V. I.   Lenin

Theses for an Appeal to the International Socialist Committee and All Socialist Parties[7]


Published: First published in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII. Written before December 25, 1916 (January 7, 1917). Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 205-216.
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 turn in world politics, from imperialist war to open appeals by a number of bourgeois governments for an imperialist peace, coincides with a turn in the development of world socialism.

2. The first turn has produced a spate of pious and sentimental pacifist phrases, promises and pledges, with which the imperialist bourgeoisie and the imperialist governments seek to deceive the peoples and “peacefully” condition them to obediently bear the whole cost of the predatory war, peacefully disarm the millions of proletarians and cover up, by paltry concessions, the preparation for a deal to divide up the colonies and financially (also politically if possible) strangle weak nations. This deal comprises the sum and substance of the projected imperialist peace and is a direct continuation of the existing secret predatory agreements, particularly those concluded during the war, between all the powers of both warring imperialist coalitions.

3.[1] The second turn consists in a “reconciliation” between the social-chauvinists, who have betrayed socialism and defected to bourgeois nationalism or imperialism, and the Zimmerwald Right wing, as represented by Kautsky and Co. in Germany, Turati and Co. in Italy, Longuet Pressemane-Merrheim in France, etc. By uniting on a basis of empty, meaningless and non-committal pacifist phrases,   which in practice serve to disguise imperialist policy and imperialist peace, embellish them instead of exposing them, these two trends are taking a decisive step towards the greatest deception of the workers, towards consolidating the domination in the labour movement of a bourgeois labour policy veiled by socialist phraseology, the domination of leaders and privileged sections of the working class that have helped the governments and The bourgeoisie wage this predatory imperialist war on the plea of “defending the fatherland”.

4. Social-pacifist policy, or the policy of social-pacifist phraseology, now predominates in the socialist parties of the chief European countries (see Kautsky’s five pacifist articles in the German Social-Democratic press and, appearing at the same time, the statement of the social-imperialist leaders in the Chemnitz Volksstimme that they are fully prepared for peace and unity with the Kautskyites on a basis of pacifist phrases; the January 7,1917 pacifist manifesto of the German Kautskyite opposition; the Longuetists and Renaudel and Co. voting together at the French Socialist Party Congress, and Jouhaux and Merrheim, also Broutchoux, at the General Confederation of Labour Congress, for resolutions composed of misleading pacifist phrases; a similar pacifist statement by Turati on December 17, 1916, and the defence of his position by the entire Socialist Party of Italy). Whatever the terms of the peace now being prepared between the present, i.e., bourgeois, governments of both imperialist coalitions, this policy signifies the conversion of socialist and syndicalist (Jouhaux and Merrheim) organisations into a tool of government intrigue and secret imperialist diplomacy.

5. The possible terms of the peace now being prepared by the bourgeois governments of both imperialist coalitions are in reality determined by the altered balance of forces which the war has already produced and might still produce. In their basic and principal features the changes are as follows: (a) the German imperialist coalition has up to now proved much stronger than its adversary. The territories occupied by German and German-allied forces are its guarantee in a new imperialist division of the world (colonies, weak countries, finance capital’s spheres of   influence, etc.), which will merely be formalised by the peace treaty; (b) the British imperialist coalition hopes to improve its military position in the spring; but (c) the exhaustion caused by the war and, chiefly, the fact that it is hard for the financial oligarchy to rob the peoples still more than it has already done through unparalleled “war profits”, is giving rise, in connection with the fear of proletarian revolution, to attempts by some bourgeois circles to end the war as soon as possible through a deal between the two groups of imperialist freebooters; (d) there is a noticeable shift in world politics from the Anglo-Russian coalition against Germany towards a coalition (just as imperialist in nature) of Germany and Russia against England. The basis for this is that tsarism has not the strength to seize Constantinople, promised it in the secret treaties with France, England, Italy, etc., and is therefore seeking compensation in a division of Galicia, Armenia and, possibly, Rumania, etc., and also in an alliance with Germany against England for the plunder of Asia; (e) another major change in world politics is the tremendous enrichment, at Europe’s expense, of United States finance capital, which has latterly increased its armaments (just like Japanese imperialism, which is much weaker) to unprecedented proportions, and which would be only too glad to divert the attention of “its” workers from these armaments by cheap pacifist phraseology ... relating to Europe!

6. Out of fear of proletarian revolution, the bourgeoisie finds itself compelled in every possible way to conceal and embellish this objective political situation, this imperialist reality. It Is trying to dupe the workers, divert their attention, and the best means to that end is the customary diplomatic duplicity of non-committal, hypocritical phrases about a “democratic” peace, freedom for small nations “in general”, “armaments restriction”, etc. This duping of the people comes all the easier to the imperialist bourgeoisie because, when it speaks of, say, “peace without annexations” every bourgeoisie has in view annexations by its adversary, and is “modestly reticent” about annexations it itself has already made. The Germans “forget” that they have factually annexed not only Constantinople, Belgrade, Bucharest, Brussels, but also Alsace-Lorraine, part of   Schleswig, Prussian Poland, etc. Tsarism and its flunkeys, the Russian imperialist bourgeois (Plekhanov, Potresov and their ilk included, i.e., the majority of the Organising Committee party in Russia), “forget” that Russia has annexed not only Erserum and part of Galicia, but also Finland, the Ukraine, etc. The French bourgeoisie “forgets” that, together with the English, it has robbed Germany of her colonies. The Italian bourgeoisie “forgets” that it is robbing Tripoli, Dalmatia, Albania, and so on without end.

7. That being the objective state of affairs, it is the obvious and imperative task of every sincere socialist policy, every honest proletarian policy (not to speak of conscious Marxist policy) first of all and above all consistently, systematically, boldly and unreservedly to expose the pacifist and democratic hypocrisy of one’s own government and one’s own bourgeoisie. Lacking that, all talk of socialism, syndicalism, internationalism is a sheer deception of the people. For exposure of annexations by one’s imperialist rivals (regardless of whether they are named or merely implied, by denouncing annexations “generally” or by similar “diplomatic” methods of concealing one’s thoughts) Is the direct concern, the direct business, of all venal journalists, all imperialists, including those that parade, as socialists, such as Scheidemann and Co., Sembat and Co., Plekhanov and Co., etc.

8. Turati and Co., Kautsky and Co., Longuet and Merrheim and Co. utterly fail to understand that this is their direct duty. They represent a definite trend in international socialism and, objectively, in practice—regardless of how supremely virtuous their intentions may be—are simply helping their “own” imperialist bourgeoisie to dupe the people, embellish its imperialist aims. These social-pacifists, i.e., socialists in words and vehicles of bourgeois-pacifist hypocrisy in deeds, now play exactly the same part as the Christian priests, who for centuries sought to embellish the policy of the oppressing classes—the slave-owners, feudals and capitalists—and make their rule acceptable to the oppressed classes by preaching Christian love of one’s neighbour and Christ’s commandments.

9. A policy designed not to mislead the workers, but to open their eyes to reality, should consist in the following:

(a) Socialists in every country must now, when the question of peace is so directly posed, unfailingly and more vigorously than usual expose their own government and their own bourgeoisie. They must expose the secret agreements they have concluded, and are concluding, with their imperialist allies for the division of colonies, spheres of influence, joint financial undertakings in other countries, buying up of shares, monopoly arrangements, concessions, etc.

For in this, and in this alone, lies the real, not deceptive, basis and substance of the imperialist peace now being prepared. Everything else is meant to deceive the people. Those who vow and swear by these catchwords are not really supporting a democratic peace without annexations, etc., for real support means exposing, in practice, one’s own bourgeoisie, which by its actions is destroying these great principles of true socialism and true democracy.

For every member of parliament, every editor, every secretary of a labour union, every journalist and public leader can always gather the information kept secret by the government and the financiers that reveals the truth about the real basis of imperialist deals. A socialist’s failure to fulfil this duty is a betrayal of socialism. There need be no doubt that no government will allow, especially now, free publication of exposures of its real policy, its treaties, financial deals, etc. That is no reason to renounce such exposures. Rather it is a reason to renounce servile submission to the censorship and publish the facts freely, i.e., uncensored, illegally.

For the Socialist of another country cannot expose the government and bourgeoisie of a country at war with “his own” nation, and not only because he does not know that country’s language, history, specific features, etc., but also because such exposure is part of imperialist intrigue, and not an internationalist duty.

He is not an internationalist who vows and swears by internationalism. Only he is an internationalist who in a really internationalist way combats his own bourgeoisie, his own social-chauvinists, his own Kautskyites.

(b) In every country the Socialist must above all emphasise in all his propaganda the need to distrust not only every political phrase of his own government, but also every   political phrase of his own social-chauvinists, who in reality serve that government.

(c) In every country the Socialists must above all explain to the masses the indisputable truth that a genuinely enduring and genuinely democratic peace (without annexations, etc.) can now be achieved only if it is concluded not by the present bourgeois governments, or by bourgeois governments in general, but by proletarian governments that have overthrown the rule of the bourgeoisie and are proceeding to expropriate it.

The war has reaffirmed clearly enough and in a very practical way a truth which prior to the war was repeated by all the socialist leaders who have now gone over to the bourgeoisie, namely, that modern capitalist society, particularly[2] in the advanced countries, has fully matured for the transition to socialism, if, for instance, Germany can direct the economic life of 66 million people from a single centre, and strain the people’s energies to wage a predatory war in the interests of 100 or 200 financial magnates or aristocrats, the monarchy, etc., then the same can be done, in the interests of nine-tenths of the population, by the non-propertied masses if their struggle is directed by class-conscious workers, liberated from social-imperialist and social-pacifist influence.

All propaganda for socialism must be refashioned from abstract and general to concrete and directly practical: expropriate the banks and, relying on the masses, carry out in their interests the very same thing the W.U.M.B.A.[3] is carrying out in Germany!

(d) In every country the socialist must explain to the masses the indisputable truth that, if the phrase “democratic peace” is to be taken seriously, sincerely and honestly, and not merely used as a false Christian phrase meant to conceal an imperialist peace, then the workers have only one means of really achieving such a peace right now. That means is to turn their weapons against their own government (i.e., follow the advice of Karl Liebknecht, for which he has been   sentenced to hard labour. He urged, in other words, what our Party manifesto of November 1, 1914[4] defined as turning the imperialist war into a civil war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie and for socialism).

The Basle Manifesto of November 24, 1912, signed by all the socialist parties, had in view the very war that is now raging. And when it threatened the governments with “proletarian revolution” in connection with the imminent war, when it referred to the Paris Commune, it spoke the truth, a truth from which the betrayers of socialism are now cowardly retreating. For if in 1871 the Paris workers could utilise the excellent weapons given them by Napoleon III in pursuance of his ambitious plans, to make their heroic attempt, admired by socialists the world over, to over throw bourgeois rule and capture power for the introduction of socialism—then a similar attempt is a thousand times more achievable, possible and likely to succeed now, when a much larger number of better organised and more class-conscious workers of several countries are in possession of much better weapons, and when with every passing day the course of the war is enlightening and revolutionising the masses. In all countries the chief obstacle to initiating systematic propaganda and agitation in this spirit is definitely not the “fatigue of the masses”, as the Scheidemanns plus Kautsky, etc., falsely plead. The “masses” are not yet tired of shooting and will continue to shoot even more in the spring, unless their class enemies come to some arrangement about dividing up Turkey, Rumania, Armenia, Africa, etc. The chief obstacle is the faith part of the class-conscious workers have in the social-imperialists and social-pacifists. Today’s major task must be to destroy the faith in these trends, ideas, methods of policy.

To what extent such an attempt is feasible, from the standpoint of the sentiment of the broad masses, can only be proved by launching this type of agitation and propaganda everywhere and in the most resolute and energetic way; by giving the most sincere and devoted support to all revolutionary manifestations of the mounting mass resentment, to the strikes and demonstrations that are forcing the Russian   bourgeoisie frankly to admit that the revolution is on the march, and have forced Helfferich to declare in the Reichstag: “Better to keep the Left Social-Democrats in prison than to have Potsdam Square littered with corpses,” i.e., to admit that the masses are responding to agitation by the Left.

In any case, the alternative which socialists must clearly place before the masses is this: either continue to kill each other for capitalist profits, put up with the high cost of living, hunger, the burden of a debt running into billions, and accept the farce of an imperialist truce veiled by democratic and reformist promises, or rise in revolt against the bourgeoisie.

A revolutionary party which openly, before the whole world, threatened the governments with “proletarian revolution” in the event of such a war as is now being waged, would be committing moral suicide if it did not urge the workers, and the masses generally, to direct all thought and effort towards revolt, now that the masses are so excellently armed, so excellently trained in the art of warfare, and fed up with the absurdity of this criminal imperialist shambles, which up to now they have been helping.

(e) Socialists must centre their activity on the struggle against reformism, which has always corrupted the revolutionary labour movement by injecting bourgeois ideas, and has now assumed a somewhat special form, namely: “reliance” on the reforms the bourgeoisie is supposed to carry out after the war! Reformists argue that in urging, popularising and preparing the socialist revolution of the proletariat, we are “losing sight” of the “practical” aspect, “forfeiting” our chances to win reforms.

That argument, customary both to social-chauvinists and supporters of Kautsky, who has even denounced street demonstrations as “adventuristic”, is thoroughly unscientific, fundamentally false, a bourgeois lie.

In the course of the war world capitalism has taken a forward step not only towards concentration in general, but also towards transition from monopoly in general to state capitalism on a much broader scale than before. Economic reforms in this direction are inevitable.

In the political sphere, the imperialist war has demonstrated   that from the imperialists’ standpoint it is sometimes much more advantageous to have as war ally a politically independent but financially dependent small nation rather than risk Irish or Czech “incidents” (i.e., uprisings or the defection of whole regiments) during a war. It is quite possible, therefore, that parallel with its policy of strangling small nations—a policy it can never wholly abandon—imperialism will in individual cases follow a policy of “voluntary” alliance (i.e., resulting exclusively from financial strangulation) with new small national states, or with mongrel states, such as Poland.

However, it does not follow from this that Social-Democrats can, without betraying their cause, “vote” for or support such imperialist “reforms”.

Only bourgeois reformism, which in substance is the position of Kautsky, Turati and Merrheim, poses the question thus: either renunciation of revolution and that means reforms, or no reforms at all.

Yet all the experience of world history, like the experience of the 1905 Russian Revolution, teaches us the very opposite: either revolutionary class struggle, of which reforms are always a by-product (when the revolution is not completely successful), or no reforms at all.

For the only effective force that compels change is popular revolutionary energy, providing it does not remain on paper, as has been the case in the Second International, but finds expression in comprehensive mass revolutionary propaganda, agitation and organisation conducted by parties marching at the head of the revolution, not limping along in its tail.

Only by openly proclaiming revolution, by purging the workers’ parties of all who oppose revolution or “sceptically” accept it—only by giving every aspect of party activity a revolutionary content, can Social-Democracy, in such “critical” eras of world history as the present one, guarantee the masses either complete success of their cause if the revolution is supported by very broad masses, or reforms, i.e., concessions by the bourgeoisie, if the revolution is only partially successful.

Otherwise, if the Scheidemann and Kautsky policy prevails, there is no guarantee that the reforms will not be   reduced to naught, or carried out with police and reactionary restrictions that will rule out the very possibility of the proletariat using them in a repeated fight for the revolution.

(f) Socialists must make a serious effort to bring to reality Karl Liebknecht’s slogan. The popularity that name enjoys among the masses is a guarantee that revolutionary activity is both possible and likely to succeed. The attitude of Scheidemann and Co., Kautsky and Co. towards that name is an example of hypocrisy: in words they swear by the “Liebknechts of all countries”; in deeds they combat Liebknecht’s tactics.

Liebknecht broke not only with the Scheidemanns (Renaudels, Plekhanovs, Bissolatis), but also with the Kautsky trend (Longuet, Axelrod, Turati).

Liebknecht declared, as early as October 2, 1914, in his letter to the Party Executive:

Ich habe erklärt, dass die deutsche Partei, nach meiner innersten überzeugung, von der Haut bis zum Mark regeneriert werden muss, wenn sie das Recht nicht verwirken will, sich sozialdemokratisch zu nennen, wenn sie sich die jetzt gründlich verscherzte Achtung der Welt wiedererwerben will.” (Klassenkampf gegen den Krieg! Material zum “Fall Liebknecht”. Seite 22.) (Geheim gedruckt in Deutschland: “Als Manuskript gedruckt”.)[5]

All parties should take up Liebknecht’s slogan and it would certainly be ridiculous to even think of being able to turn it into effect without ridding the party of the Scheidemanns, Legiens, Renaudels, Sembats, Plekhanovs, Vanderveldes and Co., or without denouncing the policy of concessions to the trend represented by Kautsky, Turati, Longuet and Merrheim.

*     *

10. We therefore suggest a conference of Zimmerwald supporters to discuss the following proposals:

(1) Socialist pacifism of a definite trend—Longuet-Merrheim, Kautsky, Turati, et .,—already rejected in principle at Kienthal, and its concrete defence by these representatives of the afore-mentioned trends should be decisively and unconditionally rejected as bourgeois reformism (on the basis of the theses formulated above).

(2) A similarly decisive organisational break with social-chauvinism.

(3) Explain to the working class its immediate and urgent revolutionary tasks, precisely in connection with the fact that the masses have lost patience with the war and the lying milk-and-water pacifist phrases of the bourgeoisie.

(4) Openly brand as a complete break with the spirit and decisions of Zimmerwald and Kienthal, and condemn as such, the policy of the Italian Socialist Party, which is following a patently pacifist path, and the policy of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party, which on November 4, 1916 in Zurich voted to permit indirect taxes, and on January 7, 1917, through an alliance between the “Centrist” R. Grimm and the social-patriots Greulich, G. Müller and Co., secured indefinite postponement of the special party congress called for February 11, 1917 to discuss the war issue, and which now meekly accepts the outright ultimatum of these same social-patriot leaders, who openly threaten to resign from parliament if the party rejects fatherland defence.

The sad experience of the Second International has clearly demonstrated the immense damage caused by combining, in actual practice, “general” revolutionary decisions, formulated in general phrases, with reformist actions—when professions of internationalism are attended by refusal jointly to discuss, in a truly internationalist manner, fundamental problems of the tactics of each individual party as a component part of the international union.

Prior to the Zimmerwald Conference and at the Conference itself, our Party considered it its duty to acquaint the comrades with our irrevocable condemnation of pacifism and abstract preachment of peace as a bourgeois deception (a German translation of our Party’s resolution, in the pamphlet Socialism and War,[6] and a French translation, in a separate   leaflet, were circulated at the Conference). The Zimmerwald Left, in whose organisation we shared, was formed as a separate group at the Conference for the express purpose of showing that we support the Zimmerwald group insofar as it combats social-chauvinism.

It has now been definitely established—of this we are profoundly convinced—that the Zimmerwald majority, or the Zimmerwald Right, has made a roundabout turn not towards struggle against social-chauvinism, but towards complete surrender to it, towards merger with it on a platform of empty pacifist phrases. And we consider it our duty openly to state that to support, in these circumstances, the illusion of Zimmerwald unity and Zimmerwald struggle for the Third International would cause the greatest damage to the labour movement. We declare, not as a “threat” or “ultimatum”, but as an open notification of our decision, that unless the situation changes we shall not remain a member of the Zimmerwald group.


[1] Combine with § 4. —Lenin

[2] In the manuscript, the words “at any rate” are written over the word “particularly”.—Ed.

[3] Waffen- und Munitionsbeschaffungsamt—Weapons and Ammunition Supply Department.—Ed.


[5] I have declared my deep conviction that, if it does not want to forfeit the right to call itself a Social-Democratic party, if it wants to restore its prestige in the eyes of the world, now so thoroughly under mined, the German party must be regenerated from top to bottom.” (Class Struggle Against the War! Materials in the “Liebknecht Case”, p. 22.) (Printed secretly in Germany: Published as a manuscript.)—Ed.


[7] This “rough draft” was written early in January 1917. The manuscript bears this note by Lenin: “(for the I.S.C. and publication in the press)”.

On January 7, 1917, Robert Grimm, the Kautskyite Chairman of the International Socialist Committee, induced the Swiss Social-Democratic Party Executive to postpone indefinitely the emergency party congress on the war issue, despite objections from the Left. On the same day the Centrist opposition in the German Social-Democratic Party held a conference in Berlin and adopted a pacifist manifesto framed by Kautsky, “Ein Friedensmanifest der deutschen Parteiopposition” (“Peace Manifesto of the German Party Opposition”), later published in a number of German newspapers and in the Swiss Socialist Volksrecht of January 11. Since this signified an open alliance of the Right Zimmerwaldists with the social-chauvinists, Lenin altered his draft but decided to postpone its publication. The manuscript bears his note: “Written before January 7, 1917 and therefore partly obsolete.” Later, using the draft as a basis, Lenin wrote his appeal “To the Workers Who Support the Struggle Against the War and Against the Socialists Who Have Sided with Their Governments” (see pp. 229–35 of this volume).

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