V. I. Lenin

Theses on the Attitude of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party to the War{1}

Practical Section

Written: Written in German in late November—early December 1916
Published: First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII. Printed from the original. Translated front the German.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 382.2-384.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
Other Formats:   Text


(1) Complete repudiation of defence of country both from the military and the political standpoint, and ruthless exposure of the bourgeois lies behind this slogan.

(2) Unconditional rejection of all war credits and demands both in time of peace and of war, and with a motivation of principle. Impose the duty of doing this on the party’s representatives in parliament and in all other state institutions.

(3) Struggle in all the party’s propaganda and agitation—above all in practical activity—against all military establishments, and repudiation of all military duties to the bourgeois class state.

(4) Systematic transition by the party to revolutionary struggle and revolutionary tactics all along the line, instead of being confined to reformism in practical activity.

(5) Adoption of the work and activity of Karl Liebknecht and the whole Spartacus group in Germany{3} as a model of the only international activity, of real struggle against the war and all wars, and emulation of their example.

(6) Struggle by means of propaganda, agitation and organisation against the social-patriots (i.e., “defenders of their country”) and reformists (i.e., opponents of the immediate application of revolutionary means of struggle) within the Swiss Socialist Party.

(7) Explaining to the masses that all solemn declarations against militarism and war inevitably come to empty talk without a complete change in the party’s structure and activity and without control by the resolute opponents of social-patriotism and reformism of all the posts in the socialist-political and also trade union, consumer and all other working-class organisations.

(8) Propaganda and preparation of a vigorous revolutionary mass struggle (demonstrations, strikes and so on, depending on the growth of the overall revolutionary struggle) for the purposes of the proletarian revolution as the only means of doing away with wars.

(9) Explaining to the masses that in case of necessity they must themselves set up from below special organisations for such struggle adapted to the hard conditions of wartime.

(10) Making sure that the party’s revolutionary tasks in the struggle against the high cost of living, war, etc., are known and clear to every section of the exploited people outside the party.

(11) Systematic propaganda in this context among young people of pro-conscription age, and also in the army, etc.


{1} See present edition, Vol. 23, pp. 149–51.—Ed.

{2} The Social-Democratic Party of Switzerland (in French and Italian cantons the party is called the Swiss Socialist Party) was set up in the 1870s and was a member of the First International. It was re-established in 1888. Strong influence in the party was enjoyed by the opportunists, who in the First World War took a social-chauvinist stand. In the autumn of 1916, the Right wing split away from the party and set up its own organisation. The party majority headed by R. Grimm took a Centrist, social-pacifist   stand. The Left wing of the party took an internationalist stand, Under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, the Loft wing of the p arty gained in strength. In December 1920, the Left withdrew from the party and in 1921 united with the Communist Party of Switzerland (now the Swiss Party of Labour), which was formed in 1919. p. 382

{3} The Spartacus group—a revolutionary organisation of German Left-wing Social-Democrats, formed at the beginning of the First World War by Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Clara Zetkin, J. Marchlewski, L. Jogiches (Tyszka) and W. Pieck. In April 1915, Rosa Luxemburg and Franz Mehring founded the magazine Die Internationale, which rallied the main forces of German Left-wing Social-Democrats. On January 1, 1916, an All-German Conference of Left-wing Social-Democrats was held in Berlin there the group was formalised and decided to call itself the Internationale group. As its platform, the conference adopted “Leits\"atze” (Basic Propositions) worked out by Rosa Luxemburg with the participation of Karl Liebknecht, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin. In 1916, the Internationale group, apart from political leaflets which it published from 1915, began illegal publication and circulation of “Political Letters” signed Spartacus (published regularly until October 1918); then it also began to call itself the Spartacus group.

The Spartacists conducted revolutionary propaganda in the masses, organised mass anti-war manifestations, directed strikes and exposed the imperialist character of the world war and the betrayal of the opportunist Social-Democratic leaders. However, they made serious mistakes in theory and policy: they denied the possibility of national liberation wars in the epoch of imperialism, failed to take a consistent stand on the slogan of transforming the imperialist war into a civil war, underestimated the role of the proletarian party as the vanguard of the working class and feared a resolute break with the opportunists.

In April 1917, the group joined the Centrist Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany, retaining its organisational independence. In November 1918, during the revolution in Germany, the Spartacus group broke away from the “Independents” and set up the Spartacus Union, publishing its own programme on December 14, 1918. At their inaugural congress (December 30, 1918-January 1, 1919) they set up the Communist Party of Germany. Lenin repeatedly criticised the mistakes of the German Left-wing Social-Democrats and pointed to the inconsistency of their stand. At the same time, he put a high value on their revolutionary activity. He wrote: “The work of the German Spartacus group, which has carried on systematic revolutionary propaganda in the most difficult conditions, has really saved the honour of German socialism and the German proletariat” (see present edition, Vol. 35, p. 369). p. 383

Works Index   |   Volume 41 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >