V. I.   Lenin



Published: First published in Golos No. 33, October 21, 1914. Printed from the Golos text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 294-296.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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Our theses, worked out by the Central Committee of the Party,” Comrade Lenin began, “were sent to the Italians, and many of them, unfortunately not all, were incorporated in the Lugano resolution.”[2]

The opponent very much liked the first part of Plekhanov’s report, dealing with the betrayal of the German Social-Democrats,[3] but the same could not be said about the second part, in which Plekhanov tried to justify completely the stand of the French socialists.

How was it possible to defend French socialism, which had called on the Italians to enter the war? It was difficult to find any passages to justify this appeal even in the extremely elastic resolutions of the International.

The present war had shown the enormous wave of opportunism that had risen out of the depths of European socialism. The European opportunists, in order to rehabilitate themselves, had tried to fall back on the old and hackneyed argument about “keeping the organisation intact”. The orthodox Germans had gone back on their stand to preserve the formal unity of the party. He, Comrade Lenin, had always pointed out the opportunism lurking in such an approach, he had always fought against conciliatory attitudes which sacrifice principles. All the resolutions of Vandervelde and Kautsky suffered from this opportunist tendency of smoothing over obvious contradictions. Kautsky, in his article “About the War”,[4] had even talked   himself into justifying everybody, asserting that all were right from their point of view, since subjectively they considered themselves to be in danger and subjectively considered their right to exist to have been violated. Of course, from the standpoint of the psychology of the moment and humanitarian considerations, such a mood was more comprehensible among the French and could therefore be viewed with greater sympathy; still socialism could not argue from fear of attack alone, and it had to be frankly said that there was more chauvinism than socialism in the behaviour of the French.

Plekhanov, Lenin said further, criticised those comrades who asserted that it was impossible to find out who attacked first. In the opponent’s opinion, the present war was not at all accidental, and had not depended on this or that attack, but had been prepared by all the conditions of development of bourgeois society. It had been predicted long ago, and precisely in such a combination and precisely along such lines. The Basle Congress spoke about it quite clearly, and even foresaw that Serbia would be the pretext for a conflict.

Comrade Lenin then analysed the duty of socialists in wartime. Social-Democrats did their duty only when they fought chauvinist passions at home. And the Serbian Social-Democrats[5] offered the best example of such fulfilment of duty.

Not forgetting the words of Marx that “the workingmen have no country”, the proletariat should take part, not in defending the old framework of the bourgeois states, but in creating a new framework for socialist republics. And the great mass of the proletariat would realise this through its sure instinct. What was going on in Europe was nothing but speculation on the worst—and the most deep-rooted—of prejudices. “Our task,” said Lenin, “is not to swim with the tide, but to transform the national, the pseudo-national war into a resolute encounter of the proletariat with the ruling classes.”

Lenin then went on to criticise the entry of socialists into governments, and pointed out the responsibility falling on socialists who back their government’s every step.

It is better to go to a neutral country and from there to tell the truth, it is better to make a free and independent appeal to the proletariat, than to become a Minister”— with those words the opponent ended his short speech.


[1] Plekhanov’s lecture, “On the Attitude of the Socialists to the War”, given in Lausanne on October 11, 1914, was organised by the local Menshevik group for the promotion of the R.S.D.L.P.

In the debate that followed, Lenin was the only speaker (no one else took the floor). Reports on Plekhanov’s lecture, Lenin’s speech and Plekhanov’s summing-up speech appeared in the Paris Menshevik newspaper Golos (Voice) Nos. 31, 32 and 33 on October 18, 20 and 21, 1914, under the title of “Russian Social-Democratic Leaders on the War”.

The speeches were taken down by a Golos correspondent ( initials: I. K.).

[2] Italo-Swiss Socialist Conference, in whose preparation Lenin took part, was held at Lugano on September 27, 1914. Lenin’s theses on the war were discussed at the conference and were partially included in the resolution. The conference was attended by R.  Grimm, Paul Pflüger and others from Switzerland, and Serrati, Lazzari, Morgari, Turati, Modigliani and others from Italy. The resolution of the conference characterised the war as imperialist and called on the proletariat to wage an international struggle for peace. While the decisions of the conference were not consistently internationalist or thoroughly revolutionary, they were, nevertheless, a step forward in the preparation for restoring international proletarian ties.

[3] On August 4, 1914, the Social-Democratic Group in the Reichstag joined the bourgeois deputies in voting a 5,000 million war loan to the Kaiser Government, thereby endorsing Wilhelm II’s imperialist policy. It later turned out that the Left-wing Social-Democrats opposed the granting of war credits during the discussion of the question before the Reichstag sitting, but   subsequently voted for them in conformity with a majority decision of the opportunist Social-Democrats.

[4] Karl Kautsky’s article “Die Sozialdemokratie im Kriege” in Die Neue Zeit No. 1, October 2, 1914.

[5] The Serbian Social-Democrats, who were the first to have to take a stand on the war, did not waver in adopting an internationalist attitude: in parliament, their deputies voted against war credits. Their newspaper, Rabochaya Gazeta (Workers’ Newspaper), published in Ni&shat;, also conducted a campaign against the chauvinists.

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