V. I.   Lenin

Peace Without Annexations and the Independence of Poland as Slogans of the Day in Russia

Published: Sotsial-Demokrat, No. 51, February 29, 1916. Published according to the Sotsial-Demokrat text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, UNKNOWN, [19xx], Moscow, Volume 22, pages 137-140.
Transcription\Markup: Charles Farrell and D. Walters
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The Berne resolution of our Party declared: “One of the means of fooling the working class is pacifism, the preaching of peace in the abstract. At the present time, peace propaganda unaccompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action can only have the effect of spreading illusions and demoralising the proletariat; for it serves to imbue the proletariat with confidence in the humanitarianism of the bourgeoisie and to convert it into a plaything in the hands of the secret diplomacy of the belligerent countries.” (See = Sotsial-Demokrat[2] No. 40, and “Socialism and War”).[1]

The opponents of our point of view on the question of peace, who are numerous among Russian emigres, but not among the Russian workers, have never taken the trouble to analyse these propositions. Theoretically irrefutable, these propositions are receiving striking and practical confirmation as a result of the turn affairs have taken in our country.

As is well known, from its very first issue, Rabocheye Utro, the organ of the St. Petersburg leaglist-Liquidators, which is ideologically supported by the Organisation Committee, adopted a social-chauvinist “defencist” position. It published the “defencist” manifestoes of the St. Petersburg and Moscow social-chauvinists. Both manifestoes, inter alia, express the idea of “peace without annexations,” and No. 2 of Rabocheye Utro, which particularly stresses that slogan prints it in Italics and calls it “a line which provides the country with a way out of the impasse.” It is calumny to call us chauvinists, the paper seems to say; we fully accept the most “democratic” even “truly socialist” slogan of “peace without annexations.”

No doubt Nicholas the Bloody finds it to his advantage to have such a slogan advanced by his loyal subjects at the present time. Tsarism, basing itself on the landowners and the bourgeoisie, led its armies to rob and enslave Galicia (not to mention the treaty to carve up Turkey, etc.). The armies of the no less predatory German imperialists repulsed the Russian robbers and pushed them, not only out of Galicia, but also out of “Russian Poland” (in this struggle for the interests of both these cliques, hundreds of thousands of Russian and German workers and peasants fell on the battlefield). The slogan “peace without annexations” thus serves as an excellent “plaything in the hands of the secret diplomacy” of tsarism; the latter can now say: Look, we have been outraged; we have been robbed, deprived of Poland; we are opposed to annexations!

How well the role of lackeys to tsarism “suits” the social-chauvinists of Rabocheye Utro is particularly evident from an article in the first issue of that paper, entitled “Polish Emigration.” “The past months of the war,” we read, “have engendered in the minds of broad strata of the Polish people a deep striving towards independence.” Of course, before the war there was no such thing!! “In the social consciousness of broad strata of Polish democracy the mass” [evidently this is a misprint; it ought to read “the idea, the thought,” etc.] “of the national independence of Poland has triumphed”.... “Before Russian democracy the Polish question looms up importunately in all its magnitude....” “The Russian liberals” refuse to give plain answers to the burning questions “about Poland’s independence....”

Nicholas the Bloody, Khvostov, Chelnokov, Milyukov and Co. are, of course, wholly in favour of the independence of Poland—heart and soul in favour of it now, that, in practice, this slogan means victory over Germany, which deprived Russia of Poland. Let us not forget that the creators of “Stolypin’s Labour Party”[3] before the war, were wholly and unreservedly opposed to the slogan of self-determination of nations, opposed to Poland’s right of secession, and that they put up the opportunist Semkovsky for the noble purpose of defending tsarist oppression in Poland. Now that Poland has been taken from Russia they are in favour of the “independence” of Poland   (from Germany; but about this they maintain a discreet silence).

You will not deceive the class-conscious workers of Russia, Messrs. social-chauvinists! Your “October” 1915[4] slogans of independence of Poland and peace without annexations are in practice servility to tsarism, which precisely at the present time, precisely in February 1916, deems it necessary to camouflage its war with fine words about “peace without annexations” (driving Hindenburg out of Poland) and the independence of Poland (independent of Wilhelm, but dependent upon Nicholas II).

A Russian Social-Democrat who has not forgotten his programme argues differently. Russian democracy, he will say, having Great Russian democracy in mind first of all and most of all, for it alone has always enjoyed liberty of language in Russia—Russian democracy has undoubtedly gained from the fact that at present Russia does not oppress Poland and does not hold it by force. The Russian proletariat has undoubtedly gained-from the fact that it does not oppress one of the peoples it helped to oppress yesterday. German democracy has undoubtedly lost, for as long as the German proletariat tolerates the oppression of Poland by Germany it will remain in a position worse than that of a slave, in the position of a servitor helping to keep others enslaved. The only ones who have really gained are the Junkers and the bourgeoisie of Germany.

Hence, Russian Social-Democrats must unmask the deception of the people perpetrated by tsarism now that the slogans of “peace without annexations” and “independence of Poland” are being advanced in Russia; for in the present situation both these slogans express the desire to continue the war and a justification of this desire. We must say: No war for the sake of recapturing Poland! The Russian people do not want to become Poland’s oppressor again!

But how can we help liberate Poland from Germany! Is it not our duty to help in this? Of course it is, but not by supporting the imperialist war of tsarist, or of bourgeois, or even of bourgeois republican Russia, but by supporting the revolutionary proletariat of Germany, by supporting those elements in the Social-Democratic Party of Germany who are fighting against the counter-revolutionary   labour party of Südekum, Kautsky and Co. Kautsky very recently demonstrated his counter-revolutionary nature in a most flagrant manner: on November 26, 1915, he described street demonstrations as an “adventurism” (just as Struve before January 9, 1905, declared that there are no revolutionary people in Russia) and yet, on November 30, 1915, ten thousand working women demonstrated in Berlin!

All those who want to stand for the freedom of nations, for the right of nations to self-determination, not hypocritically, not in the Südekum, Plekhanov, Kautsky fashion, but sincerely, must be opposed to the war because of the oppression of Poland; they must be in favour of the right of secession from Russia for those nations which Russia is now, oppressing: the Ukraine, Finland, etc. Those who do not wish to be social-chauvinists in deeds must support only those elements in the Socialist Parties of all countries which are frankly, directly and immediately working for the proletarian revolution in their own countries.

Not “peace without annexations,” but peace to the cottages, war on the palaces; peace to the proletariat and the toiling masses, war on the bourgeoisie!


[1] See present edition, Vol.21, “The Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. Groups Abroad”.—Ed.


[3] Lenin is referring to a group of Mensheviks who adapted themselves to the Stolypin regime, accepted it and tried to obtain the tsarist government’s permission to set up a legal "labour" party, with the price being abandonment of the programme of the R.S.D.L.P.


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