Trotsky's speech at Brest-Litovsk
Catalogue reference: GFM 33/1504

Mr Trotsky:

The task of this sub-commission, as we had understood it, was to give us an answer to the question of the extent to which the new border suggested by the opposition is suitable, even if only to secure to the smallest degree the right of self-determination for the Russian people. We have heard the report of our representatives in the commission and, after lengthy negotiations and upon consideration of the issues from all necessary angles, we are of the opinion that the critical hour has arrived. The nations await with impatience the result of peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. They ask themselves when there will be an end to humanity's unprecedented self-destruction, brought about by the will to dominate and the greed of the ruling classes of all countries.

This war has long since ceased to be a defensive war for either side, if indeed it ever was that. If England seizes hold of the African colonies, Baghdad and Jerusalem, it is not a defensive war; and if Germany occupies Belgium, Serbia, Romania, Poland and Lithuania and takes the Islands in the Moorsund [The Sound], it is not a defensive war but a struggle for the division of the world. This is now clearer than ever and we want no more part in this purely imperialistic war, where the wishes of the land-owning classes are quite openly paid for with the blood of the people. Our relationship with the imperialistic governments of both sides is the same, and we are no longer willing to shed our soldiers' blood for the interests of one side over the other. We are leading our army and our people out of the war in anticipation of the hopefully imminent time when the oppressed peoples of all countries will take their fate into their own hands in the way Russia's workers have done. Our former farm worker, present soldier, must return to the land, which the Revolution took out of the hands of the landowners and placed into peasant hands, so that he can till the land peacefully this spring. Our industrial soldier must return to his workshop to produce weapons of production, rather than weapons of destruction, and together with the farmer build a new socialist economy.

We hereby notify all peoples and their governments of our intention to withdraw from the war. We issue the order to fully demobilise all armies facing the armies of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. It is our belief that other nations will soon follow our example. At the same time, we declare that the conditions proposed to us by the governments of Germany and Austria-Hungary are fundamentally inconsistent with the interests of all peoples. The workers of all nations will reject these conditions, including those of Austria-Hungary and German...

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