V. I.   Lenin

Bourgeois Philanthropists and Revolutionary Social-Democracy

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat No. 41, May 1, 1915. Published according to the text in Sotsial-Demokrat.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 192-193.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and R. Cymbala
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The Economist,[1] a journal that speaks for the British millionaires, is pursuing a very instructive line in relation to the war. Representatives of advanced capital in the oldest and richest capitalist country, are shedding tears over the war and incessantly voicing a wish for peace. Those Social-Democrats who, together with the opportunists and Kautsky, think that a socialist programme consists in the propaganda of peace, will find proof of their error if they read The Economist. Their programme is not socialist, but bourgeois-pacifist. Dreams of peace, without propaganda of revolutionary action, express only a horror of war, but have nothing in common with socialism.

Moreover, The Economist stands for peace just because it is afraid of revolution. For instance, its issue for February 13, 1915, contains the following passage:

Philanthropists profess to hope that the peace settlement will bring with it a great international reduction of armies .... But those who know the forces which really control the diplomacy of Europe see no Utopias. The outlook is for bloody revolutions and fierce wars between labour and capital, or between the masses and the governing classes of Continental Europe ....”

In the issue of March 27, 1915, we again find expression of a desire for a peace that will guarantee freedom of nationalities, etc., as promised by Sir Edward Grey. If this hope is not realised, the paper says, the war “will end in revolutionary chaos, beginning no one can say where, and ending in no one can say what”.

The British pacifist millionaires have a better understanding of present-day politics than the opportunists, the   followers of Kautsky and similar socialist whimperers after peace. The bourgeois know, first, that phrases about a democratic peace are an idle and foolish Utopia while the old “forces... really control the diplomacy”, i.e., until the class of capitalists has been expropriated. Secondly, the bourgeoisie have made a sober appraisal of the outlook, foreseeing “bloody revolutions” and “revolutionary chaos”. To the bourgeoisie a socialist revolution always seems “revolutionary chaos”.

In the realistic politics of the capitalist countries, three kinds of peace sympathies can be seen:

(1) The more enlightened millionaires wish an early peace because they are afraid of revolutions. They have soberly and correctly described any “democratic” peace (without annexations, but with limited armaments, etc.) as Utopian under capitalism.

This philistine Utopia is being advocated by the opportunists, the adherents of Kautsky, and the like.

(2) The unenlightened masses of the people (the petty bourgeois, semi-proletarians, part of the workers, etc.) whose desire for peace is very vague, are thereby expressing a growing protest against the war and a growing but as yet vague revolutionary sentiment.

(3) The revolutionary Social-Democrats, the enlightened advance guard of the proletariat, are attentively studying the sentiments of the masses, utilising the latter’s growing striving for peace, not in order to bolster the vulgar utopias of a “democratic” peace under capitalism, not in order to encourage hopes being placed in the philanthropists, he authorities, and the bourgeoisie., but to bring clarity into vague revolutionary sentiments, to enlighten the masses with a thousand facts of pre-war politics; basing that work on the experience of the masses and on their sent iments,they are out to prove systematically, steadfastly and unswervingly the need for mass revolutionary action against the bourgeoisie and the governments of their respective countries as the only road towards democracy and socialism.


[1] The Economist—a capitalist weekly published in London since 1843.

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