Speech at a Sitting of the Bolshevik Group of the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies
|Written||31 May 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 436-437.1.
MAY 31 (JUNE 13), 1917
BRIEF NEWSPAPER REPORT
On behalf of the Central Committee, Lenin greets all internationalist Social-Democrats without distinction of group affiliation.
The speaker goes on to the question of how the European war can be eliminated. It then turns out that he does not see the settlement of the European crisis in such optimistic colours as A. Lunacharsky. He says that the “without annexations” formula does not at all mean any desire to return Europe to the “status quo ante”. We believe that “without annexations” also means without the seizures carried out before the war. We take this formula to mean giving the peoples complete freedom to secede from one state and join another. But it is impossible to implement this formula without a socialist revolution, which is why there is no way out of the European war except a world-wide revolution.
Referring to fraternisation, Lenin says: the spontaneous fraternisation will not settle the question of peace, but we regard it as the cornerstone of our revolutionary work. Fraternisation does not in itself solve the question, but then no other measure alone decides the revolution until it leads to one. What is a strike or a demonstration? They are after all only a link in the entire chain of the revolutionary struggle. We are being told that this fraternisation has worsened the situation on the other fronts. That is not true. It has created a virtual armistice on our front and has caused small changes on the Western front. But in whose favour? In favour of Britain and France. On the other hand, Britain has scored a great success in Asia: she has gobbled up Baghdad. The suspension of the fighting on our front has been brought about by revolutionary fraternisation, against which Kerensky is waging a war, and against which an offensive signed by the Mensheviks has been announced.
We must make fraternisation conscious, we must see that it is transformed into an exchange of ideas, that it is carried over to the other fronts, that it kindles a revolution on the other side of the trenches.
On the question of regulating industry, the speaker says: since February 28, the government has done nothing to cut down the industrialists’ profits. The other day we read about the establishment of a commission consisting of several ministers led by Skobelev to work out control measures. But we had commissions under the tsar, they are nothing but a swindle. The speaker says there is need immediately to take over the landed estates, and ends his speech by stating that the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies must either take all the power or die an inglorious death.
Notes are being passed to the speaker from every side. Within a short time they number 20. The first of them asks whether the draft reinforcements should be sent to the front. Replying to the question, Lenin says: under the tsarist power we had to go into the army and work there. Liebknecht put on a uniform to conduct agitation against the war. It is naive to think that the war can be abolished by separate anarchic action.
- A. V. Lunacharsky, who spoke before Lenin, proposed an ultimatum to the governments of France and Britain to make them accept the formula of peace without annexations and indemnities, and the announcing of a ceasefire on all fronts. At the same time, said Lunacharsky, we must appeal to the peoples of the Allied countries and also of Germany and Austria, urging them to exert pressure on their governments with all means at their disposal. If the German Government should insist on continuing the war under this unconditional formula, the falsity of its assertion that it was waging a defensive war would be exposed. p. 436