V. I. Lenin

Position of the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks) on the Question of the Separate And Annexationist Peace[1]

Written: February 24, 1918
First Published: Pravda, February 26, 1918, No. 35; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 27, 1972, pages 58-61
Translated: Clemans Dutt, Edited by Robert Daglish
Transcription\HTML Markup:Robert Cymbala and David Walters
Online Version: Lenin Internet Archive March, 2002

Dear Comrades,

The Organising Bureau of the Central Committee considers it essential to submit to you an explanation of the motives that led the Central Committee to agree to the peace terms proposed by the German Government. The Organising Bureau is addressing this explanation to you, comrades, in order that all Party members should be thoroughly informed of the point of view of the Central Committee, which, in the period between Congresses, represents the entire Party. The Organising Bureau considers it essential to state that the Central Committee was not unanimous en the question of signing the peace terms, since the decision has been made, however, it must be supported by the whole Party. A Party Congress is due in a few days, and only then will it be possible to decide the question of the extent to which the Central Committee rightly expressed the actual position of the whole Party. Until the Congress, all Party members, in pursuance of their duty to the Party and for the sake of the maintenance of unity in our Party ranks, will carry out the decisions of their central leading body, the Central Committee of the Party.

The absolute necessity of signing, at the given moment (February 24, 1918), an annexationist and unbelievably harsh peace treaty with Germany is due primarily to the fact that we have no army and cannot defend ourselves.

Everybody knows why since October 25, 1917, since the victory of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasantry, we have all become defencists, we are all for the defence of the fatherland.

From the point of view of defending the fatherland, it is impermissible for us to allow ourselves to he drawn into an armed conflict when we have no army and the enemy is armed to the teeth and excellently prepared.

The Soviet Socialist Republic cannot wage a war when the obviously overwhelming majority of the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers who elect deputies to the Soviets are against the war, It would be a rash gamble. It will be a different thing if an end is put to this war, excessively harsh though the terms of peace may be, and German imperialism again decides to start an aggressive war against Russia. Then the majority of the Soviets will most certainly he in favour of war.

To wage war today would amount objectively to falling for the provocation of the Russian bourgeoisie. They know full well that at the moment Russia is defenceless and would be crushed by even insignificant German forces, which would have only to cut the main railway lines to starve Petrograd and Moscow into surrendering. The bourgeoisie want war, because they want the overthrow of Soviet power and an agreement with the German bourgeoisie, the jubilation of the bourgeoisie when the German troops arrived in Dvinsk and Bezhitsa, Venden and Gapsal, Minsk and Drissa confirms this as clearly as can be.

Defence of revolutionary war at the present moment is nothing but an empty revolutionary phrase, it is impossible for a ruined peasant country to wage a modern war against advanced imperialism without an army and without the most serious economic preparation. It is beyond all doubt that German imperialism must be resisted, for it will crush us and hold us prisoner. It would, however, be empty talk to demand resistance specifically by means of armed uprising, especially now, when such resistance is obviously hopeless for us, and obviously to the advantage of the German and Russian bourgeoisie.

It is equally empty talk to argue in favour of revolutionary war at this moment on the grounds of support for the international socialist movement. If we make it easier for German imperialism to crush the Soviet Republic by our untimely acceptance of battle, we shall harm and not help the German and international working-class movement and the cause of socialism. We must help only the revolutionary internationalists in all countries by all-round, persistent and systematic work; but to undertake the gamble of launching an armed uprising, when it would obviously be a gamble, is unworthy of a Marxist.

If Liebknecht is victorious in two or three weeks (which is possible) he will, of course, get us out of all difficulties. It would, however, be simply foolish and would be turning the great slogan of the solidarity of the working people of all countries into sheer mockery if we were to assure the people that Liebknecht will certainly and unavoidably score victory within the next few weeks. Indeed, by arguing in this way we should he turning the great slogan "We bank on the world revolution" into an empty phrase.

Objectively the situation is similar to that of the summer of 1907. Then, it was the Russian monarchist Stolypin who crushed us and held us prisoner; today it is the German imperialist. Then, the slogan of an immediate insurrection, which, unfortunately, was supported by the entire Socialist-Revolutionary Party, proved to be an empty phrase. Today, at this very moment, the slogan of revolutionary war is obviously an empty phrase that attracts the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who repeat the arguments of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries. We are the prisoners of German imperialism and we have ahead of us a long and difficult struggle to overthrow that ringleader of world imperialism; this struggle is undoubtedly the last decisive struggle for socialism, but to begin that struggle at the present moment with an armed uprising against the leader of imperialism would be a gamble that no Marxist would ever undertake.

The systematic, unrelenting, all-round building up of the country's defence potential, self-discipline everywhere, the use of grievous defeat to improve discipline in all spheres of life for the purpose of the country's economic progress and the consolidation of Soviet power-that is the task of the day, that is the way to prepare a revolutionary war in deed and not merely in word.

In conclusion, the Organising Bureau considers it essential to state that, since the offensive of German imperialism has not yet been halted, all members of the Party must organise a concerted opposition to it. If it is impossible to sign a peace treaty, even the harshest, and gain time to prepare for new battles, our Party must emphasise the need to exert every effort for all-out resistance.

If we can gain time, gain even a brief respite for organisational work, we must do our best to get it. If we are granted no deferment our Party must call on the masses to fight, to engage in the most energetic self-defence., We are confident that all Party members will do their duty by the Party, by the working class of their country, by the people and the proletariat. By preserving Soviet power we are rendering the best, the most powerful support to the proletariat of all countries in their incredibly hard struggle against their own bourgeoisie. Today the cause of socialism could suffer no heavier blow than the collapse of Soviet power in Russia.

With comradely greetings,

Organising Bureau of the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks)


[1] In the document "Position of the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks) on the Question of the Separate and Annexationist Peace" the first and the two concluding aragraphs were written by Y. M. Sverdlov.