V. I.   Lenin

Split or Decay?

Written: Written February-April 1916
Published: First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, UNKNOWN, [19xx], Moscow, Volume 22, pages 180-181.
Transcription\Markup: Charles Farrell and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2000 (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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That was how Sotsial-Demokrat posed the alternative with regard to the German Social-Democratic Party, back in its issue No. 35[1] , when it elaborated the fundamental ideas of the Manifesto on war issued by our Party’s Central Committee.[2] Notice how the facts bear out this conclusion.

The German Social-Democratic Party is clearly disintegrating. Otto Ruhle, Karl Liebknecht’s closest associate, quite apart from the I.S.D. group (International Socialists of Germany),[3] which has been consistently fighting the hypocritical Kautskyites, has openly come out for a split. Vorwarts had no serious, honest answer. There are actually two workers’ parties in Germany.

Even in Britain, a statement was made by T. Russell Williams in the moderate, pacifist Labour Leader (the Central Organ of the Independent Labour Party), and he was supported by many local functionaries. Comrade Ornatsky,[4] who has done very good internationalist work in Britain, came out in the conciliatory Nashe Slovo in Paris for tin immediate split there. We are naturally in full agreement with Ornatsky in his polemic with T. Rothstein, a correspondent of Kommunist,[5] who takes a Kautskyite attitude.

In France, Bourderon is a fervent opponent of any split but–has proposed to the Party Congress a resolution calling for outright disapproval both of the Party’s Central Committee and the parliamentary group! Adoption of such a resolution would mean an immediate split in the Party.

In America, the Socialist Party appears to be united. Actually, some of its members, like Russell and others, preach “preparedness”, stand for war, and want an army and navy. Others, like Eugene Debs, the Party’s presidential candidate, openly preach civil war “in the event” of an imperialist war, rather, in connection with one.

There are now actually two parties all over the world. There are in fact already two Internationals. And if the Zimmerwald majority are afraid to recognise this, if they dream of unity with the social-chauvinists, and declare their readiness to have such unity, these “pious hopes” in practice remain nothing but hopes, expressive of inconsistency and timidity of thought, Consciousness lags behind reality.


[1] Vol. 21, “The War and Russian Social-Democracy” —Lenin

[2] Ibid., “Dead Chauvinism and Living Socialism” —Lenin

[3] A group of German Left-wing Social-Democrats which emerged during the First World War. Its organ, Lichtstrahlen (Rays of Light), was published in Berlin from 1913 to 1921. The I.S.D. openly opposed war and opportunism and took the most consistent stand in Germany on separation from the social-chauvinists and Centrists. Borchardt, representing the group at the Zimmerwald Conference, alone of the 10 German delegates signed the draft resolution and draft manifesto of the Zimmerwald Left. Soon after the conference, the Bureau of the Zimmerwald Left was informed that the I.S.D. group had joined it, and this was reported in Internationale Flugblatt (International Leaflets) No. 1. The group had no extensive ties with the masses and soon broke up.

[4] G. V. Chicherin.

[5] A magazine founded by Lenin and published by the Editorial Board of Sotsial-Demokrat jointly with G. L. Pyatakov and E. B. Bosch, who financed it; Bukharin was one of the editorsss. Only one (double) issue was published. It carried, apart from the article “The Honest Voice of a French Socialist”, two other articles by Lenin: “The Collapse of the Second International” and “Imperialism and Socialism in Italy”.

The publication plan was worked out by Lenin in the spring of 1915. The organisational meeting of the editorial board was held under his guidance. Lenin planned to make Kommunist an international organ of the Left-wing Social-Democrats, but it soon transpired that there were grave contradictions between the Editorial Board and Bukharin, Pyatakov and Bosch, which were aggravated after the No. 1-2 issue. The Bukharin-Pyatakov-Bosch took an incorrect stand on a number of points of principle in the Party’s Programme and tactics-the right of nations to self-determination, the role of democratic demands and the minimum programme in general, etc.-and tried to make use of the magazine for factional purposes. On the Editorial Board Lenin fought the Bukharin-Pyatakov-Bosch group, exposed their anti-Bolshevik views and factional activites, and sharply criticised the concilatory attitude to the group on the part of G. Y. Zinoviev and A. G. Shlyapnikov.

In view of the groups anti-Party attitude, the Sotsial-Demokrat Editorial Board declared, on Lenin’s proposal, that it considered it impossible to continue publication. Lenin wrote the draft resolution of the R.S.D.L.P. Central Committee terminating the publication of the Kommunist. The Central Committee Bureau in Russia, having heard a report on the contradictions on the Kommunist Editorial Board, declared its full solidarity with the Editorial Board of the Central Organ, Sotsial-Demokrat, ad expressed the wish that “all publications of the Central Committee should be edited on lines strictly in conformity with the Central Committee’s policy and adopted before the outbreak of the war”. From October 1916, the Editorial Board of Sotsial-Demokrat began publication of Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata.

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