Ernest Belfort Bax

The Zurich Resolutions

(13 May 1893)

The Zurich Resolutions, Justice, 13th May 1893, p.6.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The resolutions on the agenda paper of the International Socialist Congrass to be held at Zurich, in August, certainly have the merit of striking at the root of the social question, and of embodying some of the fundamental principles of Social-Democracy. In this respect we see a distinct advance on the congresses of the old International. The controversies on questions of principle between Proudhonists and Marxists have long since passed away. We are all Marxists now, to this sense of the word. The emancipated and class-conscious workers of every country now all admit the fundamental theses laid down in the Communist Manifesto of 1847.

The document begins with the resolution of the Bourse du Travail, or Labour Exchange, of Paris, which, after pointing out that peace is the greatest interest of peoples, and that war redounds solely to the aggrandisement of the governing classes, demands that the first of May, in addition to being an Eight Hours festival, shall be constituted a demonstration in favour of universal peace. They ought have pointed out that the so-called patriotism, if it means anything at all, means simply a blind and mechanical devotion to that particular type of Nineteenth Century civilisation into which one happens to have been born. There is for the ardent patriot no choice in his estimation of the habits of life or of national character, no judgment as to the righteousness of a cause in which the government of his “country” is involved, but he must simply bawl for that “country” right or wrong. For the patriot his “country” must always be the best, the greatest, the noblest, on the face of the earth. The governing bodies of every, state are agreed in one thing, if in nothing else, the fostering of this inflated bunkum all round. With the collapse of patriotism collapses also one of the great props of the bourgeois system of production. Hence the “tears of blood shed in the interest of the honour of one’s country,” “the love of Fatherland”, and such-like flatulent balderdash with which the capitalistic and land-owning class seek to confuse the plain issues of the class struggle.

The central revolutionary Committee of Paris follows with a resolution similar to that of the Bourse du Travail, and the regional congress of the east of France attacks the same subject in a more detailed fashion, embodying its views in five short articles, containing suggestions for the institution of an International Arbitration Commission which shall ultimately assume the functions of an International Parliament.

Next follow our Dutch comrades with two resolutions which many of us think not only unpracticable, for that they certainly are, but also likely to lead to the adoption of tactics which most Socialists have abandoned as certain to be disastrous to the cause, to wit, those of mere promiscuous violence and rioting. They propose, namely, to restrict parliamentary action to agitation and propaganda alone, and to forbid peremptorily any attempt at using existing means to bring about some betterment in the condition of the people. Another resolution from the same quarter seems to us hardly more practicable, however desirable in itself, viz., the reply to any declaration of war by means of a military strike.

The proposition of the Swiss federated organisations is characteristic, and advocates direct legislation by the people, by which is meant the proposing of laws, the so-called “Initiative,” and the right of voting upon such laws, the “Referendum.” Though undoubtedly the “Initiative” and the “Referendum” should be adopted wherever possible, yet account will, we fear, have to be taken in this connection of national traditions and habits, and the question seems to us rather one which each national group will, at least for the present, have to decide for itself.

The remaining resolutions deal almost exclusively with the international organisation of the party, and many of them are certainly excellent. It is proposed by the Central Revolutionary Committee of Paris “that all sections of the Socialist and Labour parties taking part in the International Socialist Congresses, and accepting their resolutions, shall be called ‘The International Socialist Party’,” and to this was added the suggestions from Germany that the first part of the progamme of each national group, stating the final aims of the modern revolutionary movement, should be identical for all countries. This is most admirable, and we hope and believe the resolutions will be carried and will be productive of good results in the direction International solidarity in the near future.

One other matter which is brought up in connection with the organisation of the party by the Paris bourse de travail; viz., the international federation of trades unions, would take too long to discuss adequately here, but we may remark that it will probably be a point which will excite considerable controversy at the congress itself.

Thus it is that Socialism, disproved, shown to be impossible by clever litterateurs and statesmen, is mobilising its forces for the coming struggle which shall herald the time when this present actual society shall have become impossible and that future impossible society shall have become actual.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 5.6.2004