Appeal of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs to the peoples and governments of the allied countries regarding peace negotiations
December 30, 1917
The peace talks held in Brest-Litovsk between the delegation of the Russian Republic and the delegations of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria are suspended for 10 days, until December 26, in order to give the last opportunity for the Allied countries to take part in further negotiations and thus secure themselves from all the consequences of a separate peace between Russia and hostile countries.
Two programs are presented in Brest-Litovsk: one that expresses the point of view of the All-Russian Congresses of the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, the other on behalf of the governments of Germany and its allies.
The program of the Republic of Soviets is a program of consistent socialist democracy. This program has as its task the creation of such conditions under which, on the one hand, each nation, regardless of its strength and level of development, would receive complete freedom of national development and, on the other hand, all nations could be united in economic and cultural collaboration.
The program of the governments of the countries at war with us is characterized by their statement that “the intentions of the Allied powers (that is, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria) do not include the forced accession of the territories captured during the war”. This means that the hostile countries are ready to clear the occupied territories of Belgium, the northern departments of France, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, and Courland by a peace treaty so that the fate of the disputed areas will be decided by the population concerned. The step that hostile governments, under the pressure of circumstances and, above all, their own working masses, take to meet the program of democracy, consists in their refusal from new violent annexations and indemnities. But by refusing new conquests, the hostile governments proceed from the idea that the old conquests, the old violence of the strong over the weak, are sanctified by historical prescription. This means that the fate of Alsace-Lorraine, Transylvania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc., on the one hand, Ireland, Egypt, India, Indochina and so on. - on the other hand, are not subject to revision. Such a program is deeply inconsistent and represents a draft of an unprincipled compromise between the claims of imperialism and the opposition of the workers' democracy. But a huge step forward is the very fact of the presentation of this program.
The governments of the allied nations have not yet joined the peace negotiations for reasons whose exact wording they stubbornly avoided.
Now we can not repeat that the war is going on because of the liberation of Belgium, the northern departments of France, Serbia, etc., because Germany and its allies are willing to clear these areas in the event of universal peace. Now, after the enemy has presented the conditions of peace, it is impossible to get rid of general phrases about the need to bring the war to the end. It is necessary to say clearly and precisely what the peace program of France, Italy, Great Britain, and the United States is. Do they, along with us, demand the granting of the right of self-determination to the peoples of Alsace-Lorraine, Galicia, Poznan, Bohemia, and the Yugoslav Sector? If so, do they, for their part, agree to grant the right to self-determination to the peoples of Ireland, Egypt, India, Madagascar, Indochina, etc., as the Russian revolution provided this right to the peoples of Finland, Ukraine, Belarus, etc. For it is clear that to demand self-determination for peoples belonging to hostile states, and to refuse self-determination to the peoples of their own state or their own colonies would mean defending the program of the most overt, most cynical imperialism. If the governments of the allied countries had discovered a willingness, together with the Russian revolution, to build peace on the basis of full and unconditional recognition of the principle of self-determination for all peoples in all states, if they began by actually giving this right to the oppressed peoples of their own states, this would create such international the conditions under which a compromise internally controversial program of Germany and especially of Austria-Hungary would reveal its entire failure and would be overcome by the pressure of interest ovata nations.
But so far, the allied governments have shown absolutely nothing and, due to their class character, could not show readiness to go to a truly democratic world. They are no less suspicious and hostile to the principle of national self-determination than the governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary. On this score, the conscious proletariat of the allied countries has as few illusions as we have.
Under existing governments, the only thing that can be done is that the imperialist compromise program, such as the peaceful conditions of Germany and its allies, oppose another imperialist 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 purposes they could require the continuation of the war? Now these questions, after two programs of peace have been presented in Brest-Litovsk, it is necessary to give a clear, precise, categorical answer.
Ten days separate us from the resumption of peace negotiations. Russia does not bind itself in these negotiations with the consent of the allied governments. If the latter continued to sabotage the cause of universal peace, the Russian delegation would still appear to continue the negotiations. The separatist peace signed by Russia would undoubtedly deal a heavy blow to the Allied countries, primarily France and Italy. But the prediction of the inevitable consequences of a separate peace should determine the policy not only of Russia, but also of France, Italy and other allied countries. The Soviet government has so far fought for universal peace by all means. No one can deny the significance of the results achieved on this path. But in the future everything depends on the Allied peoples themselves. Making our own governments immediately present their peace programs and take part in the negotiations on their basis — this has now become a matter of national self-preservation for the Allied peoples.
The Russian revolution opened the door to immediate universal peace based on agreement. If the Allied Governments are willing to use this last opportunity, general negotiations can immediately open in one of the neutral countries. In these negotiations, with the indispensable condition of their full publicity, the Russian delegation will continue to defend the program of international socialist democracy in opposition to the imperialistic programs of the governments of both the hostile and allied countries. The success of our program will depend on the extent to which the will of the imperialist classes will be paralyzed by the will of the revolutionary proletariat in each country.
If the Allied governments, in the blind stubbornness that characterizes the falling and dying classes, again refuse to participate in the negotiations, then the working class will be faced with an iron necessity to wrest power from the hands of those who cannot or do not want to give peace to the peoples.
In these ten days, the fate of hundreds of thousands and millions of human lives is decided. If a truce is not immediately concluded on the French and Italian fronts, the new offensive, as senseless, ruthless, and inconclusive, like all previous ones, will absorb new innumerable sacrifices on both sides. The automatic logic of this massacre, unbridled by the ruling classes, leads to the complete destruction of the color of European nations. But the people want to live and have the right to it. They have the right, they are obliged to throw aside everyone who prevents them from living.
Addressing the governments with the last offer to take part in peace negotiations, we at the same time promise full support to the working class of each country, which will rise against national imperialists, against chauvinists, against militarists - under the banner of peace, brotherhood of nations and socialist reorganization of society.