V. I.   Lenin

The Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War[1]

Written: Written not later than August 24 (September 6), 1914
Published: The introduction The Russian Social-Democrats on the European War is published for the first time. The theses (resolution) were first published in full in 1929 in the second and third editions of the works of V. I. Lenin, Volume 18. The introduction is published according to the manuscript; the theses (resolution) according to a copy made by N. K. Krupskaya.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 15-19.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (2005). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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Reports have reached us from most reliable sources, regarding a conference recently held by leaders of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, on the question of the European war. The conference was not of a wholly official nature, since the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. has as yet been unable to gather, as a result of the numerous arrests and unprecedented persecution by the tsarist government. We do, however, have precise information that the conference gave expression to views held by the most influential circles of the R.S.D.L.P.

The conference adopted the following resolution, whose full text we are quoting below as a document:

Resolution Of A Group Of Social-Democrats

1.The European and world war has the clearly defined character of a bourgeois, imperialist and dynastic war. A struggle for markets and for freedom to loot foreign countries, a striving to suppress the revolutionary movement of the proletariat and democracy in the individual countries, a desire to deceive, disunite, and slaughter the proletarians of all countries by setting the wage slaves of one nation   against those of another so as to benefit the bourgeoisie—these are the only real content and significance of the war.

2.The conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party, the strongest and the most influential in the Second International (1889-1914), a party which has voted for war credits and repeated the bourgeois-chauvinist phrases of the Prussian Junkers and the bourgeoisie, is sheer betrayal of socialism. Under no circumstances can the conduct of the leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party be condoned, even if we assume that the party was absolutely weak and had temporarily to bow to the will of the bourgeois majority of the nation. This party has in fact adopted a national-liberal policy.

3.The conduct of the Belgian and French Social-Democratic party leaders, who have betrayed socialism by entering bourgeois governments,[2] is just as reprehensible.

4.The betrayal of socialism by most leaders of the Second International (1889-1914) signifies the ideological and political bankruptcy of the International. This collapse has been mainly caused by the actual prevalence in it of petty-bourgeois opportunism, the bourgeois nature and the danger of which have long been indicated by the finest representatives of the revolutionary proletariat of all countries. The opportunists had long been preparing to wreck the Second International by denying the socialist revolution and substituting bourgeois reformism in its stead, by rejecting the class struggle with its inevitable conversion at certain moments into civil war, and by preaching class collaboration; by preaching bourgeois chauvinism under the guise of patriotism and the defence of the fatherland, and ignoring or rejecting the fundamental truth of socialism, long ago set forth in the Communist Manifesto, that the workingmen have no country; by confining themselves, in the struggle against militarism, to a sentimental philistine point of view, instead of recognising the need for a revolutionary war by the proletarians of all countries, against the bourgeoisie of all countries; by making a fetish of the necessary utilisation of bourgeois parliamentarianism and bourgeois legality, and forgetting that illegal forms   of organisation and agitation are imperative at times of crises. One of the organs of international opportunism, Sozialistische Monatshefte,[3] which has long taken a national liberal stand, is very properly celebrating its victory over European socialism. The so-called Centre of the German and other Social-Democratic parties has in actual fact faint heartedly capitulated to the opportunists. It must be the task of the future International resolutely and irrevocably to rid itself of this bourgeois trend in socialism.

5.With reference to the bourgeois and chauvinist sophisms being used by the bourgeois parties and the governments of the two chief rival nations of the Continent—the German and the French—to fool the masses most effectively, and being copied by both the overt and covert socialist opportunists, who are slavishly following in the wake of the bourgeoisie, one must particularly note and brand the following:

When the German bourgeois refer to the defence of the fatherland and to the struggle against tsarism, and insist on the freedom of cultural and national development, they are lying, because it has always been the policy of Prussian Junkerdom, headed by Wilhelm II, and the big bourgeoisie of Germany, to defend the tsarist monarchy; whatever the outcome of the war, they are sure to try to bolster it. They are lying because, in actual fact, the Austrian bourgeoisie have launched a robber campaign against Serbia, and the German bourgeoisie are oppressing Danes, Poles, and Frenchmen (in Alsace-Lorraine); they are waging a war of aggression against Belgium and France so as to loot the richer and freer countries; they have organised an offensive at a moment which seemed best for the use of the latest improvements in military matériel, and on the eve of the introduction of the so-called big military programme in Russia.

Similarly, when the French bourgeois refer to the defence of the fatherland, etc., they are lying, because in actual fact they are defending countries that are backward in capitalist technology and are developing more slowly, and because they spend thousands of millions to hire Russian tsarism’s Black-Hundred[4] gangs for a war of aggression, i.e., the looting of Austrian and German lands.

Neither of the two belligerent groups of nations is second to the other in cruelty and atrocities in warfare.

6.It is the first and foremost task of Russian Social-Democrats to wage a ruthless and all-out struggle against Great-Russian and tsarist-monarchist chauvinism, and against the sophisms used by the Russian liberals, Cadets,[5] a section of the Narodniks, and other bourgeois parties, in defence of that chauvinism. From the viewpoint of the working class and the toiling masses of all the peoples of Russia, the defeat of the tsarist monarchy and its army, which oppress Poland, the Ukraine, and many other peoples of Russia, and foment hatred among the peoples so as to increase Great-Russian oppression of the other nationalities, and consolidate the reactionary and barbarous government of the tsar’s monarchy, would be the lesser evil by far.

7.The following must now be the slogans of Social-Democracy:

First, all-embracing propaganda, involving the army and the theatre of hostilities as well, for the socialist revolution and the need to use weapons, not against their brothers, the wage slaves in other countries, but against the reactionary and bourgeois governments and parties of all countries; the urgent necessity of organising illegal nuclei and groups in the armies of all nations, to conduct such propaganda. in all languages; a merciless struggle against the chauvinism and “patriotism” of the philistines and bourgeoisie of all countries without exception. In the struggle against the leaders of the present International, who have betrayed socialism, it is imperative to appeal to the revolutionary consciousness of the working masses, who bear the entire burden of the war and are in most cases hostile to opportunism and chauvinism.

Secondly, as an immediate slogan, propaganda for republics in (Germany, Poland, Russia, and other countries, and for the transforming of all the separate states of Europe into a republican United States of Europe.[6]

Thirdly and particularly, a struggle against the tsarist monarchy and Great-Russian, Pan-Slavist chauvinism, and advocacy of a revolution in Russia, as well as of the liberation of and self-determination for nationalities oppressed by Russia, coupled with the immediate slogans of a democratic   republic, the confiscation of the landed estates, and an eight-hour working day.

A group of Social-Democrats, members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party


[1] These theses on the war were drawn up by Lenin not later than August 24 (September 6), 1914 after he had come to Berne from Poronin (Galicia). They were discussed at a meeting of the Bolshevik group in Berne on August 24-26 (September 6-8). Approved by the group, the theses were circulated among Bolshevik groups abroad. To throw the police off the scent, the copy of the theses made out by N. K. Krupskaya, carried the inscription: “Copy of the manifesto issued in Denmark. ”

The theses were smuggled into Russia for discussion by the Russian section of the Central Committee, Party organisations and the Bolshevik Duma group.

Through Swiss Social-Democrats the theses were submitted to the conference of the Swiss and Italian Socialists held in Lugano on September 27, 1914. Many of the ideas contained in the theses were incorporated in the conference’s resolution.

On learning of the approval of the theses in Russia, Lenin used them as a basis for writing the manifesto of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee “The War and Russian Social-Democracy ”(see this volume, pp. 25-34).

The introduction to the theses (“The Russian Social-Democrats on the European War”, which was written on a separate sheet) was discovered only later, and was first published in the 4th Russian edition of Lenin’s Collected Works.

[2] Among those who joined the bourgeois government of Belgium was Vandervelde, and in France Jules Guesde, Marcel Sembat and Albert Thomas.

[3] Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly )—the principal organ of the German opportunists, and one of the organs of international opportunism. It was published in Berlin from 1897 to 1933. During the First World War it took a social-chauvinist stand.

[4] The Black Hundreds—monarchist gangs formed by the tsarist police to fight the revolutionary movement. They murdered revolutionaries, assaulted progressive intellectuals and organised pogroms.

[5] Cadets—members of the Constitutional-Democratic Party, the leading party of the liberal-monarchist bourgeoisie in Russia. Founded in 1905, the party represented the bourgeoisie, Zemstvo   landowner leaders and bourgeois intellectuals. Prominent among its members were Milyukov, Muromtsev, Maklakov, Shingaryov, Struve, and Rodichev.

The Cadets were active in Russia’s war preparations. They stood solidly behind the tsarist government’s predatory designs, hoping to batten on war contracts, strengthen the bourgeoisie’s positions, and suppress the revolutionary movement in the country.

With the outbreak of the war the Cadets advanced the slogan of “War to the victorious end! ”When, in 1915, the tsarist forces suffered a defeat at the front, which led to the aggravation of the revolutionary crisis, the Cadet members of the State Duma, headed by Milyukov, and the other representatives of the bourgeoisie and the landowners formed a “Progressist ”bloc aimed at checking the revolution, preserving the monarchy and bringing the war to a “victorious end”. The Cadets actively helped to set up war-industries committees.

[6] See Lenin’s articles “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe” and “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe. Editorial Comment by Sotsial-Demokrat on the Manifesto on War Issued by the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.” (see this volume, pp. 339-43, 344).

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