V. I.   Lenin

Social-Chauvinist Policy Behind a Cover of Internationalist Phrases

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat No. 49, December 21, 1915. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demokrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 429-437.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2003 (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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How are political facts related to political literature, political events to political slogans, and political reality to political ideology? This question is now of fundamental significance for an understanding of the entire crisis of the International, since any crisis, even any turning point, in a development inevitably leads to a discrepancy between the old form and the new content. We say nothing of the fact that bourgeois society is continually producing politicians who love to assert they belong to no class, and opportunists who love to call themselves socialists, both of whom deliberately and systematically deceive the masses with the most florid and “radical” words. In times of crisis, however even well-meaning participants therein very often reveal a discrepancy between word and deed. The great and progressive significance of all crises, even the gravest, most arduous and painful, lies in the tremendous speed, force and clarity with which they expose and sweep aside rotten phrases, even if well meaning, and rotten institutions even if they are built on the best of intentions.

The outstanding fact in the life of Russian Social-Democracy today is the elections of St. Petersburg workers to the war industries committees. For the first time during the war, these elections have drawn masses of the proletarians into a discussion and solution of basic problems of present-day politics; they have revealed the real picture of the state of affairs within Social-Democracy as a mass party. What has been revealed is that there are two currents and only two: one is revolutionary and internationalist,   genuinely proletarian, organised by our Party, and against defence of the fatherland; the other is the “defence” or social-chauvinist current, a bloc of the Nashe Dyelo people (i.e., the backbone of the liquidators), the Plekhanovites, Narodniks and non-partisans, this bloc being backed by the entire bourgeois press and all the Black Hundreds in Russia, which proves the bourgeois and non-proletarian essence of the bloc’s policy.

Such are the facts, the reality. But what about slogans and ideology? The St. Petersburg Rabocheye Utro No. 2 (October 22),[3] the collection of articles issued by the Organising Committee crowd (The International and War No. 1, November 30, 1915), and the latest issues of Nashe Slovo provide an answer which should give food for hard thinking by anyone interested in politics in a way different from the interest Gogol’s Petrushka[4] took in reading.

Let us examine the content and significance of this ideology.

The St. Petersburg Rabocheye Utro is the most important document. It is here that the leaders of liquidationism and social-chauvinism get together with Mr. Gvozdev, the informer. Those people know well what preceded the September 27 elections, and what took place at the elections. They were able to throw a veil over their bloc with the Plekhanovites, the Narodniks and non-partisans, and they did so. They said not a word about the bloc’s significance, or about the relative numerical strength of its various elements. It was to their advantage to conceal such a “trifle” (Mr. Gvozdev and his Rabocheye Utro friends undoubtedly possessed the relevant information), and they concealed it. But even they were unable to invent a third group apart from the Ninety and the Eighty-one. It is impossible to lie on the spot, in St. Petersburg, in face of the workers, by trumping up a “third” group, fiction about which comes from an “anonymous contributor in Copenhagen”[5] writing in the German press and Nashe Slovo. This is impossible, because sane people will never lie if they know that they cannot escape summary exposure. That is why Rabocheye Utro has published the article by K. Oransky[6] (an old acquaintance!) entitled “Two Stands”, in which he gives a detailed analysis of the stands taken by the Ninety and the Eighty-one   groups, without saying a word about the third stand. We shall note, in passing, that the censor mutilated issue No. 2 of Rabocheye Utro almost throughout; there are almost more blank columns than printed ones, but of the articles only two were spared: “Two Stands”, and another which distorts in the spirit of liberalism the history of 1905; in both the Bolsheviks were abused for “anarchism” and “boycottism”. It is to the tsarist government’s advantage that such things should be written and published! It is not fortuitous that this kind of writing enjoys the monopoly of legality everywhere, from despotic Russia to republican France!

What, then, are the arguments used by Rabocheye Utro to defend its stand of “defence of the country” or “social-chauvinism”? These are, without exception, examples of evasion and of internationalist phrases! Our stand, they assert, is not at all “national”, not at all in favour of “defence”; we are merely expressing “what is not at all expressed in the attitude of the first group” (the Ninety group), viz., a “not indifferent attitude to the state of the country”, to its “salvation” “from defeat and ruin”. Our stand, they claim, has been “genuinely internationalist”, while showing the methods and means of “liberating” the country, we were “in agreement [with the first stand !] in appraising the origin of the war and its socio-political substance”, we were “in agreement [with the first stand!] in posing the general problem of the international organisation and international work of the proletariat [all this is in dead earnest!] and of democracy in wartime, during literally all periods of the development of the world conflict”. We declared in our instructions, they say, that, “in the present socio-political circumstances, the working class cannot assume any responsibility for the defence of the fatherland”; we, “firmly identified ourselves, in the first place, with the international tasks of democracy”, and “made our contribution to the current of aspirations whose milestones were Copenhagen and Zimmerwald”. (That’s the kind of people we are!) We stand, they claim, for the slogan of “peace without annexations” (italics in Rabocheye Utro); “to the abstract nature and the cosmopolitan anarchism of the first current, we have counterposed the realism and internationalism of our stand and our tactics”.

  Each of these claims is a gem, to say the least. Besides ignorance and Repetilov-like[7] lying, however, all these gems contain a diplomacy that is perfectly sober and correct from the bourgeois point of view. To influence the workers, the bourgeois must assume the guise of socialists, Social-Democrats, internationalists, and the like, for otherwise they can exert no influence. The Rabocheye Utro group disguise themselves; they apply plenty of paint and powder, prettify themselves, cast sheep eyes all around, and go the limit! They are ready to sign the Zimmerwald Manifesto a hundred times (a slap in the face for those Zimmerwaldists who signed the Manifesto without combating its timidity or making reservations!) or any other resolution on the imperialist nature of the war, or take any oath of allegiance to “internationalism” and “revolutionism” (“liberation of the country” in the censored press being the equivalent of “revolution” in the underground press), if only—if only they are not prevented from calling upon the workers to participate in the war industries committees, i.e., in practice to participate in the reactionary war of plunder (“a war of defence”).

Only this is action; all the rest is words. Only this is reality; all the rest is phrases. Only this is needed by the police, by the tsarist monarchy, Khvostov and the bourgeoisie. The clever bourgeois in countries that are cleverer are more tolerant of internationalist and socialist phrases if only participation in defence is assured, as is evidenced by comment in the French reactionary press regarding the London Conference of the socialists of the “Triple Entente”. With the socialist gentry, one of these papers said, it’s a kind of tic douloureux, a species of nervous malady which forces people involuntarily to repeat the same gesture, the same muscular movement, the same word. It is for that reason, the paper said, that “our own” socialists cannot speak about anything without repeating the words, “We are internationalists; we stand for social revolution”. This is not dangerous, the bourgeois paper concludes, only a “tic”; what is important to “us” is their stand for the defence of the country.

That is how the clever French and British bourgeois reason. If participation in a war of plunder is defended with phrases about democracy, socialism, etc., is this not to   the advantage of rapacious governments, the imperialist bourgeoisie? Is it not to the master’s advantage to keep a lackey who swears to all and sundry that his master loves them, and has dedicated his life to their welfare?

The Rabocheye Utro people swear by Zimmerwald, and in word separate themselves from the Plekhanovites by declaring (No. 2) that they “disagree in many things” with them; in practice, however, they agree with them on the fundamentals, participate with them and with their bourgeoisie, in the “defence” institutions of the chauvinist bourgeoisie.

The Organising Committee not only swear by Zimmerwald, but “sign” formal declarations; they not only stand aside from the Plekhanovites, but also delegate a certain anonymous A. M.,[8] who, sheltering behind his anonymity, declares: “We, who have adhered to the August bloc[9] [perhaps A. M. is not one, but two “adherents”?], consider it necessary to state that the Prizyv organisation has greatly exceeded the limits which can be tolerated in our Party, as we understand them, and that there can be no room within the August bloc organisations for members of groups that are bolstering Prizyv”. What bold people these “adhering” A. M.s are, who so unflinchingly speak the naked truth!

Of the five persons comprising the “Secretariat Abroad” of the Organising Committee, which has published the collection of articles quoted, none wished to come out with so courageous a statement! It follows that the five secretaries are against a break with Plekhanov (not so very long ago Axelrod said that the Menshevik Plekhanov was closer to him than the internationalist Bolsheviks) but, afraid of the workers and unwilling to injure their “reputations”, they prefer to keep it dark; however, they have put forward a couple of anonymous “adherents” so as to make a splash with a cheap and safe internationalism. . . .

On the one hand, some of the secretaries—Martynov, Martov and Astrov—have engaged Nashe Dyelo in a polemic, Martov even coming out with a private opinion opposed to participation in the war industries committees. On the other hand, the Bundist Yonov, who considers himself “Left” of Kosovsky—a man who reflects the Bund’s actual policy—is willingly advanced by the Bundists to cover up their nationalism; he advocates the “further development of the   old tactics [of the Second International, which led to its collapse] but by no means its liquidation”. The editors have supplied Yonov’s article with ambiguous, vapid and diplomatically evasive reservations, but they do not object to its substance, to a defence of the rotten and opportunist in the “old tactics”. The anonymous A. M.s, who have “adhered” to the August bloc, openly defend Nasha Zarya ; even if it did “deviate” from the internationalist stand, yet it “rejected [?] the Burgfrieden policy for Russia; it recognised the necessity of immediately re-establishing international links and, to the best of our knowledge [i.e., of the adhering anonymous A. M.s], it approved of Mankov’s expulsion from the Duma group”. An excellent defence! The petty-bourgeois Narodniks favour the re-establishment of links, Kerensky is opposed to Mankov, but to say that those who have come out in favour of “non-resistance to the war” are opposed to a policy of a class truce (Burgfrieden) means deceiving the workers with empty words.

The editors of the Organising Committee’s journal have come out in a body with an article entitled “Dangerous Tendencies”. This is a model of political evasiveness! On the one hand, here are clamorous Left phrases against the authors of calls for defence of the country (i.e., the Moscow and Petrograd social-chauvinists); on the other hand, they write: “It is difficult to judge which party circles both declarations emanated from”! In reality, there is not the slightest doubt that they emanated “from the circles” of Nashe Dyelo, although the contributors to this legally published journal are, of course, not guilty of having drawn up an underground declaration. Instead of dealing with the ideological roots of these declarations, and with the full identity between these roots and the liquidationist, social-chauvinist and Nashe Dyelo trends, the Organising Committee crowd have busied themselves with a ridiculous pettifogging that is, of no value for anybody but the police, namely, the personal authorship of members of one circle or another. On the one hand, the editors bluster out threats: we internationalists of the August bloc, they say, will close our ranks for “the most energetic resistance to defence tendencies” (p. 129), for “an uncompromising struggle” (p. 126); on the other hand, we find right next to such declarations the following piece   of skulduggery: “The line of the Duma group, which has the support of the Organising Committee, has met [hitherto!] with no open opposition” (p. 129)!

As the authors themselves are well aware, this line consists in an absence of any line, and is a covert defence of Nashe Dyelo and Rabocheye Utro.

Take the most “Left” and the most “principled” article in the collection, the one written by Martov. It will suffice to quote a single sentence expressing the author’s main idea, to see what his adherence to principles is like. “It is self-evident,” he writes, “that if the present crisis should lead to the victory of a democratic revolution, to a republic, then the character of the war would radically change” (p. 116). All this is a shameless lie. Martov could not but have known that a democratic revolution and a republic mean a bourgeois-democratic revolution and a bourgeois-democratic republic. The character of this war between the bourgeois and imperialist Great Powers would not change a jot were the military-autocratic and feudal imperialism to be swept away in one of these countries. That is because, in such conditions, a purely bourgeois imperialism would not vanish, but would only gain strength. It is for that reason that our paper, issue No. 47, declared, in Thesis 9,[1] that the party of Russia’s proletariat will not defend, in the present war, even a fatherland of republicans and revolutionaries, whilst they are chauvinists like Plekhanov, the Narodniks, Kautsky, the Nashe Dyelo people, Chkheidze, the Organising Committee, etc.

Martov’s evasive phrase in a footnote to p. 118 will do him no good. Here, in contradiction to what he says, on p. 116, he “doubts” whether bourgeois democracy can fight “against international imperialism” (of course it cannot); he expresses “doubt” whether the bourgeoisie will not turn a 1793 republic into a Gambetta and Clemenceau republic. Here the basic theoretical error remains: in 1793 the foremost class in a French bourgeois revolution fought against European pre-revolutionary monarchies, whereas the Russia of 1915 is fighting, not more backward countries, but more advanced countries, which are on the eve of a socialist   revolution. It follows that, in the war of 1914-15, only a proletariat that is carrying out a victorious socialist revolution, can play the part of the Jacobins of 1793. Consequently, in the present war, the Russian proletariat could “defend the fatherland” and consider “the character of the war radically changed”, only and exclusively if the revolution were to put the party of the proletariat in power, and were to permit only that party to guide the entire force of a revolutionary upheaval and the entire machinery of state towards an instant and direct conclusion of an alliance with the socialist proletariat of Germany and Europe (Sotsial-Demokrat No. 47, Thesis 11).[2]

Martov concludes his article, in which he juggles with sonorous phrases, by dramatically appealing to “Russian Social-Democracy” to “take a clear-cut revolutionary-internationalist stand at the outset of the political crisis”. The reader who wants to find out whether these dramatic words do not conceal something rotten at the core should ask himself what a political stand is usually taken to mean. It means (1) bringing forward a formulated appraisal of the moment and the tactics to be used, and a series of resolutions, all this on behalf of an organisation (at least on behalf of a “quintet of secretaries”); (2) advancing a militant slogan for the current moment; (3) linking up these two points with action by the proletarian masses and their class-conscious vanguard Martov and Axelrod, the ideological leaders of the “quintet”, have not only failed to dn any of these three things, but on all of these points have given practical support to the social-chauvinists, have shielded them! During the sixteen months of war, the five secretaries abroad have not taken a “clear-cut stand”, or any stand at all on the question of programme and tactics. Martov vacillates now to the left, now to the right. Axelrod’s urge is only to the right (see his German pamphlet particularly). Here there is nothing clear, formulated or organised, no stand whatever! “The central militant slogan for the Russian proletariat at the current moment,” Martov writes in his own name, “must be a national constituent assembly for the liquidation of both tsarism and the war.” This is neither a central nor a militant slogan.   It is quite useless because it does not reveal the basic social and class content, or the clear-cut political content of the concept of this dual “liquidation”. It is a cheap bourgeois-democratic phrase, not a central, or militant, or proletarian slogan.

Finally, on the main issue, i.e., connections with the masses in Russia, what Martov and Co. have to offer, is not merely a zero, but a negative quantity. They have nothing and nobody behind them. The elections have shown that only the bourgeoisie’s bloc with Rabocheye Utro has some of the masses behind it, whereas reference to the Organising Committee and the Chkheidze group means only shielding that bourgeois bloc with falsehoods.


[1] See p. 403 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] See pp. 403–04 of this volume.—Ed.

[3] Rabocheye Utro(The Workers’ Morning )—a Menshevik legal daily published in Petrograd from October to December 1915.

[4] Petrushka—a character in Gogol’s novel, Dead Souls, who enjoy the process of reading printed matter, without troubling to understand the meaning of what he reads. He keeps on marvelling at the way letters make up words.

[5] This refers to Trotsky, who in 1910 contributed an anonymous and slanderous article on the state of affairs in the R.S.D.L.P. to the German Social-Democratic Vorwärts. At the Copenhagen Congress of the Second International Lenin, Plekhanov and a representative of Polish Social-Democrats exposed this slander in a special statement and protested to the Executive of the German Social-Democratic Party against its publication.

[6] K. Oransky—the Menshevik liquidator G. D. Kuchin, a contributor to Nasha Zarya.

[7] Repetilov—a character in Griboyedov’s comedy Wit Works Woe.

[8] A. M.—A. S. Martynov.

[9] The August bloc— as founded by Trotsky at a conference of non-Bolshevik groups and trends held in Vienna in August 1912.

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