V. I.   Lenin



Written: Written on November 30, 1916
Published: First published in 1949 in Bolshevik No. 1. Sent from Zurich to Clarens (Switzerland). Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 250-255.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   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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Dear Friend

As regards “defence of the fatherland” I don’t know whether we differ or not. You find a contradiction between my article in the collection of articles To the Memory of Marx[1] and my present statements, without quoting either precisely. I cannot reply to this. I haven’t got the collection To the Memory of Marx. Of course, I cannot remember word for word what I wrote in it. Without precise quotations, then and now, I am not able to reply to such an argument on your part.

But generally speaking, it seems to me that you argue somehow in a somewhat one-sided and formalist manner. You have taken one quotation from the Communist Manifesto (the working men have no country) and you seem to want to apply it without any reservations, up to and including the repudiation of national wars.

The whole spirit of Marxism, its whole system, demands that each proposition should be considered (α) only historically, (β) only in connection with others, (γ) only in connection with the concrete experience of history.

The fatherland is an historical concept. The fatherland in an epoch or, more precisely, at the moment of struggle for the overthrow of national oppression, is one thing. At the moment when national movements have been left far behind, it is another thing. For the “three types of countries” (§ 6 of our theses on self-determination[2] ) there cannot   be a proposition about the fatherland, and its defence, identically applicable in all conditions.

In the Communist Manifesto it is said that the working men have no country.

Correct. But not only this is stated there. It is stated there also that when national states are being formed the role of the proletariat is somewhat special. To take the first proposition (the working men have no country) and forget its connection with the second (the workers are constituted as a class nationally, though not in the same sense as the bourgeoisie) will be exceptionally incorrect.

Where, then, does the connection lie? In my opinion, precisely in the fact that in the democratic movement (at such a moment, in such concrete circumstances) the proletariat cannot refuse to support it (and, consequently, support defence of the fatherland in a national war).

Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto that the working men have no country. But the same Marx called for a national war more than once: Marx in 1848, Engels in 1859 (the end of his pamphlet Po and Rhine, where the national feeling of the Germans is directly in flamed, where they are directly called upon to wage a national war). Engels in 1891, in view of the then threatening and advancing war of France (Boulanger) +Alexander III against Germany, directly recognised “defence of the fatherland”.[8]

Were Marx and Engels muddlers who said one thing today and another thing tomorrow? No. In my view, admission of “defence of the fatherland” in a national war fully answers the requirements of Marxism. In 1891 the German Social-Democrats really should have defended their fatherland in a war against Boulanger + Alexander III. This would have been a peculiar variety of national war.

Incidentally, in saying this, I am repeating what I said in my article against Yuri.[3] For some reason you don’t mention it. It seems to me that on the question raised here there are precisely in that article a number of propositions which make clear completely (or nearly so) my understanding of Marxism.

As to Radek—my “quarrel” (???!!!) with Radek. I had an argument last spring with Grigory, who had no under standing at all of the political situation at that time, and reproached me for breaking with the Zimmerwald Left. That is nonsense.

The connection with the Zimmerwald Left is also a conditional thing. First of all, Radek is not the Zimmerwald Left. Secondly, there was no “break” with Radek in general, but only in a particular sphere. Thirdly, it is stupid to conceive of the connection with Radek in such a way that our hands should be tied in the necessary theoretical and practical struggle.

Ad 1 (to point 1). I never, anywhere, took a single step, not a suspicion of it, not merely towards a break, but even towards weakening the ties with the “Zimmerwald Left”. Nobody has ever pointed one out to me, or will be able to point it out. Neither with Borchardt, nor with the Swedes, nor with Knief, etc., etc.

(Radek very meanly threw us out of the editorial board of Vorbote. Radek behaves in politics like a Tyszka huckster, impudent, insolent, stupid. Grigory wrote to me in the spring of 1916, when I was already in Zurich, that he had no “team work” with Radek. Radek has moved away— that is the fact. He moved away on account of Vorbote, both from me and from Grigory. On account of the impudence and huckster-like meanness of one person, the Zimmerwald Left does not cease to be Left, and there is no purpose in dragging it into the affair: it’s not sensible, not correct.

Gazeta Robotnicza, in the number for February 1916, is a pattern of such a Tyszka-like rotten servile “game” (Radek follows in his footsteps). Anyone who forgives such things in politics I consider a donkey or a scoundrel. I shall never forgive them. For such things you punch men’s faces or turn away.

Of course I did the second. And I don’t repent. We did not lose a single hair of our ties with the Left Germans. When the problem arose of marching together with Radek in practice (the Zurich Congress of November 4–5, 1916[9]), we went ahead together. All Grigory’s silly phrases about my break with the Zimmerwald Left proved to be a stupidity, which they always were.)

Ad 2—the “sphere” of the break with Radek, therefore, were (α) Russian and Polish affairs. The resolution of the Committee of Organisations Abroad confirmed this. (β) The affair with Yuri and Co. Radek even now is writing (I can send you them if you wish) the most impudent letters to me (and Grigory) on the theme that, “we” (he + Bukharin + Yuri and Co.) “see things” in such-and-such a way!! Only a donkey and a scoundrel, who wants to invent an “intrigue”, squeezing through the crack of differences between us and Yuri and Co., can write in this way. If Radek did not understand what he was doing, then he is a donkey. If he did understand, then he is a scoundrel.

The political task of our Party was clear: we could not tie our hands by equality in the editorial board with N. I. + Yuri + E. B. (Grigory did not understand this, and drove me to a direct ultimatum: I declared that I would resign from Kommunist if we did not break with it. Kommunist was a good thing, so long as there was no separate programme of the trio who composed 1/2 the editorial board). To grant equality to a group consisting of Bukharin + Yuri + E. B. would be idiocy and the ruin of all the work. Neither Yuri, quite a little pig, nor E. B. has a drop of brains, and if they had allowed themselves to descend to group stupidity with Bukharin, then we had to break with them, more precisely with Kommunist. And that was done.

The polemics over self-determination are only beginning as yet. Here they are in complete confusion—as in the whole question about the attitude to democracy. To grant “equality” to little pigs and fools—never! They didn’t want to learn peaceably and in comradely fashion, so let them blame themselves. (I pestered them, provoking conversations about it in Berne: they turned up their noses! I wrote them letters, tens of pages long, to Stockholm—they turned up their noses! Well, if that’s how it is, let them go to the devil. I did everything possible for a peaceable out come. If you don’t want it, I will punch your faces and expose you as idiots before the whole world. That, and only that, is the way to treat them.) But where does Radek come in, you may ask.

Because lie was the “heavy artillery” of this “group”, artillery hidden in the bushes on one side. Yuri and Co.   were quite skilful in their calculations (E. B. is capable as an intriguer, it turned out that she was not leading Yuri to us, but setting up a group against us). Their calculation was: we shall start the war, but it’s Radek who will fight for us!! Radek will fight for us, while Lenin will have his hands tied.

But it didn’t come off, my dear little pigs! I will not let my hands be tied in politics. If you want to fight, come out openly. But the role of Radek—secretly inciting young pigs, but himself hiding behind the “Zimmerwald Left”—is the height of scoundrelism. The most lousy ... of the Tyszka swamp could not have been playing the huckster, the lackey and the intriguer behind one’s back in dirtier fashion.

Ad 3—I have already stated clearly. The question of the relationship of imperialism to democracy and the minimum programme is arising on an ever wider scale (see the Dutch programme in No. 3 of the Bulletin[10] the American S.L.P. have thrown out the whole minimum programme. Entwaffnungsfrage[4] ). On this Radek has absolute confusion in his head (this is clear from his theses; it was also shown by the question of indirect and direct taxes raised in my theses). I will never let my hands be tied in explaining this most important and fundamental question. I cannot. The question has to be cleared up. There will be dozens of “falls” over it yet (they will stumble for certain).

Anyone who understands the “connection” with the Zimmerwald Left in such a way that we should let our hands be tied in the theoretical struggle against “imperialist Economism” (that international disease; Dutch-American-Russian, etc.), understands nothing. To learn by heart the words “Zimmerwald Left” and to kowtow before the utter theoretical confusion in Radek’s head, that I don’t accept.

The results: after Zimmerwald manoeuvres were more difficult. It was necessary to take the essential from Radek, E. B. and Co., without allowing one’s hands to be tied. I consider that I was successful in this. After Bukharin’s departure to America and, above all, after Yuri had sent us his article and after he had accepted (he accepted! he had   to accept) my reply, their affairs, as a “group”, were finished. (Yet Grigory wanted to perpetuate that group, granting it equality: we would give it equality!!)

With Radek we parted company on the Russo-Polish arena, and did not invite him into our Sbornik.[11] It had to be that way.

And now he can do nothing which could spoil the work. He was obliged at the Zurich Congress (November 5, 1916) to go together with me, as now, against Grimm.

What does this mean? It means that I succeeded in dividing[5] the questions: not in one iota is the internationalist pressure on the Kautskians (Grimm y compris[6] ) weakened, and at the same time I am not subjected to “equality” with Radek’s stupidity!

Strategically I now consider the cause to have been won. It is possible that Yuri + Co. + Radek + Co. will abuse me. Allez-y, mes amis![7] Now the odium will fall on you, not on us. But you will now not injure the cause, and for us the road has been cleared. We have disentangled our selves from the dirty (in all senses) muddle with Yuri and Radek, without in one iota weakening the “Zimmerwald Left”, and possessing the requisites for the struggle against stupidity on the question of the attitude to democracy.

Voilà. I apologise for this long letter and for the abundance of sharp words: I can’t write otherwise when I am speaking frankly. Well, after all, this is all entre nous, and perhaps the unnecessary bad language will pass.

Best greetings.

Yours, Lenin

In general, both Radek and Pannekoek are incorrect in the way they approach the question of the struggle against Kautskianism. This N.B.!!


[1] See “Marxism and Revisionism” (present edition, Vol. 15, pp. 29–39).—Ed.

[2] See “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination” (present edition, Vol. 22, pp. 150–52).—Ed.

[3] See “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism” (present edition, Vol. 23, pp. 25–76)—Ed.

[4] The question of disarmament.—Ed.

[5] This was very difficult!! —Lenin

[6] Included.—Ed.

[7] Go ahead, my friends!—Ed.

[8] See Marx/Engels, Werke, Bd. 13, S. 267–68, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1964, and Werke, Bd. 22, S. 252–56.

[9] The Congress of the Social-Democratic Party of Switzerland was held in Zurich, November 4 and 5, 1916.

[10] The Bulletin of the International Socialist Commission No. 3, for February 29, 1916, published the draft programme of the Dutch Social-Democrats, which contained, among other points, the following specific demands: democratisation of all representative institutions, the setting up of a republic, an eight-hour working day, abolition of militarism.

[11] Reference is to Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata (see Note 234).

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