Letter to Adolph Joffe and Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, May 24, 1918
|Written||24 May 1918|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 44, pages 90b-92a.
Comrades Joffe and Menzhinsky
I have received your pessimistic and angry letters (that of 20. V, I received today, 24. V). Some of your accusations levelled against Chicherin fall on me. For example, I insisted that the theses on concessions should be sent through the Germans, in order to show them how seriously we desire business-like economic relations. (The theses were drawn up by common consent with the participation of Radek and other “Left stupids”.) The terms of our concessions are such that nothing but benefit for us will result if the Germans accept these terms.
I fully approve your policy, set out in especial detail in Comrade Joffe’s letters.
Your dissatisfaction with Chicherin is, in my opinion, exaggerated. But in any case I agree to help you and I ask you to direct your efforts to practical ways of improving matters. For this, I would suggest that you precisely formulate concrete proposals (send me copies of telegrams and letters, parts that are strictly practical and brief, for I simply have no time to read everything). In that case I promise to try to secure their fulfilment and to check whether they have been fulfilled.
You must think over how to shift the centre of things to Berlin to a greater extent (I agree to help in this), and propose for this purpose very tactful (N.B.) and concretely practical measures. I shall accept all feasible measures and endeavour to have them carried out.
If anything can be done to secure peace with Finland, the Ukraine and Turkey (this is the crux of the matter), we must always work for this (of course, it cannot be secured without certain further annexations and tribute payments). I would give much to hasten such a peace.
You, too, should keep your nerve. Putting diplomacy to rights (and creating a new diplomacy) is no easy task. Festina lente.
With best greetings,
28/V. I missed the messenger.
Chicherin has given me the text of a Note which Joffe sent to the German Government on his own account, agreeing to surrender the ships of the Black Sea Fleet (i.e., to their removal from Novorossiisk to Sevastopol) on condition merely of peace with, the Ukraine. However, our government in a clearly worded Note (communicated by radio to Joffe as well) considered it possible to agree to the removal of the ships to Sevastopol on different conditions, viz.: 1) peace on all three fronts, i.e., with the Ukraine and Finland and Turkey; 2) no annexation of Sevastopol.
How could Joffe make such a mistake? How could he make such a “bad bargain”? How in general he could send a Note on such an important question on his own account, I fail to understand....
N.B. Send us Arbeiterpolitik, the Stuttgart Sozialdemokrat and similar publications, all, complete, 5–10 copies of each.
Have you begun some legal publication in German? What precisely? What is the plan of publication and when will it appear?
- In the spring of 1918 the German interventionists occupied the Ukraine, invaded the Crimea and approached Sevastopol, where the Black Sea Fleet was concentrated. On April 29–30, to save the fleet from the invaders, the Soviet Government transferred it to Novorossiisk. Ten days after the fleet’s arrival there, the German Command sent an ultimatum demanding its return to Sevastopol, threatening otherwise to continue the offensive along the Black Sea coast. On May 11, the Soviet Government sent a “ Protest to the German Government against the Occupation of the Crimea”, stating the circumstances of the fleet’s transfer and the possible conditions for its return to Sevastopol (see present edition, Vol. 27, pp. 358–59).
All attempts to reach an agreement with, the German Government on this question were abortive. Having no possibility of saving the fleet and to avoid surrendering it to the German imperialists, Lenin issued an order to the Supreme Military Council for its immediate destruction (see the next document). A secret instruction of the Council of People’s Commissars ordered the destruction of all the ships of the Black Sea Fleet and merchant steamships in Novorossiisk. On June 18–19, 1918, the order of the government was carried out: most of the ships were sunk off the Novorossiisk coast.
- Arbeiterpolitik—a weekly periodical of scientific socialism, the organ of the Bremen group of Left Social-Democrats, which in 1919 joined the Communist Party of Germany. It was published in Bremen from 1916 to 1919.
Der Sozialdemokrat—a daily newspaper, the organ of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Württemberg. It was published in Stuttgart from 1915. In 1921, it became the organ of the United Communist Party of Württemberg and was published under the title Kommunist.