An Unfortunate Peace
Trotsky was right when he said: the peace may be a
triply unfortunate peace, but the peace ending this hundredfold obscene
war cannot be an obscene, disgraceful, dirty peace.
It is incredibly, unprecedentedly hard to sign an unfortunate,
immeasurably severe, infinitely humiliating peace when the strong has
the weak by the throat. But it is impermissible to give way to despair,
impermissible to forget that history has examples of still greater
humiliations, still more unfortunate, onerous peace terms. Yet even so,
the peoples crushed by bestially cruel conquerors were able to recover
and rise again.
Napoleon I crushed and humiliated Prussia immeasurably more heavily
than Wilhelm is now crushing and humiliating Russia. For a number of years Napoleon I was
completely victorious on the continent; his victory over Prussia was
much more decisive than Wilhelm's victory over Russia. Yet after a few
years Prussia recovered and in a war of liberation, not without the aid
of robber states that waged against Napoleon by no means a war of
liberation but an imperialist war, threw off the Napoleonic yoke.
Napoleon's imperialist wars continued for many years, took up a whole
epoch and exhibited an extremely complex network of imperialist relationships interwoven with national
liberation movements. And as a result, through all this epoch,
unusually rich in wars and tragedies (tragedies of whole peoples),
history went forward from feudalism to "free" capitalism.
History is now advancing still more swiftly, the
tragedies of whole
nations that are being crushed or have been crushed by imperialist war
are immeasurably more terrible. The interweaving of imperialist and
national liberation trends, movements and aspirations is also in
evidence, with the immense difference that the national liberation
movements are immeasurably weaker and the imperialist ones immeasurably
stronger. But history goes steadily forward, and in the depths of all
the advanced countries there is maturing -- despite everything -- the
socialist revolution, a revolution infinitely deeper, closer to the
people and more powerful than the previous bourgeois revolution.
Hence, again and yet again: of all things the most impermissible is
despair. The peace terms are intolerably severe. Nevertheless history
will come into its own; to our aid will come -- even if not so quickly
we should like -- the steadily maturing socialist revolution in other
The plunderer has besieged us, oppressed and humiliated us -- we are
capable of enduring all these burdens. We are not alone in the world.
We have friends, supporters, very loyal helpers. They are late -- owing
a number of conditions independent of their will -- but they will come.
Let us work to organise, organise and yet again organise! The future,
in spite of all trials, is ours.
1. The reference is to the Peace of
Tilsit signed in July 1807 between France and Prussia, which imposed
onerous and humiliating obligations on Prussia. Prussia lost a large
part of her territory and was compelled to pay an indemnity of 100
million francs; she also undertook to reduce her army to 40,000 men, to
provide auxiliaries for Napoleon on demand, and to cease trading with
2. I call here imperialism the plunder
of foreign countries in general and an imperialist war the war of
plunderers for the division of such booty.– Lenin