V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written in German on December 1, 1918
Published: First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII. Sent to Winterthur (Switzerland). Printed from a typewritten copy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 256-258.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   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.README

Dear Comrade,

Will you allow me to suggest an amicable agreement?

I must admit that yesterday I paid insufficient attention to one very important point in your arguments.[2] Namely, the idea that the peculiarity of Switzerland lies, among other things, in her greater degree of democracy (the referendum), and that this peculiarity should be made use of also for propaganda purposes. This idea is very important and, in my opinion, completely correct.

Could we not apply this idea in such a way that our differences (which are probably very insignificant) should disappear? For example:

If we put the question for the referendum only in this way—for complete elimination or against?—we shall get a mixture of pacifist (bourgeois-pacifist, etc.) and socialist votes for it, i.e., we shall get not a clarification of a socialist consciousness but a darkening of it, not the application of the idea and the policy of class struggle to this particular question (namely, the question of militarism) but the renunciation of the point of view of the class struggle on the question of militarism.

But if we put the question for the referendum in this way—for the expropriation of large capitalist enterprises in industry and agriculture, as the only way of completely eliminating militarism, or against expropriation?

If we put it like that, we shall be saying in our practical policy the same thing that we all recognise theoretically, namely, that the complete elimination of militarism is thinkable and realisable only in connection with the elimination of capitalism.

Consequently there should be approximately the following formulation: (1) we demand the immediate expropriation of large enterprises, perhaps in the form of a direct Federal property and income tax, with such high, revolutionarily-high, rates for large properties that the capitalists will, in fact, be expropriated.

(2) We declare that such a socialist transformation of Switzerland is economically possible already today, directly, and, in consequence of the unbearably high cost of living, is urgently necessary as well, and that for the political effecting of such a transformation Switzerland needs not a bourgeois but a proletarian government, which would rely not on the bourgeoisie but on the broad masses of hired workers and small people, and that the revolutionary mass struggle which we see beginning, for example, in the mass strikes and street demonstrations in Zurich, and which is recognised by the Aarau decision,^^264 pursues exactly that purpose—to put a real end in that way to the intolerable position of the masses.

(3) We declare that such a transformation of Switzerland will quite inevitably arouse imitation and the most resolute enthusiastic support on the part of the working class and the mass of the exploited in all civilised countries, and that only in connection with such a transformation will the complete elimination of militarism for which we strive, and for which at present particularly wide masses in Europe are instinctively thirsting, become not an empty phrase, not an amiable wish, but a genuine, practically achievable and politically self-explanatory measure.

What do you think of this?

Do you not consider that, if the question is put in this way (both in practical agitation and in parliamentary speeches and proposals for a legislative initiative and for a referendum), we shall avoid the danger that bourgeois and “socialist” pacifists will falsely understand and misinterpret   our anti-militarist slogan in the sense that we suppose it possible to completely abolish militarism in bourgeois Switzerland, in her imperialist environment, without a socialist revolution (which, of course, is nonsense that we all unanimously repudiate).

With Party greetings,
N. Lenin

Wl. Uljanow.
Spiegelgasse 14II (bei Kammerer). Zürich I.


[1] Schmid, Arthur (b. 1889)—Swiss bourgeois economist.

[2] The arguments Schmid advanced in his speech of November 30, 1916, at a meeting of Swiss Social-Democrats who supported the Zimmerwald Left. The meeting discussed the question of preparing a draft resolution for the forthcoming Extraordinary Congress of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party on the socialists’ attitude to militarism and the war.

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