This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts.
History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk
THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
At an historical night sitting, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets adopted the historical Peace Decree. At that time the power of the Soviets was still only consolidating in the most important centres of the country, while the number of people abroad who had confidence in it was quite insignificant. We carried the decrees unanimously, but to many it appeared to be merely a political demonstration. The Compromise-mongers kept repeating at every street corner that our resolution could not lead to any practical results, since, on the one hand, the German Imperialists would not recognize and would not even condescend to talk with us, and, on the other hand, our allies would declare war on us for entering into separate peace negotiations. It was under the shadow of these gloomy predictions that we were making our first steps towards a universal democratic peace. The Decree was accepted on November 8th, when Kerensky and Krasnoff were at the very gates of Petrograd, and on November 20th we communicated over the wireless our proposals for the conclusion of a general peace both to our allies and enemies. By way of reply the Allied Governments addressed, through their military agents, remonstrances to General Dukhonin, the Commander-in-Chief, stating that all further steps on our part towards separate peace negotiations would lead to most serious results. We, on our part, replied on November 24th to this protest by a manifesto to all workers, soldiers, and peasants, declaring that under no circumstances should we allow our army to shed its blood by order of any foreign bourgeoisie. We brushed aside the threats of the Western Imperialists and assumed full responsibility for our peace policy before the international working class. First of all, by way of discharging our previous pledges, we published the secret treaties and declared that we repudiated all that was opposed in them to the interests of the popular masses everywhere. The capitalist Governments tried to play off our disclosures against one another, but the popular masses everywhere understood us and appreciated our action. Not a single Socialist patriotic paper, as far as we know, dared protest against this radical change effected by the Government of workers and peasants in all traditional methods of diplomacy, against our repudiation of its evil and unscrupulous intrigues. We made it the aim and purpose of our diplomacy to enlighten the popular masses, to open their eyes as to the nature of the policy of their respective Governments, and to fuse them in one common struggle against, and hatred of, the bourgeois-capitalist regime. The German bourgeois Press accused us of protracting the negotiations, but the peoples themselves eagerly listened everywhere to the dialogues at Brest, and thereby, in the course of the two and a half months during which the peace negotiations proceeded, a service was rendered to the cause of peace which has been acknowledged even by honest enemies. For the first time the question of peace was raised in such a way that it could no longer be distorted by any machinations behind the scenes.
On December 5th we signed the agreement for the suspension of hostilities along the whole front, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. We again appealed to the Allies to join us and to conduct the peace negotiations together with us. We received no answer, although this time our allies did not try to intimidate us by threats. The peace negotiations began on December 22nd, six weeks after the adoption of the Peace Decree. This shows that the accusations levelled at us by the hireling and Socialist traitor Press, that we had not tried to come to an understanding with the Allies, were nothing but lies. For six weeks we kept on informing them of every step we made, and constantly appealed to them to join us in the peace negotiations. We can face the people of France, Italy, and Great Britain with a clear conscience. We did all we could to prevail upon the belligerent nations to join us in the peace negotiations. The responsibility for our separate peace negotiations rests not upon us, but upon the Imperialists of the West, as well as those Russian parties which all along had been predicting an early death to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government and urging the Allies not to take seriously our peace Initiative.
Anyhow, on December 22nd the peace negotiations were opened. Our delegates made a declaration of principles defining the basis of a general democratic peace in the precise terms of the Decree of November 8th. The other side demanded an adjournment of the sittings; but their resumption was put off, on Kühlmann’s motion, from day to day. It was obvious that the delegates of the Quadruple Alliance had considerable difficulty in drawing up their reply to our declaration. At last, on December 25th, the reply came. The diplomats of the Quadruple Alliance adhered to the democratic formulæ of a peace without annexations and contributions on the principle of self-determination of nations. We could see clearly that this was merely a piece of make-believe. But we did not expect even that, for is not hypocrisy the tribute paid by vice to virtue? The fact that the German Imperialists considered it necessary to pay this tribute to our democratic principles was, in our eyes, evidence of the rather serious internal condition of Germany. But although, on the whole, we had no illusions as to the democratic leanings of Kühlmann and Czernin – we were only too well acquainted with the nature of the German and Austrian ruling classes – it must, nevertheless, be candidly admitted that we did not at the time anticipate that the actual proposals of the German Imperialists would be separated by such a wide gulf from the formulæ presented to us by Kühlmann on December 25th as a sort of plagiarism of the Russian Revolution. We, indeed, did not expect such an acme of impudence.
The masses of the working classes in Russia were deeply impressed by Kühlmann’s reply. They read in it the fear of the ruling classes of the Central Empires in face of the discontent and growing impatience of the masses in Germany. On December 28th, a gigantic workers’ and soldiers’ demonstration took place in Petrograd in favour of a democratic peace. But the next morning our delegates returned from Brest-Litovsk and brought those predatory demands which Kühlmann had presented on behalf of the Central Empires by way of interpretation of his so-called democratic formulæ.
At first it may appear difficult to understand what exactly were the expectations of the German diplomacy when they presented their democratic formulæ in order, two or three days later, to reveal their brutal appetites. The theoretical debates, too, about those democratic formulæfor the most part initiated by Kühlmann himself – may seem to have been rather a risky affair. It ought to have been clear to them from the beginning that on this battlefield the diplomacy of the Central Empires could scarcely gain any laurels. But the secret of Kühlmann’s conduct of diplomacy lay in that he was profoundly convinced that we would be ready to play duets with him. The trend of his thought was approximately as follows: Russia must have peace. The Bolsheviks had obtained power thanks to their fight for peace. The Bolsheviks wanted to remain in power. This was only possible on one condition, namely, the conclusion of peace. True, they had committed themselves to a definite democratic peace programme. But what were the diplomats for, if not for disguising black as white? They, the Germans, would make the position easier for the Bolsheviks by hiding their spoil and plunder beneath a democratic formula. Bolshevik diplomacy would have sufficient grounds for not desiring to probe too deeply for the political essence of their enticing formulae, or, rather, for not revealing it to the eyes of the world. In other words, Kühlmann hoped to come to a tacit understanding with us. He would pay us back in our fine formula, and we should give him an opportunity of obtaining provinces and whole nationalities for the benefit of the Central Empires without any protest on our side. In the eyes of the German working classes, therefore, this violent annexation would receive the sanction of the Russian Revolution. When, during the negotiations, we made it clear that we were not discussing mere empty formulæ and decorative screens hiding a secret bargain, but the democratic foundations of the cohabitation of nations, Kühlmann took it as a malevolent breach of a tacit agreement. He would not for anything in the world budge even an inch from his formula of December 25th. Relying on his refined bureaucratic and legal logic, he tried his best to prove to the world that there was no difference whatever between black and white, and that it was only due to our malicious will that we were insisting on it.
Count Czernin, the representative of Austria-Hungary, played at these negotiations a part which no one would call impressive or dignified. He clumsily seconded and undertook at air critical moments, on behalf of Kühlmann, to make the most violent and cynical declarations. As against this, General Hoffman would often introduce a most refreshing note into the negotiations. Without shamming any great sympathy with the diplomatic niceties of Kühlmann, General Hoffman many times banged his soldier’s boot on the table, at which the most intricate legal debates were carried on. For our part, we had not a moment’s doubt that at these negotiations General Hoffman’s boot was the only serious reality.
The presence of the representatives of the Kieff Rada at the negotiations was a great trump card in Kühlmann’s hands. To the Ukrainian lower middle class, who were then in power, their “recognition” by the capitalist Governments of Europe seemed the most important thing in the world. At first, the Rada had offered its services to the Allied Imperialists and got from them some pocket-money. It then sent delegates to Brest-Litovsk in order to obtain from the Austro-German Governments, behind the backs of the peoples of Russia, the recognition of their legitimate birth. Scarcely had the Kieff diplomats entered on the road of “international” relations than they manifested the same out look and the same moral level which had hitherto been a characteristic feature of the petty Balkan politicians. Messrs. Kühlmann and Czernin, of course, did not indulge in any illusions as to the solvency of the new partner at the negotiations. But they realized quite correctly that by the attendance of the Kieff delegates the game was fated to become more complicated, but also more promising to them. At their first appearance at Brest-Litovsk the Kieff delegation defined the Ukraine as a component part of the nascent Federal Republic of Russia. That was an obvious embarrassment to the diplomats of the Central Powers, whose chief concern was to turn the Russian Republic into a new Balkan Peninsula. At their second appearance, the diplomats of the Rada declared, under the dictation of Austro-German diplomacy, that from that moment the Ukraine no longer desired to form part of the Russian Federation and would constitute henceforth an independent Republic.
In order to give the readers a clear idea of the situation in which the Soviet Government was placed at the last stage of the peace negotiations, I think it useful to reproduce here the main passages of the speech which the author of these lines delivered, as the People’s Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, at the sitting of the Central Executive Committee on February 27, 1918.
THE SPEECH OF THE PEOPLE’S COMMISSIONER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
“Comrades, – Russia of the Soviets has not only to build the new, but also to sum up the results of the past and, to a certain extent – a very large extent indeed – to settle old accounts, above all, the accounts of the present war which has now lasted three and a half years. The war has been a test of the economic resources of the belligerent nations. The fate of Russia, a poor, backward country, was, a war of attrition, pre-determined from the beginning. In the mighty conflict of the military machines the decisive r6le belonged, in the last resort, to the ability of the respective nations to adapt their industry in the shortest possible time, and thus to turn out again and again, with constantly increasing rapidity and in ever-increasing quantities, the engines of destruction which have been wearing out in no time in this terrible slaughter of nations. At the beginning of the war every, or almost every, country, even the most backward, could be in possession of powerful engines of destruction, since those machines could be obtained from abroad. All backward countries did possess them, including Russia. But the war soon wears out its dead capital, unless it is constantly replenished. The military power of every individual country drawn into the whirlwind of the worldwide war was measured by the ability to make guns, shells, and other engines of destruction by its own means during the war itself. If the war had decided the question of the balance of power in a very short time, Russia, speaking theoretically, might have come out on the victorious side. But the war dragged on, and did so by no means accidentally. The mere fact that during the preceding half-century all international politics had been reduced to the establishment of the so-called balance of power, that IS, to the greatest possible equalization of the military forces of the adversaries, was bound, m view of the strength and Wealth of the modern capitalist nations, to make the war a protracted business. The result has been, first and foremost, the exhaustion of the poorer, less economically developed countries.
Germany proved to be the most powerfull country in the military sense, owing to the mighty development of her industry and the new, rational, up-to-date structure of that industry side by side with the archaic structure of her State. France, with her economic system largely based on small production, proved to be very much behind Germany, while even such a powerful Colonial Empire as England showed herself weaker than Germany, owing to the more conservative, routine-like character of her industries. When the will of History summoned revolutionary Russia to initiate peace negotiations, we had no doubt whatever that, failing the intervention of the decisive power of the world’s revolutionary proletariat, we should have to pay in full for over three and a half years of war. We knew perfectly well that German Imperialism was an enemy imbued with the consciousness of its own colossal strength, as manifested so glaringly in the present war.
All the arguments of the bourgeois cliques which keep telling us that we should have been incomparably stronger had we conducted our peace negotiations in conjunction with our Allies are fundamentally wrong. If we were to carry on, at some distant future, the peace negotiations in conjunction with the Allies, we should, in the first place, have had to go on with the war; but seeing how our country was exhausted and weakened, its continuation, not its cessation, would have led to further exhaustion and ruin. We should thus have had to foot the bill of the war in conditions still more unfavourable to us. Even if the camp which Russia had joined on account of the international intrigues of Tsardom and the bourgeoisie – the camp, that is, at the head of which stands Great Britain – should come out of the war completely victorious (granting for the moment this rather improbable eventuality), it does not follow, comrades, that our country would also have come Out victorious, since Russia, inside this victorious camp, would have been still more exhausted and ruined by the long-drawn-out war than it is now. The masters of that camp, who would have gathered all the fruits of victory – that is, England and America – would, in their treatment of our country, have displayed the same methods which were employed by Germany at the peace negotiations. It would be absurd and childish, in appraising the policy of the Imperialist Countries, to start from other premises than their naked self-interest and material strength. Hence, if we, as a nation, are now weakened in the face of the Imperialist world, we are so. not because we broke away from the fiery circle of the war after previously shaking off the chains of international military obligations – no, we are weakened by the same policy of Tsardom and the bourgeois classes against which we fought, as a revolutionary party, both before and during the war.
You remember, comrades, the conditions in which our delegates went to Brest-Litovsk last time, direct from one of the sittings of the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets. We had informed you then of the state of negotiations and of the demands of the enemy. These demands, as you no doubt remember, amounted to disguised, or rather semi-disguised, annexationist claims to Lithuania, Courland, part of Livonia, the Moon Sound Islands, and a semi-masked indemnity which we then computed at six to eight or even ten thousand million roubles. In the interval, which lasted ten days, serious disturbances broke out in Austria and strikes took place among the labouring masses there – the first act of recognition of our methods of conducting the peace negotiations on the part of the proletariat of the Central Powers in face of the annexationist demands of German Imperialism. How miserable are the allegations of the bourgeois Press, that it took us two months’ talk with Kühlmann before we discovered that the German Imperialists would demand robbers’ terms. No, we knew that beforehand. But we tried to turn our “conversations” with the representatives of German Imperialism into a means of strengthening those forces which were struggling against it. We did not promise in this connection any miracles, but we asserted that our way was the only way still left at the disposal of revolutionary democracy for securing the chances of its further development.
“One may complain that the proletariat of other countries, especially of the Central Empires, is passing to an open revolutionary struggle too slowly. Yes, the tempo of its advance is much too slow. But in Austria-Hungary we saw a movement which assumed the proportions of a national event and which was a direct and immediate result of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations.
Before we departed from here we discussed the matter together, and we said that we had no reason to believe that that wave would sweep away the Austro-Hungarian militarism. Had we been convinced to the contrary, we should have certainly given the pledge so eagerly demanded from us by certain persons, namely, that we should never sign a separate treaty with Germany. I said at the time that it was impossible for us to make such a pledge, as it would have been tantamount to pledging ourselves to defeat German Imperialism. We held the secret of no such victory in our hands, and in so far as we could not pledge ourselves to Change the balance and correlation of the world’s powers in a very short period of time, we openly and honestly declared that the revolutionary Government might, under certain circumstances, be compelled to accept an annexationist peace. For not the acceptance of a peace forced upon us by the course of events, but an attempt to hide its predatory character from our own people would have been the beginning of the end of the revolutionary Government.
At the same time we pointed out that we were departing for Brest in order to continue the negotiations in circumstances which were apparently becoming more favourable to us and less advantageous to our adversaries. We were watching the events in Austria-Hungary, and various circumstances made us think that, as hinted at by Socialist spokesmen in the Reichstag, Germany was on the eve of similar events. Such were our hopes, and then in the course of the first days of our new stay at Brest the wireless brought us via Vilna the first news that a tremendous strike movement had broken out in Berlin, which, like the movement in Austria-Hungary, was the direct result of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations. But, as it often happens, in consequence of the “dialectical,” double-edged, character of the class struggle, it was just this powerful swing of the proletarian movement, such as Germany had never seen before, that aroused the propertied classes and caused them to close their ranks and to take up a more irreconcilable attitude. The German ruling classes are only too well imbued with the instinct of self-preservation, and they understood that any, even partial concession, under such circumstances, when they were being pressed by the masses of their own people, would have been tantamount to a capitulation before the idea of revolution. That is “why, after the first period of conferences, when Kühlmann had been deliberately delaying the negotiations by either postponing the sittings or wasting them on minor questions of form, he, as soon as the strike had been suppressed and his masters, he felt, were for the time being out of danger, reverted to his old accents of complete self-confidence, and redoubled his aggressiveness. Our negotiations became complicated owing to the participation of the Kieff Rada. We reported the facts of the case last time. The Rada delegates made their appearance at a time when the Rada still represented a fairly strong organization in the Ukraine and when the issue of the struggle had not yet been decided. Just at that moment we made the Rada an official offer to conclude with us a definite agreement, the principal term of which was our demand that the Rada should proclaim Kaledin and Korniloff enemies of the Revolution and refrain from interfering in our fight against them. The Kieff delegates arrived at the moment when we were cherishing hopes of coming to an agreement with it on both heads. We had already made clear to the Rada that so long as it was recognized by the Ukrainian people we should admit it to the negotiations as an independent member of the Conference. But in proportion as things in Russia and the Ukraine developed, and the antagonism between the democratic masses and the Rada was becoming deeper and deeper, the readiness of the Rada also increased to conclude any sort of peace with the Central Powers, and, if necessary, to invite German Imperialism to intervene in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Republic in order to support the Rada against the Russian Revolution.
On February 9th we learned that the peace negotiations between the Rada and the Central Powers had been successfully completed behind our backs. February 9th was the birthday of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, and, as is the custom in monarchical countries, the solemn, historical act of signing the treaty was fixed for this festal day – whether with the Rada’s agreement or not we do not know. General Hoffman caused the artillery to fire a salute in honour of Leopold of Bavaria, having previously asked the Ukrainians’ permission to do so, as, according to that treaty, Brest-Litovsk had been incorporated with the Ukraine.
However, at the very moment when General Hoffman was asking the Kieff Rada for permission to fire a salute in honour of Prince Leopold, events had advanced so far that, with the exception of Brest-Litovsk, but little territory was left under the Rada’s authority. On the strength of telegrams which we had received from Petrograd we officially informed the delegates of the Central Powers that the Kieff Rada was no longer in existence – a fact which was by no means immaterial for the course of the peace negotiations. We proposed to Count Czernin to send representatives, accompanied by our officers, to the territory of the Ukraine in order to see on the spot whether his co-partner, the Kieff Rada, was still in existence or not. Czernin at first seemed to jump at the idea, but when we raised the question whether the treaty with the Kieff delegation would only be signed after the return of his messengers or not, he began to hesitate and promised to consult K4llhmann, and having done so, sent us a reply in the negative. This was on February 8th, and on the following day they were obliged to sign the treaty. That brooked no delay, not only because of Prince Leopold’s birthday, but also because of a more serious circumstance, which, of course, Kühlmann had explained to Czernin: “If we send our representatives to the Ukraine now, they may find that the Rada is no longer in existence, and then we should have to face the Russian delegates only; which of course would greatly thwart our chances at the negotiations.” We were told by the Austro-Hungarian delegates: “Leave alone the question of principles, place the problem on a practical footing – then the German delegates will try to meet you. It is impossible that the Germans should desire to continue the war for the sake, for instance, of the Moon Sound Islands, if you formulate your demands more concretely ...” We answered: “ Very well, we are ready to test the conciliatory attitude of your colleagues, the German delegates. So far we have been discussing the question of the right of self-determination of Lithuanians, Poles, Letts, Esthonians, etc., and have elucidated the fact that there is no chance for the self-determination of these small nations. Let us now see what kind of self-determination you intend to allot to the Russian people, and what are the military strategical plans and devices behind your seizure of the Moon Islands. The Moon Islands, as part of the Esthonian Republic, as a possession of the Russian Federal Republic, have a defensive value, while in the hands of Germany they are means of offence and constitute a menace to the most vital centres of our country, particularly to Petrograd.” But, of course, Hoffman had not the slightest intention of making any concessions. Then the decisive moment came. We could not declare war – we were too weak. The army was in a state of complete internal dissolution. In order to save our country from ruin it was necessary to re-establish the internal organization of the labouring masses. This moral union could be established only by constructive work in the villages, in the workshop and the factory. The masses, who had passed through the colossal suffering and the catastrophic experiences of the war, had to be brought back to the fields and factories, where they could be rejuvenated morally and physically by work and thus be enabled to create the necessary internal discipline. There was no other way of salvation for our country, which had to pay the penalty for the sins committed by Tsardom and the bourgeoisie. We were forced to get out of the war and lead our army out of the slaughter. At the same time we declared to German Imperialism, straight in the face: “The peace terms which you force us to accept are those of violence and plunder. We cannot allow you, diplomats, to tell the German workers: ‘You branded our demands as annexationist; look here, those demands have been signed by the Russian Revolution!’ Yes, we are weak, ‘we cannot fight at present, but we have enough of revolutionary courage to tell you that we will never of our own free will sign the terms which you are writing with your sword across the bodies of the living peoples’.” We refused to give our signatures, and I believe, comrades, that we acted as we ought to have acted.
Comrades, I do not want to say that a further advance of the Germans against us is out of the question. Such a statement would be too risky, considering the power of the German Imperialist Party. But I think that by the position we have taken up on the question we have made any advance a very embarrassing affair for the German militarists. What would happen if they should nevertheless advance? There is only one answer to this question. If it is still possible to raise the spirit in the most revolutionary and healthy elements in our exhausted country, reduced as it is to desperate straits, if it is still possible for Russia to rise for the defence of our Revolution and the territories of the Revolution, it is possible only as a result of the present situation, as a result of our coming out of the war and of our refusal to sign the peace treaty.
THE SECOND WAR AND THE SIGNING OF PEACE.
The German Government, during the first days after the breaking off of the negotiations, hesitated, uncertain as to which course to. choose. The politicians and diplomats thought apparently that the chief thing bad been accomplished, and that there was no need to run after our signatures. The military, however, were in all circumstances prepared to break through the framework outlined by the German Government in the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Professor Kriege, adviser to the German delegation, told one of our delegates that in the present conditions there could be no question of a new German offensive against Russia. Count Mirbach, then at the head of the German mission in Russia, left for Berlin assuring us that a satisfactory agreement on the exchange of prisoners had been reached. But all this did not prevent General Hoffman from announcing, on the fifth day after the breaking off of the negotiations, the end of the armistice, the seven days’ notice being antedated by him from the day of the last sitting at Brest. It would be truly out of place to waste time here, in righteous indignation at this dishonourable act, for it is but in keeping with the general diplomatic and military morality of all the governing classes.
The new German offensive developed under conditions which were deadly to Russia. Instead of the agreed seven days’ warning, we only had two days’. This spread a panic in the ranks of the army, already in a state of chronic dissolution. There could scarcely be any question of resistance. The soldiers would not believe that the Germans would advance, after we had declared the state of war at an end. The panic-stricken retreat paralysed even the will of those individual regiments which were ready to take up fighting positions. In the working-class quarters of Petrograd and Moscow the indignation at the treacherous and truly buccaneering German attack knew no bounds. The workers were ready, in those tragic days and nights, to enlist in the army in their tens of thousands. But the necessary organization was lagging far behind. Individual guerrilla detachments, full of enthusiasm, perceived their helplessness at the first serious encounter with the German regular troops, and this was, of course, followed by a further depression of spirits. The old army, long ago mortally wounded, was falling to pieces, and was only blocking up all ways and by-ways. The new army, on the other hand, was arising much too slowly amidst the general exhaustion and the terrible dislocation of industry and transport. The only real serious obstacle in the path of the German advance was the huge distances.
Austria-Hungary had her eyes chiefly on the Ukraine. Through its delegates the Rada had made a direct request to the Central Empires for military help against the Soviets, which by that time had obtained complete victory throughout Ukrainia. In this way the Ukrainian lower middle-class democracy, in its fight with the workers and the poorest peasantry, had voluntarily opened the gates to foreign invasion.
At the same time the Government of Svinhufvud was seeking the help of German bayonets against the Finnish proletariat. German militarism was assuming quite openly, in the face of the whole world, the rôle of executioner of the Russian workers’ and peasants’ revolution.
In the ranks of our party there arose a heated discussion as to whether we should, under such conditions, submit to the German ultimatum and sign a new treaty which – we were all quite convinced of that – would contain far more onerous conditions than those we had been offered at Brest-Litovsk. The representatives of one school of thought considered that at the present moment, when the Germans were effectively intervening in the internal struggles on the territory of the Russian Republic, it was unthinkable to make peace in one part of Russia and remain passive whilst in the north and south the German troops were establishing a regime of bourgeois dictatorship. Another school of thought, at the head of which stood Lenin, argued that every interval, every breathing space, however short, would be of the greatest value for the internal consolidation of Russia and for the restoration of her capacity for self-defence. After our absolute inability to defend ourselves at the present moment from the attacks of the enemy had been demonstrated so tragically before the whole country and the whole world, our conclusion of peace would be understood everywhere as an act forced on us by the cruel law of the correlation of forces. It would be mere Childishness to base our action on abstract revolutionary morals. The question at issue was not how to perish with honour, but how, in the end, we could live through to victory. The Russian revolution wants to live, must live, and must by all possible means refuse to be drawn into battle far beyond her strength she must win time in the expectation that the revolutionary movement in the West would come to her aid. German Imperialism was still at close and fierce grip with British and American militarism. Only for this reason was it possible to conclude peace between Germany and Russia. We must not let this opportunity slip by. The well-being of the Revolution was the supreme law I We must accept the peace which we dared not refuse we must gain some time for intensive work in the interior, including the reconstruction of our army.
At the Congress of the Communist Party, just as at the fourth Congress of the Soviets, those in favour of peace were in a majority. Many of those who in January had been opposed to signing the Brest peace treaty were now in favour of peace. “At that time,” said they, “our signature would have been understood by the British and French workers as a miserable capitulation without any attempt to avoid it; even the base insinuations of the Anglo-French chauvinists about a secret agreement between the Soviet Government and the Germans might have met with some acceptance in certain sections of the Western European workers, had we then signed the peace treaty. But after our refusal to sign, after the new German offensive against us, after our attempt at resistance, after our military weakness has been demonstrated to the whole world with such awful clearness, no one will dare reproach us with having capitulated without a struggle.” The Brest-Litovsk treaty, the second, more onerous edition, was duly signed and ratified.
In the meantime, in the Ukraine and in Finland the executioners were going on with their grim work, threatening more and more the most vital centres of Great Russia. Thus, the question of the very existence of Russia as an independent country became indissolubly bound up with the question of a European revolution.
When our party was assuming the reins of Government, we knew beforehand “what difficulties we should undoubtedly meet on our way. Economically the country had been exhausted by the war to the last degree. The Revolution had destroyed the old administrative machinery without having had the opportunity of creating a new one m its place. Millions of workers had been forcibly torn away from the economic life of the country, thrown out of their class, and morally and mentally shattered by three years of war. A colossal war industry on an insufficiently developed economic foundation had sucked up the very life-blood of the nation, and its demobilization presented the greatest difficulties. The phenomena inseparable from economic and political anarchy had spread widely throughout the country. The Russian peasantry had been for centuries welded together by the barbarous discipline of the land and bent down from above by the iron discipline of Tsardom. The state of our economic development had undermined the one discipline and the Revolution destroyed the other. Psychologically, the Revolution meant an awakening of human individuality in the peasant masses. The anarchical form in which this awakening found expression was but the inevitable result of the previous repression. It will only be possible to arrive at the establishment of a new order of things, based on the control of production by the producers themselves, by a general internal deliverance from the anarchical forms of the Revolution.
On the other hand, the propertied classes, although forcibly removed from power, refuse to give up their positions without a fight. The Revolution has raised in an acute form the question of private property in land and the means of production, that is, the question. of the life and death of the exploiting classes. Politically this means a constant – sometlmes covert, sometimes overt – bitter civil war. In its turn, civil war necessarily brings in its train anarchist tendencies in the movement of the labouring masses.
In view of the dislocation of finance, industry, transport, and the food supply, a protracted civil war, therefore, is bound to cause gigantic difficulties in the way of the constructive work of organization. Nevertheless, the Soviet regime has every right to look forward to the future with confidence. Only an exact inventory of the resources of the country; only a national universal plan of organization of production ; only a prudent and economical distribution of all products can save the country. And this is just Socialism. Either a descent to the state of a mere colony, or a Socialist transformation – such is the alternative which faces our country.
This war has undermined the foundations of the entire capitalist world, and in this lies our invincible strength. The Imperialist ring which is choking us will be broken by a proletarian revolution. We no more doubt this for one moment than we ever doubted the final downfall of Tsardorn during the long decades of our underground work.
To struggle, to close our ranks, to establish discipline of labour and a Socialist order, to increase the productivity of labour, and not to be balked by any obstacle – such is our watchword. History is working for us. A proletarian revolution in Europe and America will break out sooner or later, and it will free not only the Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Courland, and Finland, but the whole of suffering humanity.