V. I. Lenin

To the Russian Proletariat{1}

Written: Written on February 3 (16), 1904
Published: Published in February 1904 as a separate leaflet. Printed from the text of the leaflet.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 111.2-113.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  

The war is on. The Japanese have already inflicted a series of defeats on the Russian troops, and the tsarist government is now straining every nerve to avenge itself for these defeats. Military districts are being mobilised one after another, and tens of thousands of soldiers are being hastily dispatched to the Far East; desperate efforts are being made abroad to secure another loan, and contractors have been promised bonuses running to thousands of rubles a day for accelerating the works required by the war department. The people’s every fibre is put to the greatest strain because the struggle that has been started is no trifling matter; it is a struggle against a 50-million-strong people who are splendidly armed, splendidly prepared for the war, and who are fighting for the conditions which they believe to be urgently necessary for free national development. This is going to be a struggle by a despotic and back ward government against a people that is politically free and is rapidly progressing in culture. The war against the sickly Turkey in 1877 and 1878, which exacted such a high   price from the Russian people, was negligible when compared to the war now started.

What in that case is at issue in the life-and-death struggle now being waged by the Russian workers and peasants against the Japanese? The issue is “Yellow Russia”, the issue is Manchuria and Korea, the new lands seized by the Russian Government. It had promised all the other powers to preserve the inviolability of China, it had promised to return Manchuria to China not later than October 8, 1903, and it had failed to honour its promise. The tsarist government had so run away with itself in its policy of military adventures and plunder of its neighbours that it found no strength to go back. In “Yellow Russia” it has built fortifications and ports, it has laid a railway line and has concentrated tens of thousands of troops.

But how do the Russian people benefit from these new lands whose acquisition has cost so much blood and sacrifice and is bound to cost even more? For the Russian worker and peasant the war holds out the prospect of fresh calamities, the loss of a host of human lives, the ruin of a mass of families, and more burdens and taxes. The Russian army leadership and the tsarist government believe that the war holds out the promise of military glory. The Russian merchant and the millionaire-industrialist think the war is necessary to secure new marketing outlets for their goods and new ports in an unrestricted ice-free sea for the development of Russian trade. You can’t sell much at home to the starving muzhik and the unemployed worker, you must look for marketing outlets in foreign lands! The riches of the Russian bourgeoisie have been created by the impoverishment and the ruin of the Russian workers—and so now, in order to multiply these riches, the workers must shed their blood to give the Russian bourgeoisie a free hand in conquering and enslaving the Chinese and the Korean working man.

This criminal war, which holds in store immense calamities for the working people, has been engendered by the interests of the greedy bourgeoisie, the interests of capital, which is prepared to sell and ruin its own country in its drive for profit. This hazardous gamble involving the blood and property of Russian citizens is the result of the policy   of a despotic government which tramples all human rights and keeps its people in servitude. In response to the wild war-cries, in response to the “patriotic” flag-waving by the flunkeys of the money-bag and the lackeys of the police-whip, the class-conscious Social-Democratic proletariat must come forward and demand with tenfold energy: “Down with the autocracy!”, “Let a people’s constituent assembly be convened!”

The tsarist government has plunged so deep into this reckless military gamble that it has at stake a great deal too much. Even in the event of success, the war against Japan threatens total exhaustion of the people’s forces—with the results of the victory being absolutely negligible, for the other powers will prevent Russia from enjoying the fruits of victory as they prevented Japan from doing so in 1895.{2} In the event of defeat, the war will lead above all to the collapse of the entire government system based on popular ignorance and deprivation, on oppression and violence.

They who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind!

Long live the fraternal union of the proletarians of all countries fighting for complete liberation from the yoke of international capital! Long live Japanese Social-Democracy protesting against the war! Down with the ignominious and predatory tsarist autocracy!

Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party


{1} This was written by Lenin a week after the outbreak of the Russo Japanese War and was circulated to the Party committees in a number of cities in Russia with instructions to have it immediately reprinted and spread. N. K. Krupskaya informed I. Kh. Lalayants, L. B. Krasin and L. M. Knipovich about the dispatch of the leaflet in her letters on February 3 (18) and 4 (17), 1904 (Archives of the   Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the C.P.S.U. Central Committee and Lenin Miscellany X, pp. 323, 324). On February 16 (29), 1904, she wrote to R. S. Zemlyachka and L. Y. Galperin: “Stank (V.I. Lenin.—Ed.) has written a leaflet about the war; it was not distributed here, and was sent for reprinting in Tomsk, Moscow, Odessa, St. Petersburg, Samara, Saratov, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinoslav” (Central State Historical Archives in Moscow). At the library of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism there are many copies of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee’s leaflet “To the Russian Proletariat”: there are copies bearing the seal of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee, the seals of the Moscow and Yekaterinoslav committees of the R.S.D.L.P.; the leaflet was reprinted and distributed by the Nizhny Novgorod (7,700 copies), Tver and Saratov committees, and by students in Kiev. In addition, it was reprinted in Iskra No. 61 on March 5 (18), 1904. p. 111

{2} Following the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki forced China to cede the Liaotung Peninsula and the islands of Penghuletao (Pescadores) and Taiwan to Japan, to undertake to pay an indemnity of 200 million hang (subsequently increased to 230 million hang) and to grant Japan a number of economic privileges. Fearful of Japan’s growing strength, Russia, France and Germany issued a protest over the Treaty of Shimonoseki and this forced Japan to abandon the idea of annexing the Liaotung Peninsula. p. 113

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