The Extraordinary All-Russia Congress Of Soviets Of Peasants' Deputies

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 25 November 1917


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Written 12-14 November (25-27), 1917
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 321-332
Collection(s): Izvestia, Pravda

November 10-25, 1917

The Congress was called by a decision of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and met in Petrograd from November 10 to 25 (November 23 to December 8), 1917. Attempts were made by the Right Socialist-Revolutionary Executive Committee of the Soviets of Peasants' Deputies (elected by the First All-Russia Congress of Peasants' Deputies in May 1917) to prevent the Congress from meeting and the peasant delegates from coming into contact with the Bolsheviks. These attempts were foiled by the vigorous efforts of the Bolsheviks, who were supported by grass roots delegates and the Left Socialist-Revolutionary minority of the peasant Executive.

About 260 delegates attended the first sitting; on November 18 (December 1) there were 330 delegates with vote, including 195 Left Socialist-Revolutionaries 37 Bolsheviks, 65 Socialist-Revolutionaries of the Right and Centre, and more were arriving.

The Congress was the scene of a sharp struggle between the Right and Left wing, with the Right-wingers eventually walking out. The Bolsheviks' fight against the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries was hampered by the vacillation of the Left-wingers. The resolution "On Power" tabled by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries contained the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik demand for a government of all socialist parties, from Popular Socialists to the Bolsheviks, inclusive. But in that same resolution the Congress stated that the government was being set up to implement the programme of the Second Congress of Soviets. It also provided for a merger of the Executive of the Soviets of Peasants' Deputies with the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.

The Right-wingers failed in their efforts to split the Congress. On November 15 (28) it discussed and approved the Presidium's report on the terms for the merger worked out jointly with the Presidium of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, on whose behalf Sverdlov delivered a speech of greetings. The Congress then moved as a body to Smolny, where at 6.00 p.m. a ceremonial joint sitting was held by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, the Extraordinary Congress of Soviets of Peasants' Deputies and the Petrograd Soviet. It heard a report on the merger of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Executive Committee elected by the Congress, and adopted a resolution confirming the decrees of the Second Congress of Soviets on peace and on land, and the decree of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee on workers' control.

The Congress adopted a resolution on the agrarian question which was tabled by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and was based on the principle of equalitarian land tenure.

The Congress authorised the Presidium to open the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Peasants' Deputies on November 26 (December 9). The delegates to the Extraordinary Congress were incorporated in the Second Congress.

Lenin spoke three times in explanation of the Bolshevik attitude to the agrarian question and the terms of agreement with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. His speeches were of tremendous importance in guiding the Congress and rallying its Leftwing.

November 10-25 (November 23-December 8), 1917


1. Statement to the Bolshevik Group at the Extraordinary All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Peasants' Deputies[1][edit source]

Written on 12 November, 1917

First Published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXI

Published according to the manuscript

We demand most emphatically that the Bolsheviks insist, in the form of an ultimatum, on an open vote on the question of issuing an immediate invitation to several representatives of the Government.

If the reading of this proposal and voting on it at the plenary session are refused, the whole Bolshevik group should walk out by way of protest.

Lenin

2. Speech On The Agrarian Question November 14 (27) Newspaper Report[edit source]

First Published in 1933 in Pravda No. 190

28 November 1917

Published according to the Pravda text

On the instructions of the Bolshevik group, Comrade Lenin delivered a speech setting forth the views of the Bolshevik Party on the agrarian question.

He said that the Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries had suffered defeat over the agrarian question, since it had advocated the confiscation of the landed estates, but refused to carry it into effect.

Landed proprietorship forms the basis of feudal oppression, and the confiscation of the landed estates is the first step of the revolution in Russia. But the land question cannot be settled independently of the other problems of the revolution. A correct view of these problems can be derived from an analysis of the stages through which the revolution has passed. The first stage was the overthrow of the autocracy and the establishment of the power of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. The interests of the landowners were closely interwoven with those of the bourgeoisie and the banks. The second stage was the consolidation of the Soviets and a policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie. The mistake of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries was that at that time they failed to oppose the policy of compromise on the plea that the masses were not sufficiently enlightened. A party is the vanguard of a class, and its duty is to lead the masses and not merely to reflect the average political level of the masses. But in order to lead those who vacillate the Left Socialist-Revolutionary comrades must themselves stop vacillating.

Comrades Left Socialist-Revolutionaries! In July there began a period in which the masses of the people started breaking away from the policy of compromise, but to this very day the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries are stretching out a hand to the Avksentyevs, while offering the workers only their little finger. If compromise continues, the revolution is doomed. Only if the peasantry supports the workers can the problems of the revolution be solved. Compromise is an attempt on the part of the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers to get their needs satisfied by means of reforms, by concessions on the part of capital, without a socialist revolution. But it is impossible to give the people peace and land without overthrowing the bourgeoisie, without socialism. It is the duty of the revolution to put an end to compromise, and to put an end to compromise means taking the path of socialist revolution.

Comrade Lenin went on to defend the instructions to the volost committees[2] and spoke of the necessity of breaking with the leading organs, such as the army committees, the Executive Committee of the Peasants' Deputies, etc. We adopted our law on the volost committees, he said, from the peasants. The peasants want land and the prohibition of hired labour; they want implements for the cultivation of the soil. And this cannot be obtained without defeating capital. You want land, we said to them, but the land is mortgaged and belongs to Russian and world capital. You are throwing down a challenge to capital, you are following a different path from ours; but we are at one with you in that we are marching, and must march, towards the social revolution. As for the Constituent Assembly, the speaker said that its work will depend on the mood in the country, but he added, trust in the mood, but don't forget your rifles.

Comrade Lenin went on to deal with the question of the war. When he referred to the removal of Dukhonin and the appointment of Krylenko as Commander-in-Chief, there was laughter among the audience. It may be funny to you, he retorted, but the soldiers will condemn you for this laughter. If there are people here who think it funny that we removed a counter-revolutionary general and appointed Krylenko, who is against the general and has gone to conduct negotiations,[3] we have nothing to say to them. We have nothing in common with those who do not recognise the need to fight the counter-revolutionary generals. Rather than have anything to do with such people we prefer to retire from power, go underground if necessary.

3. Draft Resolution[edit source]

Written 14 November 1917

First Published in Izvestia in No. 226,

28 November 1917

Published according to the Izvestia text

The Peasants' Congress fully and in every way supports the law (decree) on land of October 26, 1917, approved by the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and published by the Council of People's Commissars as the provisional workers' and peasants' government of the Russian Republic. The Peasants' Congress declares its firm and unshakable resolve to ensure the implementation of this law, calls upon all peasants to support it unanimously and to carry it out themselves in the localities without delay, and also to elect to all and every responsible post and office only people who have proved not in word but in deed their complete devotion to the interests of the working and exploited peasants, their readiness and ability to uphold these interests against any resistance the landowners, capitalists, and their supporters or accomplices may offer.

The Peasants' Congress also expresses its conviction that the full implementation of all the measures constituting the law on land is possible only if the workers' socialist revolution which began on October 25 is successful, for only the socialist revolution can ensure the transfer of the land to the working peasantry without compensation, the confiscation of the landowners' implements, full protection of the interests of agricultural wage-workers and the immediate commencement of the unconditional abolition of the entire system of capitalist wage-slavery, the proper and planned distribution of the products of both agriculture and industry among the various regions and the population of the country, control over the banks (without such control the people will not be masters of the land even though private property in land is abolished), all-round state assistance specifically to the working and exploited people, etc.

Therefore the Peasants' Congress, fully supporting the Revolution of October 25, and supporting it precisely as a socialist revolution, declares its unswerving resolve to carry out, with due gradualness but without the slightest vacillation, measures aimed at the socialist transformation of the Russian Republic.

A necessary condition for the victory of the socialist revolution, which alone can secure the lasting triumph and full implementation of the law on land, is the close alliance of the working and exploited peasantry with the working class—the proletariat—in all the advanced countries. In the Russian Republic the entire organisation and administration of the state from top to bottom must henceforth be based on such an alliance. Rejecting all and every attempt, direct and indirect, overt and covert, to return to a course that experience has rejected, to the course of conciliation with the bourgeoisie and the champions of bourgeois policy, this alliance alone can ensure the victory of socialism the world over.

4. Speech In Connection With The Statement Of A Vikzhel Spokesman[edit source]

Published in Izvestia No. 230

19 November 1917

Published according to the Izvestia text

November 18 (December 1)

Newspaper Report

Comrades, the Vikzhel statement is undoubtedly nothing but a misunderstanding. Can you imagine, for one moment, that troops, fully aware of their revolutionary duty and fighting for the people's interests, would approach Field Headquarters and begin smashing up everything and everyone, without making known their demands, without so much as explaining to the soldiers around II.Q. why they had come. You must realise, comrades, that that is impossible. A revolutionary army, conscious of what it is about, must make its demands known to those to whom it applies. When the demands were being made, much more was done; care was taken to make it quite clear that resistance meant resisting the people's will, that this was not a common but a moral crime against the people's freedom, interests and highest aspirations. A revolutionary army never fires the first shot, and acts in anger only against invaders and tyrants. Had it been otherwise, the word revolution would have lost its meaning. I feel I must draw your attention to the fact that while making its unverified charges, Vikzhel announces its "neutrality". That is something Vikzhel has no right to do. At. a time of revolutionary struggle, when every minute counts, when dissent and neutrality allow the enemy to put in his word, when he will certainly be heard, and when no haste is made to help the people in their struggle for their sacred rights. I cannot call such a stand neutrality; it is not neutrality; a revolutionary would call it incitement. (Applause.) By taking Such a stand you incite the generals to action; when you fail to support us, you oppose the people.

To postpone the armistice is just what General Dukhonin wants. By assisting him you are sabotaging the armistice. Think of the grave responsibility that falls upon you, and consider what the people will say.

Comrade Lenin went on to say that the telegraph services were being sabotaged in some areas. The government was left without information, while its opponents circulated absurd rumours. Take the allegation that the Polish battalions were opposing the government, although the Poles had repeatedly declared that they had not interfered and did not intend to interfere in Russian affairs; they have also informed us that they want an armistice.

5. Concluding Speech On The Agrarian Question[edit source]

Published in Pravda No. 195

4 December 1917

Published according to the Pravda text

November 18 (December 1)

Newspaper Report

Comrade Lenin first showed that the accusation of anarchism made against the Bolsheviks by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries had not been proved.

In what way did socialists differ from anarchists? The anarchists did not recognise state power whereas the socialists, the Bolsheviks among them, did recognise it in the period of transition between the state of affairs then obtaining and the socialism towards which they were progressing.

The Bolsheviks favoured a strong authority, but it must be a workers' and peasants' authority.

All state power is compulsion, but until then it had always been the power of the minority, the power of the landowner and capitalist employed against the worker and peasant.

He said that the Bolsheviks stood for the state power that would be a firm authority of the majority of the workers and peasants employed against the capitalists and landowners.

Comrade Lenin then went on to show that the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries' resolution on the land had called the new government a people's socialist government, and dwelt on the points that could closely unite the Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries.

The alliance of the peasants and workers was a basis for an agreement between the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks.

It was an honest coalition, an honest alliance, but it would be an honest coalition at the summit too, between the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks, if the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries were more definite in stating their conviction that the revolution was a socialist revolution. It was a socialist revolution. The abolition of private property in land, the introduction of workers' control, the nationalisation of the banks—all these were measures that would lead to socialism. They were not socialism, but they were measures that would lead to socialism by gigantic strides. The Bolsheviks did not promise the workers and peasants milk and honey immediately, but they did say that a close alliance between the workers and the exploited peasantry, a firm, unwavering struggle for the power of the Soviets would lead to socialism, and any party that really wanted to be a people's party would have to state clearly and decisively that the revolution was a socialist revolution.

And only in the event of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries stating that clearly and unambiguously would the Bolsheviks' alliance with them grow and become stronger.

It had been said that the Bolsheviks were against the socialisation of the land and could not, therefore, come to an agreement with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries.

The Bolsheviks answered that they were indeed against the Socialist-Revolutionaries' socialisation of the land but that did not prevent an honest alliance with them.

Today or tomorrow the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries would nominate their Minister of Agriculture, and the Bolsheviks would not vote against a law on the socialisation of the land if he proposed it; they would abstain from voting.

In conclusion Comrade Lenin stressed that only an alliance of workers and peasants could acquire land and make peace.

Among other things Comrade Lenin was asked what the Bolsheviks would do in the Constituent Assembly if the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries were there in a minority and proposed a bill on the socialisation of the land—would the Bolsheviks abstain from voting? Of course not. The Bolsheviks would vote for the bill hut would make the proviso that they were voting for it in order to support the peasants against their enemies.

  1. Written in connect ion with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries' objections to the Bolshevik demand that Lenin should be invited to speak at the Congress in his capacity of Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars. They thought this would be prejudicial to the issue of power. On their motion, the Congress rejected the Bolshevik proposal, and Lenin addressed it as a member of the Bolshevik group.
  2. The reference is to the instruction to the volost land committees approved by tire First All-Russia Congiess of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies on June 23 (July 6), 1917, and published as a law "On the volost Committees" on November 3 (16), 1917.
  3. The reference is to the start of the peace talks with Germany. Following the publication of the Decree on Peace, adopted by the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets, the Soviet Government took practical steps to conclude a general democratic peace among the belligerents. On November 7 (20), 1917, it issued special directions to General Dukhonin, the Commander-in-Chief, ordering him to make an offer to the enemy command to stop military operations and open peace talks. The directions said the government deemed it necessary to make a formal proposal for an armistice between the belligerents without delay (Izvestia No. 221, November 10, 1917). But the counter-revolutionary top brass, who had contacts with the military in missions of the Entente, blocked the armistice in every possible way. On November 8 (21), the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs sent a note to the Allied ambassadors proposing an immediate cease-fire on all fronts and negotiations on peace. The Entente ambassadors met at the U.S. Embassy in Petrograd on November 9 (22) arid decided to ignore the Soviet government's note.
    The refusal of the Entente imperialists to support the Soviet Government's peace initiative and their active resistance to the conclusion of a peace, forced the Council of People's Commissars to start separate peace talks with Germany. On November 14 (27), word was received that the German High Command was prepared to start armistice talks. On the Soviet Government's proposal the talks postponed for five days to give the Allied Government another chance to make known their attitude on the peace proposal. On November 15 (28), the Soviet Government issued its appeal to the governments and peoples of all the belligerent countries urging them to join in the peace negotiations. There was no reply from the Allied powers.
    On November 19 (December 2), a Soviet peace delegation led by A. A. Joffe arrived in the neutral zone and proceeded to Best-Litovsk, where it met a delegation of the Austin-Hungarian bloc which included representatives of Bulgaria amid Turkey. A 10-day cease-fire was arranged as a result of the talks of November 20-22 (December 3-5). The Soviet Government took the opportunity to try to turn the separate talks with Germany into negotiations for a general democratic peace. On November 24 (December 7) it sent another note to the Entente ambassadors inviting them to join in the talks. This note was also ignored. On December 2 (15), the talks were resumed and that same day a 28-day cease-fire was agreed upon. It provided for a peace conference, which opened at Brest-Litovsk on December 9 (22).