V. I.   Lenin

Theses on the Attitude of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party Towards the War[1]

Written: Written in German in early December 1916
Published: First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII. Translated from the German. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 149-151.
Translated: M. S. Levin, The Late Joe Fineberg and and Others
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 2002 (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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1. The present world war is an imperialist war waged for the political and economic exploitation of the world, for markets, raw material sources and new spheres of capital investment, oppression of weak nations, etc.

The “defence of the fatherland” phraseology of the two warring coalitions is no more than a bourgeois deception of the peoples.

2. The Swiss Government is the steward of the Swiss bourgeoisie, which is wholly dependent upon international finance capital and intimately associated with the imperialist bourgeoisie of the Great Powers.

It is therefore no accident, but an inevitable result of these economic facts, that the Swiss Government is from day to day—and this has been so for decades—conducting an increasingly reactionary policy and secret diplomacy, hampering and violating the people’s democratic rights and freedoms, kow-towing to the military clique and systematically and shamelessly sacrificing the interests of the broad masses to the interests of a handful of financial magnates.

Switzerland may at any moment be drawn into the present war as a result of this dependence of her bourgeois government on the interests of the financial oligarchy, and of powerful pressure by one or another of the imperialist coalitions.

3. Consequently, in relation to Switzerland, too, “defence of the fatherland” is now no more than a hypocritical phrase. For in reality it is not a question of defending democracy, independence or the interests of the broad popular masses,   etc., but, on the contrary, of preparing to hurl the workers and small peasants into the holocaust in order to maintain the monopoly and privileges of the bourgeoisie, of strengthening capitalist domination and political reaction.

4. Proceeding from these facts, the Swiss Social-Democratic Party rejects “defence of the fatherland” on principle, demands immediate demobilisation and calls on the working class to reply to the bourgeoisie’s war preparations and to war itself, should it break out, with the sharpest methods of proletarian class struggle.

Among these methods the following should be especially urged:

(a) Rejection of civil peace, sharper principled struggle against all bourgeois parties, and also against the Grütli Verein as an organisation of agents of the bourgeoisie within the workers’ movement, and against Grütli trends within the Socialist Party.

(b) Rejection of all war credits, no matter under what pretext requested, both in peace-time and war-time.

(c) Support of all revolutionary movements and every struggle of the working class of the belligerent countries against the war and against their own governments.

(d) Assistance to the revolutionary mass struggle within Switzerland—strikes, demonstrations, armed rising against the bourgeoisie.

(e) Systematic propaganda among the armed forces, establishment for this purpose of special Social-Democratic groups in the army and among conscription-age youth.

(f) Establishment by the working class of illegal organisations in retaliation to every government curtailment or repeal of political freedoms.

(g) Systematic preparation, through regular and consistent explanatory work among the workers, of a situation in which the leadership of all workers’ and office employees’ organisations without exception would pass into the hands of persons who accept and are capable of conducting this struggle against the war.

5. The Party’s aim in the revolutionary mass struggle, adopted at the 1915 Party Congress in Aarau, is a socialist revolution in Switzerland. Economically, this can be carried out immediately. Socialist revolution offers the only   effective means of liberating the masses from the horror of high prices and hunger. It is being brought nearer as a result of the crisis that has gripped the whole of Europe. It is absolutely necessary for the complete elimination of militarism and war.

The Party declares that all bourgeois pacifist and socialist pacifist phrases against militarism and war that fail to accept this goal and the revolutionary means of achieving it, are illusions or lies and can only have the effect of diverting the working class from any serious struggle against the foundations of capitalism.

Without ceasing its fight to improve the position of the wage-slaves, the Party calls upon the working class and its representatives to put on the order of the day propaganda for an immediate socialist revolution in Switzerland. This should be done through mass agitation, speeches in Parliament, legislative proposals, etc., proving the need to replace the bourgeois government by a proletarian government relying on the support of the mass of the propertyless population, and explaining the imperative need for such measures as expropriation of the banks and big industries, repeal of all indirect taxes, introduction of a single direct tax with revolutionary-high tax-rates for big incomes, etc.


[1] These theses and several other items in this volume (“Principles Involved in the War Issue”; “An Open Letter to Charles Name”; “Twelve Brief Theses on H. Greulich’s Defence of Fatherland Defence”; “Imaginary or Real Marsh?”; “Proposed Amendments to the Resolution on the War Issue”; “The Story of One Short Period in the Life of One Socialist Party”) were written in connection with the discussion of the war issue in the Swiss Social-Democratic Party.

In August 1916 the party Executive decided to call an emergency congress for February 11–12, 1917 to discuss the war issue. The Zurich Congress (November 4–5, 1916) endorsed that decision and am pointed a commission to draw up draft resolutions for the emergency congress.

The commission framed two drafts: the majority draft, based on Grimm’s Centrist theses, published in July 1916, and the minority social-chauvinist draft which called on Social-Democrats to “defend the fatherland” in the event of Switzerland entering the war.

Lenin, who was closely associated with the Swiss Left, was well informed of the commission’s activities. His “Theses on the Attitude of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party Towards the War” were written to help the Swiss Left. Lenin drew up several variants and drafts, devoting special attention to practical proposals, before working out the final text.

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