country according to need, we should have sufficient, without the new crop, to last us a year – until 1919. But our entire misfortune lies in the fact that we do not yet know how, we have not yet learnt, to make use of the riches that exist in our own country. The workers’ and peasants’ power is a young power which has, up to now, not been able, either in the localities or at the centre, to set its organs working properly: furthermore, this is a power which is surrounded on all sides by enemies who are vitally interested in preventing it from solving its food problems and, by stopping the supply of grain to the hungry masses, putting an end to the rule of the workers and peasants and restoring the rule of the bourgeoisie.


Given the conditions we have examined, our task consists in taking the grain which there is in the country – taking it not from overseas, like France and Britain, which get grain from America, from across the ocean, but from within the borders of our own land. Who has this grain and where is it? It is at present in the hands of the rural bourgeoisie, the kulaks and speculators. They now hold tens and hundreds of millions of poods of grain.

How are we to get it from them and to distribute it? This is a life-and-death question for the working class. There are those who whisper to us, by way of friendly advice on how to solve the food problem: ‘There is a simple remedy – you must proclaim freedom of trade, abolish the state monopoly and the fixed prices for grain.’ Everywhere, in shops, in factories, on the railways, and even insinuating themselves into the family circle, agitators sent by the speculators are scurrying about among you with such talk. It may be that among them there are even some who, in their ignorance, sincerely believe that if the grain monopoly were to be abolished and free trade in grain proclaimed, Moscow would at once be supplied with foodstuffs, and our wives, mothers and sisters would be able to prepare our dinners and suppers without much trouble. No, comrades, that way of solving the grain problem would be the most fatal of all the suggestions that our enemy, the bourgeoisie, could put to us.

To appreciate the inevitability and the correctness of the food policy of the Soviet power one must, above all, establish who it was that introduced, or more accurately, who it was that found it necessary to introduce the state monopoly. Did we not previously have free trade in grain? In all bourgeois countries, in all normal periods grain is a commodity that is bought and sold, an object of free trade. We know that the bourgeoisie buys and sells everything: machines, land, houses, gram, meat, honour and conscience. Everything is bought and sold on the bourgeois market! Why was the bourgeoisie obliged, in time of war, to violate the principle of freedom of trade, which it holds sacred, to introduce restrictions on trade and to establish a state monopoly, either complete or partial, where grain was concerned? Why, because, when grain is in adequate supply, it can be transferred from place to place, from one market to another, from town to town, from country to country, it can be put away, released and then again concealed, and in this way one can feather one’s nest, making fat profits. But when war has diverted labor power from agriculture, and from production generally, and has exhausted whole countries, stocks of grain are greatly reduced. Of course, the bourgeois governments are not concerned about the people but about themselves, about their armies, to see that, these are not weakened, but are fit to fight against the enemy’s armies. In obedience to this concern governments were obliged to check the speculators, to tighten the screws somewhat on trade, and to bring the available stocks of grain under control. In Russia this process began in 1915 already under the Tsarist Government, and free trade prevailed only down to that time. The Tsarist minister Trepov, concerned about the condition of the state’s finances, which were threatened by the frantic increase in prices, found himself compelled to establish fixed prices for grain.

Then the revolution occurred, and for the first few weeks there was a Cadet government. The Cadets, being landlords and capitalists, had demanded, for the sake of their profits, that free trade be restored, but when the Cadets became the government they were unable to do this, for they knew that such a measure would bring about absolute famine in the country, deterioration of the conditions of the masses, and ruin. Even the Cadet minister Shingarev was obliged to maintain and continue the grain monopoly. Then there came to power thanks to the votes of the trusting and as yet inexperienced masses, Kerensky with the Right SRs and Mensheviks. What did they decide to do in the sphere of food-supply? Did they abolish the grain monopoly? No, being in the clutches of necessity, in the clutches of the food shortage, they also had to maintain the grain monopoly.

And after even the bourgeois love for competition, free trade and speculation had thus to be subordinated to the interests of the state, they dare to say to us: abolish the grain monopoly and establish free trade, or, as others put it: if you are unwilling to renounce the grain monopoly and introduce free trade, then at least increase grain prices. I have heard this talk not only from speculators, kulaks, plunderers, big and little shopkeepers, also from some persons belonging to the working class. They must, of course, have been brought to despair by hunger, by their pitiful ration of bad bread, and they are looking for a way out, but they are looking for it in the wrong direction.

If the Soviet power were now to proclaim the abolition of the grain monopoly, and to authorize free selling of grain, what would that lead to? It would mean that, at once, all the plunderers, speculators and large-scale bagmen [‘Bagmen’ (or ‘sackmen’) were speculators who set out from the towns into the countryside, carrying bags (or sacks) in order to buy grain from the peasants and sell it at large profit in the towns.] would rush to the Don, the Kuban, the Terek and Western Siberia, and there, like worms on a corpse, would fling themselves upon the stocks of grain. The price of grain would rise to 10, 25, 50, 100 and more roubles a pood. In the course of a single week prices would increase fivefold or tenfold.

And that’s not all! To get the grain to us, trucks are needed, and so a struggle for goods-trucks would begin. Speculators would fight among themselves, and we should probably see an absolute orgy of bribery and corruption, along with ferocious competition: as a result, a pood of grain, by the time it reached Moscow, would cost 200 roubles and perhaps even more than that.

The bourgeoisie, of course, would be able to obtain bread for themselves in greater quantity, just as, even now, they can pay enormous sums for extra bread; but for the working masses bread would finally become inaccessible. The workers would have to get right out of the habit of eating it, would have simply to forget bread and what it tastes like. For the worker starving on a quarter or an eighth of a pound, abolition of the grain monopoly would mean that bread would vanish completely from his table.

But after listening to these arguments, they don’t agree with us, and say: at least, then, increase grain prices. But to whose advantage would an increase in grain prices be? To the kulaks’ advantage! Why does the kulak not give the country grain?

Why, because each kulak – and the kulak is no fool – reasons like this: ‘It’s more advantageous to keep the grain in the cellar because before the revolution there were already fixed prices for grain, then Kerensky doubled them, and now, perhaps these people will quadruple them.’ And if we were actually to increase grain prices, the kulak would then say: ‘Let the workers of Moscow and Petrograd starve for another couple of months, and they’ll pay five and six times as much for grain as they pay now.’ And, from his robber’s point of view, the kulak will be right to hide the grain in his barns, or even dig holes to hide it underground. He is not short of money – he has accumulated such a quantity of paper money that, in many places, the kulaks now reckon their holdings of banknotes in terms not of roubles but of pounds weight, and, after stuffing them into caulked bottles, they bury them in the earth.

That is why the kulaks can and will try to starve the working class out. They know well that if, after a week or two of free trade, the worker has no bread, not even the pitiful ration he has now (which through a correct food-supply policy can be increased), then there will be disturbances in the towns, discontent will burst forth as a result of which, perhaps, the Soviet power will be drowned in the rivers of blood from hunger riots, and the rule of the bourgeoisie will be restored. This is the policy of the bourgeoisie and its backers, the strong kulaks. First and foremost it is aimed at utilising the food crisis in order to overthrow, to break, to starve out the workers’ and peasants’ Soviet power. This is why their newspapers and their agents, their agitators and yes-men – it doesn’t matter what they call themselves, Right SRs or Mensheviks – Persistently spread the story that the famine has been caused by the Soviet power.


Blind slanderers, they have forgotten what we Communists, Marxists, predicted to the possessing classes on the very threshold of the present war! We predicted that it would be a war of peoples, which would take them to the brink of ruin, giving rise to unheard-of economic calamities. Let us recall our forecasts: You will have to hurl into battle, we said to the capitalists, ‘the flower of Europe’s inhabitants, tearing them away from productive work, and will force even those who are left behind to work only for the destruction of values: you will destroy the wealthiest economies, and within two or three years an incredible famine will spread all over Europe.’ Revolutionary Marxism drew this picture for capitalism not just before the world war, but long before it came.

August Bebel, who died shortly before this war, made a speech, at one of the international socialist congresses in Copenhagen [28] that I happened to attend, in which he described with prophetic strokes the future world war and its consequences. He said at that time: ‘Messrs bourgeois, by the international war you are preparing, you will raise an evil spirit that you won’t be able to exorcize, and that will prove to be your undoing!’

And now, when our predictions have been fulfilled, when on the workers’ and peasants’ power has been laid the very heavy burden of the crimes committed by the Tsars, the possessing classes and their salesmen, the enemies of the people say: ‘The Soviet power is to blame for everything, it even caused the famine’ ... Allow me to ask: ‘Did not the bourgeois gentlemen try to cope with the tasks of power?’ After all, power has been held by the Tsar, by the bourgeoisie, by the Right SRs and Mensheviks, and haven’t they left us, as our inheritance from their great work, this present state of ruin? How, after that, do they dare to howl that ‘it is only the Soviet power that is compelling the workers to starve, only the Soviet power that is incapable of coping with the state of ruin – down with the Soviet power!’

‘Know this,’ we say in answer to them: ‘the situation of the Soviet power is difficult, very difficult, at present, but, despite all the difficulties and all the calamities, the workers and peasants will not give up power!’

The bourgeoisie is cunning. It knows that the worker, the working man, is not used to governing, not used to wielding power, and the difficulties are many. Taking account of this, the bourgeoisie whispers to the worker: ‘Government is not for you. Your job is pulling the cart out of the mud, but as for ruling – that’s the sacred responsibility of the capitalists, landlords, professors and barristers.’ Naturally, such talk causes the working man to waver. Perhaps the working class has indeed taken on a responsibility that is too much for it? Perhaps, in order to wield power, one does really need to have qualities with which, so to speak, nature herself has endowed the bourgeoisie so that it can rule over the masses – and ought not the workers and peasants to bow humbly to the bourgeoisie and wipe away the dirty marks they have left? And, to be sure, if we believe that we are incapable of managing the state, we shall perish. If we lose heart, we are finished!

This is a difficult time! The bourgeoisie is cunning: it is on the alert, it is mobilising all its forces against us. The village kulaks, that is, the rural bourgeoisie, are being encouraged by the bourgeoisie through their newspapers and their agitators:

‘Don’t let the towns have any grain, hold on to it. We’ll capture Petrograd and Moscow by starvation, we’ll break the spirit of the working class: then, without needing to strike a blow, we’ll capture those cities and recover our old power – the power of the rich over the poor.’


The kulaks are the advance-guard of the counter-revolution: all the hopes of the bourgeoisie are founded on the kulaks. That is why we must say firmly that, today, the main enemies of the town and of the rural poor are the kulaks, who are hiding away in their bins and their barns hundreds and thousands of poods of grain while in towns and villages the workers and peasants are starving and dying of hunger-typhus, and their children are dying too.

The Central Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was right, three times right, when it declared that the Soviet power will not tolerate a situation in which, while workers and peasants are everywhere starving, a section of the population of one and the same country – the kulaks and plunderers – are sitting on their bags of grain and waiting for the bony hand of famine to break the working people. No, comrades, this must not be! Through its Government the working class has already proclaimed for all to hear: ‘Woe to all kulaks, woe to all speculators who withhold grain surpluses while the workers’ children are dying of hunger-typhus!’ For the Soviet power there is, in general, no such thing as private property, and this applies to grain even more than to anything else. We Communists know only one possession that is sacred – the life of the working man, the life of the worker, his wife and his children. That is the only possession which is sacred so far as we are concerned, and it gives us the right to do anything and everything.

In that case, some may ask: ‘If the life of the working man, his family, every member of it, is dearer to us than anything else, wouldn’t it be better to pay 200, 300 or 400 roubles for a pood of grain, just to save that life?’ Nothing simpler, it would seem.

But, you see, if the price of grain rises to 200 roubles a pood, it will be necessary, so as to maintain purchasing power, to raise the workers’ wages to the same extent, and they will come to 1,000 and 2,000 roubles a month. Then, in accordance with the nature of free prices, grain will at once go up to 500 roubles a pood, and, so that what is in the worker’s pocket may not lag behind the increase in prices, we shall have to increase his wages again. Consequently, to raise grain prices and then raise wages is like drinking salt water in order to quench your thirst: however much you drink, your thirst won’t be quenched. Other voices are raised, saying: ‘Why must you take grain from the kulak by force when he would willingly exchange it for cloth or metal goods?’ But that’s just the point, comrades: the kulak already has everything he needs, and if he is short of anything, let’s say, nails or calico, he can get it for five poods of grain: but he holds hundreds and thousands of poods of grain, and he doesn’t need that amount of calico or nails ... The village poor need it, but they have no grain to exchange. Consequently we shall, through the Committees of the Poor, take grain from the kulaks without giving anything in exchange; only the poor will be allowed to exchange grain for cloth, nails, agricultural implements, for whatever is available in the town which is needed in the village. The fulfilment of this task will be incumbent on the peasants Committees of the Poor. [29] Under the Government’s supervision they will take grain from the kulaks exchange it for cloth, and distribute it amongst themselves.

In our time, we did not shrink from using force to take the land from the landlords, or to put the factories and railways into the people’s hands, just as, earlier, we did not shrink from knocking by force the crown from off the stupid Tsar’s head. So, shall we shrink from tearing grain from the clutches of those kulaks who hold stocks of it and dishonestly conceal them?

In conformity with this decision, the Central Executive Committee proclaimed: ‘Peasants! The towns have promised that they will give everything they possess which is needed for agriculture – metal, nails, reapers and other machines, tools, cloth, leather, glass – not to the kulaks but to the village poor In return for that, the village poor, together with the procurement organs of the Soviet power, must take the grain from the kulaks. If the latter will not give it up voluntarily, then all stocks of grain must be taken by force, by way of requisition, then be shed and must ar in a brotherly manner among the hungry inhabitants of the country and the town.’

If we do not succeed in carrying out this task, that will mean we are good for nothing.

Is it really possible that, in our own country, where stocks of grain for a year are available, we shall prove unable to take, in order to save ourselves from starvation, our daily bread out of the hands of the kulaks and speculators, who are like the dog in the manger: they themselves can’t eat it but they don’t want to give it up? They try to scare us, saying: ‘You want to start a civil war between town and country.’ They all take that line: the bourgeoisie, the Right SRs, and the Mensheviks. We reply: ‘That’s not true, this is not a war of the town against the country, but a joint struggle by the town and the rural poor against the rich kulaks, the plunderers, who are wearing out and exhausting the poor of both town and country.’

If a war of the town against the country and of the country against the town were to begin, that would mean the downfall of the revolution. But if the working class stretches out its hand from the town into the country and concludes an alliance with the rural poor, who have no stocks or surpluses, who do not trade in grain, but are working people lust like the town workers, that is not a war between town and country but their joint struggle against the rural kulak class.


In order to put into effect without delay the food-supply policy which I have set forth, the Soviet Government issued a decree on May 13. [30]

This new decree of the Central Executive Committee, dated May 13, says this. After the law has been published in every volost, allow everyone a period of one week, during which they will be obliged to declare, precisely and conscientiously, what stocks of grain they hold, and, if they possess grain in excess of their own needs for feeding their families and their animals and for sowing their fields, they must surrender these surpluses to the Soviet procurement organisations in return for fixed prices. Anyone who does not reveal his surplus during that week is guilty of a crime. It is the duty of every inhabitant of the village to denounce him to the local Soviet and the procurement organisation, and then his grain will be taken from him not in return for a fixed price but without any payment, while he himself will be brought to trial and judged as severely as for murder, with a sentence of up to ten years’ hard labor. That is what is said in the Soviet Government’s new law of May 13. It is a right and just law. And it has already met with response in various parts of the country.

The Food Commissariat receives dozens of telegrams in which the local procurement organisations report to Moscow on how the decree of May 13 is being implemented. I am not going to quote them all, it would take too long, but I shall refer to a few of them. Here, for example, is what they telegraphed from Yelets: ‘Agents have been sent to each volost to observe how the volost Soviets are working, and in each village procurement commissions of the poorest peasants are being organized, in order to register and distribute the grain surpluses.’ Here is a communication from Samara: ‘Agents of the Samara procurement committee have been despatched to every uyezd and volost, with the task of putting into effect the decree of May 13. Their duty is to co-operate with the uyezd and volost Soviets and to prove to the population that the grain monopoly and fixed prices are not to be shaken, that is, that the procurement committee maintains its own standpoint unwaveringly, being neither for abolition of the grain monopoly nor for any increase in grain prices.’ From Omsk, where the counter-revolutionary movement of the Czechoslovaks has now developed, they telegraphed three or four days ago: ‘Everything has been got ready for the registration of grain. Tomorrow we shall send out special agents to speed up this work.’ A telegram from Luga says: ‘The Peasants’ Congress accepted the decree of May 13 in full and proceeded to put it into effect at once.’ I mentioned that the enemy says of our food-supply policy that it is ‘war by the town against the country’. Yet, you see, all these telegrams are the true voice of the peasants and of the peasants’ congresses, which have accepted the decree of May 13. Here is the report from Voronezh: ‘Special workers’ detachments have been called out, to requisition grain: fresh requisitioning detachments have been organized: recruitment of Voronezh workers for those detachments will shortly be announced, so that grain may be taken from the kulaks. A definite period following publication of the decree has been laid down for the surrender of grain. Inadequacy of armed forces for carrying out requisitions is being experienced.’ Again, the news from Kursk: ‘The decree has been circulated to all the uyezds: in some of them requisitions have already been carried out.’ Penza reports: ‘The local Soviet has resolved to take all measures for the speediest implementation of the decree of May 13.’ Yelets reports: ‘Orders have been given for the decree to be fulfilled unwaveringly. Armed requisitioning detachments have been sent into the volosts: we will inform you of the result.’ Very interesting is the news from Kamyshin: ‘At the peasants’ congress which opened yesterday the majority of the speakers expressed themselves in favour of immediate requisitioning of the grain surpluses held by the kulaks and their despatch to the famine-stricken provinces.’ At Yekaterinodar there was held recently a congress of the regions rich in grain, attended by 1,333 delegates. And what was the resolution adopted by this congress? For free trade, perhaps? For increasing grain prices? I will read you the resolution of this congress: ‘The third congress of the Kuban and Black Sea Republic [The Kuban and Black Sea Republic embraced the Kuban Territory plus the Black Sea District, i.e. the narrow strip along the coast which includes Novorossijsk, Tuapse and Sochi.] was attended by 1,333 delegates from different stanasas [A stanasa was a Cossack settlement, as against the ‘villages’ of the non-Cossack peasant inhabitants of the Cossack territories (the ‘outlanders’).] and villages and from the front. On the current situation, the congress recognised the policy of Russia’s Council of People’s Commissars as correct. The congress devoted its attention mainly to the question of the front, and decided to direct all forces toward the re-establishment of a strong, disciplined army. The congress resolved to make a vigorous start to the sending of grain to the famine-stricken North.’ Let us hear the voice of Ufa, which has always supplied a lot of grain:

’The inhabitants have been informed of the decree. All the procurement organs are working under the threat of being held strictly responsible. The collection of grain has increased already before the detachments were sent out.’ The decree itself has, so to speak, made the rural kulaks think their last hour has come, and forced them to get a move on with the collection of grain. ‘The congress of poor peasants, where 150 deputies were present, passed our resolution unanimously.’

All the telegrams I have quoted were sent, comrades, not from anyone’s study, not by individual ‘writers’ – this is the voice of the localities, of the Soviet procurement committees, the village poor. It is obvious now that comrnittees of the village poor must be set up everywhere, in opposition to the village rich. The committees of the village poor will take charge of the putting into effect of the decree of May 13.


We have to deal with yet another important question. This also has arisen in the localities. Here, for example, from that same Ufa they write that detachments must immediately be sent from the famine-stricken areas. The question of these detachments is very important, comrades. In the localities they really need detachments from the famine-stricken areas. Why do we need them? It’s quite natural. When famine exists somewhere a long way off, in another province, people in the well-supplied localities don’t really know what that means, they don’t feel the pangs. Their idea of it is confirmed to what they read in the papers: so, there’s famine in Moscow. After all, we, too, when we read, for example that cholera or plague has broken out somewhere, we just think about it for a moment and then forget it. Not only kulaks but genuine working people, too, if they themselves are pretty well off for bread, don’t take all that closely to heart somebody else’s hunger. And therefore it is necessary that workers’ detachments be sent thither, to the provinces that are rich in grain, from the hungry cities, detachments of Petrograd and Moscow workers: they need to go out there not to robbery and plundering, as our enemies allege, but for the lofty purpose of addressing themselves, when they have arrived in the countryside, first and foremost to the poor, saying: ‘We hungry workers who have come to you, village poor, offer our hand in brotherhood and say: in our town there is still cloth, metal, nails: we are ready to send into the countryside whatever we possess, in exchange for grain. Let us share like brothers our common stock of resources. Have you any grain?’ ‘No,’ the poor peasant will reply, ‘I have only as much grain as will see me through until the next harvest is in.’ ‘But your neighbour has some?’ ‘Yes, he has, his bins are full.’ ‘Right, then, let’s go together to see him, check how much he has in his bins, and make a record of it. And has he a horse and a cart?’ ‘Yes, he has.’ ‘Let’s load his grain on to the cart; and then let’s leave half of it here to meet the needs of the peasants in this district and the neighbouring provinces, and send the other half to Moscow, to Petrograd.’

Our detachments sent out from Moscow and Petrograd will take working-class women with them, proletarian wives and mothers who know better than anyone else what famine means for a family with a lot of children. When she reaches Ufa province, or Western Siberia, such a housewife will say what needs to be said to the local kulaks. Can we doubt, comrades, that the fraternal alliance between the town workers and the village poor will be strengthened, that the kulaks will not dare to oppose this combination, since they are so insignificant numerically? If we take the actual kulaks, those who are now speculating in grain, they number no more than a twentieth of the population of working, needy and hungry Russia as a whole.

This, then, is the task of the workers’ grain-procurement detachments: to set going a campaign for grain, waged by the working people! We shall not permit the population to perish from hunger and exhaustion while there is grain to be had in our country. We shall find helpers everywhere, even in the most out-of-the way corners: all that’s needed is to shout for it. We shall send out from Moscow two or three or four, or, if need be, ten thousand honest, advanced workers, properly armed, who will not rob and plunder. We shall assign to them the task of coming to the aid of the rural poor and registering, together with the latter, the stocks of grain that are available. Of course, should the local kulaks resist, and set rifles and machine-guns between the grain and the hungry, they will have to be dealt with relentlessly, fierce war will have to be waged against them, and it is for that task that the workers will be armed. But in most cases it won’t come to that. All that will be needed will be for a few thousand conscious, disciplined, advanced workers and honest, disciplined Red Army men to turn up, saying: ‘Moscow needs grain: give it to us, at the fixed prices laid down by the Soviet power’ – and there will be grain, comrades! All that is needed is the desire and determination to fight for grain. We do not always have enough of that quality. The workers of Petrograd are only now beginning to bestir themselves. Comrade Zinoviev informed us today, from Petrograd, that 4,000 armed workers of that city are being sent out to wage the campaign for grain. These workers possess not only rifles but also ability to speak and the power to convince. When they get to the localities they will make splendid agitators among the village poor. Besides this, on June 8 the Council of People’s Commissars discussed the question of establishing everywhere, on a compulsory basis, alongside the volost and village Soviets, Committees of the Village Poor, of those who know just as well as the workers do what it means to be hungry and undernourished. We shall link ourselves with them, as brothers, and together with them we shall put into action our Soviet policy in the rural areas.

Workers have already been asking what organisation is to undertake the despatch of armed detachments into the country side. Some workers, who have the weapons needed, would like to set out on their own responsibility. Comrades, we must eliminate possible misunderstandings here. The grain-procurement campaign, that is, the struggle for grain, has to be waged in a strictly organized, strictly centralized way. Those workers who wish to form themselves into grain-procurement detachments must apply directly to the People’s Commissariat of Food, which has lists of all the provinces, uyezds and volosts that are rich in grain supplies and require to have such workers’ detachments sent to them. Otherwise, if groups of worker volunteers set out on their own responsibility, unknown to the Food Commissariat, it could happen that dozens of detachments made their way to one province or volost, while another was left without a single detachment, and anarchy, disorder and ruin would be the result. We want to wage the grain-procurement campaign in an organized, centralized way, that is, to have at the centre a common leadership for dealing with the food situation throughout the country, and to ensure that, in the localities, the workers’ grain-procurement detachments do not act otherwise than in conformity with the instructions of the local procurement organisations, firmly linked with the centre. I repeat, what we need is co-ordination and not disorder and dissension.

The idea has been expressed that we ought to introduce monopoly and establish fixed prices for everything. That is a correct idea, and it would be close to realisation if the working class had established order in the country, like a good master, a people’s master, who surveys the whole country with a master’s eye and knows how much grain there is in it, how much iron and coal, how many locomotives, how many of these are fit to use and how many are out of action: who keeps a record of everything, brings book-keeping and accounting into everything. When we have introduced such real workers’ and peasants’ labor order, and the discipline needed for it, we shall then be able to lay down prices for all articles and regulate production so that every article will be available in proportion to need. All that is the very foundation of our socialist system, the system under which the whole people produce everything they need, to the amount that is sufficient for their livelihood, and share it out equally, like brothers: under which the whole people live like one harmonious family, like one fraternal working team. That is what we are striving towards, that is the true image of socialism: but there is a long way to go before reaching it, and we have only just begun the journey. Barring the road that leads to that goal stands the bourgeoisie, organising conspiracies and revolts, striving to stir up the masses to hunger riots. Struggle against the bourgeoisie is our first and fundamental task.


The bourgeoisie considers that power belongs to it forever. This is the belief firmly held by all possessing classes since time immemorial: it is based on the fact that knowledge of how to govern is passed on from generation to generation, from father to son, within the bourgeoisie. In addition, the historical self assurance of the bourgeoisie is based upon its wealth. And the wealth of the bourgeoisie is like a snowball, which rolls down the mountainside, grows bigger, and becomes an avalanche. The bourgeoisie sits on a mountain of gold and gazes down scornfully on those below. It is certain that it can do everything, and that the working masses must remain, as before, under the knout and the yoke. The bourgeoisie is convinced that the working people are incapable of such a privileged task as ruling that state, that they cannot hold on to power. But, proving to the whole world that the opposite is the case, the working class in Russia has seized power and held on to it. And if the workers and peasants, after taking power in an entire country for the first time in the history of all mankind, were to let this power slip, to let it fall from the hands of the Soviets, why, then there could be no greater festival of rejoicing for the landlords, exploiters, kings and ministers of all countries, everywhere. Every bourgeois in France, Britain, Germany, would then tell his workers and his peasants: ‘You call yourselves socialists, you are preparing to get rid of us bourgeois and take power yourselves: but just see what has become of the workers who tried that. They flew high, but where did they come down? They have gone back to their old place, and returned power to the kulaks, landlords and speculators, to the plunderers. Why? Because they proved unable to cope even with the food question: hunger exhausted and overstrained them, so that they weren’t strong enough to deal with it.’

Famine and counter-revolution help each other, they go hand in hand. The counter-revolution blames the Soviet power for the famine, but is that true? Consider, what, in general, is the Soviet power? It was you, the workers and peasants, who yourselves setup the Soviet power. If Ivanov or Petrov, whom you elected to a Soviet turns out to be no good, then take Karpov, send Ivanov away, put Sidorov in. When they tell you that Soviet power is bad in principle, as a form of organization, they are telling you that you yourselves are good for nothing. So what? That would be true, if we were to fail to cope with our historical tasks: if, after rolling up our sleeves, we do not overcome our difficulties, that will indeed mean that the Russian working class is too weak to hold power. In that case, there’s no point in reproaching either Ivanov or Sidorov – we must call upon the bourgeoisie to govern and give orders: and the working class is, indeed, born to submit itself to the bourgeoisie, to serve it and wipe away the dirty marks it leaves behind it.

If you agree with that, then put your trust in the Cadets, the Right SRs and the Mensheviks, in those who are now, with all their strength and by every means, working to subvert the supply of food to the workers, promoting the most criminal forms of sabotage, directed against the sacred task of feeding the hungry working people. Consider the resolutions of the SRs and the Mensheviks. What do they say? That it is impossible to give support to the Soviet power. Why is it impossible to give such support? Because the Soviet power is strong only in the support of the workers and peasants. Because Mr Ryabushinsky, that Moscow capitalist well known to us, has supplied the SRs and Mensheviks with the method of weakening support for the Soviet power on the part of the working people ... He said, last year already: ‘When the bony hand of famine grips the throat of the working class, they will learn discipline,’ that is, they will come to heel. This Mr Ryabushinsky has at his command, as agents and assistants, the Right SRs and Mensheviks. And these criminals and enemies of the people incite the desperate to revolt. We know, of course, what it means for a worker’s family to receive a quarter or an eighth of a pound of bread. In such a situation hunger riots by ignorant people, directed against the Soviet power, can occur. What would these riots contribute, whom would they help? These rioters would be like the foolish infant who, finding no milk in his mother’s exhausted breast, bites that breast. It would be a revolt against oneself. No, not hunger riots against your own representatives, whom you can replace, change, recall – not hunger riots, but strengthening the power of the workers and the poor peasants over the rich, taking of grain stocks and proper distribution of them throughout the whole country that is the real remedy, the true road of salvation!


To those gentry who blame the Soviet power for the famine, and who mention that in the Ukraine there are 500 million poods of grain (they keep quiet about the fact that the Germans are now trying to take this grain for themselves), we say: But who was it who opened the gates of the Ukraine to the imperialists, who called in the Germans? The Ukrainian Rada. And what does the Ukrainian Rada consist of? Of the Ukrainian SRs, the Ukrainian Mensheviks, and suchlike traitors.

‘The Soviet power is to blame for the famine,’ they scream. But when our Soviet units withdrew from the Ukraine under the pressure of the Germans, and advised the workers and peasants: ‘Remove from the Ukraine grain, gold, metals, coal: and what you can’t remove, destroy otherwise, the Germans will seize everything and take it to their country’ – what did the Mensheviks and SRs say then? ‘Don’t remove anything, leave everything where it is, otherwise we shall perish from famine.’ And what happened? The Germans came and grabbed the lot. Every chicken was taxed. The Germans know how to proceed with precision: every homestead was subjected to a tax in the form of a certain number of pounds of butter and a certain number of bottles of milk, and it was assessed so that the peasants were left with nothing. And now the bourgeois papers write that there is an unprecedented upsurge of Bolshevism in the Ukraine, that the entire mass of the peasantry are saying that the Bolsheviks were right when they warned that ‘the Germans will take everything, so everything must be removed.’

This is what the bourgeois papers say on this matter: ‘According to Skoropadsky, the Kiev, Podolsk, Poltava, Kharkov, Kherson and Yekaterinoslav provinces, together with part of Voronezh province, are in the grip of constant peasant risings. The highest degree of tension in these disorders has been reached in Podolsk and Yekaterinoslav provinces. The peasants are joining forces with the workers. The Krivoy Rog district is now in the hands of the rebels. A struggle between the peasants and the troops is in progress on the territory of Yekaterinoslav province. In Podolsk province the punitive detachments that were sent in were on the point of putting a stop to the disorders, but these have broken out again.’ [31]

That is the situation in the Ukraine today. The bourgeois press writes of the growth of Bolshevism in the Ukraine: they write similarly about Poland, which is occupied by the Germans. Warsaw is the scene of a general strike. Comrades, people who have recently arrived from Courland, Estonia and Livonia [Courland is now included in Latvia, and Livonia is divided between Estonia and Latvia.] report that there, too, the mood is extremely tense, and relations between the local population and the German troops have become extremely exacerbated.


And now, in these tragic circumstances, while we are starving and while our brothers in the occupied regions are waging a fierce struggle, now covert, now overt, the Czechoslovak revolt has broken out in our rear. [32] Who organized it? The answer is clear: those who blame the Soviet power for the famine, those who betrayed the Ukraine. At Novo-Nikolayevak and Omsk a so-called Government of Siberia has been established. It has announced that it wields power relying upon the Czechslovaks. What does this government consist of? As with the Ukrainian Rada, it consists of Right SRs and Mensheviks. The Czechoslovak revolt on the Trans-Siberian Railway has already held up for two weeks the movement of trains loaded with grain from Siberia to Moscow and Petrograd. According to the SRs, therefore, the Soviet power is responsible for the famine in the capital. We have documents proving that in Siberia, besides the British and French imperialists and the Russian counter-revolutionaries, officers and monarchists, there was direct participation by the Right SRs and the Mensheviks. And these same people come to the workers here and say, plaintively:

‘You are starving, workers: look how the Soviet power has brought you to starvation.’ But then they turn round and say to the Czechoslovaks: ‘Revolt, rise up against the Soviet power, so as to delay the movement of freight along the Trans-Siberian line for a week, a fortnight, a month.’ Here in Moscow we discovered a conspiracy in which several hundred officers, monarchists, inveterate counter-revolutionaries, old servants of the Tsar, were involved, and which was headed by Savinkov, the leader of the Right SRs. I ask you, is there now any line of distinction separating the counter-revolutionaries, monarchists, exploiters and kulaks from our neighbours of yesterday, the Right SRs and Mensheviks? No, there is no such line: they have joined together in one black camp of counter revolutionaries against the exhausted masses of workers and peasants. [Cries of ‘Shame’] I must say that I am amazed at your long-suffering ... Although, in the Soviets of workers’ deputies, where the working population is represented, the overwhelming majority are Communists and Left SRs, nevertheless, over in a corner sit five or six, or perhaps ten Right SRs. They sit in the Soviets of workers’ deputies – not of kulaks’ or bankers’ deputies, but of workers’ deputies, and at the same time they organize revolts by monarchist officers and Czechoslovaks against the workers’ and peasants’ Soviet power ... I think the time has come to say that traitors, betrayers of the revolution, can find no place in the ranks of the workers’ and peasants’ Soviets.

But we say to you and we say to our enemies, that, however difficult the situation may be in which destiny has placed us, we possess the strength we need. We know that the three most difficult months in the Soviet year are approaching. These months – June, July, August – are the gravest months, when the country has not yet gathered in the new harvest. Famine stands at the gates of many towns, villages and factories. These three months are terrible months for the young Soviet power. But, on the other hand, if we live through these three months with firmness, as revolutionaries who have resolved not to surrender their positions to the enemy, the Soviet Republic will be consolidated forever.


Although we are as yet weak in comparison with the European proletariat, it is we whom the wave of events has raised precisely to a tremendous height. The Russian working class is at present the only working class in all the world which is free from political oppression. Yes, we are in a bad way, we are having a hard time, the country is in ruins, there is no grain: but the Russian working class was the first to draw itself up to its full height, take power and say: ‘Now I am going to start to learn how to steer the ship of state.’ And the working class all over the world is looking expectantly and hopefully to the Russian proletariat, and often the workers of other countries, who have not yet taken power, find their hearts sinking with fear. They think, anxiously, ‘Will the Russian worker hold on to power, or won’t he?’ And the bourgeois press lies and slanders: ‘See how the Russian working class is collapsing beneath the burden of power.’

That was how the bourgeois press acted in October, too, when it wrote that Soviet power would last no more than a fortnight. Then they gave us a month, then two months, to be gone: but, lo and behold, we have lasted seven months, and now, even though things are sometimes difficult, we say: we shall also last out these three fearful months to come. And when the European worker gazes at us anxiously, we shall, because of this, answer him: ‘European workers, brothers! Don’t lose hope, don’t lose confidence in us! We are in difficulties, and we look to you to come to our aid. But we give you our word that we shall hold on with all our might to the banner of workers’ and peasants’ power that has been entrusted to us.’

And, comrades, let this promise which we give, standing on a peak of history, be no empty, vain form of words. Let each one of us today, when he goes back home, to his room or to his factory, vow to make an immediate practical contribution to launching the campaign for grain for Moscow and for the whole country. Cannot we here, in this Moscow of two million people, form detachments, even if they number no more that ten thousand of the advanced, reliable, conscientious and honest workers, to go out into the countryside to organize planned Soviet order? Where they find a kulak they will take grain from him, where they find some railway bigwig who takes bribes for letting trucks through, they will punish him: they will introduce order, get rid of the bagmen, and supply us in Moscow with grain, so that we may hold on till better times arrive.

I said at the beginning that the workers are suffering from frightful famine in all countries of Europe. The workers of Germany, France and Britain, who have been accustomed to better conditions of existence, are only now starting to appreciate what this terrible war means. If the Austro-German coalition wins, the German worker will have to pay after the war, as a result of the colossal victories, taxes five times as high as before the war. This has been calculated by German bourgeois statisticians. The same fate threatens the British and French workers. This is why the French politicians are telling their workers: ‘We can’t stop the war: we need to make the Germans pay.’ On their side, the Germans tell their workers: ‘We can’t stop the war: we need to make France and Britain pay, otherwise you’ll have to pay big taxes.’ And so, by the will of the capitalists, the peoples of Europe, grappling one with another, are wearing each other out – and can see no end to this. A new battle is being fought now on the Western front.

Hundreds of thousands, millions of men will die, hundreds of millions of values will be destroyed, turned into smoke and ashes. And the outcome of all this will be that some frontier will be moved forward some twenty, thirty or forty versts. And the capitalists will go on exhausting and ruining the worker masses of all countries until our brothers in the West answer back, rising in revolt and overthrowing bourgeois rule and its state frontiers. The capitalists call that piece of land which they surround with bayonets their fatherland, but we say that our fatherland, given us by nature, is the whole earth, that in this fatherland, that is, in the earth as a whole, we want to organize one common economy of brothers, wherein there will be no frontiers, no bayonets, no enmity. We say: just as in one factory there work together Russians, Poles, Estonians, Jews and Letts, so, in that huge factory which is called the world, it is possible for Russian, Germans, French and British to work together like brothers. And if we create this world-wide team of the working masses, against the oppressors, against the robbers, we shall be bringing real order to the earth.

Let the priests of all religions, all the preachers, tell us about the paradise in another world. But we say that we want to create a real paradise for people on this earth. We must not lose sight for one hour of our great ideal – the best of all ideals mankind has ever striven toward. To compare, take the old religious doctrines, take the doctrine of Christ: all that is best, all that is noblest of what we find in these doctrines is embodied in our doctrine, the doctrine of socialism. And we want this to be no vague creed but a reality, so that people may live not like wild beasts fighting over a piece of bread, but like brothers in harmony, who cultivate the earth together and make of it one flowering garden for all mankind. And in order to realise such an ideal, such a great aim, we need to fight staunchly, bravely and resolutely, to the end, and, if need be, to die, to shed our blood to the last drop for the sake of the brotherhood of the peoples.


I am asked: ‘But aren’t your views regarding the revolution in Western Europe coloured with too much optimism and cheerfulness? Suppose no revolution takes place in the West, what will become of us then?’ This is the question of a man who is wavering, shaking, afflicted with doubt and there are many such. One can say to him this, at least: when the Petrograd workers, men and women, came out on to the streets at the end of February 1917, with the slogan ‘Bread and Peace’, and when they found support only in the Volhynian Regiment, there were also those who doubted and wavered, saying: ‘You men of the Volhynian Regiment are coming out, but the Semyonovsky Regiment won’t support you, so you’re doomed! You, Petrograd workers, are coming out, but the Moscow workers won’t support you, so you’re doomed!’ And when we began our October Revolution, people who doubted and vacillated also said: ‘Of course you have with you the revolutionary workers and soldiers of Petrograd, you are carrying the revolution through here, but Moscow won’t back you up, and neither will Yaroslavl, Tambov or Penza, so why have you begun?’ We answered all these Doubting Thomases: ‘No, you sceptical comrades, you waverers, your standpoint is false, radically false. The workers in Petrograd are more revolutionary, you say – but their revolutionaries did not, after all, fall from heaven: it reflects a general revolutionary mood in the country. The workers of Petrograd are not separated from the workers of other towns by a stone wall. If the Petrograd workers are more advanced, then it is up to them to begin, and to draw the others after them.’ And who was right? The sceptics, the doubters, the waverers? No, we were the ones to be proved right. In the hearts of the working class much bitter hatred had accumulated, mistrust and striving to throw off the yoke of capitalism. The example offered by the heroic struggle of the advanced workers raised up the more backward ones and urged them forward. Just as the Petrograd workers raised up the Russian workers, so will the Russian workers raise up, suppor and urge forward the workers of the whole world.

I say this not on the strength of books or newspapers. As a socialist émigré, during the Tsarist regime, I was tossed from one country to another. Just before the beginning of the war I was in Austria, and was therefore obliged, being a Russian, to move hastily into Switzerland. I was in France for about two years, and observed there the growth of hatred among the working class against all the capitalists who had dragged that country into the dishonest war and then enriched themselves from this war. From France I was sent into Spain, a neutral country. I saw how the war was exhausting that country as well pumping foodstuffs out of it and giving rise to stormy movements among the working class. From Spain they sent me to the United States, and while I was there two great events occurred – the entry of the United States into the war, and the beginning of the Russian revolution. America’s intervention immediately produced a big increase in the price of grain and food, and I saw in New York many thousands of working-class women going out into the street to shout: ‘Down with war, we want to eat!’ Then came the news of the Russian revolution. In March of last year, I was present at numerous meetings in America which were attended by tens of thousands of workers. The entire proletariat of New York lived and throbbed with one thought: ‘Look at the heroic working class of Russia! May the time come when we American workers, too, will talk the language of revolution to our bourgeoisie.’ I saw what a beneficial influence the liberation struggle of the Russian revolution had upon the American workers. I left that country in March and came here, to Russia. However, man proposes, but Britain disposes. En route, I was taken prisoner by the British, as an opponent of the war, a revolutionary, and imprisoned in Canada. There I came face to face with German sailors who had been captured by the British from ships they had sunk. I spent a month in their company: we lived under one roof, in one huge barracks-hut which held 800 men. They all followed the course of our revolution avidly. There were six of us Russians. When we were released from that place, all the German sailors formed up into ranks. They were honouring not us, but the Russian revolution. Their representative, an outstanding revolutionary sailor, said: ‘Tell our Russian brothers that it is harder for us than for them, because our state machine is more strongly built, and it will be more difficult for us to blow it up, but our hearts throb with hatred for capital and for our Kaiser, in unison with the hearts of the Russian workers.’ And, after that, did we not see general strikes in Germany in January of this year, and were there not recently revolts among the sailors of the German Navy? And in Finland there have been meetings of German sailors, hundreds of arrests, dozens of executions. All these are facts. Is the German revolution too slow in coming? Yes, that is true, but did you and I make our revolution in a day wasn’t there first of all the year 1905, the Ninth of January [33], October (1905) [34] ... Then Stolypin stifled us. We stayed silent for twelve years, we were active underground, and then, straightening our backs, we overthrew the Tsar in 1917.

Yes, the emancipation of the working class is a hard task. It won’t be accomplished in one day. And it is harder for the Germans than for us. They too have landlords, capitalists, predators, just as in Russia, they too have oppressors and enemies of the working class, but these are not embezzlers, drunkards and idlers such as our landlords were, but businesslike scoundrels, clever exploiters of the working people.

Consequently, those exploiters are seated firmly in their places. But the experience of history, together with common sense, tells us that the working class in Britain, France and Germany will do as we did. What can the war give to the working class of Britain and Germany but new taxes, new sacrifices, thousands and millions of cripples, orphans, widows, old men and fathers left without anyone to look after them? And when the worker masses start to leave the trenches and go back home, and they find that their wives’ cooking-pots are empty and there is nothing for the children to eat, can we doubt that indignation such as history has never before seen will seize the working masses of all Europe, of the whole world? Yes, the revolution is progressing too slowly, that is true. We should have liked it to break out everywhere at once. It is progressing slowly, but it is moving: it will cut secret passages for itself into the realms of the bourgeoisie, and it will conquer. A comrade from Byelorussia told us here about how, in those parts, the bourgeoisie hoards grain underground and sets grave-crosses on the mounds so that it won’t be found. That’s the bourgeoisie for you. But we say that the revolution will triumph and give grain to the working people of the whole world: and it will bury the bourgeoisie in a grave-mound, and set over that mound not a cross but an aspen stake. [In the Russian countryside of old it was traditional to mark the grave of a ‘witch’ with an aspen stake.]


24. Sergiyev Posad, Klin, Pavlovsky Posad were uyezd centres in Moscow province, Dorogobush was an uyezd centre in Smolensk province.

25. The Svinhufvud Government was the bourgeois government of Finland which was overthrown by a workers’ revolt during the night of January 27-28, 1918. Power passed to the proletariat, and the Government was obliged to flee to the North, to the city of Vaasa. A dogged civil war began. In the first period the Red Finns occupied the whole of southern Finland and organised Soviet power there. The Baltic Division, led by General Von Der Goltz, which landed on April 3 in the rear of the Red front, advanced on Helsingfors, occupied it, and together with the White Finnish forces under General Mannerheim, liquidated the revolt. The Svinhufvud Government reigns once more in Finland, through the power of German bayonets, and is still today, amid rivers of blood, taking vengeance on the proletariat for their attempt to seize power.

26. This speech was made during the period when the peace of Brest-Litovsk was in force and before the defeat of the Germans on the Western Front.

27. The grain-growing areas of Turkestan and Western Siberia.

28. A congress of the Second International was held in Copenhagen in 1911.

29. The decree on organizing the rural poor in the villages and volosts was adopted at the session of the All-Russia CEC on June 11. Organized by the local Soviets with the direct participation of the procurement organizations, these committees were intended to unite the poor peasants in struggle against the kulaks and to defend the grain monopoly. The basic duties of the Committee of the Poor were: to co-operate with the procurement organism extracting grain surpluses, and to distribute this grain and goods of prime necessity. The Committees of the Poor were abolished by a resolution of the Sixth Congress of Soviets.

30. The decree of May 13 reaffirmed the impregnability of the grain monopoly and fixed prices, and also the need for ruthless struggle against speculators in grain and bagmen. All grain in excess of the amount needed for sowing and for personal consumption was to be declared in each volost. Everyone who possessed surplus grain and failed to bring it to the collection points was to be declared an enemy of the people and brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal. All working and poor peasants were called upon to unite for ruthless struggle against the kulaks. All means for resolute struggle against opponents of the extraction of surpluses were concentrated in the hands of the People’s Commissariat of Food, up to and including the right to employ armed force.

31. May and June 1918 were the months that saw the maximum growth of peasant revolts in the Ukraine.

32. For more details on the Czechoslovak revolt see note 79.

33. On January 9, 1905, the workers of Petrograd who had walked in procession to the Winter Palace to present a petition to Nikolai Romanov were fired on by troops loyal to the Tsar. The story of this petition is as follows. On January 3 a strike began at the Putilov works, in protest against the dismissal of some workers by the administration. Despite the cooperation of the ‘Assembly of Factory Committees’, organized by the police and the security service and headed by the priest Gapon, it did not prove possible to settle this conflict peacefully. On January 6 the strike spread to nearly all the factories in Petrograd. The workers put forward demands that were not only economic but also political. Under the influence of agitation by the priest Gapon it was decided to petition the Tsar, in whom many workers naively trusted. On January 9 the unarmed demonstration was shot down in the streets of Petrograd.

34. On October 17, 1905, Tsardom was compelled by the pressure of the all-Russim strike to proceed to a partial limitation of its own powers, promising to introduce civil liberties and to convene a State Duma. The Manifesto of October 17 detached the petty-bourgeois and intelligentsia elements from the revolution.

return return

Last updated on: 20.12.2006