V. I.   Lenin

Bourgeois Pacifism and Socialist Pacifism[1]

Published: First published in 1924 in Lenin Miscellany II. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 175-194.
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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There are symptoms that such a turn has taken place, or is about to take place, namely, a turn from imperialist war to imperialist peace.

The following are the outstanding symptoms: both imperialist coalitions are undoubtedly severely exhausted; continuing the war has become difficult; the capitalists generally, and finance capital in particular, find it difficult to skin the people substantially more than they have done already in the form of outrageous “war” profits; finance capital in the neutral countries, the United States, Holland, Switzerland, etc., which has made enormous prof its out of the war, is satiated; the shortage of raw materials and food supplies makes it difficult for it to continue this “profitable” business; Germany is making strenuous efforts to induce one or another ally of England, her principal imperialist rival, to desert her; the German Government has made pacifist pronouncements, followed by similar pronouncements by a number of neutral governments.

Are there any chances for a speedy end to the war?

It is very hard to give a positive reply to this question. In our opinion, two possibilities present themselves rather definitely.

First, conclusion of a separate peace between Germany and Russia, though perhaps not in the usual form of a formal written treaty. Second, no such peace will be concluded; England and her allies are still in a position to hold out for another year or two, etc. If the first assumption is correct the war will come to an end, if not immediately, then in the very near future, and no important changes in its course can be expected. If the second assumption is correct, then the war may continue indefinitely.

Let us examine the first possibility.

That negotiations for a separate peace between Germany and Russia were conducted quite recently, that Nicholas II himself, or the top Court clique, favour such a peace, that a turn has taken place in world politics from a Russo-British imperialist alliance against Germany to a no less imperialist Russo-German alliance against England—all that is beyond doubt.

The replacement of Stürmer by Trepov, the tsarist government’s public declaration that Russia’s “right” to Constantinople has been recognised by all the Allies, and the setting up by Germany of a separate Polish state—these seem to indicate that the separate peace negotiations have ended in failure. Perhaps tsarism entered into them solely to blackmail England, obtain formal and unambiguous recognition of Nicholas the Bloody’s “right” to Constantinople and certain “weighty” guarantees of that right?

There is nothing improbable in that assumption, considering that the main, fundamental purpose of the present imperialist war is the division of the spoils among the three principal imperialist rivals, the three robbers, Russia, Germany and England.

On the other hand, the clearer it becomes to tsarism that there is no practical, military possibility of regaining Poland, winning Constantinople, breaking Germany’s iron front, which she is magnificently straightening out, shortening and strengthening by her recent victories in Rumania, the more tsarism is finding itself compelled to conclude a separate peace with Germany, that is, to abandon Its imperialist alliance with England against Germany for an imperialist alliance with Germany against England. And why not? Was not Russia on the verge of war with England as a result of their imperialist rivalry over the division of the spoils in Central Asia? And did not England and Germany negotiate in 1898 for an alliance against Russia? They secretly agreed then to divide up the Portuguese colonies “in the event” of Portugal failing to meet her financial obligations!

The growing trend among leading imperialist circles in Germany towards an alliance with Russia against England was already clearly defined several months ago. The basis of   this alliance, apparently, is to be the partition of Galicia (it is very important for tsarism to strangle the centre of Ukrainian agitation and Ukrainian liberty), Armenia and perhaps Rumania! In fact there was a “hint” in a German newspaper that Rumania might be divided among Austria, Bulgaria and Russia! Germany could agree to other minor concessions to tsarism if only she could achieve an alliance with Russia, and perhaps also with Japan, against England.

A separate peace between Nicholas II and Wilhelm II could have been concluded secretly. There have been in stances in diplomatic history of treaties known only to two or three persons and kept secret from everyone else, even Cabinet Ministers. Diplomatic history knows instances of the “Great Powers” gathering at “European” congresses after the principal rivals had secretly decided the main questions among themselves (for example, the secret agreement between Russia and England to plunder Turkey, prior to the Berlin Congress of 1878). It would not be at all surprising if tsarism rejected a formal separate peace between the governments for the reason, among others, that the present situation in Russia might result in Milyukov and Guchkov, or Milyukov and Kerensky, taking over the government, while at the same time, it may have concluded a secret, informal, but none the less “durable” treaty with Germany to the effect that the two “high contracting parties” undertake jointly to pursue such-and-such a policy at the forthcoming peace congress!

It is impossible to say whether or not this assumption is correct. At any rate, it is a thousand times nearer the truth, is a far better description of things as they actually are than are the pious phrases about peace between the present governments, or between any bourgeois governments for that matter, on the basis of no annexations, etc. These phrases either express innocent desires or are hypocrisy and lies meant to conceal the truth. And the truth of the present time, of the present war, of the present attempts to conclude peace, is the division of the imperialist spoils. That is at the bottom of it all; and to understand this truth, to express it, “to show things as they actually are”, is the fundamental task of socialist policy as distinct from bourgeois policy, the principal aim of which is to conceal, to gloss over this truth.

Both imperialist coalitions have grabbed a certain amount of loot, and the two principal and most powerful of the robbers, Germany and England, have grabbed most. England has not lost an inch of her territory or of her colonies; but she has “acquired” the German colonies and part of Turkey (Mesopotamia). Germany has lost nearly all her colonies, but has acquired immeasurably more valuable territory in Europe, having seized Belgium, Serbia, Rumania, part of France, part of Russia, etc. The fight now is over the division of the loot, and the “chieftain” of each of the robber gangs, i.e., England and Germany, must to some degree reward his allies, who, with the exception of Bulgaria and to a lesser extent Italy, have lost a great deal. The weakest of the allies have lost most: in the English coalition, Belgium, Serbia, Montenegro and Rumania have been crushed; in the German coalition, Turkey has lost Armenia and part of Mesopotamia.

So far Germany has secured undoubtedly far more loot than England. So far Germany has won; she has proved to be far stronger than anyone anticipated before the war. Naturally, therefore, it would be to Germany’s advantage to conclude peace as speedily as possible, for her rival might still be able, given the most favourable opportunity conceivable (although not very probably), to mobilise a larger reserve of recruits, etc.

Such is the objective situation. Such is the present position in the struggle for the division of the imperialist loot. It is quite natural that this situation should give rise to pacifist strivings, declarations and pronouncements, mainly on the part of the bourgeoisie and governments of the German coalition and of the neutral countries. It is equally natural that the bourgeoisie and its governments are compelled to exert every effort to hoodwink the people, to cover up the hideous nakedness of an imperialist peace—the division of the loot—by phrases, utterly false phrases about a democratic peace, the liberty of small nations, armaments reduction, etc.

But while it is natural for the bourgeoisie to try to hoodwink the people, how are the socialists fulfilling their duty? This we shall deal with in the next article (or chapter).




Kautsky is the most authoritative theoretician of the Second International, the most prominent leader of the so-called “Marxist centre” in Germany, the representative of the opposition which organised a separate group in the Reichstag, the Social-Democratic Labour Group (Haase, Ledebour and others). A number of Social-Democratic newspapers in Germany are now publishing articles by Kautsky on the terms of peace, which paraphrase the official Social-Democratic Labour Group declaration on the German Government’s well-known note proposing peace negotiations. The declaration, which calls on the German Government to propose definite terms of peace, contains the following characteristic statement:

“...In order that this [German Government] note may lead to peace, all countries must unequivocally renounce all thought of annexing foreign territory, of the political, economic or military subjection of any people whatsoever....”

In paraphrasing and concretising this, Kautsky set out to “prove” in his lengthy articles that Constantinople must not go to Russia and that Turkey must not be made a vassal state to anyone.

Let us take a closer look at these political slogans and arguments of Kautsky and his associates.

In a matter that affects Russia, i.  e., Germany’s imperialist rival, Kautsky advances, not abstract or “general” demands, but a very concrete, precise and definite demand: Constantinople must not go to Russia. He thereby exposes the real imperialist designs ... of Russia. In a matter that affects Germany, however, i.e., the country where the majority of the party, which regards Kautsky as its member (and appointed him editor of its principal, leading theoretical organ, Die Neue Zeit), is helping the bourgeoisie and the government to conduct an imperialist war, Kautsky does not expose the concrete imperialist designs of his own government, but confines himself to a “general” desideratum or proposition: Turkey must not be made a vassal state to anyone!!

How, in substance, does Kautsky’s policy differ from that of the militant, so to speak, social—chauvinists (i.e., socialists in words but chauvinists in deeds) of France and England? While frankly exposing the concrete imperialist actions of Germany, they make shift with “general” desiderata or propositions when it is a matter of countries or nations conquered by England and Russia. They shout about the seizure of Belgium and Serbia, but are silent about the seizure of Galicia, Armenia, the African colonies.

Actually, both the policy of Kautsky and that of Sembat and Henderson help their respective imperialist governments by focusing attention on the wickedness of their rival and enemy, while throwing a veil of vague, general phrases and sentimental wishes around the equally imperialist con duct of “their own” bourgeoisie. We would cease to be Marxists, we would cease to be socialists in general, if we confined ourselves to the Christian, so to speak, contemplation of the benignity of benign general phrases and refrained from ex posing their real political significance. Do we not constantly see the diplomacy of all the imperialist powers flaunting magnanimous “general” phrases and “democratic” declarations in order to conceal their robbery, violation and strangulation of small nations?

Turkey must not be made a vassal state to anyone If I say no more than that, the impression is that I favour Turkey’s complete freedom. As a matter of fact, I am merely repeating a phrase usually uttered by German diplomats who are deliberately lying and deceiving, and employ that phrase to conceal the fact that Germany has already converted Turkey into her financial and military vassal! And if I am a German socialist, my “general” phrases can only be to the advantage of German diplomacy, for their real significance is that they put German imperialism in a good light.

All countries must renounce all thought of annexations... of the economic subjection of any people whatsoever....” What magnanimity! A thousand times the imperialists have “renounced all thought” of annexations and of the financial strangulation of weak nations. But should we not compare these renunciations with the facts, which show that any one of the big banks of Germany, England, France and the United States does hold small nations “in subjection”?   Can the present bourgeois government of a wealthy country really renounce annexations and the economic subjugation of alien peoples when millions and millions have been invested in the railways and other enterprises of weak nations?

Who is really fighting annexations, etc.? Those who bandy magnanimous phrases, which, objectively, have the same significance as the Christian holy water sprinkled on the crowned and capitalist robbers? Or those who explain to the workers the impossibility of eliminating annexations and financial strangulation without overthrowing the imperialist bourgeoisie and its governments?

Here is an Italian illustration of the kind of pacifism Kautsky preaches.

Avanti!, the Central Organ of the Socialist Party of Italy, of December 25, 1916, contains an article by the well—known reformist, Filippo Turati, entitled “Abracadabra”. On November 22, 1916, he writes, the socialist group tabled a peace resolution in the Italian Parliament. It declared that “the principles proclaimed by the representatives of England and Germany were identical, and these principles should be made the basis of a possible peace”; and it invited “the government to start peace negotiations through the mediation of the United States and other neutral countries”. This is Turati’s own account of the socialist proposal.

On December 6, 1916, the Chamber “buries” the socialist resolution by “adjourning” the debate on it. On December 12, the German Chancellor proposes in the Reichstag the very thing the Italian socialists proposed. On December 22, Wilson issues his Note which, in the words of Turati, “paraphrases and repeats the ideas and arguments of the socialist proposal”. On December 23, other neutral countries come on the scene and paraphrase Wilson’s Note.

We are accused of having sold ourselves to the Germans, exclaims Turati. Have Wilson and the neutral countries also sold themselves to Germany?

On December 17, Turati delivered a speech in Parliament, one passage of which caused an unusual and deserved sensation. This is the passage, quoted from the report in Avanti!:

Let us assume that a discussion similar to the one proposed by Germany is able, in the main, to settle such   questions as the evacuation of Belgium and France, the restoration of Rumania, Serbia and, if you will, Montenegro; I will add the rectification of the Italian frontiers in regard to what is indisputably Italian and corresponds to guarantees of a strategical character”.... At this point the bourgeois and chauvinist Chamber interrupts Turati, and from all sides the shout goes up: “Excellent! So you too want all this! Long live Turati! Long live Turati!”...

Apparently, Turati realised that there was something wrong about this bourgeois enthusiasm and tried to “correct” himself and “explain”.

Gentlemen,” he said, “there is no occasion for irrelevant jesting. It is one thing to admit the relevance and right of national unity, which we have always recognised, but it is quite another thing to provoke, or justify, war for this aim.”

But neither Turati’s “explanation”, nor the articles in Avanti! in his defence, nor Turati’s letter of December 21, nor the article by a certain “B.B.” in the Zurich Volksrecht can “correct” or explain away the fact that Turati gave him self away!... Or, more correct, not Turati, but the whole of socialist pacifism represented by Kautsky, and, as we shall see below, the French “Kautskyites”, gave itself away. The Italian bourgeois press was right in seizing upon and exulting over this passage in Turati’s speech.

The above-mentioned “B.B.” tried to defend Turati by arguing that the latter referred only to “the right of nations to self-determination”.

Poor defence! What has this to do with “the right of nations to self-determination”, which, as everyone knows, the Marxist programme regards—and the programme of inter national democracy has always regarded—as referring to the defence of oppressed nations? What has it to do with the imperialist war, i.e., a war for the division of colonies, a war for the oppression of foreign countries, a war among predatory and oppressing powers to decide which of them shall oppress more foreign nations?

How does this argument about self-determination of nations, used to justify an imperialist, not national, war, differ from the speeches of Alexinsky, Hervé and Hyndman? They argue that republican France is opposed to monarchist   Germany, though everyone knows that this war is not due to the conflict between republican and monarchist principles, but is a war between two imperialist coalitions for the division of colonies, etc.

Turati explained and pleaded that he does not “justify” the war.

We will take the reformist, Kautskyite Turati’s word for it that he did not intend to justify the war. But who does not know that in politics it is not intentions that count, but deeds, not good intentions, hut facts, not the imaginary, but the real?

Let us assume that Turati did not want to justify the war and that Kautsky did not want to justify Germany’s placing Turkey in the position of a vassal to German imperialism. But the fact remains that these two benign pacifists did justify the war! That is the point. Had Kautsky declared that “Constantinople must not go to Russia, Turkey must not be made a vassal state to anyone” not in a magazine which is so dull that nobody reads it, but in parliament, before a lively, impressionable bourgeois audience, full of southern temperament, it would not have been surprising if the witty bourgeois had exclaimed: “Excellent! Hear, hear! Long live Kautsky!”

Whether he intended to or not, deliberately or not, the fact is that Turati expressed the point of view of a bourgeois broker proposing a friendly deal between imperialist robbers. The “liberation” of Italian areas belonging to Austria would, in fact, be a concealed reward to the Italian bourgeoisie for participating in the imperialist war of a gigantic imperialist coalition. It would be a small sop thrown in, in addition to the share of the African colonies and spheres of influence in Dalmatia and Albania. It is natural, perhaps, for the reformist Turati to adopt the bourgeois standpoint; but Kautsky really differs in no way from Turati.

In order not to embellish the imperialist war and help the bourgeoisie falsely represent it as a national war, as a war for the liberation of nations, in order to avoid sliding into the position of bourgeois reformism, one must speak not in the language of Kautsky and Turati, hut in the language of Karl Liebknecht: tell one’s own bourgeoisie that they are hypocrites when they talk about national liberation, that   this war cannot result in a democratic peace unless the proletariat “turns its gulls” against its own governments.

That is the only possible position of a genuine Marxist, of a genuine socialist and not a bourgeois reformist. Those who repeat the general, meaningless, non-committal, goody-goody desires of pacifism are not really working for a democratic peace. Only he is working for such a peace who exposes the imperialist nature of the present war and of the imperialist peace that is being prepared and calls upon the peoples to rise in revolt against the criminal governments.

At times some try to defend Kautsky and Turati by arguing that, legally, they could no more than “hint” at their opposition to the government, and that the pacifists of this stripe do make such “hints”. The answer to that is, first, that the impossibility of legally speaking the truth is an argument not in favour of concealing the truth, but in favour of setting up an illegal organisation and press that would be free of police surveillance and censorship. Second, that moments occur in history when a socialist is called upon to break with all legality. Third, that even in the days of serfdom in Russia, Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky man aged to speak the truth, for example, by their silence on the Manifesto of February 19, 1861,[2] and their ridicule and castigation of the liberals, who made exactly the same kind of speeches as Turati and Kautsky.

In the next article we shall deal with French pacifism, which found expression in the resolutions passed by the two recently held congresses of French labour and socialist organisations.



The congresses of the French General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du Travail)[3] and of the French Socialist Party[4] have just been held. The true significance and true role of socialist pacifism at the present moment were quite definitely revealed at these congresses.

This is the resolution passed unanimously at the trade union congress. The majority of the ardent chauvinists headed by   the notorious Jouhaux, the anarchist Broutchoux and... the “Zimmerwaldist” Merrheim all voted for it:

This Conference of National Corporative Federations, trade unions and labour exchanges, having taken cognisance of the Note of the President of the United States which ‘invites all nations now at war with each other to publicly expound their views as to the terms upon which the war might be brought to an end’—

requests the French Government to agree to this proposal;

invites the government to take the initiative in making a similar proposal to its allies in order to speed the hour of peace;

declares that the federation of nations, which is one of the guarantees of a final peace, can be secured only given the independence, territorial inviolability and political and economic liberty of all nations, big and small.

The organisations represented at this conference pledge themselves to support and spread this idea among the masses of the workers in order to put an end to the present indefinite and ambiguous situation, which can only benefit secret diplomacy, against which the working class has always protested.”

There you have a sample of “pure” pacifism, entirely in the spirit of Kautsky, a pacifism approved by an official labour organisation which has nothing in common with Marxism and is composed chiefly of chauvinists. We have before us an outstanding document, deserving the most serious attention, of the political unity of the chauvinists and the “Kautskyites” on a platform of hollow pacifist phrases. In the preceding article we tried to explain the theoretical basis of the unity of ideas of the chauvinists and the pacifists, of the bourgeois and the socialist reformists. Now we see this unity achieved in practice in another imperialist country.

At the Zimmerwald Conference, September 5–8, 1915, Merrheim declared: “Le parti, les Jouhaux, le gouvernement, ce ne sont que trois totes sous un bonnet” (“The party, the Jouhaux and the government are three heads under one bonnet”, i.e., they are all one). At the C.G.T. Conference, on December 26, 1916, Merrheim voted together with Jouhaux for a pacifist resolution. On December 23, 1916, one of the frankest and most extreme organs of the German social-imperialists,   the Chemnitz Volksstimme, published a leading article entitled “The Disintegration of the Bourgeois Parties and the Restoration of Social-Democratic Unity”. Needless to say, it praises peace-loving Südekum, Legien, Scheidemann and Co., the whole German Social-Democratic Party majority and, also, the peace-loving German Government. It proclaims: “The first party congress convened after the war must restore party unity, with the exception of the few fanatics who refuse to pay party dues [i.e., the adherents of Karl Liebknecht!]; ...Party unity based on the policy of the Party Executive, the Social-Democratic Reichstag group and the trade unions.”

This is a supremely clear expression of the idea, and a supremely clear proclamation of the policy of “unity” between the avowed German social-chauvinists on the one hand and Kautsky and Co. and the Social-Democratic Labour Group on the other—unity on the basis of pacifist phrases—“unity” as achieved in France on December 26, 1916, between Jouhaux and Merrheim!

The Central Organ of the Socialist Party of Italy, Avanti!, writes in a leading article in its issue of December 28, 1916:

Although Bissolati and Südekum, Bonomi and Scheidemann, Sembat and David, Jouhaux and Legien have deserted to the camp of bourgeois nationalism and have betrayed [hanno tradito] internationalist ideological unity, which they promised to serve faithfully and loyally, we shall stay together with our German comrades, men like Liebknecht, Ledebour, Hoffmann, Meyer, and with our French comrades, men like Merrheim, Blanc, Brizon, Raffin-Dugens, who have not changed and have not vacillated.”

Note the confusion expressed in that statement:

Bissolati and Bonomi were expelled from the Socialist Party of Italy as reformists and chauvinists before the war. Avanti! puts them on the same level as Südekum, and Legien, and quite rightly, of course. But Südekum, David and Legien are at the head of the alleged Social-Democratic Party of Germany, which, in fact, is a social-chauvinist party, and yet this very Avanti! is opposed to their expulsion, opposed to a rupture with them, and opposed to the formation of a Third International. Avanti! quite correctly describes Legien and Jouhaux as deserters to the camp of   bourgeois nationalism and contrasts their conduct with that of Liebknecht, Ledebour, Merrheim and Brizon. But we have seen that Merrheim votes on the same side as Jouhaux, while Legien, in the Chemnitz Volksstimme, declares his confidence that party unity will be restored, with the single exception, however, of Liebknecht supporters, i.e., “unity” with the Social-Democratic Labour Group (including Kautsky) to which Ledebour belongs!!

This confusion arises from the fact that Avanti! confuses bourgeois pacifism with revolutionary Social-Democratic internationalism, while experienced politicians like Legien and Jouhaux understand perfectly well that socialist and bourgeois pacifism are identical.

Why, indeed, should not M. Jouhaux and his organ, the chauvinist La Bataille,[5] rejoice at the “unanimity” between Jouhaux and Merrheim when, in fact, the unanimously adopted resolution, which we have quoted in full above, contains nothing but bourgeois pacifist phrases; not a shadow of revolutionary consciousness, not a single socialist idea!

Is it not ridiculous to talk of the “economic liberty of all nations, big and small”, and yet not say a word about the fact that, until the bourgeois governments are overthrown and the bourgeoisie expropriated, this talk of “economic liberty” is just as much a deception of the people as talk of the “economic liberty” of the individual in general, of the small peasants and rich, workers and capitalists, in modern society?

The resolution Jouhaux and Merrheim unanimously voted for is thoroughly imbued with the very ideas of “bourgeois nationalism” that Jouhaux expresses, as Avanti! quite rightly points out, while, strangely enough, failing to observe that Merrheim expresses the same ideas.

Bourgeois nationalists always and everywhere flaunt “general” phrases about a “federation of nations” in general and about “economic liberty of all nations, big and small”. But socialists, unlike bourgeois nationalists, always said and now say: rhetoric about “economic liberty of all nations, big and small”, is disgusting hypocrisy as long as certain nations (for example, England and France) invest abroad, that is to say, lend at usurious interest to small and backward nations, billions of francs, and as long as the small and weak nations are in bondage to them.

Socialists could not have allowed a single sentence of the resolution, for which Jouhaux and Merrheim unanimously voted, to pass without strong protest. In direct contrast to that resolution, socialists would have declared that Wilson’s pronouncement is a downright lie and sheer hypocrisy, because Wilson represents a bourgeoisie which has made billions out of the war, because he is the head of a government that has frantically armed the United States obviously in preparation for a second great imperialist war. Socialists would have declared that the French bourgeois government is tied hand and foot by finance capital, whose slave it is, and by the secret, imperialist, thoroughly predatory and reactionary treaties with England, Russia, etc., and therefore cannot do or say anything except utter the same lies about a democratic and a “just” peace. Socialists would have declared that the struggle for such a peace cannot be waged by repeating general, vapid, benign, sentimental, meaning less and non-committal pacifist phrases, which merely serve to embellish the foulness of imperialism. It can be waged only by telling the people the truth, by telling the people that in order to obtain a democratic and just peace the bourgeois governments of all the belligerent countries must be overthrown, and that for this purpose advantage must be taken of the fact that millions of workers are armed and that the high cost of living and the horrors of the imperialist war have roused the anger of the masses.

This is what socialists should have said instead of what is said in the Jouhaux-Merrheim resolution.

The Congress of the French Socialist Party, which took place in Paris simultaneously with that of the C.G.T., not only refrained from saying this, but passed a resolution that is even worse than the one mentioned above. It was adopted by 2,838 votes against 109, with 20 abstentions, that is to say, by a bloc of the social-chauvinists (Renaudel and Co., the so-called “majoritaires”) and the Longuet-ists (supporters of Longuet, the French Kautskyites)!! Moreover, the Zimmerwaldist Bourderon and the Kienthalian Raffin-Dugens voted for this resolution!!

We shall not quote the resolution—it is inordinately long and totally uninteresting: it contains benign, sentimental phrases about peace, immediately followed by declarations   of readiness to continue to support the so-called “national defence” of France, i.e., the imperialist war France is waging in alliance with bigger and more powerful robbers like England and Russia.

In France, unity of the social-chauvinists with pacifists (or Kautskyites) and a section of the Zimmerwaldists has become a fact, not only in the C.G.T., but also in the Socialist Party.



The French newspapers containing the report of the C.G.T. Congress were received in Berne on December 28, and on December 30, Berne and Zurich socialist newspapers published another manifesto by the Berne I.S.K. (Internationale Sozialistische Kommission), the International Socialist Committee, the executive body of Zimmerwald. Dated the end of December 1916, the manifesto refers to the peace proposals advanced by Germany and by Wilson and the other neutral countries, and all these governmental pronouncements are described, and quite rightly described, of course, as a “farcical game of peace”, “a game to deceive their own peoples”, “hypocritical pacifist diplomatic gesticulations”.

As against this farce and falsehood the manifesto declares that the “only force” capable of bringing about peace, etc., is the “firm determination” of the international proletariat to “turn their weapons, not against their brothers, but against the enemy in their own country”.

The passages we have quoted clearly reveal the two fundamentally distinct policies which have lived side by side, as it were, up to now in the Zimmerwald group, but which have now finally parted company.

On the one hand, Turati quite definitely and correctly states that the proposals made by Germany, Wilson, etc., were merely a “paraphrase” of Italian “socialist” pacifism; the declaration of the German social-chauvinists and the voting of the French have shown that both fully appreciate the value for their policy of the pacifist screen.

On the other hand, the International Socialist Committee manifesto describes the pacifism of all belligerent and neutral governments as a farce and hypocrisy.

On the one hand, Jouhaux joins with Merrheim; Bourderon, Longuet and Raffin-Dugens join with Renaudel, Sembat and Thomas, while the German social-chauvinists, Südekum, David and Scheidemann, announce the forthcoming “restoration of Social-Democratic unity” with Kautsky and the Social-Democratic Labour Group.

On the other hand, the International Socialist Committee calls upon the “socialist minorities” vigorously to fight “their own governments” and “their social-patriot hirelings” (Söldlinge).

Either one thing, or the other.

Either expose the vapidity, stupidity and hypocrisy of bourgeois pacifism, or “paraphrase” it into “socialist” pacifism. Fight the Jouhaux, Renaudels, Legiens and Davids as the “hirelings” of the governments, or join with them in empty pacifist declamations on the French or German models.

That is now the dividing line between the Zimmerwald Right, which has always strenuously opposed a break with the social-chauvinists, and the Left, which at the Zimmerwald Conference had the foresight publicly to dissociate itself from the Right and to put forward, at the Conference and after it in the press, its own platform. It is no accident that the approach of peace, or even the intense discussion by certain bourgeois elements of the peace issue, has led to a very marked divergence between the two policies. To bourgeois pacifists and their “socialist” imitators, or echoers, peace has always been a fundamentally distinct concept, for neither has ever understood that “war is the continuation of the policies of peace and peace the continuation of the policies of war”. Neither the bourgeois nor the social—chauvinist wants to see that the imperialist war of 1914–17 is the continuation of the imperialist policies of 1898–1914, if not of an even earlier period. Neither the bourgeois pacifists nor the socialist pacifists realise that without the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois governments, peace now can only be an imperialist peace, a continuation of the imperialist war.

In appraising the present war, they use meaningless, vulgar, philistine phrases about aggression or defence in general, and use the same philistine commonplaces in appraising the peace, disregarding the concrete historical situation,   the actual concrete struggle between the imperialist powers. And it was quite natural for the social-chauvinists, these agents of the governments and the bourgeoisie in the workers’ parties, to seize upon the approach of peace in particular, or even upon mere peace talk, in order to gloss over the depth of their reformism and opportunism, exposed by the war, and restore their undermined influence over the masses. Hence, the social-chauvinists in Germany and in France, as we have seen, are making strenuous efforts to “unite” with the flabby, unprincipled pacifist section of the “opposition”.

Efforts to gloss over the divergence between the two irreconcilable lines of policy will certainly be made also in the Zimmerwald group. One can foresee that they will follow two lines. A “practical business” conciliation by mechanically combining loud revolutionary phrases (like those in the International Socialist Committee manifesto) with opportunist and pacifist practice. That is what happened in the Second International. The arch-revolutionary phrases in the manifestos of Huysmans and Vandervelde and in certain congress resolutions merely served as a screen for the arch-opportunist practice of the majority of the European parties, but they did not change, disrupt or combat this practice. It is doubtful whether these tactics will again be successful in the Zimmerwald group.

The “conciliators in principle” will try to falsify Marxism by arguing, for example, that reform does not exclude revolution, that an imperialist peace with certain “improvements” in nationality frontiers, or in international law, or in armaments expenditure, etc., is possible side by side with the revolutionary movement, as “one of the aspects of the development” of that movement, and so on and so forth.

This would be a falsification of Marxism. Reforms do not, of course, exclude revolution. But that is not the point at issue. The point is that revolutionaries must not exclude themselves, not give way to reformism, i.e., that socialists should not substitute reformist work for their revolutionary work. Europe is experiencing a revolutionary situation. The war and the high cost of living are aggravating the situation. The transition from war to peace will not necessarily eliminate the revolutionary situation, for there are no grounds   whatever for believing that the millions of workers who now have excellent weapons in their hands will necessarily permit themselves to be “peacefully disarmed” by the bourgeoisie instead of following the advice of Karl Liebknecht, i.e., turning their weapons against their own bourgeoisie.

The question is not, as the pacifist Kautskyites maintain: either a reformist political campaign, or else the renunciation of reforms. That is a bourgeois presentation of the question. The question is: either revolutionary struggle, the by-product of which, in the event of its not being fully successful, is reforms (the whole history of revolutions throughout the world has proved this), or nothing but talk about reforms and the promise of reforms.

The reformism of Kautsky, Turati and Bourderon, which now comes out in the form of pacifism, not only leaves aside the question of revolution (this in itself is a betrayal of socialism), not only abandons in practice all systematic and persistent revolutionary work, but even goes to the length of declaring that street demonstrations are adventurism (Kautsky in Die Neue Zeit, November 26, 1915). It goes to the length of advocating and implementing unity with the outspoken and determined opponents of revolutionary struggle, the Südekum, Legiens, Renaudels, Thomases, etc., etc.

This reformism is absolutely irreconcilable with revolutionary Marxism, the duty of which is to take the utmost possible advantage of the present revolutionary situation in Europe in order openly to urge revolution, the overthrow of the bourgeois governments, the conquest of power by the armed proletariat, while at the same time not renouncing, and not refusing to utilise, reforms in developing the revolutionary struggle and in the course of that struggle.

The immediate future will show what course events in Europe will follow, particularly the struggle between reformist pacifism and revolutionary Marxism, including the struggle between the two Zimmerwald sections.

Zurich, January 1, 1917


[1] Lenin intended this article for the newspaper Novy Mir (New World) published in New York by Russian socialist émigrés. The article did not appear in Novy Mir and Lenin re-edited the first two sections, which were published in the last issue (No. 58) of Sotsial-Demokrat, January 31, 1917, under the heading “A Turn in World Politics” (see pp. 262–70 of this volume).

[2] The Manifesto of February 19, 1861 abolished serfdom in Russia.

[3] The French Confédération générale du Travail (General Confederation of Labour) was founded in 1895 and was strongly influenced by anarcho-syndicalists and reformists. Its leaders recognised only economic struggle, opposed proletarian party leadership of the trade union movement, sided with the imperialist bourgeoisie in the First World War and advocated class collaboration and “defence of the fatherland”.

The congress mentioned by Lenin met in Paris on December 24–26, 1916 and discussed: (1) report of the Executive for the period from August 1914, and (2) industrial issues. At the concluding session the Executive informed the congress of President Wilson s peace appeal to the belligerent nations, and the congress adopted, by a nearly unanimous vote, the resolution cited by Lenin.

[4] The French Socialist Party was founded in 1905 by the merger of the Socialist Party of France led by Guesde and the French Socialist Party led by Jaurès. Dominated by reformists, the party adopted a chauvinist position from the very start of the imperialist war. Its leaders openly supported the war and justified participation in the bourgeois government. The Centrist wing, led by Longuet, took a social-pacifist line and a conciliatory attitude towards the social-chauvinists. The Left, revolutionary wing adhered to internationalist positions and drew its support mainly from the party rank and file.

The party congress mentioned by Lenin met on December 25–30, 1916, the chief agenda item being the question of peace. A number of resolutions were adopted, including one opposing propaganda of the Zimmerwald principles, and another, moved by Renaudel. am proving socialist participation in the war-time government.

[5] La Bataille (The Battle)—organ of the French anarcho-syndicalists, published in Paris from 1915 to 1920 in place of the banned La Bataille Syndicaliste. Leading contributors included Grave, Jouhaux, and Cornelissen. Adopted a socialchauvinist position in the First World War.

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