Fourth Conference Of Trade Unions and Factory Committees Of Moscow
|Written||27 June 1918|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, Volume 27, pages 457-491
Fourth Conference of Trade Unions and Factory Commitlee of Moscow was held from June 27 to July 2, 1918. It was attended by 472 delegates with a vote and 71 with a voice but no vote; 341 of them were Communists, 34 Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, 24 Mensheviks, 9 Right S.R.s, and 64 non-party people and representatives of other groups. The Conference considered the food situation; universal military training and mobilisation; labour discipline; work of the labour exchange;rules of the factory committees, etc. Lenin delivered a report on the vital question of food suptly. The Conference passed a resolution based on the draft propose by Lenin. In spite of opposition from the Mensheviks and S.R.s, the Conference approved the resolutions moved by the Communist group on all questions.
June 27-July 2, 1918
I. Report On The Current Situation[edit source]
June 27, 1918
Comrades, you all know, of course, of the great disaster that has befallen our country, namely, famine. Before discussing the measures to be adopted to combat this disas-ter, which has now become more acute than ever, we must first of all discuss its main causes. In discussing this ques-tion we must say to ourselves, and remember, that this disaster has befallen not only Russia, but all, even the most cultured, advanced and civilised countries.
In Russia, where the overwhelming majority of the peasantry were ruined and oppressed by the yoke of the tsars, the landowners and capitalists, famine more than once in the past few decades affected whole regions of our agrarian country. And it has affected us particularly now, during the revolution. But this disaster reigns also in the West-European countries. Many of these countries had not known what famine was for decades and even centuries, so highly was agriculture developed there, and to such an extent were those European countries which could not produce a sufficient supply of grain of their own assured of an enormous quantity of imported grain. But now, in the twentieth century, side by side with still greater progress in technology, side by side with wonderful inventions, side by side with the wide application of machinery and electricity, of modern internal combustion engines in agriculture, side by side with all this we now see this same disaster of famine advancing upon the people in all European countries without exception. It would seem that despite civilisation, despite culture, the countries are once again returning to primitive savagery, are again experiencing a situation when morals deteriorate and people become brutalised in the struggle for a crust of bread. What has caused this return to savagery in a number of European countries, in the majority of them? We all know that it has been caused by the imperialist war, by the war which has been torturing humanity for four years, a war which has already cost the peoples more, far more than ten million young lives, a war which was called forth by the avarice of the capitalists, a war which is being waged to decide which of the great rob-bers-the British or the German-shall rule the world, acquire colonies and strangle the small nations.
This war, which has affected almost the whole of the globe, which has destroyed not less than ten million lives, not counting the millions of maimed, crippled and sick, this war which, in addition, has torn millions of the health-iest and best forces from productive labour-this war has reduced humanity to a state of absolute savagery. What numerous socialist writers foresaw as the worst, most pain-ful and most unbearable end of capitalism has come to pass. They said: capitalist society, based on the private owner-ship of the land, the factories and tools by a handful of capitalists, of monopolists, will be transformed into social-ist society, which alone is capable of putting an end to war, because the “civilised”, “cultured” capitalist world is heading for unprecedented bankruptcy, which is capable of undermining and will inevitably undermine all the founda-tions of cultured life. I repeat, we see famine not only in Russia, but in the most cultured, advanced countries, like Germany, where the productivity of labour is incomparably greater, which can supply the world with more than a sufficiency of technical appliances, and which, still maintain-ing free intercourse with remote countries, can supply her population with food. The famine there is incomparably better “organised”, it is spread over a longer period than in Russia, but it is famine nevertheless, still more severe and more painful than here. Capitalism has led to such a severe and painful disaster that it is now perfectly clear to all that the present war cannot end without a number of most severe and bloody revolutions, of which the Russian revolution was only the first, only the beginning.
You have iiow received news to the effect. that in Virnns, for example, an Arbeiterrat has been established for the second time, and for the second time the working population have come out on an almost general mass strike. We hear that in cities like Berlin, which up to now have been models of capitalist order, culture and civilisation, it is becoming dangerous to go out into the street after dark, because, in spite of the very severe measures and the very strict guard that is kept, the war and famine have reduced people to such a state of absolute savagery, have led to such anarchy, have roused such indignation, that not merely the sale, but downright looting, an actual war for a crust of bread, is becoming the order of the day in all cultured, civilised countries. Hence, ’comrades, since a painful and difficult situation has been created in our country as a consequence of the famine, we must explain to the few absolutely blind and ignorant people (though few, they do still exist) the main and principal causes of the famine. We can still meet people in our country who argue in this way: but under the tsar we had bread; the revolution has come and there is no bread. Naturally, it is quite possible that for some old village women the development of history during the past ten years is summed up entirely by the fact that formerly there was bread and now there is none. This is comprehensible, because famine is a disaster which sweeps away all other questions, which takes its place as the cornerstone, and overrules everything else. But it goes without saying that our task, the task of the class-conscious workers, is to explain to the broad masses, to explain to all the representatives of the working masses in town and country the principal cause of the famine; for unless we explain this we shall not be able to create a proper attitude either among ourselves or among the representatives of the working masses, we shall not be able to create a proper understanding of its harmfulness and we shall not be able to create that firm determination and temper that is required to combat this disaster. If we remember that this disaster was caused by the imperialist war, that today even the richest countries are experiencing unprecedented food shortages and that the o,,,erwlielrriing majority of the working masses are suffering incredible torture; if we remember that for four years already this imperialist war has been compelling the workers of the various countries to shed their blood for the benefit of the greedy capitalists, and if we remember that the longer the war lasts, the fewer become the ways out of it, we will understand what gigantic, immense forces will have to be set moving.
The war has lasted nearly four years. Russia has come out of the war, and owing to the fact that she has come out of the war alone she has found herself between two gangs of imperialist plunderers, each of which is clutching at her, strangling her and taking advantage of her temporary defencelessness and lack of arms. The war has already lasted four years. The German imperialist plunderers have achieved a number of victories and continue to deceive their workers, a section of whom, bribed by the bourgeoisie, have deserted to the side of the German imperialists and continue to repeat the despicable lie about the defence of the fatherland when as a matter of fact the German soldiers are defending the selfish predatory interests of the German capitalists who have promised them that Germany will bring peace and prosperity. Actually we see that the more extensive Germany’s victories become the more the hopelessness of her position is revealed.
When the forced, exploiters’ peace of Brest, a peace based upon violence and the oppression of peoples, was concluded, Germany, the German capitalists boasted that they would give the workers bread and peace. But now they are reducing the bread ration in Germany. It is universally admitted that the food campaign in the rich Ukraine has been a failure. In Austria the situation has again reached the stage of hunger riots, of nation-wide outbursts of indignation, because the more Germany is victorious the clearer it becomes to all, even to many representatives of the big bourgeoisie in Germany, that the war is hopeless. They are beginning to realise that even if the Germans are able to maintain their resistance on the Western front it will not bring the end of the war any nearer but will create another enslaved country which will have to be occupied by German troops and make it necessary to continue the war; and this will lead to the disintegration of the German army, which is being transformed from an army into a gang of plunderers violating foreign peoples, unarmed peoples, and extracting from their countries the last remnants of food supplies and raw materials in the face of tremendous resistance from the population. The closer Germany approaches the outer frontiers of Europe the clearer it becomes that she is confronted by Britain and America, which are far more developed than she is, which have greater productive forces, which have had time to dispatch tens of thousands of the best new forces to Europe, and to transform all their machines and factories into instruments of destruction. The war is receiving fresh fuel, and that means that every year, nay every month, sees the further extension of this war. There is no other way out of this war except revolution, except civil war, except the transformation of the war between capitalists for profits, for the sharing of the loot, for the strangulation of small countries, into a war of the oppressed against the oppressors, a war which always accompanies not only great revolutions but every serious revolution in history, a war which is the only war that is legitimate and just, a holy war from the point of view of the interests of the working people, of the oppressed and of the exploited masses. (Applause.) Without such a war there can be no liberation from imperialist slavery. We must be perfectly clear in our minds about the new disasters that civil war brings for every country. The more cultured a country is the more serious will be these disasters. Let us picture to ourselves a country possessing machinery and railways in which civil war is raging, and this civil war cuts off communication between the various parts of the country. Picture to yourselves the condition of regions which for decades have been accustomed to living by the interchange of manufactured goods and you will understand that every civil war brings fresh disasters, which the great socialists foresaw. The imperialists doom the working class to disaster, suffering and extinction. Intolerable and painful as all this may be for the whole of mankind, it is becoming clearer and clearer every day to the new socialist society that the imperialists will not be able to put an end to the war which they started; other classes will end it—the working class, which in all countries is becoming more and more active every day, more and more angry and indignant, and which, irrespective of sentiments and moods, the force of circumstances is compelling to overthrow, the rule of the capitalists. We, in Russia, are particularly affected by the disaster of famine and are passing through a period more difficult than has ever been experienced by any revolution, and we cannot count on immediate aid from our West-European comrades. The whole difficulty of the Russian revolution is that it was much easier for the Russian revolutionary working class to start than it is for the West-European classes, but it is much more difficult for us to continue. It is more difficult to start a revolution in West-European countries because there the revolutionary proletariat is opposed by the higher thinking that comes with culture, and the working class is in a state of cultural slavery.
Meanwhile, because of our international position, we must pass through an incredibly difficult time, and we representatives of the working masses, we workers, class-conscious workers, in all our agitation and propaganda, in every speech we deliver, in every appeal we issue, in our talks in the factories and at every meeting with peasants, must explain that the disaster, that has befallen us is an international disaster and that there is no other way out of it except world revolution. Since we must pass through such a painful period in which we temporarily stand alone, we must exert all our efforts to bear the difficulties of this period staunchly, knowing that in the last analysis we are not alone, that the disaster which we are experiencing is creeping upon every European country, and that not one of these countries will be able to extricate itself except by a series of revolutions.
Russia has been afflicted by famine, which has been made more acute by the fact that the imposed peace has deprived her of the most fertile grain-bearing gubernias, and it has also been made more acute by the fact that the old food campaign is drawing to a close. We still have several weeks to go before the next harvest, which will undoubtedly be a rich one; and these few weeks will be a very difficult period of transition which, being a difficult one generally, is rendered still more critical by the fact that in Russia the deposed exploiting classes of landowners and capitalists are doing all they can, are exerting every effort to restore their power. This is one of the main reasons why the grain-bearing gubernias of Siberia are cut off from us as a result of the Czechoslovak mutiny. But we know very well what forces are behind this revolt, we know very well that the Czechoslovak soldiers are declaring to the representatives of our troops, of our workers and of our peasants, that they do not want to fight against Russia and against the Russian Soviet government, that they only want to make their way by force of arms to the frontier. But at their head stand yesterday’s generals, landowners and capitalists, who are financed by the British and the French and enjoy the support of Russian traitors to socialism who have deserted to the side of the bourgeoisie. (Applause.)
The whole gang of them is taking advantage of the famine to make another attempt to restore the landowners and the capitalists to power. Comrades, the experience of our revolution confirms the correctness of the words which always distinguish the representatives of scientific socialism, Marx and his followers, from the utopian socialists, from the petty-bourgeois socialists, from the socialist intellectuals and from the socialist dreamers. The intellectual dreamers, the petty-bourgeois socialists, thought, and perhaps still think, or dream, that it is possible to introduce socialism by persuasion. They think that the majority of the people will be convinced, and when they become convinced the minority will obey; that the majority will vote and socialism will be introduced. (Applause.) No, the world is not built so happily; the exploiters, the brutal landowners, the capitalist class are not amenable to persuasion. The socialist revolution confirms what everybody has seen—the furious resistance of the exploiters. The stronger the pressure of the oppressed classes becomes, the nearer they come to overthrowing all oppression, all exploitation, the more resolutely the oppressed peasantry and the oppressed workers display their own initiative, the more furious does the resistance of the exploiters become.
We are passing through a very severe and very painful period of transition from capitalism to socialism, a period which will inevitably be a very long one in all countries because, I repeat, the oppressors retaliate to every success achieved by the oppressed class by fresh attempts at resistance, by attempts to overthrow the power of the oppressed class. The Czechoslovak mutiny, which is obviously being supported by Anglo-French imperialism in the pursuit of its policy of overthrowing the Soviet government, illustrates what this resistance can be. We see that this mutiny is, of course, spreading because of the famine. It is understandable that among the broad masses of the toilers there are many (you know this particularly well; every one of you sees this in the factories) who are not enlightened socialists and cannot be such because they have to slave in the factories and they have neither the time nor the opportunity to become socialists. It is understandable that these people should be in sympathy when they see the workers coming to the fore in the factory, when they see that these workers obtain the opportunity to learn the art of managing facto~. riesa diffi cult and exacting task in which mistakes are inevitable,.’ but the only task in which the workers can at last realise their constant striving to make the machines, the factories, the works, the best of modern techniques, the best achievements of humanity serve not purposes of exploitation, but the purpose of improving and easing the lives of the overwhelming majority. But when they see the imperialist plunderers in the West, in the North and in the East taking advantage of Russia’s defencelessness to tear her heart out, and since they do not yet know what the situation in the labour movement will be in other countries, of course they are guided by despair. Nor can it be otherwise. It would be ridiculous to expect and foolish to think that capitalist society, based on exploitation, could at one stroke create a complete appreciation of the need for socialism and an understanding of it. This cannot be. This appreciation comes only at the end of the struggle which has to be waged in this painful period, in which one revolution has broken out before the rest and gets no assistance from the others, and when famine approaches. Naturally, certain strata of the toilers are inevitably overcome by despair and indignation and turn away in disgust from everything. Naturally, the counter-revolutionaries, the landowners and capitalists, and their protectors and henchmen, take advantage of this situation for the purpose of. launching attack alter attack upon the socialist government.
We see what this has led to in all the towns where no assistance was given by foreign bayonets. We know that it was possible to defeat the Soviet government only when those people who had shouted so much about defending the fatherland and about their patriotism revealed their capitalist nature and concluded agreements, one day with the German bayonets in order jointly with them to massacre the Ukrainian Bolsheviks, the next day with the Turkish bayonets in order to march against the Bolsheviks, the day after that with the Czechoslovak bayonets in order to overthrow the Soviet government and massacre the Bolsheviks in Samara. Foreign aid alone, the aid of foreign bayonets alone, the selling out of Russia to Japanese, German and Turkish bayonets alone, have up to now given some show of success to the landowners and to those who have compromised with the capitalists. But we know that when, owing to the famine and the despair of the masses, rebellions of this sort broke out in districts where the aid of foreign bayonets could not be obtained, as was the case in Saratov, Kozlov and Tambov, the rule of the landowners, the capitalists and their friends who camouflaged themselves with the beautiful slogans of the Constituent Assembly lasted not more than days, if not hours. The further the units of the Soviet army were from the centre temporarily occupied by the counter-revolution, the more determined was the movement among the urban workers, the more initiative these workers and peasants displayed in marching to the aid of Saratov, Penza and Kozlov and in immediately overthrowing the rule of the counter-revolution which had been established.
Comrades, if you examine these events from the point of view of all that is taking place in world history, if you bear in mind that your task, our common task, is to explain to ourselves and to explain to the masses that these great disasters have not befallen us accidentally, but first as a result of the imperialist war, and secondly as a result of the furious resistance of the landowners, the capitalists and the exploiters, if we are clear about this we can be certain that, however difficult it may be, the full appreciation of this will spread wider and wider among the masses and we shall succeed in creating discipline, in overcoming the indiscipline in our factories, and in helping the people to live through this painful and particularly difficult period, which perhaps will last the month or two, the few weeks that still remain until the new harvest.
You know that, as a consequence of the Czechoslovak counter-revolutionary mutiny, which has cut us off from Siberia, as a consequence of the continuous unrest in the South, and as a consequence of the war, the position in Russia today Is particularly difficult; but it goes without saying that the more difficult the position of our country in which famine is approaching becomes, the more determined and firm must be the measures that we adopt to combat this famine. One of the principal measures to combat the famine is the establishment of the grain monopoly. In this connection you will know perfectly well from your own experience that the kulaks, the rich, are raising an outcry against the grain monopoly at every step. This can be understood, because in those places where the grain monopoly was temporarily abolished, as Skoropadsky abolished it in Kiev, profiteering reached unprecedented dimensions; there the price of a pood of grain rose to two hundred rubles. Naturally, when there is a shortage of goods without which it is impossible to live, the owners of such goods can become rich, prices rise to unprecedented heights. Naturally, the horror, the panic created by the fear of death from starvation forced prices up to unprecedented heights, and in Kiev they had to think of restoring the monopoly. Here in Russia, long ago, even before the Bolsheviks came to power, notwithstanding the wealth of grain that Russia possessed, the government realised the necessity of introducing the grain monopoly. Only those who are absolutely ignorant, or who have deliberately sold themselves to the interests of the moneybags, can be opposed to it. (Applause.)
But, comrades, when we speak of the grain monopoly we must think of the enormous difficulties of realisation that are contained in this phrase. It is quite easy to say “grain monopoly”, but we must ponder over what this phrase means. It means that all surplus grain belongs to the state; it means that every single pood of grain over and above that required by the peasant for his farm, to maintain his family and cattle and for sowing, that every extra pood of grain must be taken by the state. How is this to be done? The state must fix prices; every surplus pood of grain must be found and brought in. How can the peasant, whose mind has been stultified for hundreds of years, who has been robbed and beaten to stupefaction by the landowners and capitalists, who never allowed him to eat his fill, how can this peasant learn to appreciate in a few weeks or a few months what the grain monopoly means? How can millions of people who up to now have known the state only by its oppression, its violence, by the tyranny and robbery of the government officials, how can these peasants, living in remote villages and doomed to ruin, be made to understand what the rule of the workers and peasants means, be made to understand that power is in the hands of the poor, that to hoard grain, possess surplus grain and not hand it over to the state is a crime, and that those who hoard surplus grain are robbers, exploiters, and guilty of causing terrible starvation among the workers of Petrograd, Moscow, etc.? How can the peasant understand these things, considering that up to now he has been kept in ignorance and that the only thing he has been concerned with in the village is tose11 his grain? How can he understand these things? It is not surprising that when we examine this question more closely, from the point of view of practical life, we realise what an.enormously difficult task it is to introduce a grain monopoly in a country in which tsarism and the landowners held the majority of the peasants in ignorance, in a country in which the peasantry have sown grain on their own land for the first time in many centuries. (Applause.)
But the more difficult this task is, the greater it appears to be upon close and careful study, the more clearly must we say to ourselves what we have always said, namely, that the emancipation of the workers must be performed by the workers themselves. We have always said: the emancipation of the working people from oppression cannot be brought from outside; the working people themselves, by their struggle, by their movement, by their agitation, must learn to solve a new historical problem,; and the more difficult, the greater, the more responsible this new historical problem is, the larger must be the number of those enlisted for the purpose of taking an independent part in solving it. No class consciousness, no organisation is required to sell grain to a merchant, to a trader. To do that one must live as the bourgeoisie has ordered. One must merely be an obedient slave and imagine and admit that the world as built by the bourgeoisie is magnificent. But in order to overcome this capitalist chaos, in order to introduce the grain monopoly, in order to ensure that every surplus pood of grain is transferred to the state, there must be prolonged, difficult and strenuous organisational work, not by organisers, not by agitators, but by the masses themselves.
There are such people in the Russian countryside. The majority of the peasants belong to the category of the very poor and poor peasants who are not in a position to trade in grain surpluses and become robbers hoarding perhaps hundreds of poods of grain while others are starving. But today, the situation is that a peasant will perhaps call himself a working peasant (some people like this term very much); but if such a peasant has by his own labour, even without the aid of hired labour, harvested hundreds of poods of grain and calculates that if he keeps this grain he will be able to get more than six rubles, from a profiteer, or from a starving urban worker who has come with his starving family and may offer two hundred rubles a pood—such a peasant, who hoards hundreds of poods of grain in order to raise the price and get even a hundred rubles a pood, cannot be called a working peasant, he becomes transformed into an exploiter, into someone worse than a robber. What must we do under these circumstances? Whom can we rely upon in our struggle? We know that the Soviet revolution and the Soviet government differ from other revolutions and other governments not only because they have overthrown the power of the landowners and the capitalists, not only because they have destroyed the feudal state, the autocracy, but also because the masses have rebelled against all the bureaucrats and created a new state in which power must belong to the workers and peasants—not only must, but already does belong to them. In this state there are no police, no bureaucrats and no standing army kept in barracks for many years, isolated from the people and trained to shoot the people.
We place arms in the hands of the workers and peasants, who must learn the art of war. There are units who give way to temptation, vice and crime because they are not separated by a Chinese Wall from the world of oppression, from the world of starvation, in which those who have want to enrich themselves out of what they have. That is why very often we see detachments of class-conscious workers leaving Petrograd and Moscow and, on reaching the district to which they have been sent, going astray and becoming criminals. We see the bourgeoisie clapping their hands in delight and filling the columns of their corrupt press with all sorts of bogies to frighten the people. “See what your detachments are like,”they say, “what disorder they are creating, how much better our detachments of private capitalists behaved”.
No, thank you, bourgeois gentlemen! You will not frighten us. You know very well that recovery from the misfortunes and ulcers of the capitalist world will not come all at once. And we know that recovery will come only through struggle; we will expose every incident of this kind, not to provide material for the counter-revolutionary Mensheviks and Constitutional-Democrats to smile and gloat over, but in order to teach wider masses of the people. Since our detachments do not fulfil their duties properly, give us more loyal and class-conscious detachments far exceeding the number of those who gave way to temptation. These must be organised and educated; exploited and starving workers who are not class-conscious must be rallied around every class-conscious worker. The rural poor must be roused, educated and shown that the Soviet government will do all it possibly can to help them, so as to carry out the grain monopoly.
And so, when we approached this task, when the Soviet government stated these questions clearly, it said: comrades, workers, organise, rally the food detachments, combat every case in which these detachments show that they are not equal to their duties, organise more strongly and rectify your mistakes, rally the village poor around you! The kulaks know that their last hour has struck, that their enemy is advancing not merely with sermons, words and phrases, but by organising the village poor; and if we succeed in organising the village poor we shall vanquish the kulaks. The kulaks know that the hour of the last, most determined, most desperate battle for socialism is approaching. This struggle seems to be only a struggle for bread, but as a matter of fact it is a struggle for socialism. If the worers learn to solve these problems independently—no one will come to their aind if they learn to rally the village poor around them, they will achieve victory, they will have bread and the proper distribution of bread, they will even have the proper distribution of labour, because by distributing labour properly we shall be supreme in all spheres of labour, in all spheres of industry.
Foreseeing all this, the kulaks have made repeated attempts to bribe the poor. They know that grain must be sold to the state at six rubles per pood, but they sell grain to a poor peasant neighbour at three rubles per pood and say to him: “You can go to a profiteer and sell at forty rubles per pood. We have common interests; we must unite against the state, which is robbing us. It wants to give us six rubles per pood; here, take three poods, you can make sixty rubles. You needn’t worry about how much I make, that is my business.”
I know that on these grounds armed conflicts with the peasants repeatedly occur, while the enemies of the Soviet government gloat over it and snigger, and exert every effort to overthrow the Soviet government. But we say: “That is because the food detachments that were sent were not sufficiently class-conscious; but the larger the detachments were the more frequently we had cases—and this happened repeatedly—when the peasants gave their grain without a single case of violence, because class-conscious workers show that their main strength lies, not in violence, but in the fact that they are the representatives of the organised and enlightened poor, whereas in the rural districts there is a mass of ignorance, the poor are not enlightened. If the latter are approached in an intelligent manner, if they are told in plain language, without bookish words, in a plain human way, that in Petrograd and Moscow an4 in scores of uyezds people are starving and typhus is spreading as a result of famine, that tens of thousands of Russian peasants and workers are dying of starvation, that it is the rich who have been unjustly hoarding grain and making profit out of the starvation of the people, it will be possible to organise the poor and get the surplus grain collected not by violence but by the organisation of the village poor. I frequently receive complaints about the kulaks from comrades who have gone to the villages with food detachments and who have fought against the counter-revolution. I will quote an example of which I have a particularly lively recollection because I heard it yesterday, of something that occurred in Yelets Uyozd. In that uyezd a Soviet of Workers’ Deputies has been set up, and there are a large number of class-conscious workers and poor peasants there. Thanks to this, it has been possible to consolidate the power of the poor. The first time the representatives of Yelets Uyezd came to report to me I would not believe them, I thought they were boasting. But what they said was confirmed by comrades who had been sent especially from Moscow to other gubernias. They said that the manner in which work had been organised in Yelets was only to be welcomed, and confirmed the fact that in Russia there were uyezds where the Soviets were equal to their tasks and had succeeded in completely removing the kulaks and exploiters from the Soviets, in organising the toilers, in organising the poor. Let those who use their wealth for profit clear out of the Soviet state organisations! (Applause.)
After they had expelled the kulaks they went to the town of Yelets, a trading town. They did not wait for a decree to introduce the grain monopoly but remembered that the Soviets represent a government that is close to the people and that every person, if he is a revolutionary, if he is a socialist and is really on the side of the toilers, must act quickly and decisively. They organised all ’the workers and poor peasants and formed so many detachments that searches were made all over Yelets. They allowed only the trusted and responsible leaders of the detachments to enter the houses. Not a single person of whom they were not certain was allowed to enter the houses, for they knew how often vacillation occurs and that nothing disgraces the Soviet government so much as these cases of robbery committed by unworthy representatives and servants of the Soviet government. They succeeded in collecting a huge quantity of surplus grain and there was not a single house in commercial Yelets in which the bourgeoisie could make any profit by profiteering.
Of course, I know that it is much easier to do this in a small town than in a city like Moscow, but it must not be forgotten that not a single uyezd town possesses the proletarian forces that Moscow has.
In Tambov, recently, the counter-revolution was victorious for several hours. It even published one issue of a Menshevik and Right Socialist-Revolutionary newspaper which called for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, for the overthrow of the Soviet government and declared that the victory of the new government was permanent. But Red Army men and peasants arrived from the surrounding country and in one day overthrew this new “permanent”government, which claimed to be supported by the Constituent Assembly. (Applause.)
The same thing occurred in other uyezds in Tambov Gubernia, a gubernia of enormous size. Its northern uyezds are in the non-agricultural zone, but its southern uyezds are extraordinarily fertile, there they gather very big harvests. Many of the peasants there have surplus grain, and there one must act energetically and have a particularly firm and clear understanding of the situation to be able to gain the support of the poor peasants and overcome the kulaks. There the kulaks are hostile to every sort of workers’ and peasants’ government and our people have to wait for the assistance of the Petrograd and Moscow workers who, on every occasion, armed with the weapon of organisation, expel the kulaks from the Soviets, organise the poor and jointly with the local peasants acquire experience in fighting for the state monopoly of grain, experience in organising the rural poor and urban toilers in such a way as will guarantee us final and complete victory. I have quoted these examples to illustrate the food situation, comrades, because it seems to me that from the point of view of the working people, for us, for the workers, for the politically conscious proletariat it is not the statistical estimate of the amount of grain, of how many million poods we can obtain, that matters when one is describing the fight against the kulaks for bread. I leave it to the food supply experts to draw up these statistics. I must say that if we succeed in securing the surplus grain from the gubernias adjacent to the Moscow non-agricultural zone and from fertile Siberia, even there we could secure enough grain to save the non-agricultural gubernias from starvation during the few critical weeks that remain until the harvest. In order to do that we must organise a still larger number of class-conscious, advanced workers. This was the main lesson to be learned from all preceding revolutions, and it is the main lesson to be learned from our revolution. The better we are organised, the more widely organisation manifests itself, the more the workers in the factories realise that their strength lies entirely in their organisation and that of the village poor, the more will our victory in the struggle against famine and. in the struggle for socialism be assured. For, I repeat, our task is not to invent a new form of government but to rouse, to educate and to organise every representative of the village poor, even in the remotest villages, to independent activity. It will not be difficult for a few class-conscious urban workers, Petrograd and Moscow workers, to explain, even in remote villages, that it is wrong to hoard grain, to profiteer in grain, to use it for making vodka, when hundreds of thousands are dying in Moscow. In order to do that, the workers of Petrograd and Moscow, and particularly you, comrades, the representatives of the most varied trades, factories and works, must thoroughly understand that no one will come to your assistance, that from other classes you can expect not assistants but enemies, that the Soviet government has no loyal intelligentsia at its service. The intelligentsia are using their experience and knowledge—the highest human achievement—in the service of the exploiters, and are doing all they can to prevent our gaining victory over the exploiters; their efforts will cause the death of hundreds of thousands from starvation, but that will not break the resistance of the toilers. We have no one to depend upon but the class with which we achieved the revolution and with which we shall overcome the greatest difficulties, cross the very difficult zone that lies ahead of us—and that is the factory workers, the urban and rural proletariat, who speak to each other in a language they all understand, who in town and country will vanquish all our enemies—the kulaks and the rich.
But in order to achieve this we must remember the fundamental postulate of the socialist revolution which the workers so often forget, and that is, that in order to make a socialist revolution, in order to bring it about, in order to liberate the people from oppression, it is not necessary immediately to abolish classes; the most class-conscious and organised workers must take power in their hands. The workers must become the ruling class in the state. That is the truth which the majority of you have read in The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, which was written more than seventy years ago, and which has been translated into all languages and circulated in all countries. Everywhere the truth has been revealed that in order to vanquish the capitalists it is necessary during the struggle against exploitation, while ignorance is rife, while people do not yet believe in the new system, that the organised urban factory workers become the ruling class. When you gather together in your factory committees to settle your affairs, remember that the revolution will not be able to retain a single one of its gains if you, in your factory committees, merely concern yourselves with workers’ technical or purely financial interests. The workers and the oppressed classes have managed to seize power more than once, but never have they been able to retain it. To do this the workers must be able not only to rise in heroic struggle and overthrow exploitation; they must also be able to organise, to maintain discipline, to be staunch, to discuss affairs calmly when everything is tottering, when you are being attacked, when innumerable stupid rumours are being spread it is at such a time that the factory committees, which in all things are closely connected with the vast masses, are faced with the great political task of becoming primarily an organ of administration of political life. The fundamental political problem that faces the Soviet government is that of securing the proper distribution of grain. Although Yelets succeeded in bridling the local bourgeoisie, it is much more difficult to do this in Moscow; but here we have incomparably better organisation, and here you can easily find tens of thousands of honest people whom your parties and your trade unions will supply and answer for, who will be able to lead the detachments and guarantee that they will remain ideologically loyal in spite of all difficulties, in spite of all temptations and in spite of the torments of hunger. No other class could undertake this task at the present time, no other class would ibe able to lead the people who often fall into despair; there s no other class but the urban factory proletariat that can do this. Your factory committees must cease to be merely factory committees, they must become the fundamental state nuclei of the ruling class. (Applause.) Your organisation, your solidarity, your energy will determine whether we shall hold out in this severe transitional period as staunchly as a Soviet government should hold out. Take up this work yourselves, take it up from every side, expose abuses every day. Rectify every mistake that is committed with your own experience—many mistakes are committed today because the working class is still inexperienced, but the important thing is that it should itself take up this work and rectify its own mistakes. If we act in this way, if every committee understands that it is one of the leaders of the greatest revolution in the world—then we shall achieve socialism for the whole world! (Applause culminating in an ovation.)
2. Reply to the debate on the current situation[edit source]
June 28, 1918
Comrades, permit me first of all to deal with a few of the propositions advanced in opposition to me by Paderin, who delivered the second report. From the shorthand report I note that he said: “We must do everything possible to enable primarily the British and German proletariat to rise against their oppressors. What must be done to bring this about? Is it our business to help these oppressors? By rousing enmity among ourselves, by destroying and weakening the country, we infinitely strengthen the position of the imperialists, British, French and German, who in the end will unite in order to strangle the working class of Russia. This argument shows how irresolute the Mensheviks have always been in their struggle against and in their opposition to imperialist war, because the argument I have just quoted can only be understood as coming from the lips of a man who calls himself a defencist, who takes up a completely imperialist position (applause), of a man who justifies imperialist war and who repeats the bourgeois lie that in such a war the workers defend their fatherland. If, indeed, one adopts the point of view that the workers must not destroy and weaken the country during such a war, it is tantamount to calling upon the workers to defend the fatherland in an imperialist war. And you know what the Bolshevik Government, which considered it its first duty to publish, to expose and to pillory the secret treaties, has done. You know that the Allies waged war for the sake of the secret treaties, and that the Kerensky government, which existed with the aid and support of the Mensheviks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, not only did not annul the secret treaties, but did not even publish them; you know that the Russian people waged war for the sake of these secret treaties, which promised the Russian landowners and capitalists, in the event of victory, Constantinople, the Dardanelles, Lvov, Galicia and Armenia. If we adopt the point of view of the working class, if we are opposed to the war, how could we tolerate these secret treaties? As long as we tolerated the secret treaties, as long as we tolerated the rule of the bourgeoisie in Russia, we fostered the chauvinistic conviction in the minds of the German workers that there were no class-conscious workers in Russia, that everyone in Russia supported imperialism, and that Russia was pursuing a war for the purpose of plundering Austria and Turkey. But the very opposite is the case. The workers’ and peasants’ government has done more than any other government in the world to weaken the German imperialists, to tear the German workers away from them, because when the secret treaties were published and exposed to the world, even the German chauvinists, even the German defencists, even those workers who supported their government, had to admit in their newspaper Vonviirts,”.’ their central organ, that “this is an act of a socialist government, a genuinely revolutionary act”. They had to admit this because not a single imperialist government involved in the war did this; ours was the only government that denounced the secret treaties.
Of course at the back of every German worker’s mind, no matter how cowed, downtrodden or bribed by the imperialists he may be, there is the thought: “Has not our government secret treaties?”(A voice: “Tell us about the Black Sea fleet.”) All right, I will tell you about it, although it has nothing to do with the subject. At the back of every German worker’s mind there is the thought: “If the Russian workers have gone to the length of denouncing the secret treaties, has not the German Government secret treaties?” When the Brest negotiations began, Comrade Trotsky’s exposures reached the whole world. Did not this policy rouse in an enemy country engaged in a terrible Imperialist war with other governments, not anger but the sympathy of the masses of the people? The only government to do that was our government. Our revolution succeeded in rousing a great revolutionary movement during wartime in an enemy country merely by the fact that we denounced the secret treaties, by the fact that we said: “We will not be deterred by any danger.”If we know, if we say, and not merely say, but mean it, that international revolution is the only salvation from world war, from the imperialist massacre of the people, then we in our revolution must pursue that aim, notwithstanding all difficulties and all dangers. And when we took this path, for the first time in history, in Germany, in the most imperialistic and most disciplined country, in the midst of war, a mass strike broke out and flared up in January. Of course, there are people who believe that revolution can break out in a foreign country to order, by agreement. These people are either mad or they are provocateurs. We have experienced two revolutions during the past twelve years.We know that revolutions cannot be made to order, or by agreement; they break out when tens of millions of people come to the conclusion that it is impossible to live in the old way any longer. We know what difficulties accompanied the birth of the revolution in 1905 and in 1917, and we never expected revolution to break out in other countries at one stroke, as a result of a single appeal. The revolution now beginning to grow in Germany and in Austria is a tribute to the great service rendered by the Russian October Revolution. (Applause.) We read in the newspapers today that in Vienna, where the bread ration is smaller than ours, where the plunder of the Ukraine can bring no relief, where the population says that it has never before experienced such horrors of starvation, an Arbelterrat has sprung up. In Vienna general strikes are breaking out again.
And we say to ourselves: This is the second step, this is the second proof that when the Russian workers denounced the imperialist secret treaties, when they expelled their bourgeoisie, they acted as consistent class-conscious worker internationalists, they facilitated the growth of the revolution in Germany and in Austria in a way that no other revolution in the world has ever done in a hostile country which was in a state of war, and in which bitter feeling ran high.
To forecast when a revolution will mature, to promise that it will come tomorrow, would be deceiving you. You remember, particularly those of you who experienced both Russian revolutions, that no one in November 1904 could guarantee that within two months a hundred thousand St. Petersburg workers would march to the Winter Palace and start a great revolution.
Recall December 1916. How could we guarantee that two months later the tsarist monarchy would be overthrown in the course of a few days? We in this country, which has experienced two revolutions, know and realise that the progress of the revolution cannot be foretold, and that revolution cannot be called forth. We can only work for the revolution. If you work consistently, if you work devotedly, if this work is linked up with the interests of the oppressed masses, who make up the majority, revolution will come; but where, how, at what moment, from what immediate cause, cannot be foretold. That is why we shall never take the liberty of deceiving the masses by saying: “The German workers will help us tomorrow, they will blow up their Kaiser the day after tomorrow.” We have no right to say such things.
Our position is made more difficult by the fact that the Russian revolution proved to be ahead of other revolutions; but the fact that we are not alone is proved by the news that reaches us nearly every day that the best German Social-Democrats are expressing themselves in favour of the Bolsheviks, that the Bolsheviks are being supported in the open German press by Clara Zetkin and also by Franz Mehring, who in a series of articles has been showing the German workers that the Bolsheviks alone have properly understood what socialism is. Recently a Social-Democrat named Hoschka definitely stated in the Wiirttemberg Landtag that he regarded the Bolsheviks alone as models of consistency in the pursuit of a correct revolutionary policy. Do you think that such statements do not find an echo among scores, hundreds and thousands of German workers who associate themselves with these statements almost before they are uttered? When affairs in Germany and Austria have reached the stage of the formation of Arbelterrdte and of a second mass strike, we can say without the least exaggeration, without the least self-deception, that this marks the beginning of a revolution. We say very definitely: Our policy and our path have been a correct policy and a correct path; we have helped the Austrian and the German workers to regard themselves, not as enemies strangling the Russian workers in the interests of the Kaiser, in the interests of the German capitalists, but as brothers of the Russian workers, who are performing the same revolutionary work as they are. (Applause.)
I would also like to mention a passage in Paderin’s speech which, in my opinion, deserves attention, the more so that it partly coincides with the idea expressed by the preceding speaker. This is the passage: “We now see that civil war is being waged within the working class. Can we permit this to go on?” You see that civil war is described as war within the working class or as war against the peasants, as the preceding speaker described it. We know perfectly well that both descriptions are wrong. The civil war in Russia is a war waged by the workers and the poor peasants against the landowners and the capitalists. This war is being prolonged and protracted because the Russian land-owners and capitalists were vanquished in October and November with relatively small losses, were vanquished by the enthusiasm of the masses of the people under conditions in which it became immediately clear to them that the people would not support them. Things reached the stage that even in the Don region, where there is the largest number of rich Cossacks who live by exploiting wage labour, where the hopes of the counter-revolution were brightest, even there, Bogayevsky, the leader of the counter-revolutionary rebellion, had to admit and publicly admitted: “Ours is a lost cause because even in our region the majority of the population are on the side of the Bolsheviks.” (Applause.)
That was the position, that was how the landowners and capitalists lost their counter-revolutionary game in October and November.
That was the result of their reckless attempt to organise the officer cadets, the officers, the sons of landowners and capitalists into a White Guard to fight the workers’ and peasants’ revolution. And now—if you don’t know this read today’s newspapers—the Czechoslovak adventurers are operating with the financial assistance of the Anglo-French capitalists, who are bribing troops to drag us into the war again. Haven’t you read what. the Czechoslovaks said iii Samara? They said: “We shall join Dutov aiid Semyonov and compel the workers of Russia and the Russian people once again to fight against Germany side by side with Britain and France. We shall restore those secret treaties aiid fling you once again, for another four years perhaps, into this imperialist war in alliance with the bourgeoisie.” But instead of that we are now waging war against our bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie of other countries,’and it is solely due to the fact that we are waging this war that we have won the sympathy and support of the workers of other countries. If the workers of one belligerent country see that in the other belligerent country close connections are being established between the workers and the bourgeoisie it splits the workers up according to nation and unites them with their respective bourgeoisie. This is a great evil, it means the collapse of the socialist revolution, it means the collapse and doom of the whole International. (Applause.)
In 1914 the International was wrecked because the workers of all countries united with the bourgeoisie in their respective countries and split their own ranks. Now, this split is being healed. Perhaps you have read that in Britain recently the Scottish schoolteacher and trade unionist MacLean was sentenced for a second time, to five years’ imprisonment—the first time he was sentenced to eighteen months—for exposing the real objects of the war and speaking about the criminal nature of British imperialism. When he was released there was already a representative of the Soviet Government in Britain, Litvinov, who immediately appointed MacLean Consul, a representative of the Soviet Russian Federative Republic in Britain, and the Scottish workers greeted this appointment with enthusiasm. The British Government has again started persecuting MacLean and this time not only as a Scottish schoolteacher, but also as Consul of the Federative Soviet Republic. MacLean is in prison because he acted openly as the representative of our government; we have never seen this man, he is the beloved leader of the Scottish workers, he has never belonged to our Party, but we joined with him; the Russian and Scottish workers united against the British Government in spite of the fact that the latter buys Czechoslovaks and is manoeuvring frantically to drag the Russian Republic into the war. This is proof that in all countries, irrespective of their position in the war—in Germany which is fighting against us, in Britain which is trying to grab Baghdad and strangle Turkey—the workers are uniting with the Russian Bolsheviks, with the Russian Bolshevik revolution. The speaker whose words I have quoted said that workers and peasants are waging a civil war against workers and peasants; we know perfectly well that this is not true. The working class is one thing; groups, small strata of the working class are another thing. From 1871 to 1914, for almost half a century, the German working class was a model of socialist organisation for the whole world. We know that it had a party with a membership of a million, that it created trade unions with a membership of two, three and four millions; nevertheless, in the course of this half-century hundreds of thousands of German workers remained united in Christian trade unions, which stood staunchly for the priests, for the church and for the Kaiser. Who were the real representatives of the working class? Was it the huge German Social-Democratic Party and the trade unions, or the hundreds of thousands of church-going workers? The working class, which comprises the overwhelming majority of the class-conscious, advanced, thinking workers, is one thing, while a single factory, a single district, a few groups of workers who still remain on the side of the.bourgeoisie are another thing.
The overwhelming majority of the working class of Russia—this is shown by all the elections to the Soviets, the factory committees and conferences—ninety-nine per cent of them are on the side of the Soviet government (applause), knowing that this government is waging war against the bourgeoisie, against the kulaks and not against the peasants and workers. It is quite a different matter that there is an insignificant group of workers still in slavish dependence upon the bourgeoisie. We are not waging war against them but against the bourgeoisie. If those insignificant groups which are still in alliance with the bourgeoisie get hurt in the process they have only themselves to blame. (Applause.)
A question has been sent to me in writing; it reads as follows: “Why are counter-revolutionary newspapers still published?” One of the reasons is that there are elements among the printers who are bribed by the bourgeoisie.(Commotion, shouts: “It’s not true.”) You can shout as much as you like, but you will not prevent me from telling the trtith, which all the workers know and which I have just begun to explain. When a worker attaches great importance to the wages he gets for working for the bourgeois press, when he says: “I want to keep my high wages by helping the bourgeoisie to sell poison, to poison the minds of the people,” then I say it is as if these workers were bribed by the bourgeoisie (applause), not in the sense that any individual person was hired, but in the sense in which all Marxists have spoken about the British workers who ally themselves with their capitalists. All of you who have read trade union literature know that there are not only trade unions in Britain, but also alliances between the workers and capitalists in a particular industry for the purpose of raising prices and of robbing everybody else. All Marxists, all socialists of all countries point the finger of scorn at these cases and, beginning with Marx and Engels, say that there are workers who, owing to their ignorance and pursuit of their craft interests, allow themselves to be bribed by the bourgeoisie. They have sold their birthright, their right to the socialist revolution, by entering into an alliance with their capitalists against the overwhelming majority of the workers and the oppressed toilers in their own country, against their own class. The same thing is happening here. When certain groups of workers say, the fact that the stuff we print is opium, poison, spreads lies and provocation, has nothing to do with us, we get high wages and we don’t care a hang for anybody else—we will denounce such workers. In our literature we have always said openly: “Such workers are abandoning the working class and deserting to the side of the bourgeoisie.” (Applause.)
Comrades, I will in a moment deal with the questions that have been put to me; but first of all, so as not to forget, I will reply to the question about the Black Sea fleet, which seems to have been put for the purpose of exposing us. Let me tell you that the man who was operating there was Comrade Raskolnikov, whom the Moscow and Petrograd workers know very well because of the agitation and Party work be has carried on. Comrade Raskolnikov himself will be here and he will tell you how he agitated in favour of destroying the fleet rather than allow the German troops to use it for the purpose of attacking Novorossiisk. That was the situation in regard to the Black Sea fleet; and the People’s Commissars Stalin, Shlyapnikov and Raskolnikov will arrive in Moscow soon and tell us all about it. You will see then that ours was the only possible policy; like the Brest peace policy, it caused us many misfortunes but it enabled the Soviet government and the workers’ socialist revolution to hold their banner aloft before the workers of all countries. If the number of workers in Germany who are abandoning the old prejudices about the Bolsheviks, and who understand that our policy is correct, is growing day by day it is due to the tactics we have been pursuing since the Brest Treaty.
Of the questions that have been sent up to me I will deal with the two concerning the transportation of grain. Certain workers ask: “Why do you prohibit individual workers from bringing grain into the town when it is for’ the use of their own families?” The reply is a simple one. Just think what would happen if the thousands of poods that are necessary for a given locality, for a given factory, for a given district, or for a given street were carried by thousands of people. If we allowed this, the food supply organisations would begin to break down entirely. We do not blame the man who, tormented by hunger, travels into the country to get grain and procures it in whatever way he can, but we say: “We do not exist as a workers’ and peasants’ government for the purpose of legalising and encouraging disintegration and ruin.” A government is not required for this purpose. It is required for the purpose of uniting and organising the class-conscious in order to combat lack of class consciousness. We cannot blame those who owing to their lack of class consciousness throw up everything, close their eyes to everything, and try to save themselves by procuring grain in whatever way they can, but we can blame Party people who, while advocating the grain monopoly, do not sufficiently foster class consciousness and solidarity in action. Yes, the struggle against the bag-trader, against the private transportation of grain is a very difficult one because it is a struggle against ignorance, against lack of class consciousness, against the lack of organisation of the broad masses; but we shall never abandon this struggle. Every time people try to collect grain on their own, we shall call for proletarian socialist methods of combating famine: having united together, let us replace the sick food detachments by new forces, by fresher, stronger, more honest, more class-conscious and tried men, and we shall collect the same amount of grain, the same thousands of poods that are collected individually by two hundred persons, each carrying fifteen poods, each raising prices and increasing profiteering. We shall unite these two hundred persons, we shall create a strong, compact workers’army. If we do not succeed in doing this at the first attempt we shall repeat our efforts; we shall try to induce the class-conscious workers in every factory to delegate larger numbers of more reliable people for the purpose of combating profiteering, and we are sure that the class consciousness, discipline and organisation of the workers will in the last resort withstand all severe trials. When people are convinced by their own experience that individual bag-traders cannot help to save hundreds of thousands from starvation we shall see the victory of the cause of organisation and class consciousness, and by united action we shall organise the fight against famine and secure the proper distribution of grain.
I am asked: “Why is not a monopoly introduced on manufactured goods, which are as necessary as grain?” My reply is: “The Soviet government is adopting all measures to this end.” You know that there is a tendency to organise, to amalgamate the textile factories, the textile industry. You know that the majority of the people in the leading bodies of this organisation are workers, you know that the Soviet government is preparing to nationalise all branches of industry; you know that the difficulties that confront us in this matter are enormous, and that much effort will be required to do all this in an organised manner. We are not setting to work on this task in the way governments which rely on bureaucrats do. It is quite easy to manage affairs in that way: let one man receive 400 rubles per month; let another get more, a thousand rubles per month—our bussiness is to give orders and the others must obey. That is how all bourgeois countries are administered; they hire officials at high salaries, they hire the sons of the bourgeoisie and entrust the administration to them. The Soviet Republic cannot be administered in this way. We have no officials to manage and guide the work of amalgamating all the textile factories, of registering all their property and stocks, of introducing a monopoly of all articles of primary necessity, and of properly distributing them. We call upon the workers to do this work; we call upon the representatives of the Textile Workers’ Union and say to them: “You must form the majority on the collegium of the Central Textile Board, and you are the majority on it, in the same way as you are the majority on the collegiums of the Supreme Economic Council. Comrades, workers, take up this very important State task yourselves. We know that it is much more difficult than appointing efficient officials, but we know also that there is no other way of doing it.” Power must be placed in the hands of the working class, and the advanced workers must, in spite of all difficulties, learn by their own bitter experience, by their own efforts, by the work of their own hands, how all articles, all textile goods, should be distributed in the interests of the toilers. (Applause.)
Hence, the Soviet government is doing all it possibly can in the present circumstances to introduce a state monopoly and to fix prices. It is doing it through the medium of the workers, in conjunction with the workers; it gives them the majority on the management boards, and in every leading centre, as, for example, the Supreme Economic Council or the amalgamated metalworks, or the amalgamated sugar refineries, which were nationalised in a few weeks. This is a difficult road, but, I repeat, we cannot avoid difficulties in the task of getting the workers to adopt a new position, workers who have been accustomed and have been trained by the bourgeoisie for hundreds of years merely to carry out its orders slavishly, to work like convicts, of making them feel that they are the government. We are the owners of industry, we are the owners of the grain, we are the owners of all the wealth of the country. Only when this has deeply penetrated the minds of the working class, when, by their own experience, by their own efforts, they increase their forces tenfold, will all the difficulties of the socialist revolution be overcome.
I conclude by once again appealing to this factory committee conference. In the city of Moscow the difficulties are particularly great because it is an enormous centre of trade and speculation in which, for many years, tens of thousands of people have obtained their livelihood by trade and speculation. Here the difficulties are particularly great, but here there are forces that no small town in the country possesses. Let the workers’ organisations, let the factory committees remember and take firm note of what present events and the famine that has descended upon the toilers of Russia teach. New organisations, broader organisations of class-conscious and advanced workers alone can save the revolution and prevent the restoration of the rule of the landowners and capitalists. Such workers are now in the majority, but it is not enough; they must take a greater part in general state work. In Moscow we have hosts of cases of profiteers gambling on the famine, making profit out of the famine, breaking the state grain monopoly, of the rich having everything they desire. In Moscow there are 8,000 members of the Communist Party. In Moscow the trade unions can delegate 20,000 to 30,000 men and women whom they can vouch for, who will be reliable and staunch exponents of proletarian policy. Unite them, create hundreds of thousands of detachments, tackle the food problem, search the whole of the rich population, and you will secure what you need. (Applause.)
In my report I told you what successes were achieved in this sphere in the town of Yelets; but it is more difficult to achieve this in Moscow. I said that Yelets was a well organised town. There are many towns that are much less organised because this is a very difficult matter, because it is not a matter of a shortage of arms’we have any amount of them’the difficulty lies in appointing hundreds and thousands of completely reliable workers to responsible administration posts, workers who understand that they are not working in their local cause but in the cause of the whole of Russia, who are capable of sticking at their posts as representatives of the whole class, of organising the work according to a definite and systematic plan, of carrying out orders, of carrying out the decisions of the Moscow Soviet, of the Moscow organisations representing the whole of proletarian Moscow. The whole difficulty lies in organising the proletariat, in training it to become more class-conscious than it has been up to now. Look at the Petrograd elections. You will see that although famine is raging there even worse than in Moscow and still greater misfortunes have befallen it, the loyalty to the workers’ revolution is growing, organisation and solidarity are increasing, and you will say to yourselves: the disasters that have befallen us are multiplying but the determination of the working class to overcome all these difficulties is multiplying also. Take this path, increase your efforts, put thousands of new detachments on this path to help to solve the food problem, and together with you, relying on your support, we will overcome the famine and secure proper distribution. (Applause.)
3. Resolution On The Report On The Current Situation[edit source]
The Fourth Moscow Conference of Factory Committees wholeheartedly supports the Soviet government’s food policy and particularly approves (and insists that it should be supported by all workers) the policy of uniting the rural poor.
The liberation of the workers can be achieved only by the workers’ own efforts, and only the closest alliance between the urban workers and the rural poor can overcome the resistance of the bourgeoisie and the kulaks, bring all surpluses of grain into their hands and achieve proper distribution among those in need both in town and country.
The Conference calls on all factory committees to exert every effort to organise broader sections of the workers in food detachments and to send them under the leadership of the most reliable comrades to give all-round support to the food policy of the workers’ and peasants’ government.
- In May-June 1918, Austria-Hungary was swept by a wave of strikes, demonstrations and mass protests by the workers of a political and anti-militarist nature. A big strike was launched in Vienna in the middle of June over the reduction of the bread ration; Soviets of Workers’ Deputies (A rbei terrdte) came. into being and started operating in Vienna, Budapest and other cities. The Vienna Soviet presented the government with the strikers’ demands: conclusion of peace, increase of wages, reduction of working hours and restoration of the former bread ration. The Social-Democratic leaders were unable to prevent the strike but they succeeded in making the Vienna Soviet abandon it.
The first Soviets of Workers’ Deputies and Soldiers’ Deputies were formed during the strike campaign in Vienna, Budapest and other cities in January 1918. A political strike, which spread to the industrial centres of Austria-Hungary, was declared in Vienna on January l4in protest against the rapacious demands made on Soviet Russia by the governments of the Austro-German bloc during the peace negotiations. Strike calls went out for immediate conclusion of general peace on the terms proposed by Soviet Russia, abolition of wartime laws and the censorship, an amnesty for political pris- oners, fair distribution of food, etc. The movement was crushed and the Soviets broken up with the direct support of the opportunist leaders of the Austrian Social-Democrats.
- Lenin is referring to the article “The Secret Treaties Expose(l”, printed on November 28, 1917, in the newspaper Vorwdrts (For-w.,xrd) No. 326. It was admitted in this article that “by publishing the secret despatches exchanged between St. Petersburg and Paris the Bolshevik Government of Russia is performing a truly revolutionary act”.
Vorivrts was the main daily newspaper of the German Social-Democratic Party and had been coming out in Berlin since 1891. In the late nineties, after the death of Engels the editorship of the paper fell into the hands of the Right wing of the party and began systematically printing articles by opportunists. During the ’imperialist war of 1914-18 Vortvdrts took up a position of social-chauvinism; after the Great October Socialist Revolution the paper conducted anti-Soviet propaganda. It continued appearing in Berlin until 1933. [See also the Vorwarts glossary entry]
- The reference is to V. A. Tikhomirov, a representative of the Bogorodsk Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, who was also at the time chairman of the Bogorodsk co-operatives union.
- Lenin is referring to the article “The French Millions” published June 28, 1918, in Prukopnik Svobody (Pioneer of Freedom), the main newspaper of the CEC of the Czechoslovak Communist groups in Soviet Russia. In this article it was stated that the French and British governments had given the Czechoslovak white-guards about 15 million rubles. The article was reprinted on the same day in Pravda No. 130 and a summary appeared in Izvestia VTsIK No. 132.
- Lenin has in mind a group of print workers which had for a longtime been under the influence of the Mensheviks and Right S.R.s who ran the yellow Union of Printing Trade Workers. After the October Revolution this union opposed Soviet power and organised strikes in Moscow, Petrograd and other cities. The Bolsheviks and Left Internationalists had their groups in all the large printshops and founded the Red Union of Printers. When this union was organised, the influence of the yellow union began to decline.
- The Black Sea fleet was moved from Sevastopol to Novorosslisk on April 29-30, 1918, on orders from the Soviet Government be- cause the Crimea was being occupied by the German imperialists. Lenin set forth the circumstances concerning the fleet’s removal and its possible return to Sevastopol in the “Protest to the German Government against the Occupation of the Crimea". Since there was no possibility of saving the fleet and the Soviet Government did not wish to surrender it to the German imperialists, who had presented an ultimatum demanding the return of the fleet to Sevastopol, Lenin sent the following instruction to the Supreme Military Council: in view of the hopelessness of the situation, which as been proved by the highest military authorities, the fleet must be destroyed immediately” (see History of the Civil War in the U.S.S.R., Vol. 3, 1957, p. 139). On June 18-19 the government’s order was carried out. Most of the ships were scuttled off Novorossiisk.
- The reference is to the elections to the Petrograd Soviet in June 1918-. During the elections the Mensheviks and S.R.s conducted a bitter struggle against the Bolsheviks, resorting to terrorism (on June 20 during the elections V. Volodarsky, an active member of the Communist Party, was assassinated by a Right S.R.). The Communists won the election. The first session of the Soviet on June 27 was attended by 405 Bolsheviks and Bolshevik sympathisers, 75 Left S.’R.s, 59 Menshevik defencists and Right S.R.s and 43 non-party people.