V. I.   Lenin

On the Appeal of the German Independents[3]

Written: Written in the second half of February 1919
Published: First published in 1933 in Lenin Miscellany XXIV. Printed from the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 42, pages 126b-127a.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). 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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We seldom have a chance now of receiving foreign newspapers in Russia: the blockade with which the “democratic capitalists” of the Entente have surrounded us is apparently operating effectively. They are afraid to acquaint the educated workers of America, Britain and France with ignorant and uncivilised Bolshevism, they are afraid lest people in this land of uncivilised Bolshevism get to know of its successes in the West.

But despite the zealous efforts of the gendarmery of the new Holy Alliance to suppress it, the truth will out!

The other day I happened to see several numbers of the Berlin newspaper Die Freiheit, the organ of the so-called “independent” German Social-Democrats. The front page of No. 74 (for 11.11.1919) carried a lengthy appeal “To the Revolutionary Proletariat of Germany” signed by the Central Committee of the party and its parliamentary group. The ideas, or rather the lack of ideas, underlying this appeal are so characteristic of not only the German, but of the world’s labour movement, that they deserve to be dwelt upon.

But first I should like to make a digression connected with personal reminiscences. Among the signatures of the parliamentary group of Independents I came across the names of Seger and Laukant, and they reminded me of what happened three years ago. I had occasion to meet Laukant at a meeting of the Zimmerwaldists in Berne.[4] This seemingly influential Berlin worker produced a dual impression: on the one hand, serious revolutionary work among the masses, on the other, an astonishing lack of   theoretical[1] and appalling short-sightedness. Laukant did not like my sharp attacks on Kautsky (the ideological “leader” of the Independents, or rather leader of their non-ideology), but he did not refuse to help me when, doubtful of my unreliable German, I showed him the text of a short speech in German I had written,[2] in which I quoted the statement of the “American Bebel”, Eugene Debs, to the effect that he would rather be shot than agree to vote for imperialist war loans, and that he would agree to fight only in a war of the workers against the capitalists. On the other hand, when, with furious indignation, I showed Laukant the passage from Kautsky’s article in which that gentleman denounced the workers’ street demonstrations as adventurism[5] (and that under Wilhelm II) Laukant shrugged his shoulders and answered with exasperating coolness: “Our workers don’t read this as attentively as all that! I’m not obliged to agree with every line of Kautsky’s, am I?”


[1] Apparently the word “interests” or “knowledge” has been omitted in the manuscript. —Lenin

[2] See Volume 22 of this edition, pp. 125-26. —Lenin

[3] Lenin’s unfinished article “On the Appeal of the German Independents” was written in the latter part of February 1919.

The appeal is criticised in § 21 of Lenin’s theses on bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat (see present edition, Volume 28, p. 467).

[4] Lenin is referring to the meeting of the enlarged International Socialist Commission (Internationale Sozialistische Kommission) held in Berne on February 5-9, 1916. It was attended by 22 delegates from the internationalists of a number of countries: Germany, Russia, Italy, Norway, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Rumania. Lenin took an active part in the proceedings. The meeting adopted an appeal ’To All Affiliated Parties and Groups” denouncing the participation of socialists in bourgeois governments, the slogan of “Defence of the fatherland” in the imperialist war, and voting for war loans; it pointed to the necessity of supporting the labour movement and preparing mass revolutionary action against the imperialist war. The appeal, however, suffered from inconsistency in that it failed to demand a break with social-chauvinism and opportunism. In voting for the text of the appeal, the members of the Zimmerwald Left declared at the meeting that although they did not consider all its points satisfactory, they were voting for it because they regarded it as a step forward in comparison with the decisions of the First International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald. The meeting fixed the date for convening a second international socialist conference.

[5] The reference is to Kautsky’s article Fraktton und Partei published in Die Neue Zeit No. 9 for November 26, 1915

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