Decree on Peace (1917)

The Decree on Peace was one of the first promises or policies of the Bolshevik government after the October Revolution. It was read by Vladimir Lenin to the Second Congress of Soviets on October 26th, the day after the Bolsheviks had seized power in Petrograd:

“The workers’ and peasants’ government… calls upon all the belligerent peoples and their government to start immediate negotiations for a just, democratic peace.

By a just or democratic peace, for which the overwhelming majority of the working class and other working people of all the belligerent countries, exhausted, tormented and racked by the war are craving… the government means an immediate peace without annexations – that is, without the seizure of foreign lands, without the forcible incorporation of foreign nations and without indemnities.

The government of Russia proposes that this kind of peace be immediately concluded by all the belligerent nations and expresses its readiness to take all the resolute measures now, without the least delay…

The government considers it the greatest of crimes against humanity to continue this war over the issue of how to divide among the strong and rich nations the weak nationalities they have conquered, and solemnly announces its determination immediately to sign terms of peace to stop this war on the terms indicated…

At the same time, the government declares that it does not regard the above-mentioned peace terms as an ultimatum. In other words, it is prepared to consider any other peace terms and insists only that they be advanced by any of the belligerent countries as speedily as possible, and that in the peace proposals, there should be absolute clarity and the complete absence of all ambiguity and secrecy.

The government abolishes secret diplomacy, and, for its part, announces its firm intention to conduct all negotiations quite openly in full view of the whole people. It will proceed immediately with the full publication of the secret treaties endorsed or concluded by the government of land-owners and capitalists…

The government proposes an immediate armistice to the governments and people of all the belligerent countries and, for its part, considers it desirable that this armistice should be concluded for a period of not less than three months…

While addressing this proposal for peace to the governments and peoples of all the belligerent countries, the Provisional Workers’ and Peasants’ Government of Russia appeals in particular also to the class-conscious workers of the three most advanced nations of mankind and the largest states participating in the present way, namely, Great Britain, France, and Germany.

The workers of these countries have made the greatest contributions to the cause of progress and socialism… these workers, by comprehensive, determined, and supremely vigorous action, will help us to conclude peace successfully, and at the same time emancipate the labouring and exploited masses of our population from all forms of slavery and all forms of exploitation…

The workers’ movement will triumph and will pave the way to peace and socialism.”