Report on foreign policy, May 14, 1918

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Delivered At A Joint Meeting Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee And The Moscow Soviet

May 14, 1918

Lenin’s report evoked bitter attacks from the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries,who tried to use the critical international and internal situation as a weapon against the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet government. Because Lenin had to leave the conference on urgent business the reply to the debate, by agreement with Lenin, was given by Y. M. Sverdlov, who made a resolute stand against the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary attacks. The meeting rejected the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary resolutions, demanding the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, denunciation of the Brest Treaty, and conclusion of an alliance with the Allied powers for continuation of the war against Germany. The Bolshevik resolution, written by Sverdlov, approving the policy of the Soviet Government, was carried by a majority.

The plan of Lenin’s report on foreign policy at the Joint Meeting of the All-Russia CEC and the Moscow Soviet is published in Lenin Miscellany XI, p. 92.

Comrades, permit me to acquaint you with the present foreign policy situation. In the past few days our international position has in many respects become more complicated owing to the aggravation of the general situation. Because of this aggravation, the provocation, the deliberate panic-spreading by the bourgeois press and its echo, the socialist press, is again doing its dark and filthy work of repeating the Kornilov affair.

First, I shall draw your attention to the factors determining, in the main, the international position of the Soviet Republic in order to proceed to the outward legal forms determining this position, and, on the basis of this, describe again the difficulties which have arisen or, to be more precise, define the turning-point at which we have arrived and which forms the basis of the worsened political situation.

Comrades, you know, and your knowledge has been particularly reinforced by the experience of the two Russian revolutions, that economic interests and the economic position of the classes which rule our state lie at the root of both our home and foreign policy. These propositions which constitute the basis of the Marxist world outlook and have been confirmed for us Russian revolutionaries by the great experience of both Russian revolutions, must not be forgotten even for a moment if we are to avoid losing ourselves in the thickets, the labyrinth of diplomatic tricks, a labyrinth which at times is artificially created and made more intricate by people, classes, parties and groups who like to fish in muddy waters, or who are compelled to do so.

We recently experienced, and to a certain extent are experiencing now, a situation in which our counter-revolutionaries—the Constitutional-Democrats and their foremost yes-men, the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks—have been attempting to take advantage of the increased complexity of the international situation.

Basically, the position is that the Russian Socialist Soviet Republic, due to economic and political causes which we have described in the press on more than one occasion, and of which you are aware, due to a different rate of development, a basis of development different from that of the West, still remains a lone island in the stormy sea of imperialist robbery. The main economic factor in the West is that this imperialist war which has tortured and exhausted mankind has given rise to such complicated, such acute, such involved conflicts that again and again, at every step, the question of war and peace, the solution of the question to the advantage of one or other grouping, hangs by a thread. We have lived through precisely such a situation in the past few days. The contradictions that have arisen out of the frenzied struggle between the imperialist powers drawn into a war which is the result of the economic conditions of the development of capitalism over a number of decades, have made it impossible for the imperialists themselves to stop this war.

Owing to these contradictions, it has come about that the general alliance of the imperialists of all countries, forming the basis of the economic alliance of capitalism, an alliance whose natural and inevitable aim is to defend capital, which recognises no fatherland, and which has proved in the course of many major and important episodes in world history that capital places the safeguarding of the alliance of the capitalists of all countries against the working people above the interests of the fatherland, of the people or of what you will—that this alliance is not the moving force of politics.

Of course, as before, this alliance remains the main economic trend of the capitalist system, a trend which must ultimately make itself felt with inevitable force. That the imperialist war has divided into hostile groups, into hostile coalitions the imperialist powers which at the present moment, one may say, have divided up the whole world among themselves, is an exception to this main tendency of capitalism. This enmity, this struggle, this death grapple, proves that in certain circumstances the alliance of world imperialism is impossible. We are witnessing a situation in which the stormy waves of imperialist reaction, of the imperialist slaughter of nations, are hurling themselves at the small island of the socialist Soviet Republic, and seem about to sink it any minute, while actually these waves are only breaking against each other.

The basic contradictions between the imperialist powers have led to such a merciless struggle that, while recognising its hopelessness, neither the one, nor the other group is in a position to extricate itself at will from the iron grip of this war. The war has brought out two main contradictions, which in their turn have determined the socialist Soviet Republic’s present international position. The first is the battle being waged on the Western front between Germany and Britain, which has reached an extreme degree of ferocity. We have heard on more than one occasion representatives of the two belligerent groups promise and assure their own people and other peoples that all that is required is one more last effort for the enemy to be subdued, the fatherland defended and the interests of civilisation and of the war of liberation saved for all time. The longer this terrible struggle drags on and the deeper the belligerent countries become involved, the further off is the way out of this interminable war. And it is the violence of this conflict that makes extremely difficult, well-nigh impossible, an alliance of the great imperialist powers against the Soviet Republic, which in the bare half-year of Its existence has won the warm regard and the most whole-hearted sympathy of the class-conscious workers of the world.

The second contradiction determining Russia’s international position is the rivalry between Japan and America. Over several decades the economic development of these countries has produced a vast amount of inflammable material which makes inevitable a desperate clash between them for domination of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding territories. The entire diplomatic and economic history of the Far East leaves no room for doubt that under capitalist conditions it is impossible to avert the imminent conflict between Japan and America. This contradiction, temporarily concealed by the alliance of Japan and America against Germany, delays Japanese imperialism’s attack on Russia, which was prepared for over a long period, which was a long time feeling its way, and which to a certain degree was started and is being supported by counter-revolutionary forces. The campaign which has been launched against the Soviet Republic (the landing at Vladivostok and the support of the Semyonov bands) is being held up because it threatens to turn the hidden conflict between Japan and America into open war. It is quite likely, of course, and we must not forget that no matter how solid the imperialist groupings may appear to be, they can be broken up in a few days if the interests of sacred private property, the sacred rights of concessions, etc., demand it. It may well be that the tiniest spark will suffice to blow up the existing alignment of powers, and then the afore-mentioned contradictions will no longer protect us.

At the moment, however, the situation we have described explains why it is possible to preserve our socialist island in the middle of stormy seas and also why its position is so unstable, and, at times, to the great joy of the bourgeoisie and the panic of the petty bourgeoisie, it seems that it may be engulfed by the waves at any minute.

The outer aspect, the external expression of this situation is the Brest Treaty on the one hand, and the customs and laws with regard to neutral countries on the other.

You know that treaties and laws are worth nothing but a scrap of paper in the face of international conflicts.

These words are usually recalled and quoted as an example of the cynicism of imperialist foreign policy; the cynicism, however, lies not in these words, but in the ruthless, the cruelly and agonisingly ruthless, imperialist war, in which all peace treaties and all laws of neutrality have been flouted, are flouted, and will be flouted, as long as capitalism exists.

That is why, when we come to the most important question for us, the Brest peace and the likelihood of its violation with all the possible consequences for us—if we want to stand firmly on our socialist feet and do not want to be overthrown by the plots and provocations of the counter-revolutionaries, no matter under what socialist labels they disguise themselves, we must not forget for a single moment the economic principles underlying all peace treaties, including that of Brest-Litovsk, the economic principles underlying all neutrality, including our own. We must not forget, on the one hand, the state of affairs internationally, the state of affairs of international imperialism in relation to the class which is growing, and which sooner or later, perhaps even later than we desire or expect, will nevertheless become capitalism’s heir and will defeat world capitalism. And on the other hand, we must not forget the relations between the imperialist countries, the relations between the imperialist economic groups.

Having clarified this situation, I think, comrades, we shall not find it difficult to understand the significance of those diplomatic particulars and details, at times even trifles, which have mainly occupied our attention during the past few days, which have been on our minds during the past few days. Clearly, the instability of the international situation gives rise to panic. This panic emanates from the Constitutional-Democrats, the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who aid and abet the interests of those who want and who strive to sow panic. In no way closing our eyes to the full danger and tragedy of the situation, and analysing the economic relations on an international scale, we must say: yes, the question of war and peace hangs by a thread both in the West and in the Far East because two trends exist; one, which makes an alliance of all the imperialists inevitable; the other, which places the imperialists in opposition to each other—two trends, neither of which has any firm foundation. No, Japan cannot now decide to launch a full-scale attack, although with her million-strong army she could quite easily overrun obviously weak Russia. I do not know, nor can anyone know, when this is likely to take place.

The form of the ultimatum threatens war against the allies and a treaty with Germany, but this position can change in a few days. There is always the possibility of it changing, because the American bourgeoisie, now at logger-heads with Japan, can tomorrow come to terms with her, because the Japanese bourgeoisie are just as likely tomorrow to come to terms with the German bourgeoisie. Their basic interests are the same: the division of the world between themselves, the interests of the landowners, of capital the safeguarding (as they say) of their national self-respect and their national interests. This language is sufficiently familiar to those who have either the misfortune or the habit—I don’t know which—of reading newspapers like those of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. And when national self-respect begins to be mentioned frequently we all know, we know very well from the experience of 1914, what facts of imperialist robbery this is prompted by. In view of this relationship it is clear why the situation in the Far East is unstable. One thing must be said: we must have a clear understanding of these contradictions of capitalist interests, we must appreciate that the stability of the Soviet Republic is growing with every week, every month that passes, and that sympathy towards it among the working and exploited people of the world is growing at the same time.

And, at the same time, any day, any moment we must be prepared for and expect changes in international politics in favour of the policies of the extremist war parties.

The position of the German coalition is clear to us. At the present moment the majority of the German bourgeois parties stand for observing the Brest peace, but, of course, are very glad to “improve” on it and to receive a few more annexations at Russia’s expense. What makes them take this stand? The political and military considerations of German national interests—as they express it—of imperialist interests, make them prefer peace in the East, so that their hands may be free in the West, where German imperialism has promised an immediate victory on many occasions, and where every week or every month proves that this victory, the more the partial successes gained, recedes still further into the distance. On the other hand, there is a war party which, during discussions on the Brest Treaty, showed its hand on a number of occasions, a party which naturally exists in all imperialist countries, a war party which says to itself: force must be used immediately, irrespective of possible consequences. These are the voices of the extremist war party. It has been known in German history since the time when overwhelming military victories became a feature history. It has been known since 1866, for instance, when the extremist war party of Germany achieved victory over Austria and turned this victory into a complete rout. All these clashes, all these conflicts are inevitable and lead to a situation where matters now hang by a thread, where, on the one hand, the bourgeois imperialist majority of the German parliament, the German propertied classes, the German capitalists prefer to stand by the Brest Treaty, while having, I repeat, no hesitation about improving on it. And on the other hand, any day, any moment we must be prepared for and expect changes in politics in the interests of the extremist war party.

This explains the instability of the international situation; this explains how easy it is in the circumstances to put the Party in one situation or another; this shows what prudence, caution, self-control and presence of mind is demanded of the Soviet government if it is to define its task clearly. Let the Russian bourgeoisie rush from a French to a German orientation. They like doing this. They have in several areas seen that German support is an excel lent guarantee against the peasants who are taking the land, and against the workers who are building the foundations of socialism. In the quite recent past, and over a long period, over a number of years they branded as traitors those who condemned the imperialist war and opened people’s eyes to its real nature, but now they are all prepared in a few weeks to change their political beliefs and to go over from an alliance with the British robbers to an alliance with the German robbers against Soviet power. Let the bourgeoisie of all shades, from the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks to the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, rush this way and that. It suits their nature. Let them spread panic, for they are themselves in a panic. Let them rush to and fro, unable to do otherwise, vacillating between the different orientations and between the absurd phrases that fail to take into consideration the fact that to deepen the effect of the revolution, when it has attained great proportions, one has to experience the most diverse groupings and transitions from one stage to another. We Russian revolutionaries have had the good fortune in the twentieth century to pass through two revolutions, each of which gave us a lot of experience, which has also stamped its impression on the lives of the people, of how a deep-going and effective revolutionary movement is prepared; how the different classes in this movement behave; by what difficult and exhausting path, sometimes by a long evolution, the maturity of new- classes comes about.

Remember how hard it was for the Soviets, created by the spontaneous outburst in 1905, how hard it was for them in 1917 to take up the fight again, and how hard later, when they had to go through all the suffering of compromise with the bourgeoisie and with the hidden, most rabid enemies of the working class, who talked of the defence of the revolution, of the Red Flag, and committed the greatest of crimes in June 1917—now, when the majority of the working class supports us, remember what it cost after the great 1905 Revolution to emerge with Soviets of the working and peasant classes. Remember all this, and think of the mass scale on which the struggle against international imperialism is developing, think how difficult the transition to this situation is, and what the Russian Republic had to undergo when it found itself ahead of all the other contingents of the socialist army.

I know that there are, of course, wiseacres with a high opinion of themselves and even calling themselves socialists, who assert that power should not have been taken until the revolution broke out in all countries. They do not realise that in saying this they are deserting the revolution and going over to the side of the bourgeoisie. To wait until the working classes carry out a revolution on an international scale means that everyone will remain suspended in mid-air. This is senseless. Everyone knows the difficulties of a revolution. It may begin with brilliant success in one country and then go through agonising periods, since final victory is only possible on a world scale, and only by the joint efforts of the workers of all countries. Our task consists in being restrained and prudent, we must manoeuvre and retreat until we receive reinforcements. A change over to these tactics is inevitable, no matter how much they are mocked by so-called revolutionaries with no idea of what revolution means.

Having dealt with the general questions I now want to examine the causes of the recent alarm and panic which have again enabled the counter-revolutionaries to start activities intended to undermine Soviet power.

I have already mentioned that the outward legal form and outer aspect of all international relations of the Soviet Socialist Republic are, on the one hand, the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, and, on the other, the general law and custom defining the status of a neutral country among other, belligerent countries; this status accounts for the recent difficulties. The conclusion of peace with Finland, the Ukraine and Turkey should have been the natural consequence of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, yet we are still at war with these countries, and this is not due to our internal development, but to the influence of the ruling classes of these countries. In these conditions the only temporary way out lay in the temporary breathing-space provided by the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, the breathing-space which provoked so many futile and unnecessary words about its being impossible but which nevertheless turned out to be possible and in two months brought results, made itself felt on the majority of Russian soldiers, enabled them to return home and see how things were going, to take advantage of the revolution’s gains, to work the land, to look around and draw new strength for the fresh sacrifices ahead.

Naturally, this temporary breathing-space appeared to be coming to an end when the situation worsened in Finland, the Ukraine and Turkey, when, instead of peace, we merely obtained a postponement of that selfsame acute economic problem: war or peace? And now are we to go to war once again, despite all the peaceful intentions of Soviet power and its absolute determination to sacrifice so-called Great Power status, i.e., the right to conclude secret treaties, to conceal them from the people with the assistance of the Chernovs, Tseretelis and Kerenskys, to sign secret predatory treaties and conduct an imperialist, predatory war? Indeed, instead of peace, all that we have obtained is a brief postponement of that selfsame pressing question of war or peace.

Here is the result of this situation, and you again clearly see where its final outcome lies—namely, in the question of what the results will be of the wavering among the two hostile groups of imperialist countries—the American conflict in the Far East, and the German-British conflict in Western Europe. It is clear how these contradictions have intensified over the conquest of the Ukraine, over the situation which the German imperialists, particularly their main war party, frequently viewed so optimistically looked upon as so easy, and which caused precisely this extremist German war party such fantastic difficulties. It was this situation which temporarily raised the hopes of the Russian Constitutional-Democrats, Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, who have fallen in love with what Skoropadsky is bringing the Ukraine, and who now hope that this will also be easily achieved in Russia. These gentlemen will be mistaken; their hopes will turn to dust because. . . (stormy applause ), because, I say, that same main war party in Germany, which is too accustomed to rely on the power of the sword, even this party in these particular circumstances has not been supported by the majority of the imperialists, those bourgeois imperialist circles who have seen unprecedented difficulties in the conquest of the Ukraine, in the struggle to subjugate a whole people, in the forced necessity of resorting to a terrible coup d’etat.

This main war party created unprecedented difficulties in Germany when, having promised its people and the workers supreme victories on the Western Front, this extremist war party was forced to recognise that it was faced with new, unbelievable economic and political difficulties with having to divert military forces to tasks which also at first seemed easy, and also with having to conclude a treaty with the Ukrainian Mensheviks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, who were the signatories to the peace treaty.

The extremist war party in Germany reasoned: we shall send many troops and obtain grain, but then it became neces- sary to engineer a coup d’etat. That turned out to be easy, because the Ukrainian Mensheviks readily supported this move. But it then turned out that this coup d’etat created fresh and gigantic difficulties, because the grain and raw materials, without which Germany cannot exist, had to be fought for at every step, and their appropriation by military force in an occupied country involved too great an effort and too many sacrifices.

Such is the situation that has arisen in the Ukraine and that should have lent wings to the hopes of the Russian counter-revolution. It is clear that in this struggle, Russia, which has been unable to rebuild her army, has suffered and is suffering further losses. The peace talks have led to new, onerous conditions, to new open and concealed indemnities. Under what decree the Ukraine’s frontiers are to be determined is not clear. The Rada,[1] which signed the decree, has been removed. A landowner-hetman has been put in its place. Because of this uncertainty a whole number of problems have emerged which prove that the questions of war and peace remain as before. The partial armistice existing between the Russian and German troops in no way predetermines the general situation. The question hangs in the air. The same is true of Georgia, where we have a protracted counter-revolutionary struggle by the government of the Caucasian Mensheviks, a protracted struggle by counter-revolutionaries who call themselves Social-Democrats. And when the victory of Soviet power and the working people, having embraced the whole of Russia, has begun to draw in the non-Russian outlying areas, when it has become quite obvious and beyond all doubt that the victory of Soviet power, as has been admitted by the counter-revolutionary representatives of the Don Cossacks, cannot be delayed, when the Menshevik government in the Caucasus has begun to waver the government of Gegechkori and Jordania, who realised this too late and started to talk about finding a common language with the Bolsheviks when Tsereteli, aided by the Turkish troops, has shown his hand by advancing against the Bolsheviks—they will reap the same harvest as the Rada. (Applause.)

Remember, however, that if these bargainers of the Caucasian Rada receive the support of the German troops, as did the Ukrainian Rada, then there will no doubt be fresh difficulties for the Russian Soviet Republic, a new inevitability of war, new dangers and now uncertainties. There are people who refer to this uncertainty, to the strain of an uncertain situation (in fact such an uncertain situation is sometimes worse than any clearly defined one), and say that the uncertainty can be easily removed—you only have to demand openly that the Germans observe the Brest Treaty.

I have heard such naĂŻve people, who consider themselves to be on the left, but who in fact only reflect the narrow mindedness of our petty bourgeoisie. . . .[2]

They forget that you have first to be victorious before you can make demands. If you are not victorious the enemy can delay his reply or even make no reply at all to your demands. That is the law of imperialist war.

You don’t like it. Then be able to defend your homeland. The worker has every right to defend his homeland for the sake of socialism, for the sake of the working class.

I shall only add that this uncertain situation on the Caucasian border was a result of the quite unpardonable vacillation of the Gegechkori government which at first announced that it did not recognise the Brest peace, and then declared its independence without informing us of what territory this independence covered. We have sent innumerable radio-telegrams saying to them, please inform us of the territory you lay claim to. You have the right to claim independence, but since you speak of independence, you are bound to say what territory you are representing. That was a week ago. Countless radio-telegrams have been dispatched, but not a single reply has been received. German imperialism is taking advantage of this. This has made it possible for Germany, and Turkey, as a satellite state, to push farther and farther forward, making no replies, ignoring everything, stating: we shall take whatever we can, we are not infringing the Brest peace, because the Transcaucasian army does not recognise it, because the Caucasus is independent.

Of whom is the Gegechkori government independent? It is independent of the Soviet Republic, but it is dependent, just a little, on German imperialism, and quite naturally so. (Applause.)

That is the situation which has developed, comrades—an acute aggravation of relations in the last few days—it is a situation which has once again, and fairly obviously, confirmed the correctness of the tactics which the vast majority of our Party, the Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks, has employed and firmly insisted on during recent months.

We possess great revolutionary experience, which has taught us that it is essential to employ the tactics of merciless attack when objective conditions permit, when the experience of compromising has shown that the people’s indignation has been aroused, and that attack will express this change. But we have to resort to temporising tactics, to a slow gathering of forces when objective circumstances do not favour a call for a general merciless repulse.

Any person who does not shut his eyes to the facts, who is not blind, knows that we are merely repeating what we have said earlier, and what we have always said: that we do not forget the weakness of the Russian working class compared to other contingents of the international proletariat. It was not our own will, but historical circumstances, the legacy of the tsarist regime, the flabbiness of the Russian bourgeoisie, that caused this contingent to march ahead of the other contingents of the international proletariat; it was not because we desired it, but because circumstances demanded it. We must remain at our post until the arrival of our ally, the international proletariat, which will arrive and will inevitably arrive, but which is approaching at an immeasurably slower pace than we expect or wish. If we see that as a result of objective conditions the international proletariat moves too slowly, we must nevertheless stick to our tactics of temporising and utilising the conflicts and contradictions between the imperialists, of slowly accumulating strength; the tactics of preserving this island of Soviet power in the stormy imperialist sea, maintaining this island which now already attracts the gaze of the working people of all countries. That is why we tell ourselves that, if the extremist war party can at any moment defeat any imperialist coalition and build a new unexpected imperialist coalition against us, we at any rate will not make it any easier for them. And if they come against us—yes, we are now defencists—we shall do everything in our power, everything within the power of diplomatic tactics, we shall do everything to delay that moment, everything to make the brief and unstable respite, given us in March, last longer, for we are firmly convinced that behind us are tens of millions of workers and peasants who know that with every week and, even more so, with every month of this respite they gain new strength, they are consolidating Soviet power, making it firm and stable. They know that they are introducing a new spirit, and that after the attrition and weariness of this exhausting reactionary war, they will create firmness and readiness for the last and decisive battle should external forces attack the Socialist Soviet Republic.

We have been defencists since October 25, 1917; we have won the right to defend our native land. It is not secret treaties that we are defending, we have annulled and exposed them to the whole world. We are defending our country against the imperialists. We are defending and we shall win. It is not the Great Power status of Russia that we are defending—of that nothing is left but Russia proper—nor is it national interests, for we assert that the interests of socialism, of world socialism are higher than national interests, higher than the interests of the state. We are defenders of the socialist fatherland.

This is not achieved by issuing declarations, but only by overthrowing the bourgeoisie in one’s own country, by a ruthless war to the death begun in one’s own country; and we know that we shall win this war. Ours is a small island in the war that engulfs the imperialist world, but on this small island we have shown and proved to all what the working class can do. Everyone knows this and has acknowledged it. We have proved that we possess the right to defend our homeland. We are defencists and look upon our task with all the seriousness taught us by the four years of war, with all the seriousness and caution understood by every worker and peasant who has met a soldier and has learned what that soldier has lived through in these four years of war—the caution which may not be understood, which may be sneered at and regarded frivolously only by people who are revolutionaries in word but not in deed. It is just because we do support the defence of the fatherland that we tell ourselves: a firm and strong army and a strong rear are needed for the defence, and in order to have a firm and strong army we must in the first place ensure that the food supplies are on a sound basis. For this the dictatorship of the proletariat must be expressed not only centrally—that is the first step and only the first step—but there must be dictatorship throughout the whole of Russia—that is the second step and only the second step, which we have not yet carried out sufficiently. Proletarian discipline is essential and necessary for us; real proletarian dictatorship, when the firm and iron rule of class-conscious workers is felt in every remote corner of our country, when not a single kulak, not a single rich man, not a single opponent of the grain monopoly remains unpunished, but is found and punished by the iron hand of the disciplined dictators of the working class, the proletarian dictators. (Applause.)

We say to ourselves: our attitude to defence of the fatherland is a cautious one; it is our duty to do everything that our diplomacy can do to delay the moment of war, to extend the respite period; we promise the workers and peasants to do all we can for peace. This we shall do. And bourgeois gentlemen and their hirelings, who think that just as in the Ukraine, where a coup was brought about so easily, so in Russia it may be possible to give birth to new Skoropadskys, should not forget that the war party in Germany found it very difficult to effect a coup in the Ukraine, and will meet with plenty of opposition in Soviet Russia. Everything goes to prove this; Soviet power has pursued this line and has made every sacrifice to consolidate the position of the working people.

The situation with regard to peace with Finland may be summed up in the words: Fort Ino and Murmansk. Fort Ino, which defends Petrograd, lies geographically within the Finnish state. In concluding peace with the workers’ government of Finland we, the representatives of socialist Russia, recognised Finland’s absolute right to the whole territory, but it was mutually agreed by both governments that Fort Ino should remain in Russia’s hands “for the defence of the joint interests of the Socialist Republics”, as stated in the treaty that was concluded.[3] It is natural that our troops should conclude this peace in Finland, should sign these terms. It is natural that bourgeois and counter-revolutionary Finland was bound to raise a hue and cry against this. It is natural that the reactionary and counter-revolutionary Finnish bourgeoisie should lay claim to this stronghold. It is natural that, because of this, the issue should become acute on a number of occasions and should still remain acute. Matters hang by a thread. It is natural that the question of Murmansk, to which the Anglo-French have laid claim, should give rise to even greater aggravation, because they have spent tens of millions on the port’s construction in order to safeguard their military rear in their imperialist war against Germany. Their respect for neutrality is so wonderful that they make use of everything that is left unguarded. Furthermore, sufficient excuse for their grabbing is their possession of a battle ship, while we have nothing with which to chase it away. It is natural that all this should have aggravated the situation. There is an outer aspect, a legal expression resulting from the international position of the Soviet Republic, which presumes that it is impossible for armed forces of any belligerent state to set foot on neutral territory without being disarmed. The British landed their military forces at Murmansk, and we were unable to prevent this by armed force. Consequently, we are presented with demands almost in the nature of an ultimatum: if you cannot protect your neutrality, we shall wage war on your territory.

A worker-peasant army, however, has now been formed, it has rallied in the uyezds and gubernias the peasants who have returned to their land, land wrested from the landowners; they now have something to defend. An army has been formed which has started to build Soviet power, and which will become the vanguard if an invasion against Russia breaks out; we shall rise as one man to meet the enemy.

My time is up, and I want to conclude by reading a telegram received by radio from Comrade Joffe, Soviet Ambassador in Berlin. This telegram will show you that, on the one hand, you have confirmation from our Ambassador of whether my analysis of the international situation is correct and, on the other hand, that the foreign policy of our Soviet Republic is a responsible one—it is a policy of preparation for defence of our country, a steadfast policy, not allowing a single step to be taken that would aid the extremist parties of the imperialist powers in the East and West. This is a responsible policy with no illusions. There always remains the possibility that any day military forces may be thrown against us and we, the workers and peasants, assure ourselves and the whole world, and shall be able to prove, that we shall rise to a man to defend the Soviet Republic. I hope, therefore, that the reading of this telegram will serve as an appropriate conclusion to my speech and will show us the spirit in which the representatives of the Soviet Republic work abroad in the interests of the Soviets, of all Soviet institutions and the Soviet Republic.

“The latest radio-telegrams received today report that the German War Prisoners’ Commission is leaving on Friday, May 10. We have already received a Note from the German Government proposing the setting up of a special commission to consider all legal questions in regard to our possessions in the Ukraine and in Finland. I have agreed to such a commission and have asked you to send the appropriate military and legal representatives. Today I had a talk about further advances, demands for clearing Fort Ino, and the attitude of the Russians to Germany. Here is the reply: The German High Command states that there will be no further advances; Germany’s role in the Ukraine and Finland has ended. Germany is willing to assist our peace talks with Kiev and Helsingfors and is entering into negotiations with the governments concerned. As regards Fort Ino, in connection with the Finnish Peace talks: according to the treaty, the forts should be destroyed. Germany considers that when defining the frontiers the agreement with the Reds can be accepted; the Whites have not yet replied. The German Government declares officially: Germany abides firmly by the Brest Treaty, she wants peaceful relations with us, she has no aggressive plans and has no intention of attacking us in any way. It is promised that, in accordance with my request, Russian citizens in Germany will be treated on a par with other neutrals.”

  1. ↑ Rada—the Central Rada, a counter-revolutionary bourgeois nationalist government set up in April 1917 at the All-Ukraine National Congress in Kiev by a bloc of Ukrainian bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist parties and groups. The chairman of the Rada was M. S. Grushevsky, ideologist of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie, the vice-chairman was V. K. Vinnichenko. Among its members were Petlyura, Yefremov, Antonovich and other nationalists.
    After the victory of the October Revolution the Rada declared itself the supreme organ of the “Ukrainian People’s Republic”, opposed Soviet power and became one of the main centres of counter-revolution.
    In December 1917, at the First All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets, which took place in Kharkov, the Ukraine was proclaimed a Soviet republic. The Congress also declared the power of the Central Rada overthrown. The Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR recognised the Ukrainian Soviet Government as the sole legitimate government of the Ukraine and passed a decision that it should be given immediate assistance in its struggle against the counter-revolutionary Rada. In December 1917 and January 1918, armed uprisings against the Central Rada and for the establishment of Soviet power flared up in all parts of the Ukraine. In January 1918, Soviet troops in the Ukraine launched an offensive and on January 26 (February 8) occupied Kiev and deposed the bourgeois Rada.
    Driven out of the Soviet Ukraine, the Central Rada allied itself with the German imperialists in order to overthrow Soviet power and restore the bourgeois regime in the Ukraine. During the peace negotiations between the Soviet Republic and Germany the Rada sent its delegation to Brest-Litovsk and behind the back of the Soviet delegation concluded a separate peace with Germany, by which it undertook to supply Germany with Ukrainian grain, coal, and raw materials in return for military assistance against Soviet power. In March 1918 the Rada, now a puppet in the hands of the German and Austrian invaders, returned to Kiev. Realising that the Rada was incapable of crushing the revolutionary movement in the Ukraine and ensuring the delivery of supplies of food and raw materials, the Germans eventually abolished it.
  2. ↑ A phrase that is not clearly written in the verbatim report has been omitted.—Editor.
  3. ↑ The reference is to the Treaty between Russia and Finnish Socialist Republics, which was endorsed in Petrograd on March 1, 1918 (see Decrees of the Soviet Government, Russ. ed., Vol. 1, 1957, pp. 505-10.