V. I.   Lenin

An Open Letter to Charles Naine, Member of the International Socialist Committee in Berne

Published: First published in the magazine Proletarskaya Revolutsia No. 4 (27), 1924. Written December 26–27, 1916. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 220-228.
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.README

Dear Comrade,

The stand taken by Mr. National Councillor Robert Grimm at the meeting of the Party Executive on January 7, jointly with all the social-nationalists and to a considerable degree as their leader, in favour of the resolution to postpone the party congress fills the cup of patience to overflowing and utterly exposes Mr. National Councillor Grimm in his true colours.

The chairman of the International Socialist Committee elected at Zimmerwald, the chairman of the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences, the most “authoritative” representative, in the eyes of the whole world, of the entire Zimmerwald group, comes out together with, and at the head of, the social-patriots as a downright traitor to Zimmerwald. He puts forth a proposal designed to disrupt the party congress, appointed long ago for the express purpose of deciding, in the freest and—considering the place and time—most internationally influential European country, the question of defending the fatherland in an imperialist war!!

Can one remain silent? Gait one remain calm in the face of such a fact, which would have for ever disgraced the entire Zimmerwald movement, and converted it into a farce, had not the mask been torn from the face of Mr. National Councillor Grimm?

The Socialist Party of Switzerland is the only European socialist party which openly and officially, in open congress, unhindered by military censorship and the military authorities,   joined Zimmerwald, supported it, appointed two members of the International Socialist Committee and appeared before the whole world as the principal representative of the Zimmerwald movement, if we do not count the Italian party, which is in an immeasurably more difficult position owing to the oppressive war conditions. At its Zurich Congress of November 4–5, 1916, after delays caused, among other things, by the struggle against the avowed social-patriots who only in the autumn of 1916 broke away from the party to form a separate Grütli-Verein, the Socialist Party finally decided to convene a special party congress in Berne, in February 1917, to decide the questions of war and of fatherland defence. But now some individuals in the party are determined to prevent the congress, to disrupt it, to prevent the workers themselves from discussing and deciding, during the war, their attitude towards militarism and defence of the fatherland.

At the head of those individuals, whose policy is an out rage to the whole Zimmerwald movement, we find the chairman of the International Socialist Committee!

Is this not the utter betrayal of Zimmerwald? Is it not the spurning of all the Zimmerwald decisions?

We have only to glance at some of the official arguments to justify postponing the congress to understand the point and purpose of this move.

The workers,” we are told, “are not yet ready” to decide this question!

All the Zimmerwald and Kienthal manifestos and resolutions declare over and over again that fatherland defence in an imperialist war, a war between two imperialist coalitions, a war for robbing colonies and throttling weak nations, is a betrayal of socialism, irrespective of whether this relates to the “Great Powers” or to small nations, which for the time being have retained their neutrality. In dozens of ways this idea is repeated in all the official Zimmerwald and Kienthal documents. It has been presented and argued over and over again in hundreds of articles and reports in all Swiss socialist papers, notably in the Berner Tagwacht, of which Mr. National Councillor Grimm is editor. The declarations of sympathy for Karl Liebknecht, Höglund, MacLean, etc., emphasised hundreds of times the conviction common to   all the Zimmerwaldists, namely, that these men have rightly understood the position and interests of the masses, that the sympathy of the masses, i.e., of the majority of the oppressed and exploited, is on their side, that by its class instinct the proletariat everywhere, in “Great” belligerent Germany, as well as in small neutral Sweden, is coming to see that defence of the fatherland in an imperialist war is the betrayal of socialism.

And now the chairman of the International Socialist Committee, with the enthusiastic approval and warm support of all the pronounced representatives of social-patriotism in the Socialist Party of Switzerland—H. Greulich, P. Pflüger, Huber, Manz-Schäppi, etc., etc.—comes forth with the hypocritical and false argument that the party congress is being postponed because “the workers are not yet ready”.

This is a lie; it is disgusting, intolerable hypocrisy. Everyone knows—and the Grütlianer openly publishes this bitter truth—that the congress is being postponed because these social-patriots are afraid of the workers, afraid that the workers will decide against defence of the father land; that they threaten to resign their seats in the Nationalrat, if a decision against defence of the fatherland is carried. The social-patriot “leaders” of the Socialist Party of Switzerland, who even now, two and a half years after the beginning of the war, favour “defence of the fatherland”, i.e., defence of the imperialist bourgeoisie of one or the other coalition, have decided to disrupt the congress, to sabotage the will of the Swiss socialist workers, to prevent them from discussing and determining, during the war, their attitude towards the war, towards the “defenders of the fatherland”, i.e., towards the lackeys of the imperialist bourgeoisie.

This is the real reason, which everyone knows perfectly well, why the congress has been postponed; this is a betrayal of Zimmerwald by the chairman of the International Socialist Committee, who has deserted to the side of the social-patriots in the Socialist Party of Switzerland, against the class-conscious workers of Switzerland!

Such is the bitter truth. It has already been told by the avowedly social-patriot Grütlianer, which, incidentally, is always best informed about what the Grütlian leaders,   Greulich, Pflüger, Huber Manz-Schäppi and Co., inside the Socialist Party are thinking and doing. Incidentally, three days before the meeting of January 7, 1917, this paper wrote: [1]

Another “official” reason for postponing the congress is that the commission specially elected in December, or even November, 1916, to frame the resolution on the war question, “failed to arrive at a unanimous decision”!!

As if Grimm and Co. did not know beforehand that unanimity on such a question was impossible in the Socialist Party of Switzerland as long as there remained such “leaders” as Greulich, Pflüger, G. Muller, Huber, Manz-Schäppi, Otto Lang and others, who while not joining the social-patriot Grütli party fully share the social-patriot views of the Grütli-Verein, and who only deceive the socialist workers by belonging to the Socialist Party!

As if Grimm and Co. did not clearly see in the summer of 1916 that there was no unity, nor could there be, on the defence of the fatherland issue: for the social-patriot theses of Pflüger, G. Muller and others were published in the summer of 1916, and Grimm, being a member of the Nationalrat, naturally could not help noting thousands of times the social-patriot views at least of Greulich and Co., if not of the majority of the Nationalrat Social-Democratic group.

Grimm and Co. want to deceive the socialist workers of Switzerland. That is why, in appointing a commission, they did not publish the names of its members. But the Grütlianer told the truth when it published those names and added, as something taken for granted, as a generally accepted truth, that such a commission could not arrive at a unanimous decision!

To deceive the workers, Grimm and Co. decided not to publish the commission resolutions immediately; they concealed the truth from the workers. Yet the resolutions have been available for a long time, and have even been printed confidentially!!

As was only to be expected, the resolution accepting “defence of the fatherland”, i.e., justifying the betrayal of socialism during a war whose imperialist character has been exposed a thousand times, is signed by Huber, Pflüger,   Klöti and G. Muller; the resolution rejecting “defence of the fatherland” is signed by Nobs, Affolter, Schmid, Name and Graber.

Grimm and the social-patriots are playing a disgraceful, unscrupulous game with the socialist workers.

The workers are not yet ready, they shout, and yet at the very same time, these leaders conceal from the workers available resolutions which definitely place before the workers two sets of ideas, two irreconcilable policies, the social-patriot and the Zimmerwald policies!!

Grimm and the social-patriots are brazen deceivers of the workers, for it is they who have decided to disrupt the congress, withhold publication of the resolutions, deny the workers the opportunity openly to weigh and discuss the two policies—and yet they shout that the workers “are not yet ready”!

Other “official” arguments for postponing the congress: the need to combat the high cost of living, conduct the election campaign, etc.

These arguments are a sheer insult to the workers. Who does not know that we Social-Democrats are not against the struggle for reforms, that, unlike the social-patriots, unlike the opportunists and reformists, we do not confine ourselves to the struggle for reforms, but subordinate it to the struggle for revolution? Who does not know that this is exactly the policy repeatedly formulated in the Zimmerwald and Kienthal manifestos? We are not opposed to elections and reforms aimed at reducing the high cost of living, but our first concern is openly to tell the masses the truth, namely, that it is impossible to eliminate high living costs without expropriating the banks and big industry, i.e., without social revolution.

What does every Zimmerwald manifesto call upon the proletariat to do in retaliation to the war, in connection with the war?

It calls for revolutionary mass struggle, for the workers to turn their weapons against the enemy in their own country (see the last International Socialist Committee manifesto: An die Arbeiterklasse,[2] end of December 1916), i.e., to turn   their weapons against their own bourgeoisie, their own government.

Should this not make it clear to every thinking person that the policy of repudiating defence of the fatherland is linked with the really revolutionary and really socialist struggle against the high cost of living, with a really socialist, and not bourgeois-reformist, utilisation of the election campaign?

Is it not clear that the social-patriot policy, the “fatherland defence” policy in the imperialist war, is the policy of reformism, i.e., a bourgeois-reformist and not a socialist struggle against high prices, merely an election campaign struggle?

How is it possible to “postpone” a congress which is to decide the “defence of the fatherland” issue (i.e., to choose between social-patriot and socialist policy) “on the plea” that it is necessary to combat high prices, etc.?? Grimm and the social-patriots advance this false and fraudulent argument to obscure from the workers the truth that they want to combat high living costs, conduct the election campaign, etc., in a bourgeois-reformist spirit and not in the Zimmerwald spirit.

On August 6, 1916, Grimm addressed a meeting in Zurich of 115 Arbeitervertrauensleute aus der ganzen Schweiz.[3] His speech was a plea for a bourgeois-reformist, purely reformist, struggle against the high cost of living! Grimm is marching “with sure step” to his goal, i.e., to rapprochement with the social-patriots against the socialist workers, against Zimmerwald.

Particularly disgusting in all this is the fact that Grimm covers up his desertion to the social-patriots by roundly abusing the non-Swiss social-patriots. And in this lies one of the deepest roots of Grimm’s treachery, one of the deepest sources of the whole policy of deception which was revealed on January 7, 1917.

Look at the Berner Tagwacht. It has heaped every manner of abuse on the Russian, French, English, German and Austrian social-patriots—in short, on everyone ... except the Swiss! Grimm has even called the German social-patriot   Ebert, a member of the German Social-Democratic Party Executive, “einen Rausschmeisser in einen Bordell”[4] (Berner Tagwacht No. ...).

Brave fellow, this Grimm, a knightly warrior! Sitting in Berne, he bravely attacks the social-patriots ... in Berlin! But this knight maintains a noble reticence about the social-patriots ... in Berne and Zurich!

But is there any difference between Ebert in Berlin and Greulich, Manz-Schäppi and Pflüger in Zurich, and Gustav Muller, Schneeberger and Dürr in Berne? None whatever. They are all social-patriots. They all share exactly the same views. The ideas they bring the masses are “Grütlian”, i.e., reformist, nationalist, bourgeois, ideas, not socialist ideas.

When Grimm drew up his theses on the war issue in the summer of 1916, he deliberately made them long and vague in the hope that this would deceive both the Left and the Bight and enable him to “cash in” on their differences. He concluded the theses with the following sentence:

The party and trade union organs should reach agreement” (in the event of a war danger and the need for revolutionary mass action).

But who is at the head of the trade unions in Switzerland? Among others, the very Schneeberger and Dürr who in the summer of 1916 were the editors of the Schweizerische Metallarbeiterzeitung.[5] They conducted this paper in a reactionary, reformist, social-patriot spirit, openly declaring that they stood for “defence of the fatherland”, and openly protesting against the whole policy of Zimmerwald.

And at the head of the Socialist Party of Switzerland, as the events of January 7, 1917 reaffirmed, are the social-patriots Greulich, Pflüger, Manz-Schäppi, Huber, etc., etc.

And so, what is the net result?

It amounts to this: in his theses Grimm proposed that the party place the leadership of revolutionary mass actions against the war in the hands of none other than the social-patriots Schneeberger, Dürr, Greulich, Pflüger and Co.! In the hands of the very people who are opposed to such actions, in the hands of reformists!!

Now, after January 7, 1917, Grimm’s “tactics” have been fully exposed.

He wants to be regarded as leader of the Left, as chair man of the International Socialist Committee, representative and leader of the Zimmerwaldists. He is trying to deceive the workers with the most “r-r-revolutionary” phrases, using them, in reality, to conceal the party’s old, social-patriot, bourgeois-reformist practice.

He vows and swears that he sympathises with Karl Liebknecht, Höglund, etc., that he is their supporter, that he is pursuing their policy.

But Karl Liebknecht in Germany, Höglund in small neutral Sweden, fought not against foreign, but against their own social-patriots. They attacked the reformists and nationalists at home, in Berlin, in Stockholm, not in other countries. Their ruthless exposure of the social-patriots won them the honour of being hated by the Berlin and Stockholm Greulichs, Pflügers, Schneebergers and Dürrs.

Is it so difficult to realise that when the French chauvinists laud the German Liebknecht, and when the German chauvinists laud the Englishman MacLean, they are behaving like swindlers—using “internationalist” phrases in praise of other people’s internationalism to cover up their own nationalism? Is it so difficult to realise that Grimm is behaving in the very same manner when he pours abuse on the social-patriots of all countries except Switzerland, that he does this for the express purpose of covering up his desertion to the Swiss social-patriots?

Grimm denounced the German social-patriot Ebert as a “Rausschmeisser in einem Bordell” for having stolen the Vorwärts from the German workers, for ejecting Left wingers from the party while shouting about a split.

But what is Grimm doing at home, in Switzerland, in company with the dismal heroes of dismal January 7, 1917?

Did, he not steal from the Swiss workers the solemnly promised special congress to discuss the fatherland defence issue? And is he not preparing to expel Zimmerwaldists from the party while shouting about a split?

Let us not be childishly naïve, let us squarely face the truth!

At the January 7 meeting, Grimm’s new friends and patrons, the social-patriots, joined him in protesting against a   split. They especially accused the youth organisation of splitting activities. One of them shouted to the party secretary, Platten, “Er sei kein Parteisekretär, er sei Parteiverräter.”[6]

Can one remain silent when such things are being said and when the “leaders” want to hide them from the party? Can it be that the Swiss socialist workers will not protest against such methods?

What crime have the Youth League and Platten committed? Their only crime is that they are sincere adherents of Zimmerwald, sincere Zimmerwaldists, and not careerists. Their only crime is that they are opposed to postponing the congress. And if scandal-mongers say that only the Zimmerwald Left, acting as a separate faction, is opposed to the postponement of the congress, “opposed to His Majesty Grimm” in general, has not January 7, 1917 proved that this is nothing but idle gossip? Have not you, Comrade Name, spoken in opposition to Grimm, although you have never, either directly or indirectly, formally or informally, adhered to the Zimmerwald Left?

Causing a split! That is the truly threadbare accusation the social-patriots in all countries are making in order to cover up the fact that they are ejecting the Liebknechts and the Höglunds from the party.


[1] In Lenin’s manuscript space is left for a quotation.—Ed.

[2] To the Working Class.—Ed.

[3] Workers’ delegates from all parts of Switzerland.[7]Ed.

[4] A “bouncer” in a brothel.—Ed.

[5] Swiss Metalworkers Gazette.—Ed.

[6]He is not a party secretary, he is a party traitor.”—Ed.

[7] The allusion is to the conference of 115 representatives of Swiss labour organisations held in Zurich on August 6, 1916 to discuss the situation created by rising living costs. The main report was made by Grimm. The resolution and a brief account of the conference were published in Volksrecht, August 8, 1916 (No. 183), under the heading “Die schweizerische Arbeiterschaft und die Teuerung” (“The Swiss Workers and Rising Living Costs”). The conference appeal to the National Council was published in Volksrecht of August 10 (No. 185) under the heading “Massnahmen gegen die Teuerung” (“Measures Against Rising Living Costs”).

< backward   forward >
Works Index   |   Volume 23 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index