V. I.   Lenin

Opportunism, and the Collapse of the Second International

Written: Written at the end of 1915
Published: First published in Proletarshay Revotutsia No. 5 (28), 1924. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 438-454.
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.

It is instructive to compare the attitudes of the various classes and parties towards the collapse of the International, which has been revealed by the 1914-15 war. On one hand, the bourgeoisie extols to the sky those socialists who have expressed themselves in favour of “defending the fatherland”, i.e., in favour of the war and of aiding the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie’s more outspoken or less diplomatic representatives are expressing malicious joy over the collapse of the International, the collapse of the “illusions” of socialism. Among socialists who are “defending the fatherland” there are also two shades: the “extremists” like the Germans W. Kolb and W. Heine, who admit the collapse of the International, for which they blame the “revolutionary illusions”; these are out to restore a still more opportunist International. In practice, however they agree with the “moderates”, the cautious socialist “defenders of the fatherland”, such as Kautsky, Renaudel, and Vandervelde, who stubbornly deny that the International has collapsed, consider it merely suspended temporarily, and defend the Second International’s viability and right to exist. Revolutionary Social-Democrats in the various countries recognise the collapse of the Second International and the need to create a Third International.

To decide who is right, let us examine an historic document which bears upon the present war, and carries the unanimous and official signatures of all socialist parties in the world. That document is the Basle Manifesto of 1912. Noteworthy enough, no socialist would, in theory, dare deny the need for a concretely historical analysis of every war.   Today, however, none but the “Left” Social-Democrats, who are but few in number, would be so bold as to publicly and definitely repudiate the Basle Manifesto, or declare it erroneous, or analyse it carefully, comparing its decisions with the conduct of the socialists after the outbreak of the war.

Why is that so? It is because the Basle Manifesto ruthlessly exposes the wrong reasoning and conduct of the majority of official socialists. There is not a single word in this Manifesto on either the “defence of the fatherland” or the difference between a war of aggression and a war of defence! Not a syllable on a subject the official S.D. leaders both in Germany and in the Quadruple Entente have been talking and vociferating about most. In a perfectly clear, precise, and definite manner, the Basle Manifesto analyses the concrete clashes of interests which led towards war in 1912 and brought about war in 1914. The Manifesto says that these are clashes arising on the basis of “capitalist imperialism”, clashes between Austria and Russia for domination over the Balkans, clashes between Britain, France, and Germany over their “policies of conquest in Asia Minor” (the policies of all of them!), clashes between Austria and Italy over their attempt to “draw Albania into their sphere of influence”, subject her to their “rule”, and clashes between Britain and Germany because of their mutual “antagonism”, and further, because of “tsarism’s attempts to grab Armenia, Constantinople, etc.” It will be seen that this applies in full to the present war. The undisguised predatory, imperialist and reactionary character of this war, which is being waged for the enslavement of nations, is most clearly recognised in the Manifesto, which draws the necessary conclusion that war “cannot be justified on the slightest pretext of being in the least in the interests of the people”, that war is prepared “for the sake of the profits of capitalists and ambitions of dynasties”, and that on the part of the workers it would be “a crime to fire at one another”.

These propositions contain the fundamentals for an understanding of the radical distinction between two great historical periods. One was the period between 1789 and 1871, when, in most cases, wars in Europe were indubitably connected with the most important “interests of the people”, namely, a powerful bourgeois-progressive movement for   national liberation which involved millions of people, with the destruction of feudalism, absolutism, and foreign oppression. It was on this basis alone that there arose the concept of “defence of the fatherland”, defence of a bourgeois nation that is liberating itself from medievalism. Only in this sense did socialists recognise “defence of the fatherland”. Even today it must be recognised in this sense ; for instance, the defence of Persia or China against Russia or Britain, of Turkey against Germany or Russia, of Albania against Austria and Italy, etc.

The 1914-15 war, as clearly expressed in the Basle Manifesto, pertains to an entirely different historical period and is of an entirely different character. This is a war among predators for division of the loot, for the enslavement of other countries. Victory for Russia, Britain, and France means the strangulation of Armenia, Asia Minor, etc.—this is stated in the Basle Manifesto. Germany’s victory means the strangulation of Asia Minor, Serbia, Albania, etc. This is stated in the selfsame Manifesto, and has been recognised by all socialists! All phrases about a war of defence or about the defence of the fatherland by the Great Powers (i.e., the great predators), who are fighting for world domination, markets and “spheres of influence”, and the enslavement of nations, are false, meaningless and hypocritical! It is not surprising that “socialists” who are in favour of defending the fatherland are afraid to recall or to exactly quote the Basle Manifesto, for it exposes their hypocrisy. The Basle Manifesto proves that socialists who stand for the “defence of the fatherland” in the 1914-15 war are socialists only in word and chauvinists in deed. They are social-chauvinists.

Recognition of this war as connected with national liberation leads to one line of socialist tactics; recognition of a war as imperialist, predatory and aggressive, leads to another line. The latter has been clearly defined in the Basle Manifesto. The war, it says, will evoke an “economic and political crisis”, which, it continues, must be “utilised” to “hasten the collapse of the rule of capital”. These words recognise that social revolution is ripe, that it is possible, that it is approaching in connection with the war. The “ruling classes” are afraid of a “proletarian revolution”, says the Manifesto, quoting the example of the Paris Commune and   of 1905, i.e., the examples of revolutions, strikes, and civil war. It is a lie for anybody to say that the socialists “have not discussed”, or “have not decided” the question of their attitude towards the war. The Basle Manifesto has decided this question; it has mapped out the line of tactics—that of proletarian revolutionary action and civil war.

It would be erroneous to think that the Basle Manifesto is a piece of empty declamation, a bureaucratic phrase, a none-too-serious threat. Those whom the Manifesto exposes are prepared to say such things. But that is not the truth! The Basle Manifesto sums up the vast amount of propaganda and agitation material of the entire epoch of the Second International, namely, the period between 1889 and 1914. This Manifesto summarises, without any exaggeration, millions upon millions of leaflets, press articles, books, and speeches by socialists of all lands. To declare this Manifesto erroneous means declaring the entire Second International erroneous, the work done in decades and decades by all Social-Democratic parties. To brush aside the Basle Manifesto means brushing aside the entire history of socialism. The Basle Manifesto says nothing unusual or out of the ordinary. It provides only and exclusively that which enabled the socialists to lead the masses—recognition of “peaceful” work as preparation for a proletarian revolution. The Basle Manifesto repeated what Guesde said at the 1899 Congress, where he ridiculed socialists’ ministerialism manifesting itself in the event of a war for markets, “brigandages capitalistes” (En garde! pp. 175-76), or what Kautsky said in 1909, in his pamphlet Der Weg zur Macht, in which he spoke of the end of the “peaceful epoch” and the advent of an epoch of wars, revolutions, and the proletariat’s struggle for power.

The Basle Manifesto incontestably proves the complete betrayal of socialism by those socialists who voted for war credits; joined governments, and recognised the defence of the fatherland in 1914-15. This betrayal is undeniahle. It will be denied by hypocrites alone. The only question is: how is it to be explained.

It would be unscientific, absurd and ridiculous to reduce the question to personalities, to refer to Kautsky, Guesde, Plekhanov (and say: “even” such persons!). That would be a   wretched subterfuge. Any serious explanation calls, in the first place, for an economic analysis of the significance of present-day politics, then for an analysis of their fundamental ideas, and, finally, for a study of the historic trends within socialism.

What is the economic implication of “defence of the fatherland” in the 1914–15 war? The answer to this question has been given in the Basle Manifesto. The war is being fought by all the Great Powers for the purpose of plunder, carving up the world, acquiring markets, and enslaving nations. To the bourgeoisie it brings higher profits; to a thin crust of the labour bureaucracy and aristocracy, and also to the petty bourgeoisie (the intelligentsia, etc.) which “travels” with the working-class movement, it promises morsels of those profits. The economic basis of “social-chauvinism” (this term being more precise than the term social-patriotism, as the latter embellishes the evil) and of opportunism is the same, namely, an alliance between an insignificant section at the “top” of the labour movement, and its “own” national bourgeoisie, directed against the masses of the proletariat, an alliance between the servants of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie, directed against the class that is exploited by the bourgeoisie. Social-chauvinism is a consummated opportunism.

Social-chauvinism and opportunism are the same in their political essence; class collaboration, repudiation of the proletarian dictatorship, rejection of revolutionary action, obeisance to bourgeois legality, non-confidence in the proletariat, and confidence in the bourgeoisie. The political ideas are identical, and so is the political content of their tactics. Social-chauvinism is the direct continuation and consummation of Millerandism, Bernsteinism, and British liberal-labour policies, their sum, their total, their highest achievement.

Throughout the entire period between 1889 and 1914, two lines in socialism—the opportunist and the revolutionary—are to be seen. Today there are also two lines in socialism. Let us not follow the method of referring to persons, which is practised by the bourgeois and opportunist liars, and let us take the trends to be seen in a number of countries. Let us take ten European countries:   Germany, Britain, Russia, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Belgium and France. In the first eight countries, the division into the opportunist and revolutionary trends coincides with the division into social-chauvinists and revolutionary internationalists. The main nuclei of social-chauvinism in the social and political sense are: Sozialistische Monatshefte and Co. in Germany; the Fabians and the Labour Party in Britain (the Independent Labour Party entered in a bloc with both, the influence of social-chauvinism in the latter being considerably stronger than in the British Socialist Party, in which about three-sevenths are internationalists, namely, 66 to 84); Nasha Zarya and the Organising Committee (as well as Nashe Dyelo) in Russia; Bissolati’s party in Italy; Troelstra’s party in Holland; Branting and Co. in Sweden; the “Shiroki”[21] in Bulgaria; Greulich and “his” people[1] in Switzerland. It is from revolutionary Social-Democrats in all these countries that a more or less sharp protest has emanated against social-chauvinism. Two countries out of the ten are the exception, but even there internationalists are weak, but not absent; the facts are rather unknown (Vaillant has admitted having received letters from internationalists, which he did not publish) than non-existent.

Social-chauvinism is a consummated opportunism. That is beyond doubt. The alliance with the bourgeoisie used to be ideological and secret. It is now public and unseemly. Social-chauvinism draws its strength from nowhere else but this alliance with the bourgeoisie and the General Staffs. It is a falsehood for anybody (including Kautsky) to say that the “masses” of proletarians have turned towards chauvinism; nowhere have the masses been asked (with the exception, perhaps, of Italy, where a discussion went on for nine months prior to the declaration of war, and where the masses also were against the Bissolati party). The masses were dumbfounded, panic-stricken, disunited, and crushed by the state of martial law. The free vote was a privilege of the leaders alone—and they voted for the bourgeoisie and against the proletariat! It is ridiculous and monstrous to consider opportunism an inner-party phenomenon! All   Marxists in Germany, France, and other countries have always stated and insisted that opportunism is a manifestation of the bourgeoisie’s influence over the proletariat; that it is a bourgeois labour policy, an alliance between an insignificant section of near-proletarian elements and the bourgeoisie. Having for decades to mature in conditions of “peaceful” capitalism, opportunism was so mature by 1914-15 that it proved an open ally of the bourgeoisie. Unity with opportunism means unity between the proletariat and its national bourgeoisie, i.e., submission to the latter, a split in the international revolutionary working class. We do not say that an immediate split with the opportunists in all countries is desirable, or even possible at present; we do say that such a split has come to a head, that it has become inevitable, is progressive in nature, and necessary to the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat, and that history, having turned away from “peaceful” capitalism towards imperialism, has thereby turned towards such a split. Volentem ducunt fata, nolentem trahunt.[2]

Since the onset of the war, the bourgeoisie of all countries, the belligerents in the first place, have united in lauding socialists who recognise the “defence of the fatherland”, i.e., the defence of the bourgeoisie’s predatory interests in the imperialist war, against the proletariat. See how this basic interest of the international bourgeoisie is making its way into the socialist parties, into the working-class movement, to find expression there! The example of Germany is particularly instructive in this respect, since the epoch of the Second International saw the growth of the greatest party in that country, but the very same thing is to be seen in other countries, with only minor variations in form, aspect and outward appearance.

In its issue of April 1915, Preussische Jahrbücher, a conservative German journal, published an article by a Social-Democrat, a member of the Social-Democratic Party, who concealed his identity behind the pseudonym of Monitor. This opportunist blurted out the truth regarding the substance of the policy pursued by the entire world bourgeoisie towards the working-class movement of the twentieth century.   The latter can neither be brushed aside nor suppressed by brute force, he says. It must be demoralised from within, by buying its top section. It was exactly in this manner that the Anglo-French bourgeoisie has been acting for decades, by buying up the trade-union leaders, the Millerands, the Briands and Co. It is in this manner that the German bourgeoisie is now acting. The Social-Democratic Party’s behaviour, Monitor says to (and in essence in the name of) the bourgeoisie, is “irreproachable” in the present war (i.e., it is irreproachably serving the bourgeoisie against the proletariat). The process of the transformation” of the Social-Democratic Party into a national liberal-labour party is proceeding excellently. It would, however, be dangerous to the bourgeoisie, Monitor adds, if the party were to turn to the right; “it must retain the character of a workers’ party with socialist ideals. On the day it gives that up, a new party will arise to take up the rejected programme, giving it a still more radical formu lation” (Preussische Jahrbücher, 1915, No. 4, pp. 50-51).

These words openly express that which the bourgeoisie has always and everywhere done covertly. “Radical” words are needed for the masses to believe in. The opportunists are prepared to reiterate them hypocritically. Such parties as the Social-Democratic parties of the Second International used to be are useful and necessary to the opportunists because they engendered the socialists’ defence of the bourgeoisie during the 1914-15 crisis. Exactly the same kind of policy as that of the German Monitor is being pursued by the Fabians and the liberal trade-union leaders in Britain, and the opportunists and the Jaurèsists in France. Monitor is an outspoken and cynical opportunist. Then there is another shade, a covert or “honest” opportunist (Engels was right when he once said that the “honest” opportunists are the most dangerous to the working-class movement). Kautsky is an example of such an opportunist.

In Die Neue ZeitNo. 9, of November 26, 1915, he wrote that the majority of the official party was violating its programme (Kautsky himself upheld the policy of the majority for a whole year after the outbreak of the war, justifying the “defence of the fatherland” lie!). “Opposition to the   majority is growing,” he said (p. 272). (“Die Opposition gegen die Mehrheit im Wachsen ist.) The masses are “in opposition” (oppositionell). “Nach dem Kriege [nur nach dem Kriege? ] . . . werden die Klassengegensätze sich so verschärfen, dass der Radikalismus in den Massen die Oberhand gewinnt” (p. 272). Es “droht uns nach dem Kriege [nur nach dem Kriege? ] . . . die Flucht der radikalen Elemente aus der Partei und ihr Zustrom zu einer Richtung antiparlamentarischer [?? soll heissen: ausserparlamentarischer ] Massenaktionen. . . . So zerfällt unsere Partei in zwei Extreme, die nichts Gemeinsames haben.”[3]

Kautsky wants to represent the golden mean, and to reconcile the “two extremes” which “have nothing in common”! Today (sixteen months after the outbreak of war) he admits that the masses are revolutionary. Condemning in the same breath revolutionary action, which he calls “Abenteuer” “in den Strassen[4] (p. 272), Kautsky wants to “reconcile” the revolutionary masses with the opportunist leaders, who have “nothing in common” with them—but on what basis ? On the basis of mere words! On the basis of “Left-wing” words of the “Left-wing” minority in the Reichtag! Let the minority, like Kautsky, condemn revolutionary action, calling it adventurism, but it must feed the masses with Left-wing words. Then there will be peace in the Party, unity with the Südekums, Legiens, Davids, and Monitors!

But that is Monitor’s selfsame programme in its entirety, a programme of the bourgeoisie, only expressed in dulcet tones and in honeyed phrases! The same programme was carried out by Wurm as well, when at the session of the Social-Democratic group in the Reichstag, March 18, 1915, “er die Fraktion ‘warnte’, den Bogen zu überspannen ; in den Arbeitermassen wachse die Opposition gegen die Fraktionstaktik;   es gelte, beim marxistischen Zentrum zu verharren” (Klassenkampf gegen den Krieg! Material zum “Fall Liebknecht”. Als Manuskript gedruckt, S. 67).[5]

Let us note the acknowledgement, on behalf of the “Marxist Centre” (including Kautsky), that the masses were in a revolutionary temper! This was March 18, 1915! Eight and a half months later, on November 26, 1915, Kautsky again proposed that the revolutionary masses be appeased with Left phrases!

Kautsky’s opportunism differs from Monitor’s only in the wording, in shades, and the methods of achieving the same end: preservation of the opportunists’ influence (i.e., the bourgeoisie’s) over the masses, preservation of the proletariat’s submission to the opportunists (i.e., the bourgeoisie)! Pannekoek and Gorter have very properly dubbed Kautsky’s stand “passive radicalism”. (It is verbiage, to quote the French who have had occasion to make a thorough study of this variety of revolutionism, from their “home-made” models!) I would rather prefer to call it covert, timid, saccharine and hypocritical opportunism.

In substance, the two trends in Social-Democracy now disagree, not in words or in phrases. When it comes to the art of blending “defence of the fatherland” (i.e., defence of bourgeois plundering) with phrases on socialism, internationalism, freedom for the peoples, etc., Vandervelde, Renaudel, Sembat, Hyndman, Henderson, and Lloyd George are in no wise inferior to Legien, Südekum, Kautsky, or Haase! The actual difference begins with a complete rejection of defence of the fatherland in the present war, and with acceptance of revolutionary action in connection with the war, during and after it. In this question, the only serious and business-like one, Kautsky is at one with Kolb and Heine.

Compare the Fabians in Britain and the Kautskyites in Germany. The former are almost liberals, who have never recognised Marxism. Engels wrote of the Fabians on   January 18, 1893:[6] “A gang of place hunters, shrewd enough to understand the inevitability of the social revolution, but totally unwilling to entrust this gigantic work to the immature proletariat alone. . . . Their fundamental principle is fear of revolution....” And on November 11, 1893, he wrote: “Haughty bourgeois, benevolently descending to the proletariat to liberate it from above, if only it is willing to understand that such a raw, uneducated mass cannot liberate itself, and can attain nothing without the charity of those clever attorneys, litterateurs, and sentimental females.”[22] How far from these the Kautskyites seem to be in their “theory”! In practice, however, in their attitude towards the war, they are quite identical ! This is convincing proof of how the Marxism of the Kautskyites has withered, turned into a dead letter, a piece of cant.

The following instances will reveal the kind of obvious sophisms used by the Kautskyites since the outbreak of war, to refute the tactics of revolutionary proletarian action, as unanimously adopted by the socialists in Basle. Kautsky advanced his theory of “ultra-imperialism”. By this he meant the substitution of “joint exploitation of the world by internationally united finance capital, for the struggle of capital of some nations against that of other countries” (Die Neue Zeit No. 5, April 30, 1915, p. 144). At the same time, Kautsky himself added: “Can such a new phase of capitalism be at all achieved? Sufficient premises are still lacking to enable us to answer this question!” On the ground that a new phase is “conceivable”, though he himself lacks the courage even to declare it “achievable”, he now rejects the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat at a time when the phase of crisis and war has obviously arrived! Revolutionary action is rejected by the selfsame leader of the Second lnternational who, in 1909, wrote a book entitled Der Weg zur Macht. Translated into almost all the principal European languages, the book revealed the connection between the impending war and the revolution, and proved that “revolution cannot be premature”!

In 1909, Kautsky proved that the epock of “peaceful” capitalism had passed, and that the epoch of wars and revolutions was at hand. In 1912, the Basle Manifesto made this view the basis of the entire tactic of the world socialist   parties. In 1914 war came, followed by the “economic and political crisis” foreseen at Stuttgart and Basle. At this juncture Kautsky invented theoretical “subterfuges” to be used against revolutionary tactics!

Axelrod has advanced the same ideas, only clothed in a phraseology a little more to the “Left”. He writes in free Switzerland, and it is his desire to exert an influence on Russian revolutionary workers. In his pamphlet, Die Krise und die Aufgaben der internationalen Sozialdemokratie, Zurich, 1915, we find a discovery that is so pleasing to the opportunists and the bourgeois of the whole world, namely, that “das Internationalisierungsproblem der Arbeiterbewegung ist mit der Frage der Revolutionisierung unserer Kampfesformen und Methoden nicht identisch” (p. 37) and that “der Schwerpunkt des Internationalisierungsproblems der proletarischen Befreiungsbewegung liegt in der weiteren Entwicklung und Internationalisierung eben jener Alltagspraxis [p. 40] . . . beispielsweise müssen die Arbeiterschutz und Versicherungsgesetzgebung . . . zum Objekt ihrer [der Arbeiter ] internationalen Aktionen und Organisationen werden” (p. 39).[7]

It goes without saying that such “internationalism” has the full approval, not only of the Südekums, Legiens and Hyndmans, together with the Vanderveldes, but also of the Lloyd Georges, Naumanns and Briands! Axelrod defends Kautsky’s “internationalism” without even quoting or analysing any of the latter’s arguments for defence of the fatherland. Like the Francophile social-chauvinists, Axelrod is even afraid to mention that it is revolutionary tactics that the Basle Manifesto speaks of. Against the future—the uncertain and unknown future—Axelrod is prepared to advance the most Left-wing and blatantly revolutionary phrases, such as saying that the future International will meet, entgegentreten wird (den Regierungen im Falle der Kriegsgefahr )   mit der Entfachung eines rewlutionäiren Sturmes. ...Einleitung der sozialistischen Revolution ” (p. 14).[8] No joking here! When, however, it is a matter of applying revolutionary tactics right now, during the present crisis, Axelrod says ganz à la Kautsky[9] : “Revolutionäre Massenaktionen”—such tactics “hätte noch eine gewisse Berechtigung, wenn wir unmittelbar am Vorabend der sozialen Revolution ständen, ähnlich wie es etwa in Russland seit den Studentendemonstrationen des Jahres 1901 cler Fall war, die das Herannahen entscheidender Kämpfe gegen den Absolutismus ankündigten[10] (pp. 40-41), and then he fulminates against the “Utopien”, “Bakunismus”, quite in the spirit of Kolb, Heine, Südekum, and Legien. The example of Russia exposes Axelrod most strikingly. Four years elapsed between 1901 and 1905, and nobody could guarantee, in 1901, that the revolution in Russia (the first revolution against absolutism) would take place four years later. Prior to the social revolution, Europe is in exactly the same situation. Nobody can tell whether the first revolution of this kind will come about in four years. That a revolutionary situation, however, actually exists is a fact that was predicted in 1912 and became a reality in 1914. The 1914 demonstrations of workers and starving citizens in Russia and Germany also undoubtedly “ankündigen das Herannahen entscheidender Kämpfe”.[11] It is the bounden duty of socialists to support and develop such demonstrations and every kind of “revolutionary mass action” (economic and political strikes, unrest among the troops, right up to insurrection and civil war); furnish them with clear slogans; create an underground organisation and publish underground literature, without which the masses cannot be called upon to rise up in revolution; help them get a clear understanding of the revolution,   and organise for it. It is in this way that the Social-Democrats acted in Russia in 1901, on the eve (“am Vorabend”) of the bourgeois revolution which began in 1905, but has not ended even in 1915. In the very sameway, the Social-Democrats are obliged to act in Europe in 1914-15 “am Vorabend der sozialistischen Revolution”. Revolutions are never born ready-made; they do not spring out of Jupiter’s head; they do not kindle at once. They are always preceded by a process of unrest, crises, movements, revolts, the beginnings of revolution, the latter not always developing to the very end (if, for instance, the revolutionary class is not strong enough). Axelrod invents pretexts so as to distract Social-Democrats from their duty of helping develop the revolutionary movements burgeoning within the existing revolutionary situation. Axelrod defends the tactics of David and the Fabians, while masking his own opportunism with Left-wing phrases.

Den Weltkrieg in einen Bürgerkrieg umwandeln zu wollen wäre Wahnsinn gewesen,”[12] writes David, leader of the opportunists (Die Sozialdemokratie im Weltkrieg,[13] Berlin, 1915, p. 172), in objecting to the manifesto of the Central Committee of our Party, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, which was published on November 1, 1914. The manifesto advanced the civil war slogan, adding: “Wie gross die Schwierigkeiten dieser Umwandlung zur gegebenen Zeit auch sein mögen—die Sozialisten werden niemals ablehnen, die Vorarbeiten in der bezeichneten Richtung systematisch, unbeugsam, und energisch auszuführen, falls der Krieg zur Tatsache geworden ist.[14] (Quoted by David, p. 171.) It is noteworthy that a month before David’s book appeared (May 1, 1915), our Party published (in Sotsial-Demokrat No. 40, March 29) resolutions on the war, which advocate systematic “steps towards turning the present imperialist war into a civil war”, these steps being defined in   the following way: (1) refusal to vote for war credits, etc.; (2) rejection of “Burgfrieden[15] ; (3) formation of an underground organisation; (4) support for fraternisation by the men in the trenches; (5) support for every kind of revolutionary mass action by the proletariat in general.

O brave David! In 1912 he did not think it “madness” to refer to the example of the Paris Commune. In 1914, however, he was echoing the bourgeois outcry of “madness”.

Plekhanov, a typical representative of the social-chauvinists of the Quadruple Entente, has given an appraisal of revolutionary tactics, which is fully in accord with David’s. He has called the idea on[16] ... to wit, the Vorabend[17] of the social revolution, from which a period of four years or more may elapse before the entscheidende Kämpfe.[18] These are, in fact, the first beginnings—weak as yet, but beginnings, nevertheless—of the “proletarian revolution” which the Basle resolution spoke of and which will never become strong suddenly, but will inevitably pass through the stages of relatively weak beginnings.

Support for and the development, extension and intensification of revolutionary mass action and the revolutionary movement; the creation of an illegal organisation for propaganda and agitation in this direction, so as to help the masses understand the movement and its tasks, methods and aims—these are the two points that any practical programme of Social-Democratic activity in the present war must inevitably boil down to. All the rest is opportunist and counter-revolutionary phrases, no matter what Leftist, pseudo-Marxist and pacifist contortions those phrases may be disguised with.

Whenever exclamations like the following are made in protest to us—all this in the usual fashion of the diehards in the Second International: “O those ‘Russian’ methods!” (“Die russische Taktik”—Kap. VIII bei David),[19] we reply   merely by referring to the facts. On October 30, 1915, several hundred women (einiger Nundert) demonstrated in front of the Parteivorstand, and sent it the following message through a deputation: “Die Verbreitung von unzensierten Flugblättern und Druckschriften und die Abhaltung nicht genehmigter Versammlungen wäre bei dem grossen Organisationsapparat heute leichter möglich als zur Zeit des Sozialistengesetzes. Es fehlt nicht an Mitteln und Wegen, sondern oaensichtlich an dem Willen[20] (my italics). (Berner Tagwacht No. 271.)

I suppose these Berlin women workers must have been led astray by the “Bakuninist” and “adventurist”, “sectarian” (see Kolb and Co.) and “reckless” manifesto of the Russian Party’s Central Committee, dated November 1.


[1] In the MS. Lenin wrote “wing” above the word “people”.—Ed.

[2] Fate leads the willing, but drags the unwilling (Lat.).—Ed.

[3]After the war [only affer the war?] the class antagonisms will become so sharpened that radicalism will gain the upper hand among the masses [p. 272]. . . . We are threatened with the flight of the radical element from the Party after the war [only after the war?] . . . and with their rushing to join the current of anti-parliamentary [?? should be: extra-parliamentary] mass action. . . . Thus our Party is divided into two extremes which have nothing in common.”—Ed.

[4] Street adventurism.—Ed.

[5]He warned the group not to test the patience of the masses too far, as opposition is growing among the masses against the group’s tactics; one must remain with the Marxist Centre.” (The Class Struggle Against the War! Material on the Liebknecht Case. Published as a manuscript, p. 67).—Ed.

[6] See Engels’s letters to F. A. Serge of January 18 and November 11, 1893. —Lenin

[7]The problem of internationalising the labour movement is not identical with the guestion of revolutionising the forms and methods of our struggle” (p. 37) and that “the gist of the problem of internationalising the proletarian movement for freedom lies in the future development and internationalisation of everyday practices [p. 40] . . . for instance, labour protection and insurance legislation must become the object of their [workers’] international action and organisations” (p. 39).—Ed.

[8] will meet (the governments in case of a war danger) “with the release of a revolutionary storm . . . the inauguration of the socialist revolution”.—Ed.

[9]quite in the Kautsky spirit”.—Ed.

[10]Revolutionary mass action”—such tactics “would have a certain justification if we were immediately on the eve of a social revolution in the very same way, for instance, as, was the case in Russia beginning with the student demonstrations of 1901, which were the forerunners of approaching decisive battles against absolutism”.—Ed.

[11]proclaims the approaching decisive battles”.—Ed.

[12]It would be madness to wish to turn the world war into a civil war.”—Ed.

[13] Social-Democracy in the World War.—Ed.

[14]However difficult such a transformation may seem at any given moment, socialists will never relinquish systematic, persistent, and undeviating preparatory work in this direction, once war has become a fact.”—Ed.

[15]a class truce”.—Ed.

[16] The page breaks off here. Several words are missing from the beginning of the next page of the manuscript. This is the first publication of the continuation of the article.—Ed.

[17]the eve”.—Ed.

[18]decisive battles”.—Ed.

[19]The Russian tactics”. Chapter 8 in David’s book.—Ed.

[20]Today, with the existence of a big machine of organisation it would be far easier to distribute illegal leaflets and pamphlets and to hold banned meetings than it was during the Anti-Socialist Law. There is no shortage of means and methods, but there seems to be a lack of determination.”—Ed.

[21] See Note 90.

[22] See Engels’s letters to F. A. Sorge of January 18 and November 11, 1893.

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