V. I.   Lenin

A German Voice on the War

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat No. 34, December 5, 1914. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demokrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 92-93.
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.
Other Formats:   TextREADME

In a single night the aspect of the world has changed... . Everyone puts the blame on his neighbour, everyone claims to be on the defensive, to act only in a state of urgent defence. Everyone, don’t you see, is defending only his most sacred values, the hearth, the fatherland... . National vainglory and national aggressiveness triumph... . Even the great international working class obeys national orders, workers are killing one another on the battlefields... . Our civilisation has proved bankrupt... . Writers of European fame are not ashamed to come forth as ragingly blind chauvinists... . We had too much faith in the possibility of imperialist madness being curbed by the fear of economic ruin... . We are going through an undisguised imperialist struggle for mastery of the world. There is no trace anywhere of a struggle for great ideas, except perhaps the overthrow of the Russian Minotaur ... the tsar and his grand dukes who have delivered to the hangmen the noblest men of their country... . But do we not see how noble France, the bearer of ideals of liberty, has become the ally of the hangman tsar? How honest Germany ... is breaking its word and is strangling unhappy neutral Belgium? ... How will it all end? If poverty becomes too great, if despair gains the upper hand, if brother recognises his brother in the uniform of an enemy, then perhaps something very unexpected may still come, arms may perhaps be turned against those who are urging people into the war and nations that have been made to hate one another may perhaps forget that hatred, and suddenly unite. We do not want to be prophets, but should the European war bring us one step closer to a European social republic, then this war, after all, will not have been as senseless as it seems at present.”

Whose voice is this? Perhaps one coming from a German Social-Democrat?

Far from it! Headed by Kautsky, the German Social Democrats have become “wretched counter-revolutionary windbags”,[2] as Marx called those Social-Democrats who, after the publication of the Anti-Socialist Law, behaved “in accord with the circumstances”, in the manner of Haase, Kautsky, Südekum and Co. today.

No, our quotation is from a magazine of petty-bourgeois Christian democrats published by a group of kind-hearted little churchmen in Zurich (Neue Wege, Blätter für religiöse Arbeit,[1] September, 1914). That is the limit of humiliation we have come to: God-fearing philistines go as far as to say that it would not be bad to turn weapons against those who “are urging people into the war”, while “authoritative” Social-Democrats like Kautsky “scientifically” defend the most despicable chauvinism, or, like Plekhanov, declare the propaganda of civil war against the bourgeoisie a harmful “utopia”!

Indeed, if such “Social-Democrats” wish to be in the majority and to form the official “International”(= an alliance for international justification of national chauvinism), then is it not better to give up the name of “Social-Democrats”, which has been besmirched and degraded by them, and return to the old Marxist name of Communists? Kautsky once threatened to do that when the opportunist Bernsteinians[3] seemed to be close to conquering the German party officially. What was an idle threat from his lips will perhaps become action to others.


[1] New Ways, Pages for Religious Work.—Ed.

[2] See Marx’s letter to F. A. Sorge of September 19, 1879.

[3] This refers to the followers of the revisionist Bernstein, leader of the opportunist trend in German Social-Democracy, which arose at the end of the nineteenth century.

< backward   forward >
Works Index   |   Volume 21 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index