Leon Trotsky

The War and the International

(The Bolsheviks and World Peace)

Transcribed for the Trotsky Internet Archive,
now part of the Marxists’ Internet Archive,
by David Walters in 1996


The War and the International Index

Author’s Preface

CHAPTER I. The Balkan Question

CHAPTER II. Austria-Hungary

CHAPTER III: The War Against Czarism




The forces of production which capitalism has evolved have outgrown the limits of nation and state. The national state, the present political form, is too narrow for the exploitation of these productive forces. The natural tendency of our economic system, therefore, is to seek to break through the state boundaries. The whole globe, the land and the sea, the surface as well as the interior has become one economic workshop, the different parts of which are inseparably connected with each other. This work was accomplished by capitalism. But in accomplishing it the capitalist states were led to struggle for the subjection of the world-embracing economic system to the profit interests of the bourgeoisie of each country. What the politics of imperialism has demonstrated more than anything else is that the old national state that was created in the revolutions and the wars [5] of 1789-1815, 1848-1859, 1864-1866, and 1870 has outlived itself, and is now an intolerable hindrance to economic development.

The present war is at bottom a revolt of the forces of production against the political form of nation and state. It means the collapse of the national state as an independent economic unit.

The nation must continue to exist as a cultural, ideologic and psychological fact, but its economic foundation has been pulled from under its feet. All talk of the present bloody clash being a work of national defense is either hypocrisy or blindness. On the contrary, the real, objective significance of the War is the breakdown of the present national economic centers, and the substitution of a world economy in its stead. But the way the governments propose to solve this problem of imperialism is not through the intelligent, organized cooperation of all of humanity’s producers, but through the exploitation of the world’s economic system by the capitalist class of the victorious country; which country is by this War to be transformed from a Great Power into the World Power.

The War proclaims the downfall of the national state. Yet at the same time it proclaims the downfall of the capitalist system of economy. By means of the national state, capitalism has revolutionized the whole economic system of the world. It has divided the whole earth among the oligarchies of the great powers, around which were grouped the satellites, the small nations, who lived off the rivalry between the great ones. The future development of world economy on the capitalistic basis means a ceaseless struggle for new and ever new fields of capitalist exploitation, which must be obtained from one and the same source, the earth. The economic rivalry under the banner of militarism is accompanied by robbery and destruction which violate the elementary principles of human economy. World production revolts not only against the confusion produced by national and state divisions but also against the capitalist economic organizations, which has now turned into barbarous disorganization and chaos.

The War of 1914 is the most colossal breakdown in history of an economic system destroyed by its own inherent contradictions.

All the historical forces whose task it has been to guide the bourgeois society, to speak in its name and to exploit it, have declared their historical bankruptcy by the War. They defended capitalism as a system of human civilization, and the catastrophe born out of that system is primarily their catastrophe. The first wave of events raised the national governments and armies to unprecedented heights never attained before. For the moment the nations rallied around them. But the more terrible will be the crash of the governments when the people, deafened by the thunder of the cannon, realize the meaning of the events now taking place in all their truth and frightfulness.

The revolutionary reaction of the masses will be all the more powerful the more prodigious the cataclysm which history is now bringing upon them.

Capitalism has created the material conditions of a new Socialist economic system. Imperialism has led the capitalist nations into historic chaos. The War of 1914 shows the way out of this chaos by violently urging the proletariat on to the path of Revolution.

For the economically backward countries of Europe the War brings to the fore problems of a far earlier historic origin – problems of democracy and national unity. This is in a large measure the case with the peoples of Russia, Austria-Hungary, and the Balkan Peninsula. But these historically belated questions, which were bequeathed to the present epoch as a heritage from the past, do not alter the fundamental character of the events. It is not the national aspirations of the Serbs, Poles, Rumanians or Finns that has mobilized twenty-five million soldiers and placed them in the battlefields, but the imperialistic interests of the bourgeoisie of the Great Powers. It is imperialism that has upset completely the European status quo, maintained for forty five years, and raised again the old questions which the bourgeois revolution proved itself powerless to solve. Yet in the present epoch it is quite impossible to treat these questions in and by themselves. They are utterly devoid of an independent character. The creation of normal relations of national life and economic development on the Balkan Peninsula is unthinkable if Czarism and Austria-Hungary are preserved. Czarism is now the indispensable military reservoir for the financial imperialism of France and the conservative colonial power of England. Austria-Hungary is the mainstay of Germany’s imperialism. Issuing from the private family clashes between the national Serbian terrorists and the Habsburg political police, the War very quickly revealed its true fundamental character – a struggle of life and death between Germany and England. While the simpletons and hypocrites prate of the defense of national freedom and independence, the German English War is really being waged for the freedom of the imperialistic exploitation of the peoples of India and Egypt on the one hand, and for the imperialistic division of the peoples of the earth on the other.

Germany began its capitalistic development on a national basis with the destruction of the continental hegemony of France in the year 1870-1871. Now that the development of Germany industry on a national foundation has transformed Germany into the first ‘capitalistic power of the world, she finds herself colliding with the hegemony of England in her further course of development. The complete and unlimited domination of the European continent seems to Germany the indispensable prerequisite of the overthrow of her world enemy. The first thing, therefore, that imperialistic Germany writes in her program is the creation of a Middle European League of Nations. Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey, Holland, the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Italy, and, if possible, enfeebled France and Spain and Portugal, are to make one economic and military whole, a Great Germany under the hegemony of the present German state.

This program, which has been thoroughly elaborated by the economists, political students, jurists and diplomats of German imperialism and translated into reality by its strategists, is the most striking proof and most eloquent expression of the fact that capitalism has expanded beyond the limits of the national state and feels intolerably cramped within its boundaries. The national Great Power must go and in its place must step the imperialistic World Power.

In these historical circumstances the working class, the proletariat, can have no interest in defending the outlived and antiquated national “fatherland”, which has become the main obstacle to economic development. The task of the proletariat is to create a far more powerful fatherland, with far greater power of resistance – the republican United States of Europe [6] as the foundation of the United States of the World.

The only way in which the proletariat can meet the imperialistic perplexity of capitalism is by opposing to it as a practical program of the day the Socialist organization of world economy.

War is the method by which capitalism, at the climax of its development, seeks to solve its insoluble contradictions. To this. method the proletariat must oppose its own method, the method of the Social Revolution.

The Balkan question and the question of the overthrow of Czarism, propounded to us by the Europe of yesterday, can be solved only in a revolutionary way, in connection with the problem of the United Europe of tomorrow. The immediate, urgent task of the Russian Social Democracy, to which the author belongs, is the fight against Czarism. What Czarism primarily seeks in Austria-Hungary and the Balkans is a market for its political methods of plunder, robbery and acts of violence. The Russian bourgeoisie all the way up to its radical intellectuals has become completely demoralized by the tremendous growth of industry in the last five years, and it has entered into a bloody league with the dynasty, which had to secure to the impatient Russian capitalists their part of the world’s booty by new land robberies. While Czarism stormed and devastated Galicia, and deprived it even of the rags and tatters of liberty granted to it by the Habsburgs, while it dismembered unhappy Persia, and from the corner of the Bosphorus strove to throw the noose around the neck of the Balkan peoples, it left to the liberalism which it despised the task of concealing its robbery by sickening declamations over the defense of Belgium and France. The year 1914 spells the complete bankruptcy of Russian liberalism, and makes the Russian proletariat the sole champion of the war of liberation. It makes the Russian Revolution definitively an integral part of the Social Revolution of the European proletariat.

In our war against Czarism, in which we have never known a “national” truce [7] we have never looked for help from Habsburg or Hohenzollern militarism, and we are not looking for it now. We have preserved a sufficiently clear revolutionary vision to know that the idea of destroying Czarism was utterly repugnant to German imperialism. Czarism has been its best ally on the Eastern border. It is united to it by close ties of social structure and historical aims. Yet even if it were otherwise, even if it could be assumed that, in. obedience to the logic of military operations, it would deal a destructive blow to Czarism, in defiance of the logic of its own political interests – even in such a highly improbable case we should refuse to regard the Hohenzollerns as an ally by sympathy or even by identity of immediate aims. The fate of the Russian Revolution is so inseparably bound up with the fate of European Socialism, and we Russian Socialists stand so firmly on the ground of internationalism, that we cannot, we must not for a moment, entertain the idea of purchasing the doubtful liberation of Russia by the certain destruction of the liberty of Belgium and France, and – what is more important still – thereby inoculating the German and Austrian proletariat with the virus of imperialism.

We are united by many ties to the German Social Democracy. We have all gone through the German Socialist school, and learned lessons from its successes as well as from its failures. The German Social Democracy was to us not only a party of the International ... It was the Party par excellence. We have always preserved and fortified the fraternal bond that united us with the Austrian Social Democracy. On the other hand we have always taken pride in the fact that we have made our modest contribution towards winning the franchise in Austria and arousing revolutionary tendencies in the German working class. [8] It cost more than one drop of blood to do it. We have unhesitatingly accepted moral and material support from our older brother who fought for the same ends as we on the other side of our Western border.

Yet it is just because of this respect for the past, and still more out of respect for the future, which ought to unite the working class. of Russia with the working classes of Germany and Austria, that we indignantly reject the “liberating” aid which German imperialism offers us in a Krupp munitions box, with the blessing, alas! of German Socialism. And we hope that the indignant protest of Russian Socialism will be loud enough to be heard in Berlin and in Vienna.

The collapse of the Second International [9] is a tragic fact, and it were blindness or cowardice to close one’s eyes to it. The position taken by the French and by the larger part of English Socialism is as much a part of this breakdown as is the position of the German and Austrian Social Democracy. If the present work addresses itself chiefly to the German Social Democracy it is only because the German party was the strongest, most influential, and in principle the most basic member of the Socialist world. Its historic capitulation reveals most clearly the causes of the downfall of the Second International.

At first glance it may appear that the social revolutionary prospects of the future are wholly deceptive. The insolvency of the old Socialist parties has become catastrophically apparent. Why should we have faith in the future of the Socialist movement? Such skepticism, though natural, nevertheless leads to quite an erroneous conclusion. It leaves out of account the good will of history, just as we have often been too prone to ignore its ill will, which has now so cruelly shown itself in the fate that has overcome the International.

The present War signalizes the collapse of the national states. The Socialist parties of the epoch now concluded were national parties. They had become ingrained in the national states with all the different branches of their organizations, with all their activities and with their psyology. In the face of the solemn declarations at their congresses they rose to the defense of the conservative state, when imperialisrn, grown big on the national soil, began to demolish the antiquated national barriers. And in their historic crash the national states have pulled down with them the national Socialist parties also.

It is not Socialism that has gone down, but its temporary historical external form. The revolutionary idea begins its life anew as it casts off its rigid shell. This shell is made up of living human beings, of an entire generation of Socialists that has become fossilized in the self-abnegating work of agitation and organization through a period of several decades of political reaction, and has fallen into the habits and views of national opportunism or possibilism. All efforts to save the Second International on the old basis, by personal diplomatic methods and mutual concessions, are quite hopeless. The old mole of history is now digging its passageways all too well and none has the power to stop him.

As the national states have become a hindrance to the development of the forces of production, so the old Socialist parties have become the main hindrance to the revolutionary movement of theworking class. It was necessary that they should demonstrate to the full their extreme backwardness, that they should discredit their utterly inadequate and narrow methods, and bring the shame and horror of national discord upon the proletariat, in order that working class might emancipate itself, through these fearful disillusionments, from the prejudices and slavish habits of the period of preparation, and become at last that which the voice of history is now calling it to be the revolutionary class fighting for power.

The Second International has not lived in vain. It has accomplished a huge cultural work. There has been nothing like it in history before. It has educated and assembled the oppressed classes The proletariat does not now need to begin at the beginning. It enters on the new road not with empty hands. The past epoch hagbequeathed to it a rich arsenal of ideas. It has bequeathed to it the weapons of criticism. The new epoch will teach the proletariat to combine the old weapons of criticism with the new criticism or weapons. [10]

This book was written in extreme haste, under conditions far from favourable to systematic work. A large part of it is devoted to the old International which has fallen. But the entire book, from the first to the last page, was written with the iea of the New International constantly in mind, the New International which must rise up out of the present world cataclysm, the International of the last conflict and the final victory.

Leon Trotsky



“The War at present being waged against Russian Czarism and its vassals is dominated by a great historic idea. The impetus of this great historic idea consecrates the battlefields of Poland and of Eastern Russia. The roar of cannon, the rattling of mechine guns, and the onrush of cavalry, all betoken the enforcement of the democratic program for the liberation of the nations. Had Czarism, in league with the French capitalistic powers and in league with an unscrupulous ‘nation of shopkeepers’ [11], not succeeded in suppressing the Revolution of 1905, the present slaughter of the nations would have been avoided.

“A democratic Russia would never have consented to wage this unscrupulous and futile War. The great ideas of freedom and justice now speak the persuasive language of the machine gun and the sword, and every heart susceptible of sympathy with justice and humanity can only wish that the power of Czarism may be destroyed once for all, and the oppressed Russian nationalities may again secure the right to decide their own destinies.”

The above quotation is from the Nepszava of August 31, 1914, the official organ of the Socialist party of Hungary. Hungary is the land whose entire inner It [?] was erected upon the high handed oppression of the national minorities, upon the enslavement of the labouring classes, upon the official parasitism and usury of the ruling caste of large landowners. It is the land in which men like Tisza are masters of the situation, dyed-in-the-wool agrarians, with the mauners of political bandits. In a word, Hungary is a country closest of kin to Czar ruled Russia.

So what is more fitting that that the Nepszava, the Socialist organ of Hungary, should hail with outbursts of enthusiasm the liberating mission of the German and Austro-Hungarian armies? Who other than Count Tisza could have felt the call to “enforce the democratic program for the liberation of the nations”? Who was there to uphold the eternal principles of law and justice in Europe but the ruling clique of Budapest, the discredited Panamists [12]. Would you entrust this mission to the unscrupulous diplomacy of “perfidious Albion” [[13] to the nation of shopkeepers?

Laughter turns away wrath. The tragic inconsistencies of the policies followed by the International not only reach their climax in the articles of the poor Nepszava; they disarm us by their humour.

The present series of events began with the ultimatum sent to Serbia by Austria-Hungary. There was not the slightest reason why the international Social Democracy should take under its protection the intrigues of the Serbs or any other of the petty dynasties of the Balkan Peninsula. They were all endeavouring to hide their political adventures under the cloak of national aspirations. We had still less cause to lash ourselves into a state of moral indignation becliuse a fanatic young Serb responded to the cowardly, criminal and wi national politics of the Vienna and Budapest government authorities with a bloody assassination. [It is noteworthy that these opportunistic Austrian and German Socialists are now writhing with moral indignation over the “treacherous assassination at Sarajavo”. And yet they always sympathized with the Russian terrorists more than we, the Russian Social Democrats, did, who are opposed on principle to the terroristic method. Lost in the mist of chauvinism, they can no longer see that the unfortunate Serbian terrorist, Gavrilo Prinzip, represents precisely the same national principle as the German terrorist, Sand. Perhaps they will even as us to transfer our sympathies from Sand to Kotzebue? Or perhaps these enuchs will advise the Swiss to overthrow the monuments erected to assassin Tell and replace them with monuments to the Austrian governor, Geissler, one of the spiritual forerunners of the murdered Archduke? – L.T.]

Of one thing we have no doubt. In the dealings between the Danube Monarchy and the Serbian government, the historic right, that is to say, the right of free development, rests entirely with Serbia, just as Italy was in the right in the year 1859. Underneath the dud between the imperial police scoundrels and the terrorists of Belgrade, there is hidden a far deeper meaning than merely the breed of the Karageorgevitches or the crimes of the Czar’s diplomacy. On one side were the imperialistic claims of a national state that had lost its vitality, and on the other side, the striving of the dismembered Serbian nation to re-integrate itself into a national whole and become a living vital state.

Is it for this that we have sat so long in the school of Socialism to forget the first three letters of the democratic alphabet? This absolute lapse of memory, moreover, made its appearance only after the 4th of August. Up to that fatal date the German Marxists showed that they knew very well what was happening in South Eastern Europe.

On July 3, 1914, after the assassination at Sarajevo, the Vorwärts wrote:

“The bourgeois revolution of the South Slavs is in full swing, and the shooting at Sarajevo, however wild and senseless an act in itself is as much a chapter of this revolution as the battles by which the Bulgarians, Serbs, and Montenegrins liberated the peasants of Macedonia from the yoke of Turkish feudal exploitation. Is it a wonder that the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary look with longug to their racial brothers in the kingdom of Serbia? The Serbs in Serbia have attained the highest goal a people can attain in the present order of society. They have attained national independence. Whereas in Vienna or Budapest they treat every one bearing the narne of Serb or Croatian with blows and kicks, with court-martial justice and the gallows ... There are seven and a half million South Slavs who, as a result of the victories in the Balkans, have grown bolder than ever in demanding their political rights. And if the imperial throne of Austria continues to resist their impact, it will topple over and the entire Empire with which we have coupled our destiny will break to pieces. For it is in line with historic evolution hat such national revolutions should march onward to victory.”

If the International Social Democracy together with its Serbian contingent, offered its unyielding resistance to Serbia’s national claims, it was certainly not out of any consideration for the historic rights of Austria-Hungary to oppress and disintegrate the nationalities living within her borders; and most certainly not out of consideration for the liberating mission of the Habsburgs. Until August 1914 [14] no one, except the black and yellow hirelings of the press, dared to breathe a word about that. The Socialists were influenced in their course of conduct by entirely different motives. First of all, the proletariat, although by no means disputing the historic right of Serbia to strive for national unity, could not trust the solution of this problem to the powers then controlling the destinies of the Serbian kingdom. And in the second place – and this was for us the deciding factor – the international Social Democracy could not sacrifice the peace of Europe to the national cause of the Serbs, recognizing, as it did, that, except for a European revolution, the only way such unity could be achieved was through a European war.

But from the moment Austria-Hungary carried the question of her own fate and that of Serbia to the battlefield, Socialists could no longer have the slightest doubt that social and national progress would be hit much harder in South Eastern Europe by a Habsburg victory than by a Serbian victory. To be sure, there was still no reason for us Socialists to identify our cause with the aims of the Serbian army. This was the idea that animated the Serbian Socialists, Ljaptchevitch and Katzlerovitch, when they took the manly stand of voting against the war credits. [To appreciate fully this action of the Serbian Socialists we must bear in mind the political situation by which they were confronted. A group of Serbian conspirators had murdered a member of the Habsburg family, the mainstay of Ausro-Hungarian clericalism, militarism, and imperialism. Using this as a welcome pretext, the military parry in Vienna sent an ultimatum to Serbia, which for sheer audacity, has scarcely ever been paralleled in diplomatic history. In reply, the Serbian government made extra-ordinary concessions, and suggested that the solution of the question in dispute be turned over to the Hague tribunal. Thereupon Austria declared war on Serbia. If the idea of a “war of defence” has any meaning at all, it certainly applied to Serbia in this instance. Nevertheless, our friends, Ljaptchevitch and Katzlerovitch, unshaken in their conviction of the course of action that they as Socialists must pursue, refused the government a vote of confidence. The writer was in Serbia at the beginning of the War. In the Skuptchina, in an atmosphere of indescribable national enthusiasm. a vote was taken on the war credits. The voting was by rollcall. Two hundred members had answered “Yes”. Then in a moment of deathlike silence came the voice of the Socialist Ljaptchevitch “No”. Every one felt the moral force of this protest, and the scene has remained indelibly impressed upon my memory. – L.T.] But surely we had still less reason to support the purely dynastic rights of the Hapsburgs and the imperialistic interests of the feudal-capitalistic cliques against the national struggle of the Serbs. At all events, the Austro-Hungarian Social Democracy, which now invokes its blessings upon the sword of the Habsburgs for the liberation of the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Finns and the Russian people, must first of all clarify its ideas on the Serbian question, which has gotten so hopelessly muddled.

The question at issue, however, is not confined to the fate of the ten million Serbs. The clash of the European nations has brought up the entire Balkan question anew. The Peace of Bucharest [15] signed in 1903, has solved neither the national nor the international problems in the Near East. It has only intensified the added confusion resulting from the two unfinished Balkan Wars, unfinished because of the complete temporary exhaustion of the nations participating in it.

Rumania had followed in the path of Austro-Hungarian politics, despite the Romanesque sympathies of its population, especially in the cities. This was due not so much to dynastic causes, to the fact that a Hohenzollern prince occupied the throne, as to the imminent danger of a Russian invasion. In 1879 the Russian Czar, as thanks for Rumania’s support in the Russo-Turkish War of “liberation”, cut off a slice of Rumanian territory, the province of Bessarabia. This eloquent deed provided a sufficient backing to the dynastic sympathies of the Hohenzollern in Bucharest. But the Magyar-Habsburg clique succeeded in incensing the Rumanian people against them by their denationalizing policy in Transylvania, which has a population of three million Rumanians as against three-fourths of a million in the Russian province of Bessarabia; and they further antagonized them by their commercial treaties, which were dictated by the interests of the large Austro-Hungarian landowners. So that Rumania’s entrance into the War on the side of the Czar, despite the courageous and active agitation against participation in the War on either side, carried on by the Socialist party under the leadership of my friends Gherea and Rakovsky, is to be laid altogether at the door of the ruling class of Austria-Hungary, who are reaping the harvest they have sown here as well as elsewhere.

But the matter is not disposed of by fixing the historical responsibility. Tomorrow, in a month, in a year or more the War will bring to the foreground the whole question of the destiny of the Balkan peoples and of Austria-Hungary, and the proletariat will have to have its answer to this question. European democracy in the nineteenth century looked with distrust at the Balkan people’s struggle for independence, because it feared that Russia might be strengthened at the expense of Turkey. On this subject Karl Marx wrote in 1853, on the eve of the Crimean War:

“It may be said that the more firmly established Serbia and the Serbian nationality is, the more the direct influence of Russia on the Turkish Slavs is shoved into the background. For in order to be able to maintain its position as a state, Serbia had to import its political institutions, its schools ... from Western Europe.”

This prophesy has been brilliantly fulfilled in what has actually happened in Bulgaria, which was created by Russia as an outpost on the Balkans. As soon as Bulgaria was fairly well established as a national state, it developed a strong anti-Russian party, under the leadership of Russia’s former pupil, Stambulov, and this party was able to stamp its iron seal upon the entire foreign policy of the young country. The whole mechanismof the political parties in Bulgaria is so constructed as to enable it to steer between the two European combinations without being absolutely forced into the channel of either, unless it chooses to enter it of its own accord. Rumania went with the Austro-German alliance, Servia, since 1903, with Russia, because the one was menaced directly by Russia, the other by Austria. The more independent the countries of South East Europe are front Austria-Hungary, the more effectively they will be able to protect their independence against Czarism.

The balance of power in the Balkans, created by the Congress of Berlin [16] in 1879, was full of contradictions. Cut up by artificial ethnographical boundaries, placed under the control of imported dynasties from German nurseries, bound hand and foot by the intrigues of the Great Powers, the peoples of the Balkans could not cease their efforts for further national freedom and unity. The national politics of independent Bulgaria was naturally directed towards Macdeonia, populated by Bulgarians. The Berlin Congress had left it under Turkish rule. On the other hand, Servia had practically nothing to look for in Turkey with the exception of Sanjak, Novy Bazar. Its national interests lay on the other side of the Austro-Hungarian boundary, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. Rumania had no interests in the South, where it is separated from European Turkey by Servia and Bulgaria. Rumania’s expansion policy was directed towards the North West and the East, towards Hungarian Transylvania and Russian Bessarabia. Finally, the national expansion of Greece, like that of Bulgaria, collided with Turkey. Austro-German politics, aiming at the artificial preservation of European Turkey, broke down not on account of the diplomatic intrigues of Russia, although these of course were not lacking. It broke down because of the inevitable course of evolution. The Balkan Peninsula had entered on the path of capitalist development, and it was this fact that raised the question of the self-determination of the Balkan peoples as national states to the historical issue of the day.

The Balkan War disposed of European Turkey, and thereby created the conditions necessary for the solution of the Bulgarian and Greek questions. But Servia and Rumania, whose national completion could only be achieved at the expense of Austria-Hungary, found themselves checked in their efforts at expansion southwards, and were compensated at the expense of what racially belonged to Bulgaria – Servia in Macedonia, and Rumania in Dobrudja. This is the meaning of the second Balkan War and the Peace of Bucharest by which it was concluded. The mere existence of Austria-Hungary, this Turkey of Middle Europe, blocks the way to the natural self-determination of the peoples of the South-East. It compels them to keep constantly fighting against each other, to seek support against each other from the outside, and so makes them a tool of the political combinations of the Great Powers. It was only in such chaos that Czarist diplomacy was enabled to spin the web of its Balkan politics, the last thread of which was Constantinople. And only a federation of the Balkan states, both economic and military, can interpose an invincible barrier to the greed of Czarism.

Now that European Turkey has been disposed of, it is Austria-Hungary that stands in the way of a federation of the Balkan states. Rumania, Bulgaria, and Servia would have found their natural boundaries, and would have united with Greece and Turkey, on the basis of common economic interests, into a league of defence. This would finally have brought peace to the Balkan Peninsula, that witches’ cauldron which periodically threatened Europe with explosions, until it drew it into the present catastrophe. Up to a certain time the Socialists had to reconcile themselves to the routine way in which the Balkan question was treated by capitalistic diplomats, who in their conferences and secret agreements stopped up one hole only to open another, even wider one. So long as this dilatory method kept postponing the final solution, the Socialist International could hope that the settlement of the Habsburg succession would be a matter not for a European war, but for the European Revolution. But now that the War has destroyed the equilibrium of the whole of Europe, and the predatory Powers are seeking to remodel the map of Europe – not on the basis of national democratic principles, but of military strength – the Social Democracy must come to a clear comprehension of the fact that one of the chief obstacles to freedom, peace and progress, in addition to Czarism and German militarism, is the Habsburg Monarchy as a state organization. The crime of the Galician Socialist group under Daszynski consisted not only in placing the Polish cause above the cause of Socialism, but also linking the fate of Poland with the fate of the Austro-Hungarian armies and the fate of the Habsburg Monarchy. The Socialist proletariat of Europe cannot adopt such a solution of the question. For us the question of united and independent Poland is on a par with the question of united and independent Serbia. We cannot and we will not permit the Polish question to be solved by methods which will perpetuate the chaos at present prevailing in South-Eastern Europe, in fact through the whole of Europe. For us Socialists the independence of Poland means its independence on both fronts, on the Romanov front and on the Habsburg front. We not only wish the Polish people to be free from the oppression of Czarism. We wish also that the fate of the Serbian people shall not be dependent upon the Polish nobility in Galicia.

For the present we need not consider what the relations of an independent Poland will be to Bohemia, Hungary and the Balkan. Federation. But it is perfectly clear that a complex of mediumsized and small states on the Danube and in the Balkan Peninsula will constitute a far more effective bar to the Czarist designs on Europe than the weak, chaotic Austro-Hungarian State, which proves its right to existence only by its continued attempts upon the peace of Europe.

In the article of 1853, quoted above, Marx wrote as follows on the Eastern question:

”We have seen that the statesmen of Europe, in their obdurate stupidity, petrified routine, and hereditary intellectual indolence, recoil from every attempt at answering the question of what is to become of Turkey in Europe. The driving force that favours Russia’s; advance towards Constantinople is the very means by which it is thought to keep her away from it, the empty theory, never carried out, of maintaining the status quo. What is this status quo? For the Christian subjects of the Porte [17] it means nothing else than the perpetuation of their oppression by Turkey. As long as they are under the yoke of the Turkish rule, they look upon the head of the Greek Church, the ruler of 60 million Greek Church Christians, as their natural protector and liberator.”

What is here said of Turkey now applies in a still greater degree to Austria-Hungary. The solution of the Balkan question is unthinkable without the solution of the Austro-Hungarian question, as they are both comprised in one and the same formula – the Democratic Federation of the Danube and Balkan Nations.

“The governments with their old-fashioned diplomacy,” wrote Marx, “will never solve the difficulty. Like the solution of so many other problems, the Turkish problem, too, is reserved for the European Revolution.” This statement holds just as good today as when it was first written. But for the Revolution to solve the difficulties that have piled up in the course of centuries, the proletariat must have its own program for the solution of the Austro-Hungarian question. And this program it must oppose just as strenuously to the Czaristic greed of conquest as to the cowardly and conservative efforts to maintain the Austro-Hungarian status quo.



RUSSIAN CZARISM undoubtedly represents a cruder and more barbarian form of state organisation than does the feebler absolutism of Austria-Hungary, which has been mitigated by the weakness of old age. But Russian Czarism and the Russian state are by no means identical. The destruction of Czarism does not mean the disintegration of the state. On the contrary it means its liberation and its strengthening. All such assertions, as that it is necessary to push Russia back into Asia, which found an echo even in certain Social Democratic organs, are based on a poor knowledge of geography and ethnography. Whatever may be the fate of various parts of present Russia – Russian Poland, Finland, the Ukraine or Bessarabia – European Russia will not cease to exist as the national territory of a many-millioned race that has made notable conquests along the line of cultural development during the last quarter century.

Quite different is the case of Austria-Hungary. As a state organization it is identical with the Habsburg Monarchy. It stands or falls with the Habsburgs, just as European Turkey was identical with the feudal-military Ottoman caste and fell when that caste fell. 18] A conglomerate of racial fragments centrifugal in tendency, yet forced by a dynasty to stick together, Austria-Hungary presents the most reactionary picture in the very heart of Europe. Its continuation after the present European catastrophe would not only delay the development of the Danube and Balkan peoples for more decades to come and make a repetition of the present War a practical certainty, but it would also strengthen Czarism politically by preserving its main source of spiritual nourishment.

If the German Social Democracy reconciles itself to the ruin of France by regarding it as punishment for France’s alliance with Czarism, then we must ask that the same criterion be applied to the German-Austrian alliance. And if the alliance of the two Western democracies with a despotic Czarism gives the lie to the French and English press when they represent the war as one of liberation, then is it not equally arrogant, if not more so, for the German Social Democracy to spread the banner of liberty over the Hohenzollern army, the army that is fighting not only against Czarism and its allies , but also for the entrenchment of the Habsburg Monarchy?

Autria-Hungary is indispensable to Germany, to the ruling class in Germany as we know it. When the ruling Junker class [19] threw France into the arms of Czarism by the forceful annexation of Alsace-Lorraine [[20] and systematically embittered the relations with England by rapidly increasing naval armaments; when it repulsed all attempts at an understanding with the Western democracies because such an understanding would have implied the democratization of Germany, then this ruling class saw itself compelled to seek support from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy as a reserve source of military strength against the enemies in the East and the West.

According to the German point of view the mission of the Dual Monarchy [21] was to place Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Ruthenian, Serbian and Italian auxiliaries in the service of the German military and Junker policy. The ruling class in Germany had easily reconciled itself to the expatriation of ten to twelve millions Germans, for these twelve millions formed the kernel around which the Habsburgs united a non-German population of more than forty million. A democratic federation of independent Danube nations would have made these peoples useless as allies of German militarism. Only a monarchy in Austria-Hungary, a monarchy enforced by militarism, would make that country of any value as an ally to Junker Germany. The indispensable condition for this alliance, sanctified by the Nibelungen troth [22] of dynasties, was the military preparedness of Austria-Hungary, a condition to be achieved in no other way than by the mechanical suppression of the centrifugal national tendencies.

Since Austria-Hungary is surrounded on all sides by states composed of the same races as are within its borders, its foreign policy is necessarily intimately connected with its internal policy. To keep seven million Serbs and South Slavs within the frame of its own military state, Austria-Hungary is compelled to extinguish the hearthfire that kindles their political leanings – the independent kingdom of Serbia.

Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia was the decisive step in this direction. took this step under the pressure of necessity,” wrote Eduard Bernstein in Die Sozialistisehe Monatshefte (No.16). To be sure it did, if political events are considered from the viewpoint of dynastic necessity.

To defend the Habsburg policy on the ground of the low moral standard of the Belgrade rulers is to close one’s eyes to the fact that the Habsburgs did make friends with Serbia, but only when Serbia was under the most despicable government that the history of the unfortunate Balkan Peninsula has known, that is, when it had at its head an Austrian agent, Milan. The reckoning with Serbia came aslate because the efforts made at self-preservation were too weak in the enfeebled organism of the Dual Monarchy. But after the death of the Archduke, the support and hope of the Austrian military party – and of Berlin – Austria’s ally gave her. a sharp dig in the ribs, insisting upon a demonstration of firmness and strength. Not only was Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia approved of in advance by the rulers of Germany, but, according to all information, it was actually inspired from that quarter. The evidence is plainly set forth in the very same White Book which professional and amateur diplomats offer as a document of the Hohenzollern love of peace.

After defining the aims of Greater Serbian propaganda and the machinations of Czarism in the Balkans, the White Book states:

”Under such conditions Austria was forced to the realization that it was not compatible with the dignity or the self-preservation of the Monarchy to look on at the doings across the border and remain passive. The Imperial Government informed us of this view and asked for our opinion. We could sincerely tell our ally that we agreed with his estimate of the situation and could assure him that any action he might find necessary to put an end to the movement in Serbia against the Austrian Monarchy would meet with our approval. In doing so, we were well aware of the fact that eventual war operations on the part of Austria-Hungary might bring Russia into the field and might, according to the terms of our alliance, involve us in a war.

“But in view of the vital interests of Austria-Hungary that were at stake, we could not advise our ally to show a leniency incompatible with his dignity, or refuse him our support in a moment of such grave portent. We were the less able to do so because our own interests also were vitally threatened by the persistent agitation in Serbia. If the Serbs, aided by Russia and France, had been allowed to go on endangering the stability of our neighbouring Monarchy, this would have led to the gradual breakdown of Austria and to the subjection of all the Slavic races to the Russian rule. At this in turn would have made the position of the Germanic race in Central Europe quite precarious. An Austria morally weakened, breaking down before the advance of Russian Pan-Slavism, would not be an ally with whom we could reckon and on whom we could depend, as we are obliged to depend, in the face of the increasingly threatening attitude of our neighbours to the East and the West. We therefore left Austria a free hand in its action against Serbia.”

The relation of the ruling class in Germany to the Austro-Serbian conflict is here fully and clearly defined. it is not merely that Germany was informed by the Austrian Government of the latter’s intentions, not merely that she approved them, and not merely that she accepted the consequences of fidelity to an ally. No, Germany looked on Austria’s aggression as unavoidable, as a saving act for herself, and actually made it a condition of the continuance of the alliance. Otherwise, “Austria would not be an ally with whom we could reckon.”

The German Marxists were fully aware of this state of affairs and of the dangers lurking in it. On June 29th, a day after the murder of the Austrian Archduke, the Vorwärts wrote as follows:

“The fate of our nation has been all too closely knit with that of Austria as a result of a bungling foreign policy. Our rulers have made the alliance with Austria the basis of our entire foreign policy. Yet it becomes clearer every day that this alliance is a source of weakness rather than of strength. The problem of Austria threatens more and more to become a menace to the peace of Europe.”

A month later, when the menace was about to culminate in the dread actuality of war, on July 28th, the chief organ of the German Social Democracy wrote in equally definite terms. “How shall the German proletariat act in the face of such a senseless paroxysm?” it asked; and then gave the answer: “The German proletariat is not in the least interested in the preservation of the Austrian national chaos.”

Quite the contrary. Democratic Germany is far more interested in the disruption than in the preservation of Austria-Hungary. A disrupted Austria-Hungary would mean a gain to Germany of an educated population of twelve million and a capital city of the first rank, Vienna. Italy would achieve national completion, and would cease to play the role of the incalculable factor that she always has been in the Triple Alliance. An independent Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, and a Balkan Federation including a Rumania of ten million inhabitants on the Russian frontier, would be a mighty bulwark against Czarism. And most important of all, a democratic Germany with a population of 75,000,000 Germans could easily, without the Hohenzollerns and the ruling Junkers, come to an agreement with France and England and could isolate Czarism and condemn its foreign and internal policies to complete impotence. A policy directed towards this goal would indeed be a policy of liberation for the people of Russia as well as of Austria-Hungary. But such a policy requires an essential preliminary condition, namely, that the German people, instead of entrusting the Hohenzollerns with the liberation of other nations, should set about liberating themselves from the Hohenzollerns.

The attitude of the German and Austro-Hungarian Social Democracy in this war is in blatant contradiction to such aims. At the present moment it seems convinced of the necessity of preserving and strengthening the Habsburg Monarchy in the interests of Germany or of the German nation. And it is absolutely from this anti-democratic viewpoint – which drives the blush of shame to the cheek of every internationally minded Socialist that the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung formulates the historical meaning of the present War, when it declares “it is primarily a war (of the Allies) against the German spirit”.

“Whether diplomacy has acted wisely, whether this has had to come, time alone can decide. Now the fate of the German nation is at stake! And there can be no hesitation, no wavering! The German people are one in the inflexible iron determination not to bend to the yoke, and neither death nor devil can succeed and so forth and so on. (Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung, August 5th). We will not offend the political and literary taste of the reader by continuing this quotation. Nothing is said here about the mission of liberating other nations. Here the object of the war is to preserve and secure “German humanity”.

The defence of German culture, German soil, German humanity seems to be the mission not only of the German army but of the Austro-Hungarian army as well. Serb must fight against Serb, Pole against Pole, Ukrainian against Ukrainian, for the sake of “German humanity”. The forty million non-German nationalities of Austria-Hungary are considered as simply historical manure for the field of German culture. That this is not the standpoint of international Socialism, it is not necessary to point out. It is not even pure national democracy in its most elementary form. The AustroHungarian General Staff explains this “humanity” in its communique of September 18th: “All peoples of our revered monarchy, as our military oath says, ‘against any enemy no matter whom’, must stand together as one, vying with one another in courage.”

The Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung accepts in its entirety this Habsburg-Hohenzollern viewpoint of the Austro-Hungarian problem as an unnational military reservoir. It is the same attitude as the mlitarists of France have toward the Senegalese and the Moroccans, and the English have toward the Hindus. And when we consider that such opinions are not a new phenomenon among the German Socialists of Austria, we have found the main reason why the Austrian Social Democracy broke up so miserably into national groups, and thus reduced its political importance to a minimum.

The disintegration of the Austrian Social Democracy into national parts fighting among themselves, is one expression of the inadequacy of Austria as a state organization. At the same time the attitude of the German-Austrian Social Democracy proved that it was itself the sorry victim of this inadequacy, to which it capitulated spiritually. When it proved itself impotent to unite the many-raced Austrian proletariat under the principles of Internationalism, and finally gave up this task altogether, the Austro-German Social Democracy subordinated all Austria-Hungary and even its own policies to the “Idea” of Prussian Junker Nationalism. This utter denial of principles speaks to us in an unprecedented manner from the pages of the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung. But if we listen more carefully to the tones of this hysterical nationalism we cannot fail to hear a graver voice, the voice of history telling us that the path of political progress for Central and South-Eastern Europe leads over the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.



BUT HOW ABOUT Czarism? Would not Germany’s and Austria’s victory mean the defeat of Czarism? And would not the beneficent results of the defeat of Czarism greatly outbalance the beneficent results of a dismembered Austria-Hungary?

The German and Austrian Social Democrats lay much stress upon this question in the arguing they do about the War. The crushing of a small neutral country, the ruin of France – all this is justified by the need to fight Czarism. Haase gives as the reason for voting the war credits the necessity of “defence against the danger of Russian despotism”. Bernstein goes back to Marx and Engels and quotes old texts for his slogan, “Settling with Russia!”

Südekum, dissatisfied with the result of his Italian mission, says that what the Italians are to blame for is not understanding Czarism. And when the Social Democrats of Vienna and Budapest fall in line under the Habsburg banner in its “holy war” against the Serbians struggling for their national unity, they sacrifice their Socialistic honour to the necessity for fighting Czarism.

And the Social Democrats are not alone in this. The entire bourgeois German press has no other aims, for the moment, than the annihilation of the Russian autocracy, which oppresses the peoples of Russia and menaces the freedom of Europe.

The imperial Chancellor denounces France and England as vassals of Russian despotism. Even the German Major-General von Morgen, assuredly a true and tried “friend of liberty and independence”, calls on the Poles to rebel against the despotism of the Czar.

But for us who have gone through the school of historical materialism it would be a disgrace if we did not perceive the actual relations of the interests in spite of these phrases, these lines, this boasting, this foul vulgarity and stupidity.

No one can genuinely believe that the German reactionaries really do cherish such a hatred of Czarism, and are aiming their blows against it. On the contrary, after the War Czarism will be the same to the rulers of Germany that it was before the War – the most closely related form of government. Czarism is indispensable to the Germany of the Hohenzollerns, for two reasons. In the first place, it weakens Russia economically, culturally and militaristically,and so prevents its development as an imperialistic rival. In the second place, the existence of Czarism strengthens the Hohenzollern Monarchy and the Junker oligarchy, since if there were no Czarism, German absolutism would face Europe as the last mainstay of feudal barbarism.

German absolutism never has concealed the interest of blood relationship that it has in the maintenance of Czarism, which represents the same social form though in more shameless ways. Interests, tradition, sympathies draw the German reactionary element to the side of Czarism. “Russia’s sorrow is Germany’s sorrow”. At the same time the Hohenzollerns, behind the back of Czarism, can make a show of being the bulwark of culture “against barbarism”, and can succeed in fooling their own people if not the rest of Western Europe.

”With sincere sorrow I see a friendship broken that Germany has kept faithfully,” said Wilhelm II in his speech upon the declaration of war, referring neither to France nor to England, but to Russia, or rather, to the Russian dynasty, in accordance with the Hohenzollern’s Russian religion, as Marx would have said.

We are told that Germany’s political plan is to create, on the one band, a basis of rapprochement with France and England by a victory over those countries, and, on the other hand, to utilize a strategic victory over France in order to crush Russian despotism.

The German Social Democrats must either have inspired Wilhelm and his chancellor with this plan, or else must have ascribed this plan to Wilhelm and his chancellor.

As a matter of fact, however, the political plans of the German reactionaries are of exactly the opposite character, must necessarily be of the opposite character.

For the present we will leave open the question of whether the destructive blow at France was dictated by strategic considerations, and whether “strategy” sanctioned defensive tactics on the Western front. But one thing is certain, that not to see that the policy of the Junkers required the ruin of France, is to prove that one has a reason for keeping one’s eyes closed. France – France is the enemy!

Eduard Bernstein, who is sincerely trying to justify the political stand taken by the German Social Democracy, draws the following conclusions: Were Germany under a democratic rule, there would be no doubt as to how to settle accounts with Czarism. A democratic Germany would conduct a revolutionary war on the East. It would call on the nations oppressed by Russia to resist the tyrant and would give them the means wherewith to wage a powerful fight for freedom. (Quite right!). However, Germany is not a democracy, and ther fore it would be a utopian dream (Exactly!) to expect any such policy with all its consequences from Germany as she is. (Vorwärts, August 28th.) Very well then! But right here Bernstein suddenly breaks off his analysis of the actual German policy “with all its consequences”. After showing up the blatant contradiction in the position of the German Social Democracy, he closes with the unexpected hope that a reactionary Germany may accomplish what none hut a revolutionary Germany could accomplish. Credo quia absurdum. [23]

Nevertheless, it might be said in opposition to this that while the ruling class in Germany has naturally no interest in fighting Czarism, still Russia is now Germany’s enemy, and, quite independently of the will of the Hohenzollerns, the victory of Germany over Russia might result in the great weakening, if not the complete overthrow of Czarism. Long live Hindenburg, the great unconscious instrument of the Russian Revolution, we might cry along with the Chemnitz Volksstimme. Long live the Prussian Crown Prince also a quite unconscious instrument. Long live the Sultan of Turkey who is now serving in the cause of the Revolution by bombarding the Russian cities around the Black Sea. Happy Russian Revolution how quickly the ranks of her army are growing!

However, let us see if there is not something really to be said on this side of the question. Is it not possible that the defeat of Czarism might actually aid the cause of the Revolution?

As to such a possibility, there is nothing to be said against it. The Mikado and his Samurai were not in the least interested in freeing Russia, yet the Russo-Japanese War gave a powerful impetus to the revolutionary evonts that followed. [24]

Consequently similar results may be expected from the German-Russian War.

But to place the right political estimate upon these historical possibilities we must take the following circumstances into consideration.

Those who believe that the Russo-Japanese War brought on the Revolution neither know nor understand historical events and their relations. The war merely hastened the outbreak of the Revolution; but for that very reason it also weakened it. For had the Revolution developed as a result of the organic growth of inner forces, it would have come later, but would have been far stronger and more systematic. Therefore, revolution has no real interest in war. This is the first consideration. And the second thing is, that while the Russo-Japanese War weakened Czarism, it strengthened Japanese militarism. The same considerations apply in a still higher degree to the present German-Russian War.

In the course of 1912-1914 Russia’s enormous industrial development once for all pulled the country out of its state of counter-revolutionary depression. [25]

The growth of the revolutionary movement on the foundation of the economic and political condition of the labouring masses, the growth of opposition in broad strata of the population, led to a new period of storm and stress. But in contrast to the years 1902-1905, this movement developed in a far more conscious, systematic manner, and, what is more, was based on a far broader social foundation. It needed time to mature, but it did not need the lances of the Prussian Samurai. On the contrary, the Prussian Samurai gave the Czar the opportunity of playing the role of defender of the Serbs, the Belgians and the French.

If we presuppose a catastrophal Russian defeat, the war may bring a quicker outbreak of the Revolution, but at the cost of its inner weakness. And if the Revolution should even gain the upper hand under such circumstances, then the bayonets of the Hohenzollern armies would be turned on the Revolution. Such a prospect cart hardly fail to paralyze Russia’s revolutionary forces; for it is impossible to deny the lct tha the party of the German proletariat stands behind the Hohenzolrn bayonets. But this is only one side of the question. The defeat of Russia necessarily presupposes decisive victofles by Germany and Austria on the other battlefields, and this would mean the enforced preservation of the national-political chaos in Central and South-Eastern Europe and the unlimited mastery of German militarism in all Europe.

An enforced disarmament for France, billions in indemnities, enforced tariff walls around the conquered nations, and an enforced commercial treaty with Russia, all this in conjunction would make German imperialism master of the situation for many decades.

Germany’s new policy, which began with the capitulation of the party of the proletariat to nationalistic militarism, would be strengthened for years to come. The German working class would feed itself, materially and spiritually, on the crumbs from the table of victorious imperialism, while the cause of the Social Revolution would have received a mortal blow.

That in such circumstances a Russian revolution, even if temporarily successful, would be an historical miscarriage, needs no further proof.

Consequently, this present battling of the nations under the yoke of militarism laid upon them by the capitalist classes contains within itself monstrous contrasts which neither the War itself nor the governments directing it can solve in any way to the interest of future historical development. The Social Democrats could not, and can not now, combine their aims with any of the historical possibilities of this War, that is, with either the victory of the Triple Alliance or the victory of the Entente. [26]

The German Social Democracy was once well aware of this. The Vorwärts in its issue of July 28th, discussing the very question of the war against Czarism, said:

“But if it is not possible to localize the trouble, if Russia should step into the field? What should our attitude toward Czarism be then? Herein lies the great difliculty of the situation. Has not the moment come to strike a death blow at Czarism? If German troops cross the Russian frontier, will that not mean the victory of the Russian Revolution?”

And the Vorwärts comes to the following conclusion:

“Are we so sure that it will mean victory to the Russian Revolution if German troops cross the Russian frontier? It may readily bring the collapse of Czarism, but will not the German armies fight a revolutionary Russia with even greater energy, with a keener desire for victory, than they do the absolutistic Russia?”

More than this. On August 3rd, on the eve of the historical session of the Reichstag, the Vorwärts wrote in an article entitled The War Upon Czarism:

"While the conservative press is accusing the strongest party in the Empire of high treason, to the rejoicing of other countries, there are other elements endeavouring to prove to the Social Democracy that the impending war is really an old Social Democratic demand. War against Russia, war upon the blood-stained and faithless Czarism – this last is a recent phrase of the press which once kissed the knout – isn’t this what Social Democracy has been asking for from the beginning?

“These are literally the arguments used by one portion of the borgeois press, in fact the more intelligent portion, and it only goes show what importance is attached to the opinion of that part of the German people which stands behind the Social Democracy The slogan no longer is ‘Russia’s sorrow is Germany’s sorrow. Now it is ‘Down with Czarism!’ But since the days when the leaders of the Social Democracy referred to (Bebel, Lassalle, Engels, Marx) demanded a democratic war against Russia, Russia has quite ceased to be the mere palladium of reaction. Russia is also the seat of revolution. The overthrow of Czarism is now the task of all the Russian people, especially the Russian proletariat, and it is just the last weeks that have shown how vigorously this very working class in Russia is attacking the task that history has laid upon it ... And all the nationalistic attempts of the ‘True Russians’ to turn the hatred of the masses away from Czarism and arouse a reactionary hatred against foreign countries, particularly Germany, have failed so far. The Russian proletariat knows too well that its enemy is not beyond the border but within its own land. Nothing was more distasteful to these nationalistic agitators, the True Russians and Pan-Slavists, than the news of the great peace demonstration of the German Social Democracy. Oh, how they would have rejoiced had the contrary been the case, had they been able to say to the Russian proletariat, ‘There, you see, the German Social Democrats stand at the head of those who are inciting the war against Russia.’ And the Little Father [27] in St. Petersburg would also have breathed a sigh of relief and said, ‘That is the news I wanted to hear. Now the backbone of my most dangerous enemy, the Russian Revolution is broken. The international solidarity of the proletariat is torn. Now I cart unchain the beast of nationalism. I am saved!’”

Thus wrote the Vorwärts after Germany had already declared war on Russia.

These words characterize the honest manly stand of the prolelariat against a belligerent jingoism. The Vorwärts clearly understood and cleverly stigmatized the base hypocrisy of the knoutloving ruling class of Germany, which suddenly became conscious of its mission to free Russia from Czarism. The Vorwärts warned the German working class of the political extortion that the bourgeois press would practise on their revolutionary conscience. “Do not believe these friends of the knout,” the Vorwärts said to the German proletariat. “They are hungry for your souls, and hide their imperialistic designs behind liberal-sounding phrases. They are deceiving you you, the cannon-fodder with souls that they need. If they succeed in winning you over, they will only be helping Czarism by dealing the Russian Revolution a fearful moral blow. And, if in spite of this, the Russian Revolution should raise its head, these very people will help Czarism to crush it.”

That is the sense of what theVorwärts preached to the working class up to the 4th of August.

And exactly three weeks later the same Vorwärts wrote: “Liberation from Muscovitism (?) freedom and independence for Poland and Finland, free development for the great Russian people themselves, dissolution of the unnatural alliance between the two cultural nations and Czarist barbarism - these were the aims that inspired the German people and made them ready for any sacrifice”, and inspired also the German Social Democracy and its chief organ.

What happened in those three weeks to cause the Vorwärts to repudiate its original standpoint?

What happened? Nothing of importance. The German armies strangled neutral Belgium, burned down a number of Belgian towns, destroyed Louvain [28] the inhabitants of which had been so crinimally audacious as to fire at the armed invaders when they themselves wore no helmets and waving feathers. [“How characteristically Prussian,’ wrote Marxs to Engels, “to declare that no man may defend his ‘fatherland’ except in uniform!” – L.T.]

In those three weeks the German armies carried death and destruction into French territory, and the troops of their ally, Austria-Hungary, pounded the love of the Habsburg Monarchy into the Serbs on the Save and the Drina. These are facts that apparently convinced the Vorwärts that the Hohenzollerns were waging the war of liberation of the nations.

Neutral Belgium was crushed, and the Social Democrats remained silent. And Richard Fischer was sent to Switzerland as special envoy of the Party to explain to the people of a neutral country that the violation of Belgian neutrality and the ruin of a small nation were a perfectly natural phenomenon. Why so much excitement? Any other European government, in Germany’s place, would have acted in the same way. It was just at this time that the German Social Democracy not only reconciled itself to the War as a work of real or supposed national defence, but even surrounded the Hohenzollern-Habsburg armies with the halo of an offensive campaign for freedom. What an unprecendented fall for a party that for fifty years had taught the German working class to look upon the German Government as the foe of liberty and democracy!

In the meantime every day of the War discloses the danger to Europe that the Marxists should have foreseen at once. The chief blows of the German Government were not aimed at the East, but at the West, at Belgium, France and England. Even if we accept the improbable premise that nothing but strategic necessity determined this plan of campaign, the logical political outcome of this strategy remains with all its consequences, that is, the necessity for a full and definite defeat of Belgium, France and the English land forces, so that Germany’s hands might be free to deal with Russia. Wasn’t it perfectly clear that what was at first represented as a temporary measure of strategic necessity in order to soothe the German Social Democracy, would become an end in itself through the force of events? The more stubborn the resistance made by France, whose duty it has actually become to defend its territory and its independence against the German attack, the more certainly will the German armies be held on the Western front; and the more exhausted Germany is on the Western front, the less strength and inclination will remain for her supposedly main task, the task with which the Social Democracy credited her, the “settling with Russia”. And then history will witness an “honourable” peace between the two most reactionary powers of Europe, between Nicholas, to whom fate granted cheap victories over the Habsburg Monarchy "[Russian diplomacy is interested only in such wars,” wrote Engels in 1890, “as force her allies to bear the chief burden of raising troops and suffering invasion, and leave to the Russian troops only the work of reserves. Czarism makes war on its own account only on decidedly weaker nations, such as Sweden, Turkey and Persia.” – L.T.], Austria-Hungary must now be placed in the same class as Turkey and Persia, rotten to its core, and Wilhelm, who had his “settling”, but with Belgium, not with Russia.

The alliance between Hohenzollern and Romanov – after the exhaustion and degradation of the Western nations – will mean a period of the darkest reaction in Europe and the whole world.

The German Social Democracy by its present policy smoothes the way for this awful danger. And the danger will become an actuality unless the European proletariat interferes and enters as a revolutionary factor into the plans of the dynasties and the capitalist governments.

Part II

Top of page

Notes For Part I

5. Revolutions and wars: (a) 1789-1815: The French Revolutionary Wars (led since 1799 by Napoleon Bonaparte established the French nation-state and abolished feudal rights west of the Elbe. (b) 1848-1859: The struggle for the liberation of Italy from Austria and the unification of Italy including the liberation of the City of Rome from the Pope. (c) 1864-1868: Prussia and Austria attacked Denmark in January 1864: Prussia annexed Schleswig, Austria took Holstein. In 1866 Prussia, having secured the neutrality of Russia, France and Italy, declared war on Austria, a war, which in the words of Moltke, Chief of Staff, “was a fight for hegemony ... long contemplated and calmly prepared ...” On July 3, 1866, at Sadowa (Königgrätz) the Austrians were decisively defeated. This assured the domination of the Hohenzollerns over the North German Confederation and ended the German Confederation. (d) 1870-1871: On July 2, 1869, the Provisional Government of Spain promulgated the candidature of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern to succeed Queen Isabella who had been deposed in 1868. On July 6, France protested and six days later, the candidature was withdrawn. On July 7, the French Ambassador to Germany, Benedetti, demanded an apology from the Kaiser and an undertaking that a Hohenzollern would never again aspire to the Spanish throne. The Kaiser was at Ems, taking the waters. Bismarck redrafted the Kaiser’s reply (the now-famous Ems despatch) so as to make war inevitable. On July 19, 1870 France declared war. Prussia scored immediate victories: August 4th at Wissenburg, August 6th at Worth. On October 27, at Metz, 175,000 troops under Marshal Bazaine were surrounded. The main army under Marshal MacMahon and the Emperor Napoleon III himself surrendered at Sedan on September 2. Paris fell after a four month seige: September 19 to January 28th 1871. By the Peace of Frankfurt (10th May 1871) France lost Alsace-Lorraine, Moselle, Haut Rhine, Bas Rhine and had to pay an indemnity of five thousand million francs. The victory of Prussia brought about the union of Germany under Prussian hegemony. Wilhelm I was crowned Emperor of Germany at Versailles on January 18, 1871. The defeat of France led to the Paris Commune and the end of the French monarchy. (p.vii)

6. the United States of Europe: This slogan was put forward by the Russian Social Democrats in 1914 and 1915 and was later withdrawn for tactical reasons. It became an official Comintern slogan in 1923 during the Ruhr Crisis. See: Lenin: The Tasks of the Revolutionary Social Democracy in the European War (August 1914), The War & the Russian Social Democracy (September 1914), The Defeat of Russia ... (October 1915), A Few Theses (October 1915) and Two Lines of Revolution (Nov.-Dec. 1915). Trotsky: The First Five Years of the Comintern, Vol.II, p.341. (p.x)

7. The concept of “national truce” (Burgfriede) was based on an old medieval custom that private quarrels should cease when the castle was beseiged. in Germany in 1914 it meant the complete cessation of opposition and the class struggle. On August 3. the Kaiser declared: “I no longer know parties, I know only Germans ...” The truce between classes was shortlived and on May 1, 1916, with the arrest of Karl Liebknecht, civil peace broke down completely. In France, they had the Union Sacrée. M. Deschanel in eulogising Jaurès, said: “There are no more adversaries here, there are only Frenchmen ...”

8. The impact of the 1905 Revolution: see page 59. (p.xi)

9. On August 4th, 1914 (a few hours after the German armies had violated the neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg) the vote for war credits came up in the Reichstag, and the entire Social Democratic fraction voted br the credits. The date markes the collapse of the German Social Democracy and the Second International. (p.xi)

10. The phrase is from Marx: Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1844) (See: Marx & Engels: On Religion, Moscow 1957, p.50)

11. A reference to England. (p.1)

12. The internationally financed Panama Canal Company (President: Ferdinand de Lesseps) crashed in February 1889. The scandal touched many prominent people, including Clemenceau. (p.2)

13. Perfidious Albion: The French La perfide Angleterre, perfidious England, had become by the time of the French Revolution, shortened to Albion perfide. (p.2)

14. 4th August 1914: See note 9. On June 28, 1914 a Bosnian student Gavrilo Princip assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo. On July 23, Austria delivered an unacceptable ultimatum to Servia and declared war on July 28.

15. Balkan Wars: The first began October 1912. The Turks were pushed back to Constantinople. It ended with the Treaty of London, May 30, 1913. Turkey was forced to give up all claims to its former European possessions. Albania was created as a new state. In June 1913, the Second War broke out. Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece, and Rumania and Turkey opposed Bulgaria. It ended with the Treaty of Bucharest, July 30, 1913. Italy invaded Albania in 1914.

16. The Congress of Berlin was held June-July 1878 under the chairmanship or Bismarck, revised the Treaty of San Stefano (March 1878) which ended the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78. At Berlin the Great Powers carved up South-Eastern Europe to their advantage.

17. Porte: The Sublime or Ottoman Porte was the Turkish Court at Constantinople till 1923.

18. Trotsky’s prediction of the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire proved correct. In her Junius Pamphlet, also written in 1915, Rosa Luxemburg wrote: “Historically, the liquidation of Austria-Hungary is the logical sequence of Turkish disintegration, and both are in direct line with the process of historical development.”

19. Junkers (from “Jungherr”: young aristocrat or military cadet) were Prussian landlords with large estates East of the Elbe. They were the dominant conservatives of Germany, retaining their medieval rights until the end of the 1st World War and their estates until the end of the 2nd.

20. Alsace-Lorraine: See note 5.

21. The Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy was established by the “Ausgleich” (Compromise) between the Austrian government and the Hungarian opposition in 1967. It was ruled by the Habsburgs till the revolution of 1918.

22. Nibelungen Troth: From the German classical poem Nibelungenlied (c. 1200 AD), a troth between the hero and his betrayer.

23. Credo qula absurdum: (Latin) I believe that which is absurd.

24. The Russo-Japanese War over rival claims to Manchuria and Korea began with an attack on Port Arthur by the Japanese on February 8, 1904. The Russians lost on land, and in May 1905, at the Battle of Tsushima lost all of its navy. Peace was signed at Portsmouth (New Hampshire, USA) in September 1905. The Russian defeat contributed to the Revolution of 1905. (p.19)

25. Between 1909 and 1913, Russian industry grew enormously: iron production increased by 60 tons of steel, 20,000 km of rails by 200% and sleepers by 87%. [?] (p.20)

26. The Triple Alliance: The Dual Alliance of 1879 between Germany and Austria-Hungary was joined by Italy in 1883. Italy broke away in 1906 at the Algeciras Conference and joined the “Entente” nations – Britain, France and Russia – in 1915. (p.21)

27. Little Father: The Czar of Russia. (p.22)

28. Louvain, the seat of the Belgian Military Headquarters in 1914 was burnt by the German Army beginning August 25th 1914. The medieval University and Town Hall, and the Library (established 1426) were lost to posterity. Civilians were summarily executed. The sacking lasted six days.

Top of page

Glossary Of Names

Bebel, August (1840-1913): Marxist of worker origin, co-founder with Wilhelm Liebknecht of the German Social Democracy 1869. In Reichstag from 1867. Sentenced with Liebknecht to two years’ imprisonment for “treason” (opposition to Franco-German War) in 1872. Leader of the German SD and the 2nd International in pre-war years.

Bernstein, Eduard (1850-1932): German Social Democrat; left Germany during the Anti-Socialist Laws and edited Sozial-Demokrat in Switzerland. Expelled from there in 1888, lived in London till 1900. He was a friend of Engels in the latter’s last years and was named his literary executor, in which capacity he censored Engels’ works. Reichstag Deputy 1902-1906, 1912-1918, 1920-1928. A pacifist-centrist during World War I. Founder of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) 1916, but returned to the Social Democracy 1919. Chief exponent of revisionism and reformism for over twenty five years, beginning 1896. Author of Evolutionary Socialism (18999 and other works.

Bismarck, Otto von (1815-1898): Dominated the German and European political scene 1862-1890 as Chancellor. Unified Germany under the domination of Prussia and the Hohenzollerns. Author of the Anti-Socialist Laws. Dropped by Emperor Wilhelm II in March 1890.

Bonaparte, Louis (Napoleon III) (1808-1873): Nephew of Napoleon I, Emperor of France 1852-1870.

Daszynski, Ignacy (1866-1936): Leader of the Galician Polish Socialists. Member Austrian Reichstrath from 1891. Anti-Russian chauvinist. Later joined Pilsudski.

Dobrogeanu-Gherea, Constantin (1855-1920): Rumanian Marxist. Founder and Leader of Rumanian Social Democracy.

Fischer, Richard (1855-1926): German Social Democrat, Party Secretary from 1899. From 1902 manager of Vorwärts. During the war in Right-Centre Majority with Ebert and Scheidemnann. Expelled (anti-war) members from staff of Vorwärts, and won a Court case. Represented Majority at Stockholm Conference 1919. Member of National Assembly 1919-1920. From 1920 member of Reichstag.

Haase, Hugo (1863-1919): Lawyer of Jewish origin. German Social Democrat. Member International Socialist Bureau and Reichstag Deputy 1897-1918. Succeeded Bebel as leader of SD Parliamentary fraction 1913. Opposed voting for war credits within the Party but succumbed to Majority decision. Founder and leader of Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) 1916. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Colonies in Ebert’s “Socialist” Coalition November 1918. Resigned: December 29, 1918. Shot on the steps of the Reichstag by a Monarchist officer.

Habsburg Dynasty: Ancient feudal ruling family taking its name from the “Habichtsburg” (Castle of the Hawk) of Alsace. Began with a few acres. Rudolph I (1218-1291) originally a Swiss Count, having defeated Ottoker of Hohenstauffen in 1278, was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of 400 feudal baronies, thus acquiring Austria and its dependencies. The dynasty ruled over many peoples, but could never knit them into one nation. Between 1298 and 1499 tried to annex Switzerland and failed. In 1806 title of Holy Roman Emperor was abandoned. The male line died out in 1740 and on Maria Theresa’s marriage the dynasty was known as the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. After the Ausgleich of 1867, the Habsburgs ruled over Austria-Hungary. With the Austrian Revolution Emperor Karl abdicated on November 12, 1918.

Hindenburg, Paul von Beneekendorff und von (1847-1934): Prussian militarist. Fought in war against France 1870-71. General in 1903. Retired 1911. Recalled at beginning of War. Victor at Tannenburg 1914 and the Masurian Lakes 1915 against Russia. Later Field Marshal. Succeeded Ebert as President 1925. Co-existed with Hitler from 1932 till his death.

Hohenzollern Dynasty: Frederick of Hohenzollern, Burgrave of Nuremburg, was made elector of Brandenburg in 1415. Up to 1609 Brandenburg was a barren region between the Middle Oder and the Middle Elbe. In 1616, the Dukedom of Prussia, a Polish fief since 1466, devolved on Frederick William of Brandenburg, “the Great Elector”. The Dynasty rose after the Peace of Westphalia 1648 with the help of France and England who backed the Protestant rulers against the Roman Catholic rulers of Austria. Under Bismarck’s leadership, the dynasty emerged as the principal power in the North German Federation. After the victory against France 1870, the King of Prussia became Emperor of Germany. The Dynasty ended with the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, on November 9th, 1918.

Karageorgevitch: The ruling family of Serbia, founded by Karageorge Petrovich who led the 1st Balkan uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1804. The family feud with the Obrenoviches led to alternation of rulership between them. Peter Karageorge took power in Belgrade by coup d’etat in 1903. Grandson Peter was the last King of Yugoslavia.

Katzlerovitch, Trishcha (1879-??): Lawyer, Founder of Serbian Social Democracy. In Serbian parliament from 1908-1921. Anti-militarist. Attended Kienthal Conference. Founder and Chairman Serbian Communist Party, and when this was banned, formed the Independent Labour Party.

Krupp, Alfred (1812-1887): German industrialist, steel tycoon and munitions manufacturer. Began with his father’s iron forge and converted it into the firt Bessemer steel plant. In 1871, at the founding of the German Empire, was the leader of German industry. Son, Frederick Alfred Krupp (1854-1902), was a personal friend of the Kaiser.

Lassalle, Ferdinand (1825-1864): German socialist. Founder of the General Association of German Workers (1863). As the only leading German Socialist of his generation not forced into exile, he was able despite his shortcomings, to exert a great influence on the German working class movement. His followers later helped form the German Social Democracy.

Liebknecht, Karl (1871-1919): Left Wing German Social Democrat. Member German Reichstag and Prussian Landtag. Anti-militarist. He was the first, and at first only, Deputy to oppose war credits in the Reichstag in 1914. Drafted during the war, he was imprisoned for anti-war activity, May 1916 to November 1918. Leader International Group and later, Spartacus League. One of the leaders of the Berlin uprising 1919. Assassinated by counter-revolutionary soldiers, January 15th 1919, with Rosa Luxemburg.

Liebknecht, Wilhelm (1826-1900): Friend of Marx, founder and leader of the German Social Democracy. Reichstag Deputy. Jailed 1872 for opposition to the Franco-Prussian War.

Luxemburg, Rosa (1870-1919): Polish Socialist. Joined German Social Democracy 1897. With Karl Liebknecht led Left Wing. Brilliant theoretician (Lenin called her “an eagle”). Imprisoned many times for anti-war activity. Leader of the “Spartacists” and founder of the German Communist Party. Assassinated by reactionary officers January 15th, 1919.

Moltke, Helmuth von, General (The Younger) (1848-1916): Nephew of the Elder Moltke. German Chief of Staff in the early years of World War I.

Morgen, von, Major General: German Division Commander on the Russian Front.

Obrenovich: Alternative ruling family of Serbia (to the Karageorges). Dynasty founded by Milos (1780-1860) who ruled 1830-39 and 1858-1860. Son, Milan ruled 1868-89. Grandson Alexander (1876-1903), the last of the dynasty, was assassinated with his wife 1903. (See Karageorgevitch)

Princip, Gavrilo (1895-1918): Bosnian student member of secret patriotic organization to free country from Austria. Shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on 28 June 1914 at Sarajevo. Sentenced to life imprisonment, died in prison.

Rakovsky, Christian Georgievich (1873-1941?): Bulgarian by birth. Member Rumanian Social Democracy since the 1890s. Zimmerwaldist. Imprisoned 1916 for anti-war activity. Released by Russian troops f917, went to Russia and joined the Communists. Held various Governinent and diplomatic posts. As friend of Trotsky, expelled 1938. Reinstated later. Sentenced to prison 1938. Said to have died 1941.

Romanovs: Ruling dynasty of Russia 1613-1917.

Sand, Karl Ludwig: Jena theology student who was executed for the assassination of Kotzebue in 1819. For a time young maidens in Mannheim offered wreaths at the place of execution.

Stambulov, Stefan Nokolov (1854-1895): Bulgar statesman. Figured in rising of 1875-6 against Great Powers, Chief of Russophile regency 1886. Premier 1887-1894. Forced to retire. Assassinated.

Sudekum, Albert Oskar Wilhelm (1871-1944): German Right-Wing Social Democrat. Revisionist and chauvinist. Reichstag 1900-1918. Visited Italy and Rumania in attempt to win over Socialists to German Imperialism. Minister of Finance of Prussia 1918-1920.

Tisza, Istvan (1861-1918): Hungarian Premier 1903-5 and 1913-1917. Pro-German. Assassinated 31st October 1918, the first day of the Hungarian Revolution.

Wilhelm I (1797-1888): King of Prussia 1861-1871 and German Emperor 1871-1888.

Wilhelm II (1859-1941): German Emperor 1888-1918. Last Hohenzollern ruler. Overthrown by the November 1918 revolution, retired to Holland.

Part II

The War and the International Index

return return return return return

Last updated on: 28.4.2007