V. I.   Lenin

To the Workers Who Support the Struggle Against the War and Against the Socialists Who Have Sided With Their Governments

Published: First published in the magazine Proletarskaya Revolutsia No. 5 (28), 1924. Written at the close of December (old style) 1916. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 229-235.
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.
Other Formats:   TextREADME

The international situation is becoming increasingly clear and increasingly menacing. Both belligerent coalitions have latterly revealed the imperialist nature of the war in a very striking way. The more assiduously the capitalist governments and the bourgeois and socialist pacifists spread their empty, lying pacifist phrases—the talk of a democratic peace, a peace without annexations, etc.—the sooner are they exposed. Germany is crushing several small nations under her iron heel with the very evident determination not to give up her booty except by exchanging part of it for enormous colonial possessions, and she is using hypocritical pacifist phrases as a cover for her readiness to conclude an immediate imperialist peace.

England and her allies are clinging just as tightly to the colonies seized from Germany, part of Turkey, etc., claiming that in endlessly continuing the slaughter for possession of Constantinople, strangulation of Galicia, partition of Austria, the ruin of Germany, they are fighting for a “just” peace.

The truth, of which only a few were theoretically convinced at the beginning of the war, is now becoming palpably evident to an increasing number of class-conscious workers, namely, that a serious struggle against the war, a struggle to abolish war and establish lasting peace, is out of ,the question unless there is a mass revolutionary struggle led by the proletariat against the government in every country, unless bourgeois rule is overthrown, unless a socialist revolution is brought about. And the war itself, which is imposing an unprecedented strain upon the peoples, is bringing mankind   to this, the only way out of the impasse, is compelling it to take giant strides towards state capitalism, and is demonstrating in a practical manner how planned social economy can and should be conducted, not in the interests of the capitalists, but by expropriating them, under the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat, in the interests of the masses who are now perishing from starvation and the other calamities caused by the war.

The more obvious this truth becomes, the wider becomes the gulf separating the two irreconcilable tendencies, policies, trends of socialist activity, which we indicated at Zimmerwald, where we acted as a separate Left wing, and in a manifesto to all socialist parties and to all class—conscious workers issued on behalf of the Left wing immediately after the conference. This is the gulf that lies between the attempts to conceal the obvious bankruptcy of official socialism and its representatives’ desertion to the bourgeoisie and their governments, as well as the attempts to reconcile the masses with this complete betrayal of socialism, on the one hand, and, on the other, the efforts to expose this bankruptcy in all its magnitude, to expose the bourgeois policy of the “social-patriots”, who have deserted the proletariat for the bourgeoisie, to destroy their influence over the masses and to create the possibility and the organisational basis for a genuine struggle against the war.

The Zimmerwald Right wing, which was in the majority at the conference, fought the idea of breaking with the social-patriots and founding the Third International tooth and nail. Since then the split has become a definite fact in England; and in Germany the last conference of the “opposition”, on January 7, 1917, revealed to all who do not wilfully shut their eyes to the facts, that in that country too there are two irreconcilably hostile labour parties,, working in opposite directions. One is a socialist party, working for the most part underground, and with Karl Liebknecht one of its leaders. The other is a thoroughly bourgeois, social-patriot party, which is trying to reconcile the workers to the war and to the government. The same division is to be observed in every country of the world.

At the Kienthal Conference the Zimmerwald Right wing did not have so large a majority as to be able to continue its   own policy. It voted for the resolution against the social-patriot International Socialist Bureau, a resolution which condemned the latter in the sharpest terms, and for the resolution against social-pacifism, which warned the workers against lying pacifist phrases, regardless of socialist trimmings. Socialist pacifism, which refrains from explaining to the workers the illusory nature of hopes for peace without overthrowing the bourgeoisie and organising socialism, is merely an echo of bourgeois pacifism, which instils in the workers faith in the bourgeoisie, presents the imperialist governments and the deals they make with each other in a good light and distracts the masses from the maturing socialist revolution, which events have put on the order of the day.

But what transpired? After the Kienthal Conference, the Zimmerwald Right, in a number of important countries, in France, Germany and Italy, slid wholly and entirely into the very social-pacifism Kienthal bad condemned and reject ed! In Italy, the Socialist Party has tacitly accepted the pacifist phrases of its parliamentary group and its principal speaker, Turati, though, precisely now, when absolutely the same phrases are being used by Germany and the Entente and by representatives of the bourgeois governments of a number of neutral countries, where the bourgeoisie has accumulated and continues to accumulate enormous war profits—precisely now their titter falsehood has been exposed. In fact, pacifist phrases have proved to be a cover for the new turn in the fight for division of imperialist spoils!

In Germany, Kautsky, the leader of the Zimmerwald Right, issued a similar meaningless and non-committal pacifist manifesto, which merely instils in the workers hope in the bourgeoisie and faith in illusions. Genuine socialists, the genuine internationalists in Germany, the Internationale group and the International Socialists of Germany, who are applying Karl Liebknecht’s tactics in practice, were obliged formally to dissociate themselves from this manifesto.

In France, Merrheim and Bourderon, who took part in the Zimmerwald Conference, and Raffin-Dugens, who took part in the Kienthal Conference, have voted for meaningless and, objectively, thoroughly false pacifist resolutions, which, in the present state of affairs, are so much to the advantage of   the imperialist bourgeoisie that even Jouhaux and Renaudel, denounced as betrayers of socialism in all the Zimmerwald and Kienthal declarations, voted for them!

That Merrheim voted with Jouhaux and Bourderon and Raffin-Dugens with Renaudel is no accident, no isolated episode. It is a striking symbol of the imminent merger everywhere of the social-patriots and social-pacifists against the international socialists.

The pacifist phrases in the notes of a long list of imperialist governments, the same pacifist phrases uttered by Kautsky, Turati, Bourderon and Merrheim—Renaudel extending a friendly hand to the one and the other—all this exposes pacifism in actual politics as a means of placating the people, as a means of helping the governments to condition the masses to continuation of the imperialist slaughter!

This complete bankruptcy of the Zimmerwald flight has been still more strikingly revealed in Switzerland, the only European country where the Zimmerwaldists could meet freely, and which served as their base. The Socialist Party of Switzerland, which has held its congresses during the war without interference from the government and is in a better position than any other party to promote international solidarity between the German, French and Italian workers against the war, has officially affiliated to Zimmerwald.

And yet, on a decisive question affecting a proletarian party, one of this party’s leaders, the chairman of the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences, a prominent member and representative of the Berne International Socialist Commit tee, National Councillor R. Grimm, deserted to the social-patriots of his country. At the meeting of the Parteivorstand[1] of the Socialist Party of Switzerland on January 7, 1917, he secured the adoption of a decision to postpone indefinitely the party congress, which was to be convened for the express purpose of deciding the fatherland defence issue and the party’s attitude towards the Kienthal Conference decisions condemning social-pacifism.

In a manifesto signed by the International Socialist Committee and dated December 1916, Grimm describes as hypocritical   the pacifist phrases of the governments, but says not a word about the socialist pacifism that unites Merrheim and Jouhaux, Raffin-Dugens and Renaudel. In this manifesto Grimm urges the socialist minorities to fight the governments and their social-patriot hirelings, but at the same time, jointly with the “social-patriot hirelings” in the Swiss party, he endeavours to bury the party congress, thus rousing the just indignation of all the class-conscious and sincerely internationalist Swiss workers.

No excuses can conceal the fact that the Parteivorstand decision of January 7, 1917 signifies the complete victory of the Swiss social-patriots over the Swiss socialist workers, the victory of the Swiss opponents of Zimmerwald over Zimmerwald.

The Grütlianer, that organ of the consistent and avowed servants of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement, said what everyone knows is true when it declared that social-patriots of the Greulich and Pflüger type, to whom should be added Seidel, Huber, Lang, Schneeberger, Dürr, etc., want to prevent the congress from being held, want to prevent the workers from deciding the fatherland defence issue, and threaten to resign if the congress is held and a decision in the spirit of Zimmerwald is adopted.

Grimm resorted to an outrageous and intolerable false hood at the Parteivorstand and in his newspaper, the Berner Tagwacht, of January 8, 1917, when he claimed that the congress bad to he postponed because the workers were not ready, that it was necessary to campaign against the high cost of living, that the “Left” were themselves in favour of postponement, etc.[2]

In reality, it was the Left, i.e., the sincere Zimmerwaldists, who, anxious to choose the lesser of two evils and also to expose the real intentions of the social-patriots and their new friend, Grimm, proposed postponing the congress until March, voted to postpone it until May, and suggested that the meetings of the cantonal committees be held before July; but all these proposals were voted down by the “fatherland defenders”, led by the chairman of the Zimmerwald arid Kienthal conferences, Robert Grimm!!

In reality, the question was: shall the Berne International Socialist Committee and Grimm’s paper he allowed to   hurl abuse at foreign social-patriots and, at first by their silence and then by Grimm’s desertion, shield the Swiss Social patriots; or shall an honest internationalist policy be pursued, a policy of fighting primarily the social-patriots at home?

In reality, the question was: shall the domination of the social-patriots and reformists in the Swiss party he concealed by revolutionary phrases; or shall we oppose to them a revolutionary programme and tactics on the question of combating the high cost of living, as well as of combating the war, of putting on the order of the day the fight for the socialist revolution?

In reality, the question was: shall the worst traditions of the ignominiously bankrupt Second International be continued in Zimmerwald; shall the workers be kept ignorant of the things the party leaders do and say at the Parteivorstand; shall revolutionary phrases be allowed to cover up the vileness of social-patriotism and reformism, or shall we be internationalists in deeds?

In reality, the question was: shall we in Switzerland too, where the party is of primary importance for the whole of the Zimmerwald group, insist upon a clear, principled and politically honest division between the social-patriots and the internationalists, between the bourgeois reformists and the revolutionaries; between the counsellors of the proletariat, who are helping it carry out the socialist revolution, and the bourgeois agents or “hirelings”, who want to divert the workers from revolution by means of reforms or promises of reforms: between the Grütlians and the Socialist Party—or shall we confuse and corrupt the minds of the workers by conducting in the Socialist Party the “Grütlian” policy of the Grütlians, i.e., the social-patriots in the ranks of the Socialist Party?

Let the Swiss social-patriots, those “Grütlians” who want to operate their Grütlian policy, i.e., the policy of their national bourgeoisie, abuse the foreigners, let them defend the “inviolability” of the Swiss party from criticism by other parties, let them champion the old bourgeois-reformist policy, i.e., the very policy that brought on the collapse of the German and other parties on August 4, 1914—we, who adhere to Zimmerwald in deeds and not merely in words, interpret internationalism differently.

We are not prepared passively to regard the efforts, now definitely revealed, and sanctified by the chairman of the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences, to leave everything unchanged in decaying European socialism and, by means of hypocritical professions of solidarity with Karl Liebknecht, to bypass the real slogan of this leader of the international workers, his appeal to work for the “regeneration” of the old parties from “top to bottom”. We are convinced that on our side are all the class-conscious workers in all countries, who enthusiastically greeted Karl Liebknecht and his tactics.

We openly expose the Zimmerwald Right, which has deserted to bourgeois-reformist pacifism.

We openly expose Grimm’s betrayal of Zimmerwald and demand convocation of a conference to remove him from his post on the International Socialist Committee.

The word Zimmerwald is the slogan of international socialism and revolutionary struggle. This word must not serve to shield social-patriotism and bourgeois reformism.

Stand for true internationalism, which calls for the struggle, first of all, against the social-patriots in your own country! Stand for true revolutionary tactics, which are impossible if there is a compromise with the social-patriots against the revolutionary socialist workers!


[1] Executive.—Ed.

[2] The allusion, apparently, is to the editorial “Parteibeschlüsse” (“Party Decisions”) in the Berner Tagwacht of January 8, 1917 (No. 6).

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