Speech in the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Deputies

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April 23, 1918[edit source]

Verbatim Report[edit source]

Comrades, allow me first of all to greet the newly elected Moscow Soviet of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.

You have had to elect a new membership at an extremely grave time, at a tragic moment when the development of our revolution is entering its most dangerous and difficult phase. Elements hostile to the revolution, all those who support the enemies of the people, all those who follow in the wake of the bourgeoisie, had put great hopes in the elections to our Soviet, for at the present time we are passing through an extremely difficult period, when the victorious advance of the revolution has ended and it has entered a phase of painful experiences and even defeats. And at this moment the proletariat has again shown us the great strength of its class-consciousness. The workers, appreciating the full difficulty of the period we are passing through, clearly understand that the removal of the great afflictions which have now fallen to the lot of the working people depends not on us, but on the whole course of historical events. With heroic determination the workers will shoulder the burden of new deprivations, if they can defend thereby the gains of the October Revolution.

There is no doubt that, along with severe trials, the revolution has nevertheless entered a phase of new, inconspicuous victories, which do not catch the eye but are not less important than the brilliant victories of the epoch of the October barricades. We are confronted in all their

magnitude by our two mortal enemies; facing us in full armour are the external and the internal enemies, ready to tear the revolution to pieces and awaiting a suitable moment to deliver a knock-out blow. The external enemy is international imperialism. Armed to the teeth and possessing a wealth of technical equipment, it is awaiting the moment for a new predatory attack on Soviet Russia. Bearing this in mind, we must with merciless clear-sightedness look the ominous truth squarely in the face.

At the present time, as a result of the most reactionary war which our tormented country has had to endure, we do not have sufficient forces for an active, armed struggle against world reaction; we do not have an army, we do not have the forces with which to oppose the excellently organised contingents of international counter-revolution, which have the strength that comes with up-to-date equipment and ideal discipline. For the time being we are alone and surrounded by deadly enemies.

At the time of the October uprising of the working people, when we unfurled the Red banner of the socialist revolution before the workers, we went through a period of easy, dazzling success. The workers of other countries, who heard the far-off roar of the Russian revolution, understood what was taking place in Russia and realised that the Russian proletariat’s action furthered their own vital cause. At that time, we easily coped with the reactionary gangs, we easily suppressed the remnants of the Menshevik gangs who were in revolt against the people and who opposed us not by open struggle arms in hand but by the dirty weapon of lies, slander and unprecedented treachery. As a result of our struggle against the counter-revolution we achieved a big victory, as seen from the fact that the counter-revolutionary Kornilov, foremost in audacity, was killed by his own soldiers, who had revolted against him.[1]

Waging an extensive struggle against the domestic counter-revolution on all fronts, we took advantage of the hitch suffered by the international bourgeoisie and delivered a well-timed, powerful body-blow at the now shattered counter-revolution. We can say with confidence that in the main the civil war is at an end. There will be some skirmishes, of course, and in some towns street fighting will flare up here or there, due to isolated attempts by the reactionaries to overthrow the strength of the revolution—the Soviet system—but there is no doubt that on the internal front reaction has been irretrievably smashed by the efforts of the insurgent people. Thus we have survived the first period of development of the revolution—the beginning of which dates from the October days—a period of intoxicating success, which did, in fact, go to the heads of some people.

I repeat again that the most difficult, the gravest phase in the life of our revolution has now begun. The task before us is the inflexible exertion of all our strength and its application to new creative work, for only iron endurance and labour discipline will enable the revolutionary Russian proletariat, as yet so solitary in its gigantic revolutionary work, to hold out till the time of deliverance when the international proletariat will come to our aid.

We are a revolutionary working-class contingent that has advanced to the forefront, not because we are better than other workers, not because the Russian proletariat is superior to the working class of other countries, but solely because we were one of the most backward countries in the world. We shall achieve final victory only when we succeed at last in conclusively smashing international imperialism, which relies on the tremendous strength of its equipment and discipline. But we shall achieve victory only together with all the workers of other countries, of the whole world.

By force of circumstances, we have had to make an onerous peace in Brest, and we do not hide the fact that at any moment this peace may be treacherously violated by the numerous enemies of the revolution who are advancing upon us from all sides, and against whom we are powerless to begin an active struggle at the present moment. Bear in mind that anyone who would call you just now to this active, armed, open struggle against international predatory imperialism would commit an act of treachery to the people, would be a voluntary or involuntary agent provocateur and servitor of one or other clique of the imperialists. And anyone who acts in opposition to the tactics to which we have adhered in the recent period—even if he calls himself the most “Left”, even super-Left, Communist—is a bad revolutionary, I will say more, is not a revolutionary at all. (Applause.)

Our backwardness has put us in the forefront, and we shall perish unless we are capable of holding out until we receive powerful support from workers who have risen in revolt in other countries. Our task consists in steadily continuing our tactics of proletarian struggle.

We have one extremely dangerous secret enemy, more dangerous than many open counter-revolutionaries; this enemy is the deadly enemy of the socialist revolution and Soviet power, which is a people’s parliament of a new type for the poor, one that has hitherto not existed anywhere—this enemy is the anarchy of the petty proprietor. There is no doubt that we have come near to surmounting the most difficult obstacles in the way of the development of the socialist revolution. The first and foremost task confronting us is the full realisation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in all spheres: in the organisation of labour discipline, in production, and in the distribution of products. The enemy of whom I have spoken is the anarchy of the petty proprietors, whose life is guided by one thought: “I grab all I can—the rest can go hang.” This enemy is more powerful than all the Kornilovs, Dutovs and Kaledins put together.

These petty kulaks, petty employers and proprietors say: “All the time we have been oppressed, all the time we have been crushed—well, how can we fail to take advantage of such a favourable opportunity.” This phenomenon is a serious obstacle and unless we overcome it victory is inconceivable, for a new Kornilov will grow from each petty proprietor, from each greedy grabber.

Alongside this danger, the terrible spectre of approaching famine and mass unemployment confronts us, but we see that all class-conscious workers, whose numbers increase not daily but hourly, take into consideration and understand that at the present time the sole means of struggle against these grave dangers is the unrelaxing exertion of all our strength and powerful endurance. And let it be remembered by those who give way to despair, and who lose heart and vigour at difficult moments in our revolution, that we have always said that we cannot pass from capitalism to the full victory of socialism by the bloodless and easy path of persuasion and conciliation, and that we can only reach our goal as the result of a furious struggle.

The dictatorship of the proletariat stands for the use of force against the exploiters. Our road is through endurance, proletarian solidarity, and the iron dictatorship of the working people. There is no doubt that in many cases the Soviet government has not displayed sufficient determination in the struggle against counter-revolution, and in this respect it has had the appearance not of iron, but of jelly, from which socialism cannot be built. We have not conquered petty-bourgeois anarchy. This country, which the course of history has advanced to the foremost position in the arena of the world revolution, a country devastated and bled white, is in an extremely grave situation and we shall be crushed if we do not counter ruin, disorganisation and despair with the iron dictatorship of the class-conscious workers. We shall be merciless both to our enemies and to all waverers and harmful elements in our midst who dare to bring disorganisation into our difficult creative work of building a new life for the working people.

We have begun to solve a problem the mastery of which will bring the full guarantee and consolidation of socialism. To overcome all difficulties, to struggle successfully against famine and unemployment, we shall perform an imperceptible, modest but difficult task of state importance, and anyone who opposes us will be a bitter enemy of the world proletariat.

The elections to the Moscow Soviet have shown how great is the workers’ insight into current events. They have realised that Soviet power is not a showy ornament but something of their own flesh and blood. This last act, that of the elections to our Soviet, has spelt defeat for all those who pinned their hopes on these elections, for all the wavering elements, and this gives me hope and confidence that we are on the right road, which will lead us to the full victory of socialism. (Ovation.)

  1. In April 1918 it was reported in the press that General Kornilov had been killed by his own soldiers. Later it was established that Kornilov had been killed by an artillery shell on April 13, 1918 during an action against units of the Red Army near Ekaterinodar (now Krasnodar).