The independence of Finland
Speech Delivered in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee
The other day representatives of Finland applied to us with a demand for immediate recognition of Finland's complete independence and endorsement of its secession from Russia. The Council of People's Commissars resolved to give its consent and to issue a decree, which has already been published in the newspapers, proclaiming Finland's complete independence.
Here is the text of the decision of the Council of People's Commissars:
Naturally, the Council of People's Commissars could not act otherwise, for if a nation, through its representatives, demands recognition of its independence, a proletarian government, acting on the principle of granting the peoples the right to self-determination, must give its consent.
The bourgeois press asserts that we have brought about the complete disintegration of the country, that we have lost a whole number of countries, including Finland. But, comrades, we could not lose Finland, because actually it was never our property. If we forcibly retained Finland, that would not mean that we had acquired it.
We know perfectly well how Wilhelm forcibly and arbitrarily "acquires" entire states and what sort of a basis this creates for mutual relations between the peoples and their oppressors.
The principles of Social-Democracy, its slogans and aspirations, consist in creating the long-awaited atmosphere of mutual confidence among nations, and only on such a basis is the slogan, "Workers of all countries, unite!" realizable. All this is old and well known.
If we closely examine the circumstances in which Finland obtained independence, we shall see that the Council of People's Commissars, actually and against its own wishes, granted freedom not to the people, not to the representatives of the Finnish proletariat, but to the Finnish bourgeoisie, which, owing to a strange conjuncture of circumstances, seized power and received independence from the hands of the Russian Socialists. The Finnish workers and Social-Democrats find themselves in the position of having to receive freedom not from the Socialists of Russia directly, but through the Finnish bourgeoisie. Regarding this as a tragedy for the Finnish proletariat, we cannot help remarking that it was only because of their irresolution and unaccountable cowardice that the Finnish Social-Democrats did not take vigorous measures to assume power themselves and wrest their independence from the hands of the Finnish bourgeoisie.
The Council of People's Commissars may be abused, may be criticized, but no one can assert that it does not carry out its promises; for there is no force on earth that can compel the Council of People's Commissars to break its promises. This we have demonstrated by the absolute impartiality with which we accepted the demand of the Finnish bourgeoisie that Finland be granted independence, and by proceeding at once to issue a decree proclaiming the independence of Finland.
May the independence of Finland help the emancipation of the Finnish workers and peasants and create a firm basis for friendship between our peoples.
* January 4, 1918 New Style