Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, Proclamation to the Workers, Soldiers and Peasants. November 7, 1917
The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies has opened. The vast majority of the Soviets are represented at the Congress. A number of delegates from the Peasants’ Soviets are also present. The mandate of the compromising Central Executive Committee has terminated. Backed by the will of the vast majority of the workers, soldiers and peasants, backed by the victorious uprising of the workers and the garrison which has taken place in Petrograd, the Congress takes the power into its own hands.
The Provisional Government has been overthrown. The majority of the members of the Provisional Government have already been arrested.
The Soviet government will propose an immediate democratic peace to all the nations and an immediate armistice on all fronts. It will secure the transfer of the land of the landlords, of the crown and monasteries to the peasants’ committees without compensation; it will protect the rights of the soldiers by introducing complete democracy in the army; it will establish workers’ control over production; it will ensure the convocation of the Constituent Assembly at the time appointed; it will see to it that bread is supplied to the cities and prime necessities to the villages; it will guarantee all the nations inhabiting Russia the genuine right of self-determination.
The Congress decrees: all power in the localities shall pass to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, which must guarantee genuine revolutionary order.
The Congress calls upon the soldiers in the trenches to be vigilant and firm. The Congress of Soviets is convinced that the revolutionary army will be able to defend the revolution against all attacks of imperialism until such time as the new government succeeds in concluding a democratic peace, which it will propose directly to all peoples. The new government will do everything to supply all the needs of the revolutionary army by means of a determined policy of requisitions and taxation of the propertied classes, and also will improve the condition of soldiers’ families.
The Kornilovites – Kerenskii, Kaledin and others – are attempting to bring troops against Petrograd. Several detachments, whom Kerenskii had got to move by deceit, have come over to the side of the insurgent people.
Soldiers, actively resist Kerenskii, the Kornilovite! Be on your guard!
Railroad workers, hold up all troop trains dispatched by Kerenskii against Petrograd!
Soldiers, workers and employees, the fate of the revolution and the fate of the democratic peace is in your hands!
Long live the revolution!
Original Source: Rabochii i soldat, No. 9, 26 October 1917.
Source: Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 26
Transfer of Power to the Toilers
Soviet of People’s Commissars, Transfer of Power and the Means of Production to the Toilers. November 18, 1917
Comrades-Workers, Soldiers, Peasants, All Toilers!
The workers’ and peasants’ revolution has won a decisive victory in Petrograd, having scattered and arrested the last remnants of a small number of Cossacks deceived by Kerenskii. The revolution has triumphed in Moscow … the cadets and other Kornilov supporters have signed peace. They are now disarmed, and the Committee [of Public Safety] has been dismissed. An overwhelming majority of soldiers in the trenches and peasants in the villages are supporting the new government in its peace decree and its decree to hand over immediately the land to the peasants. The victory of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution is assured; the majority of the people are for it.
It is easy to understand why the landowners, the capitalists, and the higher state officials who are closely bound up with the bourgeoisie-in one word, all the rich and those who held out their hands to the rich should assume a hostile attitude toward the new revolution, should stand in its way, and should threaten to close the banks and to stop or to sabotage, directly or indirectly, the work of various institutions.
Every class-conscious worker knows full well that this opposition is inevitable, that the higher officials were selected to oppress the people, and that they are not going to give up their place without a struggle. The laboring classes will not allow themselves to be frightened, even for a minute, by the threats and strikes of these partisans of the bourgeoisie. The majority of the people are with us. With us are the majority of the toilers, and the oppressed of the world. Right is on our side. Our victory is certain. The opposition of the capitalists and higher officials will be broken. We will not deprive a single person of his property otherwise than by a special government law concerning the nationalization of banks and trusts. This law is now in preparation. Not a single laborer and toiler will lose one kopek; on the contrary, he will be helped. The government will impose no new taxes now and will aim at an open and strict accounting and control over the taxes heretofore levied.
In the name of these just demands the great majority of the people has rallied around the Provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.
Comrade Toilers! Remember that you yourself are now running the government. Unless you get together and take all affairs of the government into your own hands, no one will do it for you. Your Soviets are from now on all-powerful and all-decisive organs of government. Rally around your Soviets. Strengthen them. Take matters into your hands and don’t wait for anyone to tell you what to do. Insist on the strictest revolutionary order. Crush mercilessly all anarchistic disturbances by drunkards, rowdies, counter-revolutionary cadets, Kornilovites, and their like.
Organize strict control over production and accountability for the products. Bring before the revolutionary tribunal everyone who dares to harm the cause of the people by sabotaging (spoiling, hindering, destroying) in industry, concealing grain and produce, interfering with transportation of grain, tearing up rail, post, and telegraph lines, or in other ways opposing the great cause of peace, of transferring the land to the peasants, and of assuming workers’ control over production and distribution.
Comrade workers, soldiers, peasants, and all toilers! Take all local power into your own hands. Take and guard as the apple of your eye the grain, factories, implements, products, and transport – all these are from now on wholly yours; they are public property.
Gradually, with the approval and agreement of the majority of the peasants, guided by their practical experience and that of the workers, we shall move on firmly and resolutely to the victory of socialism, a victory which the advance guard of the workers of the more civilized countries will make secure and which is bound to give the people a lasting peace and freedom from all oppression and exploitation.
V. UL’IANOV (LENIN) President of the Soviet of People’s Commissars
Original Source: Sobranie uzakonenii i rasporiazhenii raboche-krestian’skogo pravitel’stva, 1917, No. 2, pp. 27-28.
Source: Valentin Astrov (ed.), An Illustrated History of the Russian Revolution, International Publishers, New York, 1928, Volume 2
Decree on Peace
October 26 (November 8)
The workers’ and peasants’ government, created by the Revolution of October 24-25 and basing itself on the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, calls upon all the belligerent peoples and their government to start immediate negotiations for a just, democratic peace.
By a just or democratic peace, for which the overwhelming majority of the working class and other working people of all the belligerent countries, exhausted, tormented and racked by the war, are craving — a peace that has been most definitely and insistently demanded by the Russian workers and peasants ever since the overthrow of the tsarist monarchy — by such a peace the government means an immediate peace without annexations (i.e., without the seizure of foreign lands, without the forcible incorporation of foreign nations) and without indemnities.
The government of Russia proposes that this kind of peace be immediately concluded by all the belligerent nations, and expresses its readiness to take all the resolute measures now, without the least delay, pending the final ratification of all the terms of such a peace by authoritative assemblies of the people’s representatives of all countries and all nations.
In accordance with the sense of justice of democrats in general, and of the working class in particular, the government conceives the annexation of seizure of foreign lands to mean every incorporation of a small or weak nation into large or powerful state without the precisely, clearly, and voluntarily expressed consent and wish of that nation, irrespective of the time when such forcible incorporation took place, irrespective also of the degree of development or backwardness of the nation forcibly annexed to the given state, or forcibly retained within its borders, and irrespective, finally, of whether this nation is in Europe or in distant, overseas countries.
If any nation whatsoever is forcibly retained within the borders of a given state, if, in spite of its expressed desire — no matter whether expressed in the press, at public meetings, in the decisions of parties, or in protests and uprisings against national oppression — is not accorded the right to decide the forms of its state existence by a free vote, taken after the complete evacuation of the [aggressive] troops of the incorporating or, generally, of the stronger nation and without the least pressure being brought to bear, such incorporation is annexation, i.e., seizure and violence.
The government considers it the greatest of crimes against humanity to continue this war over the issue of how to divide among the strong and rich nations the weak nationalities they have conquered, and solemnly announces its determination immediately to sign terms of peace to stop this war on the terms indicated, which are equally just for all nationalities without exception.
At the same time the government declares that it does not regard the above-mentioned peace terms as an ultimatum; in other words, it is prepared to consider any other peace terms, and insists only that they be advanced by any of the belligerent countries as speedily as possible, and that in the peace proposals there should be absolute clarity and the complete absence of all ambiguity and secrecy.
The government abolishes secret diplomacy, and, for its part, announces its firm intention to conduct all negotiations quite openly in full view of the whole people. It will proceed immediately with the full publication of the secret treaties endorsed or concluded by the government of land-owners and capitalists from February to October 25, 1917. [A] The government proclaims the unconditional and immediate annulment of everything contained in these secret treaties insofar as it is aimed, as is mostly the case, at securing advantages and privileges for the Russian landowners and capitalists and at the retention, or extension, of the annexations made by the Great Russians. [B]
Proposing to the governments and peoples of all countries immediately to begin open negotiations for peace, the government, for its part, expresses its readiness to conduct these negotiations in writing, by telegraph, and by negotiations between representatives of the various countries, or at a conference of such representatives. In order to facilitate such negotiations, the government is appointing its plenipotentiary representative to neutral countries.
The government proposes an immediate armistice to the governments and people of all the belligerent countries, and, for its part, considers it desirable that this armistice should be concluded for a period of not less than three months, i.e., a period long enough to permit the competition of negotiations for peace with the participation of the representatives of all peoples or nations, without exception, involved in or compelled to take part in the war, and the summoning of authoritative assemblies of the representatives of the peoples of all countries for the final ratification of the peace terms.
While addressing this proposal for peace to the governments and peoples of all the belligerent countries, the Provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government of Russia appeals in particular also to the class-conscious workers of the three most advanced nations of mankind and the largest states participating in the present way, namely, Great Britain, France, and Germany. The workers of these countries have made the greatest contributions to the cause of progress and socialism; they have furnished the great examples of the Chartist movement in England, a number of revolutions of historic importance effected by the French proletariat, and, finally, the heroic struggle against the Anti-Socialist Law in Germany, and the prolonged, persistent and disciplined work of creating mass proletarian organisations in Germany, a work which serves as a model to the workers of the whole world. All these examples of proletarian heroism and historical creative work are a pledge that the workers of the countries mentioned will understand the duty that now faces them of saving mankind from the horrors of war and its consequences, that these workers, by comprehensive, determined, and supremely vigourous action, will help us to conclude peace successfully, and at the same time emancipate the labouring and exploited masses of our population from all forms of slavery and all forms of exploitation.
[From Report on Peace]
“The workers’ and peasants’ government, created by the Revolution of October 24-25 and basing itself on the support of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies, must start immediate negotiations for peace. Our appeal must be addressed both to the governments and to the peoples. We cannot ignore the governments, for that would delay the possibility of concluding peace, and the people’s government dare not do that; but we have no right not to appeal to the peoples at the same time. Everywhere there are differences between the governments and the peoples, and we must therefore help the peoples to intervene in questions of war and peace. We will, of course, insist upon the whole of our programme for a peace without annexations and indemnities. We shall not retreat from it; but we must not give our enemies an opportunity to say that their conditions are different from ours and that therefore it is useless to start negotiations with us. No, we must deprive them of that advantageous position and not present our terms in the form of an ultimatum. Therefore the point is included that we are willing to consider any peace terms and all proposals. We shall consider them, but that does not necessarily mean that we shall accept them. We shall submit them for consideration to the Constituent Assembly which will have the power to decide what concessions can and what cannot be made. We are combating the deception practiced by governments which pay lip-service to peace and justice, but in fact wage annexationist and predatory wars. No government will say all it thinks. We, however, are opposed to secret diplomacy and will act openly in full view of the whole people. We do not close our eyes to difficulties and never have done so. War cannot be ended by refusal, it cannot be ended by one side. We are proposing an armistice for three months, but shall not reject a shorter period, so that the exhausted army may breathe freely, even if only for a little while; moreover, in all the civilised countries national assemblies must be summoned for the discussion of the terms.
“In proposing an immediate armistice, we appeal to the class-conscious workers of the countries that have done so much for the development of the proletarian movement. We appeal to the workers of Britain, where there was the Chartist movement, to the workers of France, who have in repeated uprisings displayed the strength of their class-consciousness, and to the workers of Germany, who waged the fight against the Anti-Socialist Law and have created powerful organisations.
“In the Manifesto [issued by the Petrograd Soviet] of March 14, we called for the overthrow of the bankers, but, far from overthrowing our own bankers, we had entered into an alliance with them The Coalition Provisional Government. Now we have overthrown the government of the bankers.
“The governments and the bourgeoisie will make every effort to unite their forces and drown the workers’ and peasants’ revolution in blood. But the three years of war have been a good lesson to the masses — the Soviet movement in other countries and the mutiny in the German navy, which was crushed by the officer cadets of Wilhelm the hangman. Finally, we must remember that we are not living in the depths of Africa, but in Europe, where news can spread quickly.
[A] All secret treaties made by the Provisional and Tsarist governments were published beginning on November 10 (23), 1917 in issues of Pravda and Izvestia. In December the treaties were published in a (long) series of books entitled Collection of Secret Documents from the Archives of the Former Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Seven volumes were printed from December 1917 to February 1918.
[B] “Great Russians” was Lenin’s mocking name of nationalist-chauvinist Russians who sought to expand the Russian empire at the expense of crushing racial minorities and smaller nations. Lenin continued his campaign against “Great Russians” up until his final writings in 1923.
[Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 26]