V. I.   Lenin

To the International Socialist Committee (I.S.C.)

Written: Written not earlier than September 12 (25), 1915
Published: First published in Pravda No. 203, September 6, 1925. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 372-377.
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.

Dear Comrades:

We have received your letter of September 25, and hereby express our full sympathy with the plan to set up a perma-nent international “enlarged committee” (erweiterte Kern. mission) in Berne. In the confidence that the idea of such a plan is shared by the other organisations adhering to the I.S.C., we appoint Zinoviev member of that enlarged committee from the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., and, as his assistants or candidates (suppléant, Stellvertreter) (1) Comrade Petrova[4] and (2) Comrade Lenin. The address for communications is: Herrn Radomislsky (bei Frau Aschwanden). Hertenstein (Ks. tuzern). Schweiz.[1]

To continue. As for the other questions raised in your letter of September 25, we, for our part, hold the following opinion:

I. We are in complete agreement with you that the “common points of view” (ailgerneine Gesichtspunkte) as established by the Conference of September 5-8 are “insufficient” (nicht genügen). A further, far more detailed and specified development of these principles is an imperative necessity. This is necessary from the viewpoint of both principle and common practice, since giving effect to united action on an international scale calls for both clarity of fundamental ideological views and a precise definiteness in all practical methods of action. The great crisis that Europe as a whole and the European working-class movement are living   through can indubitably lead to both aspects of the matter being understood by the masses only by degrees, but it is the task of the I.S.C. and the parties adhering to it to help bring about that very understanding. Without waiting for the impossible to happen—the speedy unification of all on a platform of commonly accepted and precisely formulated views—we must strive for a precise definition of the basic currents and trends in present-day internationalist socialism, and then for the working masses to get a knowledge of those currents., discuss them comprehensively, and test them in the experience of their practical movement. In our opinion, the I.S.C. should consider this its principal task.

2. The letter of September 25 defines the proletariat’s tasks either as the struggle for peace (should the war continue or as the “concrete and detailed formulation of the proletariat’s international viewpoint towards the various proposals and programmes for peace” den internationalen Standpunkt des Proleriats zu den venschiedenen Friedensvorschlägen and Programmen konkret and ins einzelne gehend zu unschreiben). Special emphasis is placed, in this connection, on the national question (Alsace-Lorraine, Poland, Armenia, etc.).

We consider that the two documents unanimously adopted by the Conference of September 5-8, viz., both the manifesto and the resolution of sympathy (Syrnpathieen/darung), give expression to the idea of the connection between the struggle for peace and the struggle for socialism (“the struggle for peace ... is a struggle for socialism”—“dieser Kampf ist der Kampf ... für den Sozialisnzus”, to quote the manifesto), and the “irreconcilable proletarian class struggle” (unver-sohnlic/zer proletanischer Klassen/campf; the text of the resolution voted on by the Conference reads, not the “irreconcilable” class struggle, but the “revolutionary” class struggle. If the change was made for considerations of legality, the meaning should net have been changed thereby). The resolution on sympathy speaks forthright of the Con-ference’s need and “solemn promise” to arouse the revolu-tionary spirit in the masses of the international proletariat”.

Unless it is linked up with the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat, the struggle for peace is merely a   pacifist phrase of bourgeois who are either sentimental or are deceiving the people.

We cannot and must not strike a pose of “statesmen” and draw up “concrete” programmes of peace. On the contrary, we must explain to the masses the delusiveness of all hopes of a democratic peace (without annexations, violence or plunder), without a development of the revolutionary class struggle. In the very beginning of the manifesto we told the masses firmly, clearly and resolutely that imperialism is the cause of war, and that imperialism means the “enslave-ment” of nations, of all the nations of the world, by a handful of “Great Powers”. Consequently, we must help the masses to overthrow imperialism, without the overthrow of which there can be no peace without annexations. Of course, the struggle for the overthrow of imperialism is an arduous one, but the masses must know the truth about that arduous but necessary struggle. The masses should not be lulled with the hope that peace is possible without the overthrow of imperialism.

3. Proceeding from these considerations, we propose:

that the following questions be put on the agenda of forthcoming sessions of the enlarged committee (to work out either a summary and publication of theses, or drafts of a resolution), and then on the agenda of the next international conference (for the final adoption of a resolution):

(a) the connection between the struggle for peace and mass revolutionary action or the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat;

(b) the self-determination of nations;

(c) the connection between social-patriotism and opportunism.

We emphasise that the manifesto adopted by the con-ference specifically touches upon all these questions, that they are of vital significance both in principle and in practice, and that not a single practical step in the proletarian struggle is conceivable without socialists and syndicalists stumbling upon these questions.

Elaboration of these questions is necessary so as to pro-mote the mass struggle for peace, the self-determination of nations, and socialism, and against the “capitalists   lies” (to quote the manifesto) about “defence of the father-land” in the present war.

If, as is very correctly pointed out in the letter of Sep-tember 25, the fault or the misfortune of the Second International lies in the vagueness and the incorn-plete development of important problems, it is our task to help the masses pose those problems with clarity and re-solve them with exactness.

4. Regarding the publication of the bulletin in three languages, experience has, in our opinion, shown that the plan is ill-advised. If issued monthly, such a publication will cost between two and three thousand francs a year, a sum that cannot easily be raised. Incidentally almost everything to be found in the bulletin is published by two Swiss newspapers-Berner Tagcac1tt and La Sentinelle.[5] We propose to the I.S.C.:

that an attempt be made to reach an understanding with the editorial boards of the above newspapers and with some U.S. newspaper, regarding publication in these newspapers both of the bulletin and of all reports and materials of the I.S.C. (either textually in the name of the I.S.C., or in separate supplements).

This will not only he cheaper but will make it possible to keep the working class far better, more fully and more frequently informed of the I.S.C.’s activities. We are inter-ested in a greater number of workers reading I.S.C. reports, and in all draft resolutions being published for the workers’ information and to help them evolve their own attitude towards the var.

We hope that there will he no objections to the need to publish both the draft resolution (for whose acceptance as a basis 12 delegates, i.e., about 40 per cent of the total number, cast their votes, with 19 against) and the letter from a prominent German socialist[6] (with omission of his name and of everything that does not refer to tactics).

We hope that the I.S.C. will receive systematic infor-mation from the various countries regarding persecution and arrests for participation in the anti-war struggle, the course of the class struggle against the war, fraternising in the trenches, the closing down of newspapers, the banning of publication of calls for peace, etc. We also hope that   all this information will periodically appear in the newspapers mentioned above, on behalf of the l.S.C.

An agreement with an American daily or weekly paper could probably be reached by Mrs. Kollontai, who works in Nashe Slovo and other Social-Democratic newspapers, and has just left for the U.S.A. on a lecture tour. We could get in touch with Kollontai, or let you know her address.

5. Regarding the mode of representation of sections of parties (particularly in Germany and France, and also, probably, in Britain), we propose:

that the I.S.C. suggest to the comrades in those par-ties that they discuss the advisability of setting up groups, under various names, whose appeals to the masses (in the form of leaflets, resolutions, etc.) will be published by the I.S.C., with the mention of the particular group in question.

If this method is followed, the masses, in the first place, would be kept informed of the internationalists’ tactics and views, this despite the military censorship; secondly, it would be possible to discern the development and the successes achieved in the propaganda of internationalist views, in the degree that workers’ meetings, organisations, etc., adopt resolutions of sympathy with one group or another; thirdly, it would become possible to give expression to various shades of opinion (i.e., the B.S.P.,[2] its minority, and the I.L.P.[3] in Britain; socialists like Bourderon and others, and syndicalists like Merrheim and others, in France; as the Conference has shown, there are shades among the opposition in Germany).

It goes without saying that these groups, as is pointed out in the letter of September 25, would not set up separate organisational units, but would exist within the old bodies only for contacts with the I.S.C. and for propaganda of the struggle for peace.

These groups would be represented in the “enlarged committee” and at conferences.

6. In the question of the number of members on the “enlarged committee”, and of voting procedure, we propose the following:

that the number of members should not he limited to a maximum of three, but, instead, fractions of votes (½, ¾ etc.) should be introduced for small groups.

This would he convenient, since to deprive of represen-tation groups that have their own shades of opinion is just impossible, and injurious to the development and propaganda among the masses of the principles established in the manifesto.

7. With reference to the danger of the “enlarged com-mittee” acquiring a “Russo-Polish character”, we think that (however unpleasant that may be to the Russians), this apprehension is justified, since representation is possible of groups in emigration, which have no serious links with Russia. In our opinion, only those organisations and groups should be represented which have proved, by no less than three years of work, their ability to represent the movement in Russia. We propose to the I.S.C. that it discuss and estab-lish that principle, and also request all groups to send in information and figures on their work in Russia.

8. Finally, we would take advantage of this opportunity to indicate an inaccuracy in No. I of the Bulletin[7] and ask that it he rectified in No. 2 (or in Berner Tagwacht and La Sentinelle). Issue No. I of the Bulletin, p. 7, the top of column I, speaks of the draft resolution having been signed by the Central Committee, the Polish Social-Democrats (Lanclesvorstand), the Letts, Swedes, and Norwegians. Omitted in this enumeration are:

one German delegate (whose name is not given for reasons readily understood), and one Swiss-Platten.


[1] Mr. Radomislsky, c/o Mme. Ascliwanden, Hertenstein, Lucerne Canton. Switzerland.—Ed.

[2] The British Socialist Party.—Ed.

[3] The Independent Labour Party.—Ed.

[4] Petrova—Inessa Armand.

[5] La Sentinelle—organ of the Social-Democratic organisation of Neuchatel Canton, French-speaking Switzerland, published at Chaux-de-Fonds from 1890 onwards. Pursued an internationalist policy in the first years of World War I (1914-18) and its November 13, 1914 issue (No. 265) carried an abridged version of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee Manifesto, The War and Russian Social-Democracy.

[6] Lenin is referring to Karl Liebknecht’s letter of September 2, 1915, addressed to the Zimmerwald International Sotialist Conference, which was not published at the time. Liebknecht was unable to take part in the Conference because lie was called to the colours as a private, early in 1915. In his letter, Liebknecht called upon the delegates to strive, not for a “class truce” but for civil war, the international unity of socialists of all belligerent countries, a struggle against the imperialist war and a break with the socialchauvinists. The letter was welcomed by most of the delegates.

[7] Lenin is referring to the Bulletin of the International Socialist Committee in Berne (“Bulletin” Inlernatienale sozialistische Kommission zu Bern), the Executive of the Zimmerwald organisation. The Bulletin was published from September 1915 to January 1917 in English, French arid German Six issues appeared.

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