Delivered: 23 August, 1918.
First Published: 24 August, 1918Izvestia No. 182, Published according to the Izvestia text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 28, 1965, pages 59-60
Translated (and edited): Jim Riordan
Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters
Online Version: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive, 2002
(Comrade Lenin's appearance is greeted with stormy, prolonged applause.) Comrades, today our Party is arranging meetings to explain what we Communists are fighting for.
The most concise answer to this question would be that we are fighting for the termination of the imperialist war and for socialism.
Right at the very outbreak of the war, when reaction and tsarism held sway, we called the war criminal and said that the only way out was to convert it from imperialist into civil war.
In those days many were uncertain about the connection between the imperialist war and socialism; even many socialists thought that this war, like any other, would end by the conclusion of peace.
But four years of war have taught people a lot. It is now becoming clearer and clearer that there is no other way out. The Russian revolution is being followed by the growth of revolution in all the belligerent countries. Why is this so? To answer that question we must explain the attitude of Communists towards war, give our appraisal of it. We regard all wars which are the result of the rapacious ambitions of kings and capitalists as criminal, because they are fatal to the labouring classes and bring rich spoils to the ruling bourgeoisie.
But there are some wars which the working class must regard as the only just wars. These are wars for emancipation from slavery, from capitalist oppression. And such wars are bound to occur, for we cannot secure our emancipation without struggle.
When the war broke out in 1914 between the Germans on the one hand and the British and French on the other to determine how they were to divide up the earth among themselves, who was to have the right to oppress the whole world, the capitalists of both camps tried to disguise their predatory aims by talking about "national defence"; that is how they tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the people.
Millions of people have been killed and millions crippled in this war. It has become world-wide. And more and more insistently people are asking what is the purpose of these unnecessary sacrifices.
Britain and Germany are drenched in blood, yet there is no way out of the war; even if some of the imperialist countries were to stop fighting, others would continue.
The capitalists have overreached themselves, they have grabbed more than they can hold. Meanwhile, the armies are becoming demoralised; there are deserters everywhere. The mountains of Italy are swarming with them; in France soldiers are refusing to fight, and even in Germany the old discipline has fallen apart.
French and German soldiers are beginning to realise they must reverse their front and turn their guns against their own governments, as it is impossible to end this bloody war under the capitalist system. Hence the realisation that the workers of the world must take up the struggle against the capitalists of the world.
It is no easy matter to create a socialist system. The Civil War is bound to continue for many a long month, perhaps for many a long year. This should be clear to a Russian, for he knows how difficult it is to overthrow the ruling class and what desperate resistance the Russian landowners and capitalists are putting up.
There is no country in Europe in which the workers are not in sympathy with the Bolsheviks and are not convinced that the time will come when they will overthrow their own government, just as the Russian workers have overthrown theirs.
We Russian Communists so far stand alone, because our detachment has proved to be ahead of all the others. We have been cut off from our comrades; but we had to act first because our country was the most backward. Our revolution was begun as a general revolution, and we shall tackle our tasks with the help of the workers and peasants of the world.
Our tasks are hard and difficult; many undesirable and pernicious elements are joining our ranks. But the work has begun, and even if we do make mistakes, we should remember that every mistake is an education and a lesson.
Capitalism is an international force, and it can therefore be completely destroyed only through victory in all countries, not in one alone. The war against the Czechs is a war against the capitalists of the whole world.
The workers are rising and joining this struggle; the Petrograd and Moscow workers are joining the army and bringing with them the idea of fighting for the victory of socialism.
The workers will ensure the victory of the Soviet Republic over the Czechs and give it a chance to hold out until the world socialist revolution breaks out. (Comrade Lenin concludes his speech amidst stormy applause.)