A Deal With the Capitalists or Overthrow of the Capitalists?

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 25 May 1917

Pravda No. 65, June 7 (May 25), 1917. Published according to the text in Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 516-518.
Collection(s): Pravda

HOW TO END THE WAR[edit source]

Everyone is thinking and talking about how to end the war.

Practically all the workers and peasants are agreed that the war was started by the capitalists and that it is the capitalists of all countries who need it. And that is what the resolutions of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies say.

This is the undoubted truth.

Opinion differs when we come to the question of what way to end the war (everyone realises that it cannot be ended abruptly). Are we to go about it by way of a deal with the capitalists, and if so, what kind of deal? Or are we to go by way of a workers’ revolution, i.e., by overthrowing the capitalists? That is the basic, cardinal issue.

On this question our Party disagrees with the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and with the All-Russia Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies, both of which incline towards deciding this question in favour of the capitalists and through the capitalists.

This has been strikingly confirmed by the resolution on the war adopted by the All-Russia Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies. In keeping with the notorious—and no less muddled—appeal to the nations of the world (dated March 14), this resolution demands:

“peace without annexations and indemnities, with the right of every nation, in whatever state boundaries It may be living, to decide its own destiny.”

The question of annexations is formulated differently here compared with the way it was recently put in Izvestia of the Petrograd Soviet and in Dyelo Naroda (see Pravda No. 60 for May 18[1] )

The two latter newspapers, controlled by the Narodnik Menshevik bloc, are in a hopeless muddle when they declare that peace “without annexations” means returning to the state of things that existed before the war (the Latin phrase used for this is status quo ante bellum).

Such a solution of the problem—let us not blink the truth—means making a deal with the capitalists and between the capitalists. It means: Let us keep the old annexations (made before the war), but let us have no new ones.

For one thing, no socialist who does not wish to betray socialism can accept such a solution. It is not a socialist’s job to make peace between the capitalists on the basis of the old division of spoils, that is, annexations. That is obvious. Secondly, such a solution, in any event, is impracticable unless there is a revolution against capital, at least against Anglo-Japanese capital, since no man in his right senses can doubt that without a revolution Japan will never give up Kiaochow, nor Britain Baghdad and her African colonies.

The peasant resolution gives a different definition to annexations. It proclaims the right of every nation (meaning also those annexed before the war) to be free and “to decide its own destiny”.

This is the only correct solution of the problem as far as any really consistent democrat, not to mention a socialist, is concerned. No true socialist can put the question of annexations in any other way or deny any nation the right to self- determination and secession.

Let us not deceive ourselves, however. Such a demand implies a revolution against the capitalists. And the first to turn down such a demand (unless there is a revolution) will be the British capitalists, who have more annexed territories than any other nation in the world.

Neither of these demands, these wishes, either that of renouncing annexations in the sense of restoring status quo, or renouncing all annexations, both old and new, are realisable without a revolution against capital, without the overthrow of the capitalists. We must not deceive ourselves or the people on this score.

Either we advocate and look forward to a deal with the capitalists—and that would amount to inspiring the people with faith in their worst enemies—or we place our faith solely in the workers’ revolution and concentrate all our efforts on overthrowing the capitalists.

We must make our choice between these two ways of ending the war.

  1. See pp. 433–35 [See Muddleheadedness] of this volume.—Ed.