V. I.   Lenin

Defence of Imperialism Cloaked with Deceptive Phrases

Published: Pravda No. 47, May 16 (3), 1917. Published according to the text in Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 340-342.
Translated: Isaacs Bernard
Transcription\Markup: B. Baggins and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive 1999 (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.


That is what the proclamation of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet to the socialists of the world, published in today’s papers, amounts to. It has a lot to say against imperialism, but all these words are nullified by a single little phrase which reads:

The Provisional Government of revolutionary Russia has adopted this platform” (i.e., peace without annexations and indemnities on the basis of self-determination of nations).

The gist of the matter is summed up in this one phrase. This phrase is a defence of Russian imperialism, which it cloaks and whitewashes. As a matter of fact, our Provisional Government, far from “adopting” a platform of peace without annexations, is trampling upon it daily and hourly.

Our Provisional Government has “diplomatically” renounced annexations, just as the government of the German capitalists, those brigands Wilhelm and Bethmann-Hollweg, have done. In words, both governments have renounced annexations. In practice, both continue the policy of annexations. The German capitalist government forcibly holds Belgium, a part of France, Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania, Poland, Danish provinces, Alsace, etc.; the Russian capitalist government holds part of Galicia, Turkish Armenia, Finland, Ukraine, etc. The British capitalist government is the most annexationist government in the world, for it forcibly keeps the greatest number of nationalities within the British Empire: India (three hundred million), Ireland, Turkish Mesopotamia, the German colonies in Africa, etc.

The Executive Committee’s proclamation covers up its lies about annexations with deceptive phrases, and thereby does great harm to the cause of the proletariat and the revolution. First of all, the proclamation does not differentiate between the renunciation of annexations in words (in this sense, all capitalist governments, without exception, have “adopted” the “platform of peace without annexations”) and renunciation of annexations in deeds (in this sense, not one capitalist government in the world has renounced annexations). Secondly, the proclamation—without any justification, without any basis, contrary to the truth—whitewashes the Russian Provisional Government of the capitalists, which is not a bit better (and, probably, not worse) than any other capitalist government.

To cloak an unpleasant truth with a deceptive phrase is most harmful and most dangerous to the cause of the proletariat, to the cause of the toiling masses. The truth, however bitter, must be faced squarely. A policy that does not meet this requirement is a ruinous policy.

And the truth about annexations is that all capitalist governments, the Russian Provisional Government included, are deceiving the people with promises—they renounce the policy of annexations in words, but continue it in deeds. Any intelligent person can prove this truth for himself by simply making up a full list of the annexations of, say, only three countries: Germany, Russia, and Britain.

Just try it, gentlemen!

By refusing to do this, by whitewashing one’s own government and blackening others, one becomes in effect a defender of imperialism.

In conclusion we would remark that at the end of the proclamation we have another fly in the ointment, namely, the assurance that “whatever the differences that have been rending socialism during the three years of war, no faction of the proletariat should decline to participate in the general struggle for peace”.

This, too, we regret to say, is a deceptive phrase, an utterly empty and meaningless one. Plekhanov and Scheidemann both assert that they are ’fighting for peace”, a “peace with out annexations” at that. But it is clear to everyone that they are both fighting to defend each his own imperialist   government of the capitalists. What good do we do the cause of the working classes by uttering sugar-coated lies, by playing down the fact that the Plekhanovs and the Scheidemauns have gone over to the side of their respective capitalists? Is it not obvious that such glossing over of the truth amounts to whitewashing imperialism and its defenders?


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