V. I.   Lenin

The “Peace” Slogan Appraised

Written: Written in July–August 1915
Published: First published in the magazine Proletarskaya Revolutsia No. 5 (28), 1924. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 287-289.
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.

In its issue of June 27, 1915, the Vienna Arbeiter-Zeitwig, central organ of the Austrian Social-Democrats, cites a very instructive declaration contained in the German governmental Norddeutsche Aligemeine Zeitung.

The declaration deals with an article by one of the best known (and vilest) opportunists of the “Social-Democratic.” Party of Germany named Quarck, who said inter alia:

We German Social-Democrats and our Austrian comrades have repeatedly declared ourselves ready to establish contacts (with the British and French Social-Democrats) for the purpose of beginning peace talks. The German Imperial Government know of this, and have not placed the slightest obstacle in our way.”

Nationalliberale Korrespondenz, a German national-liberal paper, has said that the concluding words permit of a double interpretation. The first is that the government have put no obstacles in the way of “international political action” by the Social-Democrats, insofar as it does not transgress the limits of legality and “is not dangerous to the State”. This, the paper says, is perfectly intelligible from the angle of “political freedom”.

The second interpretation is that the German Government “at least tacitly approve of the Social-Democratic internationalist peace propaganda, and even consider it a suitable means of laying down the initial basis for exploring the possibility of peace”.

The national-liberal paper naturally considers this latter interpretation out of the question. In this it has the official support of the government newspaper, which goes on to say that “the government have nothing in common with   internationalist peace propaganda and have authorised neither Social-Democratic nor any other intermediaries to conduct that propaganda”.

An edifying farce, is it not? Will anybody believe that the German Government, who have forbidden Vorwärts to write about the class struggle, have introduced harsh military laws against popular meetings and veritable “military slavery” for the proletariat—that this government have, out of sheer liberalism, “put no obstacles” in the way of Messrs. Quarck and Südekum, or that they are not in constant communication with the latter gentlemen?

Is it not a thousand times more likely that Quarck inadvertently told the truth (namely, that the peace propaganda was started by the German Social-Democrats when they had reached a direct or indirect understanding with their government), and that he was “officially refuted” only for the purpose of concealing the truth.

This is a lesson to those phrase-lovers who, like Trotsky (see No. 105 of Nashe Slovo), defend—in opposition to us—the peace slogan, alleging among other things that “all Left-wingers” have united for the purpose of “action” under this very slogan! The Junker government have now demonstrated the correctness of our Berne resolution (Sotsial-Demokrat No. 40), which says that the propaganda of peace “unaccompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action” can only “sow illusions” and “turn the proletariat into a plaything in the hands of the secret diplomacy of the belligerent countries”.[1]

This has been literally proved!

In a few years diplomatic history will prove that there was an understanding, direct or indirect, between the opportunists and the governments on peace palaver and this, not in Germany alone! Diplomacy may conceal such things, but murder will out!

When the Lefts began to unite under the peace slogan, this deserved encouragement, provided it was the first step in protest against the chauvinists, in the same fashion as the Gaponade was the Russian worker’s first timid protest against the tsar. But since the Lefts are even   now confining themselves to this slogan (slogans are the business of intelligent political leaders), they are shoddy Lefts, there is consequently not a grain of “action” in their resolutions, and they are consequently a plaything in the hands of the Sudekums, Quarcks, Sembats, Hyndmans, Joffres, and Hindenburgs.

Anyone who fails to understand this even today, when the peace slogan ("unaccompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action") has been prostituted by the Vienna Conference[2] of Bernstein, Kautsky and Co. with the Scheidernanns (the German Vorstand, their Executive), is simply an unwitting participant in the social-chauvinist humbugging of the people.


[1] See p. 163 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] The reference is to the Conference of Socialists of Germany and Austria-Hungary, held in Vianna in April 1915. The Conference approved of the social-chauvinist stand taken by the leadership of the German and Austrian socialist parties, wich justified the war and stated, in their resolutions, that this did not run counter to proletarian unity and to the workers’ international solidarity in the struggle for peace.

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