Canadian Professor Carley describes the conundrum posed by the new Soviet government to the allies in WWI. While Lenin and Trotsky tried to seek a general armistice among civilians across Europe, allied ruling class leaders were thrown into confusion about how to deal with the new Soviet government.
Lenin’s idea was to mobilise European public opinion against the war and provide propaganda for militants in the west who wanted to make their own October Revolutions. As Trotsky made clear, the Soviet government desired a general, not a separate peace, so soldiers in Europe could turn their bayonets against their own bourgeois elites.
At a meeting in Paris at the beginning of December (new style), the Entente powers could not agree on a collective reply to Trotsky’s call for an armistice on all fronts. Once anyone started to talk peace, the Italian foreign minister noted, French and Italian soldiers would refuse to take up arms again. Prime Minister David Lloyd George feared “a rot would set in” over continuing the war. The Bolsheviks were counting on just that. It was not an unrealistic calculation: even Allied leaders feared popular anti-war opposition. A general armistice was therefore out of the question. The Allies agreed to stop shipping supplies to Russia and to start generous funding of “pro-Allied propaganda” hoping an acceptable Russian government would replace the Soviets.