V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in 1924 in Lenin Miscellany II. Sent from Berne to Stockholm. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 161-164.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   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.README

October 17, 1914

Dear Friend,

I arrived home last night after my lecture tour and found your letters. Heartiest greetings to you, and, through you, to all Russian friends. The reply to Vandervelde was given to a translator yesterday, and I have not yet seen the text. I will write about it as soon as I see it.

In my view the most important thing now is a consistent and organised struggle against the chauvinism which has seized upon the whole bourgeoisie and the majority of the opportunist socialists (and those making their peace with opportunism—like Mr. Kautsky!). And to perform the tasks imposed by this struggle it is first of all necessary to combat the chauvinism of one’s own country—specifically, in Russia the gentry à la Maslov and Smirnov (see Russkiye Vedomosti and Russkoye Slovo) whose “works” I have read,[6] or Messrs. Sokolov, Meshkovsky, Nikitin and others whom you have seen or heard. Plekhanov, as I think you have already been told, has become a French chauvinist. Among the liquidators there is evidently confusion.[1] Alexinsky, they say, is a Francophil. Kosovsky (the Bundist, a Right-winger, I heard his lecture) is a Germanophil.[2] It seems as though the middle course of the whole “Brussels bloc”[7] of the liquidator gentry with Alexinsky and Plekhanov will   be adapting themselves to Kautsky, who now is more harmful than anyone else. How dangerous and scoundrelly his sophistry is, covering up the dirty tricks of the opportunists with the most smooth and facile phrases (in Neue Zeit[8]). The opportunists are an obvious evil. The German “Centre” headed by Kautsky is a concealed evil, diplomatically coloured over, contaminating the eyes, the mind and the conscience of the workers, and more dangerous than anything else. Our task now is the unconditional and open struggle against international opportunism and those who screen it (Kautsky). And this is what we shall do in the Central Organ, which we shall shortly issue (probably two little pages). We must with all our strength now support the legitimate hatred of the class-conscious workers for the rotten behaviour of the Germans, and draw from this hatred a political conclusion against opportunism and any concession to it. This is an international task. It devolves on us, there is no one else. We must not retreat from it. It is wrong to put forward the watchword of the “simple” restoration of the International (for the danger of a rotten conciliatory resolution on the Kautsky-Vandervelde line is very, very great!). The watchword of “peace” is wrong: the watchword should be transformation of the national war into a civil war. (This transformation may be a long job, it may require and will require a number of preliminary conditions, but all the work should be carried on in the direction of precisely such a transformation, in that spirit and on that line.) Not sabotage of the war, not separate, individual actions in that spirit, but mass propaganda (not only among “civilians”) leading to the transformation of the war into a civil war.

In Russia chauvinism hides behind phrases about “la belle France” and unfortunate Belgium (and what about the Ukraine, etc.?) or behind “popular” hatred of the Germans (and of “Kaiserism”). Therefore our unquestionable duty is to combat these sophistries. And in order that the struggle should proceed along precise and clear lines we need a watchword which generalises it. That watchword is: for us Russians, from the point of view of the interests of the working masses and the working class of Russia, there cannot be the smallest doubt, absolutely any doubt, that   the lesser evil would be now, at once the defeat of tsarism in this war. For tsarism is a hundred times worse than Kaiserism. Not sabotage of the war, but the struggle against chauvinism and the concentration of all propaganda and agitation on the international rallying (rapprochement, solidarity, agreement, selon les circonstances[3] ) of the proletariat for the purpose of civil war. It would be a mistake both to call for individual acts of shooting officers, etc., and to tolerate arguments like the one that “we don’t want to help Kaiserism”. The first is a deviation towards anarchism, the second towards opportunism. We, on the contrary, must prepare mass (or at the very least collective) action among the troops—not only of one nation—and carry on all propaganda and agitation work in that direction. The direction of our work (stubborn, systematic, maybe protracted) in the spirit of turning the national war into a civil war—there is the crux of the matter. The time for this transformation is a different question, at present still unclear. We must allow this moment to mature, and systematically “make it mature”.

This is all for the time being. I will write frequently. You write more often too.

Set forth in greater detail the leaflet of the Petersburg Committee.

More details about the views and reactions of the workers.

The balance of forces among the “groups” in St.  Petersburg? That is, have the liquidators grown stronger as regards ourselves? To what extent?

Is Dan at liberty? His position? And that of Chirkin, Bulkin and Co.?

More details.

To whom precisely, and in whose name, did you send a hundred rubles?

All the very best.

The watchword of peace, in my opinion, is incorrect at the present moment. It is a philistine, parson’s watchword. The proletarian watchword must be civil war.

Objectively, from the radical change in the situation in Europe, such a watchword follows for the epoch of a mass war. The same watchword follows from the Basle resolution.[9]

We can neither “promise” civil war nor “decree” it, but to go on working—if necessary for a very long time—in that direction, we are in duty bound. You will see the details in the Central Organ article.[4] Meanwhile I am only indicating the main points of our position, so that we can reach a really good understanding.


[1] Our intellectuals in Paris (outvoted in the section by the workers) have gone as volunteers (Nik. Vas., Antonov and others) and have issued a stupid non-Party appeal[10] jointly with the S.R.s. It has been sent to you.—Lenin

[2] Martov is behaving most decently of all in Golos. But will Martov hold out? I don’t believe it.Lenin

[3] According to circumstances.—Ed.

[4] See “The Position and Tasks of the Socialist International” (present edition, Vol. 21, pp. 35–41).—Ed.

[5] During the imperialist world war Shlyapnikov was sent to Stockholm by the Petersburg Committee of the R.S.D.L.P. and the Bolshevik group in the Duma and was for a time the connecting link between Lenin and the Russian section of the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. and the Petersburg Committee.

[6] Lenin refers to P. Maslov’s letter to the editors of Russkiye Vedomosti, which was published under the heading “War and Commercial Agreements” in No. 207 of the paper for September 10 (23), 1914, to the article by Y. Smirnov (Gurevich), “The War and European Democracy”, published in No. 202 of Russkiye Vedomosti, September 3 (16), 1914, and to the appeal by writers, artists and actors “Concerning the War”, published in Russkoye Slovo No. 223, September 28 (October 11), 1914.

[10] At the beginning of the war part of the Committee of R.S.D.L.P. Organisations Abroad, which was in Paris, and some members of the Paris section of the Bolsheviks—N. I. Sapozhkov (Kuznetsov), A. V. Britman (Antonov) and others—together with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries approved a declaration on be half of the “Russian Socialists”, published it in the French press, and then went to the front.

[7] Lenin refers to the Brussels “Unity” Conference of July 16–18, 1914, convened by the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau “for an exchange of opinion” about the possibility of restoring the unity of the R.S.D.L.P. Represented at the conference were the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. (Bolsheviks), the Organising Committee (Mensheviks), the Plekhanov Yedinstvo group, the Vperyod group, the Bund, the Social-Democratic Party of the Lettish Region, the Social-Democrats of Lithuania, the Polish Social-Democrats, the Polish Social-Democratic opposition and the P.P.S. (Letf wing). The Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau was represented by Emile  Vandervelde, Camille  Huysmans, Karl  Kautsky, A. Nemets and others. Well in advance of the conference, the leaders of the I.S.B. reached a secret agreement with the liquidators for joint action against the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, refused to submit to   the decisions of the Brussels Conference and exposed before the international proletariat the true aims of the “unifiers”.

[8] Die Neue Zeit (New Times)—theoretical journal of the German Social-Democratic Party. It was published in Stuttgart from 1883 to 1923. Up to October 1917 it was edited by Karl Kautsky, and afterwards by Heinrich Cunow. During the First World War the journal took up a Centrist position and virtually supported the social-chauvinists.

[9] Reference is to the manifesto on the war passed by the Extraordinary International Socialist Congress held in Basle, November 24–25, 1912. The manifesto recommended that in the event of an imperialist war socialists should use the economic and political crisis evoked by the war to fight for a socialist revolution.

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