Foreign Relations of the United States : 1918 The Conclusion of the Peace of Brest Litovsk
The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State

File No. 763.72119/1059

The Ambassador in Russia (Francis) to the Secretary of State


PETROGRAD, December 31, 1917.

[Received January 1,1918, 3.03 p.m..]

2163[?]. Following is textual translation of address mentioned in my 2169: (1)

To the peoples and governments of the Allied countries: The peace negotiations which are being conducted in Brest Litovsk between the delegation of the Russian Republic and the delegations of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria have been suspended for ten days until December 26 [/January 8] in order to give to the Allied countries a last possibility to take part in the further negotiations and thus secure themselves against all the consequences of a separate peace between Russia and the enemy countries.

At Brest Litovsk two programs have been presented, the one expressing the [view]point of the All-Russian Congresses of Councils of Workmen's, Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, the other in the name of the Governments of Germany and her allies.

The program of the Republic of the Soviets is the program of consistent socialistic democracy. This program has for its purpose the establishment of conditions under which, on the one hand, every nationality independently of its freedom and the level of its development would receive an entire liberty of national development, and on the other hand, all the nations might be united in an economic and cultural collaboration.

The program of the countries at war with us is characterized by their statement that: " It does not enter into the intention of the allied powers (namely, Germany, Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria) to violently incorporate the territories seized during the war." This means that the enemy countries are ready to evacuate at the peace treaty the occupied territories of Belgium, the northern Departments of France, Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania, Poland Lithuania, Courland, in order that the subsequent destiny of the contested provinces may be decided by the population concerned itself. The step which the enemy Governments are making towards the program of the democracy under the pressure of circumstances and chiefly of their own laboring masses, lies in their renouncing new violent annexations and contributions. But in renouncing new conquests, the enemy Governments proceed from the idea that old conquests, old acts of violence of the strong over the weak are rendered sacred by historical prescription. This means that the fate of AlsaceLorraine, Transylvania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc., on the one hand, Ireland, Egypt, India, Indo-China, etc., on the other, are not subject to revision. Such a program is profoundly inconsistent and represents a project of an unprincipled compromise between the pretensions of imperialism and the opposition of the laboring democracy. But the very fact of the presentation of this program is an enormous step forward.

The Governments of the Allied nations have hitherto not joined the peace negotiations for reasons which they have obstinately declined to exactly formulate.

It is now impossible to repeat that the war is going on for the liberation of Belgium, the northern Departments of France, Serbia, etc., for Germany and her allies announce their readiness to evacuate these provinces in the event of an universal peace. Now after the presentation of peace terms by the adversary it is impossible to get off with general phrases concerning the necessity of carrying on the war to the end. It is necessary to say clearly and precisely what is the peace program of France, Italy, Great Britain, the United States. Do they demand along with US the giving of the right of self-determination to the peoples of Alsace-Lorraine, Galicia, Poznan, Bohemia. the Southern Slav provinces? If they do, are they willing on their part to give the right of self-determination to the peoples of Ireland, Egypt, India, Madagascar, Indo-China, etc., as the Russian revolution has given this right to the peoples of Finland, Ukraine, when [White] Russia, etc.' For it is clear that to demand self-determination for the peoples that are comprised within the borders of enemy states and to refuse self-determination to the peoples of their own state or of their own colonies would meats the defense of the most naked, the most cynical imperialism. If the Governments of the Allied countries were to manifest the readiness-along with the Russian revolution-to construct peace on the basis of an entire and complete recognition of the principle of self-determination for all peoples and in all states; if they were to begin with the actual giving of this right to the oppressed peoples of their own states: this would create international conditions under which the compromise program internally contradictory of German, and in particular of Austria-Hungary would manifest all its inconsistency and would be overcome by the pressure of the peoples concerned.

But up to now the Allied Governments have decidedly not manifested in any way their readiness to enter upon a really democratic peace, nor could they owing to their class character. Their attitude towards the principle of national self-determination is not less suspicious and hostile than that of the Governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary. On this point the conscious proletariat of the Allied countries has just as little illusion as we. With the governments now existing all that can be considered is to set up in opposition to the imperialistic compromise program which the peace terms of Germany and her allies represent another imperialistic compromise program on the part of Great Britain, France, Italy and the United States. What is the program of the latter? In the name of what aims could they require the prolongation of the war? To these questions now after the two programs of peace have been presented in Brest Litovsk a clear, precise and categorical answer must be given.

Ten days separate us from the resumption of the peace negotiations. Russia in these negotiations does not bind herself to the consent of the Allied Governments. If the latter continue to saboter the cause of universal peace the Russian delegation will appear all the same for the continuation of the negotiations. A separate peace, signed by Russia, would without doubt inflict a heavy blow on the Allied countries, chiefly on France and Italy. But the prevision of the inevitable consequences of a separate peace must determine the policy not only of Russia, but also of France, Italy and the other Allied countries. The Soviet government up to now has struggled in every way for an universal peace. No one can deny the significance of the results attained in this direction. But in the future everything depends upon the Allied nations themselves. To bring their own Governments to immediately present their peace programs and to participate on their basis in the negotiations, this has now become a question of national self-preservation for the Allied nations.

The Russian revolution has opened the door to an immediate universal peace on the basis of an agreement. If the Allied Governments are ready to take advantage of this past possibility general negotiations can open immediately in one of the neutral countries. In these negotiations with the indispensable condition of their complete publicity the Russian delegation will as heretofore defend the program of the international socialistic democracy as against the imperialistic programs of the Governments both of the enemy and of the Allied countries. The success of our program will depend on the extent to which the will of their imperialistic classes will be paralyzed by the will of the revolutionary proletariat in each country.

But if the Allied Governments in blind obstinacy, which characterizes the falling and perishing classes, again refuse to participate in the negotiations, then the working class will be confronted with the iron necessity of tearing the power out of the hands of those who cannot or will not give peace to the nations.

In these ten days the fate of hundreds of thousands and of millions of human lives hangs in the balance. If on the French and Italian fronts an armistice be not concluded at once a new offensive just as senseless, as merciless and as resultless as all the preceding ones will engulf fresh innumerable victims on both sides. The automatic logic of this slaughter, let loose by the governing classes, is leading to the complete destruction of the flower of the nations of Europe. But the nations wish to live and they have the right to do so. They have the right, they are bound to throw aside all who impede their living.

Whilst addressing to the Governments a last proposition to take part in the peace negotiations, we at the same time promise entire support to the working class of each country which will rise up against its national imperialists, against the jingoes, against the militarists, under the banner of peace, of the brotherhood of nations and of the socialistic reconstruction of society.


(1) Trotsky addressed this note on Dec. 29 to the peoples and governments of the Allied countries, as stated in the Ambassador's telegram No. 2169, not printed. Back

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