V. I.   Lenin

Twelve Brief Theses on H. Greulich’s Defence of Fatherland Defence[1]

Published: First published in Russian in 1931 in Lenin Miscellany XVII. Published in Volksrecht Nos. 26 and 27, January 31 and February 1, 1917. Written (in German) between January 13 and 17 (26 and 30), 1917. Translated from the German. Signed: –e–. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 23, pages 254-259.
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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1. Greulich begins his first article with the statement that there are now “socialists” (he probably means pseudo-socialists) who “trust Junker and bourgeois governments”.

That accusation of one trend in present-day socialism, namely, social-patriotism, is, of course, correct. But what do all Comrade Greulich’s four articles show if not that he, too, blindly “trusts” the Swiss “bourgeois government”?? He even overlooks the fact that the Swiss “bourgeois government”, because of the numerous ties of Swiss banking capital, is not merely a “bourgeois government”, but an imperialist bourgeois government.

2. In his first article, Greulich admits the existence of two main trends in the international Social-Democratic movement. He defines one (social-patriotism, of course) absolutely correctly by branding its supporters as “agents” of bourgeois governments.

But Greulich is strangely oblivious to the facts, first, that the Swiss social-patriots, too, are agents of the Swiss bourgeois government; second, that just as Switzerland in general cannot break out of the network of world-market ties, present-day, highly developed and immensely rich bourgeois Switzerland cannot break out, of the network of world-imperialist relationships; third, that it would be well worth while examining the arguments for and against defence of the fatherland as presented throughout the international Social-Democratic movement, particularly in context with these world-imperialist, finance-capital relationships; fourth, that there is no reconciling these two main trends in the international Social-Democratic movement, and, consequently   the Swiss party must choose which trend it wants to follow.

3. In the second article Greulich says: “Switzerland cannot wage an offensive war.”

Greulich strangely overlooks the irrefutable and obvious fact that in both possible eventualities—namely, if Switzerland joins Germany against England, or England against Germany—in either case Switzerland will be participating in an imperialist war, in a predatory war, in an offensive war.

Bourgeois Switzerland can under no circumstances either alter the nature of the present war or, in general, wage an anti-imperialist war.

Is it permissible for Greulich to depart from the “realm of facts” (see his fourth article) and discuss some hypothetical war instead of discussing the present one?

4. Greulich states in his second article:

For Switzerland, neutrality and defence of the fatherland are identical. Whoever rejects defence of the fatherland endangers neutrality. One must appreciate that.”

Two modest questions to Comrade Greulich.

First, shouldn’t one appreciate the fact that faith in proclamations of neutrality and intentions to maintain it in the present war is tantamount not only to blind faith in one’s own “bourgeois government” and other “bourgeois governments”, but is simply absurd?

Second, shouldn’t one appreciate that in reality the position is as follows?

Whoever in this war accepts defence of the fatherland becomes an accomplice of his “own” national bourgeoisie, which, in Switzerland, too, is a thoroughly imperialist bourgeoisie, since it is financially tied to the Great Powers and is involved in imperialist world politics.

Whoever in this war rejects defence of the fatherland destroys the proletariat’s faith in the bourgeoisie and helps the international proletariat wage its struggle against the bourgeoisie’s domination.

5. At the close of his second article Greulich says:

Abolishing the Swiss militia would not yet mean eliminating war between the Great Powers.”

Why does Comrade Greulich overlook the fact that the Social-Democrats conceive abolition of every army (and,   consequently, militia) as taking place only after a victorious social revolution? That precisely now it is necessary to fight for social revolution in alliance with the internationalist revolutionary minorities in all the Great Powers?

From whom does Greulich expect elimination of “war between the Great Powers”? From the militia of a small bourgeois state with a four million population?

We Social-Democrats expect elimination of “war between the Great Powers” to result from the revolutionary actions of the proletariat of all the powers, great and small.

6. In the third article Greulich contends that the Swiss workers must “defend” “democracy”!!

Is Comrade Greulich really unaware that in this war not a single European state is defending, nor can defend democracy? On the contrary, for all states, big and small, participation in this imperialist war means strangling democracy, the triumph of reaction over democracy. England, Germany, France, etc., offer a thousand examples. Can it really be that Greulich is unaware of them? Or does Comrade Greulich so implicitly trust the Swiss, i.e. his own, “bourgeois government”, that he regards all Swiss bank directors and millionaires as veritable William Tells?

Revolutionary struggle against all bourgeois governments—that, and that alone, and not participation in the imperialist war, or in national mobilisation allegedly to defend the country’s neutrality, can lead to socialism, and without socialism there is no guarantee of democracy.

7. Comrade Greulich writes in the third article:

Does Switzerland expect the proletariat to ‘fight against itself in imperialist battles’?”

That question shows that Comrade Greulich has his feet securely planted on national soil, but, unfortunately, in the present war there is no such soil for Switzerland.

It is not Switzerland that “expects” this of the proletariat, but capitalism, which in Switzerland, as in all civilised countries, has become imperialist capitalism. Today, the ruling bourgeoisie “expects” the proletariat of all countries to “fight against itself in imperialist battles”. That is what Greulich overlooks. And today there is no means of protecting ourselves against that eventuality save   international revolutionary class struggle against the bourgeoisie!

Why does Greulich forget that, way back in 1912, the Basle Manifesto of the International directly stated, first, that the basic character of the future war is determined by imperialist capitalism, and, second, spoke of proletarian revolution precisely in connection with this war?

8. In the third article Greulich writes:

Revolutionary mass struggle “instead of utilising democratic rights” is a “very vague concept”.

This proves that Greulich accepts only the bourgeois-reformist path and rejects or ignores revolution. That befits a Grütlian, but it certainly does not befit a Social-Democrat.

Revolution without “revolutionary mass struggle” is impossible. There have never been such revolutions. In the imperialist era that has now begun, revolutions are inevitable in Europe too.

9. In the fourth article Comrade Greulich frankly says he will “naturally” resign from the National Council if the party rejects defence of the fatherland in principle, adding that such a rejection would imply “violation of our unity”.

That is not open to misinterpretation: it is a clear ultimatum to the party on the part of the social-patriot National Council members. Either the party accepts these social-patriot views, or “we” (Greulich, Muller, etc.) will resign.

But, frankly, what kind of “unity” can we speak of? Only, of course, of “unity” of the social-patriot leaders with their seats on the National Council?!

Principled proletarian unity implies something quite different: the social-patriots, i.e., the defenders of the “fatherland”, should “unite” with the social-patriot, thoroughly bourgeois Grütli-Verein. The Social-Democrats, who reject fatherland defence, should “unite” with the socialist proletariat. That is perfectly obvious.

We firmly hope that Comrade Greulich will not wish to disgrace himself by trying to disprove (despite the experience of England, Germany, Sweden, etc.) that “unity” of the social-patriots, those “agents” of bourgeois governments, with the socialist proletariat can lead only to sheer disorganisation, demoralisation, hypocrisy and lies.

10. The “pledge” of National Council members to defend the country’s independence is “incompatible”, in Greulich’s view, with refusal to defend the country.

Very well! But what revolutionary activity is “compatible” with “pledges” to uphold the laws of capitalist states?? The Grütlians, i.e., servants of the bourgeoisie, recognise only legal methods as a matter of principle. So far, not a single Social-Democrat has rejected revolution, or accepted only such revolutions as were “compatible” with “pledges” to uphold bourgeois laws.

11. Greulich denies that Switzerland is a “bourgeois class state” “in the absolute meaning of the term”. He defines socialism (at the end of his fourth article) in a way that wholly precludes both social revolution and all revolutionary action. Social revolution is “utopian”—that is the short meaning of all Greulich’s long speeches and articles.

Very well! But that is the most blatant Grütlianism, not socialism. It is bourgeois reformism, not socialism.

Why does not Comrade Greulich openly propose that the words about “proletarian revolution” be deleted from the 1912 Basle Manifesto? Or the words about “revolutionary mass action” from the 1915 Aarau resolution? Or that all the Zimmerwald and Kienthal resolutions be burned?

12. Comrade Greulich has both feet planted on national soil—on bourgeois-reformist, Grütli soil.

He obstinately ignores the imperialist character of the present war and the imperialist ties of the present-day Swiss bourgeoisie. He ignores the fact that the socialists of the whole world are split into social-patriots and revolutionary internationalists.

He forgets that, in reality, only two paths are open to the Swiss proletariat:

First path. Help its own national bourgeoisie to arm, support mobilisation for the alleged purpose of defending neutrality, and face the daily menace of being inveigled into the imperialist war. In the event of “victory” in this war—lie reduced to semi-starvation, record the loss of 100,000 killed, put more billions of war profits into the pockets of the Swiss bourgeoisie, assure it more profitable investments abroad, and fall into more financial dependence on its imperialist “allies”—the Great Powers.

Second path. In close alliance with the internationalist revolutionary minority in all the Great Powers, wage a resolute struggle against all “bourgeois governments”, and primarily against its own “bourgeois government”, placing no “trust” whatever in its own bourgeois government,, or in its talk of defending neutrality, and politely invite the social-patriots to move over to the Grütli-Verein.

In the event of victory—be for ever rid of high costs of living, hunger and war and, together with the French, German and other workers, stage the socialist revolution.

Both paths are difficult, both entail sacrifices.

The Swiss proletariat must choose—does it want to make these sacrifices for the sake of the Swiss imperialist bourgeoisie and one of the Great-Power coalitions, or to deliver humanity from capitalism, hunger and war.

The proletariat must choose.


[1] Twelve Brief Theses on H. Greulich’s Defence of Fatherland Defence” was written in reply to a series of articles by Greulich, a Swiss social-chauvinist, “Zur Landesverteidigung” (“Defence of the Fatherland Issue”), which appeared in Volksrecht, January 23–26, 1917 (Nos. 19–22).

Lenin’s theses, signed “—e—”, appeared in the same paper on January 31–February 1 (Nos. 26–27). Volksrecht editor Ernst Nobs deleted several paragraphs and inserted the word Genosse (Comrade) before the name Greulich. Nobs deleted the following passages: = (1) in Section 9, from the third paragraph beginning with the words “But, frankly, what kind of unity...”, and up to the end of the Section; = (2) in Section 11, the whole of the second paragraph from the words “Very well! But that is ...” and to the words “...not socialism”; = (3) in Section 12, the concluding words of the fifth paragraph “...and politely invite the social-patriots to move over to the Grütli-Verein”.

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