Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918

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World History

221.

The Soviet Decree on Peace, November 8, 1917

4

The Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, created by the Revolution of October 24–25 (November 6–7) and supported by the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, proposes to all combatant peoples and to their governments to begin immediate negotiations for an honest democratic peace.

The Government regards as an honest or democratic peace, which is yearned for by the overwhelming majority of the workers and the toiling classes of all the fighting countries, who are exhausted, tormented and tortured by the War, which the Russian workers and peasants demanded most definitely and insistently after the overthrow of the Tsarist monarchy,—an immediate peace without annexations (i.e., without the seizure of foreign land, without the forcible taking over of foreign nationalities) and without contributions.

Such a peace the Government of Russia proposes to all the fighting peoples to conclude immediately, expressing its readiness to take without the least delay immediately all the decisive steps, up to the final confirmation of all the conditions of such a peace by the authorized assemblies of peoples’ representatives of all countries and all nations.

As annexation or seizure of alien lands the Government understands, in conformity with the conception of justice, of democracy in general and of the toiling classes in particular, any addition to a large or strong state of a small or weak nationality, without the precisely, clearly and voluntarily expressed agreement and desire of this nationality, irrespective of when this forcible annexation took place, and also irrespective of how advanced or how backward is the nation which is violently annexed or violently held within the frontiers of another state. Irrespective, finally, of whether this nation lives in Europe or in faraway transoceanic countries.

If any nation is kept within the frontiers of another state by violence, if it is not granted the right, despite its expressed desire,—regardless of whether this desire is expressed in the press, in people’s meetings, in the decisions of parties or in riots and uprisings against national oppression,—to vote freely, with the troops of the annexationist or stronger nation withdrawn, to decide without the least compulsion the question of the form of its state existence, then the holding of such a nation is annexation, i.e., seizure and violence.

To continue this war in order to decide how to divide between strong and rich nations the weak nationalities which they have seized, the Government considers the greatest crime against humanity; and it solemnly avows its decision immediately to sign conditions of peace which will stop this War on the terms which have been outlined, equally just for all nationalities, without exception.

Along with this the Government states that it does not regard the above mentioned conditions of peace as ultimative, i.e., it is willing to consider any other conditions of peace, insisting only that these be presented as quickly as possible by one of the fighting countries, and on the fullest clarity, on the absolute exclusion of any ambiguity and secrecy in proposing conditions of peace.

The Government abolishes secret diplomacy, announcing its firm intention to carry on all negotiations quite openly before the whole people, proceeding immediately to the full publication of the secret treaties, ratified or concluded by the Government of landlords and capitalists betweeen February and October 25, 1917. All the contents of these secret treaties, inasmuch as they are directed, as usually happened, toward the obtaining of advantages and privileges for Russian landlords and capitalists, toward the maintenance or the increase of Great Russian annexations, the Government declares unconditionally and immediately annulled.

Turning with its proposal to the Governments and peoples of all countries to begin immediately open negotiations for the conclusion of peace, the Government expresses its readiness to carry on these negotiations by means of written communications, by telegraph, by means of negotiations between representatives of different countries or at a conference of such representatives. To facilitate such negotiations the Government will nominate its plenipotentiary representative in neutral countries.

The Government proposes to all Governments and peoples of all combatant countries immediately to conclude an armistice, considering it desirable that this armistice should be concluded for a period of not less than three months, in the course of which time it would be quite possible both to complete negotiations for peace with the participation of representatives of all nationalities or nations which have been drawn into the War or have been forced to participate in it and to convoke authoritative assemblies of peoples’ representatives of all countries for the final confirmation of the peace conditions.

Turning with these proposals of peace to the Governments and the peoples of all the combatant countries, the Provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government of Russia also appeals especially to the class-conscious workers of the three leading nations of humanity and the largest states which are participating in the war, England, France and Germany. The workers of these countries rendered the greatest services to the cause of progress and socialism, and the great examples of the Chartist Movement in England, a number of revolutions of world significance, carried out by the French proletariat, finally the heroic struggle against the Exceptional Law in Germany and the long, stubborn, disciplined work of creating mass proletarian organizations in Germany (which was a model for the workers of the whole world),—all these examples of proletarian heroism and historic creation serve us as a guaranty that the workers of the above mentioned countries understand the problems which now fall on them, of liberating humanity from the horrors of war and its consequences, that these workers by their decisive and devotedly energetic activity will help us to bring successfully to its end the cause of peace and, along with this, the cause of freeing the toiling and exploited masses of the population from slavery and exploitation of every kind.

President of the Soviet of Peoples’ Commissars,

VLADIMIR ULIANOV-LENIN.

4 Translated from the Collection of Legislative Acts, No. 1, Article 2, in W. H. Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution 1917–1921, 2 vols., New York, 1935, vol. I, pp. 472–474. Reprinted by permission of The Macmillan Company, publishers.

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Chicago: "The Soviet Decree on Peace, November 8, 1917," Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918 in Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, ed. Walter Consuelo Langsam and James Michael Egan (Chicage: Lippincott, 1951), 742–745. Original Sources, accessed November 29, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SLB7DH4KFBCTKC4.

MLA: . "The Soviet Decree on Peace, November 8, 1917." Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, in Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, edited by Walter Consuelo Langsam and James Michael Egan, Chicage, Lippincott, 1951, pp. 742–745. Original Sources. 29 Nov. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SLB7DH4KFBCTKC4.

Harvard: , 'The Soviet Decree on Peace, November 8, 1917' in Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918. cited in 1951, Documents and Readings in the History of Europe Since 1918, ed. , Lippincott, Chicage, pp.742–745. Original Sources, retrieved 29 November 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=SLB7DH4KFBCTKC4.