First All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies
|Written||3 June 1917|
JUNE 3–24 (JUNE 6–JULY 7), 1917
I. Speech On The Attitude Towards The Provisional Government June 4 (17)[edit source]
First published in Pravda Nos. 82 and 83, June 28 and 29 (15 and 16), 1917
Published according to the Pravda text checked with the verbatim report edited by Lenin
Comrades, in the brief time at my disposal, I can dwell—and I think this best—only on the main questions of principle raised by the Executive Committee rapporteur and by subsequent speakers.
The first and fundamental issue before us was: what is this assembly we are attending, what are these Soviets now gathered at the All-Russia Congress, and what is this revolutionary democracy that people here speak so much about to conceal their utter misunderstanding and complete repudiation of it? To talk about revolutionary democracy at the All-Russia Congress of Soviets and obscure this institution’s character, its class composition and its role in the revolution—not to say a word about this and yet lay claim to the title of democrats really is peculiar. They map out a programme to us for a bourgeois parliamentary republic, the sort of programme that has existed all over Western Europe; they map out a programme to us for reforms which are now recognised by all bourgeois governments, including our own, and yet they talk to us about revolutionary democracy. Whom are they talking to? To the Soviets. But I ask you, is there a country in Europe, a bourgeois, democratic, republican country, where anything like these Soviets exists? You have to admit there isn’t. Nowhere is there, nor can there be, a similar institution because you must have one or the other: either a bourgeois government with “plans” for reforms like those just mapped out to us and proposed dozens of times in every country but remaining on paper, or the institution to which they are now referring, the new type of “government” created by the revolution, examples of which can be found only at a time of greatest revolutionary upsurge, as in France, 1792 and 1871, or in Russia, 1905. The Soviets are an institution which does not exist in any ordinary bourgeois-parliamentary state and cannot exist side by side with a bourgeois government. They are the new, more democratic type of state which we in our Party resolutions call a peasant-proletarian democratic republic, with power belonging solely to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. People are wrong in thinking that this is a theoretical issue. They are wrong in pretending that it can be evaded and in protesting that at present certain institutions exist side by side with the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Yes, they do exist side by side. But this is what breeds countless misunderstandings, conflicts and friction. And this is why the original upswing, the original advance, of the Russian revolution is giving way to stagnation and to those steps backwards which we can now see in our coalition government, in its entire home and foreign policy, in connection with preparations for an imperialist offensive.
One or the other: either the usual bourgeois government, in which case the peasants’, workers’, soldiers’ and other Soviets are useless and will either be broken up by the generals, the counter-revolutionary generals, who keep a hold on the armed forces and pay no heed to Minister Kerensky’s fancy speeches, or they will die an inglorious death. They have no other choice. They can neither retreat nor stand still. They can exist only by advancing. This is a type of state not invented by the Russians but advanced by the revolution because the revolution can win in no other way. Within the All-Russia Congress, friction and the struggle of parties for power are inevitable. But this will be the elimination of possible mistakes and illusions through the political experience of the masses themselves (commotion), and not through the reports of Ministers who refer to what they said yesterday, what they will write tomorrow and what they will promise the day after tomorrow. This, comrades, is ridiculous from the point of view of the institution created by the Russian revolution and now faced with the question: to be or not to be? The Soviets cannot continue to exist as they do now. Grown people, workers and peasants, are made to meet, adopt resolutions and listen to reports that cannot be subjected to any documentary verification! This kind of institution is a transition to a republic which will establish a stable power without a police and a standing army, not in words alone but in action, a power which cannot yet exist in Western Europe and without which the Russian revolution cannot win in the sense of victory over the landowners and over imperialism.
Without this power there can be no question of our gaining such a victory by ourselves. And the deeper we go into the programme recommended to us here, and into the facts with which we are confronted, the more glaringly the fundamental contradiction stands out. We are told by the rapporteur and by other speakers that the first Provisional Government was a bad one! But when the Bolsheviks, those wretched Bolsheviks, said, "No support for and no confidence in this government", how often we were accused of “anarchism”! Now everybody says that the previous government was a bad one. But how does the coalition government with its near socialist Ministers differ from the previous one? Haven’t we had enough talk about programmes and drafts? Haven’t we had enough of them? Isn’t it time to get down to business? A month has passed since May 6 when the coalition government was formed. Look at the facts, look at the ruin prevailing in Russia and other countries involved in the imperialist war. What is the reason for the ruin? The predatory nature of the capitalists. There’s your real anarchy. And this is admitted in statements published, not in our newspaper, not in any Bolshevik newspaper—Heaven forbid!—but in the ministerial Rabochaya Gazeta which has reported that industrial coal prices were raised by the “revolutionary” government!! The coalition government hasn’t changed a thing in this respect. We are asked whether socialism can be introduced in Russia, and whether, generally speaking, radical changes can be made at once. That is all empty talk comrades. The doctrine of Marx and Engels, as they always explained, says: "Our doctrine is not a dogma, but a guide to action.” Nowhere in the world is there pure capitalism developing into pure socialism, nor can there be in war-time. But there is something in between, something new and unprecedented, because hundreds of millions of people who have been involved in the criminal war among the capitalists are losing their lives. It is not a question of promising reforms—that is mere talk. It is a question of taking the step we now need.
If you want to talk of "revolutionary" democracy, then you must distinguish this concept from reformist democracy under a capitalist Ministry, because it is high time to stop talking about "revolutionary democracy", handing out mutual congratulations on "revolutionary democracy", and get on with a class definition, as we have been taught by Marxism, and by scientific socialism generally. It is being proposed that we should pass to reformist democracy under a capitalist Ministry. That may be all well and good from the standpoint of the usual West-European models. A number of countries, however, are today on the brink of destruction, and we can clearly see the practical measures said to be too complicated to carry out easily, and in need of special elaboration, according to the previous speaker, the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. He said there was no political party in Russia expressing its readiness to assume full power. I reply: "Yes, there is. No party can refuse this, and our Party certainly doesn’t. It is ready to take over full power at any moment." (Applause and laughter.) You can laugh as much as you please, but if the Minister confronts us with this question side by side with a party of the Right, he will receive a suitable reply. No party can refuse this. And at a time when liberty still prevails, when threats of arrest and exile to Siberia—threats from the counter-revolutionaries with whom our near socialist Ministers are sharing government—are still no more than threats, every party says: give us your confidence and we shall give you our programme.
This programme was given by our conference on April 29. Unfortunately, it is being ignored and not taken as a guide. It seems to need a popular exposition. I shall try to give the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs a popular exposition of our resolution and our programme. With regard to the economic crisis, our programme is immediately—it need not be put off—to demand the publication of all the fabulous profits—running as high as 500 and 800 per cent—which the capitalists are making on war supplies, and not as capitalists in the open market under “pure” capitalism. This is where workers’ control really is necessary and possible. This is a measure which, if you call yourselves “revolutionary” democrats, you should carry out in the name of the Congress, a measure which can be carried out overnight. It is not socialism. It is opening the people’s eyes to the real anarchy and the real playing with imperialism, the playing with the property of the people, with the hundreds of thousands of lives that tomorrow will be lost because we continue to throttle Greece. Make the profits of the capitalists public, arrest fifty or a hundred of the biggest millionaires. Just keep them in custody for a few weeks, if only in the same privileged conditions in which Nicholas Romanov is being held, for the simple purpose of making them reveal the hidden springs, the fraudulent practices, the filth and greed which even under the new government are costing our country thousands and millions every day. That is the chief cause of anarchy and ruin. That is why we say that everything remains as of old, that the coalition government hasn’t changed a thing and has only added a heap of declarations, of pompous statements. However sincere people may be, however sincerely they may wish the working people well, things have not changed—the same class remains in power. The policy they are pursuing is not a democratic policy.
You talk to us about "democratisation of the central and local power". Don’t you know that these words are a novelty only in Russia, and that elsewhere dozens of near-socialist Ministers have given their countries similar promises? What are they worth when we are faced by the real, concrete fact that while the population elects the authorities locally, the elementary principles of democracy are violated by the centre claiming the right to appoint or confirm the local authorities? The capitalists continue to plunder the people’s property. The imperialist war continues. And yet we are promised reforms, reforms and more reforms, which cannot be accomplished at all under these circumstances, because the war crushes and determines everything. Why do you disagree with those who say the war is not being waged over capitalist profits? What is the criterion? It is, first of all, which class is in power, which class continues to be the master, which class continues to make hundreds of thousands of millions from banking and financial operations. It is the same capitalist class and the war therefore continues to be imperialist. Neither the first Provisional Government nor the government with the near-socialist Ministers has changed anything. The secret treaties remain secret. Russia is fighting for the Straits, fighting to continue Lyakhov’s policy in Persia, and so on.
I know you don’t want this, that most of you don’t want it, and that the Ministers don’t want it, because no one can want it, for it means the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people. But take the offensive which the Milyukovs and Maklakovs are now talking about so much. They know full well what that means. They know it is linked with the question of power, with the question of revolution. We are told we must distinguish between political and strategic issues. It is ridiculous to raise this question at all. The Cadets perfectly understand that the point at issue is a political one.
It is slander to say the revolutionary struggle for peace that has begun from below might lead to a separate peace treaty. The first step we should take if we had power would be to arrest the biggest capitalists and cut all the threads of their intrigues. Without this, all talk about peace without annexations and indemnities is utterly meaningless. Our second step would be to declare to all people over the head of their governments that we regard all capitalists as robbers—Tereshchenko, who is not a bit better than Milyukov, just a little less stupid, the French capitalists, the British capitalists, and all the rest.
Your own Izvestia has got into a muddle and proposes to keep the status quo instead of peace without annexations and indemnities. Our idea of peace "without annexations" is different. Even the Peasant Congress comes nearer the truth when it speaks of a “federal” republic, thereby expressing the idea that the Russian republic does not want to oppress any nation, either in the new or in the old way, and does not want to force any nation, either Finland or the Ukraine, with both of whom the War Minister is trying so hard to find fault and with whom impermissible and intolerable conflicts are being created. We want a single and undivided republic of Russia with a firm government. But a firm government can be secured only by the voluntary agreement of all people concerned. "Revolutionary democracy" are big words, but they are being applied to a government that by its petty fault-finding is complicating the problem of the Ukraine and Finland, which do not even want to secede. They only say, "Don’t postpone the application of the elementary principles of democracy until the Constituent Assembly!”
A peace treaty without annexations and indemnities cannot be concluded until you have renounced your own annexations. It is ridiculous, a comedy, every worker in Europe is laughing at us, saying: You talk very eloquently and call on the people to overthrow the bankers, but you send your own bankers into the Ministry. Arrest them, expose their tricks, get to know the hidden springs! But that you don’t do although you have powerful organisations which cannot be resisted. You have gone through 1905 and 1917. You know that revolution is not made to order, that revolutions in other countries were made by the hard and bloody method of insurrection, and in Russia there is no group, no class, that would resist the power of the Soviets. In Russia, this revolution can, by way of exception, be a peaceful one. Were this revolution to propose peace to all peoples today or tomorrow, by breaking with all the capitalist classes, both France and Germany, their people, that is, would accept very soon, because these countries are perishing, because Germany’s position is hopeless, because she cannot save herself, and because France—(Chairman: "Your time is up.")
I shall finish in half a minute. (Commotion; requests from the audience that the speaker continue; protests and applause.)
(Chairman: "I inform the Congress that the Steering Committee proposes the speaker’s time be extended. Any objections? The majority are in favour of an extension.")
I stopped at the point that if the revolutionary democrats in Russia were democrats in fact and not merely in words, they would further the revolution and not compromise with the capitalists, not talk about peace without annexations and indemnities but abolish annexations by Russia, and declare in so many words that they consider all annexations criminal and predatory. It would then be possible to avert the imperialist offensive which is threatening death to thousands and millions of people over the partitioning of Persia and the Balkans. The way to peace would then be open, not an easy way—we do not say it is easy—and one which does not preclude a truly revolutionary war.
We do not put this question as Bazarov does in today’s Novaya Zhizn. All we say is that Russia has been placed in such a position that at the end of the imperialist war her tasks are easier than might have been expected. And her geographical position is such that any power would have a hard job on its hands if it risked using capital and its predatory interests and risked rising against the Russian working class and the semi-proletariat associated with it, i.e., the poor peasants. Germany is on the brink of defeat, and since the war was joined by the United States, which wants to swallow up Mexico and which tomorrow will probably start fighting Japan, Germany’s position has become hopeless, and she will be destroyed. France, who suffers more than the others because of her geographical position and whose state of exhaustion is reaching the limit—this country, while not starving as much as Germany, has lost infinitely more people than Germany. Now if the first step were to restrict the profits of the Russian capitalists and deprive them of all possibility of raking in hundreds of millions in profits, if you were to propose to all nations a peace treaty directed against the capitalists of all countries and openly declare that you will not enter into any negotiations or relations with the German capitalists and with those who abet them directly or indirectly or are involved with them, and that you refuse to speak with the French and British capitalists, then you would be acting to condemn them in the eyes of the workers. You would not regard it as a victory that a passport has been issued to MacDonald, a man who has never waged a revolutionary struggle against capital and who is being allowed to come because he has never expressed the ideas, principles, practice or experience of the revolutionary struggle against the British capitalists, a struggle for which our Comrade MacLean and hundreds of other British socialists are in prison, and for which our Comrade Liebknecht is confined to a convict prison because he said, "German soldiers, fire on your Kaiser!”
Wouldn’t it be more proper to consign the imperialist capitalists to that penal servitude which most of the Provisional Government members in an expressly reconstituted Third Duma—I don’t know, incidentally, whether it is the Third or the Fourth Duma—are daily preparing for us and promising us and about which the Ministry of Justice is already drafting new Bills? MacLean and Liebknecht—those are the names of socialists who are putting the idea of a revolutionary struggle against imperialism into practice. That is what we must say to all governments if we want to fight for peace. We must condemn them before their people. You will then put all the imperialist governments in a difficult position. But now you have complicated your own position by addressing your Peace Manifesto of March 14 to the people and saying, "Overthrow your tsars, your kings and your bankers!" while we who possess an organisation unprecedentedly rich in number, experience and material strength, the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, join a bloc with our bankers, institute a coalition, near-socialist government, and draft the kind of reforms that have been drafted in Europe for decades. People there in Europe laugh at this kind of peace struggle. There they will understand it only when the Soviets take power and act in a revolutionary way.
Only one country in the world can at the moment take steps to stop the imperialist war on a class scale, in the face of the capitalists and without a bloody revolution. Only one country can do it, and that country is Russia. And she will remain the only one as long as the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies exists. The Soviet cannot exist long side by side with the ordinary type of Provisional Government, and will remain what it is only until the offensive is taken. The offensive will be a turning-point in the whole policy of the Russian revolution, that is, it will be a transition from waiting, from paving the way for peace by means of a revolutionary uprising from below, to the resumption of the war. The path that opened up was transition from fraternisation on one front to fraternisation on every front, from spontaneous fraternisation, such as the exchange of a crust of bread with a hungry German worker for a penknife—which is punishable by penal servitude—to conscious fraternisation.
When we take power into our own hands, we shall curb the capitalists, and then the war will not be the kind of war that is being waged now, because the nature of a war is determined by what class wages it, not by what is written on paper. You can write on paper anything you like. But as long as the capitalist class has a majority in the government the war will remain an imperialist war no matter what you write, no matter how eloquent you are, no matter how many near-socialist Ministers you have. Everyone knows that, and everyone can see it. And the cases of Albania, Greece and Persia have shown this so clearly and graphically that I am surprised everyone is attacking our written declaration about the offensive, and no one says a word about specific cases! It is easy to promise Bills, but specific measures are being postponed time and again. It is easy to write a declaration about peace without annexations, but the Albanian, Greek and Persian events took place after the coalition Ministry was formed. After all, it was Dyelo Naroda, not an organ of our Party, but a government organ, a ministerial organ, which said that it is Russian democracy that is being subjected to this humiliation, and that Greece is being strangled. And this very same Milyukov, whom you imagine to be heaven knows who, although he is just an ordinary member of his party—Tereshchenko in no way differs from him—wrote that the pressure exerted on Greece came from Allied diplomats. The war remains an imperialist war, and however much you may desire peace, however sincere your sympathy for the working people and your desire for peace—I am fully convinced that by and large it must be sincere—you are powerless, because the war can only be ended by taking the revolution further. When the revolution began in Russia, a revolutionary struggle for peace from below also began. If you were to take power into your hands, if power were to pass to the revolutionary organisations to be used for combating the Russian capitalists, then the working people of some countries would believe you and you could propose peace. Then our peace would be ensured at least from two sides, by the two nations who are being bled white and whose cause is hopeless—Germany and France. And if circumstances then obliged us to wage a revolutionary war—no one knows, and we do not rule out the possibility—we should say: "We are not pacifists, we do not renounce war when the revolutionary class is in power and has actually deprived the capitalists of the opportunity to influence things in any way, to exacerbate the economic dislocation which enables them to make hundreds of millions." The revolutionary government would explain to absolutely every nation that every nation must be free, and that just as the German nation must not fight to retain Alsace and Lorraine, so the French nation must not fight for its colonies. For, while France is fighting for her colonies, Russia has Khiva and Bokhara, which are also something like colonies. Then the division of colonies will begin. And how are they to be divided? On what basis? According to strength. But strength has changed. The capitalists are in a situation where their only way out is war. When you take over revolutionary power, you will have a revolutionary way of securing peace, namely, by addressing a revolutionary appeal to all nations and explaining your tactics by your own example. Then the way to peace secured by revolutionary means will be open to you, and you will most probably be able to avert the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Then you may be certain that the German and French people will declare in your favour. As for the British, American and Japanese capitalists, even if they wanted a war against the revolutionary working class—whose strength will grow tenfold once the capitalists have been curbed and put down and control has passed into the hands of the working class—even if the American, British and Japanese capitalists wanted a war, the chances would be a hundred to one against them being able to wage it. For peace to be ensured, you will only have to declare that you are not pacifists, that you will defend your republic, your workers’, proletarian democracy, against the German, French and other capitalists.
That is why we attached such fundamental importance to our declaration about the offensive. The time has come for a radical turn in the whole history of the Russian revolution. When the Russian revolution began it was assisted by the imperialist bourgeoisie of Britain who imagined Russia to be something like China or India. Yet, side by side with a government in which the landowners and capitalists now have a majority, the Soviets arose, a representative institution unparalleled and unprecedented anywhere in the world in strength, an institution which you are killing by taking part in a coalition Ministry of the bourgeoisie. In reality, the Russian revolution has made the revolutionary struggle from below against the capitalist governments welcome every where, in all countries, with three times as much sympathy as before. The question is one of advance or retreat. No one can stand still during a revolution. That is why the offensive is a turn in the Russian revolution, in the political and economic rather than the strategic sense. An offensive now means the continuation of the imperialist slaughter and the death of more hundreds of thousands, of millions of people—objectively, irrespective of the will or awareness of this or that Minister, with the aim of strangling Persia and other weak nations. Power transferred to the revolutionary proletariat, supported by the poor peasants, means a transition to revolutionary struggle for peace in the surest and most painless forms ever known to mankind, a transition to a state of affairs under which the power and victory of the revolutionary workers will be ensured in Russia and throughout the world. (Applause from part of the audience.)
II. Speech On The War June 9 (22)[edit source]
First published in Pravda Nos. 95, 96 and 97, July 13, 14 and 15 (June 30, July 1 and 2), 1917
Published according to the Pravda text checked with the verbatim report edited by Lenin
Comrades, allow me, by way of an introduction to an analysis of the war issue, to remind you of two passages in the Manifesto to all countries published by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies on March 14. "The time has come," said the Manifesto, "to begin a resolute struggle against the predatory designs of the governments of all countries. The time has come for the people to take the decision on war and peace into their own hands." Another passage in the Manifesto, addressed to the workers of the Austro-German coalition, reads: "Refuse to serve as tools of conquest and violence in the hands of kings, landowners and bankers." These are the two passages that have been repeated in different wordings in dozens, hundreds and, I should even imagine, thousands of resolutions by Russia’s workers and peasants.
I am sure these two passages show best of all the contradictory and hopelessly complicated position in which the revolutionary workers and peasants find themselves owing to the present policy of the Mensheviks and Narodniks. On the one hand, they support the war. On the other, they belong to classes which have no interest in the predatory designs of the government of any country, and they cannot help saying so. This psychology and ideology, much as it may be vague, is unusually deep-rooted in every worker and peasant. It is realisation that the war is being waged because of the predatory designs of the governments of all countries. But, together with this, it is very vaguely understood, or even not understood at all, that a government, whatever its form, expresses the interests of definite classes and that, therefore, to contrast the government to the people, as the first passage I quoted does, is an awful theoretical muddle, utter political helplessness, and means condemning yourself and the whole of your policy to the shakiest and most unstable position and trend. By exactly the same token, the closing words in the second passage I have quoted—that excellent call, "Refuse to serve as tools of conquest and violence in the hands of kings, landowners and bankers"—are splendid. Only including your own, because if you Russian workers and peasants turn to the workers and peasants of Austria and Germany, whose governments and ruling classes are waging the same kind of predatory war of plunder as the Russian capitalists and bankers, and as those of Britain and France—if you say: "Refuse to serve as tools in the hands of your bankers" but admit your own bankers into the Ministry and give them a seat next to socialist Ministers, you are reducing all your appeals to nothing, and in fact you are refuting your whole policy. Your excellent aspirations or wishes might just as well not exist, for you are helping Russia to wage the very same imperialist war, the very same predatory war. You are coming into conflict with the masses you represent, because these masses will never adopt the capitalist point of view, openly expressed by Milyukov, Maklakov and others, who say: "No idea could be more criminal than that the war is being waged in the interests of capital.”
I wonder whether that idea is criminal. I have no doubt that from the point of view of those who half-exist today and will perhaps no longer exist tomorrow, the idea actually is criminal. But it is the only correct idea. It alone expresses our conception of this war. It alone expresses the interests of the oppressed classes as a struggle against their oppressors. And when we say the war is capitalist and predatory, we must have no illusions—there is not the slightest hint that the crimes of individuals, of individual kings, could have provoked this kind of war.
Imperialism is a definite stage in the development of world capital. Capitalism, which has been developing for decades, created a situation in which a small group of immensely rich countries—there are no more than four: Britain, France, Germany and the U.S.A.—amassed wealth amounting to hundreds of thousands of millions, and concentrated vast power in the hands of the big banks and big capitalists—there are only a couple or half a dozen of them at most in each of these countries—immense power encompassing the whole world, and literally divided the whole globe territorially by setting up colonies. These powers had colonies in every country of the world. They re-divided the globe among themselves economically as well, because concessions, and the threads of finance capital, penetrated into every single part of the globe. This is the basis for annexations. Annexations are not a figment of the imagination. They did not arrive because people who loved liberty unexpectedly became reactionaries. Annexations are nothing but a political expression and political form of the domination of giant banks that has arisen inevitably from capitalism, through no one’s fault, because shares are the basis of banks and because the accumulation of shares is the basis of imperialism. And the big banks, which dominate the whole world through hundreds and thousands of millions in capital and link entire industries with capitalist and monopoly alliances—that is where we have imperialism, which has split the whole world into three groups of immensely rich plunderers.
One group—the first, which is closer to us in Europe—is headed by Britain, and the other two, by Germany and the U.S.A. The other accomplices are compelled to help while capitalist relations persist. Therefore, if you have a clear idea of the essence of the matter, which every oppressed person realises instinctively and which every Russian worker and the vast majority of peasants realise instinctively—if you have a clear idea of it, you will see how laughable is the idea of fighting the war with words, manifestos, leaflets and socialist congresses. It is laughable because the banks are still omnipotent no matter how many declarations you issue, no matter how many political revolutions you carry out—you have overthrown Nicholas Romanov in Russia and have to some extent made her a republic; Russia has taken a gigantic stride forward, and may be said to have overtaken, almost overnight, France, which in different conditions required a hundred years to do as much and yet remained a capitalist country. And the capitalists are still there. They have lost some ground. They did so in 1905 as well, but did that undermine their strength? While this may be new to Russians, in Europe every revolution showed that with every upswing of the revolutionary movement the workers achieved something more than they had before, but capitalist power remained. The struggle against the imperialist war is impossible unless it is a struggle waged by the revolutionary classes against the ruling classes on a world scale. It is not a question of landowners in general. There are landowners in Russia and they play a greater role in Russia than in any other country but they are not the class which brought imperialism into being. It is a question of the capitalist class led by the biggest finance magnates and banks, and there will be no way out of this war until this class, which dominates the oppressed workers allied with the poor peasants, the semi-proletarians, as our programme calls them, until this class is overthrown. The illusion that you can unite the working people of the world by leaflets and appeals to other nations can only come from the narrow Russian outlook, ignorant of how the press in Western Europe, where the workers and peasants are used to political revolutions and have seen dozens of them, laughs at such phrases and appeals. They don’t know that the mass of workers has actually risen in Russia, where most of the workers are absolutely sincere in their faith and condemn the predatory designs of the capitalists of every country and want to see the people freed from the bankers. But they, the Europeans, cannot understand why you, who have an organisation which no one else on earth has, the Soviets of Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which are armed—why you make Ministers of your socialists. After all, you are handing power to the bankers. People abroad accuse you not only of naïveté—this is not the worst—Europeans can no longer understand naïveté in politics, they cannot understand that there are tens of millions of people in Russia who are stirring to life for the first time, and that people in Russia know nothing of the link between the classes and the government, of the link between the government and war. War is a continuation of bourgeois politics, nothing else. The ruling class shapes the country’s policy in war-time as well. War is politics from beginning to end. It is pursuit of the same old aims by these classes using a different method. That is why, when you write in your workers’ and peasants’ appeals “overthrow your bankers", every politically-conscious worker in a European country either laughs at you or cries bitterly over you, saying to himself: "What can we do since people there have overthrown a half-savage idiot and monster of a monarch, the kind we did away with a long time ago—this is the only crime we have committed—and now, with their ’near-socialist’ Ministers, they back the Russian bankers?!”
The bankers remain in power. They pursue a foreign policy through an imperialist war, fully supporting the treaties concluded by Nicholas II in Russia. This is particularly evident in our country. All the principles of Russia’s imperialist foreign policy were predetermined not by the present day capitalists, but by the previous government and Nicholas Romanov whom we have overthrown. He concluded those treaties, they remain secret, and the capitalists cannot publish them because they are capitalists. But no worker or peasant can see his way clear of this tangle because he tells himself: "Since we call for the overthrow of the capitalists in other countries, we must first of all get rid of our own bankers, otherwise nobody will believe in us and nobody will take us seriously. People will say we are naïve Russian savages who put on paper words that are excellent in themselves but lack political substance, or, worse still, they will think us hypocrites. You would see these things in the foreign press if that press, every shade of it, passed freely into Russia across the frontier instead of being stopped by the British and French authorities at Tornea. You would see from a mere selection of quotations from foreign newspapers the glaring contradiction in which you find yourselves. You would see how incredibly ridiculous and erroneous is this idea of fighting the war with socialist-conferences, with agreements with the socialists at congresses. Had imperialism been the fault or crime of individuals, socialism could remain socialism. Imperialism is the final stage of capitalism’s development, a stage at which it has gone as far as to divide the whole world, and two gigantic groups are locked in a life-and-death struggle. You must serve one group or the other, or overthrow both groups. There is no other way. When you reject a separate peace treaty, saying you don’t want to serve the German imperialists, you are perfectly right, and that is why we, too, are against a separate peace treaty. Yet in effect, and in spite of yourselves, you continue to serve the Anglo-French imperialists, who have predatory designs of the kind that the Russian capitalists have translated into treaties with the aid of Nicholas Romanov. We do not know the texts of those treaties, but anyone who has followed political writing and has glanced through at least one book on economics or diplomacy must be familiar with the content of the treaties. Moreover, as far as I can remember, Milyukov wrote in his books about those treaties and promises that they would plunder Galicia, the Straits and Armenia, retain what they had annexed earlier and get plenty of other territories. Everyone knows that, but still the treaties are kept secret, and we are told that if we annul them it will mean breaking with our Allies.
With regard to a separate peace treaty, I have already said there can be no separate peace treaty for us, and our Party resolution leaves not the slightest room for doubt that we reject it as we reject all agreement with the capitalists. To us, a separate peace treaty means coming to terms with the German plunderers, because they are plundering in the same way as the others. Coming to terms with Russian capital within the Russian Provisional Government is the same kind of separate peace treaty. The tsarist treaties remain, and they, too, help to plunder and strangle other peoples. When it is said, "Peace without annexations and indemnities", as every worker and every peasant in Russia should say because life teaches him so, because he has no interest in bank profits and because he wants to live, I reply: Your leaders in the present Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies from the Narodnik and Menshevik parties have become tangled up in that slogan. They have said in their Izvestia that it means retaining the status quo, that is, the pre-war state of affairs, going back to what existed before the war. Isn’t that capitalist peace? And what capitalist peace, too! Since you are putting forward that slogan, you must remember that the course of events may bring your parties to power. That is possible during a revolution, and you will have to do what you say. But if you propose peace without annexations now, the Germans will accept and the British will not, because the British capitalists have not lost an inch of territory but have grabbed plenty in every part of the world. The Germans grabbed a lot too, but they also lost a lot, and not only lost a lot but found themselves up against the U.S.A., a most formidable enemy. If you who propose peace without annexations mean retaining the status quo, you are drifting into a situation in which your proposal will produce a separate peace treaty with the capitalists, because, if you propose that, the German capitalists, being faced by the U.S.A. and Italy with whom they signed treaties in the past, will say: "We shall accept that peace treaty without annexations. It will not be a defeat for us, it will be victory over the U.S.A. and Italy." Objectively, you are drifting into the same kind of separate peace treaty with the capitalists which you accuse us of, because fundamentally you are not breaking—in your policy, in reality, in your practical moves—with those bankers expressing imperialist domination all over the world whom you and your “socialist” Ministers support in the Provisional Government.
You are thereby creating a contradictory and precarious situation for yourselves in which the masses misunderstand you. The masses, who have no interest in annexations, say: "We refuse to fight for any capitalist’s sake." When we are told that this sort of policy can be ended by means of congresses and agreements among the socialists of the world, we reply: "It probably could, if only imperialism were the handiwork of individual criminals; but imperialism is an outgrowth of world capitalism with which the working-class movement is connected.”
Imperialism’s victory is the beginning of an inevitable, unavoidable split of the socialists of all countries into two camps. Anyone who keeps on talking about the socialists as an integral body, as something that can be integral, is deceiving himself and others. The entire course of the war, the two and a half years of it, has been leading to this split—ever since the Basle Manifesto, signed unanimously, which said that imperialist capitalism was at the root of this war. The Basle Manifesto does not say a word about "defence of the fatherland". No other manifesto could have been written before the war, just as today no socialist would propose writing a manifesto about "defence of the fatherland" in the war between Japan and the U.S.A., in which it is not a matter of risking his own skin, his own capitalists and his own Ministers. Draft a resolution for international congresses! You know that war between Japan and the U.S.A. is a foregone conclusion. This war has been brewing for decades. It is no accident. Tactics do not depend on who fires the first shot. That is ridiculous. You know very well that Japanese and U.S. capitalism are equally predatory. There will be talk about "defence of the fatherland" on both sides. It will be a crime or an indication of terrible weakness due to the “defence” of the interests of our capitalist enemies. That is why we say that socialism has been split irrevocably. The socialists have completely departed from socialism—or rather, those who have deserted to their government, their bankers and their capitalists, no matter what they may say against them and however much they may condemn them. Condemnation is beside the point. Sometimes, however, condemnation of the Germans’ backing for their capitalists covers up defence of the same “sin” by the Russians! If you accuse the German social-chauvinists, i.e., people who are socialists in words—many of them may well be socialists at heart—but chauvinists in fact, people who actually defend the dirty, selfish and predatory German capitalists rather than the German people, then don’t defend the British, French and Russian capitalists. The German social-chauvinists are no worse than those in our Ministry who continue the policy of secret treaties, of plunder, and cover this up with pious wishes in which there is much that is kind, and which I admit are absolutely sincere from the point of view of the masses, but in which I do not and cannot see a single word of political truth. It is merely your wish, while the war remains as imperialist and is being waged for the same secret treaties as ever! You are calling on other peoples to overthrow the bankers, yet you are backing your own! When you spoke of peace, you did not say what peace. No one answered us when we pointed out the glaring contradiction in a peace treaty on the basis of the status quo. In your resolution, speaking of peace without annexations, you cannot say that it will not mean retaining the status quo. You cannot say that it will mean retaining the status quo, that is, restoration of the pre-war state of affairs. What will it be, then? Taking the German colonies away from Britain? Try that through peaceful agreements! Everyone will laugh at you. Try to take away from Japan, without a revolution, Kiaochow or the Pacific islands she has grabbed!
You have got yourselves mixed up in hopeless contradictions. When we say "without annexations", we mean that this slogan is only a subordinate part of the struggle against world imperialism. We say we want to liberate all peoples and begin with our own. You talk of war against annexations and of peace without annexations, but in Russia you continue the policy of annexations. That’s simply ridiculous. You and your government, your new Ministers, actually continue the policy of annexations in regard to Finland and the Ukraine. You find fault with the Ukrainian congress and, through your Ministers, prohibit its sittings. Isn’t that annexation? It amounts to a mockery of the rights of a nationality which was tormented by the tsars because its children wanted to speak their mother tongue. That means being afraid of separate republics. From the point of view of the workers and peasants, there is nothing terrible about that. Let Russia be a union of free republics. The workers and peasants will not fight to prevent that. Let every nation be free, and first of all let all the nationalities with which you are making the revolution in Russia be free. By not taking that step, you are condemning yourselves to being "revolutionary democrats" in words while your entire policy is in fact counter-revolutionary.
Your foreign policy is anti-democratic and counter-revolutionary. A revolutionary policy may mean you have to wage a revolutionary war. But that is not inevitable. This point has been dealt with at length by the main speaker, and lately by the newspapers as well. I should very much like to dwell on this point.
What is the practical way out of this war as we see it? We say: the way out of this war lies only through revolution. Support the revolution of the classes oppressed by the capitalists, overthrow the capitalist class in your country and thereby set an example to other countries. That alone is socialism. That alone means fighting the war. Everything else is empty promises, phrase-mongering or pious wishes. Socialism has been split all over the world. You continue to confuse things by associating with socialists who back their governments. You forget that in Britain and Germany, the true socialists, who express the socialism of the masses, are isolated and have been thrown into gaol. Yet they alone express the interests of the proletarian movement. But what if in Russia the oppressed class found itself in power? When asked how we shall break out of the war by ourselves, we answer: you cannot break out of it by yourself. All our Party resolutions and all speakers at our public meetings call it absurd to say you can break out of this war by yourself. This war involves hundreds of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of millions in capital. The only way out is the transfer of power to the revolutionary class which must really break imperialism, its financial, banking and annexationist threads. Until this happens nothing will have been done. The revolution was limited to your getting, in place of tsarism and imperialism, a near-republic which is imperialist through and through and which cannot treat Finland and the Ukraine democratically, i.e., without being afraid of division, even through revolutionary worker and peasant representatives.
It is untrue to say that we are seeking a separate peace treaty. We say: No separate peace treaty with any capitalists, least of all with the Russian capitalists. But the Provisional Government has a separate peace treaty with the Russian capitalists. Down with that separate peace treaty! (Applause.) We recognise no separate peace treaty with the German capitalists and we shall not enter into any negotiations. Nor must there be a separate peace treaty with the British and French imperialists. We are told that to break with them would mean coming to terms with the German imperialists. That is not true. We must break with them immediately because it is an alliance for plunder. It is said that the treaties cannot be published because that would mean showing up the whole of our government and the whole of our policy in the eyes of every worker and peasant. If we were to publish these treaties and plainly tell the Russian workers and peasants at meetings, especially in every remote hamlet: "What you are now fighting for is the Straits, and because they want to keep Armenia," they would all say: "We want no such war." (The Chairman: "Your time is up." Voices: "Let him speak.") I ask for ten minutes more. (Voices: "Let him speak.")
I say that this contrast—"either with the British or with the German imperialists"—is wrong. It implies that if we make peace with the German imperialists we must fight the British, and vice versa. This contrasting suits those who are not breaking with their capitalists and bankers, and who accept any alliance with them. But it doesn’t suit us. We speak of our defending the alliance with the oppressed class, with the oppressed people. Remain loyal to this alliance, and then you will be revolutionary democrats. It’s no easy task. This task will not let you forget that under certain circumstances we shall be unable to do without a revolutionary war. No revolutionary class can rule out revolutionary war, or it will doom itself to ridiculous pacifism. We are not Tolstoyans. If the revolutionary class takes power, if its state keeps no annexed territories, and if no power is left to the banks and big capital, which is not easy to do in Russia, then that class will be waging a revolutionary war in reality and not merely in words. You cannot rule out this kind of war. That would mean succumbing to the Tolstoyan philosophy and to philistinism, forgetting the whole of Marxist science and the experience of all European revolutions.
You cannot pull Russia alone out of the war. But she is winning more and more great allies who do not believe you now because your attitude is contradictory or naïve, and because you advise other peoples to "end annexations" while introducing them in your own country. You tell other peoples to overthrow the bankers. Yet you do not overthrow your own. Try another policy. Publish the treaties and show them up in front of every worker and peasant and at public meetings Say: No peace with the German capitalists, and a complete break with the Anglo-French capitalists. Let the British get out of Turkey and stop fighting for Baghdad. Let them get out of India and Egypt. We refuse to fight for the retention of booty that has been seized, just as we shall not put an ounce of energy into helping the German plunderers to keep their booty. If you do that—so far you have only talked about it, and in politics words are not credited, which is just as well—if you do that, and talk about it, then the allies you now have will show what they can do. Think of the mood of every oppressed worker and peasant. They sympathise with you and regret that you are so weak you leave the bankers alone even though you have arms. It is the oppressed workers of the world that are your allies. It will be just what the revolution of 1905 showed in practice. It was tremendously weak at first. But what is its international effect? How did that policy, and the history of 1905, shape the foreign policy of the Russian revolution? Today you are conducting the Russian revolution’s whole foreign policy with the capitalists. Yet 1905 showed what the Russian revolution’s foreign policy should be like. It is an indisputable fact that October 17, 1905, was followed by mass unrest and barricade-building in the streets of Vienna and Prague. After 1905 came 1908 in Turkey, 1909 in Persia and 1910 in China. If, instead of compromising with the capitalists, you call on the truly revolutionary democrats, the working class, the oppressed, you will have as allies the oppressed classes instead of the oppressors, and the nationalities which are now being rent to pieces instead of the nationalities in which the oppressing classes now temporarily predominate.
We have been reminded of the German front where the only change we proposed is the unrestricted dissemination of our appeals written in Russian on one side of the sheet and German on the reverse. In them we say: The capitalists of both countries are robbers. To get them out of the way would be merely a step towards peace. But there are other fronts. I don’t know how strong our army is on the Turkish front. Let us assume it is roughly three million strong. It would be better if that army, which is now kept in Armenia and is carrying out annexations that you tolerate while preaching peace without annexations to other peoples, although you have strength and authority—if that army adopted this programme, and if it made Armenia an independent Armenian republic and gave her the money which the financiers of Britain and France take from us.
It is said that we cannot do without the financial support of Britain and France. But this support “supports” us like the rope supporting a hanged man. Let the Russian revolutionary class say: down with that support, I refuse to recognise debts contracted with the French and British capitalists, and I call for a general revolt against the capitalists. No peace treaty with the German capitalists and no alliance with the British and French! If this policy were actually pursued, our army fighting the Turks could be released and sent to other fronts, because all Asian peoples would see that the Russian people do not merely proclaim peace without annexations on the basis of self-determination but that the Russian worker and peasant are in fact placing themselves at the head of all oppressed nationalities, and that with them, the struggle against imperialism is not a pious wish nor a high-flown ministerial phrase but a matter of vital concern to the revolution.
As we stand now, a revolutionary war may threaten us, but this war is not bound to take place, since the British imperialists will hardly be able to wage war against us if you act as a practical example to the peoples surrounding Russia. Prove that you are liberating the Armenian republic and reaching agreement with the Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies in every country, that you are for a free republic, and then the Russian revolution’s foreign policy will become really revolutionary and really democratic. At present it is that only in words. In reality it is counter-revolutionary, because you are bound hand and foot by the Anglo-French imperialists and refuse to say so openly, you are afraid to admit it. Instead of issuing that appeal "to overthrow foreign bankers", you would have done better to tell the Russian people, the workers and peasants, in so many words: "We are too weak, we cannot throw off the tyranny of the Anglo-French imperialists, we are their slaves and are therefore fighting." It would have been a bitter truth that would have been of revolutionary significance. It would actually have brought this predatory war closer to its end. That means a thousand times more than an agreement with the French and British social-chauvinists, than the convening of congresses which they would agree to attend, than the continuation of this policy by which you are actually afraid to break with the imperialists of one country while remaining the allies of another. You can draw on the support of the oppressed classes of Europe, of the oppressed people of the weaker countries which Russia strangled under the tsars and which she is still strangling now, as she is strangling Armenia. With their support, you can bring freedom by helping their workers’ and peasants’ committees. You would put yourselves at the head of all the oppressed classes, all oppressed peoples, in the war against the German and British imperialists, who cannot join forces against you because they are locked in a life-and-death struggle against each other, and because they are in a hopeless position, in which the Russian revolution’s foreign policy, a sincere and real alliance with the oppressed classes, the oppressed peoples, can be successful it has 99 chances in 100 of being successful!
Recently we read in our Moscow Party newspaper a letter from a peasant commenting on our programme. I should like to bring my speech to a close with a brief quotation from that letter, showing what a peasant makes of our programme. The letter was printed in No. 59 of Sotsial-Demokrat,our Moscow Party newspaper, and was reprinted in Pravda No. 68.
“We must," says the letter, "press the bourgeoisie harder to make them burst at the seams. Then the war will be over. But things will turn out badly if we don’t press the bourgeoisie hard enough." (Applause.)
- K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1965, p. 395.
- Lenin is referring to the resolutions of the Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP(b), held in Petrograd from April 24 to 29 (May 7–12), 1917 (see The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Meetings of the CC, 7th ed., Part I, 1954, pp. 332–53 [in Russian]).
- Novaya Zhizn (New Life)—a daily newspaper of a Menshevik trend published by a group of Social-Democrats who called themselves “internationalists”. The group comprised the Mensheviks who supported Martov, and certain intellectuals with semi-Menshevik leanings. It vacillated continuously between the conciliators and the Bolsheviks.
Novaya Zhizn appeared in Petrograd from April 1917. After the October Revolution it adopted a hostile attitude to the Soviet state. It was closed down in July 1918.
- Lenin has in mind the British Government issuing a passport to Ramsay MacDonald, the British Independent Labour Party leader, who was invited to Russia by the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The trip was frustrated by the British Seamen’s Union, which refused to man the ship in which MacDonald was to sail to Russia.
- In June 1917 Italy overran Albania and proclaimed her independence under Italy’s virtual protectorate.
In Greece, a coup d’état was carried out under the pressure of Britain and France. By launching an economic blockade that caused a terrible famine, and by occupying a number of Greek provinces, the Allies forced King Constantine to abdicate, and put Venizelos, their adherent, in power. Greece was dragged into the war on the side of the Entente, contrary to the will of the vast majority of her people.
During the First World War Persia (Iran) was occupied by British and Russian troops. By early 1917 Persia, having lost all independence, was occupied by the Russians in the north and the British in the south.
Provisional Government diplomats backed all these acts of imperialist tyranny.
- Reference is to the declaration which the bureau of the Bolshevik group and the bureau of the united internationalist Social– Democrats made at the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets. They demanded that the Congress first of all discuss the offensive at the front for which the Provisional Government was preparing. The declaration pointed out that the offensive was being imposed by the magnates of the imperialist Allies and that the Russian counter-revolutionaries expected thereby to concentrate power in the hands of the military-diplomatic and capitalist groups, and to deliver a blow to the revolutionary fight for peace and to the positions gained by the Russian democrats. The declaration warned the working class, the armed forces and the peasants of the danger threatening the country, and called on the Congress to immediately repel the counter-revolutionaries’ onslaught.
The Congress rejected the proposal made by the bureau of the RSDLP(b) group.
- Dyelo Naroda (People’s Cause)—an S.R. daily published in Petrograd between March 1917 and Juno 1918. It changed its title several times. It adopted a defencist and conciliatory stand and supported the bourgeois Provisional Government. Its publication was resumed in Samara in October 1918 (three issues were brought out) and in Moscow in March 1919 (ten issues). The paper was closed down the same year for its counter-revolutionary trend.
- Lenin described as Narodniks three petty-bourgeois parties of a Narodnik type: the Trudoviks, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Popular Socialists.
- Allusion is to the prohibition of the All-Ukraine Army Congress by Kerensky, the Provisional Government’s War Minister. Despite the ban, the Congress sat from June 5–12 (18–25), 1917, in Kiev. It was attended by some 2,000 delegates. It passed the “Universal Act” on the autonomy of the Ukraine, published by the Ukrainian Central Rada.
The counter-revolutionary policies of the Provisional Government and the Menshevik and S.R. parties towards the Ukraine were denounced by Lenin in the articles “The Ukraine” and “The Ukraine and the Defeat of the Ruling Parties of Russia” (see pp. 91–92 and 99–102 of this volume).
- Reference is to the tsar’s Manifesto of October 17, 1905, promising “civil liberties” and a “legislative” Duma. The Manifesto was a concession wrested from the tsarist regime by the revolution. The autocracy wanted to gain time, split the revolutionary forces, foil the All-Russia Strike and crush the revolution. The Bolsheviks exposed this political manoeuvre. On October 18 (31), 1905, the CC RSDLP issued the appeal “To the Russian People” revealing the spurious character of the tsar’s Manifesto and calling on the working people to continue their revolutionary struggle.
- The Russian revolution of 1905–07 gave rise to revolutionary movements among the peoples of the East. In 1908 a bourgeois revolution broke out in Turkey. In 1900 there was a bourgeois revolution in Persia, resulting in the overthrow of the shah in 1909. The year 1910 saw the rise of a revolutionary movement in China against the feudal lords and foreign imperialists. The movement led to a revolution, and to the establishment of a bourgeois republic in December 1911.
- Pravda (The Truth)—a Bolshevik daily newspaper published legally. Its first issue appeared in St. Petersburg on April 22 (May 5), 1912.
Lenin, who guided Pravda ideologically, contributed to the paper almost daily. He gave recommendations to its editors with a view to making it a militant revolutionary paper.
A substantial part of the Party’s organising work was done through Pravda, Conferences with representatives of local Party cells were held in its offices, which also received information on Party work in factories and passed on directives of the Party’s Central and Petrograd Committees.
Pravda was doggedly persecuted by the police and was closed down on July 8 (21), 1914.
It did not resume publication until after the February bourgeois-democratic revoluion of 1917. = From March 5 (18), 1917, onwards it was brought out as a paper of the Central and Petrograd Committees of the RSDLP
Upon his arrival in Petrograd Lenin joined the editorial board, and Pravda launched a campaign for his plan to bring about the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.
From July to October 1917 the paper, being persecuted by the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government, had to change its title more than once. It appeared as Listok “Pravdy”, Proletary, Rabochy and Rabochy Put. Since the victory of the October Socialist Revolution it has been published—beginning with October 27 (November 9), 1917—under its original title, Pravda.
Pravda holds a prominent place in the history of the Bolshevik press. The generation of advanced workers it educated played an outstanding part in the October Revolution and in socialist construction. Pravda was the first mass paper of the working class to be published legally. It marked a new stage in the development of the press of Russia’s working class and the world proletariat.
The day when the first issue of Pravda appeared has been celebrated as the workers’ Press Day ever since 1914.