V. I. Lenin

The Present Situation And The

Immediate Tasks Of Soviet Power

Report Delivered To A Joint Meeting Of The All-Russia Central Executive Committee, The Moscow Soviet Of Workers’ And Red Army Deputies, The All-Russia Council of Trade Unions And Representatives Of Moscow Factory Committees

July 4, 1919[1]

Delivered: 4 July,1919
First Published: Brief report published in Pravda No.145, July 5, 1919; First published in full in 1932; Published according to the verbatim report, verified with the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 456-469
Translated: George Hanna
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters & Robert Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Comrades, when one is confronted with the task of assessing our general situation as it now is, the idea enters one’s head, whether one wishes it or not, of comparing July 1919 with July 1918. I think that such a comparison, which naturally suggests itself, can best give us a true conception of those new difficulties--to a certain extent they are also old difficulties-which have grown up and have made our situation a burdensome one demanding a fresh effort; on the other hand this comparison shows us the tremendous step forward that has been made by the world revolution in that year and tells us why, taking a most sober, even a most sceptical view of affairs, we again are quite confident that we are advancing to the complete and final victory.

Recall the situation a year ago, comrades. It was ill July 1918 that the menacing black clouds had gathered and that seemingly insurmountable misfortunes threatened the Soviet Republic. The food situation, then as today, had become graver at the end of the farming year, when stocks were running short and the new harvest had not been gathered. Last year the situation was incomparably worse. Then, as today, serious political and war difficulties, both at home and abroad, were added to the food difficulties. The meeting of the Congress of Soviets last year coincided with the revolt of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries ill Moscow and the treason of Muravyov, a Left Socialist-Revolutionary then in command of the army, who left our front almost open. In the summer of 1918 there was the gigantic plot in Yaroslavi which, as has now been proved and is admitted by those participating, was due to the activities of French Ambassador Noulens, who persuaded Savinkov to organise the plot with a guarantee that the French troops landed at Archangel would come to the aid of Yaroslavl and that in the most difficult situation in Yaroslavi the town could expect to link with Archangel and the Allies and, consequently, could expect the early fall of Moscow. At that time the enemy succeeded ill capturing Samara, Kazan, Simbirsk, Syzran and Saratov ill the East. In the South, Cossack troops reinforced by German imperialism--this has been fully established-obtained money and munitions. The enemy launched an offensive, closed in on us from two sides and began to poke fun at its. From German imperialist quarters it was said that if we could not defeat the Czechoslovaks how could we hope to defeat them. Such was the insolent tone adopted by the imperialists.

Such was the seemingly hopeless way in which the Soviet Republic was surrounded at a time of unprecedented food troubles, at a time when our army was only just beginning to take shape. The army lacked organisation and experience and we had to get it together hastily, contingent by contingent, when systematic, integrated work was out of the question. We lived through that year and, relying on the experience gained and never once forgetting the past, we have every right to say today that although the situation is indeed a difficult one, if we compare what we experienced last year with the present situation-anyone who wishes to make a careful study of it, observe and not give way to his own moods will have no doubts about it-we shall see that our present situation is incomparably more stable even from the point of view of the simple internal balance of forces, even by comparing the facts bearing on our temporary difficulties, and to give way to panic would be criminal a thousand times over. A year ago the situation was incomparably more difficult yet those difficulties were surmounted, so that we may say with absolute confidence and without any exaggeration of our forces or underestimation of our difficulties that we shall also surmount our present difficulties. I must give you the main comparable figures and speakers who follow me will deal with the question in greater detail.

When the food situation became acute last summer, things were so bad that in July and August there was literally nothing in the warehouses of the Commissariat of Food, the organisation which deals with food supplies, nothing which could be issued to the most war-weary, the most tormented and the most hungry people of the towns and the non-agricultural districts. This year our food distribution machinery has made a tremendous advance. During the year from August 1, 1917 to August 1, 1918 we procured only 30 million poods of grain but between August 1, 1918 and May 1, 1919 we procured as much as 100 million poods. This is very little compared with what we need, and it shows that to win a victory in the struggle for food there are millions of organisational obstacles that have to be overcome; they are being erected against us by every peasant who has grain surpluses and who is used to trading in a free market and who considers it his sacred right to sell grain at uncontrolled prices; this peasant is unable to understand that at such a time, when the country is lighting against. Russian and international capital, trading in grain is the most serious state crime. It is a mockery of the poor and the hungry, it is the best service he could do the capitalist and the profiteer. We know that every peasant who has earned his livelihood by toil, sweat and blood, by bending his back, understands what capitalism is. He sympathises with the proletariat, even if only hazily, instinctively, because he believes that the proletariat are devoting their whole lives and forfeiting their blood to overthrow capital. But he will have to make tremendous progress from this level before lie is able to uphold the interests of the socialist state and to place those interests higher than the interests of the huckster who wants to profit right now while he can sell grain at unheard-of, unprecedented prices. We are now beginning to get the measure of it. We have made part of the journey and, therefore, know for certain that no matter how difficult and tortuous the road, we are capable of surmounting the difficulties. We have made considerable progress as compared with last year but we have not yet solved all problems. We cannot promise an immediate improvement, but we know that the situation offers much greater hopes; we now know at any rate that our resources are not cut off as they were last year by Cossack gangs in the South-East, by German imperialism in the South-West and by the Czechoslovaks in the grain-producing East. The situation is much better so that we shall be able to live through and overcome the next few weeks that will undoubtedly bring fresh burdens and claim fresh sacrifices knowing that we did it last year, knowing that our situation is better, knowing that we already have practical experience of the chief difficulty of any socialist revolution, the food difficulty. And we really can say, without relying on assumptions and hopes, but on the basis of our own practical experience, that we have learned to tackle this difficulty and will learn to surmount it.

If you take the present war situation in which the Allies collapsed when they seized the Ukraine after the Germans and when they had Odessa and Sevastopol, we see that the threat which seemed irrevocable to the mass of the petty bourgeoisie and to the scared philistines turned out to be an empty one, that it was nothing more than a giant with feet of clay. They did everything they could to help the whiteguards, landowners and capitalists with arms and ammunition. The British newspapers-and British ministers, too-boasted openly that they had sent reinforcements to Denikin. We have received information that they have sent equipment for 250,000 men and have provided all the arms. We have also received information, and it has been confirmed, to the effect that they have sent dozens of tanks. That made possible the severe attacks by Denikin that were launched at a time when the enemy was pressing oil us from the East. We know the difficult time we experienced last July. We do not in the least underestimate the danger and do not close our eyes to the fact that we must go openly to the masses, we must tell them what the situation is, tell them the whole truth and open their eyes, because time more this truth is known to the workers and particularly to the peasants-it is very difficult to convince peasants of the truth-the more determinedly, more steadfastly and class-consciously will they come over to our side. (Applause.)

In the Central Committee, comrades, we yesterday decided that Comrade Trotsky would make the report to you on the war situation. Unfortunately the doctors today forbade him absolutely to make that report. I shall, therefore, outline the situation in a few words, although I cannot by any means claim the role of rapporteur on these matters; I can, however, tell in brief outline, comrades, what we heard yesterday from Comrade Trotsky who had made a tour of the Southern Front.

The situation there is truly a grave one, extremely heavy attacks have been launched against us and we have suffered huge losses. There is a double reason for our failures. Yes, just two reasons; first, we had to withdraw large numbers of troops and transfer them as reinforcements to the East at a time when Kolchak was attacking. Precisely at this time Denikin carried out universal mobilisation. It is true, as one of the members of the Revolutionary Council of the Southern Front who has been working there a long time told us, that universal mobilisation will be the ruin of Denikin as it was of Kolchak; as long as he had a class army of volunteers who hated socialism it was strong and sound, but when he began universal recruitment he did, of course, get an army together more quickly, but the army became the weaker, and its class character less pronounced. Peasants recruited into Denikin’s army will do the same in that army as the Siberian peasants did in Kolchak’s army-they brought complete disintegration into the army.

Another reason for the failures, apart from the tremendous increase in Denikin’s army, was the development of guerrilla methods on the Southern Front. Comrade Trotsky also described this in detail yesterday. You all know what our armies experienced as a result of Grigoriev’s adventure, which resulted from Makhno’s banditry and what the Ukrainian peasants and the entire Ukrainian proletariat experienced during the rule of the Hetman. In the Ukraine, owing to the low level of proletarian class-consciousness, owing to weakness and lack of organisation, owing to Petlyura’s disorganising tactics arid the pressure of German imperialism-on these grounds hostility and guerrilla tactics have emerged spontaneously. In every group the peasants were taking up arms, electing their own atainan, or “father”, to set up an authority, to create it on the spot. They paid no attention whatever to the central authorities and every “father” thought he was the boss on the spot, that lie alone could settle all Ukrainian problems, disregarding what was being done at the centre. It is now quite clear to us that in the present circumstances the peasants cannot he won over by enthusiasm alone-such a method is not reliable. We have warned the Ukrainian comrades a thousand times that when it is a matter of the movement of million-strong masses words are not enough; they must have their own day-to-day experience so that people can verify instructions themselves, so that they believe in their own experience. This experience has cost the Ukrainian peasants very dear. During the German occupation they suffered incredible misfortunes, made unbelievable sacrifices, many times greater than what we experienced; nevertheless they still do not know how to achieve an organisation and how to win their independence and state sovereignty. In the first period after the liberation from German imperialism, when Denikin’s gangs began to gain strength, our troops did not always deal them a suitable rebuff, and when our troops were held up by the rapid swelling of the rivers in spring, when it was impossible to advance and no reinforcements came from here, there arrived that catastrophic moment in which the first blow fell on the Ukrainian peasantry as a whole and on the peasantry of the zone contiguous to the Ukraine and the Don, but which will fortunately cure them of the defects of guerrilla tactics and chaos. We know full well that the Ukrainian peasants are strong enough to defeat Denikin’s forces, and we know that the blows they have received are very grave and will arouse in them a new classconsciousness and fresh strength. And Comrade Trotsky who himself saw the incredible losses suffered there, stated definitely that the experience of the Ukrainians cannot pass without leaving a trace, that it would bring about a complete change in the entire psychology of the Ukrainian peasants is that not what we have experienced? We know that our situation was no better last year. We know that a number of countries looked upon us, the young Russian republic, with contempt, and that today the same thing is beginning in many countries, the same phenomena are to be observed.

The Ukraine is recuperating with greater difficulty than we die, but she is recuperating. The lessons of collapse, of guerrilla tactics, have been assimilated. This will he an epoch of change in the entire Ukrainian revolution, and that will influence the entire development of the Ukraine. This is the period of change we, too, experienced when we turned our hacks on guerrilla tactics and the scattering of revolutionary phrases-we can do auything!-and began to realise the need for sound, sustained, persistent and difficult organising activities. This was the road we took many months after the October Revolution and on which we have achieved considerable success. We look towards the future fully confident that we shall surmount all difficulties.

One of the circumstances that Comrade Trotsky spoke of as being clear evidence of the change is what he observed in respect of deserters. He visited many gubernias where the comrades we had sent to combat desertion from the army had met with no success. He spoke himself at meetings and saw that tens of thousands of deserters in this country had either given way to panic or were trailing along too easily in the wake of the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless we had been ready to draw conclusions that were tantamount to despair. Trotsky, who travelled through Kursk and Byazan, was convinced, on the example of a number of towns, that the change that had taken place in this sphere was beyond description. Some commissars said they were now swamped with deserters pouring into the Red Army. They are joining the Red Army in such numbers that we can suspend our mobilisation as the ranks are filled by old deserters returning to the army.

The peasants have seen what campaigns by the Cossacks and by Denikin mean, and the masses of peasants have begun to show a double degree of class-consciousness—they had wanted an immediate peace and had been unable to understand that the Civil War had been forced on us. The peasants did everything they could to avoid enlistment—they hid in the woods or joined the green bands[Gangs of bandits in the Ukraine who engaged in plunder under cover of political slogans against Reds and Whites during the Civil War—Editor.] and there tried to ignore everything else. This is the state of affairs that led to collapse in the Ukraine; this was the state of affairs that gave us many thousands of deserters. Trotsky spoke about the change that took place when we granted the deserters a longer period in which to report, when we approached the problem more boldly. Hundreds of comrades turned up for work in Ryazan Gubernia and the change took place. They attended the meeting and deserters poured into the Red Army. The local commissars say they could not keep pace with them. This is the circumstance connected with the recapture of Liski railway station which strengthened our positions at Kursk and Voronezh. This circumstance gave Trotsky reason to say that the position in the South was serious and that we should bend all efforts. I maintain, however, that the situation is not catastrophic. That is the conclusion we arrived at yesterday. (Applause.)

That conclusion is not open to doubt and we shall do everything to exert all our efforts; we are sure the class consciousness of the working masses will triumph for we have the experience of the Ukraine which tells us that the closer Denikin approaches and the clearer it becomes what lie and the capitalists, and landowners are bringing, the easier will it be for us to combat desertion and the more boldly can we offer the deserters a further week in which to report The day before yesterday the Council of Defence extended the period by a further week because we are now fully confident that the class-consciousness that Denikin is bringing them will not be wasted and the Red Army will continue to grow if we remember that all our efforts during the next few months must be devoted to war work. We must tell you that we shall now help the South and achieve victory there in the same way as we did in the East. There may be people who give way to moods, comrades, those most inclined to panic, who will ask whether we shall not lose what we have gained in the East if we turn our main attention to the South. As far as this is concerned we may ay that the conquests made by our troops in the East will, by all accounts, merge with the Siberian revolution. (Applause.)

Yesterday a certain Menshevik made a speech in Moscow. You can read Citizen Colosov’s report in Izvestia; he said that time Mensheviks were leaving for Siberia, believing that there was a Constituent Assembly and the power of the people there, that universal suffrage and the will of the people ruled, and not some dictatorship of one class, usurpation, violence—as they dub Soviet power. The experience of these people, who flirted with Kerensky for eight months and who gave up everything to Kornilov, who learned nothing and went over to Kolchak—experience has now shown that it was not the Bolsheviks, but the enemies of the Bolsheviks, people who devoted all their activities to the struggle against the Bolsheviks and travelled hundreds of versts to do it, who drew the conclusions that we have heard and which the public learned from the reports of the Mensheviks, conclusions that show that the Merisheviks have repelled not only the workers but the peasants as well, and not only the peasants, but even the kulaks. Even the kulaks are rebelling against Kolchak! (Applause.) None of those descriptions of the revolts against Kolchak’s rule was in the least bit exaggerated. Not merely workers and peasants, but also patriotically-minded intellectuals, who had all formerly sabotaged our work and who had been allies of the Entente-Kolchak has repelled even them. We are now being told that an insurrection is under way in the Urals, that we have before us an instance of a real workers’ uprising; and again we say that there is every chance that victory in the Urals will be a turn towards the complete victory of the entire mass of the Siberian population over Kolchak’s government, and that there are grounds for expecting it within the next few months.

Comrades, you read of the capture of Motovilikha in yesterday’s newspapers-this is where the Urals factory district begins. The details of the capture of Perm, where several regiments came over to our side, confirm it, and every day we are receiving telegram after telegram indicating that a decisive turning-point has been reached in the Urals. This is corroborated by a telegram I received today from Ufa dated July 2. We have more detailed information which gives us good grounds to assert that a decisive turning-point has been reached and we shall be victorious in the Urals. By the capture of Penn and then of Motovilikha we have achieved a great deal; they are big factory centres where the workers are organising, are coming over to our side in hundreds and are cutting the railway lines in the rear of the enemy. Probably few of you have had an opportunity of seeing Kolchak’s people, workers and peasants who have come from there, but we should like people in Moscow to see more of those who come from there. Were not the Cis-Urals and Siberian peasants ready to turn their backs on the Bolsheviks a year ago? They were discontented and indignant at the Bolsheviks for demanding help in a difficult war and for saying “victory over the landowners and capitalists is not easily won and if they make war on you, you must he prepared to make every sacrifice to defend the gains of the revolution. Revolutions are not easily made, and if you find these sacrifices too much for you, if you have not enough stamina to make these sacrifices, you will ruin the revolution”. The peasants did not want to listen to this, they thought it was nothing more than a revolutionary appeal. When the other side offered peace and the help of the Entente they went over to that side. You realise, of course, that the Siberian peasants have never experienced serfdom. They are the best-fed peasants in Russia, they are used to exploiting people exiled from Russia; they are peasants who could not see that there would he anything to gain from the revolution, and these peasants got their leaders from the entire Russian bourgeoisie, from all the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries-there were hundreds, thousands of them there. Some people put the present population of Omsk, for instance, at 900,000 bourgeois and others at 500,000. Literally all the bourgeoisie got together there, all those who claimed the right to lead the people because of their possession of knowledge and culture and their habit of ruling-people of all parties, from the Mensheviks to the Socialist-Revolutionaries, gathered there. They had well-fed peasants, solid men not inclined to socialism, they had aid from all the Entente countries, from the all-powerful countries that held power in their hands throughout the world. They had railway lines with free access to the sea, and that meant complete mastery, for the flag of the Allies has no rival anywhere in the world and rules over the entire globe. What else was wanting? Why was it that these people who had everything that was to he had against the Bolsheviks-a country with strong, solid peasants and the aid of the Entente-why did they collapse so badly after two years’ experience that all that was left in place of the “power of the people” was the barbaric rule of the sons of landowners and capitalists? Kolchakia broke down completely, and this is actually tangible when our Red Army approaches the Urals as the liberator. A year ago the peasants were shouting, “Down with the Bolsheviks, they put burdens on the shoulders of the peasants”, and they went over to the side of the landowners and capitalists. At that time they did not believe what we told them; now they have experienced for themselves, now they have seen that the Bolsheviks took one horse away from a peasant whereas the Kolchak people took everything, the horses and everything else, and re-introduced tsarist discipline. Now that the peasants have the experience of the past they welcome the Red Army as their deliverer and say that sound and complete liberty will come to Siberia together with the Bolsheviks. (Applause.)

This experience of Koichakia is a most valuable experience for us; it shows us on a small scale what is going on all over the world, it shows us the real sources-sources that are invincible, sources that are ineradicable-of the strength of the Bolsheviks. We had seemed helpless when Siberia was in the hands of our enemies. Now that gigantic power has collapsed. Why? Because we were right in our appraisal of the imperialist war and its consequences, we were right when we said that mankind would not emerge from this as it had from previous wars-people had suffered so much, had been tormented so much, were so full of wrath against capitalism that the rule of the working class would set in and socialism would be established. The “middle way” has been mentioned here, and I know very well that the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks dream of that middle way, that the best people in those intermediate parties dream sincerely of that middle way, but we know from the experience of whole countries and peoples that it is an empty dream, because there is no middle way in the kingdom of the Constituent Assembly where the Chernovs and Maiskys again began their ministerial careers and were a complete failure. Is this an accident or Bolshevik slander? Nobody will believe that it is! If they started out with such faith in the Constituent Assembly and ended up with such a failure it only goes to show once again that the Bolsheviks are right when they say that there must he either the dictatorship of the proletariat, the dictatorship of all working people and a victory over capitalism, or the most filthy and sanguinary rule of the bourgeoisie, even going as fare as a monarchy established by Kolchak, as in Siberia. And now I can go over from the lessons and conclusions drawn from Siberia to a brief outline of the international situation.

Comrades, we have made tremendous progress in our internal policy; millions of Russian peasants who a year ago had an absolutely unenlightened view of the wide world, who believed any glib talk about the Constituent Assembly, who lost heart oil account of the burdens imposed by Bolshevism, who ran away every time there was an appeal to struggle-since then the peasants have had such an incredibly burdensome and sanguinary experience at the hands of the Germans in the South that they have learned a lot. We have become infinitely strong because millions of people have realised what Kolchak is; millions of peasants in Siberia have come over to Bolshevism-they are waiting for the Bolsheviks, literally all of them-not because of our sermons and doctrines, but because of their own experience; they called for the Socialist-Revolutionaries and put them in power but from their having placed the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks in power they got the old Russian monarchy, the old Russian policeman, who introduced incredible lawlessness into the country together with the “democracy”, This cure of time people, however, is worth a lot. (Applause).

Take a glance at the world situation. Have we not made a tremendous step forward in this respect during the past year when we compare it with what we had a year ago? Did not even people devoted to the revolution turn against us at that time, did they not say that time Bolsheviks had sold Russia to the German predators, that the Brest peace had demonstrated what a serious mistake had been made, and did they not believe that only the alliance of democratic France and Britain would save Russia? And what happened? A few months after last year’scrisis the Brest peace had ceased to exist. Six months passed after November 9, 1918, when Germany was defeated, and it took that six months’ effort on the part of the French and British imperialists to conclude peace. And what did the peace bring? What it gave was this: all the workers who had until then been on the side of the champions of the French and British imperialists who had preached war to the end, all of them are now coming over to our side, not even day by day but hour by hour; they tell themselves that they had been deceived into waging war for four years. They had. been promised the defeat of Germany in the name of liberty, the victory of liberty and equality, the victory of democracy, and instead of it they had been given the Treaty of Verailles, an unworthily imposed peace for the purpose of plunder and profit. During that year our situation has been one of intense struggle for the victory of the world revolution. And our situation, if you compare it to that of the enemies, has been such that we have acquired ever more allies throughout the world at every step we have taken. We now see that what the Germans, from their imperialist point of view consider a defeat, that what the French and British consider a full victory-we see that this is the beginning of the end for the French and British imperialists. The working-class movement is growing faster and faster. The workers are demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Russia and the annulment of the Treaty of Versailles. We were alone at the time of the Treaty of Brest; it was swept away and its place was taken by the Treaty of Versailles that is strangling Germany.

In appraising the last year’s experience, in recognising frankly all difficulties, we are able to say to you calmly, confidently and soberly, “Comrades, we have come again and again to outline to you the general situation and to picture to the advanced workers of Moscow those difficulties that we have again come up against; we invite you to give some thought to the lessons we have learned in this difficult period and on the basis of your thinking and your appraisal, on the basis of this experience, reach, together with us, the firm and unshakable conviction that victory will be ours, on a world and not only on a Russian scale. Again and again we shall muster our forces to make up for the defeats we have suffered in the South. We shall put forward the tried and tested weapons of organisational ability, discipline and loyalty, and then we are certain that Denikin will be broken, and will collapse in the same way as Kolchak has collapsed and the French and British imperialists are now collapsing. (Stormy applause.)


[1] This meeting was held in the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, when the situation was difficult on account of Deminkin’s offensive. Because of Leon Trotsky’s illness, Lenin combined his own notes and that of Trotsky—s report, who was Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs and closely collaborated with Lenin on military and political affairs during this period. Lenin’s report was followed by the adoption of an appeal “To All Workers, Peasants, Red Army Men and Sailors” to bend all their efforts to repulse the enemy and achieve a decisive victory over Kolchak, Denikin and all the satraps of the counter-revolution.