Speech at a Joint Meeting of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and Delegates From the Fronts

"If the war is to be brought to an end, the power of capital must be destroyed."

Newspaper Report

I am unable to make a long speech; I can merely outline the new government’s position, programme and tasks.

You are aware that there was a unanimous demand for a policy of peace, for an immediate offer of peace. There is not a single bourgeois minister in the whole of Europe, including this country, who has not promised peace; the soldiers of Russia have found these speeches to be false; they were promised a policy of peace, but no peace was offered and instead they were driven into an offensive. We believed it to be our government’s first duty to offer an immediate peace, and this has been done.

Comrade Lenin sets forth the terms on which the new government has proposed peace, and adds: If the powers keep their colonies, there will never be an end to this war. What is the way out? There is only one: it is for the workers’ and peasants’ revolution to defeat capital. We never promised that the war could be ended at one stroke, by driving bayonets into ground. War springs from the clash of fortunes running to thousands of millions, which have divided up the world, and if the war is to be brought to an end, the power of capital must be destroyed.

Comrade Lenin speaks on the transfer of power to the Soviets, and declares that we have witnessed a new phenomenon: the peasants refuse to believe that all power belongs to the Soviets, they are still expecting something else from the government and forget that the Soviet is not a private but a state institution. We declare that we want a new state, that the Soviet must replace the old officialdom, and that all the people must learn to govern. You should stand up to your full stature and straighten your backs, and then you need have no fear of threats. The officer cadets tried to engineer an uprising but we were able to deal with them; they organised a bloodbath in Moscow and shot soldiers on the Kremlin wall. But when the people won out, they let the enemy keep not only their military honour but also their arms.

The Vikzhel has threatened a strike, but we shall turn to the masses and ask them whether they want to go on strike and starve the soldiers at the front and the people in the rear, and I am sure that the railway proletariat won’t have it. We are accused of making arrests. Indeed, we have made arrests; today we arrested the director of the State Bank. We are accused of resorting to terrorism, but we have not resorted, and I hope will not resort, to the terrorism of the French revolutionaries who guillotined unarmed men. I hope we shall not resort to it, because we have strength on our side. When we arrested anyone we told him we would let him go if he gave us a written promise not to engage in sabotage. Such written promises have been given. Our fault is that the Soviet organisation has not yet learned to govern, and that there are far too many meetings. Let the Soviets form teams and get down to the business of government. Our task is to advance to socialism. A few days ago the workers received the law on the control of production[1] which makes the factory committee a state institution. The workers must implement this law immediately. They will supply the peasants with cloth andiron, and the peasants will give them grain. I just saw a comrade from Ivanovo-Voznesensk, and he told me this was the main thing. Socialism means keeping account of everything. You will have socialism if you take stock of every piece of iron and cloth. We need engineers for production, and we value their labour highly. We shall be glad to pay them. We do not intend, at the moment, to deprive them of their privileged position. We value everyone who is willing to work but he must not behave as a boss but as an equal, under workers’ control. We have no feeling of animosity for individuals, and we shall try to help them fit into the new pattern.

As for the peasants we say: help the working peasant, spare the middle peasant, compel the rich peasant to pay. After the October 25 Revolution we were threatened with destruction. Some were scared and wanted to escape power, but we were not destroyed. This was because our enemies could find support only from the officer cadets, whereas we had the people on our side. But for the massive drive by the soldiers and workers, power would never have dropped from the hands that held it. Power passed to the Soviets, which are organisations giving the people full freedom. We, the Soviet Government, have received our powers from the Congress of Soviets and, confident of your support, we shall continue to act as we have acted. We have not excluded anyone. The Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries have gone, but that is a crime on their part. We invited the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries to take part in the government, but they refused. We do not want any bargaining over power, we don’t want any bids or counterbids. We shall keep the City Council away from power because it is a Kornilovite centre. Some say we are isolated. The bourgeoisie has surrounded us with an atmosphere of lies and slander, but I have yet to see the soldier who is not enthusiastic over the Soviets having taken power. I have yet to see the peasant who opposes the Soviets. There must be an alliance of the poor peasants and the workers, and socialism will triumph the world over. (Members of the Soviet rise, and give Lenin a stormy ovation as he leaves.)



[1] See Draft Decree on Workers’s Control


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.