The “Virtual Armistice”
|Written||9 May 1917|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 375-377.
Novaya Zhizn for May 7 publishes interviews with ministers of the “new” government. Prime Minister Lvov has declared that “the country must have its weighty say and send its army into battle”.
This is the sum and substance of the new government’s “programme”. An offensive, an offensive, an offensive!
Defending this imperialist programme, now accepted by the Chernovs and the Tseretelis, Minister Lvov in tones of deepest moral indignation fulminates against the “virtual armistice that has been established at the front”!
Let every Russian worker, let every peasant give careful thought to this programme of offensive, to these violent ministerial diatribes against the “virtual armistice”.
Millions of people have been killed and crippled in the war. Untold sufferings have fallen to the lot of the people, particularly the working masses, as a result of the war. The capitalists are making scandalously high profits out of the war. The soldiers are utterly worn out.
What is wrong with a virtual armistice? What is wrong with having the slaughter stopped? What is wrong with the soldiers getting at least a brief respite?
We are told that an armistice has been established only on one front, and therefore there is a danger of a separate peace. But this argument does not hold water. If neither the Russian Government nor the Russian workers and peas ants want a separate peace with the German capitalists (our Party, as we know, through Pravda and in the resolution passed at our Conference, which spoke in the name of the Party as a whole, has repeatedly protested against such a peace)—if no one in Russia wants a separate peace with separate capitalists, how then, by what miracle, can such a peace come? Who can impose it?
The objection is clearly untenable. It is sheer invention, an attempt to throw dust in our eyes.
Further, why should a virtual armistice on one front imply the “danger” of a separate peace on that front, and not the danger of such an armistice spreading to all fronts?
A virtual armistice is an unstable transitional state of affairs. This is incontrovertible. Transitional to what? It cannot lead to a separate peace so long as there is no mutual agreement between the two governments or two nations. But why could not such an armistice lead to a virtual truce on all fronts? Surely this is what all nations agree with, despite all or most of their governments!
Fraternisation on one front can and should lead to fraternisation on all fronts. A virtual armistice on one front can and should lead to a virtual armistice on all fronts.
The nations would thus gain a respite from the carnage. The revolutionary workers in all the countries would raise their heads still higher; their influence would increase, and faith in the possibility and necessity of a workers’ revolution in the advanced capitalist countries would become strengthened.
What is wrong with such a transition? Why should we not help to bring it about as far as it is in our power to do so?
We may be told that a virtual armistice today on all fronts would help the German capitalists, who have snatched more loot than anybody else. This is not true. For one thing, the British capitalists have grabbed more (the German colonies in Africa, German islands in the Pacific, Mesopotamia, part of Syria, etc.) and, unlike the German capitalists, have lost nothing. Secondly, if the German capitalists had shown greater obstinacy than the British capitalists, the growth of the revolution in Germany would have only been accelerated. The revolution in Germany is obviously mounting. An offensive by the Russian troops would check this growth. The “virtual armistice” hastens the rise of this revolution.
Thirdly, what with growing hunger, ruin, and disorganisation, Germany is in desperate straits, being worse off than any other country, especially since the United States has entered the war. A “virtual armistice” would not remove this fundamental source of Germany’s weakness; on the contrary, it is likely to improve the position of the other countries (greater freedom for bringing up supplies) while worsening that of the German capitalists (who have nowhere to bring supplies up from and will have greater difficulty in hiding the truth from the people).
The Russian people have two programmes to choose from. One is the programme of the capitalists, adopted by the Chernovs and Tseretelis. This is the programme of offensive, the programme for dragging out the imperialist war, dragging out the carnage.
The other programme is that of the world’s revolutionary workers, advocated in Russia by our Party. This programme says: stimulate fraternisation (but do not permit the Germans to deceive the Russians); fraternise by means of proclamations; extend fraternisation and a virtual armistice to all fronts; help to spread these in every possible way, thereby hastening the proletarian revolution in all the countries, giving at least a temporary respite to the soldiers of all the belligerent countries; hasten in Russia the transfer of power to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies, and thereby hasten the conclusion of a really just, really universal peace in the interests of the working people, and not in the interests of the capitalists.
Our government, with the Chernovs and Tseretelis, the Narodniks and the Mensheviks, is for the first programme.
The majority of the Russian nation and of all the nations within Russia (and outside Russia), i.e., the majority of the workers and poor peasants, undoubtedly stand for the second programme.
The victory of this second programme is drawing nearer every day.
- [PLACEHOLDER.] —Lenin