J. V. Stalin
Source : Works, Vol.
4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.
Since our relations with the Ukrainian Rada 1 became strained I have been receiving numerous resolutions and letters from Ukrainian comrades on the subject of the conflict with the Rada. I consider it impossible and superfluous to answer each resolution and each letter separately, since the same things are repeated in almost all of them. I have therefore decided to single out the questions most frequently to be found in them and to reply with a clarity that will leave no room for doubt. These questions are generally known:
1) How did the conflict arise?
2) Over what issues did the conflict arise?
3) What measures are needed for a peaceful settlement of the conflict?
4) Can it really be that the fraternal peoples will shed each other's blood?
That is followed by a general assurance that the conflict between the two kindred peoples will be settled peacefully, without fratricidal bloodshed.
First of all, it should be observed that the Ukrainian comrades are labouring under a certain confusion of ideas. They sometimes represent the conflict with the Rada as a conflict between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. But that is not true. There is no conflict and there can be no conflict between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. The Ukrainian and Russian peoples, like the other peoples of Russia, consist of workers and peasants, of soldiers and sailors. Together, they all fought against tsarism and Kerenskyism, against the landlords and capitalists, against war and imperialism. Together, they all shed their blood for land and peace, for liberty and socialism. In the struggle against the landlords and capitalists they are all brothers and comrades. In the struggle for their vital interests there is no conflict and there can be no conflict between them. The enemies of the working people find it advantageous, of course, to represent the conflict with the Rada as a conflict between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, because that makes it easier for them to incite the workers and peasants of the kindred peoples against one another, to the glee of the oppressors of the peoples. But is it so difficult for the enlightened workers and peasants to understand that what is advantageous to the oppressors of the peoples is harmful for the peoples themselves?
It was not between the peoples of Russia and the Ukraine that the conflict arose, but between the Council of People's Commissars and the General Secretariat of the Rada.
Over what questions did the conflict arise?
It is said that the conflict arose over the question of centralism or self-determination, that the Council of People's Commissars does not allow the Ukrainian people to take power into their own hands and to decide their destiny freely. Is this true? No, it is not. The Council of People's Commissars is, in fact, striving to have all power in the Ukraine belong to the Ukrainian people, that is, to the Ukrainian workers and soldiers, peasants and sailors. Soviet power, that is, the power of the workers and peasants, the soldiers and sailors, without landlords or capitalists, is precisely that people's power for which the Council of People's Commissars is fighting. The General Secretariat does not want such a power, because it does not desire to get rid of the landlords and capitalists. That, and not centralism, is the crux of the matter.
The Council of People's Commissars stands, and has stood from the very first, for free self-determination. It would not even object if the Ukrainian people were to secede and form an independent state. It has declared this officially on several occasions. But when self-determination of the people is identified with the autocratic rule of Kaledin, when the General Secretariat of the Rada attempts to represent the counterrevolutionary revolts of Cossack generals as a manifestation of the self-determination of the people, the Council of People's Commissars cannot refrain from observing that the General Secretariat is making a pretence of self-determination, and is using this pretence to conceal its alliance with Kaledin and Rodzyanko. We stand for the self-determination of peoples, but we are opposed to self-determination being used as a camouflage for the surreptitious establishment of the autocratic rule of Kaledin, who only yesterday was campaigning for the strangulation of Finland.
It is said that the conflict arose over the question of the Ukrainian Republic, that the Council of People's Commissars does not recognize the Ukrainian Republic.
Is this true? No, it is not. The Council of People's Commissars officially recognized the Ukrainian Republic in the "Ultimatum" and in the "Reply" to the Petrograd Ukrainian Staff. 2 It is prepared to recognize a republic in any of the national regions of Russia should the working population of the given region desire it. It is prepared to recognize a federal structure for our country, should the working population of the regions of Russia desire it. But when a people's republic is identified with the military dictatorship of Kaledin, when the General Secretariat of the Rada endeavours to represent the monarchists Kaledin and Rodzyanko as pillars of the republic, the Council of People's Commissars cannot refrain from pointing out that the General Secretariat is making a pretence of a republic, and is using this pretence to conceal its complete dependence on monarchist plutocrats. We stand for a Ukrainian Republic, but we are opposed to the republic being used as a camouflage for sworn enemies of the people, the monarchists Kaledin and Rodzyanko, who only yesterday were campaigning for the restoration of the old regime and the death penalty for the soldiers.
No, the questions of centralism and self-determination have no bearing on the conflict with the Rada. It was not over these questions that the dispute arose. Centralism and self-determination have been dragged in by the General Secretariat artificially, as a strategical ruse designed to conceal from the Ukrainian masses the real reasons for the conflict.
It was not over the question of centralism or self-determination that the conflict arose, but over the three following concrete questions:
First question. The conflict started with the orders issued to the front by member of the General Secretariat Petlura, orders which threatened to result in the complete disorganization of the front. Disregarding General Headquarters and the interests of the front, disregarding the peace negotiations and the cause of peace generally, Petlura began to issue orders for the return of all Ukrainian army and navy units to the Ukraine. It will be easily realized that if the Ukrainian units had obeyed Petlura's orders the front would have disintegrated instantaneously: the Ukrainian units in the North would have moved southward, the non-Ukrainian units in the South would have moved northward, the other nationalities would also have "hit the home trail," the railways would have been occupied exclusively with the transport of soldiers and equipment, food would have ceased to arrive at the front because there would have been no means of transporting it—and of the front nothing but a memory would have remained. This would have altogether wrecked the chances of an armistice and peace. No one denies that in ordinary times the place of the Ukrainian soldier is primarily at home, in the Ukraine. No one denies that "nationalization" of the army is an acceptable and desirable thing. This has been officially stated several times by the Council of People's Commissars. But in time of war, when peace has not yet been arranged, and the front is not constructed on national lines, and when, owing to the weakness of our transport system, immediate "nationalization" of the army would be fraught with the danger of the soldiers leaving their positions and of the front disintegrating, thus wrecking the chances of a peace and armistice — it need not be said that, in these conditions, there could be no question of the national units leaving their positions immediately. I do not know whether Petlura was aware that by his senseless orders he was breaking up the front and wrecking the cause of peace. But the Ukrainian soldiers and sailors realized it at once, because all of them, with rare exceptions, refused to obey Pet-lura and decided to remain at their posts until peace was concluded. The Ukrainian soldiers have thereby saved the cause of peace, and Petlura's ill-considered orders have for the time being lost their extreme gravity.
Second question. The conflict started by Petlura's orders was aggravated by the policy of the General Secretariat of the Rada when it began to disarm the-Ukrainian- Soviets of Deputies. In Kiev, armed detachments of the General Secretariat fell upon the Soviet troops at night and disarmed them. Similar attempts were made in Odessa and Kharkov, but there they failed because they encountered resistance. But we have reliable information to the effect that the General Secretariat is massing forces against Odessa and Kharkov with the object of disarming the Soviet troops. We have reliable information to the effect that in a number of other, smaller, towns the Soviet troops have already been disarmed and "sent home." The General Secretariat of the Rada has thus made it its object to carry out Kornilov's and Kaledin's, Alexeyev's and Rodzyanko's programme of disarming the Soviets. But the Soviets are the bulwark and hope of the revolution. Whoever disarms the Soviets disarms the revolution, wrecks the cause of peace and liberty, betrays the cause of the workers and peasants. It was the Soviets that saved Russia from the yoke of Kornilovism. It was the Soviets that saved Russia from the shame of Kerensky-ism. It was the Soviets that won land and an armistice for the peoples of Russia. The Soviets, and the Soviets alone, are capable of leading the people's revolution to complete victory. Therefore, whoever raises his hand against the Soviets helps the landlords and capitalists to strangle the workers and peasants of all Russia, helps the Kaledins and Alexeyevs to strengthen their "iron" rule over the soldiers and Cossacks.
Let no one try to tell us that the General Secretariat contains Socialists, and that they therefore cannot betray the cause of the people. Kerensky calls himself a Socialist, nevertheless he sent troops against revolutionary Petrograd. Gotz calls himself a Socialist, nevertheless he raised the military cadets and officers against the Petrograd soldiers and sailors. Savinkov and Avksen-tyev call themselves Socialists, nevertheless they introduced the death penalty for the soldiers at the front. Socialists should be judged not by their words, but by their deeds. The General Secretariat is disrupting and disarming the Ukrainian Soviets, thereby helping Kale-din to establish his bloody regime on the Don and in the coal basin—and that is a fact that no socialist flag can conceal. That is why the Council of People's Commissars affirms that the General Secretariat's policy is a counter-revolutionary policy. That is why the Council of People's Commissars hopes that the Ukrainian workers and soldiers, who in Russia were in the van of the fight for revolutionary Soviet power, will be able to call their General Secretariat to order, or elect another in its place in the interest of peace among nations.
demarcation and the like. The Council of People's Commissars fully recognizes the necessity for demarcation. But demarcation must be effected in fraternal, friendly fashion, by agreement, and not forcibly, not on the "principle" of "grab what you can," "disarm whomsoever you can," as the General Secretariat is now doing, seizing food supplies, appropriating freights, and condemning the army to starve and freeze.
Third question. The conflict reached a climax when the General Secretariat categorically refused to permit the passage of the revolutionary troops of the Soviets proceeding against Kaledin. Armed detachments of the General Secretariat hold up trains carrying revolutionary troops, dismantle tracks, threaten to open fire, and declare that they cannot permit the transit of "alien" troops through their territory. It is Russian soldiers, who only yesterday were fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainians against the hangmen-generals who were trying to crush the Ukraine, that now, it appears, are "aliens"! And this at a time when this same General Secretariat freely permits the transit to Rostov through its territory of Kaledin's Cossack units and counter-revolutionary officers who are flocking to Kaledin from all parts!
Kornilovites and Kaledinites are putting Rostov Red Guards to the sword, yet the General Secretariat of the Rada is preventing the sending of aid to our Rostov comrades! Kaledin's officers are shooting our comrades in the mines, yet the General Secretariat is preventing us from extending assistance to our comrades the miners! Is it any wonder that Kaledin, who yesterday was smashed, is today advancing further and further northward, seizing the Donets Basin and threatening Tsaritsyn? Is it not obvious that the General Secretariat is in alliance with Kaledin and Rodzyanko? Is it not obvious that the General Secretariat prefers an alliance with the Kornilovites to an alliance with the Council of People's Commissars?
It is said that there must be agreement between the Council of People's Commissars and the General Secretariat of the Rada. But is it difficult to understand that agreement with the present General Secretariat would be agreement with Kaledin and Rodzyanko? Is it difficult to understand that the Council of People's Commissars cannot agree to commit suicide? We did not begin the revolution against the landlords and capitalists in order to end it with an alliance with hangmen like Kaledin. The workers and soldiers did not shed their blood in order to surrender to the mercy of the Alexeyevs and Rod-zyankos.
One thing or the other:
Either the Rada breaks with Kaledin, extends a hand to the Soviets and allows free passage to the revolutionary troops proceeding against the counter-revolutionary hotbed on the Don —and then the workers and soldiers of the Ukraine and Russia will cement their revolutionary alliance with a new surge of fraternization;
Or the Rada refuses to break with Kaledin and allow passage to the revolutionary troops—and then the General Secretariat of the Rada will achieve what the enemies of the people tried in vain to achieve, namely, fratricidal bloodshed of the peoples.
It depends upon the enlightenment and revolutionary consciousness of the Ukrainian workers and soldiers to call their General Secretariat to order or to elect another in its place in the interest of a peaceful settlement of the dangerous conflict.
It depends upon the staunchness and determination of the Ukrainian workers and soldiers to compel the General Secretariat to declare definitely which alliance it now favours: an alliance with Kaledin and Rodzyanko against the revolution, or an alliance with the Council of People's Commissars against the counter-revolution of the Cadets and generals.
It is upon the people of the Ukraine that a peaceful settlement of the conflict depends.
December 12, 1917
1. The Ukrainian Central Rada was set up in Kiev in April 1917 by a bloc of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois parties and groups. After the victory of the October Socialist Revolution the Rada refused to recognize the Soviet Government and took the path of open struggle against Soviet power, supporting Kaledin and other whiteguard generals in the Don region. In April 1918 the German occupation forces deposed the Rada and set up a hetmanate under Skoropadsky.
2. The "Ultimatum" of the Council of People's Commissars, or "Manifesto to the Ukrainian People and Ultimatum to the Ukrainian Rada," which was drafted by V. I. Lenin, stated: ". . . we, the Council of People's Commissars, recognize the people's Ukrainian Republic and its right completely to secede from Russia or to make a treaty with the Russian Republic concerning federal or other similar relations between them.
"Everything that concerns the national rights and national independence of the Ukrainian people is recognized by us, the Council of People's Commissars, forthwith and without reservation or qualification" (see V. I . Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 26, pp. 323-25).
The "Reply" of the Council of People's Commissars to the Petrograd Ukrainian Staff (its full name was: Ukrainian Staff of the Rada of the Petrograd Military Area), which was negotiating with the Council of People's Commissars on behalf of the Central Rada, stated: "As to the Rada's stipula- tions, there has been no dispute or conflict concerning any of them that involve questions of principle (right to self-determination), since the Council of People's Commissars recognizes and practises these principles in their entirety" (see Izvestia, No. 245, December 7, 1917).