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

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II [Concluding speech at the same meeting – L.T.]






[Speech by me introducing an emergency motion at the 5th Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, Cossacks’ and Red Army Men’s Deputies July 4, 1918. This is the text of the stenographic report of the speech. – L.T.

Extracts from the official report of the Proceedings of the Fifth Congress of Soviets are given in Bunyan, op. cit. Eye witness accounts will be found in M.P. Price, My Reminiscences of the Russian Revolution (1921), R.H. Bruce Lockhart, Memoirs of a British Agent (1932), and K Paustovsky In That Dawn (Vol.3 of Story of a Life) (1967). Lenin’s speeches at the Congress are in Vol. 27 of the Collected Works.]

I have taken the liberty of requesting the Presidium, and now I request you, to allow me a few minutes of your valuable time for the purpose of introducing a motion which was not included on the agenda but which life itself it now calls for.

In certain sectors of our front zone come disturbing events have been observed, the significance of which I do not want to exaggerate but which nevertheless are significant on the plane of principle. And if we remain indifferent to these occurrences, they could grow into facts that would constitute a menace to the policy which you have wished, and, I think, still wish, to pursue.

In the Kursk sector of the Ukrainian front, in the zone of the demarcation line between us and the Germans, there were alarming signs a few weeks ago that certain elements are carrying on an agitation among some units of our army, aimed at inciting them, regardless of their commanders and of the directives of the central Soviet power, to go over to the offensive.

I do not intend at this moment, comrades, and I have no right, to take up the question of which policy – war or peace – is right or wrong: this question has been allotted a special item on the agenda. But, in any case, I have no doubt that there is no-one in this hall, neither any delegate nor even any of our visitors and guests (unless our enemies have managed secretly to get in among us), who would suppose that the question of war or peace, of launching an attack or concluding an armistice, is a question that can be left to the decision of individual units and detachments of the Red Army.

I have received a telegram from our military commissar at Kursk, Krivoshein – and I mention here, in parentheses, although this question is for me, as Commissar for Military Affairs, a matter of complete indifference, that Comrade Krivoshein, one of our best and most energetic commissars, belongs to the Left SR Party – which informs me that, as a result of ‘provocations’ which I have reported, certain units have now demanded that an attack be launched. The N. regiment has passed a resolution not to attack ‘without orders from the central authorities.’ He reported on the 15th, in the telegram which I have just quoted, that the fifth company of the Third Regiment had launched an attack. This happened, he says, for reasons of various kinds.

Later, a day or two ago, on the 3rd, in the same area, at Lgov [Lgov is about 75 miles west of Kursk, on the railway line from Moscow to Kiev], Commissar Bych was murdered and Brigade Commander Sluvis wounded – again I mention, in parentheses, that Sluvis belongs to the Left SR group – and Krivoshein, whom I have already named, reported that it appeared to him, from the information at his disposal, that certain sinister elements were egging units on to proceed at once to attack, ignoring the orders of the central and even of the local Soviet authorities. He says that this murder was the work of the same leading group which is carrying on the demagogic agitation.

Similar reports are being received from other localities as well. I have only to add that I sent a commission to Kursk and Lgov to investigate the affair, and that this commission has been fired on by the same gang, two comrades being wounded.

From Nevel [Nevel is near the Byclorassian border, on the railway from Petrograd to Odessa, and is the junction for the line to Warsaw] one of our commissars reports that a dishonest demagogic agitation is being carried on there, the gist of which is that the Soviet power is betraying our Ukrainian brothers. They retail filthy legends about how we are buying up all the cloth and handing it over to the Germans, sending grain to Germany and so on – in short, those legends of corrupt and dishonest bourgeois demagogy with which we are very familiar.

I fully understand that some ignorant peasants may be confused by such legends, and, when I am speaking, I have in mind not them but those persons who are trying to involve particular units in conflict, contrary to the will of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets. In addition, I have been informed from Zhalobovka that there, at the checkpoint, some persons dared to threaten with a bomb the chairman of our peace delegation, Comrade Rakovsky. Unfortunately, they were not detained and shot.

You will appreciate, comrades, that one cannot trifle with matters of this sort; that I, as the person responsible at present for the conduct of Red Army units [Kamkov: ‘Kerensky!’ Shouts: ‘Down with whoever it was who shouted!’] ... Kerensky! Kerensky stood on guard for the will of the bourgeois classes, but I am here answerable to you, the representatives of the Russian workers and peasants, and if you censure me and take a different decision, one with which I may or may not agree, then I, as a soldier of the revolution, will submit to it and carry it out.

The last, the Fourth, All-Russia Congress of Soviets [91] (which adopted the policy of peace with Germany), and the Central Executive Committee and Council of People’s Commissars which it elected, pursued a definite policy which expressed the point of view – whether that point of view is correct or incorrect is another question – of the party which represents the will of the overwhelming majority of the classes that do not exploit the labor of others. I am obliged to carry out that part of this policy which has to be implemented through the War Department, and when I am told that certain units of the Red Army are killing, for example, Commissar Bych, or wounding a Brigade Commander, the Left SR Sluvis, and when Commissar Krivoshein reports that gangs are corrupting the troops, and, when we send five or six persons to investigate, they fire on them – then I know that we shall have either to advocate a policy of indulgence or else to hurry up and relentlessly call to account whoever is responsible for all this.

I think, comrades, that, if you were to ask me who these sinister agitators are, I could not tell you exactly, but if you were to ask me: ‘Are there among them Right SRs who are trying by this method to push us into war?’ – I should say: ‘That is likely.’ If you were to ask me: ‘Are there among these delegates representatives of that party which is not satisfied even with the Brest Peace, and wants to provoke us into war, so that Moscow and Petrograd may be occupied?’ – I should say: ‘That is likely.’ If you were to ask me: ‘Are there among them agents of the Anglo-French stock-exchange, who have made a landing on the White Sea coast?’ – I should say: ‘That is likely.’ And they are all working harmoniously together, by means of provocation, lies and bribery, and trying to impose upon you a decision which you alone, by your free will, by your votes, can adopt or not adopt.

So as to set limits to the developments which I have reported to you, I yesterday telegraphed the following order, for which I ask your approval:

‘Two groups want to involve Russia immediately in war with Germany. The first consists of the extremists among the German conquerors and aggressors who are not satisfied even with the Brest-Litovsk peace and are trying to provoke us, so as to be able to occupy Moscow and Petrograd. The other consists of the Anglo-French imperialists who want to involve Russia again in the imperialist slaughter. Agitators hired by our enemies are working among the Red Army men, trying to draw us into the war.

‘I hereby order: all agitators who, after the publication of this order, call for insubordination in relation to the Soviet power, are to be arrested and sent to Moscow for trial by the Extraordinary Tribunal. All agents of foreign imperialism who call for offensive action and offer armed resistance to the Soviet authorities are to be shot on the spot.

‘The All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies is opening today in Moscow. I shall inform it of the activity of scoundrels and hired agents of the German and Anglo-French bourgeoisies. I shall propose to the Congress that provocateurs, hooligans and self-seekers be dealt with ruthlessly. Woe to whoever disobeys the will of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets!

‘Long live revolutionary discipline! Long live the honorable army of the workers and peasants!’

In asking your approval for this order I request you with all seriousness to devote a few minutes to that great question which, in this order, is presented for your attention. War is a grave matter, a great matter, like revolution, and we have taken on ourselves the serious obligation of carrying through to the end what has been begun.

If we have decided to fight, we should say openly that we are going to fight, and state precisely on which front and at what hour we are going to fight.

If we continue to maintain the policy which was approved at the last Congress, then we must make our plenipotentiaries carry out this policy quite resolutely and categorically. You may change this policy at any moment, from considerations of one order or another, depending on the particular international situation, but, so long as it has not been changed, you will not allow agitators whose pockets jingle with imperialist coins to set you one against another, saying: ‘The Soviet power is betraying the Ukraine and Lithuania.’ You will not let them hurl thousands or hundreds of our soldiers into attacks on certain sectors of the front. Let the assembly of the representatives of all the Soviets of Russia say to us: ‘We have placed you in a position of responsibility, entrusted you with a definite policy to pursue, and you have the right to employ, against provocation and treasonable acts which violate this policy, not merely the weapon of agitation but also the sternest measures of revolutionary repression.’ [92]

Some obvious misunderstandings have crept in here, owing to the insufficiently critical attitude of a certain section of the Congress towards what is being said and read.

It was said that you are being asked to rubber-stamp a resolution put forward by Trotsky. I did not read out any resolution: what I read to you was an order which, as it turned out, shocked certain persons somewhat because of its style. I myself, comrades, am by no means a lover of military style, as such. I have been accustomed, in my life and writing, to use the publicist’s style, which I prefer to any other. But every sort of activity has its consequences, including stylistic ones, and as the People’s Commissar for Military Affairs, who has to stop hooligans shooting our representatives, I am not a publicist, and I cannot express myself in that lyrical tone in which Comrade Spiridonova spoke.

First of all, I will allow myself to reject some belated fraternal remarks by the Left SRs, those which were directed at us in their speeches describing how we have fraternized with them at various times. For our part, we recall that in that period when, under Kerensky’s government, we were in prison, fraternizing with criminals, the party for which Spiridonova spoke here was a shareholder in Kerensky’s firm. That was in June of last year, a time when, on every occasion that we met the Left SRs, we asked them (it was not then a question of international politics, in which everything depends on circumstances imposed from without): ‘When are you going to display revolutionary honor – and conscience and break with Kerensky’s government?’ And in October when we rose against Kerensky – I have to mention this, so that there may be no further retrospective fraternization – all the Left SRs declared that they would not support this rising. Kamkov has all the more reason to smile at this because he himself said it, along with Natanson and Shreider.

I can speak quite calmly about this matter, but not in that language, a mixture of lyricism with low-grade literature, in which all the representatives of that wing speak: neither toward the diplomatic box, nor toward our own people, nor toward you, do I intend to indulge in that. But those who carried out the October revolution (not in August or in July of this year but in October of last year, as it happened), they know that the Left SRs withdrew from the revolutionary committee and removed all their workers from it except those who remained there independently of their party. In the same way, when once we fell in with their proposal to form a joint government, they replied: ‘We shall enter the government only if the Mensheviks and the Right SRs are in it.’ Yes, that is what they replied. True, we were, for a time, disposed to forgive and forget a lot of things where this party was concerned. We said: ‘It’s young, not to say green: one can’t expect it to show consistency in its action or much logic in its thinking.’ But if now we are told that this party is the vanguard of the proletariat and the peasantry, and even of the whole International, where as we Communists have moved into Kerensky’s position, I am bound to say that the advanced proletariat is grouped around Petrograd and Moscow, but certainly not in Tambov, where the uyezd congress of the Left SRs resolved, in opposition to our group, to distribute vodka to the population. I am not blaming the whole Left SR party for this, comrades, for I am quite sure that no party can be held responsible if, in some corner of its periphery, such measures are taken, but I wanted to point out that the majority of the Left SRs are to be found not in Petrograd or in Moscow but in the uyezds of Tambov province, or in Lgov, where the gangs are active, and the Left SRs have just expressed solidarity with the Lgov gangs, describing their criminal activity as revolutionary indignation against German imperialism.

Then, you will remember what Comrade Zinoviev said here. How many Left SRs are there in Petrograd who are capable of supporting with their authority the gangs of which I spoke? And when the Left SRs try to interpret banditry, among other things, as expressing the revolutionary mood of Red Army units, we do not believe it. Our Red Army units, which, well or ill, we formed (and if they are weak, that means we too are weak make them stronger! ...), want to defend the Soviet Republic honorable. They are disciplined regiments and they will never resort to such action as crossing the demarcation line in groups of twenty to cut down two or three German soldiers who happen to come their way. Only ignorant and undisciplined elements act like that – and it is they who are involved. I mentioned earlier that a representative of Latvia spoke here – and let anyone name any military units that are as disciplined, as firm and as self-sacrificing as our Lettish units: I say that if, on the fronts where we border on Livonia, Estonia and Courland, a conflict were to come about which later would cost us the blood of our own soldiers or peasants, while producing no political result, that would mean that the persons involved might be whoever you like, but no Lettish Bolsheviks would be involved, for they are organized units which stand beneath the banner of firm revolutionary discipline.

The Left SRs say that the Kursk and Lgov episodes are not examples of banditry but expressions of a healthy tendency.

What does true health consist in? In a revolutionary saying: ‘I am angry, I am indignant, but for today I submit to the overall situation and to the orders of the government which I created. And I subordinate myself like a disciplined soldier.’ Can it really be that revolutionary health is manifested when twenty men, having listened to some sinister agitators – or, perhaps neurasthenics or hysterics – fling themselves across the demarcation line, after ascertaining that the German soldiers present at that point are fewer in numbers than themselves? No. This is, so far as the Left SRs are concerned, the most shameful impressionism in politics, and, so far as these gangs are concerned, it is criminality, adventurism.

We find ourselves today in more difficult conditions than ten or fifteen years ago, when, in the course of the struggle against Tsardom, we examined the problem of the tactics of individual terror and mass revolutionary organization, and when, even then, we were for mass work and the SRs were for impressionstic terror, and we saw how these advocates of noisy guerrilla outbursts mostly found their way into the camp of the bourgeoisie.

Fifteen years ago, we stood for the principle of organized action, counterpoising mass organization to individual terror, and for this principle of organization we stand now, as well – in the shape of a regular army of the proletarian and peasant masses, as against guerrilla-ism, which has a lot in common with terror. And we say, as in its day we said about terror, that guerrilla movements disorganize our army and, in the end, destroy its discipline.

Some participants in the Congress have presumed to state that the threat from the Soviet power to these units, which are a miserable minority, means nothing and frightens none of them. If that is so, then why, in that case, have we seen an entire party, which defends these units, consider it necessary, without having adequate grounds, to bring their fear into this hall and say: ‘We know that you want to shoot us: allow us a last word, listen to us’?

No, things have not reached so tragic a state as that: those Left SRs who work seriously and honestly at the task of building the army – and there are such – are the first to inform me, over the direct wire, of any excesses, of any sort of hooliganism. I repeat: Krivoshein in Kursk, a Left SR, the commissar for the province, is an excellent commissar. There are other comrades like him in Kursk, they themselves treat these guerrilla elements as sinister and corrupt, like those who cross the demarcation line and, at the sight of a German helmet, if it be multiplied by ten or twenty, run away – while solid, conscious units like, for example, the Lettish units, which possess Party spirit and strong discipline, don’t launch senseless attacks, but also don’t take to their heels at the sight of the first German or other helmet. And we want to build just such an army – that is, to eradicate from the army the disorganized and demoralized elements, the neurasthenics and hysterics, and introduce firm discipline, which consists in behaving in a self-possessed and conscious way under the worst, most difficult conditions, when there is nothing easier than to engage in cheap demagogy about how, out there in the Ukraine, they are killing our brothers, and soon. In general, what is the point of talking about this, how, in this All-Russia Congress of Soviets, in which 99 out of a hundred Party people are activists with an old Party tempering, can any need be felt for crude demagogy? We are gathered here not to listen to that, but to decide how we can become strong, firm and powerful. And when we are told that we must bow our heads before activity which finds expression in a group of hooligans threatening to throw a bomb at Comrade Rakovsky, an action performed, moreover, by the same demoralized elements that steal the luggage of all the Germans who pass through, and that of our own people as well, we answer: ‘There is no place for this conduct here!’ Only a group that has lost his bearings can talk in such a way, and we must disband the demoralized units.

There, at the frontiers, only firm units can hold their ground. And you will say that it is their duty to hold on firmly to flue positions where we have put them, that they are not to dare to decide for themselves, on the burning soil of the frontier, that question of war and peace. I do not ask you, and I have no right to ask you, to prefer peace rather than war: I have not talked about that, comrades, and it is in vain that the Left SRs have shifted the whole problem on to a different plane. I said that we must proclaim to all the units of the army, to the working class and to the peasantry, to all the parties, all the groups, whether or not they are connected with the Soviets, that the question of war and peace can be decided by you and by you alone.

And the Left SRs approve of violations of this unshakable condition of Soviet power, they applaud from the rostrum of the All-Russia Congress those units in which scoundrelly elements, handfuls of bandits, set themselves against the sovereign organ of the entire country, they dare to say that this behavior is symptomatic of healthy activity. You must express your view on this matter, and express it decisively, without vagueness or reticence. Here, essentially, we have to decide a question which is not just a matter of the units stationed before Kursk and Lgov.

In the CEC, at former congresses of Soviets, we said to the Mensheviks and SRs: take power, and you will create an authority that will pass painlessly from one hand to the other. But in those days the Soviets were not an instrument, an organ of power, but an apparatus used by the servants of the forces which held power and which stood above the Soviets. We said that we could not resign ourselves to the lot of being a servile apparatus. Today the Soviets are the organ of power. In the Congress of Soviets you will work out and adopt a constitution which will be based on the workers and the poorest peasantry, giving expression in legal relationships to the relation of forces between them in the revolution. And if the Left SRs tell us, in connection with the military episode which has taken place, that they are unwilling to keep Soviet activity within the framework of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, that within this framework no legal channel is available for struggle, this must not be so! Regardless of how the question of war and peace is decided, every party, every Red Guard, every one of you who disagrees with the Brest-Litovsk peace, can prepare for the next All-Russia Congress of Soviets. But if other parties claim that your decision is to be violated through ‘direct action’, if they want to demonstrate this at the front – we shall not allow them to do it! Not for this did we take power, not in order that some groups of neurasthenics and intellectuals should be able to violate the will of the worker and peasant masses of our country.

At the present moment the balance of votes to be cast for one side or the other is not being decided. What is put to us is the question: for Soviet power or against it, for ‘direct action’ or for subordination? And let no-one refer in this connection to the number of votes cast. What has the work of the credentials commission to do with this question?

It is our duty to decide the question which has been raised today not casually but seriously, fully aware of our responsibility before the whole country. We have to give a clear answer to this question: are you going to allow any Red Army unit to decide for itself what Soviet policy is to be, when this unit, having read the articles by Spiridonova and others, tries to engage in battle?

You know that the Anglo-French forces are advancing, together with the Right SRs and Mensheviks, in order to fight the Germans regardless of the Soviets. And if some isolated units – alas, some intoxicated units – commit outrages on the frontier: if other forces are landing on our coast – landing because we have no battleships; if the Czechoslovaks revolt, and the Right SRs give them leadership: if emotional speeches are made about the Ukraine, with calls for offensive action – then all this, regardless of the differences in forms and slogans, will tend, in its overall, ultimate aims and tasks, towards one point: the disrupting of peace.

I have spoken about how I see the question of war and peace. But if the Congress of Soviets says that we must fight, then we Bolsheviks can die no worse than the SRs can.

To this question, which we are obliged to answer, you will give your answer tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, after we have discussed the whole situation in its entirety. Today you will be answering another question, which is a great deal more important than the procedure for dealing with doubtful and imperfect credentials [The Left SRs alleged that the Bolshevik majority at the Fifth Congress of Soviets was achieved, in part, by giving the Committees of the Poor a disproportionately large share of the seats reserved for peasant delegates.] – party ‘kitchen’ intrigues, that’s a complicated business, some slovenly concoctions come out of that. The question you will be answering is: have I the right to tell Army units that the All-Russia Congress is the sovereign organ of the Republic?

And if the comrades say that that is the case, then they will also be saying: ‘It is here that the question of our international policy will be decided, and any attempt to violate the will of the All-Russia Congress by individual outbreaks at the front is a miserable, shameful and dishonorable provocation.’

At the same time you will be saying that the People’s Commissar for Military Affairs has the duty, until he is replaced, to carry out your will, and is therefore obliged to suppress any military provocation that runs counter to our resolutions.

They talk to me about the executions by firing squads. They remembered Kerensky! Yes, of course, comrades, a class which is demonstrating that it is in power does shoot people. But Kerensky shot at the masses in order to support British imperialism. We shall defend the independence of the Russian Soviet Republic against all imperialisms: we shall not go with Germany against France and Britain, just as we shall not go with Britain and France against Germany. We want to become stronger, more disciplined, better organized, as a Soviet Republic. And towards this end you, as the sovereign organ, must say to all groups, large and small, that engage in petty incitements to war: ‘Hands off! Here speaks the sovereign organ of the Soviet Republic: it, and nobody else, will decide whether there is to be war or peace.’ [93]


presented by Comrade Trotsky

The Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, Red Army Men’s and Cossacks’ Deputies, having heard an emergency statement by the People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, has resolved:

Power to decide questions of peace and war lies exclusively with the All-Russia Congress of Soviets and the organs of central Soviet power established by it – the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars.

No group of the population will presume, independently of the All-Russia Soviet power, to take it upon itself to decide the question of armistice or offensive. All units of the Red Army are obliged, where these matters are concerned, most strictly to subordinate themselves to the decisions of the central Soviet power and the commissars and commanders appointed by it.

The All-Russia Congress of Soviets warns all workers and peasants, all soldiers of the Red Army, against the activity of hired provocateurs – agents of foreign imperialism who are trying, in a variety of ways, by violence, lies, provocation and deceit to draw the Soviet Republic into the imperialist slaughter.

The All-Russia Congress of Soviets entrusts the People’s Commissar for Military Affairs with the responsibility, acting through the organs subordinate to him, for purging all Red Army units of provocateurs and hirelings of imperialism, with out shrinking from the most decisive measures.

The All-Russia Congress of Soviets charges all Soviets in the front zone with the responsibility of thoroughly investigating all the sinister individuals who, sometimes hidden behind various Party names, have gone to the Ukrainian front in order to agitate for an immediate offensive. Such agitators must be arrested and punished in accordance with martial law.

The All-Russia Congress of Soviets charges its Presidium with the duty of immediately sending to Kursk-Lgov an extraordinary commission armed with unlimited powers to put down provocation and establish firm revolutionary order.

The well-being of the Soviet Republic is the highest law. Whoever sets himself against this law must be wiped off the face of the earth.


JULY 7, 1918


[For a detailed study of the circumstances of this affair, see G. Katkov, The Assassination of Count Mirbach, in St. Antony’s Papers, No.12 (Soviet Affairs Series No.3), edited by D. Footman, London, 1972.]

A bomb has been thrown at the German Embassy by persons unknown. Ambassador Mirbach is said to be gravely wounded. [94] The aim of this deed is obviously to try and involve Russia in war with Germany. This aim is being pursued, as is known, by all the counter-revolutionary elements – the White Guards, the Right SRs and their allies.

In view of the decision taken yesterday by the All-Russia Congress, approving the foreign policy of the Council of People’s Commissars, the counter-revolutionary plotters resolved to wreck this decision of the Congress.

The bomb they threw was aimed not so much at the German Embassy as at the Soviet power. I hereby order the investigatory organs of the Commissariat for Military Affairs to take measures against the counter-revolutionary conspirators and those who carried out the attentat on their behalf.

The progress of the investigation is to be reported directly to me.

Izv.V.Ts.I.K., no.140, July 7, 1918


Report to the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’, Cossacks’ and Red Army Men’s Deputies, on July 9, 1918, the day following the suppression of the revolt by the Left SRs which took place on July 6-8, 1918

Comrades, an unforeseen interruption occurred during the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets, owing to recent events in Moscow, the echo of which has not yet finally subsided. I spoke of unforeseen events although, to a certain extent, their symptoms were present already on the eve of this Congress. If you remember – and, of course, you do remember it – the first political question with which the present Congress began its work concerned, precisely the provocations being committed by certain groups and individuals in the sphere of our international relations. The Fifth Congress adopted a first resolution which severely condemned those groups which consider it possible, acting behind the back of the Soviet power – at the given moment, behind the back of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets – to decide political questions according to their own discretion, and in particular to try and decide, in practice, the question of whom the Russian Republic is today to be at peace with, and with whom it is to be at war. Then, when this question had been voted on, the Left SR group left the meeting-hall, and this withdrawal was already, in itself, profoundly symptomatic. It meant that, after the principal and most acute question in the sphere of foreign policy had been decided, that question on the settlement of which, one way or the other, the fate of the inhabitants of the Russian Republic and the fate of the entire revolution depends, the so-called Left SR Party considered itself obliged to withdraw, as though striking its name out of the Soviet muster-roll. This first warning was not fully understood at the time.

On July 6, at three o’clock in the afternoon or thereabouts, this political enigma, this political half-riddle found most clear and distinct expression in the provocative assassination of the German ambassador, Count Mirbach. This murder was a senseless and dishonest act of violence against the policy which is being followed by the All-Russia Soviet power. The murder itself was carried out by using the apparatus of Soviet power. Here we had an action that was unlike the terrorist actions carried out in former times by the best fighters of the SR party. You all know that in the past we took a negative view of terror. At the same time, however, we felt moral respect for those sincere heroes who, in the epoch of Tsardom, sacrificed their own lives to destroy the hangmen of the Tsarist regime.

In the present action the facts are completely opposite, not only politically but also morally, to what I have just mentioned.

The SRs called themselves a Soviet party. I refer to the so-called ‘Lefts’. As such they entered Soviet institutions and made use of Soviet power, and to accomplish their act of terrorism it was not their own Party apparatus, their own personal forces that they utilized. In order to promote Party measures they acted dishonestly from within the Soviet organization, making it their task to utilize Soviet institutions, or institutions formed to safeguard the Soviet regime, in order to fulfill their plans. In particular, for the purpose of gaining entry to the German Embassy, they stole documents, forging the signatures of persons whose subordinates they were. And so, relying on stolen and forged documents, they got into the presence of the German Ambassador and carried out their act of terrorism. For what purpose? So as, by killing the German Ambassador, to throw a weighty argument into that scale of the balance which stands for war.

Thus, in order to bring about war, this group ignored the views of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, as expressed in your vote of July 4. In order to wreck the policy of the Soviet power, this group utilized the institutions of that power, entering into them as a Soviet party and acquiring Soviet authority through the ruling organs of that power. This is perfidy without precedent in history, or, at least, in the history of revolutions.

It is an act of perfidy such as only the Azefs [E.F. Azef was a notorious provocateur who, having become a trusted member of the SRs’ terrorist organization in the early 1900s, used his position to betray a number of leading SRs to the Tsarist police. He was exposed by Burtsev in 1908 and fled abroad.] of the revolution could commit. These Azefs first expounded before you here their point of view, the point of view of war, but when you rejected it, then, using the authority which you had not managed to strip from them and which they still wielded, they went to one of your institutions and used your own weapon in order to paralyze your will. That is why I say again that this crime is an act of perfidy without precedent in all revolutionary history.

Furthermore, obeying the logic of the situation in which they had placed themselves by their murder of Count Mirbach, this group, acting, so far as we can judge, behind the backs of nine-tenths of their own party, found themselves compelled immediately to launch an open revolt against the Soviet power.

In those hours when we in the Kremlin received the first reports about the persons who had made the attempt on Count Mirbach’s life, when Comrade Dzerzhinsky, with characteristic knightliness, took upon himself, despite his friends’ warnings, the mission of proceeding to the place from where, according to the first rumors, the attack had come, so as to ascertain on the spot who was responsible, we began to receive reports that patrols sent out from Popov’s unit were arresting guards and individual representatives of the Soviet power. Comrade Dzerzhinsky was arrested by Popov’s unit, which was subordinate to him and which, when, in Red Square, I presented them with their colors, had sworn to be loyal to the Soviet power. His arrest was made with the direct participation of prominent members of the Left SR party – Aleksandrovich, Karelin, Kamkov, Spiridonova and Cherepanov. After a certain lapse of time, a group of armed sailors from Popov’s unit appeared at the Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, and from there a former member of the Commission, Zaks, also a Left SR, telephoned me to say that this group had captured Comrade Latsis and taken him away. Zaks himself had been against this action, but, evidently in a state of utter confusion, he left the Commission building. [This is G.D. Zaks (1882-1937), not to be confused with S.M. Saks (1884-1937) a Bolshevik since 1906 (or with S.E. Saks, see note on page 181).] By this time the rising had already assumed an open character: the Left SRS took Popov’s unit under their direct leadership and began to post sentries, send out patrols, and arrest representatives of the Soviet power: thus, for example, they arrested Comrade Smidovich, the chairman of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

There was a profound logic in all these actions. When I moved the first resolution, I asked the Left SR party whether they considered themselves bound by the discipline of the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies and of the Congress of Soviets. I said, not just in my own name but also in that of the Communist Party, that we would bow to the vote of the All-Russia Congress, whatever it might be, on the international question, the question of war and peace, and all other questions.

I asked the Left SR party whether they too accepted the vote of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets and promised to take account of it at the given moment, where the crucial question of war and peace was concerned. I received no answer to that question. This failure to answer was, in itself, already an answer. It meant that this group of intellectuals supposes that in its policy it bases itself on a certain section of the peasantry – whereas, on the question of violating the peace of Brest Litovsk, the SR party does not enjoy the support of any significant stratum of the peasantry. This group of intellectuals, urged on and whipped up by the unbridled public opinion of the bourgeois classes, impelled by neurasthenia and by the daily hysterical howling of the SR and bourgeois press, worked itself into a state of frenzy in which it thought that it could decide, on its own, no more and no less than the question whether the land of Russia should go to war or not, whether Moscow and Petrograd should or should not be subjected to the direct threat of occupation. And it decided these questions in its own way, regardless of you and against you: and in doing this it had the audacity to refer to the vote of the best element of the Russian people. Against it we put the workers of Petrograd, the workers of Moscow, the overwhelming majority of members of this Congress: but, in its frenzy, urged on by bourgeois public opinion, this group ignored them all. This group was interested only in the public opinion of the kulaks, who expressed dissatisfaction with the Soviet power not because of the Brest peace but because of our grain-procurement policy. The ignorant elements in the countryside express discontent because they receive inadequate supplies of cloth. They forget that the workers have received just as little bread – that they, in any case, are suffering from lack of bread just as the peasants are suffering from the state of textile production. It is true that the most backward strata of the peasants are dissatisfied with the Soviet power on these grounds, but it is not true that they want war. Is there a single conscious person who today, in our present circumstances, thinks it possible for us to fight Germany?

And the Left SRs, a group of intellectuals, flesh of the flesh of the bourgeois intelligentsia, have planted their flag in the discontent of the workers, of a section of the workers, in the discontent of a section of the kulak peasants. They have placed their intellectual’s cap and bells upon the discontent of a section of the masses and declared: ‘Along with us, the people call for immediate war with Germany.’

Ask and ask again today all the Soviets, today, when the question has become serious, when life has put it to us point-blank, after this provocative terrorist act – not, of course, those sham Soviets that sit in dark corners and did nothing to help repulse the offensive of the Germans and the Haydamak [The Haydamaks were the Ukrainian nationalist forces loyal to Petlyura: they took their name, and features of their uniform, from Ukrainian rebels (against Poland) in the 18th century.] when the enemy advanced to Voronezh, Kursk and Bryansk, advanced to the Don, where we are now fighting with Krasnov, where our Red Army men are beating off attacks, dying, struggling, defending the Soviet Republic: do not ask those who in their dark corners are sucking their kulak’s ration, but ask the conscious soldiers who have been through the school of war, the best elements of the Soviet power in the major centres, where the population is more cultured, where it evaluates the entire international situation, where it knows what can and what cannot be done. Ask in the localities – you must, after the congress you will have to do this – whether they want war. And they will all tell you that those who, by an act of terrorism and not through our will, not through our consciousness, but mechanically, from without, have tried to bring down war upon our heads, have acted as our worst enemies, as traitors to the Soviet power!

The Left SRs themselves clearly and distinctly knew and felt that they had in fact crossed over into the camp of counter revolution, for there is not a single bourgeois party that would not call for war with Germany – apart, of course, from those which have become pro-German owing to the proximity of German troops. All the newspapers and organs of the Right SRs and Mensheviks have called for immediate rupture of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, while at the same time dishonestly passing over in silence the fact that Anglo-French forces are now, at this very moment, advancing in the area of the Murman coast, and that we are concentrating our forces there in order to defend the Soviet Republic, just as we shall concentrate them in North Caucasia and elsewhere against Turkish, Haydamak and, in case of danger, German invasion, for we strive everywhere, so far as our forces allow, to defend the Soviet Republic not only against the German forces wherever they attack us, violating the treaty of Brest- Litovsk, but also against the Anglo-French forces which are now trying to strike a treacherous blow at us. The bourgeois press keeps quiet about that, and the bourgeoisie itself even quieter. Helping them, the Left SRs tried to draw us into war with Germany, in the knowledge that this attempt is already in itself a revolt against the Soviet power. In general, by the character they gave to their rising, the Left SRs placed themselves in the camp of counter-revolution. They aimed their first blow at the chairman of the Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation and Sabotage. By this alone they showed whose camp they belonged to!

Even to those among us who were inclined to look with benevolent, temporising tolerance, upon the behaviour of the Left SR party, as such, those who said: ‘It must be individual madmen and criminals who have committed this terrorist act, but it is not possible that the Central Committee of the Party can be mixed up in it’ – even to them it was already plain one hour, half-an-hour, after the murder of Mirbach that this was a real conspiracy, a revolt, organized under the direct leadership of the Central Committee of the Left SR party. And, of course, we could not, as we had done before, issue straight away an order for the immediate capture and bringing to trial of the two provocateurs who had tried by means of a terrorist act to involve our country in war, for order was given that sufficient military forces be at once concentrated for the task of suppressing the counter-revolutionary revolt organized under the banner of the Central Committee of the Left SR party.

To acquaint you, in broad outline, with the course of the military operations which have taken place in the last few days I will read you extracts from the reports which were sent to us concerning them.

The commander of the Lettish Division, former General Staff Colonel Vatsetis, a man who belongs to no political party, a soldier, reports that he was informed, from Government sources, that at about noon on July 6 Popov’s unit was concentrated in Trekhsvyatitelsky Lane: that this unit, made up of troops of all branches, was in a state of full combat-readiness: and that among the members of this unit were leaders of the Left SRs. On receipt of this information it became quite clear that we were faced with a thought-out, organized plan of action and full combat-readiness on the part of the Left SRs for an immediate attack. Vatsetis goes on to list the forces which were at the disposal of the rebels, but his information regarding the main body of their forces is uncertain owing to the fact that the rebels themselves could not say exactly which units they had inveigled into the revolt were really for them, which were against them and which were neutral. He says that they had between 800 and 2,000 infantry, and, as regards artillery, also depending on the same circumstances, between four and eight guns, and sixty machine-guns: also some bomb-throwers and hand-grenades. In addition, news came in that some units had gone over to the Popovites. The impressive numbers of their force and (the main thing) its complete combat-readiness and concentrated disposition, gave our adversaries a great advantage, where imminent events were concerned, when it came to seizing the initiative. The Central Committee of the Left SR Party possessed all the advantages in that respect, for it had on its side the advantages that perfidy gives: all members of the Central Committee of the Left SRs always had free access to the Kremlin whenever they wanted it, and, in particular, access to Comrade Lenin, and therefore they could carry out arrests and murders, and steal whatever papers they wanted, as they did at the office of the Commission presided over by Comrade Dzerzhinsky. They had this opportunity because, I repeat, they enjoyed the advantage of perfidy, and this weapon they used against a revolutionary party which they considered, or which they called, their brother-party.

The task which faced the military authorities was, after the initiative had been taken by the rebels, to concentrate sufficient forces to crush them as quickly as possible. How the Soviet units coped with their task is shown, with particular reference to some of them, in the report of the Commissar of the Lettish Rifle Division, Comrade Peterson, a revolutionary worker known to many who are here.

I must first mention that a unit of internationalists led by our ex-Hungarian comrade Bela Kun placed itself at the disposal of the Soviet power. Because of this, the Left SRs and the peasant delegation of the All-Russia CEC, led by them, put about the slander that we were arming German prisoners-of-war, whereas, in fact, we were offered the services of a small but tightly-knit Communist, socialist unit of Hungarians, led by an old Hungarian socialist – a unit made up of blood-brothers of those Hungarian workers who are now shaking Budapest and all Hungary with their revolutionary struggle. However, it was not possible to concentrate the troops during the night, precisely because the enemy had the advantage of the initiative, and so the operations assumed the character of a daylight battle. Our units were stationed by the church of Christ the Saviour, on Strastnaya Square, by the Pushkin monument, on Arbatskaya Square, and also, of course, in the Kremlin. ‘At about 3 am on July 7,’ the same Vatsetis reports, ‘I learnt that the enemy’s principal forces still remained passive in the area of Trekhsvyatitelsky Lane, but that during the night they had temporarily occupied the Post Office and had tried, unsuccessfully, to take over the power station.’

I omitted to mention that during the night between July 6 and 7 a small detachment of Left SRs, Popov’s unit, captured the telegraph office, taking it not by force but by treachery – Soldiers of Popov’s unit seized the People’s Commissar for Posts and Telegraphs, Comrade Podbelsky, took his motor-car, and in this car went to the building and entered it unhindered, with their leaders. Everywhere we see one and the same method of operation being used: the Left SRs operate with false identity papers in their hands, the identity papers of the Soviet power and this accounts for the (too fleeting) advantage they enjoyed, which seemed to them very important at the beginning, at the time when their supporters put out an order over the telegraph to the effect that no more regard should be paid to any decrees on telegrams from the Council of People’s Commissars, as they were hostile to ‘the Left SR party now in power’.

Subsequently, operations developed as follows. The Left SR force was driven out of the telegraph office by the Lettish comrades and Bela Kun’s unit. Each individual order was carried out by the troops, but, as they had gone to the collecting-points by night, they were unable to find their bearings.

The Left SRs opened fire on the Kremlin. It must be said that events were taking place before us which could be described as symbolic: and when, from a building in the Kremlin, we saw shells – fortunately, only a few – falling in the courtyard, we said to ourselves: ‘The Council of People’s Commissars is now the natural target for the Left SRs. They have raised the banner of revolt against the Soviet power, and so they must, by the force of logic, bombard the Kremlin, where stands the pillar of the Soviet power.’

On the 7th the Left SRs withdrew in disorderly fashion from the area of Trekhsvyatitelsky Lane, scattering along the road to the Kursk Railway Station. After Popov’s men gave up the station they were no longer an organized body. The appropriate forces for their pursuit were placed at the disposal of Comrade Antonov. [The Comrade mentioned here and elsewhere is V.A. Antonov Ovseyenko.] In the report by Podvoisky and Muralov it is said that Antonov found twelve versts out along the Vladimir Highway’ the rebels’ line of retreat, a broken-down armoured car equipped with guns, and, twenty versts along the same highway, some guns, bombs and so forth. Altogether, by 12 o’clock on the 7th we had taken about 300 prisoners.

In the same way the detachments of Left SRs, a few dozen men, who had come here from Petrograd were arrested and disarmed. Also arrested was a force of three or four hundred men which had been sent here from the Western frontier zone. A telegram was intercepted in which struggle by various dangerous methods was advocated. In Petrograd the affair was confined to the disarming of some Left SR squads, which was effected quickly, though we lost ten killed and ten wounded at the Corps of Pages building, where this took place. In other parts of Petrograd the disarming was carried out painlessly and without losses.

This is the factual aspect of what happened. It is clear to you. As regards the political aspect, I spoke to you about that at the beginning of my report. I must now merely draw a few conclusions regarding the purely military aspect. Undoubtedly, the Left SRs succeeded in concentrating considerable forces almost without the Soviet power noticing, but these forces proved to be fictitious. When our comrades who were arrested – Dzerzhinsky, Latsis, Smidovich – got into conversation with the Left SR detachment that was guarding them, it became clear to them that a considerable part of this detachment was, in feeling and mood, on the side of the Soviet power – that the men were confused and did not know what it was all about, and when the arrested comrades openly and courageously explained the situation to them, they went over to our comrades’ side, laid down their arms, and said: ‘You can leave.’ It happened that one of our scouts was captured and taken to the rebels’ headquarters by two Finns: on the way he deprived both Finns of their rifles and bombs, and took them both prisoner. Clearly, those who went into battle did not show any special readiness to fight against the Soviet power. We were told from this rostrum not so long ago, and yet already long ago so far as the Left SRs are concerned: ‘We don’t need a Red Army, what we need is guerrilla units: we don’t need war, we need rebellion.’ Well, the rebellion that the Left SRs wanted so much has taken place, but it turned out to be a rebellion not against foreign imperialism but against the Soviet power. They got their guerrilla detachments ready for this rebellion, and they revealed how completely useless they were – and, contrariwise, the superiority our Red Army over them. Our units displayed tremendous superiority, both moral and physical. I speak of moral superiority because the operations against the Left SRs could have been carried out in such a way that Popov’s unit would have suffered very heavy losses, but this method was rejected. Our artillery men brought their guns up by hand to a distance of two hundred paces, aimed them directly at the Left SR headquarters, and destroyed it, as our comrades who were there now confirm to us, with amazing accuracy. The Left SR headquarters was itself pervaded with a guerrilla atmosphere of indecision, mutual suspicion and hostility. There was no staunchness: a few well-aimed blows caused the rebels to take refuge in most miserable flight, and the revolt was liquidated with only a small number of casualties.

All that now remains is to draw the political lessons of this revolt, this miserable shameful parody of a revolt. We already possess a mass of evidence that many members of the Left SR party look with indignation upon an adventure which was dreamed up behind their backs. This we have witnessed if only by reading the statement of the Left SRs of Moscow which denounced the small group of intellectuals, surrounded by a yawning void, who brought themselves to a state of real political intoxication.

The rebel opposition tried to find means from a variety of sources. Here there were peasants, from among the village poor, who feel aggrieved, which is not surprising, for it is hard for everyone now to live in post-war Russia, and the poor peasants, in their remote corners, have not yet learnt to comprehend our policy as a whole. When somebody talks to them of the Ukraine, they sincerely think about this question and sincerely sympathise with the Ukraine – but, at the beginning of the war, under Tsardom, wasn’t there exactly the same talk about Serbia, about the crucifixion of Belgium, whom we had to go and help? What did we say in reply then? We said then that by this war you won’t liberate either Belgium or Serbia or Poland!

Whoever came out victorious from this slaughter, the small, weak and backward peoples would be sacrificed to the powerful predators, and would be trampled on: and when they tell us that the Ukraine has been seized, that it is being crucified by counter-revolutionary imperialists, we who, of course, know as well as anybody else what is happening in the Ukraine, say: the Ukraine can be freed only by a force that will free all Europe and allow Soviet Russia to breathe freely: but turning our Soviet Russia into that one and only force, which would intervene in the battle between the imperialist predators and pour out its lifeblood, would mean squandering fruitlessly that moral capital, that possession which we are now called upon to preserve here, in the form of the power of the workers and peasants. So long as we stand here, watching out for all blows and revolts, stand with the banner of Soviet power, workers’ and peasants’ power, in our hands, hope will glimmer and kindle among the workers, among all the oppressed in all countries. They will say: ‘Look, the Russian workers, in most difficult conditions, surrounded by an imperialist ring, are not surrendering but are marching with us. That means that we, too, the workers of all countries, can develop great revolutionary forces and perform a much greater historical feat than the young Russian working class has performed.’ From the moment that we intervened in this accursed war through our own fault, we should be the basest traitors to world socialism, for our intervention would mean a mortal blow to the Soviet Republic. If, of course, we are attacked, and it does not matter what might cause this attack, if it were brought on by the most cruel provocation committed by the Left SRs, we should all, as one man, defend ourselves to the last drop of blood: I do not even have to talk about that. We shall all defend ourselves against all predators, from whatever direction they may fall upon us, but at the same time we do not hide the fact that we have been weakened to the utmost degree by the entire preceding course of events, and that we are against any war.

When a revolutionary class knows that its enemies are attacking it, that class always finds in itself sufficient revolutionary vigour to create a very great obstacle and hindrance to the attacking enemy and to force him to expend huge masses of imperialist forces. But if we were now to be drawn into war with Germany because the German ambassador has been murdered, if we were obliged to yield up Petrograd and Moscow, the Russian workers and peasants would know that we had been forced to do this not by historical inevitability but only by the provocation of the Left SRs. And I therefore say that a party which could be so crazy, so senseless, being a tiny clique, a mere handful, as to stand out against the will and consciousness of the overwhelming majority of the workers and peasants that party committed suicide, once and for all, on July 6 and 7. That party cannot be revived!

If they do not trust us, if they do not trust the Russian workers and peasants, then I ask, on whom did these adventurers count in the fight against Germany? After all, it was not that they were organizing a party conference, or a party split, in some congress held abroad: what they wanted was to set Russia against Germany and bring war upon us. Yet they did not trust – whom? The workers and peasants! They wanted to bring about war against them and despite them, a war that the workers and peasants would have to wage, the very ones behind whose backs they organized their conspiracy. By what means would they wage this war? They themselves have told us. They said: it will not be a regular war with Germany but a revolt, carried out by the organizing of guerrilla units. We saw, in Trekhsvyatitelsky Lane, the military viability of such guerrilla units, from the fact that our scout whom they caught succeeded in taking two of their men prisoners, along with their rifles; or from the fact that after the first shell burst the whole troop scattered, saying that if the entire headquarters had done a bunk, why should they stay put any longer? And they ran off down the Vladimir Highway. And it is with such handfuls, with this sort of armies and this sort of ideas, that they sought to rise up against us in order to wage war with Germany.

Even though this episode is now closed, the danger that this provocation may achieve its purpose has still not disappeared, because the extreme militarist party in Germany, which nothing satisfies, not even the peace of Brest-Litovsk, is ready to make use of any gift that is presented to it, whether from the hands of the Right SRs, the Monarchists or the Left SRs. The danger has not yet passed. We do not know what the result will be, but one thing we do know, and that is that, after the adventure of July 6-7 there is one political party fewer in the land of Russia.

We shall go along with you into every place and to every peasant, and ask him: do you want now, at the present time, today, to go to war with Germany? If you don’t then be it known to you that the Left SR party wanted to make you do just that, and because we, the Soviet power, consider that it would be fatal for you to do it, they tried to make out that we are agents of German imperialism, friends of its extreme wing. They depicted us as enemies of the Russian people merely because we said that the Russian people would be mad if, of its own volition, it were to open the gate to war! We shall go from here to every peasant and tell him the names of those deputies who gave their approval here to this dishonest provocation. We shall say to every peasant in every remote comer of the countryside:

Ivanov or Petrov, do you want, now, to fight the Germans? And we shall see what, after that, the Soviet power in the localities will have to say, what the millions and tens of millions of workers and peasants will have to say. Their answer will be the same as your declaration, made here, that you maintain the same view which you affirmed at the decisive congress [i.e., the Fourth Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants Deputies. – L.T.]: we do not want to go to war. We have bought peace in return for expensive concessions. We know now, at the present moment, by what dishonest methods Anglo-French imperialism is trying to drag us into war, and how our worst enemies are trying to capture towns so as to pave the way for Anglo-French imperialism. In vain! At Yaroslavl the counter-revolutionary gangs were surrounded by our troops, and Syzran, after being captured by the Czechoslovaks, was recovered by us. I do not doubt, comrades, that the dishonest adventure of the Left SRs will bring sobriety to the minds of those who were still wavering and doubting, and did not realize what the source was, which the comer, that the hysterical howling came from, about the peace, about our decision not to go to war with Germany. We do not doubt that for our Red Army, too, the events in Moscow will serve as a lesson for the strengthening of discipline. In the Red Army they appreciate better than anyone else that we need an army constructed on scientific principles, that guerrilla units are amateurish, that is, childish units, that we need to consolidate discipline so that never again will an adventure like that one be possible. The Moscow experience enables every soldier to see that, where discipline is lacking, bloodshed and fratricide can occur. The Red Army is the armed organ of the Soviet power, it does not serve itself, or any small group – it serves the aims of the workers and peasants. The will of the people is represented in the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, and, consequently, it is the duty of the Red Army firmly and unquestioningly to suppress those who dare to declare themselves against the sovereign organ of the Soviet power. Let us tell this Red Army, explain to it, that what we see here is a single team, a single principle, in the shape of the Czechoslovak attack on the Volga and in the Urals, and the advance of Anglo-French imperialism from the Murman coast, and the Left SRs’ revolting in Moscow: and though the wretched and shameful assassination of the German ambassador had a different subjective connection, objectively everything was directed to one and the same end, and all this is guided by the hate-filled bourgeoisie, whose press incites the Mensheviks and Left SRs, sets them on us, saying: ‘Force them to do the impossible, make them clash with German imperialism: let the Russian working class break its heart against the rock of German imperialism while that is still strong.’

This is the purpose common to the Czechoslovaks, the Anglo-French expedition, and the rest. We say to the Red Army that we want to guard against war, and if we manage to make peace on the Anglo-French front, we shall write that down as a gam – that we have achieved peace, that we want to be neutral, and that the imperialists have left us in peace, gone away from us. We shall thereby win a great victory for the Russian people. If the White Guards or the British, with their expeditionary force, and the Mensheviks and the Right SRs, and the Left SRs attack us, we shall defend ourselves as fiercely as we can. Where that is concerned we are not joking! We would have been prepared to say: ‘Haven’t all these children got into a muddle? What a wretched game this is, played by children who have got excited and gone too far!’ I and other members of the Council of People’s Commissars said: ‘These children – wretched, irresponsible creatures that they are – don’t realize what they are saying.’ Could we take it seriously, could we see in this a conspiracy? But, at the same time, you see, these were children who, trying to provoke a situation, organized a revolt, and killed persons who were objectively under the protection of the Soviet power. No, there is no room here for such children. What is at stake here is not the fate of a particular group of intellectuals, but the fate of Soviet Russia, and we are not going to let that be put at risk by anybody’s tricks. The Soviet power can have only one method, applying in politics this principle which you will consider correct and which you will approve: if anyone attacks the Soviet power not with criticism but with deeds, then we shall answer his iron with steel. We must defend the workers’ and peasants’ power with those forces and in those ways that we know, and with the same measures that are used in attacks on the Soviet power. The Soviet power exists and will continue to exist, strengthening the Russian revolution for the establishment of the republic of labor in Europe and the world. [95]

(Concluding speech at the same meeting. – L.T.]

Comrades, the analogy has been drawn here which, on a first, superficial view, suggests itself – between the Left SR revolt or, rather, parody of a revolt, and the July days of last year in Petrograd. Twelve months have passed since those days, but the very name of the present month, July, gives rise to a natural association of resemblance and analogy. The representative of one of the groups spoke to us here about the July days. I remember those days very well: there are here present not a few comrades who experienced them along with us, and the memory of those days is lodged firmly in their minds. What happened in July of last year? The working class, in the persons of their vanguard, were striving for power. They realized clearly that the rule of the bourgeoisie and the compromisers could not fail to bring Russia to ruin. The Petrograd workers were the vanguard of the working class, and this vanguard rushed ahead. This was, on the one hand, the fulfillment of its mission, but, on the other, an absolute tragedy, due to the fact that the vanguard had not yet secured for itself substantial reserves in the provinces – even in the working-class provinces, let alone the peasant ones – and that they came up against the enemy’s resistance and exposed themselves to his blows.

Naturally, when this vanguard, impelled forward by its political sense, but not backed by the provinces, fell under those blows, our party said to itself: where blows are raining down upon the working class, there must we be alongside them, taking these blows upon ourselves.

That was the significance of the July days of last year [96]: and I ask you, what new class is fighting for power now? Let them tell us what new class is fighting for power in Moscow in July 1918 against the power of the Petrograd and Moscow workers, because, with all our respect, with all our ardent fraternal sympathy with the working peasantry, none of you peasants will assert that the peasantry is today the most conscious element in the revolution. Any one of you who thinks honestly about the conditions of the current moment must recognise that in 1905 and in 1917-1918 the workers of Petrograd and Moscow were the vanguard, that they were saying: ‘The land to the peasants’ before you peasants said it yourselves. They came out on January 9, 1905 [97] under the slogan: ‘The land to the peasants’, and the Tsar shot them down, and the peasantry did not support them. In that fact, of course, was shown the influence of age-old slavery, ignorance, rural isolation, rural illiteracy: it was not the peasants’ fault, it was their misfortune – but such is the fact. And now, I ask, when Soviet power has been established in the country, when it lives and breathes in unison with the advanced proletariat of Petrograd and Moscow, I ask those who presume to evoke the ghost of July last year – what new class is fighting for power now? The Left SRs are not a class, they are fellow-travellers who merely attached themselves to the working class and who at first showed no confidence in it: when the working class, together with us, smashed in October the foundations of the compromisers’, the bourgeois power, they moved away, they stood aside. When the working class took power, they joined us for the time being: the task seemed to them to have become easier. First they underestimated the strength of the working class, then they underestimated the strength of our adversaries, and each time, whenever a particularly dangerous conjuncture was created, they with drew to the wings and started singing their critical tune against us, taking up the position of spectators, observers. The SRs are petty-bourgeois intellectuals. They have always based themselves on those sections of the petty bourgeoisie for whom it is hard to march with the working class along its thorny path.

This is the sort of ‘class’ that we can speak of in this connection. We can speak only of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, which is trying, in the persons of a small section of itself, to cast off the yoke of the proletariat and Soviet discipline: they find it too hard to share the struggle of the working class, with all its sufferings and difficulties, to share this struggle in those circumstances when it is necessary temporarily to reconcile oneself to foreign coercion. The intellectuals say: would it not be better for us to step aside and adopt the standpoint of an observer, criticising and grumbling? If the working class comes out on top, we’re with it: if it is defeated, we’ll say that we always foretold that that would happen.

This, comrades, is the psychology on the basis of which a small group of fanatics and madmen ... from whom broad circles of the intelligentsia are now recoiling, a group of responsible people, could conceive the idea of such a monstrous experiment as the events of July 6 and 7.

We are told: yes, but you say that the whole Left SR party is guilty, you bring down on the entire party the thunder of your anger and your repression. And one of the speakers here, Lozovsky, allowed himself, in a public statement, to commit an absolute and, I say, a malicious distortion of the facts, when he presented them in this way: first, the murder of Ambassador Mirbach, and then the arrest of the whole Left SR fraction. [A. Lozovsky had been expelled from the Bolshevik Party early in 1918 as a result of differences on trade union questions. He headed the right wing of the Internationalist Social-Democrat group until he was readmitted to the Bolshevik Party in late 1919.] This speaker declared that the second event was the consequence of the first: as though what actually happened was that some Blyumkin and some Andreyev or other killed Mirbach, and we, in response to this, arrested the Left SR party. But this arrangement of the facts is a malicious lie. What happened was something different.

When the terrorist act was committed, the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars telephoned me at the Commissariat for Military Affairs, told me what had occurred, and read me his order in which he said that some White Guards or Anarchists, as we then believed, had, in order to draw Russia into war, committed the act of terrorism, and that they must be hunted down everywhere. I, on my part, ordered the appropriate measures to be taken. We were sure that we had to do with an open and direct adversary, an honest enemy of the Soviet power. But some time later we received information that, judging by the number of the motor-car that was used, or for some other reason, it was to be presumed that the Left SRs had done the deed. We did not know that it was an action ordered by the Central Committee, or of the Left SR party itself, even though warnings had been given from this rostrum. Even though Spiridonova, when she spoke here, played with a revolver and threatened with a bomb, we stayed calm, seeing this as just her personal behaviour, and not suspecting that there was any real threat directed against the peaceful existence of the Soviet Republic. When we learnt from the first, unconfirmed reports, that what had happened was the work of Left SRs, we still felt sure that not only the party but also the Central Committee could certainly not want this deed, and could not associate itself with it, that they had nothing to do with it. It was that idea which determined the step which Comrade Dzerzhinsky took when he learnt that the killer was Blyumkin, that he it was who had committed the act of terrorism. What did Dzerzhinsky do? He went not to the Left SR fraction but to Popov’s unit. Dzerzhinsky had information that the killer, who was a servant of the Soviet power, had hidden himself there. Dzerzhinsky thought that he would be able to clarify the question without any conflict. That was what happened. And it was not because of the terrorist act that we arrested the Left SR fraction. Later, when we learnt that Dzerzhinsky could not be reached on the telephone, that he had not reported, and that, consequently, he must have been arrested, and when we began to be informed that Popov’s patrols were seizing Soviet motor-cars and Soviet representatives, we took measures to have the whole theatre surrounded, because we thought the rebel unit was going to lay siege to the place where the All-Russia Congress was in progresss. As a guarantee, we locked up the Left SR fraction and surrounded them with a wall of secure defence. That is what happened.

We thought that, since what was going on was a revolt, the rebels’ first intention would be to capture the citadel of the Soviet power. Usually, this citadel is the Kremlin, but at the moment it is the Bolshoi Theatre, where the All-Russia Congress is in session. And we said: ‘The conspirators may get into this place, or they may want to get their accomplices out of here, so let us keep the latter under lock and key for a few hours and surround the place with secure defences, until the situation has been clarified.’ Later, when we learnt that the Central Committee of the Left SR party not only associated itself with this dishonorable murder, but even accepted responsibility for it, we were unwilling to believe this. I am no Left SR, and you know and heard how we spoke here before the event in question, but nevertheless it was a cruel blow to me that such crazy and criminal perfidy could be resorted to by the Central Committee of a party calling itself a Soviet party. Even then we hoped that, in the end, the Left SR fraction would dissociate itself from its Central Committee. That was how the matter stood where the actions of the Left SRs were concerned.

But we are asked: why did you not simply release the Left SRS? Do that, when, armed from head to foot with bombs, they were arresting and holding Latsis in Trekhsvyatitelsky Lane, shooting at our patrols and training their guns on the Kremlin, when the Central Committee of their party was sitting there and directing operations against the Soviet power? Well, and what if among the members of that fraction were some tens or hundreds who were involved in the rising, and we released them to go and help fire on the Kremlin, or the Bolshoi Theatre, or our Red Army men?

No, comrades, as responsible Soviet politicans, we could not act like that, and we said: this is an open revolt against the Soviet power, and in these circumstances there are only two answers – yes and no.

The Central Committee of the Left SR party said ‘yes’, it was for the revolt. We wanted the Left SR fraction to say, openly, whether they were for the revolt against the Soviet power, with those who want to bring war upon us, or for the Soviet power which was defending itself against the rebels. There was fighting here in the streets of Moscow, the sound of it reached you here. Peaceful bystanders, peaceful citizens ran the risk of getting shot, events had drawn them into civil war, put them in danger. We had to ensure that this party’s fraction, headed by the Central Committee, which had approved and organized everything, was not going to stand aloof and say neither yes nor no. We demanded an answer: are you going to defend the Soviet power or are you going to fire on it? We acted rightly, for we were defending the power of the working class against a handful of dishonest and treacherous rebels.

We are told that the whole party is not guilty, and the Soviet power also says that the whole party is not guilty. In my speech I said, indeed, that it was behind the backs of probably 90, possibly 98, per cent of their own party that the Central Committee of the Left SRs carried out this crazy adventure, and many representatives of the party have indignantly dissociated themselves from this disgraceful act. We have heard the representative of the Left SR organization at Yelets speaking here to that effect. It is clear that the party as a whole, its entire membership and all its organizations, cannot be held responsible for what the Central Committee did. These madmen are sinister individuals. But a party is a party: it is differentiated from a crowd by the fact that it is, in fact, a spiritual organization and not a physical one. A party is an organization of minds. And we wish to know from the Left SRs: are they going to continue to be organized under the banner of the Central Committee which has played such a provocational role. Or are they going to be organized on the Soviet platform? That has to be decided by every group that marches with us, every organization, every individual member of the party. Where attempts have been made to take unfortunate German soldiers prisoner under the banner of the Left SR party – and there have been such attempts – we shall ruthlessly punish them and put a stop to them. The action launched by the Central Committee provided abundant grounds for such attempts. Where declarations have been issued stating that a group associates itself with the Central Committee and maintains the right at any moment to violate the decisions of the Soviet power, we saw: there is no place within the framework of the existing state for this group, and there cannot be. The Soviet power is a ruling power. What is involved here is not a struggle between parties or small groups (as was said here by the representative of the worst of these groups, the Maximalists [The Maximalists were a semi-anarchist group which broke away from the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in 1904.]) but the right of the working class and of the many-millioned peasantry to hold power. Power is not a club or a meeting, it is state organization. If people obey it, it is a ruling power, if they don’t it ceases to be that. At a given moment the ruling power finds itself faced with the most crucial of questions – the question of peace and war. If this question cannot be decided by the ruling power, but it can be decided by a group, a handful of rogues, then we have no ruling power here: therefore the ruling power also says that it will seize in an iron grip all those rogues who want to decide matters instead of the Soviet power – and the will to power is one of the most important conditions for holding power.

Comrades, many people have uttered in this place lying phrases about civil strife, about all-embracing unity, and so on and so forth, with those who considered it possible to raise the banner of revolt during the Congress of Soviets. Did I not warn the Left SRs, did I not come to this rostrum and say that there are ‘dangerous elements’ about? I did not want the Left SRs to play again the role they played on the Kursk front. I said that so as to give them the chance to come to their senses. I warned them generally, as comrades, not to engage in such actions against the Soviet power. Comrade Lenin said here that Spiridonova is a most honorable person, a sincere person. [Speaking of Spiridonova Lenin said: ‘It must be a bad party indeed whose sincerest people stoop to spreading fairy-tales for propaganda purposes.’ (Collected Works, Vol.27, p.527.)] But woe to a party whose most honorable persons are obliged to resort, in their struggle, to slander and demagogy! We warned them, on the eve of an action which we did not and could not foresee. Remember, didn’t the Left SRs come up here to hurl accusations at the workers of Petrograd and Moscow and attribute all sorts of vile actions to the Soviet power? The most dishonest baiting of the Soviet power took place here, so as to make you more receptive to the adventure they were preparing behind your backs. And now they talk to us about reconciliation – with whom? They mentioned the name of Aleksandrovich, who has been shot, and said: ‘This is cruel terror.’ But remember this: Aleksandrovich was Deputy-Chairman of the Extraordinary Investigative Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation and Sabotage. I knew him and when I met him I never asked whether he was a Left SR or a Bolshevik: he was a trusted member of the Commission, and that was enough for me. This Commission was one of the most important organs, an organ of struggle directed against counter-revolution. And since the counter-revolution had long since wanted to kill Count Mirbach, the Commission had as one of its tasks the investigation of that matter. We engaged in this activity because we are obliged to protect the persons of the representatives of foreign powers generally the German ambassador equally with the American or the British, for a blow at him is a threat to peace and violation of the authority of the Soviet power. Aleksandrovich was engaged in investigating the threads of the plot against Mirbach. He worked hand in hand with Dzerzhinsky. And Aleksandrovich turned this Commission into the organ for murdering Count Mirbach. He embezzled 500,000 roubles and handed it over to the Central Committee of the Left SRs, for the purpose of organizing the revolt. He was a revolutionary, and I have been told that he died bravely: he was a revolutionary, but what we are concerned with here is not the evaluation of individuals, but the conduct of a ruling power which wants to survive. You must realize that the deputy-chairman of the Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution cannot transform the apparatus of power into an instrument for revolt against the Soviet power, and cannot steal money for the organizing of such a revolt. He cannot organize a revolt and he cannot arrest representatives of the Soviet power. But he did arrest Dzerzhinsky, his immediate superior, who trusted him. One cannot conceive of greater perfidy, dictated by party discipline, or greater dishonesty! We are forced to say: in such a case there is one remedy only, a white-hot iron, cauterising with a white-hot iron, so that there should be no more such cases, and the white-hot iron was set to work. Was that cruel? Life is a cruel business generally, and revolutions, as the old revolutionary Mirabeau put it, are not made with butter. If, yesterday, the Left SRs had been victorious, aided by our soft heartedness, they would nevertheless not have been in power. And every one of you ought to understand that. The Left SRs have no backing, especially not in Moscow. Here there are only two parties: the leading Soviet party, the Bolsheviks, on the one hand, and on the other, the counter-revolution. And if the Left SRs had proved to be that cherry-stone of which the Anarchist Karelin spoke, and we had slipped up on it, then power would have passed to the counter-revolution. [The Anarchist Karelin is A.A. Karelin, leader of the Anarchist-Communist group, not to be confused with the Left SR: A. Karelin.] You would all have fallen victims to the counter-revolution: there would have been real brutality here, an iron roller would have passed over you.

Comrades, I reject the statement that after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk the Soviet power found itself in a shameful situation, as one of the speakers here declared. Only bourgeois philistines can see something shameful in the fact that an oppressed class is too weak to overthrow all its oppressors. What does the shame of the Russian working class consist in? In the circumstance that it is not at present strong enough to cast off all its oppressors. Is this a matter for shame? Those who see shame in the peace treaty we signed are miserable windbags. It is a misfortune, a calamity, and it can be seen as shameful only by those who are either direct agents of the bourgeoisie or miserable windbags. Another argument which was brought up here was that by making peace with the Germans we are giving encouragement to patriotic feelings among the proletariat of the Allied countries. These are well-known arguments which are repeated day after day by people, miserable people, who do not read the papers, who do not know what is going on in Europe, who do not read documents, and who keep repeating the same phrase over and over again. During the last few days there took place the congress of the British Labor Party, which by a majority of votes, for the first time during the war, declared that it was terminating its union sacrée with its own bourgeoisie. The voting was 1,100,000 to 700,000. [The Labor Party Conference held in June 1918 did indeed vote to end the political truce (by 1,704,000 to 951,0000, but this merely meant that the party would now stand candidates at by-elections. Representatives of the Labor Party continued to serve in the Government.] In this way the union sacrée which chained the working class of Britain to its own bourgeoisie, to bourgeois patriotism, was ended. And in France the organization to which I belonged, together with Lozovsky, the organization for re-establishing international relations, the organization in which our friends Merrheim, Saumoneau and others worked, this organization issued only a few days ago its ardent protest against Allied intervention in Russian affairs and voiced its fraternal greetings to the Russian revolutionary party, the Bolsheviks. And in Germany? Whereas earlier, owing to the censorship, they knew and understood nothing about us, during the past week we have received dozens of resolutions, numerous documents, in which the best representatives of German socialism declare their solidarity with us and say that it would, of course, be better if we were strong enough to throw off the yoke of imperialism both within and without, but they understand very well that the policy that we are pursuing has been imposed on us by the fact that the working class of all countries has not yet smashed the chains of militarism. We ask too much of the Russian working class. But we cannot demand that it do the work of the proletariat of all countries. Yet that is what is demanded by those who talk of our shame. They say: the German working class is held fast in the clutches of imperialism: so, then, Russian working class, take up arms and go forth to liberate all Europe. But we say: no, this is a task too great for our strength. We shall try to defend ourselves, to hold on in expectation of the moment when, inevitably, over there, too, will begin the cleansing of the Augean stables of imperialism. Our brothers hail us and call on us for aid and support.

I will say only a few words in conclusion. In the first days of the Congress a comrade was present who came to us from captivity: he is a foreigner and at the same time a Russian, and, above all, he is our brother, because he is an international revolutionary socialist. He heard our debates with the Left SRs and said: ‘Is there any sense in concerning yourselves with this, is there any sense in all this at such a time, in such tragic conditions?’ This was the first impression that he obtained here. And, following him, one might perhaps ask if it would not really be simpler to throw all this aside and move on? But that’s just it: that the revolution is a big and serious machine. What today is a difference of opinion, a perplexity, will tomorrow be transformed into a civil war. Spiridonova wrote to Comrade Lenin a day or two before the Congress in a spirit of closest comradely solidarity: she came to see me at the Commissariat for Military Affairs, and we talked together like close comrades, like brothers-in-arms, even though I knew very well how unstable the Left SR party was in its politics. This party had departed further and further from us, especially after its representatives left the Council of People’s Commissars and fell there after more and more under the influence of the bourgeois democrats. We had to say at a meeting of the Central Executive Committee: ‘Comrade Left SRs, cast off this miserable and shameful influence of bourgeois psychology! We have to drag you with a lasso at every sharp turn, because you have not yet risen above bourgeois public opinion, and its screams signify for you no less than the moral law. Get rid of it. >I said this more than once, and not just to individual members of the Left SR party. There is only one way of keeping check on the consciousness of intellectual groups, and that is firm control by the organized working class. It is organized in the Soviets. So long as the Left SRs followed, hobbling, the majority in the Soviets, their true visage was hidden. But when they took to themselves the right to break away and act as they chose, they thereby broke away from the working class and fell under the influence of the bourgeoisie, which hurled them in armed revolt against the Soviet power.

On the contrary, comrades, do not at this time treat lightly any question of politics which the Soviet power is deciding or considering, for through internal struggle, open conflict, it will discover the best and most assured solution for the working class. And particular dissident groups, especially those composed of intellectuals, must examine their luggage before they raise their flag to call openly for struggle. Today it is criticism, tomorrow – civil war. We do not want that. We want to issue one slogan everywhere. Explain to the peasants the dangerousness of a split, safeguard the Soviet power through firm discipline, and tell our friends and co-thinkers in the provinces everything. At the same time we say this: when you, our comrades, members of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, and you, our opponents, come to this rostrum, be careful in your choice of expressions. Why did Lozovsky, in explaining the repression of the Left SRs as a response to the killing of Count Mirbach, say: ‘We insist on being told the demands that were put to the Soviet power by Germany regarding the work of the Left SRs’? I do not know with what dishonest aim in view he uttered this new slander and falsehood.

There is not a single dishonest invention that the Lozovskys come upon somewhere or other that they would not repeat from this rostrum, before the workers and peasants. Be careful where such dishonest provocation is concerned. Do not become, even unconsciously, transmitters of this sort of dishonest slander. However, from this dishonest slander, from this grave lesson we have received, we can derive some benefit for ourselves. A certain boil ripened at the periphery of the Soviet power. It burst comparatively painlessly because it burst in Moscow, the centre wherein the most conscious part of the population is concentrated and where the best military units are stationed. (In the future we must pay special attention to the question of whether there is an organization inside them.) And when, somewhere or other, they incite the ignorant peasants against the Soviet power, when they say that we are bullies who rob the working peasants, pay money to the German imperialists, send them all our manufactures, while our peasants fare going about naked – if that sort of agitation is being carried on, they know that this is nothing other than a presage of the outbreak, very soon afterward, of a new civil war. For this reason you, the representatives of the ruling class, bear a great responsibility, when you, on the instructions of that ruling class, create the Soviet power, our responsible political organ. And when you hear malicious, slanderous attacks, when a prejudiced person disseminates lying rumours, take him by the arm and say: ‘The Soviet power came out of the October Revolution, and it wants only the best for us. If it makes mistakes, we shall calmly put them right at the All-Russia Congress of Soviets.’

The Soviet power, which you created, has to be potected, and we shall firmly see that that is done, under the banner which you have entrusted to us.

NOTE: The attack by the Left SRs on the Soviet power on July 6, 1918 put an end to the political bloc which, after October (and to some extent before it) was formed by the Communists, the Left SRs and the Anarchists, on the platform of Soviet power and struggle against the bourgeoisie and the compromisers.

This conditional and temporary coalition was bound to break up in the course of the revolution, owing to the complete social difference between the programs of the parties which it brought together.

It suffered its first failure already in April 1918, when the Soviet power, forced to take this action by their disorganizing activity, disarmed the Anarchist organizations and called them to order.

So that, as well as evaluating the attack launched by the Left SRs when they formed part of the post-October bloc, I may explain how it came about that the Soviet power, in the shape of the Communist Party which was dominant in the Soviets, also broke with its other companion, the Anarchists – so that I may establish the general fact that the Soviet bloc had broken up in July1918, I quote below the relevant passage from my speech of April 14, 1918, delivered at a workers’ meeting and published under the title A Word to Russia’s Workers and Peasants, published by Life and Knowledge, Moscow 1918.

(For details of the break with the Anarchists see ‘Proceedings of the 4th All-Russia Central Executive Committee’, published by the All-Russia CEC, Moscow, 1918.) [Another translation of Trotsky’s remarks about the Anarchists on April 14, 1918, will be found in the pamphlet giving the whole of his speech on that occasion, and entitled A Paradise in This World, published by the British Socialist Party in 1920 (pp.21-24). This translation is reproduced, under its original titles: A Word to the Russian Workers and Peasants on Our Friends and Enemies, in Leon Trotsky Speaks, New York 1972.]

I am asked: ‘You consider yourselves socialist-Communists, and yet you are shooting and imprisoning your Communist Anarchist comrades. How do you explain that?’

This, comrades, is indeed something that deserves explanation. We Marxist Communists are profoundly opposed to the Anarchist doctrine. This doctrine is erroneous, but one cannot arrest and imprison people, and still less can one shoot them, merely on that account.

First, I will say in a few words why the Anarchist doctrine is wrong. The Anarchists say that the working class does not need a government: what it needs is to organize production. Government, they say, is a bourgeois invention, a bourgeois machine of compulsion, and the working class does not need to take governmental power. This is wrong from beginning to end. For organizing the economy in the village of Neyelovka, and, in general, on little patches of ground, governmental power is indeed unnecessary. But for organizing the economy of all Russia, of a large country – and, plundered as we are, ours is still a large country – a state apparatus is needed, the apparatus which has hitherto been in the hands of the enemy class, the class which exploited and robbed the working people. We say: in order that the economy may be organized in a new way, the machinery of government has to be torn from the enemy’s hands and taken in our own. Otherwise, nothing will be achieved. What is the source of exploitation and oppression? Private ownership of the means of production. But who maintains and upholds this private ownership? The state power, so long as it remains in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Who can abolish private ownership? The state-power, as soon as it falls into the hands of the working class.

The bourgeoisie says: don’t touch the state power, it is the sacred hereditary privilege of the educated classes. But the Anarchists say: don’t touch it, it is an infernal invention, a diabolical device, don’t have anything to do with it. The bourgeoisie says: don’t touch it, because it’s sacred. The Anarchists say: don’t touch it, because it’s sinful. Both say: don’t touch it. But we say: don’t just touch it, take it in your hands, and set it to work in your own interests, for the abolition of private ownership and the emancipation of the working class.

But, comrades, however mistaken the teachings of the Anarchists, that would in no case justify persecuting them. Many Anarchists are very honest supporters of the working class: they merely don’t know how to unlock the door to open the way into the realm of freedom – they hang about by the door, shifting from one foot to the other, but haven’t a clue how to turn the key. This is their misfortune but not their guilt, it is not a crime and they cannot be punished for it.

However, comrades, during our revolution, as everyone knows, and the honest ideological Anarchists know it better than anyone else, very many hooligan-type carrion-crows, robbers and night-prowlers of all sorts have gathered under the flag of Anarchism. Yesterday this man was serving a sentence of hard labor for raping a woman, or was in prison for theft, or in exile for robbery, but today he says: ‘I’m an Anarchist from the “Black Crow” club’ – or from the ‘Storm’ club, or the ‘Attack’, or the ‘Charge’, or whatever: they have many different names.

I have talked about this, comrades, with ideological Anarchists, and they themselves say: A great many of these black crows, these hooligans, all sorts of crooks, have attached themselves to us. You know very well what has been happening in Moscow. The Anarchists have laid whole streets under tribute, or seized buildings, regardless of the Soviet of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, regardless of the workers’ organizations, and it has happened that Soviet organizations were in occupation of a building, and hooligans, calling themselves Anarchists, have broken into this building, mounted machine-guns and seized armoured cars and even artillery. When we arrested them we found on them a mass of things they had stolen, heaps of gold. The Moscow Anarchists are nothing but burglars and thugs who bring discredit on the ideological Anarchists. Anarchism is an ideology, even though a wrong one. But hooliganism is hooliganism. And we said to the ideological Anarchists: you must strictly dissociate yourselves from these thugs, for nothing worse can happen to a revolution than to start rotting from one or other of its extremities. The whole fabric of the revolution then comes unravelled at a touch. Soviet order must be a sound fabric. We took power not so as to rob, behave like hooligans and brigands, or get drunk, but in order to introduce general labor discipline and honest working life.

I consider that the Soviet power acted quite correctly when it said to the pseudo-Anarchist gentry: ‘Don’t imagine that your kingdom has come, don’t imagine that the Russian people and the Soviet state are now carrion that crows can settle on and tear to pieces. If you want to live together with us, in accordance with the principles of labor, then submit yourselves, along with us, to the common Soviet discipline of the working class but if you get in our way, then, by your leave, we’ll show you the iron fist of the workers’ government, the Soviet power!’

If the sham Anarchists, who are really thugs, try to go on acting along the same lines as before, then the second showdown will be three times, ten times, harsher than the first. It is said that some honest Anarchists were present among the hooligans: if that it true – and, obviously, it can be true only of a relatively few persons – it is very regrettable, and they must be released at once. We must express to them our great regret, but at the same time we must say: comrade Anarchists, in order that such unpleasantness may not happen in the future, you must erect a watershed between yourselves and the hooligans, you must draw a firm line, so that you cannot be mixed up, so that it may be known once and for all that this man is a thug but that one is an honest man with an ideology. – L.T.


Besides units which did their duty irreproachably during the counter-revolutionary revolt of the Left SRs, some unworthy groups were found among the Moscow garrison, which either joined the rebels or were weakened by internal discord. In order to investigate the conduct of all units of the Moscow garrison and identify the defective elements in it, so as to subject them to exemplary punishment, a commission is set up, consisting of M.S. Kedrov (chairman), Danishevsky and Arosev.

This commission is empowered to create sub-commissions in particular districts or units. The result of the investigation is to be reported not later than July 15.

July 1918


Official communiqué

The crazy revolt of the so-called Left SRs has been liquidated. The judicial investigation authorities will in the next few days clarify the precise factual picture of this unprecedented adventure and establish the degree of responsibility borne by individual participants. But the political significance of the Moscow events of July 6-7 is already quite clear.

Bending to the pressure of the bourgeois classes of society, the Left SRs made in recent weeks increasingly persistent efforts to draw Russia into war with Germany. These efforts of theirs found expression not only in pointing to the exceptionally burdensome conditions of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but also in fabricating and spreading monstrous rumours and suspicions, calculated to have a disturbing effect on the people’s imagination. Conscious workers and peasants are, of course, well enough aware of the heaviness of the conditions of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. But they are no less clearly aware what the consequences would be if Russia, exhausted and bled white, were to be drawn into the imperialist slaughter. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of the workers and peasants consciously rejected that tearing up of the Brest treaty which is frenziedly called for by the Cadets, the Right SRs, the Mensheviks and the Left SRs.

The failure of their demagogic agitation in favour of war impelled the Left SRs to take the road of senseless and dishonest adventure: they decided to draw Russia into the war by means of an act of terrorism, against the will of the workers and peasants. After the Fifth All-Russia Congress of Soviets had categorically approved the foreign policy of the Council of People’s Commissars, a certain Blyumkin, acting on the instructions of the Central Committee of the Left SR party, assassinated the German ambassador, Count Mirbach.

In carrying out this provocative act the Left SRs relied not so much on their Party apparatus as on the official position they occupied as a Soviet party. With this Party’s backing, Blyumkin became a member of the staff of the Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution. Utilizing his official status, he took possession of some documents and forged others, gained entry, under cover if his official status, into the German Embassy, and there carried out the assassination he had been ordered to perform by the Central Committee of his party.

At the same time the Left SRs openly proceeded to acts of rebellion, which had the aim of forcibly transferring state power from the hands of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets into those of a party which had proved to be in the minority in the Congress. Members of the Left SRs’ Central Committee tried to develop the revolt, relying on part of a unit of the Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution. This unit was commanded by the Left SR Popov. The part of Popov’s unit which became involved in the conspiracy, reinforced by demoralized elements from the personnel of the Black Sea Fleet, sent out street patrols and posted sentries, arrested representatives of the Soviet power, and disarmed and fired on certain groups of Red Army men. The rebels had machine-guns, cannon and armoured cars.

In this way there developed, on July 7, the revolt of a Soviet party which had proved to be in the minority, against the power of the Soviets.

Had this revolt succeeded (assuming that such an adventure could have succeeded) it would have meant immediate war with Germany and the downfall of the Soviet power, since nobody with any common sense could, of course, suppose that the Left SRs would be able to keep hold of the power torn from the hands of the workers’, peasants’ and Red Army men’s soviets. By the essential nature of the whole situation, the Left SRs revolted on July 6-7 exclusively as a fighting squad in the service of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, for which it was clearing the road.

Under these conditions there was only one decision that the Council of People’s Commissars could take: to put down as quickly as possible a revolt in which frivolity, perfidy and provocation were combined in one disgusting whole.

Vigorous action brought results within a few hours. The Left SRs abandoned the post and telegraph office where they had been in command for two hours. Disintegration began in Popov’s unit after the first shots they received from the Soviet forces. A considerable part of the unit reacted indignantly to the adventure and came over entirely to the side of the representatives of the Soviet power whom the rebels had taken prisoner – Comrades Dzerzhinsky, Latsis and Smidovich. It was only thanks to this that these comrades were preserved from the danger of losing their lives.

The liquidation of the revolt was fully worthy of its original conception and of the entire course of this shameful adventure. Utter confusion at the rebels’ headquarters and demoralization in the rebel unit developed together. In setting themselves such an aim as the seizure of state power, the leaders of the Left SRs apparently quite failed to appreciate the scope and significance of this task which was utterly beyond their strength. After insignificant attempts to resist, the rebels began to send out flags of truce in various directions, and then retreated in disorder.

Pursuit of the fugitives is now proceeding with complete success. The number of prisoners taken is already numbered in hundreds. Details will be given by the Government at the next session of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets, which will speak its decisive word regarding both the revolt of July 6-7 and the entire fate of the so-called Left SR party.

Izv.V.Ts.I.K., no.141, July 8, 1918


Order by the People’s Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs, July 15, 1918, No.561

After the crazy and dishonest revolt of the Left SRs, the German Government demanded that a battalion of German soldiers be admitted to Moscow, to guard the German Embassy. [98]

The Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies replied to this demand with a resolute refusal. The Soviet power wants to remain at peace with all peoples. But precisely for that reason it cannot allow foreign imperialist troops to appear on the territory of the Soviet republic. German soldiers in Moscow would be just as much a threat to the freedom and independence of the Russian people as are the Czechoslovak mercenaries at Samara, the Anglo-French bands on the Murman coast, or the Japanese at Vladivostok.

Soldiers of the Soviet Republic! Russia wants to live at peace with all peoples. But precisely for that reason you must be ready to repulse aggression, from whatever direction it may come. Revolutionary order in Moscow can be safeguarded by Soviet troops and by no others. The Volga, the Urals and Siberia must be freed from enemies. More than ever before, the Urals are the backbone of Soviet Russia. We cannot tolerate for one more day the presence there of bands which bar our access to Siberian grain. In order that Soviet Russia may live, develop, and give a firm rebuff to aggression from without, we must ruthlessly smash the Czechoslovak and White-Guard revolt on our territory.

Soldiers of the revolution! Soviet Russian, thirsting for free dom, peace and bread, points to the Urals and says to you:

Strangle the serpent!


90. The Fifth Congress of Soviets met in Moscow between July 4 and 10, 1918. Of the delegates present, 66 per cent were Communists, the rest being mostly Left SRs. From the very beginning of the Congress the latter tried to set the Left SR peasants against the Bolsheviks. Comrade Trotsky’s emergency motion requesting the Congress to approve the order for introducing strict discipline in the frontier guerrilla units which by their policy were violating the peace treaty with Germany, met with an extremely hostile reception from the Left SRs. In his speech Kamkov called on the guerrilla units to attack the Germans actively. Next day, Spiridonova tried, with false allegations, to show that the Council of People’s Commissars was secretly sending gold, grain and manufactured goods to Germany. On July 7-8, after the murder of the German ambassador, Count Mirbach, by the Left SRs Blyumkin and Andreyev, the Left SRs’ revolt took place. The Fifth Congress suspended its work, resuming this only on the 9th when the Congress examined the question of the organization of the Red Army, and also ratified the Soviet Constitution.

91. The Fourth Congress of Soviets was an extraordinary congress and was held in Moscow between March 14 and 16, 1918. There were only two points on the agenda: (1) ratifying the Brest peace, (2) transferring the capital to Moscow. Reports on the first point were given by Comrades Chicherin and Lenin, and a speech on behalf of the Left SRs, who protested, together with a section of the Communists, against the peace, was made by Kamkov. When voting by nominal roll was carried out, 784 delegates voted for ratification and 261 against, with 115 abstentions. (For more details on the Brest peace, see Note 20.) On the second point of the Congress agenda, it was resolved to shift the capital, for the time being, to Moscow.

92. After Comrade Trotsky, Kamkov rose to speak. He endorsed the ‘broad and healthy revolutionary movement’ which found expression in an endeavour to help the Ukrainian workers. Kamkov asked the Congress to reject Comrade Trotsky’s motion. Then Comrade Zinoviev spoke for the Communist fraction in the Congress, in defence of the motion. The Left SRs asked for a recess so that they could hold a conference of their fraction. After the recess, Spiridonova made a long speech denouncing the Bolsheviks, and then Comrade Trotsky made the concluding speech.

93. After the concluding speech, Karelin said the Left SR fraction did not wish to take part in the voting until the credentials commission had reported. Furthermore, he said that he perceived in the adopting of this motion an attempt to predetermine a number of general political factors. The Left SR fraction temporarily left the hall, and the resolution was passed unanimously in their absence.

94. From the documents of the investigation that was carried out, the circumstances connected with the murder of Mirbach emerge as follows. Count Mirbach, the German Ambassador to Soviet Russia, was killed in Denezhny Lane, in one of the drawing-rooms of the Embassy building, at about 3 p.m. on July 6, 1918. The political origin of this terrorist act was as follows. The All-Russia Congress of the Left SRs, which met in Moscow at the same time as the Fifth Congress of Soviets, resolved, on the question of foreign policy, ‘to tear up, by revolutionary means, the Brest treaty which is fatal to the Russian and world revolution.’ The Congress entrusted the execution of this decision to the Party’s Central Committee. The latter decided to carry out the will of the Congress by killing Mirbach and placing the Soviet Government in a situation where the Brest treaty had been broken. The Central Committee of the Left SRS intended by this deed to appeal to the solidarity between the German proletariat and the working masses of Russia. At the session of the Left SR Central Committee during the night of July 4 the assassination was entrusted to Yakov Blyumkin and Nikolai Andreyev, who had personally volunteered for the task. Both were members of the Left SR party: the former held at that time the responsible post of head of the Cheka’s counter espionage department, while the latter was a photographer in the same department. In order to carry out the deed assigned to him, Blyumkin made use of the papers of the case of a German spy, Count Robert Mirbach, the ambassador’s nephew, which he already had in his possession through his duties. Blyumkin filled in on a Cheka form the following authorisation: ‘The All-Russia Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution empowers its member Yakov Blyumkin and the representative of the Revolutionary Tribunal Nikolai Andreyev to enter into direct negotiations with the German Ambassador to Russia, Count M. Mirbach, regarding a matter of direct concern to the Ambassador.’ The signature of the Chairman of the Cheka, Comrade Dzerzhinsky, and its secretary Ksenofontov, were forged. The seal was supplied by the Vice-Chairman of the Cheka, Aleksandrovich, a member of the Left SRs’ Central Committee, who knew that the assassination was being prepared. On arriving at the embassy, Blyumkin insisted to the Counsellor of the Embassy Riezier that he must see Mirbach personally. After some discussion, this was agreed to, and the Ambassador came out to meet them. After a lengthy conversation regarding the above-mentioned case, Blyumkin fired point-blank at Mirbach, Riezier and the interpreter. Mirbach had evidently only been wounded, so Andreyev threw a bomb at him. As it did not go off, Blyumkin picked it up and threw it again, this time killing Mirbach. It was with difficulty that they succeeded in getting away in a car, as the Embassy guard opened fire on them, and Blyumkin was wounded. The assassination was the signal for open revolt by the Left SRs in Moscow and in the provinces. The details of the revolt are given in Comrade Trotsky’s subsequent speeches and orders.

95. After Comrade Trotsky had given his report, the spokesmen of the fractions addressed the assembly: Garin, for the Federation of Anarchist Communists; Roslavets, for the Yelets organisation of the Left SRs, who were opposed to the policy of that party’s Central Committee; Lozovsky, for the Internationalist Social-Democrats; Lindov for the Left Internationalist Social-Democrats; and Svedov for the Maximalist SRs.

96. July 3-5, 1917: The discontent of the masses with the reactionary policy of the Provisional Government became especially acute after the unsuccessful offensive organised by Kerensky in June 1917. The regiments stationed in Petersburg were concerned because of the Government’s intention to send them to the front, so as to clear the capital of troops that were a danger to the Government. At the centre of the July revolt was the Machine Gun Regiment, whose delegates came to the Petersburg City Conference of the Bolsheviks and asked for their support. Considering the movement to be premature, the Conference refused. During the evening of July 3 the movement grew in strength, and a mass demonstration began. On July 4, with a view to avoiding an armed clash, the Central Committee issued the slogan for organising a peaceful demonstration. In this more than half a million workers and soldiers took part. On July 5 troops summoned from the front by Kerensky started to arrive. Disarmament of the workers, soldiers and sailors was begun, and there were widespread arrests. The July days showed that the Communist Party was followed by huge masses of workers and soldiers. On the consequences of the July days, see note 89.

97. January 9, 1905: see note 33.

98. The German Government’s demand for a battalion of German soldiers to be allowed to enter Moscow to protect their Embassy was a direct consequence of the murder of Mirbach. The People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs backed by the All-Russia CEC, replied to this demand with a categorical refusal and for a time Soviet Russia lay under the threat of a new war. On the grounds of the danger to which it was allegedly subject in Moscow the German Embassy transferred its residence to Pskov, in the zone occupied by the Germans.

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Last updated on: 20.12.2006