THESES OF LENIN, OF 1918.
[First read to party workers in January, but not published until March; Izvestia, Mar. 8, 1918.]
1. The situation of the Russian revolution at the present moment is such, that almost all workmen and the overwhelming majority of the peasants undoubtedly are on the side of the Soviet authority, and of the social revolution started by it. To that extent the success of the socialistic revolution in Russia is guaranteed.
2. At the same time the civil war, caused by the frantic resistance of the propertied classes which understand very well that they are facing the last and decisive struggle to preserve private property in land, and in the means of production, has not as yet reached its highest point. The victory of the Soviet authority in this war is guaranteed, but inevitably some time yet must pass, inevitably a considerable exertion of strength will be required, a certain period of acute disorganization and chaos, which always attend any war and in particular a civil war, is inevitable, before the resistance of the bourgeoisie will be crushed.
3. Further, this resistance takes less and less active, and nonmilitary forms: Sabotage, bribing beggars, bribing agents of the bourgeoisie who have pushed themselves into the ranks of the socialists in order to ruin the latter's cause, etc. This resistance has proven stubborn, and capable of assuming so many different forms, that the struggle against it will inevitably drag along for a certain period, and will probably not be finished in its main aspects before several months. And without a decisive victory over this passive and concealed resistance of the bourgeoisie and its champions. the success of the socialistic revolution is impossible.
4. Finally, the organizing tasks of the socialistic reorganization of Russia are so enormous and difficult, that a rather prolonged period of time is also required to solve them, in view of the large number of petty bourgeoisie fellow-travelers of the socialistic proletariat, and of the latter's low cultural level.
5. All these circumstances taken together are such that from them result the necessity, for the success of socialism in Russia, of a certain interval of time, not less than a few months, in the course of which the socialistic government must have its hands absolutely free, in order to triumph over the bourgeoisie, first of all in its own country, and in order to adopt broad and deep organizing activity.
6. The state of affairs respecting the socialist revolution in Russia must be made the foundation for any definition of the international tasks of the new Soviet authority: for the international situation in the fourth year of the war has become such that the probable moment of the outbreak of revolution, and the overthrow of any of the European imperialistic governments (including the German) absolutely can not be calculated. There is no doubt that the socialist revolution in Europe must come and will come. All our hopes for the definitive triumph of socialism are based on this conviction, and on this scientific prevision. Our propagandist activities in general, and the organization of fraternization in particular, should be strengthened and developed. But it would be a mistake to build up the tactic of the socialistic government in Russia on attempts to determine whether or not the European and especially the German socialist revolution will come within the next six months (or a similarly short period). As it is quite impossible to decide this fact, all attempts to do so would really amount simply to a blind gamble.
7. The peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk have shown quite clearly to date, January 7, 1918, that in the German Government, which leads the other Governments of the quadruple alliance by the bridle, the military party has without question gained the ascendancy, and has in fact already presented an ultimatum to Russia (one can, one must, expect the formal presentation of the ultimatum from day to day). This ultimatum is as follows: Either further war or an annexationist peace, that is a peace on the condition that we give up all lands occupied by us, while the Germans keep all the lands occupied by them, and impose on us a contribution (externally concealed as payment for the support of prisoners of war) of about three billion rubles, to be paid in installments over the period of several years.
8. The Socialist Government of Russia faces a question that requires an immediate decision, whether to accept immediately this annexationist peace or to carry on immediately a revolutionary war. No middle course is really possible. Further postponements are quite out of the question, inasmuch as we have already done everything possible, and impossible, to drag along artificially the negotiations.
9. Examining the arguments in favor of an immediate revolutionary war, we meet first of all the argument that a separate peace would now mean, objectively, an agreement with the German imperialists, an "imperialistic bargain," etc., and that therefore such a peace would be a complete rupture with the fundamental principles of proletarian internationalism.
But this argument is clearly unsound. The workmen who lose a strike, and sign conditions for the resumption of work that are disadvantageous for them and advantageous for the capitalist, do not betray socialism. Only those betray socialism who exchange advantages for a portion of the workmen against advantages for the capitalists, and only such agreements are inadmissible.
It is treason to socialism to call a war against German imperialism a defensive and just war, when in fact one receives support from Anglo-French imperialists, and one hides from the people the secret agreements with the latter. He who without hiding anything from the people, and without concluding any secret treaties with imperialists, agrees to sign terms of peace disadvantageous for a weak nation, but advantageous for the imperialists of one group if at the moment there is no strength to continue the war, does not commit the slightest treason to socialism.
10. The other argument in favor of immediate war is that by concluding peace we in fact become the agents of German imperialism, for we give the latter the release of troops from our front, millions of prisoners, etc. But this argument also is clearly unsound, for a revolutionary war at the present moment would. in fact make us the agents of the Anglo-French imperialism, giving to the latter strength that would assist it in its aims. The English made the direct proposal to our commander-in-chief, Krylenko, to pay 100 rubles a month for each soldier in the event of the continuation of the war. Even if we do not take a single kopeck from the English and French, nevertheless, we shall in fact be helping them by keeping occupied a portion of the German troops.
On the other hand in both cases we shall not be breaking completely with either of the imperialistic connections; and it is clear that it is not possible to break off such connections completely until imperialism has been overthrown. the world over. The correct conclusion then is the following: Until the victory of a socialistic government in one of these countries, one must decide all questions not from the point of view of preference for this or that imperialism, but exclusively from the point of view of the best conditions for the development and strengthening of the socialist revolution, which has already begun.
In other words the principle lying at the basis of our tactic should not be which of the two imperialists it is more profitable to assist at the present moment, but should be what is the better and more hopeful way to secure for the socialist revolution the possibility of strengthening itself or at least of maintaining itself in one country, until other countries shall join.
11. They say that the German Social-Democrats who opposed the war have now become "defeatists," and ask us not to give way to the German imperialism. But we have recognized defeatism only with respect to one's own imperialistic bourgeoisie, while we have always rejected victory over a foreign imperialism, a victory secured by formal or actual alliance with "friendly" imperialism, as a method in principle inadmissible and in general useless.
This argument consequently is only a variety of the preceding one. If the German Left Social-Democrats should propose to us to put off the separate peace for a certain length of time, guaranteeing a revolutionary outbreak in Germany within that period of time, then the question might present itself differently to us. But the German Lefts not only do not speak of this, but on the contrary they declare in a formal manner: "Hold out as long as you can, but decide the question in accordance with the situation of Russian socialist revolution, for one can promise nothing positive with respect to the German revolution."
12. Some say that we have in fact "promised" a revolutionary war in a series of party declarations and that the conclusion of a separate peace would be going back on our word. This is not true. We spoke of the need, for a socialistic government, of "preparing and conducting" a revolutionary war in a period of imperialism; we said this in order to combat abstract pacifism - the theory of the complete denial of "defense of country" - in a period of imperialism, and finally to combat the purely bodily instincts of a portion of the soldiers, but we did not assume any obligation to begin a revolutionary war without taking in account the extent to which it could be carried on at this or that moment.
And now we should without any question speak of revolutionary war. We shall carry out this promise of ours, just as we have in general carried out all our promises, which could be carried out immediately; we opened up the secret treaties, we proposed to all peoples a just peace, we dragged out the peace negotiation in every possible way, and several times, in order to give other peoples time to join in.
But the question whether it is possible now, immediately, to conduct a revolutionary war, must be decided by reckoning out the exclusively material conditions of carrying it on and also the interests of the socialistic revolution that has already begun.
13. Summarizing then the arguments in favor of an immediate revolutionary war, one must come to the conclusion that such a policy would perhaps correspond to the requirements of mankind in its striving for the beautiful, the effective and clear, but would not at all take into account the objective interrelations of class forces, and the material factors at the present moment of the socialistic revolution that has started.
14. There is no doubt that our army at the present moment, and for the next few weeks (and probably also the next months) is absolutely not in a condition successfully to resist the German attacks, in the first place because of the extreme weariness and exhaustion of the majority of the soldiers in the presence of an unheard-of breakdown of the food supply service and so forth; in the second place, as the result of the complete inadequacy of the supply of horses, so that our artillery is destined to inevitable loss; in the third place, as the result of the utter impossibility of the defending the coast from Riga to Reval, which gives the enemy the surest chance to conquer the remaining positions of Livland, and then of Estland, to surround and cut off a large portion of our troops, and finally to take Petrograd.
15. Further, there is also no doubt that the peasant majority of our army at the present moment would undoubtedly express itself in favor of an annexationist peace, and not in favor of an immediate revolutionary war; for the work of creating a socialistic revolutionary army, putting into it detachments of the Red Guard and such, has only just been begun.
With the complete democratization of the army, it would be a mere adventure to carry on war against the will of the majority of the soldiers, and at least several months are necessary to build up a really solid, and ideally strong, socialistic workman-peasant army.
16. The poorest peasants in Russia are in a state to support a socialistic revolution led by the workman class, but they are not ready immediately, at the present moment, to go in for a serious revolutionary war. It would be a fatal mistake to disregard this objective interrelation of class forces in connection with the given question.
17. The situation with respect to the revolutionary war at the present moment therefore stands as follows:
If the German revolution should break out in the next three or four months, then perhaps the tactic of an immediate revolutionary war would not ruin our socialistic revolution.
But if the German revolution does not start within the next months, then the course of events, the war being continued, will certainly be such that greater defeats will force Russia to conclude an even more disadvantageous separate peace, and further this peace will be concluded not by a socialistic government, but by some other (for example, by a combination of the bourgeois Rada with reactionary elements, or some such combination); for the peasant army, exhausted beyond endurance by the war, after the very first defeats probably not in the month but in a week will overthrow the socialistic workmen's government.
18. With such a state of affairs it would be an absolutely inadmissible tactic to gamble with the fate of the socialistic revolution that has already begun in Russia, simply on the chance that the German revolution will begin within a very short time, that can be measured in weeks. Such a tactic would be an adventure. We have no right to take such risks.
19. And a German revolution will not at all be made more difficult, with respect to its objective bases, if we shall conclude a separate peace. For the time the outburst of chauvinism will probably weaken it, but Germany will still remain in a very difficult position. The war with England and America will be a long-drawn out affair; aggressive. imperialism on both sides has been exposed completely and definitely.
The example of a socialistic Soviet Republic in Russia will stand as a living model for the peoples of all countries and the propagandist and revolutionizing effect of this model will be gigantic. Here - the bourgeois order of society and the exposed predatory war of both groups of brigands while there - peace and the Socialistic Republic of Soviets.
20. By concluding peace we free ourselves as completely as is possible at the present moment from both warring imperialistic groups; taking advantage of their hostility, and of the war that makes it difficult for them to make a deal against us, we shall use a certain period when our hands are free, to continue and strengthen the socialistic revolution. The reorganization of Russia on the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, on the principle of the nationalization of banks and of large industrial enterprises, with the exchange of goods in natura between the town and the village cooperative societies of small peasants, is economically fully possible, on the condition that one is secured several months of peaceful activity. And such a reorganization will make socialism unconquerable, both in Russia and in the whole world, creating at the same time a solid basis for a powerful workman-peasant Red Army.
21. In fact, a revolutionary war at the present moment would be a war of a socialistic republic against bourgeois countries, with the clearly-expressed aim, fully approved by the socialistic army, of overthrowing the bourgeoisies in other countries. But we can not yet at the present moment deliberately set ourselves such an aim. We would be fighting, objectively, for the liberation of Poland, Lithuania, and Courland.1 But not a single Marxist who does not break with the principles of Marxism, and of socialism in general, can deny that the interests of socialism stand above the interests of the right of nations to self-determination. Our socialistic republic has done everything that it can, and continues so to do, for the realization of the right of self-determination of Finland, the Ukraine, and so forth. But if the concrete state of affairs has become such that the existence of the socialistic republic is endangered at a given moment by the violation of the right of self-determination of several nations (Poland, Lithuania, Courland, and others), yet, of course, the interests of preserving the socialistic republic stand higher.
Therefore, whoever says "We can not sign a disgraceful, indecent, etc., peace, betray Poland, and so forth," does not see that by signing peace on the condition of the liberation of Poland, one has simply still further strengthened German imperialism against England, Belgium, Serbia, and other countries. Peace on the condition of the liberation of Poland, Lithuania, Courland, would be a "patriotic" peace from the point of view of Russia, but it would not cease to be a peace with annexationists, with German imperialists.
1 The last lines were spoken and not read.